Sunday, December 27, 2009


We love our home.

When we got married, we started talking about buying our first house-- My parents and I had bought a house together in Charleston, and Rob moved in a few months after we started dating, but I think that he always felt like it was "my" house instead of "our" house. When we moved to Birmingham, we rented a cute house in a an adorable conservative family-friendly neighborhood. We really loved the location, but the neighborhood never really felt like us, and the house didn't seem like ours.

In Fall 2008 we started casually looking at houses. We had a general budget in mind, but we didn't really know what we'd be approved for. We spent lots of weekends winding around the streets of our rental neighborhood (houses were too small and too expensive) then finally branched out to a new area of town, one that was labeled as "up & coming" (ie liberal and diverse). You know this kind of neighborhood-- where one street is fantastic and the next you don't even want to drive down, much less live on.

One Sunday, we turned on to 6th Court South, and it was love at first sight. 5636 was having an Open House that afternoon and we were able to walk through the front door minutes after seeing it for the first time. Rob and I had agreed at the beginning of our house hunting journey that we wanted an older home-- we just knew that newer neighborhoods (as nice as they are) where every 5th house looks the same was not for us. This 1920's Craftsman Style Bungalow was a perfect fit for us. Sure, we gave up some of the convenient features of a new home (like a large master suite and brand new kitchen) but we gained character in original hardwood floors, a sweeping front porch with terracotta tile and a beautiful cast iron pedestal tub. Within three weeks of seeing the house we had made an offer & had signed a contract.

Over the past year, we've developed a love/hate relationship with owning a house. We love that we've been able to make it our own-- that any change we feel like making we can, and that any sweat equity is in a place that is truly ours. But when something breaks? We really miss having a landlord.

Issue #1: Leaky toilet. Our hall bath has an old toilet in it and when I say old, I don't mean 1970-- I mean like 1920's old. The tank attaches to the wall, and the bowl attaches to the tank with a pipe, similar to this. We started noticing that the floor was wet behind the toilet, so we had to call a plumber to fix the leak. Pretty Simple. Thanks Home Warranty!

Issue #2: Air Conditioner. In the hottest part of August (Close to 100 degrees and as we live in the South, the humidity was out of control), we noticed that the house was really stuffy. When really stuffy turned into sweltering hot, we called someone to come look at it. First they thought it was an electrical problem with the thermostat, then a problem with the unit outside, but neither fixed the problem. After three weeks of misery, our entire furnace (which was over 20 years old) was replaced. I don't think we'll ever forget both of us huddled in our (small) bedroom for weeks because we bought a window unit and it was the only room cool enough that we could stand to be in. It was a rough few weeks.

Since then, things have gone smoothly but as any homeowner knows, the list of To Do's never ends. We'd like to add some custom book shelves on either side of the fireplace that I think may have been there at one point-- it's a pretty standard detail on houses built like ours. We want to pull up the carpet in our bedroom (the only bedroom in the house with carpet) and refinish the hardwood floors underneath. We want to install a shower in that pedestal tub to make it a little more usable and we've wanted to re-tile both bathrooms.

We went out of town for 48 hours for Christmas-- just long enough for issues #3-#10 to occur. Ok, in all fairness, we knew something was going on before we left...but we're shocked at how much we're getting ready to have to deal with.

Last weekend when my parents were here, I mentioned to my Dad that our water bill had been really expensive the past few months (like $150!). He did some poking around and said that we must have a leak somewhere and that we really needed to call a plumber. Well, with money being so tight around the holidays, we decided to wait until after the New Year. Yesterday, I received a phone call from my cousin's husband who was watching the dogs and happens to have some plumbing experience-- he asked us to call him back immediately. When we got in touch with him, he let us know that we had a completely busted pipe. He shut off the hot water to the bathroom and told us he'd come over as soon as we got home to show us what was going on...

So, here's what's going on: Yes, the pipe burst, but it has been leaking for a long time. Specifically, this is the hot water pipe for our bathroom off of the kitchen (very unfortunately, it has the only shower in our house). The pipes are in a small utility room underneath the house and the water has not only caused significant damage in that room, but it has also caused damage in the cellar which shares a wall with that room. Insulation is soaked, wood is rotting, the cellar door has mold and mildew all over it. The past few months, we've been noticing that the tile in that bathroom has been loose and have been planning on having it re-tiled. Now we realize that the tiles are loose because the sub-flooring has been absorbing water like a sponge. Until we rip up the floor, there's no way to tell how much damage there is....

Oh, and after dinner last night I turned on the dishwasher and heard a terrible scraping sound. Broken.

I'm not totally freaking out yet. True, this is a crappy situation, but this is why we have Home Insurance. Sure, we'll have to pay a deductible, but they should cover the plumbing, the floor and wall repairs, the tiling, whatever needs to be done. (Looks like new tile in the bathroom may be coming sooner than I thought. I've been wanting a new sink in there, too, so why not go ahead and install one when they tear apart the bathroom?) Our claim adjuster has not called us back yet, but the person we spoke to on the phone even suggested that since that bathroom has the only shower (other bathroom has a tub) it may technically render our house "uninhabitable" and insurance may pay for a hotel. Rob and I both have the week off, so we'll be here as repair men have to come-- as much as I hate dealing with this during a week that's supposed to be relaxing, I think it will all work out.

Oh, and our Home Warranty should cover the dishwasher. We pay a $60 service fee and if they can't fix it, they replace it-- my dad said it's likely we'll get a new one, which would be great. We have a hodge-podge of black & stainless steel appliances-- I'm trying to switch them all to stainless as we need to replace them.

We were warned that buying an older home would not be without its problems-- that has certainly proved to be true this year. Buying this house together was a milestone for us in a year full of big changes. We love this house and can't wait to add to our family in it. While we faced some challenges in our first year living here, I hope that it's nothing compared to the changes that we experience next year.

We're home.

Happy One Year House Anniversary to Us!

P.S. Sorry for the tiny crappy picture-- It was the only one I had handy!


  1. Oh no! Sorry about the house troubles. It is an adorable house, though. I totally understand - our condo building has some "issues" as well. Probably because it's almost 100 years old...but I totally fell in love with the vintage look and feel and wouldn't trade if for anything.

  2. I'm so sorry about all of the house troubles! But it is an adorable house. I hope everything gets fixed soon.

  3. I see 2009 couldn't say goodbye without getting a few last kicks in.

    But in 2010, you'll have a new dishwasher, new pipes, and a retiled bathroom (with new sink!)

    What a great way to start the year in your adorable, charming house! A year that will be FULL of wonderful things for you and Rob.

  4. What bad timing, but I'm pleased you have insurance to help cover it all.
    On a brighter note, happy House-iversary!

  5. Oh no! What a huge bummer. I can relate -- Benjamin and I own a 100-year old house outside of Boston. As an architecture major in college, I just oculdn't pass up buying a little slice of history. Well, I learned my lesson! Our next house will be much, MUCH newer :)

    Hang in there... maybe once you figure out the pipe issues, it will be smooth sailing for awhile?

  6. Oh, how I hear you on this. I mean, really. We live in an older neighborhood too--our house was built in the 50's, so not quite as old as yours. BUT, we are only the second family to ever live in it, so when we bought it, with it came the very old appliances and other very outdated items. And we were young, un-handy new home-owners when we bought it, so when everything started breaking at once, I nearly crapped myself.

    We have a full basement, half is completely finished (our main "den", more or less) and the other half is the unfinished area where our washer and dryer are and is used mostly for storage. Yesterday morning the hubs was tidying up our little laundry nook and found some seepage behind our cabinet where we fold our laundry. Lots of mold/mildew behind it, enough moisture to actually have rotted a bit of the back of the cabinet. Of course, moisture is like the worst thing ever for basements, so naturally I freaked out. He's working on it today, so I'm hoping that it's all fixed and better by the time I get home from work today.

    I know it's not nearly as scary as a burst pipe, but just wanted to comiserate with you a little! Hang in there!