What is Included in a Standard Home Inspection?

Home InspectionsFirst 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.

The Benefits of Buying a Foreclosed Home

Foreclosed Homes 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.

Signs It Might Be Time For a New Roof

New RoofWhat are some signs you need a new roof? Well, for starters, consider the roof’s age. Most roofs last between 20 and 25 years, so if the roof hasn’t been replaced in several decades, it might be time to call First Choice Inspectors to come take a look and see about a possible replacement.

Have you noticed shingles are missing, darker in some areas, curled or buckling? Shingles aren’t meant to last forever, and they sure do take a beating over time thanks to wind, rain, sunlight, snow and ice. If you’ve noticed any inconsistencies with your shingles, or granules from shingles have become loose and are collecting in your gutters, it might be time for a new roof.

Perhaps the biggest sign that you need a new roof is when there’s a hole in it such that light (and rain) come inside your home. The roof is supposed to protect you from the elements. If there’s a giant hole– or even a small one–then the roof isn’t fulfilling its purpose. Holes in the roof can lead to water damage in the attic and walls of your building. They can also let in birds, insects, rodents and wild animals.

Finally, most neighborhoods have homes that were built around the same time, so if your neighbors are getting roof replacements, chances are you should too.

First Choice Inspectors can check your roof to see if everything is in order, or if there are problems with the chimney flashing, vents, drainage or shingles. First Choice Inspectors can offer a full inspection service complete with a comprehensive report. People in and around Chicago trust First Choice Inspectors to go up on their roofs, examine them, and then climb back down with details about its specific condition. Call First Choice Inspectors at 773-429-9711 to schedule your professional roof inspection today.

 

Is Your Home At Risk For Lead Poisoning?

Lead PoisoningHow 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.

Asbestos Exposure Could Be Detrimental to Your Health

Asbestos 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.

Save Money on Your Energy Bills This Fall and Winter

Save Money on Your Energy Bills This Fall and WinterWe’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.

Bundle Up

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.

Avoid These Common Household Electrical Hazards

Avoid These Common Household Electrical HazardsSpend 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.

Covered Cords

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.

Dryer Vent Safety 101

Dryer Vent Safety 101According 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.

Check Connections

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.

Don’t Forget These 5 Essential Spring Maintenance Items

5 Essential Spring Maintenance ItemsLong winters can subject your home to some serious wear and tear. Snowmelt can reveal all sorts of issues of varying severity that went unnoticed throughout the cold season. It’s important to take care of these maintenance items quickly in order to protect your home from further damage. The spring is the perfect time to get out and tackle these molehills before they become mountains. In this entry, we’ll look at a few simple steps you can take to protect and preserve your home this spring.

Clean Your Gutters

Your gutters serve an important purpose – directing rainwater safely away from your home. Clogged gutters can cause water to pool and pour down the exterior surface of a house, which can eventually lead to mold, mildew, and even rot. If you notice vegetation blocking your gutters, you’ll want to clean them sooner rather than later.

Get a Termite Inspection

Moisture from snowmelt can cause the wood around the base of your home to decay, creating an ideal feeding ground for termites. Often called “silent destroyers,” termites can wreak havoc on the wood framing in a home. If you notice any rot around the foundation of your home, a termite inspection should be a high priority on your spring to-do list.

Clear Dryer Vents

Clogged dryer vents not only reduce the efficiency of your dryer; they also constitute a fire hazard. Be sure to clear any lint from the inside of your dryer vent as soon as you are able to do so.

Inspect Your Washing Machine Fill Hose

While you’re cleaning your dryer vent, you may as well check the fill hose on your washing machine for any signs of wear as well. A broken fill hose can flood your laundry room with water in minutes. If you see any cracks in the hose, pick up a new one from your local hardware store.

Touch Up Paint

In addition to serving an aesthetic purpose, paint also helps to seal and protect your home from moisture damage. If you notice any paint peeling, be sure to touch it up with a fresh coat.

Concerned about the condition of your home this spring? Give us a call today for a consultation.

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.