This Old (Frackin’) House

Top ten reasons my new old house has kept me from posting much (or doing much of anything) lately:

10. Getting contractors to move on anything less than a glacial time frame is a chore. From initial contact to first visit to see what you want done can take 1-2 weeks. Then getting a bid for the work can take another 2-3 weeks. So far, we have one bid for re-finishing the basement and 3 bids for having the stinky old carpets removed and the hardwood floors redone. Nobody can begin work for at least a month, if not longer.

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9. Because the carpets are ancient and stinky (the previous owner was a smoker) they have to come out. This means we need a flooring person to remove them and refinish the hardwoods under them. So, until that happens, we have kept most things in boxes and haven’t really moved into any rooms on the main floor beyond the necessities (dining room table, tv/couch, the desk is set up in the living room in front of the fireplace, etc.)

8. The dining room, we just found out, does not actually have hardwoods under it but an ancient layer of linoleum which is itself on top of plywood. So, if we take up that carpet we have to deal with the floor underneath. So we’re going to leave that particular carpet down until we have a plan for the dining room and adjacent kitchen (we’re talking about taking down the wall between the two to create a nice great room). Whether or not there’s any asbestos in that old floor is something else we have to consider.

7. The basement does, in all likelihood, have asbestos tiles. So says everyone who’s seen it. But that’s OK because that’s easily covered up. Removing it is where you cause trouble. The basement needs to be refinished and moisture sealed (it gets very damp down there). This one’s actually easy. We just are waiting for a good time to get that project started. There are upstairs projects that are higher priority.

6. Even backwards, there is no 6.

5. Jack out-grew his crib-turned-daybed. The back of his crib converts into a headboard for a full-size bed. So, we went out and got him a mattress, box spring, frame, and bedding galore. Today the bed arrived and we were all set to have his new, improved room all set for when he got home from school. However, his box spring does not actually fit up the stairs. They’re going to try a low-profile box spring a bit later today (soon, in fact) and if that doesn’t fit up the stairs… well… we have no idea what we’re going to do. And, no, it doesn’t fit in the window either.

4. We haven’t unpacked much into the kitchen yet as there is probably (likely) lead paint in the cabinets. On the advice of the home inspector, we should paint them first to be sure as you don’t want to be putting food and hot fresh-from-the-dishwasher plates there. Ann got some ChildGuard paint/covering and we’ll be painting them soon so we can finally unpack into the kitchen. Until then, we unpacked all of the food and much of the plates/pots/pans/bowls/glasses into a wooden armoire we have. But that only lasted a week because…

3. We have mice! We found out we have mice when we found lots of mouse poop among all the food they chewed into in the armoire and poop on the plates, etc. So, we moved all the food into the cabinets anyway (the ones that had contact paper on the bottom) and the plates/etc into a different cabinet we have in a different room. We have caught one mouse in a no-kill trap and let it free a few miles away. So far, no sign of more inside the house despite the fact that we have seen it running around outside here and there.

2. Lead paint + old wallpaper = painfully slow wall prep for painting. In a house this old you just assume the walls have lead paint on them. As such, you can’t sand, scrape, chip, or rip wallpaper off. You can’t stir up dust which could be breathed in and make people, especially Jack who is still in the danger age (<6) for this kind of thing. Soooo… we have to be very slow and careful about getting the walls ready for painting. At least we know we’re taking up the carpets so we don’t have to put down drop cloths anywhere.

1. The lack of central air has made our lives far moister than we’re used to it being. In Virginia, we had central air which ran nearly constantly. Up here, we have some window fans which work find on normal days. But when it is rainy or humid, it gets damp in here. Worse, that’s when the carpets let loose their find funky smell and it become borderline nasty around here. So, having central air is a high priority for us. We may even do it this fall if we find that the furnace (which is very old) is not up to another winter.

Bonus item: The Chimney. We just found out that the chimney needs nearly $1,000 worth of work because it is missing the cement cap and the flues are exposed. This means rain can come right down into them and in the winter this means freezing water doing awful things to the masonry, etc. We’re waiting to get a second opinion on this.

Now, lest anyone think I’m actually complaining, well… I guess I am. But this is a lovely house and despite all that it needs, it’s a wonderful place. It’s solid, cute, and when we do fix all that needs fixing, it is going to be a fantastic home. I cannot wait to actually cook thanksgiving here and have family over. And living in Rhode Island is fantastic. We’re both very happy even if we’re constantly annoyed, depressed, or plain overwhelmed by what’s involved with this. I guess you have to accept what you are getting into when you buy an old house like this. So many of the houses in this neighborhood are undergoing some or other kind of work so it’s a common thing here. It’s also encouraging to see how many people are investing in this neighborhood and that can only help the long-term property values around here. So, while this appears to be an extended kvetch, it’s also something to be taken in the same vein as when somebody complains about their significant other. “Sure he’s a slob, but I love him anyway” kind of thing.

Hey, at least I have my wifi and tivo working!