“Getting to the bones of a situation.” That’s when you suspect that the appearance of quality does not extend all the way to the core.
You will come to value what good bones are all about, when you find the explanation for a problem buried in a bad beginning. A trail leads back to a false premise, an oversight, or even just human laziness. I find the latter most unforgivable, when people can’t be bothered to do something right. That kind of attitude will almost certainly come back to bite you. Even worse, it will bite someone else.
I write about this because it happened to me. Let’s just call it the summer of three toilets. Now toilets are a household necessity, but they are also something you may not want to become intimately acquainted with. If something goes wrong with a toilet you will be face to face with the stuff of life, doing forensics. Up close and personal is the reason why plumbers make good money.
It all comes down to good planning. If you premise something badly for yourself, chances are you will start over even if that is the more painful choice. But if the problem will fall on someone else’s head, you might bury your mistake and head for the hills, no doubt perpetuating your bad work elsewhere. When the you-know-what hits the fan, you will be long gone.
A house is the most unfortunate of venues for the you-know-what to hit the fan. Here’s my story.
My wife pointed out that there was an odd discolouration on the ceiling of the powder room opposite the main entrance to our house. We kept an eyeball on it over time, and the blemish developed into a hole. I sent a pic to a handyman friend who said we might have a squirrel or a rodent inside the walls. Ugh. Worst thing was that this suspicious hole would be obvious to anyone visiting who would use that bathroom.
They say with any manufactured good, there is a time where things give up the ghost all at once. You will find it when you purchase a car and everything begins to malfunction within the same year. Planned obsolescence is a way to make sure you will buy that same item again, but planning to fail is not the outcome most people are hoping for themselves.
A problem coming full circle is what happened with the bathroom. I opened up the ceiling to see what was going on and discovered a drip. It was poop. Good old fashioned poop, dripping down overhead. Further investigation revealed the unexpected. The plumbing was not bad, exactly. It was worse than that. It was the framing of the house. Someone’s bad planning left the plumber in a cul-du-sac and he had to cut away from the rafters to leave room for the stack and the big pipes that fed into it from the toilet. So… over the course of a few decades, the floor had started to droop imperceptibly. Not a lot, but enough for the toilet overhead to detach its wax seal which kept all the flushing on track to the proper pipes. The space afforded was enough for every flush to deliver a tiny leak into the wall structure below. It was the lifespan of a hidden problem, finally coming home to roost.
To tear everything out would be horrendously expensive, a total reconstruction. So I did the practical thing - took the toilet out, and installed a double wax seal to bridge the gap. After drying everything up and treating the area for potential mould, I had to replace the entire ceiling and repaint the bathroom again.
Like they say, bad luck comes in threes. The same problem occurred in a second bathroom, then a third. I was up to my ears in poop and drywall that whole summer, not really advancing, just holding the line. That’s a lot of pointless dirty work that no one will ever appreciate. You might say I am now well schooled in the reasons why something must begin well to end well.
I have a few choice thoughts in my head for the person who did this bad work and left me the consequences but for propriety I had better not state them out loud. One part of me is convinced that those who do shoddy work will suffer the natural consequences in the long run. But it does leave a lingering lesson on the value of good bones. Whenever someone uses that phrase now, I involuntarily wince. Let’s just say good beginnings really matter.
Just ask me and I could give you a poop-load of reasons why.