Plumbfounded, Part 2

Everyone’s always asking us “how’s the house?” “what are you guys working on?” “what kind of projects are you doing?” and most of the time we’ve got a pretty good story to share. Lately, we haven’t had anything big to update on. Instead of something fun and exciting, we’ve been telling people about our plumbing issues.

Old Incorrect Washer Plumbing

This one is a bit complicated, but it involves something we’ve been putting off since we moved in. We’ve always known something wasn’t right about our washing machine set up, but since it had never given us problems, we never did anything about it. The washer had been draining out into a 1 inch pipe that it just barely fit in. So much so that it was duct taped in place.

Old Incorrect Washer Drain Pipe

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. We get a back up in our line somewhere, the kitchen sink drains slow and we hear a weird noise when the toilet flushes. We’ve got a clog. Of all places, water, probably just drained from the washer, backs up and starts leaking at the duct taped connection.

The clog is removed by a professional, who sends another guy with one of those drain cameras back later that night. What does he find? A golf ball sized clump of something in our drain halfway out to the street. Luckily for us it wasn’t a tree root growing through our pipes. I still think it might have actually been a golf ball, but who knows.

To rectify the weak point beyond the washer, we had a plumber install a new exit, and get it up to code.

Correct 2 Inch PVC Washer Drain


Everything was replaced with 2 inch PVC and a new clean out what installed. He also finally disconnected the gardening hose that our old toilet was hooked up to.

Correct PVC Stack in Basement

OK, so I’ll admit this post was kind of boring, but activity is activity and an update is an update. This is one less thing to worry about, and now we’re up to code. Stay tuned for a project that’s a little more exciting, I promise.


Guess Who’s Having the asBESTos Week Ever

As a regular reader of this blog might already know, our house was built sometime in the 1950’s and had additions built in the following few decades. This would put us at risk for asbestos being in the house. When we bought the house, we had the attic insulation tested but nothing else. The test came back negative, but we were still curious about the rest of the house. In all of our renovations we haven’t come back with anything that would lead us to believe there was asbestos. Except for our ceiling tiles.

12 x 12 Acoustical Ceiling Tile

The ceilings in the main story of our house are all covered with 12 x 12 acoustical tiles. As we’ve redone each of the rooms, we’ve painted the ceiling tiles and even painted in the gaps between the tiles. This solved one problem, but now we’ve decided to replace our existing ceiling lights and fans. Before anyone goes and starts messing around up there I figured we should probably get the fibrous portion of the tiles checked out.

12 x 12 Ceiling Tile Fan Opening Detail

You can see in the photo where I took out a small chunk of the tile. Before cutting I consulted an environmental company that does asbestos testing, and they suggested wetting the portion of the tile I was going to cut and taking a quarter sized sample. Although I minimized the amount of dust released by wetting the tile, I still wore a mask and gloves. Despite my best efforts using a drywall blade, the cut was not perfect, so its a good thing I had prepped for disaster.

Cellulose Percentage

For the lab test, we used a local company called Environmental Tactics. They had a pretty quick turn around time and the cost was reasonable. ($25 per sample) We had the results of the test back within a few days.

The test came back negative. A huge sigh of relief for us, considering an asbestos problem could stop us from doing any work that involves the ceiling or electrical, or worse, a costly abatement procedure.

Asbestos: None Detected

We had 2 samples tested, one from the office and one from the bedroom. The living room is the same as the office, and the dining room is a much newer ceiling tile. So new, in fact, that they still sell it at Lowes.

To me, this feels like we’ve avoided another potential disaster associated with owning our first home. That’s probably a bit of an exaggeration, but its good to know we can now proceed with the next project.

What to Expect When You’re Inspecting

First, let’s bring things up to speed…

Andrew and I are currently living in Ewing, New Jersey; a small town right outside of the state capital, Trenton, which is about 45 minutes north of Philadelphia, PA. We have been in Ewing for about 1 year via Collingswood, NJ; a sweet and adorable small town right outside of Philly on the Jersey side of the Delaware River where we lived for 2 years after graduating from college.

Andrew and I had been looking to move again since we had both accepted new jobs in areas that are closer to the shore. We didn’t think buying was an option, but we sat down with a loan officer and found out that was totally going to be possible!

Andrew and I hunted for houses throughout the month of June and we put an offer on the our house in Hazlet, NJ {home of Sammi “Sweetheart” of Jersey Shore fame; let the eye-rolling ensue} at the very end of June. After a little back and forth and really sticking to our guns on an offer price, the seller accepted.

We had our home inspection done a few weeks ago and we are now negotiating, with the sellers, the items from the report that they will/won’t fix. This has been the most nerve wracking part of the entire experience because, as I mentioned in our previous post, the sellers are doing a lot of guesswork because it’s an estate sale (their parents’ home). Which brings me to the gist of this post; what to expect when you’re inspecting…

As a general rule of thumb, when you’re purchasing a house, you simply must have a home inspection. It is not required, but it’s the best $500 you’ll ever spend. Well, in our case it was about $500 ($470 to be exact). I think that’s rare though. Some inspectors were charging $600, $700 or more. We got a great deal and an awesome inspector at that. {Big ups to our man Joe!} No matter what the price, though, it’s worth it. You’ll understand why as you read on. Also, when selecting an inspector, find out what’s included in the cost. We needed a full home inspection, a radon test and a termite test. These 3 inspections were included in the price of $470. Some inspectors had a sort of a la carte menu of services, which could have ended up costing us a lot more after adding up the total.

Once you select your home inspector, you’ll schedule a time for them to do the inspection. Your Realtor will be present and the seller’s agent may choose to be present as well. In our case, the seller’s agent was present. This has its pros and cons. The seller’s agent was able to answer some questions we had, but at the same time, she gave us a lot of false information because she just wanted to paint a rosy picture about everything… “Oh yes, this is a non-load-bearing wall, so you can just tear it down whenever you want.” Our home inspector was able to pull us aside and set the record straight (it was a load-bearing wall and, either way, you can’t just pull a wall down that easily). Needless to say, their agent’s credibility went right out the “tilt windows” (she claimed they were tilt windows, but all we had to do was open them to find out they weren’t. Silly thing to make up, really when you think about it).

You’ll also want to consider what you’re getting for the price. Our home inspector was very thorough. He spent over 2 hours inspecting the entire property from the roof, all the way down to the basement. We asked him tons of questions. He was an incredible resource for us. Naturally, being first time home buyers, hearing all of the things that were “wrong” with the house was pretty overwhelming. He reassured us that our inspection actually wasn’t so bad at all. Remember, your home inspector is there to find problems; they’re going to find problems! When all was said and done, these were our main concerns:

Possible abandoned oil tank – there was an oil tank switch in the home, but there were absolutely no remnants of an oil tank. If an underground oil tank is present and abandoned, you’ve got big problems on your hands. Big, ex$pen$ive problems! The seller was eventually able to confirm that there was, in fact, an oil tank at one time, but it was above ground and had been removed over 30 years ago. Just to be absolutely certain, we ordered a sweep of the property (cost $275) to inspect for any abandoned, underground tanks that our home inspector was not able to readily detect during the general home inspection. The home inspector is trained to assess the overall condition of a property. He/she may often recommend hiring a specialists to do some further investigative work.

Vermiculite in the attic – You can read all about it here (good readin’)! Vermiculite is a type of insulation and some vermiculite that was obtained from a particular mine in Montana and sold in the United States from 1919 to 1990 was eventually found to be contaminated with asbestos. Only some of the vermiculite in this mine was contaminated, but this still affects many homes and buildings today. So we ordered a separate test (cost $125) where our inspector took a small sample of the vermiculite and sent it out to a lab to be tested for asbestos.

Aside from these two major issues, there were several other issues that were serious, but would never become a horrifying expense. And you DON’T want to inherit a horrifying expense. Remember, the results of your home inspection can allow you to break free of your contract and walk away from the deal all-together. Better to find out when you’re only a few hundred dollars in the hole than when you’re having your yard excavated for an abandoned oil tank (that’ll cost ya)!

This is a pretty long story, but longer story short, the results of the asbestos test came back to us in about 1 week’s time and there is officially NO asbestos in the vermiculite! The oil tank sweep was ordered on a Tuesday and completed that Thursday – no abandoned, underground oil tanks! As for the other issues I mentioned, among them were a deteriorated chimney and an open vent pipe.

Chimney and waste vent pipe from home inspection report

We are now in the process of going back and forth with the seller to negotiate these items. We requested they fix about 10 separate issues, of which they have already fixed 4 (and they are attempting to fix a few more). So they met us more than halfway and we are still trying to get them to fix an electrical issue (reversed polarity – could permanently damage electronics plugged into the affected outlets). Other than those issues, there are a few on our list of requests that will probably inhibit the seller from obtaining their certificate of occupancy (C.O.), which certifies their compliance with any building codes and other laws set forth by the town. At the time of the C.O. inspection, the seller will most likely be forced to fix some of these unresolved issues.

So we spent $870 to have a complete home inspection, radon test, termite test, asbestos test and oil tank sweep. It seems like a lot of money for a few lousy pieces of paper, but to be completely honest, I am more excited about these pieces of paper than picking paint colors right now (and believe me, I’m pretty excited about picking paint colors). Now we have our peace of mind and the documentation to prove it! This will so come in handy when we go to re-sell. We had some pretty serious, potential problems on our hands. We had many conversations about what we would have done if an abandoned oil tank or asbestos were found, and most of the time we concluded that if the seller didn’t fully rectify the issue, we were going to walk away. We are just thanking our lucky stars now that it hasn’t come to that (yet)!

Bottom line: a home inspection is key. No matter what the cost.