Home Maintenance Tips

Home Maintenance Tips from Your Friendly Home Inspectors at Property Condition Consulting

Upon Taking Ownership

After taking possession of a new home, there are some maintenance and safety issues that should be addressed immediately.  The following checklist should help you undertake these improvements:

  • Change the locks on all exterior entrances, for improved security.
  • Check that all windows and doors are secure.  Improve window hardware as necessary.  Security rods can be added to sliding windows and doors.  Consideration could also be given to a security system.
  • Install smoke detectors on each level of the home.  Ensure that there is a smoke detector outside all sleeping areas.  Replace batteries on any existing smoke detectors and test them.  Make a note to replace batteries again in one year.
  • Create a plan of action in the event of a fire in your home.  Ensure that there is an operable window or door in every room of the house.  Consult with your local fire department regarding fire safety issues and what to do in the event of fire.
  • Examine driveways and walkways for trip hazards.  Undertake repairs where necessary.
  • Examine the interior of the home for trip hazards.  Loose or torn carpeting and flooring should be repaired.
  • Undertake improvements to all stairways, decks, porches and landings where there is a risk of falling or stumbling.
  • Review your home inspection report for any items that require immediate improvement or further investigation.  Address these areas as required.
  • Install rain caps and vermin screens on all chimney flues, as necessary.
  • Investigate the location of the main shut-offs for the plumbing, heating and electrical systems.  If you attended the home inspection, these items would have been pointed out to you.

Regular Maintenance

Every Month

  • Check that fire extinguisher(s) are fully charged.  Re-charge if necessary.
  • Examine heating/cooling air filters and replace or clean as necessary.
  • Inspect and clean humidifiers and electronic air cleaners.
  • If the house has hot water heating, bleed radiator valves.
  • Clean gutters and downspouts.  Ensure that downspouts are secure, and that the discharge of the downspouts is appropriate.  Remove debris from window wells.
  • Carefully inspect the condition of shower enclosures.  Repair or replace deteriorated grout and caulk.  Ensure that water is not escaping the enclosure during showering.  Check below all plumbing fixtures for evidence of leakage.
  • Repair or replace leaking faucets or shower heads.
  • Secure loose toilets, or repair flush mechanisms that become troublesome.

 Spring and Fall

  • Examine the roof for evidence of damage to roof coverings, flashings and chimneys.
  • Look in the attic (if accessible) to ensure that roof vents are not obstructed.  Check for evidence of leakage, condensation or vermin activity.  Level out insulation if needed.
  • Trim back tree branches and shrubs to ensure that they are not in contact with the house.
  • Inspect the exterior walls and foundation for evidence of damage, cracking or movement.  Watch for bird nests or other vermin or insect activity.
  • Survey the basement and/or crawl space walls for evidence of moisture seepage.
  • Look at overhead wires coming to the house.  They should be secure and clear of trees or other obstructions.
  • Ensure that the grade of the land around the house encourages water to flow away from the foundation.
  • Inspect all driveways, walkways, decks, porches, and landscape components for evidence of deterioration, movement or safety hazards.
  • Clean windows and test their operation.  Improve caulking and weather-stripping as necessary.  Watch for evidence of rot in wood window frames.  Paint and repair window sills and frames as necessary.
  • Test all ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) devices, as identified in the inspection report.
  • Shut off isolating valves for exterior hose bibs in the fall, if below freezing temperatures are anticipated.
  • Test the Temperature and Pressure Relief (TPR) Valve on water heaters.
  • Inspect for evidence of wood boring insect activity.  Eliminate any wood/soil contact around the perimeter of the home.
  • Test the overhead garage door opener, to ensure that the auto-reverse mechanism is responding properly.  Clean and lubricate hinges, rollers and tracks on overhead doors.
  • Replace or clean exhaust hood filters.
  • Clean, inspect and/or service all appliances as per the manufacturer’s recommendations.

 Annually

  • Replace smoke detector batteries.
  • Have the heating, cooling and water heater systems cleaned and serviced.
  • Have chimneys inspected and cleaned.  Ensure that rain caps and vermin screens are secure.
  • Examine the electrical panels, wiring and electrical components for evidence of overheating.  Ensure that all components are secure.  Flip the breakers on and off to ensure that they are not sticky.
  • If the house utilizes a well, check and service the pump and holding tank.  Have the water quality tested.  If the property has a septic system, have the tank inspected (and pumped as needed).
  • If your home is in an area prone to wood destroying insects (termites, carpenter ants, etc.), have the home inspected by a licensed specialist.  Preventative treatments may be recommended in some cases.

 

Prevention Is The Best Approach

Although we’ve heard it many times, nothing could be more true than the old cliché “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  Preventative maintenance is the best way to keep your house in great shape.  It also reduces the risk of unexpected repairs and improves the odds of selling your house at fair market value, when the time comes.

Please feel free to contact our office should you have any questions regarding the operation or maintenance of your home.  Enjoy your home!

 

Should Federal Pacific Electric Stab-Lok® Panels Be Replaced?

The Home Inspectors at PCC wants you to be aware of Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) Stab-Lok Breaker Box and the Consumer Product Safety Commission Reports

If you inspected your own home and found that it had a fuse box with 1/3 of the circuits over-fused or with pennies behind the fuses, how long would it be before you had it corrected? Would you sleep tight without it being corrected? Would the fact that your house had not had any problem (burned down yet) because of the over-fusing and pennies influence your decision as to whether or not to take corrective action’? Unlike over-fusing and pennies behind the fuses, defective FPE breakers cannot be spotted by an inspector or tested by an electrician or homeowner. Without doing a functional test (at overload and short-circuit conditions) on each breaker, one pole at a time for the two-pole breakers, one cannot actually determine the present operating characteristics of a breaker. Which of the 20-Amp breakers really have the trip characteristics of 3D-Amp breakers (same as over-fusing)? Which will not trip at all (same as a penny behind a fuse)?

Most electricians or electrical inspectors can only look at the breakers (“they look OK to me”), and operate the toggle (“they dick on and off OK”). But without doing live-current functional testing on all of the breakers, it is impossible to determine which of the breakers in the panel are defective. Will they all trip safely and properly on electrical overload or short circuit? Electrical contractors and inspectors are generally not equipped to do that type of testing, and homeowners or potential purchasers are not likely to have the required budget for extensive specialized testing. In fact, thorough testing would most likely cost far more than changing the panel.

The presence of an FPE panel in a home should be classified as a “Safety Defect”. The FPE Stab-Lok breakers are primary safety devices of questionable operating reliability. It is not quite correct to call the non-tripping breaker a “fire hazard”. That term should be reserved for the electrical failure that causes ignition. The breaker’s function is to stop certain electrical sequences that could, if allowed to proceed, lead to fire in the building. If an electrical fire hazard involving excess current develops somewhere in the building, the breaker is supposed to trip and minimize the possibility of fire ignition. If the breaker is defective, fire is more likely to result.

There is no question but that the FPE Stab-Lok panels should be replaced. There is no practical and safe alternative. 

The full text of the document is available at the following: http://www.cpsc.gov/PageFiles/87419/alumwire3_18.pdf

Round and round the Texas house the brick pops off the corners…

(To the tune of “Pop! Goes the Weasel)

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Corner pops are small sections at the corner of a slab that break off and are about as common a hot weather in a Texas summer. Most slab homes and even many pier and beam homes have at least one corner that “pops,” or breaks off at some point. This often raises concerns for buyers who worry that this is an indication of foundation movement or structural problems. To be fair, it is a piece of the foundation, and it is clearly broken.

The good news is that corner pops can be fixed without much trouble and are not, at least by themselves, an indication that there are structural issues or problems with the home.

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When showing these cracks to a client, I will frequently turn around and point to the same crack on the house next door. As home inspectors, we note and include corner pops in our reports so that our clients are aware of and have better understanding of what is causing corner pops to occur.

There has been some discussion in the home inspector community about whether this item should really be included in the Walls section or remain in the Foundation section. It is generally our policy to keep them under Foundations because that is where most people look for it.

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At a recent home inspectors’ conference, I was talking to some home inspectors from different parts of the county and they were baffled by this issue, indicating that it may not be something that you would see as frequently in other parts of the country.

So, what are these things and why are they so common in our area?

First, it is important to understand that the exterior brick is not a structural component of the wall. It looks pretty and keeps the house from floating away but does not support the attic, roof or other structural components.

Second, brick and concrete have different thermal expansion properties. That is, they expand and/or contract at different rates when they heat and cool. So, on a warm summer afternoon, the brick in the wall is going to expand; so is the concrete of the foundation. This expansion is not pretty small, but the difference in the expansion of the brick and the concrete is enough to allow them to move differently.

Third, there is, or is supposed to be, a barrier between the brick and foundation. Typically this barrier is a black poly or plastic. Sometimes you can see a little bit of the black plastic sticking out between the brick and foundation on new houses. However, because of the way this plastic is installed, it is often missing at the corners (see example pictures below).

So, here is what happens: the plastic barrier is missing from the corner. The brick of the wall and the concrete of the foundation are in direct contact and bond together. Then we get a warm Texas day (read hotter than you-know-where), and the brick expands more than the concrete… and “Pop! Goes the corner.”

Should I repair corner pops?

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To repair or not to repair a corner pop is often just a matter of personal preference. It is my opinion that there are only a few instances where it is important to repair this damage.

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The vast majority of these cracks are too small to make any difference; however, we do sometimes see a corner pop that has some cracking in the brick that it supports. If the section of the foundation that has broken off is too big, it can leave the brick unsupported. If the brick is settling a little in conjunction with a corner pop, then I would recommend repair to make sure that the brick has adequate support and does not continue to crack.

With thanks to Bill Sallade at Lighthouse Engineering for his input and diagrams.

1 Year Warranty Home Inspections

Warranty home inspections are performed by home inspectors toward the end of your first year in a newly constructed home. The home inspection will be performed to verify that proper building techniques were used and that the various systems and components of the home were properly installed and continue to function properly.

Buyers of New Home Construction have three reasons they repeat over and over as to why they don’t get a Home Inspection and the truth of the matter is they are mistaken. Here’s what they say:

I trust my builder.

The people who actually build your new home are the sub-contractors that the builder hires to do the work. And speaking candidly, the knowledge and quality of the sub-contractors varies greatly.

The house is new, what could be wrong?

Let’s be honest, you have probably noticed some things in the house that did not work quite right, possibly you have even had to have the builder come out and fix a few things. So we know the house is not perfect. If you decide to sell your new home sometime in the future, the buyer’s home inspector may find things that were done improperly by the sub-contractors and now the buyer wants you to make the repairs.

The City Building Inspector inspected the home.

Municipal Building Inspectors are hard-working people who sometimes have five, ten, fifteen or fifty houses that they are monitoring all at the same time. As a result, these inspections have often degraded from quality code inspections to brief walk-through checks.

In new homes that we’ve inspected, we have found:

  • improperly wired outlets
  • GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) protection devices that do not trip or reset
  • missing attic Insulation
  • missing attic ventilation
  • leaks around chimneys
  • settlement cracks
  • damaged and missing roof shingles
  • water leaking from air conditioner systems
  • one of two water heaters not functioning
  • plumbing drain lines that were not properly connected creating a leak and water damage

→ We work for you! and provide an independent evaluation of the property to help protect your interests. Our inspection will evaluate your home from the foundation to the roof including all areas in between and produce a home inspection report that you can give to your builder so that he can pay for his own mistakes and you won’t get stuck holding the bag for future repairs.

Construction Phase Inspections

Superintendent’s and City Building Inspectors are there so I don’t really need my own inspector, do I?

Well, houses are not built on an assembly line. A lot of different people, sub-contractors and laborers will work on the house and quality control varies widely from builder to builder and even for the same builder from location to location.

Most builders work very hard to provide a good product and there are a number of people who keep an eye on the construction, including the builder’s superintendent (who works for the builder) and the City Building Inspector (who works for the City), but there isn’t anyone who is looking out specifically for your interest – unless you hire your own home inspector.

So, yes. Take the necessary steps to protect your interest!

Phase inspections are typically done at each of the major stages of construction. These stages include:

  1. Pre-pour – This critical inspection takes place before the concrete is poured ensuring that the footing is in accordance with the design specifications, (i.e., size and /or dimensions of the support beams, and structural steel content) and that you have proper placement and installation of the post-tension cables. This inspection also includes inspecting for proper placement, installation and protection of the copper water lines.
  2. Framing and Mechanical – Once the rough-in electrical, plumbing, heating & air conditioning equipment are in place and the interior, exterior framed walls are complete, the roof sheathing and roofing material are in place, the structure is basically secure from water intrusion. Then you are ready for your pre dry-wall inspection. We will come back to the property before the drywall is hung and insulation put in. We will check the interior and exterior framing, wiring, roof, and plumbing to make sure everything matches the plans. A detailed report is then completed at each phase inspection. The report will include digital pictures of defects found and black & white illustrations of proper installation. No matter where you are, this report can be emailed or faxed to you by the next working day.
  3. Final Inspection – Prior to your final walk through with the builder we will go through and check all of the systems to be sure they are hooked up and in proper working order.

You will never have more leverage to ensure that your concerns are addressed and problems are resolved than before you close. So, the final inspection should be scheduled just a day or two before your final walk through with the Builder. This will ensure that most, if not all, last minute items have been completed prior to your inspection. We will prepare and provide you with a complete written home inspection report that provides details about the house and documents the issues identified. The home inspection report, with color pictures, is delivered by email within 24 hours so that you have plenty of time to review the written information and, if necessary, discuss issues to be addressed.

Pre-Listing Home Inspection and Consultation

Making the decision to sell your home is a huge step, but once the decision is made to sell, then making your home marketable and maximizing your return on investment should be your number one goal.

Our Pre-Listing Inspection Program works with you, the seller, so that you can maximize your home’s value and your ROI (Return on Investment) through the sale of your home. After all, you are the one who made the payments, maintained the home and now deserves the equity profit at sale. The program is simple and straight forward, we will:

  1. Conduct a complete home inspection.
  2. Provide you with a preliminary report of our findings so that you can address issues.
  3. Re-inspect and provide a final written home inspection report, with color pictures in a binder for presentation.
  4. Remain available to consult with you or the buyer about the home or the inspection report through the completion of the sale.
WARNING: You may discover things about the house that you did not want to know. However, you will find out before a potential buyer’s home inspector scares them off with the information, and you have the protection of full disclosure. Having the home inspected before the first buyer shows up will allow the home to be sold for more money, reduce the cost of the needed repairs and minimize the frustration with the entire sales process.

We understand the emotional attachment you have to your home but you must be realistic about the home as well. No home is perfect and as soon as you realize that you are on your way to making your home more marketable. And remember, making your home the most marketable it can be should be your number one goal!

Potential home buyers want to purchase a home that is in tip-top shape, no matter the age of the home. That’s why having a Pre-Listing Inspection and repairing the items is beneficial in completing the sale. However, there may be reasons why repairs can’t be done. Disclosing them up front and pricing the home based upon that disclosure will often produce a higher net sales price.

Other reasons for a Pre-Listing Inspection:

Earn a higher profit from the sale! Having a home inspection before you put your house on the market will allow you to understand any current or potential problem areas with the home that can be resolved before the buyers arrive. Therefore, your home will be in better condition for viewing, making it more marketable and this will help you attain the maximum selling price for the home.

Spend less money fixing the house! Resolving problems prior to the buyer’s home inspection will save you money in two ways. First, when you know what needs to be repaired in advance of the sale you can obtain multiple bids for the work that needs to be done and select the best contractor at the best price. Secondly, the work can be done by the contractor in a time frame that fits his schedule as well thereby avoiding the “Rush Charges” to get the work completed.

Avoid losing a deal over an inspection! There is one secret all sellers need to know. Buyers make their decision to purchase a home based on emotion and justify that decision with logic. And another thing is equally true: buyers can fall out of love with a home just as quickly as the fell in love it. So why let the Buyer’s Home Inspector develop a long list of items needing repairs that can jeopardize your sale? Making the repairs in advance of the sale will save you tons of frustration and disappointment!

What is a Buyer’s Home Inspection?

A buyers home inspection

is a systematic evaluation of a home and all of its systems. During a home inspection, all of the systems that make up a home are evaluated and/or tested to ensure that they are performing within normal parameters.

Although a home inspection is non-destructive and not technically exhaustive, our home inspections are thorough, systematic and complete. We check the structure from the foundation to the roof, we check the heating and cooling system, the plumbing system, and the electrical system. We even check built in appliances like the ovens, cooktop or stove, and dishwasher so that you, the buyer, get a clear understanding of the home and its overall functionality and performance.

Inspection items include but are not limited to:

  • Roof
  • Walls
  • Windows
  • Doors
  • Foundations
  • Lights
  • Outlets
  • Heating system
  • Cooling system
  • Dishwasher
  • Oven and Cooktop or stove
  • Microwave
  • Garage door opener

Our process does not end with the visual home inspection – that’s just the information gathering portion of the process. After we have gone through and checked all of the systems, we will meet with you for a walk-through consultation.

The walk-through consultation takes 45 minutes to an hour and allows you to ask questions and allows us to show you how the house operates including such things as the location of your breakers in case they trip off, where to change the filter on the heating and cooling system and where the water shut-offs are located. This is also the part of the home inspection where the “show and tell” takes place, we will show you the issues or problems and tell you why issues are problems, helping you understand the issues that are important and the issues that, while possibly ugly, are simply cosmetic.

Finally, we will prepare and provide you with a complete written home inspection report that provides details about the house and documents the issues identified. The home inspection report, with color pictures, is delivered by email within 24 hours so that you have plenty of time to review the written information and, if necessary, discuss issues to be addressed. Our service doesn’t end with the report delivery. Phone consultations about the home, problems or just the crazy Texas weather are always free and we will reinspection completed repair work for a nominal fee.

The purpose of this process is to give you — our client — the information, knowledge and resources to make an informed buying decision and peace of mind about your choice, because it’s not just an investment, it’s your home.

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