Wednesday, July 30, 2008

In the Beginning...

The house that we've just bought could be described as a fixer-upper. In a way, it's not, because we could go on living there without making any major changes to it, and it doesn't need any structural repair, but there's a lot that ought to be done for one reason or another. Some things, like repainting the roof, replacing the gutters, pruning the trees, and fixing the window frames, are just routine preventative maintenance; the rest, like fencing the entire property, enlarging the front porch, planting gardens, and everything we've planned for inside, is just for us. Quality-of-life stuff. Our priorities, of course, are the first kind, so those have to be done first, even though they're not as exciting.

An ongoing issue for us is the fact that we both think big-- too big. Our dreams are way, way bigger than our budget, and this house can only take so much upgrading before it's out-of-step with the neighborhood (read: we'll never recoup the costs). Don sees too much designer stuff at work and comes home talking about marble counters; he sees a flat skylight at Lowes and pictures it lighting our kitchen. I read too many shelter magazines and envision hardwood floors and a wood-burning stove. While my ideas are usually more realistic than his, neither one of us is the "practical one". I have to fall back on, "Do normal people do this? Have I seen anything like this in our neighborhood? Or anywhere in real life, for that matter, besides a hotel or a magazine?" I don't want to put so much money into the house and then never see it again. Over the weekend, we took our first trip to the home-improvement stores as homeowners; our maiden voyage. It was depressing, as everything cost more than I had hoped... the budget I had set for the year is only going to get us through the roof, windows, gutters, and fence, if it even lasts that long. (Now I'm trying to convince Don that by "yearly budget" I meant "from now until December, when we'll start with Next Year's Money!" instead of July-to-July.) Our schedule is still really rough, because certain things need to be done at certain times, and the only thing already started are the window frames. It seems like every first step has to be preceded by other first steps: before we can start the fence, we need to find out exactly where the boundaries of the property are (how do we get a survey done?), and how close to those the fence can go, and do we need a building permit just for a fence? And on and on it goes.

I am starting this secondary blog just for house issues-- repairs, improvements, landscaping, gardening-- so that I can keep track of what we've done, organize what we want to do, keep a detailed gardening journal, and take lots and lots of before-and-after pictures. (You know, so that when it's time to submit our projects to Fine Homebuilding magazine, we'll have the before pics. Hehe.)