Sunday, December 27, 2009

Green St Furnace

This Christmas weekend, we are replacing the relay and the switch to the furnace.

Put in a new fan relay and a new thermostat to replace the one above.

You can also see new wiring in the overhead.

The relay was on for an hour to show that it was cooling the motor. Then we had to shut it down to purchase some more oil from Petrol.

Friday, December 11, 2009

What My Busted Sewer Line Taught Me


This issue had been inexplicable, unimaginable, unbelievable and the solution appeared untenable.

And the lesson -- patience, trust, understanding, reflecting and decision making -- all virtues of 'RUNIN'.

We've had issues before with backups, but never this bad.

And the previous issues were caused by tenants pouring kitchen grease, hair and rag products down the drain -- at least that was the theory, which was partially substantiated and partially corrected by snaking the drain (by pulling up the toilet)

Sometimes, we used environmentally safe chemicals with plenty of hot water, which often opened up the drain. If this didn't work, we brought out our snake.

I remember two years ago, sending a camera from Grayton Plumbing. The plumber said that there was an issue perhaps due to a root, but it was extensive and recommended keeping an eye on it -- which I did.


We needed to act smartly, proactively QUICKLY.

Oh no, we have an issue. There was a backup in the sewer. The waste water was coming up from the drain in the kitchen.

And it was imperative that I take care of my tenants. At this time, I put myself in their shoes -- it was not a good condition to be in.


Licensed plumber, Mike Lewis, snaked out the drain with the K-150. However, the route out through the house to the yard was too Rigid and couldn't negotiate the bends and turns.

The Rigid Snake was part of our Property Plant Equipment that we had purchased. And by using it for our properties, it was paying off. In fact, the price we paid for the Rigid Snake had had more than covered the use of it (Even without acomodating for depreciation)

Then we tried with a 75' snake we rented from Home Depot. This time, he went further, but he heard the grinding in the kitchen floor. We thought we ran into rocks.

MBWA (Managing by Walking Around):

So I included them (all 3 of them) as well as both my contractors (Mike Lewis and Milton Daley) in our thought process and decision making. We huddled around. Before we did anything, I asked the tenants both whether they agreed with what we were doing, explained to them why we were doing it and how. Yes, it required a buy-in -- but it game them an opportunity to provide ideas and input.

So the decision was to open up the floor where we thought we had run into rocks.

But as you can see, we ran into a T-fitting which explains why we had difficulty running the snake through and the cause of the grinding. We could have probably figured this out by the layout of the house which would have saved us time and trouble of digging up the kitchen floor.


It was no time to call the experts who had the latest technology: Grayton has the DrainVision Sewer Camera that can see where the rest of us couldn't.

We confirmed that we had a crack in the line. We also sent their snake down there (K-1500) and came up with dirt. Grayton used a Rigid 1500 gun which had a lot more power than the Home Depot snakes. We also found a lot of hair and rags.

The camera and snake also localized the crack. So this is where we dug and made the replacement underground. We did not replace the entire line, but approx. 8 feet of it.

The line was completely replaced underneath the basement. The depth was as much as 8 feet.

Commercial Boot, C-Clamp used for the new sewer line. This was used to connect the PVC pipe with the existing cast iron line.


The contractor recommended that we not replace the entire line underneath the bedroom but just an 8-foot section that had the crack. So still remaining there was about another 6 foot section that was cast iron which appeared to be fine because water was able to go through. However, time would tell whether this was a smart decision.

Arrested (Almost) for Digging up my Yard


After the basement work, we thought we were good to go. A lot of thought process and hard work went into that project.

Within a couple of weeks, we had another backup. This time, we felt that the collapse was occurring somewhere in the front yard (based on snaking and seeing where the mud was coming from). There were both benefits and drawbacks. The benefit would mean we could dig without intrusion to my tenant.


It was both deep and we were concerned about digging the trench by hand (no backhoe) without the trench collapsing.


I had the benefit to discuss this with the DC Chief Inspector who gave me some guidelines to dig the yard. Milton Daley told me that he could do it. I was leery at first, but then after much discussion, learned to trust him.


We agreed to start the cut right against the building as opposed to in the middle of the yard (15 feet long). The dig would be shallower and based on multiple snakings, we figured that the collapse was closer to the building. Our analysis was right on.

We were fortunate that the ground was red clay which kept the trench nice and packed.

Showing connection from the building going out to the street. 8 feet deep.

This time we also hired the help of Jerry Hunter, another DC licensed plumber who would snake the line after we cut it to ensure that we did not get any mud.

Well things were going to good. There had to be trouble. Sure enough, the tenant had called the police when we started working in the yard. The police came to get us arrested. However we did have permission to dig up the yard. We had to call DC Regulatory Affairs who came and confirmed that we had permission.

What's amazing is that we were doing work that would benefit the Tenant since they did not have water due to the sewer line collapse.

During this time, our Innovation paid off once again. We politely stopped work and contacted the Chief Inspector at his house (on Sunday) who directed his Deputy to visit the property to inform the tenants and the Police (7D) that we indeed had permission.

I assured the Deputy Inspector that I would take pictures on my Iphone and send it to him over the weekend as we continued our work.


This was a great decision to attack the yard methodically and only after guidance and permission from the Chief Inspector.

We did a great job, diagnosing and making the necessary repairs.

DCRA was more than helpful and supportive, working all weekend to provide advice and guidance, even when the tenant called the Police to arrest us for digging up the yard.

I had informed her we had permission to dig up but she wouldn't believe me. The police came to stop the work. I then called DCRA who immediately came over to tell us that we had permission and to continue the work -- they were remarkable.

The main take-aways here are

1) Honesty and Integrity
2) Respect to Authorities (Police who came to stop our work despite having permission)
3) Transparency and Decency (To Tenants and Authorities)
4) Faithful and constant Communication
5) Hard work, perseverance and ingenuity

At the last minute, we decided to install a clean out -- which was a great idea. Also from the clean out we can check to see whether there is a clear flow out to the street.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Atlantic Street Equation

In May 2003, I purchased Atlantic Street for $107,000.

For 2008, the rent of $1677 per month. So each month I receive cash which is an asset. So I debit rent $1677. The total rent received for 2008 was $20,124.



However, I have to pay the mortgage which is an expense. So each month, I credit $2,356.



This does not include the expenses for

1) Repairs of $8,401 accrued.
2) Taxes
3) Interest Expense of $12,999

Because of a refinance in March 2006 (3 years later) to $200,000, the Liabilities went up.

Some of this money was transfered to Etrade.

Others was used for repairs and renovation. In 2007, I spent $8,289 for renovation. Due to move out of tenant, I retiled the entire living room, main bedroom and kitchen. Installed new countertop, cabinets.



Assets = Liabilities + Shareholders Equity

$200,000 = $200,000 + Negligible Equity

The following year, I decided to give Atlantic Street a new face lift. The expenses were $13,581 which included $6,831 for improvement for new siding.

Since then I had to purchase a new water heater, a new furnace, a new sump pump.

We had two floodings in the basement.

The first one occurred in summer of 2007 when water from massive summer rains came and through the foundation. The result was a ruined furnace and water heater.

These were liabilities. So for the accounting equation, I credited cash (asset) from my bank account and I debited repairs (expense account)

Note, in July 2005, Atlantic Street experienced a fire in the bedroom upstairs. The children were playing with matches and lit the mattress on fire. Everyone evacuated, but the firefighters came through the roof and broke all the windows in the house.

Repairs conducted after this included opening up the ceiling to expose the attic and create a cathedral ceiling.

In addition, we opened up two closets and created a nice size den.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving Blockage and Jeff Saved the Day

Yes it was Black Friday, and I didn't sleep one lick. Wanted to rise early to catch the AM sales at Best Buy and Apple.

Yes, I bought a Tom Tom for $100 and a new Nano plus iWorks for a great price.

A mysterious thing happened over Thanskgiving. We had a blockage in the basement. There were 2" of standing water and the furnace was in jeopardy of getting wet.


Here I was as usual -- going on Google and visiting Ask Yahoo to see what were the possible causes and fixes from other people like me. I learned to do this whenever there is an issue. The internet is there for us and the info is provided by others who have experienced similar issues before -- that is why I'm sharing this with you.

Luckily, Milton rushed over to Oxon Hill Rentals to rent a pump.

We thought that the leak was coming from the bedroom on the main floor. We even started opening up the wall. Unfortunately, it was wood not drywall.

The pipe was galvanized and it was solid. Then we thought it was the connection between the iron and PVC (in the basement). Problem was that the connection was in the joist.

But after seeing the water coming up from the ventilation pipe, it became more and more apparent that it was not just a bad connection.

Reflect and Remember

Nevertheless, we were getting ready to cut the pipe. But, wait one minute, let's call the guy who installed the pipe in the first place.

Jeff Bishop, the savior of Lebaum St, just happened to be around the corner. He rushed over and diagnosed it as a backup outside the house.


We were all together now. Mike, Milton, Jeff, me the tenants -- all working together for one common good, the day after Thanksgiving.

So Mike and I trek over to Mayfair Apartments to pick up our snake: K-1500, 120' Rigid.

We thought we had it.


Well, they went the entire length of 120' and it didn't work. What shall we do. I had already paid Mike. Now I had the option of calling Grayton Plumbing tomorrow which meant more money and delay. Well, calling Jeff was a great decision earlier on -- so if it worked, let's keep on doing it.

Jeff happened to be up the road again. He recommended we call Frasers (Just Ask Rentals) to see if they have a larger snake.

Jeff rushed to Penn Ave, SE. I called Frasers while keeping Jeff on the phone. The snake would cost $176 -- it was the biggest one that had.

But it was a gamble. I could easily spend this money and pay Jeff $300 more would no guarantee that it would work.

Then I mentioned to Jeff that if it didn't work, would he be willing to go for half: $150. He felt certain that it did -- the compromise and his confidence that this was the right thing to do made me feel that we making the right decision -- it was the best decision at this moment of time.


This did it. The extra 30' and the thicker snake made the difference. Jeff and Mike found a bagful of rags -- body cleaning rags that don't dissolve. I took a picture of it.

Looking forward, we now know

1. Ask questions -- insightful ones and lots of them

2. Use the power of social media to find solutions

3. Tap all Subject Matter Experts

4. Cut and then think about it -- don't cut the whole pipe all at once. Start by cutting the wall, then ponder whether cutting the pipe is the right thing

5. Call the contractor who did the install -- he will normally have different insight

6. Involve the tenants -- ask them their thoughts

7. Work together and negotiate decisions.

8. Help out

9. I informed the tenants and told them that in the future I will not be paying this $800 bill.

10. Create a backup. We took this opportunity to install a new sump pump and a back up pump that is battery powered.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Monday, November 2, 2009

500 Lebaum

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2931 Stanton Road SE

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Tenant Left a Mess -- Renovation of Kitchen

The tenants left a mess with the red streak paint all over the house. I have no idea what Ms. T had in mind when she painted the walls. At any case, we are going to repaint all the walls.

This is a good time to renovate the kitchen. Milton Daley ripped up the kitchen countertop and base cabinets. Here, he is pointing to the plumbing that will feed the kitchen sink.

Mike Lewis installing water source for Stanton Road.

Milton Daley installing tile flooring. First, he has to install plyboard.

Prepping the plumbing after the tile has been installed.

In 2007, I installed a new Goodman furnace and heat pump combo. HVAC tech was Mike Lewis (pictured above)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Friday, May 1, 2009

Saturday, February 14, 2009