The haphazards of home ownershipPublished 9:44am Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Column: Pothole Prairie
Are you thinking of buying a house? They need a pamphlet that warns you of the unexpected occurrences you are about to discover. Here is what it could say, based on the experiences of a certain newspaper editor:
• Your garage door will malfunction in the first year, coming off its track. Don’t try to repair it yourself, because garage doors have minds of their own. Be ready to pay $100 to have it trained by a garage door whisperer.
• You will need to come up with an extra $15,000 out of thin air to replace a roof, probably about five years after you purchase the house, or you could just be fortunate and have a severe thunderstorm with hail destroy your roof for you. If you go the storm route with success, be very, very happy with your insurance provider.
• Just as your spouse is eager to purchase a sectional sofa for the living room and move the old furniture to the basement, you will need to purchase a sump pump for the basement because your Beaver System drains into the sanitary sewer, which violates an ordinance the city passed a few years after you had inked the papers on your house. The sump pump will cost between $2,000 and $3,000, depending on how your house is arranged. You will need another $100 for the sump pump celebration.
• If you install anything in the walls, such as a lamp, a towel rack, a curtain rod or a toilet paper holder, be ready for none of the instructions to apply to you. The instructions will detail what to do if you have drywall or plaster. You have concrete walls. The tools you bought and the parts provided don’t apply. Be ready to improvise after receiving a lot of incorrect advice at stores.
• Right at the time you were going to surprise your spouse with a new road bicycle, you learn the bushes lining one side of your house are buckthorn, an invasive species. You pay $700 to have them removed. You are happy nevertheless because trimming the fast-growing buckthorn was extremely time-consuming and yard work isn’t your forté.
• Just when your spouse wants a new TV for the living room, the strap holding the ash tree on the other side of the house will break, causing the tree to split at the crotch. It could fall on your house or on your spouse’s car at any moment. Winds in two days are predicted to be 30 mph here in Windyville. Be prepared to fork over $700 to have it taken down as soon as possible. You won’t be happy because that tree provided afternoon shade for the house. You will be happy that they did the work so fast. A coworker will tell you a story about how her husband tried to take down a tree himself and smashed the sidewalk.
• Your spouse likes the house to be 3 degrees above freezing in the summer, and the air conditioner will fail. The repairman says it is on its last legs and, while he is at it, points out how old and inefficient your furnace is. You suddenly recall the monstrous heating bills from the last two winters and figure a new furnace and air conditioner could pay for themselves. You learn there is a tax credit to take advantage of before the end of the year. You spend a big chunk of your end-of-year bonus on a heater and air conditioner. Merry Christmas, family! By the way, the next winter ends up a mild one anyway.
• The handle will begin to stick on the toilet in the main bathroom, a toilet about as old as the house itself. You realize you might as well replace the entire toilet because it looks dirty when it is clean, but you know nearly nothing about plumbing. The toilet has no shutoff valve, so you must turn off the water in the entire house so you can disconnect the old toilet from the plumbing. You are smart enough to know to turn on the basement sink faucet as a pressure release. You go through a million and one hoops to figure out how to replace a toilet, and things are looking good. But during yet another fruitless trip to a hardware store, your spouse calls you frantically about water spraying all over the bathroom, and you break every speed limit in the city to get home. You discover that your spouse inexplicably had shut off the basement faucet.
• The next year, you will replace the toilet in the half bathroom without so much as a hitch. You begin to think you are a great handy man.
• The paint on your house will begin to peel about two years after you buy it, mainly around the four-seasons porch. Be prepared to put off this work for several more years because you plan to paint the house yourself. Your spouse wisely says pay to have someone else paint it because you are not that great of a handy man. You will say you are not offended, yet you strangely continue to put off a decision.
Tribune Managing Editor Tim Engstrom’s column appears every Tuesday.