Winter 2005-6
If not for the basement, we probably never would have been able to buy the house. While all of the basement is a little tight on headroom (and, as the inspector put it, "water flows freely in and out"), this 10'x20' section, under the 1940s addition off the back of the house, was the worst of it.

Pepere's Foundation

The foundation looks to have been built by the homeowner. The walls were poured in small batches, resulting in a definite layered effect which had a tendency to leak. The house had no gutters, a grade sloping toward the foundation, and was surrounded by clay. These factors combined to washout the rear foundation, resulting in a crumbling, hollow floor and a buckled wall.

Foundation Crack

The northeastern wall was the big issue: vertical cracks are one thing, but a horizontal crack, displaced inward as this one is, is something else entirely. When Pepere dug out the clay to build the foundation, he just dumped it out in the back yard (to the NE). Well, when water hits a hill of clay, it tends to run off using the path of least resistance. In this case, that meant it came straight towards this basement wall and sunk into the clay-rich soil there. When winter comes, the constant freeze/thaw, expansion/contraction of that soaked, expanding clay pushed the wall inwards, eventually resulting in this rupture.

When it came to replacing the wall, I was convinced I could tackle it. After all, the wall was only 10 feet long and supported a single story of upper structure. I was talked out of this option, however, for fear that completing the task would take too long. So we hired a guy. He had good references and a good photo book. Unfortunately, he hadn't done this in a while, and it showed. He started the job in November, tearing out the crumbled floor and the buckled wall. And then nothing. For a month. Or two. That was one cold winter.

Finally, he came back. The floor was poured, though not to my satisfaction. The the walls were formed and poured. Too bad he elected to use flake board instead of good plywood, and forgot to double-check the number of through-bolts he'd used. It bulged out of its forms, used more concrete than necessary, and looked gawd-awful. I was not happy.

Replaced foundation wall

When it came time to skim the three courses of cinder block that sat on top of the wall, I had no doubt as to who would be completing that job. "I got it," I declared. Never done it before, didn't care: I was sure I could do it better. Now doesn't the top half of that wall look nice?


It's amazing what a little hydraulic cement, some patience, and a snowy winter can do to transform a space! Okay... regrading the yard and adding gutters didn't hurt, either.

Using a variation on a simple plan for shop benches (, I started to make the area functional. It turned out to be the perfect spot for the bike shop (yay!).

WorkshopWorkshop 2

The workshop (under the main house) is reasonably functional. A new sump hole and pump will do a lot to make this area drier and nicer to work in, but I'll have to muddle through for now.