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The flooding of the basement was definitely an unexpected distraction at the start of our capital campaign. However, sometimes good things come in unexpected ways. We have a new furnace, new hot water heater and an essentially new basement as a result of the flood.

While completing the renovations we took the time to put in place improvements that will facilitate the upcoming electrical system upgrades for the rest of the house. We also were able to fix problems that we didn't even know about. For example, we replaced a badly corroded pipe that was part of the heating system. This pipe was located near the floor and had been covered with dirt that was wet. If the walls had not been torn down we never would have discovered this problem. We were able to fix the problem now for less than $1,000 and can avoid having yet another flood of the basement.

A repair for a problem like that during the heart of winter would have been substantially more money. In addition, we discovered extensive problems with the electrical wiring in the basement as a result of squirrels who had taken up residence. The squirrels were fond of chewing the insulation around the wires and made a real mess of things. We have killed all the squirrels and invested a substantial sum of money to squirrel proof the house to avoid this type of problem in the future. Now that we know the damage these animals can do we will be far more proactive in our pest control practices.

The following improvements have been made to the chapter house since the start of the campaign:

  1. Complete renovation of the first floor bathroom.
  2. Replaced carpet in the coatroom and repainted the walls and ceiling.
  3. Replaced the curtains in the dining room and repainted the ceiling.
  4. Basement repairs and enhancements:
    • Removed all drywall and trim materials down to the studs.
    • Performed intensive mold remediation project that involved scrubbing all affected surfaces in some cases multiple times to remove all mold spores.
    • Installed new electrical "sub-panel" from the original panel. All basement lighting is now wired to this modern panel which also provides capacity for future electrical expansion in the backyard (for lighting and power). This new panel will also make it easier to replace the existing panel that is over 60 years old. Replacing that panel in one project would be too much work to complete all at once.
    • Rewired all of the lighting, ventilation fans and electrical outlets to the new sub-panel. Installed a large number of new outlets including 7 outlets in the ceiling for special lighting such as blacklights.
    • Replaced the old bar with a new "L" shape bar. Installed new power outlets and design for large screen tv and back bar with sink and mini-fridge (future project)
    • Installed new wainscoting and new benches.
    • Buffed and polished the basement floor
    • New pool table thanks to the targeted donation by Bill Loller.
    • Replace all lighting fixtures with new high-efficiency LED lights. We also replaced all the hallway lighting with LED lights which should provide ongoing electricity savings.
    • Restored 12 composites from the basement that had suffered mold damages. This restoration also repaired some of the frames that were damaged.
    • New commercial grade hot water heater
    • New furnace (500,000 BTU)
  5. Replaced the carpet on the stairs. The old carpet was tattered and becoming a trip hazard.

Managing the recovery efforts has consumed a great deal of the graduate board's time and prevented us from doing some of the things we wanted to do in terms of outreach and fundraising. Now that we have almost finished those repairs we look forward to all the additional improvements we can make to the chapter house. That list of projects is pretty long but includes the following items.

  1. Replace the wiring in the rest of the house with modern wires, outlets and a new electrical panel / breakers. As stated earlier the basement repairs should make it somewhat easier to complete this project. The squirrel damage also shows the us the importance of replacing the wiring to avoid the potential for problems that we can't see.
  2. Renovate the upstairs bathrooms.
  3. Gut and renovate all the upstairs bedrooms to replace drop ceilings, upgrade wiring and smoke detectors. This effort will likely include some layout changes to increase the number of bedrooms to 14 from the current 12. This should increase the number of undergraduates living in the house each year which should provide a variety of benefits to the fraternity.
  4. Replace and upgrade the furniture and mattresses in the rooms
  5. Renovate the back yard to make it best in class.
  6. Restore the front door and surrounding woodwork.
  7. Restore the house brickwork and the front yard brickwork.
  8. Pressure wash the house
  9. Restore the other, non-basement composites
  10. New dining room furniture and benches / chairs

One of the side benefits of the basement work is that we have now established close relationships with a set of contractors for every trade. Having relationships with quality electricians, plumbers, carpenters, and general contractors is really important as we move forward with the remaining repairs. We are attempting to get the best value for all the projects we complete.