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.

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.

plumb-leak

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.

Preparing For A Home Inspection

san-diego-home

A beautiful San Diego home recently inspected by John Robinson’s inspection Group

There are good reasons for a homeowner to prepare for a home inspection, including getting the most value for money spent.  While a buyer will almost always request an inspection before the closing, sellers are frequently taking it upon themselves and hiring their own home inspector. This can provide peace of mind to the seller, as well as highlight areas which need to be addressed before a home is put on the market.  The seller choose to make repairs themselves, or be willing to negotiate price with the buyer, based on the items in need of repair.

While the home inspection is conducted by a home inspection professional, both sellers and buyers can prepare themselves for the process

Sellers will have the most work to do, because it is their property that will be examined.  Preparing the house in advance will save time and make the most of the home inspection visit.

An obvious item, but one that is often overlooked , is for the seller to clean the home.  A home inspector does not judge the home or its mechanical systems by its cleanliness, but a home in disarray may lead the inspector to wonder what lurks underneath.  In addition, it will be much easier for the inspector to do their job without having clutter or belongings in the way.

under-sink

Removing clutter and stored items will allow better viewing of the areas that need to be inspected

In particular, areas around appliances, electrical panels, heating and cooling units, water heaters and shut-off valves should be clear and available to the inspector.  Dishwashers and washing machines should be emptied because an inspector will turn them on, even if they are not included in the sale to make sure the plumbing and electrical lines are functioning.

Home inspectors also need access to any attic space, garage and crawlspace.  Doors should be open and unlocked.

While a home inspector is there to point out potential problems, a seller can save themselves hassle by making obvious repairs before the inspection occurs. Walking through your own home and taking not and repairing faucet, broken windows, loose cabinet doors and/or drawers and loose door knobs can keep down the number of items on the home inspection report.  Other issues that may send up a red flag include ceiling stains, wood rot on the exterior trim fascia and eaves, chimney damage, fogged windows, or moisture issues that can cause mold growth.

The seller may not care to fix a larger issue, such as an aging roof, but it makes sense to acknowledge such an issue and then adjust the price of the home accordingly.  Keeping receipts and invoices for recent repair work is also good idea.

pets-and-kids

Lock up the pets not the kids. :) However, children should be supervised if attending the inspection

While many people love animals, pets who follow a home inspector are not always helpful or welcome.  If at all possible, pets should be located elsewhere during the inspection or kept inside a crate away from the areas where the inspector will be working.

Buyers can also prepare for their home inspection simply by being on time and having a list of pertinent questions that they wish to ask.

 

Pre-Cast Fireplace Warning

Pre-cast fireplaces were installed on many homes throughout California during the mid 70’s to the mid 80’s.  We come across them frequently while inspecting homes here in San Diego County.  Many of these fireplaces were cracked or damaged before they were even installed.  Most of the cracks discovered are typically at the “insulation plate” which starts at the fireplace opening and extended to the smoke chamber .  A damaged fireplace can allow smoke, fire and carbon monoxide to enter the home which is a serious safety concern and fire hazard.  During a recent home inspection, I came across this pre-cast fireplace that was severely cracked (one of the worst I’ve ever seen) and not safe for use. The only fix for this fireplace would be to tear it down and build a new one.  If you are concerned about the fireplace in the home that  you currently own or one installed at a home you are considering purchasing, be sure you have it thoroughly inspected by a qualified expert before attempting to use it.

severely cracked pre-cast chimney

A severely cracked pre-cast chimney was discovered at a recent home inspection here in San Diego

Cracks inside the liner of this pre-cast chimney

Cracks were noted inside the liner of this pre-cast chimney

cracked pre-cast chimney

A severely cracked pre-cast chimney was discovered at a recent home inspection here in San Diego

A severely cracked pre-cast chimney was discovered at a recent home inspection here in San Diego

A severely cracked pre-cast chimney was discovered at a recent home inspection here in San Diego

A severely cracked pre-cast chimney was discovered at a recent home inspection here in San Diego

A severely cracked pre-cast chimney was discovered at a recent home inspection here in San Diego

A severely cracked pre-cast chimney was discovered at a recent home inspection here in San Diego

A severely cracked pre-cast chimney was discovered at a recent home inspection here in San Diego

A severely cracked pre-cast chimney was discovered at a recent home inspection here in San Diego

A severely cracked pre-cast chimney was discovered at a recent home inspection here in San Diego

Cracks were noted inside the liner of this pre-cast chimney

Cracks were noted inside the liner of this pre-cast chimney

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 www.home-inspector-San-Diego.com John Robinson's Inspection Group

www.home-inspector-san-diego.com 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.

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.

Why Follow the Inspector’s Recommendations?

Because your health and safety may depend on it.

Your home inspector’s number one priority during a home inspection is identify problems with the home that will affect your family’s health and safety.  This is why the home inspector’s of John Robinson’s Inspection Group strongly recommend that you read the entire home inspection report.  In it you will find further evaluation and/or repair recommendations that can have a direct effect on your family’s health and safety.

For example; If the inspector identifies that the color of the furnace or water heater flame is incorrect, this can be indicative of a problem with the furnace or water heater like a cracked heat exchanger or damaged burner.  A cracked heat exchanger is not always visible during a home inspection.  So, the inspector will recommend that the furnace be further evaluated by a licensed HVAC contractor (or plumber) to determine the exact cause and repair as needed (which may require replacing the furnace or (water heater).

Without reading the entire inspection report and following the inspector’s recommendations, it will be impossible for you to know the true condition of the home that you are purchasing.  We love Realtors and their referrals.  However, do not rely solely on your Realtor to tell you what issues discovered by the inspector are or are not important.  If you have questions or need further clarification on comments made in the inspection report call your John Robinson’s Inspection Group home inspector immediately.  We will be more than happy to help you.

San Diego Home Inspection Incorrect Flame at a water heater

San Diego Home Inspection Incorrect Flame at a water heater

Safety Hazard Discovered During A Home Inspection In San Diego

A safety hazard was discovered during a recent home inspection here in San Diego by an inspector from John Robinson’s Inspection Group. Upon entering the attic space of this North Park area home, the inspector observed that the gas furnace flue pipe was not properly installed.  A separation was noted about halfway between the top of the furnace and the roof sheathing.  This is a serious health and safety hazard.  Every time this gas furnace is turned on, the byproducts of combustion including Carbon Monoxide are allowed to spill or leak right back into the home.  This condition can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Separated gas furnace flue pipe is a Carbon Monoxide hazard

A separated gas furnace flue pipe found in the attic of this home during a home inspection.  This is a Carbon Monoxide hazard that should be immediately corrected

 

Carbon monoxide is known as the “Silent Killer”.  It can prevent the body from receiving oxygen.  Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms can be flu-like: to include nausea, headaches, hard time breathing, weakness, trouble falling asleep, and fatigue.  In large quantities, carbon monoxide can cause fainting, brain damage, or death.

To repair this condition is as simple as hiring  a qualified HVAC contractor to properly reconnect this pipe back together.  This home also lacked carbon monoxide detectors.  The installation of carbon monoxide detectors  in accordance with the National Fire Protection Association installation recommendations will greatly improve the level of safety in this home.  Here’s a link to their website for more information: http://goo.gl/ptA8eP

The inspectors here at John Robinson’s Inspection Group are always looking for health and safety hazards during each and every home inspection we perform.  Our goal is to ensure that the home you are considering buying, selling, or renting is safe for those who are currently or going to live in it.  If you are concerned about safety hazards in your home do not hesitate to contact our office to set up an appointment….Someones life could depend on it.

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.

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.