Saturday, August 14, 2010

Stairway To Hell

Most entrances to hell lead down. This one leads up.

This entrance was the byproduct of a cheesy 1980s home renno that converted a 1920s Tudor from a one story charmer, into a two story monster.

The beautiful oak stairway invitingly sits a few feet from the front door and graces everyone with its presence...

“Hello,” it says. “Care to take a stroll up to Heaven?”

“Wait!,” I say. "I need you to sign a small release form... if you really want to go up there.”

“Release form? For what?”

“To ensure that you will not repeat a word of this to anyone!”

"What’s wrong?"

You’ll see.

Meet And Greet Hell

It was 2005 and I was making the second largest decision of my life. I had yearned to live in the much sought-after part of town flanked by tree covered streets. Old architecture from the 20s and 30s. A time that was lost, but found in Dallas, Texas – the Capital of concrete highways, byways and strip malls galore.

My Realtor said “if you can get past the upstairs, you’ll love the house.” Ready for a challenge, I was eager to meet my potential match. I did. And I fell in crazy, stupid love.

Somehow I was able to look past all the unfortunate neglect that two back-to-back foreclosures can bestow on a soul (read more here and here). I was able to see something beyond the here and now. Worst off, I could see potential.

After a brief bidding war with an investor who had already drawn-up floor plans to scrape off the upstairs hack-job and rebuild a full, "real" second story, the home was surprisingly mine. I beat him by no more than a $7,000 spread. While I was excited, little did I realize at the time, but I had just purchased a three-headed baby devil. "Oh, Shit!" is an understatement.

Angle Angel

The upstairs is wildly wacky. It is the original attic for the home and has what I call a “modified bump-out” home improvement that extended the back of the roof line out, oh, maybe 5 feet. Why bother, right?

The result? Angled ceilings perfect for a child-sized person, but a little uncomfortable for humans over 4 feet tall (picture scraping your head on the sloped ceiling as you run for your life to escape). It’s impossible to hang a picture on the wall, unless you have a lot of nails and Super Glue. I’m not sure what the inventors of the upstairs abode had in mind, but from where I tried to stand, if they were shooting for the gateway to hell, they score perfect marks.

Hello, Hot Box

As days turned weeks turned summer, it came time to power-up the AC. It didn’t take long to realize that when outside temperatures started to rise, so too did the hell-like conditions upstairs. The poor AC system was just too weak to keep the 1,500 square foot pleasure palace cool.

By August when the electric bill hit $500, I knew I had to try and convert Satan’s easy bake oven into livable space. Little did I know how it would involve thousands of dollars, over 5 years of trial and error and consume my soul in the process.

Try Hard. Fall Harder.

Aside from setting the house on fire and starting over, I've tried everything I can afford at the recommendation of "the experts"

~ Install a new outside condensor – No impact.
~ Install a second thermostat and damper system to better
regulate the upstairs/downstairs – I lose again.
~ How about new $12,000 double-paned windows – Nuh uh!

~ The obvious new insulation and new air ducts? – Not even that.

I've had countless air companies out to access the situation and actually had three who refused the work... and my money.

One guy believed th
e air handler was installed into the house and then the wall was conveniently built just 1 foot from the system. He likened trying to service the air handler like to trying to work on your car engine while only being able to raise the hood 3 inches. Not possible.

Totally Baked

So there I was – and still am – sweating. Sweating over what to do. Sweating over where to go next (a hotel?). Sweating as I open each new electric bill and dreadfully find the amount due.
And sweating when I force myself to finally write each check to my smiling electric company.

Some days I sit in my hot box and wonder why I’m being punished for loving this house. I question how I was able to look past all the neglect and shoddy home improvements. I wonder why my inspector didn’t catch any of this but then again, he missed the active termite colony in the detached garage, which resulted in a $40,000 tear-down and rebuild.

I watch the thermostat top-out at 99 degrees, like it did today, and wonder w
hat the “true” temperature is since I don’t have a triple-digit thermostat. I wonder what thrives in this kind of heat besides cacti and popcorn.

My greatest fear?

Not being able to
sell this soul sucker* before Satan, victor, adds me to his list of greatest accomplishments as I finally combust in the heat of my personal hell on Earth...

...Consumer Victim Style!

* To quote Angela Arden: "I hate this house! I hate these walls... I hate that sofa! The only part of this dump that doesn't make me puke is that door ~ because that's the way I'm gettin' out!"