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Realistic expectations for an house built in 1890.

Hi, guys! My fiancée and I are getting ready to find our first (and perhaps forever) home! We're both 23 years old, and while we don't plan to have the wedding for a few years yet, we've been living together for a few years now, and would like to settle into a place of our own with our cats. We live in New York state, just outside of Woodstock.

My fiancée's mother, a widow, owns the land that her home is on. In 2010, she was able to buy a new, three-bedroom two-bathroom manufactured home, which she loves. The old house was scheduled for demolition, but has been put off for years, for a number of reasons. The house has mostly been closed up during that time. Some vermin have gotten in, but no large animals. The place is a mess - they left a lot of things in the house when they left, and there are some minor leaks that have caused a bit of mould in the drywall and insulation in a few places. More importantly, the copper plumbing and wiring were ripped out and sold.

I should probably mention now that I have years of experience with repairs and building, including insulating, drywall, some minor plumbing, flooring, replacing rotted beams, roofing, and a bit of building. I worked with a group in Vermont that is much like Habitat for Humanity, as well as my father and I renovating our home when I was an adolescent. I'm a hard worker and a quick study, and my fiancée is more than willing to work as well. We would like to do EVERYTHING ourselves. These are good skills to have, and we want a home that is OURS.

My fiancée and I walked the house yesterday and today, and have decided that we would simply tear out a few of the walls - we want redo the insulation and drywall throughout the home regardless, and that would require much less drywall, as well as open up the floor plan and really change the home. So here are the questions I have.

1. How do you check beams to see if they're load-bearing? I've torn out walls before, but usually with someone else checking the beams. For what do I need to look out?

2. How much, realistically, will it cost for us to re-wire and re-plumb the home? It's three bedrooms (with two of them taking up the attic space upstairs) and one bathroom, 1265 square feet. Would you recommend any resources or tips for learning to do these things? My father can answer questions I have during the process, of course, but it'd be nice to have some thoughts from people here.

3. I am not sure whether the roof itself needs to be repaired. There are a couple of leaks, but while the roofing looks old, it doesn't look damaged. It's a saltbox type house with a few levels of slanted roof. I don't want to get hasty and tear everything up if I ought to try something else first.

I appreciate any guidance that anyone can offer, because I would absolutely love to see this house become a beautiful home again. It was my fiancée's family's home for a few generations, and all the time that she grew up there, it was poorly upkept, with repairs being done only halfway. Is this a feasible project for us? It doesn't matter how much time or work it will take; that is worth it to us, and we can stay with my fiancée's mother during the project - it's even on the same land, which gives us easy access to work on the house. The biggest concern is how we can save money on the project, and doing all of the work ourselves.

Thank you all in advance for your replies. (:

MLB Construction
Re: Realistic expectations for an house built in 1890.

sounds like you have quite the project ahead of you, i wish i was me.

the few words of advice i can give you are from well learned lessons.

1. Find a friend that's a contractor or hire one for a few hours. walk the house with him inside and out from top to bottom. ask every question you can think of, tell him your plans and ask his opinion on everything. he'll let you know what you can do yourself and what you might need a pro for.

2. exterior and structure first. make sure the exterior is in decent shape, no leaks, windows sealed up, siding not rotten, doors weather tight, sill is in good condition, any water rot, insect damage, etc.

3. get and electrician and a plumber and do the same as you did with the contractor. you'll need a plumber and electrician that's willing to let you do alot of the grunt work but you'll need them for permits and and anything dangerous.

4. get everything in the entire house gutted that you want to gut, don't try to gut a room and then finish it and move on to the next one. do things in stages.....gut.....plumbing.....electrical.....insulation.....blueboard and plaster.....trim.....paint.....floors

5. make sure you pull permits and make sure you check references on any subs that you hire

6. take tons of pictures, post them here and update us on your progress


Re: Realistic expectations for an house built in 1890.

Great points from MLB.

The more you go into the project, the more you find out there is more you need to know.
At 23 and with your first major remodel project, you may not be able to tackle all you described, unless you have deep pockets and are able to sub out portions of the job.

Take before/after pics and show everybody. We'd like to see.

Re: Realistic expectations for an house built in 1890.

One more piece of advice, unless you can stay with your fiance's mother, I would suggest renting or buying a cheap camper to make meals in, shower, and sleep in on weekends. Saves a lot of travel time.


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