HomehousingPregnancy hormones and rennovations don't mix

Pregnancy hormones and rennovations don’t mix

Our house is 84 years old and comes with all the quirks you would expect (and some you wouldn’t) with an old house. Take for example the fact that we only have one bathroom. This is hard to fathom for folks who are only interested in new construction. Apparently people just didn’t poop as much back in the 30’s. Maybe it’s all that processed food we eat now? Makes for more bathroom runs?

You know we had our first unexpected disaster when our basement started flooding. We ended up hiring a waterproofing company to come out and install an interior french drain. They performed the work, but didn’t cover any of the stuff we keep in our basement (washer/dryer, ski stuff, blankets, tools, etc). This resulted in a big fat mess as all of our stuff was covered in a thick layer of concrete dust.

Needless to say, I was not a happy camper.

I was invoiced $3,000 for the work, but after many lengthy emails, photo documentation of the mess they made, and threats to leave poor reviews on Angie’s List and Yelp they dropped the price down to $1,350. I guess user reviews are really important to companies

Our newest unexpected nightmare comes via our finished attic space.

The ceilings upstairs have a pretty significant pitch to them and the space felt depressingly dark…



I know, it looks like a hot mess. 

Since this is Baby Ninja’s room, and we expect to be spending a decent amount of time in this space over the years, we knew we needed to rehab it. We started by installing two skylights upstairs. This resulted in an instant transformation of the space. It added about 12 inches of extra ceiling height and let’s in a ton more light. Each skylight cost $500 installed.




After having the skylights installed I was able to peek behind the drywall and I noticed there was about two feet of empty space between our ceiling and the actual peak of the roof. Capturing that space would mean the upstairs would go from 6’6 ceilings to a much more normal 8’+.

After getting some drywall quotes we decided to go forward with busting out the ceilings. Last Saturday, we spent half the day ripping out the drywall. Once the ceiling was exposed things took a turn for the worst expensive.


When we bought the house, we were told the electrical had been updated everywhere, but of course life is never that easy. Turns out our entire upstairs runs on knob and tube.


My attic remodel project just went from $1,500 to pushing $5,000 with the swing of a hammer.

This weekend I’ll be demoing the upstairs down to the studs on every wall. This will save a ton of money on electrical labor as it opens everything up and gives the electrician easy access. I have the drywaller coming over this weekend to help me with the demo. Here’s what our baby room looks like as of yesterday…


The sight of the demolition work brought Girl Ninja to tears yesterday. What was supposed to be a beautiful baby room is anything but right now. Couple the dirty, smelly, demo work with a slew of pregnancy hormones and you can get why she was emotional.

I guess the moral of this story is three-fold.

  1. Never trust the sellers or listing agent.
  2. Prepare for the worst whenever you start a project.
  3. Pregnancy and demo work don’t jive.

Oh, and this is the look we are going for…






  1. I feel your pain. Even a brand new home can still have problems that come up once you start living in it. Home ownership is not for the faint of heart.

  2. Wow, looks like you had some really shady sellers. Between this and the water. Hoping nothing else comes up from their lying/forgetfulness.

    • They may not have known about the knob and tube. Typically you dont unless you do some demo. I didnt think I had it either – I just thought I had old outlets.

  3. Yo ninja –
    I tweeted you about this but if you dont get it i’ll leave something here too.
    My wife and I moved into an old house and we also found a whole upstairs full of knob and tube wiring. I tore it all out and replaced it all myself, and turned what was loosely quoted as a 10k+ job into something that cost about $1500.

    I’m assuming that you’re smart enough to cut the power to the circuits in question before you start the demo and ripping out the wires, and as long as you can do that you can re-wire the whole place. It’s much easier than you think it is. A 250′ roll of romex and a DIY wiring book will set you back ~100, and will be more than enough to do that room from the looks of it. If it’s just a few simple overhead lights and a couple outlets, I’d totally take it on yourself if you’ve got the time.

    Shoot me an email if you’ve got questions.

    • Great idea! But you may or may not be able to do it yourself depending on local building & safety regulations. At least in Nebraska, there are certain things only a licensed electrician can do. Homeowners can do some projects, but it still requires a permit & inspections, so depending on your local regulations, if you do it yourself, you might hire an electrician to check your work before having it inspected to ensure that it is up to code. It’s a bit of a hassle doing it the proper way with permits & inspections, but can save a lot of money.

      • Exactly. In the state and City Ninja lives in, he would need a permit to do the work. If it is not permitted, he would have to always disclose that on the form 17.

        And another thing. I am the cheapest guy I know, but when it comes to a life/fire/safety issue, getting it done professionally is the only way I do it,

        • WA state you can still do it yourself (and pay an electrician to look over your work/sign off on it), so it’s still WAY cheaper. We re-wired an entire house in Seattle, and it was permitted/inspected/signed off with the City with no real issues.

  4. Ya just gotta love old houses! You’re always finding something wonky that’s expensive to fix, but new houses have their issues too. Stinks for Girl Ninja though; it’s disheartening to think you’re most of the way done with a project only to find out you’re getting a much bigger one. Luckily all baby *really* needs for the first couple weeks is somewhere to sleep & somewhere you can change him (a playpen with the bassinet option works well as a temporary crib). Good luck getting it all finished!

  5. They’re a pain but I LOVE old houses. That is such a cool space! While expensive now, it’s just one-time and then you’ll be done and have a beautiful room! Looking forward to the finished product =)

  6. Welcome to the charm of an older house. At least you will get to learn some new skills.

    I know you don’t get the extreme swings in temperatures I experience here in the midwest, but are you going to add some extra insulation while the walls are opened up?

  7. Maybe the attic wasn’t considered living space for the previous owners, so they never considered it?

    But that does beg the question as to whether you’ve done any verification through the rest of the house that the wiring is actually what you believe it to be.

  8. Hi! I really love your blog and not sure if anyone mentioned it already but be very careful with your pregnant wife doing demo like this because of lead paint. I’m not sure if u have lead paint in your house but many old houses have it and it’s very dangerous for someone pregnant or a small child. Good luck with renovations!

  9. I’m convinced that pregnancy hormones don’t mix well with anything! Except pregnancy. Hang in there, Girl Ninja, it’ll get better! (but sometimes you just have to have a big ugly cry and get it out)

  10. Poor Girl Ninja! I agree that maybe the former owner didn’t know. This came up in my old house, too. But on the bright (expensive) side, at least you will have Baby Ninja’s room just how you like it and you’ll feel good about the safety of updated wiring in his room. Can’t wait to see the after pics! Maybe this will turn into a DIY blog 🙂

  11. I feel like you might be starting to understand where people were coming from on past posts about home additions and a pregnant wife. Your life will never be the same. Good luck with the work.

    • Haha. True. But at least Girl Ninja even acknowledged that she wasn’t quite sure why she was crying as this setback is not really that big of a deal.

  12. I keep flip-flopping as to whether to stretch ourselves to buy a house downtown instead of our rent continuing to increase every year. All the houses are 1890’s homes. The un-renovated ones are the only ones in our price range. Stories about your house keep me in check. We would be stretching to buy and definitely wouldn’t have thousands in cash available for all these repairs. I’m sure they’d have a mixture of all the issues you’re dealing with and more!


  13. Why didn’t you just run new electrical without tearing the drywall? A few small holes and a fishwire is all you needed to pull the new electrical wire. It could have been done. Hopefully there was no asbestos behind all that…

    • Since his house is from 1930, the breaker box likely has 100 or less amps of service and is probably full at this point, so he likely cant run a new circuit without a sub-panel which will likely cost more than 3500 that ninja is estimating for doing it his way. Knob and Tube is usually ungrounded, not insulated well electrically and modifications such circuits are not allowed under residential building code in almost every circumstance. Therefore ninjas choices seem to be leave everything the way it is, replace the circuit the way he is doing it, or add an outlet to the circuit himself (no electrician would risk losing his license adding an outlet to this circuit) and hope for the best (No fire, code enforcement fine, etc.).

        • Wouldn’t know I have a few friends in construction trades and volunteer at habitat for humanity when I have free time, so I know about building issues and code not civil or real estate law

      • Breaker box has been updated and three are three open open spots for circuits (per the electrician that came out for the estimate). So at least we have that working to our favor. Pretty sure the knob and tube is limited to the attic space as it looks like the romex runs up from the main floor and ties in to the old upstairs electrical. Will know more this weekend after we demo out the walls.

    • Few reasons,

      1) We were having the entire upstairs completely redrywalled anyways so ripping out what is there doesn’t cost us anymore on that front.

      But mostly….

      2) Will save on labor costs as it gives the electrician complete access to all the old knob and tube (every light switch, outlet, fixture, etc). Therefore requiring significant less time.

  14. I bought an old house, too and am expecting the worst although no major problems yet. Just lots and lots (and lots and lots) of little ones.

    On the other hand, I have a friend who bought new construction and wound up with misfit windows, poor heating, etc. They wound up having to sue the builders and of course wound up settling for approx. 1/3 the cost of the needed repairs.

    I think home ownership is a gamble. And an adventure.

  15. “Apparently people just didn’t poop as much back in the 30′s. Maybe it’s all that processed food we eat now? Makes for more bathroom runs?”

    I know that’s a joke, but depending how far out you are from the city your house, that is now in the suburbs, may have originally been a farm house. If that is the case in the 30’s your house may not have had the pluming to support a toilet originally. My mom tells me stories of hand crank pumping water at my grandmothers farm house and she was born in the 50’s and my grandfather rebuilt the outhouse behind the wood shed when it got damaged by a snow storm in the late 80’s. Currently, its standard toilet but you need to fill the tank by bucket to flush. Not sure if it was ever used after the rebuild but it is still there today.

  16. I don’t know about the first pic of “what we are going for”….my first thought was the opening scene of a horror movie where someone’s three year old gets possessed by an evil child ghost from when the house used to be an asylum. That’s just my twisted mind though. 🙂

    Ive never done a reno, and my house right now is starting to call out to me for some attention…I’m afraid of starting because I’m afraid of where it’ll lead (and the cost of unforeseen expenses). Looking forward to seeing the end result! Good luck to both (all three) of you!

  17. I guess that’s the huge risk with old houses, but on the other hand I pergsonally adore all the little stories and spiritual corners of old and antique things including houses. Anyways the nursery and renovated photos look really amazing 🙂 Enkoy it!!

  18. Oh, I really love that beautiful room! Our grandparents’ house is already 86 years old and now my aunt renovated it, she is the only daughter that didn’t get married. The price of renovations cost her too much, but she also turned it into a boarding house, it has 20 rooms available.

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