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Old 07-16-2009, 07:19 PM   #1
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My house's previous owner - DIY horror stories

Inspired by the title of another thread I thought it might be fun to find out what sort of bozo things DIYers are dealing with from former homeowners.

When I moved into my house:
- There was not one single door knob on any interior door of the house
- There was not one single light bulb in a light fixture
- Only two of five exterior doors could close and lock
- The former homeowner drained the oil tank
- every sink, toilet, and tub leaked (water bill dropped by 70% once I moved in)
- Five attic windows were so rotten they either failed to close or failed to keep out the weather
- A chronic leak at the dishwasher rotted a 2 square foot hole in the kitchen floor (subfloor and all)
- The fridge was so poorly maintained that we had to throw it out
- The window air conditioner units were leaking into the walls
- 100 square feet of carpet pad was glued to the hardwood floor
- I removed FOUR TONS of debris from the house and basement - (Leah + shovel + wheelbarrow + Mom's truck + MANY trips to the dump)
- We had to remove six trees that were so damaged or dying that they presented a hazard to the house
- The teenage sons of the former homeowner graffitied up several rooms in the house. Some of the graffiti is spelled incorrectly.

This is the short list of things that jump to mind. I'm sure there have to be some good stories out there....
If I could only remember to THINK about what I was doing before I did it.
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Old 07-16-2009, 08:18 PM   #2
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This house was pretty good
--pool was not closed properly or chem'd - full of leaves & a green algae mess in the Spring when we went to open it
--bought a new pump & filter -all was good
-2 live 20a 240v uncapped circuits at the bottom of the basement steps

Last house: (gotcha beat I think)
-I had to evict THOUSANDS of occupants - discovered the 1st night I went down there & turned on the lights - much to the horror of the girl I was dating - who ran out of the house
-Carpet was a filthy mess - except where the mattress had been on the floor
-Floors were a mess, sticky tiles put down over wood floor
-main wood floor was only stained/finished around the edge of the rug that had been there. The rest was a mess
-I could rollerblade from the front to the back of the house like in a skateboard bowl
-There was a 6" step into the kitchen - due to over 12 layers of flooring
-They had cats/kittens, but no litter box
-See above - the house smelled. I would take a deep breath & run in & open windows, out take a breath, back in open windows, out take a breath & put fans in windows & turn on, outside & wait 15+ minutes
-GF (same one) & I spent 2 weeks cleaning before I could move in
-we thought the kitchen sink & counter were brown, sink was white & counter was blue
-Stove had a 1/2" layer (at least) of crud on it
-sump pump missing from the basement
-bumble bees in the kitchen wall, ants & yellow jackets had nests
-crawl space had collapsed walls - who knew plywood would rot up against dirt
-cat & a skunk got in thru the holes...smoke bombs & firecrackers & they decided to leave (not sprayed)
-Small pieces of sheetrock were put up in the main room - then paneling was installed
-Same small pieces in the kitchen behind the cabinets
-Sheetrock was not sealed behind the cabinets, letting in cold air
-flat ceiling had almost ZERO insulation - used to be a porch
-the above enclosed porch they left the 2x6 top rail on the porch railing & sinply built a 2x4 wall on top. Then put sheetrock across the wall - bowing it to make it fit
-one bedroom door had a latch for a lock in the Main room. Since the windows in the room would not shut right "friends" would come over (in thru windows) & wait in the room for them to come home
-reference above - before purchase there were blankets over every window
-again reference above - neighbors said the Police spent weeks in a van in their driveway watching the house (druggies)
-5 layers of roofing on the house. It would rain then 3 days later the roof would leak (not kidding)
- I bought a 5g bucket of tar until I could put a new roof on
-Rotted plywood on roof & 2 broken rafters
-chimney fell apart
-fridge died the day after I bought the place
-washing machine was still in the house, complete with the last load of laundry in it - that they wanted. I left the whole thing out front
-bathroom floor was rotted as was the laundry closet that backed up to it
-when I checked the PVC pipe (in crawl space) for laundry the entire thing came apart in pieces
-laundry connections leaking
-front door would not shut correctly
-no septic system, just a good ole cesspool/big old hole in the ground

Grass was waist high - hid a lot of junk
I spent all summer hauling debris to the dump
I think they never raked a leaf in the 5+ years they were there
There were piles of broken glass in the side yard from old windows
Broken mirrors in the back yard
12" deep rut along the front yard/street - my car would bottom out

-Live wire in the lawn, discovered while lawn mowing
-Live wires behind baseboard
-Live wires in attic
-Live wires in basement
-AC was toast (only a 5k - 912 sq ft house)
--I installed a 24k in the main room & a 15k in the bedroom

The Good:
I bought the house for less then my SUV cost (in '97) & I got a good deal on the SUV
Cathedral entrance, kitchen & Master bedoom - which was big
The house was Tax appraised at 3x what I paid for it
The Neighbors actually cheered when they found out I bought the house & was fixing it up & going to live there

The Funny:
I never would have looked at the house except my GF came over early & it was a rainy day (or I would have gone to the beach)
1st time I had bought a paper to look at houses in 6 months
I had circled a number of houses but did not go to look at any of them
GF saw the house circled & the price & sai dlets go look at it
Once we saw the house (exterior) I was going to drive away. The realtor came across the street in a downpour & said as long as you are here - look inside
It was 12 days from the time I 1st looked at the house until closing
Bank was accepting a short sale - but wanted cash only
I bought the house with Cash Advances against my Credit Cards
The main card I called them & asked if they had any problem with my maxing out my credit limit with a cash advance. I heard cheering & a bell ringing. I was given a rate of 2.9% for 6 months, 2nd card was 4.9% for 6 months, 3rd card was 6.9% for 6 months. House Mortgage rates were 10-12% at the time
At the 6 month point I transferred balances to other cards for another 6 months of low interest. But shortly after that I received the Tax bill & was able to land an equity Loan to pay off the cards (10.5%)

My 1st loan was $45k, I paid off about $5k within a few months, used some $$ to fix things up. Refinanced lower rate (8.25%), bought my dive gear & went on 2 vacations, bought a hot tub, fixed up a little more. 3rd loan - up to $76k now - bought motorcycle, Jetski, another vacation, fixed up some more
Most of the house was fixed up at this point
Started dating my present day more spending until the house is totally fixed up
So, new unfinished 2nd floor, roof & new of house done
Then we sold it for $200k, owed about $68k on it

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Old 07-16-2009, 08:48 PM   #3
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I went behind a DIYer who when adding a bathtub to what was previously a 1/2 bath (no permits of course) decided to cut out 3' in the middle third of a floor joist. It was in his way and he could not run the pipes. Lucky for him his wife decided to have someone check up behind him. He was going to leave it that way and didn't realize you had to double up under a bathtub.
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Old 07-16-2009, 11:55 PM   #4
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Dave "-I had to evict THOUSANDS of occupants - discovered the 1st night I went down there & turned on the lights "

The second night I spent in the house (by myself, DH was still working in another state) I decided to hire an exterminator. DH, by phone, says "are you sure, they're mostly a racket?"

I tell him when I turn on the TV all the bugs are attracted to the light and their are hundreds of them on the screen....

I tell people this house doesn't need much work, only four things really: new electrical, new plumbing, new roof, and paint inside and out. Is that five things?

ARI- how did you discover the notch? Remodel?
If I could only remember to THINK about what I was doing before I did it.
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Old 07-17-2009, 07:07 AM   #5
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ARI- how did you discover the notch? Remodel?
His wife called me from an add I had in the phone book at the time because she was looking for someone to check up on him. She didn't think it was a good idea to cut out sections of a floor joist. He was in way over his head and really had no idea what he was doing. Not only had he cut out the joist he mixed abs and pvc dwv lines, which was not a real big deal since he didn't glue them.
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Old 07-17-2009, 12:46 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Leah Frances View Post
Dave "-I had to evict THOUSANDS of occupants - discovered the 1st night I went down there & turned on the lights "

I tell people this house doesn't need much work, only four things really: new electrical, new plumbing, new roof, and paint inside and out. Is that five things?
But as I recall your chicken coop more than makes up for it
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Old 07-17-2009, 01:53 PM   #7
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The problems with my house are nothing on the scale of those described above, but they've given me headaches nonetheless. For the previous owner the place was basically a 'flip' -- he won a lot of money on a game show, bought this old neglected house, put some work into it, lived there a couple years, and then sold it (at the height of the boom, for a huge profit I'm sure).

Their idea of 'staging to sell' was to put wallpaper in almost EVERY room. And not just any wallpaper -- really UGLY wallpaper. The kitchen is like a poison ivy infestation, the dining room was vertical bars of fruit, master bedroom was large pink and white flowers, etc. Three years later, and we are still working our way through stripping it off.

Also, while most of the work he did was permitted, it seems like he did some DIY electrical upgrades, with the result that all over the house I have outlets that give no power, GFCIs that trip the moment you plug something in, and three-way switches where the switch you use to turn the light on has to be the one where you last turned it off.
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Old 07-17-2009, 05:04 PM   #8
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Well, I bought the house so I shouldn't complain! I bought it to help 2 families out. I needed to move badly and couldn't find a house for a realistic price before the "recession." And my now good buddy got a job where I work, took a big pay cut, and got cheesed (yes CHEESE-D) by those stupid refi-super-balloon-bank rip-off loans. This WAS a quiet area when I grew up there. Anyway, foreclosure in the middle of renovation. Cheap labor, licensed, still means cheap work. He shoulda DIY'ed most of this, but had no time and was living in a rental miles away.

-Door guy put a security screen door on and locked himself in the house (still haven't heard the whole story), got neighbor to call locksmith, punched hole in T-111 (still there - gotta get to that) when he locked himself out in the rain.

-Tile was done in a rush, 900+ft2 of white porcelain tile on clearance, some didn't match. Floor wasn't leveled, grout not sealed, master bathroom didn't get set - whaaat?!

-Paint, ugh, see above. No primer, ugly GLOSSS colors. "Natural tones are what buyers want..." blecccch!

-Every fixture leaked, valves must've been original.

-Pool was perfect, except for the owner before the previous tried to fix an algae problem with a sandblaster or something.

-Electrical is still not right after the reno. Somebody put 3-switch panels everywhere but where they were needed. Been zapped by lamps. Extra breakers were installed, but I have yet to find out why - probably something special that couldn't be afforded.

-Garage was converted into a livingroom- passed inspections, window leaked when it rained (I hope I fixed it this time!!!!), drywall is curved where garage door was, I think the insulation was short or not installed at all. Metal security door was a bit thin; there were marks where it looked like somebody tried to plane it for some reason. Laundry closet should have been built a little bigger, the drywall had to be cut to put the old water heater back, plywood stand for the HUGE water heater - worked great until the tank was filled...

-kitchen reno - the old WOOD cabinets should have been left in there. Countertops weren't fastened. Stove was rushed in...outlet wasn't changed. Fridge was stolen/missing. Drywall wasn't finished before cabinets were installed and/or someone hit a pipe...

-Fence built with WET Home Depot wood. No center brace, no waterproofing = warped.

-Weeds and neighbors' garbage in the yard. Fill dirt was never replaced after...I don't know!

-Roof was reflective-rubberized over a leak patch next to the swamp cooler (arrgh!) and wherever visible around the perimeter, but not the hottest parts of the roof. Paper wasn't even sealed properly. Soffit vents were sealed and caused the new ceiling popcorn to rot.

-50' porch cover and extended concrete...or whatever the crater-mess is. The cover is catilevered off the house rafters, to code, but is far from straight or square or having anything but custom work done further. The facers warped and no gutters were ever installed.

I could go on. My buddy gets mad every time I DIY something and find out what WASN'T done or done really stupid!
"Aw! Why does everything that only happens to stupid people happens to me?" - Homer J. Simpson
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Old 07-17-2009, 05:10 PM   #9
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I'm not going to try to compete here, but there is one thing I never understood about our last house. When we bought the house the hot water heater (electric) was originally located in the bathroom next to the toilet.
Not necessarily a bad idea in itself but someone totally framed it out and drywalled it. No access to it whatsoever!?!
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Old 07-17-2009, 06:09 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Mike in Arkansas View Post

But as I recall your chicken coop more than makes up for it
FIVE eggs a day, baby.
If I could only remember to THINK about what I was doing before I did it.
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Old 07-17-2009, 06:22 PM   #11
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Well, I've never actually bought one that was as bad as some have posted but I sure have reno'd a bunch over the years for other folks.

I have to laugh at what some good natured, possibly good intentioned DIY'er has tried, in an attempt to make something work or make something look better and save a few bucks. I just shake my head in amazement.

I've seen 7 wire runs bunched in a wad in the attic crawl space and the bare ends taped together. Some outlets/lights would actually work, many didn't. In the current home we are working on the previous owner was so frugal he must have actually pulled on each new wire he ran, stretching them taught, after he wire an outlet or a wall switch. You couldn't move a switch/outlet, let alone pull it out far enough to replace. The only option was to run new wires.
The same guy used spray foam throughout the home for anything that looked like it might allow air filtration. He must have gotten a deal on several cases of the stuff. Every wall/ceiling fixture was filled. Every window on the second floor was foamed and painted. Even cracks in the plaster walls were filled and then painted over. The whole house looked like the wall cavities were filled with toothpaste and someone squeezed the outside of the house. It was literally oozing from everyplace imaginable.

Stained glass windows held together with vinyl screen with varnish over the entire surface to hold it together. These were large exterior windows, mind you. Paper-mache used to fill holes in any piece of interior trim you could imagine and then painted over. One guy actually stained and varnished some.

Then there's the 2nd floor tub drain, the guy didn't have a straight piece of plastic the right length so he used a T and plugged the right angle part of the T with a golf ball he glued in. Well it did work I guess.

Last year an 1890's historic home caught fire because the owner tried to run wiring down his chimney to run a vent fan in the attic on the third floor. That winter he lit a fire in the fireplace forgetting he opened a hole to fish the wires through upstairs. The wires caught fire and then the roof. The home, in very good structural condition and mostly professionally restored on the exterior, burned down to the ground.

I've been doing reno's for years now and I guess I could come up with a few chapters on "why did they do that?". My concern is always that someone will get seriously hurt because someone saved some money DIY'ing the job.

If you’re not 1000% sure of the job your about to do, ask a bunch of questions before you do anything. Ya might just save someone an injury or even worse.
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Old 07-17-2009, 06:59 PM   #12
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Neighbors told us Dominion Republic Mafia used to live in our home. We had band aids covering bullet holes in the sheet rock, kicked in doors, and piles of "new, pilfered" children clothing and chain link fence in the attic? We bought a repo and are still trying to undo damage. County deputies have stopped by at different times and apologised "you are not who we are looking for, sorry". I am still trying to find the hidden drug money stash! It's got to be hidden here somewhere!
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Old 07-17-2009, 07:09 PM   #13
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My story isn't so much a horror story, but unusual in its own way!
I bought the house from the estate of a man that was born in the house, in 1911.
He lived there for all his life.
His parents had the house built just before his birth.
What was unusual about this property was that there were absolutely no modifications carried out in 70 years.
Now, the roof had work done to it. The original roof was cedar shakes, then someone installed 2 courses of asphalt shingles over this!
When the house was built, it was painted through, and the trim was a natural finished Douglas fir.
What really amazed me was that after being painted originally, it was never painted again. Every wall and ceiling in the place had turned to a dirty grey!
The hard part of restoring this home, was the trim varnish! It had turned completely black and had to be completely stripped and be re-finished.
Of course, it was wired with knob and tube, which had to be replaced, as well.
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Old 07-17-2009, 09:29 PM   #14
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Wow you guys.. Just wow! Suddenly I don't feel so bad about my OWN problems!! My house I purchased in 2000 from a flipper that got it from FHA after the drug deal what was living in the house foreclosed. Needless to say, the neighbors were also thrilled we were moving in. Here's a run down of what we've been dealing with...

- HVAC system consisted of a massive furnace and swamp cooler that shared ducting (and nothing blocking one from the other). The warmest spot in the house in the winter was the top of the roof and the coolest spot in the summer was at the intake vent for the furnace in the hallway. I had to completely re-wire the furnace our first winter as the mostly used bubble gum after they ran out of wire nuts...

- The ducting was full of gaps that were closed with duct tape ...and probably were good for the first couple of years. But that was 30 years ago... It all had to come down and be replaced with a roof-mounted central air system.

- Gas and water lines were run from a front corner of the house under the slab foundation to the back of the house and then fed inside. 5 years into living there, gas started pouring out of the dirt in the back yard. Just this past month the water line finally failed under the slab. I'm now in the process of running all new utility piping through the INSIDE of the house now and not underground!

- Electrical was done ignoring black and white colors. They just used random choices (hey, you've still got a 50/50 chance of getting it right). An unknown rodent eventually found his way into the outside breaker panel and setup home there. I'm still fishing out bedding material from the wall cavity and box (that I'm soon to replace).

- There was originally a car port that was converted into a room addition but the flooring was 4"-6" lower than the slab (as code requires) so they joisted the floor to match the elevation of the slab. Unfortunately, when people came in later and added a concrete RV driveway and patio in the back yard, they didn't realize that they were pouring the concrete several inches ABOVE this elevation. So for the last 30 years there has been rainwater leaking into the underside of this joisted floor rotting it away. We didn't find it until the hot water heater ruptured and leaked hot water all over this joisted floor....

- The main wet wall in the house uses 6" studs but the sole plate below it is just an ordinary 2x4 --and most of the interior walls weren't anchored to the slab -just floating there.

- The roof was modified after an old room addition created a valley. But no flashing was used and for the last 30 years water has been leaking into the walls of the front kitchen and bathroom (along with a leaking valve for the old swamp cooler on the roof). Simply put, I had TONS of black mold in the wet wall of the house.

I could go on but this is just the major stuff... Still, I just don't feel as bad as I did before I read this thread!!
"...and everyone is entitled to my opinion!!"
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Old 07-18-2009, 07:09 AM   #15
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the fella we bought this house from actually did a good job, one thing to comment on though, they had left the washer and dryer behind for us, they had asked and we said okay, when the time came to replace them, I found out that they wouldn't fit out the door of the room they were in. Had to widen the doorway before replacing them.
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