Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Gross Out Update: Floor Painted

I have no pictures yet, but the walls are finished, and the floor received the first coat. The paint is a Miller oil based paint. We're advised to wait two days before walking on it. So the second coat will go down Friday. Then we're supposed to wait five days before walking on it.

Also on Friday, the furnace is coming out. A new furnace will come in late next week. The house is a getting a little cool in the evening, but we're ok with sweaters and blankets. Two blankets!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Gross Out Update: Day 18

And after writing this post, I wondered "should I post this?" It's negative. It's complainy. Because I'm getting frustrated. Why? Because this. is. taking. too. long.

Thursday 9/6/13, 6:00pm: Sewer main backs up, flooding our basement with about 1,000 gallons of raw sewage. Many phone calls. City crew comes by. Contact restoration firm. Now it is 9:00pm.

Friday 9/7/13: I miss work while the contractors take our belongings, sort contaminated items into trash and salvageable piles. They work from 10am to 4pm. The dining room and spare room are full of boxes. There is a very large rug rolled up on the living room floor. Why am I keeping this rug? Air scrubber runs all weekend.

Monday 9/9/13: Crew shows up, removed air scrubber and drop off drying equipment. I get my first look at the basement. It's wet, and musty.

Friday 9/13/13: Crew returns to pick up drying equipment. Yes, the basement is dry, and smells much better. Slightly musty, but typical of a basement. Not our basement, but nothing extreme. The warehouse is complaining that our stuff smells. We are still waiting for them to provide a list of what they have from us, so that we can approve it. 

On the days between, there are many phone calls to HVAC techs, plumbers, and restoration contractors. 

Monday 9/16/13: Plumber comes to see the basement.

Tuesday 9/17/13: HVAC tech comes to see the basement.

Wednesday 9/18/13: Painter shows up at 9am. Leaves to buy paint- returns 10am. Works for 90 minutes, then runs out of paint. Leaves for 60 minutes to by paint. Returns and paints for 90 minutes, then leaves before the walls are finished. Says he'll be back Thursday morning to finish. Restoration contractor shows up, explains that they will be replacing all of the other appliances. No word on the rowing machine. Provides list of our nonsalvagable items. (We did the math- wowzers.) Contractor says we are a week behind schedule, and he'd like to have our job finished by the end of the month. 

Thursday 9/19/13: Plumber arrives at 8am, installs new water heater. No painter.

Friday, still no painter. No HVAC tech. Call the contractor, no answer. No call back.

Monday 9/23/13: Call the contractor again. He's surprised the painted didn't show. I told him I was also surprised. He says they will call us when they know when someone will come by. (Um, ok... I guess I don't have a choice, so sure.) He also thanks me for "stimulating some thought on this." (groan)

Now, do you know that if you call your voicemail, you have an option to send a voicemail without calling? The painter sent me a voicemail. At 5:30pm on Monday. Ok dude.

Today, Tuesday 9/24/13: I call the contract, let him know the painter's message explained that he would only be able to paint Wednesday. I know there are two days of painting to go, and that the second day is followed by 5 days of no one walking in the basement- that means Wednesday, maybe Thursday paint, and hopefully Tuesday we can start putting things away. Hopefully. But he can only paint Wednesday. So should we paint it ourselves, or consider another painter? He said to have the painter come Wednesday, and he'd get someone else to finish the job.

No money has moved yet- we haven't had to pay anyone. We've been waiting on the contractor to give us their dollar amount, so we can submit our total to the City. So it is in the contractor's interest to get this job done, so he can get paid. So why. is. this. taking. so. long? (sigh.)

Friday, September 13, 2013

Gross Out Update: Dried Out


Monday morning, the crew showed up at 9:00am. They pulled the air scrubber out, and sprayed disinfectant around the basement floor and walls. Next they set up a dryer unit (that looked about the same to me), and said they would be back Friday to check on the progress.

Call me, maybe?

After a handful of missed phone calls, and voice messages, I finally connected with the plumber on the phone on Wednesday. After telling our restoration contractor that he would have time to see us this week, he informed me it wouldn't be until next week. 

Me: (ahem) What?
Plumber: Well, you're at a hotel, right? I mean, it's not like you're living without hot water.
Me: (trying to stay cool) No, we're in the house. We haven't had hot water since Thursday afternoon.
Plumber: Oh! .... yea, you're gonna wanna call someone else."
Me: Yes, definitely. Thank you for...
Plumber: I can recommend some...
Me: No, thanks, I'll call our contractor. Thank you
Plumber: (starts to speak again)
Me: (click)

Hm. Now what?

My next call was to our restoration contractor. Clearly irritated with the plumber, he explained that the plumber told him this week would work. He doesn't get paid until he finishes this stuff, so he wants that plumber almost as much as I do! 

The HVAC company also called, and I called back, and they called, and I called back. And I called back again. No word.

Friday arrived. The new plumber called. Wanted to come next week, during another appointment. But he could come another day, which would totally work- score!

Also Friday, the restoration contractor's warehouse called. Apparently our basura pile is "starting to stink" which had me wondering why they haven't dealt with it yet. Now they are making a detailed inventory, which we will approve. After we sign off, they will dispose of those items, the basura pile will officially be gone. 

There's an odd emotional side to all this. As a bit of a pack rat, I assign unnecessary emotional attachment to clutter. Seeing so much of it disappear has been hard. But it's making me grow. I had let go of those items, and now I will revisit them in the warehouse. One last chance to cling to clutter. I don't have any concern about some sort of emotional reaction- it's just a little weird. 

Finally, after the dryer was pulled out of the basement, I took my first look into the basement. And of course, I recorded it.

Next Up

So besides visiting the warehouse next week, we're going to have the plumber by to inspect the water heater, and theoretically an HVAC inspector will check the furnace. After those two things happen, the restoration contract will repain the floor, and if needed, the walls. The paint is supposed to cure for 5 days before we move anything back to the basement. But! Next weekend, we can start moving things back into the basement. Thank God!

If we're lucky, the restoration contractor will let us know what of our "to be cleaned" pile is salvageable. Then they will be able to take their bill, the cost of any basura/non-salvageable items and total that up, providing the total to the City's Risk Management office. THEN, if we're really lucky, we'll get our check.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Gross Out Update: The First Day

Clean-up Begins

The restoration crew showed up at 9am. We discussed the scope of their work, and the supervisor answered some questions we had about his experiences working with the City of Portland. It was reassuring- we took notes on what he said, read over the contract and let the crew get to work- after pointing out that we had purchased coffee for them.

We provided fresh coffee for the crew, purchased from a local coffee shop in a to-go carafe. We wanted to say thanks in advance for the work they were about to take on. We didn't want to do this work ourselves, and were happy that this crew was ready to tackle the situation in our basement. Thanks, guys! (Apparently they do not typically accept food and drinks, unless they are purchased for the crew specifically. They don't want to look like they came to hang out and eat all the food! Speaking from my own work experience, that sort of gesture can go a long way- even if the crew does not accept. It's always nice to know the property owner has good will towards the crew!)

Plastic sheet was going down, protective clothing was going on, and four guys were hustling around, getting down to business. They took a large vacuum into the basement, and started to suction out the remaining sewage.

Bye, Stuff!

After getting the bulk of the residue cleared, they started hauling up "sewage effective contents." As the tubs and shelving units starting come up the steps, we decided (1) empty the tub into a box, send the tub to be clean, and the box into the house, (2) that's basura (trash) send it to the front yard, or (3) that's clean, let's take it straight into the house. And so it went. Box after box.

Tubs, shelves and miscellaneous items from the to-be-washed pile were photographed. This pile eventually included all the shelving, any plastic totes that were contaminated, the washer, dryer, freezer, rower, a kettlebell, steamer,  bike pump, tool boxes, etc. Not sure that all of it will be saved- if the insulation from the freezer is effected, for example, it can't be saved.

Anything in the basura pile was listed and photographed. This pile included original trim we salvaged from removing a doorway, and two original doors. It was hard to let them go. It was frustrating, because I worked to save those things. I carefully removed them, and hauled them down the awkward stairs. It feels like grief. It was sad. We did have a chance to remove the hinges and door knobs. Even though we'll never need them, I think I'll just save them. Still makes me feel sad.

The one thing I did save from the basura pile were some paper items that are very important to me. They were large, and in a large art folder that was resting on the floor. I saved them by drying them on plastic sheeting, in the sun. I'm not sure what to do with them to assume that they are clean, but they are saved for now.

Something I'm learning from this experience is a new way to evaluate belongings. When I look at something, I ask myself "if it were covered in poop, would I save it?" It's an interesting exercise.

About 12:30, the crew took a lunch break. I donned shoe covers, and headed into the basement. Everything from the floor was out, so it looked a bit different, but nothing drastic. Still pretty much just my contaminated basement. About 2:30 they took a 15 minute break (so I took out a box a plums from the neighbor's tree, which I think they appreciated). I went back down to the basement. This time, everything was gone. So weird! And our basement is tiny. Seriously, how did all those boxes fit in there? Most of the sewage was cleaned up, but it still stunk.

By 4pm, all of our sewage effected things were either in the truck headed for the dump, or in the truck headed to the warehouse. The air scrubber was left running, and is still running. I've checked the smell by pulling back the plastic sheeting over the doorway. As of this morning, it smells musty- which is better than sewage!

Yes, our freezer is definitely contaminated.

So is the washer.

... but not as bad as the freezer! How did I not get electrocuted?!

We are without hot water- luckily the gym has showers, and I can do laundry in the machines at work). All the meat from the freezer fit into the regular freezer in the kitchen (but either a roast, or a whole chicken falls out when you open the door!)

Monday, the crew is due back at 9am. They should be disinfecting the floor and walls. A furnace technician will inspect the furnace, and a plumber will inspect the hot water heater. Also, they will repaint the basement floor. We're waiting to hear back from Risk Management (City of Portland) regarding our claim, additional information about our belongings that were taken to the warehouse (especially the rower and appliances). We've been told we should have a check by the end of the week, and should be getting things back in order by the end of the week. However, I fear it's going to take much more time than that. Fingers crossed!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Gross Out Update: Discovery, and Containment


When I first walked down the basement steps, chatting on the phone with my sister, I had no idea what I was going to walk into. After the initial shock, I grabbed the camera, and my rubber boots. Here's a clip from the video, showing the sewage erupting from the floor drain:

Great video, right? Maybe I should have a motion sickness warning at the beginning.

Like many houses built in the 1920s, the basement floor slopes to the drain. The drain is about six inches below the highest point in the room. Right at the drain, the sewage was about seven inches deep, and only about an inch deep on the far side of the basement.

My first call was to family ("What do I do??") and my second call was to the plumber we know. Next, call the city water bureau. It was 6:00pm, and the after hours recording directed me to pick this number, and that until I reached the after hours sewage emergency line. I gave my address and a description of what I saw ("There is literally sewage flooding my basement!!"), and was told that the emergency crew would be over after their current call.

I went back to the basement for pictures. I also took pictures of the outside of the house, showing how dry it was- it had just started lightly raining, so our downspouts were not a factor.

If this happens to you, call the city, and wait for city maintenance to come out and check it out. If the problem is on your property, you need your insurance company and a plumber. If the crew determines that the problem is in the city's sewage main line, the city is liable. Hold off on calling your insurance company until you have more information- and save yourself a wasted claim. Preserve those discounts! I called our insurance company, to ask advice, which initiated a claim. It was after hours, so I couldn't reach my agent directly. Luckily, in the morning our agent identified our "claim" as "inquiry only." Phew- discounts intact!

Between phone calls, I also talked to our neighbors, letting them know to check their basements. We were the only house effected! But that's great news for them, so I'm glad that everyone doesn't have to deal with it.

When the city crew arrived, I showed them to the basement. The flood had receded, and I could really tell just how gross things were. I pointed out the clean out. They looked at the toilet (literally, just looked at it. "ok, there it is.") Then, we went out to the street, and looked in the manhole. They let me look too, and take pictures. The guys were super nice.

The dark, open pipe at the bottom of the manhole is the sewer. It's about 10 feet below the surface of the street. You can see how high the flood reached in the manhole, and the fresh deposit of debris. The top of that flood was about three feet below the street surface. 

The manhole is uphill from our house, so the top of that flood is roughly about the ceiling of our basement. So yes, plenty of pressure to push into our pipe, and into the room.

The crew told me that this showed the blockage was in the main line, NOT on our property. This is very good news for this homeowner, because we are not liable for problems on the city's side of the line. They made special emphasis on the fact that the problem was in the city line, and that we should contact Risk Management the next day to make a claim for losses.

Our next call was to a restoration company. The first company I tried called back before I could dial the next company. They could have sent a crew out that night, but I thought for what would get done that night, it wasn't worth the added stress and missed sleep. So we arranged for the crew to come to the house in the morning. 


When the plumber called back, he advised that we pour lime on the sewage remaining in the basement, to help limit the spread of germs, and help with the odor. We also taped over the doorway from the kitchen, to contain the smell. 

Here is where I try to do math:
One square foot is 12x12 inches = 144 square inches per square foot. Basement is roughly 550 square feet. 550 x 144 = 79,200 square inches of total area.
Average depth of sewage = 3 inches. 3 inches x 79, 200 = 237,600 total cubic inches of sewage.
Using this converter, that comes to 1028.5 gallons of sewage. All up in the NE PDX Basement. Wowzer!

It was about 9:00 when I got of the phone with the restoration company. I spent almost three hours on the phone with a number people, trying to figure out what to do, and trying to schedule the clean-up. It was exhausting, and I didn't sleep to well that night. Luckily, clean up started Friday morning, and they made a ton of progress, so I slept like a rock on Friday night. Looking forward to a few more tonight!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Gross Out of 2013

What is The Gross Out of 2013, you ask? If you can't handle gross, stop reading now. If you're ready for some gross, please continue.

The Gross Out of 2013 refers to the time when the sewer backed up, and flooded our NE PDX Basement. Yes, that's right, the sewer flooded our basement. Super gross. Solid human waste, waste-mud, and soiled feminine hygiene products (so sorry).

Over the next few days/weeks, I'll try to keep up with what happened, and how we will be handling the aftermath.

All I have done for the last three hours is watch, talk on the phone, be grossed out, and wash my hands over and over. Stay tuned for more on The Gross Out of 2013!