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!
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