Question: I just bought a cabin at Wrightwood that is very old and in need of a lot of work. For instance, I tore out the dirty old carpet in the living room and found a plank floor that is much in need of repair. There are gaps around the window frames. The bath fixtures work pretty well, although the shower looks pretty bad.
Obviously it's a fixer-upper.
The problem is, I've been laid off work, and while I have the time to work on the place, I don't have the money to do things right. What should I try to get done during this temporary period of lots of time and few dollars?
I'd like to spend some time up there until I'm called back to work.
Answer: Enjoy it while you can. I'd take some steps to protect yourself and the house from the winter months to come, because the temperature gets pretty low in the mountains.
I'd try to patch the holes in the plank floor and then paint it rather than installing tiles or replacing the carpeting. For the windows, I'd buy plastic to be ready to cover the gaps if cold weather gets here before you go back to work.
If it has a fireplace, I'd get that checked out by a professional chimney sweep to be sure it's in working order, in case the heating system isn't sufficient (although you didn't say).
Then I'd begin on insulation, because that's something that you probably can do yourself on a piecemeal basis. You'll need a comfortable place to sleep during the cooler months when you'll be staying up there to work on the house.
The rest of whatever money you find to spend, I would spend on paint, making the house fresh, with perhaps some decorative touches, such as running a strip of wallpaper border along the top of a painted wall or using decorative posters to cover walls that have cracks or otherwise need repair.
You no doubt bought the house for pleasure. Just get it comfortable and give it a happy feeling until the funds flow again.
Q: I have a lot of moisture in the bathroom. The grout between tiles in the shower have mildew on them, and it seems a little musty. The toilet tank sometimes drips from moisture on the outside of the tank. Is there a simple solution?
A: The easiest way to possibly cure the shower problem is to install an overhead heat lamp/fan to be used during and for a few minutes after a shower. Meanwhile, clean the tiles with a solution of water-diluted household bleach. This will serve as a slight deterrent to the mildew too.
The condensation on the toilet tank is more troublesome. Experts say the best solution is to fix the toilet so a small amount of warm water mixes with the cold water that flows into the tank, but that may be costly.
Covering the tank with a tank cover, such as those that come in bath-mat sets, will catch the drip of the condensation, but the tank covers should be washed rather often to combat mildew that you'll likely experience.
Q: We have a relatively new home with a wood-burning fireplace in it. It looks good, but the problem is: It smokes. We asked a contractor friend of ours, and he says it was built too shallow. Can you help?
A: Without dimensions, it's difficult to say what the problem is. Try putting the andirons or grate on bricks to raise the wood higher. You might also buy (or redesign) a grate that will fit closer to the back of the fireplace than usual.