Tuesday, November 24, 2015

All quiet on the home front

     Having a dishwasher in every bit as wonderful as I expected. I spend about 2 minutes loading dishes in each day, and then once every three days I press a button and like MAGIC clean dishes appear. I know people complain that the labor-saving devices promised in the mid-twentieth century never appeared, but I think they have forgotten how utterly delightful dishwashers are.
     Speaking of the mid-twentieth century, I was ripping off the fake wood paneling on my living room wall (as one is wont to do on a quiet Thursday evening) and uncovered a message from the previous occupants.

If you can't read the penciled message among the glue lines, it reads:
This job was done by William Henry Anonsen
November, 1967
11-11-67 Veteran's Day 
Job Started
Helped by
Barbara Anne Anonsen
An adjoining panel reads "Craig Robert, 5 2/3 yrs, old" and "Dale Kevin 2 1/6 yrs old". 
     I feel like I learned a little bit about this couple, undoing the work they did almost precisely 49 years ago, when wood paneling must have seemed so modern and cozy. They had two small children (one of whom sold me the house). His wife probably helped him lift the panels - they're quite hard to move around by yourself. I know that William was a man who did things right, as evidenced by excellent craftsmanship in the home repairs. And he was a man who always reduced his fractions to least common denominators. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015


     During these weeks of house repairs, I'm reminded that  I said that I never want to remodel a house while living in it. It turns out that I know myself well. What I'm doing now is small potatoes compared to a real remodel, but the upheaval and lack of order in my surroundings is not something I enjoy. Basically, I want my kitchen to quit looking like this:

     And soon it will, I know. The living room floor is coming along nicely and I've decided I don't need to do anything to the bedroom floor that I uncovered. I should have a living room before next weekend.
     In the meantime, I'm starting to make a list of all the other projects that need doing. This house was well cared for by its previous owners, but the last owner was in his 90s when he moved out, so I'm pretty sure he didn't bother fixing every little thing. Back gate not fixing properly? Prop it shut with a 2'x4'. Bulb burned out in the light fixture? Well, there's two in there and you really only need one working to have light. 
     Along with that, there are the projects that don't fix things, but make the house more usable for you. As I've started making the project list, I triage, because something becomes suddenly urgent. For example, last weekend I decided I couldn't keep accidentally locking Phi in the basement. Her litter box might be down there, but her water was up here. So now the basement door has a Phi-sized hole.
And this week, Ada escaped from the backyard twice (remember that broken gate?), so that repair moved up in priority. I can't WAIT until my parents come for Christmas. We have so many projects to do...

Saturday, November 07, 2015


Because I am apparently seeking to make my life difficult, I started working on my floors right after I was done with the door locks. If I had planned ahead, I wouldn't even have bothered to unpack the living room, because I enjoyed it for precisely one week before I moved all the furniture back out. (Extra thanks to N who moved the couch in, then came back a week later to help me move it out.) I had pulled up a tiny piece of carpet the very first day I moved into the house, and I could see there was hardwood under the carpet. Since that day, I had been burning with curiosity about the state of said wood floors. So here's what I found...
The living room, half uncovered. There are nail and staples doles, and for some reason holes were drilled near every wall so that half a dozen cables (i.e. cable TV cables) could be pulled through. I can't figure out that out - did the previous owners have six televisions in every room?
One downstairs bedroom: the foam under the carpet pad adhered to the floor and has to be laboriously pulled off in tiny strips using my fingernails to scrape.

But the floors are in pretty decent shape! The good news: they didn't glue the carpet pad down, so I've only pulled up (many, many) nails and staples. The finish is worn off in high-traffic areas, but not so much that the wood has been worn away. The not great news: the finish is worn off and there are a few water stains.

I've spent all week debating whether I should sand down and refinish. This is a big task, would require me to move me and the animals out of the house for a week, and would be pretty physically demanding. It's the thing that most people do, though, because they want a house that looks like new and they want polyurethane floors that require no care.

After much thought, I'm inclined not to refinish but to just wax. You can only refinish a floor a limited number of times before you sand away all the wood, so it shouldn't be done too rashly. I also like a floor that looks lived in - it's homey, and I don't worry about having a dog with nails or women with high heels walking around on it. After all, if it has a some dings, what are a few more? This weekend I'm going to try to figure out what finish is on the floor, and test a bit of wax on it. If that's the way I go, I'll still have to spend a number of hours buffing the floor, but I may be sitting on my couch by Thanksgiving. That would be an awesome thing; you really miss furniture when you don't have it anymore.

Monday, November 02, 2015


(By the way, thanks for all the supportive comments about bicycling on the last post, everyone!)

When I bought my house, I understood that I was buying a long list of projects. I’m actually pretty lucky: the house I bought will be 70 next year, and for the last 55 years it was owned by man who took meticulous care of the house. The circuits and cables are labeled, the fifty-year-old carpet and wallpaper is in excellent condition, and when he fixed things, he fixed them properly. Compare this to the house of my friends N&S, where I’ve been training on home repairs. Their house is 90 years old, still has its original plaster and lathe walls, and every repair uncovers 90 years of “making do” construction that is rarely up to professional standards.

I started on my list of projects this weekend by replacing the door locks, and I got a taste of weekends to come. It goes like this. I work on a project until I get stuck, in this case because door locks are a slightly different size than they were decades ago. I send my father pictures like this:
Then we talk on the phone, and he sends me pictures like this, explaining what I need to do.
Repeat as necessary. I had to caution my father that I was not willing to fix things that were simply worn– if I did that, I’d have to replace the whole house. I’m strictly limiting repairs to actually broken (or about-to-break) items.

I am so lucky to have my dad, who knows how to fix just about anything. I’ll be the first to give him a five-star rating, so that he can build up his new long-distance repair consulting business.