Regular readers of this column will remember that just over three years ago, my husband and I gutted our home and added on a two-story addition.
Looking around my home after it was finished, I couldn’t imagine why anyone who had recently renovated or even redecorated their home would do so again. But three years later, my home is starting to show some wear and tear and I am beginning to understand why some people turn into serial renovators.
Let’s start in the kitchen. My beautiful birch cabinets are receiving some dings and dents. Every time one of the kids runs a tractor into the kickplate, bumps up against the refrigerator, or hits a balloon near my hanging lights, I get nervous.
The scratches in the cabinet aren’t too bad, but about a week after our granite countertops were installed, someone tapped the edge of the countertop with a Calphalon pot as they were loading the dishwasher. A small chunk of granite fell out.
I felt betrayed. Wasn’t granite supposed to be the hardest substance you could have on your countertop? Granite mountains have stood for millions of years, and now my piece of those mountains cracked off at the tap of a little anodized aluminum.
We’ve already had to repaint some of the walls our kids (with their sticky fingers) can’t seem to stop touching, and the rest of the interior will likely need to be repainted sometime in the next year or two. The carpet, which was never installed quite right in a number of places, is shredding on one corner of the stairs. Feeling a little like Martha Stewart, I roam the house with a small pair of scissors looking for little ends to snip off.
The seal on the window in my office has failed. After digging around for our warranty, and then calling the company, we’ve determined that the window is eligible for replacement. For free. Unfortunately, the cost to take out the old window (which is 10-feet high and one of three windows in the house that doesn’t have a removable sash), take off the siding and then repair and repaint the whole thing isn’t. We’ll tackle that project in the spring.
But taking off a chunk of our siding is such a huge job that we’ve decided to take off some other spots that weren’t installed correctly and fix a recurring leak we have in our kitchen windows. It isn’t much, just a few drips when the rain comes in from the west with strong winds.
The problem seems to be that homes are built by people, and for the most part, made out of natural materials, like stone and wood. Although the half life of these items might be hundreds of years, they begin to decay almost immediately after installation, as the house settles after the chaos of renovation or construction.
The newness has begun to wear off and the novelty of living in something brand new is giving way to reality. Our new home is now classified as “existing” and our renovations are already 3 years old. Looking through the pages of remodeling magazines, I see technological innovations (like plasma screen/hot tub combinations) that simply were not available when we remodeled.
Two doors down, our neighbor just put in a 4,000 square foot modular home. I recently toured his home (which is still under construction) and found myself with a case of “basement envy.” His basement is 1,500 square feet and will have a 10-foot high ceiling when completed. He is planning to build a wine cellar, full bathroom, workout room, extra bedroom, art room and play space for the kids down there.
The smells of a new home, like sawdust, plaster dust and fresh paint, make me think this is why Americans are obsessed with new cars. It’s too expensive to build a new home every year, but for $30,000 or so, you can drive away with that new car feeling every three years, right around when your car starts to feel a little shabby.
In the meantime, we still have a number of projects to finish, including a front walkway, a backyard patio, and curtains for our living room. By the time we get around to completing these, it will be probably be time to replace our carpet and repaint.
And then our house, which I love, will feel like “new” again.
Dec. 16, 2002.