Friday, January 13, 2017

What Lies Beneath

If you're easily grossed out or squeamish, you might want to skip this post!

I've debated whether or not to write this post.  I've said it before but this blog is mostly the glossy, pretty version of what's going on in our lives and this post certainly doesn't fit that criteria as there is nothing glossy or pretty about it.  However, it's an important part of owning an old house - surprises and unpleasant situations that is - and it's most definitely the biggest thing we are dealing with at the moment, so here it goes...

First, some history.  

1.  While looking at this house, Bryce's number one concern was that we couldn't inspect anything underneath the kitchen floor as there is no access to the crawl space.  Bryce likes to know the mechanics and condition of things going in.

2.  Grace's room has been the coldest room in the house.  No one has been able to fix or adequately explain this except to say that her room is the farthest away from the boiler.  The kitchen has also been cold.

3.  We suspected soon after we moved in that something was not right with the kitchen because most of the floorboards are cupped and warped.

4.  We have a steam heat system, which everyone universally says is great but is becoming very uncommon. 

In our kitchen there is an odd "pantry" that has a hole in the wall so that the door can close (the doorknob just fits in the hole in the wall, weird I know).  One evening while cooking, I noticed steam coming out of the hole!  Obviously, this is not a good thing and is indicative of a leak in the system.  

Around this same time, we noticed that the downstairs powder room's back wall was literally crumbling away.  Also, the grout and tile started having mineralization which was indicative of a water issue.  We assumed this was due to the steam leak.  Due to it being Christmas, we couldn't get anyone to come out right away to look into it.

Within a couple of days after Christmas, our plumber, who is an expert with steam heat, came to take a look.  Unfortunately, the only way to access the area was to cut a hole in the pantry floor and send the "skinny guy" into the crawl space.

The first words I heard from him after he went in was, "there seems to be a lot of toilet paper down here."  I'll just tell you that my brain could not take in what this could possibly mean so my first thought was to wonder why on earth anyone would try to fix a steam leak with toilet paper!

The long and short of it is this: the cast iron pipes long ago rusted away and two of our bathrooms were dumping into the crawl space instead of going out to the septic system.  Deep breath.  We basically had a cesspool under part of our house.  Extra deep breath.

At first, I couldn't get past the fact that there was poo (sorry) under our home and while that's certainly a tough pill to swallow, it turns out that the mold and other damage from so much water (every time a shower was taken or a faucet turned on it went straight to the crawl space) is really the bigger issue.  The subfloor under the bathroom has been compromised, joist and beams may be weakened or damaged and part of the bathroom floor has actually started to sink!  

Thank goodness that there are actually people who get paid to deal with this (tag line: like it never happened) and therefore we've had a hazmat type of situation going on here.  Walls of plastic sheeting, air scrubbers, dehumidifiers, and men in respirators and suits have been part of our life for a couple of weeks now.  They have been taking every thing they can out of the crawlspace to dispose of.  

Oh, we also did have a steam leak that had to be fixed!  Two, actually.

All of this has been super unpleasant and not at all what we would have liked to see happen here, or where we would have anticipated putting money, but there are some very real silver linings...

1. The situation was caught and can be completely remedied.  This old house will be better for the remediations, shoring up and new pipes installed!

2.  I will get a new downstairs bathroom sooner than anticipated!

3.  Fixing the steam leak seemed to have fixed Grace's cold bedroom!  It's now toasty warm.

4.  For whatever reason, this got Bryce and I discussing our kitchen renovations and we've completely changed our plans for the kitchen and mudroom.  We are super excited about the new direction we are going (more on this later)!


  1. Oh my
    Oh my
    Oh my

    I am sure this was a tough situation... I am glad you could find a silver lining!

  2. OH NOO! Sounds like a real life HGTV Show! So happy to hear your are moving forward. We had to have 75% of our ceilings and walls gutted due to ice dams 2 years ago..watching the water pour in everywhere was devastating..I understand your pain..a little bit, the bathroom piece brings it to another level. I hope the quote "a lot of toilet paper" turns into a joke in your house soon!

    1. 75% of walls and ceilings? That is a complete nightmare! We are hoping to be able to laugh about it at some point. There are so many jokes to be made!

  3. oh man! I am so so sorry this happened. I hope you get it all fixed soon!


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