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A PSA for homeowners who have significant others…

portrait-loving-couple-smiling-front-their-house-cute-standing-home-laughing-47990268One way to ensure domestic bliss is to share the responsibilities of the adult world. One person might be in charge of paying bills and buying groceries, the other is in charge of home repair and doing the laundry. The problem is that when you get comfortable in your role, eventually you have no idea how to do the other person’s job.

I received a heart-breaking call today from a woman whose husband had recently passed away. She had just discovered a major termite infestation in her laundry room. “He always took care of things like this! I have no idea what to do.” I referred her to a pest control person that I trust and wished her good luck…but it got me thinking. How many other people out there are in the same situation?

If you are the person in your household who is NOT in charge of home repair, there are a few basic things you should familiarize yourself with, such as:
-How to shut off the water to the house if there is a major leak
-How to shut off the electricity to the house
-How to reset a breaker
-How and when to change the air filter

When it comes to the bigger things that require a professional, the best thing you can do is create a file that has information on repair people that have worked on your house in the past. Do you have a trusted plumber, electrician, exterminator? When did they last work for you and what did they do? Having all this information in one place can save some frustration down the road.

Or better yet, swap jobs every so often.

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Did you know this could happen?

Having your very own in-ground pool in your backyard is the dream of many homeowners. What better way to deal with our Texas summers? The problem with pool ownership though, is knowing how to maintain it. Pool chemicals, pH levels, pumps, filters, cleaning tools…there’s a lot that goes into owning a pool.

Another aspect of having an in-ground pool is understanding the engineering behind the idea of having a large hole in your backyard. In-ground pools have something called a “hydrostatic pressure relief valve”. What does it do? It prevents the pressure of ground water from damaging your pool. Usually, this isn’t an issue when the pool is full of water; the weight of the pool water presses against the ground water and keeps the pool firmly in the ground, where it’s supposed to be.

So, what happens if the pool is drained and the pressure relief valve is clogged, or someone forgets to open the valve? Take a look:

empty pool

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Oops…

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Is your mind in the gutter?

What’s up with all the rain we’ve been having lately?? Oh, I’m not complaining! Here in Texas, we need all the rain we can get. The only downside to it is that we will be battling more mosquitoes than ever this summer. You’ve heard about all the things you can do to minimize their breeding locations, like making sure there isn’t any standing water around your home. The usual places you look for this kind of thing is birdbaths, kiddie pools, planters, etc. BUT there is one major place that most people overlook! The gutters on your home.
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When we get lots of rain, leaves and other debris gather in the gutters and can stop it up. It’s always a good idea to keep your gutters clean so that they function properly, but they also become the ideal place for mosquitoes to breed. Think about it… standing water + organic material + undisturbed location = mosquitoes!
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So, when it stops raining, go get your ladder and clear your gutters. It’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it!

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Potty talk

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It happens sooner or later…a clogged toilet. Not fun. Before you need it, put this on your shopping list: a toilet plunger. Not the regular flat cup ones–those are for unclogging sinks. A toilet plunger looks like this:
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See how it has the flange protruding from it? That’s so it will make a tight seal inside the the toilet. The other kind are pretty ineffectual; it just sloshes the gross water around. No thanks.

The best option is to prevent the clog in the first place. That means not putting anything down the toilet that you shouldn’t. There are only two things that should go in: human waste, and toilet paper. That’s it. Even facial tissue isn’t good for your sewage line. Feminine products are right out, too. So are paper towels, hair, diaries, and chihuahuas. Just don’t.
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If you notice your toilet is not flushing with as much gusto as it once was, you should take steps to address it before it becomes an issue. Here are some home remedies you might try:

Use the plunger that I just mentioned. Do it before it actually clogs and you might avoid any further problems.
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Turn the water supply off and then flush the toilet twice so that the bowl is mostly empty. Add 1/2 cup of dish soap to the water. Let it sit for about an hour. Pour a kettle full of almost boiling water in the bowl, turn on the water supply, and then flush. The dish soap acts like a lubricant, and the hot water will help push everything through.
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Do the same as above, but instead of dish soap, pour in a half box of baking soda, then a half cup of vinegar. Place an old rag over the drain opening and let it sit for about 30 minutes. The baking soda and vinegar will foam up, so you might want to have some old towels handy in case it foams out of the bowl. After 30 minutes, remove the rag, and then pour very hot water slowly down the drain. Turn on the water supply and then flush.

You should avoid harsh chemicals, as they can damage your sewage line and are bad for the environment.

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Selling your house? Get it ready for inspection!

Selling your home can be a stressful event. When a potential buyer hires a home inspector, you want to make sure that they get a favorable report…it can make or break the sale! Here are some helpful tips to get your house ready for inspection.

Your house should reflect that it’s been well maintained. Fresh paint and clean carpets are a great place to start. Inspectors don’t count off for this, but it creates a favorable impression.
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Make sure there are working light bulbs in all receptacles. If there are any bare bulbs, install globes or covers.
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Smoke detectors need to be in good working order, and make sure there is one in each bedroom.
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Ensure that all your plumbing fixtures work–toilets flush, faucets don’t drip, and drains drain.
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Change the HVAC air filters and clean the registers.
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Make sure there is clear access to the attic, crawl space, furnace, AC unit, and water heater.
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The utilities need to be on–water, electricity and gas.
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Trim away foliage from the foundation, siding, roof and chimney.
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Clean and repair gutters and downspouts. Make sure water has a way to be diverted from the foundation.
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Doors and windows need to be in good working order. Caulk and weatherstrip as needed.
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Exhaust fans in the bathroom and kitchen need to vent to the outside of the house, not the attic.
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Check the exterior for rotting wood or loose masonry. Repair and paint as needed.
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A little preparation goes a long way towards a smooth inspection.

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Don’t neglect your hot water heater!

During the winter, nothing feels better than a nice, hot shower. Nothing is worse than having your hot water heater not be able to deliver! That’s why it’s important to do some simple maintenance to keep your hot water heater working at top efficiency. Sediment will build up inside the tank, and it requires regular flushing to keep it clean and working properly. It’s really quite simple and doesn’t require a lot of time or tools to accomplish. Here’s a video that gives a quick tutorial on how to flush your hot water heater:

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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…
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Throw a couple of pieces into your tool box. Why? Chalk absorbs moisture, so it will prevent rust on your tools.
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Put chalk on the tip of your screwdriver to prevent it from slipping when turning a screw.
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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!
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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!
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So there you have it–chalk. Who knew?

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Getting ready to start a DYI home improvement?

When it comes time to spruce up your house with a “do-it-yourself” project, many people aren’t sure where to go for the supplies they’ll need. A big-box retailer? A contractor’s warehouse? Maybe order it online? Before you do any of these things, you might want to check out an excellent local source that supports a good cause…especially if you’re on a budget! It’s the Trinity Habitat for Humanity ReStores.

Habitat ReStores are retail outlets where used and new building materials are sold at a fraction of retail prices. Proceeds from the stores help Habitat’s mission of building homes and hope. ReStores also help the environment by rechanneling good, usable materials into use.

Maybe you’ve already done some remodeling and you have some left-over materials–used doors, windows, light fixtures, etc. Donate them! It helps our community and our environment.

Visit their website for more information: http://trinityhabitat.org/ReStoressponsor

Get your house ready for winter…..now

Author: Kent Keith | Find Us on Google+

As a professional home inspector, I see so many homes with problems that could have been avoided with simple home maintenance. Not sure what to look for when determining what items need attention? Why not consider hiring a home inspector to evaluate your home for necessary maintenance tasks? What better person to know what to look for and care for a home that a home inspector? If you can perform your own maintenance, here is a list of fall maintenance items I hope you will find helpful.

Early fall is the best time to start getting your house ready for the cold winter season. Most people don’t get into the winterizing “mode” until the first cold snap, but he reason early fall is better than late fall is because it is just easier to perform some of the different tasks when the temperatures are warmer. Roofing shingles are more pliable and easier to work with, caulk is applied easier when warm and it’s just nicer to work outside when a cold north wind isn’t blowing on your face!

Here is a good checklist for fall maintenance items

1. Clean those gutters

If your house has gutters, be sure to keep them debris free and if you have large trees over the house, you may have to clean them more that once before they lose all their leaves. Many people think, “I’ll just wait until all the leaves fall, then I’ll clean the gutters”. The problem with this is that it does not take many leaves to stop up the drain spouts and if a hard rain comes, water could overflow the gutters and cause water damage to the roof edges and get under the roof’s flashing.

2. Inspect your roof and repair shingles

Perform necessary repairs to cracked and torn shingles. Use roofing cement to seal in areas that you feel may cause leaks and to secure shingles that you may feel will blow off in high winds. Also make sure tree limbs are not touching or rubbing on the roof. Trim any tree branch that may rub on the roof surface. During my routine home inspections, I have seen several roofs that will require expensive repairs simply because tree limbs were rubbing on the roof surface.

3. Cut back shrubs

Shrubs rubbing against the house can invite insects and rodents to enter the house and can cause siding damage when the branches rub on the house in winds.

4. Caulk Windows

By the time the fall rolls around, more that likely your windows probably have cracked caulking around them. Sealing around your windows on the inside as well as the outside of the house can really cut back the amount of cold air that enters your home and warm air that escapes. You may think that these cracks look so small and insignificant, but when you consider all the cracks around all the windows, that could be a lot cold air coming in! Especially pay attention to those north windows.

Here is a tip if you have those older single pane windows with no storm windows installed.

Take some thick clear plastic and cut it to the size of the window frame. Attach it to the inside of the window around the frame and it should create an air space between the glass and the plastic. This will really help insulate the window and keep the room warmer. I have seen people put the plastic directly on the glass, but that will not create the air space. It’s the air space that insulates the window.

5. Clean the fireplace and flue

If your home has a fireplace, make sure it’s clean and clear of creosote buildup before a heavy season of fireplace use. What is creosote? It’s a black flaky substance that builds up in the flue and the opening of the flue. This substance can become flammable in high temperatures, so keep it clean! Also keep in mind that poorly drafted fireplaces can cause carbon monoxide to enter the living space, so always have CO detectors installed in the home when fireplaces are present as well as gas appliances.

6. Winterize external plumbing pipes ad fixtures

Don’t wait until the first freeze comes to rush out and do this. Calling a plumber to come out and repair a freeze busted pipe is expensive, not to mention the damage that this can cause. Wrap exposed pipes on the outside of the house and the garage with pipe wrap and install covers on the hose spigots. These are easily removed and reinstalled if you need to use the hose in the meantime.

7. Store outdoor furniture

Most outdoor furniture is made of some sort of plastic material that can crack and break in cold temperatures. If you can’t store it in a protected area, at least wrap the furniture in a thick protective covering.

I hope you find this information useful and again, the best way to get a complete analysis of your home’s condition before the cold weather sets in is to get a professional maintenance home inspection. Call or email me if I can answer any question you may have.

Fort Worth Home Inspector

Dallas Home Inspector