14 January 2008


(Some of the pictures can only be appreciated if clicked on and viewed full size.)

It all started so innocently.

Dug found that some of the pipes in the bathroom weren't being used anymore. We cut, tugged, cranked and pulled to remove those suckers. Once the pipes were removed, we capped them. Well, I should say we capped one and found that the other one wasn't threaded. Until we could figure out what to do, we stuffed a paper towel in its mouth and wrapped it in plastic to protect us from any fumes that might try to escape from the sewer lines.

Fast forward one day. My youngest son is in the newly sub-floored bathroom saying, "Water! Water!" Dug, working in his basement lair, hears him and also notices the sound of falling water. Upon investigation, he finds that the kitchen sink, which has some drainage issues, causes water to backflow up the same removed pipe. Problem: Pipe removed = no where to go but out.

Of course this is also a day where Dug can not stop to work on house issues. Major things with his job need to be done. So we are all on strict orders: Don't use the upstairs sink or dishwasher.

Fast forward to my brother, Chris, coming home from work. Dug asks him to snake the pipe and hopefully clear up any obstructions. After a few tries, it's obvious that the snake ain't the pipe hero we had hoped him to be. Dug and Chris determine that the best solution is to reroute the entire drainage pipe in a more direct route.

This whole house renovation thing has been quite a historical lesson. While we don't know who, specifically, was responsible for all the of "improvements," it is obvious by looking at the different piping "solutions" that we are not dealing with the craftmanship of a plumbing professional. Heck, I'm not even sure the guy had any plumbing experience at all. But just wait. I haven't even scratched the surface yet.

So, back to the story. A more direct route is discussed and as Dug is off to Home Depot to get the proper supplies, Chris is in charge of removing a pipe that comes from nothing and leads nowhere, but is blocking the way. It's around 5 o'clock and the sun just set. (That comes into play in a moment.) I'm at the computer. (I know, big shock!)

As I'm perusing various blogs, I hear the Sawzall. Thinking it's my brother, I pay it no mind. Then I hear my oldest son chastising my youngest and my brother yelling, "Turn it off!" My heart leaps into my throat and I race into our unfinished bathroom, sure that I'll find the giant power tool, blood and little fingers on the floor. As I push open the door I find the two brothers, but nothing else. (I still don't know what their scuffle was about.) Chris is still yelling "Turn it off! Turn it off!" from the basement and I'm confused. I hear water flowing, but am not understanding. I start down the basement stairs, all the while my brother's cries are growing more and more frantic. And that water sound is starting to get louder.

"Turn it off!!!" Chris continues to shout.

"Turn what off?" I yell back.

"The dishwasher, the washing machine, whatever it is that is draining!" he screams.

I run back up the stairs and check the dishwasher. Nope, the green "Clean" light is on from when I ran it this morning. Through the kitchen door I check the washing machine, but it's empty. I still haven't seen what has happened, but know it has something to do with a lot of water pouring into places it shouldn't be.

I yell down the stairs, "Do I need to turn off the water to the house?"

Barely a half-second passes before he bellows, "Yes!!!"

I run out the door. It is getting dark because the sun is down, but still light enough to see. (Told you sunset would come into play.) Out by our sidewalk are the water meters for our house and our neighbor's. I've done this before but can't remember which meter is ours. I try to see what meter is ticking off faster, but the stinking sun is gone and the little holes where they live are black as night. So now I have to run back into the house and grab the Maglite, which by a MIRACLE OF GOD is actually in its drawer. Back out to the curb, I stick my hands in the muddy goo, wipe off the dial of water meter #1. Nada. Dang it! Plunge my hand into the mire of water meter #2 and the numbers are spinning as fast as you can read this: tick tick tick tick. Since it's been raining nonstop for months, the valve is in about five inches of seriously cold, murky water and its specific location is unknown to me. So, just like the girl in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, I have to feel around for the valve with who-knows-what living in that dark, wet hole. I find it, chant my faucet mantra of "Righty Tighty, Lefty Loosey," and turn off the the water. I take a deep breath.

Cold, barefoot and muddy I return to the house and venture down to survey the damage. My brother is on his knees, a 2-liter bottle with the neck cut off in his hands, bailing the water from the flooded bathroom into the storm drain outside the basement door. The entire bathroom has at least an inch of standing water and looks as though someone took a fire hose to it. Water is everywhere. Dripping from the ceiling fan, light fixture, and any other hole in the ceiling. Everything is drenched. The floor, walls, toilet, shelves...everything! Dug's office is on the other side of the bathroom wall and water is leaking under the wall and starting to spread across the room. Chris yells at my oldest to get towels and we try to stop the flow while continuing to bail. I didn't know you could bail outside of a boat. But you can.

What happened? We didn't know. Chris was starting to cut the superfluous pipe and vibrating things up a bit when suddenly he heard water flowing. At first he thought it was the washing machine or dishwasher draining because it was so much. But then when it came gushing out of the ceiling, he didn't know what was going on. After yelling at me, he tried to figure out which pipe was to blame. On the far side of the bathroom, water was flowing from the ceiling fan, the light fixture, and heavily from the hole where a pipe vents in the middle of the room. But most of the water was flooding onto the floor right next to the door. When Chris looked down and saw that it was overflowing into the computer room, he switched from search and rescue to emergency bailer. And that's where I found him.

If you remember, Dug was at Home Depot. I called him, in a bit of a panic, and ordered him home.

"Dug, you need to come home now!"

"Why?" he asked.

I then proceeded to explain the whole situation. He, a little too calmly, stated, "You find out what happened and I'll buy the stuff to fix it."

What?! Did he just say that he wasn't going to come and immediately take care of this completely out of control situation?! "But we don't know what's wrong, it's in the ceiling."

"Get Chris to stick his head up there and see what's wrong."

He was still not as concerned as I thought he should be. Although in hind sight, I'm glad, but at that moment I felt a little like a one-year old when their parents try to get them to walk by standing them up and letting go. So I did the only thing I could. I hung up on him.

Chris and I conferred and realized that the only the thing to do was to turn the water back on and watch. The plan was simple. I go outside, turn the water on for five seconds, turn it off and Chris locates the leak. The first three parts went like clockwork. When I come back in, the water is still draining out of the ceiling and Chris calmly states that five seconds is too long and he is looking in the wrong spot. Apparently the water first starts leaking at the far side of the bathroom and because whoever built our house has no idea what a right angle is or what the term level means, the deluge at the near end is just run off from the far end.

Now our only choice is to tear the ceiling apart. Since Chris is my brother, we think along the same lines. He punches a hole in the ceiling and we happily tear it apart. (Dug isn't there to rein in our messy natures.) We still can't see anything though. By this time, Dug has called back to check on our progress and tells us that there is a main shutoff in the house. That would have been nice to know about an hour ago. But I am not a woman who bears grudges. I turn off the inside valve and turn the outside one back on. (Risking the cold water, yucky mud and nameless creatures once again.) Now I can actually talk to Chris while working the valve, since we have to turn the water back on once more, to find the leak.

My brother sticks his head and a flashlight in the ceiling and I open the valve. Once again, I hear the familiar, "Turn it off!" I do and run back just in time to see him spitting and wiping his face. (My big sister self snickers.) The best news is heard, "I found the leak!"

Apparently, the previous "plumber" did not glue one of the joints.* It was just stuck together. Maybe he thought his own strength was enough. Or maybe he didn't think at all. (I personally think it was the latter.) Whatever the case, the vibration of the Sawzall and the pressure of the water popped that sucker off, allowing water to shoot to the far wall of the bathroom, flow back along the ceiling, dripping through any crack and pouring from the large hole that accomadates the four inch vent stack (big huge pipe for us laymen) next to the bathroom door.

The good news? All we needed to do to fix it was glue the pipe into the connector. As I am typing this, we have running water into the house again. Yay! Now if we can just get that kitchen-drain thing fixed, we can focus back on renovating our main bathroom again.

*We know that the work was done at least a decade ago. How it held together so long is beyond me.


mej said...

I don't even know what to say...

tricia said...

yeah, i know.

MamaP said...

that is unbelievable. how ya hanging in there girl?

Trenton said...

I need to come down and help dug finish that thing...whens the heating pad going to be dry? Have you laid it down yet? Doug said something like 2 weeks to dry?
Let me know, I'll come down and help.

tricia said...

p - i'm okay. we're potters. we're used to this kind of thing.

trento - heating pad is on hold until this drainage issue is fixed.

Kieran said...

That sure puts things into perspective. Good luck!

bethany canfield said...

no fun! sorry girl.

Quentin said...

What a mess! I've enjoyed reading about the renovation. I'd have a meltdown of nuclear proportions if that had happened to me. The honey-do list just got longer...but two years? Someone's not cracking the whip enough. haha

tricia said...

hey quentin! yeah, you could file us under "slow, but steady." we tend to take forever, but when it's done, it's done niiiice.