Author Topic: Should my in-laws have this work done on their SFH?  (Read 549 times)

jeromedawg

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Should my in-laws have this work done on their SFH?
« on: January 05, 2021, 06:02:12 PM »
Hey all,

I posted in the Ask a Mustachian forum initially just asking for feedback/advice on attic insulation removal/installation on behalf of my in-laws (who are seeking to take advantage of a rebate program that offers money back on the installation): https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/attic-insulation-and-cleaning-costs

We ended up scheduling to have an attic insulation contractor take a look today - he found a number of other issues that we might consider having addressed. He seems honest and isn't a big time company - I believe he's the owner operator and may have one or two guys helping but he seems to do a lot of the actual work. Found him on Yelp and he doesn't have a ton of reviews but is local and very responsive. Anyway, I feel he gave a pretty thorough and honest assessment of what he found:

1) attic insulation is fairly dirty - old pieces of wood laying around from prior roof work (they had their roof replaced in 2016), dust, some rodent droppings (not a lot) toward garage. Per the contractor, all this may affect air quality (which is something my FIL has been complaining of)

2) missing insulation coverage in some areas - he can simply just blow in insulation to supplement what's there but it won't address the other issue of actually cleaning things up in the attic.

3) range hood isn't venting to roof (t-top flasher needs to be installed - I don't know if this was always this way *prior* to the re-roofing or if it was and the roofing company missed it. If the latter, is the roofing company supposed to come back out to address this on their dime?). The contractor mentioned he can run venting up to and connect to the t-top flashing but he won't install the flashing itself due to not wanting to invalidate the warranty on the roof work.

4) bathroom (i think for both their bathrooms) fans/ventilation not connected or exiting to gable vents -- the contractor is able to do this venting for at least one of the bathrooms, and it won't invalidate the roof warranty since the venting is exiting the side

5) Observed that the HVAC ducting is corrogated ducting and pointed out that it *may* contain asbestos. Some sections are disconnected, torn or holes in it --> should get HVAC contractor inspect and replace or repair

6) recessed lighting fixtures  are non-insulation contact so he can't put insulation over those fixtures and has to leave a 3" gap around the hole where the lighting is. This would reduce the energy efficiency

7) one gable vent screen is torn, which he can repair/replace


I'm currently waiting on a quote for him for everything except for #3 and #5. Regarding the rodent droppings, I noticed that my FIL set out rat and mouse traps around his garage in various places and I don't think he ever caught anything. He never mentioned hiring a pest control company either so we have no idea if there are still rodents around. If there are, this is going to be yet another item to add to the list of expenses. Regarding #5, there is another rebate program in their area (LA) offering services for AC Optimization (where they have someone come out) as well as rebates for AC replacement. Their condenser unit is from 2000 and not sure how old the furnace is. The problem is that LADWP has indefinitely halted the program due to COVID (https://www.ladwpactuneup.com/)

The home is a 4/2 SFH built in 1964 and is 1771sq feet. My FIL originally just wanted to get the attic insulation replaced and had been complaining about how he has been having some difficulties with breathing (he's been on an inhaler recently) and this became more of an issue in recent years. There was a gas leak in the surrounding area a couple years back, which we all think may have contributed to some of his problems too, but I think the roofing job in 2016 may also have contributed to this potentially via residual dust and potentially other VOCs that fell onto the insulation and ducting and has just been slowly circulating throughout their home ever since; especially considering how the contractor noted tears/holes/disconnections in the HVAC duct work.

All that said, my in-laws aren't in a great financial situation. They are retired and still have about 15 years left on a 30 mortgage they took in 2004 and got a loan modification on back in 2011. The loan modification was for the terms of a balloon payment at the end too where they have to give up 25% of the appreciated value to the loan company (smh... they mostly did this because the interest rate on it was down to around 2% and includes their property tax and insurance payments I believe). They're in their mid-70s right now and currently rent one room out to a roommate. This coupled with their SS payments *can* keep them treading water but more often than not they end up negative cash-flowing because they don't make good financial decisions overall (my FIL is impulsive and is a "yes" man - he has gotten better about this since retiring but it's still tough).

I don't know how much longer they'll be living in that place but they have shown little interest in moving. We have thought about the option, more recently, of looking for a duplex, multiplex or even a home with an ADU and to have them live in one unit and pay a subsidized amount of rent (if the financials can work out) but I don't know. I've been pushing my wife to get the pay-off quote on their home just to know what it would be (especially with the balloon payment). I'm just wondering if you guys think all these items are really worth addressing and having fixed. It seems like most people would want *all* the items remediated unless they were planning to sell the house and didn't want to deal with any of it.

Anyone have advice or feedback on the situation?

Would it be worth purchasing an air quality monitor, asbestos test kit, and airborne mold kit and to check for the presence of asbestos, old and to actually see how bad the AQ is? I guess the core issue still goes back to how long they plan to stay there though. On the other hand, if the quality of the air is impacting their livelihoods and they don't have much money, it seems like it might be better just to move out and sell (I have no doubt they would still be stubbornly against this though).




« Last Edit: January 05, 2021, 06:22:45 PM by jeromedawg »

PMJL34

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Re: Should my in-laws have this work done on their SFH?
« Reply #1 on: January 05, 2021, 09:24:36 PM »
OP,

It sounds like your FIL just wants improved air quality. No offense, but it's probably more in his head and/or personal health issues going on. Insulation is for energy saving and him being in LA, it's not that important. More importantly, I highly doubt it will make a dent in air quality indoors. Combine that with his limited income, just have their air quality checked and get a fancy air purifier and run it 24/7. Also, open the windows every day as much as possible assuming he isn't next door to a freeway.

EDIT: For checking air quality, just get a simple kit off of amazon/homedepot and go from there. If it turns out it's terrible, then report back. Also, does he have carpet in the home? Does he have cloth blinds and rugs everywhere? Get rid of all of that and he should notice a big difference.

Best of luck!

 
« Last Edit: January 05, 2021, 09:28:51 PM by PMJL34 »

franklin4

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Re: Should my in-laws have this work done on their SFH?
« Reply #2 on: January 05, 2021, 10:10:08 PM »
I've been lurking here for awhile and am finally motivated enough to chime in. Of this scope of work the most critical is some of #5, the part about sealing up any holes in ducting. None of the other issues should allow dirty air from the attic into living space below. Also #7 seems like a fine idea if that could keep rats out of the attic. Other than those issues it seems your inlaws would be better off not spending money on non-necessary repairs.

As far as asbestos goes, it's usually best to leave anything suspected to contain it alone if it's not crumbling and getting airborne. If it is present in duct insulation it should not be getting into the ducts.

I substantially agree with pmjl34.

jeromedawg

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Re: Should my in-laws have this work done on their SFH?
« Reply #3 on: January 05, 2021, 10:11:15 PM »
OP,

It sounds like your FIL just wants improved air quality. No offense, but it's probably more in his head and/or personal health issues going on. Insulation is for energy saving and him being in LA, it's not that important. More importantly, I highly doubt it will make a dent in air quality indoors. Combine that with his limited income, just have their air quality checked and get a fancy air purifier and run it 24/7. Also, open the windows every day as much as possible assuming he isn't next door to a freeway.

EDIT: For checking air quality, just get a simple kit off of amazon/homedepot and go from there. If it turns out it's terrible, then report back. Also, does he have carpet in the home? Does he have cloth blinds and rugs everywhere? Get rid of all of that and he should notice a big difference.

Best of luck!

No offense taken. I tend to think that insulation should have little to do with AQ and that something else is going on with him but I don't know either. If he were to do the insulation where the guy just blows in a supplemental amount in addition to what's there (and no other measures are taken), I believe he'd get 100% of his money back via the rebate (the contractor warned us that it could take up to 6 months to get this though due to COVID delays). Anyway, my FIL has also been complaining that it has been getting extra cold in their home lately (when we visited my wife actually made the same observation about it being noticeably colder inside the house) and thinks that this will help save on electricity with running the heater etc. I don't know how often they even run the heater.


Aside from the insulation. What are your thoughts on the other items like the ventilation (and particularly the T-Top in the kitchen above the range hood, which the contractor was pointing out could be a potential fire hazard - they cook a lot), leaky ductwork and potential rodents? I think for the ductwork I'd say to wait on the LADWP tune-up program but I'm not sure if that program would involve them sealed and fixing those kinds of issues in the ductwork - they may just verify that those are issues but tell them it isn't part of the program and that it would cost extra. I'm not sure how much of that would be impacting the AQ as well as the energy efficiency overall.

As far as curtains, they do have a large set in the living area but that's it.

I've been lurking here for awhile and am finally motivated enough to chime in. Of this scope of work the most critical is some of #5, the part about sealing up any holes in ducting. None of the other issues should allow dirty air from the attic into living space below. Also #7 seems like a fine idea if that could keep rats out of the attic. Other than those issues it seems your inlaws would be better off not spending money on non-necessary repairs.

As far as asbestos goes, it's usually best to leave anything suspected to contain it alone if it's not crumbling and getting airborne. If it is present in duct insulation it should not be getting into the ducts.

I substantially agree with pmjl34.
Thanks for the input! You answered the question I had about ducting. Seems like it's probably worth hiring an HVAC company to come in and tune-up and seal off the duct work. The contractor did point out that the holes from the recessed lighting could potentially be allowing dust, etc from the attic into the living area but I would think this would be minimal if anything. More concerning would be them operating the AC/furnace and *that* blowing and circulating crap throughout their home.


Forgot to mention but when we last visited I noticed a bag of chicken feed on the side of the garage with a hole in the side and the chicken feed partially poured out on the ground. Prior to that when I was going up to look for something that we had stored there (we have a number of boxes of old baby stuff that we are keeping there for the time being) I noticed rat droppings on the top shelf of the storage shelving. Not sure if this was old or recent but after I mentioned all this to the contractor he did say that the area he noticed the rat droppings was closer to the garage area. So I'm wondering if it's worth having a pest control company come out to do an initial inspection to determine if there's a problem. The last thing I'd want is to have a rat start eating through and nesting in any of the boxes of things we've been storing there :(
« Last Edit: January 06, 2021, 11:03:55 AM by jeromedawg »

PMJL34

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Re: Should my in-laws have this work done on their SFH?
« Reply #4 on: January 06, 2021, 11:33:48 AM »
Jeromedawg,

What is the realistic budget of your FIL? Are you sure he wants to spend his limited income tying up these loose ends? Assuming he wants to spend money....

1&2. Sure, put in insulation. It won't hurt. I would just lay new insulation over the old.
3. Range hood should be properly vented. Is the range on an exterior wall? If so, just open that wall up and vent it there without it going into the roof. If it's not on an exterior wall, then you need to vent it through the roof.
4. Same thing with bathroom vents as the range vent.   
5. HVAC vents should not be torn or have holes. Just wrap the small holes and tears with HVAC tape. I'm not an expert, but I'm not aware of Asbestos HVAC ducting. Instead, it's probably the insulation around the HVAC ducting, not the ducting itself. If it's the ducting, then take that section and replace it with metal. If it's the insulation, leave it alone. 
6. recessed lights. build a box around it, if you want. I would just caulk or foam the circle where the cans meet the ceiling from the attic side. It's probably cheaper to just buy IC rated cans and lay insulation over it than to build these boxes and struggle.
7. just repair the gable screen.
8. Rodents. He most likely has some. Set the most basic snap traps everywhere and see if he catches any. Put peanut butter on the traps and check them every couple of days. Rodent proofing an old city home is very difficult. He just needs to keep the house clutter free the best he can. No need for an exterminator. All they will do is set traps and come back a week later and charge you an arm for it.

All of the above are easy items and can be done by any handyman. I wouldn't spend a lot of money on any of them. If I had to put them in order of importance, I would say, 5 &6 then 3&4. I would most likely do 3,4,5 &6 now. 1,2,7,8 can be done when you feel like it. 

Best of luck!
« Last Edit: January 06, 2021, 11:37:56 AM by PMJL34 »

jeromedawg

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Re: Should my in-laws have this work done on their SFH?
« Reply #5 on: January 06, 2021, 01:24:30 PM »
Jeromedawg,

What is the realistic budget of your FIL? Are you sure he wants to spend his limited income tying up these loose ends? Assuming he wants to spend money....

1&2. Sure, put in insulation. It won't hurt. I would just lay new insulation over the old.
3. Range hood should be properly vented. Is the range on an exterior wall? If so, just open that wall up and vent it there without it going into the roof. If it's not on an exterior wall, then you need to vent it through the roof.
4. Same thing with bathroom vents as the range vent.   
5. HVAC vents should not be torn or have holes. Just wrap the small holes and tears with HVAC tape. I'm not an expert, but I'm not aware of Asbestos HVAC ducting. Instead, it's probably the insulation around the HVAC ducting, not the ducting itself. If it's the ducting, then take that section and replace it with metal. If it's the insulation, leave it alone. 
6. recessed lights. build a box around it, if you want. I would just caulk or foam the circle where the cans meet the ceiling from the attic side. It's probably cheaper to just buy IC rated cans and lay insulation over it than to build these boxes and struggle.
7. just repair the gable screen.
8. Rodents. He most likely has some. Set the most basic snap traps everywhere and see if he catches any. Put peanut butter on the traps and check them every couple of days. Rodent proofing an old city home is very difficult. He just needs to keep the house clutter free the best he can. No need for an exterminator. All they will do is set traps and come back a week later and charge you an arm for it.

All of the above are easy items and can be done by any handyman. I wouldn't spend a lot of money on any of them. If I had to put them in order of importance, I would say, 5 &6 then 3&4. I would most likely do 3,4,5 &6 now. 1,2,7,8 can be done when you feel like it. 

Best of luck!

Thanks for the suggestions!

For his budget I don't know but based on their financial situation on behalf of them I would say whatever's the cheapest that doesn't require DIY and also won't be super shoddy lol. I think, to a certain extent, you do get what you pay for with this kind of stuff though

Question on your prioritization of #6 being so high - is this more because of safety issues with fire? The contractor said he would just leave 3" of clearance around each can/box to avoid issues. It would reduce the energy efficiency but it seems like one of those things where it's not really that big of a factor. Although the contractor said that with the # of recessed lights it starts adding up. IIRC, they don't have *that* many cans though. Maybe 3-4 in a hallway and several in the living room area. I'd have to double check. Wouldn't replacing/upgrading the recessed lights be a pretty costly thing anyway?

Regarding pest control, that's probably the one area I have most DIY experience with. I had some Tomcat traps that I threw out after getting tons of use out of those at our last place. They were pretty disgusting. I figure I could buy several of those and set them up around his place... ironically, I never got a single kill with the Victor snap traps and there were several instances where the traps were set off and the rats still escaped! Even the modified traps where I put screws in from under. The Tomcat traps either killed or trapped every single rat that ever set those things off though and they're much easier and safer to set compared to the Victors (side story but I'm a bit traumatized by those things as well since we were at a friend's house and our curious son, a toddler at the time, wandered off and walked back with a LOADED rat trap - I don't know how he managed not to set the thing off and lose his finger but he did...crazy kid. Anyway, they supposedly had a possum in the house so were trying to trap it...not sure what a rat trap would have done but one of those weird one-off experiences. The husband was super awkward after that probably because he felt horrible).

 
« Last Edit: January 06, 2021, 01:46:50 PM by jeromedawg »

PMJL34

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Re: Should my in-laws have this work done on their SFH?
« Reply #6 on: January 06, 2021, 06:01:34 PM »
I don't think any of the ticket items are crucial.

#6 is prioritized because it's the easiest thing that can be done for $5 and an hour (caulk or gap filler). Even if there is no insulation, the ceiling drywall has an R value that keeps the heat/cool in (it's at least a solid surface. Where there are cans, there are most likely holes/space where the hot air openly escapes into the attic. It's most likely the weakest point of keeping heat/cool air in. Also the space above the cans most likely don't have any insulation so it's just generally a weak R value area even if it's sealed. But sealing certainly helps a lot. I bet if you took a flashlight from the living space up at the cans, there will be some light that sneaks through. This is the path the air takes. Seal that up. And yes, it's a potential fire hazard if you just put insulation on top of it. Although I recently saw some youtube videos and almost all insulation is very fire retardant up to 1500 degrees, so it wouldn't be my biggest concern. It's really DIY stuff here.

Regarding rodents. Everyone swears by one method or another. Some swear by peanut butter others by something else. Do what works for you! I suggested that you simply try the easiest thing first before hiring it out. Again, easy DIY.

 

« Last Edit: January 06, 2021, 06:05:12 PM by PMJL34 »

jeromedawg

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Re: Should my in-laws have this work done on their SFH?
« Reply #7 on: January 06, 2021, 07:07:55 PM »
I don't think any of the ticket items are crucial.

#6 is prioritized because it's the easiest thing that can be done for $5 and an hour (caulk or gap filler). Even if there is no insulation, the ceiling drywall has an R value that keeps the heat/cool in (it's at least a solid surface. Where there are cans, there are most likely holes/space where the hot air openly escapes into the attic. It's most likely the weakest point of keeping heat/cool air in. Also the space above the cans most likely don't have any insulation so it's just generally a weak R value area even if it's sealed. But sealing certainly helps a lot. I bet if you took a flashlight from the living space up at the cans, there will be some light that sneaks through. This is the path the air takes. Seal that up. And yes, it's a potential fire hazard if you just put insulation on top of it. Although I recently saw some youtube videos and almost all insulation is very fire retardant up to 1500 degrees, so it wouldn't be my biggest concern. It's really DIY stuff here.

Regarding rodents. Everyone swears by one method or another. Some swear by peanut butter others by something else. Do what works for you! I suggested that you simply try the easiest thing first before hiring it out. Again, easy DIY.

Yea... Most "easy diy" projects I take on end up being a big ordeal or undertaking for whatever reason lol. The biggest issue here is time and distance. My in-laws are almost two hours away and we don't see them all that often. If we do usually it's for a short period of time due to COVID and in the evenings, and our contact is limited. If we lived significantly closer I'd probably be DIYing most of the stuff.

Btw peanut butter was definitely effective. What made it more effective was implanting pieces of bacon and or cheese