Author Archives: Jon Lowder

The Before: Final Prep for Hardwood Floor Installation

The hardwood floors are scheduled to be installed beginning January 30, so the past weekend was spent making final preparations. That included: removing the chair lift from the staircase, removing the carpet/padding/carpet tack strips from the stairs, making sure the floors were clean, and screwing down the subfloor to minimize squeaking. Let’s just say my back, shoulders, forearms, and hands are paying the price for a LOT of labor.

Morning Beers and a Little Known Hero

Two things I read this week that are definitely worth sharing:

Atlas Obscura’s piece on the three London pubs that still open for breakfast, and yes you can have a beer with your bacon and eggs. Here’s my favorite factoid from the article:

…drinking before work is fairly taboo in Britain, and most people wait until at least lunchtime. Back in the day, though, workmen would easily drink six to eight pints of beer every day, says Jennings. For what else could they drink? The water often came from sewage-ridden sources such as the River Thames, and there were no soft drinks. Tea and coffee eventually arrived, but they were expensive, foreign imports and, even once they became more common, subject to heavy taxation. “So people drank beer with their meals during the day. That lasted well into the 19th century for many people,” says Jennings.

The second piece that really caught my attention was this article from North Carolina Rabbit Hole about the man who led the team that disarmed two hydrogen bombs that accidentally fell near Goldsboro, NC in 1961. Here’s the opening paragraph:

On a cold wet day in January 1961, Lt. Jack ReVelle climbed out of a muddy hole in the ground, holding a rough, gray sphere the size of a volleyball against his chest. For the better part of a week, he and his crew had been digging in the swampy ground outside of Goldsboro, North Carolina. It had been raining and snowing, and the hole had grown to be larger than a football field. Jack was just 25 years old, but he was in charge. When he and his men finally found what they were looking for, Jack was the one who got to climb up the ladder and bring it out.

I definitely recommend reading the rest of the article to learn about a man who did something extraordinary, and yet no one knew about it for 50 years.

The Before: Kitchen Floor Demo

The flooring company took out the olden kitchen floor, which was something we didn’t think we could do ourselves and we were right. It took three guys, who do this all the time, the better part of a day to get it all out, and they had WAY better tools than we do for the task. New hardwood floors are scheduled to start going in on January 30.

The Before: Kitchen Demo Day

Friday (January 20) our contractor took out the peninsula cabinets and countertop in the kitchen, and took out the laminate “supposed to look like hardwood” floors. The flooring company will take out the layer of linoleum and underlayment next and then hardwood will be going in on the entire main floor. Here are pics from the cabinet removal.

Wallpaper and Underlayment

It feels like the past 7-10 days have been consumed with removing wallpaper and taking out underlayment. Actually, the 7-10 days really HAVE been consumed with those things. We’re working on the house after work during the week and each day on the weekend. Not fun, but we’re making progress.

The good news is that we have all the wallpaper down from the kitchen and dining room, and most of it down from the family room. We also have all the underlayment removed from the dining room, living room, downstairs bedroom/office, and family room.

The bad news is that we still have all of the hallway, foyer, and upstairs hallway wallpaper to remove, and the multiple layers of flooring in the kitchen to tear out, plus the underlayment on the landing upstairs to get out. The grind continues.

New Place for the New Year

Our family is ringing in 2023 by making a significant change: we’ve bought a new (to us) house a few miles away from where we currently live. We did so to get more space so that my mom can move in with us. Among the many things that attracted us to this particular house is that it already has an apartment built out in the basement so Mom will have her own space, but we’ll still all be under one roof.

But, as they say, nothing in life is free. This house is also approaching 40 years in age and we bought it from the estate of the original owners who passed away last year. They had not made any updates to the house in at least 25 years so we are spending the next 1-3 months tearing out carpet, stripping wallpaper, getting bids for new flooring, a kitchen upgrade, etc. We’re in the midst of the tearing out part, and I don’t see any reason to pay someone to tear things up when I’m perfectly capable of doing it and actually enjoy that part of the process, but I’m no spring chicken so I’ve been perpetually sore for the last two weeks and probably will continue to be for at least another two.

I’m going to try and remember to document the process here so I have a record of it later in life. To get us started here’s a little photo array of the “before” as well as the early stages of demolition.

Fixer-Upper Chapter 5: Homeownership Should Be Only One Component of Household Wealth

“For most middle-income Americans, the equity accumulated in their homes is the largest single source of wealth. Homeownership has been marketed as a cornerstone of the American lifestyle, as a source of both individual wealth-building and community stability. But there are substantial downsides – for families and for the nation – to relying on homeownership as the primary strategy for accumulating wealth.”

Key takeaways are:

  • A more balanced approach to wealth-building would reconfigure homeownership subsidies to better target first-time homeowners in addition to encouraging other short-term and long-term wealth building strategies.
  • The most common approach to financing homes in the US – a fully amortizing, thirty-year fixed-rate mortgage, is a great forced savings mechanism that is one of the most effective ways to combat short-term spending and build wealth over time.
  • On the other hand homeownership violates a key rule of finance: diversification. Putting all one’s eggs in one basket is risky, especially since housing prices are not guaranteed (witness the aftermath of the Great Recession).
  • Another drawback to homeownership is that it is illiquid, so it is difficult to convert your house into cash if you need to.
  • Homeownership is at the root of the racial wealth gap. Despite the Fair Housing Act (FHA) passing in 1968 and allowing explicit racial discrimination in housing, we are still seeing the inequity that traces its roots back to the redlining and discriminatory lending that preceded it.
  • Homevoters contribute to toxic politics. NIMBY-ism is in part a product of people wanting to protect their most valuable asset, so they turn out in droves to fight anything that might threaten it.

Proposed Solutions:

  • Redesign homeownership subsidies to be more effective and more equitable
    • Page 92-93 of the book offer some background on proposals that would move incentives away from the current Mortgage Interest Deduction (MID) structure to something that would more effectively enable moderate- and middle-income renters to buy their first home.
  • Help all households build short-term liquidity through matched savings accounts. Think 401(k) but for but for building savings; could included matches from employers and could be eligible for preferred tax treatment. Much like MID this would be an incentivized forced-savings product that helps fight the human tendency to spend now.
  • Address the racial wealth gap through individual and child development accounts. Similar to the 401(k) idea, but instead of an employer match these could possibly have the Federal government providing a match through a subsidy, and it would be on a sliding scale so that the lower the income of the family the higher the potential subsidy level.

I definitely recommend buying the book so you can get the full benefit of Schuetz’s full analysis of the challenge and detailed solution proposals. You can buy it here.

Link to Chapter 1 of Fixer-Upper post.

Link to Chapter 2 of Fixer-Upper post.

Link to Chapter 3 of Fixer-Upper post.

Link to Chapter 4 of Fixer-Upper post.

Link to main Fixer-Upper post.