Draining the Beast

I had kind of a mess of a day yesterday working on the water tank plumbing. My package from PlumbingSupply.com arrived before lunchtime, and I quickly went through it and made sure everything was there. Sure enough, I'd forgotten to order one part, so I made a quick run to Pagano's to pick it up. A run to Pagano's before noon almost always means another run later in the day, preferably five minutes before closing.

Digging out the tank plumbing

Then I spent some quality time digging out the tank plumbing from the grass that had grown in there and mud that had slipped into the hole.

When I originally did the first part of the plumbing to the tank, I designed it so I could just turn the valve, add the hard plumbing, and be done. But we changed pumps and this one can accept a 1 1/4" pipe coming in, so I decided to redo it.

Which means I've been draining the water tank.

Draining the water tank

I had not been thinking about what it meant to drain the tank except in terms of where the water would go while we did it, but once I started we had a discussion about the permit process. See, any deck under 30" from grade doesn't require a major design review any more. So if I had the tank drained, anyway, why not lift it up, dig it down a little more, and get the deck under that critical level? Then we've got a much simpler (and cheaper!) permit, no need for heavy-duty bracing on the structure, and a more private deck.

The deciding factor was money. That major design review is a $2000 extra cost. In the larger scheme of things that isn't that much, but for this project we were talking about 10 percent of the budget.

We spent some time measuring and determining how to design the stair portion of the deck (the whole reason for the deck is to make our back door legal). We're going to build a large platform that will end up about 29" above the lowest grade level, then make a block of stairs with a landing that will go up to the back door, and another set of stairs that will go down to the yard.

Soaking out the last of the tank water

In the mean time, I am draining the tank.

It started yesterday, the blighted work day. I ran hoses out to the back part of the yard, and turned on the lawn sprinklers. In about three hours I'd drained off the tank to the point where the system began sending us e-mail saying the tank was empty.

But the tank still had lots of water in it and was too heavy to lift.

So today I disconnected the hose to the pump and began draining the water into the ground. This takes longer because the water needs to soak into the ground rather than just running off. I expect it to take most of the day today.

The other thing I got hung up on yesterday -- and in light of the decision to dig down this is actually a good thing -- was cutting the pipe. We bought 1 1/4" PVC pipe. Our pipe cutter can fit up to 1". So I made a last-minute run to Pagano's (where my ability to say exactly what I needed impressed the heck out of the guys in the plumbing department) and got a larger pipe cutter. By then the light was fading.

And there was the other distraction. The rain has really softened up the ground, and my Psoralea pinnata began to lean rather precariously. Yesterday when I went outside to work it was at 45 degrees from the ground:

Psorlea pinnata leaning

Now, this tree had a tendency to lean from the beginning, but this is a sign of impending disaster. So I also picked up a tree staking kit, and this morning bright and early (OK, not so early, but it was bright), we went out and staked the tree upright.

Psorlea pinnata staked up

Oddly, this is a tree I grew from a very small plant (a 4" pot, actually), which usually means you don't have this sort of problem, but I suspect it would prefer a drier soil to grow in and has not sent roots nearly deep enough into the soil for uprightness.

That was this morning's drama. Well, that and some guys coming and tearing the street up in front of the house to do something with the sewer line (I don't know what, but it didn't take more than a couple hours so nothing major).

So there you have it. Work is waiting for the tank to drain down enough for me to lift it out of the hole so I can dig it down another eight inches or so -- I may end up having to siphon the last bit out, because the tank is heavy even without water in it and as it is now I can't budge it. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with all that soil, either. Once the hole is redug, and the tank re-seated, then I can plumb it in place and water can start flowing again (for the time being, the sump is draining into the back yard, giving those Japanese irises a taste of really "swampy rich soil").

And when that is done, I can sit back and daydream about replacing the tank with a ferrocement tank that fills the space under the deck and holds 3500 gallons of water. Mmmm.

posted by ayse on 01/04/11