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6 Essential Fall Maintenance Tasks

With autumn just around the corner, now is the perfect time for homeowners to get their property in shape and help avoid problems in the months ahead. Here are six key jobs to tackle before cold weather sets in.

  1. Caulk around exterior door and window frames for a tight seal. Look for gaps where pipes or wiring enter the home and caulk those as well. Not only does heat escape from these openings, but water can enter and damage underlying materials, and even cause structural damage.
  2. Check the roof for missing or damaged shingles. Water, wind, ice and snow can cause serious damage to a vulnerable roof, leading to a greater chance of further damage inside the home. Always have a qualified professional inspect and repair the roof, but binoculars can be used to do a preliminary survey from the ground.
  3. Clear gutters of leaves, sticks, and other debris. If the home gets heavy leaf fall, this may need to be done more than once during the season. If the gutters can accommodate them, leaf guards can be real time-savers and prevent clogging. Check the joints between sections of the gutter, as well as between the gutter and downspouts, and make any necessary adjustments or repairs. Make sure downspouts direct water away from the house.
  4. In cold-weather climates, garden hoses should be drained and stored indoors to protect them from the harsh winter elements. Shut off outdoor faucets and make sure exterior pipes are drained of water. Faucets and pipes can easily freeze and burst, causing leaks and increasing the potential for serious water damage.
  5. Have the furnace inspected to ensure that it’s safe and in good working order. Most utility companies will provide basic, no-cost furnace inspections to their customers, but schedule early as there can often be a long waiting list as the weather cools down. Replace disposable furnace air filters or clean the permanent type according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Using a clean filter not only helps with interior air quality, it will help the furnace run more efficiently, saving money and energy.
  6. A wood-burning fireplace can be a real pleasure on a chilly fall evening. For safety, have the firebox and chimney professionally cleaned before use this season. Creosote, a byproduct of wood burning, can build up to dangerous levels and cause a chimney fire that can spread to the rest of the house.

With these easy steps, your clients will enjoy the comforts of home all season long and know that they’re protecting their investment, too.

Water Quality in The Home

Municipal water systems are required to test and monitor drinking water supplies to ensure safe and good-tasting water. But what happens once that water has been piped into towns, neighborhoods, and homes? Older homes may still have service lines made of lead going into the home, which can cause lead to leach into the water. The local water supplier should be able to confirm the presence of lead service lines for homeowners. Older fixtures that contain lead, or lead that was used on pipe joints, can also cause elevated lead levels. Whenever possible, pipes and fixtures containing lead should be replaced with new materials.

Many homes built before the 1960s have galvanized steel pipes. While galvanized pipes do not create chemical contaminants on their own, they are susceptible to severe corrosion which can flake off and clog taps and faucets. In some instances, lead can build up inside galvanized pipes, especially if the service line into the home is or was made of lead. To be on the safe side, it is best to have all galvanized piping replaced.

Another water quality concern is what are known as emerging contaminants, which, if present in a home, usually occur in very low level amounts. These fall into two general categories: health effects and aesthetic effects. Emerging contaminants affecting health include detergents, pesticides, and medications. Other contaminants that don’t affect health may adversely alter water taste, odor, and/or color. Home filtration systems are the most common means of reducing emerging contaminants. Options include faucet or pitcher filters, plumbed, and reverse-osmosis filters that treat the entire home’s water supply. Any filtration system installed should be listed as meeting national standards for reducing multiple contaminants.

Well Water Quality

While most people in North America get their water from municipal water systems, there are also millions who rely on well water at home. Water sourced from a well should be tested on a regular basis for contaminants such as bacteria and metals. If well water coming from the tap tests high for lead, it could be that the water in the well is too acidic, which causes lead to leach from pipes and fixtures. An acid neutralizing system can usually alleviate this problem without the need to replace pipes and fixtures. Other possible well water quality problems can be avoided by making sure wells are located away from septic tanks, livestock, and pooling water runoff. Well maintenance should be on a regular schedule so that any issues can be addressed before they cause health problems for the home’s occupants.

Water quality can easily be tested for metals, bacteria and other contaminants. Contact your local Pillar To Post Home Inspector for more information about this and other added services available.

FOUNDATION CRACKS

Houses of any age will shift and settle over time, resulting in cracks. Cracks may appear in finishes, structural components or both. Though they usually don’t have any structural significance, it’s worth some visual detective work to help homeowners understand the difference between different types of foundation cracks.

Shrinkage Cracks

Concrete shrinks as it cures, so a newly poured concrete foundation may develop small vertical shrinkage cracks, which are not structurally significant. Characteristics of shrinkage cracks include:

  • The crack will be small and vertical, usually less than 1/8” wide.
  • The crack is in the foundation wall only and does not extend up through the structure.
  • Shrinkage cracks usually occur in the middle third of the length of the foundation wall. If it’s located toward the end of the length of the foundation wall, it is probably not a shrinkage crack.

Settlement Cracks

Like shrinkage cracks, settlement cracks are vertical, but they extend up through the structure. In block or brick foundations, cracks may follow the mortar joints in a step pattern rather than vertical. Most settlement cracks are caused by short-term settlement. Ongoing settlement is uncommon but can cause structural problems over time. Here are some ways to get an idea of whether ongoing settlement is likely:

  • Crack size: Settlement cracks more than 1/4” wide are more likely to indicate ongoing movement than smaller cracks.
  • Direction of movement: The edges of a typical settlement crack line up and fit together vertically, much like pieces of a puzzle. If the edges of the crack have shifted, or sheared, so that they no longer line up, the 1/4” rule described above doesn’t apply. This type of crack can be a significant structural concern.
  • Repaired and re-cracked: Unless it is a hairline crack, a settlement crack that was repaired and has re-cracked could also indicate ongoing movement and should be addressed.

Horizontal Cracks – Basement Foundation Wall

In homes with true basements, a horizontal crack in the foundation wall, below grade and running the full length of the basement is likely a sign of foundation failure. For a house with a full basement, the soil outside the foundation wall exerts a tremendous amount of pressure on the foundation wall. Occasionally, unanticipated additional loads exert pressure and cause horizontal cracking in the foundation wall. Do not wait to address this potential issue as it could cause much greater problems down the line, including structural failure.

Contact your local Pillar To Post Home Inspector for further information on these and other home-related issues.

The Vacation-Smart Home

The Vacation-Smart Home
Planning that summer vacation? Here are our top tips to give you added peace of mind while you’re away.

  • One of the most effective steps is to make your home appear occupied. Use timers or an app on a few lights throughout the house, scheduling them to turn off and on at various times after dark.
  • Use extra caution when communicating about your vacation dates on Facebook and other social media. And don’t post photos until you’re back. Information spreads quickly, and you don’t want it to get into the wrong hands.
  • Advise friends and trusted neighbors of your travel plans. Make sure you can be reached in an emergency if necessary.
  • Have the post office hold your mail and suspend any newspaper and package deliveries, or ask a neighbor to collect them for you each day. A buildup of mail or uncollected packages or papers are obvious signs that no one is home.
  • Ask a neighbor to park in your driveway on occasion so it looks like there is someone at home.
  • Arrange to have someone mow the lawn in your absence if you’re going to be gone for more than a week.
  • Close the window coverings in ground-level rooms so that would-be thieves aren’t tempted by valuables and other items visible from outside.
  • Unplug appliances such as the coffee maker, toaster, microwave, computers, gaming systems and televisions. Be sure to leave the refrigerator and freezer plugged in of course.
  • To avoid the potential of water damage from an unpredictable leak or a burst hose, shut off the water supply lines for the toilets, sinks, washing machine, dishwasher, and ice maker. It takes just a few minutes and can prevent coming home to a disaster.
  • Adjust the water heater to its lowest temperature setting or to vacation mode if it has one. Maintaining the hot water at its normal temperature while you’re away wastes energy and money.
  • If possible, pack your vacation gear into the car while it’s in the garage so that you’re not announcing to passersby that you’re on your way out of town.
  • Lock the garage, gates, and storage structures. Don’t forget to lock any side doors to the garage, as well as doors leading into the house from the garage.

Enjoy your time away, knowing that you’ve taken these smart measures to help keep your home safe and secure.