October 17, 2010: House Inspection

We had to get up early this morning so that we could get up to Carrollton for the house inspection at nine.  That was quite the rush trying to get everyone up and out the door that early.  We aren’t an up and out the door quickly kind of family.

The house inspection, as expected, took several hours.  We had both a normal house inspection and a dedicated termite and wood destroying insect inspection.  The insect inspection went quite well.  The house had had termites in 1995 but no further sign of them.  The only concern by the inspector was the wood in the atrium and it is our intention to completely remove everything, except the tree, in the atrium and start over either with a composite deck or with a new slab and tiles.  So that is no issue for us.  That was the first change that we were planning to make to the house anyway.  It doesn’t even change our priorities.

The house inspection did not go so well.  There were several issues highlighted with which we need to deal right away.  The big one is the foundation.  There are foundation issues, which we had suspected, but the inspector could not say how much or what would be needed – only that a structural engineer would be required.  So that is huge.  An inspector is about three hundred dollars and repairs could range from two thousand to thirty thousand depending on the damage.  That could suck a lot.

Other issues included a minor plumbing leak which could be related to the foundation or might be completely unrelated.  It might also be connected to the broken sprinkler system which we had already known about.  That might be very minor or it might be a bit of a problem.  That is another investigation that has to be handled prior to us approving the purchase.  There was also some minor HVAC issues that we believe are covered under the home warranty that comes with the house so we hope that that is a non-issue.  Some relatively minor electrical issues but with all of the electrical work that we are likely to do to the house we did not suspect that that should even be brought up with the sellers.

At this point we are in a bit of a panic about the state of the foundation.  The other stuff is relatively minor.  The foundation could completely stop the sale which would be awful.  We really hope that our agent is able to work out everything so that we can have that inspected by a structural engineer tomorrow and find out how bad the situation is.  We kind of knew that this was going to happen but we had been hoping that everything was going to turn out fine.  The upside to having foundation issues now is that they will get resolved up front and we will have a foundation guarantee that will go with the life of the house which is a really big deal in this area of Texas.  Carrollton is one of the worst places in the world for foundations along with Farmer’s Branch and Irving.  So having the warranty in place is a lot of peace of mind.

While the inspection was underway Dominica and I got a lot of time to just spend time in the house and talk about things that we are going to want to do with the house once we have it.  We came up with a lot of ideas, such as the tiling of the atrium and possibly adding a reading bench to the northeast corner.

We are seriously considering putting in a kegerator in the bar area under the rear bar counter with one to three real taps above.  That would not be cheap but it would also be a major point of interest in the house.  And just because we had working taps would not mean that we have to keep all of them stocked all of the time.  We could just use one most of the time and have the others there for looks, resell value and if there was going to be a party.  Having a friend who will custom order mini-kegs anytime for me is a big deal.  We did not find a good place for the wine fridge to fit, though, so we are not sure where we are going to put that unless we just put it at one end of the bar and give up the space that that takes up from the walking space back there.  I suppose that we could build a shelf over that and get additional storage rather than just giving up the space.

We talked more about the living room television.  We are pretty sure that we are only going to consider doing a projector in there.  We don’t want a modern television cluttering up the pristine living room space.  It is so perfect as it is.  We are planning on having a retractable screen in the front of the room that comes down in front of the fireplace and having the project itself back in the bar area.  We came up with the idea today of hiding the projector inside the bar “roof” and having a moving shingle that we would lift up to reveal the projector and then hide it when not in use so that the entire mechanism was effectively “secret” keeping the room as “non-theatre” as possible while still providing a great place to watch movies in the evenings.

We looked in the “den” where Liesl and her young sibling will play.  We want to put in an LCD television in there that they can use to watch their children shows but there really is not any space.  We are pretty sure that putting a thirty two inch LCD on a retractable arm in the corner by the kitchen will work and keep the television from being visible from the living room but still give them a good way to watch things without retreating to their rooms.  We plan to add a bit of foliage to that room so that will hide the television, we hope, from view from most areas of the house.

One major surprise was that the NuTone original intercom system in the house was still working.  The radio was turned on and we got music pumped throughout the entire house.  The system is quite old and not in perfect shape and lacking a lot of important features such as auxiliary or iPod input support so we would likely look into replacing it with a modern, and far more attractive, NuTone system.  But having an intercom go to all points of the house is pretty neat.  There is even an intercom station out front for guests arriving at the house and one on the back patio.  We would want to add one to the atrium, we think.  Francesca has the same unit but hers does not work anymore so Dominica was very excited to have one that already works.

We checked out the back patio and yard.  The patio area is actually quite nice.  The slab is broken and sinking so that needs to be repaired but should be very cheap.  We are thinking of resurfacing it and tiling it to make it really attractive, adding and in-ground grill on the side and filling it with plants to make it a lot more inviting.  I’m not sure if we would want to put a small table there or maybe just a few nice, relaxing outdoor chairs.  It is a small space just off of the living room but the perfect spot to enjoy a lemonade while watching the children play in the yard.

The back yard is in rough shape.  The grass is dry and mostly dead.  The swing set back there is horrible and has to go.  We are asking the sellers to remove it before they are done.  It is ugly and dangerous.  One way or another it has to go right away.  The fence against the one neighbour is in bad repair too but then that house is in rough shape on its own having been vacant for some time and having foundation issues.  Hopefully someone buys it soon and takes care of it.

The big disappointment was just how unattractive the corner of the house was in the backyard.  The heat pump (yes dad, the house has a heat pump) is a little too far out and is just outside one of the windows.  There is an unnecessary water softener in the corner and then a ton of cable boxes and random cables going everywhere all over the side of the house.  The whole thing is an aesthetic disaster.  We will solve some of it by removing the satellite dish and the television antenna and ripping out all of the associated cables.  There might also be regular cable that we can remove as well.  The only cable that we care about is the Verizon FIOS which we hope is one of the more attractive cables.

So we are considering removing the water softener and, if at all possible, moving the heat pump and its slab over a foot or so to get it out of the view of the den.  Then we will be able to change the bushes and do some aesthetic mitigation in that space.  As it is designed currently there is not even a way to put fencing or anything around this ugly corner so we are pretty much stuck with the situation unless we come up with something really ingenious.  The back yard was obviously not a focus of the current residents who have been in the house for sixteen years but this does give us a more or less blank slate from which to begin.  Once we have grass, new plants and clean up some of the mess I think that it will really add some “oomph” to the house as so much of the house looks into the yard.  The look of the yard is very important to both the inside and the outside of the house.

We are disappointed to discover that we don’t reasonably have the option of putting a window into the side of the garage because the garage wall is brick.  Maybe a skylight would work there for my future office space to have some natural light.  The “office space” in the garage is already kind-of converted to living space.  It was used as a workshop and has a wall, doorway, etc.  We would need to do a bit to actually make it useful but I don’t think that it would be anything expensive except for the bit where we need to modify the garage door itself so that it is sealed and not actually able to open and close.  We are not sure what we would want to do there or how it might impact resale value so we have to be careful.  We are going to be discussing options with some people.  The space will need to be carpeted, painted and central air and electrical run in.  I think that it could be an awesome office and library area, though.  A place that adds interest and excitement to the house rather than a dirty, nasty work and storage area like it is now.

There is a ton that we can do in the kitchen but we expect that we will leave it as it is for quite a long time as it is in very good shape and will function perfectly for a long time to come, we assume.  No issues there even though there are lots of changes that we would love to make if we had the funds.  It will probably be near the end of our home renovations rather than at the beginning.

In the master bedroom we definitely came up with some significant changes that we are considering.  The bedroom itself isn’t an issue but the two master closets, the master bath and the huge expanse of sink space need to be reconsidered.  We are thinking of shaking that space up so much that we need to get in a designer and look at options.  We are thinking potentially of having the bathroom space itself come into one of the closets and cutting out a lot of the space of the sink area to give us room to make a really nice, modern master bath with one of those steam shower units that I have always wanted.

After going through the house we went and got lunch at Jack in the Box.  We drove up and down the local “business street” to get a little feel for what we have available near to us.  There is a pretty good selection of restaurants and shops so that is looking to be pretty positive.

After lunch we went home.  We were all pretty tired.  I played Oblivion for a little bit then took a nap.  Liesl came in and napped with me although she didn’t really fall asleep so she kind of ended up just keeping me awake because she was playing with her crayons and stuffed animals.  Then, after not very long, I got paged and had to work for the office.  Then Dominica went to take a nap and she fell asleep.

I ended up taking care of Liesl for a while who had a minor emergency requiring that I give her a bath.  We played for a long time with her crayons and drew all over the tub and tiles.  She absolutely loves her bath time Crayolas.  What a great investment they were.  Liesl also took her first shower today!  Her first one on her own, anyway.  I had turned on the water initially just to fill the tub but she was having fun playing in it and then stood in it while she coloured on the tiles.  So apparently she doesn’t mind taking a shower not.  Not even when she gets her head wet.

I walked Oreo, did some cleaning and then ordered dinner as I knew that Dominica was going to be hungry at some point and having food arrive in an hour would be the best thing.  I played Oblivion for another thirty to forty minutes and am now at two hundred and one hours of gameplay!  Lots and lots of stuff left to do, though.  I am nowhere near the end of the game.

We did a good half an hour or more of serious house cleaning.  The house looks much better, company ready.  Then we ate our dinner and watched the remaining bits of 30 Rock.  I have now seen the entire series.  Perfect timing as I have a very busy week coming up and no time to do anything but work until next Saturday when I return from Austin.

The BMW is still in the shop.  They did not manage to finish work on it yesterday so we expect that we will get it back tomorrow.

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