Safe & Sound logo Tips & Info
[ Home | Services | Links ]
The following tips are provided for your convenience. We make no guarantee that these will solve your problems, but hopefully you'll find something worth your time here.


Ten Deadly Homeowner Sins

Reversed or inadequate drainage:  Grading at the exterior causes the majority of wet crawlspaces and basements. Be sure all areas of the home drain water away from the building and do not allow it to stand near the foundation. Be sure all downspouts are tied into drain systems or are dumping water sufficiently away from the house by way of splashblocks.


Tile shower surrounds not maintained/poorly designed: Grout will allow moisture to pass unless it has been sealed with grout sealer. Over time the underlying surface (unfortunately, between approximately 1965 and 1990 this is "greenboard" drywall) will swell and crack the grout. This allows more water to enter, thus creating more swelling.....you get the picture. 90% of the tile walls in showers I see are retaining water. I can measure this with a moisture meter, hear it when tapped, and see it visually with staining patterns. That's scary because you're talking multiple hundreds of dollars to replace just the tile, not taking into account the structural damage that all too often occurs when not caught early enough.


Change those toilet wax rings!
The wax ring seals the toilet to the main plumbing system of the home. It looks like a donut and costs about a buck. The seal can be lost when the toilet is loose. Over a time period of ten years or more, even when tight, they get brittle and lose effectiveness. When they leak they can create havoc with the floor system unbeknownst to the occupants.  The plumbing code calls for the bases of toilets to be sealed with caulking to the floor.  This is in case the wax seal were to be compromised...they don't want sewage gases (methane) getting into the house. That's great, but when sealed you can't tell your toilet is leaking unless you can look up from below. Again this can be measured with a moisture meter. Change those wax rings every ten years-- its cheap insurance against an all too common problem. 


Attic ventilation:
It is so important in ridding the home of the massive amount of condensation on the cold side of the insulation during the winter and the heat build-up in the summer. In extreme cases under the correct climatic circumstances, it can literally rain inside your house with a cathedral ceiling on a cold clear day if you have no ventilation.  "Sealed" attics are another story, but are now becoming more common. These eliminate this ventilation issue. The latest thinking is that extreme ventilation can actually pull more moisture up into the attic from the living spaces, so ventilation must be balanced with sealing the attic from the living space.


Pump the doggone septic tank!
We've all heard stories about how Aunt Mary went twenty years without pumping her tank and never had a backup, or a miracle product that allows you to never have the need to pump again. Do not believe it. Once the solid layer in the tank builds up to a certain level it will start to go down the lines. The lines leach the solids into the gravel, the gravel fills up and allows no more water to pass (and begins to smell about this time, too), the lines back up, your toilet backs up. Not a pretty sight.  Septic systems can take many years of neglect, but by that time the entire system is trashed.  Pump it on every 3-5 years in most cases. $400 dollars over that time is actually cheaper than the monthly sewer bill everyone else gets.


Service that furnace!
Forced air gas furnaces have got to be the most abused appliance in the average home (with the possible exception of the refrigerator).   People don't care about their furnace!  They need service and cleaning at least every two years from a professional.  If not, the burners get dirty and run inefficiently, possibly producing carbon monoxide. The wrong burn pattern and subsequent moisture production can cause premature heat exchanger rust and failure, especially in newer, more efficient units (90% efficient and higher, also known as condensing furnaces). You then buy a new furnace. It is really cheap insurance to have the furnace cleaned and serviced every two years. You should expect to pay $150 for this service. 


Bad roofs:
What can I say? So many bad roofs, so little time!  Many roof replacements could have been delayed several years, especially cedar roofs, by proper cleaning.


Earth-To-Wood-Contact.
In many places around the typical home the wood siding is actually touching the dirt. This of course, can cause rot. Code requires six inches of distance between wood and dirt. In real life this is a bit much (ever seen high water pants?), so three inches or so is an accepted minimum.  Keeping the siding out of the dirt helps keep water out of the house in high water situations and makes it more difficult for insects to enter. 


Blocked drains.
Blocked drains at driveways and the bottom of external stairways can be catastrophic when rainwater enters the garage or basement. Keep those drain sumps and grilles clean!!


Amateur electrical alterations.
These are some of the scariest things seen on home inspections. Dad wants to add a circuit to the basement he's finishing off and can mess it up so many ways it would make your head spin. The wire/breaker size is many times not commensurate, overtaxing the wire. Open splices with electrical tape all over them are another clue. But the really big tip is the Ernst price tags all over the parts. When you see that, beware! These gems can be in the attic, the basement or may just make themselves known through several reverse polarity plugs in a particular room.


What do you look for when shopping for a home?

Quite often in the home inspection business customers are short term repeats. In other words they attempted to buy one house, walked away from it for whatever reason, found another one, and had the second one inspected. While this is great for the home inspector, it is a waste of time and money for consumers and real estate salespeople and should be avoided for time and money reasons if at all possible (again as a home inspector I encourage this----laugh! While there are many reasons specific to the transaction why a home ultimately is not purchased, more than a few are related to poor condition and the amount of money required to put it in good condition. If you weren't expecting a fixer, you certainly don't want to be put into the postion of almost buying one.  Not all defects are recognizable to the prospective homeowner, much less accessible during a routine walkthrough prior to submitting an offer, but many things can be seen from the street easily enough, and certainly while walking through the home. 

A home's overall condition is a four legged legged stool: Good design, good materials, good original workmanship, and good maintenance are what makes up the home's condition. Any of the four alone can trash a house. 

If the owner of the home takes pride in the landscaping, it more than likely means he has taken pride in the home inside, or has had the money to hire people to do so. I have found that retired people have some of the sweetest and nicest houses due to the time it takes to maintain a home in good repair.  

The one design issue that is overwhelming the most important is the size of the roof overhangs. Roof overhangs protect the house from rain. Homes with no roof overhangs have more problems. Period. There is no greater predictor of condition. Water running down the siding and onto the windows is bound to cause problems over a certain number of years regardless of the maintenance. Siding gets more water and more sun that way. Small mistakes can become big problems with no roof overhangs. Post-war houses with no roof overhangs were an unfortunate mistake, but make up a large portion of our housing stock.  Gutter overflows can become a wet mess in the house. Of course flat roofs are an issue. In Seattle? Are you kidding me?! Yeah they are certainly better than in the past....


True Stories and Customer Comments
It's just amazing what a good inspection will uncover. Read Darrell's true story of a recent visit to his photographer's house. Also, see what customers are saying about his work.


Hall of Shame
Take a walk down the Hall of Shame.  Some of the biggest problems that you may not know about may exist in your own house.


[ Top | Home | Services | Links ]