The Homeowner's thread

I recently bought a townhouse as my first home. There are a few questions I have about home maintenance and other things related to owning a home. I thought I would start a thread where people could ask questions and get answers about the challenges related to owning a home.

Ill start off with a few questions.

  1. I had an AC tech inspect my AC unit. It was in very good shape, but before he left he tried to sell me a UV light thing to put into my AC unit. This is supposed to zap mold and germs. I did a little research and got some mixed results. He didn’t leave any price information which makes me think this isn’t cheap. Does anyone have experience with this and is it worth it?

  2. I was trying to clean the grind capping the master bath shower drain so I removed it to make it easier. To my horror, underneath this cover the pipe looked like some kind of hairy-mineral encrusted orifice. How can I clean that pipe out? I was thinking about getting some drain cleaner and trying to pour it down the sides of the pipe and then flushing it with hot water. Or perhaps calling a professional plumber to clean it out.

  3. The HOA (Home-owners Association) is responsable for everything on the outside of the buildings. On the outside of my building (which is connected to other units) there are some large power conduits that go into the building. There is a fairly wide hole / opening into the building itself around these conduits. The building inspector told me these need to be sealed. I have been bugging the HOA for months about this and I keep getting the runaround. Thier email suggested that these holes might be intentional and are supposed to be there for ventilation which is total BS. Anyway I am looking for advice on how to deal with the HOA and to properly motivate them to actually fix this problem. One idea I had is to take some pictures and create a little pamphlet and then visit my neighbors and talk to them about the problem since it affects them all. Bugs, rats and snakes can easily get inside. Maybe more people complaining might get a better response.

Congratulations on home ownership! I hope you’re not too attached to the notion of disposable income, because owning a home can definitely be a major money pit. That said, most home improvement is stuff you can do yourself with a little time, patience, and tools, and can actually be rather rewarding (at least for me, since there’s a tangible sense of getting something accomplished).

YMMV, but in my experience the UV light made almost no difference, and was actually pretty pricey ($700 or so, IIRC). I am allergic to dust mites, and supposedly these things really help with dust mites. However, my allergies didn’t get any better after getting the light.

You can get a brush (similar to baby bottle brushes, but bigger) to clean out pipes (search “pipe brush” on your home improvement warehouse website). However, generally, it’s not worth it, since you’ll just be cleaning the section of pipe you can reach and not the pipe beyond that (which will remain just as mineral-encrusted). Liquid drain cleaner will do virtually nothing for you, and is a waste of time.

First thing I would do is get a contractor out to give you a quote on how much it would cost to have it fixed. Sometimes with a HOA it’s just the inertia of having to get a quote, approve the work, have the work done, and pay the bill that holds things up. Second, make your case in person if you can. Have you gone to a HOA meeting and raised the issue there? If that doesn’t work, you can also call your management company (if there is one) and complain to them. Since you’re stuck with the HOA until you sell the house, you don’t want to get too abrasive, as having a bad relationship with your HOA is a recipe for disaster (insert HOA horror stories here). There’s very little you can do to force the HOA to do something

Good luck, and again, congratulations!

The HOA meetings (of course) are in the middle of the work week. I do not work in the same city that I live in. I have been calling them every few weeks. So you think talking to my neighbors to try and get them to complain might be a bad idea? Anyway, thanks for the replies.

#1 sounds like a pricey upsell that will do little but boost your HVAC’s bottom line. That said, I haven’t researched this.

#2 - Am I understanding this right? You want to clean the drain pipe where you can’t see it, where wastewater goes? Are you going to clean the sewage stack away from your toilets too? Let it go.

#3 - I’m not sure I understand the exact issue you’re describing. How big a hole? How far off the ground? What is the nature of the hole? (i.e. all the way from the outside to the inside finished space seems unlikely, but what IS connected by the hole? How long has it likely been that way (i.e. Was this something that was likely there since the condo was built 1/5/50 years ago)?

Overall, it seems like you’re a little bit overanxious about stuff that is probably minor, at worst.

  1. A UV light to scrub air of baddies is generally BS in household settings. Using them to zap a solid surface, like some inner coil things or whatever if you live in a very humid environment and want to inhibit mold growth, MAYBE that could be useful if you were really concerned about that. But to clean moving air in a residential HVAC? No. A nice 4-inch pleated furnace filter is good though, go for a MIRV rating between 8 and 12.

  2. I wouldn’t bother with this unless you are having slow drain issues. Definitely don’t use drain cleaner! If it really bothers you, use something like a Zip-it to physically remove any hair clogs and then you can flush the drain with some white vinegar and then rinse with plenty of water if you really want to.

  3. In general, outside penetrations into the structure should be sealed. Does the opening go directly into your house or into some sort of general utility space?

I had a plumbing company come in today to inspect my stuff, mainly the hot water heater and other things. I asked him about the drain pipe. He said I could leave it alone, but if I wanted to clean it, get some CLR and squirt a generous amount down the sides of the pipe. Then wait a few hours and flush it with hot water.

The outside hole is about 1.5 feet off the ground. I know it has to be sealed. I was told this by two other people (building inspector and pest inspector). The HOA is the one who is responsable for this maintenance. The problem is motivating them to actually fix it.

Put some brightly colored duct tape over it for now, that will annoy them enough to fix it.

No specific advice other than get yourself a good DIY book (one of those big ones, like the ‘Collins Complete’ type). Always handy.

1.5 feet off the ground? Spray some foam in there yourself and be done with it. Lesson #1 about HOAs: It’s like arguing on the internet – nobody ever wins.

I tried the CLR stuff in the drain like the plumber said. It totally didn’t work. Oh well. I thought about filling the holes myself with some expanding foam stuff. However somebody at work told me if I did that, the HOA might be able to fine / sue me for not doing a professional job.

Speaking as an electrician, that hole should never have been left like that. I would not use spray foam, its ugly, and highly flammable( although there are flame retardant types) wich is not something you want touching electrical equipment.

What we do at work is use duct seal. Its cheap, flame-resistant and water proof, and can be moulded to shape so it does not look terrible, and conforms to the electrical code. It hardens over time but remains malleable enough to allow for the contraction and expansion of the metal pipe during temperature variations, where any rigid material can result in cracking. It would take you about 2 minutes to install and surely that is more time efficient than getting into any sort of process with the HOA.
If you have ever used playdoh, you have the skills needed to do it properly.

ARISE!

It looks like we do have a thread on the topic!

I’m on track to join The Wild World of Homeownership in just three weeks, and I thought I’d put out feelers for any good advice for a first-time homeowner… stuff you wish you’d known going in, etc… Also, any advice on great quality of life improvements would be hugely appreciated.

The house itself seems to be in great shape with a lot of work put into it by the prior owners. From the inspection, the only priority repair would be to seal off the (now decorative) chimney, and I’ve already got money set aside to replace the furnace with a heat pump–and thankfully know someone who can do that for the price of parts and materials.

I’m super excited to finally have a place that’s both happy and comfortable.

For home, renters, everyone: vinegar is your friend.

Spend the first six months being cheap. Most people probably do this so this is more stating the obvious rather than being a source of good advice. Get a sense for what it feels like to your finances to own a home and pay all the associated bills. Remember to budget a thousand or two a year for random repairs of stuff (HVAC/plumbing/appliances/etc) that in the past you could just call a landlord to fix.

After the first six months, STOP being cheap if you don’t need to be. This is the advice I wished I had. I was cheap for my first five years of home ownership because I was afraid of being overcommitted. Then I started making improvements, and not even expensive ones. Updating dated paint/paneling/cabinet hardware/bathroom tile isn’t a huge expense and can really refresh a room. When I first started doing that to my home it really made a noticeable improvement and we were much happier with the house. Of course we were only doing that because of intention to sell soon, so we just postponed an expense beyond the point of being able to actually enjoy what the expense was buying us. We felt pretty dumb about that.

So, we have a post-and-beam house. One of the beams runs through the atrium, and apparently has some rot (the house is a little over 40 years old).

We got an estimate from a guy to cut the rotten part of the beam out, and replace it with a metal U-beam. Apparently two day’s work.

He wants almost $9000. That’s… ridiculous, right?

Dammit! We have squirrels in our attic.

Have-a-heart trap cages with a dish of water as bait.

You need to figure out how they are getting in. An attic shouldn’t be accessible to something as big as a squirrel.

I am calling in professional pest control. I am not clambering around the roof to figure out how they are getting in.

Usually either an unscreened/holed vent, or a hole in the soffits.