You wouldn’t know from its current state, but our house has come so far from where it was at the time of purchase. Sure, the house had walls, decent flooring, and some cool details. But that was it. When we bought our house we had no amenities, nothing. Since it was a vacant dwelling for the better part of six years, all utility services to the house had been disconnected, shut off, or stolen (adios, copper pipes!). I had always pictured us buying a fixer upper but I never thought that I would have to reinstate the basic amenities.
Generally speaking, there are some services that most people assume come included with the whole “buying a house” thing. These are the things that could be considered living necessities: gas, electric, water. The Hess House had none of these things. We knew going in that it would be our responsibility to have those basics repaired. What we didn't know was how many hours of phone conversations (and making our own shady repairs) would be necessary to make that happen. From the onset, we had been told that the water would not be turned on. There was a lot of worry that the pipes were not properly connected or that they would burst and subsequently flood the house. But we would eventually need plumbing so something had to be done. One of the first things I did after we signed our papers was to try and remedy our lack of water. The convo I had (repeatedly) with many people went something like this:
On the phone with the inspector...
Me: Hi, I’d like the plumbing in my house inspected.
Inspector: Is the water in the house turned on?
Inspector: Please have it turned on for the inspection.
On the phone with the water company...
Me: I’d like to have my water turned on please, so the plumbing can be inspected.
Water Company: Well, are the all pipes in working order?
Me: I don’t know, I’m hoping that the inspector can give me that information.
Water Company: We can’t turn the water on until we know the pipes are sound.
Back on the phone with the inspector...
Inspector: I can’t tell you if the pipes are sound until the water is turned on.
Me: *crying tears of sorrow*
I realized that it was a Catch-22 and was just praying that someone would take pity on me. Eventually, Aaron and I ended up replacing the missing pieces for the water meter ourselves. Surprisingly, we did it correctly and the water company turned on the water supply to our house. Still, it’s been a slow and painstaking process to get the pluming in the house taken care of. We called several (six? eight?) plumbers and ended up with a number of estimates. To save a few (thousand) pennies we decided to have the pros install just the drain systems in the house; we were up for the task of running our own supply lines to all the fixtures. Drains have stricter codes and we preferred that our toilets empty into the sewer system, not the house. It was a bit of a challenge finding a plumber who was on board to install only half the plumbing. About a month and a half ago, we got our first supply line run which we hooked up to a hose and ran into the backyard. What a glorious day that was- to be able to wash our hands after rummaging around in plaster all day! Since that initial line was run, we’ve succeeded in having all the drains installed (professionally) and lines have been run for all the sinks, tubs, and showers throughout the house. About two weeks ago, we installed our first new toilet! That was a magical moment in our lives. The joy of seeing a working toilet in that house was the same as the joy of petting a unicorn (I imagine). This past weekend, water was run to the kitchen sink. (YAY!)
Getting the gas turned on, no issue. But electric? Let me tell you. In a house that is 93 years old, there is generally nothing safe about the wiring situation. Originally, the house was wired with knob and tube wiring, which on its own is both safe and effective. But when you start splicing modern wires into old knob and tube, things get a little… hazardous. There were some serious fire hazards happening behind the walls and after a lot of hemming and hawing about how we would make the house safe, it turned out the safest thing to do was replace the wiring. All. Of. It. For the past two months, Aaron has been running new wiring through the house and mastering his craft via YouTube University. Each new circuit he pulls, he discovers new issues (dead rat skeletons, circuits that span all three floors, wires that go nowhere...). Rewiring the entire house was absolutely not something that we had anticipated doing. However, it’s kind of been fun to watch Aaron walk around the house and discover exactly what is happening inside our walls. Usually he looks something like this:
Though it has taken some time to correct the issues, the bonus to rewiring is that we get to make any changes we want. As of yesterday, Aaron has:
I'm going to take a brief pause here to say- he is seriously amazing. As is everyone who has helped him accomplish this electrical feat.
Three months into this whole mess and it's been a thing for sure. It's stressful, challenging, and exciting all at once. And since we are aiming to be living in our project starting September 1, we've been pulling late nights and long hours to get this bad boy livable. Many nights I've questioned our collective sanity. But yesterday I noticed a ladybug on the ceiling while I was painting my millionth mile of door trim. Ladybugs are a symbol of abundance and of achieving your goals (or so Google tells me). Nevertheless, it was a fitting reminder that we are working towards a home, not just a house. A home that will be extremely well-lit and full of plugs for seasonal decor.
About the Author:
Tasha is a freelance artist, stay-at-home mama, and, in her husbands words, a lifestyle manager. She and Aaron are in the midst of renovating their 94 year old home while raising their sassy daughters, Adelaide & Emma.
Following along on Instagram? Look for #HessFixerUpper