What Lies Beneath

Every house has an underbelly that needs to be explored. That part of the house that’s not seen, but makes it all work. Things like the gas line, water line, sewer, and electrical. In our case, it’s both the inside and out of the house, that we need to chase down these systems.

It’s a funny thing when you buy a house, as this information is never passed along, unless you built the house and have the plans. So most houses come with a lot of mystery, and it’s only when something goes wrong do you need to start your investigation.

At the moment, we are focused on the outside. We started with a call to get the utilities located. Like a surgeon preparing for an operation, we needed to know where we can cut without severing an important life support system of the house. Soon the yard is spray painted in an array of colors. Red for the electrical lines, green for the sewer, orange for communications, and yellow for the gas. Both sides of the house have colored lines all about. We learn it’s going to be a delicate operation. Some hand digging will be required, as the heavy machinery doesn’t have that sensitive touch.

First up was removing 47,000 pounds of old concrete patio to discover what’s underneath and to be able to view the foundation of the house. The patio and walk ways around the house appear original and were poured almost 6 inches thick. The earth beneath them is dead. Not a wiggly worm even exists beneath that weighted mass. David, our landscape contractor, takes a load of concrete and returns using the same truck full of gravel for the new drainage system we will be installing around the house. He wheels that cat around like it’s another appendage of his body. We marvel at his precision. We find so many tree roots from trees that no longer exist, wondering how big they were and what type were they.

We find the sewer line, and the connection from the rain gutters. The sewer line does not look great, and now with the underbelly is exposed is the time to make the decision to replace it now, rather than later, at a much greater expense. Off to the the city for the permits, so the crew can start digging the trench.

We call PGE to learn how to upgrade our service.  Luckily, it’s not that complicated of a process.  We are given the instructions to give to the electrician when the time comes.

We discover the water line from the street will also need to be replaced so we pull a permit for this as well, but we have two years to complete this work. That will be later phase of the project. We’ve identified now where the water shut off, as it had been completely buried and covered with rocks by some previous owner. So, it’s a good thing we did our dig!

Sometimes it feels like one of those home improvement shows, that whenever the contractor has something to tell you it’s unforeseen news and filled with dollar signs.

But, like any good surgeon, we are reviving the house, giving it the much needed attention it deserves, and it will be humming along long after we are gone. And we will leave a map for the next owners of where everything is and how it works!

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