The fanatical belief that remodeling doesn't need to cost you a fortune - or your sanity.

Windy Day in LA – Santa Ana Winds Kick Up Some Leaves!

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A windy weather day in LA leads to lots of debris in the pool.

A windy weather day in LA leads to lots of junk in the pool.

Anyone here in LA could tell you that this Summer (DID we have a Summer this year??) had some oddball weather.  Anyone trying to get anywhere this today got blown away (and not in a good way) by strong wind gusts zipping across town.  Power lines went down, 1920′s windows rattled, and shrubbery everywhere shook in their roots.  My power has gone out twice in this post!

Dramatic, you say? Yeah, a little. (ok, I’m dramatic….) Until I peeked at a pool.

This is a seriously unhappy pool filter.

This is a seriously unhappy pool filter.

The popularity of SoCal living makes efficient property useage a big deal. To stake our claim, we use every inch of our yards –  and use them in the most creative ways. Many city and valley homeowners add in large hedges for privacy — especially around outdoor living spaces like backyards and pools- (hello, bikini and swim trunk prancing BBQ, anyone?)

Over time, and with good watering, these hedges can add huge property value and privacy, but can have some unfortunate consequences to plumbing, foundations, and pools. Back to the weather. 35 mile per hour winds unexpectedly shaking these hedges can throw off some serious leaves and dust.  Today is no exception. Peering into a Hollywood backyard with tall ficus hedges, I saw a very unhappy pool and filter – and a lot of potential problems too.

Lovely ficus hedge is the messy culprit.

Hedge is the messy pool filter culprit – busted!

Lots of people have a pool man that comes to take care of their pool and spas– Pools can be a serious investment.  If not, send your teenager (or husband? dog?) out to do the job.  We all run the risk of expensive equipment repair and service when we don’t also ‘self-police’ the condition of the pool, and request a little TLC when needed– i.e. call your pool man if you think you need a professional cleaning job, people!

When a pool filter is full of leaves and debris, it can’t properly continue to filter the water- causing the pump to continually run.  It sounds distressed (grumble grumble, cough – slurp) and sucks a lot of air through the system.  A sign of a full filter basket in your pool is lots of little air bubbles coming to the surface.

Air bubbles on the surface mean it's time to clean the filter!

Air bubbles on the surface mean it’s time to clean the filter!

Needless to say, burning out a pump is NOT a fun home repair expense!

It’s the little things that keep home systems in operating order, and save us all big bucks in major repairs.  Have a question? Email us here and we’ll help.  Oh, and go clean your filter!

Improvemental Jobsite – Weatherizing Original Wood Windows in a Home In Echo Park Angeleno Heights

These windows were never properly sealed on the top and bottom

Thought I’d share some jobsite images from one of our clients in Echo Park doing some weatherizing on her 1926 weeping windows.  Read to the bottom and click on the link to see our client’s unvarnished thoughts on her personal blog about having my crews around!  (HINT: There is a little swearing involved… )

Many Los Angeles houses have beautiful wood windows that are original to their construction. That means they’re ancient!  As with my home, water damage and poor sealing over time have caused windows to swell, crack, get flimsy, become non-operable, leak profusely at odd times, and attract termites. EEK!

Oh, window. Soon you will be weatherproof again!

But what’s a homeowner to do?  Part of the value of a 20’s home here in Echo Park and Angeleno Heights is the history and great construction the homes were blessed with. The up and downside of ‘vintage’ windows and doors is that they’ve withstood earthquakes, Santa Ana winds, raging teenagers slamming doors, and big dogs battling the Mailman. (If you’ve got a dog and your mail comes in a mail slot, you get where I’m coming from about the abuse the front windows take…)

The outside didn't fare much better...

These windows are older than our parents! (erm… no Age-ism intended – hope I hold up half as well as these windows!)

As heating and air costs go up, quite a few of our clients have struggled with what to do with these beautiful old windows.  Truly, there are a lot of options. They can be weatherstripped, tuned up and touched up in many cases, if they’ve had attention over the years.

BB gun misfire?

Individual panes of glass can be replaced: especially ones that have suffered indignities like Christmas BB gun excitement, bad glazing, sand papering, and paint jobs, and becoming wavy over time with age.  But part of the problem with the glass is that we’ve advanced our technology to the point where we can stop the sun’s heat from cooking our homes – by replacing windows with low-e glass. Hmm…

Window muntins. I love that word...

For this specific spot at the front of the home, we chose to keep the original windows, sand them down to the bare wood, fill and repair all damage, and perhaps the most controversial decision – we are making them non-operable.  It is difficult to retrofit and successfully weatherstrip windows into these old out of plumb sashes, so to respect the front of the home’s appearance, and for safety, we are fixing the original windows in place.

Let's clean you up.

With several good coats of paint, inside and out, these windows will be a showstopper on the way into a beautiful home.  Do YOUR windows need some sweet love and attention before LA weather heats up?  I know just the guys to do the job… shoot me an email at and let’s talk.

Ready to be stripped! (it's not as sexy as it sounds... trust me)

Here’s what 90 years of weathering Los Angeles life can do to a window!

Time warp

Check out our client’s blog post about living through a window update.

You're next, buddy...

What the heck is a home inspection?

David Salvato thoroughly inspects every outlet

Nobody can deny I’ve got a thing for houses.  When I visit friends, I ask the kind of questions that earn me blank looks, shrugging, and an occasional eye-roll over my obvious excitement for the things many people, well… just don’t care much about. But nobody beats out a Home Inspector when it comes to an eye for detail…

If you’re a real estate agent in LA, you probably know David Salvato- with DHI Home Inspection. He’s one of those people that seems to be everywhere, a featured Home Inspector on Active Rain, and I love his juicy updates on Twitter describing conditions good and bad in homes all over Los Angeles.

Today I grill David in honor of first time home buyers using the tax credit- and giving them some sound advice, with a quick Q & A followed by some of David’s Home Inspection Deal Breakers.

tools of the trade

@EvangelistaLA: David… I’m guessing you either have to be OCD or majorly methodical to be a home inspector. What makes you so thorough?

@FollowDHI: I get my patience by remaining focused on the task at hand. I inspect every home as if were one I was buying for myself. As the owner of David Home Inspection my name is on every inspection and I take that very seriously.

@EvangelistaLA: How do you feel about buyers who want to be present for your inspection?

@FollowDHI: I love it! I guess I must have been a teacher in another life or something. I truly enjoy sharing the details of the home inspection with the potential buyers.

David caught a gas leak on this inspection

David caught a gas leak on this inspection

@EvangelistaLA: Gimmie the dirt. What’s the worst thing you’ve seen on an inspection?

@FollowDHI: I would have to say by far the worst thing I’ve ever seen was a complete cutaway of a roof truss system to make room for a non-permitted bonus room. The roof could have collapsed on the occupants. The Home was deemed uninhabitable by the local building department. It took an investor to remove all the damaged trusses and rebuild it.

@EvangelistaLA: Woah. I’m guessing with banks taking ownership of so many homes you’re seeing some wild conditions in REO properties. What’s the deal with that?

@FollowDHIConditions vary with location- and the amount of time the home is left unattended. It’s not uncommon for a Home Inspector to find things like the Heating and Air Conditioning systems removed. Vinyl doors and windows missing. Copper plumbing and electrical wires pulled out. I recently inspected a home where the $6,000 pool equipment had been stolen!

I mean this guy is EVERYWHERE...

Your bonus: DHI’s Top Ten Reasons Homeowners Tend to Walk Away:

  1. Foundation cracks that are beyond normal. Small hair line cracks are considered normal – caused by the shrinking and settlement of the concrete itself. Larger cracks are sometimes caused by large tree roots or poor soil conditions.
  2. Mold. At times mold will come up on the report. Mold in large amounts can be caused by long term roof leaks, plumbing and irrigation damage- and the health effects attributed to major mold exposure may be serious.
  3. Asbestos. Any home built before 1978 will contain asbestos of some type, unless it’s been removed already. In older homes where the new owner wants to renovate, it is best to know where the asbestos laden products are and call a pro to remove them. This can impact a renovation budget heavily.
  4. Lead. For young families with small children a home with lead paint can be a big issue. Many times I find paint peeling or flaking off- leaving small bits of paint that can be ingested by children. The lead paint removal process is a expensive, and takes time.
  5. A Bad Roof. The roof system is one of the most important parts of the house. Replacing a roof can cost thousands and in some case even over ten thousand. Wood damage under the roof will cause the replacement price to escalate quickly.
  6. Wood destroying insects and organisms. Subterranean termites are the most common termite in the United States. A mature colony has from 80K to 400K workers. (eek! Something tells me they’re not lazy either…) The average colony can consume a one foot length of 2×4 in 118 days. Other unfriendly suspects inclue the Powder post beetle, the Carpenter bee, and the Carpenter ant. Long term infestation by any of these pests can lead to the loss of structural integrity.
  7. Household pests. (uh. Yuck…) Rats and mice are the most common finds in Southern California homes. This is especially true in homes that have a lot of fruit trees and date palms. Rodents can cause thousands of dollars in damage to the homes systems and equipment. They can eat the insulation off electrical and control wires, can nest in and destroy HVAC ducts as well.
  8. Missing or damaged systems and equipment. Plumbing, electrical and HVAC equipment are some of the first things taken. Many homes are being sold as is- Bank Owned. When homes are left unattended they are subject to thieves removing HVAC equipment appliances, copper wire and plumbing.
  9. Signs of past fire damage. Even after repairs have been made many people can’t get past the feeling of bad luck that comes with a home that’s been involved in a house fire.
  10. Death or Murder in Home. (major eek!) We saved the worst for last. Everyone has seen Amityville  Horror. Never met anyone who went through with the purchase of a home after this kind of disclosure.

Seen something wild at a Foreclosure? Bought or sold a house somebody died in? Shoot us a comment!

Client Love for Improvemental

Laurie did a museum quality restoration of my 1921 Craftsman. She also managed my move, had the chimney rebuilt, supervised the installation of new rain gutters, a new hot water heater, and about fifty other things. She somehow did all of this on time and on budget. She's really good. She did such a good job on my house, I recommended her to my parents. That's not something you do unless you're really happy with a person's work.

- Adam, Hollywood Hills