Lessons from Our Flood
- Monday, February 02, 2004
We did not discover the full extent of the damage until the next day when the general contractor pronounced the verdict. The kitchen cabinets would have to be removed, and all of the downstairs carpet, vinyl floor, and hardwood floor would have to be pulled up to allow the floor to dry out. The floor insulation in the crawl space would have to be removed. The HVAC ducts and air handler located beneath the house would have to be torn out as water had drained into the floor vents and migrated down the ducts to the air handler.
We soon learned that the polybutylene water pipe that had failed was defective, and that this type of water pipe had been outlawed due to its potential to burst. To our horror, we discovered that this defective pipe was used throughout our house. The water pipes in our seven-year-old home were a time bomb waiting to explode, a disaster lurking in the shadows. Due to a class action lawsuit against the company that manufactured the pipe, a trust fund had been created to finance the re-plumb of houses that had experienced an interior pipe burst. We submitted a claim, and it was approved. The subsequent re-plumb and associated wall and ceiling repairs extended the duration of our ordeal to over three months.
Now, you may ask, "Where is the bright side in all of this? What did you learn from this disaster?" Looking back on this catastrophe, I would have to say that it is not what we learned, but rather, what Mark, my middle child, learned from this experience. In spite of the interruption to our routine way of living and the disruption to our home schooling, we realized that this disaster would provide some "teachable moments," some "lessons from the flood."
Let me take a brief intermission from my story to tell you a little about Mark, who at the time of the deluge was twelve years old. He is a hands-on kind of guy. Schoolwork and written lessons are not his passion. Mark learns best by seeing, hearing, and doing. He is an inventor by nature. Some of his past creations have included: a huge trebuchet that boasted a 20-foot catapult arm, a spud cannon that shoots potato plugs over 200 feet, and a 150-foot pulley line from his upstairs bedroom window to a tree house platform in the backyard. Mark thinks that reruns of "This Old House" and "The Yankee Millwright" deserve Emmy Awards.
Get the picture? Understand the dilemma we were faced with? We knew that to hold Mark captive upstairs to books and written lessons, while a huge construction project progressed downstairs, would be more than he could bear. So, we decided very early in the game that we would let Mark's formal education slide for awhile—call it a home school "perk"—so that he could observe, participate, and learn from the on-going construction work.
Besides, Dad could not be there all the time due to his full-time job outside of the home. And . . . Dad needed a good informant . . . uh . . . I mean a good . . . uh . . . quality control inspector. Let us face it. Mark sees and hears everything. A few minutes of casual conversation with Mark in the evenings would give Dad a thorough summary of the work that had transpired during the day, the problems encountered, and the solutions employed.
Over the next several weeks, Mark helped with the demolition. He helped pull up the carpet, padding, tack strips, and pad staples. Mark assisted in ripping up the vinyl floor and underlayment. He watched the removal of the hardwood floor. In the crawl space under the house, Mark helped rip out the wet insulation between the floor joists, assisted in removing the HVAC ducts, and watched the removal of the air handler. He witnessed the removal of the commode and cabinets from the bathroom and the removal of the kitchen cabinets.
Mark carefully observed the equipment used in the dry-out process, the large fans and dehumidifiers. Of course, typical of a home-educated student, he not only watched the dry-out process, he monitored it as well. Mark collected the water from the dehumidifier discharge tube in a one-gallon plastic milk jug, recorded the time required for the jug to fill, and then calculated the number of gallons per hour of water removed from the air.
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