Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Dig

I found myself with a couple of free hours this afternoon and in a fit of motivation decided to go under my house and see if I could determine what the issue is with my front hose spigot.  It has had low water pressure since this summer and two weeks ago when I was under the house for a kitchen investigation I saw that the dirt around the spigot pipe was damp.

Growing up I often thought it would be really cool to be an archaeologist, so I tried to reframe this as an adventure.  I zipped up in my zoot suit, donned my work boots, got a big light, a shovel, a hand trowel, put my cell phone in a Ziploc bag and down I went.  This is what it looked like before I started digging; from the slope of the dirt it looks like I am not the first one to dig out around this pipe.  So much for any cool archaeological finds...

The top of that pipe sticks out on the surface side and is the spigot.  You can see how the dirt at the base is a darker color due to dampness.  The good news is, damp dirt is really easy to dig into to move.

Most of the horizontal pipe leading to the vertical was already above ground.  I had maybe 3 feet that I needed to excavate and the most that it was underground was about 6 inches.  I alternated between my hand trowel for the detail work right along the pipe, and the shovel for sloping the steeper sides.

My first impediment were some tiny -- about the diameter of a pencil or less -- tree roots.  Ah ha!  I thought... that's what's going on.  As I uncovered more the pipe I also thought maybe the whole pipe was just corroded and sort of oozing/leaking.  As I dug, the dampness extended further up the pipe away from the foundation than I had realized.

The soil was cool and it smelled damp and earthy - just like our fruit cellar growing up where we used to go hide out during bad weather -- with the whole family there with you it was sort of a party.   (Or, the sort of scary place where you had to go to get onions and potatoes for mom at dinner time when you couldn't bribe an older sister to go in your place.  I always grabbed whatever potatoes were closest to the door -- never caring if bigger and better ones were at the top of pile.)  And again, nothing creepy crawly made an appearance - for which I am always very grateful.

And then as I followed the pipe towards the foundation and looked where I was headed, I realized that um, these two pipes are not going to meet:

So the next logical thought is that there is a horizontal pipe there at the base of the foundation, right?  Right.  Except not.  As I dug more, no horizontal connector pipe was appearing.  And then I stuck my fingers back behind the horizontal pipe at its base... it's a sick joke right?  The pipe has a 90 degree angle all right -- and it goes under the foundation, away from me.  The connection is on the outside of the foundation, not inside where I was digging.

The good news - because I try hard to be a positive person - the good news is that I didn't hit a gusher.  (Well not on THIS side anyway...)  And, more good news is that the leak was probably really good for my Japanese Maple and my Yew on the other side during the summer drought.  Talk about deep watering of the tap roots...

But I do think that what I presume is a crack in the pipe was caused by a tree root.  A slow, gradual crack is going on is my guess.  Here's a close up, and I can see a lighter color horizontal tree root there between the pipes.

I guess my next task is to dig on the other side.  And that's going to be a whole lot more digging than this was - but hey, at least I'll be topside when I do it!

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