Plumbing Horror Stories

Nothing is scarier than living in a house that could turn on you at any moment. Your house could be haunted…not with ghosts or monsters but bad plumbing. Being in the business as long as we have, our master plumbers have seen some pretty horrific scenes in their time.

So pop some popcorn and grab a flashlight as we share three of our most scary plumbing horror stories.

(Names and locations have been changed to protect the embarrassed).


Horror Story #1. Pity in Pink


It’s 1955. Rebel Without a Cause is showing at the town cinema. Gunsmoke just debuted on one of three available television networks, and somewhere in Wisconsin, a new family is installing a bright pink toilet in their bathroom. Don and Jan love their toilet. It perfectly captures the colorful style of their bathroom and is sturdy and easy to clean.

As time goes by, Don and Jan’s life changes drastically. A year after buying the house, they have a daughter. Within what seems like hardly any time at all, she is married and Don and Jan are chasing grandchildren around their home.

It’s 2015 now, sixty years since they met with the realtor to sign the paperwork for their little nest. Although so much of their life has changed since that day, one thing that hasn’t is the little pink toilet in the upstairs bathroom.

One day, while Don is out golfing with some friends, Jan decides she’s running low on a few groceries. Though she only needs four ingredients for dinner, she has the whole day ahead of her and decides to see what’s new over at the Fox River Mall in Appleton.

Unfortunately, the little pink toilet that her and Don have relied on for half a century decides it’s time to retire. Minutes after leaving, the tank cracks spilling water down the side of the toilet and on to the floor.

Two and a half hours later, Jan arrives at home. She walks into the kitchen with her reusable bag of groceries only to find a surprise…a very wet surprise.

water damage plumbing horror story

The kind of surprise you could take the family canoe out into | Image credit to Wikimedia Commons

Her kitchen is flooded. An inch of water stands above the linoleum. The wallpaper has separated from the wall which is now stained with the excess water from the fractured toilet tank. Appliances have shorted out, including her new stand mixer and toaster. It looks like very little will survive. She quickly calls us to help with the unexpected destruction of the kitchen.

Ultimately, this story has a happy ending. Don and Jan didn’t skimp on their homeowner’s insurance and the damage from the toilet tank was covered one-hundred percent. The couple was even able to make some well-deserved updates and renovations to their kitchen that they couldn’t find room for in the budget before the accident.

As for the toilet? The plumber Jan called installed a new water efficient model that same day. To his knowledge, it’s been working well ever since. He still has frequent flashbacks to that mess in the kitchen, though, and thinks about how much worse things could have been if Jan’s trip had been even an hour longer.

Moral of the story: Toilets last a long a long time, but if it’s been over fifty years since the last inspection, give yours a thorough check up.


Horror Story #2: A Winter’s Tale


Growing up in Atlanta, Tony could handle hot weather. Between frequent trips to the pool and a working knowledge of every air conditioner model made between 1945 and 1980, he laughed in the face of three digit temperatures and ninety percent humidity.

So when his job relocated him to the Fox Valley of Wisconsin, he was in for an altogether different weather extreme. During his first winter, he couldn’t believe the cold. It was almost like he could see the ice in the air. He worked hard, though, and finished his career with a well-earned pension and enough savings for a down-payment on a house in Tucson.

Tony loved being able to go back and forth between Little Chute and Tucson. He even managed to find a small group of Green Bay Packer fans in Arizona with whom he could watch the games (the 2009 playoff loss to the Cardinals made him regret moving for a minute). Life was good and reading his former coworkers’ posts on Facebook about how cold it was made him even more happy to be in the desert for the winter.

November of 2012 was a different story for Tony, however. Going through his usual winterizing checklist, he made sure to turn down the heat and insulate his windows with plastic before boarding up the house for the cold season. Unfortunately, Tony forgot to have the water shut off to his house.

His neighbors, the Paulus’, had been dependable for Tony in the past and would text him pictures of the meters outside of his house to make sure the furnace was running. However, they had moved over the summer. As Tony was breaking in new tires on his Motorcycle in Tucson, his pipes were doing their own breaking in the absence of furnace heat and bitter Wisconsin cold.

By the time his brother (who was staying in Milwaukee on business) checked the house, the horror was realized…Tony’s pipes had broken and the frozen water had thawed flowing into his house for days. His toilets were completely solid with ice and almost every copper water line in the home was broken.

Frozen pipe plumbing horror story

Like the first story except with freezing and months instead of hours.
Image credit to Scott Akerman | Flickr

All-in-all, this oversight ended up costing Tony thousands of dollars which he could have spent on a new motorcycle and led to a massive job for one of our master plumbers.

Moral of the story: If you’re going away for the winter, install a watchman light and have neighbors or friends swing by occasionally to make sure your home is dry and warm.


Horror Story #3: Sump-Thing is Wrong


When Kirby and Denise bought their character home in Menasha, they knew they were getting a bargain. The home featured the charm and antiquity of an old Victorian dwelling with modern renovations to keep both of them feeling comfortable and cozy.

Kirby’s favorite part of the 2400 sq ft house was the finished basement. The previous owners had completely updated the original foundation and the basement now featured a game room, dining area and home theater.

He viewed it as his own little escape. Ever the entertainer, Denise could have her friends over for Sunday brunch while Kirby could hang out on his leather sofa downstairs and watch football with his coworkers. Things were perfect.

Like all truly scary stories, though, they didn’t stay that way. Kirby had read up on home ownership before he and Denise had signed the paperwork. He knew most of what he was able to do as far as repairs go, and what he would have to call the professionals on. Unfortunately, his research didn’t include our blog on ways to prevent a plumbing catastrophe.

Kirby was a responsible homeowner, but neglected to quarterly test the sump pump and at least flip on the switch every month to ensure it was up and functional.

It wasn’t.

The first heavy rain that came the following spring, Kirby discovered this when his subterranean escape involuntarily became a pool room. At least an inch of standing water was present in the laundry area, going all the way into the home theater. It would be weeks and thousands of dollars before Kirby could enjoy the comfort of his media fortress again.

Sea World Sharks

Kirby’s sump pump gave him the full 3D experience for Shark Week…water and all.
Image credit to Wikimedia Commons

Moral of the story: Activate your sump pump once a month by switching it on and making sure it will run when needed. Every 3-4 months, pour a bucket of water down it when it is on to make sure it is able to pump the water out of the basement in the case of a flood.

Have you survived a plumbing horror story? Let us know in the comments. If you have one on your hands now, be sure to contact us right away, and check out our blog as we regularly post information which will keep you from being a character in the next plumbing horror story.