Friday, November 29, 2013

Dog Entry

I realize this is a REALLY nice deck and stairs–for Barney the dog–but shouldn’t they have been thinking about him in his old age–when he might need a ramp, a guard, a handrail or a mat?

This is just one example of the strange things that people do for their pets. In some instances these installations become rather easy points of entry for “others” besides the family dog.  Kicking in an opening like this is very easy, and if the doggie-door is in the house door, it is quite common to easily reach the locks on the inside from the doggie-door–much easier and quieter than breaking glass.

Of course dealing with Cujo once you have entered his trap is a whole nuther issue.

Van Hibberts, CMI

Certified Residential Building Code Inspector ICC-5319905
Florida-State Certified Master Home Inspector Lic. #HI 89
Certified Owens-Corning Roof Data Technician
Florida-Certified Wind Mitigation Inspector
WDO Certificate #JE190791 
InterNACHI #10071802
362 Gulf Breeze Parkway, #214
Gulf Breeze, Florida 32561
850.934.6800  (Office)                                          
850.485.3209  (Cell / Text Msg)  

"Looking Beyond The Obvious"

Nothing in this message is intended to constitute an electronic signature unless a specific statement to the contrary is included in this message.

DISCLAIMER: The information in this communication is confidential and may be legally privileged. It is intended solely for the use of the individual or entity to whom it is addressed and other authorized to receive it. If you are not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any disclosure, copying, distribution or taking any action in reliance of the contents of this information is strictly prohibited and may be unlawful. If you have received this message in error, please contact the sender immediately by return e-mail. SitePro LLC is neither liable for the proper nor complete transmission of the information contained in this communication nor for any delay in its receipt.

SitePro Residential and Commercial Inspections has taken every reasonable precaution to ensure that any attachment to this e-mail has been swept for viruses. However, we cannot accept liability for any damage sustained as a result of viruses and would advise that you carry out your own virus check before opening any attachment. This e-mail is meant to communicate company related materials only. Opinions expressed by the author of this e-mail are solely his/her own. SitePro Residential and Commericial Inspections will not be liable for opinions expressed in this e-mail.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Choosing a Professional Roofing Contractor

A job done on time saves nine! There couldn't be a phrase truer than this when it comes to tackling roofing woes. Generally, re-roofing is a chore most homeowners don't think much about until it is too late. And when they are looking for a contractor, the urgency of the situation often leads them to make a wrong choice. Emergency or not, following are a few things to consider before choosing a professional roofing contractor;

a) Credentials: Are they accredited to an association or a manufacture contractor program? Make sure that the contractor that you choose is a member of a local trade body or contractor program. This provides better accountability when things go wrong. It also ensures that all roofing jobs are in accordance to local codes.

b) Inspection: Most roofing contractors offer a free inspection to determine the scope of the project and make an estimation of the costs involved. Does the contractor undertake a thorough inspection by checking your attic, chimney and other places where the roof penetrates? The inspection process should give you an idea about how the contractor's work mechanism.

c) Explanation: The contractor should explain the job process in detail. Would he be charging for the defective shingles on a prorated basis or otherwise? What would be the labor charges? Is there a warranty for his service? Would the job also include a thorough clean up of the roof? Who would be responsible for the cleanup after the job's done, including cleaning of the yard and disposing surplus material.

d) Quality Materials: If choosing a contractor who is a part of the manufacturer conducted program, materials wouldn't be an issue as their quality would be controlled by the manufacturer himself. But if it is not so, you will have to determine the quality of the materials including the warranty and guarantee.

e) Insurance: All licensed and approved contractors should offer comprehensive liability insurance and workers' compensation insurance. Before choosing a contractor, ensure that all of these certificates are current and valid. Workers who are injured when working in your property are your liability unless they are covered under the workers' compensation insurance or other relevant insurance cover.

f) Costs: Contractors who adhere to mandatory regulations like workers insurance charge more than those who do not. Simple workers' compensation insurance can increase costs by almost 20%. If they are licensed they would naturally be offering insurance cover that would reflect in the final costs. But not all states require their contractors to be licensed. Thus, the first thing to do is to check if your state requires contractors to be licensed.

The Author of this article is a specialist in roofing in Salt Lake City, Utah and offers roof repair through their company Lake City Exteriors, Inc.

Article Source:

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Wildlife Control at Home

Control Wildlife Damage Around the Home with Common-Sense Control Methods
Whether you are a home gardener, enjoy landscaping around your home, or just own your own home, there are times when certain species of wildlife can become a nuisance and cause damage to plants, and even greater economic losses. Wildlife damage can occur throughout the year, but the fall and winter months are times when food supplies and cover may become more limited for many wildlife species, causing them to find your home or landscape an attractive place to call home. Solving wildlife damage problems may seem out of your control.  But most often, you have more control over the problem than you think. It might not be easy, but if you think through the problem and put forth some effort, you can often cut your losses and maybe even eliminate them. If you have concerns or questions about wildlife, you can ask your InterNACHI inspector about them during your next scheduled inspection. InterNACHI members are the best-trained inspectors in the industry.  
Many different species of wildlife can become a nuisance and cause problems, under certain conditions. Raccoons, skunks, snakes, woodchucks and other rodents, such as moles, house mice, and tree squirrels can often cause problems. In addition, whitetail deer populations have increased in many urban environments to the point where they are becoming a nuisance by grazing on landscape plantings. Other problem wildlife can include starlings, pigeons, sparrows, or the woodpecker damaging the wood siding on your home, just to name a few.
Think Through the Problem
People experiencing a problem caused by critters usually want an easy, quick solution and often ask, "Is there something I can spray to get rid of this pest?" It is never quite that easy. Preventing and controlling wildlife damage requires a thought process, and often includes using integrated pest-management techniques. A successful wildlife damage program often makes use of a combination of control options, and usually begins with an accurate assessment of the damage and identification of the desired outcome. Wildlife damage management is the opposite of managing property to attract wildlife. To manage for wildlife, you must make sure that animals have sufficient food, water, and cover throughout the year. If you have unwanted animals around your home, it is a sure bet that there is food, water and cover in the area. The solution is to remove at least one of these elements.  And if you can remove two, that’s even better.
Try this sequence in thinking through a wildlife damage problem:
  • Identify the wildlife species causing the problem. This is the most important step. Correctly identifying the species of wildlife causing damage may seem simple, but it can be challenging, under certain circumstances. Learn about the life history and habitat requirements for the wildlife species that may be a potential problem in your area.
  • Are there cultural techniques which you could use to modify the habitat and reduce the chances of having a wildlife damage problem? For instance, there may be certain plants which could be used in your home landscape that might not be an attractive food source for deer. Would more frequent mowing or herbicide use reduce the amount of weedy cover needed for a buildup of rodent populations?
  • Is there some way you can keep the animal causing damage from getting into the site?
  • If you can’t build them out, can you repel them from the area?  Sometimes, you can use chemical, home-made, visual or sound repellents to solve and control a problem.
  • If you can’t put up an effective barrier or repel the animals from the problem site, the last step may involve removing from the area the animals that are causing the damage. It may be necessary to trap, shoot, use gas cartridges in dens, or use poison baits to control a wildlife damage problem. Of course, when considering these alternatives for controlling most wildlife species, you should check with a wildlife conservation agent or local animal control agent to get approval. Often, these persons will also provide some assistance.
  • Remember that no entire species of wild animal is a nuisance or pest all the time. The trick is to deal only with the animal(s) causing damage, not try to eradicate the entire population.
  • A final consideration: Is it worth the effort? It takes quite a bit of time and money to solve and control a wildlife damage problem. Can you tolerate some damage or losses caused by wildlife? Remember that the aesthetic benefits derived from viewing wildlife, and the importance of managing habitats for those wildlife species you wish to attract to your property. Ask yourself if the economic loss is greater than the control cost. If it is, then it is worthwhile to develop and implement a wildlife damage control program.
Living With Wildlife

Wild animals contribute to our enjoyment of nature and outdoor recreation, but they can also damage property, agriculture, and natural resources, and threaten human health and safety. Equipped with the right information and tools, most homeowners can solve their own problems and learn to live with wildlife. For example, trimming trees and shrubbery are ways of changing a habitat to make it less attractive to unwanted flocks of birds or even snakes.
The following information may assist homeowners in keeping that curious raccoon out of the garbage can, that persistent rabbit or deer out of the garden, that goose or duck out of the backyard pool, that woodpecker off the siding, and that swooping bat out of the attic. Caution should always be taken to avoid overly aggressive animals.
Squirrels and Other Rodents
To keep these animals from becoming a permanent part of the family home and yard: use screens on vents and fan openings; keep doors and windows in good repair; tighten eaves; replace rotten boards; cap the chimney; trim overhanging trees; remove bird feeders or use squirrel-proof feeders; and remove acorns and other nuts from the yard. Chipmunks can be deterred by removing denning habitat, which includes logs, rock walls, and stones.
Also known as groundhogs, these animals sometimes burrow near buildings, browse in gardens, and damage fruit trees and ornamental shrubs. Fencing can help reduce woodchuck damage. The lower edge of the fence should be buried at least 10 inches into the ground to prevent burrowing. The fence should be 3 to 4 feet high, with a surrounding electric hot-shot wire placed 4 to 5 inches off the ground.
Opossums and Skunks
Opossums and skunks become a problem to homeowners by raiding garbage cans and bird feeders; eating pet foods; and living under porches, low decks, open sheds, and any other areas that provide shelter. Skunks also dig holes in lawns, golf courses and gardens. Both animals sometimes kill poultry and eat eggs. To keep opossums and skunks from denning under buildings, seal off all foundation openings with wire mesh, sheet metal, or concrete. Chicken coops can be protected by sealing all ground-level openings into the buildings and by closing the doors at night. Foraging in garbage cans may be eliminated by providing tight-fitting lids and straps.
Bats prefer to avoid human contact; however, they are known to establish roosts in attics and abandoned buildings. Building and attic roosts can be eliminated by sealing entry and exit holes (after the bats have left) with such materials as 1/4-inch hardware cloth, caulking or wire mesh. If a bat makes its way into the house, you can usually encourage it to leave after dark by turning on lights and opening windows and doors.
Rabbits can be kept out of the garden and away from ornamental plants and small trees by using products containing repellents, such as Hinder, or by placing a 2-foot poultry fence around the area. It is important to bury the fence at least 6 inches beneath the surface of the ground. For information about taste repellents, check your local farm and garden center. Before using any chemical repellents, read the label carefully, and check with your state pesticide regulatory agency for application guidelines.
Raccoons are attracted to easy food sources, such as garden produce, garbage, and pet food. To help prevent scavenging, use metal trash cans that are fastened to a pole or other solid object. A strap or latch that secures the lid of the garbage can is also helpful. To keep raccoons out of the garden, use two strands of electric livestock fence. The strands should be placed atn 4 and 8 inches, respectively, off the ground and surround the entire garden. Exercise caution when implementing this exclusionary method in urban areas.  Raccoons will also readily inhabit attics, chimneys and sheds. Use metal flashing and 1-inch mesh hardware cloth to block entrances.
The best way to keep snakes out of your house and yard is to seal cracks and openings around doors, windows, water pipes, attics and foundations. Removing logs, wood piles, and high grass, and controlling insects and rodents are also helpful. Remove non-poisonous snakes from inside buildings by placing piles of damp burlap bags in areas where snakes have been seen. After the snakes have curled up beneath the bags, remove the bags and snakes from the building. To remove dangerous snakes, call a professional pest control company.
These birds damage buildings by drilling holes into wooden siding, eaves and trim boards, especially those made of cedar and redwood. If the pecking creates a suitable cavity, the bird may use it for nesting. Effective methods of excluding woodpeckers include placing lightweight mesh nylon or plastic netting on the wooden siding beneath the eaves, covering pecked areas with metal sheathing, and using visual repellents, such as "eye-spot" balloons.
Deer feed on row crops, vegetables, fruit trees, nursery stock, stacked hay, and ornamental plants and trees. Deer can be discouraged by removing supplemental food sources, and by using scare devices and repellents. The only sure way to eliminate deer damage is to fence the deer out. A wire-mesh fence is effective if it is solidly constructed and at least 8 feet high. Electric fencing also helps reduce damage.
Coyotes and Foxes
These animals may carry rabies and sometimes prey on domestic pets, rabbits, ducks, geese, chickens, young pigs and lambs. Coyotes also kill calves, goats and deer. Net-wire and electric fencing will help exclude foxes and coyotes; however, because they are good climbers, a roof of net wire on livestock pens may also be necessary. For more information about fencing, contact your local county extension office.
The protection of livestock and poultry is most important during the spring denning period. Foxes and coyotes will often den close to farm buildings, under haystacks, and inside hog lots and small pastures used for lambing. Shed lambing and farrowing in protected enclosures can be useful in preventing predation on young livestock. Additionally, noise- and light-making devices, such as the Electronic Guard, may keep these predators away. Guard dogs are also useful in preventing predation on sheep. Regrettably, dispersal methods are not effective in all situations, so other methods, including trapping or snaring, may have to be used.
Mountain Lions and Bears
As bear and lion habitats continue to be encroached upon by housing expansion, interactions between these animals and humans continues to increase. Bears are noted for destroying cornfields and trees, scavenging in garbage cans, demolishing the interiors of cabins and campers, and killing livestock. Lions are serious predators of sheep, goats, domestic pets, large livestock, poultry, bighorn sheep, and deer. Typical bear and lion predation on sheep leaves 10 or more killed in a single attack, and both species have been known to attack humans.
Prevention is the best method of controlling bear and lion damage. Heavy woven and electric fencing can effectively deter bears and lions from attacking livestock and damaging property. Loud music, barking dogs, exploder cannons, fireworks, gunfire, nightlights, scarecrows, and changes in the position of objects in the depredation area often provide temporary relief. The best way to protect pets is to keep them inside an enclosed kennel or shelter. Using guard dogs, removing garbage and dead carcasses, and placing crops and beehives at considerable distances away from timber and brush may reduce damage by bears. Mountain lions also prefer to hunt where escape cover is close by; removal of brush and trees within a quarter of a mile of buildings and livestock may reduce lion predation.
Professional relocation of damaging mountain lions and bears is sometimes necessary. For more information about state laws and regulations concerning relocation or lethal control of mountain lions and bears, contact your state wildlife agency.
Remember, think through your problem before attempting to invest in a control program. What is the easiest, cheapest, most practical way to control the problem? What will be the least hazardous to pets, people, and non-target wildlife? Are you losing enough money to justify a control expense? Your goal should be to reduce damage to a level you can live with.

From Wildlife Control at Home - InterNACHI

Thursday, November 21, 2013

2013 Hurricane Preparedness and Recovery Resources

Prepare and recover using the following information provided by the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS):  

Quick guide to what you can do now to prepare:

  • Shutters: Install the hardware needed to put up shutters or pre-cut plywood to protect windows and doors now. This will allow for easier installation if the storm threatens your area.
  • Surroundings: Bring in any loose items, such as garbage cans and lawn furniture, and pick up any debris in the yard that can act as a projectile during high winds.
  • Trees: Trim your risk of damage by cutting weak tree branches, along with branches that are positioned over structures, which could be broken off by high winds and cause property damage.
  • Seals: Make sure caulking around windows and doors is in good shape and not cracked, broken or missing, and fill any holes or gaps around pipes or wires that enter your building.
  • Basement: Move furniture and electronic devices off the floor, particularly in basements and first floor levels to prevent water damage.
  • Rugs: Roll up area rugs, and get them off the floor to reduce the chances of rugs getting wet and growing mold. This is particularly important if the property will be left unattended for an extended period of time and if long-term power outages are a possibility.
  • Sump Pumps & Drains: Inspect sump pumps and drains to ensure proper operation. If a sump pump has a battery backup, make sure the batteries are fresh or replace the batteries.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Kitchen & Bathroom Floors

SitePro Home inspectors are professionals who are looking for safety, structural, and system deficiencies during home inspections. Typically, the colours of the home and choices of finishing materials are not important to home inspectors but when it comes to kitchens and bathrooms, the flooring material could be a safety or structural problem.

There are three critical issues for kitchen and bathroom floors for home inspectors:

  1. Water Damage - Kitchens and bathroom floors see a lot of water usage. Water from spills or drips can damage many floor surfaces and promote rot and hidden damage below the floor.
  2. Bacteria and Cleaning - Kitchen floors can become contaminated with dangerous bacteria from uncooked foods. Bathroom floors see bacteria from human waste. It is critical that the floors in these areas be easy to thoroughly clean to keep occupants healthy.
  3. Durability - Kitchen floors need to withstand the occasional dropped pot or cutting board and bathrooms have occupants with bare feet in them. The floor surface needs to be safe in these environments.
Best Flooring Materials
  • Tiles, Stones, Marble - There are many natural and synthetic solid flooring materials that make up a type of flooring called 'hard flooring'. Hard floors are excellent at resisting water, can be cleaned well, and resist damage from dropped pots and pans. Cracked tiles or material can be dangerous to occupants feet.
  • Linoleum and Sheet Vinyl - While often seen as 'budget' material, these sheet installed products are excellent and resisting water, easy to clean up, are soft on the feet, and are quite resistant to most mechanical damage. This flooring is susceptible to surface cuts which impacts the water resistance.
  • Concrete - Concrete is an excellent material for kitchen and bath floors however it is not considered very attractive and it should be sealed to prevent oil and bacteria from penetrating the surface. There are finishes that can be applied to concrete to improve the appearance and also help with sealing the material from contaminants.
'OK' Flooring Materials
  • Solid Hardwood - All woods will absorb water if it is allowed time to soak and not wiped up quickly.  Once water is absorbed, it can cause the wood to warp permanently. Hardwood will nick,wear, and scratch but as long as it does not have major damage it will clean well. Solid hardwoods are better off in kitchens than bathrooms as kitchens don't see as much water spilled on the floor as regularly as in bathrooms.
  • Engineered Hardwood - Engineered hardwood is similar to solid hardwood except only the surface layer is the expensive finished wood species. Engineered wood may be slightly more susceptible to water damage as there are different types of wood in the product which may expand with moisture at different rates resulting in worse damage.
  • Linoleum and Vinyl Tiles - There are some 'peel and stick' tiles available which are commonly used in budget renovations as they are cheap and easy to lay. Gaps in the materials will allow water past the waterproof surface and once water damages the glued bottom, these tiles tend to curl at the edges and loose their water resistance and easy cleaning ability. These tiles, if used at all, are best on concrete basement floors slabs.
Poor Flooring Materials
  • Carpeting - Carpet is a very poor material for kitchens and baths. It cannot be cleaned easily allowing bacteria and mold to grow and it absorbs water and is not easy to dry. Carpeting should never be on kitchen or bath floors. Rugs and mats in bathrooms and kitchens can be just as bad as carpet if not cleaned regularly and allowed to dry on both sides quickly.
  • Laminate - Laminate is a man-made flooring material that is unfortunately often found in kitchen and baths. Laminate strips or tiles have small gaps in the material that once wet swell quickly damaging the surface and surrounding floor pieces permanently. Spills wiped quickly may prevent damage but expect shorter life spans of laminate in kitchens and baths than in other rooms in the home.
  • Cork - This flooring has become increasingly popular as it is softer and warmer underfoot than hard woods, yet still good for people who have allergies and don't want carpets. Cork can be water proof, like a wine cork, but it has many small openings which can trap bacteria in kitchens and bathrooms making it a less sanitary choice.

Van Hibberts, CMI

Certified Residential Building Code Inspector ICC-5319905
Florida-State Certified Master Home Inspector Lic. #HI 89
Certified Owens-Corning Roof Data Technician
Florida-Certified Wind Mitigation Inspector
WDO Certificate #JE190791 
InterNACHI #10071802
362 Gulf Breeze Parkway, #214
Gulf Breeze, Florida 32561
850.934.6800  (Office)
850.485.3209  (Cell / Text Msg)
"Looking Beyond The Obvious"

Nothing in this message is intended to constitute an electronic signature unless a specific statement to the contrary is included in this message.

DISCLAIMER: The information in this communication is confidential and may be legally privileged. It is intended solely for the use of the individual or entity to whom it is addressed and other authorized to receive it. If you are not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any disclosure, copying, distribution or taking any action in reliance of the contents of this information is strictly prohibited and may be unlawful. If you have received this message in error, please contact the sender immediately by return e-mail. SitePro LLC is neither liable for the proper nor complete transmission of the information contained in this communication nor for any delay in its receipt.

SitePro Residential and Commercial Inspections has taken every reasonable precaution to ensure that any attachment to this e-mail has been swept for viruses. However, we cannot accept liability for any damage sustained as a result of viruses and would advise that you carry out your own virus check before opening any attachment. This e-mail is meant to communicate company related materials only. Opinions expressed by the author of this e-mail are solely his/her own. SitePro Residential and Commericial Inspections will not be liable for opinions expressed in this e-mail.

Sunday, November 17, 2013


Windbreaks are dense rows of trees and shrubs designed to reduce wind speed before it reaches a building.  These landscape elements provide numerous other perks for the homeowner, their neighborhood and the environment.

Some of the advantages provided by windbreaks, beyond simple wind mitigation, include the following.Properly-designed windbreak protects a house

    Many animals rely on windbreaks. Food, shelter from severe weather, nesting sites, and a means of escape cover are all provided by the vegetation that composes a windbreak. For example, the planting of windbreaks during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s is believed to have allowed the expansion of woodland birds and other creatures, such as Mississippi kites and fox squirrels. Birds, in particular, are known to rely on windbreaks for temporary cover during winter storms. Even large mammals, such as white-tailed deer, use windbreaks for cover, food and fawning. Employ a variety of trees and shrubs in your windbreak to create an abundance of different kinds of nuts, seeds and berries, which will, in turn, attract a diversity of wildlife.
While any vegetation will increase the appeal of an otherwise barren yard, a uniform, well-maintained windbreak can actually increase property values with their pleasing aesthetics. Also, they allow the homeowner to strategically screen out undesirable sights.
Windbreaks are effective for noise deflection. Windbreaks reduce the infiltration of traffic noise into a property by absorbing and deflecting it with leaves and large branches. In addition, traffic noises will be replaced with the sounds of rustling leaves or the singing of birds that are drawn to the vegetation.
Windbreaks assist agriculture. According to the University of Florida’s School of Forest Resources and Conservation, "a well-designed windbreak located in the direction of a prevailing wind can increase crop yield, reduce soil erosion, influence microclimate around the crops, increase irrigation efficiency, and control the spread of some pathogens." Erosion, in particular, is a serious threat to farmers.  By clearing trees from the Western regions of Canada and the United States, farmers in the 1930s inadvertently encouraged evaporation and subsequent erosion that were largely responsible for the infamous Dust Bowl. Although rains eventually remedied the situation, farmers learned to place windbreaks around their lands to keep soil moist during droughts.
 Windbreaks provide snow control. A properly placed windbreak will prevent snow drifts in areas such as driveways and building entrances. Valuable time and effort can then be spent on activities other than snow removal.

Windbreaks work either by deflecting the wind up and over a building, thereby forming a protective wind shadow, or by catching it to reduce its speed. And as the windbreak captures the winter wind, so too does the wind chill diminish. For example, if the outside temperature is 12° F (-11° C), a windbreak can reduce a 20-mph wind to 5 mph, and the wind chill will be reduced from -22° F (-30° C) to a more bearable 8° F (-11° C).

The best windbreaks block wind close to the ground by using fast-growing trees and shrubs that have low crowns. Deciduous trees, while they are favored as shade trees during the summer, lose their leaves in cold weather, which makes them less effective than evergreens at stopping the frigid winter wind. The best choices are dense, fat, fast-growing conifers that will mature to a height higher than the roof. These qualities may be found with Norway, white and Colorado blue spruce.

Tips that inspectors can pass on to their clients:

  •     For maximum protection, plant your windbreak at a distance from your home of three to five times the height of the mature trees. Studies have shown, however, that the effective distance of wind reduction is sometimes as high as 30 times the height of the windbreak, depending on the tree species.
  •     Do not plant trees too close to the home’s south side, as this will reduce the warmth supplied by the winter sun.
  •     Arrange windbreaks in multiple rows to increase their effectiveness.
  •     Do not prune the lower branches of the windbreak, as this will increase the wind speed near the ground.
  •     Thin the trees and shrubs as they grow to ensure that competition does not jeopardize the health of the windbreak. For instance, you can plant trees 3 feet apart, but then you should remove every second tree when their crowns begin to intersect.

Incorporate numerous plant species in the windbreak to impede wind from ground level to the treetops. Even non-living yard features, such as walls, fences and raised soils, can be incorporated into a single windbreak.
Decide which direction the prevailing winds come from in your area so you know where the best places are to plant the windbreak.
Be careful to not plant large trees too close to the home, as they may fall during a storm, shed leaves or needles on your roof, allow pests to access your roof, or even penetrate your basement walls with their root structure. If you are experiencing any of these conditions, be sure to talk about it with your InterNACHI inspector during your next scheduled inspection.

Arrange the windbreak in such a way that it will provide a conduit for breezes and desired winds. 

In summary, homeowners can use well-designed windbreaks for many purposes.

by Nick Gromicko
From Windbreaks - Int'l Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI)

Friday, November 15, 2013

Master Suite Expansion-DIY

Brett and Amy combine two bedrooms to create a large master suite. This video is part of Sweat Equity show hosted by Amy Matthews .

How about increasing the value of your home by $10,000 in just two weekends? Sweat Equity shows you how to determine which home improvement projects will return the most bang for their buck in your area. Is it better to install new kitchen cabinets or just reface the old ones? Are granite countertops really worth the cost? Should you put more money into your bathroom or your kitchen? Host Amy Matthews helps homeowners tackle the projects themselves with national experts in the worlds of finance, design and home remodeling giving tips and techniques on saving money along the way. Each episode ends with a reveal of the grand total-how much did the home's value go up? With a little bit of knowledge and a little bit of sweat, you can build a whole lot of equity-and a much nicer home too!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Renovations To Elevate Homes Now Covered by Federal Loan Program

Good news for owners of homes damaged a year ago by Hurricane Sandy: a temporary change in the Federal Housing Administration’s 203(k) loan program for the rehabilitation and repair of houses may provide a new option for financing repairs to homes, reports The New York Times.

The 203(k) program allows a borrower to buy or refinance a damaged property and include the estimated cost of repairs in the mortgage (instead of obtaining a separate construction loan). Previously, renovations that changed a home’s foundation were ineligible, but recently the FHA announced that it was temporarily lifting that prohibition for homes in areas devastated by Sandy’s severe flooding, according to the Times.

Now, homes requiring elevation to reduce flood risk may qualify for 203(k) renovation loans. The rule change expires in March 2015 and applies only to primary homes, and to properties with foundations that lie below new flood elevation standards. Also, after repairs, the elevated foundation must comply with Federal Emergency Management Agency(FEMA) requirements and local building codes.

The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) provides information about determining your home’s flood zone and understanding flood maps on its website at

Find additional resources to help you prepare for, respond to and recover from flooding at

Monday, November 11, 2013

Painting Basics

Got a painting project on your to-do list? Learn these basic painting tips to ensure the project goes smoothly and looks great.

Before beginning to paint, "cut in" around any corners or trim. To do this, load a small amount of paint on the end of the brush, press the brush against the wall so that it comes to an angle and gradually work toward the trim. Be careful not to get paint on the trim or any other surface. Work your way around all the trim and corners.

Painting pads can help when cutting around trim. The pads come with small wheels that allow you to paint up to the edge of the trim without getting paint on the trim. To use one, dip the pad face into the paint, being careful not to get paint on the rollers. Start painting near the trim, and work closer until the rollers touch it. After painting, go back and feather the edges of the painted area.

After cutting in around the trim, begin rolling the paint onto the walls or ceiling. When painting with a roller, paint in 3' by 3' sections. Paint in long strokes, using a zigzag pattern to achieve a more even coating. Start in an unpainted area, and work your way into a painted area. After applying the paint, go back over the freshly painted area to help ensure an even coating. As each section is finished, feather the edges by pulling the roller straight down and then lightly pulling it away from the wall as you reach the bottom of the freshly painted area. This will help eliminate roller marks on the wall.

To help save time in the painting project, consider a power roller. It holds paint in a reservoir and sends it directly to the roller, eliminating the need for paint trays. Cleanup is also easier.

Any painting project should begin at the highest area to be painted. For example, when painting both ceiling and walls, start with the ceiling.

Before painting the trim, fill in any nail holes with wood filler. Dab some filler material on your finger and rub it into the holes. After the filler has dried, sand it smooth.

To prevent getting paint on walls or floors, use a trim guard or a paint guard. A tape knife, which has a wide flat blade, also works well. Hold the edge of the blade tightly between the wall and the trim and paint the trim all the way up to the edge. Be sure to clean the edge of the paint guard frequently. Always paint baseboards last because of the possibility of bumping into them with ladders or dripping paint onto them.

Saturday, November 9, 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 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
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.