Saturday, August 08, 2009

Water, Water Everywhere

When we moved in on Easter Sunday in 2003, I eyed with suspicion and unease the 4-inch hole in my basement floor. It just kind of sat there, unblinking, looking ominous, but not quite malevolent. I looked down it and could see water somewhere down there, my reflection wavering back at me from the dank depths beneath my basement floor. Two pipes ran into this hole: the condensation runoff from our furnace, and a black plastic tube from the work-sink right next to the hole. I never used the sink down there, and I figured the furnace wouldn't give off enough water to be a concern. And so, for the next 6+ years, I pretty much forgot about it.

Fast-forward to Wednesday night. Mom is here helping me paint the porch, and we took consecutive showers, tired and achy after a long day of painter's contortions. I happened to go down to the basement to empty the dehumidifier (I've saved gallon jugs over the years, and I dump that water into the jugs to use on the flowers and tomatoes in the summer.), and was horrified to witness water coming up out of my ominous floor-hole. SHIT! But, as I watched, it receded back down the hole. Hmmm. Maybe the City cleared a fire hydrant somewhere up the line? I ran the dishwasher later that night with no ill results, and so I put it…not OUT of my mind, but at least off the front burner.

Thursday night I did the same thing: dumped the dehumidifier water after two showers. Whoops! There's the water out of that hole again…seeming to prove that, yes indeed, it was connected to our city sewer line, and the volume of water was what contributed to the overflow. I thought uneasily about all the toilet paper and turds we've been putting down there over the years, and I called the Roto-Rooter people first thing on Friday.

"Chad" came over Friday morning with his…Rooter-y thing, and a camera on a cable. He snaked the drain first, looking for roots I guess, even though there are no trees on that side of our house. He called me back down to look through his camera viewer, and was aghast discover that we have a type of outflow pipe called "orangeburg." Orangeburg pipe is basically a tar-coated wood-pulp-and-cardboard kind of thing, which while root-resistant and fairly dense, does NOT hold up well to external pressures. Like rocks, and tons of dirt on top of it. Chad told me that lots of St. Johns houses have this shit as their sewer outflow pipe, and once it's crushed - as was painfully obvious by all the bumps and obstructions we could see on his cable-cam - it's useless. He actually fed his camera far enough (about 40 feet, well out under Lansing Street) for us to behold a horrifying sight: a complete blockage of dirt, with a smallish hole drilled through it…that, the result of his Rooter claw. Oh. SHIT! And speaking of which: WHERE HAS ALL OUR SHIT GONE FOR THE LAST 7 YEARS?!? I don't even want to contemplate. He basically said that the entire length had to be replaced, from under our crawlspace to the middle on Lansing St., where it hooks into the city main line. Cost? Seven grand.

I guess that's okay: we'll get new PVC outflow, impervious to roots and unchrushable, as well as a new copper water IN line to replace the flaky galvanized that's probably been poisoning us since we moved in. And, they'll be done in a day, so it's not like we'll have to be without plumbing for a week or whatever. We also have the dough: Miss Tessmacher is a hardliner when it comes to keeping money in the bank for just this kind of unforseen event. So all in all, it'll be a good fix. But still…where has the shit been going?

Now with that problem solved, or about to be solved, I'm sitting here blogging while I try to ignore all the water that's seeping into our basement from around the foundation. We've been rain-less for I don't know HOW long, and the skies opened up last night, pounding us with an incredible deluge for hours. Our house drainage system is pretty good - eave troughs and downspouts abound - but the volume of water coming down has thwarted simply everything, and the overflowing eaves are creating waterfalls right down next to the house…where, naturally, all that water can't saturate the packed-dry earth quickly enough, so now I'm gonna have to go get the fuckin' shop vac (which, incidentally, is full of DRY materiel right now) and spend the day trying to keep on top of the water. I finally have everything of importance down there in plastic bins or up off the floor, but still…I fuckin' HATE water where it doesn't belong, man! I also, being an anal-retentive kind of guy, hate things I can't control, and rain pretty much tops that list. Shit.

Ah well. At least we had three days of low-humidity and pleasant sunshine. They were good paintin' days, and I do love watching all that rain water bead up on the top rails of our porch.


Blogger Violence Worker said...

Ahh Scott...I'm laughing, not at you, but because I've been through the whole mess in the house I live in.

Not too long after we moved in, the plumbing backed up. We called the rooter people who informed us the old concrete line from the house to the city connection in the alley was collapsing. The old line took a right turn under my neighbors garage (This is an old neighborhood and detached garages in back are common)and presumably connected with his line before entering the city mainline in the Alley. Our neighbor told us during this process that he the same problem a year ago and had to replace much of his line. The contractor told us part of our problem was that he probably did not reconnect our line. Since he could not dig under the neighbor's garage, he had to dig out to the paved alley, and make a new connection. This all took several days and cost 5 grand, but like you, I want to know where all that crap went over the last year.

I repiped the whole house to remove the galvanized lines and replace them with copper and brought the 80 year old plumbing up to code. Another 2500 bucks.

I have a partial basement. Tjhis is Tacoma and in the winter, we get rain and sometimes, like last winter, we get lots of it. I've been in this house since 2001. There is a sump down in the basement. Unfortunately, it is about an inch too small for most of today's sump pumps. When we first moved in, whoever did the French drains for the gutters also included the sump pump drain. The first winter here, the water was coming in almost faster that I could pump it back out. Since the sump was too small for the float to work freely, I had to manually go down there and wade in to activate the pump.

I finally have a system in place that works reasonably well. I rerouted the sump so it goes out to the alley and away from the house. I have a smaller pump that senses water and works without a float so I don't have to keep waders at the ready.

Good luck with that basement!

The joys of home ownership!


1:20 PM  
Blogger Suze said...

Yikes! Sounds awful, though consider yourself lucky you're financially prepared for this!!

Have you seen Arrested Development? You know the part where the house starts sinking because it's just a model home and the pipes drain to nowhere? Your story made me thing of that.

8:54 PM  
Blogger Fun Guv said...

Believe me I feel your pain...we went through this a couple of years ago, nothing like a backhoe digging up your front yard the day before Thanksgiving (Mike put Christmas decorations on the resulting mound in an effort of finding humor in the situation). Of course it went on the diagonal across the yard so the cement walkway was torn up ~ finally got that replaced last year. Even though we had landscapers re level our lawn it still keeps shifting because they could only do so much with the clay they had to work with.

Fun times!

11:52 AM  
Blogger Animal said...

Oh yeah, I remember that! Was it the same kind of problem: sewage outflow pipe needed total replacement? They'll be here today; photos to come!

6:44 AM  

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