'This Old Crack House' #31: "Houston we have a problem..."

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Blog entry by Dusty posted 04-13-2007 02:03 PM 4094 reads 1 time favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 30: I bought a piece of Hell...on my way to heaven Part 31 of 'This Old Crack House' series Part 32: Let the credit card advances begin.... »

Ok, the party is over. Seventy-five of our friends and neighbors had attended this Ugly house open house.

It was time to start the gutting out and total makeover of this old crack house.

I was aware that the process was going to be extensive, but I had no idea how extensive. I was soon going to find out; in fact, even sooner than I had expected.

I had been bothered by a strange foul-smelling odor coming from somewhere in the basement. I knew that it had been wet and that there was mold. This odor was unlike any mold I had encountered while working as a city and state building inspector. This odor was
new to me.

I had planed on tearing down the temporary walls that were erected in the basement to make what was suppose to be two extra bedrooms. One was for the elderly mother of the former owner.

The windows in the basement had been busted out and had rotted over time. They were poorly repaired. The repair job consisted of two-by-twos with plexi-glass screwed over the rotten frame. Cardboard was stapled over this to keep the light out.

I don’t even want to know why, let alone think about it.

I began the demo process. The first thing to fall out of the make-shift false ceiling was a crack pipe and a porn magazine collection.

Nice start, I thought.

If that was all I was going to find I would have been ecstatic.

As I got deeper into the demo I noticed that the smell was getting worse. I had knocked out all the remaining windows to vent the basement and help dry it out. I had planed on replacing all the windows with glass block. I knew I had to stop the water leakage in order to ensure a dry basement. If I was unable to sell the house to some one I felt would fit in the neighborhood, my plan was to build a mother-in-law apartment in the basement to rent out.

The house was zoned R2 so a duplex was legal. With all the zoning and building restrictions, the city pretty much nixed my plan to split the lot off and build another house on the vacant lot. This wouldn’t have been economically feasible. I had initially wanted the lot to build a proper new shop. As my previous two shops had been converted two stall garages, I had to settle for poor lighting, cramped low ceilings and no heat.

I finally got the basement gutted out. The smell was worse and I still was puzzled as to its source.

There had been an old bathroom at one time over in one corner that had been taken out a long time ago. The drain was plugged up so it wasn’t sewer gas I smelled.

Upon further investigation I found this old roughed-in bath that had cracked and settled parts of the cement floor. I thought this would be a good time to remove this section of floor and replace the bathroom. I had planed on putting in an egress window. I also planed a new efficient kitchen making it a completely self-contained mother-in-law apartment.

One fourth of the basement would be used for the laundry room and a utility room to house the furnace. I also planed to replace all the electrical wiring in the basement and possibility upgrade the main panel box.

I took a sledge-hammer and broke out a section of the cement floor in the old bathroom to investigate the plumbing drain, replace it and bring it up to code. I discovered that it was an old ball style drain and that it had rusted out. It didn’t meet the current code, so I knew the city was going to require me to replace it.

The city already had given me notice that they would have preferred me to have torn down the house. If I was to salvage this house, their expectations were going to be demanding.

I assured them I was prepared for this.

In hindsight, I understand why they wanted it condemned; perhaps they were right.

I finished breaking the cement out and dug up the old drain. I cut off the old clay pipe and noticed the sand under the floor was wet and that it smelled.

I began cutting out the old drain when I discovered the problem.

I was not pretty.

Major in fact.

All the plumbing had rusted out and had been apparently leaking into the sand under the concrete floor for years. Urine and human feces had been seeping into the fill sand under the floor.

The smell had now become overwhelming.

I knew instantly this was a huge problem. It would not only require replacement of all the plumbing, but I would have to use a jack-hammer to break up the floor and remove at least two feet of the fill-sand under it.

There was no other way to do this, but one bucket at a time.

I had to break it all up, put the cement in a five gallon bucket, then carry it up the steps into a waiting dumpster.

After all the cement was gone, I then had to remove all the foul smelling sand one bucket at a time and then replace it the same way.

I wanted to sit down and cry.

What the hell did I get into?

That was it. I had started digging my way to hell I thought.

Little did I know that was only the beginning of what I was to find.

copy right all rights reserved D.Jerzak 04-12-07

-- Dusty

15 comments so far

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 4268 days

#1 posted 04-13-2007 02:58 PM

That’s what I call, getting yourself into some deep Doo Doo!

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

View Karson's profile


35111 posts in 4369 days

#2 posted 04-13-2007 03:31 PM

Thanks for the update Dusty. It’s heartbreaking to hear about the way that people live and then others have to come in an clean up the mess.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4129 days

#3 posted 04-13-2007 03:38 PM

and it’s heartbreaking to think that these people don’t feel that they deserve or can have a different life…. for them, there “just is” is a sad life.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View RobS's profile


1334 posts in 4275 days

#4 posted 04-13-2007 04:37 PM

A human litter box…groosss!

-- Rob (A) Waxahachie,TX

View Sawdust2's profile


1466 posts in 4056 days

#5 posted 04-13-2007 04:38 PM

Each episode keeps getting us deeper and deeper into this mess.
Each new episode ends with a new beginning. It’s like a computer game with endless levels.
When do we find the body? From what we have read I don’t foresee a treasure chest.

-- No piece is cut too short. It was meant for a smaller project.

View Greg3G's profile


815 posts in 4054 days

#6 posted 04-13-2007 06:20 PM

Oh my, what a pain in the back! I would have considered making it a walk out basement and punched a hole in the side wall.

I guess we’ll find out later if that got rid of the smell.

-- Greg - Charles Town, WV

View scottb's profile


3648 posts in 4296 days

#7 posted 04-14-2007 05:33 AM

Almost sounds like a good excuse to fill the basement with cement (after knocking down the house) and making a basketball court, or a parking lot (for outside your new shop).

And to think she had her mother live down there?

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- --

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4283 days

#8 posted 04-14-2007 05:42 AM

Bad flash back…I’ve done that 5 gallon bucket out of a basement thing…never again!

View Chip's profile


1904 posts in 4061 days

#9 posted 04-14-2007 06:02 AM

One word… Fabreeze. Gallons of it. No, make that a tanker truck.

Is this story going to have a happy ending Dusty cause this is really lowering my thoughts about mankind (well, you are certainly the positive note throughout but still…)

-- Better to say nothing and be thought the fool... then to speak and erase all doubt!

View Dusty's profile


785 posts in 4125 days

#10 posted 04-14-2007 01:14 PM

One thing I learned driving bus and dealing with the public is that the minute I think I have seen it all, I see something that is unimaginable and that I never had seen before.

This house reaffirmed this.

The troubling part of this is this was considered acceptable or normal to them.

In the lessons learned department: notice the location of the furnace. The plumbing that had rusted through and was leaking into the sand under the concrete was right next to the air intake of the furnace. In essence that furnace was taking in all the toxic sewer gas and was sending it through out the house in the duct system. Tests confirmed this. It was still in low level stages however in time it could of, and likely would of became deadly.

Stay tuned this is only the beginning.

-- Dusty

View Dusty's profile


785 posts in 4125 days

#11 posted 04-14-2007 01:19 PM


It sounds like “been there did that”. My heart goes out to you and your back. I still hurt from that. One bucket at a time first the cement, then the new fill sand. Lets not forget the bags of cement that weigh 80 lbs, that you have to mix in a wheel borrow with a hoe and short shove. Remember also the water is shut off so you have to carry water down to mix the cement.

Is it grand when the wheel borrow tips over when you are mixing the cement.


I lost 11 pounds doing this work.

Next time I need do loose weight I am doing it the old fashion way.

Weight Watchers.

-- Dusty

View scottb's profile


3648 posts in 4296 days

#12 posted 04-14-2007 03:40 PM

11 pounds you say?... maybe I should bust up my basement floor, and give myself some more headroom! (and buy some new pants)

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- --

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4129 days

#13 posted 04-14-2007 03:45 PM

you have stamina , Dusty – and not just physical stamina. I think I would have given up.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View Dusty's profile


785 posts in 4125 days

#14 posted 04-14-2007 03:56 PM


You have no idea how many times I wanted to give up.


That above all is what I am most proud of.

I never quit.

-- Dusty

View Dusty's profile


785 posts in 4125 days

#15 posted 04-14-2007 03:58 PM


Call weight watchers, La weight loss, or Jenny Craig. Iff you need the numbers let me know I will get them for you.

I learned the hard way.


-- Dusty

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