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Sat May 30, 2015 at 06:00 AM PDT

SMHRB - Saturday Morning Home Repair

by CJB

Hey all.  No one is on deck for this morning, so you'll have to make your own coffee.

The Saturday Morning Home Repair Blog (SMHRB) is where we gather to discuss the many and varied aspects of home repair.  Some here are trained professionals.  Some, talented DIYers. All are welcome.  Please feel encouraged to ask questions, share successes, lament sags, drips and cracks and, as always, share any advice that you have for the rest of us.
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Sat May 23, 2015 at 06:00 AM PDT

Saturday Morning Home Repair

by eeff

The Saturday Morning Home Repair Blog (SMHRB) is where we gather to discuss the many and varied aspects of home repair.  Some here are trained professionals.  Some, talented DIYers. All are welcome.  Please feel encouraged to ask questions, share successes, lament sags, drips and cracks and, as always, share any advice that you have for the rest of us.
I'd like to show you the effort I put into the steel & sheet metal racks.
This post was put up a 6 weeks ago & got 8 comments. There wasn't a diary ready to go this morning so I thought I'd fill in by repeating this.
Hope it's ok  :=)

This project was done in 4 or 5 stages, I had to put something into the wall to make it strong enough to hang an 18 inch arm on. Then I had to make something bolt on to the wall. Then the drywall had to go up & be painted.
It only took a couple hours at the end to bolt up the finished product. But I would guess I had well over 300 man hours into it before it was bolted up ! I had help in spots, but I did 80 percent of this myself !

As usual I didn't take a picture of that wall before I started.
The outside wall studs are 6" studs by .065 or 16ga.

so I order 2" x 2" x .120 wall square tubing.
I also got a length of 3/4" x 095 round tubing.
along with 3" x 3/16 flat strap.
I drilled a series of holes in a template plate so everything was spaced the same.

20141021_101704

there was 5 2 x 2 pieces & one short one like this.

I had help cutting the metal up

there was 75 or so pieces of the 3/4 tubing cut 2 3/8" long
then I welded a 3/8 jam nut on them.

20141021_101638

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Sat May 16, 2015 at 06:00 AM PDT

Saturday Morning Home Repair Blog

by exlrrp

Good Morning All. I am James, also known as exlrrp
   this is the Saturday  Morning Home Repair Blog where the Dailykos community gets together to talk about all things construction and repair. Our genial and expert staff stand ready to aid you on your every problem

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Sat May 09, 2015 at 06:00 AM PDT

SMHRB: Permits

by elsaf

This is the Saturday  Morning Home Repair Blog where the Dailykos community gets together to talk about all things construction and repair. Our genial and expert staff stand ready to aid you on your every problem.

I have idly wondered about getting a general contractor's license, even though my experience in construction is pretty thin. When I mentioned that in a comment a while back, I got schooled about the downside of being a contractor. You might wonder why I even thought of such a thing -- considering that I'm semi-retired and never worked in the business before I started buying houses to convert into rentals a few years ago.

Well, the answer is permits. Permits have been a pain in my backside. I'm not so naive to think that the permitting process would be smooth sailing if I had a license. It would still be a pain. But at least I would be able to deal with the city directly rather than having to push someone else who doesn't want to deal with permits to do it.

There were a lot of permits involved in my 2013 renovation of a brick bungalow in Metro Detroit:

1. Roof
2. Electrical work
3. Structural (taking out a wall and putting in a beam to support the load)
4. Plumbing (two inspections, rough and finished)
5. Mechanical
6. Rental permit

This is the beam we installed to support the second story after we took out a load-bearing wall -- before we brought it inside.
I didn't need a permit to replace the concrete driveway, but in a way, it would have been better if there had been a permit. More on that later.

The roof went smoothly. The electrical permit was a problem because they didn't seem to actually check anything during the inspection. The structural permit brought work to a halt on my project for nearly a week -- and it wasn't because we had done anything wrong. The plumbing inspections demonstrated why permits are needed. The mechanical inspection was my first clue that I'd made a disastrous mistake choosing my HVAC contractor. The rental permit, the only one I could deal with personally, cost me nearly two months rent.

The story of the HVAC guy deserves it's own diary, so I'm going to save that one. But the rest of them demonstrate both the up and down sides to the permitting process.

Permits are supposed to protect the homeowner from incompetent and dishonest contractors -- or so Mike Holmes tells us week after week on DIY channel. Sometimes they do that. Sometimes, like a lot of the time, they muck things up.

Starting with the electrical permit, there were two inspections: one for the rough work, before we closed in the walls. The second after the job was done. Neither presented scheduling problems because I use a service company for electrical work and they have an office staff that handles all permits. They know what they're doing and they know the people at the city building department, so permits seldom present any problems with them. However, after the house was finished, I had to call the electrician back twice because of things he missed while doing the job.

In one case, it wasn't his fault, because the HVAC guy cut some of the wires when he was running the wire for the thermostat -- after the electricians had finished. That left several circuits dead. The other case was a couple of grounded outlets that didn't have the ground wires connected. There were a lot of outlets in the house, so I wasn't particularly outraged that two outlets didn't get finished properly. What did bother me was that the finish inspector who supposedly checked their work missed both the dead circuits and the incomplete outlets. I'm not sure what he actually checked. We found the bad outlets and dead circuits in the rental inspection two months later.

------------

We took out the wall between the kitchen and the living room.
The structural permit was a big problem. Supposedly, the contractor does all the communication with the building department with this type of permit. In my city, at least, they don't want to talk to the homeowner. The problem, however, was that the crew that did the wall removal and installing the beam only had one member who was fluent in English -- the foreman. And the foreman only stopped by once or twice a day to check on things. So, when it was time to call for the structural inspection, there wasn't anyone on the crew who could make the call. So I stepped in. It was Monday morning and the beam was going to be finished by early afternoon. I called and talked to one of the clerks in the building inspector's office and was assured that the inspector would come by before the end of the day. They didn't challenge me for not being the contractor, but I suspect they thought I was his office staff.
The beam is in place and ready to be inspected.
Meanwhile, my drywall crew ("M" and his minions) were ready to cover up the exposed beam so they could get on to painting the next day.

I waited until 5:30 and no inspector. I called again Tuesday morning. I waited until 5:30 (the city offices shut down at 4:30) and no inspector. I repeated this every day until Friday. On Friday morning, I'd had enough and let go some of my frustration on the clerk. M had to move his crew to another job because they hadn't been able to finish the living room drywall, because the beam couldn't be closed in until the inspector had signed off on it.

The inspector, when he finally showed up on Friday afternoon, said nobody had told him we needed an inspection. I'm not sure I entirely buy that, but it is what it is. The following Monday we finished the dry wall and Tuesday began painting.

------------

The plumbing inspection was the one that proved that permits can protect the homeowner -- even if it doesn't happen that way every time. I had been working with the same plumber for about five years at that point. Unfortunately, he was having significant health problems when this project was in progress. So his attendance on the job was sporadic and there were issues.

That hole in the wall is the plumbing access for the bathroom lavatory. It might have held us up like the beam did, but the plumbing inspector had already signed off on it before the beam problem came up.
When it came time for the finished plumbing inspection there was a laundry list of issues. Things like not tightening the drain on the bathtub so when you ran water it drained into the basement. The plumbing inspector, unlike the electrical inspector, did a thorough job and we managed to get all the issues cleaned up before the tenant moved in.
------------

The last inspection was for the rental permit. It's equivalent to a certificate of occupancy. Without it, I'm not supposed to let a tenant move in. This is the one and only inspection I'm expected to handle myself. And it's the one inspection that brought everything to a halt for almost two months.

When I finished the major work on this house in late October, I had spent a lot more money that I had planned to. (No surprise there. Renovations always cost more than you plan.) I was anxious to get a paying tenant in place as quickly as possible. I'm pretty good at marketing my houses and I seldom have one empty for more than a few weeks -- unless I'm working on it.

But when I went to the building department to schedule the final inspection, the earliest date they could give me was at the end of December. I had to have my house sitting empty for nearly two months before I could advertise it and rent it out.

The problem was that the city had laid off most of its inspectors in mid-autumn. They were using freelancers that they shared with the surrounding cities.

------------

The driveway -- I think it would have been better if a permit had been required. Three years earlier, I replaced the driveway on a house I was renovating. At that time, a permit was required. But sometime between then and 2013 they dropped the requirement.

Not that I have any issues with the cement work, mind you. M did it and it turned out just fine.

Here's why we replaced the driveway:

This was taken before I bought the house. It was even deeper than it looks here.
It was the kind of hole that damages vehicles if you hit it going too fast.
I knew when I saw the hole on my first visit to the house that I would have to replace the driveway. It had been replaced earlier from the house back to the garage. But from the house to the street, it was badly broken up.

Mysteriously, right after I bought the house someone came when I wasn't around and patched the hole in the picture -- very badly. Basically, they dumped some cement into the hole and didn't smooth it out, or even put enough in to fill it. The patch actually made things worse, since it didn't fill the hole and wasn't properly bonded to the cement underneath. It was a tripping hazard and more. It wasn't done by anyone who worked for me. I've never figured out who did it.

I got a violation from the city code enforcer about a week later. He was calling it a hazard and warned me that I would be fined if I didn't fix it right away. I called the number on the violation notice and got an answering machine. I left a message saying I intended to replace the whole driveway from the house to the street, but we needed to wait until most of the rest of the work was done because we needed the driveway for parking and bringing large materials close to the house.

We repeated this four times over the next six weeks. He would send me a violation and I would leave a message on his answering machine explaining that we would do it when we didn't have any more big deliveries coming.

Finally, I got the court summons, that said I would be fined for ignoring the violations. At that point, I got lucky and actually got the code enforcer on the phone. I explained the problem again. He said, "Oh! If I'd known you were renovating the place I never would have violated it."

I'd like to point out that the front window of the house was plastered with building permits. If he could see the hole and the bad patch, he could certainly see that the house was under renovation. And if he had bothered to play his phone messages, he would have heard me say so four times.

At any rate, he dropped the enforcement action and I didn't have to pay a fine.

So, what's happening in your world this morning?

Discuss

Sat May 02, 2015 at 06:00 AM PDT

Saturday Morning Home Repair Blog

by CodeTalker

Welcome again to Saturday Morning Home Repair blogging, where we talk about fixing up houses, doing repairs on all the things in and around them that are supposed to work but don't, and sprucing our places up.  An ad hoc cadre of building professionals and gifted amateurs, we will attempt to answer questions that arise from readers, and offer encouragement and advice for those inclined to do things for themselves, if they can.  We all do a lot of different things, collectively, and can probably help out with insights from our vast experience.

Or sometimes, we just gab - and you can join the gabfest after the jump.

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This is the Saturday  Morning Home Repair Blog where the Dailykos community gets together to talk about all things construction and repair. Our genial and expert staff stand ready to aid you on your every problem.

This is my first SMHRB diary, so I'm going to start by introducing myself.

Hi! I'm Elsa. My user name reflects the fact that my surname starts with an "F." My expertise comes from my efforts over the last seven years to rehab run-down houses and turn them into rentals. I'm decidedly over 60, and most of what I know about home repair I've learned recently.

I didn't start out to be a rehabber. I had a desk job for most of my adult life. I was a copy editor at a daily newspaper for the last 23 years as a wage slave. I got into rehabbing when my parents died (Dad in late 2007 and Mom in early 2008) and I came into a modest inheritance.

The date of my inheritance is significant. Think back to what was happening in late 2007 and early 2008 -- the great financial apocalypse. I was watching my 401k turning into guano; real estate prices were cratering; my own home equity evaporated overnight. In 2008 I was starting to shift my thinking from "what's happening now" to "retirement time is coming." In short, my financial prospects were terrifying.

Having a bit of cash on hand inspired me. Real estate prices were insanely low. Houses that were valued at $120k in mid 2007 were now selling for less than $20k. The stock market looked dodgy at best. So, I invested my inheritance in houses. Not all at once, mind you. One at a time. The houses I bought cost between $11K and $17k. In each case, I put $20k-30k into them and rented them out.

Fast forward to spring 2013. My employer laid off my entire department (the copy desk) and I was out of a job for the first time since I was 17. As soon as the initial shock wore off, and my abject terror at the prospect of never having a regular job again subsided, I was filled with the most exhilarating optimism I have ever experienced.

For the first time since becoming an adult my life was entirely my own.

I decided to invest a big chunk of my 401k in rehabbing another house. I hadn't bought a house for several years at that point. I started going on regular outings with my real estate agent in search of my next project.

At that point, the real estate market in my area had started a gradual recovery. In fact, existing home sales were booming in my community. I put in offers on no less than five houses -- only to lose in a bidding war each time.

Yeah, that's me.
Then, one fine late-July day, I was out riding my bicycle. I cruised past a sad-looking brick bungalow with a for sale sign and my fate was sealed.

I whipped out my cell phone and called my agent, who, as it turned out, was in the area finishing up a showing. He arrived 10 minutes later. The asking price was just $10k -- a clue that this wasn't going to be a minor rehab job. I had recently bid on several houses of similar size and construction that ended up going for more than $50k. My agent called for the lock-box code, but we ended up having to wait for about a half hour before the listing agent got back to us. In that time, several other interested buyer groups showed up. A house that cheap generates a lot of interest.

We went through the house as part of the crowd of potential buyers. Apparently, the place had just gone on the market -- less than an hour before I cycled by.

The day I first laid eyes on the house. Yes, that's
my bicycle in the driveway.
The inside was horrifying. Several people went in and shuddered, then left immediately. I mean... it was nasty. There was a hole in the roof. You could stand in the living room and look up to see the sky. There were four inches of standing water in the basement. The place stank and there was exposed insulation handing down from the ruined ceilings. That tree you see at the left of the picture was actually a weed bush grown over 30-feet tall. It had caused the hole in the roof.

The house had been sitting empty, unheated, for five years, I found out by chatting up neighbors.

A couple of pictures:

A nasty little kitchen.
The living room of doom.





















To move the story along, I put in an offer and I got the house, though I paid quite a bit more than the asking price. It was still very, very cheap.

I closed in the first week of August and started demo the very next day.

The first thing that happened is we took down the overgrown bush that ruined the roof.

The guy with the chainsaw is my handyman/general contractor. I'm going to call him "M." M and I have been working together since the second house I rehabbed. I couldn't do what I do without him. But we are decidedly an odd couple. M is of the Tea Party persuasion. We tend to have hilarious political arguments when we're working together. I'm not sure he thinks it's as funny as I do, but it does keep things entertaining. M taught me to use power tools without hurting myself. At the end of the day, he's my employee and friend -- the kind of friend you can't resist setting off on another rant about Obama's evil plot to outlaw light bulbs.

When I rehab, I do what I can and what I can't I generally farm out to M. I've learned to respect my limitations. I'm not going to work on the roof. I'm not going to drywall a ceiling. If it's a big paint job, I'll hire M because it would take me four times as long to do it myself. Time is money.

The second day of the project was interior demo. I hired my sometimes helper "B." B is a musician who picks up extra cash doing odd jobs. When I can get him, I enjoy working with him. He's the anti-M -- liberal to the core. But I can't get him regularly. His health is iffy and if I say, "Come on over and give me a hand tomorrow," chances are about 50/50 that he'll actually show up. He's cheaper than M. I pay him $15 an hour when he's working. (That's my minimum wage. I even pay that to neighborhood children when I occasionally hire them.)

B helped me tear out the cabinets in the kitchen, and I tore out the disgusting carpet and pad in the living room. The hardwood underneath was unsurprisingly ruined. Five years of water falling on it from the hole in the roof was the culprit. I pulled down the ruined ceiling dry wall and called it a day. I was exhausted. (And so was B.)

For the next week, I entertained estimates and bids from a variety of specialty contractors. You could walk around the place now and actually see the problems that had to be fixed. My regular plumber gave me a "I'll do right by you," bid, and I couldn't tie him down any farther than that. Sadly, it was my last time hiring him because by the end when he finally presented his bill, I didn't think he'd done right by me.

M took on the roof. I got estimates from four companies, but M's price was the best -- by several thousand dollars.

The kitchen stripped down.
The scope of work was as follows:

New roof
Full re-pipe
New furnace
New hot water heater
Take out wall between kitchen and living room and install beam across opening
Repair plaster and drywall
New flooring in kitchen, living room and hall
Do "something" with the upstairs room
Refurbish stairs to upstairs
New cabinets and appliances in kitchen
New windows
New garage door
Paint throughout
New toilet in bathroom
New doors and storm doors front and side
Miscellaneous rewiring to bring it to code
New cement driveway from house to sidewalk

I wanted to keep my rehab cost under $50k and get it done in 30-45 days. From the list above, you're probably saying, "Right... and I can build the Taj Mahal on my lunch hour with pocket change." You're right. I was being wildly optimistic. It went over budget and WAY over time.

This is way too much story to tell in one diary. It was an adventure like none other I've had in my life. It went on for three months. So, I'll be continuing the saga in coming diaries. But here's a spoiler. The result was spectacular.

Here's a taste:

You might want to scroll back up and look at how the kitchen started.

Until next time...

Discuss

Sat Apr 18, 2015 at 06:00 AM PDT

saturday morning home repair blog

by exlrrp

Good Morning All. I am James, also known as exlrrp
  this is the Saturday  Morning Home Repair Blog where the Dailykos community gets together to talk about all things construction and repair. Our genial and expert staff stand ready to aid you on your every problem
Continue Reading

Sat Apr 04, 2015 at 06:00 AM PDT

Saturday Morning Home Repair

by eeff

The Saturday Morning Home Repair Blog (SMHRB) is where we gather to discuss the many and varied aspects of home repair.  Some here are trained professionals.  Some, talented DIYers. All are welcome.  Please feel encouraged to ask questions, share successes, lament sags, drips and cracks and, as always, share any advice that you have for the rest of us.
I'd like to show you the effort I put into the steel & sheet metal racks.

This project was done in 4 or 5 stages, I had to put something into the wall to make it strong enough to hang an 18 inch arm on. Then I had to make something bolt on to the wall. Then the drywall had to go up & be painted.
It only took a couple hours at the end to bolt up the finished product. But I would guess I had well over 300 man hours into it before it was bolted up ! I had help in spots, but I did 80 percent of this myself !

As usual I didn't take a picture of that wall before I started.
The outside wall studs are 6" studs by .065 or 16ga.

so I order 2" x 2" x .120 wall square tubing.
I also got a length of 3/4" x 095 round tubing.
along with 3" x 3/16 flat strap.
I drilled a series of holes in a template plate so everything was spaced the same.

20141021_101704

there was 5 2 x 2 pieces & one short one like this.

I had help cutting the metal up

there was 75 or so pieces of the 3/4 tubing cut 2 3/8" long
then I welded a 3/8 jam nut on them.

20141021_101638

Continue Reading

Sat Mar 28, 2015 at 06:00 AM PDT

SMHRB - Saturday Morning Home Repair

by CJB

This is where we tell you who we are:

The Saturday Morning Home Repair Blog (SMHRB) is where we gather to discuss the many and varied aspects of home repair.  Some here are trained professionals.  Some, talented DIYers. All are welcome.  Please feel encouraged to ask questions, share successes, lament sags, drips and cracks and, as always, share any advice that you have for the rest of us.
Continue Reading

Sat Mar 21, 2015 at 06:00 AM PDT

Saturday Morning Home Repair Blog

by exlrrp

this is the Saturday  Morning Home Repair Blog where the Dailykos community gets together to talk about all things construction and repair. Our genial and expert staff stand ready to aid you on your every problem. If we can't answer your question, it's probably just too weird
Continue Reading

Sat Mar 14, 2015 at 06:00 AM PDT

SMHRB: Big Plans for Spring

by DrLori

This is the Saturday  Morning Home Repair Blog where the Dailykos community gets together to talk about all things construction and repair. Our genial and expert staff stand ready to aid you on your every problem. If we can't answer your question, it's probably just too weird,
Usually by this time of the year, we begin to see signs of life, things outside start to green up.  Instead, this morning we got this:  
Yep, signs of spring are everywhere.
So, because it's going to be a while before the planer goes out on the porch (since we can't use power equipment where it's stored), it's time for plans.

Today I want to outline our spring renovation plans, because we're definitely looking at Big Doings.  But we need help, as in your help--your wisdom and experience, to keep me from doing something profoundly dumb.

When we first got here, we were, to put it bluntly, broke.  Not flat broke, but pretty close.  We'd scraped up whatever we could, hunted under the couch cushions, emptied piggy banks, etc., just to buy the place, and it was in rough shape.  A lot of the original work involved just cleaning the place up, but there were some practical and structural issues.  

Imagine the shell of a house, essentially sound, but filthy and in need of new wiring and plumbing.  That what what we moved into.  A lot of stuff in the early days was stop-gap and now, that's what we're tackling.

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Sat Mar 07, 2015 at 06:00 AM PST

SMHRB-Saturday Morning Home Repair

by eeff

The Saturday Morning Home Repair Blog (SMHRB) is where we gather to discuss the many and varied aspects of home repair.  Some here are trained professionals.  Some, talented DIYers. All are welcome.  Please feel encouraged to ask questions, share successes, lament sags, drips and cracks and, as always, share any advice that you have for the rest of us.
Good Morning !

The last post on Drakestone was Dec. 27th.
On dec 29th the floors were up for painting.

20141229_182532

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