Case Study House-The Bad

By: Kate HambletOctober 17, 2017

As much as I love our new home, it is not without its faults.  We knew (mostly) what we were getting ourselves into since we bought the house as a fixer-upper.  In a previous post, I shared the things we really love about the home that made us go through with the purchase.  Today I’ll be diving into the things we don’t love.  These are things that need serious attention in the home to make it a safer place for us to live.  I’ll save my commentary on ‘the ugly’ aspects of the house for another day.

Mold in the attic

We found out there was mold in the attic during our home inspection.  The mold is likely caused from a combination of improper venting in the attic and the bathroom exhaust fan terminating in the attic.  Neither of these things are good on their own.  Combined, they are a disaster.  A lot of moisture is getting pumped into the attic through the bathroom exhaust fan, and it has no way of leaving due to the lack of attic ventilation.  The trapped moisture will find its way to the surfaces in the attic and create mold growth.  Lovely.  Mold is linked to upper respiratory illnesses, and early mold exposure is potentially linked to the development of asthma in children so we do not want mold in our homes.

Mold Attic


Water Quality

Oh boy.  This issue is a big one.  We have a drilled well and are not on a town water supply.  The water quality test that was performed during the inspection revealed the presence of coliform, a high level of lead, a high level of manganese, and low pH.  Coliform is a bacteria that may or may not be harmful for human exposure.  (Helpful, right?)  Since the test could not reveal if it was a harmful type of coliform, it was an issue we needed to address immediately.  This can be done by chlorinating the water and securely fastening the well cap.  Our well cap was loose (you could pick it right up without any tools) when we inspected the house, so our assumption is that something got into the well and infected the water.  Again, lovely.  Lead is an issue for obvious reasons.  The cause is probably due to our low pH water pulling lead out of the solder that connects the copper plumbing pipes.  We will need to adjust the pH of the water and replace the pipes to fix this problem.  And lastly, manganese.  From what I have read, manganese is worse for our fixtures and appliances than it is for us at the levels found.  The mineral causes brown stains at our sink and toilets and has basically destroyed the inside of the dishwasher.  (That is why we have a dishwasher sitting on our deck in the below picture.)

Dishwasher on Deck


No exhaust fan in the main bathroom

This is a similar issue to the mold-in-the-attic issue.  There is a ton of moisture being created in a bathroom and if it isn’t being exhausted, then it’s probably feeding some little mold buddies in the walls.  To make matters worse, our bathroom walls are finished with a sawn wood, not drywall, and wood is great at holding moisture.  We haven’t uncovered the bathroom walls yet to see what might be waiting on the other side, but I’ve prepared myself for the worst.

Wood Walls Bathroom


Dangerous cooking stove

Hopefully this picture tells the story for me.  Our house was built in 1982, but the stove is A LOT older than the home.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  It is a gas stove that has a pilot light that is constantly lit which makes the top of the stove hot to the touch even when the stove is not in use.  The stove is very poorly insulated.  When we used the oven for baking, the knobs for the cook top were too hot to touch and the heat radiating from the oven caused our smoke alarm to sound.  Clearly, we need to upgrade to a safer stove.

Danger Stove


No entry area

As you can see, there is no entry vestibule/mudroom in the house.  We walk right into the dining area.  There are a few reasons why separated entry vestibules are nice to have such as providing thermal comfort, not wasting warm or cold air, having a place to unload our belongings, and having a place to remove all the dirt that gets stuck to the bottom of our shoes outside.  Right now, we walk into the house on a vinyl floor.  Any dirt on our feet somehow disperses over every inch of the downstairs floor in a matter of seconds.  And since the dirt on our shoes is full of pesticides, chemicals, and other pollutants that are negatively affecting our indoor air quality, we need to stop them the moment they come in the house.

Entry Area


Lack of thermal insulation

The house consists of 2×4 wall construction.  A 2×4 piece of lumber is actually 1 ½” x 3 ½”.  This means that the insulation in our walls is only 3 ½” thick.  This was typical for construction in the early ‘80’s (and ‘90’s and 2000’s) so we weren’t surprised by this.  But it is something we need to address.  Typical fiberglass batt insulation that is only 3 ½” thick does not provide enough insulation to keep the warm air in and the cold air out.  Think of it like a wool sweater.  A thin wool sweater is not going to keep us as warm as a thick sweater.  When it comes to insulation, we want as much insulation as we can get, and we really want it on the outside of our walls, not in between the studs.  But I’ll get into that another time.

Batt Insulation


Railings are too low

Building codes require residential railings to be at least three feet high.  This is for obvious safety reasons.  No one wants to lean against a railing and tip right over because it’s so low.  That would hurt.  We have railings at the second floor balcony and the outside deck that are less than 3’ high and will need to be replaced with code compliant rails.

Low Railings


Vinyl Flooring

My family loves it when I talk about all the things I hate about vinyl.  Clearly, they have heard my rants on many occasions.  Vinyl is a plastic that off-gasses dangerous toxins, among plenty of other awful things.  Vinyl off-gassing will be most intense when it is first installed but it never really stops.  Especially in our case since the vinyl floor in our dining and kitchen areas is exposed to direct sunlight every day.  When vinyl is heated, the off-gassing returns.  Every sunny day our house is being filled with beautiful light and toxic chemicals.

Entry Door


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