Brooke here. I’ll eventually get back to the bathroom posts, but right now we’re all kinds of furious so you might as well enjoy the ride.
So. Long-time readers will remember we’ve been having nothing but problems with drainage on the west side of the house. Despite the previous owners’ insistence that they had installed “French drains,” the basement flooded fairly regularly. Last year we found the culprit: they did not install French drains. Instead, they installed plastic tubes with bags of rocks piled on top of them. Why didn’t we realize this earlier? Well, when we bought the house, the west side looked a little like this:
One of the first chores was to take down the bushes, which gave us some visibility but ended up making the house look barren and sad:
At this point, we were so busy fixing the other areas of the property that we still hadn’t gone digging around in the thick mess of ivy carpeting the ground where the bushes once were. Had we done that, we probably wouldn’t have waited two years to tackle the drainage because holy gosh darn the west side had gone to utter ruin. Over the last two weeks, Brown and I have ripped out tons–literal tons–of ivy. Underneath it, we have found some of the worst kludges and half-an-hour DIY “Honey, it’s done!” bullcrap you can imagine.
First, the drainage issue. The bottom tube comes off of the sump pump, but it isn’t a fixed plastic tube. It’s weeping tile, which is full of little holes to let water pass in and out. Yes, you are technically supposed to use weeping tile off of your sump outlet. No, you are not supposed to leave it free-floating in space where all of the water removed from via the sump pump drains right back into the same area of the soil, which then goes down into the ground, only to get sucked out by the sump again. Think of a septic system eating its own tail. Or don’t. Yeah. Scratch that. Don’t.
Next, the drain itself was chucked on top of the ground. There was no channel, no path. So there were areas like this:
When we pulled up the tubes, there were gallons of standing, stinking water resting in the low points. And it was like this the entire length of the house.
We got extremely lucky. We get the property treated for termites each spring, but if the ground story wasn’t brick, we’d be screwed. The wood window sills on the lowest level are wrecked. I was using a leaf blower to clean out the last of the leaf litter, and chunks off of the wood sills literally blew away from the force of the air.
But the all-time greatest discovery was the air conditioner. I was digging out the eight-foot pit (more on this later) when Brown says: “Honey?”
Now, when we’re working on a project together, I automatically flinch when I hear him say this. I’ve developed this deeply-conditioned reflex because “Honey?” is usually followed by some version of the phrase, “several hundred dollars”. So I cautiously look towards him, and he says, “I don’t think they bolted down the air conditioner.”
“Why do you say that?” I ask him.
In reply, he picks up the air conditioner.
“And that’s not all,” he says. “Come take a look at this.”
I did, and Brown shows me how they had leveled the floating A/C platform with a brick.
Now instead of digging a nice little retaining wall system with a real French drain, we first have to remove and level an air conditioner. Oh, and the previous owners just painted over wood rot. I lifted up one of the gutters to clean out the ivy, and the gaily-painted green wood dissolved. Just… it was there, and then it wasn’t. Dust in the leaf blower.
We’re not spending any time in the Weeping Closet, but we’re practically living in the Fury Hole.