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When Disaster Comes Calling

OMG and Other Useful Panic Phrases


“Oy vey!”

“Good grief!”

“For heaven’s sake!”

Whatever your exclamation of choice, it all means the same thing: sh*t happened. And it probably happened to you.

Yup, that’s me. I’m in the middle of it. My voiceover studio is at risk of collapsing into the basement below it. Not an entertaining proposition, to say the least. I’m working with a temporary studio, but it’s not the same. Definitely need to get the problem solved!

So how did this happen? Long story short: We had a small water issue in our basement – which in hindsight we should have just decided to live with, mopping up as we go. But no, my husband Alex and I decided to be proactive and get ahead of a problem which could likely get much worse over time. Being responsible homeowners, we called in a home foundations repair/waterproofing company with a good reputation. Not an inexpensive undertaking, but one that we thought necessary according to all the people we talked to.

Hmmm. Can you say “disaster in the making?” It was one thing after another. First, they showed up one weekday morning without warning. We knew that we’d be scheduled for work sometime over the next few weeks, but we never received a formal call to establish the date. No problem. It’s Covid, we’re all working from home, and we were just glad it was finally our turn.

It was an all-day job, making such a loud racket that it seemed the house was being shaken to its foundations. In a way it was, since they had to drill into concrete to install a new French drain and pump to replace the existing system. I went to check on the work midway through and just stopped in my tracks when I saw the absolute mess: heavy concrete dust flying around everywhere without proper venting. It was visible in the air and so hard to breathe. The debris covered everything and the work crew had made no effort to restrict the mess with plastic sheeting around their work area. Nor did they tell us what to expect so that we could move some nice furniture and equipment out of range. They didn’t even bother covering any of our belongings with tarps, plastic, or anything else that could have protected them. Worse, because they neglected to vent, thick dirt and dust covered every square inch of that basement. The debris was blown under the doors into others areas of that floor, coating everything in sight.

Electronic equipment was ruined. By the time I saw what was happening, it was far too late to do anything. But that was nothing compared to what we learned two months later.

First, a series of heavy rainstorms proved that the work was all for nothing. Same amount of water, in the same place. The company couldn’t tell where the problem originated and blamed it on issues outside of their contract. We’re brought in other experts who couldn’t tell either and said that we should just “live with it.”

Second, through this process, we discovered the biggest problem of all: the work crew had removed and disposed of the weight-bearing struts that supported the floor above that part of the basement. They needed to do so to put in the water vapor barrier, but they did not replace them afterwards. The wooden poles they erected were left as is, a temporary “solution” and, as it turned out, totally useless. It took an architect to tell us that they were put in the wrong places, that the floor above was already sagging, and that we needed those weight-bearing structures replaced or good section of the floor above that area could come crashing down.

There’s nothing like hearing that work, which perhaps should never have been done, served only to make a section of your home unstable, such that it could collapse without warning. The architect said to stay away from that unsupported part of the upper floor until new supports are in place (whenever that may be). Guess what’s up there on that floor? My voice over studio. Those G-rated exclamations don’t begin to cover my true feelings on the situation.

This is not an easy problem to live with. Running around yelling, while temporarily therapeutic, doesn’t do my studio any good. Figuring out a temporary studio and fixing the underlying problem does.

So, we’re divvying up the challenges. I pulled out my trusty, handy-dandy travel booth and equipment and went off to find as quiet a space in the house as I can to work. My husband began calling contractors to make the repairs. We’re both running into issues. Me, with finding peace and quiet in a house filled with busy people. Him, with trying to find good, qualified people to do the work. And show up. (That’s a whole other story….)

“Keep calm and carry on” is our motto for the time being. Not that we’re all that calm about our situation, but we’re trying to mask it as best as possible, at least for the kids’ sake. I don’t think we’re fooling anybody, but really, what else are we going to do? Clear heads are betting at resolving problems than emotional basket cases. Assuming materials are available, we’re working to get everything fixed within a month. And that it would be done right this time. To ensure that outcome, we’re asking our architect friend to look in on the repairs as they are being made. Barring that, I’m also going to look for a building inspector who can step in and supervise the work. No more screw-ups! (Ah, that should be the motto of our foundation repair/waterproofing company….) We’ve had enough already.

The worst case scenario is that we’ll need to file a lawsuit against the company. It’s a last resort, if all else fails. We’re not lawyers, so unlike them, we don’t realize “better living through litigation.” It’s a last measure and I certainly hope it doesn’t have to come to that! Stay tuned; this continuing saga will, I’m sure, be addressed in future blogs.