Digging a Very Large Hole in the Basement

Saturday was a busy day. In the morning I spent a few hours outside, cutting up a lot of the excess wood we had lying around. We’ve had a pile of wooden lathe and boards slowly gathering. and the past 3-4 weeks have seen us trying to throw it out with the trash, bit by bit.

It’s amazing how much you can actually pack into a city trash can. But because we have a lot of over-sized pieces, I’ve had a lot of practice time with the hand saw.

Bob arrived early in the afternoon, having picked up a few tools for us: a digging shovel, a spade shovel, and that last one? It’s a post-holer. You dig holes. For posts.

Bob prepping up jackhammer, to bust up the initial layer of concrete.

This is from a week or so ago, back when Bob and I cleared out this area. He gave a few good whacks to the basement with a small sledgehammer, and found that the concrete was actually quite thin.

Digging around the main waste pipe, which we wanted to expose for the plumber that we’ll be bringing in.

We had the cellar door closed, to try to contain as much of the sound as we could. Things got a little dusty in the basement during the jackhammering. Not to mention a little loud.

More of the basement floor, broken up. In the early stages, Liz, Bob, and I got into a kind of rhythm: he’d work the jackhammer for a while, and then he’d stop. At which point, we’d open the doors, and haul out buckets full with some of the larger pieces of concrete. As we did this, Bob took a breather.

Then, we closed the doors again, and repeated the process… with Liz and I taking a breather, as Bob busted up more of the floor.

More of the pipe exposed. After hauling out the very large chunks of concrete, we switched to filling up buckets with the sand/dirt underneath.

Bob, carefully excavating an area around our main water line. It’s a very old, lead service and the pipe is incredibly fragile. Even more so, now that we’ve taken away the support it previously had, in the concrete. We were warned to steer clear of this, until the plumber arrives (with the eventual goal of replacing this old/fragile section of pipe).

The long term goal is to ultimately replace the existing lead service. But to do that requires us bringing in folks to do some kind of horizontal drilling, from the west end of the house out to the city’s water line. Not an inexpensive proposition, but Bob is helping us prep for that future day.

Liz, filling up buckets while Bob continues with his archaeological work.

Liz and I traded spots a few times, where I was transporting the buckets up the stairs, and she was dumping the sand into a pile. Bob, for his part, was a relentless digging machine.

He had gotten an area cleared out, and had left the remainder for us to do on our own. But after explaining where we needed to dig and clear, he then proceeded to dig and clear that area (over our protests).

As we hauled bucket after bucket up the stairs and outside, before long… all our digging was completed.

This is what came from out of the basement. And funny thing – I had just cleared out all the wood/debris that had previously been in this exact spot. Nothing stays clean or clear for long, here, it seems.

For the second half of the digging, I was outside, grabbing buckets from Liz and adding them to this pile. The whole time, I kept thinking about Maxine Kumin’s The Excrement Poem, and a specific phrase therein: angle of repose.

The main waste line, fully exposed.

That’s a decent amount of ground, removed.

It turns out that there were some gaps, between where the main waste pipe from our house enters the main pipe that goes out to the city sewers. This may have been code at the time, but the previous folks just poured over all this.

With a decent gap between the pipes here no longer underground and under concrete, it was open and exposed. Which Bob would then mend, with a little bit of new concrete. Before doing that though, he ringed the collar with a bit of folded-up newspaper.

Bob, mixing a small bit of concrete up on the floor. Just like making pasta, from scratch. But with more limestone.

Sealing up the pipe.

For now, we’re in good shape with a lot of the area cleared away from the main waste pipe for the plumber to investigate. We’ll be looking to see if we can relocate this pipe closer to the wall, giving us a lot more walking room between the main basement and the back area.

Additionally, the plumber is going to let us know whether we’ll end up needing the injector pump we were originally thinking of installing. There’s no drain in the basement (we’re looking to add one, in the middle of the back room). But if we can tie in directly to the main line out to the city sewers, we may not need one after all.

Long, long day. We spent a great deal of time and energy, to produce a great deal of absence. Long but productive day.

General note: I conked my head on the cellar door entryway 2 times, and knocked my head against the bend in the waste pipe maybe 3 times. Personal best, I think.

Allergies, Insomnia, and Cleaning the Basement

This Post Has 1 Comment

  1. It’s amazing how much work you guys are putting in! Love to see these updates. Nice use of conked, by the way.

    Chris Reply

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