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Thread: Oh what fun a boy can have with a wrecking bar!

  1. #1

    Default Oh what fun a boy can have with a wrecking bar!

    Oh what fun a boy can have with a wrecking bar, especially in a house that needs some wrecking!

    Late last year, I bought several houses in Detroit off of the Wayne County Tax Foreclosure Auction. They were all in pretty rough shape anyway, pretty much par for the course for vacant properties in Detroit. All the metal (wiring, plumbing, sinks, door locks, pulls off the dresser and cabinet doors, radiators, etc.) have been stripped. Paint and plaster are cracking and peeling. The fixtures are all smashed or stolen. The boilers/furnaces, hot water heaters, and appliances have all been stolen. And, they were all filled with trash and abandoned personal effects that are long-since ruined from mold, animals, homeless people, and the like.

    Detroit is also very strict about lead-based paint, to the point where legally one cannot paint over it even if the paint is completely intact. It either has to be removed or encapsulated. This particular house was built in 1890 and converted (badly) into a duplex sometime in the '90s. This particular house also has been occupied by squatters and drug dealers for the past several months, and it's only been within the last month that I finally got it back under my control and them out. They had rigged up the electricity illegally (and damn near burned the house down), used the bathrooms with no running water, and all around made a mess.

    So today, I started gutting this house, and oh my god, what fun! I started by ripping out the closet previous owners had installed in the original living room (they'd made it a bedroom) and trying to figure out what they might have done to the structure. It's genuinely amazing what a determined individual with a good wrecking bar can do!

    As it turned out, they had filled in about half the arch between the living room and dining room and cut a hole in part of the wall to accommodate a closet for the adjacent bedroom. It also seems like there was a gut renovation done in the 1960s. Most of the original plaster was ripped out and replaced by drywall (sadly, the original mouldings and any artisinal plasterwork apparently got ripped out too). But, they also used a metric fuckton of old advertising signs between the drywall and studs. Aside from the humor of the old ads, they were a pain to remove, since they were made of particle board that came up in little pieces.

    Anyway, some pics. Also, if you ever get the chance, buy a busted up house and do some demolition inside!

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  2. #2

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    Wow! I hope you are very good with tools. I'm afraid I'd be well over my head with this one, but more power to you. After you're done, considering the overall neighborhood, will you be able to sell it?

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by dogboy View Post
    Wow! I hope you are very good with tools. I'm afraid I'd be well over my head with this one, but more power to you. After you're done, considering the overall neighborhood, will you be able to sell it?
    Sell? No. I'll be renting it. I paid $4,100 for the house, and I'm going to have to pump another $40,000 into it to make it livable. At best I could sell it for about $30,000, maybe $35,000 right now. I'm going to rent it for several years and see how the market plays out. It's in a neighborhood that is transitioning into an up-and-coming neighborhood, so in five years I might be able to cash out and move to another project. Rentals are floating between $400 and $600 right now, but most of the rental stock is in rough shape. I'm hoping a newly refurbished house done well can get me better rents and better tenants.

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by GoldDragonAurkarm View Post
    Sell? No. I'll be renting it. I paid $4,100 for the house, and I'm going to have to pump another $40,000 into it to make it livable. At best I could sell it for about $30,000, maybe $35,000 right now. I'm going to rent it for several years and see how the market plays out. It's in a neighborhood that is transitioning into an up-and-coming neighborhood, so in five years I might be able to cash out and move to another project. Rentals are floating between $400 and $600 right now, but most of the rental stock is in rough shape. I'm hoping a newly refurbished house done well can get me better rents and better tenants.
    I wish you luck. The first house my wife and I bought cost us $15,000.00 back in 1974. It was in fairly good shape as a 1920 two story, two bedroom frame house. I really loved that house. It had the original wood stained molding, and they still looked good, none having turned black. The bathroom had a big claw legged tub. It had a big front porch and a small enclosed porch in the back off the kitchen. When we sold it, we made a $7000,00 profit. It also had a side entrance door that had a landing on the inside, leading up to the kitchen and down to the basement.

    I wish you luck with your endeavor (and adventure). You must be very good with tools, far better than me.

  5. #5

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    Thanks! I'm ok with tools. Some of it, like the infrastructure (electric, plumbing, heating systems, etc.) I could probably do, but the idiot tax would be pretty steep. I mean, I've done electric and plumbing repairs, but I've never done a whole system. I'll hire those out and save myself the heartburn. I'll do the drywall and tile and fixtures and things like that. I might do the roof, too. More on that as it develops. This house is turning out to be an odd duck. It was built in 1890, and only about 1/4 of it is on a (small) brick basement. It looks like someone did a gut renovation in the 1960s, and did the goofy thing with the signs and whatnot. Sometime later, probably the late '90s or early 2000s, it was converted into a duplex by putting up a wall in the kitchen by the back stairs, adding a sink and kitchen counter upstairs, and knocking out some walls. (I'm guessing) at that time they also put cheap paneling over the walls to cover the lead-based paint and hacked into the old knob-and-tube wiring to pass an inspection and get the rental certificate. So, I've got a 123-year-old house that shows barely any of its old charm and has had stuff covered and hacked into by cheapskates and idiots. I found some of the original pine plank flooring under the carpets and second subfloor previous owners added, and I might be able to save some of it. Sadly, it looks like some of it got eaten by termites at some point, though.

    But yeah, what an adventure it's been! Several of my professors were encouraging me to start writing about it because of the stuff I've already experienced. Dealing with squatters, encountering them once inside the house, et cetera... Yeah, it's been a learning experience.

  6. #6

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    Dearest sweet god that is by far the nastiest toilet I have ever seen!

    I've heard about these sales more frequently lately over in that area, and about the fact most of the old abandoned homes have been completely stripped of anything useful, including the copper plumbing.

    Sounds like ya got your work cut out for you though if it's missing a lot of key stuff (not to mention the filth...did I mention how nasty that toilet is?). Work like that is way out of my league, though I get that giddy feeling doing maintenance of the sort. My dad early on taught me how to install dry wall, paint, install plumbing, do outlets, and other fixtures. Last year, I managed to install a sink and new toilet in an old home my friend had bought. Later did my neighbor's closet...but I'm not taking credit for the dry wall job whoever did that one. Quite fun indeed.



    But yeah, what an adventure it's been! Several of my professors were encouraging me to start writing about it because of the stuff I've already experienced. Dealing with squatters, encountering them once inside the house, et cetera... Yeah, it's been a learning experience.
    Sounds like it, be careful out there. My buddy used to work security here in GR keeping premises clear. Very interesting...and sometimes dangerous stories to tell. Good luck on the house...wear gloves. Xp

  7. #7

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    I agree there is nothing more energizing then going barbarian on sheet rock. That's were I stop and contractors can do there thing. If I hang sheet rock it looks like its been hung by well ME, that stuff is not idiot proof. Then when it comes to doing electrical, all I know is that you will eventually come to with burns on your hands and a hell of a headache on the other side of the rook from were you where working.

    Good luck.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Geno View Post
    Dearest sweet god that is by far the nastiest toilet I have ever seen!

    I've heard about these sales more frequently lately over in that area, and about the fact most of the old abandoned homes have been completely stripped of anything useful, including the copper plumbing.

    Sounds like ya got your work cut out for you though if it's missing a lot of key stuff (not to mention the filth...did I mention how nasty that toilet is?). Work like that is way out of my league, though I get that giddy feeling doing maintenance of the sort. My dad early on taught me how to install dry wall, paint, install plumbing, do outlets, and other fixtures. Last year, I managed to install a sink and new toilet in an old home my friend had bought. Later did my neighbor's closet...but I'm not taking credit for the dry wall job whoever did that one. Quite fun indeed.



    Sounds like it, be careful out there. My buddy used to work security here in GR keeping premises clear. Very interesting...and sometimes dangerous stories to tell. Good luck on the house...wear gloves. Xp
    Come on over! I could use the extra hands. And yeah, I'm still trying to figure out the best way to deal with the tubs and toilets. They're both filled with excrement from the squatters that had taken up residence, and as you might imagine, they're stinking up the place. Frankly, I don't know how to deal with those. I've thought of busting up the toilets and using a scoop shovel to pick up and bag the... debris. But then, the tubs are a whole different story. I can't hardly smash those and get good results. Any suggestions are welcome!

  9. #9

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    I once had the job of demoing the local police station, that was fun. Oddly enough braking stuff dose become boring after a while, and it doesn't provide anywhere near the satisfaction of building something from scratch.

    As far as the toilets go I know that here in New Zealand there is a injection you need before working with feacal matter. It's not just a simple job of going to a doctor either as you need to wait 6 months after receiving it before starting work.

  10. #10

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    Frankly, I don't know how to deal with those. I've thought of busting up the toilets and using a scoop shovel to pick up and bag the... debris. But then, the tubs are a whole different story. I can't hardly smash those and get good results. Any suggestions are welcome!
    I'd get one of those blue-disposable clean up suits and possibly a mask before cleaning because there's an increased risk of Hepatitis and other pathogen infection given it's nature. Makes me squirm thinking about it. I wonder if a septic pump could clean that out pretty good. You could always just unlatch the toilet from the floor and move it out, considering all the blockage is now trapped and won't go out the back.

    ...or Call Mike Rowe.

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