Go Big & Go Home

You know the phrase, go big or go home? Welp, I thought it was an “and” so I bought a four-plex. A quad-plex? A four flat? … A building. I bought a building.

I bought it, it was on purpose.
I did not end up with it as some sort of weird accident or happenstance.

I was asked recently, how did I end up with a building?

“I bought it.”

I bought it because it was the most bathrooms I could buy for the least money. I bought it because the idea of “house hacking” intrigued me. I bought it because I have two generations of land-lady in my matriline. I bought this building because while living in NYC I wanted very badly to own an apartment. I bought it because it has good bones and stain glass windows and pretty wood. I bought it because it has four fantastic bathtubs. I bought it because I thought I would be up for the challenge.

So far I am up for the challenge, but this house has made me cry more than once.

Last weekend in St. Louis it was snowy and rainy and gross. I went to bed on the early side. My husband woke me a bit after 2 am. He was kind and sweet and prepared me for the worst. The worst wasn’t that bad. It wasn’t great, but I didn’t freak out as bad as he rightfully feared I might.

Plaster succumbs to gravity.

Before waking me, he had been sitting on the sofa when he noticed a dripping and looked up to a sagging ceiling. He knew what it meant and he leaped into action. He fetched buckets and a tarp. He acted swiftly and wonderfully and he woke me with kindness so I would know what was happening.

This is not our first leak. Nor is it the first time bits of our plaster ceilings have given way to gravity. After the last time, we bought a new roof.

So at 2 am I text Joe.

Fallen plaster & broken hearts.

That morning he showed up. I asked if he wanted coffee, and he explained that NO he WANTED UP ON THE ROOF NOW. He was very concerned that *his* new roof was leaking. He went up and discovered, in the cold and the wind, that his roof was perfect. That the leak was the fault of our chimney and it is in desperate need of tuckpointing. Tuck-pointing was already on our agenda for spring, but now we know the tuck-pointing is to begin at the chimney. Joe caulked it up as best he could and the leak stopped.

Since it was the chimney with the flue to my basement Joe said we should go check on the HVAC system. This was fortunate indeed because it had rusted apart. This is a very sad picture. It was cold out, but we turned the furnace off at this point.

This means carbon monoxide was pouring into the basement instead of out the flue.
I vacuumed that!

Joe told me to take the broken bits to a hardware store and fix it myself. He had faith in me. So I took the broken bits apart. I found detritus in the flue and I vacuumed it out. I lugged the broken bits with me to the nearest hardware store and with the help of a variety of sales folk I got the parts needed to rebuild what was needed.

This adventure took many hours (probably around 10 total). There was crying and cursing. For more than half of the day I was stubborn and tried to do it all by myself. I didn’t want to rope E.T. into the work because he had done so much the night before. He made me dinner and after that, he joined me down in the basement and when we worked together, everything got easier.

It was a lot of hard work, and a lot of frustration, but it turned out well and we learned a lot. One of the books I read before becoming a landlord said it is important to learn how to caulk. That’s what the red in the left picture is, heat caulking. And yes, caulking is a very powerful skill, but I think my big lesson of the day was that I ought not try to make do on my own when instead I can work with someone who is as handy and handsome as my husband.

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