This is a story of two faulty valves in a big old house in the dead of winter, and the damage done when they both failed. It happened in my parents’ house, my childhood home, last week.
My parents are not currently living in the house (they have a second home in another city), and everything is covered by insurance, so that’s the upside to keep in mind.
From what we can tell, a valve failed on the plumbing of their geothermal well, which heats the house by sending cold city water through pipes down into the well where it is heated, then circulating it back through a heat exchanger in the house. When the valve failed, the well stopped circulating and so did the heat. As the temperature in the house dropped below freezing, a valve in the upstairs bathroom froze and broke (we’re not exactly sure of the sequence, but this seems likely), causing a flood of water through the house from top to bottom (that part, at least, is certain).
After soaking through the ceilings and walls of the living room, the dining room and both bedrooms on the first floor, the water continued on into the basement and pooled there. The water company noticed excessive use on their account immediately and posted a sticker on their front door notifying them that the water had been shut off. Their next-door neighbor noticed the sticker and mailed it to my parents. The first they heard of the disaster was almost a week after it happened. When their caretaker, who had been on vacation, finally came to check on the house, everything inside was frozen solid. He told them he sat down and cried for 45 minutes before he was able to call them to tell them about it.
This is a photo record for my family.
My brother has gone there to help the caretaker get the reconstruction process underway. The neighbors are stepping up to help. My parents will be going tomorrow to see it for themselves.
We’ve all cried over this; the loss is enormous. But both my parents are also energized by the opportunity this presents to clear out some things they no longer need and make a fresh start in a familiar place. New furniture, a new color scheme, far less “stuff” than before. As difficult as the rebuilding will be, their house will be better for it since they plan to take the opportunity to do some major plumbing and electrical upgrades as well. The freezing kept any mold from forming, which is a blessing. And, they don’t have to live there while it’s all being fixed. So there’s a bright silver lining even on this awful mess, and I’m proud of them for keeping their eyes on that.