adding to our list

Originally posted at twentysixcats.com

The arrival of summer has shown us a few more issues with our house that we’ll need to take care of. First off, it’s really really hot in here! I have the A/C on, and the thermometer reads that it’s only 78 or 80 inside, but sweat is just pouring off me! I don’t tend to be warm by nature, so I am wondering why.

I have a theory but I’m not sure how accurate it is. Our house is really humid – it’s not vented properly so we have had some issues with humidity even in the winter. I notice it mostly with the windows – mold builds up on the frame, so we have to keep cleaning them with bleach (like, every 6 months… it’s not REALLY bad). Humidity doesn’t really bother us much (heck, we live in Atlanta) but now that it’s summer my guess is that it’s REALLY humid inside. And that is making it feel much hotter than it is. What do you think of my theory? Plausible or totally off-base?

It could also be an issue with our A/C. The inspector told us that it was hooked up wrong, and we would need to get a professional out to take a look at it. Worst case scenario, we need a new unit, but I don’t think that will be necessary right now. I need to get someone out here; I’m just worried about the cost.

The biggest thing that will help with the humidity will be to put in attic vents. Our inspector last year told us that the easiest way to do that will be to get them put in when we reroof the house, which is still a few years away (hopefully!). I know putting a vapor barrier in the crawlspace will help, too – we’ll get that done when we fix the foundation. Any other ideas of bringing down the humidity in the house, short of putting a dehumidifier in every room?

I already mentioned the mosquitoes we’ve been having trouble with. Not sure what to do about that, either. What are the things that make those pesky bugs worse. Standing water? Tall weeds? We need to try and figure that out. It’s worse around our carport, so that’s a place to start.

We have been daydreaming recently about what we want to do with our yard. Those of you privy to my Facebook updates will know that we have some trouble with people walking through our yard since it’s a corner lot. Also, the way our house is situated, our side yard is actually the biggest area and probably where our kids will play. I’d love to have some sort of natural barrier along the sidewalk to keep our kids in and unwanted people out – perhaps some poplar trees?

We’d love to get our yard to a place where we can spend time outdoors. Keeping the bugs to a minimum is key, but also making it a nice place to be will help. We talked today about tilling the whole backyard (there isn’t a blade of grass, only weeds) and planting grass. Someday, someday! There are some things we need to think about first, like how to divert the water from pooling in our yard when it rains. I really know nothing about landscaping so what I have in my head might not even be possible. We’ll see!

Today with the help of some friends we moved a few pieces of furniture downstairs. I am excited! We also moved down our desktop computer to the den, and a few other miscellaneous items. I’m trying to turn a corner of the den into a small office, and the rest of the den will be a playroom. I think it’s going to be a really nice living space when we’re done! I told Paul that I’d like to make the living room upstairs a nice place to have guests and entertain, and the den a place where we can relax and let the kids have fun.

I look forward to working on making the living room look nice decor-wise. Though, I’m about out of money so I better start coming up with inexpensive solutions. :-)


what are you doing with your $8,000?

Originally posted at twentysixcats.com

So anyone who bought their first house in the past year should have gotten the $8,000 homebuyer’s credit. I’ve been really excited to get ours, because there is so much that needs to be done!

We have a really long list, and several pretty expensive items. Not everything is going to get crossed off, so we’re trying to figure out what’s the most important.

On our list:
Foundation – One contractor quoted $5400 back last July. This is something that needs to be fixed before we try to sell the house. However, it’s not really affecting our quality of life right now. So even though it would be really nice to fix, we’re thinking it might be something that could wait.

Water – A plumber quoted $5800 yesterday. Our pipes are old, and need to be replaced. We see a lot of mineral deposits in our water (mostly rust), and we don’t feel comfortable drinking the water. I can only imagine what it’s doing to our laundry (especially those diapers!). We also need a new hot water heater, which we’ll replace after we fix the pipes.

Windows – We got a quote for $12,000 to replace all our windows. Currently, we have the original single pane windows, and 4 of them are broken and taped up. We would need to get a few more quotes; I’m hoping to find them cheaper than that. New windows would probably really help with our high gas bills, help cut down on noise, and give us some screens so we can open the windows during the spring/fall. Also, as a side benefit, we’d be able to get frosted glass for the bathrooms so we can have some privacy while still letting in the light.

HVAC unit – We haven’t gotten a quote yet, but worst case scenario we have to replace the whole thing and I think that would be about $3500. Our inspector told us back when before we bought the house that there are some issues with the HVAC, and that we needed to get someone to fix it. I don’t think the unit is broken as much as it’s not hooked up correctly. This would help some with our gas bills, and my guess is the house would overall be more comfortable temperature. The true test will be this summer when we find out how well the air conditioning works.

Downstairs den – Home Depot quoted $700 to carpet the den downstairs. We are so close to being done with this room! We just need to install the carpet, and then I’d love to replace the light fixtures, and we’ll be able to use that room. I want to turn one corner into an office, and make the rest of it a kids’ playroom. I am so eager to be able to “move in” downstairs. I feel like once that room is done, then I’ll be able to make the furniture arrangement in the main level more permanent, and put up pictures, and then finally feel more at home.

So we have a lot of decisions about what to tackle first. The plumbing makes sense to tackle first since it’s under our budget unlike the windows, but it’s not very much fun. Carpeting the downstairs is really important to me, but it’s also one of the more optional things.

There are other small things on our list. My uncle is going to replace the door to our carport, which is exciting! Also, he is going to put a lightswitch in the master bedroom. That will be a nice change.

So who else got $8,000 for buying a house, and how are you spending it?


our house to-do list

Originally posted at twentysixcats.com

I am putting this up here not because I think y’all will find it interesting, but because I want to be able to look back at this in the future. It will be interesting to see what gets done, and what drops off the list.

People who have talked to me recently will probably have noticed that I’m a bit disenchanted with the whole fixer-upper idea. I’ve decided, buying a house that needs work is great if you have money (or have an income where you can easily save for big expenses). We probably could have done this if we had bought this house a year or two ago; as it is, we’re now 3 people on one income and so it is a lot harder. On the upside, our mortgage is lower than any rent we’ve paid. Our thought had been that we could save the extra money that we would have been putting toward rent, but there is just *so* much. There are things we’re discovering now that we didn’t know before – like the rust in the water. Just in general, older homes have hidden surprises. I like the potential of our house, though, and we do plan on staying here a while. I often daydream of what I would do if money wasn’t a hindrance. And I do like the area and neighborhood a lot. Aside from my neighbor’s dogs, I really have no complaints about that!

Below is the rough list we have so far, somewhat in order of importance. We’re hoping to knock off the first couple from the list with the $8,000 from the gov’t.

  • Foundation (One corner of the main level of our house needs to be jacked up, due to soft ground beneath it. One contractor quoted $5,000, but we still need to get a few more quotes.)
  • Insulation in crawlspace (There currently is no insulation under the main level in the house.)
  • Finish the den (This needs a lot of work, and the biggest expense will be the new carpet since the paint has all been purchased. We need to clean all the walls and floor with anti-mold cleaner, then paint the walls and ceiling, then carpet the floor.)
  • Irrigate our backyard (So it stops flooding whenever it rains, which is what is causing the ground to sink and bit and why we need to get the foundation fixed! We have to get our land surveyed before we do this though, so we know exactly what land is ours.)
  • New side door (For safety and energy reasons; I won’t explain in case there are any would-be thieves lurking around my blog. :-))
  • Get HVAC fixed (An air conditioner was added to the existing heater, and apparently they hooked it up inefficiently, so we need to do this for energy savings and also to preserve the life of our A/C. I’m also hoping it will help make the temperature in the house better regulated.)
  • Fix the rust in the water (Currently we don’t drink the tap water in our house… it’s like I’m back in Peru! Not sure what the problem is exactly, or how much it will be to fix.)
  • Double pane windows & sliding glass door (The windows are incredibly energy inefficient; they are the original single pane and several have cracked/broken glass. All are very noisy – sometimes I think they are open because I can hear the cars outside so well. New windows will hopefully help with sound and energy!)
  • Electrical grounding in the den & upstairs (Currently the only area of the house with 3-prong plugs is the main level; grounding the electricity in the den would allow us to put the tv and/or computer down there.)
  • Kitchen redesign (I am not sure exactly how the kitchen could be improved, but I know I’d like to get cabinets that all match and fit my dishes better, a new countertop, and a built-in dishwasher. I would also like to increase the counterspace and storage space somehow – perhaps add a pantry? – but the location of the HVAC vent makes the only free space in the kitchen unusable.)
  • Bathroom redesign (I’d like to put in a new fiberglass tub/shower unit over the existing, recessed lighting above the tub, and redo all the walls – taking down the awful mirrors! The fixtures could use a little updating, and the bathroom really needs some towel rods and perhaps some storage shelves or two.)
  • Landscaping (There is very little grass in our yard and a lot of weeds. I’d also like to put some bushes along the sidewalk to discourage people from throwing trash in our yard, and to give some sort of privacy to our backyard. The joy of a corner lot!)
  • New hot water heater (Ours is 15 years old so we’ll probably need a new one before too long.)
  • New roof (It’s fine for now, but we’ll need a new one sooner than later.)

what we’ve been doing

Originally posted at twentysixcats.com

The outside

I finally uploaded all the house pictures to Flickr! So click here to go see them. (They are the same pictures as the Facebook album I uploaded a while ago.) I took all these pictures last July when we were doing the walk-through with the home inspector, so it doesn’t have any of the changes we have made since we got the keys!

We’ve spent the past week and a half hard at work! My parents have been SUCH a great help. Also, last weekend my sister, aunt, and uncle all drove down from North Carolina, and my other aunt drove from South Carolina to help. My two uncles who live here in Atlanta came by on Sunday and everyone was hard at work! I am so grateful because there is very little I can do physically, and we are racing the clock to get the house ready for us to move by September 30th.

The house is 50 years old, and was a rental house the past 3 years. It needs a lot of work, but it’s not as bad as it could be. However, as I am working at cleaning I wonder how people could have lived in such dirt and grime… The bathtub for example was absolutely horrible, and after many many hours of scraping and cleaning it still doesn’t look great.

Here’s what we’ve done so far:
* Cleaned out all the gutters and replaced the ones that were broken or missing
* Replaced the hollow wood front door with a steel front door. Also replaced the ugly storm door with a storm door with a screen so we can get some cross-ventilation without letting the kitties out.
* Took down the weird shutters around the front door
* Replaced the old fuse box (original to the house, which was built in 1960) with circuit breakers and added more switches or whatever you call them
* Pulled up the carpet from the entire house, which made it smell 1,000 times better. Also, beautiful hardwood in the upstairs bedrooms!
* Cleaned the kitchen with a heavy duty degreaser – it was pretty disgusting
* Cleaned the bathroom, also quite gross
* Removed the shower doors and we’re still in the process of scraping all the caulking from all around the edge of the tub
* Replaced the washers from the faucets in the shower to stop the leaking
* Painted all the ceilings upstairs
* Removed the border print and painted the walls in Savannah’s room and our room (one bedroom left to paint)
* Cleaned the window panes with bleach so as to kill the mold/mildew on them; also removed the nails so now the windows can open
* Removed most of the wallpaper in the kitchen, which is NOT coming off easily despite the wallpaper removed that’s supposed to work wonders (we’ve actually decided to only do two walls; we’ll just paint over the wallpaper on the other two walls)
* Removed the border print in the living/dining room
* Weed whacked about half of the backyard (the mosquitoes have been terrible; we hope that the weed whacking helps get rid of those); most of the yard is weeds – there is actually very little grass, but we’ll deal with that in the future

Major things we still need to do:
* Replace the toilet downstairs to bring it up to code – we need to do this before we can get the water service started
* Replace the hollow wood door coming in from the carport with a steel door – the current one isn’t even an exterior door!
* Run wires to the outlets to allow for three-prong plugs
* Buy a new refrigerator and perhaps an oven (or find someone to fix the oven that’s there)
* Finish painting all the ceilings and the walls
* Put carpet in the downstairs den/family room (this probably won’t happen before we move in, as there is some question about the floor down there)

There are a whole bunch of things on our long-term to do list, but they require more money than we have right now and/or more time than we have. We have a lot to do! I am so tired right now; I will be glad when this is settled. I hate that I can’t help – I would NOT recommend trying to do this a week after having a baby! I hope it’s worth it, because a huge part of me wishes that we had walked away from the house when we were getting so close to our due date… I can’t tell you how much this is stressing me out!