11.19.2010

Things You Muse About When Your Main Drain Collapses and You End Up with Massive Water Damage in Your Basement



Y'know, I'd been thinking our weekly routine was too easy, too mundane, too boring . . . why not throw a major plumbing fiasco into the mix? Alas, I am being sarcastic about the first half of that sentence, but speaking plainly about the second half: at some point earlier this week, our main drain collapsed upon itself, stopping up all the flow coming from inside and outside our house. (Philadelphia, like many older cities, has unified stormwater and sewage draining.) Amy picked up the problem first when the basement toilet wouldn't flush; at first she thought it was stopped up, so tried plunging and then snaking it, to no avail.

When I called in a plumber the next morning, he quickly diagnosed that it was not a local problem but a main drain problem. And when he took a look outside at the main drain, he quickly diagnosed that it was not a clog in the drain but a complete collapse of the drain. Big bill to rebuild it. They got on that right away, although were delayed a day getting permits from the city.

Until it got fixed, we had to be very judicious about water use, since anything that went down a drain could end up coming out of the basement toilet, which is the lowest point for stuff to come back out. In fact, before we had diagnosed the problem, we did have a little bit of backup, from running a bath for the kids and the washer at the same time. But nothing too terribly hard to clean up.

Alas, the second night, there was a mighty rainstorm. And so most the stormwater that landed on our property, plus any dirt and leaves that mixed with it, backed up from our main drain and came out of our basement toilet and all over our basement floor. The next morning I woke up, ran downstairs, and my worst fears were realized: mud and muck everywhere. I spent the morning before the kids woke up just trying to contain the damage, and later that morning called our homeowner's insurance company.

So that's where we are now, waiting for the vendor that works with our insurance to clean and then restore everything. It's majorly disruptive to our regular routine; for example, Amy and I have had to figure out how to work around not having access to our exercise equipment for the next several days. And, let's just say I can think of numerous things I'd rather be spending a few thousand dollars on. Plus, as I have become very compartmentalized in leaving work at work and tending to home at home, it has been utterly distressing for me to have to race back and forth between the two places several times this week.

As part of practicing a more thankful approach to life, remembering to have perspective in the midst of turmoil, and listening for life lessons God may be trying to communicate through trials and tribulations, allow me to share some musings that have been triggered by all the muck:

* I'm thankful to be well off enough that an unanticipated few-thousand-dollar plumbing bill doesn't utterly ruin us.

* I'm thankful I live close enough to work that racing back and forth on my bike wasn't too too hard.

* I'm thankful that all the problems got properly diagnosed, lest even worse damage or danger befall us at an even more inconvenient time.

* I have a new perspective on the importance of having pervious surface on your property to help soak up all that rainwater so it doesn't all end up in your basement.

* I had fun experimenting with capturing water in a bin as I washed dishes and then dumping the "grey water" on our garden.

* I'm mindful of the fact that we do have running water, which much of the world is forced to live without.

That being said, I have to confess that I had a pretty lousy attitude through it all: huffing and puffing, seething with impatience, becoming undone by the loss of things I wouldn't have thought were so important until I didn't have them anymore, and even being mean to my wife more than once through this whole ordeal. It hasn't been a pretty week, and I've been far from on my best behavior in response. Soon enough, all will be back to normal. But hopefully I'll retain the lessons learned.

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