Tuesday, April 12, 2016

From marvelous to money pit

I was so sad to learn a few days ago that our old house on Russet St has been relisted.  I am actually unreasonably upset by the news, and I can't quite figure out why.  Maybe because I thought the people we sold to really loved the house, or because it's weird to see our house with other people's furniture in it, or maybe, because we can't buy it back.  Anyway, it got me thinking about our life there a lot this weekend, and I'm trying to not dwell on how much happier I was there than any other place we've lived. 
I can see from the photos that (ignoring the photographer's over saturation problem) they haven't changed a single paint color.  They also kept all the furniture and accessories we left there, which is great that it all got used again. 
We've been having a lot of setbacks at our house in Illinois, so I tend to get really down and spend way too much time looking back, instead of forward.  Let me take this opportunity to share with you some of the WTF problems in this house, just for fun.  A couple weeks ago our sewer backed up into the garage drain, and we had quite a mess since our garage is still full of all the stuff we have no place for.  Plus there was all new wood on the ground for a guest room wall project that we have no time to complete.   
Nothing like poop in your garage to make your Friday.  Turns out our old clay pipes are just laid nicely next to each other without mortar around the joints, so lots of roots and crap were growing throughout.  The plumber we hired rodded the pipes Friday and used a camera to show us how bad it was, then they had to come back the following week to do an 'extensive' rodding of the pipes with these little blade attachments.  It all cost us $1300.  But wait, there's more!  The elbow that supplies our house is not fully connected to the main anymore, so we technically should dig it all up and replace it.  To the tune of $6500 or more.  He says we can avoid that by rodding every 6 months to keep the flow we do have clear, at $400 a pop.  Awesome.  Moving on... 
I was sitting on the toilet in our master bathroom the other day (love the visual, eh?) and looked down to see this tile on the shower curb was totally cracked.  I have no idea how this happened, but I'm wondering if I hit it with the Baby Bjorn bouncer while trying to keep my little angel from screaming bloody murder while I shower.  Anyway, we don't have any replacement tile and it's super annoying that this happened.  Next...
We probably have to tear off the entire deck on the back of the house, since it's NAILED onto the house and isn't safe.  The stairway is sinking into the ground because they put nothing underneath it, and all the steps are breaking.  We may be able to just secure it better, but I'm not holding my breath.
Some other dumb issues we've had in this house:
  • When we moved in, there was a cracked tile at the threshold from the kitchen to the dining room.  Removing the transition strip to refinish the floors basically pulled the chunk of tile out, so we had been living with it (and tripping over it) like this for several months:
Luckily, the previous owners did one thing right and had leftover tile for us.  We found a reasonable handyman company to come over and fix it because we just didn't have the time to do it ourselves.  It was honestly the best $265 I've ever spent!  Our floor guy left that new wood transition for us back in September.  I'm so happy it isn't leaning up against the kitchen wall anymore!
  • The main bathroom floor/tub surround leaked if water got on it.  We've already had water raining through recessed lights and a closet in our newly renovated lower level.  We've regrouted and recaulked everything until we can gut the bathroom, so far it's working when our energetic kid is in the tub.  The cool retro tile is in terrible shape, the spaces between the tiles are crazy big.  You can see all the grout we had to use around the edges.
  • I had to hire a locksmith to change out our locks and handles on front and back door, not because we wanted new locks, but because they were installed incorrectly and were so impossible to use I didn't even lock our doors for the first month we lived here.  Cost us $500.
  • The door opening to our garage from the house is abnormally small for this type of door, at 28 inches wide.  This means I had to have a steel entry door special ordered to replace the dumb hollow interior door that was there. 
We wanted aluminum, but it wasn't available anywhere in that width.  With the labor of the installer, this cost us $990 total.  It does look nice, but OMG it's a plain door that isn't even painted. 
  • We had a ton of plumbing issues in the entire house when we first moved in, including the busted master faucet, lots of leaks, and a running toilet.  It cost us $1100 to fix all of them.  I won't go into the details, but we still have to gut the main bathroom and change out two more one piece (of crap) toilets. 
  • We've spent about 3k on electrical work to change the obsolete 50amp panel to 100amp, put lighting in the lower level, fix all the shoddy work on the main floor, and replace all the ugly ceiling fans with lights that turn on with the switch.  We wanted a bigger amp panel, but it would've required permits and the electrician suspected that our deck would cause issues because it's too close to the panel on the outside.  We decided to just stick with 100 and hope it's all we need.  We still have outlets outside that are not meant for outside, and there is no outlet in the downstairs bath....so we have to get those taken care of. 
  • This one is petty, but our ice maker in the frig stopped working a couple months after we moved in.  It's a common problem I know, but it isn't any less annoying and I refuse to pay some company an $85 trip charge plus a few hundred to repair it. 
  • We had to replace our garage door opener pretty much right away because it was not working properly, and it sounded like a freight train was running through our house every time it opened and closed.  We got a good one that was belt driven instead of chain, and it is much nicer and quieter - but cost us $550.  
  • We replaced our furnace in November because it was 18 years old, loud, and the back of our house (mostly Ashford's room) was always cold.  $2300 later, the new Lennox furnace is a bit quieter, but his room is still cold.  Annoying.
  • The worst yet, we just got our property tax assessment and they increased our value by 70k.  There is absolutely nothing we can do about it, because the house probably would be worth what they say after all of our recent improvements.  I estimate this will raise our already high property taxes by over 2k per year.  This place is just not worth it!
So, on a better note!  Zach has started sleeping better at night, in his CRIB.  Once for 8 hours straight, and that makes me very happy.  He still does not nap during the day unless he's nursing or laying on me, but I'm hopeful that won't last much longer.  At four months, he's as big as Ashford was at nine months!  Here is my chunky 18 pounder:
And here is a comparison between him and me as a baby.  Crazy how much he looks like me!
Ashford has officially entered the 'superhero' stage of his childhood, and so I had to do a little photoshoot of the boys wearing some Captain America gear they got for Easter.  Love it!
Sorry for my sporadic posts, I believe it took me three entire days to write this one.  Ah, kids.  Thanks for letting me rant a little, and I'd appreciate your house horror stories to make me feel better!


  1. OMG I feel you on basically ALL of these problems. Our sewage comes up into the basement, and that's a city-wide infrastructure problem that the city is like, "Well, we can't afford to fix this," so that'll never get resolved. And we had to replace the A/C unit not the furnace. But otherwise this could be a post about my house. These issues suck, hope you guys get past them ASAP.

  2. Oh no! I'm so sorry you are dealing with all this.

    As for my house horror stories...well I too could write a book. I'll just give you some highlights:

    1. Apparently our water pressure was too high. I came home to 2 faucets exploding (1 on each floor of my house). Water was spewing everywhere. And of course, the main water line couldn't be turn off because the valve was locked up. No plumber would come out at 8pm. Damage to flooring, walls and ceiling. This cost me thousands between repairs/replacements and a pressure reducing valve. All total, this was about $5K.

    2. Ground Water required us to put in French drains and a sump pump. 99% of house like mine do not need these things. Guess I was the 1%. This was over $2K. FYI-insurance didn't cover a dime.

    3. I had an honest to goodness sink hole in my front yard caused from a leaking sewer line. It was over 10ft wide. 10K later I call it the money pit. FYI-insurance didn't cover a dime. Of course.

    4. Boiler worked less then 50% of the time. When the repair men came to service it, he didn't put it back properly. It caused a fire. Thankfully it caused very little damage because my neighbor caught it and called the fire dept.

    I've replaced every single window, roof, door, siding, and major appliance (boiler, AC, HWH, etc...). And yet I still have a very old, falling apart kitchen. I keep saying there is nothing left to break, but this house keeps proving me wrong!

    Despite it all, I still love my home. It serves us well.

    I hope you start having better luck, Sara!

  3. In a mountain lakehouse in WV I thought I was getting a great vacation home with simple cosmetic changes. Carpet/wallpaper everywhere, cheap finishes and floors. Well - the first weekend I moved in and started attacking the carpet that was in the dining room. It was covered in FLEAS. The previous owners disclosed they had no animals living in the house, there was a bucket of kitty litter in the basement:( After fumigating for fleas, the smell was still horrific, animal smell had seeped into the subfloor. So I primed and painted it with porch paint as a temporary fix. In the adjoining kitchen, they had cheap sheet vinyl that I pulled up and it appeared to be glued to the floor in PEANUT BUTTER. None of the plumbing was hooked up properly and all of the fixtures were seemingly soldered to each other. All of the faucets leaked. The hot/cold water lines were all reversed - easy fix, no? Well, I could not undo any of the junctures because they were so incredibly fused together. I had to cut copper pipes and replace entire sinks b/c the faucets/drains would not disconnect. There were also zero water shut-offs for each of the shower/tubs. When I finally got a plumber in to help, thinking that they would replace copper with copper - nope they cut about 10 ft of copper out and replaced it with metal mesh(not even PEX!) I was so upset. It went from looking like legit plumbing to half-assery. Mind you this was supposed to be a vacation home. I thought I was going to be spending every weekend prettying it up - instead of removing wallpaper (because they glued the paper to the drywall, it was actually impossible to remove without also removing the top paper layer of the drywall - I had to paint over it), I was removing carpet staples or trying to sand out peanut butter or shelling out unreasonable money for shoddy work. The final nail in the coffin was that after a heavy snow season, the unreasonably manicured landscaping up on a 6 foot retaining wall started to slide, bowing the retaining wall out. I decided that the headache was proving too much and paid for it to be fixed to the tune of $7,000 toward the new owners and I was out. Oh and I forgot to mention that the inspection I had had 5 years earlier had listed several things that the previous owners were required to fix in our contract of sale. Apparently they didn't do any of them, since those same items came up on my inspection when I tried to sell - so I had to get them taken care of for my new owner, who was much more savvy and had a much more savvy realtor. I will never again look to buy out of town, it was a harrowing experience to say the least.

    I hope this helps you in knowing you're not alone. Owning a home is so much more difficult than it seems on HGTV - immediately after I bought my first house I stopped watching:)

  4. Sara, I am so sorry this all is happening to you and your family. It is hard to like this area. I am still struggling with it on our 6th year anniversary of moving here. The water, the traffic, the taxes. We just got that love note from Mr Berrios. Ha, what are they smoking as the assessor's office? I wish I could tell you the one thing that makes it worth it... The house in WI on the market doesn't help, I'm sure. Just look at those adorable boys and hang on to that. They are soooo cute! The other plus that I could say is that I think it may be spring in Illinois. Don't quote me, but it is turning green around here. Breathe.

  5. My horror stories pretty much equal those you just posted - sewer backup (luckily it was washing machine water), garage door, locks, deck, flooring. And what's more then a little scary is our house is essentially the same as yours - raised ranch, recessed driveway, looks the same, etc.

    We bought in July 2014 knowing we had to gut and rehab but then my house sold sooner then we thought it would (yay! boo!) and we had to move in two months later. Luckily the essentials (bathroom and kitchen) were done enough to use them. A year and a half later we are still working on it, the big stuff is done but there are still a ton of little things needed.

    The first year was the worst. With work, kids, the house a shit show, I felt like I was losing it most of the time. Totally wondered what the heck we got ourselves into and why we moved from a house that was done and the way we wanted it. My lower level still has only a coat of primer on it, old linoleum, stairs need to be refinished but I'm good with that for now. (I'm really not haha but fighting my battles with all the time constraints). All this to say, that I completely know how you feel but know and trust that it gets better! Try to not let the stress of the house impact the important things - your sanity, the kids, your family. You will get used to the house, things will slowly get done and it will feel like yours, and you will get into a routine and feel more comfortable. There will probably always be things you will want to do, but they will be things that can be done at your leisure.

  6. Wow, thank you all so much! It really does make you feel better to know that others are dealing with crap like this. AND, your stories actually make me feel lucky with our situation! (Sarah and G, wow...that is awful)

  7. Hi Sara,
    Barb here!
    I guess I have to say...is any house perfect? None that I have had and that would be 6 of them. 4 brand newly built ones and 2 older fixer uppers. You learn to just deal with the costs and ups and downs. It goes with the territory of being a homeowner. But, hold on to the fact that you are lucky in life to OWN a house, you have your great family, and your health. Really, what more could you need? ( Maybe a lottery win, but that can be bad too. But I say...just give me that chance for millions!)

    Another thing I want to stress to you is this. I know taxes are high where you live, but consider the location. The North Shore of Chicago. Primo real estate. People would kill to live there. It is the BEST OF THE BEST!! Lake Muchigan, best school districts ever, beautiful homes, rich areas. I grew up in Winnetka. It was a childhood like no other. Please try to relax...settle in, and know you are giving those boys a life in an area that is indeed privileged!!! There is a reason taxes are high. You get what you pay for...the town of Palatine is great!!!

    It takes time to settle in. I know. Moving, divorce, death, and a new job are the most stressful things ever. Try to enjoy your wonderful men in your life and the house Reno will fall into place. Add a new baby and hormones to that deal...yikes!!

    Rome wasn't built in a day. Believe me...we all know that!

    Love your posts. They make me smile! Hang in there. Spring is coming your way.
    You are the best.


  8. Sorry to hear you've had so many bumps in the road already. We just bought a new house and I haven't discovered any of the crazy issues yet because we aren't moved in. Although, our home inspection was a doozy with mold in the basement. I just wanted to suggest you check with your insurance on the sewer line. We had the same issues in our current home with sewage backing up in the basement. We spent almost $1,300 before they suggested we camera the lines and discovered the cast iron line was disintegrating. We were able to file an insurance claim to have it replaced and I know our plumber was pushing us to file a claim for the exterior line as well because he said it was in bad shape. We decided to wait that one out since I think he does good work but is a tad sketchy when it comes to insurance claims. Good luck. And glad to hear Zach is sleeping better. He's so much bigger than my 6-month-old who is a total peanut


Thanks so much for reading....your comments mean a lot to me!