Monday, January 12, 2015

Rain in winter - Weston, MA

So at this very minute, I am supposed to be in Chicago visiting my parents. I haven't seen them since August and I really miss them. But I had to cancel my flight due to weather. Not outside weather, but because it was raining in my garage.  A lot. 

Here's what you all know: I am from New England/New York. I grew up in suburban NY and CT and went to college in Massachusetts. Then I left. I lived in San Francisco, then Evanston IL as a student, then New Jersey in a rented condo. Then I left again to Brazil, Miami and Brazil again. After 15 years of no winter to speak of, I am back in the very heart of winter. And I thought I knew what I was doing.

Most of my hubris was based on a couple of facts: 1. The former owner of this house did a marvelous job of maintaining it, and left us instructions on many systems and contractors. And 2. I am an intelligent daughter of New England. So as winter approached, I did all the things I knew I had to do: chimney cleaning, winterizing the landscaping (I spent an hour protecting a tiny willow tree from deer by wrapping it in netting), piling lawn furniture in the space under the deck, calling a company to reverse the water in the irrigation system so pipes wouldn't burst AND I kept the heat up around 55-60 degrees for the three weeks we were in Brazil. I am soooooooooo good at this, right?

Wrong. This morning BH and I walked the kids and dogs to the bus stop and then we walked home so I could throw my bag in the car and take off for the airport. As I opened the garage door, I heard it. Niagara Falls. Inside my garage. 

Specifically, the Falls were in our third garage. We have only two cars that were parked in the first two garages--I call them the monster truck and the hooptie. Look it up if you don't know what I'm sayin'. Anyway, our third garage is used for one of my sons' art projects (large cardboard boxes, broken electronics, paint sets--all fodder for art) and the other son's athletic equipment (ski helmets, skates, 4000000000 soccer balls--all fodder for an athlete), and BH's work bench, currently itself a work in progress. 

And a waterfall. As I stood dumb in horror, the water cascaded out of the fluorescent lights, the electric wiring and the garage door central rail. Just as I was about to call BH, he came around the corner and said "there's a lot of water coming out…oh, I see." And we stared and then looked outside at the light rain and melting snow and said, no way is this an overflowing gutter issue. Houston, we have a problem.

It was at this exact moment that we simultaneously realized that we had no idea where to turn the central water supply off. We had no idea where the circuit breaker box was. We knew nothing. Fortunately, I also have no ego when it comes to home care stuff: I called my best buddy in the neighborhood and cried for help. She sent her husband, who works with home construction, and without whom we would have seemed very foolish indeed.

He came right over, located swiftly the main water turnoff and the circuit board and we powered down. In those moments, I realized I would not be able to get to Chicago so I went inside to cancel my flight. By the time I was back, a plumber had been located who would come early in the afternoon, and the two men had noted several clues. The ceiling had been patched before…highly suspicious. The hose was still in the outside faucet (okay, so I didn't know I had to do anything about that). And the leak was localized. But no one could locate the water valve for that area of the house, and we needed to open up the ceiling to figure out where exactly we had a pipe issue.

The short of all this is that we did find that the pipe had burst  in a place that it had burst sometime in the past. I called the former owner and she immediately told me where to find the addition's water valve--the rest of the water in the house could be switched on. The plumber pulled out a massive plasterboard cutter and carved a rectangular hole right where the leak was. Uncanny, really. 

An hour after he arrived, the plumber was gone. Dave was his name. Efficient and good-humored. He's on the rolodex now. The neighbor has come back with massive fans to dry out the garage before we shut up the plasterboard again (by the way, this is where an American house kicks Brazilian butt: our house in Brazil is cement block--to get to a leak, we have to get out the BIG tools. Jackhammers and pickaxes). 

And so I read with some chagrin my last post where I was making fun of the fire department's warnings for the freeziest day in four years last week. Here's the relevant part of the post that I blithely ignored:

--To keep pipes from freezing, wrap them in insulation or layers of newspapers, covering the newspapers with plastic to keep out moisture. Allow a trickle of warm water to run from a faucet that is farthest from your water meter or one that has frozen in the past.  This will keep the water moving so that it cannot freeze.  Learn how to shut off your water if a pipe bursts.

Live and learn, baby, live and learn. 


  1. Sorry you had to cancel the trip but look at all the stuff you learned. 😊

  2. I have walked in to many vacant homes and even some occupied homes when I was a realtor and found wet floors from busted pipes. You are very lucky it was in the garage and when you were home.

  3. I hope the plumber will put 'pipe wrap' insulation on the pipes before the ceiling goes back up. Can be cut to fit & you can get it for 'cheap' at the hardware store. Do y'all have faucet 'boobs' up there?