Get the house ready to be inspected

Here are a few simple things homeowners can do to head off common issues found during inspections conducted by buyers inspectors.

  1. Remove any old parts the contractor left by the furnace or water heater. Leftover parts may confuse inspectors and buyers and can lead to all sorts of negative assumptions about the condition of furnace and water heater.
  2. Make sure every light fixture in the house has a working light bulb in it. Inspectors may suggest a fixture isn’t working if the bulb is burned out.
  3. If there is a fuse box remove any old and all-new extra fuses and put them away.
  4. Clean the surfaces of the water heater and furnace.
  5. Make sure all of the windows have screens on them.
  6. Make sure all windows open and close.
  7. Check under every sink and remove any buckets if there is no leak present.
  8. Make sure all electrical outlets and light switches have covers.
  9. If extension cords are being used due to lack of outlets disconnect and remove the extension cords.
  10. Change the furnace filter.

Some of the items I am mentioning will just help to keep the list of items that need attention shorter which will leave a better impression on the buyer.

Some home inspectors don’t know what they are doing and others are excellent. There isn’t any licensure or even qualifications to be a home inspector in Minnesota. Over the years I have seen all sorts of crazy on home inspections. Sometimes home buyers kind of freak out and so do sellers when confronted with a list of repair requests.

Also, see the City of St. Paul Truth in Housing Inspection 

Older houses with older electrical systems

One of the wonderful things about old houses is they can be retrofitted. Even if a house was built without electricity or central heating it probably has both today and maybe Wifi too.

The answer is breakers. There are houses in St. Paul that still have old electrical boxes with fuses instead of breakers. Fuses seem to work fine but those boxes are at least 50 years old and some are much older. Having an ancient electrical system means having fewer circuits. Insurance companies do not like fuses and will charge more or they won’t provide insurance at all.

If the power is 100 amp and the fuse box does not have to be relocated prices for upgrading to breakers start at about $1500.00. It can cost twice as much if there is 60 AMP service or if the electrical box needs to be relocated.  It is easy enough to get an estimate from an electrician.

Any home can be sold as is but for homeowners who want to make improvements before they sell, I recommend upgrading the electrical system. It may actually save money.

We use our houses much differently today than we did in the 1950s. We use a lot more electricity. I have seen old fuse boxes with four or five circuits for the whole house. Newer electrical systems will include that many circuits just for the kitchen.

fuses and breakers
Electrical panels


Cold rainy spring


It has been a wonderful spring for hostas. My plants have never been so huge. This is what they looked like on June 1st.  Hostas are shade plants. I have several varieties along the north side of the house instead of a lawn. They are bee and butterfly friendly but won’t bloom for another month or so.

The vegetables and annual flower in the garden are not doing as well. Cooler weather has stunted their growth.

Got buckthorn?

Buckthorn is on the Minnesota DNR’s list of restricted noxious weeds. It is an invasive species that was imported from Europe and used for hedges. You may recall a couple of years ago goats were hired to eat the buckthorn growing in Indian Mounds Park.

This year I found some buckthorn in my yard and my neighbors are growing a large buckthorn bush along a fence. The way to get rid of buckthorn is to pull it out and dig out the roots. The plant I found was fairly small and easy to remove. It was hiding near my lilac bushes.

The plant is fairly easy to identify. When in doubt look for thorns at the base of the leaves where they join the stem.

Buckthorn plants that are two inches in diameter or larger are best controlled by cutting the stem at the soil surface and then covering or treating the stump to prevent re-sprouting. Cutting can be effectively done with hand tools (for a few plants), chain saws or brush cutters.

The Minnesota DNR has a lot of information about the plant and how to remove it. You will need a permit to have goats in your St. Paul yard but I suppose that is an option too.

Buckthorn Bush



Bad landscaping Vs. Good landscaping

Great landscaping around a home has a high return on the dollar. It can be a great investment. Homeowners can do there own landscaping but should do a little research first.

Here is a short list of common landscaping mistakes that I see often.

  1. Shade plants in sunny areas.
  2. Sun-loving plants in the shade.
  3. Plants put too close together so that they are crowded and do not have room to grow.
  4. Planting too close to the house.
  5. Too many plants for the size of the space.
  6. Bushes and trees that completely block the view from the house to the street.

There are numerous books about landscaping. They can even be found at home improvement stores.

Neighborhood nurseries often offer advice and will answer questions about plants and landscaping for those who want to do it themselves.

When searching the internet for ideas make sure that the websites are for Minnesota gardens.

I have made just about every landscaping mistake a person can make. My biggest mistake was planting a small every green bush that was 6 inches high but grew to be eight feet tall.

Removing plants is not nearly as much fun and sometimes much more expensive than planting them.

It is important to have a plan and to choose the right plants for the plan. It helps to have an understanding of what size the plants will be as they mature and how much space, water and light each plant needs.






Those darn ice dams!


I couldn’t help but notice all the ice dams on houses as I drove to a meeting yesterday. With all of the snow we have had and more on the way there will be a lot of ice dams and water damage from them this year.

The dams are caused by melting snow on the roof and heat leaking out from the house.  The snow at the edge of the roof turns to ice as it thaws and refreezes.

The water pools on the roof because the ice dam prevents it from rolling off the roof . . hence the term ‘dam’.  It does not matter how new your roof is you can still take on water.

The best way to handle ice dams is to prevent them. There are companies that will remove ice dams and damage the roof at the same time . . . or not. Removing the snow from the roof will stop new dams from forming.

It isn’t just snow on the roof that causes ice dams.  The University of Minnesota Extension web site has some great information about what causes ice dams and how to prevent them.