by Vicky Monroe
I said I wanted to learn how to be more self-sufficient this year, and my house is certainly giving me an opportunity to do it! This week we had a leak crop up in one of our three bathrooms. Last week something similar happened to Ashley too… there must be bad plumbing luck going around!
My spouse noticed that the basement floor was a bit wet and the drip was coming from the ceiling above, which is where one of our toilets is located. Thankfully the leak is very slow and small, so it hasn’t caused any damage such as mold or rotted subfloor. The moisture seems to dry up on its own sometimes, so it’s not always actively leaking.
At first, we thought it might be a problem with the toilet seal, so we replaced it, which cost us about $25 dollars in materials. We thought that fixed the issue when the water dried up, but a bit of moisture ended up returning the next day.
The Leak Continues
At this point, we began questioning whether it was the toilet causing the moisture, or the vent pipe for the septic system located above the toilet. Instead of calling in a plumber, we resolved to figure out the issue ourselves. This year we want to get better at fixing our home and car issues not only to save money but also to become more self-sufficient.
It can be hard to find contractors in our rural area who have a good reputation and availability when you need them, so we’re trying to become less reliant on outside help. When we had our water heater replaced last year, the plumber forgot to put a drain pipe back in, which flooded our basement and ruined our flooring and several cabinets.
The cleanup was a huge hassle. We didn’t get any sort of discount when we brought it up with the plumber and decided it wasn’t worth pursuing legally. After dealing with a few bad contractors and hearing other homeowners’ stories, I’m starting to believe in the saying “if you want it done right, do it yourself.” So I’m trying to work on my DIY skills this year. I may even take a class at the local community college in home systems construction to learn more.
The Moisture Could Be Condensation
After opening up the wall and examining the vent pipe, it seems like it could be a condensation issue. We’ve had some problems with condensation in our attic as well. Our roofer added extra venting and advised us to run a dehumidifier. So we positioned our basement dehumidifier right underneath the bathroom leak, and it seems to be drying up nicely. The moisture hasn’t returned for a few days.
Online research also revealed that a lack of insulation might be causing this moisture buildup. So we’re going to monitor the situation and add more insulation around the vent pipe this weekend. Hopefully, that dries everything up and we’ll get the satisfaction of solving this issue on our own. But if we can’t get the leak totally under control soon, we’ll bring in a carefully chosen expert.
It feels good to at least attempt to fix an issue that would’ve seemed “out of our depth” only a few months ago. Before we would’ve called in a plumber at the first sign of trouble, but now we’re using this as an opportunity to increase our home improvement and maintenance knowledge. Even if we’re unsuccessful at fixing it, we’ve learned a lot by trying! Embarrassingly, I didn’t even know septic systems needed vent pipes until now.
Parents Didn’t Come to Visit
In another stroke of bad luck, my parents couldn’t come to visit us this week. My dad has been dealing with gout and edema in his legs and feet, so his doctor advised him not to travel. And it’s a good thing he decided not to visit us because he ended up going to the hospital this week with chest pain. We don’t have the best hospitals in our rural area, so I’m glad he was still in Massachusetts and able to get better care.
He’s had two heart attacks, so he doesn’t mess around when it comes to chest pain, especially since some of his recent blood test results have been a bit off. Unfortunately, the ER doctors weren’t able to figure out exactly what was going on with him. He’s going for an echocardiogram soon and following up with several specialists. Hopefully, they’ll be able to give him some answers.
Planning for Parents’ Financial Future
This health scare has gotten my sister and I to think about our parents’ financial future. They don’t have a plan in place for retirement and haven’t made a decision about where they’ll live. We worry that they won’t be able to afford the skyrocketing rent and home prices in Greater Boston on a fixed income.
Although there are several good 55+ and assisted living communities in the Boston area, they have waiting lists that are several years long. Plus, they require six-figure deposits and monthly rent payments. We’re unsure if our parents would be able to afford this upfront expense even if they could handle the monthly payments because they don’t have a ton saved.
My parents don’t want to talk about retirement planning, even though my dad will be 68 this year and is having more frequent health problems. Although things could change, I don’t think I can help them financially without getting way off track for my own retirement. My sister is in a similar position.
If you’ve been through this with your parents, do you have any advice on how to handle it?
Learning New Skills to Save Money
Vicky Monroe is a freelance personal finance and lifestyle writer. When she’s not busy writing about her favorite money saving hacks or tinkering with her budget spreadsheets, she likes to travel, garden, and cook healthy vegetarian meals.
Do your parents own their own home? If they do, they can either sell or borrow against it to help with retirement expenses. They may also want to consider moving to a more affordable cost of living area. You and your sister should not feel responsible to provide for them financially if it is at the detriment of your own retirement goals/needs. But if either of you live in a more affordable area you may want to encourage them to move to be near you/your sister and help them out in other ways when you can (like running errands, providing meals, etc.).
Sadly they don’t own a home, which is part of the problem. They’re renting in Massachusetts near my sister which is very expensive. I live in Michigan which is much more affordable, so they could move here in retirement, which is a great idea. Although I can’t help financially, I could definitely run errands for them like you said.
Oh the joys of worrying about your parents. With them still working and not yet retired, there’s little you can do other than keep talking to them about their plans for retirement. Life will retire them at some point and it’s fair to mention that having some plans will be a far better option than not. You could offer to help them and/or look into some of the financial items in their future if you feel comfortable doing so. I know just familiarizing myself with my parents finances (which they were very open with) helped me be able to help them make decisions they were faced with. My parents are much older, however, and it’s just now in their late 70’s that they’ve moved to have me directly involved. Unfortunately, some people just don’t want to face things like aging, money, retirement, etc and all we can do is make sure we are doing well for ourselves and be there for questions if asked. Sometimes people only make decisions like where to move, how to live, etc. when they have to and it may come to that for them too. Hopefully they’ll be more open to discussing this with you and your sister in the future before it becomes something they are forced to do.