August 7, 2011
The House of Pain
Every now and then you come across construction that is so bad it takes your breath away. This house is the most extreme example that I’ve seen. It’s not uncommon to see shacks out in the woods put up in a haphazard manor, usually that’s because the people that are putting them up have very little money, so they get stuff to build with as they can. They also have little in construction skills and can’t afford to pay contractors to do the work. This house was in a very nice suburban neighborhood, and actually looked somewhat OK from the street with the exception that it was on temporary power. It hadn’t gone to permanent power because it hadn’t passed any inspections and there was no certificate of occupancy.
The homeowner called me because the county had shown up with an order for them to vacate the property. Apparently they had bought the property “as is”, and they wanted to sue the seller. I was asked to do a report on the property, and I knew immediately after I entered the house that I’d never get paid for my work. However, curiosity took over and I did the evaluation, wrote a lengthy report, and of course got stiffed for the fee. I never did find out what the final disposition of the house was. I talked to one of the senior county inspectors about it, and he said the house had changed hands numerous times and the ownership wasn’t too clear. That should be expected, because it’s hard to believe any financial institution would lend for something like this.
While this is an extreme example, there are a fair number of houses out there that have similar defects. Towards the end of the housing boom a lot of people jumped in to build houses that shouldn’t have, and many of the foreclosures on the market have very significant construction defects. What looks like a bargain price may be in the end an expensive transfer of misery.
Let’s start from the outside:
This is in the rear of the house – where do you start? The stucco is totally jacked up, look at how it’s peeling from the house. There are no joints in the stucco. The deck is made from untreated lumber and is not supported correctly from the post. There should be a concrete landing outside the door, and there is no drip edge under the stucco. The paint is peeling off the windows, there is excess erosion, and it’s not a good idea to leave trash around your foundation, it attracts insects and vermin.
No gutters, the roofing is sloppy, look at the garage door opening, it’s a mess too. The difference in color of the stucco is due to lighting, it doesn’t actually have multiple tones. Here’s a close up of the electric meter:
The holes are supposed to be sealed to keep the weather, insects, and rodents out. I don’t think that meter was hooked up by the way. Let’s go inside, it gets much worse:
Ok, the wallpaper is peeling off. It also is two clashing styles. The house was moderately messy, I’ve seen worse. It was the rotting garbage in the sink that made it uncomfortable, but we’ve only just begun.
Let’s go up into the upstairs:
Yes, those wires are hot. In the upstairs they didn’t finish the wiring, and it was hanging out of the junction boxes and fixtures. By the way, the wires aren’t supposed to be all the same color. Typically black is hot, white is neutral, red is hot, green is ground. That’s so the electrician can wire things right and you don’t get electrocuted in your shower because the wrong wire was grounded. Now we better go up and see what awaits us in the attic:
No junction boxes, the condensate piping is all wrong (note the tees are in for some unknown reason). The framing is chopped up, and water damage is apparent in the right side. How do you like the way the wiring is wrapped around stuff?
I couldn’t for the life of me figure why the vent pipe had the tee in it and branched out through two different outlets on the roof. Note the wire that was used as a support. The framing is completely wrong, and space doesn’t permit me to outline everything. Note how the rafters aren’t properly supported at the bottoms, and the purlins are wrong too.
Look in the rear of the photo wher the braces for the roof come down onto the beams. There is nothing to keep those beams from twisting, which they will ultimately. The framing is more or less randomly done. Note the orbs in the center lower right – some believe those are spirits caught on film. I think they’re dust particles, but maybe being confined to this attic is some poor soul’s punishment for misdeeds in a previous life…
More random framing in the attic. Note the ceiling joists seem to be placed with no rhyme or reason. Also, look at the lower right and see the water damage.
We can’t stay in the attic forever, so we’re going downstairs. But first, look at this wiring – it is sandwiched between the floor sheathing and ceiling joists. That will wear the insulation off the wire and start a fire ultimately. Although it will be a race between that and all the other wiring misdeeds to see which one will ultimately burn the house down, if it doesn’t fall down first.
Now, before we go in the basement, I want you to look at this shower:
This is the shower. I’ve seen worse, but usually in places where the people are really poor, or in third world countries. I wouldn’t step in here barefoot though. However, look at the underside:
The shower doesn’t connect to the house sewer. It just drains into the basement. That sewer line slopes upward by the way. They kept a plunger by the toilet to help things on their way. Now, even though the shower didn’t drain into the sewer, the people here in this house were very clean. Look:
They showered and bathed anyway! Look at the water in the basement, AND the black mold. The sheet rock was put up to cover worse mold behind it. I am highly allergic to black mold, and I should have left. However, like watching a train wreck, I couldn’t turn away. I ignored my sinus pain and kept on…
While bathing may be healthful, it probably is risky in this house. The rotten floor joists are under the tub and you might make a very quick trip to the basement.
Ok, they were roughing in a bathroom in the basement. Look how close the sink drain is to the toilet. That way you can sit on the throne and do your business while you brush your teeth. The pipes were above the floor slab, so they never finished.
Part of the basement was bare ground, and that’s where the water heater was set. The installation wasn’t quite completed. Note the there is no pipe attached to the temperature and pressure valve, and the panels were left off.
Well, we’ve been here long enough, and just looking at this makes me have an allergic reaction, so let’s go, but…
Be careful going up the stairs. These look like something you tried to climb in college after a night of heavy drinking, don’t they?
I hope you’ve enjoyed your visit in the House of Pain. Please don’t buy anything like this. If I find out what happened to the house, I will update this page.