Dan's Kitchen: A Last-Minute Hiccup

Renovation Diary

The corner from whence came the suspicious sound.
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Name: Dan Bailey
Type of Project: Kitchen remodel
Location: East Boston, Boston, Massachusetts
Type of building: 2nd Floor Condo in a Greek-Revival Row House

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At the start of last week, it looked like only a few finishing details, like installing cabinet hardware and some touchup painting, remained. I thought I was in the home stretch. And then, as I walked in the door after work one day, I heard it — the unmistakable thwick thwick thwick of dripping water. The sound was coming from a corner of the kitchen, but there was no sign of water. As I pressed my ear against the wall, I realized to my horror that the dripping noise was coming from inside the wall. Listening through the wall, I heard my upstairs neighbors turn off their kitchen sink directly overhead. The dripping noise slowed and eventually stopped. My heart sank.

My contractor, Gregg had mentioned to me a few days earlier that it sometimes sounded like something was dripping inside the wall, but this was the first time I had heard it. The dripping sound was coming from behind the refrigerator alcove, next to the window. At this point, I hadn’t gotten around to painting the rear wall of the refrigerator alcove. So, before finishing the wall, I decided to cut a hole in it to further investigate the mysterious dripping noise. It seemed like the prudent thing to do.

I should mention here that I’ve dealt with two major plumbing leaks in my condo in the past two months: a pinhole leak in a hydronic heating line eventually soaked through a corner of my living room ceiling, and a corroded bleed valve on a heating line in my building’s rear stairwell finally gave out, unleashing a steady stream of water that pooled on the landing three floors below. Both issues have since been resolved. But in a 165-year old building, it seems that leaky plumbing comes with the territory. So I wasn’t surprised by the possibility of a leak in the kitchen, and I wanted to take care of it as soon as possible.

But once the wall was open, the interior was dusty and completely dry. There was no sign of water damage, and not even a hint of moisture. We left the wall open for a few days, just to be sure there was no leak. My neighbors weren’t able to trigger the dripping noise by running water in their kitchen. It seemed that my neighbors using their kitchen sink when I first heard the sound was a cruel coincidence. Eventually I heard the noise again. And still there was no sign of water. I began to suspect that there was no leak.

The real culprit - a noisy heating pipe behind this wall.
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Finally, I realized that the sound was coming from a heating line inside the wall. Every time the heat came on, the copper pipe made a very convincing dripping noise as it filled with hot water and expanded. And as I realized this, I was flooded with relief – and embarrassment at having been tricked by a heating pipe into cutting a hole in a wall of my nearly-finished kitchen. Gregg and I have since patched, skim coated, and painted the wall in question, and I’ve moved on to the less-suspenseful work of cleaning and organizing the kitchen.

I’d like to thank everyone who has followed along and offered encouraging comments and advice. Next up, the Big Reveal! (For real this time.)

Estimated time for project: 33 weeks
Time remaining: 0 weeks

Check out the full series (so far) and be sure to join us on Tuesday for the big reveal of Dan's finished kitchen!

(Images and diary text: Dan Bailey)

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Renovation Diary: Dan's Kitchen