You may have heard about the rain we had in the Chicago area two weeks ago. We didn’t have any real trouble here in my neighborhood, except a very small amount of water seepage in the old furnace room in the basement. This is a long story so hang in there with me.
The old furnace room is where we planned to have our enclosed storage room. My husband and son tore out the existing walls, ceiling and floors, (plural, outdoor carpet on top of vinyl tiles on top of linoleum on top of rotted plywood), killed thousands of gross earwigs and took the room down to its bones. I sealed the walls with Dry Lock and paint. We covered the floor with heavy plastic. The “floor” now consisted of long rectangles of concrete foundation separated by wood studs. Except the studs had completely decomposed leaving channels of wet, rotted wood. We’re not entirely sure why the wood decomposed. Apparently, the old furnace rooms were built on this type of foundation so when the heating oil leaked, it would drain into the soil beneath the studs. I don’t know when the old furnace was dismantled and the new boiler room created. (Wouldn’t it be great if a log of repairs and additions was kept in a house so restoration geeks like us can see what the original looked like?)
The second half of this story involves the gutters at the front of the house, along the furnace room wall. There were four holes in the gutters which had not yet been fixed. We had 11 inches of rain in 48 hours. Made the national news, Des Plaines River overflowed, a lot. Rain dripped out of these holes, building a pool by the foundation, which seeped down the foundation wall and through these now relatively empty channels in the old furnace room. The water was underneath the plastic we had laid on the floor, about 3 inches deep in the channels. We think this type of seepage happened repeatedly. That’s our only explanation for the decay of this floor. I’m so glad there are two floor drains in the basement. We wet-vac’d the water, fixed the gutter holes, installed downspout extenders and fan dried the dirt in the empty channels for two weeks. The gutter repair kept the rain water from pooling at the foundation and that seemed to stop any further seepage from subsequent rains.
We had planned to enclose this area and use it as a storage room. We contemplated rearranging our plans, but decided to stay with our original idea when we saw the floor staying dry after the gutter repair. But to be on the cautious side and save ourselves from any future seepage issues, we decided to create a water tight floor. So now comes the really fun part. Part three. My son and I dry-vac’d the gunk and decayed wood from the space between the concrete slabs. (Three days). Another day was spent breaking up the calcite and vacuuming it off the concrete slab. The calcite forms with repeated contact of water to the concrete slab. Nothing will adhere to the concrete if this is not cleaned off. Add one more day of spraying an adhesive onto all old concrete in the channels so it would adhere to the new concrete. Then I poured concrete in these spaces. (Four days). Next, my husband, son and I worked as a well oiled team and poured self leveling underlayment on top of all this. (One day).
This detour cost us a month of hard physical work, 2 steps forward, 5 steps back.
But….. we now have a water tight concrete floor!
Our new saying is, “The house will tell us what to work on next.”