Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Under the House

Any homeowner will tell you that there are two areas left just to repairmen. The attic and the crawl space. I've been in both and I can tell you that it takes me a long long time get ready to go under my house. I'm not claustrophobic. I am arachnophobic and the humidity of this area is like a blanket invitation to move into my crawl space. I hate spiders in the crawlspace... But that's not where it ends.

My house is in the 'burbs of Nashville. Even so, we've had trouble with all manner of woodland creatures - most notably the skunk. One morning when I headed out to the bus, I nearly got sprayed by one that decided to be lurking in my carport at 20 min before dawn. I tracked him for a few days and found his daily route. I quickly closed the fence where he was getting in. Undeterred, he ended up under my house one day. What he sprayed down there or why is unsure, but our bedroom suddenly smelled as if Pepi LePew was lounging at the foot of our bed.

We called a pest expert who also wouldn't go under the house (smart man) but did place a trap just inside the access door, which took 3 days for the skunk to get caught. Even with the special 'Pest Powder' he supposedly sprinkled down there the area under my house has never smelled the same. When faced with a task which must be done from 'down under', I sit at the door with my tools, wearing old clothes and take about 15-20 minutes to talk myself into making the trek. In this short time, I am already sweating heavily, shining my light into the door, poking at things with a long screw driver, killing anything that even remotely looks like a spider.

In order to get under my house I must open a small door on the side which is actually under an 'addition'. (Yes, that picture is actually my house, the door of which I replaced after the skunk got in..nice job eh?) I keep it shut and locked by bracing it with a handful of heavy cinder blocks. Once the door is out of the way, I have to sort of slide though on my stomach. (The previous owner didn't dig out enough room for someone to get under this area opf the house, let alone do any work. ) The area just inside the little door is a maze of fallen insulation but my arms can't get any working room to get them put back up. There are also small animal droppings and yes, spider webs and pieces of long dead spiders (did you know that brown reculse shed their entire body now and then? I hate spiders...) I use a strong light to find the webs, take them down and kill anything which moves. I put my tools into a bucket with a lid, to which I tie a long rope. Once all the way inside and in an area where I am able to move I will pull the bucket to me.

After I crawl down about 20 feet, and angle though a hole in the original foundation, I am under the house at that point I can now get around on my hands and knees and pull in the tool bucket. The ground is usually damp (it's spring in Nashville...rain rain and more rain) and the muddy earth below the 'moisture barrier' is smelly and has the viscosity of baby poop. Delightful.

Looking around, I see that the previous owner also has left me a nifty collection of used piping, scrap metal and even a kitchen sink. Southerners have a way of depositing construction refuse where it is merely unseen rather than where it belongs. My house is nearly 50 years old and there are more stories about what the previous owner did, along with what the construction codes were in the early 1960's which leaves me with more problems than just a few psycho spiders.

When I'm done with whatever brought me down there, I get out of the area the same way I came in. Once out, I have to strip completely on the patio (praying that the neighbors don't call the cops) and take my smelly dirty clothes directly to the laundry (where they are washed in hot water TWICE). A long hot shower and two bars of soap bring me back to some level of normalcy. Now, I just have to keep hoping that nothing takes me down there again - ever.

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