Saturday, January 17, 2009

That was fast...

So, Thursday, we fielded three estimates from basement waterproofers, and let me tell you, the three estimates we got couldn't have been more scattered about the universe than they were.

Contractor A, the contractor I'd call the "Big Dogs"...high reputation according to both Angie's List and BBB, but looked to be more on the expensive side, came first. The guy was nice (though I could see how The Box House could have found him to be condescending :) ) and explained everything they'd do for us. They would patch the 5 cracks and install a full drain tile system with a cleanout (because they'd use rigid pipe for the drain tile, not flexible). They came in at the high end, but under $8,000.

Contractor B, whom I called on Wednesday on The Box House's recommendation, and they squeezed me in, came second. The owner of the business actually came out, and he said he didn't think I needed to drain tile the family room, because the cracks in the foundation and the floor would have leaked already if exterior drainage was a problem. He said he would patch the cracks, but he wanted to get to the real problem in the cold-storage room under the front porch, where the water was coming from. With my permission (and me standing right there), he got down on the floor and started tearing out the rotted peg board and insulation on the wall. We found, stunning to both of us, that the area where the water was coming in was about a 10-inch-wide brick column in the foundation. The rest of the foundation is concrete but for this part. Has anybody ever heard of or seen this before? It's original, not a patch job. But it's obviously where the water is seeping in.
In the spring, he said, we'd have to dig up the outside and concrete patch over that, which is an easy and inexpensive fix. So Contractor B said, for future concerns, if you want, we can put a drain tile in, but you won't need a sump pump, given the small amount of water you need. But, if you're looking for peace of mind, then we can do that. So he would put in a drain tile and sump pit and patch 5 cracks for just over half of Contractor A's price.

Contractor C came in and appeared hurried. To me, HE seemed a lot more condescending, although knowledgeable as all heck. He said he would not install a drain tile, that the problems are completely related to cracks, and that he would patch the cracks at just under $2,000. He was in and out much faster than the other two guys.

We ended up choosing Contractor B, mostly because of purely dumb luck. Yes, we probably don't need a full-fledged drain tile and sump pump system as of now. But, we're planning on staying in this house for a long time, and if we're sinking money into finishing this basement the way we want to, we want at least the infrastructure to be in place, God forbid water becomes an issue. With a perforated sump pit, what little water we get will collect in the pit and drain out through the ground below. Water table doesn't appear to be a problem here (or else the cracks would have leaked), and I'll just have to check the pit during a few rains to get an idea for what we're looking at. If I notice that the pit is getting more and more full every time it rains or thaws or whatever, then I can get a sump pump installed. But if it never looks threatening, this will make me feel a hell of a lot better about my investment. We're not rich, so it's not like we can just throw money around at this stuff, but I'd rather throw the money at it now than have things ruined in the future.

Anyway, the dumb luck here is that it turns out, this bitterly cold weather had caused Contractor B to cancel a ton of work yesterday (Friday). He said to me Thursday he could knock off what amounted to 20% of the cost if we could have them come in yesterday (again, one day after the estimate) and do the work. The reason being? Because of the bitterly cold weather, all concrete deliveries had been canceled -- makes sense...something about working with concrete in below-zero temperatures doesn't really compute, you know? So his crews were without work, and thus he was without revenue. Again, makes sense. I said, heck yeah, let's do it, he sent the contract and I signed it. The Box House has a great picture and diagram of exactly what they're doing in this post from last week.

Of course, I got the call early in the a.m. Friday saying that it was too cold for his guys to even be out, and that if it was OK, today (Saturday) would be fine with them, at the same price.

So they're here today, digging up the floor, hand-mixing concrete to cover up the drain tile, and generally making me feel a whole lot better about this project's ability to get finished. Of course, they blew a fuse in the first 10 minutes of work, highlighting the need for me to get the electrician out here, but that's a project for another (upcoming) day. :)

I feel better about our ability to get this project done by my son's birthday party February 28. :) Hopefully that feeling will continue!

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