"This Old Mold House" #9: The first "surprise" arrives...Let the work began

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Blog entry by Dusty posted 01-01-2008 03:05 PM 2761 reads 0 times favorited 19 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 8: We have a deal ! Part 9 of "This Old Mold House" series no next part

After demolishing the basement and cleaning it out, I had a chance to assess the real condition of the plumbing, electrical, heating, and various other parts of the house.

Not good!

I confirmed pretty much what I expected and that for which I had planned, and budgeted.

This included breaking up the floor and replacing all the floor drains and pipe, the plumbing needed to be redone.

The electrical wiring was in dire shape.

The heating plant (hot water heat boiler) although less than 10 years old, was in bad shape. The boiler had been replaced however the bathroom shower stall had rotted out and had been spraying water on the side of the boiler where it also rusted out.

The old radiators were outdated, improperly installed, and had over sized pipe that was unsightly and very inefficient. Several of these old cast iron relics were rusted and full of sediment and was surely trouble waiting to happen.

You could add all of the following to the list of “needing immediate replacement”.

1. The existing water heater that was full of sludge and had been leaking for a long period.
2. The newspaper that was dated in the nineteen forties that was used as insulation for the ceiling and walls.
3. The lead laundry tub.
4. The washer and dryer.
5. All of the basement plumbing fixtures in the former bathroom.
6. The well had to be abandoned.
7. All the basement windows besides being inoperable were rotted and contained only single-pane glass.
8. All fuse boxes and wiring.
9. The crawl space that lead from the basement to under the porch was not closed off from the outside elements.
10. The old heating system piping had been oversized and built in to all the former spaces. These pipes now stood out in the open and took up valuable space. Not only was this unsightly, it was impractical to build around.
11. The gas lines no longer met code, nor did anything else for that matter.
12. The floor covering was asbestos containing floor tile that had been breaking up for years.

There really wasn’t anything I had not planed for from my initial assessment. You always hope you find something that didn’t need replacing or was in better shape than first thought.

I can dream right?

The next step would be to break up the floor and replace the plumbing.

This would need to be done along with pouring a new floor before we could finish frameing out the new bathroom and bedroom.

There is only one way to describe what breaking up concrete and replacing the existing plumbing is like.

It sucks and is hard work.


Oh, did I mention also expensive, dirty, smelly and time consuming?

Enough said, and suffice to say not my favorite work to do. It had to be done and the sooner I got going on it, the faster it would be done.

It is funny how any talk of demolition work being fun abruptly stops when it comes to breaking up a concrete floor with a sludge hammer and bars. I have also notice how quickly laborers start bitching when tearing out old smelly rusted pipes leaking toilet sewage all over while struggling to carry them up a flight of stairs to an outside dumpster. I was that laborer.

It is part of the work in any rehabilitation project and certainly I had no budget to hire a professional plumber. You also begin to better understand why and how they charge the rates they do.

After spending a day breaking up the floor and digging out the old plumbing, it was time to start the rough-in of the new plumbing.

Not only did I have sand piled up from the sub floor under the concrete, I also had the smell and old residue from the rusted-through drain piping to deal with and replace.

I know why I never wanted to become a plumber.

One other very important consideration at that point was I had to not only replace all the existing plumbing, but also bring it up to code. There is no margin for error. I either did this or they would make me replace it.

I had to plan the work well taking into account any future improvements or additions that I might want to add. I had to do all of this without going over budget. It’s at this stage where the importance of a budget and all the work that goes into preplanning becomes evident.

I learned this all the hard way. It only took one experience of having to break up a concrete floor after I had replaced the plumbing and the cement after I failed to get a rough in inspection for me to learn that lesson.

I have never forgotten that “teachable moment”.


After replacing all the plumbing in the floor and while waiting for the plumbing inspector I stared my framing and insulating work. On this job, I didn’t have the luxury of completing one phase, get it inspected and then proceed to the next phase.

Time was critical.

Certainly it would have been much easier not to have to frame walls around large trenches in the floor and sand piled on the existing concrete. This never mattered because I had a tight time line and couldn’t afford to loose a single day.

When I make a trip to the lumber yard or big box retailer I make the most of it.

I buy and have on hand what I need, or will need in the very new future, without having items that can be lost or misplaced or not need at this phase of the project.


Being organized is essential.

Having what is needed, when it is needed, is very important.

I take my “preplanning notes” that are complete with model numbers, stock keeping unit numbers, colors and whatever else is essential and fax this over to the store so that it can all be pulled in advance and waiting for me when I arrive.

All I have to do then is to pay for it and check that what they pulled was on my list and is undamaged.

This is a huge time saver.

I also stage these materials as close to where I will need them without causing other problems. I then make sure my crew knows where these materials are located so no time is wasted looking for them

There were only three of us on this job and with them being my helpers this was easy.

It’s also important to understand the capabilities and limitations of the crew to make the most productive use of their skills. I write in much more detail about this later in another blog.

Before the installation of the insulation could proceed, framing of the new bedroom and bathroom had begun in earnest, along with the outside wall mold abatement, cleaning, and surface prep. This process is somewhat cumbersome and time consuming and had to be done with care and in order.

There are very specific and detailed methods for removal of mold from porous material such as concrete walls or block. The details and steps are too varied and complex to attempt in one paragraph.

I would suggest that anyone who undertakes this process knows what they are doing and uses the latest safety equipment and methods with qualified inspectors at their disposal to confirm the absence of mold when completed.

Removing mold from porous materials such as cement is relatively easy when the proper steps are followed.

This was day four of the project. So far, everything was on time with no real budget surprises other than the need for a new water heater. I had overlooked this in my assessment.

What makes me angry at myself was I knew better. Because the water heater was leaking, I should have planned on replacing it and budgeted accordingly. Had it turned out to be something less serious not requiring replacement, then it’s a bonus.

At the same time, in order not to interfere with the framing process and hold up the project in other ways, I started cutting the block and digging the outside hole for the egress window.

I had to really watch the weather forecast so that I didn’t get caught with a big hole in the side of the house during a downpour of rain.

I really had to know project instillation times, available work hours and help, when several parts of the project are going on at the same time.

One good part of this project was the fact that the homeowner was a journeyman electrician. This made it so much simpler because I never had to babysit his work. He was able and kept himself busy doing this at the same time all the framing and other work was being done.

All that was needed was coordinating so we weren’t all trying to work in one area. This is one of my pet peeves; something that although at times unavoidable, is more than likely just poor planning. More often than not, when this happens it becomes a time killing and frustrating ordeal.

After the first week, all the week’s goals and benchmarks for the project had been met on time and within budget.

It was time to start reviewing what had to be done the second week and to be sure the crew was on the same page.

It seemed that things had went extremely well and without a hitch.

Could this be true?

Yes it was!

The other shoe was about to fall.

And boy was it a loud thud when it hit!

-- Dusty

19 comments so far

View Karson's profile


35216 posts in 5079 days

#1 posted 01-01-2008 03:37 PM

Great blog Dusty. A nice list of work to be done and then completed.

Waiting for more.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View rjack's profile


110 posts in 4534 days

#2 posted 01-01-2008 04:38 PM

And the saga continues….

-- Roger - Havertown, Pennsylvania

View TomFran's profile


2964 posts in 4673 days

#3 posted 01-01-2008 05:09 PM


You sound like your having, as Rush Limbaugh says, “more fun than a human being should be allowed to have.”

You certainly are a man of great vision. I admire your perseverance and have no doubt that you’ll “get the ball in the end zone.”

Happy New Year!

-- Tom, Surfside Beach, SC - Romans 8:28

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 4839 days

#4 posted 01-01-2008 11:58 PM

and again more tips re: coordinating a demolition/renovation.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View Russel's profile


2199 posts in 4618 days

#5 posted 01-02-2008 01:49 AM

Holy Smokes! There must be light at the end of this tunnel … right? Hey, at least you don’t have to worry about having nothing to do. ;-) I sure that when you’re done it will be a sight to behold, not unlike your previous work.

-- Working at Woodworking

View Dusty's profile


785 posts in 4835 days

#6 posted 01-02-2008 09:02 PM


Thank you for your flattering comments.

I will say this, I love what I do,yes, and I try do what I love.

I like building things (well ok wrecking them to) demo, and the challenges of remodeling certainly are hard work but rewarding.

Every time I do a project like this I learn something.

I am great full for that.

Each and every job is different in many ways yet the same in a lot of ways.

I am never bored and always challenged.

-- Dusty

View Chip's profile


1904 posts in 4771 days

#7 posted 01-02-2008 09:13 PM

Your blogs leave me in wonder Dusty (as in “I wonder what I’m doing in this business” ;-) Always informative and entertaining. And they always show your organization, passion and integrity. Thanks for taking the time to share.

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

View David's profile


1969 posts in 4818 days

#8 posted 01-03-2008 07:38 AM

Dusty -

While I don’t always have a chance to comment, I do follow your blog closely. Always entertaining and interesting! I like your organizational tips . . . something that will come in handy for me in the future. I am notorious for making more than one trip to the big box store or lumberyard. Don’t tell my wife but I kind of like all those trips . . . although I could stand to be more efficient and organized!


View Dusty's profile


785 posts in 4835 days

#9 posted 01-03-2008 05:10 PM


Thank your for your kind words and support, I have no doubt you do a bang up job in your business and I would stand to learn a lot from you.

In this business as you well know, there are more surprises than not, less room for error than previous projects, and competition that seems to come out of no where.

All in all there is a name for this and a description.

It is called work.

It is that sence of accomplishment, challenge, and lure of “I wonder if”, that keeps our passion for this work so high, and rewarding.

-- Dusty

View Dusty's profile


785 posts in 4835 days

#10 posted 01-04-2008 08:33 PM


Thanks for the comments.

I completely understand not having time to comment on blogs, projects, forums ect.

There are so many posts to follow that it simply isn’t practical. I know that is also the case for me.

A while back I was forced to curtain my comments simply because of lack of time on my part.

I like you read several blogs projects and review all the content when time permits.

Just because I don’t comment like you doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like to or am not interested.

In fact just the opposite, I have found the web site has really expanded and offers so much that I am at times overwhelmed with all the great info.

Thanks for taking time to comment.

-- Dusty

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4993 days

#11 posted 01-05-2008 09:45 PM

That organizational stuff is the key. I just miss ordered two cabinet doors and that just takes a big bite out of the “profit”.

View Dusty's profile


785 posts in 4835 days

#12 posted 01-06-2008 01:06 AM


You are so right!

I am constantly reminded and mildly amused at how many times I have to reteach my self the simple truths about this business.

A short recap reminds me of these truths…

1. Usually we “beat each other up” over the right to take a job at the low price.
2. We constantly underestimate even after years of experience how much labor it takes and the cost.
3. We all think we can make it up because we are “more productive” or have a special crew or skill, tools and knowledge that can perform miraculously.
4. We never seem to have time to do it right the first time however we seem to have the time to do it over again.
5. We all have that ” come back bus” that magically is suppose to pick us up at a later time and “bring us back ” to finish the job we never were able to do the first time because we were short materials, missing parts or what have you.

I could go on and on, no doubt you and many others could add a lot to this list.

Even though I still run into all these problems the biggest difference for me is ; IE ”smarter not harder” at being organized. That in and of it self doesn’t guarantee a profit or success, however I know that by not being organized it pretty much guarantees I won’t be.

-- Dusty

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4993 days

#13 posted 01-06-2008 04:51 AM

Hay Dusty…Have you been spying on me. You sure have got my business style down pat!

View Dusty's profile


785 posts in 4835 days

#14 posted 01-06-2008 05:05 AM


No I wrote and rewrote this book. Trust me if there was a way to screw it up or blow it I probley have done it.

Experince teaches they say, but I say, there is no teacher like Mr Lost Profit.

Best teacher I ever had!

Have you had him yet?

-- Dusty

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4993 days

#15 posted 01-06-2008 05:17 AM

He is on the paid staff at my shop.

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