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The honeymoon is over, realizing a little reality

10 years ago

I am a new member, and really thrilled to have been reading the forums. Found this site at around 1:30 am on a sleepless night. My home was built in 1855, we've been living here about 3 1/2 weeks and the honeymoon phase is over! The first two weeks consisted of my husband and I working diligently on little fix-ups, crashing on the porch (which is falling off the house) at the end of the day full of plans, dreams and smiles. As we approach the end of week three the reality of asbestos, lead and years of poor maintenance and cheap DIY secrets are being revealed. You all know what I mean because I have found so so many similar tales. After living in new construction homes for years, I am on a whole new adventure here. Can't wait to share the ups and downs. Will post somes pics, but I have an electrical inspection and some asbestos removal guys coming anytime now :)

Comments (20)

  • antiquesilver

    Welcome to the forum. Good luck on the inspections & post photos when you can.

  • growlery


    Just keep reminding yourself it doesn't have to be done all at once. (Not usually anyway.)

    Tackle one thing at a time, do it right (or the best way you can do it at the time) and over time it will all be done and you will have an amazing accomplishment.

    Good luck!

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  • SaintPFLA

    Congrats on your new home!

    ...starting getting used to spending all your money at home improvement!

    "hmmm...if we eat hamburger for a month, we'll have enough money saved to buy that original door hardware on eBay!"

  • johnmari

    There was a honeymoon? ;-)

    Welcome and congratulations on your "new baby" (because this thing will eat your life about as much as a baby does LOL).

    Make sure you start up that "ohs*** fund" for the inevitable things that go kerflooey when least expected, because they WILL, at the worst possible time!

  • mommydof3

    Yes...our honeymoon was based solely on the principal that ignorance is bliss. Oh well it was fun while it lasted - now we have replace all our knob and tube - according to the electrical inspection, and remove ALOT of asbestos pipe insulation...rainy day account must be set up :) Thanks all - I am so glad I have you!

  • cjra

    Honeymoon? Either we're still in ours 5 years later, or we never had helps that our house looked like it should be torn down when we bought it, so there were few illusions.

    Welcome to the club.

  • calliope

    It helps if you have a sense of humour. I sincerely hope you can join the ranks of us who, after having been at it for a couple decades, can say that we wouldn't trade our old houses for a brand new one if it were offered to us on a silver platter.

    It sounds like the wiring and asbestos was a surprise and I'm sorry to hear that. I've lived in enough old houses, it's something you should have known before you bought, because it eats a large portion of your budget up you have budgeted for other repairs.

    I work on our old house by bits and drabs. Today I am finally tackling a proper fix up of our stairs and entryway. Repairing the old trim work. Filling the cracks in the plaster near the woodwork. We've been here more than twenty years. My DH covered the stairs with carpet, and slapped wallpaper on the stairwell walls. IOW, there were more important major things to be done to move in, and it looked decent enough to hold until someone got brave enough to just do it. I caved. LOL.

    It comes down to priorites. Fix up what needs to be done to make it safe first, then sound second, and triage the repairs. (can you tell I used to be a nurse?) Make the place clean. If you know you can't get to the room of your dreams immediately, make it something you can live with until you can do it right. But be careful not to burn bridges with old houses. Don't tear down something you'll regret later when you are older and wish you had back.

    Go slow and think it out and take breaks in the work. You will learn a lot of history be default and your house will have a story. Unless you have more money than you know what to do with, expect it to be a work in progress and don't forget to enjoy it as you go along or your spend a lot of time frustrated.

    Have fun. Only people with vision even try this and when you are done, if they ever really get done, you'll have something unique people can't duplicate today. (just price a plank floor of inch thick old growth oak)

  • growlery

    I would add the mantra:

    There's no such thing as a simple repair.

    Particularly in the beginning, any time any workman goes in to do anything as simple as clean a gutter or repack a leaky pipe in the basement, he or she will come back with a grim look on their face and say "Uh, there's something you should see."

    And then they'll show you the nest of racoons that have shredded the back of your roof, letting the wet and the carpenter ants in down the two back walls; or the extensive network of crumbling rubber gaskets that need to be replaced with PVC pipe -- all over the house.

    Gradually these big surprises diminish, I promise, but for awhile it can seem overwhelming. At some point you may even feel you've made a terrible mistake. This is not unusual! You will almost certainly get over it when the crisis has passed.

    In the meantime, you need to take estimates with a huge pinch of salt.

    And I have found that even though it might be cheaper to rip things out and replace them with new, I have found a contractor who is willing to work with me to repair old features, fix them the best he can and put them back in place, even they have a few quirks (my back door does not love this heat, but it looks beautiful!).

    I keep in mind those cheap fixes when I do things to my house. I don't need gold-plated taps, but if I have a choice, I always try to undo bad work and do the right thing for the LONG-TERM survival of my house, which is even older than yours.

    Make it safe, make it watertight (a house's biggest enemy), keep the critters out. Do it and pay for it in phases if you have to. Give it a little paint, but worry about decor last. There's no harm in going slow -- it keeps you from making rookie mistakes.

    Finding someone you can work with and trust, who knows your house and you believe them when they tell you things is a great step, even if you plan to do a lot of it DIY.

    I have known people who bought things like a rotted-out house where you could stand in the basement and look up 4 stories and see the pigeons on the roof, and they lived in the house and rehabbed it themselves with no experience. (They had 2 little kids at the time.) You can do this.

    Like you said -- it is an adventure!

  • scottnnyc

    enjoy your new (old) home. I once renovated an 1760's saltbox, and received good advice: Start with the "bones":
    foundation, structural supports and roof. When these are sound, you have something on which to build. then, take your time and let you heart lead. remember, it's YOUR home.

  • gardenlover25

    Congratulations! and welcome....... Don't be stressed out with things that you are going to fix.... Remember you are just beginning to explore and learn..... If you say that your honeymoon is over......well don't let the sweetness stay and let everyday your honeymoon so that you can think of the most wonderful ideas that can be applied in improving your new home. Let the love you have with each other helps you motivate and be more creative. Thanks.

  • lhf79

    Congratulations on your "new" home!!!! Sounds like you are both tired and overwhelmed. Take heart. This,too,shall pass. We bought our old home 3 years ago and stumbled upon similar "surprises" once we moved in. We decided to take care of the basic plumbing and electrical first. We also decided to make no other changes until we had lived here for a year. I am so glad we waited! In that year we got to know the house and developed a better sense of direction. I used that time to research ideas and resources. The people here are wonderful and eager to help. Again, congrats on your new home!

  • slateberry

    If you have kids, look on the bright side; every dollar that goes into your house is a dollar the colleges can't take to pay their bloated tuitions.

  • blackcats13

    "hmmm...if we eat hamburger for a month, we'll have enough money saved to buy that original door hardware on eBay!"

    You get to eat hamburger?! So jealous!! ;)

    We are just ending our first "crises" spending. The new roof and chimney. We threw in the gutters too, figured we might as well! And yes, I had moments of "what in the world have I done?!" but now it's mostly over and I'm glad we bought what we bought. For now, hehehe.

    It's always something, you get through it and laugh about it when you can.

  • powermuffin

    We have been moving right along on our 1908 simple cottage and loving almost every minute of it. Last week our old friends who moved out of state came for and visit and saw the house for the first time. As they were looking it over, I saw it as they must have seen it - a beat up old house. It made me sad because we really like this place and our little town. Like most of you, we are fixing things up starting with the biggest problems and we are doing it all ourselves. I'm still motivated and if it isn't to others' taste, then so be it. I am excited to have a piece of history.

  • buddy1114

    Let add my "Congrats" and welcome to the "Old Home fix up club" We have been working on our 1910 Colonial Revival for 12 years and there was many a day that I would sit on the front steps and ask myself "WHY!!!!Why did I have to buy this old house that needs EVERYTHING!!! But after 12 years, untold man hours, and only the Lord knows how much money, we really would not trade our home for anything!!! But I will not say that there were not days yea... even weeks/months that I just did not know how we were going to get it fixed. But we did!!! Hang in there!!!

  • mommydof3

    Thanks all! Powermuffin- I can totally relate. I do see my house as a diamond in the ruff and love it so much, but i also see friends and family looking at it like it is awful I only just got the nerve to send some pics to a few friends.
    Buddy1114 your house is quite inspirational. Truly a labour of love and the few pics I saw made my jaw drop.
    I would love to post pis, but I am having trouble figuring out how (embarassed to admit)
    Can't tell you how appreciative I am of all the support, definitely back in love with my house - especially since i had the asbestos removed from the pipes! We did find out we have to completely replace the knob and tube - big budget buster.
    The comment about keeping it clean when all else fails is also so true and I often repeat it to myself as I clean a room that needs so much more.

  • concretenprimroses

    When I get discouraged I paint something a pretty color. Cheers me right up (a couple times its just been chairs on the porch lol). Its satisfying to do a relatively quick and cheap project with a beginning and an end. Then back to everything else...

  • powermuffin

    Kathy, that is a good idea. Sometimes when a room is all ripped up and it is making me crazy, I just find some small, fun project to do that can be finished in a day. Paint a table, make some placemats, buy a piece at the junk store. Then I am all smiles again. It makes me feel like I accomplished something.

  • peanutmom

    Welcome... and don't lose heart. I loved my little cottage when I bought it and some days still do. LOL. Most of the time, I feel like I am in over my head and have to remind myself that the house has been here a hundred years (more or less) and it won't fall over tomorrow (no matter how much I wish it would). Sounds awful, huh? Not really wanting it to -just the frustration talking. No matter what kind of day it has been, I still feel like it's home and look forward to finding something beautiful in it each time I open my eyes and start all over. Great to have a new member.

  • clover8

    Welcome to the club and like everyone has said, don't lose heart.

    I'm in the same boat and there are days where I wonder why I bought this old house with decades of problems. Then I go outside and look at it from my meadow and something just clicks, and I smile.

    I have a colonial 1911 house with a 1930's addition. The original house was built very, very well. The addition, not so well. It is where my little galley kitchen is, my laundry room, and a small mud room is located - all used everyday. I just had it gutted and I can't tell you what an amazing adverture it has been. I've resigned myself to doing laundry at my brother's house for the next month, cooking off a hotplate in the dining room, and using the main entrance instead of the mudroom entrance.

    Luckily for me, the workers who are gutting it are taking the time to show me the progression of work and re-work through the years that was done to that addition...old paneling ripped out to reveal beautiful old wallpaper, and older wall paper behind that; a time capsule of old newspapers from the 1930's that are in mint condition that someone stuffed in the walls; a pile of coal near the fireplace that indicated at some point, there was a chute to the basement and coal was burned for fuel, etc. They are just as giddy with excitement of finding the next "clue" to how the room was used over the last 80 years as I am.

    Not everyone can do this. It takes alot of patience, and I wouldn't advise having people over that don't get it while you are doing big projects such as what I'm doing, unless you can deal with being met by sour faces that say "You must be crazy, this is a mess!".

    And there are days (since I'm taking this slow and as money allows), that I look into my ripped up, gutted addition and cringe at how much work it will take to do it right, to bring it back to a functional, but period-correct room again. Lots of money. But, luckily I'm working with craftsmen that do this on the side and agree to work slow as money allows.

    Then I see all the wires that were buried in the wall (as well as a cast iron (working) radiator and think "thank God I have unvielded these potential catastrophes."

    So, we all go through the range of emotions from shock to fear to "how am I going to pay for this?!" to "wow, this is mine and it is great." It is an emotional rollercoaster. But, when it all comes together, you will treasure - beyond your wildest dreams - how you preserved a piece of history and it is yours to add to its legendary testament of time.

    Best wishes for you!
    We are always here to listen!

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