posts tagged with 'home improvement'

spending season

We got new couches today. I was a little sad to see the old ones go—I like things that I'm used to!—but the old ones were pretty broken, and the old ones are very nice, so it's really all for the best. And they fit great, and even give us a little more seating. The only problem with them really is that they still have that new furniture smell, which is not at all pleasant. I was looking forward to showing the couches off to our friends who came over this evening, and planning to mask the smell with the delicious aromas of pizza and yet more rocky road bars... but then our oven wouldn't turn on.

I'm not particularly extravagant, but doing Christmas right takes some money even at the best of times—so it's tough to think of adding another couple thousand dollars to our December bills. Leah is interested in fixing problems, so she's already scoping out the pre-Christmas sales at Lowes. I'm inclined to wait—"maybe it'll start working again!" I say. And in fact, in this instance it did. Once everyone had gone home we were talking about next steps; I turned it on to check one more time and it started right up. Leah cooked some tofu, and the pizza is in there now (a lot of good it'll do anyone at this point, but I didn't want to just throw away all that dough!). But it doesn't inspire confidence, having an oven that only works when it feels like it. I just wonder how much we're able to spend on confidence?


out with the new, and in with the old

One of the reasons we wanted to live in this house was because of the porch. It runs the whole width of the front of the house and half of one side, and it's just the place to hang out in the shade on a hot day or under cover during a thunderstorm. It also serves as storage for some of the bikes and car seats—less ideal but maybe even more necessary. All is wonderful, but for one thing: it's falling apart.

Specifically, the pillars that hold up the porch roof, put up maybe sometime in the early '90s, are rotting where they meet the porch floor. In some cases the rot has spread to the toe rails, causing the railings themselves to lean crazily. When two sections of railing by the side door—where the kids like to play—came loose completely, we knew it was time to start fixing the problem.

rot at the bottom of a porch pillar

amazing it's still standing

Luckily, when the previous owners of our house put in the new pillars they tucked the old ones under the porch. I don't know why, but as it happens four of the five stored columns made it through their 25 years of time off as good as new, and are ready to be pressed back into service.

the new old porch column, needing paint but solid

prettier and more solid

Along with just swapping the pillars I also have to replace all the railings, which takes some new lumber; and the renovations of the '90s added three more columns, so I'll need to buy four new ones to finish the job; but it sure is nice to have a head start!


amateur hour

the front of the house, half-painted

work in progress

We're painting our house this summer. It was well overdue for it, with paint peeling and bare wood showing all around. We have to do all four walls so we decided to change the color, since we didn't pick the old color to begin with. Family and friends have expressed some skepticism about our decision to do the work ourselves, and they're entirely right to do so. I don't know the first thing about painting, and I don't think that my internet research made me any more qualified. But finances didn't allow any other choice, and with the bees coming back in May we knew we had to get started (I didn't relish climbing up a ladder set over their hive).

Who knows how long our amateur paint job will last. But even if we have to start touching it up in a couple years I won't mind too much. The whole thing is a wonderful learning experience! As of today we're almost finished with the third side, and I've done a better job scraping and painting on each one. The last wall is going to be a thing of beauty. I'm told that my maternal grandfather painted one wall of his house every summer, which seems like a reasonable rate; if the back of the house, where I started off this year, starts to go bad right away, I'll be happy to do it over next summer and start the incremental cycle myself.

The nice part about doing it ourselves—besides saving several thousand dollars, of course—is that it's a learning process. I like learning, because when I learn I know more things. Skills particularly often seem devalued in our specialized society, which seems like a shame even if you do happen to have the funds to pay people to do everything for you. If I never had the option of taking my car in to get fixed by a mechanic I'd know a lot more about how it worked, and be happier for it. Of course, it's hard to gain those sorts of skills without someone to teach you, and in the case of automotive repairs the consequences of failure are pretty high (remember I don't want to be car-free). Painting, though, is more tolerant of failure, because we can always just do it again.

When we were deciding what we could do about all the peeling paint Leah's dad actually suggested he might pay for professional painters to come and do the work. Among the reasons we decided not to follow up on that idea was that I was afraid that, if I couldn't even paint a house, I wouldn't be able to do anything. That's not entirely fair, I suppose—despite not being brought up handy I have managed to build a chicken coop and change my car battery. But still, the bar moves ever higher and I didn't want to balk at this simple task. It's nearly done now, so I'm full of confidence for the future. What feats of manly vigor will I accomplish next? Patching the rust holes in the bodywork of the car? Replacing the rotted-out window sills and frames on the north side of the house? The possibilities are endless!