Gutter Cleaning for Beginners

Gloved hand performing yearly gutter cleaning.In a previous blog, we mentioned gutter cleaning as an essential part of any spring house cleaning checklist. We received a number of questions about this topic and wanted to answer all of them for you! After reading this, you’ll know most everything you need to about gutter cleaning and maintenance. Then, you can decide whether this task is a DIY project you want to take on yourself or project you’d prefer to hire someone else to do.

 

The importance of gutter cleaning cannot be understated. Gutters only work when they are free of debris and organic matter. If this is not removed, there is a risk of the gutters overflowing and consequently –  water pouring off your roof into the ground below. Water can also seep into the eaves of your home causing damage that could otherwise be avoided. To avoid these issues, it is a good habit to clean gutters at least once a year – twice to be on the safe side.

 

The first thing to take into account when doing your own gutter cleaning is safety. Roofs can be dangerous so take precautions to prevent slips and falls, especially from taller roofs. Be sure to use a sturdy ladder when climbing to the level of your gutters. Some people prefer to stay on the ladder when pulling out the debris and organic matter in gutters, others like to get on the roof directly to clean them out. Either way, being aware of your surroundings, footing and balance are all important to avoid falls. Appropriate apparel, including shoes with a heavy tread and wearing lightweight breathable fabrics can make gutter cleaning a safer and more pleasant experience.

 

Once you’ve prepared for the cleaning it’s time to dive in. Most of what you will find when doing your annual gutter cleaning is decomposing leaves, branches and other organic matter – all great for compost bins! Instead of throwing on the grass to fertilize your lawn, consider raking as much as you can into a compost pile or simply an area of yard where you like to put yard waste. You won’t believe what great fertilizer it will make next spring.

 

While you’re on the ladder gutter cleaning, be sure to pay close attention to the downspouts as organic material can flow down and get stuck. Once you have determined these are clean, make sure you also have a splash block at the bottoms of your downspouts to keep the water from eroding the ground at the base and potentially causing water problems in your home’s foundation.

 

Once you have emptied the gutters, the gutter cleaning can truly begin. Power washers are a perfect way to remove dirt and other materials from your gutters and can be rented at a resonable price from your local hardware store. Anyone who’s used a power washer once knows how fun it can actually be – you’ll find yourself looking for all sorts of outdoor projects that could use a deep clean after winter! When gutter cleaning with a power washer, be careful not to apply too much pressure straight onto the gutters, but rather spray at an angle. If you notice the gutters appear to be unsturdy, consider purchasing new spikes to reattach your gutters to the rafters inside. Over time, these can tend to work themselves out but are easy to replace.

 

Caulking cracks and leaks can also help prevent rotting in the eaves and other damage to your home or gutters. Scrape out old caulk with a chisel, allow the space to dry, then apply new bead silicone. Finally, check downspouts to ensure they are still riveted to the house. If not, reattach them with a rivet gun which can be purchased affordably at your local hardware store as well.

 

Gutter cleaning isn’t the most glamorous yard work, but it is incredibly important. By following the suggestions we have provided above, you can be assured your gutters will do their job during the next rainstorm. Not super excited to get up on your roof, or even stand on a ladder? Most professional landscaping crews offer gutter cleaning services.

 

Learn more about spring home upkeep in our previous blogs on exterior improvements and spring lawn care. Considering a move in the near future? These improvements can not only boost curb appeal but also property value. Home inspectors, like those at Inspect It 1st, examine not only a home’s interior but the exterior as well and assess for any hazards or other modifications that may need to be made. Download our Top 5 Exterior Home Maintenance Tips PDF to learn more. Or, for a full list of inspection services, click here.

 



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Home Window Replacement Choices

A man doing his own home window replacement.Home window replacement can be quite the undertaking. There are a number of variables to consider when purchasing them. It can be staggering and frankly, an overwhelming process. There is much to consider – from materials and styles to prices and ease of install, picking the right windows for your home will take time and patience. The biggest difference between window varieties is generally what they are made of. Of course, all windows have glass panes, but the materials that surround the glass can include vinyl, fiberglass, wood or aluminium.

 

Wood – This classic building material is known for it’s natural beauty. Wood can also can be easily painted or stained to change it’s natural appearance. In the past, wood has been considered a top-notch building material, but it’s propensity to rot and it’s susceptibility to termites means it has become less appealing to homeowners. Still, new weather stripping techniques and hardware innovations can eliminate draft and other imperfections in these windows. One major pitfall with wood frames is the maintenance. You should check them on a yearly basis for rot, termite damage, cracks and other weather damage. When choosing wood for your home window replacement project, keep in mind the environmental impacts as well. To ensure environmental responsibility, purchase your windows from producers that are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

 

Vinyl – The most common home window replacement choice is vinyl. These low cost and durable windows are also energy efficient, making them attractive to residential buyers. Vinyl windows are waterproof and impervious to things like termites and moisture – which can lead to rotting. Vinyl is also an excellent insulator and because they are so lightweight, they can be easily installed by an ambitious DIY-er. One drawback of vinyl is the appearance, the seams are not attractive and factory direct colors are generally white and tan with a few other colors available by special order. Epoxy-based paints appear to adhere but the constant expansion and contraction of the material can cause cracking that would require touch ups. Finally, the process and materials used to create vinyl windows may be long lasting, but the sustainability of the PVC creation process and the chemicals released during its long decomposition do not lend these windows well to the term “environmentally friendly”.

 

Fiberglass – The popularity of fiberglass windows is on the rise. These durable, attractive and energy efficient models generally run about double the price of vinyl, but the maintenance-free aspect and longevity make them well worth the investment. Additionally, these frames come in a variety of colors, including a convincing wood finish – and can be easily painted. There are also frames available with a wood interior and an exterior sash that can be painted to your personal preferences. Because these frames are hollow, manufactures have chosen to inject insulation into this space, making fiberglass windows excellent insulators. Worried about your home window replacement carbon footprint? Fiberglass is easy to fabricate and therefore has a lower embedded energy factor and low energy is required to produce them.

 

Aluminium – Aluminium‘s strength and durability make it a favorite of architects by allowing more space for glass however, these windows do carry a higher price point and are therefore less popular with consumers. Aluminum comes is huge range of colors and finishes that are long lasting and tough. Unfortunately, aluminum is not an effective insulator and does corrode in salty air, so it should not be installed in coastal climates. Its low energy efficiency does not outweigh the recyclability of aluminum.

 

The four options listed above are of course not the only choices for your home window replacement project. Glass blocks, awnings and jalousie windows all offer aesthetic differentiation, interest and beauty wherever they are installed. By researching your options and comparing the factors important to your specific project, you can ensure that you choose the best windows. When installing your new windows, be sure to hire someone who is experienced with the material you have chosen to use. Proper installation is important not only for energy efficiency reasons but should you ever choose to sell, home inspectors, like those at Inspect-It 1st, examine your windows for proper installation and upkeep.

 

Looking for a trustworthy home inspector for your sale? Inspect-It 1st is the Nation’s Premier Property Inspection Franchise. Find a qualified home inspector near you!



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Series on Safety: Carbon Monoxide

Carbon Monoxide - gas stove burning. Carbon monoxide (CO) is a poisonous gas which has been responsible for an average of 170 U.S. deaths per year. Understanding when and where you may come in contact with carbon monoxide can help to protect you from the symptoms and effects of CO poisoning.

 

What: Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that is produced when fuel is not burned completely. It’s especially lethal since it is impossible for people to detect its presence on their own. CO can build up in enclosed and semi-enclosed spaces causing dangerously high levels of exposure.

 

Where: Carbon monoxide poisoning can occur inside the home and go undetected if you don’t have a carbon monoxide monitor. Besides in the home, internal combustion engines also produce this dangerous gas.  Enclosed or partially enclosed spaces can trap CO from dispersion into the air.

 

When: According to the CDC, carbon monoxide poisoning can occur from a number of situations, prevention is the key:

  • Heating systems, water heaters and any other gas or oil powered appliances should be evaluated on a yearly basis to ensure they do not pose a risk of CO emissions.

  • Flameless chemical heaters (catalytic) should not be used indoors. Although these do not use a flame, they can emit CO that can build up in enclosed areas.

Symptoms: Carbon monoxide poisoning can be identified by a number of symptoms including

  • Headache

  • Fatigue

  • Shortness of breath

  • Nausea

  • Dizziness

 

Additionally, extended exposure to carbon monoxide can lead to:

  • Confusion

  • Vomiting

  • Loss of coordination

  • Loss of consciousness

  • Death

 

The importance of early detection of carbon monoxide poisoning can allow people to ventilate the room and reduce CO exposure. If you are worried about carbon monoxide building up in your home or garage, there are CO detectors available for purchase. Be sure to install the detector according to the manufacturers instructions. CO detectors should be placed high on a wall, away from heating vents.

 

If your new carbon monoxide detector does go off, leave the area immediately and head outside for fresh air. Call 911. Once you have determined what caused the CO build up, be sure to have that appliance serviced by a professional to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Don’t forget to replace the batteries in your CO detector on a regular basis to ensure it’s always in working order.

 

The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that on average 170 people a year die from CO poisoning, and even more end up in the hospital due to CO exposure. Being aware of the risks and preventative measure that can be taken can keep both you and your family safe in your home. For more information on carbon monoxide poisoning, visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission website.

 

Home inspectors examine potential in-home hazards including sources of CO emissions. Click to find out more about inspection services from Inspect-It 1st.

 



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Spring Lawn Care – Greening Your Garden

Spring lawn care - green grass.In our last blog, we provided tips on spring cleaning for your home’s exterior including tips for lawns and flowerbeds. Spring lawn care can be vitally important for improving the look of your home, as well as encouraging biodiversity around your property. Learn more about how to get started with your yard below. Before you know it, you’ll be a certified green thumb! After you’re done, drop in a comment with your favorite spring traditions involving your home’s lawn and garden.

 

First things first, assess the situation. How does your lawn look? Are your flowerbeds a mess of old growth and debris from a long winter? Understanding what may cause issues and what to address first will help you to prioritize and move forward with your plan of attack. Be sure to wait until the grass has perked up after a long winter so new growth has a chance to grow in.

 

Once your lawn has had time to settle in, it’s time to give it a good cut. Be sure your blades are sharpened so they will slice the blades of grass, rather than tear them. Next, it’s time to rake. Remove thatch from the surface of the soil. By removing this debris you allow air to circulate near the soil and help to dispel any snow mold that may have formed, especially in colder northern climates. Now that air can reach the soil below, aeration is the next step. Rent an aerator from your local hardware store and run it over the entire lawn so water and air have the ability to seep into the soil and feed your grass.

 

Seeding your lawn can now begin. Seed any thin spots or places that are bare with grass seed meant for your climate and and lawn. Fertilizer is also important, especially if you did not fertilize last fall. Make sure to pick a fertilizer that is formulated for spring as it will give your lawn the nutrients it needs to start the season out strong. After all this work, upkeep should be somewhat straightforward. Simply water and cut the grass regularly and remove any debris or weeds to keep your lawn healthy. Next fall, be sure to fertilize as well as remove any weeds that may have popped up.

Now that your lawn is all ready, it’s time to turn to the garden.

 

Much like the lawn, it’s important not to start too early. In cold climates especially, you should wait until the temperatures are consistently above freezing before uncovering your flowerbeds. Once you reach this point in the spring, it’s okay to uncover and clean out the beds. Remove any debris, mulch or garbage that may have gotten into the flowerbed during the winter months.

 

Once you have cleaned out the bed, you can go ahead and prep the soil. Get a good mix of manure, decomposed organic matter and soil from the bed. Filling the flowerbeds with healthy soil will help fertilize the plants and flowers you will be planting throughout the rest of the growing season. Be sure to edge the garden as well to prevent grass from entering the flowerbed.

 

While you wait to clean the garden, you can start seedlings in your home. Using a small grow light, you can start some of your favorite plants indoors so they are big enough to plant when the time comes. You can also begin pruning headier plants in the early spring. Cut back shrubs and woody plants to promote new growth. Just don’t get too carried away with the pruning as it can kill the plant.

 

Once you have prepped the flowerbeds and your seedlings are large enough to plant, it’s time to get digging. Try setting up the garden a few different ways to determine what you think looks best. Then, plant away! Avoid handling your plants too much as the added stress can break their stems and prevent them from growing. Dig a deep enough hole, place the plant in the ground, cover the roots, and pack the dirt lightly to ensure the plant is secure. Once your entire flower bed is planted, give it a good watering – but be careful not to overwater and drown the roots.

 

Spring lawn care can set you up for a very bountiful and beautiful lawn and garden. Not sure where to start when creating your garden space? Try looking at local gardening catalogues to get an idea of flowers you may like or walk through a local garden center to find your favorites and get inspiration. Be sure to find plants that are suitable for your climate. You can find your climate/planting zone through the National Gardening Association.

 



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Spring Cleaning – Conquer Curb Appeal

Spring cleaning a deck. Spring cleaning isn’t just for closets and crawl spaces. Spring is the perfect time to get outside and clean up your home’s exterior, too. Springtime is the time to rejuvenate your gardens and lawn, clean the patio and gutters, and even the garage. Feeling a bit overwhelmed by this seemingly endless list of to-do’s? We’ve put together an easy outline of a few of the biggest areas you can start with.

Garage:

  • Sort everything – Go through boxes, corners and rafters. Get rid of things you haven’t used and things that are broken or worn out. Be sure to donate and recycle what you can! Also, bring hazardous waste to your local recycling place for proper disposal.
  • Plan and get organized – Buy shelving units, plastic storage containers and peg board to keep things off the floor and out of high traffic areas. Measuring total amount of space available first before you go out to purchase those items is a good idea.
  • Don’t backslide – Keep up on cleaning tasks throughout the rest of the year. Next year’s spring cleaning won’t be such and overhaul.

Lawn:

  • Rake the lawn to perk up the dormant blades of grass and remove any dead matted grass.
  • Aerate to ensure oxygen and water can reach the roots.
  • Fertilize your newly aerated grass to ensure the right nutrients are available for your grass to start the spring off strong.
  • And don’t forget to water your grass each week!

Gardens

  • Clean the flower beds: Remove debris including grass, leaves, litter or anything that’s not supposed to be in there.
  • Weed: Get the pesky dandelions and other weeds away from your plants so they don’t steal nutrients from your budding flowers.
  • Prune trees and shrubs: Encourage new growth by pruning back dead branches.
  • Mulch: Keep weeds from growing by putting mulch in your flower beds.
  • Bonus: Create a compost pile for all the yard waste you’ve removed. It will be great fertilizer for next spring!

Home Exterior and Patio

  • Gutters: Clean any yard waste that has accumulated in your gutters. If you aren’t comfortable getting on a ladder, most lawn services can be hired to clean them out.
  • Windows: Remove and clean screens and windows.
  • Patio: Sweep and inspect your patio for cracks, splinters or other potential hazards. Determine the best cleaning method for the material it’s made out of and give it a good scrub. Hose down any patio furniture to remove dirt and cobwebs. Clean your grill and check outdoor lighting fixtures to ensure everything is in working order.
  • Fencing: Check to make sure there are no holes in your fence that need repairing and that footings are still strong.

Looking to sell? Spring is a great time for home sales – and curb appeal is something to keep in mind. Home inspectors check both the interior and the exterior of your home. Exterior outlets, lighting, spigots, fences, windows, siding, roofs and gutters are all inspected for hazards or defects. By taking stock of your exterior each year during spring cleaning, you can catch these problems and repair them in a timely manner. For more information about what to expect from an inspection, check out our maintenance checklist.

 

Spring is a time for renewal. By prepping your home’s exterior during spring cleaning, summer and fall will be that much more beautiful around your home. Once you’ve conquered the backyard, it will be the perfect excuse to host the first barbecue of the season! Enjoy!



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Electrical Wiring: How To Be Sure Your Home is Up to Code

Electrical wiring by an electrician.

From running the dishwasher to powering important electronic devices, electricity runs our lives. But, what happens if there is a problem with the system? Exposed wiring, outdated breakers, and a host of other potential issues could pose dangers for you and your family. So, how can you avoid these pitfalls and ensure the wiring in your home is safe? Here are a few tips from the experts at Inspect-It 1st:

  1. Get your home inspected if it is:
    • Over 40 Years Old: Old wiring and circuits can wear out, become exposed or simply not be fit to handle the amount of energy that is being transmitted along them. Ensure any older wiring is up to par by getting it professionally inspected by a home inspector or your local electrician.
    • Major Renovations: If your home has had any major renovations or additions and is more than 10 years old, it is a good idea to get the wiring inspected. Verify all new wiring was run correctly and that safety standards for adding an electrical circuit meet code requirements.
    • New Home: If you are moving into a new home. No matter what age your home is, it is always a good idea to have the electrical wiring inspected to make sure it is up to code prior to purchasing. Repairs can sometimes be costly, so knowing beforehand is important when assessing your the best purchase options.
  2. Keep an eye out for unexpected power loss, flickering lights, overheating switch plates or outlet covers and other signs of electrical problems. These can indicate faulty or old wiring that can cause electrocution or start a fire.
  3. Check your fuse panel. If fuses are consistently being blown, they may be old and need replacing. Additionally, over fused electric panels can be extremely dangerous. Be sure the electric panel does not contain fuses or breakers rated at a higher current than the current capacity allows.
  4. Label all fuses or breakers in the electrical panel.
  5. Test outlets to ensure all plugs fit snugly and do not move or wobble. If outlets are not snug, they should be replaced  to avoid shocks or potential fires.
  6. Maintain cord integrity. If you find a cord that is frayed or damaged, remove and replace it immediately for your safety. Any exposed wiring can be dangerous because splicing and taping is not a safe, long-term solution.

Maintaining a safe electrical system in your home is important to avoid the occasional shock or blown fuse. It can also prevent larger shocks and electrical malfunctions which could lead to an electrical fire. By inspecting your home’s wiring thoroughly when you move in and maintaining the wiring through proper maintenance and upkeep, you can feel better about the safety of your home for both you and your family.

 

Don’t have a trusted electrician in your area yet? Inspect-It 1st can provide an experienced and trustworthy inspector that will evaluate your home’s wiring system. They can also provide you with the names of electricians in your area that can help fix any present problems.



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Siding Options: Things to Consider When it Comes Time to Reside your Home

Siding options.The exterior of your home is extremely important, both structurally and aesthetically. There are a huge array of siding options – ranging from stucco to wood to brick, and the list goes on. Each type of siding has its benefits and drawbacks. We wanted to break these options down based on their costs – and the long term outcomes of choosing a certain type of siding over another. Below is an analysis of 4 popular siding options to consider:

 

Vinyl Siding

Benefits:

  • Wide variety of colors and styles available

  • Lightweight but durable

  • Fast installation

  • Can be fitted over old siding

  • 30-50 year lifespan

Drawbacks:

  • Not exceptionally eco-friendly, made with PVC which does not degrade

  • Seams show where the panels meet

Cost: $2-$6 per square foot (installed)

 

Metal/Aluminum Siding

Benefits:

  • Comes prefinished with color or wood grain options

  • Dent resistant

  • Insect and Fireproof

  • Low maintenance

  • 50+ year lifespan

Drawbacks:

  • Dents are permanent

  • Scratches must be touched up professionally

Cost: $3-$5 per square foot (installed)

 

Fiber Cement/Stucco Siding

Benefits:

  • Strong compound which is made to be durable and weather resistant

  • High-end look

  • Does not require painting

  • 30 year warranty (generally)

Drawbacks:

  • Can crack and will need to be touched up

  • Special tools needed for installation, more involved in installation process

Cost: $5-$9 per square foot (installed)

 

Wood Siding

Benefits:

  • Easy to work with and install

  • Appealing to the eye

  • 100+ year lifetime

Drawbacks:

  • Upkeep is more involved; it can involve repainting every 5 years, restaining every 3 years, and redoing the clear finish every 2 years

  • Requires a clean surface to retrofit; all old siding must be removed

  • Species such as Pine or Fir can rot if not properly maintained

Cost: $6-$9 per square foot (installed)

 

Choosing the right siding option for your home is a big decision. Once you narrow down your choices, do your research and contact local contractors for estimates. Return on investment varies as well, whether this is important to you at this point or not, knowing how this investment will play out in the future may also influence your decision.

 

Residing your home is a long-term investment. Doing the appropriate research will help you determine what the best option is for your home. If money is not the bottom line, there are many other factors including region, durability, maintenance, and appearance. These things should all be considered when choosing which type of siding to use on your home. If you are having trouble deciding, get in touch with a trusted contractor whom you feel will give you quality answers to your questions. An informed decision is a good decision. This is your home: invest in it, protect it and enjoy it!

 



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Series on Safety: Plumbing

Plumbing - Plumber fixing a broken pipe.Winter can wreak havoc on your home plumbing. With arctic temperatures sliding across the United States in recent weeks, many people in the southern half of the country were surprised by unexpected plumbing problems they had never experienced before. From frozen pipes to drainage problems, a cold snap can mean waking up to a big mess. Flooding, even leaks, can cause unhealthy mold growth and leave your home smelling musty and wet. So, how can you avoid frozen pipes? Can you DIY a plumbing job? We have the answers for you.

 

The most prevalent issue when it comes to cold weather and plumbing is frozen pipes. Don’t worry too much if the temps outside dip below freezing as pipes will not freeze until temps hold around 20º according to the University of Illinois Building Research Council. However, temperatures in the sub-zero range can put your pipes in danger. The easiest way to avoid freezing is insulation. Foam pipe insulation sleeves are available at most home improvement stores, and do the trick for exposed pipes in crawl spaces and attics. In addition, electrical tape can be wrapped around smaller sections of pipe to prevent freezing.

 

Another way to prevent frozen pipe problems is to maintain heat circulation throughout the house, including crawl spaces and attics. Any vents that let cold outside air into these spaces should be closed, and heat from the house will be allowed to radiate through them. This minimal heat can help to ensure the pipes don’t freeze through during an extended deep freeze.

 

In the event that your pipes do freeze, there are a few things you can do to prevent them from bursting or other pipe damage. First, turn off the water main to prevent issues after the ice melts. Second, turn on all faucets in the house, just enough so that they dribble. This allows the pressure to be released that can form in frozen pipes. Relieving this pressure can help ensure the expanding ice does not crack or burst your pipes. Lastly, if you want to try manually thawing the pipes, a hair dryer or other radiative source of heat can be used to slowly warm the frozen sections. Do not use an open flame or torch to thaw frozen pipes.

 

Should a pipe crack or burst, a drop in water pressure will be noticeable, and would indicate a problem somewhere in the line. The water main should be turned off immediately to avoid a constant flow of water through the pipes. Even a small crack can create immeasurable damage on your home, so if you notice a small leak or crack, call a plumber immediately and have the cracked section replaced. Even if you cannot see a crack or break, that does not mean it is not there. These problems can occur out of sight, so make sure to keep an eye out for any indications of the presence of water in walls, floors or your ceiling.

 

Be aware of the cold temperatures, and keep an eye on plumbing to keep your home safe and dry. If problems do arise, call a professional. Plumbing is not always something you can learn how to do on the internet, especially large repairs. Avoiding major water damage is a top priority when protecting your family and home. Vigilance when it comes to plumbing care and maintenance is the first defense when cold weather strikes.

 



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Radon In Homes – What you Need to Know

Radon in homes Radon – This is a term many homeowners have likely heard but do not necessarily know what it is or how it can harm their family. According to the EPA, radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers in the United States and can be linked to up to 20,000 lung cancer deaths a year. Here’s what you need to know as a homeowner:

 

  • This radioactive particle is found the air and cause lung cancer in those exposed to large amounts. Radon is produced by the natural decay of uranium in the soil but this decay can be fixed and homes made safe from radon.

  • At home tests are available for testing your home’s radon levels. Generally these accumulate in the basement, nearest the ground where decaying uranium resides. The average concentration of radon in a home in the United States is 1.3 pCi/L. Radon concentrations between 2 and 4 pCi/L should consider fixing their home to protect against exposure to radon. For levels above 4 pCi/L the EPA strongly recommends action to be taken.

  • Contractors are available to test and fix your home. These people are experts in mitigating the risks of radon and ensuring your home is safe.

Contractors can be hired to inspect your home, especially rooms below ground level and those directly above ground level, for radon levels deemed unsafe. If your home does have higher than average radon levels there are a number of options.

 

As stated above, the EPA has set a maximum radon level of 4 pCi/L. Many homeowners take this to mean that anything below this level is “safe”. This simply is not true. Any levels between 2 and 4 pCi/L should still be considered dangerous and steps taken to reduce them. Your contractor will be able to explain the best option for dealing with radon in your home but generally there are three different solutions depending on the structure of our home.

 

  • For homes with basements, one of four types of suction can be used to reduce radon. Essentially, this process uses pipes directly in the earth below the basement slab and fans. The fans create suction below the slab and suck the radon up through the pipe. The open end of the pipe generally leads to an attic or outside the home where the radon is quickly diluted to safer levels.

  • Homes with a crawl space generally will use a thick plastic sheet layed over the earth. Underneath this sheet, a pipe and fan, much like that mentioned above, suck the radon out from the space between the ground and the plastic sheet and ventilate it to the outside. In some cases, ventilation of the space without a plastic sheet can also be used to reduce radon.

  • Any home, no matter the footings can benefit from sealing cracks in the foundation but this should be done in conjunction with other solutions to ensure the radon levels are reduced enough.

  • Ventilation of any space that may have excess radon is always a good idea. In lower levels of home be sure to open windows periodically, run fans to move the air up and out and keep track of radon levels.

The health risks associated with radon mean that all steps necessary should be taken to reduce exposure. Any of the above solutions can be used in conjunction with one another to ensure maximum diffusion. If you have radon accumulation in your home, contact a professional to ensure the correct steps are taken to reduce it’s presence and protect your family. For more information about radon visit the EPA website at http://www.epa.gov/radon/index.html. There you will find information about radon levels in your area, where to find testing kits and the more about solutions to radon in your home.



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Professional Landscaping: Is it Worth the Investment?

Professional landscaping - Landscaper laying sod in a yard. Have you ever driven through a neighborhood full of perfectly cut grass, beautiful gardens and manicured hedges? You may think to yourself, I could do that! Maybe you can, but landscape architecture is a profession backed by a four year degree and extensive knowledge in botany, horticulture as well as engineering and design. So, what can professional landscaping bring to your yard and is it worth the investment?

 

The rule of thumb for professional landscaping is that by spending 10% of your homes value on landscaping can add up to 20% to the selling price. This is not an immediate return on investment however. It takes about 5 years for plants to fill in, trees to put down strong root and everything to meld together to create a lush gardenscape and lawn. After 5 years you can expect a 75-100% return on investment plus the value it will add to your home in a sale.

 

Yards can also mean a lot to potential buyers. As the first thing they see when they pull up, a well kempt yard gives a great first impression and sets expectations on the inside of the house as well. All factors equal, it is possible a buyer will choose one house over another simply due to the landscaping. Knowing that professional landscaping has already been done also may draw buyers because it is an investment they do not have to make in the future. Maintaining an already landscaped yard is much easier than starting from scratch.

 

Once you decide to use a professional landscaper there are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Certifications for landscape architects do exist. Alongside a four year degree, the American Society of Landscape Architects provides certification to landscape architects. “The Society’s mission is to lead, to educate, and to participate in the careful stewardship, wise planning, and artful design of our cultural and natural environments.” Members obtain certification, continued education and professional support and can be trusted for any landscaping project, large or small.

  • There are lots of options when it comes to landscaping. From simply sprucing up your yard to a complete overhaul, landscape architects are trained and qualified to provide any level of assistance. On a smaller scale adding new gardens, laying sod and planting trees can do wonders for your yard. Other trends include adding terraces, arbors, pools, paving stones along plants, trees and sod. A landscape architect can help assess your property and make suggestions based on your expectations.

  • Maintenance is required. From mowing and pruning to watering and weeding, landscaping takes commitment. You can always build a plan with your architect for upkeep on your own. If that seems a bit overwhelming, landscaping companies generally have teams of people that will come to your house as often as you like to help as much or as little as you wish.

Professional landscaping can seem like just one more thing to do on your property but, the investment is well worth it. From the increase in your property value, to the compliments from your neighbors and homegrown bouquets around the house, landscaping can bring more than just a monetary reward. By doing your research, requesting the guidance of a professional and keeping up with maintenance you will surely see the fruits of your labor for years to come.

 



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Our home inspection company's history began in 1991 with the establishment of American Home Inspection. Over the course of the following seven years, a home inspection business prototype was developed that could be implemented anywhere in the United States. Our founders believed they had a unique methodology of providing homebuyers and sellers with consistent, professional and unbiased home inspections.

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