Thursday, July 30, 2015

After our septic was repaired and drain field re done, I arrived a couple of days later to find that we had some visitors traveling through on the way to the river.  The earth was still loose and we hadn't had too much rain so the tracks were pretty visible to my camera phone.  Based on the page How to Identify Coyote Tracks on the Wild Life Land Trust web site, I'm going to guess we had a nice size coyote wander through.  I would like to ad that our dog's paw prints fit nicely inside of these with lots of room to spare.  They are two to three times larger than his and Onnie is a big boy.  Here are some photos of the tracks, I would love to hear any opinions about what they might be.

Why do people try to do their own electric work?  I'm not talking about basic light or fan installations.  Every home we have ever owned has had some "special" electrical anomalies.  Some were noticed by the home inspector prior to purchase and some were not.  Most were hidden in the walls where they escaped notice until they reared their ugly heads in some not so great ways (like flames shooting out from an on/off switch).  We had two different home inspections up at the river.  I interviewed several inspectors over the phone and checked reviews.  The initial inspector came with great reviews and had been in business for a long time. In his earlier years he was both a builder and contractor and now he is a home inspector.  When I interviewed him he told me the inspection would take at least 2-3 hours. He would be on the roof, under the trailer, in the sheds, checking electric, plumbing, etc.  I didn't have to be there but I wanted to ask some questions.  I highly recommend any time you are purchasing a home that you make time to meet your inspector at the home and hang around.  I was unaware that inspectors don't even need the realtors to be there anymore.  If the home is on a lock box it is fairly self service.  The inspector goes and does his thing and leaves.  Had I not been at the first inspection, I would have felt that I had received more than I asked for.  The report seemed very thorough and professionally delivered via email on preprinted forms that the inspector filled out regarding every aspect of a property.  The reality of the inspection was much different.

The inspector arrived promptly at the predetermined time.  I introduced myself and a friend that had come up to spend the day with me.  He didn't seem very happy to see us but everyone has a bad day now and then so I let it go.  As he set up his computer and got ready to begin his inspection, I asked a couple of questions which also seemed to put him off a bit.  So I tried to just relax and give him a chance to do his inspection. I would wait until later to address my concerns.  Eventually I was able to point out a couple of things that we were concerned with and he kind of blew me off.  I showed him some dust that I thought might be termite droppings and he confirmed that it was in fact termites and showed me the exit hole for the droppings.  When he was finishing up, I asked if he had indicated the termites in his report and he said "No, did you want me too?"  To be fair, he is not a termite inspector but the presence of termites would indicate that there might need to be a termite inspection.  I also showed him an area in one of the bedrooms that we thought might be evidence of a water leak.  That also was not on his report and he stated that it was termite damage. Water marks running along the ceiling were also passed off as not being anything to worry about.  I asked about the washer and dryer in the shed as I was told that would be one of the things he would check.  His reply "I saw it but didn't check it."  We walked out to the shed after I confirmed that I wanted them inspected. He tried them and said they didn't work.  Then he opened them up and said "Oh, well, it isn't even hooked up all the tubes are still inside."  The more questions I asked the more irritated he became.  He was there just a little over an hour not the several hours promised and a good part of the time there was answering my questions.  To make a long story short, we got our money back and tried again.

The second inspector got under the house, had a ladder to look on top of the house and took the time to explain everything he found at the time of inspection.  He was very happy to answer any questions, confirmed that the ceiling damage in the bedroom was water damage not termite damage (termite inspector also confirmed this fact).  There will be more on the termites later.  He also brought up the electrical issue with the trailer.  The initial inspector had noted a couple of minor problems mostly having to do with grounding in the kitchen and wiring that might wiggle and cause a  problem.  The second inspector, deferred to an electrician after checking and rechecking several outlets and noticing that a couple of breakers were "double tapped" meaning more than one item was wired into them.  There was plenty of room in the breaker box for the items to be appropriately wired they just weren't.

After a lot of phone calls and a referral from a friend, we were able to get an electrician to come out and take a look.  He felt the problem was easily fixed and gave us what seemed like a fair price. Once the closing took place the electrician was the first person we had out to do repairs.  He spent a few hours working on the place correcting the breaker box issue, grounding outlets, figuring out the specifics of the wiring and making everything safe.  He said it was impossible to get an old mobile home up to current code but that he felt he had made it safe. There was one outlet that he couldn't quite figure out. He indicated that it still was not grounded but that it was totally fine. The next day the septic company came out to redo the drain field, repair the septic reattach the plumbing. During the septic repair we found our electric anomaly.  My husband was taking the trim off of the home so the septic guys could get underneath to check the plumbing and "POW" the trailer arced.  In spite of it being a Saturday, our electrician was back out again.  Apparently, the previous owners had down some wiring of their own under the trailer and then screwed the skirt of the trailer into it.  So again, I must ask why do people do their own electric wiring?

Anyway, the point of this post is ask questions.  Ask lots of questions.  If your inspector doesn't want to answer your questions, politely send him on his way and get another inspector.  You are paying him for a service.  If your electrician says "I'm just not sure about something but it is safe" ask how he can be sure it's safe if he isn't sure about it.  There was no way he could have known that the skirt was screwed into the wiring but there was something that just wasn't right and in hind sight I should have pushed him to investigate a little further.  Fortunately, no one was hurt, but now I know to always err on the side of caution.

A friend sent this article to me about how to pick a good home inspector.  It is very informative and I would say one of the most important pieces of information in there is "ask a lot of questions."  Also, find out how many inspections your inspector does a day.  If they are pulling of several a day they aren't doing a good job.  Here is the link:  Why I Fell in Love With My Home Inspector—and How You Can, Too

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Friday was water and electric day.  Prior to purchasing our property we had a well & pump company come out and take a look at our setup and test the water for safety.  The county test showed that the well water was safe for human consumption.  However, at our one of our home inspections, the inspector had me take a look in the toilet tank and it was pretty scary.  He said that even though the water was safe, most people do not drink it unless they have a water softener system.  

At his suggestion, I had the Cullogen man come out to take a look.  He did this nifty water test to give me a visual of the hard water.  We scored a 10.  Depending on the tester, where this falls on the scale of soft to hard could have a little variance, but 10 is always going to be high or right on the edge of high.  According to the World Health Organization website (WHO.Int) on drinking water guidelines, "There does not appear to be any convincing evidence that water hardness causes adverse health effects in humans. In contrast, the results of a number of epidemiological studies have suggested that water hardness may protect against disease. However, the available data are inadequate to prove any causal association."  The Water Research Center states that calcium and magnesium are the two most common minerals that make water hard.  Drinking water may contribute to healthier levels of these minerals in your body.  So the main concern with hardness in your water is that it wrecks your hot water heater, your pipes,  and your toilet.  It also causes you to use more electricity because it takes longer to heat hard water and it costs you more in personal hygiene products because hard water makes it more difficult to get a good lather from your soap and shampoo. Clothing washed in hard water doesn't last as long and doesn't look as clean.  Hard water leaves a film on everything requiring more cleaning.  Hardness is also associated with exzema due to the increased use of soaps.  The samples below show our water as it came out of the faucet and again after a substance was added to the water to make the minerals easier to view.

Also according to the Cullogen man, our well water has a relatively high iron content at just under 2 parts per million (ppm).  Upon doing some research, 2 ppm is somewhat acceptable.  At 3 ppm water discoloration, smell, taste and laundry are effected.  Clothes may not get white.  If using water for your lawn, washing your car, etc.,  you may get a layer of slime build up. The WHO does not find any health issues with iron in water.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has secondary recommendations for minerals with no health risk.  Recommendations are established for aesthetics (smell, taste, color) and home maintenance only.  The EPA recommends water above 3 ppm be treated with some sort of filter.  So again, maybe high but probably not unsafe for us.  

Last but not least to consider is the total dissolved solids (TDS).  According to WHO "TDS in water supplies originate from natural sources, sewage, urban and agricultural run-off and industrial wastewater." and "TDS is inorganic salts (calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, bicarbonates, chlorides and sulfates) and organic matter dissolved in the water."   They have also done testing which puts water at under 300 ppm as excellent in taste.  Another concern is pharmaceuticals which are more of an issue with the city/county water than with a personal well.  So far, I have been unable to find city or county level for local TDS levels.  Cullogen told me city water is usually around 200 ppm, we scored a 129. 

All things considered, the well water may actually be more beneficial than the city water.  We will probably test our water at the facet as we do get an odor in the house when the water is running but not at the well.  From the well, the water is clear and odorless.  Based on several conversations with the well/pump expert and our home inspector, the odor is from the pipes being dormant for so long or a bad anode in the water heater.  More on this later, as the source of odor is discovered and cured but for now.  The water is good, unless this terrible not stop rain has flooded the well.  We'll discover that later today. 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Today we officially begin our adventures on the Withlacoochee River.  My interest with the river began about 1 1/2 years ago when my daughter was invited to a friend's birthday party.  They have a place on the river in Pasco county.  Being there reminded me of my childhood days when I was never far from the water.  Growing up in Maryville, Tennessee, right outside of Cades Cove at the foot of the Smokey Mountains, we had a creek that ran through our back yard.  After my parents death, I went to live with relatives in a small Georgia town right outside of Chattanooga, Tennesee.  Again, a creek ran through our back yard.  Then as a teenage, my voyage south continued to Florida.  I left the hills and creeks behind and instead found flat lands, concrete, small yards, minimal shade trees and unbearable heat.  The southernmost parts of Florida also seem to suffer from a lack of distinctly different seasons.  It took me about 15-20 years to settle down and adjust to the climate that I now love.

Several months ago, my daughter was again invited to the river for a birthday celebration.  The minute I dropped her off, I again felt that deep longing for the hills, woods and fresh water of my youth.  I never dreamed in a million years that we could pull it off but still curiosity got the better of me and I started searching around just to get an idea of what it would take to have a small place on the river.  A small place in the country wouldn't do, if we were going to make the plunge there had to be water running through my backyard again.

I found a small place and contacted the realtor.  We were told the property was empty and we could drive up and take a look around.  We actually ended up making a list of several properties.  On our first trip my daughter declared that the first property we found was magical and came complete with the "Bridge to Terabithia" overhanging the water.  We looked at several more properties and went home to talk it over with the family.  Much to our surprise, we made a second trip with my husband to look at a few properties and then again with our older daughter.  To make a long story short, after many months of negotiations, inspections, set backs and learning curves, we are now the proud owners of a small property on a dead end road on the Withlacoochee river.  Now the real work and adventures begin. 

 The "bridge" from the river bank.
The view from the bank looking over the river.