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When I closed last night's post by saying "Other trials, travails, adventures, and more can wait for other posts", I was referring to events of my recent past, not those awaiting in my soon-to-be-future. Really. Truly, I was.

Alas, Friday brought another homeowner's nightmare my way. Even though it was bitterly cold Thursday night, I'd turned off the basement space heaters before turning in around 3:30 am. I don't mind having them running downstairs when I'm awake in the living room, and can check on them every little while, but running them all night while sleeping two floors away just seemed to be inviting trouble.

So when I woke after sleeping for six hours, I immediately headed downstairs to start the heaters again. Only to be greeted by a flooded basement.

I closed the water line feeding the boiler, only to have it immediately fire up. Double damn. I ran upstairs, turned the thermostats down, then re-opened the water valves when the boiler kept running. I called Boiler Guy, who said he'd be right over. The boiler finally switched off, so I closed the valves, then went to work moving boxes and chairs off the wet areas of carpet in the fan room, and doing a quick triage on the toy room, which seemed mostly dry. All the while, I tried to figure out where the water came from. A burst pipe was most likely, but all the water seemed to be on the floor, eight feet below the frozen, zone 1 boiler pipe.

Boiler Guy Larry (the business owner, a few years older than me and none too wiry) arrived shortly thereafter. He was as bewildered as me. Since all the visible walls were dry, our attention turned to the crawl space underneath the mudroom. But we still couldn't figure out how so much water ended up on the floor without any sign of dampness in the walls.

Young (and limber) Boiler Guy Rich called his boss and Larry told him to head on over. Soon Rich's feet were following the rest of his body into the crawl space. Larry's no dummy. That's what young and limber employees are for.

No water there -- the soil and joists were bone dry. The pipes don't appear to be bulging, either. Good news, indeed, but the mystery of the water wasn't solved until I looked outdoors. For the last 2.5 years, the backwashing drains on the water treatment system (berm filter, neutralizer, and water softener) fed into the downspout under the deck. Today, the drain tubes were hanging loose, and it was obvious the system had backwashed last night, with all the water cascading down along the concrete wall, entering the basement under the edge of the basement door. (It's a walkout basement.) Looking in from the outside, it was easy to see the flow pattern in a mudswirl just inside the door; the signs of the water's source were obvious even without the extra layer of dirty ice that hadn't been there Thursday afternoon when I showed Rich were he could empty a bucket of water from the boiler.

One mystery solved. Splish-splash.

Boiler Guys left after disconnecting the Zone 1 pump (to protect it from burning out while the pipe is still frozen), and I went digging through paperwork to find the phone number and pertinent names for Well/Water Treatment Guy. Yep, Justin was still with the company. I knew I was okay as long as the system didn't backwash again, and I'd confirmed all three timers were set correctly. Backwashing is set to happen in the middle of the night, so waiting for Justin to return from lunch wasn't going to be a problem. I went downstairs and started mopping.

Justin noticed a spare piece of PVC pipe next to my well pump, and rigged up a temporary drainage system. It should work until the large mound of ice it's resting on melts. By then, I should be able to reconnect the original drainage system, propping it up with a couple of bricks to keep the slope right. This year's ice pulled a connecting piece lower than the drain pipe. Draining water then froze in place, pulling the pieces still further apart. Not that I'm looking forward to crawling up that icy, muddy, slippery slope and squeezing in under the deck joists when the time comes.

I made sure the space heaters were on dry ground and started them back up. For good measure, I turned on the dehumidifier, hoping it would suck some of the water out of the carpet. I'm expecting it will take until warm weather season for me to discover whether the carpet in the fan room needs to be replaced. The sooner it dries, the less likely it is that mold and mildew will grow. That's what I'm hoping, at least.

A few hours later, I finally remembered that I bought a shop vac a few months back, and that shop vacs suck water as well as dirt. It was still in the box, in the garage. Some assembly required, but it was soon pulling water out of the still-sodden parts of the carpeted floor.

So, that was my day.

It's supposed to warm up for the next several days; living without heat on the first floor is already much more comfortable than it was yesterday, and it's just going to get better. For a while, at least. Long enough for the pipe to thaw, I hope.

Boiler Guys are coming back Monday or Tuesday and we'll see whether or not Zone 1 works then. Well/Water Treatment Guy is coming back Wednesday morning -- the berm filter needs servicing and he's going to re-configure the system so water goes through the neutralizer first. That's unrelated to the flooding problem, but yet another issue we discovered when doing a test backwash to confirm the temporary drain was working correctly. I don't yet have a clue about how much all these service calls are going to cost, or how much more will be involved in resolving all of the problems on a long-term basis. I am deeply relieved this is my third winter here in the Zeppelin Hangar rather than my first. Experience has already proven I'm not in for this every winter. Now all I have to do is get through the rest of this mess.

Geri Sullivan, Girl Homeowner. Oh, the joys.

Current temperature: 64 (living room) Without a fire, even. I can live with that.


( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 10th, 2007 11:10 am (UTC)
It probably doesn't suck to be you as much as it sucks to own your particular house just now. Sorry you're having so much trouble with it.

Jim has to do something today he's been dreading, but he doesn't want me to do it alone - he has to go to the Pittsburgh Home and Garden show with me so we can evaluate deck contractors. Hopefully early this spring, we'll have e deck off our family room (the house has a front to back downward slope, so the sliders to nowhere in the family room are about 9 feet off the ground).

It's going to be a little tricky (of course) because the backyard about 10' away from the house is on the marshy side. We think we're going to have to get a French drain installed before the deck is built.
Mar. 10th, 2007 11:28 am (UTC)
Sometimes I really hate water. Sneaky stuff.

I hope the drying out goes well.

Mar. 11th, 2007 03:24 am (UTC)
I'm right there with you on water. It's not my friend right now.
Mar. 11th, 2007 03:26 am (UTC)
P.S. Thanks! The drying out is being slowed by more melting going on outdoors. The ice is formed such that the basement door is the low point. Eek.

But that's in the concrete-floor part of the basement, so I'm fine as long as I keep it mopped up. The other drying is going well.
Mar. 10th, 2007 12:16 pm (UTC)
No fun. Check your home owner's insurance. Depending a bit on the damage. Warm weather is on the way.
Mar. 11th, 2007 03:30 am (UTC)
Re: Ouch!
Yep, I looked. Probably not covered -- all sorts of drain and sump pump backups are excluded; this one most likely would be, too. Anyway, I have a $1,000 deductible. I doubt it will cost that to re-carpet the room...if I even need to.

Thanks, though. It's a good thing to remember, and I wouldn't have necessarily.
Mar. 10th, 2007 01:12 pm (UTC)
Bleh!! Hope it all gets fixed Monday... and at least the weather is moderating. *sigh* [hugs]
Mar. 10th, 2007 01:35 pm (UTC)
My sympathy on the house woes. I can't really imagine what it's like to have to get a flooded basement fixed, but then I've never had a house with a basement.
Mar. 10th, 2007 01:35 pm (UTC)
Sorry to hear that things and sucking now. They will get better. Are the pipes exposed so you can insulate them all when this is done?
Mar. 11th, 2007 03:23 am (UTC)
Most of the pipe is covered in white foam insulation -- the pre-formed stuff that comes in 3-foot lengths or thereabouts, with the slit in it so it pops easily onto the pipe. Well, it pops off easily; I hope it goes back on just as smoothly. (Boiler Guy told me to take it off while we're trying to warm the pipes up -- the same insulation that usually reduces heat loss from the pipes was helping keep them cold once they chilled.)

In the finished part of the basement, the pipes are up above the suspended ceiling. I can get to most of them, but some parts are non-trivial. Then there's that crawl space....
Mar. 10th, 2007 01:46 pm (UTC)
Sorry to hear about this, one of our neighbors has a similar problem. If everything isn't moved, give a call!
Mar. 10th, 2007 02:42 pm (UTC)
That's right -- Sarah's always wanting to play outside. We'll teach her the Fun Pipe Wrapping Game!
Mar. 10th, 2007 02:10 pm (UTC)
Sorry to hear. Houses are tricky. They sneak up on you and find new things to torment with. This is what I have learned from my friends.
Mar. 10th, 2007 04:58 pm (UTC)
Well, bleah. It's not like your coping skills really needed a workout.

Mar. 10th, 2007 07:07 pm (UTC)
Girl homeowner
I suppose your house came with the generic house curse (Murphy), as opposed to some specific curse?

You might check, because it seems you're experiencing more than the usual first-years-of-ownership nightmares.
Mar. 10th, 2007 08:37 pm (UTC)
Oh, man--condolences. I hope you didn't lose much stuff to the floodwaters.

If the frozen pipe is somewhere accessible, you could wrap it with electric heat tape (Easiheat is one brand, available, amazingly enough, on Amazon).
Mar. 10th, 2007 08:53 pm (UTC)
You did a great job handling the bad house!
Mar. 10th, 2007 11:08 pm (UTC)
Yikes! I knew there were more good reasons to hate winter :-> Hope
this is all solved soon and doesn't cost as much as you are fearing. Stay warm.
Mar. 10th, 2007 11:09 pm (UTC)
Yikes! I knew there were more good reasons to hate winter :-> Hope this is all solved soon and doesn't cost as much as you are fearing. Stay warm.
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )


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