Saturday, January 20, 2018

Thinking out loud at six in the morning

When I moved back to Nova Scotia in 2010 I bought back my old house. It happened to be on the market when I was looking for a place and, well, it was hard to resist. I knew the house had problems but I thought, "Better the devil you know..."

The main problem I foresaw was that the man who bought the house from me finished the basement. It had been an unfinished basement with water leaks, he fixed the leaks (or so he thought) and completely finished the area, putting in a full bathroom, a bedroom and a rec room. He also took out the old floor furnace and put in a full furnace with forced air venting into all of the upstairs rooms. He did a lot of work on that house, most of which I thought was a big improvement. But finishing that basement seemed to me kind of risky. I bought the place anyway, thinking that if it came to it I would tear out the work he did there.

As of last week, it has come to it.

This past year has definitely been my year to battle the element of water. I live in a province of weird geology and waterlogged soils, with as much water below ground as above, and plenty of it falling from the sky in one form or another. A building contractor once said to me that all of the houses on my street are really just little boats bobbing on an unseen river. Every time someone digs a hole in the ground, the river changes course, and there's always someone digging a hole in the ground.

Anyway, there was a soft spot in the laminate flooring in the rec room which I thought meant that there was a bit of rot in the subfloor due to the now-fixed water leak in the nearest basement wall. This past fall I found an excellent contractor who has done some work for me and I asked him if he could fix the soft spot. He said he could. He removed the laminate carefully so he could replace it after fixing whatever he found underneath and sure enough the subfloor was rotten, very rotten. He had a bad feeling about it and we discussed it, I gave him the go ahead to remove more laminate to see how far the problem went. In my heart I knew it was going to be bad, the time had finally come. So I was not as shocked as he had expected me to be, more resigned to the inevitable.

In a couple of days they had removed all of the floor in the rec room. They swabbed it down with bleach and said they'd come back when it was dry to rebuild the floor. That was three days ago and it is still not dry, in spite of fans and heaters. Bob the contractor came back yesterday to take a look and we discussed what to do next. I am sceptical about rebuilding, the thought of covering over that floor and not being able to see whether it is leaking or not scares me. Bob thinks he can fix it so it won't leak, he thinks it will be safe to rebuild. To that end he has saved as much as possible of the unrotten materials to reuse. But he also thinks there is more rot under the bathroom that will have to be dealt with.

Right now there is nothing to be done about that because all of the furniture and salvaged building materials are being store in there and the other two small rooms of the basement. He thinks the other two rooms are safe, it's just the bathroom that looks bad, and that can't be torn apart until all of the stuff stored in there (plus the bathroom fixtures and washer and dryer) are removed. But since there's no place to remove all that to, the bathroom will remain in place until the rec room is dealt with one way or another.

And then of course there is the small matter of money to pay for all this. The way I am looking at it is that eventually I will have to sell this house, I don't see it as my last permanent home. Having a basement in reasonably good shape is a good thing, the cost is an investment that will eventually pay off. Bob is a good person who does good work at reasonable prices, he has a lot of experience and I trust his judgement. I've had him do enough work for me that I trust him beyond simply doing a good job. So the timing of this disaster is not so bad, I at least am not scrambling to find someone to fix this problem and I did know that sooner or later this was coming.

Nevertheless it is not pleasant and I am losing sleep over it. I wish I could talk my brain into relaxing. I almost made it through this past night, but I woke at 4.00am with a severe leg cramp that forced me out of bed and that was the end of sleep for me.

What really worries me is exposure to mould, there is simply no way to close off the basement from the rest of the house until the job is completed. I owned and lived in a leaky condo out west and the exposure to mould caused a severe illness that lasted half a year, during which time I could not work or do much else; at its worst just getting from the bed to the toilet was a major effort. That scares me. The smell coming up from the basement scares me. The thought that this has been going on for years, probably since before I bought the house, and that I've been living over it all that time scares me. The fact that Bob's breathing changed within hours of setting foot in my basement scares me. Scares him too, he can't afford to get sick.

So sleeping is difficult.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Full on winter

The long pond before the snow
According to the internet most of Canada is experiencing record cold weather, with the exception of Atlantic Canada which is experiencing only "seasonably" cold weather. Well I am here to tell you that is simply not true, this is definitely not "seasonable". Maybe warmer than central Canada, but still not seasonable. If it were just the thermometer temperature it would be very cold (for here), but the constant wind just makes it that much colder. We had one day last week when it was not windy and a degree or two warmer than usual, making it positively balmy in comparison to the days before and since. Taking Hapi for her morning walk is a flirt with frostbite. I thought I had enough firewood for two winters (I try to keep a year ahead), but I've been burning through it at a wicked pace and we're only at the beginning of the winter heating season.

Ice, ice everywhere! A couple of people who walk their dogs regularly at the Reservoir have really nifty ice grippers, I see their distinctive footprints on all the trails. I managed to collar one of them and ask where they got their footwear, but by the time I got to the website where they could be ordered, they were sold out. My inferior ice grippers will have to do for now.

The long pond is frozen sufficiently for skating (15 cm/6 inches) and some brave souls have cleared the skim of snow from part of the pond and already been out on their blades. I don't know how they stand the cold wind! But they are mostly kids and we all know how fearless kids can be about cold (Where are your mittens? Why on earth did you take them off?!?). The uncleared snow on most of the pond is meagre enough for the kids to skate right over it.


This past year has been my year of water issues (I have a bit of a history in that regard). First there was the sewage backup. Then I had a basement flood in part of the basement that I'd never seen water leakage before. Sewer pipe replaced, drainage tile installed and a finally a sump pump installed. Then a few days ago I discovered that water pipes behind a finished wall in the basement had frozen. I got them thawed out but I don't know if they burst or not so I turned off the water to those pipes to postpone having to deal with it until the spring. I suspect that the hot water pipes are fine but one of the (three) cold water pipes is not. A problem for another day.

Hapi usually sleeps in the basement but lately has moved upstairs. I am not sure why. It could be she is lonely because I have stopped sleeping in the basement, but that never stopped her before. Although she is noticeably more "clingy" (affectionate) as she ages. It also could be that she is finding the basement stairs more difficult, but she still goes down to the basement, she just doesn't stay there. It is definitely not the cold, she still likes to spend the coldest part of the day--the hours around sunrise--outside sleeping in her doghouse. And she occasionally still spends an entire night out there. Her doghouse is not insulated but it is positioned out of the wind. If she lived forever I still would not figure her out, her doggy brain is unfathomable.

Is it safe?