We Bought a House


We have lived in half of a 100 year old twin for almost 11 years, and over those years we often fantasized about what it would be like to own both sides. The walls we’d break though, the neighbors we wouldn’t have to put up with anymore…things like that. The idea of not only having a larger house, but also not having to deal with R&B blasting marijuana parties - with both of those things oozing through the walls into our side - was very tempting.

Then a year ago the other side of the twin went under foreclosure, and our fantasies suddenly became possibility. We hedged and hawed about it for a long time, finally deciding that, no matter how nice it was to not have neighbors through the wall, we didn’t want the financial risk of two mortgages.

We probably would have left it that way if it had been purchased by some family, or even a flipper who wanted to fix it up and resell. But in November we got word that a guy from NYC had bid on it, and was planning to rent it out. He made a living out of buying cheap properties around the tri-state area and renting them. In other words…he was a slum lord. Was he going to fix the problems with the house? Probably not. He’d do just what he needed to be legal, and leave it at that. And then what kind of people would end up living there, content to put up with a house with the amount of problems it had?

It scared us into action, and we put in a bid just over the investor’s bid. And we got the house.

As of this past Friday, it became officially ours.


So, now here are the before pictures of the house we now have custody of.

In the above picture, the right half (the nice one) is ours, and the left is the one we just bought. Let’s go on a tour.

It’s hard to get a good front picture because of the poorly maintained shrubbery in the front, but here’s what I could get. Right off the bat you can see problems.

The porch roofs of both sides were original tin when we bought our half, but since it’s rusted through in many spots, we replaced ours about a year after we moved in. The other side has never been replaced, and has just gotten worse and worse. There’s a built in gutter that doesn’t work anymore, so the water pours off in sheets when it rains, producing mold everywhere. It’s on the ceiling and the concrete, and has also worn away the concrete steps on that side.

The front corner of the house is also covered in mold, and the inside corner shows sign of damp, so we wonder if the constant water damage has leaked inside. These are things that - joy! - are now our problem.

Come on inside.
Through the ugly screen door, and into the living room.
This is the view from just inside the front door. The wall on the right is the adjoining wall with our house. This is the living room, and through the arch is the dining room.
This picture is looking through the arch the other way, from the dining room. This arch is something I actually really love about the house. It’s original, and that wall was removed in our side before we bought it. Tim doesn’t like it because he likes an open floor plan, like ours is, but I love the old-fashioned charm of it. I won’t let him touch it!

Standing in the arch, this is the view of the dining room and door into the kitchen.
This is the right side of the dining room. And the boys scraping wallpaper.
This is the reason we’re scraping the wallpaper. There are at least two layers of it, with paint on top, and the top layer flakes off very easily leaving big patches like this everywhere. The bottom layer, probably 100 years old, is tougher to get off, though. There’s plain plaster underneath that.

Now for the kitchen - it has a lot of problems.
First of all, two words: Wood Panelling. Ick. That definitely has to go. That combined with the decrepit dark cabinets makes the whole kitchen sort of depressing. We can’t afford to replace the cabinets, so we’re planning to just replace the two damaged doors pictured above, and paint them all white like we did in our side. That should cheer things up a lot.

This is a picture of the sink in action. It spurts out impressively in every direction when you turn it on. I wonder how long they lived with it like this without ever thinking to fix it? The biggest problem is the ceiling, though.

There is a persistent leak in the bathroom directly above this spot, and instead of fixing it, they did what anyone would do: Put up some random things to catch the water, seal it with Great Stuff, and hide it behind a drop ceiling. Problem solved!

This is the biggest problem with the house. We’ll have to take the whole ceiling down and hope there’s not too much mold or rot behind the plaster from the water. It’s a surprise waiting to happen!

Standing just inside the kitchen door, you see the back door to what was originally a back porch.
I love this door. Love love love this door. It’s original, and ours is missing, so I’m stoked this side still has it!

This is the back room. Our side has a half bath and laundry room here, but this side is just open. The door leads to the back yard.
I REALLY DIG this floor. I don’t care that it’s horribly outdated, I love it.

Standing in the doorway to the back room, facing the dining room, you can see the door down to the basement. The wall on the left here adjoins to our house.

The basement is sorta kinda finished. It has walls up, and a parquet floor. And sort of a bathroom of sorts. But none of it is something I’d let my family spend time in. There’s mold on the walls from a sewer backup a few years back, and the bathroom is just scary. I call the toilet the Dr. Seuss toilet because all those pipes going everywhere reminds me of one of the contraptions you see in Dr. Seuss books.
View from the bottom of the steps.
In the room, looking back toward the steps
There’s a “no smoking” sign there (you can see part of it on the left) because it’s improperly vented into the wall, and lighting a match there could ignite the methane gas. Lovely. There is a phone sitting on the sewage pipe if you want to talk while doing your business, though.

Okay, that’s more than enough time spent in the scary basement. Let’s go back upstairs.
Going through the kitchen and into the dining room we come to the stairs.

This newell post is just like the one in our house, but ours is all beat up from the previous owner putting a light switch in it, so theirs is in much better condition. It’ll look great once it’s painted.
This is looking down from the top of the stairs.

Pretend you turn around on the spot, and this is what you’d see.
The bathroom is right at the top of the steps, like ours, but theirs is really tiny. Ours was expanded into the adjoining bedroom and is much larger. We don’t know if we’ll be able to do anything about it now, though. We’re thinking of adding a full bathroom with stall shower in the back room downstairs, using the plumbing from the kitchen. Having a bathroom this tiny might not be so bad if there’s another one in the house.

This is the inside of the sink cabinet, with water damage. You can see a corner of all the rags that are stuffed in the hole back there in their effort to contain the leak. I actually feel a lot of pity for the former owners of this house. It’s obvious they just didn’t have the skills or mindset necessary for home ownership, and things just got away from them over the years.

Okay, back outside the bathroom, standing at the top of the steps again, turn left and you see the doors for the first two bedrooms.

Not much to see. There is an impressive array of cable wire in the closet, though.

The closets in all three bedrooms are like this, the foot-deep kind that all houses had 100 years ago. We had them too before we built new ones. We’re planning to probably build shelves into these.

All the upstairs bedrooms and closets still have the original doors, which I love. Ours, except for two closets, have all been replaced by cheap hollow things that I hate.

Second bedroom, with more cable wire greatness.

Outside those bedrooms, the hall leads down to the main bedroom.

Again, not much to see beyond a horrifically dirty carpet.
And a surprise waiting in the closet. Bonus! (It was just the cover, not the actual video, but Tim still promptly threw it in the trash with much disgust.)

Facing out the door, toward the hallway, you can see the attic door open.
Up the attic.
The kids have grand plans for secret club meetings up here. The neighbors had grand plans for a hot tub up here at one time which fortunately fell through…or it might have LITERALLY fallen through!

There are rags shoved everywhere up here. Once a bat got into their house, and I wonder if this was her way of keeping them out.

This weekend we started work on the house, scraping wallpaper and removing upstairs carpets.
This wall in the living room is almost all done, stripped down to the plaster.
Progress was made here, but still needs work.

Upstairs, this is what we found under the carpets.

They’re laminate floors of some sort, decorated to look like carpet. They’re very brittle, and online we found that they might likely be asbestos, so we’ll have to be careful when removing them.

They’re 60 years old. We know this because under them we found:
Newpapers! The dates on them are November 11 and December 4, 1949. There are items on sports and sales at markets, and this particularly dated headline about polio.

Now, this is interesting to me! The old wallpaper was initially fascinating to me but that quickly got old over the hours and hours I spent scraping it. I’m planning to go over all the articles to see if there’s anything particularly interesting in them.

That’s it so far. I don’t think there will be anything else necessarily exciting, but hopefully having all these before and during pictures will make the “after” that much more satisfying.