Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Foreseeable Consequences, Sort Of

Sometimes the problems you run into in life are remarkably obvious, in hindsight.

Our house is surrounded by concrete.  The house was actually built somewhere else and moved onto this lot not long before we bought it, and unfortunately the lot is about eight feet too narrow for the house.  On the south side of the house this means that you’ve got a path about five feet wide before you run into the neighbor’s fence.  On the north side, the driveway covers every inch of the distance between the foundation of the house and the other neighbor’s property line.  And then the driveway wraps around the northern half of the back of the house as well.

So for one and a half sides of the house, the driveway slabs come right up to the foundation.

I don’t think they laid those slabs very well.  Or maybe that’s just what happens to driveway slabs in Wisconsin, because over time the slabs have gradually tilted in toward the house.  So on rainy days the water pours toward the house, where it runs down the foundation walls and, eventually, into our basement.

A few years ago we had the driveway mudjacked, which is not a crime involving dirty, heavily armed men and diverted flights to Cuba but is, rather, the process of drilling holes in the concrete slabs and injecting some kind of slurry underneath them so they tilt in a different – and presumably drier – direction.  It didn’t last very long, though, and recently we have had to keep the ShopVac in the basement to vacuum up all the incoming water.

So this year we decided to try the mudjacking route again. 

The contractor we eventually chose was an outfit that would not only mudjack the driveway but would also move the heavy wooden back stair unit (which, I found out, is not actually attached to anything – it just sits there next to the house, secure in its mass) out of the way and put it back in its proper spot when they were done, which meant I didn’t have to do that.  This sounded full of win to me.

Today I got home from picking up the girls at school and the house was enveloped in concrete dust. 

They were quite efficient, really – holes were drilled, slurry was pumped, and then everything was put back in its proper spot and hosed down.  It was well done.  I spoke with them afterward about what else I needed to do, and they gave me all sorts of instructions and then spent the remainder of our conversation deriding the skills, professionalism and manhood of the people we had here doing the previous mudjacking.  Apparently their work was simply unacceptable.  “Look at that hole!” one of them exclaimed in disgust.  “How do you expect to get anything done with a hole that small?”

I admit this was a mystery to me too.

These guys had the proper holes and the proper slurry and the driveway is now a good three or four inches higher at the foundation than it had been so that water runs away from the house rather than toward it, as was our plan.  All of the slabs match in height now too, which will help come snowblowing time.  And they even put the back stairs in place when they left.

Whereupon we discovered a problem.

You see, the driveway is now taller.  But the stair unit is not any shorter.  You'd have thought we would have seen that one coming.

Opening and closing the back door has now become something of an interesting proposition, given that the stair unit is about a quarter inch higher than the bottom of the door.  You can do it, if you press down on the boards of the stairs, but I really don't think that's supposed to be happening either.

Fortunately, we are not trapped in our house.  But there will be yet another project to deal with the aftereffects of this project, that much is certain.

The solution to the problem just changes the problem.


John the Scientist said...

That's nothing you can't solve in a couple of minutes with your trusty chainsaw. You DO have a chainsaw, don't you?

Hey y'all, watch this!

David said...

Actually, no. What would I do with a chainsaw? I can't juggle.