Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A brief followup to the home renovation post.

I/we made it. The tenant and I got our stuff completed, she got her rent subsidy approved, I got the house approved, and she got moved in. The very few remaining little jobs (new locks and deadbolts for the front and back doors and a working garage door opener) will spread out over a month of Saturdays like normal homeowner chores. The half-wit is beat.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Skills that I don't ever want to use again.

The halfwit (me) has been pretty busy lately. I am currently working on the renovation of a rental house. The project is on a tight schedule because the prospective tenant wants to be in for Christmas and she needs Section 8 assistance. To get Section 8 assistance, your house has to pass an inspection. I wouldn't push myself to this extent except she is also the daughter of one of my wife's real estate clients. In that case, you do whatever you can to keep the relationship and the referrals.

I am a pretty decent painter. That is to say, I can keep up with a professional. I am not quite as tidy as a professional, but I can keep a wet rag around for the occasional drip. One bedroom required a round of primer (Kilz) to cover the Magic Marker drawings on the walls. Thank goodness the little darling didn't get out of her room with the markers very often.

I am a fairly good roofer. I learned this the summer I worked for a home builder while I was in college. Roofing is not that involved, you just have to remember that water flows downhill and that roofing is made to be applied in neat rows. Get started correctly and set up the overlap routine correctly and it's mindless work after that - except for all those things that poke up through the roof. You know, like attic vents to keep the roofing from melting and plumbing vents to keep methane and sewer gas out of the house, chimneys, and fireplaces. Again, the thing about water flowing downhill is the key concept. The house I am working on has a good roof but every place where something pokes through the roof there has been a water leak. The solution is to climb up on the roof and put some sealant on the small holes that the roofers left behind. There's the problem...climbing up on the roof. I am afraid of heights but I have to do it. I don't have time to wait for someone else.

I am a poor glazier but again I don't have time to wait for some one else. I spent way too much time chipping old putty out of a wooden door frame and then cutting a groove in the wood for the inevitable little burrs that make the glass larger than the hole it is supposed to fit in. That was two pieces of glass in an old-fashioned wooden storm door. It's a good door and it looks cool on the house. The garage door was not too bad. The front has a boring aluminum storm door. The last two pieces of glass were in aluminum window frames - you have to use a heat gun to get the old putty out. You can't melt the old putty but you can make it weak enough to dig out with a wood chisel. I had a talk with the guy at the hardware store about the glass, and he cut two near-perfect panes for the aluminum windows. I should have talked to him earlier.

I am a fairly good electrician but the city code limits me to replacing fixtures. No pulling new wire for additional circuits, and definitely no replacing a group of old fuse fixtures with a nice clean new breaker box even though it's not exactly rocket science to do such things. The city considers any rental property to be commercial, even a single-family home. If you live in the house, you can do whatever you want. I replaced a bunch of bungled-up old stuff with nice, clean, new, properly wired fixtures. I wonder where they found the blind clumsy guy to put that old stuff in.

It's almost done. I just need to replace a couple of doors and fix a couple holes in the walls.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A new, disgusting, landlord story.

I have one (only) earth contact home as a rental. I bought it because it's close to the house I live in, it had a storage building, and three acres, and I bought the whole package for what a regular lot with utilities would cost. That's where the good part ends. The house has a lot of space but it was poorly constructed and it is a maintenance nightmare. It's worse than owning a mobile home when it comes to finding replacement parts for anything.

I have had the cobbled-up combination gas furnace/heat pump rebuilt into a normal gas furnace and central air conditioner unit, with factory standard components. It is a lot more reliable that way and parts are readily available. I have a really good HVAC guy.

The electrical service is another cobbled-up mess that I am slowly getting converted to standard components. The house got struck by lightning last year and part of the service melted along with the tenant's Uninteruptible Power System for their computer. I got some more pieces converted to standard house wiring components as I had it fixed.

The plumbing is cobbled-up as well. The sewage lagoon was a small pond built up with a ring of gravel. It leaked, of course, so I have put in a new lagoon. The sewer inspector, a gorgeous blonde in her late thirties, wanted to put my contractor in jail because he wouldn't show up for inspection appointments. I don't know what that was about, and I don't want to know.

The roof needed replacing a couple years ago, and we had a reputable contractor friend put the roof on. He called in the middle of tearing off the old roof to tell us that there were two broken rafters and a spot where a rafter should have been but wasn't.

On to the ugly part. The tenant told me that a corner of the front wall was decayed and the house was about to fall down. Our structural engineer said there was some decay but no immediate danger and no settling. So today my son-in-law and I tore out the interior of that section of wall to replace the decayed bits. It was immediately obvious that the decay was related to the former roof leak since everything was dry in there. Did I saw dry? Holy moley! There was thirty-year-old sprayed in foam insulation in there that had dried out. Part of it was in soft chunks, and part of it had turned into powder. We scraped the stuff into trash bags and vacuumed up the stuff until the shop vac filter plugged up. Then we dumped the powder into more trash bags, shook the powder out of the filter, and vacuumed up some more powder.

There was only three feet of decayed wood in the wall, so we replaced that and put it back together again. We also straightened out a dogleg in the wall so it's one section of straight wall. Two guys, seven hours each. I am tired and sore, and when I blow my nose I get mud.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Monday, November 9, 2009

Going to take a break.

Dear friends,

I don't know what has changed for me, but something has happened. When I read the drivel that Dear (mindless) Prudie writes, I feel pity and that's not good. It's like the letters describe people without heart, soul, and brainwaves. I always try to believe that real people couldn't be that dumb although I know better. They need caretakers. There is nothing in the form of advice that can save the truly mindless from the ruin that comes of following their strange desires.

Each of you has a niche. Schuyler and Messy have snark covered very well. I don't have much to add to their humorous comments about the weekly dose of preposterous situations that Prudie's alleged letter writers put themselves in.

Mermaid, the sweetest and kindest and gentlest of us, has empathy covered. Somehow, Mermaid manages to turn the brain dead imaginary letter writers into people deserving of compassion. They may never read, let alone accept such kind and reasonable advice, but the advice is out there. Good job!

The Slate editors really hate it when you criticise anything their writers put to paper, especially when it is in the form of a fake reader post. It's why we all left there, but now that it's done there are no inflated Slate egos to poke at. Maybe that's my problem.

Later, folks.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Monsters among us.

This is sad little story. It involves monsters, murder, authority, education, and stupidity, but it does not belong on "The Warpath" because there is nothing and no one to go on the war path against.

Last Thursday, near my hometown, a nine-year-old little girl disappeared on her way from her friend's home a few hundred yards to her own home. Law enforcement, firefighters, and neighbors came to search the woods nearby and a roadblock was set up. Dozens more people who came to help were turned away because there was nothing for them to help with. In short order, the neighbors and passersby were interrogated in the vain hope of finding a clue. A day passed, then another.

Saturday evening, the case was broken but details did not begin to trickle out until Monday. A teenaged neighbor had shown law enforcement officers where the body was buried. The neighbor then confessed and was taken into custody. There was no mysterious stranger in a dark sedan to run down, just another kid with no life left.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Just flew in from the east coast.....

...and boy, are my arms tired. (Apologies to every real comedian who made that joke funny.)

Glad to be home.