Saturday, July 11, 2009

How Not to Fix Up a House

After a few months of working on a 130-year-old house, I have spent considerable time fixing up other people's shortcuts. Many of these are simply annoying and cheap, some are downright dangerous. So I've compiled a partial list of the things NOT to do when making repairs to a house.

When the plumbing leaks or the pipes don't fit together right, seal the plumbing with plastic grocery bags.

When you re-wire the second floor apartment, don't bother using electrical boxes to contain the splices. Just let them hang out in the open. That way, when the next owner wants to add some insulation in the attic, he can't due to the fire hazard.

In fact, on some connections, don't even bother using electrical tape or wire nuts.

When you put new laminate flooring in the living room, dining room, and front bedroom, don't bother cutting out the holes for the heating vents. After all, the single vent that's left in the back bedroom will be sufficient for heating the entire apartment, particularly with gravity heat. And just cover up the vent opening in the kitchen floor with a piece of plywood. The tripping hazard that creates is fairly minor anyway.

When new electrical panels are installed, wire about half of the lower apartment's lights and plugs into the upper apartment's electrical panel. This will keep the electricity cost in the lower unit to a minimum.

Use a hollow core door as a main entry door into the upper apartment. A deadbolt in a hollow core door will give a great sense of security.

When installing carpet over hardwood floors, don't bother filling in old heating vents or missing floor boards. Just stuff some extra carpet padding in the holes. This creates a rather unique soft spot in the floor that just begs to catch the unwary foot and send the person attached to that foot crashing to the floor.

Fix broken windows by replacing the glass with plexiglass and glazing them with bathtub caulk. Plexiglass acquires this wonderful scratchy patina over time, making it very hard to clean.

Don't bother using a strike plate for the entry door lock set. A couple of drywall screws will suffice.

If your house sits in a nationally registered historic district, please feel free to modify window locations and install vinyl sliding windows. This earns the undying admiration of the city Historic Preservation Commission and forces the new owner to rip out that nice new shower stall you've just installed because it covers up the original window location.

Allow the front steps to crumble to a point where large weeds grow through the cracks.

Don't bother maintaining the exterior paint. Peeling paint and rotting clapboard siding gives a real sense of age.

If you do any painting, use a sprayer and allow the overspray to collect on the window glass. Don't bother cleaning it up. You can always frame the Notice of Violation letters you get from the city Neighborhood Improvement Department as souvenirs.

If a basement window breaks, just put plywood over it. Over time, when all the windows are boarded up, the 130-year accumulation of cobwebs and the darkness would make this a great setting for a creepy movie. Especially with the network of gravity heat pipes, sagging plumbing, and low-hanging non-functional light fixtures ready to connect with the unsuspecting noggin.

Locate the furnace thermostat six inches from a drafty window.

Locate the only available outlet in a kitchen immediately above the sink. Since there's no counter space around this particular sink, that forces any small electrical appliances to be located IN the sink. This will make for some wonderfully charged experiences.

Dont bother putting a proper plumbing trap under the kitchen sink. Your tenants will appreciate the rich and colorful odors that emanate from the open sewage system.

I'm sure there will be more surprises as this project progresses. Up until now, it has been quite an education.


Steve and Julie said...

Thanks Tim for the list! I've enjoyed reading your updates on the house and your family. Is this your second rental or continuing on the first? It's great seeing how Angela is adjusting to her new family.

Steve and Julie said...

Let's try calling your daughter by her correct name - Abigail!

Chris and Celeste said...

Your list is sooo funny! Have you seen the movie money pit, that is what it sounds like. Too funny.