Category Archives: Home Repair

What’s new at Just Kate

It has been three months since my last post.  In my defense, there is a lot going on.

1. I started knitting my camisole. It has a pretty lace top and a plain knit body. I’m using undyed baby alpaca yarn, which feels fantastic on my fingers as I work. This is a fun and relaxing journey – I plan to take my time to complete it.

2. The woman den has been completely uprooted. Due to lack of efficient/safe heating, we cannot allow children to play out there in the winter. (D and I host Bible study, which involves children of a wide age range stopping by our house as well.) Space heaters and boys holding wrestling matches do not mix. In all fairness, the boys seem to need a place to make noise and wrestle, so it is no good to tell them to quiet down.

D’s solution is to take the old woman den for himself. He has installed a wood-burning stove and built a new workbench. Really, it looks great. In return, I am going to fix up his old shop as my new woman-and-children den. A new couch awaits while I choose paint and flooring (an agonizing process). The new den will also hold our computer and office supplies, which will free up that third bedroom.

3. Rie will move into the third bedroom – but I have to fix it up for her. There are holes in the wall from the old shelving (now in D’s new shop), and one of the windows is just awful. Not sure what to do with it yet. Anyway, that will be tackled when the new Den is settled – hopefully mid-March.

4. Rie’s little brother or sister will move into her old room. Fortunately, it is a gender-neutral nursery, so there will not be anything to do. I will replace the faded curtains with new ones, but otherwise it is good to go. Baby is due in August. Eeee!

5. By the time I finish that silly camisole, I will be too big to wear it. Oh well. Maybe next winter.

6. And may I please point out that when I started this blog, I thought my house was too small? It looks like we’re reaching our goal. Staying in our affordable house while raising a family. Gosh, that feels good.


The Woman Den Part III

I’ve returned to Just Kate to spread the good news about the Woman Den. Back in the last week of September D recruited some fantastic help to make a final push.

This involved ripping out a garage door that did not open (what were the previous owners up to, exactly?), replacing some rotted flooring, and putting in a new wall where the door once stood, complete with insulation and drywall. The main thing I learned was to stay out of D’s way when he is on a roll. The secondary thing I learned was how to use a chalk line.

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The woman den is cozier than ever. It is faster to heat up in the winter and stays cooler in the heat (the sun used to blaze right through that garage door). It has been a real treat this past fall to use my treadmill out of the wind.

On a minimizing note, D and I have gone through the storage section of the woman den and made quite a dent. A whole box of Christmas stuff – mostly linens – is gone, with two boxes kept. That is a reduction of 33% in Christmas crap, er, treasures. Also, D has been convinced to reduce his Navy and Boy Scout memorabilia. Like everything else minimized, it’s a process.

We do not have a lot left in storage in the Woman Den and I’m confident all of my crafting tools and supplies will fit nicely when the time comes. Oh dear. Did I say ‘confident’? That has never been a good way to start out…


A few weeks ago D and I were standing in our driveway and simultaneously made the same horrible realization. We both looked at our house and said a flat, ‘oh’. Our house is leaning towards the west in a very noticeable way. It seems that two years of drought followed by a year of excessive rain has caused the earth under our home to shift, taking the foundation with it.

D is so good at handling the repair side of home ownership. He immediately made calls to foundation repair companies to take bids on fixing our problem. The first bid left me feeling like a stone was lodged in my stomach. $30,000. That does not include repairs to the rest of the house that will become necessary after lifting and securing the foundation, such as drywall cracks, plumbing, replacing windows and doors, and so on.

I wanted to cry. For two days there was no consoling me out of my funk. A friend of mine is a realtor and we invited him over to evaluate our home for listing purposes. He confirmed what I already knew: we cannot sell our home with this kind of damage. We will have to address the foundation if we want to sell. (Not that we want to sell anytime soon—after all, the Woman Den has just been completed. More about that later.)

Another bid came in at $5,000, but this one is not to repair the foundation, just to stop it from worsening. I will not go into the details, but it sounds like a mere temporary fix and would, in the long run, be a waste of the money rather than a good application of it.

A third bid came in that seems reasonable. It would correct the west side of the house; the east side would have to wait. It comes with a transferable warranty and a detailed explanation of the work done so any potential buyer would be fully informed. It will cost literally everything we have in savings. But wait; there is a silver lining to all of this.

This year our saving habits have gone into turbo mode since we discovered minimalism. I suppose that sounds odd. Shouldn’t we have known all along to spend less and save more? Well, we thought we were doing just that. We thought, compared to other people, we were doing a good job of staying out of debt, saving, and living modestly. After “discovering” minimalism, we realized we could do better. Spend even less and save even more. Stop comparing ourselves to others.

Thank God. I keep thinking if this simple realization had not been made, we would have fewer options and this situation would be even worse. By living simply, we could recover from this hiccup in just a year or two. And we are perfectly fine with living simply. In fact, we crave it.

The Woman Den Part II

The last weekend of July was bea-u-ti-ful. Here in Kansas we had highs in the seventies, no humidity, and just the perfect amount of breeze. Somebody with clout had their prayers answered this weekend.

I began on Saturday by finishing the doorframes started several weeks ago, before all the glorious rain put a temporary halt on the project. Painting the doorframes and fascia board for the north side was a cinch. Of course, this is all thanks to the help of my fantastic in-laws, who came over to entertain Rie. (D decided to go shooting with friends, which I fully endorse. A husband who pursues his hobbies is much more willing to lend me a hand later on.)

Sunday morning was chilly. We put on jackets and walked to church. On the way home Rie fell asleep. In an effort to prolong her nap D and I ambled among the neighborhood, admiring houses and gardens. We stopped at home to pick up our loyal hound, Maile, and continued our walk to a local lake where we could birdwatch and talk each others’ ears off. I love having time to spend with my husband to do the things we dreamed about doing when we first married.

Once home D went to work putting up the new fascia board while I worked on the east window. The old moulding was so rotted that I was able to pull most of it off with my hand.


D came over to watch, with Rie in his arms, when I started trying to pry nails out of the metal siding. It happened in slow motion. I yanked a nail out with the wrecking bar and immediately swung my arm forward to break a pane of glass. My first broken window. Ever. I was kind of shocked, I think. This fact was surprising to D who has broken many windows throughout many adventures. He stood there, holding Rie, chuckling and teasing mercilessly.

D was in charge of measuring and cutting the new moulding, which is vinyl that will never need to be painted. By the time he had it all up we realized there was about an inch and a half gap on the upper left corner. According to D, a lot of caulk is all the spot needs in order to keep water out. Because the window is on the side of the shed no one sees (including neighbors), we decided to call it good enough:


Next we will paint the north window. And use about a tube of caulk on the east window. And replace a pane of glass. This home repair thing is turning out to be a lot fun—who knew?

The Woman Den Part I

D has a shop attached to our garage. He calls it a man cave. It houses the powered and unpowered tools, gun cabinet, paint, a beer cooler, a tacky assortment of antlers, and so on. We knew when we bought the house that this air conditioned, heated, well-lit room would be his. I had no purpose for it. Immediate agreement, no discussion necessary.

As we were moving in, D started eyeballing the out-building. It has a porch attached, but no A/C or heating and the electricity is wonky. Part of the floor is rotted. One wall is consumed by a garage door that cannot open. Before he could say anything I cut off his thought bubble. That pathetic little building is my woman den. (Men have caves. Women have dens. I decided. You’re welcome.)

Until now the woman den has had nearly no money invested into it. D fixed up the porch so we could use it for parties. He also fixed the electricity so it is 90% predictable. The interior is a nightmare. Part of chair rail here, an unfinished portion of drywall there, a cracked window, lots of critters, you get the idea. But this is my woman den. It houses some storage, my weights, treadmill, and a TV with a DVD player. Once again, I trust you get the idea.

In order for our long-term use of the house to be successful, the woman den is going to have to rise to the occasion. We plan to spruce ‘er up, organize and de-clutter the storage section and make her a haven for both exercise and crafting.

My plan is simple. Start with the outside projects. Once the exterior is sparkling, we will move to the inside. This could take months.

Case in point: last week I started scraping the old paint off the door frames and found one piece of moulding had rotted. I pried it off (with D’s supervision-I have never done anything like this in my life), hauled it to the hardware store and purchased a new piece of PVC moulding that will not rot. (That part I did by myself. Mom would be proud.) Several days later I was able to finish scraping and priming the door frames and put up the new piece of moulding.

Finally, today, a week after starting to scrape the door frames, was to be the day to paint the doors and frames and finish the first “phase”. It rained.