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Yesterday’s post was a simple observation about our many accomplishments in these last six months of DIY home improvement. I am very thankful for all of the help, patience, and advice that we’ve received, and it’s such a wonderful feeling to come home and think, “I did this. How neat is that?

But, as we all know, home renovation isn’t complete without its share of tiresome, exhausting, frustrating, make-you-want-to-cry, I’m-so-sick-of-this moments that have you screaming on the floor like a toddler. Today, which marks the 6-month anniversary of the day AFTER our first night in our new house, I’d like to share those observations with you all:

1. Cats don’t like to be quiet when you are tired.  As I mentioned yesterday, despite closing at the end of December 2009, we took our time moving in to properly prepare our new home. After several weeks of cleaning the house and getting it ready for our move in, then spending those same weeks cleaning and preparing the old apartment for our move out, we finally spent our first night in the house. Tired and sore from heavy moving boxes, Scott and I climbed into bed and passed out almost instantly. At around 4:30 A.M., we woke to the sound of loud, angry, hissing cats. I’ve never heard a cat scream before… unfortunately, that’s no longer the case. That’s right:  our first night in our new house was welcomed by neighborhood cats fighting in our front shrubs.

It. Was. LOUD. And impossible to go back to sleep. For the next twenty minutes (or eternity, give or take a decade), we were the only witnesses to our neighbor’s cat getting its furry a$$ kicked. At this point (which was about 5 A.M., still wide awake), I fully expected our second day’s events to include the removal of an animal carcass from our front yard. We didn’t wind up finding anything, however, and for the next few weeks I made a point of it to send Colby out into our front yard to scare the cats off. He seemed to enjoy the sport of it, and we never saw those cats in our yard again. Tip:  I’ve heard that if you have a similar problem but don’t have the benefit of a big scary dog to chase them off, moth balls work well to deter cats from hanging around.

2. I really hate the sound of water dripping.  This is something I’m sure every homeowner has experienced, or will experience at some point. I really hate a mysterious drip…drip…drip coming from an unknown location. Because instead of a drip, I hear, “$100…$200…$300…”  Dripping means water, water means damage and mold, damage and mold mean expensive repairs. And given the age of my house, I know that the home was built during the heyday of polybutylene piping, which of course leaves me with fun-house-mirror-style images of rotting pipes in my mind. This is merely the dramatic side of me, though – I already know that the previous owner replaced the poly piping many years ago. But still… being a homeowner means repairing things that break; even the expensive stuff!

3. I hate repairing freshly painted walls.  During reno, dings, scratches, and simply not paying attention is common. Want to use that ladder? Fine, just drag it through this tight hallway Tetris-style and try not to bang the corner into your wall… oops! Now you have a gouged wall, along with a scuff mark, which needs to be repaired…again. At this point, I’m equally frustrated with the thought of accidentally dropping a hammer on our newly installed laminate floors, which is why I’m doing my best to put blankets and rugs down everywhere.

4. Home improvement store clerks don’t always know what you’re talking about.  Let’s imagine for a second that I’m at a clothing store (shocker, I know). I go up to one of the salespeople and ask, “Do you have this shirt in a size small?”  I fully expect that salesperson to give me an answer, such as, “We just ran out,” or “I’ll check in the back,” or something else that let’s me know that: A) She heard my question; B) She understood what I was talking about (knows what a shirt is, knows what a size is, etc); and C) She is able to connect A to B and give me an answer. Now, let’s take this scenario out of the clothing store and into a home improvement store. If I were to ask the sales clerk, “Excuse me, but where can I find drywall tape/quarter round/caulk?”  I fully expect that person to know what drywall tape/quarter round/caulk is and know where in the store I can find it. After spending the last six months visiting home improvement stores at least twice per week, it absolutely infuriates me when I get asked the following question back:  “What are you trying to use it for?”  Translation:  I have no clue what that is. You’re on your own, kid.  You don’t always find the guy from the Lowe’s ad.

5. My stairs are such a pain!  I have sanded and repainted the area around our stairs three times now. But paint just doesn’t want to seem to stick! I know that latex paint takes several weeks to cure, but even after that, the trim paint still peels right off like Elmer’s glue on skin (did you ever do that when you were little? Ew!). I really don’t want to use oil, and at this point I simply don’t know what to do. My next attempt will involve a coat of Killz before painting over it with semi-gloss latex. Any suggestions?

6. Please, no more fingernails.  I’ve mentioned this story many times on this blog, but for me, it never gets old (because I’ve never heard anyone else ever experience this). When we moved in and began cleaning, I found (used) Lee press-on fingernails all over the house… in the living room, primary bedroom, closet, garage, and even our old fridge. It was one of those surprises that continues to give me the heebies.

7. Neighbors can sometimes be inconsiderate.  One of my neighbors is a professional landscaper. His yard is beautiful, and puts our neglected yard to shame. My other neighbor (the one with the cat) is the exact opposite. I can tell at one point, she had a very elaborate landscaping project, which involved several water features, a trellis, and a cute little gate in the front. At some point, she must have forgotten all of it existed, because now all of the overgrown foliage reminds me of an old witch’s house. Why does this bother me (besides the obvious eyesore)? Because the fence which divides her yard from mine has been overcome by bamboo. Scott and I are doing everything we can to prevent the bamboo babies from taking root in our back yard. Here is a lovely photo of what the area between our yard and my neighbors looked like after a snowfall this past winter:

Unfortunately, there’s not much else Scott and I can do to prevent the bamboo from spreading into our yard besides staying vigilant about ripping out the new sprouts. Our neighbor has recently cut down much of her bamboo, but the damage to her fence has already been done. When we installed a gate to close off our back yard, we had to use 2x4s to prop the fence back up so that our newly cemented posts wouldn’t lean.

8. Okay, I get it.  Even though we are working very hard on the house, passersby will not hesitate to remind you how much further you have to go. The most common way I experience this is the ads I get attached to my mailbox.

Need landscaping service?
Need tree service?
Need to replace your siding? We’d be glad to help!  

Translation:  My yard is a mess, the trees are overgrown, and our siding needs work. I know that these individuals are simply trying to drum up business, which I can’t blame them for. But it feels like I’m being double-teamed by these folks and the nagging voice in my head. While I’d like to focus solely on how far we’ve come from where we started, I can’t go too long without being reminded that my to-do list is still quite long.

So, there you have it. If nothing more than a chance to vent, I’m glad I got to share with you some of the things that have been bugging me for the last six months. What about you? What are you most annoyed with as your home improves? Please feel free to share, I’m looking forward to having a few laughs!

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  1. Most of my annoyances rest with the previous homeowner, who went to great lengths to cover up and “hide” things he didn't want to fix – the asbestos tiles in the basement, the water damaged wood, disguising a shower as a linen closet, burying a cement patio, hiding a water leak (and mold) in the laundry room by strategically placing a washer and dryer in front of it. A washer and dryer that (big surprise) didn't work. And leaked.

    On the upside, due to the horrible previous tenants/owners of our house during the past 40+ years of neglect and abuse, all of our neighbors absolutely LOVE us. They tell us all the time that they are so thankful that we moved in – usually followed by some incredible stories about how horrible and disrespectful all the previous owners/tenants were (can you believe that they would repeatedly throw garbage and empty beer cans on the neighbors' lawns? And drive on them?).

    At some point, there were frat parties thrown at this house. Our poor neighbors. And house. I guess that explains the BBQ sauce we found EVERYWHERE. Even on the garage door. Gross. Out.

    Although maybe not as bad as fingernails. Eeek!


  2. Thanks for the laugh, Chelsea! I love your post about your found patio… I've read it and love what you did with it!

    It's good that your house now has loving owners who treat it with respect!

    As you can see from our before photo from our laundry room makeover, we too had to deal with water damage/mold. Thankfully, it was an easy fix.

  3. Hi Sarah
    I love the fact that you willing to go out on the limb and speak your mind!
    I can add one to your list….
    We own a 140 year old disaster that we are restoring. We are not able to live there yet, and we work avery evening, weekend, holiday, and day off, trying to revive it. The thing that gets us the most is the folks that just walk in the front door. We will be working away and suddenly hear someone, or a group of someones, standing in the center hall. They look at us like we are nothing more than the hired help and say “oh, don't mind us, we're just looking”


    and Hee, Hee… I can't tell you how many times I have been scared right out of my skin by folks doing this.

    Carry on and enjoy the ride!

    If you would like to see our monster… http://www.227northstreet.com

  4. Wow, I guess fingernails are quite small (hehe) compared to strangers strolling through the door!

    I can imagine that restoration is an entirely different animal than simple DIY remodeling. I'm looking forward to seeing what you do to your “monster”!

  5. Love this post! I totally agree with you on #4. It is one of my pet peeves – sometimes I feel I know more about the DIY products in the store than the workers there! Have you tried Bullseye 123 primer for your stairs? It's a pretty good primer for going over glossy surfaces.