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Joys of Home Ownership


Sometime over the winter break, we noticed water damage on the dining room ceiling coming from the master bathroom, above. Our house was built in 2017, so I was shocked to see we had some type of plumbing problem in a house barely 6 years old! What a nightmare to deal with – especially around the holidays!

We are fortunate to have 3 full bathrooms in the house, so we stopped using the master bath, and instead shared with the kids or used the guest bathroom downstairs until we could have someone come out to assess the damage and give us a quote.

Bid #1

A general contractor was the first to come take a look. Luckily, his moisture reader did not detect any moisture. He indicated that we’d need to cut a hole in the ceiling in order to diagnose the problem, as there were no obvious leaks or damages in the master bathroom, itself. We asked for a quote and waited….and waited….and checked-in with him…and waited some more. No quote arrived.

Take 2!

This time, we had a plumbing company come out. They took a look, a bit more thorough than the general contractor (removing the shower drain to assess the situation, and removing the tub overflow to check its seal). But all looked good. Again, he told us we’d need to cut a hole in the ceiling from the dining area below to diagnose the problem. This guy seemed very honest. He told us that his company could cut the hole and diagnose the problem, but we’d have to pay the minimum hourly rate of $250/hour (cue: face of shock and horror!). Instead, he urged us to cut the hole and diagnose the issue ourselves. Then we could call back with a specific problem and it would save the plumbers’ time (and save us some money!)

DIY for the win!

We cut a hole in the ceiling and lo and behold…..it could not be an easier fix. In fact, it wasn’t plumbing at all. Over the summer, the grout at the edge of the baseboard had cracked. It occurred at a time when the seal at the bottom of the shower had failed and a LOT of water was seeping out onto the floor with every shower. We eventually fixed the shower seal so water no longer escapes, but the grout is still cracked right along the edge where the tile meets the wall/baseboard. We never fixed the grout. Turns out, that is where the leak originated. That crack in the grout happens to be above a place where two pieces of drywall met up, and the water settled into the seam, causing the visible damage below.

Best Case Scenario

Since water no longer streams onto the bathroom floor from the shower, this is probably not an active leak. In all likelihood, we’ve probably had the water stain on the ceiling since the summer, and just now noticed it. It’s easily fixed with updating the grout and caulking and something we can do on our own without needing to hire the $250/hour plumbers.  The biggest pain is just going to be fixing the drywall and painting the ceiling to hide the repair job. There is no mold, no actual issue with the plumbing itself, etc.

Catastrophizing Situations

I have to chuckle that it’s such an easy fix. The night before the General Contractor came out, I was fully convinced we’d have to rip up all the tile floor and redo everything. In my head, I had this pegged as a $10,000+ repair that would result in a new tub, shower, flooring, etc. etc. etc. Instead, it’s more like a $100 repair. And that’s if you include the cost of paint! Just for the caulking/grout, it’s more of a $10 repair! Ha! How’s that for blowing a situation out of proportion, thinking a $10 repair would surely cost $10,000+!

In the end, I’m very grateful we can resume using our shower (carefully – just being sure we don’t drip on the floor!) and that we can tackle this repair ourselves without spending an arm-and-a-leg!

Have you completed any major home renovations or repairs lately? What did you fix and what were the costs?

New York City was AWESOME!


As mentioned previously, my Christmas gift to the kids was a trip to New York City! And we have just returned, it was so much fun! And I’m pretty proud of how we spent 4 nights and 5 days there relatively inexpensively. (I mean, it was downtown Manhattan over New Years Eve.)

Cost of the trip

Let’s break down the costs of the trip:

  • Hotel – Hyatt downtown Manhattan just two blocks from Times Square, two rooms – $3,998
  • Train – Amtrak roundtrip from our tiny town to Penn Station (purchased 7 tickets but only used 6) – $1,876
  • Transportation – 2 Uber rides, one to the hotel from Penn Station and one back to Amtrak on the day of departure – $57
  • Food – budgeted $200 per day, but was able to keep it a bit lower – $679
  • Entertainment – Big Bus city tour, 1 day pass – $270
  • Refund using travel insurance – able to get a portion of the costs of the trip back since my ex did not go – ($400)


Total cost: $6,480

How we kept costs down

I realize this is still a lot of money. We are extremely blessed to have been able to do this and cash flow it. (This is especially mention able since my ex had committed to helping financially with the trip and ended up not doing that so it fell to me.)

But we did keep it under control with a couple of things (and granted this works because my kids are older and all work:)

  • I let kids know about this present almost a year ago. This gave them time to make sure they could get the time off work, most of them paid, and to save spending money.
  • Expectations were set early on that I would only be covering one meal a day. Breakfast was included with the room and then we planned a “linner” together as family depending on the days itinerary.
  • Entertainment was selected to give us the most bang for our buck. The on and off option of the City Bus tour allowed us to see all the major highlights without the transportation costs.
  • Googling “free things to do in NYC” and “cheap places to eat in NYC” a lot over the year proved to be invaluable.
  • Good tennis shoes were a must have for all because we walked and walked and walked. This is my favorite way to see any city and the kids are used to it. We see more, get more photo ops (social media kids, you know?), and save a ton on transportation costs with 6 of us.

Do it again?

I asked the kids the first night at dinner about their opinion of the train trip. We were on there for 17 hours straight with a 1 hour break in DC. It was unanimous that train travel is good. Yeah!

Everyone had a great time in NYC. We spent about 1/2 of each day together touring and eating and then everyone had ample free time to do their own thing. Win-win! I’m already working on a plan for a Christmas gift trip for next year. And I think the kids are excited about the possibility.


Hope & kids in NYC

Can you see the Statue of Liberty in the background?