The Next $10,000 Worth of Plumbing (Bonus Content: He said use a tampon)

Yeah, I'm paying for that
When you think renovation, it’s easy to consider the fun stuff- the shiny modern kitchen (with a dishwasher!), the luxurious shower in the master bathroom, the shiny oak floors waiting to be revealed. What’s not so fun is plumbing. Our first $10,000 plumbing project was installing an overhead sewer system, a type of flood control which is useful in Chicago because it prevents the literally crappy contents of the municipal sewer system from backing up into your basement during a heavy rainstorm.

I will give you a second to consider the enormity of that previous sentence, what it means to pay that much for flood control or the alternate vision of your neighbor’s poop floating around your basement.

This second project was to increase our water service, the good kind you can drink that comes from the municipal pipes. We’re required to do this because we’re adding a new bathroom and a dishwasher, which put us over the allowance for the 7/8th galvanized pipe that used to bring water into our house (it might be 3/4, or 15/16th diameter. I let the husband concerns himself with such details). In order to get our new 1.25-inch copper pipe in place, they needed to dig up part of the street.

At least we knew this was coming. I’ve heard of renovators who didn’t know they’d be required to do this until they had made all sorts of other commitments and decisions. Our estimates on the water service project went up to about $15,000. This is not the kind of money you can pull out of the air, especially when you’ve already committed to a large renovation project. So if you’re adding a bathroom or other plumbing fixtures, be sure to ask your contractor and check your village code for water service requirements.

plumbing hole in street with guy down deep

The guy in the hole in the street.

Once the pipe crossed the street underground, it had to go under our lawn to meet the foundation of the house five feet below grade.

plumbing pipe going thru lawn

It also had to be something like 10 feet away from the underground sewer pipes that were installed from the overhead sewer project, meaning that an entirely new portion of our lawn is now ruined. The whole thing is now completely trashed.

Sewer work front walk dug out

This pic is from the last job, but the look is the same.


I still haven’t cleaned up all the leftover material from the sewer job. We’ve got hundreds of pounds of dirt, sand and clay (mostly clay, though) that was excavated out by the previous plumber and never made it back in to the ground. I tried to get rid of some of it, but, take a look at what happened!



A happy post-script is that Plumber 2 took away a bit of the mess that Plumber 1 left behind, but we’ve still got large dried out, no good mounds of clay on the lawn.

The unhappy post-script is that we still haven’t received our waiver of lien from Plumber 1 after no less than four requests for it. I have to get DH to start writing on this blog because he’s better at explaining things like why it’s really important to receive a waiver of lien from your contractor when you pay for the job.

Another unhappy post-script. We learned an expensive lesson regarding the order in which things should be done. I’ll write more about this soon. Let me just say I live to make mistakes so you wonderful people can learn from them.

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6 Responses to The Next $10,000 Worth of Plumbing (Bonus Content: He said use a tampon)
  1. Jen
    September 20, 2011 | 9:23 pm

    Be sure you post pictures of the tampon tree when it finally blooms in the spring.

  2. kim/reluctant renovator
    September 20, 2011 | 9:48 pm

    Ahem, do you not know the rule about not appearing more clever than the blog author?

  3. Erin @ One Project at a Time
    September 21, 2011 | 10:46 am

    Wow! We had to do the same thing in our first Bungalow in Minneapolis, but that total project only cost us $2500. Sounds like you have a bit of inflation in Chicago! Yuck!

    • admin
      September 21, 2011 | 1:05 pm

      Wow, that sounds like a bargain. I think part of the cost is related to where the access point is. For us, it was across the street. I’m thinking if it was right in front of our house, we might have save a couple of thousand dollars. It was a hit, but there was no way around it. 🙁

  4. […] So Much for a Refi: Sunday Shout-out September 25, 2011 Crazy that we only just closed on our house in June and are already thinking about refinancing, but interest rates have gone down since then and thanks to that Twisty thing the Fed pulled the other day rates sank even lower. Then again, it’s possible the value of my house did as well. Even though we’ve put in $20,000 worth of plumbing upgrades. […]

  5. Kristina
    September 25, 2011 | 12:50 pm

    Plumbing, electrical, sewer … it can be so painful to spend big bucks on those items. But so necessary. …. And, yeah, I want to see the tampon tree too.