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Last Spring, I bought an old historic house.  This is realtor speak for “money pit.”  My house would make Tom Hanks and Shelley Long proud!  I have already blogged about my pond pool, but since then we have added a new roof–at one point all five skylights were leaking when it rained.  An old cast iron drain pipe from the upstairs bathroom needed to be replaced, but not before it leaked into the basement and created a mold problem.

Finally, winter came.  The pool is closed.  The roof is on.  The skylights no longer allow cascades of water to fall inside my house.  The pipe is fixed.  A closet and ceiling were torn to the bare bones to mediate mold.  I can now sit in front of my fire and enjoy the house I bought.

Until the master bath toilet backed up.

I tried a plunger.  That worked as well as duct tape on the skylights.

Was it just coincidence that the water was backing up when the temperatures had been in the single digits for a few days?

The master bath is huge and non-historic, having been redone back in the 1980’s.  It has two toilets–his and hers–three sinks, and a large walk-in shower and steam room.  (The steam generator does not work.  Imagine that!)

When you use any of the sinks, the water backs up in the toilet.  The shower is fine.  It has a separate drain pipe–the one we already replaced.

The plumber insisted it can’t be a frozen pipe.  Four inch pipes don’t freeze, and we have no other frozen pipes.  He thinks there is a blockage somewhere, but would need to come back later with other, presumably more expensive, equipment.

So with nothing else better to do, I decided to do some investigating.

Here is where the drain pipes come down into the basement.

Basement

The darker pipe is from the shower.   It’s cold in this room but not pipe freezing cold.

So where does that pipe go?

morepipe

Behind that cabinet?  How interesting!  There’s actually part of the cabinet cut out to access the pipe.

wallpipe

Is it going through the wall????  WTH!  The blue packing material isn’t really insulating very well.  There’s a draft here.

So I head outside into the frozen tundra to see what is going on.

The hole in the wall should come out somewhere underneath this brick patio.

Porch

So let’s take a peek . . .

Pipe

Holy Crap!  The drain pipe actually comes outside the house and then back into the basement!  No wonder it froze!  Who in the wide, wide world of sports would have thought it was a good idea to run indoor plumbing outside?  Maybe you can get away with that in Phoenix or Miami, but not here in central Pennsylvania!

And in further confirmation, once the temperature rose above freezing, the toilet and sinks worked normally again.

Did the previous owner never notice this?  I’m sure it must have been below freezing at some point in the last thirty years.

It has subsequently froze a second time.  I hope spring comes quickly!

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I had to move.

This was a moment I had been dreading.  With seventeen years living in the same house, I had accumulated a lot of stuff.

“You’re a hoarder!”

Whoa!  Let’s not go putting labels on people here.

“You have game programs from Penn State games in the 80’s.”

I’m a collector.

“You have twenty coffee cans of rusty nails, nuts, bolts, and some things that cannot be identified.”

OK.  I’m a hoarder.

But I still had to move, and with me, all my stuff.  Well, most of my stuff.  Some of my stuff?

I called a moving company and the guy went through my house.  I detailed which furniture was to go, what I was planning on packing, and what I expected the movers to pack and move.

He gave me an estimate.  $950.00.  Basically, they charged $150/hr with a $450 minimum. If you do the math, this estimate works out to be a little over 6 hours.

Now, quite frankly, I thought this was a little low for a five bedroom house with seventeen years of stuff.  But, I was only moving 5 miles away.  It’s not like I was going to another continent.  OK–it was a different zip code.

I has pressed for time as closing on the house was imminent.  I was hindered by the fact that my ex still resided there, and made it difficult to get access to my stuff.  With time running out, I accepted his estimate in good faith.

The morning came.  It rained off and on the entire day.

Two trucks showed up at 9 am.  Five men started carting out my hopes and dreams into these large trucks.  By early afternoon, one truck was full and the other was half-way filled.

I got a call from the moving company.

“Um, my guys tell me it is taking longer.  We’re going to run over the estimate.”

UnderestimateMove

He paused.  I wait apprehensively.  $200?  $500?  They were just about 4 hours from the starting point, so 10 hrs times 150/hr is $1500?

I barely had the math done in my head (actually, I just did the math but guestimated it at the time) when he added, “Way over the estimate.”

I took a deep breath and asked the question I did not want to hear the answer to.  “How much?”

“I think we’re looking at over $2000.  Maybe as high as $2400.”

W. T. F.

That was more than TWICE the estimate!  How long has this guy been in this business?  How in the wide, wide, bloody world of sports can you be that far off???!!!  I’m scrambling to do the math in my head.  $2400 divided by 150, carry the one, add a zero, curse this long division, it must be a shit ton of hours.  (16 to be exact.)

So this is going to take until one am to unload?

I questioned this.  I even reminded him that he quoted me a cost of 150/hr.

“Well, I had to send more guys.  That’s extra.  It’s more like $192/hr.”

Beep.  Beep. Beep.  Back this truck up.

Both of these trucks showed up with 5 guys (not the burger joint, in case you are as confused as I am) at nine o’clock this morning.  The estimator KNEW he had to send more guys before the job even started.  He didn’t send a second truck later on when they “realized” they had underestimated the job.

But at this point, what are my options?

If I say no.  Do they just take my stuff?  Do they unload it back into my old house?  Do I still have to pay for their time today if they don’t actually move it away?

I am screwed.

The maddening thing is, I would have gotten more estimates if he had truthfully told me it would cost $2400 to begin with.

By lowballing his estimate, he locked me in and then took advantage of the situation.

Worse yet, I paid a trash hauler an additional $750 to take what was left in the house–they didn’t even move everything!  (My ex moved out the weekend before and left me to clean out the house.)

If I ever have to move again, I am selling my stuff with the house.  I will move on without it.

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