Mucking Out a Basement

Mucking out a basement:  In case you’ve never done it, I’ll tell you what it’s usually like.  There is no power in the house, so the only light comes from windows or string lights that you bring in and hook up to a generator.  So the first time you go down there, it’s dark and smells pretty strongly of mold.  You wear a respirator, but it’s not easy because they fog up your glasses, and you can’t breathe as well, especially after carrying an especially heavy bucket of muck up the stairs.  There are things that were in the basement that floated around and then settled as the water went down.  With the flood water comes a lot of sediment, so everything is dirty.  And usually, the sewer backs up.  So let’s not think about what else is down there.  You have to carry everything out.  Sometimes you carry it by hand to an open window and throw it out.  Sometimes you carry it up the stairs and out the front door to a big pile on the curb.  You see what the homeowner had.  (In one house, there were something like oxen horns.  I think I would have liked that home owner.)  If there was a freezer, it floated and then tipped over and spilled everything out.  If there was anything like a bucket or a tote, it may have filled up with water, and still had the water in it.  That water smelled like raw sewage.  If there was carpet, it is still wet and muddy.  You have to cut it up to get it out.  All the drywall and paneling needs to be torn down and brought outside.  Usually, the mud and drywall particles and small things get shoveled into a bucket and carried out.  The furnace and hot water heater need to be drained and come out.  Sometimes you can get them up the stairs, but sometimes you have to cut them up to get them out.  Sometimes the duct work comes out.  Sometimes it stays.  It’s up the homeowner.  Any insulation comes out.  Then you take a pry bar or a hammer and pull all the nails out of the studs and ceiling joists.  Every time you carry something out and breathe fresh air, you have to go back down into the basement.  In the end, you sweep up the nails and all the drywall and mud you can.  Scrape a layer of dirt off the floor.  Carry it out.  By then, the smell is not so bad.  There is more light.  There are no “unknowns.”  It’s pretty wide open with no walls. The next step is someone to come in and sanitize it.  We didn’t do that part.

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