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In life, the trail of events sometimes leads you to find something unexpected. Take our ant battles (which are ongoing still). The ants find their way into our master bathroom, so we find a way to drive them out.

They find their way back in.

ants1We drive them back out. But one night, the night pictured above, I moved Zoey’s litter box (which they don’t care about) into the hall bathroom (which we have barely entered since moving in) so that I could set up her food and water in there while we took care of the latest ant invasion.

One little moment led to another.


I paused to examine how crazy close the blue of the wall is to the blue stripe in our shower curtain. (At the time, the paint swatch wasn’t on the wall.)hall4

I paused to look at the floor tiles a little closer, to think about where to put Zoey’s food and water in the room.hall3

I spotted a few ants, and yelled to B that this bathroom had them too, scouting out more food. Then I began to move the shower curtain out of the way, so that I could try to find where the ants were coming from.hall2

And that’s when I saw what our inspector didn’t. The rotting baseboard and wall where the teenager who ruled this bathroom before us must not have pulled the shower curtain all the way to the wall, must have let shower after shower of water rain out into the bathroom and then left the water on the tiles, thinking they were waterproof. I looked at our wall, and then yelled for B.hall1This story serves to reinforce two rules of law. First, that just when you think you have picked out what your first major project will be in your new home, inevitably your house will give you another instead. And second, that your inspector will miss something. I don’t care how much you paid for their report, how well recommended they came—they will miss something. And what you hope they do is miss something small.

Rotting baseboards in your bathroom are not small.

What we don’ know is how far the damage goes. As soon as we saw it, and the accompanying ants, we made the assumption that they must be enjoying the moist, dark space in our wall, so B took to caulking the thing as best he could. That’s why the picture looks like the hole is filled with petroleum jelly. It’s clear caulk, still drying after almost four days. Our plan is to redo this room first now. We had previously planned to pretty-up our powder room, but this is the priority now.

We’ll rip up the tiles and check the integrity of the subfloor, repair any water damage to the subfloors and the wall around the tub. Then we’ll pick out new tiles and redo them, replacing the toilet with a fresh, energy-efficient model while we’re at it. The tiles need to be redone anyway—the grout was done poorly and is rough, and the toilet is old and as un-energy-efficient as it could be.

Would we have found this without the help of the ants? Yes, eventually. Whenever we got around to painting this room, we would have pulled the curtain aside and been gobsmacked by what we found. Or the first time we had guests sleep over and use this bathroom, they would have come running downstairs to inform us of the state of things. But we’ve now found it before all of that, which means we can fix it sooner.

All because we followed a trail of ants.