The previous owner did what!

gzecSeptember 25, 2004

When I bought my house, I asked the realtor about heat in the kitchen. He said it was radiant floor heat. I went down stairs to see the piping. The hot water copper pipes just ran along the joists (U configuation)and then exited the room. This is at the end of a single level ranch, with windows on 3 sides.

I can't believe they thought that was sufficient heat!

I have since put in 15' of baseboard. Should be toasty.

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It's amazing isn't it what some peeps will do to a house!
The previous owner here cut all the cords on the windows that have the weights to open and close them.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2004 at 9:50PM
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The PO of our house would probably win 1st place in destroying an old house.....they lowered all ceiling to 8 ft with ugly tiles...paneled every room...tore out all molding above the windows on first floor...tore out two of the mantles and threw them away...took out and disposed of 3 sets of pocket doors just to run heating ducts inside the walls...had a water leak that rotted butlers pantry floor and subfloor and just covered the damage with plywood and left it...threw away all old light fixtures and chandeliers...i could write a book about what PO did and did not do to this beautiful old house...

    Bookmark   September 26, 2004 at 1:14AM
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Walnut formica paneling. I mentioned earlier that the door casings were removed in the kitchen to adjust for the then modern look of paneling right up to and then over the doors. We were lucky, only the kitchen and bathroom were paneled, the house next doors features the plastic walnut in just about every room.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2004 at 7:10AM
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One of the more amazing things was to cover the door and window to the sleeping porch with cheap paneling. They left the blind on the window, closed, so you couldn't see the paneling from outside. There was no way to access this upstairs porch until we tore the paneling off. What were they thinking?

    Bookmark   September 26, 2004 at 9:28AM
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Celings in the kitchen and what was once a small bedroom (since made into two rooms, pantry/laundryroom and computer room) were simply dropped, leaving just the bottom sashes of the tall windows showing. Although, a good thing if ever the ceilings can be restored to original height, plus it keeps the appearance of tall windows on the outside.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2004 at 10:12AM
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PO painted all the ceilings without putting anything down to cover the floors. Reason, they were going to have linoleum glued down over the old floors but never got around to it. Thank GOD! They're 22 inch wide heartwood pine! We spend out free time gingerly scraping many white paint gobs.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2004 at 12:55PM
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Several owners back, someone installed green linoleum on the floor and walls of most of the downstairs. Oh, yeah--ceilings, too. Fortunately, I wasn't here to see that, although we found remnants when the kitchen was remodeled last year.

I love most of what the immediate previous owners did to this house: big stone fireplace and chimney (from native stone), exposed beams and plank walls, darkroom in the barn, etc.


    Bookmark   September 26, 2004 at 3:30PM
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I went to replace a rust floor register, and found out that the previous owner had cut 9/10ths of the way through a huge beam of a floor joist to run the ductwork. Amazing that it had held up as long as it had.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2004 at 7:57PM
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Originally, I wasn't planning on doing anything to the 2nd floor bathroom for some time, but since I was putting in a new bathroom on the 1st floor, I decided to redo almost all of my plumbing. Good thing - it turns out the flooring around the toilet was almost rotten through, and because I had the ceiling from the floor below opened up, I could see that the joist supporting the toilet was cut 1/2 way through for the pipes to fit. I imagine I could have sat one day to find myself on the 1st floor or worse. Now I wonder if similar things were done elsewhere that I just can't see.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2004 at 9:24PM
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Brandx30, have you tried Goof Off for the paint? It works wonders on dried latex splatters. Stinky stuff, but better than scraping. Good luck with the floors. I *really* covet heartwood pine.

Anyway, this thread make me feel lucky. Our POs just removed all period anything from the interior. There was a big fire so I try not to hold it against them. After all, they did install an above-code electrical system. However I do wish they had left as least one of the two chimneys so we could have a fireplace. Wouldn't be so sad if there weren't a big plywood square in the floor, telling us where the hearth used to be.

The other thing they did that I curse is coat all the walls and ceiling with an adobe texture. It's taking $$$ and major hassle to get it smooth.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2004 at 10:47PM
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No real complaints here about previous work on the old portion but when another owner added on a laundry room to the house they made it only 6'x8'. This tiny room contains the oil furnace, washer, & dryer, one person can hardly turn around in there. We plan to expand it into a combo laundry/mud room perhaps 10'x12' or a bit larger. vgkg

    Bookmark   September 27, 2004 at 7:53AM
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Wow, In a way I'm lucky.

What did the PO's do to my house: ABSOLUTELY NOTHING

For like 50 years, they did only the absolute minimum necessary to keep the house from falling down.

Their idea of repairing a leaky pipe was to wrap a piece of cloth around it tightly. And all but one of the 3 bathrooms was functional - the other were in disrepair so they were sealed off.

So, we had to replace every inch of plumbing and electrical wiring in the entire 4-story townhouse - but at least they never did anything that we had to spend money un-doing.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2004 at 10:38AM
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Wellim, I must agree with the PO in your case, that is, to say, if a man can not or will not do it correctly - then do not do it all, of course this does have limitations.
On an economical basis, that non-maintained house should have cost very little, even nothing !
In fact, I think it is better to buy a house or a car that has not been messed with ..
So few people, including myself, really know how to do all things correctly..

    Bookmark   September 27, 2004 at 11:58AM
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One of the previous owners of my 1850 house intentionaly burned down 1/3 of the house. When it was repaired (I use this term very loosly) they knocked all the remains and the top of the foundation into that section of the basement and filled it in with dirt. He also wanted better air circulation in the attic to dry his illegal substance so he added a dormered window that looked way out of place on that house. Another owner decided he didn't want to properly deal with the ceilings so he sprayed that textured stuff throughout the entire house and of cource got some on the walls in the process.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2004 at 1:20PM
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The PO of my house seemed to have a problem with the original doors in our house. When we bought it, most of the doors between rooms, such as between kitchen and dining room, were those cheesy bi-fold louvered doors, like the kind you see in a laundry room.

We found 6 beautiful doors, with 6 over 6 glass insets and glass crystal doorknobs sitting in the attic when we moved in. I've gone back to replace them all. I'm so glad they saved the doors :)

    Bookmark   September 27, 2004 at 1:29PM
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Well I'm in the process of renovating my family homestead. My mother went through a 'Black' phase when I was a kid. All woodwork was painted black.... and I mean ALL of it!!!! We've had to replace most of the trim on the second floor but I was able to salvage some of the interior doors.

Eventually I'll get to the living room and I'll have to remove those D@mn peel and stick vinyl tiles she installed over the hardwood floor!!!! Windows will be replaced so we'll install new trim again, but I am stripping and saving the baseboards and the 5 paned french doors.

What on earth was she thinking???????

    Bookmark   September 27, 2004 at 2:45PM
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On an economical basis, that non-maintained house should have cost very little, even nothing !


You got me laughing there - unfortunately my little non-maintained house cost a small fortune even in its state of complete disrepair... location, location. location.

I've come to the conclusion that the PO's were brilliant. They inherited the house 50 yrs ago and basically did not put an extra dime into anything that was not a matter of survival. Then they sold it (to me) and split a cool $1MM of proceeds (there was no mortgage) between them. But, hey, it was their property and I went in eyes wide open - no compliants.... well not many complaints... I'm entitled to one or two occaissionally.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2004 at 3:44PM
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We wondered how the PO's didn't die in this house. The plumbing under the kitchen sink was fixed with electric tape. They must have run out because the electric was taped with duct tape. To run a ceiling fan they took 2 extension cords and cut the ends and taped them together. The upstairs bathroom was the same for a wall light, only there was no plug in for it in the bathroom so they ran the spliced cord from across the bedroom under the middle of the room's carpet. The upstairs was heated by a wall heater that was vented into the attic. They had a standing stove downstairs and we found the vent pipe for it stuffed full of dead birds. We put in central heat and air and discovered they had covered the chimney with sheetmetal and bricks. We found this out after we got a rust colored leak in the ceiling. I am glad we found it before we died of carbon monoxide. The bathroom downstairs had a shower that was rigged straight from the faucet, so to fill the tub for a bath you had to fill it using the shower. The pieced all kinds of plastic and it ended up leaking behind where we didn't know it was doing it. When we remodeled the bathroom there were a few places that the vinyl was the only thing keeping us from falling into the basement. One room had the electric plug in line ran outside the house and drilled a hole back into the house where the plug in was. The whole entire house (4 bedrooms, kitchen, playroom, living room, family room,2 bathrooms, back porch, basement, and at one time the garage) was using 2 breakers. The electric was the first thing we updated BTW. They tossed tin can lids all over the yard.
We are in the process of moving out of this house right now and a big part of me will miss this house. We have had too many nasty renters around us and couldn't take it anymore and bought elsewhere. It didn't help either that we had a neighbor drive into our house and take out a whole bay window area. She never apologized or asked how we were. Kind of makes it hard not to have hard feelings everytime we saw her enjoying herself on her front porch as we had a gaping hole in 100 degree weather. The workers who fixed the house didn't too hot of a job and we had to redo some of what they did.
I will have to keep reading this forum because I can relate to a lot of the stuff here, and to see if the new owners gripe about anything we

    Bookmark   September 27, 2004 at 6:22PM
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Oh, my! That was a bit of a fire hazard, wasn't it?

I guess we were lucky that the only thing really bad was the genius who installed the heating ducts cut a bunch of support beams to run the ducts. We had to hire someone to prop up the house from the basement up. Ask my husband how he likes digging holes and filling them with cement! LOL

    Bookmark   September 27, 2004 at 7:21PM
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We had 3 drop panel ceilings, center hall, first floor bedroom, and living room. That was the first thing to go. Like Wellim, it appeared that nothing had been done to the house in 50 yrs. and my handyman was fascinated that most everything was original, doors, windows, door knobs, still have all of the skeleton keys and they work. The bathrooms (3) are all confirmed 1931 vintage - pretty wild - one has all lilac colored fixtures (sink, bathtub and low profile Case toilet). I think we're pretty lucky to not have to pay to undo, although it's costing big bucks just to fix everything. They suppposedly rented the house out for at least 20 yrs.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2004 at 9:40AM
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I'm convinced that the rotted gas boiler flue which resulted in holes being punched through the floor of the first and second floor front fireplaces contributed to the death of the 80 year old whose estate I purchased from. He put sheet metal over the first floor fireplace and aluminum foil over the lacy cast iron grill of the second floor fireplace to keep the exhaust out of the rooms. My fireplace contractor (first guy in) found that the chimney had collapsed in on itself (not visible) between the 2nd and 3rd floors ! That bit of information from my engineering inspection was the only thing I didn't know and was worth the cost of the inspection.

His idea of repairing the leaks in the 3rd floor bath was to remove the pipes that went to it, but not before the bathroom floor rotted completely through and the fixtures were sitting on the joists. He did not repair the leaking roof until he was brought to court by the neighbors because his leak was damaging their walls. It was not before one room with a tin ceiling totally rusted through, dropping the plaster ceiling and tin onto the floor.

The only things removed from the house since it was built (1880) were most of the gas lights, the ice box and the front parlor ceiling.

The executor of the estate said he had to hospitalize the old man in order to do any repairs because he would not admit any workers into the house.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2004 at 1:21PM
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Wow, do I ever feel petty now complaining about stripping woodwork and vinyl tiles!

You guys have seen and been through it all! Hats off to you for being old house people and giving these poor homes the fixings they deserve!

    Bookmark   September 28, 2004 at 3:56PM
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Our PO installed a microwave over the range, but the hole in the drywall for the vent didn't line up properly with the hole in the siding. So for about 20 years they were partially venting heat and grease from the range into the wall cavity.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2004 at 9:56PM
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Some PO, sometime past, deided they wanted more wall space, I guess. They removed the original window sash, screwed the exterior shutters shut, added wood lathe on the interior and
plastered over. We opened the shutters the day of the closing and that's what we found. 8 years later they are all
open again (the frames and parts of the sills were still there)and the house has balance once again. We had custom sized windows made to fit the original openings.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2004 at 9:41AM
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The PO of our 1925 house sunk a lot of money into it - removed all architectural trim to make way for wall to wall pickled panelling in every room; replaced all wood windows with vinyl replacements; removed 2 sets of awesome french doors - the front door is now replaced with a 1960's double diamond thing surrounded by glass block, the other set was replaced with a huge vinyl replacement on the top and an ugly patch of off-color stucco on the bottom; painted a beautiful mahogany-like bannister a hard lacquer torquoise color; pounded huge nails into the oak hardwood floors to stop the floors from squeaking and installed drop ceilings. I'm sure there are other things, but they generally rebuilt the interior and made it HORRIBLE. They did maintain the house though, which is why we bought it.

It's so nice to be able to share!

    Bookmark   October 1, 2004 at 1:24PM
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Soon after I moved into this wreck with almost all original detail intact, the old man living a few doors away stopped in. He gestured towards the mahogany chair rail molding, the walnut and mahogany staircase and the 7-8" moldings around original 4 panel doors with porcelain knobs and said, 'Yea, my house had all this old junk too when I bought it. I ripped it all out'. I was horrified and was afraid his karma would damage my 'old junk' which was why I bought the house.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2004 at 8:36PM
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I'm lucky. The worst thing the previous owners did to our house was to paint over wallpaper - many, many layers of paint and wallpaper.

But after hours upon hours of work, all but a few rooms are wallpaper-free, and will remain so as long as I live here.

Oh, and dropped ceilings in the kitchen, Which isn't so bad, as they can be removed and done over fairly easily.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2004 at 4:06AM
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I wonder what in the world is a person's reasoning for tearing out old woodwork, molding, staircases, ect.? Do they not want to clean it? How can they call it "junk"?

    Bookmark   October 3, 2004 at 10:23AM
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To some people Schoolhouse anything that isn't new is junk. My FIL use to be guilty of this mentality till I came into the family. Now he asks before he throws anything old out....and more times than not it comes to my home where it remains safe and loved.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2004 at 9:42PM
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Schoolhouse, part of it was style, part was economic. In my neighborhood there was a large exodus to Levittown type suburban houses after World War II. The people who stayed did so for the convenience of the location, not because they couldn't afford to move. A little money is a dangerous thing and they spent it to make 19th century brownstones look like 1945 suburban tract houses. In 1945, the 1880 houses were just old and dated places that the 1920's immigrants (parents of the 1945 generation) where able to afford. The 'improvements' were that generation's step up.

Detail was removed, ceilings dropped, windows shortened, exterior detailing removed and stuccoed flat and in some cases perma-stoned. Part of me understands some of it. From experience, it is very expensive to restore deteriorated exterior detailing, to replace huge windows and to heat high ceilings in uninsulated houses. The cost of painting the interior with detail is easily doubled over the same sized room with no detailing.

My parents removed most of the detailing in their first house built around 1900. Now my mother says, 'What was I thinking ?!!?'.

The next generation - often of the same family - is now replicating some of the detail removed by their parents. Many of them still don't want to leave the neighborhood.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2004 at 10:54AM
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I had to laugh at your anything old is junk comment. I can remember when my mother came to visit me while I was in college. I was living in a 1910 classic American Foursquare and had already been collecting antique frunishings for several years. After I took her on the grand tour, she looked at me and said, "this is all the kind of furniture I remember my parents taking to the dump"! What do you say?? I have to give her credit though. My next Christmas present was an antique rocking chair my mother had found at auction.


    Bookmark   October 4, 2004 at 2:27PM
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I can't tell you how many times I've found or bought something for my house that soemone has said "It's old and worn and I replaced it with something new."
Sometimes I think you have to have a certain mentality to want to preserve and restore old homes and the things that go in them.
It seems to me most old home owners feel as tho they are but merely the keeper of the home.....not the owner. That their job is to keep this wonderful piece of art from disappearing for all time.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2004 at 7:28PM
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:) I think I got off lucky...

our 'turn of the last century' twin had a lean-to kitchen and a garden shed added in the 40's, it was redecorated (faux wood panelling and linoleum floors in the bedrooms) in the 60's, and a powder room was added when the kitchen was redone - apparantly in the 90's using very late 70's discards (the off-white formica cabinet doors give it away)

thankfully, they didn't glue down the panelling OR the limoleum upstairs- just tacked it in place and used the trim to hold it there. so up it came to reveal hard plaster and narrow pine boards. and the attic's PLASTERED! original wallpaper! too bad they tore out the original stairs and put in a folder- but we'll get around to that one day.

downstairs is a little worse, the powder/laundry room was installed with no thought to joists or floorboards- it looks like swiss cheese under the damned linoleum, and they didn't stop to think that the combination of cutting the joists and adding a washer, a dryer, and all that drywall might stress the floor- but they had tacked trim up to hide the fact that the walls didn't meet the ceilings.

the kitchen drain piping held together with putty and duct tape- when the plumber quotes $269 to replace it, I took a crash course in PVC- and did it all in under an hour, for less than $30.

then, I went to take the panelling off...was greeted by the adhesive showing clearly that the kitchen had once been tiled half way up the wall- put the panel back, painted over it, figure I'll deal with it when I know what I'm doing.

the basement's been the most fun, though...PO was, evidently, something of a handyman. two washers, three fridges, what could have been the original gas stove... stove and the oldest fridge we got a hundred dollars each for (the fridge worked, but the cloth wrapping on the cord would start to smoke after a few minutes) and the rest mysteriously vanished from the curbside before the trash men could haul them away...after that, it was just disposing of several 40 year old jars of canned tomatoes, the work benches that lined every wall (built from this and that and the other thing, and panelled in scrap lumber and peg board with half the holes busted out)...

soon, we'll be able to move the boxes marked 'basement' out of the dining room!

and I will take these posts home to prove to my husband yet again how easy we have had it :)

    Bookmark   October 6, 2004 at 3:19PM
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My dad lives in an 1860's Victorian that is a twin to the house next door. Same builder built one for himself (ours) and one for his parents (next door). Both houses had handcarved oak banisters, wainscotting, crown mouldings, baseboards, etc.

House next door was purchased two years ago. New owners have: ripped out all radiators, most of the crown mouldings and baseboards--and complained to the police when some of these were taken out of their dumpster. Added huge sun room to kitchen. Completely re-done kitchen by ripping out the pantry and enclosing back porch. Torn down existing one-car garage at the side of the house and built three story three car garage in the back yard, completely covering the back yard and blocking what little sunlight hits the north-facing kitchen. Cars are on the bottom, office space on second floor and storage in the attic of the garage. This is in a five bedroom house with full cellar and finished attic, for a family of four. We had nine people living in the same basic house.

Remodeling continues on the interior of the house, but we don't know what they are doing, just that for two years, Dad has been awakened by the construction noise daily and he would really like it to stop.

Why these people didn't buy one of the 1,000 new houses that have been built in town over the last two years, I will never figure out.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2004 at 11:12AM
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OMG that should be a crime. *cringing*

Lets see, my PO:

1. calked shut a door that was rotting and leaking. (so guess what, it not only KEPT rotting and leaking, you couldn't open it, but wonder of wonders it rotted the sill plate out from under it!

2. Spayed expanding insulation and pored concrete below the OTHER door where the sill was rotting. Guess what, the rot got WORSE and SPREAD.

3. Ripped out the original windows and replaced them with cheap vinyl crap.

4. Removed the two original porches (which made the rot problems listed above worse)

5. Installed crappy pored concrete steps and square box yew bushes (the ones you see in front of EVERY 50's ranch)

6. Built a ROOF overhanging the cabinets in the kitchen complete with cedar shake shingles

7. Put down indoor/outdoor carpeting over the original wide plank red pine floor upstairs. (Yes they GLUED luan to that floor and drove nails through it. I almost hunted them down and strangled them when we discovered what was under the dirty old carpet.)

8. Cut through the roof trusses in the old garage to install a modern garage door. (This is gonna be a bear to fix.)

9. Left multiple wiring projects half finished.

10. Wrapped my beautiful old lady in CHEAP vinyl siding (not even the good stuff, the stuff that you can throw a small rock at and it makes a hole!)

11. Cut chunks out of two stair treads and started cutting the 3rd but mysteriously stopped. (We have no clue what they were thinking here.)

12. Walled up an arch and a big bay window into a closet.

13. Took stones out of the foundation walls in the basement to line the flower beds outside (this one has GOT to make yo u wonder.)

The list goes on... You get the drift. This house was built in 1865 and is a historic landmark in my city. I've got years of work ahead of me to fix what the morons before me ruined and thats just the list of things I've FOUND. I shudder to think what i havn't found.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2004 at 3:39PM
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Marcia Thornley

Very little had been changed in our house when we got it. Except that if you have original natural wood trim and you are painting the walls why wouldn't you take the time to protect the woodwork. We spent hours removing paint globs from beautiful woodwork and hardwood floors. Thankfully they didn't paint it all. The owners we bought from told us not to worry about the cracks in the leaded glass window in the front door, they were going to replace it with a steel door! We asked them not to touch it and just reduce the price a little! We now have a round top wooden door with a lovely coloured leaded glass window. It cost us $250 to have a friend repair it but was well worth it.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2004 at 5:01PM
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lotsoideas, my PO's also tore out the wood windows and put in vinyl replacements...YUCK!! This house was built in 1856, just imagine the windows that were here. Oh, well, that was it tho. Oh, butternut trim around the whole house, just plain trim, no design, just flat wood.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2004 at 10:19PM
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The PO wouldn't move out of the house for a few days after we closed on it. That was the begining of many bad things the PO did...just thinking about it all makes my blood boil.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2004 at 7:26PM
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Walls painted yellow randomly using flat and gloss paint. Well, maybe not random - most of the gloss seemed to be around the outlets. Never saw it until I moved in - furniture covered every available inch of wall space.

(They also "kindly" left a refrigerator full of food for me to clean out and dispose of.)

    Bookmark   October 13, 2004 at 1:58PM
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May I join in although my house is only 50 -something? I figure it was the original owners that decided to capture the space under the stairs in the basement for extra storage. So they cut out openings through 5 studs on a load bearing wall.

In getting the house ready to go on the market my PO painted the kitchen - ceiling, walls, cabinets, and frames around the overhead lights - with one continuous thick coat of glossy paint. I found this out the first time I had to change a lightbulb and had to chisel around the light fixtures to find a way to open them up.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2004 at 4:37PM
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Our house is a disaster. We redid the wiring several years ago, but need to do the plumbing. That will be a big job. We also redid the floor. Took up old carpet in the kitchen (yes, carpet in the kitchen) to reveal a hideous vinyl floor. Took that up to find another, and another, and another. Seven layers in all. I could go on, but why? Seems like others have even worse stories than this. Much worse.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2004 at 11:49PM
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Just a few things for now:

Our PO:

1) installed chipboard as underlayment in the bathroom, and then installed the toilet *without* a wax ring or any other kind of gasket/seal. Guess how I found out about the underlayment and lack of wax ring?

2) spray-painted the kitchen and pantry (walls, cabinets, ceiling) with cheap, flat white wall paint.

3) painted the exterior in one day with a sprayer and the cheapest paint he could find, without doing any prep work *at all*.

4) put in a ceiling light by running romex from a wall switch up the wall and along the ceiling. Then he plastered over the romex.

Other stuff later -

    Bookmark   October 19, 2004 at 5:02PM
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Don't get me started about "chipboard underlayment" The POs of our house (not old but circa 1974) did that to the entire house. Talk about a nightmare...when any water gets under there, it totally disintegrates. My bathroom floor is starting to disintegrate now.
2. Smeared spackle over perfectly good tile backsplash. I played archaeologist for a month or so uncovering it.
3. Covered everything with contact paper. White with gold speckles
4. Paneled the shower surround and then used it. Mold ranch!
5. vented the kitchen sink between two kitchen cabinets.
6. made their own kitchen cabinets out of plywood!
7. Built a house and forgot to design in a dining room...Kitchen was too small to put a table into for an eat-in kitchen. The Man must have eaten in front of the TV I am guessing.
8. Installed a side porch with no footings, wood directly onto the ground. Rotted with carpenter ants...
9. Installed own septic field and put it in the lowest area of the yard that flooded each spring.

LOVE talking about previous owner dumb stuff....I can totally relate. My house is not that old but it is old enough to need everything to be completely redone. Why did we buy? was waterfront property.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2004 at 2:51PM
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put a wooden deck over a stone terrace

butchered the kitchen
(including removed a fireplace from the kitchen)

put oak floors in the dining room and foyer with the fake pags- new maple in the kitchen and the rest of the house is the original pine.

Redid the bathrooms poorly.

removed all light fixtures and put in the newest and cheapest he could find.

added a door from the master to the bathroom so now there are 2 doors back to back and took out valuable wall space from the bedroom.

added a dormer to the master but used the wrong siding and put in vinyl windows (eek!)

    Bookmark   October 23, 2004 at 8:47AM
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Yes I too love the "P.O. from hell" stories... makes me feel not so much alone. Actually mine wasn't quite so horrible as some... just a lot of stupidity & half assed attempts repairing things Id rather they'd just left alone. Undoing their incredibly sloppy work has literally doubled my time spent doing anything--if not more.

But what most bewilders me is the dyslexic plumbing and electrical -- 3 prong outlets in the kitchen upside down, hot and cold water reversed so you get cold out of the faucets marked hot and vice versa. Switches in such illogical places that I still, 5 years later, keep reaching for them were youd think they'd be (i.e. right next to door as you enter.)

    Bookmark   October 23, 2004 at 7:12PM
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The previous owners of the house someone in my famil now owns decided to make a "great room" on the main floor, so he removed the huge fireplace and chimney. They discovered not long afterbuying the plpace that he had REALLY just removed the fireplace and chimney on that floor. The second and thrid floor and the roof still had the HUGE chimney, supported by nothing under the second floor! They rebuilt it, at considerable expense. They have found lots if things like this, including a third-floor bathroom suspended by cable ties from the roof. No joke!

    Bookmark   October 23, 2004 at 11:38PM
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Don't you just know that PO's were just so pleased with themselves when they decided they could get away with these silly and outrageous half-a#&*d fixes? Footings for porches, supports for bathrooms or upstairs fireplaces--who needs 'em!?!?

We believe our POs had this house since the '50s, so they had plenty of time to do their dirty work. All in all, they did nearly everything using the cheapest materials and unskilled labor.

They built a 400 s.f. addition on the back of the house with a roof that does not tie in to the original (although I applaud them for at least matching the old style). The crawl space is unventilated and only about 8 inches off the ground--violating even building codes of the '50s. Hate to think what could happen over that if we got on the wrong side of a building inspector.

They added on a small side porch that did not tie in to the original roof line--just tacked on to the side of the wall and did not allow proper drainage off the roof--it was rotting and falling down until we pulled it down.

They walled in the windows flanking the fireplace and covered the area with shelves. They removed the glass doors that once covered the original built-in bookcases flanking the fireplace below the mantel that runs across the entire room (evidenced by the marks left where the hinges used to be).

They removed something that used to fill part of the opening between the living room and dining room. We can tell from the floor that there used to be structures there. The trim around the opening is original, so what was once in that space is a mystery.

We have four doors with sidelights. The sidelights were all covered with plywood.

Every window in the place was covered with jalousies that were rusted closed. They were the same color as the siding and all the trim--white--so you could hardly tell there were any windows. And it was as dark as a dungeon indoors.

Every bedroom door had deadbolt locks, and there was an iron-barred security gate INSIDE THE HOUSE closing off one bedroom.

They glued indoor-outdoor carpet onto hardwood floors in two rooms. No underlayment, glued right onto the hardwood. It shredded when we pulled it up. We wore chemical respirators (gas masks) and used heat guns and harsh chemicals to remove the residue.

They sprayed popcorn texture on all the ceilings AND THE CROWN MOLDING.

They gutted the kitchen and replaced the original cabinets with steel cabinets (very nifty at the time, I am sure) and covered the hardwood floors with red and yellow tile that no doubt contains asbestos.

A lot was just the usual silly stuff like painting the brick fireplace, putting up hollow-core doors to the exterior, heavy texture on the walls, poor carpentry here and there.

I just wonder if someday someone is going to come into this house and paint all the beautiful old oak trim that we have been painstakingly stripping and restoring for the past five years, and all the while complain about their POs choice of colors, materials and fixtures!

    Bookmark   October 24, 2004 at 5:07AM
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It's a puzzle sometimes. I come from a family of carpenters, father, uncles , grandfather,great grandfather; but the uncle who was the PO of my place did the strangest things. Especially when it came to repairs, he just "patched". If it was broke, put a nail in.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2004 at 10:04AM
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My heating bills last winter were astounding - my first winter in this house built in 1942. When I got down to peer under the deck - looking for vents to cover, I discovered a cellar I didn't know was there - with no door! Completely open. I could see through to the vent on the other side. Building a deck (which I love) over the cellar I guess I can sort of understand - but why would you leave it open? I'm trying to muster the courage to crawl under there - now that I've cleared out all the trash - to figure out how to close it before cold weather sets in again and the critters start trying to move in (Pretty sure there were raccoons, possums and/or cats living under there last winter). I figure for now I'll just cover it with a big piece of plywood - until I can think of and afford a better solution. Any suggestions? It also grieves me to waste space like that - but I don't know what's under there yet. I'm a single mom with limited resources so will most likely have to do it myself - for now at least.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2004 at 11:09AM
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Anyone you know who would be brave enough to go down there? Or can you contact the city hall for the proper person who can do this kind of thing? I am not one of the brave folks for that kind thing!

    Bookmark   November 8, 2004 at 4:43PM
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So far, we haven't seen anything too horrible, other than the '70s decorating. They took down the plaster and replaced with sheetrock, but at least they did it tastefully. I'm still puzzling out what's original and what's been changed, so I guess they did a pretty good job if they're fooling people.

But in the house we thought about buying before we found this one, an 1897 Victorian, the PO was so proud of her renovations and decorating, but she hadn't bothered to move the electric outlet and switch boxes forward when she put up sheetrock, so the boxes were recessed and couldn't be covered with a switchplate. That meant that everything would have to be ripped down and redone. Also, she painted the exterior without removing the chipped/peeling old paint, so the surface was all rough-looking. And she had rotten floorboards replaced on the porch, but they were done wrong. And she was in the process of painting the original wood staircase white - unevenly, no less!

The house could've been so beautiful if it were done correctly. Maybe we should've rescued it, but we went for our smaller, less intimidating house. We've got our hands full with it already!

    Bookmark   November 8, 2004 at 5:30PM
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You all are bringing back such fond memories...
The POs of our 1917 bungalow...
Electrical.. The bare electrical wire, run from the front house to the back house was often used as a closeline. The back house, I found when I tried to start an electric potters wheel, was wired with a combination of speaker wire, bits of extension cord and lamp cord, and various unknown pieces of wire some in lengths as short as 4' and they were taped together with everything from duct tape to masking tape.
Plumbing... The bathtub surround was a piece of vinyl with nothing caulked, so the walls and floors behind the tub were just rotting away. Somewhere along the way, someone had disconnected the drain, so the tub just emptied to the crawlspace below.
Exterior... The entire house was covered with a lovely salmon pink asbestos shingling (but the silver lining was that they didn't remove the original shiplap siding, so except for a few dryrotted corners, the wood was in amazing shape.)
Fireplace and foundation...what mortar? (but I guess that was more just neglect...serious neglect when you're in earthquake country though.)
Flooring...finally getting out those deep gouge marks in the beautiful hardwood floor when the carpetlayers just randomly cut carpet (and floor) at will. And how about carpeting (and padding) on an outdoor porch? I removed three layers of molding rotten carpet and padding, then two more of vinyl before finally finding the beautiful doug fir boards underneath the mess. Similar decorating style in the kitchen.

But at least there were still the original windows (except for where the siding installers just cut off the sills to make their job easier), doors, built-ins (though very modest) and trimwork.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2004 at 12:02AM
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I was going to complain about my home's PO but reading all these posts makes me feel I am luckier than some of you.
We closed on our house on an "as is" basis. My PO did absolutely nothing to the house for the 10 yrs he lived there. The den had a single exposed 40W lightbulb as the only source of lighting - he used a $2.99 bulb socket for all that time - no shades around the bulb. He quickly replaced all the functional blinds and curtains with very old broken mismatched blinds (found in some dumpster?) AFTER we closed on the house! He dug out a couple of small Japanese Maple trees in the yard to take with him early one morning before we moved in. He DIY tiled over the existing floors in the bathrooms and kitchen (messed up job) just 2 weeks before selling without removing old floors and put no transition pieces. So these areas were 2 inches raised above their surrounding. There was a leak inthe roof which he clumsily patched by himself. And he showed up after we moved in and demanded we return the fishing rods he forgot to take with him - there were no fishing rods to be found anywhere! Anyway, I was not keen to get back the things he took - I just had my realtor issue him a strong warning about not to contact us anymore or show up at our doorstep and it worked.
Now, looking back, the PO not doing anything is a great blessing. I don't want to be stuck with that kind of guy's tacky tastes. DH and I are slowly transforming our home room by room when time and money permits and things are looking better and better. We bought our home in a good location. And eventually we will make the home look perfect.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2004 at 4:59PM
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My PO completely cut out a 4 foot section of the main support beam inorder to install a gas floor furnace for the upstairs living area. NO other heating in our two story house until, like dummys, we installed electric baseboard heaters and paid big bucks for our PG&E bills for years until we finally got smart and had forced air heating and cooling installed. The downstairs area is not legal ceiling height, sort of a low ceiling basement. They covered a dirt floor with a thin layer of cement to make it usable as 3 downstairs bedrooms and the laundry room, too bad they did not dig it 6" deeper to make it legal height before putting in the cement. The livingroom and 2 bedrooms, dining room, kitchen and 2 bathrooms are upstairs. It is an old house about 75-100 years old. When we moved in all the downstairs rooms were supplied with electricity by extension cords from the upstairs. We installed an extra window in a dark bedroom and found out that someone had stuccoed the entire outside walls and covered up interesting lapboard siding.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2004 at 2:22AM
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The previous owner of my house installed a drop ceiling (like a modern office) in the dining room of our 1888 Victorian. He ripped out the moulding in the front bedroom, kept our 1960s kitchen (complete with painted wood paneling and dark brown vinyl floor) and installed vinyl windows throughout the house (they are very easy to clean and our house has no drafts, though).

All of the wood floors were covered by wall to wall carpet, and every bedroom, no matter how small, had at least one cable TV line sticking out of the wall and one or more phone jacks.

His favorite colors seemed to be pink and grey. Our dining room was covered in pink wallpaper with a glass dining room table. The upstairs hall was lined with grey wallpaper out of a John Hughes movie.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2004 at 1:14PM
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I just found this forum. I'm usually over at the garden forums. I am enjoying this!

We purchased our 1897 home from a couple that lived here for 62 years, so they had a long time to do some crazy things! oh, we had the dropped acoustic ceilings. but my favorite was the wall-to-wall carpeting in the kitchen. Not once, but twice! As we ripped up one layer, we found another, very mod layer underneath. And the fireplace was bricked up to run the central heating through the chimney. And another chimney that wasn't being used, for some reason was demolished from the roof up and the bricks were just tossed down into the chimney! What a mess!

my all time favorite, however, was not in my house, but in my sister-in-law's home. the previous owner installed shag carpeting in the bathroom. not only on the floor but also UP THE OUTSIDE OF THE BATHTUB!

    Bookmark   November 20, 2004 at 10:11PM
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I've got so much to s!ay on this subject that I'm almost afraid to get started!

The biggest offenses: removed all four fireplaces, but left the chimneys; paneled the entire upstairs (1200 sq. feet) with crumbling animal-hair plaster behind; redid the lower-level floorplan, opening the space up, but leaving me with no foyer, no hall, no anything to keep people who knock at the door from seeing all the way thru the houes; let the 20 30" by 80" windows rot, cut their weight ropes, painted several shut; installed FAKE OAK (read: laminated styrofoam!!!) trim in one bathroom; added a bathroom with a 6' ceiling (yes, I said SIX feet).....................Oh man. I'm getting mad!

Better stop. :)

    Bookmark   November 21, 2004 at 12:32PM
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Friends of mine moved into a 175 year old home that was once the post office, bakery, general store, etc. of their tiny community. As they were moving in, the previous owners pointed to the newly painted trim and said "Can you believe, most of the trim had never even been painted when we moved in."

    Bookmark   November 21, 2004 at 8:11PM
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My PO slid hundreds upon hundreds of razor blades into a tiny slot at the back of the medicine cabinet, consigning them to a void in the interior wall. What a psychopath.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2004 at 10:12PM
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spewey- that's not really the PO's fault... they MADE those slots in the back of the medicine cabinet TO accept the old razor blades- you can even find them with the label for the slot, sometimes...

there are many many homes with that feature. almost makes me glad they started making disposable razors ;)

    Bookmark   November 22, 2004 at 10:01AM
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Yes, the metal cabinet in my bathroom had a slot "For Razor Blades".

    Bookmark   November 22, 2004 at 10:34AM
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The owners before the owners before us where short. They must have been intimidated by the 10' ceilings so they installed drop ceiling with ugly white tiles. They also died here and spent 40 years in this home. As a result very little maintance was done. The owners before us sold the leaded glass windows, used roof nails to hold down rugs. didn't do any work at all. They also had big dogs that wreaked doors, trim etc., covered a room with wall to wall pornography wallpaper. The absolut worst was trying to burn it for the insurance money. Luckly the home is a block from the fire house and it escaped destruction. The only good thing they did was to not pay their mortgage so we could rescue it.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2004 at 11:01PM
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Boy, this thread is making me give thanks on this Thanksgiving Day!

Most of the stuff the POs did here was of the bad cosmetics (like, horrid wallpaper on every square inch, including ceilings) and no maintenance variety.

But I have to share this one, as I am spending this weekend ripping 7 layers of linoleum from the kitchen floor (yes, 7... and if the top level of very ugly carpeting counts, that's 8 layers total!) (but at least, I believe, they protected the antique pine under there very nicely for the last 50-70 years!). Anyway, the second linoleum layer on top of the beautiful wood floor is... fake wood grain!

    Bookmark   November 25, 2004 at 11:14AM
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Let's see if I can win a blue ribbon here! 1963 home, lived in by previous owner for 14 years. We ust moved in eight months ago. They put in two marble baths, and when they had leaks, instead of opening the walls to fix them, they simply puttied around everything in the tub and showers to keep it from leaking into those areas. There were originally exhaust fans in the bathrooms which stopped working, so they simply shoved them up over the ceiling when they did the bathrooms 11 years ago, left them live and left the swutches for them on the walls. Obviously had cesspool problems (so we discovered), but instead of pumping or replacing, they moved all sources of "heavy" water elsewhere - the washing machine poured out through a hole in the exterior wall, the laundry sink, dishwasher and kitchen sink went into a sump pump and then into a grease pit which was also clogged up and backed up into the house. They did NOT use the bath tub in one bathroom (they lied and said they were afraid the kids would slip on the marble floors). They replaced a number of the windows with cheap replacement windows with no stops, and they leaked. They had never replaced the gutters, original copper which was painted, and they were full of holes and mostly pulled away from the house. They redid the roof two years ago (hooray!), but had the roofer install it straight over the old rotting roof, so that on those areas of the house with very little pitch, we got leakage through the ceiling and had to redo a good part of the roof. They put in a new dryer but never hooked it into the vent, the boiler in the basement was the original 1963 model and just about on its last legs, they reconnected the sprinkler system to the water main near the curb but left the old pipe which was severed, coming three inches out of the wall of the house, so if it poured outside and the water level built up, water came into the house through that pipe. No backflow valve or blow out, either. None of the exteror hose outlets had cutoff valves for the winter. When they disconnected anything electrical, they simply shoved the live wires behind a wall and never taped them or flipped the breakers to turn off power. There was some mold on a basement wall. One whole side of the property sloped, and was nothing but mud, which poured into the driveway every time it rained. The blacktop on the driveway was (and still is) in abominable condition, with holes and sagging, and is raised ABOVE the floor of the garage so water runs into the garage when it rains heavily. and sits in pools on the driveway. The garage door is warped and needs replacing in the spring. Oh, let me not forget that we are overrun with camel back crickets (now have an exterminator - but still have them). I'm sure I forgot a few things here or there - and I don't have to tell you what we've been doing here over the last eight months! We have told the broker to make sure they know never to show their faces here again, or even to call!

    Bookmark   December 1, 2004 at 9:35AM
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Leslie, did you buy this house at night? I can't stand those crickets! They look like creatures from another planet.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2004 at 9:22AM
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Hearing some of these stories makes me glad I live in Finland. Here, if the house has leaks or rotten bits, the POs are RESPONSIBLE for things like that up to 5 years after YOU have purchased your home.

With our house (built in 1942), the POs installed a shoddy bathroom (structurally sound but VERY poorly designed) since there once wasn't one (there was an outhouse and a sauna). The pipes for the sink and shower are not hidden in the wall (well, at least you know if they're leaking or not) and the PO painted them PINK. Nasty, ugly baby doll pastel pink, to go with the blue-grey floor tiling and grey-white linoleum (I THINK) walls.

They also left us a solid wood wardrobe in the attic (I'm not complaining)! We found it when going up there to assess the condition of the attic for a future remodel. Attic is structurally sound--no rotting wood, etc. It has solid LOGS for beams and an old wood heating in perfect condition--I suspect it's probably worth a good bit of money today since Finns are starting to want them for decoration.

I posted a link to pictures of the attic--the wardrobe is the last picture. :)

Here is a link that might be useful: Pictures of our attic and wardrobe

    Bookmark   December 3, 2004 at 8:50PM
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No, I did not buy this house at night. Engineer does not address things like sprinkler systems and cesspools, but neither did the broker. Coming from the City, we did not even know there WERE cesspools. I cringed when I heard, and doubly cringed when we had a problem, which was immediate! Engineer stated roof was two years old, and it was, but he obviously did not pick it up and look underneath. He did warn us about the leaders and gutters and the boiler. He did feel the windows were substandard. In his favor - a lot of this stuff was well hidden and no one would have found most of it till it fell in our laps. I'm sure there was a lot here that someone else might have lived with (after all, someone DID live with it for years) but we like to have things the way they SHOULD be. As for the crickets, I'm fine unless I meet one on the first floor, and not the basement ( it does happen, occasionally). Some of these things are HUGE. I do not go down to the basement (and that's where I do my designing and painting!) unless my husband is home so that I can call him down to kill crickets. Every time I try, they jump and almost get me in the face. Every night my husband checks out the basement ( and it's a big basement) - we call it "cricket patrol". The exterminator said the only way to really keep them out permanently is to find out where they're coming in - good luck!

    Bookmark   December 3, 2004 at 9:21PM
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Our house is generally pretty well cared for by its previous owners, but our PO did a lot of work himself and sometimes he had no idea what he was doing.

We had to have some roof work done recently. The roof is mostly slate except for 3' right at the end where the slope changes and becomes more shallow. At that point there is flat roofing material. Because of the shallow slope, our inspector could not see that part because it had snow on it (in february). The rest of the slate roof is in wonderful condition. Even the roofer we got could not believe that it was original, but who would have replaced the roof sometime in the last 100 years with slate?

Anyway, this is what the PO did to the roof. He removed the bottom 3 courses of shingles and put flat roofing material where those courses were running onto the more shallow pitched part of the roof. The roofing material wasn't wide enough, so there was no drip edge... it just ran to the edge of the roof. He then GLUED the bottom 3 courses of shingle back on with tar, over the flat roofing material and screwed all of the gutter straps through the roofing material and called it a day.

Well the flat roofing material was at the end of its useable life, but luckily we found a wonderful contractor who worked for one of the best slater roofers in the area for 10 years. He just went out on his own and was willing to do such a small project, thank goodness, since no roofer has time for you unless you want a whole new roof. He pulled off the old roofing, built a new metal drip edge, installed new flat roofing, properly flashed the seam between the slate shingels and the flat roofing material (of course the PO left the tar to do the trick and it did... mostly). At some point he said the right thing to do would be to remove the glued on courses of slate and rehang them properly and put a standing seam copper roof on the little flattened slope part at the edges. I suspect that is going to be an expensive job so we will be prepared for it when the flat roofing material he used has outlived its usefulness. But I just have to wonder what the heck this guy was thinking!

    Bookmark   December 7, 2004 at 4:23PM
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There were many tacky things done by the previous owner such as aqua blue tiles in the bathroom, acoustic ceiling in the dining room, greenish gray faux barnwood paneling in the second living room, but the very worst is in the master bedroom. They scored random grooves in the original solid wood five panel doors and painted them black! Sort of a 1970s distressed Spanish decor. They added cheap red carpet and black clamshell moldings (tearing out all the turn of the century baseboards and moldings). The curtains are gold with blue birds and red flowers that look suggestively like breasts. It really looks trailerhouse bordello in there.

The first room we redid was the other upstairs bedroom which had mustard yellow walls and orange shag carpeting.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2005 at 5:00PM
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I have to the time that we bought our house...almost 2 months ago, I truely thought that it was just neglect, and that most things were okay....I stand corrected.

The short list:
When the roof was replaced, the joists were never sistered to the house. That means when you go up into the attic, that there is a three inch gap between the soffits and the roof...
we have the best ventilated house on the block.
It's fixed.

We were soooo happy to see three pronged outlets in downstairs,and the new breaker bad that the third prong was never grounded.

In other words, some contractor totally screwed the PO.

We've had to rewired the entire house.

The 9 layers of garbage on the floors, and the usual old house restoration things were's the structual stuff that makes you despise the PO's.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2005 at 12:24AM
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Hmmm, where to begin...there's the usual stuff, like bad wiring and other DIY disasters, but here are my faves:

1. Painted the rear deck and front porch in a glossy paint. If it's the SLIGHTEST bit wet, you can very easily slip as if you stepped in an oil slick on glass. It's been really super-duper pleasant with the recent snow/ice. I'm prone to falling anyway, but this is ridiculous...I can barely walk outside our doors. We have to warn everyone who visits us to be EXTREMELY careful, and still we've had a few falls, thankfully none serious. It got too cold here to repaint before we realized how serious the problem was. We put anti-skid tape down, but it's just coming off. What a disaster. I'm so nervous that someone is going to really get hurt.

2. There was a slow water leak in the kitchen, which made for an unpleasant surprise when we removed the sink cabinet for our remodel...rotted flooring and crumbled plaster.The POs HAD to know it was there--they lived here five years!

3. Two kinds of crown molding - dentil and egg and dart - on the first floor. Both incredibly poorly installed. People who visit us who know next to nothing about homes politely inquire about the screwed-up crown molding. (Dentil came down in kitchen remodel...will get to egg and dart sooner or later.)

4. They put in a really nice, expensive bathroom, but all the hardware is falling apart. It's the most bizarre thing. They used the Delta Victorian faucet and had matching hardware (towel ring and robe hooks and the like), but it's all dangling loose. The toilet handle doesn't work properly. Very simple maintenance stuff they just didn't do.

5. Decorated my craftsman-style bungalow in flowery, lacy Victorian! We took down all the lace window treatments, painted everything, and are replacing all light fixtures. PO mentioned that one of the light fixtures she'd replaced was in the attic. (Her replacement was a frilly, crystal-covered, brass candelabra thing that was entirely inappropriate for this house.) DH was in the attic the other day and found the fixture - I couldn't believe it. It was the ORIGINAL fixture and it is wonderful and as he brought it downstairs I was literally preparing to place an order with Rejuvenation for the exact same fixture! Serendipity, right?

Well, those are my big gripes/comments...we've run across all kinds of stuff. We don't know if the POs were dumb or cheap or malicious or what.

In any event, it hardly matters because I really am deeply and madly in love with this house. And it's not even anything special...just my loving old home.

Here is a link that might be useful: Light fixture

    Bookmark   January 7, 2005 at 1:05AM
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I could write a book about our POs. They also refused to leave after closing . . . well, one of them did. And she was large and schizophrenic (literally) and didn't bathe. But the thing I will always remember is the BUTTERBALL TURKEY. Their electricity had been turned off for many weeks, and there was a deep freeze with a rotting turkey left in it. I leave the rest to your imagination.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2005 at 10:29AM
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I'm on my second old house. The first one, an 1891 "folk Victorian," had its 10' ceilings with plaster medallions hidden by a drop ceiling of cheesy tile, with screws to support it going right into the ornamental plaster. Then, there was horrific carpeting covering the oak floors and the cheapest sort of dark brown paneling covering all the walls, in every room (all eleven rooms). I removed all that, painted it, and then flipped the house in two years, and made a very, very nice profit.

In my current house, which is a 1791 Shaker building, the previous owners apparently couldn't get their act together regarding bulletin boards. In a couple rooms, they screwed some sort of composite (like thick but somewhat fluffy hardboard) onto the wainscotting, so that they could use that as a bulleting board (read: millions of tiny holes). In another place, they saved a step and simply pushed their thousands of thumbtacks into the trim itself.

I mentioned that the house used to be Shaker, and its walls are lined with Shaker peg rails. Except in one corner, where a PO decided that they were in the way, so he took a hacksaw to them. Just the stubs remain. This is perhaps the greatest evil I've seen done to a house, though not the most tragic. But it was the deliberate destruction of a beautiful detail for short-term gain. Maybe, he wanted to put an entertianment center in that corner, or something, and the pegs were in the way.

There were some worse things too, such as an ugly/inappropriate addition and some Linoleum covering wide pine floors, and such. But its destroying the pegs that get me. Fortunately, only a few were cut.


    Bookmark   February 23, 2005 at 3:22PM
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So I am normally a lurker. I just started a major kitchen remodel. I we have a 93 year old Colonial. The things I have discovered about my house in the last two days are things I never wanted to know. These are all things that one of teh old owners did. First, we knew that there were probelms with the floor. It was sagging. It was one of the reasons that we decided to do the remodel. It turns out that the kitchen wasn't really sitting on anything anymore. The floor jousts were rotten. 2 of them just crumbled when the crew touched them. Someone had tried to fix the problem by pouring concrete down a hole in the floor ( a wood floor on a crawl space). Next fun discovery. The half bath addition next to the kitchen, the sewage pipe hadn't been glued together just placed. It has been linking for 20 years. Someone had put a nail through the drain pipe from the sink. That had been leaking. Hence the rotted floor jousts. I also found out that the kitchen wasn't really an addition. We thought it was. The house appears to have a two story addition off the back. It houses the kitchen, the mudroom, and a half bath on first. On the second it is a large bedroom. It seems that they built around the kitchen and on top of the old kitchen.I could keep going becasuse there is much more but I will stop there. Needless to say at the end of this we will have paid quite alot to fix the kitchen but we will have to do it with materials that you would find in a low budget remodel. At least we are able to get it fixed. Soon we would have fallen through the floor.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2005 at 4:03PM
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I'm only the 3rd owner since my house was a 1926 school. The first owners divided the classroom into 4 rooms, dropped the ceilings to 8', bricked in huge windows, all original wainscotting and light fixtures were torn out and thrown away.
The 2rd owners did some truly hideous things like cut doggy holes in solid wood original doors, cover all walls and door moldings with very cheap knotty pine paneling (after I ripped it out, I had a big bonfire-it curled up and MELTED rather than burn), the bathroom had a tub from a trailer installed with a recycled tub-surround that was glued together; the shower and fawcett were just copper piping that hung over the tub. They filled all the wood floors with carpenter nails and then carpeted-the underpadding was nailed to the floor too with roofing nails. They ran electric out to the barn by plugging in a extension cord in the basement, breaking a basement window, tossing the cord thru and then burying it about 1" all the way to the barn. Then they filled all the basement windows (4'x4' each) with insulation and boarded them up! They knocked the caps off the sides of the wide cement front steps and built a treated wood porch over it complete with chipboard walls and aluminum door.
You have to wonder what all these PO's in our houses were thinking!!!

    Bookmark   February 23, 2005 at 4:20PM
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I was having an okay day, until I read the last three posts.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2005 at 4:33PM
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Many years back a friend and his wife bought an 1800's home in the historic district of my home town of Grand Rapids. He was an Architect and she was an Interior Designer, and they were really thrilled to get the beautiful old lady as they called her. It had been subdivided and subdivided into 4 apartments which they proceeded to tear out in order to restore her to her former glory. In the process they discovered two old pull chain toilets that had been covered over in order to put up a wall between apartments. Second thing was discovering the stair railings were originally mahogany after removing 7 or 8 coats of paint! There was more but I sure you can imagine what it was like. They finally got it completely restored, to include the upstairs ballroom (yes a ball room!) to it's orginal condition and it's now a show piece. I cringed when they told me about the toilets (which by the way still worked/work) and the stair case.

It wasn't really too surprising to them as they expected to encounter problems like these.

Just glad they were able to fix up this old gem.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2005 at 8:05AM
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Schoolhouse, and everyone,

Actually, I find this thread very optimistic and inspiring. Every story here is a rescue.


    Bookmark   February 24, 2005 at 10:15AM
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Every time I hear people complain about the restrictions that come with buying in a historic preservation district, I will think about these posts. Although the restrictions only pertain to the outside of a structure, can you imagine what our old neighborhoods would be like without them?

    Bookmark   February 24, 2005 at 10:47AM
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How about venting main stack INSIDE attic not thru the roof. Or lowering the bedroom doorways and just lopping the top4-5 inches off the top of all the 5 panel wood doors that went to them. Wallpapering over drywall without priming it, so when I went to take off the wallpaper the outer layer of drywall came with it.Just some of the more outrageous ones.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2005 at 8:29PM
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-glued kitchen type patterened carpet all over the upstairs. We had to scrape all the foam backing off before we could refinish floors
-papered all the bedrooms with 2 kinds of paper each..alternating a strip of one, with a strip of the other all around the room...I kid you not!
-put ceiling tiles over the old plaster ceilings...I have not had the courage to look beneath those yet.
-put cheap tiles all over the oak dining room floor...had to scrape the tarry adhesive up by hand before refinishing
-took out the pocket doors, and opened the walls where they were from one side to make shallow shelves
-put blasted triple track aluminum storms over all the windows
-cut all the sash cords when they blew in insulation
-took all the locks and hardware off the windows

    Bookmark   March 29, 2005 at 12:46AM
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squat diddley.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2005 at 9:49AM
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Our house is a 1940's 1 br cottage. We are the 3rd owners & it's the PO immediately before us that wreaked the most havoc. These people lived there for 5 years & managed to rip out or ruin pretty much anything original to the house. They knew that they weren't going to stay there long term & the husband was a "handyman" so we basically walked into a disaster.

Oh they did the usual like painting over wallpaper (and in the kitchen it was painting over the contact paper lining the cabinets...that was a fun). Taking out original molding & replacing it with scraps of trim, not even full pieces. Yanking out the original doors & replacing them with cheap bifolds (we found some of them in the basement & I'm hoping that we can restore them). Replacing most of the original mullioned windows with cheap vinyl clad ones, tearing out the original counters & cabinets & replacing them with the cheapest , crappiest particleboard they could find...they did leave one run of original cabinets but cut a chunk off of the decorative molding on the base so that the crappy counter's built in backsplash would fit. Ah yes, and trashing all of the original light fixtures in order to replace them with garbage. They also turned half of the 3 seasons room that runs along the side of the house & turned it into a bedroom basically by screwing up some plywood & putting in a couple of windows. I don't know what happened to the original windows. This "bedroom" is unheated & uninsulated.

The original owner is responsible for the hideous vinyl siding but I can't blame her. It was a labor saving kind of thing.

I don't know who to blame for the fact that the toilet has no flange, just rests on top of the waste pipe & is bolted to the (wood) floor. Maybe that was code in the 1940's?

These people were also total slobs & I had to vacuum the stove (no kidding...after I shoveled out most of the ossified crap from underneath the burners) and scrape vomit out of the cabinets.

Jeannieo, what you wrote about historic districts really strikes a chord with me. One of the houses that we looked at before buying this one was a historic house in Croton. The realtor explained that we would be limited in what we could do to it, then we walked inside & discovered that it was totally trashed. The interior had been flat out destroyed by the previous tenants, it was uninhabitable. Walls & floors ripped up, stinking of mildew, brich chimmney in pieces. I still think about the house & wish that we had been in a position to buy it & save it.


    Bookmark   March 29, 2005 at 1:43PM
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The worst I've found so far, and I haven't even moved in officially yet.....The PO hung ceiling fans from electric boxes that were only held up by the old armor cable wiring.
I knew one was wobbly, so I took it down to find that, no wonder it was wobbly, the box wasn't attached to framing or any kind of brace or anything. Just inserted into the drywall and had two armor cables coming into the box. How they haven't fallen down on someone's head, I don't know....

    Bookmark   March 29, 2005 at 4:27PM
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The PO's were not too bad. I have a 1925 craftsman.

-They cut out some cabinets with a reciprocating saw to put in a dishwasher (not a very straight cut!).
-They also tiled the DW into the cabinets, the only way to take it out is to remove the tiles and or the countertop.
-Of course it won't be hard to remove the countertops, they were never attached to anything.
-the put up a backsplash over layers of: plaster/lathe, tile, vinly, and backerboard (the floor is the same).
-they got rid of a lot of my decorative 1/2x1/2 moldings around the windows becuase they would not fit with the paneling they put up.
-They also left me TONS of crap in the garage after I asked them to clean it out.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2005 at 9:34AM
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The immediate previous owners of our house (a 1940's cottage) didn't do any bad things to the house. In fact, they partly corrected one hideous thing that the owner before them did. He had put in shag carpet during the 70's - over beautiful oak floors. The owners before us had ripped all of it up except in their bedroom & had part of the floors refinished. They hadn't gotten around to the bedroom yet. The carpet in there was chocolate brown shag. We've ripped it up, but haven't refinished the floors yet. I can live with unfinished floors better than that carpet! Also, of course, all the original wood six panel doors were cut off to clear the carpet, so they have a gap now & don't look quite right.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2005 at 5:15PM
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My parents were the POs and gave me the house which means I can't complain *too* much, but there are a couple of things that continue to plague and amuse us. My parents could not decide on how to change things so it all stayed the same. When the appraiser went through the house, he said he'd never seen one of these houses "so,...original." The dark brown kitchen counters, harvest gold stove (with one functional burner) and the amazing rust, brown and straw colored ead flower kitchen linoleum with burn marks on it from when I exploded a ceramic teapot 25 years ago! Dad was also a handy guy with the electrical work. He installed lights in closets, an outlet in the hall for convenient vacuuming. All as far as I can tell on the same circuit which explained why I was having a bit of trouble with the master bedroom. If the fan and bathroom light was on and the TV in the bedroom and I did anything else, the circuit would flip. (always fun when blow drying hair at 5 a.m.) So, I knew we were going to have to do something about that at some point I didn't realize how bad it was until a few things happened. My BF took the blow dryer out to the garage to blow dry the roof liner of his truck (another fun story) and poof the lights went out in my bedroom. The garage is completely on the other side of the house. Then, I was vacuuming in the bedroom and my BF turned on the fan in the front bathroom and poof darkness again. So, our friend, the electrician, came to check things out and turned off the breaker and the lights went out in my roommates bedroom. So, the master bed and bath, hallway, front bathroom, garage and third bedroom are all on that circuit. as far as I can tell, the kitchen, living room and my old bedroom are the *only* rooms with nothing on that circuit.

Myfather also grew up during the depresion, so he's interested in saving things. He had 100's of coffee cans in the garage full of nails, screws etc. And AFAICT he used every possible kind whenever he needed to attach anything to a wall. We went to take a cabinet off the garage wall that had been conveniently attached at just the height for me to lose an eye whenever I tried to go out the door with nothing underneath it to keep you from walking into it. We couuld see the screws holding the pegboard to the back of the cabinet. Under that, were the secret hexhead bolts he actually used to attach the thing or so we thought. Unscrewed the bolts and the cabinet is lose enough to swing around, but still attached to the wall! Under the brace he installed for no apparent reason is the 10 penny nail he initially attached it to the wall with!

Dad was well meaning and penny concious so I can't really fault him and our electrician is going to take care of the rather scary attic nightmare, but the thing that really annoys me is what the builders did. House was built during the crazy early 70's housing boom and the faster the better. When we remodeled the master bedroom, we discovered *no* insulation in the East wall which would explain why our bedroom was so cold, a 2 X 4 as a header over the door and a 6 X 12 as a header over the window, but my favorite piece of work was when we took out the wall between the master bedroom and my old bedroom, none of the ceiling boards were actually attached to the wall. You could look up into the ceiling and see all of them running from the master and the other bedroom and ending right there, but not a nail hole in any of them!

    Bookmark   April 9, 2005 at 11:05AM
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We recently bought a beautiful old colonial, built in 1920. We were chatting with the sellers who told us that the exterior woodwork (which you can see in the picture below) had been restored by the owners before them. Someone had taken all of that beautiful detailing off and installed vinyl or aluminum (not sure which) siding! When the siding was taken off, the wood showed "ghosts" of the old trim, so the owners had it restored, one side per year.

I too am concerned with the amount of money that it's going to cost to paint this house every 5 years, but it's almost sacreligious to tear off that gorgeous detail to save money and effort in painting.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   May 28, 2005 at 10:51AM
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other than the obvious shag carpeting and hideous colors my personal favorite of our 1937 house is the wiring.

PO was trying to save $$$ on electric bill so he/she CUT the wire behind the baseboards (so that only half would be on ).......... that's it.... just cut the 220 volt wire and left it there - LIVE -up against the wall. thank goodness we had the place rewired and my contractor found it before we had kids. one stray toy back there and the house would have burned to the ground.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2005 at 4:03PM
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That's nuts, aside from the fire hazzard it's still nuts.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2005 at 6:25PM
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My POs ran the dryer vent about an inch into the attic and left the open end pressed against the insulation. I'm amazed we're still alive. When we bought the place, the seller's real estate agent kept singing the praises of all of the fine work the POs had done. Turns out that her husband was the "handyman" who did everything. Tonight, we start takng down the kitchen cabinets. It shouldn't take too long considering how they're barely attached to the walls. They also went through considerable trouble to hide a severe water problem. The joists were completely rotted through, and the house was sitting on nothing but air in places.

The previous owners of our last house were far worse. They sprayed textured paint on all of the walls, lowered the ceilings with sheetrock, did some really intriguing things in the attic that I think were supposed to be structural, walled over windows, etc. My favorites were removing a fireplace but leaving the chimney in the attic with no support and putting a piece of faux-tile paneling in the shower with nothing but vinyl siding on the outside wall of the house. No insulation, no backer, no nothing. Mounted it right on the studs.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2005 at 10:25AM
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Hey scotland we must've had the same main stack was venting into the attic...the finished (except for not being insulated!)attic..behind the drywall. the inspector we hired (RE agent recomended of course) was obviously blind as a bat...what a BS racket he had. I have solid wood bedroom doors that all have the top 3-4 inches lopped off to fit the doorways that were lowered (there were a few that were spared that's how I know) I had wallpaper apllied directly to drywall with no primer..try getting that off. yikes!

    Bookmark   August 24, 2005 at 12:08AM
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Two words describe the handywork of my neighbors PO: Dental Floss

Who knew that miracle of waxed thread could:
1. fix a leaky toliet
2. hold hinges on cabinet doors
3. maintain the structural integrity of loose balustrades
4. shorten the lengths of chain in a ceiling light.

Wow! And minty fresh, too!

    Bookmark   September 29, 2005 at 12:55PM
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My circa-1930 Craftsman-esque cottage has been a rental for the last 10 years or so, with nothing but essential maintenance being done, and some low-life druggie tenants according to the neighbours. So most of the stuff below was done before the immediate PO bought the house... his tenants just made it all dirty and worn as well as weird or ugly.

The first thing I did was rip out the main bathroom (which was not original, had been remuddled in stages over the years).

The tub looked as though people had been showering in their hobnailed boots for years. The cupboards built over top of it were so low that even my 5' 0" daughter had to duck to get under the shower head. The tub surround was bulging and who knew what kind of rot was behind it: turns out every time there was a leak, a PO had put a new layer on the wall. I ripped off formica, plywood paneling, vinyl flooring, plywood again, linoleum, and the original "Donna Conna" (soft wood fiberboard) to which the lino had been glued with a sort of tarry stuff. It's now down to the shiplap boards which cover every wall in the place, inside and out. Amazingly, only a few of the boards round the tub were rotted, no studs.

Sink and vanity was just sufferng from being cheap in the first place and careless tenants - burns and paint blobs on the cracked "cultured marble" top, and a damp-rotted, chipped particleboard vanity.

The toilet is several inches from the wall because it's a different size than the original.

All the walls had been paneled in 1/4" plywood, then painted murky pink above chair rail level, and faux-sponged-tiles below that. Joins between plywood panels had been lumpily caulked.

A wall had been built parallel to the bathroom/kitchen wall to install pocket doors to the bathroom and living room. Damp air from the bathroom had collected inside the pocket and grown mould all over the wall. The tracks for the pocket doors were one piece of track from something else, cut in half lengthwise to make 2 tracks.

Removing some of the shiplap around the 2' a 6' tiny bathroom door to plan enlarging it (plenty of space, no idea why it was built that small) reveals some very creative framing. If it's in the way, just cut it and knock it to one side! The shiplap holds everything together anyway!

Original bathroom window had been removed, leaving just a storm window. We found the original in the crawl space - one pane broken, but everything else including hardware is still there.

The bathroom is the only major demolition I have done so far, but there are a few other things which have come to light.

The 2ft-square boxed-in area in the living room (which we opned up out of curiosity just to see what was inside) has a load of non-working elecrical outlets and oval holes in the drywall - looks like it was a ham radio setup at one time. The hole in the ceiling of that alcove started dripping water the other night in a rainstorm - a 2 1/2" pvc pipe was suspended above the hole and ran up through the roof. It has a cap but water was getting in. The roofers coming tomorrow morning to tidy up various other tidbits with the roof will remove it and seal the hole, but for now it has a pie plate under it to catch the drips! It originally linked to a PVC pipe in the living room wall which goes down to the furnace room in the basement below and stops - no connection to anything. My SO thinks it was a vent for a grow-op in the basement. Other clues like the dried up mold around the window frames (previous heavy condensation) and the hooks for drying lines installed in every wall, baseboard and ceiling, suggest that this was a grow house at least once in its checkered career.

The 1970s kitchen carpet has been removed or particleboard-and- vinyled over on the floor itself, but is still on the toekicks of the kitchen cabnets. A deligtful orange and black pattern which must have been eye-popping on the floor!

Most of the electrical has been redone recently enough to be safe, but there are stray wires all over the place (not live) and switches which do nothing.

The living room is entirely walled in plywood paneling, which involved ripping off all the original trim. Even the beams holding up the ceiling and added attic rooms above were paneled. Paneling is currently painted a depressing shade of grey, but originally it was dark, dark wood tone. The wood windows in the front of the house are still intact, except that the ends of the sills were chopped off and they are mostly painted shut or very leaky. All the rear and side windows are single pane metal sliders and freezing cold.

The back deck surface has several layers of plywood (all rotting) and is now *above* the level of the kitchen floor. The saving grace is that it has a fiberglass roof over the first 4ft out from the back of the house, so that part of the deck doesn't get wet and flood the kitchen.

The attic conversion was done with OSB and masonite for the wall surfaces. Held up in places with staples and duct tape. The masonite was painted, but the OSB was varnished. Ewww.

A duct came in under the floors from the outside and connected to the return air duct to the fiurnace. Makeup combusion air, right... but this is an electric furnace. The old duct must date back to a previous (probably oil) furnace.

At the front property line, when I cleared back the vegetation there was a lump of concrete in the way. Lifting it out revealsed a metal drum set into the ground, containing (so far, as well as the concrete block) a bike seat, several plastic toys, and part of a car axle. I say "so far" because at that point I put a patio block on top to stop people falling in and left it to deal with "later".

The back yard, crawl space under the kitchen extension, and under the deck, was full of garbage which the previous occupants had just dumped out there. Many hundreds of rusty nails in the soil, along with broken glass and tin cans. There are two overgrown heaps in the backyard I haven't started on yet. At one place where I was digging for a vegetable bed, there was a group of bricks neatly set about a foot below the soil surface.

A hut at the end of the garden (too big for a doghouse, too small for a shed) was so rotten that I (5'3" and 145lb) pushed it over with one hand, once I'd removed the rotten leaning clothes post which was holding it up. I did have to hit the post once with a sledgehammer.

I guess I should stop now. LOL!


Here is a link that might be useful: Pics of the house in

    Bookmark   October 4, 2005 at 1:01AM
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My PO covered the heating registers with lenoleum and carpet in all rooms, and put in gas heaters in all the rooms. when I found out the house was actually centrally heated, I started up the furnace. first 450.00 (in '99) gas bill explained why they would do it. but wow. they also lowered the 11' ceilings to 7'10" in the bedrooms, covering the stamped tin ceilings with 10" square cork tiles in master bedroom, and plain sheetrock in the spare. they also built the kitchen with 30" high countertops, and 46" upper cabinets and the kitchen ceiling is only 84" !!! try cooking in a kitchen with such a low counter, try putting in a dishwasher, then try to put a coffee pot on a counter with only 8" to the cabinets! I could go on and on as well as all of you have, but well ok, there is a nice orchard in the front yard, they planted pompas grass all around it. left unattended for 10 years before I found this "treasure" oh, and above the original clay sewer line the PO planted redtips directly above. they did mention to me, that "occasionally" I would need to have the sewer cleared of roots... every month=occasonally?
I gotta stop now. it's been 6 years, I should be done with it by now right?

    Bookmark   October 4, 2005 at 8:57AM
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Seems like a great thread that will never die. The previous owner here: put down laminate flooring without bothering fixing any squaks or thinking about the door frames being now higher than whatever was there before. "Looks like they undercut them with a chainsaw" my renovation guy said. So all those cracks are a bug highway from the crawlspace. Then they replaced the roof to the same standard... you can see new shingles, all crooked along the side,with tarpaper that doesn't come quite to the edge, and a few soft spots. They installed a huge woodburning stove -- 2 inches fromthe wall at the corners. Okay, a brick wall, but it was never inspected. Renters of course "figured it was okay" and used it for years.

Oh, yeah, and the kitchen was painted dark red and a living room entry wall and entry walls dark, dark green. And the bathroom is finished in bare cedar??? HOw hygenic! NOt!


    Bookmark   October 5, 2005 at 12:02AM
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reading all theese posts makes me remember more about what I ran into when I first moved in to this "dream" home. the bathroom was an addon to this place it originally did not use one. "outhouse" I suppose. anyway the porch was enclosed sometime in the past (nice slanted floor and all) and the bathroom was built there, right on the slanted porch floor. of course it rotted out, so the owner put down plywood. on top of the rotted floor. of course this rotted, so the home owner put boards on the floor to cover the holes and made "bridges" to the toilet and the tub. when I bought the place, it was being used as a storage building. wall to wall stuff piled to the ceiling. I never saw the bathroom until over a month after closing. ok, now the bathroom framing below and in the walls got ripped out and I reframed the floor and put in concrete and have a pretty nice bathroom.
now, the livingroom has a walled over fireplace, it is about 8' wide and 35'tall. the fireplace is made out of 12-16X24-36" long blocks of GRANITE and strewn all around my property are hundreds of chunks of this granite, the house foundation is perched on huge chunks of this stuff. anyway, the fireplace is leaning about 18" from the wall at the top, and my insurance company threatens to cancel if I don't remove the fireplace, so I put up the scaffold and ladders and rent the chipping hammers and prybars to take down this huge eyesore, and find it is not mortared together, it is built with clay mud. obviously the chipping hammer was a waste of money, the thing falls apart with my hand pressure, the prybars make nice leverage bars. as I get lower and lower I uncover hundreds of ant and bee nests built into the mud. tons of paths where the smoke just vented wherever it felt like it.
anybody want a few giant granite bricks?
two posts to go before the 99 cut off

    Bookmark   October 5, 2005 at 9:56PM
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OMG This would be so amusing if it wasn't so tragic!

Our PO cut out peices of the side beams in our carriage house to build the upstairs bathroom-we figured it out when we remodeled the bathroom and came across the petrified-like wood with wooden pegs and square nails still embedded throughout. That, along with one nail for every square inch of wood definitely kept the bathroom structurally sound!!

He also scored the wood on all the 6 panel solid wood doors and applied luan with liquid nails-why???!!!

When we had the roof replaced this past summer, the roofers found SEVEN previouslayers of roofing-including metal-all the way back to the original shake (house circa 1827) YEGADS! You could almost hear the poor house breath a sigh of relief as they pulled all that off!

    Bookmark   October 15, 2005 at 10:11AM
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The dental floss post reminded me that my sister's PO used Kleenex and toothpaste for window caulking.

The house we bought was built in the early 60's. Every single room was paneled, including the closets and the bathrooms. Not a speck of sheetrock anywhere.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2005 at 11:54AM
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My house was built in 1929. The PO's bought it in 1939. They wallpapered every wall, but never removed original in some of the rooms. We have a small bedroom that looks like it has 40's paper under the other 4 layers. Living room has so many layers (5) that the corners are rounded. They added on a mudroom and an additional bedroom to the back of the house, but the floor heights don't match, so they built a 1" ramp in the kitchen to even it up. When DH raised a floor joist under the kitchen, most of the wallpaper started popping off the walls, it was contact paper not wallpaper! Thankfully, they didn't paint over any of the woodwork, we still have the oak trim and a leaded glass front door. but they replaced the wood siding with the cheapest vinyl they could find and of course replaced all the windows when they re-sided!! The kitchen cabinets don't match each other, top ones are fiberboard, bottom ones are plywood and the cabinets in the mudroom off the kitchen are pine. But after reading some of these other stories, I think we got lucky.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2005 at 3:09PM
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* Cemented over two beautiful stained glass windows in our 1929 colonial. We've just slowly uncovered one of the windows, and are having a carpenter make a trim to try to match existing chestnut in the room best as possible. This may be my favorite old-house project so far.

* Covered up five other windows, including windows at the front of the house, turning the former sun room into a dark corner.

* Removed the two chestnut pillars between the living and dining rooms to make what's already a very open floor plan "more open." This one may hurt the most. I can't help but to always see that they're missing, and try to imagine what the room must have looked like with them in place(there are visible marks where they met the wood surfaces). A carpenter says we could try to recreate them in oak with a stain to match. I dunno....

I'll say this for them: they never painted the chestnut and fir trim in this house, and while they removed a few things like original French doors and glass doorknobs, they at least put them in the garage. I try to think kindly of them most of the time because it helps me to forgive their transgressions while I live here.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2005 at 11:00PM
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My house was fixed up by the BIL of the PO. He took from the kitchen to put in a bathroom...leaving no good space in the kitchen for a fridge.

He put in boxes for phones/cable, but didn't actually attach them to anything. I have *one* phone outlet in the entire house!

Other than the bathroom, he didn't do too much structurally to the house (thank goodness!) He had let the pipes freeze twice, according to the neighbors, so I have no idea if there is an actual problem/potential problem with that.

Basically, he did a lot of work in the neighborhood, and no-one is quite happy with what he had done.


    Bookmark   October 17, 2005 at 3:18PM
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Spray painted the interior of the house white, oversprayed onto the hardwood floors, and carpeted the whole house in light green. Tiled the kitchen counters and fireplace surround in salt and pepper granite tiles. Painted the fireplace brick white. Added an annoying half wall to the kitchen...

    Bookmark   October 17, 2005 at 5:05PM
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I didn't read them many! Lets see...removed all stained glass and leaded glass and installed all new vinyl windows. Covered up back staircase up and down, removing trim and banister in the process. Removed chimney at the point of the roof. Put tub in the cove ceiling part and erected old wood "wall" to put faucet at. Had leaking toilet that they never fixed, just kept adding more wood in the basement to hold up the floor. Removed most original trim in kitchen and bathroom up. Put sheetrock over plaster below kitchen cabs. Left the plaster behind the cabs. Removed and tossed (back) door of pass-thru and paneled over the back to hide the hole. Glued linoleum over maple hardwoods in kitchen with subfloor and vinyl over top. Bought a built in oven. Installed it using an extension cord with an adapter on back in order to plug in (oven was a 3 prong, outlet 2 prong). Fire waiting to happen on that one. Did a texture on 3 rooms over top of wallpaper. Raised 1 set of pocket doors and no one can figure out how...there is no screw to raise or lower. Removed parts of vent coverings in rooms to put down carpet over maple floors. Redid duct in palor and boarded over original duct. Subfloored and carpeted upstairs over wide plank pine floors. Changed the roof on the front of the house where there's a balcony. Cut holes in upstairs bedroom doors to install key locking door knobs. Cut width on 1 bedroom door from 32 to 31, so the door won't latch. Had fire in garage and didn't remove charred wood (or replace with new), still holding the roof in place. Tongue and groove car siding on peaks of garage that is rotted, so they covered it up with 1x8's, 1x6's, 1x4's and 1x2's. And of course installed white vinyl siding with baby blue vinyl in the peaks. That's all I can think of now....

    Bookmark   October 17, 2005 at 6:29PM
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This thread was at once both fun and depressing to read. Thought someone might be interested in our problem and the solution we decided on.

The previous owner built a nice detached 750 sq ft garage on top of a completely inadequate foundation. The foundation was built using a bastardized version of the "slab on grade" method.

They cleared the grass off the site, and that was the extent of the "site prep". There are several pieces of rebar sticking up, and other concrete remains of some earlier structure underneath. They built forms for approx. 3.5-4" thick stem walls, with the inner forms 3.5" lower than the outer. No below-grade footings at all. The area inside the inner forms was filled with river sand [and some garbage and trash, yuck!] to the top of the inner forms. Some sort of minmal effort was made to compact the sand.

No vapor barrier. No rebar or wire mesh.

They poured the stem walls and floor (3.5" thick) in a single pour. No joints were etched to control cracking. The outer form at the back blew out during the pour, and was shored up in an obviously improvised manner, leaving the back outer stemwall leaning out about ten degrees. After it cured they chipped the upper part of this section back to where it was more or less even with its intended line and would shed water, but it looks like hell as you can imagine.

Notice that this method means that the inner wooden forms remain in place buried under the concrete floor.

They then built a fairly decent garage, using manufactured trusses and Masonite-type sheathing.

When we bought it the floor had numerous major, badly displaced cracks, some extending clear through the stemwalls. The outer stem walls have not shifted position signifcantly yet, but it would just be a matter of time.

My wife wants to use this garage as a woodworking shop, and will not be satisfied with any bandaid fix. Were not willing to spend the kind of money it would take to just raze the structure, dig up the foundation, and build fresh-we would never get that kind of money back out when we eventually sell. And thereÂs really nothing seriously wrong with the above-ground structure anyway.

We started out planning to just bust up and repour the floor, but once we got a good look at the inside of the stemwalls, it became clear that we really had no choice but to completely replace the existing foundation.

So thatÂs what IÂve been doing for the last several months, in spare time and weekends. Section by section, I:

Bust up and remove the floor, to make a working area along the wall. A 10 pound sledge hammer makes fairly short work of it. Picking up and hauling the broken rubble is much more work.

Affix a 16Â doubled 2x8 beam to the wall using lag screws into the studs.

Use temporary cinderblock piers, jacks, and 2x8 crossbeams to take the wieght of the wall off the stemwall. I have to cut holes in the sheathing for the crossbeams.

Demolish the concrete stemwall. [Fortunately, I have found a place only a few miles away from the house that will take all the broken concrete I can bring them, free of charge. ItÂs recycled to make aggregate for asphalt production.]

Remove the 2x4 sillplate and the bottom course of sheathing. [ItÂs not in too bad shape, but itÂs in the way.]

Dig a trench underneath the existing garage wall, in the packed clay soil. (And yes, thatÂs every bit as much fun as it sounds like.)

Using Quikrete, mix and pour a proper footing with rebar. I donÂt use forms to do this, I just make sure the hole is as deep and wide as necessary. The clay soil is all the form I need. Each section of footing is tied to the next with rebar, and has rebar sticking out the top to anchor the stemwall. The laser level is especially useful in making sure about the depth.

Set up forms for the stemwall. I have homemade plywood forms I use to do this. To keep a uniform thickness, the inner and outer forms have paired ½" holes drilled at regular intervals. When set up, each gets a 3/8" bolt, 8" long, through the two holes. Between the plywood, at each pair of holes, is sandwiched a 6" long PVC sleeve (ordinary plastic pipe, 1/2" ID), with the bolt through it and a nut on the end of the bolt to hold it in place. [After the concrete is cured, the nut is removed and the bolt pulled out of the PVC sleeve. The sleeve remains as a part of the wall and must be sealed shut.] I know that people who do this for a living will laugh at this method, because it is so labor-intensive, but it works extremely well to keep the wall almost exactly 6" thick and does not require extensive external shoring of the forms, as the bolts tie the two sides together. As long as it is set vertical to begin with, only a couple of light braces are necessary to make sure it does not get shifted out of position. And the trench only has to be a couple of inches wider than the wall and forms.

Use Quikrete to pour the stemwall, using rebar. As with the footing, each section of footing is poured with rebar sticking out the end to eventually tie it in to the next section. Each section is between 10Â to 14Â long, depending on whether a corner is involved.

Replace the sillplate with pressure treated wood. This canÂt be done until after the new wall is poured, as otherwise the sillplate would just about cover the gap at the top of the forms, making it impossible to pour the concrete.

Remove forms, and use shims to get the weight of the wall onto the new stemwall.

Backfill the trench on both sides of the wall, packing the soil tight.

Remove the 2x8 beams and supports, move down the wall to the next section, and start over.

Once the footings and stemwalls are finished, we will:

Remove the remaining concrete floor.

Level and compact the sand base.

Put in vapor barrier and install proper rebar reinforcement.

Pour a proper, sufficiently thick concrete floor. We may get a contractor to do this part for us, as it is a big enough job to make it economical. And you only get one shot at finishing concrete, and this is a bit big for us.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2006 at 5:06PM
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I once lived in a house built about 1925. The PO removed three pocket doors from the kitchen and dining room, then took them into the cellar and nailed them together to make a closet! My Dad rescued them while we lived there. We moved out a long time ago. The new owners after us covered over a porch on the second floor. No windows, but you can clearly see the outline of the former porch.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2006 at 9:16AM
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Not too much, thankfully!

Spray painted the whole interior with White (walls and trim), Semigloss paint. Some of which is peeling off, no doubt due to bad prep job.

Some electrical Hazards, but not too bad.

Lack of venting for the basement sink and toilet.

It's very satisfying fixing everything and knowing it's done right!

    Bookmark   March 1, 2006 at 3:13PM
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Fast forward this conversation about 40, 50 or 60 years and wonder what the owner's of our homes will be saying about the previous owners? Maybe something like--"why in the world would anyone want wood floors? What's the deal with these high ceilings--let's lower them. Granite countertops? I want formica!" LOL

    Bookmark   March 4, 2006 at 11:12PM
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In one house we lived in (luckily we rented) the owners did all the work themselves. We kept having problems with the lights and the agent brought in the first ever professional electrican to work on the place, I could hear him exclaiming "oh my god" as he inspected. Turns out that all the metal light fittings were LIVE, they had attached the live wire to them instead of the grounding wire. They removed all the flooring in the place to reveal the wooden floors then didn't bother to remove the glue marks. A new kitchen was installed, quite gorgeous but they didn't bother finishing the tops - chunks of plaster and holes in the ceiling. The whole house was painted one colour and in one bedroom they obviously ran out of paint and left a patchy wall. A piece of broken fibro covering the manhole was the "vent' for the gas water heater. They were so proud of the built in wardrobes in each room - all shoddily buit, one was made from chipboard. We pulled one out because it was falling to bits, replastered and painted that room - it was beautiful. It was a 4 bedroom house and only 2 rooms could be used as the others were damp and mouldy. They have since built a carport which shades the windows of those rooms, they were dark and damp before I shudder to think what they were like before. Those are only a few of many.

The last house I lived in had a linen closet built that had plasterboard shelves. The bathroom laundry was a tack-on a room divided by a wall that started in the middle of a window - one side of the window was plain glass the other was frosted. Because the wall was 3 inches from the glass you could see straight into the bathroom from outside - the window was actually in the shower/bath.

This house was built for us and there were so many issues that the "professional" builder (we used a well known building firm) we were told that we were being overly fussy.
Things like;

Having the openings for downpipes cut into the gutters which meant the downpipe would run down the centre of a window (they did that in 2 spots).

wiring the grounding wire to the incoming GAS pipe

Using a broken brick in the front brick wall and using the grout to fill in the broken corner.

The custom made insect screens are so well fitting that it's impossible to remove them without damage.

Installing kitchen and bathroom cupboards before tiling the floors - in the bathroom they are showing water damage because the cabinents were laminated chipboard - unfinished on the bottom. I'd say that would be the case in the kitchen too.

And when the installer put in the gas water heater he couldn't work out why the gas wouldn't work, the builders said that the account with the gas company was current and that the supply was on. Turns out they forgot to connect the pipe to the mains.

A vent for the cooking exhaust was put outside the kitchen window with the vents aimed at the window. Husband decided it was easy enough to turn around and then found the ventilation hole was simply stabbed with a screwdriver and the venting pipe was folded back so it was venting into the roof.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2006 at 8:47AM
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ok I just read this thread and it's making me nauseous :-) We are uncovering PO nasties here in our 1910 house. Somethings were so bad and the owner failed to disclose, that we have grounds to sue. Trouble is lawyers would eat up the $ we'll need to repair. It makes me want to flee to an new, energy efficient home, but I'm hanging in there.

The house does have charm and is worth fixing right, if it doesn't kill us first :-)

One tip I do have though... If you have access to the abstract at the title company from closing, it is well worth the read. We were able to go back to the original plat of the entire street and it's fascinating to read the deaths, divorces, indebtedness of PO's.

Our property line mysteriously gained 5 ft every time an owner died, and then moved back 5 ft for the next certification of the title. Maybe that explains why 6 inches of my house sits on the neighbors property. Thank god for adverse possession laws.

Also, we were able to track down previous PO's (not the seller) that are still in the area and find out quite a bit of history about the house. Fascinating information in the abstract.

We hope to leave this house to our son, so we are repairing everything with him in mind. That makes it that much more a labor of love, and he is learning what his future house is made of and how to care for it.

If money were no object, what a blast we could all have restoring what were once battleships, until PO's decided to play Bob Vila :-)

    Bookmark   March 15, 2006 at 12:55AM
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This thread was so bittersweet to read!

House #1, purchased 1980: 1860's, historically significant to the area. PO was an architect, who apprarently loved very clean modern lines and materials. The two main horrors were to remove and discard all of the original fireplace mantles (there were three) and have stark white rectangular "mantles" built of (I still can't believe this) wallboard. The second was to take out what a neighbor described as a beautiful huge clawfoot tub and the rest of the (according to the neighbor) beautiful old bathroom fixtures plus the bathroom's original oak t&g wainscotting and put in shiny white tile and a shiny white tub and shiny white sinks on a white formica counter, with a black rubber floor.

House #2, 1894, purchased 1986: The folks I bought it from decorated by their own admission with whatever they could find on the clearance/oops tables, so the dining room had one pink floral wallpaper that didn't quite cover the whole room, so they started a different pink floral wallpaper and carried that into the living room but there wasn't enough to finish there, so they put in a third pink floral wallpaper. And the rest of the house was in their two favorite colors, blue and brown. The original owners, for reasons no one could figure out, replaced the original stairway, but made it narrower and lower. When they died they left a lot of the furniture there that the 2nd owners kept, who left it for me (the 3rd owner). Except no one had bother telling us that the reason why they didn't take it out was that it no longer fit down the stairs, or even out a window.

House #3, early 1960's beach cottage, hand-built by original owner, purchased 1998. Paneling. Every wall in every room, paneling. No wallboard or anything, just paneling on top of firring strips attached to the concrete block. And you can't take down paneling and attach wallboard to firring strips. The bathroom walls, which were a thin compressed fiberboard (imagine, fiberboard in an unventilated bathroom in a humid area of a humid state), had a half-wall of GREEN paneling for a sort of wainscoting look. Plus he apparently had access to odd-lots of tile and tile-faced block, so the laundry room is a random collection of different colored tile on the floor and 2/3 up the wall(with pepto-bismol pink painted fiberboard above that), and the shower is built from a random collection of different colored tile-faced blocks. He didn't even bother trying to make them into a nice pattern or spread the colors out randomly. Just put down the grey ones, then the white ones, then the blue ones, then the pink ones, then the cream ones, then...

Finally, the house we now have under contract, built early 1900's (big T-shaped farmhouse with beautiful Arts & Crafts style wrap-around porch with tapered square columns). PO bought it after the PO to him had a kitchen fire. Applied for it to be rezoned as a boarding house for student from the nearby college where I teach; denied, but bypassed the denial by officially leasing it to one adult supervisor type person who then subleased bedrooms to the individual students. Renovated the house in Cheap Apartment style: Removed all original woodwork except for the stair post and some of the wood floors, and put cheapest possible trim, unevenly stained a dark walnut color, around all windows, doors and on baseboards. Broke up the big spaces on the first floor that gave a circular flow around the center stairway into small rooms to create another bedroom. Ripped out all radiators and installed electric baseboard. Lowered all ceilings with wallboard. Created a huge dining room out of what used to be the huge eat-in kitchen, and enclosed and converted part of the rear porch into a tiny tiny kitchen, mostly walled off from the dining room. Removed all original bathroom fixtures including a clawfoot tub and put in cheap boring tacky whatever. To his credit, the inspections showed that he removed every bit of old wiring and plumbing and brought it fully up to code, he insulated everywhere and put in energy efficient windows, and he put on a decent architectural shingle roof, but still...

    Bookmark   March 17, 2006 at 11:47PM
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Our last house was a horror story of rampant decorating malfunctions. Apparently the POs loved Halloween as the interior of the house was done in orange and black, even the support posts in the basement were covered with orange felt and the laundry tubs were painted orange. Oh and I forgot that every room had a chandelier like the kind of chandelier found in funeral homes. Yep, even the light for the basement stairs, abt 20" wide, was a glistening prism of glass!

There was a large basement closet and the interior was wallpapered with vinyl with cartoon like drawings, again black/orange/yellow, of hippies and then graffiti like sayings such as "Let's get High", "Cool Man" and "Out of Sight". I left the wallpaper as a tribute to the POs.

The entire house was wallpapered and when I removed the wall paper I found out why. One bedroom had 2 walls "caution light yellow" and 2 walls of "kelley green". At night the room glowed like it had one of those yellow bug lights on inside. Another bedroom, I think this was their daughter's room, had 2 walls of "electric blue" and 2 walls of "whore pink". And to top it off, PO had painted all the wide-custom-milled oak trim and the interior of all the solid oak bedroom doors, with some kind of oil based copper metallic paint! He was partial to the metal effect because he also painted all the heat vents the same copper color! Of course we did not discover the metallic effect until I started stripping the woodwork and once you start stripping there is no turning back.

The worst was the interior hallways and ALL, I repeat ALL interior hallways were lined, walls and ceiling, with very dark walnut stained cork. Walking back to the bedrooms was like walking thru a cave. I had to scrape off the cork with a putty knife and this took almost 2 years.

This was a very well built home and we bought it for abt $15,000 over what the POs originally paid and they lived there 15 years. The house was a great deal but now that I look back at just how much sweat we put into that house and it was a good thing we were young and stupid.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2006 at 12:33PM
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Hello, all! My DH and I have a 1920's bungalow/cottage in Massachusetts. I was just pointed to this thread. We found a lot of horrors when we moved in: ugly brown carpet EVERYWHERE, shower doors that had leaked and damaged the bathroom floor.....things with the electrical wires that made professionals scratch their heads and mumble "how did they DO this?" I would answer "the previous owner's husband was very handy." The pros would shudder. This was one of the top ones, and we didn't find it for a while.

We bought the house in 1998, and were told the kitchen was remodeled in 1982. The stove was an old Kenmore "continuous cleaning" type. The light and timer would not work, but the rest of it was okay. It was on a pilot light, so the burners and oven lit when I turned them on. I could have sworn everything had worked during the home inspection, but I figured it was just an old piece of equipment. I gritted my teeth and waited. In a year we were able to afford a new stove.

We pulled the old stove out to install the new one. The electrical cord was dangling through a hole in the wall. There was no outlet. No wonder the timer would not work! We were baffled: How did they plug it in? Where was the outlet? Why the hole? We could not figure it out. Our uncle was helping with the installation, and kept going back and forth into the basement under the kitchen. He noticed the cord dangled through the hole, which was cut next to a support beam for the floor, and into the basement. There were some nails along the beam, and a groove cut or worn into it, but the cord for the stove would not reach that far.

As we all went back and forth, my husband said "There is no outlet down here, I don't get it." Then we looked up. There was an old ceiling fixture in the basement ceiling, over the washer and dryer, just two or three feet from the end of the cord. It was the type that held a single bulb, but had outlets in it on two sides between the bulb and ceiling. I remarked that it looked like a similar fixture we had removed from a bedroom ceiling, and told our uncle about it: when we had viewed the house, the PO had extention cords running from the bedroom fixture to run her alarm clock, bedside lamp, etc. We then realized what they had done. Instead of creating a new outlet behind the stove, the PO had cut a hole in the floor, and then ran an extension cord along the basement ceiling to the basement ceiling fixture. The cord had been tacked along the beam to hold it up, and was removed when the PO moved out.

We put in a new outlet behind the stove.


    Bookmark   March 22, 2006 at 12:48AM
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1920's small bungalow. Po -

Buried an extension cord in an exterior wall of a porch. It was plugged in. We didn't know it was there until some rain water was driven into the socket and shorted the circuit. BTW, this didn't blow the breaker - it just started a fire.

Wired the outlets for his kitchen remodel by using very small leftover pieces of wire - like 2 feet long tops. As a sample, one outlet was wired off of another by having a piece of wire from the outlet to a box, a different piece of wire taped to it in the box and run to the next outlet. Two things made this such a work of art - there were at least 6 outlets wired this way and the pieces of wired randomly alternated gauge and material. Copper-Alumnium-copper-aluminum - yep!

Last for this message, he also redid a bathroom using pipe of a size and type not permitted by code. We waited until the tub drain cracked (about 2 years) and then re-did the bathroom. We found he had padded the hall wall out a little bit. He spent hours cutting little lathe boards to all kinds of different depths to pad the drywall over this little left-over bump from the way the wall used to run.

It took us the better part of a day to strip off all the little pieces and pull out all the nails and screws. I took my rasp to the bump and ten minutes later the bump was gone and the wall was perfectly flat.

There's just so much more - we talk about the po as if he still lived here cause in a sense, he still does.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2006 at 8:27PM
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In our case, it's what the PO didn't do - open a single window for 15 years. Yep - locked tight and painted (probably several times) shut. It took a lot of work to get those babies open, but you better believe they've been open a lot since we moved in!

    Bookmark   March 22, 2006 at 9:35PM
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We bought our 1890 Victorian 4 yrs ago. The previous owners had covered up the heartpine floors with carpets, wood floors and linoleum different configurations. We uncovered and had all refinished. We converted the attic to living space but were careful to do so in a way that compliments the house.We have added beautiful storm windows to all the windows and had wooden replacement windows made for 2 rotten ones. We had the ropes and weights restored on 2 but left the rest painted closed as the heating bills even in Al. are horrible. We are currently restoring the kitchen's ceiling to 12 feet. It isn't the original kitchen but we are left with this unfixable location so we will deal with it. The HVAC system is a mess...we had it worked on but they cheated us 4 yrs ago and now we are having to have it redone by the people we should have had the first time. The electric panel boxes ...3 of them are a mess. Our fridge is on with 25 other things !! So we are getting that all redone. I walk through the house late at night and the floors creak and I am sure I can hear the original owner thanking me for loving this house.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2006 at 8:58PM
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Not a horror story, but an interesting observation on construction methods of the past, that I was unaware of.

While leveling floors in my crawlspace last summer, I kept noticing that some of the floor joists were covered with a crusty, friable, gray dust. The joists were not damaged, and I could not figure out what this material was. Some kind of preservative? Residue from some insect or pest?

Finally the light bulb came on and I recognized it; concrete dust! My home was built in about 1940. Before they were used as floor joists, this lumber was used as forms for the concrete stemwalls of my house. Once the stemwalls had cured sufficiently, the forms were removed and reused to frame the floor deck.

As far as I know there is nothing wrong with this. It's just something that would never have occurred to me if I had not seen the evidence.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2006 at 10:24AM
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Our gas waterheater is inside a small enclosure inside of a closet !!! I have been posing forum questions asking for adivce on what to replace it with and where to put it. I think we have decided to go with a gas tankless and mount it outside. We are lucky we haven't blown up or been gassed to death. So much for house inspections !!!

    Bookmark   March 29, 2006 at 10:28AM
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Trailrunner, what is your issue with this? Inadequate acces to combustion air for the water heater? Are there vent grills in the closet door(s)?

Most standard water heaters are located in a closet of some kind or other. That has been the situation with every house I have ever lived in, with no problems except that access can sometimes be a challenge for service or adjusting. Some will have a vent pipe from the roof/attic to provide a path for combustion air, though I think this is a fairly recent idea and not common in older installations.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2006 at 12:21PM
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airqual guy... no vents anywhere...I was under the impression from other especially that there are very strict requirements and after looking at ours it appears to meet none of them except that we have an old leaky house so make-up air is everywhere ! We are tearing out all the walls adjacent to the waterheater enclosure so even if it is a problem it will soon be past tense.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2006 at 8:32PM
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Airqual, my entire garage is made up of the wood used for the concrete forms. I always wondered as well until a buddy of mine who owns a construction company told me what it was.

Most of my PO's were pretty good. I have a 1925 craftsmans with all original patchwork floors and woodwork everywhere, and it is all UNPAINTED!! which is one reason I bought the house. One the other hand, my kitchen floor has like 7 layers of flooring, the last of which is ceramic tile. He did not bother to remove anything when he tiled, he just tile around stuff like the radiator and the dishwasher. So I have to remove the countertop to replace the DW. Fun stuff. He also did not screw down the crappy cormica countertops, they jsut kind of "float" held in by the weight of the sink.

He finished the basement which was great, but he had friends in the permit department of town, so I don't think they ever check anything. All doors in the basment are completely out of square, so no doors close right. And if you look close, the ceiling is at different heights trhoughout, 6'11, 7', 7'1" etc. Fun stuff.

Currently I have a kitchen and two ful baths with oak hardwood floors covered by 5+ layers of flooring. I don't even want to try to remove what is there. The tile was put down with thinset and wire mesh directly on top of lynolyum and other types of flooring.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2006 at 9:02AM
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Where do I begin??? Let me preface this with the fact that I LOVE this house to pieces. We bought it dirt cheap three years ago and there's no way we'd be able to afford a 3100 sq. ft. house normally. My FIL grew up in this house from the 40's on, but it was then sold in the 70's when his parents downsized.

On the exterior, I'm annoyed that the wood siding w/original wood scalloping was replaced in the 50's with the first aluminum siding (in fact, it was a demo house for the Albany area showing off aluminum siding). Also annoyed the green wood shutters are not still on all the way around the house (although we still have a few in a barn).

Luckily, all the hardwood floors are still in pretty good shape and all of the molding downstairs hasn't been painted (upstairs, it's now pretty much all white in the bedrooms, but I *gasp* actually kind of like it painted white--brightens things up!).

Worst part? My husband's grandpa decided to put awful tan "school tile" floors upstairs in the hallways OVER the gorgeous hardwood floors and into one of the bedrooms. We haven't touched them yet, but when we do, I can just tell it is going to be a disaster of large proportions.

Plus, there are about 3-4 layers of wallpaper throughout the house...EVERYWHERE...even on the ceilings...what were these people THINKING!!!!

BUT...someone had the foresight not to paint these built-ins, and I think they did a pretty good job with the restoration job (although, I'm not sure if a true historic rennovator would agree)

Also, the kitchen ceiling was lowered 18 inches in the 50's--the rest of the house has 9.5 ft. ceilings. Why did they do that???

Sarah from Selkirk, NY

    Bookmark   April 6, 2006 at 11:40AM
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we just bought a house built in 1909, POs said that all the electrical had been replaced and that everything was on circuit breakers. Many things started to go wrong just before we closed, like we werent able to go back into the home until a half hour before we were supposed to sign all the closing papers! On this last inspection, we discovered a fuse box on the wall. It had brand new fuses in it. So we had our realtor call the seller's realtor and ask about this fuse box, to which they replied that it was there when they moved in (well, duh) and that it wasnt connected to anything. We went ahead and closed on the house. Well, it turns out that they lied about a couple of things. There are 4 fuses in this box that seem to run all the lights and most of the outlets in the house, and these four fuses then are run over to the circuit breaker but only on one circuit. This became problematic when we blew a lightbulb in the kitchen, replaced it only to have another go, with sparks flying from the fixture. Took down the fixture (after removing the fuse) and discovered knob tube wiring crumbling up into the ceiling. Woo hoo--this was something we had specificly asked about prior to signing and it is very upsetting to find!

I'm still removing wallpaper from the upstairs bedrooms, I dont know which PO to blame the bad taste on as its pretty ugly.

At least the floors are in good condition and now refinished so they should remain that way. Also the woodwork is mostly unpainted and unharmed, and most of the doors have their original hardware. The windows are the original and the storms are falling apart so I dont know what we'll do about that. I dont want to put in vinyl windows, so hopefully new storms will cut down on heating and cooling costs since the area I live in is prone to 30 below zero weather in the winter and 100 above in the summer.

There are lots of other things I could complain about, but I'm mostly upset about the wiring. I didnt even mention the capped off 220 line laying on top of my kitchen cabinates, or that the upstairs is wired via a 3-way switch in the dining room. We'll be calling in an electrition and I contacted the realtor to see what we need to do legally to have the POs pay part of or the entirety of rewiring this place correctly. Its hard to claim ignorance of a fuse box when brand new fuses are in it and are blown when a kitchen light is turned on.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2006 at 11:56PM
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My 'new' old house isn't too bad compared to my last old house. I bought a fixer upper cape cod. It was the filthiest house I had ever seen. Part of the closing agreement was to remove all debris, but they still left a lot.

1. It took my sister and I a week of full time work to clean the empty house and make urgent repairs (like replacing windows that were made from old frames and duct-taped in plexiglass). I spent 4 hours scraping gum from the hardwood floors in one of the bedrooms, several hours scraping the refrigerator clean with a razor blade, way too long cleaning up mouse droppings, a few days washing all the nicotine residue off the floors, walls, and ceilings...
2. The PO "fixed" a hole that someone had kicked in the dining room wayy with a small section of picket fence with plastic flowers glued to it.
3. They glued carpet to stick on tile that was over hardwood floors.
4. I had to replace the electrical "panel" that wasn't even in a box. It was just a hole in the wall covered by a piece of particle board that was screwed into the wall.
The basement had nasty old carpet that mildewy that had been glued to the cement.
5. The original exterior doors were all replaced with cheap particle board hollow core 70s doors.
6. The walls were painted psychiatric hospital green with kelly green woodword. There were Precious Moments murals all over the walls.
7. There were old tired buried in the back yard.
8. The leaking roof was "fixed" with poured on tar and there were 5 layers of singles in some areas of the roof.
9. Leaks in the plumbing were "fixed" with caulk.
10. All the overhead light fixures were removed at one time.

I knew there were things to be fixed when I moved in, but I didn't know about the bad repairs. On a positive note, I learned how to make a lot of different kinds of repair and I learned what not to do.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2006 at 8:50PM
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I have owned two old houses. The first one was a craftsman/colonial from 1926. The previous owners had painted over most of the original chestnut woodwork with flat white paint. This woodwork had been in the original untouched finished condition for 70 years before these people got the house. The rest of the woodwork that didn't get that treatment (fireplace mantle, bookcases flanking fireplace, and stair banister and newel post) was painted with Rustoleum high gloss exterior black paint. The brick fireplace was also painted with the Rustoleum. When they painted the walls and trim, they didn't bother to cover the oak floors with mahogany ribbon molding and corner knots since they were installing hot pink wall-to-wall in every room! pink in the livingroom, diningroom, sunroom, up the stairs, in the hall, and all three bedrooms...lovely! They also remodeled the kitchen with pink-hued faux woodgrain cabinets, pink formica counter and pink patterned peel-n-stick vinyl tile flooring. They cut a hole in the wall between the kitchen and a walk-in pantry to recess the refrigerator thereby making the walk-in pantry walk-in no more. The black appliances finished off the look of the pink kitchen. Moving on to the enclosed porch with the original textured glass fanlights and sidelights with the original glass exterior door, they painted over the inside of all the windows (the textured side of the glass) and sided over the exterior of the fanlights and covered the glass of the door with some kind of laminate. They also continued the theme of the kitchen out onto this enclosed porch by laying down the same pink patterned peel-n-stick tile over the porch floor. The PO's before them had panelled over two beautiful stained glass windows above the fireplace on the inside and sided over them on the outside. Fortunately, they left the windows buried in the wall. They also removed and discarded the glass doors that would have been on the bookcases flanking the fireplace as well as installing drop ceilings in the livingroom and bathroom.

We undid all of this nastiness by redoing the kitchen in a style that evoked the feel of a vintage kitchen. Removed all of the pink vinyl floor of the porch and stripped all of the textured glass of the sidelights and fanlights and removed the siding on the outside of the windows. Ripped up all of the hot pink carpet and had all the floors refinished. Restored the stained glass windows to their former glory by removing all of the panelling and siding that was hiding them. We also installed interior framing on these windows to mimic the rest of the moldings. We also spent three years, lovingly, painstakingly and personally stripping and refinishing all of the chestnut molding, banister, mantle and bookcases.

So we decided to sell this past year and move closer to the train station. I was recently visiting a friend in the old neighborhood and the people who we sold the house to saw me and invited me in to see their handiwork. What did they do? You guessed it - painted all of the chestnut woodwork white including the mantle and bookcases! Their reason was that the brown molding just didn't go with the colors they had chosen for the livingroom, sunroom and diningroom - a slate gray/blue color. I wanted to scream at them "if you wanted slate colored walls you should have bought a loft in Chelsea and left my woodwork alone!", but instead I grinned and beared it. It's their house now. I just hope they understand they dropped the value of their investment by about $10,000.

In our new house (1929 tudor), the previous owners had lived here for over 40 years. They had done the usual stuff - black and white vinyl tile over ribonned hardwood floors in the sunroom, foyer and vestibule; linoleum in two bedrooms, panelling in two bedrooms, hideous wallpaper in bathrooms and kitchen (including the ceilings). We are slowly correcting these issues. But they did leave us with three bathrooms with all original tile and fixtures, all original 6-panel doors, all original windows, all original light fixtures, the original beautiful deep green marble fireplace surround, the gracefully curved archways between all the rooms on the first floor, the original stucco and cedar shake siding, original shutters and iron railings on the outside, and all the original woodwork, albeit painted woodwork. And that's the way its going to stay.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2006 at 4:24PM
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* Posted by wellim on
Mon, Sep 27, 04 at 10:38
>Wow, In a way I'm lucky.
>What did the PO's do to my house: ABSOLUTELY NOTHING

You ARE lucky. As I struggle to stay ahead of the deterioration to keep my 150+ years-old farm house from falling down, 50% of the "restoration" I have done the last 25 years has been to repair or correct damage done by previous owners' feeble attempts to "renovate."

    Bookmark   June 14, 2006 at 4:46PM
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Things were a little eccentric:
Phone outlets in EVERY room, including the bathrooms, unfinished basement and, just for fun, one stuck on the side of an open shelf in the upstairs hall.
There are so many wires for phones that when the repair guy came when there was a problem, he just did the best he could with the junction box and decided to "just back away slowly" (tongue in cheek, of course).

Bedroom wired for sound, including recessed speakers in the ceiling (presumably, this used to be a home theatre, complete with white wall-to-wall shag). Volume control is built into same box as the dimmer switch for the ceiling light. Video cable in four rooms AND the unfinished basement.

Hot water faucet OUTSIDE the house. (for washing cars?)

None of the downstairs window, except kitchen, can be opened. Inspector said that was just because the windows are cheaper - I thought they were afraid of burglars! Had to put in air conditioning to keep things livable.

Some very peculiar shelves built INTO the basement wall (like medicine cabinets, but made of wood and 6 foot wide) and painted bright, super shiny red)

I've sold the house and now wonder if the buyers will think that *I* had something to do with these oddities....

    Bookmark   June 16, 2006 at 11:41AM
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They had the a/c company use flex duct after there was a flood under the house, to replace all the hard pipe...they wanted to save money. Then we let the same company come back as that was who our then contractor used and they replaced this stuff ...but....they put so many "y"s and turns etc that it is totally useless. There are deadends and no insulation in places. We were stupid not to learn more . We are now using the company we should have used the first time and didn't because our contractor said they were too expensive!! SO it has cost us all this extra in heating and airconditioning bills and now replacement of the "cheap" job that replaced the "cheap" job !!! Argggg...I know more about a/c than I EVER wanted to know.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2006 at 7:29PM
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We also did fairly well in our little 3/2 1940 house here in NC. It was a rental for the last 20 years, and the PO's handyman was there one day when we were looking at it, and we mentioned that we were going to rip up the (cheap thin $1/sf grey carpet) in the whole house. Handyman objected: "But I just put that in!" I made a deal with him that if he removed all the carpet, padding, tack strips, and nails, that he could have all of the new pad and carpet. He weas thrilled, and we were we! It was amazing not to have to remove 1200 sf of carpet and tack strips while I was on crutches! We refinished our heart pine floors, which had very little damage, and are still so pleased.

Other than that, we really just had bad linoleum in the dining room, only 1 grounded duplex outlet in the whole house, and lame paint jobs on the exterior and the porch.

I have loved reading these stories! In fact, it took me almost all day at work. :)

    Bookmark   June 21, 2006 at 3:31PM
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