Archive for October, 2004

Trick or…mumble mumble

Sunday, October 31st, 2004

Having lived in either an apartment or a condo for the last 10 years, I haven’t given out Halloween candy in ages, so I was really looking forward to doling out the goodies today (even though we didn’t so much as have a pumpkin outside for decoration). We had about 140 pieces of candy to give out: we started at 3:30 and by 6:00 we were completely out.

Now I guess I’m just Halloween-Naive, but I expected lots of little kids escorted by their parents. What I didn’t expect were: The teenagers who couldn’t be bothered to stop talking on their cell phones as they stuck their swag-bags in my face; the parents trick-or-treating (actually asking for candy!) along with their kids; the “ring the doorbell 12 or 15 times” morons.

Maybe 40% of the kids that came to the door remembered to say “Thank you”, and a few of them seemed downright annoyed that they had to trek all. the. way. up our front steps just to gather their candy. I didn’t need any costume help to be the Cranky Old Curmudgeon.

The Move-In Prep begins

Sunday, October 31st, 2004

We purchased a whole carload of stuff for the house this weekend–our first load of “Household Items” like bathroom towels, rugs and hardware, shelf liner and rugs for the kitchen, and a bewildering array of other odds and ends that you just wind up having to buy when you move into a new home. We even got an awesome big ole front door mat for folks to wipe their feet on.

M. spent the bulk of today straightening and cleaning up the main floor of the house and lining the kitchen cabinets. She put all our purchases away, put some rugs down, and got the powder room and kitchen reassembled since we’re finally done with the painting.

Oh, and she relocated all the tools and junk that I left lying all over the Dining Room and Kitchen to the basement where they belong, so that helped considerably. While it’s not a home yet, it’s starting to look a little less like a cavern/garage/dump and a little more like we could actually live here.

More Flammable Fun

Sunday, October 31st, 2004

The storage closet in the Southwest corner of the basement turned out to be the home of a delightful mix of flammable goodies, including: Paint stripper (the really nasty Methylene Chloride stuff), Polyurethane, some miscellaneous paint, bug killer, weed killer, and a few othert toxic gems. Is it really that hard to get rid of these things, people? The wards in our city have an “Amnesty Day” every year when you can dispose of hazardous materials like this without paying a penalty–you’ve just got to cart it over to the disposal site.

For now, it’s off to the garage with the lot of it–I just want it out of my house.

Further Misadventures in the Basement

Sunday, October 31st, 2004

After being out of town for a week, I thought I was ready to tackle the basement again. Well, little did I know that the basement was ready for me–just lying in wait.

I started off by running through the rafters in the back half of the basement with the Shop-Vac. This was the same drill that I did in the front half of the basement a few weeks ago:

  • Strap on my trusty respirator and a pair of goggles.
  • Attach the hose to the outtake of the vacuum–basically creating a huge concentrated air blower.
  • Run the hose over every crack and crevice in the ceiling at point blank range.
  • Watch the tons of dust and crap that come falling out of the rafters.

I don’t know for sure what it was that came out of the ceiling boards–it’s mostly fine white powder and some white grainy stuff, but M. suspects that it’s the plaster dust from when the original plaster basement ceiling was demolished years ago.

Back to the basement bathroom. While I finished ripping out the bottom bits of that, I decided to take some time to rip out the panelling on the North wall of the basement, West of the bathroom. This turned out to be an adventure, but in the end, it yielded only small surprises.

So we started with something like this:

Your typical panelled room, right? Removing the panelling revealed sheetrock over some simple framing. Here’s what that looked like (with some of the sheetrock already removed).

And after I removed the sheetrock and some of the framing, I was left with the original basement wall:

That’s the original foundation, which exhibits some small cracks as well as signs of efflorescence (not as bad as I expected), and the original plaster wall above (which has a small bit of water damage at the bottom). So the foundation along here (and presumably the rest of the North wall) is going to need some patching and some painting, but only after we rip out the driveway, expose the foundation, and seal and repair the outside first. From what I’ve been told, just fixing the inside is only going to hide the problem.

The Rain Comes Down… and In

Saturday, October 23rd, 2004

A pretty decent storm rolled in last night and has been pelting us with a fair amount of rain. M. and I went over to the house this morning, and right off the bat noticed an unusual pattern of wetness on the front steps. Sure enough, water is dripping from the middle of the beadboard ceiling on the front porch (which is thankfully outside and not inside). Porch roof leaking: check.

Off to a good start! I decided to give the house a once over to see if we were in for any more surprises. First off, I found a small (3″x8″) puddle at the foot of the basement stairs–some seepage had come in through the basement wall and then through the secondary concrete block wall (the front half of the basement is encased in concrete block–I have no idea why). The second leak was a small bit of dampness to the left of the toilet in the basement bathroom that I just ripped out.

The real problem here is that this side of the house (the North side) is where the driveway is, and the driveway has settled in a manner that causes it to grade towards the house instead of away from it. M. and I fiddled with the downspouts and did the best we could to point the water as far from the house as possible.

Ah well.

We managed to get the last 3 sets of shelves assembled for the southeast basement storage room, so now we’ve got a nice storage room with 5 sets of shelves with 6 shelves each. I’m so looking forward to having real storage space.

After wrapping up our assemblage, we noted with some satisfaction that, even though it hadn’t stopped raining, the water spots in the basement haven’t gotten any worse, so until we can rip out the driveway, reseal the foundation, and replace the driveway, we’ve just got to make sure that we keep the downspouts away from the house.

Breaking the Mold

Thursday, October 21st, 2004

Tonight, M. took scrub brush, squeegee, bleach, and Pine Sol to the front storage areas in the basement (under the front steps and the sun porch). Looking at the floors, you’d guess they were pretty clean, but after seeing the black water in her bucket, you might want to revise that guess.

While she took on the storage rooms, I donned a a full-on respirator and neoprene gloves and took on the mold in the bathroom.

Here’s what it looked like when I started:

I started by prying the tiles off of the wall near the floor behind the toilet. I worked my way upward until I found no more mold, and then removed another two rows just for good measure–this took me to about 18 inches off the floor. Then I ripped out the sheetrock as well–near the floor it was so soft that it just crumbled off in my fingers, as did the baseboard and the boards that it was nailed to. This area was obviously really badly damaged. I worked my way around the bathroom in this manner, and after filling three contractors garbage bags (which are pricey, but totally, worth it), I was pretty much done. Here’s what it looked like when I was done:

So I’ve finished the job for now (getting the moldy bits out), but the rest of the bathroom has to go eventually since a) I don’t want a bathroom here and b) the bottom of the framing is rotten.

The entire area that I had just demolished was bone dry–M. and I both agreed that the moldy sheetrock and the beetly wood (remember the wood beetles) was damaged a long time ago. It looks like the basement has been dry for a while (well, at least 4 or 5 months I’d guess).

At the advice of several websites, I didn’t use any water or bleach or anything in the cleanup–I did it all dry, and swept up afterward with a small brush and some sweeping compound (another awesome thing to have around when you have a basement). I’m guessing that using water (even if it’s in a bleach solution) may possibly cause the mold to spore and spread around the basement. I don’t know for sure, but eventually, I’ll be carefully sweeping the area again and give it the bleach treatment once I get the rest of the wood out of there–when I’m done I don’t want anything but concrete left.

M. just finished scrubbing the storage rooms, and wow can you tell the difference! I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a fan of finished basements–I firmly believe that a basement should be a storage area and work area. Just because it’s not finished doesn’t mean it’s gotta be a dusty catacomb. 🙂 We’ll get the rest of the basement scrubbed before moving in ’cause I don’t want to be tracking that dirt into the house. Ick.


Tuesday, October 19th, 2004

I finished putting the fourth (and final) coat of paint on the kitchen tonight. After I finished, I went downstairs to check out how the basement’s doing. Turns out, now that the basement’s reasonably swept out and the radiators are on, I can smell mold in the basement bathroom.

First, a little bit about the basement bathroom:

It doesn’t look like it’s been used in a million years. The toilet is stuffed with a rag and bone dry. The sink is an old cast iron sink that’s horribly etched due to a faucet that’s probably leaked since Truman was president. And it’s tiled with pink and green plastic tile

It seems like it’s only half of the bathroom that it used to be… there’s the remnants of a shower outside of the doors, and obvious signs of half-finished demolition around the edges. Basically, it’s a dump after years of neglect and I knew from the moment I saw it that it had to go–I just didn’t think it would have to go this soon.

At some point in the past, this side of the basement got some “seepage” caused by, I can only presume, the reverse grading of the driveway outside and a gutter that didn’t drain far enough away from the house. We knew this when we bought the house, but the basement has always had a dry “feel” to it, and I’ve never smelled mold before.

So I grabbed my putty knife and pried a few tiles off next to the toilet, and sure enough, there’s mold:

I have no idea how far to the left or right it goes, or how bad it is under the other tiles, but having seen enough TV shows where toxic mold has swallowed some poor schmuck’s house whole, I have to say that I’m pretty freaked out by it. I half expect to come back to the house tomorrow and find some mold monster engulfing half the basement.

I really need to stop watching TV.

Basement Abatement

Saturday, October 16th, 2004

S. and I finally finished cleaning the rest of the furring strips and trash out of the basement and gave it a good sweeping. After flushing the basement drains with some scalding hot water and Pine-Sol, the basement’s starting to look and smell like liveable area. I still need to clean out the rafters in the back side of the basement, but I’m sure that I won’t get to that for a few more weeks.