New house, new problems

Paying for the sins of other handymen

By Paul Perreault


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When you buy the house of your dreams, it often comes with a dash of nightmare. I have lived in 12 houses and enjoyed them, but they have all come with problems. Problems such as the furnace. I have had sleek, modern furnaces but also one whose doors blew off one cold winter day and another that started spewing water across the basement floor. Then there was the house with the furnace so old and cranky that I never went into the furnace room in the entire year we lived in that house.In many houses, the basement is where the problems live. No one is surprised at a damp basement or a puddle or two after a downpour, but in one house, we had an actual stream coursing through the basement in the spring. It came in through an outside stairwell, pooled around a drain and then streamed out the opposite wall. When I tried to get at the root of the problem, I found it was simple–the floor of the basement was dirt. No concrete.

And speaking of damp, let’s go upstairs. I lived in an old house with eaves that you could crawl or walk into. After we bought it, I knew problems were coming when I inspected those eaves and found old roasting pans, so positioned as to catch drips from the leaky roof. By the time we moved, I had improved things to the extent of using better-quality roasting pans as rain catchers.

No matter how lucky you are, there’s always something you want to change in a new house. Or something you have to change. Or many somethings.

When we bought a partly finished house, we knew we had bought a great deal of work. There were seven doors leading outside and only one broken-down set of stairs, which meant we had doors that opened onto 15′ drops. All this we could see, and it was no surprise. But it was a bit of a shock to find that the staircases inside were all too low and we had to move stairs and cut into headers.

At least there were no roasting pans in the eaves of the house; but in one there was a bale of hay positioned under a hole in the roof. Presumably, it was a rain catcher.

So, you can see how buying a house can lead to a problem or two.If the above catalogue isn’t enough, let me add these: the house with two floors and no interior stairway to connect them; the place with an electrical panel so old it had been installed by Thomas Edison; the three-storey house in which the living-room ceiling leaked; the place where the drain on the third-floor bathtub emptied into the main-floor hallway.

And, I think, I’ll save the septic-pump story for another time.

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