Big House List

Photo credit:

Photo credit:

I have a big to-do list for my house. I wrote down all the jobs that need doing. Some of them have been ignored for so long that I have a hard time even thinking about them, let alone planning to get them done. They just aren’t on my radar any more. Some of them seem so far away and unlikely, that I rarely think about them, for example, “a kitchen reno would be really cool.” Some of them are in my face everyday and I have to deliberately turn my back on them! As in – that new smoke detector has been sitting on a shelf (working) for a month and I haven’t installed it yet!

I suppose everyone has their own tolerance for things undone. Mine is based on:

Whether leaving the job undone would:

  • Cause a safety issue
  • Result in a more expensive fix later
  • Bring on extra stress
  • Interfere with my daily routines

Whether anyone is likely to:

  • Complain about it being undone
  • Notice and appreciate it being done

Whether completing the job:

  • would make someone else happy
  • would make me happier (not just relieved or less stressed)
  • is part of a bigger plan
  • is inspiring enough to save the money to do it

Home Sweet Home

My suburban house was built in 1996 and I am its second owner. Since it is now 17 years old, actual maintenance has crept up! Not like a 100-year-old house, of course, but in the modern way, the furnace (boiler) and roof could need replacing any time now. Sigh.

Here is a list of stuff that needs doing and whether it’s likely!


  • Book the annual furnace cleaning: Safety! And big bucks if ignored!
  • Install smoke detector: Not a priority. Works on the shelf where it is. But would only take 5 minutes. Hmm…
  • Donate unneeded items: Piles of stuff are totally in my way and it irritates me daily. High priority!
  • Drop off old electronics at Enviro-Depot: Ditto, and won’t take long.
  • Get pictures framed (5): Will make me very happy to have the pix on display. High priority!


  • Sand and paint stair rail and stairs trim board: Hard work. Don’t know technique. Could drip paint on expensive nosing boards. Intimidating. But is noticed immediately by anyone entering the house. Must stop having guests.
  • Reattach baseboard trim: Weird problem. Why are they coming off? Too short nails the first time? Requires a nail punch, filling the nail holes and painting them. See above.


  • Replace bathroom sinks and vanity tops: Replaced flooring so the colours are all wrong now. But purely a cosmetic problem.Ā 
  • Replace kitchen counter top: Same as above.
  • Optimize kitchen cupboards/storage: By putting in permanent drawer inserts, dividers, lazy susans, etc. I cook a lot. It would make me very happy indeed.
  • Paint house (interior): House has only basic builder’s coat of paint, and looks very dull. Also, damage from moving in, as well as wear and tear. The number one thing I could do to improve look of house. But don’t want to do it myself, so it would be a major expense. I would still have plenty of work to do to move all the furniture and stored items in preparation for painting.
  • Replace front and back door and locks: Have some problems. One door will not close and lock securely depending on weather expansion and contraction. Door frame is cracked and has some rot. Both doors could use storm doors/screen doors for insulation and/or for airing the house. Quite a high priority. Must do before kitchen and bathroom counter tops šŸ˜¦


  • Power wash mould from vinyl siding: Needs doing annually; will get done in Spring; too proud to have a grungy house as seen from the street.
  • Paint front steps and deck: Rom did this last time. Not sure if he will volunteer again. Maybe if I do the stair rail!
  • Paint oil tank: Required by oil company and insurance company. No rust allowed. Will get done in Spring.
  • Replace a few roof shingles: Seems like low priority because there are no leaks, but don’t want roof to become an issue so will do now rather than later.
  • Replace decorative rocks in front of house: Weeds have grown through them. The mulch underneath needs to be replaced. Did half last year. Hard job moving rocks! But will complete.
  • Get rid of brush pile: Trimmed shrubs; cuttings not suitable for either compost or bundling for pick-up. Will need to put them through a chipper. Can’t ignore because they are putting down shoots šŸ™‚
  • Get rid of weed pile and plant a new garden: Have cut a nice edging circle around every tree in yard. Threw removed soil into a pile. It grew rampant weeds. Nowhere to relocate the weedy soil. May hire a demolition company to dig it out and truck it away. Then plant nice garden patch there. How long can I look at slag heap of weeds? This summer?
  • Repair and reinstall window box: Bracket securing it to house has broken. New one will need to be custom-built. Will do because house front looks empty without it. It’s part of a matching set of window boxes.
  • Replace shed door and door frame: Beyond its life span. But will need to be custom built, painted and installed. However, locked door prevents yard gear from being stolen – safety issue!
  • Seal driveway: A couple of cracks, a couple of weeds. Undecided.

If I need cheering up, I think about the house jobs I’ve already done.

Ill-fated project

Ill-fated project

  • Replace lawn: Oops, except this one! The lawn was bad when I moved in. I was so keen, I paid to have it torn up, new topsoil put down, and new grass grown from seed. Within 2 years, completely contaminated with evil weeds. Pesticides illegal here. Too many weeds to pull up. Horrible waste of money. A reminder to me that I don’t need to do all the household jobs that cross my mind!

OK, here are the worthwhile household jobs I’ve done or had done:

  • Add fence: Neighbours did 2 sides, I did one. Keeps all the neighbourhood dogs apart!
  • Replace deck railings: Safety issue
  • Repair furnace: Wanted to continue having heat!
  • Replace oil tank: Mandated by insurance company every few years
  • Replace thermostats: Put in programmable ones for cost savings
  • Replace shower: Took out a wall, replaced tiny cubicle with nice bright usable shower
  • Replace toilets: Went to low-flow models for environmental reasons
  • Replace leaky skylite: Also discovered and removed mould; prevented serious infestation; prevented more extensive roof work
  • Painting ā€“ 1 bedroom and 2 bathrooms: One bathroom due to leaks noted above, others for cosmetic reasons.
  • Replace 2 light fixtures: Both had shorts that caused light bulbs to burn out. Safety issue!
  • Replace flooring: Removed whole-house grey carpet; tired of vacuuming cat hair. Put in laminate throughout; wish I had saved more for hardwood because it can be refinished. Good for now, though. 10 more years?
  • Build & install custom book shelves: For our almost 1800 books. Worth every penny. Love them.
  • Reorganize office/hobby space: Got two functional rooms out of this project; office and music room. Created much happiness!

    Where I hang out (13 x 11.5 feet!)

    Our custom book shelves. Note absence of carpet šŸ™‚

In 9 years I have spent $34,000 on house and yard maintenance and upgrades, or about $3800 a year. Have I convinced you apartment dwellers not to buy a house yet?

I would love to hear which household maintenance jobs are important or easy for you, and which you put off!

Inspired by:

The Non-Consumer Advocate: The Last 10% Challenge

Tales from the Trenches


  1. Wow that’s a lot of work to do! Fortunately our house is newish so there is not much to be done yet but our first house was 100 years old and we were doing big repairs on a monthly basis!

  2. Must stop having guests now that’s an idea šŸ˜‰ Your list is quite long and reminds me that renting was definitely the right choice for me at this point. Your $3,800 in updates/maintenance nearly matches my total for rent which includes all utilities.Not quite I pay $1,100 more a year for that, but on top of your $3,800 there is your mortgage, if you still have one, utilities, property taxes, and probably much higher insurance (renters insurance for this apartment works out to approx $200 a year). I’m staying where I am!

  3. I love those bookshelves šŸ™‚ I dream about having some like that one day. I’m going to stick with apartment renting for now but one day (when I have a larger income) definitely want to own a house.

  4. Fiona

    Love those lists (and the bookshelves!!) I keep detailed lists as well on house maintenance. Our house is our largest asset, so its upkeep is really important to me.

    We’ve rented our house out to tenants for 4 years out of the 12 years we’ve owned it (while we lived elsewhere) and we’ve always been very determined to have the house in perfect condition for our tenants. Now we’re back living here and letting things slide – have to get back on the job!

    • Keeping it perfect for the tenants is better than waiting to make it perfect only in time to sell it, which is what most people do! PS – Thank you, you have just contributed the 1000th comment to my blog šŸ™‚

  5. At least you don’t have to actually do any of the outdoor jobs for a few months more!

    For me, I would definitely choose the jobs that would make my work around the house simpler and more convenient first. That could actually free up a bit of time to do some of the other jobs. For example, if you get rid of the piles of stuff to be donated, you won’t spend time “managing” the piles, moving them aside, stepping over them or wasted energy thinking about them. This will cost you next to nothing to do, just time. If you install some drawer and cupboard organizers in your kitchen, you may spend less time searching for the right implement or item.

    If you do enough of these little things that save you time and energy, you may find time and energy to reattach the baseboard trim. Then you may feel confident enough to sand and repaint the stair rail and trim.

    I would also choose the jobs that save money by doing it now, like booking the furnace cleaning (would only take 5 minutes on the phone, but could save hundreds or more), replacing the roof shingles, replacing the locks on the doors that don’t fit right (if your door isn’t sealing tightly because of the lock not fitting properly, you are sending heat to the great outdoors). And add the storm and screen doors, definitely. In you area, any little bit of extra insulation will keep you comfortable in winter. And the screen doors will allow for free cooling in summer.

    I’m going through a similar process with what we could really use in small appliances. I asked for no gifts at Christmas from my husband, but instead, the opportunity to buy something that will save me time and energy in my kitchen work. I’m looking at stand mixers. I make all of our bread, so a mixer with dough kneading capabilities would give me back some time to do other jobs around the house, like maybe sew some drapes for the bare windows in the family room, which currently suck heat out of the house in winter, and let the sun blind and cook us in summer.

    Good luck. Home ownership is work. But I enjoy it all actually.

    • I used a similar process, and came up with the same decisions! Will do indoor jobs first, easy ones first, and high impact ones first – leaving cosmetic ones until later.I enjoy most of it too, and like owning a house.

  6. In all honesty, it seems doable šŸ™‚ I love that you can knock all of the “small” items out in less than a day! I’m sure the sanding and painting technique could be easily looked up online. I’d just paper/tape off any areas you don’t want paint dripping on.

  7. Pingback: Loose Ends | An Exacting Life

  8. I have a list as long as my arm for every room in the house and another for every border in the garden – I’ve decided this is the year to calm my chaos!! Good luck with your list.

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