New (to you) house surprises

dgmarieJune 8, 2006

I'd be curious to hear the good and bad things you discovered about your new (or new to you) home that you discovered in say the first 6 months. I keep finding little (and some not so little) issues that I either never noticed or knew about but didn't fully comprehend. Like the way the sun comes in at 5am, or maybe traffic noise, or a neighbor issue.

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I don't think I had any good surprises! Main thing I discovered was a serious pet odor problem, especially in the basement; to this day I do not know how the previous owners masked/eliminated it at the open house and on the days of the home inspection and walk through. I'm still battling it in the basement, and it's been a year and a half.

There are lots of little things I never noticed---mainly things that are crooked or don't match---and now that I'm thinking about selling, I wonder if the next buyer will also miss those things!

    Bookmark   June 8, 2006 at 4:44PM
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Great topic. We found several, ahem, interesting thing about the house we owned from 1996-2004.

Shortly after moving in, we were surprised that the Girl Scouts, etc. never stopped by. Turned out the previous owners were awful, and disliked by just about everyone. We wondered why there was a privacy fence on one side, and a split rail on the other. The privancy fence neighbor slapped up the barrier after a series of arguments with the previous owner LOL. Let me say that all our neighbors were wonderful, so the problem was definitely with the owners!

We had terrible problems with our backyard being wet. Probably wouldn't have been a big deal for most people, but we had multiple Goldens who turned it into a mudfest. We eventually learned from the neighbors that our yard has been the drainage site while the rest of the neighborhood was being built. Our house was finished last, and the yard was never really graded correctly. Plus, the previous owners kids used to ride dirt bikes in the backyard, which made the grading even worse.

Finally, it turned out the previous owner was a really cheap, really bad handyman. DH found all sorts of issues over the year. Guess we should have been tipped off when we moved in to find that they had removed all of the lightbulbs ;)

    Bookmark   June 8, 2006 at 4:54PM
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One thing that we noticed is that the picture window in the family room only had one pane of glass. It had been a double paned window and they broke the inner pane and just took out the glass. We are thinking that happened between the home inspection and when we closed but couldn't prove it wasn't like that when we bought. Another thing we didn't notice is that our master bath window lines up exactly with the neighbour's master bath window so privacy is an issue. We have to keep the blinds closed at all times. One nice thing we found is that there were tons of telephone jacks installed. Our old house only had 2.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2006 at 4:56PM
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I didn't find any nice surprises that I can think of. As far as I'm concerned, the previous owners are glassbowls.

DH was here for the closing (I wasn't) and didn't make the previous owners clean out their stuff. If it was broken, it was left. We had an inspection on the house, but have discovered a cracked foundation that was covered up. That non-disclosure will only cost $15-20,000 to fix. The floor was re-tiled in press andstick tiles. 1/4" slivers of tile were placed in the cracks where the foundation was cracked. After 3 1/2 years of living here, I discovered that the wooden beam across the top of the ceiling was painted white to disguise the fact that they had filled in a crack. Now that the paint has had time to dis-color and the house has shifted some more, the filled in part shows up.

I've been po'd at the previous owners for a while now so I got some real snark when I cleaned my garage last year. The husband had hidden a letter to his wife behind some shelving. In his letter, he had threatened to divorce his wife for being a fake. He didn't think she was attracted to him and was faking it in bed. I can't stand those people at this point so I got a big laugh out of it. DH and I joked that maybe we should forward the letter to them since it was obviously mistakingly forgotten.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2006 at 5:24PM
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Most of the surprises weren't so nice... But we were very pleasantly surprised by how the sunlight filters through the treetops into our family room in the early morning -- just like our family vacations in the woods when I was a kid. We were also pleasantly surprised by how sturdy the original foundation is -- no cracks or shifting as happens with so many houses.

Now the previous remodelling work involved only the other kind of surprises... SHODDY! Wires run directly behind sheetrock with no caps and illegal connections... Pipes held together by only a thing strip of rust... A garage that floods in any kind of rain...

    Bookmark   June 8, 2006 at 6:13PM
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The two skylight towers, capped with 6 foot domes that had been installed wrong. And leaked. And obviously had leaked previously once one looked carefully.

Inspector missed it. Sellers didn't disclose. Live and learn.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2006 at 7:04PM
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no hot water in tubs,lightpost at street with no apparent inside switch(no solar/photosensor),water ponding from heavy rains near back patio...

    Bookmark   June 8, 2006 at 7:07PM
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A master bathroom with no door between it and the bedroom. Commode was in direct line of sight of the bed wall.

I'm not sure how we missed this one, because I looked at the house at least three or four times in the course of buying it. I remember entering the bathroom on our first night in the house, reaching for the door in order to close it....and then letting out a scream.

The bath had been remodeled by the previous owner, and all evidence of the door (hinges, door latch, etc) were removed. Just the smooth framed opening was left.

Fortunately, we found the old door in the basement. Since everything had been removed, including the stop molding, we needed a carpenter to re-install.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2006 at 7:29PM
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I had a couple surprising discoveries with my new (new construction) house. I started keeping a diary, to remind myself that real events can sometimes be more unbelievable than fiction.

Here is a link that might be useful: My moving-in diary

    Bookmark   June 8, 2006 at 9:39PM
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Our backyard neighbors have this one light that is motion activated and comes on if anyone walks within range.

Would not be a big deal, except that they have dogs!!

My poor daughter has a blinking light out her bedroom window, lol.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2006 at 9:48PM
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The not so little issue was a roof described to be 3 years old and it turned out to be more than 30 based on looks.

The major pleasant suprise was the stability of this home. We live with earthquakes and our previous neighborhood was on sandy silt. The houses really shook. Only five miles away, this home is older and doesn't have cracks. I can hardly feel the shakes.


    Bookmark   June 8, 2006 at 9:51PM
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In our last house I was surprized when my dad came to visit it and he asked why there were hinges in the bookcase built into the wall. So he gave the opposite side a pull and found that the bookcase hid a 4 ft by 4 ft cedar closet. The closet's box was in the stairwell going down to the basement and until you looked for it, you didn't realize it was there.

Bad finds included the cellar under the front porch. I knew it was there, I didn't know that the roof of it was gone - it was the concrete pad of the front porch, which a previous owner had removed and replaced with a wood porch. The bad gutters emptied the roof water onto the front porch. It came into the cellar through a wood roof. xsIt then traveled across the basement to the floor drain. I had my own indoor river!

Then there were the four live wires buried in the walls of the kitchen and back room. Most had wire nuts, at least. One was just above the former header between the two rooms. I say former because the right side of the header had been cut off from its supporting beams. The header in the wall between where two different roofs met was not a header anymore, and it had a live wire just above the wood beam. Oh - of course this is where we had the leak before we hired a roofer to reflash the area and add snow and ice shield. The roofer found there was no roofing felt under the shingles - only the wood roof decking.

Another roofer found that there were three layers of shingles on the front of the house, and the bottom layer was cedar shakes, he thinks. I guess a half layer on the back and three on the front averages out to about two layers overall - do you think the building inspector would buy that?

That front porch had four steps, none of which were the same height as any of the others. The ranged from 7- something inches to over 9 inches. The steps between the kitchen and the adjoining sunroom were 9.5, 11, and 10 inches.

We moved and now have that house up for sale. In our new house we learned how walking shoeless will help you feel the difference in textures and heights between rooms. We can feel a definite difference where the two hallways meet. Of course, since we are not in Alaska, we did not discover this until we owned the house. We know it had problems with the living room/foyer/laundry room/garage slab foundation, but we also have a certificate showing it was fixed. We are hoping the lumpy carpet is a difference in the padding underneath!

    Bookmark   June 8, 2006 at 10:34PM
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chiefneil: LOL and holy crap!!

I think I will never buy a new construction house.

Hope you're at least free of leaks now and have electricity.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2006 at 12:21PM
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cheifneil has the *funniest* link! He certainly knows how to cope -- with humor! I especially like the points where he triumphs over something and writes that he's "feeling manly", and when he escapes "Death by Treadmill".

Thanks, Chief! (Him Mighty Chief.)

    Bookmark   June 9, 2006 at 1:53PM
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Bad surprises:

1) Old plumbing doesn't like new things. Like those good paper party napkins. Our first Xmas in the house we hosted a huge party (about 30 people) and someone flushed their food napkin down the toilet. At the end of the party we went down to the basement to put away some things and found the basement flooded because the napkin got stuck in the pipes. We now have signs in every bathroom urging them to flush ONLY toilet paper.
2) Acorns and oak trees. Had I known that every year the two oaks in the backyard would dump tens of thousands of leaves and tens of thousands of acorns I might have found another house with only deciduous trees. As it is we've learned our lesson - our house in SC will ONLY have deciduous trees in the yard.
3) Small garages. Our house was built 70 years ago, and our garage is SMALL. It barely fit our Toyota Corolla and when we upgraded to larger cars because we had kids we turned out garage into a storage-only area and parked in the driveway, which is a pain in spring with pollen and winter with snow. Oh, and autumn with acorns. And summer with heat.

Good surprises:

1) Just how big our walk-in closet was. That thing looks small but it holds a LOT of stuff.
2) Just how bright the bathroom skylight is. It's a great way to wake up and the perfect light to put on makeup by.
3) How warm the sunroom gets in the afternoon. It became the main place for our kitties and dog to hang out on nice days.
4) FANTASTIC neighbors that can't be replaced.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2006 at 3:26PM
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I think I'm the only one on these boards who is not much of a gardener. I thought oaks were deciduous. If not, how are they classified?

    Bookmark   June 10, 2006 at 8:21AM
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Carpenter bee problem affecting the entire wide overhang around three sides of the house that is faced with wood siding. Inspector noticed it, but the fix they did was not at all effective. We had to have the whole thing painted a few months after we moved in (~$2000).

On one side of the house, our house is so close to the neighbors' that we have to keep the blinds closed almost all the time. It happens to be the south side, so there goes the best natural light. They also keep their garbage cans just below our bedroom window (one story down), so it looks ugly, and we are awakened by the occasional raccoon sorting through their trash.

Kitchen (original cabinets) was really badly laid out, and the dishwasher, though new, was very noisy. We ended up redoing it within the first year we were here.

The house tends to be dark, because of the aforementioned overhang.

The living room is a good size and, we thought, the perfect place for the piano. It has turned out that because the layout of the main floor is so open, it's not a good place to practice so I rarely played the piano after we moved in until we finished off part of the garage as a music studio.

The rec room in one corner of the basement floods in sudden very, very heavy rains. Whenever it happens, we have to pull back the carpet and pad to let everything dry out. It seems to be a grading and drainage problem. We haven't fixed it yet; just moved everything heavy out of that area of the room and put a dehumidifier in there.


House is built like a tank.

It stays cool in the summer with very little use of the air conditioning.

The street has a lot of wonderful neighbors, including some pretty good musicians; we have put together a little group that plays together regularly. There are also block parties, and everyone knows everyone else. People take good care of their houses, kids, and pets. Children on the street all play together happily.

The house is now worth 100%+ more than it did when we bought it! We thought we had overpaid because it was then the highest price of a house sold on this street.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2006 at 9:41AM
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Susajn wrote: I think I'm the only one on these boards who is not much of a gardener. I thought oaks were deciduous. If not, how are they classified?

Nope, you're not the only one. I'm skeered to go over to the garden forums.
But I DO know that oaks are a kind of deciduous tree. Maybe the OP meant she wants only evergreen trees from now on?

Here is a link that might be useful: Oak trees

    Bookmark   June 10, 2006 at 9:41AM
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We have found almost all good things & love the house even more than when we bought it! The house was built iin 1963 and the previous owners had neglected it a little, but we saw through that. Here are some things that we found:

Sprinkler system that actually works
Laundry shoot (always wanted one and we got it without knowing it)
Lit light switches (great at night when you are fumbling in the dark)
Outdoor phone jack
Lots of house bibs for water hookup
A view far more beautiful than we thought
A wonderful yard layout
Wildlife galore (we are in a suburb, but have a greenspace)
Fantastic heating system
A school yard jungle gym overgrown with ivy (in what we call the back 50)
Concrete urns left behind our fence, but still on our property in a greenspace we own
When we bought the house I thought we would have to completely gut the kitchen and reconfigure it, but now I have discovered it is the most well laid out kitchen and I have began to have a passion for cooking

We also found out that the owners before the ones we bought from are people that we know. He was my high school VP and still works in the district I teach in. I found his initals and his daughters intials around the house and remembered he had lived on this street. Come to find out he lived in our house. It has been great because I email him with questions we have!

    Bookmark   June 10, 2006 at 4:10PM
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In '97, 6 mos after we moved in the oil tank
in the basement had a small leak.
Had the tank emptied & replaced.

My DH found so many things were "mickey-moused"
& he had to redo.

I don't know the home inspector could've
missed so many things! argh!

    Bookmark   June 11, 2006 at 12:19PM
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"Laundry shoot"

What does it use for a bullet trap?
And isn't that a little hard on the laundry?

Unless you mean a chute?

    Bookmark   June 11, 2006 at 2:58PM
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I dunno...I've been tempted to shoot my laundry before. If I thought it would help, I would!

I hate laundry

    Bookmark   June 11, 2006 at 4:12PM
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chiefneil- you've just got to love a man with a sense of humor! What a hoot. Thanks for starting my Monday off with a laugh.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2006 at 9:58AM
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DECIDUOUS - Shedding or losing foliage at the end of the growing season: deciduous trees.

Chiefneil - Thank goodness for your sense of humor!!

    Bookmark   June 12, 2006 at 10:52AM
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I think laundry shoot is what you do when you've gained a little weight and are mad at your clothes for being tight. Sounds like fun.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2006 at 12:17PM
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Ha, glad you guys enjoyed the story of my trials and tribulations. Things settled down for a while so I stopped the diary, but then we had more stuff happen. Another big leak that probably cost our builder 10k to repair. Our very fun landscaping/pool crew who'd show up at 6am every morning for three months and turn on their salsa music outisde my bedroom window, several more repair attempts on the leaking French doors, me getting on a first name basis with the builder's plumber and painter with all the trips they made, finding various HVAC stuff that was never installed. Boy, seeing that list makes me thing I should go back and update the old diary!

    Bookmark   June 12, 2006 at 4:49PM
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Hope it's not too late to add to this. About a week after we moved in we noticed that there was some plywood nailed to the wall of the garage. It was painted the same color as the wall so we didn't notice it before buying. DH pried it loose and voila! The wall was falling apart. There was major league water damage. Had to have that whole side of the garage rebuilt. Cost $2k Very nasty surprise!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Bookmark   June 18, 2006 at 3:32PM
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OH, the surprises we found from the 2 previous owner's "improvements" to our 85 year old house! I can't even go into all of them... its like a never ending story. I call it the "Frankenstein" house, each owner put their own creative energy (95% of which has not been good) on the original house. We are STILL finding NEW ones after almost 9 years of living in the house.
BUT, I'll share 3 of them. (sorry the 1st one is LONG!)

#1- When we looked at the house, we saw that sellers were using the downstairs room as a master bedroom. Not only would my bedroom furniture NOT fit in there, but I wasn't super comfortable with my 3 year old and 6 month old sleeping upstairs while my DH and I were down. We decided we would have one of the 3 upstairs bedrooms, which were all really good sized. As we are moving our furniture into the house, we realized that the majority of DH and I's bedroom furniture would not go up the stairs to the 2nd floor--that was our fault for not measuring, I know. The stairs come down about 36 inches from the far wall in our kitchen and 2 walls on the steps all the way upstairs. . We didn't even THINK about it being a problem & it wouldn't have been if the stairs didn't have walls on 2 of the 3 sides. We even removed 3 steps and STILL couldn't get our box springs up. So the room we had really wanted to become ours upstairs was to become a toyroom.
My DH's Step-dad was a previous owner of the house (like 25 plus years before, and at LEAST 2 owners previous to us). He told us that there used to be a door on the 2nd story going outside to an upstairs deck (which no longer existed), and it came out above the garage that one of the 2 owners between us had built . Ok, Fast forward 8 years.... we had to have our roof on the main part of the house torn off and have ALL of the wood in the roof replaced (this was due to another surprise left by the PO that I will not go into today) There were 4 layers of shingles on 1 part, with the bottom layer being wood shakes. Our contractors ended up putting his foot through the area of ceiling right next to where the door had previously been and put a hole in the top corner of the wall in the same area. We decided to have them just tear off the drywall in that spot & replace it. In doing so we find that when the PO closed up the door, they had put a piece of bead boarded wainscot on the OUTSIDE before putting the siding up. AND to top THAT off, the beadboard was not properly connected, being that there was only one nail at the bottom holding it to a stud. I don't know HOW it stayed on there for those 8 years.

#2 The day we moved in, we noticed an odd smell, not offensive at first, but it grew worse and worse as the week went on & we couldn't figure out WHERE it was coming from. We lived with it for about a week & then I made my husband go into our itsy-bitsy crawl space (he has to swirm like a worm to get through more than 80% of it) after we finally pinpointed the stench. Turns out the previous owners had "hooked up" a new garbage disposal and didn't actually hook it up to anything. All of the junk they had ground up the last week or so that they lived there AND the stuff we had ground up had ended up just there.... ON THE GROUND!
It was emptying into the crawl space and had never been hooked to the plumbing! EWWW!!

#3 When we bought the house, we were told that the 1/2 bathroom and laundry room were new additions to the garage addition of the house. These two rooms were about a foot of the garage floor. The bathroom had dark brown carpet; carpet for a bathroom wasn't ideal in my mind, but their additional gained us an extra bathroom...couldn't be too choosey. About a week after moving in, the back part of the floor under the toilet was wet, and being that the carpet was dark, we had not seen the problem. We assumed it was the wax ring from where the carpet was wet. SO, my husband tears off toilet and we find that these idiots had not used a wax ring, used a bunch of rags instead AND had used OSB as the subfloor(if that is the stuff that turns to mush when it gets wet) so, the floor under and behind the toilet was turning to mush. So in replacing the WHOLE subfloor, we find that the studs used on this side of their LOVELY addition were almost 2 inches off level from one side of the room to the other. We assume this addition was created with the help of MASSIVE amounts of beer and whiskey.

OH, I could go on with the MANY things that we have found... all bad might I add, but I would fill this thread!!! The combination of the 2 PO names has become a "put down" in our house... when you do something stupid you have "pulled a Walker-Smith". (Their last name has been changed in this case to protect the stupid, hehehe)


    Bookmark   June 19, 2006 at 1:56PM
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Good surprises:
- Fantastic sunsets and lots of light all day long
- Quiet neighborhood - we're talkin' suburban quiet, and I'm in NYC
- Great sound/acoustics - the long layout of our apartment means the BRs are totally separated from the living areas, and I really can't hear a thing if I'm in bed and my husband has the living-room TV on late at night
- How long we've stayed - we purchased this co-op as a 3-5-year apartment and have been here for 7+ years

- Previous owner (not the seller) was a DIY'er on home improvement and cut some serious corners when redoing the kitchen plumbing
- There are also some electrical shortcuts done by the previous owner - master BR overhead light does not always work, light panels in kitchen and dining room get hot to the touch
- Water pressure is poor in the master bath - fine for toilet and sink but the shower/bath is pretty feeble
- It took some ridiculous number of coats of primer to cover the deep eggplant purple paint in the foyer

    Bookmark   June 19, 2006 at 3:53PM
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When I moved to Florida that was the worst house ever in a dumpy neighborhood in a dumpy town. I could have never imagined the problems I was about to have...
I made a list of over 100 things I simply hated about that house but the most humorous are as follows.

The day after I moved in I noticed the AC drain pipe had leaked out on the floor creating an $11,000 mold problem that the builder who was a one man sleazeball refused to fix. Luckily the insurance paid it. Servepro had to come out and dry the carpet and specialists were actually flown in from distant lands to sample the air.

Unbeknownst to me, because the facility was hidden by trees and not disclosed, that 2 blocks away there was a sewage treatment plant that STUNK to high heavens just about all of the time. At first I thought it was a canal but then the neighbors told me. It was unbearable!

I also discovered there was a garbage dump 2 miles away and an orange juice factory or whatever and both of which also stunk.

As if it wasn't hard enough the breathe, the county sent out trucks to gas us to death with pesticides to kill mosquitos which was especially unpleasant if you happened to be outside at the time or didn't have power due to hurricanes.

There was a large window in the master shower that had frosted glass. It was on a corner lot and I later discovered that you can see a very clear silouette in the shower at night when the lights were on. Couldn't put up blinds because it was all tiled.

Discovered there was no medicine cabinet. What?!

The neighbors all turned out to be low rent scum of the earth, almost the entire neighborhood was on disability and tripped & fell for a living and the other neighbors were in the pharmeceuticals industry and I don't mean the ones you buy at Eckerds.

I noticed that every fixture in the house from the lamps to the toilet seat was bought at home depot and everything was the cheapest possible thing.

The day before a hurricane was due to hit, I noticed that the anchors in the wall for the hurricane shutters were falling out of the wall and couldn't put up most of the shutters. And the ones that did go up blew down.

What a disaster. That's what happens when you look at a bunch of houses that all look alike then spend 20 minutes before you get bored and say OK it'll do and then go back to your home state.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2006 at 4:14PM
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Oh yeah... One moving day, SURPRISE!! the SOFA wouldn't fit through the substandard-sized front door or sliding patio doors. Even with the door taken off. Luckily it fit through a window!!

    Bookmark   June 19, 2006 at 4:17PM
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My old neighbors found ever thing the PO fixed was done with dental floss. Who knew it could be so useful??

    Bookmark   June 21, 2006 at 1:03PM
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I didn't know about dental floss but there isn't much you can't fix with toothpaste. Cracks in concrete or stucco magically disappear with a gentle rubbing of toothpaste. At least until the ants eat it.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2006 at 1:20PM
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when all else fails there's always duct tape!

    Bookmark   June 21, 2006 at 10:14PM
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I am new to this forum and not sure if anyone will see this post, however, I just have to applaud chiefneil for the funnniest diary entries I have ever read. The tears of laughter were actually running down my face. Thanks for the humor!

    Bookmark   July 5, 2006 at 12:01AM
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First house we bought (major starter home, very cheap) after moving in I realized the back door knob was installed backwards! You could push the door open but you had to turn the knob to get it shut. LOL.

Best suprise though, was how much money we made on the place once we fixed it up nice and resold it later.:-)

    Bookmark   September 21, 2006 at 1:20PM
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It has been one year now in the new home and we are finally finished fixing all the lovely things the PO conveniently forgot to mention (or perhaps was blind enough to live with). We fix things the right way. Shame others can't do the same!

    Bookmark   September 21, 2006 at 2:36PM
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Found my family room's ceiling framed with 2 by 4s!!!

    Bookmark   September 21, 2006 at 6:37PM
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Not that much. After tearing down old drywall I found a lot of drywall scraps inside the walls - guess it was easier than doing a proper cleanup. Also after ripping off 4 ruined stair treads I found a 7-11 coffee cup and a peach pit underneath; the remains of a long-ago lunch break.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2007 at 11:32AM
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What follows is pretty icky, so feel free to skip.

While putting new carpet in my daughters upstairs bedroom, that had previous been occupied by a 14 year old boy, my husband happened to look into the vent that was uncovered and saw some porn. OK not so bad, but we still got the rubber gloves. After removing the porn mags, he could see that there was other stuff in there, way too far down to reach, so he gets the shop vac and comes out with condoms(so ewww), handcuffs, some whip thing, lingerie, and a pregnancy test. There was so much stuff down there that there was no way this kid was getting any heat, but then with what he was up to maybe he didn't need any.

Good things about the house:
Built way better than we expected. We found out later that a reputable builder had built the house as his residence. Love him so much. Though the house was tacky as could be, it is built like a tank.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2007 at 1:33PM
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"Another thing we didn't notice is that our master bath window lines up exactly with the neighbour's master bath window so privacy is an issue. We have to keep the blinds closed at all times."
I had the privacy problem in my master bath, big windows facing a walk street, with the blinds closed the rooms was dark. I had a window shop glue (clear silicone)obscure glass to my existing window. Now I have no window covering and a bright bathroom. BTW, that bath had no door either, also missed that on previous visits, but we added double doors that look nice.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2007 at 1:44PM
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2 houses ago....

Moving day (GOOD): Oh, these are walk-in closets? How did I buy a house without sliding open the mirrored closet doors to reveal his'n'hers walk-in closets? Just assumed there was a long bar behind them. They are along one wall in the bathroom.

1st night in new house (GOOD): It's so quiet! Even though we live in view of a military airfield.

1st morning in new house (BAD): 5am. GOOD MORNING!!! THE SUN IS UP NOW!!! The sunroom-like glass wall in bathroom allows the full rising sun in to reflect on the full-wall-length over-double sink mirror and triple-door mirrored closet to send what seems stronger than a direct sunlight beam through the doorway (with no door) straight into our bedroom on the "bed" wall. Nobody can sleep with this. Ended up using an adjustable shower rod and hanging a thick curtain to use as a "door". Didn't cover the opening above the door, but not much light up there.

2nd night (BAD): Laying in bed, staring at that square-ish opening over the bathroom doorway, only it's not square. Drives my DH crazy for the next two years in the house, that the builder didn't take time to square it.

1st week (BAD): This is the stupidest kitchen design ever. I have to walk back and forth along the galley-style kitchen numerous times to cook and serve a meal.

1st summer (BAD): Afternoon sun comes in through giant upper windows on SW side of house (vaulted ceilings in CA house). A/C can't keep up with the heat pumping in. Probably need to put tinting on those windows but then we lose the warmth during the winter. DH decides to built storage area under stairway landing, next to big HVAC return "duct" (back of storage area wall adjoins to garage). Notices that black builder paper has torn up just a bit there on that back wall and is fluttering. Pulls it up a bit and WHOOSH! all the air sucks out, dust flying, because the HVAC return has been blocked all these years due to builder failing to cut away the paper. Suddenly, A/C problem is fixed.
Talking to neighbor next door, the side next to the compressor. He says, no wonder he could always hear that the compressor was always running nonstop during the summer. Conversation overhead by another neighbor with identical floor plan. They've had their HVAC system checked repeatedly and replaced twice - now we've solved their riddle as well.

Isn't this the fun part of moving into a new house? Finding all the surprises?
Thanks to the military, I get to do this every two-three years!

    Bookmark   March 1, 2007 at 3:01PM
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Previous owners had a major infestation of Indian Meal Moths in the kitchen that they never took care of. We discovered we had a major problem a few days after possession when we removed the dropped ceiling panels in the kitchen that revealed thousands of larva hiding under the lights. UGH!!! Gross. Took three months to finally get rid of them, then was able to unpack my kitchen.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2007 at 11:44PM
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Chiefneil, you MUST continue the saga! I'm dying to know what happens next!

    Bookmark   March 2, 2007 at 11:28AM
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Homemade crackpipe the cat grabbed from behind a wood stove!

    Bookmark   March 2, 2007 at 3:35PM
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Thanks peppermill! I keep meaning to go back and update the diary, but just haven't gotten around to it yet.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2007 at 4:03PM
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Sorry to revive this nearly dead post but I couldn't resist. THis is both a fascinating thread and useful to others.

Here are some of the things I discovered after moving in. I was a first time homeowner so oblivious to all of this:

1) Sewer backup the first weekend there. Luckily the water was clear water from the long relaxing soak I was attempting to indulge in. It broke through a poorly fited wax ring. Water company said it was my problem so I got an emergency plumber to snake the thing and put the toilet back together. Plumber tells me that the blockage was most likely beyond my yard. Ends up it was the water company's problem (WSSC), but they were backing up their computers the 15 minutes I called. They later reimbursed me and separated the double I shared with my neighbor. Ends up this had happened before but PO didn't disclose --- she had also poisoned 4 large privacy trees of the neighbor as she blamed those roots for the problem.

2) Didn't realize that the exterior of the house was partially sided with newer vinyl, while some still was the original shingles. Sort of a staggered effect as you circle the house.

3) Didn't figure out until later that the yard was horribly overplanted, overgrown, and badly landscaped. Took out hundreds of plants over the years, and this is only 1/5 of an acre. 8 years later, I'm still digging up bricks and borders which have been buried everywhere.

4) Found out after moving in that the front door was an extremely cheap, hollow wood interior door! And this in an iffy neighborhood. My protective Dad got a sturdy metal front door that his handyman replaced for me pretty quickly.

But the PO did some really great things to the house too, such as a very well-executed bedroom bump-out, and due to the area (DC) it has tripled in value.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2007 at 1:01AM
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Some of these were funny, many posts were extremely helpful to home buyers, I felt this was worth bumping up.

Will post a few things we came across...

Great: We loved the location of the house because on one side we had protected farmland, and directly across the street was another farm. Neighbors on other side kept their house beautifully-yet we were far enough away from them to have privacy.

Not so great-neighbor behind me is wacky. Walks over to my house the first weekend we are out enjoying the yard to tell us to "make sure my kids dont step foot in her yard, because she doesnt need us suing her when they fall and get hurt" -we let her know that she needn't worry-we just decided to install a very tall privacy fence...

Bad-Turns out that there were deed restrictions (not listed on OUR deed, but listed on the first deed to the property 26 years ago that the only kind of fence that could be placed on property is a 4 foot or under split rail. Oh well-we put up the split rail with chicken wire covering all openings, and planted clems and roses so we could block as much of the neighbor from hell behind us....

More bad-Farm across the street was just sold to developer. Farm is now becoming a townhouse development for a 55 and over community.

Worse-Between the farm next to us, and the work being done across the street-we have been overrun by ticks this year...(both deer ticks and Texas lone star ticks-so we have the threats of both Lyme disease, and Rocky mountain spotted fever)2 exterminators and 4 treatments later, they are under control-and my wishes for another organic garden are not to be.

When Spring finally arrived, we discovered that the central air conditioning unit that couldn't be tested in December by our inspector because it was too cold outside does not work. For now, the repair company bypassed a safety switch to get it working. The switch doesnt affect our physical safety-it is for the safety of the unit. If there is a surge, there is nothing protecting the unit.

The good news was, when Spring arrived, we also found out there is a yard full of beautiful plants and flowers. Many of which I was planning on planting in the very same spots!

Thats all I can think of right now-we just moved in 6 months ago, I am sure there will be plenty os surprises in the future.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2007 at 10:14AM
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Fun to see this thread again!

DS's first house proved "interesting". By way of background: The POs had been foster parents for Catholic Charities. He owned a glass shop.

The back BR had a glass door and heavy duty lock. Before DS could paint that room (and replace the door), he had to tear out the two exterior walls (no insulation). Within one wall was stuffed multiple pairs of boys undershorts. Bedwetter? Locked in and no facilities?

When we viewed the house I thought the wife was ill -- thin and bleary. The house had a strange (to me) "odor". After DS moved in he discovered the water heater, which was in the attached garage, was unvented. Neighbors confirmed that PO grew weed. Summers he set the pots in the gutters at the rear of the house. Winters the pots went into the garage under sunlamps.

The house had two "skylights". Tree limbs had fallen on the LR roof and rather than repair the roof, Mr. Glass inserted two plain sheets of glass! His BIL "re-wired" the kitchen -- with extension cords strung through the walls. Wifey had carefully painted all the mortar on the exterior brick

The furnace was shot. HI asked owner about it. Oh, they'd had little money early on and had converted it to burn wood.

I can't imagine why that house hadn't burned down, much less how these people could have been licensed foster parents.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2007 at 11:15AM
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The 1950s ranch we bought in 1971 yielded some surprises. The first owner had been removed from the master bathroom by paramedics. She'd locked herself in with a hammer and had pretty well demolished the ceramic tile, looking for the "voices" in the walls. She'd already had an electrician relocate most of the light switches in the house. (You had to cross to the north end to turn on an overhead light in the south end of a room.)

The FR was paneled in pecky cypress. One wall was false, concealing a three-inch deep recess about six feet square.

When we replaced the HVAC the workers got a late start one day and were to return the following moring. DS and a friend poked around at the old furnace and came up with several oversized twenty-dollar bills dating from the 1920s that had been stuck into the furnace framing. The attic over the garage was filled with sacks of wood turnings.

There was a worn path circling the rear of the house, a puzzle until we realized it had been created by our seller's German Shepard who was following the family as they moved from room to room. Same huge dog surprised us on our initial tour: We opened the master closet door to find him curled protectively around Mom Cat and her kits. (This is the house where we insisted that the "full carpeting included" mentioned in the listing would have to be removed before we closed.)

The house had triple sliders between the LR and the FR (formerly the patio). Two graveled "garden beds" flanked the doorway slider. When we removed the side glass panels and floored the area we discovered that under the "garden beds" was merely...dirt! Although the FR had been connected to the gas forced air heating suply, there were no cold air returns. The PO had installed electric floor heating panels. Imagine our surprise at the first cold month's electric bill!

After we spent 30 years getting that place shipshape (all new windows, insulation -- there was none -- etc.) we sold to a couple who tore the house down. Why didn't we think of that?

    Bookmark   June 12, 2007 at 11:39AM
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the 2 nicest ceiling fans removed and replaced with 'cheap' ones. Wall paper in one bath hung so pattern didn't match. One strip of wall paper in other bath hung upside down. Brick paver floor installed by PO not sealed and not level either. Only tree in back yard dying. New dishwasher (cheap) not properly installed so one drawer won't open unless dishwasher door open, plus gasket lets water 'spit' up toward laminate counter top. New (cheap) disposer. Colorful flowers (curb appeal) sitting in the plastic pots they came in instead of being planted in ground. All these 'upgrades' were done so 'the house will be just the way we want it if it doesn't sell'.

I painted the bathrooms, replaced the fans with nicer ones, cut down the dying tree, have planted tons of plants (evidently NONE of the previous owners were yard people), replaced the dishwasher, disposer, countertops, faucet, range. Still have not sealed the floors - will clean them and seal next Spring before we go on the market. We added a huge covered deck, replaced all the fences, replaced all the exterior wood, added gutters across the front, new garage doors, new A/C, new central heat, replaced the main bath flooring, toilet, counter top & cabinet. Added mirrored med. cab in master bath.

I think that about covers everything we have done.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2007 at 10:44PM
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Been in the house almost 3 weeks and just found out that the seller failed to disclose an ongoing severe plumbing problem (fixing it would be $10k or more). The good thing is that the very plumber we called has been to the house at least 6 times in the last two years and has offered to testify if we need to sue.

Rock band next door that practices daily and loudly. They are nice guys though and have since moved practice from the garage to their basement.

There are maybe 8 light switches in the kitchen, controlling different sets of lights. You never can be sure what you'll turn off or on as it seems to depend on the postion of the other switches.

Our house served as temporary offices for a bank so there are lots of telephone lines coming in and running throughout the house...but when it came time to getting us hooked up we found out that they were all cut and we actually had no working lines at all.

Lots of wild strawberries in the back yard as well as a very cute family of squirrels.

Pleasantly surprised to find that our old windows are actually a standard width and we could buy Target blinds online to perfectly fit them all.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2007 at 11:55PM
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This didn't happen to me, but to our friend. But it is a great story. His parents bought a 1930's mediterrean home in Stamford, CT. This was probably around the early 70's. Beautiful home on several acres with lush, overgrown grounds. When cleaning up the grounds, they discovered a gunnite pool. The pool was covered with a cover and years of growth on the cover. The pool is stunning; oversized and built to last for ever. It was empty. They did a little work on it and enjoy it still.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2007 at 9:31AM
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Jojoco: ...."they discovered a gunnite pool."

What is a "gunnite" pool? I have never heard of the word "gunnite." What does this mean?

    Bookmark   June 13, 2007 at 9:37AM
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Gunite is a form of concrete.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2007 at 10:03AM
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A cee-ment pond?

    Bookmark   June 13, 2007 at 3:30PM
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Ok, I have to post on here - usually just lurk. A year or so after we moved in here we discovered that the PO had installed paneling over a window in the room off the living room, but left the window on the outside. There was the windowframe, glass, even an old venetian blind inside, all appearing on the outside wall of the house, but when you entered that room, you just saw a paneled wall - they had taken the trim off in order to install the paneling, evidently. My DH's step-brother (finish-carpenter hired by us) noticed this, when he was working on re-installing French doors in the wall of this room leading out to the living room. They needed to use this room as a bedroom, and took out the original F. doors, hauled them to the dump, and plastered in the doorway. We knew this when we bought this house, just never noticed the "window" outside. We've lived here 20+ years now, and pretty much done over the whole house bit by bit, but the stairs going up to our bedroom are scary, steep and curving - some treads narrow down to nothing, so we're thinking as we age, we may want to look for something all on one level, but after reading the threads on this forum, I'm almost afraid to move. Oh, yeah - we found out after we moved in also, when the new bedroom furniture was delivered, that the Queen box springs would not go up those stairs without removing the door frame and a very hefty heave by two men through the doorway! We plan on just leaving the bedroom set up there if we do move. Did I mention the mystery light switch in the kitchen? (House is about 80 years old, and I love it, but it has been interesting).

    Bookmark   June 13, 2007 at 4:44PM
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All the real bad stuff (like the old roof and a practically non-functional, borderline dangerous water heater) was found at our inspection. Our worst surprise was the unsupported A/C drain pan in the attic. One day I came home to water dripping through the ceiling (2 story living area). The main line clogged and the drain pan was tilting so the water didn't siphon out through the emergency drain. We're lucky the pan didn't crash through the ceiling! I was ticked that the inspector didn't find this in their 30-page report. I still haven't fixed the paint. We also had to get the pipes under the sink reconfigured as they barely touched and I think the vibration from the garbage disposal shook them apart and caused some leaking. We had plumbers in our house 3 times the first month (1 was planned, for the water heater replacement).

    Bookmark   June 13, 2007 at 10:17PM
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I forgot to note a nice surprise. My favorite room upstairs has a bay window and I chose it for our bedroom because the light is so pretty. It wasn't until I was lying on the bed though, that I realized the room is actually an octagon. The doorway and closet are also on angled walls mirroring the bay.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2007 at 12:23PM
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Not exactly our discovery but would have been very weird to come across on our own.

We are currently only renting an 80+ year old home as we are trying to sell our home out of state. There is a huge'60 or'70's addition on the back of the house with dark wood paneling all around. There are some low light switches in that room and very low outlets, just skimming the floor. There are also some metal handrails in weird low positions. There is a full basement underneath but when you walked across the floor upstairs it sounded hollow.

One day the PO who lived here 30 year (actually it was their kids as the parents had passed away, one aprox 1.5 yr ago) came to pick up some things from the basement. They explained that originally it was a sunken living room. When their mom lost her legs to diabetes they just raised the the floor level with the kitchen. The red shag carpet is still under there, and who knows what else! Since we had ripped out all the other shag carpet in the house and the fuzzy wallpaper because of my allergies I was a bit scared. So far no problems though.

The house will probably just be torn down because the land is going to be developed for an industrial park. So sad too because the house is a 1920's Craftsman with some really neat wood built-ins and wood features. It would be neat to redo but it would need to be moved too.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2007 at 6:05PM
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Cheifneil, you MUST write a book! My apologies for laughing so hard at your blog, but .....

    Bookmark   June 17, 2007 at 7:26PM
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Thanks palomalou! I just re-read it and I still find it hard to believe what I went through. I had several more "adventures" with the new house that I keep telling myself I should go put in an updated blog.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2007 at 11:57AM
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One funny thing I just discovered yesterday...

We've been in our new house under two months, and have been enjoying our huge back yard that extends way beyond the fenced, lawn area. Our neighbors on either side keep beautifully maintained rolling lawns with meticulously kept ornamentals.
But one next door neighbor has maybe twenty feet of really deep oak leaves running the entire length of the fence line. We never could figure out why he kept such a perfect property but left great heaps of leaves laying along that one area.

By now you've guessed it- the oak leaves are ours. As is the stand of giant oaks that produce them. Our previous owner installed a six foot chain link fence to enclose the back yard but it isn't anywhere near the actual property lines. As we never had the property surveyed when we purchased it we assumed the fence line equalled the property line as is common. We have twenty feet on one side and almost ten on the other side that we are responsible for. It will be a giant pain to have to go outside the gate and around the sides with a mower, weed eater, etc., and the rear lawn is over an acre as it was.

It's nice to have the additional property but it would have been ever so much nicer to have it inside our own yard!!

    Bookmark   June 18, 2007 at 11:59AM
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Oh please keep this thread going. It is good to know that I was not the only one taken by the previous owners and stuck with a real big fixer upper.

Mine started right after I moved in. July 2001. I noticed that there was always water standing on the floor after taking a shower. I thought ok I will chaulk around tub. That did not work. I kept trying things that I though would fix the problem, but still water on floor. I then went down in the crawl space to look at floor of bathroom. Well to my surprise it was all rotten. They had tried it, seemed, to fix floor but did not put the floor under tub. So tub was leaning inward of the room. So all water just flowed to the floor. Bathroom had to be gutted and floor beams replaced due to rot.Also I found that the window sill in the master bedroom was rotten with a huge hole in sill. I filled with foam to try and keep air out but still I could watch the wind blow the curtain even with plastic over the windows. . Well the next year we found out why. The spare bedroom was so cold and the master was windy. That hole side of the house was eaten up by termites. The spare bedroom out side wall was not even attached to the support beam anymore.You could move it back and forth. You could see from the crawl space that they jerry rigged it to hold the house shingles on.
That entailed us getting jacks and jacking up the house on that end and replacing 10x12 support beam and 2x4's up wall. That explained why the house was so cold and my power bill so high.
I also had found covered up switch plates that had live wires in them, but did not know where these wires went or what they controlled.
Dh went to replace the ceiling fan in kitchen and found that they had used that junction box for everything even the next 2 bedrooms. So many wires attached in one area.
Then we had a huge hole cave in and found out that is where the old septic tank was and instead fo getting a contractor to fill it, according to the neighbors, they decided to fill them selves with anything they could find.
They had also blocked off the attic vent with cardboard, that I cannot understand why.
Reading these posts you wonder why we even get home inspections. I feel now that it is just a money maker scheme. And how they can get away with signing the disclouser form , which I thought we a legal document, and not be held accountable for the damage that was there when they sold the house.
Thanbks for letting me vent.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2008 at 12:07PM
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Our issues were mild compared to some of these stories. While getting our home inspected, which was a good inspection, it was discovered that:

1) The roofers had attached cheap vinyl dryer-vent tubing to the bathroom fans, but that only one of the two fans actually had a vent on the roof. The second fan's tubing had been duct taped to the underside of the roof. No hole there, just taped up to look like there was. Lame roofers.

2) Apparently when the house was built, the dryer vent was run perpendicular to the solid floor joists. This meant that each joist through half the house had a hole in it which was conveniently placed in the center of the joist width and right under the kitchen cabinets. Dumb.

3) Hollow sounding tiles in the master bath were noted by the inspector. Before ever using the shower I took out one tile...only to find that the drywall that used to be behind the tile had disintegrated. A slow leak from the shower valve had ruined that drywall. This bathroom sat for over a year before I gutted it to the studs. I'm now waiting for a plumber to adjust and repair some plumbing so I can rebuild with a huge (tub-size) shower.

After we bought the house I discovered more tidbits.

1) Top of the fireplace chimney was not re-surfaced (tar) when the roof was replaced. This meant water would drip onto the top side of the fireplace. Awesome.

2) The roof job that's now three years old garnered this comment from the person who repaired the chimney top, "I hope you didn't pay for that roof." Another awesome deal. Crooked rows of shingles that disappear under another row, popped nails, exposed nails, bad collars around the plumbing vents, etc. Nice.

3) Main plumbing waste stack that runs from second floor to crawlspace had a cracked Wye connection in the wall. I had to remove an upper and lower cabinet to find the source of the problem. Any use of upstairs plumbing would allow water to dribble into the crawlspace. Built-in waterfall?

The boiler was a frightening sight. It wasn't defective, but poorly designed and chosen. More than twice the BTU load required for this house, kept a temperature of 180F all day, every day and looked like it had been through a war. I was very relieved to have replaced the boiler before we event spent one winter with it.

Now onto insulating the heck out of this place, replacing the windows, painting the exterior and crossing our fingers that the roof doesn't leak.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2008 at 10:54PM
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We just moved in June, and bought a 1.5 story 1940's house. It was not my choice, I had two others I liked better, but it's on a beautiful lot with a river running across the back, and DH pays the mortgage and it's what he wanted, so here we are. We have ripped out six walls and reframed, roughed in a bathroom, installed AC, put down new hardwood in open concept kitchen/LR/DR and are still working on carpet, drywall, paint and other misc things. Work in progress, and DH is being really slow about it too. Bad things we've found: leak in basement plumbing after two weeks here, mold on basement floor under couch, wood chips used as insulation in walls and ceilings (we're screwed if there's ever a fire!), leaking dishwasher and no trap on the kitchen sink. Good things are that the PO's left washer and dryer even though they weren't supposed to, they tided us over for a month until our new ones came, and there were some neat things in the walls, like old newspapers and tools. Oh, another bad thing, the walls we wanted to tear out had an old concrete chimney hidden in them that went right up to the roof line, so where we wanted to take out a wall on the main floor, we had to take out one upstairs too all the way up to the roof!

    Bookmark   September 10, 2008 at 11:24AM
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