Saturday, March 23, 2013

Water in all the wrong places

Lest you think we've been building snowmen and eating popcorn all winter, let me tell about some of the not-so-fun things we've had to do these past few months. Some of which involve water where it doesn't belong!

We are pretty fortunate—the problems we've had with water have caused minimal damage, have cost us little, and have been correctable (at least temporarily) in just a few hours. It's far less damage than some of our friends have had to deal with--and it goes without saying that it's small potatoes compared with the damage done to some folks' homes by Hurricane Sandy and other storms. But even still, it was quite a headache.

The Garage

Our Midwestern winter has been a roller coaster ride of freezing and thawing: snowstorms leave massive piles of snow, the piles melt to slush, the slush refreezes, the frozen slush gets covered by the next snowstorm. The result? A perfect environment for flooding. Because the ground is still frozen, the melting snow has nowhere to go but into basements and garages.

I know this photo is not the greatest, but can you see that lovely layer of three-inch-deep water going all the way back? Luckily, this is only the "half" part of our two and a half car garage--it's not the entire thing. On the other hand, we haven't exactly been keeping this space (which we use primarily as a workspace) clean and organized, so there was stuff on the ground that is now ruined. Not too much, though. 

The garage is poorly built. There's a space between the walls and the foundation on the side, which is how the water got in. We knew from the beginning that the garage wasn't in great shape, but we didn't anticipate flooding. 

Shop-Vac to the rescue! We were able to "vacuum" out enough of the water to clean up the area and make sure nothing important remained on the floor. Because of the shape the garage is in, we knew it would be fruitless to try keeping water out for good, so we focused on minimizing damage for now.  

The Basement

Our backyard: a quagmire of ice, slush, and snow

The basement flooding, however, was a different story altogether. It wasn't a complete surprise--based on the peeling paint on the basement walls, Justin surmised that there had been water damage in the past, which suggested that we might have to deal with flooding sooner or later. And so when I discovered a soaking wet pile of dirty laundry on the basement floor (oops) one Saturday morning, he already had a plan. 

Justin surveys the icy mess 

Two dozen fifty-pound sandbags! Such fun!
First, we lined the side of the house where the water was seeping in with sandbags.

A trough in the ice to divert flowing water
Then, we spent what seemed like hours chopping up the ice along the side of the house, forming a trough for drainage. Since our yard is on a slight incline, this gave the water a place to run instead of puddling up against our house. 

The Dryer Vent

Years of dryer lint built up under our porch
This has nothing to do with flooding, but it does involve unwanted condensation.

Our screen porch was added to the house at some point, and whoever built it decided it would be fine to leave the dryer vent where it was, spewing steam and lint under the floor of said porch. This means that in the cold months, any time you use the dryer, the windows of the porch get covered with steam--which then freezes. This really isn't ideal.

Can you find the dryer vent in this picture? 

So we decided to move the vent. Justin removed a floorboard to find not only the vent but also YEARS of disgusting dryer lint! We plan on taking down or rebuilding the porch at some point, so we didn't bother trying to clean out all the lint right away. 

The new dryer  vent, outside where it belongs
To make a long story short, Justin managed to set up a new vent that goes underneath the porch and ends outside where it belongs. No more condensation or ice inside our porch! 

Monday, March 18, 2013

What We Did on Our Winter Vacation

Okay, so we weren't really on *vacation*, but we did take a break from major house projects. Not only was it too cold to work in the garage or open windows for ventilation, but we were just plain tired of big projects after redoing the kitchen! Here's what we did instead:

We played in the snow...

...then watched our snowman melt to the ground one unseasonably warm January day.

We read lots of books...

...and watched some movies.

Making chocolate-dipped, cheesecake-stuffed strawberries on Valentine's Day
 We thoroughly enjoyed using our new kitchen!

Cleaning and re-seasoning cast iron pans passed down from Justin's Grandmother

Juniper lampoons Brigitte's love of seed collecting.

Brigitte did a lot of online seed trading, amassing an impressive array of heirloom tomatoes, peppers, and other tasty things for this summer's garden. 

Fresh "homemade" mung bean sprouts

Brigitte also got impatient to start growing things, and so experimented with growing sprouts (the verdict? Yum!).

Junie's to-do list
And far too many more things to list here!

What did *you* do this winter?