i'm envious of all of you that actually work on your houses

civ_IV_fanJune 25, 2012

so, when we first started looking at old homes, i was really attracted to those that needed a lot of work. so what if there is a hole in the ceiling and some of the siding needs repaired and the window sills are rotted? i'll take care of that stuff in no time, i thought. my wife, on the other hand, felt that with our then 6-month old baby that we would be better off finding some place more move-in ready.

fortunately, we found a house we both loved. all the original details, but seemingly no items in need of immediate repair. this will work. nonetheless, after we moved in, i began a mental list of things to fix. rip out the dropped-ceiling in the dining room, redo the upstairs bathroom, change the floor in the kitchen, refurbish the windows, strip the two-layers of peeling wallpaper from the downstairs hallway.

a couple of YEARS after moving in i finally got around to working on the downstairs hallway...i stripped the wallpaper in pretty short order and prepped the plaster for repair.....and now i've been looking at the same hole in the plaster for four months. the wood lath exposed by the hole stares at me, mockingly. "you think you're gonna repair me?!? ha! we both know that will just wake up the little one when you try to cut out the loose plaster to make the repair. and the dust! do you know how loud a vacuum cleaner is?! and the mess i'll make...do you really want your hallway out of use for a week while your coats of mud are drying? ahahahahahahah. good luck fixing me! see you tomorrow...and the next day!"

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That is the same overwhelming sense that most of us old house owners have! And probably the reason the average person avoids a house with repair needs. And I can completely relate!

The only thing I can say to you is take the time to research how to repair it correctly (you tube videos help here), the take a day when no one is home, and just jump in! Yes, you will create a mess, but when you finish it and step back to look at your work, it is the best feeling in the world!

In the past 7 years I have learned how to strip wallpaper, do drywall, plumbing, electric, fix plaster, install hardwoods and repair old windows. And that's just the start. I spend a lot of time researching how-to articles, videos and gardenweb. Then I just jump in. It probably helps that I'm a bit braver than the average gal....or is that stupidity?

It's an amazing feeling when you accomplish those jobs, and save a ton of money in the process. But, it also can be addicting and you may find yourself looking for that next project, or creating one to satisfy that urge! IN the long run, you can't lose- GO FOR IT!

    Bookmark   June 25, 2012 at 12:29PM
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Ah, a baby. I can't advise you, but I can tell you our story.

We bought our old house when our first child was 1 and a half. The ensuing year we had the inestimable luxury of living elsewhere rent-free while we did substantial work on the main floor - removed plaster and lath (sorry purists, but it was crumbling), new kitchen, plumbing, and electrical throughout, floor refinishing. To the point of having the house functional and basically presentable. Cosmetics and finishing, I assumed, would be picked away at after we moved in, over the next few years.

My husband appeared to assume the opposite. His usual hobbies having languished for a year (anything with wheels), he applied himself to them with renewed vigour, all the more so when child #2 was born after we were in the house. Meanwhile, half-wallpapered walls, doors without moulding and missing baseboards (all in the basement waiting to be stripped) mocked me as your hold in the wall mocks you. I fixated on getting the work done, he resisted, and it was something we fought about far too often over the years.

Yes, this is the story of a marriage and a family as much as it is of a house.

We HAVE done a lot (kids are 21 and 17). New porches front and back, lots of painting inside and out, much of the woodwork, and small projects too numerous to mention. Lots of landscaping too. Wired the upstairs. And maintenance - a real headache when to have to already re-do some things when many things are not yet done the first time! Pragmatic stuff. New sewer cleanout in yard. Fixed basement flooding problem. New roof. Some new windows. But the house is not yet done.

With the privilege of hindsight, I think the following. Even if we had applied ourselves harmoniously and earnestly to the house, it would probably not be finished, and even if it were, we would have made our lives complicated in other ways (there were issues). And the kids would have suffered if less attention had been available for them. As it was, the house always took a back seat to what the family needed - our issues have been largely tamed and the kids are fine.

And this is how it should be. But I never understood that. I woke up every morning with "finish the house" at the top of my to-do list, and ended every day frustrated that we had not gotten to it. OK, that's an overstatement, but the point is, I let it eat away at me for what were the best years of our lives as a family and it would have been much healthier for me to just say "it doesn't matter today - we'll do it when we can."

I will say that even if I had changed my expectations, we could have managed things better. One regret I do have is that the house got kind of cramped at one point, and we probably should have moved. But the house was "half done" and it never felt ready to put on the market (and I don't mean it only had a hole in one wall. I mean rooms half painted, no baseboards, etc). So we felt "stuck" and now the window of opportunity (one child moved out, prices vs. future earning power ratio not so good) have sort of passed, and the logic of moving is gone - until we downsize rather than upsize. On the other hand, if we had not started big projects, such as removing all the woodwork for stripping, we never would have gotten them done either.

I hope there is something in this that will help you harmoniously navigate your situation!

Karin L

    Bookmark   June 25, 2012 at 1:39PM
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My DH and I are in the middle (???) of a major renovation house. We bought the house knowing it will be 4-5 years before we inhabit the place. But...that knowledge is what makes the project manageable and enjoyable. While there a certain things (dangerous electical wiring, non-functioning sewers etc) that must be dealt with immediately, most projects do not have a deadline. Just tackle the projects as time, money and life allow. It sounds like your home is perfectly livable, so just let yourself enjoy the process of the projects.

I'm sure your thinking "yeah right, enjoy fixing plaster?". I promise, we've chopped up part of the basement concrete floor to allow an extension of the sewer line. We've torn 3 layers of old shingles off the roof. We've installed 1500' feet of pex tubing in the floors for the radiant heat system. While much of it was hard work, we've enjoyed it. And when life gets in the way, don't sweat it. Just let the project wait.

Hope you come to love the home as much as we love ours.


    Bookmark   June 25, 2012 at 4:22PM
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civ_IV_fan ... There's no need to close off the hallway for a few days while you mess with drywall mud and mess.

Introduce that mocking lathe in the wall to your buddies, plastic sheeting and a shop vac.

It might wake up the child, but the kid will learn to sleep through tool noises.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2012 at 4:50PM
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If you can wait a few years, that baby will enjoy helping you.* If you skim the following thread about my wall repair saga, you'll see we did some pretty extensive repairs. My right-hand man was my 5 year old. He's got great technique with a plaster mixing bin and a putty knife. He did all the small holes, while I worked with the 12" wide trowel. Or whatever you call it.
Now he's 7, and he's helped paint a bathroom and a bedroom. He rolls while I cut in. He watched several paint rolling videos on youtube, and he can roll paint better than most adults.

They grow up FAST!

*in non-lead exposing projects. Really, I don't let him work in any dusty projects--even without lead, I don't want other random gunk going in those young lungs, and the respirator doesn't fit him as well as it fits me. But there are plenty of things he can safely do.

PS--I know I said skim the post, but slow down when you get to the part from sombreuil mongrel about link, plasterweld, etc.--good details to know for your own project.

Here is a link that might be useful: trunk room wall restoration

    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 8:25AM
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thanks for the encouraging words, everyone! i'll bookmark this thread and come back to it when i feel frustrated, like i do now.

i do need to worry less about stuff. what's important is that we have a great home and i have a great family. relative to that, my mocking lath is unimportant..on the other hand, maybe when my wonderful toddler goes down tonight, i'll roll out the plastic sheeting and fire up the dremel (i usually use the diamond bit on plaster, though it makes a dusty mess).

    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 3:20PM
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Good work :-) Do what you have to do to stay sane, but don't let the rest spoil your day.

'nother tidbit: We also recently invested in a really good vacuum cleaner, a Miele, though I am sure there are others equally good. The 20-y-o Hoover just recirculated the dust. We sometimes run the vacuum while we work, with the suction as close to the bit/saw/what have you, as possible, and the air outflow as far away as possible. Double the noise, but half the dust. Shop vac can do this too but is noisier and most do not filter quite as well.

Karin L

    Bookmark   June 27, 2012 at 4:20PM
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