Projects Planned and Unexpected, Part 2

Once upon a time two days ago I was looking forward to my two days off this week.

Once upon a time two days ago I was looking forward to tackling some big projects and some small projects, some projects around the house, and some projects just for my own personal creative satisfaction.

Once upon a time two days ago I was selfishly looking forward to some very quiet me time while Bill and the kids would be at work/school on one day and gone skiing on the next day.

Once upon a time yesterday I got everyone fed and lunches packed and out the door to work/school, and was planning to make breakfast for myself (finally) and do some laundry and the dishes and some decluttering and some crocheting or something else creative.

Once upon a time yesterday when I was booting Julia out the door kissing and hugging Julia and wishing her a good day at school, I noticed a few beads of water hanging from the frame above our kitchen door.  One dripped onto Julia’s head.  I wondered if snow had somehow leaked in and melted from the warmth in the kitchen…no…that didn’t make any sense.  Maybe…maybe I should look online and see what other people thought.  So I did.  And the main suggestion I saw had to do with old flashing outside and above the doorframe, that allowed melting snow (it was warm yesterday, mid-thirties) to drip in and bead up along the underside of the door frame and drip on the heads of school-going children. 

Okay, not a huge deal.  Just get some more flashing and replace the old stuff. 

Breakfast was still doable.

So once upon a time yesterday I thought I’d throw some laundry in first, then make some french toast for myself, and watch whatever crime drama show was on tv while I ate and then get going on a project.

Once upon a time I lived in a fairytale world.

I got downstairs and heard the waterfall and my stomach clenched into a knot as I had PTSD flashbacks to a whole bunch of years ago – Alex was a baby, Julia was a future issue – when a pipe in our main floor bathroom burst while Bill and I were at work and I just happened to come home for lunch that day and just happened to hear what sounded like Niagara Falls inside my house.  The water had poured down through the ceiling to flood the floor of our finished basement with about 4-6” of water.  After the cleanup came the fun (said with heavy sarcasm) of having to get everything fixed/replaced. 

At least the floor wasn’t flooded.  In fact, in a little unemotional corner of my mind I knew the water couldn’t have been pouring for very long.  Julia had been downstairs hunting for something to wear not too much before she left the house.  If water was pouring from the ceiling, she would have mentioned it.  Loudly.

Anyway, I rounded the corner and sure enough, water poured through the light and also through the frame around the little washer/dryer nook.  I put trash cans and buckets under the drips, shut off water, and called Bill at work.

I also pulled the frame around the light fixture out of the ceiling so the water could drain better.  And I tried figuring out where the water was coming from.  I couldn’t find any burst pipes anywhere.  Bill and I both suspected the roof.  Ugh. 

So Bill got home and helped shut the water off better than I’d been able to – the pipes and spigots are old and gunked up apparently, and hard to turn.  He used a wrench at one point.

And the water slowed noticeably once the water was off.  When Bill got home he drilled some holes in the basement ceiling to see how much water was pooled above it and to see how far the pooling extended.  I got more cans and buckets to catch the new rain. 

Finally, it stopped.

We took another look around the door frame and tried to figure out where the roof was leaking.  We both had a feeling it was somewhere along the seam where the lower roof joined the main part of the house.  Annoying, but probably fixable, at least until we can afford to redo the whole roof.

Bill called his nephew, Joe, who has a ton of practical knowledge about a all sorts of construction-related topics, and when he came back into the kitchen and was talking and I was looking up (because he’s considerably taller than I am, in case you don’t already know that), I noticed, above his head, along the ceiling, more beads of water. 

I just pointed.

Bill got his drill and made some more holes.

I got an assortment of pots out to catch the newest indoor rain.

So the newest thought was that it was something to do with the shower in the second floor bathroom.  The faucet has dripped for some time, and the pipes for it are hidden behind the wall of the little bathroom closet.

By the way, that seems to have been a favorite trick of the people who prepared this house for sale before we naively came in and bought it.  It’s a lovely house, and a great neighorhood, and we’ve got a nice back yard, and we’ve done all sorts of wonderful things here.  But back then we had never bought a house before, had never been through the joy of troubleshooting problems before, never been through the unjoy of discovering all the problem issues covered up by paint and sheetrock and pretty ceilings and less than scrupulous people.

ANYWAY.  We shut off the water (again) and watched the water slow to a trickle.  Then we turned the water back on, just to see what might happen. 

Guess what.  More water. 

Joe suggested pouring a whole bunch (ten gallons or so) of water down the shower drain, just to see if the water was a drain issue or a leaky pipe issue. 

Oh, and then water started beading up on the ceiling near the kitchen door, kind of almost above the fridge.  ACROSS THE ROOM from the other beading that had occurred above the stove.

More drilling.  Lots and lots more drilling, just because hey, why not find out how much water there is and how far it’s travelled.

When I was in the second grade, we performed a musical version of the story of Bambi.  Mainly it consisted of a bunch of songs separated by some narration and some cardboard cutouts of deer and forest creatures interacting as much as two-dimensional creatures can when toted around by shy seven-year-olds.

One of the songs was “April Shower” or something like that, and some of it went like this:

“Drip, drip, drop, little April Shower/beating a tune everywhere that you fall/

Drip, drip, drop, little April Shower/we’re getting wet and we don’t care at all….”

Those lines kept dripping through my mind as our kitchen was transformed into an ugly rainforest.

I also remembered this (my memory frightens me at times) from a record of Captain Kangaroo songs:

Though April showers
May come your way,
They bring the flowers
That bloom in May;
And if it’s raining,
Have no regrets;
Because, it isn’t raining rain, you know,
It’s raining violets.
And when you see clouds
Upon the hill,
You soon will see crowds
Of daffodils;
So keep on looking for the bluebird,
And listening for his song,
Whenever April showers come along.

And I just discovered that that’s actually a song by Al Jolson.  Didn’t know that – I only have the voice of Bob Keeshan singing it in my head.

Anyway, all sorts of rain-themed songs drifted through my head as I determinedly remained positive about the whole soaking experience.  I can be very determined.

Besides, there were things about the kitchen we weren’t too thrilled about.  Like the stains that came through the ceiling over time – stains the Other People had simply covered up with a couple coats of paint, without doing anything to really block those stains first. 

And the basement ceiling is all pretty swirls but totally impractical, especially if you have water-pouring-through-it issues like we do.

So this was ultimately A Good Thing!  Right???


So Bill started ripping down the kitchen ceiling.

A lot of the ceiling. 

I took pictures when I wasn’t helping clear up the soggy sheetrock and insulation.

And we eventually figured out several things:

A.  The water was not due to a shower drain issue. 

B.  The water rained more when we turned the water ON at the source.

C.  The main dripping seemed to occur at the last spot we discovered – almost above the fridge.

Joe came over after work and we shared with him all our exciting clues and showed him how we could make it rain! in the kitchen! 

And he looked at all of this and thought about our house and how the rooms are and why the heck would anything leak THERE – only Alex’s bedroom is up there and there’s no plumbing in Alex’s room and…

No, no plumbing, but there were heating pipes that ran along the sides of the house, and where Alex’s and Julia’s room joined, there was also a little crawlspace under the eaves.  Joe and Bill and I cleared a path through all of Julia’s can’t-throw-away-for-sentimental-reasons piles of…STUFF…to get to the door of that little crawlspace, and Joe took a look inside and our search was ended.

A cracked pipe from the baseboard heating element.  It wasn’t actually in a bedroom, so it wasn’t warm unless there was warm/hot water coursing through it.  AND, we’ve had some geriatric furnace issues (which Joe helped out with a couple of weeks ago) that have meant that the heat hasn’t been reaching the second floor, and so the pipe was cold and lonely and cracked under the strain. 

Well, okay, cracked from the freezing and expanding cold water stuck inside.

Anyway, it was fixable!  That night!  Just a trip to get some copper pipe, a pipe cutter, soldering stuff, other stuff…and we would be free of rain!  Yay!

Best of all, it shouldn’t take long!

And while he was at it, Joe offered to install a shutoff valve for our water so we wouldn’t have to break our hands on stubborn old spigots.  Yay!

And five hours later, ‘round midnight, it was mostly done.  The shutoff valve worked, and, second time’s the charm, the pipe in the crawlspace had been replaced with an uncracked piece of copper.

We could run the water!

We could turn the heat back on!

We could go to bed!

While Bill and Joe were working on all the pipe issues, and the heat was off, I cleaned up the mess in the kitchen.  Most of it, anyway.  That helped, psychologically, too. 

So here’s where we are as of 3 pm on Saturday. 

Saturday, my second day of peace and quiet. 

And so now we have a few new projects that were not on our lists.

Finish pulling down the kitchen ceiling. 

Replace the ceiling.

Paint the ceiling.

Maybe tile behind the stove.

New vent/fan above the stove, because it’s overdue anyway and so why not?

Probably peel off the wallpaper that was hidden UNDER the paint in the kitchen. 

Paint the walls.

Cut out a section of the basement ceiling to see how much damage there is and create a new section of ceiling that is removable so if/when we get another waterfall in the house we won’t have to DESTROY the ceiling to drain it.

And it’s not like we didn’t have any house-related projects planned…both kids are ready for new paint in their bedrooms.  When we originally created their bedrooms (Joe was instrumental in all of that, too) and painted them, the kids were little and so the décor was kid-themed.  Rainforest for Alex, stencilled butterflies for Julia).  But now that they are older, they want less cuteness.  And that’s fair. 

We also planned to paint the second floor bathroom.  The paint has peeled and Bill has sanded it down, so now it’s a kind of collage of old and newer paint.  We would like just one color now.

The walls on the main floor need a breath of fresh color, too.  And we had wanted to redo the hardwood floors….

And so that’s the update.  The unexpected plans. 

To be honest I kind of like the kitchen right now.  We moved everything that was on walls or counters or any other exposed surfaces into the dining room and the living room, so the kitchen now looks quite bright and airy and uncluttered.  And with the great big holes in the ceiling, it’s become even more spacious. 

Maybe we’ll just leave it the way it is.

For now.

One thought on “Projects Planned and Unexpected, Part 2

  1. Ugh. What an adventure!
    I can’t wait to see how all your new projects turn out, though. If you don’t want to drywall the kitchen ceiling, you might think about tongue and groove pine. It’s very doable for two people and a couple stepladders. I could never lift drywall up there, but our rooms were 10 ft wide, we purchased planks 10 ft long, and it was simply a matter of tapping the planks in, air-nailing in a couple spots, and continuing along. The end result was gorgeous, and since we did the work ourselves it didn’t cost any more than having professional dry-wallers put in standard boring ceilings.

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