Wednesday, October 29, 2008


According to the National Fire Protection Association, each year, there are total of half a million residential fires reported and more than 4,000 Americans die in fires in their home. Property losses for residential fires total more than four billion dollars a year. As October is Fire Prevention Month, The HomeTeam Inspection Service INC offers tips to ensure your family’s safety:

· Keep lighters, matches or other flammable materials out of the reach of children.
· Babysitters should be aware of escape routes in the house as well as fire department telephone numbers.
· Do not keep items such as cookies or candy near the range or stove.
· Include small children in fire escape route planning and rehearsal. They must understand that they can't hide from fire under a bed or in a closet.

Escape Routes
· You should have a family escape plan and an alternate route. Conduct home “fire drills.”
· Your plan should include an outside meeting place to count every family member.
· You should have at least two exits from the house.
· Fire department numbers should be posted on every telephone.

Kitchen Safety
· Flammable or combustible items should not be stored above the stove.
· The stove should not be left unattended while cooking.
· Wear short or tight-fitting garments that won’t droop while cooking.
· Don’t rest or keep pot-holders, plastic utensils, towels or other non-cooking equipment on or near the range.
· A fire in a pan should be smothered with a lid—never try to put it out by throwing water on it. If cooking oil starts to smoke, turn down the heat.
· Keep a fire extinguisher handy.

· Avoid using extension cords wherever possible. Extension cords should never be run under rugs or hooked over nails, or cross over doorways.
· Check electrical cords for loose, worn or frayed cords. Unplug before inspection.
· If a fuse blows (or a breaker "trips"), find the cause. Remove excess appliances from a breaker circuit that "trips" often.
· The correct fuse size for each socket in the fuse box is 20 amps for lighting circuits.
· Kitchen appliances, such as a toaster or coffeemaker should be unplugged when not in use.

Smoke Detectors
· You should have at least one smoke detector per floor in your home, with a distinct warning signal loud enough for you to hear in your sleep. Test once per month.
· Smoke detectors should be placed near bedrooms, either on the ceiling or not more than a foot below it on the wall.
· Replace batteries according to manufacturer’s recommendations and never disconnect them.

Heaters and Heating Systems
· Operate portable electric heaters on the floor, at least three feet away from upholstered furniture, drapes, bedding and other materials, and never use them to dry anything.
· Turn heaters off when family members leave the house or are asleep.
· Do not use wood burning stoves and fireplaces unless they are properly installed and meet building codes. Use a fireplace screen to contain sparks.
· Have the chimney and the heating system checked at lease once per year by a trained professional.
· Propane tanks and other fuels, such as gasoline should be stored outside the home in an approved safety container.

Following these few safety tips will help insure your family’s safety for years to come.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Cracked Up

Is your foundation all it’s cracked up to be?

If you have lived in your home for a while, you have probably seen your share of cracks in the foundation. But are these unsightly marks really anything to be concerned about? Well, it all depends. Cracks in your foundation can be a result of natural expansion and contraction or a sign of a more serious problem, like poor grading. However, it all depends on the type and the size of the crack to determine if it’s a problem or not.

Types of cracks:
There are three types of foundation cracks: horizontal cracks, vertical cracks and step cracks.

Horizontal cracks are usually found in, brick and concrete-block foundations. These cracks are often formed from excessive pressure on the foundation from extremely wet soil around the house. The severity of the crack depends on the width of the opening. For instance, if the horizontal crack is ¼ of an inch wide or wider, you will want to contact a licensed structural engineer for further evaluation. Other indications that a horizontal crack is severe, is if the crack causes the wall to bulge a ½ inch or if the crack has differential displacement, which is when one side of the crack has been pushed in or out more than the other side.

Vertical cracks or hairline cracks are found in all types of foundations and are typically very small and the same size throughout their length. A vertical crack becomes worrisome when the crack starts to grow bigger at the top than at the bottom, or when it goes all the way down to the bottom of the wall and into the footing of the foundation.

Step cracks on the other hand are characteristically found in brick, stone and concrete-block foundations. And just like their name indicates, these cracks usually run up along the mortar joints of the foundation like steps. These cracks are viewed severe if they measure ¼ of an inch or wider, are wider at the top than at the bottom or show signs of differential displacement. In any event, it is always best to consult a licensed structural engineer to evaluate and diagnose the problem.

New home buyers
If you are looking to purchase, or are in the process of purchasing a new home, your home inspector will check for visible cracks in the foundation during your inspection.

What to expect during your inspection
During your home inspection, your inspector will check all the visible structural components of your home, by probing the structural components where deterioration is suspected. However, your inspector will not probe an area that could potentially damage a finished surface or where deterioration is visible.

In addition to checking the stability of the foundation, your inspector will also check for any visible cracks and to see if the grading around the foundation is adequate. Because flooding can be a problem no matter where you live in the United States, your inspector will make sure to check for visible water stains around the foundation and baseboards.

One way home inspectors can detect if there has been water damage to a home is by seeing if there is a white, crusty build-up called efflorescence on the foundation. Efflorescence is often caused by water seeping through a foundation’s walls and floor. Other indicators that there has been water damage to the home is if there are traces of mold and mildew, or if there are signs of rust or decay around the basement’s or crawl spaces’ window framing.

After your inspection is complete, your home inspector will note his/her findings in your home inspection report. These details will likely include a description of the foundation, the floor structure, the wall structure and the ceiling structure. If any of these areas are of concern your home inspector will note that these areas may need further evaluation by a licensed structural engineer.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Stained and Discolored

As a home inspector I receive a lot of questions about repairs and renovation, especially about the two most important rooms in the house. Yes you guessed it, the bathroom and the kitchen. The condition of these two rooms is important to the resale value of your home.
Here is a good example of a bathroom renovation question:

I recently bought a colonial home. Everything was perfect, except the bathroom – it was old and dingy. I thought that I could spruce it up with a fresh coat of paint and a good cleaning, but that was not the case. The bathtub is nice on the outside, but badly stained and discolored on the inside. I’ve tried everything under-the-sun to try and restore it back to its original luster, but so far nothing has worked. I’m starting to consider either painting the tub or installing an acrylic bathtub liner over the old tub. Is there a downside to doing either one of these?

I understand your frustration. Over time bathtubs can get old and dingy, making it more of a battle to clean then it is worth. And if you’re frustrated now with the look of your bathtub, then I do not recommend painting over it. Paint will cover up the stains temporarily, but over time it will begin to chip, peel and fade – potentially making your tub look even worse than it already does.

I think installing an acrylic bathtub liner is a good way to go. Acrylic bathtub liners come in a variety of sizes and colors, so you can easily find the right fit for your tub size and bathroom décor. Plus, acrylic liners resist mold and mildew, which is a nice bonus if you are constantly battling this problem in your bathroom.

Acrylic bathtub liners are available at most hardware stores and through professional bathtub liner carriers. Honestly, the only difference between the two is if you decide to purchase the liner at a hardware store, then you will more than likely have to install it yourself; where as a professional carrier will install it for you – usually within a day!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Audits are Good for Us

Let's face it, our homes are one of our biggest investments. There are many things a home inspector can do to help protect your investment, and even help you increase the value of your home, including an Energy Audit. Increased energy efficiency and resource conservation are good for the environment and good for the economy. Indeed, they are good for all of us. A home energy audit will show you how to save money on utility bills, increase the comfort of a home, increase the value of a home, and help improve the environment. An energy audit will examine, measure, and evaluate the factors that affect energy use in a home, finding all energy saving opportunities. The information gathered during the energy audit is analyzed using specialized software to produce a comprehensive Home Energy Tune-uP® Report.
The Report shows which energy-efficiency improvements would reduce energy costs and make the home more comfortable.
The analysis takes into account regional variables such as local weather, implementation costs, and fuel prices.
The Report contains estimates of the savings, costs and payback for each energy-efficiency recommendation.
The Report identifies the group of improvements that, if financed, will save more on energy bills than it costs. These are the improvements that everyone can make since they require no out-of-pocket cost when financed.
The detailed recommendations section enables contractors to provide preliminary cost estimates without a visit to the home.
It also explains how to get the best energy savings from these improvements by listing related no-cost low-cost measures that can be taken.

You can reduce your energy expenditures by developing energy saving habits:
· Showers usually require less hot water than baths. Additional savings can be realized by installing simple water-saving shower heads. This will reduce water consumption, which is good for everyone. The primary benefit is lower heating bills brought about by using less energy to heat less water.
· Use heat-generating appliances such as washers, dryers or ovens during the cooler hours of the morning or evening. This reduces the load on your air conditioner in the summer, and actually helps heat the house in the winter.
· Electric cook tops are energy drains. Use the appropriate burner for your pan size. Also, flat bottom pots make better contact and conduct heat from the elements more efficiently than pots with warped or rounded bottoms.
· Wash only full loads of clothes when possible and clean your dryer's lint filter after every load.
· Consider replacing incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs. Fluorescent bulbs put out approximately four times as many lumens per watt. For example, a 25 watt fluorescent bulb provides as much light as a 100 watt incandescent bulb. Fluorescent bulbs also last about ten times as long!
· In the summer, keep drapes and curtains closed on the sunny side of the house. In the winter, open those drapes and curtains on sunny days to take advantage of the sun's heating power. Close all drapes, blinds or shades at night in winter to make use of their insulating properties.
· Use an exhaust fan to pull excess heat and humidity out of the kitchen and bathroom in the summer. Be aware, however, that exhaust fans can rapidly pull the heat from your house in the winter.
· Perhaps the most often quoted hint for saving energy in the home is to set thermostats at 68° F in the winter and 78° F in the summer.

These How-To's are provided as a service from Lowe's, the Original Home Improvement Warehouse of How-To information for the World Wide Web.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Pipe Dreams

A home inspector is not a code inspector, and the main reason is that a house that was built to code a few years ago my not meet the code standards of today. A home inspector reports major defects, safety concerns and maintenance issues, this supersedes codes. In many cases the safety issues we report are in violation of a code anyway.
Here is an example of a related question I received:

I live in an older home that thought out the years has had many repairs and updates, not to mention many different people working on it. Recently we had our water heater go out and I think I hired the wrong person to replace it. We have a gas water heater with a metal flue pipe coming out of the top of the water heater then turning and going to the chimney. My concern is when the water heater was replaced, the installer used a plastic pipe called CPVC. This plastic pipe runs with in an inch of the flue pipe, and the flue pipe gets hot. We had a home inspector do a pre-listing inspection and he wrote this up as a defect. I tried to call the installer to find out if this work was up to code, but his phone is disconnected and it appears he has vanished.
Do I need to call some one else, or is this not a problem?

In this case you are going to need to have a professional plumber correct this installation. Gas water heaters are require to have a short piece of metallic pipe or appliance connector at least six inches long, above the flue piping. This transition piece is required to prevent damage to the CPVC from excessive heat build-up in the flue. In some areas CPVC can be installed directly onto electric water heaters with special transition fittings, but gas water heaters always required the metallic connectors. A licensed plumber will consult local code requirements prior to installation, and in most cases a local permit is required. The home inspector reported this because it will turn into a maintenance issue and maybe a safety concern.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

First Impressions

No matter in which price range your house falls, the buyer’s first impression is one that sets the mode for the transaction. The phrase “curb appeal” is not just another cute phrase, it plays a large role in getting high market value for your house. The first impression certainly starts with the exterior. There are inexpensive things you can do to achieve good “curb appeal”, such as:

Keep the grass freshly cut
Avoid clutter in the yard
Fresh paint on wooden fences
The front door needs to look good (fresh paint) if needed
Make sure that all door handles are tight and clean
Wash or paint the exterior of the house
Make sure the windows are cleaned inside and out
Make sure that gutters and downspouts are firmly attached, and in good working order
Fresh mulch in flower borders

Tips for the interior include:

Avoid excessive things hanging on the wall
Avoid excessive knick-knacks sitting around
Keep rooms as open as possible (you may consider a temporary self-storage unit)
Clean or paint walls and ceilings
Carpets should be clean and smell good
Remove things from under the sink cabinets

Repair all plumbing leaks, this includes leaking faucets, and duct-taped drain traps

Make sure all light fixtures are clean and free of dust

Sight is not the only thing that makes a good first impression, the nose plays its part as well. These things will help in that department:
Keep the central air filter changed (it makes no difference if it is the heating or cooling season) Pour water in basement floor drains (this keeps the drain traps from becoming dry, and letting in sewer odor)
Control cigarette and pet odor

When making a real estate transaction, hiring professionals will help you get the most value for you transaction. Real Estate Professionals and Professional Home Inspectors are key players to have on your team to protect this important investment.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Dead Man Does Repair

Imploding Basement Foundations are generally but not limited poor water control. The foundations that are most vulnerable are the ones that are built with CMUs (cinder block). Consequently these foundations require good water control to maintain their structural integrity.

Here is an example of foundation questions I receive:

Recently we inherited an early 1900’s house when my Grandmother passed away. We were looking for a house, so we decided to not sell my Grandmothers house, but keep it and live there.
The work that the house needs is mostly things that we can do ourselves, except for one thing. The basement wall on the up hill side is caving in. We know that this is a big job, and probably costly.
Can you give us some idea of who to call and what kind of work is involved?
Can you tell us how much of the house they will have to tear down to fix this problem?

The first thing to do is call some foundation/basement repair companies, to get estimates. The cost is based on the method that has to be used. If the wall is bowed in only a couple of inches then, it can be repaired with soil anchors (Dead Man).
The soil anchor method is done with minimum disturbance to the house and the landscaping.
Here is the procedure for the soil anchor method:
* The installers will find good hard ground, around ten feet or so from the out side of the wall.
* Then they will dig a hole about two feet square, every six or eight feet.
* Then an earth anchor is placed in the holes; these anchors are a steel plate about two-foot square.
* From theses holes they dig a narrow trench to the house for a steel anchor rod to go in.
* Where the trenches meet the house, a hole is drilled through the basement wall
* The steel rod is attached to the earth anchor.
* Then the steel anchor is placed in the trench and through the anchor holes in the basement wall.
* Where the rod comes through the basement wall, a metal plate is attached to the end of the rod, (these plates are about 16 inches square).
* The steel wall plates are tightened until the wall is back to its original position.
When the walls are extremely bowed, they use a dig-out method. With a small backhoe the dirt is removed from the outside walls, this removes the soil pressure. Then the soil anchor method is used to pull the walls back in place. This method is more expensive and makes a little more mess, but works very good.

It is very important to keep gutters and downspouts in good working order, and maintain the soil level around house so water will run away from the foundation. Water around foundation will cause the hydrostatic pressure that implodes foundations.

A professional home inspector will recognize and explain poor water control issues your home may have.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Buying a house requires a lot of different steps to complete the process. More and more questions get asked about what information the consumer needs to assist them in making decisions to protect their family’s health as well as their investments. Having a home inspection definitely plays an important role in achieving this. There is a trend to take additional steps to protect health and investment issues, by having additional inspections performed. Some of the most common health questions include questions about mold, radon, lead, and water testing. The following are some of the most commonly asked questions:

Why should I have the water tested if the house I am buying has a private well?

To prevent the health risk of you and your family drinking or bathing in contaminated water. Sometimes a well becomes contaminated because it is defective. This can be very expensive to repair or replace. Your lender may require water testing. The EPA and The American Groundwater Trust recommend annual testing of a private well.

Is lead-based paint in my home a problem?

Not unless it is disturbed during remodeling or maintenance. lead base paint should be properly cared for and not allowed to deteriorate. Exposure to lead dust can cause permanent damage to the nervous system, especially in children and pets.
A trained professional can perform lead-dust testing to determine the lead levels.

Why should I ask for a radon test?

There is scientific proof that Radon gas is a known human lung carcinogen. Prolonged exposure to high levels of radon gas can cause lung cancer. If you do not have a test, it could cost you up to two thousand dollars to have a radon mitigation system installed after closing.

Why is mold a problem?

Mold can cause health problems and not be visible. If left untreated it can continue to grow and spread, eating building materials like wood and dry wall. Mold spores can cause many health problems including:
Ø Asthma and allergic reactions
Ø Respirator problems
Ø Nasal and sinus congestion
Ø Burning, watery, red eyes or blurry vision
Ø Sore throat and dry cough
Ø Skin irritation
Ø Sometimes nervous system problems

Finding out what additional testing you should have done on your home is very important to you and your family’s health. You will find that most testing is not expensive, but can sure save you money in the future.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Don't Let Your Dreams Turn Into Nightmares

Let's face it everybody dreams of their perfect home, some dream of a classic older home, some a home with a view, some a starter home with investment potential, or a home near the beach. No matter what your dream home is it will take months to find it, years to save up for it, and it's going to take decades to pay for it. Yes, your dream home certainly represents one of the biggest investments, both financially and emotionally, that you'll ever make.

And that's exactly why it's so important to have your prospective new home inspected by a reputable home inspection company prior to closing. Otherwise, that dream home could turn into a nightmare of unexpected repair bills.

"Now wait," you may be thinking. "Looming ahead of me is a monster of a down payment, closing costs, points, and on and on. And now you're suggesting that I sink another $200- $400 into a home inspection."

"Why bother? After all, the sellers are required by law in most states to disclose any defects in the home before we close. And if they don't they have to pay for any repairs. So I'm safe, right?"

Think about it. How can the seller know, for example, that the first time your two teenage daughters jump into their showers at the same time, the water pressure isn't going to slow to a trickle? And what happens if you do decide to have someone, say Uncle Joe or Grandpa John, who's been in the construction business for centuries, give your prospective new dream house the once over, but no one picks up on the fact that the dishwasher is malfunctioning? You definitely don't want to discover firsthand that this vital piece of kitchen equipment leaks all over the floor each time it hits the rinse cycle.

When you're investing virtually your last dime in a new home, the last thing your already stretched-to-the-point-of-breaking budget can withstand is an unexpected repair bill. So, rather than representing yet on more cost, a through pre-purchase whole-house inspection may actually save you thousands of dollars.

In many parts of the country, buying a home without the benefit if a pre-purchase inspection is unthinkable. And in many cases, the sellers - rather than the buyers - are requesting the inspections for their own protection, as well as to minimize haggling over the selling price. The National Board of Realtors reports that 4.9 million homes were sold in 1997. Sources estimate that about 65% of the homes sold were inspected prior to closing.

A basic home inspection includes a comprehensive visual evaluation of literally hundreds of items throughout a structure including the roof, mechanical and electrical systems, exterior siding, windows, decks and garages. Also inspected are interior walls, ceilings, steps and floors, heating and cooling systems, plumbing and all built-in appliances, including refrigerators, stoves and dishwashers.

Many inspection companies can also provide additional services such as termite and other pest inspections, radon testing, asbestos testing, and testing for the presence of other environmental hazards. One phone call can place at your disposal dozens of professionals dedicated to helping you buy with confidence. Home inspections are conducted by professional inspectors who are experienced in many areas. Inspections generally require several hours to complete; however, some companies are able to greatly reduce the turnaround time by using a team approach. A team of inspectors, each with a different area of expertise, conducts the evaluation and prepares the inspection report.

This detailed written report will include a summary of the general condition of your prospective new home and will disclose any major defects. Buyers should be aware that even new homes have defects.

Ideally, buyers should make the purchase offer contingent upon the satisfactory completion of a whole house inspection. If this is not possible, it's important to schedule the inspection as soon as possible after the offer has been accepted so any major defects can be corrected before closing.

As with any service, your home inspection is only as good as the professionals who conduct the evaluation. So, when choosing a home inspection team, be sure to ask these important questions:

1. Does the inspection company have an interest in or a
connection to a repair or remodeling company?
Such an affiliation might cause a conflict of interest.
2. How long will the inspection take and how soon will
you receive the written report? Is it detailed and
easy to read? Ask to see a copy of an actual
3. Exactly what will the inspection include? How much
will the inspection cost?
4. Does the company encourage the home buyer to attend
the inspection and ask questions? Being present
during the inspection allows you to see the home
from a different perspective and provides valuable
information on the care and maintenance your home
will require in the years to come.
5. Can the inspection company offer specialized
inspections performed by a qualified professional?
6. What sort of insurance does the company carry? A
reputable firm will carry professional errors and
omissions insurance, general business liability, and
worker's compensation.
7. Does the company follow the guidelines of any
professional organizations such as the American
Inspectors Association or the American Society of
Home Inspectors (ASHI)? Does the company provide
additional service such as termite and other pest
inspections, radon testing, asbestos testing, and
other environmental testing? Dealing with one
company for this full range of services saves you
both time and money.

The bottom line is; "You can not afford not to have a home inspection".