Dirty Secret Down Under: Better Farm's basement

The basement is the central nervous system of any home. You've got your blood and guts (pipes, wires, and tubes carrying water, sewage, hot air, and electricity), skeleton (foundation), organs (hot water heater, furnace, sump pump), and brain (control box).

Better Farm has, as we all know by now, seen many incarnations. And with each wave of lodgers came varying strengths and weaknesses in regard to keeping the house in tip-top condition. During any given shade of Better Farm, you might have electrical wizardry, carpentry know-how, plumbing prowess, or creative genius.

Or, you might have a bunch of derelicts stringing things together so the house continues breathing and running... just barely. Ah, hippie cob.

In the midst of working on the second floor (stand by for pics!) in the last few weeks, we discovered the electricity up there isn't grounded. And in the ensuing investigation, we found ourselves in the basement, slack-jawed, eyeing a control panel with wires sticking out every which way except the right way. But that's not all we found...
  • The furnace cover seems to have wandered a few feet away and sat down for a long nap. The oil filters are filthy.

  • The hot water heater is without an insulation skirt and hat. Its levels were also way too high, so we lowered those immediately. The water filter appears to not have been changed in a long time. Old, discarded filters litter the floor.
  • Old window spaces are "sealed" with some pieces of wood, but they're totally uninsulated. That means you can see sunlight between the pieces of wood. That also means any field mice have a year-round, all-access pass to Better Farm.

  • Holy septic! What you're seeing in the picture below is an uncapped septic line. To say it stinks is an understatement. We need a female piece to cap that sucker STAT. And speaking of nasty septic gossip, we also discovered a straight-up leak in one of the pipes feeding the septic tank. Gray water (among other substances) is drip-drip-dripping from the pipe directly onto the basement floor. Gross.

  • In better news, we also discovered this water catchment system used 100 years ago by Better Farm's original tenants. Long-since defunct, we're thinking of turning it into a sauna. Yes, please.

So, to review: Here's what we've got cooking in the basement...
  • Insulate hot water pipes and hot water heater
  • Change water and oil filters
  • Get some duct tape involved on leaky pipes running out of the furnace
  • Seal leaks in septic piping, get a female piece fitted on that open-air pipe
  • Do a deep clean (rubber gloves, a bucket of hot soapy water, a bunch of contractor bags, and a face mask)
  • Haul the trash—years of dirty filters, empty water jugs, mice nests, random articles of clothing, old appliances, broken sump pump—to the junkyard or burn pile
  • Get the cover back on the furnace
  • Reconnoiter the control panel's electrical wire mash-up
  • Seal and insulate the basement windows
  • Install ventilation so we can finally create our basement darkroom
  • Turn the old rainwater catchment system into a sauna