Monday, March 31, 2014

Five Things You Need to Know About Resilience STARTM

The Resilience STARTM Home Pilot Project aims to build disaster resilient communities in select areas at high risk for certain natural disasters. Modeled after the very successful ENERGY STAR program, Resilience STARTM will assign a range of stars to homes that meet specific resilience standards, much the same way ENERGY STAR assigns energy efficiency ratings to appliances.

Find out the answers to five critical questions about Resilience STARTM below, and learn more  at

1.       What Building Standards Are Being Used?

The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety’s (IBHS) FORTIFIED Home™ (hazard-specific retrofits and new construction) and FORTIFIED for Safer Living® (all-hazard, new construction) standards were selected as the sole construction and building criteria for the Resilience STARTM Home Pilot Project.

2.       Who is Sponsoring Resilience STARTM?

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has led an intensive effort to develop an approach to bolster the resilience of private residences through Resilience STARTM. DHS is joined by the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) and other private sector organizations in working to build community resilience through the IBHS’ FORTIFIED stronger, safer building standards.

3.       Who is Eligible?

Pilot communities featuring new construction and retrofitted homes will be selected on both the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. While Resilience STARTM plans to be open to all building types eventually, only single-family homes will be eligible for designation during the Pilot Project. Builders, contractors, and homeowners who would like to participate in this project are urged to apply now.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

USDA Loans

USDA loans are housing loans that are backed through the Rural Housing Division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
In the wake of the mortgage crisis in 2008 and 2009, lenders have become more cautious, so it's harder for home buyers, especially first-timers, to secure financing, especially those with low incomes or little money for a down payment. In response, the USDA has enacted changes that made millions of borrowers eligible for their rural mortgage programs, which have been around for decades. These loans are primarily used to help low-income individuals and families purchase homes in rural areas, given the challenges faced in finding an affordable mortgage loan or deriving high income in sparsely populated areas. Funds can be used to build, repair, renovate or relocate a home, or to purchase and prepare sites, including providing water and sewage facilities. If the borrower defaults on payments, loan funds are still guaranteed to the lender.
Eligibility of Applicants
The following factors affect eligibility for USDA loans:
  • Loans are restricted to borrowers in rural areas, although many of the zip codes that qualify for USDA loans are in relatively typical suburbs of major cities.  The 2002 Farm Bill defines a rural area as "any area other than (1) a city or town that has a population of greater than 50,000 inhabitants, and (2) the urbanized areas contiguous and adjacent to such a city or town."
  • Applicants for loans may have an income of up to 115% of the median income for the area. If an income exceeds the maximum mark, you may be able to make certain adjustments that will help you qualify.
  • Applicant families must currently be without adequate housing, but be able to afford the mortgage payments, including taxes and insurance. Copies of IRS tax filings from years prior may be required, especially if the prospective borrower is self-employed or has worked many jobs over the past few years.
  • Applicants must have reasonable credit histories. Late payments will appear on the credit history, as will bankruptcies, repossessions and  foreclosures.
  • The amount loaned will also depend on the number of dependents claimed by the applicant.
Eligibility of Housing
Housing must be modest in size, design and cost. Also, houses constructed, purchased or rehabilitated must meet the building code adopted by the state and the Housing and Community Facilities Programs' (HCFP) thermal and site standards. New manufactured housing must be permanently installed and meet the manufactured housing construction and safety standards of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), as well as the HCFP's thermal and site standards.  Existing manufactured housing may not qualify unless it is already financed with an HCFP direct or guaranteed loan, or it is Real Estate-Owned (REO), formerly secured by an HCFP direct or guaranteed loan.
USDA Loans vs. Federal Housing Authority (FHA) Loans
While the USDA and FHA both insure loans made by private lenders, the policies and eligibility requirements for each are quite different. The following are the principle differences:
  • Unlike loans offered by the FHA, USDA loans have no monthly mortgage insurance premium.
  • The FHA requires that an applicant invest 3.5% of the purchase price as a down payment, although this fee may be donated by an employer, a blood relative, or a non-profit organization that is approved by HUD.  The USDA does not require a down payment.
  • Both the USDA and FHA have similar appraisal requirements.  Both feature mortgage options for a fixed rate mortgage, and repayment terms of 15 years and 30 years.
  • FHA loans may be as high as $729,750, while USDA loans are limited to $300,000.
In summary, USDA loans are a good option for many prospective home buyers and borrowers living in (or moving to) rural areas. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Space Required for Electrical Equipment

The Space About Electrical Equipment  requirements are illustrated in the following diagrams:

Working Space.  This is the space provided around certain electrical equipment to permit ready and safe access to and egress from said equipment.  There are (3) dimensions of consideration: depth of the working space, width of the working space, and height of the working space.  Other working space considerations are found in Part (B), (C), (D), (E) and (G).

 The following figures illustrate elements of the dimensions mentioned above:

In addition to working space requirements, the NEC also mandates “dedicated equipment space”.  This is the space provided for the electrical equipment itself to ensure proper operation of the equipment, to allow for future access and expansion of the system, and to protect the equipment from damage.  The rules for dedicated equipment space can be found in Part (F) to Section 110.26.  The part is divided into “indoor” locations and “outdoor” locations.  The same three dimensions (D, W, H) are to be considered for dedicated equipment space located indoors.  Outdoor equipment have additional protection requirements to avoid accidental contact by unauthorized persons, vehicles, and leakage from piping systems.

The following figures illustrate elements of the dedicated equipment space rules:

Van Hibberts, CMI
Certified Residential Building Code Inspector ICC-5319905
Florida-State Certified Master Inspector Lic. #HI 89
Certified Owens-Corning Roof Data Inspector
Florida-Certified Wind Mitigation Inspector
WDO Certificate #JE190791
InterNACHI #10071802
362 Gulf Breeze Parkway, #214
Gulf Breeze, Florida 32561
850.934.6800  (Office)                                         
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Friday, March 21, 2014

Backflow Prevention

Backflow is the reversal of the normal and intended direction of water flow in a water system. Devices and assemblies known as backflow preventers are installed to prevent backflow, which can contaminate potable water supplies.

Why is backflow a problem?

Backflow is a potential problem in a water system because it can spread contaminated water back through a distribution system. For example, backflow at uncontrolled cross connections (cross-connections are any actual or potential connection between the public water supply and a source of contamination or pollution) can allow pollutants or contaminants to enter the potable water system. Sickness can result from ingesting water that has been contaminated due to backflow.

Backflow may occur under the following two conditions:

    Back-pressure is the reverse from normal flow direction within a piping system as the result of the downstream pressure being higher than the supply pressure. This reduction in supply pressure occurs whenever the amount of water being used exceeds the amount of water being supplied (such as during water-line flushing, fire-fighting, or breaks in water mains).

    Back-siphonage is the reverse from normal flow direction within a piping system that is caused by negative pressure in the supply piping (i.e., the reversal of normal flow in a system caused by a vacuum or partial vacuum within the water supply piping). Back-siphonage can occur when there is a high velocity in a pipe line, when there is a line repair or break that is lower than a service point, or when there is lowered main pressure due to high-water withdrawal rate (such as during fire-fighting or water-main flushing)

.Atmospheric Vacuum Breakers

Backflow prevention for residences is most commonly accomplished through the use of atmospheric vacuum breakers (AVBs). AVBs operate by allowing the entry of air into a pipe so that a siphon cannot form. AVBs are bent at 90 degrees and are usually composed of brass. Compared with backflow preventer assembles, AVBs are small, simple and inexpensive devices that require little maintenance or testing. They have long life spans and are suitable for residential purposes such as sprinkler systems. InterNACHI inspectors can check for the following:
  •     The AVB must be at least 6 inches above any higher point downstream of the device. For this reason, they can never be installed below grade. Even if they are installed 6 inches above grade, inspectors should make sure that they are not installed less than 6 inches above some other point in the system downstream of the device.
  •     The AVB cannot be installed in an enclosure containing air contaminants. If contaminated air enters the water piping, it can poison the potable water supply.
  •     A shut-off valve should never be placed downstream of any AVB, as this would result in continuous pressure on the AVB.
  •     AVBs cannot be subject to continuous pressure for 12 hours in any 24-hour period or they may malfunction.
  •     Spillage of water from the top of the AVB is an indication that the device has failed and needs to be replaced.
  • Types of Backflow Preventer Assemblies
Some types of assemblies are common in commercial and agricultural applications but are rare for residential uses. The appropriate type of backflow preventer for any given application will depend on the degree of potential hazard. The primary types of backflow preventers appropriate for use at municipalities and utilities are:

  •     double check valves:  These are commonly used in elevated tanks and non-toxic boilers. Double check-valve assemblies are effective against backflow caused by back-pressure and back-siphonage and are used to protect the potable water system from low-hazard substances. Double-checks consist of two positive-seating check valves installed as a unit between two tightly closing shut-off valves, and are fitted with testcocks.
  •     reduced pressure principle assemblies:  These are commonly used in industrial plants, hospitals, morgues, chemical plants, irrigation systems, boilers, and fire sprinkler systems. Reduced pressure principle assemblies (RPs) protect against back-pressure and back-siphonage of pollutants and contaminants. The assembly is comprised of two internally loaded, independently operating check valves with a mechanically independent, hydraulically dependent relief valve between them.
  •     pressure vacuum breakers:  These are commonly used in industrial plants, cooling towers, laboratories, laundries, swimming pools, lawn sprinkler systems, and fire sprinkler systems. Pressure vacuum breakers use a check valve designed to close with the aid of a spring when water flow stops. Its air-inlet valve opens when the internal pressure is one psi above atmospheric pressure, preventing non-potable water from being siphoned back into the potable system. The assembly includes resilient, seated shut-off valves and testcocks.

Requirements for Testers and Inspectors

A number of organizations, such as the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and the American Backflow Prevention Association (ABPA) offer certification courses designed to train professionals to test backflow preventers. Requirements for training vary by jurisdiction. Inspection of backflow preventers requires knowledge of installation requirements, although inspectors are not required to become certified.

In summary, backflow preventers are designed to prevent the reverse flow of water in a potable water system. They come in a number of different types, each of which is suited for different purposes.

\by Nick Gromicko and Kenton Shepard

From Backflow Prevention - Int'l Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI)

Monday, March 17, 2014

Electrical Safety in the Home

Electricity is an essential part of our lives. However, it has the potential to cause great harm. Electrical systems will function almost indefinitely, if properly installed and not overloaded or physically abused. Electrical fires in our homes claim the lives of 485 Americans each year and injure 2,305 more. Some of these fires are caused by electrical system failures and appliance defects, but many more are caused by the misuse and poor maintenance of electrical appliances, incorrectly installed wiring, and overloaded circuits and extension cords.  Some safety tips to remember:
  • Never use anything but the proper fuse to protect a circuit.
  • Find and correct overloaded circuits. 
  • Never place extension cords under rugs. 
  • Outlets near water should be GFCI-type outlets. 
  • Don't allow trees near power lines to be climbed. 
  • Keep ladders, kites, equipment and anything else away from overhead power lines. 

Electrical Panels

Electricity enters the home through a control panel and a main switch where one can shut off all the power in an emergency. These panels are usually located in the basement. Control panels use either fuses or circuit breakers. Install the correct fuses for the panel. Never use a higher-numbered fuse or a metallic item, such as a penny. If fuses are used and there is a stoppage in power, look for the broken metal strip in the top of a blown fuse. Replace the fuse with a new one marked with the correct amperage. Reset circuit breakers from "off" to "on." Be sure to investigate why the fuse or circuit blew. Possible causes include frayed wires, overloaded outlets, or defective appliances. Never overload a circuit with high-wattage appliances. Check the wattage on appliance labels. If there is frayed insulation or a broken wire, a dangerous short circuit may result and cause a fire. If power stoppages continue or if a frayed or broken wire is found, contact an electrician.

Outlets and Extension Cords

Make sure all electrical receptacles or outlets are three-hole, grounded outlets. If there is water in the area, there should be a GFCI or ground-fault circuit interrupter outlet. All outdoor outlets should be GFCIs. There should be ample electrical capacity to run equipment without tripping circuit breakers or blowing fuses. Minimize extension cord use. Never place them under rugs. Use extension cords sparingly and check them periodically. Use the proper electrical cord for the job, and put safety plugs in unused outlets.

Electrical Appliances

Appliances need to be treated with respect and care. They need room to breathe. Avoid enclosing them in a cabinet without proper openings, and do not store papers around them. Level appliances so they do not tip. Washers and dryers should be checked often. Their movement can put undue stress on electrical connections. If any appliance or device gives off a tingling shock, turn it off, unplug it, and have a qualified person correct the problem. Shocks can be fatal. Never insert metal objects into appliances without unplugging them. Check appliances periodically to spot worn or cracked insulation, loose terminals, corroded wires, defective parts and any other components that might not work correctly. Replace these appliances or have them repaired by a person qualified to do so.

Electrical Heating Equipment

Portable electrical heating equipment may be used in the home as a supplement to the home heating system. Caution must be taken when using these heating supplements. Keep them away from combustibles, and make sure they cannot be tipped over. Keep electrical heating equipment in good working condition. Do not use them in bathrooms because of the risk of contact with water and electrocution. Many people use electric blankets in their homes. They will work well if they are kept in good condition. Look for cracks and breaks in the wiring, plugs and connectors. Look for charred spots on both sides. Many things can cause electric blankets to overheat. They include other bedding placed on top of them, pets sleeping on top of them, and putting things on top of the blanket when it is in use. Folding the blankets can also bend the coils and cause overheating.


Electricity is important to the workings of the home, but can be dangerous, especially to children. Electrical safety needs to be taught to children early on. Safety plugs should be inserted in unused outlets when toddlers are in the home. Make sure all outlets in the home have face plates. Teach children not to put things into electrical outlets and not to chew on electrical cords. Keep electrical wiring boxes locked. Do not allow children to come in contact with power lines outside. Never allow them to climb trees near power lines, utility poles or high tension towers.

Electricity and Water

A body can act like a lightning rod and carry the current to the ground. People are good conductors of electricity, particularly when standing in water or on a damp floor. Never use any electrical appliance in the tub or shower. Never touch an electric cord or appliance with wet hands. Do not use electrical appliances in damp areas or while standing on damp floors. In areas where water is present, use outlets with GFCIs. Shocks can be fatal.

Animal Hazards

Mice and other rodents can chew on electrical wires and damage them. If rodents are suspected or known to be in the home, be aware of the damage they may cause, and take measures to get rid of them.

Outside Hazards

There are several electrical hazards outside the home. Be aware of overhead and underground power lines. People have been electrocuted when an object they are moving has come in contact with the overhead power lines. Keep ladders, antennae, kites and poles away from power lines leading to the house and other buildings. Do not plant trees, shrubs or bushes under power lines or near underground power lines. Never build a swimming pool or other structure under the power line leading to your house. Before digging, learn the location of underground power lines.

Do not climb power poles or transmission towers. Never let anyone shoot or throw stones at insulators. If you have an animal trapped in a tree or on the roof near electric lines, phone your utility company. Do not take a chance of electrocuting yourself. Be aware of weather conditions when installing and working with electrical appliances. Never use electrical power tools or appliances with rain overhead or water underfoot. Use only outdoor lights, fixtures and extension cords. Plug into outlets with a GFCI. Downed power lines are extremely dangerous. If you see a downed power line, call the electric company, and warn others to stay away. If a power line hits your car while you are in it, stay inside unless the car catches fire. If the car catches fire, jump clear without touching metal and the ground at the same time.

  • Routinely check your electrical appliances and wiring.
  • Hire an InterNACHI inspector. InterNACHI inspectors must pass rigorous safety training and are knowledgeable in the ways to reduce the likelihood of electrocution.
  • Frayed wires can cause fires. Replace all worn, old and damaged appliance cords immediately.
  • Use electrical extension cords wisely and don't overload them.
  • Keep electrical appliances away from wet floors and counters; pay special care to electrical appliances in the bathroom and kitchen.
  • Don't allow children to play with or around electrical appliances, such as space heaters, irons and hair dryers.
  • Keep clothes, curtains and other potentially combustible items at least 3 feet from all heaters.
  • If an appliance has a three-prong plug, use it only in a three-slot outlet. Never force it to fit into a two-slot outlet or extension cord.
  • Never overload extension cords or wall sockets. Immediately shut off, then professionally replace, light switches that are hot to the touch, as well as lights that flicker. Use safety closures to childproof electrical outlets.
  • Check your electrical tools regularly for signs of wear. If the cords are frayed or cracked, replace them. Replace any tool if it causes even small electrical shocks, overheats, shorts out or gives off smoke or sparks.
In summary, household electrocution can be prevented by following the tips offered in this guide and by hiring an InterNACHI inspector.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Tornadoes: How to Prepare, Respond, and Rebuild

Tornadoes are one of nature’s most powerful, destructive forces and also one of the most unpredictable. While the majority of tornado activity takes place between the months of March and June, it’s not uncommon for a second “season” to spring up in the fall.

There’s not much you can do to protect your home from the significant damage an EF-2 or stronger tornado can cause. However, there are steps you can take that can increase the chances of your home surviving the high winds weaker tornadoes produce. The experts at the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) encourage you to take time during National Severe Weather Preparedness Week to learn what you should do before, during, and after a tornado to increase life safety and reduce property damage.

Find more information and resources at


Prepare your home
  •     Replace gravel and/or rock landscaping material with shredded bark to reduce the risk of damage from wind-borne debris.
  •     Keep trees and shrubbery trimmed.
  •     Cut weak branches and trees that could fall on your house.
Prepare your family
  •     Create an emergency plan using Know Your Plan a free app – listed as “Your Plan” in iTunes – that gives you the mobile power and organization to help keep your family and your home safer during a disaster. Developed by the Insurance Information Institute (III), this app features property protection guidance from IBHS.
  •     Identify escape routes from your home and neighborhood and designate an emergency meeting place for your family to reunite if you become separated. Also establish a contact person to communicate with concerned relatives.
  •     Put together an emergency kit that includes first aid supplies, a portable NOAA all-hazard radio, a flashlight, fresh batteries, basic tools, work gloves, portable lanterns, a signaling device such as an air horn, prescription medications, extra car keys, extra eyeglasses, cash and important documents such as insurance policies.
  •     The most economical and effective way to provide a safe place for riding out a tornado is to have a tornado shelter. If you do not have one, head to the center-most part of your basement or home, and seek shelter under something sturdy like a workbench or staircase or in a bathtub with a mattress over top of you.
  •     Stay away from windows and doors to reduce the risk of injury from wind-borne debris and broken glass.
  •     Keep exterior doors and windows closed to minimize rain and flying debris. Closing interior doors will also help to compartmentalize the building home and provide more barriers between you and the storm.

Below are suggestions to help make the insurance claims process run more quickly and smoothly:
  •     Be prepared to give your agent or insurance company representative a detailed description of the damage to your property. Your agent will report the loss to your insurance company or to a qualified adjuster who will contact you as soon as possible in order to arrange an inspection of the site.
  •     If it is safe to access the area, take photographs of the damaged property. Visual documentation will help with the claims process and can assist the adjuster in the investigation.
  •     Prepare a detailed inventory of all damaged or destroyed personal property. Make two copies—one for yourself and one for the adjuster. Your list should be as complete as possible, including a description of the items, dates of purchase or approximate age, cost at time of purchase and estimated replacement cost. Visit for free, Web-based software to help you prepare your inventory.
  •     Collect canceled checks, invoices, receipts or other papers that can assist the adjuster in obtaining the value of the destroyed property.
  •     Make whatever temporary repairs you can. Cover broken windows and damaged roofs and walls to prevent further destruction. Save the receipts for any supplies and materials you purchase as your insurance company will reimburse you for reasonable expenses incurred by making temporary repairs.
  •     Secure a detailed estimate for permanent repairs to your home or business from a licensed contractor and give it to the adjuster. The estimate should contain the proposed repairs, repair costs and replacement prices.
  •     If your home is severely damaged and you need to find other accommodations while repairs are being made, keep a record of all expenses, such as hotel and restaurant receipts.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Natural Gas Cooking Systems

  •     Thoroughly clean your range as often as necessary.
  •     Don't preheat your oven unless the recipe calls for it.
  •     Allow frozen foods to defrost before cooking.
  •     Adjust the natural gas flame to fit your pans - the flame should never come up around the sides of a pan.
  •     Cook with as little water as possible and cover the pan.
  •     Reduce the flame after boiling has started.
  •     Use a pressure cooker to save cooking time and to cook less expensive cuts of meat.
  •     Avoid opening the oven door and allowing heat to escape while food is cooking.
  •     Take advantage of cooking aids such as meat thermometers, meat probes and time and temperature charts.
  •     Don't use foil to line your oven - it can interfere with air circulation.
  •     Place the pan on your natural gas range burner before you turn on the heat.
  •     Plan to cook more than one dish at a time, perhaps an entire meal, in your oven or broiler. If you have a double oven, use the smaller oven for one-dish cooking.

Friday, March 7, 2014

How to Flush a Water Heater

This Old House plumbing and heating contractor Richard Trethewey shows a quick and effective way to drain a sediment-filled water heater.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Many Routes To Home Ownership

Purchasing the family home can be daunting when faced with high prices while working for low wages. The minimum wage in America has doubled since the 1970's while housing prices generally rose to 10 times the amount between the 1970s and 2006 comparatively. There are little publicized options for home loans that can help many people to deal with this inflation problem and own their own home.

Here are some facts that can help people find the assistance they may need:

1. The USDA administers Rural Development Loans- also known as the USDA Rural Development Guaranteed Housing Loan Program. This is a housing loan vehicle for application in rural areas of the United States. Such loans may even require no down payment. These loans are limited for applicants that meet specific requirements such as: Income must not exceed 115% of the median income for the area. Families must be able to afford the mortgage payments. In addition, applicants must have reasonable credit histories. The property must be located within the USDA RD Home Loan "footprint" which is proximity designated by population densities. Due to how the USDA defines "rural", there are plenty of places, some that may even be close to metropolitan areas, in which USDA loans can be used. The USDA also administers variations of such loans- There are the Section 502 loans that are primarily used to help low-income families purchase homes in rural areas. These loans can be used to build, repair or renovate a home, or to purchase land to build the home on. Applicants for such loans must have a low income that is between 50% and 80% percent of median income for the area. Subsidies are available to assist families to make the mortgage payments. Applicants must be unable to obtain credit elsewhere, yet have reasonable credit. Another variation of USDA Rural Development Loans is the Rural Repair and Rehabilitation Loan program, also known as the Very Low-Income Housing Repair program. This program provides loans to very low-income people in rural areas to repair, improve, or modernize their dwellings or to remove health and safety hazards. Grants are available to homeowners who are 62 years old or older. Such grants do not have to be repaid. The USDA does not administer these home loan programs to enrich people by providing a vehicle whereby they might obtain a home at more favorable terms and turn around and sell it for a high profit. Built into such loan terms are caveats that incentivize buyers to remain in the homes and also provide for the USDA to recover costs should the buyers elect not to do so. To access more information on USDA Home Loan practices go to the USDA government website Rural Development section or just use the search term "USDA Home Loans".

2. Hud's 203k Rehab Program- According to HUD "The Section 203(k) program is the Department's primary program for the rehabilitation and repair of single family properties. As such, it is an important tool for community and neighborhood revitalization and for expanding homeownership opportunities."- HUD Website. These rehab loans are rolled together with the long-term mortgage loan, thus avoiding short term high interest rehab loans. Once the repairs are completed HUD endorses the mortgage to make it more attractive to lenders. Bottom line is the lender ends up with a fully-insured mortgage loan, which makes it easier for borrowers to obtain the mortgage loan. These loans are not for building new homes- the home has to be at least one year old. Such loans can be used to demolish structures as long as the foundation remains to build on. HUD specifies that such funds can also be used to convert a one-family dwelling to a two-, three-, or four-family dwelling, or an existing multi-unit dwelling could be decreased to a one- to four-family unit (same citation as above). Of course HUD does not make these funds available for people to make luxury improvements to their homes. Health and safety improvements are funded first and foremost. Then the homeowner can use the 203(k) program to finance such items as painting, room additions, decks and other items.

3. The Rural Housing Service (RHS) is part of the USDA. It operates programs that were formerly administered by the Farmers Home Administration. Not to be confused with the section 502 loans referenced in #1 above the RHS administers, among other things, section 533 programs, which are designated as Rural Housing Preservation Grants. Such grants are reserved for very low income households, landlords, or those belonging to co-ops who reside in areas that the meet the government definition of rural. The grants can be made to sponsors that include nonprofit organizations as well as local government agencies, and faith-based organizations to assist low income households in repairing and rehabilitating their homes. By researching through the RHS you may be able to identify sponsors that can help. Go to the website Federal Register for Articles in 2013 #14400 (notice-of-funds-availability-for-the-section-533-housing-preservation-grants-for-fiscal-year-2013) for more information. The RHS also administers the 509(f)(6) Housing Packaging Grants program to assist organizations to help "RHS make loans and grants in 523 counties and colonias in 26 states, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Western Pacific Territories." see Rural for Information, publications, sheets 27-rd-programs 109-housing-application-packaging-grants-section-509f6. "Designated counties have a minimum of 10 percent occupied substandard housing and a 20 percent poverty rate. Colonias are "identifiable communities" in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas that are within 150 miles of the U.S. Mexico border and that lack decent water and sewage systems and decent housing."

Other housing programs include, but are not limited to:

Housing Choice Vouchers- Largely dedicated to assisting families to rent adequate living accommodations, the program can, under specific conditions, help a family purchase a modest home. See HUD website for program offices public and Indian Housing Programs fact sheet.

Bridge of Hope- This effort serves single homeless mothers to assist them to obtain permanent housing and employment. Bridge of Hope programs are conducted on a county basis in partnership with local faith based organizations and others who are interested in ending homelessness among single mothers and their children. During the 2 year program, while gaining workplace skills and attending school the families receive rental assistance, help for their case, and make lasting friendships. For program examples see and

You live long enough you pick up some information here and there.

By Expert Author Keith L Smith
Hope this article is useful.

Article Source:

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Monday, March 3, 2014

10 Easy Ways to Save Energy in Your Home

Most people don’t know how easy it is to make their homes run on less energy, and here at InterNACHI, we want to change that. Drastic reductions in heating, cooling and electricity costs can be accomplished through very simple changes, most of which homeowners can do themselves. Of course, for homeowners who want to take advantage of the most up-to-date knowledge and systems in home energy efficiency, InterNACHI energy auditors can perform in-depth testing to find the best energy solutions for your particular home.

Why make your home more energy efficient? Here are a few good reasons:

Federal, state, utility and local jurisdictions' financial incentives, such as tax breaks, are very advantageous for homeowners in most parts of the U.S.

It saves money. It costs less to power a home that has been converted to be more energy-efficient.

It increases the comfort level indoors.

It reduces our impact on climate change. Many scientists now believe that excessive energy consumption contributes significantly to global warming.

It reduces pollution. Conventional power production introduces pollutants that find their way into the air, soil and water supplies.

1. Find better ways to heat and cool your house.

As much as half of the energy used in homes goes toward heating and cooling. The following are a few ways that energy bills can be reduced through adjustments to the heating and cooling systems:

Install a ceiling fan. Ceiling fans can be used in place of air conditioners, which require a large amount of energy.

Periodically replace air filters in air conditioners and heaters.

Set thermostats to an appropriate temperature. Specifically, they should be turned down at night and when no one is home. In most homes, about 2% of the heating bill will be saved for each degree that the thermostat is lowered for at least eight hours each day. Turning down the thermostat from 75° F to 70° F, for example, saves about 10% on heating costs.

Install a programmable thermostat. A programmable thermostat saves money by allowing heating and cooling appliances to be automatically turned down during times that no one is home and at night. Programmable thermostats contain no mercury and, in some climate zones, can save up to $150 per year in energy costs.

Install a wood stove or a pellet stove. These are more efficient sources of heat than furnaces.

At night, curtains drawn over windows will better insulate the room.

2. Install a tankless water heater.

Demand-type water heaters (tankless or instantaneous) provide hot water only as it is needed. They don't produce the standby energy losses associated with traditional storage water heaters, which will save on energy costs. Tankless water heaters heat water directly without the use of a storage tank. When a hot water tap is turned on, cold water travels through a pipe into the unit. A gas burner or an electric element heats the water. As a result, demand water heaters deliver a constant supply of hot water. You don't need to wait for a storage tank to fill up with enough hot water.

3. Replace incandescent lights.

The average household dedicates 11% of its energy budget to lighting. Traditional incandescent lights convert approximately only 10% of the energy they consume into light, while the rest becomes heat. The use of new lighting technologies, such as light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), can reduce the energy use required by lighting by 50% to 75%. Advances in lighting controls offer further energy savings by reducing the amount of time that lights are on but not being used. Here are some facts about CFLs and LEDs:

CFLs use 75% less energy and last about 10 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs.
LEDs last even longer than CFLs and consume less energy.
LEDs have no moving parts and, unlike CFLs, they contain no mercury.
4. Seal and insulate your home.

Sealing and insulating your home is one of the most cost-effective ways to make a home more comfortable and energy-efficient, and you can do it yourself. A tightly sealed home can improve comfort and indoor air quality while reducing utility bills. An InterNACHI energy auditor can assess  leakage in the building envelope and recommend fixes that will dramatically increase comfort and energy savings.

The following are some common places where leakage may occur:

electrical receptacles/outlets;
mail slots;
around pipes and wires;
wall- or window-mounted air conditioners;
attic hatches;
fireplace dampers;
inadequate weatherstripping around doors;
window frames; and
switch plates.

Because hot air rises, air leaks are most likely to occur in the attic. Homeowners can perform a variety of repairs and maintenance to their attics that save them money on cooling and heating, such as:

Plug the large holes. Locations in the attic where leakage is most likely to be the greatest are where walls meet the attic floor, behind and under attic knee walls, and in dropped-ceiling areas.
Seal the small holes. You can easily do this by looking for areas where the insulation is darkened. Darkened insulation is a result of dusty interior air being filtered by insulation before leaking through small holes in the building envelope. In cold weather, you may see frosty areas in the insulation caused by warm, moist air condensing and then freezing as it hits the cold attic air. In warmer weather, you’ll find water staining in these same areas. Use expanding foam or caulk to seal the openings around plumbing vent pipes and electrical wires. Cover the areas with insulation after the caulk is dry.

Seal up the attic access panel with weatherstripping. You can cut a piece of fiberglass or rigid foamboard insulation in the same size as the attic hatch and glue it to the back of the attic access panel. If you have pull-down attic stairs or an attic door, these should be sealed in a similar manner.

5. Install efficient shower heads and toilets.

The following systems can be installed to conserve water usage in homes:

Low-flow shower heads. They are available in different flow rates, and some have a pause button which shuts off the water while the bather lathers up;
low-flow toilets. Toilets consume 30% to 40% of the total water used in homes, making them the biggest water users. Replacing an older 3.5-gallon toilet with a modern, low-flow 1.6-gallon toilet can reduce usage an average of 2 gallons-per-flush (GPF), saving 12,000 gallons of water per year. Low-flow toilets usually have "1.6 GPF" marked on the bowl behind the seat or inside the tank;
vacuum-assist toilets. This type of toilet has a vacuum chamber that uses a siphon action to suck air from the trap beneath the bowl, allowing it to quickly fill with water to clear waste. Vacuum-assist toilets are relatively quiet; and dual-flush toilets. Dual-flush toilets have been used in Europe and Australia for years and are now gaining in popularity in the U.S. Dual-flush toilets let you choose between a 1-gallon (or less) flush for liquid waste, and a 1.6-gallon flush for solid waste. Dual-flush 1.6-GPF toilets reduce water consumption by an additional 30%.

6. Use appliances and electronics responsibly.

Appliances and electronics account for about 20% of household energy bills in a typical U.S. home. The following are tips that will reduce the required energy of electronics and appliances:

Refrigerators and freezers should not be located near the stove, dishwasher or heat vents, or exposed to direct sunlight. Exposure to warm areas will force them to use more energy to remain cool.

Computers should be shut off when not in use. If unattended computers must be left on, their monitors should be shut off. According to some studies, computers account for approximately 3% of all energy consumption in the United States.

Use efficient ENERGY STAR-rated appliances and electronics. These devices, approved by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR Program, include TVs, home theater systems, DVD players, CD players, receivers, speakers, and more. According to the EPA, if just 10% of homes used energy-efficient appliances, it would reduce carbon emissions by the equivalent of 1.7 million acres of trees.

Chargers, such as those used for laptops and cell phones, consume energy when they are plugged in. When they are not connected to electronics, chargers should be unplugged.

Laptop computers consume considerably less electricity than desktop computers.

7. Install daylighting as an alternative to electrical lighting.

Daylighting is the practice of using natural light to illuminate the home's interior. It can be achieved using the following approaches:

Skylights. It’s important that they be double-pane or they may not be cost-effective. Flashing skylights correctly is key to avoiding leaks; light shelves. Light shelves are passive devices designed to bounce light deep into a building. They may be interior or exterior. Light shelves can introduce light into a space up to 2½ times the distance from the floor to the top of the window, and advanced light shelves may introduce four times that amount; clerestory windows.  Clerestory windows are short, wide windows set high on the wall. Protected from the summer sun by the roof overhang, they allow winter sun to shine through for natural lighting and warmth; and light tubes.  Light tubes use a special lens designed to amplify low-level light and reduce light intensity from the midday sun. Sunlight is channeled through a tube coated with a highly reflective material, and then enters the living space through a diffuser designed to distribute light evenly.

8. Insulate windows and doors.

About one-third of the home's total heat loss usually occurs through windows and doors. The following are ways to reduce energy lost through windows and doors:

Seal all window edges and cracks with rope caulk. This is the cheapest and simplest option.

Windows can be weatherstripped with a special lining that is inserted between the window and the frame.

For doors, apply weatherstripping around the whole perimeter to ensure a tight seal when they're closed.

Install quality door sweeps on the bottom of the doors, if they aren't already in place.

Install storm windows at windows with only single panes. A removable glass frame can be installed over an existing window.

If existing windows have rotted or damaged wood, cracked glass, missing putty, poorly fitting sashes, or locks that don't work, they should be repaired or replaced.

9. Cook smart.

An enormous amount of energy is wasted while cooking. The following recommendations and statistics illustrate less wasteful ways of cooking:

Convection ovens are more efficient that conventional ovens. They use fans to force hot air to circulate more evenly, thereby allowing food to be cooked at a lower temperature. Convection ovens use approximately 20% less electricity than conventional ovens.

Microwave ovens consume approximately 80% less energy than conventional ovens.

Pans should be placed on the matching size heating element or flame.

Using lids on pots and pans will heat food more quickly than cooking in uncovered pots and pans.

Pressure cookers reduce cooking time dramatically.

When using conventional ovens, food should be placed on the top rack. The top rack is hotter and will cook food faster.

10. Change the way you do laundry.

Do not use the medium setting on your washer. Wait until you have a full load of clothes, as the medium setting saves less than half of the water and energy used for a full load.

Avoid using high-temperature settings when clothes are not very soiled. Water that is 140° F uses far more energy than 103° F for the warm-water setting, but 140° F isn’t that much more effective for getting clothes clean.

Clean the lint trap every time before you use the dryer. Not only is excess lint a fire hazard, but it will prolong the amount of time required for your clothes to dry.

If possible, air-dry your clothes on lines and racks.

Spin-dry or wring clothes out before putting them into a dryer.

Homeowners who take the initiative to make these changes usually discover that the energy savings are more than worth the effort. InterNACHI home inspectors can make this process much easier because they can perform a more comprehensive assessment of energy-savings potential than the average homeowner can.

From 10 Easy Ways to Save Energy in Your Home - InterNACHI

All content copyright © 2006-2013 the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, Inc.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Garage Doors and Openers

Garage doors are large, spring-supported doors. Garage door openers control the opening and closing of garage doors, either through a wall-mounted switch or a radio transmitter. Due to the strain that garage door components and openers regularly endure, they may become defective over time and need to be fixed or replaced. Defective components may create safety hazards as well as functional deficiencies to the garage door assembly. The following facts demonstrate the dangers posed by garage doors:
  • · doors are typically among the heaviest moving objects in the home and are held under high tension.
  • ·         Injuries caused by garage doors account for approximately 20,000 emergency room visits annually, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
  • ·         The majority of the injuries caused by garage doors are the result of pinched fingers, although severe injuries and deaths due to entrapment occur as well. Sixty children have been killed since 1982 as a result of garage doors that did not automatically reverse upon contact.
Inspectors should not attempt to fix any garage door defects they may encounter. They should call out defects in their reports and recommend that the door be examined by a trained garage door technician. The following components should be present during inspections and devoid of defects:
  • ·         Manual (emergency) release handle. All garage doors should be equipped with this device, which will detach the door from the door opener when activated. It is vital during emergency situations, such as when a person becomes trapped beneath the door or when a power outage cuts electricity to the door opener. Inspectors should activate the handle to make sure that it works, although they will have to reset the handle if it does not reset automatically. In order for the handle to be accessible and obvious, it must be…
1.    colored red;

2.    easily distinguishable from rest of the garage opener system; and

3.    no more than 6 feet above the standing surface.

  • ·         Door panels. Both sides of the door should be examined for the following:

1.    fatigue;

2.    cracking and dents. Aluminum doors are especially vulnerable to denting; and

3.    separation of materials.

  • ·         Warning labels. The following four warning labels should be present on or around garage door assemblies:

1.    a spring warning label, attached to the spring assembly;

2.    a general warning label, attached to the back of the door panel;

3.    a warning label attached to the wall in the vicinity of the wall control button, and;

4.    a tension warning label, attached to garage door’s bottom bracket.

  • ·         Brackets and roller shafts.

1.    Brackets. The garage door opener is connected to the garage door by a bracket that is essential to the function of the door opener system. Placement of the bracket where it attaches to the door is crucial to the operation of its safety features. It should attach 3 to 6 inches from the top of the door. This bracket, as well as all other brackets, should be securely attached to their surfaces.

2.    Roller shafts. Roller shafts should be longer on the top and bottom rollers. The top rollers are the most important. Without longer shafts, if one side of the door hangs up, the door may fall out of the opening.
  • ·         Door operation. The door’s operation can be tested by raising the door manually, grasping the door’s handles if it has them. Inspectors can make sure that the door:
1.    moves freely;

2.    does not open or close too quickly; and

3.    opens and closes without difficulty.

Note – Inspectors should not operate the door until they have inspected the track mounts and bracing. Doors have been known to fall on people and cars when they were operated with tracks that were not securely attached and supported.
  • ·         Extension spring containment cables. Older garage doors may use extension springs to counter-balance the weight of the door. These require a containment cable inside the spring to prevent broken parts from being propelled around the garage if the spring snaps. Most new garages use shaft-mounted torsion springs that do not require containment cables.
  • ·         Wall-mounted switch. This device must be present and positioned as high as is practical above the standing surface (at least five feet as measured from the bottom of the switch) so that children do not gain access. In addition, the button must…
1.       be mounted in clear view of the garage door; and

2.       be mounted away from moving parts.

Important Note - SitePro inspectors should always make sure to disable the manual lock on the garage door before activating the switch.
  • ·         Automatic reverse system. As of 1991, garage doors are required to be equipped with a mechanism that automatically reverses the door if it comes in contact with an object. It is important that the door reverses direction and opens completely, rather than merely halting. If a garage door fails this test, inspectors should note it in their reports. A dial on the garage door opener controls the amount of pressure required to trigger the door to reverse. This dial can be adjusted by a qualified garage door technician if necessary.
Methods for testing the automatic reverse system:

1.    This safety feature can be tested by grasping the base of the garage door as it closes and applying upward resistance. Inspectors should use caution while performing this test because they may accidentally damage its components if the door does not reverse course.

2.    Some sources recommend placing a 2x4 piece of wood on the ground beneath the door, although there have been instances where this testing method has damaged the door or door opener components.

  • ·         Ssupplemental automatic reverse system. Garage doors manufactured in the U.S. after 1992 must be equipped with photoelectric sensors or a door edge sensor.

1.    Photoelectric eyes. These eyes (also known as photoelectric sensors) are located at the base of each side of the garage door and emit and detect beams of light. If this beam is broken, it will cause the door to immediately reverse direction and open. For safety reasons, photo sensors must be installed a maximum of 6 inches above the standing surface.

2.    Door edge sensors. This device is a pressure-sensitive strip installed at the base of the garage door. If it senses pressure from an object while the door is closing, it will cause the door to reverse. Door edge sensors are not as common in garage door systems as photoelectric eyes.

 Safety Advice for Clients:
  • ·         Homeowners should not attempt to adjust or repair springs themselves. The springs are held under extremely high tension and can snap suddenly and forcefully, causing serious or fatal injury.
  • ·         No one should stand or walk beneath a garage door while it is in motion. Adults should set an example for children and teach them about garage door safety. Children should not be permitted to operate the garage door opener push button and should be warned against touching any of the door’s moving parts.
  • ·         Fingers and hands should be kept away from pulleys, hinges, springs, and the intersection points between door panels. Closing doors can very easily crush body parts that get between them.
  • ·         The automatic reversal system may need to be adjusted for cold temperatures, since the flexibility of the springs are affected by temperature. This adjustment can be made from a dial on the garage door opener, which should only be changed only by a trained garage door technician.
In summary, garage doors and their openers can be hazardous if certain components are missing or defective. Inspectors should understand these dangers and be prepared to offer useful safety tips to their clients.

Van Hibberts, CMI

Certified Residential Building Code Inspector ICC-5319905

Florida-State Certified Master Inspector Lic. #HI 89

Certified Owens-Corning Roof Data Inspector

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)                         

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