The To-Do list is whittling down, little by little.  There’s still a lot to do, though.  Now we’re tackling furnace repair, replacing all the windows, and painting the building.

Furnace Repair

So I learned a new lesson about gas service.  Apparently when a tenant moves out of an apartment building and cancels their gas service, the gas company leaves the gas on, but just puts a door tag on the property.  I’m not sure why they do that, but it makes it really convenient for me as a landlord, because I can install stoves and test them to make sure they’re not leaking.

I was also happy that the service was staying on because I knew from the inspection report that there were two furnaces of the four that might not be operational.  One of them wasn’t tested by the inspectors because the thermostat had been taken off the wall by tenants.  The tenants had done that because they were using the furnace closet to store their shoes.

furnace repair

Not a safe shoe closet.

I knew the inspector hadn’t tested that furnace because I happened to walk through the unit with him.  Even though they hadn’t tested that furnace, the inspection reported listed it as being nonfunctional.  I think it was just a little bit of sloppy note-taking by the inspector.

The other furnace that they mentioned not working was in Apartment C, which I didn’t go into on the day of the inspection.  I wasn’t sure if that meant that it really wasn’t working, or just that they hadn’t tested it.  There was a thermostat on the wall in Apartment C, which might mean that they tested it, but I also knew that the air filter that was there had been turned into a mouse nest, so they might have opted not to turn the heater on because of that.


I wouldn’t turn the heater on, either. Yuck.

So anyway, I was planning to test the furnaces myself after installing the new thermostat in A and removing the nasty air filter in C to see if they needed to be repaired.  Since the gas was left on, I figured this would be a piece of cake.  But here’s where I learned an important lesson.

If a tenant moves out and cancels their gas service, the gas company leaves the gas on.  But if the gas has to be completely turned off for any reason, including termite tenting, the gas company will only turn the gas back on for the units that have active gas service.  Oh crap.  I learned this the hard way.

The termite tenting was done, the contractor and I had installed all of the gas stoves, and the contractor had installed the thermostat in Apartment A.  I had my gas leak detector, and was prepared to test the stove connections, but I noticed that no gas was coming out.  Weird.  I called the gas company, and that’s when they told me about their policy.  I asked if there was anything we could do, even having it turned back on just for a day to test the connections, and they said no.  I would need to establish a new account for each of the units where I needed gas service, which meant paying a $25 fee per account just to get it set up.  I asked about a million other options, and they said no to all of them.  Sigh.  Great.

Note to Landlords: Get your gas appliances tested and fixed BEFORE you tent for termites.

So I turned on service for the two units that might have a problem: Apt. A and Apt. C.  The gas company came out to turn them on, and while the gas company rep was there, we had him light the furnaces and test them.  Apt. A lit within just a minute or two, so that was great.  No repair needed for that unit.

In Apt. C, though, the guy was trying and trying and trying, and we waited several minutes with no results.  Oh no.  I really didn’t want to have to shell out $1,200 or so for a new furnace.  I’ve already gone pretty far over my budget for this renovation.  Just when I was about to give up hope, the furnace lit.  YES!

The gas company guy shut off the furnaces and then tested the gas at each of the meters.  The meters didn’t show any movement at all, so we knew all of the new stove installations were sealed, too.  Sweet!  I canceled the gas service ten days after I started it.  Here’s my first and final bill for those units:


Ouch.  The actual gas usage was only one therm in each unit, which means the meter barely ticked over to the next therm.  The total actual gas charges were only $0.81 per unit.  But I had to pay a total of $55.10 in setup costs and other fees just to get that $1.62 worth of gas.  Ugh.  Lesson learned.  But at least I didn’t get stuck paying a couple thousand bucks for new furnaces.  These ones are old, but they’re barely used in our climate, so it would seem like a huge waste of money to buy new ones.

The Window Installation

Next on the list was getting the new windows installed and painting the outside of the building.  The painter couldn’t get started on the outside until the windows were in and sealed.  The first step for the painter is pressure washing the building, and you can’t really do that with open windows.

The window installers arrived on a Monday, and had all of the windows and sliding glass doors installed and ready to go by Wednesday night.  The owner of the window company called me Wednesday night to say they were finished, so I called him first thing in the morning on Thursday with my credit card number to pay the bill.  Later that day, my contractor texted me and asked if the window guys were supposed to show up and finish their work.  What?

I told him that they reported to me that they were finished, so I just paid the bill.  He said that there were several windows that hadn’t been trimmed out and sealed all the way, and they left all the old windows behind instead of taking them with them.  Crap.

I called the window guy back, and he said he would check with his team.  He called me back a few minutes later and apologized.  He said that a window recycler would be coming in the next hour to pick up the old windows, and he was sending a guy over to double check all the windows and seal whatever was undone.  I’ll tell ya, there is no substitute for having a trustworthy contractor on site watching your back.

Also, during installation, they discovered that one of the windows was already broken during delivery.  The window manufacturer is supposed to contact me directly to replace the glass on that one window.

The Exterior Painting

The exterior painters started their prep work on Thursday, right on schedule.  Those guys busted their butts.  Initially, the owner of the painting company told me that he thought they would take 7–8 days to complete their work.  But they started on Thursday, and worked fairly long days on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday (Memorial Day), and finished on Tuesday.

I did a final inspection with the owner of the painting company on Wednesday, and pointed out just a few areas where they needed to do a little finishing work.  They took care of it, and now the building is looking GREAT!  Between the fresh paint, the new windows, and the new garage doors, it’s easily the best-looking building on the block now.

I went with a light grey on the exterior of the building, with a charcoal trim.  The old colors were light brown with dark brown trim.  Initially, I wanted to paint the building light grey with white trim, but it was going to cost a lot more money and take far more coats of paint to turn the dark brown trim to white.  Plus, the painter cautioned me that after years of wear and occasional rain, the odds were that the brown color would start bleeding through the white.  The painter suggested charcoal trim, which I was pretty skeptical about, but I saw some photos of that similar color scheme, and I started to warm up to the idea.  I especially liked the parts where the charcoal trim butted up against the bright white of the windows and garages.  It really makes them pop, and calls attention to the fact that the garage doors and windows are brand new.

I want to post pics of the exterior really badly, but I’m holding off on purpose.  I want to do a before-and-after post when the renovation is finished, and if I show the exterior now, that will take a lot of the fun out of that.  Just trust me, it will be a really dramatic change.

Now we just need to finish up the interiors!