Cross These Items off Your Home Fire Safety Checklist

Smoke Alarm TestThere are more than 1.3 million fires that take place in the U.S. every year. Many of these blazes start inside houses and put homeowners, their families and their properties at risk. The good news is, there are effective steps you can take to protect your family and your home in the event of a fire. Cross the following items off your home fire safety checklist today.

Make sure smoke alarms are installed throughout your home.

If a fire starts in your home, you want everyone to know about it as quickly as possible so that they can escape in a timely fashion. Smoke alarms can help alert you and your family to the presence of a fire, but only if they’re properly installed. You should have at least one smoke alarm on every floor in your home and an alarm inside each bedroom. This will ensure your smoke alarms are able to detect isolated fires before they spread to other parts of your home.

Test smoke alarms and replace the batteries accordingly.

Installing smoke alarms throughout your home is smart, but they won’t do you much good if their batteries are dead. With this in mind, it’s a good idea to test all the smoke alarms in your homes about once a month to make sure they’re working. If there are any that don’t have functioning batteries, replace them right away. You should also replace your smoke alarms about once every 10 years.

Create a fire escape plan and practice it.

If a fire were to start in your home right now, what would everyone do? If you don’t have a fire escape plan in place, your family members may panic and not know where to go. Sit down with your family and come up with a fire escape plan that works for everyone. Practice it about once a month so that it becomes routine.

In addition to taking these steps, you should also consider having an electrical inspection conducted to ensure your home’s electrical system is safe and up to date. To learn more, feel free to give us a call at (773) 429-9711 today.

Keep an Eye out for Signs of Termite Activity This Summer

Termite DamageDid you know that termite damage costs U.S. homeowners an estimated $5 billion a year? Termites tend to be particularly active this time of year, when warm weather gives them an opportunity to swarm and form new colonies. With this in mind, it’s always a good idea to stay on the lookout for signs of termite activity in and around your home during the summer. Let’s start by inspecting your flooring.

Blisters in Wood Floors

If you have wood or laminate flooring in your home, check for areas with “blisters” that might resemble water damage. This blistering effect tends to occur when termites start chewing through a home’s subfloor. If you find these blisters and you haven’t had a plumbing leak in the past, there’s a good chance that termites are the culprits.

Damaged Wood

Spotting termite-damaged wood can be tricky because the insects tend to burrow behind walls, floors and other surfaces. That said, you can sometimes find the tell-tale grooves that hungry termites leave in the wood around your home’s foundation. If you see signs of termite damage in a crawl space or on the bottom edges of your siding, for example, there may be more damage on other wood surfaces in the home as well.

Discarded Wings and Termite Droppings

Many termites leave their nests in the summertime to find mates and new places to expand their colonies. During this process, they tend to leave a lot of droppings and discarded wings laying around as well. If you find these droppings and wings around your home this summer, consider calling an exterminator sooner rather than later.

Concerned about hidden structural issues in your home or a home you’re thinking about buying? Give us a call or contact us online to schedule an inspection with the team at First Choice Inspectors today!

Is Your Dryer Creating a Fire Hazard in Your Home?

Is Your Dryer Creating a Fire Hazard in Your Home?Most Americans who own a home have a washer and dryer tucked away in a laundry room. In the late 1990’s, The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimated that roughly 75 percent of American households had either a gas or electric dryer. A dryer has become an essential appliance for many people, but it can also constitute a fire hazard if it isn’t properly maintained. That same study also found that dryers caused more than 15,000 fires across the U.S. in the sample year 1996, and caused more than 300 injuries and 20 deaths.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent your dryer from becoming a fire hazard.

You can start by making sure you clean out your lint screen or lint trap after every single dryer use. The vent and exhaust duct should be inspected and cleaned periodically as well. Never place any rags or clothing items with gasoline, cooking oil or other volatile organic compounds on them in the dryer. Doing so could be catastrophic.

When moving into a home, be sure to have a home inspector take a look at the dryer to make sure it’s in good condition. If the home inspector has any reservations about the dryer, you should then either work with the home seller to have a new dryer installed, or inquire about what kinds of repairs will need to be made to ensure the dryer is safe and fully functional.

If you’re thinking about buying a new home, the experienced professionals at First Choice Inspectors can conduct a thorough inspection to identify a variety of potential safety issues. Give us a call or contact us online today to learn more.

Things to Check Before You Turn on Your Furnace This Season

Things to Check Before You Turn on Your Furnace This SeasonIt’s starting to get cold outside, and that means that it won’t be long before you’re depending on your furnace to keep your home’s interior warm and comfortable. Heating a home for several months can put your furnace under quite a bit of stress, so there are a few things you should double check before you turn it on to ensure it functions effectively.

Have you cleared everything away from the furnace?

Over the course of the summer, items can build up on and around your furnace. From cleaning rags to children’s toys and other household items that you don’t have room for elsewhere, it’s easy to allow stuff to pile up near your furnace. Before you turn your furnace on, move these items away and make sure it has plenty of clearance to allow for proper airflow. If left unchecked, these stray items can constitute a fire hazard as well.

Have you replaced your furnace filter?

Your furnace filter cleans the air that circulates through your furnace and HVAC system. This filter can pretty filthy over time, and when it does, it will reduce the efficiency of your furnace. It will also allow dust, germs and other pollutants to become airborne in your home. This can have a detrimental effect on your air quality, and even make you and your family sick. Make sure you have a fresh filter to start the season off right.

Have you had your furnace inspected recently?

If you have a fairly new furnace, you might be able to get away without having a furnace inspection. Generally speaking, however, you should have your furnace inspected at least once a year. This will allow you to deal with any potential technical issues and keep your furnace up and running all winter long.

Health Risks Associated With Household Mold

Health Risks Associated With Household Mold

If you have mold in your home, especially certain types of black mold, it’s important to have it removed as soon as possible to avoid potential adverse health effects. Mold can grow on walls, in carpeting, inside of insulation and on floors that have been exposed to moisture. A mold colony can start to grow within just days of exposure to moisture, and if you don’t catch it early, it can spread very quickly and create problems for you and your family.

While everyone reacts to mold exposure a little bit differently, most people will, at the very least, show some signs of mold-related symptoms when they are exposed to it. These symptoms often include nasal blockage, coughing, itchy eyes, wheezing and irritation to the skin in some cases. But there are also more severe reactions that can affect people with mold allergies and certain lung diseases. These people can end up with severe lung infections if the ongoing mold exposure goes unchecked.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you can prevent mold from growing in your home by keeping humidity levels as low as possible. You can also reduce the likelihood of mold growth by fixing leaky plumbing fixtures and cleaning up immediately in the aftermath of a flooded basement, bathroom or kitchen. Additionally, proper ventilation in your home and attic can prevent excessive moisture buildup which often leads to mold growth. It only takes a small amount of mold to cause adverse health effects, so treating your home for mold as soon as you spot it is of the utmost importance.

In some cases, it can be difficult for homeowners to detect the presence of mold. If you’re planning on buying or selling a home, or if you suspect that you might have mold in your current home, First Choice Inspections can find out for sure. We offer mold and mildew inspections, and if we do find mold growth we can direct you to a mold remediation service to help you get rid of it once and for all.

Give us a call at (773) 429-9711 today to learn more.

Preparing Your HVAC System for Summer

But before you start using it on a regular basis, you should take the time to prepare it for the summer season. Summer is right around the corner, and you know what that means, right? It won’t be long before you are relying on your home’s HVAC system and, more specifically, your home’s air conditioner to keep your house cool. But before you start using it on a regular basis, you should take the time to prepare it for the summer season. Here are some tips for getting your A/C unit ready for warm weather.

Inspect the outdoor condenser for your A/C system.

Did you cover your condenser to protect it from the elements during the winter? If so, now is the time to remove your cover and put it away until the fall. It’s also time to inspect the panels on your condenser to make sure they are intact and free of any debris. Additionally, you should check to make sure you don’t need to repair or replace the insulation that should be wrapped around your consensus’s suction line. In general, take a look in and around the condenser to make sure it appears to be in good working order.

Take a look at the indoor air handler unit for your A/C system.

Before you start using your A/C unit at the start of the summer season, you should change your air filter. You should also make sure the coil drainage hose is set up properly and ready to carry away any condensation once your A/C is turned on. It’s also a good idea to clean dirt, dust and debris from the air vents and return grills in your home.

Turn your A/C on and make sure it works.

Once you have inspected all of your A/C equipment inside and outside of your home, you should turn your HVAC system on to make sure everything works the way it should. If you hear any unfamiliar noises coming from your A/C unit or you don’t feel any cool air coming out of your home’s vents, you could have a hidden issue within the system. It’s better to find this out now when the temperatures are still mild outside rather than waiting for the first heat wave to learn that your A/C system is broken.

Want to make sure your HVAC system is in good working order? Give us a call today at 773-429-9711 to learn more about the mechanical services we include in our professional home inspections at First Choice Inspectors.

How Often Should you Replace Your Roof?

Roof Chicago is known as “The Windy City,” and indeed it is. Wind as well as the sometimes brutal winter weather can really take its toll on area roofs.

First Choice Inspectors often do roofing inspections in and around Chicago and Aurora, Illinois. After all, people need good roofs in order to live comfortably, without the harsh elements breaking into their homes through holes and cracks.

Roofs can be made of different materials and are often a product of the time and place when and where they were originally constructed. For instance, some people have wood roofs, while others have stone, metal, rubber or asphalt shingle roofing. First Choice Inspectors often get asked the question, “How often should I replace my roof?” The general answer is once every 20 to 50 years depending on the roofing material used.

For instance, most homes in the U.S. use asphalt shingles. These can last from 10 to 50 years, while most people end up replacing their shingle roofs every 20 years, on average. If you have a wood shake roof, that can last between 20 to 50 years, while tile or metal might last between 50 to 75 years. Some older homes using slate shingles should note that hard slate can last up to 200 years, while soft slate can handle between 50 and 125 years or so.

Oftentimes, how long a roof lasts depends on its thickness and the quality of its installation and materials.

A visual inspection of your roof is a good way to figure out if it needs a couple repairs or if it’s “too far gone” and needs a full replacement. It’s a good idea to have a professional from First Choice Inspectors come take a look at your roof and offer their expert advice on how your roof is doing currently and what challenges might lie ahead. The inspector’s knowledge of roofing can be very helpful to you when determining the answer to the question, “Is it time for a roof replacement?”

Call First Choice Inspectors at 773-429-9711 to book an inspection.

Signs Your Home Has Structural Issues

Home Inspections Does your home have “issues?” There are some key things to look for regarding signs of structural problems.

First, look at a home from far away. Go across the street, for instance, and take a look to see if you notice any walls leaning or tilting in ways that don’t look normal. How’s the ridge line of the roof and the nearby fascia line? If you see sagging, there could be trouble. Also, do you see any large cracks from your point-of-view? Large cracks are not good.

Next, get up close to the home and walk around its exterior. Take note of any areas where there is bowing inward or outward. Again, look for cracks. Are parts of the building moving apart from one another? For example, is the chimney coming unattached from the house or do you notice exterior decks coming loose? Over time, grounds shift and when that happens homes may need repairs.

Windows and doors are essentially openings in your home, so they’re also places where you’ll likely find problems. Look for cracked window panes. Check to see if windows and doors open and shut properly.

Indoors, you should pay close attention to the floors under your feet, noticing any soft spots or unusual sloping areas. Are floorboards creaking? Do you notice any loose floor tiles?

Structural issues are bound to come up with homes as they age. Just like people, homes need some “fixing up” the older they get.

Call First Choice Inspectors at 773-429-9711 if you’d like your Chicago-area home professionally inspected for structural issues.

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.

Pest Proofing Your Home

Pest Proofing Your HomeSummer is coming to a close, and before we know it the days will be getting short and the nights will be getting cold. As the weather begins to cool off, you might start to notice some uninvited critters taking up residence in your home. Most of these pests are just a nuisance, but a few (termites, for example) can do serious damage to your home. This is the perfect time to fortify your home against pests before they start coming in to get warm and find food.

Seal Gaps Under Doors

Installing door sweeps under your exterior doors will not only keep bests out, but also help to insulate your home during the winter. If you have a garage, make sure the door is fitted with a vinyl or rubber seal to keep critters out as well. To seal sliding doors, simply line the bottom of the track with a bit of foam weatherstripping.

Repair Window Screens

Now that you’ve sealed up the doors in your home, it’s time to address the windows. Check window screens for any rips, tears and holes. You can pick up simple patch kits from your local hardware store for just a few dollars. Be sure to check for gaps around the edges of the screen frames as well.

Seal Utility Openings

Large openings such as dryer vents can be sealed with some steel wool. Smaller openings such as holes for wiring, outdoor faucets and gas meters can be sealed with caulk or pipe putty. Cover attic and crawl space vents with hardware cloth to keep out birds and rodents.

Move Your Wood Pile

Wood piles are bound to attract burrowing insects. If you keep your wood pile next to your home, it won’t take long for those insects to find a way in. Stack wood away from your home instead to create a buffer between you and the insect activity.

Stay tuned for more updates from the home inspection professionals at First Choice Inspectors