Tuesday, May 26, 2015

We have a house......now what?

We have a house.


We closed on the house on Friday.....yay!   

Now what do we do? 

Our original plan for this house was to completely remodel the existing house and have it move in ready by September. The next phase would be building an addition to give us some elbow room.  After losing the financing on the house our plans have changed a little.  Now, Phase 1 is converting the house back into a single family house, remediation of the yucky stuff that caused the problem in the first place, making the house habitable and then applying for a mortgage on the house.  If all goes as planned we will then have the money to remodel this house.  
The downside to this new plan is that we have to do a lot of temporary work to get the loan.  For example, we have to tear out the upstairs kitchen and convert it back into a bedroom for the loan appraisal.  The long term plan is to convert this room into a laundry area and hallway.  Now, we have to tear out the kitchen, turn in back into a bedroom and then after the appraisal tear it back out.  Not a huge deal but just added work and a little frustrating when you are pressed for time.  We had planned to start over with the plumbing and wiring but now we have to do some temporary fixes to have some running water and some electrical for the appraisal. 

Once we had the keys in hand we headed over to the house to get started.  We started by stumbling from room to room muttering "what have we done?? what have we done??"  Once we were past our momentary doubt and self-loathing we got busy.  We started by cleaning out the house, collecting the miscellaneous items in the house, cellar and shed to sort what was salvageable and what was going to the dump.  We had lovely, rusty appliances, a/c window units from years gone by, tools, etc.  We had been very curious about a locked door on the side of the shed, what treasures would be behind that door?  We broke the lock and opened the door, hoping to find a lawn mower or bicycles or gold bars.  Instead we found a sleeping mat, clothing, small tv....apparently this was yet another "apartment" on the property.  

So, a little bit about the house.  It is a 1910 or 1913 bungalow, (depending on what deed you believe) 1250 square feet, 1 & 3/4 stories with a cellar.  The cellar is a true cellar, highest point is about 6 feet high, most spots you have to duck, or just tilt your head to the side as you walk around.  The house sits close to the road but has a long, narrow lot so we have a nice yard in the back of the house.  It sits on a little over a 1/2 acre, we were thrilled to have that size lot in the city!  While this house isn't situated in an area that allows us to walk to a lot of shops and restuarants it is in a neighborhood that we really wanted.  When looking at houses in Charlottesville we kept coming back to the Fry's Spring area.  This area really has a community feel to it, it is very active and the people we have met love living in this area.  We had tried to buy a couple houses in this area previously and now we have one!
Home-(will someday be)Sweet-Home

After amassing all the junk in one spot we decided to open up the doors that were sealed shut and forming part of the duplex.  It looked like they had been caulked and painted for the past umpteen years.  I want to keep the doors so we attempted to cut them loose.  It seemed like it would be easy, just cut the many locks off, cut through the caulk and paint...not to hard.  Right?   
Well, the first problem is that the doors swing into the rooms.  And after they sealed the doors shut they installed new hardwood floors in front of the doors.  We couldn't pull up the flooring yet or tear the whole door frame out because we have to fix the house up before we can tear it down.  Remember that pesky detail about getting a mortgage and appraisal?  Yeah, that is going to complicate things. 

"this should be easy, I'll just cut this door loose...."

The living room door finally came loose without too much collateral damage.  The door to the dining room was more difficult. We were unable to get that door out without damaging the plaster. So, now we add another item to the ever growing to-do list...."repair plaster wall before appraisal".

But progress was made!  You can now access the first floor from the front door!  Previously you could only access the 2nd floor from the front door.  Now, we can stand in the dining room and look through the tiny vestibule into the living room. 

"oops...anyone know how to do plaster work?"
The next morning Peter went to the house early in the morning.  Soon after he got there he called me and said,  "I think someone was here last night, there seems to be things missing."  We started talking about what items we had hauled out of the house and what should have been there.  While we were talking a truck pulled up.  Apparently some previous renters had come back overnight to try and remove some of their belongings.  The house had been unoccupied for quite some time so we were confused about whether these were really their belongings and why they would have been in the house for so long. Their English was about as fluent as our Spanish so the details remain rather vague, but apparently these items had been locked in the house and they didn't have access to them.  Whether that was intentional, due to lost deposit, due to unpaid rent, bad blood between renter and landlord or just a misunderstanding....we'll never know.  But the fact of the matter was we didn't want the stuff and they did, and it appeared that they needed the items, especially the tools.  So Peter told them they could have it but.....they had to take all of it, junk and trash included.  They took several loads of metal and appliances and then came back for the rest of the items.  It seemed to work out for all parties, they were happy to get their belongings, we were happy to have several truckloads of junk hauled away!
more items from the house

The next thing was to tackle the 1st floor kitchen.  In Phase 3 this room won't even be a kitchen but for Phase 1 and 2 it has to be "habitable" and functional", beauty is not a requirement.  

We suspected the floor was rotten since walking across the linoleum was like walking in an inflatable  bouncy house. Once we pealed the linoleum back we realized it was pretty nasty under there.  We had known there was some mold in the kitchen but the problem had just gotten bigger. 
now the linoleum doesn't look so bad after all.......
Initially I thought we would be able to reuse this cabinet and sink for a time.  But it was so rotten underneath that the whole thing had to come out. 

First, we smashed up the tile counter top.  That was fun, sometimes it feels good to smash things. 

We still couldn't budge the piece so we smashed it too.  Once we got it out we realized how nasty it really is.  The studs behind the counter are so rotten you can just poke your finger right through them.  The amazing thing is that the window is apparently a floating window, everything below it is completely rotten and yet it floats there.  We fully expect to find the window laying on the floor at some point but for now it seems content to float.....or dangle.

this is what happens when you begin peeling back the layers of nastiness

Wythe decided he didn't want linoleum on the back porch either

We knew the cellar was going to be the biggest project to get the house ready for another appraisal.  The yuckiness down there was one of the main reasons the loan was denied.  We knew there was some asbestos wrap on the pipes and some asbestos tiles on the floor.  There was also mold because at some point someone had the bright idea of building walls and putting up drywall.  My guess is they were trying to build yet another "apartment" in the house.  But putting drywall in a damp cellar doesn't turn out well in the end, especially not when you have it sitting on dirt or leaning up against dirt.  So tearing out all the drywall was one of the first items on the list.   
In order to work down there we had to a light source so Peter had to get some of the electrical working.  We were able to get the power company out that first day to pull the second meter.  The guy said to Peter (in a somewhat accusing manner) 

"I'd like to know how you got this extra service for a house that is zoned single family and not multi-family?"  
Peter smiled and said "Funny, I was trying to figure out the same thing....how did you all install this second meter for "Apartment B" in the single family home?" 
*awkward silence*
"Anyway, so let me get this meter out and I'll be out of your way...."

We were now down to a single meter but since the house is wired as a duplex and since there is some beautiful vintage wiring in the house it can be a little tricky figuring out what is safe to use.  So, he got one outlet working and now with the use of some very long extension cords we can have power throughout the house. As long as we only need one electrical item at a time. 
working in the cellar
cellar- wall, door, drywall all comes out

same view after it is removed

While we were working on the house we heard a funny bleating noise.  Looking out in the back yard we saw a tiny fawn trying to take some steps on very wobbly legs.  Mama deer had come out of the underbrush to eat and baby was attempting to follow her.  It was cute but seriously?   We move from a house-in-the-country-where-deer-are-born-in-our-pasture-every-spring-and-grow-up-to-eat-my-garden-every-summer to a house-smack-dab-in-the-city-where-deer-are-born-in-the-underbrush-and-will-most-likely-grow-up-and-want-to-eat-my-future-garden. 
yep, this is the city!

So that pretty much sums up what progress we made on a first long weekend of working on the house.  We felt good about the progress but the reality of the amount of work required is beginning to set in.  And we said we would never do this again.  We would not tackle a project of this size.  We are done with that phase of our life.  From now on we are going to be "move-in ready" house people, 

We lied.

Wythe building a "castle"

'til next time....


  1. Wow guys! You sure do take on massive projects, we are looking forward to seeing how this house turns out! I am sure it will be beautiful! - Sandra

    1. Thank you Sandra! It will be a lot of work but we are optimistic about the finished project!


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