Matt Risinger's The Real Home Rebuild Series Eppisode 1

The Real Home Rebuild Series – Project Introduction Ep. 1

The Real Home Rebuild Series – Eppisode 1

The Real Home Renovation Rebuild Series – Episode 1

Foreword by Ian Thompson, Editor

It never fails to amaze me how many people buy a poor condition house to undertake a renovation, believing that it’s a cost-effective way to either acquire the home they desire, or make a profit selling it upon completion. Once they pull back the skin of the house, they often uncover absolute nightmares. Yes, that’s nightmares in the plural.

Even our favorite builder, guest author, and video host Matt Risinger, found this project tested his mettle more than he ever imagined.

In the Real Home Rebuild Series, Matt embarks on what he initially believed would be a straightforward remodel of a 1970s house. However, as he delves deeper into the project, he uncovers a range of issues that ultimately lead him to the decision of a complete home rebuild.

From discovering a severe rat infestation that had damaged the insulation, ductwork, and even electrical cables, to encountering structural problems that questioned the feasibility of the remodel, Matt’s journey is a testament to the unpredictable nature of renovations. Even with his nearly 30 years of experience as a builder, Matt found himself faced with challenges that made him rethink his initial plan.

The Real Home Rebuild Series not only provides valuable insights into the building process of a new house from scratch but also serves as a stark reminder of the realities of undertaking a home renovation. Join us as we retrace Matt’s journey from the initial plan of remodeling to the ultimate decision of a complete rebuild, providing a comprehensive and realistic perspective on home renovations and rebuilds. Stay tuned for more of The Real Home Rebuild Series in the coming weeks.

The Real Home Rebuild Ep.1 – Video Transcript

As a builder and remodeling contractor, I must say I love those TV shows that set false expectations for the general public. After watching some of those shows, you might think you could remodel your kitchen for 15 grand and do it in two weeks. The Build Show, most of the time, focuses on my projects that are $2 to $5 million houses and remodels. However, in this series of Build Shows, we’re going to be remodeling a 1970s house on a middle-class American budget.

I’m going to show you the actual cost that it takes, and we’re going to demonstrate the right way to do it, not just the superficial touch-ups like they show you on TV. We’re going to call this series “The Real Remodels”. Let’s go.

Well, as you can see, I didn’t follow through with that plan. I ended up building a brand new house for my family, and here it is. I’ve absolutely loved it. We’ve been in it for about two years now. I probably look a little older since that other video was published, frankly.

In this series, we’re going to look back at the building process for my new house. Everything from the slab up is brand new, and I incorporated many good details in this house that I think would be helpful for you in your builds, whether you construct this exact same plan or whether you’re building houses for yourself. So, in this series, we’re going to retrace the entire process of building this house for my family from the slab all the way to the finish. We’re calling it “The Real Rebuild Series”. Let’s get started. The Real Rebuild Series is sponsored by James Hardy.

Alright, so as it turned out, it wasn’t actually a remodel. Let me give you the backstory here. We’re calling this episode “The Real Remodel” because at this stage in my life, I genuinely thought this was going to be a remodel and not a new build. Let’s take a quick look at the condition of the house, and then we’re going to backtrack. I’m going to tell you a little bit more backstory.

So, let’s check this out. Here’s the situation: we have a 1970s house that’s experienced some pretty serious neglect over the last 20 or 30 years. It’s in bad shape. Now, we’re on my street, in fact, I live right around the corner from here. And this is a property that I actually own, so we’re talking about a budget here that’s actually my bank account.

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Let me pause there to provide more backstory. This house is on my street. I didn’t tell you the full story. It’s actually literally across the street from the house that I lived in for almost 15 years. For years, the neighbor that lived here, a single woman, a divorced woman, I had told her, “If you ever want to move, I’d love to buy that house.” I thought it would be a rental. I thought maybe I’d move my family. I didn’t know exactly. And obviously, as you can tell in the video here, I was convinced this was going to be a rental house and just a remodel at this stage.

But, funnily enough, or maybe I should say, sadly enough, I’d never set foot in the house prior to actually closing on it. I had said to her for years, “Hey, if you want to sell one day…” And about four and a half, five years ago, she knocked on my door and said, “Actually, I am ready to sell.” So we went back and forth a little bit on a price, and I gave her a market rate price for the house, as if it was going to be move-in ready.

I didn’t do any due diligence, really. I didn’t walk the house, I didn’t see the house. She had a couple of pretty scary dogs, so I never once set foot in the house until after I owned it. And she rented back for maybe a month, so actually even past the time that I owned it.

And as you can see in this video, as I’m walking through, the house is in terrible shape. That siding on the back of the house, that T111, which is basically a sheathing and siding product that was used all over Texas in the 70s and even into the 80s, was rotten everywhere. You saw the mold on the front side of the sheetrock in the garage, you saw a brick that had dark color on it. I knew that I was going to have some problems.

But during this episode, as you fast forward, you’ll see I got together with the architect, Kit Johnson, to discuss the initial design. We came up with a plan to remodel it, and it seemed like a pretty good plan. It was about 2,500 square feet. I was trying to save where the plumbing was located in the house and all the exterior walls, so the permitting would be pretty quick.

It wasn’t until about two weeks later that I started to realize, “Hmm, is this actually going to work?” By the way, I think I told you earlier, I paid $440,000 for this house. This is only 10 miles from downtown Austin, Texas. We’re in a pretty good neighborhood. During the pandemic, houses were selling for $700,000 to $800,000. So, I kind of overpaid a little bit for the lot. I wanted to make sure that this woman was cared for. This wasn’t a “buy this at a super crazy rate” kind of deal.

So, with that being said, let’s fast forward to the next episode where I had Sean Harris come in. Now, if you’ve seen any of my videos with Sean in it, Sean is a really smart building science guy. Sean did a home performance assessment for me in the house, and this is really when my eyes were opened to the depth of crappiness of this remodel.

So, Sean put the blower door in the front door, we came up with a number, and for my builder friends out there, 27.5 ACH50 is just ridiculous. Sean goes on to tell me that’s the equivalent leakage of a seven-foot by seven-foot hole in the wall somewhere. As if it had a seven-foot tall by seven-foot wide sliding glass door that you really couldn’t close, it was that leaky. The fan was absolutely on blazing high and had a hard time even giving us a number to be able to pressurize it because there was that much leakage in the house.

I think this is the point in my life where I said, “What have I gotten into? This is a bigger remodel than I’m quite ready for.” But right after we did the blower test, this is the part of the video that I think pushed me over the edge, and I wasn’t actually, I shouldn’t say that, it wasn’t until later that I was truly pushed over the edge. But at this phase of the inspection, I realized, “Wow, what am I getting into?”

We’re pulling the kitchen cabinets out, and on the kitchen,

I couldn’t help but notice the severely damaged siding on the back. Given the condition, it would be unsurprising if pests had managed to infiltrate the siding or even the interior of the house.

Our fears were confirmed when we started to pull out the kitchen countertops. It was evident that rats had chewed through parts of the fiberglass insulation in the dishwasher. The rat infestation was so severe that it seemed like they were practically living inside the dishwasher. The damage didn’t stop at the dishwasher though, the rats had also chewed on the electrical cables and left droppings everywhere. It was clear that this was more than just a remodel, it was a complete overhaul.

The more we explored, the more we realized the extent of the damage. The insulation in the attic had been tunneled through by the rats, leaving trails of droppings and urine. The ductwork was also compromised, with evidence of rats nesting within.

At this point, I had to seriously reconsider the feasibility of the remodel. The house was in such poor condition that it would require extensive renovations to make it livable again. The budget I had initially set for the remodel was quickly becoming unrealistic.

The situation was so dire that my framer, Bill Wood, questioned the logic of the project. He pointed out that the house was structurally unsound and riddled with rat infestations. He suggested that it would make more sense to tear the house down and start fresh.

After some consideration, I realized that he was right. I had been so focused on the idea of remodeling the house that I had overlooked the reality of the situation. Despite being a builder with almost 30 years of experience, I had failed to recognize that this house was beyond saving.

So, I made the decision to tear the house down and build a new one from scratch. This was a major shift in the project, but it was necessary given the state of the house. Instead of trying to salvage what was left of the old house, I would be able to build a new one that met my standards.

This project was a learning experience for me. It taught me the importance of being flexible and adaptable when it comes to construction projects. Sometimes, the best course of action is to start fresh rather than trying to fix something that is beyond repair.

In the end, I was able to build a new house for my family that was not only beautiful but also structurally sound. I incorporated many of the details that I had learned over the years, creating a house that was truly a reflection of my expertise and experience as a builder.

In the next episode, we will delve into the framing and exterior insulation process, showing you the details of the construction. So, stay tuned for more of “The Real Rebuild Series”.

Related Post Links

Converting an old 70’s house to Passive House Standards from the Outside in (inc. New Aluminium Siding System Review)