Turning the Tide

I already partly started tearing up the kitchen floor, the oldest part of this 1960 house. Beneath delaminated linoleum and a waterdamaged layer of 3/4" plywood, there were 3/4" shiplap boards for a subfloor, rotted through in spots (I found out when I stepped through a few), consequence of water damage from when frozen pipes burst two owners ago.

But at least the floor in the kitchen is roughly level. In the living room, the floor dives down at the front wall. Telltale saggy ceiling suggests the foundation is subsiding. I'm surprised the large aluminum windows haven't cracked yet.

I had a sneaking suspicion there was a problem with drainage under the front deck because in today's rain I heard water gurgling in the downspout but none was coming out the 4" PVC pipe sticking out from under the front edge of the deck, where it should have been trickling runoff onto the lawn but wasn't.

The downspout disappeared into a hole in the deck. The only way to assess it would be to pull up a few deck boards, in this case Trex (or more likely an off-brand), which is basically plastic decking molded to resemble wood. Permit records show it was probably installed in 2008, and the corroded screws seem consistent with that age. Most of the screws either stripped or sheared, so I had to pry the boards up, tearing the screws right out of the pressure-treated joists. Everything was waterlogged and squooshy so with a little bit of two-fisted double prybar action I was able to pop 'em, screws and all.

It's tempting to disparage someone who thinks a little bit of loosely wrapped duct tape can hold up a 10-foot length of 4" PVC pipe, but let's just call them an Optimist instead. The joint probably didn't stay connected past the first rainfall, so for years it's been dumping rainwater right against the foundation, thousands upon thousands of gallons over time.

I fixed it and watched with a mixture of horror and relief as rain spilled out of the pipe and pooled in the front yard. It made me queasy to think how much water had poured in over the years, but at least we found a cause of the subsidence and took steps to keep it from getting worse.

Temporary fix with what was at hand. Not great! Gotta redo better ASAP.

I won't know the extent of the issue (or how to fix it) until I pull up the living room subfloor, the first step of which was peeling back this cheap vinyl finish flooring. As Raymond Chandler wrote, "They had spared every expense." The only nice thing about it is it pulls up real easy, the fruit roll-up of flooring.

All in all it was just a few hours work, but that was enough for today. We've been going nonstop for months and so we scheduled the afternoon off. We walked across the road, marveled at the quiet and stillness of the day, smoke rising from chimneys in unperturbed columns, mist hanging in the trees, the creek running fast and fresh with rainy season runoff, Hood Canal flat as glass, faintest suggestion of water pushing back in after the lowest ebb. The tide was turning.


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