Welcome to our new house! My wife and I just bought a hundred-year-old two flat in Chicago, in the neighborhood of Logan Square. The house… well what can I say about the house? It’s a dump. We closed a week ago, on Monday, June 20th, 2011. Since then I’ve been humming to myself “Everything’s/Completely Wrong” and laughing just into the psychotic register. So what have we done, and what are we doing? In fact, who are we? Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself and I should back up. Let me start over.

Sarah and Matt at Closing

Hi, my name’s Matt, and this is my wife, Sarah. We got married in September of 2009, and we’re expecting a baby this December. I work in IT and have no formal training doing construction, carpentry, or home renovation.  I have, however, done a bit of home remodeling on my previous home and at friends’ houses. They’re still friends, so I can’t be monstrous at it, right?

Sarah graduated last year from DePaul and is interning there on Psychology studies, hoping to get into a graduate program starting next year. She also has no formal training at the skilled trades but has done some building with her family over the years.

We now live in a little two-bedroom condo in Rogers Park, a neighborhood on the far north side of Chicago. For a while now we’ve eyed a house and the promise of more room, more options, and more opportunity. The housing market crashed and left us stuck with a condo we couldn’t sell. We tried for the last year or so, but finally decided to buy a house anyway and just rent the condo. We’ve been watching home improvement and DIY shows and got it into our heads that the only way to afford a nice house in a good neighborhood and be able to sell it down the road was if we did it ourselves. Only time will tell if we’re on to something, or just fools.

Our new home

We found a short sale two-flat on a beautiful, quiet, tree-lined street full of nice houses in an “up and coming” neighborhood. We bought the crappiest house on the block and we’re going to try to make it nice, but we’ve got our work cut out for us. Right now, the place is roach and rat-infested, stinks of animal urine, mold, and who knows what else. It’s sagging to the back, the roof is wrong, the toilets don’t work, the kitchens are awful, the foundation support columns include load-bearing beer cans, and everything is filthy, disgusting, and done wrong.

When we take down something terrible, we just peel back another layer of the onion of wrong. I cannot explain how completely, utterly, fiendishly stupid the previous owners were, but in making this site, I will attempt to anyway. From the double-pane windows that they put drywall screws into (breaking the seal) to the thermostat cord dangling from a second story window, the surprises never seem to stop.

If you’ve got the stomach for us, follow us as we explore the trials and little victories of slowly converting a complete disaster two-flat into a (hopefully) gorgeous single-family home. We’re trying to take pictures and video of the process and document it here for posterity. Maybe it will help others with similar projects, maybe it will encourage someone to take on a massive project of their own, or maybe it will serve as a cautionary tale. Regardless, it will be interesting. Thanks for stopping by!

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