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February 4

Home Renovations: Things Going Awry

Last Sunday I arrived at my house shortly after my parents did and started putting a few groceries away.  That’s when I heard it… a small *drip drip drip* at the corner of my kitchen.

I saw water pooling on the counter top and on the floor, which seemed to be originating out of the top most cabinet door.

I yelled frantically for Bob to come upstairs (from the basement).  He checked the second floor bathroom (above the drips of water) and then checked the basement – with no insight as to why this was happening.

We turned off the water to the house in attempt to stop the leak.

Then Felix and I proceeded to stand in horror as we watched my step dad ripping into my upper cabinets, kitchen ceiling & upper floor joist to locate the source of the leak.

I nearly cried.  My home was being ripped into in order to find the location of the leak.

In this corner alone, there was so much debris from the small demo corner!  It was like 4″ high of rubble on the counter and we filled the garbage can twice with wood pieces & plaster.  I was not prepared for this either – I can’t even fathom how much debris is going to be creating by demo-ing the whole kitchen ceiling.

Here’s a vine video of the demo and a second of some debris.

A few things did come of this – which was good to find out now rather than later:

  • Two ceilings were installed.
    • The original plaster and lathe is in quite bad condition but instead of someone ripping it out like they should have, they just added another ceiling on top of the old one.
  • The upper cabinets aren’t actually cabinets but ply wood pieced together – horribly -to look like pseudo cabinets.  They need to be ripped out, but we will retain the original cabinet doors, as those are actually cabinet doors.
  • The floor joist under the bathroom is completely rotted out & has been sustaining water damage for years.  This now needs to be addressed and rebuilt.
    • With rotted joists, how have I not been falling through the floor?!  Let’s table that for now…
After the preliminary demolition, the leak stopped.  We turned on the water to the house and no more leak.  We ran the sink, flushed the toilet – but no more leaking.
BUT… the water to the bath/shower stopped working.  Entirely!  There is now no water flowing into the bathtub/shower.
Fun.

Solution: 

Since the pipes aren’t really the best, we’ve decided to abandon the old pipes and add new copper pipes instead for the second floor plumbing.  It’s not worth my dad’s time to actually hunt down the leak and fix it since the pipes are just ‘so so’.
I failed to mention… the bathroom in our house was supposedly refinished in 2009.  It now seems like they only added a nice facade to cover up all of the issues – leaking pipes, horrible ceiling, & rotted floor joists.
*OMG* Yes… I freaked out a bit and started asking myself “Did I just buy a horrible, not-worth-it house?!”
After talking more with my dad and also with Felix, I calmed down.  But yeah… this is more work (and a bit more $$$) than we were planning on doing.
I just really hope that nothing else huge has to happen as I don’t think I can handle any more.  :|  Felix and I knew this was always going to be an adventure, but now we’re joking that this is a crazy adventure.
Please… wish me luck.  Any of you have any crazy house stories you’d like to share to calm my frazzled nerves.
  1. Annette Tirette / Feb 4 2014

    Oh my, that’s awful! I hope you don’t get any more unexpected surprises…

  2. Angela / Feb 4 2014

    The joys of water leaks! My house isn’t old (2002) but oy… a leak under the sink days after moving in because a plumber didn’t finish the connection correctly. Three years later, a slow leak under the hot water heater….. that slowly seeped into the house and under carpet…. so that when it was discovered we had mold in a wall, ruined carpet, etc. We went almost two weeks without water while the mold was removed, walls and supports rebuilt, etc. Another hot water leak a couple years later…. the a small amount of mold from that found later…. Let’s see, a few years ago while sitting in the family room water started dripping from the ceiling. My daughter has let the tub fill to the over flow thing – but the gasket was dry-rotted and allowed water to go through to the floor below. Another expensive water mess….. On a small note, my son tried to flush a cell phone down the toilet after he dropped it (and he is a TEEN, not a little kid!) and it ended up caught, requiring an expensive plumber visit to remove the toilet and all its nastiness, retrieve the phone, etc. We have joked that we are water jinxed.

    • Liz / Feb 4 2014

      That’s a lot of water issues! But hopefully they’ve all sorted themselves out by now, yes? Flushing things down toilets I’m familiar with – I had a lapse of judgement when it came to an empty roll of toilet paper – Felix still give me crap about that and I’m very much *Not* a teenager. heh

      Thanks for this… it helps knowing I’m not alone in the world with water issues.

  3. TinaD / Feb 4 2014

    I’m so sorry. Bathrooms are a terrible pain that way. By the time you find a leak, there is usually damage. My second bathroom (in a 1953 ranch) has a shower with a leaky shower pan and wood rot in the joists…under a shower stall that is 36 inches x 32 inches. (You read that right. My husband can only get in at an angle, and can’t actuate the knobs.) The shower head is 5 feet 2 inches off the ground, so if you do figure out how to get in, you get a great shower…below the collarbone. The bathroom floor and the shower will all have to come out to fix the rot, which probably means the plaster walls will have to come down, which means a full gut and remodel, wood, drywall, tile and fixtures. (I totally don’t understand why bathrooms aren’t self-contained wet rooms with metal plate and exposed pipes.) None of which I can face or finance just now, so that bath is where the cat box lives:)

    • Liz / Feb 4 2014

      Yes – having a self-contained room with exposed stuff sounds so practical. We can call it industrial chic. :D

  4. Sabine / Feb 4 2014

    Don’t worry, that’s perfectly normal!!
    After we bought our appartment and demolished everything to remodel according to our taste, so many things went wrong and we went so much over budget that I thought I could write a book. One example: One morning we had a meeting on site with our contractor to plan for the electricity. The guy was not fluent in french. During the meeting I asked him to drag a line and install a light bulb above the door going to the bedrooms. He said “OK, no problem”. When we came back in the evening, he had completely sawed the frame of the door and removed it as he understood that I wanted the door gone (the 2 things don’t sound alike in french though). Now we don’t have any door to seperate our living area from the night area of the appartment.
    I have tens of stories like this one, and some times I actually cried (please don’t talk to me about our hardwood floor).
    In the end, it’s just fun memories.

    • Liz / Feb 4 2014

      heh Thanks so much Sabine!

      And yes, I’m so sorry to hear about your doorway & (floor … but not talking about hardwood floors since that’s a rough subject.) I hope I never have to come home to missing pieces of my house.

  5. Sarah / Feb 4 2014

    Eeek! This is definitely nerve wracking! Focus on your dreams for this house – it will get there! Remember your parents’ experience – you’ll get through it!

    • Liz / Feb 4 2014

      Thanks Sarah, the only thing that does help through all of this is imagining what it’s going to look like in the end. Cheers!

  6. Sarah C. / Feb 4 2014

    I love what another Sarah said — focus on your dreams for this house. What wise words! Sometimes, we really have to step back, take a deep breath, and remember that every adventure has stories to go along with it.

  7. K-Line / Feb 4 2014

    Oh, Liz. So sorry to hear this. Alas, I am all to familiar with the money (and soul) suck that is a century home. Though it’s a torment to hear this right now, you should brace yourself for the worst – while hoping for the best. Eventually, all the extra time and love you end up having to show this house (because of false advertising or weird glitches) will make you love it all the more. These are the war stories you’ll be telling for years.

    • Liz / Feb 4 2014

      Thanks Kristin. At this point it really looks like we’re not making much progress, but I know we really are.

      Yes! War stories! It’s going to be filed in…. “Remember that time…” category. :D

  8. Ginger / Feb 4 2014

    Oh man, I’m so sorry to hear that. How demoralizing! There’s a water leak as we speak coming from somewhere below my bathroom into my downstairs neighbor’s apartment– they’re just so common. :( A few years back in a different apartment our landlord ignored us over and over when we told him there was water damage to the ceiling, the ceiling was bulging, the ceiling was dripping, there was a little hole in the ceiling from the water.. until the ceiling collapsed completely in that area and left a 4′ x 4′ hole! Oh, and it happened while we were at work, so all the water that was leaking sat on the floor all day and warped the hardwood floor, so he had to fix that, too. Ugh!

    The awesome thing is that you have such skilled people in your family so you won’t be taken for a ride by shady contractors. Hang in there!!!

    • Liz / Feb 4 2014

      Thanks for this Ginger. I NOW feel really lucky I’ve never had any water issues in the apartments I’ve lived in. heh

  9. Kelly / Feb 4 2014

    Oh no, this is so stressful! You will love this house, though, in the end. It’s a lot of work but you’re not doing it alone, and once everything is made right you will have a lovely home for years.

    • Liz / Feb 4 2014

      Thanks Kelly! And for sure, I don’t know what we’d do without my mom and dad helping me with this place on a weekly basis.

  10. sewlittletime / Feb 4 2014

    It will all be worth it in the end! In our first flat our downstairs neighbours came up to say they had water dripping through their ceiling. We took the panel off the bath and discovered that they previous owners had put a plastic tub under a leaking pipe which had of course been filling up and overflowing for about 6 months. We were lucky it wasn’t worse!

  11. MarrieB / Feb 4 2014

    It’s so frustrating to discover that your home’s prior owner ignored/covered up plumbing problems (or any other problems, for that matter.) We have an older house (1948) and had to replace our complete sewer line (which included digging a trench through the back yard) and a few other leaks in the bathroom and kitchen that were very shoddily fixed. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve sworn at Larry, the prior owner. I just try to tell myself that we are treating the house the way it deserves now, and hopefully our investments in time and $ will keep it standing for another 60 years.

    • Liz / Feb 4 2014

      Thanks Marrie, that’s really good advice “I just try to tell myself that we are treating the house the way it deserves now.”

      Felix and I bought this old house ready to take on making it pretty & original/new again. So I’m going to have to keep telling myself that over and over again. :D

  12. Hanne / Feb 4 2014

    I’m so sorry to hear about this. Water leaks stink! My dad is coming tomorrow to see if he can find the one in my roof dripping into the dressing. You see, they are everywhere!
    I can also relate to the whole ‘previous owner just covered everything up’ thing. It involves a lot of swearing to the previous owners, just as Marie mentionned.
    Keep up the good work and one day you’ll laugh about it ! (hopefully)

  13. Tasia / Feb 4 2014

    Oh no, Liz, that’s so frustrating! I have a water story, in my apartment, my upstairs neighbour put in a new bathtub and forgot to connect the drain properly. Their tenant takes a bath for the first time, pulls the plug, and whoosh, their bathwater dumps through my bathroom ceiling! The worst of it was that I had *just* finished renovating my bathroom myself, and all my hard work was ruined in one night.
    So, it happens to many of us! Best of luck getting through this. It will eventually make for good stories, I know that really doesn’t help right now, but you’re so not alone! I’m so glad you have Felix to hug and to cry to. And family to help. Good luck! You’re finding the problems so you can make them right. :)

  14. Rachel / Feb 5 2014

    Well, at least there IS a solution- and that your parents know what they are doing ;) You will probably learn a lot!
    If it helps… we had a lot of water damage under our house… because of the front steps! Somehow water was getting trapped behind the steps and actually rotted the sill.
    We ended up getting a builder who jacked up the house to replace and repair the joists under the house. We sealed the porch to prevent it happening again :/

  15. Suzanne / Feb 12 2014

    Is this something that the house inspector should have caught? If so, they may need to step up to th plate?

  16. Grasshopper / Feb 14 2014

    Hi! I just found your blog through links from The Vintage Pattern Files. I definitely feel your distress. I bought an old house in 2007 and have had to make a number of unexpected repairs along the way. I have had part of the house completely rewired. Last year’s big expense was having to completely re-route the sewer piping in my yard because the old cast iron piping collapsed. $6000 later, I can flush without worry! I am in the process of stripping my woodwork, too. I have been going through the house room by room. At the beginning, especially, I felt like I had made a terrible mistake, but it does get better, I promise! Once I have a room done, or even correct one terrible patch job done by the previous homeowners, it motivates me to keep going. I am remodeling the kitchen right now. It is the worst room by far but in a few more weeks, it will be done. I am so blessed that my dad is a retired carpenter. I have been hiring him to help me and he is truly gifted in being able to fix things.

    Keep your spirits up and just take things a little at a time. I have learned not to obsess and worry about how long it takes me to get things done. My other tip is to always have savings stuck back for the next catastrophe coming around the bend!

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