Monday, October 2, 2023

You know you own an old house when...

There's Humor in Them Thar Bills...

The true life drama, romance, comedy, mystery and tragedy of historic restoration...

Owning and restoring an old house is often a love/hate relationship. Maintaining one's sense of humor is essential -- as is knowing that others have survived similar ordeals and lived to tell their tales. The first 20 items in this list are based on our personal experiences with our 1880 Victorian (aka, affectionately, "The Money Pit"). If you have ever owned (or own) an old house, we think you will relate to our list and hope you'll share your own realizations, frustrations, trials, triumphs, insights, and discoveries.

You know you own an old house when...

1) Every time you get up from your desk the chair rolls across the slanted floor

2) There really are bats in your belfry (and the house's too - not to mention the bat skeletons in the furnace)

"Bats in the Belfry" is
Available at
3) You can't flush the toilet if someone is taking a shower, doing laundry, or washing dishes.

4) You scan the curbs on garbage day to see if there is something you can scavenge (a rusty hinge? An old screen?) because you might need it some day.
5) Others go to dinner and a movie on the weekends. You hang out at garage and tag sales and antique auctions. Instead of a trip to the mall or home depot, you head to the local salvage yard.

6) When you finally take a night off and rent a movie (see #5), you rate it by how much attention you pay to the woodwork, wallpaper, and furnishings. (You've sat through some of the worst movies because you didn't want to miss any of the details of the room settings.)

7) A vacation means you have a chance to a) paint the side of the house that needs it most b) strip the carved black walnut window frames that someone actually painted BROWN! c) pull up that peel-and- stick tile/Astroturf/or commercial carpeting and install an encaustic tile floor in your foyer.

8) There is no such thing as a "weekend" project (or a week-long one for that matter). Projects have no ends as they always lead to another.

Photo of stripping and painting an old house is available at
9) You can't find a plumber or electrician willing to work on your house.

10) Contractors offer you a refund to NOT have to finish a job despite a signed detailed contract and payment by the hour.

11) When you finally take a night off and rent a movie (see #5), you rate it by how much attention you pay to the woodwork, wallpaper, and furnishings. (You've sat through some of the worst movies because you didn't want to miss any of the details of the room settings.)

12) You are so used to your homes' idiosyncratic creaks and squeaks (not to mention the sounds of the heating system and ticking of the clocks) you can't sleep anywhere else because it is too quiet.

13) You choose wallpaper by how it will look on walls that are only plum(b) because a previous owner painted them that color.

14) You rip up the bathroom floor and discover a previous owner cut the floor joists to run the pipes across. You are actually very happy about this because you discovered the damage before the water-filled tub crashed through the floor when you stepped in for a soak. 

Do you approach old houses with fear
tempered by wit?

...Then you should see The Old Dark House
The 1932 classic and cult favorite starring a creepy old house and the likes of Boris Karloff, Melvyn Douglas, Charles Laughton, Raymond Massey, Gloria Stuart, and Lillian Bond. With a dark, finely honed sense of humor, an outrageous cast of characters, and wonderfully entertaining and informative extras, this is the one to see. (Avoid the remake from the 1960s.)

So get the popcorn ready, pop the disc in the DVD player you've hidden in that old thrift shop armoire and enjoy!

15) A couple who owned the house in the 1970s stop by and brag to you about drilling holes in the 3 Eastlake mantles and inserting a door knob and mechanism to operate the flues so they did not have to bend down, reach under the chimney, and pull the chain originally installed for that purpose. They expect gratitude but all you can manage is a frozen smile while all you can think about is how much you'd like to drill a hole in the center of their foreheads.

16) Someone introduces you to a stripper at a party and you ask how they'd recommend stripping your fancy woodwork. When she answers you realize she isn't that kind of stripper -- and you're actually disappointed!

17) You use and insist that contractors use common/slotted screws because crosspoint/phillips screws were not used when your house was built.

 Some of our favorite resources for Old House Nuts...

From left to right: Renovating Old Houses: Bringing New Life to Vintage Homes, The Old House Journal Compendium, Caring for Your Old House: A Guide for Owners and Residents, Working Windows: A Guide to the Repair and Restoration of Wood Windows, and Old Electrical Wiring: Evaluating, Repairing, and Upgrading Dated Systems.

18) You freak out when someone suggests replacing your old cast iron radiators with baseboard heating.

19) As soon as you (yes, you - who can find a painter willing to paint your "lady" in 12 different colors, let alone afford it even if you could) finish painting the last side of your house, the side you painted first is ready to be re-done.

20) You consider words like "polyurethane," "plastic," and "vinyl" as expletives.

21) It is difficult to stop your own list at 20, since "old house lovers" also love to share the miseries, joys, and discoveries of the buildings we are enamored of.

PART 2 - From our Readers

21. You own more "work" clothes (for working on your house) than clothes for work (to wear to the office).
         ---Kathy P.

22. When the exterior walls and attic of your house are "insulated" with 3 parts crumpled old newspapers, 4 parts cold air, and 3 parts pigeon droppings.

23. You hate the 1970s. And the '80s. And most of the '90s.

24. You're not sure if putting in a half-bath for the house that previously had one bathroom and ten occupants was worth sacrificing the original butler's pantry on the first floor.
         ---Jenn from Penn

25. You spend more time taking pictures of yourself doing work on your house than you do of you with your family.
         ---Charlie W.

26. When somehow the phrase 'it will be spectacular when it's finished' comes up in every conversation.

27. When you get your house Efficiency Tested, and they tell you the only room in the house insulated is the dining room.
         ---Anna Rounseville

28. Is waiting for YOU!

Add your own experiences in the comments below...

Share your "old house" story, commiserate, comment, tell us we're crazy (you wouldn't be the first -- or the last) or scroll down to browse some of our favorite old house resources.

Follow us & Keep in Touch
For News, Updates & Special Sales

Join us on Pinterest, Google+ and Facebook

Graham & Brown Wallpaper and Decor      

1 comment: