Fly South for the Winter

Submitted by James Childre, NPI Franchise Owner, Stuart, Fla.

Corbisare0008gYou will find me inspecting homes in sunny Florida six days a week between January and April. You see, that is when the “snowbirds” flock down to escape the cold in the northeast. They are looking for a spot to nest during the winter months, and you can do worse than the Sunshine State. So, inevitably, I work for many New England natives.

We have certain features in Florida that you won’t find up north. A few that come to mind off the bat: storm shutters, an abundance of stucco, an absence of basements, no coat closets, and the ubiquity of pools.

There are also regional differences that are necessary due to our proximity to the tropics. You generally find hard floor surfaces to keep things cool and mold free; structures built to withstand hurricane-force winds; robust air conditioning systems and a sparse need for heat; and a hypersensitivity to termites.

Surprises await, too. Finding out that an attorney is not required is usually a welcome one. However, the lack of gas services to most homes leaves the uber-chef wanting. And, unexpectedly, you only get half the life of an asphalt shingle roof due to the intense sun exposure. Painting, too, becomes a much more frequent chore due to fading. You are left to keep the “palmetto bugs” (read: roaches) at bay, as well as crazy ghost ants that seem to come from nowhere to overwhelm your kitchen. Don’t forget about those exorbitant insurance rates — they don’t call it hurricane alley for nothing!

Yes, there are surprises, both welcome and unexpected, that greet the annual migration of hearty northerners looking for a place to nestle, but it is well worth the adventure. The sun is always on your back; the beach is a stone’s throw away; and the people live the Jimmy Buffett lifestyle. So, drop your snow shovels and grab your flip flops, head south, and find a home that beats your expectations. It’s 5 o’clock somewhere … Just remember to get the home inspected first because you don’t know what you don’t know.

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NPI Welcomes New Employees

The home inspection business is booming, and that means that our business owners are hiring additional inspectors. Please help us welcome these Tyler and Shaela, who recently attended our two-week home inspector training in Omaha, Nebraska.

Tyler Buckalew, Frederick, Maryland, Employee of Rich Buhrman

Tyler Buckalew, Frederick, Maryland, Employee of Rich Buhrman











Shaela Kendall, Cheyenne, Wyoming, Employee of Bill Cushing

Shaela Kendall, Cheyenne, Wyoming, Employee of Bill Cushing











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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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What Does an Inspector Check on a Sprinkler System?

Sprinkler_shutterstock_133096526Inspecting a sprinkler system, like all other types of inspections, is conducted as a visual, noninvasive inspection. One first of all must be familiar with all of the components, like the controllers, sprinkler heads, rain gauges, and, most importantly, a backflow preventer. Not all home inspectors perform sprinkler inspections, so check with your home inspector to see whether he/she will do this for you.

Controllers (Timers): Timers can be mechanical with an actual moving dial and limitations, or more commonly used digital timers. Mechanical timers have a dial with pins that you can set the time (time each zone will run and provide coverage) but may be more limited as to how many watering schedules may be set. Typically, these only allow for one set time per day. Digital timers, on the other hand, have the capability to allow multiple watering schedules and more than one watering schedule per day. When conducting an inspection, timers are inspected in manual mode only.

Zones: Zones can include the areas for the pop-up heads throughout the yard, as well as soaker hoses for perimeter zones and flower beds that are close to the building or home. Note: A close look at the timer in most cases can determine how many zones there are.

The number of zones needed is determined by the size of the yard and how much coverage is needed. The number of sprinkler heads and coverage within the zone also determines the size and coverage of each zone. A zone can include soaker hoses that are typically placed around the perimeter of the house or building. It is important to remember that in some areas, such as Texas, it is required to have a watering system around the perimeter of a house to keep the moisture content consistent to provide structural stability of the home. Too much water can cause problems, though.

Sprinkler Heads: Sprinkler heads can provide one-quarter size, one-half size, three-quarters size and full spray patterns for the pop-up type and the oscillating pop-up type, sometimes called Rain Birds — which is actually a brand-specific name— and can spray a pattern up to 35 ft. Again, the size of the zone (coverage) will determine how many sprinkler heads and what type will be needed. Note: Pop-up heads should fully extend when in operation and fully close when not. There also should not be any excessive leakage while the sprinkler head is in operation.

Rain Gauges or Sensors: These devices can be located in a gutter, or they can be a moisture-type meter stuck into the ground. Note: It is important to remember that a rain gauge may have to be bypassed in order to run the system in manual mode to conduct an inspection. Rain gauges prevent the system from operating when there is enough moisture in the ground.

Backflow Preventers: All sprinkler systems require a backflow preventer when the sprinkler system is being supplied from the potable water (water service) coming into the home, whether public utility or private well system. In most cases, a sprinkler system takes the water as it enters the home where the water pressure is the most strongest before it supplies the home or building. A typical sprinkler system requires a minimum of 35 pounds of pressure to operate. A backflow preventer prevents the water that is supplying the sprinkler system from re-entering the potable water supply that is feeding the house or building to prevent contamination of the water supply. Sprinkler systems that draw their water from lakes, ponds or streams require a filter to prevent large pieces of debris from entering and clogging up the system.

Inspecting a Sprinkler System
The inspector will determine number of zones. He/she will operate the system in manual mode, checking each zone for adequate coverage. The inspector will also look for and confirm location of a backflow preventer, as well as look for signs of excessive leakage at the heads , cracked heads or corrosion of the system. Finally, he/she will visually check the water pressure and flow of the system.

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NPI/GPI Welcome New Business Owners

Our family at NPI and GPI is still growing, and it’s exciting. We have three new business owners to introduce: Wayne, Rick and Aaron. Please help us welcome them as they bring NPI and GPI to new areas of North America.

Wayne Montey, Fort Collins, Colorado, NPI Franchise Owner

Wayne Montey, Fort Collins, Colorado, NPI Franchise Owner











Rick Morgenstern, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, GPI Franchise Owner

Rick Morgenstern, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, GPI Franchise Owner











Aaron Rahn, Armagh, Pennsylvania, NPI Franchise Owner

Aaron Rahn, Armagh, Pennsylvania, NPI Franchise Owner

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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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For Significant Energy Savings, Consider LED Tubes

Submitted by Rodney Twyford, NPI Franchise Owner, San Antonio, Texas

LED Tube Light_shutterstock_117890959What are some of the largest energy consumers that can be easily converted to a more efficient use of our energy? The commercial sector, which includes commercial and institutional buildings as well as street and highway lighting, consumes the majority of kilowatt-hours of energy per year. Seventy-six percent of all power plant-generated electricity is used just to operate buildings, which is why it is so important that they start using LED-based lighting.

Most of these commercial buildings and places are also fitted with fluorescent sockets based on the T8 standard. This is the main reason why developing T8 LED lamps could have such a huge impact on conserving energy. Just think: If the energy efficiency of commercial and industrial buildings were improved by just 10 percent, we could save $20 billion in energy costs. In terms of reducing pollution, that’s the equivalent to the emissions from 30 million cars annually.

LED tubes are an excellent and energy-efficient replacement for conventional fluorescent tubes. Whether in the basement, in the garage, in the recreation room or in the storeroom. LED tubes facilitate simple and safe replacement of T8 fluorescent lamps in CCG luminaires. Because of their modern LED technology, they provide potential energy savings of up to 68 percent. When replacing fluorescent lamps with LED tubes, the overall energy efficiency and color rendering depend on the design of the lighting system.

Here are some of the benefits of LED tubes:

  • Up to 68 percent energy savings when compared to a 1.5 m T8 fluorescent lamp.
  • Lifespan up to 40 years — up to five times longer than conventional fluorescent tubes. This corresponds to an average lifespan of 40,000 hours with daily use of 2.7 hours.
  • High efficiency of up to 105 lumens per watt, energy efficiency class A+.
  • Wide beam angle of 160°.
  • Quick, simple and safe replacement, with no rewiring.
  • Real retrofit solution for classic T8 fluorescent lamps in CCG luminaires.
  • Up to 200,000 switching cycles.
  • Good color rendering.
  • Uniform illumination.
  • Full brightness without a warm-up phase.
  • Available in three different lengths (590, 1200 and 1500 millimeters) and two attractive light.colors (warm white and cool white).
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Protected: Infrared Technology Can Alert You to Defects Early On

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The Importance of Anti-tip Brackets

Submitted by Paul Duffau, NPI Franchise Owner, Asotin, Wash.

Anti-tip-bracketI had a new stove delivered to the house. My wife said the installers were wonderful except … they didn’t install the anti-tip bracket. I’ll do it later, of course, but it’s part of the manufacturer’s recommendations. Pros should know this and install them for their customers.

For those who haven’t seen one of these before, the anti-tip bracket is a device that is installed to keep a free-standing appliance from falling over. This can happen in a variety of ways, from innocent babies climbing on the door when it’s down, to the elderly grasping the edge to avoid falling to … well, failures of human intelligence.

(The only part about the video that surprises me is that it was a young lady. Doing as much work as I do around university campuses, this is the sort of thing I expected to see from a frat house.)

There are two ways to secure the stove. It’s not very complicated. The one in my picture is a floor mount that has a slot for the rear leg of the stove to slide into. The second method, not used as much anymore, is to use a bracket that attaches to the wall with a hook on the back of the stove.

Installers don’t like to spend the extra time since they always have a next job to get to. Not installing it, though, voids the manufacturer’s responsibility if the stove does tip.

On a side note: A daughter of mine didn’t understand why I checked for anti-tip brackets — until her daughter climbed the stove. Now she gets it. And she keeps telling my granddaughter — who’s a peach — to quit it.

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It Matters Which Way the Door Swings Over Stairs

Submitted by Lawrence Englehart, GPI Franchise Owner, Nova Scotia, Canada

Falling Down Stairs_shutterstock_6979936Q) The older home we recently purchased currently does not have a door for the stairs to the basement. Would we be able to install a French door?

A) I don’t believe there should be an issue with the type of door you would like to install, but more as to what direction the door will open.

The National Building Code of Canada (NBCC) has what I believe to be very clear guidelines (Section 9.8) regarding the design and construction of interior and exterior stairs, ramps, handrails and guards. Most people may not be aware of this, but a landing is actually required at the top and bottom of each flight of stairs. However, this landing can technically be part of a kitchen, hallway or foyer space and as such; a door is permitted to open over any of these types of landings.

The safety issues, concerns or hazards with a door that opens directly onto a flight of stairs are many. Here are a few worth mentioning:

If this type of door was opened unexpectedly, it could impact a person coming up the stairs, which could lead to them falling down the stairs;

If a person was leaning against a closed door (that swings over a flight of stairs) and it were to accidentally open, that person could tumble down the stairs; and whenever we use a door to gain access to another part of the home, we tend to expect that floor to always be at the same level. Any sudden change of floor level is a potential trip or fall hazard, especially if it is over a flight of stairs.

Unfortunately, older homes were not built with the benefit of today’s building codes and sadly it is not uncommon to see doors that open into a cellar or the basement. As a home inspector, I will flag this as unsafe and a potential fall hazard and would recommend immediate corrective action by a qualified contractor. In most cases, if the swing of the door cannot be changed, the homeowner should seriously consider removing the door, but only do so in consultation with the contractor they’ve hired; as like most things, every situation is different.

Nevertheless, a door should never swing over stairs, as that would present a potentially serious fall hazard.

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