Apr 232015
 

DIY project collage

It was one of those weeks, when everything seemed to go wrong at the same time.  That seems to happen these past few months.  🙂  This time, it was the toilets.  We have two bathrooms in the house and both toilets were running between flushes.  This meant water was leaking out of the tank due to either a bad stopper or a float that was not set right.

The inner workings of the tank of a toilet are fairly simple.  First, at the bottom of the tank, you have a hole that opens into the bowl (which is where your business takes place).  This hole is covered by a stopper, called a flapper, so the water does not flow out automatically.

Next you have a handle of some sort that is attached to a chain.  The chain opens the flapper when the handle on the outside of the tank is pushed.  This is what lets the water out of the tank and causes the contents of the bowl to be flushed.

The last part, that I will point out, is the float.  The float looks different in various toilets, so for the purpose of this post I am going to use the ‘balloon like float on the end of a rod’ example.  The float follows the level of water in the tank.  When the water leaves the tank it lowers to its lowest setting, waiting to be raised by the returning water.  Think of this as turning on the faucet.  When the water raises enough, the float turns “off” the faucet and the water stops running.

Simple enough, right?  You push down the handle,ha bar is raised, the chain is pulled, the flapper opens letting water out and the float is lowered,   Somewhere along this route things were not working right and water was leaking slowly, but enough to make the toilet refill with water a little bit over time.

Why is that a bad thing?  It wasn’t hurting anyone.  It was not running across the floor.  Why is it a bad thing to have a running toilet?  The water bill.  Yup, it costs more money every time you have to refill the tank of your toilet.  You would be amazed at how much water is wasted by a running toilet.  Now imagine 2 of them.

With my massive knowledge of the inner workings of this wonderful contraption, I set out to fix the problem.  Beginning with our upstairs bathroom, I took off the tank lid and looked.  And looked.  I may have mumbled a few not nice words to this Porcelain Throne, as I had recently replaced the flapper valves on both.  {sigh}

toilet tank collage

First step was to check the chain.  Had it come unhooked from the float?  No.  Had it come unhooked from the flapper valve?  No.  Was it too loose and need tightening?  No.

Second step was float.  Was it set low/high enough?  These can be adjusted, though the method varies depending on the style you have.  It all looked okay, though I sat and watched it a bit to see what  was happening.  Sure enough, the float eventually got lower and the water switched on.

I fiddled, a very technical term by the way … I fiddled with the float but that did not seem to help.  So I called in reserves, my Dad.  “HELP! What do I do?”  He suggested I try, carefully, to bend the rod going to the float.  Maybe it just needed to be down a bit.  If that did not work, I may need a new part.

To save you all the edge-of-the-seat action, I’ll just tell you that this did not work, but it did show me what needed done.  While moving the rod that held this particular float, I noticed a screw sticking out further than I thought looked normal.  I had no reason to think this, it just came to mind that it looked odd.  Being a rubber ‘screw’ I knew a screw driver wouldn’t work, so I used my hands.  Turns out all it took was a simple push, while holding up the rod to the float, to get it back in place.  And THAT Ladies and Gentlemen, is what was wrong with my toilet.  The ‘screw’ that held the rod to the float up high enough to shut off had worked it way almost completely out and was not doing its job. (In the photo above, the ‘screw’ is on top of the round piece and under the rectangle piece.  It is black.)

Sometimes the fix really is as simple as that.  And, yes, I am very glad I did not call a plumber out to push a ‘screw’ back into place.

Now, for the other toilet … let’s not mention that one yet.  🙂

If you ware wanting a bit more information, here is an infographic by Benjamin Franklin Pluming out of the Twin Cities:

How Flushing Works – An Infographic by the team at Benjamin Franklin Plumbing Twin Cities Ben Franklin Minneapolis

 

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Mar 272015
 

DIY project collage

 

In case you missed it, here is Part 1 of this adventure.

Around the New Year I switched from doing laundry at home to going to the local laundry mat.  It meant taking the clothes there and paying for it, but there was the benefit of having all the laundry done for the week in about a 2 hour time span.  However, this was getting old really fast.  I was looking forward to warmer weather and getting back to doing my laundry at home.

A few weeks ago, when the weather warmed back up above freezing for a few days, I went to do a load of laundry. What I found puzzled me – there was water inside the drum.  I drained the water and completed that first load.

It was nice to get clothes cleaned without having to load everything up in the car along with the kids.  What was not nice, but answered the question of water inside the drum, was the flow of water streaming down the back of the washer cabinet.  I finished that load of laundry, then went to do a bit of searching for the water leak.

I tightened the water hoses on the inlet valve.  No luck.

I looked closer as the water was slowly turned on.  That is when I saw the crack in the inlet valve, past where the water hose was connected.  {sigh}

water inlet valve washer

 

I did not want to have to pay $70 plus parts for a service call.  What to do?  The same thing I did when looking to fix the broken door handles on my car – look online for a parts manual to figure out the part and order it.  There were several screws around the back.  I assumed I would be able to remove the back panel and install the parts.

I was having trouble finding what I was looking for, resulting in frustration.  That is exactly what I was not looking to find.

Okay, Plan B – online customer service from the manufacturer.  The cause for the leak was likely not covered by the warranty, but maybe they could help.  Live Chat online customer service works a lot better for me than calling on the phone.  Usually the kids do not know when I am ‘talking’ with someone, so they tend to not interrupt.  Even if they do, the person on the other end does not know it.  It also seems to progress faster than if I were to call by phone.

While talking to CS, I inquired as about if the work was covered under the warranty.  To find out, I would have had to call a technician to come do the work.  I chose not to take the $70 gamble and proceeded on to fix it myself.  Not only did customer service give me a link for the manual, but also a source for parts.

After looking up the part number that was to be replaced, I came across several different videos showing how to actually replace the part.  It was much simpler than I thought, requiring only a screw driver and a wrench or pliers.

Jack came over to watch the video with me, pausing his playing with George because, “When Mom repairs the washer you will be at school and I will be here, so I will need to know how to help her.”  🙂

In the end I opted to order the part from a 3rd part source, thereby saving me $20.  Shipping was to take several days, but actually ended up being overnight.

True to his word, when it came time to work on the washer, Jack stopped his playing and came out to the garage to help.  Not only did he help, but he recited step by step what I needed to do to replace the part.

working on washer inlet valve collage

Once we got the part out, I let Jack play with the old part while I installed the new one.  And, yes, the washer was unplugged from the electrical outlet.  Before I gave him the old part, though, I took a closer look at the crack.  It was much more extensive than I thought AND it had cracked through the connection for the inlet hose.  I think the part ended up braking off during removal, but it must have been cracked enough beforehand to actually fall off without too much effort.

washer inlet valve crack collage

With the part replaced, I grabbed the laundry basket most needing to be washed and, with glee, set about doing my first load of laundry at home in a long time.  I had forgotten how much this little act really is a luxury and not a right.

While doing my second load I saw water running across the garage floor.  Really?! What now?  I went inside and had chocolate.  🙂

That night I thought about the water and what could be the source.  Once I realized there were soap suds in the water stream, I knew exactly where it came from – the drain hose.  Seems it was leaking on both ends.  🙂  After running a few quick Spin & Drain cycles, I realized it was leaking from the point where the hose attached to the washer.  Then I realized the problem was the lack of a clamp to hold the hose in place.  No wonder it was leaking.  I also figured that this was the source of water from before the other leak.  It happened every so often, but I could never find where it was coming from.  $1.50 and a clamp later, problem solved.

In the end, by doing this repair myself I saved:

  • $140 on a service call and a return visit to install the broken piece
  • $20 by buying the part from a 3rd party, rather than the manufacturer
  • $70 by avoiding a service call for the extra leak

I went into this knowing that I knew nothing about washing machine repair, nor exactly where to look to find the information. After asking a few questions and looking up information online, I was able to learn from other people’s knowledge.  Not only did I learn, but Jack now has a beginning understanding of how to fix something or find the information on how to fix it.  I count that as a win on several fronts.

 

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Mar 152015
 

Our School Week pratical skills collage

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Full Definition of PRACTICAL

a :  of, relating to, or manifested in practice or action :  not theoretical or ideal <a practical question> <for all practical purposes>
 

  b :  being such in practice or effect :  virtual <a practical failure>

:  actively engaged in some course of action or occupation <a practicalfarmer>

The pictures in the collage above show items related to activities I plan to work on with Jack this week.  I believe it is pretty safe to say that these are things he would not be learning or working on if he was still going to Kindergarten at our local public school.  And that is very much okay with me.  (Not that they don’t teach this way, but that he gets to do something different.)  This is a kid who rarely, if ever, sits still.  He would much rather be doing something, building something, or be outside.

First let me start with some of the basics we have been working on, then I’ll explain the pictures above.

Each morning that we sit down to do something ‘school’ related, I give Jack a clipboard with several items already on it.  Right now that means a calendar, a double sided maze and cutting practice.  He can start on these while I get the other stuff organized.

The calendar is fairly basic, showing the month, year, days of the week and the date for each day.  In February we recorded the weather outside (sunny, rainy, cloudy, partly cloudy or snowing).  At the end of the month we made a chart showing how many days of each kind of weather had happened.  Turns out is was fairly sunny last month, which is odd for this part of the country this time of the year.

For March we are recording the temperatures.  Again I will have them show these on a graph of some sort at the end of the month.  I used a coupon to the hardware store in Small Town to purchase a thermometer for outside.  This week I will take him out and show him how to figure out how warm/cold it is.  This will require him to count by 2’s, which will be good practice.

My First Book of Mazes (Kumon Series)

Jack only has two pages of mazes left to go before he finishes his My First Book of Mazes.  Last week he made a statement to the effect, “Mom, these mazes are boring.” Translated that means, “Mom, I am getting better at these and feel the need for more challenge.”  I see a new book in the near future.

The cutting practice is something I am using for a skill beyond cutting.  That skill is following directions.  This skill is not only one needed for learning, but also in life, and is an area Jack needs help in.  I am a bit stricter on this activity than I might otherwise be, since my goal is for him to follow directions, not practice using scissors.

1425148919501-2109763809

We have been reading a fair amount.  Using several book lists I found online, we have requested a fair amount of books from the library.  I try to average a book a day each week.  Jack also is practicing his reading.  He is decent at this skill but does not want to do it.  Last week I gave him the incentive, “If you read 5 books, I’ll take you to the doughnut shop.”  We compromised and turned it into the ice cream shop.  If that is what it takes this week for him to read every day, then I will do it.  (Psst, Dairy Queen is offering free cones one day. 😉 )

So that is my basic list.  If nothing else ‘school’ gets done, then we at least have worked on numbers, reading, and a life skill.

Last week he did spend over 6 hours across several days working with cardboard and duct tape.  The project took on different forms as time went on till I said, “Enough!” and rotated the toys (and cardboard) out.

Cardboard being used to build is great.  Cardboard that they finally got board with and laid on the playroom floor, on top of their toys, to walk and run over is something all together different.

Seeing how much effort, time, and care Jack put into that project re-energized me to get moving on a few other projects.  These are things I have been meaning to do and with which Jack can help.  I like these projects because they will incorporate several different things I am wanting him to work on, namely: measuring, counting, numbers, nature study, following directions, working with others, problem solving, physical activity, and helping around the house.

messy closet before

Closet remodel – My closet to be precise.  What it is not is well planned.  This was actually two closets when we moved into this house.  This was the largest bedroom, but the closet that existed contained a chimney, two different ducts, water supply lines and a drain pipe.  That left about 2 feet to hang things, and then it was not right in front of the door.  By combining the two closets we gained a lot more space.  We also moved the ducts to be beside each other.  This made better use of the space, but left a hole in the floor.  The hole is under the laundry lid in the picture. This also mean the flooring did not match.

With everything else that was being done when we moved in, this closet was very, very, very low on the list to have something done to it.  We bought a clothes rack and moved on.  However, as you can see, it does not work well to help keep things organized.  I have a plan, but first, we have to clear out, measure, and draw up a plan.

incomplete stairway in garage

Washing machine repair – After weeks of going to the laundry mat to do all of our clothes at once, I ordered the part to fix the clothes washer we have here at home.  It is also (1) warmer now, so no worries about frozen pipes, and (2) the garage will soon be more completed.  I found a video online demonstrating how to replace the part.  I also want to think about where we would like to have the washer and dryer in the near future.  After fixing it, I would like to put it back where it will (maybe) stay for quite some time.

Shade garden/Yard work – With non-freezing weather, yard work is in order.  One day will, hopefully, contain general clean up.  Then we can start putting down fabric and mulch/compost to create a shade garden in a part of the yard that received little sun.  I am tired of having a huge dirt/mud patch right in front of my house.  I do not have a drawn up, on paper, everything laid out plan yet.  For now, I was hoping to get started with something before we have another cold snap.

So that is generally how our week is going to work out.  There are some other things happening, as well as a potential meet-up with another family.  So we will take it all one day at a time and see how it goes.

Mar 132015
 

… you should really wake up.  🙂  Which dream is that?  Well, the one where you have had too much to drink and you are feeling the results.  Yup.  If in your dream you are doing that, you should probably wake up.  Your body is telling you something.  So, that is how I woke up this morning at 4:00 a.m.

picked up bedroom

Luckily I was just dreaming.  I was really tempted to ignore it and go back to sleep.  (This post would have turned out very different if I had, in more ways than one.)  However, I figured it was a good idea to get up anyway as I had fallen asleep on the couch.  “If I go put on my PJs, I can sleep another 2 hours in bed.”  Sounded like a good plan, except Jack had fallen asleep in our bed at some point in the night.  After making sure my dream stayed only a dream, I headed back to the couch.  I had just gotten all cozy again, when I heard an odd, slow rhythm, soft sound along with the running of the furnace.

Ping.

Ping.

While I knew it was not a sound that was supposed to be there, I hoped that if I ignored it, it would just go away.

Ping.

Ping.

Aw shucks!  I know that sound.  That is the sound of water dripping from the ceiling over by the dinning room table.  It must be raining. {sigh}  Maybe if I just ignore it …

Ping.

… it will go away.

Ping.

I give it 10 mintues then I’ll go check.

Ping.

Ping.

Really?! I thought I had everything set up in the attic to catch any leaks.

Ping.

Didn’t they finish adding shingles on that side of the house last week?

Ping.

Apparently they missed that spot.  {sigh} This means I have to change back into my clothes. I’ll give it 5 mintues.

Ping.

Ping.

Ping.

Fine! I’m up, I’m up.  Thank you body for waking me up, though I really wish it was just because I had too much coffee last night.

So back into my ‘regular’ clothes I go, grab a flash light, put on my shoes, consider if I have any pieces of hard plastic I can use, finally give up trying to think too much that early, and go to the attic.

Sounds easy enough.  Except that to get to that part of the attic I can not just walk upstairs and through the attic door.  It is locked from the other side right now to help slow down breezes through the upstairs due to construction.

So how do I get there without going outside?  Well, this way of course …

incomplete stairway in garage

Go up  the step stool, step on top of the washer, climb onto the steps and then walk upstairs to the new part.  But the adventure is not over yet.  You see, this level is not on the same level as the attic … and the steps there have not been built yet.  🙂  So I walk over to where there will eventually be a wall, step up next to the wall studs, take 2 steps across the header for the door below that goes from our garage into our house, turn around and jump up so I’m sitting on the floor of the attic.  THEN I walk around the pile of debris that came out of our existing upstairs room (the roof is in the beginning stages of being taken down) and over to the ‘old’ attic.  Then, I have to duck down lower than I used to because the new roof line has lowed the already short area that is available to reach this part of the attic.

attic floor in progress

Now do you understand why I gave the leak so many chances to stop?

After searching for leaks in all the normal spots, all I found was dry wood.  I decided to empty our the buckets/containers I had put in place previously, in case one was leaking.  No such luck with that.

Upon closer inspection, I saw the drips of water on the insulation along the wall just a few inches away.  “Ah ha, gotcha.”

So, how do you redirect a leak along a wall?  Just like you would if it were anywhere else, by interrupting it’s route.  Water takes the easiest route and follows gravity.  If you give it what it wants, it will follow you all day long.  I just had to give it an easy way to go that would be aided by gravity, but ending where I wanted it.

I searched around for a piece of wood about a foot in length that was sharp on one end.  Finding one nearby, I jammed the sharp point into the insulation and balanced it so that the rest of the wood stuck out and twisted so the water would flow to a particular corner and into the plastic tub below.  Once I had it in place I was rewarded with a small, but steady stream of drips going “Plop.  Plop.  Plop.” Now that is a sound I wanted to hear, if I had to hear any at all.

boards to catch water leak in attic

(The view above is from the floor looking straight up this 4 foot high wall.  Those pieces of wood and the white strip of plastic all point down to the containers I put there to catch water.)

Suddenly the stream of drips became a small flow.  I listened harder and realized it was raining harder.  Seems my ‘solution’ came  just in time.

buckets of water in attic

With that spot taken care of I searched around some more.  Not only was the water dripping, but it was also running down a support beam that goes along the wall.  This was a harder problem to solve.  In the end I grabbed an extra bucket belonging to the contractors and pulled out some insulation (the pink, itchy stuff) from the wall behind the board.  This piece was left attached at the top and draped across the board.  I stuck it to the wet area and would redirect any further wetness down into the bucket.

bucket and insulation catching water in attic

Before moving I checked further, but did not see any other leaks or wet areas.  “Problem solved.  Now, about breakfast …”

As I was saying this I walked over the attic door to look at the ‘new’ attic floor level compared to the existing floor level in the upstairs room. Not really sure why I walked over there, as there was nothing I could really do at that moment.  Honestly, I was grumbling a bit.  By making the floor more stable in the attic, it was no longer a few inches lower than the upstairs floor, but is now a about 1.5 inches higher.  My grumbling did not last long, though, and I was glad I had walked over.  The floor there had water drips.

I tried to convince myself it was from yesterday when the workers were there, but that did not last long.  The drip that fell from the ceiling pretty much dispelled that idea.  A glance at the wall with the flashlight showed water splashed on the wall, and a hand to the carpet under the door resulted in a wet feeling.

While this problem was a bit easier to solve (put a bucket under the drip), it had potential to be a much larger problem.  If the water hit the wrong spot, it would have run down into the wall, unseen.  If it had been absorbed by the carpet, it would have stayed wet a long time.  If it got into the ceiling below, it would have been a much harder fix.

At 6:30 I reappeared into the main part of the house, no one the wiser as to what I had been up to.  George and Jack were there to welcome me, wide eyed and asking what was for breakfast.  🙂

As I had very little energy, but was wide awake I remembered an idea from yesterday – “Cream of Wheat with coconut and chocolate chips.”  May not have been the healthiest of breakfasts, but it sure did sound good right at that moment and did not take long to make.

So, next time you have one of THOSE dreams, you really should listen to your body.  Something is up, and it may not be exactly what you expect.  🙂

Jan 212015
 

IMG_20141122_144538323

The remodel on the house is moving along fairly quickly, though considering all the things that need to be done to get to the end, there is still A LOT to do.

Yesterday was the “need to remove part of the roof and make lots of dust” Stage 1.  Stage 2, and a different, larger section of roof will happen either later this week or next week.  We have lived with dust producing activities here before, but it has been 7 years or so ago.  I knew what it would be like, but had forgotten what it meant for daily life, and that is there is dust everywhere no matter how much you sweep or wipe down.  Also, we have never done this stage while having kids or in the middle of winter.

Not only does this stage produce dust, it meant part of the roof was not on the house last night.  Think about that for a minute.  It is like leaving several of your windows fully open all night long.

Thankfully the lows got only into the upper 20’s/lower 30’s last night.  Much better than in the single digits last week.  Still cold, either way you put it.  With the increase in drafts in the house (an understatement) we have lowered the thermostat, closed off parts of the house, etc. to help not make the heating bill more than what we make in the month.  🙂  As your grandmother might say, “Close that door!  We are not trying to heat the outside!”

While the tarp at the bottom of the stairs helps stop some of the drafts and heat loss, the kitchen is definitely cooler than the 64 degrees at which we have the thermostat set.  Due to how the duct work is run, the bedrooms are always warmer than the other rooms IF their doors are closed.  Not only does closing the doors keep them warmer, it helps decrease the amount of dust in there.

IMG_20140619_090044616

Besides the increase in dust and noise, life here is also thrown off a bit.

  • With no garage, all of the ‘garage’ stuff is in the basement, in a crawl space.
  • With the main entry to the house being moved from the garage to the front door, all of our shoes are in a narrower spot when you enter, making it feel immediately  more cluttered than it might actually be.
  • We also had to removed the coat rack/shelf due to it being in the way of a new staircase/doorway.  At this time we are using a bar stool along a wall in our dining room to keep all of our coats on and in one place.
  • We are parking both cars on the street.  Not only do I have to clean off my car and warm it up every morning to take George to school, which I would have had to do even if I was parking the driveway, but so does my husband.  This also means that if it snows and the plows are out, we have to move the cars to the side street then dig them out in the morning.
  • Even if we wanted to, we could not accept another foster placement.  I knew this last month when I realized my stress levels were high enough that one more thing would tip the balance.  Between my husband going to school at night, some issues here at home, and the remodel work, my Stress Bucket is very close to overflowing.  Add to that the room available for another placement is upstairs.  Yes, the one whose roof is about to be removed.  It is good to know these things so that one does not feel too guilty for having to say no when a phone call comes.  When I saw The Number on caller I.D. last week, I knew my answer before even picking up.  “I’m sorry, we can’t right now.”  So good to know the answer before the question is asked as you are less likely to give in to the emotional feelings of, “Surely I can fit just one more thing on my plate.”

Update:  Was just told they are removing the roof to the upstairs either today or tomorrow.  This means besides the essentials this morning, putting away laundry and begining school work till we have access to the upstairs, the rest of my schedule is up in the air.  Once I can get back into our upstairs, Jack and I will be boxing up all that we can to store in a closet that will then be taped off, to decrease the amount of dust that gets in.  We will then be deconstructing and moving furniture over into a corner so that it too can be covered to help decrease the amount of dust that gets on those items.

seeds beginning 2014 garden season

Yesterday, when life was starting to feel chaotic and crazy I took a few minutes to think of the garden and plan some things.  It not only decreased my blood pressure, but also reminded me that “this too shall pass” and all the dirt, dust, noise, and things out of place will one day be a memory.

Jan 082015
 

ProtestingYourPropertyValue

In case you missed them, click here to read Part 1 and Part 2.

Every state has a different time frame of when you can protest the value of your property.  Additionally, the time of paying your taxes will vary.

In one state, our property was assessed as of the 1st of that year, we were billed and paid that tax in that same year.  In our current state, we currently protesting the assessment in value of our property as of the 1st of 2014 and will not pay the bill till the middle of 2015, almost 18 months later.  The latter example makes it more challenging when you begin to look at several years and what may or may not have happened to your home in a particular year.

With that in mind we are aware that as of the 1st of this year, our home was assessed in value for the bill for next year.  Currently our home is under construction, which the assessor’s office knows about, as they mentioned it when I called.  This is not only due to being in Small Town, though that part does not help much.  I am not sure anyone can miss what is currently going on.

We knew this remodel/addition would increase our property tax, though had not really thought of the time line for it doing so.  When I began putting together the packet for this year’s protest, I realized that next year they will be assessing us on the value of our home with our remodel still in progress.  As of the 1st of this year, that mean there still was not even a roof over the new garage/room addition.  How do they assess the value of an unlivable space?  Not sure really, so I will be calling the state office when they open to inquire.

Something else I noticed on the forms I was filling out, were all the exemptions that may apply to various homes.  We currently only have the General Homestead Exemption.  Something is better than nothing, and this lowers our value by about $6000, or $114 dollars, so no complaining here.

math numbers

As I was reviewing the list to make sure nothing else was pertinent, another exemption caught my attention.  When I got back home I looked up the details online and found that once our remodel is complete this exemption will allow us to take off the increase in value added to our home for 4 years.  That was a big surprise.  When I shared it with my husband, Mr. Numbers Man, his response was: “And how do they figure out the increase in market value?”  Lucky for him there was not a book nearby or else I would have (lovingly) thrown it at him.

If everything works out like I think it will, here is what the next 5 years hold for us in terms of Property Assessment Value and Tax:

Payable Year 2015 (for Year 2014 Assessment Value)- will argue our home has not increase in value by $3000.  Show recent comparable to demonstrate this.  Inquire as to timing for exemption filing.  I want to wait till the remodel is complete before filing if possible, so paperwork does not get crossed and all confused.

Payable Year 2016 (for Year 2015 Assessment Value) – demonstrate/argue that the value of our home on January, 1, 2015 included an incomplete home remodel.  Thereby the non-livable space should not be taxed at the normal rate.  File for exemption?

Payable Year 2017 – 2021 (for Years 2016 – 2020 Assessment Values) – Have the exemption for the increase in value due to the home remodel in place.  Protest any ‘normal’ increases.

money calculator math

If it all works out like I hope, over the next 6 years these steps will save us $3800:

  • $137 (increase noted for Payable Year 2015) *6 years = $826
  • $600 Payable 2016 – This is a low guess I made as to the amount our taxes may increase when the project is finished.  If they do not tax us on the change for, which was not complete at the beginning of 2015, then we will not have to pay this amount.
  • $600 *4 = $2400 – Again, the estimated amount times the 4 years (Payable Years 2017-2021) the exemption would be in place.

The guess as to the increase in value is truly that at this time, a guess.  Past experience has shown me that the local review board’s opinion and mine, as to the value of our house, differs.

What I do know is that steps taken now to save money will have a lasting effect, saving us money over time as well.  I also know that not every year will be such a struggle, as was the first one owning our home in this state.  Most years will be fairly straight forward and boring, making the time invested even more worth while.

Jan 062015
 

ProtestingYourPropertyValue

Read Part 1 here.

When we moved to our current state, I no longer worked outside the home so I took over going to the meeting.  When I came back and said the board did not make a decision that day, but that we would hear from them, my husband thought I must have done something wrong.  When their number came back unchanged he was sure I had done something wrong.  It had gone so easy when he did it.  🙂  This ‘discussion’ actually lasted over a year.

After this point, we were introduced to the next level of protesting the value of our property – taking our dispute to the state assessment review board.  Turns out our state was years behind in addressing the paperwork; a result of too few people for a large job.

Three years later we were arguing the same point – the price we paid for our house was the true market value of the house.  Meanwhile we kept protesting the value with our local review board each year during the allotted time.

In Year 2 or 3 I sent my husband to the meeting to prove it was not me.  He came back frustrated.  Yup, it was not me.  At this point the previously mentioned ‘discussion’ ended.

Finally, the time came for the state representative to come to our area.  Thankfully he was able to review all 3 years of protests at the same time.  In advance of a meeting, we were to submit our argument, then the county submitted their argument and rebuttal to our argument, and finally we were able to respond again.  If a decision could not be reached with the local office, we would meet in person to go over the paperwork.  While this was similar in all the states we had lived, we had never actually reached this point.  We were a bit nervous to say the least.  We knew our argument was valid, but would the State see it the same way?

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In the end, the State representative agreed with us.  It was the same argument we had made all along – the fair market value of our home was the price we had paid for it on the open market.  Our value was lowered about $20,000 and we received a refund check in the mail for several hundred dollars per year we had been disputing this amount.

After all the frustration and work it took to do this, I felt like we more than earned the check.  If we hadn’t been so stubborn at that time, though, we still would be paying $300-$400 more in property tax each year.  It was worth it to stay the course and see the protest through to the end.

Since that time, we have not had to protest our taxes as they have not raised in value.  This year they once again reevaluated all the homes in the county and our home value raised about $3,000. This means in increase of $133 in property tax that will be due at the end of this coming year. It may seem small in the grand scheme, but if you never dispute, those small changes can add up.

It is protest time again in our county and I am not only looking at the bill for the end of this year, but also at the years coming up.

To be continue …

Once posted:

Part 3 is here.

Jan 032015
 

ProtestingYourPropertyValue

As a homeowner there are certain things I thought were just part of, well, owning a home.  Property Tax for example was one of the things I just accepted.  That is until one of my first jobs found me being driving a lot between job sites and on my commute.  With not much to do while driving, as no co-worker was with me, I listened to the radio.  Not wanting to hear the same songs over and over, I usually had it on talk radio.

The programs included names like Dave Ramsey.  This show was followed by the Real Estate Investor, one of my favorite.  Not because I had the means to do this, I had just gotten out of college after all, but because I loved hearing the stories and the process they took to turn owning properties or buying/selling into a viable business.

Then it came to the season that would change my view of property taxes forever.  The radio talk show host started speaking about property taxes and how easy it was to argue their value.  He went on to explain how a property’s value was figured out and the steps to take to try and lower your value.  He also talked about how having a high property value did not mean your home was worth more, only that you were paying more taxes.

At first I was not sure what to think of this, “Surely it is too hard and won’t save you any money.  Why would they waste their time doing this?”  Curiosity finally got me and I did some research on my own.  Turns out I was wrong; it really was not that hard to do and it would save you money, especially over time.  Left alone, your property values will be raised at regular intervals as the years go past.  While not a bad thing necessarily, it does mean that you will pay more and more taxes.

At first, when I mentioned to my husband that we needed to protest the value of our property tax, he was hesitant.  So I showed him the county’s website, where they detail what to do.  I followed the steps, printed out the paperwork and did all the initial ‘leg work’.  Thankfully, at that time we lived in a place where I could do all the ‘leg work’ in front of my computer from the comfort of my home.  The county had all the information needed.  The radio show also helped me find the information I was looking for without having to search from the very beginning.

My husband agreed to go to the meeting with the Appraisal Review Board, as I could not get off work.  He was still doubtful they would agree that our house was not worth as much as they said, even though we had bought it just that year. He was not sure what to expect, but I assured him it would be easy. Turns out he was wrong; they actually came back with a lower number than he had in mind.  Guess my homework paid off, literally.  Our home value was reduced several thousand dollars, thereby automatically saving us money.

And so began a change in our lifestyle.  While we no longer live in that particular state, we have taken this tip with us as we have moved (several times).

In a second state he had the same results. Again I made up the packet and he went to the meeting.

In both states the dispute was resolved that day with a fair number being agreed upon by all.

Then we bought a house in our current state and things got a bit harder.

To be continued …

Once these are posted:

Part 2 is here.

Part 3 is here.

Linked up at:

The Deliberate Mom
  Prudent Living on the Homefront