The (Mis) Adventures…
The (Mis) Adventures Of This (Smelly) Old House
We are remodeling our house. I don’t know if I can really say remodeling. It is currently in a state of limbo between remodeled-remodeling-and-falling apart. While I have had many frustrations from this process, I am beginning to appreciate the humor of it all. You see, when I tell friends or family about particular happenings a lot of times I get laughs, although sometimes it is more like those “uh, ha, ha?” sort of disgusted laughs that people make when something makes them uncomfortable. I now choose to laugh. I would like to try to tell some of the best parts of the remodeling process and hopefully get a few chuckles (or gasps) from the story.
Project 1: When my husband and I decided to move back to his hometown, we planned on moving into the house he had purchased from his Great Aunt’s estate about five years before we were married. We loaded up the UHauls and headed to Georgia. When we arrived at the circa 1908 house, we unloaded the two trailers directly into the living room and headed down the road to stay with his parents.
Apparently, when a house is left for a couple years without power or anyone to check on it, it likes to mildew in lots of places. And, if the pipes were not covered before a freeze because no one was around to do it, they like to burst and destroy the plumbing to the house. So our first two months back in town were spent living in the home of my in-laws. Luckily, I am blessed with the most amazing parents-in-law. They fed us really well, including all the ice cream I could eat, and we never had a tiff. I can’t even eat dinner with my family without some weirdness or argument coming up. The only pitfall I saw in staying with the in-laws was that we were in an upstairs bedroom. The bedrooms had not been used in several years and so they wreaked havoc on my allergies. I had a cold every other week when we were there. I worried that my father-in-law must think I was weak and unhealthy. I could just imagine him thinking, “This woman is supposed to be the mother to our grandchildren? Man, is she gonna have some sickly babies.”
While we resided with my in-laws, the plumber went to work to replace all the plumbing in the house. He even installed a tankless hot water heater. This was so exciting to me. That meant that we could shower endlessly—without ever running out of hot water. I have often told my husband that I decided to marry him when he told me he owned this endless hot water heater. There is no worse feeling than the gradual cooling of your shower water when you are mid-shampoo. I have had near panic attacks when I begin to feel that drop in temperature. I can be tough in many situations but ending a shower with cold water makes me want to curl into a ball and cry. (Yes, sometimes I am fairly dramatic. I think that’s one of those things that my husband finds so endearing, right?) I have also always hated the whole planned shower routine. Like when you visit friends or family overnight and everyone has to set up a schedule to split the showering so that there is enough time for the hot water tank to refill and reheat. It never fails that even with scheduled showers I have to hustle through my wash routine to try to beat the cold water. I would hate to have to cry in front of friends or distant relatives.
Once the plumbing was mostly redone, we moved into the (still musky from mildew) old house. Then we had the plumber and some of his construction friends to work on remodeling the guest bathroom. We have two small dogs in the house. My miniature pinscher is my precious baby and then my husband had his (very) male Jack Russell terrier. But I love him too. At one point, the construction left a hole in the bathroom floor. You could see the bare dirt beneath the house. The dogs loved to use this as their own personal doggie door so we learned to keep the bathroom closed off. One rainy day I let the dogs out the side door to do their business. When I called them back in the Jack Russell appeared in short order but the minpin was nowhere in sight. I went walking around the yard calling for her. Then I expanded my search radius to the road, all the time praying that I would not find her hit by a vehicle. My search continued into the neighboring church parking lot. At this point I was on the verge of tears and deeply worried. After searching for what seemed like forever, I felt I was out of options so I made my way dejectedly back to the house. I continued to call for her as I got back to the porch. When I stepped to the front door, a thought struck me to check the house. When I got to the under-construction bathroom I could hear her scratching on the door. My delicate little baby minpin had found her way out of the rain and up through the hole in the floor. I was so happy I did cry then and I’m pretty sure I banged my head on the doorframe a couple of times as well.
This was just the first of many adventures to come in the wild ride that is home remodeling….
The (Mis) Adventures Of This (Smelly) Old House
Since we have lived in the house for over three years now, it is hard to remember the particular order of the remodeling process. So instead of trying to recreate it step by step, I will try to focus on the highlights of this adventure. At some point well before my husband purchased it, the house was added onto to create a second bathroom and a small bedroom with an outside accessing door. Whoever did the construction for this section of the house did a terrible, shoddy job. This extra bedroom which is about 10 x 20 feet, is the only carpeted place in the house. We are very fortunate to have been able to convert it into our walk in closet. The problem is the carpet is nasty. If you read part one, you know that we had a mildew problem when we first returned to the house. I have since cleaned the carpet but keeping in mind that we have two inside dogs, you can imagine that a 3o year old carpet can manage to hold onto a lot of stink. I try not to let our toddler even set foot on that carpet. When she had just started walking she went to climb up over the threshold and sliced her toe open on a carpet tack. Quick fix #1: Hubby put a folded towel down to pad the nail tacks better.
One day, my minpin got ahold of the carpet at the threshold. I imagine she heard something under the house and tried to get to it. She managed to pull back about two feet of carpet. Of course I was not even upset. For one thing, how could you be mad at such a precious doll baby and for another thing, I was grateful that she had gotten the carpet ripping out started since I had been begging my husband to do it since we moved into the house! But alas, he could not even take the hint that the dog worked so hard to give. Instead, he still refused to rip up the carpet, saying that we did not have the time or money to start that project. We had other half-finished projects that needed our attention. So I rolled the carpet back down, vacuumed up the shredded pieces of carpet pad and placed a lovely pink folded towel along the edge of the carpet at the threshold (quick fix #2).
I have used every cleaning product, deodorizer and flea deterrent you can imagine on that carpet. I have shampooed, vacuumed, sprayed, and even scrubbed it with my own tears (I thought the salinity might have some beneficial effect). I cannot get rid of the stink in that carpet or the feeling that there are decades of germs, bugs and general disgustingness lurking in that shaggy mess. But I digress. The good part about the backroom is that has provided a storage area for things like rifles, sporting equipment and our clothes. It is a pretty handy closet space!
I have already mentioned the shoddy craftsmanship in the “master closet/bath” and so now I will elaborate. One day, not long after we had moved in (when we were still young and enthusiastic about life) I had to pee really badly. I got up from the couch during a commercial break with a comment about how I really had to go to the bathroom. Joe jumped up as well and said that he had to go. A race to the bathroom ensued. (The master bathroom contained the only working toilet at the time.) When we crossed the aforementioned threshold into the backroom and made the right hand turn into the bathroom, we slammed into the door which then slammed unceremoniously into the wall. I believe most doors are installed with doorstops. Apparently, our bathroom door had not been. To this day, there is a handle sized hole in the drywall of our bathroom.
My husband and I have a running joke about showering. Quite often he will say, “I’m going to jump in the shower.” To which I say, “Try not to jump too high.” Ha ha, hilarious, right? You see, the outside wall to our “master bathroom” is actually rotting and sinking. There is a four inch gap between the bottom of the drywall and the floor in the corner by the shower. If that sucker made a solid jump inside the shower stall, there is no doubt in my mind that he would go crashing through the floorboards to the dirt below.
On an interesting side note, when our border collie had her puppies, she got under our house to have them and wanted to keep them there. The first time we went to excavate them, we found her under the bathroom floor. I could just picture the whole lot of them crushed by my husband’s ill -fated shower jumping. I worked very hard after that to keep her out from under the house. I think we only had to get her and the puppies out two more times until we could secure the underside of the house from her entrance.
Let’s see, what else is there to tell about the “master bathroom?” Oh yeah, we have two lights in there—a mirror vanity with a vertical light on each side and an overhead light near the shower. About a year after we moved in, the shower area light began blinking and failing to stay on after you flipped on the light switch. Joe’s quick fix #3 was to rig the switch after he turned it on with a wadded piece of toilet tissue. This would hold the switch in a position that magically kept the light on. Now, as my husband can tell you, I am a bit of a lights-off Nazi. I always turn the lights off when I leave a room. Many times I have turned the lights off when I left but Joe was still in there. “Oops, sorry,” I would say to his, “Hey!”
The final straw for Joe on my obsessive compulsive energy saving was the night I turned off the hallway light before I headed down the hallway to the laundry room. You see there is no switch at that end of the hallway. I was planning on turning the laundry room light on when I got there. The problem was in navigating the construction material in the hallway in the dark—while being four months pregnant. I managed to stumble over something or other and then walked straight into the corner of a piece of backer board. That is the stuff used in showers to put a waterproof barrier beneath the tiles. It is basically a thin sheet of concrete that is shaped a lot like plywood. It got me right in the pelvis. Luckily, it was to the side of my belly and so there was no worry (for me) about the baby’s safety. Joe was panic stricken and proceeded to lecture me on leaving the stupid lights on until you or someone else didn’t need them anymore!
So, back to the bathroom light switch: I would get so irritated with the thousand or so tissue wads I threw away over the next several months. I didn’t want to leave it in there with the light on. It kind of worried me that it could spark a fire in the switch itself. I was so grateful when that technique finally quit working. We just showered in the half-light after that. The bad part was in bathing the baby. You see, we only have the shower stall, no bathtub. So I set the little plastic baby tub in the floor of the shower. It’s fine. It works. Luckily, we have a petite toddler. The comedic part of that is whenever I asked baby’s daddy to bathe her, his response was always, “I’ll help you.” His help consisted of wiggling and holding that light switch so that the light would stay on during my bathing her.
The other half of the lighting in the “master bathroom” has always been less than ideal. It buzzes and blinks and when I put make-up on in that mirror, I am just taking a stab at it. There have been days that I got in the truck and gasped at my face in the rearview mirror. Luckily, I am married and not out to impress anyone. Last week, the vanity lighting gave out. My husband tried the tissue-wad-in-the-switch but to his dismay (and my elation) it did not work. He managed to find an extra switch in the construction debris and replaced the failed one. Now the shower light works and not the vanity light but the good news is the light doesn’t buzz or blink and there is currently no need for tissue wads in the switch. When hubby dear installed the switch, it went in upside down. He couldn’t figure out how he did that. I just get tickled when I flip the switch down and read “NO” when I go to turn on the light.