Friday, May 31, 2013

Asbestos Cement Siding Inspection

Asbestos cement is a composite material consisting of Portland cement reinforced with asbestos fibers.  When manufacturers figured out ways to produce siding made using asbestos cement, it became very popular for a number of years before being banned in the U.S. in the 1970s. Inspectors, Home owners and real estate agents are likely to come across this form of exterior cladding during inspections.  Inspectors, real estate agents and homeowners alike can benefit from knowing more about how the known health risks of asbestos apply to asbestos cement siding, too, as well as some of the common problems and issues associated with the material’s damage and deterioration.


History

Asbestos cement first came into use as an exterior cladding after 1907, when Austrian engineer Ludwid Hatschek came up with a way to shape the material into sheets, allowing it to be manufactured as siding and shingles.  By the 1920s, the National Board of Fire Underwriters recommended that asbestos cement replace wood as siding and roofing material because of its superior fire-resistant properties.  This recommendation from a nationally known insurance board contributed to a boost in sales and, by the 1940s, hundreds of thousands of homes in the U.S. had been constructed using asbestos cement siding.

During the late 1960s and early ‘70s, however, the news media began to report on the health hazards associated with asbestos.  As reports increased, concern grew, so the federal government took action and, in 1973, the EPA banned the use of asbestos in the manufacture of building products.

Health Risks Associated with Asbestos Cement

Asbestos fibers are a proven health hazard if inhaled.  Asbestos dust is a known cause of a type of lung cancer called asbestosis.  Mesothelioma, another deadly form of cancer that attacks internal organs, can also be caused by exposure to asbestos.  However, asbestos cement siding that has been properly installed and is not in a state of decay presents no health risks as long as it remains undisturbed.  This is because the cement binds the asbestos fibers and prevents their release into the air, under normal use and maintenance.

The EPA deems asbestos to be hazardous when it is in a friable state, meaning that it can be crumbled, crushed or pulverized by hand pressure.  Crushed asbestos in a powdery form can allow its particles to become airborne and inhaled, causing potential health problems.  Asbestos cement products that are not in a friable state are not considered hazardous.  The only potential danger is when the cement is disturbed in a way that causes the asbestos fibers to become airborne.

If mechanical activities performed on the siding, such as chipping, sawing, grinding or sanding, allow particles to become airborne, then the cement is considered in a friable state and, consequently, hazardous.  Deterioration can also lead to particles becoming airborne and potentially dangerous.

Advantages


  •     Asbestos cement siding is highly fire-resistant and will not burn or melt the way vinyl and wood siding will.
  •     It resists termite damage.
  •     It resists rotting.
  •     It has been manufactured with textures intended to simulate the look of other cladding materials, such as wood grain.
  •     It is fairly easy to clean and maintain.
  •     Unlike more porous siding materials, such as wood clapboard, asbestos cement siding will not quickly soak up paint, which allows it to be painted more easily.

Disadvantages


  •     Asbestos cement siding is very brittle and can be easily chipped, cracked or broken.  
  •     The use of a pressure washer for maintenance can crack the siding and lead to moisture intrusion, if the pressure setting is high enough.
  •     Asbestos cement can be dangerous if pulverized by sawing, sanding, breaking, etc.
  •     It is difficult to find replacement siding for repairs.
  •     This product cannot be refurbished, unlike other forms of siding.  Wood clapboard, for example, can be sanded and re-painted, and cedar shake siding can be sand-blasted and re-stained.  Either of these methods can restore wood close to its original state.  But this is not possible with asbestos cement siding.
  •     It is no longer considered aesthetically desirable.

Maintenance

Damage and deterioration can lead to structural and health issues, so proper maintenance of asbestos cement building materials is a primary concern.  Keeping the siding clean and performing any minor repairs as soon as they become necessary are both important.

Asbestos cement siding is fairly brittle and has little resistance to cracking, chipping and damage from impact, which can cause asbestos particles to become airborne.  Damage to the siding can also lead to other damage related to moisture intrusion.  Damaged areas that cannot be fixed can be replaced with non-asbestos fiber cement by a professional.  Specific fiber cement materials have been manufactured for repairs that are intended to mimic the look of asbestos cement siding.

Landscaping features, such as a row of shrubs, can be incorporated around the home to help protect the siding from impact damage.

Inspection Tips

Here are some common problems associated with asbestos cement siding that are likely to encounter:
  •     Chipping and cracking often occur with this brittle material.
  •     Fasteners used to hold the siding in place may deteriorate at a faster rate than the siding.
  •     Discoloration and staining may occur from corrosion or runoff from an adjacent material.  The discoloration may be normal, but it could also indicate a chemical reaction that has decreased the durability of the material.
  •     Like many other cement products, efflorescence may appear on asbestos cement siding.  This crystalline growth can indicate that water is passing through the material, promoting deterioration of the cement.
  •     Biological growth, such as moss and algae, can occur if conditions are favorable.  This growth may stimulate surface deterioration and staining.
Because it was such a popular cladding material for many years, you are likely to encounter asbestos cement siding when inspecting exteriors.  Knowing some of the health risks associated with this material can be useful when answering clients’ questions about asbestos, although any specific concerns should be deferred to the appropriate healthcare professional.  Homeowners will want to hire SitePro Home Inspections for the periodic inspection of this type of cladding as part of their annual or regular home maintenance.

SitePro, LLC
Van Hibberts


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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Home Sellers - How to Survive a Home Inspection

Simply following the steps provided in this article will help you survive having a Home Inspection. Your Home Inspection is just one more stressful event to add to a likely growing list of events unfolding in the process of selling your home. What with moving, getting the list of needed repairs done, achieving and maintaining that "curb appeal", the last thing you need is some stranger tromping through your home, looking in all those dark corners. Well, take a deep breath, pick up that last dust bunny under the chair, sit down a moment and read further. I provide real solutions to at least make the Home Inspection part easier.
  1. Please have a clean home. Inspectors are accustomed to dealing with "OPD" (Other Peoples Dirt), however it is always preferable to have a clean home to work in. Don't worry about a little mess or disorganized clutter. Packing boxes and a little dirt are OK. We do not inspect for cleanliness, however we are human and do not particularly enjoy spending several hours (sometimes on hands and knees in bathrooms) inspecting a foul nest. Even though you are likely tired of keeping things spotless for open houses and potential buyers coming through, please don't drop the ball on cleaning completely. If I encounter an extremely dirty home, I may be holding my breath until I can make an exit; however I am also looking harder for defects and deferred maintenance in such homes, and often find them.
  2. Windows and doors should all be operable and accessible. It is a great help to have all the windows and doors accessible so I can easily check the condition of the windows and doors and also the operation of them. If you have casement windows and have removed the cranks, please have them available at windows. Open all blinds and curtains for easier access, and if possible move furniture to allow for access. Any breakable or valuable items on window sills should be removed (Inspector will not move them or move furniture).
  3. Turn on all lights and ceiling fans. You may wish to turn all the lights and ceiling fans on in the home just before the Inspector arrives. It also helps if you know what all the electrical switches in the home do. The Inspector can spend untold time trying to determine what each switch operates. If the Inspector wishes to turn on all the lights and fans in your home, please do not follow behind him turning them off (yes I have had numerous homeowners do this). He has likely done this for the same reason that I do this. Having all the lights on is part of the test of the electrical system to ensure it is checked under a reasonable load. The Inspector will turn off the lights and fans when he is done.
  4. Make certain all lights and fans are functional. Have any remote controls for ceiling fans available. If there are inoperable lights and they just need a bulb replaced, the Inspector will not know this and does not carry bulbs with him. Inoperable lights will be written up as a defect (why pay an electrician to check them?).
  5. Have all appliances ready for the Inspector to operate. Some Inspectors will check appliances, and some do not. Let the Inspector start the appliances such as the dishwasher and washing machine. Do not have clothes in the washing machine or clothes dryer (they will need to be removed by the Inspector).
  6. Remove your pets. Please be prepared to have your animals gone during the inspection. I like dogs, cats, lizards and most critters, but during an inspection they can be in the way or a nuisance (try doing an inspection with a dog barking every time you move). The Inspector also does not want to be responsible for having animals escape from the home and then retrieve them. The opposite side of this coin is a funny short story: I was inspecting a Villa that was situated next to a lagoon. I was outside and came in, leaving the sliding door open for just a moment, and when I turned around, a mother duck and her ducklings were proudly waddling in to the Villa (I quickly scooted them outside again). Later I had a good laugh and realized just how much they quacked me up. Seriously, I will try not to let any strays in your home.
  7. Inform the Inspector if you are to have visitors to the home. Inform the Inspector of any expected visitors (if you will not be there) so he can allow them in and not have to worry about whether they should be there or not. Also be prepared if the buyer (and other family members) should elect to attend the Inspection. Ask your Realtor or the buyer's Realtor to attend if this occurs (the Inspector should not be responsible for others).
  8. Provide access to electrical panel. Please have access provided to your main electrical panel (fuse box or circuit breaker box). The Inspector has to remove the panel cover to check the interior components. It is not fun (or safe) to stand in a crowded area and work with electricity. A charred and smoking Inspector is not very fragrant either.
  9. Be punctual. If you are meeting the Inspector at the home, please be on time. Most of us invest an enormous amount of time for the money earned, and appreciate punctuality. If I am going to be late I will call.
  10. Please have all utilities on, including gas for fireplaces as necessary. Having pilot lights lit will help, since most Inspectors will not light pilot lights.
  11. Provide access to attics. Please make certain access is clear and unencumbered to all attic accesses.
  12. All doors should be accessible. Ensure all interior and exterior doors are accessible, and if there are any locked closets or utility type sheds, please provide keys as necessary.
  13. Should I stay or should I go? This is a good question people often ask me. Usually I like to meet with the owners to ask a few questions. Once I have asked the various questions that help me do my job better, feel free to leave or stay. Most often it makes no difference to me. If you are comfortable with leaving someone in your home, (assuming you will be there) plan on an inspection lasting from 3 to 5 hours on average. Ask your Home Inspector how long it will take. Most Home Inspectors, (including myself) are licensed and bonded.
  14. Alert the Inspector to any safety concerns. If you know of any safety concerns in your home, please let the Inspector know. Items such as attic pull down stairs that have a tendency to fall on your head (yes this has happened-Ouch!) or perhaps shocking electrical fixtures or receptacles.
  15. Do not ask what defects the Inspector has found. Most Inspectors will politely tell you that the home purchaser (who is paying for the report) is the only person he can share that information with. However the Inspector should inform you of any known safety concerns that may impact you. Keep in mind that if the Inspector gave you the list of defects and you set about to repair them all, you may have repaired some items needlessly. That defective refrigerator or oven may be something the buyer does not care about anyway. He may have plans to replace it. For that reason, you may wish to wait until you have the requested list of repairs from the buyer, before repairing items.
  16. Have your own Inspection performed. Consider having your own inspection (Pre-listing Inspection) before you have a Home Inspection the buyer has arranged for. You get to choose the Home Inspector, and there are other benefits. A Pre-listing Inspection allows you to find out early what repairs might be needed, and to get the repairs done early. This usually is a cost savings, since you can take your time and shop for the best price for the repairs. Having the Pre-listing Inspection also eliminates a lot of anxiety and stress. It also allows for the home to be more realistically priced in some instances. For example, if you find out the home needs a new roof, but you do not want to invest in a new roof, it is likely you will want to adjust your price accordingly, or at least be prepared for a price reduction. On the plus side, if you get a fairly clean Home Inspection Report, you may wish to let your pricing reflect this (raise pricing perhaps). Most buyers will still have their own Inspector inspect your home. However it conveys a positive attitude to the buyer when you have your own Inspection. Presenting a list of the repaired items is also positive. Simply put, having a Pre-Listing Inspection can reduce anxiety, save money, and make for a smoother and quicker home sale.
  17. Treat your Home Inspector as a guest in your home. I do my best to leave each home as I found it, and treat the home and occupants with respect. I know that I am a guest you may not welcome with open arms. I also know you do not need any additional stress. Offering coffee, a soda, or water is a nice gesture and helps to set a nice tone.
Simply performing some or all of the above steps will help you remove a lot of the stress associated with a Home Inspection. This article does not take into account fixing or repairing common defects, so you may also want to repair any known defects as you see fit. Best wishes with your Home Inspection.

John M. Wickline, President,
JW Home Inspections, Inc
Copyright 2009


John M. Wickline, President, JW Home Inspections, Inc. JWInspect@hargray.com http://JWInspect.com
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=John_Wickline



Monday, May 27, 2013

Why Is It Necessary To Hire Your Own Independent Home Inspector?

It is a positive and a much needed change that home buyers are hiring their own home inspectors now, rather than hiring an inspector as recommended by their agent. Many of these home buyers specifically decline the home inspector just because their agent recommended him. However, there are still people who hire inspectors as recommended by their agent. This change has occurred because many of the buyers have come to understand that the inspector may not work in their best interest if he is suggested by the realtor or agent.

To understand the importance of home inspection and hiring an independent home inspector, you need to understand the following questions:

Why home inspection is necessary?

One of the most important decisions that you will make in your life involves buying a home. As a matter of fact consider yourself privileged if you get an opportunity to buy a home even once in your lifetime. When this decision is so important, it is advisable that you buy a home for the worth of the amount you are ready to spend on it. This can be done by making sure that the home you are about to buy is in good condition. For this you need a home inspection, which is a process where a thorough evaluation of the home in question is done by a professional expert. The inspector will perform the following tasks while he undertakes an in-depth and impartial study of the home:

  •     Check the foundation, physical structure, mechanical systems, heating and cooling systems, electrical connections and equipments, etc.
  •     Will evaluate which items need repairs or replacements.
  •     He will also give you an estimate of remaining useful life of major parts of the house including the roof.

You can accompany your home inspector while he goes for home inspection, so that you can ask him questions at the time of actual inspection taking place. Once the inspection is over and the inspector has taken notes of everything, you can expect to have a detailed report of the inspection within 24 hours. Remember this is a confidential document and the inspector is not allowed to show this report to anyone else except you, not even the agent.

Why hire an independent home inspector?

If you hire an inspector recommended by your agent, there are chances that the inspector will make a report that will not be totally honest. He may rush through the inspection and report generation to expedite the process; he may not mention certain facts which could lead to cancellation of the deal. This is not true for every inspector, but there is definitely some kind of pressure on an inspector if he is recommended by an agent.

If you really want an unbiased and authentic home inspection report, which is prepared for your interest only then it is better to hire your own independent inspector. You can find such inspectors by searching for them online, many home inspectors are canvassing themselves on internet these days.

Author of this article is a passionate writer and has written articles for Independent New Jersey Home Inspector and Home Inspections Services in New Jersey.

By Kasey C Fox
 

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Kasey_C_Fox

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Attic Pull-Down Ladders


Attic pull-down ladders, also called attic pull-down stairways, are collapsible ladders that are permanently attached to the attic floor. Occupants can use these ladders to access their atticsAttic pull down ladder without being required to carry a portable ladder.



Common Defects

Homeowners, not professional carpenters, usually install attic pull-down ladders. Evidence of this distinction can be observed in consistently shoddy and dangerous work that rarely meets safety standards. Some of the more common defective conditions observed by inspectors include:
  •     cut bottom cord of structural truss. Often, homeowners will cut through a structural member in the field while installing a pull-down ladder, unknowingly weakening the structure. Structural members should not be modified in the field without an engineer’s approval;
  •     fastened with improper nails or screws. Homeowners often use drywall or deck screws rather than the standard 16d penny nails or ¼” x 3” lag screws. Nails and screws that are intended for other purposes may have reduced shear strength and they may not support pull-down ladders;
  •     fastened with an insufficient number of nails or screws. Manufacturers provide a certain number of nails with instructions that they all be used, and they probably do this for a good reason. Inspectors should be wary of “place nail here” notices that are nowhere near any nails;
  •     lack of insulation. Hatches in many houses (especially older ones) are not likely to be weather-stripped and/or insulated. An uninsulated attic hatch allows air from the attic to flow freely into the home, which may cause the heating or cooling system to run overtime. An attic hatch cover box can be installed to increase energy savings;
  •     loose mounting bolts. This condition is more often caused by age rather than installation, although improper installation will hasten the loosening process;
  •     attic pull-down ladders are cut too short. Stairs should reach the floor;
  •     attic pull-down ladders are cut too long. This causes pressure at the folding hinge, which can cause breakage;
  •     improper or missing fasteners;
  •     compromised fire barrier when installed in the garage;
  •     attic ladder frame is not properly secured to the ceiling opening;
  •     closed ladder is covered with debris, such as blown insulation or roofing material shed during roof work. Inspectors can place a sheet on the floor beneath the ladder to catch whatever debris may fall onto the floor; and
  •     cracked steps. This defect is a problem with wooden ladders.
  •     In sliding pull-down ladders, there is a potential for the ladder to slide down quickly without notice. Always pull the ladder down slowly and cautiously.
Safety tip for inspectors: Place an "InterNACHI Inspector at work!" stop sign nearby while mounting the ladder.

Relevant Codes

The 2009 edition of the International Building Code (IBC) and the 2006 edition of the International Residential Code (IRC) offer guidelines regarding attic access, although not specifically pull-down ladders. Still, the information might be of some interest to inspectors.
  •     2009 IBC (Commercial Construction):
  •     1209.2 Attic Spaces. An opening not less than 20 inches by 30 inches (559 mm by 762 mm) shall be provided to any attic area having a clear height of over 30 inches (762 mm). A 30-inch (762 mm) minimum clear headroom in the attic space shall be provided at or above the access opening.
  •     2006 IRC (Residential Construction):
  •     R807.1 Attic Access. Buildings with combustible ceiling or roof construction shall have an attic access opening to attic areas that exceed 30 square feet (2.8m squared) and have a vertical height of 30 inches (762 mm) or more. The rough-framed opening shall not be less than 22 inches by 30 inches, and shall be located in a hallway or readily accessible location. A 30-inch (762 mm) minimum unobstructed headroom in the attic space shall be provided at some point above the access opening.
Tips that inspectors pass on to their clients:
  •     Do not allow children to enter the attic through an attic access. The lanyard attached to the attic stairs should be short enough that children cannot reach it. Parents can also lock the attic ladder so that a key or combination is required to access it.
  •     If possible, avoid carrying large loads into the attic. While properly installed stairways may safely support an adult man, they might fail if he is carrying, for instance, a bag full of bowling balls. Such trips can be split up to reduce the weight load.
  •     Replace an old, rickety wooden ladder with a new one. Newer aluminum models are often lightweight, sturdy and easy to install.
In summary, attic pull-down ladders are prone to a number of defects, most of which are due to improper installation.

 by Nick Gromicko
 

From Attic Pull-Down Ladders - InterNACHI http://www.nachi.org/attic-ladders.htm#ixzz2UIeQ4cH4

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Attached Garage Fire Containment



An attached garage is a garage that is physically attached to a house. Fires that begin in attached garages are more likely to spread to living areas than fires that originate in detached garages. For this reason, combined with the multitude of flammable materials commonly found in garages, attached garages should be adequately sealed from living areas. A properly sealed attached garage will ideally restrict the potential spread of fire long enough to allow the occupants time to escape the home or building.

Why are garages (both attached and detached) fire hazards?
  •     Oil or gasoline can drip from cars. These fluids may collect unnoticed and eventually ignite.
  •     Flammable liquids, such as gasoline, oil and paint, are commonly stored in garages. Some other examples are brake fluid, degreaser, motor oil, varnish, lighter fluid, and fluids containing solvents, such as paint thinner. These chemicals are flammable in their fluid form, and some may create explosive vapors.
  •     Heaters and boilers, which are frequently installed in garages, create sparks that can ignite fumes or fluids. Car batteries, too, will spark under certain conditions.
  •     Mechanical or electrical building projects are often undertaken in the garage. Fires can easily start while a careless occupant is welding near flammable materials.
Doors

The 2006 edition of the International Residential Code (IRC) states the following concerning doors that separate garages from living areas:

    R309.1 Opening Penetration

    Openings from a private garage directly into a room used for sleeping purposes shall not be permitted. Other openings between the garage and the residence shall be equipped with solid wood doors not less than 1-3/8” (35 mm) in thickness, solid- or honeycomb-core steel doors not less than 1-3/8” (35 mm) thick, or 20-minute fire-rated doors.

In addition, InterNACHI inspectors can check for the following while inspecting doors that separate garages from living areas:

  •     While not required by the IRC, it is helpful if there is at least one step leading up to the door from the garage. Gasoline fumes and other explosive gases are heavier than air, and they will accumulate at ground level. Their entry beneath a door will be slowed by an elevation increase.
  •     Doors should have tight seals around their joints to prevent seepage of fumes into the living areas of the house. Carbon monoxide, with the same approximate density as air (and often warmer than surrounding air), will easily rise above the base of an elevated door and leak through unsealed joints.
  •     Doors should be self-closing. Many homeowners find these doors inconvenient, but they are safer than doors that can be left ajar. While this requirement is no longer listed in the IRC, it is still a valuable recommendation.
  •     If doors have windows, the glass should be fire-rated.
  •     Pet doors should not be installed in fire-rated doors. Pet doors will violate the integrity of a fire barrier.

Walls and Ceilings

The 2006 edition of the IRC states the following concerning garage walls and ceilings:

          R309.2 Separation Required

    The garage shall be separated from the residence and its attic area by not less than ½-inch (12.7 mm) gypsum board applied to the garage side. Garages beneath habitable rooms shall be separated from all habitable rooms above by not less than 5/8-inch (15.9 mm) Type X gypsum board or equivalent. Where the separation is a floor-ceiling assembly, the structure supporting the separation shall also be protected by not less than ½-inch (12.7 mm) gypsum board or equivalent. Garages located less than 3 feet (914 mm) from a dwelling unit on the same lot shall be protected with not less than 1/2–inch (12.7 mm) gypsum board applied to the interior side of exterior walls that are within this area. Openings in these walls shall be regulated by Section 309.1. This provision does not apply to garage walls that are perpendicular to the adjacent dwelling unit wall.

In addition, inspectors can check for the following while inspecting walls and ceilings:

  •     In garages that have access to the attic, a hatch cover made from an approved, fire-rated material should protect this access at all times. Missing or opened covers should be called out, as should covers made from flammable materials, such as thin plywood. Garage attic door must be constructed such that the 45 minute rating is maintained; any drywall edges on both the hatch and the surrounding area exposed to physical damage are protected. The cover or door is installed so that it is permanent (non removable) with hardware to maintain it in a closed position with latching hardware to maintain it in a closed position. This could be accomplished by the use of spring loaded hinges, door closer, or hardware that will not allow it to be left in an open position when not in use. A single bolt type or hook and eye hardware does not provide a positive closure since these would allow the door to be left open. Likewise drywall screws are "fasteners" and not hardware so they cannot be used as the only means of keeping access doors closed.
  •     The living space is separated from the garage by a firewall that extends from the floor to the roof. If the ceiling material is fire-rated, the firewall can terminate at the ceiling.
  •     Drywall joints shall be taped or sealed. Joints shall be fitted so that the gap is no more than 1/20-inch with joints backed by either solid wood or another layer of drywall such that the joints are staggered.

Ducts

The 2006 edition of the IRC states the following concerning ducts that penetrate garage walls and ceilings:

    R309.1.1 Duct Penetration
  •     Ducts in the garage and ducts penetrating the walls or ceilings separating the dwelling from the garage shall be constructed of a minimum No. 26 gauge (0.48 mm) steel sheet or other approved material, and shall have no openings in the garage.
Dryer exhaust ducts that penetrate garage walls are serious fire hazards. These ducts are generally made from plastic and will easily melt during a fire, creating a large breach in the firewall.

Floors

The 2006 edition of the IRC states the following concerning floors in garages:
          R309.3 Floor Surface
  •     Garage floor surfaces shall be of approved, non-combustible material. The area of the floor used for parking of automobiles or other vehicles shall be sloped to facilitate the movement of liquids to a drain or toward the main vehicle entry doorway.
Inspectors should also check for the following:
  •     A curb is present along the perimeter of the garage floor. This curb is designed to prevent fluids from entering the living areas of the house. Curbs are often useful barriers for melted snow carried into the garage by automobiles, but curbs can also keep chemical spills contained in the garage.
  •     Water heaters should be elevated above the floor by at least 18 inches. A pilot light may ignite spilled fluid or floor-level flammable fumes if the water heater is placed at floor level.
Concerning items placed on the floor, inspectors should check for the following:
  •     All flammable liquids are stored in clearly labeled, self-closing containers, and in small amounts. They should be stored away from heaters, appliances, pilot lights and other sources of heat and flame.
  •     Propane tanks should never be stored indoors. If they catch fire, a serious explosion may result. Propane tanks are sturdy enough to be stored outdoors.
  •     The floor should be clear of clutter. Loose papers, matches, oily rags, and other flammable items are dangerous if they are strewn about the garage floor.
General safety tips that inspectors can pass onto their clients:
  •     Use light bulbs with the proper wattage.
  •     Do not overload electrical outlets.
  •     Tape down all cords and wires so they are not twisted or accidentally yanked.
In summary, attached garages should be sealed off from the living space so that fire may be contained.

by Nick Gromicko and Kenton Shepard
 
From Attached Garage Fire Containment - InterNACHI http://www.nachi.org/attached-garage-fire-hazards.htm#ixzz2U6tQnPCX

Van Hibberts, CMI
http://siteprohomeinspections.blogspot.com/
Certified Residential Building Code Inspector ICC-5319905
Florida-State Certified Master Home Inspector Lic. #HI89
Florida-Certified Wind Mitigation Inspector
203(k) FHA/HUD Consultant #A0900
WDO Certificate #JE190791
NACHI #10071802
362 Gulf Breeze Parkway, #214
Gulf Breeze, Florida 32561
850.934.6800  (Office)
850.485.3209  (Cell / Text Msg)

"Looking Beyond The Obvious"
www.sitepro.us
www.navarrehomeinspections.com
www.navarrehomeinspectors.com 
www.pensacolahomeinspectors.com


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Roof-Covering Maintenance

Preserve your investment—and keep your family safe and healthy—by maintaining your home using the following tips.



Although homeowners aren’t necessarily expected to climb on their roofs every season as part of regular home maintenance, there are some conditions that should be monitored to prevent roof damage and to help you get the longest life out of your roof-covering materials.  Certain types of damage can lead to water and pest intrusion, structural deterioration, and the escape costly energy.

Weathering
Hail and storm damage, known as weathering, can weaken a roof’s surface even if you haven’t lost any shingles/shakes/slates following a storm.  It’s the most common source of environmental damage for roofs.  Strong, sustained winds can cause uplift to the edges of shingles and shakes, which can weaken their points of attachment and allow rainwater and melting snow to reach the roof’s underlayment.  Wind can also send projectiles through the air, which can damage every surface of the home’s exterior, including the roof.  You should always inspect your roof after a heavy weather event, as far as it is practical to do so without taking any undue risks, to check whether you have lost any roof-covering materials, or if any parts look particularly weathered or damaged.  A small fix now could prevent costly repairs later.

Tree Damage
Tree damage results from wind-blown tree branches scraping against shingles and from the impact of falling branches blown by wind and/or because the nearby tree has dead branches that eventually break off and fall.  Branches that overhang the roof should always be cut back to avoid damage from both abrasion and impact, and to prevent the accumulation of leaf debris on the roof, its valleys, and in the gutters, which will interfere with proper drainage and lead to pooling of rainwater and snowmelt.  Of course, it’s especially important to make sure that tree limbs near the home’s roof and exterior are a safe distance away from utility and power lines.  Tree-trimming is a type of homeowner maintenance task should be undertaken by qualified professionals, as it can lead to accidentally cutting off the service or power from an overhead line, being electrocuted by an energized line, being struck by an unsecured tree branch, falling off the roof or a ladder, and any number of similar mishaps that the homeowner is not trained to anticipate and avoid.

Animal Damage
Squirrels and raccoons (and roof rats in coastal regions) will sometimes tear through shingles and roof sheathing when they’re searching for a protected area in which to build nests and raise their young. They often attack the roof’s eaves first, especially on homes that have suffered decay to the roof sheathing due to a lack of drip edges or from problems caused by ice damming, because decayed sheathing is softer and easier to tear through.  If you hear any activity of wildlife on your roof, check inside your attic for evidence of pest intrusion, such as damaged insulation, which pests may use for nesting material.  Darkened insulation generally indicates that excess air is blowing through some hole in the structure, leading the insulation to become darkened by dirt or moisture.

Biological Growth
Algae, moss and lichen are types of biological growth that may be found on asphalt shingles under certain conditions. Some professionals consider this growth destructive, while others consider it merely a cosmetic problem.  Asphalt shingles may become discolored by both algae and moss, which spread by releasing airborne spores.

Almost all biological growth on shingles is related to the long-term presence of excess moisture, which is why these problems are more common in areas with significant rainfall and high relative humidity.  But even in dry climates, roofs that are shaded most of the time can develop biological growth.

What we commonly call “algae” is actually not algae, but a type of bacteria capable of photosynthesis. Algae appears as dark streaks, which are actually the dark sheaths produced by the organisms to protect themselves from the ultraviolet radiation of the sun. When environmental conditions are right, the problem can spread quickly across a roof.

Algae can feed on mineral nutrients, such as the calcium carbonate in limestone used as asphalt shingle filler. Calcium carbonate also causes asphalt to retain moisture, which also promotes algae growth, so shingles with excessive filler may be more likely to suffer more algae growth.  The rate of filler consumption is slow enough that it’s not generally considered a serious problem.

Algae attach to the shingle by secreting a substance that bonds it tightly to the surface. Growth can be difficult to remove without damaging the roof. The best method is prevention. Algae stains can sometimes be lightened in color by using special cleaners.  Power-washing and heavy scrubbing may loosen or dislodge granules. Chemicals used for cleaning shingles may damage landscaping. Also, the cleaning process makes the roof wet and slippery, so such work should be performed by a qualified professional.

Moss is a greenish plant that can grow more thickly than algae. It attaches itself to the roof through a shallow root system that can be freed from shingles fairly easily with a brush.  Moss deteriorates shingles by holding moisture against them, but this is a slow process. Moss is mostly a cosmetic issue and, like algae, can create hazardous conditions for those who climb on the roof.

Lichens are composite organisms consisting of a fungus and a photosynthetic partner, such as green or blue-green algae. Lichens bond tightly to the roof, and when they’re removed from asphalt shingles, they may take granules with them. Damage from lichen removal can resemble blistering.

"Tobacco-juicing" is the brownish discoloration that appears on the surface of shingles, under certain weather conditions. It’s often temporary and may have a couple of different causes. After especially long periods of intensely sunny days, damp nights and no rain, water-soluble compounds may leach out of the asphalt from the shingles and be deposited on the surface.  Tobacco-juicing may also appear under the same weather conditions if the air is especially polluted.  Tobacco-juicing won’t harm asphalt shingles, although it may run down the roof and stain siding. Although it’s more common in the West and Southwest, it can happen anywhere that weather conditions are right.  You can spray-wash or paint the exterior of the home to remove tobacco-juicing.

Roof Penetrations:

Homeowners don’t generally want to climb on their roofs to check its condition unless they’ve experienced a major storm or other issue that prompts them to investigate.  This is smart because, as untrained non-professionals, homeowners are at greater risk for accidents and injuries than pros.

But it’s useful for homeowners to know what they’re likely to find if they do climb their roof—or have someone else climb it, such as an insurance adjuster or roofing contractor—so that they have some idea of what the components are and what they do, as well as when those components are damaged and creating problems down below.

The proper term for anything that pokes out of the surface of the roof is known as a roof penetration.  Whether it’s a chimney, skylight or vent pipe, it falls under that category.  As such, there are important elements related to the installation of all roof penetrations that prevent their premature deterioration, which means that your roof and the structure under it will stay dry and problem-free.

Vents
The most common type of roof penetration are vents. Every home has them. Vents are installed to expel gas or moisture of some sort from an appliance or area inside the house.  Vents are also called flues.

Here are the most common types and their functions:
  •     Exhaust vents or mechanical ventilation allow the escape of damp air and odors from a bathroom, clothes dryer, and from the range above a stove in order to prevent the buildup of condensation.
  •     Each plumbing drainpipe in the home is connected to a plumbing stack vent, which helps ensure the appliance’s proper drainage by preventing back-siphoning, which can pull noxious vapors and sewer gases back into the home.  One important aspect of their installation is that they should not be located with 3 feet of an openable window so that these gases don’t get sucked back into the home.
  •     Vents installed in the attic space are known as roof vents or turtle vents, which release hot air that can build up inside the attic as a result of heat rising from the living space below.  Venting this hot air is important to prevent the premature deterioration of the roofing materials, which can overheat and lose adhesion or delaminate, as well as form condensation, under the right conditions, which can also affect wooden structural members and insulation.
  •     Combustion vents are installed for fuel-burning appliances, such as a furnace, boiler, water heater, gas range, fireplace—any appliance that burns fuel for its operation, such as gas, propane, oil, wood, etc. They exhaust the toxic byproducts of combustion to the outdoors.
Vents can be made of galvanized steel, such as a dryer vent.  PVC is appropriate to use as plumbing stack vents, depending on the appliance, as long as there is no chance of the exhausted air being too warm, which can cause the PVC to melt. Some vents may have caps or hoods to prevent rainwater from entering them (such as a dryer vent), and others don’t, such as plumbing stacks. There are also vent-like roof penetrations that are actually air intakes, such as for a furnace, which aid proper combustion. 

Vents can be double-walled or single-wall, depending on their purpose.  Combustion vents tend to be double-walled.  Some vents serve multiple items or appliances, but they tend to be of the same type.  A vent that serves more than one plumbing fixture needs to be larger in order to move the gas at an appropriate rate.

Problems with Combustion Vents
If installed properly, vents tend to operate problem-free, but poor installation or materials can lead to issues, such as leaks, corrosion, and insufficient ventilation.  That’s when the problems can affect the living space and appliances below.  The most common issues occur with combustion vents.

To work effectively, a combustion vent has to draw adequately, which is the natural process that moves hot exhaust gases up and out the exhaust flue or vent. Another way to say it is that the vent needs to have a good draft. The effectiveness of the draft is influenced by several factors.

These factors include:
  •     thermal buoyancy, which is the tendency of hot air to rise. The hotter the gas is, the faster it will rise;
  •     unrestricted flow, which means that the exhaust flue can’t be too small or have too many bends, since these two things slow the flow; and
  •     proper length. If a flue is too long, the gases will cool and condensation will form. Condensation can cause corrosion of the sheet metal exhaust flue, as well as the furnace’s components.
An important factor in the quality of the draft is adequate clearance above the roof.  This generally means that the vent should follow either the manufacturer’s installation recommendations or the "2-10 Rule" required by most building code regulations for chimney terminations.  The 2-10 Rule states that combustion vents should terminate at least 2 feet above any part of the highest part of the roof, including the roof itself, within 10 feet.  For example, if a combustion vent is 3 feet away from a dryer vent on a flat roof, the combustion vent should be two feet higher than the dryer vent.  If a combustion vent is on the low part of a sloping roof, the vent must be 2 feet higher than the nearest point of the sloped roof that’s within 10 feet.  So, if you see a vent that doesn’t meet the 2-10 Rule, a qualified HVAC contractor may need to re-install a vent of the proper height.

White deposits on combustion vents or on the roof below them are evidence that excessive condensation has been forming. This can be caused by a vent that:
  •     is too long;
  •     has too many bends; or
  •     has poorly sloped sections that slow the flow of exhaust gases.
If you see this condition on a roof, you should look for similar white deposits on the combustion appliance served by the vent. Poor venting can cause corrosion that may shorten the lifespan of that appliance.

Flashing for Vents
The critical installation that keeps moisture and the elements from entering the roof surface down the side of the vent is called flashing.  Different types of vents require flashing that is appropriate for the type of vent installation, as well as of a compatible material so that it doesn’t cause galvanic corrosion or other issues that will cause the vent or flashing to deteriorate prematurely.  Flashing may need to be on top of roof shingles or below stone tiles; a good roofing contractor who specializes in your roof’s material will know what type of flashing is required and how it should be installed.

Of course, a leak in the attic, or any signs of rust or staining on the vent, flashing or roof is a sign of a problem.  If you do suspect a problem, your first call should be to your home inspector so that he can investigate it before you call a contractor.  Most contractors are honest, but since the contractor has something to sell, and it’s in his best interests to find a problem that he can charge you to fix.  Call your SitePro home inspector first; it’s his job to find the problem, not fix it.

Attic Insulation
Heating and cooling costs can be slashed by up to 30% per year by properly sealing and insulating the home. Insulating the attic should be a top priority for preventing heat loss because as heat rises, a critical amount of heat loss from the living areas of the home occurs through an unfinished attic.  During the summer months, heat trapped in the attic can reduce the home’s ability to keep cool, forcing the home's cooling system to work overtime.

The lack of adequate ventilation in insulated attics is a common problem.  Ensuring that there is a free flow of outside air from the soffits to the roof vents is key to a well-functioning insulation system. Look behind the baffles to see if there is any misplaced insulation obstructing the natural air flow, and check the roof vents to make sure that outside air is exhausting properly. Also, look for spots where the insulation is compacted; it may need to be fluffed out.  If loose-fill insulation is installed, check for any thinly spread areas that may need topping up. Finally, look for dark spots in the insulation where incoming air is admitting wind-blown dust and moisture into the material.  Any unintended openings or holes caused by weathering or pest damage should be repaired first.

Installing Attic Insulation
The objective in an attic insulation project is to insulate the living space of the house while allowing the roof to retain the same temperature as the outdoors. This prevents cold outside air from traveling through the attic and into the living area of the home. In order to accomplish this, an adequate venting system must be in place to vent the roof by allowing air flow to enter through soffit-intake vents and out through ridge vents, gable vents or louver vents.

If there is currently a floor in the attic, it will be necessary to pull up pieces of the floor to install the insulation. In this case, it will be easier to use a blower and loose-fill insulation to effectively fill the spaces between the joists. If you choose to go with blown-in insulation, you can usually get free use of a blower when you purchase a certain amount of insulation.
 
When installing fiberglass insulation, make sure that you wear personal protective equipment, including a hat, gloves, goggles and a face mask, as stray fiberglass material can become airborne, which can cause irritation to the lungs, eyes and exposed skin.

Before you begin actually installing the insulation, there is some important preparation involved in order to ensure that the insulation is applied properly to prevent hazards and to achieve maximum effectiveness.

Step 1: Install Roof Baffles
In order to maintain the free flow of outside air, it is recommended that polystyrene or plastic roof baffles are installed where the joists meet the rafters. These can be stapled into place.

Step 2: Place Baffles Around Electrical Fixtures
Next, place baffles around any electrical fixtures (lights, electrical receptacles, etc.), since these may become hot while in use. Hold the baffles in place by cross-sectioning the rafters with 2x4s placed at a 3-inch clearance around the fixture.  Cut the polystyrene board to fit around the fixture and inside the wood square you have just created.

Step 3: Install a Vapor Barrier
If you are installing insulation with a vapor barrier, make sure it faces the interior of the house. Another option for a vapor barrier is to take sheets of plastic and lay them between the ceiling joists.  Then, using a staple gun, tack them to the sides of the joists.

Step 4:  Apply the Insulation
Begin by cutting long strips of fiberglass to measure, and lay them in between the joists. Do not bunch or compress the material; this will reduce the insulative effect.
If you’re not planning to put in an attic floor, a second layer of insulation may be laid at a 90-degree angle to the first layer. Do not lay in a second moisture barrier, as moisture could potentially be trapped between the two layers. This second layer of insulation will make it easier to obtain the recommended R-value. In colder climates, an R-value of 49 is recommended for adequate attic insulation. In warmer climates, an R-value of 30 is recommended. Fiberglass insulation has an R-value of roughly R-3 per inch of thickness; cellulose has an R-value of roughly R-4 per inch, but it doesn't retain its R-value rating as well as fiberglass.

If an attic floor is in place, it will be easier to use a blower to add cellulose insulation into the spaces. The best way to achieve this is to carefully select pieces of the floor and remove them in a manner such that you will have access to all of the spaces in between the joists. Run the blower hose up into the attic. A helper may be needed to control the blower. Blow the insulation into the spaces between the joists, taking care not to blow insulation near electrical fixtures. Replace any flooring pieces that were removed.

Loose-fill insulation, either fiberglass or cellulose, is also a good option in cases where there is no attic floor. In such circumstances, you won’t need a blower; you can simply place the insulation between the joists by hand. You may also wish to even out the spread with a notched leveler.
Attic Access Pull-Down Stairs

An attic pull-down ladder, also called an attic pull-down stairway or stairs, is a collapsible ladder that’s permanently attached to the attic floor.  It’s used to access the attic without being required to use a portable ladder, which can be unstable, as well as inconvenient.

Common Defects
It’s typical for the homeowner, rather than the professional builder, to install the attic pull-down stairs, especially if it’s an older home or a newer home that’s been built upward in order to use the attic for living or storage space. That’s why these stairs rarely meet safety standards and are prone to a number of defects.

Some of the more common defective conditions include:
  •     cut bottom cord of structural truss.  The homeowner may have cut through a structural member while installing a pull-down ladder, unknowingly weakening the structure. Structural members should not be modified without an engineer’s approval;
  •     fastened with improper nails or screws. Drywall or deck screws may be used instead of the standard 16d penny nails or ¼x3-inch lag screws. Nails and screws that are intended for other purposes may have reduced shear strength and may not support the pull-down ladder;
  •     fastened with an insufficient number of nails or screws. Manufacturers provide a certain number of nails with instructions that they all be used, and they do this for a good reason;
  •     lack of insulation. The attic hatch or door is not likely to be weather-stripped and/or insulated, which will allow air from the attic to flow freely into the living space of the home, and this will cause the heating or cooling system to run overtime. An attic hatch cover box can be installed to increase energy savings;
  •     loose mounting bolts, which is typically caused by age, although improper installation will hasten the loosening process;
  •     attic pull-down ladders that are cut too short. The stairs should reach the floor;
  •     attic pull-down ladders that are cut too long. This causes pressure at the folding hinge, which can cause breakage;
  •     improper or missing fasteners;
  •     compromised fire barrier (when the attic and access are above an attached garage);
  •     attic ladder frame that is not properly secured to the ceiling opening; and
  •     closed ladder that is covered with debris, such as blown insulation or roofing material shed during roof work; a
  •     cracked steps. This defect is a problem with wooden ladders.
Safety Tips:
  •     If yours is a sliding pull-down ladder, there is a potential for it to slide down too quickly, which can lead to an injury. Always pull the ladder down slowly and cautiously.
  •     Do not allow children to enter the attic unattended. The lanyard attached to the attic stairs should be short enough that children cannot reach it. Parents can also lock the attic ladder so that a key or combination is required to access it.
  •     If possible, avoid carrying large loads into the attic. While a properly installed stairway will safely support an adult, it might fail if you’re carrying a very heavy load. Many trips can be made to reduce the total weight load, if possible.
  •     Replace an old, rickety wooden ladder with a new one. The newer aluminum models are lightweight, sturdy and easy to install.  If you do install a new ladder, follow the manufacturer’s instructions to the letter, and test the ladder’s operation before actually using it.
SitePro Residential and Commercial Inspections

Van Hibberts, CMI
Site Pro Home Inspections

http://siteprohomeinspections.blogspot.com/

Certified Residential Building Code Inspector ICC-5319905

Florida-State Certified Master Home Inspector Lic. #HI89

Florida-Certified Wind Mitigation Inspector

203(k) FHA/HUD Consultant #A0900

WDO Certificate #JE190791

NACHI #10071802362

Gulf Breeze Parkway, #214
Gulf Breeze, Florida
32561850.934.6800(Office)
850.485.3209- Cell / Text Msg
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Monday, May 20, 2013

Home Insurance Tips

Why You Need Homeowner's Insurance

The largest, single investment most consumers make is in their homes. The consumer can protect their home, possessions, and liability with a homeowner's insurance policy. The homeowner's insurance policy is a package policy that combines more than one type of insurance coverage in a single policy. There are four types of coverages that are contained in the homeowner's policy: dwelling and personal property; personal liability; medical payment; and additional living expenses.

Property Damage Coverage

Property damage coverage helps pay for damage to your home and personal property. Other structures, such as a detached garage, a tool shed, and any other building on your property are usually covered for 10% of the amount of coverage on your house.

Personal property coverage will pay for personal property, including household furniture, clothing, and other personal belongings. The amount of insurance coverage is usually 50% of the policy limit on your dwelling. The coverage is also limited by the types of loss listed in the policy. The coverage only pays the current cash value of the item destroyed, unless you purchase "replacement cost" coverage. Your homeowner's policy also provides off-premises coverage. This means that the policy covers your belongings against theft even when they are not inside your home.

Personal Liability Coverage

Homeowners' policies provide personal liability coverage that applies to non-auto accidents on and off your property if the injury or damage is caused by you, a member of your family, or your pet. The liability coverage in your policy pays both for the cost of defending you and paying for any damages that a court rules you must pay. Liability insurance does not have a deductible that you must meet before your insurer begins to pay losses. The basic liability coverage is usually $100,000 for each occurence. You can request higher limits that are available for an additional cost.

Medical Payment Coverage

Medical payment coverage pays if someone outside your family is injured at your home, regardless of fault. This includes payment for reasonable medical expenses incurred within one year from the date of loss for a person who is injured in an accident in your home. The coverage does not apply to you and members of your household. The medical-payments portion of your homeowner's policy will also pay if you are involved in the injury of another person away from your home in some limited circumstances. Medical payments coverage limits are generally $1,000 for each person.

Additional Living Expenses

If it is necessary for you to move into a motel or apartment temporarily because of damage caused by a peril covered in your policy, your insurance company will pay an amount up to 20% of the policy limit on your dwelling for these expenses. If you move in temporarily with a friend or relative and do not have any extra expenses, you will not be paid any addditional living expenses by your insurance company.

Home Business

If you operate a home business full- or part-time, you might be uninsured and not realize it. Many home business owners believe that their homeowner's insurance policy covers all of their home business needs. You should not assume that your homeowner's insurance policy will cover your home business. Your homeowner's policy may provide coverage, but probably only a maximum of $2,500 for business equipment in the home, and $250 away from the premises.


The price you pay for your homeowner's insurance can vary by hundreds of dollars, depending on the insurance company you buy your policy from. Here are some things to consider when buying homeowner's insurance.

1. Shop around.

It will take some time, but could save you a good sum of money. Ask your friends, check the Yellow Pages, and contact your state insurance commission. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners has information to help you choose an insurer in your state, including complaints that are filed by consumers. States often make information available on typical rates charged by major insurers, and many states provide the frequency of consumer complaints by company. Also check consumer guides, insurance agents, companies, and online insurance quote services. This will give you an idea of price ranges and tell you which companies have the lowest prices. But don't consider price alone. The insurer you select should offer a fair price and deliver the quality of service you would expect if you needed assistance in filing a claim. So, in assessing service quality, use the complaint information from state regulatory agencies and talk to a number of insurers to get a feeling for the type of service they provide. Ask them what they would do to lower your costs. When you've narrowed the field to three insurers, get price quotes.

2. Raise your deductible.

Deductibles are the amount of money you have to pay toward a loss before your insurance company starts to pay a claim, according to the terms of your policy. The higher your deductible, the more money you can save on your premiums. Nowadays, most insurance companies recommend a deductible of at least $500. If you can afford to raise your deductible to $1,000, you may save as much as 25%. Remember, if you live in a disaster-prone area, your insurance policy may have a separate deductible for certain kinds of damage. If you live near the coast in the East, you may have a separate windstorm deductible; if you live in a state vulnerable to hailstorms, you may have a separate deductible for hail; and if you live in an earthquake-prone area, your earthquake policy has a deductible.

3. Don’t confuse what you paid for your house with rebuilding costs.

The land under your house isn't at risk from theft, windstorm, fire and the other perils covered in your homeowner's policy. So don't include its value in deciding how much homeowner's insurance to buy. If you do, you will pay a higher premium than you should.

4. Buy your home and auto policies from the same insurer.

Some companies that sell homeowner's, auto and liability coverage will take 5% to 15% off your premium if you buy two or more policies from them. But make certain this combined price is lower than buying the different coverages from different companies.

5. Make your home more disaster-resistant.

Find out from your insurance agent or company representative what steps you can take to make your home more resistant to windstorms and other natural disasters. You may be able to save on your premiums by adding storm shutters, reinforcing your roof, and buying stronger roofing materials. Older homes can be retrofitted to make them better able to withstand earthquakes. In addition, consider modernizing your heating, plumbing and electrical systems to reduce the risk of fire and water damage.  Even small measures, such as keeping a fire extinguisher in your kitchen, will often qualify you for a discount on your premiums and save you money in the long run.

6. Improve your home security.

You can usually get discounts of at least 5% for a smoke detector, burglar alarm and dead-bolt locks. Some companies offer to cut your premium by as much as 15% to 20% if you install a sophisticated sprinkler system and a fire and burglar alarm that rings at the police, fire or other monitoring stations. These systems aren't cheap, and not every system qualifies for a discount. Before you buy such a system, find out what kind your insurer recommends, how much the device would cost, and how much you'd save on premiums.

7. Seek out other discounts.

Companies offer several types of discounts, but they don't all offer the same discount or the same amount of discount in all states. For example, since retired people are at home more than working people, they are less likely to be burglarized and may spot fires sooner, too. Retired people also have more time for maintaining their homes. If you're at least 55 years old and retired, you may qualify for a discount of up to 10% at some companies. Some employers and professional associations administer group insurance programs that may offer a better deal than you can get elsewhere.

8. Maintain a good credit record.

Establishing a solid credit history can cut your insurance costs. Insurers are increasingly using credit information to price homeowners' insurance policies. In most states, your insurer must advise you of any adverse action, such as a higher rate, at which time you should verify the accuracy of the information on which the insurer relied. To protect your credit standing, pay your bills on time, don't obtain more credit than you need, and keep your credit balances as low as possible. Check your credit record on a regular basis, and rectify any errors promptly so that your record remains accurate.

9. Stay with the same insurer.

If you've kept your coverage with a company for several years, you may receive a special discount for being a long-term policyholder. Some insurers will reduce their premiums by 5% if you stay with them for three to five years, and by 10% if you remain a policyholder for six years or more. But make certain to periodically compare this price with that of other policies.

10. Review the limits in your policy and the value of your possessions at least once a year.

You want your policy to cover any major purchases or additions to your home. But you don't want to spend money for coverage you don't need. If your five-year-old fur coat is no longer worth the $5,000 you paid for it, you'll want to reduce or cancel your floater -- defined as extra insurance for items whose full value is not covered by standard homeowners' policies, such as expensive jewelry, high-end computers and valuable art work -- and pocket the difference.

11. If you are in a government plan, look for private insurance.

If you live in a high-risk area -- say, one that is especially vulnerable to coastal storms, fires or crime -- and have been buying your homeowner's insurance through a government plan, you should check with an insurance agent or company representative, or contact your state commission of insurance for the names of companies that might be interested in your business. You may find that there are steps you can take that would allow you to buy insurance at a lower price in the private market.

12. When you’re buying a home, consider the cost of homeowner's insurance.

You may pay less for insurance if you buy a house close to a fire hydrant or in a community that has a professional rather than a volunteer fire department. It may also be cheaper if your home’s electrical, heating and plumbing systems are less than 10 years old. If you live in the East, consider a brick home because it's more wind-resistant. If you live in an earthquake-prone area, look for a wooden frame house because it is more likely to withstand this type of disaster. Choosing wisely could cut your premiums by 5% to 15%.

Check the CLUE (Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange) report of the home you are thinking of buying. These reports contain the insurance-claim history of the property and can help you judge some of the problems the house may have. Remember that flood insurance and earthquake damage are not covered by a standard homeowner's policy. If you buy a house in a flood-prone area, you'll have to pay for a flood insurance policy that costs an average of $400 a year. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides useful information on flood insurance on its Web site at www.fema.gov/nfip. A separate earthquake policy is available from most insurance companies. The cost of the coverage will depend on the likelihood of earthquakes in your area.

If you have questions about insurance for any of your possessions, be sure to ask your agent or company representative when you're shopping around for a policy. For example, if you run a business out of your home, be sure to discuss coverage for that business. Most homeowners' policies cover business equipment in the home, but only up to $2,500, and they offer no business liability coverage. Although you want to lower your homeowner's insurance cost, you also want to make certain you have all the coverage you need.

Common Questions Asked by Homeowners About Insurance

If a fire, flood, earthquake, or some other natural disaster were to damage or destroy your home, would you have the right insurance coverage to rebuild your house? Based on the questions consumers ask most frequently, this list explains what is and is not covered in a standard homeowner's policy. Where gaps in coverage exist, it tells you how to fill them. To simplify explanations, assume that you have a policy known as Homeowners-3 (HO-3), the most common type of homeowner's policy in the United States. Find out what type of homeowner's policy you have. If you have a different policy, you should review your options in question #17.

1.  Am I covered for direct losses due to fire, lightning, tornadoes, windstorms, hail, explosions, smoke, vandalism and theft?

Yes. The HO-3 provides broad coverage for these and other disasters or “perils,” as they are called in the policy, including all those listed in the question. You should check the dollar limits of insurance in your policy, and make sure you are comfortable with the amount of insurance you have for specific items. Also, if you live near the Atlantic or Gulf Coasts, there may be some restrictions on your coverage for wind damage. Ask your agent about windstorm/hurricane deductibles. In areas prone to hailstorms, you may have a specific hail-damage deductible.

2.  Are my jewelry and other valuables covered?

The standard policy provides only from $1,000 to $2,000 for theft of jewelry. If your jewelry is worth a lot more, you should purchase higher limits. You may wish to add a floater to your policy to cover specific pieces of jewelry and other expensive possessions, such as paintings, electronic equipment, stamp collections and silverware, for example. The floater will provide both higher limits and protect you from additional risks not covered in your standard policy.

3.  If my house is totally destroyed in a fire and I have $150,000 worth of insurance to cover the structure, will this be enough to rebuild my home?

If the cost of rebuilding your home is less than or equal to $150,000, you would have enough coverage. The HO-3 policy pays for structural damage on a replacement-cost basis. If the cost of replacing your home is, say, $120,000, then that is all the insurance you need. On the other hand, if the cost of rebuilding your home is $180,000, then you will be short $30,000.

If you live in an area that is frequently hit by major storms, ask your insurance company about an extended or guaranteed replacement-cost policy. This will provide a certain amount over the policy limit to rebuild your home, so that if building costs go up unexpectedly due to high demand for contractors and materials, you will have the extra funds to cover the bill.

If you choose not to rebuild your home, you will receive the replacement cost of your home, less depreciation. This is called "actual cash value." You should make sure that the amount of insurance you have will cover the cost of rebuilding your house. You can find out what this cost is by talking to your real estate agent or builders in your area.

Do not use the price of your house as the basis for the amount of insurance you purchase. The market price of your house includes the value of the land on which the house sits. In almost all cases, the land will still be there after a disaster, so you do not need to insure it. You only need to insure the structure.

4.  Am I automatically covered for flood damage?

No. If you live in a flood-prone area, it may be wise to purchase flood insurance. Flood insurance is provided by the federal government under a program run by the Federal Insurance Administration. In some parts of the country, homes can be damaged or destroyed by mudslides. This risk is also covered under flood policies. Contact your agent or company representative to get this insurance, or call the FEMA at 1-800-427-4661 or visit www.fema.gov.

5.  If a pipe bursts and water flows all over my floors, am I covered?

Yes. The HO-3 covers you for accidental discharge of water from a plumbing system. You should check your plumbing and heating systems once a year. While you are covered for damage, who needs the mess and hassle?

6.  What if water seeps into my basement from the ground -- am I still covered?

No. Water seepage is excluded under the HO-3. And if the water seepage is not due to a flood, you will not be covered under a flood policy. Seepage is viewed as a maintenance issue and is not covered by insurance. You should see a contractor about waterproofing your basement.

7.  Am I automatically covered for earthquake damage?

No. Earthquake coverage is sold as additional coverage to the homeowner's policy. To find out whether you should buy this insurance, talk to your agent or company representative. The cost of this coverage can vary significantly from one area to another, depending on the likelihood of a major earthquake.


8.  A neighbor slips on my sidewalk or falls down my porch steps and threatens to take me to court for damages. Does my policy protect me?

Yes. The policy will pay for damages if a fall or other accident on your property is the result of your negligence. It will also pay for the legal costs of defending you against a claim. Also, the medical-payments part of your homeowner's policy will cover medical expenses if a neighbor or guest is injured on your property. You should check to see how much liability protection you have. The standard amount is $100,000. If you feel you need more, consider purchasing higher limits.


9.  A tree falls and damages my roof during a storm. Am I covered?

Yes. You are covered for the damage to your roof. You are also covered for the removal of the tree, generally up to a limit of $500. You should cut down dead or dying trees close to your house and prune branches that are near your house. It's true that your insurance covers damage, but falling trees and branches can also injure your family. Ask your InterNACHI inspector about problem trees during your next inspection.


10.  During a storm, a tree falls but does no damage to my property. Am I covered for the cost of removing the tree?

Your trees and shrubs are covered for losses due to risks such as vandalism, theft and fire, but not wind damage. However, if a fallen tree blocks access to your home, you may be covered for its removal. Decide if you need extra insurance for the trees, plants and shrubs on your property. You may be able to purchase extra insurance which will not only cover the cost of removing fallen trees, but will also cover the cost of replacing trees and other plants.


11.  If a storm causes a power outage and all the food in my refrigerator and freezer is spoiled and must be thrown out, can I make a claim?

The general answer is no. However, there are a number of exceptions. In some states, food spoilage is covered under the homeowner's policy. In addition, if the power loss is due to a break in a power line on or close to your property, you may be covered. You should check with your agent to find out whether you are covered for food spoilage in your state. If not, you can add food-spoilage coverage to your policy for an additional premium.


12.  My children are away at college. Are they covered by my homeowner's insurance?

If they’re full-time college students and part of your household, your insurance generally provides some coverage in a dorm, typically 10% of the contents' limit. If they live off-campus, some companies may not provide this limited coverage if the apartment is rented in the student’s name.


13.  My golf clubs were stolen from the trunk of my car. Does my homeowner's policy cover the loss?
Yes. The HO-3 covers your personal property while it is anywhere in the world. However, if your golf clubs are old, you will get only their current value, which may not be enough to purchase a new set. Consider buying a replacement-cost endorsement for your personal property. This way, you will get what it costs to replace the golf clubs, less your deductible.

14.  I have a small power boat. If it is stolen, am I covered? What if there is a boating accident and I get sued? Am I covered for that?
Whether or not you are covered for either theft or liability depends on the size of the boat, the horsepower of the engine, and your insurance company. Coverage for small boats under homeowners' policies varies significantly. Ask your insurance representative whether you need a boat owner's policy.

15.  My house is close to the ocean. I’ve heard that if it is destroyed by the wind, the town's new building code requires me to rebuild the house on stilts. This will add $30,000 to the cost of rebuilding my house. Am I covered for this extra cost?

No. The HO-3 excludes costs mandated by ordinances and laws that regulate the construction of buildings. You can purchase an ordinance or law endorsement. This will cover the extra costs involved in meeting new building codes.


16.  Am I covered for “acts of God”?

Sometimes. The term “acts of God” is not specifically mentioned in homeowners' insurance policies. It usually refers to natural disasters, such as hurricanes and tornadoes, as opposed to man-made acts, such as theft and auto accidents. Some natural disasters, such as damage from windstorms, hail, lightning, and volcanic eruptions, are covered under homeowner's insurance. Damage from floods and earthquakes is not.


17.  What should I do if my policy provides less coverage than the HO-3?

Review your coverage with your agent. Some older policies provide less coverage than the HO-3. They may not provide coverage for water damage, theft or liability. They may also provide coverage for the house on an actual cash-value basis, rather than a replacement-cost basis.

"Actual cash value" means replacement cost less depreciation. For example, if your roof is destroyed in a storm, the insurance will pay only for the cost of a new roof less the amount of depreciation of the old roof. If your roof was in great shape, this deduction will not be large. However, if the roof was old and worn out, the deduction for depreciation may be significant. You should try to get an HO-3.

From Home Insurance Tips - Int'l Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI) http://www.nachi.org/homeinsurancetips.htm#ixzz2TfSTPyMd

Friday, May 17, 2013

Make Your Yard Sell Your House: Improving Landscape Tips

Your yard is the first thing that prospective buyers see when they drive up to your house. This is why it is imperative that you improve your landscaping before you place your home up for sale. Here are some quick and inexpensive ways you can make your yard sell your house.

Tip #1: Cut the Grass and Edge

No one wants to see tall weeds in your yard as they drive up to it. Cut the grass so that it's at least an inch tall. Don't forget to get the edger out to use it around your walkways and driveway. It will give your entire yard a very clean and fresh look.

Tip #2: Remove Weeds from Flowerbeds

Just as no one wants to see huge weeds growing in the yard, they also don't want to see them in your flowerbeds. Get those weeds out of those areas to clean them up.

Tip #3: Buy Mulch

Mulch makes your whole yard look brand new. Place the mulch in all of your flowerbeds and around the trees and possibly even the mailbox. You will see how much better your yard will look once you get to this step.

Tip #4: Add a Home Appeal

Did you know that many people see their yard as an additional room to their house? Make your yard another room by placing a comfortable area for people to gather. You can purchase some inexpensive yard furniture and place it in a quiet area. Purchase a bird feeder, bird bath and possible some lanterns to illuminate the night sky for those warm, quiet nights in the backyard.

Tip #5: Clean Your House

You don't just have to clean the inside of your house; you need to clean the outside as well. Get the power washer out and some cleaner. Spray the cleaner on the house to get the deep set in dirt loose and then use the power washer to clean it all off. You shouldn't be able to see any mold on the exterior of your home.

Tip #6: Touch Up Issues

Does your house lack luster? It may need a fresh coat of paint. You don't have to paint the entire house, but painting the trim could give your house a new look. Don't forget about your doors because they can get marked up and dull too.

By following these tips, you will make your house one that people will want to come inside to see. All you need to do next is make your inside match the outside beauty.


By Nathaniel Gustafson

Mr Gustafson publishes informational articles to help people learn. Other helpful articles include those on stump grinder [http://stumpgrinderhq.com/] and Information on fire and ice roses.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Nathaniel_Gustafson

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

SitePro recommendation on how to prepare a house for a Home Inspection

A Fundamental Primer That Gives an Explanation to Your Clients

Real Estate Agents routinely have clients ask them how to prepare for a home inspection.  They first contact SitePro, the largest inspection company in the Florida Panhandle. These are routine steps that SitePro recommends to sellers to ensure that the inspection goes off without a hitch. Most are regular maintenance, and quite easy and inexpensive to do. Some of these remedies are obvious but might be overlooked by anxious sellers. Above all, sellers should not try to do quick, cheap repairs, this could cause questions and concern to home inspectors and prospective buyers.

Exterior 

 1.) Provide at least 6" of clearance between grade/ mulch and siding. Decks should be properly graded.
 2.) Dirty gutters and debris should be cleaned from the roof and basement entry drains should be cleaned out also.
 3.) The grade of the land should slope away from the home so that water is diverted away from the house.
 4.) Downspouts, sump pumps, condensation drains, and the like should all drain away from the home.
 5.) Trees, roots, and bushes should be trimmed away from the home's foundation, roof, siding, and chimney.
 6.) All weathered exterior wood should be painted. Caulking should be placed around the chimney, windows, and doors.
 7.) Rotting wood and/or firewood should not be in contact with the house.
 8.) If the asphalt driveway is cracking, it should be sealed.
 9.) Masonry chimney caps should be sealed or pointed up. Metal flue caps should also be installed on chimneys.
10.) Any faulty mortar joints in a home's brick or block should be pointed up.
11.) The home's HVAC filter should be cleaned or replaced, if needed. Dirty air returns and plenum need cleaning, too.
12.) All doors and windows must be in proper working condition.
13.) If windowpanes are cracked, sellers need to have them replaced, or repaired if possible. page1image9500

Interior 

  1.) Make sure that any burned out light bulbs are replaced.
  2.) Ensure that all smoke detectors are working.
  3.) If a home's attic is not ventilated, it needs to be.
  4.) A professional should clean the chimney, fireplace or wood stove and provide the buyer with a copy of the cleaning record.
  5.) Plumbing fixtures, including toilet, tub, shower, and sinks, should be in proper working order. Any leaks must be fixed, and caulking should be done around plumbing fixtures if necessary.
  6.) The sump pump should be operating properly. 
  7.) All GFCI receptacles need to be tested to make sure they are operating correctly. If not already in place, GFCI receptacles must be installed near all water sources.
  8.) Masonry walls in the basement (if you have one) should be sealed. Window wells and covers need to be in place if windows are at or below grade.
  9.) Make sure that vapor barriers, if applicable, are installed in crawl spaces and that the crawl spaces are dry. Moisture needs to be removed, as moisture levels in wood should be below 18 percent to prevent dry rot and mildew.
 10.) Remove any paints, solvents, gas, and similar materials from crawl spaces, basements, attics, porches, etc. Access to the attic, crawl space, heating system, garage, and other areas the home inspector will check must be clear, with nothing blocking the way.
11.) If the house is vacant, all utilities must be turned on, including water, electric, water heater, furnace, air conditioning, and breakers in the main panel.


Van Hibberts, CMI

http://siteprohomeinspections.blogspot.com/

Certified Residential Building Code Inspector ICC-5319905
Florida-State Certified Master Home Inspector Lic. #HI89
Florida-Certified Wind Mitigation Inspector
203(k) FHA/HUD Consultant #A0900
WDO Certificate #JE190791
NACHI #10071802

362 Gulf Breeze Parkway, #214
Gulf Breeze, Florida 32561
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850.485.3209  (Cell / Text Msg)

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