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Friday Afternoon Confessional: Backed up

I confess I still harbor violent thoughts toward all the people who told me I was a fool not to buy a home back when my wife and I were still renting. Don’t get me wrong. I like our house. I like having lived in the same spot for the past eight years. Perhaps just as importantly, I like not having moved in eight years. I like not dealing with asshole landlords who when you point out the upstairs apartment’s bathroom is leaking sewage into your own bathroom, says, “Oh. I’ll send somebody over next week.”I like being able to have dogs without constantly worrying about being caught with them or losing our security deposit if one of them gets sick.

But here’s the funny thing. Literally everybody who told me I was a fool not to buy a home presented a financial argument. Everybody. From an investment standpoint, our home has been a disaster. The financial crisis has caused it to lose 30% of its value and since we didn’t pay a lot for it (from a national perspective), it’s not particularly effective as a tax shelter. So if I would’ve pursue a home from the perspective of all the people telling me to buy a house back when I was renting, I very well may have walked away from it by now.

So what has me thinking of the cost of owning a home? My sewer line is backed up. We called a company to come out and snake the drain and they said they needed to “hydrojet” the line. This is basically a superhose that can just blast the hell out of anything that might be clogging a sewer line – supposedly. When I heard the price, I said, “Now, you’re not going to come out with this thing on Monday and when it doesn’t work, tell me you’re going to have to do some expensive next level of service.”

“No, no. If this thing doesn’t work, your line is most likely collapsed.”

The company came back out with the hydrojet and it didn’t work. Was the line collapsed? They don’t know, because the thing couldn’t get past a mass of roots clogging the line. The solution? Dig out the vertical access line so they can continue to hydrojet the sewer and, when the sewer line fills up with water, pump the excess water out to the street (rather than having it flood my basement, as it would if they just continued jetting without the pump). Cost? $3,000. I pointed out that this seemed an awful lot like the hydrojet not working and them having to do some expensive next level of service. I confess that as I was saying this, I realized I was kind of being a dick.

When I explained this situation to some of the trade inspectors at work, they suggested that I should probably just dig up the whole line and replace it. That way, I don’t spend all this money only to have to worry about the next major plumbing problem some unknown number of years down the road. After dealing with a few plumbers and working on brownfields at my job, I now know there are two ways to make God laugh. One is to make a plan. Another is to get an estimate for sub-surface work.

I confess the adults in my immediate family were each paired up with one of our nieces or nephews for a pen pal project. I confess that after sending my first letter to my pen pal, I allowed her to send me three before finally replying. If I would  have forced my plumber to eat everything he pulled out of my sewer line, it might have made me feel as guilty as not being a better pen pal for my niece.

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December 7, 2012 - Posted by | Friday Afternoon Confessional

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