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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It’s Time to Check Your Deck

DeckWith the generally nice weather, now is the time to check your wood deck for deterioration and make any repairs necessary. It’s also time to reseal the deck, if necessary.

First, you should use a pressure washer to wash the deck and remove any dirt and debris. Make sure to keep the pressure stream moving to prevent it from gouging the wood. Let the deck dry overnight.

The next thing you’ll want to do is fix nails that have worked loos and repair split wood. For nail pops, remove the nail, then reattach the board with a screw that is longer than the nail. Repairing split wood is more complicated. Click here for instructions on how to repair deck boards that have split.

Sealant protects wood decks from the sun’s damaging rays. If you’re happy with the color of your deck’s wood, just apply a clear sealant with a UV protectant. If you want to change the color of your deck, stain it before applying the sealant. For a step-by-step guide to sealing your deck, which requires three sunny days, click here.

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Is Your Attic Like a Dry Sauna?

Submitted by Paul Duffau, NPI Franchise Owner, Asotin, Washington

AtticSummertime has arrived with its usual suddenness in my area by bursting upward 20 degrees in just few days to bust the 100-degree barrier.

Fortunately, as they say, it’s a dry heat.

In this weather, high attic temperatures are not uncommon and, to a small extent, are unavoidable. The average roof acts as a large solar energy collector and, depending on the axis of the house, can accumulate very high heat loads. My home, orientated with an east-west main axis, has extensive roof exposure to the south that matches the arc of the sun through the sky. Ideal when I someday add solar PV to the roof, it now acts to increase my heat loads.

High attic temperatures cause several problems inside and outside the home: Inside, the heat places an increased load on any cooling systems that you have. I’ve measure ceiling temperatures as high as 120 degrees from the heat generated in the attic. The less insulation you have, the more pronounced (and expensive in utility costs) this becomes. In high humidity environments, this is even worse due to the nature of water and its ability to act as a heat sink, absorbing the energy. To balance it out, you end up running the air conditioner longer, adding to its wear.

On the exterior, shingles are subject to thermal cracking. That is, the backing material of the shingles, usually fiberglass, is impregnated with asphalt and overlaid with granules. When the roof temperature climbs, these materials go through a wide range of expansion and contraction — but not at the same rate. The backing material can split or the asphalt cracks, just as you’ve probably seen it do on a driveway. Either way, you have shingle damage that will lead to early failure.

Preventive measures include improving the ventilation in the attic. Too little ventilation traps energy as the air becomes superheated. My record for attic temperatures was 154 degrees. I wasn’t in there long, and it took a good hour to recover; 140s are not uncommon.

Attic ventilation can be improved by ensuring that the appropriate venting is in place. Often I see ridge vents improperly cut. Too narrow a vent does not allow enough hot air to escape, raising the temperature. The same will happen if there is no ridge vent and the static or gable vents don’t move enough air.

Another common defect is too little air entering the attic space or from the wrong location. Older homes may only have gable vents located of either end of the home. Building science has demonstrated that this creates an air passageway flowing directly from gable to gable without ventilating the lower reaches of the roof assembly.

Improving this in the short term can be as easy as adding new soffit vents to improve air intake, adding a ridge vent (or having it properly cut), or adding an attic fan to increase air movement. All of these, by the way, have beneficial effects on mold and fungus growth.

A longer term approach is to plant trees carefully, determining where they will provide the maximum amount of shade without endangering the home.

Remember that southern face on my house? I have a 100-year-old walnut tree on that side and, on the east, a quaking something-or-other (I’m a home inspector, not an arborist. Sorry.) The old folks had the right idea a century ago.

They did forget to plant on the west corner. I’ve put in an Asian pear tree. It will be a few years until it gets tall enough but I can wait. When it does get big, it’s a two-fer: shade and fruit.

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It’s Time for an A/C Check and Cleaning

Inspector + AC2The heat of summer is on the way — and already full blast in some regions — so it’s time to think about having your air conditioning unit serviced. You’ll probably need to call an HVAC specialist for this job. A typical A/C check and cleaning service involves the following:

  • Clean the condenser
  • Clean and check the A-coil
  • Ensure that the condensate drain is open
  • Check the temperature differential
  • Check the refrigerant level and fill if needed

Keeping your A/C in tip-top shape will ensure that it lasts for summers to come.

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Tips for Summertime Energy Savings

Summer Cottage_shutterstock_85436410The heat of summer can bring high energy bills, so we’ve compiled a list of energy-saving tips to keep your bills low this year.

  • If you live in a region with cool nights, turn off the air conditioner and open the windows overnight, then close the windows in the morning to keep the cool air inside.
  • Use window coverings, such as vertical or horizontal blinds, to block sun and heat from your windows.
  • Install a programmable thermostat and program it to keep your home as warm as comfortably possible and to keep the home warmer when you are away.
  • Running a ceiling fan will allow you to raise the thermostat about 4 degrees with no noticeable difference.  Turn off ceiling fans if you’re not in the room. According to Energy.gov, “Fans cool people, not rooms, by creating a wind chill effect.”
  • Run the bathroom fan when you take a shower to remove the heat and humidity from your home.
  • Schedule regular maintenance and checks for your air conditioner and furnace.
  • Avoid using the oven on hot days. Instead, use the stove or microwave, or take advantage of the weather and grill outside.
  • Install energy-efficient light bulbs — such as CFL or LED — that generate less heat than incandescent bulbs.
  • Take advantage of the longer summer days by using daylight rather than artificial lights indoors in the afternoon and evening.
  • Take a walk around your house (indoors and out) and seal any cracks or openings to prevent warm air from leaking into your home.
  • Add caulk or weather stripping around drafty doors and windows. They cost you energy in the summer, as well as the winter.
  • Take advantage of warm summer days by line-drying clothes rather than using the dryer. When you need to use the dryer, make sure you are running full loads in it. Likewise, air-dry dishes by opening the dishwasher door after they’re washed.
  • Buy ENERGY STAR® appliances and products to save energy.
  • Solar-control window films applied to glass windows and doors can help conserve energy in the summer.  Visit the International Window Film Association’s website for more information.
  • Take a cool shower rather than turning the AC down a few a degrees.
  • Use the exhaust fan to blow hot air out of the kitchen while you’re cooking.
  • Turn your water heater down to save energy.
  • If you have a pool, turn off the filter overnight when no one is using the pool.
  • Postpone laundry and dishwashing until the cooler evening hours and only washing full loads of clothes and dishes.

Sources: Energy.gov, consumerenergycenter.org, NSTAR.com

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Swimming Pool Alarm Systems Can Save Lives

Pool_shutterstock_154786868You probably have uncovered the pool for summer, so that means pool safety is a top concern. Children could be in danger of drowning if they are left unattended and fall into a swimming pool.

One solution to ensure pool safety is a pool alarm system. These systems reside in the water and detect waves and ripples, sounding an alarm when the pool’s surface is disturbed by a person or animal. Swimming pool alarms are designed to detect large objects dropped into a pool, so things like leaves will not trigger them. When an object is dropped into the pool, the alarm sounds to let homeowners know that someone is in the pool. Some states even require this safety feature in every pool.

If you have a pool and children in your home or homes nearby, you might consider implementing a pool alarm this year. It could save a life.

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Summer Home Maintenance Checklist

Corbisare0008gThe official start of summer is just days away, so we thought our readers might be wondering what home maintenance things they should be working on this year. Here’s a handy list:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
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