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Basement Ick, Part I

>> Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Our grand old house was built in 1831.  That means a great many things, among them a stone basement.  I happen to think our basement is completely creep-tastic, but then I'm just not generally a basement fan.  Too many horror movies.  But anyway, the problem with our stone basement is that it is very easily invaded by any number of things, including:

Giant spiders of many varieties, like this beauty:

and this one:

It is also home to myriad other creepy crawlies, a lovely cascading waterfall in the southwest corner in any heavy downpour which in turn leads to mold and mildew, stray cats, and the odd skunk.  I mean, the downpours just lead to the mold and mildew, they don't lead directly to stray cats and skunks.  At least not that I'm aware of.  The cats and skunks come in on their own.  Regarding the floods, our neighbors have no gutters whatsoever, and their house is about 3 feet from ours (no exaggeration - we're in an old Erie Canal village), so their roof water pours directly into our basement whenever it rains hard.  And when I say cascading waterfall, I am not exaggerating in the least.

The dogs, though, think the basement is fascinating, and try to fall down the stairs into it whenever we open the door.

The discovery that the house was easily assailable through the basement came very early.  We bought the old place off foreclosure.  We loved it the second we walked in, and it was in remarkably good condition for a foreclosure.  However, between when we put in our offer and when we closed, Mr. Bigglesworth moved in and claimed the place.  Known as Biggsy for short, Mr. Bigglesworth is an enormous, gray, generally long-haired feral cat with a seriously crazy look in his eyes, who came in through the dining room and kitchen crawl spaces, through the basement, and up into the house.

It's amazing how much damage a cat can do to a house in a few weeks.  We removed several pounds worth of fur, one dead cat (apparently the victim of a mighty battle with Biggsy for household supremacy), and a small mountain of poo.  Let's not discuss the intact male cat stinky pee factor, the muddy paw prints on every surface, or the general fug he left lingering in the air of the place.  We'll never really be rid of him, I swear - a year and a half later, I just discovered yesterday that there are still muddy Biggsy prints on one of the walls in the attic:

But poor Biggsy paid a price for his luxurious quarters.  He had to come in through the fiberglass insulation under the kitchen, and he apparently did so often enough to wind up with a skin full of fiberglass because when we first encountered him (and he us) he was nearly naked.  It was a mighty shock to all concerned when we discovered he was our tenant, but being truly feral and completely terrified of humans he quickly conceded his claim on the place and moved back into the great outdoors.  Thankfully it was spring and getting warmer out, so we weren't really afraid he'd freeze to death, naked, patchy, wrinkly, ugly, tufted little pink thing that he was back then.

He has since grown his fur back, by the way, and continues to live an apparently fulfilling life as a roving and fertile member of our local feral cat colony.  More on them some other day, surely. 

I know that Biggsy has something to do with how creepy I find the basement.  It sort of feels like his presence is still lingering down there, even after we removed all the urine-soaked insulation and other gifts he and his friends and rivals left behind. 

We need to engage in a massive basement improvement project, including improved lighting (a lot of it, please), vacuuming out the bugs (again), painting at least the floor some lighter and more appealing color, and stopping the water from entering by installing a french drain outside leading to a rain garden.  Let's not even discuss jacking the house to make it more level and potentially rebuilding the west wall, which after 178 years and umpteen kajillion gallons of rain water is slooooooowwly bowing inward.  How one is to move the giant boulders those walls are built out of I don't know.  Some of them are significantly larger than I am.

BUT, before we can start any basement improvement project in earnest, we need to evict Pierre le Pew, our newest tenant.

To be continued...


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