Repairs & Oil heating.... - Posted by Katharine OR

Posted by Sean on March 25, 2004 at 11:24:31:

Frank, I’ve never heard the 40-50 year rule on pipe, I have several homes that are 100+/- years old. I have not had really any problems thus far with the feed pipes… these are almost exclusively copper and never had one burst or crack or fail yet. (other than repairing freezing issues when I buy them)

Now drain pipes, that’s another issue, in the older properties these tend to be steel, which do rust… so I wouldn’t be suprised to find out that they have a 50 year life expectancy. I have replaced a few old galvanized drain stacks with PVC in properties, where they have just split wide open in the walls… Not fun.

I personally live in a 1944 home, and have never had an issue with our copper pipes yet, nor any of our rentals either.

Repairs & Oil heating… - Posted by Katharine OR

Posted by Katharine OR on March 23, 2004 at 18:27:56:

Hi everyone, I looked at a house last night that has oil heating. I have no experience about the costs, maintenance, repairs, pros/cons etc. of oil heating…does anyone have any info they can share? The owner says the system is in good condition and works well. Also I believe this particular house was built in the 1940’s-1950’s and (to the owners knowledge)the electrical and plumbing are still the original. Is having older plumbing and electrical in a house a “bad” thing? Do I need to replace these things? Everything seems to be in good working order but I know both can be expensive to replace… This is a house I am looking at to live in myself and eventually rent out. I am still new to this so any insight, suggestions, etc. is greatly appreciated!
Thanks in advance,
Katharine OR

Re: Repairs & Oil heating… - Posted by Sean

Posted by Sean on March 24, 2004 at 23:17:53:

Lived in a house with heating oil, and wish my home now was. Heating oil consists of a furnace, and an on sight, usually underground in northern climates, but can be above ground as well, fuel tank.

Oil is really just diesel fuel, except it is exhempt from the per gallon sales tax charged at the gas pump, and usually has a red die added so that law enforcement can catch those who are buying home heating oil and then using it in their vehicles… .gas stations/truck stops doing the same thing.

Personally I wish I had heating oil, It was nice to pay just one single bill a year and have heat for the entire winter… no monthly “SERVICE CHARGE” even if you used no heat just to have service like gas… and no chance your house was going to blow up if your heating system got a leak.

Some people might view it as a negative, I personally don’t. Just have the system checked out… make sure the tank isn’t leaking… if that tank leaks and has to be dug up and replaced, its not going to be cheap… but other than that the rest of the systems just like any other furnace… no more or less costly to install or repair.

Re: Repairs & Oil heating… - Posted by John P. (Maui, HI)

Posted by John P. (Maui, HI) on March 24, 2004 at 13:18:11:

Hello Katharine,

My general rule of thumb is…if you are serious about a property, but you have concerns, then bring in the experts to give you answers.

Bring in a home inspector, a rep from a oil heating company to look at the furnace & give you a condition summary and/or a plumber. Bring in one or all of these folks. But definetly bring in the folks that do it for a living to give you a condition summary & get it on paper.

There is some cost associated with doing this but better a few hundred now than after you buy it & learn you have $10K, $20K or more ahead of you.

My ballpark guess on costs to bring in these folks would be roughly:

1.Home Inspection—$300-$500
2.Oil Furnace Tune-Up/Maintenance—$150-$300

Overall, cheap money when compared to a worse scenario.


Best Regards,
(Maui, HI)

Re: Repairs & Oil heating… - Posted by Frank Chin

Posted by Frank Chin on March 24, 2004 at 04:41:53:


I own rentals built in the 50’s, and sold one built in 1941 not long ago.

The one I sold from 1941 was mainly due to plumbing problems. They’re not big ones, its just pipes would spring a leak now and then, and the plumber would have to come, chop holes in the walls, ceilings, and fix the leak.

One thing I found out was its difficult to find contractors and handyman to fix a hole in the ceiling properly, as it takes two or three small trips to do the job right.

For instance, the last leak in the building was during the time the place was already in contract. The pipes sprang a leak underneath the bathtub, and the plumber couldn’t get to it from below after chopping a hole in the ceiling, so he had to remove the vanity next to the tub, chop up a section of the tile floor (12" by 18"), and replaced the pipe. So do I replace the bathroom floor while the building is in contract?? No.

What I had to do was remove good tiles from below the vanity, cement up the 12" by 18" hole, then tile and rout the part of the floor that’s visible, leaving the area beneath the vanity with no tiles.

Fixing the hole in the ceiling was another story. The area inside the ceiling was soaked and soggy, and touching the ceiling caused adjoiningg parts to fall off. It took several trips just to fix the hole.

But it was not this one job, but I fixed hole in walls and ceilings the last 5 years of the 20 years I owned it.

And because it was a 3 family rental, I usually do not know that a pipe in the wall sprang a leak till much later. I recall going to the unit collecting rents, and hear running water every month for several months even while tenants were all at work. It later turned out the main pipe running into the building had a leak, and it was evident when the cement on the garage floor appear wet. The pipe was replaced.

Right before I sold the building, I asked my plumber about all of these problems, and he tells me that it usually appears in 50 to 70 year old buildings with the original plumbing. I priced replacing all the pipes to the three bathrooms, and the job was 20K, but because it involves chopping up tiles, removing bathtubs etc, I should replace the 3 bathrooms at 5K each - making the total coming out to about 40K. Meanwhile, I still got the plumbing to do for the 3 kitchens.

One building that I have from the 50’s needs a new 100 AMP service entrance replacing the current 60 amp one. I just replaced the service entrance of another 3 family at a cost of $2,700.

The problems with this later building was in 1957, air conditioning was not common. Now my tenants has an AC in each BR of the 2 BR units, plus the living room. The circuit breaker would trip when they have two AC’s on, and they put on the micro wave, also not in existance in 1957.

The new service entrance of the building now has “two phase electric”, doubling the capacity of the original. So all the “single phase” electric meters, the main panels all had to be replaced.

Another upcoming job is running replacing the lines from the main panel to the apartment units, at a cost of another several thousand.

You asked about houses from the 40’s and 50’s. I own and operate a few of them.

As to oil heat, the 1941 had oil steam heat. The problem is not with the oil, the problem is the steam heat requires weekly maintenance during the heating season.

Another SFH I rent out also has oil heat with an underground tank. Two problems here.

1- Tenants in financial diificulty sometimes wait for the tank to run almost empty before refilling. This causes gunk to jam up the furance, and it takes more than one service call to correct. Because refilling an almost empty tank causes gunk to float to the surface, clogging it even after its cleaned.

2- The oil is stores in a UST and fifty year old underground storage tanks (UST) may rust and leak. The EPA has gotten after larger industrial UST’s and may someday come after homeowners. You would not have a problem with a free standing oil tank in the basement.

Frank Chin

Re: Repairs & Oil heating… - Posted by Del-ohio

Posted by Del-ohio on March 23, 2004 at 22:29:36:

We have/had a couple properties with fuel oil heat. One is a duplex that we are using as a rental and we have not had any problem with it. Not everyone works on fuel oil furnaces, but around here it is easy to find someone in the yellow pages. We had a clogged filter in one, we have been running it about a year, no problems. We have also bought and sold a couple units with fuel oil and have not had any objections from the buyers. My personal opposition would be the smell, you always seem to have bit of fuel oil aroma hanging around the house, if the tank is inside. WHich all three of our units were. The cost to heat seems to be about the same as gas in my experience.

If you have breaker boxes and the wiring appears in good shape, I would not be concerned. 40-50 year old plumbing does not need replaced unless there is a specific problem. I would bring an electrician and a plumber in to check it out if you have any doubts.

We rehab a lot of houses that are a lot older and the plumbing and electric only gets upgraded if necessary. MOst of the time it is not in a 1940-1950 house in my experience. Now 1890 to 1910 is a little different story.

A word about Inspectors - Posted by Frank Chin

Posted by Frank Chin on March 25, 2004 at 06:00:23:


I had that house built in 1941 (mentioned below)inspected when I bought the place, and then the buyer had it done again when I sold it, when my wife was present for the inspection.

When I bought the place in 1982, I recall the inspector asked the seller if its the original plumbing, and the seller nodded. So the inspector noted in his report that the plumbing should be replaced in another ten years, the 50 year point that my plumber indicated to me later. Said he can’t comment on conditons of the pipes in the walls.

Funny thing was, when I sold the place, the buyer’s inspector got hung up on my fire escape, and told the buyer that it’s not up to code. Apparently, the buyer wanted the property bad enough to have an architect look into it, and we pulled building department approvals for it. I was a bit annoyed at the time, but thinking back, nothing was raised about the plumbing with all the noise about the fire escape, and I was glad that the plumbing issue never came up.

As to plumbers, I got a guy that did most of the repairs for the place the 20 years I owned it, and his position has always been, he can’t comment on pipes inside the walls. But he often cautions me that with the old pipes, if he does extensive work in one place, the vibrations and banging may cause a leak elsewhere.

Just a word or two from a landlord of a few 40’s and 50’s houses.

Frank Chin

Re: Repairs & Oil heating… - Posted by Katharine OR

Posted by Katharine OR on March 23, 2004 at 22:38:13:

Thanks Del for your expertise! I am going to have an electrician and plumber look at it as well. Good luck in all your investing! -Katharine OR