Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Today was a bust

Well, mostly anyway. It started off nicely enough, the sun was shining, the wind was calm. I stayed up too late last night talking on the phone with my daughter, so I slept later than I wanted, getting up around 9:30. I had coffee and breakfast, then got the two 40-pound propane tanks off the camper and into the truck. I came back inside and made several phone calls looking for a place to fill them. TSC (Tractor Supply Company) is usually a good place, but the nearest one I called said they normally do fill tanks, but it was broken. ?? Ok, I called the next nearest one, they just swap tanks. So then I called the nearest RV place to see what they charged, and the gal on the phone said propane was $3.79 a gallon!!! Holy cow!!!  I paid $2.19 in mid November just before I left MN to fill them, I'll be darned if I'll bend over for that sort of  pricing. Haven't they heard that oil prices are in the toilet?  Back on the phone again, and finally discovered the TSC store 32 miles away fills tanks, no problem, and the price is $2.79.  That still seems high to me, but better than the RV place.

 I drove there and had the tanks filled, then decided to look through the Goodwill there. It was much larger than the little one locally, and I was hoping to maybe find another vintage Vitamix for $3.99 that I would actually sell. lol No such luck, I did find a couple things I can use, but I wasted a bunch of time browsing through the store.

Once I finally got back home, I mounted the tanks on the camper and turned the furnace on as low as it will go, to keep the plumbing from freezing. The water heater is under the bed, and there's a hinged area to access the storage space there, so I needed to figure out a way to prop the bed up so the warm air can get underneath. I thought this was something I could leave for later since I have lights inside in case it got dark before I got to it. Instead, I got out my thin work gloves and a pair of nitrile gloves to put over them  and climbed up the 10' ladder to the roof. I was actually on the roof yesterday, hoping to clean out the gutters. I got the south side cleaned out ok but the north side was frozen. This is the south side, before.

I left the ladder set up yesterday hoping that the 45 degrees today would melt the ice so I could clean out the north side today. The previous owner here had planted 2 oak trees, one on each corner on the north side of the mobile home. This would be ok, if he hadn't planted them literally 4 feet from the house. They're really getting to the age where they are nice shade trees, probably 20-25 years old, but they hold their leaves terribly late, in fact half the leaves are still on the trees, and they continue to drop them slowly all winter so the gutters get clogged up over and over. And the acorns! All I hear at night is Bang!  as the acorns hit the roof and roll down towards the gutters. Bang! The first time I heard them rolling down the roof I thought there was a critter up there. The weight of the wet leaves and standing water and acorns really add up, and will eventually tear the gutter right off the house if they're not cleaned out, so I really needed to do this again. 

Today the inch of ice in the gutter, along with the several inches of leaves that were frozen into the ice, had thawed and cleaning it all out only took about a half hour including putting the big ladder away. So now I move on to the main event, making sure the plumbing under the house is protected from freezing. Should be a quick trip, right?

By now it's nearly 4pm, but I thought all I had to do was make sure the blue board insulation was still intact around the well pressure tank and the exposed pipes where they come up from the ground, run an extension cord and plug in the small space heater, then close up the skirting. Well.... as soon as I took the first piece of skirting off I heard dripping. This is NEVER a good sign.

Visualize if you will... the main waste line for the mobile home runs almost the full length of the trailer, roughly 80 feet. It's located on the north (back) side, and there is a T where it drops down to the septic tank about 25 feet from the east end. The small drain pipe from the washing machine is about 5 feet long and joins the main waste line about 25 feet from the west end of the house. The west end of the pipe (master bath) is almost as far west as you can go and still be under the house. The whole length of waste pipe was supported by metal straps and some wire hangers. It seems that at some point in the fairly recent past these metal and wire hangers must have succumbed to rust, and from the master bath it was hanging down at a very steep angle where the water built up, adding much more weight, and I'm guessing put enough pressure on the remaining supporting wires to snap them as well, until most of the length was laying on the ground. Obviously water isn't going to run uphill to get to the T where it drops to the septic tank. And, the small 2" drainpipe from the washer into the main waste line had snapped clean off just below the elbow where it comes down from above. So, all the waste water has been building up in the mainline until it got to the level of the broken pipe (which was slightly lower than the T), then running out onto the ground under the house. AGH!!!!!

 I've lived with wells my entire adult life, and they never give you problems in the summer, only when it's below zero. It has to be that guy Murphy's fault. Either that tiny little line running to the pressure switch freezes, or the pressure tank runs out of air, or God forbid, the pump itself freezes and maybe breaks the impeller while it's at it, then you get to muck about in the water and mud and freezing temps, oh joy! This, however, is the first time I've ever had to deal with a waste water problem, let alone in the winter, so the joy factor is exponentially multiplied by mucking about in, basically, sewage. Thankfully, the land under the house is actually crowned, higher in the center and lower at the sides (unlike Tennessee roads, don't get me started on that), so there wasn't a standing pool of nastiness, but there is a good 6 inch wide strip of it right along the track that holds the bottom of the skirting, it's sort of dammed up under the trailer if you will.

This whole mess was not in the plans, and it's starting to get dark. First I dragged out the small floor jack to lift the heavy, full-of-water waste pipe and got concrete blocks under it to regain the slope I needed for the water to reach the T and the septic tank. Unfortunately a lot of that water that was sitting in the pipe came out the broken pipe as well, and the slope will have to be tweaked tomorrow so I have a proper slope downward. Realizing I needed to make a trip to town for parts, I went ahead and removed more skirting by the pressure tank and looked over the insulation for the well pump and above-ground piping that runs to and from the tank. That all looked alright, but after quite a bit of looking I could not find the small electric heater I have for that space. I know I pulled it out so it wouldn't corrode during the summer in the dampness under the house, but do you think I can find the darn thing? Heck no. Add that to the shopping list, along with some foam pipe insulation for the new pipes that were rerouted during the master bathroom remodel and are a bit exposed.

Now that it's almost dark, I get back in the truck and drive 20 miles to the town where they actually carry black ABS pipe, the nearest big box home improvement store doesn't carry it. I got a new elbow and some connectors, along with the proper glue for ABS, some foam pipe insulation, a new space heater and a new pack of D cell batteries for my Maglite flashlight since i figured I would need it under the house tonight. By the time I got home I was thoroughly sick of the whole mess, and decided one more night won't hurt anything. The skirting is propped up against the house, and it's plenty warm under there (I hope). The forecast for tomorrow says we won't get above freezing, so it will be a fun job to crawl around in the mud and try to get everything working right again. Hey, at least the black widow spiders under the house aren't active when it's this cold out!  LOL


  1. Nightsky I feel your pain. Last year we had our waterline frozen twice. We had access to a large heater, but what a pain. Keep us updated.

  2. Oh my goodness, you sure have a crappy job ahead of you. And it wouldn't happen when the weather is mild. Good luck - maybe everything will go smoothly when you get to working on it.