07 May, 2008

A New Contest! Into Every Life a Little Rain Must Fall...

...but why does it have to collect in our basement?

It looks like a naughty previous owner might have painted over a hairline crack in the foundation with ugly green paint prior to putting the house on the market. And how do I know it was a recent job? Because I clearly remember the agent saying that her uncle refreshed the paint on the basement floors with this very same green paint to help them look cleaner. He probably did the wall at the same time to hide this crack. (I doubt we'd ever be able to prove it was intentional, however.) There are a few other minor hairline cracks we were aware of, but those don't seem to be a problem.

We had a torrential rain come in directly from the north today. We've been checking after each rain for evidence of leaking, and this is the first we've found anything. First rainstorm to come from that exact direction, too, I think. Enough moisture is seeping in that it has bubbled the paint away from the crack, and water is collecting behind the paint on the wall. It's not even the right kind of paint for a basement, either. It's scraping right off with the water. (It used to be solid green; now it's all patchy.) None of our stuff is damaged; everything at floor level is in plastic tubs, and we already knew that water was making its way in around the window above this crack.

*Sigh* Just another thing to add to the to-do list, although I don't think it will be that big a hassle.

So, I'm curious. What cover-up or pending disaster did you uncover only after you closed on a house? To encourage the stories to flow, I'm sponsoring a contest. The funniest story or the one I sympathize with the most wins a prize. It won't be a major award, so don't get all excited on me now. You may enter as many times as you want. Contest ends at noon (Central Time) on Saturday.


Rae said...

In 2003, I rented a mobile house. Less than a year later, I bought it because my payments would be less than rent. I thought I could fix it up to make it cozier since my landlord wasn't big on repairs.

My horror stories over the next three years continue to entertain my friends, family, and colleagues.

Where shall I start? I ripped out the carpet in the living room and discovered a hole 1 foot by 6 inches in the subfloor where I could see right outside. That's right, a hole was covered with just carpet. I found dozens of similar holes throughout the house as I pulled up the old flooring. Some of the them were covered with duct tape.

The plumbing kept me entertained for dozens of weekends. Since there was such a problem with the floor insulation, the pipes would freeze and thaw throughout the winter and burst. I'm not bad at plumbing, but I was dealing with swollen, non-standard 30 year old pipes. I once called my dad at midnight to ask him to come up with a reason why the mechanical auger I'd rented wasn't doing its job in unclogging my toilet. I got so good at removing and reinstalling that toilet that I could do the latter in five minutes flat perfectly.

I spent months without running water in the winter. My last year there, I spent three months with running water only coming into my washing machine. I did everything in my washing machine--wash clothes, wash dishes, wash myself. There was an issue with the drain at a house down the hill (not my problem, remember the landlord wasn't big on repairs) and I had to drain my washing machine out a window. My last month in the house, I had no water whatsoever. I melted snow.

The house was oddly cabled for the phone and the phone company here believes in doing as little work as possible. I'd often find myself trudging outside at 11PM in 20C below weather with a ladder and a screw driver to reestablish my connection (28kbs dial up) to the outside world. I rarely had neighbours in the winter and the nearest payphone was 10 miles away.

Removing layers of wood paneling from the walls exposed mould. Removing layers of insulation from under the tub revealed mummified mice. Turning on the computer, fan, and microwave revealed that the fridge was on the same electrical circuit as half the house.

Ah, those were fun times indeed.

BeccaMarie said...

There were a few things we discovered after closing. Such as the hot water heater broke at some point after the inspection, and that the bathroom and laundry room have absolutely no insulation (we have no idea how they passed inspection). The worst thing was that the PO's stole our barn siding! All the new lumber was there when we did the final walk through the night before we closed, and then gone the next day. When we confronted the PO she offered to sell it back to us, even though we already owned it! We think they felt bad about what they did because they offered to pay for all our utilities for the first month, and even paid for some one to come out and try to fix the water heater. And when it couldn't be fixed they even offered to pay for half of a new one!

We will now have to pay thousands of dollars for the new lumber, but we took full advantage of them paying our bills and left the lights on 24/7 before we moved in and had the heat set at 80!

Anonymous said...

You know how there's always one thing during a sale (or divorce) that turns into a huge, out-of-proportion-to-all-reality bone of contention?

In my case, it was the mini satellite dish mounted on the corner of my roof. I remember it being part of the deal. My agent remembered it being part of the deal. I had papers that said it was part of the deal.

Yet, after assuring me that it would come with the house, the seller's agent turned around and told me it would be going with the POs. But, hey, they would graciously leave me the hanging wine rack (unvarnished wood, available for $2.99 at Pier One) instead. And, oh, by the way, I was crazy to think I was ever promised the satellite dish because they're linked to just one owner. (By super-secret retina identification nanotechnology, no doubt.)

Eh, who cared? I got cable. Then winter came.

It was that thaw/freeze/blizzardy winter nine years ago when it seemed like every home had an ice dam. I'd lived a lifetime in apartments. What did I know about ice dams?

I learned. Oh, how I learned.

The water came in through the roof of the third floor and dripped all the way down, until it puddled on top of my washer in the basement. I learned to sleep with those big blowers running, because I had three floors of wet carpet.

When the insurance people finally sent me a large check, when the disaster company finally finished rehabbing, and when the ice finally melted to the extent that I could ease open the door to my third floor deck, I had a roofer -- incidentally, the most handsome man I've ever seen in real life -- come out to see how the water was getting in.

You guessed it: It was coming in through the holes left when the POs "yanked out" (hottie roofer's words) the satellite dish from the bricks on the side of the building. So it wasn't that they covered up previous water damage... they caused it for me.

Hot young roofer filled the holes with some kind of mortar and I had heating wires installed in the gutters to melt any future ice dams. It hasn't happened again. But I still get mad every time I look at my cheap-ass hanging wine rack.

Amalie said...

Our cover-ups certainly weren't intentional-- as I've mentioned, it was a foreclosure, and I just think that some of the POs did whatever was convenient or available to make it look as good as they could...

So, when we bought the house, Adam was spending a lot of time working on it by himself. He had projects lined up, but he kept getting distracted and I'd get a handful of phone calls during each day letting me know what he'd found, ideas he had, whatever.

Now, the previous owners had cobbled together quite a kitchen-- honey-colored builder grade cabinets, with the gold fleck formica, vertical green and white striped wall paper, a white ceiling fan, a black and white checked floor, and the vinyl fruit themed faux tile backsplash. We were going to remove the flooring (MAYBE), paint the walls, and maybe put in a new countertop. This was the extent of our kitchen plans for the immediate future.

One day I get a phone call from Adam. "So, I decided to see what's under that wallpaper. Guess what it is? Wood paneling." I asked if it was at least knotty pine that we could sell. But no, it was the printed particle board kind.

About an hour later, I get another phone call. "Guess what's under the paneling?" Now mind, Adam is supposed to be working on the fence or the porch or something NOT KITCHEN RELATED. Apparently every time he passed through, he did a little more destruction. Under the paneling was plaster.

Another hour..."So this plaster is in bad shape. It's crumbly and it's been patched with sheetrock."

Another hour..."Guess what's behind the backsplash? The WORST plaster patch job you've ever seen-- worse than the sheetrock!" I swear he said this with glee.

Another hour, and I get this phone call. "Hi. So. How do you feel about a whole new kitchen?"

The bad plaster patch was in fact the exterior walls of the house-- as in, the walls of our house that go around the perimeter are 2 1/2 brick thick with no hollow space. They just had plaster right on top of the brick. No lathe. That's it. It also explained why all our outlets were in the floor, as it was likely the house wasn't built with electricity.

By the time I got to the house, Adam had a pile of plaster in the floor, and was banging on the backsplash with a hammer, saying, "See? It's concrete!" with every ping.

And that started the entire gutting of our kitchen which led to the rewire of the house, which led to a 6 month delay in moving in and several fights with the city over outlets in the floor.

That discovery, my friend, IS the remodeling of our house.

John said...

Our first house was the worst. It was a bank repo. We should have known better.

I'll try to keep the list concise:

1) The reason the floors "rolled" wasn't because the house had settled but because there was no foundation. We thought there were concrete footings under the piers, but we were wrong. They were just sitting on a concrete block burried in the dirt.

2) The carport was originally a living room or den. Our neighbors told us the previous owner had come over one day and asked to borrow their chainsaw. They loaned it to him. Half an hour later they looked out the window in time to see the room's two exterior walls collapsing out into the yard. Instead of bracing the roof with columns, post, etc they used lightweight iron "posts" typically used for small stoops, not 19' x 22' roofs with an attic. Another 6-12 months or one violent storm more and half the roof probably would have collapsed.

3) They plumbed the whole hot water system with PVC. We discovered this after the pipes degrade because to the constant heat, burst and flooded a closet and bedroom.

4) Even though the house was built in 1978, most of the walls had no insulation.

5) All the floor decking was chip board except the bathroom where most of it had turned into a thick, moldy sponge with holes in it.

6) The washing machine drained out a pipe sticking out of the ground behind a storage shed out back.

7) The random wire laying on the ground in the crawl space was live.

8) The electrical system wasn't grounded anywhere. We discovered this when our kitchen stove exploded.

9) A tornado went through the backyard 2 years before we bought the house. A portion of the mobile home it destroyed may or may not have been buried on the back acre (not to be confused with the meth-lab mobile home next door which exploded a few years before that).

10) The reason all the light switches in the second bedroom were at knee level was because it had been built for girl with no arms.

11) The reason the laundry "addition" was so cold in the winter was because there was a huge crack under the door which opened directly into the crawlspace.

12) When the wind blew really hard from the west, it would suck the attic "doors" up into the attic and blow insulation down into the closet.

There may have been more, but I think it has been blocked from my memory; seems like there may have been a roof leak or two.

The best find in the Devil Queen was the 4 feet of an old brick chimney in the hall bath's drop ceiling. They'd apparently torn out a fireplace to add the bathroom. Instead of removing the whole chimney, they only took out the bottom 8 feet. The remaining chimney was balanced on a single 2x4 directly above the toliet.

Jennifer said...

Those are some awesome stories ! Thanks for encouraging them!

No disasters yet.. .crossing fingers. ... though everything is done amatuerishly and crappy. It's taken way longer to demo things than it should, since they used NAILS for EVERYTHING. EVERYTHING. Sigh.

Joanne said...

These are great stories! Keep 'em coming!

Joanne said...

These stories were so much fun to read--I feel kinda bad for chuckling at everyone else's misery, but feel soooo much better about the problems at our own beloved Box House. We're not alone!

But it was so hard to pick a winner for this contest. I mulled it over for days, as each tale of woe had its merits. I wish I could award everyone a prize!

raven, your story of holes in the floor reminded me of my mom's other house, where we found out a hole in the roof had been repaired with tar paper or something similar--not at all sturdy against Chicago rain and snow! (No wonder we had water cascading in.) And what you had to endure with no water--yikes! You should get some sort of medal for that. I'm glad you survived your house horrors.

beccamarie, I loved the revenge factor of your story. I can't believe your POs offered to sell you the lumber they stole! I think most POs know that after you sign the papers, it's that much harder to pin them down on their B.S. stunts. I have a basement full of left-behind stuff to attest to that! But now you have me thinking I should just drive across town and dump the junk in their lawn.

Oh, Tonia, I really sympathized with your story. Ted and I suffered an ice damn at the condo last year, where the melting ice from the roof backed into our walls, through the master bedroom floor, and was wicked into our 100-year-old Persian rug. It was under our bed, so we never even knew what hit us until a funky odor of mildew rose up one day. The rug was ruined! At least you had a hot young roofer to ease your pain; I had no such luck.

Amalie, your story was truly classic. Ted has caught me ripping out whole sections of ceiling when all I meant to do was take a peek at what was behind a ceiling panel, or I will find him with the bathroom shower enclosure half disassembled so he can get a look at what's behind it. Simple cleanup tasks often lead to demolition or Home Depot trips around here, but your story tops anything we've managed.

But I have to say that the "prize" goes to John for the sheer volume and absolute absurdity of some of the things he encountered in his home. You had me at number 8, "The electrical system wasn't grounded anywhere. We discovered this when our kitchen stove exploded." But it was the image of someone sitting on a toilet with hundreds of pounds of brick balanced above their head that really clinched it. Holy crap.

So John, please e-mail me your address at blog@compassrose.com and I'll get your prize out to you sometime this week. I'm a bit pokey at mailing things out, but I should get to the post office by Friday.

Thank you so much, everyone, for taking part in this little contest and cheering me up about our own previous-owner issues.

SarahPerdue said...

sOk, I know I missed the contest by a day because I just found your blog, but I had to hit a few highlights--that happened in what's supposed to be our "forever" house in the "great" neighborhood...

1. the PO took two wrought iron arbors from the backyard and cut the confederate jasmine to the ground saying when asked, "I thought since you were building a fence you didn't want them." What exactly does building a fence have to do with wanting or not wanting arbors and jasmine?

2. We negotiated with them to correct the underlying problems that caused them to overfuse the house, and all they did was have an electrician write a letter saying everything was fine.

3. The day before we moved in, despite a letter of good condition on the furnace from a reputable furnace company, the gas provider refused to turn on the gas because there were holes in the flue taped with duct tape. The companies we had look at it said it would cost 10,000+ to repair. The fine print of the home warranty policy stated that it covered everything but the flue. I threatened the company who wrote the letter stating the furnace was in good condition until they fixed it for free.

4. When the furnace guy was fixing the flue it began raining through the kitchen ceiling. He called me up to the attic and pointed out a brand new sheet of masonite that had been placed between the rafters and the leaking roof to delay our discovery of the leak.

5. Before closing I asked Mrs. PO if there was a phone jack in the closed porch area where I wanted to put my computer and she said yes. After closing, I found that the jack was there but did not work. In fact, only one jack in the entire house worked. When I asked her about it, she laughed and said, "Oh, yes, the house is full of jacks, but we cut out all of the wiring when our son was in high school because he was on the phone too much. I figured it would be easy enough for you to fix it. My computer desk is on a concrete porch. For two years we've had the cord running across the floor of the kitchen because we haven't gotten it together to cut through the concrete and run the cord properly."

6. We asked them to replumb the wet bar sink so that it did not overflow when the kitchen sink was being used as a post inspection condition of closing, but they merely had the line unclogged. So any heavy use in the kitchen subjects the wet bar sink on the ground floor to flooding. The morning after our first Christmas, we awoke to 2" of water on our ground floor...including a sopping persian rug. We spent the day after Christmas slogging out the basement.

Oh, and we asked them to stop using the shower with the leaky shower pan while the rented the house back from us for two months because the water was flooding down to the floor below. They agreed, but when we came over and found the shower wet and the room below wet, the wife just laughed and said, "well of course James isn't going to stop using his shower..."

When we tried to get out of our contract because they weren't performing the agreed upon repairs, they threatened to sue us. Now, I realize I should have talked to our mortgage broker instead of the realtors...live and learn. It's a great house but the whole think still leaves a sour taste in my mouth...


Joanne said...

SarahPerdue--Those are some truly horrible PO stories; they sound like awful people and, most frustrating, laughed at your concerns. But I'm glad you still like the house itself! The rest of the bad memories will fade in time.