When owning a home, there are many cautions that should be taken to keep you and your family safe. Carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless toxic flammable gas, is often emitted as part of the fumes of fuel. Difficult to detect, this poisonous gas can be leaked from cars, stoves, fireplaces, grills, furnaces and more. Many people believe that carbon monoxide build up is primarily a concern in the winter months when doors and windows are closed, but deadly levels can build up in the summertime, too.
According to the Daily Herald of Utah, two patients at the Utah Valley Regional Medical Center were treated for carbon monoxide poisoning in 2012 after using a gas-powered concrete saw in their basement without proper ventilation. When using gas-powered equipment in an enclosed space, symptoms like headaches, dizziness, nausea and light-headedness can appear quickly which helped these individuals recognize that there was a problem.
Although carbon monoxide poisoning notoriously occurs indoors, many don’t realize it can happen outside as well. During the summer months, you may notice poisoning symptoms if you breathe in the toxins from the back of a boat, sit too close to a campfire or use gas or propane stoves in or near a tent. Even though it seems like carbon monoxide poisoning should take longer when you are outside, it can happen within as little as 15 minutes, experts say.
If you think you’ve been exposed to carbon monoxide, you should go to the ER immediately. A doctor can treat the poisoning by flushing out the toxins in a hyperbaric chamber, but ultimately prevention is the best course of treatment.
Since poisoning is unpredictable, you should purchase a carbon monoxide detector for your home. As well, it could be prudent to have a professional inspect your home to make sure you and your family are safe.
First Choice Inspectors regularly inspects homes in the Chicagoland area. A standard home inspection looks for structural or mechanical defects. An inspector is trained to look for construction mistakes and shortcuts, as well as potential problems in a home.
A standard home inspection involves a detailed written report that’s like a report card for the house you’re interested in selling or buying. Some reports are provided within the same day as the inspection, though others take up to a week for delivery.
Standard home inspections will include both interior and exterior components. Inside, inspectors will look closely at both electrical systems (including breakers and fuses) and plumbing systems (including pipes, water heat tank, sump pumps, drains, etc.). Other interior areas the inspector will look at are walls, ceilings, floors, windows, stairs and more.
On the outside, inspectors will look at the structure of the home to make sure its foundation and framing is holding up properly. Other things a standard home inspection will entail include an examination of the heating system, cooling system, insulation system, fireplaces, chimneys and more.
Of course, a home is only as reliable as its roof, and the roofing system, including shingles and skylights will be major focus points.
Home inspection reports may or may not include photographs of certain items or areas of the home. Typical reports range from 25 to 50 pages long.
If you’re in the Chicago area, you can request an inspection by calling 773-429-9711.
Perhaps the best benefit of buying a foreclosed home is its price. Because it’s foreclosed, someone or some entity, like a bank, is trying to get rid of it. Therefore, they’re willing to sell it at a bargain price. Many people have enjoyed buying foreclosed homes that were once selling for, say, $400,000 for…$150,000. Now that is a bargain! It’s a way to move into a desirable neighborhood for a fraction of the price others had to pay to be there.
Most foreclosed homes are sold “as-is,” so the new owner may have to pay to fix some things. It’s a good idea to hire First Choice Inspectors to come inspect a foreclosed home on your behalf, so you know what you’re “getting into.”
Why have a foreclosed home inspected? Well, typically foreclosed homes have been unoccupied for quite some time. Because no human beings have lived there, some things might have gone wrong over time. When people live in a home they use the sinks and toilets regularly. They open and shut doors and windows. They take care of the place. Foreclosed homes, though, don’t have people doing such things, which is exactly why you’d want to get the home inspected. It’s better to have a professional set of eyes look at the state of the home than to just buy it “as-is” not knowing important details of its overall condition.
Foreclosed homes can be a great bargain. Just be sure to hire a good home inspector to check for any defects first, if possible, so you can make an informed buying decision. Spending a couple hundred dollars for an inspection can ultimately save you thousands of dollars down the line.
First Choice Inspectors can inspect foreclosed homes in Chicago and surrounding areas. Call 773-429-9711 to schedule an appointment.
How old is your home? If it was built before 1978, there’s a chance that its woodwork contains lead-based paint. Though the use of lead-based paints for homes has been banned in the United States since 1978, many people live in homes constructed before then, and those homes probably contain lead-based paint used in a bygone era before it was known to be detrimental to people’s health.
Lead poisoning occurs when lead builds up in a person’s body over a period of months or years. Little kids who eat lead-paint chips can end up with serious mental and physical problems. Adults who do home renovations and are exposed to lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust are also at risk. In the old days, lead pipes, brass plumbing fixtures and copper pipes soldered with lead were commonly used in homes. Unfortunately, they could end up releasing lead particles into tap water.
Lead can get into the air, water and soil such that precautions need to be taken if and when a person lives or works around an area with high concentrations of lead.
How do you know if you have lead poisoning? With children, look for developmental delays, learning difficulties, irritability, loss of appetite, vomiting, constipation and other symptoms. As for adults, some lead poisoning symptoms include muscle and joint pain, memory loss, decline in mental functioning, mood disorders, abdominal pain, constipation, and high blood pressure. Pregnant women should be especially careful to avoid exposure to lead as it could harm their unborn child.
First Choice Inspectors of Chicago regularly conducts home inspections. During these inspections, your inspector can look for signs of peeling or chipped paint. Keep in mind that the lead material used in old paint only becomes a health hazard when it is disturbed. If the inspector finds that your home has old paint that’s disturbed, he or she may advise you to seek a professional renovation company to properly remove the old paint.
According to the National Cancer Institute, “asbestos is the name given to a group of minerals that occur naturally in the environment as bundles of fibers that can be separated into thin, durable threads. These fibers are resistant to heat, fire, and chemicals and do not conduct electricity. For these reasons, asbestos has been used widely in many industries.”
Unfortunately, areas containing asbestos can release tiny fibers into the air, which could have detrimental health effects on humans breathing them in. In fact, the tiny fibers can amass in the lungs for years, and as the number of fibers increases, the chances of getting sick also go up.
Let’s take a look at a few of the major health issues asbestos can cause:
- Mesothelioma is a cancer along the lining of the lungs, stomach or heart . The cancer is rare and each case is unique, but fortunately, there are many treatment options.
- Lung cancer. Even if you’ve never touched a cigarette in your life, overexposure to asbestos can lead to cancer in your lungs, and make it difficult breath, among other awful symptoms.
- This is a lung disease that makes it difficult to breath, and causes severe coughing bouts and shortness of breath. It also greatly increases the chance for mesothelioma to occur.
Asbestos fibers can cause many other lung ailments, and will significantly and adversely affect how a person lives. As such, if you’re worried about asbestos in your home or workplace, the smart thing to do is to have your home or building properly inspected to make sure you’re not at risk.
To learn more about asbestos inspections, please contact First Choice Contractors today.
We’re about a month into fall and already the temperatures are dropping and homeowners are preparing to hunker down for another cold winter. This time of year energy bills can suddenly become far more expensive, particularly if your home isn’t adequately protected against the elements. By taking some preventative measures, however, you can keep your energy bills to a minimum and save yourself a tidy sum by the time spring rolls around.
Start by Sealing the Gaps
Take a walk around your home’s exterior and keep a close eye out for any gaps around window panes and door jambs. Seal these gaps with caulk to prevent heat loss during the winter. If you have a fireplace, make sure that the damper is closed whenever it’s not in use. You can also purchase insulating film from your local hardware store to seal off windows for the season. Just make sure it’s pulled tight across the window and securely adhered to the window frame to prevent heat leaks.
Use the Sun to Your Advantage
Keep the curtains on south-facing windows open during the day to allow the sun to naturally heat your home. Once the sun goes down, close the curtains to trap that radiant heat inside at night. This will also provide an extra measure of insulation against any gaps you may have missed when sealing your windows.
Have Your Furnace Serviced
Maintaining your furnace will prevent mechanical breakdowns and ensure that it operates at peak efficiency during the winter. Be sure to change your furnace filter regularly, and have an HVAC technician perform a thorough inspection once a year.
This is perhaps the most effective and underappreciated step you can take to keep your utility bills low during the winter. It costs a whole lot less money to put on an extra layer of clothing than it does to keep your thermostat 5 degrees higher all winter. Keep your thermostat set as low as you can tolerate, and set it back further when you’re sleeping or out of the house. You’ll acclimate to the lower temperatures before you know it, and you’ll thank yourself come springtime.
Stay tuned for more home improvement tips and tricks from Chicago’s premier home inspection company: First Choice Inspectors.
Spend much time as a home inspector, and you’re bound to see some pretty frightening examples of DIY electrical work. From frayed extension cords to ancient knob and tube wiring, we’ve seen our fair share of electrical hazards over the years. Fortunately, most of these hazards can be quickly remedied in order to keep you and your family safe. Today, we’ll look at a few of the most common electrical hazards we encounter in our line of work.
Over Fused Circuits
This problem tends to happen in older homes whose electrical systems are still protected by a fuse box rather than a circuit breaker. Most circuits in your home should be protected by 15 amp fuses. Sometimes, when fuses blow, homeowners will replace them with larger 30 amp fuses. These large fuses constitute a fire hazard because they won’t blow before electrical loads reach dangerous levels. If you see any green 30 amp fuses in your fuse box, replace them with 15 amp fuses as soon as possible.
Daisy Chained Extension Cords
This is one of the most prevalent electrical hazards we see. It happens when homeowners plug multiple extension cords and/or power strips together in tandem in order to increase their length or number of outlets. According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), the improper use of extension cords is responsible for roughly 3,300 house fires every year. Extension cords should only be used as temporary solutions, and they should never be plugged together with other extension cords or power strips.
Worn or Corroded Wiring
This problem is especially common in appliances such as old light fixtures. If you suspect the wiring in an appliance is faulty, have it inspected by a qualified electrician and rewired if necessary. If you’re ever shocked by an appliance, unplug it and don’t use it again until you can have it repaired.
In home offices, we’ll sometimes see electrical cords covered by carpets to keep them out of sight. This does help to organize your wires, but it can also cause them to heat up faster and potentially cause fires. Wires hidden under carpets also tend to get walked on and run over by rolling chairs more often, causing them to wear faster. Keep your wires organized with zip ties instead, and keep them out from under carpets.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, nearly 17,000 house fires were caused by clothes dryers and washing machines in the United States in 2010. This accounts for roughly 4.5% of all the house fires in the country that year. Many of these fires were the result of clogged or improperly installed dryer vents that went unnoticed by homeowners. These vents are designed to remove residual moisture from your house during the drying process, but if neglected they can constitute serious fire hazards. Today, we’ll help you inspect and evaluate the safety of the dryer vent in your home.
Pull your dryer out and make sure that they dryer exhaust hose is, in fact, connected to the dryer. Typically the connection is located on the back of the dryer, but on some models it may be located beneath it. If the exhaust vent becomes disconnected, moisture will linger in your laundry room and flammable dryer lint will begin to accumulate within the back of the dryer. That additional moisture can promote mold growth in your home, while the dryer lint can easily cause fires.
Check for Kinks
Ideally, the exhaust hose behind your dryer shouldn’t be any longer than it needs to be. Long, loose lengths of hose are prone to kinks and twists that restrict the flow of air and moisture out of your home. As lint becomes trapped in the kinks in the hose and the airflow becomes further restricted, heat can build up in your dryer and eventually trigger fires.
Make Sure the Exhaust Terminates Outside
Sometimes, lazy installers will vent dryer exhaust into an attic or crawl space rather than the exterior of a home. Dryer exhaust must be vented outside and away from your home in order to avoid mold growth and minimize the chance of fire. Find out where your dryer exhaust terminates, and if it’s not outside your home take steps to have it rerouted as soon as possible. Please note that the total length of the exhaust hose should not exceed 25 feet in order to ensure adequate airflow.
The end of your exhaust vent should be fitted with a backdraft damper, but it should not be fitted with a screen. These screens accumulate stray lint and can become serious fire hazards if left unattended. Check the end of your exhaust vent periodically and clear any built-up lint deposits.
Here at First Choice Inspectors, we know how important it is for homeowners to stay mindful of this important maintenance item. If you’re concerned about the safety of your dryer vent, don’t wait for it to become a serious hazard. Give us a call today and gain the peace of mind of knowing your home is protected from dryer vent fires.
We’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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.