Old Stone House

The Big Breakdown

September 26, 2006

Filed under: Basement @ 10:46 pm

shovel.jpgLast night we gutted the basement. In a window of three hours my buddy Rudy and I managed to tear our every last scrap of drywall and framing and deposit all 1.5 tons of it in the driveway. What was the secret to our success? Firstly, we both grew up on farms so we know how to work hard. Second, we like breaking things. Third, we didn’t drink till AFTER we were done. Finally, we aren’t precious… We’ve watched a number of acquaintances attempt to reno their homes only to get bogged down trying to save absolutely everything! I do save things, but I’d like to think I’m a little pragmatic about it. I’m not going to try so save sheets of drywall, nor am I going to remove each nail from old 2”x4”s, nor will I attempt to rescue every electrical outlet. If I will be potentially replacing it, or at the very least, touching it – it goes. Naturally, if I encountered original pine floors, radiators, vintage light switches etc. I would do my very best to preserver that which I could. In our case, we were removing a blight someone else had added, so nothing was considered precious.

I have come to understand that drywall is the great equalizer – no matter how poorly you construct/plumb/wire/frame, so long as a nice smooth layer of drywall is applied, everyone thinks you’re a master craftsman.

After tearing down the walls and ceiling, we were simply dumbfounded at what we discovered…

The heating ducts took the scenic route around the room, twisting and knotting all over the place, increasing from 3” pipe to 6” pipe, choking off any airflow, and never resting between joists, rather choosing to travel over them in a bulkhead – which at this point is probably a blessing as previous renos had managed to cut 1/3rd of the joists in half! We wondered why the floor squeaked; well now we know why!

It would appear that every time someone tried to update the heating, they simply sliced right through the joists! I’m not talking about little notches; I mean whole sections of 2”x10” removed! I suppose this was necessary to make room for all of the hidden junction boxes!

Half a dozen junction boxes were floating between the rafters! This is to say nothing of the wiring which in itself was stupefying – a virtual rat’s nest of anarchy. It seems that the entire room was wired using 5 foot cast-off chunks of wire, as there wasn’t a single strand of wire longer then an arm span. That didn’t pose a problem for the ‘last guy’ – he just marred them together in a box and continued on!

Of course, those additional boxes will be helpful when it comes time to remove the wires that are wrapped around the plumbing! Was this an attempt at passive heating? Weaving in and out of the copper pipes, the wiring snaked its way around every waste pipe and supply line like tree roots. Luckily, the malignant growth hadn’t accidentally turned on any of the hidden faucets!

Again, hidden faucets! Who knows what the hell these are for, but as I write this I swear there were taps between the joists, buried beneath the drywall! At least the taps will allow me to drain the lines when I tear out all the plumbing as whoever installed the water softener did so without every actually hooking the pipes up to any of the fixtures! The soft water enters the maze beneath the joists, loops around, and then exits out to the water heater! No wonder the dishwasher didn’t clean worth a damn…

It would seem that I have my work cut out for me. On the bright side, I will be reducing the risk of freezing/flooding/fire. On the downside, I have to fix this crap…

Have mercy.

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