Tuesday, July 13, 2010

a homeowner's tale

Once upon a time a girl bought a house in Washington County, NY—land of farms, sheep, tractors, and fly fishing.

Then one day she didn't have hot water. So she called the oil company to deliver more fuel for the boiler.

The oil delivery guy came, filled up the tank with a hundred new gallons (273 American dollars), and then watched flames shoot out into the basement. We jumped back.

He looked at the furnace, then at me, then at the furnace and said after three beats:

"You're going to need to get this cleaned."

So the girl called the service people, who came to clean the dirty furnace (119 American dollars) so to not blow up the little white farmhouse. Alas, he discovered a broken ventilation system. I could have hot water again, but would not be alive to use it since the house would fill up with carbon monoxide.

He looked at the vents, then at me, then at the vents and said after three beats:

"You're going to need to get this vent repaired."

So the girl called the service center, and another man came to test the fan motor. He discovered the broken circuit board (175 American dollars) but said he could not repair it. The house's ventilation system was not up to code. The house would need to have that replaced and up to federal standards before they could fix the vents.

So the girl called the service people once again, and they showed her the system she would need to take hot showers as a living human being, and it required a brand new ventilation system that rose 2 feet above ground level! (2,000 American dollars) or a new masoned natural draft chimney (3,000 - 4,500 American dollars).

At this point God laughed, and the home owner cried. She just wanted hot water. She did not realize she was breaking the law. She does not have 2,000 dollars.

So the girl called the home inspector, who should have seen this issue and arrangements could have been made to get the vents up to code before she and Chase bank bought the farmhouse.

The inspector offered to pay for the new ventilation system, because if people found out there was a body count in his home inspection process, it would be bad for business.

At this point the home owner smiled. Small victories get her through the day.

The hot water will be back in a week and the house will refrain from being an outlaw.


Blogger Georgia said...

Yes! This is why the home inspection is SO important! Glad it worked in your favor, Jenna, without having to sue!

July 13, 2010 at 3:41 PM  
Blogger Jess said...

NIce story. I'm glad it worked out for you. I really enjoy reading your posts :)

July 13, 2010 at 3:42 PM  
Blogger Leiflet said...

Cringe to "phew" in 13.2 seconds. A new record!!!

July 13, 2010 at 3:43 PM  
Blogger Lelainia N. Lloyd said...

And the moral of the story is "It pays to make sure you cover your ass."

THANK GOD you had that inspection! You will never take a hot shower again without thinking of that, will you?

July 13, 2010 at 3:43 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I had a similar experience when I bought my house, right down to the potential CO poisoning. Nothing is more frustrating than having the water heater but no hot water!

July 13, 2010 at 4:01 PM  
Blogger Alisa said...

"if you give a mouse a cookie, it's going to want a glass of milk to go with it, and so on-just like the children's book...glad you got some help with ventilation!!!"

July 13, 2010 at 4:20 PM  
Blogger EcoLife said...

The whole time I was reading this I kept thinking..."but I thought she got the house inspected?"

I am SO glad the inspector didn't put up a fight! Like Leiflet said; "Cringe to 'phew'"!

July 13, 2010 at 4:28 PM  
Blogger DarcC said...

Good for you for making the inspector pay. That absolutely should have been something that they caught during the inspection.

I am an HVAC engineer (and female) and at the beginning of this post I was ready to drive up and see how bad it really was with my own eyes, since I have seen too much "take advantage of the nice single female homeowner" than I care to contemplate.

If you are feeling unsure in any case, just say so and I would be happy to give you my professional opinion, gratis.

July 13, 2010 at 4:29 PM  
Blogger Rachel B. said...

Wow... It does pay to have you ass covered.

July 13, 2010 at 4:31 PM  
Blogger Paula said...

I'm with DarC- good for you going back to the inspector, who should have made sure everything was fine.

It doesn't sound like he did his work with the furnace, either.

I am seriously glad that the story had a happy ending, though!

July 13, 2010 at 4:38 PM  
Blogger jenomnibus said...

It never would've occurred to me to go back to the inspector. Well played, Jenna!

July 13, 2010 at 4:41 PM  
Blogger Reason's Whore said...

Damn right the home inspector should have seen that. Shame on them and thank yourself or your realtor for getting a home inspection.


July 13, 2010 at 4:45 PM  
Blogger Meg said...


July 13, 2010 at 4:54 PM  
Blogger Meg said...


July 13, 2010 at 4:54 PM  
Blogger Tami SouthStreetShabby.blogspot.com said...

I was hoping you would get to a point that said "so the girl called the home inspector"! Good looks kindly upon those who are worthy indeed!
Thank the inspector man with a PIE! I would..:-) *Tami

July 13, 2010 at 5:00 PM  
Blogger Marxwell said...

Yay for you, and yay for the home inspector being a good person in this world!

July 13, 2010 at 5:05 PM  
Blogger And This Little Pig said...

Great victory, and yes dead bodies, don't forget the dogs, would not look good. Happy they won't be taking your little white house away in handcuffs :D

July 13, 2010 at 5:15 PM  
Blogger Tora: said...

Holy shit Jenna...it's a good thing you have a sense of humor!

July 13, 2010 at 5:15 PM  
Blogger Rosie said...

Bravo! I am a Real Estate Broker and I was hoping you had it inspected. Shows everyone the importance of doing that and dealing with a reputable company.

SF bay area

July 13, 2010 at 5:23 PM  
Blogger Monique said...

Good for you!

July 13, 2010 at 5:25 PM  
Blogger Anton said...

Good thinking--calling the home inspector! Most home sales also have homeowners insurance which comes in handy. Though, as I experienced they don't cover anything which isn't up to code . . . and we didn't think to call the home inspector and the money flew out the door!

July 13, 2010 at 6:57 PM  
Blogger laurie said...

You go girl!! Stand up for yourself - that's what I really like about you! Glad it all turned out in your favor :-)

July 13, 2010 at 6:57 PM  
Blogger Heidi Reszies Lewis said...

Have you considered an on-demand electric hot water heater?

July 13, 2010 at 7:14 PM  
Blogger doglady said...

As I read your post, I was thinking home inspection. Good job going to the inspector who passed the system. I would consider an on demand hot water system fired by propane since I have it. Are you considering wood or pellet heat? I know hard to think of with the heat we've been experiencing but winter is coming.

July 13, 2010 at 7:30 PM  
Blogger Jill said...

Go Jenna!

July 13, 2010 at 7:43 PM  
Blogger Myrnie said...

I was going to say...and WHERE were the inspectors brains during that inspection? Sheesh. Glad he's doing the right thing!

July 13, 2010 at 8:04 PM  
Blogger Mud Mama said...


We just had out energy audit and while we have an on demand oil fired hot water heater (and old hot water radiators)the previous owners were kind enough to leave the old water heater sitting in a pile of junk in the basement, so he can "technically" give us a credit if we upgrade to solar. We have a wood cookstove too. Off grid for icestorms will be great.

July 13, 2010 at 8:05 PM  
Blogger Mud Mama said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

July 13, 2010 at 8:05 PM  
Blogger Mud Mama said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

July 13, 2010 at 8:05 PM  
Blogger Amy McPherson Sirk said...

All I can think of is, "thank God you ran out of heating oil."
What if you'd continued to run the old furnace and had the worst happen. I'm so glad you're safe and that the home inspector did right by you. Take care.

July 13, 2010 at 8:19 PM  
Blogger Amalia said...

I'm so sorry you went through all this. But I'm glad it worked out in the end and that you wrote about it so eloquently and with humor; I read it out loud at the dinner table.

July 13, 2010 at 8:20 PM  
OpenID ditchthegrid.org said...

Thank goodness you have an ethical and compassionate home inspector. Good deal! I hope it's still super hot out there so the cold showers won't feel so bad for the next week. :)

July 13, 2010 at 8:52 PM  
Blogger Cindy said...

So glad this worked out well, Jenna. I was really sweating it with you as I read your post. It is a good thing you discovered the problem this summer. I would have missed your posts if the CO2 had gotten to you. :-)

July 13, 2010 at 9:06 PM  
Blogger Erika said...

That's great the inspector would do that. We had a situation where we had to pull the same thing (but for a different reason) with ours and since he was also a contractor he came back and fixed the problem all for free.

You lucky duck!

July 13, 2010 at 9:32 PM  
Blogger E said...

Three cheers for you (and for knowing what you buy into/house inspections)!

July 13, 2010 at 9:58 PM  
Blogger SWEETHEARTS MOM said...

I say get yourself an electric hot water tank....just saying

July 13, 2010 at 10:03 PM  
Blogger Hunington said...

At $2,000, you can almost have your entire heater/hot water system replaced entirely, especially when you count in the energy efficiency programs that many utility companies offer to entice you to get rid of ancient oil heating systems.

Maybe men and women look at things different, but I think most men in the same situation would have taken the kick-the-can-down-the-road approach, telling the technician to just fix what you have to, and I'll take care of the rest (thinking to himself that duct tape would do just fine in mending that broken ventilation system). I bought my first house when I was 19, and it needed a new roof ridge joist even then -- I just looked at it on Google Street Maps last week, and I still see the sag in the middle of the roofline, and we're talking 30 years later. As a homeowner, you'll soon realize that you don't have to fix everything.

July 13, 2010 at 10:20 PM  
Blogger Tammi G. said...


July 13, 2010 at 10:23 PM  
Blogger René said...

This made me laugh. Good on you for keeping your head straight.

July 13, 2010 at 10:46 PM  
Blogger Patsy said...

....And so after a few days, the girl, her three dogs, three sheep, rabbits, geese, chickens, rogue fox, soon to arrive goat and other assorted creatures, once again had the hot water they had so longed for. And they all lived happily ever after in the little white farm house.

P.S. Not long after, a handsome prince showed up and swept the damsel off her feet and all was well at Cold Antler Farm.

July 13, 2010 at 10:59 PM  
Blogger sueguzman said...

What a tale, indeed.
Sounds like an amazingly incompetent, albeit shrewd inspector.
After 20 years of home ownership, that would've fallen under the category of inspection 101.
Glad he saw the light!

July 13, 2010 at 11:09 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

I know it's tempting to "only fix what's necessary," but when it comes to venting out toxic fumes, most EVERYTHING is necessary! I've heard so many horror stories from my dad (who's also a contractor/furnace repair and installation man/ac installation and repair man/general handyman... Well, you get the point. My dad has tried most everything I guess) where the vents for exhausting fumes were pointing DOWN of all directions (common sense and gravity say that's a bad thing to do. The fumes were exiting the pipe at the highest point and going into their house), people letting their furnaces run until they quit thirteen years after they bought their house and never once having it cleaned... Ugh. It's sad really. Those things get so clogged with soot.
Be wary though that you get a GOOD cleaning out of the repairman, and not just a changed nozzle. Nozzles spray the fuel oil into the furnace so it can ignite and they can get pretty gummed up, but it's important to have the whole unit serviced, you know? House fires are a no-no.

And make sure you get your furnace cleaned once a year! That goes for all of us. :)

July 13, 2010 at 11:25 PM  
Blogger William said...

I'm glad it all worked out. A hot shower always seems to make things a little better. One week is not so bad. Keep us updated..

July 14, 2010 at 1:38 AM  
Blogger Affi'enia said...

Woot for the small victories! For a moment I thought there was going to be an unhappy ending.

July 14, 2010 at 5:55 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

huntington, that was what i wanted to do, but the power vent was only shooting out a basement window, and was not working because of rain water ruining the electric board. Because the window is underground in a well of sorts, snow could have covered it. Blocking it, and filling the house with CO2.

So i asked if i could just cob together a chimney and they said you could if it was a normal, none-blowing power vent but they are made to shoot out fumes at a certain point and that pipe may not work like a usual draft chimney.

the new system (free system, mind you, since the inspector will not buy me whatever solar thing i want) is safe, brand new, and up to code. I'm all for it!

July 14, 2010 at 6:13 AM  
Blogger Anja said...

Pleased it work in your favour.

July 14, 2010 at 6:26 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

No kidding! The inspector should have caught that. Good for you. Although it stinks not to have hot water for a week!

July 14, 2010 at 7:53 AM  
Blogger Finding My Truth said...


July 14, 2010 at 9:00 AM  
Blogger nt moore said...

Sadly, its called "buyer beware". I'll bet $50 that the home inspector has a clause in the inspection agreement that he'll "do the best he can, but can't promise to find every problem". He certainly doesn't OWE you $2k for a new water heater.

Learn to do your own plumbing and you'll save lots of money.

July 14, 2010 at 9:32 AM  
Blogger Matt said...

nt moore:

this isn't a bad water heater, this is an entire heating/ventilation system that was not up to code, and had the potential to cause injury.

if home inspectors could weasel their way out of an omission that huge, what the hell is the point of having an inspection in the first place?!


glad it all worked out. i agree with the previous commenter who suggested thanking the inspector with a pie, and maybe some fresh veggies and a dozen eggs. he sounds like an honest man who is owning up to a costly mistake.

July 14, 2010 at 10:23 AM  
Blogger Funny Ernie said...

Wow! That's amazing that you found such an honest inspector. I think alot of them would just say "not my problem". Glad to see you're problem will be fixed and welcome to homeownership.

July 14, 2010 at 11:52 AM  
Blogger SouthernHeart said...

Thank heaven for a happy ending! No doubt the home inspector should have caught a lot of the things you're having to deal with! I'm glad he's paying for this one and you'll be back to having hot showers. About three sentences in, I was remembering Diane Keaton in the movie "Baby Boom" when she buys the house in Vermont!



July 14, 2010 at 12:17 PM  
Blogger Stargazer 2 said...


July 14, 2010 at 1:14 PM  
Blogger Susan said...

Yes, thank goodness you have a sense of humor and can take it in stride. What an ordeal! Call me a wuss, but I need a hot shower every now and then.

July 14, 2010 at 2:08 PM  
Blogger Tamara said...

sorry for your trouble, but sooo very happy you had a home inspection and he is picking up the cost of the upgrade that should have been caught in the first place.

July 14, 2010 at 4:48 PM  
Blogger Sylvan said...


July 14, 2010 at 10:11 PM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

I am glad it all worked in your favour Jenna. ALso, it is good that when you look back you can laugh at it. Keep your chin up. Life is always throwing us curve balls. Besides, you are a farm girl...you can handle it! :)

July 14, 2010 at 10:47 PM  
Blogger Heidi said...

damn, you lucked out on this one girl. now go start a savings account for when you will really NEED to pay someone 2 grand in American dollars :) Welcome to home ownership! Though it is not always easy, every time I have to call out the plumber or pay out the nose for some other fix it, I remind myself that I am no longer under the thumb of my former crazy as a loon landlord. My pocket book may be a little lighter (or credit card a tad heavier), but my heart soars knowing that I have control over what will get fixed. It's a good feeling.

And good job on dotting your "i"s and crossing your "t"s! Totally paid off.

July 14, 2010 at 10:51 PM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

Now you know more than you ever wanted to or knew to! I have my real estate license in Fl. and I am SO happy you called the inspector. He should have caught all of it during the inspection. Sounds like you used a good home inspector, not many people have this work ethic anymore. Be sure to refer him to others and let your realtor know too.

July 14, 2010 at 11:35 PM  
Blogger Brambly Thicket said...

Dude! I love this story so very much. Oh yeah!

July 15, 2010 at 1:57 PM  
Blogger Sarah Rachelle said...

That is one crazy story. Thank goodness there was a someone who was responsible who could foot the bill. Enjoy your hot water!

July 20, 2010 at 8:05 AM  

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