Any single women homeowners out there?

A meeting place for regulars to discuss the lighter side of old-houses.

Moderators: oldhouse, TinaB, Don M, Schag

Any single women homeowners out there?

Postby kathyd on Tue Jul 17, 2012 2:31 pm

I'm a widow with this old house that still needs lots done to it. I am not handy with tools, so pretty much have to have everything done. My husband died a few years ago, so now I am starting to have to deal with repairmen. Definitely not something I enjoy doing. But, the house is all mine and I love it. Are there any other single women trying to take care of a vintage home?
Posts: 404
Joined: Tue Feb 17, 2004 11:57 am
Location: Alton, Illinois

Re: Any single women homeowners out there?

Postby downtowndahlgren on Tue Jul 17, 2012 5:26 pm

Kathy, I'm in the same situation. My husband died 4 years ago, and I have no local family. However, I bought the house several years before I moved into it (it was supposed to be an "investment", but I just wanted it!), and I was able to build up a trusted network of repairmen from locals' and neighbors' recommendations. I can't do most of my own work due to severe arthritis, so I depend on these great guys. Can you ask friends or neighbors to recommend any repairmen?
Posts: 398
Joined: Thu Jun 30, 2011 12:57 pm

Re: Any single women homeowners out there?

Postby kathyd on Tue Jul 17, 2012 5:29 pm

Doesn't seem like my friends have a lot of work done at their homes. But I'm learning. Just a couple of things to do outside for now, them I'll work on the inside this winter.
Posts: 404
Joined: Tue Feb 17, 2004 11:57 am
Location: Alton, Illinois

Re: Any single women homeowners out there?

Postby pqtex on Tue Jul 17, 2012 5:35 pm

kathyd wrote:I'm a widow with this old house that still needs lots done to it. I am not handy with tools, so pretty much have to have everything done. My husband died a few years ago, so now I am starting to have to deal with repairmen. Definitely not something I enjoy doing. But, the house is all mine and I love it. Are there any other single women trying to take care of a vintage home?

Not single anymore, but I was fixing up, taking care of, repairing my vintage home until I met and married my husband 3 years ago. I'm 58 now. I grew up watching my fix-it-all father repair/rebuild just about anything. I wish I'd paid more attention. Being married means doing things differently, that's for sure. When I was on my own, I planned all repairs based on what I could do by myself, with my limitations in mind. My husband is knowledgeable and experienced, and has totally different physical capabilities. Therefore, what he sees as a fix or feasible isn't the same as my old viewpoint. I've had to scrap some ideas I had to go with his. Sometimes that's good, sometimes not! :)

The thing I had the hardest time with as a single woman was dealing with repair people when it was something I couldn't do myself. I hate to play the gender game, but there were many times that I got condescending answers and attitudes that I believe were 100% because I was female. I knew what was quality work, and what wasn't. I knew what I wanted and expressed my expectations before the job was started. On my other home (new in 1983, zero-lot line house), I hired a contractor to repair siding and paint the exterior, and paint and do some repairs on the interior. They did the most gosh-awful job in the world. The foreman pretended not to speak english when I asked questions (and I tried to stay out of their way and not be too demanding), but when his boss was around, his english was very good. The contractor did not like it when I pointed out some of the deficiencies of the work (they were substantial and I had photos and he admitted the work was shoddy, but he made excuses for the crew). He became hard to reach when I asked when the job was going to be finished. As hard as it was for a very independent woman, I had to ask a male friend to call the contractor to ask the questions. His call was answered immediately and action was taken on the same thing I'd been trying to get done. So yeah, it's hard going it alone, but you can do it.

One night, in my previous home, the washing machine had gone out. I was broke, frustrated, and had laundry piling up. I mentioned it to a male friend (who lived out of town) and he said to quit whining and fix it. First, I was NOT whining...I was venting! Second, I didn't know how to fix it. Men frequently have had more opportunities to learn these things. But he peaved me off, so I got on the internet and printed off pages and pages of instructions of things to check. Now, I probably shouldn't have been working on this at 3 in the morning, but like I said, I was kind of motivated to prove something to a friend and to myself. Lo and behold, I fixed it. But I couldn't get the metal case back on. I had a small space to work in and I had to wiggle and worm my big behind around one side and get the clips in place and wiggle and worm around the other side and try to pop that side in, but the first side would pop out. This went on and on. My frustration was at such a level that I was hollering and cussing like crazy, something I never do. The next day I called a female friend over to help with the case. It was hard even for two of us. I have found out since then, that no one likes this part of the job and even repairmen have trouble with this particular thing. But I did it. I still use that washer. I've even fixed twice more since then. Replaced a hose and another time I replaced a drain pump. Cheap and easy repairs...saved the cost of a repairman or having to buy a new machine. But putting that danged case back on the machine is a two-person job, no matter what the instructions say. And that washing machine is now 22 years old!

I've fixed some plumbing problems that even my husband didn't want to do. The bathtub faucets were leaking all the time and getting worse. The internet is your friend. Found detailed pictures of how to take off the faucets and remove the parts (took digital pictures so I could put it all back the same way). Took the part to the hardware store, showed 'em what I needed and came back home and replaced the valve stems. The job isn't nearly as hard as it sounds, and sometimes you only need a washer. The people in the stores are often NOT your friends, because I screwed up another plumbing job. I was told by the plumbing "expert" in the store that I needed to remove something (forget what it's called) and I tried and tried and turns out my shower faucet did not have a removeable whatever it was...it was part of the main part. So I'd probably bent it all up. I re-tooled (or whatever it's called) it with a special little tool and it stopped leaking, but we're afraid to turn the water back on in that bathroom, just in case the repair doesn't hold. That bathroom needs new shower fixtures anyway, which will involve some tile work, so we just quit using that shower for now until we can muddle through some other priorities.

I can't fix everything. I tore my sewing machine apart to replace a timing belt. Never worked on one before. Downloaded the service manual from the internet and thought I could do it. Ordered the belt. I inspected and oiled and debated...and put it all back together. Decided I simply couldn't tackle this job successfully. My sewing machine is over 40 years old and I really don't want a new one. Haven't found a local repairman yet (the only one in town has been out with surgery, so I keep waiting for him to recover).

I get a lot of satisfaction when I accomplish something by myself. My husband has learned not to take over unless I ask for help. It is a big morale booster to be able to say "I did it myself."

But, and this is a big but...if I had the money...I'd pay to have a lot of the work done that we are doing ourselves. I'd have to be careful about that, because a lot of the time we'd do a better job than the people hiring themselves out.

Sorry I rambled on so much, but this is a topic near and dear to me.

Good luck with it Kathy. I'm so sorry about the loss of your husband. I know it's been several years, but I'm sure you miss him very much.

My great-grandparents' 1913 farmhouse

Too bad the spam got so bad. Some of us have been spending time at the new community for folks with a love of old houses at wavyglass.org
Posts: 1319
Joined: Wed Feb 18, 2009 9:03 pm
Location: Beaumont, Texas

Re: Any single women homeowners out there?

Postby jade mortimer on Tue Jul 17, 2012 9:49 pm

well pq, i enjoyed your rambling and read every word of it!

i am single but live in a new house (argh! i'm currently looking for and old home and am willing to sell my house if i can stay in this place i call paradise)...

one of the things that i appreciate in my business is the number of men--young and not so young--who contact me to do work or seek guidance about window restoration...they seem perfectly comfortable and respectful of me as a professional and the fact that i am a woman is never an issue...i have worked side by side with men and we work as equals and my employees have been mostly men (i have one man and one woman now)...as a feminist who was pumping her fist in the early 70's, this is a welcome change!!!

most of us woman over 50 grew up with predetermined roles outlined for us and it felt natural leaving the repairs and heavy lifting to our men....it's never too late to learn, just need to find a teacher who is supportive and patient....i LOVE when woman attend my window workshops...it does my heart good to see their new found confidence....i was a job leader for an all woman crew for habitat for humanity a while back...one woman showed up with a cloth lined wicker basket as a tool box...her hair was perfectly coiffed and it looked as if she had just been to her manicurist..."oh boy, we've got a winner!" i thought...well, she turned out to be a real hard worker unafraid to climb a ladder or use any tool...i learned something that day...

jade mortimer
Posts: 1986
Joined: Sun May 13, 2007 8:22 am
Location: hawley massachusetts

Re: Any single women homeowners out there?

Postby kathyd on Wed Jul 18, 2012 7:37 am

I also enjoyed your post pq. I do need to push myself to do more. My dad was the type who could do just about anything, but didn't really pass much of it on to his children. My husband was handy, but much preferred golfing to working around the house. I still have my twenty something son and daughter at home, along with a 6 year old grandson and some cats. So life is still busy. And I can make my son do the heavy stuff. A basement cleanout is next on his list.

I am working on my list to get the things done after Allstate did an exterior inspection in March. Luckily I found a painter who repaired many damaged boards and replaced some missing ones, and painted the house for a price I could afford. My first estimate was from a man who does work for a neighbor across the street. His original estimate for half the house was more than twice what I ended up paying for the whole house. Despite my statement that I couldn't pay that much, he wanted me to shake on it and let him start right away, I could just pay him the next month. He ended up coming down significantly on his estimate, he really wanted to be seen doing the painting since I am on a main street in a historic district. I was amazed that he thought I would commit to that.

I just got someone who has done some other handyman things around the house for me to make some front porch repairs. He works hard and things he builds are sturdy, but not especially fine work. But he did a decent job on the repairs. A carpenter I had come look at the job gave me a whole line of how bad the porch was, needed the whole floor replaced plus lots of other work. Definitely did not! I won't be talking to him again.

I am learning. I know I need to be specific with what I want from repairmen and always get a at least 3 bids for everything unless it's an emergency.

Thanks for everyone's input.
Posts: 404
Joined: Tue Feb 17, 2004 11:57 am
Location: Alton, Illinois

Re: Any single women homeowners out there?

Postby Sashguy on Wed Jul 18, 2012 9:31 am

I would have to say that the majority of calls that I get are from women who are taking charge of the maintenance and repairs to their old homes. A good half dozen pay by the hour and act as helpers until they get the hang of the task at hand, then take over and do the completions. Good on ya ladies.
Posts: 186
Joined: Mon Jan 30, 2012 10:09 pm
Location: Houston, TX

Re: Any single women homeowners out there?

Postby Josiecat on Wed Jul 18, 2012 10:46 am

I am single and live in a house built in 1892. I have found http://www.angieslist.com to be extremely valuable with finding reliable contractors. I believe it is like $10/year.

I will second the internet suggestion. You can find tons of videos and information online.
The Wellcome House
1892 Queen Anne Victorian
Topeka, Kansas
Posts: 550
Joined: Fri Jan 02, 2009 11:51 am

Re: Any single women homeowners out there?

Postby kat on Wed Jul 18, 2012 12:51 pm

I think part of it is where u live, are u in an area where there are choices of contractors? I live in an area where there is not, and it is VERY difficult to get any work done on house and even harder to get honest work done, tiring of it and that is why I am considering selling even in this market.
Posts: 383
Joined: Tue Mar 14, 2006 2:35 pm

Re: Any single women homeowners out there?

Postby PowerMuffin on Wed Jul 18, 2012 3:04 pm

I am not single, but I can do almost anything that I set my mind to. Almost. I am a good finish carpenter, plasterer, painter, decorator, designer. But my husband is much bigger than me (6' 4") so he can move things, hang on to things, reach things that I cannot. He tackels the plumbing and the electrical and is currently restoring the garage. I've told him many times that if he goes first, I will sell the house. I LOVE my house but I cannot imagine trying to maintain it by myself. Just the yard work would take up all my time in the spring and summer.

We use to have a lot of disposable income and would hire out work on the house. I don't remember even one time where I was satisfied with the work we hired out. That is when I decided to tackle it myself. I've learned a lot of skills over the years and my husband and I make a good team. I still cannot imagine doing it all myself.

To all ladies maintaining their old houses - Good for you!!!
Posts: 1497
Joined: Tue Nov 07, 2006 11:42 am


Return to The Hangout Forum

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest