hose spraying

The great flood

Chez Paul is hosed

Precisely one year ago today I began life Chez Paul amid the jumble and confusion of unfinished remodeling projects and having all my goods and chattels still in packing boxes. Ominously I begin my day one year later once again amid jumble and confusion.

If you've been following along, you know that yesterday began by climbing onto the roof — an adventure resulting in the discovery of Donna the Dove's nest by the front door — to investigate the source of a small puddle of water that kept forming incongruously in the entry hall, far away from any obvious source of water.

If only it had been so easy!

The plumbers arrived, looked at the puddle, and swiftly jumped to the conclusion that the leak must be below the slab. With visions of jackhammers pounding in my imagination, I resisted this conclusion, pointing out that I had discovered a great body of water under the kitchen counters, and that seepage had begun at other spots along the base of the counters. My Exhibit A was the stereo speakers tucked under the counter, of which the bottoms were now clearly wet.

"You need a leak detector," they advised. Having never heard of such a thing, I was forced to ask if leak detector referred to a device, analagous to a metal detector perhaps, or did they mean a person with some extraordinary sensory powers, or a divining rod perhaps. They rolled their eyes and continued their investigation.

"Is there water any place else?" they asked. "What about your carpet?"

"No, the carpet's fine," I said, prematurely. They walked along the wall: squish, squish, squish. "Oh, s__t!" I said decisively. Not only was the carpet wet, but my precious Italian table and chairs were standing with their feet soaking in the thoroughly drenched carpet.

"It's coming through the wall from next door," they now proclaimed. Even I could support this newest hypothesis. But from which next door? The immediately next-door unit has new owners, and they have only been here on occasional weekends. The next-next-door unit is only occupied during "the season," so it has been vacant since May. Either one could conceivably be the source.

The plumbers then tried to identify the source by the process of elimination, shutting off water to all the units in the building, then turning them on one at a time and checking the water meter for signs of flow. By this process, they achieved a positive ID on the unit next door. We left the water turned off.

But now the fun began. The owners live in Montebello (Los Angeles), and no one knew how to reach them. It was easy to determine this, because by now the neighbors had all gathered to check out the excitement Chez Paul.

I finally tracked them down by calling the real estate company that had listed the place for sale (the sign was still in the carport), who was able to track down the agent who had handled the sale, who was able to give me the name of the buyer's agent, who was able to find the file from escrow and give me some phone numbers to try. She also helpfully gave me the name of the rental agent through whom the new owners had listed the place for rent. I had been down this route already and had gotten a recording that said, "You have reached Desert Rentals. Our office is closed for the summer." However, I had been barking up the wrong tree: it was California Desert Rentals, not Desert Rentals.

I left a message for the owner at the one number that had an answering machine, and then called the rental agent, who agreed to come over and open up the house.

Meanwhile, I called a company that specializes in cleaning up water damage.

Eventually, everyone showed up. The neighbor's place was a disaster: water had begun seeping out the front door, the kitchen and laundry area were covered by standing water, carpets in the living room and den were soaked and had already begun to disintegrate.

The cause of all this? A little hose had become disconnected from the water filtration system below the sink. In short, we were hosed!

The aftermath. Mark, the clean-up guy, spent several hours sucking up water in both places and brought in big blowers and dehumidifiers to dry the place out. One of the fans is actually blowing under the carpet, which is literally floating on a pillow of air below it. He drilled and punched holes all along the base of the walls and cabinets to ventilate the insides of the walls and to impregnate these areas with a gas that will prevent the growth of mildew and rot. All this drying is expected to take three days Chez Paul; it may take even longer next door.

Après le déluge, chez moi. My carpet will be OK, although the carpet guy will have to come to fasten it back down again. I'll also need a handyman to patch the holes and replace the baseboard and toe-kick tiles. And I'll have to decide if it's worth the hassle to try to get the slight damage to the table pedestal repaired.

But what else do I have to do?

For pictures, check out the slideshow.