Monday, February 16, 2015

The Beast Outside the Footings

Our house - it just keeps getting better
We were having so much fun digging trenches inside our house that we decided just to go ahead and start digging outside the house. Actually, we weren't quite so nonchalant about digging outside, but it was a roll of the dice we felt we had to take.
After our attempts at using a camera to follow the drain tiles in our basement out under the foundation were met with a black sludge that resembled the old Beverly Hillbillies oil strike (but a whole lot more fragrant in a bad way), we were told we needed to expose more of the basement floor. Once again, the pros at A-Core brought their diamond-tipped blade in and sawed up more concrete and the burly men of Dayspring came in with their jackhammers and buckets to rip up and hand carry out the floor. More of our basement was removed and what used to be Coles bedroom was turned into an ode to WWI foxholes...stinky, muddy, nasty, rocky foxholes.  I'm beginning to think we could charge admission, add some fish to the stream, and recoup what can only be astronomical bills silently growing.
After a day of sucking out the black goo with "The Extractor", in came the cameras again to investigate where the drain tile traveled. With baited breath we waited to see if the camera could travel under the foundation, through the pipe, and hopefully to some path that would take the water and move it on down the mountain. But once again our hopes at finding a solution were dashed when the camera and snake ran into a wall; this time the wall was in the form of rock and crushed tile about three feet on the outside of the home.  It left us with a conundrum...should we dig out front to clear away the rock and crushed tile in hopes that the tile would pick back up, clear and clean as a whistle and travel down to the storm sewer or perhaps a drain field in the yard, or, should we raise the white flag and dig up the back yard to install the more expensive solution of a curtain/French drain along the back and sides of our home. It was a $1000.00 gamble we had to take and in came the Excavator.
The hole - after the black mess was removed
Last Friday was D-Day - Dig Day - at 610 West Crestline Drive. How fitting it should fall on Friday the 13th. I almost took the day off but I cursed the trench as I left for work and crossed my fingers. At 0900 I was notified the excavator arrived. At 1000 I was notified they were digging (and had already cut through our year-old irrigation system), to be followed by the 1100 notification that they were about a foot from their destination, but the excavator was broken. I could almost hear the trench laughing at me from my desk chair. FInally I was told they'd reached their destination but the dirt was too unstable to climb down.
By late afternoon the verdict was in...they reached the broken drain tile only to discover an even more gross and nasty mess. The "drain field" that was installed when the house was built was completely ruined. It was compacted with the same dreaded black tarry organic mess that caused the interior drain system to fail. And it smelled to high heaven. I believe "beyond repair" was the phrase used. We'd hoped to find the silver bullet but instead found a titanium turd - our hopes once again dashed.
Everyone seems interested, except for the homeowners insurance and the water company...the water company has had enough messes up here and are doing everything in their power to stay wide and clear of even looking to see if they have a broken pipe in the system and the insurance company, well we won't go there in this post. So now we are back to square one, except we have hired WGM Engineering to help us design a solution. We are hoping to have some sketches and rough estimates of our options this week...but I've been saying this week so long now that even I don't believe it myself. For those old enough to recall, we are now officially living in an unfunny version of Green Acres.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The (Water) Monster Under the Stairs

My curious silence since last posting about the disaster in our basement has not gone unnoticed. The truth is, I almost couldn't bear to put on virtual paper what has been happening in reality. It has now been 31 days since we discovered water on the floor of our basement bathroom. What we thought was a leak, was in reality a seep, and the journey to today has been mind-blowing to say the least.

We left our story on the eve of the "battle of the scope" as I lovingly call it, the night before Pioneer Drain & Sewer arrived to put a scope down our drains to try and discover the source of our problem. Dave Rawley from Pioneer is a local legend and wizard at sleuthing out leak sources. However, it didn't take long until Dave echoed the chorus that has become all too familiar this past month when he uttered, "I've just never seen anything like this before". On the first day of his efforts, he snaked, jetted, pushed, and cajoled his scope through what I'll refer to as the poopie end of the house...all the pipes that flow out of our toilets, bathroom sinks and shower/bath drains. Dave agreed with us the odor we were smelling was definitely not ground water, but all he found were partial blockages here and a suspect fitting there, but no cracks in the pipes.  After over 4 hours of trying he resigned himself to say we had to find a catch or drain to get in to the other end of the house....the pipes that drain out our kitchen and laundry room. The following day he found it equally difficult to snake the pipes and ended up bringing in the big gun, the hydro-jet, to clear out all the lines.  It was with some sense of mystery he discovered water still flowing through the pipes after he'd cleared them of all debris out to the main sewer drain. All this was on videotape. As he began to draw back the scope it suddenly dipped into a pool of water and there it was, a large portion of the cast iron pipe was just gone.  Dave's camera dipped into what seemed to me like a deep sea cravass and he said, "bingo".  Boy was I relieved...a crack in the pipe meant our hypothesis that the leak was not ground water was true and insurance would cover the damage...or so it seemed at the time. Dave and his crew carefully measured and identified the spot in the pipe where it was cracked. He also noted two additional places where the pipe was failing.  Unfortunately the crack was located directly under the stairwell in a place requiring us to remove the stairwell and walls to get to it properly.

On Wednesday, January 7th, we finally got the adjuster on site. A former contractor himself, he identified with our plight but made sure we knew he was only able to pay for damage inside the home caused by the water and access to the pipe.  Repair of the pipe itself would be our responsibility. We had both Dayspring Restoration and Sentinel Mechanical up at the house at the same time to help bolster our case. It didn't take long for the adjuster to tell us we were going to need to rip out parts of the walls in a majority of the basement and agree to allow for a 27' by 2.5' x 18" trench to be dug through our basement to expose the pipe. It meant we were going to have to get everything out of the basement pronto and prepare ourselves for a long journey to repair. In came the storage container and Daysrping's crews spent the next two days helping us get everything out of the basement and into the pod or garage. We told the kids we'd sleep dormitory style and it would be a fun and short-lived adventure.

Did I mention they found both Asbestos and mold in our drywall? Queue the two week wait for the Asbestos mitigation crew to come in, remove the walls and test the air before more work could commence.

 The next Monday brought a crew from A-Core concrete cutting up to the house and the following day crews began jack hammering out the concrete.  What they discovered was a reservoir of nasty water under our home, indicating the pipe had been cracked or compromised for some time. They also discovered a hidden floor drain, meaning the problem had been there before (a story for another post).  Sump pumps were installed and we thought it would be cut and dry from that point on. Boy were we wrong.  Running parallel to the damaged drain pipe were a series of hexagonal hollow clay tiles, similar to the old fashioned drain tiles called Orangeburg tile. The lower our smelly lake got the more we could see water running, not leaking, running out of the tiles. More consultations with plumbers and the decision was made to try and expose on of the tiles to see where and what it was draining. A nasty black goo oozed out of the exposed tile, indicating both our cracked tile had been a problem for some time and that the drain tiles were also compromised.

Every expert we've talked to says they've never seen a drainage system like this running underneath a home; certainly around a home, but not underneath. No one knows what to do.  In addition, it was discovered the drainage pipe ran under the load bearing footer in the middle of the floor and then rose back up to meet the meet the main drain, a major no-no and probably a contributor to the eventual failure of the cast iron pipe. So a structural engineer was called in from Beaudette (thanks Mike Nielson) and measurements taken to make sure we could chip away at the foundation and run the new replacement drain pipe at the correct angle. Beaudette is also the firm where Jen's ex-husband, Matt Schmidt is a partner and he has been a great source of information for us through this ordeal.I really can't say enough nice things about the crew of professionals trying to help us sort all this out from Dayspring, Sentinel Mechanical, Pioneer Drain & Sewer, Beaudette Consulting Engineers, and Travelers Insurance.

Unfortunately, when Dave came back to try and scope the drainage tile, he found it was clogged all the way through with black sludge. Meaning the leak in our cast iron pipe also led to the downfall of the drainage system that purportedly keeps groundwater (aka a Spring) moving under and away from our home. We had the water tested for chlorine, thinking perhaps the water company has a leak somewhere above our house (we live in the side of the lower portion of a mountain). No chlorine. Dave's magic scope ran into three dead ends, meaning we now have to expose more pipe by having more floor cut up form the basement, Worse still, the insurance company says they will only cover the cost of exposing the pipe and are not responsible for replacing the broken drainage system...they say that will be our cost. The restoration folks have told us we need to prepare ourselves for all possibilities, including tearing up the entire basement floor!

As you might imagine, stress and despair have been winning out over hope and satisfaction in the moment here at the O'Connor household. As I write this missive I am being serenaded by the continuous sound of water being sucked up by the sump pump, We've had sump pumps, negative air machines, and fans running 24/7 since December 28th...can't wait for the electric bill.  Where do we go from here? We can only wait until more concrete is removed and the path of the drain pipes are discovered. Send good mojo, prayers, thoughts, and invisible rays of positivity our way please!

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Leaky Basement Part II

It's been over a week now and our basement has gotten worse. We've had drain people out, plumbers out, and restoration experts out here trying to determine the source of the water, which has gone from ruining one room to 4 and from possibly being ground water seeping in to sewer water backing up into the house. Everyone has a different theory, from a water utility line break above our home seeping in, to a pipe break and partial blockage outside the home. We had a master plumber up who is certain it is a break...I'm throwing my chips behind his theory. The water increases when the washer runs, which to him means the water can't drain correctly from our home and he has wondered aloud if we don't have an old floor drain somewhere that was covered when the house was renovated back in 1980. We had to remove all personal items form that end of the basement, which happens to be the part of the house we remodeled to make bedrooms for Cole and Macy!  The restoration crew was able to remove the soaked pad and carpet from one room, but the other rooms remain intact but desolate. Our downstairs recreation room has been turned into a shared bedroom for now.
Nice moldy wall post carpet removal
Tomorrow is a big day, when a plumber with a specialized camera on the end of a snake hose will explore all the drains to locate the leak. It's also going to be the first time our insurance adjuster will be in the home and he will be determining our fate. We've had three different people tell us that if anyone can find a leak, it's this particular crew from Pioneer Plumbing. And Chuck from Sentinel Mechanical was fantastic, just as Andy Lennox said he would be...he is like a super sleuth plumbing detective, exactly what we needed. In the meantime, we've had some good news and some bad news.
A few days ago the test sample of drywall they took out came back positive for asbestos. All work had to stop and we'll need a specialized asbestos mitigation crew to come in and do demolition on both bedrooms, the bathroom and the kids craft area. Unfortunately in my quest to move things along, I ripped out a wall in Macy's bedroom myself prior to the results coming back with no mask or even gloves (yeah, I know, stupid) I've potentially been exposed to asbestos inhalation. Considering I grew up in the '60s in an old battleship of an elementary school with asbestos everywhere...I am not too worried. The mold and e-choli tests are not back yet so we'll see what other dangers lurk. The flu bug that started with Liam and Quinn, hit Jen hard. Nonetheless she drove all the kids to Idaho Falls for Cole's hockey tournament on Friday. And Cole woke up Saturday Macy and myself are presumably next. I've been downing extra Vitamin C, and Kombucha with Chia seeds...anything I can think of to stave off the virus.
smelly water
The good news is, if it is confirmed to be a break in a line and the water is backing up, the damage it caused will be covered by homeowners. In yet another odd twist of homeowners insurance jargon, the  repair of the broken pipe will only be covered if the pipe is in the house, or under the concrete foundation of the house. If the pipe is exterior, insurance will not pay to repair the pipe and we'll have to pay to have that done before interior repairs can begin, And since we are in the midst of another sever winter storm warning, repairing a broken pipe somewhere in our front yard will not be an easy task.  Hearing this news awakened memories of my childhood, when the flu bug was running through our house (just as it is now) and a water pipe broke during a major winter storm...the ground was so frozen the backhoe struggled to get through and a plume of water froze right in front of our house. It was pitiful, as neighbors trekked buckets of water over to our quarantined home so we could survive. It was pretty gross as I recall. Let's hope we don't have the same result here.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Our Journey With A Leaky Basement Part I

Houses are funny things, containing so much of our lives and yet so temporary and odd in their own way. We buy them and work hard to make them reflect who we are...but they, or we, can be gone or partially destroyed in the wink of an eye. They are also curious in how they can look so different when empty or when things are moved around and "out of place". And the longer someone resides in a home the more settled in things are, and the more shocking it looks when a room is emptied, or the house is changed in some way.

I write all this as a crew is turning part of our home into what looks like a scene from Breaking Bad. They are creating a "negative air" environment in our basement, to prevent mold spores and foul air from escaping and entering the rest of our home. Heavy plastic is going up, effectively sealing 1/3 of our basement off from the rest of the house. Zipper doors are included with this plastic blanket and they make this odd sound that really does feel eerie. Of course, it happens to be an important 1/3 of our basement, housing two bedrooms and a bathroom. We've been scurrying to get clothes and furniture and knick knacks moved out of the rooms and it seems to multiply like rabbits as we are moving it! What was once tidy belongings in a 12 year-old girls room are now piles upon piles of things I'm not sure I've ever even seen!

On Christmas morning we discovered standing water in the downstairs bathroom. We thought it was possibly a line backup or a leaking toilet.  We'd been smelling musty air off and on but couldn't find the source and it seemed like it was just perhaps another benefit of living in an old home.  But after cleaning up the water and watching more water seep in from under the wall, we knew something else must be happening, something much worse than a clogged sewer line. I immediately called our Homeowners insurance company and the young lady on the other end was surprisingly pleasant and helpful for someone having to work on Christmas, but issued a warning that almost slipped my consciousness, "just know that we cannot accept any liability until it is determined where the water is coming from". It took until Monday to get the restoration crew in and permission from our adjuster for them to pop some access holes into the walls to try and determine the source of the leak.  Much to all of our consternation, we can't figure out where the water is coming from.  Although highly unlikely for this time of year, it could be groundwater seeping into the foundation (it is about 5 degrees F outside and the ground is frozen like a brick).  It could be a slow leak form a pipe somewhere with water gathering at a low point in the foundation. It could be  aleak around a window, again unlikely.  Adding to the mess is the fact our basement was finished around 1980 originally and so everything has to be tested for asbestos before any removal or other work can begin.

So begins our dinner of eating an bite at a time.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Supporters, critics weigh in on $42M Missoula County parks, trails bond

Good coverage. A few inaccuracies but overall very pleased with the article. There seems to be some confusion on the bond...the bond has something for everyone and will improve our quality of life, provide additional play opportunities (of the most important type) by replacing 10 playgrounds in Missoula, create a new County Trails program to leverage funds to better connect communities and provide more access to public land, and fully build Fort Missoula Regional Park with its trails, pavilions, dog park, new softball complex, and new multi-use sports fields which will allow us to host sporting events we can't now and provide an economic driver for our community. Vote YES for Parks & Trails!

Supporters, critics weigh in on $42M Missoula County parks, trails bond

Friday, October 10, 2014

I have a confession to make...I am in Indianapolis and I didn't really tell anyone I was coming. Sorry, Joe & Brian & Steve and all my other beloved Indy friends, this is a quick trip and I am being selfish. And yes, I told Pete we should arrange a Purdue reunion this year and am going sans my old roomie; had to do it braaaaaa!
I came home to visit my folks, my brother, sister, and their families and to catch the #Purdue - Michigan State football game tomorrow. I'm sorry I didn't make plans and try to arrange visits. Simply put, I'm exhausted and need a break and this weekend is just what the doctor ordered.
It's been 14 months since my last visit, the longest time I've ever been away from my home town and family. Today we drove through Broad Ripple and I got to see one of my most favorite people, Karen Van der Walle at her studio, The Potter's House. We drove downtown and had lunch at Shapiro's.
Then headed over to Mass Avenue and shopped (after surprising my niece Tara at work). I then got to pop into Curt Churchman's Fine Estate Rugs & Gallery at Kessler and College. He's done an amazing job with that space and his ode to TC Steele gallery is top notch.
Every time I come home I get a little anxiety the first few days. I recognize things less, I know less people (or see less of the people I know), and I feel sad at not living here or being closer to people I love. This time the anxiety is a little stronger and can't quite figure out why. Maybe because it has been 14 months, or maybe I am just getting older in a city that feels like it is finally getting cooler. Whatever the reason, Indianapolis seems different to me...some observations:
- It's huge. Okay, I know I've adjusted to life in a small town of 60,000 but my goodness this town seems to have exploded with growth. Not just new stuff being built but old things being refurbished and entire neighborhoods coming back to life in all their glory. There are people and cool places in every direction.
- It's much more hip. Wow, cool restaurants, shops, and even BIKE LANES abound.  While I'm not ready to take my life in my hands and ride down Keystone Avenue, I am really stoked by the realization by City leaders and community activists that vibrant cities are ones that address and respect bike-ped transportation and allow for greater connectivity in their communities by adding bike lanes and trails. Also, parks add so much to the quality of life and it is nice to see some revitalization of these really important places where people connect and children get some of the most important type of play opportunities.
- People drive fast as $hit. Again, I get that after 12 years of living in Missoula I have slowed my pace quite a bit (I love that about Missoula by the way), but driving 55mph on Allisonville and 80 on 1-465 seems silly to me, but that is pretty much the norm. I don't really like that (but my 16 - 20 year old self would have loved it for sure).
- Carmel, Fishers, and Westfield are all grown up. Tonight I went to watch my 13yo niece's choral presentation in Carmel. We drove up north on the Keystone corridor with all it's roundabouts and above/below grade crossings and inward growth down town. Super cool. And it doesn't look like the Carmel of 1981...I saw people from all races and walks of life on the stage and in the audience; it was super impressive (as was the singing. Absolutely great performance of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah"
by the #Carmel boys choir). We drove by the Center for Performing Arts and I felt like I was in DC or something.
- Fall in Indiana is still breath taking. I think I am about 8 days early to get the trees in all their most brilliant colors but it is still so so beautiful. I can't wait for the drive up to West Lafayette tomorrow to see all the colors along the Wabash River corridor. Maybe I can convince my Dad to take HWY 52 tomorrow so we can drive by some of the small towns and cornfields. This time of year always reminds me of warm days and the smell of leaves burning and cold nights and the smell of bonfires.
- Downtown is a vibrant, busy place and people really live and play there. Indianapolis struggled for decades to create a downtown that was more than a place people came to work or watch professional sports. Over the past 10 years, downtown has changed so much I hardly recognize it anymore. Coffees shops, brew-houses, condos, high rises, incredible restaurants and shopping opportunities. No wonder so many conventions are held in this city. Totally impressed
- People are still friendly (Hoosier hospitality is alive and well). So glad to see that despite my home town growing so, people are still nice an courteous.

Looking forward to visiting Purdue tomorrow and to strolling through campus. I am quite certain a flood of memories will be unleashed.