Top 10 Most Useful Tools

Your tool box or work bench may strike you as one of the least glamorous parts of home ownership. Many people move into their first house from a condo or apartment where maintenance projects were covered by the homeowners’ association. However, once you purchase a single-family or town home, repairs and maintenance tasks are your responsibility!

Purchasing good tools early on is a smart investment that in the long run will pay dividends in time and money.

Our experienced home inspectors have seen the repercussions of maintenance and repair lapses. They have compiled a list of the top 10 “must-have” tools. These essential items will see you through many basic tasks that inevitably will come your way―and they could save you money and minimize emergency repairs.

  1. Hammer
  2. Hacksaw
  3. Tape measure
  4. Sledge hammer
  5. Putty knife
  6. Utility knife
  7. Multi-bit screwdriver
  8. Combination wrench
  9. Bow saw
  10. Pliers

Though not technically “tools,” invest in pair of safety glasses and a good flashlight to round out your tool box or bench.

Keep in mind that part of making this investment is keeping your tools well maintained so they’re in good working order and last as long as possible.

Whether you’re asked to fix, build, repair, or maintain something, having these basic tools in your corner will provide the best chance of success.

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Fall Maintenance: Getting a Jump Start

For many families, fall can be a very busy time. With school back in session, sporting events to attend, and shorter amounts of daylight, your free time is often at a premium.  However, it’s important to take time now to prepare your home for winter. Here are the top 8 items that every homeowner should attack:

  1. Exterior cracks: Check around the exterior of your home for any cracks or gaps. These areas allow water to seep in and cause damage if they’re not sealed, the water will freeze during the winter, making the problem worse. Caulking or sealing these areas is both a quick and simple fix.
  2. Windows: Remove, clean, and store your screens.
  3. Garage: Weather strip your door to keep critters out and heat in.
  4. Heating system/fireplace/wood stove: Call in the experts to make sure these essential winter items are working properly.
  5. Exterior faucets and hoses: Protect your pipes from freezing by shutting off water to exterior faucets and “bleeding” the line before the temperature dips below freezing. Drain your hoses and store them indoors.
  6. Gutters: Clean out debris so you don’t start off the winter season with an ice dam.
  7. Sidewalks and driveways: Damaged walkways, drives, and steps are a year-round hazard, but their dangers are compounded when the weather turns icy. Look for cracks more than 1/8-inch wide, uneven sections, and loose railings on steps. Check for any disintegration of asphalt or washed-out materials on loose-fill paths.
  8. Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors: Replace the batteries in each of these life-saving devices.

Did you know that fall is the perfect time to plant spring flowering bulbs? Great choices include grape hyacinths, daffodils, and crocuses. If deer are a problem, net your garden with chicken wire. 

Wasps: A Late Summer Visitor

Nothing can spoil your time outside quicker than seeing a wasp. These unwelcome guests are attracted to sugary foods, which give them a quick boost of energy. To make matters worse, wasp activity hits its peak in late summer.

Although most wasp stings cause only mild discomfort, they sometimes result in severe allergic reactions that require immediate medical care―so what can you do if you see wasps on your property?

First, you need to find out whether it’s a solitary or social wasp. Social wasps are the real problem. They build nests and congregate in swarms. Once they form a nest, these feisty pests become territorial. That’s when problems can start!

Most wasps prefer to build their bulbous nests in protected, shaded areas, such as under eaves, porch roofs, decking, sheds, and steps. It’s also smart to check the seals around your home, including doors, windows, and dryer vents. These areas are great places for wasps to build nests. The hardest wasps to remove are those located within walls. It’s amazing how much damage nesting wasps can do on the inside of walls, and they’re very territorial and aggressive. If you hear concentrated buzzing sounds from within a wall or near these other protected areas, call a pest control company to remove these unwanted guests!

It takes a village: The experts you’ll need when purchasing an older home

Some people dream of owning an older or historic home. The lure of mature landscaping, stained glass windows, or detailed woodwork draw in many prospective homeowners. But before signing on the dotted line, you’ll need to line up some experts―starting with an experienced home inspection company. Look for a company that employs highly trained and licensed professionals.

Your need for expertise won’t stop there! You certainly should call licensed plumbers and electricians next, based on what your home inspection finds.

Here’s a look at some of the challenges of buying an older home:

  • Cellars: Moisture and dampness tend to be present in cellars due to stone foundations. Over time, moisture increases the likelihood of mold. The inspection report will document any evidence of moisture or mold. Ordering an Air Quality Mold Screening can give you additional insights.
  • Polybutylene Piping: This piping is not as efficient or weather resistant as what is used today. The truth about polybutylene is that it degrades quicker than other pipes on the approved piping list. Because they deteriorate from the inside out, it’s difficult to assess any damage. Eventually, leaking begins; if not corrected, it can lead to extensive water damage.
  • Cast Iron Drains: These drains are known to rust on both the inside and outside, and so deteriorate over time. Sadly, cast-iron drains were not built to last!
  • Aluminum Wiring: Wiring made from aluminum can get very hot and lead to fires.
  • Knob and Tube: Another type of wiring commonly used in the late 1800s to early 1900s, knob and tube is outdated and can be dangerous.
  • Asbestos: Asbestos siding is easy to identify, and the inspection report will note it as a possible asbestos hazard. Also, asbestos can be found in attics, tiles, and other building material. It is not always easily identified. Typically, inspectors do not look specifically for asbestos, but will document it if found.
  • Lead Pipes: These pipes were commonly used for plumbing in most of the District of Columbia’s homes built in the 1900s. An inspector can test the surface of the pipe to see if it contains lead.

Expect to see some differences―and challenges―when purchasing an older home! However, with the right team of experts in your corner, historic homeownership can be yours!

Pets: Can they hurt the sale of your home?

Dogs, cats, lizards, hamsters, guinea pigs, or even rats may be the love of your life, but buyers may view your pets differently. Smelly carpets, stained rugs, or scratched-up flooring can make buyers hightail it out of your home. What can you do? Before putting your house on the market, tackle these areas:

  • Hire professionals to remove any stains from carpeting. If the stains can’t be removed, replace it.
  • Remove smells from furniture where your pets may hang out―and that doesn’t mean just masking it with air fresheners. Instead, try enzyme cleaners or call a professional ozone company.
  • Clean up any pet mess in your yard.
  • Remove pet hair from furniture and draperies.

 

When you home hits the market, keep these things in mind during open houses or showings:

  • Keep the litter box or doggie pad out of sight.
  • Put away food and water bowls when not in use.
  • Vacuum religiously.
  • Pick up pet toys and put them away.
  • Remove your pets or keep them in a contained space.

 

If you choose to allow your pet to roam free during open houses, home inspections, or showings, check your home insurance policy to make sure it doesn’t exclude dog bite coverage. Also check for exclusions in the coverage section. Remember, in approximately two-thirds of U.S. states, pet owners can be held liable for injuries resulting from a dog bite―even if the animal has shown no previous aggression!

 

Agents: Are you thinking of safety during an open house?

Hosting an open house is an exciting and stressful experience. Your mind goes in a million different directions. However, have you thought about your own safety? Just the nature of working alone, often with complete strangers, raises your odds of being a crime victim. Attacks on real estate agents typically are crimes of opportunity, in which the assailant notices the agent is alone and may have valuables. Open houses are times when you typically are within the home for hours, and probably alone. Here are some things you can do to protect yourself:

  • Try to have at least one other person working with you.
  • Make sure your cell phone is fully charged and has a signal.
  • When you enter a house, spot a possible escape route.
  • Make sure all guests sign in and secure their full names, phone numbers, and email addresses.
  • When showing the home, walk behind the prospective buyers/visitors.
  • Try to avoid walking into small rooms where you could get trapped (such as a walk-in closet).
  • Check in with a friend or colleague throughout the day.
  • Introduce yourself to the neighbors.
  • When you publicize the open house, mention video surveillance will be in use.
  • Do not leave any valuables, such as a laptop or purse, sitting in plain sight in your car; make sure your car doors are locked.
  • Re-check all rooms at the end of the open house.

Having a plan is step one. Making sure your office has a plan is step two. Be safe and smart, and always trust your instincts.

Is your paint safe?

Did you know that before 1978, residential homes were painted with lead-based paint? Lead is a toxic metal that can cause a wide range of health problems, especially in young children.

In most cases, intact lead paint―with no cracking, chipping, or wear―is unlikely to pose health risks. However, you should always keep an eye open for the following:

  • Peeling, chipping, or cracking paints.
  • Areas susceptible to wear and tear that causes cracking or exposure to underlying layers of paint on stair railings, banisters, window sills, door frames, porches, and fences.
  • Lead dust, which may result when paint is sanded.

Another lesser-known area where lead can be found is in the soil surrounding your home, caused by flaking exterior lead-based paint.

If you’re considering buying an older home or if you live in one now, spend the extra money to have it tested for lead. Most home inspection companies can perform this test, and the results will be ready the same day.

Remember, if selling your home, federal regulations require:

  • Sellers must disclose in writing any information about known lead paint in the home. If sellers have performed lead tests, they must share the results.
  • Sales contracts must give buyers up to 10 days to check for lead hazards.
  • Home sellers or real estate agents must give home buyers a copy of the EPA publication “Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home.”
  • Similar lead disclosure regulations apply to landlords and tenants of buildings built before 1978.

 

Did you know?

  • Homes built between 1960–1977: 24% chance of lead-based paint present
  • Homes built between 1940–1959: 69% chance of lead-based paint present
  • Homes built before 1940: 87% chance of lead-based paint present

Got Termites?

One type of pest that homeowners really fear is the termite.  Termites cause billions of dollars in damage each year. They primarily feed on wood, but also like paper, books, insulation, and even swimming pool liners.  Termites can enter your home through the tiniest cracks.

Spring is when winged termites, known as “swarmers,” may emerge inside homes. People often confuse winged termites with ants, which often swarm at the same time of year.

Signs of infestation include mud tubes extending over foundation walls, support piers, floor joists, etc. These mud tubes are typically about the diameter of a pencil, but sometimes thicker.

Wood damaged by termites is typically hollowed out and shows bits of dried mud or soil. Wood damaged by moisture or other types of insects will not look this way.

There are a few things you can do to prevent termites from invading:

  • Make sure your rain gutters are clear of any debris.
  • Minimize mulch in planters.
  • Seal windows, doorframes, and cracks in the exterior of the home.

Another option is to contact a pest management company. They will be able to provide additional options to keep your home pest free.

 

Pests have no place in your home!  Be informed and aware!

New builds…4 types of inspections to consider

Buying a newly constructed home, may be a dream come true and a home inspection is one sure way to protect your investment while it’s being built and after.  It will allow you to hold your builder accountable as well as provide assurance that your home is being constructed correctly.

What types of inspections are available?

  • Footers and Foundation Inspection: This inspection would take place first once the foundation is poured and footers are in.
  • Pre-Dry Wall Inspection: This inspection occurs following the installation of framing, plumbing, and electrical rough-ins and just before placement of insulation and drywall.
  • Final Walk through Inspection: This inspection would take place before the builder completes their final walk through.
  • One Year Warranty Inspection: After living in your home for a year, it’s possible that some issues may arise. This type of inspection will document any problems within the home that involve plumbing, electric, structural concerns, windows, doors, etc.  It’s great to know the issues before your builder walks away.

For peace of mind, checking out these types of inspections is key.  Each provides a different type of documentation throughout the building process.  New communities and homes go up very quickly.  Hiring an inspector secures your investment and makes sure your builder is doing the job correctly. You won’t be sorry!

An important area, but one that is typically given little attention…your roof

Whether you are planning on selling your home, or even if you’re not going anywhere, summer is the perfect time to give your roof a little TLC.  Where should your start?

  • Clean off debris: Remove twigs, leaves, and limbs.
  • Inspect the flashing: Visually check that your flashing is solid and not deteriorating. Seal it if need be, remove old caulk and scrub the area clean.
  • Inspect the soffit: Look for cracks, holes or rotting to avoid an easy entry by water, insects, or small animals.
  • Inspect the fascia (roof trim): Look for signs of rot or damage. Contact a roofing contractor immediately if you notice an issue.
  • Secure loose shingles.
  • Clean and secure gutters: Clean and wash gutters if there are signs of deterioration, replace them.
  • Repair the mortar on the chimney: Work on your chimney should be done by a professional.
  • Prune trees: Trim any trees near or touching your roof.By doing these things yearly, you can save your roof as well as $$.