The current effective “standing” room in our first floor bathroom and plastic enclosed hallway is about 25 square feet, some of it not contiguous. Yesterday we had 11 people in or near our bathroom, specifically near the “yuge” hole in the floor. To wit: the plumber, the structural engineer, the soil expert, another soil expert, two lawyers, the Home Owners Association (HOA) management company president, the HOA building manager, the facilities manager, and me and David. I have named this confabulation of people “plumberpalooza” even though, clearly, only one was an actual plumber.

(Did you know that confabulation, often shortened to “confab,” usually employed to mean a gathering of people to confer or chat, is also defined as follows: “the production of fabricated, distorted or misinterpreted memories about oneself or the world, without the conscious intention to deceive”? As in: ‘you sincerely believe that you caught a ginormous fish, and you confabulate its size into your fish story!’  I learn so much as I write my blog posts, double checking words that I use often, and occasionally, wrongly.)

Back to the plumbing drama in progress.  We have had plastic sheeting wrapping our first floor hallway and bathroom in a Dexter-style tunnel for about two and half weeks, held in place by a PVC pipe frame and duct tape. There are zippers in the plastic sheeting that allow us to go upstairs or into the guest room where David has established his temporary office. Two weeks ago, the plumber and his concrete contractor bored a 30 inch diameter hole in our bathroom floor (they wanted 36 inches but the boring tool would not fit through the door). It is approximately 5 feet deep as follows: twenty inches of 1inch rebar-reinforced concrete, a thick membrane, almost like wetsuit neoprene to shield the concrete from water, and another three feet of gravel in which the offending, and broken, pipe rested. (See pictures below of the very impressive hole.)

The cause of the break which caused the two floods in our unit in February and March is unknown. It is possible that the settlement of the gravel – there is a gap of several inches between the top of the gravel and the bottom of the concrete – caused the pipe to break. More likely, the pipe broke when being installed and was either deliberately overlooked or not noticed. What I learned yesterday from the soil guys is that the building itself isn’t settling; it is built and rests on enormous steel I-beam pylons. However, the whole area is on what we San Franciscan’s call “Bayfill” which means it used to be the Bay and was filled in with a range of tossed materials, including demolished buildings. The bayfill sits on soft bay mud which inevitably settles and compresses, and an estimate of how much compression and in what time frame is built into the building design and construction in the area.

Yesterday’s confab was intended to yield certain information. The plumber wanted to develop a plan with the structural engineer, and get his perspective on boring another hole – this one at the base of our stairs – to ensure that the repaired pipe had the proper slope and wouldn’t bend and retain water, and also to repair what appears to be the beginning of another break discovered while inspecting the drainline with a camera. The soil men were providing additional context and information, having been involved in the design and building of many of the structures in Mission Bay. The lawyers wanted to see if there was anything useful in the hole or the plumbing or the diagnostics that would support a lawsuit against the developer. The management company wanted to be in the loop on any new discoveries or plans.  David and I wanted to know what was next, and how long it would take before the replaced bathroom concrete would be “tile ready.”

In the meantime, we’ve been trying to source wood flooring akin to what we already have. Who knew that 3 ¼ inch wide engineered white oak planks were so difficult to come by? We’ve learned that what is “in” right now, and what the flooring manufacturers are producing, is 5 inches or 7 inches wide, and mostly in a “white wash” finish to boot. Today we settled on 5” wide white oak.

I’m sorry – did I skip too quickly over the likelihood of them boring another hole in the slab? I believe I did. That will extend the work on the plumbing repair for at least another week, likely two.  More plastic sheeting. More noise and gravel and people in and out all day. All of which further delays the restoration part of the project: the new floors and the painting, which by itself is estimated to take 2-3 weeks.

I hope it is clear that I am learning a great deal during this process, about soil, about plumbing and pipes and construction, about flooring and what’s popular at the moment, among other things. It might not be clear, yet, that today I feel very DONE with all this. I am crabby (and David will confirm this) and put out and a little dysregulated by it all. I had hoped to find a new rhythm, with heavy doses of exploration and fun, upon my return from British Columbia. I am finding fun a bit out of reach these last few days.

As I’ve noted before, these are all first world problems, and we are quite lucky in spite of the very large hole in the floor. Still, there are days, today being a prime example, when the hole in the floor draws me into a downward spiral and I lose perspective. I also know that a good night’s sleep tonight will make a world of difference for me, as will an early morning workout followed by a Board meeting of the United Way of the Bay Area, an organization focused on lifting Bay Area residents out of poverty. I have no doubt that perspective will return, and then, like the plumber, I’ll climb out of the hole.


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3 thoughts on “Plumberpalooza

  1. Hi Susan. I have been following you for months on every adventure but this one I do not envy! I think of you often and enjoy your blogs so keep writing! Best – Rita


  2. Very interesting and entertaining. Good luck! Very nice event last week. Without you or Lael there, I couldn’t make a Wesleyan connection either. It still was very special, and I think my brother enjoyed it too. Mary

    Mary O. McWilliams


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