Do I belong here?

weedyacresFebruary 22, 2013

We're going to shortly close on a 1920-vintage house that needs an interior gut job. 940 square feet, 2 bed/1 bath over low overhead basement. Fixed up, it'll be worth maybe $60K.

So this renovation is not going to include restoring never-existent beautiful architectural details, uncovering hidden gems, or creating a period masterpiece. It will include putting metal plates in the basement walls to keep them from bowing further, replacing some of the damaged and/or wallpapered lath & plaster walls with gypsum, building a more functional kitchen and adding storage where we can.

We're DIY-ers with solid skills who aren't afraid to learn or try something new. Is this the appropriate forum to pose my questions that come up, or is general remodeling a better fit? If this is mostly old house afficionados, I don't want to offend your sense of old house taste and I'll go back to the other boards. But if this is where you help coach us on how to repair plaster because it'll be faster or cheaper than new gypsum, or have tips on old basements, then let me know and I'll hang around and pester you.

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cross post to smaller homes fourm.

more info here, I find, but both
fourms suit your needs.

folks are friendly on both.
some purists on both also.

btw...think before ripping out those
textured walls!

where are you located (I've seen your
name on lots of posts)??

best of luck

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 9:30AM
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Yes, you belong here. My house was built in 1919 and was built as a workman's house, one block over from the now million-dollar-plus houses with all the cool stuff. I received a lot of good advice on this forum when I was starting to rehab the windows - techniques, tools, and products that are specific to old wood and old building styles.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 9:57AM
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Appreciate your asking and respecting that we might have diff attitudes. The forum was established partly bc we do in fact generally have more of a renovation esthetic and ethic, as opposed to what is derisively called "remuddling" and we wanted to have a place to be without having to constantly engage in debate or conflict about that. Now of course the reality is most people's renovations are somewhere between the two extremes, so yes do feel free to post and participate here. But please, please, do not be offended if someone gives you the third degree about exactly what condition your windows in if you threaten to yank them out. And what may look like a plain jane house to you, to the old house fan we may look at your wood trim and see the beauty and simple esthetic value of it (particularly if its rare or old growth wood) and question you about why you want to remove it.

I think bottom line is I respect your private property, but in a public forum if you ask my opinion - hey, I'm gonna give it! Passionately - but with acknowledgement that its your choice to make. I just love old houses and love what they're made out of (old growth forests from 100 yrs ago). Occasionally, getting this kind of info/feedback has served people well - I do remember at least one person who was thrilled to know that she didn't have to sink 20 K into new windows as her old ones turned out to be quite serviceable!

One other piece of wisdom or food for thought - don't know about your area, but the old houses here that retain the most value are the ones that are well cared for but have most of the original features intact and in good condition - wood, cabinetry, ropes/pulley windows (vs. cheap vinyl). If you are approaching this particularly with the intent of selling do consider this aspect before proceeding with your gut job. This type of value is something that may not appear in the average real estate agents comps but a specialist in old houses may be able to provide some guidance.

Even a simple workers cottage can have a historic value that is reflected in dollars and cents. On the other hand - it is also true that some were never built all that great in the first place or have been so altered for the worse that they can never be worth much of anything to anybody unless you do something drastic..

Anyway welcome to the wonderful world of old houses - you'll laugh, you'll cry!

This post was edited by kashka_kat on Fri, Feb 22, 13 at 11:10

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 11:01AM
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Welcome, Weedyacres...this forum will be a mine of information and advice to you. As has been said, even simple houses of the era should be approached with an eye to preserving everything that can be saved--it just makes monetary sense. I'd suggest taking pictures of the areas which are most concerning you and posting them here for advice.

Do NOT depend on the advice of a handyman or contractor--almost none of them appreciate not only the materials, but the way old houses were's ethic is rip it out and replace with something that will only last a decade or so, since it is normally redone by that time anyway with the current new fad.

And, not many of us live in hugely expensive houses--mine was built in one of the first suburbs, but you cannot duplicate it's simple details at anything near affordable prices would all have to be specially milled, if the wood can be found. not just gut the place before asking for advice--once something is gone, you won't be able to get it back. Old plaster can be repaired, and will cost less lhan drywalling--and will provide better sound deadening and insulation value. Cracks and even missing pieces are fixable by even a DIY-er with some skills.

We are eager to help newcomers, and you will find quite often that fixing is saving you cash over replacing with modern materials.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 4:22PM
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thanks for this post, weedy. You will get good advice here and the bias will be toward preservation, not necessarily the "interior gut job" that you include in your first sentence.

You're a house flipper. if you listen, truly listen, to advice you get here, you'll save money. And potential buyers will appreciate preservation.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 5:15PM
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OK, sounds like you guys are willing and able to help me out. I've got pretty thick GW skin, and I know how to discard opinions I decide not to act on without getting defensive and argumentative.

I'll post a bit more info as background and then, as we get into the planning more, I'll come back with specifics.

We currently live in a 4400 sf house (Weedy Acres) that we completely remodeled over 5 years, DIY except for granite, glass shower doors, and the exterior shell of a room addition. That house is on the market because I bought a business 100 miles away a few years ago and don't want to keep commuting. We're in the midwest.

This house came on the market in the town where my business is and we're picking it up for $14K as-is. We will fix it up and it'll be my crash pad during the week until we sell Weedy Acres. We'll eventually move to something larger locally, but this was a good enough financial deal it was worth buying now.

Basement walls are bowed, so we'll have to spend $10K putting stabilizer plates in. Budget is $10K for everything else.

Here are some photos:

Front of house. Siding is in good shape, windows are replacement vinyl. Roof could use replacement.

This bath was advertised as "updated" meaning the pink tub has been re-bathed and there's a cheap plastic surround glued to the walls. Subfloor is rotted around toilet.

Rickety basement stairs.

The plaster is all in good condition except for the kitchen, which has some wallpaper and some cracks, and the hallway down to the basement stairs. Flooring is all cheap/ugly. Doors and doorways are beat up.

I'm itching to get started. But I'll slow down and post some of our tentative plans for your input and advice before we knock out the sledghammers. Demo day is scheduled for March 9th.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 6:55PM
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Cute little "worker's cottage" with a vaguely Craftsman vibe. Hold off on the demo until you get some feedback. Most of us have been there and done that on at least one house (I've rehabbed/restored about a dozen of that vintage or older).

I would put fixing the rotted subfloor around the toilet REALLY high on the list. I had a friend who didn't, and he ended up in the basement, still on his "throne" with his pants around his ankles.

As for the rest, rip out the old flooring and see post pics of what the stuff underneath looks like. Old oak flooring can be fixed easily, at low cost.

Clean the heck out of the kitchen and see what it's really like.

See the link for what's possible with a rehab/restore

Here is a link that might be useful: Example of bathroom re-do

This post was edited by lazygardens on Fri, Feb 22, 13 at 21:03

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 8:58PM
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Fori is not pleased

I'm not too keen on the updated bathroom.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 6:13PM
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Personally, I don't see that much advantage to moving things around in the kitchen as shown in your second plan...if your budget is only 10k for stuff other than the foundation, then you've blown it right there, without touching the bath at all...that needs to be the first priority, and I can almost bet it will take up that amount or more.

Get rid of that stupid shelf thing in the kitchen, add shelving along the back wall to either side of the original window, and redo the shelving in the pantry--voila--more space for very little money. And, those upper cabinets are amazing--I'd keep them painted, but maybe alter the knobs, and redo the flooring.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 1:40AM
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