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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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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Common Mistakes Home Owners Make

Couple Planning Remodel_shutterstock_111839573Your home may be the largest purchase you ever make, so it’s worth your time to keep it in good repair. What you don’t want to do is create more work for yourself. The following are some common mistakes home owners often make in the name of maintenance or home improvement:

Ceiling fans: Ceiling fans are not ordinary light fixtures. Their weight, size and motion require extra support. Never hang a ceiling fan from a light fixture box or install it without the proper electrical connections or support. Improperly installed ceiling fans will be noisy and potentially dangerous.

Wooden fences: To help prevent wood-destroying insect (WDI) problems, keep wood — including fences — away from the walls and foundation of your home. Use decorative rocks or other materials instead of wood mulch, and avoid nailing wood fence posts to the walls of the house.

Permits: Before starting any home remodeling project, determine what permits and inspections are necessary. Check with your local building department or other regulatory agency to ensure that your project adheres to the proper safety and local building codes. This can save you money in the long run, and prevent problems when you sell the house.

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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The Top 5 Things Sellers Should Do to Prepare for the Home Inspection

By Wes Grant, NPI Franchise Owner, Indian Trail, North Carolina

Inspector + Electrical9When you’re selling your home, preparing everything for the home inspection can prevent unnecessary delays during the closing process. For liability reasons, home inspectors are not required, nor advised, to move items blocking access to areas that need to be inspected. If you don’t provide access to these areas during the inspection, it can lead to incomplete results, callbacks, additional fees or a frustrated buyer. Most home inspectors charge an additional fee if they must return to the property to inspect items which were not accessible.

If you’re selling your home, you probably want to make the process as smooth as possible. Here are five tips to help you along:

1. Make sure all utilities (power, gas, water, etc.) are on for the inspection. Few things are more frustrating to a home inspector than arriving at a scheduled inspection only to find that none of the utilities are turned on or the pilot flames are not lit. This normally requires the inspection to be rescheduled and oftentimes results in the buyer having to extend due diligence, which therefore extends the closing date.

2. Create clear access to the electrical panel, water heater, furnace, attic and crawl space. If major appliances are not readily and easily accessible, the inspector will be unable to closely examine the equipment, which may again result in a return trip after you have cleared access to these important components of the home. Again, this will result in a delay and additional costs.

3. Board or kennel the pets. The home inspector is there to perform a thorough inspection, which takes a great deal of skill, knowledge and concentration. I love dogs (not so much a cat guy, though, sneaky critters), but we go in and out of the house quite a lot during a home inspection as we check different components of the home. Dogs that bark endlessly or cats that like to run out of an open door affect the inspector’s concentration, which could be detrimental to you or the buyer.

4. Don’t stuff the garage or the attic. It’s always a good idea to de-clutter your home in preparing to put it on the market, but don’t do so at the expense of stuffing everything in the attic or garage, as that will make those areas inaccessible (see No. 2 above). There are potentially defects that need to be noted in the attic and garage, and as has been the case for everything so far, that could lead to a return trip, delays and additional costs. It’s better to rent a storage unit or a POD that can be stored on your property.

5. Do some repairs and cleaning. I always recommend that sellers spruce up the house by doing some of the maintenance they may have let slip. Change burned-out bulbs in light fixtures; and caulk or seal around bathtubs, exterior windows/doors, anywhere there are gaps that allow water or pest intrusion. Dust, paint areas that need it, clean windows, clean bathrooms and the kitchen. Like they say, “Dress to impress.”

In conclusion, if you as a home seller follow these “Big 5” recommendations in preparing your home for an inspection, the process will go a lot smoother with no delays and minimal frustration. You will also be able to concentrate on your own schedule of finding another another home without the frustration of rescheduling inspections for the buyer of your current house. Happy selling, and remember to call NPI before you buy — or sell!

Grant PhotoWes Grant is a professional National Property Inspections home inspector in Indian Trail and the surrounding Union County area in North Carolina. If you live in the area, call 704.628.6601 to schedule your home inspection with Wes.

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, from roof to foundation.

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Your Home’s Foundation: Out of Sight, Out of Mind?

Severe cracks in walls can signal settlement and foundation problems.

Severe cracks in walls can signal settlement and foundation problems.

Most houses are supported underneath by concrete or a stone, referred to as the foundation. It’s a simple truth that most people keep their sights on things that are at eye level. Whether you are inside or outside your house, your attention is often drawn to wall hangings, furniture, doors, windows, the siding. You may not think much about the foundation of your house, especially if it’s a slab foundation.

However, it is imperative to check the foundation of your home, as the expenses to repair it can become overwhelming if problems are left to worsen. It’s important to inspect your foundation regularly, so you can catch problems in the early stages, before they become expensive repairs.

Common Problems

There are typically three types of foundations: basements, crawl spaces and slab. Regardless of the type of foundation you have, several foundation problems are common:

  • Bulges and outward bumps are commonly caused by temperature changes and can lead to serious problems in the future, including abnormal settlement and potentially building collapse.
  • Cracking is commonly caused by soil settling and vibrations from nearby elements. Normally cracking is repairable and not seriously threatening to the structure and safety of the building. However, be sure to monitor cracks and call in a professional if you notice any warning signs.
  • Leaking occurs when water penetrates through cracks in a foundation and enters the inside of the house. Water can cause erosion and spawn a breeding ground for mold, which can ruin nearly anything, including cherished belongings like photos and keepsakes.

The Top 10 Signs of Foundation Trouble

  • Uneven and sloping floors in the house
  • Cracks in exterior or interior bricks
  • Displaced or cracked moldings around doors, windows, etc.
  • Wall rotation
  • Cracks or bowing in walls
  • Cracks in floors, floor tiles or the home’s foundation
  • Doors and windows that won’t open or close properly, doors that swing open or closed on their own
  • Separation of doors, windows or garage doors
  • Gaps or spaces between walls and the ceiling or floor
  • Walls that are separating from the house

Unfortunately these types of problems do not correct themselves, and procrastination may cost you as the problem persists and worsens.

Photo courtesy of Gustty via EveryStockPhoto

Photo courtesy of Gustty via EveryStockPhoto

Do keep in mind, however, that some amount of settlement is normal in any house. Some cracks in foundation walls are minor and do not require you to take action right away, only to monitor them. If you have an old house with evidence of minor settling, it’s probably nothing to worry about. If you suspect you have major settlement or foundation problems, you can contact your local National Property Inspections or Global Property Inspections home inspector as a first step. Your home inspector will be able to tell you whether the problem is serious and you need to call in a structural engineer.

Foundation Repair Costs

Basements are the most expensive and complicated type of foundation to construct, as the depth of a basement is commonly 8 feet. Basement repair costs generally range from $500 to $10,000, depending on the type and extent of damage.

A slab foundation is a concrete pad poured directly on top of 4 to 6 inches of gravel with a sheet of plastic between them designed to keep out moisture. A slab is the easiest and least expensive foundation for a building or house. The downside is that there is no easy access for foundation work that may be needed. In addition, sewer lines are embedded in the concrete slab. Expenses for repairs vary wildly and can range from $100 to $15,000.

Crawl spaces are similar to slabs; however, they raise the house off the ground and allow for easy access to plumbing and ductwork. The cost to build on a crawl space is comparable to that of a slab. Expenses for repairs can range from $1,500 to $15,000.

Make a foundation inspection a part of your annual spring home maintenance checklist. If you have a basement or crawl space, check the inside and outside for damage.

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Today’s Tip: Freshen Up Your Garbage Disposal

Kitchen Faucet_shutterstock_85457362The kitchen is a source of odors in the home. Some, like apple pie, are pleasing. Others, like the odor emitting from a kitchen drain, can hit you right in the gut.

To clean and freshen your drains, pour the juice from half a lemon and a handful of baking soda down the drain. Flush well with hot water.

Garbage disposals are another part of the sink that can get stinky. To freshen your garbage disposal:

  1. Cut a lemon in quarters.
  2. Run cold water down the disposal.
  3. Turn on the disposal and drop in one piece of lemon.
  4. Follow with a second piece.
  5. Once both pieces of lemon clear the disposal, add a handful of baking soda.

Remember to keep your fingers away from moving parts at all times. While the disposal runs, use the other lemons to make refreshing drinks.

Cold water should always be used with a garbage disposal because it helps congeal the fats and grease that may be in the disposal. Warm water will liquefy these items, but could cause them to congeal and block the plumbing before they are completely flushed from the system.

Although the garbage disposal itself generally requires little maintenance, the area under the kitchen sink is prone to leaks. Every month, be sure to open the cabinet doors, remove all of the items and check carefully for dampness or drips. Stopping leaks early can prevent expensive fixes later.

If your house has a septic system, there may be something you may not have thought of: If you have a garbage disposal, you likely will have will to clean the septic system more frequently because of the build-up of solid foods and grease from the disposal.

Your local NPI or GPI home inspector can provide you with a full assessment of your home’s systems and condition. To find an inspector near you, visit one of the links below.

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I’m a Guy; I Can Fix Anything

By Roland Bates, President, NPI/GPI

Man Hanging Light Fixture_shutterstock_190995362To preface this article, I need to explain that a ballast is a crucial component of a fluorescent light fixture. It controls the amount of current that flows to the bulbs and provides the current to start the bulbs.

That said, the ballast went out in one of my two kitchen lights a couple of months ago. My lovely wife asked me to replace it. As a guy, I was thinking that if one out of two lights work, what’s the rush? It turns out women don’t think that way.

I am pretty comfortable doing electrical wiring. Thus, I went to the hardware store and purchased a new ballast and installed it. Ignoring the instructions, and certain that I had wired it correctly, I turned the light on and off numerous times to make sure it was working and then went to do other things.

Fast-forward four or five weeks later: The ballast I replaced quit working. The hardware store obviously sold me a defective ballast. So, I purchased another new one and installed it. Again, I turned the light on and off numerous times to make sure it was working, and went then I went off to do other things.

Four or five weeks later: The same ballast quit working yet again. Now I want to sell my stock in the hardware store. What kind of operation are they running, anyway? After installing a third new ballast, I glanced at the installation instructions, which previously I had just thrown away. I had wired it correctly each time; however, in big, bold, red letters it clearly stated, “Upon initial installation, leave the light burning continuously for at least 48 hours to allow the ballast to ‘season.’” Whoops.

Did I tell my lovely wife that my failure to read the instructions cost me all that extra grief? Nah, no guy is going to do that.

Roland PhotoRoland Bates’ high energy, willingness to work hard and optimistic outlook are the cornerstones of success for NPI and GPI. His easy manner and family attitude inspire a friendly and close atmosphere at the company. Before he founded NPI/GPI in 1987, Roland owned a general contracting company, where he worked for eight years as a general contractor. Prior to that, he spent five years as a property claims supervisor and regional claims manager.

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

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Ask the Inspector: What Are Weep Holes?

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Brick can be a structural component of a home, serving as the wall itself, or it can be a veneer, which is a type of siding. As a veneer, a single thickness of brick is added to the outside of a wood-framed home and serves the same purpose as any exterior siding.

One way to identify the presence of brick veneer is to look for weep holes — small openings at the bottom of brick veneer walls. Weep holes are designed to give moisture that accumulates between the home’s interior wooden wall and the exterior veneer a way out. Without weep holes for ventilation, moisture may become trapped in this cavity, causing mold, reducing the effectiveness of insulation, encouraging the formation of rot and attracting pests.

Weep holes can often be identified by open slots on a course, or row, of bricks near the foundation. The holes are typically 32 to 33 inches apart and should be kept unobstructed. It is a good idea to check and clear weep holes periodically. Do not allow dirt, mulch or broken pieces of mortar to block the holes and trap moisture inside.

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