The house is still more or less a construction zone except I LIVE IN IT NOW
Publish date:
August 27, 2012
home, renovation, construction

Now that we’ve sorta established we weren’t completely off our rocker when we bought this house-heap (do you believe me? I don’t know if I would in reverse, LET’S BE HONEST), I’m ready to continue this gloriously messy tale. By the way, we’re still totally swallowed up in this thing -- the house is still more or less a construction zone except I LIVE IN IT NOW. Dirty feet, unwashed hair and a wardrobe consisting of like 3 pants and a handful of shirts and dresses are the norm, while the rest of our stuff sits in a sweltering storage unit awaiting The Great Unveiling.

But I don’t want to jump too ahead now, because we last left off when we finished cleaning out the hoarder leftovers, ‘member?

One of the first things we did after the house was cleared out was borrow a beast of a dehumidifier to begin combating the extreme moldy moisture buildup. The dining room had puddles of water pooled around, just sitting there, rotting away the wood floors. Even though the water had probably been there for at least a good six months, there was an urgency to stop even one more day of ruin in our future abode (as if it would really matter, I know).

I don’t want to go getting all long-winded over a dehumidifier, but should you find yourself with a house of water, look into this thing! We felt (and smelled) a change in the air even a mere 24 hours into this guy churning out moisture. We still use it all these months later. Water inside a home is a mega big deal, kind of like a homeowner’s kryptonite. I laugh at it, being clumsy and new to this whole "homeowner" thing, but you can bet I’m running around like a frenzied, ankle-biting pooch should water come a-creeping inside -- which it still does. I was just sucking some up this morning. Yeah, you can vacuum up water, weird right? But you need a special vacuum, so don’t try this at home!

Once the house was cleared out and we could see our complete palette, we had some massive decisions to make. For starters, the walls were plaster, which meant there was no insulation, which wasn’t in line with our GREEN DREAMS.

At about the time we bought the house, we also had been led to a book touting the benefits of a no-yeast diet for autoimmune diseases (MS in particular). Frustrated with the seemingly dead-ends of D’s current "wait-and-see" treatment plan, we had begun trying some holistic routes to see if we couldn’t tip the scale in our favor. At the same time, we owned a house that seemed to practically have a black cloud of toxic ickiness spread atop it. It seemed silly to eat organic lettuce if we were eventually going to move into a house that potentially leaked chemicals from its very walls. Not that plaster does that, but the whole notion got us motivated to really try and live a bit healthier -- and efficiently. I take it as a small, personal affront each month I receive an electric/gas bill. You’d think I’d get used to it by now, but is there anyone else out there that sort of holds her breath each time she opens one of those bills? Tell me I’m not the only one! After finally becoming a homeowner, I was determined not to get another $300+ January heating bill (especially when the house was NOT EVEN WARM!).

Plaster walls didn’t really fit into our green dreams because they have no insulation. It’s just adhered right over the brick exterior. So we did what seemed logical -- removed them. Enter a house consisting of simply four brick walls.

We used the same Craig’s List crew that helped clear the place out to do some of this tedious demo work. But we overpaid (little dummies!) and worked alongside them. OK fine, we in this case mostly means D. In my defense, I had to be at my office job all damn day. Because we were only slowly uncovering all the house issues as things got cleaned out, the price was piecemealed. If we'd had a clearer vision of what we needed help with in total for the cleanout and demo altogether, we would have been able to negotiate a better rate. My advice when hiring for stuff like this? REALLY think about everything you need done so you can get the best price -- kinda like buying in bulk.

Even if we did perhaps overpay, we really needed the extra hands. This took place in bitter January, in a house with no plumbing, no electricity, no heating. Working hours were limited to daylight and we tried to source as much heat as possible through small propane tanks. It would have taken us months to demo this house completely on our own. We reasoned that by saving a couple months time-wise, we were likely evening out money-wise, as we were currently renting (obv we couldn’t live here!).

Oh right, and besides that, the place we were renting was actually for sale, which meant that any fine day a buyer could come sweeping through and place an offer, rendering us sorta homeless. Because there certainly wasn’t enough excitement in our lives already.

Each day the house was further torn apart, the more I began to relax. The transformation, though it was going in the opposite direction of what one might think of as "home," was nonetheless proof this place could be changed. That we were going to make something out of it. Except for the kitchen. That suffered a slow, cold death.

The kitchen was a shoddy addition thrown onto the back of the house. There was no proper flooring and it was insulated with old T-shirts and carpet squares. The exterior was a weird rubber/asphalt concoction that could have been easily huffed and puffed into oblivion.

So we chucked it. I wasn’t totally in favor of doing this at the start. The house was already pretty modest in size, about 1,200 square feet and we were discussing making it even smaller. Also, I liked the kitchen being a stand-alone room. That said, the existing structure was not salvageable. It had to come down. We could have opted to rebuild it, but talk about a money-sucker -- oh, and those green dreams? We started to question how efficient a proper dining room was anyway. Does anyone actually eat in theirs regularly? (I’m seriously curious, tell me!)

What we realized would be more useful to us was a covered, outdoor living space. We decided we’d keep/fix the existing roof, pour cement to make a solid floor, and run electricity out there when the rest of the house was wired. BOOM, verandah. Ok, I don’t know what officially constitutes a verandah, but it sounds fancier than a porch. And I need some fancy in my life about now.

When demo was all said and done -- oh right, that never happened. Because after we diminished the house to this:

We realized we had to rip out the entire second floor. But you know the drill, I’ll tell you all about it next time.