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Chris Dendrinos

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Importance of Building Permits.

12/8/2016

Why are building permits required?

Some people may be under the assumption that building permits are just a money grab by local governments. While some municipalities have a more extensive and costly inspection process than others, there are other significant reasons for permits, including:

 

-Health and safety. The permit process ensures that certain types of work on a house are performed up to current building safety codes and by licensed professionals.

 

-Ensuring fair taxation. Example: if your neighbor builds an addition onto their home and their home is now the same size as yours, they should be paying the same relative amount of taxes as you.

 

-Preserve property value. Verifying that proper permits were issued ensures buyers that work was done properly and minimizes potential costly issues down the road from hidden defects.

What problems may arise from buying a house with unpermitted work?

 

If the work was relatively minor and performed in a professional manner, there may not be any issues for a buyer. However, if/when a municipality discovers work has been performed without a required permit the following could be consequences for a new owner:

 

-Taxes may be increased, and even retroactively enforced from the time of the renovations. Cost of the permits, related inspections, and penalties may also be imposed.

 

-The municipality may require the renovations be dismantled for inspection, modified, or removed altogether, at the expense of the current owner. 

 

-Shoddy work hidden by finished areas, such as plumbing and electrical, can be ticking time bombs. Issues that could occur down the road could damage the home or occupants.

What should you do?

If you plan on any renovations to your home, check with your local building department to determine if the work needs a permit or not. There are some types of projects that require permits in one city, but not the next. When hiring contractors, discuss permits - will they be taking care of the permits or will you? Are the permit costs included in the job quote?  

 

Remember, it's the owner's responsibility to obtain and meet permit requirements, not the contractor's. Don't assume everything has been taken care of. 

 

When buying a home, check with the building dept for permits on any recent or obvious renovations or additions. 

 

Some municipalities have permit information for properties online at Access My Gov or you may need to visit the building dept in person.

 

We hope these tips have been helpful. Feel free to share it with anyone you think may benefit from it. 

Source MD Home Inspections

Common Misconceptions With Heating and Cooling

12/1/2016

Should you close vents in unused rooms in the Winter? Should you cover your outside A/C condenser unit in the Winter? Should you leave your furnace fan in the "on" or "auto" position? The answers may surprise you.

This week's tip discusses common misconceptions with heating and cooling of your home in the cold months.

 

Close vents in unused rooms?

Closing vents in unused rooms to save energy and money on heating bills seems to make a lot of sense. There are many reasons why this common practice is not recommended. The first thing to understand is that there are 2 types of furnace blower fan motors - single speed (most furnaces) and a newer variable speed type (Electronically Commutated Motor, or ECM).

-Your furnace blower fan has been balanced for the amount of air flowing through the system, and closing vents can add a significant amount of pressure to the system. If you have a single speed motor, the fan will now blow slower, which will take longer to heat areas. In addition, slower air flow can cause heat exchangers to overheat, and A/C coils to freeze as these components use air flow to regulate their temperature. If you have an ECM fan, the fan will blow harder to keep the air flowing at the same rate, but this will offset any energy savings imagined from closing vents. -The increased pressure added to the system by closing vents can cause air leaks at duct seams.

-Reduced circulation in rooms can cause condensation and possibly mold growth.

For a more detailed technical explanation of these issues, see this article.

 

To cover or not to cover?

Covering air conditioning condensers to protect them from the elements in the Winter sounds like a prudent idea. Believe it or not, most experts in the field agree that covering them is a bad idea (or in the least, not necessary).

 

Why? These appliances are designed to withstand the harshest elements, year around. In addition, covering your condenser creates an inviting Winter home for pests that like to chew on wiring or add nesting materials inside the unit.

 

You should also clean your condenser fins with a hose and/or a vacuum. Clogged fins will decrease efficiency. Be careful not to damage the fins.

Furnace fan "on" or "auto"?

The answer depends on the type of furnace fan motor you have, a single speed or variable speed ECM motor. As mentioned above, most furnaces have a single speed fan motor, which functions best in the "auto" position. Using the "on" position with this type of motor will significantly increase your utility bills.

 

If you have a variable speed ECM fan motor, your furnace will actually save energy operating in the "on" mode. The additional energy savings will pay for the upgraded cost of an ECM motor within a couple years. This type is also much quieter than traditional motors.

 

Consult your HVAC professional for more information.

 

We hope these tips have been helpful. Feel free to share it with anyone you think may benefit from it. 

Source MD Home Inspections

90% of Homes May Be Under Insulated!!!

11/24/2016

According to the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association, up to 90% of homes may be under insulated, due to insulation standards rising over the years. Adding insulation to proper levels can significantly lower your utility bills enough to pay for the cost within a few years.

 

MD Home Inspections checks all homes we inspect for attic insulation levels and make recommendations accordingly. Below, we have outlined the steps necessary to determine if your home's insulation is adequate.

 

Consult a qualified insulation contractor for additional information.

Determining the Adequacy of Your Attic's Insulation

 

1) Determine your insulation type

Most homes in southeastern Michigan have fiberglass batt insulation (which come in large rolls and are laid out in strips) or one of a variety of blown-in or loose insulation.

Your attic may contain more than one type of insulation, which may be the result of attempting to further insulate with a different type without removing the original insulation.

*Some attics have vermiculite insulation, which may contain asbestos (prior to 1991). Vermiculite is a lightweight, pea-sized, flaky gray mineral (see close-up photo to the left).

Do not disturb vermiculite insulation unless you have it tested by an approved lab to be sure it does not contain asbestos. Contact your local health department for the name of an approved lab.

For more information, see the following EPA link: EPA Vermiculite Information.

 

2) Measure your insulation depth

 

With a ruler or tape measure (a rigid ruler works best), determine the insulation depth in inches. If you have significant higher and lower elevations of insulation, it should be leveled (try to measure the average level). 

*Tips - only step on walk-boards or attic joists (do NOT walk on insulation) or your foot may end up waving hello to the folks in the room below.

The previous insulation installer may have left a ruler stick or indicator of your insulation level - make sure that the stick is fully penetrating to the base of the insulation to ensure the reading is accurate.

 

3) Calculate your attic's "R" value

 

Attic insulation is measured by it's "R" value, which is its capacity to resist heat flow.

After determining the insulation type and depth, use the chart to the left to calculate your attic insulation's R value.

Example: if you have 8 inches of blown-in cellulose, 8 x 3.7 = 29.6 R value.

 

The 2015 IECC building code recommendsR38-R49 for homes in our southeastern Michigan climate, depending on heating fuel type. Natural gas is R38 and propane, electric, and oil fuel source heating is R49.

If your insulation is below the applicable R value, the recommendation is to add insulation.

We hope these tips have been helpful. Feel free to share it with anyone you think may benefit from it. 

Source MD Home Inspections

Common Electrical Panel Issues

11/17/2016

Our inspections uncover several common issues in electrical panels (see our prior tip on Open Panel Knock-outs). One of the most common electrical panel issues we come across are double-tapped breakers. A double-tap is when 2 wires are connected to a single pole. Electrical codes actually allow a certain number of double tapped breakers in an electrical panel. However, these connections can cause issues, and home inspection associations recommend these connections be corrected.

 

This week's tip discusses why double-taps are an issue and how it can be fixed. Though some of you out there have various levels of knowledge about doing electrical work, we always recommend a licensed Electrician for all electrical repairs.

 

What is the problem?

Most panel breakers are only designed for single-wire connections (an exception is Square D breakers that have connections for 2 wires per breaker). The photo to the left shows a double-tapped breaker.

 

When 2 wires are compressed together at a breaker, one of the wires may not have as good of a connection as the other. This could result in arcing and potentially a fire.

 

How is it fixed?

The easiest fix is to remove the 2 wires and connect them to a third wire (called a "pigtail") with a wire nut, and connecting the third wire into the breaker. The photo to the left is a pigtail connection.

Another potential fix is to add another breaker to the panel, if there is room for it. This may be a better fix if the reason for the double tap was to avoid the additional work of adding a breaker in the first place, which may be over-stressing the circuit. A licensed Electrician can assess which fix is best for your situation.

 

We hope these tips have been helpful. Feel free to share it with anyone you think may benefit from it. 

Source MD Home Inspections

Common Issues In Electrical Panels

11/10/2016

Today's tip has to do with common electrical panel issues that you can easily identify. Equipment you may need: flashlight, hammer, and step stool.

 

*Some may feel comfortable doing easier electrical repairs themselves, such as the repairs below; however, we always recommend a licensed Electrician for all electrical work and repairs as a general safety recommendation.

 

Open "knockouts"

Electrical panels are manufactured to be customized for various needs. One of the features on panels are "knockouts" in various locations. Knockouts are perforated in the panel for potential holes to route wires or breakers. They could be round (for wiring) or rectangular (for breaker) openings. See photos to the left. 

What is the issue? Electrical codes require unused or "open knockouts" to be closed off to prevent accidental shocks and keep out unwanted pests.

 

Metal receptacle outlets can also have unused open knockouts (typically located in older garages or unfinished basements).

How to check your electrical panel: observe all exposed sides of the panel box, including the top and bottom, and look for unused holes. Additionally, open the door to the breakers and look for any breaker knockout tabs that have been removed with no breakers present (see photo). Use a flashlight if needed and a step stool may be necessary to see the top of the panel box.

 

How can you fix these issues?

 

These openings can be filled with very inexpensive metal or plastic knockout seals or plugs and breaker "filler plates" or "blanks" sold at the hardware store. 

*Make sure all power is turned off to the entire panel before this repair. You will need to measure the size of the round knockout holes and know the panel manufacturer for the breaker filler plates (should be a label on the door) in order to purchase the correct sizes. Take a photo with you to the hardware store if necessary. 

Some metal knockout seals will be very tight-fitting and may require a hammer to lightly tap them into place.

 

What else should I look for?

 

Knockouts used for wiring should have a bushing or cable clamp inserted to prevent the wires from rubbing on the bare metal edges of the knockout holes. These items can be seen if you look closely where the wiring enters through the knockout holes.

 

The photo to the left shows the inside of a panel with 1 bushing properly installed, 1 knockout hole with wiring and no bushing, and damaged frayed wiring through a third knockout. The bottom pics show common styles of a bushing and cable clamp (yours may look slightly different but should protect the wires from the panel hole).

If you are missing protective bushings or wire clamps, contact a licensed electrician if you are not competent with this type of electrical repair. You can buy bushings and clamps that can be installed without disconnecting any wiring if you are going to take on this project yourself. Again, you will need to measure the size of the knockout hole to buy the correct size fitting.

 

 

We hope these tips have been helpful. Feel free to share it with anyone you think may benefit from it. 

Source MD Home Inspections

Home Maintenance - Fall Checklist

11/3/2016

While we still have a nice stretch of Fall weather ahead of us before the Winter drab, it's not too early to start planning a fall maintenance schedule. Performing routine maintenance can preserve your home's value and extend the life of its components.

 

This week's tip includes important maintenance items that you should consider performing every Fall season. Keep in mind that some of these items should be performed more than once a year. Click here for a printable version: Printable Checklist

 

Outdoors:

 

- Check caulking and weather stripping  around doors and windows. Even the tiniest cracks in these areas can allow enough water in to do serious damage and create potential mold issues. In addition, check exterior paint as well and touch up as needed.

 

-Check your roof for exposed nails, nail pops, and missing shingles. These are very important maintenance repairs before winter, as freezing water expands when it becomes ice, which can damage any area where water exists.

 

-Clean gutters. Keeping your gutter system clean and maintained is one of the most important ways to keep water away from your home's foundation, and may need to be done several times in the Fall depending on your tree coverage. See our prior informational tips for more deails:  Gutter Cleaning Tips and Ladder Safety

 

Blow out sprinkler systems.  Hire this task out if you don't own an air compressor or need help with this task or you may damage your sprinkler system.

Repair and seal driveway cracks. Water entering cracks and expanding during freezing can damage driveways and walkways.

Remove hoses and shut off outdoor water valves. Leaving a hose connected to a frost-free hose bib can burst the pipe if water in the hose freezes.

Clean and seal wood decks.

Flowers - trim perennials and remove annuals. Trimming perennials before winter sends energy to the roots for next season. Annuals will need to be removed anyway, and spring removal can be messier as the ground is typically more wet in the spring than in the fall.

Mulch young plants - give newer trees and shrubs a fresh 2-4" layer of fresh organic mulch to keep the plantings warm and control water runoff and soil erosion that will occur during the Spring thaw.

Trim dead limbs on trees and bushes - trimming dead tree branches before winter can prevent them from falling with the weight of snow and ice, which can cause damage to anything below. 

Indoors:

 

Test carbon monoxide and smoke detectors. The NFPA recommends smoke detectors be tested once a month. In addition, make sure you have a fire extinguisher accessible with instructions attached and everyone in your home knows where it is located. For more information on smoke alarm safety, please see our prior informational tip: Smoke detector safety tips

Replace furnace filter.   In addition, change your humidity setting on your furnace humidifier to a comfortable setting.  Fall is also a great time to have your furnace or boiler inspected, especially if you have an older unit.  Make sure to schedule an inspection well in advance as the first cold snap is the busiest time for HVAC professionals.

Ceiling fans.  Clean  your ceiling fans and reverse your fans if needed.  Ceiling fans should be pushing warm air down in the fall and winter for proper air circulation.

Check dryer exhaust tube and vent for lint and debris.  One of the more common causes of home fires is clogged dryer vents, as lint is highly combustible. Typical recommendations are to clean these once per year or more often if you have more than 2 people in the home.

Sweep chimneys.  It is important to keep your chimney clean for proper airflow and ventilation. Chimneys used for exhaust ventilation, including gas appliances like furnaces and hot water heaters, need to be properly maintained to avoid health and safety issues.

Check  sump pumps.  If you have a sump pump, make sure it is working properly.  There are several types of systems.  Check your owner's manual for testing and maintenance schedules.

 

 

We hope these tips have been helpful. Feel free to share it with anyone you think may benefit from it. 

 

Source MD Home Inspections

Maintenance Tips - Gutters

10/27/2016

Fall gutter cleaning is one of the more important items of your Fall Home Maintenance. Failing to keep them clear can cause issues including water leaks at your foundation, premature rotting of wood trim, and even roof leaks.

 

Two of our previous tips that should help include Gutter Cleaning and Ladder Safety. This week's tip includes gutter maintenance tips to keep your gutter system working effectively.

 

Gutter and Downspout Seams

Gutter seams can lose their seals over time. Checking for leaks is easiest during the rain, and staining at the seams can be an indication of a leak. There are several products you can use to seal leaking gutter seams, including caulk made for gutters. 

 

When sealing gutter seams, it's most important to completely clean and dry the area you are sealing or your sealant will not adhere properly. Sealing from the top side is most effective.

 

*When working from a ladder, please use extreme caution. Hire a handyman or gutter installer for the task if necessary.

 

Gutter downspouts can have seam issues as well. Make sure your downspouts are fastened to the house and properly installed - higher pieces should be fitted INSIDE the lower pieces (if they are inverted, water will flow out at the connection). If your downspouts are inverted, it's best to have them corrected than to try to seal the seams as the large volume of water flowing will cause failure quickly. The downspout to the left is incorrectly installed.

 

Gutter Slope

At some of our inspections we see water pooling in areas of gutters that are not clogged, which indicates they need correction to fully route water to the downspouts. The slightest incorrect pitch can cause this, and it may be difficult to tell if water is pooling in gutters without getting up to look into them (after a rain is best).

 

The problem comes in winter, when pooling water can turn into ice. The weight of ice in gutters can distort gutters or detach them from the house. Icicles are signs of clogged, damaged, or improperly sloped gutters.

 

Kickout Flashing

Gutter ends that butt up to a wall or chimney may need "kickout flashing" to keep water from flowing down the side. If you see dirt stains or wetness on walls at gutter ends after rain storms, you should consider having flashing installed. This type of flashing should be installed by a roofer.

 

We hope these tips have been helpful. Feel free to share it with anyone you think may benefit from it.

 

Source MD Home Inspections

Organizing Tip - Three Steps to Staying Organized

10/20/2016

3 Simple Steps to Staying Organized

 

 Why is it so difficult to stay organized?  It felt great to have an area of your home organized and clutter-free but have yet to discover the secret to keeping it that way.



Let me assure you, keeping up with organization is a struggle for most.  The secret to maintaining is to adopt the following 3 practices and life styles.



1. Change your mindset.  

Maybe your belief has been that organizing your home is a one-time event.  I wish this was true but unfortunately it’s not.  Organization is a life-long habit that will require a conscientious effort.  If you let your guard down, clutter will return.   Make it a daily routine to declutter, toss, and recycle. Enlist the help of your family. Recycle junk mail, wash dishes, clear off surfaces and put away clean laundry. Have you ever heard the phrase, “it’s easier to keep-up than catch-up?”  A few minutes spent maintaining (keeping-up) will make a big difference in your home and won’t be as stressful as tackling a major organizing project.


2. Put things away after using them.


I know, I know, this can be a drag but it’s easier to put one item away now than deal with a pile of stuff in the near future.  Clutter attracts clutter.  Change your habits and from this day forward vow to no longer “put this here for now.”

 

 

3. Regularly and ruthlessly edit your belongings.  

 

Establish a donation zone for items you decide you no longer want in your home.  This zone could be as simple as a box, bag or other container labeled “donate.”  Once your donations have a home they won’t co-mingle with your other stuff, cause confusion and the require re-sorting.  If you enjoy holding garage sales, label the containers “sell” and place them in a holding area.

 

 

 

Maintaining will become easier as you develop new routines and downsize.  The reward is your freedom. 

 

Source organizingmadefun.blogspot.com

Maintenance Tip - Water Heater

10/13/2016

WHAT ? Flush the sediment from your water heater.

 

WHEN ? Twice a year. Now is a good time.

 

WHY ? Remember the whitish coating on the interior of an empty water glass.  The films on the inside of the glass were the salts and minerals left after the water evaporated.   That was just one glass of water; imagine how much sediment is left on the bottom of your water heater with thousands of gallons going through it.  The sediment settling at the bottom acts as an insulator.  Heat transfer to the water is significantly reduced.  This leads to shorter water heater life expectancy and much higher energy cos

 

 

HOW ? There is a drain valve on the side of your water heater, near the bottom. It looks like a typical outdoor faucet -- there is a handle and a threaded spout.
Attach a hose to the drain valve and direct it to a floor drain.

 

Shut off the water supply.  Open the drain valve until the water runs clear. Depending on how long it takes, you may choose to drain the sediment more or less frequently.  MAKE SURE YOU TURN THE SUPPLY BACK ON.

 

TIPS

  The water you are draining is extremely hot. Be very careful.

 

  On top of almost all water heaters there is a hexagon headed nut.  This is your anode rod.  The purpose of the rod is to attract the naturally occurring mineral deposits in water to the rod rather than the walls or bottom of the water heater.  If you have a 5 year warranty water heater you will typically find one anode rod if you have a 10 year warranty you will have typically 2 anode rods.  Anode rods are ideally replaced every five years.  The rods can be purchased from any plumbing supply distributors.  Changing your anode rod is a little known secret that can significantly increase the life expectancy and a significantly decrease the energy costs of your water heater.

Anode rods cost approximately $15-20

Add pipe insulation for the first ten feet on the hot side.

Cost less than $ 5.00 

Add a water heater blanket.  Costs approximately $15

Lower your thermostat setting to 120 degrees.  Using a cooking thermometer on a faucet will help you determine the temperature setting of your water heater, lower the thermostat setting to obtain a 120 degree temperature.

Source Home Inspections by P.R.O.S

Safety Tip - Smoke Alarms

10/6/2016

TEST AND CLEAN YOUR SMOKE ALARMS You've heard all the statistics about how many people die in home fires every year, but if you're like most of us, this hasn't motivated you. Batteries are easier to replace than people. Don't neglect your smoke alarms.  

 

Image courtesy of safety.com 

WHAT

Test and clean your smoke alarms.

WHEN

    1.  Press the test button once a month, but we'll only remind you every six months.

    2. Test your alarms with smoke at least twice a year.

    3. Clean your alarms at least twice a year.

    4. Replace the battery once a year.

WHY

We don't want to get really heavy, but fires kill.

 

HOW

  1. Press the test button. This verifies that the unit has power and has an audible alarm, but it does not guarantee smoke detection.
  2. Blow smoke into the unit. It should take a minimal amount to activate the alarms. The smoke can come from a cigarette, a candle, or preferably an aerosol canister specifically designed to test smoke alarms.
  3. Open the alarms cover and lightly vacuum the interior components with the fine brush attachment for your vacuum cleaner.
  4. Pull out and disconnect the battery. Replace it with a new one.

TIPS

  Smoke alarms have a life expectancy of approximately 10 years. If you don't know how old the smoke alarms are, replace them or smoke test them as described above.

 

  If your home has a security system connected to a central station, contact the alarms company before testing the smoke alarms.

 

IF LIKE MANY OF US YOU HAVE DISCONNECTED THE ALARM PLEASE REMIND YOURSELF TO RECONNECT IT.

 

Source Home Inspection By P.R.O.S

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