It’s com­ing from in­side the house

Popular Science - - TALES FROM THE FIELD - JULIE AN­DER­SON, PRO­FES­SIONAL HOME REMODELER as told to So­phie Bush­wick / il­lus­tra­tion by To­ba­tron

As some­one who’s been re­mod­el­ing homes for about 20 years, I can tell you it’s not a pre­dictable 9-to-5. When you start tear­ing down walls, you never know what you’re go­ing to find.

I’ve seen to­tal elec­tri­cal chaos, where peo­ple spliced to­gether wires and just wrapped it all up in in­su­lat­ing tape, popped it be­hind some dry­wall, and clearly for­got about it. Han­dling that kind of wiring is ob­vi­ously dan­ger­ous, but the scari­est part is not know­ing how much more is still hid­ing. You’re go­ing: “Is there any of it that we’re not go­ing to find? Be­cause we’re not tear­ing down ev­ery wall.” You don’t want to leave a newly re­mod­eled home rid­dled with fire haz­ards.

And cre­ative plumb­ing might not be as li­able to burn your house down, but it can still be a huge pain. Once I tore through a wall in an old house and found a 4-inch cast-iron pipe run­ning through the mid­dle of it that made ab­so­lutely no sense; it wasn’t go­ing to or from a bath­room. And you have to fig­ure out how you’re go­ing to deal with that. Can you some­how just leave it alone and build around it, or do you need to spend three days with a hack­saw try­ing to get it out?

Then there are the is­sues that don’t have any­thing to do with hard­ware. In re­mod­el­ing, there’s al­ways de­cay. You’re con­stantly deal­ing with dis­gust­ing things. I’ve found dead an­i­mals—and live an­i­mals, which is even scarier—in crawl spa­ces and at­tics, and when bust­ing through walls. This job takes a strong stom­ach.

Oddly enough, it’s ac­tu­ally kind of good news when dead an­i­mals man­age to stink up a place. It tends to keep the price down, but if you power through and clean things up, that tem­po­rary stench isn’t go­ing to im­pact the house’s long-term value. So I al­ways say, the stinkier the bet­ter. At least that’s some­thing you can eas­ily fix.

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