1926 Home - I NEED HELP!

Questions, answers and advice for people who own or work on houses built during the 20th century.

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Pheonix
Posts: 22
Joined: Thu Sep 09, 2010 1:20 am

1926 Home - I NEED HELP!

Post by Pheonix »

I live in a home built in 1926 in Tampa FL. by my great grandfather. My grandmother was born in this house, I was raised here and I am now raising my sons here aswell. No AC or central heat. We have a gas heater in the living room which was just upgraded last winter, the original one was falling apart and smoked really bad. Gas is used to cook and for hot water as well. The electrical is probably the original stuff. It looks like two main wires coated in cloth/plastic? It is in serious need of repair. It has had some repairs and upgrades over the years but not much. Mainly to the plumbing and a partial re-flooring (cheaply done) An addition was added but not sure when it was added. It needs a lot of work. I have nightmares of this place burning to the ground with us in it.

Dave7711
Posts: 158
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 5:07 pm

Re: 1926 Home - I NEED HELP!

Post by Dave7711 »

I assume in your situation that since you obtained the house from a relative that you either inherited the house or paid relatively little for that. Not sure if thats the case but its reasonable to assume. If thats the case then you should have available funds that would have gone into the purchase to devote to repairs. Repairs are tough - I know because I have had more than my share on the Cape Cod I purchased last year. From plumbing issues to the roof to the air conditioning unit. It is a nightmare just finding an honest contractor to do the work.

I think the first priority must be to make the house reasonably safe (no house that age can be perfectly safe) no matter what the cost. That could involve a new furnace system and also especially the inspection of a qualified electrician to look over things and see what he can do. Do you have circuit breakers or fuses? One thing about the furnace system I have to remember that a furnace isnt the life and death issue in Florida that it is in Ohio so maybe you can improvise there but you will use it occasionally and it must be made safe. But an electrician should look things over and you should consider making whatever recommendations he makes -- assuming he is qualified and honest of course.

lisascenic
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Location: Oakland California
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Re: 1926 Home - I NEED HELP!

Post by lisascenic »

Why are you having these nightmares? When was the last time the house was inspected by a qualified building inspector?

1920s wiring isn't a death warrant. A huge number of the houses in the San Francisco bay area still have knob-and-tube wiring, and we don't have chronic house fires.

There are very good air conditioning units that sit on the floor, and vent out a window. So you can survive without central AC. And older houses were built before AC, so they are designed with the weather in mind.

Here's my one big, big, big piece of advice: do know that unless you find a contractor who specializes in older houses, you're going to get a *lot* of advice involving tearing out everything that was built so well that it stood for almost 90 years, and replacing all that with cheap, cheap new construction.

Older houses were built to last, and your family's house certainly has done that

Find out what (if anything) is genuinely dangerous, and then slowly work on the biggest priorities. Get several opinions from several contractors.

And don't panic! You have a great resource on this forum, with lots of friendly people who will help guide you through caring for your family's home.

artfox
Posts: 695
Joined: Sun Dec 04, 2005 4:24 pm
Location: Houston

Re: 1926 Home - I NEED HELP!

Post by artfox »

Hello and welcome!

How wonderful that you are living in a home that's been in your family for so many generations! They don't build 'em like that anymore, so you'll want to preserve the good parts and update the rest. You can do all the work yourself; hire a general remodeling contractor who'll do everything; or be your own GC, using skilled workers for the things you cant or don't want to do.

First, has the house been inspected recently by a licensed home inspector? If not, have it done before you call any contractor or tradesman so you know what you can live with for awhile and what needs immediate attention -- it will be several hundred bucks well spent. Most home inspectors have no clue about anything built after 1960 and finding one who knows old houses may take some research. Be sure to include a termite inspection.

Take care of basics so you and your family feel safe -- foundation, roof and structural, if needed -- then electrical update, plumbing update, installation of central heat and A/C. As the owner of a 1935 bungalow, I can tell you that living in a house while it's being worked on sure isn't fun, but a lot of us on this forum have done it and we survived!

Just remember, the interior design part IS fun and a great reward when you've completed all the necessary structural and mechanical stuff that nobody sees.

Good luck and post often! Oh, and pictures of your house, please...we love pictures!

Pheonix
Posts: 22
Joined: Thu Sep 09, 2010 1:20 am

Re: 1926 Home - I NEED HELP!

Post by Pheonix »

Ok a little more back story may be required lol. I have always lived here, and I can not remember a time the house was inspected. Grandpa is still living, and the house will be mine when he passes away. I have lived here since birth bouncing back and forth between here and my dads and perminetly since I was 17 taking care of my grandparents. If they inspected this home they might condemn it lol. Anyways the senior home improvement people have my granfather on a waiting list to recieve assistance with the home repairs. His children tried to get us kicked out when granny died even called DCF (department of children and families) on me to try and force us out. It didn't work of course. Grandma would never let anyone in the house or let us change or upgrade anything. The only time anything got fixed was if it broke completely. Even then she wouldn't want to do repairs. The roof needs to be replaced, it leaks badly in several places. I have lost electricity in two rooms. There are only three-four electrical outlets in the entire house and at least one of those is burned out. the foundation for the addition is cracked, has been my entire life. I can tell I have termite issues on top of other issues. Granny was a pack rat and didn't take care of this house now I am gonna inherit a mess. I have thought about leveling the place and starting over. I just don't know if she can be saved or not but I think it deserves a shot at least. She has withstood a lot of stuff, she is falling apart but still standing. I do have photos of the house from my gandmother's childhood and up to the present. I will post them soon.

Pheonix
Posts: 22
Joined: Thu Sep 09, 2010 1:20 am

Re: 1926 Home - I NEED HELP!

Post by Pheonix »

this is one of the old house with my grandmother in the front I believe
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Pheonix
Posts: 22
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Re: 1926 Home - I NEED HELP!

Post by Pheonix »

Grandma and her brother and sister before the porch was overlaid with concrete.
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artfox
Posts: 695
Joined: Sun Dec 04, 2005 4:24 pm
Location: Houston

Re: 1926 Home - I NEED HELP!

Post by artfox »

First, do whatever it takes to get an electrician to upgrade your electrical service IMMEDIATELY! Beg or borrow the money to pay for it if you have to. Yes, it may be disturbing to your grandfather and yes, there will be holes in the walls, but you and your family are in a dangerous situation. Don't worry about what the city inspector will think about your home when he signs off on the permit -- just get it done NOW!

Then, replace the roof ASAP so water damage will be kept to a minimum. If you don't and Tampa gets hit by a tropical storm or a hurricane, your home and its contents may suffer irreparable damage.

I don't know how good a job the senior home improvement people do in your area but from what I've seen around here, the materials they use are the cheapest and the workmanship is iffy. Hate to say it, but I've also seen volunteer groups slap a coat of paint on the exterior walls of seniors' homes without prep work and then get big TV news coverage for doing something truly wonderful.

Please don't give up on your great old family home. Just make it a safe place for you and yours to live. If circumstances dictate that you have to make temporary repairs -- well, they can be un-done.The termites won't turn your home into a pile of sawdust overnight and the foundation won't collapse immediately. If the plumbing works, you're okay. Meanwhile, think about those projects you want to start when the time comes and do some research. When you read through some of the posts on our forum and see the old-house problems others have tackled, you'll realize you aren't alone. We're here with encouragement and advice based on experience.

Pheonix
Posts: 22
Joined: Thu Sep 09, 2010 1:20 am

Re: 1926 Home - I NEED HELP!

Post by Pheonix »

The roof has to be done before I can do any electrical work. I will take some current photos of the exterior tomorrow and post them. I am thankfull for the encouragement I am recieving so far. It is the first time people have been on my side when it comes to fixing it up. I just hope this old house isn't too far gone to save. There are so many memories here. I'm the only one left alive that wants to save it. Oh and there is no insulation that I can tell in the walls or attic area. the interior walls in all the bedrooms is still the way it originally was. I do appologize but most of the old photos of the interior or ecterior will include people :) I have found so many photos and i know there are more. I am a single mom and it is not going to be easy for me to get the money, I lost my job in 09 after my little sister passed away. Then grandma's cancer got worse and i had to stay home to be with my kids and her and grandpa. No income on my part coming in. So it has been difficult and the problems keep coming, water leak in the bathroom and no shut off valves, we still have a well in the city of Tampa so i just unplug the pump when water is not needed and make sure the water is not on for long periods of time. I am overwhelmed to say the least, crazy wiring issues and bad roof. these issues have been around and again I begged her to let me get an ellectrician in here years ago so I know the problems are getting worse. Like I said I need help...

TinyOldHouse
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Re: 1926 Home - I NEED HELP!

Post by TinyOldHouse »

Well, you came to the right place!
House projects can be overwhelming... I always find making a list helps... a long list with lots of small things that I can quickly do and cross off. :D

There's some great advice above about what is the most important... sounds like roof and electrical. It's a small little house, so neither should be hugely expensive. The roofing you could do yourself (BUT CAREFUL!). Or, do you have skills in something that you could possibly trade (on Craigslist perhaps) for roofing labor? (Think even things like housecleaning, gardening, babysitting in addition to other skills). When we had our garage reroofed, we bought the materials oursevles and hauled the debris away to save a couple hundred dollars, too... you can only do that if you have a truck, but maybe a family member can lend you one, too (be sure to check out the dump fees in your area before agreeing to make sure you are saving money!) The materials are expensive, but it is a 20-30 year investment. We did a 400 sf garage for about $800 in labor and $550 in supplies, including all new sheathing plywood for the decking, as the old was rotted out. $30 in dump fees, too.

Electrical will be trickier to find cheaper, unless you can find someone willing to help you do the work. But, it's a safety issue. Maybe someone will have a good idea on how to do it less expensively.

I love the small little old houses. Once those are done, you can start picking away at the rest, like installing the turn off valves at the sink (really pretty easy with the new sharkbite fittings!) and other fixtures and fixing the plumbing leak, etc. Most of the rest you should be able to do yourself, though you might have to research or ask us how!

Oh, and about insulation... our house had no insulation except for in the attic. When you get to that point, blow a bunch into the attic and you should be fine! You might want to invest in thermal window coverings to keep heat from coming in your windows during the day in summer, but those are relatively cheap at Target et al, and easy.

(And, keep receipts, for if anyone contests your right to inherit the house, you will want to be sure to have a record of how much you have sunk into it!)
See what we are doing now!
http://tinyoldhouse.blogspot.com

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