When Bob and I decided to take a chance on living together after living together one night at a time for the past few years, we chose to move into my little house. I love my little house. It’s a cozy place in a working class neighborhood where everyone knows your business. I have alley access so I’ve got watchful neighbors in the front and back of my house.
A few years ago, I replaced the roof with the help of Texas Windstorm insurance and a freakish winter storm. I put in a little money and got a metal roof so the casita looks pretty sharp. Thanks to a bonus from work, I got new double pane windows. The bonus came back in the form of electric bills that are half what they were before the new windows and roof.
Neither of those improvements required opening a wall or removing a floor. I worried about what might be discovered when the roofers ripped the asphalt shingles off my roof. A few of my neighbors started and suspended roof replacement when the initial demolition uncovered termites. No such bad luck for my house and me. The roofers replaced a little lumber, but 98% of the tongue in groove planking that decks my house was able to stay. No reason to replace it with the lesser product sold today.
Before moving we decided to update and upgrade the kitchen and bathroom which were still in pre-1960 condition. Renovating an older home is a cross between watching a horror movie (NO! Don’t check out the noise in the back yard!) and an Indiana Jones movie (“I don’t know. I’m making this up as I go.”).
I knew that there was a leak in the kitchen drain line and that there was some minor damage in the sink cabinet. Bob and his friend Corey ripped into the walls and started the renovations. By the time they’d pulled out cabinets and sheet rock, we had found several small leaks and a rotten subfloor. We ran out of plumbing brains and needed professional help.
A work friend has a plumbing company and he sent a couple of guys to revamp the plumbing. I like Mike enough to give him the budget; he waved the information away like an offending gnat. Just one bathroom? Gas water heater? No problem! We’ll be well under your budget. I’ve found that it is never a problem when it isn’t your money. Or your time. Or your life.
The first thing the plumbers uncovered was a crushed tub drain. I was certain that we had crushed it when we removed the tub, but Roger the Plumber assured me that it was old damage. He pointed out an opening in the wood sheathing that provided access for someone to swab mastic on the pipe to keep the drain running. When I bought my little house 12 years ago, I had a plumber do repairs. Roger asked how much I had paid for the work. ($600 for various repairs.) I don’t want to break your feelings, Margaret, but I think he cheated you. Roger assured me that we’d just need to use an above floor drain tub instead of the tub we’d ordered. Since the cost was roughly the same, I wasn’t unduly upset.
It was Day 2 when Roger found that the cast iron drain pipe, the pipe that evacuates all wastewater from the house, had deteriorated and needed replacing. Doing that required excavating under the house. That’s not terrible news since I work for an underground utility company. Max and Manuel have been willing participants in the rehabilitation of my house. A friend in the construction business loaned us a mini-excavator because the overhead lines could be snagged in Max’s Cat 416E backhoe/loader.
The crew made short work of the excavation, digging by hand for a distance under the house to permit access to the drain pipe. I came home to a 7′ x 5′ cavern under my house and a big stack of dirt.
The plumbers reappeared on Friday to finish the work, but I got a call from them after they had been at the house for a new hours. When our guys excavated under the house, they broke the waterline. It was at that point that the roaring in my ears obliterated Roger’s next few words. We’re going to have to do a re-route.
I could have asked for the cost, checked on the bill, but I couldn’t take any more bad news. Instead, I asked when they’d be back (Monday) and hung up the phone. I spent the week-end staring at the hole and wondering how the hell they fix something like that. I wish I’d said something because Bob quickly gave me that answer when I asked him on Sunday night. I stayed home Monday to make sure Bob was right. He was. In 5 hours, Roger and helped completed the repairs and restored water service.
When Roger called with the grand total, it was about 20% over what I thought it was be. My mind had doubled my original estimate and I told him so. He settled for my estimate and I transfered money to cover a check. Our dad had the corniest joke ever which he repeated on occasions like this: What did the mouse say when he peed in the cash register? It runs into money.