Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Plans submitted!

Today on the way to work I threw the plans into the mail box!

We wanted to submit them weeks ago, but they were rejected for some minor details. We had the architect add that and today I dropped them off. Now it's all waiting until July 8th, the date of the construction hearing.

We got a few estimates and realized wood ceilings would be way too expensive (almost 4 times as much as brick ceilings). Based on the new, more detailed figures I got the new price tag of € 44800. Yuck! That's $68000... not including insulation and exterior stucco.

The house next door project is dead... the walls are incredibly moist (moldy 3 feet up from the floor) and the roof framing is fairly close to collapsing. One main support is already missing a 1 foot section and several tie beams are like styrofoam. Based on local property values the lot would be wort maybe €1500, the house (if it were in perfect condition which it clearly isn't) €8000. Their asking price: €45000.

Besides, it has been butchered badly, the only(!) original items left are: the shot brick walls, the shot roof framing and one interior door. So even I would advise to bulldoze it.

Wish me luck for the hearing!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Tale of a house

Like most old house people I'm always nosy when it comes to checking out other people's old houses. Recently I had the chance to take a brief look at a random old house.

Outside I had a hard time dating it. Two of the sides visible from the street are plain modern stucco, one is fiber cement. The roof is corrugated asbestos cement, something incredibly popular in the 1970s and 1980s. Roof trim: 1970s or 80s semi-rustic rural tasteless. Windows: vinyl double pane. Based on the fiber cement I'd have put the construction date in the 1950-1965 period, with extensive remodeling in the 70s or 80s. Facing the yard there is a weird bumpout slapped to the side, with a narrow front door and a window.

The only thing that pointed towards a much earlier date were the unusually small windows. Narrow windows went out of favor prior to WWII, exceptionally low ones prior to 1900. These seem to be both. 1960s and especially 70s construction loved overly wide if not huge, low windows. Only recently the old style small windows, usually with divided lights became popular again.

Two wweks ago I got in for the first time... even with all exterior doors open the first thing that struck me was the thick cigarette smoke smell. The bumpout is some kind of a hallway, vinyl flooring, windows (three windows and three doors in a room no more than 10 square meters or 100 square feet) and a somewhat decent wood ceiling. A doorway led into the kitchen. 1970s knotty pine paneling, a tiny window that hasn't been cleaned for decades and a hedge blocking all sunlight. A huge brown and black wood stove (1970s too) also designed to work as a central heating boiler. To the left I could see a real old door with two vertical panels, 4 glass panes and a rim lock. That confirmed my suspicions based on the window size - the house is 1820-1870 rather than 100 years younger. It leads to the only bedroom. Blue-grey and pink wall to wall carpet, beige-ish wall paper, even covering the door trim. Every available square cm of floor crammed full with stuff. Ceiling painted baby blue, paint coming off in chips the size of my flat hand.

I quickly made a 180 degree turn and got out of there... veen though it was definitely the cleanest room I had seen so far. To the right of the kitchen there is an indefineable room with a few kitchen cabinets, nicotine stained dark grey walls and a wall mount hot water tank.
In the back there is a double kitchen sink that drains directly onto the ugly tile floor. Next to it someone partitioned off a tiny cubicle barely holding a toilet bowl across the door and a small shower pan.
On to the last room... a20cm step up onto the laminate flooring into a crammed living room (sort of). I don't remember much of it... the back wall covered with the aforementioned pine, obvious moisture damage on one interior wall.

The attic is only accessible over a rickety ladder (precisely a stepladder leaning onto the wall) and shows evidence of a fire in one spot.

In the yard there is a so-called shed that reminds me ofthe slums in Calcutta or anywhere... it seems to be slapped together with whatever leftovers someone had at hand.

The owner asked me to help her carry out two pieces of furniture... the first thing I noticed were my hands stuck to them due to all the filth, followed immediately afterwards by a heavy cat smell.

After I had the stuff out I made a polite excuse and ran to wash my hands... yuck!

Can you say dirty? The owner and her sister chain smoked during the entire time I helped them...

Regarding our pigsty plans: we'll be out in the country next weekend, until then I have to add the hundred little last minute details (by hand since the plans are already signed by the architect) and put them into some kind of folder to submit them. We need to submit three copies each in a separate folder, one for the owner of the property (my grandmother), one for the permit applicant (my grandmother) and one for the council... bureaucracy is just the same all over the world. Actually I think Austria is one of the less bad countries after reading horror stories about France and Belgium.

We're also still waiting for the contractor bids... should have been there weeks ago.