Electrolytic Rust Removal

So I decided to try an experiment last weekend. I obtained some old rusted outdoor metal chairs that needed to be stripped of rust, primed and painted. After looking online for various methods of rust removal I found something called Electrolytic Rust Removal. It sounds a bit crazy electricity and water are always said to be major no no’s. This is a relatively simple solution compared to hours of grinding and sanding.

The setup is fairly simple: prepare a conductive solution bath for your object (I used washing soda [1 teaspoon per pint of H2O]) in an inert (plastic) bucket/tub, submerge object and clamp it in place, clamp steel rebar in the solution (make sure it doesn’t touch your object), connect the positive end of you battery charger to the rebar and the negative end to your object and watch as the electrolytic process removes the rust with no effort. Once you are satisfied with the results clean off the object and you will be amazed how the rust just flakes off.



Bookshelf and Book Organization

After purchasing a giant eight foot by eight foot handmade bookshelf when we were moving I finally got around to securing it to the wall. Now you would think this would be an easy enough task, but this wall is plaster on brick with no gap. I discovered this after drilling a hole for an anchor screw. So I went back to the orange depot and picked up some masonry screws so I could attach my bracket directly to the brick. The process went fairly smoothly after that and the support seems to be working, but I’m not sure it can hold too much more weight. Now all I have to do is patch two small holes and this project is done (or so I thought).

As soon as the bookcase was secured it was time put our books on it. I immediately began organizing by subject matter novels on one shelf, philosophy books on another, etc... My better half had a different idea, thus the beautifully organized by color bookcase. It really looks great and once we fill the rest of the spots with art and what not I think it will look even better. Now all I need to do is remember what the color of the spine of Bloodsucking Fiends is.

Torrential Downpour

During the torrential downpour last week I decided it would be a good idea to look around my basement and make sure it was dry. It’s a good thing I did because I found some water coming in at the base of the basement door and at the back corner of the utility room. Looks like I need to make some repairs. First I need to replace the old door sill and threshold with some pressure treated wood and sealant. Second I need to patch the leak in the brick in the utility room.

Fixing a Leaky Claw Foot Tub

After moving all of our stuff into the house I was in dire need of a hot shower. I turned on the faucet to my claw foot tub to find two disparaging facts. One there is no hot water and two my tub is leaking. The hot water issue I was able to deal with by getting Washington Gas to turn my gas back on (not sure why they shut it off and neither are they). The leaky tub issue was mitigated with a drip pan until I was able to get over to the hardware store and pick up some plumbers tape. Turns out the plumber that installed the tub didn’t use any tape to secure the connections. Now the water is hot and the bathroom floor is bone dry.

Washington History - House Reports

So I haven’t made it over to the Recorder of Deeds or the Office of the Surveyor yet, but I did contact Kelsey & Associates, Inc. for a free estimate. The company produces a historical report of your house which includes information about the construction, the architect, the block and the neighborhood. I submitted their online form and provided them with the information I currently have (the names of the last three owners). The house was just renovated and flipped to me, but the owner before that bought the place in 1975 and owned it until it was foreclosed on in February of 2009. I also know the name of the owner that sold the house in 1975, but not when they purchased the home.

After looking at the free sample histories on their site I was interested to find out how much it all cost. The samples looked really great and thorough.

Sample House Histories
712 East Capitol Street, N.E., Washington, DC (2 mb)
2436 Eutaw Place, Reservoir Hill, Baltimore City (6 mb)

I just received a response from Kelsey & Associates, Inc.:

“I know your block well, and believe there is much to uncover. We complete the extensive research phase using deeds, census, city directories permits, and other sources to compose the written history, fully cited. One of our latest abilities is to attempt to locate living relatives of the early owners - ones that usually have family photographs and stories about the house that rarely if ever make it into the public archives. It's quite amazing what level of detail is now available through various subscription services such as the Washington Post, etc.

We would be happy to research and write your house history for $600. It takes about 5-6 weeks for completion”.

I would love to get such a detailed history about my house and block, but I’m not sure I want to pay $600 right now. Maybe I can see how hard it is to do some of my own research first.

One Project Closer - $100 HD Giveaway

One Project Closer is at it again with another giveaway. Go check it out if you’re still trying to figure out what to get dear old dad for father's day. This time it’s a $100 gift certificate for HD. We all know we can easily spend a hundred bucks at the big orange depot.


Time for a Little History

Now that I’m the owner of a 1919 D.C. row house I’ve become a bit interested in discovering the history of the house. I think I’m going to try and make my way down to the district’s deeds and surveyor's office and see what I can find out.

Recorder of Deeds

515 D Street, NW

Washington DC 20001

(202) 727-5374
Office of the Surveyor

941 North Capitol Street, NE, Suite 2700

Washington, DC 20002

(202) 442-4566

I’m also interested in maintaining the original features of the house and came across and interesting site that has lots of useful info for old home owners. The National Parks Services Historic Preservation Internship Training Program provides a series of Preservation Briefs that provide guidance on preserving, rehabilitating and restoring historic buildings.

Insurance Appraisal vs Home Appraisal

So I signed up for homeowners insurance at the time of my purchase and while I was arranging everything I asked if they wanted or needed a copy of the home appraisal. They said there would be no need they trusted me as a long time valued customer blah blah blah (I have my auto insurance, checking and savings accounts and a credit card with them).

Then last week I got a call from an insurance appraisal company asking to arrange a time to see the place in order to validate the information I provided for my homeowners insurance. I'm a bit confused and offer to send my appraisal over in an attempt to have one less thing for me to do, but no they require this additional appraisal. At least I don't have to directly pay for it, but still I have to make my house available to someone to walk through, measure, check boxes and jot down notes. If I was this insurance company I would save myself some money and use the home appraisal.

Its a No Go on the Half Bath

So I've been getting central air conditioning estimates from several vendors, but I'm not ready to make a decision on that so I will have a follow up post on that. The downside of this process besides the high cost of the estimates is that it has come to my attention that I wont be able to add a half bath to the main floor. The space I was planning on using is too small to meet code. This means we will have to start thinking about adding a basement bathroom. Possibly using a Saniflo macerating system. I'm still exploring other options, but as far as I can tell from the internets this is one of the best options if I don't want to rip open my concrete floor.

Save on Your Electric Bill Go Green with Wind Power

If you live in Maryland or DC you can go 50% or 100% wind power and save money. Clean Currents is a clean energy broker/aggregator and they offer the Chesapeake Green (C-Green) program. It’s a new carbon neutral electricity option for people in the Chesapeake region. C-Green combines standard electricity from the Mid Atlantic grid (the PJM grid) with Renewable Energy Credits (“RECs” or “green tags”) from wind farms situated across the United States, bundled together and supplied by Washington Gas Energy Services, a licensed retail energy supplier in MD and DC. This bundled product helps fight global warming by offsetting the carbon emissions from your electricity use with clean, renewable wind power.

Chesapeake Green current rates are lower than Pepco AND BGE's Summer rates!

All you need is your Pepco or BGE account number! (Note: If you don't know your account number, you can find out by calling Pepco at 202-833-7500 or BGE at 1-800-685-0123.)

Some Good Luck – I’m a Homeowner!

Shepherd St HouseSo I paid off the card, my loan got approved and now I’m broke, but at least I’m a homeowner! I sat down, signed and initialed on the dotted line several times and handed over a large sum of money. As a result I now own a little square of land. I’m so excited! The house purchasing process was very stressful, but in the end it went smoothly.

View the Slideshow »

One Block Off the Grid

1BOG (One Block Off the Grid) seems like a pretty cool organization. They get groups of people together who want to get solar energy, and gets them a huge discount by purchasing in bulk. The DC numbers are increasing so this is a great time to sign up to take advantage of the group discount.

In their own words:

"We are a nationwide, community-based program that organizes residents locally and negotiates group discounts with solar energy installers in your city, using a comprehensive vendor selection process. As a group we are more knowledgeable about solar, more powerful, and we can make a difference."


Some Bad Luck

Ok I have the worst possible luck. I sent in my loan app to my lender last week and they came back with a few stipulations (verify this and verify that etc…), but for the most part they said everything looked fine and we should be cleared to close once these stipulations are met. So I’m excited thinking this thing is pretty much in the bag. I just have to wait a few more days and I’ll be signing on the dotted line.

Oh poor naive me. Practically at the eleventh hour I find out I have to either pay off my credit card or come up with another 20k for my down payment. Of course I’m freaking out thinking how have we gotten this far and no one noticed that my DTI was out of whack. It turns out my credit card company uses a zero minimum payment, but the lender/mortgage insurance company can’t put a zero down. They are supposed to put 5% of the debt on the card which throws off my DTI just enough to make sure I won’t qualify for the loan without it being paid off in full. Not the end of the world, but the extra cash I had saved for installing HVAC system is now going to have to pay off my credit card.

So, easy enough, right? All I have to do is pay off the card and get a letter from my card company saying it’s paid in full. Except before I found all this out I lost my wallet (insert expletive here). Of course I immediately reported my cards lost and had new ones issued, but when I got to work on Monday the cards had not been issued yet and I couldn’t pay off the card until the new account was created. I’m trying to close the beginning of next week so this only gives me this week to finalize my approval. Wish me luck; I’m going to need it.

Appraisals are a Total Scam

The whole appraisal process is a total scam. I pay a guy $400 to checkout my house and compare it to other recent sales in the neighborhood, but all I get back is the exact price I’m purchasing the property for. In my opinion this guy is playing it safe and is just writing down the price I’m paying because that’s the easiest answer. If I was a lender or a mortgage insurance company I would be highly suspicious of an appraisal that was equal to the exact purchase price. Hopefully the DC tax assessment will provide a more accurate appraised value and will get me closer to 20% equity in the house and help me put an end to mortgage insurance.

The one good thing about the appraisal process is that I get a rough floor plan.

The Conditioned Response

I just received the seller's response to my conditions.

Here are the agreed upon conditions:
  • Snake out slow drain in upper level bathroom

  • Correct overfused circuits

  • Ground three ungrounded outlets

  • Install operational smoke alarms

  • Install TPR valve on boiler

  • Service boiler & reduce water pressure

  • Repair basement staircase handrail

  • Install window at bottom of upper level skylight

  • Repair soap dispenser on dishwasher

  • Fully insulate attic by blowing loose-fill insulation In lieu of blown insulation the seller will provide a $600 credit toward insulation of the attic

He agreed to almost everything!!!! Except for the attic insulation I got everything I was hoping for. And I really didn't expect anything for the attic, but he offered me a $600 credit which isn't too bad.

Now I just need to get the appraisal back and my loan approved.

Home Inspection Notice

I just sent in my home inspection notice to the seller. Hopefully he’ll sign on the dotted line and I’ll be one step closer to being a home owner.

Here are my conditions:
  • Snake out slow drain in upper level bathroom

  • Correct overfused circuits

  • Ground three ungrounded outlets

  • Install operational smoke alarms

  • Install TPR valve on boiler

  • Service boiler & reduce water pressure

  • Repair basement staircase handrail

  • Install window at bottom of upper level skylight

  • Fully insulate attic by blowing loose-fill insulation

  • Repair soap dispenser on dishwasher

I think these are all totally reasonable requests. I really hope he takes care of the insulation that would be awesome and save me about $1200 bucks.

Inspection Report

Look no insulationSo, the inspection went pretty well! The seller will only have to fix some minor stuff (e.g. dishwasher soap dispenser, replace some 20 amp circuits with 15 amp ones, ground a few outlets, etc…). Maybe I’ll be able to get him to add some spray insulation in the attic since there is none there.

Two other things came up in this inspection. First, my neighbor’s power lines are attached to my house. Now I’m going to need to have the power company come out and move them and I’m sure they are going to get to that right away. Second, I wanted to convert a closet on the main floor into a small half bath, but the sewer line is nowhere near there. I think I’m going to have to tear up my concrete basement floor to do it.

Let me just say I was prepared for the worst with this inspection. I was waiting for him to come down off the roof and say “well it looks like you’re going to needed a whole new roof.” But none of that happened. The only thing that did surprise me was the realization of how much more some projects are going to cost me.

Next up appraisal and seller fixes.

The Contract is Ratified

Shepherd St HouseThe contract has been ratified and now all I need is an inspection, appraisal and a loan. But that should be easy, right?

A little bit about the house. It is a Washington DC Colonial Rowhouse located in Petworth and was built in 1919. It has three upstairs bedrooms, a full bathroom upstairs and an unfinished basement. The house had some upkeep done to it (refinished floors and molding, new appliances: fridge/oven/dishwasher/washer/dryer/boiler/breakers, new bathroom fixtures).

View the Slideshow »

Original Listing Description: Fantastic tree lined street. House has just been Freshly Redecorated & shows well. This front porch colonial is in pristine & move in condition. Features - original Stained wood work & Hardwood Floors, 3 good size b'r's, new appls, W/ D, updated bath w original claw leg tub, full unfinished bsmt, & Parking.