Brooke here.


The last post was July 2, just a little over nine weeks ago. Right after it went up, we got caught in what can only be described as a cascade house failure, where once something went wrong, it triggered problem after problem after problem… And, while dealing with these problems, I’d every so often think “Hey I should blog about this!” and then I’d have an aneurism or something because I’d black out and wake up in the bathtub, usually while sucking raw cookie dough straight out of the tube.


Today I decided to write up the list of topics for future posts to cover these past nine weeks, and then figured I’d just go ahead and post that. Here you go: this list is (roughly) in chronological order.

  • Branch falls down on area of chainlink fence we repaired/replaced last year.
  • One week later, one of the largest trees on the property falls down on this same area. Plus another 50′ of fence.
  • Tree is removed: Hired Dude who removed it used his brand-new skid loader on this job. As this is the same Hired Dude who graded our front yard, I asked him to give us an estimate on how much it would cost to grade the back.  Four hours later, he had removed the ivy from approx. 7500sq ft. of the property. He did this for no extra charge, because he wanted to test what his new loader could do.
  • We learn a dead stump is home to all of the black widows in the entire world.
  • Insurance company refuses to cover the tree damage and says the cost of fence and property repairs, plus tree removal, will not exceed cost of deductible.
  • I show insurance company receipts for three times the cost of deductible.
  • Insurance company grudgingly covers $700.
  • I move us to another insurance company.
  • A tree company does a cold call late on Saturday evening. On a whim, I throw them a lowball price, then haggle them down. They agree to take down three damaged/dying trees. Hell of a bargain, but they screwed up part of the new graded area and we end up with a backyard wasteland.
  • Zu goes through a window and rips the absolute shit out of his front legs. Stitches and medication come to $500; window repair comes to $185.
  • We discover a leak in the pool. The pool leak is diagnosed; it’s a Thing, but not a Big Thing. This repair is very expensive and we decide to postpone it.
  • The pool motor dies. This repair is about twice as expensive as the cost of leak repair, and must be done as soon as possible or the pool will go back to its earlier state of proto-swamphood.
  • The gutters begin to peel off of the house. In some areas, the fascia board beneath the gutters has rotted away: turns out the previous homeowners painted over wood rot before they sold the house. In other areas, there was no paint at all, because there has been no wood under those gutter for decades.
  • We repair the fascia board and get new gutters.
  • I poke at an area on the porch railing I suspect might be more painted-over wood rot.  My finger goes straight through the wood. Picking and swearing reveals a damaged area approx. 3′ long.
  • Zu goes through the glass on the storm door. No injuries this time, but I decide to replace the glass with a screen. Because dog.


That’s our summer. How’s yours been?

9 thoughts on “So.

  1. Sounds expensive…

    …unless you have two kids in college.Then it doesn’t sound that expensive. 😀

    What is up with your dog? Is he trying to chase squirrels or something? Would putting tape or stickers on the glass so he can see that there is something there help?

    1. He’s got some barrier aggression, where he barks and strains to get to the person/dog/cat/squirrel on the other side of the glass/fence/leash. Remove the barrier and he’s fine, but it’s an ongoing process to calm him down. We’re hoping now that he’s three and the Rottweiler Brain has come online, it’ll sort itself out.

  2. Holy shit. This is like an advertisement to rent forever. And yet I know that when you’re done with the house, it will be so much improved– it already *is* so much improved.

  3. Good God. Sounds like the Fury Hole, indeed.

    Still, you should know that you’re doing a good thing, here. Following this blog got me through the repairs to my modest and only-sorta-damaged first home, which husband and I got fixed up beautifully just in time for him to change jobs, so we rented it out and are in the process of buying a second disaster-house from the questionable comfort of a cheap motel. This next house, assuming the seller quits dicking around and accepts our perfectly reasonable offer, also has a metric crap-ton of work that needs doing, but even as the realtor’s eyebrows rose, my dad went “well, sweetie…” and Mom practically retired to her fainting couch over the mere Trulia page for the property we’d told her we’d chosen, we kept smiling and saying “But of course, this is nothing like what K. Brooke Spangler does every day. This mess is EASY.” (Dad, who works in a professional DIY-adviser field, is to the point of recommending ‘Flying By Night’ right alongside the ‘This Old House’ website to clients, given that your work is often twice as relevant and ” a hell of a lot funnier.”)

    You give us hope. You give us advice. We avoided the Homax tile paint and went with the good Rust-Oleum product on your say-so even when two Lowe’s guys tried to tell us the Homax was just as good, and thanks to you, our modestly repaired bathroom is free of gatorbutt and holding up beautifully despite our tenants’ keeping four children in the place. You prove every day that this do-it-yourself thing is possible and that a young couple still in the starting-out phase of life can turn a beat-to-hell piece of house into a splendid home and for mercy’s sake, you do it all with an enormous dog! We thought we were hot shit for getting our last rental’s walls spackled and repainted with cats in the house, and then we saw you build fences, fell trees, kill spiders and reclaim a pile of pavers bigger than our car with a Fauxberman full of Puppy Energy tearing around…and you made us believe we could do something like that, too.

    And when our first house decided to fight us back, the basement developed a waterfall and weaker women would have curled up in the Weeping Closet forever, I just thought to myself “what would Otter do?” went out, tore apart the rosebushes with a machete and damned if it wasn’t exactly the same kind of non-French-drain ‘honey, I fixed it’ bullflop you and Brown encountered. I fixed it in one day after spending exactly $12 on a mattock and $3 on Band-Aids, the basement is dryer than a shoebox full of silica gel and the next spring the rosebushes bloomed like the neighbors hadn’t seen in decades. Half-finished basements being the weird and peculiar beast they are in that part of the country, your insight and early warning probably saved us from having to rebuild the front foundation of the house in just a year longer.

    We couldn’t have even attempted this homeowner thing if we didn’t have a cool, webcomic-drawing, detective-novel-writing, adorable-dog-owning role model to look up to. I can only imagine how hard it must be to have so many things go wrong with your home, yard and poor Zu in a single summer, especially after all that you’ve already been through, and if I were just a couple states closer I’d scurry right over with brownies and my work gloves to lend a hand. Just know that as bad of a time as you’re having, the fact that you’ve taken the time to show and write about what you’ve done and hold up a light of hope, humor and inspiration for others…you’re doing a good thing and we owe you a hell of a lot for it. So don’t lose heart.

    1. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear… Brown and I have both read and re-read this reply, and it’s one of the nicest things we’ve seen in ages, but you’re buying a Disasterhouse and… and… our hearts break a little.

      Well, may the only words my father spoke to us the first time he toured our house help you in dark times to come — “Good thing you’re young.”

  4. Well, all I can say is that I’m glad my house is less of a disaster. That list is a horror to read. But I feel for you terribly and wish I could help other than with platitudes. It’s simply amazing you manage to do anything on the comic with the house falling apart around you.

  5. Well, given your lack of posts I’d figured it was either going really well or really poorly, and probably not the former or you’d be bragging.

  6. Jeez. You’ve had A Summer.

    You’ve threatened the Weeping Closet in a few posts–I’ve been really sick, so in catching up I saw not only this post but a few before it–but here, you have not mentioned spending any time in there. I hope you haven’t. Raw cookie dough sounds *infinitely* preferable.

    Hired Dude sounds like a good guy. Spiffums on the clearing ivy for you just to see what his new tool could do.

    The people who removed the trees, on the other claw, sound like people who should’ve had the costs of re-grading the yard deducted from their payment. (I’ve refused to pay contractors until they fixed, had soemone else repair, or deducted the cost of repair from their bill, for whatever it was they borked up while they were doing the thing they were hired to do. That included things like bringing in extra fill and using their roller to flatten and tamp it.)

    I have no idea the cost, but would putting bars of some kind across the windows convince Zu that the windows are THERE? (Heh. I had dogs who were unconvinced the screen was there, kept jumping the short walls of the screen-enclosed porch and going through the screen. Eventually I just left it to flap until we got the whole thing replaced with heavy-duty screening that they bounced off of–60-lb dogs). But we also have windows with sort of flat, possibly decorative metal bars across them, making them look like normal-sized windows with 16 panes instead of 2. Maybe there’s soemthing you can put on windows that looks like that, and makes them more visible?

    Just out of curiosity, do you actually want to swim in your pool? I can’t recall just how far you’ve gotten in its repairs, and if you have been able to actually swim in it yet. I suspect you’ve probably got similar problems there that we do in FL, where you can’t leave a pool empty because of Problems (like the whole thing cracking, or sometimes popping up out of the ground). It needs the pressure from above created by the water.

    But you can duplicate that by just filling it in with dirt, and planting grass or something over it. That way you don’t have to repair the crack, or the pump, or finish replacing the deck if you haven’t done that yet. You could leave a few inches visible to display the edge tile and have a sort of recessed garden area with the nice pool-tile edging instead of a pool. But that only works if swimming isn’t a priority, and the pool is just eating money without purpose.

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