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Preview: SFGate: Sweat Equity

Bill and Kevin Burnett - Sweat Equity


Neighbors should share fence costs

Tue, 1 Jul 2014 23:06:33 UT

California Civil Code 841, also known as the Good Neighbor Fence Act of 2013, requires that "adjoining landowners shall share equally in the responsibility for maintaining the boundaries and monuments between them." In part, the statute says: "Adjoining landowners are presumed to share an equal benefit from any fence dividing their properties and, unless otherwise agreed to by the parties in a written agreement, shall be presumed to be equally responsible for the reasonable costs of construction, maintenance, or necessary replacement of the fence." -- If the financial burden to one landowner would impose an undue financial hardship given that party's financial circumstances as demonstrated by reasonable proof. The notice shall include notification of the presumption of equal responsibility for the reasonable costs of construction, maintenance, or necessary replacement of the fence. The notice shall include a description of the nature of the problem facing the shared fence, the proposed solution for addressing the problem, the estimated construction or maintenance costs involved to address the problem, the proposed cost-sharing approach, and the proposed timeline for getting the problem addressed.

Best to look into popping noise in chimney right away

Tue, 24 Jun 2014 22:57:04 UT

While I don't have a problem with a noisy water pipe, I do have a problem with a noisy chimney. Some years ago, I replaced my old brick fireplace with a firebox insert and metal flue. All was well until a few years ago when the fireplace started making popping noises after warming up. Metal expansion is a good guess, but based on the age of the installation and the fact that the noise just recently started, we think it more likely that either the orifices in the gas insert are plugged or the chimney is extremely dirty. Expansion and contraction increases and decreases depending on the temperature of the ambient air around the metal.

Warped floorboard means hire a pro to ensure subfloor dry

Tue, 3 Jun 2014 22:05:18 UT

Recently, I had houseguests who didn't realize that water was spilling onto my hardwood kitchen floor from the counter. Bill had some firsthand experience a few months ago when the flush handle stuck on his toilet and the water continued to run. [...] to compound matters, a plugged sewer line caused the toilet to overflow. The next three weeks brought a parade of water damage specialists, insurance adjusters, and carpet and hardwood floor contractors. Water always finds its lowest level and, depending on how much was spilled onto your floor and how long it pooled, we would be willing to bet that more than the one board was affected.

Neighbors' plumbing refuses to pipe down

Tue, 27 May 2014 22:18:09 UT

The problem started nearly three years ago when my neighbors had their crawlspace water pipes replaced and their kitchen and bathroom plumbing redone. Separating them seems too daunting (there's foundation concrete that would have to be broken up) and not necessarily a fix for me anyway. Since the pipes run under the center of the duplex in the crawlspace, I think I'd hear it loudly even if the pipes weren't touching. The neighbors took a good first step when they followed their plumber's suggestion and replaced the pressure regulator, but since it didn't do the job we'll toss out some possible causes and suggestions that may bring you peace and quiet. -- Valves that are not fully opened under a sink, a toilet or at the washing machine can sometimes cause moaning pipes. Old rubber washers shred and little bits of rubber can get stuck, interrupting the flow of water and causing the moan. -- It could be that one of the new pipes that was installed is rubbing against wood where is it attached to the floor joists or passes through holes in the walls.

If good-neighbor effort doesn't work, get a lawyer

Tue, 20 May 2014 22:40:54 UT

Assertion of a right can produce a fight, while a neighborly agreement for access will probably result in the work being done in a timely and peaceful manner. [...] you can remove the part of the offending vine that is doing damage to your building. Determining if you have a right to access the 20-foot exposed portion of your house abutting the neighbor's property is a legal question that we can't answer. Common sense tells us you should have access in order to maintain your house, but to be absolutely sure we suggest you contact a real estate attorney. There are a couple of things you should investigate prior to seeking legal advice. [...] dig out the title insurance policy from when you purchased the house. Review it to see if there is an easement allowing access to the adjoining property for maintenance purposes. [...] because your situation is not uncommon in San Francisco, check with City Hall to see if a local ordinance addresses your situation.

How to re-caulk shower, tub with mildew

Tue, 13 May 2014 22:43:14 UT

When I recaulk I make sure the shower or tub hasn't been used in a few days so the area is good and dry, and after caulking, I wait two or three days to be sure the product is completely set. Opening a window and leaving the bathroom door open would provide cross ventilation and quickly rid the room of excess moisture. Use the bleach at full strength and wear rubber gloves for this step. After letting the bleach work for 10 or 15 minutes give the area a rinse with a damp cloth to remove the bleach residue. There are a number of products that contain a mildewcide. Because we don't know which you've already tried, we hesitate to make a solid recommendation. The best you can do to avoid living with a caulking gun in your hand is to practice good moisture control by drying the tub and shower after each use, leaving the fan on longer and keeping the bathroom door open as much as possible.

Range of options for inherited house in disrepair

Tue, 6 May 2014 22:05:37 UT

Over the past decade many of the homes around it have been gentrified by additions and eye-pleasing remodeling. A few of the smaller houses have been torn down and replaced by new homes whose architecture fits the neighborhood. [...] the yard is overgrown, repairs are needed, and it will take a lot of money to fix up. The direction you take will depend on the time and money you have to invest. To get the house into rental shape a good cleaning and an interior paint job is required. Replacing kitchen or bathroom tile can be expensive so try to bring it back to life with polish and elbow grease. When it sparkles, call the real estate agent back and ask her to give you a new listing price. Going a step further, adding a master bedroom and bath to increase the two-bedroom, one-bath to a three-bedroom, two-bath home should greatly increase the value and may make good economic sense. If the best houses in the neighborhood are selling for three to four times what you can get for your aunt's house, we think it's at least worth the mental exercise.

Contractor balks at giving written estimate

Tue, 29 Apr 2014 22:03:25 UT

The response was a phone call telling me to take a walk - they are too busy to bother with written estimates. The good ones can cherry-pick the most profitable projects, and the mediocre ones are having no trouble keeping busy. If he doesn't have the time to poke his head in the attic to determine the scope of the work and prepare a detailed estimate, how in heaven's name will he have time to actually do the job? Montana, on the other hand, requires only that a contractor be registered with the state by paying a $53 application fee and furnish proof of workers compensation insurance. ( For Californians, hiring a licensed contractor won't guarantee a good job, but it will be a big step in that direction. Get three detailed bids, check references and make sure the contractor you hire is licensed, bonded and has the appropriate insurance.

Ways to eliminate sound of water hammers

Tue, 22 Apr 2014 22:18:05 UT

The noise is loud enough to wake a disabled family member so I have adjusted the times I turn on the washing machine and dishwasher. [...] it is happening in another area of the house when the radiant heat turns on at 3 a.m. Can it be caused by our appliances (dishwasher, washing machine or instant hot water heater)? Water hammer, also known as hydraulic shock, is a pressure surge or wave caused when water moving through the plumbing system is forced to stop or suddenly change direction. The sudden stop creates a shock wave and a booming or banging noise. [...] you can blame the dishwasher, washing machine and water heater because they have valves that open and close. A first-class plumbing job will have air chambers, or cushions, at each point where a water pipe discharges through a valve. The air in the pipe compresses when the shock wave hits, softening the blow and preventing hammering. Surge arresters are cut into the water line and act as shock absorbers, reducing the change in water pressure that is the ultimate cause of water hammer.

Poor prep likely behind fresh paint bubbles, blisters

Tue, 1 Apr 2014 19:54:42 UT

[...] that's one of the reasons we bought the house. The other eyesore is that the caulk between the baseboard and walls is coming out in long, sticky strings, leaving unsightly cracks. The first thing we'd do is squawk about it to the real estate agent who sold you the house to see if there is any recourse through the seller. Painting over a hot, dirty or damp surface, improper surface preparation, or painting over a wall where moisture is present in the substrate and has migrated to the surface. If the bubbles don't go all the way to the unfinished wall material, scrape off the bubbles and prime the exposed areas with a high-quality latex primer. Make sure to rinse the TSP residue off with clean water. The final step is to re-caulk the joints with a high quality acrylic latex caulk.

Replacing cracked plaster with drywall worth effort, cost

Tue, 25 Mar 2014 22:08:37 UT

There are cracks in the plaster, which can be seen through the paint as raised creases in the canvas. To do the job properly you should strip all the plaster from the walls, leave the lath in place and cover it with 3/8 -inch drywall. Tape the joints with fiberglass mesh tape, and cover that with a quick-drying joint compound such as Durabond 90. The positives are that the job will last for decades, and you'll have the opportunity to update the electrical system by adding receptacles, light fixtures and ground wires. The first coat, called the scratch coat, was troweled onto the lath with sufficient pressure to force the plaster though the gaps between the pieces of lath. If new drywall just isn't in the budget and if there isn't too much cracking, the best way to do a quick fix is to score the paper along the crack with a utility knife. [...] with a teardrop-shaped scraper or a 5-in-1 painter's tool, dig out the cracked plaster all the way to the wooden lath.

Replacing sewer lateral pricey either way you go

Tue, 18 Mar 2014 22:29:10 UT

In our last column ("Cast-iron drain's fix may cost you," March 12), we tried to calm a reader's fears about antiquated cast-iron waste lines under her 1930s house. Over time the mortar cracks, and the whole line becomes a prime candidate for leaks and root infestations. The standard method is to dig up the old lateral and replace it with new no-hub cast iron or, if code allows, plastic (ABS or PVC) line. The length of the run is measured and a felt liner is cut to length and impregnated with epoxy. The impregnated liner is then blown downstream to the city sewer saddle connecting the lateral to the sewer line. Air pressure is maintained in the line until the epoxy cures.

Cast-iron pipe replacement won't break the bank

Tue, 11 Mar 2014 22:10:33 UT

A plumber came by recently to look at a problem in our kitchen but when we showed him our garage with our 1936 overhead drainpipes he gasped at our old bell-style cast-iron pipes and said they were severely corroded. The one thing you don't mention is the sewer lateral - the underground portion of the drain system that empties into the city sewer. Replacement of the lateral is also a possibility and a can be a big-ticket item. The next generation was no-hub cast iron with joints sealed by a stainless steel-and-rubber coupling. A steel band similar to an auto's radiator clamp sealed the joint. [...] today either ABS or PVC plastic drain, waste and vent lines are the norm in most areas.

A reader tip on filling holes in stairs after rot dug out

Tue, 4 Mar 2014 23:39:47 UT

A reader tip on filling holes in stairs after rot dug out Apply the preservative first, let it dry, follow with the restorer, and finish with primer and color coat. What I haven't been able to find is a good filler, especially one that will match the rich reddish golden tone of the fir after it reverts to its natural color. [...] a reader called us to task for our advice on looking for an interim solution to her deteriorated fir floors: In responding to a reader with an 1875 house, I think you left out a very important point telling those people how to sand their tongue-and-groove softwood floors. If their planks had some cupping, which is likely, and if their floors had been sanded at least once before, which is also likely, there is a good chance that they are going to sand through the edges where the grooves are, generating splinters and exposing the tongues, thus destroying the structure of the tongue and groove.

It's kind to let neighbor use roof; damage, liability a risk

Tue, 25 Feb 2014 23:07:55 UT

Because the workers are using your roof as a staging area, we presume it's a flat built-up tar-and-gravel roof. When people walk on the roof, seams can crack and allow water to penetrate the roof covering. Constant traffic on a roof and using it as a staging area for lumber and other materials increases the likelihood that the roof could fail. Should your roof spring a leak, we assume you would put in a homeowners insurance claim to repair the damage. If they investigate and find you gave permission to the contractors remodeling your neighbor's house to use your roof to store materials, they might say you assumed a risk outside the limits of your policy and refuse to pay for repairs.