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How do you feel good about your home if it needs work you can't afford?

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 

Ugh.  I am feeling so stuck.  Just wondering how others cope with this.

 

This house...I don't even have it in me to go into all the details, but the septic system (leach field) appears to be failing, the swimming pool liner failed and the cavity started collapsing so it needs filling in, and now my friend (who is a licensed home inspector) just discovered mold in the attic, which appears to be the result of some weatherization we got for free through a low income program.  The hot water tank is leaking (just a drip, but it's a leak), I have been fighting and fighting with trying to get the basement to stop leaking when it rains (nearly successful - lake has become puddle has become occasional dampness, but still), the driveway is cracking up, there are wall areas that need patching and painting and repair.

 

I just want to feel good in my home.  The rental market here kind of sucks (we could not get something this big/nice for what we pay in mortgage here), and if we sold the house we'd not likely get what we owe on it (so I guess that means we're underwater).

 

How do you put aside your worries and relax in your home?

post #2 of 18

My advice would be to tackle the mold issue first. Have the contractor contact the person/company that put it in and have them come back and fix it.

 

I know turning a blind eye won't make it go away, but allowing yourself to not see it while starting a list of things you can and want to tackle, will help you feel better. I know how you are feeling, I really do. Being comfortable in your home to me, means surrounding yourself with things that make you feel good. A nice blanket over your couch, a potted plant, maybe some art work. Your home can feel cozy by adding some warm touches, think of wood (drift wood or at this time of yr, greens), natural elements, stones, glass, sand, shells. These little touches can help. You need to find something in your house that you love and build off of it. One great element with a bit of decoration can make a house a home.

 

Focus on the good while making a list of what you can do (over time, tackling things as you can afford to)

post #3 of 18

Sometimes mold can be removed with a spray bottle of bleach/water solution.  But I suggest doing what the PP mentioned and calling back the company that did the work to begin with.  Weatherization is good, but there needs to be enough ventilation in your attic to allow some air to escape.  That's all specified in the building code.  If the work they did was not up to code, they are obligated to fix it.

 

I'd address the water tank next, as if it fails completely, you'll have 40+ gallons of water all over your basement (or wherever it's located).  Not fun.  Thankfully, tank heaters are relatively cheap, and often utility companies and the government will offer rebates if you get a higher efficiency model.

 

We have a seriously outdated septic system in our house.  We use Rid-X occasionally to "eat" soaps and chemicals that are otherwise not biodegradable.  We also use almost all biodegradable soaps to keep the ground around the drywell (basically a concrete cistern with holes for wastewater to escape) from clogging up.  It may be too late to save your leachfield, but using biodegradable soaps, shampoos, and detergents might prolong its life a little bit.

 

Patching walls isn't too difficult, though there is a bit of a learning curve.  Do you have plaster or drywall?  There are lots of tutorials online, and we've had good luck patching our own walls.  How large are the areas that need patched?

 

The pool...  That sounds scary to me!  Unless you plan on just completely backfilling it with dirt, I'd leave that to a professional.

 

I completely understand living in a house that is less-than ideal.  Our toilet is sitting on plywood right now, since we found out that the wax ring had deteriorated long before we ever bought the house, and it had been leaking into the subfloor for ages.  We had lots of rotten wood, and we're lucky the toilet didn't fall through the floor.  We're not quite ready to tackle a full-on remodel, so we're just living with it for a bit.  We have a rug over the plywood to sort of hide it. 

 

Can you afford to paint?  If there's a Habitat for Humanity ReStore near you, they sell discount building supplies and will often have paint.  All of the big box stores sell paint that was returned or accidentally mixed the wrong color for VERY cheap. 

 

Like the PP said, find something you love and build off of it.  Even if it's just something small, being able to walk into a room and think, "oooh, I love that!" goes a long way towards raising morale.

 

Good luck!

post #4 of 18

When is the last time you had the septic pumped??  When we had one, I think it ran about $400 and it is recommended every 3 years. If you haven't done it in a long time, might be more than that.  You may not need a new leaching field (can run into the 10s of thousands).  I wouldn't wait on that.  Septic backing up is very bad news and an even larger expense.  If a new leach field is recommended you might be able to keep it going by more frequent pump outs and avoiding using your washing machine if it drains into the septic. 

 

When I lived with my ex-h, he basically kept the house in a constant state of construction for 15 years.  I couldn't take it and I left.  He still has not finished any single thing he every started.  When I tried to do things myself, he would often undo them or find something else to rip out so I understand it can be  very depressing.  Sometimes you can only do when you can do.  But tackle one thing, save up so you do it/buy it and make it happen. 

 

post #5 of 18
We do one big repair a year and we keep up on all the little stuff ourselves. Do be careful... houses seem to sense if you are neglecting them.
post #6 of 18

We're in the same boat - our house needs a complete new roof along with new rafters. No idea where or how the funds are going to come - we're struggling just to pay the regular bills. 

 

We have holes in the walls {not all the way through, but noticable} thanks to grammas wheelchair, the doors are all coming off their hinges and everything is drab white. 

 

So yeah - totally get you. Don't have any advice though.

post #7 of 18

We were in the same boat.  My water heater started leaking, I found that if I changed out the nozzle in the front... to remove the plastic parts which apparently don't stand much turning... it all went away.  When I have a leak I've learned to fix it myself. 

 

As far as the drab white sadness... We buy lots of paints and dollar store frames.  Paint the frames and hang them from the windows using ribbon to connect each one.  I try to dress up my house with colors.  I have shadow art on my walls and phrases as well.  Lots of words that mean love and peace in different languages. 

 

I also have a list of what needs to be done.  I first go to home depot or Lowe's and talk to someone there about doing it myself.  Usually they give really good advice and on the sly a few have given  me numbers to friends or relatives that can help me on the cheap.  I've gotten lots done spending very little by just telling myself that I can do it and doing the research. 

 

Also I can't have carpet in my house due to allergies so I ripped it all up.  It looked terrible for a while with just the plain concrete floors but I've been buying polyurethane and saving up brown paper bags and now I have pretty awesome paper bag flooring.  I love it!  

 

I spent less than 200 spread out over a year on my floors, 10 to fix my water heater and I fixed my faucet in the kitchen and the running toilet for free.  Lots of things can be done.  The tasks seem daunting when you're not sure how to do it yourself but I'm pretty sure if I ever rely on someone to fix something of mine again it will be electrical since I don't want to deal with that stuff.

post #8 of 18

This is the first time in the three years that we have owned this house that I have not hated it.  We just have plugged away at things little by little and now I am finally starting to see the benefits.  Plus I just painted the living room this summer.  Paint helps SO much.  We just finished putting hardwood in the dining room.  We bought scraps and trolled craigslist and bought the wood little by little.  The kitchen is still subfloor, someday we will replace that floor, until then I try and focus on the fact that it is not the horrible tile on top of moldy older flooring that it used to be, and that we patched the dry rotted subfloor boards before the oven fell through the floor.

 

We just do what we can little by little and I focus on how much we have learned, and I try to look at the nice parts instead of the broken ones.

post #9 of 18

subbing...

 

We're in the same boat. We need new lighting fixtures in our bathroom & kitchen because there's some electrical problem that's making them malfunction. Weird persistent mold smell in downstairs bedroom that may be evidence of a larger mold problem, which may be related to gutter issues. Original windows in our 1947 house that are inefficient, covered in lead paint, and in some cases the frames are rotting (mushrooms grow on them after heavy rainfall). Our old cat has barfed & peed & pooped all over our upstairs carpet so much that when she's gone, we're going to have to replace all the carpet (hopefully not the subfloor, too). ETC.

 

On the other hand, we've already done some important work since we bought the house in 2003 (new roof, major basement repair to control moisture). Plus a number of smaller repairs. We're still paying off that work, which is partially why we can't afford to do anything new.

 

I do panic sometimes. I try to remember that we're making progress, it's just taking awhile. We try to focus on things that are potential safety concerns. Also, we know a good handyman who's done a bunch of repairs for us and is a kind of expert on the houses in our neighborhood (the whole neighborhood was built at the same time, with same basic house construction, and there are some significant quirks about these homes). So we've had him come look at various things and help us figure out what's urgent, what can wait for awhile, how serious the problem is, what the range of solutions would be, etc.

post #10 of 18

We live in a 100 yr old house.  We bought it in 1999, and there is still tons that needs done.  The big thing for us was prioritizing needs vs wants. 

 

New kitchen with actual counterspace and cabinets that function... That is a want (and still not done).

New roof when the old one is leaking.  That's a need.

New plumbing for the washing machine when the old one was flooding the back yard and the laundry sink.  That was a need. 

Central heat.  Until we had DS that was a want.  Once he was born it became a need. 

 

The other thing we did was make a list of the cosmetic jobs.  The little ones.  The ones that might cost $100 or that you could do yourself with a little research.  If you get a bonus or a 3-day weekend, that's when you pick something off that list to do.  That way you feel like you're getting something accomplished, and you can take a little pride in your home. 

 

Deal with the safety issues - like mold.  Get the septic pumped, it'll put off the leach field problem for a little while.  Try to figure out where the hot water heater is leaking from - if the bottom is rusted through replace it now.  If it's dripping from a fixture, look into fixing it yourself (how old is it?  Effective life of a tank heater is 12 yrs, it may be time to start saving to replace it regardless.).  For a leaking basement, the best thing we ever did was getting gutters installed and routing all the off-run away from the foundation.  It was a few hundred dollars to have the trench dug and the plumbing laid to tie the gutters into it, but we could have done it ourselves for far cheaper if we wanted to.  Now it dumps at the back of the property, and the basement has been dry ever since.  Patching walls is easy, as is painting.  I'd ignore the cracking driveway unless it's an indicator of a bigger problem.  And for the swimming pool - I'd do what I had to to "fence" it off for now (for safety) and ignore it until you have the wherewithal to deal with it. 

 

The fact is that with an aging house there will always be SOMETHIING that needs done.  That's just the way it is.  Even brand new houses have issue that need attending to, so selling wouldn't resolve that particular issue.  You just have to deal with what must be dealt with and put off the things that can be put off.  One of the best things to do is make friends with people who know how to do things.  Whether that means you can barter for work (I cook my electrical engineer BIL dinner in exchange for electrical work - we pay for supplies), or just have someone to tell you what needs to be done, or someone to refer you to a contractor who won't rip you off, it can be priceless.  I've had so many contractors come through this house and concentrate on one little aspect, never telling me XY or Z.  I finally made friends with a contractor I had out last week to look at some issues so she could tell me what my options are.  Now I know I have choices in how to fix the problem, but either choice is pricey, so she told me how to patch it in the meantime to prevent further damage.  She's not going to do it for me, but was happy to tell me what I could do about it.  That is priceless, IMO. 

 

And then do what you can to make one room of your house "done".  Not necessarily perfect, but done.  Patched, painted, furnished, organized, etc.  Totally done.  It makes a huge difference to peace.  We haven't gotten there yet, but hope to get there in the next few months with the first room.  You also want to make a peaceful space in your house.  Whether this is a hobby area, the bathroom (for a relaxing bath), or your bedroom doesn't matter.  An area that you find peaceful that you can retreat to when the stress gets too much. 

 

That's the best advice I can give you.  Owning a house is a constant battle with unfinished projects.  If you let them run your life, they will. 

post #11 of 18

For me keeping it clean & trying to not start new projects before others were done was key. Trying to keep the "in progress" areas to just a couple at a time so the whole house doesn't feel like a mess. And having a plan for the future is always comforting to me even if the plan changes. I don't mind spending money & working hard on our house 'cause I feel like it is an investment.

post #12 of 18

Same thing here.  This fall we discovered a major dampness and mildew problem, which freaked me out.  A borrowed dehumidifier and a lot of bleach is keeping it under control, but sometimes I just wish we could *move* and leave it all behind. 

 

If you have mold in the walls, that is a bigger problem, but if it's just mildewy stuff starting to grow in your attic, it is something you can probably take care of yourself.  And you will feel so much better if you can do just that one thing. 

 

The rest of it doesn't sound like immediate issues--I bet you would feel better if you were actively saving/planning to fix those things.  So that even if it is way in the future, you'll know that at such and such a time, you'll be able to put the money in an deal with the whole problem.

 

In the meantime, I agree with keeping it as clean and pretty as possible.  It's easier for me to ignore our ugly, disgusting old carpets when the rest of the room is in good shape, and the floors aren't crunchy with crud because I haven't vacuumed.  Our bathroom annoys me immensly, but it's easier for me to live with it when I know it's as clean as can be, even if it stays ugly.

 

And also, it really helps to keep a broader perspective.  We have a house.  It has a roof, it's warm, it has plumbing.  We have plenty of elbow room.  However shoddy it may feel at times, it's an immense luxury when I compare it to the vast majority of how the rest of the world lives.

 

post #13 of 18


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by cappuccinosmom View Post


 

And also, it really helps to keep a broader perspective.  We have a house.  It has a roof, it's warm, it has plumbing.  We have plenty of elbow room.  However shoddy it may feel at times, it's an immense luxury when I compare it to the vast majority of how the rest of the world lives.

 



This is such a good point. I need to remind myself of this more often!

post #14 of 18

It really can get overwhelming, it is kind of nice to read that a lot of people are having to deal with it.  I love a lot of the suggestions here.  We are also in a similiar situation there is so much broken in the house and it's hard to imagine how it will all get done when you are just barely paying the bills. Our approach is to just fix the thing that HAS to be fixed next. What is most pressing? most dangerous thing gets fixed first and we go from there. Knowing the price range of what needs to get fixed is a factor as well. Some things are too expensive so we have to wait until we get more money.  for instance we have a back room that is not safe for the kids, they walk through to get to the backyard and that one path I trust for them to be on, but they aren't allowed around the rest of the room. The plan is to fix that with our tax return. The kitchen ceiling is getting fixed now, it isn't as big of a project. just 3 days, we had some of the material, my husband does the work himself to make it more affordable and he has had a different friend each day come help him.

 

I suggest looking around on the internet to learn how to do jobs yourself. I fixed my own washing machine 3 times by doing a little online research. Most jobs are pretty simple and doable when you know how. It will save you a lot of money.

 

Also if you can barter services with other people that is an awesome option. And don't ignore a situation until it blows up in your face it is so muhc more expensive that way, and I know that from experience!

post #15 of 18

I'm happy I found this thread because I have been feeling overwhelmed daily with my home. I look around and it feels like all I see are things that need to be done, projects, painting, etc., I like the advice of taking things a little at a time. Our master bedroom really bugs me because it is covered in dark 70's paneling. The paneling has a lot of holes and is not in the greatest shape so I was trying just to wait till we could afford to do something different like drywall or beadboard, but lately I've been thinking even I just primer it white it will improve the brightness drastically...got to do what we can with the money we have.

post #16 of 18


Paint is the best thing ever!  I hated my nasty carpets so I ripped them out.  I used paper and polyuerothane and it looks awesome!  Looks like I spend a million bucks on it but I didn't spend more than 200 when it was all done.  I paint the walls and add phrases or my own art.  One wall is covered in the word peace from many different languages thanks to all my linguist friends.  I go wall by wall floor by floor.  And I get there.  I just fixed the tile in my bathroom.  Major rot and mold.  I reused the tiles (took a lot to clean them) and bought one cement board backing... I think I paid 20 to fix it all. 

Quote:
Originally Posted by allthesekids View Post

I'm happy I found this thread because I have been feeling overwhelmed daily with my home. I look around and it feels like all I see are things that need to be done, projects, painting, etc., I like the advice of taking things a little at a time. Our master bedroom really bugs me because it is covered in dark 70's paneling. The paneling has a lot of holes and is not in the greatest shape so I was trying just to wait till we could afford to do something different like drywall or beadboard, but lately I've been thinking even I just primer it white it will improve the brightness drastically...got to do what we can with the money we have.



 

post #17 of 18

This thread has really inspired me to try to do more with what I have around the house - I'm going to try to do 1 major project each month in 2012 to improve the house for ME. Anyone else interested in doing it with me? If so I'll start a thread in the general mindful home section. 

 

Speaking of projects my first project is to move a kitchen cabinet - our kitchen is in a box with a narrow walkway out and it's too narrow for mom's wheelchair most of the time now that her vision isn't so great. The countertop is attached {it's just formica nothing fancy} and the bottom cabinet I'll be moving is already knocked part-way loose from her hitting it with the wheelchair. I'm thinking just cut though the countertop and separate that section off and swing it around to make the kitchen bigger and a U shape. Then I'll rip up the carpet in that area of the living room {I'm expanding the kitchen into the living room area} and tile the floor with the peel and stick tiles as I can get those cheap. Then I'm going to tear down the horrible 70's orange wallpaper in the kitchen and repaint it with some sugared lime paint I got free a while back - thinking of doing a whole tropical theme in there. 

 

Any tips? I'm not sure how to attach the cabinet once I move it - the floor below is concrete slab. Would you caulk it to the floor and screw it well into the wall / side of the other cabinet?

post #18 of 18

Cabinets aren't attached to the floor usually - they're attached to the wall.  And any cabinets they're next to, to prevent shifting.

 

I actually made a list of the projects that would make this house "rentable" - took a look at it and have sat here the last few days why it's taken me 10 years to do so.  Seriously, none of these tasks is more than a 2 day job (for someone who knows what they're doing).  Materials costs vary, but the size of the jobs are all small.  Why on earth has it taken me so long to do these simple things to make this house more liveable? 

 

Now I'm on a mission to get them all done before the baby arrives in May.  I called my dad the other day, and I asked an uncle for his assistance also, and I even lined up a contractor for anything they can't handle. 

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