Maintenance Demos with Norm LaChance


Norm LaChance - Norm


Richard Merlino - Rich

[Start 0:00:00]

Audience: [applause]

Norm: Hello, folks! Nice to meet you all. I’m from Rental Housing Association of Greater Springfield, and I’ve been a board member for maybe 11, 12 years out of the 16 years that I’ve been with the  RHAGS association and now of course a part of your group, and I was invited to be guest and speaker, so I have a lot of things to talk about, but I have a video presentation on boilers.

Question to the room: how many people in this room have heating systems with steam radiators? Raise your hand. We seem to have a lot.

How many of you know that you’re supposed to test the controls on the boiler to make sure that they work correctly because steam radiator systems are the most vulnerable. Lack of maintenance is going to cost your boiler to malfunction and crack, worst of all, crack means complete replacement of the boiler.

How many people know what a low water cutoff is? Raise your hand.

How many of you have ever tested it? Well, we have a lot less. People know what they are but they don’t. Does anybody understand? Do you understand the function of it because if you didn’t raise your hand, then that means you’ve got baseboard hot water or you have heat and those systems kind of run more maintenance free. I’m not saying that they don’t need maintenance, but if you have steam radiator system, then this presentation is geared to you.

We have a short video presentation. I will let the video presentation play, and as I was testing my own system, I’ll tell you and the thing tested once. The recommendation is to test your system weekly. I know these controls do because I wire them as an electrical contractor, so I know what I’m supposed to do and yet I’ve had a cracked boiler myself for failing to check these controls.

While I was making this video, the week before I made this video, I tested my own boiler. It worked perfectly, and while I’m making this video, it did not work. When they say test weekly, it’s because steam radiators are black steel pipe. If everybody knows what a gas pipe looks like, it’s black steel and because it’s water and steam and it rusts and the metals get into the boiler, it creates a lot of corrosion in the boiler. Unless you’re letting the water out of these boilers to cleanse these impurities out of the boiler, it’s susceptible to the control failing, so you want to pay attention.

I’m going to let Doug play this. Are you ready to play this video?

Doug: I think so.

Norm: All right, so let’s play the video and left to the questions after.

Today, what we’re doing is we’re checking a typical steam boiler. I’m going to show you how to [distortion 0:03:15] there’s a water cutoff. What this control does is shut the furnace down, immediate vent of it. The furnace runs out of water. It shuts the boiler up, preventing it from boiling out of water and cracking the boiler.

Normally, you want to test this boiler while it’s running and I’ll have this boiler cut up to run. Right now, the safety switch is on, and I have this boiler set up to run when I turn on the switch for the purposes of this demonstration. But what you want to do is have your tenant turn off their thermostat.

If you’re at your property and you’re checking your boiler and it’s not running, you would ask your tenant to turn up their thermostats so the boiler would turn on. If you see this boiler running and then we’re going to perform these tests.

I’d also like to show you is that this boiler also has what’s called an automatic water feed , and this is an automatic water feed. What this thing does is when the low water cutoff shuts off, this control automatically fills with water.

Now not every boiler is going to have an automatic water feed. Some boilers aren’t equipped with it, and you’re going to have to manually feed the boiler with water using these shutoff valves that are included in the cold-water supply to feed the boiler.

What you would do is turn this on manually and you only turn it on a little bit. You never fully open a water supply to a boiler especially when it’s hot because the in-rush of cold water can crack your boiler. What you really want to do is turn them just a tiny little bit here. That’s how I do this, and it’s like [unintelligible 0:05:24] core.

Sorry, I got to shut off. It would be this one down here for me in this set up. This is a manual bypass, and by turning it just a slight little bit, what it’s doing is it’s adding water to the boiler. You could see here on the side glass, that you would see the water going up in the boiler.


Literally when the load matches this, just a little trickle. This is a very small flow of water and let the boiler fill up three quarters of the side glass. This way, you don’t want to have too much water in the boiler. You never really want to go more than three-quarters of the level here that’s marked on this boiler and this side glass. You don’t want your water to really below or higher than that.

What we’re going to do is we’re going to turn on this boiler and while it’s running, we’re going to drain water out of this low water cutoff while this here is the drain pipe set up to catch the water in this bucket. While the boiler is running, we’re going to turn it on, and as this boiler drains down, if the water gets to the low side glass and the boiler has not shut off before this water runs out of the side glass, there’s a problem with this control, and you would need to call a service professional to take the [unintelligible 0:06:59].

I’m going to turn this switch on. This boiler is going to take a second to start. By the way, this is a gas-fired burner and it used to be oil-fired and here is a picture of an old oil-fired burner that used to be here, and now this thing is getting ready to start once we hear the boiler kick on.

Sorry. I’m trying to hold this here to get you a good picture, but we’re waiting for this boiler to start. While we’re waiting for it to start, I’m going to show you this valve. This valve over here purges the water out of this pipe and now the boiler is running. We’re going to open this valve and we’re going to watch the [background noise 0:08:00] water from that at this valve bucket here.

Sorry for the angle here.

The boiler is still running. Water is coming out of this pipe into the bucket and we’re going to wait for the boiler to shut itself off. The water gets all the way down to the bottom if the boiler is not shut off, then you have an oil burner professional guy to service the furnace.

Some of these things have a faster drive on it, and this will prevent the flow inside this spark right here, and what it does is it’s going up and down the slope to adjust the water off. In some boilers, while you’re testing it, this won’t go off about sooner because of the faster low water coming out of the boiler, so we record this thing while we shut down while it shuts down. If the water level goes up above the backup, above the minimum, it would hurt itself back, but if the water level stays low, it’s going to shut down the boiler.

We are almost here at the bottom level of my control here, and actually this is actually not working correctly. This is the very example of what I feared for. This boiler is now out of water. Literally, it has not shut off. This is the perfect example of what not to do here.

We need to shut this thing down, shut this control, and prevent this boiler from cracking. I’m going to inspect this boiler and then after we can show you this. It’s great for me to show you this time. I’m the experienced professional landlord, I know about all these controls, and yet here in my own furnace, I tested this furnace last week. Last week when I tested it, it shut itself off correctly. Now one week later, I’m testing this very same control and it’s not working, so testing your boiler is something that you want to do frequently.


Just when it does break, this could cost you thousands of dollars. When your boiler runs out of water, it literally could crack and cost you thousands of dollars to replace it. For now, I’m just going to sign off here and check this boiler, and then we’ll come back and we’ll start this all over again.

Doug: This one too long?

Norm: Yes.

Rich: Norm, you had no idea that the boiler wasn’t going to work? That was just lucky timing.

Norm: It was actually really just lucky timing for that to happen that way.

What was wrong with this boiler is this low water cutoff is called the flue, and what happens is the flue got stuck in the opposition due to sediment that builds up in these controls and that’s why you test them. What I did is I cleared out the sediment from the control and then I’m going to demonstrate how we do that because we really want you to call the heating professional contractor.

Remember, I am a professional contractor, and I did this myself, but it’s not something that I want you to do because if you’re not sure what you’re doing, you could make a mistake and cost you a boiler when it cracks. We don’t want that to happen, so remember call your heating professional.

But I’ve cleared the boiler. It’s ready to run, and I only have the minimal amount of water in it. In the side glass, I’m down to here; previously I was at three-quarters full. I purposely only put a little bit of water in the boiler for the purposes of this test, and we’re going to turn the boiler on, and of course, it’s going to take a minute and turn on my safety switch and remember I have this one wired to run when I turn on the switch for the purposes of this demonstration. Again, you might have to have your tenant turn on your thermostat in order to get the boiler to run.

Right now, it is what is called the purge cycle. It’s checking for the gas flow and this burner is purging, checking for air. That’s the way it’s set up and then this boiler is going to start. Once it starts, we’re going to test our low water control.

Remember if you want to check this frequently, you want to check it specially in the winter months literally once a week. All right, the furnace is running. You only need to open this drain now and this water is going to start to drain out of the control out of the boiler out of this drain pipe, and it’s already shut itself off. It just drained a little bit of water, and now it’s shutting itself off. Right now, the burner is on. I shut the water control to slow the water up, and this shut down. What you’re hearing now is this motor is still purging because it’s a gas-fired motor; it’s designed to run a few minutes after the burner shuts off, and that’s okay, but the burner is actually off with no flame inside the burner here. Now finally it did shut off and it’s working correctly.

Now it’s supposed to happen because I have an automatic water fill. It’s this side glass level went down far enough and it may not went down far enough now that it’s working correctly. What happens is there is a time delay set up into that controller, and time delay is set for about 1 minute.

Here you go. Water is filling up into the boiler. Now there’s a 1-minute time delay. Once you remove, this boiler has added enough of water to the boiler to make it run and it’s restarting itself.

Now everything is tested and working correctly. I’m really glad to present this to you because I literally just saved myself thousands of dollars because I came down here to video this test for you and this boiler was not working and this boiler has a tankless boil in it, so this boiler runs all summer for hot water as well as for heat in the winter.


What would happen if this boiler would have run out of water, when it was calling for just normal hot water to run and it didn’t shut down, it would have cracked my boiler and I would have to spend thousands of dollars to replace the control.

Again, just to say, you can be the most experienced landlord. You can know all about these controls, and yet failing to come and test it would have cost me money in three places where now I fixed it myself because I know what to look for, and I corrected the problem and we’re all set to go, but again I need to next week come back and test this boiler especially in the winter months to make sure that these controls are working correctly.

All right, that’s it. Thank you. Goodbye.

Audience: [applause]

Norm: All right, not all the boilers have to look like that one. There’s a whole bunch of different kinds of boilers; now that one is a really old one, maybe 30, 40-year-old boiler. I know I brought a picture. You can’t see it, but not all boilers look like that. I brought pictures, but obviously I can’t show people what a more modern style boiler looks like, so the controls aren’t the same but they do the same thing whether you’ve got a newer style boiler or an old one. If it’s—

Rich: Norm, would you say the takeaway is, I don't think most of us check that every seven days during the winter, do we?

Audience: No.

Rich: No, right? It’s a good thing Norm did. The takeaway from that is we need to check them often and we need to know what to check. Now that video is going to land on the MassLandlords website when this meeting gets posted, so you don't have to memorize everything he just went over. It’s just going to be there as a resource, so that you can either review it yourself or if you’re like me and you have somebody else handle this stuff, you can make sure this is on their checklist. Does that make sense? All right, does anybody have any questions about boilers specifically before we move on? All right.

Male Audience 1: My question is, a newer low water cutoff is electronic and just have a test button?

Norm: Yes.

Male Audience 1: And you don't have to go through that flue stuff that you were doing?

Norm: They don't have the flue. The electronic ones don't have the flue, but do they have this part and I brought one, and in the back of that new electronic controller, which is mounted to the boiler, is actually this probe, which screws into the boiler and mounts to the back of the control and this is what shuts the furnace down when it runs out of water. Again, it’s subject to the same thing, corrosion. Again, this came out of one of the boilers when another control failed on a test and I replaced this portion of the control. I didn’t have to replace the entire control. I just bought the probe that goes into the boiler, change it, and we’re back in business, but that old boiler had a float style flue in it, and you need to draw the water down from that control. Newer style—

Rich: Hold on one second. Because you brought all this awesome stuff?

Norm: Yes.

Rich: Can we move on to the next thing? I don’t want to get—

Norm: Right.

Rich: Super technical on each thing. If we can do an overview and have people come attack you after the meeting.

Norm: One more second, another one because it’s important. Even if you don't have that old-style boiler, it does have a drain on it and you don't have to test it like you saw this one, but you still have to draw water down on the boiler. You have to lower the water in the boiler to the level below to make it shut off. If you don’t, you’re still going to have a problem.

The drain might not be accessible. It might be a drain that’s really close to the floor and you can’t stick a bucket on it, so I brought this hose.

Rich: I love that you brought everything.

Norm: I brought this hose only to say because this drain valve might be located in an inappropriate spot at the bottom of the boiler, you’re never going to get a bucket on it, so you open the drain, attach the hose, open the drain and draw water down on the boiler until that water gets below the level of the control to shut it off, so it doesn’t matter whether it’s new or old. You still have to draw the water out; that’s the most important thing I want you to remember to check the control. I brought a ton of things.

Rich: Do you need a hand?

Norm: Well…

Rich: Can I do something? Can I be like Vanna White who presents something for you?

Norm: I’ve kind of brought a whole bunch of things and one of my main things that I wanted to bring across is everybody knows what smoke detectors and the one—


Rich: You told me some awesome things about smoke detectors.

Norm: One of the most important things that I want to tell everybody is besides the smoke detector itself, the most important thing about the smoke detector is the paperwork. When you get the box, you take it out. you throw the paper on the ground, you put the smoke detector up and you never read it.

Well, how many of you know that smoke detectors don’t work below 40 degrees properly or above 100 degrees? Most people including housing inspectors do not know that and they will tell you to put a smoke detector on a rear porch. You’ve got an enclosed rear porch; well here in New England, it gets down to below 40; in the winter, it gets down to zero. It’s not going to work properly.

I’m not going to try this thing and make the argument from the standpoint of safety. The manufacturer’s directions say it all for me. By putting a smoke detector on a cold porch in the middle of winter, the manufacturer says it’s not going to work correctly. By putting one, is that like a false sense of security to me?

Would you not be upset when somebody said, “Well, the thing failed tot work,” and then you’re trying to blame me as the landlord for not maintaining it. Well, the direction says it’s not going to work, so why would I put one there? Somebody in this group posted on the blog, which by the way, I was able to get onto one day if didn’t kick me off the blog, and I read and I tried to comment on it. The directions are the most important thing, so it tells you.

By the way how many people know with today’s new systems and I didn’t know it myself until one day, I was doing presentation for the Rental Housing Association meeting in Springfield, and I read the directions and it said solar panels can affect the operation of our smoke detectors. Who knew? I didn’t. I read the directions. Then I called the engineers. I picked up the phone and I called Firex.

By the way, it took me about 2 hours to get to talk to an engineer. I was persistent. They kept on trying to pass me off to some tech who did not know the answer, and I go, “Listen, I’m a professional contractor. Your paperwork says, ‘solar systems can affect my smoke detectors, so how does it do it?” The solar systems have power inverters and were subject to spikes from these power inverters.

If you’ve gone crazy, you’ve changed all your smoke detectors, you bought all brand-new ones, you’ve called the electrician. They replaced the wiring, but it’s still not working right. What am I supposed to do? I did not know, and I asked the engineer. How do I test for it if I have a solar system. What he said to do was unplug the electricity to it and let it run on batteries. If it’s still malfunctioning while it’s running on batteries, then it’s a smoke detector issue.

If it’s not and it’s working properly, then you’re subject to spikes and then what you do at that point is you pick up the phone, you call Firex, Kidde, BRK. You tell them your model number and they might suggest some surge suppressors and how to install them. They will say consult a qualified electrician.

I’m standing here. I hold a master’s license. I don't know what to do about it yet. I have to wait until one of you guys gets feed up with me, pissed off, calls me a bad electrician because I can’t fix your smoke detector and then refuse to pay me because you’re still having a problem, and I’m going to hold up my directions and say, “Listen, call the engineer. We can fix this, but it’s going to take some specialty parts that I don’t have and they’re going to have to tell me what to buy. Send it to me.”

Rich: Does anybody have any questions about that, about smoke detectors?

Audience: No.

Rich: I need to start galloping to the back of the room if somebody asked. I need an advanced notice.

Norm: Okay, so I have a lot of material, and if there is no serious questions. Everybody knows about smoke detectors, we move on unless you want to know what type. Do you really want? I assume most of the people know what types of smoke detectors you’re supposed to buy.

Rich: Go ahead. Would you spend a minute on that? That would be great.

Norm: Okay, so what today’s laws are they say 20 feet within a kitchen, bathroom, that they’re supposed to be photoelectric and that means you measure from the entrance of the door as the crow flies, not straight in a row, not square. If you can measure from the kitchen door, bathroom door, if it’s within 20 feet of the kitchen or the bathroom, it has to be a photoelectric smoke detector.


All the new ones are electric with a battery backup. If you only have battery-only smoke detectors, they have to be the new 10-year lithium batteries. No more regular batteries. Your smoke detectors can’t be more than 10 years old; the dates are stamped on the back, and I will tell you that the ones in my home are 16 years old. Shame on me [laughter].

Rich: Wait. Are you saying that you recommend the 10-year batteries or that they’re required?

Norm: No, that’s the law. It changed.

Rich: How long ago did it change?

Norm: I think it changed in December.

Rich: That’s pretty recent.

Norm: What it did is it eliminated you from buying what you’ll see in the shelves after the old stock is gone; of course because they’re not going to dispose of all these smoke detectors. They’re going to continue to sell them, and battery-operated ones will only be sold with 10-year lithium batteries and after 10 years, you just throw it away. They still have the warning beeper on them.

When a smoke detector starts to false alarm ring, there’s directions on the back to tell you what’s wrong. If it beeps so many times, it tells you what’s wrong with it. It will tell you dead battery. It will tell you time to replace the smoke detector. Pretty much if you change the battery and it doesn’t work, throw it away, but—

Rich: That’s good advice. For electric because there are a couple of different kinds and I assume you’re going to go next, the photoelectric is the one that detects smoke, right? It’s—

Norm: Ionization used to be the most popular one; ionization tested for fire, flames and photoelectric is more prone to smaller smoldering fires, so that’s what you need in your apartment. But there’s always common area---hallways, basements. We have another smoke detector, which is this particular one actually is photoelectric and ionization; both sensors are built into it. These are recommended for basements and common area hallways.

I did have a fire marshal try to tell me after installing this on somebody’s property that I installed the wrong smoke detector because it was within 20 feet of the kitchen, but I set this outside the kitchen door. It’s the hallway, and he insists. He says, “Listen, I’m the fire marshal. If you don’t put in where I say, you’re not getting the certificate.”

I had to pick up the phone. I called the chief, fire department. I called the chief instead and I said, “Listen, the only way I’m going to comply with this law is what he wants is if you write me a letter because as far as I know it, the law says in the common area, so outside the apartment, the hallway. Yes, it’s 20 feet within the kitchen. It’s outside the apartment and I need these, and if you want me to change it, you’re going to have to write me a letter because I consider the old style to be inferior to this one.”

Rich: What happened?

Norm: Without admitting his fire marshal guy was wrong, he said, “We were both right,” and he said…

Rich: [laughter]

Norm: Because it’s how your interpret the law. Remember, we all read things differently and the best way to read the law is to read it twice. Read it three times. Break it down. I’m still reading my code book. I don’t argue with inspectors. I challenge an inspector to show me the law. Don’t tell me what it says. I want to read it. Give me a Xerox copy. Don’t just give me the page that you want me to see. Give me the page before and give me the page after it because anybody who’s in construction and knows about code books for every rule in the code book is an exception to the rule and they’re only going to photocopy the rule that they want you to see.

Rich: Of course! So you’re talking about common area smoke detectors. They also have to be hardwired. Is that right?

Norm: Battery operated is fine, but depending on the age of your building, they are mandated to be hardwired, and you can’t take hardwired ones down and put the battery ones.

Rich: Okay, and they all have to talk to each other, is that right?

Norm: Yes. you can have up to 18 smoke detectors. When any of them rings, they all ring. If you have a fire in the basement, it rings the ones in the living room, the bedroom. If they’re all wired, they’re all interconnected, which is a great thing.

Rich: Which is why you want to have the same type of smoke detector.

Norm: They have to be.

Rich: You don’t want to use Kidde and Firex.

Norm: No, you can’t. They all have to be the same brand and compatible. Smoke detectors have to be compatible, so if you buy a Kidde model 123, it has to be compatible with a Kidde model 123. You can’t go buy another BRK smoke detector and install it because it’s going to start beeping immediately, so if you have different types of smoke detectors that are not compatible, once you plug in the electricity, the other smoke detectors are going to start ringing and you’re going to wonder what just happened. That means that you have incompatible smoke detector. Go out and buy more of the same brand and put them up. Okay.


Rich: Very good to know. Do we have any questions on smoke detectors? All right.

Norm: All right, I brought a whole bunch of things.

Rich: Yes!

Norm: No. I can move to a quick Thing. this is a second to take. This one is I brought a picture of an outlet. How many people have written out for a loose outlet, the inspector walks in, shakes the outlet. I purposely set up this display so this outlet would be loose, and this box is set back and I put this plug in and the sheet rock is overcut so it doesn’t rest against the sheet rock. When you put this cover plate on, you’d be able to wiggle it.

Because I’m an electrician and I have rolls of electrical wiring on the truck, what I do is I go my truck. I take out a piece of wire. Hang on. Remember, I got a whole bunch of it, so I just walk up to my truck. I get a piece of wire. I had a Philips screwdriver here.

Sorry, everything got moved and it fell on the ground.

Rich: Who stole Norm’s screwdriver?

Norm: No, it’s here, but we’ll do this one. I guess we won’t be able to get it out.

Rich: It was me.

Norm: All you do is take the wire, wrap it around your screwdriver until you run out of wire.

Rich: You’re wrapping the wire around the screwdriver?

Norm: I hold it in my hands, so I can hold it, and I wrap it around the screwdriver and make a coil. Hopefully, all of you can see that and I just continue to wrap it until I run out of wire.

Rich: I have no idea what he’s doing or why he’s doing it. Does anybody else? Okay.

Norm: It’s a simple fix. Now I can slide this up the screwdriver. I take it, and I’m holding this into the drywall. Sorry, I can’t hold the microphone and hand this at the same time. What I do is as I hold the wire to the junction box, put my finger to where the dry wall is and mark it. Then I take my pliers, and I just cut it to wherever I had my finger. Sorry. I brought the pliers with the holes in it, the ones that accidently went boom, but I cut some things.

Rich: So you cut the wire not the fingers.

Norm: Yes, you cut the wire, not the fingers. Then what you do is you remove the screw, you put the wire over the screw and then you just tighten the screw. You get one piece here and one piece here, and when you tighten it up, it would be nice and solid, flush with the dry wall, solve that loose issue. That’s for permanently installed box. There are other versions where they’re designed for plaster old world boxes. Sometimes the box is loose, but I don't have a presentation for that one.

Rich: We need you to get one of those Britney Spears headsets. Paul, we’re you able to get all that. Was I in the way? You got it? Okay because that going to be up on our website. That’s awesome. I think we all have electrical outlets, right? That’s good to know.

Norm: The reason that I want to stress that I use wire and you can go find nuts and bolts, whatever you want to attempt, but they’re metal and they’re uninsulated. When you’re trying to put them on and all these little washers that you tried to buy fall off and you didn’t shut off the electricity, I don't know.

Any electrician who work on this live and gotten zapped a million times. I mean it is my job, so I’m used to doing it, and yes I’ve gotten zapped plenty of times as I’ve dropped something, so I recommend of course you shut the power off. I use the wire because it’s insulated. You can buy little plastic made ones, but that involves a trip to the store, and all I have to do is just walk to my truck and I can make this any day of the week, any length that I want.

If it comes to a point where the gap is really big, they make these little spaces that you can buy. It’s just like a mini-junction box where they’re making it a quarter-inch deep or they come precut, quarter-inch, three-eight, half-inch, and three-quarters.

Rich: I’m going to talk to your truck and I’m going to get an electrical wire.

Norm: [laughter] It’s a long walk to Springfield.

Rich: That is awesome, so what else can we touch on up here? You have so many fun toys.

Norm: I brought this thing about dry wall. Everybody has got a hole to patch sooner or later. I purposely made this little demonstration. I brought it to you. I purposely made a hole here. I put my elbow through it, just so I can show you how to make a hole. How many people raise their hand how to fix that hole? Pay no attention to this hole. We got one, two, three, four, five.

Rich: I think I do.


Norm: [laughter] We don't have that very people that are confident on how to fix this, so I brought a couple of samples on what we’re going to do. I have this little piece of wood. There is a couple of ways to do this. Hold on just a second. I have samples. I brought a splice. All right, if you want to fix this hole, if you are going to try to fix this hole, some people might just try to put joint compound over it and that may last for a little bit. Some people might try joint compound and…

Rich: You’re a moving target. Do you know that, Norm?

Norm: Hold that. There’s joint compound right here. Sorry. Joint compound intake. This hole is still intact where there may be enough here that joint compound first, then some tape over it, and more joint compound may fix this hole, but it’s a little weak. If they touch it again, it might fall through.

The other way of fixing this hole is cut it out, make it square. I made a sample. Get a little block of wood, put a screw through the center of it and install the block wood this way, hold it like this. Now you’re holding this little screw, and then you’re going to take some drywall screws and you’re going to put it one here, one here, and it’s going to hold the block of wood. Then you’re going to make the correct size piece, put it in here, joint compound, tape, and you fixed it.

But an even better way is I know there are many people don't know about this one because this one took me forever to learn. I saw a sheet rocker do it one day on the job, and I’ve never fixed a hole this way again afterwards. This—

Male Audience 2: Is this property [crosstalk 0:36:00]?

Norm: This is an overcut piece of drywall. The biggest hole say this hole is 3 inches by 5 inches; I made this piece 2 inches bigger, so I made it 5 inches by 6 inches. I cut it oversized to purposely overlap the size of the hole; then I flip it over. This is the finished side is the paper that you would normally see for dry wall. After I have a bigger piece of what I need, I flip it over to the backside. I make the exact size that I wanted it to be, leaving 2 inches extra on each side, then I score the sheetrock, put my knife and then snap it, and then I peel the drywall off, leaving the face of the paper and I do it on both sides.

Rich: Does everybody following along to what he’s talking about? It’s brilliant.

Norm: Then I put joint compound. Now this is pretty close. Now you can’t see. I’ll just show this here. you’ll see it like this. I’ll show you the backside. It’s pretty close, and what I would do is I would take joint compound. Obviously, I got joint compound, pretend I’m using it. Border this up on the backside, and I would put extra right around the thing because it’s a hole.

By putting it right on this edge. The joint compound is like the glue; it will fill the gap and make it stronger. When it dries, it will be morel like the original drywall, so I’m putting it on the backside of this, and then I’m covering the face of this hole with joint compound, sticking it in place, take my putting knife, spread it out. No tape is required. The paper is the tape and it just literally cemented itself back in when if you can imagine the backside to this, the holes are filled in because I put the extra joint compound there. It kind of makes it all as one. It’s a pretty strong repair

Male Audience 2: Do you still glue the board in the back to [unintelligible 0:39:10]?

Norm: No, I don’t need it. With a small hole. This is an average-sized hole. I mean I’m not trying to put up a sheet of drywall on the wall where I would do normal tape. I’m talking a reasonable sized hole.

Brian: It’s a fist.

Norm: It’s fist-sized, foot size, you know where a little kid shoves, the young ones, kick it. Yes, sir.

Brian: There is one more step to that when it’s on their patch if you take a—there is one more step I’ve seen on this technique once that puzzled piece is on the wall. If you take a sharp blade and cut within that 2-inch area right in position, and then you peel it off the wall, now it’s the same level of the paper. You peel the paper off the wall and you peel the chalk off the patch.

Norm: I’m sure it works great. I’m sure that’s the same technique as what I’m doing.


Brian: It’s the same thing. You’re just doing one extra cut.

Norm: This is one extra thing, but because you got to do first coat, second coat, somebody is the professional drywaller and that’s the way they were taught, and great. I feel it’s—

Brian: I know [crosstalk 0:40:25]

Norm: I feel it’s one step that I don't have to do because the joint compound is going to cover it the second coat. Now…

Rich: Keep your hands down if you’ve never had a hole in your wall. Okay, everybody has because everybody has experienced this. This is awesome.

Norm: How many people think that drywall joint compound is only for dry wall? There’s other uses for joint compound. I brought today with me for those of you who had we were standing outside in the hallway and were talking to me, I showed you pictures that I brought in the photo album –cracked, checking paint on old moldings in a 100-year-old plus house where somebody didn’t sand the original polyurethane correctly and the paint cracks over the years and it leaves many large cracks in the paint. The paint peels.

Joint compound is like the wonder tool for patching these things. What I did if anybody who wants to see it later because obviously nobody can see it up here. It’s too large of a room to hold up a picture and expect you to see it, but what we did is we sanded our moldings. All the paint was chapping, cracking, peeling in all these areas. If you were to just scrape it after you painted it, you would just have a whole bunch of terrible-looking molding.

By taking joint compound using a rag and everybody has seen the old fluted moldings with the I want to say Victorian-style moldings and they’ve got all the grooves in them. Take joint compound on a rag and wet it. Sand your moldings first. Apply a very thin coat of joint compound, pretty much use the rag, run it over the thing, wipe off the excess, let it dry, come back and sand it, and all those cracking in the paint will disappear.

I did it at this rental property. Twenty years ago, I did it at this rental property. I had brought some albums here. For anybody who saw these photo albums, 20 years ago, I did it at this rental property and it’s as good as the day that I did it 20 years ago. It didn’t re-crack again.

Rich: I was wondering where you’re going with this. I thought you wanted to say joint compounds. You could say joint as many times as possible at this meeting.

Audience: [laughter]

Right: No, that’s great. Everyone can come up here and actually see the stuff up here in just a couple of minutes.

Norm: When I was out there, it was up for presentation. When they opened the doors for food, we did have to move it from the hallways, so it’s quick to get it in here. I don’t want to run short on time, but anybody who wants to speak to me after this, well the meeting is over, which is officially would be right about now, if anybody wants to stay and continue on, I’m welcome. If you want to cut me short, that’s fine. Anybody who wants to leave, you can follow your normal procedures and I’ll talk to you later.

Rich: Do you guys think we have the time for one more thing up front before we all come up here to see Norm individually? What do you guys think?

Norm: One of the most important things I didn’t bring this window for nothing I brought this old window because if you have vinyl replacement windows in your property, you have a problem. Tenants are complaining. It’s cold. The reason why you have to time your window is cold is due to improper installation. What happens in this regular window is we’re looking at the outside of this window. The paints and glass go here. These little spats right here are tabs that you set after you install this window in the frame and you’ve tested it first. You’ve installed it.

You made sure it was level, and you’re happy with the way it’s going to fit in your opening. You put your beaded clock around the edges and you tighten the screws that are in the center here that move these expanders out, and it’s supposed to keep this frame from expanding. You do this one, you do this one, and pretty much you were done. You put your molding in the inside. That’s because nobody remembered to read the directions.

What the manufacturer tells you to do is not only tighten these; they tell you to install extra spacer that you’ve got to provide, which would be wood shim, install it about here, here, here, and here and what we’re doing is you’re doing to check your measurement across with a tape measure from this edge to this edge that the width is exactly the same at the top, at the bottom, in the middle, and over here.

What will eventually is going to happen after 5, 6, 7 years, the sun is going to expand this frame. On those nice hot days, the sun is going to expand the frame and when you open the window and it starts falling out as a crack. That’s because we did not put the spacer that belong at the top and it’s really simple, the spacer. I brought it as a wood shim. Does anybody see the cedar shim that I brought?


Rich: I didn’t realize this was a scavenger hunt [crosstalk 0:45:42].

Norm: Lost.

Rich: This is kind of fun.

Norm: I lost it. It could be under any of the paperwork, but anyway, all right, this piece of wood, let’s pretend. Here, that’s stuck on the window where it belongs.

Audience: [laughter]

Norm: As part of the display. This window shim is just a pre-blocked packet of shims, and obviously this shim is way too long to put this against the stop. If this was at the outside of the window, I can’t insert this far enough until I make up the distance of the gap that I need to. In advance, I pre-scored this and all I got is a little bit of the gap I guestimated. I scored it with a knife; I snapped it in half.

This window is already installed, and from the inside, I’m starting to wedge this thing into the window frame and when I adjust the frame and it pushes it in enough so everything is nice and even, you’re going to open your window to test it. If your window is really hard to open, you installed it too much; pull it backwards a little bit.

After you have it set correctly, mark it. Cut it. Take some wood glue. Put wood glue on the face of this and you mark where it came out and you just push it back into place. The wood glue will hold this shim there forever.

Rich: What you guys can’t see is this shim is actually kind of wedged shaped. It’s like it’s a ramp. It’s tapered.

Norm: Yes.

Rich: It’s fatter on this end, this end, and this end, so that’s why pulling it out would make a difference.

Norm: Pulling out would make a difference. Slide it in place. Glue it. You’re done. What also happens is when your window frame expands, I brought a whole bunch of things with this. Windows are fixable. The most important thing about this window is the label that’s on it. Can you hold this again?

Rich: Yes.

Norm: All the windows, when you get them from Home Depot, Lowe’s, the manufacturer, and here, I don't know if anybody would be able to see it, but there is a tag on this window. The most important thing about this window is this tag, and what makes it more important is all the information that the manufacturer needs. It’s the size of the window, the size of the painted glass. It tells them everything about their manufacturing specs, so when you bought your windows and you bought them from the independent window installing contractor and you have no clue where the window is. You hired John. John bought you a great window. He installed it correctly, but you want to know from John the name of the manufacturer. You want the phone number. You want the 1-800 number. You want the email address. You want the direction.

Rich: Want to see where he lives.

Norm: [laughter] The receipt because when this thing breaks in 5 years and these little foam pieces here, they’re like felt. Everybody seen what these things are on the windows? They’re right here, and these little felt pieces go right here and they slide inside the track, and they help seal out the air. When these little things wear out, they’re replaceable, but they’re only replaceable if you can get the part.

            The receipt is the most important thing. Where do I get it? 1-800 number, I can get anything I want if the manufacturer is still in business. Do it. Pick up your credit card. They will ship you anything that you want. Not only are these seals important. It’s the long half of the window. The other half of the window is—where is the other half of the window?

Rich: [unintelligible 0:49:38] that screen.

Norm: That screen?

Rich: Under the [unintelligible 0:49:40].

Norm: It’s over there! The other half of this window has weatherization strips, so when you close it at the bottom, it seals on the bottom of your window, these things can rot out, dry out. They’re all replaceable.


You can repair your window by changing these things if you can get them and I bought a whole bunch of these windows and I bought 10 windows for my rental property. I was having a problem with these windows, tried to get parts, couldn’t get them. Thee manufacturer is out of business. I bought that special $99 where it’s crap. I’ve now learned that when I’m going to buy a window, it’s a business choice whether you choose rent, buy a window, and flip your property. You’re doing a rehab. You’re selling, or you’re doing it for keeps.

Whenever I do anything, I do it for keeps. Twenty years is my long-term plan, so buying a $99 window, I’ve learned my lesson. I’m not buying it. I’m going to buy the little bit better window. When you’re getting the basic spec contractor-grade, this gives you the less quality strength frame. I won’t buy their top of the line. I buy good middle of the road. I will not buy the cheap one. I just—

Rich: This is good timing. I’m about to buy 200 windows, so God bless you.

Norm: Okay, so what’s more important than the window itself is the Energy Star label that’s on the window. I bought 10 windows from Home Depot. I bought them in April. The law changed in January, changing the standard of the Energy Star rating. The Energy Star is an independent testing laboratory where the manufacturers send their products to the laboratory, pay to get them tested. After they’re approved, their labeled, they’re allowed to make their windows and stick the label on it.

When I bought the windows, it said my window was Energy Star rated for Massachusetts, but I bought my windows in April and the law changed in January, and I’m a contractor and I know this. I didn’t pay attention because I walked in. They had the size I want; I bought the windows. I’m installing them.

I get to window #1, I see this label. It says Energy Star Rated All 50 United States. Great! I get to window #2; great, all 50 United States. Here’s the same window number 3, and it only shows the picture of the half the United States, and Massachusetts was not included in that half. Wow!

Rich: So you had to move to another state?

Norm: [laughter] Home Depot sold me the window on their shelves. It could have been any of the manufacturers and I checked. All the stores are doing it; the manufacturers are doing it. They’re selling the same window in all parts of the country. It’s up to you, the consumer, to read the Energy Star label and see if your state is included in it because while I was buying my windows, they had windows rated for the Gulf Coast of Florida only; nowhere else in the state, in the country was this window rated for and yet it was on shelves in Massachusetts.

Rich: I would never have thought of that. That is unbelievable.

Norm: What happened is the law changed and they’re allowed to sell their old product, so because they’re allowed to sell their old product, they didn’t bring any of the new windows in until they sold out their old ones. Now, I caught them. I stopped installing the window.

I called Home Depot. I called the window manufacturer. They all tried telling me the window was the same years; nothing wrong with it, but as the professional contractor, I know the Energy Star label was the most important thing about it. argued with them, said the law changed in January. I want Energy Star. I don’t want almost any Energy Star Massachusetts is not included. Why do I want this window? I argued for my money back. In the meantime, it took a while—

Rich: Did you get your money back?

Norm: I got my money back, and I got to keep the windows because I already installed them. I couldn’t give them back [laughter].

Rich: Wow! Wait, wait! They’re already in there and you got your money back?

Norm: [laughter] And my money back.

Rich: We’re going to end on that note, ladies and gentlemen. If you want to find out what happened to this young man [unintelligible 0:54:06] door next to him, you can come up here and ask Norm questions.

Audience: [applause]

Norm: Anybody who wants to stick around to ask me questions after, you’re more than welcome. I’ll stick around but thank you. Hope you invite me back.

Audience: [applause]

[End 0:54:39]

This is part of the Worcester Rental Real Estate Networking and Training series.