'This Old Crack House' #36: I needed to win the lottery … and see Dr Phil…

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Blog entry by Dusty posted 04-25-2007 05:39 PM 2804 reads 0 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 35: "This wasn’t Martha Stewart’s Kitchen"… Part 36 of 'This Old Crack House' series Part 37: This was no stairway to heaven…. »

I discovered during the demo of the old kitchen that the sink had a slow leak that had been dripping water for quite some time, causing the subfloor and floor joists to rot. The plumbing had also been leaking in the walls for some time. This discovery caused me to open up the whole wall to access what needed to be done by exposing all of the old plumbing. As a result, I decided to tear out every inch of the plumbing and start over from scratch. I also had to repair and replace the old rotted subfloor and joists.

That familiar sick feeling returned again, as did that pain located in my wallet.

Keeping with my overall plan of gutting out what had to be replaced, in order to make the house livable and code compliant, I moved on to the upstairs floor.

I wouldn’t be able to get an accurate picture of what needed to be done, or the costs, until I had the entire house exposed. I knew this would be substantial and time-consuming. I wasn’t prepared for the enormous task ahead of me; however I had no choice at that point; there was no turning back.

It’s like being in a swamp full of alligators snapping at your heels. It’s hard to remain focused that the purpose for being in the swamp was to drain it.

I was faced with an enormous and likely very expensive challenge. This required some rethinking and additional planning on my part.

It because clear to me that I would have to make the repairs and sell the house. I simply wouldn’t be able to rent the house out for sufficient enough revenue to cover both the mortgage and repairs costs. I saw no alternative but to take out a second mortgage for these unexpected costs.

I had already received a credit-line increase on my credit cards, but I would maximize these in short order. Besides, in my opinion, the interest rates were unacceptable and bordered on loan sharking.

In order to qualify for a second mortgage, I would have to also raise my income or add some supplemental income. My part time job as a bus driver paid well, but not nearly enough to qualify me for what I would need to hold two first mortgages and a second. This second mortgage would be in addition to my other monthly expenses. These included the carrying costs of various projects I had taken on to fund my shop and remodel my home.

Simply, I was over-extended financially. I thought how nice it would be to win the lottery.

Getting back to reality, I had to quickly make some hard choices. Time is money and both were running out fast. Every day that passed my financial resources were hemorrhaging faster than I could replace them.

One word pretty much described my feelings at the time, and it wasn’t joyful.


I had to work my split-shift as a bus driver and work on the house between shifts during nights and on the weekends. This resulted in an exhausting seven day work-week.

In addition to the physical demands the job placed on my body, I found the biggest challenges were mental. Not only was I worrying and wondering about the costs and how I would fund the project, but I found it difficult to remain motivated when I was so physically tired. I began to question my own resolve, my physical abilities and my skills to complete the work; in short, I felt overwhelmed.

But, I had to stay focused and not offer my resignation to the house because I knew it would accept.

This was not easy.

I had a lot of support from friends and others who had followed my work in the past. My business partner was there with me every step of the way.

He never showed his doubt. I knew he felt the same way that I did, but he trusted that I would figure it out and we would get through this project like we had so many others.

For the first time ever I had serious doubts. I knew I didn’t dare show this part of me to anyone. I just keep these feeling to my self and forged on.

I was walking wounded; never-the-less, I was still walking.


Something had to give and it did. It wasn’t what I wanted or had imagined.

It was devastating.

Due to budget cuts, my friend, Sid, shop helper and sidekick for the last four years, had been laid off from his school teaching position of some nine years. He was distraught, as was I.

I knew it would be very hard for him to find a teaching job. Not only had nine hundred teachers just been laid off from one city, but the budget was still millions in the red. He was at the top of the pays scale due to his Master’s Level qualifications and was not the kind of teacher a cash-strapped school board would be hiring.

I knew he would be looking towards me for a full time job. If I had been able to afford to hire him I would have done so in a heartbeat. I needed help with this project and we had worked together on several projects. He had caught on to remodeling well and had become a valued asset.

I had to find a way to hire him to help me. This would buy him some time to find a new teaching job.

This wouldn’t be easy. I was already over extended.

I felt a moral obligation to help if I could. He had worked with me for over four years remodeling, doing furniture repairs, and building commission pieces that I had taken on to pay for more tools and to fund the remodeling and side-line business costs.

I had to find a way, but I could only take on so many extra shifts as a bus driver and that wouldn’t be enough to cover his wages.

The only logical solution was to pre-sell the house; get a signed purchase agreement that spelled out all the items that would be done in the remodeling process. I had one prospect who was interested in the house and I had done business with before. He seemed to be the logic person to go to.

He was interested in the property. I really didn’t want to sell this property at this stage because I had no idea how much the remodeling costs would be until the project was completed. I also knew that without a purchase agreement, getting a second mortgage for remodeling would be almost impossible.

I was hesitant to enter into a formal purchase agreement with all the variables that remained. I was in a classic catch twenty-two position. I decided to enter into a good faith Intent to Purchase Property Agreement. This is a much simpler legal document to use in these cases and make it easier for either side to adjust the final purchase agreement if necessary.

This legal document gave me a lot more leverage in securing a second mortgage to complete the property remodeling and prepare it for final sale.

I felt good about solving the immediate money shortage problem and finding a temporary way to give Sid a job until he was able to get another teaching job and land back on his feet.

My focus now could get back to the house and all the challenges that it presented.

The next major focus was going to be the upstairs. This not only turned out to be a major challenge but another unexpected additional expense for which I had not budgeted. In short I was facing another setback.

How many of these would I face?

This weighed heavily on my mind.

-- Dusty

7 comments so far

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4158 days

#1 posted 04-25-2007 05:47 PM

and on top of all that you were carrying, you took it upon yourself to provide angel support to yet another desperate soul.

It sounds like your previous experiences/careers/trainings sure have become an asset for you!! Isn’t the Universe wonderful how it provides what we will need, even though we don’t know it at the time.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 4244 days

#2 posted 04-25-2007 05:53 PM

Wow Dusty, you sure have a heap of resolve and faith. One is faith in yourself and your abilities. Your story is an inspiration to me. I thought I’d had it tough. You show us all that with resolve and tenacity you can surmount about anything. Good luck and God Bless, and thank you for the inspiration. jockmike

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

View Karson's profile


35120 posts in 4398 days

#3 posted 04-26-2007 03:24 AM

Dusty. If you were a septic cleaner. No one would want to get next to you. Your were in over your head. It’s too bad that you couldn’t see the problems before making your purchase offer. The town was probably right . Demolish it and build something new.

But I’m a thousand miles away and you were there. Your still alive so I guess you made it through.

-- 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 Sawdust2's profile


1466 posts in 4085 days

#4 posted 04-26-2007 04:17 AM

Before I got a good look at that alligator I though it was a crud encrusted electrical junction box that you discovered upstairs!

The plumbing looked like the commercial for an antacid.

I love how you are handling this crud encrusted upset stomach of a renovation.

BTW thanks for the fix.

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

View Greg3G's profile


815 posts in 4083 days

#5 posted 04-26-2007 04:26 AM

I would normaly say something profound like “out of the frying pan, into the fire.” but you past that point several episodes ago. : ) You were up to your neck in it.

Funny thing, all the things you did in the past seem to be coming together to help you when you need it most.

-- Greg - Charles Town, WV

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4312 days

#6 posted 04-27-2007 04:57 AM

I’m thinking long term mental therapy is in order. It sounds like the beginnings of a PTSD diagnosis.

View Obi's profile


2213 posts in 4234 days

#7 posted 04-28-2007 04:13 PM

I think all of you, including Dusty is missing the greatest part of this story. His growth.

Dusty said it wasn’t worth it, I say Bullshit. He drove a bus and had paralegal experience.
Now he’s a carpenter, sheet rocker, plumber, finish carpenter, insulation installer, electrician, those are professions that take months or years to achieve, and he did it all in one house.

I say Priceless

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