I Bought A Total Dungheap Of A House: And I Guess We Have A Month Until We Move Into It

It’s weird being in a house for so long that doesn’t actually have any walls, or bathroom even.
Publish date:
April 10, 2013
home, renovation

In this latest installment of my beloved dungheap, I present four weeks of madness.

Though we’d been working daily for six months, we were now down to a mere month til move-in. Because I know how entirely crazy it sounds, I would like to emphasis that I really did try to find us a rental.

If we could have squeezed an extra month or two, we could eye our move-in with much rosier glasses. We knew we were going in premature, and we also knew we didn’t really have a choice. No one likes to rent month-to-month to new tenants. And we had to leave our current pad because it sold. This was going to have to do for home, sweet scary, home.

I mentioned previously how we’ve decided to focus on all the boring, hidden stuff -- like replacing sewer pipes -- even though we knew they were eating our monies like hungry wolves. After laboring half a year, we know we have ZERO interest in having to re-open up walls anytime soon. And when I say soon, I mean ever, like never ever ever (ever). That entails a bit more thought on our end now to make sure we don’t leave any loose ends when drywall goes up at long last. It’s weird being in a house for so long that doesn’t actually have any walls, or bathroom even.

One of those potential loose ends is noise-control. D, mostly, is a quiet guy. Except he’s also the loudest housemate I’ve ever had (even in comparison to the half-deaf DJ). He MAKES MUSIC, which is a long, tedious, often-repetitive, and always very loud, job.

I’ve figured out how to get on with it, but we couldn’t expect the same of our neighbors (especially because they are all like, 65+). If we slacked and didn’t make our house as quiet as possible, we’d be screwed in the long run and likely, on poor terms with the new hood.

Our house only shares one wall with neighbors, so we took extra care to line it. After we tore down the plaster during demo, we could hear EVERYTHING next door. We knew we didn’t want to live like that so we added an extra step prior to insulation.

D hung homasote, which is an environmentally-friendly fiberboard that can be used for soundproofing. I didn’t know anything about it, but was pleased to see it’s manufactured just on the other side of the river from us and is actually a pretty green company.

In a move slightly counterproductive to noise control but one to surely up our future Saturday drunk dance parties, D also quickly wired the house with HDMI cable, CAT5-E, and placed 10 speaker spaces throughout it. HOPE THAT HOMASOTE WORKS.

Also, in case you don’t know what that means, and D is not around to explain it real slowly to you like he did to me (ten times), allow me. The cables he ran means our entire house will be networked for audio and video -- think surround sound on steroids.

Is this necessary? No. But for all the unhappy jobs D has pushed through for this house, running this cable was something he looked forward to for months. It’s also something we wouldn’t do once walls went up (I am so serious about never opening them ever ever again, even if, like, a baby somehow gets stuck in them).

Admittedly, it sounds kind a frivolous, but we bought the wires from a sweet company called Monoprice. If you ever need cables, home theater ish, or even, like, a bracket to hang your TV, check them out. WAY WAY cheaper than anywhere else. I’ve since bought a TV bracket for $30 that Target sold for $90. BOOM.

Anyway, the wire cost a couple hundred bucks for our entire house (and we had a bunch leftover) and since D installed it himself, there were no additional costs. Except that bright day in the future when we actually get around to buying all 10 speakers.

With the homasote in place, cables a go, and T minus 30 days til move-in, we figured it was a ripe time to get on insulation. This had to be done before actual walls could go up. We could have done insulation ourselves (you know the pink cotton candy looking stuff?) but opted to upgrade to a sprayfoam, which has to be done by professionals. We did insulate with some of the pink stuff, but only in between rooms (sprayfoam was only going on outside walls and roof ceiling).

I hate paying utility bills, because duh. Sprayfoam is blasted onto your walls as liquid and quickly morphs into a hardened foam. Because it starts out as a liquid, it’s able to get in every nook and cranny of the wall. This means it’s more difficult for air to pass through, which saves money when heating and cooling a home.

Remember how gross and moldy this house was when we first got it? Sprayfoam claims to be mold and water resistant, too. Also, and this is very important to me after spending a winter traumatized by a mouse infestation years ago, it makes it impossible for critters and bugs to live in your walls (same reason water & mold can’t get trapped in there).

For a time and money comparison, it would have been cheaper to insulate ourselves. Our best guess is about two grand. We paid about $4,500 to have our whole house sprayfoamed. We had about eight estimates done to circle in on average price and then researched products use to make a final decision.

Since a company could do this in about two days, that meant we got a small break from the house (you can’t go in when this is happening) and also saved ourselves about a week of our own labor. If you can be patient, you’ll eventually make up the money over the course of a few years in energy bills. And it qualifies for a small tax refund.

Out of everything we’ve done for the house, hands down, I spent the most time agonizing over how to insulate. We were really keen from the start to sprayfoam because of all the benefits (utility and environmentally-friendly) we’d heard, but then I started reading loads and got worried.

There are lots of horror-type accounts on ol’ Google to defray one from sprayfoam. But then, the same goes for baby aspirin, so at some point it’s just like, whatever, you know? That said, to be fair, a deterrent from sprayfoam is that while it seals up your home, that also means anything in your home, like radon, for example, could be magnified because the house isn’t breathing. We felt comfortable pushing forward with it because three out of the four walls in our home are lined with large windows. Living on the edge, I know.

Finished product

The sprayfoam took about 3 days but left a huge MESS and also screwed up some of the wiring Drew had done. The company who did the job promised we didn’t have to prep anything, so we just let them do their thing. When they were done, we quickly realized we should have covered up all of our wiring outlets, as they hadn’t bothered to.

Drywall was supposed to start the next day, but instead we had to push it back almost a week to dig out the sprayfoam and clean the mess they’d left behind. That kind of sucked. But it’s, uh, foam, so it’s really airy and lightweight at least for cleanup.

I’m perpetually on clean-up duty. I hate it.

Since sprayfoam locked us out of the house for a couple days, we had someone come over to begin assessing stucco. We had REALLY wanted to keep the house brick, but in the end we decided to cover it. The brick was in pretty shoddy shape and would have been really expensive to have it all repointed and cleaned up.

Looking on the bright side, basically every single house on our block (and city, really) is brick. So keeping it brick didn’t really stand out or whatever. I still really appreciate it because you really can’t build a brick house anymore (too expensive). We found someone to stucco the front and he went to work setting up scaffolding. No wait, I think D got mostly roped into doing that. Fool (love you, boo).

I wasn’t actually doing anything productive up there, just checking out my climbing skills.

With two weeks to go, we still had some major hurdles to cross (that didn’t even include actually packing up our rental and moving all our crap). We needed to get walls up, attempt some sort of flooring, get a REAL toilet, and a sink somewhere in the house (most likely basement). We also had to figure out how we would cook, keep food, and shower in here. So much fun times ahead.