a-pro at Your Service
Welcome to our winter edition of From the Rafters.
Today's newsletter is all about looking forward…moving ahead…keeping our eyes on the prize rather than looking over our shoulders. It can be too easy for any of us to dwell on the past, thinking about what could have been. Obviously, the pandemic and the subsequent anomalies in the housing market steered all of our best-laid plans off course. These events spurred a troubling trend of home bidders waiving the home inspection contingency clause in hopes of securing a home—a bad idea for all parties involved. As we've said before, thank you for making sure your clients know the value of inspections and for recommending us first. It means the world to all of us at A-Pro.
Keeping in line with our theme of moving ahead, we've devoted this issue to helping our clients get the most out of their investments through proper home maintenance. We've included a baker's dozen of home maintenance New Year's resolutions—good reminders for maintaining our own properties and solid advice to impart to the families we serve every day.
At A-Pro, our New Year's resolution never changes and is never broken: To represent our home-buying and selling clients with honesty, integrity, responsiveness, and professionalism at all times—and, in the process, make you look like a champion for recommending us.
Let's make it a fantastic 2023!
Greg Mangiaracina President, a-pro home inspection
13 Home Maintenance Resolutions for the New Year
With the new year fresh in our minds, your friends at A-Pro are busy inspecting homes in the communities we serve. As we've mentioned in past newsletters, not even frigid cold or snow and ice can prevent us from performing detailed inspections, although severe weather can limit some aspects of our job when it comes to the safety of our inspectors (e.g., slippery roofs) and some of the components we check (e.g., operating air conditioning in cold weather).
While focused on finding defects in the home (and pointing out positive elements of the home, as well), we often run across problems that could have been prevented or delayed if proper maintenance protocols had been followed. One of the things A-Pro inspectors relish is the opportunity to answer maintenance questions that arise during an inspection. Educating our clients is all part of the service.
With the first calendar page still unturned, now's a good time to remind ourselves—and our mutual clients—about some of the little things they can do to keep the components and systems of the home in top shape and to make sure safety issues are addressed. We've put together 13 Home Maintenance Resolutions for the New Year—one for each month plus a bonus recommendation—to share with your buyers and sellers:
- Change Furnace Filters: It's not uncommon for an inspector to find a furnace that's given up the ghost well before its time or shows signs of wear well beyond its years. A contributing factor to a furnace's early demise can be homeowners who don't regularly swap out dirty filters with new, clean ones. The filter is designed to trap airborne contaminants that would otherwise enter the furnace system. Extended use of a dirty filter that's no longer doing its job can result in a less effective heating system, damage to sensitive components, poorer indoor air quality that could aggravate allergies and respiratory conditions, and higher utility bills. How often you replace the furnace filter—from monthly to annually—will depend on its thickness and efficiency rating.
- Don't Skip Annual HVAC Checkups: Quality home heating and cooling equipment isn't cheap, so it behooves you to have an HVAC professional clean and inspect each system every year. Such detailed inspections of the a/c, heat pumps, and furnaces make sure units are running at peak efficiency. These cleaning/tune-ups also help extend the useful life of the equipment, avoid breakdowns during extreme weather conditions, uncover damaged components that need to be replaced, remedy safety hazards, and keep the family comfortable. These annual checkups go beyond what is required of a home inspector during the HVAC portion of a traditional home inspection. Common heating system problems include malfunctioning heat exchangers, damaged thermostat and blower components, and starting mechanism issues. A/C issues include clogged filters, condenser problems, and a malfunctioning thermostat.
- Insulation Upgrade: Take it from experienced home inspectors who have examined thousands of attics—insufficient insulation is one of the most common problems that homeowners either neglect or simply don't even know about. In fact, one leading trade association estimates that nine out of ten homes in the U.S. are under-insulated. It's an issue that most often comes to the forefront in the dead of winter, when treated air—along with your hard-earned money—escapes out of the house, leading to higher-than-necessary utility bills and reduced indoor comfort. Make a resolution to check on the state of your rolled batting or blown-in insulation. Many home inspectors find damaged, compressed, missing, or poorly installed insulation. Every home is different. Consult with a professional to determine the amount, type, and location of insulation that is best for your situation. Also consider basement insulation, such as foam board and sprayed foam, which can be applied to interior/exterior walls and the ceiling. Some sources place the amount of heat lost through basement walls at 20%.
- Get Your Home Rechecked for Radon: When was the last time you had your home tested for the presence of radon? It's a good question to ask as you start the new year. Radon is a colorless and odorless naturally-occurring radioactive gas that enters buildings through cracks in the foundation and gets trapped inside. Most significantly, the Environmental Protection Agency cautions that radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. behind smoking. The EPA recommends having your home tested for radon every two years. This is especially important if dangerous levels of radon were previously discovered and a mitigation system was put in place. radon testing is one of many added services provided by A-Pro home inspections outside of its traditional 500-point roof-to-foundation inspection.
- Clean Your Dryer Vent: A clogged dryer vent can be a costly and dangerous problem. Besides affecting how the dryer performs its job, a lint-filled dryer vent can also be a fire hazard and a contributing factor to higher utility bills. For starters, make a resolution to clean the lint trap after every run, though it's critical to remember that this is not an assurance that your dryer vent will be free from debris since smaller fibers can still enter the vent and, over time, clog up the passageway. When operating the dryer, be aware of signs that your dryer may need cleaning, including burning-type odors, overly hot clothes and a hot appliance, and longer than normal drying times. Some professionals recommend dryer vent cleaning every six months when the appliance is subjected to heavy daily use.
- Seal Driveway Cracks: Some issues our inspectors find are only going to get worse if not addressed. Examine your concrete or asphalt driveways for cracks that should be sealed or potholes that should be patched before they lead to more significant damage from rain seeping in (shifting) or the freeze-thaw cycle (larger cracks and crumbling). If it has been several years since your driveway was resealed, make a resolution to put that upgrade on this year's home maintenance budget. Keeping your driveway free from moss and weeds is another smart idea.
- Check Smoke Detectors: The new year is an ideal time to make a sweep of the house to determine if smoke detectors need to be replaced (every ten years or if they don't work when tested), and if there are enough of them installed in the home. While recommendations may vary by region, InterNACHI (International Association of Home Inspectors) notes that, generally, smoke alarms should be installed on the ceiling or wall outside of each separate sleeping area near bedrooms, in each bedroom, in the basement, in the garage, and in each story within a building, excluding crawlspaces and uninhabited areas.
- Check the Functionality of Carbon Monoxide (CO) Detectors or add some to your home if don't already have these lifesaving devices. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 420 people die annually, and 100,000 end up in the emergency room as a result of accidental poisoning from carbon monoxide—an odorless, tasteless, and colorless gas found in fumes produced by furnaces, kerosene heaters, burning charcoal and wood, vehicles “warmed up” in garages and other appliances. As an added service, A-Pro tests homes for carbon monoxide, as well as testing appliances and fixtures that may be causing dangerous levels of this toxic gas. A-Pro inspectors also advise on choosing the right detectors, recommend locations for their placement, and discuss the proper maintenance required of offending appliances. The CDC recommends checking or changing the batteries in your CO detectors every six months.
- Seal Windows and Doors: Inspectors have a keen eye for anything in a home that is letting in water or allowing treated air to escape and outside air to creep in. As a homeowner, it pays for to give these issues this same high level of scrutiny. A complete home inspection includes checking the caulking and weatherstripping around windows to make sure the seal is water- and air-tight. Additionally, gaps and cracks in the window structure are noted, along with drafts felt from the inside. For doors, the inspector will check the weatherstripping for damage and gaps, inspect glass for cracks, and note drafts on the inside and water damage from moisture penetration. Make a resolution to seal all windows and doors in 2023—a relatively inexpensive, do-it-yourself task that will help keep your family comfortable and your utility bills in line, as well as prevent moisture from causing wood rot and mold. It's also a good idea to have skylights examined for gaps.
- Install Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI): Make 2023 the year you replace your traditional electrical outlets with ground fault circuit interrupters in rooms where water is present, such as kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, garages, and unfinished basements. The absence of GFCIs is one of the more common electrical issues cited in home inspection reports. Since 1987, this device—which prevents fatal shock by shutting down the receptacle by detecting variances in electricity levels—has been recommended for installation in all 125-volt, single-phase, 15- and 20-amp receptacles serving countertop areas and areas within six feet of a sink. If you already have GFCIs, resolve to test them periodically to make sure they don't need to be replaced.
- Clean Your Gutters: We can't emphasize this enough to our clients: clogged or damaged gutter systems will cost you money—possibly serious money. If you can't safely handle the gutter-cleaning duties yourself, find a reliable professional to handle this maintenance necessity. They may also be able to point out gutter defects that need to be corrected. The consequences of having a gutter system that does not efficiently direct water away from the home include water pooling around the foundation, ice dams in winter, water leaking inside the home, insects attracted to pooling water in gutter channels, basement flooding, rotting wood fascia boards, and other concerns. Also, make a resolution to do a personal home maintenance checkup to see if downspouts are connected and positioned in a manner to move water away from the home.
- Manage Vegetation: While some folks might make resolutions about planting a vegetable garden, adding more color to flower beds, or keeping the lawn neat and trim year-round, it's important not to forget that taming the vegetation around the home is even more important than planting those climbing rose bushes. Consider hiring professionals to remove potentially dangerous branches overhanging the roof, keep an eye out for dead trees close to the home, relocate shrubs and other plantings that are in contact with the house, and remedy problems caused to masonry structures from ivy. If you're having drainage issues and have nearby trees, look into the possibility that roots are clogging your sewer main line—an issue that can be detected by A-Pro through a Sewer Scope Inspection.
- Recommend a Maintenance Home Inspection from A-Pro: This highly detailed inspection (recommended every three years) is designed to detect system failures or other defects so homeowners can make informed decisions about budgeting for repairs and replacements while averting unpleasant surprises down the road. It is even more comprehensive than A-Pro's 500-point inspection because the inspector works with the homeowner to access areas that may not be reachable during the traditional “visual-only” seller or buyer inspection. Many adult children contract us to perform this service for their aging parents' homes and rental or vacation properties.