Friday, July 12, 2024

Repairing the French Drain

 The camera had identified what appeared to be a root blocking the French drain, so it seems that it needed to be dug up and repaired. The guy who ran the camera used a device to locate where the camera was in the pipe and marked the spot on the surface, so I knew, more or less, where the break was.

The French drain should be running along parallel to the side of the lot, parallel to the fence,  so I started digging where that should be.

Luckily I missed the irrigation line.  About two feet down, I found the French drain.


The French drain consists of three 4-inch PVC pipes surrounded by rock wrapped in landscape cloth.


 Peeling off the landscape fabric exposes the rocks

And removing the rocks exposes the pipes.

Now we know that the blockage is somewhere around here, but it may be a bit up the pipe or down the pipe.  We can't really be sure.  But it seems we are just downstream from a joint of some kind, so we can replace the pipe at that joint.  So we cut into the pipe and then will check up and down to find our problem.


And the blockage is just at the joint.  But it is not a root; it's just a bunch of wet and decaying leaves.  Pulling these leaves and the ones downstream from our opening out by hand, we seem to clear the pipe.  Putting the camera in the pipe to see what is downstream from the opening, we find


The pipe is open, but there is an opening in the side of the pipe.  Cutting a larger section out of the pipe, we can see the opening clearly.

Something has eroded or chewed an opening in the side of the pipe and then into the adjoining pipe, or it came from the adjoining pipe and broke into the center pipe.  This does not seem to be from just erosion or corrosion. It looks more like something chewed its way from one pipe to the other.  Since the entire system is under ground, where did it come from and where did it go.  Actually, there is an entrance/exit from the roof, into the rain gutters, down the down spout into the drain pipes.  Something could have gotten in when the roof was replaced, and the gutters replaced.

There is an pointy edge of the pipe that sticks into the main drain line.  This could start collecting leaves and slowly clogged the line with leaves, which would have been washed down from the roof during the time when we did not have leaf guards over the rain gutters.

But to repair the line, we have to take it out and replace it.  We cut out the section that is damaged.


This presents us with another problem.  The line is supposed to be round, but the top has collapsed, and even the part of the pipe remaining is seriously compressed.


Looking into the pipe, it seems this is the case for some distance. 

This section of pipe should be 10 feet long, and then there is a joint for the next piece of pipe.  That joint should be more round, so we need to dig all the way to the next joint in hopes of getting a round pipe to attach our replacement pipe.

We first identify the area that we will need to trench.  Ten feet from the last joint to the presumed next one.


 One day of digging gets us down about 12 inches, making a trench that is 12 inches wide and 24 inches from the fence.


Another day of digging gets us down to the landscape fabric around the French drain, 20 to 24 inches deep.

Once we open up the landscape fabric and remove the rocks, we have the pipe itself.


And as we expected, the pipe was 10 feet long and slips into another pipe.


The joints are not cemented, so we can just lift the old pipe out.


This puts us in position to rebuild the French drain.  First we build a new clean-out and attach it to the pipe coming down the hill.

Then we need a new pipe to go from this new clean=out down to the other pipe.  We buy a new Schedule 40 heavy-duty PVC 4-inch pipe and trim it to about the 100 inches that are needed from the clean-out to the pipe at the other end of the trench.


This slips into the clean--out end just fine, and leaves us with two pipes that abut at the other end -- one the new Schedule 40 PVC and the other the flared end of the old drainage pipe. 

 

The flared end of the old drainage pipe is not quite round.  It is stronger than the pipe we removed, but it has still been squashed into somewhat of an oval.

However, just as a force down squashed the pipe and caused it to stick out on the sides, if we use a wedge between the pipe and the earth/pipes on both sides, we can squish it back in towards the center and up in the middle, getting it temporarily back to a more circular shape.  We have to dig out all around it, including below, so that we can attach something to the end of the old drain pipe.

Searching for what we can use to connect these two pipes, we note that both of them have an outside diameter of 4 inches.  Checking at Home Depot, we found a flexible rubber connector that works for two 4 inch pipes -- the Fernco 1056-44.  It slips over the joint and has two worm gear clamps to hold it tight to the pipes.

Since it is flexible rubber, it doesn't matter that the old drainage pipe is not quite a perfect circle.  We can slide it onto the Schedule 40 pipe, lower the pipe into position and then slide it back over the end of the old drainage pipe.  Then the two worm gear clamps can then be used to tighten it in place.


 That then finishes the repair and rebuilding of the drain itself.


We want the pipes to be well supported, so we put sand around them, to get a tight fit and complete support.


I know it looks like dirty water, but it is five 50-pound bags of sand ($30.15 from Home Depot).



Monday, July 8, 2024

Painting the Inside of the House

 After getting the bathrooms remodeled, we wanted to go ahead and get the rest of the inside of the house finished.  That means making sure that all the rooms have been painted.  We painted the computer room when we had the ceiling removed and the loft created in 2002. The Guest Bedroom next to it was painted when Dorothy moved in in 2012, and for some reason, I did the Dining Room too.  The Back Bedroom and Bathroom were painted in 2019 when the bathroom was remodeled.  And of course the Master Bath and Center Bath have just been redone this year.

So that leaves the Kitchen, the Living Room, the Library, the Master Bedroom and the Pass-thru as major rooms.  Plus, the Utility Room, Pantry, Entryway, Coat Closet, Master Closet, Hallway, and the Closets for the Back Bedroom and the Guest Bedroom. Five major rooms, plus five closets/pantry, and the 3 small rooms: utility, entry, and hallway.

In addition, the two closets, for the Back Bedroom and Guest Bedroom, and the Pantry still had popcorn ceilings, so we asked for those to be redone to match the walls, and then painted at the same time.

We used Angie's List (now called just Angi) to generate a list of highly rated painters. And then selected four from that list. Plus we added the one that had painted our daughter's condo recently.  One of those did not respond, so we got 4 estimates.  One came out suspiciously low, one too high and two others were effectively the same in the middle, and one of those two was Fresh Coat Painting, who had painted my daughter's condo.  So we went with them, with an estimate of $4843.94.  This was all in the middle of June.

Erick at Fresh Coat called a week or so later and said they could start on Monday, 1 July, giving us a week or so to prepare.

Linda had picked out the colors -- Hemp for the walls and Heavy Cream for the ceilings (for the 2 closets and pantry that were having the popcorn removed).  These are both Martha Stewart colors that we use elsewhere in the house.  The ceilings are almost all Heavy Cream, and we already have Hemp in the Dining Room and the Guest Bedroom.

The main thing we had to do for the painters was to move all the furniture away from the walls, so they could be painted.  We used the rooms that were not being painted as storage for the stuff that had to be moved out of the other rooms.  Plus all the hanging clothes had to be taken out of the closets, and all the pictures, hat racks,   and such removed from the walls.  The result was large piles of stuff in the center of the rooms and on the beds.


But it also meant that some shelves were bare for the first time in a long time.


It took two days for them to paint.  I think it was 4 to 6 people. After the ceilings had the popcorn removed, they were textured and then a sealer applied.  All the walls and ceilings got two coats of the new paint.

Since the Master Bedroom was being painted, we moved to the Back Bedroom to keep out of the way.

While I had the opportunity, I sanded the closet rods and applied a coat of polyurethane. I did the same to the pantry shelves and the surface of the built-in desk in the kitchen.  

Then while that dried, I went about re-installing all the stuff I had removed to allow them to paint -- shelf supports, curtain rod holders in the library, the light fixtures in the rooms which had the ceiling redone, the gas dryer, the wire shelves in the utility room and the closets, and so on.  Then we started to put things back and move the furniture back in place. which took another week.  We still have some of that to do.


Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Gutter Guards

 When the new roof and solar system was installed, they also took down the old gutters and put up new ones.  But the crud that was in the French drain re-enforced the concept of putting screens over the gutters to keep out leaves and twigs.  I think I've already put them on the sections of the roof that run along both sides of the garage.  I don't think we need them on the gutter in the back -- it gets very little in terms of leaves and in any case just runs out into the yard.  We don't have gutters along the West side of the house.  So that just leaves the front gutter.


We found the cheapest gutter guards available, from Home Depot, consisting of 3 foot sections of plastic screens.

We slid them under the last row of shingles and push them onto the front edge of the gutter.

Until we had them covering the entire front gutter.




French Drain Camera

 Kyle showed up this morning with the drain camera.  The camera is on the tip of a long cable and communicates with a specialized iPad in a case.

The camera and cable go down into the clean out pipe and transmit video back to the computer which displays and records it.

Most of the video is uninteresting -- just a long sequence of a white pipe.


But you can see, in the upper left corner, a time-stamp.  And in the lower left corner, in white, in brackets, how far down the pipe we are.

As I said, mostly it's uninteresting, but occasionally, you hit a joint


Or here, at 9 feet in, we have gone under the gate into the back yard and are turning to go over and run along the fence.


At 18 feet, we are along the fence and turn to run parallel to it.


Further down, we run into some twigs that got into the drain and have not yet been flushed down or decomposed.  We actually ran into some at 26 and 34, but the camera will actually push them down the pipe as it moves forward.

At 53 feet, we hit another turn, where the side fence stops at the fence along the back of the lot (on the West side) and turns to continue down the back yard.


Then, at 59 feet, the bottom of the pipe seems to fall off.  Kyle says this looks like the pipe has been broken or collapsed.


And a few feet more, a massive root ball.  Kyle says this is most likely from the big old oak tree in the back.

Then, to know exactly where the camera is, Kyle could turn the cable into an antenna of some kind generating a signal that he could pick up with a locator device to follow the cable from the clean out pipe down the back yard to exactly where this root ball is, and he marked it on the ground with a big white circle ( and I stuck a yellow flag).


So we know exactly where the problem is.  I can dig down and find the French drain at this location, take it apart, repair it and we will be back in business.  Also this would be a good spot for another clean-out pipe.  Apparently, good practice is a clean-out pipe every 50 feet.



Monday, June 3, 2024

French Drain stops working

 The French drain was put in back in 2003 and has been working fine since then.  It was extended and terminated into the blue rock pool in 2008, and then the front end was rebuilt when we built the retaining wall in the front yard.  We exposed parts of it when we moved the gas line, and when we dug out the stumps of the two elm trees.

But when we got the roof replaced in 2023 and new gutters installed, it seemed to stop working.  Heavy rains would cause the downspout in the front West corner to overflow and erode away the dirt around where the downspout went underground to enter the French drain.


The first step to fixing this is to expose the end of the French drain in the blue rock pool in the backyard, between the Bamboo Grove and Zone 7.

The pipes in the French drain should terminate at the rock wall, under the rock.  So first we remove the blue rocks.

That exposes a badly weathered landscape cloth.  Removing that we find a layer of limestone rock.


Removing that, we get down to the actual pipes. 


The center one, sticking out the most, is the main pipe that should go all the way back to the downspout.  The other two, one on the left and one on the right should be perferated drain lines that run parallel to the main pipe, just to drain more.  The main pipe is 39 inches from the fence, and down 16 inches from the top of the rock wall between Zone 7 and the blue rock pool.

We can test for a problem by putting a house in the downspout and turning on the water.  After a long enough time, the downspout is full of water, but nothing is coming out of the pipes in the blue rock pool.

If we put a hose up the pipe from the blue rock pool, we get about 30 feet up the pipe before hitting something that keeps us from going further up.  But we do manage to flush out a dark material we believe is decomposing leaves and the protective granules from the asphalt roofing.

In trying to understand the French drain, we notice old pictures of it showed a clean-out pipe which would now be under, or in, the Rive of Rocks, and digging just a little, we find that.

Pushing the hose down from this clean-out pipe into the French drain, we only get about 9 or 10 feet before it stops.

But the French drain is not just a straight pipe.  It was imagined originally as going along the fence, and only later brought over to attach to the downspout.  So it goes from the clean-out pipe back under the fence gate and then turns right to the fence.  There it turns left and follows the fence down until the fence turns left again and follows the fence to the blue rock pool.  So there are 3 turns.  I think those were 30 degree turns, but possibly 45 degrees, or a mix of the two.  Those turns may be what is stopping the hose.

We tried a Large Drain Bladder from Home Depot ($21.97).  That is a balloon type device that you hook to a garden hose and then stick into your clogged drain.  The water pressure causes the bladder to expand until it seals the drain and then water shoots out the end at high pressure washing away any clog and debris.  Putting it in at the clean-out should then push all the roof granules and decomposed leaves out the other end into the blue rock pool.

That didn't do anything either.  After running the water for about 10 minutes, there was some seepage from the pipes at the blue rock pool.

So we called a Radiant Plumbing to clean out the line.  They could come out two days later.  Matt showed up and after inspecting things offered three solutions: (1) a water blaster for $740, (2) a rotating cable for more, or (3) both the water blaster and the rotating cable for $1074.82.  We went for the least expensive -- the water blaster.

That was similar to what I had done, but with better equipment.  The water blaster put out much higher pressure out the front to break up any clogs, and also put water out the back to (a) move the head forward into the pipe all by itself, and (b) to push anything that was loosened up back out the pipe.  We tried it from the clean-out pipe


and from the blue rock pool back up the pipe.

And then back to the clean-out pipe again.  But we were getting nothing.  Well, almost nothing.  There were small artifacts of PVC pipe and some small pieces of shingle that had worked there way into the drain, but unless there were more, bigger, pieces that didn't really tell us anything.

 So we decided to try the cable snake to see if that would clear things out.


It seemed to get a bit further, but it was hitting something solid and could not get all the way thru the drain.

But we were able to get some flow.  Putting water in at the clean-out pipe would cause water to come out at the blue rock pool, but out of the wrong pipe!  It seemed to come out of the left pipe, not the center one.  Which made no real sense.

Since we had some flow (although we did not understand why), we had done as much as it seemed we could.  The cable hitting something hard was puzzling too.  So the suggestion was to bring a drain camera out and put it down the clean-out pipe.  The drain camera would give us a good view of what was in the French drain, and that would tell us what was needed next.