Archive for category Basement

Basement Cracks

Diverting my downspouts away from the foundation solved almost all of my basement water issues, with the exception of one annoying crack that would leak every time it rained hard. Looks like I got it epoxied up just in time for this winter, since it just started raining buckets.

 

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Upcoming Projects

Here’s a list of smaller projects we’re contemplating for the near future. No particular order.

  • Finish work on hallway
  • Clean and organize basement
  • Build pergola roof
  • Seal up south shed windows and doors, run electricity to it, set it up as workshop
  • Wall in north shed rotted-out garage doors, replace rotted-out and falling-off person door
  • Run temporary lights and sockets to basement
  • Waterproof leaky parts of basement
  • Till and seed south raised area

Larger projects:

  • Replace the roof (we already have a contractor and estimate, just need to pull the trigger on it)
  • Build porch and re-route front entrance to existing closet (turning it back into a foyer/mudroom again)
  • Turn addition into master suite (this can be done in stages with the bathroom coming last)
  • Bump out back wall and enclose basement stairs into building envelope
  • Smart wire the house and create tech hub
  • Gut and refinish the library and living room
  • Retile the fireplace

“Someday” projects:

  • Finish basement, create laundry/plumbing room
  • Redo all the supply plumbing with PEX and a manifold system
  • Knock down the existing sheds, extend the foundations, and rebuild as garage & cottage
  • Replace forced air heating with radiant
  • Add a second story to the addition
  • Build a better patio
  • Redo the kitchen

Not that I’m going to be starting any of these right away, except maybe cleaning and organizing the basement. I really need a break.

Jen adds Yard Projects:

  • Clean out top bed and ready it for arborvitae planting
  • Continue building up the raised beds
  • Set the initial plans and start building my perennial garden
  • WEED! Oh goodness I need to weed. My beds are horrifically overgrown
  • Cut down strange bush/tree covering the library window

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Visible If Expensive Progress

Half the tax return went to making the rubbish pile go away. The treehouse six or eight months ago was the beginning of it, and then there was huge amounts of demo from the basement. See, the previous owners finished half the basement, but they did it wrong. Wrong wrong wrong. So I had to take out all the non-pressure treated wood in direct contact with concrete, all the badly nailed-up drywall, and all the slightly mildewy insulation.

And wow I can’t wait until I can replace all the electrical nightmares I uncovered. If Mike Holmes’ electrician were to come see my basement, he’d have conniptions — hidden junctions, wires hanging loose, unprotected tie-ins, etc. I’ll be salvaging all the romex wiring and using it to rig up temporary lights, switches, and sockets, and getting rid of all the old conduit. This will also get me one step further toward retiring the old electrical panel.

Anyway, here’s the photos of the rubbish pile. I forgot to take a “before” picture, so I have a “halfway” and an “after” picture:

Halfway gone -- notice the 19 cu. yd. truck full of stuff

All gone! That's the second (full) truck in the opposite driveway

(There’s actually a little bit of rubbish left behind the pergola, but that’s stuff left over from the previous owners that was covered by morning glory.)

Next on the list is remodding the back room and hallway. It’s almost all cleaned out — all the furniture is moved to the library — and so next weekend I can do the demo, and then in the second half of the month when we have more money I can start putting it back together. I’m sure it’ll be easier than the bathroom. 🙂

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Electrical Upgrade Preparations

We’re finally able to go ahead with upgrading the electrical service from 125 amp (and a totally-full, out-of-date, not-terribly-safe panel) to a nice shiny new 200 amp Siemens panel.

The plan is to install a new mast and meter in a better location on the house (where the wires won’t cross over the roof at no more than five feet clearance), run conduit back to the same room in the basement as the old panel, install the new panel there, put in a 100-amp breaker and run a feeder cable to the old panel. That way I can leave the horrible mess of electrical spaghetti untouched for now, and as I remodel rooms put new circuits in the new panel and retire circuits from the old panel until I can remove the old panel completely.

Also, the old panel is attached to a stud wall that I’m going to want to remove (well, it’s attached to the beam above a stud wall, but I wouldn’t want to remove the wall and leave the panel just hanging out in open space). The new location will let me reconfigure the walls however I like, and still leave plenty of room on that wall for washer/dryer/utility sink.

Before the electrician can come out, however, I’ve got a lot of work to do to prep the site. There’s a set of stairs from one of our back doors that needs to get detached and pulled away from the house so the conduit can run (I’ll cut a hole and put them back later). There’s a bunch of drywall that needs to get removed to clear a path for the grounding wire to reach the plumbing (at least the plumbing that will be left once I convert everything to PEX). And, most importantly, there’s a couple of water pipes directly over where the panel will go, which is forbidden by code (confirmed with an electrical inspector at the permit department).

So the plan is to cut out those pipes and divert them around the panel location using push-on or compression connectors and 3/4″ PEX. The problem is that they’re embedded in/hidden behind a plaster ceiling one of the previous owners installed in the whole central section of the basement (for fire protection from the furnace maybe? who knows).

Actually, I’m beginning to think that’s not plaster, it’s concrete. This hole took me half an hour beating on it with a crowbar and hammer:

Here’s a closeup, after some of the wire mesh lath has been cut away:

The reason I’m thinking it’s concrete is not only is it really hard but the sawzall will barely notch it (although it’s easy to cut out the mesh and keys once I’ve knocked off the visible layer).

So here’s the plan, before and after:

Hopefully I can at the very least get all the demo done on Saturday, and then I’ll be taking two days off work: the day the electrician comes to let him in and supervise and do any last-minute helpful homeowner things, and the day before to complete the plumbing and remaining demo.

Then the city’s inspection, then the Seattle City Light guy comes out for his inspection, then he schedules a crew for the re-splice to the service wire, and on that day the electrician comes back and makes the final hookup from the new box to the old, and then we have a completed upgrade.

Yay!

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Some Progress Lately

The treehouse is down. Went up on the ladder with the sawzall a couple of weekends ago and made pretty short work of it, considering that it was fairly sturdily built — except of course it was built of non-treated lumber so the roof was bowed in and the 2x4s were soaking wet. It’s really amazing how big the pile of junk lumber is from such a small building.

No more treehouse!

The absurdly large debris pile

The bathroom shelves are up, or at least two of them are since for some reason the middle shelf didn’t fit. I’m not terribly happy with how they came out, but at least there are shelves there and we can start using them for storage. When I have a few bucks lying around I’ll go get a sheet of birch plywood and do them better. I figure if I construct the shelf and the braces in one unit and attach it to the wall all together there will be fewer gaps.

The bathroom touchup painting isn’t done, but all the holes are filled and sanded. I now know that putty has to be applied pretty thickly because it shrinks as it cures. Hopefully I can finish that next weekend, and paint the door and window jambs where the old pink paint is showing through.

Last, I demoed out the wall in front of the old basement access door, and removed the plywood covering the stairs that gave us so much trouble with the underwriters last fall. Apparently, Nate is a big do-do head crap’r, whatever that means. Once I get the door freed of its very thick layer of silicone/rubber/whatever-the-hell-it-is caulk and get a padlock installed, I can move forward with taking out the existing stairs and filling in the living room floor with a temporary plywood patch.

Oh, those wacky previous owners!

I also have a good quote from an electrician to upgrade the service to 200 amps. Now I need to figure out what the schedule is for inspections and for Seattle City Light to hook up the new mast, and then I can schedule the electrician. I’m moving the location of the panel to the foundation wall, so I can remove the plastered-over stud wall the current panel is attached to when I completely gut the basement.

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“Dad that lady sure swears a lot”… “Son, that is why you can’t go play at their house”

Above are conversations that I imagine in my head as I am on my basement stairs next to the open window cursing like a drunken sailor with tourettes. This weekend I tore off the carpet and padding that was very securely nailed to basement stairs on each layer separately. Which of course was utterly soaked to the core with cat pee.. Why would a cat pee on stairs? I have no clue other that some kind of demented punishment to it’s owners and now me by proxy.

Cursing continued as I helped tear down the downstairs buildup for what I imagine at one point was for a large tub. Bryan was impressed with my strength as I beat things down with a hammer. I laughingly told him he should have seen me before my myriad of injuries showed up, and before I got hit by the car.. I was hell on wheels. Some of the strength is still there but mostly I’m pretty gimpy. Anyhow, I am sure most of my demo rage was fueled by frustration and hate. Nothing gets you feeling better about impending bills, permits and smelling like cat pee than destroying things with a hammer.

Speaking of even more cursing, I started the first round of Roundup on the morning glory and other assorted weeds that are destroying our lawn. I was almost defeated by a yard of weeds in a crack in our front sidewalk. I think they were made of iron and reached all the way to China. I’m sure they could hear me across the street, on my knees muttering ‘f********ck’ and ‘Damn you, why won’t you come OUT!!!’
I think I need tools.. in the vein of ‘I’ll need a bigger boat.’ I keep having moments of ‘BUUUUURN IT ALLL, BUUUUUUURN IT! BUUUUUUUUUURN!’ in my head but I keep having to tamp those thoughts down, it wouldn’t end well. Especially when friends offer weed burners that were altered for Burning Man that now come with ‘EVEN MORE FLAME.’

That will most definitely be a last resort.

Maybe.

Bathroom Demo Part 2

Well, I didn’t get nearly as much done today as I thought I would, even though we were on the job longer than yesterday.

First thing we did when we got there today was move all the rolled-up demoed carpet from the basement to the garden shed, which took an absurdly long time. Then I got back to work on the remaining drywall in the bathroom.

Just like yesterday, it resisted. A lot. Mostly because it was laid directly over wood (so I couldn’t punch through it and had to scrape at it from the edges instead) and was fastened not with brittle drywall screws but with big honking two-inch eight-penny roofing nails, placed randomly in ones and twos across the sheet.

There’s still sheets of maybe 3/8″ plywood against the studs in the non-plumbed walls of the tub, so I don’t know what’s back there yet, but so far the only visible rot is in the bottom of the side sheet of plywood and a 2×4 blocking in the plumbing wall just at the level of the tub/surround seam.

I did manage to find where the knob & tube wiring interfaces with the romex that goes into the new-work switch and socket. All the lights in the entire house (plus the refrigerator) are wired into one double circuit breaker, and there’s a carrier line for that circuit that goes above the bathroom ceiling, so I hope I can cut and cap the wires coming down into the bathroom without killing any other lights (for now).

WTF part #2: the duct tape “repairs” on the shower surround weren’t actually repairs. Apparently they bought a shower surround built for a modern hotel-style valve and faucet/shower placement, and then just duct-taped over the misplaced holes and drilled their own.

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Here’s some more shots of the bathroom gutted down to the studs.

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I was going to try to save the 3″ tongue-and-groove boards inside the closet, but when I tried removing the first one carefully, it broke right away, so I said the hell with it and just pulled them down with my gloved hands:

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Meanwhile, Jen was shoveling up more rotted pears from the yard and dousing the basement in Simple Green.

Jen wants me to post this part:

Why Jen Hates The Previous Owners:

Not only did they let their cats pee all over the carpets downstairs, but they left bags and bags full of junk in the basement. Not only did they leave their crappy little 2×4-and-plywood desk screwed to the wall in the bedroom, but they left hundreds and hundreds of pounds of trash in the garage and shed — and we’re talking a busted fridge, a busted stove, broken snowboards, a computer monitor, old magazines, a safe that looks like it’s been blown up, and lots lots more.

Worst is the southeast corner, where apparently the previous previous owner put in a retaining wall with the plan of having a waterfall and a little pond. The previous owners allowed that entire area to be overrun with morning glory (I saw the 2007 high-res satellite photo on the monitor at the permit office, and large parts of that area weren’t green), and at this point Jen literally cannot tell where the ground is, there’s so much rotted wood, asphalt shingles, old dishwashers, pond liners, broken bricks, broom handles, wheelbarrows, etc., etc., strewn everywhere and now all grown through with bindweed.

Not only does this represent hundreds more dollars just in dump fees, but it’s also going to take months and months if not years just to clear it. All the while it’ll be a hazard to everybody, not least our daughter who will certainly be bipedal and running around by next spring.

WTF #3: Jen found it almost impossible to scrape up the adhesive underlayment left over from the vinyl flooring in the downstairs basement. She called me down to look at it, and I discovered that in most of the bathroom area the cement underneath the mastic was rough and pebbly. This means to me that when the POs jackhammered up the old slab and installed the bathroom fixtures, they didn’t bother floating the new cement afterwards to smooth it out but just called it a day and slapped the vinyl over it.

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She then demolished most of the stud wall between the walk in closet and the platform the spa tub was going to go on, all of which is in the way of the planned basement bedroom.

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I spent about an hour up in the attic trying to shovel the rockwool insulation away from the basement ceiling, but they don’t call it rockwool for nothing. That crap is dense, and it sticks together in clumps. At that point we got called away because our friend finally called us back about a 10% off coupon from Home Depot she had for us, and we dropped everything and headed out. That was about 4pm. Unfortunately, we had a lot of big heavy stuff to buy at HD, and not much time before we were supposed to pick up our daughter Thekla from her nanny/daycare at 6pm (we were an hour late), so we were rushing around and I’m sure forgot a bunch of stuff that we needed but wasn’t specced out on the materials list.

We rented one of HD’s trucks (since 4×8 greenboard ain’t fitting in the trunk of my Saturn) and drove it the couple miles to the house, where our friend Chris was kind enough to meet us to help unload. (I’ve never driven anything before that beeped when I backed up. 🙂 ) After getting the truck back we discovered that we had forgotten to load the toilet, but Jen threw herself on the mercy of the delivery coordinator and got them to deliver it for us tomorrow for free.

Plan for tomorrow:

  1. Make nice with the building inspector when he shows up and get him to sign off on the reframing plans.* The only conceivably controversial part will be the new basement stairs going through the old entry hall area, since there might need to be a widening of the foundation wall opening.
  2. Drop the bathroom ceiling and just clean up the fracking rockwool when it falls down (I’ll just put R30 fiberglass batts up when I’m done).
  3. Pull up the vinyl flooring in the bathroom and see what condition the subfloor is in.
  4. Demo the stub wall at the end of the tub.

Really, that should about do it. If I get to capping the wiring and plumbing I’ll feel really happy.

And now I’m going to bed. By the way, Flexeril is a wonderful wonderful thing.

 

* This is the preliminary inspection. Seattle has a class of permit called “Subject To Field Inspection”, meaning the job isn’t complicated enough to require full engineering drawings and formal review; instead the inspector just eyeballs the plans and the building before the work starts and approves or not, and then comes out when you’re done and checks that you did it right.

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My first days working in the house:

Bryan spent the last couple days prepping to work at the house. Friday I took the baby down to see him, and I wanted to start some of my work at the house but to be honest the permit process and cost was quite a blow, and I wanted all of us to be together to remember why we are spending all this money. It’s for family and it’s for our home, sometimes we have to remember that even when it comes with a high price tag.

Friday night I started tearing up the carpet and the padding in the basement which is a pain in the freaking butt because though you can cut through the carpet like butter but the mat is dense, dense, dense. Sadly it’s quality pad that is utterly drenched in cat pee.

I got about half of it up:
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Came upstairs and the baby was sleeping on the job:
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Today we dropped the baby off with a friend with the hopes of getting a lot more kicked out.. I finished up all the carpet and pad downstairs and managed to pull up the linoleum in the half bath downstairs.
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After being gassed out in the basement by cat pee I decided I needed to be outside. I have a half yard that is drowning in rotten pears and I have started raking them up.
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Then I turned by gaze to the morning glory, I hate that damn morning glory. I hate it with the fury of a million burning suns. It’s eaten half of the yard and it infuriates me. It’s covered.. EVERYTHING!! I am trying to find what the heck is under it. It’s a danger because it conceals all kinds of unsafe crap: tillers, broken chairs, ponds, shingles, boards. All forming a crappy covered dangerous rat and freaking possum condos.
I was able to pull a tiny bit off some of the retaining wall.
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But the rest of it just sits out there giving me the stinkeye.
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Damn morning glory, I hate you.

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Introductory post from the wife

Bryan has encouraged me multiple times to update the blog. Unfortunately up to this point any post that I would have made would have been complaints about how much I hated the purchase process interjected with random cursing. Now that paperwork has been signed I feel more comfortable outlining my immediate goals with the house.

While Bryan is tearing down and ripping out the bathroom for it’s remodel before we move into the house, I will be tearing out the carpeting from downstairs that the previous owner kindly let their cats pee all over. Having four cats of our own we don’t really want ours getting a whiff of the previous damage so they can pick up the bad habit. It does break my heart to tear out the carpet because it seems to be one of the few things that the previous tenants actually did fairly well. They actually used a really good padding and it appears properly laid. Sadly it is soaked to the core in urine.

My other goal is to get all the rooms primed. Seeing as we are replacing all the wood paneling in the house it seems silly to paint it the actual color I really want only to tear it out in a couple months. But some of the colors are simply atrocious. I figure it’s better to live with primer white till then than say…

This is the baby’s room:

And the current color of the master bedroom:

Not good.

Then the major project that I have decided is mine and mine alone, the yard. It appears someone in the past had some grandiose ideas. There is a pond, and some build up for what appeared to be a water fall, and even a composting bin. Of course looking at the yard you would have never known because it’s all hidden under half of a yard of morning glory. I have found my arch-nemesis. Morning glory is the devil. It has eaten up almost fifty percent of the yard and I can’t have that.. (said wearing my steely-eyed Clint Eastwood face)  I have also planned a consultation with our friend’s gardener because there are flowers interspersed amongst the weeds and when I am cleaning out the horrifically overgrown flowerbeds next to the house I don’t want to pull out something I am going to have to pay to have later. It’s all just such a jumbled mess I have know clue what’s what. I have recently grown to love having my own vegetable garden and plan to put one at the house to in raised beds.

My back hurts already.

Now we just finalize packing up the old house for the move. We are almost finished, only a few bits and pieces to finish..

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