It’s Home Safety Month

According to the Center for Disease Control. unintentional injuries are the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S., overtaking  strokes on the list. Most accidental injuries are completely preventable, so paying attention to home safety can save pain, time money or even a life.

Entryways can be made safer with the addition of more lighting and railings. Steps and sidewalks, whether they are made of wood or cement, should not be left to crumble, warp, pull away from the main structure or sag unevenly. Where possible, a no-step entrance is even better.

Adequate lighting can make all the difference when walking from room to room. All areas of a home should have adequate lighting. Lights can be places on timers to illuminate rooms on a specific schedule. Motion-activated or on-all-night-lights can help when walking in a house at night. In particular , hallways and stairs should be properly lit.

Keeping the interior of  home clean, organized and in good repaid can help prevent accidents. Clutter can be not only unsightly, but dangerous. Messy conditions and broken items are trips and falls waiting to happen. Area rugs that slip out of place, stacks of newspapers and magazines and piles of belongings or other possessions can serve as barriers and obstacles, as well as tripping hazards.

Most homes have a mandated smoke alarm, but in safety survey, less than 20 percent of all homeowners reported they ever tested their alarm. The majority of deaths from home fires are from smoke inhalation, so early warning an evacuation are critical. A working smoke detector should be in every bedroom or sleeping area, another in the hallway outside sleeping areas, as well as a smoke detector for every level of the home.

If there are children in a home, accidental ingestion of pills or household chemicals is always a concern. All medications should be out of reach or in a locked cabinet, and all household chemicals and cleaners should be made inaccessible to children. Some cleaners today in the form of brightly-colored and vacuum-sealed powders that are appealing  to children. These and all cleaners should be out of reach and the Poison Control hotline number posted near the phone or in the cabinet.

Even prescribed medicines can be hazardous. The CDC estimates about 128,000 people die each year from drugs prescribed to them. This makes prescription drugs a major health risk. Medicines should always used only by the person whose name is on the bottle and any adverse reactions to a medication should be reported immediately.

As the prevalence of guns continues to rise, so do gun accidents and fatalities. Sadly, American children younger that 15 are nine times more likely to be involved in a gun accident than those is the rest of the developed world. IF there are guns in the home, they must be placed in a locked cabinet with the key hidden. Ammunition should be locked separately.

fire can be a household hazard, but one that in the main can be prevented by having chimneys cleaned and inspected and making sure dryer lint is regularly removed from filters, vent and piping. If a fireplace is sued frequently, screens and other barriers should cover the area of open flame.

In case of fire emergency, fire extinguishers should be installed on every floor of the home;keep on in the garage, and one in the kitchen.

Spring Into Home Maintenance

When the spring weather beckons, it’s easy to concentrate on the great outdoors-whether digging in the garden or taking a bike ride. It’s also a good time to check the condition of the home’s exterior.

While it sounds optional, outdoor maintenance is a critical step in keeping a home in good condition and repair. It’s great to have clean windows or blooming flowers, but it is even better to have windows,gutters,and air-conditioners functional and in top shape.

Check the roof for overall condition. Also inspect flashing, eaves and soffits. Make any needed repairs to keep water and critters out.

Walk around the perimeter of the home to inspect siding and any entry points, such as cable wires or electrical service going into the home. Make sure wires and pipes are secure and there are no gaps for insects or rodents to enter the home. Trim landscaping away from the siding, including tree branches, bushes, and mulch, keeping everything at least 12″ from the siding. Tree limbs and branches need to be trimmed so they are not touching the roof.

Gutters and downspouts are convenient repositories for leaves, dirt, sticks and sometimes even a bird’s nest or two. Pulling out leaves and debris from gutters will keep rainwater flowing away from the foundation. In addition, making sure that the ground around the foundation slopes away from the house will also help prevent seepage or flooding.

A caulk gun is another important springtime tool, useful when sealing or caulking is  required. If caulking has started to crumble or dry out, it should be scraped and then re-caulked as needed. Areas to examine include window sills, door sills, thresholds and siding.

When the weather heats up, it’s good to know the air-conditioner is available to cool thing down. After fall and winter, leaves and debris often accumulate on the outdoor condenser. To make sure it can run unimpeded, the electric power to the outdoor condense should be disconnected and then the unit can be cleaned using a vent brush, power blower, garden hose, or even the brush attachment on a vacuum. The air-conditioner should be handled with care, however, so as not to bend any moving parts. Always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions before opening things up.

On a nice, sunny day, it’s time to hit the deck-with pressure water or other cleaning method. Fortunately, a pressure washer will make quick work of a dirty deck as well as mold and mildew that may have accumulated since the previous year. (Unfortunately, many homeowners have caused property damage or personal injury with a pressure washer, so use extreme caution.)

At the same time, the deck can be inspected for wood decay or weakening of the deck structure. If it seems that there is a possibility of a wobbling deck, it’s best to call a carpenter or deck pro on the double. It’s not smart to risk the possibility of a deck collapse. If the deck needs staining or sealing, spring is the time to conquer that task as well.

But also inspect patios, porches, stairs and railings for stability. All outside surfaces can be checked for weathering, cracking or peeling paint, and repaired before more damage is done.

Before insect season arrives with vengeance, looking over window or door screens can save a lot of future itching and scratching. The screens may need to be cleaned first, and then they can be inspected for tears or holes. There are a variety of “home remedies” that can be used to patch screens including applying a dab of clear nail polish to a small hole or tear in a vinyl or fiberglass screen. The polish will seal the damaged area. Clear silicone adhesive will also do the trick. For larger holes, screen repair kits are available at many hardware stores for under $4. If screens need to be replaced, the old pieces can be saved to use as patches in the future.

Tips to Maintaining Your Garage

Most homeowners don’t think much about their garage doors; until they don’t open. Fortunately, newer garage doors come self-lubricated or with plastic parts that need no oil. Older doors may need more attention, and in most cases, some extra oil to keep the door rolling up and down smoothly. A leaf blower can be employed to blast grit, grime,dust, and cobwebs from door parts in preparation for oiling.

Another part of the door that may need inspection is the rubber seal at the bottom. Because it is exposed to the elements, the seal can harden or crack over time, sometimes allowing rain into the garage. Replacing it costs under  $100 and may keep out not only weather, but uninvited house-guest(rodents) as well.

Speaking of pests, insects may seek shelter within the garage walls. Where there are cool,dark, and moist areas, there can be carpenter ants or termites.Trails of sawdust or chewed wood are clues that it is time to call an inspector.

Garage door sensors should also be checked periodically to make sure the electric eye or  other system raises the door when people,pets, or equipment get in the way. If the door does not respond properly, the garage door should be disabled until repairs are completed.

The garage’s interior needs maintenance starting with the floor. A concrete floor is prone to deterioration from chemicals and fluid spills.Concrete sealer can be applied to protect the concrete and make the surface easier to sweep and keep clean. Sealers can be applied safely by homeowners when using proper ventilation and equipment. In other cases, professionals can perform the service.

It is important to check not only the floor of the garage, but interior and exterior walls and foundation as well.  Just as moisture can affect the floor, it can affect walls and foundation. Water leaking from a garage roof can lead to mold problems, rotting drywall or even damage the wood frame.

Just as in your home, a garage with one or more windows is susceptible to air leaks. There are several simple methods for checking for these leaks, by either rattling the window ( if a window moves,there may be a leak) or visually inspecting the windows. Simple leaks usually can be sealed though the use of caulking or weather stripping.

If the garage is attached to the house, a properly insulated door leading to the house is vital to fire safety and maintaining energy efficiency. Most building codes require the door between the garage and the home’s interior living space to be fire-rated  and many municipalities also require the door to be self-closing. If the door show signs of damage or the self-closing mechanism has failed; repair or replace it.  It is important to make sure  proper weather stripping is installed on this door as well.

In addition, a slope to the roof can be signal trouble as well, possible in the form of a foundation that has settled. It may take more than eyeballing the roof,such as using a level, to determine if the garage is leaning. If so, it may need to be examined by a construction professional.

New Homes in 2016 Bigger & Better

What a difference a decade makes. In 2005, the average cost of a new home (in the U.S.) was $297,00 and that measured approximately  2400 square feet, according to the U.S Census Bureau.

Figures recently released by the National Association of Home Builders ( NAHB) show that the trend is growing bigger. The average single-family home built in the U.S. in 2016 will be built on about a half-acre lot, totals about 2800 square feet of finished space and will sell for an average cost of $468,318.

What factors have led to this dramatic increase in cost? First, homes are about 400 square feet larger. Also according to a list compiled by International Contractors Inc., during the years 2002 through 2008, home construction costs rose approximately %5 per year. High oil prices during those years influenced manufacturing and transportation costs, leading to higher and higher home construction costs. When the recession and housing bubble hit in earnest, builders were forced to reduce costs, and did so.

As a result, construction costs dropped to $80 per square foot in 2011. But with new home buyers demanding more room, and more amenities, home prices and construction costs are now again creeping higher that they were just a few years ago.

A housing contractor currently in business will incur average construction costs for a single-family home today of around $289,415, which is $103 per square foot to complete, up from around $80 per square foot in 2011. According to the U.S. Census figures, construction costs were at their highest, $95 per square foot in 2013.

The biggest expense for general contractors when constructing a new home are the actual construction costs- including labor and materials at almost 62%. The improved lot size accounts for about 20% pf the cost, with builder profits averaging nine percent. Overhead and miscellaneous expenses round out the total, with addition of about two percent for financing, commission and marketing costs.

Of the total costs, framing and trusses are one of the biggest expenses, at around $17 per square foot today or 18% of the construction budget. Among other major stages of construction, interior finishes account for about 30 percent of a home’s cost, exterior finishes accounting for about 15 percent, major system rough-ins around 13 percent and foundations around 12 percent. Site work, final steps and other costs account for balance. Builders have reported steadily increasing lumber costs for the past four years. They note they are experiencing higher costs for cement, ready-mix concrete, and brick and block as well.

As the unemployment rate does down and wages rise, many builders are reporting that labor costs are increasing around 3 to 4 percent per year. Some builders experiencing difficulty finding carpenters and excavation crews as well.


Do-It-Yourself Backsplash in a Weekend

The average minor kitchen renovation costs $19,226 as of 2015, according to Remodeling Magazine. A kitchen renovation at that price includes new cabinet fronts and hardware,new oven and stove-top, new counter-tops, flooring and paint.

There’s also the option of given the kitchen or a bathroom-a new look for under $200.  There won’t be any new appliances of flooring involved, but a new back-splash will provide an updated look for a very small price.

Shopping for back-splash material is part of the fun, and there are many types to consider for a do-it-yourself project.

Tin-tile back-splashes are rust-resistant, easy to clean and easy for a do-it-yourselfer to install using tile adhesive. Glass mosaic tiles come in variety of sizes and colors and will add sparkle and light to any kitchen. There are clay tiles, matchstick tiles and subway tiles, and many more in endless colors,sizes and shapes.

One of the easiest choices to install is mosaic tiles, because they are mounted on 12 x 12 sheets. There is some measuring and cutting involved, but in most cases, the bulk of the job can be completed in one day, and the tiles grouted the next. It is also a relatively inexpensive job to undertake, because mosaic sheet prices generally start under $10 per sheet.

To install the tiles, the mesh backing is cut to fit along counters and under cabinets. Many of the 12 x 12 sheets also feature smaller strips that can be placed as borders.

Mastic adhesive will be used sparingly to avoids drips and reduce drying time. The mastic is spread from the center-line outward, about two to three feet outward. If a large swatch of adhesive is spread, it might dry before the rest of the tiles are replaced.

Plastic tile spacers placed between the tile and counter top will allow a small gap that can caulked later, and keep the tiles directly off the counter top. A thin space should be left between sheets. After every two to three sheets that are hung, the sheets can be secured to the mastic with a board and rubber mallet.

Occasionally, a tile or two will fall off a sheet but they can be reinstalled with mastic. Sheets are not always perfectly square, so adjusting sheets and moving tiles around can be done to keep the joints lined up correctly. It takes about  to 20 to 30 minutes for the mastic to harden.

A waiting period of 24 hours will give the adhesive time to set and then the tile can be grouted. After a few days, grout sealer can be applied to protect the grout.

Other possibilities for  do-it-yourselfers include a sheet of colored glass as a back-splash or even clear glass placed over wallpaper. A glass back-splash is held into place using strips of molding. This method keeps the glass firmly in place without glue.Creating a seam at the bottom along the counter-top with clear silicone will keep water or debris from getting behind the glass.

Other items that can make an interesting back-splash material include smooth stones, reclaimed plastic, cork and more.

No Time To Give Gutters A Pass

Avid gardeners know all about fall clean-up. When a perennial fails to bloom anymore, they cut it back. They clean up plant debris from beds and borders. Homeowners need to follow a similar fall checklist, to prepare for cool weather ahead.

For some homeowners, one of the best parts about fall is saying goodbye to the lawn mower for the season. A fuel stabilizer can be added to gasoline to keep it from deteriorating over the winter months. If not, a mower should be run dry before storing it.

No wonder everybody wants to steer clear of the gutter. It’s gross in there. And the leaves, twigs, and dirt that invariably clog gutters can cause problems with proper rain runoff. Once of twice a year, gutters need to be cleaned free of debris. If necessary, worn or damaged gutters and downspouts should be replaced. (Gutters should extend at least five feet from the house to help keep water away from the structure. Downspouts can be added for under $20 per spout.)

Trim trees and bushes to keep foliage about twelve inches away from the siding. If you do not have a regular pest control service plan for your home, you may need to have you home inspected for wood pests.

And who doesn’t love spending quality time with a caulk gun? Before cooler weather hits, sealing up cracks between trim and siding, around windows and doors, and at any pipe and wire openings help create a tighter building envelope. This will keep water out and warm air in. Caulk works best when temperatures are about 50 degrees. It is easy to find color-matched,exterior caulk at hardware stores for under $10.

To avoid problems with the venting for clothes dryer, make sure you disconnect, clean ,and inspect the dryer duct and venting every couple of years, or hire a professional company to clean the dryer components.

To make sure the indoor temperature remains balmy throughout winter, a checkup for the heating system is a good idea too. Such checkups are relatively inexpensive- usually under $200- and can provide reassurance or catch any problems early. It’s a good time to change furnace filters as well.

Smoke and CO detectors are key to indoor safety during months when homes are closed up tight. The batteries in each battery-operated smoke and carbon monoxide(CO) detector should be replaced at least yearly.  Detectors can be checked by pressing the test button or holding a smoke source( like a blown-out candle) near the unit. Smoke detectors should be placed on every floor of the home, and in every sleeping area. Older units should be replaced.

Homes should also be equipped with at least one fire extinguisher rated for all fire types (look for an A-B-C rating on the label). Since most home fires start in the kitchen, keeping one in or near the kitchen makes the most sense.

Finally, if the home has a fireplace, check on that unit as well. Just like gutters, a flue can become clogged by debris or even a birds’ nest or two. Opening the damper and taking a look can reveal any obstructions. When the damper is open, daylight should be visible at the top of the chimney . If any damage is visible, or if it has been a long time between inspections, ordering a professional fireplace and chimney inspection will run between $200 and $500.

Thermal Imaging – What You Can’t See, Can Hurt You

Every home inspector employed at John Robinson’s Inspection Group, shows up to each and every home inspection equipped with thousands of dollars worth of home inspection tools to provide our San Diego and Southern California home inspection clients with the best home inspection services money can buy.  However, the one home inspection tool we would never leave our office without is our thermal imaging camera.  This one tool has allowed us to uncover hidden defects behind wall coverings, ceilings and floors that would have otherwise gone undetected.  We use this camera to locate hidden plumbing leaks, roof leaks, moisture intrusion, overheating electrical circuits and missing insulation that would not be visible with the naked eye alone or without destructive testing.

During a recent San Diego Home Inspection, a hidden plumbing leak was discovered only after the use of our thermal imaging camera or Forward Looking Infrared device.  If this leak would have been left undetected, it would have been conducive to the attraction of termites and mold growths and/or structural damage, potentially costing our clients thousands of dollars in repairs after moving into their brand new home.


During a recent San Diego Home Inspection, a hidden plumbing leak was discovered only after the use of our thermal imaging camera or Forward Looking Infrared device.

Fire Protection

When inspecting a home, the inspectors of John Robinson’s Inspection Group are always thinking about the health and safety of the current and future occupants of that property.  When it comes to health and safety, Fire Protection is always at the top of our list.

Did you know that materials like gypsum board provide passive protection against the rapid spread of a fire?

In single family homes, townhouses and condos with attached garages, a minimum of 1/2 in thick gypsum board or equivalent must be installed on the garage side of the walls and ceilings common to the house or shared attic space to maintain proper fire separation.  Also, 5/8 in thick Type X gypsum board must be attached to the ceiling of the garage under habitable rooms.

There should be no direct openings between the garage and sleeping rooms.   The door to the house from the garage is required to be 20 minute rated, 1 and 3/8 inches thick, solid wood or steel.  There should be no duct openings in the garage (i.g. no central air or heat vent openings that terminate in the garage common to the house).   Ducts that penetrate the common/firewall must be 26-gauge steel.

The most common issue we see are voids, holes or separations in the firewall to allow the passing of water lines, gap piping, and electrical wires from the garage to the home.   All voids in the fire separation between the garage and the home should be sealed with approved materials.

Home Inspector San Diego Fire Wall Separation or Void John Robinson's Inspection Group 619-684-1444 Home Inspector San Diego reveals a void or separation in the fire separation between the garage and livable space of this San Diego Home

If you have any questions regarding fire-separations and/or possible voids in the firewall of a home you currently live in or thinking of buying, please do not hesitate to give us a call at 619-684-1444.

Buying a Home? Be sure to check that crawlspace!

Buying a home can be a very exciting and rewarding experience.  Don’t let your dream become a nightmare by buying a home with a bad foundation.  The inspectors here at John Robinson’s Inspection Group take their time to inspect your home’s foundation and enter every crawlspace to ensure your home’s foundation is in working order.   Check out these picks of a few issues we recently found during a San Diego home inspection in Pacific Beach.

Never Run Out Of Hot Water Again

A large part of my plumbing inspection is to test how well that hot water system is working throughout a home. If your water heater is too small for the home you live in, you may run out of hot water before it’s your turn to use the shower or take a bath. (I hate cold showers) Yesterday, as I was inspecting an 8400 SF home in Rancho Santa Fe, I noticed that this home was only equipped with one 50 Gallon AO Smith Vertex water heater. And guess what, after testing every sink, every shower, every bathtub, and running both dishwashers at the same time, I never ran out of hot water. Check out this short clip. It just might be the hot water solution for your home too. :)