Friday, November 11, 2005

Apartment Life Never Looked So Appealing Before

We interrupt your regularly scheduled Mimilou to bring you a harangue about a different topic: home improvement.

First, a disclaimer: I'm keenly aware at how lucky I am to have a house at all; in the face of so many natural disasters and impoverishment around us, I never lose sight of that fact.

Okay then. We bought our house 6 years ago. It was in very good shape; the previous owners had made a lot of nice improvements to it, including finishing the basement. For a few years, all we had to was make cosmetic changes (refinishing the hardwood floors, stripping wallpaper and painting, that sort of thing).

But in the last year, our house has turned into a, well, pit into which we have tossed a rather alarming amount of money. It all started when our basement flooded last year. We had a French drain installed to prevent that from happening again, had our driveway repaved (it had been fissured with large cracks that were contributing to the flooding), and had some carpentry work done to cover up the mess left by the drain installation.

We were all set to lay a new carpet in the basement when we discovered we had a mold problem. Green mold, black mold, white mold -- it was a veritable rainbow down there. The mold extended across all the joists in the ceiling, necessitating that we tear down the drywall ceiling that the previous owners had installed. (Note: A drywall ceiling in a basement may not be the best choice.) After the mold remediators completed their work, we decided that we still really did want a finished basement, even though at this point it was more unfinished that finished.

Back in comes the carpenter to install ceiling tiles. On the face of it, this seemed like an easy task, but since the ceiling was not level and was irregularly shaped, the installation turned into an 8-day project. (Sean and Allie had gotten so used to the carpenter being there that they were disappointed when he was done. "Why Paul not coming today?" Allie asked that day.)

Next up: our electrical panel is woefully out of date and needs to be upgraded. I admit to complete ignorance of all things electrical, but I truly had no idea how expensive this would be. Once that's done, the carpet will be installed. And then, maybe, just maybe, our basement odyssey will be complete. At that point we'll essentially be back to where we started, perhaps a little drier.

So there you have it -- home improvement both costly and largely invisible. Not to mention completely unglamorous. (Oh, wait, there's also the fascia board around the house that we had replaced because of our carpenter bee infestation!) Before this all started we had been thinking about updating our bathroom, a 1970s mustard yellow horror with Mickey Mouse wallpaper and a rusting sink. Someday we'll get to that. For now, we'll be just as glad not to have any contractors in our house and to have a toasty dry basement.