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Lindsey Kuper

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Winter 101: Water expands when it freezes [Jan. 5th, 2010|05:15 pm]
Lindsey Kuper

After four wonderful days in Atlanta with old friends, Alex oniugnip and I got home yesterday to discover that a pipe had frozen and burst in our upstairs bathroom, causing water to collect in the space between the first and second floors directly over the kitchen and eventually burst through the kitchen ceiling and cabinets and drip down the walls.

The good news is that the damage is limited entirely to the kitchen -- all of our other stuff is okay, and the cats are a little freaked out but otherwise fine -- and that our landlord's insurance will foot the $2800 bill for repairing the water damage. The bad news is that the kitchen is basically destroyed. State Farm sent over some guys who specialize in water damage restoration, and they ripped out the drywall and insulation from the kitchen ceiling yesterday. When we left today, they were removing the cabinets on one wall and doing something with the floor. It sounds like the kitchen window and surrounding drywall and insulation will have to come out, too. I'm not sure exactly what is going on, but it's safe to say we won't have a kitchen for a while. The living room is also unusable at the moment, because it's filled with industrial drying and dehumidification equipment, and in any case it's not too pleasant to be in the house right now because all of said equipment is currently on and roaring at full blast. It remains to be seen whether the music stuff in the basement -- Alex's drums and my keyboards -- are okay or not, because they were probably dripped on. Those things are replaceable, though. Mostly, I'm just glad that the water didn't get on any of our books, furniture, papers, computers, or art. I'm rattled about the fact that, you know, it's 20 degrees outside and there's basically a hole in our house, but it actually doesn't feel cold in the intact part of the house. And the silver lining is that I guess we might get a new kitchen out of the deal. Our landlord is already speaking of recessed lighting.

If you live in a place with below-freezing weather and you're planning to leave the heat turned down for an extended period of time, please, please make sure you leave your faucets running a trickle of water. This will keep the water circulating and prevent pipes from freezing and bursting. I was raised in the frozen northlands and should know these things, but apparently I hadn't learned my lesson yet.

For now, we've got Alex's trusty toaster oven set up in our bedroom, and that worked pretty okay for toast and peanut butter last night. But, you know, if anyone feels like inviting us over for food any time in the next few days, we would appreciate it more than you know.


[User Picture]From: sonetka
2010-01-06 04:49 am (UTC)
If it makes you feel any better, leaving the water running won't always do it. The water ran pretty constantly in our old apartment building's laundry room, but the pipes still froze pretty much every year (it was unheated, which didn't help). Granted, it produced some pretty amazing ice formations, but not being able to use the machines sucked mightily. I hope you get your kitchen back in form soon! I wish you were closer to us - we'd be happy to have you over for spaghetti and kebabs (not together - just the next couple of dinners I have planned). Good luck, and stay warm!
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2010-01-06 04:41 pm (UTC)
Thanks! Oddly enough, we're not cold at all -- we've been instructed to keep the thermostat above 70 to help the wood dry out, which is a lot warmer than we usually keep the house, so the part of the house that we can be in is nice and toasty. Really, the only uncomfortable part (aside from, you know, not having a kitchen) is the fact that all these fans and dehumidifiers are roaring. Apparently, they're supposed to stay on 24 hours a day. We slept in our spare bedroom last night (the room farthest away from all the fans), and with the door shut, the noise level managed to be tolerable for sleeping, comparable to being on an airplane. But it was a relief to leave the house this morning. It's cold and snowy outside, but it's blessedly quiet.

Not to compare our situation to theirs, but I was thinking back to an article I read about Katrina survivors who kept living in condemned buildings after the flood went down, because home is home. I can understand that better now -- even though there's no kitchen and the noise is oppressive and the house is filled with extension cords and dehumidifier drainage tubes, it's still our home, dammit, and we don't want to abandon it to stay in a hotel or something.

Edited at 2010-01-06 06:35 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2010-01-06 04:59 pm (UTC)
We don't know exactly what's going to happen as far as renovation goes. It's really up to our landlords -- it's their house, after all. But at the very least, we'll get a new kitchen floor and a new kitchen ceiling, and it seems like they would take this opportunity to maybe rethink the lighting situation, and the cabinet situation, and...oh, man, I shouldn't get too excited.
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[User Picture]From: kel_e_o
2010-01-06 07:51 pm (UTC)
That really sucks. I don't know what I would do if this happened to us!! On the bright side, though, at least you didn't buy a house, so someone else has to foot the repair bill. And maybe now, you'll get that taco stand that you and Alex have been waving about. :)

If you guys lived down here, you could totally stay here and eat all of our food too. <3 Can I send you some cookies at least?
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2010-01-07 07:59 pm (UTC)
Aw, thanks, Kelly! I'm sorry we didn't get to see you when we were in town. We almost came over for New Year's Eve, but ended up at Eyedrum instead. I hope your party ended up being good. I really miss you guys.

I would be delighted if you sent cookies! I'll send along the address. And you're right, not being a homeowner eliminates any number of headaches.
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[User Picture]From: deepdistraction
2010-01-07 05:33 pm (UTC)
I was raised in the frozen northlands, too, but didn't get a real education about such matters until we had some pipes freeze up ourselves--not burst, just freeze--so don't feel bad.

I'm assuming the kitties were at a shelter the whole time. If so, possibly the best way to prevent such problems in the future is to turn the water off entirely, wherever it enters the house. There's probably a valve in the basement that the landlord, at least, would have access to.

That wouldn't work if, instead, the cats were in the house the whole time, unless of course whomever was coming in periodically to check on them also brought fresh water daily. That would be a pain! So, if you must leave the whole-house water on, besides letting a faucet dribble, you can:

1. Not turn the heat down as low as it can go. Fifty degrees is plenty cool. (BTW, I hope the landlords aren't blaming you for letting the place get too cold. The entire Midwest was an icebox over the holidays, and theoretically they could have checked on the place anytime.)

2. Open up any cupboards through which water pipes transit, like cupboards under sinks. This helps especially when such pipes are located near an outer wall of the house, especially a north wall. The idea is that the warmer micro-climate inside the house then has maximum opportunity to envelop those pipes.

3. Insulate everywhere, but of course that is the homeowners' responsibility.

If you don't already have it, renter's insurance might be a wise investment. Perhaps it would have covered replacement costs on your furniture, computers, etc., if those things HAD been damaged. Read the fine print to see.

Glad things are no worse than they are. Shall I send you a carton of that Massachusetts granola Alex enjoyed here a year ago? Been thinking about belated holiday gifts.
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2010-01-07 08:15 pm (UTC)
Actually, the cats were in the house the whole time. I failed to mention that a friend was cat-sitting for us, and it was she who actually discovered the burst pipe (when the water finally broke through the kitchen ceiling). When she walked in and saw what had happened, she called us immediately, and we called our landlords. That was the day before we came back. By the time we actually arrived at home, the landlord had already called State Farm, and the water-damage repair folks had already set to work ripping the kitchen ceiling out. Apparently, the water had been leaking very slowly for four days or so before it was noticed, which was why the damage was so bad.

We had turned down the heat to 60 when we left, but the upstairs is always a bit colder than that, and maybe the space around the burst pipe (between the first and second floors) wasn't very well insulated. All the wet insulation and drywall has been removed now, and for the last two days, the fans and dehumidifiers have been running full blast, because the studs need to be bone-dry before insulation and drywall can be installed again. Our landlord wants that to happen tomorrow (and so would we, of course), but it all depends on whether the wood is dry enough.

We actually do have renter's insurance, thanks to Alex!

And: granola would be fantastic!
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[User Picture]From: mangoflute
2010-01-07 06:15 pm (UTC)
Oh man, that really sucks. Maybe I'm glad I accidentally left my heat at 72 for the 2 weeks I was gone. If you have a super 4-wheel drive vehicle, you're welcome to come over for dinner if you don't mind that it'll be rice a roni or something similar and might suck since I never cook and the fact that the kitchen table is nonexistent b/c it's covered in clutter so you might just have chairs, not a table, off which to eat...though with this being locked inside my house (i mentioned the vehicle b/c my apt complex has done nothing to plow the roads or parking lots or sidewalks), maybe i'll clean something or make biscuits or something...anything that doesn't require eggs... I'd also need ample notice. Tonight could work, but who knows if they'll even plow my parking lot by then...I suggest buying bagel bites if you have a freezer (or you can leave the box of them outside)--they're very tasty in the toaster oven....

Sorry to hear things are shitty and that I can't be of much help--let me know though if you do want some saffron rice or something, since that's about all i know how to cook!
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2010-01-07 08:24 pm (UTC)
Aw, thanks, Jess! At the moment, there's about a foot of snow on the car, not to mention the road, so I think it might be better to avoid driving anywhere. We do, in fact, have a working fridge and freezer, and I think we'll be okay for the moment.
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From: akeep
2010-01-15 07:58 pm (UTC)


Christine just pointed me to this entry in your live journal. That is crazy. I'm glad it doesn't sound like too much was damaged and your landlord has stepped up to take care of the damage in the house.
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