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Monday, February 25, 2008

The Mysterious Brown Puddle

I stopped at my house yesterday to do my weekly furnace dump and chimney sweep. My new, normal, Monday-through-Friday schedule means that I'm not spending as much time at the house as I'd like. When I was unemployed, I could have gone to the house whenever I wanted, yet I kept myself away for some, I felt like I didn't deserve to lounge around (or even get a night's sleep) at my own house until I had secured a job. I'm sure I must have spent a few nights there, but honestly I can't recall. (I'd have to check the blog records!) And during the nearly six months that I was on the 4x4 schedule, I could also have spent lots of time there - but didn't. Now pretty much the only night I can spend there is Friday, and I haven't done that yet.

Which doesn't mean I haven't been over there. I've been there several times this past week, to shovel the snow, salt the sidewalks, set up a new lamp on a timer, check the mail, and make sure everything was in order.

Yesterday when I went over there, everything was not in order.

I didn't sense anything was wrong when I entered the house. The thermostat was still set around 60 degrees, right where I had left it. Lights worked, windows weren't broken, doors were intact, heat came on when I turned the thermostat up (so nobody had stolen the water pipes yet), big brown partially dried-up puddle in the middle of the kitchen floor...

Wait. My mind leaped into action. That shouldn't be there.

OK, this is now a crime scene. Move nothing. Touch nothing. What do we see, what do we smell? Spider-Man's first rule: People never look up. Look up. No leak from the bathroom above...besides, there would be a bedroom above that spot, not the bathroom. The bedroom where my Uncle died. Whatever. There was nothing to indicate a leak from the ceiling.

Water sources? The kitchen sink was over thataway about twelve feet. The sink has a slow leak, and a leak in the drainpipe would really ruin my day...but there was no sign of a leak under the sink, no trail of water from the sink to the middle of the floor. Ditto on the radiator by the back door, and the window on the other side of the kitchen table.

The stove? Mmmmaybe. The water seemed to lead back to the antique coal/gas stove that I still use to make tea. Bernie warned me about condensation in the gas lines. However, the house was not full of gas, so I discounted this possibility.

The chimney? Again, a big mmmmaybe. But a scan under the stove in the direction of the place where the stovepipe joins the chimney didn't show any obvious telltale signs of water being on the floor.

Me? Could I have tracked in snow on a previous visit, snow which had melted and not yet evaporated? It seemed unlikely, since I hadn't stood in that spot recently. And why would it be brown? I have washed the floor several times since I bought the house. Water on the floor should not turn brown.

Intruder...with coffee? Not likely, unless they were very neat about breaking and entering. Besides, the whole place should smell of coffee if that were the case. It didn't.

I chalked it up to just one of those things, and got some damp paper towels to clean up.

I sniffed at the brown stuff that I picked up on the paper towels. Traces of coffee...and iron. Rust?

Whatever. I cleaned it up as best I could. It looked like it had left a stain.

Today I stopped at the house after work to see if the Mysterious Brown Puddle had reformed. It hadn't. But the previous puddle looked like it had possibly taken the gloss off the linoleum floor. Acidic? Maybe. I slipped an old paint tray under a point on the stove that I decided was as likely a spot as any for trapped, condensed water to be seeping out, carrying the residue of ten thousand breakfasts with it.

Just one of those things, I guess. Just another thing you'll encounter while trying to rehab an old house. I'll keep an eye out for further developments.


anne said...

Could it possibly be where a Terminator appeared? Maybe an older one made out of cast iron radiators and coffee maker parts. I'd be on the alert if I were you...

Marc said...

If you actually lived in your house, perhaps you wouldn't have these kind of mysteries.

whimsicalnbrainpan said...

That's quite the mystery... I'm glad when you sniffed the brown stuff the odor wasn't foul. Though I suppose if it had been one of those stains you would have smelled it upon entering the house. So far I like the radiator-Terminator theory best.