At the beginning of the month, I ordered a single pendant light from West Elm for the kitchen. The current light is one of those flushmounts you can buy at Home Depot for $40–fine, whatever, but there are a little more interesting light choices to be had, even in the $100 range. So I ordered a globe pendant, expecting a simple swap.
Is it ever simple? Easy? Straight forward? No. No, ma’am.
My husband took down the old light and started to unscrew a piece that the light was anchored to. There was hissing. And the unmistakeable smell of gas.
Folks, we have a live gas line in our ceiling. For old-timey gas lights. Because of course that is a thing. Not only that, but someone thought it was a dynamite idea to anchor a light from it.
We called the gas company. They turned off the gas, and slapped us with a hazardous condition sticker. A pipe fitter came out to seal the line but wouldn’t touch it because of the electrical. Then the electricians couldn’t come for a week. This is the saga.
Yesterday the electricians finally came to move the junction box, and since we were already paying them gobs of money to do that, we had another light put in. I think we did that to feel like we had some semblance of control over this situation, and not spending a considerable amount of money on baseline very-important-but-boring safety stuff because I wanted to get rid of a $40 Home Depot light.
The sad thing is my dad’s an electrician. Not an electrician in the typical sense–he used to head a crew that maintained the electrical systems of a functioning steel plant and now controls and purchases the power used by said steel plant. He is a fancy electrician who we refer to as “Mr. Fun.” So christened because of his penchant to suck the life out of everything by insisting on every safety precaution possible, no doubt the effect of working in an extremely dangerous work environment his whole life. So I have the benefit of being instilled with a healthy fear of questionable electrical work without the benefit of my father’s proximity to do this work for free. It’s an expensive affliction.
The Saga Continues
Once the electrical work was done, we again called back the pipe fitter to get the gas line sealed. But he was being a little shifty about providing a quote, so we called another one. This one started asking us about the permit, mentioning the Department of Buildings. Uh, what permit?
We’re told that someone will call us back. The phone rings and my husband takes the call. In the span of a few minutes the color drains from his face. He puts the call on speaker.
“I can bring a crew of two out to do the pressure test for $700, but never in my career has anyone with 1920 pipes passed it. You should get an electric stove. They’re nice now.”
We live on the fourth floor. Our risers go through three other apartments. They cannot be brought up to code without accessing those pipes through our neighbor’s walls. In short, it is an expensive, impossible job. And our utility won’t certify the work and turn on our gas without this job.
And Gets Worse
Have I mentioned the shoddy electrical in our apartment? Everything in our kitchen shares a single breaker. An electric stove needs a dedicated line. So we can’t simply swap out a stove (as if that is an inexpensive fix), we have to redo the electrical. Which means doing a fair amount of demo to the kitchen.
We have essentially been backed into a kitchen renovation we aren’t ready to do yet. All because I wanted a slightly nicer light.
What’s your favorite initially-inexpensive home improvement project that hemorrhaged a lot of cash?