Monday, November 1, 2010

The Story of my House Part I

Sad to say this is the only 'before' picture of the front of our house.
  We moved in to our house February 1st, 2009. Full of grand Ideas. We had received the keys from a sickly old man 2 weeks prior and had spent that time ripping wall paper from nearly every room in the house, priming, Painting, scrubbing. Doing everything we possibly could to get rid of 26 years of cigarette smoke. The cupboards had burn marks, and tar stain from years of dishes being put on, and taken off the shelves with a lit cigarette. Perfect circular burn holes adorned every wall, and every curtain. Two 5 Gallon pails of Killz odour absorbing primer were smeared on the walls, ceiling, and any other exposed surface. We thought we had it covered, we would move in, do our little projects, and voila. A brand new house, painted just as we liked, with gleaming floors, walls, and baseboards. How could we have gone wrong, and we got a steal of a deal.... Right?
  Have you ever heard of homeowner hell? Well I'm pretty sure that is what we've been living in for the past two years. A hell of the previous owner, Larry's, creation. As we started off there were some odd quirks to the house. On one of our first endeavors into the basement we were confused why the lights were flashing on, and off. We walked over to the stair well and saw our then two year old daughter standing on the third step. "Oh Sophia, Don't Play with the Light switch Sweety!".

I walked up the stairs to redirect my young toddlers attention only to have Daniel yell at me as I put my foot on the third step "KATIE!!!! I'm still down here!". Obviously Dan, I just walked away from you, I haven't gotten my pregnancy brain yet. At this point I was 3 months pregnant with our daughter, Annalilia. As I settled Sophia down with a snack, and some colouring books, and switched on a television show. Based on the time I can assume it was Kung Fu Panda, Her favourite Movie for 6 or more Months. And back down I head, to do some menial basement related project, probably Sanding, priming or painting doors. Again, as I stepped on that third step. "KATIE!!!", catching on this time, I try again, and again, and again. Each time I hear a faint tick, tick. Daniel, came with ol' red, a nickname handed to a small red pry bar that we became well acquainted with during our short time in the house.

He began prying up the carpet, Hmm, wires, running to the step. HUH?! a metal pad was on that step, it had a slight curve to it so every time it was stepped on it would push down and make contact with some wires. We followed the wires back, ripping down orange, discoloured foam ceiling tiles as we went to find a tiny little box mounted on the back of an outlet. Again I ran to the stairs and stepped on that peculiar third step. Tick, Tick. As we would later find out from my father, a seasoned semi mechanic, it was the turn signal from a truck.

Each time it ticked it would cut the electrical to the basement. How Cryptic. In the back of the basement, or rather the front of the house, but the opposite side of the stairs, was a dingy little room, with partially missing panelling, and a big secret. Why did this room have a deadbolt, and a keyed handle? Even the storm doors on the house didn't have deadbolts. Why does it have a security system set up in it? The room gave for hours of speculation, and hilarious hypothesis. Our favourite two theories were a kinky S&M room, or a Meth Lab... YIKES. What started out as a joke got our curiosity peeked. I was talking to our next door neighbour, an adorable tiny little old lady who had introduced herself to us as only "Your Nosey neighbour next door", or as we called her Itty Bitty. She confirmed our worries, that sickly old man who we had taken pity on with his slumped shoulders and oxygen tank was in fact, a convicted felon. He had spent a few years in jail as she recalled. The crime, Dealing drugs... UH OH! now our imaginations went rampid, is my daughter breathing in harmful chemicals, am I? is my unborn child? Was he cooking meth? Growing weed? What can we do?
Daniel went into action on a telephone campaign, we needed an answer. We needed to know if it was safe to live in our new home, our "dream home". Did you know that they will not release any information about a convicted felons charges? Even if it directly affects the health and well being of innocent people? So Daniel was turned away, No one seemed willing to answer even the simplest questions. Finally he got a hold of someone from the narcotics unit who was unable to give us the specifics on Larry's file, but did gave us some "pointers". What to look for, what to be cautious of. Mold, different coloured staining on the walls. A break, a tiny incognito break. But it was something. Daniel, adorned with breathing mask and wrecking bars went into the Meth Lab, as we had not so affectionately named it. As he pulled a panel off from beside the HVAC duct smack, an envelope, stuffed full  of papers fell, hitting him as it passed by on its journey to the floor. My sweaty, dusty husband came rushing upstairs with this bundle of papers, unable to stop reading them long enough to explain to me what it was, He began reading allowed, A search warrant, Telephone transcripts, a news paper article which read, "Seven face drug charges", pages of notes scrawled in chicken scratch about Larry's case, phone numbers, contacts, all folded up and crammed into one little envelope. Demolition was done for the day, we had to read, we sat and read for hours. We read Larry and Harry's conversation about Doug taking off to the Bahamas for Christmas 1997. I was 11 that year. Blissfully unaware of Larry, Harry, and Doug's venture. I didn't know that Harry owed Larry $10,750. Of Harry's financial burdens because the government had confiscated his money, and he was forced to sell his house, and his business. We even learned that Larry got a vacuum cleaner, and Harry got a Bread maker for Christmas. It was a page turning eyebrow raising day of reading. Larry's Charges:
3x - Possession of Cocaine with the Intent to traffic
- Possession of Marijuana with the intent to Traffic
- Illegal storage of a .22 Caliber and rifle in a careless manner
- Possession of Property, and proceeds that were obtained as a result of trafficking
- Possession of a Hand Held Cross bow
         Yikes, that poor old Man, wasn't so sweet or as helpless as we had once thought. We did heave a sigh of relief, now at least we knew what happened, we knew that there weren't 'cooking' chemicals in our house. So onward we went, ripping, gutting, and demolishing the basement. The Hot tub, Larry's party focal point, was cut into pieces and resides at the city dump, the sauna, and shower, that were plumbed into the weeping system causing immense amount of damage to the foundation is gone. A Loraas disposal bin and 15+ loads to the dump later, all that remains are crumbling walls, heaved floors,  the basement is an empty pit, with a sparkly new Furnace, Water heater, Water Softener, Washer and Dryer and a seemingly insurmountable debt that is piling higher and higher, slowly suffocating our financial well being. As I sit here writing this, and my children sleep off their Halloween sugar comas I have hundreds, and hundreds of  pounds of steel reinforcing beams being carried into my basement to have the walls braced, and a retaining wall poured. So long Larry's mistakes, Bye bye, Randomly hidden baggies of cocaine and weed. Hasta Luego, memories of middle aged stoned men. Get the F* out of my house. Next week, when the work is done, the team of guys are out of my house, and the dust has settled, Then I will be able to start over fresh, Next Week, my basement will have potential, Where will my kids play? Can I have a sewing corner? An extra room? What pain, and trim, What carpet? My house will have endless possibilities. Next week... Next Week I will have my dream home!

Do you guys want to see the Before and Afters of how the house looks? Leave a comment.


  1. oh my goodness! that is INSANE! i'm so sorry that happened to you, but i look forward to seeing photos of your completed dream home!! :o)

  2. You're making the most of a bad situation Katie. Can't wait to see what it'll be when it's all done. Try to aim to have it done by next summer since it looks like that's probably the next time I'll be out! :)

  3. It is absolutely fabulous that you have documented THE story of THE house. It is definitely not a boring! Good for you Katie. You are making that former stank box a home of your own and persevering through it all - good on you!

  4. I loved what you had done so far when I visited. You both have amazing ideas and the drive to do whatever it takes to make the best for your family. You guys have done awesome and although its not what you expected or needed. Its what you got and you went with it. Congrats on the basement almost being that dream!
    I cant wait to see completed photos!