Archive | April, 2015

Laminate Floor Water Damage & Mid-Lease Replacement

23 Apr

Since I tout the benefits of rental property, it’s only fair that I also share when things don’t go according to plan. This is totally one of those times.

Last spring a leased washing machine overflowed, destroying the laminate floors in one of our rentals. Our tenants had already contacted the appliance company, who agreed to cover the damage (via their insurance). Now we needed to replace the flooring… while the tenants were still living there.

Water Damaged Laminate Floors

I suspect I could give this scenario to 5 different landlords and I’d get 5 different opinions on next steps. Here’s how it went down for us:

  • It took months for (1) the appliance company to file a claim with their insurance and (2) the insurance company to send an appraiser to inspect the damage. When insurance denied the claim the appliance company decided to pay us directly while they appealed the decision – a darn classy move on their part.
  • We requested two 2 flooring quotes – one for laminate and one for ceramic tile. The less expensive laminate estimate was provided for insurance purposes with the expectation that we’d add some money of our own to replace the floor with tile instead.
  • Movers helped us reallocate the tenants’ belongings to the kitchen, garage, and a rented storage pod. The next day, the flooring company began the process of removing the laminate and installing tile.
  • Meanwhile our tenants camped at a nearby hotel. It annoyingly took a day and a half longer than originally estimated, but at least the flooring company discounted the bill to compensate for the extended hotel stay.
Tile Floor Installed

We paid a little extra (~$300) to have the tiles installed diagonally – looks great!

What an ordeal. Our floor replacement costs:

  • Moving Help – $235
  • Storage Pod – $329
  • Hotel (3 Nights) – $519
  • Tile and Installation – $5,136

$6,219 Total – $4,864 Reimbursement = $1,355 Out-Of-Pocket

Some silver linings:

  • I never particularly cared for that laminate flooring in the first place, but it was already installed when we purchased the property and we couldn’t justify replacing it for aesthetics alone.
  • All things considered, $1,355 is a great deal for new ceramic tile flooring. I dare say we came out ahead, especially since we were probably going to upgrade the flooring to ceramic tile someday.
  • Could we have gone after the tenants to recoup some of these costs? Probably. All-in-all this was a good example of all parties (landlords/tenants/appliance company) being a little flexible to make the best of a bad situation. Any of us could have taken a hard line with demands, but didn’t. Well… except the insurance company.  😈

For the most part I figure surprises like this come with the territory. It was a lot of hassle and uncertainty – but nothing we couldn’t overcome with patience, perseverance, and our rental emergency fund.

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New Water Heater Regulations – Investigation & Decision

14 Apr

In my previous post I wondered whether we should buy a replacement water heater now in anticipation of new energy standards beginning April 16th. The higher efficiency rating would likely increase the size of the new units, which may or may not fit existing locations.

Since Consumer Reports suggested it was “likely” we wouldn’t be too negatively affected, I wanted to investigate whether our specific properties could accommodate these changes. We have 6 water heaters between 3 duplexes; I used inspection reports to piece together our current configuration:

Property Unit Tank Size
Gas/Electric
Location
Duplex #1 A 40 Gas Attic
Duplex #1 B 40 Gas Attic
Duplex #2 A 55 Electric Closet
Duplex #2 B 55 Electric Closet
Duplex #3 A 55 Electric Attic
Duplex #3 B 55 Electric Attic

I’m not too concerned about Property #2 because I think there is plenty of room in the closets, but I am skeptical about attic access for #1 and #3.

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(photo by Bill Smith)

From what I’ve read online, a standard access opening is 22″ x 30″ – some sources adding a quarter inch to each side for trim (21.5″ x 29.5″).

Home Depot didn’t have any compliant models in-stock yet, so I noted the diameters of current models instead – substituting 50-gallon measurements because 55-gallon wasn’t available:

  • Gas, 40 gallons – 17 3/4″
  • Gas, 50 gallons – 20 1/4″
  • Electric, 40 gallons – 17 3/4″
  • Electric, 50 gallons – 19″

Now if I assume the new standards will add 2 inches…

  • Gas, 40 gallons – 19 3/4″
  • Gas, 50 gallons – 22 1/4″
  • Electric, 40 gallons – 19 3/4″
  • Electric, 50 gallons – 21″

I’m most interested in the 40-gallon gas and 50-gallon electric models since that’s what property #1 and #3 are using, respectively. Compared to a 21.5″-22″ attic opening it would be a REALLY tight fit, but doable.

I also don’t see any reason why we couldn’t downgrade to 40-gallon tanks if we run into trouble. We’ve never gotten any complaints about property #1’s hot water, and it services the same number of bedrooms/bathrooms/people as the other properties. The Rheems brand water heater packaging seems to agree:

Gallons # of People
40 2-4
50 3-5

Something else to consider – if we did want spares we’d need to buy at least 2 since the properties use different power sources. Given these gut checks and knowing we have a cost-effective plan B, we personally decided not to pre-purchase any water heaters in anticipation of the new energy standards.

One decision down, plenty more to go.  😉

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New Water Heater Regulations – Should We Pre-Purchase?

7 Apr
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(photo by Brian Cantoni)

The Department of Energy is enforcing new efficiency standards for water heaters starting April 16th – prompting speculation on how these changes will affect consumers.

A lot of the negative press is coming from local plumbing companies, making it difficult to determine whether they are merely scare tactics intended to generate sales.

The higher standards will almost certainly increase the size and cost of the newer units to some extent, but the greater concern is whether those larger water heaters will still fit in small closets and attic access hatches.

Because the regulations affect manufacturing specifically, existing water heaters can still be purchased and installed after the deadline. This means homeowners could choose to (1) replace an older water heater now or (2) buy a current model and store it until needed.

Is this something landlords should consider too?

Consumer Reports covered the new standards last month with relatively tame conclusions about their impact on consumers:

“Simply put, if you’re replacing a water heater that holds less than 55 gallons, the new one may be an inch or two larger and can likely be placed where the old one was unless it was in a very tight spot such as a closet. But if you’re replacing a larger water heater, you’ll have to do your homework as the new units may need more space.”

Tanks larger than 55 gallons might be good candidates for pre-purchase since they will experience the greatest alternations, incorporating more drastic technology changes (PDF download) and stricter energy requirements.

My take: I suspect most rentals are using the smaller tanks and the vast majority of homeowners can already accommodate these 1″-2″ changes. Manufacturers want to sell products to the greatest number of consumers, and that means adding energy efficiency in the least disruptive way possible.

Then again, if we’re wrong or unlucky our options include:

  • moving the water heater
  • installing a water heater with a smaller tank
  • replacing with a tankless system
  • increasing the size of the existing space or access point

By comparison, buying a spare unit sounds like relatively cheap insurance and postpones any growing pains for another 8-10 years.

What do you think? Does it make sense to buy a “classic” water heater or two for future replacements?

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