About 24 hours after I got back from my trip to New York I was standing under streams of water coming from the ceiling of my sewing studio. The water was there because our hot water heater had failed rather dramatically, and the water was in streams because the flood control guy had poked a few dozen holes in the ceiling to let the water out. Our poor house with it’s surprisingly watertight foundation had been flooded from the inside. (Dramatic music queue here.) I got to make a phone call to a plumbing service where I actually opened by saying “Hello, I am having a plumbing emergency!” Happily the guy on the other end was way more in control than I was and talked me through the process of turning off the water to where it was leaking from.
As I type this all of our stuff is has been migrated into areas of the house that managed to avoid the deluge. I cannot get to my television or the computer that holds most of my files, or to the window for that reason. Our bathroom sink is on the back porch. Startlingly large portions of our Pergo is in a trash dump somewhere. The picture above is the view over my laptop looking at the contents of my office closet that are currently in hoarder-like piles in the dining room. Industrial strength dehumidifiers, blowers (they look like giant hair dryers) and heaters are chugging away for three to seven days to dry out all the soaked bits of wood and drywall that I now know what look like from the inside. Our living room carpet ripples like water when you walk over it since it’s lifted by a cushion of hot air. Our office and bathroom are currently 125 degrees to dry out the layers of wood beneath the flooring. We have these many yellow tubes delivering hot dry air into the space above the ceiling and it looks incredibly creepy. If I could keep this around through Halloween I’d totally throw a party in this room.
But you know what? It could have been so much worse and we’ve kept in perspective. Drinking has certainly been involved. So far we’ve paired initial shock with tequila, waiting for the asbestos test with beers and the presence of giant heaters with chilled white wine on the deck. I’ve slept really well because we have white noise machines running on both floors of our house. It’s surprisingly exhausting having work people tinker around your house all day, waiting for this company to do X so that they can do Y. The other night we decided it was very late and we started getting ready for bed only to find it was 9:30 at night.
Here are a few things I’ve learned, or at least think I’ve learned, from this experience:
- Tradespeople will try to help you if they can since they’ve seen this many times before, but there are limits to what they’re allowed to outright tell you. If they seem to be speaking carefully or in a code it’s because they are, so listen closely. One of our guys actually had to ask me the same question three times with his straight man comedy timing intact before I figured out what he was trying to communicate. (He was also a ringer for Paul Blackthorne and I expected he would pull out a hockey stock/wizard staff at any moment.)
- Your homeowners insurance might cover the extra electricity used by all the machines that are drying out your house. Both our flood guy and our insurance lady let us know about this. Which is good because it’s taking a lot of power. As in, we turned on a fan the other day and our lights dipped. We had to unplug the stove (yay for the excuse to get take out!) to allow access to our only 220 outlet for the big heaters.
- Don’t be afraid to push for more aesthetically pleasing solutions. Because I insisted that an overflow pipe run through the back wall of a closet instead of through the closet itself the flood guy was able to have a good view of what was going on with the flooring under our tub, and as a result we might not have to rip up a large portion of our bathroom floor to see under there. Also, resale value is a very legit argument. Also, nothing the previous homeowners had done will make any sense, brace yourselves.
- You will suddenly become unsentimental. I have so much stuff! Where did this stuff come from? I think if I had a removal company come take it all away I wouldn’t miss it. Or much of it. I am seriously considering a move to minimalist after this. Or maybe just ruthless. We’ll see.
And so, wise and experienced people, have you had a big and inconvenient house disaster? What did you learn from it? School the rest of us so that we will be prepared!