Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Dungeon

Old heating system
The dungeon is how our basement looked (and smelled) when we started the house remodel.  Only it was worse!

Our home has steam radiator heat.  A wonderful system that provides consistent and economical heat.  Once those babies get hot, they can shut off and we will stay reasonably warm for almost six hours.  Iron is a great conductor of heat. 

The furnace/boiler/fuel feed system was really old.  It's was obvious the two chimneys had openings for stoves.  Whether these stoves were for heat or cooking isn't obvious.

At some point during the road down to vacancy, the tenants used coal, then wood, and finally trash to heat the boiler.  At some point, the hot ashes were removed and put into plastic containers.  Yes, not the best of plans since we hauled out (I use that term often) melted and hardened plastic goo buckets. 

Self explanatory!
Another obvious was bags of trash were often thrown down the basement steps.  That was the bags that weren't thrown outside.  Animals, weather and decomposition had made a scattered mess.  I am here to verify plastic anything does not decompose, but, can be blown into many an odd place.

It was obvious (again) many large unhappy dogs had been kept in the basement.  Large unhappy dogs tend to show unhappy by clawing and eating in an effort to become outside happy dogs. 

Once we had everything out of the basement, we had to find the origin of the horrible smell.  It was an uncapped sewage line.  The number of times we have realized we managed to not get poisoned, blown up, burned up, or gassed during this remodel was way too many. 

My husband replaced all the plumbing and hauled out the old water heater, boiler, heating tank, fuel feeder and more often unidentifiable stuff.  He then had to start shoring up all the load bearing walls since someone had removed many of the brick walls in the basement. 

We found out a portion of the north basement wall had been replaced but the dirt had been left in the basement (I don't know why) and it filled the old coal bin.  A couple of summer's ago, we had to replace the rest of the wall and we did remove the dirt - it seemed so logical.

Prior to shoring up wall & steel basement door 
For an old basement, it is relatively sturdy, dry and serves it's purpose.  It's only under some of the back of the house.  The front two rooms have a crawl space.  Under the back entry is the capped cistern. 

On our "wish we had done", the basement is one.  I wish we had lifted the house and installed an all new basement.  It would have been nice but it wasn't necessary.  When doing a job this size, we often had to balance "would be nice" against "could use that money on something else."  Never did we want it to be the kind of basement where you have livable rooms such as dens and extra bedrooms.

Jerry did clean it up with wall covering and we are able to store things in a clean environment.  Fortunately the entire floor is cement.  We put in a steel/locking outside basement door. 

Schisler's Heating from Abingdon installed all the heating system and electricals on the first pass.  Cordrey Contractors, Kewanee, did the basement walls and our new sidewalks.  Cone' Electric and Pat Duystchaver Electric, both of Galva, did the electricals for the generator and the line to the shed.  Ferrellgas, Galesbrug, is our propane supplier, Corn Belt Electric supplies our electric power, and Mid Century supplies our phone and fiber optic computer lines.  I mention these contractors and suppliers because they all did excellent work, service and at reasonable costs.

Contemplating new stairs & wall bracing
When doing a job of this size, we learned to appreciate excellent work and service.  We always tried to use local businesses.  It also helped that Jerry had the talent to do much of the work and we both weren't afraid of dirty hard work. 

We were warned that most marriages can't stand a house remodel.  The only time it came close to a tense situation was Jerry was installing beaded board and I was painting it.  Painting goes faster than installing and eventually I was painting right over him.  When a very large drip of paint hit his head, we had a moment of regrouping while he wiped off the paint, asked me to wait a bit, and I tried to stop laughing (it was a really big drip of paint.)       


  1. At least yours is dry. At one time there was an underground garage under the dining room. When they filled it in again it seems to leak on that wall during a hard rain. Ours was added onto over the yrs. & we have field stone, brick and cement block depicting the additions.

  2. I've seen underground garages and never seen one that didn't let in water (in old homes.) All the odd things about old houses is part charm, part beauty and part upkeep. It's that darn upkeep that I'd just as soon forget! Tks. for the note. Diane