Tuesday, August 19, 2014


It's funny to me that I ended my last post with a paragraph about how this house feels like a gift. "Gift" is on my mind again today, but with a whole different set of thoughts, so I'm glad I already gave some context last time!

I was speaking to the Lord this morning about His gift, and wondering if He knew that it would require a good bit of maintenance. I suspect that He did, but one can't help but have a few mixed feelings about a gift house when one is expecting a plumber for the sixth workday in a row. At what point is it okay to look a gift house in the mouth? ;)

So we had this tiny leak in the basement. Just a few drops. It would get a little worse, then seem to dry up. We had plumbers here giving us quotes on the third floor attic project, and one of them spent a little time looking into it and gave us his free opinion that it must be the second floor shower drain. Probably the pan under the drain was made of lead--typical of an old house--and typically they crack.

He didn't get back to us about actually doing the work, so we called a friend's cousin that we used before in our old house. He came over and agreed that could be it, but he suggested we gamble that the lead pan was replaced in the 60's when the bathrooms were updated, and instead we try the much cheaper option of resealing the grout, which needed to be done anyway.

That didn't stop the leak, but in the process, he figured out it couldn't be the pan. It looked like it might be a bad pipe, though, so it would be a simple fix to just replace it--very accessible, right there in the ceiling of the basement.

Okay, I wasn't home for this part, but the pipe?  It was a boiler pipe, not a plumbing pipe. Oops. It began to shoot out water and awful black sludge that had built up in the system that we never would have known about otherwise. They had to move boxes and stuff in a hurry and they ruined a couple of my towels, but hey, in a plumbing emergency, who's going to call their wife and ask where the old towels are, right? (I've been rehearsing this regularly as part of my forgiveness process. :)

Anyway, it was a providential mistake in the end, because it meant we got the bad pipe replaced and the boiler flushed out too. But the plumber was stymied as to what was causing the leak. He found a sink drain problem in the half bath that needed attention, but it wasn't causing the leak. He finally had to open up a wall to see what was going on. Yes, he had to cut a hole--not one but two, as it turned out--in my 111-year-old plaster dining room wall. I couldn't watch. At least our new access panel will be covered up by bookshelves for the foreseeable future.

But there was nothing! Everything was bone dry where he expected to see water damage.

So they moved the fridge again, because the leak was directly under it, just to contemplate--and this time, they noticed a tiny bit of dampness around a crack in the vinyl tile underneath it. A little digging revealed that the subfloor underneath was completely rotten. It appeared that the fridge might be leaking, but we couldn't feel or see any water coming from it. Our plumber feared one last possibility--that "some redneck plumber" may have put plumbing where it didn't belong, under the lower cabinets. Since we were about to put in a new floor, he had to rule out that possibility, so he cut a little hole to investigate that and found no pipes. It had to be the fridge. (Later, after it was pulled out, it began leaking in earnest. It was nice to know for sure, finally!)

And that is why I had to buy a new refrigerator and a new floor. To put in the new floor, he had to move the 50-year-old stove out, and he begged me to just buy a new one already, especially since the warming oven above the stove didn't work. But I knew if I bought a new stove, I also had to buy a new range hood or a microwave to put in the gap where the old warming oven had been, so I resisted for awhile. Our renovating budget was supposed to go to the third floor project, not the kitchen! But after his dire predictions about how much it would cost to fix the old oven and how much longer it would last (not long), I gave in. God must want me to have new appliances.

Fridge, microwave, stove--check. I picked it all out in about 15 minutes, based on price, size--there were only about 3 refrigerators that would fit in our space--and the sales guy's recommendations. It all happened too fast. I had looked forward to planning my new kitchen! I thought I'd have lots of time to read appliance reviews and play around with ideas for the floor, countertops, backsplash and wall paint color. I've gotten better at winging it in many areas of my life, but I still enjoy planning, so I struggled with feeling a little out of sorts about the whole thing. I went to bed exhausted, worried that my quick decisions would not be good ones, wondering what God was doing with the rearrangement of priorities and refusing to think about the plumber's bill.

As it turns out, I'm thrilled with my appliances and my floor, and the plumber, an acquaintance who has become a friend after six days in our home, practically donated most of his services. Another gift!

In the midst of all this, I got a note from a friend who had spend a Sunday afternoon with us recently. She wrote, "Now I can see why God gave you guys that house. As we were driving away, our daughter said, "I never wanted to leave that deck." She spoke for all of us. You both have such a miraculous gift of hospitality--and I can't imagine any better setting for it. The wide Lake Michigan vista backdrop and the sheltered "secret garden" backyard--the vast and the protected together-- the two archetypes that speak most deeply to my heart, and I imagine I'm not alone. And I can't think of anyone who would use it better than your family."

Another friend, not normally a guy who speaks this way, told us in the midst of all the plumbing problems (and getting disappointing news and quotes on other work that needs to be done) that we should not let ourselves be discouraged, that we should still believe in God's purposes for us in this house.

Between the two of them and the Lord speaking to my own heart, I'm in a good place again. Even though the time spend on the kitchen set me back another week in the unpacking--and we scheduled a house blessing for this weekend! There will be boxes everywhere, but I'm eager to dedicate this gift back to the Lord, for His purposes and plans.

Old fridge and flooring

New fridge, new floor

Old stove with oven above

New stove and microwave (electrical outlet for microwave to be installed soon!)


Anonymous said...

It looks so-o-o nice! So glad the problem was finally found! What a trek to find it! Your cabinets look so much lighter in the second pictures, but you don't mention changing them (?)
Happy for you...Love, Pianomum

Levi Eslinger said...

I'm glad your plumber was able to find the culprit. What's great after all of this was that you were able to find silver linings. It must have been frustrating to be thwarted by the sneaky leak, and holding it all together was an achievement. At least by now, you guys have new appliances that are in tip-top shape. Thanks for sharing this with us!

Levi Eslinger @ Capital Plumbing