We started the Homeowner Headaches website because we were going through a series of home repairs or home repair projects that originally began with the simple goal of trying to get solar energy.

However, once we started peeling back the onion (so to speak) of the various home repairs that needed attention to even enable a home solar photovoltaic system on our rooftop, that was when we uncovered a Pandora’s Box of issues that were hidden from us all these years.

Through a rather unique set of circumstances where the coronavirus pandemic along with being able to work my day job remotely from home, I was able to document and learn a lot about homeownership in ways that would not have been possible otherwise.

Therefore, I wanted to put together this chronicle of events concerning our solar installation adventure that really blew up into an unforeseen home repair misadventure.  Indeed, by sharing our story, you can see what we’ve learned while also seeing how one thing leads to another, and how such issues eventually become exposed whether we like them or not..

Re-roofing was a prerequisite for us to going solar
Re-roofing was a prerequisite for us to going solar

At the end of the day, it seems that homeownership is like a game of Spin-the-Bottle.

Eventually, the bottle points to the current homeowner, who is ultimately the one having to pay for all the repairs regardless of whether it’s that person’s fault or not.

I have to believe that our story is typical of the kind of home maintenance issues that blindside most (if not all) homeowners.

Who knows? Maybe by seeing our solar energy escapade, it might help you anticipate or at least become aware of the types of issues that ultimately blow up to become homeowner headaches!

Timeline of Events

To give you an idea of the amount of work done and the chronology of events or jobs that took place, we’ve broken up this long article into five parts corresponding to the main parts of repair work that happened to both our home and our rental property..

Note that some of the dates are overlapping between these phases, which attests to how home repairs rarely happen in a linear fashion!

Below is a line graph showing how the costs really blew up over time as we uncovered issues as we went. 

Hopefully, it gives you a better appreciation of why these things became homeowner headaches for us!

Graph of our estimated and realized running costs of home repairs over time
Graph of our estimated and realized running costs of home repairs over time

Part 1: Committing to Solar and Starting the Snowball

Finally realizing our goal of installing solar panels and harnessing the power of the sun
Finally realizing our goal of installing solar panels and harnessing the power of the sun

It all started with our annual meeting with our accountant when we took another look at the dwindling tax incentives to go solar.

From there, we made the commitment (financially) to go solar, which got the ball rolling on work done to the house to enable it.

2/19/2021 – Meeting with our Accountant

We met with our accountant who has been doing our taxes for over 10 years.  We learned from him that the solar tax credit had been reduced to 26% from 30% at the end of 2019.  

However, he also informed us that the solar tax credit was to remain 26% until the end of 2021 (was supposed to expire by the end of 2020).

Right after the meeting, we decided to finally commit to going solar after having this on our wish list for the better part of 20 years.

3/1/2021 – Started Meeting with Roofing and Solar Contractors

We started to meet roofing and solar contractors for estimates as well as to do our due diligence on researching these contractors’ reputation.

In a few days, we pretty much reduced the prospective contractors to 2.

One vendor was very strong on roofing but not so strong on solar.  On the other hand, the other vendor was very strong on solar, but they weren’t as strong on the roofing.

After about 1.5 weeks since we started soliciting roofing and solar contractors, we ultimately selected the company that was very strong on roofing even though they weren’t as strong on solar.

3/18/2021 – Pulled Permit and Scheduled Inspection on Roofing Job

The condition of the roof of our home, which was improperly done for the previous owner
The condition of the roof of our home, which was improperly done for the previous owner

After Julie picked the shingle color, the contractor then started making materials orders while also having the runner go get the permit from the city.

However, a few days later, we learned that even though one part of the City Planning Department approved Julie’s original desired shingle color (Terracota), the other part of the office denied it saying it didn’t meet LA County’s SRI (solar reflective index) requirements. 

Therefore, we settled on going with Mountainside shingles.

3/23/2021 – Started Re-roofing Job on Our Home

Roofing contractor took off shingles and old turbines (apparently, they weren’t installed correctly).

Only then was it apparent what the extent of wood damage was as shingling hid any underlying issues.

3/24/2021 – Roofing Wood Replacement on Home

Badly damaged shiplap that had gotten replaced during the reroofing of our home
Badly damaged shiplap that had gotten replaced during the reroofing of our home

Wood replacement occurred, which was mostly to shiplap as our home didn’t have a plywood layer.

It ended up being about 450 square feet of shiplap, and it cost us around $6700 as lumber prices had tripled.

Despite my feelings about contributing to Global Warming with all this lumber consumption, we had to eat this cost or else it wouldn’t pass the city’s inspection to move forward with shingling.

We really wished that we had tented before moving in back in 2014, and we would later learn that the previous owner never tented (only treated, but that didn’t do anything).

This unexpected cost made us want to protect the new wood while also taking steps to address the ongoing termite problem on the home.

3/25/2021 – Roofing Complete on Home

The new shingles and metal valleys set up at the end of the roofing job on our home
The new shingles and metal valleys set up at the end of the roofing job on our home

The roofing company completed the roofing job.  

They needed an extra day (extending the roof job from a mere 4 days total to 5 days) because they were short on some roofing materials and had to get them to finish the job.

3/26/2021 – Solar Installation Phase Started on Home

We worked out and approved solar installation plans with the roofing company’s office so they can submit it to the city for the next round of inspections.

After a week of no activity between April 1-11 (because we were on a Spring Break Road Trip), we learned that the office didn’t submit the paperwork prior to our trip so we had to follow up with them and the city to ensure it got done.

After a few more days of delay, we finally pulled the permit and got the go-ahead to start the solar work.

The roofing company upgraded the electrical panel, and then started laying out supports for the solar panels.

4/16/2021 – Solar Installation on Home Complete

Solar panels installed on our rooftop
Solar panels installed on our rooftop

The roofing company finished installing the solar and taught up how to switch off or switch on the AC disconnect.

We were told the utility company will give us the authorization to power on in a few weeks.

As a condition of the city’s inspection of the electrical upgrade permitting, we relabeled the upgraded circuit breaker so it’s more clear which breaker was controlling what.

5/1/2021 – Broken Shiplap Repair

Reinforcing the broken shiplap that wasn’t caught by inspection on our home
Reinforcing the broken shiplap that wasn’t caught by inspection on our home

During the course of termite inspections, one vendor spotted shiplap damage while looking in our attic.  

This resulted in us getting the roofing company to come back and fix or reinforce that shiplap instead of paying to have someone else fix the issue.

We also learned during this time that the roofing company’s office sat on our paperwork so the utility didn’t even start processing our paperwork yet!  As a result, turning on our solar was going to be delayed even longer!

5/13/2021 – Solar System On-line

The utility finally gave us the authorization to turn on our rooftop solar PV system. 

Given the cost of the roofing and solar job, we got financial help from my parents.

Part 2: Addressing Termite Issue on Our Home

We didn't appreciate the extent of wood damage and termite threat until we re-roofed in the name of installing solar
We didn’t appreciate the extent of wood damage and termite threat until we re-roofed in the name of installing solar

Spooked by the $6700 wood repair on the roofing job, we turned our attention to addressing the ongoing termite problem on our home.  

It may have been the first time in the history of the existence of our house that this place would be eradicated of termites.

3/24/2021 – Started Soliciting Termite Inspections and Estimates

We started making inquiries for termite pest control companies to address the ongoing problem in our home.  

We considered a variety of companies with various solutions from “eco-friendly” solutions to the standard fumigation solutions.

Most of the proposals seemed to only focus on eradication, but they stopped short of any kind of preventative measures.

Looking at the damage done by termites to this facia board
Looking at the damage done by termites to this facia board

After all, protecting the new wood on our roof was our main motivation for soliciting termite companies in the first place.

In the end, after about a month of lots of discussions and evaluating the various termite control and repair contractors, we eventually hired one company to do fumigation and borate treatment while hiring a different company to do the structural repairs to the house.

5/10/2021 – Started Removal and Replacement of Bad Beams and Rafters on the Exterior of Our House

The structural contractor started removing the beams, fascia, and rafters that were already eaten through by termites.

As the bad wood was removed, we saw the extent of damage resulting from the termite infestation, which caused more rafter repairs as well as an eaten-through top layer across the east side of the house’s living room area.

After 3 days, the structural contractor finished his repairs by either replacing or reinforcing the structure with new borate-treated and primed lumber.

5/14/2021 – Started Fumigation of Our House

Fumigating our home for drywood termites
Fumigating our home for drywood termites

By this time, we took all the perishables that either didn’t fit in the fumigation bags or didn’t fit in the freezers or refrigerator while stuffed in the bags.  Then, we spent the weekend at my parents’ place, which was about 20 minutes drive from our house.

Three days later, the tent came off (extra day due to no one working on Sunday) and the pest control company sprayed borates into all exposed raw wood in the attic and in the garage.

6/2/2021 – Landscaping with Termite Prevention in Mind at Our Home

Our landscaper ripped out all vegetation alongside the walls of our house to mitigate possible subterranean termite damages by keeping moisture from staying next to the house.  

They also installed drip irrigation on all planters, especially the roses in the front of the house where a sprinkler caused dry rot on the window frame.

The electrician also re-wired the dining-room-turned-office so the electrical load was better balanced, especially for the office.  

This pretty much concluded the solar installation and all work that branched off from its installation for long-term use.

6/4/2021 – Starting Exterior Painting on Our Home

Painters painting the exterior of our home
Painters painting the exterior of our home

The painter started preparation work on our home by starting with power washing, covering windows and doors, and then patching stucco and wood cracks.

A few days later, the painter also patched up holes left behind by the electrician adding a new circuit from the upgraded panel to the office.

6/8/2021 – Finished Exterior Painting on Our Home

The painter finished painting the exterior of our home.

On the next day, he touched up the interior of the house (from the holes left behind by the electrician’s work) so patching is no longer noticeable.

Part 3: Turning Our Attention to the Rental

Tenants planting a bunch of stuff they weren’t supposed to, which led to pests and damage that went beyond the security deposit
Tenants planting a bunch of stuff they weren’t supposed to, which led to pests and damage that went beyond the security deposit

Due to the termite issues that were becoming apparent on our home, we started to address possible termite issues on the rental home.

This opened up a huge can of worms on various issues in addition to termites including rats, wood repair, poor workmanship from the past, damages caused by tenants, tight contractor schedules, and more.

5/8/2021 – Pest Infestation and Uncooperative Tenants

Since we got a pest control company scheduled for fumigation and borate treatment on our primary home, we also got them to do an inspection on our rental.  

Having learned a lot from our experience at our home, we also walked around the exterior of the rental along with the structural contractor in search of evidence of termite damages.

Damage to our HVAC ducts after rats were using their insulation as nests
Damage to our HVAC ducts after rats were using their insulation as nests

The tenants didn’t make it easy for the pest control expert to investigate the attic (despite giving them more than 24 hours notice), but when the pest control representative managed to get into the attic, he immediately noticed signs of an active rat infestation.

From the limited time he did spend up there, he warned us that the rats have damaged both the HVAC ducting and the PEX insulation.

Meanwhile, the structural contractor spotted shoddy workmanship with consecutive fake rafters, a change in the garage roof’s slope, cosmetic cover-ups of structural undermining of beams and rafters, and more.  

Most of the “repairs” were done by a prior termite control company, which we used 7 years ago when we moved out of this house.

A mysterious tree (an invasive chinaberry tree) that managed to fully grow between the neighbor and our detached garage at the rental in a span of four years
A mysterious tree (an invasive chinaberry tree) that managed to fully grow between the neighbor and our detached garage at the rental in a span of four years

We also learned that the tenants planted lots of unauthorized trees and plants, especially a Mexican Palm Tree by the patio as well as an ivy up against the garage, which exacerbated rat problems.  

They also planted succulents that attracted wasps, and they damaged our driveway gate.

Our lawn was torn up and we saw a huge chinaberry tree in the narrow alley between the garage and the next door neighbor’s fence.  Did the tenants plant that?  How did it grow so big (going into power lines and onto neighbor’s roof) in just 4 years?!?

When we talked to tenants about the trees and the ivy, they said they intended to move out at the end of the lease, which they thought was in November, but we reminded them that it ended at the end of June.  So they said they’d give us the 30-day notice in writing.

Shoddy workmanship from the past coming back to haunt us at the rental property
Shoddy workmanship from the past coming back to haunt us at the rental property

In the meantime, we informed them that we’d cut down all the trees (knowing they were instrumental in attracting rats to the attic), but as a condition of them moving out, they wanted us to leave the trees alone until they moved out.  

So we took them up on that verbal agreement on the expectation that they give us the 30-day notice in writing within the next week.

Given the discoveries from this visit, we learned the hard way that we should have cut down all the trees, removed the planters by the patio, and put more concrete around the garage and driveway when we had the chance before these tenants moved in 4 years ago.

All of the discoveries from this visit were of the exterior of the rental property, but the tenants wouldn’t let us in the house to see what they’ve done to the interior.  

We wouldn’t know that until July 1 supposing they move out by June 30 at the end of the lease.

5/15/2021 – Start of Pest Control on the Rental

The pest control person who addressed a major entry way for rats to get into the attic
The pest control person who addressed a major entry way for rats to get into the attic

The pest control company planted traps in the attic of our rental.

Then, he spent time setting up blocks at all possible entry and exit points that would have allowed rats access to the attic.

At the same time, I looked at the landscaping done by the tenants to our house where I noticed more trees and bushes that really messed with the original state of the property’s landscaping.

For each of the following 3 Saturdays, the pest control person checked the rat traps and then performed clean-up of the attic to mitigate rat byproducts.

5/22/2021 – Soliciting More Termite Inspections and Fumigation Estimates on the Rental

Looking up at a particularly troublesome section of the house full of dry rot and possibly some subterranean termite activity. Half the termite companies said we didn’t have subterranean termites, while the other half did
Looking up at a particularly troublesome section of the house full of dry rot and possibly some subterranean termite activity. Half the termite companies said we didn’t have subterranean termites, while the other half did

In addition to the company performing the rat control job, we also solicited other termite control companies for estimates and proposals on the fumigation job on the rental.

This went on for the better of the next two weeks as there was a wider pool of companies to consider.

It was especially confusing regarding whether our rental suffered from subterranean termites or not.  

Half of the companies said we had them while the other half said we didn’t (or they didn’t see evidence of it).

5/26/2021 – Roof Repair Assessment on the Rental

Assessing the condition of the roof of our rental property
Assessing the condition of the roof of our rental property

We had one of the roof repair experts assess the condition of the roof at the rental.  

Although he recommended re-roofing, he said our rental’s roof didn’t have very much life left because fiberglass shingles were already worn down to the fiberglass.

5/29/2021 – Getting Property Manager’s Legal Advice Regarding Tenants

We managed to talk to our property manager for advice on what we can and can’t do to coerce the tenants to give us the 30-day notice to vacate since they didn’t provide it as promised 3 weeks ago.

Eventually, we got the 30-day notice to vacate from the tenants later that day, which allowed us to schedule contractors to work on the rental throughout the month of July. 

6/5/2021 – Pest Control (Attic) Job Finished at the Rental

A family of rats getting caught in the mouse traps set up in the attic
A family of rats getting caught in the mouse traps set up in the attic

The pest control company collected traps (trapped about 5 of them on the second week) and vacuumed as much of the rat feces as he could (though he didn’t touch any of the feces resting on the insulation). 

From this point forward, we left the tenants alone to move out while we continued scheduling contractors for work starting July 1 when we’re back from our Summer Road Trip.

6/11/2021 – Scheduled Fumigation on the Rental

We selected a different pest control company to do the fumigation on the rental house to occur some time in the third week of July.

We wanted to try them out to see if there’s much difference between the one who tented our house versus the one who tented the rental.

6/30/2021 – Coordination of Work on the Rental

We returned from our Summer Road Trip and immediately started coordinating the various contractors hired so work can proceed as efficiently as possible before the fumigation date.

I also took out a 401k loan as the mounting costs of repairs were ballooning well beyond any liquid cash I had at the time.

Part 4: Repairing the Rental

The masonry contractor got rid of the planter next to the patio. Its removal was meant to be a deterrent for any new trees or plants being grown next to the house without authorization
The masonry contractor got rid of the planter next to the patio. Its removal was meant to be a deterrent for any new trees or plants being grown next to the house without authorization

Once the tenants moved out, we were finally able to assess the condition of the rental inside the house and assess the full situation we were faced with.

However, given that we had to get tenants into the house to start on a new lease by August 1, we had very limited time to get all the work done in time for occupation.

It should be noted that with the exception of the roofing contractor, almost all contractors required scheduling weeks in advance of the job (especially for bigger jobs like concrete pouring, fumigation, painting, structural repairs, HVAC duct repair, etc.).

7/1/2021 – More Assessments and Starting the Repairs on the Rental

The structural contractor began work by removing plywood panels in the garage.

We found out that behind the plywood panels were two rat nests (one next to an electrical line) as well as a beehive that still had honey in it.

The structural person getting rid of the plywood panels, which were hiding lots of things in the garage
The structural person getting rid of the plywood panels, which were hiding lots of things in the garage

We also found our first evidence of subterranean termite activity.

However, none of the infestation spots seemed to have live activity, and perhaps the tenting that we did 7 years ago before we moved out might have eradicated them.

The HVAC person also started to remove damaged ducts from the attic.

7/2/2021 – Starting the Wood Repairs on the Rental

The structural contractor began by taking advantage of the removed ducts so he can spray borate solution to treat all the attic beams, rafters, and shiplap.

Then, he started to remove damaged wood on the house.

The duct person had  laid out the damaged HVAC ducts.
The duct person had  laid out the damaged HVAC ducts.

The HVAC person replaced the damaged ducts.

He also pointed out that there was what seemed to be wet grout as well as a sinking corner of the house, which made us very worried about a possible drain leak or even a foundation problem.

A roof repair contractor recommended by the property manager came by to work out how roof repair would work at the same time as structural repairs.

It was at that time that we realized that perhaps we should just reroof the house instead of worrying about wasted work and figuring out who does what.  

Finally, another contractor repaired and repainted our damaged driveway gate.

7/3/2021 – Tree and Plant Removal on the Rental

The landscaper cutting down problem trees, especially since it grew into the power lines over the years
The landscaper cutting down problem trees, especially since it grew into the power lines over the years

The primary landscaper of the rental property cut down all the trees (including the problematic chinaberry tree as well as another one growing by the power lines).

His crew also eliminated the overgrown plants in the front of the house, which concealed lots of rat feces as it was apparently a hiding spot for them.

7/4/2021 – More Auditing of the Rental House

I spent some time going up into the attic to take a look at the HVAC guy’s work.

I also saw the extent of the rat droppings clean-up (or lack thereof), which prompted Julie to call the pest control company hired to finish the job.  

We’d eventually have someone on the task a few days later.

Going into the attic to audit the work done by the HVAC duct contractor
Going into the attic to audit the work done by the HVAC duct contractor

While I was at the rental property, I also spent time fixing the door knobs.

However, in hindsight, I should have let one of the property manager’s handymen do the job so labor could also be taken out of the security deposit as apparently the owner’s labor is free in the eyes of the law.

Finally, I went on the roof to have another look at the roof’s condition. 

This was when I realized that perhaps eating the cost of reroofing made the most sense instead of figuring out the complex web of a partial repair on the roof.

7/5/2021 – Masonry Work for Pest Prevention on the Rental

A trench dug out and filled with Termidor to act as a barrier against subterranean termites
A trench dug out and filled with Termidor to act as a barrier against subterranean termites

The structural contractor trenched and poured in Termidor to treat for subterranean termites around the garage.

Then, he started working on the southeast and east side of the house.

The masonry and concrete contractor started setting up areas where concrete was to replace dirt.

The prior tenants used those dirt areas to plant unwanted things that caused more damage to the house so putting concrete there would make it harder for the next tenants to do that.

The troublesome planter next to the patio being removed. There was still the stump and roots of the orange tree that was there that needed to be taken out
The troublesome planter next to the patio being removed. There was still the stump and roots of the orange tree that was there that needed to be taken out

The masonry contractor also removed the planters adjacent to the patio and the laundry/water heater room.

The painter started painting the interior of the house.

The plumber came by to assess the possible water intrusion situation given the wet grout and sinking foundation observations 3 days ago.

The plumber said we don’t have a drain leak, but he did talk me into installing clean outs so it would be easier for any plumber to both diagnose and “clean out” the drains without tearing up the floors of the house.

7/6/2021 – Clean Out Installation, Concrete Work, and Undoing Prior Shoddy Structural Work at the Rental

Installing a clean out was very labor intensive because they had to dig deep enough to reach the drain
Installing a clean out was very labor intensive because they had to dig deep enough to reach the drain

The plumber installed the clean outs in the front of the house.

The masonry contractor started pouring concrete on the east side of the garage (so the structural contractor could work on wood repairs there when concrete becomes dry).

The masonry contractor also started preparing the remaining regions for concrete pouring. 

Re-piping contractors came by to quickly replace the PEX insulation.

A contractor from the past had put in paper fillers that were hidden behind caulk in an attempt to mitigate for a poor fascia job
A contractor from the past had put in paper fillers that were hidden behind caulk in an attempt to mitigate for a poor fascia job

We were very lucky that the rats only chewed up the insulation but not the pipes themselves (or at least not to the extent of causing leaking in the attic).

The structural contractor found shoddy workmanship in the form of paper stuffings to try to make up for the mismatch in fascia on the east side of the house.

Fixing that meant replacing the fascia with a proper installation, which also meant increasing his scope of work.

And that conspired to threaten the completion of his work before the tenting and painting dates, which were dates that couldn’t move.

7/7/2021 – Started Inquiring About Re-Roofing Job For The Rental

New concrete poured into the former location of the troublesome planter that once invited all sorts of pests into the rental house
New concrete poured into the former location of the troublesome planter that once invited all sorts of pests into the rental house

We started talking with the roofing contractor that did our primary home about getting an estimate for reroofing the rental house.

In the next 2 days, we’ve also gotten estimates from other Owens Corning Platinum Installers as we wanted that 50 year warranty.

We eventually made our decision three days later as it was largely driven by schedule due to the fumigation and painting dates (as well as the rental lease start date) being fixed.

Only the roofing contractor that did our primary home was able to accommodate our tight schedule since we were repeat customers.

Meanwhile, work continued regarding the concrete job as the prep work from yesterday paved the way for the pouring of the concrete.

7/8/2021 – Concrete Completion and Extent of Rot Damage to Front Side of the Rental

Closer look at the extent of the subterranean termite damage over the years that was done to the front of the house thanks to poor roofing resulting in leaks and wood rot
Closer look at the extent of the subterranean termite damage over the years that was done to the front of the house thanks to poor roofing resulting in leaks and wood rot

The masonry contractor poured concrete on the remaining regions of the patio and garage area.

The structural contractor pretty much finished the east side of the house, which took longer than expected because of bad workmanship from prior work.

Then, he started taking out the fascia and bad rafters on the front of the house.

This brought about a slew of bad news.

First, we found the extent of subterranean termite damage on this side of the house.

Then, we looked at how far back the leak went that undermined the structural integrity of that front area by the door.

So this pretty much increased the scope of the structural contractor’s work, which added a lot of stress since the tenting and painting dates haven’t changed.

7/9/2021 – Tile Repair at the Rental

The tile contractor removing cracked tiles and revealing the source of the cracks thanks to cracks in the concrete foundation underneath it
The tile contractor removing cracked tiles and revealing the source of the cracks thanks to cracks in the concrete foundation underneath it

On this day, the tile contractor came as scheduled to replace cracked tiles in the kitchen.

However, he talked us out of replacing the cracked tiles in the living room until Julie realized a few days later that we should have had him replace those, too.

So we had to schedule him to come back, but that wouldn’t be for at least another week.

7/10/2021 – Electrical Work at the Rental

Our property manager’s electrician came by to address the non-functioning bathroom vents in both bathrooms.

However, his work blew up into more work scope when he saw the poor workmanship from the prior electrician that wasn’t even to code regarding the garage’s electrical wiring.

The new electrician also replaced the light in the laundry room while fixing or replacing smoke detectors that were missing or non-functioning.  We had him hardwire them since we recognized that tenants won’t change the batteries.

Bathroom vents caked in soot and emitting a strong cigarette smoke odor, which the electrician spotted upon getting to the root cause as to why the vent fan was so weak
Bathroom vents caked in soot and emitting a strong cigarette smoke odor, which the electrician spotted upon getting to the root cause as to why the vent fan was so weak

However, during the course of his vent replacement task, we learned that the vent fans were damaged and thus caused rusting in the light fixtures as well as water damage on the bathroom baseboards.

Now the bathrooms smelled like cigarette smoke and we had to figure out how to get rid of that odor.

Meanwhile, a pest control company person came by to finish the rat feces mitigation job in the attic while also fixing any remaining vent holes in the garage.

At around the same time, the screen door replacement guy showed up and got the screen door working more smoothly than before while restoring the netting and the handles that were broken by the previous tenant.

Mud tubes indicating that the subterranean termite infestation definitely took place in the front of the house
Mud tubes indicating that the subterranean termite infestation definitely took place in the front of the house

While all this was going on, the structural repair contractor continued to uncover the full extent of subterranean termite damage to the front of the house.

This further added to the work scope, which put even more pressure on the structural repair contractor to finish his work before the tenting.

However, we learned that our tent date slipped by 2 days (apparently we were supposed to have made a follow-up call with them to confirm the date).

Therefore, we had to plead with the painter to keep our job even though it would slip by a day from the planned start date.

7/13/2021 – Roofer Pulled Permit and Scheduled Inspection on Rental

The runner for the roofing company went to the wrong place to pull the permit yesterday so he had to go to the correct city hall this morning.  

Julie made sure he went to the right place because she not only texted the company the correct address, but she went to city hall herself.

It was a good thing she was there because she overheard that the city planner disapproved of Mountainside-colored shingles (the same one as our own roof at home) saying it didn’t have enough solar reflective index (SRI), which was 19 instead of 20 or above.

Thus, we had to order Sierra Gray shingles instead, which we immediately communicated to the roofing company’s office.  Only then were we able to pull the permit and schedule an inspection for July 19.

Repair work for the front of the house pretty much done
Repair work for the front of the house pretty much done

Funny how the city said Title 24 was an LA County requirement yet our home and our rental were both under in the county.  However, I suspect that the city that the rental was located in enforced the rules more strictly than the city that our home was in.

Meanwhile, the structural contractor was done replacing rafters in front of the house, which took way longer than expected (should have been done two days ago) because of how much damage subterranean termites did as well as extensive dry rot due to leaks caused by poor roofing there.

Strangely, just like the garage, this damage did not house a live colony, which might have been killed off by the tenting 7 years ago, and they never bothered to come back.

The structural contractor then started work replacing rafters on the east side of the garage as well as reinforcing rafters on the southwest side of the house.

7/14/2021 – Handymen Fixing Lots of Lingering Small Issues and Start of Garage Structural Repairs on Rental

Repairing or reinforcing the rafters of the east side of the garage
Repairing or reinforcing the rafters of the east side of the garage

The handymen recommended by our property manager did various tasks like fixing the toilet handle that kept getting stuck, fixing loose towel racks, trying to add finish to the cabinets in the kitchen, fixing door hinges, adding missing door stops, and re-adding missing cabinet liners.

One of the handymen informed us that he used to work in the hotel business, which got rid of cigarette smoke odors using some kind of ozone treatment.  Julie immediately started contacting ozone treatment vendors.

The masonry contractor added a drain to stop the pooling of water near the new concrete by the patio, and he also started replacing bad or disintegrating bricks while adding new mortar to seal up most of the egregious cracks.

Meanwhile, the structural repair contractor continued working the east side of the garage.

I actually went to my day job in the afternoon for the first time since late May or early June.

7/15/2021 – Foundation Repair Assessment and Bringing Electrical Work up to Code

The electrician getting rid of the old electrical box and redoing the work so that it’s in line with code
The electrician getting rid of the old electrical box and redoing the work so that it’s in line with code

The moment of truth came when the foundation repair person showed up and looked at our situation.

Luckily, he said that we don’t have a problem from what he can tell (short of ripping up the flooring and the walls), and that we can address the settling issue by keeping moisture away from the northwest side of the house.

He recommended that we get rain gutters to keep water moving away from the house. 

It really felt like we dodged a bullet with this issue as we didn’t need to take out homeowners insurance and more months of lost rent since the foundation was still intact.

The new electrician got rid of the old non-weather-proofed electrical panel box, which was poor workmanship from the previous electrician when we were living at this house.

7/16/2021 – Roofing and Odor-Removal Jobs Started on the Rental

The roofers were busy removing the old shingles
The roofers were busy removing the old shingles

The roofing contractor removed shingles and started replacing bad wood.  It turned out that the rental had a plywood layer above the shiplap, which actually saved a lot of damage to the underlying shiplap (unlike our home).

The damage done was only around $3400, which was nearly 50% of what we paid for the damage mitigation to our home.

Roofing contractor also helped me to block rat entrances even though he said that kind of work was not in scope.

The ozone person also started treatment of both bathrooms to remove the cigarette smoke smell.  The house could not be used during this treatment period.

7/17/2021 – Odor-Removal Treatment Completed on the Rental

Closer look at the machine emitting ozone to get rid of the cigarette smoke odor in the guest bathroom
Closer look at the machine emitting ozone to get rid of the cigarette smoke odor in the guest bathroom

The ozone treatment person showed up and removed the equipment.  He opened the windows to outgas the ozone and let things air out.

The safe-to-return time was late in the afternoon (mostly for the master bathroom), but we were able to briefly go inside the house to show my Mom what we’ve done to the place so far.

7/18/2021 – Structural Repairs on the Rental Complete

The structural repairs were complete, and the garage was finally borate-treated.

Because we rushed him to finish by the commitment date (today), he didn’t have time to prime the fascia that he put in.

The structural contractors nearly completing the repairs to the east side of the garage
The structural contractors nearly completing the repairs to the east side of the garage

There was also one fascia on the garage that he didn’t replace. 

Meanwhile, the masonry contractor power washed the bricks and the underside of the patio.

The structural contractor’s helper noted to us that power was lost in the garage (possibly a complication of a short caused by the power washing).

I drained the patio light of water, and I showed that it still worked.

7/19/2021 – Inspection and Roof Shingling plus Lots of Drama at the Rental

The distributor for the roofing company putting the roofing materials onto the roof of the rental house
The distributor for the roofing company putting the roofing materials onto the roof of the rental house

The inspector showed up and gave the go-ahead to start shingling.

However, the inspector noted that there was “electrical upgrade” work, and asked our new electrician to pull the permit to proceed.

The new electrician was suddenly blindsided as his work scope blew up to encompass more wiring work in the garage to get it up to code.  He now also has to schedule an electrical inspection on a future date.

Unfortunately, the new electrician’s license info was not up-to-date on the state contractor’s license board website, and thus he couldn’t pull the permit until that was resolved.

Nevertheless, the electrician continued his work and worked to get the paperwork to catch up.

Landscapers had installed proper piping to re-establish the lawn in the backyard as well as drip irrigation for the planters above
Landscapers had installed proper piping to re-establish the lawn in the backyard as well as drip irrigation for the planters above

The inspector also noted that all raw wood needs to at least be primed so we delayed final roofing inspection to occur after the painting job is finished (should be July 28).

Meanwhile, the masonry contractor put sealer on the bricks to better protect it from water intrusion and water damage.

The landscapers from our home came by to install most of the sprinklers and drip piping in both the front yard and backyard.

The landscapers couldn’t finish the job because some plumbing needed to be done to the water spigot in the backyard, which we got the masonry contractor to do tomorrow.

The distributor for the roofing company showed up to deliver the roofing materials.

Then, the paper and the shingles started to get installed.

The Owens Corning ‘paper’, which was the main waterproof layer preventing any water from getting to the plywood and shiplap underneath
The Owens Corning ‘paper’, which was the main waterproof layer preventing any water from getting to the plywood and shiplap underneath

However, Julie discovered that the shingles were not the correct color as they were still the unpermitted Mountainside color.  

The distributor must have brought the wrong one and had to coordinate with them to come back to bring the correct shingles while taking back the wrong ones.

The roof workers weren’t happy about this as they realized that tomorrow was going to be a very long day.

At least for the rest of today, they finished installing the paper, most of the flashings, and most of the pipe work while also continuing to block the rat attic entry spots.

They also addressed the bad fascia on the garage that the structural repair person didn’t get around to doing.

My day job started to inquire about my availability since my attention was going towards the house issues while we’d be out of the country in most of August.

7/20/2021 – Finishing Roofing of the Main Part of the Rental House

The roofers installing the proper shingle, and working well into the late afternoon
The roofers installing the proper shingle, and working well into the late afternoon

The roofing contractors had to wait for the distribution truck to show up before work could begin.  This didn’t happen until about 10:30am and the roofing work didn’t continue until after 12pm.

The masonry contractor put in the coupler to help the landscapers when they would come back to pipe the backyard.

Given the volume of work for the roofers and that we learned that tenting wouldn’t start until noon at the earliest tomorrow, we punted the garage work for tomorrow before tenting.

Eventually by around 7pm, the roofing of the main house was complete, and they helped me seal up all the rat holes that we could think of though the patio area was still a sensitive spot (though they should be excluded from the attic).

The cleaners recommended by the property manager showed up to clean the interior of the house.

Julie finished submitting all invoices to our property manager, and the notification of security deposit deductions to the tenants was sent via snail mail.  We expect backlash from them.

7/21/2021 – Tenting of the Rental House and Completion of Roofing

The tile contractor replacing the cracked tiles with new ones while also trying to seal the underlying crack
The tile contractor replacing the cracked tiles with new ones while also trying to seal the underlying crack

The tile contractor showed up to replace the remaining cracked tiles (he didn’t want to do the job after the tenting because of health concerns).

The structural contractor showed up to trench and insert Termidor to the front of the house to treat for subterranean termites.

One of the roofing contractor crew showed up to finish the roofing of the garage, but he came at 8am because he had to get some missing O’Hagin vents that weren’t supplied yesterday.

The fumigation company showed up at precisely noon, and immediately started setting up the tent over the main house.

The fumigation crew setting up the tent at the rental just when the roofer was wrapping up with his job on the garage
The fumigation crew setting up the tent at the rental just when the roofer was wrapping up with his job on the garage

When they got to the garage, the roofer finished just in time at around 12:30pm.

Then, the tenting completed some time before 2pm.

In the meantime, Julie convinced our electrician to go to the State Contractors License Board in Norwalk City Hall to get them to update the system in person so our city governing our rental could issue him the permit.

7/23/2021 – Painting Job Commenced on Rental

The painter power washing the rental before patching and doing other preparation work for the painting itself
The painter power washing the rental before patching and doing other preparation work for the painting itself

The tent came off early in the morning, which enabled work to continue on the rental house.

The painter started power washing the house, then covered all areas that shouldn’t be painted, and patched up cracks in the stucco.  All this was preparation work for painting on Monday. 

He also touched up and patched holes in the house after unnecessary wires were removed.

The pest control person putting adhesives to hold the metal nets designed to keep rodents out of the attic
The pest control person putting adhesives to hold the metal nets designed to keep rodents out of the attic

Meanwhile, I noticed after the roofing job was complete, there were still holes on the vents to be covered so Julie managed to get the pest control company to come out and re-block those rat entry points.

Another handy man also showed up to install a backsplash behind the stove while also re-staining the damaged cabinet finish from the grease left by the tenants.

The electrician came back to wrap up the outdoor motion light on the garage while restoring power to the garage.

7/24/2021 – Drain Installation in front of the Rental House

Drain work taking place at the front of the rental house
Drain work taking place at the front of the rental house

The masonry contractor came with help to install three drains in the front of the house in anticipation of rain gutters spilling into them.

We continued to get rain gutter contractors to come out and give us estimates, but one of them actually told us where he wanted the drains to be, which we flowed back to our masonry contractor.

The painter continued preparation work on the rental house including patching more stucco cracks, applying primer to both doors, and going into the neighbor’s yard to patch stucco cracks on the south side of the detached garage.

7/25/2021 – Post Fumigation Complications and Applying “Elbow Grease” at the Rental House

Sudden ant infestation likely due to them consuming the termite carcasses resulting from the tenting
Sudden ant infestation likely due to them consuming the termite carcasses resulting from the tenting

I spent the early morning fixing some curtain rods and screwing in some metal barriers to seal off the remaining rat entry holes (where the cat entry hole used to be).

I also cleaned out the garage of damaged items (as evidence if the tenant wants to challenge us for security deposit deductions) leaving only spare tiles, paint, and nails in there.

Upon learning about an ant infestation from prospective tenant feedback flowed back to us from our property manager, we returned to the property to address the issue in the evening.

The ant trails definitely invaded most of the perimeter of the house and even penetrated all bedrooms and bathrooms, so I had to spray them to try to eliminate their trail.

I suspect that the ants are taking over the house because the tenting killed off the termites (and possibly any more rats), and thus they’re going after any more biomaterial left behind from fumigation.

Julie and I also spent a couple hours cleaning the grease from the stove and the cabinets.

We were really unhappy with the cleaners because we were doing a job that they failed to do (so what did we pay them for?).

7/26/2021 – Rain Delay at the Rental

The unexpected rain caused wet stucco in an unexpected spot beneath the patio, which was something we otherwise would have never suspected
The unexpected rain caused wet stucco in an unexpected spot beneath the patio, which was something we otherwise would have never suspected

This was supposed to be the day that the multiple coats of paint was to be applied on the exterior of the rental property.

Unfortunately, an unusual monsoonal storm lasted the entire morning and a large part of the afternoon so the painter could only continue patching and preparing for tomorrow.

Nevertheless, the silver lining to the rain delay was that we noticed a flaw in the installation of the aluminum patio 4 years ago.

Basically, the stucco wall was made wet underneath where the patio gutter butted up against it even though the roofing sent the water well past the problem area.

After running some experiments with pouring a bucket of water on the roof, it unveiled a leak underneath the patio gutter due to improper installation (the roofer said it wasn’t sealed when it was installed).

Installation of the gravel corner to help fill the curb appeal of an otherwise unused area of the front yard

So we contacted the patio company to see what can be done about it, and they’ll come Thursday (in 3 days) to investigate.  We’re really worried that the fix will involve undoing the roof repair work, and that there will still be work done to the house after tenants will have moved in on August 1.

Meanwhile, the electrician finished his work, especially after the inspector came unannounced to check up on him.  Given the inspector’s feedback, the electrical inspection should pass tomorrow.

Also, the masonry contractor finished putting in the gravel corner in the front of the northeast side of the rental.

Moreover, Julie and I spent some time trying to re-stain the cabinets after degreasing them yesterday, which took out some of the finish.

Finally, the escrow person showed up so we can sign loan documents and get the funds to subsidize all these much-needed repairs to both the house and the rental.

7/27/2021 – Exterior Painting Almost Complete

The painter had two helpers to apply multiple coats to the house a day after the rain delay
The painter had two helpers to apply multiple coats to the house a day after the rain delay

This was the day that the painters pretty much sprayed multiple coats over the entire exterior of the rental property.

Before the garage got started, the electrical inspector and electrician managed to pass the electrical inspection.

At the end of the day, the only painting left was some minor touch-ups, which will be done first thing tomorrow morning.

Julie then finished staining the cabinets by the stove, which only needed a polyurethane coat to protect the finish when the stain dries.

7/28/2021 – Landscaping Complete

The rental house having curb appeal once again after the landscaping was complete
The rental house having curb appeal once again after the landscaping was complete

The painter finished his exterior touch-ups and planned to come back for final interior touch-ups scheduled for late Friday (tomorrow).

The final roofing inspection passed at the rental.

The landscaper planted roses in the front yard with wood chips while he also seeded the backyard and removed overgrown foliage left in the backyard planters.  

The sprinkler timers have been installed, and he seeded the backyard grass, which was mostly destroyed by the previous tenants.

7/29/2021 – Full Foundation Assessment and Coax Drop Installation

The foundation repair person using his zip level to determine the amount of settlement displacement that has taken place around the rental house
The foundation repair person using his zip level to determine the amount of settlement displacement that has taken place around the rental house

The big event of this day was when a second foundation repair person came by to assess the rental’s foundation.

Unlike the first person that we saw a couple of weeks ago, this person took measurements using an altimeter throughout the rental instead of just focusing on the spots where we saw cracks in the tiles (i.e. the living room and kitchen).

Surprisingly, we learned through this exercise that the southeast side of the house has the most foundation displacement as he measured sinking at around 1.4” (tolerance is +/- 0.5”). Meanwhile, the areas where we saw cracked tiles were still within tolerance.

In order to fix the foundation settling problem, we were looking at upwards of $46k not counting the collateral damage and mitigation after the job is done (not to mention the year of delay due to permitting and the disruption caused to the tenants).

We knew that foundation repair was not a cheap job, especially when you’re given a lengthy presentation justifying why you’d want to do something like this

Of course, the foundation person also noted that jobs can get into the $80k range and up to $150k if problems continue to be unaddressed.

At least we now know the full story of the foundation situation at the rental, and we ultimately decided to not do the work.

However, we expect to do a similar assessment down the road to measure the rate of soil settlement displacement, especially after all the work we’ve done to move water away from the house.

We also had the foundation person take cursory measurements at our home, and he noted that the north side of the house had about 0.6”-0.8” of displacement.

Coaxial drops going to interface plates to prevent cable or satellite company work conspiring to damage the walls putting new coaxial lines
Coaxial drops going to interface plates to prevent cable or satellite company work conspiring to damage the walls putting new coaxial lines

However, he wanted us to address the concrete repairs around the house, which caused us to change our stance on what to do about the areas around the house where we ripped out plants and weeds.  

We’ll evaluate and take action when we come back from our upcoming trip in August.

In the meantime, the electrician finished installing coaxial drops to each bedroom as well as the dining room and living room of the rental.  Hopefully, that should solve the problem of tenants getting cable or satellite installed but causing damage to the house by punching new holes in the house to run new coaxial lines.

He also put a weather cover on the electrical outlet feeding the sprinkler timer in the backyard.

Later in the day, the pest control company fumigated for ants to mitigate the issue of them invading the house to feed on termite (or other pest) carcasses resulting from tenting last week.

7/30/2021 – Patio Solution Planned Out and Final Touch-Ups

The after-effects of pouring a bucket of water down the metal flashings and onto the patio roof to see where the water goes
The after-effects of pouring a bucket of water down the metal flashings and onto the patio roof to see where the water goes

In the morning, we met with the patio representative to show him the leaking situation concerning the patio gutter and stucco.

He says the caulking seal has aged and cracked over the years and re-sealing could be an answer, but we don’t want to mess with the job that the roofing team did (and void the warranty).  Besides, it’s only a temporary solution.

We decided to go with a more permanent solution by adding a third downspout along the stucco wall, but that work won’t start until four weeks later, which is their next availability.

The remaining interior tasks were also complete regarding granite cleaning and resealing as well as some paint touch-up by our painter.

Part 5: Preparing the Rental for Occupation

The backyard of the rental with the lawn re-seeded and the house getting multiple coats of paint
The backyard of the rental with the lawn re-seeded and the house getting multiple coats of paint

With all the major repair work done to the rental house, it was time to list the property for prospective tenants to apply for and take a tour.

There was still work to be done on the house, but we wanted to give at least a week for the house to be on the market and couldn’t wait any longer.

Eventually, we managed to get new tenants moving into the house by August 1 as planned so fingers crossed that they’re good tenants after the bad experiences we’ve had from each of the prior tenants ever since we had put this property up for rent over 7 years ago.

7/23/2021 – Rental Listed

The property manager listed the rental property in the evening, and we expected there to be prospective tenants making visits tomorrow.

7/25/2021 – Prospective Tenants Touring The Rental House

Turning on all the lights even though it was a bright day to make the place more inviting to prospective tenants
Turning on all the lights even though it was a bright day to make the place more inviting to prospective tenants

Finally, an assistant from our property manager came by to let us know that he has people lined up to look at the house.

They provided feedback to us about an ant infestation, which I also noticed that must have started earlier in the day today!

7/26/2021 – Unexpected People Touring The House

Throughout the day while the painter continued to do prep work, there were people who showed up without contacting the property manager to see the house.  

When I came to the rental house after taking off from my day job, there was one Spanish-speaking lady who came by and took a look at the house without going through the proper channels.  

Julie and I directed her to contact the property manager, and I definitely had to use my Spanish to communicate with her.

It seemed like this was the latest in a series of such unannounced visits, which attested to how much of a seller’s market it is right now.

7/27/2021 – Tenants Selected

On this day, the property manager presented us with a very promising candidate (a police officer and a nurse along with a child and three cats).

7/28/2021 – Rental Property Taken Off The Listings

Handwritten letters from people trying to short circuit the application and touring process
Handwritten letters from people trying to short circuit the application and touring process

The property manager took the rental property listing off his websites, but that didn’t stop people from coming by and asking to rent the house.

We even received two written letters pleading with us to rent to them, but the tenant selection process was already complete.

7/29/2021 – Lease Agreement Signed

We spent the early morning reviewing the lease agreement checking for omissions and errors.

Eventually after getting the paperwork in good shape (there were still some nits that the property manager didn’t fix what we asked him to), we signed the lease agreement after the new tenants also signed.

One of several scam listings with the incorrect contact number and even the wrong rental price, especially since the house was taken off the market a few days ago.
One of several scam listings with the incorrect contact number and even the wrong rental price, especially since the house was taken off the market a few days ago.

Then, as we still attended to repairs, installations, and the foundation assessment, at least three different groups of visitors came by to look at the rental property.

They were pointing at apartments.com and forrent.com, which had an erroneous asking price of $2200 with the incorrect phone numbers.

We weren’t sure where the data came from, or if this was a scam perpetrated by someone trying to get phone numbers of people calling the erroneous number.  

Eventually, the listing was reported as erroneous and they finally took our rental off the market.

7/30/2021 – Tenants Moving in Early

Julie met with the new tenants as they had gotten the keys early since our property manager wouldn’t be available to provide it to them on Sunday, August 1.

The tenants were quite appreciative of being able to move in early as they had a lot of stuff to move, and they had to vacate their other place by the end of this month.  

This was the first time any tenant was appreciative of anything we’ve done, and we have a good feeling about these tenants.

Work on the property was still not done as there’s going to be rain gutters installed on Monday and an additional patio downspout installed some time in late August.

Final Thoughts / Conclusion

Our Homeowner Headaches began because of an explosion in work scope that all started from a desire to put solar panels on our roof!
Our Homeowner Headaches began because of an explosion in work scope that all started from a desire to put solar panels on our roof!

As you can see from how long this diary is (assuming you got through each of the five parts), all it took was the desire to go solar that brought about all the underlying issues that we as homeowners didn’t even anticipate.

Most other homeowners typically get into this painful home maintenance cycle when they discover problems like flooding, leaks, backed up drains, cracks in the wall or flooring, termite damage, or other things that force them to peel back the onion, so to speak.

Nevertheless, the one huge lesson I learned from this ordeal (and why I decided to come up with the Homeowner Headaches website) is that if you’re going to do home repair jobs, you better make sure they’re done right!

If you cut corners in the name of saving money, you’re more than likely going to have to do the same repairs again plus additional damage that likely has occurred as a result of a bad job.

At one point, we thought we could try to save the property from moisture by putting these metal flashings.  Not only were they ugly, but they didn’t work, and it cost us money.  This was one example of how Nature finds a way to defeat work that wasn’t done right
At one point, we thought we could try to save the property from moisture by putting these metal flashings.  Not only were they ugly, but they didn’t work, and it cost us money.  This was one example of how Nature finds a way to defeat work that wasn’t done right

It’s like if you try to half-ass something now or leave the problem alone, you’re more than likely going to have to “pay with interest” down the road.

Indeed, this is why it’s better to do things right the first time, and then stay on top of the maintenance issues as they come up.

Hopefully, you’ve found this documentation of our home maintenance ordeal helpful for your situation.

After all, no homeowner wants to deal with issues causing them headaches.

But armed with what we’ve shared and experienced in this post, maybe applying these lessons might make such things become less of a headache down the road!

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