TISH Certificate of Completion

Huzzah! Our inspector determined that we met the demands of the TISH inspections and gave us the approval we needed. There was a little messing around required trying to get the City of Minneapolis to communicate with the State electrical inspections folks, but once we worked through that, I received the following in my email inbox:

TISH Certificate of Completion

As frustrating as it is to deal with all the red tape from the City sometimes, I generally find all the City employees I speak with to be very helpful and quick to respond to my emails and phone calls.

Well, now that we’ve got the City off our backs, what should we do next? Install a hot tub on the roof?

Install a Secure Sump Pump Cover

Our TISH re-inspection is tomorrow morning, so we had to finish up our last repair item from the list. Remember this item?

1. Sump Pumps – Sump Pump lacks a secure cover.

I don’t have much experience with sump pumps, so I had no idea how the covers are typically attached. I tried googling it, but didn’t find too much. I really wasn’t sure how to approach this one.

So I sent an email to the inspector who will be doing the inspection tomorrow and asked him what he would be looking for. He said it didn’t need to be anything intense, that a few screws through the lid to hold it in place will be good enough.

“Sweet!” I thought. “This will be easy.” And I set off to get the job done.  The sump pump is located in a corner of the basement, somewhere behind all this crap:

The Sump Pump is hidden back there somewhere.

After spending a few minutes moving all the junk out of the way, here’s what the sump basket looked like. Clearly, the cover isn’t attached. It’s just kind of flopping around there. It’s can’t go anywhere, since the permanently installed pvc pipe goes right through the middle of it, but it’s still not securely attached. I’m not sure why this is a big deal – maybe something about babies falling in or something? I dunno. At this point, I’m not asking questions – I just need an inspectors signature on the line tomorrow.

The cover is not securely attached.

A little aside about sump baskets, since some of the readers might not know what they are or why some houses have them. They’re installed in houses with high groundwater. The sump basket sits flush with the basement floor, and the bottom of the basket extends about 3 feet beneath the basement floor, and it has a bunch of holes in it. The idea is that if the groundwater gets higher than the bottom of the basket (i.e. less than 3 feet below the basement floor), the basket will fill up with water before any water gets in the basement. As the basket fills, the sump pump pumps the water up the pipe and out the side of the house. If the pump can keep up with the rising groundwater, hopefully your basement stays dry. Here’s a look inside our sump basket, and you can see the pump.

Inside the Sump Basket.

It seems to me that the city code should more concerned by the fact that there isn’t an electric outlet anywhere within a 30′ radius of the pump (and the pump cord is only 5′ long…) than the cover not being secured, but whatever… I’ll tackle that project another day.

To fix it, I just used three deck screws through the lid into the basket. It should have taken 5 minutes, but on one of the holes the screw was hitting a chunk of concrete from the poorly poured floor, so I had to make a trip to the hardware store for a masonry drill bit. After that, though, it was a snap.

See the three deck screws around the edge?

Ok, well our TISH inspection is Monday morning. We think we’ve got everything crossed off the list.

1. Sump Pumps – Sump Pump lacks a secure cover.
2. Smoke Detectors/CO Detectors – Improperly located smoke detector in the basement.
3. Electrical Service Installation – Missing house side grounding clamp at water meter.
4. Water Supply Piping – Corrosion noted on water piping in areas.
5. Plumbing Fixtures – No backflow device installed at laundry tub.
6. Plumbing Fixtures – Improper air gap on toilet ballcock.
7. Exterior Pluming Backflow Prevention – missing backflow preventers on exterior faucets.
8. Electric Service Installation – Electric panel located in bathroom.
9. Electrical Outlets/Fixtures – Power mast is loose.

Wish us luck. I’ll let you know how it goes. If you read any headlines that say “Homeowner Strangles Inspector, Blames Sump Pump” you know it was probably me.

Relocating Smoke Detectors

Time for another TISH update. Our re-inspection is in 4 days, so it’s about time to take care of this stuff. You might remember this item from our list:

2. Smoke Detectors/CO Detectors – Improperly located smoke detector in the basement.

So it’s not a problem of having enough smoke detectors, they just didn’t like where the one in the basement was located. Take a look:

Smoke detector is a little too close to the ceiling...

Here’s the smoke detector and CO detector in the basement (along with two abandoned mounting brackets from previous generations of smoke detectors…). The problem here is that it’s mounted on the wall only about 3 inches from the ceiling. This is a problem since apparently when smoke is flowing around in a room, it never really flows up into those corners very well. I guess the house could be filled with smoke and the thing would never go off. So it was an easy enough fix, I just pulled it off the wall and screwed it back in about a foot lower. I also moved the CO detector just to be on the safe side, even though I’m pretty sure it wasn’t necessary:

Relocated smoke detector.

I went ahead and took down the abandoned mounting rings, too, just to clean things up a bit. I didn’t give two licks about patching any of the old holes left behind. It’s not worth it with this awful wood paneling and terrible drop panel ceiling. The basement is gonna be ugly with or without holes.

While I was at it, I also re-installed all the old smoke detectors in all the bedrooms and hallways upstairs that we had removed while painting. They had been sitting in their own little smoke detector graveyard upstairs as well.

Smoke Detector Graveyard

Newly installed smoke and CO detectors.

Ok, well that takes care of 8 of the 9 TISH items. We’re still not totally sure what we’re gonna do about that sump pump cover, but we still have 4 days to figure it out, so hopefully we’ll think of something, right?

1. Sump Pumps – Sump Pump lacks a secure cover.
2. Smoke Detectors/CO Detectors – Improperly located smoke detector in the basement.
3. Electrical Service Installation – Missing house side grounding clamp at water meter.
4. Water Supply Piping – Corrosion noted on water piping in areas.
5. Plumbing Fixtures – No backflow device installed at laundry tub.
6. Plumbing Fixtures – Improper air gap on toilet ballcock.
7. Exterior Pluming Backflow Prevention – missing backflow preventers on exterior faucets.
8. Electric Service Installation – Electric panel located in bathroom.
9. Electrical Outlets/Fixtures – Power mast is loose.

Adjusting a Toilet Ballcock

Ok, another quick TISH update!

Remember that the City of Minneapolis is requiring us to address 9 items noted on our Truth in Sale of Housing (TISH) inspection. One of the items on the list was to adjust the toilet guts on our main floor bathroom:

6. Plumbing Fixtures – Improper air gap on toilet ballcock.

I won’t show you any pictures, because really, who wants to look at a bunch of pictures of my toilet? Nobody except perverts. Are you a pervert? Does the word “ballcock” make you uncomfortable?

Anyway, I scratched my head about this one because I had no idea what it was talking about. Air gap? What? Then I watched this video from Inspector Reuben, and I realized it was probably one of the easiest things on the list to fix.

I did exactly as the video says, and it took about 5 minutes.

Only one problem, though, now we’re getting a little bit of a dual-flush action on the toilet. You push the handle once, but it flushes twice. Weird, huh? I think adjusting the ballcock up as high as I needed to get the right air gap resulted in the tank filling up quite a bit higher (even after I adjusted the water level back down to as low as it will go). I think we’ll probably try the traditional put-a-couple-bricks-in-the-tank route and see if that helps. But I think it’s good enough as it is to pass our inspection next week.

Ok, after this latest project, here’s the items left to repair before our re-inspection:

1. Sump Pumps – Sump Pump lacks a secure cover.
2. Smoke Detectors/CO Detectors – Improperly located smoke detector in the basement.
3. Electrical Service Installation – Missing house side grounding clamp at water meter.
4. Water Supply Piping – Corrosion noted on water piping in areas.
5. Plumbing Fixtures – No backflow device installed at laundry tub.
6. Plumbing Fixtures – Improper air gap on toilet ballcock.
7. Exterior Pluming Backflow Prevention – missing backflow preventers on exterior faucets.
8. Electric Service Installation – Electric panel located in bathroom.
9. Electrical Outlets/Fixtures – Power mast is loose.

The smoke detector is an easy fix, but I’m not sure about that sump pump cover… I guess I know what I’m going to be doing this weekend…

Installing a Vacuum Breaker

Time to talk about a couple more of our TISH items that the City of Minneapolis is requiring us to address:
Remember these two items?

5. Plumbing Fixtures – No backflow device installed at laundry tub.
7. Exterior Pluming Backflow Prevention – missing backflow preventers on exterior faucets.

The City of Minneapolis requires a backflow preventer or vacuum breaker be installed at a few locations throughout the property. In our case, the City is requiring them on both the exterior sillcocks and the laundry tub in the basement.

These devices are a snap to install. I picked up three of them at the big box store for about $12, and it took all of 10 minutes to install them. Here’s some installation instructions in 3 easy steps:

1. Take a photo of your faucet before you begin so you can blog about it.

2. Thread the vacuum breaker onto the faucet.

3. Grab that little silver bolt head and turn it until it snaps off. You won't have to turn very hard.

I did the same thing a couple times on the outside of my house twice and I was done.

Same thing on the outside of the house.

A caveat, however: Some local inspectors aren’t big fans of these cheap vacuum breakers and recommend using a different kind of device. But for me and my house (and my budget), I’m pretty happy with the cheap option.

Ok, here’s how our list of TISH items is coming so far:

1. Sump Pumps – Sump Pump lacks a secure cover.
2. Smoke Detectors/CO Detectors – Improperly located smoke detector in the basement.
3. Electrical Service Installation – Missing house side grounding clamp at water meter.
4. Water Supply Piping – Corrosion noted on water piping in areas.
5. Plumbing Fixtures – No backflow device installed at laundry tub.
6. Plumbing Fixtures – Improper air gap on toilet ballcock.
7. Exterior Pluming Backflow Prevention – missing backflow preventers on exterior faucets.
8. Electric Service Installation – Electric panel located in bathroom.
9. Electrical Outlets/Fixtures – Power mast is loose.

We only have six more days before our follow-up TISH inspection. Think we’ll make it?

Corrosion on Galvanized Water Supply Pipes

Time to address another one of our TISH repair items! Recall this item from our list of 9 items to address:

4. Water Supply Piping – Corrosion noted on water piping in areas.

I wrote previously about how we hired an electrician to do some work around the house, and one of the items we asked him to address was the missing ground clamp around the water meter (also one of our TISH items). The electrician did exactly what we asked him to do, and we were thrilled with his work. Unfortunately, about 24 hours after he had left, I found this in the basement:

Leak caused by replacing ground wire clamp.

The leak seemed to be coming right from around the new grounding clamp about 6 inches above the basement floor. It’s hard to tell from this photo, but the pipe in this location was about as rusty as a pipe could be, and water seemed to be just seeping out the side of the rusty pipe. It was an ancient galvanized pipe, and I suspected that the pipe was damaged while the electrician was installing the new clamp. I called the electrician, and he confirmed that this was probably the case. He said that to install the new clamp, he had to remove the old one, which had pretty much rusted itself solid to the pipe. When he pulled off the old clamp, some of the pipe surely came with it.

It was pretty good timing for something like this to happen since we were going to have to address the corroded pipes for our TISH inspection anyway. As handy as I like to think I am, I still have never learned how to sweat copper pipe fittings.

I called around to a few plumbers, and found one that would be able to come over in a few days. In the mean time, we kept the water main turned off any time we weren’t home. This probably wasn’t necessary, but it made me feel better since I kept having daydreams of the pipe bursting wide open while I was at work and flooding the entire basement.

When the plumber came over, we asked him to replace about 8 feet of galvanized pipe with copper. The previous owner had already replaced many of the pipes with copper, but the first 8 feet after the water meter were still galvanized. Here’s what that 8 feet of pipe looked like on the inside:

Corrosion inside galvanized water supply pipe.

Gross, huh? That orange stuff inside isn’t mushy goo inside the pipes, it’s rock hard corrosion that is literally choking off our flow of water. This is part of the main water trunk that feeds the entire house – we were probably only getting about a quarter as much water through here as we should be.

When the plumber had finished and we turned the water back on, we could instantly tell a difference in how the water flowed out of the faucets throughout the house.

So at the point that I’m writing this, we only have 10 more days to address all the TISH items OR ELSE… Here’s how the list looks right now:

1. Sump Pumps – Sump Pump lacks a secure cover.
2. Smoke Detectors/CO Detectors – Improperly located smoke detector in the basement.
3. Electrical Service Installation – Missing house side grounding clamp at water meter.
4. Water Supply Piping – Corrosion noted on water piping in areas.
5. Plumbing Fixtures – No backflow device installed at laundry tub.
6. Plumbing Fixtures – Improper air gap on toilet ballcock.
7. Exterior Pluming Backflow Prevention – missing backflow preventers on exterior faucets.
8. Electric Service Installation – Electric panel located in bathroom.
9. Electrical Outlets/Fixtures – Power mast is loose.

The other items on the list are all pretty easy fixes, so I’m not too worried.

Relocating the Electric Panel from the Bathroom

We knew when we bought the house that there were a few pretty substantial issues with the electrical system. Remember from our TISH report, 3 of the 9 required repairs were electrical items:

3. Electrical Service Installation – Missing house side grounding clamp at water meter.
8. Electric Service Installation – Electric panel located in bathroom.
9. Electrical Outlets/Fixtures – Power mast is loose.

Electric panel located in bathroom.

This power mast just needs to be screwed back onto the side of the house.

We were pretty confident that installing a new grounding clamp at the water meter would be easy enough, and we were also prepared to tackle the power mast issue, but we weren’t quite sure what to do about the electric panel in the bathroom.

I searched all over the internet for ideas of how to correct the electric panel in the bathroom. I found a handful of sites that recommended a possible option would be to construct a “small room” (minimum 30″x36″) around the electric panel, so that it (technically) would no longer be in the bathroom. At first, we thought this would be our best option – the bathroom was already small, so we weren’t excited about giving up the space. But the whole room needed renovating, so we thought we could expand the room later to get the space back. We figured that building a “small room” would just be a strategy to buy us time beyond the 90 day limit required by the City to make the repair, and we’d figure out a long-term solution later. However, the more we thought about it, the more we realized that we should probably just hire an electrician to move the panel out of the bathroom.

We hired Ben Sowieja from Luminous Electric to help us out with this job. He was very patient with all of my questions and concerns about the project, and he did a great job with the work. We decided to move the panel about 5 feet to the north, just on the other side of the bathroom’s northern wall – right underneath the stairs down to the basement. Ironically, this is where the original fuse box had been located, which had been abandoned years ago when the new service panel was installed in the bathroom. The old fuse box was now being used as just a large junction box. Check out this mess of boxes and wires:

Old fuse box.

Ben and I agreed that to do the job right, all those boxes needed to be removed, including the plywood they were mounted on. Ben removed all this old junk, and re-installed the panel on a new chunk of plywood on the wall. I told Ben that I was sensitive about the idea of drilling a bunch of new holes through joists since they were supporting the stairs right there, and he was willing to accommodate my request to re-use as many of the existing holes as possible – even if they weren’t in the best possible location.

New panel location.

Here’s the old panel location in the bathroom. Ben only installed a single, non-imposing new junction box that will be hidden from view once we put that lovely ceiling panel back in place:

Electric panel removed!

Ben also tacked that power mast back onto the side of the house for us. He also informed us that since moving the panel required him to open the meter, we’d have to upgrade our meter to a newer model that meets current code. In addition, since we moved the service panel further away from the meter on the back of the house, Ben said he was also required to install an additional whole-house breaker in a separate box on the outside of the house (it’s the lower box in this photo). I wasn’t too excited about the idea of more, bigger boxes on the back of the house, but I think Ben did a good job making it look as professional as possible.

New meter and whole-house breaker.

Overall, we were very happy with the work Ben did for us and I strongly recommend his work. The final invoice came in at $1,150, which was exactly the estimate he had given us a few days earlier.

Well, here’s how we’re coming on our list of TISH repairs:

1. Sump Pumps – Sump Pump lacks a secure cover.
2. Smoke Detectors/CO Detectors – Improperly located smoke detector in the basement.
3. Electrical Service Installation – Missing house side grounding clamp at water meter.
4. Water Supply Piping – Corrosion noted on water piping in areas.
5. Plumbing Fixtures – No backflow device installed at laundry tub.
6. Plumbing Fixtures – Improper air gap on toilet ballcock.
7. Exterior Pluming Backflow Prevention – missing backflow preventers on exterior faucets.
8. Electric Service Installation – Electric panel located in bathroom.
9. Electrical Outlets/Fixtures – Power mast is loose.

We have about 45 more days to finish the rest of these items. Think we’ll make it?

Truth in Sale of Housing

The City of Minneapolis requires that all houses sold in the City undergo a Truth in Sale of Housing (TISH) inspection by an inspector approved by the City. The inspections are pretty basic, but if something doesn’t meet minimum requirements, the homeowners are required to make all repairs within 90 days of the sale of the house.

What happens if we don’t do them?  I dunno. Maybe the take the house away or something. I don’t want to find out.

We knew before we bought the house that there were a number of items that would require fixing, some of which are not insignificant. Most of these have to do with plumbing and electrical issues.

Here’s the list:

1. Sump Pumps – Sump Pump lacks a secure cover.
2. Smoke Detectors/CO Detectors – Improperly located smoke detector in the basement.
3. Electrical Service Installation – Missing house side grounding clamp at water meter.
4. Water Supply Piping – Corrosion noted on water piping in areas.
5. Plumbing Fixtures – No backflow device installed at laundry tub.
6. Plumbing Fixtures – Improper air gap on toilet ballcock.
7. Exterior Plumbing Backflow Prevention – missing backflow preventers on exterior faucets.
8. Electric Service Installation – Electric panel located in bathroom.
9. Electrical Outlets/Fixtures – Power mast is loose.

One by one, we’ll be following up with each of these, showing what we did to correct these problems.