We All Know What Runs Downhill

View of the offending pipe from the hole in my bedroom wall

View of the offending pipe from the hole in my bedroom wall

I can tell you in a house the same stuff flows down to the basement. It all started with a quick load of laundry so I could pack my favorite pair of nice shorts to wear at the parent orientation.

Okay, okay I’ll back up a bit.

My son, honors graduate, has been accepted to University of Wisconsin Madison (UWM).  He’s majoring in Bio-Chemistry in the College of Honor Science and Letters.  At UWM there’s a freshman orientation for students and parents called SOAR.  Ours was the 12th & 13th of this month.  We went there after work on the 11th to be ready bright and early on the 12th for our first day of orienting, which brings us back to the laundry for those nice shorts I was wanting to pack.

I was in the laundry room and looked over to the corner to see water flowing from the finished area of the basement into the drain in the unfinished part where the laundry is.  Being very sharp and on the ball despite the stomach flu I said, “That’s not right.”   Yes I said those very words as I walked out onto soaked carpet that stank.

Long story short… we did what we could to take care of the water with towels, Shop-Vacs, and left dehumidifiers running. Also Mike, my dear Hubby, spotted the problem – the sewage line from the second story was cracked.  Yep it wasn’t a water leak I’d been walking in – it was a sewage leak, the flow I saw was from a toilet being flushed.  Let’s all say EWWWW!!!

We wrangled the cats  upstairs so they didn’t have to be in it. Left them the automatic feeder, water and fresh litter boxes.  They murmured something about we get all upset about a missed litter box then we go soak the whole damn basement. We told them to shut up then headed to Madison.

While in Madison we scheduled the plumbers to come out for an assessment.  Once we returned they determined it was a wrought iron pipe as old as the house (over 70 years old) that had cracked from old age and use.  The repair would involve pulling all of it out and replacing it. That would have to followed by an abatement of the sewer water in our basement.  By then the water had evaporated leaving behind… well what sewer water leaves behind.  Thank goodness the crack wasn’t large enough for sewer “mud” (okay we all know what it is and it’s not mud but let’s stay with nice plumber euphemisms okay?) to come out.  Just for the water that ran over & around it to then flow out into my nice textured Berber carpet.

This necessitated call to the homeowners insurance.  You know, I just needed to get another ball rolling with that mud that goes downhill or in our case, down pipe.  I was told what they needed to determine coverage.  All I had to do was get the plumbers, sewer abatement company (who knew there were such people), and the restoration company all in agreement then start work. Oh I had to schedule them in the correct order. Needless to say a weekend stalled all of that.  Come Monday I started juggling again.

Which brings us to today…  Today was the plumbers action day.  I was prepared by being awoken at 6:15 this morning by a freshly shower husband chattering away about things to ask or tell the plumbers upon their arrival.  Then I got up, made coffee, and left said instructions with the plumber’s answering service lest I forget them once caffeinated.

I then practiced the fourth thing I’ve listed on my business cards and cat wrangled.  We have three cats, one elderly girl named Mo and two aging brothers named Puss & Boots but called Red and Blue (long story another blog post).  There was only going to be one room with a door not affected by the proposed wall cutting to remove the pipe.  It was my office.  I set up a litter pan and water bowl in the office then wrangled three cats into the room and one greyhound out of the room.  It became a crazy house as I caught Red and put him in, his brother Blue would do kitty Matrix moves to get out while the door, swollen by the humidity, wouldn’t close.  Then I’d catch Blue to find the door was now stuck shut.   I struggled with it while the large black tomcat in my arm continued do his best Neo Ninja moves.  Finally, all three were in the office.

The plumbers showed up and I explained how I needed the billing for their time broken out because the insurance would cover assessment time and access time but not actually plumbing time. Go figure. Still better than I expected though, so props to USAA. 

What followed was a day of watching a house we’ve worked to make a home become undone.  Walls we lovingly painted or agonized over the wallpaper selection were cut into with holes large enough to fit a man. Insulation dust filled the air but with it being 101F outside couldn’t open the windows to vent. There wasn’t a breeze.  It cleared once those holes were made.  Toilets were set in places they don’t go like tubs and back yards.  (Yes neighbor’s it’s a new planter enjoy!)  Then came what the whole shebang was about—removing  the sewer pipe that serviced two floors.  Much banging, ringing, sawing, cracking, thumping, shouting, and aromas I’ll leave to your imagination occurred as over 20 feet of 6 inch in diameter cast iron pipe was removed from my walls and paraded down steps, through my dining room, or up steps depending on where the section was pulled.  It was placed next to the toilet enjoying its day in the sun.

Ahh, now to put the new PVC pipe in.  So again with the banging, sawing, shouting, and thumping. I again brought water to sweating but grateful plumbers as they worked through lunch.  Then it was done. 

Once again I have indoor plumbing. One of the nicest niceties of modern life was restored.  I now have a new appreciation for it since we’ve done without it for a bit.  Kinda like I love my electricity after that two day power outage last month.  Is the world trying to tell me I’ve forgotten the lessons of Hurricane Hugo?  Taking my cue from Scarlett—I’ll think about that tomorrow.

Where am I now in the downhill flow?  I have a Swiss cheese house that smells like wet swimsuits in the basement.  The holes cut in the walls, ceilings, and floors now allow the scent to waft freely through the rest of house.  However, we can now use all the plumbing in the house without fear of adding to the eau d’toilet in the basement.  The abatement is yet to be done.  It’ll start Friday morning with my ceremonial cat wrangling.

What’s involved in that?  Basically tearing out the finished part of the basement (carpet, linoleum, paneling, ceiling tiles, and contaminated furniture) power washing what’s left with an anti-mold, anti-virus, anti-bacterial, anti-anything bad then putting industrial blowers, dehumidifiers, and such down there running for 3 days straight while keeping all living creatures (humans, cats, and greyhound) out of there. 

That will leave me with a stripped basement in my fresh smelling Swiss cheese house that won’t give me roto-virus.  After that the restoration guys will be booked.  They will patch, carpet, linoleum, paint, panel, tile, and anything else until it’s like new.  Then it’s new furniture time, the guys pick the replacement couch for their freshly cleaned man-cave.  Which Aaron will only enjoy for a week or two before he moves to Madison.

So basically I’ve learned sewage mud may roll down but it takes cooperation at all levels, inside and out, to clean it up.  Doesn’t matter if you’re at the top or the bottom the cleanup will affect you.  Just do your best to manage what runs your way, call for help to manage it if you need to, and know that in time it’ll be fixed.  Oh, and keep your cats from falling through the holes in the wall & floors in the mean time.

4 thoughts on “We All Know What Runs Downhill

    • No is by no way fixed. Our basement is still gutted, clean but gutted. There are man sized holes in my bedroom wall and bathroom ceiling. This Monday I finished getting all the restoration quotes (drywall guys, carpenter, painter, wall paperer, flooring guys) to the insurance so hope to start Monday with dust flying from the drywall repair.Thanks for asking.

      I live in Kenosha (just north of Chicago, last stop on the Metra). My son is moving to Madison for college at the end of this month. Yes, I’ve had enough of the frozen winters and dream of returning to a condo in downtown Tampa.

  1. Aren’t modern conveniences fun? At least you got it fixed. We had to replace most pipes in our 50+ year old ranch – with hubby crawling in the crawl space. Luckily, only the shower walls had to be replaced. (No basement; good and bad. ) ha!

    • Yes modern conviences are nice. I’m so glad we got pros to come and do it. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have Mike and Aaron do it! Tomorrow abatement starts. Yet another adventure!

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