Sunday, April 27, 2008

Making a Dry well

Since my last post, in which I took a sledgehammer to our uneven patio with great satisfaction, we have found out some things about our house. This is the risk you take whenever you take the plunge into demolition in an older home (or even newer homes too sometimes). In this case it was nothing dire or shocking, but one of those things that made us readjust our plans slightly.

When we excavated the area near our gutter (our building only has one gutter), we found that a dry well was constructed underneath our porch, which is where all of the water from the gutter ends up- right-next-to-our-house. Water, of course, is not something you want near your home -at all.

Steve started doing some research on the internet trying to figure out what we should do about this, and found that a dry well should be a minimum of 10 feet from the home- ours is about 3 feet, except it is under our porch, so in a way, it's kind of right underneath a part of our house.

He also did research on rain barrels, which I would love to have, but there are a few obstacles.

1. For a 1/2" rain on a 1000 square foot roof, 200 gallons of rain water is generated. Most rain barrels are 55-80 gallons. We would need two or more and that would take up alot of space on our small patio. We could do one barrel and then have an overflow that goes somewhere else. Or add another gutter. All projects we are not up for right now.

2. In our cold Chicago climate, the rain barrels would need to be disconnected in the winter as with all the freezing and thawing, they would surely crack. This means that we would have to have a backup drainage system for that part of the year.

We determined that because we are not up for relocating our dry well right now, we will not be doing rain barrels. But maybe we will at some point. I really would like to.

My feeling is that if it's been okay this way for 100 years, a few more years won't kill us (or the house). We are fortunate in that we pretty much live on sand and so have excellent drainage, which may be why this location was thought a fine spot in the first place.

How has this changed our plans for our patio repair?
Well, we have decided that we don't want to pour concrete over something that will relatively soon need to be excavated and corrected and so we have opted to rebuild the dry well (it needs it!) and place 12" square concrete tiles over that area. This way, we are not cementing in something that will be removed in a few years.

Our patio will be a bit hodge-podge, but at least it will be one level and I can camouflage it with beautiful containers strategically placed. And it will be much more functional. So without further ado, here is what we have accomplished thus far with our patio and refreshed dry well.

We were pleasantly surprised to discover the foundation for our porch has a limestone footing and several courses of brick.

In this photo you can see the gravel bed that we laid to prevent the sandy soil from washing away underneath. We also laid bricks and chunks of excavated concrete in the bed to help secure the drainage pipe not pictured).

What is Steve doing with those dreadlocks you might ask? This are actually something called yoakum rope and it's used to seal the pipes like a kind of caulking. So many things to learn about. I googled "yoakum" and I can't find anything on it. I guess there are some things you can't find on the internet, but I find that hard to believe. Anyway, thanks to this post, now there is some info on this bizarre product.

After rebuilding the dry well, we leveled the soil and put another layer of gravel, which will help support the concrete tiles. We have to add more gravel and playsand and then the tiles will go in.

And then we have that strip to patch with concrete.

I am actually really pleased that we will have this all done in the next few weeks and be able to enjoy our patio this year. It's no showplace, but it will work for us until we undertake the big project of rebuilding the back porch and laying a new patio. And just fyi, building a back porch is a job we would hire others to do. We aren't that crazy. Laying a patio,that we would do. But just this morning after yesterday's backbreaking work, Steve said that if we ever do a whole patio job, we will budget in weekly massages on Sundays. Sounds like a good idea to me!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

My First Sledgehammer

I tried it out on Sunday. I must say, I'm better with a sledgehammer than a hammer. Steve is better with tools in general- he has more experience. But I've held my own with a Sawzall. It's always easier to destroy something than create it in the first place.

I finally excavated the old concrete slab that we believe at some point was a landing base for back porch stairs. No longer serving that purpose, all it did for us was make the patio space less useful and give something to trip over every now and then.

Now it's been cleared and is ready for new concrete. We are just doing a patch job on the patio for now.

Check out the gutter drain pipe which goes to a catch basin underneath our porch. That catch basin is kind of a mess and before we close the patio up again, we are going to excavate what is in there. Woo hoo!- looking forward to that one.

As you can see our patio needs help. Last summer, we lived with that missing strip all season. Having a complete patio will pretty much be nirvana for us.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Happy Spring!

The robins are back, the grass is starting to green up, bulbs are popping and it was 60 degrees here in Chicago this weekend! All of this can mean only one thing to those of us with yards: Yard Work!

Time to make a little field trip to my favorite garden center and plant a few pots. This year I decided to go with all pinks. All these annuals are cold tolerant (pansies, carnations, violets, etc...) so hopefully will survive the fickle Chicago weather!

I added the little pine trees to my pots last November and the goal is to keep them living year round and just add some annuals or greenery depending on the season. The made it through the winter (there are two of them) pretty well.

Friday, April 04, 2008

I'm not going down there...

"I think I'll just stay here and observe from a distance. It's pretty stinky and noisy. Usually stinky and noisy things don't bother me so much, but it's a weeknight and I can't figure out what my humans are doing down there...."


You know you're into something bad when even Billie doesn't want to come and watch. Billie has grown up with construction and can practically sleep beside you while you hammer nails or drill pilot holes.

But what was it that caused Billie to keep her distance Wednesday evening?

It started with a foul smell and a backing up drain. It seems our basement drains (we have two) need to be rodded out every year or two. In the past we've called out a plumber, but Steve was feeling thrifty & energetic this time and instead opted to rent a Rodder for about $57 from "Clark Devon"(Only the best Hardware store in the whole world).

So Steve went at the two drains with the rodder and I have to tell you, it smelled real bad. Like I wouldn't want to be feeling queasy and smell that smell.

What did I do besides take photos you ask? I held the rooter so it was stable. And I held the flashlight. I don't mind dirty jobs, but that rodder has been to places I don't want to even think about.

A hundred feet or so later, the beast starting flailing like a wild snake.

Luckily no one was injured and no teeth were knocked out. I have to say that thought crossed my mind a few times during this dirty job.

The result: The smell is gone and the drains seem back to normal. But it was gross.

Random Question: Do you like the show "Dirty Jobs"? We do.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Stripping Humour

I've posted about this before. I check my keywords on occasion and it never fails to make me laugh when I see keyword searches such as "woman stripping" or today's gem "Hot ladies stripping down all the way" bringing up my site. People I share this strange fact with seem to find it pretty funny too. It's been going on for years and I often show up on the first page of these searches.

I have this idea for the next time I do a post on wood stripping to take pictures of myself stripping (a door) and having layers of clothes on. In each photo I either have changed clothes or taken off a layer. Don't you think that would be funny? Anything to make stripping more interesting is good because it can get monotonous.

Here are a few of my favorite stripping posts. And if that isn't enough for you, go to houseblogs and check out these search results. Maybe it's the fumes that gets to some of us.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Sad Addition

I've decided to do a little series I'm going to call "buildings I notice on my way to work." Some of them I really like, some not so much. This is only my taste. If you don't agree, that's fine. But I can't see this one winning any awards.

This particular one I will call a "sad addition." Here we have a circa 1920 or so building with a gigantic cinder block addition slapped on top of it.
It's set back a bit, but clearly visible from the street or even the sidewalk across the street. For this project they really cheaped out and used only 2 windows for this huge addition.

Sometimes I think these types of projects reflect a certain trend. The trend is that people only care about what their homes are like inside (and that they have huge master suites and closets for more stuff, etc...etc...). This same trend would include not picking up litter in front of the property.

While the original building has some lovely features such as columns and a nice 2nd story porch all made from brick, the addition is made with inferior construction materials and little attempt was made to integrate the addition with the original building. To me, this says to the community at large, "we don't care that you have to look at this ugly monstrosity, we got some primo space for ourselves."

I wrote a similar series a few years back called The Good , The Bad , and The Ugly and The Beautiful. Just something to pass the time in between projects.