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The house is ours! Now what? | VRChristensen

The house is ours! Now what?


I’ve been waiting to move for so long that most of my stuff was already packed. Still, there was a LOT to do. More than that, there was a lot to learn. Because of the terms of our purchase, we had waved the right to have our purchase contingent upon an inspection. Fannie Mae feared when we realized all that had to be done to repair the house that we’d back out. They were likewise reluctant to allow us to have one at all, contingency or no contingency. No matter. I’ve done this before and I knew pretty well what we were getting into. Besides which, we had three weeks to be out of our current house. There were no other options for us but to move forward. Still, I really wanted to know if the systems were working. The power was on so I knew it worked, but was it safe? The water had been turned off for some time, so whether it was working properly was anybody’s guess. And heat? Was there heat? It was late March, so the question of whether heat was necessary was nominal. The question of hot water was not. I can live without heat. I can’t live without hot water.

Oh how I’ve learned to love the taste of my own words! (Could someone pass the salt?)

Instead of hiring an inspector, we decided what we needed were some reputable professionals in electricity, plumbing and heat. But, the house, not being quite ours yet, we needed permission. I could get into the house, that wasn’t a problem, but I did want to abide by the rules (whatever they were), and so, after some arguing and haggling, we at last got them to agree to let us call in the experts. The first to appear was an electrician, and one I liked and trusted (SO hard to find). I think I’ll hang onto him. He told us what we needed to know about the fuse box. Yes, I said FUSE box!

We knew already that we would have to upgrade. The insurance demanded it, and yet it would be a couple of months before we had the money to do that. I needed to know that it would be safe for the duration, and how to put in fuses, where to buy them, what sizes, all of that.  He told us that so long as we did not use higher than 20 amp fuses, we should be safe. He was concerned, however, by the fact that we have a 60 amp service but a 120 amp fuse box feeding off of it. He said it wasn’t safe, nor was it hooked up to any kind of code (the sub-panel is wired improperly) but as we are not huge electricity consumers, as long as we’re careful, we should be just fine.

With that done, the next person to call in was the heating specialist. We have a boiler, so that means before we can call him in we had to have the water turned on and the house dewinterized. Again, the sellers dragged their feet, but at last it was done.

And to our slight chagrin, we immediately saw several leaking pipes. The worst of these did not appear to be a big deal. Clearly it had been leaking previously and as the water was draining onto the back porch, I decided not to panic. I called the boiler man first.

Yes, we have a boiler. It isn’t ancient, but by no means is it new. I needed to know if it worked. If it wouldn’t heat the house (radiators) would it at least heat my water? The man believed it would. In fact he’d worked on the boiler before when the house was owned by Mrs. Day. It was oil fueled, and there was even oil in the tank. He got it running for us, and sure enough we had hot water! But in order to conserve fuel, he suggested we disconnect the thermostat so that the boiler wouldn’t be heating the whole house while we weren’t living in it.

So it was time to move on to the plumbing. Our neighbor, as it turns out, is a plumber. Why did I not know this? So I called him up and begged for help. The longer the water was on, the more leaks appeared. And by the time we were actually living in the house, it became apparent that we had some serious plumbing issues. The first and foremost was that leak on the back porch. It took taking down the porch ceiling to get to the problem, revealing a knot of repaired drains and supply lines simply crumbling apart. The leaks had been running for so long that one of the joists had rotted through. The pipes weren’t salvageable and no one wants to risk a clawfoot tub falling through the floor, and so our dear plumber/neighbor/friend cut out the bad spot and put a cap on it. We were down to 1 1/2 bathrooms. No biggie. We just left 1 1/2 bathrooms, and while it’s certainly not the ideal, I can live in almost any kind of deprivation for a limited period of time.

(Where did that salt go?)

So now it was time to tackle the kitchen, because I simply cannot live in this kitchen. The potential is here, and I see in my head what it could be. Mustard yellow and terracotta walls, soapstone countertops, rescued oak cabinets from the extinct textile mill on the river, Dan River Mills, an island and these really cool pendent lights I found at Lowe’s. But at the moment…it’s frightening. The only works space is a cast iron sink over an aluminum cabinet that is completely rusted out. We bought a slab of laminate countertop (as a temporary fix), a large stainless steel sink, and those rescued oak cabinets we picked up for a steal at the local antique store, and decided I could put it all together on my day off. Yeah. Right. It took me nine hours, and by the end of the day, I had a sink that wouldn’t quite lay flat against the countertop. I hate those stupid clips you have to screw on. They simply wouldn’t hold onto the particle board substrate and kept slipping off to go flying across the kitchen. My hands were so tired, I couldn’t twist another screw, and I finally gave up. And the faucet I had unhooked, which was, by all appearances, a wall mounted one, turned out instead to be piped up from the floor and through the backsplash of the sink, so I had to cut notches out of the new countertop in order to put it back in. And the hot water pipe was leaking. Fantastic. I’m not proud of my work, but as I said, it’s temporary, and I’ll redeem myself when the whole thing is finished for real.

 At last closing day came, and we began what turned into a two week move. Why was moving two states away easier than moving across the street? With my job, I really didn’t have the time I needed to pack everything as I should, and so many, many trips were made across the street. My books were packed, and we did have a lot of furniture and heavy items, so we rented a truck to make the work easier. We had help from friends to move, and I promised them I’d hire someone to move my piano. It turns out I could find no one to do it, so after renting another truck so that we could retrieve the last of our stuff from our house in South Carolina, we decided the best thing to do was beg a few more friends (the brawny ones) and have them put my piano on dollies and wheel it down the street. So that’s what we did.

The first week in our house (without heat) it snowed. Yes it did. I’m so OVER this winter!

The first week in our house, that cap on the back porch came loose and shot off into the bushes around midnight one night, spraying the neighbor’s house. They rang the doorbell until we woke up and I, in my pajamas, in the middle of the night, went out to turn the water off at the curb. The next morning I texted my neighbor, the plumber, hoping he could spare some time after work to help us get the water back on. He came right away, that very morning, and recapped it.

A few days later, the pipe in the half bath burst and flooded the basement. So we were down to one bathroom. Oh the joy!

And guess what? Turns out that our boiler only heats enough water to last a few minutes. Not enough to fill a tub. So I’m certainly eating those words. It’s now been three weeks and the plumber is here today to install a new hot water heater at last! I’m so glad we have such good friends here who let us use their shower. In exchange, we make them meals. I hope it’s a fair trade. It feels like such an imposition.

BUT, despite the lack of heat (it’s been in the 70′s lately) and the leaky pipes (so far we are holding steady with one bathroom) and the fact that I don’t really have any hot water to speak of, I’m so happy to at last be in a house of my own. I really do love this house! It has some amazing spaces and details and it’s so nice to be in a house where there’s room to move and we’re not always tripping over each other. My daughter, who has had to share a room with her two brothers for the last year and a half, is really enjoying having her own room. It happens to be the largest room in the house. Lucky her!

Attached to our room, through the bathroom, is a delightful sunroom, with windows on three walls. Just outside, our neighbor’s cherry tree is blooming and it is simply heaven up there. The cats love it too.

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