Thursday, December 23, 2010

New Year’s Resolution Ideas for your Home


As we list out our own personal New Year’s resolutions, there may be some other areas that are in dire need for some attention in 2011 too.  Like your home. Whether you haven’t had the time or the energy, 2011 is a great year to get some of those home projects in motion.  HomeTeam Inspection Service business owner Ed Miehlke offers some expert tips on simple projects to make your home a priority this year.

New Year’s Resolution Ideas for your Home
By Steve Coomes

 "He who owns a home deserves it!"
Author unknown

While most homeowners regard their domiciles with pride and joy, there is wisdom to be inferred from the wizened wisecrack above: homeownership implies regular work.

Be it patching cracked plaster, attacking a weedy lawn or something major, such as replacing the HVAC system, the need to invest in a home—be it with money or mere sweat—never ceases.

But experts insist that homeowners who stay ahead of the game with regular preventative maintenance not only work less on their properties, but can avoid costly expenses that zap the already burdened budgets of many.

"There's a lot of truth to the old saying that a stitch in time saves nine," said Harry Rimmer, a Wayne, Pa., franchisee of House Doctors, a 90-unit professional handyman service. In other words, "there are so many minor things a homeowner can do on his own to keep him from facing major repairs."

But while Rimmer believes many homeowners are capable of performing small maintenance tasks, many become overwhelmed by what appears to be a lengthy and almost insurmountable to-do list. His advice: Start somewhere and scratch items off the list.

Ed Miehlke, a franchisee of 175-unit HomeTeam Inspection Service, agreed and advises homeowners to triage that task list according to the season.

"Right now we're in the fall, so you need to be sure your gutters are really clean," Miehlke began. "That ensures you don't have water backing up and ice forming inside them when winter comes."

Planning on selling your home? As an inspector, Miehlke said neglected basic home maintenance leads to sellers having to spend major dollars fixing in order to make their properties sellable. On the other hand, performing these duties regularly and keeping a journal of when you did the work can assist in the speedy sale of any property.

Miehlke and Rimmer teamed up on a "12 Months of Maintenance" checklist homeowners can address seasonally and a little at a time. Several of the items can be addressed outside of months they suggested, but both stressed each point should be addressed well ahead of the applicable season.
  • January: Clean and/or replace clothes dryer vents. Not only will it reduce fire hazards, it will boost the performance of your dryer which saves money on energy use. Remove all holiday lights and decorations, both because your neighbors want you to, it makes the yard safer for playing in the snow.
    • Beauty tip: Frame and hang some of those photos you shot last year
  • February: Inspect the outside of your house prior to a snowfall. Why? "Because you'd be surprised at what can get caught in a snow blower and damage it," said Rimmer. Once you retreat from the cold, it's a good time to inspect drywall for cracks that need patching. The arid air from your furnace will help the mud dry quicker and allow for painting sooner.
    • Beauty tip: Since the weather outside is frightful, choose just one room to paint so you don't become overwhelmed by the thought of it.
  • March: Check to be sure your sump pump is working properly before spring rains arrive. If you live in a storm-prone area, experts recommend a battery backup system to cover you if you lose power. Now is also the time to apply lawn fertilizer to get a jump on weed control.
    • Beauty tip: Spruce up your landscaping. Wet soil makes for easy planting of bushes, shrubs and trees.
  • April: Now that the rainy season has arrived, check downspouts around the outside the house to be sure water is flowing freely and away from the foundation. Water gathering at edges of the house can damage the foundation.
    • Beauty tip: Check for winter-damaged surfaces, such as shutters, gutters and landscape lighting. Some touch ups here and there will invigorate the exterior look again.
  • May: Service air conditioning compressor and blower unit when temperatures are at least 70 F to ensure normal Freon performance. Schedule biannual visits with HVAC provider "so they call you, and you don't have to remember to call them," Miehlke said.
    • Beauty tip: Mild weather is perfect for more significant jobs such as laying a brick paver path or building a gazebo. It's also a good time to plant perennials.
  • June: Now that somewhat drier weather is here, it's a good time to clean and seal your wooden deck. Our experts recommended pressure washing the entire surface, allowing it to dry for two days and then coating it with a high quality water-resistant stain or seal. Well kept decks add tremendous value to homes, but poorly maintained ones can wipe out that same value.
    • Beauty tip: Make your home inviting to guests by considering new deck furniture or chairs for your porch.
  • July: In the heat of the summer, it might be wise to find inside chores such as simple appliance maintenance. Dusting the refrigerator condenser and cleansing its fan of debris increases its efficiency and lowers energy consumption. Same for washing or replacing the filters in your range hood. If you have a down-draft exhaust system, request a professional service visit to check the vent pipe.
    • Beauty tip: Sometimes deconstruction, such as removing an old swing set, will serve as a facelift for the property. If you have fences, it's a great time to paint them.
  • August: Traditionally this is the hottest and driest month of the summer, which means it's a good time to seal asphalt driveways. Sealing reduces the chance of water seepage into cracks, which can feed roots under the drive and, just as damaging, allow ice to form and expand.
    • Beauty tip: Your lawn is growing again, which means it's a great time to aerate and fertilize. You'll love the boost of green the lawn will get.
  • September: Take a good look at your roof to ensure all shingles or tiles are in place. According to Rimmer, a small number of loose shingles can be repaired easily by a pro, but if left unfixed, the result could be water damage and further loss of shingles. The milder weather provides a good chance to restore door gaskets to before the cold sets in—and don't forget the bottom of the garage door! And speaking of those, take the time to grease its bearings and adjust chains that do loosen over time.
    • Beauty tip: Plant fall flowers, such as mums, to brighten your landscaping.
  • October: Have your furnace and humidifier serviced by a professional to ensure optimal combustion and air flow. Ask the service tech if it might be time to get your vents cleaned as well. Now that the air in the attic is cooler, visit the space to see if it could use some more insulation. Examine your windows closely to see if they need recaulking.
    • Beauty tip: Now that the sun is setting earlier, consider landscape lighting to add a dramatic appearance to your home.
  • November: Remove all leaves from lawn to reduce grass kill, and to avoid ice buildup, remove all hoses from outside faucets and shut off their valves inside. Rimmer said frost-free "bibs" placed on outside faucets can help as well, but that hose removal and water shut-off are best.
  • December: Guests are coming for the holidays, so make sure your toilets, showers and sinks and garbage disposals are all functioning properly. Clean lime from clogged shower heads, and replace toilet flappers if leaking.
    • Beauty tip: Take the plunge and join your neighborhood decorating contest. But no need to be this year's Clark Griswald. Sometimes less is more when lights are smartly strung to accent the house's features rather than wash them out.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Home Improvements to Make During Any Economic Climate


During such a tough economic climate, homeowners are often faced with difficult decisions on which home improvements are most necessary for their homes.  HomeTeam Inspection Service would like to recommend a few key areas that should always be a key focus, no matter what the economic climate, to help ensure the structural safety of the home as well as the resale value. 

Starting with the exterior, you should:
  1. Check all windows and doors to make sure caulk is not cracking and separating.  If it is, remove the old caulk and re-caulk with a good quality exterior caulk to ensure your home remains insulated from the outside elements.
  2. Have a professional check your roof, including chimney flashing, skylights, plumbing vent pipes and attached antennas, every two to three years to check for cracks and breaks in sealants to avoid water entering the home and causing interior damage.
  3. Replace old or damaged weather stripping as soon as possible. 
  4. Check exterior water supplies and make sure they are shut off during winter months to avoid cracks or breaks in pipes.
  5. Close any holes, openings or other points of entry where mice or other rodents can enter the home.   

In the interior, homeowners should pay close attention to:
  1. Repair leaky faucets to avoid running up your water bill.  It’s important to make sure that all faucets from all water sources in the house are in sound working order.
  2. Repair running toilets, which will have the same effect as leaky faucets, so if you have a toilet in question, upgrade to a new, low-flush option that will minimize water usage and save you money.
  3. Check caulking around tubs, vanity sinks, kitchen sinks, and replace as needed. Keeping up with caulking will keep water from leaking into unwanted areas.
  4. Check doors and windows for air leaks.  Replace weather stripping as needed to heating and cooling systems working to their maximum efficiency.
  5. During the winter, rid of moisture on windows.  The change in temperature outside to in creates condensation on the windows, so wipe off the moisture consistently to ensure the water doesn’t start rotting any wood around the windows. 

Making home improvements is one of the many responsibilities of being a homeowner.  It’s important to pay attention to the repairs that need to be done in your home to ensure that any small repair doesn’t turn into a major problem.  When you notice that a repair that needs to be made, obtain the advice of a professional who can discuss with you exact requirements for the job. 

Monday, November 1, 2010

Issues with Potential Defective “Chinese” Drywall


By Curtis Carr, owner of HomeTeam Inspection Service in Beaumont, TX


A major problem with defective drywall was introduced about five years ago after the federal government had reason to believe that defective drywall was used in rebuilding homes destroyed or damaged by the hurricanes which swept through the state.  The government then tested homes in Florida and found that some of the drywall used to repair hurricane damage after storms in 2005 can emit hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide gases.  If concentrations of these gases are high enough corrosion of plumbing, electrical wiring, air conditioning, security and other components can occur.  Corrosion can lead to premature failure of these items; and, in the case of electrical components, arcing which presents a fire risk. 

After the defective drywall was discovered in the Florida homes it had to be ripped out and replaced.  In some instances the process of replacing the defective drywall displaced families for long periods and required contractors to gut newly rebuilt or repaired homes.

Many homes up and down the eastern seaboard and gulf coast were also damaged by hurricanes and some of these homes could have also been repaired or rebuilt using drywall either imported or made by the same domestic manufacturers as in Florida.

According to Tom Kiehnhoff, an attorney with the law firm of Reaud, Morgan & Quinn in Beaumont, Texas, literature produced by the drywall industry suggests that the processes used to make the defective drywall found in Florida may have been in use as early as 1990.  Kiehnhoff emphasized that the factors affecting how long it takes defective drywall to cause corrosion are not fully understood and the length of time can vary from one home to another.  He also stated that the federal government has approved inspection and testing methods to determine whether defective drywall has been installed in a home.

Because of the seriousness of this issue, the IRS issued guidance providing relief to homeowners who have suffered property losses due to the effects of certain imported drywall installed in homes between 2001 and 2009.  To read more, visit: www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=228402,00.html.

Homeowners, landlords, potential buyers, tenants and real estate professionals are just a few of the individuals and businesses who should be aware of this issue.   If anyone has a concern or questions whether defective drywall may be present, they should contact a qualified inspector to investigate the issue.  Inspections will require a visit to observe the components in the home and may involve laboratory testing of samples.

HomeTeam Inspection Service is currently doing “Defective Drywall” inspections.  HomeTeam provides two levels of service.  One is a visual only inspection which is designed to locate any corrosion that may be present.  The second level involves taking some drywall samples so that testing can be done in a lab. 
As a home inspection business owner in Beaumont, TX where hurricanes such as Katrina and Rita in 2005 and Ike in 2008 have devastated homes and homeowners have had to make repairs which could have been repaired or rebuilt using drywall either imported or made by the same domestic manufacturers as in Florida, I am holding presentations about defective drywall for real estate groups and anyone else who may be interested in learning more. 

For further questions about defective drywall issues in the Beaumont, TX area, you can call me at 409-838-5440. 

For questions related to this issue in other parts of the country, visit http://www.hometeaminspection.com/ to find a location near you.

Friday, October 8, 2010

PREVENTIVE MEASURES CRUCIAL DURING WINTER MONTHS


With the onset of winter, you will start hearing a lot more about fire prevention.  This is because with the colder weather, heat systems and auxiliary heating devices are used in the home, adding to the risk of fire.  Here are some tips to make sure you take precautions to prevent fires from occurring in your home:
  • Have your heating system inspected.  With regular servicing of your heating system, you benefit by burning less fuel and a system that gets regular service is less likely to break down.
  • Gas-fired furnaces should be serviced yearly and inspected.  Since gas-fired furnaces burn cleaner than oil-fired furnaces, you need not have the flue cleaned every year, but the flue should be checked to make sure there are no obstructions.  Your service tech will:
    • Check for C.O. leaks
    • Inspect the blower system
    • Inspect gas lines
    • Inspect flue system
    • Check filter
    • Check Heat Exchanger
  • You can save yourself costly repair by just changing your furnace filter on a regular basis.  Remember, even in the summer you need to change your filter if you have central air conditioning.  The blower on your furnace is the same one that circulates the cold air.
  • Oil-fired furnaces need to be serviced annually as well.  Since oil does not burn as clean as gas, the flue needs to be inspected every year.  Depending on the age of the unit and how clean it burns, the flue may have to be cleaned annually as well.
  • Boilers need to be serviced annually whether they are hot-water systems or steam. 
  • Heat pumps and electric furnaces also need to have annual inspection to prevent untimely breakdowns.
  • Outside air conditioning units and swamp coolers should be covered
Now is also a good time to:
  • Check your smoke detectors and change the batteries
  • Check your C.O. detector (if you do not have one – it is a small investment for your safety)
  • Plan an escape plan with your family in case of fire (and have a practice drill)
  • Talk to your children about fire prevention
  • Check that garage for flammable items – making sure they are stored properly
  • Check your fire extinguisher (keep one in the kitchen – they are inexpensive)

Friday, October 1, 2010

WEATHERIZE YOUR HOME FOR WINTER


Last winter, we got some of the worst winter weather the country had seen in a while.  The snow and cold were almost unbearable and another cold and snowy winter is sure to come again this year.  Advance preparations can save money, energy, increase safety and allow for an easy transition into the winter months.  Here are some great tips to check into before winter hits.
  • Winterize to Keep Your Home Energy-Tight
    • Use caulk on your home's exterior to seal out moisture and outside air; at the same time, it helps keep heat indoors. Caulk creates a tight moisture barrier which prevents rain and snow from seeping into gaps and joints, causing wood to rot and paint to blister.
    • Place a dollar bill between the door and the jamb or the window sash and sill. With the door or window closed, attempt to remove the bill. If it slides out easily, you're losing energy.
  • Clear Downspouts and Gutters
    • Avoid basement flooding and deterioration of the foundation by cleaning the gutter channels and clearing downspouts of debris. Replace deteriorating or broken gutters and downspouts.
  • Crank the Heat!
    • Turn on your furnace and give it a test-run
    • Change the air filter. This will enable your heating system to run at maximum efficiency which can even help save money on heating costs.
    • If your home has gas heat, check the pilot light, burner and chimney flue.  If not vented properly, you could have carbon monoxide building up in the house.
  • Prevent Trouble Down Below
    • There may also be things that need attending to beneath your property.  For example, flush underground sprinkler systems before the cold sets in by blowing air into pipes to displace leftover water. This is important because water lines are typically only 6 to 8 inches below ground -- and prone to freezing. If they freeze and then burst, you could have a costly repair situation on your hands.
  • Check the Septic
    • Homeowners with septic tanks should also think about pumping them now -- before the ground freezes and snow buries your yard. Septic tanks should be checked once every year and cleaned no less than every three years.
  • Protect Your Pipes
    • Frozen or burst pipes are among a homeowner's worst nightmares. For a preventative measure, add insulation to pipes in unheated areas, which reduces heat loss from hot-water pipes and condensation on cold water pipes.
    • Install a freeze-proof outdoor faucet which will eliminate the problem of a frozen or broken spigot.  These faucets employ a long stem that shuts the water off about a foot back in the house preventing the pipe from freezing.
  • Conduct a Water Heater Check-Up
    • There may also be things that need attending to beneath your property.  For example, flush underground sprinkler systems before the cold sets in by blowing air into pipes to displace leftover water. This is important because water lines are typically only 6 to 8 inches below ground -- and prone to freezing. If they freeze and then burst, you could have a costly repair situation on your hands.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Benefits of a Home Energy Tune-Up by HomeTeam


Going green is all the buzz in today’s world. By exploring additional green possibilities, you can have a positive impact on the environment as well as your wallet. In order to get the most bang for your buck, however, it’s best to be strategic in where you make energy efficient updates. Home energy audits are one great way to get started on making green changes to your home. 

The first step toward converting your house into an energy efficient one is to find out which parts use the most energy. A HomeTeam Inspection home energy audit will pinpoint those areas and suggest the most effective measures for cutting your energy costs. 

In addition to the monetary benefits, going green will:
  1. Increase the comfort of your home
  2. Save money on your utility bills
  3. Add value to your home upon implementing the recommendations
  4. Tax deductions in some cases
  5. Reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions
HomeTeam’s customized evaluation will show which energy-efficiency improvements would reduce energy costs as well as make the home more comfortable.  Our analysis also takes into account regional variables such as the local weather, implementation costs and fuel prices in order to give you a true reflection on savings according to your specific geographic location. 

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Five Tips On How Realtors Can Select Quality Home Inspectors

We’ve been in the industry for a long time, having our franchisees in our 175+ locations work with hundreds of different Realtors interested in getting to the closing table as quick as possible, avoiding any slowdowns that may occur in the home inspection process. 


These simple tips can ensure how Realtors can select home inspectors that are valuable to them as they are to the client in the home selling/buying process.

  1. Look for home inspectors that are certified or licensed according to their area’s specifications.
  2. Agents should get to know the inspector(s) and be comfortable with how they address issues.  The inspector recommended by the agent will be perceived as an extension of the agent’s team.
  3. Look for an inspection company that can bring professional experts to deal with all types of homes and equipment.  In addition to being able to offer a higher quality inspection when the company has the proper resources, it can also be done more quickly and timely.
  4. Look for an inspection company that can do all ancillary services such as pest, radon, mold, etc.
  5. Look for a professional brand image that makes the agent recommendation look good to the client: timeliness, good image on materials, good report, friendly inspectors and clean vehicles.
Most importantly, Realtors should trust the home inspectors on their team.  We train each of our HomeTeam inspectors to be helpful to the agent who is coordinating the entire transaction during the final home inspection process before getting to the signing table.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

HomeTeam Inspection Service highlighted in the Business Journal of the Greater Triad Area

The Business Journal of the Greater Triad Area recently wrote a story about HomeTeam Inspection Service's plans to expand into the Triad Area (North Carolina). With more than 175 locations across the US and Canada, HomeTeam continues to be a viable franchise option given the recent economic downturn. See a portion of the article below, or read the full article here.

Inspection firm targets Triad for growth

Ohio-based HomeTeam Inspection Service is expanding in the Triad, with plans to add three to five franchise locations by the end of 2011.

Greg Haskett, the company’s vice president of Shared Services, said new territories would cover Greensboro and the Winston-Salem- High Point-Thomasville area.

The company wants to add locations in the Triad after establishing high-performing franchise territories in Charlotte and Asheville, he said.

 
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