Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Leaning Flagpole of Santa Ana

The flagpole is just one of the symptoms of a bigger problem.
This post today isn't about food, so if you're looking for a neat new recipe, today isn't it. Maybe panic soup? Distressing stew?

We're experiencing one of those moments when you regret owning a home. When you wish you had thought twice about buying a home on a hill, with a slope. Even with a glorious view. When you wish you had a large apartment and somebody else had to deal with issues of maintenance.

Photos of different areas around our patio and pool area. These are relatively new cracks. Top right is the core hole where we can see standing water.
My DH has not been sleeping well at night for about two weeks now. We're at our wit's end trying to figure out what's happening under and around our home. There were cracks around our pool when we bought the house 6 years ago, but the pool is about 28 or 29 years old, so we assumed it was normal. Anybody living in Southern California experiences some earth movement. And yes, we do have earthquakes too. Cracks appear here and there. It's considered standard behavior. We had a geologist come look at things about 2 years ago and his assessment was: your house is built on a bedrock of sandstone. It's not going anywhere. It's solid. Don't worry about it.

But, in the last 6-9 months or so, more cracks have appeared. A French door is hard to open. A small crack has appeared in our living room (the windows that look out to our lovely view), separating a vertical beam from the floor. A crack opened wider around our jacuzzi. New cracks and fissures have appeared all around the entertaining side of our patio (all covered in cement and brickwork). The flagpole is leaning, more than it ever has. A flower bed, lined with a block wall is tilting. Down. So we hired another geologist who brought in some high-tech seizmic do-dad, which sat here for 6 weeks or so measuring earth movement. None. (That was a huge relief, but didn't solve the problem.) Then they went all around our property digging 6-10 foot deep core samples. Initially they found nothing. Finally at about core sample 6 or so, they found water. Lots of water. Uh-oh. We'd had neglible rain up to that point, so there shouldn't be any water underground.

Our water company came out last week and again yesterday, to confirm that we have no leak from our meter. None of the neighbors seem to have any water leaks either. We don't have much info on our 1978 house (no blueprints left with the house, and none on record at the county building dept. either) other than what we've learned over the years with plumbing and building issues. Normal, sewer drain backup kind of issues. And what we learned when the kitchen addition was built. Nothing really of any importance. Nothing to add to this water problem.

We have no water source in the area where the water is pooling. As you look down into this core hole (the top right one in the collage above) you can see water about a foot below ground. The hole is about 3-4 feet from our living room windows. The water company mentioned we might have an aquifer, one of those natural occurring water sources. Seems unlikely since most of Southern California is desert. Sandy soil. But, some of our drinking water comes from natural aquifers deep underground. So, who knows. Anything's possible. If we have an aquifer, let's tap it and use it for watering our property. We'd just have to figure out where to put a storage tank. Uhm. Hmmm. But, I'm getting ahead of myself.
The geologist thinks it's just water that's accumulated over a period of time (that was also a relief to hear since we were having concerns our house was sinking or sliding - he says no). He also assured us again, yesterday, that the house is built on solid sandstone, and it's not moving. The plumber says there is a backup in one of our area drains, near where the water is, likely from tree roots. So today the geology firm is going to start digging. With all the rain we've had, it's going to be pretty messy, but at least the soil is very, VERY soft. Part of our patio will have to come up. Maybe a brick walkway too. The geologist is going to open up an 18-inch wide hole, about 3 feet deep, so he can install a semi-permanent pump. If and when water reaches a certain level, the pump will turn on. And we'll cover it with some kind of cap and leave it there.
The area by the flagpole is probably another problem - they will likely drill a hole horizontally from the side of our hill to try to find a water pool. That's the thinking at the moment. Once they find it, they'll install a more permanent drain. Then we'll likely install some kind of new patio floor. Maybe interlocking paving stones so the water will dissipate more evenly all over the property, rather than just through the relatively few, but wide cracks, which allows water to pool. More will be revealed. Meanwhile, my DH Dave, is going to take a nap.

No comments: