Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Just when we thought nothing else could go wrong

The previous blog post offered a few highlights of things going from bad to worse with our house.

Things went from worse to worser and snowballed in a hurry.

As detailed last time, our summer-long, occasionally frustrating reno approached completion with the laying of carpet. A rainstorm that night soaked the new carpet. We pick up the story from that point.

So, after the big rainstorm, I went about making sure all our eavestroughs and downspouts were attended to. I cleaned them all out, bought a new extender to replace a broken one, and generally made a mess of myself hosing out a completely clogged double-bend-joint downspout. Two pieces of advice: Don't just shove your hand into the downspout hole, because sheet metal screws are very sharp, and if you're going to blast a garden hose on "JET" into a completely blocked hole, don't have your face next to it.

Just a few days later, another thunderstorm. Easily one of the biggest I'd seen in years. Not only did the pointyscrewmuddyface downspout not spout down (water fountained out of the joints), the rain pooled around the perimeter of the foundation.

We checked regularly for more water coming in. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Oh, there it is. CRAP. Towels. Carpet pulled back further. Chopped away some underpad. Dammit.

We knew something had to be done. The foundation-repair guys we'd called weeks ago to address an entirely different and more obvious basement leak gave us two options for the west end of the house: try to fix it with grading the earth away from the house, or do the full solution with waterproofing, membrane, new weeping tile and gravel, new window wells....the whole meal deal. We chose the latter.

One benefit: Gordon loves watching the diggers. Otherwise this is not fun at all.
That ... has spun out of control. What was intended to be merely part of the house is now going to involve most of the house. Like, three of the four sides of the house.

The original weeping tile is not weeping -- it's 100% blocked with sand. All of it. It's just a big sand log in a clay wrapper. In order for what they've done to actually GO anywhere and DO anything, they'll need to dig up everything we were hoping we wouldn't have to touch.

It's going to eliminate the front garden Amanda did this summer. It's eliminated the bush that provides privacy between our yard and the neighbours'. It's taken out some nice plants between the houses.

It's also bloody expensive. Like, crying expensive. It's also going to require a new front walkway and front porch, and probably the elimination of the lovely mature evergreen shrubs at the front of the house that gave it curb appeal.

Wait, there's more.

On a beautiful weekend afternoon, Amanda says she smells poop. Ain't me. Ain't the baby. I go downstairs to investigate and find sludge coming out of our new basement shower. New, as in the shower head and taps aren't on yet and nobody's used it. I dump some buckets of water down and hope it's a one-off. Nope. I go back downstairs and the shower has sharted.

Oh, please tell me that's not what I think it is. No, it is. Poop splatter.
A video scope of the drain a few smelly days later reveals the likely culprit: chunks of concrete about five feet down the drain. Looks like debris from when they were jackhammering the basement floor to put the shower drain in.

Solution? Jackhammer the floor some more to get at the blockage. NOT OUR PROBLEM, NOT OUR DIME THIS TIME. SMALL HAPPY DANCE. SMALL.

But before that happened, the otherwise-excellent folks who were doing the scoping finished for the day without re-capping the downpipe where the cleanout is. That resulted in a few toilet-flushes worth of "water" spilling out onto the floor under the basement stairs.

I think I mentioned last time that we'd had some air conditioner issues. The coil had frozen up twice during hot times at the end of summer. The tech who came out blamed the first one on a clogged filter. (Filter was about three weeks old.) Second time figured it must be short on coolant, but he couldn't find a leak. Well, the HVAC guys came over to move the compressor so the foundation guys could dig, and what do you know? They found the leak as soon as they arrived. A bad weld. They've taken it away for a fix. Wonder how the other guy missed it the other times he was out?

I'll skip over the stuff about the tiling, the many holes cut in the drywall for the installation of a shower light, the new cracks in the driveway and garage slab, and the kitchen faucet that wouldn't stop leaking (thanks to Wendall for making it stop leaking).

We've been trying to Ontario-ize the required things. Amanda went to get her car's safety inspection today. $600+ in repairs up front with what they estimate are another $2000+ on the to-do list. It's a 2006 Toyota RAV4 -- shouldn't that vehicle just be hitting its stride about now, not needing a car's worth of repairs?!

I don't want to obsess over money, because money's just money, but ... it's money. We've always been careful with our money, but we've never encountered such a string of unforeseen and seemingly unending and escalating repairs. Our "want to" plans have been entirely superseded  and exceeded by "have to" expenditures.

Moreover, the ceaseless parade of literally fecal follies is taking its toll on family morale. Amanda's fed up. I'm stoic but growling quietly.

We bought this house because we knew she was on limited time, and for that time to be taken up by daily catastrophes instead of snuggle time with Gordon feels like insult added to injury.

For those who've asked, yes, we did have a home inspection. Our home inspector was Doug Carlaw from Pillar To Post in London.

For those who've asked, yes, we have asked about our options in going after the previous homeowners. Do we think they knew about these water problems? I don't think we have any doubt that they did. Could we prove it in court? Ah, that's the tricky part, isn't it?

Oh, right, cancer. Next CT scan results are just a couple of weeks away. Damn right we could use a break.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Raining on our parade. The parade is carpet.

Maybe I should subtitle this blog "Adversity, Resilience and Gratitude," because I feel like I keep posting the same pattern over and over again:

- something really difficult happens
- instead of asking "why me?" or "why us?" I shelve my feelings and just get on with stuff
- I express gratitude to the wonderful people who've stepped forward to help



The latest episode happened yesterday. Actually, there was enough happening to triple the length of this post, but let's keep it tight.

Amanda's dream is to re-do the kitchen. The actual dream is to re-do *a* kitchen, but our kitchen is dysfunctional and nothing but frustrating and ugly, so our kitchen is a good pick. We tossed out a budget when we bought the house and told the kitchen company what it was. Friday he presented us with a beautiful kitchen design, and only about 40% over the budget we'd given him. Turns out his quote is for the cabinets and counter top only, not the demolition, construction, tiling, painting, electrical, plumbing, structure, or appliances.

Before we had time to swallow that and digest it, we went downstairs to check out the new carpet. The house has been a construction zone all summer as we've had a company re-finish the basement -- it had been finished, very poorly, decades ago. It's been two months and the project is just about done, short of the final finishes like electrical outlets, fixtures and doorknobs. The new carpet went down Friday afternoon.

Friday evening, it rained. Big rain. Big storm. We didn't get many thunderstorms back in Halifax, and this single storm made up for eight years of missing them. I knew we'd get some water in the basement thanks to one foundation leak we'd discovered that the sellers didn't inform us about -- that's a disappointment/anger story for another time -- but otherwise, had no big fear.

After Gordon went to sleep, Amanda wanted to check out the new carpet. She stepped foot on it at the bottom of the stairs and said it felt damp in the basement. No worries, I said. It's been raining. YOU feel damp. Everything feels damp. It's a damp day.

We walked into the room that's to be my new recording studio. She stepped on the edge of the carpet. It was soaked. She started to cry.

We soon realized that the carpet along the edge of the wall was wet. Not just that wall, but the other exterior wall in the room, and even along the new interior wall. Same with the big room next to it. Water was coming in. We'd never seen water come in before.

First time we found water coming in ....... the day we thought we'd just about reached the finish line.

So, I'm thinking home insurance, I'm thinking lawyers, I'm thinking more debt, I'm thinking this house is going to be the end of us. Amanda's doing more crying than thinking. This is the last straw.

Amanda texted the foreman on the job, Jason, from Anden Design Build here in London. This problem is not his fault, but he's been wonderful with us through the whole project. He said he'd be right over.

He arrived amid rain and lightning with his pickup truck, his 11-year-old son, and a brand new shop vac. He was looking to buy a new one anyway, he said. Jason and his boy started pulling up the carpet and underpad from the tack strips and sucking up the water. Jason smartly peeled back the wet parts, propped them up with wax paper and paint cans so they could dry, and advised me how to help the drying process overnight and dam up the advancing water with what towels we had on hand. (We had few towels, thanks to having to use them earlier Friday to soak up an entirely different small flood on the tiled part of the basement, thanks to someone moving our washing machine drain to a non-draining pipe, but.......yarg.) I set up dehumidifiers and hoped for the best.

I got up and went downstairs at 4 a.m. to check the situation. The towels were holding. Things weren't getting worse.

Jason came by on Saturday morning with two portable air scrubbers -- big industrial-looking beastly fans with filters, designed for water abatement. He checked things out and was encouraged by how things were drying out.

Jason, you're a bearded angel.

Our new neighbours are excellent folks, too. The dad, Matt, is a Rush fan. That alone is awesome. They've been friendly and sweet. And when they heard Amanda was sick with a flu, and me with my fourth week of goodness knows what in my lungs and ears, and the soggy basement.... well, Kate, the mom, showed up at our door with a complete dinner for us. So kind of her.

I've probably said this before: I've never expected much out of life. I don't feel like the world owes me. I've never even been the kind of person who goes out of my way to help people. I'm a nice guy, sure, but I've always kept to myself. So, to have people who hardly know us reach out and do such sweet, awesome things really, really, really touches me. Jason, Matt, Kate -- thank you for helping make this "last straw" of an event less of an ordeal.

I'm hoping this seemingly never-ending repeating pattern of adversity-resilience-gratitude can eventually be replaced by achievement-appreciation-sharing, or some other less taxing process. Amanda and I, as upbeat and bounce-backish as we've been for the past year and a half, are really feeling like bad luck has us in the crosshairs. We have some wins, for sure, but the losses keep coming at us with time lines and dollar signs, and in ways that undermine our quest to enjoy simple pleasures and a positive outlook on what we know is going to be a sad end.

So, I apologize for the venting. It's a point of pride for me not to be a whiner and complainer. I maintain my belief that everything will be okay in the end. We're just going through a period of prolonged and intense FFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUareyoukiddingmewhatnext?!!?!?

Oh, here's some good news: G's eye appears to be all better and he's goofy once more.

I hope to post something hot-diggity-dog upbeat and exciting soon. Darned if I know what it's going to be, but if I see the opportunity, I will.

Last-minute shout-out to everyone running in the various Ovarian Cancer Walk of Hope events around the country this weekend. I wish you good weather!