Sometimes things happen in your life for a reason. You may not know just what the reason is, however, there’s always this small voice that tries to reassure you that everything will be alright. Some may call it wishful thinking; I chose to call it a voice from God.
There are some major happenings at our place right now. I had to have a surgery about four weeks ago, but the story actually takes place the day before. My husband and I awoke around 7:30AM to a rainstorm. I rolled over casually thinking how nice the sound of the rain was and rolled over to see my husband awake, eyes wide, and with a distinct look of worry.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, suddenly panicking because the look was so intense. “The Sludge pump in the basement,” he said. And I was like “yeah, so?” and he answered quickly. “It’s starting up every four minutes; I’ve been timing it for awhile.” Me, being blond and somewhat oblivious to the meaning of what that meant asked, “So, is that bad?” “Yes,” he said, “I’m pretty sure it is.” He rolled suddenly and stood up. “I think I’d better check the basement.”
That sentiment sent a panic in me that is difficult to describe. I have to explain, I am an artist. My art workroom is in my basement. I work mostly on paper, and I have several hundred mats, papers, original works, wood frames all in my basement in several different drawers, cartons, containers, etc. Some are sitting on the floor.
The panic came from an experience in year two after the home we built had a sludge pump failure and we experienced water in our basement. There was approximately 4-6 inches of water in our basement. My new carpet, my cabinets, our paneling, my work, several boxes that we still had unopened, and assorted magazines, papers, etc. all became victims of the flood. The thought of another flood of that proportion panicked me as well.
This was the day before my scheduled surgery to correct a hernia in my lower left groin area. I rolled gingerly out of bed, wincing as I got up and slipped on some shoes to make the trek to the basement. I threw on a light sweater to shield the chill of the cool basement.
As my feet hit the floor of the basement I went immediately into my art room and breathed a sigh of relief…no water. I went into the large main area of our unfinished basement to see my husband walking the perimeter and sizing up the situation. “Looks like everything’s ok…there’s a little bit of water over here coming up through a crack, but that’s all. I’m going to keep an eye on it for awhile.” The sound of the sludge pump again starting up seemed loud and ominous to me.
I breathed a sigh of relief though. Once it gets the OK from the hubster, we’re as good as gold. Then hubster (my nickname for my husband Larry) uttered menacingly, “That was less than three minutes.” I could tell from his expression that it was like he was experiencing birth contractions! I went back upstairs to put on some clothes, knowing the skimpy pajama material was no match for the coolness of the basement.
I returned downstairs about fifteen minutes later to find my husband with a large squeegee mop pushing water to the drain area in our basement. “Yeah, it’s coming in fast now,” he said and I stood amazed to see that from the time I had gone upstairs and had come back downstairs I could see water literally pouring through an area close to our basement door that led to the backyard. I looked around to see that along the walls towards the north wall of our house water was coming in rapidly and covering the floor.
I asked what I could do and Larry said to move the water toward the drain that the gravity would move the water towards the drain. I stood with squeegee in hand pushing water as quickly as I could toward the drainage area approximately 15 to 20 feet from where I was standing and on the opposite side of the floor. Water was coming up over the tops of my shoes. It had been only 25 minutes since we first checked to see a dry basement with one little area that oozed water through a small crack.
“How can this be happening again?” I asked and my perplexed hubster looked at me as if to say, “Don’t ask stupid questions woman because I don’t know!” I asked where our shop vac was because I was certain it would be of some use. My husband’s face registered a “DOH!” which of course I loved because it was obvious it never even crossed his mind. But there truly was a reason. We had had a garage sale and had put the shop vac in the sale. We hadn’t needed it in a long time, and we had put it into the sale. We had it for about $10 dollars. A couple of people looked at it but passed it by. Now I know God was sitting up there doing an Obiwan Kenobi, “You don’t need a shop vac. You can go to buy a new one for just a little more.” And of course the person in reply, “I don’t need a shop vac, I can go to buy a new one for just a little more.”
I actually thought about that as the hubster bounded up the steps thanking me and telling me how smart I was and how I do come in handy from time to time. I am documenting his comments here so I can once again revel in them for awhile at a later time. Those moments happen so infrequently!
After four hours we finally got the situation under control. In that four hours there was much cursing…him and me, much crying…only me that I know of…and a lot of pain, by both of us for having to move so quickly and me due to the pain I already had been experiencing due to the hernia. “I think we’re finally ahead of it, and I think the rain is slowing down.”
Let me say at this point, yes it was a heavy rain, but not one that was like a hurricane force type at all. It was just steady, and solid, and very wet.
“I’m going to find someone online to come and look at it and give us an estimate on maybe digging up around the house and seeing what’s going on. This should NOT have happened,” the hubster was serenely angry, not at me, thank goodness but at the absurdity and hopelessness that we had felt such a short time before.
He sent an email to company about an hour away and within fifteen minutes we got a callback. Cuomo and Sons out of El Paso, IL (about an hour and fifteen minute drive from here) was going to come and give us an estimate within two to three days.
Vic (the owner) came out and did a walk around with my husband; they talked awhile, discussed the manly art of perimeter tile and what the possible problems might have been. Discussion of clogged drainage and possible perimeter tile failure was in the forefront of the conversation.
A deal was reached and plans made that included taking out my landscaping in the front yard, a sidewalk on the north side of the house and digging up to expose the entire perimeter tile around the house. I was thrilled…Ok…imagine a very sarcastic face when I typed that!
So large equipment and a team of young men converged upon my house one beautiful early fall day. The first piece of business…let’s take out the trees in the landscaping in the front. My beautiful Chinese Maple that I had adored and cared for since we moved into our home 101/2 years ago was unceremoniously taken down along with a large poodle tree (so named because of the round poodle like extensions like those found on a poodle). And a small tree that had tried to die several times and I nursed back to health through pruning and caring for…all decimated within moments. I was saddened to tears, again.
Digging commenced in the back and the search was on for a round pvc pipe that supposedly ran diagonally from where an alcove (that had filled to a height of approximately five to six inches of water) that we have on the back of the house and which was to have run at a forty-five degree angle to join up with a long green five inch pvc pipe that went from the back south corner of our home and ran approximately seventy five to one hundred feet down an incline into a gully behind our home.
My husband, while at work, was calling every hour or so for updates on whether the elusive green pipe was found. It was central to carrying water away from our home. I was in the kitchen fixing myself a glass of juice when one of the workmen (Adam) came up the steps from the basement and said, “Mrs. Benson, do you have a camera? I think you need to grab it and come and take some pictures.” I stood dumbfounded for a moment trying to, number one grasp that he’d come into my house and I hadn’t even heard him, but then realizing what he had said I replied, “Did you find something?”
His face was full of an excitement and alarm. “You’re not going to believe what we found.” I grabbed the camera and headed down the stairs behind him. “We’ve been digging back here by the Southwest corner (My art room) and there’s no footing under the back corner, and the perimeter tile actually ends four foot before the end of the house and it’s been cut off and just ends without being capped or without being connected to anything to drain the water away from the house. There’s also a huge hole under the back corner, big enough for me to get my body into it. It has no footing at all under the back corner.” I stood there and tried to grasp what he was saying.
He jumped down into the hole that they had dug and started pointing and talking and I was absolutely in a daze. I was looking at a long rectangular piece of plastic with holes in the side, and it just abruptly ended. He got down on his back and said, “Look at this!” Adam put his arm into a huge open gaping hole under my house and then moved his body under the edge of the concrete wall and just laid there. “I’ve NEVER seen anything like this in all the houses I’ve ever worked on.” He said.
I was snapping photos on my digital camera as quickly as I could. At this point I should remind you that I was one week out from having had my surgery. My daughter, Shawna, had flown home from Los Angeles to help me out for a few days. I went back into the house and grabbed a video camera and asked her to help videotape while Adam explained what they had found. Adam was very obliging and volunteered to go through the whole explanation again for the video.
Work continued on the perimeter. Not only had the subcontractor failed to finish off that corner, it was found that there was not even ONE connection going away from the perimeter tile and going away from the house. They also discovered that the tile had collapsed on itself from the weight of the clay. There had not been enough pea gravel and sand used so all the slits in the perimeter tile were encased in the clay that surround my home.
A week went by and still no diagonal pipe was found going away from the alcove area, but the long green pipe that went down my hillside was totally uncovered. And then we found another wonderfully disturbing problem. The green pipe stopped almost two feet from my house. In other words, it went nowhere. It was not connected to anything; it just lay under clay and was not draining anything anywhere. The end closest to my home was caked with the clay, again, two feet from where the perimeter tile that it was to connect to way laying. Four inch holes were found in a couple of places. These holes were evidently supposed to be either capped or were supposed to have pipes connected to them that would then lead the water from the perimeter tile out away from my home. Ultimately now that everything has been unearthed we have discovered that there is not even ONE connection going away from my home from the perimeter tile. All we have is a large amount of collapsed perimeter tile that obviously has never done the job it was intended to do.
The first weekend after the discovery of the four foot discrepancy in the perimeter tile and the lack of concrete footing on the corner of my art room, my husband decided to call the builder and ask him to come out and take a look at the situation. He obliged and even brought his brother. They walked the exterior of our home with my husband and after surveying the findings announced it was no big deal, they did that kind of thing all the time and never had a complaint before. Seemed to work well everywhere else, and they couldn’t figure why we would have such a problem. Of course this was also before we discovered that there were no connections in any of the places where they were supposed to be. They basically washed their hands of it and left.
We stood in the yard and just looked at each other. “I spoke with one of my people at work. It turns out her husband is an attorney and he knows a real estate attorney. They asked how long we have lived here. I told them that we were going on eleven years in a couple of months. The statute of limitations is ten years. We can’t do anything about it in court. We’re going to have to pay for all of this ourselves.”
I was dumfounded. I couldn’t believe that with the negligence we’d discovered that this could possibly be true. Of course, as I said, this was before we discovered the total extent of the negligence.
The gentleman that is working on correcting the problem just keeps telling us that in all his years of working on homes, and he says it’s over thirty years, he has NEVER seen such shoddy work done so blatantly. He feels that one thing that may have happened is that they may have been prepared to make the connections, but the guy who came to do the backfill may have beat them to it and then decided it would be too much trouble to dig it back up and after all, who cares.
We have had another severe problem since we moved into our home. Insects! Hundreds of them were somehow getting into our basement. The situation was SO bad, in fact, that we decided against finishing off the basement because we couldn’t get rid of them. We bug bombed, we caulked, we plugged holes and still somehow they would infest our basement. Fortunately the majority stayed there although spiders seem to run rampant throughout the house. Now we understand why we are having so many problems.
We are still at least two to three weeks from the work being finished. The more they work, the more they find. We are past being surprised by anything they find.
SO as I said originally, everything must happen for a reason. I’m trying to be positive about this, however it’s extremely difficult. In our case, the rain happened so we could find the problem, the Cuomo Company needed to keep their men working, and we needed to find out just who we can or cannot trust. Ok, that’s a pretty simplistic way of looking at it, but we have no answers to why this would happen. Although we DO have a theory as to why this happened to us at this time. We have a vacation coming up at the end of the month. Everyone knows the worst problems you’re going to have always come when you’re planning something good. I’m reminding myself that the vacation will be even sweeter than we had ever hoped!
I don’t think we’ll be building again!