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Mod House Repair Advice Needed


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HELP !! :blink:

I need some really good advice from the group. Is anyone knowledgeable with the construction details of an open-plan, soft-contemporary style house, most likely post and beam construction, that they could advise from?

I have found 'the house' that I want to buy, a 1960 contemporary, with vaulted ceilings, cove lighting, original colored bath tile, giant fireplace, pocket doors everywhere and clerestory windows. It also has some Jetson-esque original light fixtures and a fantastic master suite that opens to the patio. At about 2200 sq. feet, the floorplan is great, and it's in a stable, appreciating area on a quiet street.

BUT ... the house has been badly neglected by the current owner for many years. Although the outside brick and original cedar siding are in good shape, the house has had roof leak issues. The owner says it happened since installing these dryer vent-looking things on the roof a year or two ago, but the visible garage attic says different. Here, there is clear evidence of minor to moderate water damage to the wood structure over a longer period of time.

My real concern is what lurks in the vaulted ceiling living area. There is drooping sheetrock and evidence of patchup repairs here, but because the sheetrock is nailed directly to the ceiling rafters, you can't check the wood behind it for rot without tearing the roof or the sheetrock off. I'm not as worried about possible mold (Houston = mold) as I am about structural rot, and am also wondering how water leaks can affect wiring. The rest of the house is pretty much a do-over, including pet odors, filthy baths, nasty kitchen, etc. It's liveable but just barely.

On the plus side, the foundation is solid and level (almost non-existent brick or sheetrock cracking/repairs), which to me speaks highly of the original construction quality, especially considering the neglect. Also, none of the visible sheetrock walls seem to show any sign of water leakage, only some of the ceilings.

Because I don't have much disposable income, I'm concerned about getting in over my head in repair costs, but I feel like taking on something like this is the only way I'm going to get into a vintage Mod house with my moderate income level. My realtor is sympathetic, but she is urging me to think twice before taking on a project of this magnitude. I'm trying to decide whether to make an offer contingent on inspections or if I should just blow it off, keep looking and hope I find something else in my price range.

Any comments are welcomed.

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It sounds like you really like the house and you could end up with a gem when all is said and done. I'm finding that many realtors (with a few exceptions including one specific realtor on this board ;) ) are more likely to guide people towards quick sales and suggesting teardowns before promoting restoration.

If you need a local architect who can help with restoration of the house, let me know.

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I had these same worries when I bought my 1961 exotic-contemporary. The owner had gone bankrupt ten years earlier and was in failing health thus unable to maintain the house. Rumor got out that it was destroyed with termites and was a tear down. It had been on the market for months with no offers and hardly no showings due to its appearance. I was not even looking in this neighborhood because the prices were over twice my price range but my realtor printed out everything for sale in the zip code and this was the lowest price of anything.

It was a miracle- it had everything I wanted- room to build a four car garage and an existing swimming pool. After thorough inspections, we found only the roof shingles had termites and the rest of the house was solid and very well built. Years later, I discovered the house had been designed by an architect for the Parade of Homes and was beiefly seen as one of the most fashionable places in town.

Determine the average cost in the area of the house you like. Get several contractors to estimate the cost of repairs to make it comparable to the norm of the area. An overall inspection and a structural inspection should be performed. Some sections of sheetrock may have to be removed. Even if some members are damaged, they can be easily bolstered and recovered with sheetrock. These contractors can easily repair a multitude of damage. Just keep the water and termites out and allow the air to circulate and everything will last another 50-100 years.

When you make the offer on the house, also submit your list of necessary repairs, cost estimates, and inspection reports to justify the price to the seller.

Good luck!

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Thanks everyone for the suggestions and support. This is sounding like it's at least worth pursuing further discussions with the seller and some serious inspections. After all, they aren't building any more of these ...

If this works out I'll come back and post some pictures ...

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Guest danax

I agree with dbigtex and spaceage's advice. I bought a house almost a hundred years old, had an inspector that specializes in old houses inspect it and decided not to hire a structural engineer. I have found hidden termite damage and rot in the 3 years I've lived here but I am not fazed, although it ticked me off that I was lied to by the seller (he hid termite damage).If the house looks square, the foundation is solid and the rooflines look level, you're probably ok.

I was a little afraid to take the plunge too but I'm glad I did. With the obvious appreciation you have for the house, you will find you not only bought a house, but a long-term art project with all of the satisfaction that comes with it. Working on something that ultimately will give you pleasure is a pleasure. I say spend some money to make sure it's not about to fall down then go for it.

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Thanks everyone for the suggestions and support.  This is sounding like it's at least worth pursuing further discussions with the seller and some serious inspections.  After all, they aren't building any more of these ...

If this works out I'll come back and post some pictures ...

If you like the house, I would strongly consider it. Mods are hard to find, believe me I know.

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As most of you have read, I'm going through a bit of the same thing, just a little further down the line than you are. I'm going to be choosing a contractor soon and the list I have for projects for whoever it is is unbelievably long.

Today I made my first move by having a bee man come and (unfortunately he had to) kill a 4 foot hive of bees from between the brick and sheetrock. Later I found out that the neighbors had bees a while back and were able to have a bee rescuer come out from out of town to get them and take them out to the country. But at least they are gone and he took the hive with him, leaving little chance of a reappearance. The contractor will just have to make sure the leak is filled in where the bees were getting in and out.

Wow, this is just the beginning.

Hopefully the next hive will be people buzzing around my house fixing it up.


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  • 5 months later...
If you like the house, I would strongly consider it.  Mods are hard to find, believe me I know.

UPDATE - I'm afraid I've let y'all down on this one.

I DID put an offer on this house in April, but then backed out before inspections. Among other things, the water leaks were just too scary, and I didn't feel I had enough to spend to make it right again.

And now I'm sorry I did that ... :angry:

AFTER remuddle - http://www.har.com/3510874

Oh sure, the flipper at least didn't change the roofline or something equally stupid, but now everything's white, beadboard paneling and traditional cabinet doors in the kitchen, natural fireplace brick has apparently been painted and a 'gorgeous' marble surround added, cove lighting appears to have been ripped out, etc. etc.

Maybe I'm just strange but I just hate what they've done to this house. I also know they ripped out the original pink and blue colored bath tile (found pieces in the trash in front of the house) and they tossed the Jetson lighting fixtures.

It's very, very frustrating when you're an architecture buff and have limited income to do anything about it. Someone needs to start a grant foundation to help save these houses .... hey, maybe I should do that !!! :huh:

Anyway, thanks for letting me vent ...

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I know that feeling when you see them remuddled and another original one "wasted." That new listing I got on Stony Dell in Glenbrook is probably going to be another one like that. I have gotten calls and shown it a couple of times. It's original down to the appliances, but the couple of showings so far people talk about "updating" & ripping out this and ripping out that. From the colored tile baths to removing the cove lighting. I keep my fingers crossed a more preservation minded person will buy it.. If you are still looking I am going to hold that one open on Sunday 2 to 4.

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