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Safe at home

As we enter the gift-giving season, now is a good time to consider your home security options. Unfortunately, there are too many people out there who will happily help themselves to whatever package is left on an unsuspecting homeowner’s doorstep. However, there are lots of options for new high-tech cameras that are currently on the market. Many can be installed as a DIY project. Surveillance cameras are an excellent deterrent for would-be thieves–especially if they know they are being recorded. Here are some good products:

The Kuna Smart Home Security System

kuna

It replaces your existing porch light with one featuring a built-in video camera, a motion detector, a Wi-Fi adapter, and a two-way intercom. It connects to your home network and sends alerts to your smartphone when someone approaches your door. It will also record a downloadable video clip, and you can speak to the person in real time or play pre-recorded greetings. You can push a button to play three pre-recorded messages in a male voice: “Can I help you?” “I’m sorry, we’re not interested,” and “I’m sorry, we’re pretty busy right now.” If your unwanted visitor proves reluctant to leave, you can sound a 100dB klaxon that should do the trick. You can use the system as a stand-alone product, but it doesn’t permanently store the video feed. They do offer a subscription for monitoring for a monthly fee.

Nest Cam Outdoor
nest

This one has many of the same features as the Kuna (except the pre-recorded greetings) but this one just plugs into an outlet and you mount it on the house. It also offers a monthly subscription for monitoring if you want the video feed to be saved. Very easy to install yourself.

Ring
ring

The Ring Wifi enabled video camera is integrated into the doorbell. It is motion activated and you can access it through your smart phone. It can be hardwired or battery powered. You can also speak to whoever is at your door from anywhere in the world, providing you have cell data service. It can be paired to your computer, or for a monthly fee, the video feed will be uploaded to the cloud for storage.

Stay safe, and Happy Holidays from Green Tag Inspection Services.

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Like a house on fire…

fire
A while back, the Today Show ran a story about how modern homes and furnishings burn faster than those of 30 years ago. According to their report, that means less time to escape a burning home!
If you’d like to read up on this, click here to learn more.

Remember to keep your smoke detectors in good working order, and make sure there is one in every bedroom. Stay safe!

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Need a lift?

Attic Lift
Sometimes I come across a clever new innovation that catches my attention while on an inspection. Recently, I was inspecting a house that had a lift system installed that will raise items into the attic of the home without having to carry anything up a ladder. It’s made by a company called Versa-Lift.
Continue reading

Pool fence? Check.

Texas law requires that swimming pools have a fence that completely encloses it to prevent children from gaining access. This was one homeowner’s solution…a PVC pipe fence. I can hardly image that this was a more cost-effective way to do it than just putting up a conventional fence. Maybe they own a PVC factory? Not to mention the sheer time and effort it must have took to build. Each one of those vertical pipes are wired to the horizontals. It looks to me that if a kid really wanted to get inside, it would just take a good push.
DSCN2501

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…and that’s why you don’t stick your hand down holes without looking first.

Can you see it? Look closely. This little fella found himself a nice, cool, dark place to chill out in. This was inside a water shut-off at a house I inspected. Probably just a harmless rat snake, but still– it would have been a nasty shock for both of us if I had just reached in and groped around for the valve.Snake pic retouched

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Let’s talk about chalk…

Did you know that chalk isn’t just a kid’s art supply? It has lots of useful properties that a homeowner should know about. Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can put chalk to work for you…
chalk
Throw a couple of pieces into your tool box. Why? Chalk absorbs moisture, so it will prevent rust on your tools.
toolbox
Put chalk on the tip of your screwdriver to prevent it from slipping when turning a screw.
screwdriver2
Do you have a key that sticks in a door lock? Rub some chalk along the teeth and tip, and then slide it in and out of the lock a few times. Problem solved!
Key-Door
Use chalk to temporarily touch up scuff marks on walls, and to fill in small nail holes. Chalk comes in a variety of colors, so you should be able to approximately match the color of your walls.
nail holes
To get an exact fit when installing door hardware, use chalk to coat the underside of the hardware on the door, then shut the door. The chalk will mark the exact location for latches, locks, etc.
Denver-Door-Installation
Since chalk absorbs moisture, put a few pieces in a small mesh bag and place it in a musty closet, or a clothes hamper that is prone to mildew. Change the chalk every couple of months.
child-wicker-laundry-hamper-fb
Place some chalk in your jewelry box or drawer where you keep silver items. Not only does it absorb moisture, it absorbs sulfur compounds that cause tarnishing.
silverware
Chalk will also absorb grease. If you get a grease stain on fabric or suede, crush up some white chalk and coat the spot. Let it stand overnight and then brush away.
grease
Here’s a weird fact…ants won’t cross a chalk line. Rub chalk over areas where ants can get in your house, like window sills and thresholds. It will disrupt their scent trail and confuse them into thinking they are going the wrong way. This might just be temporary, but it’s worth a shot!
ants

So there you have it–chalk. Who knew?

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Don’t step on the white fluffy stuff!

Author: Kent Keith | Find Us on Google+

Home inspection in Dallas. Buyer was a young mid twenties guy. Wanted to know how to change the air filters. I failed to tell him to not step on the white fluffy stuff. He did not fall all the way through but I bet by morning he wished he had.
Lesson learned…..always tell clients “don’t step on the white fluffy stuff”
damaged ceiling

The Buyers Guide To Home Inspectors and Home Inspections

Author: Kent Keith | Find Us on Google+

Understanding home inspection and choosing the right home inspector can be a difficult task, especially if you dont know what questions to ask. I hope this guide is helpful if you are a first time buyer and need to know what home inspections are all about or have purchased many homes, you will probably find information here that you may not have thought of. Whether you hire me as your inspector or not, you owe it to yourself to learn as much as you can about the most expensive purchase you will ever make….your home.

The History of Home Inspection
The home inspection industry is still relatively new. To the home buyers of the early 1900s, property inspections were non-existent. In this simpler era, the purchase of a home was a simple bank transaction and a handshake. The thought of suing someone over a home purchase problem was not on anyone’s mind. As long as the roof didn’t leak and the house was basically sound, everyone was happy.

By the 1960s, the home purchase process became more complicated and included attorneys, appraisers, escrow officers and other legal issues and paperwork, but the cost of an average house was barely two years income of a single working person. Interest rates were very low and homes were so affordable, people accepted flaws of a house as part of the deal. Although the home inspection industry was still not introduced yet, the “home inspector” of this era was your uncle Bob that knew something about construction that gave his opinion of the house.

Then came the 1970’s and societal changes went crazy affecting all aspects of business and finance. House prices escalated to unimaginable levels. With high down payments and monthly installments, more and more people were now unwilling to accept the “as is” home conditions. Real estate agents were growing increasingly tired of being the one blamed when home defects were discovered after the sale. Then came the second generation of home inspectors….contractors. Contractors and handymen saw an opportunity to look over a home and give an opinion to the buyer as to what needs to be fixed and made a good living performing the repairs as well. Of course, this is a direct conflict of interest since someone who does inspections should not perform the repairs as well. They didn’t have to be licensed as inspectors since there was no such license, carry insurance and were not regulated, so their services to the public were not always honest or reliable and in most cases, these services weren’t even known to exist by many.

By the early 1980s, the demand for disclosure caused the formation of the first home inspectors as a recognized true profession. Also emerged was the need for regulation, continued education and standards of practice to the newly formed profession with the formation of associations such as ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors), NAHI (National Association of Home Inspectors) and TAREI (Texas Association of Real Estate Inspectors) and others. Texas then led the nation as the first state to license home inspectors and many states followed suit, while some states even to this date, still don’t license home inspectors, eventually probably will.

As the home inspection profession is still evolving, continual changes are always being made to make sure the
home buyers are protected and ensure the inspectors are top notch. As of 2008, Texas is has mandated the
requirement of Errors and Omission Insurance for inspectors to carry and later in the year will introduce a new
report form and standards of Practice (SOP).

The Home Inspection Process
First of all, what exactly is a home inspector?
Actually that can be a good question. If I were to sum it up, I would say that we are consumer advocates. We work for the customer to use our knowledge of houses to help you gain as much information about the home as possible so that you know what you are buying and maybe negotiate for repairs, upgrades or money off the price of the house. I can tell you what we are not.

We are not:

Code Inspectors
We do not enforce building codes on existing homes, although we do if we inspect new homes and homes outside city jurisdiction. But in a typical existing home purchase transaction, we do not inspect for code compliance or be confused with city building inspectors that oversee the construction permits by the city. These inspectors work for the city and spend little time at the house during construction or a remodel job only to ensure building codes are
met. As a professional inspector in a purchase transaction, we go over the entire home to look for defects and spend hours at a home, not minutes. Used existing homes never meet current codes, but it may be useful to know what these new codes are in case you choose to keep the house updated. Sometimes I refer to current codes for safety items such as smoke detectors so that I have justification to alert the buyers to have these items corrected.
Even though we are not code inspectors, I do find it ironic that if we were to get sued by an angry homeowner, the prosecuting attorney would be quick to pull out all the code books!

Specialists

We are general inspectors, not specialists in any particular field. We are not licensed plumbers, electricians or engineers. If we find that a particular item in a home is found to be in need of repair, we then advise you to have a specialist in that field to evaluate it. We don’t take apart air conditioners or dishwashers to tell you what is wrong with it, we just report that it does not work or is incorrectly installed.

Psychics

We can’t tell you how long something will last. We can however tell you how long an item such as a water heater or furnace should last, but you need to remember that an item can work perfectly at the time of the inspection and blow up the next day!

A Home Warranty Company

We do not warranty items in a house or give guarantees. You are always encouraged to purchase a home warranty and your Realtor should also advise you to.

Estimators

I may be speaking for myself on this issue, but I don’t give estimates for repairs. I think any inspector that does is asking for a lot of trouble. I get asked by many customers, how much will it cost for a repair or upgrade. Some upgrades are pretty standard but I don’t know what materials and labor rates are for most, so I would only be throwing out a number off the top of my head…..and you would be calling me when I’m way off! As far as repairs, how can I give an estimate when I don’t know what exactly is causing the problem? An air conditioner that won’t come on could have a bad breaker that may cost $6.00 or may need a complete replacement with the costs in the thousands.

When should I schedule the inspection?
As soon as you have a contract on the house. Most contracts give you want is called and “opt out period”. The opt out time can vary and in the Dallas / Fort Worth area, 10 day seems to be the norm. During this time, you will need to have the home inspection performed and any estimates for repairs gathered so that you may either pass on the purchase or negotiate the home’s price. DO NOT wait until the last few days on the opt out period to get the home inspected. The good inspectors are usually booked ahead and you may have to settle on an inspector that is available with less experience. It is also advised have your inspector already picked out when you are still in the shopping phase so you aren’t rushed, home buying is stressful enough.

The scope and limitations of a home inspection
There is risk in purchasing anything including a home. Having a home professionally inspected does not eliminate the risk, but a thorough inspection does reduce that risk. I am asked frequently when a potential client calls as to what items are covered with the home inspection. Basically most all the home’s components from the roof, on down to the foundation are inspected. The roof, electrical, plumbing, attic area, interior, AC and furnace and the appliances are inspected. You need to understand that only the accessible and visible components can be expected, since we can’t open walls and floors or move furniture. The attic can be covered with insulation and many items can’t be seen. Here are the current standards of practice for the state of Texas. You should carefully read the standards so you won’t be confused or disappointed.

The home inspection contingency
In most cases with existing home purchases, you have within the opt out period a contingency to buy the home “as
is” based on the inspection report. Or if you decline the acceptance, then you have the following options.
1. Ask the sellers to make some of the needed repairs. You should be sure to address safety issues.
2. Ask the sellers to make all the needed repairs.
3. Ask the sellers to adjust the home’s price based on the needed repairs.
4. Ask the sellers to credit you the cost of the repairs.
5. Decline to purchase the property altogether.

If you choose to have the sellers to reduce the price or make repairs, the sellers have choices themselves.
1. Agree to make some of the repairs.
2. Agree to make all the repairs.
3. Agree to reduce the home’s price or give credit.
4. Tell you to take it or leave it.

Many buyers, especially first time buyers think that just because we have repair items in our reports, that the sellers must make repairs. This just isn’t true. The sellers are not under any obligation whatsoever to make any repairs. It just boils down to how bad to the sellers want to sell the house and or be fair in the sale. It also depends on whether it is a buyers market or a sellers market in the area. I an buyers market, most sellers will turn back flips to sell their
house.

How long should an inspection take to perform?
It depends on many factors such as how large a house is. For example, if the house has a pier & beam foundation, it takes longer to crawl under the house and inspect. If the home has a swimming pool and sprinkler system, that takes time also. It also depends on how thorough and fast the inspector is. A typical home inspection on an average size house should take about three house and spend at least 30 minutes with you going over the findings. If an inspector is in and out in 1 – 2 hours, in my opinion, you did not get a thorough inspection. Some inspectors want to make as much money as they can by flying through the inspection and on to the next one. I would ask how long the inspection will take when interviewing the inspector to see how thorough the inspector is.

Why you should attend the inspection
I perform many home inspections for people that are out of town and are moving to the area, so I write my inspection reports to be as detailed as possible with many photos for clarification. However, you should try your best to be present for the inspection and ask as many questions as you can. Some inspectors do not like you to stay with them throughout the inspection, but personally I love showing and teaching the customer about the house. This may also be one the pre-screening questions you may want to ask.

How to choose the right home inspector
Choosing the right home inspector can be daunting, especially if you have never needed to hire one before. By reading this guide, you should have a good idea of what questions to ask when interviewing an inspector. Many people have the impression that all professional home inspectors are all that same since we all go by the same standards. Nothing could be further from the truth. If two inspectors were to inspect the same house, the inspection reports and findings could be quite different. Some inspectors try harder, are more experienced and are more thorough that others. Even some of the veteran inspectors that have decades of experience are too lazy to get on the roof, climb in the attic and crawl under the house on pier & beam homes….another reason why you should attend the inspection, to make sure the inspector is doing their job. Here are more factors you should consider in choosing the right home inspector.

Home inspectors licensing

Verify that the inspector is properly licensed if the state requires licensing. Texas home inspectors are required to be licensed.

Home Inspector Experience

It may surprise you to learn that anyone can become a Texas professional home inspector in no time. While experience in the construction industry is very helpful, it is not required. This may change in the future, but as of now, a person just has to attend the required hours at an approved home inspection school and pass the state home inspection test and they are considered a professional home inspector, although they have never inspected a single home in their life. The inspector you hire may be performing their first inspection ever.

Professional Affiliations

Most home inspectors join a home inspector professional organization to take advantage of benefits and sharpen their skills since these organizations also require continued education hours for membership. Inspectors can also learn from each other at meetings and conventions. Texas home inspectors by state law are required to complete 16 hours of approved continued education. The most prominent of these associations are ASHI, NAHI, InterNACHI
and TPREIA.

Insurance

Texas has recently adopted a new law requiring home inspectors to carry a minimum of $100,000 of professional liability insurance. This is required at license renewal, so at this time, some Texas home inspectors may not carry it yet.

Is the company a multi-inspector firm or are you an independent inspector?

The majority of home inspectors are full time independent inspectors but there are some inspection companies that have multiple inspectors. Remember this, when you hire an independent inspector, you know who will show up to inspect your house. When you use an multi-inspector company, you may not know anything about the inspector’s qualifications or experience. These inspectors only get a cut of the inspection fee and some may not put forth the
extra effort to do a great job for you.

Ask to see a sample report

Ask to see a sample of the inspector’s report. This should give you an idea of how thorough and if the inspector includes pictures of defects. Most all inspectors use computer generated reports and some post them on their website to view or can email you a copy.

Should I choose an inspector my sales agent is referring?

That really depends on how much trust you place in your agent. Some agents may want you to use an inspector that does a quick inspection and writes basically nothing in the reports so the transaction goes through fast and easy. If your agent is one of the more professional agents he or she will want you to have the best inspection possible, after all it’s their reputation on the line when they make referrals. If you are not sure if you should let the agent pick the home inspector, then seek out your own. You have every right to chose your own inspector and don’t ever let a sales agent tell you otherwise.

Don’t choose the cheapest inspector

Please believe me when I make that statement. When I get calls from potential clients that is usually the first question that is asked. I don’t think it’s because people are just cheap, they just don’t know that else to ask. While I understand that no one wants to pay more than they have to, you get what you pay for. You aren’t buying a bottle of soda pop at the store where all of them are the same, you are buying a professional service. The cheapest inspectors are usually the new ones that have trouble getting work or perform inspections as a sideline. I know of a lady that was determined to hire the cheapest inspector she could find and after the sale, found out the insurance company would not insure her roof because the shingles were installed over the old wooden shingles, which were clearly visible from the attic. She wound up having to pay for the whole roof at about $6000 in trying to save a mere $25.00 in inspection fees.

Size matters

This may sound silly but think about it. If your home inspector is a very large person, would he or she be able to properly inspect tight and small areas of the house such as the attic and crawlspaces? I remember inspecting an older home last summer that had a very low pitched roof where the minimum height requirement of the attic was lower than the state’s standards and not to mention the intense heat. Although I was not obligated to crawl through
the attic, I will always do everything in my power to do my job. When I got to the vent exhaust flues for the furnace and water heater, I was so glad that I made the extra effort. As you can see from the pictures below, both flue pipes were disconnected from the roof vents and were exhausting hot gases directly to the wood roof sheathing and scorching it. Not only did this allow carbon monoxide to build up in the attic but was a bonfire waiting to happen! I shuttered to think of how many inspectors would not have attempted to crawl in such a narrow and hot attic.
Scortched_roof-716x315

Great Garbage Disposer Tips

Author: Kent Keith | Find Us on Google+

Holidays are a very busy time of the year for everyone….including plumbers. In preparing holiday dinners, the garbage disposer gets a workout and if not careful, you may just find yourself calling a plumber and having to pay up to double the normal rates for emergency and holidays. Here are some tips on garbage disposers that may prevent you from calling Mr. plumber.

Garbage disposer

Tips on operating your disposer

* When placing food in the disposer, take time to put small amounts in at a time. Don’t pack the disposer full then try to grind. This will increase the chances of stopping up the unit and puts extra stress on the motor. If your home is on a septic system, it is more critical of the amount of food that is put in the system.
* Don’t run hot water through the disposer when grinding food. Cold water will keep the food more solid and will allow the disposer to grind the food more efficiently.
* After it sounds like the food has finished grinding, leave the water running for about 15 more seconds to wash the food down the drain.
* When leaving on vacation or for a long period of time, operate the disposer with the water running for about 30 seconds to ensure there is no residual food in the unit. This can prevent you from returning home to a stuck disposer.
* Never put your hand down a disposer with the unit plugged in or the breaker still on.

What to do if the disposer won’t turn on

First determine if there is power to the disposer. If you can hear a humming sound from the unit, then there is power and just may be jammed. If you do not hear any sound coming from it, then check these items.

* Is the reset button on the bottom tripped? Most people don’t realize there is an overload breaker on the bottom of the disposer. This may trip if the disposer is under too much stress and prevents the motor from burning out in case it gets jammed. The reset button is located on bottom of the unit and is usually red, but not always. After pressing the reset button, see if the unit comes on or hums. If not, check the breaker at the breaker panel and some circuits may be wired through a GFCI receptacle above the kitchen counter, so see if that may be the problem. If you have checked all these and still don’t have power, the disposer may be broke or jammed.

How to unjam a disposer

If the disposer makes a humming sound or trips the reset button, then it may be jammed. To manually turn the unit and unjam it, follow these steps.

* First disconnect the electrical power from the disposer for safety. There should be an electrical outlet under the sink that the disposer is plugged into that you can unplug or if it is hardwired, go to the breaker box and turn off the breaker.
* Next get the disposer wrench to manually turn the disposer to loosen it. If you don’t have the wrench, look under the sink at the drain pipes. Sometimes I have seen plumbers that installed the disposer tape the wrench to a drain pipe near the disposer. If not you may have a 1/4 hex wrench (allen wrench) in your toolbox or these are available at any hardware store or large department store. The wench is inserted at the port in the middle of the bottom of the disposer. Turn it around a few times then reverse it a few more that that should do the trick. If you simply can’t get a wrench, try putting a broom handle or something similar down the disposer opening and try to push the grinder around this way

What if the disposer operates but won’t drain?

If water backs up in the disposer and won’t drain, try checking the drain pipes for blockage. The easiest way to do this is to remove the ‘P’ trap. Put a large pan or bucket under the ‘P’ trap and remove the two pipe nuts. These should only be hand tight, but the may require a large set of pliers to remove. Remove and check for blockage in the trap pipe and the pipe going to to the disposer outlet. A wire coat hanger can be used for this if you don’t have a pipe auger. If this is not the problem, the blockage may be further down the pipe and a plumber may have to be called.

P trap

What not to put down a garbage disposer

* Grease. Grease will eventually solidify and clog a portion, or all of your drain.
* Egg shells. Some people think egg shells will sharpen the disposer blades but will only help in clogging the drain pipes.
* Large bones. Needless to say large bones will dull the blades, could get caught and jamb the disposer and clog the drain pipes.
* Rice, pasta and potatoes. Residual Starchy foods can swell and jamb the disposer.
* Fibrous and stringy foods like celery, asparagus and corn husks can wrap around the motor and jamb it.
* Coffee and tea bags have acid that can deteriorate the inside of the disposer.
* Don’t clean your fish aquarium at the kitchen sink. Hard pebbles can get stuck between the grinder and outer lining of the disposer and may permanently jamb the unit.

How to keep your disposer fresh and clean

Here are some ideas to keep your disposer clean and fresh.

* Run plenty of hot water and soap down the disposer daily.
* Grind small ice cubes to clean the grinding teeth.
* Grind orange or lemon peels.
* Flush a cup of baking soda through the disposer.
* Place a couple of drops of mint oil through with hot water.

Kent Keith

www.fortworthinspector.com

Fort Worth Home Inspector