Chimney Maintenance

Like any home appliance, chimneys need their share of maintenance. Inspecting and cleaning your chimney annually is essential to fire prevention, as well as your ventilation system. This can include the chimney itself, the flue liners that keep it protected, as well as the vents that encompass the entire home. Vents, like chimney flues, are used to transfer exhaust from appliances and some furnaces to ensure your family’s safety from day to day. In high efficiency furnaces, vents may be plastic as well as metal.

Inside a chimney, the conditions are bleak. Burning wood creates creosote, an oily black substance that coats the lining of your flue, which over time can become thick enough to ignite. If this happens, and the resulting creosote fire is intense enough, it can crack the liner of the chimney itself, risking weakening it and surrounding flammable materials which can include wood framing. If this happens, a comforting evening by the hearth can turn into a full-blown house fire, which is why it is so essential to have your National Property Inspections team member visit annually for prevention. The Chimney Safety Institute recommends a cleaning once the creosote gets to ¼ inch or thicker, so if you live with the fire burning, be wary of your creosotes. However, once your chimney sweep has finished, feel free to use the leftover creosote residue in flowerbeds. It is a great source of calcium and other nutrients!

During cleaning, your chimneysweep should check the damper to ensure correct positioning, as this helps with energy efficiency. Along with the flue itself, the damper ledge must always be cleaned, while the outside should be checked for obstructions as well as normal wear and tear. A chimney cap, which serves an important function, should be in place if it is not already, because it keeps animals, rainwater, leaves and debris out, while keeping the flames held in. If you decide a wood fire is best for you, remember never to burn green wood, but to make sure it is seasoned enough to crackle.

Between inspections, it is always good to keep an eye out for rust, discoloration, or cracking, especially the areas around joints. To prevent damage should there ever be a fire, always be sure to install smoke detectors in every level of the home to properly detect and alert everyone to the hazard. It goes without saying, never forget to check the smoke detectors each month for functionality.

Carbon Monoxide

As the days grow colder and windows begin to close, we turn to our trusted appliances to keep us warm through the long winter nights. However, it is important to keep informed of their condition because of a silent but deadly killer that effects hundreds of Americans every year: Carbon Monoxide Gas. Carbon monoxide is a byproduct from gas and wood-fired appliances such as water heaters, furnaces, stoves, and fireplaces that can cause flu-like symptoms including shortness of breath, dizziness, light-headedness or headaches. If allowed to build indoors, the gas can cause severe injury or even death, so it is essential to service and maintain appliances on a regular basis. If you suspect carbon monoxide gas present, evacuate immediately and contact your emergency care provider.

During an emergency, thank goodness for gas-powered generators. However, be advised that these, like your other appliances, omit CO and must be kept a safe distance from doors and windows. According to the CDC, half of the non-fatal carbon monoxide poisoning events in 2004 and 2005 were caused by generators being placed within seven feet of the house. While some companies recommend generators stay 10 feet away from any open windows or doors, it is safest to maintain at least 15-20 feet of space to keep carbon monoxide at bay.

Applied safely, a well-maintained ventilation system safely removes the gas from the home, but it is essential to schedule regular inspections with your National Property Inspections Professional. He or she will examine the home for any leaks caused by backdrafting, a problem that occurs when insufficient air is available to carry carbon byproducts out of the vents and is dumped back into the home. This can be caused by installation error, certain weather conditions and location of certain appliances. They will also evaluate the state of any heating equipment, fireplace and built-in appliances to ensure another season of safety and warmth for you and your loved ones.

This season ensure the safety and comfort of your family by keeping all appliances properly adjusted by professionals, keep at least one CO alarm in the home, remember to open flues when the fireplace is in use, and remember to regularly hire a trained professional to inspect, clean and tune-up your heating system. National Property Inspections is ready and willing to be your safe energy partner for the seasons to come.

Clothes Dryer Safety

By Jon McCreath, NPI Property Inspector, Emerson, Georgia

Clogged Dry VentAccording to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 15,000 fires are sparked every year by clothes dryers.  Lint and other debris can build up in your dryer vent, reducing air flow to the dryer, backing up dryer exhaust gases, creating a fire hazard.

Here are some of the signs that it’s time to clean your vent:

  • Clothing does not dry completely after a normal drying cycle.
  • Drying time for clothing takes longer than 35 to 40 minutes in duration.
  • A musty odor is noticed in the clothing following the drying cycle.
  • Clothing seems unusually hot to the touch after a complete drying cycle.
  • The dryer vent hood flap does not properly open as it is designed to do during the operation of the dryer.
  • Debris is noticed within the outside dryer vent opening.
  • Excessive heat is noticed within the room in which the dryer is being operated.
  • Large amounts of lint accumulate in the lint trap for the dryer during operation.
  • A visible sign of lint and debris is noticed around the lint filter for the dryer.
  • Excessive odor is noticed from dryer sheets that are used during the drying cycle.

Tips to decrease debris

  • Limit the use of dryer sheets used when drying clothing.  Instead of dryer sheets, use liquid fabric softener.
  • Only operate clothing dryers for intervals of 30 to 40 minutes per batch of laundry.  This allows more air circulation within the dryer and less lint build up from occurring.
  • When possible hang clothing such as heavy bedding, pillows and other large articles outside to line dry.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.

    Canada: gpiweb.ca/FindAnInspector
    United States: npiweb.com/FindAnInspector

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Fire Safety Tips from the Inspector

By Stephen Gremillion, NPI Property Inspector, Montgomery, Texas

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) http://www.nfpa.org, there were about 365,500 household fires in 2015. As an inspector, I’ve learned that many house fires are preventable. In fact, the NFPA also states that three out of five fire deaths were in homes without working smoke alarms. This, to me, says that simply installing and maintaining smoke alarms could save your life.

When talking about fire safety, I like to break it down into three categories: Fire Prevention, Fire Preparation, and the Fire. Fire Prevention items are things that you can do to prevent a fire. Fire Preparation items are things you can do to be prepared in case of a fire, and the Fire is what to do if you find yourself in a house fire.

Fire Prevention:

  • Use caution when using electrical resistance heating items like toasters, heating blankets, etc.
  • Use caution when using open flames like candles, barbecues, fireplaces, tobacco, etc.
  • Keep your kitchen clutter free and clean of grease.
  • Fix sub-standard electrical work.
  • Add Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI) protection. For more info: http://www.npihome.com/2016/2510/afci-and-gfci-outlets-improve-electrical-safety-in-your-home/
  • Keep your dryer vent and lint trap clean. For more info: http://www.npihome.com/2014/1248/have-you-cleaned-your-dryer-vent-lately/
  • If you have a wood burning fireplace and use it regularly, the flue must be kept clean. For more info: http://www.npihome.com/2014/1728/keeping-your-chimney-clean/
  • If you use portable heaters, they should be monitored and have a tip safety. A tip safety is a function that shuts off the heater if it tips over. Also, it should be kept clear of combustibles.
  • Get a home inspection. A home inspection can reveal problems like sub-standard electrical work, improper fireplace hearths, etc.
  • Get a thermal imaging inspection. A thermal imaging inspection can reveal electrical problems that can’t be seen with the naked eye.

Fire Preparation:

  • Proper smoke alarm placement and maintenance. You should have a smoke alarm in each bedroom and each adjoining space. These should be tested once a month, have the battery changed once a year, and be completely replaced every ten years.
  • Fire extinguishers. We recommend that you have clear access to an extinguisher in the garage, kitchen, and bedroom. You should be familiar with their use and have the right type. For more info: http://www.npihome.com/2014/1863/1863/
  • You should have two escape options from each room. (Second-story windows do count).
  • Teach your kids some basic fire safety.

The Fire:

Hopefully, you never find yourself in this situation. However, if you do, here are some basic tips.

  • If the fire is small, try to put it out with your extinguisher.
  • If the fire cannot be contained, then you must leave immediately. Gather your family and an extinguisher and leave through one of your planned routes.
  • Door handles may be hot. It is best to grab them with a piece of cloth.
  • Close doors behind you! It may seem silly, but it’s for a good reason. A door can act as a barrier in two ways; 1) It can restrict airflow, 2) It acts as separation that the fire will take time to burn through.
  • If you find yourself trapped, there are two important things you must do:
  1. Signal for help. A piece of cloth hanging from the window is a largely recognized symbol, but a phone call is better.
  1. Minimize your exposure to smoke and flames. This can be done by opening a window, getting low, covering your mouth with cloth, and blocking underneath doors with wet cloths.

 

Make sure to be diligent about fire protection to keep your home and family safe. Practice these steps and have a happy and healthy 2017.

Stephen Gremillion Stephen Gremillion is a professionally trained NPI property inspector working for franchise owner/inspector Garner Gremillion in Montgomery, Texas. If you live in the area, call 936 230-3440 to schedule your home inspection with Garner or Stephen.

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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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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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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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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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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Keep Your Home Safe and Secure

Security CameraWhile many home owners have installed home security systems, plenty of people can’t afford the expense of installation and monthly service fees. Here are some inexpensive tips to help you safeguard your home if you don’t have a security system.

  1. Security cameras are very useful, but even dummy cameras will deter many burglars.
  2. Even if you don’t have a security system, you can buy decals that say the premises are protected by an alarm. These stickers are available at most hardware and home improvement stores. Place them prominently on doors and windows.
  3. When you go out of town or on vacation, put mail and newspaper deliveries on hold, and ask a neighbor to watch your house. Also, refrain from announcing on social media sites that you’re going on vacation or are on vacation. It’s tempting to post those pictures right after you take them, but that lets burglars know your house is empty.
  4. It sounds like common sense to make sure to lock up the house while you’re away, but you’d be surprised how many home owners become burglary victims because of unlocked doors and windows.
  5. If you’re working on a home improvement project, never leave a ladder outside — it allows burglars to easily climb into high windows, which home owners often leave unlocked.
  6. Close your blinds and curtains when you’re away from home or sleeping to prevent snoopy burglars from scoping out your valuables through the windows.
  7. Hide your valuables in unlikely places so burglars are less likely to find them. Click here for some clever ideas.
  8. You can add layers of protection to your house with deadbolts, chain locks, slide bolt locks, window alarm kits and doorstop alarms.
  9. Use light to your advantage: Add timers to indoor lights, lamps, and radios or TVs to make it look and sound like you’re home even when you’re away. Outdoors, install dusk-to-dawn photocell motion lights that will light up at night when someone comes near your house or door.
  10. Don’t leave electronics boxes at the curb — this only lets thieves know you recently bought a computer, large TV, or other item they’d love to steal.

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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Water Heaters and Earthquake Safety

By Roger Pigeon, NPI Franchise Owner, San Diego, California

Water Heater_shutterstock_113790454If you live in a house, condo or manufactured home in California that has a water heater — which most of us here in California do — you may have wondered about those metal straps around your water heater. This may be especially perplexing if you’re moving to California from another state. Here is what you should know about water heater bracing and safety in California.

Many years ago, California adopted a health and safety code that requires all water heaters to be braced or strapped with approved straps in order to help prevent catastrophic damage to a home in the event of an earthquake. It was found that during an earthquake, a water heater has the potential to topple over and fall. As if this weren’t bad enough, when the water heater falls, it usually results in to damage the gas, electrical and water connections to the water heater. A damaged gas line may result in fire, causing further serious damage to your home and threatening your personal safety. Damage to the electrical connection can pose an electrocution hazard. And, of course, damage to the water connections can lead to flooding of your home.

Pigeon

Figure 1

The diagram in Figure 1 shows an approved water heater strapping method. There are some key things you will want to look for when examining your water heater:

  • You should see two metal straps on the water heater, and these should be installed at the top and bottom third of the unit. These straps should be approved for use in securing water heaters. Water heater strapping kits are available at your local hardware store or online. Plumber’s tape is NOT approved for securing a water heater.
  • The metal straps should be attached to wall stud with at least 5/16 x 3-inch lag screws. If your water heater is not installed close to a wall, then you may need to contact a local contractor to design a method to properly secure your water heater.
  • You also should see flexible water connectors at the top of the water heater and flexible gas or electrical connectors (depending on whether your water heater is gas or electric). Flexible connectors allow for some movement of the water heater during an earthquake.

If you are unsure whether your water heater is safe or not, I urge you to call a local plumber you trust. And, when it is time to buy a new home, the professionals in your local National Property Inspections office will inspect your home thoroughly and make recommendations for repairs and safety upgrades.

Pigeon PhotoRoger Pigeon is a professional National Property Inspections home inspector in San Diego. If you live in the area, call 760.420.8659 to schedule your home inspection with Roger.

NPI and GPI home inspectors have the tools and knowledge to assess your home. Consult with your local NPI or GPI inspector for an inspection of your home or a home you are planning to purchase.

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