January 29, 2010 by
Everyone, meet Glen. Although he wouldn’t let me take his picture head-on, Glen is my new favorite person. Why? Because Glen (there in the purple) is bringing to a lovely and so far uneventful close the “Leaking Bathtub, Buckling Floor, Toxic Mold of Death,” chapter of our lives.
Allow me to recount:
We purchased our unit before it was even constructed as part of this new cohousing community. It’s a great location, with trees out every window, lovely. It was also the first unit to be completed. We didn’t consider that we would be moving into the beta version of the development. Instead I simpered, thinking how precious it was that our condo would be the ground-breaker in this little eco-communitarian paradise.
Over time, various problems arose, some large, some less so, mostly of the seems-normal-for-new-construction variety. Then, in spring 2009, I noticed that the floor of the bathtub was feeling a little soft. I invited neighbors over and we climbed into the bathtub in our socks, springing up and down a bit. “Hmm,” we said. Hmm. We shrugged.
The caulking on the side of the tub kept pulling away and I keep dutifully replacing it. Then, sometime in June, a small hill appeared in the linoleum near the tub. Though I tried to ignore it for a couple of days, it was hard to keep that up. Greg tapped his foot at me, and I started asking around for recommendations for a contractor. My mother recommended Glen, who’s a friendly and burly Australian native. We walked around the bathroom and started talking about likely causes. If I was lucky, said Glen, it would prove to be a leak from the toilet’s gasket. If we were unlucky, it would be a leak from the tub. The only way to find out the cause would be to take up the floor and look, and he’d have to line up a plumber to assist. Hmm.
A couple of days later, CrankyGreg came into the bedroom and said, “Um, I just tried to scratch some dirt off the tub, and I poked a hole in the tub.” A hole in the tub was not something I’d ever really considered before. We went to look at it, said, “hmm,” a couple of times. I got on the phone to cancel a camping trip we’d been planning, since I’d have to stick around and get this fixed.
So I started making phone calls. I left a message with the project’s general contractor, who never returned the call. I spoke with the foreman of the plumbing subcontractor, who was the linchpin in getting to the tub’s manufacturer, but it took him 6 weeks to write three sentences on a piece of paper and submit it to the right people. I called my insurance company, who promptly told me that my policy excluded damage incurred over time. I contacted the condo association’s insurance company, who told me the whole thing would take about $1,200 to fix, including a new floor, new sub floor, new bathtub, and any necessary repairs. We said, “No, thank you.”
I reported this to Glen, who told me to call back when I knew what I wanted to do.
In the meantime, we had a hole in the tub, but it was summer and kind of fun. I sent the boys outside in the sprinkler to get clean, or else we went swimming. A couple of times, I borrowed neighbors’ bathrooms, which was a chance to marvel at how clean other people’s homes are.
But time went on and the leaves started turning and now I really wanted some action. Every time someone coughed or sniffled I became surer that we were sick because of mold spores. I contacted the supplier of the tub, who had me talk to the quality assurance person at the manufacturer. I’m pretty sure I’m the only homeowner he had ever spoken with, because what he mostly said was that I couldn’t call him, and had to deal with the supplier. I called my lawyer, who came over and stood with me and looked at the tub and said, “hmm,” a few times and then told me I really should make some phone calls and get it fixed. But that now he’d know what I was talking about when I called.
I really needed help. In desperation, I called my insurance company and asked if there was someone who could just help get something done, like quarterback this for me. From the other end of the phone came chirping crickets, silence, more silence, then, “You want us just to help you? No. We don’t do that.”
If there was a bright spot in my dealings with this wacky cast of characters, it was Donna at F.W. Webb, who had purchased the unit. Although neither of us knew what to do, she made suggestions and gave me names and phone numbers. Finally, now in October, I told Donna that I had had it, and asked her to relay to the tub’s manufacturer that she had an extremely irate homeowner who was ready to call the state’s attorney. A few minutes later, Donna called back with the name, phone number, email and fax number of the person who handled such claims. She told me what I needed to do.
It took me until December to have the two necessary estimates (in Vermont, we don’t do much in the way of home repairs in November because it’s deer season), and send them off to the company. Then just before Christmas, I got a call from Scott, one of The Big Bosses at the manufacturer, who was telling me that they were of course going to replace the tub and pay for all necessary repairs.
So as I write this, I have a newly installed tub, and am picking out new linoleum (this, I think) and paint (Misty Memories, 2nd row from bottom, 2nd column from the right). The toilet isn’t attached, and Greg says I’m on dukey duty if the boys decide to use it anyway.
That aside, things are looking up. The damage was fairly contained to one area, and there was no actual toxic mold. I even heard words I’ve never before heard in this context, “You know, everything went right for you that could have.” and now Glen is leaving for the weekend. But not without having had some Cranky Love in the form of Apple Pie Muffins, really the least I could do.
Of course, the job isn’t quite done yet.
Apple Pie Muffins
Preheat oven to 350.
Whisk together in a medium bowl:
- 1 c. whole wheat pastry flour
- 1/2 c. unbleached white flour
- 2 T. ground flax seed
- 3/4 t. salt
- 1 t. baking powder
- 1 t. cinnamon (I used cardamom, which I always do, but I don’t like to go on and on about it like I’m some kind of weird cardamom nut)
In a large bowl, mix together well:
- 2 eggs
- 3/4 c. sugar
- 5 T. melted butter or olive oil
- 1 1.2 c. peeled, cored, chopped apple, or apple pie filling
If you use fresh apples, let them sit for 10 minutes to soften.
Stir the flour mixture into the egg-apple mixture, just until mostly combined. A few lumps (not just the apples) should remain.
Put into muffin tins and bake for 14 – 18 minutes.
When done, remove pan from oven and let muffins cool for a few minutes in their pan before removing to a rack to cool completely. Feed them to your contractor and any other people who might be hanging around looking hungry.