• Nine Dishonest Sales Practices

    Here are some of the practices avoided by reliable sales operations. Watch out for them and exercise sales resistance if you suspect they are occurring:

    1. concealing or misrepresenting facts about current and resale value. Sales agents may present general facts about the area’s population growth, industrial or residential development, and real estate price levels as if they apply to your specific lot. You may be encouraged to believe that your piece of land represents an investment which will increase in value as regional development occurs. A sales agent may tell you that the developer will re-sell the lot, if you request. This promise may not be kept. Future resale is difficult or impossible in many promotional developments because much of your purchase price — sometimes as much as 40% — has gone for an intensive advertising campaign and commissions for sales agents. You are already paying a top price and it is unlikely that anyone else would pay you more than you are paying the developer. You may even have to sell for less than the price you originally paid for the lot. Sales promotions often are conducted in a high-pressure atmosphere. Furthermore, when you attempt to sell your lot, you are in competition with the developer, who probably holds extensive, unsold acreage in the same subdivision. In most areas, real estate brokers find it impractical to undertake the sale of lots in subdivisions and will not accept such listings. It is unlikely that the lot you purchase through interstate land sales represents an investment, in the view of professional land investors. Remember, the elements of value of a piece of land are its usefulness, the supply, the demand, and the buyer’s ability to re-sell it. The Urban Land Institute estimates that land must double in value every five years to justify holding it as an investment. In some areas, the cost of holding the land, such as taxes and other assessments, can run as high as 11% a year.

    2. failure to honor refund promises or agreements. Some sales promotions conducted by mail, email or long-distance telephone include the offer of a refund if the property has been misrepresented, or if the customer inspects the land within a certain period of time and decides not to buy. When the customers request the refund, s/he may encounter arguments about the terms of the agreement. The company may even accuse its own agent of having made a money-back guarantee without the consent or knowledge of the developer. Sometimes, the promised refund is made, but only after a long delay.

    3. misrepresentation of facts about the subdivision. This is where the property report offers an added measure of protection. A sales agent may offer false or incomplete information relating to either a distant subdivision or one which you visit. Misrepresentations often relate to matters such as the legal title, claims against it, latent dangers (such as swamps or cliffs), unusual physical features (such as poor drainage), restrictions on use, or lack of necessary facilities and utilities. Read the property report carefully with an eye to omissions, generalizations, or unproved statements that may tend to mislead you. If you are concerned about overlooking something important, discuss the report and the contract with a lawyer who understands real estate matters. The developer also may use advertisements that imply that certain facilities and amenities are currently available when they are not. Read the property report to determine whether these facilities and amenities are actually completed, or proposed to be completed in the future. If the company advertises sales on credit terms, the Truth in Lending Act requires the sales contract to fully set forth all terms of financing. This information must include total cost, simple annual interest, and total finance charges.

    4. failure to develop the subdivision as planned. Many buyers rely upon the developer’s contractual agreement or a verbal promise to develop the subdivision in a certain way. The promised attractions that influenced your purchase (golf course, marina, swimming pool, etc.) may never materialize after you become an owner. If they are provided, it may be only after a long delay. If you are planning on immediate vacation use of the property, or are working toward a specific retirement date, you may find that the special features promised of the development are not available when you need them.

    5. failure to deliver deeds and/or title insurance policies. Documents relating to the sales transaction may not be delivered as promised. Some sales in the promotional land development industry are made by contract for a deed to be delivered when the purchaser makes the last payment under the terms of the contract. A dishonest developer may fail to deliver the deed, or deliver it only after a long delay. A sales agent may offer false or incomplete information.

    6. abusive treatment and high-pressure sales tactics. Some sales agents drive prospective customers around a subdivision in automobiles equipped with citizen band radios which provide a running commentary on lot sales in progress. The customer may be misled by this and other sales techniques to believe that desirable lots are selling rapidly and that a hurried choice must be made. Hurrying the buyers into a purchase they may later regret is only one ploy of high-pressure sales agents. More offensive is abusive language used to embarrass customers who delay an immediate decision to buy. In some instances, hesitant buyers have been isolated in remote or unfamiliar places where transportation is controlled by the sales agent or the agent’s organization.

    7. failure to make good on sales inducements. Free vacations, gifts, savings bonds, trading stamps, and other promised inducements are used to lure people to sales presentations or to development sites. These promised treats may never materialize. Sometimes, special conditions are attached to the lure, or a customer is advised that gifts go only to lot purchasers. A “free vacation” may be the means of delivering the prospective buyer to a battery of high-pressure sales agents in a distant place. The promised attractions may never materialize.

    8. “bait and switch” tactics. Lots are frequently advertised at extremely low prices. When prospective buyers appear, they are told that the low-priced lots are all sold and then are pressured to buy one that is much more expensive. If the cheaper lot is available, it may be located on the side of a cliff or in another inaccessible location. If accessible, it may be much too small for a building or have other undesirable features. The buyers may be lured to the property with a certificate entitling them to a “free” lot. Often, the certificate bears a face value of $500 to $1,000. If the buyers attempt to cash it in, the amount is simply included in the regular price (often inflated) of the lot they choose. Often, this so-called “bait and switch” technique has a delayed fuse. Buyers who purchase an unseen lot for later retirement may be unpleasantly surprised when they visit the development. The lot they have paid for may be remote from other homes, shopping and medical facilities. It may be insufficiently developed for use. When the buyers complain, sales personnel attempt to switch them to a more expensive lot, applying the money paid for the original lot to an inflated price for the new one, and tacking on additional financing charges. If the unhappy purchasers lack sufficient funds to accept this alternative, they are left with an unusable, unmarketable first choice.

    9. failure to grant rights under the Interstate Land Sales Full Disclosure Act. Purchasers may not be given copies of the property report before they sign a sales contract. Some sales agents withhold this detailed statement until customers choose a specific lot. Sometimes, the buyers receive the report in a mass of promotional materials and legal documents. Unaware that the report is in their possession, they fail to read and understand it before signing a sales contract.

    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 month I want to let you know about a great serive in Triangle area.  Leaf and Limb Tree Service.  A professional service that helps you get rid of dead trees and keeps your home safe and property values up.  They offer free estimates and scheduling is easy.  For all your Raleigh Tree Removal needs, call Leaf and Limb Tree Service.

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

     

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  • Building a Home

    If you want to build a new home, there are things you need to know before you begin. Learn about construction standards and about buying land, so you know your rights.

    MPS Supplementing Model Building Codes

    The Minimum Property Standards (MPS) establish certain minimum standards for buildings constructed under HUD housing programs. This includes new single-family homes, multi-family housing and healthcare-type facilities.

    HUD Minimum Property Standards and How They Supplement the Model Building Codes

    Until the mid-1980s, HUD maintained separate Minimum Property Standards for different types of structures. Since that time, HUD has accepted the model building codes, including over 250 referenced standards and local building codes, in lieu of separate and prescriptive HUD standards. However, there is one major area of difference between the MPS and other model building codes — durability requirements. Homes and projects financed by FHA-insured mortgages are the collateral for these loans, and their lack of durability can increase the FHA’s financial risk in the event of default. More specifically, the model codes do not contain any minimum requirements for the durability of items such as doors, windows, gutters and downspouts, painting and wall coverings, kitchen cabinets and carpeting. The MPS includes minimum standards for these, and other items, to ensure that the value of an FHA-insured home is not reduced by the deterioration of these components.

    HUD Field Office Acceptance for Areas Without Building Codes

    HUD requires that each property insured with an FHA mortgage meet one of the nationally recognized building codes or a state or local building code based on a nationally recognized building code. In areas where such state or local codes are used, HUD determines if the state or local code is comparable to the model building code. There are also areas of the United States that do not have building codes. If no state or local building code has been adopted, the appropriate HUD Field Office will specify a building code that is comparable to one of the nationally recognized model building codes.

    Interstate Land Sales

    The Interstate Land Sales program protects consumers from fraud and abuse in the sale or lease of land. In 1968, Congress enacted the Interstate Land Sales Full Disclosure Act, which is patterned after the Securities Law of 1933, and requires land developers to register subdivisions of 100 or more non-exempt lots with HUD, and to provide each purchaser with a disclosure document called a property report. The property report contains relevant information about the subdivision and must be delivered to each purchaser before the signing of the contract or agreement.

    Buying Lots from Developers

    Be well informed when shopping for land. Lots may be marketed as sites for future retirement homes, for second home locations, or for recreational or campsite use. However, be wary of any investment aspect that may be stressed by sales personnel. If you plan to purchase a lot which is offered by promotional land sales, take plenty of time before coming to a decision. Before signing a purchase agreement, a contract, or a check:

    •know your rights as a buyer;

    •know something about the developer;

    •know the facts about the development and the lot you plan to buy; and

    •know what you are doing when you encounter high-pressure sales campaigns.

    Generally, if the company from which you plan to buy is offering 100 or more unimproved lots for sale or lease through the mail or by means of interstate commerce, it may be required to register with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). This means that the company must file with HUD and provide prospective buyers with a property report containing detailed information about the property. Failure to do this may be a violation of federal law, punishable by up to five years in prison, a $10,000 fine, or both. The information filed by the developer and retained by HUD must contain such items as these:

    •a copy of the corporate charter and financial statement;

    •information about the land, including title policy or attorney’s title opinion, and copies of the deed and mortgages;

    •information on local ordinances, health regulations, etc.;

    •information about facilities available in the area, such as schools, hospitals and transportation systems;

    •information about availability of utilities and water, and plans for sewage disposal;

    •development plans for the property, including information on roads, streets and recreational facilities; and

    •supporting documents, such as maps, plans and letters from suppliers of water and sewer facilities.

    The company filing this information must swear and affirm that it is correct and complete, and an appropriate fee must accompany submission. The information is retained by HUD and is available for public inspection. The property report, which is also prepared by the developer, goes to the buyer. The law requires the seller to give the report to a prospective lot purchaser prior to the time a purchase agreement is signed. Ask for it. The seller is also required to have the buyer sign a receipt acknowledging receipt of the property report. Do not sign the receipt unless you have actually received the property report. Check the developer’s property report before buying. This is the kind of information you will find in a property report:

    •distances to nearby communities over paved and unpaved roads;

    •existence of mortgages or liens on the property;

    •whether contract payments are placed in escrow;

    •availability and location of recreational facilities;

    •availability of sewer and water service or septic tanks and wells;

    •present and proposed utility services and charges;

    •the number of homes currently occupied;

    •soil and foundation conditions which could cause problems in construction or in using septic tanks; and

    •the type of title the buyer may receive and when it should be received.

    Read the Property Report Before Signing Anything

    This report is prepared and issued by the developer of this subdivision. It is not prepared or issued by the federal government. Federal law requires that you receive this report prior to signing a contract or agreement to buy or lease a lot in this subdivision. However, no federal agency has judged the merits or value of the property. If you received the report prior to signing a contract or agreement, you may cancel your contract or agreement by giving notice to the seller any time before midnight of the seventh day following the signing of the contract or agreement. If you did not receive this report before you signed a contract or agreement, you may cancel the contract or agreement any time within two years from the date of signing.

    Your Contract Rights

    If the lot you are buying is subject to the jurisdiction of the Interstate Land Sales Full Disclosure Act, the contract or purchase agreement must inform you of certain rights given to buyers by that Act. The contract should state that the buyer has a “cooling-off” period of seven days (or longer, if provided by state law) following the day that the contract is signed to cancel the contract, for any reason, by notice to the seller, and get his or her money back. Furthermore, unless the contract states that the seller will give the buyer a warranty deed, within 180 days after the contract is signed, the buyer has a right to cancel the contract for up to two years from the day that the contract is signed, unless the contract contains the following provisions:

    •a clear description of the lot so that the buyer may record the contract with the proper county authority;

    •the right of the buyer to a notice of any default (by the buyer), and at least 20 days after receipt of that notice to cure or remedy the default;

    •a limitation on the amount of money the seller may keep as liquidated damages, of 15% of the principal paid by the buyer (exclusive of interest) or the seller’s actual damages, whichever is greater.

    Contract Rights Concerning Property Reports

    It has always been the law that if the developer has an obligation to register with the Interstate Land Sales Division, the developer or sales agent must give the buyer a copy of the current property report before the buyer signs a contract. Otherwise, the buyer has up to two years to cancel the contract and get their money back. That fact must also be clearly set forth in all contracts. You may have the right to void the contract if the subdivision has not been registered with HUD, or you were not given a property report. Furthermore, if the developer has represented that it will provide or complete roads, water, sewer, gas, electricity or recreational facilities in its property report, in its advertising, or in its sales promotions, the developer must obligate itself to do so in the contract, clearly and conditionally (except for acts of nature or impossibility of performance). In addition to the right to a full disclosure of information about the lot, the prospective buyer may have the right to void the contract and receive a refund of their money if the developer has failed to register the subdivision with HUD or has failed to supply the purchaser with a property report. While a purchaser may have the right to void the contract with the developer under these conditions, the purchaser may still be liable for contract payments to a third party if that contract has been assigned to a financing institution or some similar entity. The registration is retained by HUD and is available for public inspection. If the property report contains misstatements of fact, if there are omissions, if fraudulent sales practices are used, or if other provisions of the law have been violated, the purchaser may also sue to recover damages and actual costs and expenses in court against the developer. However, depending on when your sale occurred, you may be barred from taking further action due to the Act’s statute of limitations. Your attorney can advise you further on this matter.

    “Cooling-Off” Period

    Even if you received the property report prior to the time of your signing of the contract or agreement, you have the right to revoke the contract or agreement by notice to the seller until midnight of the seventh day following the signing of the contract. You should contact the developer, preferably in writing, if you wish to revoke your contract and receive a refund of any money paid to date. Even if the property report is delivered to you before you sign a sales agreement, the law gives you a “cooling-off ” period. This right cannot be waived.

    A Word About the Interstate Land Sales Division

    The HUD unit which administers the law, examines the developer’s registration statement, and registers the land sales operator is the Interstate Land Sales Division. Except for disclosure purposes, this office is not concerned with zoning or land-use planning, and has no control over the quality of the subdivision. It does not dictate what land can be sold, to whom, or at what price. It cannot act as a purchaser’s attorney. But it will help purchasers secure the rights given to them by the Interstate Land Sales Full Disclosure Act. HUD is authorized by law to conduct investigations and public hearings, to subpoena witnesses and secure evidence, and to seek court injunctions to prevent violations of the law. If necessary, HUD may seek criminal indictments. HUD is authorized by law to conduct investigations and, if necessary, seek criminal indictments.

    Exemptions from the Law

    The prospective buyer should be aware that not all promotional land sales operations are covered by the law. If the land sales program is exempt, no registration is required by HUD, and there will be no property report. Here are some of the specific situations for which the statute allows exemptions without review by HUD, including the sale of:

    •tracts of fewer than 100 lots which are not otherwise exempt;

    •lots in a subdivision where every lot is 20 acres or more in size;

    •lots upon which a residential, commercial or industrial building has been erected, or where a sales contract obligates the seller to build one within two years;

    •certain lots which are sold only to residents of the state or metropolitan area in which the subdivision is located;

    •certain low-volume sales operations (no more than 12 lots a year);

    •certain lots that meet certain local codes and standards and are zoned for single-family residences or are limited to single-family residences by enforceable codes and restrictions; and

    •certain lots, contained in multiple sites of fewer than 100 lots each, offered pursuant to a common promotional plan.

    Other exemptions are available which are not listed above. If you have reason to believe that your sale is not exempt and may still be covered by the law, contact the Interstate Land Sales Division.

    Know the Developer

    Knowing your rights under the law is the first step in making a sensible land purchase. To exercise those rights, you also must know something about the honesty and reliability of the developer who offers the subdivision that interests you. Don’t fail to ask questions. Whether you are contacted by a sales agent on the phone or by mail, at a promotional luncheon or dinner, in a sales booth at a shopping center, or in the course of your own inspection of the subdivision, make it your business to find out all you can about the company and the property. In addition, get any verbal promises or representations in writing. Don’t fail to ask questions. If you are seriously interested in buying a lot, ask if the company is registered with HUD or is entitled to an exemption. Request a copy of the property report and take the time to study it carefully and thoroughly. If you still have unanswered questions, delay any commitment until you have investigated. Discuss current prices in the area with local independent brokers. Talk to other people who have purchased lots. A local Chamber of Commerce, Better Business Bureau, or consumer protection group may have information about the seller’s reputation. Inquire through county or municipal authorities about local ordinances or regulations affecting properties similar to that which you plan to buy. Don’t be high-pressured by sales agents.

    Know the Facts About the Lot

    Once you have decided on an appealing subdivision, inspect the property. Don’t buy “sight unseen.” Better yet, hire an InterNACHI inspector to perform a thorough property inspection. Also, check the developer’s plans for the project and know what you are getting with your lot purchase. It’s a good idea to make a list of the facts you will need to know. Some of the questions you should be asking, and answering, are these:

    •How large will the development become?

    •What zoning controls are specified?

    •What amenities are promised?

    •What provision has the developer made to assure construction and maintenance?

    •What are the provisions for sewer and water service?

    •Are all of the promised facilities and utilities in the contract?

    •Will there be access roads or streets to your property, and how will they be surfaced? Who maintains them? How much will they cost?

    •Will you have clear title to the property? What liens, reservations or encumbrances exist?

    •Will you receive a deed upon purchase or a recordable sales contract?

    •What happens to your payments? Are they placed in a special escrow account to pay for the property, or are they spent at once by the developer?

    •If the developer defaults on the mortgage or goes bankrupt, could you lose your lot and investment to date to satisfy a claim against the development?

    •What happens when the developer moves out? Is there a homeowners’ association to take over community management?

    •Are there restrictions against using the lot for a campsite until you are ready to build?

    •Are there any annual maintenance fees or special assessments required of property owners?

    This is a partial list of points to consider before you commit your money or your signature.

    Know What You are Doing

    Interstate land sales promotions often are conducted in a high-pressure atmosphere that sweeps unsophisticated buyers along. Before they are aware that they have made a commitment, these buyers may have signed a sales contract and started to make payments on a lot. They may be delighted with the selection made, but, if not, it may be too late for a change of mind.

     

    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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  • With barbeque season already here, homeowners should heed the following safety precautions in order to keep their families and property safe.

    •Propane grills present an enormous fire hazard, as the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is aware of more than 500 fires that result annually from their misuse or malfunction. The following precautions are recommended specifically when using propane grills:

    ◦Store propane tanks outdoors and never near the grill or any other heat source. In addition, never store or transport them in your car’s trunk.

    ◦Make sure to completely turn off the gas after you have finished, or when you are changing the tank. Even a small gas leak can cause a deadly explosion.

    ◦Check for damage to a tank before refilling it, and only buy propane from reputable suppliers.

    ◦Never use a propane barbecue grill on a terrace, balcony or roof, as this is dangerous and illegal.

    ◦No more than two 20-pound propane tanks are allowed on the property of a one- or two-family home.

    ◦To inspect for a leak, spray a soapy solution over the connections and watch for bubbles. If you see evidence of a leak, reconnect the components and try again. If bubbles persist, replace the leaking parts before using the grill.

    ◦Make sure connections are secure before turning on the gas, especially if the grill hasn’t been used in months. The most dangerous time to use a propane grill is at the beginning of the barbeque season.

    ◦Ignite a propane grill with the lid open, not closed. Propane can accumulate beneath a closed lid and explode.

    ◦When finished, turn off the gas first, and then the controls. This way, residual gas in the pipe will be used up.

    •Charcoal grills pose a serious poisoning threat due to the venting of carbon monoxide (CO). The CPSC estimates that 20 people die annually from accidentally ingesting CO from charcoal grills. These grills can also be a potential fire hazard. Follow these precautions when using charcoal grills:

    ◦Never use a charcoal grill indoors, even if the area is ventilated. CO is colorless and odorless, and you will not know you are in danger until it is too late.

    ◦Use only barbeque starter fluid to start the grill, and don’t add the fluid to an open flame. It is possible for the flame to follow the fluid’s path back to the container as you’re holding it.

    ◦Let the fluid soak into the coals for a minute before igniting them to allow explosive vapors to dissipate.

    ◦Charcoal grills are permitted on terraces and balconies only if there is at least 10 feet of clearance from the building, and a water source immediately nearby, such as a hose (or 4 gallons of water).

    ◦Be careful not to spill any fluid on yourself, and stand back when igniting the grill. Keep the charcoal lighter fluid container at a safe distance from the grill.

    ◦When cleaning the grill, dispose of the ashes in a metal container with a tight lid, and add water. Do not remove the ashes until they have fully cooled.

    ◦Fill the base of the grill with charcoal to a depth of no more than 2 inches.

    •Electric grills are probably safer than propane and charcoal grills, but safety precautions need to be used with them as well. Follow these tips when using electric grills:

    ◦Do not use lighter fluid or any other combustible materials.

    ◦When using an extension cord, make sure it is rated for the amperage required by the grill. The cord should be unplugged when not in use, and out of a busy foot path to prevent tripping.

    ◦As always, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

    Safety Recommendations for General Grill Use

    •Always make sure that the grill is used in a safe place, where kids and pets won’t touch or bump into it. Keep in mind that the grill will still be hot after you finish cooking, and anyone coming into contact with it could be burned.

    •If you use a grill lighter, make sure you don’t leave it lying around where children can reach it. They will quickly learn how to use it.

    •Never leave the grill unattended, as this is generally when accidents happen.

    •Keep a fire extinguisher or garden hose nearby.

    •Ensure that the grill is completely cooled before moving it or placing it back in storage.

    •Ensure that the grill is only used on a flat surface that cannot burn, and well away from any shed, trees or shrubs.

    •Clean out the grease and other debris in the grill periodically. Be sure to look for rust or other signs of deterioration.

    •Don’t wear loose clothing that might catch fire while you’re cooking.

    •Use long-handled barbecue tools and flame-resistant oven mitts.

    •Keep alcoholic beverages away from the grill; they are flammable!

    In summary, homeowners should exercise caution when using any kind of grill, as they can harm life and property in numerous ways.

    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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  • Attic pull-down ladders, also called attic pull-down stairways, are collapsible ladders that are permanently attached to the attic floor. Occupants can use these ladders to access their attics without being required to carry a portable ladder.

    Common Defects

    Homeowners, not professional carpenters, usually install attic pull-down ladders. Evidence of this distinction can be observed in consistently shoddy and dangerous work that rarely meets safety standards. Some of the more common defective conditions observed by inspectors include:

    •cut bottom cord of structural truss. Often, homeowners will cut through a structural member in the field while installing a pull-down ladder, unknowingly weakening the structure. Structural members should not be modified in the field without an engineer’s approval;

    •fastened with improper nails or screws. Homeowners often use drywall or deck screws rather than the standard 16d penny nails or ¼” x 3” lag screws. Nails and screws that are intended for other purposes may have reduced shear strength and they may not support pull-down ladders;

    •fastened with an insufficient number of nails or screws. Manufacturers provide a certain number of nails with instructions that they all be used, and they probably do this for a good reason. Inspectors should be wary of “place nail here” notices that are nowhere near any nails;

    •lack of insulation. Hatches in many houses (especially older ones) are not likely to be weather-stripped and/or insulated. An uninsulated attic hatch allows air from the attic to flow freely into the home, which may cause the heating or cooling system to run overtime. An attic hatch cover box can be installed to increase energy savings;

    •loose mounting bolts. This condition is more often caused by age rather than installation, although improper installation will hasten the loosening process;

    •attic pull-down ladders are cut too short. Stairs should reach the floor;

    •attic pull-down ladders are cut too long. This causes pressure at the folding hinge, which can cause breakage;

    •improper or missing fasteners;

    •compromised fire barrier when installed in the garage;

    •attic ladder frame is not properly secured to the ceiling opening;

    •closed ladder is covered with debris, such as blown insulation or roofing material shed during roof work. Inspectors can place a sheet on the floor beneath the ladder to catch whatever debris may fall onto the floor; and

    •cracked steps. This defect is a problem with wooden ladders.

    •In sliding pull-down ladders, there is a potential for the ladder to slide down quickly without notice. Always pull the ladder down slowly and cautiously.

    Relevant Codes

    The 2009 edition of the International Building Code (IBC) and the 2006 edition of the International Residential Code (IRC) offer guidelines regarding attic access, although not specifically pull-down ladders. Still, the information might be of some interest to inspectors.

    2009 IBC (Commercial Construction):

    1209.2 Attic Spaces. An opening not less than 20 inches by 30 inches (559 mm by 762 mm) shall be provided to any attic area having a clear height of over 30 inches (762 mm). A 30-inch (762 mm) minimum clear headroom in the attic space shall be provided at or above the access opening.

    2006 IRC (Residential Construction):

    R807.1 Attic Access. Buildings with combustible ceiling or roof construction shall have an attic access opening to attic areas that exceed 30 square feet (2.8m squared) and have a vertical height of 30 inches (762 mm) or more. The rough-framed opening shall not be less than 22 inches by 30 inches, and shall be located in a hallway or readily accessible location. A 30-inch (762 mm) minimum unobstructed headroom in the attic space shall be provided at some point above the access opening.

    Tips that inspectors can pass on to their clients:

    •Do not allow children to enter the attic through an attic access. The lanyard attached to the attic stairs should be short enough that children cannot reach it. Parents can also lock the attic ladder so that a key or combination is required to access it.

    •If possible, avoid carrying large loads into the attic. While properly installed stairways may safely support an adult man, they might fail if he is carrying, for instance, a bag full of bowling balls. Such trips can be split up to reduce the weight load.

    •Replace an old, rickety wooden ladder with a new one. Newer aluminum models are often lightweight, sturdy and easy to install.

    In summary, attic pull-down ladders are prone to a number of defects, most of which are due to improper installation.

    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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  • 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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  • What is Asbestos?

    Asbestos is a mineral fiber that can be positively identified only with a special type of microscope. There are several types of asbestos fibers. In the past, asbestos was added to a variety of products to strengthen them and to provide heat insulation and fire resistance. 

    How Can Asbestos Affect My Health?

    From studies of people who were exposed to asbestos in factories and shipyards, we know that breathing high levels of asbestos fibers can lead to an increased risk of lung cancer in the forms of mesothelioma, which is a cancer of the lining of the chest and the abdominal cavity, and asbestosis, in which the lungs become scarred with fibrous tissue.

    The risk of lung cancer and mesothelioma increase with the number of fibers inhaled. The risk of lung cancer from inhaling asbestos fibers is also greater if you smoke. People who get asbestosis have usually been exposed to high levels of asbestos for a long time. The symptoms of these diseases do not usually appear until about 20 to 30 years after the first exposure to asbestos.

    Most people exposed to small amounts of asbestos, as we all are in our daily lives, do not develop these health problems. However, if disturbed, asbestos material may release asbestos fibers, which can be inhaled into the lungs. The fibers can remain there for a long time, increasing the risk of disease. Asbestos material that would crumble easily if handled, or that has been sawed, scraped, or sanded into a powder, is more likely to create a health hazard.

    Where Can I Find Asbestos and When Can it Be a Problem?

    Most products made today do not contain asbestos. Those few products made which still contain asbestos that could be inhaled are required to be labeled as such. However, until the 1970s, many types of building products and insulation materials used in homes contained asbestos. Common products that might have contained asbestos in the past, and conditions which may release fibers, include:

    •steam pipes, boilers and furnace ducts insulated with an asbestos blanket or asbestos paper tape. These materials may release asbestos fibers if damaged, repaired, or removed improperly;

    •resilient floor tiles (vinyl asbestos, asphalt and rubber), the backing on vinyl sheet flooring, and adhesives used for installing floor tile. Sanding tiles can release fibers, and so may scraping or sanding the backing of sheet flooring during removal;

    •cement sheet, millboard and paper used as insulation around furnaces and wood-burning stoves. Repairing or removing appliances may release asbestos fibers, and so may cutting, tearing, sanding, drilling, or sawing insulation;

    •door gaskets in furnaces, wood stoves and coal stoves. Worn seals can release asbestos fibers during use;

    •soundproofing or decorative material sprayed on walls and ceilings. Loose, crumbly or water-damaged material may release fibers, and so will sanding, drilling or scraping the material;

    •patching and joint compounds for walls and ceilings, and textured paints. Sanding, scraping, or drilling these surfaces may release asbestos fibers;

    •asbestos cement roofing, shingles and siding. These products are not likely to release asbestos fibers unless sawed, dilled or cut;

    •artificial ashes and embers sold for use in gas-fired fireplaces, and other older household products, such as fireproof gloves, stove-top pads, ironing board covers and certain hairdryers; and

    •automobile brake pads and linings, clutch facings and gaskets.

    Where Asbestos Hazards May Be Found in the Home

    •Some roofing and siding shingles are made of asbestos cement.

    •Houses built between 1930 and 1950 may have asbestos as insulation.

    •Asbestos may be present in textured paint and in patching compounds used on wall and ceiling joints. Their use was banned in 1977.

    •Artificial ashes and embers sold for use in gas-fired fireplaces may contain asbestos.

    •Older products, such as stove-top pads, may have some asbestos compounds.

    •Walls and floors around wood-burning stoves may be protected with asbestos paper, millboard or cement sheets.

    •Asbestos is found in some vinyl floor tiles and the backing on vinyl sheet flooring and adhesives.

    •Hot water and steam pipes in older houses may be coated with an asbestos material or covered with an asbestos blanket or tape.

    •Oil and coal furnaces and door gaskets may have asbestos insulation.

    What Should Be Done About Asbestos in the Home?

    If you think asbestos may be in your home, don’t panic. Usually, the best thing to do is to leave asbestos material that is in good condition alone. Generally, material in good condition will not release asbestos fibers. There is no danger unless the asbestos is disturbed and fibers are released and then inhaled into the lungs. Check material regularly if you suspect it may contain asbestos. Don’t touch it, but look for signs of wear or damage, such as tears, abrasions or water damage. Damaged material may release asbestos fibers. This is particularly true if you often disturb it by hitting, rubbing or handling it, or if it is exposed to extreme vibration or air flow. Sometimes, the best way to deal with slightly damaged material is to limit access to the area and not touch or disturb it. Discard damaged or worn asbestos gloves, stove-top pads and ironing board covers. Check with local health, environmental or other appropriate agencies to find out proper handling and disposal procedures. If asbestos material is more than slightly damaged, or if you are going to make changes in your home that might disturb it, repair or removal by a professional is needed. Before you have your house remodeled, find out whether asbestos materials are present.

    How to Identify Materials that Contain Asbestos

    You can’t tell whether a material contains asbestos simply by looking at it, unless it is labeled. If in doubt, treat the material as if it contains asbestos, or have it sampled and analyzed by a qualified professional. A professional should take samples for analysis, since a professional knows what to look for, and because there may be an increased health risk if fibers are released. In fact, if done incorrectly, sampling can be more hazardous than leaving the material alone. Taking samples yourself is not recommended. If you nevertheless choose to take the samples yourself, take care not to release asbestos fibers into the air or onto yourself. Material that is in good condition and will not be disturbed (by remodeling, for example) should be left alone. Only material that is damaged or will be disturbed should be sampled. Anyone who samples asbestos-containing materials should have as much information as possible on the handling of asbestos before sampling and, at a minimum, should observe the following procedures:

    •Make sure no one else is in the room when sampling is done.

    •Wear disposable gloves or wash hands after sampling.

    •Shut down any heating or cooling systems to minimize the spread of any released fibers.

    •Do not disturb the material any more than is needed to take a small sample.

    •Place a plastic sheet on the floor below the area to be sampled.

    •Wet the material using a fine mist of water containing a few drops of detergent before taking the sample. The water/detergent mist will reduce the release of asbestos fibers.

    •Carefully cut a piece from the entire depth of the material using a small knife, corer or other sharp object. Place the small piece into a clean container (a 35-mm film canister, small glass or plastic vial, or high-quality resealable plastic bag).

    •Tightly seal the container after the sample is in it.

    •Carefully dispose of the plastic sheet. Use a damp paper towel to clean up any material on the outside of the container or around the area sampled. Dispose of asbestos materials according to state and local procedures.

    •Label the container with an identification number and clearly state when and where the sample was taken.

    •Patch the sampled area with the smallest possible piece of duct tape to prevent fiber release.

    •Send the sample to an asbestos analysis laboratory accredited by the National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP) at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Your state or local health department may also be able to help.

    How to Manage an Asbestos Problem

    If the asbestos material is in good shape and will not be disturbed, do nothing! If it is a problem, there are two types of corrections: repair and removal. Repair usually involves either sealing or covering asbestos material. Sealing (encapsulation) involves treating the material with a sealant that either binds the asbestos fibers together or coats the material so that fibers are not released. Pipe, furnace and boiler insulation can sometimes be repaired this way. This should be done only by a professional trained to handle asbestos safely. Covering (enclosure) involves placing something over or around the material that contains asbestos to prevent the release of fibers. Exposed insulated piping may be covered with a protective wrap or jacket. With any type of repair, the asbestos remains in place. Repair is usually cheaper than removal, but it may make removal of asbestos later (if found to be necessary) more difficult and costly. Repairs can either be major or minor. Major repairs must be done only by a professional trained in methods for safely handling asbestos. Minor repairs should also be done by professionals, since there is always a risk of exposure to fibers when asbestos is disturbed.

    Repairs

    Doing minor repairs yourself is not recommended, since improper handling of asbestos materials can create a hazard where none existed. If you nevertheless choose to do minor repairs, you should have as much information as possible on the handling of asbestos before doing anything. Contact your state or local health department or regional EPA office for information about asbestos training programs in your area. Your local school district may also have information about asbestos professionals and training programs for school buildings. Even if you have completed a training program, do not try anything more than minor repairs. Before undertaking minor repairs, carefully examine the area around the damage to make sure it is stable. As a general rule, any damaged area which is bigger than the size of your hand is not considered a minor repair.

    Before undertaking minor repairs, be sure to follow all the precautions described previously for sampling asbestos material. Always wet the asbestos material using a fine mist of water containing a few drops of detergent. Commercial products designed to fill holes and seal damaged areas are available. Small areas of material, such as pipe insulation, can be covered by wrapping a special fabric, such as re-wettable glass cloth, around it. These products are available from stores (listed in the telephone directory under “Safety Equipment and Clothing”) which specialize in asbestos materials and safety items.

    Removal is usually the most expensive method and, unless required by state or local regulations, should be the last option considered in most situations. This is because removal poses the greatest risk of fiber release. However, removal may be required when remodeling or making major changes to your home that will disturb asbestos material. Also, removal may be called for if asbestos material is damaged extensively and cannot be otherwise repaired. Removal is complex and must be done only by a contractor with special training. Improper removal may actually increase the health risks to you and your family.

    Asbestos Professionals: Who Are They and What Can They Do?

    Asbestos professionals are trained in handling asbestos material. The type of professional will depend on the type of product and what needs to be done to correct the problem. You may hire a general asbestos contractor or, in some cases, a professional trained to handle specific products containing asbestos.

    Asbestos professionals can conduct home inspections, take samples of suspected material, assess its condition, and advise on the corrections that are needed, as well as who is qualified to make these corrections. Once again, material in good condition need not be sampled unless it is likely to be disturbed. Professional correction or abatement contractors repair and remove asbestos materials.

    Some firms offer combinations of testing, assessment and correction. A professional hired to assess the need for corrective action should not be connected with an asbestos-correction firm. It is better to use two different firms so that there is no conflict of interest. Services vary from one area to another around the country.

    The federal government offers training courses for asbestos professionals around the country. Some state and local governments also offer or require training or certification courses. Ask asbestos professionals to document their completion of federal or state-approved training. Each person performing work in your home should provide proof of training and licensing in asbestos work, such as completion of EPA-approved training. State and local health departments or EPA regional offices may have listings of licensed professionals in your area.

    If you have a problem that requires the services of asbestos professionals, check their credentials carefully. Hire professionals who are trained, experienced, reputable and accredited — especially if accreditation is required by state or local laws. Before hiring a professional, ask for references from previous clients. Find out if they were satisfied. Ask whether the professional has handled similar situations. Get cost estimates from several professionals, as the charges for these services can vary.

    Though private homes are usually not covered by the asbestos regulations that apply to schools and public buildings, professionals should still use procedures described in federal or state-approved training. Homeowners should be alert to the chance of misleading claims by asbestos consultants and contractors. There have been reports of firms incorrectly claiming that asbestos materials in homes must be replaced. In other cases, firms have encouraged unnecessary removal or performed it improperly. Unnecessary removal is a waste of money. Improper removal may actually increase the health risks to you and your family. To guard against this, know what services are available and what procedures and precautions are needed to do the job properly.

    In addition to general asbestos contractors, you may select a roofing, flooring or plumbing contractor trained to handle asbestos when it is necessary to remove and replace roofing, flooring, siding or asbestos-cement pipe that is part of a water system. Normally, roofing and flooring contractors are exempt from state and local licensing requirements because they do not perform any other asbestos-correction work.

    Asbestos-containing automobile brake pads and linings, clutch facings and gaskets should be repaired and replaced only by a professional using special protective equipment. Many of these products are now available without asbestos.

    If you hire an InterNACHI inspector who is trained in asbestos inspection:

    •Make sure that the inspection will include a complete visual examination, and the careful collection and lab analysis of samples. If asbestos is present, the inspector should provide a written evaluation describing its location and extent of damage, and give recommendations for correction or prevention.

    •Make sure an inspecting firm makes frequent site visits if it is hired to assure that a contractor follows proper procedures and requirements. The inspector may recommend and perform checks after the correction to assure that the area has been properly cleaned.

    If you hire a corrective-action contractor:

    •Check with your local air pollution control board, the local agency responsible for worker safety, and the Better Business Bureau. Ask if the firm has had any safety violations. Find out if there are legal actions filed against it.

    •Insist that the contractor use the proper equipment to do the job. The workers must wear approved respirators, gloves and other protective clothing.

    •Before work begins, get a written contract specifying the work plan, cleanup, and the applicable federal, state and local regulations which the contractor must follow (such as notification requirements and asbestos disposal procedures). Contact your state and local health departments, EPA regional office, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s regional office to find out what the regulations are. Be sure the contractor follows local asbestos removal and disposal laws. At the end of the job, get written assurance from the contractor that all procedures have been followed.

    •Assure that the contractor avoids spreading or tracking asbestos dust into other areas of your home. They should seal off the work area from the rest of the house using plastic sheeting and duct tape, and also turn off the heating and air conditioning system. For some repairs, such as pipe insulation removal, plastic bags may be adequate. They must be sealed with tape and properly disposed of when the job is complete.

    •Make sure the work site is clearly marked as a hazardous area. Do not allow household members or pets into the area until work is completed.

    •Insist that the contractor apply a wetting agent to the asbestos material with a hand sprayer that creates a fine mist before removal. Wet fibers do not float in the air as easily as dry fibers and will be easier to clean up.

    •Make sure the contractor does not break removed material into smaller pieces. This could release asbestos fibers into the air. Pipe insulation was usually installed in pre-formed blocks and should be removed in complete pieces.

    •Upon completion, assure that the contractor cleans the area well with wet mops, wet rags, sponges and/or HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) vacuum cleaners. A regular vacuum cleaner must never be used. Wetting helps reduce the chance of spreading asbestos fibers in the air. All asbestos materials and disposable equipment and clothing used in the job must be placed in sealed, leakproof, and labeled plastic bags. The work site should be visually free of dust and debris. Air monitoring (to make sure there is no increase of asbestos fibers in the air) may be necessary to assure that the contractor’s job is done properly. This should be done by someone not connected with the contractor.

    Caution!

    Do not dust, sweep or vacuum debris that may contain asbestos. These actions will disturb tiny asbestos fibers and may release them into the air. Remove dust by wet-mopping or with a special HEPA vacuum cleaner used by trained asbestos contractors.

    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 Number One hazard for children under the age of 19 is falls, which are the leading cause of non-fatal injuries in the U.S. for this age group.  About 8,000 youngsters wind up in emergency rooms every day for injuries related to falling, adding up to almost 2.8 million per year.  With those statistics in mind, it is worth looking at what can be done to prevent such injuries in the home.

    In trying to fathom how so many children can be injured on a daily basis from something as simple as slipping and falling, we need to consider an important factor, which is height.  Oftentimes, when observing small children at play, we are amazed at their dexterity and ability to take what looks like a fairly serious tumble and hop right back up, unfazed.  Likewise, a slip or fall for most adults, more often than not, leads to little more than a poorly chosen expletive being uttered.  However, imagine a small child falling a distance equivalent to the average height of an adult, and we begin to see where the danger lies.  With this to consider, let’s closer look at two of the most important areas to childproof in a home: windows and staircases.
     

    STAIRCASES

    The first thing that probably comes to mind when examining child safety in relation to stairways and staircases is a safety gate, and with good reason: falling down stairs can be a serious hazard for an infant or toddler who is just learning to navigate his or her surroundings. When properly installed, high-quality safety gates can help eliminate this possibility. 
     
     

    Safety Gates  

    A safety gate is a gate that is temporarily installed in a door or stairway.  It allows adults to unlock and pass, but small children will be unable to open it.  There are two basic types of gates which differ in the way they are installed.  The first type is a pressure-mounted gate.  These safety gates are fixed in place by pressure against walls or a doorway.  They can be used in doorways between rooms, such as for keeping crawling babies out of a kitchen during cooking, but they are not suitable for keeping kids out of other areas, such as the top of a stairway, where falling could be a risk. 

    The other type of safety gate, which is recommended specifically for stairways, is hardware-mounted.  These gates will mount solidly in place with screws but are still easily removable for times when they are unnecessary.  A hardware-mounted safety gate will prevent small children from entering stairways where accidents could occur.

    When choosing a safety gate, you can refer to established ASTM standards for these products, and some manufacturers also participate in a certification program administered by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association.  Any gate you choose should meet the ASTM standards, which will ensure that the gate itself poses no hazard to the child.  Products that comply with these standards will have a sticker on the packaging or on the unit itself. 

    Railings 

    For parents of children who have outgrown the need for safety gates but are still small and curious, especially those prone to climbing on things, baluster spacing on the handrail becomes a concern.  An InterNACHI inspector knows that a stairway with four or more risers should have a continuous handrail not lower than 34 inches or taller than 38 inches on at least one side, with balustrades not more than 4 inches apart from each other.  If you have spaces between vertical rails or risers that will allow an object larger than 4 inches to pass between them, they should be reported during an inspection as in need of repair because they pose a risk to a child who tries to climb on the rail or gets stuck between them.

    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 following items are essential tools but this list is by no means exhaustive. Feel free to ask an your Advantage inspector during your next inspection about other tools that you might find useful.
     
    1.  Plunger
    A clogged sink or toilet is one of the most disturbing problems that you will face. With a plunger on hand, however, you can usually remedy these troubling plumbing issues relatively quickly. It is best to have two plungers — one for the sink and one for the toilet.

     

    2.  Combination Wrench Set

    One end of a combination wrench set is open and the other end is a closed loop. Nuts and bolts are manufactured in standard and metric sizes and because both varieties are widely used, so you’ll need both sets of wrenches. For the most control and leverage, always pull the wrench toward you, instead of pushing on it. Also, avoid over-tightening.

    3.  Slip-Joint Pliers

    Use slip-joint pliers to grab hold of a nail, a nut, a bolt, and much more. These types of pliers are versatile because of the jaws, which feature both flat and curved areas for gripping many types of objects. There is also a built-in slip-joint, which allows the user to quickly adjust the jaw size to suit most tasks.

    4.  Adjustable WrenchCaulking gun

    Adjustable wrenches are somewhat awkward to use and can damage a bolt or nut if they are not handled properly. However, adjustable wrenches are ideal for situations where you need two wrenches of the same size. Screw the jaws all the way closed to avoid damaging the bolt or nut.

    5.  Caulking Gun
    Caulking is the process of sealing up cracks and gaps in various structures and certain types of piping. Caulking can provide noise mitigation and thermal insulation, and control water penetration. Caulk should be applied only to areas that are clean and dry.
     
    6.  Flashlight
    None of the tools in this list is of any use if you cannot visually inspect the situation. The problem, and solution, are apparent only with a good flashlight. A traditional two-battery flashlight is usually sufficient, as larger flashlights may be too unwieldy.
     
    7.  Tape Measure
    Measuring house projects requires a tape measure, not a ruler or a yardstick. Tape measures come in many lengths, although 25 feet is best.  Measure everything at least twice to ensure accuracy. 
     

    8.  Hacksaw
    These are great for cutting metal objects such as pipes, bolts and brackets. Torpedo levelHacksaws look thin and flimsy, but they’ll easily cut through even the hardest of metals. Blades are replaceable, so focus your purchase on a quality hacksaw frame.
     
    9. Torpedo Level
    Only a level can be used to determine if something, such as a shelf, appliance or picture, is correctly oriented. The torpedo-style level is unique because it not only shows when an object is perfectly horizontal or vertical, but it also has a gauge that shows when an object is at a 45-degree angle. The bubble in viewfinder must be exactly in the middle, not merely close.

    10.  Safety Glasses / Goggles
    For all tasks involving a hammer or a power tool, you should always wear safety glasses or goggles. They should also be worn while you mix chemicals.

    11.  Claw Hammer
    A good hammer is one of the most important tools you can own.  Use it to drive and remove nails, to pry wood loose from the house, and in combination with other tools. They come in a variety of sizes, although a 16-ounce hammer is the best all-purpose choice.

    12.  Screwdriver Set
    It is best to have four screwdrivers: a small and large version of both a flat-head and a Phillips- head screwdriver. Electrical screwdrivers areWire cutter sometimes convenient, but they’re no substitute.  Manual screwdrivers can reach into more places and they are less likely to damage the screw. 

    13.  Wire Cutters
    Wire cutters are pliers designed to cut wires and small nails. The “side-cutting” (unlike the stronger “end-cutting” style) style is handy, but not strong enough to cut small nails.

    14.  Respirator / Safety Mask
    While paints and other coatings have become less toxic (and lead-free) over time, most still contain dangerous chemicals, which is why you should wear a mask to avoid accidentally getting them in your lungs. A mask should also be worn when working in dusty or dirty environments. Disposable masks usually come in packs of 10 and should be thrown away after use. Full and half-face respirators can be used to prevent the inhalation of very fine particles that ordinary facemasks will not not stop. 

    15.  Duct Tape
    This tape is extremely strong and adaptable. Originally, it was widely used to make temporary repairs to many types of military equipment. Today, it’s one of the key items specified for home emergency kits because it is water-resistant and extremely sticky.
     
    In summary, the above is a list of tools that every homeowner should have. 

    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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