Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Big Muddy - basement!.

One big concern about the house was the moisture in the basement.  There was mold about 3" deep on a couple of areas and all the sheetrock ceiling had to be removed.  Moisture is fairly easy to detect, but the source takes a bit more study.  We checked the sump pump, walls, and drainage around the house.  The sump was at the west end of the basement and it was determined that a more central location would help.  There is a long, narrow room in the center of the basement that parrallels the upstairs halls as they are the central support walls of a very heavy house.  Moisture in this area could enhance (in addition to mold), so we took action, more action, and really tough action.  The unused room (like most damp areas) had become a storage room filled with cans of paint, lumber, benches, insulation, and all on a floor of plastic and indoor/outdoor carpet.  There was one bare light bulb, so it was tough to see well in the long narrow room.  Your shadow would grow and project onto the walls.  Any movement by a person or object was broadcast on two or three walls.  This was tough, since everyone I had met asked about tunnels, slaves, and ghosts.  Get real!  You spend time in a dark basement of an old home after having read most of Steven Kings's books and I bet that you have apprehensions too.   I carried out everything and was so pumped by listening for noises and watching shadows move that I could go all the way to daylight with a very heavy load.  Man,  it was nice when that room was cleared and we could get DCF electric to add lighting the length of the room. 
     With light, I could see much better and the walls were very stable.  The floor; however, was a mess of wet clay type soil.  It was difficult to tell where the source of water started.  Our first idea was to dig a trench down the middle of the room and have Snyider plumbing install a sump pumb to get the water out of the house.  The pump worked fine, but the clay soil would not pass water from the edges to the center of the room, so the drain tile did not carry enough water to the pump.  Next, I talked with Kieth Baker.   The Spurgeon brothers came to help me excavate the long room by hand to detect the inflow of water.  What a mess.  Each shovelfull of dirt stuck to the shovel like one of those swifter commercials.  You had to bang the blade of the shovel on a board to get 80% of the mud off and just accept the 20% that weighed down the shovel for the next load.  This 28 foot long room had no windows, so we had to carry the mud into the large wonderful room that Bob Crist and Paul Todd had so loved.  Load after load of the sticky stuff went onto the cement floor of their meeting room.  A wheelbarrow of mud on a slick floor is a tough job.  Darren and Aron are strong as well as good natured.  We stumble all over the place in boots that kept getting stuck, but no one fell into the muck.  Finally, about 18" of mud floor was evacuated.  Water flowed from the east wall and out from under the cement floors to the north and south.  The benefit of the clay was that we could scrape a trough toward the sump and the water dutifully flowed that direction.  The room began to dry and the source of the water flows was identified for further action. 
     The mud in the meeting room was another adventure.  Once again, Kieth and the Spurgeon brothers found a solution.  They manufactured a small elevator much like might be used on a farm to take hay to the second floor of a barn.  We stuck it out a window and plugged in the motor.  Zoom, it took off at a high rate of speed throwing mud and rocks out the window and against the inside wall.  We scooped'm up and threw them back on the rolling belt for another shot at the open window.  Since we let the mud dry a bit on the concrete floor, it was not as sticky this time.  If you read the next episode (blog), I will tell you some of the discoveries that we unearthed.

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