Document of Misery Part 2: The Money Pit

Little delay in getting part two posted. Between the sub zero weather, broken pipes, and moving the blog over to the new site, time to write has been limited.So when I last left off, it was the mid ‘90’s, and my husband and I had just purchased what we thought was a handyman’s special / fixer upper. Instead we had gotten ourselves title to the Fifth Circle of Hell. With a mortgage.There’s an old Tom Hanks / Shelly Long movie from the 1980’s called The Money Pit that’s a pretty accurate description of what we went through with this house. Some people call this film a comedy. To us, it was a documentary.


One thing, after another, after another, after another.

There’s a story I like to tell about our $2,000 doorknob purchase. When we moved in, we knew the doorknob to the back door was broken. No biggie. After we got all settled, I went over to the hardware store to buy a new one. When I took the old broken doorknob off, the wood around the handle set literally crumbled away, like vampire exposed to the sun in an old horror movie.

Again, no biggie. Old house, old door, easy enough to go back to Home Depot and buy a cheapie entry door, and set up an appointment for a handyman to come install it for us. Neither one of us were handy, by the way. Something that proved to be a huge drawback.

The handyman came the next week, took off the old crumbly door, and the door frame fell away with it. Like, the frame somehow required the presence of a door just to hold itself up. Irritating, but not the end of the world.

He took away the remains of the frame and, oh look at this, there was old termite damage in the wall around the frame, and oh look at this, the electrical work inside the wall leading to the back porch light had literally burst into flames at some time in the past, maybe that’s why that back porch light never worked, so wow lady you better get an electrician out here pronto.

The lack of a back porch light was the least of my worries. All I wanted was the old burnt out wires removed, let’s ignore the termite damage for now, just can we please get a door frame somehow jimmy-rigged to this exterior wall, get the door hung, and let me do the one thing I do know how to do, install this $20.00 door knob.

But no, he didn’t want to touch electrical work where there was evidence of a past fire (can you blame him?), and recommended an electrician. The electricians who came to the house to look everything over found the wiring, most likely last updated circa 1950, to be so funny, I’m really happy I made their day.

At the end, I got the wires leading to the back mud room removed and capped, some new sheet rock installed, a new door frame, new door installed, and my ultimately $2,000 door knob in place. I was warned by the electrician that the entire house was going to need to be rewired at some point, like, yesterday, to keep the house from spontaneously combusting and killing us all in our sleep.

I put it on the to do list.

About a month after we moved in, in between various non-stop visits from various handymen who always had the same routine of hysterical laughter at what they found and dire warnings of things that needed repair, our area was rocked with a pretty severe tropical storm. It was hours and hours of that non-stop, driving rain, the kind you can’t even see through.

And it flooded our basement.

We had an unfinished basement and not a whole lot of things down there anyway. We were saving up for a washer and dryer, and thankfully hadn’t purchased it yet, otherwise they would have been destroyed. At the time we bought the house, we thought it odd that our oil burner was on a large 4 foot cement platform in the middle of the basement, and now we knew why.

Apparently, undisclosed to us, an underground river was directly under the house. Not an underground stream, but an actual river. Tiny thing no one mentioned to us. Living so close to the ocean, many of the neighbors dealt with the same thing too. It would have been nice to have been advised, but at that point we had a foot of water in the basement to get out.

After getting a pump, pumping the water out, and then cleaning everything with boatloads of bleach to prevent mold, dread of rain became a way of life. The few things we used the basement to store were all up high on shelves so that they couldn’t be damaged. We had pumps on the ready to get the water out when it came in. We had a new concrete ledge put in for our eventual washer and dryer to sit on, and like many people who live close to oceans, pumping water became a way of life.

We always hated debt of any kind, but we did have a credit card for emergencies. We’d have a house emergency, run up a balance on the card, pay it off over a few months, and repeat. As time went by we knew that the house needed work far above and beyond what the home inspection had disclosed, and we knew it would be a major financial undertaking. But in the interim we were just putting band-aids on whatever was breaking as time went by.

Then the dot-com bubble began to grow, and suddenly, at least for a while, the future looked bright.

Up next: Money, money, money, money.