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.