The Ghosts in a House

A couple friends came over a few weeks ago to see the house and confirmed something I suspected. There's a remnant of the past in this house that I have to get rid of and it's going to take quite a bit of work.

I think I've referenced cleaning and cleaning and cleaning in this house. There's so much to scrape and scrub. Even the two rooms we've painted feel like they need more cleaning. I've seen evidence of the problem as I've worked and opening the door to a bedroom we aren't using when my friends came over confirmed my suspicion. The air smelled of smoke. I think the HVAC system is the issue.

I grew up in a house with smoking and I'm sure many people my age did. The smoker in my family got into the habit at a time when smoking was normal, cool, and maybe even marketed as a healthy habit. When more was known, an expensive mitigation system was installed in the den at my childhood home to clean the air.

Many of the rooms in the house we bought were painted before the house went on the market. The rooms with wallpaper in them weren't. Those rooms were where I started to see the little signs that anyone in a house with smoking would recognize.

At first, I tried to convince myself that it was just dirt. The house was on the market for a year and probably not cleaned. But I think what I saw was from the result of life in the house, not the absence of life in the house. In a few areas, there was a lot to clean.

Note: these are old pictures...this stuff is gone now.

I cleaned with diluted bleach when we moved in, but last night, I brought out the big guns. I used a TSP alternative to clean the faux wood paneling in the basement. As the liquid ran down the wall, it turned brown. I sprayed and wiped and rinsed until my sponge stayed clean and I worried about how we are being affected by what's surrounding us. This is the room where we slept when the ceilings were refinished several weeks ago. This is the room where Baxter sleeps during the day. And, please forgive a moment of materialism, this is where my wedding gown is laid out while I decide if I can part with it or if I want to keep it.

I would love to actually decorate this house, but much of our energy (and money) is being put towards fixing things. The next big projects:
  • fix the roof, which was installed improperly
  • get the gutter system back in order (it was reconfigured and is causing erosion around the house)
  • bring in a landscape architect to help us figure out how to fix the backyard to runoff doesn't affect our neighbors (the company that replaced the septic tank just threw a few bales of hay at the bottom of the yard, which didn't fix the problem they created) 
  • add the missing pressure regulator to the hot water tank and get a pan under the tank
  • consult with a contractor about fixing the construction of the carport
Now I'm adding having the HVAC system and duct work cleaned to the list. Needless to say, I didn't think that two months into living here, I'd only have two rooms painted. I wish I had some beautiful pictures to share, but I fear it could be several months before there are any "after" shots of any room here.


  1. Duct cleaning not crazy expensive..
    Bet would help think I used duct medic maybe amanda

  2. Maybe get some glittered up plastic cleaning gloves like that BBC show how clean is your house...always makes me and Emma smile. Also love how dramatic that show is...would be funny reenactment for blog:) amandaps know your place is gonna be awesome when u r done w it!!!

  3. I've adopted the mentality that it's far better to spend money on fixing the house and making sure it is in great condition than decorating. It's not nearly as fun, of course, but I think I'll be happier in the long run.

  4. There is such a thing as third-hand smoke. Most people refuse to believe it such a thing, especially smokers. Third-hand smoke is the remnants of smoke that stays in peoples clothing, in their belongings, walls, and any other places that cigarette smoke settles.There are studies that show nicotine found in children of parents who do not smoke in the house or around them and this happens because of third-hand smoke that the child inhales from their parents clothing etc. These children are more likely to have ear infections, sinus problems, and strep throat all from third-hand smoke! I’m not saying your house is the same, but there is such a thing as third-hand and it can still be harmful to a child, so I imagine it could affect a dog as well. LOL I’m not accusing you of not taking care of your dog. I’m just very passionate about informing people of the effects of third-hand smoke.

  5. We've recently purchased a house and have had a couple of items come up (like replacing all of our toilets, replacing our HVAC system and removing a large amount of dead plants, shrubs and tree branches)that have taken priority over decorating. It stinks, but it's better to take care of it now and hold off on buying some of the pretty things that I actually want to spend money on.

  6. This is just how home ownership goes. The pretty stuff is mostly fluff. Fun but you have to spend time & money laying a good foundation first. You'll be so much happier with the results knowing you fixed everything instead of wasting money on window dressings (literally & figuratively). You're doing great!!

  7. This in no way relates to your house, but to the wedding dress situation. I also can't decide if I want to part with mine or not. I really have nowhere to put it at the moment. But it's hard to let go of, for sentimental reasons as I'm sure you know.
    Let me know what you decide!

  8. First, I feel your pain about the expenses of owning a home. We bought a house that had not been redecorated since it was built in 1993 (you can imagine how lovely it was inside) but instead of decorating, we have had to pour over $60,000 into two new HVAC systems, we had to replace all of the siding and shutters with Hardy Plank, and we had to replace a washer, dryer, and oven....and a giant tree fell on our house the month after we moved in. Not fun...I have painted and stripped wallpaper and am making progress slowly, but how I would love to have a new kitchen instead of a new HVAC! I was planning on ordering the carpet for our stairs this month but surprise...I needed new tires for my SUV so I guess that is getting put off for another month!

    Regarding the wedding dress...I am saving mine and having christening gowns made out of my dress for my future grandchildren. If I was smart, I would have had them made for my own children...LOL.

    You have made such great progress on your house!!! Baby steps...I am impatient and want it all done have fabulous taste and your home will be exquisite when you are done!

  9. I heard duct cleaning is a scam, but maybe that is just for regular houses without previous smokers. Ew, I don't understand how people can do that inside!! Good luck.

  10. That is just a hard process! Hang in there: the fun stuff will come!


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