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.

3 comments:

Rain Trueax said...

Wow, that is all very scary. I hope you can find solutions. One thing that might help you temporarily is buy an air filterer for your upstairs. We had two but one quit working. We brought one to Tucson with us as it's good for air with allergies as well as mold.

We've had a lot of water problems this last year or maybe more. The Tucson house had the floor in the living room heaved up, which was part of why we had to come. It turned out it was just inadequate adhesive on the tile with the grouting evidently making for the heave. It has taken removing fifteen or so of the tiles to reveal the concrete floor, all is well there, now my husband is putting them back down. We had wanted to hire someone to do it. It turned out two weeks before we could get anyone and a minimum of $650. Ouch! So Paul is doing it and taking his time.

My sleep has been lousy over worry regarding our son's health. I am hoping I can finally relax with that and get that weight off my chest :(

Wisewebwoman said...

So sorry to hear this Annie, as you know I had similar stresses in my house that you visited. Endless issues. And all a money-hole.

I do hope you get it sorted without either of you falling into ill health, the idea of a filter by the previous commenter sounds good.

XO
WWW

Annie said...

You are right, Rain and WWW, an air filter is a good idea and I have been using one. I managed to figure out a way to put up a heavy plastic barrier across the basement stairs also. The work is ongoing, I am really hoping they will be all done some time next week and I try not to think about the cleanup necessary after they are done. My stuff is piled higgledy piggledy in a corner where they are not working and they keep moving the pile as they work in different areas. Finding stuff is hopeless and I can only hope that things are not being permanently damaged because at this point there is nothing I can do to prevent it.