Sometimes the simple solution is buried under water

I got a call one afternoon from one of the teams telling me that the faucet in the in the master bath was running and they couldn’t turn it off.  I arrived a little later, without much of a sense of urgency, as a running faucet should be no big deal. Upon arriving, I went into the house looking for them.  I couldn’t find them anywhere as I was making my way to the master area. 


When I got into the master bedroom, I saw that the master bathroom door was closed and heard a commotion of talking and splashing on the other side.  I opened the door and was more than a little surprised to find both team members in there.  Also, I was a little more than surprised to see that they were standing ankle deep in water.  They had dammed the bottom of the bathroom door with towels since the water was rising.  They were taking turns bailing buckets of water from the bathtub and the floor into the commode.  


I also was a “little more than surprised” to see a forceful, sideways geyser of water shooting out of the shower handle – or where the shower handle used to be – and spewing across the shower, splashing onto the floor.  No water was coming out of the faucet though.  

Since the water was gushing out at such a force, and no handle to turn it off, I needed to find the main shut off valve.  After running around the house and seeing that there was only a crawl space under the house, I knew that the shut off valve was under there. However, there was a padlock on the crawl space door.  I recalled that a padlocked door is only as strong as the latch, making the lock itself less of an issue.  Therefore, since I had no tools at all, certainly didn’t have a hack saw in my back pocket, I looked in the yard for the next best thing – that being a big rock.  I assaulted the lock and latch with my rock.  Except the rock was sandstone and crumbled with the first blow.  I then ran to the car and got the tire iron from the trunk.  It was a really sturdy master lock, so I put the tire iron through it and easily ripped the latch off of the door.  

As I crawled under the house looking for the main cut off valve, through the spider webs and other non-descript “thingies”, I was being showered from above by all of the water which was flowing through the bathroom floor.  Kinda looked like a cascading waterfall.  Very scenic.  Of course, the crawl space had a red dirt floor, which was now a red mud wallow.  

As I snaked through the mud, in the dark, through the cascading water, I found the shut off valve and cut the water off. I then wallowed back out of the crawl space, back up to the bathroom – after I hosed my pants, shirt and shoes off with the garden hose.  Luckily it was summer.  


What happened to create this debacle was that the hot water knob came completely out of the wall when they went to shut the water off after cleaning the tub.  It just kept turning and turning and turning….until… oops…she was holding the entire fixture in her hand, unleashing the fire hose stream of water.  We cleaned up every drop of water and screwed the handle back in the wall and turned the water back on.  Yes, by me crawling back under the house through the mud and yes hosing myself off once again.  


I called the customer to let her know what happened, that it was cleaned up, and to not turn the knob too far.  She then told me that she just did have a plumber install new fixtures and evidently did not install the handles correctly.  Whew! It wouldn’t be a problem attributed to us!. She would call the plumber back to install it correctly.  


The one thing positive that I can say, is that at least I was wearing my Sperry Top Siders that day.  I never did get the red mud stains out of my shirt though.


Richard Wilson is founder of Brittany Maids in Atlanta, GA as well as a leader in the cleaning for health movement in the cleaning industry. He is also a former ARCSI board member and was instrumental in the creation of the IICRC House Cleaning Technician certification. For more information, click here.