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The Civic Scene: Joys of home ownership prove difficult in Queens

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Most of us buy houses so we can enjoy the space and greenery they provide, although a few people buy homes mainly because the value of the property grows over the years. Well, there are aggravations associated with a house. A couple of weeks ago we experienced one of those bad happenings.

About 8:30 a.m., Edna startled me out of a deep sleep (sleeping late is one of the advantages of being semi-retired), yelling for me to wake up. “There is water in the basement,” she said.

I jumped up, ran downstairs and found things floating in about 2 or 3 inches of water. Edna had awakened hearing running water and went downstairs. I ran upstairs and turned off the water valves under the kitchen and upstairs bathroom sinks.

But we still heard the sound coming from the basement, so I waded through the ankle-deep water into the washroom and turned off the hot and cold faucets for the washing machine. The water flow stopped. We called one plumber, who did not answer, and then we reached another who promised to send someone over soon.

It seems that the cold water hose from the pipe to the washing machine had broken. The plumber said that this was different because it is usually the hot water hose that breaks. He set up a nice little pump, and soon water was being pumped out of a basement window onto the driveway.

This type of experience is not what one thinks about when envisioning home ownership. After most of the water was pumped out there was still some in the partial rug and corners of the basement. We borrowed a neighbor’s wet/dry vacuum, but it was old and missing a piece, so Edna bought a small wet vacuum. Wisely, she didn’t buy a large one because lifting it when full of water would have been difficult. We also bought a dehumidifier.

As we talked with neighbors about our ordeal, we discovered that the breaking of the hose between the pipe and washing machine is common. We learned that two other neighbors had experienced the same problem and had wet vacuums. The plumber changed the hose that hadn’t broken and put in cut-off valves, which we turn to shut off the water instead of turning the faucet.

Neighbors told us that they regularly turned off the water to their washing machines when not in use. Then Edna remembered that her father had always turned off the washing machine water valve when he went out. Did you know to do that? We do now.

We cut up the partial old rug and tied it up into manageable pieces. The only good result of the flood was that we got rid of piles of papers, charts, posters, boxes of old notes, notebooks and college books that we and our children had collected. We bought packages of clear plastic bags and put out decades of papers we should have gotten rid of years ago.

The insurance adjuster came to inspect the damage and see the piles of garbage and clear bags full of wet paper. We threw out old radios, old word processors, old toys, old bags of clothes, packages of disposable plastic eating utensils and dishes and paper bags that have been around for decades.

My computer was not damaged and I was able to use it to write this column. It has been about 10 days since the flood, and everything is dry. There is no musty smell. I waxed the tile floor until I ran out of wax. The dehumidifier has been running continuously, and it is producing almost no water now. We also lost some history books and children’s books that Edna had bought.

My married daughter came to claim her wedding dishes. We recycled the boxes in which they had been. Her wedding dress was wet but it is OK, except there is a stain on her train from some colored wrapping paper.

There are still a few more things in a few corners we have to work on, but things are back to normal and we have fewer items in the basement. I still have a few boxes of clippings and folders of papers from the various civic battles we have fought. They should go out since I have lots of clear plastic bags.

A sewer backup would have been worse and caused smells, as could a toilet backup, but we have no toilet in the basement. A sink backup, which we have had to a lesser degree, can be annoying.

We now have the wet/dry vacuum to meet any emergencies, and we will use the cut-off valve when we are not using the washing machine. The grass is starting to turn green. The bulbs are blooming. Soon the leaves will grow on the trees.

Oh, the joys of home ownership!

Posted 7:05 pm, October 10, 2011
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