Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Lady Bugs (Answer)

Hey Allen,
Don’t worry the ladybug (Asian lady beetle) will not feed or damage anything in your home. They are really only nuisances more than a pest. They cannot sting or harm you, and they will not breed indoors. It is normal to see a lot of them in late fall, because they are getting ready to hibernate. Once indoors they will hibernate until early spring. The best way to control them is with a vacuum cleaner.

Thanks for your question.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Lady Bugs (Question)

Hey Al,

We live in an area that has wooded lots all around and we have some pest problems. This year we have had a late fall and along with that a lot of ladybugs. We have noticed them on the exterior walls, but recently they have invaded the interior of our home. What kind of damage can they do, or have they done to my house? The next question is what do I have to do to get rid of them?

Thanks in advance for your help


I will post the answer tomorrow.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Cold air Coming in from the Window Air-Conditioner (Answer)

Hey Ed,

If you are going to leave the air-conditioner units installed, you will need to cover them to keep out the cold. You can buy fitted covers for most models of window air-conditioners, if you prefer. But the inexpensive way works great, and is easy to do.
To cover these units the inexpensive way, you will need to buy some large plastic leaf bags, and some duct tape. Take one of the leaf bags and pull it over the air-conditioner, make sure it is pulled up tight. After the bag is on tight, run the duct tape around the bag and the air-conditioner close to the window. Now cut off the excess end of the bag. Take another bag and pull it tight over the unit, this time you can cut off the excess bag, but leave about three inches of the bag. Fold the left over end so you can tape it to the face of the opening. To make this tape job last trough the winter, you can spray it with some cheep hair spray.

Thanks for your question.

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Cold air Coming in from the Window Air-Conditioner (Question)

Hey Al,

We live in a sixteen hundred square-foot brick ranch that we bought last summer. The house has hot water heat, so there are no ducts to have central air-conditioning installed. The house is cooled with two window air-conditioners and ceiling fans, this does a great job. The problem is since it has been getting colder, we feel a lot of cold air coming in from the air-conditioner. We would take them out for the winter, but they are bolted in and insulated very well. We want to leave them installed, but we want to stop the cold air.
Can you help us with an inexpensive cure?



I will post the answer tomorrow.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Repairing Stucco (Answer)

Hey Decon,
This job will require a few days that does not get below forty degrees and no hard rainfall. You will need to make a trip to the hardware store to get these items:
Material and Tool List
 Latex caulk
 Caulking gun
 Concrete bonding agent (acryl sixty)
 Whitewash brush (using scissors, cut bristles leaving only about two inches of bristles)
 Small paintbrush
 Square trowel (margin trowel)
 Stucco patching compound
 Duct tape
 Plastic garbage bag
 Small bag of dry sand
Use the latex caulk on the cracks that are one-quarter inch or less in width. Fill in the cracks with the caulk and use the trowel to cut off the excess caulk. While the caulk is still wet, apply some of the dry sand, the next day brush off the excess sand.
For larger cracks you will need to prepare the cracks by brushing off the loose plaster, and painting the crack with bonding agent. Dampen the crack with water, and fill in the cracks with stucco patching compound, make sure to mix the compound fairly stiff. After the compound becomes dry to the touch, brush it with the whitewash brush until it blends with its surroundings. To cure the patch, you will need to lightly mist the patch with water, then cut a piece of the garbage bag large enough to cover the repair. Use the duct tape to secure the garbage bag over the repair, and leave it on for four days. If the area is deeper than three eights of an inch, you will need to use the same techniques, but only fill the area about half the depth, let it set for a day, then finish it just like the other repairs.

I hope this helps, good luck with your “Stucco Jewel”.

Thanks for your question.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Repairing Stucco (Question)

Hey Al,
We bought our ninety-year-old home this year, and have been very happy with it. We want to repair and paint the exterior of this massive stucco jewel. The stucco is in pretty good condition, but there are some cracks and some holes and spots of missing stucco. The finish on the stucco is a brushed look and is also going to get painted. We were told that the hardest things about repairing stucco, is matching smooth textures and the color. With this in mind we feel that we can do the patchwork ourselves.

We could use any helpful hints you can give us.



I will post the answer tomorrow.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Water Heater (Answer)

Hey Darnell,

It sounds like you have a bad sacrificial anode in the water heater. The sacrificial anode is a metal rod usually magnesium or aluminum. This rod is screwed into the top of the water heater, and its job is to help prevent corrosion of the metal tank. This rod sacrifices it self, to be eaten away from electrolysis instead of the metal of the tank. Once the anode is gone the tank itself begins to corrode. Replacing the anode when needed will prolong the life of the tank.
With the noise and the weird greenish substance you described, I believe you have an aluminum anode rod. If your water has a high pH level, it will cause the aluminum anode rod to corrode slow and produce aluminum hydroxide (weird greenish substance). The aluminum hydroxide falls to the bottom of the heater, trapping heat, and this is what makes your water heater sound like a “coffee percolator”.

The best way to find out if your anode is aluminum is to look at the exposed anode rod nut located on the top of the water heater. If the top of the nut is smooth, that indicates the anode is aluminum. If the top of the nut has a large bump on it, it is a magnesium anode.

If you find out that the anode is aluminum, and the water heater is in good condition except for the noise and the weird greenish substance. You may consider having the water heater flushed out and replacing the aluminum anode rod with a magnesium anode rod.

Thanks for your question.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Water Heater (Question)

Hey Al,
We bought our thirty-year-old house two years ago, and have been very happy with it. We have painted and done some small repairs. But now I think our water heater is on its last leg. It will make noises like a coffee percolator; at times it is very loud. We have not noticed any problem with having enough hot water, but we have noticed a thick greenish substance coming out of the hot water faucet. I don’t know if the noise and the weird greenish substance have anything to do with each other, but they both started at the same time. We have always had our water heater either stop supplying hot water or leaking, but this noise thing is a new one for us.

Is it time for a new heater?



I will post the answer tomorrow.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Sweating Toilet (Answer)

Hey Paula,

Sometimes a leaking flapper valve can cause this buy not holding water tightly in the bowl. If the flapper valve leaks you will hear the toilet run and shut off, even when it has not been used. This will cause cold water to keep coming in and never giving it a chance to warm up, this can cause excessive condensation.
To check if the flapper valve is leaking;
 Turn off the water supply to the toilet, before you go to bed. The shut-off valve is on the right side of the toilet near the floor.
 Take the top off of the tank and mark the water level with a marker.
 The next morning check the water level.
 If the water level has not dropped, the flapper is good.
 If the water level has dropped, the flapper is bad, and needs to be replaced.
 Turn the supply back on.

If the flapper is leaking, then replacing it should cure your problem. If the flapper is not leaking, you may want to get a toilet tank insulation kit. You can get this kit at your local hardware store for fewer than fifteen dollars. This insulates the tank and cuts down on the accumulation of condensation.
If all else fails, there is one other method. You can consult a plumber on installing a hot water mixer valve. This valve adds hot water to the toilet’s water supply. With warm water and a warm toilet tank, you will not have condensation.

Thanks for your question.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Sweating Toilet (Question)

Hey Al,

I live in a two-story four bedroom three and a half-bath-house. I moved in about five months ago and noticed that the up-stairs toilet had a lot of condensation under the tank. Now it is worse than it was, the floor gets wet some times. I have replaced the supply line and there are no leaks, it is condensation.
Is there something I can do to slow the condensation down?



I will post the answer tomorrow.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Oil Stained Driveway (Answer)

Hey Tom,

The best solution for removing fresh oil is a big bag of the cheapest kitty litter you can find. Just put a few large handfuls on the oil spill, and let it soak for a day or two, and sweep it up. This works great on fresh oil spills or under leaky cars.

To clean the old stains, you will need a pressure washer and some concrete driveway cleaner. You can get this cleaner at any hardware store. A little trick I found to work good, is the day before I am going to clean the driveway, I put some of the cleaner (un-mixed) on the bad spots. After this sets over night you are ready to apply the cleaner as to the directions, and pressure all those years of stains.

Thanks for your question.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Oil Stained Driveway (Question)

Hey Al,

I have a large concrete driveway and three teen-age drivers with older cars. That in it self plays a big roll in supplying my driveway with fresh oil, not to mention my oldest son that works on his leaky car in the driveway.
Is there an easy to remove this fresh oil, and is there anything I can do to remove the old stains?



I will post the answer tomorrow.

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Monday, November 9, 2009

Older House Wiring (Answer)

Hey Norton,

Older Romex was a two-wire system, meaning the Romex consisted of only two wires a hot and a neutral, but not a ground. The term open ground, just means that there is not a ground wire present. A hot and a neutral is all it takes to make the lights and the receptacles work. In the early sixties the electrical industry converted to Romex with a third wire, this wire was not intended to make the lights or receptacles work better, but to increase shock safety, by protecting equipment that is plugged in to the circuit against a ground fault. Electricity tries to find it’s way to ground, when it finds it’s way to the ground, that is called a ground fault, that’s how you get shocked. The electricity is using you to travel to the ground. The ground wire is just making an easer path for stray electricity to find ground instead of using you.
With a two-wire system (open ground system) like yours, replacing old receptacles in the bathrooms, kitchen, exterior, garage, and basement with GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) receptacles will increase safety. GFCI protection is a system that shuts off the power if it senses a ground fault, that means the electricity is passing thought you to the ground. The GFCI’s are not designed to protect equipment, but to protect you against electrocution.
Consult an Electrician about the best way to add the GFCI protection in your specific situation.

Thanks for your question.

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Friday, November 6, 2009

Older House Wiring (Question)

Hey Al,

We recently purchased an older home that was built in the fifties. We had a home inspection on the house prior to the purchase, and the report indicated that the home’s wiring is “Functional but outdated by today’s safety standards”. The report further states that the house wiring is “older ungrounded romex and that a represented number of receptacles were tested and were found to be open ground”.
Can you explain what this means and how can I increase the safety factor?



I will post the answer tomorrow.

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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Gas Water Heater (Answer)

Hey Melisia,

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.

Thanks for your question.

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Gas Water Heater (Question)

Hey Al,

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. I tried to call the installer, 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?


I will post the answer tomorrow.

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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Cracks in My Ceiling (Answer)

Hey Dawn,

From your description of the problem, what you have is a typical case of Truss Uplift. This is not the first time I have had this question. To explain this, I will have to give you a brief explanation of your roof structure.
To start your roof structure is a truss type. To put this simply, the frame for your roof and the frame for your ceiling are all connected, this makes a truss. These trusses are spaced about sixteen to twenty-four inches apart, to span the length of your house. The top wood of the truss is called the upper cord, to that your roof sheathing and shingles are attached. The wood that runs along the bottom is called the lower cord, to that your ceiling is attached.

Trusses structurally span the entire width of the house, there for they require no load-bearing wall in the center. The center wall that divides your rooms is a non-load bearing wall, the lower cords of the trusses simply pass over the wall.

Now getting back to your problem “truss uplift”. This type of cracking or separation wile being unattractive it does not usually indicate a structural problem.

Since the trusses are all one unit connected together to form the ceiling and the roof structure, as the parts cure and shrink all parts of the truss is affected. The wood starts drying and shrinking the attachments that hold the top cord to the bottom cord, causing the bottom cord to crown or raise up in the middle. This causes the ceiling to raise and lift from the center wall, thus causing the cracks between the wall and the ceiling.

In your case, since the house is three years old, the moisture content of the truss members is at a stable level, and will not get worse.

Cosmetic repair of the cracks should take of this problem. In most cases a paintable calk and some paint is an easy and inexpensive cure.

While major and persistent cracking may indicate structural problems, in your case the cracking is a common and normal occurrence in new houses. With new construction it is likely to have slight settling and shrinkage of building materials, which will cause some slight cracking in the corners of your drywall.

Thanks for your question.

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Monday, November 2, 2009

Cracks in My Ceiling (Question)

Hey Al,

Recently my husband and I purchased a three-year-old ranch house. The house is beautiful and very obviously well maintained. However we have noticed a crack in the ceiling of the living room at the corner of the wall that separates the living room from the family room. On the other side of this wall is the family room, where there is a crack in the ceiling against the same wall. The cracks are not very wide, but they do run almost the entire length of this center wall, on both sides.
Our concern is this wall runs long ways down the center of our house, does this mean that our house is settling? Is our house going to fall down? Is this a major structural problem? What can we do?

See Ya,


I will post the answer tomorrow.

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Furnace Filter (Answer)

Hey Ted,

Changing or cleaning the furnace filter is a good step to prolong the life of your furnace and air-conditioner. Since the same duct work and circulating fan is used for heating and cooling system, it is important to change the filter in the winter months and summer months.
It is important to get the correct size of filter for your furnace. You can get the size of the filter off of the old filter. But when it comes to picking a filter you have a lot of choices depending on how much you want to spend. Your Dad used the least inexpensive disposable fiberglass filters. These filters are good to protect your furnace, but they only block out the large dust and dirt particles, and let the smaller particles like mold and pollen pass through.
A reusable static charged filter (electrostatic filter) is slightly more effective and slightly more expensive than the disposable fiberglass filter. This is a very popular filter, but the down side is it has to be cleaned instead of just throwing it away like the disposable fiberglass filters. By the way, I think this is the type of filter you found in your furnace.
Pleated disposable filters can trap a lot more of the allergens like mold and pollen, but they are slightly more expensive than the reusable static charged filter.
If allergies are not a problem, I would recommend a disposable fiberglass filter, or an electrostatic filter.
There are filters on the market that are very efficient in reducing mold and pollen, but they can also restrict airflow and cause problems with some heating and air-condition equipment. If you are considering a high efficiency filter you should consult your heating and air-conditioning service person to make sure the filter will work with your system.

Thanks for the great question.


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Friday, October 23, 2009

Furnace Filter (Question)

Hey Al,

I recently purchased my first home, it is a thirty-year-old house in good condition and well maintained. My Dad has given me a list of preventive maintenance items, and one of the things on the list is keeping my furnace filter changed.
I went to change the filter in my furnace, and when I pulled it
out I saw that it wasn't like the filters my Dad had, it was this wire mesh
filter. I grew up watching my Dad change those old filters that look like insulation.
What kind of filter do I have? And are there special filters I need for this furnace?



The answer will be posted tomorrow.

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Doorbell Transformer (Answer)

Hey Amanda,

In residential 120 volt wiring the black is the hot and the white is the neutral. Look closely at the connection screws on the transformer, one will be silver in color and one will be brass. So with 120 volt residential wiring remember “black on brass”. The black wire is the hot wire and the brass screw is the hot connection. The white wire is the neutral and it goes to the silver screw. The “black on brass” rule applies to all household wiring. When you mount the transformer you can mount it to the outside of the main panel box or on a wall, but never mount it inside the panel box. Transformers will get warm and heat is not something you want on the inside of a panel. Remember always turn the power off at the main electrical box before attempting any wiring.

Thanks for the question.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Doorbell Transformer (Question)

Hey Al,

I have owned my own house for the past nine years and I have become very handy with repairs, but I still have problems with electrical repairs. Recently my doorbell quit working because of a bad transformer. I replaced the transformer and it worked for about ten minutes before it got real hot and quit. I feel I did not wire it correctly, so before I cook another transformer I would like to know if there is a coded way to know which wire (black or white) goes onto which screw on the transformer?



I will post the answer tomorrow.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Baby Proof (Answer)

Hey Andy,

Childproofing your home is a very important step for your child’s safety. Hazards in the home contribute to the injury or death of about 2 million children a year. Fortunately many of these incidents can be avoided by informed parents and using some of the simple child safety devices on the market today.

Here are some child safety devices that can help get you started on making you home as safe as possible for your young children:

 Use Safety Gates to help prevent falls down stairs and to keep children away from dangerous areas.
 Use Safety Latches and Locks for cabinets and drawers in kitchens, and bathrooms.
 Use Door Knob Covers and Door Locks to prevent passage to possible danger.
 Use Smoke Detectors, and Carbon Monoxide Detectors on every level of your home and near bedrooms.
 Use Window Guards and Safety Netting to help prevent falls from windows, balconies, decks, and landings.
 Use Corner and Edge Bumpers to help prevent injuries from falls against sharp edges.
 Use Outlet Safety Covers and Outlet Plates.

For more information on child safety in your home go to;

Thanks for your questions.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Baby Proof (Question)

Hey Al,

I am a brand new Dad and while I am nervous about everything that the
little guy does, I was wondering if you have any tips on easy things I can
do to Baby proof my home.



I will post the answer tomorrow.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

HYDO-WHAT? (Answer)

Hello Telly,

The type of heating system is a valid concern when considering an older house. A considerable number of outdated heating systems are still in use, such as convection hot water and gravity hot air systems. These heating systems are so outdated that an upgrade should be considered. These systems are very inefficient and very costly to operate.
The hydronic system consists of a boiler to heat water, usually to between 160 and 180 degrees Fahrenheit, and pumps to circulate the hot water through pipes in the building. This heated water warms radiators placed in all the rooms in the house. Many people prefer (hydronic) hot water heat because the radiators are small, the system is typically quiet, and it can be easily divided into multiple zones. Also this type of hot water heat is very efficient and dependable, thus making steam heat obsolete in homes and smaller buildings.
Before you make a purchase, you should have the whole house and the heating system inspected by a professional.

Thanks for the question


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Thursday, September 24, 2009

HYDO-WHAT? (Question)

Hello Al,

I have been house hunting in upstate New York, and I have found several older houses in the paper that interest me. I really want an older house, but one of my concerns with older houses is the heating system.
I see the types of heating described in the ads, such as steam, convection hot water, gravity hot air, and hydronic. The one house I am most interested in is said to have hydronic heating. Can you tell me if that is good or bad? Are there certain heating systems I need to stay away from?



Answer will post tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Should I be present for my home inspection (Answer)

Hi Steve,

Attending the inspection can be very helpful to the new homeowner. This is a great opportunity to learn more about the house you are considering buying. I do recommend looking at the house separately from the inspector, and writing down your questions and concerns. When the inspector is finished with the inspection, he or she will discuss their findings with you. This is a good opportunity to ask the questions on the list. You can get a good idea of the true condition of the house this way, without distracting the inspector. You would not want them to miss something important on the inspection. Being there for the whole inspection is not that important, but having the on-site review with the inspector is very important.
Remember the on-site review is important for your overall understanding of your purchase, but it is only a summary. The written report will contain the whole picture. If you have questions on the written report, you need to call your inspector. They keep a file of everything that pertains to the inspection. So if you have any questions about the report, they will be able to give you all the details.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Should I be present for my home inspection (Question)

I am buying my third house, but this is the first one to have a home inspection. I now realize the importance of a home inspection after wishing I had one on the last nightmare. I have done my homework on what is covered in a home inspection, and how many headaches it can save me to have an expert inspect the house prior to purchasing it.
My question, is should I be present at the inspection?



See the answer tomorrow.

Monday, September 21, 2009

NEW DECK (Answer)

Good day to you Eian,

The most common mistake with redwood decks is not sealing them with water repellent. If wood is left unsealed, it will decay, darken, and eventually rot. The best way to preserve your redwood is to seal all pieces of decking materials before construction. Also when choosing a sealer, you may consider one with a mildew-cide additive to preserve the color of your wood. If you like the weathered look of redwood, you can still seal it. Then use a stain with a bleaching agent to achieve a weathered look. Your local paint store can help you decide the product that most fits your needs. Water repellent or sealer can be applied with a roller, brush, or spray. When applying stain use a brush only. To help preserve your deck, I recommend that you reapply the sealer every eighteen months to two years.
When getting bids from contractors it is important to put together a scope of work to be done. By having such a list for the contractors from which to bid, it is easier to compare prices, because all the contractors are bidding on the same things. You won’t have one bidding with sealer and one bidding without. Here are some things to include in a scope of work agreement:
 All wood to be sealed before construction of deck
 Brand and style specific of sealer and stains
 Number of coats of stain
 Type of hardware to be used
 A working set of plans

Thanks for the great question


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Friday, September 18, 2009

NEW DECK (Question)

Good day Al,

We bought our dream home on the coast three years ago. We now have spent the last three years completely renovating and restoring our dream house. Now that we have all the necessary work completed, we want to add some amity, like a custom redwood deck.
We have the deck plans drawn and now we are preparing to get bids from contractors.
We have talked to some contractors on redwood decks, and some said to seal the deck with water repellent, and some said that redwood does not need to be sealed. The prices are very different, depending on to whom we talked.
Is there anything else of which we need to be aware as we get prices, and should we seal the redwood? If so, why?

Thanks Eian

See post tomorrow for the answer.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Winter Pool (Answer)

Hi Frank,

Calling a pool company is certainly one option, but if you have time to do it yourself, it’s not too hard. It will also save you some money.

Based on what you told me, I think these basic instructions will be what you need:

 Vacuum all debris from your pool.
 Remove all accessories and ladders.
 Let the filter run until pool water runs clear.
 Check chlorine level, it should be 3 ppm and the Ph should be 7.5.
 Add the winterizing chemicals (follow the directions of the chemicals you purchase).
 Bring water level to just below the skimmer opening.
 Remove skimmer weir door and basket.
 Install skimmer winter cover plate and put the cap back on.
 Tie an air pillow in the center of the pool (this will help hold up the cover).
 Install winter cover (secure cover with tie-downs or cables or what ever method your pool uses).
 If you are in a windy area, you can add a couple of inches of water to the top of the pool cover.
 Disconnect pump and filter, drain, and store indoors (if sand filter, remove the top valve, drain and cover).
 Shut off gas to water heater (or shut off electric if electric heater)
 Drain water from heater, and cover.
If your pool is equipped with a bottom drain, it must be disconnected at the valve and elevated above the water level. Then it needs to be plugged with a cap that has an air valve fitting, so you can pump air into the pipe to force out water.
If the pool has a light, the bulb should be removed and stored.

I hope this will help you.

Thanks for the Question


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Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Hi Al,

I purchased a house early this summer, and it came with an above-ground pool. This pool has a deck all the way around it, and a heater as well. The previous owner said they used the pool to the end of September every year, before they winterized it. I have never had a pool before and I am not sure I understand what is involved in winterizing my pool.
Is this something I can do myself, or do I need to have a pool company do it?
Can you give me an idea of what this entails?

Frank E.

Answer will be posted tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Damp Crawl (Answer)


It sounds like you have a good start on fixing your problem. Yes, the vapor barrier should cover the floor completely. Also, the seams should overlap and be taped to seal them.
Condensation builds up as a result of temperature differences, so if the crawl space temperature stays close to the temperature outside, the condensation problems decline. Here is a list of things to consider:
 Make sure you have good cross ventilation in the crawlspace.
 Make sure that the vapor barrier is sealed everywhere.
 Make sure that the insulation under your floor is adequate and in place.
 All exposed ductwork and plumbing lines should be insulated.

In the very worst case, to solve the problem, you may have to install a dehumidifier.
There are a number of fungus killers on the market that would help. I recommend that you achieve good ventilation in the crawlspace first, and then see how bad the fungus is at that point. In many cases the ventilation alone will cure the fungus problem.

Hope this helps,


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Monday, September 14, 2009

DAMP CRAWL (Question)

Hey Al,
I have a house that is built on a crawl space, it has a severe condensation problem. We were told by a Home Inspector to install a vapor barrier in the crawl space under our house. We have done this; but the condensation is worse. It is coming off our waterlines and heat pump vents. Should we have installed the vapor barrier completely against the walls or left a space between the walls and the plastic barrier?
Also, what is the easiest way to get rid of the fungi that is on the joists?

Thank you for your help.


See answer posted tomorrow.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Fall Checklist Continued

5. Investigate the Plumbing in Your Home
• Put away garden hose and shut off hose bibs
• Insulate water supply lines and water heater
• Fix slow drip leaks and leaky valves
• Install temperature and pressure valves
• Tighten any loose fixture attachments

6. Take Time to Observe the HVAC
• Cover your air conditioner
• Tightly seal all ductwork seams with foil tape
• Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors or check for battery life
• Clean flues from the furnace, water heater, and fireplace
• Have a heating contractor inspect and ready your heating system

The above suggestions may require professional assistance to ensure proper installation.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Fall Checklist Continued

3. Check for Problems on Your Roof
• Clean gutters and downspouts and make sure they are securely attached
• Check for missing or cracked shingles
• Look for signs of a leaking roof
• Observe chimney and flu stack for visible damage
• Be sure all bath, kitchen, and dryer vents go entirely outside of your home, not just into the attic.

4. Look Over Any Electrical Wiring
• Check outdoor recepts to make sure they are water tight
• Change or install bulbs in any outdoor light sockets
• Upgrade faulty wiring
• Set up GFCI recepts by sinks, lavatories, garage and outdoor receptacles
• Contact an electrician if you constantly blow fuses or trip circuit breakers

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


A mechanic’s job is to maintain the condition of our cars, whether it may be changing the oil, rotating the tires, or checking the brakes. Similarly, homeowners must take care of their homes, providing service whenever necessary.

Here are some tips and advice on making your home safer and more energy efficient for when the cold weather sets in.

1. Examine Your Home’s Foundation
• Examine crawlspace for standing water, mold, or fungus
• Install vapor barrier for crawlspace
• Check for cracks in basement walls
• Identify basement leaks
• Check for proper insulation in basement and crawlspace

2. Inspect the Framing and Exterior
• Reseal brickwork every five to eight years
• Caulk around windows, doors, utility line entrances, and vents
• Look for signs of insect activity, especially in crawlspace framing and around floor-framing perimeter
• Secure any loose sections of vinyl or aluminum siding and replace damaged sections when appropriate
• If necessary, retrofit insulation into sidewalls and attic floors

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Happy one year birthday to your beautiful newly purchased home. But buyer beware: make sure the systems in your home are in good working order before your one year warranty expires. As the one-year warranty draws near its expiration date, this is a crucial time to have a home inspection in order to avoid paying large bills on maintenance repairs and fixtures.

Greg Haskett, vice president of The Home Team Inspection Service suggests, “A homeowner should review their warranty a couple of months before it expires and familiarize themselves with the policy, then order an inspection to make sure all of the systems are functional."

Following are several of the specific potential problems that should be professionally inspected prior to the warranty expiration:

• Furnace-Evaluate and verify its working order and any maintenance issues.
• Roof-Inspect for any damaged shingles or leaks.
• Attic-Inspect for signs of water damage due to faulty flashing or leaky roof.
• Potential Leaks-Plumbing, roof damage, and other areas in need for repair could be responsible for leaking water into the home.
• Appliances-Test for normal working condition.
• Foundation-Check for any cracks or leaks in a faulty foundation that could lead to massive damages for the home.

It is strongly recommended that within eight to ten months of the purchase you have a home inspection, which will leave time for the builder to fix and most importantly, compensate for any necessary repairs before the warranty ends.

Through the expertise of a comprehensive and professional inspection, any minor or major repairs in newly built homes can be detected while still under the one-year warranty, saving potentially large expenses later.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Get the Edge

If you are planning to sell your house in today’s market it is even more important to have a pre-listing inspection on your home by a professional home inspector. This can give you the edge you need over other houses on the market. For more information see my earlier post (The Tale of Two Houses). In addition to a pre-listing inspection you want your home looking its best. It is also important to invest your money on improvements that will give you the most value for resale. Kitchens and bathrooms are two of the most high-traffic rooms in our homes. Here are some tips on how to make these hard-working rooms look their absolute best and refreshed without breaking the bank.

Quick and Easy Fix-ups That Won’t Break the Bank


· “SPLASH OF COLOR”: Painting is one of the most versatile decorating tools and adding a new color to the walls will do a lot to lighten and brighten. Yellows and reds can make your kitchen seem warm and cozy, while blues can create an atmosphere of cool sophistication. Lighter colors will make the room seem bigger while textures can add contrast and interest. But don't stop there! Repainting the cabinets can completely transform your look. An inexpensive way to freshen up dark cabinets is with a new coat of paint.

· “ADD SOME SPARKLE”: A new trend in painting is called "glazing," which you can do over a painted door. Take a can of glaze and have tint added. Use a brush to apply sparingly to achieve a streaked, antique look!

· “CONSIDER A FACELIFT”: Replacing dated hinges, handles and knobs with new, stylish hardware is an easy way to make cabinets more attractive. Just changing your cabinet knobs can add a touch of whimsy, a vintage look or a contemporary feel.

· “THROW ON A TILE”: Changing a countertop is a dramatic part of creating a new look. Ceramic tile is also a great do-it-yourself way to update worn-out counters. Peel-and-stick mirror tiles are available at most building stores, for an instant backsplash brightener. Ceramic subway tiles are yet another trendy look that's surprisingly easy to do, especially if you can adjust the design to avoid having to cut them.


· “A SHOWER YOU DESERVE”: Tiled showers can be cold and dark once the curtain is drawn. Warm up the space with a combination light fixture/heat lamp. A lot of showers already have a light fixture, so this can be an easy change out. Change the showerhead or simply add an attachment to your shower wall for the ultimate spa experience! There are many options that offer multiple body sprays and massaging jets.

· “NO MORE CHILLY FEET”: Changing the ceramic floor tile is a common update, but ceramic tile floors can get chilly. To prevent cold feet add a radiant heating system before you install the tile. These ultra-thin electric heating systems are easily installed in cement under ceramic tile and stone floors.

· “TAP INTO NEW DESIGN”: Putting in a new faucet can give your bathroom sink a whole new look. Many new faucet styles are specially designed for do-it-yourself installation, using just basic tools, and there is a variety of styles to choose from that cost less than $100.

The above suggestions may require professional assistance to ensure proper installation.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Lost in Thin Air

You may have read or heard that, for an "average" house, 20 to 30 percent of the energy used for heating and cooling is lost through the ductwork. Most of this loss is through small gaps in the joints of the ductwork of forced-air distribution systems. In a forced-air distribution system the duct runs do not merely pass the air blown into them by your furnace's air-handler, they are actually pressurized. Air not only rushes out these registers, it is forced through the hundreds of seams and gaps of the typical duct system. For this reason, it is the imperative of good installation practice to seal every joint and seam with a tape or adhesive caulk.

Don't use duct tape for this job!

The duct tape that has become a cultural icon-that grey, gummy stuff-is surely one of the twentieth century's all-purpose miracle remedies. I have appreciatively availed myself of the Johnny-on-the-Spot characteristics of duct tape to patch old jeans torn at a construction site, and to reinforce a sledge hammer handle that had started to split before the job was finished. Other fellas have taped it around their shoes to keep the soles from flappin', or held a rusty bumper on their pickup truck until they got around to buying some new bolts. Duct tape is great for stuff like this.

Now here comes the results of a high-tech study done by The Department of Energy at their Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. They taped up their system of test ducts with duct tape, clear tape, foil tape, mastics and injected aerosols. Then they pressurized their ducts with both hot and cold airflows. They also baked the ducts at temperatures from 140 to 187 degrees, simulating known attic conditions.

According to researcher Max Sherman of the Lab, "..of all the things we tested, only duct tape failed. It failed reliably and often quite catastrophically." It seems that heat degrades duct tape's glue, and then it falls off. Now, fellas in the construction trades have known this about duct tape for years. We're gonna have to call those guys at the lab and tell them what this stuff is really for. That bumper on my truck is still hangin' on!

Friday, July 3, 2009

"Wasted Vent"

As a home inspector I have found my share of unusual house modifications, but after all the years I can’t say that I have seen it all. The creativity involved in do it yourself home modifications never ceases to amaze me. I have friends that are home inspectors all over the US,and Canada that send me pictures of unusual modifications all the time. In fact I just received an interesting picture of an unusual dryer exhaust hook up for a friend and fellow home inspector in New Orleans.

I guess that the Plumbing drain waste vent vents more than I originally knew. Somebody was thinking that the drain waste vent would make a good way to vent their dryer as you see in the picture Jerry sent.

If you have any unusual stories and/or pictures please post them to the comments in this blog.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Phase Out the Problems

If you or anyone you know is building a house or planning to build a house, you need to read this article on "Phase Inspections".
Back in the day when a house was being built there was a general super on the job to monitor the construction. With residential construction becoming more competitive the expensive of having a super on every house is a thing of the past. Wile a phase inspection can not take the place of a stay-on -the-job super, it can eliminate problems before they are covered up from view.

Phase Inspections

When building a new home, it is a good idea to keep an eye on the progress, or the “phases” of the construction. This is done by monitoring the construction at certain major stages or “phases.” This type of inspection is important to monitor and maintain the quality control of the completed project.

Most quality home builders appreciate a second set of eyes to help with quality control. Most commercial builders have a project manager to assist with the building, but an extra set of eyes and a written report from an independent inspector can help the contractor assure a quality product.

Phase inspections are generally a series of three assessments. However, the more in-progress inspections will help prevent costly mistakes.

The following is an example of the basic three-phase inspection:

Inspection 1 - Foundation Inspection
This inspection usually occurs after the concrete footing or slab has been installed at the property, and should be done before the installation of the sub-floor. For those homes with crawl spaces or basements, the inspection is performed after the footings and foundation walls are installed and before or just after the floor joists are installed. This should precede the back fill. The inspector will be checking for thickness and reinforcement of foundation materials. The inspection will help ensure the depth and types of footing and soils that support them.

The inspection also provides the inspector the opportunity to check proper plumbing drainage and also check for proper protection of plumbing piping. The inspector also will check any system that passes through the concrete or foundation, such as electrical. Finally, the inspector will evaluate the foundation drainage for proper installation.

Inspection 2 - Rough-In Inspection (Pre-Drywall)
Rough-in inspections occur before drywall is installed, prior to the finished cladding of the house, the installation of siding, windows, roof and doors. This inspection allows the inspector to visually inspect framing, roof, floors, and supports. It also allows the inspector to check the plumbing and electrical components that would otherwise be concealed after the home construction is completed.

Inspection 3 - Final Inspection
The final inspection occurs once all utilities are turned on and in working condition. The first two inspections are more technical; this final assessment is more like the typical home inspection. This inspection is an over-all review of all of the components of your house. The inspector operates all household equipment, such as furnace, air-conditioner, dishwasher, any built-in appliances, all outlets, switches, windows, doors, and many other things. This inspection usually includes on-site consulting.

When considering a phase inspection, ask the home inspector:

ü The details of each phase inspection.
ü The cost.
ü The number of inspections included in the cost.
ü The cost of any additional inspections required.

Keep in mind that when you compare prices that you are comparing the details of the service.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Household Tips

Here are some simple household tips that may save you some money and aggravation.

1.Remove broken light bulb with potato. (make sure the electric is off)

2.Use Empty toilet paper roll to store appliance cords.

3.Use vertical strokes when washing windows outside and horizontal for inside windows. This way you can tell which side has the streaks. Straight vinegar will get outside windows really clean. Don't wash windows on a sunny day. They will dry quickly and streak.

4.Unclog a sink drain without harmful chemicals, just drop two Alka Seltzer tablets down the drain. Then dump a cup of white vinegar down the drain, allow it to work for about ten minutes, then run the hot water until drain is clear.

5.Spray your favorite perfume on the light bulb in any room to create that scent in the room when the light is turned on.

6.If a wooden door is scraping on its threshold,
Use sandpaper on top of a stack of magazines, just
put the stack of magazines and sandpaper under the open door. Use enough magazines so that the door hits the sandpaper snugly wile working the door back and forth over
the sandpaper.

7.Use Vaseline jelly instead of oil on door hinges. This will keep the drips of oil off of your carpet.

8.A squeaky hardwood floor is usually caused by floorboards
rubbing against each other. By sprinkling talcum powder or liquid wax over the boards and sweeping or rubbing it into the cracks, this will usually take care of the squeaks.

9.When drilling holes into a ceiling, you can avoid an eye full of dust by using an aluminum pie pan with a hole through the center. Hold the pie pan under the area to be drilled, and put the bit through the hole in the pie pan. This way the pan will catch the dust.

10.To remove fresh carpet stains, sprinkle dry cornstarch or baking soda on carpet wait ten minuets and vacuum.

11.You can make homemade furniture polish by combining 1/2 cup lemon juice to 1-cup vegetable oil or olive oil.

12.To loosen a rusty screw, apply a squirt of vinegar or hydrogen peroxide.

13.Keep bathroom mirrors from fogging by waxing them with liquid car wax.

14.Heating the window jams with a hairdryer can loosen old wooden windows that are stuck. Once the window is opened, rub an old candle in the window jams.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

How Long Will This Last? (By Request) Part 2

Here are some tips on how to determine your overall home maintenance plan for the next five to 10 years by knowing the longevity of your home appliances and various components of your home .
Clothes dryer 14
Clothes washer 13
Dishwasher 10
Microwave oven 11
Range, electric 17
Range, gas 19
Cast-iron tub 50
Fiberglass tub/shower 10-15
Toilet 50
Ceramic 15-25 years
Granite lifetime
laminated 10-15
Wood 20+
Exterior, protected by overhang 80-100
Exterior, unprotected and exposed 25-30
Garage door 20-50
Garage-door opener 10
Interior, hollow core 30
Interior, solid core 30 to life
Screen 25-50
Oak or pine lifetime
Slate flagstone lifetime
Vinyl sheet or tile 20-30
Heat Pump and Central Air Conditioner: 15 years
Furnace, gas- or oil-fired 16
Water heater, electric 11-14
Water heater, gas 11-13
Deck, wooden 15
Driveway, asphalt 10
Fence 12
Patio, brick or concrete 24
Walkway, concrete 24
Walkway, gravel 4
Asphalt 15-30
Sheet metal 20-50
Slate 50-100
Tile 50
Wood shingles and shakes 15-35
Aluminum 20-50
Metal 50 to life
Vinyl 30
Wood 30-100

According to The HomeTeam Inspection Service/HouseDoctors Handyman Service, in conjunction with the National Association of Home Builders, these numbers represent the maximum number of years you can reasonably expect various components of your home to last. Life expectancy may vary greatly depending on quality of material, installation, maintenance, environmental factors and use.

Monday, May 4, 2009

How Long Will This Last? (By Request)

I think that most everybody checks expiration dates on items they purchase from a grocery store, especially if it is a bulk item. Knowing the longevity of your purchase will dictate how you use it. For example; you may not buy a bulk item if your family cannot finish the entire item before the expiration date, that would be a waste of money. The items you buy from a grocery store are small ticket items compared to the purchase of a home, but how many people check the expiration date of their home’s components and appliances? The answer is very few people know the longevity of their home’s components and appliances, unless they have had a handyman work on their house or have had a home inspection. As a homeowner, knowing the longevity of your home’s components and appliances can help you budget for repairs, and help avoid expensive surprises. As a home purchaser, knowing the longevity of the home’s components and appliances can help you make the best deal on your purchase. For example; If you are looking to purchase a home that is fifteen years old, and all components and appliances are original, you can expect to replace the appliances soon and other major components in the next five years. This house may not be for you, if you cannot budget twenty to thirty thousand dollars or more for repairs in the next five years. Or maybe this information can help you negotiate a purchase price that reflects the cost of the anticipated repairs.

Tune in tomorrow for a guide line list of the maximum number of years you can reasonably expect various components and appliances in your home to last.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Masonry Maintenance (After the Cleaning)

The cleaning went well, and now we can see what repairs need to be done. The next step is to take a mortar sample to our expert (Chub Garrett) for a good match, so we can replace the missing mortar. Missing mortar on walls should be repaired, but it is not as big of a deal as missing mortar on paving. Missing mortar on paving will let water go in the voids and undermine the dirt under the paving, this will cause the bricks to sink and make low spots. The low spots will collect water making the deterioration rapid. The sunken brick will make trip hazards, and should be repaired. Before we start re-pointing we will have to pull up all of the sunken brick and re-lay them.

Take a look at the before and after pictures, and see the big difference!

Years of Car and Bus Exhaust

Side Wall Before Cleaning

Floor Tile Before Cleaning

Side Wall Before Cleaning

Steps and Walk Before Cleaning

Cleaning In Progress

Walk Before Cleaning

Cleaning In Progress

Big Difference

Steps After Cleaning

Steps and Walk After Cleaning

Side Wall After Cleaning

Now we can see what repairs we need to do

Side Wall After Cleaning

Steps and Wall After Cleaning
Please send any topic request to:

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Masonry Maintenance (Holly's House)

Masonry Maintenance

Normal masonry maintenance consists of cleaning, re-pointing, and sealing. In the case of Holly’s House the masonry has weathered for over eighty years and will need to be thoroughly cleaned and dried before the mortar can be matched for re-pointing. I have found that if you re-point (replace missing mortar) before the masonry is cleaned, you run the risk of a bad mortar color match. With masonry of this age the mortar was mixed with sand from a near by riverbank. The river sand contained a lot of small shell and gravel pieces giving the mortar a rough texture. To keep our re-pointing from looking like a “patch job” the color and the texture need to match the old work as close as possible. Matching old mortar and the general restoration of old masonry is defiantly an art. We are very fortunate to have Norman (Chub) Garrett on our team. Chub has over fifty-six years in the masonry field and was one of only three Masons to receive the “Master Masonry Craftsmanship Award” in Virginia. Chub takes pride in being a living virtuoso of masonry history and restoration. Chub has restored or been the go-to-guy for many historic landmarks in Virginia.
We are going to start cleaning the masonry on the front porch area of the house. As you can see from the pictures below, the masonry has been weathered and stained by mold, car exhaust, and dirt. New masonry requires strong chemicals such as Muriatic Acid to clean mortar off of the masonry surfaces, but in our case there is no mortar on the masonry surface, only dirt, mold, and car exhaust. To remove this dirt, mold, and car exhaust we are going to use a biodegradable soap and a low P.S.I pressure washer.
This will get the job done and keep the plants and flowers safe.

Let's start the cleaning!
See you tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Chinese Drywall (By Request)

By request: This article was written by request from several readers. Please sent request to and put the words “blog request” in the subject box.

Handymen and Home Inspectors are discovering strange odors in some homes built in the past six years. The odor is often described as a rotten egg smell or that of discharged fireworks. The odor is being produced from defective Chinese drywall that has unusually high levels of hydrogen sulphide and ammonia.

Defective Chinese Drywall/Sheetrock is beginning to be Part of a National Investigation, due to reported health issues and rapid corrosive damage to any metal in the home including electrical wiring, plumbing, and HVAC units. There has been a flood of law suits filed or pending and many more to follow.

Chinese drywall:
During the big housing boom in late 2003, a mass quantity of drywall was shipped to the US from China. Chinese drywall has been reported to have unusually high levels of hydrogen sulphide and ammonia that can cause health issues and rapid corrosive damage to any metal in the home including electrical wiring, plumbing, and HVAC units.

Any house built or remolded between 2003 to present.

According to Americas Watchdog, "we will find the imported toxic Chinese drywall in every US State, with the heaviest concentrations in the US Southeast, the Gulf States, the US Southwest, Texas, the Mountain West, the DC Metro areas & throughout the Western Provinces of Canada. We think there are at least 300,000 new US homes that contain the imported Chinese drywall, & probably 10,000 to 15,000 homes throughout the Western Provinces of Canada."

• Possible health issues for the Occupants of the home
• Rapid corrosion of the HVAC unit components

All copper tubing in unit has turned black as a result of being exposed to the high levels of hydrogen sulphide found in the drywall
• Rapid corrosive damage to electrical system

• Exposed ground wire corroded

• Rapid corrosive damage to copper plumbing systems

• Rotten egg or spent firecracker smell in the home

Words on the back of the drywall; “CHINA” in red ink or “KNAUF” in black ink, Stamp on the back of the edge tape; C36, if available.


Inspection Protocol:
Indicators we look for to determine if the house may have Chinese drywall:
• The house was built or remodeled between 2003 to present
• Rotten egg or sulfur-type smell in the home
• Corrosion on air conditioning coils, or HVAC units
• Corroded or black electrical wiring
• Corroded or black copper pipes
• Corroded or tarnished plumbing fixtures

If any of these symptoms are noticeable during the course of your visual inspection, if possible, look at the back of drywall possibly in the attic or garage. Look for the words; “CHINA” in red ink or “KNAUF” in black ink, also look for the Stamp on the back of the edge tape C36.
For more information go to;

More on Holly’s House tomorrow

Monday, April 6, 2009

Holly's House (Part 12)

For the most part Handymen and Home Inspectors are in a lot of brick homes that are framed with non-supporting brick cladding. The brick you see on the exterior of a brick/framed house offer no structural support, they only give you the feel of a brick house. During the era Holly’s House was built, it was common for brick houses to be constructed of solid masonry (no wood framing). In a solid masonry house the brick act as the main structural support. The bonds (brick pattern) you see was to inter lock the brick walls together to create a strong solid masonry wall. In this era of masonry, common brick (plain smooth red brick) where used on the exterior of the house on walls not visible from the street. On the exterior walls facing the street or streets, a face brick (decorative brick) was used, and usually in a more decorative pattern. On Holly’s House a common brick was used on the back and one side of the house in an American bond (common pattern). A real nice wood mold face brick laid in an Old English bond was used for the front and one side of the house. Other nice features on the face brick sides include brick arches and a round window.

Here are some pictures of the exterior brickwork:

Street Side

Bull's Eye Window


Side and Rear View

Back View

Common Brick With an Amercian Bond (on the left) Face Brick With an Old English Bond (on the right)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Holly's House (Part 11)

The ample sized patio in the backyard consist of large rectangular slate laid in a sand/dirt base. The large un-grouted joints have allowed water to seep under the slate and erode the sand and dirt fill, leaving the slate uneven. Slate laid in a sand/dirt base will shift and settle over time and since the joints are opened and not grouted there is nothing to stop the erosion under the slate.
On this project we will re-lay the slate in a dry-pack cement mix and damp-grout the joints. This will make the patio come to form. Maybe when we re-lay the slate the Boss will let us lay it in an Old English herring bone pattern or something.

The first project for the slate patio was to power wash the slate to see it’s true color. There are cleaning solutions for slate, and we will do that after it has been re-laid and grouted. But for now we will just power wash it without a solution and see what we have. When we power wash the slate we will use a nozzle setting of 1,500 to1,600 PSI. Higher PSI can cause slate to shale off some of its top layers.
Take a look at the color difference after the power wash.

View From Second Floor

Can You See Where the Pressure Washer Stops?

Big Difference!

Almost Finished

There will be more pictures of the landscape after April 15, that's when the plants and flowers are scheduled to arrive.
If you have any request for articles you would like me to post, please notify me via the comment section.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Holly" House (Part 10)

The Home Inspector's job is to identify and report major defects, safety concerns, and maintenance issues of the home he of she is inspecting. The Handyman's job is to make repairs, correct safety issues and perform the maintenance needed. When buying a home it is very important to have a good Home Inspector, Oh! But lets not forget a good Realtor to help you find that perfect house. After all is said and done and you move in to your new house a good Handyman can be your best friend.

To keep you up on Holly's house here is a list of work completed by our handyman:

Replaced broken gate hinge (Repairs)
Bleed all radiators (maintenance)
Repair Shut-off valve on radiator in the back bedroom (Repairs)
Cleaned and serviced boiler (maintenance)
Repaired two double tapped breakers in main electrical panel (safety)
Repaired earth ground in main electrical panel (safety)
Replaced bottom heating element in water-heater (Repairs)
Took apart the diverter valve in (Jack & Jill) bathroom and cleaned it to restore water flow in shower (maintenance)
Replaced shower head in (Jack & Jill) bathroom (Repairs)
Trace down the galvanized hot water supplies that need to be replaced (evaluation)
Clean out stopped up drain in the bathtub in the (Jack & Jill) bathroom (maintenance)
Repair water-pump in the fish pond (maintenance)

See you tomorrow with some outside work in progress.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Holly's House (Part 9)

When a house has “Good Bones” and “Old World Charm” it makes the maintenance, repairs, and remolding a joy. I look at these projects as an art form. It’s like an original La Gioconda that just needs care and a touch-up.
This project is unique because it is not a project to make the house in to something of beauty, but to gracefully accent its natural beauty and charm. This will take a great deal of research to make this the perfect makeover. The magazines and paint samples or already pilling up on my desk, not to mention the fixture catalogs and the kitchen design ideas. The final call belongs to the boss (Holly) but having a good research team will make her decisions easer.
See you tomorrow

Friday, March 20, 2009

Holly's House (Part 8)

Masonry is one of the oldest trades, dating back to 3500 BC. Some of the oldest brick work on record was in Mesopotana, which is present day Iraq. The first brick manufactured in the United States were made in Virginia in the early 1600s. Over the years the artistic value of masonry is stilled preferred.
A great deal of the patterns used in masonry were designed for strength and support, but also contribute a wide verity of aesthetic value to the buildings. Holly's House is a good example with the Gothic arch to support the door opening, the Old English brick pattern to tie in the back up brick, and my favorite the Bull's Eye arch that acts as support for a window opening.

Gothic Brick Arch

Support Arches for the Chimney

Bull's Eye Arch

I have witnessed a lot of changes in building materials and building methods in the thirty-eight years I have been in the trades, but the classic stuff is still my favorite. Home Inspectors and Handymen have the opportunity to see it all.
See you tomorrow.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Holly's House (Part 7)

Holly's house is constructed of twelve-inch thick masonry walls with this Old English brick bond. This is one of the oldest brick bonds known to masonry. Although this pattern is appealing to the eye it was designed for strength. This pattern ties the face brick into the back-up brick to unify the solid masonry walls. The bricks are laid in alternate courses of headers and stretchers. Bricks are commonly about eight inches long and four inches wide. A stretcher is a brick laid so that the eight inch side is showing. The header is a brick laid so that the four inch end is showing, leaving the eight inch length to tie into the back up brick. This locks the back up brick in with the face brick.

Old English Bond

The brick work in this house is in perfect condition and got a thumbs up from the Home Inspector. The only thing this masonry work needs is a spot cleaning in the discolored areas around the porch. We will leave that job to our Handyman.
See you tomorrow.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Holly's House (Part 6)

The full-length front porch is paved with broken quarry tile to form a mosaic-like pattern. the paving is is great shape and will only need cleaning and the grout sealed. The old-world-feel is abundant in this house, and with some handyman work, some remodeling updates, and interior painting to blend in with the European vibe, this house will be a true classic.

Front Porch

My Great Grandfather came to Richmond in the late eighteen hundreds, yes he was an old English brick mason. He built commercial and residential buildings in the Richmond area up until the late 1920s. The reason I bring this up is I see a lot this broken quarry tile work in a lot of the houses he built, but I cannot trace this work passed him. If anyone has any information on the origin of this broken quarry tile paving, please post a comment.

See you tomorrow.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Holly's House (Part 5)

The living room truly provides some nice focal points to this classic. Starting with the Gothic arched entrance, the stained glass windows, the working fireplace, and the hardwood stair case.
Another class feature is a working 54 inch brass doorbell chime.

Arched Entrance

Fireplace and Stained Glass Windows


Doorbell Chimes

In this series the living room will get a new ceiling fixture, and some new paint.

See you tomorrow.