Thursday, February 25, 2016

BASEMENT work - Videos and Photos!!

If there is one thing in my life that I'm slacking in right now... its blog posts!

Oh wait.  There's plenty I'm slacking in.  Sigh!!  (can someone please put more hours into one day?)

We installed the exterior french drain over the December 12th weekend.  Kids went to grandma's house and there were 7 of us adults who worked our rear ends off.  We installed an exterior french drain 2 feet or so below the level of the ground.  We had a lot of friends help and we are SO thankful for them!  Here are some snapshots from then.

Delivery of materials on Friday:

Commencing the project:

Our friends are AWESOME!


We manually dumped probably at least 3,000 pounds of concrete, dirt, yard waste, etc.  Whew.  Tough work.  But again, could NOT have done it without some awesome friends!

So, we started to dig - and HERE is how it happened!

More outside progress:

I started to unearth some stones that went covered.  I don't have a picture of the finished product, but even this was a lot of work!


And then, a few weeks later we were able to replace the sidewalk and put our own prints on it!! 

Don't come over and judge my house based on my yard today.  It is a MESS.

We have been digging up our basement since then.  Here are some pictures of that!

We even had a 5 yr old friend helping!  We are so lucky and thankful to know so many awesome pepole!


We are so grateful for awesome friends (and we've only been in Pittsburgh for 3 years!).

This was last weekend, just Shawn and Tom working in the basement.

And here is how far they got.  Quite a bit for just two of them!

This weekend will be a TON of work, but I'll be sure to share how it goes!

In the name of a solid foundation,


Monday, December 14, 2015

Basement Waterproofing

Basements + Water = NOT A GOOD COMBINATION.  Period.

Anyone knows this -- and especially those that have had water in their basement.

We have ALWAYS had water in our basement.  Here is a picture, when we first bought the place (June 2013), with the 'finished' basement.  The floor was never finished -- my guess is because there is so much water in the basement... continuously.  The water seeps from the walls.  Yikes.

I REALLY tried to salvage this... it was too wet :(
Wow.  I barely recognize those photos!

We took the 2x4s, insulation, and drywall out of the basement.  Normally, when you tear down a wall - you've got to put some gusto into it.  Welp, these walls just crumbled down.  They were so saturated -- and moldy -- and just plain nasty that they fell apart.  ICK!  Anyways, they went -- in June of 2013.  And -- we've been thinking about drying out the basement since then...

One thing I'd like to share - is how water gets into your basement.  This is all new to me, but here is a good photo describing it.  It's really either rain water or hydrostatic pressure from the walls or under the flooring.  Pretty incredible all the little nooks and crannies that it can penetrate to get into your basement, eh?

So -- we commenced the 'dry-out the basement project' about a month ago.  When you touch the cinder block wall inside our basement, it crumbles.  Ugh.  Tom works with water for a living, so he is very competent in this subject and we decided to tackle it ourselves.

We also decided to have the 'experts' come out and give us their opinion.  Truly?  A great idea (of course, it was mine!).  At any rate, they gave us some really, really good ideas.

We are doing an exterior and interior french drain.  Most waterproofing experts recommend an interior only french drain in a house this old.  Tom does not agree with this, as it means you are inviting water in through your walls and then draining it through the french drain in your floor.  Therefore, we are doing an exterior drain only 2 feet below the surface (so we can spare some beautiful rhododendrons we have!).  

We have started the exterior work and plan to do the interior work when it is TOO cold outside.  Most of you probably think its too cold already!  Hehe.  We are lucky enough for 50 degrees this saturday and sunday.  Hoping all the outside work can be done next weekend!  Whew.  I'm exhausted just thinking of that.

Here's a picture to basically show what we are doing.  This is if you cut our house in half.  All the red and blue arrows are airflow, which is not a concern for us at the moment.  You can see the exterior french drain and the interior.  We will also do a sump pump, which is pictured bottom right.  (I'm pretty sure, right Tom?)

Here are some pictures of OUR progress!  (Tom and I CANNOT wait until this is all finished.  Tom said this to me the other night, "NO major house projects for at least another 6 months, right?"  He forgot that I said that to him a week before that!  Haha!)

The below pictures were taken the weekend before Thanksgiving (3 weeks ago) and Tom had obviously done a lot of work before these pictures!  We also had the help of some hired hands - teenagers we know, thank God for them!

First up, dig a ditch.  Ever done that?  Me neither!

Next up?  Re-mortar the block.  Yup, me neither.  Closes all those holes, all the pathways for water to seep in!

Next up, apply BLACK TAR, aka NASTINESS.  Do NOT get this on your clothes.  But that's about impossible to do.  Just wear clothes you don't mind throwing away.  

Yeah, I've never done this either.  Had no idea what it was - apparently all homes get this applied to exterior of basement walls now-a-days!

Some pictures of the progress:

This was all PREP work, 3 weeks ago.  The serious business happened last weekend.

This past weekend was HUGE and serious.  4 truckloads of crap was delivered on Friday and Saturday we went to work.  We had 7 adults working Saturday:  2 were homeowners, 4 were AMAZING volunteer friends, and 1 was a paid laborer who happens to live across the street.

WOW.  Did we make serious progress. And WOW we were all super sore the next day.  Those 2 homeowners also went at it the next day (plus the hired help).  Man, we were defeated by 4pm Sunday.  


At this very moment, it has been nonstop raining for about 1 hr... I AM SO HAPPY TO SAY THERE IS NO RUNNING WATER ON OUR BASEMENT FLOOR!!!   

In the past, every time it rains, water seeps from the walls.

Every.  Single.  Time.  

I am crossing my fingers... I will be posting again, very soon, on what we did over the weekend and letting you know if this constant rain this evening appears on my floor.  

I hope this to be educational -- please let me know if you have any questions!  I'd love to help you with your wet basement, as much as I can, pro bono!   Water in your basement is an exhausting 'to-do' item... but you CAN do it!  And we will do what we can to help!  Because Lord knows, we couldn't have done it this weekend without our friends.

With love, muddy shoes, and no more grass in my yard,


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Got Mold?

We do.  And surprisingly?  You do too.  Every house has it.  It's just a matter of if you have too much of it, and/or is it the one REALLY bad kind.  

Thankfully, we don't have that one really bad kind.  Whew.  But we do have too much of the not-good mold in our GA home.

We still own our house in Georgia - since we bought AT THE PEAK of the market in 2007.  You know -- like 5 months before the government offered that 'first time home owners $8,000 credit'.  Yeah, talk about bad timing!

Anyways, we rent out our home to awesome tenants.  They have had health issues since they've moved in.  Their doc asked about ducts being cleaned in their new home.  We don't know when that was done last so we cleaned them...

And then they found mold...

And tested...

And it came back bad.  Ruh-roh.

We found this out at 8pm on a Thurs. night.  By 7am the next morning we were on the road to Georgia.  Can you believe how awesome our friends and family are - to help us out SO much and take care of our kids while we do this?  I mean, I kinda can't believe that was pulled off so fast.  Especially since we have NO family in Pittsburgh.  Amazing!

We found the source of the problem - moisture.  We found the cause and that was a pretty easy fix, thankfully!  Its just the redmediation that is rough.  Rough on our pocket and also rough work!

Saturday I spent probably 6 hours crawling around in our attic removing the insulation.  Tom spent at least 4 removing every single vent and return, scrubbing them and inside of them.   Pancho and Carlos also showed up (Pancho worked for Tom years ago) - and we could not have done that work without them.   We worked for 12.5 hours on the house - it was a LONG day.  

And the LAST thing we did was pull up the plastic from the carpet... and we also put it on the hardwood.  CAN YOU BELIEVE IT PULLED UP THE FINISH OFF THE HARDWOOD!  Ugh.  That was at 8pm.  Talk about difficult to swallow!

I worked so hard that day I didn't take pictures.  I took one of Tom while loading the car at Home Depot at 8am.  


I will say blowing the insulation into the attic was pretty cool - and much faster than I ever would have thought.  Sorry I don't have any pics of that!

We went to bed at midnight Sat. night and woke up at 4 to drive home to get the kiddos the next morning.  If you know me, you know I need my sleep!  I worked so hard my entire body ached the next day.  A feeling I haven't had in a while -- and surprisingly I do miss it!

Whew!  At least we got dinner at Los Hermanos.  Best.  Mexican.  Ever!


Side note -- BOTH of my credit cards got denied while in GA.  I tried spending $350 at Home Depot at 8am on a Saturday, I guess it triggered their alerts (although we used it all along the drive down).  

I'm going to get back to blogging.  We dug some ditches, by hand, at our house in PA two weekends ago.  I gotta share with you what we are learning about basement waterproofing!

Get some rest tonight!

In my strongest homeowner spirit, 


Thursday, October 8, 2015


Hello blog world. 

LONG overdue post.  My apologies.  I'm not sure if I've missed blogging or not - but am inspired knowing 36 people visited the site last month without any updates since February!

Whew.  What have I been doing?  Since my last post, I battled our property tax assessment, and WON.  I filed our taxes (blech).  I fought the insurance claim from William's birth (18 months ago) and instead of paying about $5,400 we got a refund check for $670 from the midwife center!  YAHOO!

Anyways, my point is I've been SUPREMELY busy and not been working on the house.


Its July.  Last August I came up with an idea for shades in the living room -- without hiding all the beautiful woodwork we stripped the paint from Augusts's ago...

And my seamstress FINALLY has finished the shades!  I gave her the fabric in November.  I do like her, and would recommend her... just not if you're picky like me.  :)  (She has made two sets of curtains for me.  Both sets, she has the pattern running different directions -- note it's not visible to the naked eye).  This has been something I have been wanting to do for forever now... but not so sure I love the finished product.  What do you think?!?!

Middle of this page, there is a photo of the living room from about a year ago!  Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes!

It's honestly been one thing after another here!  We have been working hard on SO many aspects of the house.  Every weekend it's something here and there.  Last weekend Tom cleaned out the basement from the 4" of standing water we had the other day.  Whew.  5" of rain that day.  

And oh.  We got another stove.  Eeek!  We went through 2 of the same from Costco and realized we had had enough.  We had the same problem with 2 of the same stoves (many issues, but in particular the enamel coating was chipping away on the interior of the oven).

Here is our new stove!

I have SO many pictures I have stored and want to share with you all.  We even had a roomate this summer for 10 weeks - it's been busy!  I will keep this post short and sweet and share some more photos later (and also when I get my home computer connected to the internet finally!)

MUCH love to you,