Friday, March 16, 2012

The House that Red Green Built (Or At Least Remodled)

**Note: "Red Green" is a character on the "Red Green Show."  In the show he is constantly Jerry-rigging things and using duct tape as much as possible.**

As some of you know, we are trying to buy a house.  It's been a frustrating process. Most houses are snatched up right before we get an offer in, or another offer is accepted that was put in at about the same time.  We finally had an offer accepted, and today was the home inspection.  We always knew to have a home inspection, and the true value of it, but today's experience illustrated why.

Let's start with a game of "What's wrong with this picture?"

I'll give you a hint, that's the outlet for the dryer.

Where to start?  Hopefully the most obvious problem here was the fraying around the wire.  Tip:  That's bad.   Especially since this is a dryer connection, which means that it carries twice the voltage of a normal outlet (much bigger shock if you stick a fork into it!).  Another problem is that electrical wirres that are not in the wall mush be covered by some sort of conduit (tube-like thingy) to further keep everyone safe from electrocuting themselves.

The washer and dryer connections were in a room that was obviously an add on, which is fine, it's just that were done my someone who was not a professional, and didn't ask the people at Home depot for advice.  So next we have...

Do you know what that is?  Here's a straight on view:
I don't think it's really tilting that much, I think I was just tilting my head in confusion.
Here's a close up of my favorite aspect:
Yay for duct tape!

Do you know what that is?  It's the washer connections.  Since this is part of the addition (you can see the original siding was never removed from the wall) the other side of this wall has the kitchen sink.  The white thing that sticks up is the vent for the drain (it's supposed to vent outside the house, not into another room)  the thing behind the vent is where you may venture to drain your washer.  Though I wonder if it would be safe to drain the washer at the same time you're doing dishes, because I'm guessing the pipes under the house weren't replaced with something to hold more water at the same time.  The thing with the red handle is your supply for your washer.  Don't let the red fool you, it only dispenses cold water.  I'm not entirely sure the purpose of the duct tape.

In my husbands and my defense, this room was locked and the realtor didn't have the key when we veiwed the house, so we were completely unaware of the cookiness (it's a word in my book).

Where to next?  How about the hot water heater.  When we saw it, it looked newish, complete, no duct tape, seemed like it should be fine.  This is why it's important to have an inspector.  He opened the closet with the hot water heater and I heard him mumble a few cuss words under his breath.  So I asked "What's wrong with it?"  First this:
This didn't seem odd to me, but the inspector explained that since this is a gas powered hot water heater, and this is the natural gas intake, it was a BIG problem.  Natural gas is acidic and corrosive, so copper piping is a BIG no no.  Copper piping is fine for hot water, but not gas.
Next problem:
 This copper pipe is not the problem, since it carries water, but that little knob on the top is the T&P valve, or the temperature and pressure valve.  For those of you who don't watch Mythbusters, this releases steam and water if the temperature and pressure builds up too high so the water heater doesn't explode.  Well, it's completely non-operational.  And in case you're wondering...
The valve on the side is capped off too.  I personally am not a fan of any part of my home exploding, but the problems don't stop there.  Inside is rusted and leaking too, and there's no pan or drain for the water from a working T&P valve, which leads to water dripping onto the unfinished floor and all the problems that stem from that.

None of the pictures we have show it, but the very top pipe that goes into the ceiling (and likely connects to the heater)  changes into some kind of white material.  The inspector told us that he's not qualified to diagnose this, but it looked a lot like asbestos.  AAAHHHH!!!

The next big worry was here:
This is the electrical breaker box.  You can't see in the picture, but it's in a closet.  When the house was built this was fine, but codes have changed since 1957 and now it has to be in an area that's not so easily blocked so that it's easily accessible in an emergency.  Next, the fact that there are two boxes shows the Jerry-rigging involved.  Some of the switches are painted, which can cause them to get really hot (that's bad), and I couldn't see it, but it's not grounded at all.  The wires to ground the switches don't connect to anything!  Which means every outlet in the house is a shock hazard under normal use!  This is something that would need to be taken care of by a licensed electrician, and it would not be a quick fix.  Translation: $$$$$$!!

I didn't get a picture of it, but the bathroom sink was also cracked and leaking fom the crack and the drain.

About this time we were ready to leave.  We talked it over and told the inspector, while he was checking on the air conditioner.  He gave us a huge discount and said there was a few more things he wanted to look at his dime to satisfy his curiosity. 

The outside air conditioner was making a lot of noise, so it probably had dirt and debris in it, then we took a peek in the attic.  The temperature difference between air going in and coming out was only 7 degre, where it should be 14 to 20 degrees.  The indoor part of the air conditioner was up there and it's supposed to have a tray under the entire thing to catch condensation, and a secondary tray under that in case the first one overflows. There was only a little plastic tray showed under the side that had been dripping (we could tell from the water marks on the wood.
Additionally, there was only about 4 inches of insulation up there, one of the roof supports looked rotted, and another had a little bit of termite damage!

The gas lines in the attic were copper and had flexible corner connections, which are now against code because they've caused a good number of fires from failing.

So what have we learned today boys and girls?  Let's see, a good home inspector is worth his weight in gold, and maybe more than that, always get an inspector, get the house inspected during the 10 day (or whatever) waiting period so you can walk away with no questions asked and still get your earnest money back, expect some minor repairs and quirks, but know the things that will be safety issues and big time money pits.  There were several other things wrong with the house, but they were all minor (faulty outlets can be replaced, and over that extinguishes the pilot light when you turn it off can be replaced, cracks in the chimney can be repaired)  but when it comes to things that require a professional, HVAC, electrical, plumbing (plumbers do gas lines too), it's best not to do it yourself.

It's a let down that this house wasn't what we'd hoped, but I'm very happy we found out about all this now, rather than after getting into the house and dealing with the money pit. 

Just for fun, here's the back door from the utility room.  There was a doorknob there when we first viewed the house, but I guess they took it off to get it open.  Don't worry though, they tied it shut with a small wire, so everything's okay!
All the sunlight that comes in when the door is closed is very reassuring.

And here's a picture inside one of the bedrooms
A 220 volt outlet in a bedroom.  You know, in case you want an electric oven in your bedroom, so you can bake first thing in the morning without having to walk on the cold tile in the kitchen!  The inspector said it migh have been from a window AC unit before they installed central AC, but I like my theory better.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Speed Cleaning

I am not the kind of person who enjoys most cleaning jobs.  I enjoy having a clean house, but the process to get there is so...undesirable.  I would rather be sleeping, reading, playing with my kids, going for a walk, sewing, crocheting, getting a cavity filled, getting a paper cut, getting a flu shot, or almost anything, rather than cleaning.  When our family does a deep clean it is tedious and I have a hard time continuing on.  My husband can spend over 2 hours vacuuming every surface (only when we do deep cleans) but my attention vanished much too quickly.  So in order to keep our home from falling into complete and disgusting disarray, I do my own version of speed cleaning.  I don't do the whole house, but I'll say something to myself like,
"Before dinner I am going to fold and put away all the clean laundry on the couch." 
I do this every day so there isn't usually too much on the couch. 
I will also tell myself something like,
"While the kids pick their bedtime story, I'll load the dishwasher (and add detergent and start it) real quick."
Or after I get the kids cleaned up after breakfast and they run off to release their wiggles, "I'll run a load of laundry real quick."
Or when the kids are in bed, before I sit down to watch a movie with my hubby or read or whatever, "I'll wipe the counters down and sweep the floor real quick."

Notice that these seem to end in the words "real quick."  That's because I can one or two fast and easy chores before moving on to something more enjoyable, but taking the time out and saying "Now I will clean the entire house." makes me want to lay down and take a nap. 

If the walls are getting yucky, I start doing something that has to done by an adult (at least while our kids are this young), like clean the toilet, but I'll do it whole the kids are bored and tell them they cannot watch TV.  So they want to help.  I'll dive them the damp, maybe slightly soapy rags and instruct them to clean walls and doorknobs.  my daughter is so eager to please everyone around her so she'll ask me if she did a good job.  I'll tell her yes, then I might say "But you just missed one little spot right there, remember to scrub really hard!"  My son often decides the floors need to be scrubbed and then the doorknobs, so this is a work in progress, but I figure it decreases overall house dirt, so we're moving in the right direction!

Or course, visiting in-laws always get our whole family into speed cleaning mode.  They live four hours away, but usually we only have a 30 minute warning before they come over.  They stay in a hotel, so we don't have to make sleeping preparations at all, but the living room, dining area, kitchen, hall bathroom and kids room all need to be neat and tidy (that's every room in our home except my husbands and my room and our bathroom!  So we have learned the art of slow clutter in our room, load the dishwasher really fast, so a quick wipe down or viable surfaces, including the table, stove top, and counter tops, sweep, floor wipe down (don't know that I would call it "mopping"), and quick vacuum.  Then toilet, mirror and sink wipe down, and make sure there's toilet paper.  Usually that does the trick.  

This is how I get past the mental blocks and distraction to keep our home from falling apart.