I’ve been conducting an informal survey of various friends who have undertaken renovation, remodeling, and/or home building projects. Fairly consistently, most have had their projects spurred by one teeny, tiny thing that mushroomed into an enormous — or at least, large — undertaking that went on to utterly overtake and dominate their very lives.
In other words, hardly anyone sets out to do The Big Build, right off the bat, from the get-go. Usually it’s just some little problem to be solved, a mere trip to the hardware store — and the next thing you know, your world is spinning out of control and you’re up to your ears in contractors, subcontractors, and building permits.
One friend whom I surveyed at brunch on Sunday said that their project began as a little landscaping issue that needed to be addressed. Which turned into demolishing the existing cottage and building a 4,000+ square foot, absolutely stunning, completely custom home.
So that made our little leaky pipe look like small potatoes.
Our particular saga began when I was showering one day and noticed the water ponding around my feet, taking its sweet time going down the drain. When The Coach got home from work, I asked him, “Have you noticed the shower drain’s been a bit slow lately?” He allowed as it had, and went downstairs to fetch his miracle drain unclogging product.
This particular product is not a snake, not a plunger, not some caustic liquid you pour down the drain. In a way, it’s all of the above. I’m not altogether sure how it works exactly, but there’s this pressurized canister that you place over the drain, then a kind of plunger thingy that thrusts whatever is in the canister down into the pipe. I think the idea is sort of a controlled explosion.
Which, as ideas go, with respect to almost-50-year-old galvanized pipes in the upper floor of a two-story home, is probably not a good one.
And in our particular case — very, very bad.
But at the time, we were all, hooray, the drain’s not slow anymore! and that was all that really mattered.
Until the next morning, when I finished showering. As I stepped out of the shower, I heard water running somewhere. Nearby. That’s odd, I thought; it’s not raining and the sprinklers in the front yard had already gone through their cycle earlier that morning. So who had turned on the water, since I was alone in the house?
I wrapped up in a towel and headed downstairs to explore. And immediately discovered the deluge in the living room.
Torrents of water were gushing in sheets down through the ceiling.
Wait; let me repeat that: Torrents of water. Through the ceiling. In sheets.
Coming down on the chair-and-a-half, down on the ottoman, down on the coffee table, down on the oriental rug and our lovely Australian brushbox hardwood floor.
I couldn’t think what to do first: move the furniture, grab as many buckets as I could, mop up with towels, collapse into sobs of helplessness, make an incoherent phone call to The Coach at work. So I just multi-tasked and did it all at the same time.
Clad in nothing but a towel.
After 30 minutes or so, the water had slowed to a trickle; just some drops here and there. At the same time, my state of shock had worn off and — now fully clothed — I was able to (slightly more) rationally assess the situation.
But all I could come up with was that we wouldn’t be showering in the master bathroom for a long, long time. (Perhaps my shock hadn’t completely worn off.)
This not being the first water-related disaster in our experience, we have a father-son plumber team practically on speed dial, so we summoned them (not really; we asked them ever so nicely) to the house to give us their own more accurate and professional assessment.
Which basically amounted to: “You won’t be showering in the master bathroom for a long, long time.”
So that was last July. In the meantime, we’ve pondered the problem from various angles — should we get at the broken drain pipe from above, by tearing out the bathroom floor, or from below, by tearing out the living room ceiling? — and with the help of other experts beyond our plumber buddies. Experts like our architect friend Mike, who is like a kid in FAO Schwartz at Christmas time, gleefully imagining all the possible ways to tweak this and redo that.
And he’s a magician at getting what he wants. Once we decided we had to go through the bathroom floor, it was just a short step further to extend the whole tearing-out business into the adjoining dressing area, then the closets, then, oh, what the heck, why not the master bedroom? I mean, as long as we’re tearing stuff out and putting it back together, why not just put it back together in ten times better shape than we started?
Oy. Or as we say in the islands, auwē.
So that’s how we now find ourselves fully immersed in noise, dust and floor plans; picking out granite, tile, wood, lighting and closet configurations. (And for yours truly, more red wine, please.) We’ve got another six to eight weeks until conclusion, while we “camp” in our girl’s bedroom down the hall. It’s quite the adventure.
But thankfully not as much of one as water gushing through the living room ceiling.