Saturday, July 1, 2006

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New home disasters thread

A scant ten days after moving into our new house, I went down into our finished basement to look for something when I noticed a somewhat ripe smell. This was odd, as I'd been down there the previous day and no one else had been there during the interval (fixing up the basement is low on our priority list right now).

Poking around, it quickly became obvious that something -- and by something, I mean raw sewage -- had emerged from the mouth of the toilet bowl and bathtub that are in the bathroom down there. About half the basement carpet was soaked from this stuff.

A week later -- after the necessary profanities were uttered, the emergency plumbing visit, the emergency carpet cleaning visit, the second visit by a new set of plumbers to fix the screw-ups made by the first one, and a final de-rooting visit that was at the heart of the problem -- all is well again.

I relate this story not to build up sympathy, but because I strongly suspect that anyone who moves into a new house encounters some unforseen problem or calamity that makes life both difficult and expensive at just the wrong moment.

I therefore humbly ask my readers to submit their horror stories about moving and/or occupying a new domicile.

Tirades against moving companies (let's just say we won't be going with North American Van Lines ever again) or other contractors are heartily welcomed.

posted by Dan on 07.01.06 at 01:33 PM


Perhaps the most difficult task in our entire lives is finding a reliable plumber. If you find one treasure him always.

I had rental properties for about 20 years, and those stories are so horrible I won't scare you with them.

Using moving companies and contractors is a lively form of gambling, try not to do it too often.

Basements are a large hole into which you pour money - handy but painful.

posted by: save_the_rustbelt on 07.01.06 at 01:33 PM [permalink]

I don't have the words to describe how angry I am with the clowns that moved us. We spent a lot of time carefully marking which boxes went where in the new house. We were thorough and organized.

The house has a three car garage. It didn't take the movers long to decide that they could be done a lot faster if they just put everything in the garage.

posted by: Stephen Macklin on 07.01.06 at 01:33 PM [permalink]

Just an idea... if you have more stuff than will fit in a small U-haul, you have too much stuff. I recently moved several thousand miles. I decided that it was a good time to "clean house." Very liberating.

posted by: Larry on 07.01.06 at 01:33 PM [permalink]

Without going into detail about my experience, I think North American Van Lines has something against people moving out of Chicago. I have never had a worse experience with any company as I had with North American when I moved to CA from IL.

posted by: Kevin on 07.01.06 at 01:33 PM [permalink]

We'll be moving to a new state and a brand new (just built) house in about 3 weeks. Unknown Wife and I have made interstates moves 5 times in the 16 years since we married. So, we know that if there's a God of Moving, his name is Murphy.

So I'm sure that there'll be plenty of Blogfodder to come.

And yes, NAVL is the spawn of the devil.

Ahng in there - the buugs eventually get ironed out.

posted by: The Unknown Professor on 07.01.06 at 01:33 PM [permalink]

Oops - fat fingers and a lack of sleep from taking care of all the upcoming move stuff.

The last sentence should read "Hang in there - the bugs eventually get ironed out" (but apparently not for my writing).

posted by: The Unknown Professor on 07.01.06 at 01:33 PM [permalink]

First off, only move your own things.

I moved into an older (1970's) house in August.

It needs remodeling, which we are slowly doing. The main problem centers around the previous owner thinking he knew anything about carpentry, using the right size nails, screws, etc. Every coatrack,towel bar, etc, was screwed AND glued to the walls - so when they were removed, I lost parts of the drywall. They left the kitchen absolutely filthy - it took two days to clean the oven. But the house is an ugly duckling that will soon be a swan

posted by: John on 07.01.06 at 01:33 PM [permalink]

Standing on a metal stepladder in a torrential storm to clear a blocked gutter the night after we moved in. On the bright side, the basement stayed dry.

posted by: Tom T. on 07.01.06 at 01:33 PM [permalink]

Moved to Eastern North Carolina one month before Hurricane Floyd in '98. We'd been told by seller that underground basement had once filled to 4 ft. with water during a hurricane, and that insurance had denied appliance repair because of lack of flood insurance. We called to check with our agent and were told this was not the case, and we were covered. UNTIL - same thing happened, 4 ft. of water, and we were told by the same agent that we had no flood insurance. LESSON - get all insurance inquiries and responses in writing.

It gets better, though, and you'll always have the stories. Good luck!

posted by: Fred on 07.01.06 at 01:33 PM [permalink]

Last kid went off to school. Got a VERY big dumpster and filled it after selling and giving stuff away. Then sold the house and moved into an urban apartment.

Finished the move at 4:20 AM on a Friday. Took off for the weekend for R & R.

Returned Sunday night to learn that the whole neighborhood had burned ... including our new place.

We were able to salvage maybe five pieces.

Let's just say that the downsizing was even greater and faster than we anticipated.

posted by: John R on 07.01.06 at 01:33 PM [permalink]

Don't new houses have to be inspected, or is that only old houses? An inspection might have caught the plumbing problem (not to mention potential electrical and structural problems).

Contractors: Check craigslist and angieslist, or the local equivalents, to see if anyone has recommendations. Also check with the BBB. I've also found just googline [Company/Contractor Name] and Complaints to be very useful.

Moving: Oy. If you can't do it all yourself, with a bunch of friends to help, maybe you can break down the move into stages. Rent a truck with whatever you can move yourself - esp. breakables, personal items, and things that need to go to specific rooms. Leave the really heavy, hard to move pieces for professionals - they're less likely to decide to just leave stuff in the garage if the stuff is furniture. And, finally, see if you can ship some items, esp. items which are bulky but not heavy (like clothes and linens.)

And, oh yes: ruthlessly, ruthlessly weed out your belongings first - esp. clothes, books, and CD/DVDs. Rule of thumb: If you haven't worn it, or read it, or watched/listened to it, for more than two years, maybe you don't really need it. Also, consider if something might be easier to replace than take with you - small appliances, decorative items, CD/DVDs.

posted by: CaseyL on 07.01.06 at 01:33 PM [permalink]

Worst thing for the seller to casually drop at the closing: "Well, getting most of the big stuff up the fire escape was no problem, but we had to cut the couch in half to get it through the door." Say what?!?

Moral of the story: yesterday's apartment buildings were not built with today's oversized furniture in mind.

posted by: T on 07.01.06 at 01:33 PM [permalink]

Oh, there was the time my roommate and I had to dismantle a table to get it in to our Boston apartment. Not that big a table, either.

Re: stuff. My motto is now: "An international move at least once every 5 years!" Only way I ever force myself to clean out the closets.

...and Kevin, I think North American Van Lines hates people moving INTO Chicago, as well. Painful experience.

posted by: tzs on 07.01.06 at 01:33 PM [permalink]

This isnt my horror story . . . but someone I know sold their house in Houston and moved to Dallas. Three days after they closed, the house was destroyed by a tornado. Two months later, the Enron collapse slashed land prices in Houston.

posted by: Jane Galt on 07.01.06 at 01:33 PM [permalink]

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