The title of this blog is a loose translation of ”The Money Pit” in Italian. It sort of means “The Sink of the Monies”…it’s what we called the house I last lived in in New Jersey. It was truly a money pit.
Over the years I’ve done many renovations on homes that I’ve owned, some on purpose, others because something happened that precipitated the renovation absolutely needing to be done.
The last home The Ex and I owned together was a contemporary in the middle of the woods. It was actually called a “Calilfornia Contemporary” even though it was in New Jersey. This is a picture of it above. It was a bit of an anomaly in that the town where it was built had roots dating back to pre-Revolutionary times; in fact, the neighboring community boasted that Betsy Ross was buried under the tree in the Presbyterian Church’s cemetery. Virtually every street was lined with Center Hall and Bucks County colonials, Cape Cods, etc. Obviously, this house bore no resemblance to any of those. It was cedar sided with walls of glass, which is what we liked about it because even though it allowed so much light into the rooms it still maintained some privacy because it sat on five acres in Jockey Hollow, which is where George Washington spent that terrible winter of 1777.
What we didn’t realize was that in addition to the light, these windows also allowed even the slightest puff of air to enter the home, therefore keeping it at bone-chilling temperatures during the cold months. It was almost as if George wanted us to know what it was like for him and his men 200+ years ago.
Anyway, we bought the house and its accompanying wood roof after an extremely dry year. We’d already started the renovation planning process with a wonderful general contractor and had great ideas about what would be done to bring our dream of what this home could be into reality.
Replacing the sizable and very expensive roof was not part of those plans.
We closed escrow on a Friday and went back on Sunday, during the first rain we’d had in months. I vividly remember on that third day of ownership standing in the first floor master bedroom and staring up in disbelief at the ceiling which was pouring water from somewhere. There were two bedrooms above this room, but somehow this minor deluge had found its way to the first floor…and to precisely the spot where the bed would be. I started to cry. The Ex, who thought I had performed miracles when we bought the dump that became our beach house and never ceased to praise me for it, looked at me and said, “But look what you did at the beach! You can do this!” I remember wailing “I think I bit off more than I can chew with this one!”
The Ex was very encouraging about the whole thing. He was of the mind set that anything you could throw money at could be fixed in a timely fashion. I was of the mindset that this place we bought had untold numbers of serious problems that we were yet to discover.
One of the worst was “the smell.”
This same bedroom had some sort of horrendous odor permeating it. I thought at first that maybe it was the damp, musty rain smell. But after several days of brilliant sunshine “the smell” was still there.
By now, the contractors had begun their work. A quick aside here: I absolutely loved “my boys” as I called them. I thought of them more as family than people who were just employed by us. Sometimes they’d even call me “Ma.”
The roof got fixed. They started ripping out the kitchen and the bathrooms. When they got to the master bedroom and bath, they also noticed “the smell.” I kept asking them “What is that?” They’d shrug. I’d shrug. Finally one of them had the guts to say to me “Jude, I think you have something dead somewhere in the walls.”
If there were ever the opportunity to have a cartoon bubble come over my head with a HUGE “OMG!” this was it. But, instead, I practically screamed “Deargodinheaven! FIND IT!”
They began by making small holes here and there in the walls…then the ceiling…then the holes got bigger…and bigger…finally, when there was only one soggy slab of sheetrock left, they cut a hole and the desicated body of a chipmunk fell onto the floor.
If I’d had the energy left to scream, I would have. But I didn’t. I looked at its carcass and said “Well, since we found Chip let’s just hope that Dale wasn’t part of a suicide pact and he’s hanging somewhere up there, too.”
But, my favorite episode of this whole fiasco was when my telephone line went dead. I called the company and they sent someone to check out the problem. By the time he arrived, an untold number of other disasters had turned up at our new home. I went to sleep every night counting the hundred dollar bills flying out the window, even though our contractor was more than fair.
The phone guy showed up and spent a considerable amount of time pacing in our woods with some kind of “detector.” He arrived at the house and in front of “my boys” informed me that the problem was between the street (which was 400 yards away) and the house and would cost some ridiculous amount of money per foot to be fixed since it was not the responsibility of the phone company but of the “property owner.”
For the second time since we bought this house (the first time being the day of the infamous Flood in the Master Bedroom) I burst into tears.
Mike, my general contractor, pulled himself up to his full height of 6′ 3″ and “my boys” bulked up behind him. He stood in front of the phone guy and said (and this is a quote!) “This woman has been through hell since she bought this house. You have no idea. She has never shed a tear.” (he wasn’t there that Sunday when I had the first meltdown!) Mike got right in the poor phone guy’s face as ”my boys” backed him up and said “You just made her cry. You’d better leave now.” The poor phone guy took one look and said, “We’ll be in touch.”
Well, I somehow managed to convince the phone company that it really was their problem and they did come and fix it for free…but they sent a different tech.
I can’t imagine why. Funny, I don’t miss living there. I can’t imagine why on that either.