Sunday, April 27, 2014

Watered Down Coleridge

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink

“I thought I should let you know before you got home. When I came in this morning I found a hole in your hall ceiling and a pile of plaster pieces on your hall rug, which is also soaking wet.” So ran our cat-sitter’s voicemail message that I picked up while we were driving back from July Fourth weekend on the Cape in the middle of the hottest summer ever.

After a flurry of phone calls from the car, our plumber guy and our home-repair guy pulled into the driveway minutes after we did. Plumber Guy figured out what happened first. The condensation draining tube from the central air conditioner’s condenser on the third floor had gotten clogged and backed up into the overflow pan. The sensor that should have sensed water in the pan and should have shut down the air conditioner did not sense the danger because the pan had cracked. The air conditioner ran and the water drained down inside two stories of walls to end up saturating the hall ceiling, which gave way, landing in a sodden mess on the hall carpet. Plumber Guy expressed surprise at the problem. We expressed surprise at Plumber Guy: he was the one who had installed everything eight years before and had been doing the plumbing in the house ever since. Plumber Guy put in a new overflow pan and charged us $500. Home-Repair Guy cleaned the wound in the ceiling, with plastic for a bandage, and didn’t come back until Thanksgiving to re-plaster. One bright spot: the hardwood floorboards threatened to warp, but then changed their minds.

And the coming wind did roar more loud...
And the rain poured down from one black cloud.

Two months later we again arrived home from a Cape weekend to another water event, this time in our TV room: a waterfall cascading down the inside of the window and a shower sprinkling from now visible seams in the ceiling adjoining the window. A freak storm (part of which we had driven through) had dumped four inches of rain in less than an hour. The drainage of the flat roof over the TV room could not cope. So in came the water, leaving behind a 2’x3’ section of ceiling a mottled mustard shade. We did not call Plumber Guy, nor did we call Home-Repair Guy. The mottled mustard remains.

The ice was here, the ice was there,
The ice was all around.

In January – yes, when we arrived home from a New Year’s visit to the Cape – we found a frozen facade coating the fieldstone that is the outside wall of our house. After several weeks of head-scratching and consulting with various experts, it was Home-Repair Guy’s turn to solve the mystery: the old pipe to bring water from the third floor bathroom, which had been installed several generations back with no insulation up the inside of the exterior, had cracked under the onslaught of arctic temperatures. Water escaped once more down two stories and this time found crevices to come out and pour down the outside wall.

Given that all three of these wet messes were discovered on returns from the Cape, you might think if we just didn’t go to the Cape, our water worries would be over.

But no…

In March I noticed puddles and pools around the base of our gas heater – and we hadn’t been to the Cape for two months! The water dripped from a narrow copper pipe suspended from a jungle gym of pipes and valves that make up the transportation system for our gas heater and radiators.  It was Plumber Guy’s turn again. He diagnosed a faulty water tank and replaced it. Yet the puddles and pools not only remained, the drip graduated to a steady trickle. Plumber Guy came back and re-diagnosed the problem: a faulty lever on one of the valves. He replaced that. (I know, with all this replacing, we should also think about replacing Plumber Guy.)

And yet there is no relief. Two weeks ago the water company began an “upgrade,” replacing all the pipes underneath our road. Of course, there was some malfunction (although at least not at our house this time), and a small river rushed down the street. The water company chose to repair the problem at 2:00 a.m., with the glare of the work lights, the grinding of the drill through pavement, and the shouts of the various workers encouraging each other, making for an interesting sleep environment.

I have had enough. Tomorrow I’m sending around an email to the neighbors: “Okay, which one of you did in the albatross?”

Water, water every where…


  1. This must be frustrating for you. Having all those problems cropping up is disheartening. Let's just hope your plumber's fixes work this time, and that there aren't any mishaps soon. Good luck!

    Levi Eslinger @ Capital Plumbing & Heating

    1. Thanks so much for this note. In fact, we have changed plumbers, and (knock on wood) haven't hadany problems in months!

  2. Changing your plumbers is understandable, especially if the previous one can’t find a way to fix the problems. Well, I hope that the mess with the water is already dealt with. In any way, thanks for sharing this, Kathryn! Stay positive!

    Tracy Romero @ Harris Plumbing