Water and Fire: Learning to Read a House

Dad tossed a screw at me. “This came from the closet track. See how rusted that is?”


“This house had some sort of water damage. That’s why they replaced the roof. People don’t usually replace the roof before they get damage.”


Ripping the carpet and pad out of the office was easy (especially since the room isn’t oddly shaped like the upstairs bedrooms are). Taking off the tack strip and quarter-trim, however, was a different story.

We had noticed that the quarter round trim in this room was a good 1/4″ off the floor. That wasn’t true for any other room in the house. I wondered if the trim had been applied after the carpet, but the carpet’s date was 2010 (the same as the carpet upstairs), so that didn’t make too much sense.

The tack strip and quarter trim kept splintering. The nails were stuck fast to the floor, and when I did manage to get them out, they were rusted. Also, the tack strip was a different brand than the stuff upstairs.

“Hey Dad, if you install carpet, can you reuse your old tack strip?”


“I think this room was carpeted before. They added the quarter-trim to this carpeted room when they added it to the rest of the house, which is why it’s off of the floor. And the tack strips are rusted because of the past water damage.”

Sure enough, in the closet I found bit of dark, dark blue carpet under the quarter trim. I felt like a successful detective.


When I pulled back the carpet in the office, my eyes immediately went to this.

Not a Pet Stain

Although it doesn’t show in the photo, there is a small hole burnt straight through, so you can see the basement floor.

At first, I thought someone had dropped a cigarette or something. But then I went into the basement and discovered it had been burnt from below.

The white concrete in this photo is the area where the breaker box is. Was someone balancing a candle on the ledge? Hiding the smell of something illicit, perhaps?

Fire Starter

They burned entirely through the subfloor, and the circle is about as big as the side of my fist.




The floors in the office are in much better shape than the ones upstairs. There is a bit of a snakeskin pattern when the floor is viewed at the correct angle. I think this is probably from the blue carpet’s carpet pad. It’s actually kind of neat.

Snakeskin Pattern

Good Man came over from wok yesterday, saw the floors, and started dancing.

Good Man Dances

Removing Staples

Then I put him to work removing staples. They had used those tiny rise staples in the closet (why?), and they were a pain to get out.

Good Man Does Some Work

Office Floor, All Cleaned Up

Finally, all of the carpet in the house has been removed!

Waiting for Trash Day

7 thoughts on “Water and Fire: Learning to Read a House

  1. Ha ha, the banana dance! Your dad sounds like a precious resource. How great to have someone smart and strong to help do the work. –Sorry I’m barraging you with comments, but I’m reading these latest posts all at once. :-)

    • Hey Lu,

      It has been really nice to have Dad here. We’ve been getting a lot done, although honestly, yesterday I just sort of lost it. It feels like all we’ve been doing is prep, prep, prep and I just want ONE room to be done. None of them are.

      Today was better. ;)

      • I understand! Funny, I was just talking to a coworker about “prep” the other day when we were talking about painting the walls of one’s apartment. I said how important it was and how glad I am I did all that taping and using the right equipment. It will all pay off when you look around with pride at what you’ve done. :)

  2. If at all possible, get the kitchen and your bedroom finished first (don’t know what projects you got going on, painting or whatnot makes more sense to do all at once) but having a functional kitchen while doing reno is a nice thing. Also you’re lucky to have that hardwood underneath the carpet (same thing happened when I bought a house). Three words for that: Murphy’s Oil Soap. Oooh also, now you can get a proper compost pile started (are you still vermiposting? That could be a concurrent thing, or a great starter for a real compost pile) I recommend Rodale’s Book of Composting, great ideas in there. Something I liked doing when before I moved here: dig your compost pile down a foot or so; this lessens the not-so-appealing visual impact of the pile in your yard, but also encourages worms and water to get in your pile. I think it also lends itself to a hotter compost, which will break down everything faster. But yeah, basics you want a 4′ x 4′ x 4′ pile at least (that will make sure it gets hot enough inside to do its thing…

    Ergh, sorry bout the wall of text, I guess I’m (too) passionate about composting…

    • We do plan on composting, worm and regular. I saw an idea in one book (it’s packed, I don’t recall which one) about making a composter with stacked, open, wooden “boxes.” You can then move the compost pile/turn it over by moving the stack over one box at a time.

      But I haven’t even thought about what needs to be done for landscaping. In short: everything. I need to start with trimming the trees, and getting rid of that “weed tree” near the outdoor BBQ. (It’s RIGHT on the edge, and I fear it will catch on fire!) The whole area around the house needs to be graded, but that sounds Not Fun, so I think we’re going to hire it out.

      The bathroom and kitchen need minor things: paint, mostly. We’re not changing out counters or vanities or anything like that, so hopefully those will both be done soon.

      The major things are refinishing the floors and painting, and I don’t think it’s all going to be done by this weekend, so we’ll be sleeping in the basement for a few days!

      • When I was visualizing the boxes you were describing, I thought you meant, like, a chicken wire/wooden frame cube that you could roll around to turn the pile. I realize now that you meant something different, but actually, that could be pretty genius! You figure the castings and best compost would be at the bottom, so set the compost cube on your garden plot, and every once in a while, flip that dice of organic matter so the compost distributes to another patch of garden…

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