The Problem Was Elemental

Michael Jai Grant
6 min readAug 23, 2023

The bathroom needed work.

We bought the house for about $100K less than it was probably worth, knowing it needed about $100K in renovations—and also knowing we didn’t have the $100K to do the work, but over time we might scrape something together. Maybe.

Some of it was necessary: we had to replace the old roof, old furnace, some appliances, the AC systems, well-pump, water heater, some leaky pipes, a squeaky garage door, fourteen windows and crusty siding. The rest of it was cosmetic: ugly orange kitchen tiles that reminded me of the fabric on Braniff Airlines circa 1972 (Google it), thick wood paneling suited perfectly for 1980s basement porn, mustard walls, aqua bath fixtures, and a pink marble bathroom that even Scarface would find tacky.

With 130% of my income going to house repairs for nearly six years, we finally finished most of the big stuff and decided to replenish the coffers and take some time to plan out the next phase of remodeling.

Then I stepped into the shower.

Somehow that single step set a series of events into motion, like a perverse Rube-Goldberg machine. My 1929 house with it’s 1980 bathroom had a 2023 problem: the shower floor crunched beneath my naked foot and squinched something underneath that caused a decade of trapped, backflowing drain water to pour into the hallway…