House Renovation: Ceiling & Frozen Pipes

Whole Ceiling Removed

Found Shoes and Fabric in Ceiling

Before the holiday I thought I would share our latest home renovation drama. First the good part. Greg removed the rest of the ceiling from the den. On the other side of the room we found a little water damage. The beams are sagging a bit. When your in our office above the room Greg’s aeron chair rolls down a slope if you don’t keep both feet on the floor. We are brainstorming fixes. We also found more treasures in the ceiling; an old shoe and a piece of striped fabric.

Marblehead had a very large shoe industry back in the day. I think we had a cobbler living in our house. If you look here you’ll see a photo of a set of tools we found last week.

Now the gross part. I battled sharing this story for the last week. After many discussions with friends and family I’ve decided even the embarrassing stories of our renovation need to shared. We’ll look back at this adventure and laugh, right?

Last week it was really cold. I think temperatures dipped to about 5 degrees. Last winter we had problems with our pipes freezing but where learned some tricks. We did the standard checks Thursday night; made sure heat was on downstairs (we live on second and third floors) and let the faucets drip. Unfortunately, Greg choose to let the cold water drip. For the record, I had the hot dripping when I went to bed. But somebody came along and decided he knew better.

The next morning the water turned on just fine. We both breathed a sigh of relief and laughed about how bad it was when the pipes froze last winter. We went about our normal business. Coffee, breakfast, and then upstairs to work. We both work from home. Greg had a busy day of back to back conference calls. He went downstairs around 10 am to use the bathroom and came back and quietly mumbled, “The toilet is clogged and it backed up into the tub”. His voice seemed non-urgent so I didn’t really give it much thought. Maybe it would unclog itself?

Around noon after his conference call ended he stomped back downstairs. From the upstairs office I heard lots of yelling, banging, and drill noises. I guess the drain didn’t unclog itself? I went downstairs asked if he needed help. I got a short answer back. Something about just getting out of his way. At this point poop was all over the bathroom. The tub was full and he was using a drill to snake the pipes.

After this I heard more banging, cursing, stomping downstairs, and our truck squealing out of the driveway. Guess he went to the hardware store? (I took the below photo while he was gone…I cropped out the poop tub.) He was back in about 10 minutes, fiddled in the bathroom for a few minutes, and then came back upstairs with a comment of, “useless” and then back on another 2 hour conference call.

I tried not to ask questions. He seemed pretty mad and didn’t really feel like I could offer any advice. I went to Foodie’s for lunch and used their bathroom.

By 5 pm I was still working, he made it back down to the bathroom and yelled to me it was fixed. Really, great? He was calmer but particles of poop where still in the tub. I saw some flinging into the toilet and my hand towels soaked on the floor. I literally puked in my mouth. An hour later after all the major poop was gone I offered to bleach down the entire bathroom and clean up. I felt bad. I told him he was the best poop declogger ever. I got a “Thanks, baby” and we went upstairs and watched a Friday night movie.

He told me later the pipe had frozen at the point where the indoor line turns to the sewer line. He assumed this happened because the cold water he dripped froze up. He remedied the situation by pouring boiling water down the drain.p.s. this post was from my point of view. Greg had no input but I am sure he’ll add in his own comments once he gets home. I’m sure I’ll hear from him that’s not how it happened at all.

Pipes Froze and Toilet Backed Up Day

Related Post:
Working On Removing Ceiling

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  1. I was just forwarded to your wonderful blog by someone on a forum while I was looking for English garden photos. It’s insane how many of us there are renovating old houses. We’re renovating a 150+ year old house (not sure on age, we keep finding things that would suggest its older but the first record of it with the town is in 1870) in Eastern Ontario. We’ve found all manner of strange building practices, and just the other day we removed the toilet in our downstairs bathroom and almost fell through a rotted area of floorboards. Yikes. I love all your bathroom inspiration photos too! We have similar taste.


  2. If you don’t laugh, you’ll surely cry! Funny post to read but glad it’s not me. I know the feeling though!


  3. Katy:
    I don’t think it’s possible to do a renovation without a good poop story. (Not that the fact you’re in good company makes you feel better when you’re in the middle of it.) My best friend owned a small “Denver duplex,” which is a small house that shares a wall with an adjoining house. Her neighbor was renovating a bathroom and decided to snake his pipes. His plumber kept feeding the snake down the drain – far longer than the snake should have gone. When my friend got home from work, she discovered that the plumber had snaked from her neighbor’s pipes into hers – thereby spreading poop all over her tiny, adorable, and now odiferous house. Suffice to say that her closet was right next to the bedroom, and the neighbor’s insurance company paid for a whole new wardrobe…
    Best of luck and happy holidays.



  4. I’m glad you shared this story–so many people think a home renovation is something that happens on HGTV in in half an hour. If you want to restore a home you need to prepared to get your hands dirty, and spend lots of time and money. Personally, I totally think it’s worth it, but a lot of people might not.

    Meanwhile, no need to be embarrassed about this one. This happened to me a few months ago, and I live in a circa 1970s apartment building!Not nearly as charming :) Stay strong!!


  5. Thanks everyone for all your great comments. I was fearing everyone would boo me and tell me how gross we are.
    Thanks to all my home renovations friends for sharing your stories!


  6. oh the frozen pipes! i don’t think it’s embarrassing at all. it’s sort of a (crappy) rite of passage.

    ours froze last winter when it went about 15 below in upstate new york. we had several inches of water in our basement. bless the wet vac! thankfully we turn our water pump off when we leave the house and head back to the city on sundays, or we would have had several feet, no doubt.

    keep up the good work!


  7. Just the other day some of my fellow house renovating friends and I were commiserating about how it makes you both love and loathe your home at times. Some days you curse the day you ever bought the place and wonder what else could possibly go wrong and what you’ve done to deserve such bad luck, and others you can’t imagine living any where else. In the long run you’ll love it more than you hate it, so keep slogging through!


  8. thanks for sharing the full story, Katy. sounds like you guys are taking it with the good humor that you can “laugh about it now”. I’m super impressed with Greg. If that were Dan and we had poop in our tub, the neighbors would be hearing him curse the poop and I would probably cry on sight. And we would have no idea how to fix the problem! good thing we’re still renters.


  9. I feel for you Katy! I also work from home and am in the midst of a major renovation of a rickety old house. After a year without it, we finally had heat installed last week. Posts like this make me realize there are kindred spirits out there!

    Just moments after I read this post, I walked into my bathroom to discover that the water I had left trickling this morning (we use that trick too!) had stopped… Sure enough, the pipes are frozen somewhere for the 2nd time this week.

    Fortunately my husband (3rd generation plumber!) is on his way home, but until then I will be completely freaked that sewage will start spouting out of the shower drain… which, thanks to your story, is now on my top 10 list of fears!

    We get through it though, don’t we? When our houses are finally done, we’ll look back at how fun, ridiculous and awful it all was! Good luck and happy holidays. :-)


  10. katy i hate to laugh at such a miserable experience but you really made it funny (and it had an ok outcome). thanks for cheering me up. happy holidays!


  11. seriously you guys are my heros!
    This happened at my house last year and i cried the whole day while fixing it- (and most of the following day while remembering it)
    You are such troopers – thanks for putting a funny spin on it-the next time this or something just as gross happens at my hunk of junk i will try to laugh at myself and remember that it will all be better with a little bleach
    merry christmas!!


  12. Oh man. Toilet drama is the WORST drama. I’m impressed Greg stuck it out without calling in the plumbing calvary – he is a champ!

    And now I know never to let the cold water drip!


  13. Oh my, what a story! I was terrified of having frozen pipes with our first house. If we went away in winter, we’d leave faucets dripping. It never happened but I always waited for it. We’ve had lots of other nasty home renovation issues, though. Thanks for sharing yours.


  14. definitely an icky day, but i’m sure in time you’ll look back and laugh! it’s definitely not easy to manage working from home and working on a home at the same time.

    we actually moved to marblehead a little over a month ago and are moving into our new place tomorrow. we’re definitely not as brave/resourceful as you guys are and have a local contractor opening up ceilings for us on the second floor. they didn’t find anything fun, but my 6’3″ hubby can now walk the full length of one room without having to crouch down. =)


  15. love the items you are finding hidden in the ceiling etc.
    Growing up my family bought an older home that someone had inclosed the back porch in at some point. We tore down the added on wall to open back up the space and found the mailbox still hanging up inside the wall with mail still inside. so bazaar how people leave things like that. Our current house was built in 1966 so our finds weren’t that interesting when we tore down a wall….a bag of fritos and a coke can.


  16. Great post. Keep focusing on the full story of what is really happening. Readers will appreciate it. I cannot wait to read Greg’s perspective!


  17. Fair play to you for showing us the other side of the renovation story!

    I know picking out tile and stripping back paint to reveal gorgeous details is more enticing to read, but there’s just as much ick factor as there is ooh. Anybody thinking of undertaking a renovation should be reading your blog!!