Not All Things Are As They Seem

This cabin season we had noticed a few shifts in the floor. They were a little squeakier with the odd wobble . It had been a bad winter and chalked it up to frost heaves. One spot in the bathroom seemed to get worse each week. At first it was a squeak, then a wobble , then a bounce until this weekend we decided time to fix the wonky area. We wiggled out one piece of laminate and it was a bit spongy underneath. At further examination my husband decided we would replace the wood from the area where it seemed a little soft and put a concrete pier under it for good measure. Off we went to Home Depot expecting an hour fix when we got back to the cabin.

Back at the cabin we decide to feel around a bit more. We lift back vapour barrier and pull out a few more pieces of the laminate flooring, the sheeting is soaking wet, so wet it starts to crumble as you touch it. Our hands are down the hole and it is wet in every direction. My husband keeps exploring trying to form a game plan and comments that the damp goes under the vanity . I comment that maybe we should look on the other side of the wall just in case. We slide the air hockey table out of the way, step near the wall and the floor gives way. Not good.

We slice out a couple pieces of laminate, carefully, because I have this crazy notion that it will go back in place. My husband reassures me it isn’t going back in, but I still draw a perfectly straight line to cut along. If two holes in the floor isn’t bad enough, finding rotten joists just adds to the drama. If rotting joists aren’t drama enough, the ones are the ones supposedly supporting a wall.

I think at this point we can say we have a problem.

We start walking around the one part of the cabin and start to notice more bouncy parts. More in the bathroom, one in the kitchen, all in a straight line.
All in a straight line that leads to our hot water tank (and the floor right in front of it is spongy too!)

We start to figure out what had happened. The beams on the bottom still seem dry and fine, but the ones closest to the floor are soaking wet. All we can think is it is hot water tank related when we look at where it is wettest . We think back to a few years ago. My husband was up at the cabin one February checking on the cabin. He called me from the cabin and said the hot water tank looked funny, but as it was winter and we had drained it off we thought “frost heaves” and never thought anything of it. Right after Thanksgiving every year we empty our hot water tank, empty our 1250 gallon water tank, unhook our pump and take it home, so a water issue doesn’t happen. Once spring had come and we again could use water at the cabin ( we use water May-Oct only because of freezing ) we decided the tank didn’t look right and planned to replace it.

Replacing a water tank at a cabin is no easy task. After multiple phone calls over a couple of years, this June we eventually got a plumber who would come to our area and replace it. We were thrilled as we had been washing dishes with boiled water. We mentioned the bouncing laminate to him as we chatted , and he said it was solid under the tank. So all was good and fixed.

Looking at the floor, and the direction of damage, all we can conclude is that somehow there must have still been water in the hot water tank that one winter . We drained it until it was dry, but that is our only guess as to what has happened. Out of the habit of having hot water, there haven’t even been any showers or baths this year, so the water isn’t from that. But here is the peculiar thing, the winter when my husband came across the wonky tank there was no water on the floor. It was -30C, it should have been a skating rink in the bathroom, but there was nothing. All we can guess is that the water, if there was some left trapped in the tank, must have flowed under the bath tub and then soaked into the wood like water does with a sponge . It is the only place it could have gone and not been seen.

It is so weird to have never seen any water. You could not imagine the surprise we had today finding the rot and soaking wet wood.

Now we have the task of seeing how far the damage has spread. Now that a few pieces of laminate have been removed we are finding more and more soft spots . It was as if the laminate floor was holding the whole structure together. All this damage happening under our feet and we had no idea. We had noticed something was off since May. We thought the cabin had shifted in the winter and had been watching the joins by the ceiling for signs of shifting ……… and there were none. Were we ever looking in the wrong spot, we were looking up when we should have been looking down.

Who would have thought there would be such a disaster lurking under a floor board .

14 thoughts on “Not All Things Are As They Seem

  1. Yuck – my commiseration! I wouldn’t think the hot water tank leaking once would cause that much damage. If the hot water tank was leaking the water would probably be sitting between the laminate and the vapour barrier and you would see laminate damage. Any leaking pipe joints? Good luck to you!

    • In the cabin , which has been built in a curious way as cabins are, the water pipes run through the ceiling. Evidently they are put in with a slight curve for the pipes to drain and not hold water when you empty out the system end of season. No damage showing walls or ceiling. You would think there would be staining, swelling and softness in areas if it was a pipe. All we can think is the water pooled under the tub.

      • When you uncover more you will most likely find the answer. Good to find it now before walls and floors collapsed and once repaired, you’ll know it is safe and done right. I must say your crawl space does literally look like a crawl space.

      • I think it is going to get interesting. The part of the cabin that this happened to was only built in 2003. But if we have to open up the original cabin we are dealing with old, old , old… one seems to know when it was built. Funny , we are probably a month or two having the Pender house finished up, now we have another project.

      • The joys of old houses and eclectic building practices. After finishing my current roofing project I have three other fairly major repairs this Winter (though not as ‘fun’ as yours)!

      • Taking a 4 foot by four foot skylight out of our bedroom. It was a scrounged item that I install 35 years ago, making the flashing from old heating ducts. Off and on over the years it leaked and I just found a soft spot on the roof so that has to be torn out and I’ll removed the skylight at the same time. We mostly keep it covered because of the hot sun in Summer and the bright moon year round.

        Some of the posts under the house need replacing and beefing up – not too bad of a job.

        Finally – some mouse-proofing in our attic. Using trees for studs and joists allowed some mouse highways and I’m determined to close the last of them up.

      • Sounds equally fun. Mark said “oh my gosh” with regards to your heating duct flashings. We have a scrounged skylight in our bunkie .

      • I always remember soldering the galvanized joints that need a different type of solder. I did it indoors and got an almost instant incredible headache from it. A lesson learned.

  2. Deb, I hope you can get it sorted with out too much more trouble, from what you have said it sounds like it’s running along a joist, could water get to the joist from any other place, outside maybe, it sounds like the water was under the laminate vapour barrier but I might have read that wrong, good luck with repairs, Frances

    • You read that right Francis. The beams closest to the ground are dry, no damage to walls or ceiling, soaking wet in the areas that surround the hot water tank. We put a heater in the crawl space for a few hours last night, now the floor is popping everywhere. I suspect we will have to strip out to the bottom supports in at least the new area. It is so bad we can’t even get mad we are just focused on fixing it. We have put plywood over the bad parts so the kids don’t fall through and are walking away from it for the weekend. We will spend the next week planning what to do.

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