August Mortgage Update and what to do with the 30K in the home maintenance fund

Last month (July):
Balance: $49,389.48
Years left: 3.75
P =$1,007.01, I =$207.39, Escrow =788.73

This month (August):
Balance: $46,373.71
Years left: 3.5
P =$1,018.90, I =$195.50, Escrow =788.73

One month’s prepayment savings: $7.90

As I hinted at last month, with DH employed, we have accumulated a lot of money in our savings account just sitting there (or, more accurately, we didn’t completely de-cumulate our savings from saving up for him leaving his job before he got a new one).  Some of it is tagged for specific things, like tuition and the emergency fund… I guess that’s really it.  So in addition to the amount that’s legitimately in savings, we have more than 30K that’s loosely been earmarked for home maintenance repairs.

Now, before you go and say, “30K?  You should invest in stocks/pay off the mortgage with that are you crazy?”  Note that we have owned this house for almost 10 years and we didn’t change a thing when we moved in.  The only maintenance we’ve done has been completely reactionary:  fixing leaky pipes and faucets, fixing a leaky skylight on the patio, replacing the water heaters when they died, repairing and then replacing the dishwasher when it gave up the ghost and then fixing the new one, replacing the microwave multiple times, replacing the a/c in stages as it died, replacing broken fence pieces, replacing a broken board in the deck, and a whole ton of yard work usually when the HOA sends us a nasty letter.  We also touched up paint in the kitchen once.  And we always seem to be replacing the innards of two of the toilets (DH thinks this may be a waterflow issue).  You know, standard everything that breaks when you’re a homeowner stuff.

During that time we’ve had two kids potty train, and at least 6 cats coming and going.  We have carpet in two of our bathrooms.  We have aging vertical blinds.  We have peeling wall paper.  The paint is coming off in the kitchen.  We have an electric stove.  The kitchen triangle is messed up and the countertops are the cheap kind that turn yellow when you use bleach and, although we have gas hookups in the kitchen, everything is electric.  The kittens have destroyed the master bath, though really the cabinets in there have water damage anyway so it’s not all their doing.  There’s stains on the carpeting and drawings on the walls.  And many more things I haven’t mentioned.  At this point you may be thinking, “Only 30K?  Are you crazy?”

So we’re obviously not going to do everything.

DH has identified as priorities replacing the bathroom carpet with something that isn’t carpet and window treatments.

Warning:  the next few visuals are NOT PRETTY.  Look away now…if you can.

Bathroom carpet + potty training is not a pretty sight.


Even if you're in the minority of those who like vertical blinds, these are starting to get ratty.

Even if you’re in the minority of those who like vertical blinds, these are starting to get ratty.  See the watermarks from leaving the window open when it’s raining?  Oops!

And then there’s the tops of our window treatments. We have two sets of these lovely windows. Those half circles at the top are a pain to cover.

Here you see the needlework skills of the previous owner.  Even if you love these top things, they're kind of dirty and we have no idea how to go about cleaning them.  We suspect the fabric will disintegrate if we try.

Here you see the needlework skills of the previous owner. Even if you love these top things, they’re kind of dirty and we have no idea how to go about cleaning them. We suspect the fabric will disintegrate if we try.

I’m going to save you the master bathroom pictures (aka “kitten island”) to present another day.  They’re pretty stunning, but we’re doing baby steps here.  And we don’t want to overwhelm you with awfulness all at once.  We’re thinking of your health here.

So, our first order of business is the kids’ bathroom.  We spent a few weekends looking at sheet vinyl while getting completely ignored by sales people at three different flooring stores in town.  At the first store it sounded like this was going to be a $600 project and we were all, why does anybody do this themselves (as in, why save $300 at most, though DH points out that $300 is a lot for a lot of people and the work isn’t as daunting for people who know what they’re doing better than we do).  But then we gave up on the local flooring places and just went to Home Depot, where the guy was incompetent, but the contractors he sent to the house weren’t.  After the measurement, the estimated cost is $900.  (So according to the home depot invoice, we’d actually save $500 in labor doing it ourselves.  But we’re not gonna, not this time.)

DC1 picked out this tile, or, to be technically correct, ze picked out this sheet vinyl.  It looks a lot nicer in the picture than it does in the sample, but having mosaic actual tile (like DC1 really wanted) is not a good idea for a children’s bathroom because it’s hard to clean and gets slippery.  Vinyl tiles look better, but they only look better with bigger squares and DC1 really likes the pattern of little squares.  Plus sheet vinyl, is again, much easier to clean.  It’s also the least expensive option.

And they’re going to destroy our beautiful baseboards and replace them with ugly quarter-round.  I think this is why people do everything in their bathrooms at once.  DH thinks he can handle getting, painting, and putting in nicer baseboards so he’s going to ask them to omit the quarter-round moulding.

While they’re doing this, we’re also getting a new toilet.  Not only is the current toilet kind of gross, but it has been nothing but a graveyard for new toilet innards.  I swear, the thing breaks every 3 months or so.  So after some research, we picked out this Toto toilet, complete with the stain guard (because DC2 is still potty training).  That’s $300.

So the jack and jill bathroom flooring + toilet is going to cost something like $1500, depending on how much the fancy moulding costs.  We probably should have done it years ago, but $1500 is a lot of money!  Still, not as much as we thought it would cost.  Sometime in the next month or so, we should no longer have carpet in the kids’ bathroom.

As for the window treatments… we’re not sure what we’re going to be doing there, so any suggestions you make now could influence what we do!  There are a lot of options out there, and some of them are better than others.  But that’ll probably be the topic of another post.

What are your thoughts on our home improvement plans?  Any suggestions?

39 Responses to “August Mortgage Update and what to do with the 30K in the home maintenance fund”

  1. plantingourpennies Says:

    With the bathroom, I’d think about everything that touches the floor and how likely you are to keep it for the life of the vinyl (10 years?). What kind of shape is the vanity in? Stuff like that. Standard sizes for vanities and tub footprints have changed, so it’s not always easy to do a swapout later for something with the same dimensions. If I wanted to keep the existing vanity for now, I’d try to pull it out and lay the vinyl underneath the vanity so it gets laid in one sheet. It’s an increase in labor costs now, but might be worth it in the long run. (Says the person who has two different colors of tile on her bathroom floors because the previous owners cheaped out and tiled around vanities that ended up falling apart long before the tile did.) Yes, you can always keep the scraps and install them later, but seams are weak points for sheet vinyl, especially where water is concerned, so I’d try and minimize them if possible.

  2. Linda Says:

    You may want to think about getting a toilet that has a solid, smooth base and not one that has all those “ridges” on the outside for the pipes. Here’s a photo showing what I mean: Yeah, this kind of toilet is more expensive, but it is SOOO much easier to keep clean. Dust and…stuff…seems to settle onto the outside of toilet bases and solidify there with all the extra moisture in a bathroom. Cleaning it requires getting your face down near the bowl as you reach around and…eww! (I know your opinion on genteel squalor, but, still…)

    As for vertical blinds, I have no ideas. For those kind of windows, I’m not sure what options there are other than curtains. But I also know that long curtains in a house with cats can be a bad idea. Is there a ton of bright (and HOT) sunlight coming through those windows? If not, then why worry about the round areas at the top? If you leave them uncovered they just provide light, but also in a more private way since no one can see in your house through them unless they are on a ladder just outside.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      “Is there a ton of bright (and HOT) sunlight coming through those windows? ”


      • Linda Says:

        How about window film on just those rounded parts, then? You can get some really nice patterns that look like fancy frosted glass. Window film also filters the sunlight and cuts down on the amount of hot sun pouring in.

    • Debbie M Says:

      Easier to clean toilets? Who knew? I don’t see the bolts, though. Are they behind the secret-panel-looking thing? (Hmm, you could totally hide your money or jewels in there–who would want to even look?)

      • Linda Says:

        Yes, the bolts are hidden behind that panel. When we put a new toilet in our (then) master bath several years ago the ex and I choose a toilet like the one I linked to because it was so much easier to keep clean. That’s a great idea for hiding valuables, too! :-)

  3. gwinne Says:

    I’m not going with vinyl, but I totally love the look of that floor.

    I’ve got similar “fake” tile with big squares in my basement, and it’s been great.

    If you don’t like your tub but don’t want to replace, reglazing is a relatively cheap fix.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I was just reading about reglazing. I don’t dislike the children’s tub, but it is getting worn around the drain area, and I was all, “isn’t there some way we can put the shiny stuff back on the tub?” and DH was all, “I never heard of such a thing” and then I looked it up and the answer was yes. We’ll see if we ever get around to it. The problem is there’s all these different contractors who do all sorts of different things and you have to figure out who to go with for each item. Even if you do everything at once and go with a builder around here there’s still sub-contracting decisions to make, though they’re not quite as bad as doing them scattershot like we’ve been doing.

  4. Debbie M Says:

    “…having mosaic actual tile (like DC1 really wanted) is not a good idea for a children’s bathroom because it’s hard to clean and gets slippery.” Thank you for that. I’ve been thinking about mosaic actual tile for our bathroom, but slippery is a very, very bad idea. Also, hard to clean is not a favorite either.

    Your windows are even wackier than mine. Mine are also extremely tall with a separate panel on top, but my top panel is rectangular (2 x 4), then there is a matching bottom panel (2 x 4) and in the middle are two sideways panels (4 x 2), one of which is a casement window (opens with a crank). This leads to a tall window with proportions (4 x 8) that could be more pleasing. Also, standard curtains do not come that long.

    I’ve studied my neighbor’s houses to see how they’ve handled this. Many people just wall off the bottom panel to improve the proportions. (Or stick a window A/C in there!) And many people do something different with the top panel and just start the curtains below that (as has been done in your house).

    Treatments for the top window I can remember include:
    * Just leave it like it is.
    * Put a shelf across the bottom and put plants on it.
    * Put a shelf across the bottom and put a colored-bottle collection on it so that the light coming in is colorful.
    * Just hang things from the top like crystals or bead curtains.
    * Hang stained glass in the opening; but I suspect it’s easier to find rectangular works than half-circle works.
    * Stick on the fake stained glass like they have at Home Depot. This actually looks pretty good even close up, but I’m not sure they have a good design for a rounded window. (And I haven’t seen this done, but there is also stained glass paint you can buy at craft stores and make your own custom fake stained glass. Well, the paint is real but the leading is fake.)

    (I can see why you don’t like vertical blinds. Yikes! I have some plastic-feeling ones (vinyl?) that do not peel. They are just too short.)

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Oh, it’s #2 that is passionately against vertical blinds. I actually don’t care much about anything and wish we had enough money for someone else to take care of everything.

      DH did buy some of that fake stained glass, but I think he’s going to take it back. We had an energy audit the other week that I’ll write about in a future post if I ever get around to it. Right now he’s leaning towards plantation shutters on the top half circles and curtains for the windows themselves, but that may change.

  5. Susan Says:

    I agree with Pennies about the flooring. Pull out the vanity and go under it.

    We have a semi-circular window in our master bedroom, and I am a vampire. There are half-circle blinds, but $$$ and have to be custom-fit because no half-circle is the same. I solved this problem by buying a blackout roller blind from the Despot, installing it upside-down in the base of the half-circle, put in screw-in eyelets (use strong ones) at the top and 2/3 height of the half-circle along the molding. I cut the blackout blind with diagonals on the side, so that it fits a little better when extended upwards, and I used a metal rod in its end instead of the cheap plastic that it came with. Finally , I ran a piece of pull cord (ordered Levelor cord from Amazon) from the blind, up through the eyelets, and down to an anchor at human height, like a pulley.

    When it’s retracted, it fits nicely into the base of the window, and the window is clear and open. Pulled up, it blocks light almost totally. I can activate the spring-loaded retraction from below, upside-down, very well.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      That sounds like a really impressive engineering feat with the half-circle blinds. Wow.

      After some discussion this morning, we decided that the vanities are going to outlast the flooring. They’re not really vanities per-se, but full built-in cabinets. And it’s a Jack and Jill bathroom so there are two sets of them not including the side cupboards.

  6. Erika Newlyweds Says:

    my firs tthought was totally that you should pay off the house with the 30k, but now it definitely makes sense to do some home repairs–i can’t believe you have carpeting in the bathrooms! :) My husband totally loves doing home projects, so I have that in my favor for when we get our own house, but the trade off is it takes him forever to finish projects in between his 24-hour shift schedule

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Yeah, most people do this kind of stuff before they move in, but we were broke and busy! We wouldn’t have time to supervise renovation even if we’d had the money to do it. We could have bought a cheaper house but it wouldn’t have been move-in ready. (Assuming you think that carpet in a bathroom you never use because you don’t have kids yet is move-in ready.)

  7. First Gen American Says:

    Just a cost savings tip. I bought some nice wood blinds from select blinds. One thing with blinds is that they run specials ALOT. So I figured out what I wanted, got on their email list and then waited for a good sale before I pulled the trigger. And by good sale, I mean blinds are 50% off, coupled with a buy 2 get 1 free special. I don’t know what they have been lately because I took myself off the mailing list but that’s my one tip that should save you a few bucks. They will send you samples too and the quality was plenty good for the price I paid.

    I don’t have any advice on giving face lifts on rooms. My bathrooms and kitchens have always been gut jobs so I always start from scratch with rooms like that.

    Does anyone in the house have allergies? I am a big fan of wood or tile vs wall to wall carpeting. I lived in an apartment with wall to wall (and yes, even pink carpet in the bathroom too) and the state of my health improved exponentially when I moved to another apartment with wood floors. From a quality of life standpoint, the kitchen appliances and floors made the biggest difference for me.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      That’s good information. We’ve been looking at houses around the neighborhood to see what they have and a lot of them have horizontal blinds. A few have plantation shutters and even fewer just have curtains.

      We’re gradually replacing the carpeting in the house with other kinds of floors. In theory. Very gradually.

      • Sandyl FirstgenAmerican Says:

        Oh and I forgot the 3rd thing that made a big difference, which was energy efficiency improvements. It impacted the coziness of the home along with the utility costs…but your home looks newer so I’m guessing there’s no real low hanging fruit there.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Actually, we just had an energy audit done and there’s a little low-hanging fruit. We’ll talk about that later if I get around to it.

  8. oil_garlic Says:

    I’m very happy you’re getting rid of carpeting in the bathroom, just had to say that! :)

  9. What Now? Says:

    I like DC1’s choice of flooring! Good luck with all of these projects; I find home-improvement completely overwhelming and exhausting, which is why we’ve done so very little of it since our first months in our house.

  10. Contingent Cassandra Says:

    I, too, like the flooring. And can confirm that attempts to clean curtains that have been filtering bright sun for many many years almost always result in shreds (or possibly, if something synthetic, crumbles). I’d vote for some sort of filtering film (or maybe experimentation with stencils and a frosting or etching spray; I’m pretty sure you’d find a bunch of projects if you googled some variation on DIY and window frosting). But Susan’s approach sounds pretty cool, too.

    I’ve got crumbling vanities/sink cabinets in both the bathroom and the kitchen. Both are probably about 30 years old (my building was renovated in the mid-eighties), and the parts that are disintegrating (bottoms, sides, and, in the case of the kitchen, the formica-clad sink surround and melamine-clad door) are particleboard. They’re going to be a bit complicated to replace, because they’re an unusually small size, and because I’d like to avoid any more particleboard. So far, the local purveyor of unfinished solid wood furniture (which can order from a number of different suppliers) looks like the best best.

    It sounds like you’ve got more of a cabinets-in-a-niche (or filling a wall) situation; in that case it’s likely that, even if you replace them, you’ll end up getting a set of the same depth (which is likely to be more standard than vanity widths), with spacer/filler panels used at the end if necessary.

  11. Rented life Says:

    My first thought at seeing the 30k was “and there is *still* carpet in the bathroom?!? Get it out!
    I’d just do one whole room at a time–the whole bathroom for example, because just doing pieces means that it never feels finished (my pet peeve) but that problems you can’t predict will bite you in the butt. If you ever plan on changing the tub, the vanity, the paint, now is the time. We redid ours in our first house for 2k, but dad made the vanity and I stained and finished it. We had to gut the whole thing because of mold problems. Only thing we kept was toilet which was new. And we did peel and stick tile but you’ve probably seen closests bigger than this bathroom so it was a very fast job.

    I’m not help for your windows. We don’t have curtains, just blinds now. Growing up we didn’t have curtains because mom couldn’t decide and we lived in the country so no one was looking in anyway.

  12. The Frugal Ecologist Says:

    I *love* home projects.

    Susan’s solution to the half window sounds pretty great. Those are so difficult to do much with. Particularly since yours appear to be different heights and widths? (srsly WTF were builders thinking in the 90s?!) I have seen matchstick blinds with curtains over them which look nice and block light although curtains can be expensive especially since you are dealing with extra tall windows. But living where you do, I think you could find someone to sew you some for not too much $$. What ever you get (I am partial to 2 inch wood/faux wood blinds) hanging it above the round window will make it more uniform and visually appealing. I also like plantation shutters but they are very pricey compared to blinds.

    Sounds like you’ve already purchased the flooring but – I don’t really find bathroom tile all that slippery? Floor tile usually has a slight texture/matte finish which keeps it from being too slippery when wet. I also recommend real linoleum – doesn’t get dirty looking like vinyl tile can, and comes in both sheets and tiles.

    Also, if you haven’t already ordered it, get a smooth, one piece toilet like someone above mentioned – so much easier to clean.

    I second someone else’s suggestion about doing the whole bathroom – paint the vanity, new hardware, light fixture what ever. Otherwise the old stuff will look even older next to your shiny new toilet and floors. But either way, I bet you guys will be so happy with the result!

    PS is carpet in the bathroom a southern thing? A certain era thing? My grandmother had carpet in her bathroom…weird.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I dunno. The master bath has tile and it does get slippery sometimes. The internet does not recommend tile for young children’s bathrooms. It also doesn’t recommend linoleum for children’s bathrooms because linoleum isn’t as forgiving of spills as vinyl is.

      I have no idea why this bathroom has carpet in it. It’s just *weird*.

  13. chacha1 Says:

    That bathroom is certainly the top priority and I’m glad you’re addressing it. $1500 is cheap for making something you use every day not disgust you. :-)

    Those windows … oy. That’s the 1980s I Wanna Be Versailles tract house for you. Some of the online blind companies may be your best bet b/c they can make pieces to order that will fit exactly. A friend of mine has one of those stupid demilune windows in her bedroom and simply covered it with a giant paper fan. It’s covered but it’s no nicer than your previous owner’s dollhouse seamstressing.

    If I really wanted to spend money on a house with windows like that, I would simply replace all of them, top to bottom, with standard high-efficiency windows. Given the cost of custom window treatments, that might not even be such a prohibitively pricey option.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      1990s… but things are a bit slower here than at the coasts

      • chacha1 Says:

        hee hee

        p.s. the vinyl flooring looks very nice. As I spec out the future Home of Retirement, I am optioning putting vinyl down, for the non-slippery, easy-to-clean, warm-underfoot considerations. We saw a vinyl floor in a Japanese restaurant recently that looks very much like wood floor; I could live with that through the whole house and save buckets over putting in real wood.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        The “wood” looks really nice in stores too. This doesn’t look quite as nice IRL as it does in the picture, but the “wood” does.

      • chacha1 Says:

        I am actually pretty much a tile hater. My apartment has tile countertops in the kitchen, hate those; tile shower/tub surround, hate that. It’s hard, cold, difficult to keep clean (grout grrr). Not what I want to deal with when I am 80.

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