14 August 2014

Moving, Part #2: The House that Crack Built

Any time you move into a new home, unless it is legitimately new--as in new construction--you expect to have to make small repairs here and there.  That's just part of the deal.  Even so, there are inevitably little surprises that greet you along the way, whether things you missed during the inspection or things which just don't get discovered till you're actually living in the new home.  For example, I used to call one of my Tennessee homes the "House of Many Doors" because until I was living in it, I did not realize how many superfluous or poorly-placed doors were ready to bang into each other.  That's also the house that decided to blow a water heater about 10 minutes after the homeowner's warranty expired.  I'm convinced that appliances can sense when that's about to happen and just lie in wait, ready to spontaneously combust at the most inopportune and expensive time possible.  My home in Georgia had much fewer issues since it did happen to be new construction, but even there I soon discovered that the dishwasher opened at a 90° angle to the sink; this meant that I spent the last four years crammed into a one-foot space trying to clean dishes at the sink and then awkwardly twisting myself sideways like a giant dishwasher wedgie to load the dishes.  It's always something.

Oh, look...it's my Tennessee house.  (From Pleated-Jeans.com)

This house has proven to be no different.  Sure, there were the things we knew about going in, like some cracks from the house settling and a dripping faucet, never mind the big things like a major stucco repair and installing a radon system and sump pump (who has a sump without a pump?), all of which were provided for in the settlement.  I still have to arrange for everything to get done, but at least I don't have to pay for it...mostly.  Even so, there are plenty of other interesting things we've had to contend with in the last two months, most of which appear to be largely the result of an overly-ambitious first owner (who was also an HVAC contractor) and a builder who clearly cut corners.  I don't know if the builder was inept or just lazy but between him, the HVAC guy with delusions of grandeur, and the previous owners with the questionable home improvement skills, this house has been a veritable rabbit warren of oddities.

My first discovery, after spending hours scrubbing them down (cleaning appears to have been considered largely optional), was that all the kitchen cabinets are not constructed of wood so much as covered with a weird plastic laminate condom, presumably to protect them from KitchenAIDS.  Unfortunately, said laminate condom is far more effective at attracting every dirt particle in the kitchen like a giant schmutz magnet than in protecting the cabinets from kitchen STDs.  Laminate condoms might have been more successful in the oven, which looks not unlike it was used to bake auto parts.  Or Meth.  (Though Meth might also explain why half the cabinets and/or their doors are not lined up properly and why all of the trim corners were professionally hot-glued on, never mind why the back of one drawer had to be cut out to allow space for the stovetop's power cabling.)  But that's still not as good as the elaborate hood vent built in among the upper cabinets that is exactly the correct height on which to wham yourself repeatedly (as evidenced by the permanent dent now in my forehead) and which is not, in fact, functional.  That's right--I have 3 feet of fake ventilation, complete with a transformer that was never fully wired and so just whines in the distance when you flip its switch.

Just sittin' here, waiting to suck up all your steam.

Psych!!  I'm gonna drop decaying paint in your food instead!
Not wiring things up seems to be a theme in this house, really.  The heating and air systems in the basement look like refugees from a 1940s airplane hangar, complete with several inexplicable ducts that are capped off and lead nowhere.  As a result, we have vents that don't actually vent.  In addition to the faux hood in the kitchen, the vent in the master bathroom is likewise not connected; the room turns into a sauna when anyone showers and leaves humid air hovering upstairs for hours.  I wouldn't be surprised if the other bathroom's vent was likewise disconnected.  Furthermore, the master bath's floor is wired for radiant heating--which was also never hooked up--and there are heat lamps over the sink.  All I can figure is that the bathroom was constructed for someone more accustomed to Equator-esque weather and so was built to wildly over-compensate.

As if all the disjointed wiring and ducting weren't enough, it turns out that the previous owners were apparently very bad at home repairs and tended to solve their household problems by either simply turning off the offending item or camouflaging it rather than taking the time to get it repaired.  Because, you know, calling someone is hard.  When we had the house inspected, for example, we found that one faucet upstairs was turned off; we were told that this was because a grandmother didn't like listening to the water drip.  Okaaaaaay.  So it didn't come as much of a surprise when we later realized the dishwasher's water supply was likewise shut off (something our inspector missed).   I tried to run a load of dishes after turning the water back on.  The dishwasher promptly spewed out water, which then snaked across the floor and down a vent leading into the basement.  Whoops.  Turns out the dishwasher was missing a simple hose--that's it.  But I guess it was just easier to turn it off than to actually fix it.

Looks like some of my ductwork.

There are other problems, of course.  A garage door opener is missing.  Someone hacked up the baseboards to install a gas fireplace upstairs.  Whoever put up the ventilated shelves in my closet used approximately 568 hooks to secure them because you can never have enough shelf security, particularly when the pull-down attic stairs--which are inexplicably placed in said closet--had to have an opening gouged into the door to keep it from smacking into the shelves.  The basement has outlet boxes dangling awkwardly from the ceilings, making electricians everywhere cringe without quite knowing why.  There are cheap cabinets randomly hung on the middle of the garage wall, guaranteeing that no one can get into the car without first tightly duct-taping all their wobbly bits or dusting a swath down the side of the car with their posterior.  Most of the window blinds are hung so precariously that they look like they're seconds away from making a prison break.  The molding along the stairwell is strangely mismatched; either that or the builder was trying to interpret the steps "artistically."  Nor is the back patio entirely level, which we discovered when the grill decided to go walkies in a storm and pitch headfirst into the yard.  And, just to keep things interesting, the power goes out in the whole neighborhood nearly every time it rains.

Okay, now you're not even trying.
We have additional repairs to make and will no doubt uncover yet more WTFs as time goes on.  Fortunately, however, we are pretty good at DIY, and many of the issues here are primarily cosmetic.  The house itself has good bones, so once the stucco has been repaired and the place has been given a little TLC things should improve considerably, busybody neighbors dropping by to regale us with all the neighborhood gossip and uttering creepy things like "I've been in your house...I know what you have in there" notwithstanding.

Besides, any time I get discouraged, I can console myself with the fact that at least I have not had pipes stolen nor had poop water pouring into my lighting fixtures as has a friend recently who moved into a rental house.  While I'm not sure I be handling her situation as gracefully or as positively as my friend has, her unfortunate house struggles definitely put things here into perspective.  My plumbing (as well as many other things) may well need an overhaul at some point, but at least it's intact and not currently raining literal crap in my home.  By comparison, everything else seems small potatoes.

(From CollegeHumor.com)