We live in an old farmhouse.
Friday, September 17, 2010
People who live in an old farmhouse, can I get an "awwright?"
People who live in an old farmhouse built before 1950, can I get an "oooooh kay.....?"
People who live in an old, owner-built farmhouse from before the era of modern building codes, can I get an "I feel your pain?"
And lastly, people who live in an all-of-the-above in a damp, moldy part of the Pacific Northwest, can I get an "I know a really good handyman?"
We live in an old, owner-built farmhouse (circa 1942) in one of the rainiest, greyest, coldest, windiest parts of the country. We get about 60 inches of rain annually, and howling, 70 mile an hour winds four months of the year. When we had this house inspected prior to buying it, the inspector (a good ol' boy from right here) said "you know, you get an awful lot of weather up on this ridge." So sue me, but I didn't recognize this as a straightforward warning not to buy.
After he inspected the house, he said, "I'm not gonna lie to you...."
That's a really really bad sign, when the person telling you he's not going to lie is the brother-in-law of the person selling the house.
But we bought the place anyway. Why? Well, ok, that's a fair question. We bought it because it's the most beautiful piece of property we'd seen in over two years of looking. We bought it because back when we were first looking, we used to drive this road every weekend, and right about as we passed this spot, we would turn to each other and say, "Man, I wish we could afford something here on this hill." We bought it because we were flat-out blown away by the beauty of the five acres the house sat on. Check out the sidebar if you want photographic proof.
And also because my mom said, "the only thing you can't change about a piece of real estate is the location. You can fix anything else." She's right of course - if you have an unlimited supply of money. But we don't. We kind of spent most of our money on the land. Then we spent a lot of the rest before we moved in on:
1) the roof ("should have been replaced five years ago" said the good ol' boy. "Maybe ten.")
2) plumbing issues (ditto)
3) rot issues ("I don't even know where to begin...." said the carpenter. "I'll do the best I can.")
We dropped about twenty thousand dollars just making the place habitable. Or SO WE THOUGHT (cue dramatic organ music). Ever since we moved in, we have been plagued by a mysterious bad smell. It's a gaseous, nasty, sewery kind of smell. It comes and goes - it might leave us alone for as long as two or three months, and then come roaring back with strength enough to make us all want to puke for a week.
It's an insidious smell - it roams around the house. You might be washing dishes in the kitchen, or you might be unloading the washing machine, or just walking down the hall, easy as you please, when suddenly you are overcome by the disgusting miasma.
As you can imagine, this has put a serious crimp in our social life. Most of the time, the smell is either gone entirely or so faint that we don't notice it. But then we have house-guests over and the strained look on their faces lets us know without a doubt that in fact we have become accustomed and the smell is insupportable to normal people.
That's a pretty embarrassing situation. So after this happened most recently (sorry, Sarah), I called a reputable plumbing company. Don't get me wrong - we have, in fact, called several plumbers before. At least three licensed and bonded plumbers have, at various times, been called upon to address the situation. And all of them have failed to find the problem. We got tired of paying people to say "I dunno." This time, I decided to call a large company, and also to negotiate before I hired them. I explained what had been going on, and I said that while I was prepared to spend whatever it took to fix the problem, I was flat-out done spending money on NOT figuring out the problem. Give me a guarantee, bitches.
Shout out to Sullivan Plumbing of Bellingham, Washington. Special shout out to Josh. If you have a tough plumbing problem, call Sullivan and ask for Josh. Josh was professional, on-time, dedicated, and took our problems seriously (he is also extremely handsome, but that's neither here nor there.). He listened closely and he put some hard core thought into the problem. In short, Josh is exactly what we needed: a forensic plumber.
Also, he was willing to crawl through nine different circles of stinky, wet hell to fix shit. As it turned out, we had more than one issue going on, but the most serious was that a drain pipe from our kitchen sink had broken. For some unknown length of time, the sink had been draining directly into the crawl space. Not only had the drainage been causing a nasty smell (as my sister pointed out, cheese season canNOT have been beneficial), but the break in the drain pipe had been allowing sewer gas to bubble up and escape from the septic tank. A vast and unimaginably horrid lake of sludge had formed under the house.
Josh valiantly braved the lake to fix the broken pipe (something that was clearly above and beyond the call of duty - normally plumbers will not venture into such a quagmire) and so my sink was immediately rendered functional. However, Josh informed us that the cleanup of said rancid subterranean pond was not in his job description and offered us the name of a different company that could handle the situation.
That company, when contacted, said they were pretty freakin' busy (what the owner actually said was "It's pretty hard to find people - kids don't want to go into this business these days." I thought but didn't say "Hire Mexicans, dumbass!") So we are currently on the waiting list. I'm not sure what the prescription is, but I think this company will pump out the evil stinking morass; remove the old contaminated vapor barrier; lay down a buttload of lime; and install a new vapor barrier. Hopefully at that point the problem will be truly and for all time corrected.
I'm not so sure, though. The smell problem has been deviously tenacious. When one issue is fixed another will pop up. Send a half-gallon of white vinegar down one bathtub drain, and the washing machine will suddenly develop a mildew situation. Clean out one sink trap, and a bathroom vent will back up. On the day after I paid the plumbers, just as I was thinking that the pervasive smell was clearing out somewhat, one of the dogs developed a sudden, serious case of diarrhea and pooped all the hell over the living room.
If the plumbers can't solve it, I am just about ready to call in an exorcist. I am not even kidding.
Posted by Aimee at 7:37 PM