Friday, August 20, 2010

Wet Basement Adventures

Let me tell you a story about our basement... First, we love our basement. It's nice, spacious, unique, and a fun place to hang out. However, we've had the occasional problem with water. Usually this showed up below our chimney, which happens to be the wall between our family room and the furnace room. During a really big storm, we might see some water show up in the furnace room, and maybe a little wetness in the carpet on the other side of the wall. Not much usually, and it would dry up and we never thought much of it until one day we came downstairs to find these:

Yes, those are mushrooms. Big, brown mushrooms growing in our carpet. I even found mold growing up the wooden leg of an ottoman out in the middle of the room. We knew there was some water damage there but never realized the extent of the problem. Our mission was clear, the mushrooms must die ASAP, but not until they could be properly examined by water damage professionals. We were preparing to go on vacation for a week and didn't relish the thought of these things growing down here for another week until we got back. We ended up calling a couple cleanup companies to see if we could get it cleaned up right away. There were some delays as we figured out that nothing was covered under insurance. One company looked over the whole basement with an infrared camera and could see water in the walls as high as 6 feet around the affected area, but otherwise the rest of the basement was dry. Metro Restoration, the company we ended up going with, helped us feel better about leaving for a week and sprayed everything with a disinfectant when they came out to inspect the basement. This killed the mushrooms right away, and by the time we came back from vacation they were shriveled up and black. Thank goodness for that, and thank goodness for subscribing to Angie's List, which made finding good contractors a great experience.

Shortly after we came home we had the water damaged material ripped out of the wall, and had all the carpet in the room removed as well. What we found was a likely culprit... the "ash pit door" which is where you would clean out ashes dropped down from a wood-burning fireplace. Our fireplace has since been converted to gas, so this door was concealed behind sheetrock. All the water was centered around this door. While we've essentially lost the family room for awhile, at least the nasty stuff has been properly cleaned up and we can move on with finding solutions. As an aside, we could tell that previous owners had fun down here. We found hopscotch courses and children's names painted on the floor, and chalk drawings on the block wall.

At this point we didn't know if water was coming down the chimney, and finding it's way down due to a roofing or flashing problem. We had people look at it, and we even went outside during a rainstorm to look at the chimney area. The most telling thing we saw was water dripping off the underside of the gutters (but not overflowing as far as I could tell) in front of our chimney, and hitting the ground right next to the chimney foundation. We also noticed that some of the landscaping near the house doesn't slope away from the house very well. Our gutters have always been in need of repair... rust, holes, cracks, etc. We've managed to keep them going with caulking in the worst spots, but there's only so much you can do. My dad came up with a good way to test out our theory... run the hose on the ground in front of the chimney. If we see the same results, we know it's not likely a chimney/roofing problem. I turned on the hose and ran it slowly for about an hour, and we saw the same thing we've seen before. I set up my camera for some time-lapse photography to capture the leak:

At this point we've decided to go ahead and fix up the gutters and the water damaged soffits & fascia like we've talked about doing since we moved in. We're also going to fix up the landscaping so water is directed away from the house better. I haven't decided if I want to dig in front of the chimney to look at the foundation, but if we direct water away from it, a foundation crack wouldn't be so much of an issue anyway. The chimney itself has some deteriorating brick above the roofline, but that repair/expense may have to wait, and at least we know it's not the source of our water problem.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Nisswa Family Vacation 2010

We just came home Saturday morning from our annual Nisswa vacation with Beth's family. We've managed to get unpacked and settled back in at home again after a nice relaxing week with the family. Thank you to Beth's parents for making the trip possible.

This was our fourth year at the Good Ol' Days resort in Nisswa on Lower Cullen Lake. The resort has recently changed ownership, so the original husband and wife team that used to run the resort are no longer there. Everything is basically the same... nice amenities, great activities for kids, but it doesn't have quite the personal touch that it used to. Still, we had a great time and enjoyed the beautiful weather. Because of the larger families now we rented two adjoining cabins and opened the door that connects them. Beth and I took a big room upstairs in one of the cabins that had a queen and a twin bed, and space for Nathan's pack and play. It worked out very well for the three of us. This was also the first year I was able to take the whole week off work and didn't have to come home early, which was an added bonus.

Nathan enjoyed his first family vacation, and especially enjoyed playing with and laughing at his cousins, and swimming with Beth and I almost every day. He also seemed to reach some developmental milestones during the week. He slept through the night without needing to eat a few times, started pulling himself up on the couch while sitting in my lap, and started eating solid foods instead of gagging on them. He also started rolling front to back a lot more often than before. We can tell he's starting to getting up on his knees to crawl.

Beth and I brought our golf clubs and managed to get out for a game mid-week. Our first attempt was a bust however. We left during Nathan's morning nap, and drove up to the clubhouse and there were 30+ boys under 12 with their parents all waiting to golf. The guy running the front desk said it would be at least an hour. We figured it must have been some kind of junior golf league. So instead of golfing in the morning we came back and watched our nephew win 2nd place in the Worm Races back at the resort. We went back later that afternoon and got right in for 9 holes at Wild Wedge in Pequot Lakes. This was my first game of golf since my surgery almost 4 months ago, so it would be a test to see what my range of motion was like. Much to my delight, it felt great to golf again. After a little coaching from Beth on my swing, I had some awesome drives. On one hole I even landed on the green 125 yards away with my first shot, and made par for the hole which is rare. It ended up being one of my best games in a long time.

Each family takes at least one night to cook dinner for everyone else. Ann & Mike made us some chicken on the grill covered with bacon and cheese, mashed potatoes, bread, etc. Beth and I made a variety of pizzas (my personal favorite being chicken teriyaki) and foccacia breadsticks. We also hit a couple restaurants while we were there, Rafferty's Pizza and Ganley's, which has two of my mom's prints hanging in their dining room.

We filled the time with lots of activities for the kids, and activities of our own... ladderball, swimming, playing on the beach, playing cribbage, phase 10, fishing, taking walks, touring the lake on a rented pontoon, trying some new beer and sharing homemade wine, and taking advantage of the wireless internet access. I also brought a small hobby electronics project to play with when the kids were sleeping. All in all, it was great week and I look forward to next year.