Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Old Pipes, They Mock Me

This past weekend, I was awash in flashbacks to when we bought our first house. Those of you who saw the Blake St. palace before we moved in can attest, it was something of a dump. A little old man had been living, nay, occupying it for almost 50 years. And after his wife died ten years earlier, as a testament to her memory, he didn’t clean a thing.

I can remember the faces of our family as we escorted them through the house, saying, “Watch out for that loose rail,” or “Don’t touch the walls. We don’t know what’s on them,” or, “Don’t go too far into the back yard. There’s poison ivy everywhere,” or even, “It will be much safer when the wiring is updated.” I can also remember our utter disappointment after my father walked out and said to us, “Well, it needs some work.” Only John & Esther shared our optimism.

So for three months, every night from the time I left work until 1:00am or until I collapsed, I would work on renovating our first house. Leah was pregnant with Sam at the time, and it wasn’t safe for her to do any of the work.

I ripped out floors, walls, and ceilings. My cousin rewired the electrical from top to bottom, also installing hardwired smoke detectors, computer network wiring, and TV cable on all three floors. I tore out the ceiling in the master bedroom, and built two trusses from the attic floor joists, giving our bedroom a cathedral ceiling and turning the other half of the attic into a walk-up closet.

After we moved in, I rerouted the heating ducts and installed carpet and built-in shelves to turn the ground floor basement into a family room & guest bedroom. I ripped out all the existing cabinets in the kitchen and reconfigured the kitchen, adding space for a dishwasher, breakfast bar, and additional shelving. I installed a stone tile floor and a new sink & vanity in our bathroom. John drew a mural of the seaside in one of the bedrooms, and we turned it into a beach-themed nursery.

It was two years of constant renovation work. It was our home. I loved every minute of it.

I have done very little to this house compared to our first. I’ve rewired it completely. I am someday going to finish the master bedroom and walk-in closets on the third floor. But I haven’t really been forced to do any real renovation work.

Until this past weekend. There was a leak above the ceiling in Lisa & Mike’s bathroom. I knew it was either one of two possibilities, but I couldn’t figure it out from above. So, on Saturday I went to work. I ripped out their bathroom ceiling. With nothing but a hammer and a pry bar for fear of cutting pipes, I banged away for hours, reveling in the demolition. As luck would have it, the leak was due to the less serious of the two possibilities, a drain pipe from our tub. A quick application of plumber’s steel-filled epoxy and it was fixed.

Now I am faced with a struggle of inner-self. With all our pipes exposed, I want so badly to rip out our entire bathroom and install a new tub/shower, sink and shelves that it hurts to think about it. This desire is countered by the fact that we do not have nearly enough money to even consider it.

But to dream . . .