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Old 07-18-2009, 02:57 PM   #16
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My house's previous owner - DIY horror stories


Purchased a 1941-built house because I wanted older charm. Who knew they either had no building codes, else did not enforce them! (my basement stairs are bult with odd width, depth, thickness of scrap wood; steps are not square, level or same sized.)

I cannot afford to really fix up the basement. Have consoled myself that my future selling strategy will be that, although not finished, the basement is free of DIY electrical and plumbing. These postings make me believe I am not so dumb in this matter. I'll offer photocopies of these postings whenever I list it for sale.

An aside: Cannot afford to rewire house. Had licensed electricians install GFCI outlets at __every__ plug (none had third hole for grounding -- could not plug in most items). I figure, at least, wire-fire now would be contained. Good choice? Did I add any safety?

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Old 07-18-2009, 05:09 PM   #17
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I've been very lucky compared to some of these stories. Our house was built in 1925 and we wanted to buy it 30 years ago but couldn't manage it at the time. Mostly just old and needs to be updated to some extent. One odd thing is that some DIY'er installed a vent in the bathroom that didn't run. Finally ran down the wiring and it was hooked into the (one and only) light bulb socket in the attic and the light has to be turned on with the built in pull switch for the vent to work in the bathroom. Go figure. Except for the kitchen which was redone about 20 years ago the house has knob and tube and replacing that will be my first big project.
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Old 07-20-2009, 03:21 PM   #18
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I'm 24 years old and bought my first house Nov 18th 2008. The house was built May 17th, 1939. The original work was all pretty much top notch, but I have had my share of trouble too. The house has a basement that flooded pretty badly because of a high water table in our area (failing storm sewers, being replaced this year). I excavated the outside of the house and found that there was an original drain tile in place, but no gravel had been put down at the time of the drain tile and all tiles had filled with pure clay. I've found (2) 15 amp circuits taped up in the wall and live. There was a 10-3 romes line ran to the shed in standard dwv pvc pipe. The DWV pipe in the house was fitted together without pvc glue. The washing machine emptied into the sump pump and then discharged into the sanitary sewer. There were 4 layers of shingles on the roof. And that is pretty much most of the bad stuff. Someone also came through and installed an interior drain tile with corrugated pipe, but they also forgot to put in gravel so it soon plugged up.

1.5 more months till move in time.

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Old 12-21-2009, 09:11 AM   #19
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Yep, had problems like you did.....none of the toilets flushed; plumbing leaked all over, including the line to the dishwasher and buckled the wood floor; none of the electrical wall outlets were grounded; garage door nearly fell on me and could have killed me had I been under it; and the list goes on......luckily, we are nearly done correcting all this stuff but I feel like I SO OVERPAID for this property!
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Old 12-21-2009, 12:16 PM   #20
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Boy, I've got almost nothing compared to some of you folk.

Our house was built in 1904 and has 4 layers of shingles on the roof - that's next summer's job.

Main issues I have are electrical. The former owner (an engineer) was frustrated by the lack of outlets in the main floor so they drilled 1" holes in the floors/walls here and there, then ran extension cords up through them. Looks like some sort of wierd putting green.

Also some former owner insulated the attic floor with rock wool, packed in so tight I don't think it's of any value. In the middle of all that rock wool is the majority of the knob and tube wiring for the second floor. So I've taken up the attic floor and cleared the insulation away from the wires. Found a couple of beauriful snarls where they had tapped into the knob & tube with romex. One of those messes had the electirical, telephone, and tv cable wires all in one big snarl, then there were a couple pieces of sharp edged galvanized tin in the mix too, why? Not a clue. (Yes, I am rewiring, but it's a slow go). And speaking of cable and telephone, there are phone lines/coax running everywhere, no rhyme or reason. I traced one line from the attic to the basement, then back up to the attic, then into a wall and off to who knows where, probably the basement.

When I replaced the ceiling fan in the main bedroom I found it was held in with two sheetrock screws, neither of which when into a joist. One just caught the edge of a lathe, and the other one went into the plaster between two lathes. No wonder the cat always was nervious about that fan. A ceiling fan in another bedroom was literally hanging by one screw and the wires.

Replacing the cheap plastic light switches has also been fun. The house originally had rotary switches. These switches were mounted to a 3/4" board that ran between two studs and that was located just behind the lathe. When they were replaced the person doing the work (I can't believe it was an electrician) simply punched the 3/4" board out of the way with a hammer, put in the new switch, and repaired the plaster damage with a whole lot of patching compound. No box around the switch of course.

The first winter we had trouble with the water lines to the kitchen sink freezing, a little detective work found that the former owner had done some insulation, but did it so that the pipes on the cold side of the insulation.

And then there's the sump pump well, where the former owner framed in a closet, running the wall and door right across the middle of the sump cover, so when the sump pump went out I had to take down the wall to replace the pump. Grr!

So no great DIY horrors, just a bunch of nickle and dime issues that I keep stumbling across.
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Old 12-21-2009, 12:55 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by md2lgyk View Post
Has nobody ever heard of a home inspection? If you don't have one done and don't do it yourself, you deserve what you end up with.
Contrary to your belief, home inspections do not catch everything
Some do not even come close to being a full inspection
There was one higher offer on my last house (short sale)
They requested time to setup a Home Inspection & a guarantee that replacing the Septic would not cost more then "X"
Guess who got the house ?
I did my own inspection & knew what needed to be fixed.....everything

A HI is a good idea, & many will catch problems
But do not rely on them to find everything

Our new house we had an inspection & they found nothing wrong
I found 2 live 20a 240v feeds at the bottom of the basement stairs
I found signs of water intrusion along the front porch
I also found signs of rot where the back porch met the house, possible sill rot
I found the cracked window & 2 fogged windows, plus broken parts of several lower panes
I noted that the back basement door did not close properly
Also that a section of the front door had been broken & replaced with plywood
And the attic insulation showing thru a gap was only R7

Based on my findings we negotiated a price $20k less then the lower price, in all $40k less then the asking price
A potential buyer basing their view on the Inspection would have paid the $20k less then asking that the seller was willing to accept
And this was when the Real estate market was booming - not recently
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Old 12-21-2009, 02:38 PM   #22
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My house's previous owner - DIY horror stories


Quote:
Originally Posted by md2lgyk View Post
Has nobody ever heard of a home inspection? If you don't have one done and don't do it yourself, you deserve what you end up with.
We paid out-of-pocket for an expert on houses over 200 years old to inspect our home. So, yes, I've heard of them. We used the inspection to rule out 'structural' problems with the house (of which, there were none).

None of this means, however, that I am not perfectly entitled to complain about the half-@ssed way the former owner took care of the house.

I do all my DIY with this thought in my head: when someone else owns the house, one day, will they curse my name, or praise it?
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Old 12-21-2009, 03:32 PM   #23
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- I removed FOUR TONS of debris from the house and basement - (Leah + shovel + wheelbarrow + Mom's truck + MANY trips to the dump)
jeebus. i thought the two 20 yard dumpsters i filled up was a lot of stuff!
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Old 12-21-2009, 03:46 PM   #24
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Great thread.

Last edited by AtlanticWBConst.; 01-16-2010 at 04:17 PM. Reason: SITE RULES VIOLATION: Advertising Link in Signature
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Old 12-21-2009, 04:36 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by md2lgyk View Post
Has nobody ever heard of a home inspection? If you don't have one done and don't do it yourself, you deserve what you end up with.
Yup, I agree with you, but relying on home inspections to catch it all may lead to some surprises. In my experience with old houses you are better off if you know a much as possible about what to look for yourself.

Every significant issue in our house was known to us when we bought it. But not from a home inspector, but by our poking around in the house. We talked to several home inspectors, and here's what we found:
  • The inspection wouldn't cover the roof, as it was more than 20' (or so) off the ground
  • The inspection wouldn't cover the basement walls or foundation, as the basement was finished.
  • The inspection wouldn't cover the plumbing/ductwork, as the owner had indicated there was asbestos around the plumbing/ductwork (one small spot where a seam in a heat duct had been sealed with an asbestos tape of some sort).
So that and a couple other exclusions I don't remember at the moment meant that we'd be spending $500 just for someone to pretty much say "it's a house".

Nothing against home inspectors, they do good work and are typically well worth the $$$. But in our part of the country anyway there's nobody we could find that specialized in old houses. And I doubt they would have found anything more than we did anyway, as I spent a whole day poking around the place. (I think I probed every sill, and every board in the roof, etc). That was one nice thing about buying a house that was sitting empty. The realtor didn't care on bit how much time we spent looking it over.
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Old 12-21-2009, 05:47 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by md2lgyk View Post
Has nobody ever heard of a home inspection? If you don't have one done and don't do it yourself, you deserve what you end up with.
My thought s exactly! (almost)

I'd also like to add how poorly some of these DIY do the inspections themselves.

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Old 12-22-2009, 08:30 PM   #27
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And I thought I had it bad moving into my house with only a futon, tv stand (no tv) and a VCR. At least the house was functional. Although I have replaced the roof, garage door and converted the stove and drier to gas. So if, I get solar panels, do I convert the stove and drier to electric? Hmmm...
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Old 12-23-2009, 02:56 PM   #28
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I live in a 2BR condo built in 1980, so clearly nothing remotely like what Leah, Scuba and the rest of you have had... but my first place and I've learned a lot from it and from this whole site to know EXACTLY what to look for on the jump to a SFH next time... anyway here's my list:
  • Owner had 3 cats, apparently didn't know what a litter box was, urine/excrement stains all over carpet.. upon getting keys at settlement, that was the first thing ripped outta there.
  • Cat fur/dander in everything. Replacing all the outlets and switches, found hair back there in the boxes, in all the vents, in the heat pump blower, bathroom fans and even in the walls when we tore out the kitchen and bathroom.
  • Chain smoker inside.. walls need to be sealed, every surface was a different color (yellowish tinge) than it was originally.
Obviously, cosmetic issues mostly (she never cleaned it as long as she lived there, I'm convinced).

The comments about a home inspector are spot on. I think valuable money (at least he pointed out leaky valves and we asked her to have them done prior to move in at her expense... that essentially made it a wash right there). While our building is fine, there are so many things our inspector didn't point out, that I had no idea I should even look at (first time homebuyer... I think our real estate agent should have helped at well.. but... my own fault) like the HVAC system's age/health, electric code problems, mold issues, ventilation, improper wiring to washer/dryer, etc.
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Old 03-14-2010, 10:19 PM   #29
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Quote:
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The teenage sons of the former homeowner graffitied up several rooms in the house. Some of the graffiti is spelled incorrectly.
Did you take pics of the graffiti ?
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Old 03-14-2010, 10:24 PM   #30
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Hmmm. I'm not sure... I'll have to look. It was neither inspired in content or aesthetics. The funniest bit was written in the kitchen hall....it said,
"I'm taking a bath"

Will wonders never cease.

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