Friday, December 9, 2011

When Renovation Goes Rotten

June 2011

Reality blows. And leaks. And smells bad. And costs money.

This post isn't going to be pretty. Across the blogosphere and magazine racks are pretty, pretty pictures of rehabs and renos. Glossy countertops and soft, modern colors with unusual decor items so cool you just know that hipper people than you dwell there. People that you both envy and want to invite you over for coffee.

This is not that post.

This is the most beautiful thing here. Abandon hope for anything hip.
After a house has been standing empty for 18 months, things are going to start going wrong. No one's around to notice.

When we first arrived at the house in June, Grant (my teenage son) and I had arrived with crowbars and box cutters for removing ugly carpet and even uglier paneling from the house. It was hot, smelly, dusty work and we sneezed and cussed and nursed sore arms and backs every night. But we ALSO felt smug and superior. Hardwood, baby. Who covers up that? We LIBERATED that floor, that's right! (High five!) You get the picture. It was hard not to feel like we took this thing on and (cue theme from Rocky) conquered the uglies.

Of course, that is when the little bird of Karma poops on your head. Multiple times.

1. The main floor toilet didn't work. At all. I'm not a plumber, so I couldn't be more technical than wave my hands and say "it no goes flushie-flushie."

2. The upstairs toilet didn't work either. At least, well, ahem. It was one of those weird 1970's bathroom ceramic colors--is that mauve? brown? pink? I give up---- lord it was ugly. And don't get me wrong. I am not opposed to vintage colored bathroom ceramics, but even the best ideas had ill conceived executions, and this toilet was one of them. It used approximately 1/3 of the local aquifer with every flush. Even with all that, it would only flush the merest dainty shard of toilet paper and well, um, you know. It wasn't sufficient.

3. The upstairs shower when turned on wouldn't send water out of the shower head, but instead rained it down through the house into the basement. This part, at least, was caught during the inspection. While the sellers gave me credit toward closing costs to cover the repairs, it still had to be done by me.

4. What was that smell? (main floor bathroom)

5. Good. LORD. What was that smell?? (basement)

6. Do you smell something a (upstairs bedroom).

Now, let me take a pause to put all this in perspective before I go on. This is not the stuff of Renovation Nightmares (capitalization necessary). People I know, people I've read about, have had renovations that have involved anti-depressants, attorneys, divorce, and thermonuclear war. I KNOW (don't write me) these things are all manageable compared to the horrific tales that unfold on shows like Holmes on Homes. (Shudder.)

But to go from all that progress to all It wasn't what I had in mind. I had only a few weeks before I had to be moved out, had to have a habitable bedroom for at least the little boys. Even putting all the bathrooms together I didn't have single operational bathroom. And did I mention I wasn't made of money? The whole thing gave me a gut-ache.

Can you sense (smell, perhaps?) where this is going? If June was about liberating hardwood floors, July was about leaks, smells, mold, and a creeping sense that I had just made a horrible mistake with the single biggest chunk of change I'd ever spent independently in my life. Now, I can tell you it all goes flushie-flushie, and the house smells, well, better. (I have four boys. Pick your favorite scent of Febreze.) But summer was not easy, or fresh.

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