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But the smell came back

by Jo Ann Stewart

One day the rug in front of the kitchen sink was soaked—Jimmie, my husband, discovered that by not wearing shoes! His first thought was that I had spilled something. Now shouldn't he assume I would have cleaned it up if I had spilled something? But he just mentioned it and didn't check anything out. I, of course, got down on the floor and discovered water was coming out from under the dishwasher!

Suddenly many things became clear: over the last year while Jimmie worked out of state, I didn't use the dishwasher much (frozen dinners don't dirty many plates). He'd come home and I'd cook during the weekend. Sometimes he'd mention that funny smell was back in the kitchen. The first time I cleaned out all the cabinets and thought the problem was solved. No more smell! But then it came back when he made another trip home. This time I used air fresheners, searched around, washed every dish towel we'd ever owned . . . and thought the problem was solved! But the smell came back. I went outside to check the exterior walls for leakage . . .

Yes, looking back it seems simple. But that is the old hindsight thing combined with the amateur Ms. Fixit thing. When the plumber came a couple of weeks ago, he immediately caught the problem. There was a hose under the dishwasher that had a tiny hole that put out lots of water when we used the dishwasher, which happens regularly now that Jimmie is home all the time. When we didn't use the dishwasher often, the wood dried out and the smell left. Our dishwasher is sitting on concrete which is lower than the kitchen floor by the thickness of the tile. That was enough to create a dam and force the water out to the sides (under the cabinets) instead of out in front of the dishwasher where it would be visible. So over the year, a lot of water had hidden under the kitchen cabinets making a lot of wet wood—but on the inside where we didn't see it.

So the plumber replaced the hose and we discussed options to make sure we didn't have jungles of life-threatening mold hiding behind the floorboards. He said we should call a restoration company and they would tear out the fronts of the cupboard bases and clean and clean up and repair. Now after giving the plumber $132.00, I wasn't thrilled at the prospect of the expense and mess of the restoration company. Another alternative was to do it ourselves (in our case, myself, since Jimmie's contribution to repairs is always "call someone to fix it"). The final and simplest alternative the plumber suggested was ignore it and hope for the best—with no water, maybe icky stuff which might be growing would just die away. Now that solution didn't seem very safe to me when I read in the papers daily about the homes destroyed by mold and mildew, etc.

I explained the alternatives to Jimmie that night when he came home from work, but if he heard me at all, he ignored or forgot. So he had nothing to offer. I decided to go for solution #2. I started by drilling a little hole in the floor of the cabinet under the sink. That's when I decided to buy a new electric jigsaw (Home Depot must know me on sight by now). Then I cut a small opening, but I couldn't see much. I reached in, though, and ran into some black stuff on the two by fours. I actually thought that could be soot left from the fire a couple years ago. Then I made another hole and tried reaching in and cleaning the floorboards from the inside. That is when I realized that the black was fuzzy—uh oh! At about this point Jimmie actually noticed something was going on (seeing as the kitchen was a mess and covered with tools instead of supper). I reminded him I'd discussed the alternatives with him and he'd failed to vote. He looked as blank as he had when I discussed it with him.

Meanwhile, I did some research and discovered that an environmentalist would be talking about the mold problem at the Home and Garden Show in Houston. I decided to go to that before doing further repair/damage . . . I started the show with the first question by pulling from my pocket a paper towel covered with the black fuzzy stuff and asking what it was. We discussed and determined that it would not be worthwhile to spend thousands on restoration when it was a "fix-it-yourself problem."

Fortunately, at the same show was the real-life version of Tim the Tool Man, Taylor, Leon A. Frechette. He is very knowledgeable and quite entertaining (click here to get more information) and I went to two of his shows, one on tool tips for women and one more general. I enjoyed both and came home with a new enthusiasm as well as a new Japanese pull-saw (sharper than a scalpel) which, of course, then required another trip to Home Depot for heavier work gloves and better eye protection (are you getting how much money I am saving us by doing this myself). Then came the purchase of plywood and chemicals and a breathing mask and new shelf paper and odds and ends.

By now I had a hole one foot by five feet continuing under four cabinets (since I'd discovered that the underfloor area is divided into chambers with 2 by 4's which kept the water from spreading further faster). But that was two days ago. Now I have "beautiful cabinet floors" removable by simply unscrewing 2 screws. There is also a permanent lift-up trap door big enough to open to spray for bugs or check the concrete slab, whatever. I was quite pleased. And even Jimmie had to say it looked nice which means he was pretty impressed also. He probably expected to pay the contractors to fix what I'd fixed!

So now all is well, I hope. The smell has not come back.. I don't think I'll add up all our savings though—just let that little tidbit go!

Copyright © 2002 LAF/C.R.S., Inc. All rights reserved.



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