I need you guys to promise me something. It’s not a difficult task, but it’s a critical one. Kindly take note.
If I ever, ever in my lifetime try to purchase another 100 year-old house, I want you to slap me.
Some of you have been following the blog long enough to remember The Great Basement Shitshow of 2011. The one that was slated to take five weeks but actually took more than eight months. The one where our foundation was left unsettled and masons didn’t show up for weeks and the house shifted and steel beams had to be run under the foundation and I almost litigated and my sanity unraveled more each day. That one.
Well, if you missed it, don’t feel bad! Because our latest renovation project is shaping up to look just like it.
All we wanted to do was replace the front porch. A cosmetic job. Or so we naively thought.
The pit in my stomach felt oh-so-familiar when the dumpster showed up and the demolition crew arrived. I’ve seen this movie before, I thought. But, no. This is just the PTSD talking. This will be nothing like tearing up a basement. This is just a porch.
It will all be fiiiiine.
And it was. For about two hours.
Until the demolition crew summoned me outside, shaking their heads. They pointed to two distinctly rotted beams they had uncovered, and essentially said that these are holding up the front half of my house.
They summoned my architect, who came over immediately.
He summoned the engineer, who came over immediately.
(FYI: Nobody ever comes over immediately in Renovationland, so I knew shit was about to get real.)
Everyone who came over immediately shook their heads and marveled at how the house has remained standing like this since 1909.
Then, they stated talking about “reinforcements outside of the intended scope of work.”
For those of you who are not fluent in Endless Money Pit of Despair dialect, let me translate it for you: “Ma’am, we have to do a bunch of shit that we hadn’t planned to do, that’s going to cost more — not sure how much more — before we can proceed.”
Or something like that. Since I was half doubled over and requiring smelling salts at this point, I can’t be sure. I do know that I hallucinated dollar signs flipping me the bird from out of the rotting beams.
And, it’s not like we can go back. We don’t really have the option of saying, “Hey, guys who all came over immediately and shook heads in unison, let’s just forget we saw any of this. Let’s just go into that full dumpster over there, get all the materials out and put it all back as it was. It’s going to be A-OK.”
Nope. We’re all in.
Now that I’ve had several days to digest this information and walk very carefully on the second floor of my house, I’ve made peace with our fate. With this construction poltergeist of a house. Whatever builder was wronged within these walls at some point in the last 100 years, I’m sorry. I think we can all agree that my family had made up for it and the karma has evened out.
And now, my mission in life is clear. I will be an Old House Interventionist.
For every 100 year-old house that stands for sale near me, I will confront the potential buyers. I will, gently at first, warn them about owning an old home. I’ll tell them how I thought our home was “charming” and “historical” when we found it, and that I now know these terms to mean “insanely expensive,” “in constant need of repair,” and “potentially falling down around you.” Also, notice how “historical” and “hysterical” are separated merely by two letters. This is no coincidence.
Go forth, I’ll tell them, and buy yourself some brand spanking new construction. Build in the faux charm and the pretend historical detail. Fake it, my friends. Because you will sleep better at night knowing that, while your coffered ceilings may not be carved from early 20th century wood, said ceiling will in fact stay in place.
Go ahead and tell me they don’t build them like they used to. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Whatever. “Like they used to” in this case means this.
It’s a little late for me, but maybe I can save someone else.
Just remember: When you say you want an old house, you don’t. You think you do. What you really want is a shiny new house that’s built to look like an old house.