Those funny looking electrical outlets installed where moisture might be present are safety devices intended to prevent serious electrical hazards by cutting the power. Known as Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs), Ground Fault Interrupters (GFIs) or just “safety outlets”, they should be tested at least monthly by pushing the “Test” button. Don’t forget to reset it! If your GFCIs keep tripping and you don’t know if you have a bad device or a ground fault, the Circuit Detective has a comprehensive and useful article to tell you everything you ever wanted to know about them.
You probably know that refrigerators are typically the most energy-hungry appliances in your home, so the more efficient your refrigerator the more money you can save. Older refrigerators are usually two to three times more costly to run than newer models. If you still have a fridge from the 1980s, replace it with an ENERGY STAR qualified model and save over $100 each year on your utility bills. Replace a fridge from the 1970s and save nearly $200 each year! If you are wondering whether replacing your refrigerator is a good decision for you, ENERGY STAR Savings has a calculator you can use to find out exactly how much money you’ll save by replacing your existing refrigerator.
Smooth sailing: The buyer, seller, realtors, and inspector all want smooth sailing, without unnecessary waves.
- I think Rule #1 for Realtors should be to keep the Seller and Buyer away from each other, at all costs! I have seen at least 10 deals in my time go awry because the Buyer simply didn’t like the Seller, or vice-versa. Maybe it was something the Seller said, or their mannerisms, or it could even have been their hygiene. Looked at another way, when you rent a room in a nice hotel, do you want to know who spent the night previous so you can ask them questions about the room? I wouldn’t want to know ANYTHING about the people who lived in the home prior to me; this is going to be my home and that’s the only picture I want to have in my mind. I think it’s the same for most Buyers.
- If Sellers REALLY want to tell the Buyers all about their home, have them put it in writing. Go for it, make a manual! Just keep them apart so emotions have no chance to escalate, potentially souring the transaction and wasting everybody’s time.
- Sellers and Buyers are EMOTIONAL. The inspector’s job is to find deficiencies with the home and put them into proper perspective for the Buyer (and give the home credit where credit’s due). The Seller, on the other hand, often times takes deficiencies personally; this is their home, after all, and how dare you point out her faults! She’s perfect! It can be tricky for inspectors and Realtors to navigate the emotional waters when Sellers and Buyers are both at the inspection. It can be an awkward, tension filled environment. All Sellers are anxoius about the home inspection, and it shows. This is not good for the Buyers to see up close and personal! It’s certainly not good for the deal. Help relieve everyone’s anxiety by keeping the Buyer and Seller apart.
- Buyers can’t speak candidly in front of the Seller. Buyers are typically polite and the last thing they want to do is point out a problem with the Seller’s home in front of the Seller. That’s rude! Often times, when the Seller is present, I have to find a “quiet space” where the Buyer can speak to me and ask frank questions. Most times, if this is not possible, I’ll politely ask the Seller to let us speak in private so the Buyer can ask candid questions about the home.
- When Sellers and Buyers- and likely their Realtors- all present at the inspection, it TAKES WAY MORE TIME! Most inspections should take 2-3 hours; it’s in nobody’s interest to extend their schedules unnecessarily. Frankly, nobody really has the endurance for a 4+ hour inspection. My goodness!
Here’s what I tell the Sellers who want to be present. “Mr. and Mrs. Seller. In my experience, having done this almost 5,000 times, it is really in your best interests to NOT be present at the home inspection. The home inspection is a time for the Buyer to ask the Home Inspector frank questions about the home; this can be difficult for Buyers when the Seller is present. Furthermore, I’ve seen several deals actually go awry simply due to emotions between Buyers and Sellers. Emotions that have nothing to do with the home at all! Knowing you want to sell this home, I recommend you vacate the home for about 3 hours so we can perform the inspection, and so the Buyer can get a good feel for the home and ask frank questions. It’s really in everyone’s best interests. Trust me!”
Keeping the Buyers and Sellers apart during the process will help ensure smooth sailing for all parties!
While better known for its use as wine stoppers and for bulletin boards, cork is also used for flooring and other building components.
Unique Advantages of Cork Flooring
- moisture damage. If cork flooring gets wet, it will expand, become uneven, and potentially crack, once dried;
- surface damage. Heavy, pointed objects, such as high-heeled footwear or dogs’ and cats’ claws, can create permanent dents and scratches in cork floors. These impressions cannot be easily sanded away the way they can in wood flooring;
- color fading, typically a yellowing, which will occur when the flooring is exposed to sunlight for prolonged periods of time. Area rugs and large furniture will block light exposure and may create uneven discoloration;
- off-gassing from the binders and adhesives used in cork tiles. Homeowners may purchase solid cork tiles with low-VOC adhesives as a more natural, non-toxic alternative;
- improper use. Due to moisture concerns, only floating-floor cork designs should be used in basement floors. Floating floors may, however, create problems when installed over radiant heating systems, although homeowners may check with the flooring’s manufacturer for specific installation restrictions. For instance, bathroom installations may require that the perimeter of the floor be caulked prior to installing the baseboards to avoid moisture penetration; and
- installation defects that represent trip hazards, as well as cosmetic blemishes, such as:
- bond failure, in which poor adhesion to the subfloor will result in lifting at the joints of the cork tile. The lifted surface can be forced flat under pressure, but this fix is often only temporary;
- sliding, where the tiles slide out of alignment with each other. This is caused when tiles are laid on wet adhesive, allowing them to move as the installer stands on top of them. Installers should let the adhesive dry before stepping onto the tiles. A rectangular gap known as a window can be created where adjacent tiles slide vertically and horizontally, revealing the underlying subfloor;
- waves or undulations, which are unsightly and might cause furniture to sit unevenly; and
- debris beneath the tile, which causes the tile to lift above any object that was not removed from the subfloor before the tile was installed.
Tips for Homeowners
Inspectors can pass on the following care and maintenance tips to their clients:
- Keep the floor surface free from dirt and grit through regular mopping with a well-wrung mop. Clean up spills quickly and never use harsh, abrasive cleaners.
- Place entrance mats at doors in order to prevent dirt and moisture from being tracked in and onto the floor. If the mat gets wet, however, remove it from the floor.
- Furnishings and floor coverings should be moved periodically, and heavy curtains or window shades can be used to prevent discoloration and fading caused by intense sunlight through the windows.
- Place furniture rests beneath furniture legs to protect the floor from indentations.
- Periodically apply urethane or polish to eliminate small scratches.
- Before they were powered electrically, nightlights were usually long-burning candles placed in fireproof metal cups, known as tealights in some countries. (Tealights in the U.S. refer to very short and wide candles that can be purchased within or without an aluminum tin cup that are commonly used inside a decorative glass holder. They are also known as votive candles.)
- There are roughly 90 million nightlights purchased each year in the United States. In 2001 alone, more than 600,000 of them were recalled by manufacturers for safety reasons.
- Defective nightlights can cause fires, burns and electrocutions.
(read full article on InterNACHI)
Fireplaces and wood stoves are designed to burn only one type of fuel. Used as all-purpose incinerators, these devices can pose the following hazards:
- Harmful vapors can vent into the living space. Even the most efficient fireplaces will vent directly into the living space while they’re opened and closed for cleaning and refueling, exposing everyone in the house to potentially dangerous fumes.
- Harmful vapors will vent to the outdoors. Most newer fireplaces and wood stoves do an excellent job of funneling smoke and fumes to the outdoors, but the problem doesn’t end there; this pollution persists, contaminating household and environmental air.
- Burning inappropriate fuel can cause mechanical damage. Chimneys can become lined with residue from inappropriate items, which may lead to a dangerous chimney fire. The fumes from certain items will quickly wear out sensitive components, such as catalytic combustors in wood stoves.
Read the following guidelines to better understand what can and cannot be safely burned in a residential fireplace or wood stove.
(read full article on InterNACHI)
This is the exterior of a townhome I was asked to inspect. During the inspection, I ran into a neighbor who told me that the roof of another garage, identical to the one pictured above two buildings down, had collapsed the previous winter under a snow load.
So, I decided to keep my eyes wide open as I went through the garage…(read full article on InterNACHI)
If you are not on a sewer system, then you are likely on a septic system. As with most things, a little maintenance can go a long way and help prevent potentially expensive (and smelly) problems. A still pertinent ten-year-old article by the National Environmental Services Center says, “Septic system maintenance is often compared to automobile maintenance because only a little effort on a regular basis can save a lot of money and significantly prolong the life of the system.” See their comprehensive Homeowners Guide to Maintaining Your Septic System.
Here are some tips to consider for remodeling your bathroom. It’s not always practical, or affordable, to spend a lot of money on a big bathroom remodel. With these DIY tips and simple remodeling ideas, you can save on costs to make the project much more affordable.