Radon Test Before Basement Remodel

It’s time to work on your basement finally. You have a plenty of ideas for what you may want your basement to end up being. It could mean you want an extra bedroom or a comfortable lounging area. You could also make it into a man cave for yourself. The most important thing to do before starting the project is testing for radon.

radon testing for basement remodelImportance of a Radon Test

Radon is an odorless, tasteless gas that happens naturally in some homes. It has radioactive properties that are a health hazard to people and can cause cancer if exposed to it over time. Some areas in the country produce more of this gas than others, so it’s important to test for this.

Radon usually seeps through cracks and gaps in the home, whether that’s in solid floors, walls, service pipes, water supply, etc. In the basement, an uncovered sump pump can release this gas into your home.

Radon can be found in the soil underneath the home. This is how it can seep into cracks in the home. When the radon decays, the radiation is released from the gas, which can cause a plethora of health issues over a long period of time.

Here are some health hazards:

  • Radioactive particles can get trapped in lungs
  • Long-term health issues (cancer)
  • Smoking and radon = higher risk for lung cancer

First Choice Inspectors specialize in home inspection services including radon inspection for your home. If you’re looking to remodel your basement and turn it into a place to hangout with the family, it’s vital for your family’s safety and health to get a radon test done.

First Choice Inspectors

We take pride in our home inspection services for the Chicago area. Our inspectors have been trained and certifies to check your home for many issues, from structural to mechanical, and environmental concerns. Contact First Choice Inspectors at 773-429-9711 today to get a quote on a radon test before you turn your basement into the lounge room you’ve always dreamed of having.

Why It’s Important You Clean Out Your Gutters

Some homeowners don’t realize how important it is to clean out gutters when they get clogged after the fall season with leaves and other debris. It’s extremely important if you don’t want any damage to your house to happen.

If gutters are clogged from debris built up in the fall season, serious problems can happen to your home if not taken care of properly.

Clogged guttersDamages to Your House

Gutter build-up can lead to many different problems including:

  • Roof Damage – if debris is built up in the gutters, water won’t be able to flow as easily away from the house and roof. The excessive water needs to be drained out somewhere, which means if it stays, then it can cause roof damage and water leaks in your home.
  • Broken Gutters and Fascia Damage – gutters clogged with wet leaves, sticks, and other debris can get very heavy after time. The gutters will then break away from the fascia causing more damage to the house and roof.
  • Leaks – clogged gutters can cause roof leaks if they aren’t cleaned out. The standing water will, over time, cause rotting in the roof, which then can cause water leaks inside the house and other damages to occur including mold and mildew build-up in the home.

What should you do to prevent these problems to your home?

The simple solution is to clean out your gutters after a wet, fall season. This will only help you save time and money in the future to your home.

If you suspect damages to your home, it also may be a good idea to get a home inspection done. You may be experiencing problems, but you’re not sure exactly what is causing them.

At First Choice Inspectors, we have the right services to help you identify and solve problems or concerns you have with your home. Contact First Choice Inspectors at 773-429-9711 today, and we can help you get to the bottom of the problem.

Avoiding a Wet Basement Can Save You Money in the Future

If your home’s foundation is causing you several headaches, it must mean there are major problems with the foundation that need to be fixed right away. It’s essential that your home has a solid foundation, especially when living in colder northern climates that have a stone or concrete foundation and a basement.

Staying on top of house problems will save you money on costly repairs to your basement and foundation.

Wet basement cartoonCauses of Wet Basements

There are plenty of causes to a wet basement, and we want you to be aware of them, so you can find solutions to the problem. If there are heavy rains, the groundwater can seep through floors and foundations.

Your gutters also can factor in if they’re not cleaned out properly. The backup of leaves and other debris will cause gutters to overflow, which means the second-floor gutters will drain into the first-floor gutters.

Landscaping can cause issues if grading is not done right. If water is flowing towards the house, rather than away from it, flooding will occur causing a wet basement and damages.

Mold and Mildew

A basement is a perfect host for mold and mildew if it is damp and contains a large amount of moisture. If you’re having problems with a wet basement, you’ll eventually have more problems when mold and mildew grows from this issue. Adding gutter extensions, repairing footing drains, reshaping the landscaping, cleaning out gutters, and utilizing a dehumidifier will prevent your basement from becoming wet, flooding, and growing mold.

A Home Inspection is Your Best Solution

The number one solution to this issue is obtaining a home inspection from First Choice Inspectors!  Part of the general home inspection includes structural components of the house, including the foundation and basement. We check for everything causing your basement to have problems such as cracks and defects, wet basements, and basement mold and mildew.

If you’re in need of professional experience when it comes to foundation inspections and general home inspections, contact First Choice Inspectors at 773-429-9711 today!

What Is Knob and Tube Wiring and Why Is it a Safety Hazard?

Knob and Tube WiringIf you’re thinking about buying an older home, be sure to keep an eye out for knob and tube wiring. This outdated style of wiring, commonly used in homes built between 1880 and 1950, is considered obsolete and may constitute a safety hazard. Here’s what you need to know:

How Does It Work?

Knob and tube wiring utilizes copper conductors that are protected and insulated by porcelain tubes. Along their length, the tubes are supported by porcelain knobs that are nailed to nearby studs and joists. When the wires enter a wall or switch, they are protected by a “loom.” The loom is made of flexible cloth or rubber insulation. Note that knob and tube wiring cannot support three-pronged appliances because it lacks a ground wire.

Is It Dangerous?

Knob and tube wiring is not inherently unsafe. Rather, it can become hazardous due to age, improper modifications and situations where building insulation envelops its wires. Because it has no grounding conductor, knob and tube wiring is also more vulnerable to fires than modern electrical wiring.

Is It Legal?

While knob and tube wiring is not permitted in any new construction, there is no safety code that mandates its complete removal.

Should You Have It Removed

Ultimately, this may depend on your budget. It’s expensive to completely rewire a house, but damaged or improperly modified knob and tube wiring is a serious fire hazard. It’s always best to have a professional electrician evaluate the situation.

A thorough home inspection can help uncover knob and tube wiring, along with other issues that affect older homes, such as faulty insulation, foundation issues and more. If you’re in the Chicago area, call First Choice Inspectors at (773) 429-9711 to get your free quote today.

Keep an Eye Out for Drum Traps in Old Homes

Trap ReplacementIf you’re in the market for an older home, it’s important to look for outdated plumbing and electrical components that might need to be replaced with more modern alternatives. A drum trap, for example, is an obsolete style of plumbing trap that can be found in many old homes. These traps are prone to clogging, and they even constitute code violations in some areas. Fortunately, drum traps are typically easy to spot.

What do drum traps look like?

Look for a reservoir shaped like a coffee can that’s located in the floor alongside a tub, mounted in a closet or hidden behind an access panel. If the drum trap is in the floor, you might be able to see a circular metal cover flush with the floor. You may be able to find drum traps suspended under the flooring in a home’s basement as well.

Why were they used?

Drum traps were designed to capture debris and prevent sewer gas from entering the home. In theory, homeowner would regularly open the trap and clean it to avoid clogging; however, this rarely happened in practice. Try to clean the drum trap now, and you may find that the cover has corroded and can’t be easily removed.

What problems are they associated with?

Clogging is a major issue. Clogs are especially difficult to address with a snake, since water flows into the trap at one level and out at another. Moreover, the metal reservoir can rot out, causing the trap to leak.

What should you do?

The best option is to have drum traps replaced with a more modern design, such as a P-trap. This is an easy and inexpensive fix that can save you a lot of headaches down the road.

A thorough home inspection can help uncover drum traps, along with other issues that are common in older homes, such as foundation problems, insulation gaps and more. If you’re in the Chicago area, call First Choice Inspectors at (773) 429-9711 to get your free quote today.

Warning Signs of Faulty Electrical Wiring

Scorched OutletConcerned about DIY or outdated electrical work in your home or a home you’re thinking about buying? Faulty wiring can be expensive to replace and pose serious safety risks to homeowners. Today we’ll address a few telltale signs of bad electrical work to look out for.

Hot Outlets

Although electrical appliances may generate heat when operating, your outlets should never be hot to the touch. The one exception is dimmer switches, which do get warm in the course of normal operation. However, these should never feel uncomfortably hot.

Flickering Lights

No, it’s not a ghost. Flickering lights are a common sign of a loose electrical connection.

Strange Odors

Some new appliances have a noticeable scent when you first plug them in. However, if you notice an odd smell (particularly a burning smell or the smell of ozone) coming from an outlet, immediately unplug all appliances from that outlet and have an electrician check out the problem.

Fuses That Always Blow, or Breakers That Always Trip

Fuses and circuit breakers are designed to prevent overloading by failing when necessary. If you trip a breaker every time you blow dry your hair or turn on the vacuum cleaner, it’s likely the result of inadequate or poorly-installed wiring.

Crackling, Popping or Buzzing From and Outlet

You should never hear noises coming from your outlets. If you do, it could be the result of loose prongs, fraying wire or another electrical issue.

Sparking

If a fuse box, outlet or breaker panel is sparking, call an electrician ASAP.

A thorough home inspection can help detect faulty electrical work, along with other issues including foundation problems, insulation gaps and more. If you’re in the Chicago area, call First Choice Inspectors at (773) 429-9711 to get your free quote today!

These Improvements Can Boost Your Home’s Resale Value

Painting a WindowThinking about selling your home? Some home improvements offer a better ROI than others when it comes time to put your home on the market. Today we’ll consider a few renovations that can significantly improve your home’s resale value.

Make a Good First Impression

When it comes to job interviews, first dates and home sales, first impressions matter. Refreshing your landscaping and adding a fresh coat of paint to your home can go a long way toward increasing its resale value and making it easier to sell in a competitive market. According to one study conducted in 2016, a complete landscaping upgrade can offer an estimated 105 percent return on investment.

Give Your Siding a Facelift

If you currently have dated vinyl siding, consider replacing it with modern fiber cement siding. Not only will your home look more attractive in realtors’ photos, it will also be better-protected against harsh weather conditions.

Update the Kitchen and Bathroom

Kitchen and bathroom improvements are perennially effective ways to increase resale value. Don’t have the budget for a complete redo? Replace worn tile or outdated fixtures to give these high-traffic rooms a cost-effective makeover.

Replace Your Windows

Energy-efficient tinted or double-paned windows can increase your home’s resale value and reduce your energy bills during the summer and winter.

Add a Deck

Buyers will imagine themselves relaxing with a cold drink in the summertime—and pay thousands more for your home.

When you’re ready to start house hunting, you can count on First Choice Inspectors to give you an honest, thorough home inspection so you can get the best possible deal at the negotiating table. To learn more, feel free to give us a call at (773) 429-9711 today!

Easy Ways to Keep Your Energy Bills Low This Summer

Programmable ThermostatDo your energy bills tend to rise with the temperature? Summer is approaching fast, and before long your A/C might be working overtime to keep your house cool. The good news is, there are a few simple steps you can take to reduce your energy bills even during the hottest months of the year.

Unplug appliances you aren’t using.

Did you know that many appliances use power when they’re plugged in, even when you aren’t actively using them? Unplug devices that revert to a “sleep” or “standby” mode with they’re not in use, as well as any plugged-in chargers that aren’t charging anything.

Check your home’s insulation.

Make sure that any gaps around windows and doors are caulked or weather-stripped, and inspect the insulation in your attic to make sure it isn’t deteriorating. If you live in an older home and you’re not sure when it was last insulated, consider hiring a professional to assess its thermal performance.

Use a programmable thermostat.

Air conditioning is probably the single greatest expense on your electric bill during the summer. A modern programmable thermostat can help to optimize your A/C usage so that it’s not running 24/7. Set the temperature no lower than 78 degrees during the summer—each degree you lower it will add another 4 to 8 percent to your energy bill.

Turn on ceiling fans.

Ceiling fans can help minimize your dependence on the A/C by recirculating cool air throughout your home. On average, ceiling fans reduce the temperature in a room by about four degrees.

At First Choice Inspectors, we regularly conduct energy audits that are designed to identify sources of thermal inefficiency and offer suggestions for improvement that can significantly reduce your long-term energy consumption. To get a free quote for your energy audit, give us a call at (773) 429-9711 or contact us online today!

Invest in a Chimney Sweep Now to Prevent Fires Next Winter

Chimney Sweep It may seem far off now, but when winter rolls around again you’ll look forward to the cheer and warmth of a roaring fire in your living room. However, if you don’t maintain your chimney during the warmer months, it can constitute a serious fire hazard.

Our advice? Invest in a chimney sweep now to prevent fires next winter.

What’s dangerous about an unswept chimney? One word: creosote. When you burn wood in your fireplace, the smoke travels up the chimney where it cools and forms condensation. As that condensation hardens, it leaves an oily residue called creosote.

The problem with creosote is that it’s highly flammable. If you don’t have it removed periodically, it can accumulate and create a major fire risk. A mere eighth of an inch of creosote can quickly catch fire. Any stray spark or ember from the fireplace can ignite the creosote, posing grave danger to your health and property.

The solution to creosote accumulation is to schedule an annual chimney sweeping and inspection.

A professional chimney sweep can get rid of any hazardous creosote accumulation and ensure that your chimney and fireplace are safe to use again next winter. Don’t wait until it gets chilly again—the best time to book your sweeping and inspection is during the warmer months, when your chimney is not in use.

Still have some lingering concerns about the safety of your home and its chimney? Feel free to give the team at First Choice Inspectors a call to get your free inspection quote today!

These Home Improvements are Great for Older Homes

Do you live in an older home that could use some updating? There are dozens of home improvement projects that you might be considering, but some of those projects are better-suited to old homes than others. Let’s take a look at a few home improvements that can dramatically improve your home and its resale value in the process.

New InsulationAdd energy-efficient insulation.

Home insulation has come a long way in the past several decades. Not only can modern insulation make your home more comfortable; it can also reduce your energy bills during the summer and winter. If your home feels a little drafty on cold mornings, consider investing in an energy audit to find sources of heat loss that could be sealed with fresh insulation.

Install a tankless water heater.

Another way to reduce the energy costs associated with your older home is by replacing your current water heater with a tankless option. Tankless water heaters are great because they don’t take up much space, they deliver hot water on-demand and they are far more efficient than traditional water heaters.

Repaint the interior.

Many older homes are still painted in colors that were popular in the 1970s and 1980s. Does your home fall into this category? If so, simply updating the interior with more contemporary colors can make a huge difference in its overall appearance. If the current paint in your home is really old, however, you may want to consider having a lead-based paint inspection first.

Install new light fixtures.

In addition to being somewhat unsightly, outdated light fixtures can also hide old electrical wiring that may not be up to code. Consider replacing these old fixtures with modern alternatives, and outfit them with LED light bulbs to help you save money on your electric bill.