Water Leaks – We’ve Had a Few

One of the most common and feared problems for homeowners is water leaks and damage.  Our latest for BrickUnderground.com tells you all about our recent experiences and what you are in for when you purchase an old house.

Stay tuned for our next post because it gets even better, or worse, depending on how you look at it.

4 COMMON BROWNSTONE LEAKS—AND HOW WE (MOSTLY) FIXED THEM

Nothing says “family time” like clearing sewage-filled pipes with your loved ones.

Longtime New Yorkers Angela Tiffin and Andrew Nichols bought their first brownstone in South Park Slope in May 2012, and have spent two years renovating—first, their own duplex apartment and in recent months, a third-floor rental unit—much of it with their own hands. You can read more about the project at their blog, Brownstone Cyclone.

If this isn’t a proverb, it should be: as soon as you complete something during a renovation, something else goes wrong.  When you’re dealing with a 100-year-old brownstone, it happens more often than not. And water is particularly destructive because the damage extends both to the thing leaking, as well as its surroundingshome insurance policies have a high deductible for water-related damage for a reason.

How to Cut Down a Tree For $30

It seems wrong to cut down a tree for any reason in the concrete jungle but we had a fir tree in the backyard that was leaning, with dead branches and was smack in the middle of the yard.  Our neighbor did not like it either so he offered to lend us his chain saw.  The first step was cutting the top off.

backyard

We won’t go into details on this part, just know that it involved a ladder, a chain saw, and some rope (to make sure the top fell where we wanted it to) and a bit of luck.

We cut off the top of the tree leaving about 8 feet of the trunk so we could pull it out later. This left us with a bunch of large tree branches that we now had to deal with.  Enter, NYC and its new organics recycling program.  Thanks to the new program, we were able to cut up the branches and separate them into tied bundles and then set them out on the curb (a few at a time) to be picked up by the city.  We also received two new brown bins where we could put all our garden clippings, leaves and sticks for the program to recycle.  Brilliant.

Oh and in case you were wondering, you can’t burn fir tree wood in your fireplace because it has too high a moisture content.  If you were cutting down a tree whose wood you could burn, you would have to let it dry out for a significant period of time before you could burn it in a fireplace.  You cannot burn wood in a fire pit in your backyard–despite what our neighbor says.

Now, for the trunk.  One day, our other neighbor had gardeners in her yard so we asked them how much to remove the trunk and roots.  He told us $300 not including taking the stump away.  That was not in our budget.  In our previous apartment, we had watched a tree stump being removed and they used a large truck and some chains.  We could not use this method because our backyard butts up to private property all around.  Because we are cheap and always up for a challenge, we purchased a 2 ton cable winch from Harbor Freight for 20 bucks and some chain. The winch works by attaching a chain around the stump and another around a solid object (in this case our other much larger tree) then you crack away on the winch and watch it pull the tree down.

IMG_4747 We had to tighten up the chains several times (as the winch only provides about 6 feet of cable) and dig around the root system a bunch but we got the tree down.

pulling_tree_downAfter the tree was down we cut up the trunk with the chainsaw and wrapped the chains around he stump and cranked more until all of the roots were out.

pulling_stump_outIn the end we had just this big hole in the ground but no worries because the contractor left us a giant mound of dirt when the extension was created.

IMG_4760 Afterwards, there was some more digging and cutting with an axe to get out the roots out but we are now stump-free.