Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Owning an Old House is Not For the Faint of Heart

This afternoon, I wanted a can of black spray paint for some touchup work on a wrought iron rail, so off to the basement I trotted, leaving my dearly beloved blissfully sitting in the kitchen, contemplating the Wall Street Journal.

From the basement: "Um, honey, could you come here? And you had
better bring Jeffrey."

It was raining. From the ceiling. 5 feet in from the foundation. (In
sert appropriate expletive here). Jeff got his favorite tool, the 10 pound sledgehammer, and attacked the ceiling. The parents went upstairs and disassembled the corner of the front room, then took apart the central air ductwork from upstairs. Well, my house is a Norman Chateau, and the first floor is only about 8" off the ground. Turns out that an arbor vitae's roots are growing over the foundation into my basement. Crap! Fortunately, the sill on which the framing rests is a massive piece of oak, so Jeffrey has employment for a while. He'll be digging up the shrub bed near the foundation at the front of the house, scrubbing it, and stuccoing it with waterproof cement, followed by a coating of white stucco. Well, he learned some masonry during high school, and claims to like it, so here's his chance to practice.

Well, this is the mess in my basement ceiling:
Yes, that is a stone foundation, as in rocks. It's left over from the first house at this location, built around the Civil War.

But, as you can see, 1928 construction methods were quite solid. This is the underside of my sub flooring: maple flooring laid at an angle, with tongue and groove sides. If you look real hard, you can see the tree roots coming in at the far side of the photo.

And, I comfort myself that this is easy by comparison to the mess along the mighty Mississippi. I remember the floods in 1993; we hurried to get back east of the river, and they closed the bridge at St. Louis less than 2 hours after I crossed it. The water was so wide and so close to the decking as I drove across that it was scary, and I don't scare easily. I hope for the best for those people in flooded areas this time around.


Paula said...

Oh gee, I bet you were *thrilled* when you discovered your indoor fountain. Aren't they all the rage these days? Seriously, though, what a pain. Whenever I start a sentence to my husband with the words "um, honey", it usually means "Uh Oh". Jeffrey sure is a handy guy ... lawns,landscaping, construction repair. Any chance he'd want to relocate to the Pacific Northwest? I just placed a call today to my "help me fix this" guy to come help me tackle some big projects.

Debbie Cook said...

Crud. Not a fun discovery. But I suppose the up side is you did find it before it got much worse. Good luck with the repairs and the inconvenience.