Upgrading our leaky hot water tanks to fibreglass

“So you find that ominous puddle of water beneath your hot water heater. As you thoughtfully mop up the floor, … you are faced with one of two courses of action. The first, and… most soul-satisfying action would be to tear the unit bodily from the fittings and heave it lustily into the trash heap. But as your arms flex under this thought stimulus, you question your physical ability to perform this feat with all the zest and spontaneity the occasion requires. After all you are not as young and husky as you once were.”

Alfred J. Taylor in Popular Home Craft, February 1945

I received a copy of this magazine over the weekend, and it contained the article “Make That Water Heater Last.” The article talks of the demands of the Second World War and the impossibility of finding a plumber or buying a new heater when the old one starts to leak. It gives practical advice about how to “fortify your resolve” and “fix it yourself and make do.”

But beyond all of that, it is so well-written. The sentences are beautiful and funny. I couldn’t resist borrowing some of Alfred J. Taylor’s words to start this blog post, even if we did not have to make do when our “faithful old tank[s]” started to leak last year.

I’ve scanned the whole article to share it with you, in case you want a glimpse into home repair circa 1945 (don’t miss the last line… or the last two paragraphs… you know what? Just read the whole thing).

When we moved to the farm, we upgraded pretty much every system in the house. As part of our new geothermal heating and cooling system, we got two new hot water tanks. But within a few months of installing them, our hot water got super stinky. We didn’t want to shower it was so bad.

After a bit of online research I was able to figure out that the anodes in the tanks had likely become home to some malodorous bacteria. We decided to have the anodes removed, and our odor problems went away.

But a new problem arose. Without the anodes, the tanks were more susceptible to rust and likely wouldn’t last as long.

Last summer, we noticed some seepage around the bottom of the tanks. They had lasted just over 7 years before rusting out.

Leaking hot water tank

We started investigating our options and getting quotes.

Ultimately, we decided to go with one of the options our geothermal company had offered when they were fixing our stinky water issues: two new anode-less fiberglass tanks.

Rheem Marathon hot water heaters

Not the cheapest solution, but hopefully the longest lasting one.

(For those asking, “What about tankless?” I don’t like tankless water heaters. I’ve used them a few places and the water never gets hot enough for me. I like my showers to be scalding. Also, our geo system generates some excess heat, which is captured by our dual tank system, so we feel like we’re pretty efficient and environmentally friendly right now.)

I often joke that we have a science experiment in our utility room between the water treatment system and the geothermal. Now we have two spacecraft as well with these capsule shaped tanks.

(And for Mr. Taylor, with his iron cement and assorted wrenches, thank you for your encouraging, educational and entertaining article.)

How to prevent leaks when you hook up your garden hose

I don’t think Matt and I ever bought a garden hose. We received hand-me-downs from our Dads. We found a few that past owners left behind. I even pulled one out of the field where it had been buried in the grass for a few years.

Unsurprisingly, none of our hoses are in great shape. But despite the kinked rubber and the bent fittings, our hoses don’t leak.

There is one thing that we have bought that helps to prevent leaks–teflon tape. I keep a roll in the driveshed, along with an adjustable wrench, so that they’re handy every time I’m hooking up a hose or a nozzle.

Using teflon tape and an adjustable wrench to prevent a leaky garden hose

Teflon tape, also known as plumbers’ tape, is a thin, white, non-sticky tape. Wind a couple of inches around the threads of a hose–or any plumbing connection–and it helps to make a tight joint that won’t leak.

The teflon acts as a lubricant, so that the two pieces of the connection can be screwed together more tightly–this is where the wrench is also helpful. After you finger-tighten the connection, turn it the rest of the way with your wrench.

How to avoid hose leaks

A consideration with using teflon tape is to wrap it so that when you screw on your hose (or nozzle or whatever you’re connecting) you wrap the tape further around the threads, as opposed to unwinding it.

Wrapping hose threads with teflon tape

You only need enough tape to wrap 2 or 3 layers over the hose, so don’t rip a huge long piece.

Our roll of tape lives in the driveshed, even staying there through the winter. The cold doesn’t seem to affect the tape, and we get a few years out of a roll.

Do you have any gardening tips to share? What gardening hand-me-downs do you use at your house?

How to prevent leaks when you hook up your garden hose

 

Tiling the east field

Our farm came with six fields, but in the years that we’ve lived here, only five have been in use. The far east field has been “in rehab.” In fact, it’s also known as the rehab field. (This post shows a bird’s eye view of the property.)

The field is boggy with two marshy areas, one of which is right in the middle. It’s hilly and on some of the slopes the soil has washed away and the ground is very stony.

Green marshy area in the middle of the east field

The farmer who rents our fields told us that several years before we bought the farm, one of the previous owners brought in some dirt and regraded the field, and after that it didn’t drain properly. In the time that we’ve been here, the farmer has augmented the soil with manure and tried various measures to drain the field. Nothing has worked.

In fact, he’s gotten more and more frustrated as his equipment gets stuck in the mud and the field remains unuseable.

This view shows the east field and the big field from the same vantage point a few years ago. You can see that the big field is a lot healthier looking than the east.

East field

Big field

Every year we talk about tiling the field, and this spring our farmer decided to go ahead.

Note I wrote tiling, not tilling.

Tiling involves running weeping tile throughout the field underground to drain the water.

Our farmer hired a drainage contractor for this project. The first step was to survey the fields using GPS to map out the best drainage path.

Surveying the field by ATV to prepare for tiling

Then the big stuff showed up. A backhoe, bulldozer, a drainage plow and biiiiig rolls of weeping tile.

Baxter surveys the backhoe

Baxter standing in front of a spool of weeping tile

The plow was a really cool piece of equipment. It was a large tractor on caterpillar tracks with a spindle to carry the giant spool of tile. The plow cut into the ground and fed the tile into the trench and filled it back in all in one pass.

Drainage plow

Even after living in farm country for seven years, the novelty of farm equipment has not worn off for me. I marvel over the tractors, the combines, the plows and all the rest. So I loved seeing the drainage equipment at work. The maneuverability and power of the tractors was awesome. They went through the water, up hills, through trees–nothing stopped them.

Baxter watching the drainage plow tiling the field

Tiling the field

The crew laid tile all through the east field, a bit into the big field and drained it all through the front field and into the creek that runs across the front of the property.

Weeping tile

Field drainage tile flowing into a creek

There is still work to be done before the field is finally out of rehab. There’s a big section where top soil was scraped off, and it needs to be pushed back. As well, the trenches and ridges from the plow need to be leveled.

Field after tiling before levelling

Ridges in the field after tiling

The ground is still a little squishy in spots, as you can see by my boots (please give me props for not tipping over and dumping the baby into the mud).

Standing in the mud

But the tile is a huge step towards hopefully making the field more useable.

Do you have any muddy spots at your house? Or have you spotted any cool equipment at work? Is part of your property also “in rehab”?

 

What I got for Mother’s Day

Chainsaw in the woods

Wood is the traditional gift for fifth wedding anniversaries and, apparently, first Mother’s Days. Last Sunday, Matt and his Dad spent hours working to clear the trails in our back woods. I love walking the trails on our own property, but I’ve written before about how they’re a bit overgrown. An ice storm and wind storm this spring made the trails nearly impassable. For my walks with Ellie and Baxter, this situation was far from ideal.

Tree fallen across the trail

Firewood blocking the trail

Imagine if you will a woman walking in the woods. She is wearing a baby in a carrier on her chest and she has a dog leashed around her waist. They come to a stream crossing. The catwalk has washed out and a tree limb has fallen, blocking the trail.

She forges ahead, contorting herself to slither around the tree without dumping the baby out of the carrier and into the water.

The dog chooses a different route and the leash ends up wrapped around various trees.

The woman temporarily loses her balance and adjusts her footing–right into a deep part of the stream. Her boot fills with water.

Hiking with Ellie and Baxter

After emptying out my boot, wringing out my sock and untangling Baxter–all while still balancing Ellie in the carrier–I decided the trails were out of bounds until we did some work.

So I was thrilled to receive a Mother’s Day present involving chainsaws, wheelbarrows, multiple loads of firewood and clear(er) passage on the trails.

Matt and his Dad wheeling firewood out of the woods

My FIL and Baxter cutting wood in the forest

Loading firewood from the forest

Matt unloading firewood
You may recall that Matt and I had done this chore previously, so I know exactly how much work this was. I’m over the moon happy to have access to our trails and incredibly grateful for Matt and his Dad working so hard.

I’m also still holding out for a brigade of forest rangers equipped with ATVs, wood chippers, weed whackers and chainsaws (these trails could seriously use a whole season of work from a whole crew). Perhaps next Mother’s Day?

Behind the scenes

Just because I can’t keep all the cuteness to myself…

Ellie and Matt assembling our new wheelbarrow.

Matt and Ellie assembling the wheelbarrow

Quality control testing.

Matt holding Ellie in the wheelbarrow

Ellie, Baxter and I helpfully supervising on Mother’s Day.

Carrying Ellie

Looking back at Home Goals 2017

Thanks everyone for your good wishes on our new addition. We’re excited–and I will admit I’m still a bit nervous about this whole baby thing too. We had our pre-natal class this weekend, which was informative and encouraging, and I have (yet another) ultrasound this morning (this baby is going to have supersonic hearing after all of our scans). Overall, we’re feeling pretty good about where we’re at.

As you can see, 2017 was quite a year for us. Today I’m taking a minute to look back at the year that was from a personal, professional and farm point of view.

After thinking and planning for quite awhile, I took a leave of absence from my communications job at the end of August to spend some extra time with family and see if I could build my own communications consulting company. I love working from home and love working for myself. I’m still working on building my client base, but I’m so grateful to have this opportunity.

The timing for my leave turned out to be very fortunate, as at the start of July we found out we were going to have a baby and at the end of September Matt was diagnosed with an ocular melanoma. It’s been so helpful to have a more flexible schedule for appointments and most importantly to have the mental space to process and reflect on all of the changes in our lives.

Along with all of that, we’ve replaced both our cars–my 14-year-old girl finally died and Matt’s year-old car was written off after he was hit by a driver who ran a red light. Matt ended up with a broken arm courtesy of the airbag, which derailed some of my plans for projects around the farm, but was a small hardship when he could have been much more seriously hurt.

Amongst all of these changes and challenges, the farm has been our constant and our refuge. 2017 marked five years at the farm, and I can’t imagine being anywhere else. It gives both of us peace to be here, and also gives us an outlet when we need to distract ourselves with tractor therapy, digging in the dirt, painting something or just walking the property.

I have a feeling we’re going to be saying, “What a year!” for the next while (perhaps the rest of our lives?) as we watch this baby grow, adjust to our new family reality and continue with life on the farm.

As many of us do at the start of the year, I like to take a moment to look back and reflect on the year past. Beyond all of the personal changes in our lives, I also started 2017 with my usual list of Home Goals I wanted to accomplish at the farm over the year.

Looking back, we didn’t do too bad.

My office

Turquoise craft room

I was very happy to finish the final bedroom at the farm and finally unpack all of our moving boxes–only five years after moving in. Reupholstering my grandmother’s vintage slipper chair is a project I’m still very proud of. What I called my office ended up being more of a craft room and it was such a great space for creativity.

I say “was” because my office ended up seeing another makeover just a few months later when I decided to turn it into the baby’s room. I’m finding other spaces to be creative around the house, and I love how the baby’s room is coming together. I’ll be sharing all of those details soon.

Clean up the pond shore

Red sky over the pond at sunset

The pond shore was my one and only outdoor land clearing goal for the year (and we have plenty of spaces that I want to clear). Mid-year, I gave up on it happening, but then an enthusiastic nephew and a generous husband went to work over a few weekends, and we made more progress than I ever expected.

There’s still more to go, which might be difficult as I don’t think the baby will be as helpful as our teenage nephew, but Matt and I may be able to divide and conquer on this one. And regardless, every time I look out the kitchen window or walk past the pond with Baxter (which happens at least once a day), I’m grateful for the improved view and access to the water.

While I had planned to focus just on the pond shore, I did give the area right behind the house a bit of attention, and cleaned up (most of) the jungle that’s been there since we moved in.

New lawn

Vegetable garden

Green tomatoes growing in the garden

At the start of last year, I said I was going to add rhubarb (check), a second row of berries (check–ended up being blackberries) and maybe some more grapes (check). I also put in four blueberry plants to try. As usual, I’m crossing my fingers that everyone survives the winter and bears fruit this year.

My biggest goal was keeping the weeds under control. I can’t say I was successful in that. I tried to find some old hay bales for a deep mulch but didn’t have any success. And in terms of weeding by hand, most of the season, I didn’t feel like weeding, and I gave into that feeling… a lot.

We capped off the year by covering two of the quadrants with tarps, and my tentative plan for the coming year is to leave the tarps in place. This will decrease the garden size by not quite half, which might just be manageable in our new reality.

Flower gardens

Garden in bloom in June

The flower gardens got some half-hearted attention this year. I can’t say I met my goal of keeping them weeded and filled with beautiful flowers, but I did get in them a few times and they didn’t look too scraggly most of the time (I don’t think).

Basement

Uh, yeah. I still have empty picture frames leaning against the basement walls waiting for art. I didn’t get to this in the first half of the year, and, since I left my job, I’ve been careful about spending money on extras, even inexpensive posters. So we go yet another year with some unfinished areas in the basement.

However, I did finally share the transformation of the basement TV area and all of the details on how we decorated it. I love this space so much and am so proud of us for doing it ourselves.

Basement TV area

New barn cat

Our barncat Ralph

After talking to a few people, we decided not to add a new barn cat to our family. Ralph has things under control and she’s content. She doesn’t need company, and I’m not confident that expecting her to train a young cat would work. So Ralphie gets to be mistress of the barn. She can live out her years in peace, and we will take our chances with adopting a new cat when we need it and hope that the newbie lives up to Ralph’s high standard.

Extras

As always, a few extra projects sneak into every year. I can call another room completely finished–the guest room–after refinishing a vintage metal bedframe. Spoiler alert, the guest room has since seen a few more changes as it’s become guest room/sewing room as I’ve given my office over to baby.

Antique brass metal bed frame

The living room also saw a few tweaks with a new mirror on the mantel and new pillows on the couch. I’ll be sharing our new coffee table soon too.

How to mix and match throw pillows

So around the house, 2017 was a mix. Which is okay and pretty normal for us.

We had enough abnormal in the year that I’m grateful that projects and the farm are such a refuge for us.

How was 2017 for you? What was your big accomplishment for the year?

Wet, but waterproof

Things are a bit wet around here. We’ve had rain on and off for about two weeks. And last week, the rain was pretty steady.

Rainy weather forecast

The ground is completely saturated.

Had this been a year ago, we would have been soggy inside as well as out. Our big (and expensive) project last summer was waterproofing our basement. However, when I last reported on the project back at the start of September, we had just found puddles in two of the rooms that we waterproofed. We were so disappointed.

After talking it over with our contractors, we decided to go with a wait and see strategy.

So this extremely wet spring is our test.

And I’m pleased to say that our basement is passing.

I don’t know what was up last fall, but this spring, when we’re basically immersed in a bog, inside of the house is nice and dry.

Phew.

The sump pump has been running fairly regularly for about a month. Over the weekend, it was running about every one and a half minutes.

Water discharging from the sump pump

You may remember that we elected to waterproof from the inside. There are a couple of little “hatches” where we can access the weeping tile that the contractors laid around the foundation. Checking them out, we found water in the pipes. But the pipe is doing its job and funneling the water to the sump pump.

Water in the weeping tile in the basement

I’m so relieved that everything is working the way it’s supposed to and that we have a dry house this spring.

How’s the weather where you are? Have you had any water issues this spring?

Home Goals 2017

Alright. It’s officially time to start looking ahead. Time to share my Home Goals 2017.

Unusually, I’ve not been thinking about these for the past few months. Some of them have solidified over the last few weeks–one of them even started just before the end of last year. Some of them came together just as I was writing this post.

I think we’re getting to the stage where more things are done around the house–and the things that are yet to come are biggies. As in so big we’re not ready to tackle them yet (although I really, really, really want a garage).

However, there’s still enough to keep us busy for another year. Here’s what’s on the list.

My office

Turquoise and brass file cabinet from DIY Mommy

Source: DIY Mommy

Ahhh. My office. Finally a room of my own (thank you Virginia Woolf–not an affiliate link). I don’t know as I can convey the monumentalness of this project–except by making up words. Five years ago we moved to the farm. Since that time, moving boxes have been stacked against the wall in my “office.” I want to unpack and truly have a functional office. Finishing off my office will finish off another milestone for the house: the final bedroom.

The transformation is already underway. This is the project that Matt and I started right at the end of December–gotta keep up our holiday tradition of scraping a stippled ceiling.

Clean up the pond shore

Property clean up has been on my list every year. And every year I end up working on whatever spot shows up in front of me. This year I want to be a little more plannful. This year, I am cleaning up the pond shore–how’s that for an emphatic statement.

The pond is my favourite place on our whole 129 acres. And I haven’t been able to easily access the shore the whole time we’ve lived here. I’ve considered enlisting professional help, but I think if I put out a call, I should be able to find a few family members willing to wield chainsaws and weed eaters for a weekend.

Vegetable garden

The vegetable garden was our major project last year, and as a result I feel like we’re in very good shape to start this year’s growing season. However, there are a few things I’d like to add this year, like rhubarb, a second row of berries (maybe raspberries, maybe something else) and maybe some more grapes.

Most important, this year I am going to keep the weeds under control–another emphatic statement. I’m hoping a deep mulch will help me not spend my whole summer weeding.

Flower gardens

Last year our flower gardens were entirely neglected as the vegetable garden consumed all our time. This year I want to give them at least a little bit of attention.

I’ve dumped plants randomly in two beds at the front of the house, and they need a bit of organization. I’d like to add some more shade tolerant flowers to the turnaround.

I’m also planning to remove the flowerbeds at the back of the house (there are only so many hours in a day, and mowing is easier than weeding).

Basement

I’ve said it before. The basement has been hanging around long enough. This is the year we’re going to finish it once and for all–including fun art.

New barn cat

Ralph the barn cat

This one may be more of a farm goal than a home goal.

We have an outstanding barn cat in Ralph. So outstanding that we’d love for her to teach someone the wisdom of her ways. I’m not sure exactly how we’re going to go about finding her an apprentice, but we’re going to figure it out.

So there you have it. Six goals. Two inside, three outside, one alive. Some big, some small, one with a tail. Some easy, some tedious, some furry.

We’ll see how this goes.

Time to get started!

Do you have any goals for this year? What would you like to accomplish at your house? Any tips for introducing a new barn cat? Anyone want to help clear the shore at the pond?

How we installed a waterline for the vegetable garden

A big to-do on the garden task list is now done. We finally have a hose at the garden… and I’m so happy to cross this one off the list.

Hose in the vegetable garden

With the lack of rain we had this summer, we watered the garden a lot. However, the closest hose was at the driveshed. That was three hose-lengths away. I had screwed the hoses together back in the spring, and most of the time we kept them laid out across the yard. But any time I had to wind them up (like every time we cut the grass) it was a heavy haul.

Adding a tap at the garden was one of my Home Goals 2016. I already shared a bit of the misery that was digging the trench from the driveshed to the garden (ground so hard, summer so hot, rocks and roots so many, garden so, so, so far away).

Trenching a waterline to the garden

When I measured the trench, it came out a bit more than 100 feet. I spent a week visiting various home improvement stores and then specialty plumbing suppliers trying to find someone who would sell me 110 feet of irrigation pipe. All I could find was 100-foot or 400-foot coils. Ugh.

I bought 100 feet and crossed my fingers that we could splice on a small extra piece we had at the farm already and still make it to the garden.

But it turned out I was worried for nothing. When Matt and I unrolled the pipe and laid it in the trench, it easily reached the garden. Thank goodness for small wins.

The other thing I was worried about was our plumbing abilities. I had a plan, but I wasn’t sure if it was actually going to work.

We dug down to the waterline that ran to the hose at the driveshed. After turning off the water, I took a deep breath and cut through the waterline with the hacksaw. So much for my brand new work gloves.

Cutting a waterline with a hacksaw

Then we inserted a T. A note about these connections. They fit super, super tightly. We boiled the kettle and then Matt poured the hot water over the pipe and that softened the plastic enough that I was able to wedge the fitting into place. The clamps on either side provide extra insurance to hold everything together and prevent leaks

Adding a T connection on a waterline

From there, it was easy to connect our new 100 feet of pipe.

Running a waterline for a garden hose

At the garden, the pipe sneaks under the brick threshold at the gate and up the post. Look how much pipe we had. Exactly the perfect length. And look at the water flowing. We did it! And there are no leaks! Big wins all around!

Adding a hose at the vegetable garden

Backfilling the trench was much easier than digging it out. Wiley helped which was huge.

Backfilling the trench with the tractor

Baxter did not help. In fact he staged a sit-in (lie-in) to protest when Matt started to put the sod back down. “Dirt is good, dude.”

Baxter lying in the dirt

The finishing touches were clamping the waterline to the fence post and then installing a hose hanger.

Rather than a typical hanger, I wanted to try a metal bucket. I’ve seen a few other people do this, and I figured it would give us a place to stash nozzles or maybe even some garden tools.

Again, I spent some time running around to various stores trying to find the perfect bucket. Then I remembered a rusty old canning pot–one of our many gifts from previous owners. I knew there was a reason I didn’t throw that out.

I drilled a couple of holes in the bottom and then bolted it to the fence.

Using a pot as a hose hanger

Then I dragged the hose out to the garden one final time (except for seasonal shutdown, but don’t burst my bubble, okay?) and coiled it up.

Hose in the vegetable garden

Such a great addition to the garden. And this is actually our final to-do on our garden to-do list. This year has been all about adding the structure (raised beds, trellises, perennials) and functionality (gate, trellises, hose) to the garden. I think all of this is going to make a huuuuge difference next year.

The other thing that is going to make a huge difference–and that we have yet to do–is clean up. We have a whooooole bunch of weeds that I want out of there before winter sets in. That’s still a few weeks away though, as harvest is still going strong.

 

How is your garden growing? Does plumbing make anyone else anxious? How do you handle irrigation in your garden?

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The results of our basement waterproofing

Today is supposed to be the last post about our big summer project: waterproofing our basement.

Here are the previous posts if you need to get caught up:

However, I can’t wrap up this project because a week ago we had a torrential downpour and we had puddles in the basement. Wah-wah.

The first leak was in the laundry room and the second in the cold cellar–two places we’d waterproofed.

In the cold cellar, it appears to have come up through the shiny new floordrain.

Basement floor drain

In the laundry room, it somehow somewhere came through the wall. The rain was an extraordinary downpour, but nonetheless, my expectation from our waterproofing is that we would be waterproof.

The big selling point of working with our waterproofing company is that the work came with a lifetime guarantee, so we’re working with them now to make sure our leaks are truly fixed.

In the meantime, I can share some of our progress. Here’s the biggest illustration–and one area that doesn’t leak anymore:

Before (ish)

Spray foam insulation

After with framing, insulation, drywall, paint, carpet and baseboard all redone.

Wall repaired after waterproofing

I think the thing that frustrated me the most with this project–aside from the fact that the leaks are not actually fixed–is that we ended up basically back where we started. We shelled out a bunch of money, put in a bunch of work and it all looks the same.

But looks aren’t everything.

With home ownership, what’s behind the walls matters a lot. So that’s why it’s so important to us to fix our leaks, not just cover them up or ignore them.

Last week’s rain was a bit extreme. Up to then, we had a few other rainfalls without issue. In fact the night the crew left, we had our first big rainstorm of the summer. Matt and I were sitting in the living room, and I said, “I think I hear the sump pump.” Sure enough, rain was falling hard enough that the water was flowing through the weeping tile around the foundation and filling the sump pit. Talk about timing.

We love the assurance of our new sump pit and pumps. There are two pumps in our pit. One is a regular pump that is plugged into a regular electrical socket. The second is a back-up pump and it is plugged into a giant marine battery.

Back up sump pump powered by a marine battery

If for any reason the first pump gets overwhelmed or stop working (like the power goes out), the second one will kick in automatically. Considering that power outages are a real possibility during rainstorms, we feel very good about our back-up system.

The pumps have two alarms. The first will sound if the back-up pump comes on and second very, very loud alarm will go off if both pumps for some reason fail.

Sump pump alarm

I also appreciate the finish both inside and out. In the cold cellar, the dirt and footings around the perimeter are gone in favour of clean smooth concrete. And the crew did a great job of making the new concrete nice and even with the existing floor. Where the exterior waterproofing happened outside the laundry room, again the wall looks super clean, even though we appear to still have some problems here.

At the doorway to the cold cellar, where I always did a little hop across the dirt at the threshold, the floor drain is a nice addition. The floor drain ties into the weeping tile which in turn ties into the sump pit. Given the water we found in the cold cellar, I surmise that there was so much rain that it overwhelmed the weeping tile and spewed out of the drain.

So unfortunately, I can’t say we’re all done. We’re hoping we get there soon, and I’ll be sure to share when we do.Save

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How we waterproofed our basement from the inside

So far in recapping our basement waterproofing saga, I’ve shared a glimpse of the problems and the options we considered to fix them.

As I said in my last post, we decided to go with Omni Basement Systems, a company that would fix the leaks from the inside (for the most part… more on this below) and would guarantee the leaks would never come back (and never is a pretty long time).

Full disclosure, the basement waterproofing project was not sponsored. We paid for the work ourselves and didn’t receive any discounts or compensation.

We had three things we were looking to fix:

  1. Leaks along the south wall of the house and around the perimeter of the cold cellar that seemed to be coming from where the poured foundation wall met the slab of the concrete floor.
  2. Leaks in the laundry room where the bottom half of a former doorway had been bricked in to become a window (at the complete opposite end of the house from the other leaks).
  3. New sump pit and pumps (plural) including a battery back-up system for when the power goes out.

Numbers 1 and 3 were going to be tackled from the inside, while number 2 was going to be tackled from the outside.

The laundry room window/door was located very tight to a corner. There wasn’t space to access the seam of the old doorway from inside the basement.

Working from the outside entailed digging down to the base of the foundation, a tough job at the best of times, but particularly unpleasant in the intense heat and humidity that has been this summer. This job was made doubly tough as the crew uncovered the original concrete retaining walls that had bordered the exterior stairwell and the slab at the base. Because of all the concrete, water had nowhere to drain and was seeping through the foundation into the house. The crew had to break up the extremely hard concrete as well as waterproof the foundation.

Waterproofing a basement foundation from the outside

Waterproofing involved filling the joint with special polyurethane polymer sealant. The sealant will never dry out or recrack even if the foundation wall shifts over time. A membrane called Blueskin was laid over the wall and then all of that was covered in “dimple sheet” and then the top edge was sealed with a thick line of tar. After that, the crew backfilled the hole. You can read more about the process on the Omni website.

Waterproofing a basement foundation from the outside

Waterproofing a basement foundation from the outside

For the interior waterproofing, the first step was to access the foundation wall. In the long room (where our pingpong table lives), that meant removing the drywall. Matt and I did that ourselves, and I admit my heart broke a little bit after how long it took us to drywall the basement in the first place.

The crew then peeled back the carpet, scraped the sprayfoam insulation off the bottom of the wall going up about 16 inches, removed the bottom plate and cut about 16 inches off the studs.

With a clear shot to the cement floor, they started the jackhammer. The object of the game was to remove the concrete floor about 8-10 inches along the base of the wall and expose the footing.

Waterproofing a basement foundation from the inside

Waterproofing a basement foundation from the inside

Breaking up concrete is dusty work. To contain the mess as much as possible, the crew went the extra mile, laying plastic over the carpets, pingpong table, piano, up the stairs and cordoning off the area where they were working.

Waterproofing a basement foundation from the inside

All of the concrete, dirt and gravel that was excavated had to be loaded into five gallon pails and hauled up the stairs out of the basement. Outside, it was dumped into larger garbage pails that were then loaded onto the truck at the end of the day. Such heavy, heavy work.

Brute garbage pails for a basement waterproofing project

The cold cellar is unfinished, so less prep work was needed and the crew could begin jackhammering right away. However, extra jackhammering was required as the cold cellar is the location of our sump pit. The old pit was described as a “farm-special.” We’ve encountered a few “specials” around the farm. They work, but they’re not always necessarily quite the right way to do things. The pit was thick, solid concrete, so it took a lot of work to get rid of the old pit.

Below you can see the pit and our new liner ready to be installed. Note the holes in the sides of the liner. These allow ground water to flow into the pit, whereas before with our solid concrete pit, water had nowhere to go and ended up seeping in through the joint between the foundation wall and the concrete floor.

Replacing a sump pump pit

As part of installing the new sump pump, the crew replaced our old discharge line and extended it far out into the yard. Previously, the pipe had just dead-ended underground, and it was only about 10 feet from the house.

Old sump pump discharge line

The new line extends nearly 50 feet, and the end is capped with a sturdy grill–a “LawnScape outlet”–that sits at ground level. Obviously, ground level is not below the frost line. The whole pipe is just under the grass. We weren’t able to lower the discharge line at all. We didn’t have any issues with our old discharge line freezing, and we’re hoping we don’t with the new one. The sump pump won’t kick in until temperatures warm up in the spring, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed.

(“You really want a picture of me, don’t you? I’m much cuter than some pipe.”)

New sump pump discharge line

Back inside, once the footings were exposed, the crew dug a small trench around the perimeter and started to lay new weeping tile around the foundation. All of the weeping tile flow to the new sump.

Waterproofing a basement foundation from the inside

Part of what led us to choose Omni Basement Systems to handle our waterproofing was that they used some different types of materials  and systems than other companies.

One of these was the WaterGuard Perimeter Drainage Channel. This channel sits on top of the footing, so it’s away from the dirt and there’s no risk of the line becoming clogged over time. However, it turned out that the WaterGuard didn’t work with our footings, so the crew went with traditional weeping tile instead. I was a bit disappointed we didn’t get the assurance of a channel that will never clog, but the warranty still applies.

Once the weeping tile was laid the crew added some membranes over the concrete wall (the white panel and black strip in the photo below). These membranes form a barrier between the concrete–and any moisture that may be running through or down the wall–and the studs and drywall. The membranes curl over the weeping tile, funneling water into the pipe, and then concrete is poured on top.

Waterproofing a basement foundation from the inside

The concrete is smoothed and leveled so that it lines up with the original floor.

Waterproofing a basement foundation from the inside

And after two and a half days of work, that’s where the job ended. Next, it was over to Matt and me to finish the rest of the basement by repairing the studs, insulation and drywall.

But that will be for the final post. Stay tuned for the wrap-up where I share the finally finished basement, the results of the waterproofing and our experience working with Omni Basement Systems.

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