Tom’s mom Joan died a little more than a year ago. She and Tom’s dad were master providers and savers, on one public school administrator’s income, and with five children to provide for. Somehow they had enough money to comfortably get them through retirement and their senior years and various health issues. Somehow they managed to save enough over and above that, to pass on to all their children. It was such a surprise, and such an incredible gift, to receive a check from the estate after Joan passed.
We decided that we needed to talk to a financial planner to get an idea of how this gift should be spent, as we really wanted to honor it. When he heard about the state of our 1949 home, he was very adamant that we needed to invest in taking care of the structure, making sure it was both safe and protected for the coming years. Our roof was literally falling off, piece by piece. The roofing over the garage was rotting and leaking. The exterior paint was chipping and flaking, exposing the redwood structure. Both of these issues were expensive and we hadn’t been able to save a large chunk of money to get them addressed. Tom’s parents provided us the means to do so, and we are so grateful.
We chose companies owned by people who had grown up in our neighborhood, folks who appreciated the history of the area and the houses. The roofer was amazed that our interior was dry, the roof was in such bad shape. When the workers came to demolish it, they found all kinds of rot. Many boards were removed and replaced before the new roof was laid. They also replaced all our leaking, rusty, crooked gutters.
With the roof safe and secure, we next turned our attention to exterior paint. From my geography teacher, I had learned that paint color affects how hot your house can get. If you choose dark colors, the paint will absorb more radiation from the sun (insolation), causing the molecules to vibrate fast and creating friction, which would heat up. That heat would be moved into our home by conduction. And when I talked to the painter, he told me that darker colors fade faster and don’t last as long. The trend in our neighborhood has been painting the houses a very dark color, and using a very bright color for the front door. It looks nice, but I knew that a lighter color was the way to go. Plus, our front door was handmade by my dad and would NOT be painted! But I was sick to death of a white house and green shutters. And the trim was a sort of pukey olive color. My painter gave me several palettes that Sherwin Williams had put together for ‘California Modern Ranch Houses.’ We all voted, and ended up with a paint that is somewhere between brown and grey. The painter also commented on how our house was a ‘gem.’ That everyone is tearing down and rebuilding, or enlarging the footprint, but that our house was unique because it was historically intact. He wanted to protect the redwood, which was a-ok with me. We were on the same wavelength. The painters had to work between rainstorms (rainstorms! in May! very unusual) but we now have our beautiful new exterior. And oh, they said that our 70-year-old house had had only two coats of paint in that entire time… can you believe it?
You see that door? That leads to the garage. We had the most disgusting door before, both here and the one leading to the laundry room. Oh, I found a picture, here you go:
Holes had been hacked out of both doors (not by us) for animals, and they were gross. Plus do you see that hole to the left of the door? Someone hacked that out to put a dryer vent in the garage (we have ours in the laundry room where it belongs!). Tom was able to make a circle of redwood to fit most of the hole, and the painters sealed the rest up with a special putty. You’d never know that hole had been there! Anyway, Tom and I bought ‘new’ doors at Urban Ore, a great cavernous warehouse in Berkeley that has a bunch of scavenged materials from building sites that are being torn down. We found two of the exact same doors, and Tom bought new hardware, and somehow managed to get the doors to work in this old, crooked house. The painter looked at the ‘new’ doors and said “Those are $300 doors!” We paid $75 each, so we feel pretty proud of ourselves.
After these two major projects, we still have a little money left, so we made a list of all the things we want to tackle in the house, none of which are urgent issues, and many of which are aesthetic, like refinishing the oak wood floors. We couldn’t figure out what was best to do first. We plan to be in this house another 10-15 years, and we want to enjoy our time here. We see people redo their houses all the time and then sell them right away, never getting to enjoy what they’ve done. We want to increase the property value, but we also know that trying to make it right for a buyer’s taste is not the right thing to do, since they’ll probably change everything anyway. And our yard - our weird, permaculture farmy yard - is already going to skew our sale to a certain kind of person. Anyway, I remembered that the real estate agent who helped us find this house 15 years ago is married to a contractor - he helped us put in a duct system when we first moved in, for central heat and air (all it had was a wall heater). I contacted them and he agreed to come over and help us prioritize. He didn’t think it was worth it to try to add another bathroom (we only have one) since the kids will be going to college soon. He didn’t think a whole bathroom redo for our one bathroom was worth it. He thought redoing the shower might be good, and redoing the kitchen counters. When we told him about our old pipes, he thought repiping would be a good investment. And he also was very much on the side of adding solar panels, which is something we very much want to do, but weren’t sure it was worth it. I mean ecologically it is VERY worth it, what I mean is if it would improve the value of our home. He said a very vehement ‘yes’ and also said it was important to buy, not lease.
It is worth it to add that when we asked the kids what they thought we should do with the last bit of money, they both immediately said ‘solar panels.’ No hesitation. It’s good to listen to the younger generation. They’re pretty smart.
So, now we are deep into that research and learning curve and are gobsmacked at how much it all costs. We need subsidies for clean energy!!!! How is anyone supposed to afford to do the right thing? Anyway, I will keep you updated on what we decide and the entire process, if it happens.
Meanwhile we are feeling very safe and protected in our newly roofed and painted home! I can’t get enough of walking around and just looking at it. Thank you Joan and Tom Boegel, for being such amazing savers and such generous people!!! I hope you’re looking down on us and smiling in approval.