Day 98-99 – ♫ We all live in a yellow (brick) submarine… ♫

Another long time since the last update, but a lot has happened – we have moved into a bedroom! As we last left off at the end of January, we were putting the finishing touches on putting up the drywall in the front bedroom. Well, we certainly did that:

We also added a (very) quick skim coat of tape and mud so that we didn’t have to stare at screw holes for the next X months that we camp out in the upstairs bedroom, after moving our bed and desk up here:

This is very much a psychological trick we are intentionally playing on ourselves. We have not seen “complete” walls in our house in months and now get the pleasure of seeing a “finished” wall that doesn’t have holes in it. To my hard-eyed critics out there: I am aware that I didn’t actually cover the seams in the above picture and I will fix this later when I have more time to sand and go over it with my larger drywall knife that I bought halfway through completing this work. (I swear. :))

We decided against sanding this first coat right now for two reasons: first, it would create a ton of dust in an environment that we’re already fighting dust in. Second, it would take away time from us moving our bed out of the dining room, studs, and dust and into the nice “drywalled” upstairs bedroom. So, we put down our cardboard, drop-cloth, and just moved in:

I also installed part of my first data socket – and hooked up the first wire to actually carry data (in fact, this whole internet post has been transferred over it!) This is the coaxial cable we now currently use for Internet, that goes right down to the basement, and out of the stationary plate we had made on the exterior of our house:

We then spent the next little while to move our bedroom upstairs and shift the rest of our house around to fill in the hole downstairs. Right on the heels of that. we had an international visitor from overseas come to visit and take a tour of the project and our very lovely surrounding area that we live in! It was very exciting and we had a great time – thank you for visiting!

While we were doing all of this, the weather in Southern Ontario warmed up (rapidly) and our basement floor was suddenly… wetter… than we have ever seen it before:

You may notice the small stream of water in the first picture, and the general dampness in the centre of the floor in the second, which tells us that this is a general water table problem and not a burst pipe on a neighbour’s property or something equally crazy.

This brings us to our next issue: what to do about the basement. For months, we have been debating on how to frame the basement walls — so we can spray foam them, run electrical wires, pipes, and finally hang objects on the walls (like hot water heaters, electrical panels, etc.) that we need to have in order to finish the rest of the house. We have long debated a “just frame it” approach, with a foam gasket on the bottom on the current cement, and just applying spray foam directly to the foundation to hold any water back. This would be essentially a “who cares” attitude about water control (no visible water is good, right?).

Well, I think the empirical evidence has now been collected for this experiment: this is a terrible idea for anyone that owns a fieldstone foundation! The water will simply find other ways to get into your house if you do not have any kind of weeping tile system (which we don’t – either exterior or internal) via ground water seepage to… wherever the water can find a way in. I have seen first-hand installations, have heard professional installers recommending this, and have searched and read many web forums with first-hand accounts of it “being absolutely fine”, and had been convinced myself that this would be okay for us too – I now thoroughly disagree! You absolutely need to do something about water control and cannot “just” spray foam over the fieldstone!

Of course, what to specifically do about our problem is another question entirely. The solution is going to be cost and time related, for sure. When houses of this era were originally built, fieldstone foundations didn’t have any formal weeping tile system. Instead, they are usually specifically packed with different layers of sand, dirt, gravel and stone to form a rough “natural drain” against the stone itself. Any remaining water that runs through the foundation rock via static pressure is to “wick off” the bare basement walls in the interior basement naturally. Of course, this system is not actually waterproof, so if the water comes through the wall rapidly (due to a higher-than-usual water table because it’s been so hot that the ground does not retain moisture… hmmm…), you have a large problem on your hands.

I’m guessing back in the day when people didn’t use basements for living spaces, this probably wouldn’t have been the biggest issue. Particularly if it was a dirt floor (okay, maybe it was a mud floor for a few months — not a problem: wear boots.) However, with the advent of furnaces, hot water heaters, washer/dryers, and water softeners, the basement is no longer just for cold storage – it needs to be functional. Cemented (to keep down radon levels in your home) and functional.

Since the foundation is “specially packed” on the exterior with rock, we have a narrow space between ourselves and our neighbour, and we have two decks currently attached to our house, we have decided that exterior excavation of the foundation is not possible. It would be far too costly, far too destabilizing to the foundation, and far too labour-intensive to make it happen. As a Toronto residence has recently learned, needlessly endangering your foundation is a very bad idea.

Not that the alternative is much better: run an interior weeping tile system to a sump pump and pump any water out. We’re now faced with putting drainage board all around the perimeter to bring it down into a dug out trench around the walls, to a weeping tile sock that leads to a sump pump. We could probably do this without too much damage to the basement, except for the fact that the original cement job is uneven and barely an inch thick:

… so we’re going to end up taking it all out anyway and do it again. It will be easier when laying down the new cement, as we can hopefully use self-levelling cement at that point, and digging the trench will be easier. We will be taking out the old cement with this:

Past doing that (easy? brutal?) work though, we will definitely have to call for professional help to get our basement in order. We haven’t given up hope yet though! Next up should be some more pocket door framing upstairs and hopefully some HVAC work if I can ever get on top of ordering the parts…

[ Day 98-99’s Gallery ]

– Jeff

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