The News Courier in Athens, Alabama


July 13, 2014

Commentary: Homeownership dream turns nightmarish

“Everything put together sooner or later falls apart.”

—Paul Simon

Right you are, Paul.

Everyone has experienced something falling apart in their lives, whether it’s relationships, Jenga, cars, bodies, model planes and/or houses.

It’s my house that’s really bothering me now. What seemed for four years like a solid brick-on-slab domain in a quiet neighborhood is slowly turning lemon-esque.

Granted, it was never a dream house, but my wife and I were living the American dream of homeownership. Funny things, dreams are.

It always starts with an awkward phone call from a spouse.

“What’s wrong?” I asked mine on Monday.

“I don’t want to stress you out,” she said.

“No, tell me what’s wrong,” I said, in an effort to flex my male authority and get to the bottom of the situation.

“Have you noticed the floor in the kitchen is bubbled up next to the fridge?” she asked sheepishly.

I admitted that I had not noticed that, as I do not spend a great deal of time staring down at the one inch of linoleum flooring between our refrigerator and the adjacent wall.

“Well,” she said, “I pulled up a little piece of the flooring and it’s wet underneath.”

It was news I really didn’t want to hear. It’s news no one really wants to hear, unless that is, your house is in a desert and there’s no water around for miles and miles and miles. I could see then how the prospect of having an endless supply of water underneath your linoleum could be a very good thing indeed.

The next day I was on a mission to find the leak, as its source was not obvious to two novice homeowners.

Since I don’t have a sixth sense, I surmised the bowed-out interior of our kitchen cabinet was hiding a leaking pipe. Turns out I was correct.

So, the next day I called our insurance company, which I had never had to call before. After all, we bought a fairly new house, foolishly thinking, “What could go wrong?”

“I’ll start you a claim,” the woman said. “I’ll have the adjuster call you.”

Claims, adjusters, insurance. All this talk of grown-up foolishness made me immediately yearn for the days of having a slumlord I could call; someone who “might get around to fixin’” something within a few days. (Unrelated note: I once had a landlord who would barge in, uninvited, do the unspeakable to the toilet and then yell for me or one of my college roommates to bring him more toilet paper. True story.)

Step one was to call the plumber and fix the leak. Actually, step one was to remove the cabinet so he could even access the leak. As it turns out, I became a very integral part of the process as I had to do things like turn on faucets in other parts of the house and actually help remove the cabinet from the wall. But mainly, I just stood back, drank coffee and observed Joe the Plumber work his magic.

Once all the heavy lifting was out of the way, he quickly discovered the root of the problem — a pinhole leak in a copper pipe that was pumping out enough water that I could have washed my hands.

It had also pumped out enough water to destroy our kitchen cabinet and leave a nice sheen of green mold and mildew all along the drywall.

Thinking that breathing in all that mold could cause some problems later, I immediately called a restoration company to come take care of the problem. Apparently “taking care of the problem” is akin to ripping out pretty much the entire wall and insulation. “Taking care of the problem” also means being left with three industrial fans and a massive dehumidifier, which pumps moisture from our already incredibly dry house through a hose and into the bathroom sink.

“Taking care of the problem” also means that those aforementioned devices sound not dissimilar to an FA/18 fighter jet engine. Needless to say, the noise inside my house is nothing short of unbearable.

“These things have to run 24/7,” one of the restoration guys told me. “We’ll pick them up on Monday.”

Thursday night, my wife sat on the couch, about seven feet away from me in the living room as I ate my takeout food. (You eat a lot of takeout when you have no sink and your dishwasher is in your garage.)

We tried valiantly to pretend everything was normal, even with the volume of the TV turned up full blast over the roar of the fans and dehumidifier. As we looked at each other, we both laughed.

“How was your day?” she screamed from seven feet away.

“It was busy,” I yelled back. “How was yours?”

“It was busy, too,” she screamed back.

That night, as I slumbered, I dreamed I lived in a house in the desert. I was nearly dead from dehydration, but overjoyed that I had found an endless supply of water beneath my kitchen linoleum.

But it was only a dream. Just like our dream of homeownership.

Funny things, dreams are.

To be continued …

— Novice homeowner and editor Adam Smith can be reached at

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