Someone once said, ‘If you do what you love and is your passion you will never have to work a day in your life’.
I knew this new project with “This Old Mold House” was not only going to be hard work, time-wise it would be a grueling challenge with my schedule.
I also had no idea how bad the mold was going to be or to what extent would be the abatement process.
As I was loading my wagon with my tools I couldn’t help but review how I had arrived at this point of beginning a project like this. In my mind, it was like it was just yesterday, but in reality it had begun almost 14 months.
I had been out walking the basset hounds, stopping frequently to visit with all the neighbors as I always did. Four doors down from “This Old Crack House” and across the street, was a large beautiful corner lot. This lot was home to a very big two-story stucco house, which for the most part, had been empty for over two years.
I had always admired this house. I even had commented several times how much I would like to own it and how much I would like to see inside. I saw a lot of potential in remodeling this house.
I knew this house was owned by an elderly widow in her eighties. But during the ten years I had lived on this block, I had only seen someone twice at the house.
I know everyone by name for several blocks around “This Old Crack House”; I make it my business to know everyone. My basset hounds are like ambassadors and have carved out a lucrative treat-trail during their walks, but this house had eluded us as far as meeting or knowing the owner.
I knew Pam, who lived for over twenty years across the street from this corner property. She knew the owner and her daughter and son-in-law quite well. When visiting Pam, the daughter had mentioned that the owner, Betty, now 81 years old, would like to see the house completely remodeled. She knew about the other nine houses we had purchased and refurbished over the last few years and was aware of our influence in rebuilding the entire neighborhood, rescuing it from urban decay.
Pam asked if we might be interested in this house and gave me the telephone number of the owner who was living in assisted living near her daughter some 150 miles away.
I told her I was interested in the house and took the number. When I got home I called the number and introduced myself to the son-in-law of the owner.
He knew me by reputation and was aware my work and its influence in renewing the neighborhood. He was very interested in selling the house and commented that his mother-in-law’s wish was for us to buy the home. By sheer coincidence, he would be in town and staying at the house that week, so we set up an appointment to tour the house.
I was excited.
He called me when he got to his mother-in-law’s house. I invited him to walk down the four doors and tour “This Old Crack House”. He said he would love to do this as he had heard so much about the house and was curious why everyone had always told him that if he got the chance, he should tour the house.
After the tour he said, “I now understand why everyone says what they have about your home.” He was almost speechless.
He gave me a brief background as to what was going on with Betty, his mother-in-law, the owner of the house. The only owners, Betty and her husband had built the house, living in the basement for thirteen years while they slowly finished it. It had been their dream. He made it clear that she wanted to sell it and preferred that we bought it. Her age and health made it impossible to return to the house.
When I toured the house, I was shocked. Words can’t really describe how much disrepair and hard times the house had suffered. Although from the outside the house looked like a castle, once inside, the disappointment was overwhelming. I tried not to show my reaction. Besides being badly dated in terms of its decorating, it was in dire straits. In short, 40 years of non-maintenance had come home to roost.
I knew she had been widowed early in life; this fact now very evident.
However, the lack of maintenance would be a secondary issue compared to what I discovered. Mold, more mold than I had ever seen in a basement of any house. On a seasonal basis for the city, I work as a State Building Inspector and had never come across this much mold. Besides being a non-conforming and illegal suite, the two bedroom, one bath layout in the basement was full of mold.
Although it occurred infrequently, the son-in-law had set up one of these bedrooms for those occasions when he came to town to work.
Thank God this happened rarely.
I counseled him gently about the dangers and health hazards of living in this basement. The mold was present on the concrete, various surfaces and in the walls of the bathroom and wherever wood partitions were built.
I could see the major cause of the mold. I pointed out that water had been allowed to seep in through the rotted-out windows caused by a reverse grade and rusted through or missing gutters and down pipes.
He worked in construction as a black top foreman for a large company and understood the reverse grade issue and seemed to understand the other causes, but he didn’t know about the possible health hazards of the mold and would move up stairs as soon as he could.
I suggested at this point he at least do the minimum necessary to stop the water flow into the basement when it rained. I also suggested he dry the basement out and gave him some other ideas how he could halt the spread of the mold. I explained that this would not be an easy task and he needed to take precautions when working in the basement.
He then said, “I suppose you’re not interested in the house then.”
“Not necessarily,” I told him. “But I do need to do a comprehensive study to determine what needs to be done. Certainly, if I do put in an offer the price will reflect these facts. I need the weekend to study the house.”
He handed me the keys and said, “Take them”.
I told him I would call him Monday when he returned.
We shook hands and I left.
Shaking my head all the way back home, I couldn’t help but think about all the work that would need to be done with the house just to make it habitable.
I was even wondering why any sane person would want to tackle a project like that. I never answered this self question. My mind switched to what needed to be done.
It was overwhelming.