Friday, May 25, 2012

The Cost of Cleaning a Dryer Vent

It started as a simple question really, but then it all does, doesn't it? The question? "Could you please clean the dryer vent? It smells funny." Since it hadn't been cleaned really well in a while, my husband took this opportunity to give the dryer vent the cleaning of all cleanings. He pulled out the dryer, unhooked the gas line, and unhooked the washer hoses too to really get in there to the vent line. He took the dryer apart, used the Lint Lizard we were given by his mom, and got every speck of lint out of the dryer itself. He took the scrunchy metal vent pipe outside and washed it thoroughly.

Our dryer is not on an outside wall so there is a traditional metal vent pipe to the wall which attaches to a piece of PVC sewer pipe to get it to the outside vent. This is to code and generally works just dandily. That also means you can do crazy stuff with it like hose it down to get all the linty muck out of it. He did just that, sending a soggy pile of lint flying out the side of the house. It took all day to clean the dryer vent, but that was okay. All was clean. All was good.

And then he came to me at 4pm on Sunday afternoon and said we needed to make an emergency trip to Lowes. After checking to see that they were still open (till 7!), we drove the 25 miles to our closest home improvement store to buy new washer hoses. They worked. We did some laundry. All was good.

And then on Monday, I noticed something smelled a bit off. It seemed to be the dryer. But worse than that, there was a bit of a gas smell. Yes, the gas line was leaking too. Another trip to Lowes later, the gas line was replaced. We did some more laundry. All was good.

And then on Thursday, I noticed an odd, sort of wet paper sort of smell downstairs. It has been raining a lot so I thought maybe some water had gotten in somewhere. Later in the day, I happened to look up while I was in the kitchen and saw a bubble in the ceiling. Under the washing machine connections. I ran upstairs to turn the water off up there and the cold water valve sprayed at me as I tried to close it. Off went the water to the second floor. All was not good.

My husband didn't get home until late that evening and had to do something with the plumbing. The water was off upstairs to keep it from leaking and with the water off, that meant no showers. So, out came the sheetrock saw and, with it, the wall around the washing machine pipes. Of course, for some odd reason, he had put a second valve in the wall for the hot water, but not the cold and, of course, it was the cold that was leaking. Fortunately, he had the pieces around to fix that problem and installed a cold water valve for the night. In the process, he spilled the purple primer all over himself (which apparently burns quite a bit!). All was not good.

So, at the moment, we are without a washer and dryer. And the cost of cleaning the dryer vent? We've spent $50 on new hoses and a gas line. And there's more cost to come to fix the pipes for the washing machine connection, the wall that we tore open to get to the pipes, and the ceiling in the kitchen with the water bulge.

Oh, and the dryer vent still smells funky.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Preservation vs. Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets

I hate to keep picking on Virginia Tech, but they've been making it so easy lately. First with their plans to cut part of the old growth Stadium Woods to make way for a new indoor football practice facility, and now with their plans to tear down 3 of the oldest buildings on campus to make way for a new dormitory for the Corps of Cadets. The latter has earned Virginia Tech a place on Preservation Virginia's 2012 Most Endangered Historic Sites list.

Lane Hall, Virginia Tech
Lane, Rasche, and Brodie Halls make up the Upper Quad, creating a picturesque courtyard used daily by the Corps. Lane Hall was built as Barracks No. 1 in 1888 and currently contains offices for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Rasche and Brodie Halls are both Cadet Corps dormitories each with an older section built in 1894 and 1900 respectively and newer additions made in the 1950s. The buildings of the Upper Quad are some of the few remaining buildings on campus to be built of brick rather than the Hokie Stone form of limestone that adorns construction after 1900.

Drill Field, Virginia Tech, 1890s
photo from Virginia Tech Special Collections
In Virginia Tech's defense, the modus operandi of the university over the years has been to tear down and rebuild - they're just following long held tradition. Today, most of the earliest buildings on campus are gone. The view on Blacksburg's Main Street where a Preston and Olin Institute building once caused the street to jog around it and the buildings of the Drill Field have both changed significantly over the years. The same thing would never happen at the University of Virginia where the Lawn and Rotunda are considered sacred and have been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Though parts of Virginia Tech's campus could be nominated to the National Register, the designation has not been pursued. A notable exception is Solitude, the early 1800s home of Col. Robert Preston, from whom the land for Virginia Tech was acquired in 1872.

Solitude, Virginia Tech
As in all cases of preservation, the facts can be spun to support whichever side of the cause you'd like. For developers, or university officials who want to tear down a building or 3, that means pointing out things like cracked plaster and the lack of air conditioning to make the point that the buildings should be replaced. We've heard that the bean counters have been given such a tour of the buildings and asked to determine how much it will cost to demolish them. We can only hope that an equivalent and fair determination of the cost of renovating these buildings is also being prepared.

The greenest building is the one already built. Rather than just paying lip service to the idea of sustainability, reusing and retrofitting older campus buildings like these would go a long way toward real sustainability. So would preserving Stadium Woods.