Love a little rain
Posted by joeabbott on November 5, 2016
I was holding off on posting this until I got some pictures to go with it. Most of the incidents related here were pre-digital photography … or, nothing we’d take pictures of. But, this is weighing on me and I haven’t gotten to it … so posting now! Apologies for the “big block of text”.
One of my all-time favorite ways to wake up is to the sound of rain falling. And, probably because it just sounds better, the harder the rain, the happier it makes me. But that wasn’t always the case. Living in this house, we had a challenging relationship with rain and all things water in the early days.
Our driveway is long and rises about 20’-25’ from the street to the pad in front of our garage and in the middle of that pad is a drain; all parts around the pad slant toward that drain. It wasn’t too terribly long after we moved in that we noticed a pool of water would form in the driveway but slowly subside; there was clearly some blockage but, for the patient (or those just looking to avoid confronting a problem), it would go away.
Over time, it didn’t. Didn’t “go away”, that is and we called out a rotor-rooter guy who blasted away at the drain and cleared things out. Job addressed, I thought.
It came back.
So we had it cleared a second time but, when, a year or two down the road we got another blockage, we called someone in to send a scope down the drain to find the problem. The most likely cause, we were told, was a crimp in the drain line caused when pouring the driveway that would need to be addressed. They’d find the blockage, break out the concrete, fix the pipe, and we’d need to get someone to re-lay the driveway. While we weren’t fans, we expected the driveway blockage was causing other problems so we started down this path.
They found a blockage starting about 8’ up from the end of the driveway and it was at that point someone noticed the sewer/water vault at the end of our driveway. I hadn’t known what that metal plate covered but they had the tools to open it with the intent of looking up from the other direction … you know, before they started chipping away at my driveway.
Upon opening the vault they found the problem: at some point a construction crew appeared to have had an extra load of concrete which was dumped into the vault. Someone produced a pry bar and levered away the blob, and hundreds of gallons of water rushed into the vault … followed by hundreds of dollars rushing out of my wallet and into the rotor-rooter guy’s pocket, but this water problem was now solved.
Under the house
I’d mentioned we suspected the driveway flooding was doing other damage, and that damage was to cause water to form under our house. I don’t know if the slow-rising water in the driveway pushed water into that space or if the lack of drainage kept water under the house area from draining, but the upshot was that our crawl space (which was easily high enough to allow people to walk around upright under the house) would start to get damp.
While I wasn’t sure how to get water out of that space … it never seemed bad enough to merit a sump pump … I could keep our stuff from getting wet: I built a deck structure under the house!
This was a two-problem solution. The first problem was to keep our stuff stored here from getting wet; the second was to determine if I had the skills to build our own deck. And while the deck structure has worked marvelously at keeping our things dry for all the many years it’s been under the house, it told me quite emphatically that, no, I was not skilled enough to build our own deck. You see, a deck-like structure under the house doesn’t need to look good, it just has to be sturdy. And it wasn’t and was … that is, it didn’t look good but it was sturdy.
And, I’ll mention that, after the driveway drain was cleared, we never collected water of any appreciable quantity under the house. Not even a damp-looking patch. Dry dry dry.
After buying our home and doing a little research on it, we found that a natural streambed at one time ran through our backyard. The slope and swale of the land ostensibly ran down and to the side of our yard (according to land maps), but we always seemed to have pools and puddles in the middle of the property. At one point, Suzy and I saw what appeared to be spring-like pumpings of water out of the side of our yard! Just a slow, blurp-blurp-blurp of water, chugging through a spot in the ground after a good rain.
Well, our first play was to put a French drain in around the patch of grass we called our backyard. I installed it and never really did it right, but I managed to put something in that did a little bit to keep the deepest puddles from forming in our lawn, but it wasn’t much. To be honest, I just didn’t have the skill or background to understand how to fight something as big as draining a backyard.
But, when we had a landscaping crew come in and re-do our backyard, part of that discussion was how to drain the property properly. While the cost was dear to our bank account, about half the overall price tag on the project was for a crib wall. That’s right, the spendiest part of our deck and backyard landscaping can’t be seen, but it runs the width of our deck and about 5’ below the surface, catching water and running it into the drainage off the gutters. One of the best investments into the property that we’ve made.
Off the front of our house was a deck. It stood over the garage and, due to the height of our home, gave a tremendous territorial view of the valley below us. Unfortunately, one of the standing posts on the rail around the deck allowed water to run into the house structure below it.
So, recognizing again we had a problem beyond my skills, we brought in a company to pull aside drywall, find the issue, dry out the structure, and prevent the issue from coming back. While I’m not convinced they did 100% perfect on that job, I didn’t know better before hiring them a couple years later to completely enclose the deck and create a home office from the space that had been the deck. I mention that because …
While putting on the addition, they found what appeared to be fresh water damage in that same spot. The guy who was looking at it with me was the same guy from the original repair but he kinda hemmed and hawed about it just looking like it was new, wet damage. Probably just hadn’t been completely dried out a few years earlier … or something like that.
Anyhow, we continued the construction and, one day during a heavy rain in which the partially completed addition was “buttoned up” and waiting for sun, I noticed that it was raining in my garage. Yup, right below the construction site a stream of water was flowing heavily into the second bay of my garage. A quick call and some scrambling on the roof found that someone hadn’t supported a gutter properly and, in the heavy rain the slope on the gutter reversed allowing all the caught water to flow into a seam in the roof that wasn’t yet sealed up.
We became familiar with industrial drying fans and 24×7 dehumidifiers running.
Fast forward a couple years, the home office project was complete and we simply loved the new space; fantastic. But, Suzy noticed that the flooring by our front door was starting to warp; follow the corner of the walls leading to that place and, sure enough, you can see water damage along the entire wall. And was was above this space: the wall the construction folks had installed as part of the addition.
So, we brought them back again and, after lots of talk about how it might be moss on our roof drawing water up and into the space, how wind might be blowing it in and under the shingles, and other conspiracy-like theories, a roofing guy sent out by this contractor said simply: they didn’t install the flashing correctly and all the water is draining slowly into a seam.
There was a lot of back and forth on this one … admittedly the addition project had completed about 2 years earlier but this appeared to be a clear case of their error … but they covered all the costs except the electrical bill required to, again, run a couple industrial-sized dehumidifiers 24×7 … for six weeks!!!
And I think that’s it. There are other stories about putting gutters on the chicken coop, about our sprinkler system breaking and causing a geyser, that same system having a control valve that stuck open and was slowly flooding our front lawn, or the time I “fixed” one of the sprinkler heads, allowed muddy water to infiltrate the system, and we had to hire a guy to clear the heads I wasn’t able to unclog. But I won’t belabor those … they seem to be of my making one way or another (even if it was just having a sprinkler system installed).
What I hope you can appreciate is how, on these rainy Seattle days, I can awake to the sounds of water coming down (we hit over 5” since Oct 1) and just smile. We’ve had our water-worries but, as far as I know, they’ve been addressed. We’re warm and comfortable and dry as can be … so let is rain, I say … we got it covered.