For today’s episode, the gang will talk about the checklist one should consider when moving into a new house; what is important and what should be fixed?
The show starts off with Tessa sharing her experience when she went under inspector duty to assist her parents when they moved into a house that was built in 2006. In 15 years, some mechanical equipment must be replaced such as the furnace, water softener, etc. Going through her parents’ punch list, they discovered serious concerns such as debris, dead bugs, wasps, and ants!
Then Reuben shares about carpenter ants as a red flag as they are a sign that you have a water problem and a rotting wood problem. He also shares a cost-efficient tip when he worked on replacing his HVAC. He shares how he processed the electrical permit and did a very small amount of electrical work.
The following is a transcription from an audio recording. Although the transcription is largely accurate, in some cases it may be slightly incomplete or contain minor inaccuracies due to inaudible passages or transcription errors.
Bill Oelrich: We’re gonna dig into the idea of, “Is this important and should this be fixed at your house?” Welcome everyone, you’re listening to Structure Talk, a Structure Tech presentation. My name is Bill Oelrich, alongside Tessa Murry and Reuben Saltzman as always, your three-legged stool, coming to you from the Northland, talking all things houses, home inspections, and anything else that seems to creep into our head on a given Thursday when we record our podcast. Thank you very much for listening today.
Reuben Saltzman: Peek behind the scenes.
BO: It’s not pretty behind this curtain, we’ll just warn you. [chuckle]
Tessa Murry: Good thing we don’t post the video of these, just the audio.
BO: Just the audio. Yes, the editing of the video would be more than one person would ever wanna take on on a given week, but thanks everybody for joining us today. We’re gonna dig into the idea of, is this important and should this be fixed at your house? How severe is this, how urgent is this? And Tessa is going to share… Her mom and dad just moved into a new house, and they have a laundry list as long as the table of things that probably should be done or could be done, and they’re wondering how big of a concern are all of these things. On today’s episode, what we’re gonna do is just go through your mom and dad’s punch list of to-dos and grade them out and see how much the hair on the back of your neck stands up or if it even moves the needle in the slightest way.
TM: Well, we were actually… I was down in Austin for IEB Unite last week, and that is when they moved into this property and… It’s a nice property, I think it was built in 2006-ish. It’s in a small town in Minnesota, and they moved in and after they moved in, they started discovering these things and having these questions. And so when I came back from Austin, I came up to see their new place and right away, they kind of put me on like inspector duty to go through and answer these questions and kinda dive into it, and I’m really glad that I have the knowledge I have about houses because there are some things that were needing immediate attention and some other kind of things that were smaller, that they were concerned about that, that I don’t think really matter. And so we spent some time talking through these things and prioritizing, but I’d love to kind of throw these things out to you guys too and just have a conversation about it.
BO: Well, did you explain, first of all, that the inspector relationship with a homeowner or tenant is a financial relationship that comes with strings?
TM: [laughter] Free meals. It comes down to free meals. [laughter]
BO: So, they paid you in wine and meals.
TM: Yeah, beer and free meals is how they repay me, and they’re very generous, so… Yes, it’s a good relationship. [chuckle]
BO: Okay, so the first thing that goes off in my head is that your mom and dad moved into this house, and just full disclosure here, it’s a rental. So they didn’t get a home inspection and they’re in transition, so a lot of these questions would probably be something that would have been addressed in a home inspection had they had one, but of course they don’t need one because it’s not their house. And then the second thing that piqued my attention is, you said the house was built in 2006. So doing some quick math, it feels like we’re on that line where it’s either everything has been replaced already and/or it’s about to have to all be replaced. Water heater, furnace, maybe an HRV, any of these mechanical pieces of equipment start to get tired after 15, 17 years, if my math is correct. It’s been a while. So what was the condition of the house when Inspector Tessa showed up on the scene?
TM: Well, kinda like you said, Bill, I think that a lot of things have been replaced, but after I was diving a little bit deeper, there are some things that are original and they, like you said, are kind of the bigger systems, and Reuben, this is a painful subject for you, right? Didn’t you just have to replace your furnace and your AC?
RS: Just got done doing it. Yep, it was not expected, but the way it worked was found out that I had a failed heat exchanger on my furnace, and it wasn’t like I got a big old hole in it or anything, but it was a Bryant, I think, and there was this kind of a recall for Carrier, Bryant, Payne, they’re all basically the same thing, and if it fails within the first 20 years, there’s some additional money for home inspectors and…
BO: Wait a minute. Home inspectors get some special spiff for…
RS: Did I say home inspectors?
TM: You did.
RS: I meant home owners. [laughter]
TM: Home owners… Full Disclosure. Reuben had his second shot for the vaccine yesterday. Right, Reuben?
RS: I did have my second shot and I am not at 100% right now. [chuckle]
TM: Yeah. [chuckle]
RS: Close but not quite there. Yeah.
TM: Actually, a second shot for the vaccine, I’m not with it either, man. Yes, we all know what we’re talking about.
BO: When was that dinner that you had with your parents?
TM: Yeah, I know. [laughter] Oh man. They’ll keep us on track.
BO: Okay, Reuben, you replaced your furnace. How old was it?
RS: It was like 19 years and 10 months, I believe.
BO: Okay, so high efficiency furnace in Minnesota, 20-year run. I’ll take that all day.
RS: Yep, exactly. Although, you know what was nice was that I got several different bids from a bunch of people on our service provider list, and I was chatting with one guy and he was saying, “Yeah, when the city comes out and they gotta approve the permit, they also require that we pull a separate permit for the electrical and we gotta have an electrician do it. And that adds another 500 bucks or whatever on to the cost, and I said, “Well, how about if I do? Because there’s nothing to it, it’s like, connect the wires. I can do this, I’ll pull the permit. How about that?” And he made a quick phone call, he’s like, “That’s cool.” And so, I ended up talking to the next company that came out and they were like, “Yeah, that’s fine.” And so I ended up doing that. I pulled my own electrical permit. I did the electrical work, which took five minutes and saved me basically 450 bucks. It was a $50 permit. That was nice. That’s a nice little insider tip, I think, if you’re having your own stuff replaced and you feel comfortable doing a very, very small amount of electrical work. If your HVAC contractor is comfortable working with you on that, I thought it was a nice way to go.
TM: One thing you said too, I know we’re getting down a rabbit hole, but I just wanted to mention, this was really cool, you had… What did you say? Six contractors come out or you got six…
RS: I had six of them, yeah.
TM: How many of them did a manual J-calculation?
RS: One. One of them did that, this was High Road Heating & Air, and they were the only ones who did a manual J, and that’s something that’s really supposed to be done when you’re replacing HVAC equipment. I can’t intelligently explain what it is, but in my very basic words it means you’re calculating what the house actually needs. You go around and you measure up all the windows, you calculate the square footage, the height of all the rooms, you calculate the volume of what’s needed to heat and cool, and you figure out exactly what size equipment needs to be put in the house.
RS: I remember I probably shared this on an old podcast where I had had a heating contractor come out and he was just doing a tune-up, it was like some $29 tune-up, some Groupon or something. I just wanted to see what it was all about. And this guy was saying my AC wasn’t cooling at all, and it was. It was working perfectly fine. But he said it wasn’t really cooling and gave this outrageous number just to repair it, and we talked about replacement, and he said, “Well, yeah, if we’d replace it, we’d go with one that’s a lot bigger.” And I was like, “Oh.” My eyes just kind of bugged out, I said, “Why?” And he’s like, “Well, it’ll cool your house better.”
RS: And it’s like, we’ve talked about this so much. You don’t wanna oversize your equipment, it just means that it’s gonna run for a very short period of time. Nothing in your house is gonna get any of that latent heat, and it’s gonna return to its original state very quickly, it’ll cool down quickly. Or it’ll heat up quickly and it won’t stay there and your equipment constantly cycles on and off. So it’s not good to have oversized equipment. You wanna have it properly sized.
TM: For the people in the South listening to this, if you’ve ever been in a air-conditioned house and the AC kicks on, it turns off real fast and you feel all clammy and sticky and it’s cold. That’s like an oversized AC, right? Side effects of that. Yeah.
RS: Yeah, exactly.
BO: Well, let’s put a ball on that conversation, Reuben, did you pull out your home inspector badge and flash it at this clown who showed up at your house to give you a lesson that you knew you didn’t need? Chased him out of your driveway. Shaking your fist in the air, “Don’t you ever come here again.”
RS: No, I was completely intrigued, I was nodding, wide eyed, smiling. “Really? It cools better? Wow. This is amazing.” That’s kind of all I said. I gave him a big smile and I thanked him for all the extremely helpful information, that’s all. I’m not there to settle their hash.
BO: Gotcha. Well, okay, their hash is there’s to cook. Okay.
BO: Alright, Tessa. Let’s get back to your mom and dad’s house. So, what was the biggest thing that you noticed? And you’re like, “Hmm.”
TM: Well, you know, it was funny. Right away, my mom had a couple of things that were really bothersome to her. One thing was that her sink in her bathroom, the stopper didn’t work. She’s got her contact lenses and so she fills up the sink with water every night and washes them old school and so that’s a super important thing to her is to have a stopper that works. And also the drain was really slow too. And so that was the top of her list. And then the other thing was she noted there was a door in the upstairs bedroom, closet door that she couldn’t open and wasn’t latching properly, so that was on her list too.
BO: Did you just yawn and walk out of the room?
RS: Give me a call when you got a real problem.
TM: Oh, but these things are big deals, and the other thing… My dad, he said, “You know, T, when I stopped by the house a couple of days ago, they had… They had just shampooed the carpet and I… ” And he noticed that the furnace fan had been running and when they were moving in, he couldn’t get the fan to kick on and put the thermostat to auto and fan on or whatever, and it didn’t seem to be moving any air through the house. So he didn’t know what was going on there. And he wanted me to take a look at it.
TM: Yeah, so the first thing I looked at was, of course, where do I go to in the house? I go right to the mechanical room, taking it all in, and it was a high efficiency furnace and it was original to the house. So I played around with the thermostat. First of all, I set it to fan and just to see if it would kick on and it didn’t seem to kick on. So then I set it to heat. Saw the flames ignite, the flames turned on, they were on for a few minutes, the fan never kicked on or the blower never kicked on, and then it switched off. So I said, “Yeah, dad, the blower is not working, and furnace itself, the heat is working, but not the blower fan, and since the fan isn’t kicking on, you know, it’s basically overheating the system and it’s turning it off.”
RS: I can share a little Ninja trick I learned when you have this problem…
TM: Yes, please.
RS: Is, you flip the fan switch on and then to get inside of that blower to have it operate while the cover’s off, there’s a little kind of refrigerator door type of switch, push that thing down to trick it into thinking the door’s on, and then you reach inside that blower and you try giving it a spin. And if it starts running after you do that, it means that your blower is still fine, but you have a bad capacitor, and a capacitor is just a little thing that stores some energy, kind of like a battery almost, and it’s enough to just get that blower kicked into gear. And once it starts spinning it’ll stay spinning.
RS: It’s something you can do to see if you got a bad capacitor, and if it is a bad capacitor, it’s not a big deal to replace it. You could certainly do it. They cost about 10, 15 bucks. Basically, you just pull your old one out, you Google up the serial number or the part number on it. I got one at Granger Supply. It was, I think it was 10 bucks, put a new one on, and that was it. And it was a super simple repair, it took like two minutes to replace it.
TM: For you. For you.
RS: Okay. [laughter] Maybe five minutes for anybody else. The point is, it was a simple fix.
TM: Well, so here’s a question for you, Reuben. If you don’t hold down the safety switch on the lower blower compartment door, can you still test to see if that’s working or not? Do you have to hold the switch down to see if you can kick-start the fan?
RS: Yes, you do. You have to hold that switch down.
TM: You do. Okay. So, if you don’t hold the switch down, that test won’t work?
RS: That’s right, what we find on a lot of furnaces is the door doesn’t really engage very well, and so somebody has gone in and they’ve just taped it shut or they put a zip tie over it. We see that a lot.
TM: Right, right. That was my first thought is, I bet this door isn’t on tight enough and furnace isn’t responding or something, or maybe it just needs to be turned off and turned back on again, or something’s funky with it, but the door was on tight.
RS: What did you find?
TM: Yeah, the door was on tight, the switch was engaged, I tried turning off and back on again, same thing, the furnace would ignite, the flames would go, and then a few minutes it would shut off ’cause the blower never kicked on. It wasn’t distributing the air. So Reuben, I didn’t know about your Ninja trick. I would have tried that, but instead, since this is a rental property, I said, “You guys should call the landlord and let them know you have a furnace that’s not working.” And I said, “Don’t tell them the blower is not working or whatever. Tell them your furnace and your AC are not responding. And they’re not working. System is down.”
TM: So they did. They filed a report and actually an HVAC guy came out the next day and took a look at it, and he took the door off too. And he said that the fan would not even move when he tried to push it, it was really stuck and he said it was a bad blower. So I don’t know if he did your trick or not.
RS: Yeah, if you reach in there and it just binds, it’s not the capacitor.
TM: Okay, that’s what he said was going on. So he had to order some parts and come back out. There are some other issues going on too, there was some rust on the insides and potential leaking and other things, so he basically said, “This furnace is… It’s lucky to even still be working that I can get parts for it.” Because he says that these days, if a furnace makes it 15 years, it’s good. He doesn’t even say 20 years anymore. He says 15.
RS: Wow, I’ll just throw out there. In case anybody is wondering, if you gotta replace the blower on a furnace, it’s typically about a $500 job.
TM: Ooh, yeah, so that was the first thing. And then that led me to looking at, there’s an HRV in this house, which I was actually really impressed about.
BO: Weren’t they required at that time?
TM: 2015, I think here in Minnesota for the energy code, and I might stand corrected, but…
RS: No, you’re right.
BO: Professor Reuben, wasn’t there a time where they were required for just a bit, and then that requirement was taken off and you could just have a whole home exhaust fan running 24/7?
RS: It changed in 2007, where they said you could just have an exhaust fan also known as exhaust only ventilation systems. Yeah, in 2007, we went to that. So, this house was right before then.
BO: That was here in our great state.
BO: Okay, alright, so you go in the HRV, what did you find there?
TM: All sorts of goodness. No, actually it was funny, I had to get a step stool to get up and unlatch the front cover of it, and I told my dad, I said, “Stand back and close your mouth,” because you never know what’s [chuckle] gonna come out of these things. And I open up the door and all of a sudden all this kind of this debris and dead bugs fell out on me, and he’s like, “Oh my gosh, is that a bird’s nest in there? What is that?” Because there was so much grass and dead bugs and gunk in there.
RS: Oh my goodness.
TM: I don’t think this thing has ever been cleaned out before.
RS: I bet you’re right.
TM: Like years and years worth of just stuff in there.
BO: Especially under the care of tenants, right? Who might not even realize what that box is.
TM: As we know as home inspectors, even homeowners don’t know, and we see them in new construction a lot, and the builders don’t necessarily educate the homeowners and the homeowners don’t understand, and so they’re just never maintained. So anyways, so I went through that process of kind of explaining to him how it works and why it’s important, and showed him the filters that we need to take out and wash and clean, and then the core that needs to come out and we need to wash it and clean it too, but until we get that furnace and the blower working, there’s really no point to it. So luckily, we’ve had a fairly nice last few days because we haven’t had heat or cool or any sort of air exchanger, so the windows have been open and it’s nice for once, here in Minnesota. Yes. [chuckle]
RS: Yes, yeah, we get a few days, just like that.
TM: Yeah. A few days like this. Yeah, so I’ve been enjoying it. But with that, as you guys know too, there’s some more maintenance with HRVs, right? The intake on the exterior. So I went outside and I took a look at the intakes and…
RS: They were perfectly clean and well maintained, right?
TM: Perfectly cleaned. Shiny clean. Yeah, not the case at all. So I’m gonna have to get… It’s on a slope in the backyard, and I’m gonna need to get my little giant out there to get up there to clean it, but it’s completely clogged too, the intake on that.
BO: This blower fan was a thing that your dad noticed.
BO: Okay, so those are two fairly urgent and I don’t wanna say severe, but they’re urgent issues ’cause you want that mechanical equipment working.
TM: Yeah, if it was a really cold outside or really hot outside, they wouldn’t have heat or cool when they moved in.
BO: So you’re going back to your mom’s punch list?
BO: What else is she concerned about?
TM: Well, so that led to looking at some of the exterior hood vents on things, and I noticed that there were a lot of wasp nest in these dampers. I know. [chuckle] Yes.
RS: No. My nightmare.
TM: I know, me too. Me too, now that I’ve been stung. My world has changed. But yeah, there’s wasp nest and they’re up in vents that I can’t reach without a 28-foot ladder and I don’t wanna do it, and they’re preventing the dampers for these bath fans from closing all the way.
RS: You know what I did during a home inspection once? It looked like there was probably a nest inside the dryer terminal, and I saw bees coming in and out, and I didn’t wanna get close enough to verify, I was just a little bit freaked out, and I picked up a small stone, it was about the size of a quarter or something, and I got about 5 feet away and I kinda tossed it at it. [chuckle] And just to see if it’d rile them up, just to be sure, but that little impact made the nest drop down and it exploded like all of a sudden, there was just wasps. And I high tailed it across the backyard, I grabbed my tool belt, so all my tools wouldn’t fall out and I…
TM: Oh, my Gosh. Did you get stung?
RS: No, I did not. No.
TM: Oh my God.
RS: I went so fast.
TM: Oh, that reminds me, I had a similar situation. I was with… I think I was with Jeff when he was in training, and we opened up a… I opened up a service disconnect box for an AC unit on the outside, and there was a wasp nest in there, and it was active and there were wasps flying… It was a hot summer day too, and as soon as I saw that I bolted, I took off running. I just took off so fast that all my tools are flying out of my toolbox as I was running across the yard. [chuckle] And Jeff saw me running. So he took off running in the opposite direction. He didn’t even know what I was running for. [laughter] He’s like, “What’s going on?”.
RS: I wish I would have seen it.
TM: Oh man. And yeah, and so then I had to go back, he helped me pick up all my tools and stuff, and we just stayed away from the area but yeah, it’s a little unsettling.
BO: Isn’t that a good reason to call Kura Home Maintenance, they can come out and clean up some of those terminals and put on their bee proof suits, or the wasp proof suits and shimmy on up there, knock down those nests and go on with your life?
RS: Yeah, Tess’s sister over there. Your sister used to be a beekeeper, right?
TM: She did yeah, but she does not like wasps, and she’s actually allergic to certain kinds of wasps and bees, really bad, so she has an EpiPen. We have to be cautious here ’cause there are these wasp nests around and we see them flying around on the deck and everything, so we need to kinda get that taken care of, so that’s on the list, and speaking of pests, my mom noticed a couple of ants on the windowsill in the kitchen too, and she’s like, “Oh T, do we need to call an exterminator? What do we do with this?” And I was like, “Well, it depends. Have you seen a lot of ants? How many have you killed?” And really, there was only a few. And so I’m not a pest expert, and we actually have pest experts on the team, but I was like, “Let’s just put out some ant traps and see what happens, and if it gets bad, then yeah, we can call an exterminator come and spray. But for now, let’s just… ” And I haven’t seen any more, it was just the first couple of days.
RS: And as long as it’s not carpenter ants, it’s like, really what harm do ants do? I don’t know of any harm…
TM: They can be kind of gross, I have to admit. When you see ants walking along a ledge and then you find out what they’re going to and there’s a pile of them all feasting on an old piece of food, disgusting.
RS: They would always find my dog’s food if there’d be one piece that he didn’t eat and it was sitting on the kitchen floor or whatever, then there would always be like a pile of those grease-eating ants or whatever.
TM: Yeah, yeah, that’s what it was. It wasn’t any carpenter ants so I wasn’t too concerned about that.
BO: So why are you worried about carpenter ants?
RS: Carpenter ants will attack rotted wood, carpenter ants are not like termites, termites will go after good wood and they’ll destroy your house or so my home inspector friends in southern climates have told me. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a termite myself in person, but termites will go after good wood. Carpenter ants on the other hand, they need rotted wood, so a carpenter ant is a sign that you’ve got a water problem, you’ve got a rotting problem, and they’re just there to happily remove the rotted wood, it’s not like they really cause the damage, they’re just a sign that you’ve got a problem somewhere. And my experience has been, usually when you find a carpenter ant in a house, that’s a red flag. They’re in your house for a reason, they found something and there’s probably a nest somewhere with a big rotted mess. So pay attention to that when you see a carpenter ant. And if you don’t know what they look like, carpenter ants are huge. And if you look at it carefully, it’s like they got these big old mandibles like jaws for chewing, that’s how you know it’s a carpenter ant.
BO: You would get up close and look at one, eye-to-eye with them?
RS: I’ve got the greatest picture ever taken of a carpenter ant, I’ll put it in the podcast notes and I did that. I put my camera lens like right on top of them. And it’s professional grade photography Bill.
TM: Oh, that’s awesome.
BO: Did you out that picture in the report?
RS: You know, I did. Yeah, I was proud of it.
BO: Okay, so the ants were not urgency, there’s no urgency to the ants, and we’re not concerned with any sort of severity on this.
TM: Right, yeah, I’m just gonna keep an eye on it. Along those lines, they noticed too after they moved in, the light on the front of the garage, on either side of the garage door, were not turning on with any of the switches, and so it could be burned out lights or could be something else. Not quite sure. I haven’t taken the light apart to put in new bulbs, maybe it’s an easy fix, maybe it’s something else, and also…
RS: I’m going with the former.
TM: Yeah, let’s hope so, yeah. And also another thing, kind of minor, but affects quality of life, they’re missing the screen door on their back sliding doors onto the deck, and so you can’t have the door open with all these wasps flying around, so… Yeah, so that’s another thing on the list, but it was funny ’cause I was like, “Well, there is something I can help with, I can help with the slow drain and the stopper.”
RS: Yeah, I’m dying to know how you fixed this.
TM: Yeah, well, first of all, I’m messing with the stopper and it’s not really working, and I have to say, I’ve never had to replace a sink stopper mechanism before, so I consulted the Google. [chuckle] And first things first, to clean out the slow drain too, is I took the stopper out and I took it apart, threw it out… I don’t know what you call these pieces, on the back of the drain, took that part open, was able to pull out the device that kind of holds the stopper in place and moves it up or down…
BO: The rod like thing.
TM: Yeah, it’s like a rod. Yeah, pulled that thing out, and then I was able to pull the stopper out and the rod was completely corroded, it was corroded, it was very thin and very flexible, so it wasn’t moving the stopper up and down, it was probably gonna break any second. So first things first, is cleaning out a nasty drain, with not my hair and not my gunk in it, which I did, but my mum repaid me with a strawberry milkshake from Culver’s. So that was okay, but the other part of it was I needed to get a new rod, so I went to the hardware store, and there was an older gentleman there, and…
RS: That’s gonna be me someday, by the way, when I retire, I will be that older gentleman working in the hardware store, guarantee it.
TM: Yeah, yeah. And I was looking around, I’ve never bought one of these before, and I was in the plumbing section where I was kind of close to not quite finding any. He’s like, “What do you need?” And I explained it to him and pointed me in the right direction, and there was really only one option, and it came in a pack, and there was two sizes to this rod, a larger rod with a larger ball on the end, the stopper that keeps the drain sealed and a smaller version of that. And he’s like, “Yeah, that should work,” and it also came with the part that screws on over that to seal the drain back up. So I took it home and I compared the old rod with the new rod and chose the rod that was the ball that was the same size and put that in, it didn’t fit. The little plastic gasket that fits around that ball to make a seal on the drain, was thicker than the original one, and so I couldn’t screw on the old cap over that device, it didn’t fit. So I tried to screw on the new cap that came with the parts that I bought and it didn’t fit, it wasn’t a match for this drain, and so I’m like, “Okay, this is not universal.” Alright, so eventually what I found out was that the smaller size ball with the new larger gasket ring worked in that device, so I was able to get that in and use the old drain tap to fix that.
TM: The whole thing was kind of a trial and error situation, and it took me a little while, and also this drain and the trap was so close to the back of the cabinet, it was like four inches away that I couldn’t see anything I was working on and I was cranked under this cabinet, and I understand why a lot of plumbers are known for their cracks because it was a good thing I was wearing high-waisted pants, my mum took a picture of me and used it for blackmail later, but…
RS: Well, it’s a good thing you’re small too.
TM: That’s another thing. Yeah, so I was using a mirror, trying to thread the rods through the stopper, and it was just like… Just a nightmare. I’m like, I don’t think I could ever be a plumber. This just sucks, man.
RS: You should have just got her one of those little 25-cents stoppers that you set in the drain hole. Just there.
TM: I know. So all in all, the whole project from disassembling to cleaning, to the hardware store, to messing around with the different rods and having to get them in there and putting it all back together, it took me way longer than I wanna admit, Reuben that would take you like 10 minutes? It took me probably three hours, it’s embarrassing.
BO: No plumbing project, by anybody who is a DIYer has ever taken less than three hours and usually three trips to the hardware store.
RS: Three trips to the hardware store.
TM: It only took me one. So I guess that’s a small victory.
RS: Good for you.
BO: And I’ll tell you that older gentleman was certainly waiting for you to come back and buy something else because he knew, this is just trip number one, we’ll see her again, and it’s not because you’re a her, it’s because you’re working on plumbing and that’s just what happens.
TM: You know what was so funny is I took in the original rod just so that I had it and I could compare, and the original rod had been bent, the end piece of it and been bent at a 90 degree angle because this trap and this drain was so close to the back of the cabinet, you couldn’t get the rod in without bending it, and he was like… He was just so confused by that. And he was like, “How does this work? Did you do this?” And I was like, “This is how it came, and this is because… To get it in and feed it,” and so I was like, it took me five minutes to explain to him, I’m like, “Why am I explaining to this guy about this bent rod?” I had to go home and bend it… The new one. ’cause I couldn’t get it in. It was a whole situation.
BO: Well, we’re back at the beginning of the story. ’cause you’re in small town America, and this is what people do, they have conversations about these sorts of things and you just roll with it.
TM: Well, and apparently this landlord charges $40 for a plumber to come out, they charge the tenant for plumbing stuff, so I’m like, “Well, I’ll just take care of this for you.”
BO: In hindsight, that 40 bucks would have been well worth it.
TM: It would have been well worth it, yeah. But now, you know what, I feel good about it. I know how to replace stoppers and I understand how they work really well now, so anyway, learning moment.
BO: I think what you’re talking about though, is this experience is something that home inspectors see all the time. The clients will bring their list of concerns, and by the time you go through the list of 20, there’s really one thing left to talk about on that list, and there’s probably five other things that just didn’t even rise up to their level of attention, that they didn’t notice it, that are real concerns, and when you’re going through a house and you’re putting the puzzle together, or you’re connecting all of the dots, visually speaking, most of these defects really aren’t that big of a deal.
TM: It’s understanding systems and maintenance stuff too… And actually, two other things I didn’t mention, this house, it has a reverse osmosis water filtration system, which I really don’t know anything about these systems, I know enough to say that’s what it is, but in terms of really how they work and the maintenance involved and all that stuff, I don’t know. And then there’s also a water softener here too in this house, and my parents haven’t had to deal with that in a really long time, and so they were asking me, “Well, when do we put the salt in? When do we need to put the salt in? Do we even know it’s working?” And it’s a rental property, so you’d think that they would move in and hopefully those systems that require maintenance would be taken care of, or at least the landlord could say, “Here’s the company you need to call that has been working on these systems,” but there was none of that, there was none of that. And so luckily, I was able to read the manual on the reverse osmosis system and I was like, “Well, okay, I understand there’s filters to change, but really you need to do some water quality testing to see if the system’s working right, and when the filters need to be changed and how frequently and all this stuff, and really, you need to have a professional come in who tests the water, probably with changes in residence and maybe even more frequently than that, and then be on top of changing these filters.”
TM: And so my dad, he’s a smart guy, he was able to find the company that owns this reverse osmosis system, and the water softener system, same company here in town, so we actually showed up at the company yesterday, he walked in and played the old man card like, “I don’t know what’s going on here, somebody help me.” And luckily, they had this address in their maintenance records and they installed the systems and they said, “Yeah, we need to come out and test the water quality and replace the filters every year.” I think they said, “And replace some of the lines that feed the tap and tap in the kitchen is for the reverse osmosis, that also feeds the refrigerator as well, and we’ll take care of the water softener too, and it’s 25 bucks a month then we’ll come out later this week.” So yeah, that was a win for him.
BO: Well, that’s good. It’s the one piece of equipment in a house, I’ll never understand, and it’s like black magic, water softening. I don’t know, there’s this tank and there’s this other thing, and when they’re installed, they seem to work, but there’s no way I can explain it. I guess it’s chemistry.
TM: It’s funny too, I was telling my parents… Reuben, we were at your dad’s house a couple of weeks ago with the trainees, and we were just inspecting it, practice inspection, and your dad has a water softener and at Structure Tech we carry around these water hardness test strips, just ones you can buy from the hardware store to just see what the water hardness level is, and so we did that, we tested the water and it was hard, and there was salt in the tank, and it seemed… It was plugged in, it seemed to be functional, so we tested at every single bathroom just to see, every single bathroom had hard water, and so we told your dad… And he’s like, “That’s crazy, I just had the maintenance guy come out and he added salt and recharged the system and tuned it up like two weeks ago” and it wasn’t working right, and your dad…
BO: Maybe it was, and those strips just didn’t give you the right answer ’cause that’s a pH test that is happening on that strip right?
TM: All the water was hard.
RS: Or there’s only so much that it will put out of soft water, once you’ve run so much water, you have depleted your soft water supply, and it’s gonna run hard until it runs in a regenerate mode again, it doesn’t give you an endless amount of soft water. So I suspect that when you guys were doing the testing, it had simply just run out of soft… I don’t know what to call it.
TM: Interesting. That’s something that… If you’re testing the showers and the tubs and filling them up, that’s gonna deplete the amount of… Standard amount of water you have that’s soften in most houses?
RS: It probably be best practice just for any home inspector to do the water softener test before you run 15,000 gallons of water testing all the fixtures, ’cause you might deplete the soft water.
TM: Oh my gosh. How did I not know this?
BO: Here’s you daily pearl. 50 minutes in, you’ve got your daily pearl. [chuckle]
TM: If you’re still with us, Reuben. Oh my gosh, how many water softeners have I tested that maybe I was… I said that there was hard water and they weren’t working, and it’s just because I ran a ton of water and tested it at the end? Now I feel stupid.
RS: Well, we should get Brady Androff, he’s the guy that I use for my water softener needs. He did a class for our local ASHI chapter, which was really good. We should have him on as a podcast guest, or have we already had him on?
BO: Yeah, we talked to Brady. [chuckle]
TM: Oh, that’s right. We did.
BO: You are in a fog today.
TM: That is very unlike Reuben, very unlike Reuben. Reuben, you’re looking a little piqued over there.
RS: Oh boy. Alright. Look at the time, it’s time to wrap.
BO: With that in mind, I think we’re gonna put a wrap on today’s episode. [chuckle] Well, one thing is for certain, most people, when they’re so freaked out by this process of buying a home and getting an inspection, a lot of times their concerns aren’t concerns, and what they should be concerned about, they’re not concerned about, and so it’s a good thing that these events take place, and I’ll still never understand water softeners, and I’ll say that the reason… That reason that Neil’s water was hard is because he’s known to take several long showers each day, so…
RS: Bill, you’re close, but… I know what it was, but… Hold on. No, I don’t know what it was, but he takes a bath every day. At the end of every day, he takes a bath, he takes a hot bath… I think he does it in the summer too. That has always been his thing, my entire life, he loves it, but I was thinking he just got a hot tub and maybe he was filling his hot tub and he depleted it, but no.
TM: I don’t think the hot tub was full ’cause we did check… Yeah, I don’t think it was…
RS: And even if it was, he would have been filling it with the outside spigot, and that’s gonna be un-softened water, so never mind.
TM: Yeah, not softened.
BO: Alright, certainly nobody is left listening to this, so I’m gonna put a wrap on today’s episode.
RS: We got a little long in the tooth.
TM: We’re talking about Neil’s bath time. Sorry, Neil.
BO: You’ve been listening to Structure Talk, also known as Neil’s house dissection talk. Thank you for listening. My name is Bill Oelrich, alongside Tessa Murry and the sleepy Reuben Saltzman. Thank you for listening and we will catch you next time.