“Asbestos” It Gets…

It’s been a hell of a long week, with basement demolition and foundation bracing taking place within my home. It started last Wednesday, with a crew from Grasshopper Construction showing up to take down the current walls and finishings from the basement in order to expose the concrete foundation. This was to be followed with the placing of steel braces all along the foundation walls in order to shore up and solidify the concrete and prevent any heaving or caving in, since the soil in Regina is primarily composed of yellow clay and tends to shift and cause said heaving.

The “Before” photo

My wife and I agreed that it would be best for her and our infant son to take a trip to her parents’ place for the week that followed, in order to allow the baby to get his naps and stick to a routine as opposed to dealing with the cold and noise that would take place within the house. My wife also requires a wifi signal for her work-at-home job, and we knew that power and internet may be interrupted at intermittent times.

This left me with my 5-year old son, Nathan, as he had school all week and had to make the bus every morning. The first day of demolition went well, with a significant amount of the finishings removed by the end of the day. The crew were extremely efficient, keeping me updated and asking questions as required. They were also really good with cleaning as they went and at the end of every day, which made the continued use of the washer and dryer a possibility during the whole process, which was greatly appreciated.

The panoramic “After” photo

After two full days of demolition, they had about 90% of the basement demolished and on Thursday afternoon, Jeff (the owner of the company) brought me to the basement to show me that they had discovered the inner walls of our cold storage room filled with an asbestos insulation called Vermiculite. The tiles left under that wonderful orange carpet of the basement’s open area were also made of asbestos. This meant that demolition and bracing would need to stop until I could get professionals to come in and remove the asbestos.

We were already aware of the floor tiles prior to the project starting, as Jeff recognized it during his first visit. But it wasn’t a concern as it wouldn’t interfere with the bracing of the foundation walls. But the cold room unfortunately had to be demolished in order to access the section of south wall that needed to be braced. I looked up a local asbestos removal company and asked for someone to come take a look and provide an estimate. At about 4:30 pm on Thursday afternoon, one of the guys came over and assessed the cold room and floor tiles and advised he would email me an estimate of costs.

Asbestos tiles

For those who are unfamiliar with it, asbestos refers to silicate minerals that are arranged in a fine fibrous crystal form and was used for multiple residential and industrial applications in Canada towards the end of the 1870’s. It became a popular commodity, due to it’s fire and temperature resistance as well as its ability to stand up against exposure to chemicals. Given it’s physical flexibility, it was often used as a source material for floor tiles, insulation, sound-proofing and temperature control. Especially since it was so cheap. The big problem is that when asbestos is damaged or broken up, it can release microscopic “fibrils” that can potentially be inhaled.

Asbestos insulation, or “Vermiculite,” discovered once they tried tearing down this wall

The inhalation of asbestos can lead to certain forms of cancer, specifically mesothelioma. I won’t get into THAT one; y’all can use Google on that one. I’m just happy that I managed to spell it properly. I got my estimate on Friday afternoon, and was told that an asbestos crew would be there the following day (Saturday) to do the clean up. I updated Jeff and we agreed that this would work out perfectly as it would prevent any interference or delays with the foundation bracing.

The asbestos removal people were scheduled to be here at 8:00 am on Saturday morning. I got up at 7:00 am, in order to have Nathan dressed and ready in the event we needed to vacate the house for a few hours. By 8:40, I started to wonder if I had misunderstood and contacted the company. Lo and behold, they only showed up at about 10:30 as they apparently booked an earlier job before mine. Such is life.

I was not impressed with the situation. The asbestos removal guys even mentioned that the use of asbestos within the house should have been disclosed before our initial purchase of the property. But considering the original owner did a lot of his own work and on his own, he may have insulated that room himself and it may not have been a known fact. Now that all the hazardous materials had been removed, the demolition team were able to finish removing the remaining finishings and get the bracing done on the foundation walls.

This wasn’t the end of the issues, of course. Minutes into starting their work on Monday morning, the Grasshopper crew found another wall filled with Vermiculite, and had to stop work in that area. A quick call to the asbestos company saw a crew of three show up at my house within 30 minutes in order to clean it all up. I’ll admit that I was a little miffed with them and basically “ordered” them to ensure they tore apart every wall to ensure I wouldn’t have to bring them in a third time.

Thank the light that the Grasshopper crew were flexible and able to take a break to allow the asbestos team to clean up what they had missed on their previous visit. They vacated the basement and showed up to continue working without missing a beat. They somehow showed up right when he asbestos guys left and continued work before I even noticed they even came back!

Wall braces, in all their concrete-straightening glory!

The Grasshopper crew worked over the days that followed, and I watched the progression of a heaved, cracked foundation to the neat, sealed and braced walls you see in the photograph above. A plumber and an electrician came in to reconnect certain pipes and power lines that had to be removed for the proper installation of the steel braces. All in all, the basement is looking way better than it did a month ago.

Over the next short period of time, we’ll need to decide if we’re to put our house back on the market or if fate and career will allow us to make it our permanent home. If it’s the latter, I’ve already got some ideas for the open space. Of course I do, this is me! I’m thinking pool table, maybe a mini-bar and cocktail fridge, dart board… After I get some flooring, framing and drywalling done, of course. I can hear my wife groaning already! Either way, a significant amount of stress is off my shoulders, now that I now the foundation of my home has been shored up.

Even the tight, difficult area under the floor landing, still properly and professionally braced

A really huge shout out to Grasshopper Construction, the owners Jeff and Shane, as well as Kess and Luke for their diligent and professional work and for putting up with the occasional distraction and questions from my 5-year old son Nathan. If you live in the Regina area, or know someone who does and requires foundation work or renovations, I can’t recommend these guys enough. Besides their website, which I’ve linked above, they also have a FaceBook page you can check out and see customer testimonials and photos of their work. ☯

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I am a practitioner of the martial arts and student of the Buddhist faith. I have been a Type 1 Diabetic since I was 4 years old and have been fighting the uphill battle it includes ever since. I enjoy fitness and health and looking for new ways to improve both, as well as examining the many questions of life. Although I have no formal medical training, I have amassed a wealth of knowledge regarding health, Diabetes, martial arts as well as Buddhism and philosophy. My goal is to share this information with the world, and perhaps provide some sarcastic humour along the way. Welcome!

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