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Nuts and Bolts : The Necessary Workings Of A Home

March 20, 2013

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When the pipes burst and the water is everywhere, I want it fixed immediately, but really, I hate paying for renovations you can't see.

Baby Boom is one of my all time favorite funny movies from the eighties. 

Diane Keaton plays J.C. Wiatt, The Tiger Lady. She is the quintessential career girl who inherits a baby from a distant cousin and is, of course, completely unprepared for the role of motherhood.  

In effort to make a better life for them both, she ditches her New York City power job, grabs her baby and buys the most perfect little Vermont country farmhouse- or so she thinks.
Once there however, like many new homeowners, she realizes she has bought a fixer upper and is confronted with a myriad of unexpected and expensive renovation nightmares.  

Lady, you need a new roof.”

Lady you need a new boiler.”

This money pit keeps burping up problems until J.C. can take it no more and screams at the whiskered and plaid covered plumber in a state of complete hysteria, “I just want to turn on the faucet and have water, I don’t want to know where it’s coming from!

She then promptly passes out.

While I really enjoy the entire movie, I particularly love this scene. I can watch it over and over again and keep on laughing. I guess the reason I find it so funny is because it is so relatable. 

The fact is, no one really wants to pay attention to the inner workings of a house, we just want them to work and when they don’t it can be maddening.

My 1920's Beach Cottage

When we moved into our current home, we knew it needed a lot of work. It didn’t matter to us, we loved the style, the property and most importantly, it just felt like home. It was built sometime in the late 1920’s and only two families owned it before us. Neither had done much updating.  

Rumor has it at one point some guy with a monkey lived here…I shudder.  

Anyway, along with the lovely kitchen addition we were planning, we had to update the cesspool, the heating system, the plumbing and the electrical. The house needed insulation blown into to walls and a support beam in the basement.  

We spent thousands of dollars that no one will ever see. 

As someone who is very particular about the aesthetics, every one of these concealed expenditures killed me. 

Of course, everything I mentioned needed to be done. The money was well spent. I mean, above all a house needs to function properly and be structurally sound…but it doesn’t mean I have to like it! 

I wanted those dollars to spend on furniture, paint, fabric and accessories, maybe a pool Those are the fun home purchases, the ones you dream about when you buy the house. No one is dreaming about insulation ratings or cesspool overflow tanks.  

Well, no one I know anyway.

With most renovations safely tucked years behind us, last night, I stuck my dry hand in the cabinet under the bathroom sink to get some tissues and that same hand came out wet. Uh-oh.  

I quickly turned the water valve off, mopped up the mess and told my husband he’d be having a long fixer upper kind of night.  

He’s very handy, so by 9pm all was well, if not damp - a minor renovation ripple in the day, no big deal. 

Now, I am certainly no geologist, but it is my understanding that aftershocks are usually smaller than the original quake.  

Apparently, this is not always the case.  

Country Style Kitchen Faucet

This afternoon I was in my kitchen when out of nowhere there was a loud bang, followed by water rushing everywhere. 

A pipe had ruptured under the sink and water was pouring out all over my wood floor. Our plumbing was rebelling in nearly every room. 

By the time I made it downstairs to turn the main off, there was an actual tide in my kitchen.

The tsunami waters had also made their way through the floor to the basement and were raining down on both my carpet and couch. 

This time my fix-it husband was at work far, far away and I was left to clean it up on my own, which of course included the expense of a plumber.

Not whiskered but plaid-clad nonetheless.

Tonight as I sit amongst the sopping towels and rattling dehumidifiers, I suddenly have more respect for the guts of my home.  

While I'm still not thrilled to throw dough at these invisible improvements, I really do just want things to work when I turn them on.

After all, no one is paying attention to pillows and window treatments if they can't shower.  

So the next time people come to my house excited to see my new spring accessories, they will be getting an enthusiastic tour of my new copper piping instead.

Under The Sink Plumbing

How fun.

It's not nearly as as appealing as my decor.

But right now, it's worth crushing on. 

Quick Nuts and Bolts Tips: 

In case of an emergency, it is important to know where certain ‘hubs’ are in your home, for example, the water main, gas main, boiler switch, electrical panel- get familiar, it could really save you when time is of the essence. Every home should also have at least one fire extinguisher.   

Here's some of that pretty stuff I mentioned!

Summer Porch Wreath
Sticker Sign Wreath

Kim Signature

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  1. I'll see your pipes if you admire my roof!!
    Hated "wasting" all that money on a roof that no one notices!

  2. You described exactly how I react anytime we "have" to do to the house. Sadly, there's quite a few of those as we systematically correct all the botched DIY projects of previous owners/occupants. Would love to show off the beautiful stainless steel chimney liner we put in a couple of years ago (picture me up on the top of the roof helping with that thing) but alas, it's safely in the chimney where it belongs.

  3. Agreed! All that money and effort could've been spent on so many pretty things! I suppose being dry and flame retardant are important as well! ;)

  4. Great post. I am so with you on this. My emergencies usually involve water too. See you in a week. I am off tonight to become a mother in law.

    1. Thanks Lorri, writing about it was my cathartic release after a very stressful...and! Enjoy your trip. I can't wait to see pictures and congratulations to everyone!! :)

  5. Thanks for the reminder Kim, I am the cosmetic enthusiast while my darling is the functionality spokesperson. Together we make it work but it is nice to remember that sometimes I have to give up the "look" for awhile so the house does not fall apart. Have a great weekend :)

    1. We work the same way around here, Karen. Having an uber handy husband is a perk, but I still don’t love paying for all the “unseen” things when there is so much pretty out there!! ;)

  6. So relatable Kim. It is those hidden repairs that are the most costly and most important. I had to laugh about the guy with the monkey living in your house before you. Too funny!!!!! We are getting excited to be moving into our new nest soon. I hope I do not have any hidden issues only pretty decor happy!

    1. I am so happy for you guys, Kris! I just know that your new place will be fabulous...and I sincerely hope you new home is monkey free!! ;)

  7. Hi Kim,
    Great Post! And I am so glad you shared it again with us.
    We will be living in our home for 15 years this April. It might be time I start writing posts on our surprises of after we signed the dotted line. ;-0
    Your monkey comment made me laugh...our previous owners had a cat, we knew they had a cat...we did not know they planned to leave the cat! Glad he did not leave the monkey.

    1. Ha! They left the cat?? That is crazy. I am so glad no one left a monkey. We actually heard that he had a hedgehog, a snake, rabbits…it was a regular menagerie over here!! ;)

  8. Oh my, you poor thing! I love that you can be so pragmatic, Kim. We've never had anything quite that bad happen in any house we've ever lived in, but we've never had one quite as "elderly" as yours. I do watch a lot of Fixer Upper, and some of the stuff Chip has to fix or replace (stuff that you cannot see), always seems to cost a whole bunch more than putting in all-new cabinetry. The "bones" of a house really are what has to be done well. I do hope you are drying out and hope your wood floors didn't get damaged.

    Warm hugs,

    1. The "bones" are super important and yes, the structural stuff is so much more expensive than the pretties, but necessary for sure!!

  9. Love this post. Felt exactly the same way when we first moved in and need to upgrade all the electrical and get a new roof. Who noticed either one? Recently we needed a new cesspool and a new driveway. Oh joy....would rather have gotten a pool!!
    Tracy S.

    1. Those improvements are no fun, Tracy, I agree! Plus, I always find it funny (ironic really) that we can always find the money for repairs, but don't always have it for the pool!! Hmmm.

  10. First of all...LOVE BABY BOOM!!! I've watched that movie probably 10 times. I love when they make applesauce. I loved that country store they went to. I loved every bit of it. I'll still watch it if it comes on. :) And oh my word...can't believe a pipe burst! And your hubby was out of town??? Oh man. Those things are never fun to pay for. We had to replace our a/c unit a few years ago and that was certainly a chunk of change. Glad you mentioned the gas main. I have no idea where it is. I'm going to ask my hubby right now.

    1. Great movie, Lisa!! I agree!! And yes...this stuff always happens when the hubby is out of town. Why is that?? ;)

  11. Love Baby Boom, and no, I can't say that I've ever excitedly awaited the cesspool people's visit.

    I don't know where any of these cut-off valves are. Oh dear, do I really have to learn? I guess I need a few lessons or someday you might be saying, "I told you so."

    1. My dad owned his own plumbing and heating biz, so growing up, we all had to learn where the shut off valves were. Now I ask in every home…but it’s still no fun when I have to use them!! :)

  12. Were you in your bathrobe when this happened, Kim? LOL (Sorry, I couldn't resist the veiled reference to another post you wrote.) Your Nuts and Bolts Tips are excellent and I actually can check those all off my "things I need to know and have" list. A couple of years ago a blogger shared her story of buying a newer previously-owned home with plans to eventually remodel the kitchen. One day she noticed a damp spot on the back wall under her sink. Turns out the dishwasher had been leaking (probably for years) and the previous owners never noticed. Upon removing the dishwasher the new owners found mold, mildew and wood rot not only where the dishwasher was located, but throughout 90% of their very large kitchen! They ended up gutting everything down to the studs and rebuilding the entire kitchen. She ended up with a gorgeous kitchen with everything she wanted, but not at all in the way she had planned. I read recently that there are water alarms you can buy to put under your sinks, near the water heater, etc. that go off when there's a leak. Of course, you'd have to actually be at home to hear the alarm. Anyway, this is one of the reasons I'm a minimalist and didn't put a dishwasher in our new home. One less thing to worry about. ;) Hugs, Nancy

    1. You know, Nancy, I probably was in my bathrobe!! Ha!! One less thing to worry about for sure. My husband has drilled it into my head to never leave that, the washer or dryer on when we leave the house. And I don't!!

  13. Oh my Kim! I can certainly relate... it is not fun spending precious $$ on things that no one will see, but... I have a funny story to relate as well. We were getting ready to go out of town for the weekend. I had everything ready to go to leave in the morning, and was about to shut off lights and head to bed when I heard a drip drip drip in the kitchen. I couldn't figure out where it was coming from. Then... boom, a loud burst of water coming from behind the refrigerator. The water line from the refrigerator burst and was flooding the floor. Our water line shut off was outside, and it was 10 at night. After getting the water shut off, we were able to clean up the mess. So thankful that we were home, otherwise a terrible flood would have taken place while we were gone! Enjoyed your story!

    1. Oh my gosh...that happened to my neighbor and my sister!!! It's more common than I thought. My sister was home and was able to stop it quickly, my neighbor sadly was not. Water damage is a bummer and I am so lucky that I was home, too. I cannot even imagine the damage that could've occurred if I were not right there. Always something to be thankful for...