It Rains, Sometimes

We eschewed suburbia. We scorned modern construction techniques. Sure, improvements have been made, we said. Haughty in our innocence. Safe in the gentle blanket of naiveté. Screw cookie cutter, we want personality. Houses last forever. “It’s been around more than 50 years we cried,” willing the heavens to listen, for the heavens sometimes do, I’m told. “It must last for 50 more at least,” we shouted this last bit to the sky. When our words returned, we took the echoes to mean they’d been heard. We took them as a blessing. We should have known, though, D. and I, that the our voices were simply mirroring back from the empty walls of a deserted sky and there would be no help from above.

sad umbrella

The old stories often center on this theme. On hubris, on errors of judgement, on misreading some sign or another. These stories have morals, too. Often of eternal pain or worse. Of Sisyphean tasks. And that is where Wednesday evening found D. and I at 11:45pm. Crouching in the black drizzle, grasping pots with numb fingers and bailing murky water out from our window wells.

Apparently, 50 years ago, when it rained for 36 hours, your window wells flooded and the water, subsequently,  entered the basement by way of window. And so it still is today. We already had suspicions about the drainage at one of the corners of the house. That corner was shifty, up to no good, we thought. And, unlike my fears of sharks and bears, this one proved a clear, obvious and imminent danger.

The plus side, you ask? Well, I, Captain Fucking Sunshine, am nothing but plus sides, they’re all I ever see. Seriously, it gets obnoxious sometimes when people are all “Hey, Captain Fucking Sunshine, can you see the downside to this thing over here?” And I’m always all “Nope. Just sunshine and plus sides over here, buddy!” Anyway, D. and I have been looking for an excuse to spend a little time outside doing domestic-y crap like gardening and regrading slopes and whatnot. But with all the interior projects (kitchen, bathroom, basement) we couldn’t justify the time. Now we have a great excuse. Bam. Plus side. Gardening in the sun with amazing girl from California for company… and to do the heavy lifting, because, let’s face it, Captain Fucking Sunshine is a bit frail.Happy cloud

Now, back to the window wells.

Really?

We’d finally scraped together enough money to replace the damaged kitchen floor when they came: aliens from outside, destruction and misery their only goals. The dreaded termites.

I’m assuming that wasps and termites don’t speak the same language. Otherwise, the single cautionary, wounded hornet we allowed to crawl out the back gate after last summer’s “Assault on Nest 13” would surely have told the termites this: Bees, non-bitey spiders, and the sundry other unharmful bugs and insects native to Colorado are welcome around our plot. Everything else with an exoskeleton will be terminated with extreme prejudice.

I didn’t know we even had termites in Colorado. And frankly, this isn’t a swell time for them to stop by. We’ve been pretty busy over at the pit and a little broke, too, what with the 35 consecutive construction projects. So I thought, briefly, about the low-effort,low-cost alternative of burning their little wood-eating-bastard houses to the ground, salting the earth and storing toxic waste over top, just to be sure. However, since we all share the same general residence at this point, and I’d hate to accidentally grow some 30-foot mutant termites (THEM!) we’re going to pursue other avenues… for now. So far we’ve narrowed our options down to a pet anteater or an exterminator, and I’m leaning towards nibbles.

Update

BaxterSo, if you’re one of the several people who read the first batch of posts about the Pit, you probably noticed that there hasn’t been any activity on this site in months. I suppose this would be a terrific time to regale you with a story of either monumental progress (we’ve been so busy finishing everything that I didn’t have time to write about it), or of suspense, disaster, and abduction (perhaps kidnapped in Paris? I’ve always wanted to see Paris…). But alas, the truth lies closer to the dark, horrifying recesses of remodel hell than the plot of True Lies.

We did, in fact, get very busy, but first we lost power and internet, which was expected, since commencement of the electrical retrofit left a darkened house with just one working electrical outlet and a tangled nest of extension cords for power. That was supposed to last for a few weeks and, sadly, we only have about 38% of our outlets and lights installed and functioning, something like five months later. That was less expected. There’s a moral here having something to do with contractors, but I’m not really in a good place about it, so I’ll refrain from an attempt at levity as I’m sure the punchline would be so expletive-laden that it would even offend this foul-mouthed homemaker (homemaker being a polite word for ass).

The retrofit was a near-monumental project involving a new panel, service and entirely new wiring throughout the house to bring everything to current code. Much like every other project we’ve undertaken, it turned out to be a lot more work than we thought. It required destroying a lot of drywall, too (treat). Anyway, we currently have power in three of the four bedrooms, including the office where I’m sitting, ensconced in the warm light of a halogen work lamp, as the ceiling fixture isn’t working (expletives, like I said). We also have a smattering of outlets and lights in the living/dining/kitchen areas. These little touches have helped The Girl, D. acclimate, I think, which is important because:

Dana (the Girl) moved in. From California. To live with me. In Colorado. In a house without a kitchen. This was a big step for me. And probably an even bigger one for her, but, thankfully, my latent narcissism has always shielded me from any highly wrought emotions. Or from anyone else’s anyway. She’s currently telecommuting back to California so the pressure was on, not only to improve the livability somewhat, but also to complete the office, or at least to seal the window-holes with, you know, windows and to supply telecommute essentials like electricity and the internet. Those critical tasks were completed just prior to her arrival and, to bring everyone up to speed, here are some other highlights from the interim:

We completed the laundry room/satellite dishwashing annex, reframed  the entire basement along with several kitchen walls, replaced nearly all the ridiculous windows and doors, fixed a foundation issue or three, cut about a billion holes for the electrical wiring, patched about half of them back up, learned how to cook almost anything on a two-burner camp stove, built a desk, changed the kitchen design 7 times (having finally settled on one just last night), and realized how completely and utterly over our heads we are. Dana and Bob So, it has been slow and a little painful, but hey look at that. Home.

Fencey

I’ll be honest here, I actually agonized over this. This being a six foot long fence at the side of the pit. It needed a fence because the narrow gravel side yard was dying to become a dog run for the monsters (Baxter and Duffy). Who, incidentally, really wanted a place to “run” and occasionally crap.

It needed to be 5 feet tall, because the neighbor’s fence on that side is 5 feet tall and anyway, Baxter can jump over a 4 foot fence. The agony stemmed from a desire for a modern aesthetic that would mesh with our future landscaping, and the impressively limited fence budget. Horizontal cedar planks ($1.30 ea.) were the compromise from ipe (a gorgeous, expensive and weather-resistant hardwood).

The run was cleaned and graded. The side of the house was stripped of all climbing vines (a shitload of work there), the fence built, and the run was completed. The girl, D. helped, a lot.

And here it is again, at night, just after it was finished. The dogs seem to like it, too.

If My House Kills Me…

Board and Batt

The board and batt paneling in the basement had to go. It was made from 60 year old rough-sawn pine planks in various sizes, once faux-painted to resemble worn, gray barnwood, and later spray-painted white in a half-assed attempt to modernize and brighten. While it was nice and bright, the white paint did nothing to cover up the nasty. It was quaint in a bad way, bits of it were split or rotting, and I needed to get to bare walls in order to run the new electrical through to the rest of the house. The plan is to replace it with drywall (or maybe beadboard) for a simple, updated look.

Bad board

I found the note on the backside of one of the planks. I may never know if this was a deal that someone else made (I hope it was for something good), or a simple, if not forgotten, reminder. “Note to self, make a deal with the devil”. Though I’ll have to admit, the inside of a wall seems like an odd place to leave oneself a note. It’s possible, though unlikely, that it is actually a note from the devil, to me. Though for maximum devilish creepy effect, he would probably have put my name on it. Maybe that’s too obvious for the devil, though, Maybe the Devil’s all about subtlety these days.

As I removed the remaining paneling and firring across an entire basement wall, we noticed something else: there’s no insulation. Not a little bit, anywhere in the entire basement. You can see a little daylight in a couple of spots, even. This doesn’t bode particularly well for the rest of the house and it really doesn’t bode well for winter. Something like 300+ sq ft of single-pane windows with only bricks and mortar for insulation? Shit. The plan has always been to replace the windows, and since we’ve gotta re-build the basement anyway, it’s pretty manageable to build the new walls a bit thicker and insulate behind. Upstairs is a bit trickier, though, as I was hoping not to damage most of that drywall. And of course, insulation isn’t free.

This weekend also saw the discovery of some bad water pipes, a leaking spigot, and water shut-off valve that’ll all need to be repaired/replaced ASAP, too. That deal is starting to look pretty good, actually. Do you think he’s still in for souls and firstborn children, or is it more like a loanshark thing? I wonder how bad the points are.