Part II – Renovations to 368 Ice Ave.
As you now know, or if you don’t, read this first, in 2014 I had bought a house along with its contents. Now that the house was empty I could assess the situation and begin renovations. As if undressing, we’ll start at the top and work our way down. The upstairs windows needed replaced, and in two locations the plaster walls were crumbling due to moisture from long ago (there was no sign of current moisture problems). There were decent wood floors, however they had been painted and the paint was heavily scratched and scuffed. A former porch was now enclosed, but the drywall was unpainted and had a hole in one spot, the floor in this room was unfinished.
Downstairs, the front porch was also enclosed and badly needed new flooring. The upper kitchen cabinets were without backing against the wall, and the plaster wall was crumbling into the cabinets. I’m sure plaster would be like adding fiber to one’s diet, but I just couldn’t see tenants happily consumer plaster with their cereal. Another small addition was built off the back of the kitchen, which allowed for a positively giant kitchen by 19th century city house standards, but again this addition needed flooring help. The kitchen was also wrapped in glorious faux wood paneling that was popular in the 80’s, but like everything else from that decade, is now regretted. Happily, the basement was dry and all the mechanicals worked.
I’m not exactly trained in carpentry, unless you count trial and error, so with an optimistic attitude I began making a list of needed materials, taking measurements, and wondering from room to room with no clear purpose. I found myself staring at the kitchen cabinets, when a voice that was already inside the house, called out, “hey, anybody home?”
Quickly realizing that I wasn’t talking to myself again, I looked into the living room and saw the largest man I’ve ever come face to face with. This guy didn’t so much enter the house as take up space within it. He offered his hand, which swallowed mine to the elbow, as we shock hands and exchanged greetings all I could think was that he could remove my arm from my body as easily as picking a flower.
He lived around the corner and came by looking for work, so after reinforcing the staircase I took him upstairs to gather his opinions, while attempting to deduce if he actually had any skills. He spoke knowledgeably and at length about windows, paint, and flooring and he stated he owned his own tools. I didn’t listen so much as feel what he said, as his deep bass roused some lose plaster from the walls. Knowing that he could fold me up, and take me home in his pocket, I naturally hired him at an agreed upon rate of $15 per hour. Thus began our mutually beneficial renovation project.
Soon, he took on a leadership role, as we measured the windows and I placed an order. We installed wainscoting over the damaged plaster and gave the upstairs a top to bottom cleaning in preparation for painting. Like a bear, he swiped his paw at the kitchen cabinets and reveled bare wall. This wall had rather soft brick and mortar so we used lag bolts to attach furring strips. We would screw into the furring strips to mount the cabinets. He explained all this to me, and I stared back dumbly.
“Take me to the hardware store,” he bellowed.
As we attempted to climb into my Ford Ranger pickup, he moved the seat all the way back, reclined it, declared his hatred for small cars, and managed to fold himself into the passenger seat, with his knees hitting the dash, and his head cocked to avoid the roof. I felt like a toddler.
In due time, we hung new cabinets in the kitchen, the walls were repaired and painted, and new windows were installed (which was surprisingly easy). At this point the floors were the only remaining hurdle. If I could get the paint off, there were good old hardwood floors hiding underneath. I rented a sander, put a fan in the window, and attempted to fill my body with minute particles. I didn’t wear a mask – I’d love to write something witty or amusing about this situation, but I can’t. This was one of the dumbest things I’ve ever done. Just by looking at the dust level on the walls its clear the air I was breathing was a few degrees beyond hazardous. By that evening, I looked like I had spent the afternoon sniffing pollen. My eyes were red, and my nose was a brick. Eventually, things cleared up, but I think about that afternoon often and hope I don’t suffer consequences sometime down the road.
Fortunately, the paint came up easily, the only excitement other then my nasal congestion, was the sparks flying when I would hit an exposed carpet staple.
Soon I was screening tenants, and my first couple was moving in, they stayed for about a year. My current tenants have been there ever since and are paying $850 per month, along with the utilities.
The house looks wonderful, as they have decorated it nicely while also painting one wall to create an accent wall in the living room. Sure I’ve had a few problems here and there, a rat infestation springs to mind, but overall the house has been well taken care of, while also producing consistent cash flow. My monthly expenses average around $500, providing a cash flow of around $350 each month. Also, my mortgage balance is around $38,000 and the house could sell for between $70,000 – $80,000, which provides me with a nice amount of equity at this point.
Currently, the only issue I have is with a tree growing in the alleyway. I plan to finish my tree removal project this winter, after the leaves have fallen.