Elizabethtown Home Inspection Finds: Deck Issues and Maintenance

Today’s Elizabethtown Home Inspection revealed a few items that need to be addressed this spring and may also be on your deck as well. The deck is a painted wood deck, two stories high and is bolted to the home.  The deck is actually bolted to the home correctly, which is a rare find today and the overall structure was in good condition.  However, there are a few things that stood out, so check your deck. 

1.  The were several (actually many) nails that had begun to rise from the handrail and the deck boards.  The nails overtime will come loose and the nails stick up from the boards.  These need to be reset or replaced with screws, they will actually bite you if you are not careful.  A toe will find these nails every time.

2.  The top rail had begun to splinter.  This is where everyone wants to run thier hands across and nothing worse than a splinter.  Make sure the rails where people grab are sanded and smooth.

3. The biggest issue was where the band boards joined in one corner, the boards had pulled loose.  It is a repairable issue, but if this is not corrected the band board could pull loose and cause the deck to become unsafe.

4.  This is a good time to check your handrail and spindles to make sure that they are tight and in good condition.  You do not want a person leaning on the rail taking a header so you need to make sure it is secure.

5.  Pressure wash or otherwise clean your deck.  Over the winter the deck may have had some moss or mold grow on top.  This will be very slippery when it gets wet and could cause a fall. 

Check over your deck this spring, look for loose nails, ‘splinter’ traps and make sure all of the joints are properly secured.  You want to enjoy your deck this summer, not become victim to it.

Louisville Ky Home Inspection Finds: Deck to House Connection

When we add a deck to our home, it can add to the outdoor enjoyment; but if not done correctly can lead to misery later. On my inspection Saturday the client and I saw firsthand what can happen if you build your deck directly against the house without using a flashing. When building a deck an attaching it to the homes band board, you must use a flashing to direct the water away from the siding and potentially the homes structure.

On Saturday it was raining fairly hard (actually a good thing on an inspection) and we noticed that water was pooling along the edge of the deck where it met the house. This was concerning for multiple reasons, but mostly due to the home also having wood siding. Along the edge where the deck came into contact with the house, the exterior siding boards showed wood rot, and that was only the beginning. This home was on an unfinished basement (fortunately) so we were able to observe the band board, sill plate, floor decking and the floor joists. All along this area where the house and deck meet was water damage to the homes structure. The band board and the floor decking had taken the worst of it, but all of the area had some water damage.

The repair for this can be substantial since it will involve a great deal with Statewide Demolition and then who knows what else is uncovered. Keep in mind that as you start your summer deck project that a simple metal flashing installed by Commercial Roofing Austin while you are building the deck can save you trouble later.

Home Tips: Attic Stairs

Attic access can be limited or quite often impossible to enter.  When we are trying to look in our attics at home, it is tempting to add attic stairs to allow easier access.  While these stairs offer a great ease of access, they also pose a risk of falls, failures and other dangers you should be aware of.  In the first picture you can see that the legs for the steps are not cut correctly.  This leads to the steps being under stress as you use them and could lead to the stairs warping while you are climbing them and could lead to injury.

In the second picture you will see a common mistake on installation of the stairs.  The sign clearly states that a nail should be driven into these holes, but most people have a drill and screws handy so screws it is.  The issue is that a nail has a higher strength resistance than a screw, and the screw head could snap of and leave you hanging-literally.  Easy repair, easy mistake but injury could result. 

The stairs are also a good place for heat loss.  Always make sure that you have an insulation blanket of some type the covered the stairs in the attic when not in use. Remember that you should also plan to install a floor in the attic directly in front of the stairs, this will give you a landing as you enter the attic and keep you from searching for the roof joists that you may find, or the drywall ceiling which you will probably find with your foot. This floor should be at least 24″ wide and made of 3/4″ plywood and run a length that allows ease of access and a clear path to the attic.

There are a great deal of these stairs on the market, some are better than others. Just be careful when using them.

Louisville KY Home Inspection Reveals ‘Open Ground’ Electrical Issues

Outlet

On an inspection Friday I discovered that several basement outlets tested as having an ‘open ground’. If you inspector tells you that you have an outlet that has an open ground it is more than likely a three prong outlet that has a loose ground wire. The three prong outlets have a Hot, Neutral, and Ground and if any of these wires becomes loose it show during the inspection.

An open ground occurs whenever the ground wire is not correctly attached to the outlet or in some cases the wiring for the house does not have a ground wire. In some older home the wiring only had two wires, the hot wire and the neutral wire. If there is no ground wire present in the house wiring, then a three prong outlet is not a solution and should not be used. The only exception would be to install a GFCI outlet and place a sticker that states “NO Equipment Ground”. The outlet will still not be grounded but with the GFCI protection, it will be safer than a regular two prong outlet or a three prong outlet with an open ground. An electrician can make this repair for you.

If your home has a three wires system the repair can be easier to achieve. Remember also that it is not uncommon for more than one outlet to test as an open ground as the outlets are usually installed in a ‘stream.’ This stream will cause outlets that are between the offending outlet and the end of the stream to also test as open.  It could simply be a lose wire on the outlet or it could also be a loose ground in the electrical panel.  While this is can be an easy repair on a three wire system, it is always best to consult and electrician to make any needed repairs.  One wrong more in an electrical panel could be your last.

Louisville Ky Home Inspector Finds Water Heater Safety Issue

Check out this latest personalized travel cups video concerning water heaters. This is the latest Louisville Ky Home Inspection find: Read more on www.portableacnerd.com

Louisville Ky Inspector Finds Exterior Drainage Issue

I know that this has been mentioned on the site before, but on my inspection Saturday again there were downspouts that discharged the water next to the foundation of the home. The downspouts will produce large amounts of water over time and if the discharge water is let flow along the foundation walls, over time trouble will appear. The solution is simple, you can either install some of the downspout extenders found at retail outlets, or if you have a fairly steep grade, you can install underground pipes.

The same is true of your sump pump discharge tube. I find many of these terminating at the foundation. Keep in mind that most sump pumps are installed to remove water from the foundation perimeter through a drain tile system. IF your discharge tube is simply dumping the water back against the foundation then what good is the drain? This can be solved in most cases by simply extending the tube away from the foundation. Get the tube out about 24″ and that should help.

You need to do all that you can to reduce the amount of water that is running against you foundation. Water is the enemy of your home.

Louisville Ky Home Inspection Tip of the Week: Space Heaters

It is that time of year again that we get those electric heaters out of the basement, dust them off and plug them in.  However; please remember that there are news stories every year where a space heater was left unattended and led to tragedy. Please follow some basic rules when using a space heater:

  1. Look for one that is listed with a nationally-recognized testing laboratory, and make sure the brand you’re buying has passed all infrared heater reviews in a positive maner.
  2. Purchase a heater with a guard around the heating element.
  3. As much as we like to remove something from the box and plug it is, please read and follow the instructions for its operation and maintenance.
  4. You should not use an extension cord with an electric heater.
  5. Never run the heater’s cord (or any cord) under rugs or carpeting as says. The cord could overheat causing fires.
  6. Do not leave the heater operating unattended or operating while sleeping. These heaters are for use when attended and only intended for use as a backup, not a main heat source. 
  7. Do not have the electric heaters near water.
  8. Keep small children away from the heater. They may tip it over or touch the elements. 
  9. As always do not use the heater as a dryer for clothes.
  10. PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU HAVE OPERATING SMOKE DETECTORS!

Louisville Ky Home Inspection Tips: Outside Faucets

Burst Pipe

This can happen to YOU!

I was on an inspection Friday and noticed that the front water spicket had not been turned off for the winter.  We have been fairly fortunate so far this year in Louisville, Ky that it has not been bitter cold.  It is expected to be just that this upcoming week, so if you have not yet turned off your exterior faucets, now is the time to do that. 

 Most of the handles should be accessible.  If you have a basement they should be visible. If you cannot locate them, start at the water heater and follow the cold water lines out from there and you will find them.  The shut off could be very close to the water heater, or closer to the spicket.

If your house is built on a slab, the shut offs can be below sinks or again close the water heater.  Homes on crawl spaces could have them inside the crawl space as well.  If you cannot locate the valve give me a call and I will help you find it. 

One you have turned off the interior shut off valve; you should open the exterior spicket and let any remaining water drip out.  Leave the valve open.  This simple tip could keep you from a potential burst pipe and some unwanted winter flood.

Home Inspection Tip of the Week: Firewood Storage

I was at a friend’s house Sunday and it was cold. He decided to start a fire, and being old school he still uses wood.  That is when I realized that I need to post this tip: Keep you firewood out of your garage and away from your home.  I may be convenient to have in your garage or lying against your back wall, but this is a recipe for trouble.

One of the most important firewood storage tips is to keep the wood at least 20 feet from your home and at least several inches off the ground. Firewood attracts a number of insects, including termites and carpenter ants, and you don’t want these bugs making a home in your walls or garage.  Once you have termites or carpenter ants they can be a costly pest to remove. For more tips on this and roof replacements visit www.flatrooferservices.co.uk

Also do not throw firewood into a lose pile. This makes a good home for rodents and various small varmints such opossums and raccoons and even some snakes.  Raccoons have sharp teeth and claws, carry rabies, and can wreak havoc on a garage or roof, so you don’t want to do anything that attracts them and makes them want to hang around your yard.

Remember that it is a great time of year for roasting chestnuts on an open fire, just keep in mind that the wood you are using can invite pests into your home.  Keep it a safe distance away and you should be safe.

Home Inspection Tips: Chimney

On my last inspection I discovered that the chimney had some damage from a past storm.  This damage was fairly obvious but it made me think that it is almost time to start those fires.  This means that you need to call and get your wood burning fireplace inspected by a professional chimney sweep.  The fireplace also had evidence of nesting animals present. Had the new owner started a fire without having this chimney cleaned, it could have been tragic.  Chimney fires can destroy homes and for only a few hundred dollars you could protect yourself and family.  

In addition this chimney lacked a rain cap.  A rain cap will help keep nesting animals out of your chimney and will help reduce the moisture present in your chimney.  Moisture in a chimney can lead to other issues including brick cracks.  Remember that it is time to have your chimney inspected and cleaned.  Do not become a statistic.

You will also notice in this picture that the tree is actually growing over the flue.  This creates other issues and must be trimmed back.  Keep tress at or above your chimney and roof line pruned back. 

Tim Mattingly Know Before You Buy Home inspection Services 502-759-6355