Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Break Down The Walls

Loyal Reader,

If you follow this blog, then you may have an idea about the condition of my back slab.  The wall has been falling since I bought the place (over six sad years ago).  Since it adds no value to the house either visually or monetarily, I just keep pushing it off.  The house always needs so much attention, that inconsequential exterior stuff just doesn't really pencil.

But recently, the wall has taken a turn for the worse:

Yes, I installed those straps back about 1.5 years ago when the blocks to the left were still completely attached.

There used to be a steel clothes line in that lower wall which kept the wall under tension.  It fell out earlier this summer, and things began to escalate.  My late neighbor, who lived in the adjacent house since 1948, said that the previous owner insisted on having a clothes line installed on that wall, against her wishes.  She continuously pointed to that as the reason for the wall's failure.  

Thanks, previous home owners.  

However, her garden tree (a.k.a giant 25 foot tall weed), had been untended for many years and its routes were compromising the "foundation".... and I use the the tern "foundation" extremely loosely.  I hope the "masons" who built this wall originally did not quit their day jobs. 

Either way, you know you have an issue when you hold up your level plumb, and your item that you are check for plumb is so bad that you are not sure that your level is working correctly.  And its so bad that when you are close, you begin to tilt your head and hold it so long that you begin to lose your balance and all sense of time and space begins to fade.

That's bad. Maybe it is time to send that level back to Stabila for inspection

Uh, OK stabila. No further questions.

Also, to add to the wound, I took the above pictures a couple months ago.  It got worse since those pictures.

What was ailing the situation was having a 90 year old woman living next door on a fixed income who had no interest in making any home improvements.  And, I get that.  Even if we agreed to get a contractor and do it together, I would still be coordinating the entire project.  Our walls are completely joined, so there was no way to bring one down and not the other.  I thought to myself, if the situation ever got very dire (imminent collapse), then I would just prop hers up with wood and dismantle mine and do it sometime in the future.

Anyway, with a new homeowner next door, it was time to talk 'new wall'.  Sadly, he will be renting the house.  He is a known slumlord in the region.  You gotta love my luck (there goes the neighborhood!)  Anyway, he speaks about ten to fifteen words of English so its tough to negotiate.  Last week the dude almost burned down his house.  I called the fire department at 10pm when the smoke detectors were going off next door, and smoke was billowing out the upper front window. The fire department came and broke down the door and brought in the hose.  I guess he was wiring the house earlier in the day.  Very comforting.  (I must truly have a heart of gold by not calling L&I over this guy).  I actually figured with the flip he is involved in, I figured he would be done renovating by the time L&I showed up.  Building boom in Philly.  Every brain dead idiot thinks they can make money flipping houses right now.  I think there is a lot of truth to it.

 Anyway, the dude shows up on Sunday and says he's going to start on the wall.  Obviously, I don't trust him at all knowing that his construction experience includes building interior subfloors out of pressure treated wood and catching a house on fire.  So, I had to go out there with him to supervise.  I took down both of our walls piece by piece with him.

Shared wall

Back corner

Masterful original "foundation"

I even cut down a 25 foot tall weed tree with a sawzall.  

Was this how I wanted to spend my Sunday afternoon?  Not at all.  Thanks for the hour warning, slumlord neighbor.

My expectation for a satisfactory job from this guy:  3/10.  Stay tuned.  This has disappointment written all over it.  He will earn an automatic 2/10 just by avoiding starting another fire (its like signing your name on the SAT's).  So, the real expectation is a 1/10.

Stay tuned.