Thursday, November 06, 2008

Emergency Home Repair Escapades

Those of you in Seattle might have noticed that it's been raining quite a bit lately. Normally this is not a cause for alarm, but today we have joined the ranks of those lucky homeowners who have water damage in their basement. Yesterday we noticed that the carpet along the west wall of the basement was wet. We immediately put towels down to soak up the water and Ken launched an investigation into the cause. What he found was that his valiant effort to clean the gutters a few months ago was rewarded by some of that debris going into the downspout and thus into the storm drain. Normally this is not an issue except for the fact that because of the building standards of the 1930's, our storm drain and sewer connection converge into one pipe right outside our bathroom window at the west wall of our basement. (BTW: This is no longer a current building practice.) Our combo storm drain/sewage outlet has a p-trap in line to eliminate sewer gas but it is prone to clog if it's passing waste plus leaves, needles and moss. The recent rains caused a lot of water in a short period of time to flow into our storm drain and because the p-trap blocked up (I saw the clog but didn't get a picture--darn it), the excess water just overflowed and seeped down along the foundation into the basement.
The plumbers have been here excavating this clogged p-trap. They will replace it with one that can be accessed from the surface. They will also provide a separate sewer hatch accessible from outside the house.
Conversation from this morning: Ken: "Didn't we did have a sewer access in our main floor bathroom?" Me: "Oh you mean the one we tiled over because we never thought we'd need to use it?" Last night, Ken shored up the downspout to make sure no additional water went down the storm drain. Take a look at how much water accumulated overnight... Makes a great case for a rain barrel.
As an added bonus, I have just been told by our trusty plumbers that concrete was the favorite type of pipe to use in the olden days but it can break down over time. Sure enough, they showed me where the mortar in the concrete pipe is mostly washed away and all that remains is the rocks. (Read: point of major system weakness & possible seepage issues.) So once they get the new p-trap installed, we are going to turn to technology and run a special camera through the sewer line to see if there are any other areas of concern. I assume with our system being 77 years old, we could find some very interesting shit--for lack of a better word.
Inside the house, we had water damage restorers come over and access the carpet, walls and baseboards. I guess there is nothing you can do when the pad underneath the carpet gets wet--you just have to cut it out and replace it. They had this neato hydrostick that when you push down into the carpet, it told you if it was wet or not. This is really important when trying to find the edge of the affected area. They pulled back the wet carpet and removed all the baseboards. Guess what they found? Moldy moulding.
They guess that this mold is a few days along and grew from the carpet side in rather than the drywall side out. That is a BIG relief that neither the drywall nor insulation is severely damaged and therefore can be dried out. We now have three loud industrial blowers going downstairs: one blowing into the wall, one blowing under the carpet and one blowing at the built-in cabinet baseboards which will run 24 hours a day until Monday. It's like being inside an airplane cruising at 30,000.
Clearly this is not our idea of a good time but I am sobered by the thought of the folks who lost their whole houses in the floods of Katrina and the Centralia/Chehelis area. If a little bit of water does this much damage, I can't even imagine.


Unknown said...

Times like this make my miss my 7th floor condo.

CharlesH said...

See, living inthe great Northwest is an adventure. Better mud than poo.