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 A considerable number of outdated heating systems are still in use, such as convection hot water and gravity hot air systems. These heating systems are so outdated that an upgrade should be considered.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.