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Totally Daunted

It appears that there are pleanty of others in this situation, whether it be intentional or not. We just bought our first home. We bought it super cheap, knowing there would be a lot of work that needed to go into it. We had no problem buying a "handiman special. However after being inside I now am utterly daunted by the amount of work that needs to be done.

The House: Built (roughly) in the 1920's. Solid structure. HUGE. currently a triplex, used to be a duplex. Mirrored image split down the center. Very little yard. In a small borough. Has been vacant for a minimum of 4 years (according to neighbors).

Issues/Plans for the house: Old slate shingle roof that is missing parts. Major water damage. I cannot even explain the scariness of walking into this. Pictures may not even do justice. One side is almost destroyed. The other needs a lot of work but is in much better condition than the other. One room on the first side is covered in black mold. All drywall and flooring needs replaced. Ceiling tiles have already fallen down. Ceilings in this room (used to be a bedroom, currently a "kitchen"), the bathroom, and part of another bedroom have collapsed. Attic needs gutted and refinished on both sides. Downstairs the kitchen needs gutted. All new drywall, ceiling, everything. Except flooring. The "Good" side needs the kitchen worked on, walls and flooring in at least 2 bedrooms. And the bathroom ceiling has also collapsed. This house has solid hardwood floors throughout on both sides. Amazingly these appear to be in fairly good shape, they just need refinished. The wooden roof is 1 1/2in board with slate shingle. The electrical, water/sewage lines, and gas lines need replaced though the whole house. Basement is partially cement floor, partially earth floor with low ceilings. The ceilings in the rest of the downstairs on both sides are 10ft, 2 1/2in high. 3 chimneys, all packed full. Boiler heat, probably also in need of repair or replacement. The plan for this house is to initially fix one side and move in while working on the other, then open it up to create one large house with a giant kitchen and bathroom, a dining room, a den, a playroom, a living room, 6 bedrooms, a second (much smaller)full bath, a half bath, and a finished attic.

Starting Point: We have a contractor starting on the roof within 3 weeks. The roof in being done in phases. The back half that is missing the most shingles and has the most damage is getting done first and he is going to repair the front with saved slate shingles. The front half will be broken into 2 or 3 phases as there are many gables and it is very high and very steep. While the contractor does that we are doing demolition and cleaning. Taking out all unsalvageable materials and cleaning with bleach and what we call "kill all" (this has worked for us on black mold before wonderfully). We are able to salvage some big pieces such as counter top and shower from one side to put in the other. Next comes the electic and other utilities. We will also be doing some cosmetic work on the exterior such as repainting trim and such. Oh, and it appears to be an asbestos siding but we aren't 100% sure.

Now for how you can help! At the moment we are looking for money and time saving tips to get at least one side liveable. Any advice would be greatly appreciated! I would not turn down any encouraging words as well!

About us : We are a young couple (25) who have been married 2 1/2 years and have 5 children, 3 who live with us full time. We both work full time and aren't afraid to put work into this house, but seeing how much it needs at this point I'm almost at a loss of where to begin!

A. Spruce
Re: Totally Daunted

You always want to start with the most critically important areas first, that would be foundation, dryrot, and roof. Once you've got a watertight shell, you can then attack the interior however best fits your plans/schedule. I would caution you with trying to renovate half the house and then moving in while you renovate the remainder, two things happen when you do this: You must live in a construction zone, with all the mess and upheaval that brings, and the work on the other half will be drawn out or possibly never finished.

From your description is sounds like a complete interior gutting of the house is in order, not only to remove damaged surfaces, but to change out heating, plumbing and electrical as well. While it's open, the floor plan can be modified to suit your new needs and the entire house can be insulated properly. If you're changing out windows, do it now so as not to disturb new plaster/drywall later on.

Now is when you've got some choices as to how the project goes, and that is to finish out the whole house, or just do the primary living spaces and leave other sections bare until you can afford to complete them. For instance, you'd finish the kitchen, minimal bedrooms, at least one bath, and the living room. This would allow you to move in and get settled and you can chip away at the remainder as time and money allow. You'll also find that doing the entire project in one shot will be cheaper than trying to piece meal it together because contractors only have to come once.

How ever you proceed, good luck on your project, and report back as you go along. :cool:

Re: Totally Daunted

I see your points. However we are currently working with a limited budget. Once we are able to move in we will be saving ocer $1100 a month that can be immediately put back into the house. We are doing as much work as possible ourselves and our contractor is a friend of the family. He is giving us a really good deal and making time in his schedule to help us with the big things (such as the roof and electrical). Our home now is around 20 miles away. It will be hectic to try to live in one side while we fix the other, but at the moment the only throughway between the 2 is the basement so we won't really have all the rest of the dirt coming over. Opening it up will be one of the last steps we make for this reason. Maybe I'll try to post some pics in the next few days. Thanks! And I will definately keep this updated.

Re: Totally Daunted

Firprincess, the first place you can save a TON of money is by using simulated slate shingles instead of real slate. I think they are made of old tires, they look exactly the same but the savings is unreal. This Old House used these shingles (can't remember the episode) but I think the cost was about 1/3 that of real slate. Next, I agree with A.Spruce, do the whole house at once. You will complete the job faster and cheaper. Have you thought of future. That is, when wiring, plumbing etc. do it all as if you were going to make a duplex out of the house, then if you ever decide to rent half of it you may just need to add a door or two. Setting up the house this way will minimally affect the wiring, plumbing etc.. Just some food for thought. Good Luck!

Calcats ;)

A. Spruce
Re: Totally Daunted

With you doing most if not all the demolition yourself, you'll be saving a decent chunk of change right there. Have your contractor look at any walls you want to remove or move to be sure that they're not bearing walls. Keep in mind that dumpsters do cost money, so order them wisely. You generally have about a week to fill one without being charged a rental fee. In your demolition, save off any recyclables such as copper wire and plumbing - it's worth quite a lot of money and will help defray disposal fees. If you sort your demolition debris, you can take it to a reclamation facility which usually charges significantly less than a landfill, saving you money and the environment too. When your contractor/subcontractors are working, pay attention to what they're doing so that you can duplicate their methods on your own. In the instance of drywall, you'll be able to do non-critical rooms yourself. Painting is excruciatingly easy to do, and is another area you can save thousands of dollars by doing yourself. Shop for electrical and plumbing fixtures yourself. You'll likely find sales, decent deals, etc, and not have to pay contractor rates for them to do it. There's also no question that you'll be getting exactly what you want.

Re: Totally Daunted

Having been through this same situation several times myself I don't envy you.

The biggest mistake that I have seen is in remodeling to fast. I recommend you get the house barely livable, move in and live there for a year before you really start remodeling. Then the decisions you make will be based on your familiarity with the house so you can do it once and it's right. There's nothing worse than getting done with a remodel and saying "you know we should have put the door over here or "if we would have thought we would have combined these two rooms". During that year you can do a lot of the clean up a little at a time and get rid of most of the debris in your regular trash pick up.


Re: Totally Daunted

As someone who owns two homes,one that we rent and one that we live in,I can certainly sympathize with you. When we first started to rent our house it had been my grandmothers previously and needed a great deal of work especially in the kitchen. So I would certainly like to comment on renting out part of your house but would like to comment on other things first that I think are more important.
You mentioned that you might have asbestos in part of your house and definitely have mold in another part. As to mold remediation you certainly can do that yourself but please use every precaution possible such as masks and protective gloves. As to the asbestos while I certainly think your do it yourself attitude is great it is very hazardous to try to remove asbestos yourself and should only be handled by a qualified contractor.
Other than that most if not almost everything I think you could do yourself including some of the plumbing. First though think of the things you shouldn't do yourself such as asbestos removal which I have already mentioned. You already have a roofer which takes away another danger. As to electrical panel boxes should only be installed by a professional electrician. For plumbing drains that really should only be handled by a licensed plumber as they can get the pitch just right.
Many things you can and should be able to do and fairly fast too. Since you want to save money and time I would certainly check into Pex tubing for your plumbing lines like what they have used on This Old House. I also think you can do some of the electrical work yourself such as running wires to electrical boxes and putting in switches and light fixtures. Also run your own phone and other communications wires ahead of time while the walls are still open.
Speaking of walls don't just paint hang your own drywall and certainly do your own painting. As for other cost cutting things have your contractor friend go with you to a kitchen appliance wholesaler with you and save tons of money on appliances and maybe even cabinets too it just depends on what the wholesaler sells. You can't go there on your own though you will definitely need your contractor friend as they will want to see his license and will actually only sell to him irregardless of who pays for the appliances and cabinets. Also try to save the old cabinets if you can and use them somewhere else such as in the basement after you finally do buy your new cabinets.
Most important of all though take your time,it might be tempting to rush into things but it is best if you take things a little bit at a time. You are being smart though by getting things dried in in getting your roof on. Next you need to concentrate on new siding if needed and at least repairing any windows that might need repair for the time being. After that then I would concentrate on removing all interior walls, which you are doing now, and then insulating every wall after your electrical inspection is done by your local building inspectors department.
As to whether to rent out the other half as someone already mentioned, there are good points and bad points to that. First the bad you will need a lawyer to help you in drafting out a good lease as realtors can manage the other half but why do that? After all you would be living right next door and you would have a better say in who lives in the other part of your house. Whatever you do don't rent to relatives as that can be disastrous(I know I have done that already and wouldn't do it again). Also don't feel sorry for someone no matter how much you might want to help someone. If after you have checked their credit they don't qualify then don't rent to them. Especially beware anyone who has ever been bankrupt or is currently bankrupt or anyone who might qualify just on their own credit but their girlfriend or wife doesn't go with them to fill out the application, as they might over extend their finances. The good points of renting? Money and good friends, our present tenants have been there I guess for 12 or more years now,I have stopped counting and are very good friends. So certainly consider it but don't cut corners have a solid lease that protects you the homeowner and check into their financial situation,don't take their word for it. You can find credit reporting agencies in the phone book or online. I would go with a reporting agency that you can talk to over the phone and fax your prospective tenants information to and help you read their report as they have special abbreviations they use. Anyway good luck it sounds like you have plenty of work to do yet.!:)

Re: Totally Daunted

Just a thought on writing a decent lease - Go to your public library's reference section. There should be a book with basic leases already drawn up. They are designed to be legal in your state and you can also find information on how to be a landlord and questions to ask prospective renters. As a librarian, I can tell you there is tons of information to be had and it is all FREE! Or, just about, if you count the coping cost.

Totally Daunted

its a good news..your tb is totally gone..be happy girl... god had provided some one that wont leave you on your worst moments..god is so good..you just have to wait in its own perfect time..keep on praying ang keep eating healthy foods and also live a healthy life.


Re: Totally Daunted

I agree about using the fake slate shingles. We built a little house in the backyard and used the fake slate (see picture below). I'm a purist and a hard-core perfectionist, but I'm thrilled with the look of the shingles. And they are made from old tires, but...

They're expensive. The cost to do ONE side of this little house was $700 - and that was JUST materials. ONE SIDE!

As to the other problems you're facing, you've gotten a lot of good advice here. It is daunting, but you have to plow through a day at a time and just do your best. Remember, you're really fortunate (and blessed) to have a roof over your heads. Sometimes, you gotta back up a little and look at the big picture.

Rosemary Thornton
author, The Houses That Sears Built

My Little House:

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