Tag Archive | fixer uppers

Old House History

This kind of thing just never happens. Yesterday afternoon I heard a knock on the front door. I saw a woman and a boy, and Jack was going bonkers, so I just slipped out to the porch to see what they wanted. The woman introduced herself, said she was in the neighborhood, and wanted to stop by because her grandparents built our house! She said she has a lot of photos going back through the years, as well as blueprints and other things, and she wondered if we’d be interested in seeing any of it. Um, heck yeah!

Obviously we love old houses, or else we wouldn’t put up with the fixer-upper life, and I especially love knowing more about the history of a house. I knew our house was built in 1921 by the town doctor, but that was about it. Yesterday I found out that it was originally painted yellow, as it is now, so I have to keep it that color. I was planning to go with gray, but if we’re not staying here long-term, I’d rather stay true to the history of the house.

I also learned that the room we use as a music room, with the piano and music stands for the kids to practice, was originally a music room. This woman’s grandmother had a piano in there that she played.¬†We recently had some work done on the front stairs, with new concrete from the sidewalk up, and new wood stairs up to the porch, and she complimented that, which pleased me. I felt like it meant we did a good job keeping the work true to the character of the house.

We chatted for quite a while, and she shared a lot of neat tidbits about the house over the years. It’s been out of the family for over fifty years, and she said they’d wanted to buy it a few years ago but the asking price was too high. So the coolest thing to come out of it might be that we could help get it back in the family, once we’re ready to sell. That would feel pretty good.

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Fixer-Uppers Wear Me Down

Guys, I need to unburden myself. I have worries, many of them. I am afraid we made a colossal mistake when we bought this house two years ago. It was in the neighborhood we wanted, a price we could afford, the size and features we wanted, and we thought we had the time/energy/mental stamina to do all the work it needed. And it needs a LOT. More than we realized when we bought it. I’m not sure our inspector gave us a thorough idea of some of the bigger issues, and I’m not sure if he did and we ignored it because we were in a hurry.

So now we’re in a house with an old home addition that wasn’t done right to begin with, and probably needs to be torn down and rebuilt. When it was done, the rooms it added weren’t done as conditioned living space, so at least tearing it down doesn’t lose us any square footage. But spending the money to tear it down doesn’t really add to the value, so without doing a rebuild, we’re afraid it’s just throwing money away. And doing the rebuild in a way that adds valuable living space feels prohibitively expensive. (We’ve gotten two bids. Both daunting.)

It needs to be painted, badly. The pet-stained hardwood floors need to be repaired and refinished. The radiators and boiler need to be removed. The upstairs bathroom needs to be gutted and redone. The kitchen was redone, but with cheap materials, so it’s aging quickly. The front porch needs a new floor, and possibly joist repair underneath, plus new stairs and railings. The fireplace needs to be redone. The landscaping sucks. There’s not good storage. And on and on, with a myriad of smaller jobs that stare me in the face day after day.

Add onto that the unexpected projects that have come up since we bought it: the existing chain-link fence was too short and needed to be replaced with an attractive picket fence. Raccoons in the attic and wall. A small tree losing limbs and needing a trim. A large tree losing a large section, and probably needing to be removed. A dishwasher that died. Insulation that needed to be added.

It all wears me down. Wears me out. When I first saw this house, I loved it. I loved the traditional style, the hardwood trim, the pocket doors, the high ceilings, the wraparound porch. I think I still love those things, but they’re overshadowed by everything else. This house has a lot of potential to be stunning. I can almost see it in my mind’s eye. I just don’t know if we can be the people to get it there. Aside from the money, I think about the hassle of renovation. We have three big dogs; taking away their access to the backyard, even temporarily, would make life really difficult. We have two kids; taking away access to the kitchen for weeks would be annoying. One of our dogs is not friendly to strangers. He doesn’t bite, but barks. A lot. Managing all the workmen coming in and out would be stressful. My husband and I manage home repair jobs in different ways that have resulted in conflict in the past, and I don’t want to be fighting for the next five years.

And then, as weird as it may sound, I have emotional connections to my homes, and my connection with this one has soured. I broke my foot in this house. My husband and I struggled more than we ever have while living here, partly because of how we went about moving here. We’re doing all right now, we’re fine, but now it’s connected for me. It’s like, with the old house, that’s where I lived when we lost my dad, my father-in-law, my husband’s grandfather, my dad’s dog. Moving for me felt like a fresh start, a clean slate. So now, with all that’s happened just in two years, I don’t love this house anymore. I don’t love it enough to stress us all out to fix it up. I don’t love it enough to pour a ton of money into it, when that money could go somewhere else.

So what do we do? Right now, the husband is more flexible than I am. Big renovation doesn’t scare him off, although he does want to make sure we could get our money back when we sell if we rehab. Me? I want to move. I’m ready to go NOW. I could pack up and walk away without a second thought, if we could get out what we paid. I want a newer house, one that won’t need huge home repair jobs in the next five years. One that’s built to have a big TV in the living room. One with good-sized closets. One with a functional kitchen and a laundry room. One with modern windows that don’t whistle with every cold wind.

I don’t know what’s next. We’ve reached out to a realtor to explore our options, and I’m doing my best to be open-minded. Of course, I’m also online looking at houses for sale, but that’s to be expected, right?

Sigh. Anyone want a house?

Not much knitting

What do I write about when I have nothing concrete to share? I have finished no socks this week, though I have one that is close and will be done either today or tomorrow. I have a beautiful finished shawl, but it’s currently blocking and is not ready for its close-up. I can show you progress photos; they do hint at what a stunner this one will be.

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The pattern is the Chevrione Shawl and I enjoyed the knit, once I got used to the lace pattern. It was still a pattern I had to focus on, so if the TV was on, I could only pay half-attention to it. I used as much of my Done Roving Frolicking Feet Mini Gradients as I could and got through the pattern as written. I think it will be gorgeous!

Oh, I know why I’m lacking in FOs: we had to rebuild part of our fence! Remember we had that huge limb come down? Well, it took two sections of fence with it, and with that large gap we had to go back to putting the dogs on chains. If you’ve done that before, you know what a hassle it is. They get tangled in each other and around things, they forget they have it and run too far and get yanked back, and I don’t trust them out there by themselves for very long, lest they somehow pull the anchors out of the dirt. So the husband and I worked quickly and had the fence repaired with two nights’ work. We felt very tired clever afterward. And the dogs (Grace especially) were delighted.

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Strangely enough, I’ve been reading a lot this week, which also might account for the lack of FOs. I finished The Secret Place by Tana French, which is a gripping, tense thriller that I couldn’t put down, and I’m in the middle of The Mermaid’s Daughter by Ann Claycomb which I don’t want to put down, but is so good I don’t want to finish it, so I’m trying to ration myself. It’s got folklore, intrigue, mermaids (of course), opera, and Ireland, and so far it’s both dark and beautiful.

One more fun little thing: my knitter friend at work is a new pen addict, so I took her to The Pen Place over lunch break last week. I can’t go to the pen store without buying something of course. Look at my new pretty purple Parker pen!

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Here’s hoping I have more fun knitting to show you next time!