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The Kraken of TWC

Squid's Adventures in Home Renovation Part II

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Last time I left off at having added shelving to the garage which took the life of my first cordless drill. After that it was time to move on to other things. We had a home inspection done before we moved in so we knew that the attic didn't have as much air flow as it needed. This was not helped by the fact that our house was old enough that the soffits on the house were wood and the previous owners had painted (and hence sealed over) half the openings that had been cut and the other half had tiny holes in them basically making them not usable for air flow. We know we want to replace the soffits with wood ones but to buy time I decided to cut open the non-sealed openings as wide as I could to improve airflow into the attic. This required a trip to the hardware store where I picked up a nice Makita jigsaw that was on sale at just the right time. The work itself wasn't particularly difficult but standing on a ladder with your head pointed straight back looking up into the area you're cutting open and having all the saw dust fall into your face is not my first choice. In hindsight this was the calm before the storm as we didn't yet know all the crap that would be coming down the pipe at us.

We had a plan of what we wanted to do in basement, we figure it was a small reno to split one of the rooms and turn both pieces into two bedrooms for guests, which would involved putting in one wall, rebuilding a section of another to accommodate a door and get a company in to cut windows in the foundation. All in all not too much work and should be relatively inexpensive, needless to say that plan was about to get thrown out like the proverbial baby with bath water.

By this time it was getting late enough into the year that we were turning on our heater fairly regularly and we started to notice a couple of things. First the bedrooms seemed to be always cold and second our dog would always lie on the same spots on the floor. After a bit we figured out why, the spots he was lying down on were warm when the heater was on. We had problems with our hvac. Our house also had no A/C. When get had companies come in about installing A/C we discovered that our furnace (circa early 1990's) was basically no compatible with any A/C unit that was available to install. If we wanted A/C we needed to get a new furnace. We also wanted the HVAC company doing the furnace work to fix our HVAC runs to seal any leaks and to do that meant that all the ceiling had to come down and they were all drywall, so all in all a pain in the ass. At around this time our toilet in the basement started having issues and that coupled with some suspect piping pointed out to us in our home inspection meant we needed a plumber to come in a fix things. We took down the ceiling and imagine our surprise when we find aluminum wiring running everywhere, now we needed electricians as well to redo the wiring in the basement. The only positive thing was we new none of the aluminum went upstairs since all the aluminum was three prong and with the exception of some post aluminum era wiring all wiring upstairs was two prong, so we wouldn't need to make holes in walls on the main floor to fix any alumium wiring up there. Once we had the ceilings down we discovered how bad the leaks in our HVAC lines were. We found a total of 4 6" openings that were totally uncovered on our HVAC lines, basically our heat runs had no pressure to be able to heat the rooms because the pressure was being lost into the space between basement and main floor. We also found a nasty structural surprise, at some point in the past a plumber, who should have his seal revoked, drilled a 3" hole through our main 12" structural beam.

Needless to say everything else went on hold while we tried to find a structural engineer to tell us what was required to fix the problem. This is where we figure out that most trades do not want to work with the home owner and only with general contractors. Finding a structural engineer who would come out to the house and was halfway competent was a struggle. Eventually we got someone in and the solution was to add a jack post to make the section of the beam that was effectively 8" due to the hole a short section.

We brought a number of plumbers into the house to figure out what exactly was wrong and what needed to be done to fix it. One plumber simply walked out of the house and said the work was too much for him and about the most positive thing any of them said was "interesting", and not in a way that left us thinking it was in any way a good interesting. The main thing to come out of all the plumbers coming through was that they said we needed the wall to come down so they could see all the pipes, stacks and everything to figure out the whole problem, this also worked because with the walls down it would be easier for electricians to run new wiring. We figured hell this part wouldn't be bad, since the wall in most of the basement were wood paneling, which should come down easily and then we could replace it with drywall, so our basement would end up looking better after it was all done. So down came the walls and we had another big surprise, not only were the walls not insulated, which we expected due to the age of the house, but all the framing was done with 2x4's on flat instead of the 2x4s on edge, which means we couldn't even just insulate and re-seal the walls when we were done, all the framing needed to come down. On top of that right were we wanted the new door we found a plumbing stack, in all we actually found 6 plumbing stacks in the basement. For those that don't know in most modern houses you'll usually see two or at most three plumbing stacks.

We were heading down the proverbial rabbit hole and there was no bottom in sight.


  1. GrnEyedDvl's Avatar
    The house I live in was built in 1949, so I have had a lot of similar issues. I feel your pain.