Basement Repair Guy: Why did you wait so long to call?
Me: Because I thought our foundation might be cracked and it would cost $30,000 to fix.
Basement Repair Guy: “So your husband Shop-Vac’d 90 gallons of water off your basement floor every time there was a hard rain? For 20 years?”
Me: (hanging head)
It wasn’t only the worry of a cracked foundation that prompted procrastination. It was ball games and days at the swimming pool, visits to grandparents, music lessons and plays. Family vacations and college visits. It was life.
Not only that, but after having worked for an interior designer, I tend to focus on the aesthetics of my environment—throw pillows, paintings, and knick-knack placement—rather than each room’s physical viability.
Plus, I’m blessed to be content. Once I create a space exactly to my liking, I rarely feel the need to change it.
Alas, procrastination has a price.
Take yesterday for example. I called to request a visit from “The Window Butler.” Because our windows have only been washed once since they were installed. Ten years ago.
I also scheduled the drain-driller dude. Since the water around our basement drain has started to resemble high tide when the washer runs.
This afternoon, Greg the Tree Guy will give me an estimate on taking out the oak tree in our back yard. Ordinarily I’m not fond of chopping down trees, but this particular one leans precariously to the right and only grows branches on the left. It blocks the sun over my berry patch and drips sticky stuff on my cute maroon Vibe. No doubt we’ll also discuss the lichen-covered cherry tree that litters the ground with multiple arm-sized branches on windy days. And likely the giant rhododendrons on either side of our front porch steps that desperately need a trim now that they’re two-of-me tall.
And then there’s renovation. After 20 years, the only reason we got around to booking an extreme makeover of our kitchen was because Tony Bear received an unexpected bonus. He handed me the check and said, “This goes towards a new kitchen because you love to cook and we all love to eat.”
Thank goodness for Angie’s List.
Angie’s List, the website that features dozens of local contractors as well as reviews of their services, is where we found John, our awesome kitchen contractor. And thank goodness for Dave Ramsey.* Because of him, we have a home-improvement fund that provided most of the balance for the project.
Our kitchen remodel turned out so well, our plan was to use Contractor John for all our future projects. In fact, I texted him yesterday. “Our porch floors all have holes. Birds are building nests at the top of the columns. Can we please get on your schedule?” I nearly wept when he informed me he was changing careers. Come January he’ll be a home inspector.
Then I remembered Rusty the Roofer who roofed our house last month. He and his guys were fantastic—punctual, polite, and tidy. Maybe he can recommend someone to restore our porches—front, side, and back.
So much of what we’re scrambling to repair now could’ve been handled more easily (and affordably) if we’d taken some simple steps earlier. If I had to do it over again, here’s what I’d do:
Make a list of necessary annual tasks.
(ie. window washing, mulching garden beds, trimming bushes, pressure-washing and/or sealing appropriate surfaces, etc.) Jot these tasks, maybe one a month to decrease overwhelm, on your calendar. If you can’t accomplish them due to lack of time or expertise, hire someone who can.
Regularly take inventory of the physical condition of your house and yard.
Every three or four months, walk room-to-room in your house then around your yard with pen and paper. Make a list of needed repairs and improvements (any chimneys need capping?), put them in priority order, and start tackling them one by one.
Collect contact info for various tradespeople who are talented and trustworthy.
(I say “trustworthy” because a few years back we got hornswaggled by a contractor who promised his services would solve the basement water problem. They didn’t. Oh, how I wish I’d more thoroughly vetted him before I gave him a significant chunk of our “emergency fund.” Before you hire a contractor with the initials B.M., check with me.)
Friends and neighbors can be a terrific source for contractor info. Earlier this year I found our awesome basement contractor, Basement Systems of West Virginia, by asking a neighbor who she used. I learned about Rusty the Roofer from Rose the Waxing Wizadress who shapes my brows.
Address problems sooner than later.
Little problems often become big problems with intimidating price tags. Not only that, when you put off repairs, you defer relief and pleasure. Tony Bear and I now adore, instead of dread, the sound of rain on our roof. I wish I had a hundred bucks for every time in the last six months we’ve said, “Thank God we got the basement done.” Or, “Why didn’t we do this sooner?”
Keep all manuals and pertinent paperwork for home appliances and accessories in one place.
Last night, because the sprayer hose is leaking on our kitchen faucet, I spent over an hour searching for the paperwork. One simple solution would be an accordion file for warranties, instruction manuals, receipts, etc..
Contribute regularly to a home improvement fund.
Such a fund is essential for home upgrades and unexpected emergencies. It may not eliminate debt, but it can decrease it.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to show the drain guy where to park so he doesn’t block the tree guy.
Laura Jane says
As with all of your blog posts, I LOVE IT. Thank you for thought provoking insights. When you know better … I appreciate the encouragement and your example to do better / make better choices. Love and appreciate you and your wonderful work:) <3
Thanks, Laura Jane, friend from way back when! I love that you stopped by and that you like what I’m doing here. All the best to you and the peewees:)
Awesome, just awesome! I needed this blog, as well as many others I am certain. Thanks for being real! You are awesome!
Apparently, I/we needed it too, Kim. He who shall not be named read the post and is currently prepping an area of our house to paint. Yay me!!! This after we discussed replacing the floors and (maybe) columns on the porches.
Theresa Gannett says
On the 25 years we lived on Webster, we had a big project going at least every year. Windows, roof, gutters, awning, AC, basement water issues, repainting. It went on and on! If we hadn’t, it may have been dilapidated by the time we moved! Home equity line of credit is a big financier, cause you can usually deduct the interest, like a mortgage loan. Something to think of for big projects. You won’t deplete cash, and can pay off monthly, and deduct the interest.
Love your blog as usual!
You were wise wise wise, Terry! We are paying the price now for all that we didn’t do along the way. There is an up side though. At this point in our lives, we have more financial resources.
Great point about the home equity line of credit. At our accountant’s suggestion, we used a home equity line of credit to pay off a small student loan for one of the kids because the interest rate was 3-4% versus the 7% rate the loan (Stafford maybe?) the college suggested.
First, the word “overwhelmed” comes to mind, but I love that you found a way to use “hornswaggled.” Any time that word is used, you can be sure the user is of mind and body, in a nearly sound way. You found a way to be humorous about a topic that might be likened to the life-threatening implications of public speaking. And then you offered twigs of hope. Nice work, as always, hummingbird. And, just so we’re clear, the ruby slippers are still mine!
I’m with you in the overwhelm, Liat. You are living in the house you grew up with so you’re living with not just your own stuff, but a family’s. I did the clean out to sell thing for my mom’s house. Now we’re cleaning out my mother-in-law’s. It is daunting. What to keep, what to dsicard. It can feel a bit like betrayal. But then action feels so liberating. One garbage bag on the curb is progress. Victory over the status quo!