The Worst House Ever

One of the things I've learned from trying to improve my Instagram game is that people like to see, and therefore engage with, one of two things: 1) the pretty finished pictures 2) before-and-afters. The progress pictures or things that are "educational" or not immediately relevant, not so much. I still post these things because I believe in showing the whole story - which can sometimes include pictures of boring pipes, empty pools, or overgrown landscaping - and not just the bright shiny beautiful finished product. 

BUT. Every now and then, we all appreciate a good train wreck for plain old entertainment's sake, amiright? 

Which leads me to the purpose of this post: the property fortunate to hold the title of our Worst Flip House Ever. Which, let me tell y'all, does not come easily. And I'm not above sharing the really gross things we had to deal with for the purpose of entertainment value. You're welcome in advance.

Lucky for us, this house was also our First Flip House Ever. Which we purchased almost exactly five years ago. Talk about jumping in with both feet, I guess. It was a little 1100-square foot, 3 bedroom 1 bath ranch in a starter neighborhood, that actually had a really big backyard. This neighborhood actually straddles the county line between Jefferson County (Louisville Metro) and Oldham County, which is the next county over. Oldham County has been very desirable lately because they have the best public school system in the state, while Jefferson County schools (as a whole) are among the worst in the state. This property was in the back half of the neighborhood, meaning Oldham County Schools. It was the #1 most appealing thing about this house. Other appealing things were a living room AND a den off the kitchen, space to add a back deck, lots of storage for such a small house, and its price of $55,000.

Without further ado, may I present descriptions (and supporting pictures that somehow managed to survive the Great iPhone Reset of 2015) of our Worst Flip House Ever. *clears throat*

Before we even walked in the door: There was a huge pit at the front of the house, between the sidewalk to the front door and the exterior of the house, right below the picture window into the living room. We were really confused about why this big hole was there - a kid who was trying to dig to China maybe? - and then we learned that the owners had decided to create a DIY "koi pond" in the front yard, powered by an extension cord that ran through a hole that had been drilled in the front of the (brick) house and was plugged in to the outlet in the living room.

The water heater had leaked so badly at one point that all of the joists underneath that area of the house were rotted, and that part of the house sagged at least 2-3". They had bought and "installed" a new water heater, but just sat it on a new sheet of plywood laid on top of the rotted subfloor, and didn't fix any of the water damage. We had to raise that part of house up at least several inches to get it level, via support columns we installed in the crawl space. This was accomplished by cutting a hole in the floor in the laundry room, sistering all of the rotten joists, and jacking up the floor until it was level, then installing new subfloor. 

 We took out all the rotten subfloor to find rotten joists. Lucky us!

We took out all the rotten subfloor to find rotten joists. Lucky us!

The water damage from the water heater (in the utility closet) extended to the bordering laundry room and on the other side, the hall linen closet - which meant we had to replace all bordering drywall in both of those closets about 16" up, and at least 30" inches up in the utility closet.

The same tile as the kitchen floor tile (dark gray 12x12 ceramic) was mortared on to plywood sheets as kitchen countertop.

Owner had cut into the brick exterior of house to install new, larger windows on the front of the house which meant that inside of the house, the windows extended almost to the floor: which displaced the outlet originally located below the former (smaller) window. So instead of relocating the old junction box, it was just hanging about a foot out of the wall on the wires from where the new window was installed - because of course they were never trimmed out. Yes, it was live. 

 Yep, just a live outlet hanging out of a window casing, no big deal.

Yep, just a live outlet hanging out of a window casing, no big deal.

The whole house stunk like hell and was down to subfloor except for the tile in the kitchen, and there was this weird white dried powdery substance around the interior perimeter of all of the rooms. Neighbors told us the former owners had had 3 large dogs that they never let outside, so one of the 3 tiny bedrooms was designated as the dog's bathroom. When the bank foreclosed, they had a crew come in, rip out all the flooring, and fumigated the house for fleas - which was what the white powder substance was.

Speaking of ripping out flooring - the carpet tack strips and staples were still there, all around the perimeter of the living area and bedrooms. I spent who knows how many days pulling up carpet tack strips and staples, and sweeping up SO. MUCH. PET. HAIR. that had gotten under the baseboards and under the carpet. Where the carpet transitioned to tile at the kitchen entrance: I was digging gray dog hair out from under the tile threshold with a flat head screwdriver. Not joking.

When we removed the existing kitchen cabinets and sink - MOLD. EVERYWHERE. The entire wall behind the sink run was black with mold. We cut the drywall out to 4' high all around the kitchen to get rid of the mold.

There was a gas fireplace insert in the corner of the den area - but no gas line sourced from the house. To power this "fireplace", there was a hole drilled through the brick exterior and a gas line attached to a lone propane tank sitting on the ground outside (like the kind you use for your grill). Because THAT sounds safe.

Same "gas fireplace" in the corner had what we thought was a synthetic brick "chimney" to make it look built-in, on a 45-degree angle to the rest of the room. When I went to turn the light switch off in that corner and my hand brushed against the "synthetic brick", I realized it was particle board covered with brick-patterned contact paper, then nailed to the wall. When we took that down, there was mold EVERYWHERE in that corner. I spent a whole day on a ladder scrubbing it off with a white vinegar solution. 

 There was more scrubbing the next day... and then KILZ primer on top of that.

There was more scrubbing the next day... and then KILZ primer on top of that.

The lone bathroom had a drain and p-trap that was duct taped together.

 I mean, I love duct tape, but this is just taking it a bit too far.

I mean, I love duct tape, but this is just taking it a bit too far.

Also in the bathroom: When the house was built, we assume it was only a bathtub, with no shower. This is because there was a normal-size, wooden window in the tub area. When we removed the (nasty) fiberglass tub surround, we found that all of the studs in that wall were completely rotten because the fiberglass surround had never been properly caulked/sealed around the window and water had been getting in there for who knows how many years.

 I mean, this just screams "clean" to me...

I mean, this just screams "clean" to me...

Previous owners had stored a bunch of stuff in the crawl space attic not meant for storage, so the living room ceiling was sagging - their solution was to nail 2x4's up on the ceiling to keep the ceiling from falling. This means we got to build a temporary wall to hold the ceiling up while we removed the 2x4's and used the appropriate drywall screws to keep the ceiling from falling down. It's also where I learned to patch and texture ceilings.

 The day I learned how to patch and mud textured ceilings.

The day I learned how to patch and mud textured ceilings.

There were 3 layers of carpet in the closets, which was the only flooring the bank had left.

There was a glass sliding door leading from the family room out to the backyard on a fallaway lot, but no deck outside of the door: so there was about an 8' drop to nowhere.  The neighbors told us that the bank had torn off the deck because it was so rotted and unsafe.

We were very puzzled by a semi-circular indent in the hill of this fallaway lot - clearly something had been there but was no longer there. We later found out it was an above-ground pool that, again, the bank had removed - because it was so dirty, unsafe, and just a breeding ground for bacteria and bugs/critters that can spread diseases.

There was a concrete pad against the rear of the house with some 2x4's on the brick exterior - we figured this was the location of a storage shed at some point, and again the neighbors confirmed, and said that the bank had taken that down too because of its poor condition. 

I swear, I am not making any of this up.

Even with all of these problems, we stuck with it and did almost everything ourselves. We contracted out some exterior repairs to the soffits and fascia boards since neither Dad nor I like being on ladders, and then the carpet installation and the building of the new back deck since it was crunch time. This house took over a year for us to finish, working on it ourselves part-time: from mid-October 2012 through the first week of December 2013. We did go over our budget due to needing to replace the HVAC, which we did not budget for, and the severity of the damage from the old water heater. However, we sold the house for more than we expected to - which meant we still turned a profit of about $8,000. Not much at all, especially when you turn that into an hourly labor rate (yikes). BUT - we have said this so many times - in a lot of ways, we got paid to learn. 

 Not too shabby from the outside, although I wish I had painted that front door...

Not too shabby from the outside, although I wish I had painted that front door...

 A brand new kitchen with a tile backsplash in a sub- $110k house? Yes please!

A brand new kitchen with a tile backsplash in a sub- $110k house? Yes please!

 Featuring the sliding door formerly to nowhere, and the former black mold corner.

Featuring the sliding door formerly to nowhere, and the former black mold corner.

 Oh hey! A ceiling that's not held up by 2x4's!

Oh hey! A ceiling that's not held up by 2x4's!

 Notice where the outlet ended up?

Notice where the outlet ended up?

There is NO WAY that I would have the knowledge I do now if we did not do all of the work on that first house ourselves. I know what it takes to do certain repairs. I learned how to patch drywall, replace electrical outlets, install kitchen cabinetry, tile floors and backsplash, install laminate flooring, texture drywall ceilings, remove crayon from walls, repair sagging ceilings, roof a shed, removed mold, and the list goes on and on. Also, because of all of these things, I am now much better equipped to make simple repairs in my own home rather than having to call a handyman or plumber/electrician/whoever whenever I need anything.

I hope you enjoyed your laugh at my expense - don't worry, I don't mind :)

I promise I'll post a list of honorable mentions soon, from other houses we've worked on. And if you'd like to read some more horror stories and lessons we've learned from them - there's a whole chapter on it in our eBook! Head over here to purchase it!

Now go get dirty and learn something!