Monday, August 11, 2008

The (not-so) great flood

WE HIT A WATER PIPE! Late Sunday night, M. is working on installing my IKEA kitchen. One minute, he was trying to nail the cabinet railings into the wall stud and the next minute...WHAM-O! Water is spouting like Old Faithful! Meanwhile, I'm oblivious and back at our nice, clean and DRY apartment when the phone rings. It is M. yellin something about hitting a water pipe and tellin me to call an emergency plumber. I can barely hear him over the sound of gushing water - it sounded like Niagara Falls - not an exaggeration. I was immediately rocked with adrenalin and began making calls like crazy: our contractor, the city water emergency number, etc... Somehow I got in my car and made it over the house where I found M. and our neighbor are digging holes in the front yard looking for the water shut-off valve - and they can't find it! The city water company meanwhile tells us that an emergency technician will be at our house in about an hour to do the shut-off. I ask the "water-emergency phone operator" if they can look up our address and tell us where the shut-off is. He informs me that he does not have access to any of that info. I ask him how the technician is going to find the valve if we can't find it ourselves with shovels. He tells me that the technician in the field has access to a computer system and can look up maps of the property identifying the location of the shut-off valve. I ask to talk to the technician and save myself the next 45 minutes of ongoing house flooding. The operator tells me "NO" because apparently I do not have "permission" to touch the city owned shut-off valve that is in my front yard. UMM...OKAY... Meanwhile, M. has turned on the garden hose, guest bath shower and faucet to divert the pressure of the rushing water. An hour later, the technician shows up and informs me that A) he has no access to any computer system; B) there are no maps of the valve locations; and C) I can turn the valve on/off all by myself...GRR! He starts poking in the big planter bed under shrubs until he finally hits concrete and there, under a half-inch of dirt and sand, is the water meter. M. and I spent the rest of the night cleaning up the standing water on the kitchen floor.
Lessons learned:
  1. Your house has two main water shut-off valves. One is where the water enters your house and may look like a pipe sticking out of the ground and going into your house with a valve; sometimes this is a buried pipe and not easily visible (like our house). The other shut-off is the city water valve that is likely located close to the curb and has a gauge inside that will spin when you are running water. Learn where these are!
  2. Always use a studfinder when drilling holes in your wall. YES, M. DID use one and he still hit a pipe. Unfortunately, the previous house remodelers ran water pipes flush against a stud and running from the ceiling down the wall...ARG!
  3. Keep lots of sponges and towels at your site for cleanup. Also, the quickest way to get water out is to sweep it out a doorway.
  4. Open up containers of "Damp-rid" to absorb moisture in the air and in the walls. We used this to speed-up the drying of the drywalls. We are also cleaning the walls to prevent mold spores from developing.
  5. Stone floors handle floods pretty well. Ours held up like champs. Thank goodness we didn't have hardwood or carpeting! Phew!

Here are pics of the evening's excitement:

BEFORE: M. penciling in my cabinet rails...Shortly before pondering how the walls studs are not evenly spaced...hmm...

DURING: The offending nail in the water pipe

AFTER: By cover of night, the emergency water technician shows up and finds our water valve under an overgrown shrub.
Anyone else have any "water emergency" wisdom to share?! We'd love to hear it!

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