"What Else Can Go Wrong"?...an epic tale

Sun Nov 25, 2012 9:47 pm

Our entire neighborhood here was built 1973-75, and each home has it's own septic. We have natural gas, city water, and underground electric service.
About 2 years ago, the county began stage 1 of a sanitary sewer upgrade. They started at one end of the hood and trenched right down the middle of all our streets putting in the main sanitary sewer lines. This part of the project had many delays. Rain, rain, oh...and more rain. Hitting the electric AND gas lines NUMEROUS times, and sadly, even one death. A man in his early 50's went into a 16ft deep trench with only the bottom half shored up with a steel box. The front end loader was actually on the way back with the top box while this guy went down in there putting on a fitting when the top half caved in on him.
The project ran thru winter with the roads a total mess. Since the roads were part of "the construction zone", snow plowing was the responsibility of the contractors, and they FAILED in every way possible. I plowed our cul-de-sac with my Cub! The roads were absolutely terrible with chuckholes, ruts and high spots that rubbed the bottom of some cars.
Well, spring came and went and then they were finally done with laying pipes. Then they came in and tamped and graded the roads, and layed down asphalt where the trench was. Then a month later they came back and put down a layer of asphalt over everything. After that a REAL paving company came in and put down the nicest asphalt streets you'd ever seen.
The entire project was approved for stage 1, which meant homeowners could commence with their own tie-ins. This part WE were responsible for. We had to pick from a list of approved contractors. We picked the one we saw doing the best work! Literally, some of these guys hacked up some of the yards so bad it looked WORSE than new construction! OMG! This guy left one little 'serpent mound' behind, and his customers had nothing but good things to say.
So, this whole time we were preparing for this job. We had LOTS of landscaping to move so it would not get destroyed in the process. It took a while, but we saved all the plant life we wanted to, dismantled 2 fish ponds and moved more rocks than I care to discuss.
Our start date was Oct 23rd 2012, the day after my wife was due to return from a road trip to Maine near Sebago Lake.
A week prior to her trip I had the oil changed in her car at the lube place. Then I have it in our garage rotating the tires and I see there is something in the tread on one. Its a self tapping sheet metal screw it turns out, and had penetrated deeper than I was comfy with leaving it on the car for a trip of that length. So we make an appt at the tire store to get a pair of new tires. We pick it up, and on the way home the car runs like total crap....its a 2009 Focus with 19.000 miles! We get it to the dealer after hours. They call me back the next morning to tell me the car is done, and its 110bucks for the diagnostic fee only. They removed the large insect off the mass air sensor for free...wonderful...
So Pamela departs for Maine. While she's there, they have an earthquake like 20 miles away from where she's at !
So she gets back ok, which I'm very thankful of!
The next day the trackhoe guy gets here 7am, doesn't get but 6ft from the tie-in spot at the street and he shears off a hydraulic fitting on the hoe hitting it on the trenchbox. He had to take the cylinder off and take it to Wooster to be welded back up.
Meanwhile, we have a plumber in the basement digging up the concrete floor. We are going to JOYFULLY get RID of that darn sump pump crock in favor of under the floor drain pipes that go into the sewer pipe we have to install. That crock serviced a sink in Pamela's sewing/craft room; furnace exhaust condensate; furnace humidifier overflow; A/C A-Coil drain; a utility tub and the washing machine. Not all folks around here are doing this, but I say kill two birds with one stone if ya can. Why have to buy sump pumps and rely on the electric being on when I can let gravity work its magic for free? So the plumber is carving out the floor, and then punching out under the foundation wall with our new drain, to meet up with the main sewer line coming out the back of the house.
The next morning, the backhoe is back up and running. He goes around back to dig so the plumber can do his thing, and he severs a copper water line we didn't know was there...ugh. So the plumber gets it shut off, the backhoe guy finishes the digging back there so the plumber can continue to work, and then goes back to the front to start again on our sewer line trench. All good right? Hahahaha
Along the side of the house, the backhoe guy hits the telephone line(mismarked)...the internet/cable(mismarked). Then several feet down the side of the house from that is where they marked for the electric wires. He takes a swipe with the bucket at just 10" deep and they sparks fly! Holy Crap Batman! So now our electricity is out too! After looking, the wires were only buried 8" deep! WTH? I coulda killed myself with a shovel planting a bush or something there! We get the power company out there, and he says no way can he splice that even on an emergency basis being buried only 8". The power company isn't responsible for wires on the property anyhow, but they do make emergency repairs and bill you, guaranteeing the work as well. So he pulls our meter, installs a blank in the hole, locks the box and writes us up for an inspection before power can be restored. The next day we get an electrician out here, and he gives us more bad news. Not only can they not find ANY record of any service line repair work, he finds the wiring is done incorrectly inside the meter box; AND...the wires aren't even direct bury wires! And to top it off, there is a splice somewhere between the spot where it got broken by the backhoe and the hand box where the power company wires are at the street, because the CORRECT wires exist in the handbox. Two days later the county inspector(he's booked solid) is here too, and informs us that there are 4 issues at hand. 3 he can see, and 1 he cannot. Being that the 3 he CAN see are WRONG, he is forced by policy to assume the remaining 1 he cannot see is incorrect as well, being that there is no record of this repair. What does this mean for us? We have to install new service lines underground in a separate trench! WOOHOO! Our insurance deductible is $1000. But, after talking to the claims lady, we find out they will litigate the contractor after paying the claim, and she WILL NOT say whether our rate will go up or not...which means IT WILL ! So, I told her to go fly a kite. So I tell the backhoe guy I'll pay the 1st grand if he covers the rest and digs the trench since his equipment is here already. Done! NOT!! Because why you ask? I'll tell you why! We got an uninvited guest here...her name was Sandy, and she stayed for two looong days!
Ok, so back to when the power got killed to our house. We have great neighbors here. So Sid the guy next door says to just hook up to his 20amp outlet off his back deck to run the fridge and whatever. So I run a 10ga wire from his house to my garage, and then extension cords throughout the house so we can run the fridge, a lamp here and there, and a cpap machine all night. I also took a cord and 'hotwired' my furnace so we had heat. Luckily, the blowers are 110V. Although it was inconvenient, we could do everything we could before except the microwave, the stove and the clothes dryer. The hitch was, we could only do ONE AT A TIME ! While Sandy was blowing thru, the power went out to the whole area for 5hrs during the day, so I cranked up the generator during that time. I guess I could have run the generator all the time, but 1) I REFUSE to run it and us go to sleep, 2) it's not the 'clean' power the cpap machine requires.
We had it down to a science making coffee, toast etc ! We have gas hot water, so we could still take showers. I also proved I could prepare full course meals on the grill out back! We had a dozen of those cheap Harbor Freight Tools 9-LED flashlights all over the house too! They came in handy!
Okay, so it's power line installation day, and I took a vacation day to be here. The crew 1 electrician 2 20-somethings(helpers) show up at 8:30am, with the still booked solid inspector due at 10:15am. Im out there just eying things while his "helpers" string the 3 wires out along the ground next to the trench. It doesn't look long enough to me right off the bat....but do I say anything or just leave these guys work??? So I go to the electrician and voice my concern and he says nahhh, the helper measured it yesterday, it's 100ft. I go back and REALLY look this time...hmmm there's NO WAY this length of wire is long enough to go from my meter box to the hand box at the street. By this time, the helpers have all the conduit glued up. We went with the 24" deep bury in conduit option. If it ever needs replaced, or needs upgraded, we will not have to trench again, just pull new wires thru the conduit. So I go tell this guy he needs to come look. He goes over and from his reaction, he comes to the same conclusion as I did! He goes over to the truck to call the supply house. I go get my tape measure (33ft) and measure...125 feet, no 2 ways about it. I go tell him it's 125ft. He tells the helper to go measure again too. He comes back...125ft. I say, let me see your tape measure. It's a 25footer. I ask him if this was the tape he used yesterday...he says yes...I say well, you measured it right probably, but you counted 25ft 4 times instead of 5! Meanwhile, the electrician is having a cow that he's not going to be ready by 10:15. He sends the kid back for the right length of wire. He gets back, and the inspector drives up while these guys are stuffing wire in the conduit...he doesn't even stop...LOL
He gets the wire/conduit in the trench, wires up the new meter box, he'd already replaced the feed wire from the meter to my panel box while junior was on his field trip. He calls the inspector to tell him he is ready. Inspector says he is now last on the list for the day and has to stay there till he gets there. Inspector shows up about 5pm and gives us a nice green sticker! YAY! He call the magic number at the power company, and it's down due to all the calls from Sandy! So he calls his office and has his peeps fax in the power hookup request. They finally get here at 9pm and hook us up. TADA !
Done right?....NOT !
It seems the plumbers helper poked a 1/4" dia. hole in the side of my utility tub right at the bottom. No biggie, I just get some 2 part epoxy and fill it in, no leak. Done right?....NOT !
We are catching up on laundry, and we see the drain leaking where it comes down from the kitchen sink, and where the plumber had sawed off the pipe that went to the sump pump crock and capped off. I get the step ladder, investigate, and find the pipe is broken at the elbow right on top of the sill plate. I get into it, and discover that pipe has been broken there for a while, but must have been just dripping/seeping prior to this last work. So I fix it, and also move the pipe so it hugs the wall intead of hanging 2 ft out into the basement space.
As a side note, this area had been repaired by someone before we moved in also. Why they mixed white pvc with black abs is beyond my comprehension, but, if it ain't broke, don't fix it right? I Also learned at the Home Depot that they now make a special glue for those folks who INSIST on mixing this two pipe products. The utter irony in this is, why would the same doofus who buys the wrong pipe then turn around and buy the right glue for his wrong pipe???...BEAM ME UP !
So I fix the drain pipe and rerouting deal. Done right?.....NOT !
The next day we are down doing laundry, and Pamela says there is water runnining down the wall ! Now, Pamela has been know to poke me like this from time to time...and DESERVEDLY SO !...but she says NO ITS REALLY RUNNING DOWN THE WALL ! I look, and sure as ****, it's leaking. I have NEVER had a pvc or abs joint fail on me...NEVER. So I hear that the dishwasher is draining at the time...great...ugh. So I get up there and look, my fix is not leaking, it's coming from ahead of my repair. I check under the kitchen sink, nothing...the only thing I see is a slight seeping in the LH sink strainer since someone installed that wrong! People crack me up...the paper ring goes on AFTER the rubber gasket!...the only thing to do now is tear out the back of the cabinet and then the drywall behind that. So I get the pipe exposed under the sink, and the only thing I really see is that it pitches the wrong way. Next up, tearing out the back of the 10 1/2" wide cabinet next to it. BINGO!...Houston, we have a problem. There is a TEE there that is totally fractured up. YUCK. It's also been like that for a looooooong time. It also explained the 'odor' from time to time by the sink. We always thought it was the disposer, so we kept on deodorizing it. The tee was broken where it goes up to thru the roof to vent, visibly fractured along the horizontal run to the sink/disposer/dishwasher, and fractured on the bottom of the run to the basement. It was also a biohazard in there. EEEWWWWW!
Finally got the drain fixed(with correct pitch), as well as the sink strainer, then had to put my carpenters hat on to rebuild the backs of the cabinets. I also took the opportunity to replace the bottom of the under sink cabinet.
It was no fun working in the back of the kitchen sink cabinet, and nearly impossible in the back of the narrow cabinet next to it.
From my experience, either someone dropped a bundle of shingles on the stink stack at one time, or a nice sized branch fell on it and fractured that pipe.
And thus ends this chapter of, 'Home Sweet Home Repairs'.
Until next time !

Re: "What Else Can Go Wrong"?...an epic tale

Sun Nov 25, 2012 10:59 pm


If this wasn't so serious it would be laughable, unfortunately it is very serious. I am constantly amazed at what some folks consider repairs.... :big give up: Also what some contractors do is almost criminal. That is one of the reasons why locates are so critical - because a lot of the time lines aren't where they are supposed to be. Remember, what can go wrong usually does especially when we really don't need it to. Sure hope nothing else goes wrong. We will keep our fingers crossed for you.

Oh yeah, while Pamela was in Maine and experienced the quake, Em and I arrived in Kittery at the motel just a little bit after the quake hit. Sure was a big topic in a small town. Hope she enjoyed her time up in Maine. Some pretty there. :D

Re: "What Else Can Go Wrong"?...an epic tale

Mon Nov 26, 2012 10:44 am

BTDT on a different scale. Everyone should build or remodel once in there lifetime. Told the contractor EXACTLY where the 220 line going to the shop was and the hoe cut both lines, the electrician only spliced back one line ( it's still 200v, just less wire.). And thats the short list. If a contractor or sub shows up and asks to borrow a shovel or other equip. ,You made the wrong choice in a builder.

Re: "What Else Can Go Wrong"?...an epic tale

Mon Nov 26, 2012 12:30 pm

:lol: Thanks for sharing! There are times when so many things go wrong there is nothing you can do but laugh and plod on to the next bushwhack!

Re: "What Else Can Go Wrong"?...an epic tale

Mon Nov 26, 2012 8:21 pm

Wow, first of all thanks for the well written story. I feel your pain and laughed out loud severeal times. I just finished a kitchen remodel that took me about 7 months. A complete tear out to the frame , walls, floor, ceiling, etc. All the way back to custom cabinets, tile, etc,etc.
The entire project I avoided having any help or contracting because of all the types of problems you had. The thought of paying someone to half-... a job just about pushes me over the edge. Not that any seasoned veteran of anything, but at least I know what I did and the mistakes I made(and corrected).
What I realy love is finding more and more mistakes in the weeks after the contractor was finished.

Hope everything works out.

Re: "What Else Can Go Wrong"?...an epic tale

Tue Nov 27, 2012 8:16 pm

I forgot to include we were without our own electric service for 9-1/2 days!
We got the power on at 9:30 on Friday. We turned on all the lights in the house and discovered that during this time, persons unknown had dirtied up our house, left a LOT of dirty dishes laying around, and dropped off a buttload of dirty laundry as well.
We woke up saturday morning, had breakfast and left for the day taking a trip to Columbus and back!
We sure did feel jinxed during the whole ordeal.
Pamela and I are ready for an extended period of sheer boredom for a change!

Re: "What Else Can Go Wrong"?...an epic tale

Wed Nov 28, 2012 12:28 pm

Bless your heart Marion
My wife works for Duke Energy here in NC. The folks that mark where wires, water, sewer etc are located are always making mistakes. Most of them are paid minimum wage. You get what you pay for.

Re: "What Else Can Go Wrong"?...an epic tale

Wed Nov 28, 2012 1:57 pm

Take a look at what happened in Springfield, Mass when a high pressure gas line is mis-marked!

Re: "What Else Can Go Wrong"?...an epic tale

Wed Nov 28, 2012 3:14 pm

I saw that on the news. Lucky more people weren't hurt.

Re: "What Else Can Go Wrong"?...an epic tale

Wed Nov 28, 2012 3:32 pm

One of our engineers said his house shook 5 miles away.