Considering buying a custom designed property


By Dan Duckham in Miami area. Owner told me it was built in early 70s, The house itself has a lot of unique features and very open, but it also has a very "chopped up" feel. Even though it has lots of windows, the house felt real dark because it has dark wood ceilings and black slate floor tiles. The wood ceiling is unfinished (sort of having that ski lodge feel), and has a lot of moisture damage that appears to be caused by roof leak. Of course it's a vaulted ceiling and I don't know what's between the ceiling wood and the galvanized roof, whether there is any insulation or just tar paper, the second floor felt like an oven even with AC running.
So one concern I have is how do I repair (cover) these moisture damage with the ceiling like 20 feet high?
Is there a way to make the house more energy efficient with so many windows and apparently none or very little roofing insulation?
Any idea how to brighten up the place with dark wood ceiling and black slate tile floor?
It probably was designed for a couple with no kids. The living room is huge, kitchen is huge, then a half-stair leads up to a floor which opens to a room, then the stair continues to the second floor and a very large landing area and there is the master bedroom. No door, very open, the master bedroom is more like a loft and can overlook the living room below from the hald wall. Then it opens to the bathroom, no door either. There are very few interior door in this house, every thing is open, even the rooms, the walls are only up 8 feet and then is open above, this means if TV is on in the master bedroom there is no way to block it off in another room.
It is a unique house and I am tempted to get it and rework it, but the ceiling moisture damage concerns me and I can;t figure out a way to avoid paying $500 on electric in the middle of summer.
MC
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If it was built in the early 70's I bet the windows are single pane, also probably not hurricane resistant.........replacing the windows with double panes would help a lot.....but cost big bucks as well. If the roof has not been replaced, it is probably nearing the end of its lifespan.

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There are lots of windows in that house, so many of them very high up and have to be opened and closed with those 10 feet long cranks. Redoing all those windows would be a huge cost. The problem with the roof is one thing, but the exposed wood ceiling I can see water mark everywhere (it's not pained wood, unfinished wood I would say cedar because of the texture but I can't tell for sure), even if I stop the leak with a new roof it will be cost prohibitive to replace all these wood in the ceiling, unless I guess by staining them even darker or painting them over.
MC
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You would need to look at the cost vs. payback........if it saves you $250/ month in elec. and another 1000k in insurance a year........when will you hit the break even point.

If it is cedar, (or cyprus, or redwood etc) the wood will not have rotted from water. You might have to sand and stain to get rid of the water marks.

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Deck wash. I think it's usually some from of peroxide.
Or, weak bleach solution.
Follow with a light-colored stain/tint, such as the "pickle" (whitewash) I'd mentioned. Go talk to people who know wood before just slapping paint or dark stain over damaged wood. If wood is not cleaned, and you just stain it darker, all you'll end up with is *dark* wood that's blotchy.
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60' above high tide on a hill, but FEMA insists that I have flood insurance. Just got my bill. EDS
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sounds like a lot of work to change that house into your house. maybe you're better off buying something else??
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If the ceiling is water-damaged, merely covering the ceiling won't do any good - you'd probably have to repair or replace the roof. Might as well have some insulation and maybe some of that new roof liner, it is called "R-Guard"?, it's a metallized materia that goes immediately under the plywood and reflects a good amount of heat (from what I've heard) back out of the roof.
Install motorized attic vents - my understanding is that they have a thermostat that kicks them on when the attic reaches a certain temperature.
If the wood ceiling is unfinished, you can consider "pickling" (basically, whitewash) to give it a lighter "bleached" or even greyed "driftwood" type look that's often considered "beach-y".
If it's very high, all I can think is, get a very tall folding stepladder, of scaffolding, if you're going to work on it yourself...no easy way to do it that I know of.
For the floor, area/throw carpets in cream and white tints, with some warm tones included (red-orange-yellow, and tints and tones thereof). Some people opine that floor-to-ceiling curtains in a light color visually "lift" a ceiling. You can use drapes, sheers, or have them made freom whatever fabric you like. Heck, you can make your own - all you need is the main fabric, some backing to reduce fading (muslin, bedseet material, or even SaniTherm, which is an insulating material and also blocks light when the things are closed). It's just a matter of measureing correctly, running a seam down 2 sides and across the top, and hemming the bottom - you can use non-sewn options for that.
Ceiling lights might help brighten that feature - some people seem to like spotlights but also consider a more diffuse type of lighting, and something original/handmade (or that looks like it could be unique) might be nice.
Add elements that reflect light, avoid things that absorb it. Light- colored furniture looks well against a darker floor. Avoid heavy, dark fabrics. It sounds like a light- or medium-colored leather would look good in the place, plus, many people find leather to feel "cool" to the touch in a warm climate.
If your windows are single-pane, and you don't want to replace them right off the bat, consider window film - there are metallized films that supposedly reduce the heat the comes in by 50% and more, and reduce Winter heat loss by 40%. Or you might be able to build in a layer of lexan paneling but I don't know whether that'd work, plus it's bloody *expensive*, might cost more than replacing the windows (although, OTOH, it's also resistant to shattering). There are also security films that are sturdy enough to make plain windows behave more like safety glass.
If you put up film *plus* insulated drapes, that will help. Also consider pergolas around the house to lessen the insolation. Or at least, window blinds.
I saw one house where the people had put up padded fabric rather than wall paper in one room - they used a red silk-blend but there are various options; put batting agaisnt the qwall first, finish with piping or other trim (to hide the staples).
haahn enough room to add in a layer of studs-plus-insulation covered by new sheetrock. If you redo the roof and ceiling, also sounds like there is room enough for insulation.
The problem with "expedient measures" is that they typically cost more than expected, and they're often less than satisfying in appearance over time. So you have to consider the "rattiness factor" - how much something will wear, how quickly it will begin looking ratty.
The problem(s) with these old, uninsulated houses goes even beyond the monthly electric bill: (1) they are just plain uncomfortable in any season (2) the temperature differentials are annoying (3) you are totally and helplessly dependent upon having huge loads of power always available via the Grid, so even a simple Brownout causes problems (4) it's almst impossible to keep they reasonably dry (5) it's hard of the HVAC system because it *always* has to run overtime, since you're essentially cooling (and.or heating) the outside (6) they're environmentally unsound (7) they let in more ambient noise from the outside (8) from what I can tell, and purely IMO, it *seems* to me like they let more bugs in, because there is less of a buffer and less possible sealing (and fewer places for insecticides to remain). It sounds silly, but one of the warm-climate bugs is the Black Widow Spider, another is the Brown Recluse Spider. I got nailed by the latter opnce, and beleive me, you do *not* want either of those nipping your tootsies while you're on the throne...
In any event, it doesn't sound like you'll be able to get off cheap, so you have to factor in the work that the place needs, before making an offer, and of course always get an inspection so that there are fewer unpleasant surprises.
HTH a little -
- K.

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