Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Debugging a Shower

The big extravagance at the house this year is replacing the cheapest looking vinyl shower you ever saw with a very nice tile and glass block version. A friend of my wife's built it over the course of a month; it's beautiful. The babies have been learning the joys of showers over baths, and I've been spending much of my time pondering development problems from the built in granite seat.

Unfortunately, it's started leaking and in tracking down the leak, I've realized how broadly applicable the skills we pick up debugging software can be applied to the physical world.

Initial Bug Report.
After a lengthy bout of baby cleaning, my wife noticed a wet spot growing from the hallway wall shared by the new shower. She reported the bug to me as a high priority.
Observation of Bug's Behavior
The bug only manifested itself after a shower. And a shower of the babies.
Initial Conclusions
If the copper pipes inside the shower were leaking, then using the shower would be irrelevant; it would leak regardless of use. The only exception to this would be a leak in the pipe from the valve to the shower head. So no need to rip out the walls to get to the water pipes.
Working on the assumption that if the shower was leaking, it was doing so near the wet spot, and most likely at the most complicated part of the shower: the granite seat. So, I took my morning shower with the spray pointed away from the seat. Result: No wet spot. Conclusion, the seat was not properly sealed. There was a seam through which water could get through and into the outside world. This meshed well with the initial bug report, as the babies would tend to stand on the seat and have the spray directed at them there for long periods.
Rejected Alternative Hypothesis
Someone suggested that perhaps the flow was overwhelming the drain and a path to the outside was being reached from the bottom. This seems unlikely as the flow into the drain should be the same or less when the spray was pointed towards the seat. And 15 minutes of water directed directly at the drain disproved it.

Final Conclusions
Have to reseal all the joints, and re-grout the tile beneath the seat till we find the bad seam.