Some of you are beginning to believe that Kris and I haven’t purchased an Old Home, but that we’ve purchased a Money Pit. For you, this story will only serve to confirm your suspicions.

(Let me assure you, though, that despite feeling overwhelmed by circumstances from time-to-time, Kris and I do not view this house as a Money Pit; it is an Old House with Issues. When these Issues are resolved, this place will be Beautiful.)

You’ll recall that, with the help of a half dozen friends, we peeled the wallpaper in the dining room, parlor, and den. You’ll further recall that upon doing so, we discovered that we could not paint the underlying drywall. And that we then proceeded to rip off the wallboards, revealing the old ship-lap siding beneath.

We called in drywall contractors, got bids, and scheduled a guy to start this coming Monday.

“Hey,” said W., our drywall contractor. “You know, while you have these walls exposed, you really ought to do some blown insulation. If you do it from the inside, the holes will be covered by the new drywall.”

“That’s a great idea!” we said. “Can you recommend anyone?”

“Sure. Try P. from GCS — he does excellent work.”

I solicited advice from you, Gentle Reader, and you also suggested P. from GCS. And the consultant from the Energy Trust also recommended P. from GCS. P. from GCS has a high reputation for quality work.

I called P. from GCS and explained that we had drywall work starting in a couple of weeks, and could he come out to give us a bid on insulating our house. I met him two weeks ago, and we toured the house.

“This is a beautiful Old Home,” he said. “Let me assure you that we’ll take steps to provide improved insulation while preserving the Old Home’s Historical Integrity.”

“Great,” I said. “When can you start?”

“Right away,” he said. “Let me go back to the office and work up a quote.”

This was a Monday. Tuesday passed with no quote. And Wednesday. And Thursday. On Thursday afternoon I began to fret. I called P. He apologized. He’d been Swamped but would get the quote over right away.

“When can you start?” I asked, worried that he was Swamped.

“Oh, in about two weeks.”

My heart cracked in seventeen places. We felt we needed to have the insulation done before the drywall work started, and that the drywall work had to start on the twelfth.

Kris and I went over the quote and selected a handful of insulation measures. I called P. on Friday morning and told him we’d like to proceed, but that we needed at least the blown insulation part of the job done by Monday the twelfth.

“I’ll see what I can do,” he said.

Friday passed with no word on what he could do. And then Independence Day weekend came and went. On Tuesday, I was in a panic.


I called P. again. “Oh, we’ll have a crew out there Thursday,” he said.


But on Thursday, P. called me early in the morning. “The crew ran late yesterday. They may not get a chance to start on your house today.”

Despite P.’s concern, the crew did start on Thursday. When I pulled up to the house after work, they were loading the van to leave. I could tell right away something was wrong.

“Are you the owner?” asked a young man, tattooed and sweaty. “We have a bit of a Problem,” he said. He led me into the house, through the kitchen, to the dining room. He pointed at the wainscoting. The beautiful wainscoting, the focal point of the dining room, sported nineteen two-inch diameter holes evenly spaced around the perimeter of the room.

Inside, my heart shattered. Outside, I grinned feebly and said, “Wow. P. told me that you wouldn’t touch the wainscoting.”

The young man shook his head, frowning. “He forgot to tell us.”

I called P. immediately and, with a minimum of panic, told him what happened. He had the right answer: “We’ll do whatever it takes to make it so you cannot notice the holes.”

I felt reassured. Still, when Kris got home, her heart shattered, too. We agreed that on Friday morning she would have have a talk with the contractors.

Which she did. And they appeased her. And they continued their work. Then, fifteen minutes before I was scheduled to leave work, she called in panic. “There’s been another Problem,” she said. “They were putting the insulation in the attic when one of the workers fell through the ceiling.”

My shattered heart crumbled to tiny pieces.

“Come home,” said Kris. “Now.”

It’s difficult to drive home with a shattered, crumbled heart, but I managed. The sweaty, tattooed guy grimaced at me as I passed him on the lawn. “There’s another small Problem,” he said. He led me upstairs. There, in the hallway, was a large hole where the other worker had fallen through the ceiling.

I shook my head.

I wanted to talk to Kris about the Problems, but didn’t feel I could around the contractors. We headed to the Panda Chinese Buffet. Over a lunch of Szechuan chicken and Chinese dumplings, she told me about the meeting she’d had with P., who had dropped by to look in on the project.

“He was re-assuring,” she said. “He could tell that I was panicked, and he told me, ‘I know that these seem like huge problems to you. But we can deal with them, we can fix them. To us these are little problems.’ I told him that wasn’t completely reassuring, but that maybe I’d feel better later.”

We both felt more relaxed after lunch, and driving home we were even in high spirits. Then, as we walked in the back door, the same worker who had fallen through the ceiling tipped a bookshelf filled with bottles and boxes and cans of cooking supplies. The back of the shelf popped off, and foodstuffs tumbled to the ground.

“It’s like the Keystone Kops doing contracting work,” I muttered.

We turned back around and left. We went to see Anchorman, which is not one of the ten funniest movies ever made. (It may, however, be one of the ten most mediocre films ever made. It’s never outright bad, but it the audience never really laughed hard once. Just lots of little chuckles, like you might expect from a sitcom.)

I know this entry does nothing to convince some of you that this Old Home is not a Money Pit. Again, let me assure you that this is a solid building. It just has some work that needs to be done, and there are going to be minor disasters along the way.

We’ve just had a statistically large number of them over the past twenty-four hours.


On 10 July 2004 (09:41 AM),
mac said:

Oh man…I’m sorry. But we need some pictures of the hole in the ceiling. And if you could, put a body half way through the hole so we can get the true effect. Really though, I am sorry and in my experiences with home remodeling from when I was a kid…when contractors screw things up, they generally do fix things right.

On 10 July 2004 (11:16 AM),
Tiffany said:

I wish I was there to help.

On 10 July 2004 (01:02 PM),
Mom (Sue) said:

You poor kids! My thoughts are with you, and my hope that a lot of these things can be cleared up real fast. I feel kind of sick just reading about them — I guess you could say that I’m strongly empathizing. Somehow we always get through these kinds of difficulties but my heart goes out to you right now while the situations exist.

On 10 July 2004 (07:49 PM),
Anthony said:

Really sorry, JD. I feel for you. But we do want pictures. Of the hole. And the nineteen holes. And the tattooed guy, the way he looks when he says, “We have a small problem.” Good writing, by the way.

On 11 July 2004 (02:05 PM),
jenefer said:

Sounds like Baby Boom with Diane Keaton. That turned out okay, and I suspect yours will too. No matter how bad it looks, a good contractor or handyman seems to be able to make it “right.” We are in the middle of the demolition for our remodel, and we are hoping for a great result also. When we did the bathroom using the same guy, it did turn out great! Here’s to keeping a positive thought.

On 12 July 2004 (08:48 AM),
Joel said:

It IS a great house, and it’ll make you happy for years to come. It makes me happy just thinking about you guys being in that great house. Well, alternately happy and violently jealous.

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