July 28, 2010

Hot Weather Home Maintenance Tips

Filed under: Home Maintenance — Chuck @ 5:08 pm

Most of the USA is suffering from unusually hot weather, and those scorching temperatures don’t just take a toll on people but they can also stress a residential building. So it is good idea for homeowners to keep an eye on their properties while also keeping some unique and helpful hot weather maintenance tips in mind. Here are a few items to put on the home maintenance checklist for the especially hot and humid time of year:

Air conditioning systems are especially overworked this time of year, so it is important to check them on a regular basis to make sure they are in good condition and are functioning in an energy efficient way.

• If there is a unit with a fan on top of it outside, for example, keep the fan grill free of debris such as leaves or branches.

• Trim the landscape around A/C units so that summer weeds and tall grasses don’t encroach, and also make sure that there are no drainage problems that might cause standing water near the unit.

• Anytime the unit makes loud noises or shows signs of rust, have it checked by an HVAC contractor to make sure it is working properly. If the unit is too old replacing it may be the right thing to do because inefficiently working air conditioners create much higher utility bills.

• Window units should be checked to make sure they are not creating moisture that is causing damage to a window frame or sill, porch, or the siding of your house. A/C filters should also be inspected and cleaned or replaced as needed.

• A dirty filter not only impedes efficiency to make it harder to cool your home but it can also create airborne dust, allergens, or mold that can be bad for your health and aggravate those annoying allergies.

Speaking of health, harsh UV rays from scorching sunshine can affect the outside of your house just like they can cause skin damage to people who sunbathe without protection at the beach. So toward the end of summer is an ideal time to look for signs of sun damage around your home.

Walk around the outside and give the paint job a close inspection. On parts of the exterior where there is less shade and the most exposure to direct sunlight you may find sections of peeling and blistering paint. That kind of paint problem can be caused by sun breaking down the chemical components of the paint over time. There are some brands and formulas of paint that are more resistance to harmful UV rays, so if you decide to repaint you may want to invest in that type of paint. But peeling and blistering is also caused by not using the right kind of paint or not priming the subsurface properly.

If it has been an especially rainy summer then the gutters also deserve a closer look. Keeping them structurally supported and clean helps to preserve the whole house, because when large amounts of rainwater cannot drain through the gutter system water seeks the path of least resistance. That could be through your roof, for example, or down the side of your house where the water can damage exterior walls. Also check around the whole property for especially muddy spots that may indicate a lack of proper drainage. These are especially critical around structures like a garage or shed because poor drainage can undermine the foundation and cause serious damage.

But standing water also invites mosquitoes, and everyone knows how quickly they can spoil a summer day or outdoor entertainment. After every rain it is a good idea to police the area and dump out any collected water from items like empty gardening pots or trash cans. If you have a water feature like a fountain you may want to buy special anti-mosquito pellets or add some household bleach to the water to keep it free of larvae.

Always be careful, however, when using any chemical or bleaches around the house. A small amount of bleach could kill your aquatic plants or goldfish, for example, and drinking standing water that has chemicals in it could harm your pets or even small children who like to play in muddles.

So always read labels carefully, take appropriate precautions, and don’t take any chances. Call in a professional whenever you have a question or doubt.

Fire Hazards

Filed under: Home Safety — Chuck @ 12:15 pm

Fire hazards are normally associated with winter when people use space heaters and fireplaces. But many summer fires happen, too, so be especially attentive when grilling or barbecuing.

• You should never leave any kind of fire or cooking unit unattended, and keep lighter fluids and matches out of the reach of children.

• Storage of old paints, varnishes, stains, and household cleaning products can also ignite a fire. Don’t keep those kinds of items or pressurized aerosols in a hot shed, for example, because as the mercury rises so does the chance for spontaneous combustion.

• Summertime means using gas powered weed-whackers and lawn mowers, too, so take extra care when using and storing gasoline and other fuels. Even a small amount of gasoline left in a can has the potential to create a fire or explosion, and if fuel is spilled on a hot engine or other hot surface that can also cause it to burst into flames.

Don’t’ forget and leave gas cans or other combustible items in the car too long, either, or they might combust. Even a laptop computer left to bake in the sun has the potential to start a fire because of the chemicals in the battery, so use extra caution all summer long.

Accidental Poisoning:

Extra summer yard work also means more fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, and other chemicals around the house. Many of these are engineered as potent lethal poisons, so don’t let them create an accidental illness or death.

• Never remove labels from these kinds of items, and always be sure to keep the safety warnings and first aid information intact.

• When working with hazardous chemicals it is a good idea not to do it while small children can observe you. They may interpret the activity as play and then when you are not around they might try to help out by spraying plants on their own – with catastrophic unintended consequences.

• Many plant chemicals as well as those used to suppress rodent and insect populations take time to get absorbed. Read labels carefully. Usually it is best to make sure that no humans or pets are in the area until well past the recommended time to safely reenter the zone.

• Weather conditions also affect toxic chemicals. If you use a poison ivy killer when the wind is blowing, for example, it could harm your vegetable plants or accidentally wind up in Fido’s water dish.

Once you are finished with a chemical be sure to dispose of it in an environmentally conscious way too, otherwise those toxic elements could wind up in the soil or your own drinking water supply.

We all want to feel safe inside our own homes but it is an unfortunate fact of life that there is always the potential for accidents and mishaps. Stay alert, follow sensible procedures, and then you can really and truly relax and enjoy yourself all summer long knowing that you’ve done what’s necessary to ensure protection and safety for your home and family.

Specialized Kinds of Home Inspections for Health and Safety

Filed under: Property Inspection — Chuck @ 12:09 pm

As summer heads into its last phase many home buyers who have been browsing and shopping begin to make final decisions and submit purchase offers. They’ve toured homes, they’ve looked up information about the local schools, and they’ve compared prices. At last – while they still have an opportunity to complete a move before the kids are back in the classroom – they are headed for the home stretch. But one of the most critical events between the signing of contracts and the closing transaction at an attorney or title company office is the home inspection.

Others who already own their homes are finishing up warm weather home maintenance projects and errands this time of year. They may want to consult with a professional home inspector to ensure that there are no hidden problems lurking and waiting to manifest. They, too, can benefit from the insight of a home inspector. Whatever the motivation or need may be, there are many reasons to seek out a good home inspector during the late summer months.

But some of those relate to more exotic or unusual types of issues such as those that specialized inspectors deal with on a daily basis. Keep in mind that just as no two properties are exactly alike there is also some significant variety within the home inspection arena.

There are special home inspections, for example, that a homeowner can order for the sole purpose of investigating the potential presence of environmental hazards. Someone buying an older home, for instance, may want to hire a licensed environmental inspector to check for evidence of asbestos. Although the use of asbestos is now prohibited in construction materials it was once quite popular and its application was widespread. Many homes now on the market have asbestos flooring, siding, or insulation.

The current owner may not even be aware of the asbestos, either, because sometimes it is not easy to detect. In Victorian era houses, for example, one of the common features is authentic plaster work. Plaster has a distinct antique appearance and many buyers appreciate the old-fashioned aesthetic and practical durability of a skillfully applied layer of plaster. But what most people do not realize is that lots of vintage plaster contains asbestos fibers that were mixed into the plaster slurry in order to help the mud-like material bind together better with more structural integrity.

If asbestos used in any way, shape, or form is disrupted it can enter the atmosphere of the home where breathing those minute particles may lead to serious health consequences. The asbestos can be easily dislodged during a simple repair, renovation, or the normal wear and tear that happens by living in a home. But a qualified and experienced environmental inspector can detect asbestos materials and can even take readings of the air quality inside the home to determine whether or not there are any unhealthy levels of asbestos.

Environmental inspectors and inspectors, who are trained to offer these additional services, can also check for harmful radon gases. Radon is a type of organic gas that often rises up from beneath a home to threaten the health of occupants. Radon is invisible, colorless, and odorless, but environmental inspectors have meters and gauges that can detect it. There are also numerous stains of toxic mold that are often found in homes, and some of these can even be lethal. To be well informed and well protected from such hazards a homeowner or home buyer can enlist the help of an appropriately trained and certified inspector whose particular area of expertise is environmental issues.

Other specialized inspections will cover the issue of harmful pests and insects. Not only can these inspectors look for wood-eating termites but they can also be hired to check for signs of wood-boring bees, disease-carrying rodents, or other troublemakers.

Many homeowners can, for example, suffer extensive and expensive damage from carpenter ants. They may even see ants but not realize that they are the species that devours wood. Wooden siding on a home may look perfectly normal to the untrained eye while it is being silently destroyed from within by a busy colony of hardworking and hungry carpenter ants.

These kinds of inspectors – and other inspection specialists – can also offer useful and valuable home maintenance tips. That way homeowners are more keenly aware of potential threats and can check for visible symptoms that might alert them to call in a professional for a closer and more thorough investigation.

So whatever the field of home inspection expertise may be or whatever kinds of concerns you may have as a homeowner or buyer, check with your local professional home inspectors. They can help. The services offered by the home inspection industry are varied because the issues that can impact your property are also diverse.