This antique is taking all our money to fix.need inspiration

msvangogh7February 12, 2009

Hi Everyone, I'm new to this forum and found it accidentally by "googling" I hate my house..which at many times lately, I do. We have a historical house circa 1832 that belonged to Clara Barton's relative (uncle or brother from what research shows). I fell in love with it's character and potential to be restored someday but, man, this old house is costing a fortune in necessary repairs so we never get to anything cosmetic. The roof is going, the wood siding is rotting in spots, all of the wide pine floors need refinishing and repair, some pine kitchen cabinets are falling apart, there's no insulation so we spent 30k on new windows (for apparently no reason I guess) and so still lose heat like crazy. It does have some nice character, though..

.I guess I just need some kind words to hang in there..while our bank account gets drained :) I will try t get some pictures up :)

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The solution is to simply stop doing repairs (especially costly things like new windows - 30K, ouch!).

I live in an old house of your vintage and I know that sometimes enthusiasm, money and energy simply run out. The only solution I know is to clean-up, wrap-up any current projects and take a break. In most cases, even for a roof, siding, etc., nothing really bad will happen if you don't move forward for an extended period. These old houses are far sturdier than new ones and can take a lot of "deferred maintenance."

Simple decorating begins with very exhaustive cleaning, followed by painting for eye-candy. Then arrange your stuff and get your life back.

I often read about, or meet people, who sacrifice their peace of mind, their financial security and occasionally even their marriages for some decorating magazine ideal of getting the house completely done. It's far better to take it more slowly, with lots of breaks. Even if you have tons of money to throw at the problem some of the worst mistakes, and often those most damaging to the building's integrity, happen when urgency takes over.

After your break, you'll see things differently. You'll know more about what the house truly needs, how to best achieve that without things like total window replacements, and how much of your time, money and energy you're willing to devote to it. In the next two weeks, concentrate on getting every open project to a point that it is at least "pickled" for an extended break. Then focus in March on deep cleaning the work site, and storing the project components out of sight. Starting April 1st, take the spring and summer off - plant a garden, go to the beach, hang out. If you can't keep yourself from house projects, then paint the walls, without repairing them. By Labor Day I predict you'll be in a better frame of mind, and feeling better about your place.

(I know this plan works. It's one of those essential old-house owning skills, like knowing how to repair plaster cracks.)


    Bookmark   February 12, 2009 at 10:37AM
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We do things by season. Outside stuff in the good weather, indoors in winter. We also try and focus on one room at a time. We've found that if we only focus on one room, we actually get things done. One of the best things about old house restoration is actually being able to say something is complete and a 1 room focus allows that. Plus, you get to have a room that you can actually relax in!

Molly's idea about taking breaks is a great one, too. Yes, you will get stressed out. But if you have that break and regroup, you will approach things with a better frame of mind.

You'll make it!

    Bookmark   February 12, 2009 at 11:30AM
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Although newer (1920), I am buying a big fixer that needs everything from some foundation repair to wiring to walls redone. My house is a huge mess so I know I'm going to be in the same boat. No insulation there either so that will be a MUST or we'll be paying more in heating bills than I can afford. I hope you do post photo's, I'd love to see them!

    Bookmark   February 12, 2009 at 11:36AM
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I know exactly how you feel! Sewer pipes that fail, roofs that have to be replaced, ancient scary electrics, old furnaces and pipes, asbestos removal... UGH! Over the years I have certainly been frustrated by doing all of those things, spending most of the money there and not much on cosmetic things. My husband calls it "socks and underwear"! Not glamorous but absolutely necessary. Those things do come first, at least in our book. We've lived in our old house about 17 years. I do LOVE it. But, I've come to understand that an old house teaches you patience. The downstairs is now beautiful inside. The upstairs is still under construction. Some things you learn to live with - like the aluminum siding that may never get entirely removed... maybe it doesn't look that hideous, if I can get the front gable and porch back to a period facade...

Some tips:
Try to focus on small steps that you can accomplish and maybe that will help you not get overwhelmed by the big picture. Plan long and diligently for the big projects and they will go much more smoothly than if you don't. Spend a little money on professionals to consult on energy and structural issues, because it will save you money in the long run. Talk through problem areas or sticking points with friends and relatives who have construction expertise, just to get more ideas for your plan. Remember, paint is cheap when you need to feel better! So are things like a new lamp or throw pillow to add some ambiance! Shop re-sale for little things like that so you can both feel an immediate lift and know you are really saving money for the big stuff. Do take periods of time off from restoration projects. Finally, clean your constuction areas and be organized about both the stuff that had to be moved out (to the garage/basement etc) and the work materials. It is a pain, but it really helps. For example. We knew the upstairs re-do was going to be a long process as we did it in stages (over 4 years now) - so we painted the subfloor with porch paint. Took us several evenings but, because we did that early on, we were better able to sweep up there (and even mop if we need to). It just feels better.

Hang in there. You have found company here! This may sound silly but, if you truly do love your house, it will love you back... like any relationship, you just have to work at it.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2009 at 11:42AM
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I say rent "The Money Pit" starring Shelly Long, maybe it will help you remember it's only money, life is short and to laugh at your situation when you just want to cry.

Carla in Sac

    Bookmark   February 12, 2009 at 1:37PM
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Right there with you. I took a break from working and put together a folder with a picture of each room and my "wish list" for each room. From necessary repairs to the decor.

Also look to see where little things will "hide" or make some repairs not so obvious. Like a rug for the floors, fresh paint, it makes the big things seem less daunting.

Just hold on tight, it is a long road to fix them up but when it comes together one room at a time it is so worthwhile.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2009 at 1:38PM
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Great advice you've gotten already, just know you are sooo not the only one! Our house is 100 yrs newer then yours but I wrote a post last month about how much I was hating it. Just venting helped, then I too got some good advice (I think some from Molly in fact). Some serious cleaning and making some plans helped a lot for me. I'm really looking forward to painting once it's warm enough to open a window. Are you in a big city with paint recycling? We get free leftover paint, and mix it together or with white to avoid spending $$ on paint. Hang in there and good luck!

    Bookmark   February 12, 2009 at 9:45PM
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I've owned 3 older over the past 25 yrs. Number 1 priority
is operating expenses. Not only do they add value but can greatly reduce monthly outflow. Number 2 do not purchase anything without shopping around, not even a box of screws.
Prices vary wildly,so don't think those box stores have the best prices.Plumbing, electrical supply houses and lumber yards are often times competitive.
Be a pest, ask as many questions to as many people as possible, then decide from there. I think you have already started that.Stay focused, but not obsessed. Set realistic goals and don't be disappointed if they are missed, you'll
catch up.
And remember the realtors mantra "location". Your house is only worth what the house next door is worth, regardless of
age,historical significance or accoutrements. Every house needs basics heat, kit, bath, windows, so does higher end stuff mean better return, not.
Hang in there, your on the right track.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2009 at 9:12AM
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I'd like to recommend a book to you for inspiration:
"Antique Houses: Their Construction and Restoration" by Edward P. Friedland

I checked it out of my library and it's fantastic if you own a house as old as yours and are curious about its past life. It's almost like doing a "CSI" of your old house--to look at what's there and figure out what changes have been made over the years.

What I think is neat for your situation is that you want to go through it *before* making lots of changes--so that you can "discover" the mysteries of your house before you cover them up. He writes "I do not think there is a thrill in house restoration comparable to the one experienced in discovering a hidden wall of paneling behind new plaster or finding a huge wood lintel and early fireplace behind a much later one."

I found a used copy on for under $10, and there are other copies available. Or see if your library has a copy, or can borrow one via inter-library loan.

Here's the link to
Antique Houses paperback also has some used copies for sale.

Be inspired!

    Bookmark   February 13, 2009 at 9:36AM
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I occasionally hate my house. Every now and then I do something fun (this weekend I'm painting) instead of something needed to keep myself going. As far as the big stuff.....I keep reminding myself....once done, I won't have to deal with it again for a long time, if ever.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2009 at 8:39PM
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Wow, am I glad I read these posts. I, too, have hit the point where I almost hate my house. We bought at what turned out to be the height of the market, and now our "starter" is turning out to be a lot more permanent than expected. Also, it was supposed to NOT be a fixer-upper, ha ha ha. But that was before the furnace died, the siding started to blow off, the electrical turned out to be a huge mess, the pipes leaked, and a mysterious wet patch developed by the fireplace. Old houses can be great but they can also be SO miserable.

Someone mentioned doing a thorough cleaning, which I know always helps us. Also dealing with some of the more annoying functionality issues can be a big help. Make a list of everything that makes you want to scream and then deal with five of the cheap ones. Replace the most hideous light fixture. Install coat hooks in the freakishly tiny closet. Add shop lights to the cellar. You get my drift... trust me, it will help!

    Bookmark   February 16, 2009 at 9:02PM
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I hear you. We purchased our home in 2004, and haven't had a summer to enjoy to ourselves since.

Our house needed everything from new roof (tear-off), new trim, garage/house was the eye sore on the block, landscaping (or lack thereof) was atrocious, all dog-peed carpet removed and hardwood was restored.....we didn't even have three prong outlets! Seems trivial yes, but it took a good part of our weekend to swap them all out. It's all the little things that are so time consuming, but we're finally to the point now where we are just beginning to decorate, as sad as that sounds.

What drives me crazy the most is this...when we updated our roof, we added a rough-in for a master bath....It's still a rough in, considering ALL the other work we've done in the interim, not to mention the money, so when people come over and ask, "when are you getting the bathroom done" (in a tone that suggests it should have already been done), it's irritating at if! Gosh, there are weekends that we do nothing but work on the house from dawn to dusk.

We also remodeled our kitchen...totally gutted it top to bottom..beautiful now, but let me tell you we didn't have a kitchen for almost nine months!! I had to store all of our food in the dining room on a fold out picnic was pathetic, but I have to laugh now looking back. Not to mention that eating out constantly can take it's toll not just on your tummy but also on your pocketbook...but we get nothing but compliments now...a big "WOW" from visitors, which makes it worthwhile.

Then of course the water heater needs to be replaced, and then the furnace, and all the other unexpected's on the way...but you'll get through.

But...if I could go back, I'd have focused some of that energy on things we'd have time to enjoy the landscaping, adding a patio, etc. We only did that just this past summer, and I wish we'd done it sooner because it's relaxing in itself just to be able to take a moment to hang out in the yard. Sometimes being in the house too much tends to take its toll, so if I have any regrets that would be the first.

I think you are doing the right thing by focusing on the bare bones first. We did the same....we did all the major repairs...things we couldn't stand to live with. The important thing is you will have a nice quality home, which will only add to the value and the character. I think every homeowner looks back at some point and thinks, I wish I had done this instead of this...(such as your new windows vs. lack of insulation dilemma), but you live and you's all a part of home ownership.

Sometimes it helps to create a list of what needs to be done and prioritize it based on both need and practicality. Yeah, we could have gotten our bathroom done this past year, but I preferred to focus on the landscaping because that's something we'd actually use and enjoy as an outlet from the monotony of housework. Being outside in the summer helps too - winter months will give you plenty of time to focus on indoor projects.

It's a long road, but in the end, you'll LOVE your home and the fact that you've made it your own, and you'll look back on all your sweat equity and see that it's all worth it.

Family members kept bugging us about decorating and painting right from the get-go, but the fact is, when you are doing a ton of remodeling, depending on your projects, you may have so much dust in your house it's not worth decorating first in my opinion.

The important thing is to do things at your own pace, and focus on what you value first. That's the best advice I can give from my own experience.

When you look at your dwindling bank account, realize that it will pay itself just have to be patient.

One other thing that helps, I keep a catalog of before, during, and after pictures. When I look at what it was before compared to what it is now, I feel MUCH better. :)

Good luck. Can't wait to see your pics.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2009 at 2:03AM
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I paint when I get overwhelmed by the other stuff. Right now I'm painting the kitchen to better relate to the living room which I painted last year. And earlier this year I painted our tiny Front entry a cheery springish green. (Of course once I'd cleaned and emptied it I realized there was ice in one corner and dh spent hours getting to the root cause of that poor guy). Sometimes I just do the walls. I get pretty cheery and new which gives me a lift. I don't try to make the whole room perfect (like that's possible lol). And we chip away at the other stuff... (1920s home)

    Bookmark   February 17, 2009 at 7:32AM
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"this old house is costing a fortune in necessary repairs so we never get to anything cosmetic."

In addition to the great advice you've gotten here already, I would suggest going ahead with something cosmetic.

My husband and I spent 8 years fixing up an 1867 simple Victorian. About 4 years in, the exterior finally got painted and re-shuttered. It looked so spectacular I wished I'd done it much sooner.

We'd gotten discouraged breaking our backs and spending thousands on a house that still looked sadly hideous from the curb. Didn't feel like any progress was being made.

Making the outside gorgeous was a HUGE boost of encouragement. Finally, the house actually looked loved.

Even if it's as simple as painting the front door, a simple improvement to the facade can be a huge morale boost.

Good luck, and hang in there!

    Bookmark   April 7, 2009 at 8:35PM
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I can completely understand where you are coming from. I bought my house after a divorce that left me BROKE! I thought a new "starter" was what I needed. Oh brother, what was I thinking? LOL! I have nearly gutted 3/4 of the house. But there is a bright side. I now have a bedroom in a color I love!!! I also have put my personality in a home. There is so much to do. It is always something new and I could live here 30yrs and still find things to change.

Don't give up. Take a breather. Find something that makes you feel good. You need to do something simple- even if it's just planting a flower bed. You will find a spot of beauty where you only saw stress before. I can't even imagine what it would be like if we just gave up. You could find a break by just doing something inside one day and something outside the next, but look at the changes you have made and not just what you have yet to do.

I promise the house will not run off in the night because you took a break and stopped to appreciate what you have done.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2009 at 3:59PM
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