Home Repairs

May 9th, 2007 by Potato

I really like our new house. It’s cute, spacious, quiet, in a decent neighbourhood (from the front), and even has an as yet untested guest room. Renting has an advantage because we’re not responsible for a lot of the big-ticket items, and they even come to mow our lawn. (Plus the hot real estate market still scares me) Our landlord’s a nice enough lady… but man is she useless when it comes to making repairs (and there aren’t that many that are required). Most of her suggestions involve “buy a tube of that yellow expanding foam and just spray it everywhere.” I don’t really mind helping out and putting some work into the house, largely because I plan on being here for a few years, and because I’m a bit of a nonconfrontational sucker, and often find it easier to just fix something myself than harangue my landlord. I’m somewhat handy, but only somewhat.

One problem we can’t fix though is the water that seeps into the laundry room periodically. It lead to a mold problem a few months ago that we spent a fair bit of money trying to control — first we bleached the wall a few times to kill it off, but it grew back. Then we got this mold inhibitor stuff that worked fairly well on most of it, but there was this one brick that kept resprouting. A UVC lamp helped clear the air of spores and made it smell decent. We called her a few more times to fix the root problem, and she tried to pass it off to us to caulk or patch, and fortunately Wayfare was very good about staying on her case and making it clear that the problem was bigger than that. So finally she broke down and called in some guys (including her step son in law, if I got the relation right) to seal the entire wall with this blue foam stuff (she’s big on her foam). The guys did a decent job of sealing up that wall, but to get to it they had to move the washer/dryer out from the wall, and in the process disconnected the dryer from the wall vent, and just left it for me to fix. I’m not entirely sure how to go about it, either. In principle, it’s simple: plug the steel tubey bit into the port on the dryer. The problem is that the port is in the very far bottom corner, and the tube they used for the vent is completely inflexible with no joints, so I can’t connect it to the dryer away from the wall (where I could reach), and then push the dryer back. It has to be done with the dryer nearly against the wall. I don’t know if I should just get some flexible tubing for the job, or call a professional, or try moving the duct from the top to see if I can correctly jam it in the dryer port (blind). Hey, speaking of flexible tubing, I think I saw some in the ceiling of the laundry room, not really connected to anything…

The house, being over 100 years old, has certainly gone through numerous renovations. I’m afraid it looks like the current landlord hired some pretty questionable contractors along the way (from what we’ve seen so far, nepotism seems to be a big factor in her decision making). The newly redone bathroom (apparently finished just months before we moved in — it still had unpainted patches where the toilet paper holder was to go) has a vent, as many modern bathrooms do, to help blow humidity and unwanted vapours out of the bathroom, and ostensibly, outside. Ours has this flexible piece of ductwork (the kind that, IMHO, should be on the dryer) that goes into the laundry room, and just kind of sits there in the ceiling joists, not connected to anything. Likewise, many of the water seeping in problems (there was a problem with the stairs right before we moved in) has simply been fixed (rather sloppiliy at that) with expanding foam and paint. Now, I don’t play a house inspector on TV, but that does seem like it’s only going to do so much to help the problem. I would think that then the water would just pool up behind the new barrier and rot away the wood or brick, or in the winter, freeze and cause some real havoc. On the other hand, it is a much more involved task to get to the other side of the foundation and water proof that. And, as pointed out earlier, some of the plumbing work was “creative”. By the way, we’re still waiting for that pipe to be fixed.

My current theory is that she doesn’t consider the house a big part of the property value any more. Technically, her dental practice owns the house, and uses the “backyard” for parking (there is in fact, no backyard, just a nice sized deck for us, and a paved parking lot). While the house is very cute, has lots of history, and is in generally good condition, it’s now “just” a rental unit for her practice. She has said that she plans to sell the practice soon (and the house with it), so I think she’s already trying not to sink too much money into something that won’t offer her much return (that is, the state of the house is not really going to help her sell the practice for more, she just needs to do the minimum to keep us as tenants). Looking a bit further into the future, I think she might also consider that if the house were to be sold, the lot would probably be valuable enough as a place to build a newer, bigger house (or rental complex) on that the state of this house wouldn’t factor in greatly.

PS: We’ve lived here 6 months now, and the cat still thinks forced-air vents are the coolest, most interesting thing you could put in a house. Far more interesting than ants, for sure.

PPS: We also need the bulb on the security light fixed. It’s on the roof, and when the landlord suggested I change it myself and just bill her for the lamp, I was willing — it’s only a single storey bungalow, how bad could it be? Of course, after getting up on the ladder it turns out I’m more afraid of heights than I thought. I don’t want to start bugging her about changing it, since it’s clearly not the sort of thing she’d do herself, and it seems stupid to make her hire someone to do it… But without the snow to reflect the ambient light around, it’s really dark back there. So is there anyone brave in the London area that would like to climb up on my roof and change a lightbulb? I’ll make you some cinnamon rolls!

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