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"Real World" Experiences

US Student Sheree Schold has a cautionary tale from the redesign of her own home. Never assume that everything is the way it should be in a building, and always expect the unexpected!

Knee-Deep in the Unexpected

This room was not a great space when I started in on it, but it was completed with finished walls, window treatments, and completely tiled flooring.

My design included removing built-in shelving flanking the fireplace, plantation shutters with a glued on half round above the window, and some wall portions. I was going to add lowered ceiling areas, build in a bar area, and create interesting nooks and spaces within the larger space -all inspired by that ASID Student Chapter Weekend I spent last fall in a Frank Lloyd Wright house. The guys you see knee-deep in concrete were not in my plans!

Major renovation on a home is not pretty and living around it can be a nightmare, but watch out for the unexpected! This home once had a 'sunken floor' and the architect I consulted for structural/code oversight assured me the 'sunken' area had been filled before the existing tile flooring was done. When I questioned the filling part, I believe his words were, “It has to have been filled!”

Since this 'sunken' area was not noticed when we purchased the home but seemed to be 'sinking' in the year we owned the home, sand was most likely the filler. Sand can compact over time and cause settling. An air pocket enclosed below ground without filler would not pass code here and could cause problems.

Fixing the 'sinking' 'sunken' area would involve making a small whole in the flooring and adding more sand or concrete. Sounds easy, doesn't it? Well, there was no filler in the 'sinking' 'sunken' area! The 'sinking' was due to wood framing that had completely rotted from condensation (rotted from the top just under the tile to the bottom where the concrete floor was dry as a bone).

Upon discovery of the 'sinking' 'sunken' floor cause, my renovation plans changed drastically. Instead of “some concrete or sand” the 'fixing' now called for enough concrete to fill an 8ft x 6ft by 1ft deep hole!

This was more involved than my contractors could handle. I had to get a special Concrete Contractor, who in turn had to rent a 'pumping truck.' A lot of things got delayed waiting for the concrete. Then, a huge cement truck arrived and dumped concrete into the smaller 'pumper' and a 6-inch diameter hose went from the pump truck on the street up my drive and down the side walkway and into my house via the window. After it was poured, we had to wait three weeks for it to cure enough to walk and work on. The tile broke apart as it was pulled up and I couldn't match it. The whole scenario took unplanned money from my budget.

ABOVE Once the cause was discovered, the entire tiled area had to be removed and all rotting wood framing pulled out. It smelled terrible and we sprayed the sides of the sunken hole with a Clorox solution and let it dry out with fans and windows open for days. (Upon purchase, the house had an unpleasant smell that I had assumed was from a leaking roof but that didn't totally go away with a new roof. Resolving the 'sunken' floor problem got rid of the smell.) Note the open spaces flanking the firebox where built-in bookcases used to be. This space became more closet space for the adjoining bedroom.

ABOVE These guys are literally knee-deep in my unexpected problem filling the 'sunken' area with concrete. You can see the built-in bookcases sitting on the right and their previous location now framed in beside the firebox (covered in plastic.) The mirror on the left was waiting for a glass company to remove it so we could take that wall down (I learned that removing large mirrors is very dangerous and many construction companies will sub it out to a glass specialist.)

Luckily all the workers were very professional and no concrete went anywhere but in the hole! And luckily I wasn't also dealing with clients - this time...

Did it all work out in the end? Find out in the next issue of dEzine

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