[Bad Word]

“I’ve always understood why [Landlady] left.” I muttered.

Sometimes DIY infrastructure fails but that’s not what’s discouraging. It’s the cascading failures that get under your skin. Where one relatively minor fault only points out another, which would have contained the problem if only it had worked right, which it didn’t because you’re an idiot. And between the two of them they turn a merely irritating problem into a disaster that just ruins your whole *&^% day.

Consider if you will:

I’m not a virgin when it comes to the possible pitfalls of free appliances. Or the possible effects of bouncing free appliances around on eroded desert paths for a few miles before installing them.


…even though my second-hand washing machine no doubt worked perfectly when my neighbors hauled it out to their back porch, I was perfectly aware that it might not do so by the time I had dragged it to Ian’s place. I ran some small loads through it with trepidation and close supervision. It. Worked. Fine.

So this morning I ran what I hoped was going to be the new routine, which I had completely worked out in my head. Bring a hamper of dirty clothes to Ian’s place in the initial phase of Tobie’s morning walkie. Start a full load, resume walkie. Instead of going straight home, hang a right back to Ian’s place. Tether Tobie outside – he’s really not crazy about being left to his own devices inside the Cave – go all the way into the Cave and continue business.

I only made it about halfway when there was an intimation of disaster…

Oh, my. That’s not even supposed to be physically possible. The Cave has flooded before: I know how that works and it doesn’t make puddles in this particular room. Something completely unprecedented is happening. I whipped out my flashlight to see what it might be…

The water was coming from the air inlet! How in the name of eldritch Lovecraftian gods could it be coming from the air inlet???

I rushed back to the washing machine…which was still filling. Or rather, trying and failing to fill. And had been for like half an hour at that point. And it was dumping the water…

…into the floor drain, which was not draining into the septic system as expected but instead heading over to the living room to give me a nice surprise.

Pause to consider. The whole water system enters the cave at the utility closet, which also contains the inline heater and the water softener. It shares a wall with the shower, which definitely drains into the septic system. There’s a hole in the floor of the utility closet. Where does that hole go? I assumed (there’s that word) Two Years Ago when we installed the heater and the softener that that hole went to the septic system. No harm had ever before come of that assumption – because nothing had, up to that point, gone wrong enough to prove the assumption incorrect. But when I shoved the washing machine drain into the hole and let it run…

…water belched forth from the air inlet in the living room under the woodstove, because that hole in the utility closet floor didn’t go to the septic system at all.

[Bad Word]

Okay. I’ve lived here long enough that I can deal with cascading failures. I don’t exactly thrive on them, I don’t claim they can’t sometimes get under my skin. But I can compartmentalize the dismay and go straight to Step 1.

Step 1 was to deal with the flood. Fortunately Ian’s Cave contains a wet/dry vacuum. Unfortunately, I knew for a fact that it was at present at least partially full of stucco dust. So Step 1(a) was to drag it out to the cliff and empty the tub over the edge. Step 1(b): Bring it back inside, remove the attachment from the hose, shove the hose into the air inlet as far as it will go. Plug it in. Turn it on and see if it will suck water. Yes, it will: The level in the pipe immediately dropped.

OMG! Step 1(c)! Turn it off! It sucks up so much water so fast that water almost immediately starts spraying everything in the room from the exhaust!

Step 1(d): Laboriously drag the vacuum out of the cave and empty it down the slope. Bring it back in. Repeat steps (b) through (d), omitting as much as possible of (c), until the vacuum starts sucking air.

Deep breath. I couldn’t decide what Step 2 ought to be: I have a machine full of mostly-wet clothing that needs to be laundered at some point. Fortunately there is a Plan B for that. So let’s table that issue for the moment and decide that Step 2 is take Tobie home.

Now, Tobie has been a very good boy through all this. None of it is his fault, of course: He wouldn’t be born for more than ten years after we (and yes, it was WE: Ian may have decided that the utility closet needed an air inlet rather than a water drain but I was there and I didn’t see the problem either) laid the pipe and poured the floor. Ergo, taking this out on my dog would be a very dick move.

Unfortunately for Tobie, he figured this would be a perfect time to get the zoomies. And halfway home he decided that what this situation needed was to sneak behind me and body-slam me behind the knees.

I expressed my opinion of this in what I freely acknowledge was an undiplomatic and uncalled-for manner. Later I apologized and gave him a cookie, and he seems to have forgiven me.

And now, having gotten all that off my chest, I need to go back and hand-wash a load of laundry because it’s supposed to rain tomorrow and the next day. And then I’ll see if I can figure out Step 3.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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12 Responses to [Bad Word]

  1. paulb says:

    Sound like a Marx brothers movie

  2. Ben says:

    So the utility closet has an air vent that comes up through the floor?

    Okay, so now you need to invent a new way to get rid of the wash water, which needn’t go to the septic system (in fact, it’s better that it doesn’t). We will stay tuned to see how you manage that.

    Any chance that you could fish a water hose out through the vent system?

  3. UnReconstructed says:

    Joel, The washing machine drain hose usually goes up from the washing machine above the tub….then has a crook where it very loosely hooks into the vertical drain pipe. This is so the the drain hose will not siphon….perhaps that is what happened here and is why the tub will not fill.

  4. Joel says:

    UnReconstructed: Yes, you may very well be right. Since I’m going to have to find a way to run a drain hose into the shower area, there being no utility sink, I’ll arrange for that. Might entirely solve the problem.

  5. Anonymous says:

    “Murphy is our Shepard. We shall not want”….. for excitement.

    Just to prove you’re not the only DIY idiot in the crowd my tiny mind immediately went to a float actuated sump pump in the drain path to preclude a repeat of the failure’s aftermath.
    Which of course demands additional trips to the supply house, adds expense, and provides several additional points of failure. Fortunately for all concerned I’m well into my seventh decade and have learned to pretty much automatically discard my first impulse.

    Good Luck

  6. Ben says:

    Actually, it seems to me that a $50 sump pump sitting in a five gallon bucket is something to consider, unless there is a simpler solution.

  7. Terrapod says:

    Years ago, when the house we own was built, latest 1953 tech available. No sump, but there are drains in the basement floor that are supposedly connected to the main 4″ cast iron drain line going to the city waste drainage system. Now mind the main drain to the street is somewhat below the level of the basement floor, so in theory all should drain, however, they put 2 or 3″ cast iron under the floor for those drains and alas, none really drain much or fast any longer.

    The fix was to put in a 10 gallon above floor sump box and feed the washer and A/C drains into it. It lifts and shoves the gray water into the main waste drain which has been working (knock on wood) going on 69 years. I do not look forward to when the main line to the street fails, cast iron is not forever but is better than vitrified clay pipe.

    Hope Murphy stays far away from everyone here a reading..

  8. Ben says:

    Unless it has totally collapsed, they are getting pretty good at fixing cast iron pipe these days. They clean it out and then somehow line it with plastic goo that sets up to form a new pipe. At least, I’m hoping that those folks are as good as their advertising, because I also own a half-century old house with cast iron drain pipes!

  9. Jerry says:

    The back of the washer picture: could that plug in pipe in upper right corner be used as the discharge hose receiver? Most machines do need the hose positioned at the same height as top of drum. Too low, the water won’t fill for a Full load. Too high, the drum will spill over in event of a failure

  10. boynsea says:

    Joel: Unreconstructed has nailed it. The drain hose MUST be above the level of the tub, or a drain/siphon will never let the tub fill. The machine just keeps adding water. Never fills, just drains.
    Now, as to the floor drain actually being an air vent, I have no comment.

  11. boynsea says:

    An after thought…Under the wood stove! Air supply for the burn?

  12. John says:

    This must be what people mean when they say “Life is an adventure.”
    (The air vent design and objective has me curious)

To the stake with the heretic!