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Dec 17, 2002: Basements

WARNING: narcissism ahead

MJ and I are relieved; all four walls of our basement have now been replaced. We'd lived in fear of this project ever since we signed the contract back in March--lots of disruption, dust everywhere, the whole yard torn up, an even more dyspeptic cat--and if you've ever replaced your foundation, you know how friggin' expensive these projects can be.

But it's gone incredibly quickly; they were in and out in less than three weeks. And instead of bowing, corroding block walls that could be excavated with a dull soup spoon, we now pleasantly find ourselves tramping down the stairs to a clean, neat, almost cheerful space, full of right angles, natural light streaming through new windows, and much less clutter thanks to our weekly regimen at the Kiwanis drop-off desk.

And what does this have to do with information architecture? Damned if I know. Do basements have a place in the architecture analogy? Do our sites contain no-frills areas, hidden to most users but highly utilitarian nonetheless? Do these areas get dirty and cluttered over time? Musty? Flooded? Horrific to the ten-and-under crowd?

If our sites don't have basements, should they?

Or heck, IA aside, any basement stories to share?

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Comment: ML (Dec 18, 2002)

No basement...but I've got crawl space under the house. With all the rain happening here in the Bay Area...my husband and I have become quite intimate with crawl spaces, mud, sump pumps, and back up power supply systems.

As for the redesign of the IA inthis crawl space...I've recommended new lighting and tarps to reduce mud traction and lessen the creepiness factor. :)

Comment: vanderwal (Dec 18, 2002)

We *had* a finished basement in our house when we bought the house on August 28th, but when we moved in on September 28th it was half unfinished. There had been water damage from pipe leaks and seapage around windows and through the walls. We had 18 cups of water in our dehumidifier every 14 hours. We had a lot of mold and mildew to removed from the studs on the other side of the panelling.

We now have dug around the foundation from the outside down 3 feet and out 2 feet and filled that with clay up 9 inches higher than the dirt began, so to get proper grading allowing the water to drain away from the house and now settle against the foundation/basement walls. We now have one quarter cup of water in the dehumidifier every 24 hours. Our next step is to pull the 51 year old copper plumbing (life span of 40 to 50 years) out of the ceiling of the basement (now fully exposed) and replace it before we get a big break. Once that is done we pull the remainder of the panelling in the dry areas and retreat the whole basement for mold and mildew, seal the walls, seal the floor (asbestos tiles) under a poly/cement layer, put in a new floor and put the walls back up (possibly recofiguring some of the space) to create a media/family room.

The basement is created by the foundation. This area of a building has fewer temperature swings than the rest of the house. This is not usually used in the calculation of square feet of the house. The basement is often utility space or extra space. If these were to be used in an IA metaphor would they be the development server? The basement could be a closed community space for personal entertainment and close friends (not everybody is let into the basement). Basements are also used for storage too.

Good question Lou.

Comment: Edward Vielmetti (Dec 19, 2002)

Glad to hear that it's done, Lou, I hope that means that your back porch is off the easement and back on the house.

As for the IA equivalent of the basement, I think of it as the set of files that exist on your server but that aren't picked up by indexing engines, so someone who doesn't know the way to them never finds them.

Searching the early Internet felt entirely too much like rummaging around through people's basements and attics looking for recyclable materials. Searching the post-crash Internet for some things - e.g. following the links in a 1999-era weblog - results in reminders that some structures got totally flooded away after they were fully built on a foundation of sand.


Comment: Prentiss Riddle (Dec 20, 2002)

This is close to what Ed said, but I'll bite anyway: On the static-file portions of my servers I tend to create subdirectories called ".old". Their permissions are set so the HTTP server can't see them. When I clean house I often do "mv blah .old" instead of "rm -rf blah". The .old directories are no substitute for backups, the Internet Archive or the elusive CD-R/microfiche/acid-free hardcopy in a vault in the university library; but on more than one occasion I've made someone happy by being able to rummage through my "basement" and find something I thought was long gone.

The moral to the story may not be what you want to hear -- i.e., Kiwanis today, gone tomorrow. :-)

Comment: Tom Croucher (Dec 26, 2002)

I am currently residing at my parents house for Christmas. Now I live in England and this house has reached the grand old age of 280ish. Yet the cellar is a rather magical place inhabited by leaves old boxes dead house hold appliances and my fathers alcohol (it has in fact also got a video game based on it back from the days of our Spectrum 48k). I guess I might actually have to go home if it got flooded... and buy my own booze ;) It's good you got it sorted before Christmas Lou.

Comment: Bill Kearney (Jan 20, 2003)

Heh, I've been renovating my bathroom for a while now. Fortunately my drywall skills have developed nicely. I was rather concerned that taking out the closet in the bedroom would leave a noticable repair but you can't even see it! Here's hoping I have as much luck with the ceilings...

The basement's going to happen next fall. I've already peeked behind two of the walls and, so far, no signs of problems. I'm hoping drywall will enliven the space a bit. Old (real) knotty pine is nice but it seems to make it rather dark.

Comment: Dan (Nov 13, 2004)

Hi folks, need your help. I just noticed 2 inches of stagnant water in our crawl space. when i got the plumber to inspect it he found that the pipe carrying the kitchen water was broken, god knows how long this has been broken.

now i have fixed the pipe and the leak has stopped, my questions are as follows

1. what else will i need to worry about since the basement had 2 inches of water?

2. will i need to get a mold inspector to check the crawl space?

3. do u think the foundation could have been affected?

4. anything that i need to know \

your answers are highly appreciated


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