Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Our Journey With A Leaky Basement Part I

Houses are funny things, containing so much of our lives and yet so temporary and odd in their own way. We buy them and work hard to make them reflect who we are...but they, or we, can be gone or partially destroyed in the wink of an eye. They are also curious in how they can look so different when empty or when things are moved around and "out of place". And the longer someone resides in a home the more settled in things are, and the more shocking it looks when a room is emptied, or the house is changed in some way.

I write all this as a crew is turning part of our home into what looks like a scene from Breaking Bad. They are creating a "negative air" environment in our basement, to prevent mold spores and foul air from escaping and entering the rest of our home. Heavy plastic is going up, effectively sealing 1/3 of our basement off from the rest of the house. Zipper doors are included with this plastic blanket and they make this odd sound that really does feel eerie. Of course, it happens to be an important 1/3 of our basement, housing two bedrooms and a bathroom. We've been scurrying to get clothes and furniture and knick knacks moved out of the rooms and it seems to multiply like rabbits as we are moving it! What was once tidy belongings in a 12 year-old girls room are now piles upon piles of things I'm not sure I've ever even seen!

On Christmas morning we discovered standing water in the downstairs bathroom. We thought it was possibly a line backup or a leaking toilet.  We'd been smelling musty air off and on but couldn't find the source and it seemed like it was just perhaps another benefit of living in an old home.  But after cleaning up the water and watching more water seep in from under the wall, we knew something else must be happening, something much worse than a clogged sewer line. I immediately called our Homeowners insurance company and the young lady on the other end was surprisingly pleasant and helpful for someone having to work on Christmas, but issued a warning that almost slipped my consciousness, "just know that we cannot accept any liability until it is determined where the water is coming from". It took until Monday to get the restoration crew in and permission from our adjuster for them to pop some access holes into the walls to try and determine the source of the leak.  Much to all of our consternation, we can't figure out where the water is coming from.  Although highly unlikely for this time of year, it could be groundwater seeping into the foundation (it is about 5 degrees F outside and the ground is frozen like a brick).  It could be a slow leak form a pipe somewhere with water gathering at a low point in the foundation. It could be  aleak around a window, again unlikely.  Adding to the mess is the fact our basement was finished around 1980 originally and so everything has to be tested for asbestos before any removal or other work can begin.

So begins our dinner of eating an elephant...one bite at a time.