• 5 Things to look for when choosing a swimming pool cover

    Swimming pool covers come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and general types. There are solar swimming pool covers that work to keep the water warm as well as warm the water using the suns heat. Safety pool covers do just what it says it does, it keeps the swimming pool safe from unwanted entry of the humans or animals. In ground and above ground winter swimming pool covers, keep dirt, debris, and animals out of your pool during the winter season. It also prevents growth on the inside of your swimming pool that can be caused by the winter elements.

     

    Here are a few things you should look for when shopping for a pool cover for your above ground or in ground swimming pool.

     

    1. Find a swimming pool cover that is strong and sturdy. The cover should not only keep your swimming pool clean, it should add safety as well for humans and animals alike. It should prevent accidental drowning and dirt and debris from entering the pool.

     

    2. Make sure the swimming pool cover conforms to state and local law requirements. Some areas require that a certain size and depth of pool be covered when not in use. There are specific requirements that these covers must meet. Check with your local authorities to ensure that your swimming pool cover meets the requirements needed.

     

    3. Make sure your chosen swimming pool cover comes with a good manufacturer’s warranty. In general, the swimming pool cover should come with a warranty of longer than 2 years. It should definitely have a full 2-year warranty for all defects and longer for limited warranties. You only want a pool cover that can be trusted and is safe with a full warranty for a lengthy amount of time. you also need to be sure the company stands behind their products.

     

    4. Make sure the pool cover has a good overlap length. You should buy a size that is a little larger than your pool. This will enable you to securely anchor the swimming pool cover without having to worry about not being able to cover your pool completely.

     

    5. Make sure the swimming pool cover comes with enough parts to securely anchor the cover without worry of slippage. Most larger swimming pool covers come with a strap or anchor for every four feet of cover. You definitely want a good amount of anchoring so the cover will continue to be secure each time you use it.

     

    There you have it! The top 5 things you should look for when you are buying a swimming pool cover for any size pool and for any material type. You can purchase quality swimming pool covers at your local swimming pool supply store or at any department store that sells swimming pool gear and supplies. Carefully read all instructions provided by the manufacturer and ensure that the cover meets all requirements in your local area. Always think safety first when you own a swimming pool.

    Dave Park
    Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh
    Davepark@advantageinspection.com

    Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh. . . performs the Nation’s Best Home Inspection and provides the Nation’s Only “No Denied Claims Warranty” available in the industry. For the last 20 years, Advantage Home Inspection has been the deciding factor for the people we serve: Buyers, Sellers, Real Estate Agents and Home Inspectors

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  • Electrical Safety

     

    Electricity is an essential part of our lives. However, it has the potential to cause great harm. Electrical systems will function almost indefinitely, if properly installed and not overloaded or physically abused. Electrical fires in our homes claim the lives of 485 Americans each year and injure 2,305 more. Some of these fires are caused by electrical system failures and appliance defects, but many more are caused by the misuse and poor maintenance of electrical appliances, incorrectly installed wiring, and overloaded circuits and extension cords.  Some safety tips to remember:

    • Never use anything but the proper fuse to protect a circuit.
    • Find and correct overloaded circuits.
    • Never place extension cords under rugs.
    • Outlets near water should be GFCI-type outlets.
    • Don’t allow trees near power lines to be climbed.
    • Keep ladders, kites, equipment and anything else away from overhead power lines.

     

    Electrical Panels

    Electricity enters the home through a control panel and a main switch where one can shut off all the power in an emergency. These panels are usually located in the basement. Control panels use either fuses or circuit breakers. Install the correct fuses for the panel. Never use a higher-numbered fuse or a metallic item, such as a penny. If fuses are used and there is a stoppage in power, look for the broken metal strip in the top of a blown fuse. Replace the fuse with a new one marked with the correct amperage. Reset circuit breakers from “off” to “on.” Be sure to investigate why the fuse or circuit blew. Possible causes include frayed wires, overloaded outlets, or defective appliances. Never overload a circuit with high-wattage appliances. Check the wattage on appliance labels. If there is frayed insulation or a broken wire, a dangerous short circuit may result and cause a fire. If power stoppages continue or if a frayed or broken wire is found, contact an electrician.

    Outlets and Extension Cords
    Make sure all electrical receptacles or outlets are three-hole, grounded outlets. If there is water in the area, there should be a GFCI or ground-fault circuit interrupter outlet. All outdoor outlets should be GFCIs. There should be ample electrical capacity to run equipment without tripping circuit breakers or blowing fuses. Minimize extension cord use. Never place them under rugs. Use extension cords sparingly and check them periodically. Use the proper electrical cord for the job, and put safety plugs in unused outlets.

    Electrical Appliances
    Appliances need to be treated with respect and care. They need room to breathe. Avoid enclosing them in a cabinet without proper openings, and do not store papers around them. Level appliances so they do not tip. Washers and dryers should be checked often. Their movement can put undue stress on electrical connections. If any appliance or device gives off a tingling shock, turn it off, unplug it, and have a qualified person correct the problem. Shocks can be fatal. Never insert metal objects into appliances without unplugging them. Check appliances periodically to spot worn or cracked insulation, loose terminals, corroded wires, defective parts and any other components that might not work correctly. Replace these appliances or have them repaired by a person qualified to do so.

    Electrical Heating Equipment
    Portable electrical heating equipment may be used in the home as a supplement to the home heating system. Caution must be taken when using these heating supplements. Keep them away from combustibles, and make sure they cannot be tipped over. Keep electrical heating equipment in good working condition. Do not use them in bathrooms because of the risk of contact with water and electrocution. Many people use electric blankets in their homes. They will work well if they are kept in good condition. Look for cracks and breaks in the wiring, plugs and connectors. Look for charred spots on both sides. Many things can cause electric blankets to overheat. They include other bedding placed on top of them, pets sleeping on top of them, and putting things on top of the blanket when it is in use. Folding the blankets can also bend the coils and cause overheating.

    Children
    Electricity is important to the workings of the home, but can be dangerous, especially to children. Electrical safety needs to be taught to children early on. Safety plugs should be inserted in unused outlets when toddlers are in the home. Make sure all outlets in the home have face plates. Teach children not to put things into electrical outlets and not to chew on electrical cords. Keep electrical wiring boxes locked. Do not allow children to come in contact with power lines outside. Never allow them to climb trees near power lines, utility poles or high tension towers.

    Electricity and Water
    A body can act like a lightning rod and carry the current to the ground. People are good conductors of electricity, particularly when standing in water or on a damp floor. Never use any electrical appliance in the tub or shower. Never touch an electric cord or appliance with wet hands. Do not use electrical appliances in damp areas or while standing on damp floors. In areas where water is present, use outlets with GFCIs. Shocks can be fatal.

    Animal Hazards
    Mice and other rodents can chew on electrical wires and damage them. If rodents are suspected or known to be in the home, be aware of the damage they may cause, and take measures to get rid of them.

    Outside Hazards

    There are several electrical hazards outside the home. Be aware of overhead and underground power lines. People have been electrocuted when an object they are moving has come in contact with the overhead power lines. Keep ladders, antennae, kites and poles away from power lines leading to the house and other buildings. Do not plant trees, shrubs or bushes under power lines or near underground power lines. Never build a swimming pool or other structure under the power line leading to your house. Before digging, learn the location of underground power lines.

     

    Do not climb power poles or transmission towers. Never let anyone shoot or throw stones at insulators. If you have an animal trapped in a tree or on the roof near electric lines, phone your utility company. Do not take a chance of electrocuting yourself. Be aware of weather conditions when installing and working with electrical appliances. Never use electrical power tools or appliances with rain overhead or water underfoot. Use only outdoor lights, fixtures and extension cords. Plug into outlets with a GFCI. Downed power lines are extremely dangerous. If you see a downed power line, call the electric company, and warn others to stay away. If a power line hits your car while you are in it, stay inside unless the car catches fire. If the car catches fire, jump clear without touching metal and the ground at the same time.
    MORE SAFETY PRECAUTIONS :

    • Routinely check your electrical appliances and wiring.
    • Hire an InterNACHI inspector. InterNACHI inspectors must pass rigorous safety training and are knowledgeable in the ways to reduce the likelihood of electrocution.
    • Frayed wires can cause fires. Replace all worn, old and damaged appliance cords immediately.
    • Use electrical extension cords wisely and don’t overload them.
    • Keep electrical appliances away from wet floors and counters; pay special care to electrical appliances in the bathroom and kitchen.
    • Don’t allow children to play with or around electrical appliances, such as space heaters, irons and hair dryers.
    • Keep clothes, curtains and other potentially combustible items at least 3 feet from all heaters.
    • If an appliance has a three-prong plug, use it only in a three-slot outlet. Never force it to fit into a two-slot outlet or extension cord.
    • Never overload extension cords or wall sockets. Immediately shut off, then professionally replace, light switches that are hot to the touch, as well as lights that flicker. Use safety closures to childproof electrical outlets.
    • Check your electrical tools regularly for signs of wear. If the cords are frayed or cracked, replace them. Replace any tool if it causes even small electrical shocks, overheats, shorts out or gives off smoke or sparks.

     

    Dave Park
    Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh
    Davepark@advantageinspection.com

    Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh. . . performs the Nation’s Best Home Inspection and provides the Nation’s Only “No Denied Claims Warranty” available in the industry. For the last 20 years, Advantage Home Inspection has been the deciding factor for the people we serve: Buyers, Sellers, Real Estate Agents and Home Inspectors.

    This article was reprinted with the permission from the National Association of Cerfitied Home Inspectors.

     

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  • Health Effects From Biological Contaminants

     

    Some biological contaminants trigger allergic reactions, including hypersensitivity pneumonitis, allergic rhinitis, and some types of asthma. Infectious illnesses, such as influenza, measles and chicken pox, are transmitted through the air. Molds and mildews release disease-causing toxins. Symptoms of health problems caused by biological pollutants include sneezing, watery eyes, coughing, shortness of breath, dizziness, lethargy, fever and digestive problems.

    Allergic reactions occur only after repeated exposure to a specific biological allergen. However, that reaction may occur immediately upon re-exposure, or after multiple exposures over time. As a result, people who have noticed only mild allergic reactions, or no reactions at all, may suddenly find themselves very sensitive to particular allergens. Some diseases, such as humidifier fever, are associated with exposure to toxins from microorganisms that can grow in large buildings’ ventilation systems. However, these diseases can also be traced to micro-organisms that grow in home heating and cooling systems and humidifiers. Children, elderly people, and people with breathing problems, allergies, and lung diseases are particularly susceptible to disease-causing biological agents in the indoor air. Mold, dust mites, pet dander, and pest droppings or body parts can trigger asthma. Biological contaminants, including molds and pollens, can cause allergic reactions for a significant portion of the population. Tuberculosis, measles, staphylococcus infections, Legionella and influenza are known to be transmitted by air.

    Combustion Pollutants

    Combustion appliances are those which burn fuels for warmth, cooking or decorative purposes. Typical fuels are gas, both natural and liquefied petroleum (LP), kerosene, oil, coal and wood. Examples of the appliances are space heaters, ranges, ovens, stoves, furnaces, fireplaces, water heaters, and clothes dryers. These appliances are usually safe. However, under certain conditions, these appliances can produce combustion pollutants that can damage your health, or even kill you.

    What are Combustion Pollutants?

    Combustion pollutants are gases and particles that come from burning materials. The combustion pollutants come from burning fuels in appliances. The types and amounts of pollutants produced depend on the type of appliance, how well the appliance is installed, maintained and vented, and the kind of fuel it uses. Some of the common pollutants produced from burning these fuels are carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, particles, and sulfur dioxide. Particles can have hazardous chemicals attached to them. Other pollutants that can be produced by some appliances are unburned hydrocarbons and aldehydes. Combustion always produces water vapor. Water vapor is not usually considered a pollutant, but it can act as one. It can result in high humidity and wet surfaces.

    Where do Combustion Pollutants Come From?

    Combustion pollutants found indoors include outdoor air, tobacco smoke, exhaust from car and lawn mower internal combustion engines, and some hobby activities, such as welding, woodburning and soldering. Combustion pollutants can also come from vented or unvented combustion appliances. These appliances include space heaters, gas ranges and ovens, furnaces, gas water heaters, gas clothes dryers, wood and coal-burning stoves, and fireplaces. As a group, these are called “combustion appliances.”

    Appliances

    Vented appliances are appliances designed to be used with a duct, chimney, pipe, or other device that carries the combustion pollutants outside the home. These appliances can release large amounts of pollutants directly into your home if a vent is not properly installed, or is blocked or leaking. Unvented appliances do not vent to the outside, so they release combustion pollutants directly into the home. Many of these problems are hard for a homeowner to identify. A professional is needed.

    What are the Health Effects of Combustion Pollutants?

    The health effects of combustion pollutants range from headaches and breathing difficulties to death. The health effects may show up immediately after exposure, or occur after being exposed to the pollutants for a long time. The effects depend on the type and amount of pollutants, and the length of time of exposure to them. They also depend upon several factors related to the exposed person. These include the age and any existing health problems. There are still some questions about the level of pollutants or the period of exposure needed to produce specific health effects. Further studies to better define the release of pollutants from combustion appliances and their health effects are needed.

    The sections below discuss health problems associated with some common combustion pollutants. These pollutants include carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, particles, and sulfur dioxide. Even if you are healthy, high levels of carbon monoxide can kill you within a short time. The health effects of the other pollutants are generally more subtle and are more likely to affect susceptible people. It is always a good idea to reduce exposure to combustion pollutants by using and maintaining combustion appliances properly.

    Carbon Monoxide:

    Each year, according to CPSC, there are more than 200 carbon monoxide deaths related to the use of all types of combustion appliances in the home. Exposure to carbon monoxide reduces the blood’s ability to carry oxygen. Often, a person or an entire family may not recognize that carbon monoxide is poisoning them. The chemical is odorless, and some of the symptoms are similar to common illnesses. This is particularly dangerous because carbon monoxide’s deadly effects will not be recognized until it is too late to take action against them. Carbon monoxide exposures especially affect unborn babies, infants, and people with anemia or a history of heart disease. Breathing low levels of the chemical can cause fatigue and increase chest pain in people with chronic heart disease. Breathing higher levels of carbon monoxide causes symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, and weakness in healthy people. Carbon monoxide also causes sleepiness, nausea, vomiting, confusion and disorientation. At very high levels, it causes loss of consciousness and death.

    Nitrogen Dioxide:

    Breathing high levels of nitrogen dioxide causes irritation of the respiratory tract and causes shortness of breath. Compared to healthy people, children, and individuals with respiratory illnesses such as asthma, may be more susceptible to the effects of nitrogen dioxide. Some studies have shown that children may have more colds and flu when exposed to low levels of nitrogen dioxide. When people with asthma inhale low levels of nitrogen dioxide while exercising, their lung airways can narrow and react more to inhaled materials.

    Particles:

    Particles suspended in the air can cause eye, nose, throat and lung irritation. They can increase respiratory symptoms, especially in people with chronic lung disease or heart problems. Certain chemicals attached to particles may cause lung cancer, if they are inhaled. The risk of lung cancer increases with the amount and length of exposure. The health effects from inhaling particles depend upon many factors, including the size of the particle and its chemical make-up.

    Sulfur Dioxide:

    Sulfur dioxide at low levels of exposure can cause eye, nose, and respiratory tract irritation. At high exposure levels, it causes the lung airways to narrow. This causes wheezing, chest tightness, and breathing problems. People with asthma are particularly susceptible to the effects of sulfur dioxide. They may have symptoms at levels that are much lower than the rest of the population.

    Other Pollutants:

    Combustion may release other pollutants. They include unburned hydrocarbons and aldehydes. Little is known about the levels of these pollutants in indoor air and the resulting health effects.

    What do I do if I suspect that combustion pollutants are affecting my health?

    If you suspect you are being subjected to carbon monoxide poisoning, get fresh air immediately. Open windows and doors for more ventilation, turn off any combustion appliances, and leave the house. You could lose consciousness and die from carbon monoxide poisoning if you do nothing. It is also important to contact a doctor immediately for a proper diagnosis. Remember to tell your doctor that you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning is causing your problems. Prompt medical attention is important. Some symptoms from combustion pollutants — including headaches, dizziness, sleepiness, coughing, and watery eyes — may also occur because of common medical problems. These medical problems include colds, the flu, and allergies. Similar symptoms may also occur because of other indoor air pollutants. Contact your doctor for a proper diagnosis.

    How can I reduce my exposure to combustion pollutants?

    Proper selection, installation, inspection and maintenance of your appliances are extremely important in reducing your exposure to these pollutants. Providing good ventilation in your home and correctly using your appliance can also reduce your exposure to these pollutants. Additionally, there are several different residential carbon monoxide detectors for sale. These detectors alert consumers to harmful carbon monoxide levels in the home. They may soon be widely available to reduce deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning.

    Appliance Selection

    • Choose vented appliances whenever possible.
    • Buy only combustion appliances that have been tested and certified to meet current safety standards. Examples of certifying organizations are Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and the American Gas Association (AGA) Laboratories. Look for a label that clearly shows the certification.
    • All currently manufactured vented gas heaters are required by industry safety standards to have a safety shut-off device. This device helps protect you from carbon monoxide poisoning by shutting off an improperly vented heater.
    • Check your local and state building codes and fire ordinances to see if you can use an unvented space heater, if you are considering purchasing one. They are not allowed to be used in some communities, dwellings, and certain rooms in the house.
    • If you must replace an unvented gas space heater with another, make it a new one. Heaters made after 1982 have a pilot light safety system called an oxygen depletion sensor (ODS). This system shuts off the heater when there is not enough fresh air, before the heater begins producing large amounts of carbon monoxide. Look for the label that tells you that the appliance has this safety system. Older heaters will not have this protection system.
    • Consider buying gas appliances that have electronic ignitions rather than pilot lights. These appliances are usually more energy-efficient and eliminate the continuous low-level pollutants from pilot lights.
    • Buy appliances that are the correct size for the area you want to heat. Using the wrong size heater may produce more pollutants in your home and is not an efficient use of energy.
    • All new wood stoves are EPA-certified to limit the amounts of pollutants released into the outdoor air. For more information on selecting, installing, operating, and maintaining wood-burning stoves, write to the EPA Wood Heater Program. Before buying a wood stove, check your local laws about the installation and use of wood stoves.

    Ventilation

    To reduce indoor air pollution, a good supply of fresh, outdoor air is needed. The movement of air into and out of your home is very important. Normally, air comes in through cracks around doors and windows. This air helps reduce the level of pollutants indoors. This supply of fresh air is also important to help carry pollutants up the chimney, stovepipe or flue to the outside.

    • Keep doors open to the rest of the house from the room where you are using an unvented gas space heater or kerosene heater, and crack open a window. This allows enough air for proper combustion, and reduces the level of pollutants, especially carbon monoxide.
    • Use a hood fan if you are using a range. They reduce the level of pollutants you breathe if they exhaust to the outside. Make sure that enough air is coming into the house when you use an exhaust fan. If needed, open a door or window slightly, especially if other appliances are in use. For proper operation of most combustion appliances and their venting systems, the air pressure in the house should be greater than that outside. If not, the vented appliances could release combustion pollutants into the house rather than outdoors. If you suspect that you have this problem, you may need the help of a qualified person to solve it.
    • Make sure that your vented appliance has the vent connected and that nothing is blocking it. Make sure there are no holes or cracks in the vent. Do not vent gas clothes dryers or water heaters into the house for heating. This is unsafe.
    • Open the stove’s damper when adding wood. This allows more air into the stove. More air helps the wood burn properly, and prevents pollutants from being drawn back into the house instead of going up the chimney. If there is isible smoke or a constant smoky odor inside the home while using a wood-burning stove, this is a sign that the stove is not working properly. Soot on furniture in the rooms where you are using the stove also tells this. Smoke and soot are signs that the stove is releasing pollutants into the indoor air.

    Correct Use of Appliances

    • Read and follow the instructions for all appliances so that you understand how they work. Keep the owner’s manual in a convenient place to refer to when needed. Also, read and follow the warning labels because they tell you important safety information that you need to know. Reading and following the instructions and warning labels could save your life.
    • Always use the correct fuel for the appliance.
    • Use only water-clear ASTM 1-K kerosene for kerosene heaters. The use of kerosene other than 1-K could lead to a release of more pollutants in your home. Never use gasoline in a kerosene heater because it can cause a fire or an explosion. Using even small amounts of gasoline could cause a fire.
    • Use seasoned hardwoods (elm, maple, oak) instead of softwoods (cedar, fir, pine) in wood-burning stoves and fireplaces. Hardwoods are better because they burn hotter and form less creosote, an oily, black tar that sticks to chimneys and stove pipes. Do not use green or wet woods as the primary wood because they make more creosote and smoke. Never burn painted scrap wood or wood treated with preservatives, because they could release highly toxic pollutants, such as arsenic or lead. Plastics, charcoal, and colored paper, such as comics and wrapping paper, also produce pollutants. Never burn anything that the stove or fireplace manufacturer does not recommend.
    • Never use a range, oven or dryer to heat your home. When you misuse gas appliances in this way, they can produce fatal amounts of carbon monoxide. They can produce high levels of nitrogen dioxide, too.
    • Never use an unvented combustion heater overnight or in a room where you are sleeping. Carbon monoxide from combustion heaters can reach dangerous levels.
    • Never ignore a safety device when it shuts off an appliance. It means that something is wrong. Read your appliance instructions to find out what you should do, or have a professional check out the problem.
    • Never ignore the smell of fuel. This usually indicates that the appliance is not operating properly or is leaking fuel. Leaking fuel will not always be detectable by smell. If you suspect that you have a fuel leak, have it fixed as soon as possible. In most cases, you should shut off the appliance, extinguish any other flames or pilot lights, shut off other appliances in the area, open windows and doors, call for help, and leave the area.

    Inspection and Maintenance

    Have your combustion appliance regularly inspected and maintained to reduce your exposure to pollutants. Appliances that are not working properly can release harmful and even fatal amounts of pollutants, especially carbon monoxide. Have chimneys and vents inspected when installing or changing vented heating appliances. Some modifications may be required. For example, if a change was made in your heating system from oil to natural gas, the flue gas produced by the gas system could be hot enough to melt accumulated oil-combustion debris in the chimney or vent. This debris could block the vent, forcing pollutants into the house. It is important to clean your chimney and vents, especially when changing heating systems. Always hire an InterNACHI inspector to perform your home inspections, as they all must pass the most comprehensive, rigorous training program available.

    What are the Inspection and Maintenance Procedures?

    The best advice is to follow the recommendations of the manufacturer. The same combustion appliance may have different inspection and maintenance requirements, depending on where you live. In general, check the flame in the furnace combustion chamber at the beginning of the heating season. Natural gas furnaces should have a blue flame with perhaps only a slight yellow tip. Call your appliance service representative to adjust the burner if there is a lot of yellow in the flame, or call your local utility company for this service. LP units should have a flame with a bright blue center that may have a light yellow tip. Pilot lights on gas water heaters and gas cooking appliances should also have a blue flame. Have a trained service representative adjust the pilot light if it is yellow or orange. Before each heating season, have flues and chimneys inspected before each heating season for leakage and for blockage by creosote or debris. Creosote buildup or leakage could cause black stains on the outside of the chimney or flue. These stains can mean that pollutants are leaking into the house.

    Dave Park
    Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh
    Davepark@advantageinspection.com

    Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh. . . performs the Nation’s Best Home Inspection and provides the Nation’s Only “No Denied Claims Warranty” available in the industry. For the last 20 years, Advantage Home Inspection has been the deciding factor for the people we serve: Buyers, Sellers, Real Estate Agents and Home Inspectors.

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  • Before You Move

     

    Protect yourself by hiring a Licensed Home Inspector to inspect your potential new home. If you identify problems, have the landlord or seller correct them before you move in, or even consider moving elsewhere.

    • Have professionals check the heating and cooling system, including humidifiers and vents. Have duct lining and insulation checked for growth.
    • Check for exhaust fans in bathrooms and kitchens. If there are no vents, do the kitchen and bathrooms have at least one window in each room? Does the stovetop have a hood vented outside? Does the clothes dryer vent outside? Do all vents exhaust to the outside of the building, and not in attics or crawlspaces?
    • Look for obvious mold growth throughout the house, including attics, basements and crawlspaces, and around the foundation outside. See if there are many plants close to the house, particularly if they are damp and rotting. They are a potential source of biological pollutants. Downspouts from roof gutters should route water away from the building.
    • Look for stains on the walls, floor or carpet (including any carpet over concrete floors) as evidence of previous flooding or moisture problems. Is there moisture on windows and surfaces? Are there signs of leaks or seepage in the basement?
    • Look for rotted building materials, which may suggest moisture or water damage.
    • If you or anyone else in the family has a pet allergy, ask if any pets have lived in the home.
    • Examine the design of the building. Remember that in cold climates, overhanging areas, rooms over unheated garages, and closets on outside walls may be prone to problems with biological pollutants.
    • Look for signs of cockroaches. (Carefully read instructions for use and any cautionary labeling on cleaning products before beginning cleaning procedures.)
    • Do not mix any chemical products. Especially, never mix cleaners containing bleach with any product (such as ammonia) which does not have instructions for such mixing. When chemicals are combined, a dangerous gas can sometimes be formed.
    • Household chemicals may cause burning or irritation to skin and eyes.
    • Household chemicals may be harmful if swallowed or inhaled.
    • Avoid contact with skin, eyes, mucous membranes, and clothing.
    • Avoid breathing vapor. Open all windows and doors, and use an exhaust fan that sends the air outside.
    • Keep household chemicals out of reach of children.
    • Rinse treated surface areas well to remove all traces of chemicals.

    Correcting Water Damage

    What if damage is already done? Follow these guidelines for correcting water damage:

    • Throw out mattresses, wicker furniture, straw baskets and the like that have been water damaged or contain mold. These cannot be recovered.
    • Discard any water-damaged furnishings, such as carpets, drapes, stuffed toys, upholstered furniture, and ceiling tiles, unless they can be recovered by steam cleaning or hot-water washing and thorough drying.
    • Remove and replace wet insulation to prevent conditions where biological pollutants can grow.

    Reducing Exposure to Biological Contaminants

    General good housekeeping, and maintenance of heating and air-conditioning equipment, are very important. Adequate ventilation and good air distribution also help. The key to mold control is moisture control. If mold is a problem, clean up the mold and get rid of excess water and moisture. Maintaining the relative humidity between 30% to 60% will help control mold, dust mites and cockroaches. Employ integrated pest management to control insect and animal allergens. Cooling-tower treatment procedures exist to reduce levels of Legionella and other organisms.

    Install and use exhaust fans that are vented to the outdoors in kitchens and bathrooms, and vent clothes dryers outdoors. These actions can eliminate much of the moisture that builds up from everyday activities. There are exhaust fans on the market that produce little noise, an important consideration for some people. Another benefit to using kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans is that they can reduce levels of organic pollutants that vaporize from hot water used in showers and dishwashers. Ventilate the attic and crawlspaces to prevent moisture build-up. Keeping humidity levels in these areas below 50% can prevent water condensation on building materials.

    If using cool mist or ultrasonic humidifiers, clean appliances according to the manufacturer’s instructions and refill with fresh water daily. Because these humidifiers can become breeding grounds for biological contaminants, they have the potential for causing diseases such as hypersensitivity pneumonitis and humidifier fever. Evaporation trays in air conditioners, dehumidifiers, and refrigerators should also be cleaned frequently.

    Thoroughly clean and dry water-damaged carpets and building materials (within 24 hours, if possible), or consider removal and replacement. Water-damaged carpets and building materials can harbor mold and bacteria. It is very difficult to completely rid such materials of biological contaminants.

    Keep the house clean. House dust mites, pollens, animal dander, and other allergy-causing agents can be reduced, although not eliminated, through regular cleaning. People who are allergic to these pollutants should use allergen-proof mattress encasements, wash bedding in hot water (130° F), and avoid room furnishings that accumulate dust, especially if they cannot be washed in hot water. Allergic individuals should also leave the house while it is being vacuumed because vacuuming can actually increase airborne levels of mite allergens and other biological contaminants. Using central vacuum systems that are vented to the outdoors, or vacuums with high efficiency filters may also be of help.

    Take steps to minimize biological pollutants in basements. Clean and disinfect the basement floor drain regularly. Do not finish a basement below ground level unless all water leaks are patched and outdoor ventilation and adequate heat to prevent condensation are provided. Operate a dehumidifier in the basement, if needed, to keep relative humidity levels between 30% to 50%.

    Dave Park
    Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh
    Davepark@advantageinspection.com

    Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh. . . performs the Nation’s Best Home Inspection and provides the Nation’s Only “No Denied Claims Warranty” available in the industry. For the last 20 years, Advantage Home Inspection has been the deciding factor for the people we serve: Buyers, Sellers, Real Estate Agents and Home Inspectors.

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  • The internet has given us the ability to control many of our electronic systems remotely. Even when we are not at home, we are now able to adjust settings from afar. Video recording devices, for example, can now be set to record your favorite TV shows using an app on your smart phone. Therefore, it makes sense that you should be able to apply this technology within the field of home security.

    After all, home security is used to protect your property when you are away from your house. Therefore, having the ability to access a security system remotely is ideal. This is now commonly available from a number of home security providers, with companies such as Securitychoice Baltimore and other areas offering the ability to switch your home security system on or off using your computer, web-enabled cell phone, or tablet device. This type of remote security is perfect for occasions when you might accidentally leave home without without enabling your security settings. However, should you need to give access to a guest while you are not at home, this is also a great way to disarm your home security system temporarily.

    However, this type of remote access can let you do more than simply alter your home security system settings. More advanced remote access systems will also allow you view real-time video recordings from cameras around your home. Not only is this useful when you’re away from the house, but it can also allow you to see who is outside your property, without opening the door.

    Since you are more likely to be near to your phone, even when your are not inside your home, many remote systems also offer security alert features. Whereas you may usually be alerted about emergency conditions while you’re inside your house, the remote home security system allows you to be notified about potential threats, even when you’re away from your property. This can include burglary, fire and carbon monoxide monitoring around the clock, as well as water sensors, which can help to alert you if your home might be at risk from water damage.

    You can even customize your remote security settings to suit your individual needs and preferences. Receive alerts which will let you know when your children have arrived home from school, or tell you how long your housekeeper has spent at your property. Remote security is the perfect way to receive complete reassurance about the security of your home, even when you can’t be there yourself.

    Dave Park
    Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh
    Davepark@advantageinspection.com

    Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh. . . performs the Nation’s Best Home Inspection and provides the Nation’s Only “No Denied Claims Warranty” available in the industry. For the last 20 years, Advantage Home Inspection has been the deciding factor for the people we serve: Buyers, Sellers, Real Estate Agents and Home Inspectors.

  • Attached Garage Fire Hazards

    The purpose of this article is twofold. First, at Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh, we’d like you to take measures to keep your garage free from fire. Fortunately, there are ways this can be done, some of which are described below. Secondly, garage fires do happen, and we’d like you to make sure that a fire cannot not easily spread to the rest of your house. While you can perform many of the recommendations in this article yourself, it is a good idea to hire a licensed home inspector to make sure your home is safe from a garage fire.

    Why do many garages pose a fire hazard?

    •Where are you most likely to do any welding, or any work on your car? These activities require working with all sorts of flammable materials.

    •Water heaters and boilers are usually stored in garages, and they can create sparks that may ignite fumes or fluids. Car batteries, too, will spark under certain conditions.

    •Oil and gasoline can drip from cars. These fluids may collect unnoticed and eventually ignite, given the proper conditions.

    •Flammable liquids, such as gasoline, motor oil and paint are commonly stored in garages. Some other examples are brake fluid, varnish, paint thinner and lighter fluid.

    The following tips can help prevent garage fires and their spread:

    •If the garage allows access to the attic, make sure a hatch covers this access.

    •The walls and ceiling should be fire-rated. Unfortunately, it will be difficult for untrained homeowners to tell if their walls are Type X fire-rated gypsum. A licensed home inspector can examine the walls and ceiling to make sure they are adequate fire barriers.

    •The floor should be clear of clutter. Loose papers, matches, oily rags, and other potentially flammable items are extremely dangerous if they are strewn about the garage floor.

    •Use light bulbs with the proper wattage, and do not overload electrical outlets.

    •Tape down all cords and wires so they are not twisted or accidentally yanked.

    If there is a door that connects the garage to the living area, consider the following:

    •Do not install a pet door in the door! Flames can more easily spread into the living area through a pet door, especially if it’s made of plastic.

    •Does the door have a window? A licensed inspector can inspect the window to tell if it’s fire-rated.

    •The door should be self-closing. While it may be inconvenient, especially while carrying groceries into the house from the car, doors should be self-closing. You never know when a fire will happen, and it would be unfortunate to accidentally leave the door open while a fire is starting in the garage.

    •Check the joints and open spaces around the door. Are they tightly sealed? Any openings at all can allow dangerous fumes, such as carbon monoxide or gasoline vapor, to enter the living area. An InterNACHI inspector can recommend ways to seal the door so that fumes cannot enter the living area.

    Concerning items placed on the floor, you should check for the following:

    •Store your flammable liquids in clearly labeled, self-closing containers, and only in small amounts. Keep them away from heaters, appliances, pilot lights and other sources of heat or flame.

    •Never store propane tanks indoors. If they catch fire, they can explode. Propane tanks are sturdy enough to be stored outdoors.

    In summary, there are plenty of things that you can do to prevent garage fires from spreading to the rest of the house, or to keep them from starting in the first place. However, it is highly recommended that you have your garage periodically examined by a licensed home inspector.

    Dave Park
    Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh
    Davepark@advantageinspection.com

    Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh. . . performs the Nation’s Best Home Inspection and provides the Nation’s Only “No Denied Claims Warranty” available in the industry. For the last 20 years, Advantage Home Inspection has been the deciding factor for the people we serve: Buyers, Sellers, Real Estate Agents and Home Inspectors.

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  • Solar energy offers considerable advantages over conventional energy systems by nullifying flaws in those systems long considered to be unchangeable. Solar power for home energy production has its flaws, too, which are outlined in another article, but they’re dwarfed by the advantages listed below.
     
    Solar energy is a great choice
    The following are advantages of solar energy:
    • Raw materials are renewable and unlimited. The amount of available solar energy is staggering — roughly 10,000 times that currently required by humans — and it’s constantly replaced. A mere 0.02% of incoming sunlight, if captured correctly, would be sufficient to replace every other fuel source currently used.

    Granted, the Earth does need much of this solar energy to drive its weather, so let’s look only at the unused portion of sunlight that is reflected back into space, known as the albedo. Earth’s average albedo is around 30%, meaning that roughly 52 petawatts of energy is reflected by the Earth and lost into space every year. Compare this number with global energy-consumption statistics.  Annually, the energy lost to space is the combined equivalent of 400 hurricanes, 1 million Hoover Dams, Great Britain’s energy requirement for 250,000 years, worldwide oil, gas and coal production for 387 years, 75 million cars, and 50 million 747s running perpetually for one year (not to mention 1 million fictional DeLorean time machines!). 

    • Solar power is low-emission. Solar panels produce no pollution, although they impose environmental costs through manufacture and construction. These environmental tolls are negligible, however, when compared with the damage inflicted by conventional energy sources:  the burning of fossil fuels releases roughly 21.3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually. 
    • Solar power is suitable for remote areas that are not connected to energy grids. It may come as a surprise to city-dwellers but, according to Home Power Magazine, as of 2006, 180,000 houses in the United States were off-grid, and that figure is likely considerably higher today. California, Colorado, Maine, Oregon, Vermont and Washington have long been refuges for such energy rebels, though people live off the grid in every state. While many of these people shun the grid on principle, owing to politics and environmental concerns, few of the world’s 1.8 billion off-the-gridders have any choice in the matter. Solar energy can drastically improve the quality of life for millions of people who live in the dark, especially in places such as Sub-Saharan Africa, where as many as 90% of the rural population lacks access to electricity. People in these areas must rely on fuel-based lighting, which inflicts significant social and environmental costs, from jeopardized health through Home Inspection Raleigh - Solar Energycontamination of indoor air, to limited overall productivity.   
    • Solar power provides green jobs. Production of solar panels for domestic use is becoming a growing source of employment in research, manufacture, sales and installation.
    • Solar panels contain no moving parts and thus produce no noise. Wind turbines, by contrast, require noisy gearboxes and blades.
    • In the long run, solar power is economical. Solar panels and installation involve high initial expenses, but this cost is soon offset by savings on energy bills.  Eventually, they may even produce a profit on their use.
    • Solar power takes advantage of net metering, which is the practice of crediting homeowners for electricity they produce and return to the power grid. As part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, public electric utilities are required to make available, upon request, net metering to their Home Inspection Raleigh -Manhattan, and much of the northeast USA, goes dark in August, 2003customers. This practice offers an advantage for homeowners who use solar panels (or wind turbines or fuel cells) that may, at times, produce more energy than their homes require. If net metering is not an option, excess energy may be stored in batteries.
    • Solar power can mean government tax credits. U.S. federal subsidies credit up to 30% of system costs, and each state offers its own incentives. California, blessed with abundant sunshine and plagued by high electric rates and an over-taxed grid, was the first state to offer generous renewable-energy incentives for homes and businesses.
    • Solar power is reliable. Many homeowners favor solar energy because it is virtually immune to potential failings of utility companies, mainly in the form of political or economic turmoil, terrorism, natural disasters, or brownouts due to overuse. The Northeast Blackout of 2003 unplugged 55 million people across two countries, while rolling blackouts are a part of regular life in some South Asian countries, and occasionally in California and Texas.
    • Solar power conserves foreign energy expenditures. In many countries, a large percentage of earnings is used to pay for imported oil for power generation. The United States alone spends $13 million per hour on oil, much of which comes from Persian Gulf nations. As oil supplies dwindle and prices rise in this politically unstable region, these problems continue to catalyze the expansion of solar power and other alternative-energy systems.
    In summary, solar energy offers advantages to conventional fossil fuels and other renewable energy systems.

    Dave Park
    Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh
    Davepark@advantageinspection.com

    Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh. . . performs the Nation’s Best Home Inspection and provides the Nation’s Only “No Denied Claims Warranty” available in the industry. For the last 20 years, Advantage Home Inspection has been the deciding factor for the people we serve: Buyers, Sellers, Real Estate Agents and Home Inspectors.

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  • The fireplace has long been the favorite spot to gather in the American home.  A place for warmth, the fireplace adds ambience, sparking memories that are to be treasured. With all the benefits that a fireplace can bring, there are some major downsides that if not addressed can cause a love for the fireplace to wane.

    With soaring energy costs, the chief negative of having a fireplace has to be its inefficiency. When there is a fire burning, the fireplace does indeed radiate warmth in its general vicinity, but it also creates a convection current that can actually pull conditioned air out of the room and up the chimney causing your furnace to work overtime. When the fire is not burning, the fireplace has a damper which is supposed to block inside air from escaping and outside air from invading. The problem is that the damper is usually made of metal (this type of damper technology hasn’t changed in over 100 years!) and has no seal, which means that the damper is incredibly inefficient.

    Your home has a dirty little secret – the fireplace that is designed to warm your house is actually doing the opposite and costing you hundreds of dollars in energy costs. Don’t fret – with a little investment of time and money, you can turn that inefficient fireplace into a powerhouse heater that will reduce your energy bills and add even more charm to your existing fireplace.

    The following is a list of 4 things that you can do yourself to drastically reduce the heating costs associated with the inefficiency of your fireplace.

    1. Top Sealing Dampers replace the fireplace throat damper and are installed at the top of the chimney. The top sealing damper has a seal that acts like a storm door keeping the expensive conditioned air inside the house and the outside air – outside. This principle works year round, whether you’re heating or cooling your house. This product can be purchased online and is easily installed by either a homeowner or a handyman.

    2. A fireback is a cast iron plate that is placed at the back of your fireplace. Its purpose is to protect the back wall from fire damage and it usually features a design that adds to the homes decor. The fireback improves the fireplaces efficiency by absorbing the heat from the fire and radiating the heat back into the room.

    3. A Fireplace Heater pulls fresh air from the room, circulates it through a chamber that is heated by the fire and then blows the heated air back into the room. These heaters are closed systems so no smoke from the fireplace is invading the home. Depending on which kind you purchase, these heaters can make a significant difference in your homes temperature, even heating a full room on its own. Specific fireplace heaters can be installed with fireplace glass doors which will kick your cost savings up another notch.

    4.  Fireplace Glass Doors will likely carry the largest investment, but you can reduce some of that cost by doing some of the work yourself. There are a number of fireplace doors that can be purchased online and come with easy to install instructions. The fireplace glass door creates a barrier between the living space and the chimney, thus reducing the area that your furnace will have to heat. This alone is a good reason to install these doors, but it’s not the only reason. Fireplace glass doors offer another level of safety for the home by protecting children and pets from the fire. If you have a wood burning fireplace you will want to purchase the screen mesh that is designed to go with the fireplace glass doors. This will allow you to have the doors open while the fire is burning and still have your home protected from sparks and embers. Fireplace glass doors are now being manufactured with modern designs and really add beauty and charm to the fireplace.
    If you’re handy, all of these suggestions are easy to accomplish. In addition, all of the products, while difficult to find locally, can easily be purchased online. If you’re concerned about high energy costs but you want to keep your fireplace, then it’s time to plug up the holes in your monthly energy budget by plugging up the holes in your fireplace.

    Advantage Inspection Raleigh

    . . .  performs the Nation’s Best Home Inspection and provides the Nation’s Only “No Denied Claims Warranty” available in the industry. For the last 18 years, Advantage Inspection has been the deciding factor for the people we serve:  Buyers, Sellers, Real Estate Agents and Home Inspectors.  Advantage Inspection Raleigh serves Raleigh, Durham and the Triangle area.
     

    Dave Park 

    Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh
    more than just an inspection company!”
    www.adrdu.com

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  • Homeowners today across the country are continually striving toward a more eco-friendly lifestyle. While most homeowners may not know where to start, there are small steps that can be taken that can add up to make a big difference. 

    OurGreenerLife.com has these tips that can help you lessen your eco footprint.

    1. Use less water
    Saving water is all about small steps. Here are a few simple ways that will help you conserve water while saving money.
    *  Shut off the water while you brush your teeth
    *  Take showers that are a minute or two shorter
    *  Only run full loads of laundry and dishes
    *  Buy from sustainable producers. These are farmers, ranchers and other producers that use techniques that pollute less and use less water. You can do some research online or ask at your local organic market to find these products.

    2. Use less energy
    If you don’t have the money to buy a hybrid car or convert your house to solar power, you can make a big difference with the following small changes.
    *  Buy energy efficient appliances. They may be more expensive, but make up for the increased cost in lower energy bills.
    *  Unplug chargers when you’re not using them. Cell phone and other chargers use up power even if there’s nothing attached to them.
    *  Put devices with remotes, like TVs, VCRs and stereos on a power strip and turn the power strip off when you’re not using the devices. These gadgets use a lot of power to run the remote receiver even when the device is off.
    *  Walk or ride your bicycle for short trips.
    *  Buy local products. It takes energy to transport food and other products across the country. Buying local not only supports your local economy, it helps them use less energy.
    *  When it comes to saving energy and water, it’s a great idea to get the kids involved—you can even make it a game. Have them track how much water and electricity everyone is using and compete to see who uses the least.

    Make This Townhome Eco-Friendly!3. Reuse
    Most of us know the three R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle, but when we work on conserving, we often leave reuse out of the picture. While you can often find tips on how to reuse common products from other people, what you need most is creativity. With a little thought, there are many items around your home that can be reused—toilet paper holders can be used to sow seeds for the vegetable patch, old yogurt containers can be cut into strips to make plant labels and old food jars can be refilled with homemade foods or can make great impromptu vases.

    4. Use environmentally friendly products
    When you go to the grocery store, you probably see more and more ‘natural’ or ‘eco friendly’ products every time. There are generally two big problems with these products: Just because they’re more natural than regular products, doesn’t mean they’re entirely natural and they’re often expensive.

    If you want inexpensive, natural, safe products, why not just make them yourself? Vinegar is a great way to clean and disinfect glass and other surfaces. Need to remove stubborn stains? Just add some baking soda to your vinegar cleaner. Some quick searching online will lead you to hundreds of other natural safe home-made cleaning products.

    Advantage Inspection Raleigh

    . . .  performs the Nation’s Best Home Inspection and provides the Nation’s Only “No Denied Claims Warranty” available in the industry. For the last 18 years, Advantage Inspection has been the deciding factor for the people we serve:  Buyers, Sellers, Real Estate Agents and Home Inspectors.  Advantage Inspection Raleigh serves Raleigh, Durham and the Triangle area.
     

    Dave Park 

    Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh
    more than just an inspection company!”
    www.adrdu.com

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  • Thomas Paine

    Common Sense is a pamphlet written by Thomas Paine. It was first published anonymously on January 10, 1776, during the American Revolution. Common Sense, signed “Written by an Englishman”, became an immediate success.

    Paine wrote and reasoned in a style that common people understood; forgoing the philosophy and Latin references used by Enlightenment era writers, Paine structured Common Sense like a sermon and relied on Biblical references to make his case to the people.   Historian Gordon S. Wood described Common Sense as, “the most incendiary and popular pamphlet of the entire revolutionary era”

    One of the major concerns in the world today is depletion of energy. As concerned citizens all of us must make a concerted effort to be conscious citizens and save electricity. Electricity has become integral to life but imagine having to live without power.

    Conservation of electricity benefits you personally as you will pay lower bills.

    Consider these “Paine-fully” Simple Common Sense Tips:

    1.            Doing an energy audit. This will tell you how and when you use energy and where the wastage lies. You will be able to make an “energy savings plan” by pinpointing exactly how you can cut back on energy consumption. Some ideas may be as simple as don’t leave the coffee machine on at all times.

    2.            Think about resetting the thermostat ten degrees lower during the night. If you can do this for say approximately eight hours a day you will save 10% on electricity without sacrificing comfort. Insulate the home in winter by drawing shut the drapes.

    3.            Check all insulation in the house. If you increase attic insulation to around 12 inches the electricity consumption will reduce by 20 percent.

    4.            Plant more trees around the house these will cool the house in summer and insulate the house in winter. Studies show that a green cover benefits in many ways.

    5.            Have all electricity wires and outlets checked for leakage. Check all fuses and appliances.

    6.            Fluorescent light bulbs are energy efficient. They use 75% less energy than ordinary light bulbs. These have a longer life and contribute to great savings.

    7.            Use energy efficient appliances. These use less energy and believe it or not a high efficiency refrigerator uses less electricity than a light bulb.

    8.            When you are away even for a few hours or days you should turn off and unplug   all electrical appliances and turn settings on the thermostat, water heater, and refrigerator to   the lowest setting.

    9.            Ensure that you use a water-saving shower head. Water heating costs for a family can be lowered by at least US$ 250 a year.

    10.          Weatherize your home. This helps reduce heating bills by 20% and cooling by at least 10 percent. Even when building a home or decorating it use weather friendly materials—those that are not good conductors of heat and cold. Install windows and glass panes in the roof in such away that you use sunlight to light up the rooms during day light hours. Make an effort to switch off lights and fans when leaving a room. Ensure that the filters in air conditioners and heaters are always cleaned and free of clog and dust.

    Common Sense

    If you live an energy efficient lifestyle you will see the numbers on the energy bill actually reducing. The power to cut energy costs is well within your control. It is as simple as only washing full loads and that to in cold water. Use the hot wash option only for very dirty clothes.  Cook food only just before you are ready to eat that way you can save reheating costs as well as refrigerating costs of storing the food. Turn the thermostat of the refrigerator to minimum in cold or cool weather. Switch off freezers if they are not in use. Small contributions can all add up to significant amounts of power saved. And, power saved means money in the bank.

    Advantage Inspection Raleigh

    . . .  performs the Nation’s Best Home Inspection and provides the Nation’s Only “No Denied Claims Warranty” available in the industry. For the last 18 years, Advantage Inspection has been the deciding factor for the people we serve:  Buyers, Sellers, Real Estate Agents and Home Inspectors.  Advantage Inspection Raleigh serves Raleigh, Durham and the Triangle area.
     

    Dave Park 

    Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh
    more than just an inspection company!”
    www.adrdu.com

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