Well, here we go again.. but actually it never stopped, it’s just getting worse. There are now Real Estate Agents locally here in Louisville KY who have on their listings “Kenny Martin with Commonwealth Home Inspections cannot inspect this home”, and now the Greater Louisville Association of Realtors (GLAR) has had their attorney advising on how to prevent “certain Home Inspectors” from inspecting homes they list even though we have a 5 star rating, perfect BBB record and many years inspecting thousands of homes with no complaints from our clients. By far the most egregious and inappropriate part of all this is that Buyers Realtors are telling the Selling Agent who the Inspector is so they can cancel the Inspection.. Selling Agents have no authority over who a Buyer uses and almost zero of the Sellers know who we are other than the lies Realtors tell them and it is further proof Realtors are not protecting their Buyers by saying who the Inspector is.. We Work For YOU! NOT Real Estate Agents!
Are your gutters doing there job?
Many gutters we inspect are not properly sloped causing problems like overflow against the foundation in rainy times and ice buildup in winter.. BUT, the real problem it can create is foundation failure, leaking basements and wet crawlspaces including mold issues.
When water sits against the foundation it not only puts unwanted pressure against the foundation, it causes the soils to expand and contract which can cause failure, and of course a wet muddy soil can allow the foundation to settle and crack.
Checking your gutters ensuring they hold no water after a rain is the first step to getting everything in line.. then put downspout extensions terminating water as far as you can without discharging on your neighbor (which is illegal). A good rule of thumb is at least 10′ from the foundation but if your soil slopes towards your foundation or is flat you need to correct that or shed the water further than it can drain back towards the foundation.
Proper slope (or grading) is when the soil is 6″ lower at a distance of 10′ from your foundation than it is at the foundation. ONLY topsoil counts as grading, so not use mulch or rock as it serves no purpose in the need for shedding water away.
Another overlooked item in the installation of gutters is kick-out flashing anywhere a gutter terminates to a wall preventing excessive water on the wall area below that can create other water damage issues, especially in brick!
Most basement water proofing companies will never even evaluate or tell you the water entry issue is outside the home and often easily corrected without installing a drainage system and sump pump in the basement. While not always true it most certainly is less expensive to start with the obvious and less expensive!
So remember, it’s your home.. and it’s your responsibility to maintain it the best you can. We also recommend that you consider a full home inspection by a qualified Home Inspector like you get at Commonwealth Home Inspections, it will save you time and headache knowing what issues your home has now so you can prepare for the day you sell which will also bring you more money if there aren’t alot of maintenance or repair issues present. “You already had an inspection when you bought it” you say? Hopefully it was one of the very few very thorough inspection companies that does not rely on Real Estate Agents for their business who tend to write up way less than half what thorough Inspection Companies write up.
So don’t let it rain on your parade, get outside and check those gutters, or better yet, have someone do it that is familiar with safety on ladders!
When was the last time you checked your attic to be sure the insulation is properly spread evenly and deep enough preventing substantial heat loss in winter and heat gain in summer?
Go ahead stick your head up there (safely please, don’t do anything dangerous if it’s difficult to get to) the levels should be even uniformly and at least 12″ deep, we do not recommend using cellulose insulation due to it’s settling and losing R-value over time.
Most insulation’s average an R value of 3-4 per inch applied, and R-38 is the recommended level here in KY and Southern Indiana.
Batt insulation is not so good for the attic because it does not cover the framing and usually has open areas due to installers not taking the time to do it right.
You can blow insulation over Batt insulation but don’t put Batts over loose fill or blown in as you’ll just compress the old insulation and lose it’s R-value, R-values are very much correlated to the air pockets between the fibers and when you compress the insulation you lose the R-value.
You can lay unfaced insulation over existing Batt insulation as long as the vapor barrier of the first layer is proper and facing down, in other words you should always see pink. NEVER lay faced insulation over existing insulation as it will trap moisture and can cause mold and other issues.
One last thing.. do not block ventilation through the soffit (overhangs above the exterior walls) Attics must breath and have airflow preventing condensation and mold!
Don’t forget never to use salt on concrete as it will damage the surface and can harm or even kill pets if ingested. Purchase salt free ice melts that are more friendly to concrete and wood but remember any ice melt can damage your plants and harm pets. Ask your local vet for pet safety information!
Don’t forget that if you leave your garden hose connected to the outside faucet and it freezes you greatly increase your chance of freezing water expanding through the hose and damaging the faucet, which in turn can lead to water damage in your home!
Whether you use a gas or wood burning fireplace it is time to have it thoroughly examined and serviced before using this winter. Carbon monoxide hazards, fire hazards and many other hazards exist when using a fireplace not installed, maintained or used properly.
Many people are not aware of the fact that burning soft woods or woods that create more creosote is a safety hazard. Burning walnut wood can lead to excessive creosote and increased foul odors in your home. Storing wood outside not under cover allowing wood to be wet also creates substantially more creosote and can cause a chimney fire and house fire.
The safety of your family may very well depend on your maintenance and proper operation of the system. Be sure you hire a highly skilled professional with Trade Affiliations like the Chimney Safety Institute Of America and check references like Angie’s List if they are members or the Better Business Bureau.
There have been outlets covers sold in the past 15 years which are not safe and should be replaced asap! These covers are easy to recognize because they can easily be pulled away from the wall making it accessible by small curious children, the electrical connections can then be touched if the child has a metal object in their hands and electrocution and death occur. Very small hands can even reach inside or the cover can be broken exposing the area behind. Please make all of your family and friends aware and check all outlet and switch covers.
There are a few easy steps you can take ensuring the safety of your home from improperly wired outlets and loose outlets.. first, purchase an inexpensive 3 prong outlet analyzer (checker), and check every single outlet you can.. outlets wired improperly will show on the chart included on the tool by the light placements and which lights illuminate and in what order. If it says you have either a reversed polarity (wires installed hot/neutral reversed) or an open ground (ungrounded outlet) then you have a potential for electrocution. Outlets without grounds are every bit as dangerous and either situation needs immediate correction by a qualified Electrician. There is a rather rare occurrence of what is called a Bootleg Ground and a Reversed Bootleg.. these can only be checked by opening the outlet, having expensive testers or purchasing a Non-Contact Voltage Tester and place the tester near the face of the outlet near the ground hole, if mis-wired it will signal without even inserting the tester. These Bootleg wiring methods are very dangerous! The following link explains them in laymen terms and shows how to test for them.
Homes equipped with two prong outlets require purchasing a two wire tester and inserting the pins one into the small hole and one touching the screw holding the cover on the outlet, if it is wired properly and grounded this should light the tester.. if not stick the pin into the larger slot and once again touch the screw holding the cover on the outlet and if it lights up then you know you have a reversed polarity outlet. If the outlet is not grounded the light will not illuminate when these tests are performed. One other potential hazard rarely seen but possible is 2 hots to the outlet making the tester light whether it is on the small or larger slot and the outlet cover screw is touched.
Another easy item to check for is cheap outlet cover made in China that are easily pulled away from the wall and small children could be harmed if they insert kitchen utensils or tools they find around the home.. so be safe, be sure, be pro-active!
Time for that winter tune up and cleaning of your furnace! Be cautious of HVAC companies who say you need costly repairs and get a second opinion prior to getting repairs performed. We have heard numerous complaints about companies saying something was needed when it was not.. just call and ask for a second opinion from another licensed HVAC company.
Time to caulk around your home to prevent the oncoming stampede of spiders and other things you don’t want in your home for the winter, not to mention it saves you money on your energy bills!
Just be sure to use the right caulk in the right places… silicone can be used just about anywhere and they sell it in colors so find what’s right for you.. concrete caulks are available for sealing those driveway cracks and preventing the freeze/thaw damage caused by water but they also now sell a grouted siliconized concrete caulk that looks good too.. asphalt sealants are also available for blacktop driveways. Happy Caulking!