I fought the wall and the wall won

That title could have gone either wall or lawn. Not only does the “pun effect” work both ways, but they both have an ounce of truth to them. But in this case, while the lawn was mildly tiring and involved a mowing, watering, trimming, shoveling, raking, and some shrubbery, the wall involved… well… a wall. Technically it was 2 walls, but neither was that big.

Yes, this is the story of a man, a hammer, a crowbar, several 2x4s, sheet rock, flying nails, falling tiles, and an almost complete lack of protective gear. It is a tale that invokes the age-old saying, “Give me a Wonder Bar and a place to stand and I’ll rip apart the world.” There was blood, sweat, tears and cursing at the former homeowner. But in the end, despite only wearing just a t-shirt, shorts and sandals, nothing of any real interest occurred. It was the perfect storm for AFV or ER material, yet no skin was punctured or gashed, bones broken, or heads jostled by falling debris. A rather sad day in the Slattery household when the removal of a closet results in nothing but 2 halves of a piece of sheet rock covered in tile being carried down to the basement.

At least I continue to have my suspicions confirmed that, however little I know about construction, the people who worked on this house knew less. Why would anyone possibly put a closet in the middle of a bathroom that does nothing but make the toilet a claustrophobic nightmare? Was it simply to cover that ghastly 4″ vent pipe that should have been 3″ and in the wall? How does someone manage to install 2x4s in the wrong direction? Who bought 7 inch nails to attach the molding but felt dry wall screws were enough to hold the wood together? Did anyone really think shims were a suitable structural support?

These are the questions that keep me up at night… a lot less than they used to. Perhaps in the near future we’ll even get to turn the toilet to face the right direction! For now I’ll just enjoy our less coffin-like restroom experience. The rest of this bathroom renovation should only take about 2 years…

Take my money, please!

We’ve been itching to get some work done on our house. Nothing too big…actually we wanted something very big. There is a plan. A master plan. A master plan that involves knocking out walls and parts of the roof and rearranging plumbing. A master plan that would turn our humble “3” bedroom cape (our office/den is counted as a bedroom while the ones upstairs are awkward and small) into a spacious home with plenty of room on both floors.

But that plan had a flaw. And that flaw was the need for money. Specifically a need for money when the global economy decided to flush itself down the proverbial crapper. After a couple months of toying with the idea and speaking with some contractors I finally caved and called a bank. And they laughed at me. Alright, maybe they were actually polite about it, but some words were bandied about that didn’t put me in the best of moods. Words like “not economically feasible” and “decreasing property value” and “fat chance” and “stupid”.

It was disappointing because we managed to find a local contractor that seemed like the perfect choice to do the work. He suggested ways to cut costs even though he was already cheaper than other estimates, showed us some of his other work, took us to his office, bought me coffee, and was just generally a friendly guy. Once the money started to evaporate, we talked to him about doing the outside work that we need for safety reasons with the hope that next year some of the master plan could go into effect. And that’s where it currently ends.

And I’m left wondering, why do contractors not want my money? You see, we already started talking to some people last year about our crumbling front steps, potholed driveway, and collapsed retaining wall. They came in with some great ideas and put together some initial estimates. But once serious adjustments were made… where’d everybody go? Seriously, doesn’t anybody want money these days? Or are all contractors required to be flighty, inconsistent, and at least slightly unethical?

Unfortunately the hardscaping is not something I can do on my own (or even with the help of drunken friends). This isn’t like ripping out sheetrock or putting up shelves or replacing electrical components. We’re talking about demolishing brick steps, removing a concrete walkway, hauling lots of dirt and rocks, building a wall, and paving a driveway. My cordless drill, reciprocating saw, Wonder Bar, and large tub of joint compound just ain’t gonna cut it. Even if I drag up the sledge hammer chances are a few more bricks will be loosened and we’ll end up be using the side stairs for the next 3 years.

For all I know by this time tomorrow someone will get back to us with some concrete (har har!) numbers and we can start making plans to upgrade the decaying rubble look of our front yard properly. But I’m beginning to think the next time The Money Pit is on TV I’ll mistake it for a documentary…

The incredible leaking house

Just remember, when you stop one leak, God will provide you with another… I think that’s the proverb. At least that seems to be the appropriate one for this house.

For those of you not currently enjoying the wonderful heatwave up here in the Northeast, you’ve also just missed out on one frightening bit o’ thunderstorm that hit these parts. We’re talking non-stop thunder, lightening strikes that seemed only blocks away, winds that sent rain horizontal, and hail. That’s right, freakin’ hail. I don’t know about you guys, but I honestly can’t remember the last time I saw hail around here. While it may be common elsewhere, that’s freaky weather for me.

Thanks to our recent gutter cleaning, all of the basement leaks appeared to be holding well. No big deal considering how quickly these vicious storms can pass. But I kept hearing some strange noise along with the howling winds. Eventually I tracked it down to a window at the top of our stairs – one which we, of course, just recently talked about replacing. I’ve seen it leak a little before, but after five minutes of the torrential downpour outside the sill was overflowing and a stream of water was heading down some steps. Oh joy, because I just love every square inch of my house constantly being under threat of a random soaking.

Fortunately a bunch of extra towels and an old comforter stopped it up. But it got me thinking of the water issues in this house and how they keep staying one step ahead of me:

  1. Initial water found in basement.
  2. All boxes are moved to dry locations.
  3. Dry locations quickly become wet, too.
  4. Front gutters are cleaned stopping the leaks.
  5. Major storm dumps enough water to cover the entire basement floor – outright mocking my previous work.
  6. Basement is cleaned to the point that only major storms will affect it – good enough for me.
  7. Damp sheet rock is discovered in soon-to-be-built nursery.
  8. All gutters are cleaned, no more dampness in soon-to-be-built nursery.
  9. Water heater EXPLODES filling basement with 2-3 inches of water.
  10. Water heater is replaced. Everything in the house is now dry.
  11. Upstairs window starts flooding stairwell…

WTF! Could I just go back to some of the non-water related homeowner problems? Wait, we’re just about to renovate the kitchen. So please, a reprieve on homeowner woes. I beg of you!

The dandelion crop looks good this year

Those of you who have visited my humble abode have probably noticed there’s a certain section that I’m not exactly… er… proud of. Even though we’re excited about the kitchen renovation, there’s still a certain charm to the existing one, so it’s not that. The awkward shape of our “master suite” has served us well no matter how much I’d like to expand it (well, at least raise the roof a couple feet). And despite it’s semi-frequent floods, the basement is still the site of future cool endeavors that I can pseudo-brag about…

No, the overgrown and disheveled mess that is my yard offers the most embarrassment to me. And considering that most of my neighbors spend hours every weekend outside or pay for a service to do it for them the difference is… well… you get the idea. I mean, I use a push reel mower. No, I’m not talking about a push versus riding mower, I’m talking about one of those old-fashioned manual ones with no engine. So you can see just how seriously I take the outside maintenance.

This year was going to be different, though. I think I actually mowed my lawn before anyone else. The next weekend I spent a few hours removing what appeared to be barbed wire that had grown wild in the back. But just in time for me to do more work in the front – BAM! – the water heater went. And we got lots of rain. And suddenly spring kicked into full gear. And suddenly I walk outside to find the grass not only several inches taller, but filled with hundreds of dandelions. Because, you know, I was running out of challenges around here.

Walking by the disaster zone was a tad depressing, but between work and the more pressing needs inside the house there was no time left for cleaning up. And so I can’t say it was exactly a surprise when I cam home Thursday night with enough daylight left that I decided it was time to make things right that I found this in the mail:

Mow your lawn or else!

Awesome! I was honestly threatened to have my lawn ticketed. Is that the lamest way to break the law or what? Could you imagine if they actually dragged me to court because I was working too late and didn’t want to make my pregnant wife take care of the yard? Brilliant! The funniest part is that we always wondered what it would take to get one of these notices, and knowing is half the battle… Personally I think it was the dandelions that did me in. When all was said and done, they pretty much filled a large garbage bag – I almost feel bad not making a case of wine out of them. But after they were removed, the tall field of grass that remained wasn’t that bad. Of course now that’s it’s cut, there’s a little less personality to our property…

Just kidding, the place looks a lot less white trash, and I’m sure my neighbors appreciate that. Still, there’s part of me that wants to call up about the notice and go on some rant about how my taxes pay their salary and with the ridiculous costs of living in West Orange they should be mowing my lawn for me. Where would I be without righteous indignation?

Anyway, now that the front is looking normal, I guess it’s time to toss some gasoline and a match out back to clean up the rest…

The good luck was bound to run out…

Here at the Slattery household, we can’t help but feel a tad blessed of late. Lots of good things have happened, from my game show appearance to The Woman’s growing belly. But we knew that something somewhat bad had to happen to slightly balance it out. And so, instead of telling you about the kitchen renovation plans, the great deals we got on the last appliances, or my big upgrade purchase I get to wonder about why I didn’t buy this emergency water pump during the big flood last year…

This morning I was awoken by The Woman commenting that there was no hot water. There have definitely been a few mornings when my shower has been on the cool side or shortened because I was second in line, but no hot water at all is a real conundrum. Everything else was running just fine, so it’s not like PSE&G decided to cut us off because I still can’t figure out the stupid login for the account. So I headed down to the basement to check on the flame and hopefully get it back up and running in no time.

Unfortunately as I approached the basement door I heard a sound I definitely did not want to hear – running water… Crap. At first glance the floor looked to have only a few puddles, but those were apparently just reflections. Because once I threw my sandals on, I found myself sloshing through 2-3 inches of water to get to the shutoff valve. Yeehaw! For those of you who don’t know how water heaters work, just realize that it’s about the same as a pipe in that if it breaks… well… there’s nothing to stop the flow of water.

The frustrating thing is that we’ve been having discussions about replacing the stupid thing this summer. But there were no real indications (at least in my mind) that an upgrade was a huge priority. Certainly nothing that said a flood was imminent.

At least just about everything was moved off the ground due to the previous flooding problems. It looks like just some CDs and DVDs that were on the lowest shelves may be ruined, and the pump from Home Depot did a pretty good job so far with some more clean up work to be done tonight. So we still can’t complain that much, but this is more than just a minor inconvenience since the hot water is off until a plumber can come by. Not to mention, I don’t feel very eco-friendly wasting a few hundred gallons of water to wash the basement floor…