Of Duct Tape and Driveways

When I undertook to renovate my 1892 home back in 2005, I thought I’d budgeted for everything. It turned out that I didn’t have budget for replacing all the studs on the second floor (ancient roof fire), digging-out a brick septic tank (hazardous material removal), and a fourteen-month delay due to living next door to the President of the City Council’s brother (inexplicable retraction of building permits, corruption, secret meeting violations, etc.). At the end of the project, I was left with several hard-rock choices. I chose not to renovate the original bathroom; not to repair the destruction of the driveway caused by excavation; and not to replace the original front door which is custom built, hardwood, and leaky. I also chose to use cheaper cabinets in the kitchen and use built-in-place Formica counters rather than the soapstone of which I dreamed (I am a Chemical Engineer by education…I just really wanted them!).

So, ten years in, when cracks appeared in the new portion of the basement, I girded myself to tackle the first of these delayed projects, and the most expensive. I have a Michigan Basement…but my new construction was lower than that. Michigan basements are high, due to the high water table, half-way above ground with windows. I added a small portion to the basement at the back of my house to move the staircase and add a living space that can be used as a bedroom. I also got lots of closets, and a small room that I’ve used to store many of my books on metal bookcases. It also houses a sump pump. After ten years, I discovered that the floor had cracked and water was pushing its way up into the space.

I immediately implicated the damage to the driveway, just adjacent to the sump pump, to the damage to the basement floor. I called my contractor and had them replace my driveway and deal with all the water-drainage issues. This included not only the driveway drainage, but the drainage from half of my large roof. Everything was draining to a single point next to my house where the damage had occurred.

A week and many thousands of dollars later, I had a lovely new driveway. A storm hit, and all the water, now diverted to the other side of my driveway, was easily absorbed into the ground rather than back into my house. I thought this was success…but a few days later it dawned on me to check out the water situation in my basement. Sadly, not only was it still wet, it seemed worse than before!

I met with my contractor to finalize the project. I showed him my wet basement space. I stood there as we brainstormed what the problem could be. We both agreed that the driveway project had been much needed and had been successful for the most part. Then the sump pump kicked in and my contractor exclaimed, “did you see that?!”. No, I hadn’t, but it turned out that when the sump pump kicked in, a leak in the piping gave way to a solid squirt of water back into my basement!

My contractor is sending over someone to replace the leaky fittings…but in the meantime I took a scrap of duct tape from my younger daughter’s craft supplies and a used, one-gallon, zip-top bag, and taped a make-shift water shield to the leaky fixture. My basement is now dry. No longer does half the water that hits my roof plus all the water that hits the driveway dump towards my basement…and no longer does my sump pump pump a fraction of that water directly back into my basement.

I know I needed to replace my driveway, but I am still left thinking that the immediate crisis was actually fixed for free…

Find the Joy in the Journey…have a sense of humor, it always helps!