Everybody’s an Electrician (Evidently)

By Tim Shuford, NPI Franchise Owner, Jamestown, North Carolina

Fire HazzardMaybe it’s because so many of us were encouraged to learn about electricity by experimenting with batteries, wire, light bulbs, small motors, etc. during our youth.  (And I certainly don’t discourage this experimentation, since that provides critical learning opportunities.)  But it sure does seem that a lot of folks missed the lesson that some additional precautions and rules apply to the electrical system in a home.

A couple of the most common electrical findings (especially in attics and crawl spaces) during home inspections are splices not enclosed in electrical boxes and electrical boxes without proper covers installed.  The National Electric Code requires splices to be made inside enclosed electrical boxes and that electrical boxes have covers installed.  The drivers behind these requirements are fire safety and shock hazard prevention.  Since we see this so often, one might wonder how important this really is, since the houses obviously haven’t burned down and we typically don’t observe any electrocuted bodies near these installations.  (In case you didn’t know, the NEC is published by the National Fire Protection Association.  This fact should allow some of the old brain cells to conclude that not following the NEC rules just might result in a fire.)

Of course, there are many other electrical deficiencies that are discovered by home inspectors.  A significant percentage of these deficiencies were obviously created by a well-meaning DIY-er or handyman with an ultimate goal in mind.  Unfortunately, the “how to do it correctly” knowledge seems to be based largely on the discoveries made by playing with batteries and wires many years prior.  The scary part is how much stuff may be hidden in walls and other areas inaccessible for observation during an inspection.

Although preferred, I’m not necessarily a stickler that all electrical work in a home must be performed by a licensed electrician, but it would seem to be reasonable that such work be done in a manner that provides a safe result for the occupants of the home.  If folks are not going to hire a professional to make modifications to an electrical system, then they should put forth some effort to gain an understanding of how to do it correctly.

Now, how many other areas in the home and in life could we say this about?

 

Shuford PhotoTim Shuford is a professional National Property Inspections home inspector in Jamestown, North Carolina. If you live in the area, call 336.823.6605 to schedule your home inspection with Tim.


NPI and GPI home inspectors have the tools and knowledge to assess your home. Consult with your local NPI or GPI inspector for an assessment of your home.

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Extending the life of your water heater

By Jon McCreath, NPI Property Inspector, Emerson, Georgia

drain_water_heaterExtending the life of your water heater is something most homeowners don’t think much about.  Draining your water heater tank is something that you should do every year, and it only takes about 5-10 minutes.  How can this procedure extend the life or your water heater?

Over time, any type of water heater tank will build up sediment- which has three harmful effects on your home’s hot water system.  First, the sediment takes up space, effectively making your water heater smaller.  Second, the sediment can insulate the bottom of the tank in a gas water heater where much of the flame’s heat is absorbed into the water, or even cover a lower element in an electric water heater causing a reduction in heating efficiency.  Third, the sediment scratches the glass lining of water heater tank, resulting in exposed metal – which leads to rust and eventual tank failure.

You can extend the life of the tank and increase the efficiency of the system by simply draining a couple gallons of water off the bottom of the tank.
1. Shut the unit down, either by turning the gas valve to “pilot” or “off”, or flipping off the breaker to an electric unit.
2. Turn off the cold water supply line, usually located on the right side as you face the unit.
3. Attach a garden hose to the drain valve on the water heater tank, and run it to a drain.
4. turn on a hot water faucet somewhere in your home to allow the water to flow, and then open the drain valve toward the bottom of the tank.

Check the color of the water that drains- at first it may appear dark, but after just a few gallons it will become clear.  At that point, you can close the drain, and turn off the hot water faucet you had turned on previously.  Turn the cold water supply back on, turn the power or gas supply back on, and you’re done!  The next time you turn on a hot water faucet, there may be a couple of air pockets, so don’t worry if you hear a bit of noise as the noise should abate quickly.

While it may also be a good idea to have your water heater examined by a professional on a regular basis, draining your tank is relatively easy and can save you some money while helping to extend the life of your water heater.

McCreath PhotoJon McCreath is a professional National Property Inspections home inspector in northwest Georgia. If you live in the area, call 404.426.3661 to schedule your home inspection with Jon.

NPI and GPI home inspectors have the tools and knowledge to assess your home. Consult with your local NPI or GPI inspector for an assessment of your home.

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Moving With Pets

Family + House_shutterstock_59577916Moving can be a stressful time for the whole family, and especially for your four-legged family members. A little forethought can help make the transition to a new home easier on your pets.

Visit your veterinarian before you make the move. Make sure to get copies of your pets’ records, including vaccination records. You also may want to check state/province and local laws in the area you are moving to. Some areas may require additional vaccinations or specific information for licensing.

During the moving period, try to keep your pet’s schedule as familiar as possible. Don’t change foods or introduce new foods if you can help it. And, if you have dogs, try to walk them every day as usual, even though it may be difficult to remember while you’re busy preparing for the move.

Avoid leaving pets alone in a parked car. On warm days, temperatures can reach over 120° F (48° C) in just a few minutes. When moving, either bring pets to the new house first and then close them in a bathroom, or close them in a bathroom at the old house and move them last. This will prevent your furry friends from getting lost or injured while you’re loading and unloading boxes and furniture. Place a large, “DO NOT ENTER,” sign on the door and inform anyone helping you to avoid that room.

Finally, make sure your pet wears identification at all times. Open doors and trips in and out of the house during a move are the perfect time for pets to escape. A collar with identification tags and a microchip may help find your pet faster.

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Bringing Electricity Home

Electricity_shutterstock_103755371Do you know where your home’s electricity comes from? The electrical connections powering today’s homes start at a transformer on a pole or somewhere on the ground near the house. Transformers on the ground signify buried electrical lines. Transformers on a utility pole mean the electrical lines come into the house via overhead wires.

If your electrical lines are buried, they won’t be visible outside your home. However, if you have overhead electrical wires, you should regularly take a look at them for safety reasons. Damage to the wire or insulation around the wire can cause electrocution, so look for those things. You can likely check the overhead wires from the ground, and you should never touch the electrical lines.

Height regulations for electrical lines vary from one city to another. For general purposes, all electrical lines should be out of reach of people, vehicles, ladders and other equipment. This includes areas above pools, decks, porches and balconies. Electrical wires also should be clear of trees or other obstructions, including the corner of the house or the edge of a gutter, which could cause abrasion and expose bare wires. Finally, electrical lines should not touch other utility lines entering the home, such as the telephone or cable line.

NPI and GPI home inspectors have the tools and knowledge to assess your home from roof to foundation. Consult with your local NPI or GPI inspector for your next home inspection. To find your local inspector, visit one of the links below.

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Don’t Let Dirty Windows Dull Your Home

Empty RoomNow is the perfect time to clean the winter grime off your windows and let the sunshine into your home. Here are some tips to help you get gleaming windows.

  1. Remove the window screens. Lay them on a flat surface. Wet the screens thoroughly and scrub lightly, being careful not to bend the material in the screen. Repair any holes in the screens.
  2. Clean windows from the inside of your house using window cleaner and a soft towel or newspaper. Did you know that newsprint works wonders for a streak-free shine? It does, so put those old newspapers to good use. To clean the exterior side of windows, you may need a ladder. If you have second-story windows or very high windows, you may opt to use a window cleaner that attaches to your garden hose. These cleaners are available at any home improvement store and offer an easy, affordable way to clean hard-to-reach windows.
  3. You should also open any weep holes that are clogged by sealant, dirt or paint. This will help pull moist air out of your home and prevent mold and mildew.
  4. Reapply weather stripping or sealant around the window. Vacuum any debris from inside the sill and then replace the screens. You can use a fine steel wool to clean the window tracks to prevent sticking.
  5. Reassemble the windows and enjoy the terrific natural light.

If you can, clean and repair windows on cool, cloudy days. Warm, sunny days tend to cause windows to dry too fast, leaving behind streaks and spots.

If you are using a ladder to reach exterior windows, it might be a good time to check the gutters and downspouts for build-up, debris or damage. Clean out any leaves, twigs or other items that may be clogging gutters. Be sure to follow proper ladder safety guidelines at all times.

Did you know that your local NPI or GPI home inspector can provide you with a copy of our seasonal home maintenance guide? Call or email your local inspector if you’d like one.

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Mistakes to Avoid When Building a House

New home being built in a residential area.

New home being built in a residential area.

So, you’re ready to build your dream home? It might surprise you to know that all too often home buyers make critical mistakes during the home-building process. We’ve rounded up the top 10 mistakes people make when building a home, so you will surely want to avoid these pitfalls.

1. Acting as Your Own General Contractor
A general contractor will gather bids; work with any subcontractors; and make sure that the work on your house is done correctly, within budget and on schedule. You may think it sounds like a great idea to save money and do all of that yourself, but it could end up costing you more money in the long run.

2. Taking a Laid-back Approach
This dream home is going to be one of the biggest investments of your life. Don’t assume things will take care of themselves.

3. Cutting Corners
A builder who can build your dream home $30,000 cheaper and two months faster than any of the others likely indicates a significant difference in the quality of materials. In addition, a builder may bid low to win your business and then tack on expenses later.

Even if you are working within a tight budget don’t cut corners on design and materials, especially those for bricks, roof tiles and windows. Also, if a job requires 20 hours, don’t try to convince the tradesman to do it in less time. Quality workmanship comes at a price.

4. Choosing a Poor Location
When scoping out the land for your dream house, think about the following:

Busy streets and stores are not quiet or family-friendly.
Consider resale value before settling on a lot because it’s the cheapest around.
Consider the lot’s slope, water table and terrain, which affect how easy it is to build a home on the land.

5. Building a House That Doesn’t Fit the Neighborhood
Before designing your home, take a good look at the other houses in the neighborhood. Make sure the size of your home is similar to others in the area. The smallest or largest home in a neighborhood is often the most difficult to sell. Furthermore, the style and architecture of your home should be in line with the rest of the neighborhood. A stucco home is going to stick out like a sore thumb in a neighborhood full of Victorian-style homes.

6. Setting a Budget Without a Buffer
A budget is crucial when building a home, but make sure to include an additional amount that takes into consideration unforeseen circumstances and overages. Even with the best-intentioned bid, incidentals will likely arise.

7. Working With the Wrong People
When hiring a builder, take the time to find someone who is right for you. Interview a few builders, talk to their previous clients, check out their websites, check review sites like Angie’s List, ask to see examples of other houses they’ve built (both photos and in person). Make sure the builder you choose is one you feel a connection with and who can transform your ideas into reality for your dream home.

Professional architects have a formal education, sit exams and do years of apprenticeships to become licensed. If you are building a custom home and don’t hire an experienced and qualified architect, you may find that the plans don’t turn out the way you wanted.

8. Paying in Advance
Paying builders in advance is another common mistake. If a builder does not trust you enough to start work without cash up-front, you should not trust them either. Set up terms and pay when different stages of the work are completed.

9. Not Designing the Home to Fit Your Needs
Make sure your planning sessions with your architect produce a plan that is exactly what you want and need in terms of space and layout for your new home. Do not start the build unless you are completely sure of what is laid out on paper. Any changes made after the design plans are finalized can throw off the whole project and trigger a domino effect of problems and costs. Make sure to plan the size and placement of closets smartly. And, although a playroom, game room, gym or multipurpose room sounds enticing, make sure it’s a room you will use or it will likely become a dumping ground.

10. Not Considering the Placement of Rooms

  • The laundry room, or washer and dryer, should be relatively close to the bedrooms.
  • Bedrooms need to be as far away from noise and traffic as possible. The master bedroom should be away from the central living areas.
  • The kitchen is more convenient near a garage or back entrance.
  • The garage should lead to the main level, near a mud room or the kitchen.

Sources: Angie’s List, Freshome.com

Tips for Moving Into Your First Home

By Hunter Newell, NPI Property Inspector, Milledgeville, Georgia

Couple + Moving Boxes_shutterstock_154243535Buying your first home is an exciting, though sometimes stressful, experience. It is easy to overlook some things while you are caught up in all of the paperwork, stress and deadlines. Here is a list of things you may have forgotten:

Debug Before the Move: If at all possible, consider scheduling a pest exterminator to set off a “bug bomb” before you move your stuff into the house. This can be incredibly helpful and one less thing you have to deal with after your belongings arrive.

Change Your Address: It is important to notify your local post office whenever you move into a new home. You can pick up change-of-address forms at your local post office. Also be sure to notify friends and family, your bank, your credit card company and your subscription services of your new address.

Take Inventory: As you pack, make an inventory list of everything you are moving. After everything has arrived at the new house, check the list to make sure all of your belongings are present. When moving an entire home’s worth of belongings, it is easy to lose a thing or two.

Unpack Methodically: It may seem overwhelming when staring at the fort of boxes in front of you. That’s OK, everything needn’t be unboxed at once. Locate the essentials, such as bed and bathroom accessories, and unpack them first. Take everything else at a slow pace and organize it as you go. It’s OK to take days, weeks and even months to unpack everything. Be sure to enjoy your new home.

Remember, moving can be an exciting experience, but don’t stress yourself out. Congratulations on your new home!

Newell PhotoHunter Newell is professionally trained NPI property inspector working for franchise owner/inspector Buddy McKenzie in Middle Georgia. If you live in the area, call 478.412.6741 to schedule your home inspection with Buddy or Hunter.

Before you move, make sure to have your house inspected by an NPI or GPI home inspector. Visit the links below to find an inspector near you.

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Summer Home Maintenance Checklist

Summer House_shutterstock_104946530Did you know that your local NPI or GPI home inspector can provide you with a printed copy of our seasonal home maintenance guide? Call or email your inspector if you’d like one. We also have assembled a handy summer home maintenance checklist that should help you keep your house in tip-top condition.

  • Check the operation of any attic fans and roof-mounted turbine vents.
  • Caulk exterior joints around windows and doors
  • Clean and seal decks, which will require three sunny days. Click here for a step-by-step guide.
  • Have your chimney professionally cleaned and inspected by a certified chimney sweep. Do it before the fall, as there’s plenty of time for repairs and you’ll have an easier time scheduling appointments.
  • If you didn’t check for overhanging tree limbs in the spring, check your trees and trim them if needed.
  • Wash your siding using an ordinary garden hose and a mild detergent. Be careful if using a pressure washer, as it can damage the siding or force water under siding, encouraging mildew and rot.
  • Check for cracks on brick veneer that are wider than 1/16 inch.
  • Remove vines growing on the house, siding, brick or mortar.
  • Check vinyl and aluminum siding for cracks or damage.
  • Check your yard’s grading to assure that water drains away from your home’s foundation.
  • Summer is the perfect time to paint your siding if the paint is cracked and/or peeling.
  • Clean your dryer vent.
  • Clean the gutters on your house and garage.
  • Have your air conditioning unit checked and serviced to ensure proper cooling during the hot summer months.
  • Inspect your house for signs of termite infestation if they are prevalent in your area.
  • Check your basement or crawl space for dampness and/or leaking.
  • Clear leaves and other debris away from your outdoor air-conditioning unit(s).
  • Disconnect your air conditioner and wash off the fins on the outside.
  • Get your pool ready for summer by cleaning it, leveling the water, ensuring pumps are working and balancing the chemicals.
  • If you didn’t do it in the spring, then it’s time to de-winterize your sprinkler system.
  • Wash your exterior windows. You can use a window cleaner that attaches right to the hose to reach high windows.
  • Clean the porch. Give it a good sweeping and washing. Repaint if you have cracked or chipped paint.
  • Check exterior faucets and hoses for leaks, which can really add to your water bill.
  • Clean out and organize the garage. Properly dispose of any hazardous materials, such as paints and solvents.
  • Inspect driveways and walkways for cracks and holes, and have them repaired.

NPI and GPI home inspectors have the tools and knowledge to assess your home from roof to foundation. Consult with your local NPI or GPI inspector for your next home inspection. To find your local inspector, visit one of the links below.

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Prevent Hot Water Burns

Family at Home_shutterstock_151320977Protecting young children and others in your home from burns caused by hot water can be a concern. Water temperatures over 120° F (48° C) can potentially cause scalds. That’s why a water temperature assessment is part of a general home inspection.

This assessment has two parts: First, the inspector uses a thermometer, usually held under the water in the shower while operating at least one other water fixture to determine any significant changes in water temperature. The temperature in the shower is adjusted to about 105° F (40° C). Next, the inspector will flush the toilet and turn on the sink. If the water temperature in the shower shifts more than five degrees, the inspector will note it in the inspection report. This same test is also used help assess and report on water volume and flow in the home. The inspector will note visible changes in the water volume or flow when all three fixtures are operating.

To test the general temperature of a home’s hot water, your inspector will turn on the hot water in the kitchen and test it with the thermometer. Inspectors frequently find that a home’s water is too hot, but the temperature setting usually can be changed on the water heater to protect people in your home.

NPI and GPI home inspectors have the tools and knowledge to assess your home from roof to foundation. Consult with your local NPI or GPI inspector for your next home inspection.

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What Did My Inspector Mean When He Talked About Grading and Slope Around My House?

Grading_shutterstock_135142733The exterior of your house is just as important as the interior systems when it comes to a well-functioning, well-sealed structure. Because of this, home inspectors should begin the inspection long before they ever reach the door, assessing grading, utility hookups, walkways, decks, driveways, windows and doors, roofing, and exterior cladding or siding.

The grading around your home’s exterior helps prevent water intrusion, which can cause wood rot, mold and mildew. Proper grading also prevents structural movement and damage, keeps out unwanted pests, and helps regulate temperatures inside your home.

Preventing water intrusion begins with the grading of the lot, or the way the ground is shaped around the house. For best results, the ground should visibly slope away from the structure (positive slope). Negative-sloped grading around a home (the ground slopes toward the house) can cause water to pool at the foundation and eventually soak into the walls. Positive slopes move water away from the home and help prevent damage to the foundation.

When a house is built at the bottom of the hill, swales (small ditches) may be built to direct water around the house and away from the foundation. Your home inspector should assess the property’s slope and grading, noting the specific location of negative slope or pooling water. One common problem area is the garage apron. If the flooring is not poured with proper slope, then water will run under the door and pool inside. Inaccessible or obstructed areas of the foundation will also be noted in your inspection report.

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