DIY Home Improvement, Remodeling & Repair Forum

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debraanne 03-07-2008 06:43 PM

My Intro....
Hi! My name is Debra, and I absolutely love this forum. I've been reading it for the past three days, because I keep finding topics that apply to my situation.
My husband (Mike) and I recently relocated to central Illinois (Champaign) after living in Florida for the past 13 years. Seems silly, I know (the cold weather/snow/ice/wind/mud really sucks) but my entire immediate family lives here and hubby's family is all in Michigan. Anyway, our parents are getting older (several serious health issues recently) and we wanted to be closer.
We had five glorious wooded acres in North Florida and a 2200 sf tri-level home that we lovingly restored over the past ten years (built in 1954 and abandoned and vandalized for 10 years prior to us purchasing it in 1997). It was a lot of work but we loved it.
We do dog rescue (currently at 9) so we found 2 acres just 3 miles out of city limits. It is a very desirable location, it has lots of mature trees even though we are surrounded by corn/soybean fields. We have a two-car detached garage, a two car detached shop/garage and a barn. All the outbuildings are in various stages of neglect and disrepair, but nothing we can't handle ourselves.
Now about the house.....well, it's a mess. In fact, I cried for 2 weeks after we moved in. I was so focused on the location and property that I kind of ignored the house issues when we first looked at it. We knew it was only half the size of our Florida house, but planned to add on. We actually only looked at the house once before we bought it, and left the details to my dad because we had to return to Florida. He's normally a VERY savvy old coot, but he missed some major issues on this place (I'll cut him some slack since he's 75 now and just battled colon cancer).
House is OLD, maybe 1900 or before. It's not one of those great old farm houses. It is the tenant farmer shack. It's been added on to twice, once a kitchen/half bath, then another addition for a tiny bedroom/full bath.
The windows are a million years old and the wind blows through/around them.
The floors slope to the outside edges of the house and you can feel the slope (like being on a boat?) but the floors don't "bounce" too much.
The crawlspace is maybe 12". The foundation is....well, I don't know. Red bricks and crumbling mortar around the outside perimeter, but must of it has fallen down/off. Under the house (from what I can see since there is no space and we had to cut a hole in the floor to look) is random stacks of the same red bricks and crumbly mortar stacked up under beams.
All the plumbing is that old metal pipe stuff that is rusting out bad. The furnace is propane and installed in 1985. Electric hot water heater is older than that. Our utility bills are astronomical! $375 for gas last month (stove is the only other gas appliance) and electric was $125. Remember, this house is only 1100 sf and we keep the thermostat at 68.
There is no insulation under the house and very little in the attic.
But hey, the roof is good, and the insulated aluminum siding is fairly new and in good shape.
I know if I was posting this BEFORE we bought the house you all would say RUN AWAY NOW, but it's too late, we're stuck. Not our smartest decision, but we did get a decent price and the land is very desirable and valuable.
That being said, we didn't make much of a profit on our Florida house (absolutely the wrong time to sell) so we can't afford to just scrap this house and build new.
We have lots of plans/ideas but a lot of the time it just seems so overwhelming I want to give up.
We have about $20,000 we can sink into it over the next year. I am looking for any and all opinions as to how to get the "most bang for my buck". Hubby and I are pretty 'handy' and very hard workers, but don't have a lot of professional skills like plumbing, etc.
Sorry if this is long winded......I'm just so happy to have found a place where it seems like there are a lot people who have BTDT and are VERY supportive of us ignorant "newbies".

OtbHunter 03-08-2008 03:36 AM

Welcome Debra... you are correct, we most likely would have advised you to scrap the house and start over. In fact, where to start does seem to be the issue, with so many major things that seem to need repair.
You really should at least consider a Modular home to replace the current one. I am afraid that you would have more money in the cost of correcting the issues with the existing home than the purchase of a modular. Even with you and Mike providing the labor - the cost of updating/remodeling the current structure are really going to add up fast and you will still end up with a patched together home.
Wishing you the best & we are all here to help when you run into a problem.

inspectorD 03-08-2008 07:00 AM

Rome was not built in ...well ...
Welcome Debra,
We will help where we can, and when we can. That's what you need to know.:D
Everything can be fixed, but at what price. Your pocket book or your sanity.
First is ,don't get overwhelmed trying to keep up with the Joneses. There are plenty of folks with things to do in the house. I know folks are tired of hearin it but, did you get a home inspection? If so have your inspector give you the bigggggg issue items, then work down from there. If you did not, go to for a local, in depth look into your issues.The Inspector will help you get it prioritized, give you lots of info and will help in the calming of your nerves. I belong to this professional society, most of the inspectors are good ones, ask around to realtors as to who they would have inspect their kids new will find the good ones.

Then post away at the questions one at a time..., and get ready to learn.
Get a remodeling house fix it book also, there are plenty of good ones to choose from.:D
Get ready to DIY.:)

debraanne 03-08-2008 08:35 AM

I appreciate the replies.
As far as a home inspection, well, we haven't had one but we want one. Problem is, my dad. He's helping us a lot financially and labor-wise, but he is very old-school and gets all grumpy when we want to call in professionals. His thought is why pay someone to tell you what you should be able to figure out with good old fashioned common sense. I've tried to explain the obvious benefits but he's stubborn and if we went ahead and did it without his 'blessing' he'd probably not be as helpful to us because we were "throwing our money away." But rest assured, I will keep working on him, and we may just do it anyway and let the chips fall where they may.
Our initial thought is to have the house lifted by a professional "house mover" and have a new foundation dug out and put in, either poured concrete or concrete block. Once we get the floors leveled and have access to under the house we can address the old plumbing, ductwork, and insulation issues.
I have contacted some window installers and will have estimates done in the next couple of weeks. We only have 7 that need to be replaced. Insulating the attic should not be too hard or expensive. Cosmetically and structurally, the interior and exterior of the home seem to be in fine shape. Just the foundation issues and the windows need major work. We are majorly concerned with energy efficiancy and will replace the old hot water heater and furnace, but they work okay now and we could live with them hopefully for another year or so if we had to.
So I still think that all the repairs would still be MUCH cheaper than building new, even with the 12 x 30 addition we plan.
Am I way off base? (Assuming of course that we don't run across any major structural damage.)

inspectorD 03-08-2008 11:05 AM

Old habits...
Well, it sounds like you have the ol' parental controls on.
I have dealt with that very issue on many remodels, new homes and especially on inspections. Usually the whole fam damily shows up with their version of whats best. There is no easy solution for accepting change for some older folks, however it is all in the tact. You could tell your pop that you want someone to stop over and give the place a lookin over...with his help of course, to make YOU feel better. Now that there are two people lookin at the house , you will know how to get everything answered at once. Your dad will teach the inspector a few things, and the inspector will help your dad learn about the new practices going on, so you save money in the long run.
BTDT, have the T shirt, blabla...:D
I like those inspections the best actually, we all learn.:D

Do some homework and find the right one...before you do any work. By insulating an old home you can actually cause a lot more issues with a crawl space. But try to ask those questions in the correct forums.
Good luck with the wise gentleman. For the record, I know you don't mean he's an ol' are really saying he's a seasoned veteran.;)

debraanne 03-10-2008 03:37 PM

Home inspection
Well, we scheduled a home inspection for March 24.
Wish us luck!
(We called a realtor and she recommended one of the guys from your list.)
Now to tell my dad......
Oh, cost is $255 which sounded very reasonable to us.

inspectorD 03-10-2008 03:57 PM

Good for you.
It is a small price to pay for information, up close and personal. Try workin with your Dad, he may suprise you.
Then again....good luck.:)

guyod 03-10-2008 04:54 PM

Good luck. Make sure to budget your money. Shop around for a plumber and electrician they could easily suck up most of your money. Since you had alot family in the area maybe you can find someone that will work with you and let you two do most of the labor work to cut costs. If it is code in the area use cpvc water lines they are cheap and you could do it yourself after reading a how-to guide. Just to save the embarressment a proffesional house mover will probably laugh at your budget.

debraanne 03-10-2008 09:10 PM

Really, you think a house mover would laugh at our budget?
We talked to someone local and he said it would be $8-10,000 to lift it, depending on how much digging they had to do to get the steel beams under it (since it's so low to the ground). It was just an informal estimate, but he IS a licensed house mover in our area.
Of course the new foundation could be the real big expense, but we've requested estimates from some local foundation guys. Still waiting to hear back from them.
Now you've got me even MORE worried.:eek:

inspectorD 03-11-2008 06:09 AM

Take it in small steps, wait for the prices. But do expect a house lift and new reconnecting all the mechanicals, to be more than 20,000.
If not, something is being missed.
Then look for alternate solutions.

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