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Project Profile: NIGHTMARE Post-WWII Home!

Updated: Feb 22

We started work on this project in late December 2021. It was a tiny, 1,044sqft home in a community that was slapped together post-WWII. Basically, these houses weren't expected to still be in service nearly 80 years later. This is easily the WORST house we have ever had the pleasure to restore.

Some surface level details of the property:

  • 3 bedrooms.

  • 1 bathroom.

  • Oversized 1.5 car garage.

  • Year built: 1946.

  • Rancher on a slab foundation.

  • Hydronic baseboard heat with oil-fueled furnace.

  • No air conditioning.

  • Decent sized front & back yards. Total lot size: 5,227sqft.

Our original Scope of Work for the project:

  • Full cleanout.

  • Full interior gut.

  • Figure out a more efficient layout for the kitchen and utility area.

  • New roofs and gutters for house and garage.

  • New garage door.

  • Install all new concrete curbing in front of the house.

  • Install new electrical service.

  • Change out fuse box for modern electrical panel.

  • Full rewire since essentially nothing was up to code.

  • Install new HVAC system to add central AC and electric heat pump.

  • Move some plumbing around to create a more functional kitchen and add a laundry area.

  • Install new windows, doors, and baseboards.

  • Hang new walls and ceilings.

  • Interior & exterior paint.

  • New kitchen.

  • New bathroom.

  • Install LVP throughout entire home.

  • Cleanup the landscaping.

We immediately ran into issues after we had the house cleaned out. Once we started with demolition, we found that the load-bearing wall running down the center of the house was completely destroyed by termites. Now we had to confirm that there was not an active termite infestation and bring in a structural engineer to tell us how to make the house structurally stable again. The silver lining here was that since we were now doing structural work, we opted to have the engineer draw up plans for us to install an LVL beam and completely get rid of the wall between the kitchen and the living room to create an open-concept and allow us to put an island with seating! This also gave us some critical thinking time to figure out how we could turn the ugly utility room into an inviting entryway with a laundry closet.

Once all of the framing was complete, we moved onto getting all of the MEP in place. Electric rough-in and HVAC work both went well with no issues. Cutting into the slab foundation to move water lines and drains to new locations definitely wasn't fun but it went according to plan. While inspecting and testing all of the new plumbing we ran into another major issue - the drains were backing up! All of interior plumbing was brand-new and code-compliant so we knew that the issue was between the house and the street. Upon further inspection we discovered that the curb trap was clogged with soil due to being broken. Thankfully, that was our last issue with the house! After we had the curb trap replaced, it was smooth sailing.

Now that we were done fighting with the bones of the house it was time to put it all back together again! The interior cosmetics all came together quickly, and we engaged in a little bit of "scope creep" for the exterior of the house. The neighbor had been THE BEST throughout our entire renovation process. He was a tradesman himself and had literally any piece of equipment that you could think of in his pole barn... even a skid steer. He offered tools, extra materials, manual labor, ideas, knowledge of these style houses, and brought dinner over to crewmembers that were working late nights! We figured that the least we could do to repay him would be to get the adjoining driveway completely repaved. We moved our front yard fence posts over a few feet to make the driveway space wider and then had our paving contractor dig up and repave the entire driveway, including a spot in front of the neighbor's house that was previously gravel.

All things considered, running into only 2 major problems with this project really wasn't that bad, but honestly, the house was miserable to get into respectable condition. Between the (4) 40yd dumpsters on the cleanout (that's A LOT, especially for a 1,000sqft house), the original plaster walls, the termite damage, the mold, the plumbing being in the slab foundation, the attic with no floors, and fighting with the old cinderblock walls during drywall and window installation, this house was an uphill battle.

Overall, we were really happy with how this project turned out. Taking the time to do everything the right way and make thoughtful changes to the layout of the home definitely paid off. The house was listed for sale and was under contract for over asking price after the first weekend on the market! Those thoughtful changes not only brought us the highest sale price that the neighborhood had ever seen, but they also made a world of difference for the experience that the new homeowner would have while living in the home.

What do you think? What would you have done differently?

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