The Value of a Home Inspection

The purpose of a home inspection is to inform the individual buyer of the current condition of the home. The purchase contract the buyer and seller signed is contingent on the home inspection. A buyer will generally have the option, based upon the inspection, to opt out of the purchase, ask for repairs or credit towards repairs or a purchase price reduction.

Many home buyers do not adequately research the profession before hiring an inspector.  What should a home buyer be looking for in a home inspector?

Licensing: Some states require home inspector licensing while others do not. In states that do require licensing, ask for the inspectors’ FULL license number and write it down. This includes any letter-type distinctions in front or in back of the number. This will help tell you if he is a fully licensed home inspector or an intern or apprentice.

Insurance: Does the home inspector carry Errors & Omissions and or liability insurance, and can they provide proof of insurance upon request?  Not all states require insurance. Inquire as to the state insurance requirements and be sure the inspectors have the proper type and amount.

Training: Has the inspector had formal training from a recognized training school? State regulation in the home inspection profession is relatively recent (Many states still do not have licensing or regulation!), so formal training has been mostly optional. Many “old timers” were carpenters, electricians or builders and learned to perform home inspections “on the job.” However, there is no single trade that qualifies someone to move into the field of home inspection without extensive training.

Experience: This is can be a misleading qualification if the right questions are not asked. Years of experience are not as important as the total number of home inspections completed. In a 2005 national home inspection business operations study conducted by the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), over 80 percent of respondents said they were full time home inspectors. Yet almost 40 percent said they perform less than 100 home inspections a year. This discrepancy may indicate that many home inspectors are working at other jobs or are semi-retired individuals. Be sure to ask how many inspections the inspector completes a year:  At least 200 or over would be a good standard. It is also still important to ask overall years of experience and total number of home inspections.

Continuing Education: Even well trained, experienced home inspectors must continually update their skills and knowledge. Licensing requires a minimal amount of continuing education for inspectors to renew their license. Look for home inspectors who go beyond the necessary minimum and spend the time and money to keep their skills current.

Association Membership: Home inspectors who have made the commitment of time, training, testing and money to belong to a reputable professional home inspection society are generally more committed to doing a high quality job for their clients. But be careful; not all home inspection organizations are equal. Some ask for little or no training, knowledge or experience to become a member, while others are very rigorous in their qualifications for membership. A membership logo means little; it’s what’s behind the symbol that counts. Inquire about and research this area fully.  It will provide you with great insight into the home inspectors’ abilities and dedication to performing a top notch home inspection.

The Inspection: How long does the home inspection take? As previously mentioned, short inspection times mean poor quality. A thorough home inspection on an averaged sized home, (1500-2500 sq. ft.) should last 2-4 hours. Also ask if the inspector would like you to attend the home inspection. If they say no, this should alert you that something is wrong with this particular company. A good home inspector should insist that you attend the home inspection if at all possible.

The Report: This is why you hire a home inspector, to provide written detailed information about the house. The first and most important question:  When and how will you receive the report? On site, within 24 hours, a week, by email, regular mail or delivered by the inspector?  What type of report does the inspector use, what is the approximate length, are there pictures included?  Be wary of short reports, 10 pages or less, and long report turnaround times.

Other Qualifications: Ask if the home inspector has additional certifications or licenses in services that you may need in addition to the home inspection. For instance, radon testing is a very common ancillary service provided by many home inspection companies, but many inspectors are not certified or formally trained. Some states may even require certification or licensing in these services. If you are looking to have other services done, be sure to ask about the inspectors’ qualifications to conduct the tests you require.

Miscellaneous Items: There are some things you should confirm when calling to hire a home inspector. Be positive that the inspector that will be doing your home inspection possesses the qualifications stated by the person on the phone. This is especially important when talking with multi-inspector firms. Also will the home inspector be readily available for follow up questions?

Price: The very last question you should ask, not the first. Put quite simply, you get what you pay for. Good home inspectors demand higher prices because of experience and money invested into training to improve their skills and their business for the benefit of their clients. Remember the money you pay a good inspector is an investment. You will very likely receive back from the seller monies well in excess of the home inspection fee. Be certain to choose your inspector wisely.

Having a good home inspection will provide you with valuable information on your prospective purchase and ultimately piece of mind going forward.


The Risk from Chemical Odors

Chemical odors in the home can be harmful to your health. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology 50% of Illnesses are Caused or Aggravated by Pollutants. Chemical odors are given off from a wide variety of products. They include mothballs, paint, solvents, pesticides, fragrances such as perfumes and air fresheners, adhesives, smoke, dry-cleaned clothes, and cleaning agents, to name a few. Researchers say that these types of odors can cause a number of medical problems, including respiratory problems.   

Effective green deodorizers will break down harmful chemical odors into harmless byproducts without masking them and result in a safer and healthier environment. By continually destroying chemical odor, you will improve your indoor air quality and prevent exposure to toxic and hazardous chemicals.

With a little investigative work, and using safe, non-toxic products, you can eliminate harmful odors and chemicals. The end result is a safe home that is healthier for you and your family. 


Trim Heating Costs, Create Ambience

Take the chill out of the air and the burden off of your primary home heating system with a supplemental heat source. Space heaters are handy, but often not very attractive – and can be dangerous if used improperly. The National Fire Protection Association reports that in 2006, 73 percent of home heating deaths were attributed to improper space heater use.

Consider adding a home fireplace or making an existing fireplace functional. Wood-, pellet- and corn-burning fireplaces are options for those with the ability to add a chimney. In order to effectively augment your regular heat source, these options require regular addition of wood, corn or pellets. And don’t forget the need for regular cleaning and maintenance of not only the fireplace, but also the chimney.

To reduce the need to purchase materials to burn, improve the efficiency of fireplace heat and avoid messy maintenance chores, many homeowners convert existing traditional fireplaces to gas or electric units. If your home does not currently have a fireplace, chimney or gas line access, you can easily purchase and install a freestanding electrical fireplace.

The unpredictable nature of gas prices combined with ease of installation means frequent spikes in electric fireplace purchases. After all, the only technical know-how needed is the ability to plug the unit into the wall. As an added bonus, electrical fireplace heat is not lost to the chimney as with traditional wood or pellet-burning units. The steady heat source is easily turned on or off as needed; many units even include an automatic shutoff or sleep timer.

Other than the occasional need to dust the unit and change the light bulb, electric fireplaces provide trouble-free, safe ambient heat and light. Fire safety experts note the importance of making sure the electrical outlet and set-up in your home can handle the new addition to your family room, living room, basement or other space in need of additional heat.

If you’ve decided to add a new, energy-efficient heat source to your home, browse your local home improvement centers and the internet for ideas and price ranges. Simple units are available as well as those with the appearance of a traditional fireplace with a wood fireplace surround—a key fireplace safety measure for homes with children or pets. From major furnace manufacturer brands to Amish fireplaces, there is an option to fit your needs. An investment in a finely-crafted electric fireplace can not only improve your home’s warmth, but also its ambiance.


Green Home Market Expected to Skyrocket

Sustainable construction, now that the luster of trendiness has worn off, continues to make inroads as a remodeling market segment with serious growth potential. Findings to support this notion were released Thursday at the National Association of Home Builders’ International Builders’ Show in Orlando, in the form the results of McGraw-Hill Construction’s new Green Home Builders and Remodelers Study. Green homes comprised 17% of the overall residential construction market in 2011 and are expected to grow to between 29% and 38% of the market by 2016, according to the study. This means that, by value, the growth will equal fully a five-fold increase, growing from $17 billion in 2011 to $87-$114 billion in 2016, based on the five-year forecast for overall residential construction.

According to the study, construction industry professionals report an even steeper increase in green home remodeling; 34% of remodelers expect to be doing mostly green work by 2016, a 150% increase over 2011 activity levels. Many home builders have shifted to the remodeling market due to the drastic drop in new home construction. In fact, 62% of the builders who do both new and remodeling work verified that the economy has increased their renovation work.

“The housing market is critical to the U.S. economy,” said Harvey M. Bernstein, VP of Industry Insights and Alliances, McGraw-Hill Construction, “and the results of our study show that despite the drastic downturn in housing starts since 2008, green has grown significantly as a share of activity– indicating that the green market is becoming an important part of our overall economic landscape.”

The green home building study, produced by McGraw-Hill Construction in conjunction with the NAHB and Waste Management, is designed to provide key insights into market opportunities, backed by proprietary research surveys and the power of the Dodge database. The study reveals business benefits afforded by green building, such as a competitive marketing advantage: 46% of builders and remodelers find that “building green” makes it easier to market themselves in a down economy, and an overwhelming 71% of firms that are dedicated to green home building report the same.


Air Duct Cleaning

Does your air cooling system need duct cleaning? Ducts have a tendency to collect waste, including mold and fungus, and can cause allergies. This can cause allergies. Clean your duct to remove harmful organisms.

Health is the primary benefit of air duct cleaning. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air contains more than 70 times more pollutants than outdoor air.

Air duct cleaning services eradicate the airborne contaminants like the bacteria, fungus, mold spores, pollen and pet dander. Some of these contaminants may enhance allergies and asthma symptoms.

Ductwork cleaning consists of removing hazards from heating and cooling system. These systems consist of parts like air ducts and registers, heat exchangers, drip pans, fan motors and grills, and diffusers.

Duct cleaning may also involve getting rid of contaminants found in heating and cooling coils, and the air handling unit. The symptoms of polluted indoor air include allergies, illnesses, eye irritation, sinus congestion, headache, and sore throat.

Other conditions may also be attributed to polluted air ducts, such as nausea, cold and flu symptoms, fatigue, cough, tightness in chest, wheezing, and hypersensitivity.

Air duct cleaning cleans and removes moisture. Moisture in these ducts can make them a breeding ground for bacteria and fungi, which can cause diseases in the respiratory system.

Cleaning them will remove harmful organism. By keeping them dry, the further growth of bacteria is prevented. Another waste removed by cleaning the ducts is rodent droppings, hair, and flakes.

If your place is a frequently visited by mice or rats, they may leave their wastes on the ducts, which can be inhaled when air blows through them. Hence, the air you breathe can already be contaminated.

Besides the wastes, debris, plaster and drywall particles, wood, dust, and insulation particles, can accumulated.  Dust mites and ants feed on such debris and they further leave their waste. Air duct cleaning eliminates all this derby and waste.

When your air ducts in the cooling and heating systems are cleaned and maintained, these systems will last longer. The extended life of these systems is another benefit you can get from employing the air duct cleaning services.

Cleaning ducts on your cooling and heating systems may prevent pre-mature breakdown and aging. It also makes you save on your energy consumption. Well-maintained equipment makes them run better.
The Environmental Protection Agency maintains that when your heating and cooling systems are cleaned regularly, their efficiency is maintained. A mere .042 inches of dirt on your heating coil can already decrease the efficiency of your heating system by 21%.

Efficient systems work less; this enables you to save energy and money. Air duct cleaning keeps dust away from your furniture and décor. The dusts accumulated within your systems are blown into your house and disseminated everywhere.


Effective Tips for Spring Cleaning

Spring cleaning is usually viewed as one of the most dreaded tasks people must undertake each year.  It’s a time to air out your home, get rid of old, unwanted items, and to reorganize those things you still plan to use.  By taking a few minutes to put together a “prep list,” you can organize your plan and in the process, make it seem less daunting.

Here are some items, some obvious, some not so, to help you welcome spring and warmer temperatures into your home:

  • Wash your windows, inside and out.
  • Vacuum or wash the draperies and other window treatments.
  • Wash blankets, throw rugs and bed covers.  This is a more time-consuming than difficult process, and you will be better served by setting aside the appropriate block of time to do all of this in one burst of activity.
  • Check all downspouts and clean them accordingly to reduce the likelihood of clogs and other problems.
  • Arrange to have your air conditioning system inspected.  Spring is the best time to do this, because the hot weather has not yet taken hold.  Also, check and clean air filters and vents.
  • Check and replace smoke detector batteries.  This should be done every six months, so setting up a timetable that has you doing this regularly every spring and fall will help to establish a consistent routine.
  • Drain any sediment from your hot water heater to keep it in top working condition.
  • Use a small foam paintbrush to clean small spaces between cabinets or under appliances.  These are those easily-overlooked areas where dust and cobwebs can accumulate undetected for lengthy periods of time.

Just this short list will make an impressive difference in the freshness and cleanliness of your home and set you on the right course for enjoying those longer days and pleasant, warm evenings.

Tips For Small Repair Jobs Around the House

Here are a handful of tips for simple, easy-to-do maintenance on the exterior of your home:

During the winter months, moisture may seep into outdoor garage or tool shed locks and cause them to freeze, making it difficult to insert a key.  If this happens, heat your key gently a few times by holding it in the flame of a lighter or match.  Then work the key gently back and forth inside the lock, repeating until the lock warms sufficiently to melt the ice inside.

When padlocks are used around the outside of your home, dirt, rust or other corrosion can sometimes form in the mechanism.  To prevent this, place a strip of waterproof tape over the keyhole.  The tape can easily be stripped off and replaced each time a key is inserted.

Following heavy windstorms, you may discover that some of your roof shingles have been lifted or curled back and no longer lie flat.  This leaves the exposed roof susceptible to leaks.  To correct the situation, you can apply a dab of roof cement under each of the curled shingles.  During the next warm spell, shingles will uncurl and will continue to lie flat, even if the cement has dried.

To remove rust or other metallic stains from light colored exterior siding, try washing these with a water solution of oxalic acid.  This is sold in crystalline form at paint and hardware stores.  Dissolve three-quarters of a pound in one gallon of water and sponge over the stain.  Allow to dry for several minutes, and then rub off with a clean cloth.

For rust stains caused by exposed nail heads corroding beneath the surface of the paint, sand off the nail head and spot-prime with a little shellac or a metal primer.  Then countersink the nail head and fill the hole with putty before repainting.


A Home Improvement & Maintenance Checklist for Your Home

The health of a home is a lot like your own personal health. If regularly checked and maintained, the chances of problems arising are less. Here are some of the things in your domicile that should be checked periodically.



Leaks are seriously trouble and should be remedied as soon as they are detected and before they have the chance to become bigger issues. They can damage walls and sub flooring and can create mold issues. Make regular checks in those areas that are most prone to leaks from heavy use, such as the caulking and grout in bathrooms and under sinks in kitchens. If you see corrosion, there is a leak at work.

Check around your water heater for accumulating pools of water on the floor. Water heaters ideally should be drained periodically to remove sediment and reduce the risk of problems. If you notice problems, hire a licensed plumber for further inspection, repairs and general maintenance.

Vent exhaust ducts for the clothes dryer and cooktop to the outside and keep the drip pans from your air conditioner clean and the drain lines unobstructed and flowing properly. In the kitchen you should clean the dust from refrigerator condenser located at the rear of unit.

Inspect your roof and flashing periodically for missing, worn or broken shingles and any flashing that has separate from adjacent surfaces, allowing water leakage. A licensed roofer can inspect these areas and make repairs. Also, inspect your gutter and drainspouts and remove any debris to assure unobstructed water flow away from foundations.


Exterior items that should be on your maintenance list include inspecting veneer and siding. Watch for deteriorating bricks and masonry. For siding, look for warping or rot. Check caulking around doors and windows, and glazing around window panes. Make sure your cooling and heating units are free from obstructing debris. Change filters and check coils for build-up.

You should also have periodic termite and pest inspections conducted. Remove accumulation of tree limbs, branches and other debris that might attract wood eating insects. If you have a wood burning stove or fireplace, don’t store your firewood too near your house, in case it contains termites.

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Get a Multi Fuel Stove for Flexible, Economical & Eco-Friendly Home Heating

 multi-fuel-stoveWhen it comes to heating your home, it may be time to look into getting a multi fuel stove. It can provide all the energy you need to heat your home in an economical and eco friendly way.

Multi fuel stoves are extremely versatile, being able to handle a variety of eco friendly fuels. They are also cheaper to run than those using gas, oil or electricity. In many cases, using wood as a fuel can be up to three times cheaper than using fossil fuels.

Remember that installing a multi fuel stove will add to the value of your home. Consider your purchase to be an investment that will pay dividends both in terms of heating your home as well as adding to its desirability.

Wood is carbon neutral, so it’s an eco friendly fuel. Carbon neutrality means it only gives off as much carbon as it took in while growing as a tree. Fossil fuels, in contrast, only emit CO2 into the eco system and are neither renewable nor sustainable. Another factor to bear in mind is continual new legislation restricting the types of heating that people can install. By installing a multi fuel stove, you stay within compliancy regulations.

Your multi fuel stove can heat your whole home by linking up to your central heating system. You can also install it in your living room as a focus point or in kitchen in the form of a wood burning stove with a back boiler for hot water.

When it comes to choosing wood for your stove, you have a variety of options.
Seasoned hardwood is the best choice, as it has a long burn time and low ash residue. It should have a moisture content of below 20% as the higher the moisture, the less heat and the more smoke it gives off. Seasoning wood can take several years depending on the type of wood. Hardwoods take the longest while trees such as ash can be used immediately.

You should remember that though wood burns fine in a multi fuel stove, it will burn better in a dedicated wood burning stove. Wood burning stoves operate with 75% efficiency – only 25% of the heat is lost up the chimney. A multi-fuel stove is considerably more efficient than an open fire when it comes to burning wood, however.

A multi fuel stove is not restricted to wood. You can also burn peat, coke, coal along with biomass fuels such as shelled corn and wheat hulls. It’s a truly flexible appliance that you can adjust to fit your lifestyle or changing circumstances as needed.

Ease of installation depends on whether or not your home has a chimney. If you have one, fitting your stove is straightforward. If not, you can install a prefabricated chimney quickly and with minimal expense.

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What Is Thermal Bridging And Why Do I Want To Stop It?

Thermal bridging is the name given to the flow of heat through your home from one object to another. Wood and other traditional construction materials can conduct heat easily, and this means that despite having insulation in place, heat can still escape via objects or materials in the home.

There are some measures that can be taken. Having effective cavity walls with a layer of insulation will reduce this problem, as will fitting good quality, well-insulated windows. By using cavity closures around the window frames and door frames in particular, you can prevent significant heat loss and temperature shifts.

Though it can be difficult and sometimes costly to fit insulation into the walls of older homes, there are still ways to prevent thermal bridging. For example, when laying insulation in an attic, it’s important to cover the ceiling joists with a thick layer of insulation, as these are a particular thermal bridging spot.

Every cavity should also be covered well. A common mistake with attic insulation is to only go as far as the framing of the ceilings, leaving the frames themselves exposed. This enables heat to transfer to the frames and ultimately escape. Although the frames of the roof cannot be covered, the joists certainly can.

There are some other tricks that people with older homes can employ to help keep in the heat. Thermal, heat-reflecting is a recent product introduced on the market that helps reduce thermal bridging and provides added insulation to your home.

Exterior outlets are big offenders when it comes to letting heat escape. Reduce the problem with some insulating placed between them and the walls of the house.

Of course, windows and doors are the number one hot spot for thermal bridging. Aluminum frames in particular will let heat through easily as will single panes of glass. Replacing any windows and doors in your home with uPVC windows that are thermally insulated will effectively help heat stay in your house. As well as keeping your fuel bills down, uPVC is an environmentally friendly material because it is 100% recyclable and extremely long lasting. You won’t need to replace your uPVC windows for decades.

Addressing these few thermal bridging offenders will help reduce your heating bills and create a warmer environment in which to spend those cooler months of the year.

(article includes information provided by Chris Coxon, a British thermal bridging expert)