Fire Only Where You Want It


Don’t do what I do. Do what I say. We have lived in this house for over two years now and today we finally had a visit from the chimney sweep/dryer vent cleaning crew. Please, please, please have these people visit your previously-owned home immediately after you buy it.

Yes, we had a serious fire hazard situation with our dryer vent. Yes, it was preventable. Yes, we are lucky we didn’t burn down the house.

The vent for the dryer that travels through the wall, through the attic, and outside the rooftop vent pipe was packed, PACKED with lint. Extremely flammable stuff, lint is. The vent is clean now, and I expect it will take a much shorter time to dry that load of towels. My cleaning company says the dryer vent should be cleaned once a year. And they give us a discount if we make that next appointment in a timely fashion.

We have only built two fires in the fireplace since we’ve lived here; once, when a gang of bees audibly took up residence in the chimney. Smoked ’em right out, we did. The second fire was in December when we thought we’d do our S’mores indoors, rather than out. The rest of the time, I was waaaay too skeptical about the condition of the flue, chimney, and firebox to use it much until we had it inspected and cleaned.

Turns out, the fire system wasn’t bad. However, our grate is too low to the bricks on the bottom of the firebox- too low to get proper ventilation underneath to feed oxygen to the fire. Also, found out that, with our fireplace construction, nothing is supporting the bricks at the back of the firebox, so we can’t let logs fall and hit that wall, lest we crack the mortar and provide an avenue for fire to escape into the wall. So, need a new grate. And we know to be careful of the back wall.

Patty and Sam were extremely efficient, tidy, educational, well-mannered, and good natured (and Patty is a ‘cat person’!). Below is a photo of their family-run business card.



If I Could Give an A+ on Angie’s List…

My friend contacted me the other day with an interesting question. Could a double-deep residential lot be subdivided in an Austin neighborhood?

lot lines represented by food

Here’s the situation represented by food (bird’s eye view): the marshmallows are the approximate footprint of the current house; the spaghetti are lot lines, both lots belonging to one parcel; the chocolate, which may or may not have been nibbled, represents the street.

Is it possible to develop or sell the back lot?

City of Austin has a website to help answer such questions. But, it makes me cross-eyed. So, there is this really handy human interface called the Development Assistant Center that helps me keep my cool.

Friend and I took a field trip to the Development Assistant Center this morning, and we found the waiting area rather occupied. I had visions of a several-hour wait before we could be helped! Nope.

One relaxed conversation later, we were called into the office area of Michelle Casillas, a Senior Planner. She checked the zoning (single-family 3 in a “P” overlay). All lots must have access to a public street, yes? Well, this one only has access through the lot which fronts onto the street. That’s OK, IF… there are 20 feet of space between a structure and the side edge of the property for access to the back lot. (This stretch of 20-by-something land is called a ‘flag’.) 🇺🇸

This particular lot does not have enough width between the house and lot line for a flag. However, it might surprise you to know that, inside this particular zoning of SF3P, a duplex, or even a separate domicile can be built, IF both homes are in a condominium regime. The city has nothing to do with a condominium regime. You go to a development attorney to get that drawn up.

The field trip to the development office wasn’t entirely good news for my friend, but we were treated respectfully and served quickly and efficiently. A really nice experience.

If I could rate the City of Austin Development Assistant Center on Angie’s List, I would give it an A+. Thank you, city government.