Six days before leasing signing, ceiling caves in!

122 Replies

Originally posted by @David Coleman :

@Jim K.,

That dining room to kitchen transition looks very familiar.

Sorry you’re going through all that.  Also sorry I can’t recommend a plasterer for you.  Is it all plaster and lathe, or 3/8” plasterboard with 3/8” plaster top coat?  Either way, it’ll make it harder to patch with drywall.  

How much larger is the waterlogged damage area?  Would it be possible (or even make sense) to rip down the entire ceiling and replace all of the plaster with drywall?

Best of luck going forward.

Please update the thread and let us know how you ended up handling it all.

Dave

BTW, David, as par for the course in this house, there have been MULTIPLE repairs on this ceiling in this house. I ripped out all the fiddle-faddle. It looks like it was originally 3/8 plasterboard with 3/8 plaster top-coat.

Originally posted by @Scott Mac :
Originally posted by @Jim K.:

You "Assume" the hole was made by water.

But maybe (just maybe) it was this:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bmTNBVeThhE

There certainly is an impressive amount of open space under the tub. If I ever want to hide a smallish body, I'm sure I could rip that part of the ceiling out and tuck it up in there.

Originally posted by @Greg M. :
Originally posted by @Jim K.:

Where am I supposed to find people to fix this quickly?

This is a trick question. You should have people that you can count on for emergency repairs.

OK. Greg, I respect your posts, but this is a real-world situation. It's the end of October. Most of the local plasterers have called it a season already. I have no hope of getting a drywall crew in for something this small. Your average handyman here in PA runs $75/hour.

It would be hard to get someone really good in in to do a strong repair of what has obviously been a long-term problem area. Thankfully, I am God's gift to this sort of plaster repair.

Originally posted by @Scott M. :

Ah shucks.  Great work Jim, so far so good.  You're hired!  

Unicorns only work like beasts of burden for fair ladies. In my case, I met mine a decade ago and I continue to make her money.

Originally posted by @Steve K. :

In my market we would call that a skylight and charge more! 

In your market, this house would go for more than its replacement value, which is $350K, while here it went for $70K. Speaking of your market, Steve, do you know a guy named Osman Parvez? I went to high school with him and he's an agent in Boulder these days, I recently learned.

One of the points that @Anish Tolia made earlier in this thread that I feel I should expand on is the nature of the tradesman shortage here in the Rust Belt versus almost everywhere else. You have to understand, going to trade school here means multiple offers of guaranteed employment immediately right after you're done. EVERYTHING is falling apart. If you can't keep a job working with the really big players that fix the bridges and tunnels and government buildings and hospitals here, that's when you're sent down the ranks to work for the residential builders and big contracting outfits. If you can't keep a job working for them, then your next stop is building maintenance and rehab for the big property management concerns and the higher-end remodelers. If you can't keep a job working for them, there are a million handyman jobs and smaller-scale contracting outfits out there. Can't keep a job working for them, you install and paint for the big box and paint outfits. Basically,  by the time you get to someone who would drop everything and fix a hole in a ceiling like this in six days, you're down to people who can't keep ANY SORT OF JOB in construction. We're talking guys with ankle bracelets and monitors courtesy of the county lockup, complete incompetents, habitual substance abusers.

It's sweet that you guys think that I could swing this repair in late October with three good handymen in my Rolodex. The best I can offer is a pretty thin "maybe." And the price they would charge if they could actually get the job done would be astronomical, wipe out any sort of profit from this rental for the next two years or so. Going that route you're guaranteed to go broke sooner or later.

That's just how bad things are here.

Originally posted by @Matthew Grebeta :

@Matthew Grebeta

Also keep in mind it’s always great to work on your business instead of in it but in case of emergencies like this you’ve got to be willing to get your hands dirty.

Part of being a good business owner is of course serving your people, in this scenario to best serve my tenants I would be doing everything I can do to get the repair done. I’d stay up into the night watching YouTube videos, learning and taking whatever steps necessary to get the repairs done. Even if you have to do everything yourself you have five evenings and two weekend days to get er done, You’ve got this!!

P.S - I had an electrical issue I could not figure out and when I was at HD talking to an employee about how to work threw it there was an electrician there who ended up stepping in to help, being that I am not an electrician I asked him if he could come by when he got off of work to confirm I did everything properly and he agreed. The point is you never know who may be willing to help you get out to the stores and start talking with folks and you never know who you’ll find that’s willing to help!

Exactly right, Matthew. I've been saying this ever since I signed on here and I'm going to keep saying it until I'm blue in the face. Sometimes, YOU are the only handyman of last resort.

BTW, the rectangle ends up being 6' x 9'.

Originally posted by @Theresa Harris :

I'm glad that no one was there when the ceiling came down. 

Amen, Theresa. Given how fragile the whole thing was, upon inspection, it was really best that this happened now. I ripped out a lot of failed past work.

This is also not the first time this situation has happened to me.

@Jim K. I just read your profile description and first of all Love your Mindset and Heart you are a rare one Jim!!

Second I’m starting to realize when you asked what people would do it was more sarcastic because I did not realize how experienced you are as a handyman so I’m sorry if my answer was a little off but better to catch on late than never right?! Lol

Anyways like I said you’re awesome Jim, keep it up!

@Jim K. I think

You need to have a connection with a contractor. also if the lease is not signed you are not legally obligated, however that is bad way to do business. I would look for a short term rental or hotel room until the repair is made. The repair could be done in a couple of days, but if you don't have someone you use regularly then you have to wait. I use the same company for each repair, the same AC company for each service call, the same plumber etc. they get my business repeatedly and they respond accordingly to the urgency of my request. If you don't have that relationship then offer to pay more that the estimate for quicker response. . .

I dont know how far this thread has gone, I just read the first 2 responses....  but my response would be to give the incoming tenants their funds back (including the background check fee) and have them find a different place.   This would take pressure off me and allow me time to figure out how to proceed.  I can do a lot and learning more every day, but this is above my ability and I would need a contractor - which means it may get done next spring probably. 

Also, if you own rentals you need more than homeowners insurance -   you need a commercial  business policy. 

Originally posted by @Jim K. :
Originally posted by @Greg M.:
Originally posted by @Jim K.:

Where am I supposed to find people to fix this quickly?

This is a trick question. You should have people that you can count on for emergency repairs.

OK. Greg, I respect your posts, but this is a real-world situation. It's the end of October. Most of the local plasterers have called it a season already. I have no hope of getting a drywall crew in for something this small. Your average handyman here in PA runs $75/hour.

It would be hard to get someone really good in in to do a strong repair of what has obviously been a long-term problem area. Thankfully, I am God's gift to this sort of plaster repair. 

I must be missing something. Do PA Plasterers fly south for the winter? 

Maybe I'm unusual, but I have a good relationship with pretty much one of every type tradesmen that I'll need. I give them all my business, I refer friends to them, and I don't haggle them down on price. In return, when I need something ASAP, they have all been there for me. I had a uber-handyman/semi-GC tell me that they can't start for 3 weeks and the job will take 3-4 weeks. When I said I needed it started right away and done in 2 weeks as it was costing me $100+ a day in lost rent, they made it happen in 2 weeks. I had a guy do a fence from 8 PM to midnight with only a couple hours notice because it was needed ASAP to pass a city inspection the next morning. A plumber came over on Christmas day. A few weeks ago I called my electrician and he said that non-emergencies were two weeks out. I told him no big deal, I'd wait, it was just my kitchen lights weren't working and I can live with it, it's just a pain to cook in poor light. He said he'd be over within an hour. 

And you are God's Gift to many things. You're one of the few people that I almost always agree with on these forums. 

Originally posted by @Jim K. :
Originally posted by @Steve K.:

In my market we would call that a skylight and charge more! 

In your market, this house would go for more than its replacement value, which is $350K, while here it went for $70K. Speaking of your market, Steve, do you know a guy named Osman Parvez? I went to high school with him and he's an agent in Boulder these days, I recently learned.

Yeah, the House Einstein!  

BTW, back to the thread,  I spent much of the day redoing some work I actually paid to have done the first time. Trying to hire more out these days with 3 kids and all, but it's really hard to get quality work done anymore. I'm glad I know enough to call these errors out when a job is botched, and am able to do most things myself if necessary because in 10-20 years there won't be many competent tradespeople left in the field.  

Originally posted by @Greg M. :
Originally posted by @Jim K.:
Originally posted by @Greg M.:
Originally posted by @Jim K.:

Where am I supposed to find people to fix this quickly?

This is a trick question. You should have people that you can count on for emergency repairs.

OK. Greg, I respect your posts, but this is a real-world situation. It's the end of October. Most of the local plasterers have called it a season already. I have no hope of getting a drywall crew in for something this small. Your average handyman here in PA runs $75/hour.

It would be hard to get someone really good in in to do a strong repair of what has obviously been a long-term problem area. Thankfully, I am God's gift to this sort of plaster repair. 

I must be missing something. Do PA Plasterers fly south for the winter? 

Maybe I'm unusual, but I have a good relationship with pretty much one of every type tradesmen that I'll need. I give them all my business, I refer friends to them, and I don't haggle them down on price. In return, when I need something ASAP, they have all been there for me. I had a uber-handyman/semi-GC tell me that they can't start for 3 weeks and the job will take 3-4 weeks. When I said I needed it started right away and done in 2 weeks as it was costing me $100+ a day in lost rent, they made it happen in 2 weeks. I had a guy do a fence from 8 PM to midnight with only a couple hours notice because it was needed ASAP to pass a city inspection the next morning. A plumber came over on Christmas day. A few weeks ago I called my electrician and he said that non-emergencies were two weeks out. I told him no big deal, I'd wait, it was just my kitchen lights weren't working and I can live with it, it's just a pain to cook in poor light. He said he'd be over within an hour. 

And you are God's Gift to many things. You're one of the few people that I almost always agree with on these forums. 

Well thank you, Greg!

But the problem with the plastering issues is the raw need for it here. Pittsburgh had two building booms before the regular advent of drywall: the main one from 1890-1929 and a short secondary boom from 1945 to about 1950. All these buildings are plastered, and in all of them the plaster is gradually failing. These people are BUSY in the more expensive homes in the better neighborhoods here. They're rarely available to ply their skills at a moment's notice in cheap housing like this. We have the same basic issues with plumbers (my plumber is my mentor in handyman real estate investing and won't take on new business anymore) and electricians (many will only work in low C-class hoods for a premium, if at all).

I strive to form quality relationships with my own people. But it really is as bad as I've been saying here: I'm just plain lucky after years of making things work to have a highly competent roofer, plumber, electrician, and electrical inspector in my Rolodex who will regularly take my calls.

Originally posted by @Steve K. :
Originally posted by @Jim K.:
Originally posted by @Steve K.:

In my market we would call that a skylight and charge more! 

In your market, this house would go for more than its replacement value, which is $350K, while here it went for $70K. Speaking of your market, Steve, do you know a guy named Osman Parvez? I went to high school with him and he's an agent in Boulder these days, I recently learned.

Yeah, the House Einstein!  

BTW, back to the thread,  I spent much of the day redoing some work I actually paid to have done the first time. Trying to hire more out these days with 3 kids and all, but it's really hard to get quality work done anymore. I'm glad I know enough to call these errors out when a job is botched, and am able to do most things myself if necessary because in 10-20 years there won't be many competent tradespeople left in the field.  

I seriously think in 10-20 years people are going to think you need a degree to chop a 2x4 down to size. Just reading this thread and seeing how many people who are in this actually have no idea how to fix my rather pedestrian ceiling issue which happens ALL THE TIME is kind of scary.

@Jim K.

My guy gets it fixed well and painted inside of 1 week. It will cost me $1k when’s all said and done.

If the tenants can put up with it I will prorate their rent until it’s fixed. Up to them if they want to start moving in or wait. Their other option is to terminate lease and get all pre paids returned.

That’s what my PA realtor lease says. Hotel talk is just silly.

@Jim K. , I always find your posts humorous. I especially find it interesting that so many think that working on properties is "beneath them". Either from a time or financial aspect. My wife and I spent today painting as we did the two previous days. Much of that time I was up on a stack of scaffolding. We do all aspects of home repairs and refurbishments and I don't have any contractors in my phone because we rarely use any. I'm an old geezer and have spent my life acquiring skills and experience in a variety of areas and they're all coming in useful in this real estate endeavor. (well, maybe not the flying airplanes part). Anyway, we're avid "do it yourselfers" and like it that way. Carry on!

Originally posted by @John Teachout :

@Jim K., I always find your posts humorous. I especially find it interesting that so many think that working on properties is "beneath them". Either from a time or financial aspect. My wife and I spent today painting as we did the two previous days. Much of that time I was up on a stack of scaffolding. We do all aspects of home repairs and refurbishments and I don't have any contractors in my phone because we rarely use any. I'm an old geezer and have spent my life acquiring skills and experience in a variety of areas and they're all coming in useful in this real estate endeavor. (well, maybe not the flying airplanes part). Anyway, we're avid "do it yourselfers" and like it that way. Carry on!

Thanks, John. I think a lot of the "time and financial" arguments are really just a dog-whistle for the belief that the work is hard, dirty, physical, menial, and beneath their station in life. The reality that, more frequently than most people are comfortable with, there is no other reasonable choice, that the owner has to be the handyman/contractor of last resort, and that getting a real estate business off the ground with anything close to approaching reasonable operating funds involves being able and willing to step in when the going gets tough, no, people just don't want to think about it. Have an a****le handyman or three on speedial and those menial-minded idiots will never figure out what their work is really worth to you and that your business completely depends on them showing up. Sure. That's the ticket to success.

Originally posted by @Max T. :

@Jim K.

My guy gets it fixed well and painted inside of 1 week. It will cost me $1k when’s all said and done.

If the tenants can put up with it I will prorate their rent until it’s fixed. Up to them if they want to start moving in or wait. Their other option is to terminate lease and get all pre paids returned.

That’s what my PA realtor lease says. Hotel talk is just silly.

 It's still starting the relationship off wrong. Come on, Max. You know that.

@Jim K.

I’m a good people person. **** happens. Nobody’s fault. I would get the debris cleaned up ASAP myself before they move in but I can’t take off work to fix the ceiling. But they will see me on site, see me coordinating the subcontractor, etc.. it is the best I can do in a bad situation.

Seriously, don’t sweat this.  Fix the leak and clean up.  Ceiling has to stay open to dry for about a week.  We’ve all been through this with water heaters, p-traps knocked lose by tenants, roof shingles breaking.

1. Plumber to fix the leak ~$100

2. Ceiling repair (cut wet rock out, replace, mud, tape, paint) - ~$500

@Jim K.

Hey Jim,

This sucks, but is fixable. A bit more stressful because of the short window you have before they move in. But I am a half glass full type of person, the way I see this is at least didn’t happen after they move in and most of all if didn’t hit anyone on the head.

@Jim K.

Shouldn't be that expensive.

I would contact the regular people I use and see if they can do it asap as well as Facebook and next door offering a premium for quick service.

Or do it yourself.

You should be able to just cut it into a square and put up a sheet of drywall that is the same size, use a mud skim coat then use some spray texture from Home Depot. It's probably almost a full day project for someone that knows what their doing.

Originally posted by @Jim K. :
Originally posted by @Mike Adams:

Nothing some nails, sheetrock, tape and textured paint couldn't fix. We often fix things ourselves on our own rentals. Major things we hire out and we have good relationships with plumbers, electricians, etc.  We had to turn over a 1200 sq. ft. unit this weekend so we could fill for Monday. A painted want nearly 1800 to paint. I did it in about 4 hours, 2 coats and then tenant loves the unit. 

Mike...do you really nail your sheetrock in? And how does this story about painting the 1200 ft unit that you knocked out in four hours work? So that's laying out floor protection, doing trim, doing ceilings and wall (2 coats), and cleanup in 4 hours? Smell a lot like the fish that got away...

 Just giving an example.  As for sheetrock, yes, it's called proper sheetrock nail spacing and we use a nail gun. Nonetheless, I was giving you credit, not attacking you.

Originally posted by @Max T. :

@Jim K.

I’m a good people person. **** happens. Nobody’s fault. I would get the debris cleaned up ASAP myself before they move in but I can’t take off work to fix the ceiling. But they will see me on site, see me coordinating the subcontractor, etc.. it is the best I can do in a bad situation.

Yes, that is an answer to a tough question. Good point, Max.