Wednesday, June 11, 2008


I had a couple of contractors in to take a look at my basement. I've gotten such aggravation out of the top two floors, that I really don't want to mess with the basement so I was toying with the idea of hiring someone to do the whole basement. I have someone in mind for that, but the guy doesn't do foundations and he pointed out something that he thought I should get checked out before he started. And no, he didn't point out a pre-cancerous mole or anything, although what he did point out was almost as frightening.

By the stairs there are several bricks with no mortar. Apparently, sometime in the past 100 years, water got in and washed out the mortar. In ye olde days, mortar didn't have portland cement like it does nowadays. I ye olde days, they made the stuff between the bricks with one part lime and 3 parts sand, the same way that they've been making it since Roman times.

So the first guy looks at it, takes some measurments and gives me a quote of $650 to repoint the brick. Sounds good. I can handle that. The only reason I didn't say yes was that I wasn't sure that he knew what he was doing. He was going to repoint it with cement, but with old bricks you need to do it with the old timey mortar otherwise the new cement is harder than the brick and it will crack the bricks when the bricks expand and contract when the seasons change. Even I know that, and I suck.

The second guy comes and won't give me an estimate because he says that I need a structural engineer to look at it first and do a study. I know estimates are free, and I like free, but I had the feeling that studies aren't free. Studies sound expensive. He said he'd have his office call me to set up an appointment with an engineer, but that doing the study and running tests (tests? that sounds even more expensive) would be $500. And that's before they even do any work. Ouch. Anyway, the guy never called. How can you scare me like that and then not call me? If anybody knows a good structural engineer or whatever (and by whatever, I mean a foundation guy) leave me a comment in the comment box.

I'll try to take some pictures of it, but it's too depressing to look at now.

In other news, my quest to lose 15 lbs in 15 days hit a road block when I plateaued like I did last time. I was stuck at 168-169 lbs, but today I worked out in the morning and ran 3 miles at noon and managed to get down to 166.7 pounds (but then I had lunch). For the next few days I'm going to keep working out twice a day and eating nothing but things that are green (green beans, raw broccoli, celery) and taste disgusting or fruits (cherries, blueberries and strawberries that I use to reward myself after I work out) and water...and coffee. If I can get down to 159 by sunday morning, I'll go compete, if not I don't want to go. It would suck to be at the bottom of the 160-180 lb weight class and humiliate myself. If I wanted to publicly humiliate myself, I don't have to go all the way to Richmond to do it. I can just walk around DC in a "McCain for President" t-shirt and save myself $100.

In other news...on Saturday, the National Geographic in Downtown DC is having some kind of film festival and is showing some of my favorite Kung Fu Films from my childhood. I don't know if I can make it, but it's not big deal since I already own two of the films, 36th Chamber of Shaolin and Executioners from Shaolin on DVD. (not kidding). I'm hoping that before I die I can find The Five Deadly Venoms on DVD so that I can have all 3 movies buried with me. (still not kidding). Anyway, those of you in the area might want to check it out.

Also, not kidding about the basement. Leave comments in the box if you know somebody.


Anonymous said...

Seriously - skip the contractors and the engineer. Buy some type N cement and mix it with 3-4 parts sand and 2 parts lime and do it yourself. I redid a very large portion of a collapsing 1910 building this way with no ill effects. That mixture is just slightly stronger than what was used pre-1930's and will still expand and contract with the brick. Make sure to get type N cement though (it the soft stuff). If you pay someone you'll just be pissed about having to pay for the shitty job after they finish (I wish I had went ahead and done my own roof - it still has leaks after the contractor tried about 30 time to fix it).

Anonymous said...

nice post, thank you!

Anonymous said...

I think you should give up on that crazy diet. It sounds dangerous.

Mike said...

Edgar is really good. Not necessarily cheap, but good. He's pretty much done three quarters of the work in Dupont/Logan.

Anonymous said...

Agree. No structural engineer needed on this one.

Anonymous said...

Great Job
interesting topic , I would like to read more on this topic and interior painting .