Thursday, June 16 2005
For the past few weeks I've been working here and there on the closet in the main basement guest room. This narrow two-foot-wide room starts at the southwest corner of the house and runs northward about 12 feet, and its back wall is the buried west foundation wall of the house. This is the wall where I first diagnosed profound foundation leakage problems back in August, a diagnosis that lead to all the site drainage projects that have followed. I've subsequently removed all the drywall from this wall, exposing all of its various injuries and defects. I fixed many of its cracks back in the fall using either Portland cement or epoxy and more recently I went over these repairs with layers of fiberglass mesh tape and Portland cement and then a final layer of waterproof cement surfacing compound. This makes for a respectable stucco surface, plenty suitable for the back of a closet. I'd been fretting about what to use to cover the concrete but now I'm thinking I'll just leave it bare or paint over it with an anti-mildew basement paint.
With the wall fully exposed but not yet repaired, I'd been able to get a sense of the kind of damage it had suffered back before I'd properly drained the soil pressing in on it from the west. The main problem was an eighth-inch-wide horizontal crack running the length of the wall at the joint between the second and third topmost blocks. This I took to be evidence of a general bulging-inward of the center of the wall. Since the hydrostatic pressures that provoked this bulge have hopefully been removed, I might not have had to do anything to repair the wall's structural integrity. But I've played it safe and covered it with those layers of fiberglass mesh and cement mentioned earlier. I also built some robust structures from treated wood, a beefier form of the structures that had supported the closet's hanging rod, and hoped these would further stabilize the wall (indeed, there's evidence that the flimsy old wooden closet rod support structures kept the wall from bulging inward any further than it did).
More serious even than the bulging of this foundation wall is the effect such pressures appear to have had on a stud wall running away from it perpendicularly. Since they lack diagonal braces, there's little to keep such a wall from skewing into a parallelogram if pressed by a perpendicular wall. Drywall helps somewhat but its ability to resist sideway stress from fasteners driven through it isn't great. So it comes as no surprise that neither of the two doors passing through this wall would close until I went on a sanding jihad this evening. On a whim, I later went around slapping a level on the walls throughout the basement and first floor of the house, seeing which walls were plumb and which weren't. As expected, the closer I got to the southwest corner of the house, the less plumb the walls tended to be. Strangely, though, there was no evidence of stress or distortion in any of the drywall, and none of the windows appeared to be skewed, not even those located in the wall containing the two badly out-of-square interior doors. This makes me wonder if perhaps the wall was skewed before the drywall ever went on it. If so, it's unlikely that it will skew any more.
After all the masonry work and sanding, the guest room was a terrible dusty mess, and since Gretchen's parents will be visiting (and staying there) starting tomorrow, I had to end the day with a massive cleaning jihad.
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