Stabilizing the underground P-Trap

I fashion forms and pour concrete to secure the area around the underground P-trap. This will keep it accessible and prevent further erosion.

Plugging legacy holes in the exterior

I repair open holes on the exterior of the house left from the old dryer vent and old electrical service meter by plugging them with custom cut pieces of wood backed by insulation. Siding still needs to be done.

Aww, crap.

I notice that the sewer is backing up, spewing sewage out of the new floor drain and filling up the downstairs bathtub. I inspect the sewer cleanouts and discover that the main sewer drain is getting plugged up somewhere between the house and the street, probably somewhere under my front yard.

Sewage spills out of a newly-installed floor drain with the paper seal still on it.
Shower control parts sit in an empty bathtub that is backing up with sewage.

Stuck up

I hire a pipe cleaner to clear the sewer plug. ($272.30)

Finished edges

I finish the concrete work around the downstairs bathtub P-trap.

Underground P-trap is accessible thanks to a poured concrete surround.

New concrete, new column

My general contractor arrives with his crew and sets up shop in my garage. Using a rented concrete mixer ($58.60), he begins re-pouring the concrete in the basement-level master bathroom, laundry room, and mechanical room around the new floor drain ($495.06).

A worker dispenses concrete from a mixer while another collects it in a bucket.
A worker lays new concrete over bare earth in a basement where part of the original floor had been removed.
New concrete dries in a patched basement floor.
New concrete cures around a newly installed basement floor drain.

A replacement support column is installed in the proper location under the main beam, restoring the integrity of the building structure ($113.25).

A new metal column has been installed in a basement to support an I-beam in the ceiling. \

Ceiling surprises

I install home wrap over the previous electrical mast and dryer vent holes.

An old utility hole in a house siding is sealed up with patches of self-adhesive home wrap.
An old utility hole in a house siding is sealed up with patches of self-adhesive home wrap.

I also prepare the master bedroom ceiling for demolition. I find that the heating register was held in place by drywall screws that were spray painted in place. There is no proper duct boot. Instead, one has been fashioned from wads of duct tape.

A removed ceiling grille reveals a missing duct boot and that one has been fashioned out of duct tape.

My roommate Frosty demolishes the master bedroom ceiling.

A woman wearing a face shield and gloves uses a prybar to demolish drywall from a bedroom ceiling.

We discover more hidden junction boxes and illegal wiring.

A demolished ceiling reveals a junction box that was illegally hidden behind the drywall.
A demolished ceiling reveals a wire splice without a junction box that was illegally hidden behind the drywall.

Drips, demolition, and framing

The west wall of the house has tiny eves. This reduces cold air flow, making it easier for ice dams to form on that side of the house. Electric heat tape had been installed to compensate. I also rake the roof regularly.

Icicles form beneath a snowy gutter that is forming ice dams.
A light switch has a yellow label that says: CAUTION. Electric roof & gutter de-icing cable installed on this circuit.

The circuit works fine, but the heat tape turns out to be faulty. Ice dams form and water begins leaking through the bedroom ceiling. It’s clear that the interior soffit has been drywalled recently, and I begin to suspect that the flipper intentionally hid additional problems.

A bucket is held up to a small hole in a ceiling that is leaking water from ice dams.

I place a box fan in the attic to blow away the warm air and re-freeze the ice dams. In this photo you can also see that someone had previously used yellow spray foam insulation to try to plug up ice dam leaks.

A box fan in an attic keeps ice dams frozen until the damage can be repaired in warmer weather.

While in the attic, I discover more raccoon feces. I’m unable to tell if this is new or simply overlooked from before. However, I spot tracks from my house to a tree in the back yard, raising my suspicion that the raccoons have returned.

Animal tracks in a snowy back yard lead to a series of large trees.

Meanwhile, Walter Sullivan, Harry Sullivan, and Frosty demolish the rest of the master bedroom ceiling.

Three people using prybars to demolish drywall from a bedroom ceiling.

They discover unsecured electrical wires, rickety framing, and find that the main air conditioner line is dripping condensation above the ceiling. The backside of the drywall is covered in mold.

Ceiling drywall removed from a bedroom soffit reveals a heating duct with a flap hole cut in it.
Insulated air conditioner line runs across a basement ceiling and through a foundation wall.

My general contractor works to re-frame areas that were demolished ($211.27). He discovers that the bathroom is out of square, so some very creative framing will have to be done to correct the problem. This also means that the corrected framing will be 2″ too close to the toilet drain, so I’ll have to buy a new toilet with a matching rough-in spec.

Carpenters use ladders and scaffolding while erecting new basement framing.

The laundry room is re-framed.

Framing in a basement over drain pipes.

The new dryer vent is installed ($87.41).

Framing in a basement over drain pies and a dryer vent.

The mechanical room wall is re-framed for bi-fold closet doors.

Framing in a basement around the water heater and furnace.

The bathroom wall is re-framed around the new drain pipes.

Framing for a door in a basement stud wall.

Vent and a switch

A fourth Bagster full of debris is hauled away ($144.00).

The plumber cuts out the old kitchen drain pipes, replaces them with new drain pipes, and attaches them to the rest of the new drainage system.

He also installs a vent stack that goes up through the ceiling and into the attic (temporarily, during winter). Eventually this will be extended all the way through the roof, and the stack itself will be boxed in drywall to match the rest of the house. This venting finally allows the kitchen sink and dishwasher to drain properly.

Meanwhile, I reconfigure the electrical under the sink, install an outlet in the existing junction box, and re-wire the garbage disposal with an AC cord. This is activated by an air switch that I installed in the counter top. ($94.22)

Later, the plumber hooks up (temporary) water lines for the washing machine, and I install a flush-mount dryer outlet.

Poor heat distribution

My general contractor discovers more illegal wiring in the soffit in the master bedroom. I fix this myself.

Spliced wires without a junction box discovered behind drywall.

My contractor installs a new bathroom fan housing ($189.24) and connects it to the existing duct.

The housing for a bathroom fan is installed between ceiling framing.

He also completes installation of the dryer duct, extending it all the way to the floor.

Laundry room framing with plumbing and a dryer vent.

My contractor points out that all of my heating distribution is wrong. Instead of running smaller duct branches to perimeter of the basement heat, the flippers cut large holes into the central main duct. This means that the system is robbed of pressure, blowing most of the heat into the center of the basement while the walls and upper level are incredibly colder. Some of the ducts are even positioned adjacent to a cold air return.

Illustration of poorly-arranged basement heating.

I give my general contractor approval to repair and re-work the HVAC properly. The existing master bedroom heat duct is repaired.

An basement ceiling air duct that has been patched.

A new branch is added to the main heating duct in the master bedroom, and properly outputs near the bedroom window.

An basement ceiling air duct branch stemming from the main duct.
An basement ceiling air duct branch ends in an elbow above a window.

My general contractor repairs the hole cut in the main cold air duct and properly installs one that runs through the walls down to the floor. The master bedroom soffit is also rebuilt.

The main duct in a house with a large flap hole cut in it.
A cold air return that has been framed between studs.
A cold air return that has been framed between studs, and a newly framed soffit.

All of this day’s HVAC and carpentry work costs $216.65 in materials.