Learn More About NPI and GPI

Roland_101614This month, NPI/GPI president and founder Roland Bates spoke with Franchise Business Review about NPI/GPI, our services, the property inspection business, and why NPI/GPI is a leader in the property inspection franchise business. This is a great opportunity to learn more about National Property Inspections and Global Property InspectionsClick here to listen to the podcast interview.

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Reading Your Home Inspection Report

Submitted by Randy Yates, Technical Supervisor and Technical Training Administrator, NPI/GPI Corporate

Couple in house + inspection reportYou’ve had your home inspection and now you have the report in your hands. What to do with it? You’ll definitely want to check out the summary, but that shouldn’t be the only part you read. The importance of including the comment “The summary is not the entire report” is that in a real estate transaction, typically the Realtor only wants the summary page because it contains all items the inspector rated defective or requiring repair. But that shouldn’t be the only part you’re interested in.

The defects section is crucial in the sale of a house, as it will be used to either negotiate or renegotiate the sale of the property. Nevertheless, the entire report needs to be read. There could be items of interest that may not, in the inspector’s opinion, require repair or replacement but rather maintenance — such as cleaning gutters or touching up paint. For this reason, to get a clear view of the entire house, home buyers should read the entire inspection report, not just the summary section.

In addition, you should make sure to hold on to your home’s inspection report and keep it in a handy, accessible spot. It will serve as a reminder of do-it-yourself projects that you need to work on, as well as home maintenance projects you’ll want to do.

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Working With and Around Lead Paint: Part III in a Series on Lead

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

Lead IIFederal EPA Laws (RRP)
If you own a home built before 1978 and plan to renovate for resell, or if you are a contractor who has been hired to perform work on a home built before 1978, then there are federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) laws that went into effect in April 2010. This regulation is called the Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Program and requires contractors to follow the RRP rules if they disturb more than 6 square feet of interior paint or 20 square feet of exterior paint.

The older your home, the more likely it contains lead-based paint. For example, 87 percent of homes built before 1940 have some lead-based paint, while 24 percent of homes built between 1960 and 1978 have some lead-based paint.

Lead-based paint may be present in private single-family homes or apartments, government-assisted, or public housing, and in urban, suburban or rural settings. The EPA recommends that you assume your pre-1978 home contains lead-based paint and take the appropriate precautions. The simplest and safest approach is to hire a certified professional to check for lead-based paint. A certified risk assessor can conduct a risk assessment that will tell you whether your home currently has any lead hazards from lead in paint, dust or soil. The risk assessor can also tell you what actions to take to address any hazards. For help finding a certified risk assessor or inspector, call the National Lead Information Center at 1-800-424-LEAD (5323).

A number of lead test kits are available for consumer purchase in most retail hardware stores; however, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) states that consumers should exercise caution when using these test kits to evaluate consumer products for potential lead exposures. The EPA has recognized three test kits, but recognition only applies for use by Lead-Safe Certified renovators. As of Sept. 1, 2010, the EPA will continue to recognize 3M LeadCheck™, the State of Massachusetts lead test kit, and the newly recognized D-Lead® kit.

Hiring a Renovation Firm
When hiring a renovation firm, confirm the firm’s EPA certification, and request proof that at least one person supervising your project completed certified training in lead-safe practices. Before any work begins, the contractor must provide you with the EPA’s “Renovate Right” lead hazard pamphlet. Be wary if they don’t do this on their own.

Here is an example of the precautions that should be followed:

  • The contractor must completely contain the work area in plastic sheeting.
  • Furniture should be moved out or completely covered.
  • Doors, windows and heating/cooling vents should be sealed off.
  • Pets and nonworkers must be prevented from entering the work area.
  • For exterior jobs, plastic sheeting must extend at least 10 feet in all directions from the point where paint is disturbed.
  • If the work takes place within 10 feet of the property line, then extra precautions, such as vertical containment, must be used to protect neighbors.
  • Any grinding, scraping or sanding must be done with tools equipped with a shroud and HEPA vacuum attachment.
  • Wet sanders and misters should be used to minimize dust.
  • No open-flame burning or torching is allowed, and heat guns cannot be used at temperatures higher than 1,100 degrees.
  • The contractor must properly clean the work site daily, taking special care before removing the plastic, use a HEPA vacuum to clean all dust and debris and wet-wipe and wet-mop all surfaces.

Although the RRP rule does not apply to homeowners renovating, repairing or painting their own homes, do-it-yourself projects can easily create dangerous lead dust. Protect your family and home setup safely, control the dust, and clean up completely.

Follow these safeguards to prevent lead dust from spreading throughout your home:

  • Remove all furniture, area rugs, curtains, food, clothing, and other household items until cleanup is complete.
  • Items that cannot be removed from the work area should be tightly wrapped with plastic sheeting and sealed with tape.
  • Cover floors with plastic sheeting.
  • If working on a larger job, construct an airlock at the entry to the work area.
  • Turn off forced-air heating and air conditioning systems.
  • Cover vents with plastic sheeting and tape the sheeting in place with tape.
  • Close all windows in the work area.
  • If disturbing paint, when using a hand tool, spray water on lead-painted surfaces to keep dust from spreading.

Get the Right Equipment
It is important to get the right equipment to protect you and your family from lead exposure:

  • Use a NIOSH-certified disposable respirator with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter, and use a HEPA filter-equipped vacuum cleaner.
  • Wet-sanding and clean up equipment.
  • Use heavy-duty plastic sheeting and heavy-duty plastic bags, tape and protective clothing. If reusable garments are used, clean work clothes and launder separately.

Consider Hiring a Certified Lead Abatement Contractor or Inspector
In light of all the necessary precautions to take when renovating a pre-1978 home, it is highly recommended to hire a certified lead abatement contractor. You can reduce the risk of lead exposure in your home by hiring a certified lead inspector to check to see whether there is lead paint in the area of your work. If lead is present, then have a trained and certified lead abatement contractor perform an abatement to remove the lead from the area before you begin work. Lead can also sometimes be found in soil, water, household dust, pottery, toys and traditional cosmetics.

For more information about lead-based paint and safety precautions that should be known before starting any home improvement projects on older homes, please visit the EPA’s website.

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The Dangers of Lead Paint: Part II in a Series on Lead

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

Family in living roomA large percentage of people living in older homes have been contaminated with lead and do not even realize it until medical tests have been run for an assumingly unrelated issue. There are a wide variety of symptoms for lead poisoning that range from physical, intellectual, emotional and behavioral disorders, such as the following.

Lead Poisoning Symptoms
Newborns: Babies who are exposed to lead before birth may experience the following:

  • Learning difficulties
  • Slowed growth

Children: The signs and symptoms of lead poisoning in children may include the following:

  • Developmental delay
  • Learning difficulties
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Sluggishness and fatigue
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Hearing loss

Adults: Although children are primarily at risk, lead poisoning is also dangerous for adults. Signs and symptoms in adults may include the following:

  • High blood pressure
  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Decline in mental functioning
  • Pain
  • Numbness or tingling of the extremities
  • Headache
  • Memory loss
  • Mood disorders
  • Reduced sperm count
  • Abnormal sperm
  • Miscarriage or premature birth in pregnant women

If you think you or your child has been exposed to lead, see your doctor or contact your local public health department. A blood test can help determine blood lead levels.

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Getting the Lead Out: Part I in a Series on Lead

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

Lead ILead contamination is still a concern in older homes and although it was used in the manufacturing of toys, pottery and plumbing components, it is most commonly found to be problematic in paints.

Lead pigments where used in paints to increase durability, speed up drying, resist moisture and improve longevity over the years through all types of weather. In the early 1900s, when millions of people died from the Spanish flu pandemic, the medical community advised people to wash their walls to help prevent spreading of the disease. The lead-based paint was also very easy to keep clean and maintained its luster through repeated washing.

Federal and state organizations claimed lead-based paint was the best choice for house painting and encouraged its use between 1920s and the 1970s. Several public housing projects built by President Roosevelt’s Public Work Administration in the mid-1930s used the lead-based paint for its known durability reported by government paint experts. For years, professional painters preferred the reliability of lead-based paints over other paints, and due to the widely adopted preference by other professional painters and home owners, lead was used in the manufacturing of nearly all paints.

No health issues were suspected until 1933, when the American Public Health Association wrote a publication responding to reports of childhood lead poisoning and recommended discontinuing use of lead-based paint on baby toys, beds and carriages. However, it also said it had other uses, such as house paint. Then in 1949, a Baltimore public health investigation identified lead-based paint as a potential health risk to children due to peeling and chipping paint in poorly maintained homes. In some countries, lead continues to be added to paint intended for domestic use; however, lead has been banned from household paints in the United States since 1978.

If you are looking to purchase an older home built before 1978, you have a legal right to be made aware of and test for the possibility of lead-based paint within the home you are planning to buy before executing a contract or lease. The current federal law requires the seller, property manager or landlord of a home to provide an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-approved pamphlet titled “Protect Your Family From Lead in Your Home,” which provides information about lead-based paint hazards. The owner is also obligated to disclose any known presence of lead in the home and provide a 10-day period for allowing a buyer to have an EPA-certified inspector perform a lead-based paint assessment. Language should be in the contract that confirms the seller has complied with all the notification requirements.

It is often found that most buyers waive these rights and do not have the home inspected for the potential of lead-based paint. I think the main reason for this is because the buyer either has a pretty good idea that lead based paint is present, or they would just assume not know and do not see it as a big issue. It should always be assumed that any house built before 1978 could contain lead-based paint somewhere, and all occupants should be aware of the potential hazards associated with it.

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Keeping Your Chimney Clean

Chimney_shutterstock_126328937Chimneys need to be kept clean to prevent chimney fires, but how often they need to be cleaned is a tricky question. The National Fire Protection Association Standard 211 says, “Chimneys, fireplaces, and vents shall be inspected at least once a year for soundness, freedom from deposits, and correct clearances. Cleaning, maintenance, and repairs shall be done if necessary.”

In wood-burning fireplaces, creosote can build up and cause chimney fires. But even if you have a gas fireplace or don’t use your fireplace very often, you should have the chimney inspected and cleaned about once a year, as animals can get into the chimney and build nests, or leaves, sticks and twigs from nearby trees can become trapped in the chimney and cause chimney fires.

You could try to remove creosote and clean your chimney yourself, but for a thorough, professional job, you’ll need to call a chimney sweep. The cost is around $150 to $200, and you should make sure that the chimney professional does a thorough job. Ask for a Level 1 inspection; if the chimney sweep doesn’t know what that is, move on to another company. If you live in Canada, be sure that your chimney sweep professional is certified by Wood Energy Technology Transfer, Inc. (WETT).

For more information about chimney cleaning, visit the Chimney Safety Institute of America’s website. In Canada, visit the Wood Energy Technology Transfer, Inc., website.

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High Water Pressure? That’s a Problem

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

Water PressureWhen I bought my current home, the water came out of the shower head like a fire hose tackling a four-alarm torch job.

It was a mite high.

This was OK with most of the family, as they were female and had long hair. For those who have not raised daughters, a moment of education: Long hair requires lots of water to get all the shampoo out, preferably at decent pressure so the hair rinses clean all the way to the roots.

It was also something I was aware of as I tested it as part of my inspection prior to purchasing the house. I do this for most houses I inspect, provided the water is on, and I can test without making an enormous mess inside. Usually, I use a hose bib on the exterior of the home. As you might imagine, this is not one of my favorite tests in the middle of winter.

Unfortunately, no matter how popular the fire hose effect is with my kids, it’s not good for the plumbing system. The plumbing is actually a highly engineered system, as are all the fittings, fixtures and appliances attached to the supply plumbing.

To give you an idea of the potential for trouble, think about your plumbing lines and connections as balloons. What happens to the balloon if you put too much air into it? Yep, it pops. The plumbing does as well, though probably (but not certainly) as catastrophically.

You have hundreds of fittings within the home — not just on the pipes, but also on appliances such as the water heater, the dishwasher and the clothes washer. You also have a multitude of O-rings, valve fittings and the like on your faucets, their valves and the shower heads.

That’s a lot of spots with the potential to leak.

High water pressure also causes early degradation of the appliances. Dish and clothes washers are designed to operate at specific pressures, usually 15 to 80 PSI. Increasing this pressure also increases the wear and tear on the equipment, reducing their service lives.

So, How Do You Know if Your Water Pressure Is Too High?
Well, a pressure washer effect in the shower is a good clue, but testing is the easiest way to know exactly what the static pressure is. You can buy a standard water pressure gauge for about $10 at your local hardware store, or even online from Amazon.com. Simply screw it onto a hose bib outside and read the pressure. You can also test indoors at the washer hose connection, but have a small bucket or pan ready to catch the drips.

A word of warning: We do have some municipalities in our region that have separate water supplies for the indoor and irrigation water systems. Make sure that you are testing the potable water supply. The washer supply will be part of the potable system.

What to Do if You Have High Water Pressure
Ideally, you would like to see the water pressure between 40 and 80 PSI (pounds per square inch) when you test it. This is considered the normal range, although if I tested once during the middle of the day and hit 82 PSI, I would be inclined to retest, especially during the peak usage hours to see what kind of pressure drop occurs when everyone is home and using water for showers, cooking and doing dishes.

If you measure the pressure and you do have high water pressure, correction of the problem is as simple as installing a pressure reducing valve near the main valve where the primary water supply enters the building.

Now, I did say “as simple as ,” but that doesn’t mean I recommend that you do it. I recommend that this work be done by a licensed plumber, especially in older homes that may have supply lines that are degrading. It is not an expensive repair, and I feel it is worth having a person with the training and proper tools tackle a job that, done incorrectly, could have a geyser spraying across the house.

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National Property Inspections, Inc., Welcomes New Franchise Owners

Picture2We’re excited to announce several new franchise owners who will take the National Property Inspections and Global Property Inspections brands to new areas:

  • Stephen Ballasy is from Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, and will have territory covering Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.
  • Mike and Whitney Hyma from Twin Lake, Michigan, will operate their business in Muskegon County, Michigan.
  • Dale and Tiffany Senkow of Warman, Saskatchewan, will have territory in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, in Canada.
  • Jim Vaughn from Cape Coral, Florida, will operate in Fort Myers, Cape Coral and Lee County in Florida.
  • David Whaley from Denton, Maryland is taking over a franchise that operates in Caroline, Dorchester, Queen Anne’s and Talbot Counties in Maryland.

“We had a great class in September and we wish all of these new franchisees the very best as they start their businesses,” said Roland Bates, president of National Property Inspections, Inc. “They are helping us grow by bringing National Property Inspections and Global Property Inspections to new areas. Everyone in this class is sharp and capable and we look forward to working with them.”

The new franchisees completed the 120-hour intensive training program in September 2014 at the National Property Inspections, Inc., headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska, and are now undergoing up to 80 hours of field training with experienced NPI franchise owners in their regions.

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Do You Really Need a Home Inspection?

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

Inspector + Cabinet4As a home inspector, there is no question that I am going to be biased toward people using the services of a competent home inspector, whenever they are in the process of buying or selling a property. However, people don’t have to take the word of a home inspector; all they need to do is ask a REALTOR®, a mortgage broker, a lawyer or even Mike Holmes. All of these professionals will come back with the same clear recommendation: You should always have your home inspected by a qualified home inspector.

If you do a quick search on the Internet for “common mistakes by first-time home buyers,” you will find that not having a home inspection is always near the top of this list. Sadly, it’s not unusual to see first-time home buyers become overwhelmed with all of the various costs associated with purchasing their first home. Some will even look for creative ways to stretch their limited home-purchasing budget and choose not to hire a home inspector to try to save money. But that old saying, “penny wise, pound foolish,” certainly comes to mind.

Another important point to consider as to why home buyers should hire the services of a professional home inspector is the simple fact that people tend to fall in love or have made an emotional connection with the home they are about to purchase. That is not necessarily a bad thing. Unfortunately, when someone makes an emotional purchase, they can easily be blinded to seeing exactly what they are getting themselves into. This reminds me of a line from a movie: “The brain sees what the heart wants it to feel.”

That would definitely apply to buying a home.

Homeownership certainly has its rewards, but it also comes with many risks. That is why it is so important to be an informed buyer and to try to manage some of these risks. Always have a home inspection done and then carefully review the results, so you can objectively decide on how you would then like to proceed with the purchase of this property. Remember, the cost of a home inspection is very small in comparison to the purchase price of the home or the potential risk of some unknown or hidden deficiency.

A properly trained home inspector will view the home in a way that few people do. In an effort to minimize unpleasant surprises and unexpected repairs, the home inspection should provide an unbiased and objective visual examination of the physical structure and systems of the home. The inspector’s judgment is not clouded by emotions; he or she will review your house as a system, looking at how one component of the house might affect the operation or lifespan of another. The inspector evaluates and reports on the condition of the structure, roof, basement, drainage, electrical, plumbing, heating system, visible insulation, walls, windows and doors. Components that are not performing properly will be identified, as well as items that are beyond their useful life or are unsafe. The purpose of the home inspection is to provide the client with a better understanding of the property conditions, as observed at the time of the inspection.

It is extremely important to note that not all home inspectors are equally trained and/or qualified, so look for home inspectors who belong to a provincial association such as CAHPI (Canadian Home and Property Inspectors), ASHI (American Society or Home Inspectors) or InterNACHI, as these professionals are typically bound by a strict code of ethics and must adhere to specific standards of practice.

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Is Your Automatic Garage Door Opener Reliable?

Submitted by Roland Bates, President, NPI/GPI

Garage Door Opener_shutterstock_150427739In terms of homeowner convenience, an automatic garage door opener is one of the best inventions since the bathroom exhaust fan (which will never be surpassed for its own unique reasons). Which brings us to a question: If an automatic garage door opener allows us to drive our air-conditioned cars directly into the garage, do we have the right to complain about how hot it is outside? Pondering things like this could keep one up at night.

Garage door openers are pretty much taken for granted until they no longer work. Although they are very reliable, don’t assume they will always work. I have a friend and neighbor that boasts he doesn’t even know where his house keys are. He says, “I just go in and out the garage door.” OK, but what happens when there’s a power outage? Newer garage door openers have a battery backup that will power the opener for a limited amount of time.

But my friend’s opener does not have battery backup, nor do most of the openers currently in service. So, if my friend is away and the power goes out, or his garage door opener simply stops working, he won’t be able to get into his house. Thus, this used-to-be friend will be knocking on my door. (And I’ll probably let him in.)

A homeowner can’t be sure when a garage door opener is going to quit working for whatever reason. Thus, I make these three suggestions:

  • Always carry a key to the front or back door with you. Or keep a key cleverly hidden on your property. A key hidden under the doormat or a flower pot is not a good location. Think, burglars. Be mindful — a locked and unkeyed storm door could also bar entry. Hate it when that happens.
  • When you do replace your garage door opener, be sure it has a battery backup. If you ever need it, you’ll be thankful you have it.
  • Another possible solution for getting into your house should the garage door opener not work is a “touchpad” lock. They work great on a back, side or basement door. They are relatively inexpensive and easy to install. They are generally keyed as well as battery-driven. Just remember to replace the batteries once in a while.

Thus far we have talked about opening and raising the garage door. Let me conclude with a brief word about closing and lowering it: If the garage door starts down but won’t stay down or auto reverses, then there are several possible reasons for this.

If a garage door starts down but won’t stay down, it could be a simple obstruction of the electronic eyes (sensors) located at the bottom of and on either side of the garage door. For example, enough snow accumulation along the bottom of the door, on a bright sunny day, could create enough glare to interfere with the electronic eyes, causing the door to auto reverse. Simply brushing the snow away might solve the problem.

Because there are so many possible causes for the garage door to auto reverse, the typical homeowner would be better served to call a garage door company, or competent property inspector, to help ascertain the reason.

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