Things That Go Splash in the Night

Long-time readers will remember my story of being awakened in the night to the pounding on my door by guys who didn’t speak English, only to set my foot on the floor with a splash. They lived downstairs, and the charming waterfall cascading down the stairs was already filling up the basement.

On that occasion I found myself standing in water, wanting nothing more than a nice hot cup of tea. There was none to be had.

Fast forward to yesterday morning. After one more snooze-button hit than usual I crawled out of bed and cracked open my eyes just enough to find my mug, the one that would soon hold tea. I staggered toward the kitchen and heard the sound of running water. “Holy crap,” I thought, “did we leave the kitchen faucet on all night?”

In fact we had not. Yet sometime in the night a hose below the floor beneath the kitchen sink had decided to succumb to pressure and just let water flow where it might. “Where it might,” it turns out, was just about everywhere. Beneath our floor is a nice thick layer of insulation. That space filled with water and carried the flood through the house, unimpeded by walls.

It took me a while to get the water turned off (there were two valves on the water line, one camoflaged between two pipes, and the setup looked like a gas line to boot), but it was clear that the deluge had been under way for a good long time already.

I was on the phone with People Who Can Do Something About Things Like This when the lights in the kitchen went out. Oh, happy day. One thing about living in a home that was delivered on wheels: you can get a warranty, much like one for a car. We got one to protect us against just such surprises during the first year in our new abode. The warranty covered a plumber visit to fix the pipe. The warranty did NOT cover “access”. The plumber came out, discovered that he couldn’t get to the leak, and left again. Had I been there at the time (my sweetie has done the lion’s share of the work on this issue) I would have provided him access, no matter how big a hammer I needed. Instead, Father of Sweetie came over and tore the bottom out of the cabinet under the sink, revealing the original floor, and enough of the pipe to reveal the leak. Another plumber arrived promptly.

Tearing out the cabinet floor also revealed the valve to turn off the hot water to the sink. Good thing we never needed it. The previous owner was a handyman of sorts; he installed a lot of upgrades and generally kept the place in great shape. The thing is, when you look close you can find a lot of questionable work. A fence latch that doesn’t line up right. Concrete poured so water pools up. A screen-door pneumatic closer-thingie installed… creatively. Sprinkler heads that don’t work in the right geometry. Add to that list the water purifier in the kitchen and the cabinetry (which he might not have done). Before we moved in the inspector found nails through the unsheltered ends of shingles. A lot of energy put into home improvement but undermined by… I’m not even sure what to call it. Ignorance? Sloth? For all his energy, he took the easy answer often enough.

The ideal home maintenance guy: someone with his motivation and my penchant for getting things right. One reason I don’t do as many fixit jobs as I should is that it takes me forever to get things right. I’m the slowest handyman out there.

Back to the flood. One difference this time around: I live with a good Californian who keeps reserves of drinking water. After the first crisis was past, I had tea. Man it was good.

Now we have a maze of insurance and warranties to figure out. (The good news: insurance covers it. The bad news: we can’t get anything done until the adjuster comes out. The good news: He’ll be here tomorrow.) Meanwhile, the light of my life continues to sop up the flood as the water in the insulation wicks back up into our house.

3 thoughts on “Things That Go Splash in the Night

  1. F.O.S. also needs to be given credit for crawling underneath the house (no easy task in the best of conditions, nice soft mud didn’t help) and removing a large enough piece of insulation to create access from that side as well, which it turns out is where the actual repairing happened. Thanks, Dad!

  2. A passage from my previous flood episode that I liked upon rereading tonight:

    I live on the top floor, and water, being composed mostly of matter, responds readily to the call of gravity. It is crafty in the number of paths it can find to make its way downhill… as the water sought the center of the earth it paused to work its polar molecule magic on whatever substances it encountered, and paint and plaster were the biggest victims.

    I think it’s the “mostly” that charms me these many years later.

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