Our first catastrophe happened about three months after we purchased the house. That winter was particularly cold in Chicago, a bad sign for a vacant building. We were out of state visiting family for Christmas when the temperature dropped into the negative digits. Our poor dilapidated old furnace couldn't keep up and burned itself out. Of course, the pipes froze and broke. When the city started to thaw out a few days later the water started to run. Maybe run isn't the best word.
We first knew something was wrong when we walked up to the back door and heard a whooshing noise through the wall. Once we opened the door the whoosh became more of a roar. I remember cringing when I stepped through the door and holding my breath waiting for the worst. Sure enough, peaking around the corner revealed a river of water flowing into our sewer grate (lucky we had that huh?). It was one of those "oh expletive" moments. If you have never seen a house flooded because of a broken pipe then let me tell you that it leaves you absolutely stunned. There was somewhere between a twelve and eighteen inches of water moving from the front of the basement to the back and it was originating from what in another setting would have been a truly magnificent waterfall.
Now at the time I was too upset and panicked to think of taking any photos. As first time home owners, this wasn't exactly something we were prepared for. So for documentary purposes, I have photoshopped together my best approximation of what our little flood looked like.
So, after all of our initial good intentions at saving the original floors, walls, and as much character as possible - it turned out we couldn't save any of it. Our renovation project just became a gut job.