DIY Countertop Repair for Scratches and Scuffs

Granite and tile countertop repair

If you cook a lot, chances are your countertops have seen better days. Every scratch and chip tells a story, from that pan you dropped to the knife that slipped. The good news is that there are some simple countertop repairs you can do yourself to make your counters look like new and save some money in the process.

Granite

Granite countertops are known for their durability, but even granite can show signs of wear like scratches, chips and cracks with regular use. Granite is also one of the most expensive options when it comes to counters, so it’s lucky that there are inexpensive options to repair it.

To repair an unsightly crack or scratch in granite, you’ll need to gather a few materials: acetone or nail polish remover, an epoxy resin granite repair kit (you’ll find this at your local home improvement store), a scrub sponge, a razor blade, paper towels and a hairdryer.

Acetone works wonders for cutting through grease or any other residue to make your granite surface really clean. Wet a paper towel with it and wipe over your countertop (if you’re using nail polish remover, do a spot test first to make sure it doesn’t discolor your surface). Use your scrub sponge to further loosen any deposits, then wipe the granite down with another paper towel to make sure the surface is dry (hit it with the hairdryer for a few minutes on low to be sure).

Now you’re ready for the epoxy kit. Epoxy resin can be colored to match the dominant color of your granite for an undetectable repair. Mix the epoxy according to the manufacturer’s directions, then apply it to the crack with the stir stick included in the kit. Since the epoxy will settle a little as it cures, apply epoxy above the level of the crack. Put a piece of tape over the epoxy (this helps the surface flatten as it dries).

Tile

Repairing tile countertops can be easy if you have extra matching tiles saved. Identify the cracked tile that needs replacing, then use a grout saw to cut around and loosen the tile. Next, use a hammer to break the tile into pieces. Add a chisel to the equation to remove all the broken tile pieces, then vacuum up whatever’s left in terms of loose debris. Once you have a clean surface to work with, take your new tile and apply mortar to the back, pressing it into place. Once the mortar is dry, regrout around the tile and you’re done!

If you don’t have extra tile, you still have some options. First, you can use fine-grit sandpaper to fade scratches (just make sure you don’t rub too hard, otherwise you’ll end up with an irregular surface). For deeper scratches, nicks or chips, you can use an acrylic repair kit, available at any home improvement store, that’s colored to match your tile.

Butcher Block Counters

If you’ve been using your butcher block counter as a cutting board and want to breathe some life back into it, first you’ll have to thoroughly clean it.

  • For any stuck-on food residue, remove it with the edge of a metal spatula, taking care not to gouge the wood
  • Next, use hot water, a scrub sponge and some mild dish soap to scrub the counter. Rinse well with a clean dishcloth and more hot water.
  • After the countertop dries completely, you can move on to the next step, sanding.

Preferably you want to use an orbital sander for this, using fine-grit sandpaper and applying light pressure over the entire surface of the counter for an even finish. This helps remove light scratches and scuffs. For deeper scratches and gouges in the wood, you can fill them with wood putty that matches the color of your counter. Roll the putty between your fingers and pack it tightly into any deeper scratches. Once it dries and hardens, you can sand the putty down to a smooth surface. Finish by conditioning your butcher block counter with a light coat or two of mineral oil.

Repairing your countertops is an easy way to add value to your home once it’s time to sell. National Property Inspections is here to help you make the most of your biggest investment, so find your local NPI inspector today and make an appointment.

Contractor Scammers

Starting a new home improvement project can be as exciting as a new puppy, but with far more decisions to be made in the process. Anyone who has even thought about this has experienced the confusion of trying to find a reputable contractor. With so many options, it can be easy to fall prey to one of the many unfortunate scams that are active today. Read more for National Property Inspections’ tips to stay on solid ground during your renovation.

Project estimates can vary wildly, so even if a contractor comes with a bid that seems reasonable, make sure to get more than one. Some scammers will low-ball prices for services, and for good reason: their services turn out to be little or nothing more than what the homeowner could have achieved themselves with a bit of effort. So if a price seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Another red flag to watch out for is a contractor requesting payment up-front. This is one of this biggest cautionary tales, as some scammers will take money upfront from consumers and perform little to no work that has been requested. A reputable contractor may ask for a small deposit, but most will only demand payment upon satisfied completion of a job. Remember, protect yourself and your wallet.

When hiring any professional to work on the home, ALWAYS make sure to check that their licenses and permits are valid and up to date. A lot of “gypsy” contractors will travel city to city, going door to door looking for work but may not mention that they don’t have the permits or skills to get the job done. If – and when – something goes wrong with the work, it is you, not the contractor, that is left responsible.

The left-over product scam is another to be aware of. This is most used by driveway sealers, who claim that they have just finished a job and have “left-over” product that cannot be stored once mixed and therefore offer services at a discounted rate. Be especially aware of this, because the product they use will usually either be a black paint or some shoddy material that washes off in the next storm. Honest contractors would never knock on your door to sell used materials. 

The final and most common scam out there is the bait and switch. Consumers are drawn in by an often ridiculously low price on a service, which they call the company to schedule, for example, window washing. However, once the technician arrives on the property consumers are informed that their windows are much dirtier than average, and then quote a price that is hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars more than the original.

Those looking to invest in remodeling their home need to be wary of scammers looking to steal every cent they can. Along with references, the Better Business Bureau is always a good place to look when searching for a new contractor. Remember to always have a signed contract with clear expectations as to price and completion dates, and if there are ever any issues, National Property Inspections is always here to help.

How To Properly Prepare Your Walls For Painting: A Beginner’s Guide To Getting Professional-Quality Results

By Ion McBain

man-painting-wall_shutterstock_184931876_lowerAdding a fresh coat of paint is one of the fastest, most cost-effective ways to completely transform the look of a room. Whether you go soft and neutral or bright and bold, the key to getting great results is to properly prepare your walls before you start painting. Below is a complete how-to guide for beginners on getting a room ready for fresh paint.

  1. Create a clean surface. Dust and dirt naturally accumulate on walls over time. Before you apply a coat of paint, it is important to thoroughly clean the surface so that the paint goes on smoothly. Try using a floor duster to clean your walls. The long handle on the duster makes it easy to reach all of the corners of the room without having to bend or stretch. For any stuck-on dirt, grime, or food particles, reach for a damp rag instead.
  1. Repair cracks, dents, and holes. As you clean your walls, keep your eyes open for any areas that need to be repaired. Holes left behind by picture hangers should be filled with wood filler. Cracks and indentations can generally be filled with spackle. Use a putty knife to apply a layer of spackle over the damaged area. Once the surface has dried completely, sand it smooth using fine-grit sandpaper. A sanding block is ideal for holding the sandpaper flat against the wall so you get a smooth, even surface. Remember to use a tack cloth or damp rag to remove the sanding dust when you are done.
  1. Mask off the edges of the room. Using painter’s tape, create a clean line along all of the edges of the room. Don’t forget to go around doors and windows as well. Taping is easiest if you work in small sections. Begin by tearing off a piece of tape about the length of your arm. Apply it to the wall in a straight line, making sure to put it on the side where you don’t want the paint to go. Use a dull object such as your fingernail or the end of a pen to press firmly down on the edge of the tape, making sure that it is securely stuck to the surface so that no paint can seep underneath it.
  1. Apply primer. Begin by cutting in the edges of the room with primer. In essence, this means using a paintbrush to manually apply primer along all of the edges of the room and around the windows and doors. Next, use a paint roller to cover the rest of the walls with primer. Allow the primer to dry thoroughly before you begin painting.

Although preparing the walls before painting can be extremely time-consuming, it is absolutely essential. If you try to skip over the prep work and just go right to painting, your results will be subpar. Only by thoroughly cleaning the walls, repairing any damage, taping off the edges, and priming the surface can you get professional-quality results that you can be proud of.

 

Ion McBain  is a successful businessman and runs the website 1stPaintingContractors.com which provides top quality painting services specializing in residential interior and exterior walls.

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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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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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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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U.S. Energy Standards for Air Conditioning Equipment

By Kenn Garder, Corporate Accounts Manager, NPI/GPI Corporate Office

Inspector + ACThe U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) implemented the Appliance and Equipment Standards Program in the 1980s. In 2015, U.S. consumers saved an estimated $63 billion on utility bills, largely due to the increased efficiency of appliances and equipment.

It is estimated that that 60 percent of U.S. houses have a central cooling system, and most new homes are designed and built with central air systems. About 19 percent of those units are heat pumps. Many other technologies can improve the efficiency of these systems. For example, variable speed motors, advanced compressing methods, and a greater area of heat distribution from the coils of the condenser all can reduce energy consumption.

Residential central air conditioners and heat pumps use electric motors and compressors usually housed in a cabinet installed outside the house. A unit’s Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) is the cooling output during a typical cooling season divided by the total electric energy input during the same period. In short, the higher the unit’s SEER rating the more energy efficient it is. In 2006, the United States increased the national standards for central air conditioners and heat pumps from 10 SEER to 13 SEER.

New efficiency standards from the DOE went into effect in January 2015. Unlike previous standards, the 2015 standards create minimum-efficiency standards that vary by region. There are three regions established using population-weighted heating degree days (HDD). The lower 48 states are divided into these regions: Northern — states with an HDD greater than or equal to 5,000; Southern — states with an HDD less than 5,000; and Southwestern.  Click here to see a map of the regions and the SEER requirements.

Federal energy efficiency standards benefit the environment, reducing carbon dioxide created to produce the electricity. They also benefit consumers by reducing energy use and bills. And finally, these standards also benefit manufacturers, as they reduce the potential patchwork of state standards with a single federal standard, streamlining the design and production process.

Garder PhotoWith 10 years of experience in his current position, Kenn Garder is the central point of contact for NPI/GPI’s national accounts. He also provides technical support to our franchise owners/inspectors and teaches the commercial segment of our training program.

To find an NPI or GPI inspector in your area, click one of the links below:

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My Three Favorite ‘Photo Follies’

By Randy Yates, Training Consultant Administrator, NPI/GPI Corporate Office

Our home inspectors frequently send me pictures for my “you won’t believe this” file — known here at NPI and GPI as “photo follies” — so I thought I’d share three of my most favorite. To be honest, each is my favorite in its own right. These are pictures of things our inspectors have found during the course of their inspections of items, construction practices and installations. They are often amateurish, shoddy work or projects done by home owners who think they know how to build, fix or install things. Of the three I‘ve selected, some are self-explanatory and others you may have to think about.

This is what the home owner got with a brand-new roof installation.

This is what the home owner got with a brand-new roof installation.

 

I call this one, “The note says it all.”

I call this one, “The note says it all.”

 

Do you see the problem? If not, look at the roof shingles creeping up the siding. They’re not supposed to do that.

Do you see the problem? If not, look at the roof shingles creeping up the siding. They’re not supposed to do that.

 

Yates PhotoWith more than 10 years of experience in his current position and over 30 years of experience in remodeling and contracting, Randy Yates provides technical training to new NPI/GPI inspectors and provides field support to all NPI/GPI inspectors.

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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Should You Be Concerned About Radon?

By Lawrence Englehart, GPI Franchise Owner, Halifax, Nova Scotia
IMG_0634Radon is a radioactive gas that is slowly released during the natural decay or breakdown of uranium in the earth, and it moves freely though any soil, rock and water. Because it is the heaviest gas in nature, radon can easily accumulate in high levels in the basement or poorly ventilated areas of a house or building.

Why Is Radon Dangerous?
As radon decays, it further breaks down to form radioactive elements that can be inhaled into the lungs, where they can damage the cells that line the lung, causing lung cancer.

Health Canada reports that radon exposure is linked to 16 percent of lung cancer deaths and is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. In Nova Scotia, the Department of Natural Resources has developed an amazing radon risk map; you can enter your physical address and it will show whether you are in a low-, medium- or high-risk area. In the United States, you can find a radon zone map on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) website.

How Much Radon Is Too Much?
In North America, radon test results have shown that 40 percent of buildings in high-risk areas exceed Health Canada and EPA guidelines; however, even homes in low-risk areas should be tested, as this is the only way to know how much radon is in your home.

In Canada, radon is measured in Becquerels per cubic meter (Bq/m3), and the current Canadian guideline for radon action is 200 Bq/m3. In the United States, radon is measured in picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L), and the current guideline for remediation is any level higher than 4 pCi/L. In both countries, the higher the number, the higher the risk. However, even the current action level is equivalent to the radiation exposure from 30 medical chest x-rays per year (assuming radon exposure at home for 12 hours per day).

Radon levels can vary over time and especially from season to season, which is why home owners should conduct radon testing over a duration of 91 days or longer to properly determine radon levels and better understand whether remedial action will be required.

For the average home owner, a simple do-it-yourself radon testing kit can be ordered online or purchased in a hardware or home improvement store.

Should You Test Your House for Radon?
When it comes to buying or selling a house, a long-term test is considered unrealistic, so a short-term test of lasting 48 to 72 hours should be performed. Make sure you hire a certified radon inspector who has been specifically trained to an industry-recognized standard of practice and are held accountable for working to established radon testing guidelines. Your home inspector may be a certified radon tester; if not, he/she can recommend a professional to conduct the test for you.

Englehart PhotoLawrence Englehart is a professional Global Property Inspections home inspector and C-NRPP Certified Radon Measurement Professional in Halifax, Nova Scotia. If you live in the area, call 902.403.2460 to schedule your home inspection with Lawrence.

NPI and GPI home inspectors have the tools and knowledge to assess your home, and many of our inspectors hold additional certifications for radon, mold or lead testing. Consult your local NPI or GPI inspector for an inspection of your home or a home you are planning to purchase.

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Why Are Gutters, Downspouts and Splash Blocks Important?

Gutter_shutterstock_147483605Gutters, downspouts and splash blocks are used to move water away from a house or building, protecting the exterior surfaces of the home, the foundation and landscaping materials from water damage.

  • Gutters are valleys that can be made of a variety of materials and which are located on the edge of the roof.
  • Downspouts connect to the gutters to contain the water on its way to the ground.
  • Splash blocks are found at the end of the downspouts to disperse water away from the foundation.

A variety of gutter systems are available, depending on the type of home, slope of the roof and aesthetic concerns. Gutters on residential homes may or may not have seams, may be attached to the outside of the roof, or may be an integral part of the soffit. Gutters are made of plastic or metal, and they may have screens on top to prevent large debris from causing clogs. Leaks are most common at the seams, elbows and corners of gutters.

Drainage on flat roofs, generally found more often on commercial buildings, can be accomplished with gutters and downspouts, an interior drainage system or scuppers. Scuppers are holes cut in walls that extend above a roof line. Generally a downspout is connected to the scupper to move water away from the building.

Damaged or leaking gutters can allow water to stain walls and ceilings, pool against the foundation, or seep into the walls damaging the frame.

An unbiased, independent inspection by your NPI or GPI inspector includes a thorough examination of the home’s gutters and downspouts to provide the information you need for.

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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