Garage Fire: What not to do

Featuring guest blogger: Rick SolomonGarage Fire

One of my neighbors just had a garage fire and it made me think: this is fire information we should all keep in mind. Plus check that your fire extinguisher is where you thought it was, and that it is still good. The following is what not to do if you smell gas.

My neighbor described the fire: ‘The fire started due to a hole/leak in the hose that delivered gas to a gas dryer. He could smell the gas and he ran his hand over the length of the line to find the hole and turned off the gas temporarily, then duct taped the hose until he could buy a replacement, turned the gas back on and tested the dryer. After running for no more that 60 seconds, the large vent hose caught on fire thus catching the garage on fire.  Luckily they had a fire extinguisher handy and no one was injured.

fire_extinguisher_servicesTwo things he learned.
#1. If you discover a leak in the gas line don’t try to patch it. Replace the line (our 4′ replacement cost $28 at Home Depot) and keep the gas turned off and DON’T use the dryer until then.
#2. Get a bigger (or more) fire extinguishers than you think you need. Time is precious in a fire, and even if an extinguisher doesn’t fully put out a fire, it still give precious seconds until you and your family can escape or until the fire dept. arrives.’

Advice from the neighborhood expert Rick Solomon: Gas inside the home is relatively safe. It gives you the warning you have a leak based on the smell that is emitted. Gas is also lighter than air and dissipates. The problem was when you duct taped it, the corrugated gas flex didn’t allow the tape to fully seal. When the dryer started, there was an electronic glow plug folled by the flame of the dryer. Either 1 of them would be able to ignite any gas leaking in the vicinity of the heat source.

Technically gas is only coming into the house at approx 7″ of water column / approx 1/3 of a pound of pressure. Whereas water pressure is approx. 60-65 pounds within the house.

A simple test for a gas leak is the sniff test or a soap test. Mix up approx 10% liquid soap to clean water in a sprayer bottle. Then spray onto the suspected are of the pipe or connector. A leak will cause the soapy solution to make bubbles. Find the leak and either tighten the connection or shut off the gas serving that appliance. There is no legal miracle tape or glue for gas leaks.

Don’t use any soap solutions that contain ammonia as it will deteriorate some of the pipe and flex connectors we use in plumbing systems.

Rick Solomon from Rick Solomon Plumbing  plumberrick@sbcglobal.net

(310) 836-1437  License # 00743321

Based out of Los Angeles and founded in 1981, Rick Solomon Plumbing is a plumbing contractor and provides plumbing inspection, septic tank services, water purification system installation, and shower installation. They are licensed by the state of California. Rick Solomon Plumbing is insured and bonded. They provide emergency services.

Remember: It’s good to have 1-2 fire extinguishers in the house.

How to Enjoy a Compost Pit Without the Stench

By Guest Blogger Jaron Clinton

Pallet compost binThere are plenty of reasons to have a compost pit, such as excellent mulch and waste reduction, and if you are moving to a new home and want to grow a garden, now is the best time to give it a shot.

Compost pits use the decomposition power from billions of microorganisms that are commonly found in healthy soil to decompose lawn rubbish and kitchen waste into fertilizer growing plants can use. Some people like to maintain an indoor compost bucket in something smaller such as an empty and clean paint can. This is tremendously beneficial because it saves you the effort of going out to your compost pit every single time you have something to contribute to it. The soil created makes great fertilizer for most plants—everything from sunflowers to corn.

Compost BinsA compost pit also serves as an excellent way to recycle food and lawn trash that would otherwise clog up landfills and add more problems to our already worsening climate. For items that should not be composted, make sure you utilize landfill diversion techniques to keep our planet clean. Creating a compost pit is a simple process that doesn’t take up too much time or space, but if you don’t create the pit properly then it can take on a bit of an unpleasant odor. Luckily, eliminating this is a pretty easy process.

Source: http://www.instructables.com/id/Pallet-Compost-Bin/

The first and most important step to eliminate a smelly compost pile is to make sure the ingredients are properly mixed and aerated. “A healthy compost pile needs plenty of oxygen mixed in. Otherwise, aerobic bacteria (those that need oxygen to metabolize the organic materials) cannot function, and decomposition will be driven instead by anaerobic bacteria, which produce foul-smelling gasses as byproducts of their metabolism,” according to WikiHow. The easiest method to ensure that the aerobic bacteria do their job is to use a rotating compost bin. When this is not an option, make sure to turn or mix the pile every few days with a shovel or pitchfork.

If that doesn’t solve your stinky pit of soon-to-be fertilizer, then take a peek at the size of materials you’re using. Subpar airflow can also be a result of materials that are too small and don’t leave enough room for air to sweep through. “For example, a compost pile composed largely of sawdust will be difficult to aerate, as the small pieces of sawdust will fit together snugly and prevent air from flowing through the pile,” the WikiHow article states. “To prevent this problem, integrate larger or looser materials into your pile. Tree limbs and cardboard scraps are good materials for this purpose.”

Finally, if that still isn’t working to get the air flowing then you’re stuck making sure your pile isn’t too wet. Air finds it difficult to push through a moist environment. A handful of compost should have the dampness of a wrung out sponge.

If by chance your compost pile is getting enough airflow but still smells, then take a look at what you’re tossing in there. Eliminating meat from your diet is a great benefit to society, as livestock account for a staggering one-fifth of global greenhouse gasses and 75 percent of deforestation, and similarly, meat should never find its way into your compost pile.

Rich CompostLearning how to compost is an awesome experience that gives you a better understanding of how the decomposition process works. You’ll be hard pressed to find a better fertilizer in your local hardware store, and so long as you wear proper sun protection, being outside to toil through the pit is good exercise. The only downside beginners often encounter is the smell, but by following these tips the only thing you’ll be smelling will be a bed of growing flowers.

SoCalWaterSmart Turf Removal Program Funds Committed

It was announced today that the funds for the Turf Removal Program also known as Cash for Grass Program are all reserved and no more projects will be approved.  If you have already had your project approved your rebate should be reserved.  However, there is no money left for new projects to be approved.

BUT, there are still a lot of other great water saving programs that can be found on the LADWP.com website as well as at SoCalWaterSmart.com.

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) 
announced that it will be closing its turf removal program to 
new applications today July 9, 2015 because available funding 
has been fully allocated. LADWP is currently retooling their 
program to continue a utility-sponsored rebate program for their
customers. The revamped program will be available soon – please 
check back. Please also check www.socalwatersmart.com 
for additional instructions.

 

How I got Cash for Grass: Through SoCalWaterSmart Turf Removal Program.

Expo Line Train Testing Begins!

The moment you have all been waiting for has arrived.  Well, the moment I have been waiting for for four years is about 6 months away.  The opening of the Expo Light Rail Line extension to Santa Monica!  It is about to begin the train testing process, and be one step closer to opening.

The Expo Light Rail Line extension from Culver City to Santa Monica is scheduled to start train testing activities the week of April 6, 2015 and continue for several months. Initially the trains will be pulled along the rail corridor, and then operated on their own power. Testing will first take place in the eastern portion of the project and will later proceed across the entire alignment. The testing activity will test train clearances, the Overhead Catenary System which powers the trains, the crossing gates and traffic signals, and all related systems before the project is turned over to Metro for pre-revenue operations.

When: Starting the week of April 6, 2015
Where: Along the light rail alignment between Venice Boulevard and Military Avenue
Hours: Between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday – Friday

Expo Line Construction
Expo Line Construction

What to Expect:

Preliminary testing activities will take place intermittently for approximately 3 weeks before the crossing gates are activated. During this time, testing may result in brief interruptions of street traffic as trains cross the intersections assisted by flaggers.

Once the crossing gates are operational, testing will continue on a more regular schedule.
The train’s audible devices may be used during testing activities.

Throughout the testing period, safety personnel will be available at the crossings to assist the public.
As testing proceeds along the alignment, supplemental notices will be issued.

Expo Line Extension pdf

Safety Tips:

Please obey all warning signs and traffic signals when crossing the tracks.
Always look both ways before crossing any street.
Never walk on railroad tracks.
Watch for trains from both directions.
Use the crosswalks.
Do not jaywalk across the tracks.

Flip Your Home Can Help

Flip Your Home

We don’t want to buy your home, we want to help you sell it for more money! 

Flip Your Home
http://flip-your-home.com

Flip Your Home is a team of real estate and remodeling experts getting sellers maximum profits by connecting investors to pay for renovations.

You own or inherited a home that is or has become too difficult to maintain.  The systems are old, outdated, and potentially unsafe.  You might want to unload the property or retire to an easier life, but can’t sell the house getting the profits you need.  You might be over your head and feel helpless, but Flip Your Home can help you find the hidden gold hidden in your property.

You could fix up your own property for resale, but you don’t have the money, time or skill to renovate a home. Meanwhile, the biggest investment you ever made left you penniless and hopeless.  WE ARE NOT TRYING TO BUY YOUR HOME!

 What if we could get an investor to pay for renovations to your home and you could split the profits when it sells? The investor pays for the construction and everyone comes out ahead at the end of the transaction when your house sells for more than the current, unrenovated value.

 Your investment is your home — There is NO COST TO YOU. The Flip Your Home team uses its knowledge of the market, investors and contractors to create a marketable home.  We are professional home designers, builders and marketers who have years of experience flipping homes.

We work WITH your home, managing the process every step of the way, to renovate and sell your home for maximum value.

With the Flip Your Home program investors partner with the homeowner. The homeowner’s part of the investment is their home: you, as the investor, provide money for the renovations. The profits get divided between you and the homeowner with a small Flip Your Home service fee

http://flip-your-home.com/

Each deal is individually negotiated. All projects must be pre-qualified. Each investment is a risk and no profits are guaranteed.

(844) 2 FLP HOM (844) 235 – 7466 info@flip-your-home.com
© Copyright 2014 Flip Your Home LLC. All rights reserved.

When Good Inspections Go Bad.

In the inspection process, sometimes the home passes Jack Holding up Foundationwith flying colors. The systems all look pretty good and have a good amount of life expectancy so you theoretically shouldn’t have to perform any major repairs for some time. For instance, the roof may have been replaced 10 years ago. Though it is not new, it doesn’t show any signs of leaks, and in theory, should have another 10-15 years on its expected life. This is considered in good working condition.

I recently had an escrow on a fixer property with an investor/builder client. There was an un-permitted room addition that the buyer knew about before writing the offer. Because it was made clear before entering escrow, it wasn’t something the seller was prepared to offer a credit for repair on. And this buyer felt qualified to get the room up to code and get it included in the square footage by the end of the flip.

However, upon inspection of the foundation, the buyer found that the back part of the un-permitted room was sliding off of the foundation and was being held up by jacks. (Yes, those jacks.) As the foundation was clearly having issues, in order to repair the home properly, a complete demolition would have to be done re-building the room from scratch.

In this case, it would have cost the buyer $30,000 more than they anticipated for repair costs.

Exterior Damage to House
Exterior Damage to House

Therefore, the buyer asked for the rather large credit of $30,000 because of an unseen negative condition in the property that was not disclosed by the seller. (It seems rather hard to believe the seller wouldn’t have known about said jacks, but we will ignore the lack of disclosure for now.)

In this case the seller offered only $5,000 credit to the buyer to repair the foundation.  Because this was not enough to cover the unknown costs with demolition and permiting and rebuilding, my client passed on the house.

A couple issues the seller should have kept in mind:

Because this condition has been presented to both the seller and the agent, it is something that will need to be disclosed to any future buyers that buy this house.  This is know a known factor affecting the value and condition of the property.

This seller was in a hurry to sell this property as he was having health issues and needed to move. The time might have been more valuable than money in this case.

My client decided the rewards did not cover the risk in this case and passed on the property.  Sometimes it is good to know your bottom line and move on to the next project.

 

The Home Inspection Process

What are inspections?
What are inspections?

Once you get your offer accepted this is the second hurdle to cross and the most important of the process of buying a home. The Home Inspections! The buyer has asked for X days – usually 7 -10 in the LA market, but 17 days is the default amount, to complete, consult and negotiate repairs for the property being purchased. (NOTE that the negotiation needs to be completed by the end of the inspection period!)

This is the buyers’ time to understand as much as they possibly can about all current, past conditions, repairs that may have been deferred and future problems that might arise with said property. It is time to understand what can be lived with, what are safety issues, and how much repairs may cost.

Your home inspectors are your most important tool. A great home inspector will know building codes, have ideas about what some repairs might cost and know when professional subs must be called in for closer inspection.  More importantly, they know how to gently tell buyers that no house is going to 100% perfect and what to fight for and what to let go.

The serious problems are:

  • Health and safety issues
  • Roofs with leaks or past leaks
  • Furnace – A/C malfunctions (HVAC)
  • Foundation deficiencies
  • Moisture / drainage issues
  • Fireplaces
  • Sewer lines

Generally aesthetic issues and aspects that could be observed by the buyer before writing the offer are considered with the purchase price of the offer accepted.

EVERYTHING that the buyer needs to feel comfortable with their own safety and quality of life living in the home should be inspected. The buyer has the burden of investigation and needs to look into everything regarding the property.

That being said, not everyone can spend $15,000 on inspections before purchasing a house.

Here are the inspections I insist on all of my buyers getting before releasing contingencies on a home and approximately what they might cost.

General Inspection: This is the most important part of your team as this person should be able to lead you to what other systems need further investigation. ($300 up depending on size and number of units)

Foundation: Remember issues with a foundation do not ruin a house. If “something” is found it is not the end of the world, you just need to know what it will take to repair and make the home safe. ($200-$500: based on sq footage, number of structures.)

Sewer: Homeowners don’t check or do upkeep on their sewer connections unless something very bad happens and sellers do not realize that roots or cracks have gotten into the pipes over time. Chances are the seller just doesn’t know if there is a problem. This may take many thousands to repair or it could just need routing. This is a must do. ($150-$300)

Fireplace: Another hidden repair many times home sellers are not aware of issues. You need a professional to send a camera up the chimney and make sure there are no fire safety issues. Remember even a new construction it doesn’t mean that it was installed correctly. ($150 – $200 per fireplace)

Permits: There are agencies that pull the permits on construction projects done to your property. You should know what was done with permits, what wasn’t, and decide what you consider acceptable. ($100 or less with a service)

Insurance: Call your agent and get a quote asap. In LA there are many flood and fire zones and insurance might make the difference with affordability on a purchase.  Be sure to get an ALTA with CLUE report from Title.

Wood Destroying Pests: This is usually included in the contract. In LA the seller usually pays for this inspection and current infestation repair (Section 1). Buyers are customarily responsible for repairing factors that can lead to future infestation (Section 2).

Natural Hazards Disclosures: Also written into the contract the seller usually provides this.The Buyer Process - Chart - HLeikin - 082312

Other things you can inspect:

Geological reports: Very important with hillside or land-fill areas (usually $1,000s and can take a couple weeks)
Roof: The general inspector will call this out if they think it needs more investigation.
Plumbing: The general inspector will call this out if they think it needs more investigation
Electrical: The general inspector will call this out if they think it needs more investigation.
Mold: The general inspector will call this out if they think it needs more investigation.
Radon Gas: I have had one property fail this test, however most buyers choose not to do this. The fix cost about $1,000 – $2,000 on the house that had the issue.
HVAC: The general inspector will call this out if they think it needs more investigation. The vendor should charge about $100 to come out.
Megan’s Law Database: Registered sex offenders in the area. I also recommend looking up your current residence as an example. There will be more listed than you think. http://www.meganslaw.ca.gov/

The good inspectors get booked really fast and it is very important you get a good one. Book them as soon as you can!

This is a good article on this part of the process: http://homebuying.about.com/od/homeshopping/qt/091107_homeinsp.htm

Play the “Save Every Drop of Water” Game (inside your home)

Save Every Drop of Water

I belong to the South Robertson Neighborhood Council’s Green Team. One of our long time members mentioned a few tips that she uses to save water at her own house. I want to share some of them with you.  (Inside the home tips this post.)

First she makes saving water a game played with her family. She challenges them to not waste one drop. This way they get more creative with water usage and have fun thinking of new ways to save.

  • Are you waiting for your cold water to run hot? Put a large pot in the sink or bathtub and use that to water your plants or brush your teeth.
  • Use the water you throw out: when you clean your fish tank or change your pet’s water bowl use that water in your plants.
  • Composting food wastes saves water by reducing the water needed to run a garbage disposal. You can freeze your compostables & then just dig a hole and put them in ground. No smell, no digging up by critters.
  • When you wash dishes in the sink, rinse them in a plastic basin and then use that rinse water to irrigate your backyard vegetables or ornamental plants. (Make sure you are using a biodegradable dish soap.)
  • Gather up the half finished glasses of water around your house and empty them into plants or a container with a lid. Once the container is full enough, give your houseplants a drink or pour it out in your yard.

Those are some of the indoor ideas I found unexpected and creative. Come back next week for some outdoor water saving tips.

SoRo Community Festival Sunday June 1 from 11am-4pm

The 17th Annual SoRo Community Festival will take place on Sunday, June 1, 2014 from 11 am to 4 pm. The Festival is located on South Robertson Boulevard, between Cattaraugus and Beverlywood St. (just north of Hamilton High School and the 10 Freeway). Free street parking is also available.

The Green Team Booth

Will be giving away 100 free trees and  200 reusable grocery bags filled with information on water and energy conservation, legislation, and beautification.  I will be working here available to discuss the cash for grass rebate program.

Free and open to the public, the SoRo Festival features a live music stage, tree adoption, and over 60 vendor booths highlighting neighborhood businesses, community information and a variety of merchandise. It also offers “Camp SoRo” Kids Zone with attractions, a rock-climbing wall and free arts and crafts for children. This year’s theme is “Many Neighborhoods Create One Great Community!”

In addition there will be a separate Public Safety Pavilion hosted by the SORO Neighborhoods Council with many exhibits and demonstrations by “First Responders” such as LAPD and LAFD.

Food
The SoRo Festival will also serve up a variety of culinary delights from some of Los Angeles’ hottest gourmet food trucks, including the Kosher Palate, Fatburger, bool Korean BBQ Tacos & Pastels, Currywurst Truck, Trailer Park Truck, Frozen Crush Italian Ice and King Kone Ice Cream Co.

SoRo Fest 2014 Green Team

Composting for Beginners

Here is a great article from guest writer Travis McKnight

Composting for Beginners

Gardening is a wonderful way to spend time at home, and adding compost is a great addition to any garden. Compost pits utilize billions of microorganisms in healthy soil to decompose kitchen scraps and lawn rubbish into nutrients and fertilizer usable by growing plants. They also serve as an excellent way to recycle trash that would otherwise clog up landfills, and save money at the same time. Creating a compost pit is a simple process, and anybody with the required space is able to take this step toward making a more self-sustainable, healthier garden. 

The Pit

Where a compost pit or pile is created often leads to its success or failure. The EPA recommends the area be a dry, shady, or partly shady spot near a water source and preferably out of sight from people and pets. Ideally, the compost area should be about one cubic meter. “This size provides enough food and insulation to keep the organisms in the compost warm and happy and working hard. However, piles can be larger or smaller and work just fine if managed well,” the EPA states.  

If digging up the yard isn’t a viable option, creating an artificial compost bin is a great solution. The environmental website Treehugger has created a few DIY videos on what these containers look like and how to build them. 

The Materials

The great thing about making a compost pit is it recycles materials that would otherwise be thrown out with the trash. There are four conditions required to be present for optimally creating compost: air, water, carbon and nitrogen. For composting purposes, these materials are categorized into being either “brown” or “green,” and they’re both needed. 

Green materials serve as the nitrogen base, and are typically items like wet, fresh grass clippings, green leaves and soft garden waste, or vegetable and fruit peels, eggshells, tea bags and coffee grounds. 

The brown ingredients are where the carbon comes from, and that is mostly derived from shredded paper and cardboard and dry yard waste like dead leaves, small twigs, straw, sawdust and used potting soil. 

Do not use any metals, glass, dairy products, fatty or greasy foods, cat or dog waste, meat or seafood, diapers, black walnut tree leaves or twigs, yard trimmings treated with chemical pesticides or roots of perennial weeds. Be sure to dispose of the waste properly or use a reliable junk removal service.

Getting Started

With knowledge of the materials in place, it’s time to get started. The ideal amount of browns and greens in the compost is a three-to-one mixture; that is three scoops of brown ingredients for every one green, with the layers intermingling. Once the pile begins decomposing it will become warm, and may even let off steam on cold days. Once this happens, “fluff” the compost heap by mixing it with a shovel, and then add more to the mixture. 

Once the material is dark and absent of any food or yard waste it’s ready to use as fertilizer. This ready to use compost serves as a nutrient and conditioner for soil used in gardens, but it shouldn’t be used with household plants because it might still contain vegetable and grass seeds. 

Troubleshooting

As with every new experiment, problems are bound to arise. If a rotten egg smell comes about that means the compost pit isn’t getting enough airflow and needs fluffing. If an ammonia stench begins drifting from the pile that means it has too much nitrogen in it, and more coarse browns like sawdust need to be added. If the pile is decomposing too slowly, try to heat it up by covering it with a tarp.