How high’s the water, momma? Now it’s three years later, and time to fix it

From the Top of the Pile


The summer of 2016 was a tough one for us.

We were just about to go to my parent’s cabin when it started raining. And in something like 40 minutes, we got over seven inches of rain. I know that because I stood on our perfectly flat driveway and measured it. It covered the entire yard, from the back fence to the sidewalk, all perfectly level.

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While we were fortunate during the massive flood year of 2011 to not have water seep into our basement, unlike almost every other house on the block, this year we weren’t as lucky. Water seeped in from three sides of the house. While the rainwater kept rising, we fought a successful battle to keep most, but not all, of it from entering under the main garage door and entering the basement through the inside door. A heroic effort by our neighbours got most of our basement possessions upstairs as soon as the rain stopped.

We ended up tearing out the sheetrock in one bedroom and the rec room. All the carpet and its underlay had to go. We were reduced to bare cement and bare studs for much of the basement.  

The government was very kind in providing Provincial Disaster Assistance Program funding (PDAP), since at the time, overland flooding insurance wasn’t really available, to my knowledge (thankfully, it is now, and we have it.)

While the money provided was enough to repair the basement if we did most of the muscle work ourselves, that would not have prevented additional water from coming in. I glommed onto the idea that there’s no point in fixing the interior of a leaking boat while its still leaking, so we used the PDAP money to cement between our house and the neighbours, as well as improve the drainage around the rest of the house. Three years later, no more leaks.

But until a few weeks ago, we were still looking at studs in the basement, and a living room full of evacuated items.

It’s taken this long to come up with the money to do the proper repairs.

This little thing called an oil downturn put a huge crimp on my photography income, which pays for the extras.

Tonight I’m going to sand down my second coat of mudding. Having finally gotten around to it, I feel really bad that we hadn’t repaired the sheetrock a couple years ago. That part wasn’t terribly expensive. And it wasn’t that hard to fix, either. Our daughter and I put the walls back together in a couple afternoons.

But in doing any renovation, there are bound to be surprises. When there was carpet on the floor, we kinda knew there was something wrong with the cement under it. Once that carpet was gone, we found a 16-foot long frost heave crack running down the centre of floor. It would have to be cut out, about two-feet wide, and re-poured.

The carpenter who did the cement work discovered three posts, rotten, along that centre line where the crack had formed. Instead of removing the posts when the initial pour was done, they just pounded them down a bit and poured over them. That little bit of laziness cost us a lot of money 30-plus years later.

Watching the professional who did this work, I realized there are some things where it truly is worth it to pay someone who knows what they’re doing. I think I’m pretty handy with most things. I can build a mean deck, for instance. But seeing how he trowelled the wet cement, for hours, all day long, to make it perfect, made me realize what a crappy job I would have done had I attempted it myself.

Similarly, we’ll be getting the pros to install the linoleum, and for the same reasons.

I think I’m doing not too bad on the mudding, however. The videos from YouTube have been helpful. I am continually reminded that for almost any task at hand, there’s a YouTube tutorial. A few years ago I had to repair the heater blender motor on my wife’s truck. I struggled for hours without success. YouTube had a video that showed me how to do it in 20 minutes. I need to remind myself of this glorious resource.

All spare time over the next few weeks will be spent on painting before the flooring guys show up for the install. It probably wouldn’t hurt to watch a few videos on painting, too. I’m sure I don’t know enough about it.

My goal is to get this all wrapped up before summer holidays. It has been way too long, and I want our house and life back.

I so want my life back.

Brian Zinchuk is editor of Pipeline News. He can be reached at

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