Archive for the 'Home Maintenance' Category
Mulching the gardens is a spring tradition here at the Bergquist house. We don’t have a very large lot, but have more than our share of garden space. Each of the past two years we have added large gardens to a portion of the yard that was formerly shaded by a large tree.
Once upon a time we could load up bags of mulch at the Home Improvement Superstore and haul them home. We had sufficiently few gardens to make that a reasonable exercise. And we had a suitably large vehicle to carry it all. Both sides of the equation have changed and we now need to have a dump truck bring in the mulch.
This leads to the annual debate about how much mulch we need to buy. Mulch is sold in units of cubic yards – or “yards” for short. The challenge is to translate the mulch need into an appropriate number of “yards” so that we can speak the same language as the mulch people.
Fortunately, there are mulch calculators on the internet that will help you figure it out. Start with the number of square feet of gardens you wish to cover. Next decide how deep you want the mulch to be. It will tell you how many “yards” to order (or bags to buy).
Amy wanted the mulch to be three inches deep this year since last year we had gotten too little. But she quickly realized that three inches was too much. Needless to say, we have way more mulch than we need. Yet she somehow made it all disappear in the lot … I’m still not sure where it went.
The other day I encountered a tree that was growing into the nearby garage. It’s difficult to see from the picture, but the branch is actually growing around the gutter and is beginning to dent it. Not an ideal situation, and presumably it will only get worse.
Maybe I watched a little too much college basketball over the past month, but my first thought was to wonder if this is a blocking foul or a charge.
The garage clearly established its position, and was run into by the tree – so a charging foul on the tree?
But the tree is almost certainly older than the garage, and likely much older since it has a trunk diameter of four or more feet. So from the tree’s perspective, has the garage slid in at the last second and not really established position? Blocking on the garage?
We also should consider whether the garage established position in the restricted area (the semi-circle under the hoop on a basketball court), in this case too close to the trunk of the tree, which would mean it’s automatically a blocking foul on the garage.
I think the garage is clearly at fault here. And that it’s a good thing March Madness is over.
We’ve covered the Historic Homes Rehabilitation Tax Credit a few times on the site. This week there is an opportunity to learn about it in person at a live event put together by the Architectural History and Resources Committee of the West End Civic Association.
Join us at the Connecticut Historical Society on Tuesday, April 9th, 2013 at 7:00. The event will feature a presentation by Mary Dunne of the State Historic Preservation Office about the tax credit program and the process for applying. There will also be homeowners present who have been through the process already. Finally, there will be an opportunity to ask questions.
Historic Homes Rehabilitation
Tax Credit Info Session
Tuesday, April 9th, 2013
Connecticut Historical Society
1 Elizabeth Street
Hartford, CT 06105
Hope to see you there!
Every year we come up with a list of projects we need to carry out on our house in order to keep it properly maintained. We go through enough home inspections to know that we need to keep on top of maintenance issues so they don’t cause larger, more expensive problems down the line.
This year one of our projects was going to be replacing the boiler. It’s an older gas boiler that was put in at some point before we bought the house. Based on an energy audit we had performed last fall, the contractor’s recommendation was to increase our efficiency and get a new high efficiency boiler. We know several heating contractors based on our line of work, so we decided to call four of them to get their opinions on what we should be doing and installing next.
We decided to give each contractor the same spiel when they visited our house so they were on a level playing field: We’re thinking about replacing our boiler. We haven’t done much preliminary research, so we’re looking for your advice, as you’re the expert. Would you recommend either a standard model like we already have or high efficiency model? We’d like a quote for both the standard and high efficiency models. From there we’ll do some additional research and let you know what we decide to do.
Contractor #1 was a sales rep for the heating contractor. He said our decision was a no-brainer, we should replace our current unit with a high efficiency model. They have been doing lots of conversions and the amount clients were saving on heating costs was phenomenal. He told us that the high efficiency unit needed no annual maintenance and would last us 20 or 30 years.
Contractor #2 was the owner of the company and an actual plumber. He asked us if we were having problems with our current boiler. We said we were not, but we felt it was old and not necessarily efficient. He said it looked like it had been well maintained and he didn’t think the unit was that old. He didn’t think we would get much additional efficiency out of a new standard model, maybe a 5% improvement. He also didn’t recommend going with a high efficiency model because he felt they are unreliable, require maintenance which can be expensive and last only around 10 years. He said the cast iron boiler we have could easily last until it was 35-40 years old if we continued to maintain it well. He gave us the serial number off the unit and said we could call the manufacturer to find out its exact age, but reiterated that his recommendation was to do nothing with our current boiler as long as we weren’t having issues with it. We would be wasting our money otherwise.
After the Contractor #2 visit we called the boiler manufacturer to find out the unit’s age. Turns out our boiler is 21 years old, so about halfway or a little more than halfway through the life quoted by Contractor #2. Good to know.
Contractor #3 was a sales rep for the heating contractor. He said if we wanted to change out the unit, it wouldn’t make sense to change it if we were going to replace it with a standard model. The efficiency savings, about 5%, wouldn’t make it worth it. He said we could change to a high efficiency unit, but because we were already on natural gas rather than heating oil, the payback would still take several years. At this point we asked him if we should be changing the boiler. We told him the unit is 21 years old, given we now knew this. He said he wouldn’t. He would maintain it and run it until it didn’t run any more.
Contractor #4 was the owner of the company and an actual plumber. He asked us what was wrong with our boiler. We said really nothing, but that it was 21 years old and we wondered if it would be worth it to update it based on efficiency. He said no, if we weren’t having problems that the unit probably had another 10-15 years left on it and to just run it into the ground.
So here we are, scratching our heads. We had every intention of replacing the boiler, but 3 out of the 4 contractors basically gave us the same advice: maintain the current unit and run it into the ground until it doesn’t work anymore. This wasn’t really the result we were expecting, but we can’t exactly say we’re unhappy with the result.
We now know there are 3 heating contractors that we would gladly recommend because they gave us truthful advice as knowledgeable professionals and didn’t try to sell us something we didn’t really need. We now don’t need to spend $10,000-$15,000 on a new high efficiency furnace and can divert the funds to something else. Finally, it reinforced something we already knew, for large projects, make sure you get multiple opinions.