Basement Makeover

As you may recall, our basement flooded in late June.  We lost a great number of possessions, the damage was pretty catastrophic, and my stress levels were elevated for several months as we dealt with the aftermath, including a lengthy renovation process.

A week after the initial flood, our basement was a shell.  Most of the walls had been ripped out, the carpeting was gone, fried electrical equipment had been disconnected, but things were dry, our insurance company paid out pretty quickly (though the funds covered a small fraction of the costs), and we had accepted that we had a long road ahead of us.  Incidentally, we had to pay a fine for not having pulled a permit giving us permission to conduct the demolition – even though the insurance company, health and safety, and common sense required that we complete the demolition on far too tight a timeline for that to have been feasible.

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Fighting through layers upon layers of red tape was a persistent, aggravating, and stressful theme of this whole restoration process.  As with so much of our contact with bureaucracy, we found that we were caught in this perpetual Catch 22 of submitting paperwork which we were then told could not be accepted and filed because it was missing some components or that more detail was required but they could not inform us as to what we needed to do to successfully amend it.  Over and over this was our experience.  Thankfully the inspectors that came to the house were always pleasant and helpful but, man, there were a lot of inspections for us to get through at various stages of the work.  This, therefore, extended the timeline for the whole project as work would have to shut down in order for us to be inspected, submit the next permit, and be given permission to proceed to the next stage of work.  It was frustrating and mentally exhausting.

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As I wrote before, we were grateful that, while our basement was finished, it was overdue for a makeover.  I think the basement had been finished in the late 1970s with a bit of remediation work done some point in the 1980s.  We, therefore, decided to focus on the silver lining of having this opportunity to really turn this useful but dark and dated space into a light and appealing living space.  Having the space reduced to its bare bones even provided us with the ability to spruce up the electrics and the airflow for heating.  We installed two egress windows so that we could turn the basement into living space, including a bedroom, and those let in a whole lot more light than the hideous windows there before.

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Anyway, after all of the hassle, expense, stress, and frustration, we now have two lovely rooms in the basement.  One is a teenage hangout space for our four boys (which they are especially loving during this social distancing time) and one is a bedroom that means all four of our boys can now have their own bedrooms.  Our soon-to-be 13 year old has the basement bedroom and is loving it.

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We still have some decorating to do in the basement – pictures up on the wall and that type of thing – but that is all on hold right now because of the Covid 19 pandemic.  However, I am sure you can see from the photos how much the space has been transformed.

As a reminder, this is what the basement looked like not long after we moved into the house.

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And this is what it looks like now.

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Basement Flood and Absence

Apologies for being so quiet in recent weeks, not only on my own blog but more so on the blogs of those I follow.  Free time has been in extremely short supply and it has not been possible to find time to read blog posts or do any art or really do anything in my spare time other than flop on the sofa in front of the TV or collapse into bed and read until the book wallops my in my snoozing face.  Summer should be a more chill time for me since I am off work and the kids aren’t in school.  However, our summer did not get off to the best start.

As followers of my blog may know from a previous mention, our basement flooded.  We had a week of almost perpetual torrential rain during which our sump pump failed.  Consequently, the basement of our house flooded, something we discovered only when one of the boys decided to go down there for a video game he wanted to play.  This was not just some dampness either.  Nope.  We had probably five or six inches of water.  Thankfully I was not at work and the kids were off school because immediately it was “all hands on deck” to try and rescue what we could.  Our house has no attic storage so the basement is used for storing almost everything you can imagine and as a place for the kids to keep all of their toys, board games, craft supplies, and video games, a sort of playroom/hang out.

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Having rescued what we could, the next step was to try and remove as much water as possible.  Kind neighbours loaned us their shop vac and large fans.  I set to with the pumping and kept a measure of my progress by drawing a level with a marker on the now kaput dehumidifier – the irony – to keep myself motivated.  It took many, many cold and wet hours but by 2am the following morning, all of the water (at least of the properly liquid variety) was gone.  The next stage was to get absolutely everything else out of the basement.  The rooms of our house had fast become filled with the possessions we had saved or were attempting to save – my husband had his memorabilia drying out all over the living room and kitchen floors – so the patio and front porch became the dumping ground for all the possessions that could not be salvaged, including the furniture.

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As an aside, what in the world would possess a doorstepping, cold-calling sales person to approach a house with a porch covered in flood damaged furniture and try to sell the occupants windows?  I ask because it happened to me during this whole ordeal.  As he gave me his opening pitch, I looked dumbfounded at the guy –  my large forehead covered in sweat beads, my clothes filthy, objects being lugged in my arms and disgorged onto the porch – my jaw fell open, my brow furrowed so much I could see my own eyebrows, and I gestured to all of the ruined possessions that surrounded us.  I actually have no idea what I said to him but I know I mentally high-fived myself for not deploying curse words.  Whatever it was I said, the chap literally walked backwards and then scurried away.  Seriously, dude: know your audience.

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Anyway, the week proceeded with ripping off walls and ripping up carpet and thoroughly drying the space out.  We also had to have a new sump pump installed (obviously) and also a new water heater because the flood had led the one we had – which was less than two years old – being condemned.  Super.  We also tried to salvage as many possessions as we could, though the success rate was not superb.  The thing is, when you emigrate, you part with most of your worldly goods.  The only non-essential things that crossed the Atlantic with us were things that were irreplaceable, things that had sentimental value or meaning to us.  Therefore, when I mention that we tried to save what we could, that is because it wasn’t just a bunch of stuff we probably should have donated or recycled years ago, it was the stuff we had considered important enough to pack into a shipping crate and pay to transport across an ocean.

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So it has been a pretty dispiriting time and there is, of course, all the chaos and hassle, not to mention the stress over financing the restoration.  However, we have been trying to maintain perspective because truly we are in the privileged position that we only lost stuff and only in one level of our house.  People endure far worse during fires and natural disasters.  We have also endured the deaths of loved ones so we have appropriate perspective on losing things that are merely material.  I appreciate we are lucky to have what we do and that really I have such little cause to whine in the grand scheme of things.  Additionally, we are lucky that the basement has not been decorated since the 1970s so it is not as if we are having to rip out lovely new carpet and beautifully painted walls.  It was due for a refresh at some stage but it would have been so much nicer to save up to do it on our own timeline.  So we definitely have perspective and know things could be so much worse.  However, I would be lying if I claimed I was not stressed out of my mind by the current state of things.

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And did I mention that my dishwasher decided to shuffle off its electrical coil in the aftermath of the flood?  I mean, having to hand wash everything is the least of my problems right now but I seriously could have done without that timing.

And – on top of all of this – we were scheduled to go on vacation at the end of the week of flood recovery.  We were committed to going  – as it was too late to cancel and get refunded – and we knew we would benefit from escaping from the house mess but still the timing was stressful to handle.

So the explanation for my online absence is two-fold: flood recovery and travelling.  I will blog about the latter as time permits.  Hopefully normal blog interaction service will resume soon.