Saturday, April 30, 2005

Bilbo didn't have to deal with this shit.

As you may or may not know. I live underground. The house is buried on three sides and the roof. This is not due to any severe paranoia about he guberment or aliens (I do sometimes wear a tin foil hat, but only as a fashion statement). This design has many advantages. For instance, when we lost power this winter, the house went down to a cool but very survivable 50 degrees. The down side is that I have a lawn for a roof and dirt on three sides of my house.

Last fall we found a leak along the back wall of the house. It wasn't gushing, but it was serious. I spent two weeks gutting my closet, scraping, acid cleaning and waterproofing the surface. But this is only a temporary fix.

When we bought the house I knew that the worst thing that could happen was to get a leak in the back wall, and what do you know, we got one. Do YOU know who to call to fix an Earth home? I didn't think so. I can't call a traditional roofer, and even an excavator is going in somewhat blind.

Today the guy who did some initial repairs to our underground secret escape passage came by to give us the good news. He can fix the wall. All he'll have to do is scrape off 1/3 of the roof, dig down 16 feet, plaster the entire wall and fill it in again. Oh, is that all? Keen. He gave us a price that involved more zeros than I feel comfortable writing here. Oh man. We feared this might happen. So we came up with a plan "B". This will involve scraping a good foot off the entire roof and laying down a rubber roofing sheet like ones used for large buildings like factories. The idea is to form a solid moisture barrier and then angle it to drain away from the house. We'll also need to add about 16 inches to the front face of the house and fill it with stone to prevent erosion and help with draining. The cost, about half of plan "A". Maybe.

Given a choice, there are other things I would prefer to spend the money on. For Christs sake there is an frelling X-wing fighter for sale just one post down! Go look at it! I think about this repair and start second guessing myself. Last year had a freakish about of rain. My repair hasn't leaked yet. But what if we damage some as-yet unseen (but critical) part of the house? My head starts to hurt. I sit down and have a soda. Ah, that's better. Ooo, cookies...

I love my house. But it keeps hitting me with questions I don't have answers to. The original design was sound. But 20+ years of Ohio weather has washed some of the top soil away and created ruts and channels and water seems to be draining incorrectly. With luck, this fix will keep the house nice and dry for another 20 years. I'm told the life expectancy of some shingled roofs is 10-20 years.

The bright spot in my day was actually finishing one project completely. We've been putting in new stone walkways and that left us with a bunch of old, fairly crappy sandstone. I pulled it up, hauled it over to a tree, chiseled down the pieces, built a wall around the base of the tree, cleared the old crap out from around the tree, hacked out 20 pounds of weed roots with an axe and put in new soil. It took three days, but you know what? I did it. I did the damn thing myself start to finish (well, Rossana did help with the roots, she likes rending). It feels so good to see something get done and actually look better that it was before. How proud am I? Check out these before and after pics.

It almost looks like I know what I'm doing.


Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear about this, Steve. It's a tough proposition, having a rigid structure in the flow of the Earth's crust, which is essentially a slow-moving fluid.

Good luck with your fix. I am confident that anything you put in place will last for decades.

- Mike Substelny

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