Friday, September 08, 2006

Urban Owner's Fable

One of my neighbors told me a story that would have been the perfect tale to tell at my condo association roof meeting. Unfortunately, I was too stunned by the rash actions of my young, money-heavy building-mates to make a coherent case for why it's nuts to rip off a 3-year-old roof completely instead of making some inexpensive repairs to the flashing and sealing.

My neighbor--let's call her Ro--had bought a condo in a newly restored hundred-year-old brick building. She bought a top floor unit with roof rights. And she had noticed a funny smell in the basement when she'd go down to her storage area, but she didn't think much of it until the new owners on the ground floor started complaining about sewage backing up into their bathtubs.

Gross. I'd have been freaked out too.

There are six units in the building, and everyone got together to panic and discuss what to do. They called in a number of plumbers, all of whom offered doomsday scenarios.

"The sky is falling," said the plumbers. No, not the sky. More like the ground is regurgitating. But it was most definitely the biggest emergency known to person-kind, and if they didn't take action post-haste, it would quite likely develop into something even worse. Say, for example, crocodiles coming out of the sewer, or the house sinking into crap, or... more sewage backwashing and stinking for an extended time period.

"It's backpitch," they said. "Over time, things settle and the ground shifts. Now instead of gravity pulling the sewage down into the sewers, it's going backwards. No other solution but this--you must excavate out and replace the entire sewer line from the basement to the middle of 8th Street. Cost? A bazillion dollars."

The brand new owners--young people flush with the glow of being new owners--were devastated and panicked.

But a few of them, including Ro, cried foul.

Somehow, the calmer heads prevailed and got a scope done. That's where they send a camera down the pipes, along the backpitch. It's like when you have a gut ailment and the doctor sends a camera into your gut, only it's pipes under the house and street.

The culprit of this horrific problem that would cost thousands to fix?

A tennis ball. Lodged in the pipe.

They pulled out the tennis ball. The sewage went down the pipes. That was a year-and-a-half ago, and though there is a mild backpitch, there's not been another problem.

And the moral to this story is: Keep your head when it comes to investing thousands, and don't be a big panicky dumbhead.

1 comment:

Kevie Metal said...

God damn it, I just paid my entire ass to a guy to waterproof my cellar because if he didn't do it right this second the building was definitely going to collapse. And I went for it. Why did I not check Marie's blog first. Let this be a lesson homeowners!