Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Beach Tale: We've Only Just Begun...

          <<For those of you new to this blog, I am sharing the trials and tribulations of our home improvement project to finish off the unfinished room over the garage ourselves—without benefit of any professional counseling.>>

          So while I’m out making all the important decisions about kitchen cabinet choice, crews of plumbers and electricians have gotten busy back at the carriage house.  After all, what good is a beautiful kitchen if it doesn’t have power or water? 
One thing that I didn’t really think about when I first fell in love with the idea of turning the ROG (Room Over the Garage) into a fully functioning living space was the lack of a water supply.  We couldn’t very well run a hose from the back of the house and call it “livable.”  So the first step was to dig a trench to connect the water supply under the house to the soon-to-be-pipe-fitted structure.  The distance between the house and the detached garage is about 25 feet, across freshly laid sod and intricate irrigation system.  There was no easy way to do this…

          I wandered out about two hours into the project to find a two-foot wide trench dividing my yard like the DMZ.  In the trench were all sorts of broken pipes sticking up.  “It’s easier to trench through and fix the system then it is to go carefully to preserve it,” the head plumber said.  Hmm, okay.  “Do me a favor,” he continued while looking at a severed wire, “Go check your phone and cable.  Even though Miss Utility marked all the lines, we cut something.  But it’s probably just an old line from the old houses they demolished to build this neighborhood. We find a lot of that out here.”
          The thought of being disconnected from the cyber world had me scampering into the house to check all the phone, television and Internet access equipment.  Phew, all was in working order.  That wire must be an old one.
          The plumbers carried on with their work, drilling through the trusses and connecting the pipes in a way that reminded me of my son’s childhood game of Marbleworks.  (It was one of those games I’d purchased from an educational source, and it wasn’t until that moment I realized it had practical life applications.  Much more useful than the game Jumpin’ Monkeys, that’s for sure!) The workmen all seemed to know what they were doing, whereas I didn’t, so I returned to my air conditioned space while the plumbers continued to sweat it out outside.
          By the next afternoon, the plumbing was just about “roughed in.” (I’m practically fluent in Construction Lingo.)  Just as the crew was finishing up, I had a thought…wouldn’t it be great to have an outdoor shower where my guys could rinse off after a dip in the ocean?  A phone call authorized the work.  Come to find out, those things don’t come cheap…but I figure if son doesn’t have to wash his sandy self and sandier wetsuits off in the shower, it will save me money on future unclogging-the-drain expenses. 
          Another thought…an ice maker would be nice to have in the refrigerator…we just spent three years living in a house without one and I felt like Laura Ingalls wilder in Little House on the Prairie.  It seemed a nice thing to add, and it would be so much easier to have the pipes fit now than once the walls were in.  And it couldn’t cost that much, right? 
          Okay, so the first (of what would eventually be MANY) “upgrades” had been made.
          Last step was to reconnect the irrigation pipes and then they’d be out of the way of the HVAC and electrical people.   Before they filled the trench back in, they wanted me to check the system.  Good plan, but truth be told I’d never ever looked at the sprinkler control panel.  I wasn’t even real sure where it was located, but quickly found it on a wall in the garage.  It might as well be an instrument panel on a spaceship, for all the sense the dials and buttons and LED readout made.  I pushed a few buttons…turned a few knobs and strained my ears to hear the sound of the lawn being sprinkled.  Nothing.  Hmm.  When in doubt, consult the manual, which I did.  The instructions were a bit confusing, but I kept trying, pushing, turning, flicking with my finger in case it was clogged or something.  The plumber joined me and one read the manual while the other one manipulated the controller.  We didn’t just try this once or twice, but SEVEN times before we threw in the proverbial towel.  We even erased all the preset watering times and started from scratch. 
          I did what any self-respecting wife would do and ran inside and emailed the hubby for instruction.  He sent a return message telling me to do exactly what we’d already done.  So it wasn’t that I couldn’t read a manual, but something was wrong with the system.
          Remember that wire they cut through?  I asked if that would have anything to do with it, but I was assured I didn’t know what I was talking about.  Sprinkler systems don’t have wires running under the ground.
          But I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck yesterday, and considering the system worked fine before they dug the trench, and didn’t work at all after, it seemed pretty obvious the severed wire was the crux of our problem.  I skedaddled inside and pulled out the list of contractors and called the guy who installed the system and asked him straight out, “Does our system have a wire that is actually a bunch of individual color wires inside in a black case that runs through the backyard?”
          It turns out that since the garage is detached and the controller is in the garage and the irrigation system itself is under the house, there is a wire that runs across the yard to connect them.  Hmm.  I was right!  I love it when that happens. 
          This post is getting long and my fingers are getting tired, so I’ll spare you the details of getting the wires reconnected, testing the system that caused a spout of water in the yard that would rival Old Faithful, and discovering busted and buried sprinkler heads all along the trench.  Suffice it to say, it was the most frustrating part of the process so far and involved a lot of colorful language on everyone's part.  Three weeks later, I still have a trail of mud that runs across the backyard so anyone coming in from the back tracks dirt and sand into the house.  Sigh.  Late August is not a good time to try to grow grass around here, so that will probably have to wait until October.  This is what I living with…

          This entire project is one big learning curve.  Now I not only know how to run the sprinkler system, but I also know how the irrigation pipes are laid and how the connection works.  This will knowledge will come in very handy when I begin the English Garden Transformation phase of my new home makeover.  (I envision a whole lotta blog posts on that undertaking, so stay tuned!)
          We’ve got a long way to go yet, but it’s kind of fun yet a little bit frustrating.  Every time I tromp through the mud flats that are now my backyard the plumbers words come back to me:  It’s easier to trench through and fix the system than it is to go carefully to preserve it.  And the music that accompanies that thought is, “We’ve Only Just Begun.” (Good luck getting that song out of your head today!) 

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