Double, Double, Toilet Trouble

Today’s post comes from Renee in North Dakota.

The agency at which I work is housed in a six-story former college dormitory built in 1964.  There are sixteen offices on each floor along with a large secretarial office and central waiting room. The building has one elevator.

The bathrooms are located on the east and west sides of the building. There are 26 bathrooms in the building, four on each floor and two in the basement. The building is owned by our local college, which is responsible for upkeep and maintenance.  The age of the plumbing and water problems made the college completely upgrade the plumbing and the bathrooms. We have been set upon by construction workers and plumbers for the past two months.

20160124_120643Construction began on the west side of the building in November, with the complete gutting of all the bathrooms on that side and the removal of all the old pipes and oddly placed sinks and defunct showers  from Sixth Floor to the basement. We have to use the bathrooms on the east side of the building.  You can imagine the noise, dust, and commotion, and how the elevator has been tied up with carts full of debris and gross-looking iron pipes. It is hard to administer a test for attention and concentration when it sounds like dinosaurs are devouring the building and there are crashes and drilling and pounding above and below. The workers have been really great to work with though, and we have developed a nice camaraderie with them as we pack into the elevator together. It was with the arrival of the plumbers that things have become somewhat more challenging.

20160124_120354The plumbers don’t communicate real well with either the construction workers or Joanna, our administrator responsible for agency-construction company interface. She has had to contend with unexpected water outages, odd and toxic smells, client complaints, and recently, explosions. Last week the plumbers, for their own nefarious purposes, decided to pump air into the new pipes on the west side of the building. Somehow, the air also went into the old pipes on the east side of the building, with some pretty spectacular effects. When flushed, the working toilets responded with crashes as loud as rifle shots and rapidly swirling torrents of water. Joanna was in a bathroom on First Floor. When she flushed, the water exploded high in the air like Mount Vesuvius, drenching her and the walls and the ceiling.  The lead carpenter asked her how she liked the new bidet on First Floor. She was not amused. I don’t know what she said to the plumbers.

Once the west side bathrooms are finished, the east side ones will be completely removed and the space turned into storage closets. There is trouble brewing, though. The architects insist that the new bathrooms will be handicapped accessible. Our nursing staff tried to get a wheelchair into one of the unfinished bathrooms just to make sure. The space is too small to get a wheelchair in and close the door. The fixtures aren’t even in the bathrooms yet. I think we are in for a long construction season.

How have you navigated your way through construction zones? 


50 thoughts on “Double, Double, Toilet Trouble”

  1. We lived through my addition and remodeling of a cabin right on Lake Superior with a 2-year-old son, ’72 to ’75, except most was done by summer of 73. It was a camp out in a wreck of a house summer of 72, and Sandy gave birth in September. Always had a kitchen, in fact had two kitchens for awhile. Christmas Day of 72 I put in the new kitchen cabinets.
    Best moment, which I have told before, was when we had only a floppy piece of sheetrock between our bed and the new addition without doors or windows in yet, Sandy pregnant and all. I woke at about 4 to hear a bear snuffling at the sheetrock a couple feet from my face. It finally wondered off. Sandy asked the next morning what the noise was (I thought she was asleep) so I told the truth. We laughed. That day I put in the door in the addition and windows or covered them with plywood.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. Nice! Construction is in my wheelhouse. There is always excitement and the unexpected. Meeting The ADA requirements is essential. Good luck, you white collar workers. If you want to have a bit of fun with the ceramic tile workers, suggest that the tile be laid on a diagonal with epoxy mortar and grout.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I think all the ceramic tile is coming off. One of the guys mentioned that a colleague was using an 8 pound hammer for removing something from the wall. I think it was the tile, and my was it loud pounding!

      i still don’t know what the plumbers were up to with blowing air into the empty new pipes. They were concerned that the “caps” blew off, whatever that means.


      1. Play a little mind game with the tile people. When they have freshly laid a section, ask if you can walk on the tile for inspection purposes. Promise that you won’t put your full weight on the tile as you look around.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Frequently people will ask me “can I walk on that floor?” I’ll say, “yes, but don’t put your full weight on it.” Half the time I have to stop them because they begin to tiptoe.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. We suffered through the instillation of new siding on our house last summer. It wasn’t too bad. However, it took more time than was promised. They said it would be done in two weeks. I was closer to two months.


  4. The first year we owned our bungalow we attempted a few modest improvements, then quickly faced an increasingly spooky set of home emergencies. Worst was the collapse of our bathroom tiles. The bathroom was designed for use with a bathtub. When that was converted to a shower the bathroom experienced a massive increase in humidity. The wall tiles began falling into the tub. The flooring began leaking. Our home had just one place where a person could do all the things you do in a bathroom, and that place was suddenly self-destructing and non-functional.

    Fixing all those crises took a whole summer and every dollar we could lay our hands on. We somehow acquired a team of jumbo-sized workmen who understood how incompetent and poor we were. They did their best to guide us through all the fascinating but harrowing repair issues. I bless their memories.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Does road construction count as part of the discussion today about construction zones? The road from Clarks Grove to Albert Lea was completely redone one summer, removing it completely and rebuilding the road bed. The route to our baby sitter was almost entirely blocked and we had a big problem dropping our daughter off at that location.

    I seems to me that it should be possible to do a better job of planning for toad construction in the Twin Cities. There are times, during road construction season in the cities, when it is very hard o find a route across town that doesn’t include big delays due to road construction.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I have two construction stories… will tell them separately.

    My parents were the proverbial rolling stones gathering no moss when I was young. By the time I got to college I had lived in 10 houses and attended 9 different schools. And every single one of these houses was remodeled by my folks. They had a pretty good division of labor. My mother was the main deconstructionist – even old wallpaper covered with several layers of paint was no match for her. My dad was the wallpaper hanger of the family; my mom would roll it in the paste and then my dad would apply it to the wall. Painting was almost always my mother as well. Plastering, patching and sanding was my dad.

    When I was in high school, we were going to have a foreign exchange student, a girl from Norway. My folks quickly remodeled the spare bedroom – bright, pretty and feminine. Then two weeks before school started we got a call that the girl had decided not to travel and would it be ok if we hosted a boy from France instead. Within a week, the room was completely re-done with a more masculine appeal. My baby sister was born that spring, so as soon as Pierre departed for home in June, the room got yet another re-make, with cute baby designs, just in time for my baby sister to move from my folks’ room to her own. Three re-dos in less than a year!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. #2. Summer remodel of the bedroom – first big project for wasband and I, including ripping out some wall to make the closet more user-friend and putting in decorative doors. We had the paint, the wallpaper, the wall was ripped out but the old wallpaper was killing me. I do NOT have my mother’s patience or skill with layers of paint and wallpaper. AND it was summer so when it was hot, going up to strip wallpaper was not a nice job. Our plan was to buy a room air conditioner once the room was finished and looking back I can’t believe how long it took us to figure out we should buy the air conditioner sooner!

    Unfortunately it was a VERY hot summer and by the time we finally went AC shopping, we couldn’t find anything! Sears, Penney’s, Menards – nothing. We ended up calling my folks in St. Louis (where they NEVER run out of AC) and they shipped us a window unit that day on a Greyhound bus. Funny, as soon as the air conditioner arrived, we started spending more time working on the bedroom and had it finished within a week. Pre-air conditioner: 5 weeks. Post-air conditioner: 6 days.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. A la Renee, my first year of teaching school, they started adding a third floor starting in January. It was a very raining spring. Classrooms on the second floor were supplied with buckets. The drips/leaks moved around, so the kids had to keep moving their desks and keep moving the buckets. Somehow education happened. We all called the third floor the “haymow.” Some tests and papers were turned in with wet spots. Some of the kids wore caps or scarves.


  9. Over the years as I moved from job to job, I’ve had to come to terms with several office bathrooms. I’m intensely private about bathroom stuff, so I’d always begin by strictly avoiding the shared bathroom. But the day always comes when you have to make concessions to inevitable urges.

    The worst office bathroom I’ve used, by far, was in my first magazine office. I say “office,” although the building was built as a little farmhouse, a very old and cheap little farmhouse. We had about eight workers and one toilet, so that was a problem right there. My “office” was adjacent to the toilet, which was not as convenient as you might think. The door to the bathroom didn’t fit its frame, so bathroom odors were a problem.

    I got used to that. I didn’t get used to the noise. That toilet was distressingly loud. It would begin with a thunderous whoosh, then as the water spun in a gyre the toilet went snarkle, snarkle, snarkle! And just when you thought it was done, the float was go up, scraping the side and whooping “WHEEEEEE!”

    Worst of all was the time I was in the bathroom when a man in a nice suit came to see me. Through the gap around the bathroom door I heard the secretary tell the man to sit and wait because, “Mr. Grooms is away from his desk.” And I had to flush the toilet (KaWHOOOSH, snarkle, snarkle, snarkle, WHEEEEEE!”) emerging from the bathroom extending my arm for a firm handshake.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. When both of my girls were under 10, I completely remodeled our kitchen- ripped out everything down to the exterior walls. Because I was working alone (and working a full-time job as well), it took awhile, but I had to get it done as quickly as possible, since, without a kitchen, we were cooking in a microwave and washing dishes in the bathtub (along with the girls). The kitchen turned out about as well as I had hoped and there weren’t any huge surprises, though tearing off the interior sheetrock revealed some distinctly non-code wiring from previous owners that I had to address. I don’t think I have ever owned a house where I haven’t discovered some real head-scratchers— odd or incompetent handyman work by previous owners.

    Liked by 4 people

  11. In the early 70s, wasband and I bought our first home. Actually, it’d be the only home I lived in until moving to the cottage. The older man who owned it was in the process of a nasty divorce and had kicked his wife out, claiming it belonged only to him. The sale was going smoothly, the papers signed, and then he was told that he’d have to pay the $2000 closing cost. This put him over the edge and he demanded that the deal was off. Unfortunately for him, he’d turned over his legal right to back out.

    A few weeks later, the big move was planned. Many old neighbors and friends offered to help us. The first thing that went wrong was that the toilet overflowed for anyone who needed it. Then, our first night in our first home, there was a rainstorm. Rain began to run out of overhead light fixtures and down the walls. The next day, we discovered that the old man had chopped holes in the roof. He had also left the water running in the basement laundry tub for days. This overflowed the septic tank in the backyard. As if that wasn’t enough punishment for “taking his home away”, he even removed the mail box and address numbers from the house.

    After closing, he’d had two weeks to get even with us and went out of his way to do just that. What should’ve been a joyful event in our lives turned into a total nightmare and caused extreme buyers remorse.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. No – we were too busy fixing up the house and too broke to hire and attorney. To make matters even worse, our homeowners wouldn’t cover it because man not God created the problem.


        1. I like all the sleuthing that went into this, Bill; good work. It would be fun it you actually got some results from this.


    1. That is cool. Good luck with that.

      I have another OT situation.
      I had an author contact me up from a post on here from 2/19/2013 when I used the phrase ‘Fell off roof’.

      In his research on his book, he thought the woman had just made up the phrase. And then he found the blog and my use of the phrase, (Basically it means the woman started her period).
      So my wife’s uncle’s mom’s diary from 1926, and this woman’s diary from the ’50’s are the only usage he’s found of the term.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Allow me another complete OT rant. Aaargh! I’ve just spent 28 minutes on hold to make an appointment with a hearing officer about a parking citation I received. Every minute or so, the on-line music would be interrupted with a cheerful male voice giving instructions of one king or another, and ending with informing me “there are now x number people in line in front of you.” He started with “fifty” and we were down to “twelve” when the line was disconnected. I was given the citation on January 1 for my “new” PT Cruiser, parked in front of our house, but without a front license plate. There had never been a front license plate on the car (it’s from Kentucky where apparently they aren’t required), so there was no place to mount it. The fine is $116.00, plus a $1.00 “convenience” fee if I want to pay with a credit card, so worth contesting. Obviously I have the damn license plate, and it has since been mounted after I went out and bought a license plate holder.


  13. I want to dictate a report, but the sawing and pounding are so loud I don’t know if my secretary will be able to decipher what I am saying. They are smoothing the walls in the new bathrooms preparatory to installing drywall.


  14. When we moved into a 100-year-old house in Winona in 1981, we knew it was a fixer upper. A block grant helped us bring several things up to code, and then we decided to improve the very dark “front room” that was papered in gold with black flocking, and had two windows and five doorways (four of them double sized) which we wanted to strip. Seems like we spent the fall re-papering, and the entire winter stripping the woodwork and urethaning what turned out to be clear pine under the awful dark stain-paint. We listened to Abba and the Rumors album for, seemingly, days on end. Turned out beautiful, though and lightened up the whole house. There are great photos that I wish I knew how to post…


  15. We’ve lived with a few remodeling projects… but nothing as dire or serious as what some of you describe.
    Just the usual lack of kitchen sink / no counter-tops for a month or so.
    And I do often end the night standing at the kitchen counter reading the paper, so I really missed the counter-tops!

    Course, when I was only 4, my family lived in the machine shed for the summer and fall while the new house was being built.
    Had the shower down in the barn, had the outhouse…
    I’m lucky I don’t remember much. There is pictures… I’ll have to make a blog of that.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Double, double toilet trouble;
    Water churn and stuff up-bubble.
    Get a handy plumber’s snake,
    Before it begins to roil and break.
    Run from harm and powerful trouble,
    Cross your legs and hide in the rubble.
    Walk with care, don’t step in the pouble;
    Damage to you will not be souble.

    Liked by 4 people

  17. Speaking of plumber’s snake, on Saturday before dinner guests arrived, I decided to attempt to unplug the drain on the left side of my kitchen’s double sink. Drano didn’t do the trick, including trying to use the enclosed plastic snake (worthless). So I remembered I had a metal snake…man, opened that drain immediately. By putting a hole in the drain pipe.

    My next do-it-yourself plumbing job is to replace that 40+ year-old metal pipe and trap with pvc. soon. when I have the energy to crawl under the sink. again. sigh.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My dad once used part of a metal vacuum cleaner attachment in place of a real pip. It lasted for a while until we had to put Draino down the drain and man, did that eat through that thin metal quickly!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. good idea. i have some old plastic ones. on the other hand, i probably should go to the hardware store today. before the
        ‘wintry mix” due tomorrow.


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