Trying to Find Gratitude on a Crumbling Foundation: A Homeowner’s Exercise

When we bought our house a few months shy of two years ago, we knew that we’d be dealing with some delayed maintenance by people who had mostly treated the house as a rental. Neither of us expected the scope of the problems that we would encounter. Between moldy bathrooms and rusted out pipes, we’ve certainly had our share of older-house woes.

We’d also planned certain maintenance- and cosmetic-related upgrades. My husband painted the house this summer—much needed to protect the dwindling longevity of the siding. We set aside money for our flooring because our carpet has been on its last legs since we bought the place. We’ve anticipated the expense and been saving regularly for it. We’d pegged 2017 as the year that we get a new floor, possibly even some engineered hardwood! Woo!

We have also had nagging questions about some oddities in our floor since we’ve moved in. Sure, our home disclosure had indicated that some minor settling had occurred during the bad droughts, but at some places along the walls, the floor did funky things, appearing perhaps to drop or dip or rise unexpectedly. We did not notice this during our visits to the home when we considered buying it because furniture or packed boxes covered up the spots. Thus, our home inspector didn’t notice it either. We asked about the cracks in the wall and whether we should have a foundations specialist come out; our inspector told us not to bother because older houses settle some (and our house was built in 1952). We signed the required paperwork indicating we understood that the home inspection was for problems that could be seen and that we couldn’t sue in the event latent problems were discovered.

Then 2017 rolled around, our year designated to replace the flooring, and we pulled back the carpet and exploded our budget. Our foundation is a crumbling cracked mess; I joked that the rifts in the concrete looked as if a vortex to Hades were about to open and suck everything inside of it. In some places, pieces of our slab are chipped, crackled crumbles. The day that was supposed to be a fun day looking at samples of flooring turned into a day where I began googling contractors and trying to develop a plan of attack because clearly the scope of our problem necessitated a plan of attack and battle lines.

foundation-1
The width of one of the cracks in a bedroom; it spans in various degrees the entire width of the room and into my office.
foundation-2
It’s difficult to adequately show the depth of the crack, but it’s deep.
foundation-3
The southern wall in my office; the western continues the cracking from the bedroom.

Many of our friends and family have asked about legal recourse and suing either the previous homeowner or the inspector. We don’t believe that we have grounds to do so. After all, we signed the paperwork for the home inspector, and the homeowners had indicated some “minor” settling of the home, which is entirely subjective. Of course, we don’t believe the scale to be minor, but lawyers would eat up the majority of the cost for suing anyone over subjective wording. In short, it’s not worth it. Of course, I can judge them all I want; the previous homeowners had to have known the scale because of how the carpet was tacked down around these awkward places in the flooring rather than adjacent the wall as is more typical. Our best option is to tackle it ourselves.

We’ve totally eviscerated our flooring budget. We’ll need to develop a plan for financing some of the work in a year where our finances are already strapped because my husband has gone back to school and I have a pile of medical bills. Despite all these things and the anxieties and worries about how we’ll manage this new unexpected sucker punch (and let’s talk about that sucker punch!), I’m trying to focus less on the negative ramifications and more on the positives. This Happiness Project and focus on gratitude are paying off. I’m pretty sure I’d be a melted pile of stressed goop a year ago.

So despite my quite literally cracked and crumbed foundation to a central part of my life, my home, here are the things I’m grateful for:

  • I love our house; this place is a haven for me in so many different ways. I am buoyed and thankful to have a place that brings me so much happiness to life.
  • I love our neighbors; we have neighbors with whom we chat over fences, in front yards, and in side yards. We have genuinely nice neighbors who have been so friendly with us. That’s not a given in today’s culture anymore.
  • We have great schools. Whenever we get our next foster kiddo, we’re within a short walk to an excellent elementary school and middle school.
  • We purposefully decided to live in a small house; this lifestyle allows us more wiggle room on our budget and the ability to better handle unexpected and unpleasant curveballs.
  • We live in a neighborhood that’s so supportive of our expansive garden in our side yard that we won an award for it; not every neighborhood would be so supportive of our grow-food-not-lawns approach.
  • Our house is located within easy distance to many areas I frequent; I can walk to pick up my endless pharmacy prescriptions, to the dentist, to my synagogue, to two grocery stores, and to a fantastic local donut shop.
  • We can see ourselves living happily in this house for decades.

For all these reasons, I’m still grateful that we purchased this house. Aside from dream homes on acres in the country with established orchards, apiaries, and livestock, I can’t imagine living anywhere else. Yes, I’m still incredibly upset to have a crumbling foundation that will necessitate taking on more debt (something we’re loathe to do as the fiscal conservatives we are!), but we’ll find a way to manage it. Yes, I’d much rather spend that kind of money on so many other projects for the house or a vacation to an exotic location. But we can’t, and we can’t change that. This house is the foundation of our lives, and it needs to have a solid one.

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