It’s been more than a week since the Texas deep freeze thawed. Now, thousands of people wait for plumbers who are themselves swamped with calls. What will they charge? How long will it take?
The freeze forced the Mendozas from their Garland home after the blackout killed their power. Mevelyn Mendoza said when she and her husband Arthur left that frigid night for the nearby home of her daughter, they still had water.
“And then we came back the next morning to check on our house,” Mendoza said, ”we were, like, flooded. Water was everywhere, washer, dryer, the dishwasher, all the stuff in the kitchen, the hallway, the carpet, it was not a pretty sight. We had no water, no plumbing. We walked in our front yard — the water was just everywhere in the front yard.”
So they called the plumber they know, Texas Green Plumbing, because their daughter works for them dispatching calls. Roger Wakefield owns it.
“When she called the other day, she had a freeze break right here,” Wakefield said. “And we went ahead and replaced it. When you look here, you can see daylight. So what happened — there’s a weep hole right there. Cold air was coming up into this section of the house and this is what got the coldest and froze.”
Wakefield said even when people dripped faucets, pipes exposed to the cold still froze solid. He shut the main water valve off out front, drained and removed the broken copper pipe, then soldered on a replacement. He and two of his crew are back, sealing the outside exposure, repairing leaky valves and a heater element also damaged in the freeze. The native Texan started plumbing professionally 40 years ago but hasn’t seen anything like this.
“And I remember temperatures being below freezing for over 100 hours,” Wakefield says, “But I do not remember ever waking up in Dallas and seeing a temperature of -2 degrees. We have been turning down 20 to 50 calls an hour since the freeze started.”
Others will soon be calling plumbers to assess water-ruined floors, furniture, and fixtures, ceilings, dry wall and wiring in thousands of homes across Texas. Insurers predict it’ll be a record-busting mess, costing about $20 billion.
In Frisco, Diane Twist said once the ice thawed, water started running out of her garage.
“So we had to shut the water off,” said Twist, “and we thought maybe it was coming from here and I think he has determined that yes it was.”
She is talking about plumber Matthew Tygart, seven years with Legacy Plumbing. Tygart is standing by some PVC pipes exposed outside the house near the garage. They feed an apartment’s half-bath that was added to the century-old historic home that had otherwise insulated pipes.
“There appears to be, at the very least, one cracked fitting from freezing,” said Tygart, pointing a nearly hairline fracture in the white plastic pipe.
But after crawling behind a panel inside the garage, Tygart discovers shattered PVC pipes, making this more than a quick and simple job. He now expects such surprises since the freeze.
“Yesterday,” Tygart explained, “we went in with the intention of hopefully finding one leak and solving that and it turned into finding seven leaks and being there for most of a day trying to locate and repair all of those.”
Tygart’s boss, Theron Young, looked on. He wishes the builder of this addition had installed the pipes correctly from the start — not outside.
“It’s not done the way it should be done,” said Young, shaking his head, “and if it had been, maybe these people wouldn’t be dealing with the freeze break they have currently.”
Young said repairs could still be marginal, but Tygart isn’t done investigating.
Young and Wakefield, said the easiest and cheapest burst pipe repairs should cost in the hundreds of dollars. Both say more complex fixes could cost a few thousand dollars, maybe even more, if customers want to avoid the same thing happening again the next time there’s a deep freeze.