Chapter 5: Staying Alive
Footnote: Maintenance and Replacement
Buildings and furnishings deteriorate. Domestic appliances wear out. Crockery chips and breaks. Funds must be set aside on a regular basis to repair or replace such things when the time comes. Sadly for those who depend on it, State welfare seems to overlook this vital need.
To keep and cook our food we need kitchen equipment. Our kitchen appliances need maintenance and replacement. Today appliances are essentially consumer products. They are deliberately designed to have a limited life. They are also specifically designed to make user-maintenance difficult, if not impossible. So maintenance costs are kept artificially high by suppliers. We must therefore set aside money on a regular basis for maintaining our appliances and eventually replacing them.
The maximum operating life of a modern large kitchen appliance is no more than 7 years. On this basis, the provision for basic kitchen appliances at 1993-94 prices is shown in the adjacent table.
We therefore have to make a provision of £2013 / 7 = £288 a year for the appliances required for sustaining the food cycle. The cooker priced above is our small 550mm wide model. Our refrigerator is a 4·9cu ft model and our freezer is a 4·2 cu ft model. Our dish washer is a mid-range model which we bought in our 'times of plenty'.
We also have to make provision for the cost of buying and replacing place settings, serving dishes, cooking utensils, kitchen implements and food storage. Our current frugal budget for this is £50 a year.
Clothes need washing, frequently so in the case of the boys' sportswear. We therefore have to make provision for the maintenance and replacement of washing appliances as follows.
Machines have a maximum service life of about 7 years and the cost of maintenance is for the whole of the 7 years. The total required on-going provision for our washing equipment is therefore £1224 / 7 = £175.00 a year.
Curtains & Floor Coverings
Our house has 28m² of window. This requires 1½ times that area of curtain material, namely 42m². The average 1994 price for curtain material in our area is £4.78/m² and lining material is about half that. The material cost of curtains + lining is therefore £7.17/m². Therefore it would cost us about £300 to replace all the curtains in the house. Curtains last about 10 years. This means we must set aside £30 a year for curtains.
Our house has 148m² of floor. The combined area of the bedrooms and bathroom is 48m². These can be laid with light-wear carpet + underlay at about £7/m². This would cost £336. The remaining 100m² of floor needs heavy-wear carpet + underlay or covering at about £12/m². This would cost £1200. The total carpeting/floor covering cost for the house is therefore £1536. Carpets need replacing every 15 to 20 years. A provision of £88 a year must therefore be made for replacing carpets. About 53m² of the floor area of our house either has carpet which is years beyond replacement date or no covering at all. This would cost us now £500 to expedite.
In our sitting room we have the items of furniture listed below:
- 2 rosewood veneered glass-front cabinets 880mm wide by 520mm deep by 1995mm high
- a rosewood veneered sideboard 940mm by 450mm deep by 650mm high
- a round rosewood veneered table 1220mm diameter
- 6 matching chairs
- a 3-seat Oeet settee with one matching easy chair
- a Sony KV1612UB TV
- a Heathkit AR1214 stereo receiver
- a Yamaha PSR60 keyboard
Total current replacement cost for these is about £6500. The settee and chair are in desperate need of replacement. So we desperately need £2000 to spend on furniture right at this moment. In present circumstances we cannot possibly replace them, so we spread an old blanket over the settee to cover the gaps in the worn out fabric.
In the dining room we have a light mahogany veneered storage facility 1705mm high by 390mm deep. This is made up of 3 units. Two of these are 830mm wide and one 425mm wide. There is also
- an old oak table 1220mm long by 760mm wide
- two matching chairs
- built-in open pine shelves on aluminium wall mounting kit
Total replacement cost for these items is roughly £1500.
In our bedroom we have:
- a double bed 1980mm by 1370mm
- two 3-drawer pine chests 813mm wide by 387mm deep by 635mm high
- a 5-drawer pine chest 813mm wide by 387mm deep by 978mm high
- two pine wardrobes 775mm wide by 578mm deep by 1790mm high
- one pine open bookcase 890mm wide by 310mm deep by 1105mm high
- a small bookcase 915mm wide by 305mm deep by 395mm high
- a pine framed wall mirror 355mm by 1188mm
- a second-hand Parker-Knoll chair
- a home made chinz-covered bean bag
Total replacement cost of these items is about £2280.
In our daughter's room we have:
- a single bed 1980mm by 915mm
- an old beech chest of drawers 876mm wide by 508mm deep by 737mm high
- a bookcase 610mm wide by 203mm deep by 915mm high
- a white junior desk 915mm wide by 480mm deep
- a vinyl covered white typing table 690mm wide by 500mm wide by 645mm high
- a chair
- a convertible chair-bed
The total 1994 cost of replacing these is about £1150.
In our sons' room there are:
- two pine beds 2000mm by 980mm
- two plywood wardrobes 760mm wide by 580mm deep by 1525mm high
- two cheap 5-drawer chests 630mm wide by 405mm deep by 760mm high
- a pine toy box 1070mm by 460mm by 420mm
- a steel desk 635mm wide by 480mm deep by 685mm high
Total replacement cost at 1994 prices for these items is about £1350.
The total furniture replacement cost for our home as it stands would therefore be £12,780. Furniture lasts about 20 years before it needs replacing. A provision of £639 a year should therefore be made for the replacement of furniture.
The total annual provision required to maintain the furnishing of our home is therefore £30 for curtains, £88 for floor covering, £639 for furniture. This comes to a total of £757 a year.
|Furnishings||Capital Cost||Years||Per Year
As it stands, our water and heating system requires little maintenance. In the past 10 years I have had to replace a lavatory tank, an electric pump and two thermostats. But one never knows when the big one will come such as the need to replace a hot water cylinder or the gas boiler. A provision of about £100 a year is therefore necessarily set aside for maintenance.
Our house has to be cleaned. For this we had to buy a new vacuum cleaner this year. It cost £140.00. It has an estimated life of 10 years. Bags cost £4 for 5. One a month is needed for normal use. This works out at £9.60 a year. £26.60 a year must therefore be provided for the vacuum cleaner. Dust pans, brushes, leathers, sponges, cleaning agents and other small items must also be replaced when they run out, wear out or break. These round up the total to £30 a year.
Provision must also be made for redecorating the house periodically and maintaining its fabric. This year I had to refurbish the outside of the house. I had to re-fold the lead on the dormer roof and secure and seal it with all-weather tape. I had to fit aluminium visors over the windows in the dormer to stop the rain relentlessly dripping on the window sills and rotting them. I had to strip and re-varnish all outside window sills and the wooden facia round the top of the flat-roofed extension. I had to strip and repaint all gutters and pipes. I had to dig out and fill all soft spots in the external rendering on the extension, and finally re-paint the 50m² rendered part of the house's external surface. The material for this work cost just under £200. This is typical of the annual cost of maintaining the internal and external fabric of the house.
There is also the on-going remedial work on the house. This year I had to fit two air bricks and two internal grills in unfilled cavity walls which the architect and builder had left unventilated. I also had to insulate the sloping parts of the upstairs ceiling. Material for this cost almost £100.
The annual amounts, which must therefore be set aside to cover maintenance to the fabric of the house, are as summarised in the adjacent table.
|The House||Per Year
|Water and Heating system||£100
Total Annual Budget
The totals for each element of the budget necessary to maintain our home are shown in the adjacent table. Bear in mind that these are at 1993-94 prices. The grand total of £1700 is what we would have to spend or put aside each year in order to maintain our home in its current state. Without this money, our house, its structure, systems, equipment and furnishings would gradually deteriorate and eventually cease to be able to perform or fulfil their required functions.
|Crockery & Utensils||£50
Tightening Our Belt
Notwithstanding, within the constraints of State welfare, it has proved impossible to find the above necessary budget for home maintenance and replacement. It had to be amputated completely. In any case, even if we did scrimp and save to try to maintain this budget, we would not be able to use the money for that purpose. This is because the amount we would have to save would force us over the statutory savings limit. In consequence, our welfare would be automatically reduced and we would be forced to live on our savings.
However, early in 1994, our washing machine's drum bearing failed and the door boot became torn and leaked badly. We were told we would have to buy another washing machine as the estimated cost made it not worth repairing. Nevertheless, my wife [because of her illness] could not cope without her washing machine. To us the option for buying a new washing machine did not exist. We therefore had to spend two days taking it apart and cleaning and de-scaling the drum. We then found a stall on the market which sold washing machine parts. We bought and fitted a new bearing and boot. The body of the machine had no rust so it is now as good as new. The total cost was £22. Though a small amount, this was not provided for in any part of our budget. It had to come out of our food allocation.
The only option you have when living on welfare is to become very resourceful and incredibly multi-skilled. As things stand, we could never afford to replace any appliance which may wear out or fail. The only option would be to repair it. Any such task, from replacing a heating thermostat or hot water tank to repairing the TV set, would have to be done by me or not at all. Furniture also does not last forever. We cannot possibly buy furniture any more. I have therefore resigned myself to having to learn how to make it. My wife can make curtains, but the material is expensive. We desperately need some new ones. However, we cannot make carpets, bed linen or crockery. These we must either be given or we must learn to live without them.
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© July 1994 Robert John Morton