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Home Inspection

Protecting Your Home from Water Intrusion This Winter

Water DamageWe’re halfway through February, and before too long we’ll be due for a healthy dose of spring weather. Here in Chicago, spring is synonymous with snow melt. One warm day in March might unleash millions of gallons of water onto the streets of our fair city. All that water can be disastrous for homes that aren’t properly fortified against the elements.

Water damage constitutes one of the foremost threats to any home’s well-being. Homeowners’ insurance companies spend an estimated $2.5 billion a year on repairing damage from water intrusion. In the interest of lowering that statistic, in this entry we’ll share a few tips for protecting your home against water damage.

Seal Gaps in Windows and Doors

As much as we’d like to think otherwise, homes are not static entities. Over the course of a home’s lifetime, it will gradually shift as its foundation settles. Over the course of many years, all this shifting can cause gaps to open up around door and window frames. Come melt season, these gaps can allow water into the living space of your home. Use a waterproof caulk to seal these gaps and keep moisture outside.

Install a Sump Pump

This is an especially good idea if your basement has a history of water intrusion. Your sump should be installed at the lowest point in your home, preferably in the middle of the basement floor rather than near walls. Be sure to outfit your sump pump with a backup battery in case you lose power during a storm.

Reseal Your Roof Deck

This will likely require the largest investment of any our suggestions, but it can also be one of the most effective ways to protect your home. Your roof constitutes your home’s first line of defense against water intrusion. Likewise, it’s essential that we maintain it properly. Roof deck sealers are typically thin, flexible membranes that adhere right onto the surface of your roof deck. There are also a number of spray foam products on the market that can help to seal joints between roof sheathing and framing.

Concerned about water intrusion in your home? Give us a call today for a consultation.

Categories
Home Inspection New Home Inspection

Five Signs it’s Time to Repair or Replace Your Water Heater

We often do not realize that our water heater needs to be repaired or replaced until we smell rotten eggs or take cold showers. Knowing what to look for can help you avoid the problem in the future. When you know that your water heater is getting of age, or you plan to sell your home, these are important things to check periodically.

  1. Loud Noises
    This could mean that your anode rode broke off and is floating around in your tank. This could also be a result of lime or sediments in the tank. This can be remedied by flushing out the old water, and replacing it with fresh water. If the problem persists, assistance may be required.
  2. A Leaky Temperature/Pressure Valve
    There is a valve on your water heater that acts as a safety switch. It could be as simple as your tank is just overheating, but it could also mean a leaky valve. This should be looked at by someone with experience, but doesn’t necessarily mean repair or replacement is needed.
  3. The Pilot Won’t Stay Lit
    A Pilot that won’t light usually means the thermocouple is bad. It is not an easy DIY project, we suggest involving a professional. Attempting to fix the problem without the proper experience and tools could exacerbate the problem to the point of needing a replacement.
  4. Rust or Corrosion
    Rust and Corrosion are often the cause of the sulfur smell and leaks in water heaters. There is usually no repair for severely eroded or leaky tanks. This is when it should be replaced completely.
  5. Hot Water Isn’t Lasting
    This is something that should always be checked before selling a home. If your water tank is too small for the size of the house, it makes or breaks decisions. If you have a large tank and know this is not the cause, then there may be a lime build up inside.
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Home Inspection

Trust a Home Inspector with Electrical Inspections

Every home has electricity. So, if you’re moving into a home, you need to make sure that the electrical work is up to code. You could take a whack at it on your own, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Here are 3 reasons to trust a home inspector with the electrical inspection on your home:

Electrical Work is Complicated – If you’re not a an electrician, look at a bunch of wires could look like Latin. If you speak Latin then it looks like some language that you don’t know. You may be able to notice when certain lights or outlets don’t work, but figuring out why or noticing less obvious bu harmful problems won’t be so easy.

Electrical Work can be Dangerous – When inspecting a home’s electrical state, you have to know what you can and cannot touch, as well as other safety precautions and potential hazards. The layman could go into any hazardous situation thinking it’s a walk in the park, so trust someone who knows electrical danger when they see it!

Inspectors Are Not Electricians – This might sound negative, but it’s actually positive. Inspectors will know how to recognize electrical hazards, but they won’t point out things for the sake of finding problems. Look at it this way: have you ever taken your car in for mechanical work? Did the mechanics suggest a bunch of stuff that cost more money and that didn’t seem necessary? An inspector, on the other hand, will only suggest that you fix things that actually need to be fixed.

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Foreclosure Inspections Home Inspection

5 Common Problems in Foreclosed Homes

Buying a foreclosed home can be a very good investment if you have the time and energy to make up for all of the problems that arise from foreclosure. So, before you buy a foreclosed home, get a foreclosure inspection. Here are some common things we see as Chicago home inspectors:

1 – Mold – When people aren’t around to clean, mold grows with ease. Moisture accumulates and the home becomes the perfect environment for various species of mold. This could mean a lot more than cleaning, you may have to replace drywall, beams, etc.

2 – Broken Windows & Siding – The elements and vandals alike love foreclosed homes. Don’t be surprised by broken windows or siding. And remember, siding isn’t there for the sole purpose of making things look nice, it’s there to protect your home, so it’ll need to be fixed.

3 – Infestation – Again, when people aren’t around, rodents, felines, canines, insects and birds make homes. You can’t blame them, but you can’t live with them either. Just because you don’t see them in the living room or basement doesn’t mean they aren’t there. A month after moving in, you might find them in your walls, attic or cupboard.

4 – Malfunctioning Faucets & Toilets – When these go out of use for extended periods of time, they break. Pipes need use to be operational. So, be prepared to call a plumber.

5 – Electrical Malfunctions – This can happen for all sorts of reasons. Animals chew away at wires, lightning hit the house, the prior residents stole electrical components before leaving… anything could happen. Sadly, we can’t live without lights, refrigerators and other electrical appliances, so you’ll need to have these issues looked into.

Keep all of this in mind, have a professional home inspector look into any foreclosed homes for you and good luck in searching for your home!

Categories
Foreclosure Inspections Home Inspection

Avoid Hazardous Dryer Duct Materials!

You probably don’t think too much about your dryer duct. You set it up, it discards dryer air out of your house and there’s not much more to think about.

Or is there?

We encounter this sort of thing all the time during foreclosure inspections. Think about it: dryers create intense heat in small, usually confined spaces in your home. The dryer duct connects directly to your wall and if something goes wrong, you could be left in serious trouble.

Here’s a run down of dryer duct materials:

Plastic – This is an absolute don’t. Plastic can catch fire and spread it at a rapid rate (in other words, plastic ducts are flammable), leading to huge home damage. Stay safe and don’t use plastic!

Foil – While foil is not flammable, it can still virtually disintegrate if a fire starts within it. Some inspectors will not pass a home using this, though it is safer than plastic (and easier to use that semi-rigid aluminum).

Semi-Rigid Aluminum – This material is definitely the best and safest. Like any material, it can deteriorate under intense circumstances, but it has far greater integrity than foil or plastic. The UL listed semi-rigid dryer ducts will definitely offer the preventative safety that your home needs.

Avoid danger by choosing the right dryer duct material. As you know, certain materials withstand heat a lot better than others, in this case the aluminum. You also probably know that it only takes a spark to start a decent fire in the midst of certain materials. So, if you have a plastic or foil duct, get rid of it! Stop the fire when it’s still a spark, avoid danger and pass the home inspection with a semi-rigid aluminum dryer duct.

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Home Inspection New Home Inspection

No – Brick is not Indestructible!

A week or so ago, The Chicago Tribune posted an article about brick homes. After reading it, you might just think that brick homes require no maintenance or upkeep. You might even think a brick home is entirely indestructible. Well, a quick look a this panoramic photo of San Francisco, after the earthquake of 1906 reveals that brick architecture is, in fact, destructible.

Granted, an earthquake produces a little more energy then normal wear and tear from weather and average elements. Even so, that does not mean that the earth beneath your home does shift. Those shifts can really affect the brick structure and, if you’ve ever played Jenga, you know how bricks fall over if compromised in the right way.

So, if you look to buy a brick home (new or used) make sure to conduct an accurate home inspection. A proper structural inspection will reveal if you’re about to walk into the finale of a Jenga game. Only, unlike Jenga, you won’t be laughing if everything topples over!

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Home Inspection New Home Inspection

The Importance of a Good Home Inspection

A recent Chicago Tribune article tells of a family who made an offer on a home before the home inspection. This is probably not too strange in most cases. In any case, as the article states, the couple made an offer of $225,000 on a home in Texas before the inspection proved that the home required between $20,000-$30,000 in repairs.

So, what does this story say? First of all, if you read the article, you’ll see that they mention how online realtors are are great at posting only photos which make the house look good. So, don’t get your hopes up too much based on photos alone.

Secondly, make sure to get a good home inspector! Whether the home is years old or brand new, you need to be sure that all of the money you’re about to fork out is going to something that’s worth it! Plus, you want to make sure that you won’t be spending even more money after purchasing the home.

Unlike cars, homes don’t have a blue book. But, similar to cars, not everyone is an expert at home engineering and architecture. Trust the experts and get a good opinion in order to ensure the best home purchase possible!

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Home Inspection

3 Warning Signs of a Bad Roof

We all fear it: a roof in need of repair. In denial we ignore the warning signs, but you can’t hold off on roof repairs. Of course, you can definitely benefit from full roof inspection, but don’t let the warnings pass by!

1 – Ceiling Stains – Several factors can cause ceiling stains, but if you’re noticing them this could be a tell-tale sign that you need roof repair.

2 – Missing Shingles – Where did my shingles go?! Well, they could just be sitting in your yard somewhere, but if they are not on your roof, it doesn’t matter. You have to replace them immediately!

3 – Rust / Corrosion – If your flashing rusts or corrodes, these point to bigger issues in your roof. Any time roof-related metals have damage, make sure to take a closer look, as something bigger could be at stake!

Please contact First Choice Inspectors today if you have any need of Chicago home inspection! We’re here to make sure that your home is up to code!

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Home Sale Steps/Stages

Setting the stage for a home sale

Courtesy of The Philadelphia Inquirer

Spring, is traditionally, the best time to buy or sell real estate, even through the downturn.  Al Heavens from The Philadelphia Inquirer writes about how to set the stage for a home sale.  For sellers, it is time for real estate theater; the house is the star.  “The cast includes agents and brokers, home inspectors, title people, mortgage companies, lenders, underwriters and, obviously, buyers.”  Some sellers are very hands on, while others do not want to bother with the day to day.  Paul Leiser of Avalon Real Estate in New Jersey said he believes that the internet has empowered the sellers and buyers.  Realtors are dealing with more informed involvement on both buyers and sellers, so confrontation can be minimized if an agent keeps the seller informed.  Sellers seem open to agent’s suggestions, the home staging will be up to the owner rather than the agent.  The seller who thinks he or she knows all may end up disappointed and a house that sells for less.  The house should be available for showings but at no point should the seller enter into conversation with potential buyers, the agents, appraiser, or home inspector.  The job of the agent is to educate the buyer and seller on the present climate and conditions.


Read the Full Article Here

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Home Inspection

Location of Cracks can reveal what is happening to your Foundation

Leader-Telegram publishes can article about how the location of cracks can reveal what is happening to your foundation.  Wall cracks appear as the result of overloading, settlement or heaving, which may give you information on what is going on with the foundation.  Vertical cracks are often caused by “settlement of the home, soil compacting and soil washing away under the footings.”  This occurs when an upward force is next to a downward force, while angle cracks occur when the up force and down force offset each other.  This can appear when there is a difference in the soil under the house from one another, which causes the soil to push up.  Horizontal cracks can be caused by pressure from the outside, which can be attributed to pressure against the wall, improper backfilling, and surface problems.  “Skrinkage cracks appear on the foundationwalls as part of the curing process. These cracks can appear because there was too much moisture in the concrete when it set.”  This could be caused by mortar set in cold weather that froze and later expanded before having a chance to cure.

 

Read the Full Article Here