With autumn just around the corner, now is the perfect time for homeowners to get their property in shape and help avoid problems in the months ahead. Here are six key jobs to tackle before cold weather sets in.
Caulk around exterior door and window frames for a tight seal. Look for gaps where pipes or wiring enter the home and caulk those as well. Not only does heat escape from these openings, but water can enter and damage underlying materials, and even cause structural damage.
Check the roof for missing or damaged shingles. Water, wind, ice and snow can cause serious damage to a vulnerable roof, leading to a greater chance of further damage inside the home. Always have a qualified professional inspect and repair the roof, but binoculars can be used to do a preliminary survey from the ground.
Clear gutters of leaves, sticks, and other debris. If the home gets heavy leaf fall, this may need to be done more than once during the season. If the gutters can accommodate them, leaf guards can be real time-savers and prevent clogging. Check the joints between sections of the gutter, as well as between the gutter and downspouts, and make any necessary adjustments or repairs. Make sure downspouts direct water away from the house.
In cold-weather climates, garden hoses should be drained and stored indoors to protect them from the harsh winter elements. Shut off outdoor faucets and make sure exterior pipes are drained of water. Faucets and pipes can easily freeze and burst, causing leaks and increasing the potential for serious water damage.
Have the furnace inspected to ensure that it’s safe and in good working order. Most utility companies will provide basic, no-cost furnace inspections to their customers, but schedule early as there can often be a long waiting list as the weather cools down. Replace disposable furnace air filters or clean the permanent type according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Using a clean filter not only helps with interior air quality, it will help the furnace run more efficiently, saving money and energy.
A wood-burning fireplace can be a real pleasure on a chilly fall evening. For safety, have the firebox and chimney professionally cleaned before use this season. Creosote, a byproduct of wood burning, can build up to dangerous levels and cause a chimney fire that can spread to the rest of the house.
With these easy steps, your clients will enjoy the comforts of home all season long and know that they’re protecting their investment, too.
Municipal water systems are required to test and monitor drinking water supplies to ensure safe and good-tasting water. But what happens once that water has been piped into towns, neighborhoods, and homes? Older homes may still have service lines made of lead going into the home, which can cause lead to leach into the water. The local water supplier should be able to confirm the presence of lead service lines for homeowners. Older fixtures that contain lead, or lead that was used on pipe joints, can also cause elevated lead levels. Whenever possible, pipes and fixtures containing lead should be replaced with new materials.
Many homes built before the 1960s have galvanized steel pipes. While galvanized pipes do not create chemical contaminants on their own, they are susceptible to severe corrosion which can flake off and clog taps and faucets. In some instances, lead can build up inside galvanized pipes, especially if the service line into the home is or was made of lead. To be on the safe side, it is best to have all galvanized piping replaced.
Another water quality concern is what are known as emerging contaminants, which, if present in a home, usually occur in very low level amounts. These fall into two general categories: health effects and aesthetic effects. Emerging contaminants affecting health include detergents, pesticides, and medications. Other contaminants that don’t affect health may adversely alter water taste, odor, and/or color. Home filtration systems are the most common means of reducing emerging contaminants. Options include faucet or pitcher filters, plumbed, and reverse-osmosis filters that treat the entire home’s water supply. Any filtration system installed should be listed as meeting national standards for reducing multiple contaminants.
Well Water Quality
While most people in North America get their water from municipal water systems, there are also millions who rely on well water at home. Water sourced from a well should be tested on a regular basis for contaminants such as bacteria and metals. If well water coming from the tap tests high for lead, it could be that the water in the well is too acidic, which causes lead to leach from pipes and fixtures. An acid neutralizing system can usually alleviate this problem without the need to replace pipes and fixtures. Other possible well water quality problems can be avoided by making sure wells are located away from septic tanks, livestock, and pooling water runoff. Well maintenance should be on a regular schedule so that any issues can be addressed before they cause health problems for the home’s occupants.
Water quality can easily be tested for metals, bacteria and other contaminants. Contact your local Pillar To Post Home Inspector for more information about this and other added services available.
Try these essential tips to keep your home’s exterior in good shape and to help preserve its value.
ROOF AND SIDING
Use binoculars to check the roof for missing or damaged shingles. Flashing should be tight and secured to prevent leaks. Have any problem areas repaired by a licensed, qualified roofing contractor.
Repair any cracks or gaps in the siding and around windows. Make sure these are repaired before you decide to paint.
No need to paint? Power washing makes quick work of removing built up dirt and mildew and will brighten your home immediately. You can hire a professional to do this, or rent the equipment by the day or half day.
GUTTERS AND DRAINAGE
Clean debris from gutters and evestroughs, then flush with a garden hose.
Check all downspouts to make sure they direct water away from the house.
Clear basement window wells of debris, weeds, and other materials. Don’t use window wells to store items such as garden hoses or tools. Obstructing the wells’ drainage system can cause water to leak into the house.
WALKWAYS AND DRIVEWAY
Repair gaps and cracks using materials appropriate for your specific surfaces, such as concrete, asphalt, etc.
On walkways and steps, repair uneven or heaved surfaces that can create a tripping hazard.
A well-maintained exterior not only looks good and can help prevent big problems down the road, it will make you feel good about coming home every day.
HOME & FAMILY
5 Ideas For Summer Fun
While school’s out, try a few of these activities to fill your days (or nights!) with fun.
Head out to explore a local park that’s new to you. Don’t forget to pack a picnic!
Visit a museum on discounted or free admission days. You’re sure to learn something new.
Check out organized volunteer opportunities the family can do together, from trail cleanup to helping at the local food bank.
Take advantage if your town offers outdoor movie nights. A blanket and snacks are about all you need.
Play tourist without leaving town. Take in a local historic attraction, a theme park or another place you’d normally skip.
What Do You Know? Take Our Quiz!
How can you help improve your indoor air quality?
Keep indoor humidity below 50%.
Use a HEPA filter vacuum.
Open doors and windows whenever possible.
Use less-toxic cleaning products.
All of the above.
True or False:
A home either passes or fails a home inspection.
Which statement is incorrect?
It’s a great idea for buyers to be present at the home inspection.
There’s no good reason to have heating and cooling serviced before the home inspection.
Sellers should keep pets crated or out of the home during the inspection.
It’s a good rule of thumb to allow 3 hours for the home inspection, more if the home is very large or old.
True or False:
Caulk and grout are different materials with different purposes.
E. These steps can help to limit pollutants, allergens and other irritants in the home.
False. A professional home inspection provides an unbiased evaluation of a home’s systems and components to inform buyers and sellers about its condition. There is no scoring or grading involved.
B. Heating and cooling that’s in good working order is important for a clean home inspection.
True! In short, grout is used to fill spaces between tiles and to keep them in place. Caulk is used as a sealant, usually around where tile meets tub. Outdoors, caulk is used to prevent leaks around doors and windows.
Eco-smart The Easy Way
Try these simple tips around the house to minimize energy consumption, lower your utility bills and reduce your carbon footprint.
LED bulbs are big energy savers and can last many years. And LED light doesn’t have to be cold and harsh. LEDs are now available in warmer, more flattering tones that look great.
Connect computers, TVs and other electronics to power strips that can be turned off at night. Even when these items aren’t in use, standby mode can draw more power than you think. For the most flexibility, look for power strips that allow some outlets to stay on while others are shut off.
Use the dishwasher! Newer dishwashers typically use about one-sixth the water needed to wash the same amount of dishes by hand. Skip the heated dry cycle. The rinse cycle water will be hot enough to evaporate quickly if you open the door and let the dishes air dry instead. Always run full loads for the best cleaning results.
When you’re home, set the thermostat to 78°F/ 26°C or higher in the summer. Installing a programmable thermostat is inexpensive and can further your energy savings all year round.
Schedule your heating and cooling system for a checkup every two years. Be sure to clean the filter or coils monthly on your air conditioner and refrigerator. These appliances work more effectively and efficiently when they’re clean.
“Summer-ize” Your Home!
Making your home feel and look like summer will reward you and your family with comfort, fun and ease. Here are some easy tips you can try right now.
Love cooking and eating outdoors? String up some fun patio lights to enjoy as evening settles in. There are hundreds of styles and colors available, so you’re bound to find something that will reflect your personal style.
Try an outdoor area rug for the patio or deck. Rugs made specifically for the outdoors resist fading and mildew, and can be hosed clean. They’re more comfortable underfoot than wood, concrete or pavers, too.
Plant easy-care annual flowering plants near the patio or in pots – it’ll put a smile on your face. Check with your local garden center to find out which plants will thrive in full sun and which ones will need some protection from strong summer rays.
Have some great flowers in your garden for cutting? Look around your home for forgotten pitchers, glassware and other unusual containers that can showcase your favorite blooms.
Change out throw pillows or pillow covers for bright stripes and patterns that complement your rooms. It’s an easy and inexpensive way to bring a colorful change in an instant.
Your home in summer is a great place to be. Make the most of it!
Spotlight On Sunrooms
Sunrooms are all about connecting with the outdoors by bringing the sun in, and they can add value to a home. Here we take a look at some important factors to be aware of when considering adding a sunroom:
Heat Gain / Heat Loss
While heat gain and heat loss are real issues, high-quality sunrooms will be tightly sealed. High-quality glass will minimize unwanted heat transfer and should be selected according to your climate.
Interior condensation is a common problem in full glass sunrooms. During cold weather, it forms on the inside of the glass and trickles down, and can look like a roof leak. A well-designed and constructed sunroom system will channel the condensation to the exterior.
Water leakage tops the list of complaints about sunrooms. Water leaks can have several causes. The glass roof can leak as gasket materials break down. Roof and wall joints are susceptible to leaks due to improper flashing. If a sunroom is added to a house and the existing wall removed, that flashing may be a vulnerability.
Tempered glass is the usual choice for overhead glass. Also used in auto glass, it’s safer than regular glass because it breaks into small, rounded pieces instead of shards. Some local codes may require laminated glass instead, which will hold together when shattered. It’s important to use an installer who is familiar with the local requirements for sunroom construction and materials.
Houses of any age will shift and settle over time, resulting in cracks. Cracks may appear in finishes, structural components or both. Though they usually don’t have any structural significance, it’s worth some visual detective work to help homeowners understand the difference between different types of foundation cracks.
Concrete shrinks as it cures, so a newly poured concrete foundation may develop small vertical shrinkage cracks, which are not structurally significant. Characteristics of shrinkage cracks include:
The crack will be small and vertical, usually less than 1/8” wide.
The crack is in the foundation wall only and does not extend up through the structure.
Shrinkage cracks usually occur in the middle third of the length of the foundation wall. If it’s located toward the end of the length of the foundation wall, it is probably not a shrinkage crack.
Like shrinkage cracks, settlement cracks are vertical, but they extend up through the structure. In block or brick foundations, cracks may follow the mortar joints in a step pattern rather than vertical. Most settlement cracks are caused by short-term settlement. Ongoing settlement is uncommon but can cause structural problems over time. Here are some ways to get an idea of whether ongoing settlement is likely:
Crack size: Settlement cracks more than 1/4” wide are more likely to indicate ongoing movement than smaller cracks.
Direction of movement: The edges of a typical settlement crack line up and fit together vertically, much like pieces of a puzzle. If the edges of the crack have shifted, or sheared, so that they no longer line up, the 1/4” rule described above doesn’t apply. This type of crack can be a significant structural concern.
Repaired and re-cracked: Unless it is a hairline crack, a settlement crack that was repaired and has re-cracked could also indicate ongoing movement and should be addressed.
Horizontal Cracks – Basement Foundation Wall
In homes with true basements, a horizontal crack in the foundation wall, below grade and running the full length of the basement is likely a sign of foundation failure. For a house with a full basement, the soil outside the foundation wall exerts a tremendous amount of pressure on the foundation wall. Occasionally, unanticipated additional loads exert pressure and cause horizontal cracking in the foundation wall. Do not wait to address this potential issue as it could cause much greater problems down the line, including structural failure.
Contact your local Pillar To Post Home Inspector for further information on these and other home-related issues.