Last August, we went on a vacation to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It was a lovely trip, but when we got home, after driving for two days, we found our house in a most unwelcome state.

As I opened the door, I heard two very disconcerting sounds: a loud hiss, and an alarm beeping. I ran from room to room trying to figure out what was causing the noise. The hiss seemed to be coming from behind the refrigerator, but I wasn’t able to slide the fridge out to see what was leaking. The fact that the floor was soaking wet didn’t help matters. As I was wrestling with the appliance, Courtney came inside with the kids, and as I saw them, I realized that the alarm that was still beeping could be any number of terrible things.

So I panicked.

“Get them out of the house,” I yelled.


Before I joined the family in the backyard, I noticed that our basement was flooded, far worse than the kitchen was. And the beeping sound appeared to be coming from our carbon monoxide detector.

Once outside, I called the local fire department. To their credit, they arrived in no time, and quickly figured out what had happened.

The tiny plastic tube that carried water into the ice maker had sprung a leak, which had caused the leak in the kitchen, which then spilled down to the basement. The carbon monoxide detector was beeping because of the water that had been dripping on it—the air was safe in the house. (Believe me, I asked the guy to check it six times.) That was the good news.

The bad news was that our kitchen was a mess.


The worse news was that our basement was destroyed.

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The good news is that we had insurance.

Over the next few months, we began repairs and renovations. We tackled the kitchen first, getting a new floor a new fridge. (Man, you should have heard the noise the old one started to make before we scrapped it…) We also used the flood as an excuse to get Courtney the pantry and kitchen “peninsula” she always wanted. (It’s like an island, except it connects to the wall. Eye roll.) Our amazing friend Aaron spent a long, grueling weekend helping us install everything, going far above and beyond and helping us save a ton of money. By the end of 2015, our kitchen was back and better than ever.

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The basement, however, was a much slower process. We had a tough time finding a contractor company that would actually return our calls. For many, our job was too small. One place wanted us to sign over our entire insurance check. The people who came over right after the flood said they would be back later in the week, then they ghosted on us. Fortunately, the nice fellow who installed our kitchen floor was starting his own business as an independent contractor, and he offered to help us out. He worked within our budget, always called back, and always showed up when he was supposed to.

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Even still, it was a big project. The bathroom had to be gutted and completely redone. Most of the walls had to be replaced. New stairs. A new drop ceiling. (The last one had gotten soaked and, quite literally, dropped.) And Courtney and I only made matters worse, slowing things down as we changed our minds repeatedly about how we wanted things to be. Aaron came back for another weekend to help us install a new basement floor, and his father, an electrician, put in new lights for us. I painted. Courtney and I assembled furniture. It all slowly came together.

For the pièce de résistance, I consulted a local custom cabinet company about a place to put my video games. Over the years, I’ve amassed a decent-sized collection of games, systems, and accessories. In Basement 1.0, some of the old games were on display, but the systems themselves were in storage. My vision for Basement 2.0 was to make it a place where anyone could grab any old game, pop it in any old system, and play.

Today, just about one year exactly since we came home and found a flood, I am happy to say that everything is finally finished. Of course, it will never be truly “done,” as we’ll continue to decorate and add accouterments here and there. But for now, we have the kitchen Courtney wanted and the game room I’ve dreamed about.


C’mon over some time and play, won’t you?