Category Archives: renovation

Our Plumbing Woes

It all started on Wednesday when I noticed that every time the washing machine drained, the guest toilet bubbled.  I didn’t think it was a good sign, so the second time it happened I mentioned it to Jonathan.  Thursday morning he went under the house with a snake (plumbing snake, not long cylindrical reptile) and made some noise and thought he’d fixed the problem.  Unfortunately, when we bathed the mackerdoodle Thursday evening, the guest toilet bubbled.  He was stumped.

Friday he took a bigger plumber’s snake to the problem.  Then we rented an even bigger snake, with a motor, and even that didn’t fix the problem.  Finally, he began digging up the yard, and he found an old septic tank sitting about four feet from our front door.  The clog appeared to be connected to it in some way, but Jonathan couldn’t get to it before he had to go pick up our friend Loran (Tera’s Loran).

By Friday night, I must admit I was cranky.  It was two days for Jonathan with no shower, one day for me, and an entire day without flushing any toilets, washing any dishes, or using our drains in any way.  When Jonathan rented the 100 foot snake, I had to help him with it – between feeding the infant, trying to keep the toddler out of things, and making sure that everyone got their naps and food and the house was sort of managed.  Plus, it felt like it was 600% humidity, and the mackerdoodle was having a whiny, clingy day – which is so rare for her.  I was feeling stinky and cranky and out of sorts.  Jonathan was feeling stinky and defeated.  We were not a happy couple – and poor Loran spent the evening with us.

Soap Clog

This morning, Loran came over to help Jonathan dig out the  old septic and very quickly they were able to find the pipe from our house going into the tank, and the pipe to the city sewage going out of the tank.  When they detached the pipe on the house side of the tank, they found a lump of  soap as big as a fist clogging up the pipe.

They broke it up and removed it from the pipe, but that left more questions: if soap was the problem,why didn’t any of the snakes remove it?  Why couldn’t they make it through?  What they found was bamboozling.  The main drain pipe from the house went into the septic tank, and dropped into it.  The snakes had been punching holes in  the soap clog, and then hitting the down spout into the tank and getting stuck.

The pipe going into the tank was broken and rusted out.  Essentially, the tank was acting as a large pipe fitting, collecting our sewage, and overflowing into the city sewage whenever it got too full.  It looks like it’s been doing this for YEARS.  To make matters worse, the tank was falling apart, clearly leaking into the ground around it and it wasn’t until the soap clog closed over that we even had a reason to look.

The solution: Jonathan and Loran inserted a piece of 4 inch PVC pipe through the middle of the crumbling septic tank, linking the “in” pipe with the city sewage on the other side.  At 7:30 Saturday evening, Jonathan yelled up to me, “Coralie, flush the toilet.”   I did so, with pleasure, and a satisfying gush of water went through the sewage clean out trap.

Jonathan’s taken a shower, I’ve run the dishwasher, and nothing has bubbled where it shouldn’t.  The best part is this: tomorrow is the Lord’s Day, and Jonathan can rest.

Pipe from the house with black septic sludge.

Pipe from the house with black septic sludge.

Pipe that used to go from the house pipe into the septic tank

Pipe that used to go from the house pipe into the septic tank

The replacement pipe covered in the goo from the bottom of the tank

The replacement pipe covered in the goo from the bottom of the tank

Loran fed the new pipe in one end, and Jonathan fished through septic sludge to catch it on the other side.

Loran fed the new pipe in one end, and Jonathan fished through septic sludge to catch it on the other side.

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Welcome to Summer

Well, we’re finished with school for three months, and here’s what summer has looked like for us so far:

  • after a huge rain storm Saturday evening, we woke up Sunday morning with a shower in our laundry room.  Jonathan and my Dad spent Sunday afternoon and plan to spend all day Monday fixing this brand new leak.
  • While macerdoodle is responding well to her anti-biotics, we have a renal ultrasound scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.  I just can’t imagine that’s going to be such a great “day at the beach” type of day.
  • For some unknown reason, our front doorknob has stopped working.  This is a bizarre event that has no explanation.  It would be easy to fix.  If we weren’t trying to fix a leak.

So summer can’t do anything but get better.  I can’t wait.


Miracles Don’t Look Like You Think They Will

If you’ve been hanging out here for a while, you’ll remember that we bought and renovated a house when I was 7 – 9 months pregnant.  We love our home.  We’ve been able to host families for meals, and overnight stays.  We have enough storage for our stuff.  We have a kitchen big enough for both of us.  We have a huge yard.  It’s been great.

One day in February, Jonathan went to put some tools in storage in our crawl space.  He came up stairs with a stunned look on his face.  “We have a lake under our house,” he announced.

We were shocked.  The crawl space had been completely dry the entire time we were working on the house.  It had been dry just months before when we were considering if it had the room to house a chest freezer.  Now it was not just damp, it could have hosted cat fish.

And the back yard was a swamp land.

In the front yard, we dug a hole to plant an Azalea bush, and one shovel depth took us to water.

A week after rain, Jonathan tried to mow the grass, and go the mower stuck in the mud.  He tried to pull it out with the truck, and got the truck stuck.  The back 1/3 of our property was a quivering mass of mud with a layer of grass on it.

What was going on?

“This is what happens when you buy in a drought.”  Jonathan said.

We called the city to come out and take a look, and they determined that we had a rain water management problem.  We needed fill dirt, and re-grading, and French drains and swales and berms.  They were helpful, but not hopeful.  “The water table is really high right here.”  the engineer announced, in a surprised tone.  “you’ve got crawdad holes in your grass.”  All in all, it was 1000’s of dollars of work they estimated that we would need.  We didn’t have it.  So we began to pray.

Now, I have a different tactic than Jonathan does.  I tend to pray really big.  Jonathan was praying, “Lord, provide money and inexpensive supplies.”  I was praying “Lord, please let three or four dump trucks full of top soil and sand break down in our neighborhood and need somewhere to dump their loads.”  Hey, if He could do it for George Muller . . .

Last week I came home from school to find major construction on our street.  There are only 5 houses on our little dead end road, but the city had broken out the big signs and everything.  Standing in my yard was a HUGE six foot yellow diamond reading “Caution: Men at Work.”  Behind it were 2 guys sitting on a pile of rubble.

I parked, grabbed my mac and sauntered over to them.

“Hey guys.  Watcha working on?” I asked.

They blinked for a few seconds and then responded, “A water main was broken under your street.”

“Oh really?  How long was it broken?” I asked.

“Several months.”  They answered.

“Hmm.  Could that maybe be the cause of the swamp in my back yard?” I asked.  They were quick to disavow any responsibility for any issues that may have taken place anywhere other than city property.

But guess what?  The water main is now fixed, and on Saturday, Jonathan mowed our back grass.  Our crawl space is now dry(ing).  We had rain this weekend, and our yard is dryer than it was last week with no rain.

So we didn’t get our dump trucks, but we SURE got our miracle!  Praise the Lord for his mercies!


And all it took was a few tears . . .

Well, apparently the weepy caller gets the tree removal service. There are seven guys in my yard right now, four of whom are in the process of cutting down my trees, one is running branches through a chipper, and two are talking on their cell phones (probably telling another weeping woman why they can’t do her trees today).

APPROVED (and still pregnant)

Well, we started the day thinking we’d have to go to plan B. The plumbing inspector didn’t approve our hot water heater. He told Jonathan how to fix it and said he’d be back Monday.

But Praise the Lord for the electrical inspector! When he arrived, and looked at me he asked to see what work Jonathan had completed on the hot water heater. He saw it mostly finished (Jonathan was picking up the last piece to finish it) he called the plumbing inspector and had it approved over the phone! YAY! I guess Jonathan’s plan to use the pregnant woman as emotional manipulation worked.

So as far as the city is concerned, we’re finished. We can move in! And we are, tomorrow! It’s all on, and ready to begin at 9 am Saturday (tomorrow).


House – Just About a Home

Well, if I was able to force myself into labor, today would probably have done it. That being said, I would have been FAR MORE likely to put myself into labor if it hadn’t been for the outstanding assistance of our fantastic friends. Really, I can’t tell you what a labor of love this house has been, and what a blessing to us!

Today the house went from a construction zone to a house. You can walk from our front door to our kitchen without tripping over wood, sheetrock or tools! Also, you can drink water from my fridge, and get ice. In theory you could cook on my stove. If you would like to test that theory, feel free. We generally eat supper around seven. 🙂 Of course, unless you can create a gourmet meal from left over pizza and two paint covered paint rollers, you’d have to bring your own groceries. Which could now be stored in my refrigerator and cupboards.

Andrea and her son Andy cleared the trash from our front porch and yard. Oh yeah, you just have to know that was a horrible job! Imagine the construction detritus of board trims, fragments of sheetrock, tile shards, cardboard, plastic, and the remains of all those brought in lunches, all bound with a paste of sawdust, tile dust, morter, paint and caulk. Now imagine that damp from a recent rain, and falling into the pine straw that once was some sort of landscaping. Yeah. Now picture loading it all into the back of Jonathan’s truck, along with the cardboard boxes from our appliances, cabinets, toilets, fixtures, lights, etc.

Just makes you cry that couldn’t come out and share in the fun, doesn’t it?

After that, Terri came and cleaned the construction residue from my new shower, cleaned and sealed my granite, removed the stickers from, and cleaned, my new windows, and installed all the shelves in my wall cabinets.

And Brittany was a general “gofer” who broke down boxes, hauled multiple pounds of “big enough to keep” wood and sheetrock upstairs, mopped floors, hauled trash in bags, and was my “just in case” chaperon when I went out to get pizza for supper – you know the one who can “take over if I have an enormous contraction and start delivering the baby right now.” Apparently that happens all the time. (Uh huh) In reality she was very helpful when it came to carrying two gallons of sweet tea, so I’m certainly not complaining about the attentiveness I’m getting from everyone.

Here’s the other thing I kept getting: “Don’t you need to sit down for a minute? I can handle this.”

Now when “this” is something like peeling potatoes or making a salad, I can dig it. I’ve said it myself to my sister, and a few other pregnant friends. But when “this” is collecting the several hundred bottles of molding almost empty Coke and Powerade bottles from the various ledges and window sills of a home, I’ve just got to say, I think my friends are better friends than I! I have a feeling I’d be saying “Don’t you need to sit down for a few minutes? I’ll find a teenager to look after this.”

Mike and Jim were back in the evening, and installed the bi-fold laundry doors, the smoke detectors, the plate and switch covers, the few door and window casings that had been removed and exterior lights.

Even Brittany’s parents, who came to pick her up after their date night this evening, got sucked into the work vortex. Her dad helped finish up the last of the trim work in both bathrooms, and her mom and I (both pregnant) found things to do that didn’t involve bending, stretching, lifting, or standing for long periods. We removed the stickers from the appliances, installed the filters under the microwave/hood, polished the glass top of the stove with the glass top cleaner.

Anyway, we’ve got our final inspections tomorrow morning, and if they sign off, we can move in Saturday. Jonathan intends me to be present, quietly sitting in my rocking chair looking 9 months pregnant while the men inspect. He hopes it will send the message “This woman is so pregnant that a failure might send her into labor right now, forcing YOU to deliver this baby in an empty house it can’t move into because you didn’t pass a double circuit breaker,” or, at the very least, “We don’t have enough time to not pass.”

Caleb asked me today if I was excited about Tuesday. I just about asked him what was happening Tuesday. I’m focused on inspections tomorrow. Then I’ll be focused on moving Saturday. Then I’ll worry about Tuesday.

Unless Pomegranate demands attention before that. Which could happen.


Let There Be Light

Today in the house all of the electrical and lighting is fully installed! YAY! We can turn on lights in any room in the house! The last room to be lit was the kitchen, and that was entertaining. We got the two lights over the island installed, flipped the breaker, and one light turned on with the breaker, the other didn’t. We flipped the switch on. Still no second light. We flipped the switch off, and the first light stayed on, while the second light flickered.

So Mike got up on the ladder, Buddy turned off the breaker, and they reconnected the wires. This time, when the breaker was turned on, the second light turned on automatically, while the first light was turned on and off by the switch.

But third time’s the charm. We now have fully operational lights in the kitchen! And fully operational switches.

Jonathan and Buddy also installed the island counter top and the built the bar over hang. All of the outlets and switches are installed. The breaker box is fully wired. We’re getting really close! I can hardly believe that we’re actually going to move – and even possibly before the baby comes.