Fragile children or individuals with a delicate constitution may wish to avert their eyes.
So… this happened:
That would be the furnace room in my basement last month.
At the same time, this happened… Yep. That’s my downstairs shower. You don’t want to see the toilet. Or the walls, carpet, carpet padding, the sink, the vanity, the bar or the closet. Just about everything between these two points looked pretty much the same, thus started a new chapter in big book of “learning stuff I never really wanted to know!” But it’s important stuff. Hopefully you can avoid some of the crap that I just went through (see what I did there?).
Helpful Hint: One of the most important parts of buying a new home is the pre-sale inspection. This typically happens after the seller accepts your bid on the house, but before you sign closing documents. Your realtor can recommend an inspector or you can select your own. This inspection should be thorough, impartial and from a qualified specialist. Now is not the time to save a few bucks! Just because Uncle Ernie is handy with a hammer, it doesn’t make him qualified to inspect the home you’re hopefully going to live in for years to come. True story – we got a call from the nice people who bought our condo. The home inspector they hired told them the jets in our whirlpool bathtub didn’t work – they wanted to know why, and when we could fix it. Err… it wasn’t broken. He just didn’t turn it on. This is not the guy you want signing off on the inspection report.
The point is that we had this house thoroughly inspected before we bought it. We even paid an additional $500 to put a camera down the main sewer line to see if there were any problems like root incursions – problems that could lead to disasters like your basement filling up with a few inches of fecal matter. But the scope came back clear. No roots, no visible problems. We bought the house a week later.
Here’s what happened: No one had used the kitchen disposal or the toilet for about 18 months before we bought this house. It’s likely the previous owner had the main sewer line flushed before he left. By spending the extra on the camera to scope the main line we were able to confirm there were no roots in the pipes themselves, which is good. But any other issue – like a build up of solid human waste (for example) was masked due to how long the house had been vacant.
Disclaimer: I’m obviously no expert in these matters. I’m just relaying what experts have told me, and what I’ve learned along the way. For example, if we rule out things like tree roots and tampons, there are two common reasons why pipes would fail like this – “channeling” and a “Belly”. Sewer line channeling is pretty common from what I’ve been told. It just happens over time. The water itself carves into the bottom of the pipe to form a pocket. Sometimes it even destroys the bottom of the pipe completely. Not only does this allow water and waste to pool in a single spot, it also is a great way for bugs to get in your house and for roots to get in your pipes. It’s a problem, but it’s a pretty straightforward one that can be repaired.
A Belly is harder to deal with than a channel. When the line sags like this, it means there’s been a shift in the earth (like an earthquake) or that some dingbat simply installed the pipes incorrectly. Dealing with a belly is a complicated and expensive process – one that involves getting construction permits. It’s possible to put an enzyme down the pipes which will help alleviate the situation, but it only puts off the inevitable. From everything I’ve learned so far the only way to fix this is to dig up the yard, tear out the pipes, realign the slope, then reinstall the mainline at the correct angle. Plan on parting with somewhere between eight – fifteen thousand dead presidents and most of a summer.
I’ll admit it – I’m a little ragged just thinking about it. Certainly it’s not the worst thing that can happen, and yes insurance is covering most of the initial expense. But even so, this craptacular situation is NOT how I was hoping to spend my summer. Just… arg.