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Strange features in houses

Dan

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Towards the end of summer, I'll be out house-hunting again, this time looking for a place to buy.

I'm reminded of my house hunt when I was living in Denver. I was looking for something very specific -- a 1920s-era Arts and Crafts bungalow in the West Highlands neighborhood -- and a few of the houses I saw had very ... uhh, interesting features.

For instance, I saw several houses where, in the middle of an unfinished basement, there was a connected, operating sit-down toilet. Literally, just sitting there. Another house had an open, operating toilet in a corner of the basement, up on a platform like a throne.

When it was time to sell, my realtors and I went to visit some houses in the area, trying to get an idea of comps, or what houses like mine were selling for. One house had a room in the basement I called the "death chamber" - there was a working shower head mounted next to a working light bulb socket, with electrical outlets on the wall near the concrete floor. W ...T ...F?

My parents' house in suburban Buffalo was supposedly a model house when the subdivision was developed in the mid-1960s. There were all sorts of space-age gizmos installed to impress potential homebuyers, one of which is still in the kitchen - a built-in toaster.

Ever see any houses with features that made you go "hmmmmmm?"
 

jmf

Cyburbian
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594
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17
One house we looked at was called "florida style". From the outside, it looked like an average two storey house but when you went inside the bedrooms were downstairs and the kitchen, living room and dining room were upstairs. It must have been built in the '50s, there was marblized linoleum in every room in patterns and the kitchen had metal cabinets which clanged and squeaked. It was really odd - I don't think anything had been upgraded since it was built. Our realtor even said she had never seen anything like it.
 

boiker

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Yes Dan, being that I just finished a house hunt I noticed the 'throne' toliets and toliets in the middle of the floor also. However, I didn't see the oddly placed shower head. Although, a couple of home appeared to have locker room style showers in their basement.

The throne is a result of building code.

Oh, there was a house i went through that had not been remodeled or decorated since the 1970s. The kitchen had low, multi-colored carpet and copper backsplash tiles with "magic mushrooms" etched into each tile. I checked out the finished attic to see a half-a$$ed remodel job. The kicker was the upstairs bathroom. The wall covering was nothing but aluminum beer cans. Cans cut in half and glued to the wall; floor to ceiling. My 4 year old son remarked, "This will be daddy's bathroom."
 

otterpop

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The house we bought in January has a feature I've not seen in other houses - throughout the house there are varnished plank ceilings. Looks really cool.
 

boiker

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otterpop said:
The house we bought in January has a feature I've not seen in other houses - throughout the house there are varnished plank ceilings. Looks really cool.

heh! you reminded me of another house i went through: The kitchen was medium-stained pine plank, floor, wall, and ceiling. In a couple of strategic locations, "maintenance hatches" were installed for easy access to the failing and leaking plumbing. These people also ripped out their built-in buffet in their dining room to put in a sliding-glass door. The porch was ripped off and "decked".
 

Seabishop

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I haven't seen strange house features as much as strange conditions while being shown rental properties. I've seen a apartment with literally hundreds of empty beer bottles on every table and countertop. I've also seen apartments where no one bothered to remove the graffitti on the interior walls before showing it. Neither one was in a slum.
 

Tranplanner

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We saw a couple of interesting houses last year when we were looking. The best was the one we dubbed "the horror house". Almost everything inside had been ripped out, even the finished floors. There were holes in the walls, no plumbing, and the yard was a mess. But it was a steal at $225,000. After we looked at the house, my sister-in-law (who lives in the area) remembered that it was the house where the "crazy lady" lived - she'd wander around the neighbourhood in 30 odd degree (celcius) weather in a parka talking to herself.

Another house, I walked into the basement and noticed that the beam was in three separate pieces, on different alignments, held up by about 8 jack-posts. I didn't spend a lot of time down there.

Our house...well - it definitely hadn't been loved for a while. There was a built-in bar in the basement that took me most of an afternoon to demolish. They had made it entire out of 2x4s and 3/4 inch plywood. Nailed into the concrete floor with 4 inch concrete nails every foot or so. I have since uncovered evidence that there was a serious fire in the house at some point, and a woodmite infestation at some other point.

My father-in-law recently bought a house complete with a funky south pacific island-themed basement, and a thatched roof wet bar.
 

tsc

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I looked at a house and every room had a small whole in the wall for the cats to go through...
 

Mud Princess

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My upstairs bathroom is fully tiled -- floor, walls, and ceiling. The ceramic tile on the walls and ceiling (including the shower stall) is a light shade of purple; the floor tile is white, I think only because it had to be replaced at some point. The shower stall is set in a small enclave under the angle of the roof. Good thing I'm short - it doesn't accommodate anyone over 5' 5" or so.
 
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The house I'm renovating still has a cedar closet. I never heard of such a thing because I grew up in a post WWII 'ranch style' house. The master bedroom has this cubicle looking thing in one of the walls. It's look like a built-in entertainment center. Needless to say the closet and 'entertainment center' are staying.
 

Gedunker

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My house is a midwest corn crib (the pejorative name for a 4-square), built in 1915. We had the open throne on a pedestal in the bsaement removed recently.

The odd feature is that the house was not electrified when it was built, it was all gas. When I started rewiring the house in 1996, I could not find the main run from the electrical panel in the basement to the attic. There was simply no chase anywhere in the house (that I could find without demolition). We hired an electrician and put a new service upstairs and fed it off the old panel via a chase outside. Still, there had to be a chase for the old service.

Replacing the wiring for the dining room chandelier, I found it when I drilled into a plate to fish wiring for the light. There had been a door between the dining room and former kitchen and before they closed it up, they ran the electric up to the attic in the former door opening. To my everlasting frustration, they connected the wires inside a box inside the wall. Now, there is no way to fish old wire to new wire :-@ At least one line is still in service and I can't replace it without tearing out plaster walls and hardwood floors. :-@ :-@
 

H

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The house a few doors down from my family’s home has secret passages. One time when I was a kid it was for sale and vacant. I cant even tell you how awesome the hide and go seek was once we figured out how to get in. It was all fun in games until someone left the silly looking water fountain (bidet) running and it soaked the carpet. I was too young to have any money so once we finally got caught my parents had to replace the carpet...... I couldn’t sit for weeks. :(

Moral of the story is, when I grow up I want a house with secret passages :-D
 

Zoning Goddess

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One of my friends had an apartment in Atlanta where the bathtub (not hut tub) was in the middle of the bedroom floor and the refridgerator was in the bathroom.
 

jmf

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tsc said:
I looked at a house and every room had a small whole in the wall for the cats to go through...

This is not uncommon is older houses (read: 100+ years) around here including the closet doors - it helped the cats to perform their primary function - killing mice, moles, etc.
 

Chet

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My first house had one of those "death chamber" bathrooms that Dan mentioned. The basement rec room also had a 1953 map (also the year the house was built) of the City of Milwaukee glued to a wall.

My second house had an outdoor motion sensitive bank of lights that would iluminate the entire yard if one was tripped. Basically they were always on since the lot was only 40 X 130. They lit up the neighbors houses and yards on each side too. |-)

Some friends own a very large house in Madison and there is no service door from the house to the attached 2 car garage, so you have to go outside and open the overhead door to gain access. Dumb.
 

giff57

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Chet said:
Some friends own a very large house in Madison and there is no service door from the house to the attached 2 car garage, so you have to go outside and open the overhead door to gain access. Dumb.


Can you say SawsAll...... I knew that you could.
 

DecaturHawk

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I was once apartment hunting in Ypsilanti, MI, when a landlord showed me an apartment in an old house. When we walked in, there was an empty, 55-gallon aquarium tank in the living room. I walked into a bedroom and one wall was nothing but rows of 5-gallon tanks, each with a very nicely fed rat within it. By this time, I'm saying, oh boy, where is it? It was curled up next to the toilet. Because the python was curled, I couldn't tell how long it was, but I would bet at least 6 or 7 feet; the head was a good six inches wide. The landlord was surprised, to be sure. We rented elsewhere.
 

JNL

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The house that my ex-fiance and I bought together had this small office with hideous red wallpaper, faded yellow curtains, and a removable wooden bench along one wall that could be used as a bed B-)

The house also had these horrible plastic chandelier light fittings in all the rooms. A great doer-upper though and we got it for a bargain. 5 mins walk from the beach. Hadn't been redecorated since the early 70s. Ex lives there now with his French g/f he met over the internet!
 

mike gurnee

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I grew up in a fascinating place. Built by my eccentric G-G Uncle in the late 30s. Six exterior doors. The entire interior was paneled in oak fence planks (including ceilings) with black wrought iron finishes (light fixtures, door hardware, stair railing). Built for entertaining, there were three two-room suites upstairs—you had to walk through one room to get to the other. The upstairs window sills were about a foot above the floor. The upstairs ceilings and doorways were about a foot shorter than “normal.” Many other oddities that I fail to remember at this time.

His first “home” had horse stalls on the ground floor.
 

Cardinal

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In that part of rural southern Ontario where my family hails from, it is common for houses to have two complete kitchens. The first is where one usually belongs. The second is in the basement.
 

steveanne

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Not too weird, but the house we just bought has no power to the entire back of the house, so when we want to use an edger, trimmer, weed wacker, etc, we have to prop the back door open and run power out of the house. The owner before us also put all the locks on the inside doors backwards so that he could lock people in to their rooms. Weird.
 
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The house we bought in Kansas had no locks at all on any of the bedroom doors. Buying a locking doorknob for the masterbedroom was one of the first things we did. My comment: I do not believe in "sex education by demonstration". 8-!

And the bathroom was painted pink, with a wallpaper border in pink and blue with flowers and bows. Gag. It made me think "Nursery". I immediately replaced the wallpaper border with a very deep pink and GRAY border, with a classic design to make the place tolerable and minimize the pink until I could wallpaper the whole room.

The venting to the dryer ran up to the attic (inside the wall) and through the attic along the longest possible axis one could find. We had endless problems with it getting clogged, creating condensation and damage to sections of the ceiling, etc.

The thing I thought was most weird was all the Stuff left in the attic be previous owners: including 2 large model airplanes, something like 3 feet across.
 

jsk1983

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My house, circa 1954, allows one to lock people in the basement. I don't know if this was original, but my brother would habitually lock it every night before he went to bed. I'm not sure who he was trying to keep out.
Also the basement has a "secret" door. Part of the wall was built so that it was on hinges. No indication its a door other than the fact that it tends not to hang flush with the rest of the wall.
 

Jen

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Looking athouses for sale with a realtor once ran across a farmhouse on a hill with a 20 ft tunnel connecting the basement and garage- I thought what a great place to cultivate mushrooms or something! More like spiders and earwigs!

When we found our first old house, a cement storage area the size of a closet in the basement was something that took us a little while to figure out it's original use - a coal bin.
 

jmf

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Michele Zone said:
The house we bought in Kansas had no locks at all on any of the bedroom doors.

A 3 bedroom flat I lived in had locks on the outside of some of the bedroom doors - not the kind with a key but the old hook and eye latch type - I wonder who/what was being kept in the rooms??
 

biscuit

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jmf said:
A 3 bedroom flat I lived in had locks on the outside of some of the bedroom doors - not the kind with a key but the old hook and eye latch type - I wonder who/what was being kept in the rooms??
Crazy relatives perhaps?

In my grandparents old farmhouse (which they lived in until they were unable to walk up and down the steps) you had to walk through their bedroom to go from the dining room to the den and through the shared bath to reach one of the other bedrooms. Strange layout...
 

Seabishop

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jmf said:
A 3 bedroom flat I lived in had locks on the outside of some of the bedroom doors - not the kind with a key but the old hook and eye latch type - I wonder who/what was being kept in the rooms??

Temper tantrum throwing 4 year olds like mine. :)

My house, circa 1954, allows one to lock people in the basement. I don't know if this was original, but my brother would habitually lock it every night before he went to bed. I'm not sure who he was trying to keep out.

My grandfather did this to his house. I think it was in case people broke in through the basement. I grew up in the house and was never chained down there or anything. :)
 

jmf

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biscuit said:
In my grandparents old farmhouse (which they lived in until they were unable to walk up and down the steps) you had to walk through their bedroom to go from the dining room to the den and through the shared bath to reach one of the other bedrooms. Strange layout...

When we moved into our house, one of the first things we changed was the 1/2 bath on the first floor. It had been the breakfast nook in the kitchen so they had just closed off the wall and ut a bi-fold door into the bathroom from the kitchen - eeeeewww. We moved the door so it is now around the corner off the backporch - not much better but I see the benefits of the second bathroom. Unfortunately, because of pipes and wiring we could only put in a tiny, narrow door so the next people will think that is odd.

The kitchen is still very 50s - white with red trim - including a red enamel ceiling. We also still have the old stove, it looks kind of like the one in this ad:

 

Seabishop

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jmf said:
The kitchen is still very 50s - white with red trim - including a red enamel ceiling. We also still have the old stove, it looks kind of like the one in this ad:

But does your husband's family think your cooking is divine? Do you and mother sit around talking about the stove and clapping in your dresses? If not, then your not getting the full benefits of the stove.
 
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Seabishop said:
Temper tantrum throwing 4 year olds like mine. :)

My grandfather did this to his house. I think it was in case people broke in through the basement. I grew up in the house and was never chained down there or anything. :)
I used to have to lock my oldest son in the bedroom to make him go to sleep when he was a toddler. I spent all kinds of time -- hours, in fact -- reading to him, singing to him, rocking him, etc. Nothing worked. If I locked him in, then he was asleep in 5 minutes -- I kid you not. But I kept waiting to be arrested, etc.

I added a hook-and-eye lock to the basement door of an old 1950's house we were renting when my sister came to visit with her infant daughter, so the kid couldn't fall down the stairs. Locking the basement isn't necessarily about locking people IN it -- you can lock people OUT of it too.
 

Plannerbabs

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Not so much a feature of the house, at least not a permanent one, but several years ago we were working on a 160-year old farmhouse down on the Ohio River. The middle room (parlor? dining room?), like most of the rooms, had a brick fireplace. The house at that point was basically gutted. We were working outside, and had come in to get out of the sun for a while, and noticed what looked like a huge, black crack through the mortar of the fireplace. Since the house was old, and built into a hill, and still sort of settling, we were more upset than surprised--until the crack moved. Turned out it was a black snake, cooling himself on the brick. 8-! He was about 4' long, too. Scary, but easier to fix than a real crack!
 

BiteMeElmo

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The place we recently bought has a "secret" closet in the bedroom. It basically just has a bookcase built as a door, but when you close it, it just looks like a normal bookcase along the wall.

The previous owners told us that they intended to rig up a little motor to a switch that looked like a book, so you could do that cliche pull-the-book-to-open-the-secret-door thing.
 

drucee

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I've seen the basement throne, in houses as recent as the 1960s. And my grandparents (house built 1966) had a built-in toaster that shot toast about 5 feet. My parents looked at various homes in Franklin Lakes, NJ before we moved to Upper Saddle River (both are outer suburbs of New York City), built mainly in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.

Among the things we saw:
A bedroom with a wall-sized, yellowing photo of a New England mountain scene.
A bedroom with a wall-sized map of the world.
A house where the only access to the garage was through a guest bedroom, and then a bathroom, with glass door.
A house whose previous owners had taken everything except a 1983 phonebook, a 1970s-vintage answering machine, and a sign (for the indoor pool, which the living room had a huge picture window looking onto) that said "WELCOME TO OUR OOL. NOTICE THERE IS NO P IN IT. WE WANT TO KEEP IT THAT WAY."
A "hot tub room" with exactly that. The room was wood-paneled and could fit only the hot tub.
 

ABS

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6
In my 1970s bungalow style brick house in Brisbane we had a couple of rooms out the back with no internal access. There were two small extra bedrooms and the laundry off the verandah not connected with the rest of the house. Although now my parents have put in internal access themselves. But that has now made the back of my house slightly weird. Instead of having a double garage, part of the space was taken away for access into the extra rooms and for storage. So now we have a 1 1/2 car garage becasue the storage room eats into the space.
 

Floridays

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My first home was a campus house and it was really COOL. It had lots of character. All hardwood floors and the garage had been carpeted in Berber and converted to an office. In the office was a set of steps that led to a little loft room. The previous owners had cut through the celing and made a glass table in the loft that allowed you to look through the table and into downstairs. Lots of parties in that room! They'd also made a fake fireplace so it was really cozy.

We also found a framed black & white 8x10 photo of Jim Morrison that had been left behind, so we called it the Jim Room.
 

zman

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My last house while I was in college was built in 1907. In it one of the bedroom closets had a small set of stairs leading an elevated small room about big enough to put in boxes or for two guys to sit there.

We also had the coal bin from early days and a large metal sheet covering the hole where the heat stove had been removed.

Our neighbors house had a built in china hutch with a slide out double bed. The bed would stay as is, and would not fold or anything, I thought that was pretty cool.
 

michaelskis

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Oh here we go! Ok... I dated a girl who rented out an apartment in Ishpeming MI. Most the house was normal, until you got into the bathroom. Part of the wall for the tub area was stone. I thought that it was odd, until we looked at the basement. It was a massive stone pillar that shot up though the floors. (house was well over 100 years old, and I guess they did not want to take it out.

Another was a few properties that where built on the grounds of a mental hospital. The main house remained, and a few new houses replaced the medical buildings. Well tunnels ran all across the property, and a friend of mine lived in the main house. We where in the basement, and notices that some of the bricks for the tunnel where loose. We wiggled them out of place and looked it. Someone had stored “medical” machines inside the tunnels. They looked more like torture devices. He and his room mates kept having nightmares after that.
 

Queen B

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I bought a house once and gutted it for remodel.
One of the rooms had of course green shag carpet and on the walls were rough cedar shingles. The floors were uneven and the ceiling low. It just felt weird.
We made it into a lovely 5x13 bath with a walk in shower, make up vanity and laundry with a closet on one end.

Our current home has one of those thrones in the basement but am not taking it out as we only have one other bathrooom in the house and it is used in emergency situations.
 

Bear Up North

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Back in the late 1960's, my ex and I rented the second floor of a duplex, just down the street from Toledo's Central Catholic High School. The owners didn't do much to the place, except collect rent.

A water line going to our floor, from the water heater in the basement, broke and destroyed the ceiling bwteeen our second floor bathroom and the first floor bathroom. The damage left a considerable hole in the closet in the bathroom, through which the downstairs folks could look up and we could look down.

My ex and I attempted to fix the hole and during that fix try the downstaairs lady decided to take a bath. Oh, the things you see when you have holes between floors. My ex called down to her and about knocked her socks off....wait a minute, when I saw her she wasn't wearing socks.

Bear On Palmer Street ;)
 

Bear Up North

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The house I live in here in beautiful Swanton, OH, is pretty old. Over the years we have been doing remodeling, etc., to improve the place. A couple years ago I was installing a new electric switch for the stairway to the basement light. This switch was in the kitchen. The opposite wall of the switch is in the stairway landing area.

Because of the thickness of the wall and the fact that the switch had to be located next to a big door jamb, I had to attempt to access the back of the switch area via the opposite wall. I knew that we were going to re-do the walls in the stairwell so I had no problem drilling into the wall to access the new location for the switch.

As I was drilling all of a sudden this black oil squirts out. WTF?!?

I stopped drilling and had to cut around the drill area to see what was causing oil to squirt out. (Maybe I was striking oil.....yeah, sure, in my wall.....)

It was an old tomato soup can, filled with oil, placed between the walls. I'm guessing that the previous owner was lubing screws or nails when he was installing wallboard or something.....and left the soup (oil, mmmmmm good) between the walls.

My dreams were dashed. Alas, no oil strike in Swanton, OH.

Bear At Rig
 
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