Our basement wall collapsed. Well, it didn’t actually collapse, but it was buckling and bowing and basically you could see daylight in between the cement blocks, so it was only a matter of time before the whole thing came tumbling down.
We noticed the problem in December 2012. My husband had laid a beautiful hard wood floor in our living room, and when I was staining the floor, I noticed cracks in the plaster underneath the windows. Sure enough, the basement wall below had started to bulge and settle — a result of bad construction and frost heaves. For those of you who live in sunnier climates, frost heaves are what happens when the water in the soil freezes and becomes ice and then the ice/soil pushes and swells, cracking pavement and pushing down basement walls. And just to make it really fun, home insurance doesn’t cover this repair for reasons that remain unclear. So there’s that.
We called in a dear builder friend who said while it’s only a slight bulge, the integrity of the wall is compromised and you have to get it fixed asap. With time and money being in short supply, we decided we would wait until we absolutely had to replace that wall, so with the builder’s guidance, Eric built a temporary structure to help support the living room above.
So for more than the past year, we’ve lived tentatively, always aware that we were not on firm ground, that we were existing only on makeshift supports. If guests came to our home, they never knew there was a problem (unless, of course, we showed them the basement) but for us, the constant undercurrent of instability wore down our nerves and made us jumpy. And then came last winter. With freezing temperatures of -15 below, our basement wall never stood a chance. Thanks to Eric’s provisional structure, we were never at risk of the living room caving in, but the sight of that crumbling wall made me sick to my stomach with anxiety. I couldn’t even take a picture.
The mason and excavating crew started working about three weeks ago (the reason why I fell off the blogging earth again) and as they began to dismantle the wall and dig down to the foundation they found all kinds of flaws in the original construction — short cuts, subpar materials, with no thought for longterm consequences.
Let the metaphors begin.
Things were such a mess, we’ve had to rebuild not one but two walls, and take measures to prevent a third from ultimately collapsing. But when it’s finally finished, the basement might end up being my favorite room in the house. This once damp, crumbling, and unusable space is now dry, sturdy, and soon-to-be organized — a lovely symbol of transformation and the shoring up our foundation. Now there’s nothing sexy about rebuilding a foundation, but a lovely new kitchen will do you no good if the back half of your house is reduced to rubble. A house built on sand and all that. For the first time in a long time, we have peace of mind because we know we are on solid ground. And that’s worth every penny.
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