July 29, 2021
Earlier this week, while visiting with a home owner, I learned of a problem at his home he was still dealing with.
A couple days before he had attempted to replace the water control parts serving a porccelain commode’s water closet. ( Since Superior is the Victorian Capital of Nebraksa, I want to be correct and use proper Victorian descriptions here and not use what the Victorian’s would consider gutter language to describe what happened.) The repair job took longer than expected and my friend ran out of time before the refill valve was adjusted. He closed the supply valve to the fixture and decided to complete the work at another time.
He returned home Saturday night to find another member of the family had turned the water on and attempted to flush the commode. That person apparently left the bathroom unaware the drain was plugged and the water would soon be overflowing the commode.
It was several hours before the family returned home to find the water was overflowing and had gone into a nearby bedroom soaking all the carpets as it went.
Eventually the water soaked through the bedroom floor and basement ceiling and began soaking the basement carpets and things stored in the basement.
The home owner vacuumed water until 1:30 Sunday morning. Tried to get some sleep but was awakened by the thunderstorm about 4:30 a.m. He was in the process of ripping out the soaked carpet and pad when I talked with him.
He hoped to replace the pad and relay the dried and cleaned carpet.
As I listened to his story, I didn’t know how close I was to having a similar story to tell this week.
As expected, some water from Sunday morning’s rain seeped into the basement beneath the newspaper office. This has been a regular occurrence all the years I have worked at The Express. Water that should flow down the gutter and eventually end up in the Republican River instead follows the water line into the basement.
There wasn’t enough water on the floor to mop but wanting to dry up the basement, Sunday afternoon I started the dehumidifier.
Monday afternoon a coworker went to the basement to get materials stored there and to check on the dehumidifier.
He soon returned to report water was spewing from a water line nipple.
It wasn’t a big stream but allowed to run overnight, it would have made a big mess in the basement.
Luckily I found a plumber who could come right over and a city water department worker who could turn off the water. I feared we would be out of water until sometime Tuesday but the failed nipple was replaced and water restored to the building in time for the first of this week’s press runs to be made as scheduled about 6 p.m. Monday.
Whee! We were fortunate.
This isn’t the first time we have had water line failures cause basement problems.
Once a hot water line serving a second story apartment located above the press room broke. That break came on a day when no one was here and water flowed from the second floor to the first floor and on to the basement. The pressroom has a floor drain but the water avoided the drain and instead flowed down the shaft used to move newsprint between the basement and the pressroom.
Thankfully we no longer store paper in the basement. In my early days here, I thought the basement would make good envelope storage as the envelope boxes were lighter than paper boxes and easier to move into and out of the basement. I was partially right. The boxes were easy to move but the basement was so damp we soon had pre-sealed envelopes. Self-sealing envelopes are popular today, but I found there was little demand for pre-sealed envelopes.
Notice I said little demand. There was some market for the presealed envelops. I offered the envelopes for sale on the sidewalk bazaar and sold them all. The buyers thought they could be delicately popped open and used.
The worst basement flood occurred more than 40 years ago when a hose supplying a photographic print washer broke. It wasn’t found until perhaps three inches of water covered the basement floor. We borrowed a vacuum from the fire department and a coworker helped me sop up the mess. We didn’t have to carry the water upstairs as we were able to use a sump pump to lift it up and into the sewer system. To keep from ruining our shoes, we worked barefooted in the basement. Don’t know what we got into but the next day our feet were stained orange.
Now any water that gets into the basement must be sucked up and carried out as the basement lacks a floor drain and the sump pump system no longer works.
This week’s experience makes me think the basement should have a water collection pit outfitted with a working sump pump.
One Sunday I returned home from attending church and went to my basement bedroom to change clothes. I was met by water starting to run out of the bathroom. While I was gone, a leak had developed in the bottom of the water heater located in the basement. Only about two cups of water had leaked out but had I ignored the problem, the hole would have grown larger and I would have had a major soaking to clean up.
I was also fortunate that day to have both a new water heater in storage and all of the new fittings required to install it. If something similar happened today, I would have neither. But at that time, I had taken the new water heater in as partial payment on a delinquent advertising bill. And since I was also operating a car wash, I had a large stock of plumbing system repairs and was able to replace the leaking water heater without a trip to the store for parts.
This week the plumber had the parts and know-how. Less than two hours after we discovered the leak, it was repaired and we were back to normal operation.