Friday, July 7, 2017

Home Inspection: What is a Town home/Condo?

Recently I have been getting requests to inspect a town home/condo.   My question to the potential client was what is it?  Is it a town home or a condo?  To my surprise most didn’t know the difference.  So let’s understand what each is.   

What is a condominium?

A condominium, or condo, is a building or community of buildings in which units are owned by individuals, rather than a landlord.  Condo owners only own the interior of their unit. All other areas, including the building exterior, lawn and communal areas are property of the Homeowners Association (HOA).

What is a town home?

A town home is defined as conjoined units that are owned by individual tenants. They are architecturally similar to row houses in that owners usually share at least one or more walls.  In most town home communities, owners own their unit’s interior and exterior, including the roof, lawn and driveway, but not the communal areas.

The problem at hand is there are condo’s on the market that look like town homes and the buyers are not being instructed as to the difference.  So to summarize the difference and make this as simple as possible to understand.  No matter what it looks like, a condominium is walls in only, which is all that is being purchased.  Also when you call a home inspector for an inspection be sure what you ask for, you may be paying for more than you need.  Know what you’re buying.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Spring Has Sprung

Here are a few tips to get your house back into shape after the cold winter.   Now is a good time because the weather is accommodating, with very little debris from plants and trees being blown around.

1.      Masonry:   I always say, “Anytime you see a crack fill it”.  Take a walk around your house.  Look at everything that is made of masonry.   Your brick house, sidewalks, stairs, and foundation.  If there is a crack fill it.  When the weather gets cold again, water in these cracks can freeze, expand and cause more damage.

2.      Gutters:   Check the condition of your gutters.   Gutters are used to control water run-off from the roof.   But when it is cold, water can freeze and the weight of the ice over a long period of time can cause damage.

3.      Driveways:    Black top (asphalt) driveways last about fifteen to twenty years in our area.  But you can extend that life expectancy by tarring any cracks, preventing moisture from doing any more damage.   And sealing the whole driveway to extend its life expectancy every year.  Now is a good time to do this because leaves and debris are not being blown around.

4.      Drainage:    Does the ground around your house slope away from the foundation?  By directing water away from the foundation can help keep a basement dry.  One way to have this addressed is by having a grading and drainage expert take a look.  He or she will guide you to a dryer basement. 

5.      Furnace:   Your heating system has been working hard during the colder months.  Now is a good time to have your heating expert or PSE&G do any needed maintenance and cleaning.  Their demand for service is lower now and you can avoid the rush when winter comes again.

6.      HVAC (Cooling):   Preventive maintenance is the key word.  Have the HVAC system checked out before the heat comes.   This is especially true if your system is older.  The outside compressor is good for 15 years in our area.   Then it needs tender loving care.   Also make sure the trap on the air-handler in the attic did not crack during the colder months.  You don’t want to wake up to your wife yelling “the ceiling is leaking”, (it happened to me).

7.      Radon Test:   What is radon?  Radon is the natural decomposition of radioactive material in the ground.   The long and short of it is.  Long exposure to high doses can cause lung cancer.  Did you already have a test done?  Things change.  It is advisable to test every two years.   And did you know that thermal frost of the ground can affect the results of a test.  Cold weather testing can be different than warm weather testing.

8.      Home Inspection:   Last but not least, a home inspection.  You don’t have to have a home inspection done only when you’re buying a house.  By having a home inspection done in the spring will tell you how your home weathered the winter.  And the report will provide you with a list of issues that can be addressed.


Sunday, January 8, 2017

5 Ways Heating and Cooling Issues Can Disrupt a Home Sale

1. Leaks and emissions

Whether it's the escape of refrigerant or gasses, leaks are among the most common—and potentially dangerous—problems you're likely to encounter with an HVAC unit.

2. Bad parts

In some cases, a leak can be the first indication of something bigger like a furnace that failed the gas inspection due to a bad heat exchanger.

The heat exchanger is one of the most critical components of the furnace as it is the mechanism for converting fuel to heat.    A broken heat exchanger has the potential to release gas into the air, making this a dangerous, and expensive.   Unfortunately, this problem isn't likely to be caught with a standard home inspection.

3. Poor installation or maintenance

Annual maintenance plays a huge role in how well an HVAC system holds up.   Homeowners who neglect annual maintenance may be in for a rude awakening when it's time to sell.

An inspection was performed recently and pointed out to the buyer the poor condition of the air-conditioning unit:  the vent pipe was disconnected and air that was meant to go outside was blowing around inside the AC closet.   While this fix was an easy one, the buyer was turned off and ended up making an offer on the other home." 

4. Old age

Old boiler (furnace). 

According to the National Association of Home Builders, most HVAC systems have a life expectancy of between 15 and 20 years.  Depending on how they're maintained, some may hold on longer than others.   Recently an inspection of an older home—over 100 years—had an ancient furnace that needed to be replaced.   It was leaking and there were numerous other issues.

5. Missing parts

Vacant homes make an all-too-easy target for vandalism and theft.  The components inside HVAC equipment can prove tantalizing to thieves who will scrap the materials for cash.   This has been seen many times with short sales and foreclosures.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Winter Is Here Prepare

Everyone puts off those last minute maintenance chores until the weather turns cold.  So we felt bringing back this previous blog entry, a list of items that will make the transition into winter mode that much easier.
Furnace Inspection;  Having your furnace inspected and is operating at peak efficiency is a wise investment.  Typical cost for a technician to inspect and clean your furnace is around $80 to $100.00.  This is a small price to pay to avoid a costly repair on the coldest day of the year when your furnace won’t start.  Change your furnace filter every 30 days or so, if you have animals who shed hair a more frequent replacement might be required.
Check or have your chimney checked for any cracks, missing brick or mortar or loose rain cap.  The freezing thawing action of water penetrating small cracks can do a lot of damage over the winter season.  If you have a wood burning fireplace you should consider having it cleaned prior to use and have the flue tiles inspected for any cracks or deficiencies.
If you have ceiling fans now is a good time to clean the dust and lint off the blades and reverse direction of motor.  Forcing the warm air down will make your living area feel much more cozy.

Windows & Doors
Caulking Windows;  Clean your windows and doors inside and out.   This is a great time to check your seals and exterior caulking.  Ensuring your seams on brick and concrete window sills are not open can save you a lot of money on needless repairs later on.   Water can enter your exposed seams cracking mortar and eventually damaging the brick below.  This “spalling” as it is known, happens when clay style brick absorbs moisture, which then freezes and blows off part of the brick surface.
Check all your door closures to ensure they all operate smoothly.  Screen doors should have glass panels lowered or installed on older models.  Basement windows screens in window wells are susceptible to damage from rodents and other small animals.  Screens should be removed and stored for the winter.  Replace any damaged door seals or sweeps to prevent drafts from entering home during the cold months.  Operate your garage doors and lightly grease track for smoother and quieter operation.

Roofs & Gutters
Flashing Not Sealed on Roof; Inspect your roofs shingles for any damaged or missing tabs.  Pay close attention to any flashings on walls or chimneys to ensure that they are completely sealed.  Caulk any suspect areas to be doubly sure of preventing any roof leaks.   Clean out any debris in gutters and ensure your downspouts and extensions are in good condition.  If you have an older home using heating cables for eaves or downspouts, now is a good time to ensure that they are in good working order.   Put away your rain barrels and ensure your splash pads and extensions are directing water away from your home.

Draining Exterior; Tap Drain all your exterior water lines to prevent freezing.  I personally always leave the exterior tap open and have never had a freeze up problem.  If you have hose reels installed, now is a good time to store them after draining out the water.  On older homes with crawlspaces now is a good time to close ventilation vents and cover with insulation in preparation for winter.  Any in ground sprinkler lines should have already been blown out by your sprinkler maintenance company, if not call them immediately.
Wrapping your hot water tank and hot water lines with insulation can save you money all year long.  Check your sump pump by either lifting float or pouring water into unit to ensure it is in operating condition.

Drafts & Air Leaks
Energy experts estimate about 30% of the heat in your home is lost to leaks and drafts.  Adding foam seals to exterior wall outlets can stop and lot of heat loss.  Check any penetrations on the exterior wall of your house and seal any gaps with caulking, this stops both cold air and moisture from entering your home.  Check you interior for leaks and missing insulation at penetrations.  Most contractors will not replace your vapor barrier or insulation when they install electrical or heating vents.  Replacing insulation and re-sealing vapor barrier can save a lot of heat loss over the course of a winter.


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Home Inspection Home Pool Safety

Maintaining a Safe Environment Around Your Home Swimming Pool  .

 Millions of us enjoy warm weather every year by swimming in our backyard pools and relaxing in hot tubs.   Tragically though, over 200 young children drown in backyard swimming pools each year.   The American Red Cross suggests owners make pool safety their priority by following these guidelines:

·         Secure your pool with appropriate barriers. Completely surround your pool with a 4-feet high fence or barrier with a self-closing, self-latching gate.  Place a safety cover on the pool or hot tub when not in use and remove any ladders or steps used for access.  Consider installing a pool alarm that goes off if anyone enters the pool.

·         Keep children under active supervision at all times.  Stay in arm’s reach of young kids. Designate a responsible person to watch the water when people are in the pool—never allow anyone to swim alone.  Have young or inexperienced swimmers wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket.

·         Ensure everyone in the home knows how to swim well by enrolling them in age-appropriate water orientation and learn-to-swim courses from the Red Cross.

·         Keep your pool or hot tub water clean and clear.  Maintain proper chemical levels, circulation and filtration.  Regularly test and adjust the chemical levels to minimize the risk of earaches, rashes or more serious diseases.

·         Establish and enforce rules and safe behaviors, such as “no diving,” “stay away from drain covers,” “swim with a buddy” and “walk please.”

·         Ensure everyone in the home knows how to respond to aquatic emergencies by having appropriate safety equipment and taking water safety, first aid and CPR courses from the Red Cross.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Home Inspections Do Not Include Pools

Home inspections do not include the inspection of pools, above or below ground.  Typically it is recommended that built –in-pools be inspected by a qualified professional pool inspection company.   But remember the state of New Jersey does not require pool inspection companies to be licensed or certified.   That means anyone can say they inspect pools.   Interview the company you choose and get references.

  In a pool inspection, the whole pool environment is looked at, not just the pool, pump and filter.
  The intention of a pool inspection is to evaluate the current condition of all accessible pool components and identify items that need repair to make the pool operational and reasonable to maintain.
  The average pool inspection is 2.0 to 3.0 hours.  It is not only involved in just the inspection but also to the remedy of the problems that are found.  When a problem is noted, its remedy is also commented on.  Measurements, verifications, gallonage computation, appropriate equipment, sizing of the equipment and its associated plumbing, are all inspected and verified as adequate.  This information is then used to recommend the proper sizing, turnover rates, and equipment choices.
  Keeping  safety in mind the condition of the fence, gates, walkway, pool perimeter, slide, diving board, rails, coping, lighting structure, and other items of safety and concern.
·         Through the years, the industry has learned what is safer and what is not.  Earlier designed swimming pools may not have had the latest information and technology applied to its construction.  Newly added items may have been inappropriate for the older pool design.   Inspecting the pool for proper function for your safety not just "inside" the pool, but the surrounding area: the walkway, the fence, the gate, the equipment and its wiring.
·         For instance: The diving board is measured. The depth at the tip of the board is measured and compared against the current requirements for that size board.  Are the receptacles GFIC's at the site?  Are they at the suggested distance from the pool?  Is the lighting safe?  Are there proper indications that the shallow end of the pool changes its slope to the deep end of the pool?  Is the underwater lighting at the proper depth?   Verified that the pool is designed with the most recent known safety precautions.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Home Inspectors Do Level 1 Fireplace And Chimney Inspections

Home Inspectors do level 1 (visual) fireplace and chimney inspections only.  Winter is here.  If you have a fireplace make sure the chimney and flue are in good working order.  You can check yourself or call in a chimney professional to diagnose the chimney and fireplace for any problem (level 2) before it gets big, expensive and potentially dangerous.
  Visually assess the chimney from the outside.  Is it leaning?  Are there any chipped bricks or masonry joints?  Do you see any cracks or holes?  If your chimney is factory-built metal, look for any corrosion, stains or loose sections.  If your chimney is exposed to your attic, make sure to check there as well.  Look for any signs indicating repairs are necessary.
Chimney cap
  A good cap can reduce damage caused to a chimney by water and wildlife.  Rain and snow can enter an uncapped chimney, and subsequently freeze and thaw, causing expansion damage.  Small wildlife can nest in chimneys, creating clogs and potentially introducing fleas, ticks, worms and other disease-causing pests to your home.  A chimney cap with screen mesh will keep animals out while shielding your roof from embers and sparks.
Leaks& stains
  Inside the house, check the area around your chimney for any stains or dampness.  These could be caused by faulty flashing around the chimney at the roof line, or by a damaged flue liner.  If you see signs of water around your chimney, call a chimney professional right away.
  Open the clean-out door from the base of the flue, located either in your basement or outside the house.  Using a small mirror and flashlight to see up the flue, look for buildup of soot and also any cracks, holes or separations.  If in doubt, give your chimney professional a call for a good checkup and cleaning.
  Check the brickwork in your fireplace for wear.  Check the damper as well, it should open and close easily.  Look into the smoke chamber above the damper to check for buildup of soot.  Again, call your chimney professional for service if you see any of these telltale signs. 

  Chimney safety should be a high priority for every homeowner.  With regular maintenance, your fireplace and chimney can give you years of wonderful service.  A chimney professional can spot things that even a diligent homeowner could miss.  Call on a pro to do regular cleanings and safety checks as part of your home-maintenance routine.  Then throw another log on the fire, sit back and enjoy.