Why plumbing is great...
I'll preface this by saying that for the most part, we had access to reasonable plumbing last week. We could flush, we could shower, etc. We knew that the broken pipe wasn't allowing full drainage, so everything was just done very gently!
In the middle of last week, the nice tradesmen who do evacavating started dropping by. The first guy said--"let me see your basement" and "let me see this broken pipe dvd." Then he said something that was actually quite wonderful. He suggested we call our regular plumber back. He said he thought the broken pipe was actually "inside" the house, in our basement. This meant we wouldn't need a backhoe to dig up our outdoor pipes. It was a smaller problem than we'd feared.
(Think $2000 total and not, say, a potential $8 to 10 grand)
Our regular plumbing company -who are now like relatives- came along on Thursday and started fixing things. That involved:
-Cutting up the plywood false floor in our basement
-Hammering out not one but two concrete floors, complete with rubble in between them. The rubble included old lathe and plaster walls, so we know why concrete floor number 2 was unstable and the wooden floor was built. (laying a new concrete floor on top of uneven rubble is not a recipe for a stable new floor!)
-Digging down to wherever the broken pipe was.
When the plumber hit the broken pipe, the issues were obvious. A few owners ago, our house was "fixed up" by someone who lived here or somebody they hired. This person was a reasonable carpenter, an ok electrician and his plumbing left something to be desired. We knew this already--my professor has fixed nearly every plumbing fixture in the house, and we've also gotten to hire a professional plumber on multiple occasions already.
The short version? One PVC pipe forced into another pipe--without being glued together--had flexed over the years of freezing and thawing. The flexing pipe had carefully dumped out a lot of water drained from our washer over the years as someone washed clothes. This eroded all the dirt around it, and eventually, with no glue holding the pipes together and dirt holding the pipes in place, we had our little collapse this last week.
I felt so reassured on Thursday afternoon by the mere idea that the plumber was taking care of the problem that I fell asleep on the couch in the living room (just above the basement) while he worked. I slept through someone jackhammering concrete. Really.
By Thursday evening, the new pipes were glued in place. By Friday morning, the problem was nearly entirely solved, right down to a new concrete floor. We probably need to rebuild the false wooden floor above it, but that's minor in the great scheme of things. Our basement is not finished and we don't do a lot of entertaining down there!
We were reminded, over and over again this week, how amazing plumbing is and how bad it is when something goes wrong. Something good happened to us. We remembered to be grateful for one of the basics of modern life. Plumbing is an outstanding thing that really improves the quality of our lives and our basic health!
Now the professor is on to other things. Today he's trying out some new paint colors--doing a small sample paint job for our bedroom. This will be the project for winter break. The color when we got here? A very unpleasant yellowish brown with lot of sloppy paint mess ups. We're hoping for a light blue when all is done.
One last thought--we know all this is happening in part because our charming old house wasn't always maintained well...but we also know that things just happen. We know people with brand new houses who have had serious problems. Houses (like bodies) require upkeep! It's been a week where I've reflected (a lot) on how much we take for granted. If you're warm and dry, if you have a home and all the electricity, plumbing and heat work, it is a great thing. It's ok to say a little thank you about that, to whomever you thank. (The Almighty, the local House God, whoever!)
And yeah, if your body is mostly working right? That might be a great thing too. It's amazing when everything works right. A thing of wonder to behold...