Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Sewer Saga

This time last week we were in the middle of a major sewer line project at our house.

Can I just state for the record that I never, ever, ever want to embark on such a project ever again?

Now that we have that out of the way, here's the whole saga. You might just want to look at the pics & say, "Good enough!" but in case you are interested in details, here goes!

I bought our house 2 1/2 years ago. Since the purchase of our home I have had to have the plumbers come & rout out our sewer line six or seven times because of two large maple trees in front of our house. Their roots are unbelievable. Since we were spending $100 on the plumber each time along with the inconvenience of not being able to use our plumbing, we knew we were going to have to take some major action. Another difficulty we faced is that all of the plumbing outlets of our home (bathroom, kitchen, & laundry) each come out of a different side of the house. In order to access the sewer line to replace it we were going to have to do some major digging. Or we could replumb everything inside the house which would require relocating our basement stairs & cutting a hole in a supporting wall. Oy.

We decided to dig. We figured we could find some cheap labor (ourselves!) & then just pay the plumbers to lay the new pipe.

We had no idea how hard digging would be.

We haven't had a seriously good soaking rain for well over a month. Part of the ground that we needed to dig up was right alongside the alley & had been driven over & packed down for years. So we decided to rent this big guy:

Thank God we did because he was worth every little penny! And no, I didn't drive him or do any of the digging with him. I'm much more of a shovel girl. Give me a shovel & a pick axe & I can make some progress!
We had to dig up all along this side of the house. The pipe was about 3 1/2 feet down.
This was when Mike first used the excavator. His Uncle Steve was helping us (he was a Godsend!). Steve had used an excavator before & he was quickly bored with Mike's slow, careful movements so he hopped up there & took over. Mike was super glad because several times he had almost knocked off the back door overhang. While the guys were working back here I walked over to my parent's house (about two blocks) to borrow my dad's wheel barrow. I felt super cool pushing that thing back home. I probably looked like I was ripping it off out of someone's yard!
This is the spot where most of the problem lies. It's closest to the front of the house & those massive trees. I promise you, if they didn't turn the most beautiful shade of red in the autumn I would go out there & cut them down myself.
Mike is crouched down in this pic so the ditch isn't as deep as he is tall. In this corner where the pipe goes around the house there were three big chunks of concrete covering the pipe. Perhaps it had needed repairs before?
Ahhh! Beautiful! This pic shows the new pipe & where the kitchen joins in & where the new clean out is. See that old terra cotta pipe? Yeah, it cannot withstand tree roots, that is for sure!
Saturday morning we got up & got to work trying to fill in the hole. We had been shoveling for about 45 minutes when it started to rain. I was sad. Very sad. Dirt is heavy to shovel but mud is MUCH HEAVIER. We heaved & hoed for about another hour and a half. Mike's cousin Von came over & helped for a little while & he was such a blessing. We all had so much mud on the bottom of our shoes that we were about three inches taller than normal! We still have some dirt to move. We might work on it tonight. I'm excited. Yeehaw.
These three chunks of concrete were the ones I mentioned above. As we were digging we had to put most of the dirt on our neighbor's property because the sewer line practically runs on the property line. Mike was concerned about leaving it in the neighbor's yard for too long so we went out there Tuesday afternoon to move it. I am no wimpy girl but I just couldn't get it up off the ground. We were struggling with it when a blue truck pulled onto our street & slowed way down. The truck stopped & I got all embarrassed because I thought the person was just watching us for a laugh. Well, the guy got out of his truck hollering, "Miss, put that down! You're going to hurt yourself! Let me help him!" This kind stranger helped Mike move all of the concrete pieces. We were so grateful that the Lord provided help just when we needed it!
Here you can see some of the tree roots that we have been contending with. They are so huge & widespread that it seems like they just want to take over. My mother in law has said that for all of the branches a tree has above ground there are just as many roots below ground. I think she's right.
This is the one place that remains to be dealt with. Unfortunately this is also where we have had the most problems. The bathroom plumbing exits the house here & then turns & runs parallel to this sidewalk. The problem is, the pipe goes under the sidewalk & the sidewalk is about 8 inches thick. Mike was very reluctant to break up the concrete & he ran out of time to try to do it anyway. We didn't fill the hole back in because Mike & Uncle Steve have brainstormed a way to repair it. They just have to have the time to do it. Until then, we are leaving it dug up. In order to keep drivers out of our little ditch we put our trash can in the hole. Pretty funny, huh?

All told, we were without plumbing for about three days. I had scheduled for the plumbers to arrive on Thursday morning & my understanding was that they would be on the job Thursday until they got it done. I went to work that morning very confident that the whole situation would be taken care of that day. Mike stayed home & met the plumbers & talked with them, etc. Based on the text messages that Mike sent throughout the workday, I began to realize that it was going to be no simple fix. The plumbers arrived & discussed the job with Mike. They didn't seem too happy with our digging & that they were going to have to get in the hole & break up the old pipe. They didn't seem to happy about having the job at all. They left within an hour saying they needed to get supplies, go on a couple of service calls & get more help. That was about 11 a.m. When I got home from work at 3 p.m. they still hadn't come back. Here comes the anxiety & frustration! They finally arrived at about 3:45 & they stayed at it until about 5 o'clock. My mom dropped by on her way home from work & while I was talking to her they just left. No goodbye we'll be back at such-n-such time or anything. I was so upset because we still had no plumbing. I'm grateful my parents live close but it's no fun leaving home to take a shower. And since we didn't know for sure when they would be back I got really wound up.
Well, they came back the next day but it was in the late afternoon. Mike & I had a whole house full of company coming for dinner to help us celebrate the completion of the project & to thank them for their help. We had invited his Uncle Steve & his wife Debbie & their two sons, Mike's mom & dad, his cousin Von & Aunt Becky. How was I going to fix dinner with no water? How do you celebrate a project that isn't completed? Some things that we maybe should have thought about before handing out the invites...
Anyway, disaster was averted when they wrapped the job up at about 4:30. I wrote them a check (not the amount we were praying for, but one the Lord knew we could handle - just barely!) & then ran inside to get cooking.
We had a fabulous good dinner & a lot of fun together. Growing up I thought I had the loudest, funnest, craziest family; now that I am married & part of another family, I have realized that my family is pretty normal. When you get a big group of people who love each other around a table full of good food wonderful things happen. We had a blast!
And then I washed dishes in warm sudsy water that exited my sink in a lovely new turquoise sewer pipe; that is my current definition of happiness!


Megan (Best of Fates) said...

The photo of you on the digger is adorable.


And since adorable is the only part of this post I relate to, it is all I shall comment on!

Erin said...

Okay, now I'm scared...scared to death. I don't ever want this to happen. I change my mind. I want to rent. :)

Alicia said...

WHAT a project! Yikes. Thank the Lord for good helpers and heavy machinery. My son would have been in little boy HEAVEN watching a machine in his backyard. Fun stuff!