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.

Apps Help to Make Moving Easier

Is there anything worse that moving? Maybe not, but new apps help keep owners and renters organized, on-track and on-the-move.

The free Moving Day app an be launched the moment packing starts to record every item that goes into a box. Once the box is full, a label can be printed with its own bar code for tracking and reference.

When the boxes have shipped and arrived at the new destination, scanning each bar-code  will allow for a quick check to make sure nothing has gone missing. And it something does get broken or lost, the Easy Reporting document feature of this app will provide quick and easy information to the moving company and insurance company.

Move Advisor is another free app, and offers a detailed week-by-week moving checklist. Within the app is a checklist tool, Moving Timeline, which features an action button that suggests ways to complete a particular task faster and easier. For example, tapping the action button underneath “Reserving a Rental Truck” brings up a number of websites for national truck rental companies. The Movers Around You tool helps procure a reputable and reliable professional moving company near any location, providing a list of companies and their contact information.

MyMove is an app with a section to record confirmation codes for utility companies, rather that writing them down on whatever scrap paper is handy. In addition, the Moving Tips section connects users to a regularly updates blog section of MyMovingReviews. This blog is one of the top databases from which users can access expert moving related articles/moving tips and tricks, relocation guides, moving checklists, interview, and more industry news on the web. lets users compare 600 pre-screened, license, local or interstate moving firms, read credentials and reviews, and book online. Plug in the size of the home, the moving date, the location of the new space, and any additional needs like storage or extra drop-off stops. There is a live-chat feature that connects users with advisers. There is also moving information and an app for setting up your moving timeline and making an inventory.

Craigslist is one choice for unloading old furniture, appliances and other home goods when preparing to move. An additional resource,, is now available in the New York and Washington D.C. area fro those who ma want to earn a little extra cash, as well as keep old home furnishings out of the landfill. AptDeco will not only help with pricing, but will pick up items and handle the financial exchange.

To buy or sell home furnishings that might be slightly more upscale, is an online consignment marketplace, with locations currency in San Francisco, Raleigh, Charleston, Atlanta, New York City,and Los Angeles. The company has its own warehouses and teams that will pick up, deliver and set up objects.


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.

Building Permits: Do You Really Need One?

All of the inspectors here at John Robinson’s Inspection Group get asked by our San Diego home buyers from time to time if certain modifications or additions discovered (or disclosed by the sellers) need to be or should have been permitted.   Our answer generally depends on exactly what was modified, changed or added to the home inquestion.  Over the years and after performing thousands of pre-purchase home inspections, we have discovered that most home buyers, home sellers, and home owners have no idea of what needs to be permitted vs what may not need to be permitted.  The following list will serve as a good place to start in determining if your addition or modification needs to be permitted according to the latest International Residential Code (IRC) manual.

According to the IRC, permits are not required for the following:

* Detached one-story accessory structures (tool sheds) less than or equal to 200 sq.ft.
* Fences less than or equal to 6 ft., sidewalks, driveways, swings and playground equipment
* Retaining walls less than or equal to 4 ft. from the bottom of the footing to the top of the wall & with no surcharge
* Water tanks on grade less than or equal to 5,00o gallons & height/width ratio less than or equal to 2:1
* Painting, tiling, carpeting, cabinets, counter & similar finish work
* Awnings projecting less than or equal to 54 inches from exterior wall & supported from wall
* Decks less than or equal to 200 sq. ft. & less than or equal to 30 inches above grade and not attached to dwelling or serving a required exit door

We wanted to provide this list of  what typically can be done to your home without a  permit according to the latest IRC to help clear up some of the confusion for our home buyers, sellers, and owners.   If what you are planning to build falls outside of the list above it is safe to assume that a permit is required.  However, your local city/county building official has the final say regarding what needs to be permitted.  So before you build be sure to contact your local building department to prevent problems and hefty fines down the road.

Stop Throwing Your Money Away!

Heat loss occurs more rapidly on homes that are poorly insulated.  This will lead to higher utility bills.  Here is a thermal image of the ceiling of a home we recently inspected here in San Diego that had a very large gap in the attic insulation.  The homeowner had no idea this condition even existed in their home because this was located in an inaccessible section of the attic space and could only be seen with our thermal imaging technology.  To ensure that your home is properly insulated be sure to thoroughly inspect the attic space and walls.  However, some areas will not be visible, so the use of equipment like our thermal imaging cameras may be needed to do a more thorough inspection.