Diverting water away from the basement.

Keeping water out of the basement is our top priority in 2016. One contributor to this has been the eroding soil in our side yard that has been directing water TOWARDS our foundation, beneath our deck.

After looking at our finances, we can only afford one major repair, so we’ve decided to re-grade a portion of the yard. This will also mean replacing the rotting deck. The remaining landscaping will have to wait until a later date.

Wires stuffed under baseboards!

While cleaning up our demolished basement, Amáda discovers some wires stuffed under the baseboards, never properly run through the framing! These wires connect the ceiling lighting.

Ultimately, the basement needs drain tile and a sump pump to deal with the flooding issues we experienced in 2014. However, the basement remained dry throughout 2015. Considering that we can only afford one project this year, we decide to focus on the soil grade beneath our deck and leave the basement unfinished for the time being.

Because we were uncertain of our repairs timeframe, we had been keeping all of our furniture on the upper level, away from the demolition and construction work. Today, we know that the construction will not resume for at least another year, so we move some of the furniture back into the basement.

This frees-up lots of space in the upper level, including the dining room and a bedroom.

Oh deer.

Today while driving on the highway, we hit a deer. Fortunately, we were not hurt. But this means a major financial setback during house repairs. We simply lost our gamble against time.

Prior to the accident, this was the only mechanically-sound vehicle in our family. While the body damage looks minimal, the radiator and air conditioner condenser are bent and have broken free of their mounts. Considering the age and resale value of the car, insurance companies consider it “totalled”, and not worth repairing. Unfortunately, we cannot afford a new vehicle AND house repairs. Therefore, we must make minimal mechanical repairs to this car in order to keep working on the house in 2016. It is maddening that we have to make this hard choice with our finances while the flipper bears no responsibility for the damages to our home.

Measuring the yard grade

It’s time to address the yard grade problem, which is directing water towards our foundation. The deck will also need to be removed, as it is rotten and not to code anyway.

I begin by constructing a mason line grid. These strings are level with the next door neighbor’s yard, illustrating how much much of a grade and erosion we need to deal with. There is nearly a 5′ elevation difference between our yards!

Amáda and I work together to take measurements throughout the grid. This will help us calculate the amount of landscaping materials we will need for a retaining wall project.

Unfinished, but functional.

Today, the plumber returned to connect the toilet and shower in our unfinished basement bathroom.

We do not have enough money to repair our entire basement in the foreseeable future. However, the new pipes have been ready to use for over a year, and there is no reason not to hook up the fixtures, if only temporarily.

We can finally remove those Post-It Notes!

I demolished my old deck and found a surprise

We begin demolishing the old deck to address the underlying grade problems and find something we never expected.

Not only was the old deck rotten, it was also built out of code. There were no beams, and most of the joists were set directly on the ground without any footings!

Thanks to Amáda’s Tetris skills, all of the framing pieces were able to nest together and fit into just one Bagster!

Where a deck attaches to a house, a ledger is supposed to be anchored to the house framing. Whoever built this deck had lightly nailed a ledger directly on top of the siding, providing no structural support at all!

What’s more, we found this window hidden beneath the deck! It is covered with drywall in the basement. We had no idea it was there!

With the deck removed, our suspicions were correct. There is evidence of erosion, directing water towards the foundation. This has been contributing to flooding in our basement and needs to be corrected.

Plotting the deck footings

I erected some batterboards and mason lines to plot out the location of the new deck footings.

Drilling the footing holes

Amáda transfered the mason line points to the ground and marked them for drilling.

Together, we spent the next 4 hours working with this large 2-man power auger.

In the hard clay soil, the torque and weight of the machine were too much for us. We called in some friends for help relieve our backs.

Jonathan Ford and Bri Kershner, Brian and Cynthia Welchin, Jeff Hansen and Shelly Sadowski, and Brian Kisch all pitched in for another 3 hours to help us finish drilling the footing holes to their 48″ depth just as the sun set. We absolutely could not have done it without them.

Pouring the deck footings

I framed and placed the concrete forming tubes into the footing holes for the new deck. Some of the footings will be taller, since we are raising the grade near the house foundation. This was approved by the our local building inspector.

Amada and I mixed over 3000lbs of concrete and carefully filled each forming tube.

Later, I used the mason lines and a plumb bob to mark the placement of the J-bolts for the deck posts.

Rotten plywood beneath overhang

I demolish some loose soffit panels and rotten plywood on our foundation overhang. It will need to be replaced.

Meanwhile, 8 cubic yards of dirt are delivered. We will use this to back-fill the footprint of our deck and re-grade the yard so that rain water diverts away from the house foundation.