Tag Archives: AstroNerdBoy Buys a House

Fun in the Middle of the Night

Since I keep a weird schedule, I was up at 01:00 this morning. Around 01:30, I was on the computer when the fire alarm went off. Our condo building not only has smoke detectors, but a fire suppression system complete with fire alarm. My first thought was, “did my sprinkler system go off somewhere?” I performed a check of all three floors of my condo and no sprinklers were active.

*sigh*

Well, time to get dressed and head out into the chilly night to see if my place is the only one impacted or if it is the whole unit. Fortunately, it was the whole unit and all of us congregated in groups that mixed and mingled at times, almost like a neighborhood social. I’m sure the other building residents near us were happy by the alarm noise and our chatter. ^_^;

Two different fire companies arrived and after getting access to the fire closet, they made a discovery — the panel in our building had no useful information, nor could the alarm be shut off from that location. Nice. So a truck was dispatched to the club house where the master fire control sits. Those fire fighters reported there is a water flow problem. Thirty minutes later, there was still a water flow problem being registered by the system. So to get the alarm to be silenced, the fire department placed our building into “trouble mode” which means that until they find out what’s tripping the water flow sensor, our building is not going to alarm for fires (though the smoke detectors will still work).

Unlike the others, I’m fortunate in that I didn’t have to work today. I felt bad for the others who had to work today, one woman saying she was going to have to get up at 03:45. ^_^;;; Just another fun part of being a home owner though (specifically, a condo-home owner).

AstroNerdBoy: Home Owner 10

“Rain drops keep falling on my head…”

In Colorado, it doesn’t rain much, and when it does, it is usually a thundershower that’s here for a short while and then gone again. The last couple of days have seen us get real rain — 2-inches in the last couple of days as the rain goes on for hours on end. With the rain has come a “the planet is on fire” temperature of about 50º (plus or minus a couple). In the mountains, the temperature is much, MUCH, colder as they are getting hammered with snow. Yep, it is mid-August and the mountain passes have chain law requirements due to all the snow.

So, how does this impact me as a home owner?

Well, thanks to some quality ground packing when the building was constructed, my front step w/ walk and most of my patio are literally falling away from the building as the ground beneath it is sinking. This has also caused the added effect of changing the drainage around the place so that there’s now standing water in places where there shouldn’t be. Further, one of the ground drains appears to be clogged (looks like it is full of grass clippings).

So far, this doesn’t really impact me, but after talking to Alaska-K (who was out getting his mail), I decided to have a peek in my basement just to make sure no water came up from beneath the structure. No problems there, but there was a small amount of water coming in from the basement window. This was because the escape well had a good 2-inches of water in it, which put the water level right at the bottom of the window.

Nice.

Fortunately, there was a lull in the rain and so I had to come up with a solution to keep the next rain shower (which radar shows is on the way) from filling the well up again. I just happened to have some plastic, which I used to cover the well grate and hopefully, that’ll keep most of the water out.

Come Monday, the HOA and I will have to have a little chat about the drainage problem. Granted, these kind of rain events are rare for Colorado, but they do happen and next time, I want to make sure the water is drained away properly. At the same time, I want to see what they are going to do about the patio and step falling away. They’ve already mud-jacked it a couple of times according to my information (obviously before I lived there) and another mud-jacking would simply be another band-aid, but better than nothing.

AstroNerdBoy: Home Owner 09

AstroNerdBoy vs. the Swallows

I like birds for the most part. Yeah, the bird crap on the side walks or on cars can be annoying, but there’s just something cool about birds. Maybe it is because they can fly.

Every spring and summer, the swallows come and build their mud nests all over the place. I never paid them much attention in the past when I lived in various apartment complexes. I’d see their nests and the piles of bird poop, but it wasn’t any big deal. Now that I own my place, I have to pay attention to where the birds build a nest.

While it may not be common, swallows who build one of their mud nests over an exterior sprinkler head will sometimes causes those sprinklers to go off. Not only would that destroy their nest and kill the baby birds, it would also cause major problems for myself and potentially the other residence in my condo building.

My neighbor Alaska-K and I were talking about this very thing when I moved in and the need to make sure the swallows don’t build a nest on the fire sprinkler (I think there’s a code issue as well). So I make sure to check my patio where the sprinkler head is on a regular basis since I know these little birds can build a nest in no time.

One pair of swallows built a nest up under a ledge of my condo, but because they weren’t harming anything, I left them alone. However, they decided to tell some of their swallow friends, “Yo! This dude has a cool place. Someone should come over and build a nest on his exterior fire suppression sprinkler.” So, a couple of swallows decided to do just that. Every day for a week, the swallows would build the base of their nest. Every morning, I’d knock it down and then hose down the area to clean up the last of the mud from the sprinkler and the wall.

Needless to say, the swallows weren’t to happy with me. By day three, they brought all their friends over and chirped angrily. Well, I can understand them being upset, but it is time for them to move on for both our good. By day four, I wondered how long this little war between myself and the swallows would keep up. Since they were angrily chirping again and flying all around, I decided that maybe they’d get the message if I played a little “Duck Hunt,” using my water hose nozzle instead of a game controller gun. That proved pretty entertaining, especially when they’d fly right into the line of fire. However, I needed to get some sleep so I didn’t play with the birds for very long.

Day six came and sure enough, the swallows had started another nest. I performed my usual nest removal procedure and made plans to erect something that would prevent the swallows from reaching the sprinkler, but would not interfere with the sprinkler in case of fire. Day seven came and I was amazed at what I found — no new nest attempt. A week later, still no new nest attempts. I won.

I’m still going to have to look into getting something to be a barrier to swallows trying to access the sprinkler head. I remember seeing something using chicken wire (or the like) when I was house hunting but I’ll see what options are available.

This little episode is another one of those little things that a home owner has to deal with. *chuckle* However, I’m more than happy to deal with it if it means I own my own place. ^_^

AstroNerdBoy: Home Owner 08

Part of the fun of owning a condo is having a Home Owners Association to take care of certain aspects of things, such as mowing the grass, painting the buildings, or dealing with the sewage.

When our condominium complex was built, for whatever reason, grinder pits (also known as “grinder pumps”) were installed at ever building. For those that don’t know, these are big tanks that store your sewage. Once the tank gets to a certain level, the grinders turn everything in the tank into slurry and it is then pumped to the main sewer line in the street. That can be quite a ways away, depending on how far a building is from the street (the roads through the complex do not currently have sewage lines).

Regardless of the reason a proper sewage system wasn’t put into place, the grinder pits cost us home owners a lot, somewhere on the order of $80,000 a year. That’s a lot of money that our association fees cover. Plus, these things can malfunction, which is why we are told that if the big, red “fire engine” light goes off, we are to call the number on the sign at the grinder pit immediately. Some units have had sewage back up into their basement when the grinder pits fail.

As such, the HOA decided to install a proper, gravity sewage system on the complex. They took bids and as these things go, the low bid won. An HOA meeting was held Monday evening with the contractor making a presentation on the work to be done over the next few months to convert us off the grinder pits to the gravity sewers. I think the thing that surprised me most was how few home owners even bothered to show. Discounting the members of the HOA and their spouses, there were only about 10 of us there. One would think that major construction on the property would have brought out a lot more people.

Regardless, things won’t be quite as bad as we feared. The city is requiring the contractor to fill in the trenches down the roads through the complex that they dig up to install sewage lines at the end of each work day. So for the section currently under construction, those garages will not be accessible from 08:00 until about 17:00. After that, people can use their garages again until the following morning. Also, there will be no work done on weekends and each section should be done in 2-3 days, meaning those garages won’t be blocked again until it is time to repave all the drives that weave through the complex.

So, the next few months will be interesting for the complex. I imagine a lot of angry people showing up once construction starts considering how few people came to the meeting.

AstroNerdBoy: Home Owner 07

This past weekend, my parents came up to check out my new place. More importantly, my dad agreed to help me with a few projects that needed doing. The catch was that (1) I had to take them to lunch and (2) I’d be doing most of the work as Dad would supervise and assist when needed. No problem on either account.

The biggest project took place in the basement with the installation of a new light socket. Prior to Saturday, there were only two (the basement being unfinished) — one in the center of the room from the base of the stairs and one to the right to illuminate the water heater, furnace, and A/C. On the left side was darkness and that’s where the movers stashed a good many of my boxes. So, installing a light there would make it easier to find things.

We had to run wiring from the right light across the basement to the left since the center light was feeding power to the right light. Putting up the box for the socket was no problem, but running the wire across the room ended up being more trouble than initially thought. This was partially due to the fact that we were running the wire alongside water and gas pipes. While that in and of itself wouldn’t be too bad, some of the knock-out plugs in the beams (designed just for running wires through) hadn’t been properly cut and thus we had to drill through. Working the drill in such tight quarters with the fire sprinkler system and the outdoor gas feed was a bit tricky.

However, I made it through and and began wiring the socket in the new box. This meant using wire strippers for the first time, to say nothing of carefully cutting open the casing bundling the hot, cold, and ground wires. Once secured and installed, it was time to connect the wiring to the right light. I’ve never worked with electrical stuff before, so even though Dad killed the lights and I verified no juice came into the socket, I remained a bit nervous about handling the wiring. I soon overcame that and eventually got the new wires connected in with the old. Dad flicked on the switch, and there was light everywhere. I made happy, pig-squealing noises. ^_^

Leaving the cleanup for later, Dad and I worked on other projects including correcting a problem with the deadbolt, fixing a problem with the master bath’s tub drain, installing some new blinds in my bedroom (which was more annoying than difficult), repairing damaged molding on my entertainment center, and repairing a damaged rocker (part of a set that my parents rescued from a barn years ago and restored). A productive Saturday to say the least.

Growing up as a kid, I had no interest in learning to do any of this stuff because I didn’t care about it. As an adult, I have an interest because I have my own place. I’m thankful to Dad for being willing to teach me all these years later. I learned a lot from doing these little projects and I think Dad was pretty happy to see his oldest son not only own a house (which I know my mom is happy about) but willing to learn to do things for himself. ^_^

AstroNerdBoy: Home Owner 06

With warmer weather coming, it is only natural that I’d start using the A/C more, especially since (1) I sleep during the day and (2) the bedroom, which is upstairs, is as much as 10° warmer as the 1st floor. So that meant making some adjustments, including purchasing a couple of additional large, portable swamp coolers (both for the white noise, the extra humidity, and cooling factor as the air blows over me while I sleep) and that helped. When the A/C came on, the air was also sent through the swamp cooler and the bedroom cooled down nicely resulting in the bedroom being cooler than the 1st floor (where the thermostat is). When the A/C is off, the bedroom is only a few degrees warmer than the first floor when the A/C comes back on.

Still, there was an issue with the A/C itself in that the unit began freezing up. That meant that I either had a coolant shortage or the coils were dirty. So I called the company who initially installed the unit and scheduled an appointment for this afternoon. When I got up this afternoon, I checked the vents and the air flow happened to be weak. So I switched the unit to fan-mode with no A/C to start the thawing process.

When the tech arrived, we went down to the basement to check the unit and both the primary and backup drain pipes were dribbling water. He discovered that they’d been installed improperly and since his company was at fault, he fixed that for no charge. The tech’s first thought was that the coils would be dirty. He was wrong. So it was time to check the refrigerant level. The valve covers were barely on and when there was a definite coolant shortage,
he figured that was the cause. So a pound of refrigerant later, we turned the unit back on and wa-la! It is working.

So after signing up for the bi-yearly plan to have the unit checked, cleaned, etc. as well as provide a discount on parts and labor, the tech wanted to make sure everything was OK. However, the unit had shut off and so I hit the override to turn the temp down more. The fan kicked on but the A/C never actually back came on. Nice. After a complete check of the electrical, it turned out the connector switch was the cause. He was manually able to kick the unit on, but I didn’t want to take a chance. I wanted a new switch installed and of course, the tech was more than happy to oblige (more billing time).

When all was said and done, my bank account finds itself lower, but my condo now cools much, much better. Just part of the joys of home ownership, but hey, I wouldn’t change a thing. ^_^

One More Day

Well, there’s only one more day until M-Day. I am REALLY glad I took the time I did to do everything. Seriously, I needed all seven days to properly pack and get ready. All that’s left for tomorrow is the breakdown of my main computer, the breakdown of my main stereo and video equipment, the final load of clothes to be washed, the packing of the last wardrobe box, and the packing of all the personal hygiene stuff as well as the few audio tapes and CD’s I left out to have background noise. Oh, I guess there are a few drinks in the fridge, so obviously they’ll get packed.

Despite having gotten rid of a lot of stuff when I moved into my apartment, I’m still amazed at how many boxes of stuff I have. I’m thankful I have a basement in my new place, because most of the boxed stuff stuff is going down there short-term. The only things not going to the basement will be the multiple boxes for kitchen objects, my box of Japanese study materials, the wardrobes, and the computers.

Whew. I guess I’ll write on the flip side when I once again have Internet access.

AstroNerdBoy: Home Owner 05

Today started off early and by 08:00, I had a call from the guys coming to do my air vents that they’d be a half-hour late (09:30 instead of 09:00). That was fine as long as they came in the morning. I packed up all my pictures (I didn’t like how the movers handled them last time), an ice chest full of freezer stuff, and a few other things and headed for my condo.

I stopped by Lowes (I think I should get a sponsorship from them) to pick up a new disposal. I hadn’t done any research on these things, and I immediately regretted my ignorance on the subject, to say nothing of costs. Still, I had to get a new disposal and so I chose a model that was about $200, super-silent, heavy duty, etc. I picked up a small carton of plumbers putty (think Play-Doh) and made it to the condo, where Gonza soon arrived to help me install the sucker. It took a little under 2-hours, but it is pretty sweet and so quiet, both Gonza and myself weren’t sure it was even on and working right when we tested it out. It was.

Just as Gonza left, the guys from the air duct company finally arrived. They couldn’t get a hold of me because they couldn’t reach my cell phone (they had the wrong number, even though I tried to tell them when they’d called previously). Further, they thought they were coming to clean my carpets. *sigh* However, once everything got squared away, they did their thing, using a rotating brush and a massive vacuum to get all the stuff out of the air ducts. The cleaning guys said my ducts were mostly not too bad, though a couple were really bad, which is likely what the inspector cited way back when. Still, when they showed me what they got out (big stuff), it looked like a fair amount to me and I’m glad its not in my air ducts.

So, as I see it, that’s the final thing I need to do before the actual move. *shudder* I can’t wait for that to be over.

AstroNerdBoy: Home Owner 04

Monday ended up getting spent not packing. The cleaning company was supposed to come out that morning, but, “Oops!” They wrote down the correct day but not the correct date. So, they didn’t show up until noon. As such, I was able to head to Lowes, when the spring snow kicked in big time. Man! Still, I scored a new 6-foot ladder, some bulbs, a new mini blind, a push broom, some bathroom caulk, and more.

I returned to the condo and emptied ice bucket again, as required for the new fridge. It was then that I noticed that the disposal was leaking (and indeed, Clint was kind enough to show me later where the crack was, having formerly been a plumber). Nice. Being a home owner sure is expensive. *lol*

Clint from the cleaning crew arrived and got to work on my windows. I got to say, they look pretty sweet now, almost new. His wife and their hired lady arrived an hour later and began work on cleaning. On the surface, the place didn’t look too bad, but that was only on the surface. The window sills were a nightmare. There was massive grease residue on top of all the cabinets around the stove (likely they’d never been cleaned since the unit was built). There were signs of all kinds of spills. Then there were signs where someone had taken and ruined the surface of some shelves and the bar by scrubbing them with a metal scrubber. Just wild.

Four hours and $250 later, they were done. At that moment, I wished I could just teleport all my stuff into the place, but alas, that’s not to be. *sigh* I hate moving.

Today, I picked up some drapes for my bedroom (or rather I went to Penny’s and ordered them). Fortunately, my mom gave me a bit of a crash course on drape purchases (which I figured I might as well do since the rod was already installed) both over e-mail and on the phone. Still, rather than order online, I wanted to see drapes in person as this was something I’d never considered purchasing before. They didn’t have any thermal drapes (which was my mom’s suggestion) but they did have samples which showed why they work well at blocking light (good if you are a day sleeper) and so forth. I ended up ordering some, which will be sent to the store, thus saving me on shipping costs. Yay me!

Next week — the air duct cleaning and the installation of two sets of mini-blinds. ^_^;

AstroNerdBoy: Home Owner 03

More fun on the new home front. Monday was spent at the condo. On the plus side, the new dishwasher was installed with no problems. Yay! The new fridge went in nicely as well. It is amazing how much more space a 25.3 cubic foot fridge has over a 23.x cubic foot one. That’s a nice thing. Because the thing ships with the inner shelves and other things not attached, I got to take a little time to become more familiar with the unit. That’s why when it started making weird noises, I found a Styrofoam piece that was blocking the ice maker.

The cleaning company came by. They estimated a 6-hour job and $250 price tag. But everything will be nice and clean for when I move in, including the windows (which was the biggest thing for me).

Mr. D and Mr. N came by to get the washer and dryer. Mr. D bribed the refrigerator delivery guys to haul down the washing machine for him. I got to say, having that strap system where they sling a couple of straps from a harness’s they two men wear under the unit to haul it away is pretty nifty. When Mr. D and Mr. N strapped the dryer to a dolly, it was a chore to get it down the stairs and onto Mr. N’s truck. No such problem with the harness rig.

On a side note, the dryer kicked out $1.57 as it was moved out. I’m not sure what the guy who lived in teh condo before was doing with money in the dryer. Maybe he was literally trying to launder money. ^_~

As for the bad, DirecTV’s subcontracted company didn’t show up to scope out the place for the dish installation. So I called DirecTV and ended up on hold for 30-minutes. When someone finally got on, they ended up putting me back on hold for several minutes. By the time they got back, my already weak battery died. I had to call back on Tuesday, where the sub-company told me, “We don’t come out unless its to install.”

“You can’t install until you come out and tell me what you are going to do so I can tell the HOA,” I replied.

We went back and forth a few times until I said, “Fine. I guess I don’t get DirecTV then.”

Well, that brought a change from the man on the phone, who immediately said they’d get someone out there. I haven’t heard that yet, so I don’t know if it happened or not. I’m still debating on whether to continue my service or not. Its not like I watch that much TV and it would save me however much a month to not have the service (I wouldn’t get cable either).

Anyway, next week the place gets cleaned and the air ducts cleaned. The movers have been scheduled and packing proceeds. The nice thing is that I have less stuff to move this time (a little more furniture though) as I no longer have the massive VHS collection and I’ve gotten rid of so many boxes of books. I can’t wait until the move is over though.