Smelly — and costly — start to new year


We have an expression in our house; “It’s an onion.” When you live in a 200+ year-old house, problems frequently arise and just like an onion, there are always layers to every home repair issue. Even when you think it’s going to be simple, there’s always some hidden issue that arises when you begin to fix it. That’s why “it’s an onion” came into being as our code for “they found insects under that board,” or “when digging for the fence, we hit a gas line,” or “the wiring behind that outlet was completely frayed and sparking.”

Besides the ancient home in which we live, we also own an 85-year-old Sears pre-fab house. It’s had additions over the last 80 years, most of them prior to 1955 and occasionally onions arise there, as well. Our son lives in that home and he keeps us apprised of any issues.

So it came as no surprise last week when we had another onion. We deliberately waited to fix the upstairs bathroom (the drain pipe in the shower had broken) until the first of the year. We wanted no “smelly layers” over the holidays. We called our home repair team, who arrived to tear out the shower so we could replace the broken drain and install a new shower.

On that same morning, our son texted that the furnace pilot light at his house wouldn’t start. We called the heating company and they dispatched a team to evaluate the problem. That problem, we were told, would cost many hundreds to repair, as several parts needed replaced. Well, it’s January in Ohio and I was pretty sure the mild temperatures were not going to last until spring, so we authorized that work.

Back to the upstairs bathroom. Our men looked appropriately somber when they informed me that they had news and it wasn’t good. First, there is mold behind the drywall, so that all had to be ripped out and replaced. Secondly, the shower stall that was in there wasn’t a “normal” size. It would have to be special ordered to fit (unless we wanted the shower to partially obstruct the doorway). This would be (a) more costly and (b) take more time (weeks more) to repair.

Day two in the week brought another text from our son. The furnace stopped working again. We called the heating company back, they returned, and they said “oops, we didn’t use the right gauge. It’s all good now, we tested it.” I began to suspect this was an onion.

Two nights later, our son called again. No heat. We called the heating company and they sent someone new out the following day. This expert said that there was yet another part (which would cost more money) that had to be special ordered for this furnace.

Meanwhile, the bathroom specialists have been out to measure three times and we can finally order our new shower stall, which will be installed at some future unspecified point, but certainly in this year.

It’s pretty smelly around our place.

By Sue Curtis

Sue is a retired public servant who volunteers at the Hospice store (For All Seasons) in Troy and teaches part-time at Urbana University. She keeps busy taking care of husband, house, and pets. She and her husband have an adult son who lives in Troy. Email her at [email protected].

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