Some years we’re lacking for rain around here, but this year ain’t one of them. I’m accustomed to seeing wetness everywhere, so when I spied a substantial puddle at the foot of our back porch steps, it didn’t seem that out of place, except that the area is covered by a shed roof, and rain has never ever encroached upon it, and even if a blob of water did get blown in there, it wouldn’t have hopped over a dry spot. It takes me a little while to make sense of things like this because I put a lot of effort into pretending that whatever it is, it’s not a problem. There’s nothing wrong with my imagination, and I imagine that everything is just fine.
I’m that little fishy swimming happily along the ocean bottom and wondering why the patch of pebbly sand below me has eyes and teeth, just before my last thought (“Uh-oh”).
In this case, however, I stayed with the conundrum long enough to intuit that the water was coming from underneath the house, an area not historically known to contain a seep, or a spring, or a fountainhead of any kind, and was in fact the only reliably FUCKING dry spot in the adjacent outdoors, and I came to the correct conclusion: “This looks expensive.”
And I further surmised that there might be a connection between the stray mystery puddle and the fact that our kitchen sink quit draining a week ago. Altogether. It just shut the hell down. I’ve bombed it with baking soda and vinegar and boiling water and a plunger and poison and powdered dragon’s teeth and although an inch of water in the sink will drain, it will take all night to do it.
There are two problems with our house and they both involve water. The old parts of the house have old pipes with dreams of disintegration. But the lumber is old-growth and nearly impervious to rot. The new parts have spanky new plumbing, but the windowsills are spongy. You’ve got to keep an eye on this place all the time. Squirrels, roof rats and water all want to take it down. But you won’t get me to pine for a dryer climate. That bitch is coming soon enough. I’ll take the rain.
Maybe we can drown a rat with it.
The other conclusion I came to that turned out to be correct is that this sink problem was way past a youtube solution. Our kitchen drain is all busted up. So it makes sense to me that it has been spewing water in the crawl space and saturating our foundation timbers, and it goes a long way toward explaining all the minnows. The part I don’t quite get is why the sink was also stopped up. It involved a vent not venting. But evidently the sucker was plugged all the way back to the street, or possibly the city sewage treatment plant, or maybe the bowels of Venus, and chunky green material eagerly jumped out of the pipe with an eau d’abattoir and notes of bay-bottom.
We’ve got a great plumber. He’s cheerful and efficient and knows exactly what his effort is worth in desperate times (plenty). So far he’s gone through a half dozen hazmat suits because apparently after one use, they haz had it. Anyway it’s all running great again. The plumber isn’t having his mail forwarded here anymore and I imagine at some point he’ll come back for his bathrobe and slippers.
I just ran the dishwasher and there’s no puddle at the bottom of the stairs. It’s raining like hell but that and the dishwasher are drowning out the sound of fungi rumbling in my windowsills. It’s a glorious day.
It’s just as important to have a plumber you trust as it is a doctor. I have the utmost trust and respect for “our” plumber. Since we have an older home also, and nothing is up to code, some big plumbing companies will not even unclog your tub unless you get all the plumbing up to code. Hell, they managed to plumb drains back in the day for this house! You mean you modern plumbers can’t do the job? Or are you just looking to make more money by switching out our pipes? Yeah. I thought so. Our plumber, Dave, is the only plumber we will use anymore. He has no problem with older pipes, even thought the other guys said, “oh, it may fall apart….” Give. Me. A. Break.
I’m here to tell you it may fall apart.
I’m betting that I will fall apart before the plumbing does.
I wouldn’t say those words out loud near the plumbing…just sayin.’
I try to never talk about the plumbing near the plumbing. Much less talk TO the plumbing. And Dave (my plumber) has my back. He actually came out to fix an emergency for me on the first day of his vacation last year. I was going to wait until he got back, even though it meant schlepping laundry to a laundramat (the washer outtake pipe backed up) but he recognized my number when I called and just hung up when I heard the outgoing message that he was on vacation. Now HE is a keeper!
The house I rented for 18 years had begun life as a summer cottage without any plumbing. Whoever installed the “plumbing “ had an imagination and used whatever came to hand that water would flow through. The main clean out was just a hole in the pipe with a rag stuffed in.
When I asked my parents what they thought was the greatest invention of their lifetimes–and mind you, we’re talking from 1908–they said “indoor plumbing” in unison and in an instant.
These last few years your house demons have been fairly unrelenting, huh? It’s never a good time for that stuff, but still. Ours is an old house, too, built in 1930, although we’ve only lived here since 2015. We’d never had an old house and I thought I wanted one. It’s charming. But I wish someone had said, “Nance, would you want to live in an old body? ‘Cause it’s gonna be like that. Patch, patch, patch.” Even in 2015 I was far enough along to know how much no-fun that was, so maybe I’d have listened. That’s gonna be my epitaph, “She Didn’t Listen.”
“But damn, her house was charming.”
I taught Introduction to Law to undergraduates for a decade or so. One day, one of the students asked me for the one bit of important advice every would-be lawyer needs.
“Establish a good relationship with a plumber.”
Better yet, get one in your family. We’ve got two lawyers but no plumbers.
You’re on the city sewer? You don’t know expensive until you have experienced problems with old septic tanks and leach fields. Ukrainian battle fields pale in comparison with the mess that can cause!
Some people on my very block found out (after a plumbing emergency) that they were NOT on the sewer, although they’d been paying sewer charges to the city for years. They were recompensed for that, I think, although it probably didn’t cover the charge for putting them on the sewer.
Oh, I remember what I wanted to share! Friends of mine lived in colonial era townhouse in Philadelphia. They had a problem with the line that brought water in from the street, which fell under the jurisdiction of the city water department. The guys called my friends out when they unearthed the problem “pipe”. It was a piece of wood with a hole drilled through it, nearly three hundred years old at that point. Not bad service, right?
That’s exactly what had been used for ALL of Portland’s water, drilled logs from the Bull Run watershed in a line all the way to us via gravity. Very cool. Of course they couldn’t use logs like that now because we no longer have the old-growth stuff. (Not that we would.)
Most of our water “pipes” are logs as well. They don’t actually replace anything until things go south.
Ah yes…The joy of owning an older home.
Ah! But some of our problems (windowsills!) are from having a newer home! Our home was built in 1906, 1926, and 1996.
And your plumber makes more per hour than I ever made as a physician.
Beats the shit out of my mailman wages, also.
Well, I guess you made a poor job choice if you wanted money rather than “helping people.” Sorry, dude.
In Tucson we don’t use drilled out logs for some reason. https://flic.kr/p/ckUwdJ
And those big empty cacti that balloon up when there is water are so stingy in giving it up!
HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!
I got out of the part-time landlording business after many years cuz the only plumbers available WERE NOT YOUR GUY. Oy vey. Glad ‘yer water problem is fixed,,,,,,,
I will say it all feels good and fixed now.
Last year we paid a pretty penny to fix our yard’s drainage issues (which we had created). I think I’ve already related that saga. This year everything was going swimmingly (see what I did there?) until a mudslide on the edge of town collapsed (two hours ago) and took out the city’s water supply. So now we’re in what they’re calling a ‘Stage 4 “Critical Water Shortage” alert’ (why they put the name of it in quotes I couldn’t say), where they’re asking us nicely to cut our water usage by 40% until whenever. The message from the county said they’re trying to assess the damage, so they’re not at the stage of trying to fix it yet. We have a reservoir for water emergencies, and I guess this is one. They say the reservoir water “may have an earthy taste or odor in tap water during this time. This is due to naturally occurring compounds such as organic carbon. This drinking water still meets or exceeds all State and Federal requirements for safe drinking water. ” Last time we had an alert like this it was because an aging buried pipe at our water treatment plant had sprung a leak. I guess a Stage 5 will be when we get no water at all and I start using up the 15 gallons I’ve stored in the garage, which is not enough. A major earthquake should do it. I’d better buy more water when this is over.
The last INDOOR plumbing problem we had was a few years ago, when I noticed that both taps in the bathroom were running hot. When I listened carefully I could hear water running in the pipes even when everything was shut off, and a check of the water meter told me that yes, we were leaking. A hot water pipe passing through the concrete slab was leaking, and the heat was warming the nearby cold water pipe. So they tore up a bit of the slab and re-routed the hot water line that used to go through the slab through some flexible plastic pipe that they ran up the wall, over the ceiling and down into the bathroom wall.
Well that’s more then enough for now.
I guarantee I would not know what to make of hot water coming out of both taps, although I do know I would pretend it wasn’t happening for several weeks, after which my brain would finally blow up.
One of my favourite Gary Larsen cartoons is of a cave man with a primitive toilet needing repair and his Neanderthal plumber says, “This not be cheap.” That about sums it up. Just “invested” in a new gas water tank recently. Yet, there’s something to be said for professional help. At the second house we owned, I thought I heard water running all the time…like when you leave on an outside faucet. After a search, I found the culprit–a cracked copper pipe just outside the foundation wall that bent when the house settled. The previous owner “repaired” it with ELECTRICAL TAPE! Worst tape invented. Not even duct tape. I had to put a 6 inch elbow in the pipe after cutting it and sprooiing! Anyway…I feel your plumbing pain.
P.S. I did a proper solder job on the copper pipe repair. No tape stops water!
ELECTRICAL TAPE ON A COPPER PIPE okay. Even I know that ain’t right.
My spouse is a semi-retired builder. He does consulting and project management. For the past few years, his only client has been a plumber who never seems to run out of money for gigantic home additions, custom 4-car garages and remodelling every room in the house. Recently, the plumber bought a McLaren, just for fun. He now has a mixed fleet of sports cars and plumbing trucks.
That sounds like a plumber who is fudging his tax returns.
Well, there are very few lucrative careers that people with no college degree can succeed at. People who don’t want to end up in debt because of college might try one of the trades. The hospitality industry is another one. My husband is a bartender. I used to wait tables. As long as you can get into an upscale restaurant, you got it made.
Can I get a hallelujah?!
I need to know what you want the hallelujah for, and then I’ll think about it.
You have a great plumber, everything’s working fine, no puddle, and it’s a glorious day! hallelujah! And I hear you’re lean.
I had a mystery puddle in my basement directly underneath my bath tub drain. I just had the house re-piped, the drain pipe is still intact, and I surmised that the pipe to the shower head, which was not replaced, may have ruptured. I called the same plumbing service that did the re-piping, expecting another $1000 gouge and a hole in the wall that my bedroom shares with the bathroom. The guy who came out found that the mechanism that diverts water to the shower head was loose. He tightened it and didn’t charge me anything.
My house was built in 1910. Anything having to do with the plumbing freaks me out. I recently replaced the flange under my toilet myself. It was a success, but it took me weeks to get up the courage to face it.
And you’re USED to facing the toilet.
(OK, I’m whispering here because I don’t want anyone to hear this. The sewer line from our 1880s house that connects to the city sewer is actually terra cotta. And it connects to a brick sewer main that is built with a gothic arch top. But this ain’t Paris — the sewer cavern is only about 4′ high. I don’t want to say this too loudly, because otherwise the whole thing will fall apart and then everyone up and down the block will have to excavate their back gardens and take out a second mortgage to pay for the repairs. And yes, our sewer main runs through the back alley.)
Your sewer line sounds like it should be on a tour! Lovely!
Awww, Murr! You had me with “the wet spot”…..
Oh, well, thank your lucky damn stars you had a good plumber. I grew up in a big house of 1914 vintage over by Wilshire Park. It eventually moved on to my brother who immediately changed out all the piping/plumbing before it went belly up. Smart brother!