125 Years is the length of time it will take a totally abandoned wood frame house to simply fall down. What should we do with them in the meantime? [CR]


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  1. B says:

    Burn them.

  2. TEW says:

    Keep them. It lowers the price and allows more individuals to be able to buy a home. It also lowers the rent so there would be less homelessness.

    • failurate says:

      @TEW: Keep them how? What does “keep them” mean? Who is going to pay to keep them? If there was enough demand to rent them or sell them, they would be rented or sold.

      • TEW says:

        If it was $5,000 I would pay cash now. The problem is they still want too much for them. Keep them means that we don’t burn them but let people buy them at a fair market price.

        • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

          @TEW: Yeah, I understand where you’re coming from. I make $30,000 after taxes (or there abouts) which is pretty decent for a kid my age, and I STILL can’t afford anything over $80,000.

          What house is $80,000?! (And not in the boonies…)

          Unforunately I live in Orlando, where housing *starts* at about $100,000 for a 2/2 townhome. Meaning, you don’t even have a damn yard.

          • Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ã‚œ-゜ノ) says:

            @Oranges w/ Cheese: Eh, yards are overrated. They just attract kids that like to stand on it until they are yelled at and directed to get off of it.

          • the lesser of two weevils says:

            @Oranges w/ Cheese: You would have to live in the south. The real south, not Florida, where homes (with land) start around $60k. In south Texas you can get a 3 bedroom home on a half acre with a pool for $125,000. But then…you’d have to live in the south. Win/lose?

      • TechnoDestructo says:


        Prices are “sticky” downwards. It takes time for sellers/landlords to accept that they won’t get the price they want for them and lower them to where they will sell/rent.

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      @TEW: That isn’t really feasible seeing that, in… 6-8 months depending on climactic conditions, many of the homes will no longer be safe to live in. (I’m thinking Florida, here, where in 6-8 months a hurricane might come pummel them all into roofless bits of scrap).

      That, and the longer they sit abandoned, the more money it will take to make them safely habitable again.

      A home without power / climate control / regular upkeep won’t remain livable for any more than… 2 years I’d guess. After that, quite a bit of stuff will need to be extremely repaired or replaced, or at least heavily inspected.

      Not to mention, during that time, looters and vagabonds will have shattered every window and broken or stolen every object of value.

  3. Repique says:

    I’m baffled as to why nobody’s figured out sooner that the only real difference between a large housing development in the middle of nowhere and a small town is a little bit of commercial and other public space in a conveniently located spot to most of the housing. It wouldn’t be that hard a conversion to manage, if people started realizing that having a small grocery store or a library or a school in your backyard IS A GOOD THING.

    • Erwos says:

      @Repique: The roads and parking come from where? People in the suburbs drive, not walk.

      • Repique says:

        @Erwos: Well, the subdivisions are already full of roads. Take down a few of the houses in a central area and you’ve got plenty of room for both, as long as you’re talking about putting in small community commercial, not big box stores. But we’re not talking about “X Marks the Pedwalk”-style Wheels here. They still have legs that work, don’t they?

      • TechnoDestructo says:


        Depending on the density of the suburb (everyone on a 1/4 acre lot, fine. Everyone on a 2 acre lot…well, maybe they could ride a bike), they could walk if they had retail/services actually in their neighborhood.

        There are problems that specific suburbs would still have, however. Unlike suburban developments in some other countries, which build on grids, or have sort of spiderweb patterns with lots of available route, many US suburbs are comprised of branches ending in cul-de-sacs, all lined completely with private yards. You would need to create rights of way between cul-de-sacs in order to reduce distances for pedestrian traffic.

    • GearheadGeek says:

      @Repique: Who’s going to pay the lawyers to break the stupid restrictive covenants specifically PREVENTING anything like sustainable mixed-use in most suburban wastelands…er.. developments? I’m not writing this just to be a jerk, I think the covenants on many “modern” developments are stupid to the point of criminality. It would be a real problem, because some wacko in the neighborhood would NOT want a library or market there and would fight to enforce the idiotic deed restrictions. If I’m never subject to another HOA it’ll be 5 years and 9 months too soon.

      • TechnoDestructo says:


        I’m guessing it’ll take federal or state legislation to break HOAs. Probably when people realize they’re getting in the way of sound energy policy and therefore national security. (yeah, right, that’ll happen)

  4. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    Take really cool pictures? Like this guy here? [www.opacity.us]

  5. Raekwon says:

    There was a home like that near my work and the local Fire Department used it for training. As the first poster states “Burn them” :-D

  6. Gann says:

    Fill them with service industry. What neighborhood wouldn’t profit from a coffee shop or restaurant nearby?

    • ViperBorg says:

      @Gann: You sure Starbucks is up for that?

    • KyleOrton says:

      @Gann: *wink wink* I know what you’re saying. Service industry. Yeah.

      • Gann says:

        @KyleOrton: Starbucks. And by Starbucks I mean hand-jobs.

        • fatcop says:

          @Gann: “Starbucks. And by Starbucks I mean hand-jobs.”

          Like the way you think.

          • orlo says:

            @fatcop: This finally explains all of the people complaining that they are “addicted” to Starbucks, that they’re “overpriced”, that they need to “cut down”. I guess they switch to “dunkin’ donuts” and are more satisfied.

    • Erwos says:

      @Gann: Then you’ll have the NIMBY crowd bitching about the traffic and parking problems those commercial developments bring. Most residential neighborhoods are not built to handle commercial traffic like that.

      We actually have a shopping plaza about a .7 miles from us, so it’s not impossible for us to walk for groceries. Then again, we mostly use Peapod for that.

      • Gann says:

        @Erwos: Traffic and parking would be a problem.

        What would you think about the neighborhood eating the cost to convert the home/lot to a community owned co-op garden/farm? It would keep the vacancy from dropping property values, and provide an actual resource to the neighborhood.

  7. warf0x0r says:

    Starfish have no brains.

  8. Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

    Farm mushrooms on them. They break down the organic material considerably quicker than it otherwise breaks down (although it’s still a slow process), recycle it right into the environment, and can be farmed for cash. And, you know, mushrooms = tasty.

    Saves all the energy and pollution from actually knocking the house down, and makes its destruction economically (and environmentally) productive!

  9. Anonymous says:

    In NYC during the 70’s, the city took over buildings abandoned by slum lords who didn’t feel like paying taxes and let the people living there do a rent-to-own type of thing that helped a lot of people. Why not do the same? If no one, including the bank, wants a house, why not let people who have been foreclosed upon live there and pay rent until they pay for the cost of the house?

  10. WorldHarmony says:

    What about finding a new use for the building? We are so into constructing new buildings that we don’t value perfectly fine existing ones. Depending on where it is located it could have any number of new uses.

  11. Jenn Mercer says:

    Give them to Habitat for Humanity. Get the houses to people who need them and will work to rehabilitate them.

    • yagisencho says:

      @Jenn Mercer:

      Good call.

    • lockdog says:

      @Jenn Mercer: Habitat probably won’t want them. Habitat strives to build houses that are safe, decent and affordable. Affordable, not just to build or buy, but also to live in. This means not so far out into the exurbs to make commuting difficult for families that rely on mass transit, and not the vaulted ceilinged, un-insulated energy hogs that define most of these McMansions. Also, these houses are decidedly not affordable to maintain, another factor looked at in designing and building Habitat homes.

  12. fatcop says:


  13. Deezul_AwT says:

    And yet my 19 year old house has exterior rotting wood. Where was this house at? And I can’t tell you how many other houses that I KNOW are not 125 years old are going to fall over in a strong wind. I’d have to say that’s “ideal conditions” for a standing house.

    • samurailynn says:

      @Deezul_AwT: My house is 82 years old and still standing strong.

      I think a lot of houses made in the past 25 years are not as solid as older houses. They just don’t make ’em like they used to!

  14. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    For those homes in the vicinity of colleges and universities, this might be a cost-effective way to provide university-sponsored housing for students, especially those who are older and have kids.

  15. lockdog says:

    1)Take them apart. Deconstruction companies are becoming increasingly common (our local Habitat for Humanity ReStore operates one). Deconstruction uses special tools and techniques to take apart structures and salvage all of the reusable material. Drywall becomes gypsum soil amendments, asphalt shingles are recycled into pavement. Vinyl siding and insulation are all reusable if carefully removed. Almost all interior fixtures like cabinets, doors, trim etc are easily salvaged. Even more complicated things like studs and joists can be saved. Plus pneumatic de-nailing guns are awesome tools.

    2) 125 years has to be a worst case scenario. Most shingles last 20 years at best, assuming no tornadoes, hurricanes, icestorms or anything else to speed things along. Or teenagers with rocks. Once the interior structure starts to get repeatedly wet rot is going to set in pretty quickly. The OSB used in roof, wall and floor sheathing can’t handle even a single good soaking before it starts to buckle, warp and crumble. From there bacteria and termites will start to work on it and adjoining structural members. My guess on an abandoned house in the mid-west is more like 50 years or less.

    • fatcop says:

      @lockdog: I’m not sure a house built yesterday will stand 125 years with *ideal* maintence.

      Before I learned there are easier ways to make a living, I used to be a builder. The quality of building materials available today are lacking compared with 50+ year old houses I have remodeled. Framing members of doug fir is like balsa wood compared to the southern yellow pine used in all the houses I’ve lived in. Down south they use Cypress. It doesn’t rot, termites don’t like it much either. They actually tear down houses to harvest the lumber because it’s just as good as the day it was milled.

      I won’t go into the retarded things I’ve seen others get by with due to lack of oversight on the job site. Let’s just say that I know where a house is that isn’t attached to the foundation. Hopefully the wiring and plumbing will hold it in place….

      • lockdog says:

        @fatcop: Another dumb builder story: A very large McMansion neighborhood was built down the road from me 10 or so years ago. A few years after moving in many people started having mold and rot problems. It took a few years for neighbors to figure it all out and get the class action lawsuit rolling, but in the end the builder ended up having to replace all of the windows and most of the brick veneer in close to 300 homes. Turns out they had used windows with weep holes for vinyl siding instead of brick veneer. Wouldn’t be a huge problem if it hadn’t been combined with poor flashing, but instead ended up directing the rainwater into the walls of these $400k plus homes. Oops.
        As for good times in old houses, mine was framed during WWII. It looks like there must have been lumber rationing going on, since my roof and floor joists are all S4S pine typical of the era, but all of my studs are rough cut oak that probably came from a sawmill down the road. That oak is hard as a rock. I have to predrill for every single nail! Even houses in the neighborhood 20 years older than mine don’t have this, um, feature.

      • TechnoDestructo says:


        Speaking of building materials…is it even possible anymore to get stud-grade 2x4s that don’t warp within a week out of taking them off the palette?

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      @lockdog: This may or may not be a good thing. We’re discovering, piece by piece, that our home we purchased in 1998 was built almost exclusively out of repurposed materials because it was the “model” house the contractor lived in and needed to be done fast. And because of that, we’ve had to repair SO MANY THINGS.

  16. GearheadGeek says:

    I’ve owned 3 houses in my lifetime. The first and the current one were already old by the time I was born, and the middle one I optioned out in a development near my office because the office was built out in the boonies and there were no nice old houses within a tolerable commute.

    In retrospect, I should have put up with the awful commute. My house was actually reasonably well-built, because I checked on its progress nearly every day after work or at lunch. From the number of things I had to have the builder fix in the process, I’m guessing that’s the ONLY way to get a decent finished product from modern assembly-line builders. Having a McHouse in Yet Another Subdivision with restrictive covenants, busybody HOAs and their annoying management companies and watching people come and go without ever noticing each other or communicating was weird, frustrating and occasionally depressing.

    I wouldn’t trade my smaller, much-older house that needs new windows for the previous one.