We recently shared some scary photos of water damage to a rental property, along with a stern admonition to be sure your tenants change the filters and avoid the really fancy, sensitive ones. Little did we know that it was just the beginning of our air conditioning issues. And those issues point to a larger issue of keeping tabs on workmanship in the properties we rehabilitate. Take our Bobcat Lair as an example, and take plumbing before we even talk about air conditioners.
Bobcat. Will You Ever Be Finished?
Well, the answer to that is probably no, but Anita and I have been finishing off the punch list ourselves, other than a few items we just can’t do. While we could scrape the large mounds of drywall compound out of our tub and remove the purple PVC adhesive from its surface (only dulled the finish a BIT to use acetone), we could not make the tub actually WORK. You see, the Previous Plumber had managed to lose the handle to the extremely fancy faucet, so we could not fill it with water. And, as I’ve mentioned before, the the Previous Plumber installed the tub with the drain and its access panel in FRONT of the tub, rather than at the rear against the wall. To make matters worse, I was informed that it was fine; I was just being a picky client, and that most tubs are installed that way (just none that I have ever seen in magazines, books, television shows, or in person).
Eventually, a different plumber finally showed up to address these issues. New Plumber went to move the tub surround to the rear (so that the plastic access panel was at least in the back), when he realized that the pipe from the tub overflow to the main drain was just resting in place, not glued in. If someone had tried to take a bath and sat in the tub, it would have slipped down and caused a flood. Wow, thank goodness that faucet handle was missing! He and Anita managed to get that fixed, and the tub now looks OK. The faucet stream barely makes it into the tub, but that’s fine. It doesn’t leak.
The guy then looked at our dishwasher, which smelled bad and appeared to tilt forward. Well, it smelled bad because Previous Plumber, or whoever installed it, hadn’t unblocked the drain from the waste disposal part of the dishwasher. I guess they hadn’t tested it to be sure it worked right. That explained the smelly food just hanging out in the drain pan. New Plumber called it a “rookie mistake.” We like New Plumber.
I began to think to myself that if these two simple items were not done correctly, what else might be wrong?
I’ll Tell You What Was Wrong
A couple of days after the plumber’s visit, I came home to the Bobcat Lair and found the upstairs much warmer than the downstairs. Hmm, could the brand-new air conditioning system already be broken? We hadn’t even used it long enough to have to change the filter yet!
Anita and I checked the circuit breaker, ascertained that the outside unit was fanning away, and didn’t see any other signs, so we called the HVAC contractor who installed it originally, who showed up the next day to look into it. Not too long afterward, he came to us, all hot and sweaty, because he’d been in the attic. He waved a fairly disgusting air conditioning filter at us and said, “This is your problem. This filter has never been changed since the unit was installed.” HVAC Guy then looked in the unit right outside our office. It also looked horrible. He’d told the GC to be sure to change the filters before we moved in, because they were full of construction dust, but apparently that hadn’t happened. We had planned to change the filter September 1, after we’d been here three months.
Note that I said “filter.” That’s because no one had told us there was also one up in the blazing hot attic that also needed to be changed. We had looked all over the house, and the one near the office was the only one I’d seen.
But wait, there is more! HVAC Guy said our unit was all frozen up and dripping due to the filter being clogged. That made sense; we really should have checked. But, where was it dripping? For that matter, where was the functional one dripping? We looked outside. Ah, there’s a drain. A totally dry one. I remembered that it used to drip. So, HVAC Guy unclogged it, and it’s now happily removing condensation water, as it should.
However, we could NOT find the drain for the upstairs unit. I remembered there was one before the renovation started, but could not remember where. Suddenly the HVAC Guy stopped and sucked in his breath, peering at what he saw in his flashlight. He said, “Look at that hole. The pipe should exit there. All I see is a piece of wood.” I started to feel faint. I then saw drips along the edge of the roof. The unit was draining into my ceiling and no doubt my walls. That is NOT good.
HVAC Guy went back up into the attic. Sure enough, whoever had built the soffit that holds the light fixtures above our new shelves had just cut off the drain pipe so they could put in a 2×4 to support the unit. Was water dripping into my light fixtures? The ones I use EVERY DAY? Was a huge collection of black mold growing in my ceiling? I thought these were good questions.
Dodged a Bullet
So, on Sunday, of all days, poor HVAC Guy was back up there, having been assigned to do the repair, even though he had not caused the problem. As you can see in the picture, there’s a nice drain there now! And a hole where the drain used to be (which Anita and I will seal). We got a good mold report, and no one was electrocuted. However, to say that I am disappointed is an understatement. (By the way, after I originally wrote this, the plant hanger on the interior wall behind the white drain pipe fell off, even though we’d used anchor bolts and it wasn’t heavy. Yep, the wall was wet. We’re waiting to let things dry out before seeing what needs to be repaired.)
It is very important that whoever is in charge of a project stands by their work and the work of their subcontractors. Doing things right in the first place is always the best plan, and that requires adequate supervision. If mistakes do occur, it is only right to admit them and make things right. Those of us who serve as our own general contractors need to inspect work often and be able to tell when things are done wrong, so that the clients don’t find out later after a disaster occurs. Of course, we, as the project managers/owners also need to be vigilant. Inspect your projects OFTEN, no matter how much you trust the people working on your house, because no project is without mix-ups. Just hope for small, inexpensive ones.
We’ll be finishing the rest of this project ourselves. Next, I installed a doorbell that actually works, since the previous one was somehow rendered non-functional when installed.Hermann says please like and share!