In My Basement Issues - Part 1 I told the story of how a broken furnace exhaust pipe had wrecked a section of my basement ceiling, and how some shoddy work from a condo siding project caused a section of my basement drywall to be torn out. In My Avoision of Covid-19 I told the story of how I was hoping to get through the pandemic with as little human contact as possible, and how I thought "As long as I can make it through the next few months without any service people coming into my house, then I should be a-okay. And I've hardly had any service people in the house since I bought over 5 years ago, so I should be fine.
Old Basement Damage
Due to the pandemic I had to (or got to?) start working from home every single day from Monday, March 16, 2020 until [insert date here]. My office was down in the drafty, dirty, messy, disrepaired basement. And now that Zoom calls were all the rage, my colleagues got to see the inside of my basement. I tried to keep the damage out of sight, but I wasn't always successful.
One day on a Zoom call, a colleague asked about my basement, and made the comment "Didn't insurance cover that?"
Insurance?! Why didn't I think of that?! I have insurance! Of course, this will mean having people into the house. I wonder, given the time that's passed (about a year) if I'm beyond the window of being able to make a claim?
New Basement Damange
Well, I didn't have to worry about that last part because one morning in April I came downstairs to hear a drip drip drip. "Oh no. Not again!" Thankfully I still had my plastic sheets and buckets around from the last basement issue, so the carpet wasn't getting wet. I looked around to see where this water drip was coming from. Remember the furnace exhaust pipe, and the hole in the ceiling to the valve to the pipe going to the back of the house for the hose? That water pipe to the house is about a foot and a half over from the furnace exhaust pipe — right where a lot of the water damage was. Well, that pipe had sprung a leak. Just a leak. It hadn't burst. There was no flooding. just some drips. But listening to that all day was annoying.
I called for a plumber. They weren't able to send one for a few days. So I did what I could to slow, or stop the dripping. When I didn't need running water, I turned the water to the house off. This would slow the drip significantly.
When the plumber got there (This is service person #1. Long story, but two other plumbers came out for another issue. I'll count them here. We're up to 3 service people.) He cut out a bit of the copper pipe and replaced it with a plastic alternative. Problem solved.
(As an aside I learned something very valuable in this process of constantly opening and closing the main water valve that I'll pass along to anyone here who needs to read this. It's normal for bits of debris to get into your water lines. If this debris makes its way to a faucet with a filter, then it gets stuck there and the waterflow of that faucet will be severly hampered. This was happening with my upstairs bathroom sink. To fix this: shut off the water to your house, turn on all taps in the house to drain the pipes. Once all water stops flowing, close all taps in the house except the laundry room sink faucets. These faucets aren't filtered, and they're typically the lowest faucets in the house. Turn on the water. As the water rushes in and fills the pipes, this will cause the debris to go to the lowest point in the house and get flushed out your laundry room sink. That knowledge alone is going to save me hundreds of dollars in plumber calls.)
In July I decided to stop procrastinating and get the house back into a sellable condition. I had gone through a whole year, a whole winter of constant basement monitoring. No new floods from last year's issue. I was now confident that part was fixed.
Now for the fun part: I called my insurance company. I've never had to make a claim before. I didn't know what was ahead.
The Repair Saga Begins
I told them the whole story; the exhaust pipe, the siding project, and the leaky pipe. They told me that typically you have to make a claim within a year of the damage. So it was too late for the exhaust pipe issues, and the wall, but I'm still good for the leaky pipe. This works out. They both caused the same amount of damage. As for the wall, since that was from a different incident (same time, different cause, different area) it would be a separate claim. So I made two claims: one for the wall and one for the ceiling. And, yes, that meant paying the deductible twice - and the deductible for water damage is high.
They sent out a contractor (non-appliance service person #4) to take a look and give me an estimate. When the contractor came out he took a look and said "Yeah, we'll have to fix up the ceiling. But the wall? That'll be easy to fix. That'll be well below your deductible, so it won't be worth making a claim." And he was right. So I closed that claim. But there was still the ceiling.
We talked about options. My basement celing is drywall with this swirl pattern that was somewhat popular in the 70s. That makes it harder to fix than flat, or popcorn drywall because the pattern and finish have to match. So one option is to tear out the drywall and replace as it was. Another is to tear out the drywall and replace with flat drywall: no swirls. A third option is to install a suspended ceiling. I like this option if it can be done. Basement ceilings have a lot going on behind them. There are pipes and electric boxes, wires, and who knows what else. You want to be able to access that. And, by code, you have to be able to access to electrical boxes and valves. But with a suspended ceiling, you can just take out tiles. I have that in my laundry room. It's great!
Another advantage of suspended ceilings is that if one gets damaged, it's waaaaaaay easier and cheaper to repair than drywall! (I even helped friends install their suspended ceiling, so I kind know how to do it myself.) If my exhaust pipe issues had happened with a suspended ceiling, when I first saw that discolourization, instead of wondering about it and ignoring it hoping it was nothing, I would have just popped out the tile, and took a look. Finding the break in the pipe would have been easier. And I wouldn't be writing this post!
Anyway, I made the inital call to the insurance company on
For context, all of Ontario has moved from a Lockdown to a stay-at-home order until
After a week, I finally heard back from the contractor saying that the last peice isn't falling into place. The last peice being the cost of replacement. If I go with a full replacement (drywall with swirls), then all costs are covered by insurance (minus the deductible). But, if I do anything else (such as suspended ceiling), if it's more expensive than a full replacement, then I pay the difference. During the inital estimates, the suspended ceiling was about $600 less than the full replacement. In revised estimates, it's more expensive by about $150.
Thinking the suspended ceiling (what I want) was going to be significantly cheaper than a full replacement, I was ready to just go with that option. Even if it turns out to be more expensive than the estimate, as long as it's less than $600 more than the estimate, it's still covered by insurance. Now that it's more than the estimate, then if it turns out to be even more expensive than the estimate, then that difference comes out of my pocket.
So, it's a question of one risk over another. If I go full repair, the risk is in further damage causing another insurance claim. After a certain point, insurance may no longer cover me, or it may get more expensive. So that is a risk for the future. This could come back to bite me in 4 or 5 years. Wheras taking the suspended ceiling option reduces risk from the future, it places risk today that installation could be more expensive than the estimate.
So, I'm not sure what to do here. I am leaning towards the suspended ceiling option: Take the risk right now.
I'll keep updating this post as things progress.