How my toilet (partially) paid for my new kitchen

July 4th, 2009 fell on a Saturday; I’m sure I went to a party at one of my friend’s house who lives along the shoreline in Branford, sure I ate too much food and way too many desserts, sure I had a great time and have pictures somewhere to prove it. I don’t remember exactly what I did that weekend but I remember how the following Tuesday evening, July 7th, ended. I met someone after work for dinner and a movie. I drove from my job in Wallingford south on I-91 straight into New Haven, found a spot to park on High Street. We ate a quick dinner at a small restaurant on Chapel Street then walked over to Temple Street to catch a movie at the Criterion Theater. It was overcast and drizzling. I can’t remember the movie we saw, when I googled new releases for June and July of that year nothing jumps out. There was The Hurt Locker but I remember seeing that with Linda and John on another Tuesday night, not this one. It could have been The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, I know I saw the remake that summer having never seen the original but I can’t be sure it was that night either. No matter.

After the movie we started walking toward our cars. It started to pour, hard. Without an umbrella we were no match for the rain and quickly got drenched; we ducked under the concrete overhang that is the British Art Museum’s entrance. My car was just across the street and down the block a bit but I thought I’d wait out the worst of the downpour, hoping it would ease up soon.

“I can walk you to your car,” a man holding an umbrella offered. He snapped it open, tried enticing me under it. I politely thanked him, said “no.”

He was persistent, tried coaxing me out from under my shelter. “Here, let me help you. I’ll walk you to your car under the umbrella.” I thanked him again, declined again. He wasn’t going to leave me alone and I was getting uncomfortable having to repeat “no thank you, ” so I made a run for it. I got to my car and headed for home. It had been about fourteen hours since I’d left for work that morning.

The first sound I heard when I walked through my front door was pouring water and my first thought was “why is it raining in my house?” The second sound I heard was a loud clanging in three second intervals. I rushed to the kitchen where water was gushing from the ceiling in sheets, the ceiling itself had collapsed to the floor. In my panic I couldn’t remember where the main water shut off valve was. I started calling my plumber, couldn’t remember his number, misdialed it a bunch of times; if I had been thinking clearly I would have known my call wouldn’t have been answered, would have gone right to voice mail. Dazed, I eventually called 911, went upstairs to the bathroom and turned off the toilet’s water valve. I had slogged through standing water in the second floor hallway and was standing in water in the bathroom. I was shaking, trying to take in what had happened but unable to. Later, I would notice the vertical crack that went the length of the toilet tank. Water had been leaking out of the tank via the crack, causing the tank to fill up and leak out again, over and over, for a period of up to fourteen hours.

Within minutes of my distress call the Fire Department was there, turning off the water (and stopping the clanking) and electricity. They moved in and out of the house quickly, used mops and brooms to move water out. Looking around they deemed the kitchen a gut job. The Fireman were great, they suggested I call my insurance company and stayed with me until I called my sister and arranged to sleep at her house for the night.

Dealing with the insurance company is another story unto itself but when I left my house that night I wouldn’t move back in until Thanksgiving. When it was all said and done the kitchen, bathroom and powder room were gutted, down to the studs and the second floor hallway, hardwood, floor was replaced.

I had a lot of people say to me, when I told them the story, “you’re lucky, you got a brand new kitchen.” I didn’t want a new kitchen, I was happy with the old one. Now five years later, with the mess and cost and aggravation behind me I’m glad. I didn’t mind the cracks in the bathroom tiles and floor, thought they added character, but now that they’re gone too I don’t miss them. Hopefully it makes selling the house a little easier.

Not the greatest photos.

BEFORE (lots of clutter, please don’t judge)


 two windows and  very little counter space

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AFTER (still some clutter) I couldn’t find a picture of the nook but I did keep it. Love it!

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one window and a little more counter space




8 replies

  1. We experienced something similar a year ago…what a nightmare. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the sound of the water gushing. Like you, we couldn’t remember where the main shutoff valve was located…now, we’ll never forget. 🙂 Looks great!

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