Since we decided not to take a spring break trip this year and to do a nicer trip (probably back to Alaska!) this summer, I decided to take Preteen for a mini-trip to the Minnesota zoo and to visit my dad earlier this week.
My mom is in Florida for the winter while my dad is in a nursing home. And my mom gets kind of weird about people in her house when she’s not there (even if those people are my brother and me), so I’ve been staying in a hotel when I’ve been going to visit my dad. But Preteen and I got there pretty late Monday night, and I didn’t feel like staying in a hotel, so I decided we’d just stay at my parents’ house. By ourselves. It was just to sleep…it was already time to go to bed…we’d get up and go out for breakfast as soon as we got up, then we’d go see my dad. All we had to do was turn up the heat (from 50 degrees!) and turn on the water for the night. We would be fine.
Preteen said, “It sounds like the water is already on. I hear it dripping.” I didn’t hear anything…until I went to the basement. Imagine my surprise to find part of the ceiling on the floor! And water running down from the hole in the ceiling! The water was coming fast enough to fill a one gallon ice cream bucket every five minutes!
They had a lot of snow up there…and it was 50 degrees outside (yes, outside as well as inside!), so I figured the water was coming in from outside (they’ve had problems with water in the basement before). Well, first things first. After driving there from Minneapolis, I needed a bathroom, so I went to turn on the water in the house. But as soon as I did, Preteen started screaming, “Turn it off! It’s coming in faster!” What??? Turning on the water for the house is NOT going to make the water come any faster from the ceiling…unless the water that was coming through the ceiling was NOT from outside…but it had to be from outside because there were no water pipes visible up through the hole in the ceiling
But Preteen was right…the water REALLY poured in through the hole in the ceiling when I had the main water turned on…it was much slower when the water was off. So I called a plumber. At 10:00 at night. I think he thought I was crazy at first (crazy, or desperate) because he didn’t see any water pipes up there, either. But I said, “the water is definitely coming faster when the main water is turned on.” And I wouldn’t let him leave until I showed him. So then he pulled more of the ceiling down and sure enough…there was a little water pipe from the outside spigot that ran against the edge of the house…it butted up against a steel beam and obviously had frozen during that cold snap they had the last time I was up there. And now that it was warmer, it broke. I’m still trying to figure out how there could be THAT much water in there when the main water valve was shut off…but maybe that valve doesn’t shut off the outside water? I don’t know…
What a mess! My parents are both terrible packrats…imagine 45+ years of extreme packrat behavior and you might be able to imagine what that basement looked like BEFORE the water. After the water…about all I could do was stand there and shake my head. I cleaned things up the best I could that night (VERY late that night…by myself…)…but there’s a lot more to do.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, 1) either I couldn’t figure out their stupid thermostat or there’s something wrong with it (or the furnace) because even though I turned the heat up to 68, it was only 60 degrees in there the next morning and the furnace was off…and 2) something is wrong with their water shut-off valve because water kept coming in over in that area (a whole different part of the basement) when the water was on in the house, and it stopped when the water was off. I’m trying to imagine my mother dealing with all this when she gets back from Florida…it’s not a pretty picture.
And then today…in my own house I noticed a strange electrical smell. My husband works 30 miles away, so he couldn’t just come home just because I smelled something bad; so I had to figure this one out, too. I traced the smell to the furnace (Eventually! It took a while because the smell was all over the house)…and discovered that our furnace humidifier was leaking (the hose is probably clogged)…it leaked into the furnace and shorted out the control panel for one thing. I was smart enough to turn the furnace completely off when I figured out where the smell was coming from…when the furnace guy came out, he turned it on briefly and there were sparks and smoke coming from behind the control panel (I’d already taken the panels off the outside to check for water inside and to see if the smell was worse in there). “Whoa! Not good…not good,” according to the furnace guy. I’m still waiting to hear if there’s anything else wrong with the furnace besides the control panel. Gee, I guess it’s a good thing we DIDN’T go away for spring break. We might not have had a house when we got back!
Sigh…the good news is I’m learning all kinds of stuff about things that can go wrong in a home and figuring out what to do about it. I don’t know that I’d ever really want to write about all this…especially in a kids book…but I’ve certainly gotten an education this week. And if I ever WOULD want to write about a broken water pipe, I know what it looks like, sounds like, smells like (Ewwww!) and feels like VERY well!