Adventures in Power Washing

I am fortunate to live in an older home that presents lots of challenges and “repair opportunities” (Euphemism of the day). I am now attending to some badly neglected exterior painting.  I have learned that there is no way to get new paint to stick if you try to paint over oxidized or peeling paint. After scraping for a while realized that I would be scraping off old paint on this house for the next year so I sought out a better way.

Old oxidized paint

Oxidized and Peeling Paint on Wood before power washing

One option is power washing. I have never done much with power washers so I rented on from Timp rentals in American Fork. The rental costs $15 per hour or $60 per day.  After three hours I was done so I spent about $50 with tax and gas and saved myself untold hours of work and pain.  I had to play around with holding the wand the right distance from the surface, but it really is not rocket science. About 6 inches seemed to work right for me.

Wood after power washing

Clean Wood and well adhered paint after power washing

As you can see this method is not perfect. There are still a few spots where some cracked paint was not removed, but it is adhered well so once I prime and paint again I am thinking that it will look alright.  In some areas almost all of the old paint came off, but in other areas that were not as bad most of the paint remained after power washing.

It also worked really well on concrete.  If you have some old concrete it can look almost new again with a little power washing.

Even concrete that looks clean can look better after powerwashing

This concrete has been swept and washed, but still ugly

Overall, renting a power washer was money well spent! Give it a shot.

Best Plumbing Tool EVER

For years I have seen inspection reports come back with the complaint of “Slow Drains”. I assume this is a universal plague since I have the same trouble from time to time,  If you have an extra 3 bucks lying around I have to encourage you to buy one of these:

Slow drains can be a thing of the past

Best Plumbing tool ever

It doesn’t look like much but this simple tool will save you a lot of headaches and a lot of money as well.  Buy it once for less money than a bottle of Drano and you are set.

You insert the tool into the slow drain and the nasty looking hooks snag whatever is causing the clog, usually hair, and you gently pull it out.  I have left out the photos of clogs because I do not want to gross you out, but with 4 daughters in my house one shower drain took 4 efforts and a total clog weight of about 2 pounds! Not pretty but the drain flows nicely once again!

The funny thing is that the package says to discard the tool after use. I assume this is for liability reasons because cleaning off the hooks is a risky proposition. Be careful and you can reuse yours for many years.  I just saved the packaging and use it as a sheath to avoid snagging things.



Top 10 factors that determine the value of your house

Everyone has heard the platitude that what matters in real estate is “location, location, location” but that is NOT very useful when you are thinking of what to change or add to your property.  Every buyer would put these in a different order, but in most cases I think these 10 would surely be at the top of the list in any home buying decision. (And three of them do relate to location)

Gross Location

This is the city and neighborhood where a home is located.  This is the one factor above all others that determines the value of a house.  This is what makes a home in certain neighborhoods in California worth $500,000 while the same house in Utah is worth only $200,000.  You can’t change it so if you already own, don’t stress.  If you are shopping, think it through.

2.  Number of Bedrooms and Baths

The number of bedrooms and bathrooms will determine what the potential audience is for any given house.  A one bedroom home obviously does not serve the person who wants 5.  In general more is better, but the ratio of bedrooms and baths matters.  New homes generally stick to no more than 2 beds per bath(2-1).  If the ratio is more like 3-1 the home may be considered functionally obsolete.  So if you are short on baths, adding one is not a bad idea.

3.  Year built

Buyers make a lot of assumptions about a home based soley on the year the home was built.  You cannot change this number so if your home is updated, and you are ready to sell, good marketing is crucial.

4.  Quality of Design and Construction

These two usually go hand in hand so they are combined.  A well designed home is most often well built because the builder took the time to think the project through from beginning to end.  There are exceptions, such as when a project runs out of money, but once a buyer is enticed to a property this factor is the intangible that causes love or disenchantment.

5.  Garages

You can’t usually go wrong with more garages!  WARNING: Sexist stereotype follows.  As long as a man is part of the buying decision, I have never seen a house with too many garages.

6.  Condition

Has the home been taken care of?  This answer to this question is not usually determined by the age and condition of the property, but instead by how old the fixtures, paint and interior style appears.  You can make up for a lot with paint, but if you do paint invest in a lot of good masking tape and do it well.  A terrible paint job is worse than none at all.  Happily bad paint is easy to fix!

7.  Style

This is in reference to the actual style of home.  Whether a rambler, a split-entry or a tri-level, each style will appeal to a different set of buyers.  Some styles will actually be excluded from consideration.  If your home style is one of those that gets eliminated early in a search and you are considering a serious remodel, think about changing the style of your home if possible.

8.  Lot attributes

Lot size, dimensions, and street type become a big factor once a buyer gets to a home.  This is one more location item.  Remember that lot sizes ore one thing and appearance is another.  The way a lot is landscaped, or the dimensions can affect the perception of size more than the actual measurements of the property.  If you are building, NEVER squeeze a house into a lot.  Make sure that the lot and home harmonize and you will get more out of your investment.

9.  Master Bedroom/Bath

Having a master bedroom is a plus.  Not having a maser bath can decrease the value of a home by up to 10%

10.  Efficiency

By efficiency I mean both energy efficiency as well as quality and condition of mechanical systems, insulation and windows.  Most of the time issues with this come up in an inspection and can be a deal breaker.  If you are going to be in a home for a long time it is a great place to spend money, but if not you may want to sell your home as it is and let the new owner decide what to do with it.

Do you think I missed any important factors?  There may be something else that belongs in the top 10.  If you can think of it, please let me know!

Cheap and easy wall fixes

Just for the record, a coat rack should not be used as a swing but if you have an exuberant household member that thinks that is a good idea, this post is for you!

Step 1:  Evaluate the hole

Holes come in 3 varieties:

  • Nail Hole – Easy to fill, you may not even need to paint over it if your wall is whitish.
  • Medium Hole – Usually the result of something being violently ripped off of a wall after it was “Permanently” installed. (Today’s Topic)
  • Large Hole – This type is typically caused by body parts (heads, fists or shoulders), Sports equipment (Medicine balls, baseballs, golf clubs or dumbbells) or other large and heavy items. (Topic for a future post)

Step 2:  INCREASE the hole size

Though it seems counter-intuitive it is important to make sure the hole is clean and that you are down to straight drywall.  If you do not get it to that point you will never be happy with the repair.  Especially in the case of a big dent.  You cannot fill a large dent well unless you do it in 15 steps and have more tools, and want to waste a lot of time.IMG_20130103_203717At the top and left you can see the additional material that must be removed because it is loose.

Step 3:  Assemble your tools

IMG_20130103_203832You won’t need much,

  • a can of spackle (DO NOT USE “Lightweight Spackle” it does not fill anything other than nail holes well)
  • A spackle knife
  • Sandpaper
  • Optional gloves(for wimps) and paper towels (For cleanup)

Step 4:  Fill the hole

IMG_20130105_135825This step is one that requires patience, but not much time.  Depending on the size of hole you may need to fill it and allow to dry several times before it will be at the right level.  Once you have it level sand it with a sanding block.  If the dusts accumulates in a low spot, wipe away the dust and fill one more time.

Step 5:  Sand and Paint

If your paint is an eggshell or flat you may be able to get away without priming, but I would recommend always priming the repair before painting, or plan paint a few coats.  Even if you have the same can of paint it will vary slightly because paint changes as it ages, in the can and on the wall.  I like to use a brush and paint from the inside of the repair out.  As the bristles run out of paint they naturally blend the patch into the surrounding paint.  It is best to just paint to a break point if you have one, but when you do not want to paint the whole wall, blending works pretty well.

IMG_20130109_153454Once the repair is completed you can stop feeling mad at whoever messed up your beautiful wall and move on with your life!  Nothing better than closure.