Monday, 29 July 2013

Post-flood restoration complete

It has been a hectic last couple of weeks as we have been restoring our basement after the floods. When last I posted, we had just completed putting the wallboard up. The next step was the mudding and taping and sanding, a process that takes several days.

Day 1 is a real rough mudding and getting the tape up on the wallboard joints. The goals are simple: fill the cracks, glue the tape down with mud, and start to shape the places that need filling.
Just after the mudding 
Not looking too bad 
A corner that needed serious work
Mudding is boring, repetitive and dusty work. Sanding between coats is hard work, tiring and downright bad for your health, filling the entire house with a layer of fine white dust, despite having fans blowing the dust out of the house. It took four days to get all the mud on and sanded off. My mudding job was far from perfect. Several areas of my taping bubbled due to insufficient mud underneath the tape. While I hand checked my sanding, there were still places where the mud was quite visible because of a change in texture. Ah, well. It's a basement.

The next step was to put the casing back around the door frames...
21 pieces of this stuff went up
...then fill the cracks with wood filler, and sand them to make the joints "go away".
Filled and sanded
Then we laid down 136 linear feet of baseboard. Annoyingly, this stuff only came in 14' lengths, and we bought it in Calgary, so had to strap it to the top of the car and drive it home. Bouncy stuff.
That's a 14' wall 
Trimmed around the edges
Those holes in the wall are inspection ports that we cut so that we can see in behind the walls in the future. Since we found everything from pine martin poo to mouse nests back there, we figured we should somehow make the spaces accessible. It took 2 days to cut up and put down all the door casings and baseboards.

And then it was time to paint. Two coats.
Coat 1 
Not bad for amateurs 
Big walls = lots of paint
You'll notice we painted the casing and baseboard in-situ. The "right" way to do it is to paint it before installing it, but we were lazy. And its a basement.

The first coat looked OK. By the end of the second, it looked awesome (so long as you didn't look too closely). Painting each coat took both of us working together 6 hours. We opted to re-paint in a colour that was in our old house in Calgary and at the West Wing. It used to be this bright creamy yellow. Now it's a deep green, and seems darker down there. Ah well. It's a basement.

The final step was the doors. We pulled all 7 and painted them in the garage with really high quality paint left over from last year's reno, making them match most of the other doors in the house. We were running out of time with guests arriving, so opted to paint the critical solid doors to the bedroom and bathroom before they arrived.
Ready to go
Coat 1 on the solids
Once we got two coats on these, we re-hung them. After our guests left, we started working on the other 3 doors. Filled with glass, they required a lot of taping to protect them from unintentionally getting paint on the glass. One door in particular to 90 minutes to tape each side of the door.
15 glass panels, and a lot of tape 
Everyone needs a screen door in the basement
And today, I took all the tape off, spent 2 hours scraping paint off glass with a razor blade, then re-hung them.

Our contractor and our painter both dropped by this past week to see our progress. They were very complimentary about how it all turned out.
The art is even being re-hung 
A good colour combo
The water started coming in on June 19th, 40 days ago. We probably could have been put together faster, but we opted to spend time drying out, plus waited for the insurance dudes to come, see the damage and confirm we weren't covered.

Now all that's left is to claim back all our costs under the provincial Disaster Recovery Program.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Somebody's poisoned the waterhole!

That line, from Woody in Toy Story, became my life this week.

I mentioned that we had a well test taken after the flood, and my water (and my neighbour's water) contained both e-coli and colliform bacteria. We guessed it was because a house uphill from us had a septic field backup during the rains and floods, the sewage was pumped out onto the ground, and it ran across our well.

Both I and the neighbour shocked our wells using chlorine, a fairly straight forward but time-consuming process. In my case, the biggest issue was what to do with a hot water tank full of highly chlorinated water that would kill off the good bacteria in the septic tank.

I shocked mine once, my neighbour has done it three times. All of our well tests keep coming back negative. We appear to have killed of the e-coli, but the coliforms stubbornly remain -- and it has been a month since the flood.

This is the third bad water test I've had in 3 years. When I bought the house, the previous owner proudly trotted out 20 years of good water test results and boasted about the water quality. I'll let you draw your own conclusions from that one.

So we are "giving up" on getting our well back to cleanliness, and have embarked on a process to get a UV water treatment system installed. Small and (fairly) affordable, they kill bacteria in the water. Step one of that process is to get a water chemistry test done, since UV treatment devices don't like too much iron or total dissolved solids in the water. 

But the biggest issue is that, having spoken to a couple of plumbers in town, none have ever installed the things. Talking to the distributor of one of the manufactures, they're popular in rural environments but not in towns like Canmore & Banff. They recommended a plumber out of Cochrane.

We'll see how this goes. But I'm so tired of drinking bottled water, it's getting silly.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Flood Recovery

As has the rest of the valley where I live, we have been busy with flood recovery for the last few weeks, first with our house and then with our neighbourhood.

Step 1 of our recovery process was getting the bad wallboard removed our house dried out, which I wrote about here. This past week, the MD finally brought a dumpster around to the hamlet to handle building waste, so KC loaded it while I was off doing other stuff.
Car full of crap. Load 1 
Load 2
Step 2 of the recovery process, interestingly enough, was the seeding of our back yard. Part of the reason we had some of our flood issues was that we had just finished re-sculpting the yard to improve drainage (as I described here), but were left with only bare earth when it started raining. So we seeded the entire back yard in a sheep fescue grass which (a) is native (more or less), (b) requires no mowing, (c) grows in most any type of soil or dirt, and (d) is excellent at soil stabilization.

On June 28, we hand raked the entire back yard (all 3,000 square feet of it), hand seeded it, and then hand raked it again.
2/3rds raked 
KC hard at work 
Re-raking after seeding
Since then, every day we have watered the dirt 3-4 times a day, keeping it moist. Our first green bits showed up last week, and as of today (16 days later), there's a lot of green dirt.
1" tall 
Looking promising 
Greener than the above seeding shot
Step 3 was to get our water well tested. We failed. We have e-coli and colliform bacteria in the water. Best bet is that it came from from sewage runoff from our neighbour who's septic system backed up during the heavy rain, flowed over their yard, down the alley and across our yard. So we shocked our well (dumping a LOT of chlorine in it, then circulating it through the system), and await the results of a new water quality test that we will do tomorrow.

I hate bottle water as a concept; an environmental nightmare. But there are times when it's useful. Now is one of those times. I am, however, hugely tired of it, having had nothing but bottled water to drink since June 21.

Step 4 was to get in a contractor to arrange the re-laying of the paving stones. We got one to show up, but he hasn't offered up a bid yet. So that portion of the yard is still a dirt pit.

Step 5 was to get an insurance adjustor in to assess the basement damage prior to starting the re-building process. He showed up, took a look, and told us we were not insured at all. This wasn't that bothersome to me. Had we been insured, the deductible was $1,000, and I was sure the re-build materials would be much less than that (to date we've spent ~$250 and need little more to finish, but more on this in a moment). We're still going to file a claim for uninsured loss to the Disaster Assistance Plan.

With that cleared up, Step 6 was to start the rebuilding. On July 9, we got all the drywall we needed, screws, a dimpler to drive in drywall screws, and set to work. KC was amazed at the drywall cutting process (score the paper with a knife, snap it off).
9 sheets on the roof 
The first of the boards 
4' sheets
So for the better part of 4 beautiful, sunny summer days days, we stayed in the basement and hung boards. Most had to be cut to weird shapes. Lots of small bits were needed.
Hall bits 
Vent holes
We discovered that some of our wall studs -- make that many of our wall studs -- are just not square. Or straight.
Two major gaps we will have to deal with when we mud
Working around the base of the stairs required creative effort.
Couldn't slide in one board here 
Or here. But couldn't cut this one in two either
But as of yesterday, the boards are all up. Next step in this process: Mudding, taping and sanding. Then comes baseboard & casing (which we haven't bought yet). Then comes painting (and we haven't purchased the paint yet, either). And a deadline. We have guests coming July 26th, and have to finish the basement -- or at least the bedroom down there -- by then. Wish us luck.

But we can't just stay focused on our house. So as Step 7, KC and I both volunteered this week at other duties. KC ran a dinner in her capacity as President of the Networking Environment for Women, did some grizzly camera work...
This picture is NOT tilted. The bridge is listing, the tree bent
...and tried to come fix trails with me (but was rained out).

Me? I met with folks about donating to the Friends of Kananaskis to help re-build trails, spent a day working on a trail, gave an interview to two local papers regarding our support of Parks during the reconstruction process.

My trail work was a toughie: pulling out a huge log jam on the Heart Creek Trail. We made the Calgary Herald. That's me, 2nd from the right, in the photo.
Photo by Craig Douce
In all, over 75 people worked on that trail last week, and an additional 100 or so worked this weekend, plus the awesome Parks crew -- probably 1,400 hrs put in to that one trail. Here's two really crappy iPhone photos of the mess that took 6 of us all day to remove.
About 10' high, forming a waterfall 
The restored bridge
Here's another Craig Douce/Herald photo of me hauling a log we pulled out.
I was sure someone was going to fall off that bridge
This is what it looked like when we were done.
Better. But still work to do.
It's been a busy few weeks. It will be a busy summer.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Going where you can't

As a volunteer with Alberta Parks, I'm right now allowed into places a Ministerial Order prevents people from going. In this case, it's because I'm working the grizzly bear project. Today, I got to go south of the Wedge Pond closure on Highway 40, down all the way to Peter Lougheed Provincial Park.

Much of this post I put up without photos today on the Kananaskis blog, an excellent site for news and info about Kananaskis.

Highway 40 is closed at Wedge Pond, with a single lane bride over Evans-Thomas creek.
The one lane bridge
The bike bridge is still there. We crossed it in 2011. But so what? It starts in the middle of nowhere, ends nowhere, and the creek currently runs around it, not under it.
The bridge to nowhere
Once past the Wedge Pond roadblock, crews are working hard on the road washouts...
Much work 
Lots of stuff to get rid of

...with the biggest crews (multiple backhoes and dump trucks) working the mess at Grizzly Creek, Ripple Rock Creek and Hood Creek...
That's the new channel of Hood Creek
...where the pavement was removed in numerous places and hundreds of tons of debris hit the road.
Debris on the Road
The road's looking really good, but needs more time. There's also a huge mess spanning from Opal Day Use north to Galatea. Numerous hillsides also slumped and put debris on the road but these have mostly been fixed.

South of Hood Creek all the way to the North Interlakes, the roads are fine. Parks staff is escorting people in and out to get vehicles stranded back there (Boulton Trading Post has ~15 RVs and 5 pickup trucks awaiting retrieval).

So, to the trails: Starting at the Interlakes...
Looking back across Lower Kananaskis Lake
...we walked the Three Isle Lake trail to past Invincible Creek.
The Upper Lake level is surprising low 
Down the Aster Lake Valley
Across the lake to Mt. Sarrail & Foch
The trail's fine until the bridge over Invincible, which is still there, but is under 2' of water, and is now the top of a very pretty waterfall.
The bridge 
Yes, that's the bridge under that
The creek is still roaring, and was probably 100' wide during the peak of the flood.
Bridge approach. Note the sign on the right
There's a very dangerous way to cross the torrent on a log jamb. I did it twice and can't really recommend it.
The mess that is the crossing
Someone else was back there on a bike today. I hope it was a Parks person.
What is that? AND it's locked up!
Headed back down the moonscape of the Palliser slide...

...and went past the Point campground, which looks OK (though we didn't go in). In the forest, we found a boreal toad, who despite being slightly "poisonous", is quite cute.
Cute dude
Crossed the Kananaskis on the still-intact-but-listing bridge at Lower Kananaskis Falls (the river still runs under one end, which I hope won't cause it to wash away).
Bent. Not in a good way, either
The river is still in full flood and has partially eroded the bank with the trail on it. The trail here was under water and shows the effects of that.
Mud on the "trail" 
Bank erosion
Lower Kananaskis Falls. Bridge at the top
Wherever it was before, the memorial bench is now stuck in the middle of the river.
Not a good place for a bench
The wildlife seems to like the fact that we're not there. On the trail, saw multiple recent bear scat and tracks...
Poop #1 
Poop #2 
VERY large grizzly footprint
...recent wolf and coyote scat, recent moose tracks and scat. I also saw a moose near the Pocaterra Day Use area, but she would not hold still.
Her back 
Enlarge the picture; there's a face on the right
My time back there today really hammers home that there are parts of the backcountry that are just fine, but the parts that aren't safe are really not safe. I was in a meeting with Parks this past week where they ran through a quick inventory of the damage, and while it's not my place to disclose the discussion in that meeting, it's pretty safe to say that almost all bridges are damaged or gone, and trails in low lying or narrow creek valleys are very badly damaged. Trailheads and parking lots are missing or filled with rock. Creeks are still rivers, and rivers are raging. While some places made it through unscathed, you may not recognize some places when you get there next.

I have spent little time in this area, and had only hiked these trails once, many, many years ago. It's a very cool space that I must come back to.