Having a basic knowledge of your home and the way it functions is beneficial for a homeowner. And while you don’t have to become an expert in construction, observing areas that are falling into disrepair will help you to know when to call in a professional. With this thought in mind, we are going to talk about the chimney and what signs you can look out for that show it is in need of repair.
The first thing to think about when determining if your chimney needs repairing is whether anything has happened that would cause damage. For example, has something fallen on it such as a tree limb or scaffolding? Have you experienced any natural disasters like a tornado or a bad storm? Even a small earth tremor can do some damage. The weather is another factor that, over time, can begin to cause erosion to materials like mortar and brick.
It is also important to perform a visual check of the chimney to determine its condition. One simple way to do this is to stand a short distance from your home so that you can see the chimney from ground to roof. Does the chimney look like it might be starting to separate from the rest of the building? Does it seem to be leaning or listing at all? Next, have a look at the chimney’s footings, are there any signs of deterioration? Do a quick test of the mortar by using a screwdriver to scrape some of it, if you notice it crumbling away easily, this is a sign that maintenance is needed.
As you can see the majority of homeowners can perform a few simple checks to see if areas of their chimneys need repair work. It's important to note, however, that while these checks are good at determining the condition of outer areas of the chimney, there are other areas that will need professional attention.
When trees are positioned very close to a building there is a risk that they will do some damage to it, but what type of damage could you see? Here are a few of the problems often associated with trees situated too close to a house:
Many homeowners worry that tree roots will damage the home's foundations. This can happen when roots make their way into cracks that have already formed in the foundations. If a trees roots become big enough, they might also grow under the foundations and cause them to lift.
What about above ground? If leaves and small branches start to pile up and block gutters they can create problems with water intrusion, if not cleared quickly enough. Trees can also be problematic in that falling branches or tree limbs can fall and damage a roof or power and communication lines. A person could even be at risk of injury. The risk of these things happening is even greater if the tree is old or in bad shape.
A tree that is close to a building also gives rodents and insects a greater opportunity to access it which means you could see an increased pest issue. Fire can also spread more rapidly from one area of the home to another with the aid of a close tree.
These are just a few of the problems that a closely situated tree can create.
Sadly, we are in a time when all are vulnerable but most especially the elderly. While there are many practical things we can do to help them, it might be a good time to think about how safe the homes of our elderly neighbors and loved ones are and, if possible, what we can do to help prevent accidents taking place within the home. Here are a few areas that may need consideration:
It would be a good idea, if you are able, to check through the home looking at the areas where someone is most likely to slip and fall. The bathroom is probably where an elderly person is most at risk so check whether it is equipped with sufficient anti-slip mats and grab bars, including inside the tub or shower.
Corded electrical appliances can be a huge tripping and fire hazard. Check to make sure there are no electrical cords stretching across high traffic areas of the home or covered over with rugs. If they are, reposition them to be fixed against a wall. It may be better to rearrange some furniture so that electrical appliances are positioned closer to electrical outlets.
If the home has stairs, this is another high-risk area for slips and falls. Ideally, handrails should be fitted to both sides of the staircase to provide extra support. Make sure they are sturdy and do not wobble. You will also want to check that all rugs have a good rubber backing and carpets are not becoming loose.
Being vigilant with a view to safety will help our older ones to stay safe while at home.
Is there a grinder pump installed in your new home? It's important to get to know how a grinder pump works, especially if your previous home did not have one, as this will help you understand the dos and don’ts of using one.
First of all, we should address the question of what is a grinder pump? This is a machine designed to manage household waste which it does by grinding up waste into a slurry and then pumping it through to the sewer system. A grinder pump is generally needed if the home drainage system is either below or at the same level as the public sewer line or septic tank. This means that sewage is unable to flow quickly enough through the system by itself.
Taking care of the grinder pump is important and there are some items that should never be placed down a toilet or drain. Diapers, feminine hygiene products of any kind, aquarium gravel, cat litter, plastic, toxic or caustic chemicals, and grease, which will build up in the tank, are among the items that should not be flushed.
There are some other important reminders when it comes to maintaining a grinder pump. For example, if you are going to be away, it is a good idea to run the water long enough so that you activate the grinder pump leaving only clean water in the tank, this will prevent unpleasant odors. If there is a power outage, try to limit the amount of water you use as the pump requires electricity to operate. No power will also cause the tank to become too full. Do not connect a grinder pump to a sump pump. This will overwork the pump and cost you more money in electricity.
As we can clearly see, if your home needs a grinder-pump, getting to know the dos and don’ts of using it will help prevent any unpleasant issues.
Toilets get a lot of use, in fact, a person will on average flush the toilet around 2500 times a year. Naturally, that amount is multiplied in large households. It comes as no surprise, then, that your home's toilets will require attention from time to time. As home inspectors, we perform a lot of checks to make sure the toilet is working properly but, how can you the homeowner know if a toilet is functioning correctly?
When you flush the toilet, take note of how long it takes the tank to fill back up. If it seems to be really slow, this could be a sign that the toilet is in need of maintenance. The same can be said if the toilet takes an abnormally long time to flush.
The toilet bowl is another area that can become damaged. From time to time give it a thorough check to make sure there are no chips or cracks forming in the porcelain. If a home inspector finds damage like this in a toilet bowl, it is listed as faulty.
Constant running water is another common issue with toilets that often go unnoticed. Over time, however, this can become a problem that not only wastes a lot of water but also wastes a lot of money. Plus, if your home has a private well, it could be damaging the pump.
From this brief look at toilet maintenance, we can clearly see how important it is to fix any apparently minor issues as this can lead to greater, more costly problems down the line.
Electricity has become something we all depend on very heavily so, if the power goes out for any reason, we can easily find ourselves in utter chaos. For those who depend on a constant flow of electricity to their homes for health reasons, however, a power outage can become a serious concern. To prevent a complete lack of power to the home, many people opt to purchase a portable generator. These can be very useful machines to own as they do not require a special permit to own or operate and can be transported easily, making them also ideal for camping, etc.
Proper safety measures should be taken when using a portable generator as they can be dangerous if not used the way they are intended. An example of this is being careful not to overload the generator which can happen easily during a power outage if you are trying to keep all appliances running as normal. Make sure you only use it for appliances that are necessary for the basic running of the home. Its also important to note, especially if someone relies on electricity for health reasons, that portable generators are meant only for corded appliances and not for those that are hard-wired to the home.
Never keep a portable generator running inside the house as they produce carbon monoxide which can be extremely dangerous. While the generator is running it will become hot so care should be taken when working around it and most especially when putting gasoline into it.
We can clearly see the benefits of owning a portable generator but, its also important to be aware of the dangers associated with operating one.
When home inspectors test for mold they generally carry out a visual inspection and surface sampling. An air sample can also be taken in conjunction with those tests to diagnose other sources of mold that haven’t been detected.
How does this work? Because it is not possible to see mold spores with the naked eye an air sample is taken and sent to a laboratory to be analyzed. The results of this analysis will not only reveal if mold is in your home or not but will also show the type of mold that is present as well as its severity.
What parts of the home should air samples be taken? Several areas benefit from air samplings such as places where mold is already visible, areas with moisture intrusion or water damage and parts of the home where the air has a musty smell which can be a sign of mold growth.
Factors that can affect air sample reading. While air sampling is being carried out its best to close all windows and doors and turn off indoor-outdoor air exchangers. Weather conditions can also affect the accuracy of the test. For example, when there are severe thunderstorms or extremely high winds it is not the best time to take an indoor air sample. Changes in air pressure will cause mold spore levels to vary which would also affect those levels indoors.
The benefits of air sampling. Tests will be done before and after mold remediation to be certain that the mold has been completely removed. We can see then that air sampling for mold, when done along with other mold testing is a good way to check mold spore levels in your home.
For many avid gardeners, the greenhouse is a place to spend many happy hours, however, like the rest of your property, a greenhouse requires maintenance. If it is not properly taken care of, it could quickly turn into a hazardous environment. So, how can you take care of your greenhouse?
Firstly, it's important to consider the kinds of items you might store in a greenhouse such as pesticides, chemicals and garden tools, etc. All of which may be dangerous if children were to get their hands on them, so make sure the greenhouse has a lock on it, especially if there are small children in the home.
Although greenhouses are designed to retain heat and light, ventilation is still necessary. If the air in your greenhouse starts to become too humid and stagnant, it could easily create an environment for fungi to grow which would be a hazard. Good ventilation is also vital in keeping the greenhouse from becoming too hot which can kill the plants inside it.
Through the cold months, you may need to use an electric heater in your greenhouse. Make sure to use a heater specifically intended for greenhouses so that it does not become a fire risk. Any other electrical items that you use in there should also be suitable to use outside and come with waterproof covers. Keep them unplugged when you are not using them and store them safely.
Sometimes a greenhouse will form a leak. If this happens, fix it as soon as possible to avoid an excessive accumulation of moisture, fungi or other hazardous pathogens. It will also help in preventing insects.
Its always good to take time out every so often and perform an inspection of your greenhouse, so that it remains a safe place to work in.
Many house fire related deaths are reported every year in the United States. What is even more distressing is that some of these deaths could have been prevented if there were sufficient, working, smoke or carbon monoxide detectors in the home. The question we should ask ourselves, then, is would the smoke detectors in my home save lives in the event of a house fire?
Firstly, its good to think about how many smoke detectors you should have in your home. While this will vary depending on the homes size, in general you should have one on every livable floor of the house which should include the garage and basement. It can also be beneficial to have one in each bedroom.
Even when you have enough smoke detectors its very important to check them all every month to make sure they are working and do not require new batteries. Never disconnect a smoke or carbon monoxide detector, even if you burn food in the kitchen as it is very easy to forget to reconnect it and a disconnected smoke alarm is useless to you.
Another important measure to take in keeping your household safe is to perform a periodic fire drill so that, in the event of a fire, everyone will know exactly what to do. Make sure smoke detectors are loud and distinct enough so that everyone would hear them and know that it is the alarm, even if they are sleeping. Yes, its good to ask yourself whether the smoke detectors in your home would save lives in the event of a house fire.
Getting rid of the odor left behind by tobacco is a challenging task. If you are about to move into a home where the previous occupant was a smoker you might be wondering how you can remove the ill effects that nicotine has left in the place. While you may well need to employ a variety of different methods to eliminate it completely, we thought we would offer a few tobacco odor removal suggestions.
Initially you will want the home to get as much fresh air into it as possible so leave windows and doors open for as long as you can. Its also good to place odor absorbers throughout the home. You don’t simply want to mask the smell but get rid of it, some good natural odor absorbers are coffee grounds, citrus peel and baking soda.
Nicotine produces a horrible brown oily residue that tends to adhere to most surfaces. Start with replacing all HVAC or air conditioner filters. Another good thing to do at first is replace or clean any light bulbs left behind, otherwise, when turned on these will heat up and diffuse the bad odor throughout the home. Take down any blinds that have been left behind and, if you wish to keep them, soak them in a tub, give a good scrub and then hang to dry. For hard surfaces it’s good to clean them with detergent containing ammonia which works well for removing nicotine (not good on wooden surfaces though)
Carpeting is one area where nicotine is very difficult to completely remove. If you want a fresh home, it may be best to just replace it. Before laying new carpet, however, be sure that the underneath flooring is well scrubbed and thoroughly dry.
You will most likely wish to freshen up your new home with a coat of paint. But, before you go ahead, find out what type of paint works for homes with nicotine problems as you may find that horrible brown residue seeping back through the paint.
Devereaux Van Dyne, Certified Professional Home Inspector