Monday, September 22, 2014

Keep digging and you'll find more surprises, including this thing, whatever it is

You don't have to be a plumbing expert to know that water (and waste) flows downhill. You don't have to be a plumber to know that if the main sewage pipe that's supposed to take water out of your house is actually sloped downward into your house, you might be in for trouble. I'll just let that sit here for a bit.

We made it through the weekend without any new and expensive surprises around the house. Of course, Monday brings the workers back, and the workers keep finding new things.

The nice folks at the basement waterproofing company finished up the back and side of the house on Friday. Looks bare, but decent:

New window wells. Swale!
Now they're on to the front of the house, where the agenda includes demolishing Amanda's new garden and busting up the front stairs and front porch.

Well well well, it turns out the front porch has a lot of concrete in it, so it was going to take an extra half-day of labour to break it up instead of just haul it away.

A half-day later, Amanda sends me this picture:

Septic tank? Cistern? Dry well? Mystery pit?

Uh?


A septic tank right outside the front door of this 1956 home? I know that the people doing this job are wise and experienced, but I'm not so sure.

I know the neighbourhood was built before the area was part of the City of London. It wasn't on city water. The homes had backyard septic tanks. Our neighbour across the street is in his 80s and has lived here since 1958, and he's digging through his vast records to find out when exactly we were hooked up to city water and sewer.

My amateur sleuthing suggests what we see here is a cistern. Rainwater (from what, the weeping tile system?) would be directed into this concrete vault and could be pumped out for use in the home. You'd have a well for drinking water and a cistern for bathing or toilets or watering the lawn, or whatever.

Your interpretation of my conclusions is welcome -- am I on the right track, or way off base?

Bottom line, anyway, is that this is a reinforced concrete box just outside our front door, and is going to take a whole extra day to break up. Another pricey discovery, no matter how interesting it is.

Amanda had her latest CT scan today and the results will be known in another week or so.

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.