Starbucks LogoSeems our first home improvement project of 2008 has snuck up on us.

It was only a month ago that we paid off the final bit of the vinyl siding project from 2007. We’re not ready yet?!?

But this one seems to be an emergency repair… See, our basement is filling with, well, crap. It is the most foul smelling black sludge…E V E R!

We noticed an odor a couple of months ago during a rainy week. We usually take on a little water when there’s a heavy rain, and over the span of a week, I’d say we had over 8 inches of rain — so water in the basement was to be expected. The water stunk a little, but we chalked it up to the spring thaw…

Once the water dried up, my wife and I went down there to shovel out some of the muck. I was thinking it’d be more sandy or silty than anything, but it was nasty foul muck. Dry heave city — no joke. I was completely useless in the clean-up.

Things seemed fine for a few weeks and, while we didn’t forget about the problem, we tried to ignore it.

Over the last weekend, I noticed that our kitchen kinda smelled like a skunk. Years ago, a skunk sprayed the side of our house — really, you could see it — and the “funk” lasted for nearly a year. I went outside, inspected the entire house looking for a repeat offense, but didn’t smell anything out of the ordinary.

Back inside the house, well, skunk. Or Starbucks coffee. They smell the same to me.

Yesterday, I ventured down into our scary basement. There’s some standing water, some orange/rust colored goo on top of it, some white fuzzy stuff, and a lot of that wonderful black sludge at the bottom. Crap.

The stench wasn’t so bad — until we disturbed it (Yikes!) with one of those sponge-on-a-stick style mops my wife apparently received from Santa Claus years before I met her. Really, it still had a sticker on it.

Seriously, who get’s a mop for Christmas? My wife, that’s who.

Anyway, the good news is that we can see where it’s coming into the house. I don’t think it’s seeping up from the drain in the basement — it actually looks like it’s coming in through the old rock foundation (if you’re interested, I can take pictures!).

My wife and I followed all of the pipes down in the basement, and to me, it doesn’t look like our kitchen sink or dishwasher were ever hooked up to the city sewer line — basically, they never link up to the pipe where the downstairs bathroom or laundry room exit the house. Or, if they do, it’s not obvious to me.

My theory is that they still link up to the original septic tank the house must have had — the house is well over 100 years old — and that’s not getting the job done anymore. The only problem with that thought is that I’d think that our wastewater from the kitchen would stink of Cascade, Palmolive, and Joy — not, well, I can’t even explain what this sludge smells like…

Imagine a giant skunk drinking a grande Starbucks coffee.

Gag me now.

No, really, I can smell it.

So, the plan now is to call in a plumber for next week. I’m hoping it’s as simple as rerouting the waste water from the kitchen to the main sewer line and capping off the old line that exits on the far side of the house (where the sludge is coming in). Hopefully, then, it will clear up on its own.

As I’ve said, we’ve lived here for 6 years, the house has been there over 100 more, and this is a new problem — so perhaps this isn’t the answer, but I really hope it is — because I can’t imagine it will be very costly.

I mean, how much can a plumber possibly charge to re-route a 4 inch pipe ten feet in the opposite direction? I’d do it myself if not for my gag-reflex.

No, that’s not true — I’ll find comfort in having someone who knows what they’re doing come in and tell me exactly what they think the problem is…

I’ll keep you posted on the situation *and* the bill.