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Safely Away From Home

Summer is synonymous with vacation.  Travel, be it for a weekend or a month often means vacancy at home.  Having a trusted neighbor or family friend periodically check on the home can also be helpful in preventing any problems. Don’t leave your home unprotected.  Here are a few safety tips to be sure your home is ready for your vacation too.

Keep it Looking Occupied – An empty house is an invitation for burglars.  To avoid leaving your house looking empty;

  • Park your car inside the garage – it’s even a great idea to pack the car in the garage.  Nothing says vacant like packing luggage in the driveway for all to see.
  • Stop the newspaper and mail (or ask a neighbor to pick them up).
  • Ask a neighbor to park in your driveway.
  • Install a motion-activated sensor on an outdoor floodlight.
  • Put at least one light on a timer.
  • Make sure your lawn stays trimmed.

Plumbing & Electrical Precautions – beyond the expense factor for utilities, not protecting your appliances could also leave to damage and unexpected costs.

  • Unplug small appliances and electronic devices.
  • Put the water heater in vacation mode.
  • Turn off water valves to the dishwasher, washing machine and all sinks.
  • Set the thermostat to a temperature that is less comfortable, but still protects your plants, pets and furniture.
  • Electronics should be plugged into a surge protector.
  • Install and test a battery backup on the Sump Pump if you have one.

General Preparation Tips – Don’t forget the simple items before you leave.

  • Make sure your smoke detectors are working properly.
  • Leave your emergency contact information with a neighbor.
  • Run your garbage disposer with a half cup of vinegar and some water.
  • Toss out any food that will go bad before you return from vacation.
  • Take out the kitchen trash, or any other trash that could get smelly.

Lastly, don’t rush.  Enjoy your time away and make the most of the memories you’ll create!

Deck Safety

It’s summer here in Metro Detroit and that means more time outside enjoying the sunshine.  Be it for a back yard BBQ or enjoying your morning coffee, deck safety is important for every homeowner and we’re here to help. Maintenance is much more than cleaning your deck surface.  It means evaluating the structure and making any repairs or adjustments that might be needed.  Here’s a great checklist to get you started.

1 – Search for split or decaying wood. Check several different areas of the deck to be sure the wood is still sound, including the ledger board (where the deck attaches to the house and a common source of deck failure), support posts and joists under the deck, deck boards, railings and stairs. Look for soft, spongy areas in wood that can indicate insect damage or decay.

2 –  Test railings and banisters. Assure the security of these key pieces of the deck by gently pushing on them to assure they are firmly attached with no “give” that could indicate failure. Then, get the yard stick out. Most codes require a 36” high railing (and usually encourage 42” high railings) with rails placed no more than 4” inches apart (measured from the inside of the rails) to keep small children and pets from squeezing through.

3 –  Check your fasteners. Over time, fasteners may “pop” from wood, loosen or even corrode. Check nails, screws or anchors and reinforce or replace anything that looks suspicious.

4 – Step carefully. Check each step to make certain of security and lack of decay. If an area behind the stair treads is open, this opening should be no more than 4” high. A fast tip is to also keep stair pathways clear of planters, décor, toys and other items that can present a tripping hazard.

5 –  Clean up debris. Make it a priority to clean away leaves, branches or other debris from your deck. When left in place, these can be slippery and promote mildew. If you’re already seeing mildew on the deck, or the deck coating has worn away, now is the time to clean and apply a new waterproof coating.

It’s also a great time to check the everyday items ON the deck, like your grill, furnishings, storage and lighting.

 

For a complete 10-point consumer safety checklist and more deck safety tips from NADRA, click HERE.  The North American Deck and Railing Association (NADRA) is dedicated to increasing public awareness of the necessity for regular inspection and maintenance of existing decks and proper installation of new decks. For more information visit www.NADRA.org 

Spring Thaw

springthawEach year, Michigan homeowners and businesses are hit with the harsh reality of winter, dealing with everything from snow covered roads and pot holes to slippery driveways and the dreaded NO SCHOOL Snow Days. You can’t change the weather, but we can minimize the toll it may take by implementing a few simple safeguards.  Heating and plumbing maintenance and the right insurance coverage, can help minimize any financial burdens that may follow seasonal storm damage.

This time of year, it is important to be aware of water damage that can be caused by Spring Thaw.  You can’t stop the water, but you can take measures to limit or prevent damage and save on restoration repairs.

Understand your insurance coverage

Read the details of your homeowner’s insurance coverage as it applies to water damage and flooding, because unless you carry flood insurance, any damage to your home caused by spring-thaw flooding is generally not covered. Many policies also don’t cover backed-up sewers unless you pay a higher premium specifically for this added coverage.

How to prevent water damage

No homeowner can prevent water damage under every circumstance, but you can prepare your home ahead of spring-thaw months to prevent common causes of damage.

  • Basement pumps. Install a sump pump or a sewer backflow value and keep a battery-operated backup in case of power failure. Consider installing a water alarm that warns when water is accumulating in your basement.
  • Basement storage. Keep valuable items out of your basement. Removing any electronics or stored valuables from your basement prior to spring-thaw warnings could prove to be an important ounce of prevention.
  • Debris removal. Remove debris from window wells, gutters and downspouts.
  • Doors and windows. Check for any leaks around doors and windows.
  • Exterior walls. Keep all exterior walls of your home well painted and sealed.
  • Flood drains. If you have flood drains, make sure they work properly.
  • Foundation cracks. Inspect your foundation for cracks that will allow water seepage and initiate repairs.
  • Grading. Inspect the grading around your home and make any changes. Design the grading to encourage the water to flow away from your home.
  • Landscaping. Trim trees and bushes away from your home and do not store wood or compost piles nearby.
  • Roof. Keep your roof in good repair. Unless a tree falls on your roof during a storm, most insurers expect you to maintain your roof to prevent water leaks caused by snow melting or torrential downpours.

Adapted from https://www.safetyinsurance.com

Top 5 Spring Fix-Its

It’s Time to Repair and Refresh! 

Forget May flowers, for most homeowners April showers bring rust, clogged rain gutters and all manner of sticky doors and windows. To help you solve these troubles, here are some sure-fire solutions to common spring problems. They’re easy enough to tackle in a weekend so you can spend more time smelling those flowers.

Rain Gutter Repairs

Nobody likes to clean or repair gutters. However, there are a few ways to make the job easier. First, for clogged downspouts, try using barbecue tongs to reach in and pull the leaves out. This doesn’t always work but considering the alternative — using a hose to flush the clog out, getting wet and covered with gutter goop — it’s worth a try.
Second, to repair loose gutter nails try replacing them with extra-long lag screws. The lag screws tend to be stronger, hold better and can easily be installed with a cordless drill equipped with a nut driver bit.

Repairing Cracks in Concrete

Concrete always cracks, but that doesn’t mean you have to live with it that way. For most cracks less than 1/4″, applying concrete caulk is a good way to make repairs. Just clean the crack out with a high-pressure hose nozzle, let it dry and then apply the caulk into the crack.
For larger cracks, substitute concrete patch for caulk.
Large cracks or small, repair is necessary because water that finds its way into cracks will soften the ground underneath and cause more cracking. The situation worsens if the water freezes.

Sticky Windows and Doors

With all the wet weather that spring brings, wooden windows and doors can’t help but swell and stick. To repair a sticky door or window, first mark where it is sticking. Next, remove the door or window by taking out its hinge pins, prop it up securely and with a hand plane, carefully remove any excess material. Power planes will work, too, but there is a tendency to remove too much. When the wood shrinks back during the drier, warmer days of summer, the gap will be too wide.
For sliding windows, often the trim around them is the culprit and must be removed and reinstalled to allow for more movement. To do this, carefully remove the trim with a flat bar and pull the nails out backwards that is, grasp the nail point with pliers and pull. If the trim was installed properly with finishing nails, you should be able to do this without damaging the wood. When reinstalling, keep the fit snug but not as tight as it was. If you reinstall the trim too loosely, the windows will rattle when the wood shrinks again.
To keep windows and doors from sticking in the first place, make sure that they are sealed with a good coat of paint, including the tops and bottoms. But dont paint the channels where windows need to slide. Instead, use a light coat of linseed oil as a sealer.

Painting Over Water Damage

The problem with water stains is that painting over them will not make them go away unless you use a primer-sealer first. When looking for a sealer, follow these basic guidelines: First, oil-based sealers usually work better than water-based. Second, choose a sealer that has a high amount of solids. Solids consist of pigments and other elements that do the actual covering of the stain. Paint, hardware and home centers carry primer-sealers (sometimes called sealer-primers) such as Kilz and Zinsser.
One other tip when using an oil-based sealer, consider using disposable brushes and rollers. Cleaning up after using oil-based products can be messy and often requires that you spend more on paint thinner than your brushes and rollers are worth.
Painting and repairing rusty fixtures It used to be that the only way to do a good paint job over rust was to get out the naval jelly or wire brush and remove the rust first. Thankfully, paint additives are now available to help paint stick to rust while also neutralizing the rust and stopping corrosion from continuing under the paint.
If left untreated, rust will eventually cause your fixtures to lock up. Prevent this by keeping fixtures well lubricated. One of the most common mistakes people make is trying to lubricate outdoor fixtures with light oil or silicon from spray cans. Because these oils are so light, they often evaporate and/or dilute existing lubrication thereby making the problem worse. For fixtures like gate hinges and latches, use heavy grease. It will not evaporate and its heavy viscosity is the best thing for heavy-duty parts. Most auto parts stores have heavy grease.

Spring Cleaning

Spring has sprung and while we often think of “Spring Cleaning”, it’s important to consider the Exterior of your home.  After protecting and keeping you warm during the long winter, your house could use a little massage.  Preventative maintenance is crucial to the value of your home.  How do you keep the place in Tip-Top Shape?  Regular checks and simple maintenance can help you avoid expensive headaches in the future.

Outside The House

Roofs And Gutters

Brutal winter temperatures coupled with ice, snow and winds can wreak havoc on your roof.  You may want to call a contractor if you haven’t inspected your roof in several years.  Give it a good once over noting any lifting or curling areas or missing shingles.  Leaks typically occur around an inadequately flashed chimney, skylight, or other opening. They’re easiest to spot in the attic, so look closely in attic at the rafters for water stains. If you find something of concern, contact a professional for evaluation and repair.  Examine the siding under roof eaves for water or discoloration, indications that ice dams might have created leaks along the roof edge.

Next, check to see if the gutters are safely attached and haven’t sprung any leaks. Clear gutters of debris and check them for corrosion, joint separation, and loose fasteners. Flush out downspouts and be sure they are directing water away from teh foundation to prevent potential flooding.

Right The Foundation

Inspect the foundation around your house before the spring rains. Look for cracks or imperfections, and seal them or call a contractor if necessary. Hairline cracks in foundation walls might be the result of concrete curing or minor settling and aren’t automatically cause for alarm. Mark them with tape and check them again in a few months. If they’ve worsened, call a structural engineer. If they’re stable, fill them with an epoxy-injection system.

  • Fill in holes in siding and foundation walls with expandable foam.
  • Check that the ground around the foundation slopes away from the house (about 1 inch per foot).
  • Look for pellet-shaped droppings or shed wings from termites.
  • Clear the area of leaves, in which rodents can nest.

Also look for low areas in the yard near the foundation that might pool water during a heavy rain. Level these yard depressions by filling them with compacted soil. Tend to any other “ponding” areas around the yard, too, because after a hard rain, standing water can develop. These puddles can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Addtional Structures

Next time you have that craving for BBQ – be sure to take a look at the deck.  Look for water stains where the deck ties to the house. Ongoing leakage can lead to wood decay, weakening the deck structure and the house. If you have any doubt about the structure’s integrity – call a pro to check it out!

Rid your deck of moss and mold. Pressure washers are quite effective, while a stiff shop broom and a little elbow grease can go a long way too!

Looking for more spring maintenance tips?  Wondering what maintenance items to focus on?  Be sure to check our website for more Spring Maintenane Tips or download our sprint

You Don’t Have to Spend to Save

Here we are, noticing our summer tans fading, dark roots growing out from our scalps, and waiting for the first winter snow fall amidst the freezing rain and blowing wind. Winter is rearing its ugly head and so are heating costs. The television and web are full of great ideas on how to save money on energy costs, but more often than not it takes money to save money. For many, spending money on major home improvement projects to make a home more energy efficient just isn’t in the cards this year.

I am here to tell you that you still have options. You do not have to spend a bunch of money to cut your heating costs. Below you will find nine tips on how to save money on energy bills without breaking the bank. Each tip should cost from nothing to very little. Follow these ideas that all of us should have thought of a decade ago, and say good-bye to shocking heating bills.

  1. Bundle up! Running around with shorts and a tank top in the middle of winter just doesn’t make much sense. Winter is winter because it is cold, so act like it even if you’re just sitting around the house. Put on a sweater or sweatshirt, wear socks and fuzzy slippers. Place a soft, comfy blanket on the couch to cuddle up in while watching TV, reading or chatting with friends. Put throw rugs on hardwood and tile floors to eliminate the shock of the ice cold surfaces. It doesn’t cost anything to wear warmer clothes inside and by doing so you can keep the temperature inside the house a few degrees cooler and save big.
  2. Not all doors are used in the winter, nor are the windows, so plastic up the windows and doors that are going to go unused. There are window kits for sale for about $5 per window. These can help to eliminate drafts to keep in the heat! Can’t afford the kits or plastic sheeting? Hang blankets to help insulate! If you are creative enough, you can hang it to look shabby chic!
  3. Turn the heat down at night and when no one is home. This doesn’t mean turn the heat to 40 degrees, but turning it down to 60 overnight or while you’re away can make a big difference. Think about it; why keep it 70 degrees when you’re either sleeping or out of the house for more than 12 hours a day? You can adjust the thermostat manually for free, but if you want to spend a few bucks a programmable thermostat is a great investment.
  4. After baking cookies or making dinner in the oven, leave the door open a crack. There’s a lot of heat in that oven, so letting it escape puts the heat to good use by warming up the kitchen and surrounding rooms meaning the furnace has to run a little bit less.
  5. Use a space heater only in the current room you are hanging out in. This will take the nip out of the air to make you feel more comfortable without heating all of the other rooms in the house and wasting energy.
  6. Use silicone to fill any cracks in doors, windows, etc, including the basement floor and walls. You would be surprised at how much heat is lost through cracks that seem insignificant. A tube of caulk or silicone will only run you a few dollars and it’s an easy weekend project.
  7. Close any vents going to rooms that are not used regularly. That guest room that sits empty when you don’t have any guests? Close the door and the vents. Doing so can easily cut 100-200 square feet off of your energy footprint.
  8. Put weather stripping around windows and doors. Weather stripping helps quite a bit, especially in older homes. You’d be surprised how the seals around your doors and windows can deteriorate over time.
  9. Cover up the attic entry with plastic, pieces of insulation, old blankets, weather stripping, saran wrap, painter drop cloth, or even a few old shirts. Any of it will help to slow, if not, stop, the drafts and warm air from floating away through your roof. Heat rises and may be getting pulled right up through the attic so you may not notice a cold draft even though your expensive hot air is floating away.

All of these tips are good, old fashioned, common sense thoughts that don’t take but a few minutes and maybe a few dollars to implement. True these thoughts won’t save you thousands like all new windows would, but they will help you to save as much as possible with what you have.

Spring Home Maintenance Checklist

Time for Spring Cleaning?  How about Spring Home Maintenance – What does your house need during this season?  Protect your investment with a few simple checks and maintenance.  Check out our Spring Home Maintenance Checklist for more details. 

Spring Checklist

Termite Infestation

How Do I Know If My House Is Infested?

Large carton nests in trees, attics, wall voids, etc., are obvious signs of an infestation. Sometimes the damage caused by Formosan subterranean termites is not so obvious. Soft spots, damp or moist patches, bulges, and blistered paint or wallpaper in walls, doors, floors, and other areas may indicate termite activity underneath. Probing these areas with a screwdriver may reveal damaged wood, soil, carton, and live termites. Formosan subterranean termite infestations are recognized by the presence of lots of soldiers.

Subterranean termites crawling above ground build mud shelter tubes because they do not like being exposed in the open to light and air. The tubes keep the termites from drying out and shield them from predators, such as ants, and natural enemies. Shelter tubes are often found on walls coming up from the ground or floor. They may also be found sticking out or dropping down to the ground in crawl spaces, under porches or stairways, etc. Tubes and carton may be in places where they are difficult to see such as stucco or plaster cracks, tree holes, tree crotches, etc. You can break the tubes open to check for termites.

Remember that Formosan subterranean termites swarm during the evening from April through July. Keep in mind that swarmers outside around your home could be emerging and flying in from somewhere else. Check carefully around the premises to see if they are coming from your property.

What Should I Do If I Have Formosan Subterranean Termites?

The best thing to do is to have the infestation professionally treated. There are two types of control available: soil termiticides and baits. The treatment used depends largely on the type and size of the infestation, and which one the homeowner is most comfortable with.

Soil Termiticides

Pre-treatment. Treating soil with a liquid termiticide creates a chemical barrier beneath the structure. Depending on the chemical, the termites will either avoid tunneling through treated soil or die soon after they come in contact with it. Soil termiticides have been the standard preventive treatment for subterranean termites up until the mid-1990s. Termiticides are applied before the foundation slab of a structure is poured. Under ideal conditions, protection should last from 5 to 7 years; but under less than ideal conditions or because of improper application it can be much less. The slightest break in the protective barrier is all that is needed for termites to reach a structure. They can tunnel through areas in the soil where no termiticide is present. Expansion joints, cracks, and utility and plumbing lines are common termite entry points through a concrete slab. Termiticide breakdown, soil erosion, improper application, and careless construction practices (such as leaving wooden grade stakes in the slab or disturbing treated soil) are several ways that the chemical barrier can be broken.

Post-construction treatment. When infestations occur after a structure has been built, termiticides are applied by one of three methods: rodding, drilling, or trenching. In the first, termiticide is injected directly into the soil at specific intervals around the perimeter of the house and beneath the slab with a rodder, an injection tool with a long, hollow, metal rod with an open tip. Drilling involves making holes through concrete slabs, walkways, patios, walls, and floors in order to treat the soil beneath the slab or inside wall voids. Trenching involves digging a shallow trench (about 6 X 6 inches) around the base of the home, applying termiticide to the trench and the backfill and then refilling the trench.

Baits

Baiting systems provide an alternative to liquid termiticides. Developed in the early 1990s, they are also effective against the Formosan subterranean termite. Baiting involves placing bait stations in the soil around the outside of the house. The stations contain small pieces of wood (in some products the stations are installed with both wood and bait) and are checked regularly for termites. When termites are found in a station, the wood is removed and replaced with the bait. The bait is either a paper- or cardboard-like material or textured cellulose that contains a substance that slowly kills the termites. The idea behind baiting is that the termites feed on the bait and get a dose of the active ingredient. Although this does not kill the termites immediately, it gives them enough time to feed the other termites in the colony. Eventually, all the members of the colony are affected. The termites begin dying and the population of the colony is severely reduced or eliminated.

Several different baiting systems are now being used by pest management professionals or are commercially available. Some have insect growth regulators (known as IGRs) as their active ingredient (AI). These are chemical compounds that act like termite hormones and keep the termites from developing normally. Other AIs prevent the termites from getting energy from their food.

Aboveground bait stations are also available and are used when termites are found in walls, doors, posts, flooring, etc. The stations are placed directly on areas where termites are present so that they can begin feeding immediately on the bait.

Advantages of baiting are:

  • It is non-invasive (the baits are odorless and no liquid is involved so the soil remains pesticide-free).
  • Technicians usually do not need to enter the house (unless in-ground stations are needed indoors).
  • Drilling through floors and walls is usually not required.
  • There is no exposure to the active ingredient because it is self-contained within the bait station.
  • Only a small amount of an active ingredient (sometimes less than 1/20 oz.) is used for an entire treatment.
  • The active ingredients are relatively harmless to humans and so little is used it makes it even safer.

The main disadvantage is that control is not immediate. It may take from several months to over a year to rid the home of termites.

How Can I Keep My Home From Being Infested?

There are numerous ways you can reduce the chance of your home being infested by Formosan and other subterranean termites:

  • Remove any wood or cellulose-containing material (such as cardboard) that is in direct contact with bare ground.
  • Carefully inspect wooden items, especially railroad ties, for termites before buying them.
  • Do not leave wooden items such as planters, tubs, trellises, railroad ties, firewood, and stakes on top of or in bare ground.
  • Anchor wooden posts for fences, decks, porches, sheds, etc. in cement so that no wood is contacting bare ground.
  • Structural wood at or near ground level should be pressure-treated with a wood preservative. Preservatives mainly protect against wood-decaying fungi but are also effective against termites.
  • Maintain a zone of at least one foot around the outside of your home that is clear of plants and other landscaping materials. This reduces soil moisture and makes it easier to inspect for shelter tubes coming up from the ground.
  • Install rain gutters to prevent water from dripping down around the perimeter of your home.
  • Keep rain gutters clear so that water drains quickly and does not accumulate and soak the upper walls and roof of your home.
  • Fix or replace leaky outdoor faucets and water lines.
  • Gutter downspouts and air conditioner condensate lines should empty out at least one foot away from the base of the home.
  • The ground next to your home should slope away so that water does not pool next to it.
  • Keep sprinklers from wetting the walls of your home.
  • Fix leaks in the basement, roof, water heater, appliances, and other sources inside your home. These leaks moisten wood and create damp environments that Formosan and other subterranean termites like to live in.
  • Remove all wooden grade stakes, form boards, supports, and scrap wood after finishing construction or remodeling.
  • Remove dead trees and plants including the roots and stumps, if possible, from your yard.
  • Eliminate or reduce the use of mulch and wood chips around the foundation of your home. This eliminates cooler and moist soil conditions favored by Formosan and other subterranean termites.

Intersted in learning more about ways you can improve your property and avoid Insect Infestations?  Call us today!

Spring Home Maintenance

Spring is here! That nice bright sun and warm fresh air are a welcome relief from the long, dark winter. Unfortunately, springs arrival means that your home is in need of a little spring cleaning.

Over time the value of your home appreciates, so you should treat it with as much care as possible. Homes change and move over the seasons. After the winter everything from the roof to your sump pump will need to be examined. Spring is the best time to give our home the “tune- up” it needs.

Here is a checklist to help you target the areas that need maintenance so you can get those chores done quickly. Following these simple tips will get you outside and in that warm spring sunshine in no time.

  • Inspect brickwork and stucco. Check for chipping, deteriorated mortar and unsightly deposits.

– Spalling is a chipping or popping away of a brick’s face, leaving the brick’s interior susceptible to moisture and crumbling. Any deteriorated mortar should be assessed immediately before more damage occurs.

– Efflorescence is a plaguing of the brick resulting in unsightly white deposits caused by soluble salts left behind during water evaporation. If efflorescence is found, removal is best recommended by dry brushing in warm dry weather.

– If you discover water penetration in the brick, consider sealing the brick surface with an appropriate sealant.

  • Replace rotting siding and trim; paint as needed. Hire a professional to tackle siding maintenance.

– Brighten up your home with a good power washing. This will give your home a fresh look and may also show damaged areas that were hidden behind the grime of winter weather.

– If painting is needed, be sure to tackle the whole project. Don’t treat sections and move on. Leaving  any wood exposed could lead to the surface rotting. Make sure the whole surface is done to ensure proper resurfacing and color consistency to your home. Be sure to sand the surface and prime any bare wood before painting with a high quality  product.

  • Clean gutters and downspouts. Multiple freezes and thaws can result in sags and dips.

– Make sure gutters and downspouts direct water away from the home. improper drainage can lead to water in the basement or crawl space. They should point at least two to two and a half feet away from any foundation wall.

– Check that they are flush to the roof with no sags or dips.

– If you live in a two story home, a professional cleaning is recommended. Do-it-yourselfers will be safer cleaning a ranch style home.

– Consider installing gutter guards to protect them from environmental debris.

  • Inspect your roof. Check for damaged shingles, which can make your roof susceptible to leaks.

– Shingles that curl up (turn up) and claw (turn down) can make your roof inefficient and susceptible to leaks.

– Shingles that are cracked, buckled or loose or are missing granules need to be replaced.

– Flashing around plumbing vents, skylights and chimneys need to be checked and repaired by a qualified roofer.

– Pooling or ponds of water that fail to drain from flat roofs may indicate low areas of inadequate drainage.

– Call a minimum of three roofers before committing to one for repairs. You will educate yourself in the process and end up with a better deal in the end.

  • Get a chimney check- up. Hire a pro that can quickly check for cracks or leaks.

– Have the flue cleaned and inspected by a certified chimney sweep. This includes any active or decorative chimney.

– A professional should also check the chimney flue and cap for cracks or leaking.

  • Prune landscaping and create good drainage. Maintain your plants and shrubs to prevent soil erosion.

– Landscaping helps against soil erosion, but should be planted to form a negative grade, which means wiater will flow away from the house.

– Trim overgrown trees and hedges away from your home to discourage the growth of mildew and moisture. Branches should be a minimum of seven feet away from the exterior of your home to prolong the life of your siding and roof.

– Remove out of control vines,as they can help crack siding and allow moisture and pests entry into your home.

– Check for low areas in the yard or next to the foundation. If any are present they should be filled with compacted soil. Spring rains can cause yard flooding, which can lead to foundation flooding and damage.

  • Give concrete a little TLC. Seal your driveway, power wash your patio and have a professional service your pool.

– Inspect concrete slabs for signs of cracks or movement. All exterior slabs, with the exception of pool decks, should drain away from the home’s foundation.

– Seal and inspect asphalt or concrete driveways. This is usually done in the fall, but spring is an ideal time to seal them.

– Power wash concrete patios; inspect decks for rotting wood and secure railings. Seal if necessary.

  • Check outside hose faucets for freeze damage.  Take a peek at your home plumbing.

– Turn the water on and place your thumb or finger over the opening. If you can stop the flow of water, it is likely that the pipe inside  the home is damaged and will need to be replaced.

– Check any garden hoses for dry rot, replace if necessary.

– Anything dripping in your home is a bad sign. Check for leaking faucets or sweating pipes, clogged drains and faulty water drainage systems.

– Look at washing machine hoses for bulges, cracks or dampness.

– Check under the kitchen sink for leaks, and make note of wetness around the dishwasher.

– Check the shutoff valve at each plumbing fixture to make sure they are functioning properly. Know the location of all valves and what equipment and water lines they serve. Teach all  members of the household of their locations.

  • Inspect the water heater.

– If you have a gas- fired water heater, make sure it is venting properly. Light a match next to the vent and wave it out (don’t blow it out). See if the smoke is pulled up into the vent. If it isn’t, have a professional inspect and repair it. Otherwise, carbon monoxide and other combustibles can build up in your home.

– Check around the base of your water heater for evidence of leaks. If your water heater is over five years old, it should be checked monthly for any leakage or rusting at the bottom. If evidence of a leakage or rust is found, the water heater should be replaced.

  • Don’t overlook your attic. Check for proper ventilation, obstructions and leaks.

– Check your attic fro proper ventilation and birds nests.

– Look for obstructions over vents, damaged soffit panels, roof flashing leaks and wet spots on insulation.

– Be sure to wear long sleeves and gloves to protect yourself from insulation when checking the attic.

  • Check out your heat/ air unit; change batteries in detectors. Change filters and clean the air purifier, but leave the rest to the pros.

– Have your ducts professionally cleaned. It will make your indoor air quality healthier and your furnace more efficient.

– Have a professional clean and service the outside unit of the air conditioning system. Clean coils operate more efficiently, and an annual service call will keep the system working at peak performance levels. An efficient air conditioner removes moisture and humidity from your home, which in excess, can damage its foundation.

– Change air filters on a monthly basis. Some are reusable and are supposed to be taken out, washed with a hose and re- inserted. A unit free of dust and dirt runs more efficiently, saving you time and money on your energy bill.

– Check the hose connections for leaks and any algae blockage. Make sure the drain pans are draining freely. If you suspect a problem, contact a certified technician.

– Clean the outside condensing unit screen of leaves.

– Listen for any unusual noises. This may be your first indication of a problem.

  • Check your electrical system. Only a qualified electrician should remove the front panel cover.

– Look for burn marks at the main electrical panel; they can be a sign of arcing inside the panel, which can easily lead to a fire.

– Trip and reset the circuit breakers regularly.

– Remove any combustible materials such as paper boxes or flammable liquids from the area near the main electrical panel. Sparks caused by arching can ignite any material stored nearby.

– Check all electrical outlets for loose- fitting plugs. This is an indication of worn out receptacles, and should be replaced as they cause overheating and fires.

– Check all electrical outlet switches to be sure they are working properly. If there are any that are not working properly, have a qualified electrician determine the problem and fix it to avoid any fires inside the walls of your home.

– Install safety covers to help protect children from electrical shock.

– Unplug any appliance or tool that gives off even the slightest shock. Take to a qualified electrician or repair shop to be checked.

  • Clean the kitchen exhaust hood and air filter.

– Keeping this clean of cooking grease will help keep a stovetop fire from spreading.

  • Tackle those kitchen/ bathroom tiles.

– Pay attention to the grout between floor tiles in the bathroom or kitchen. A small crack in the grout or caulk can lead to an expensive repair in the future.

– Get in the habit of wiping down the shower walls and tub after each use to eliminate soap and scum build- up.

  • Don’t forget about the sump pump.

– Make sure the sump pump is operating correctly. To ensure that it is always in proper working order, install a battery back up pump. If your sump pump does fail, you will not know until it is too late. If your sump pump fails, an alarm goes off, letting you know the backup is working. A few hundred dollars now will save you from thousands later, especially if you have a finished basement.

Preventive maintenance is crucial to the value of your home. Keep your place in tip- top shape with regular check- ups to save you the headache and cost of emergency repairs. It’s the inspections you make in between that really matter.

Detecting Mold within Your Home

Mold, at times, can be tricky to detect, but, by following a few easy tips, you can often times detect a mold problem without having to call a professional.

How do I tell if I have a mold problem?  The most practical way to find a mold problem is by using your eyes to look for mold growth and by using your nose to locate the source of a suspicious odor. If you see mold or if there is an earthy or musty smell, you should assume a mold problem exists. Other clues are signs of excess moisture or the worsening of allergy-like symptoms.

  • Look for visible mold growth (may appear cottony, velvety, granular, or leathery and have varied colors of white, gray, brown, black, yellow, green). Mold often appears as discoloration, staining, or fuzzy growth on the surface of building materials or furnishings. When mold is visible, testing is not recommended.
  • Search areas with noticeable mold odors.
  • Look for signs of excess moisture or water damage. Look for water leaks, standing water, water stains, condensation problems. For example, do you see any watermarks or discoloration on walls, ceilings, carpet, woodwork or other building materials?
  • Search behind and underneath materials (carpet and pad, wallpaper, vinyl flooring, sink cabinets), furniture, or stored items (especially things placed near outside walls or on cold floors). Sometimes destructive techniques may be needed to inspect and clean enclosed spaces where mold and moisture are hidden; for example, opening up a wall cavity.

Should I test for mold?  No.  It is not recommend that homeowners test for mold themselves. Instead, simply assume there is a problem whenever you see mold or smell mold odors and call a professional. Testing should never take the place of visual inspection and it should never use up resources that are needed to correct moisture problems and remove all visible growth.  Sometimes, mold growth is hidden and difficult to locate. In such cases, a combination of air (outdoor and indoor air samples) and bulk (material) samples may help determine the extent of contamination and where cleaning is needed. However, mold testing is rarely useful for trying to answer questions about health concerns.

Click here for more information about Mold and here for Tips on Mold Clean-Up and Removal.

If, at any time, you are concerned about your home and would like a Mold Inspection done by Home Inspection Professionals, please contact us anytime at 1-800-HIP-3200 or click here to Request an Inspection via the web.