Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Basement Update

We used to have a finished basement. It wasn't glamorous, but we liked it. :) We had parties, house guests, and lots of playtime with Feven down there. Zac and I even began the "Harder Coffeehouse" in our basement - a space for us to sit down, drink some good beverages, and read or chat during Feven's weekend nap times when she was younger. So many good memories.

This is what our basement living room looked like. Wouldn't you like to sit down,
put your feet up, and have a cup of coffee there?
(And yes, there were 5 lamps in that room at the time of the photo. I don't know why. We've since downsized.)

And here was our basement bedroom. Isn't that beautiful?
It was "home" to many friends and family over the years.

Well, from time to time there would be a little water in the basement when severely heavy rains fell. Just a wet spot or two in the unfinished part of the basement. In 2011 when a major storm with torrential rains (and even a tornado!) hit Minneapolis, we had to pull up the carpet to dry it out. Throughout all of that, the basement remained finished.

This is what we had to deal with in 2011 when we returned from our vacation to Hawaii. :(

However, this past April, we came home from vacation (again! Why do we ever go on vacation when that seems to be what triggers these heavy, flooding rains?!) to find very wet carpet and standing water in some spots of the basement. A dear friend came over at 9pm the evening we discovered the water and hauled load after load up out of the basement until it was bare.

In the days that followed, my little helper Feven and I tried to suck up the water in the basement, but it was seeping up through cracks in the floor so fast that just when we'd get a spot dry, the water would cover the ground again. We believe this happened because the winter was so long and cold that even by the end of April, the ground was not completely thawed and so the water didn't know where to go except up into our basement.

And the interesting thing is, we live on the top of a hill...I don't know what our neighbors at the bottom of the hill had to deal with.

Here's my faithful helper. Bless her heart.

After much conversation, we decided to gut the basement. It quickly became evident that this was the right decision after we began demo and pulled off walls to uncover sopping wet insulation and some spots of mold. I remember the day well, as friends and family descended on our home and started ripping out the old. I nearly cried when I saw how much progress was made in just a few short hours. That day was tough emotionally to see our basement go away, but when I think back on that day, what stands out to me is the love and loyalty of all our friends and family who showed up and worked so hard for us.

Here is a picture of the demolition in the basement living room,
with the stud walls of the bedroom in the background.

 Here's the former bathroom, or what I will refer to henceforth as the "Scary Corner." Ew!

Two months after we had the water destroy our basement, we began getting quotes from drain tile companies. We didn't want to finish the basement without doing some "guts work" on the house first, so we got quotes from a few different companies and we began saving money...

Yesterday the truck pulled into my driveway and friends - it was nearly as exciting as Christmas! It meant so much to see them come to our home because it marked the end of demolition and the beginning of restoration. 

It also marked the end of living on one level of our house. You see, for the last 7 months, ALL of our belongings have been in disarray. Everything that was in the basement and in storage in the basement got displaced all over the house and garage. My closets were packed with my amazing Tetris skills and I think if you pull one item out, it may all come crashing down on you. I don't feel like I know where things are, and it feels like we will be moving into our house all over again. 

Did I mention that there has been a queen mattress and box spring leaning up against the wall in our bedroom, as well as a small storage shelf and large storage shelf full of things in our bedroom...in addition to our Queen bed, 2 night stands, and dresser??? Ugh, I feel like I should be on hoarders with the way our house looks.

Here is the truck that pulled up with 3 angels who repaired our basement over the course of 2 days.

Here are some of the tools used to cut the concrete.
Just an FYI, it's really loud upstairs when people are using jackhammers downstairs! At one point I found Feven in
our bed with two stuffed animals and the covers pulled up over all their heads!

Here is the Scary Corner before the repair work. Ew! Do you see why I call it the Scary Corner?
Apparently the black stuff on the wall is not mold, but still. Ew.

Here is the Scary Corner mid-project. Already looking better!

And drumroll....here is the Scary Corner after! Feven and I approve.

Here is the South Wall before the work was done. This is a picture taken standing in what used to be the living room and looking toward the utility/laundry area.

Here is the South Wall afterward. This almost looks like new construction!

Here is the laundry area before the work was done. We had to move all our belongings away from the walls so they could cut around the entire perimeter of our basement.

Here is a lateral line running to whisk water away from the center of the house and to the pump.

And here is the pump. The TripleSafe pump, to be exact.
It should take all the water from under the foundation before it ever even thinks about coming up through the cracks, and remove it at least 15' from the house. And yes, that black box is a
battery back-up that can keep the pump going 2 days without electricity.
We're praying that we NEVER see water in our basement again!

Here is the center of our basement mid-project.

 And here is the center after!

Now comes the fun part, the rebuilding. We're going to take it slow and save up for each part of the project before moving ahead. It isn't as much fun as it would be to walk into the bank, take out a loan, and have the basement of our dreams in 5 weeks. :) But we're trying to be financially responsible and pay off our school and car loans, and avoid taking out new loans.

It has been quite the journey! Some days have been really hard as we've been living in such disarray. The stress can feel so heavy at times. But the blessings definitely outweigh the stresses. Here are some of the blessings we've seen:

  1. I led a Lose a Ton group and I ended up getting rid of 500 pounds of things my family didn't need - and some furniture too - BEFORE the basement flooded. That purging served us well when we had to remove so much from the basement (we had 500 pounds less to carry!) and the furniture gone was less we needed to accommodate elsewhere in the house.
  2. We got to witness the love of friends and family as we were on the receiving end of kindness and generosity.
  3. We have so much space in our home. Our main floor has 3 bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchen and TWO living rooms! While we've been "roughing it" without a basement, we are still living in incredible comfort.
  4. We had the opportunity to evaluate in a very real way "How much is enough?" Through the Lose a Ton Challenge I grew in my discernment of how much I need, but this pushed me even farther. When I'm at the store, I no longer think if I want/need the item, but I also think, "Where am I going to put this?" If I don't have a place in mind, I don't want to buy it.
  5. Feven has learned so many new terms and concepts. She frequently spends her time drawing "basement plans" and is very inquisitive how this new system will work. She suggests things to the contractors who have come through and feels a sense of ownership in the repair and remodel process. She's had some good ideas!
There are more, but it is getting late and this post is getting loooooong. Thanks for reading and for supporting our family in the ways you have as we navigated this challenging experience.

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