Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Plastic Pipe Presents Problems

Polybutylene pipe seems to be on many homeowners’ minds lately, judging by the number of questions I receive about it. Since the questions vary widely, I’ll address the most frequently asked ones here.
What is Polybutylene pipe? It is a form of plastic resin that was used extensively in water supply piping from 1978 until 1995. Due to the low cost of the material and ease of installation, polybutylene piping systems were called "the pipe of the future" and were used as a substitute for traditional copper piping.
It is most commonly found in the "Sun Belt" where residential construction was heavy through the 1980's and early-to-mid 90's, but it is also very common in the Mid Atlantic and Pacific Northwest states. The piping was used for underground water mains and interior water supply piping. It was used in approximately 6 million homes.
How can you tell if you have polybutylene pipes? Polybutylene inside your home can be found near the water heater, in basements, crawl spaces, and coming out of walls and floors to feed sinks and toilets. Copper pipes feeding sinks or other fixtures do not rule out the use of polybutylene. Some plumbers used polybutylene throughout the house, but installed short pieces of copper where the pipes come out of the wall and floors.
The most common polybutylene for the interior is gray in color, and the joint connectors look like a plain wedding band. Polybutylene used under ground to bring water to your house is generally blue, but may be gray or black. If it has “PB” on it, then it is polybutylene. Good places to look for exterior polybutylene are at your main shut-off and at your water meter.
What are the problems with polybutylene pipe? Reports indicate that the chlorine in treated water will cause the polybutylene to become brittle; under pressure it will split apart. Polybutylene pipes can leak at anytime, destroying you home and its contents. The problem is there is no warning or a way to tell or predict that the pipe is nearing the time it will fail. It is not possible for a home inspector or a plumber to determine if the polybutylene is about to fail by looking at the outside of the pipe. The deterioration starts from the inside of the pipe, so no evidence is visible from the outside. Failure can happen suddenly without warning.
To date, lawsuits are still outstanding, and class action settlement dollars are pending. To find out more, go to http://www.pbpipe.com/.
The bottom line is that this pipe is known to be a problem. If you have it in your house, you need to know about it. To have this pipe replaced with copper costs about the same as re-carpeting, or a re-roofing. If you are buying a house that has polybutylene, don’t let the fact stop you from buying the house; these things can usually be negotiated to both parties’ advantage.
If you are still not sure if you have polybutylene, call a home inspector.
Remember, for your protection, get a home inspection.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Cure for the common cold

‘Most of us have something in common this time of year; yes, it's cold weather. Cold weather can be detrimental to our homes, if we are not prepared. We cannot stop the cold from visiting, but we can prepare some cures to prevent costly repairs and discomfort of this common cold.

Recently, I experienced a cold weather disaster to my rental property. When I talked to my insurance agent I was surprised to find out the extent that cold weather has on costly repairs. My agent told me that it is not unlikely to have cold weather related insurance losses mount to over a billion dollars a year.

In my case, I found out the hard way that during severe cold, your house temperature should not fall below sixty-two degrees, even when no one is home. The exterior walls of your house are commonplace to house water pipes. To keep the pipes from freezing inside the walls, you must maintain at least a temperature of sixty-two or sixty-five depending how severe the cold gets in your area. Pipes that freeze usually burst. This is not good. I know too well. It is a good idea to check for water pipes that are exposed near exterior walls in basements or crawl spaces. These pipes should be insulated; this is an inexpensive cure for a costly problem.

Roof and gutter damage are also major contributors to insurance losses and costly repairs to homeowners. Excessive snow and ice build up can tear off gutters and cause roofs to leak or even collapse. We cannot prevent all problems and catastrophic disasters. But here are some ways to help cure the “common cold" problems:

Ø Keep trees trimmed back at least ten feet from the roof
Ø Keep gutters attached properly
Ø Keep gutters cleaned
Ø Make sure that downspouts are properly attached and free of debris
Ø Keep attic vents clear (well vented attics will help protect your roof from damage due to “ice damming”)
Ø Make sure that the insulation in your attic is adequate for your climate (this will also help protect your roof from “ice damming”)

Take some time to learn what steps you can take to prevent damage to your house. Preventive maintenance is the best way to save you money on costly repairs. With house repairs, you pay now or later. I found that now saves you money over later.

Now is the time to protect your house from”The Common Cold”.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Safe Holidays are Happy Holidays

Every year we hear of household accidents taking lives around the holiday season. To keep the holiday season a happy season we need to practice safety awareness. The simple fact is this season brings an increased use of electricity, candles, fireplaces, extension cords, live trees indoors, and holiday lights both in and out doors, all of which can increase the risk of fire.
With the holidays approaching, excitement fills the air with the anticipation of lots of food, lots of new toys, and seeing the family members that you only see on special occasions. To ensure the holidays are truly a wondrous event here are some tips to keep you and your family safe:

 Test your smoke detectors
 Test your carbon monoxide detector—if you do not have one, get one- it is worth it
 Check to make sure your fire extinguisher is operable and easy to get to
 Do not leave burning candles unattended
 Dispose of fireplace ashes outside and in a metal container
 After guests have left, take all trashcans outside—in case sparks or a cigarette may have gotten in
 Use indoor extension cords indoors only
 Use only outdoor lights outside your home
 Connect no more than three strands of lights together
 When connecting outdoor light strings together, cover the connections with plastic or something to keep out moisture
 Read the warning labels on decorative lights and follow them
 Check to make sure that all light strings are in good condition
 Unplug light strings before replacing the bulbs
 Do not overload electrical outlets
 Use only UL-approved lights

Remember if you are entertaining guests that smoke, provide plenty of ashtrays, check for cigarettes left burning, and again remember to remove all waste-cans before going to bed.

If you have a live tree in your house for the holidays, here are some tips for you:

 Do not purchase a tree that already has the needles falling off
 Trim a couple of inches off the bottom of the tree just before you put it in water- this will help it absorb water
 Locate the tree away from fireplaces and heat sources
 Water the tree regularly
 Use low voltage bulbs or “twinkle” type bulbs- these types of bulbs generate less heat
 Never use candles, even on artificial trees
 If you use a metallic tree, do not use electric lights on it
 Turn off lights before going to bed

After the holiday season, when it is time to dispose of the tree, you can call your local sanitation office to see what provisions they provide for disposal, but for safety’s sake never burn it in your fireplace.

If you have that hard-to-shop-for person on your gift list, or just want to give someone you love that gift of safety, here are some gift ideas:

 Smoke detectors
 A fire extinguisher
 A carbon monoxide detector
 Flashlight and batteries
 A first aid kit

We all are aware of the danger of fire and smoke and most of us have smoke detectors, and most of us check the batteries. But what about “The silent killer” carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is generated through incomplete combustion of fuel such as natural gas, propane, heating oil, kerosene, coal, and charcoal, gasoline or wood. This incomplete combustion can occur in a variety of home appliances. The major cause of high levels of carbon monoxide in the home is faulty ventilation of funaces, hot water heaters, fireplaces, cooking stoves, grills and kerosene heaters.
Faulty or improper ventilation of natural gas and fuel oil furnaces during the cold winter months accounts for most carbon monoxide poisoning cases.
Carbon monoxide (CO) detectors are affordable and easy to install, and in my opinion a must for every home.

Youth groups often sell these items to raise money during the holiday season, so they are easy to find.

Remember the first step to keep your family safe begins with keeping your house safe!!!!

“The very best of holiday wishes to you and yours from all of us”