ASK THE INSPECTOR

AMERISPEC® HOME INSPECTIONS - ASK THE INSPECTOR!

Want to know more about home inspections? Just ask AmeriSpec® - providing home inspection services throughout the United States!

ASK THE INSPECTOR FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Feel free to look through our FAQs or ask a question directly to our technical team. Our technical team, which has more than 50 years of combined industry experience, is qualified to answer your questions. Simply fill out the "Ask an Inspector" form and one of our inspection experts will contact you.

For questions related to scheduling or pricing for your home inspection, please click here to request more information.

 

Seasonal Maintenance

QUESTION: HOW CAN I HELP PREPARE MY HOME FOR THE UPCOMING SPRING SEASON?

Answer: With spring fast approaching, we've included a sample of action items to help prepare for the spring season:

Foundation

  • Check foundation walls, floors, concrete and masonry for cracking, heaving or deterioration.
  • Check masonry chimneys for loose, deteriorated brick or missing mortar.

Roofs

  • Check for any missing, loose or damaged shingles
  • Check for open seams, blisters, debris, standing water or bald areas on flat roofs.

Doors and Windows

  • Check all window hardware for proper operation.
  • Check for broken glass, breached seals and damaged or missing screens.

Plumbing

  • Check water heater for leaks and corrosion. Flush water heater per manufacturer's instructions.
  • Check lawn sprinkler system for leaky valves.

Interior

  • Check caulking around showers, bathtubs, sinks and toilet bases.

QUESTION: IS THERE ANYTHING I CAN DO TO HELP PREPARE MY HOME FOR THE WINTER MONTHS?

Answer: Yes, the following steps listed below can help prepare your home for winter and help provide the protection and comfort you expect. Not only will it give you a warm feeling now to know your home is in good shape for winter, you'll probably feel cozier all season long.

Start outside:

  • Make sure your gutters and downspouts are clear of debris and functioning properly.
  • Check the roof and flashings around all surface projections (roof penetrations) and sidewalls (joints between roof and vertical services).
  • Drain and winterize all outside faucets and the sprinkler system. Empty any water hoses, coil and store.
  • Repair any damage to sidewalks, driveways, and steps before ice or snow makes them worse due to the freeze/thaw cycle.
  • Make sure your chimney is clear of bird nests and leaves. Consider calling in a professional chimney sweep to remove soot and creosote.
  • Check and repair any gaps in weather-stripping or calk around doors and windows. Failure to do so could add up to 10% to your winter heating bill.
  • Make sure doors and windows have no missing or loose glazing putty.
  • Winterize the lawn mower and clean, sharpen and oil all metal gardening tools before storing. Make sure your snow removal tools are operational and ready to go (if applicable).

Follow this checklist inside your home:

  • Consider having a professional inspect and service your furnace. Also, be sure to replace the furnace filters and clean and adjust the humidifier (if applicable).
  • Clean heating ducts, grills, and registers.
  • Clean lint and any other debris out of dryer vents pipes.
  • Test smoke and carbon monoxide monitors as well as fire extinguishers.
  • Reprogram your thermostat for the winter weather. Keeping your thermostat no higher than 68 degrees when people are home will help control energy costs.
  • Unclog slow running drains.
  • Make sure bath and shower caulking is intact.
  • If your home is not insulated or under-insulated, seriously consider air sealing the air leakage pathways between the home and attic, and installing insulation in your attic to reduce drafts and heating costs.

Noises throughout the Home

QUESTION: HOMES CAN MAKE ALL SORTS OF LITTLE NOISES. WHAT CAUSES THEM, AND CAN THEY BE FIXED?

Answer: It would be hard to address ALL the causes of home noises, but here are a few common ones and what can be done about them.

Squeaky Hinges:

Silence a noisy hinge by coating it with silicone spray or light penetrating oil. If the squeak persists, remove the pin and thoroughly clean the pin, barrel and hinge leaves with steel wool. Coat them lightly with silicone spray or light penetrating oil and replace the pin.

Squeaks under Carpeting:

If a carpeted floor squeaks, the solution is to drive nails or screws through the carpeting and the plywood subfloor and into joists below. Depending on the type of carpeting, you can usually drive finishing nails or finish-head screws right through the carpeting and their heads will not be visible. Otherwise, you may need to pull the carpeting up first.

Banging Radiator:

If a radiator makes a knocking sound, this may solve the problem: Place a level on top of the radiator. Shim the legs on the non-valve side up so that the radiator tilts slightly toward the valve.

Running Toilet:

This can be caused by a number of issues, so here are the things to check.

  1. Check the guide rod or chain on the tank stopper. Straighten if bent or twisted.
  2. Check the float mechanism. If lifting the ball stops the running, try to bend the float arm down to adjust the buoyancy. If the ball has water in it, you'll need to replace it. To do this, unscrew it from the arm and put a new one in place.
  3. If still running, the valve seat and stopper may have corrosion or build up that's preventing it from closing. Lift the stopper and check for objects. Gently scour the seat and rim. If there's a good deal of damage, replace the stopper and valve seat.
  4. Finally, if the toilet is still running, you may have to replace the flush valve assembly. Take the old parts to the hardware store with you to make sure that when you get new inside gaskets and the assembly you'll have a perfect match. If the shaft of the assembly is cracked, the whole shaft and assembly will have to be replaced. Be sure to get a perfect match for this as well.

Water and Plumbing

QUESTION: WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP REDUCE THE AMOUNT OF LEAD IN MY DRINKING WATER?

Answer: By performing the following actions below, you can potentially help reduce the amount of lead found in drinking water:

  1. Before drinking, remember to flush your pipes. When the water has been sitting in the pipes for a long time, it is more susceptible to higher levels of lead. The flushing takes place when you run the water until it reaches its coldest temperature.
  2. When utilizing water for consumption, only use cold water. If you plan to use the water for cooking, drinking, and/or for baby formula, only use cold water. Higher levels of lead are often found in hot water as opposed to cold water.
  3. Arrange an appointment to have your water tested. Once you have followed the pre-cautionary steps for reducing the amount of lead, it is still important to have your water tested. This will provide assurance that the levels have been accurately evaluated, and will help prevent any potential danger for you and your family.

QUESTION: IS THERE ANYTHING I CAN DO TO HELP MAINTAIN MY SEPTIC SYSTEM AND PREVENT A "MESSY" SITUATION?

Answer: If you want to avoid a potentially "messy" situation, you can help maintain the septic system by doing the following:

  1. Schedule regular pumping - Professional pumping is necessary in order to remove solids in the septic tank that accumulate over time. Most tanks require pumping every two or three years, depending on the usage.
  2. Conserve water - Repair leaks and drips, and minimize the amount of laundry washed (at the same time). This helps to prevent straining and overloading the system.
  3. Pay attention to what you flush or pour into drains - Avoid flushing and/or pouring fats, oils, coffee grounds, etc. into the drains. This will prevent the absorption area from clogging. Additionally, garbage disposals will cause the system's workload to increase, and will require more frequent tank pumping.

Electrical

QUESTION: HOW DOES AN INSPECTOR DETERMINE IF WIRING IS SAFE AND ACCURATE?

Answer: During the course of a home inspection*, the inspector will do a thorough evaluation of the main panel box and any sub panels that are present. The inspector will remove the cover from the panel box and determine whether or not the sizes of the wires are compatible with the size of the fuses or circuit breakers that have been installed. The inspector will also determine if the electrical system is properly grounded and look at the wires at the branch circuits. If aluminum wiring is noted at the 110 breakers, an electrician should be contacted to review the electrical systems. The main service line and the mast are examined for safety.

As the inspector inspects the interior of the home, he will test all of the accessible receptacles. The inspector will also look for exposed wires and improper splices as well as romex wiring and stranded wiring that have been incorrectly used throughout the home. While inspecting the exterior of the home, the inspector will note whether or not ground fault circuit interrupters have been installed at the exterior receptacles.

*Any electrical items that are considered to be a safety concern will be noted in the report. AmeriSpec always recommends that the repairs be done by a licensed electrician for everyone's protection.

QUESTION: AS A HOMEOWNER, WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP MAINTAIN AND PROLONG THE LIFE OF MY ROOF?

Answer: Besides regular inspections, there are some things homeowners can do to keep their roofs in good shape, and help prolong the life of a roof:

  • Keep trees trimmed to prevent the branches from scratching the shingles, and to avoid damage from falling limbs. Squirrels and raccoons can also reach the roof easily via touching limbs, and can cause extensive damage to roofs.
  • Use preventive measures to prevent punctures in the roof when installing television antennas or other wiring.
  • Always replace missing or damaged shingles as soon as possible.
  • Never walk directly on the roof - you can damage the shingles.To inspect the roof, use a ladder or walk board.
  • Make sure you have good ventilation in the attic, even during the winter.
  • Keep your roof maintained.An asphalt shingle roof - the most common kind - can be expected to last 15 to 20 years.
  • Keep gutters, roof valleys, and flat portions of the roof free of debris.

Roof

QUESTION: WHAT ARE SOME COMMON THINGS I CAN DO TO CHECK FOR ROOF LEAKS?

Answer: Little roof leaks can cause big repair bills. To keep leaks and excessive bills from coming up, learn how to protect your roof and your pocket book by taking preventive action.

Although you should rely on a professional inspector to inspect your roof, if you decide to do the inspection yourself, there are some tips you should follow:

  • Check your roof in the autumn, before winter weather hits, and again in the spring to assess any damage.
  • The best time to check for roof leaks is during a heavy rain. Look for water flowing over the tops of gutters, sagging gutters, leaks at gutter seams, or water pooling on the roof or in the valleys of the roof.
  • In the attic and on the roof, look for signs of mold. This means that moisture has gathered at some point, and could indicate a nearby leak.
  • Inspect the attic, and look for water stains, moisture, or dark colored-areas that could indicate wet wood or soft spots that could be dry rot.
  • Examine the gutters for leaks, cracks, and weak spots. Make sure the gutters are still firmly attached.

Most importantly, have your roof checked as part of a regular professional home inspection. A professional home inspector can troubleshoot potential roof problems, saving you costly repairs, time, and trouble.

Radon

QUESTION: IS RADON SOMETHING TO BE CONCERNED ABOUT?

Answer: Radon is an odorless, tasteless radioactive gas that can be found in homes across the United States. It is released into the air as a result of the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water.

This dangerous gas enters your home through small cracks and holes in the foundation. Your home then traps radon inside which can accumulate at high levels and over time can greatly increase your risk of developing serious health problems.

You should know that any home can have a radon problem. AmeriSpec routinely gets elevated readings on new homes, old homes and homes with basements, crawl spaces and even slab constructions. Testing is the only way to know if a home has elevated radon levels. It's estimated that nearly one out of every 15 homes in the United States has elevated radon levels.

According to the Surgeon General, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States and is estimated to cause approximately 14,000 lung cancer deaths each year.

Any exposure to radon has some risk of causing lung cancer. Therefore, the Surgeon General and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommend testing for radon in order to know whether there are dangerous levels present in the home. Radon levels of 4.0 pCi/1 or less are considered to be within the acceptable range. However, any readings higher than this should be mitigated.

There is no need for elevated radon levels to cause problems with the sale of a home. There are a variety of methods available for correcting radon problems in the home and even very high levels can be reduced. Radon problems vary from area to area, but the only way to know if a home has a problem is to have it tested.

Source: http://www.epa.gov/radon/index.html

Emergencies

QUESTION: I KNOW I CAN'T ALWAYS PREVENT EMERGENCIES, BUT WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP PREPARE FOR AN EMERGENCY IF ONE WAS TO OCCUR?

Answer: Although you can never truly predict when disasters or emergencies will come, there are some things you can do to help prepare you and your family for emergency situations. The following includes a list of things you can do:

  • Make sure each member of family/household knows where the main water shutoff valve, electrical box, and air conditioning/heating unit controls are located.
  • Designate two emergency evacuation routes from each room, and decide on a meeting location for the family - inside and outside - just in case you are unable to return home.
  • Decide on the safest room in the home to meet based on the type of disaster.
  • Install smoke alarms on each level of the home. The batteries should be reviewed once a year.
  • Place important documents such as birth certificates, insurance papers, titles, etc. within a single folder so you can access it easily when needed.
  • Stock up one gallon of water per person per day in a plastic container.
  • You should have at least a three-day supply of non-perishable foods including: canned goods, dried foods, energy bars, and any other foods that do not require cooking or refrigeration.
  • Create first aid kits that you can keep in your home and your car.
  • It is always useful to own a battery-operated radio, flashlight, and always have extra sets of batteries. Other items that are good to have on hand are duct tape, manual can opener, knife, and matches.
  • Make sure you have an emergency stash of cash.
  • For your pets, prepare their food and water in advance as well.
  • If you have to leave quickly, be sure to have a spare set of house and car keys in close proximity of an exit.