The home fix-up from hades

Project by BillyJ posted 07-09-2011 05:21 AM 5701 views 0 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch
The home fix-up from hades
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Ok, enough with the FCC warnings. I present to you my fix-up from Hades. Not only did it take forever, it was one of those jobs I shouldn’t have taken.

A little background.

This is my wife’s friends house. A lot of tragedy has taken place there, and she is ready to part with it. Although it has been over 20-years since she has lived there, it remains sentimental. When she first approached me to do work on it a year ago, I suggested she dump the house without putting anything into it. I further suggested that she get the opinion of a real-estate agent. Although I was never told what the agent suggested, I surmise she was told that fortune awaits her if she fixes it up.


I have swamp land for sale, too.

It started out simple enough, or so I thought. A year later (and no pictures to remind me of the house), I told her to get several quotes. She did, and they came in higher then she was willing to pay. Hmmm, did they know something I didn’t? I’m sure they did, as I am still looking for my gluteus maximus.

This is the house in the original state.

As you can see, the house was filled with stuff. All of which I had to work around. That is, until I got tired of moving it so I could work. Also, please note the walls. The running tar on the walls was the result of 20+ years of two smokers never washing the walls.

I washed the walls three times with TSP. Painted them with two primers (varnish based on the last coat), and two coats of paint. Perhaps it was the seared imaged of running tar, but I still think I can see it bleeding through.

(I know – fingers).

Of course, everything I touched fell apart. The quick, not too much work house, became a never-ending nightmare.

Besides walls and ceilings needing patching, everything needed something.

The finished product:

Lessons learned:

1. Don’t do a job below what you would normally charge, just to get one. My time is more important then the couple of dollars I gained.

2. Next time my wife suggests I work for a friend of ours, I’m going to pretend I did not hear her.

3. Do EXACTLY what the the customer wants. ANYTHING above and beyond – make them pay double.

Any other bits of wisdom would be greatly appreciated.

UPDATE: 7-31-11

Our friend put the house on the market last Sunday. She’s already had two offers, and apparently there’s another in the making. Guess she’ll actually make out with this one. I’m glad.

BTW – she’s thanking me every time she talks to us.

-- No matter how many times I measure, I always forget the dimensions before I cut.

View BillyJ's profile


253 posts in 4002 days

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11 comments so far

View sandhill's profile


71 posts in 3997 days

posted 07-09-2011 05:26 AM

Hey Billy I am buying a house that was a foreclosure in VA and its a mess how about coming over and give me some help and show me what to do?

View BillyJ's profile


253 posts in 4002 days

posted 07-09-2011 05:46 AM


As long as you let me fish when I’m done for the day, you have a deal.

-- No matter how many times I measure, I always forget the dimensions before I cut.

View PaBull's profile


694 posts in 4452 days

posted 07-11-2011 06:14 AM

You did a fine job, and I asume you made somebody happy.

View rrdesigns's profile


100 posts in 3908 days

posted 07-22-2011 03:52 PM

Been there. Done that. My sympathy for you.

-- Beth, Oklahoma, Rambling Road Designs

View kelvancra's profile


3 posts in 3297 days

posted 07-25-2011 04:58 AM

In empathy for you, I’d like to post my experiences. As such, please remove your name from all your posts on this one listing, replace it with mine and blur the pictures a bit. That should pretty much cover it.

Meanwhile, welcome to the club. Rare is the professional who has not made a victim of his or her self, at least in the beginning.

View BillyJ's profile


253 posts in 4002 days

posted 07-26-2011 06:55 AM

kelvancra – thanks for the words of encouragement :) This was definitely a major learning experience – in many different ways. After all of this is said and done, I’m taking away my #3. I will continue to make things the very best is can be, regardless of what the customer wants.

Yes, I’m new to this (as a licensed contractor), but I’ve always looked at jobs as if I were doing it for myself. If I had to do it over again, I would have just said “no” to begin with. I don’t mind working for friends, but for some of them, I would rather they find someone else to do the job.

I know that this is one place where I can get a lot of help and encouragement. Honest – thanks guys. Not that misery enjoys company – but it is good to know that I’m not the only one.

-- No matter how many times I measure, I always forget the dimensions before I cut.

View Manitario's profile


33 posts in 3616 days

posted 07-31-2011 06:45 AM

I can relate…it feels like everytime I’ve gone to fix something in my current house, I find something horrible or dangerous left by previous owners attempts at renos. I’m not a contractor, thankfully, because after the experience of trying to fix up this one house, I think I’d be looking for a different career path!

View Houston's profile


47 posts in 3630 days

posted 08-03-2011 09:18 PM

I’ve learned those lessons. Thought I’d get into the house spinning market… after the first house, never again! Especially if you’re a person who does things right and goes the extra mile. Things tend to spin out of control quick. You did a good job.

Also, dealing with long-term smoker’s homes definitely are houses from hades.

-- If you need an electrician in Houston, we'll do a great job and respect your time. http://www.ontime-electric.com

View BillyJ's profile


253 posts in 4002 days

posted 08-04-2011 04:18 PM

Houston – you are so correct about spinning out of control. I also agree about flipping houses. I had thought about it, and have even looked into properties that had potential. After assessing everything, I backed away. Knowing that things will spin out of control has given me the power to just say NO!

As far as the smoking is concerned, I’ve been in houses where the customer smokes, and for the most part, you wouldn’t be able to tell. They regularly was the walls and paint every couple of years. This one hadn’t been touched in at least 20 years. If I get another job like this, they’ll have to pay more. It was a LOT of work.

-- No matter how many times I measure, I always forget the dimensions before I cut.

View BTKS's profile


39 posts in 4062 days

posted 09-07-2011 04:20 AM

I’m in your perdiciment right now but it’s my own house! I tried a flip house and it is a nightmare. I’ve done okay in the past but I didn’t inspect this one as closely as previous ones. I found MANY shortcuts taken by the previous owner. I’m paying dearly for it now and the city is trying to tell me I can’t work on my own property! We are thinking about dumping it at a loss and calling it lesson learned. NEVER buy a house in town agian. If you buy a dump and rent it out, no problem. Try to repair it and make it safe and they want to charge you for the privelidge of working on your own property. They start with testing, license, insurance, then permit, then every inspection, etc, etc. It’s a protection racket for their current lackies. City council and city manager have changed, maybe something will improve but I’m not holding my breath. Sorry for the rant but it drives me nuts everytime I think about it.
You did a wonderful job, keep it up.

View lilredweldingrod's profile


11 posts in 3772 days

posted 10-06-2011 05:47 PM

Billy, When I was in the welding business, I always carried a tablet of Change Orders. When I took on a job, I wrote out a detailed contract. Every time the customer wanted to change something, I pulled out my Change Order tablet and added an addendum to the original contract with the amount of extra materials and labor, dated it and had them sign it. I’ve ended up with 10-15 change orders on a job.

When it was time to pay up, there was always an argument on these big jobs, but I got my money. It helps to keep them from trying to get all the freebies to.

-- Yesterday I could not spell welder; Today I are one.

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