The case of the mysterious blue haze…

7 11 2008

“So I went down to the basement yesterday and it was filled with smoke…,” she mentioned casually in the course of one of our daily conversations.

 “Smoke?  Did it smell like something was burning?”, I asked, willing my voice into a zen state.

“No, it was just a blue haze but didn’t smell electrical or anything,” she finished. “I just opened the windows – then my physical therapist came so I went upstairs and came back down when she was done and closed all the windows.”  

These kinds of conversations when I am 150 miles away tend to unnerve me a bit.  So as soon as I was ‘on site’ last night I started checking things out. The furnace looked fine.  Took out the filter to see if something was amiss…nope.

It had been raining most of the afternoon so I wasn’t surprised that there was some water on the floor. This house has been in a perpetual state of mold, mildew and dank since who-knows-when.  I had a father who was convinced that there is nothing ever to be done about the way the house was built and if the basement leaks – so be it!

The nearly new dehumidifier seemed to check out but I had my doubts.  Maybe it just gave up the ghost early having to work so long and so hard with no reward whatsoever.  Talk about a job that is NEVER done!

It wasn’t until I put a load of laundry in this morning that it hit me…the sump pump. I had been trying to squeegee water down a floor drain when I noticed it wasn’t going anywhere – looked over at the “abyss” and saw it was to floor level, full of water…going nowhere.  I moved a plastic lid (picture the clear plastic domed lid over a huge deli tray…that is what my dad had over the sump pit) and low and behold I see the light.  Well actually I saw a spark so I knew I had found the scene of the crime.

In less than seven minutes I’m at Menard’s getting my first lesson in sump pumps. How hard can this be?  The fact that there is more rain on the way in a few hours motivates me in a special DIY sort of way.  But the most daunting part is at hand once I’m back in the basement with the new unit.

The old must be fished out of the pit…that murky, questionable water that to my knowledge is unfathomable.  Old unit unplugged, breaker switched off, jewelry out of harm’s way, sleeves rolled up and in I dive fishing for Lord-knows-what.  I see something dark and large floating around my arm…with a great sigh I realize it is just the “floater” (the REAL floater…not one of those kinds…) that had gotten detached from the old pump.

In up to my shoulder, kneeling on slimy wet basement floor, I locate the old pump and start to yank it out.  I’m not sure I haven’t really found something from the Titanic it’s so corroded.  With a 20 second perusal of the instruction booklet accompanying the new bright and shiny contraption, I understand the basic principles.

Into the deep it goes, pipe connected to pipe, switch into socket and I walk over to the breaker box a good 15 feet away in a corner.  All is well, noises are made, water begins to whish away and I flip the breaker to turn it all off.  A few adjustments and I try again but this time I am back beside the pit when somewhere in the process a point is reached where suddenly the whole thing becomes Trafalgar Fountain. Gallons of water are spewing out being rained all over the basement and I am stuck on the other side unable to reach the fuse box to flip the breaker.

I finally make it over there – head upstairs, dripping wet and call one of the plumbers suggested to me by the saleskid at Menard’s.  “Yes”, they’ll have someone out at around 3ish.  That works for me.  I know lots more than I started out knowing today about sump pumps – how they work, what the pit looks (or just feels like when it’s full and it won’t empty) and more.

The plumber shows up when he said he would and within less than an hour new pvc is fit to the pump and we are in business.  I was on the right road – like a kid building a fort in the woods knows how to build a house…I was lacking the proper tools (teflon tape, epoxy from three different cans, etc.) and professional know-how.

I don’t care what those two hours (including travel time) cost…the job is done and I can call and complain if something isn’t working right.  I know calling a pro wasn’t Billy’s way – he was Mr. Fixit – even if most times it was with things he already had laying around the basement.  I had a certified plumber work his magic.

So no…the Christmas decorations didn’t get hauled up from the basement today like was on the agenda.  Maybe tomorrow.img_38032