All homeowners should know where their electrical panel is located.  When you open the door to it, you should find breakers that are labeled which correspond to the different rooms or areas of the home.  Breakers will sometimes trip due to a power surge or outage, and the homeowner can flip the switch to reactivate the current to the particular room or area.  Behind the breakers is the dead front, and it is this electrical component that should be removed only by a qualified electrician or inspector.

Before touching the electrical panel to re-set a breaker, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I have an escape path?  Make sure that you know where you can safely turn or step if you must escape a dangerous surprise, such a bee or a spark. An unfortunately placed shovel or extension cord, for instance, can turn a quick jerk into a dangerous fall.
  • Is the floor wet?  Never touch any electrical equipment while standing on a wet surface!
  • Does the panel appear to be wet?  Check overhead for dripping water that may have condensed on a cold water pipe.
  • Is the panel rusty?  Rust is an indication of previous wet conditions that may still exist.
  • Are there scorch marks on the panel door?  This can indicate a past or very recent arc, and further investigation should be deferred to a licensed electrician.

Here is a list of defective conditions that a homeowner may see that may be called out during an electrical inspection:

  • insufficient clearance. According to the 2008 National Electrical Code, most residential electrical panels require at least a 3-foot clearance or working space in front, 30 inches of width, and a minimum headroom clearance of 6 feet, or the height of the equipment, whichever is greater.
  • sharp-tipped panel box screws. Panel box cover screws must have blunt ends so they do not pierce the wires inside the box.
  • circuit breakers that are not properly sized.
  • oxidation or corrosion to any of the parts. Oxidized or corroded wires will increase the resistance of conductors and create the potential for arcing.
  • damage caused by rodents. Rodents have been known to chew through wire insulation in electrical panels (and other areas), creating an unsafe condition. Rodents have been electrocuted this way, leaving an unsightly mess inside the panel.
  • evidence of electrical failures, such as burned or overheated components.
  • evidence of water entry inside the electrical panel. Moisture can corrode circuit breakers so that they won’t trip, make connections less reliable and the equipment unsafe to touch.
  • a panel manufactured by Zinsco or Federal Pacific Electric (FPE). These panels have a reputation for being problematic, and further evaluation by a qualified electrician is recommended.

Source – Nick and Ben Gromicko, NACHI.org

Although homeowners aren’t necessarily expected to climb on their roofs every season as part of regular home maintenance, there are some conditions that should be monitored to prevent roof damage and to help you get the longest life out of your roof-covering materials.  Certain types of damage can lead to water and pest intrusion, structural deterioration, and the escape costly energy.

Weathering
Hail and storm damage, known as weathering, can weaken a roof’s surface even if you haven’t lost any shingles/shakes/slates following a storm.  It’s the most common source of environmental damage for roofs.  Strong, sustained winds can cause uplift to the edges of shingles and shakes, which can weaken their points of attachment and allow rainwater and melting snow to reach the roof’s underlayment.  Wind can also send projectiles through the air, which can damage every surface of the home’s exterior, including the roof.  You should always inspect your roof after a heavy weather event, as far as it is practical to do so without taking any undue risks, to check whether you have lost any roof-covering materials, or if any parts look particularly weathered or damaged.  A small fix now could prevent costly repairs later.

Tree Damage
Tree damage results from wind-blown tree branches scraping against shingles and from the impact of falling branches blown by wind and/or because the nearby tree has dead branches that eventually break off and fall.  Branches that overhang the roof should always be cut back to avoid damage from both abrasion and impact, and to prevent the accumulation of leaf debris on the roof, its valleys, and in the gutters, which will interfere with proper drainage and lead to pooling of rainwater and snowmelt.  Of course, it’s especially important to make sure that tree limbs near the home’s roof and exterior are a safe distance away from utility and power lines.  Tree-trimming is a type of homeowner maintenance task should be undertaken by qualified professionals, as it can lead to accidentally cutting off the service or power from an overhead line, being electrocuted by an energized line, being struck by an unsecured tree branch, falling off the roof or a ladder, and any number of similar mishaps that the homeowner is not trained to anticipate and avoid.

Animal Damage
Squirrels and raccoons (and roof rats in coastal regions) will sometimes tear through shingles and roof sheathing when they’re searching for a protected area in which to build nests and raise their young. They often attack the roof’s eaves first, especially on homes that have suffered decay to the roof sheathing due to a lack of drip edges or from problems caused by ice damming, because decayed sheathing is softer and easier to tear through.  If you hear any activity of wildlife on your roof, check inside your attic for evidence of pest intrusion, such as damaged insulation, which pests may use for nesting material.  Darkened insulation generally indicates that excess air is blowing through some hole in the structure, leading the insulation to become darkened by dirt or moisture.

Biological Growth 
Algae, moss and lichen are types of biological growth that may be found on asphalt shingles under certain conditions. Some professionals consider this growth destructive, while others consider it merely a cosmetic problem.  Asphalt shingles may become discolored by both algae and moss, which spread by releasing airborne spores.

Almost all biological growth on shingles is related to the long-term presence of excess moisture, which is why these problems are more common in areas with significant rainfall and high relative humidity.  But even in dry climates, roofs that are shaded most of the time can develop biological growth.

What we commonly call “algae” is actually not algae, but a type of bacteria capable of photosynthesis. Algae appears as dark streaks, which are actually the dark sheaths produced by the organisms to protect themselves from the ultraviolet radiation of the sun. When environmental conditions are right, the problem can spread quickly across a roof.

Algae can feed on mineral nutrients, such as the calcium carbonate in limestone used as asphalt shingle filler. Calcium carbonate also causes asphalt to retain moisture, which also promotes algae growth, so shingles with excessive filler may be more likely to suffer more algae growth.  The rate of filler consumption is slow enough that it’s not generally considered a serious problem.

Algae attach to the shingle by secreting a substance that bonds it tightly to the surface. Growth can be difficult to remove without damaging the roof. The best method is prevention. Algae stains can sometimes be lightened in color by using special cleaners.  Power-washing and heavy scrubbing may loosen or dislodge granules. Chemicals used for cleaning shingles may damage landscaping. Also, the cleaning process makes the roof wet and slippery, so such work should be performed by a qualified professional.

Moss is a greenish plant that can grow more thickly than algae. It attaches itself to the roof through a shallow root system that can be freed from shingles fairly easily with a brush.  Moss deteriorates shingles by holding moisture against them, but this is a slow process. Moss is mostly a cosmetic issue and, like algae, can create hazardous conditions for those who climb on the roof.

Lichens are composite organisms consisting of a fungus and a photosynthetic partner, such as green or blue-green algae. Lichens bond tightly to the roof, and when they’re removed from asphalt shingles, they may take granules with them. Damage from lichen removal can resemble blistering.

“Tobacco-juicing” is the brownish discoloration that appears on the surface of shingles, under certain weather conditions. It’s often temporary and may have a couple of different causes. After especially long periods of intensely sunny days, damp nights and no rain, water-soluble compounds may leach out of the asphalt from the shingles and be deposited on the surface.  Tobacco-juicing may also appear under the same weather conditions if the air is especially polluted.  Tobacco-juicing won’t harm asphalt shingles, although it may run down the roof and stain siding. Although it’s more common in the West and Southwest, it can happen anywhere that weather conditions are right.  You can spray-wash or paint the exterior of the home to remove tobacco-juicing.

Your InterNACHI inspector should investigate signs of roof damage or deterioration before you call a roofing contractor.  That way, you’ll know exactly what types of problems should be addressed before you break out the checkbook for repairs.

Source:  Nick and Ben Gromicko, NACHI.org

The National Fire Protection Association’s fire prevention program promotes the following eight tips that people of all ages and abilities can use to keep family members safe, especially during the threat of a house fire.

1. Plan and practice your escape from fire.

We’ve heard this advice before, but you can’t be prepared to act in an emergency if you don’t have a plan and everybody knows what that plan is. Panic and fear can spread as quickly as a fire, so map out an escape route and a meeting place outdoors, and involve even the youngest family members so that everyone can work as a unit to make a safe escape. If you live in a condo or apartment building, make sure you read the signs posted on your floor advising you of the locations of stairways and other exits, as well as alarm pull stations and fire extinguishers.

2. Plan your escape around your abilities.

Keeping a phone by your bedside will allow you to call 911 quickly, especially if the exits of your home are blocked by smoke or flames. Keep a pair of shoes near your bed, too. If your home or building has a fire escape, take some time to practice operating it and climbing it.

3. Smoke alarms save lives.

If you don’t already have permanently installed smoke alarms hard-wired into your electrical system and located outside each bedroom and on each floor, purchase units and place them in those locations. Install them using adhesive or screws, but be careful not to touch your screwdriver to any internal wiring, which can cause an electrostatic discharge and disable them. Also, install carbon monoxide detectors, which can protect family members from lethal poisoning even before a fire starts.

4. Give space heaters space.

Whether saving on utility bills by using the furnace infrequently, or when using these portable units for spot heating, make sure you give them at least 3 feet of clearance. Be sure to turn off and unplug them when you leave or go to bed. Electrical appliances draw current even when they’re turned off, and a faulty unit can cause a fire that can spread through the wires in the walls at a deadly pace.

5. If you smoke, smoke outside.

Not only will this keep your family members healthier and your home smelling fresher, it will minimize the chance that an errant ember from your cigarette will drop and smolder unnoticed until it causes damage.

6. Be kitchen-wise.

This means monitoring what you have on the stove and keeping track of what’s baking in the oven. Don’t cook if you’re tired or taking medication that clouds your judgment or makes you drowsy. Being kitchen-wise also means wearing clothing that will not easily catch on the handles of pots and pans, or graze open flames or heating elements. It also means knowing how to put out a grease fire: water will make it spread, but salt or baking soda will extinguish it quickly, as will covering the pot or pan with a lid and turning off the stove. Always use your cook top’s vent fan while cooking. Also, keep a small, all-purpose fire extinguisher in a handy place, such as under the sink. These 3-pound lifesavers are rated “ABC” for their fire-suppressing contents. Read the instructions on these inexpensive devices when you bring them home from the store so that you can act quickly, if the time comes.

7. Stop, drop and roll.

Fight the urge to panic and run if your clothes catch fire because this will only accelerate its spread, since fire needs oxygen to sustain and grow.  Tamping out the fire by rolling is effective, especially since your clothes may be on fire on your back or lower body where you may not be immediately aware of it.  If ground space is limited, cover yourself with a blanket to tamp out any flames, and douse yourself with water as soon as you can.  Additionally, always stay close to the floor during a fire; heat and smoke rise, and breathable air will normally be found at the floor-level, giving you a greater chance of escape before being overcome by smoke and toxic fumes.

8. Know your local emergency number. 

People of all ages need to know their emergency number (usually, it’s 911).  Posting it near the phone and putting it on speed-dial will save precious moments when the ability to think clearly may be compromised.

Keep your family safe by following these simple tips!

Source:  Ben and Nick Gromicko, NACHI.org

Welcome to my homeowner’s blog! Each month, you’ll find plenty of useful information for keeping your house in great condition so that you can enjoy it for years to come. Preserve your investment—and keep your family safe and healthy—by maintaining your home using the following tips.

Last month, I provided the first eight tools every home owner should own.  The month is the last seven tools every home owner should have.

9. Torpedo Level
Only a level can be used to determine if something, such as a shelf, appliance or picture, is correctly oriented. The torpedo-style level is unique because it not only shows when an object is perfectly horizontal or vertical, but it also has a gauge that shows when an object is at a 45-degree angle. The bubble in the viewfinder must be exactly in the middle — not merely close.

10.  Safety Glasses / Goggles
For all tasks involving a hammer or a power tool, you should always wear safety glasses or goggles. They should also be worn while you mix chemicals.

11.  Claw Hammer
A good hammer is one of the most important tools you can own.  Use it to drive and remove nails, to pry wood loose from the house, and in combination with other tools. They come in a variety of sizes, although a 16-ounce hammer is the best all-purpose choice.

12.  Screwdriver Set
It is best to have four screwdrivers: a small and large version of both a flathead and a Phillips-head screwdriver. Electrical screwdrivers areWire cutter sometimes convenient, but they’re no substitute.  Manual screwdrivers can reach into more places and they are less likely to damage the screw.

13.  Wire Cutters
Wire cutters are pliers designed to cut wires and small nails. The side-cutting style (unlike the stronger end-cutting style) is handy, but not strong enough to cut small nails.

14.  Respirator / Safety Mask
While paints and other coatings are now manufactured to be less toxic (and lead-free) than in previous decades, most still contain dangerous chemicals, which is why you should wear a mask to avoid accidentally inhaling. A mask should also be worn when working in dusty and dirty environments. Disposable masks usually come in packs of 10 and should be thrown away after use. Full and half-face respirators can be used to prevent the inhalation of very fine particles that ordinary facemasks will not stop.

15.  Duct Tape
This tape is extremely strong and adaptable. Originally, it was widely used to make temporary repairs to many types of military equipment. Today, it’s one of the key items specified for home emergency kits because it is water-resistant and extremely sticky.
Source – Nachi.org
Authors – Nick and Ben Gromicko
  1. Plunger – A clogged sink or toilet is one of the most inconvenient household problems that you will face. With a plunger on hand, however, you can usually remedy these plumbing issues relatively quickly. It is best to have two plungers — one for the sink and one for the toilet.
  2. Combination Wrench Set – One end of a combination wrench set is open and the other end is a closed loop. Nuts and bolts are manufactured in standard and metric sizes, and because both varieties are widely used, you’ll need both sets of wrenches. For the most control and leverage, always pull the wrench toward you, instead of pushing on it. Also, avoid over-tightening.
  3. Slip-Joint Pliers – Use slip-joint pliers to grab hold of a nail, a nut, a bolt, and much more. These types of pliers are versatile because of the jaws, which feature both flat and curved areas for gripping many types of objects. There is also a built-in slip-joint, which allows the user to quickly adjust the jaw size to suit most tasks.
  4. Adjustable Wrench – Adjustable wrenches are somewhat awkward to use and can damage a bolt or nut if they are not handled properly. However, adjustable wrenches are ideal for situations where you need two wrenches of the same size. Screw the jaws all the way closed to avoid damaging the bolt or nut.
  5. Caulking Gun – Caulking is the process of sealing up cracks and gaps in various structures and certain types of piping. Caulking can provide noise mitigation and thermal insulation, and control water penetration. Caulk should be applied only to areas that are clean and dry.
  6. Flashlight – None of the tools in this list is of any use if you cannot visually inspect the situation. The problem, and solution, are apparent only with a good flashlight. A traditional two-battery flashlight is usually sufficient, as larger flashlights may be too unwieldy.
  7. Tape Measure – Measuring house projects requires a tape measure — not a ruler or a yardstick. Tape measures come in many lengths, although 25 feet is best.  Measure everything at least twice to ensure accuracy.
  8. Hacksaw – A hacksaw is useful for cutting metal objects, such as pipes, bolts and brackets.  Hacksaws look thin and flimsy, but they’ll easily cut through even the hardest of metals. Blades are replaceable, so focus your purchase on a quality hacksaw frame.

Source:  Nachi.org

Authors:  Nick and Ben Gromicko

It’s easy to panic during an emergency.  Emergencies and disasters can come in different forms.  It can be a gas leak, a fire or a natural disaster which may knock out power, pollute drinking water and make it difficult for first responders to reach you. However, being prepared can reduce the anxiety and help you keep you and your family cool, calm, and safe.  Your family’s emergency plan will be unique to you.  For example, our family emergency plan includes four fur babies.  There are a few general points that will help to best prepare you and your family for success in case an emergency strikes.

First, you’ll need to create a disaster supply kit.  Your supply should include such things like medical supplies, medications, non-perishable foods, water, batteries, blankets and clothing.  Basic necessities include food, water, clothing and shelter.  To separate a basic need vs. a luxury, ask yourself does the item I want to include in the disaster supply kit meet the basic need criteria.

Next, develop an easy to remember plan.  If you can’t remember your emergency plan, it won’t be very effective.  Use places that are very familiar and hard to forget such as a neighbor’s house or a nearby school to report in.  Everyone should know what they’re expected to do during an emergency.

As part of your plan, create an emergency checklist and keep it somewhere easily accessible.  The checklist should include emergency contacts and local emergency phone numbers and addresses.  Place it in an envelope with copies of vital records along with a spare set of car keys.  You can create separate lists for each family member for different type of emergencies.

Let your neighbors know what you’re doing to keep your family safe.  Building a network of people may help you and your family in a time of need.  This, also, allows you to help others in need.  Communication is a key part of preparation.  When people are stressed, they may only retain part of the information you’re sharing.  It’s better to over communicate.

For more information about emergency preparedness essentials.  For more information check out these websites.

https://www.beprepared.com

https://emergency.cdc.gov/

National Pet Fire Safety Day is observed annually on July 15th. We practice home safety and preparation for emergencies. It’s just as important to prepare for pet safety. Just like fire drills, pets need consideration when preparing for unexpected fire emergencies. Taking preventable measures now can both save your home and your pet. Many times our pets can cause a fire if we don’t take the proper steps.

PET FIRE SAFETY TIPS

• Extinguish open flames. Pets are curious and certainly not cautious. Wagging tails haphazardly knock over candles. Curious kitties will paw at sizzling grease, quickly sending a kitchen up in flames.
• Remove knobs from the stove. When not in use, they will not accidentally get turned on.
• Consider flameless candles for ambiance and backup lighting in the event of a power outage.
• Replace glass water bowls with metal or plastic. Outside on wooden decks, they can heat up and actually start a fire.
• Have leashes and collars stored near the entrance of your home. When away, have your pets in the main living area for easy rescue.
• Secure young pets when away from home. This can help avoid fire hazards. Pet kennels or in a pet-proofed room are options.
• Fire alert window clings help firefighters identifying the room your pets are located and identify the number of pets in the home. Add one to the window of the room you keep your pets when you are away. Keep it updated with the number of pets who reside with you and your current phone number.
• Have a plan when you are home. Know which family members will be responsible for each pet.

HOW TO OBSERVE

Put the tips into practice and have a fire drill. Keep your pets and your humans safe! Use #PetFireSafetyDay to post on social media.

HISTORY

The American Kennel Club in association with ADT Security Services declared National Pet Fire Safety Day in 2009 to educate pet owners how to take steps to prevent fires and to plan for unexpected emergencies effectively.

Lightning is a leading cause of injury and death from weather-related hazards. Lightening can occur year-round and at any hour. Although most lightning victims survive, people struck by lightning often report a variety of long-term, debilitating symptoms. Thunderstorms are dangerous storms that include lightning and can include powerful winds over 50 MPH create hail; and cause flash flooding and tornadoes.

What to do to prepare?

• Sign up for your community’s warning system. The Emergency Alert System (EAS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio also provide emergency alerts.
• Identify nearby, sturdy buildings close to where you live, work, study, and play.
• Cut down or trim trees that may be in danger of falling on your home.
• Consider buying surge protectors, lightning rods, or a lightning protection system to protect your home, appliances, and electronic devices.

What to do to when thunder roars:

• When you receive a thunderstorm warning or hear thunder roars, go indoors immediately. A sturdy building is the safest place to be during a thunderstorm.
• Pay attention to weather reports and warnings of thunderstorms. Be ready to change plans, if necessary, to be near shelter.
• If indoors, avoid running water or using landline phones. Electricity can travel through plumbing and phone lines.
• Protect your property. Unplug appliances and other electric devices. Secure outside furniture.
• If boating or swimming, get to land and find a sturdy, grounded shelter or vehicle immediately.
• If necessary, take shelter in a car with a metal top and sides. Do not touch anything metal.
• Avoid flooded roadways. Turn Around. Don’t Drown! Just six inches of fast-moving water can knock you down, and one foot of moving water can sweep your vehicle away.

Be safe after by listening to authorities and weather forecasts for information on whether it is safe to go outside and instructions regarding potential flash flooding. Also, watch for fallen power lines and trees. Report them immediately.

Source: https://www.ready.gov/thunderstorms-lightning

My wife and I put our house up for sale in March 2018. Within a week, we had two offers. The first one fell through and the second one came two days after the first offer fell through. Our goal was not to pay on two homes. We built a house in 2017 and by early 2018, it was ready to move in.

What did we do to sell our house fast? Below are a list of steps that we took to make our home sell quickly.

Declutter, declutter, declutter – We spent weeks decluttering our home. We didn’t realize how much stuff we had collected in the 10 years. We went from room to room and packed up items in cabinets, closets, dressers, night stands. We depersonalized our home of family photos. We were very fortunate that we had another home to move our stuff. If you don’t have that luxury, you can rent a storage unit or this may be a good time to have a garage sale. You don’t want to show buyers how much stuff you can get into a space. You want to show buyers how much space they’ll have for their stuff.

Rearrange the furniture. Our living room had exercise equipment in it. We moved it to the new house. You don’t want people bumping into your furniture as they are walking around. Does your buyer see an open, yet intimate space that inspires conversation?

Clean, clean, clean – clean everything. Vacuum, make the beds, and wipe down the counters daily because you may have an unplanned viewing. Dust – dust the ceiling fans, clean the blinds. Dishes shouldn’t be in the sink. Bathroom sinks, toilets and showers should be cleaned. We kept our home nice and tidy. We cleaned the windows inside and out bringing more light into the house.

Set the table – Set a couple of place settings at the dining room table. Or place a centerpiece on top of a neutral table runner. Put neutral music such as classical or jazz on low in the back ground. Although we didn’t bake cookies or burn scented candles to make our home appear warm and welcoming, we did use a pleasing scented air freshener through our home. If the buyer can see that a family lives there, they can imagine their family living there.

Repair or replace broken items. We did have a little cash to spend and I spent it on mulching the front yard and painting window sills and freshening up worn out and chipped areas. Why? It’s important to give prospective buyers the notion that the property was taken care of well and they won’t have to spend a huge sum on repair work or fixing broken, malfunctioning items because that may be a big deterrent to getting good offers from potential buyers. Also buyers give you about six seconds to make the sale—three seconds from the curb and three seconds from the foyer.

Of course, every home is different. Before you spend a dime freshening your home up, ask a real estate agent you trust for advice. A true pro knows what buyers in your area want and can help you maximize your home’s appeal without busting your budget.

April is National Home Inspection Month. Home Inspections are critical!

A quality home inspection can be valuable and save you a lot of money later. For example, if you’re selling your home, a pre-listing inspection provides an opportunity to identify and make decisions about what repairs or updates you want to make before presenting your home to a possible buyer. This can add to the value of your home and allows you to enter in negotiations with self-confidence. This can provide you, the seller, with some peace of mind.

For most, your home is the biggest investment you’ll ever make. Home maintenance is important. Homeowners should get a home inspection every three to five years to avoid expensive repairs, identify problems and maintain their home’s viability. An inspection of the structural and mechanical systems will include the foundation, roof and gutters, exterior and interior walls, electrical wiring, plumbing, heating and central air conditioning systems.

If you’re remodeling or planning a major renovation, a renovation inspection can be done before and after the contracted work. This will give you the peace of mind that the work is well planned, executed, and done correctly.

Home Owners, First-time buyers and long-timers who want to “age in home,” homebuyers of a new home still under construction and parents concerned about the safety of their children all need home inspections by experienced professionals who will identify current or potential issues before they become serious problems.

If you plan to buy a home this year, you want to be sure it’s condition and functionality are in line with your lifestyle and plans for the building. All homes require some routine maintenance and most will go through some renovations or updates through their lifetime. Once you’ve found the home of your dreams, you want to know that it is the investment you think it is. A pre-purchase inspection is a good way to verify the house’s current conditions and develop a strategy for future maintenance.

In a nutshell, a home inspection can be priceless. It provides peace of mind. It’s relatively inexpensive. It uncovers safety issues. It can reveal possible pest and insect problems. It can find structural issues. It can forecast potential future expenses such as appliances, windows, roofing, A/C, electric, plumbing and heating systems. It can help with price negotiations and negotiating seller repairs. It can provide an “out.”

Equally as important as the purpose of a home inspection is the quality of the inspection. Working with an InterNACHI Certified Professional Inspector (CPI) is a customer’s best assurance of a thorough and professional inspection. To find a qualified inspector in your area, visit www.eagleengineer.com or call (865) 250-8983.

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