Friday, October 7, 2011

Snowballs In October

It started out simply, late last month, with the two easy tasks of redoing my downstairs bathroom and reworking a stone pathway running up my back yard. From there it was supposed to move to landscaping.

I found a nice pedestal sink on sale for $40 so tore out the old one in the bathroom. Since the landscaping only entailed moving bushes and plants from other parts of the yard to the back yard and rearranging what was already there both jobs should have been inexpensive and easy. What more can you ask?

The job started to snowball out of control soon after i noticed someone working on my neighbor's deck and asked if he had any ideas for fixing the back porch/sun room that was falling off my house. I wasn't really serious at the time, but he came by later and convinced me that he could fix it and that we (i had to help) could do it at a price i could afford. The bathroom job and the back pathway were both underway but now had to go on hold.

Then the snowball made its first appearance.

Once we had the walls jacked up and supported, and then the floor ripped out, i decided that it didn't make sense to put a new floor back in until i sealed a portion of the foundation along the back wall so i could go back to a dry basement when it rains. I had planned to do that job next year but now would have had to rip the floor back up again when i did, so it didn't make sense to delay. All that was required was about 10 feet of wall. More money, but i could do the north wall next year and spread the cost for all three jobs (porch, back wall, & north wall) over two years.

Then the snowball picked up more speed.

First, the guy who was doing the porch was going to help me dig and we would seal the foundation by ourselves. Unfortunately, after the first hour of digging, he didn't came back. Now what? So i called and got some estimates from professional companies. But, and here was the next place the snowball picked up speed, if i hire the job out, i might as well have them do both the back wall and the north wall at the same time.

OK. More money, but i found a company with a price i could afford (how many times can you say that before the cumulative effect is too much?) and they agreed to let me dig the trenches around the house before they started. With less than a week before they were scheduled to start their work, i realized i wouldn't get the digging finished so had to hire a couple of guys from the company to help with the final two days of digging. Two very long days of back-breaking work, but we got it done.

Then the snowball picked up even more speed.

Once the foundation was exposed we were all in shock at what we saw. A good foundation should look like this:

Granted the tuck pointing isn't brand new, but this is what my wall looks like above ground level, and it looks pretty good. The builders of the foundation took their time to do a good job. Obviously. Nice rectangular stones, with plenty of mortar.

Once we got below ground level, it still didn't look real bad. Until the wall was power washed and all the mud removed, that is. This is what we found behind the mud:

Below ground level, any size stone was laid in place in any position with small stones stuck in cracks and gaping holes everywhere. There was little or no pattern in any of the stones. With all the mud removed, there were gaping holes everywhere, small stones falling out here and there, and not one drop of mortar anywhere to be found. None. It looked as if one small push would bring the foundation down.

The snowball headed straight downhill from there. Forget waterproofing the basement, simply on stability grounds i see no way to get around having the entire wall tuck pointed so that the foundation is not simply a collection of stones stacked up but an interlocking wall that should continue to hold my house up. More money.

So, now i wait for the tuck pointing to be finished. Then we go back to the project of sealing the walls and back-filling the trenches. Then we go back to rebuilding the floor in the back porch. Then we go back to the pathway in the back yard. Then we go back to the landscaping. Then, finally, i can install the pedestal sink and replace the toilet.

This snowball has picked up so much speed, i'm getting dizzy.

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