the home ownership learning curve

I’ve learned a lot over the past month.  No matter how many shows you watch on HGTV, or how many issues of Better Homes & Gardens you read, or even how many other homeowners you talk to…there are just some things about owning a house that you don’t learn until you do it.  And there are some things that people will warn you about, but you still don’t really learn the lesson until you live through it yourself.  But in case you’re more the advice-taking type than I am, here’s a list of the things I wish I’d known going into this.

1.  Home inspections don’t catch everything.  The inspector will warn you of this – you’ll even sign a contract to that effect – but you’ll still be shocked to discover that something as major as a wall that is literally falling apart can be missed.

While stripping wallpaper in the downstairs bedroom, we discovered crumbling drywall, caused by major termite damage. The drywall had to be torn down, some 2x4s had to be replaced, and then new drywall was hung.

2.  Wallpaper covers a multitude of sins.  When you buy a house that’s full of wallpapered rooms, you think about the time it’s going to take you to remove it all.  And you remember all of those HGTV shows that tell you, “Oh, it’s just paint! It’s just wallpaper! It’s all cosmetic! So easy to fix!” and you think…ok, I’m not afraid of a little hard work, I can see the potential.  But what you don’t know – what you can’t possibly know – is what’s under that wallpaper.  If you’re lucky, it’s just more layers of wallpaper.  If you’re really lucky, it’s white walls that are in pretty good shape.  But wallpaper can also hide huge cracks, multicolored walls that require multiple coats of primer, crumbling drywall, or huge holes that were never properly patched.  If you’re not prepared to deal with these kind of projects, don’t buy a house with 5 wallpapered rooms.

The master bedroom. The bottom half of the wall was gray, the top half (under the wallpaper) was white, and the corners were a dark teal. There were also a couple of large cracks near the ceiling that had to be spackled.

3.  You get what you pay for when it comes to paint.  In our house, we’ve used Sherwin-Williams, Behr, and Glidden.  Sherwin-Williams is a little over $50/gallon, and Behr and Glidden are each around $25/gallon.  The Sherwin-Williams paint is thick, almost like mud, and it goes on smoothly.  We painted our master bedroom and bathroom using their Duration paint.  We didn’t prime at all in the bathroom, and we did one coat of primer in the bedroom.  We did one coat of paint in each room, and besides a few little areas that needed touch-up, we’re very happy with the coverage.  We’re especially happy with how the colors turned out, very multi-dimensional and sophisticated.  Not only did they match the color cards, they matched how I imagined the colors would look.  The Behr and Glidden paints, which we used in Flavio’s office, the guest room, and all of the main living spaces upstairs, are much thinner.  Even after two coats of primer and one coat of paint, you could still see the old color in many places.  We weren’t happy with how the Behr colors turned out in the office or the guest room, so we ended up buying new colors (a darker shade of the Behr for the office, and a switch to Glidden for the guest room).  Still, we weren’t 100% satisfied with the color in the guest room, but at this point I’m exhausted just thinking about repainting it.  Bottom line, you end up needing twice as much of the cheaper paint.  And with Sherwin-Williams frequently having 30-40% off sales, you can actually end up saving money by using their paint vs. the stuff from Home Depot.

The master bedroom (background) was done with 1 gallon of Sherwin-Williams Duration matte in Drizzle. The en suite bathroom (foreground) was done with 1 quart of Sherwin-Williams Duration satin in Watery.

4.  Pink is a really hard color to get right.  Unless you’re painting a nursery, or really love the color of bubble gum, go with the palest shade.  Beige is also a really hard color to get right.  Unless you really want white walls, go a shade darker than what you like on the color card.

The guest room was originally done with Behr Premium Plus eggshell in Pale Shrimp, but then redone with Glidden Premium eggshell in Ballet Slipper Pink.

5.  When you buy a house that somebody else has already lived in, they mostly leave you with a lot of dirt.  (Trust me, no matter how nice that carpet looks, rent a RugDoctor and shampoo the crap out of it.  And try not to puke when you see what comes out in the tank.)  But sometimes, you inherit beautiful, special things that make all of the dirt, grime, cracks, and crumbling drywall totally worth it.

A lovely little hand-painted ceramic light switch plate in the dining room.

The beautiful stained glass window in the master bathroom. I didn’t discover this until the third or fourth time we went to the house…the previous owner had it hidden behind a pair of dark, dusty curtains!

The best surprise of all! This prairifire crabapple tree was bare when we bought the house, but just erupted into clusters of the prettiest pink flowers in the last week.

I hope this post was helpful.  In spite of all of the problems we’ve come across, I’m in love with this house.  With every strip of wallpaper that comes down and every slick of paint that goes up, the place feels more and more like our home.  I’m just looking forward to finally being able to sleep in again!  🙂

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2 Responses to the home ownership learning curve

  1. As many problems as you’ve had, I’m seriously in with your house!

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