Tuesday, April 18, 2006

No power, no phone

For those of you who are aware of all the troubles we've had with our house, you'll be surprised to hear that the title of this post, "No power, no phone" actually doesn't refer to us (for once!). Well, actually the "no power" does kind of refer to us. You may have heard about the rolling black-outs that they required yesterday in Texas. Our house didn't have power from about 4:45 - 5:00 yesterday afternoon. This also affected all of our neighbors, of course. (this will be important later in the story)

But first, for those of you who don't know the full history of our house, let me just give you a taste of it by including here the text of an e-mail we sent out after Tropical Storm Allison flooded Houston back in June, 2001. (BTW, our house is one of four townhomes built together. Yet our place is the only one of the four that has ever had any problems! It's the story of our lives...)

For those of you who may not be aware of all our house problems over the last three years, let's just recap:
- March 1998: Moved in.
- June 1998: Discovered newly-built house already has termites (not covered by home warranty because it was new construction and termite inspection was not required for sale of house!)
- July 1998: Contractors actually finished building house.
- August 1998: Tropical Storm Francis - water running from ceiling fan in living room - contractors move back in.
- December 1998: Claimed house again from contractors.
- April 1999: Termites (which neighbor claimed would take years to do damage) SWARMED in house – Easter Day, by the way...
- Mid 1999: Carpets begin to buckle... hmmm... that's strange....
- September 1999: Lost power to part of house - determined due to faulty wiring of light switch.
- April 2000: Lost power to half of house for four days as a result of faulty installation of main line from power pole to house - long story which involves unnecessarily cutting down wrought-iron fence in front of house.... :|
- April 2000: Carpets severely buckled by now – have to have the whole house re-installed.
- July 2000: Termites, assumed to have been gone for some time, chew their way through the baseboard in the living room. :0
- December 2000: Finally decide to fix "cosmetic" termite damage, only to find out the little buggers have eaten two of four structural support members of our front wall. :0 :0 (no worries - two beams left!)
December 31, 2000: Backing out of driveway on our way to attend New Year's Party the following conversation took place:
Sara, "Hmmm... That's funny - look at that geyser shooting up out of the ground around the corner. I hope that's the neighbor's place..."
Husband, "I'm sure it is - poor sucker." (both fully knowing that the geyser HAD to be coming from our main water line, but delusional in trying to write it off as someone else's problem)
January 1, 2001: No water. (Surprised? We weren't!)
January 1, 2001 (late evening): City confirms leak was on our side of the meter and hands us a bill for $375 (normally $8.50) :0!
- April 2001: Lost power to half of house again - remnants of problem from April 2000 - power company was able to fix the problem without incident and informed us to never use that electrician again.
March 24, 2001: 6 3/4" long x 1 1/4" wide
April 30, 2001: 9" long x 1 1/4" wide
- May 16, 2001: 14 1 /2" long x 1 3/8" wide
- You may be thinking these odd measurements were intended for some X-rated e-mail ;) However, you would be WRONG! These are actually dimensions tracking the water stain on our dining room ceiling, below the master bath. After not using the toilet in the master bath for the last month, we're pretty sure that's the source!!
June 8 - 9, 2001 - Tropical Storm Allison moves in to Houston - we left town, not knowing that our house was in impending danger - as we drove from town, the following phrase actually escaped our lips, "For our house to flood, Hwy 59 (a sunken highway close to our house) would have to be FULL of water. Ha! That would take A LOT of water!!" The national weather service reports that 20" of water fell in the Houston area in less than six hours - most of which must have collected in Hwy 59, because not only was it full, but the bridge over it was under water!!!
- Then a MIRACLE occurred!!! Our house, yes, this same house afflicted with plagues, pestilence, and flood (see August 1998, above), came within 3 inches of being flooded. The 9-inch foundation is the only thing that saved it! When we opened our garage (after hurrying home from our shortened weekend trip) we were met with newspapers, a gas can, and other items not previously in the middle of the garage, mysteriously transported across the floor. However, IT ALL STOPPED THERE!!! :0 That's right - our house mysteriously escaped the curse which seems to have plagued it from construction!!!!


Since the time of writing that e-mail, we've had to fix all the toilets in our house (they were all installed improperly and each one began leaking into the floor/ceiling of the room below it - we're really good at it now - if you ever need your toilet removed and poorly installed plumbing patched together beneath it, we have a great way of doing it), we've had to have the roof fixed, had to have our garage door spring replaced when it broke, all of the water occasionally drains out of our house when they do some kind of construction in the neighborhood and then we have salty water for the next two days (which is somehow related to our water-softener, I'm sure, but I still think the water draining out in the first place is not right and then the salty water afterwards continues to baffle me - as far as I can tell, that shouldn't be able to happen), and then at one point I was convinced that our plumbing must be somehow attached to one of our next-door neighbor's places due to the smell of cigarette smoke in our downstairs bedroom. I know, that doesn't make sense, but when you consider the idiot contractors that built our house, you would have the same kind of thought process.

You see, back in December 2004, we started smelling cigarette smoke in our downstairs room. I tried to convince myself that it was just my imagination because some days we might kind of catch a whiff. Most of the time, however, we couldn't smell it or track it down. But then it kept getting stronger and stronger until we finally located the source of the smell: the cabinets underneath the sink in our downstairs bedroom. It smelled like a smokey barroom under there! We knew that both neighbors on either side of us occasionally smoked, so we weren't sure whose house the smoke could be originating from. After an inquiring e-mail to each of them, the one whose garage backs up to our bathroom shamefully admitted that she had been smoking in her garage because it was too chilly to sit outside. So, the smoke had been coming through the wall and into our bathroom! I'm still not sure the construction of that wall is really right, either. Should that be happening if there's insulation, etc. in that wall?!

Anyway, getting back to yesterday, the blackout wasn't really a problem, except that the husband was afraid I wasn't going to be able to get into the garage when I got home from work, but luckily, the power was restored before I tried to use the garage door opener.

Monday nights are now the husband's night to run. (We've been taking turns - Monday night: husband run, Sara ride bike on rollers after the kids go to bed; Tuesday night: Sara run, husband ride on rollers; Wednesday night: family bike ride; Thursday: tutoring; Friday: whatever strikes us!) So, when I got home, the husband got ready for his run and the kids and I went to Sam's Club to load up on diapers, cottage cheese, and milk.

We returned from Sam's to find the husband frantic. He had decided to move one of the termite monitoring stations out of path of the walkway. When he started digging, he hit some kind of an electrical cable (only buried about 2 inches below grade!) that looked like it might be from the phone box on our neighbor's house. Our other neighbors seemed to still have functioning phones, and we actually use cable phone, so it didn't affect us, but we couldn't get ahold of the one neighbor we thought it probably affected. The husband ended up leaving her a message on her home phone, her work phone, and was in the middle of writing her a note to stick through her fence when she called us to find out what was going on.

She was a little frantic herself. She got home from work to find that her power had been off, her house alarm was beeping at her, and she had no phone! The poor woman lives alone and couldn't figure out what had been going on in her house while she was at work!

So, yes, it turned out that the husband accidentally cut through our neighbor's phone line. We still can't figure out why it was buried where it was (about 3 feet away from her house and where it goes, we have no idea) or why it was only buried 2 inches below grade - seems like there is some kind of city code that requires things to be buried deeper than that. Then again, with the contractors who built our house, pretty much anything is possible.


Courtney said...

I never tire of your house stories. It is amazing to me that you have more stories to tell than I do with house horrors.

Sara said...

And I'm sure I've left something off! I need to get the husband to read through this and add the rest of the things I've tried to block from my memory! :)

Sara said...

UPDATE: The phone company came yesterday and fixed the line, so everything is fine for our neighbor again.

And I can't believe I forgot to mention one of the reasons why I even thought of writing this post - yet another thing seems to be breaking in our house and the problem started Tuesday: the handle you use to turn on the water in our shower has suddenly become hard to turn and it kind of makes a little bit of a grinding noise. We've already had to replace the valve for our bathtub (which took us almost 2 years to finally get done!) so I'm sure we're going to have to replace this one pretty soon.

You know, though, even with all these problems, I really do love our house. :)

Courtney said...

Don't forget the pigeons!!

Sara said...

Gawd, you're right!! How could I possibly forget those nasty, pooping rats with wings that annoy the crap out of us daily?!

And Spring is the worst. They are all over the place and keep trying to lay eggs on our balcony.

I'm seriously ready to kill them all (and I'm really not a violent person!).