the tale of the once dry basement that didn't need to be updated...

January 11 was a rainy day.  The ground was frozen along with a thick sheet of ice that laid on top of the ground.  It rained and rained.  We had a waterfall from our gutters in the front and standing water along the back and west facing side of the house.

Jerome had gone to bed early because he needed to wake up at the crack of dawn to get to work and catch the shuttle to downtown Detroit for the Auto Show.  A shuttle that he had organized.

I was watching some TV and decided that before I go to bed, I should check the dehumidifier in the basement and empty it if it was full.

I walked down the stairs to the cellar where the dehumidifier is located when “squish, squish”…WATER!  All soaked into the carpet.  Cold water.

I stood there in disbelief and tried to figure out what to do first.  I noticed a large plastic tub of my mother’s photographs under the Foosball table (don’t judge me! – I just hadn’t had a chance to go through all her photo albums yet).  I grabbed them and got them to high and dry ground.

I walked around and water was seeping in from all over.  Water from the overflowing gutters must have filled the window well and found its way in.

Do I wake up Jerome?  I really didn’t want to.  Maybe I would just turn the light off and figure it out in the morning.  NO!

I went upstairs to wake up Jerome and then we were up for HOURS moving furniture, cutting up carpet, cutting out wet drywall.  We tried using our wetvac which is sort of small.  Once it was filled it would backfire and throw water all over the place.  Cold, dirty, sudsy water.

All night long – shop vac-ing, bringing buckets of water to the utility tub and dumping it, cutting up carpet and pad and drywall, putting it all into large construction garbage bags and hiking them out to the garage to store until garbage day.

I called the insurance company and found out that this is not a covered incident.

Deep breaths.

The following week, we had more thawing of the snow outside and more standing water that was clearly leaking into the basement.  We tried desperately to divert the water using sand bags and quick dam diverters but nothing was working.  

We saw that the neighbors gutter drain was pointed right at our house.  The water from his roof was draining and rushing over the frozen ground, over our hill and directly to our south/west sides of our house.  We asked that he fix that any way he could.  He ended up adding an extension and having it drain to the front of the house.  It would still come on our property but hopefully continue down our hill.

One more week and we starting having waterproofing companies come out to give an estimate and an explanation of the work that needed to be done.  Some were going to fix it from the outside, some from the inside.  We ended up hiring the third and last company that gave an estimate.  They would install a draining system to a sump pump.  The house had never had a sump pump.  We always thought it was because we were on a hill and didn’t need a sump pump.

We discussed that since the place is in ruins, we might as well have a storage closet built that we had been talking about for a little while.  We were talking about it with the waterproofing company to see if they had anyone that would want to come and shore up the walls and build a closet.  They suggested a sub-contractor with whom we met a week or so later.  As it is with all contractors, he came off very friendly and helpful.  As far as a timeline, he suggested that we wait until after our trip in March to close up the walls and build the closets but in the meantime, he would cut out the bottom part of the walls and secure them so that the waterproofing guys could come and do their part.

March 2 is when the waterproofing guys came to begin chopping up the concreate floors to install the drains, clean-outs and install a sump pump.  This would take 2 days.  

During the chopping of the floors, we found that a draining system had already been installed.  It must have been drained to the sewer line and was no longer in working condition.

As usual, we hadn’t prepared the house properly.  We should have put up plastic sheeting over the door openings to the furnace room, storage room and kitchen.  We did none of that and since it was still cold outside, our furnace was busy working and blowing all the cement dust all over the house.  A nice film of dust was everywhere!  I ended up with bronchitis and off of work for three days the week before I was to leave for our 2-week vacation.

Per the invoice, we were to get two sump pump crocks but it was determined that we would only need one.  So, they assured us that they would remove the $400 for the additional crock from what we owed and it would show as a credit on our next statement.

April 10, the sub-contractor started.  We were back from vacation for over a week, my bronchitis was at bay but trying to return – the only thing that we were attending to was a couple of issues with Sparky; a hot spot that he acquired while we were on vacation (something that may have been originally started because of the dust) and a dentist appt to remove 4 of his teeth.  Also, the final part of our Income Taxes that still needed to befilled out and filed.

According to the sub-contractor, it would take 3 days to patch the walls and build the closets.  He showed up on Monday and worked a full day, then late on Tuesday, then a no-show on Wednesday…we texted him asking when he thought it would be completed because we had Modernistic scheduled to clean the ducts on Monday…no answer.  That’s when things really went south with this sub-contractor.

After not receiving return calls or texts and while Jerome had some time to think, he decided that we should fire him.  So, the Sunday after the work had started, after not hearing anything back from the sub-contractor except for a butt-dial, Jerome sent him a text that said that we would like to close out this contract, that the money we gave him upfront was sufficient for the work that was completed.  I started (over)thinking that I should Google how to fire your contractor.  According to the internet, it seems you can’t fire a contractor without a fight, typically in court.  This immediately worried me.  My thoughts raced as to what this guy could do.

Finally, we received a message in return.  His excuse for not getting back with us and for not showing up was that he had gotten into a car accident the morning he was supposed to come out.  With the text, he attached a photo of his truck.  He said hewas in the hospital overnight and was just now able to contact us back.  He told us that we owed him at least another $400, to which Jerome asked him to call and they could discuss it.  He never did.

Eventually, Jerome got the waterproofing company involved and finally with their help, by mid-May we were relieved of his services without owing anything more.

But now, the completion of the basement reno was up to us.  Looking at the contractors work, Jerome thought that there was no way that he only needed one more day to complete the work.  In fact, there was so much poor craftsmanship that Jerome had to go around and make sure everything was plumb.  So much mud that was slopped on all over the place and tape that wasn’t running the line of the corner but instead started in the corner and ended with the tape fully on one wall/drywall piece.  Just shoddy.

Jerome also added cedar planking to the inside of the closets and we installed a wood accent wall where the desk will be located.  Installed new bead board wainscoting, painted (most of) the walls.  Washed the windows and wells.  Painted the floor with Kilz for basement smell control.  We have ordered carpeting and purchased oak treads and risers for the stairs, instead of carpeting the stairs.  Leveling out the stairs was another huge part of the project.

By the time it’s all over, most of the basement walls and floors will be brand spanking new.

We have played with the idea of placing the room on Airbnbthe basement pull out couch for booking purposes for people who have more than 4 in their party.  We would call the area “The Last Resort” and it would only be bookable if the guest has booked one of the other rooms.

But, we’re still not done and don’t think we will be for perhaps another month. We are slow when we do updates and the thing is, we hired this job out because we don’t have time to do absolutely everything – we have other jobs to do during the summer months.  We could have done it ourselves from the beginning, but now it has taken so much longer with all the waiting we had to do and all the turmoil – it was just not worth it.

Also, it took several emails and phone calls for the waterproofing company to credit us the $400 for the crock that was never installed.  Finally, first week of July, it shows as a credit on our statement.  Remember, they did the waterproofing March 2 and 3…4 months to get our money refunded.  Some people may have just given up and I’m pretty sure they hope for that to happen.  Not us.  We always say “if you see a dollar flying down the street, would you go chase it and pick it up?”  YEP, we both would.

What we’ve learned over the years is that if you find a contractor that is reliable, honest and does good work – he is like GOLD and you need to keep him close.  We have a couple in mind that we’ve dealt with in the last few months.  The rest are like a dime a dozen – they are the exact opposite of what you want and cause more issues that necessary.  There are plenty of these folks around – just beware – they are all helpful and friendly when they are bidding for your business.


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