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It happened. Our pipes froze. Or, one pipe froze. And then burst. And then flooded our basement. The damage was minimal and everything’s okay now – but it was scary and messy for a while there.
We got to the house yesterday morning around 8:30am and turned on the pump, which is the first thing we do when we arrive (thank god we keep it off while we’re gone or we would’ve come home to a swimming pool). Our plan was to change into our ski clothes and hit a local resort when it opened to beat the crowds and get a full day of (downhill) skiing in. We had overnight guests arriving late-afternoon, so we were on a bit of a schedule. But the pump sounded louder than usual which worried me. I walked around house checking each of the bathrooms (my dad has told me that when you’re turning on your pump after a cold spell, check for frozen pipes by going through every room with plumbing and listen for water flowing in the walls). I definitely heard water moving – but this didn’t sound like water in the walls, it sounded like water rushing through the pipes. It was kinda loud. I turned on the sink and the water pressure was low. Anuj thought the pump was just low, so it was filling itself up which is why it was louder. He said it was fine and let’s get going. Let’s wait, I said. Twenty minutes later, the sounds hadn’t changed. Anuj was growing impatient. I said fine, we’ll go, but let’s turn off the pump, ’cause i don’t want it running like this all day while we’re gone. Anuj turned off the pump and the sounds stopped. We pulled on our boots, put on our hats and opened the garage door. My conscience was nagging me. ‘Let me just go check the laundry room’. Why I had a sudden urge to check the laundry room remains a mystery, but I went down to the basement and opened the laundry room door to find water rushing underneath the door on the opposite side of the room (thank you instinct). It was coming from the unfinished part of the basement. I screamed. Then crossed the room and opened the door the water was coming from. The entire back basement was under a few inches of water.
Here’s the part of the basement I’m referring to – we were too crazed to take many ‘before’ pics, but this is just after cleaning up.
Anuj ran downstairs and we walked through the water (thank you waterproof boots) to another door that leads to a storage room. The storage room is basically an exterior room with a roof and walls, kind of like a sun room, but ours is empty and feels like a shed attached to the house/basement. It was also covered with water. Anuj spotted the source of the flood: water was gushing from the corner of one of the walls. After a minute or two, it stopped. Was this melted snow coming from the storage room roof? Was it a pipe? How long had it been gushing?
Behind this wall was the burst pipe:
It took us a few minutes to piece it all together: it was probably a pipe, the flood probably started when we turned on the pump 45 minutes ago, and it just stopped because we had just turned off the pump. We grabbed towels and a mop and hit the laundry room first – the floors are linoleum and we didn’t want mold. Thankfully, there wasn’t a huge amount of water, so after we created a ‘bridge’ of bath towels in the doorway separating the laundry and unfinished part of the basement, we quickly mopped it up. Then we had to move into the flooded part on the other side of our bridge. My sister was storing a wet-dry vac in our basement (thank you wet vac), so Anuj plugged it in and put it right to work sucking up the water in the storage room and the unfinished basement. I got on the phone to find a plumber.
Here’s the wet vac – Anuj filled this thing 3 times with water from the basement and storage room.
About an hour later, a local plumber originally from Queens was in the exterior/storage room tearing the wall paneling down and revealing the culprit. Anuj went outside and walked around the house to the find a spigot on the other side of the wall. It was a garden hose pipe that had burst. Of course. Most people turn these pipes off in the winter. But we didn’t have a valve, and we didn’t realize there was a pipe running through this unheated, uninsulated, un-everything room. Last weekend it got down to -16, so that’s when we figured it burst. ‘There shouldn’t be any pipes in here’, the plumber said after replacing the pipe, ‘especially with no valve to turn it off in the winter.’ Great. Shoddy construction. This wouldn’t be the first time we were discovering structural deficiencies (the deck! the deck!) in our 1975 abode.
Here’s the storage room with our wet wood (post-cleanup):
The pipe post-plumber (temporary insulation until we put in the permanent solution):
After a few more hours of clean-up, we hit Home Depot for pipe insulation and new wall insulation. Our guests arrived just as Anuj was finishing up installing it. Having lost the day meant for skiing, we decided we’d go the next day. Meanwhile, my mind was reeling: are there other pipes that could burst? Are we leaving the house warm enough when we’re not here?
It doesn’t seem like we’re meant to ski this year. When we woke up this morning was -10 degrees. Yikes! There’s no way we’re flying down a mountain in that. Our guests braved the weather and hit the slopes. We’re here, keeping the house (and pipes) warm.