Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Jerry-Rigging, or This title does not make me a racist because I am German.

The Polymathschloss (hey, more German) is an irrational assemblage of additions to an original house built in 1900. At 1300 square feet or so, it is rather small by today's standards. During the many renovations, repairs, upgrades, etc, I have discovered no less than 7 separate additions to the original 200 square feet. Some additions are better than others. Some of the engineering problems one encounters when adding onto a house have been solved, shall we say, creatively.

The bathroom, which used to be a slab patio on the side of the house, had a problem. The floor was getting squishy, making a sound like jelly squeezed through a plastic bag when it was walked on. Since I had replaced most of the old work in the bathroom, I was confident the presumed leak was coming from the supply line for the toilet. This was the only area I was not able to reach during the renovation. However, in addition to checking the toilet supply line, I checked the rest of what could be leaking in the bathroom. No leak.

The only other area in the house with water is the kitchen. I pulled up some of the flooring in the room between the kitchen and the bath. This is a frame floor over an inaccessible crawl space. Sticking my head down in the hole, I could see a distinct wet area by the wall next to the kitchen.

The kitchen drain has been giving me fits for years. It occasionally would stop up, usually before company would arrive either for dinner or a visit, and would require re-opening. I guess it had been re-opened one too many times, and had become weak just uphill of the area that would clog.

Digging down about 4 feet outside of the house where the kitchen drain passes through the wall, I found the steel pipe drain going to an elbow, then into another piece of steel pipe going at a 45-degree angle under the house. I intended to replace the old drain which passes under the house, and install a new drain which would go around the house. I decided to cut into the steel and temporarily install a new PVC cleanout. At least I would be able to get at the clogged area directly with an auger, slow the leak, and buy some time to dig out the path for the new drain.

Here is the creative part: The original drain was outside of the house at the time it was installed. A new addition was later built on the back of the house, directly on top of the drain. Not a good idea, but it might have held out if it was installed well in the first place. Which it was not. When I cut into the steel with the recip saw, the first cut went right through. On the second cut, the pipe going down into the ground under the house began to wobble. I reached down, and pulled out a 2-foot piece of rotten, rusted steel. Digging further, I found that the angled piece had been put into the open end of a 4" ceramic drain tile, which continued under the house.

So, a new drain, with plenty of cleanouts, is now nearing completion. This is just the latest example of the fun we have had with this house. As my late stepdad told me when we decided to move here, "You don't buy a property like this for the house." He was right. We have nearly 18 acres of mostly wooded, rough terrain. We have plenty of space for shooting guns and gardening. The house has been a work in progress since the day it was built.

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