Read More

Heating and cooling costs can be slashed by up to 30% per year by properly sealing and insulating the home. Insulating the attic should be a top priority for preventing heat loss because as heat rises, a critical amount of heat loss from the living areas of the home occurs through an unfinished attic.  During the summer months, heat trapped in the attic can reduce the home’s ability to keep cool, forcing the home’s cooling system to work overtime.

The lack of adequate ventilation in insulated attics is a common problem.  Ensuring that there is a free flow of outside air from the soffits to the roof vents is key to a well-functioning insulation system. Look behind the baffles to see if there is any misplaced insulation obstructing the natural air flow, and check the roof vents to make sure that outside air is exhausting properly. Also, look for spots where the insulation is compacted; it may need to be fluffed out.  If loose-fill insulation is installed, check for any thinly spread areas that may need topping up. Finally, look for dark spots in the insulation where incoming air is admitting wind-blown dust and moisture into the material.  Any unintended openings or holes caused by weathering or pest damage should be repaired first.

Installing Attic Insulation

The objective in an attic insulation project is to insulate the living space of the house while allowing the roof to retain the same temperature as the outdoors. This prevents cold outside air from traveling through the attic and into the living area of the home. In order to accomplish this, an adequate venting system must be in place to vent the roof by allowing air flow to enter through soffit-intake vents and out through ridge vents, gable vents or louver vents.

If there is currently a floor in the attic, it will be necessary to pull up pieces of the floor to install the insulation. In this case, it will be easier to use a blower and loose-fill insulation to effectively fill the spaces between the joists. If you choose to go with blown-in insulation, you can usually get free use of a blower when you purchase a certain amount of insulation.

When installing fiberglass insulation, make sure that you wear personal protective equipment, including a hat, gloves, goggles and a face mask, as stray fiberglass material can become airborne, which can cause irritation to the lungs, eyes and exposed skin.

Before you begin actually installing the insulation, there is some important preparation involved in order to ensure that the insulation is applied properly to prevent hazards and to achieve maximum effectiveness.

Step 1: Install Roof Baffles

In order to maintain the free flow of outside air, it is recommended that polystyrene or plastic roof baffles are installed where the joists meet the rafters. These can be stapled into place.

Step 2: Place Baffles Around Electrical Fixtures

Next, place baffles around any electrical fixtures (lights, electrical receptacles, etc.), since these may become hot while in use. Hold the baffles in place by cross-sectioning the rafters with 2x4s placed at a 3-inch clearance around the fixture.  Cut the polystyrene board to fit around the fixture and inside the wood square you have just created.

Step 3: Install a Vapor Barrier

If you are installing insulation with a vapor barrier, make sure it faces the interior of the house. Another option for a vapor barrier is to take sheets of plastic and lay them between the ceiling joists.  Then, using a staple gun, tack them to the sides of the joists.

Step 4:  Apply the Insulation

Begin by cutting long strips of fiberglass to measure, and lay them in between the joists. Do not bunch or compress the material; this will reduce the insulative effect.

If you’re not planning to put in an attic floor, a second layer of insulation may be laid at a 90-degree angle to the first layer. Do not lay in a second moisture barrier, as moisture could potentially be trapped between the two layers. This second layer of insulation will make it easier to obtain the recommended R-value. In colder climates, an R-value of 49 is recommended for adequate attic insulation. In warmer climates, an R-value of 30 is recommended. Fiberglass insulation has an R-value of roughly R-3 per inch of thickness; cellulose has an R-value of roughly R-4 per inch, but it doesn’t retain its R-value rating as well as fiberglass.

If an attic floor is in place, it will be easier to use a blower to add cellulose insulation into the spaces. The best way to achieve this is to carefully select pieces of the floor and remove them in a manner such that you will have access to all of the spaces in between the joists. Run the blower hose up into the attic. A helper may be needed to control the blower. Blow the insulation into the spaces between the joists, taking care not to blow insulation near electrical fixtures. Replace any flooring pieces that were removed.

Loose-fill insulation, either fiberglass or cellulose, is also a good option in cases where there is no attic floor. In such circumstances, you won’t need a blower; you can simply place the insulation between the joists by hand. You may also wish to even out the spread with a notched leveler.

Roof Maintenance

Although homeowners aren’t necessarily expected to climb on their roofs every season as part of regular home maintenance, there are some conditions that should be monitored to prevent roof damage and to help you get the longest life out of your roof-covering materials.  Certain types of damage can lead to water and pest intrusion, structural deterioration, and the escape costly energy.

Weathering

Hail and storm damage, known as weathering, can weaken a roof’s surface even if you haven’t lost any shingles/shakes/slates following a storm.  It’s the most common source of environmental damage for roofs.  Strong, sustained winds can cause uplift to the edges of shingles and shakes, which can weaken their points of attachment and allow rainwater and melting snow to reach the roof’s underlayment.  Wind can also send projectiles through the air, which can damage every surface of the home’s exterior, including the roof.  You should always inspect your roof after a heavy weather event, as far as it is practical to do so without taking any undue risks, to check whether you have lost any roof-covering materials, or if any parts look particularly weathered or damaged.  A small fix now could prevent costly repairs later.

Tree Damage

Tree damage results from wind-blown tree branches scraping against shingles and from the impact of falling branches blown by wind and/or because the nearby tree has dead branches that eventually break off and fall.  Branches that overhang the roof should always be cut back to avoid damage from both abrasion and impact, and to prevent the accumulation of leaf debris on the roof, its valleys, and in the gutters, which will interfere with proper drainage and lead to pooling of rainwater and snowmelt.  Of course, it’s especially important to make sure that tree limbs near the home’s roof and exterior are a safe distance away from utility and power lines.  Tree-trimming is a type of homeowner maintenance task should be undertaken by qualified professionals, as it can lead to accidentally cutting off the service or power from an overhead line, being electrocuted by an energized line, being struck by an unsecured tree branch, falling off the roof or a ladder, and any number of similar mishaps that the homeowner is not trained to anticipate and avoid.

Animal Damage

Squirrels and raccoons (and roof rats in coastal regions) will sometimes tear through shingles and roof sheathing when they’re searching for a protected area in which to build nests and raise their young. They often attack the roof’s eaves first, especially on homes that have suffered decay to the roof sheathing due to a lack of drip edges or from problems caused by ice damming, because decayed sheathing is softer and easier to tear through.  If you hear any activity of wildlife on your roof, check inside your attic for evidence of pest intrusion, such as damaged insulation, which pests may use for nesting material.  Darkened insulation generally indicates that excess air is blowing through some hole in the structure, leading the insulation to become darkened by dirt or moisture.

Biological Growth

Algae, moss and lichen are types of biological growth that may be found on asphalt shingles under certain conditions. Some professionals consider this growth destructive, while others consider it merely a cosmetic problem.  Asphalt shingles may become discolored by both algae and moss, which spread by releasing airborne spores.

Almost all biological growth on shingles is related to the long-term presence of excess moisture, which is why these problems are more common in areas with significant rainfall and high relative humidity.  But even in dry climates, roofs that are shaded most of the time can develop biological growth.

What we commonly call “algae” is actually not algae, but a type of bacteria capable of photosynthesis. Algae appears as dark streaks, which are actually the dark sheaths produced by the organisms to protect themselves from the ultraviolet radiation of the sun. When environmental conditions are right, the problem can spread quickly across a roof.

Algae can feed on mineral nutrients, such as the calcium carbonate in limestone used as asphalt shingle filler. Calcium carbonate also causes asphalt to retain moisture, which also promotes algae growth, so shingles with excessive filler may be more likely to suffer more algae growth.  The rate of filler consumption is slow enough that it’s not generally considered a serious problem.

Algae attach to the shingle by secreting a substance that bonds it tightly to the surface. Growth can be difficult to remove without damaging the roof. The best method is prevention. Algae stains can sometimes be lightened in color by using special cleaners.  Power-washing and heavy scrubbing may loosen or dislodge granules. Chemicals used for cleaning shingles may damage landscaping. Also, the cleaning process makes the roof wet and slippery, so such work should be performed by a qualified professional.

Moss is a greenish plant that can grow more thickly than algae. It attaches itself to the roof through a shallow root system that can be freed from shingles fairly easily with a brush.  Moss deteriorates shingles by holding moisture against them, but this is a slow process. Moss is mostly a cosmetic issue and, like algae, can create hazardous conditions for those who climb on the roof.

Lichens are composite organisms consisting of a fungus and a photosynthetic partner, such as green or blue-green algae. Lichens bond tightly to the roof, and when they’re removed from asphalt shingles, they may take granules with them. Damage from lichen removal can resemble blistering.

“Tobacco-juicing” is the brownish discoloration that appears on the surface of shingles, under certain weather conditions. It’s often temporary and may have a couple of different causes. After especially long periods of intensely sunny days, damp nights and no rain, water-soluble compounds may leach out of the asphalt from the shingles and be deposited on the surface.  Tobacco-juicing may also appear under the same weather conditions if the air is especially polluted.  Tobacco-juicing won’t harm asphalt shingles, although it may run down the roof and stain siding. Although it’s more common in the West and Southwest, it can happen anywhere that weather conditions are right.  You can spray-wash or paint the exterior of the home to remove tobacco-juicing.

Your InterNACHI inspector should investigate signs of roof damage or deterioration before you call a roofing contractor.  That way, you’ll know exactly what types of problems should be addressed before you break out the checkbook for repairs.

Moisture Intrusion

Unchecked moisture intrusion can lead to structural defects in a home over time, as well as health problems for the home’s family.

Some common moisture-related problems include:

  • structural wood decay;
  • high indoor humidity and resulting condensation;
  • expansive soil, which may crack or undermine the home’s foundation, or softened soil, which may lose its ability to support an overlying structure;
  • metal corrosion;
  • ice dams, which form in roof gutters that are undersized or obstructed and water isn’t allowed to drain properly; and
  • mold growth.  Mold can only grow in the presence of high levels of moisture. People who suffer from the following conditions can be seriously or even fatally harmed if exposed to elevated levels of airborne mold spores:
  • asthma;
  • allergies;
  • lung disease; and/or
  • compromised immune systems.

Note that people who do not suffer from these ailments may still be harmed by elevated levels of airborne mold spores.

How does moisture get into the house?
Homeowners should have a basic understanding of how moisture may enter a home and where problems are commonly found.

Moisture or water vapor moves into a house in the following ways:

  • air infiltration. Air movement accounts for more than 98% of all water vapor movement through a building’s cavities. Air naturally moves from high-pressure areas to lower ones by the easiest path possible, such as a hole or crack in the building envelope. Moisture transfer by air currents is very fast—in the range of several hundred cubic feet of air per minute. Replacement air will infiltrate through the building envelope unless unintended air paths are carefully and permanently sealed;
  • by diffusion through building materials. Most building materials slow moisture diffusion to a large degree, although they never stop it completely;
  • leaks from the roof, such as those caused by aging materials needing repair or replacement, storm damage, or deteriorated or unsealed areas around a chimney, skylight, or other roof penetration;
  • plumbing leaks;
  • flooding, which can be caused by seepage from runoff or rising groundwater.  It may be seasonal or catastrophic; and
  • household activities, including bathing, cooking, dishwashing, and washing clothes. Indoor plants, too, may be a significant source of high levels of indoor humidity.  Excess humidity that isn’t allowed to dissipate through adequate ventilation can build up into condensation, which can lead to moisture problems indoors.

Monitoring indoor humidity, introducing fresh air, providing adequate ventilation, and performing regular, seasonal home maintenance—in addition to having annual home inspections—will help homeowners monitor the different areas of the home that may harbor unwanted moisture intrusion and all the problems it can introduce.

Mold

What Is Mold?
Mold is classified as a fungus and is part of the natural environment.  Outdoors, molds are essential for breaking down dead organic matter, such as fallen leaves and dead trees.  But indoors, mold growth should be prevented.  Not only is it unpleasant, as evidenced by its musty odor and unsightly staining, but it can cause significant and irreparable damage to a home’s structural components, as well as furnishings and carpeting. 
 
How does it grow?
Molds reproduce by means of tiny spores, which are invisible to the naked eye and float through the air.  Mold may begin growing indoors when its spores land on surfaces that are wet.  There are many types of mold, but none of them will grow without water or moisture, which is why mold prevention begins by maintaining clean and dry surfaces wherever possible.
 
Health Effects of Mold
Molds have the potential to cause health problems by producing irritants, allergens (which are substances that can cause allergic reactions), and even potentially toxic substances called mycotoxins.  Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals and even in those not generally allergic.  These reactions can include hay fever-type symptoms, such as sneezing, a runny nose, watery eyes, and skin rash (dermatitis).  Allergic reactions to mold are common, and they can be immediate or delayed.  Molds can also cause asthma attacks in people with asthma who are allergic to mold.  Very serious respiratory ailments can result from prolonged exposure to mold.
 
How do I get rid of mold?  
The key to mold control is moisture control.  If mold is a problem in your home, you should clean up the mold promptly and fix the moisture problem, because mold cannot grow unless it has a water source, which usually means a plumbing leak or some structural damage that’s allowing water intrusion from the outside.  If you discover a leak or have experienced flooding, it’s important to completely and thoroughly clean and dry any water-damaged areas and items within 24 to 48 hours to prevent the onset of mold growth.  Vinegar is effective on porous surfaces, and bleach is best on non-porous surfaces.  Some severely water-damaged items that cannot be fully dried out or cleaned may need to be disposed of, such as books and rugs.  Be aware that it’s impossible to get rid of all mold and mold spores indoors.  Some mold spores may be found floating through the air and in household dust.  This is normal.  But mold spores will not grow into mold if moisture is not present.   If you clean up the mold but don’t fix the water problem, then, most likely, the mold problem will recur.  If mold damage is extensive, professional intervention may be required.  The easiest way to prevent mold growth indoors is by keeping your home clean and dry and monitoring indoor humidity levels.

Electrical Panel Safety

All homeowners should know where their electrical panel is located.  When you open the door to it, you should find breakers that are labeled which correspond to the different rooms or areas of the home.  Breakers will sometimes trip due to a power surge or outage, and the homeowner can flip the switch to reactivate the current to the particular room or area.  Behind the breakers is the dead front, and it is this electrical component that should be removed only by a qualified electrician or inspector. 

Before touching the electrical panel to re-set a breaker, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I have an escape path?  Make sure that you know where you can safely turn or step if you must escape a dangerous surprise, such a bee or a spark. An unfortunately placed shovel or extension cord, for instance, can turn a quick jerk into a dangerous fall.
  • Is the floor wet?  Never touch any electrical equipment while standing on a wet surface!
  • Does the panel appear to be wet?  Check overhead for dripping water that may have condensed on a cold water pipe.
  • Is the panel rusty?  Rust is an indication of previous wet conditions that may still exist.
  • Are there scorch marks on the panel door?  This can indicate a past or very recent arc, and further investigation should be deferred to a licensed electrician.

Here is a list of defective conditions that a homeowner may see that may be called out during an electrical inspection:

  • insufficient clearance. According to the 2008 National Electrical Code, most residential electrical panels require at least a 3-foot clearance or working space in front, 30 inches of width, and a minimum headroom clearance of 6 feet, or the height of the equipment, whichever is greater.
  • sharp-tipped panel box screws. Panel box cover screws must have blunt ends so they do not pierce the wires inside the box.
  • circuit breakers that are not properly sized.
  • oxidation or corrosion to any of the parts. Oxidized or corroded wires will increase the resistance of conductors and create the potential for arcing.
  • damage caused by rodents. Rodents have been known to chew through wire insulation in electrical panels (and other areas), creating an unsafe condition. Rodents have been electrocuted this way, leaving an unsightly mess inside the panel.
  • evidence of electrical failures, such as burned or overheated components.
  • evidence of water entry inside the electrical panel. Moisture can corrode circuit breakers so that they won’t trip, make connections less reliable and the equipment unsafe to touch.
  • a panel manufactured by Zinsco or Federal Pacific Electric (FPE). These panels have a reputation for being problematic, and further evaluation by a qualified electrician is recommended.

Fire Safety for the Home

The National Fire Protection Association’s fire prevention program promotes the following eight tips that people of all ages and abilities can use to keep family members safe, especially during the threat of a house fire.
  1. Plan and practice your escape from fire.
    We’ve heard this advice before, but you can’t be prepared to act in an emergency if you don’t have a plan and everybody knows what that plan is.  Panic and fear can spread as quickly as a fire, so map out an escape route and a meeting place outdoors, and involve even the youngest family members so that everyone can work as a unit to make a safe escape.  If you live in a condo or apartment building, make sure you read the signs posted on your floor advising you of the locations of stairways and other exits, as well as alarm pull stations and fire extinguishers.
  2. Plan your escape around your abilities.
    Keeping a phone by your bedside will allow you to call 911 quickly, especially if the exits of your home are blocked by smoke or flames.  Keep a pair of shoes near your bed, too.  If your home or building has a fire escape, take some time to practice operating it and climbing it.
  3. Smoke alarms save lives.
    If you don’t already have permanently installed smoke alarms hard-wired into your electrical system and located outside each bedroom and on each floor, purchase units and place them in those locations.  Install them using adhesive or screws, but be careful not to touch your screwdriver to any internal wiring, which can cause an electrostatic discharge and disable them.  Also, install carbon monoxide detectors, which can protect family members from lethal poisoning even before a fire starts.
  4. Give space heaters space. 
    Whether saving on utility bills by using the furnace infrequently, or when using these portable units for spot heating, make sure you give them at least 3 feet of clearance.  Be sure to turn off and unplug them when you leave or go to bed.  Electrical appliances draw current even when they’re turned off, and a faulty unit can cause a fire that can spread through the wires in the walls at a deadly pace.
  5. If you smoke, smoke outside. 
    Not only will this keep your family members healthier and your home smelling fresher, it will minimize the chance that an errant ember from your cigarette will drop and smolder unnoticed until it causes damage.
  6. Be kitchen-wise.
    This means monitoring what you have on the stove and keeping track of what’s baking in the oven.  Don’t cook if you’re tired or taking medication that clouds your judgment or makes you drowsy.  Being kitchen-wise also means wearing clothing that will not easily catch on the handles of pots and pans, or graze open flames or heating elements.  It also means knowing how to put out a grease fire:  water will make it spread, but salt or baking soda will extinguish it quickly, as will covering the pot or pan with a lid and turning off the stove.  Always use your cooktop’s vent fan while cooking.  Also, keep a small, all-purpose fire extinguisher in a handy place, such as under the sink.  These 3-pound lifesavers are rated “ABC” for their fire-suppressing contents. Read the instructions on these inexpensive devices when you bring them home from the store so that you can act quickly, if the time comes.
  7. Stop, drop and roll.
    Fight the urge to panic and run if your clothes catch fire because this will only accelerate its spread, since fire needs oxygen to sustain and grow.  Tamping out the fire by rolling is effective, especially since your clothes may be on fire on your back or lower body where you may not be immediately aware of it.  If ground space is limited, cover yourself with a blanket to tamp out any flames, and douse yourself with water as soon as you can.  Additionally, always stay close to the floor during a fire; heat and smoke rise, and breathable air will normally be found at the floor-level, giving you a greater chance of escape before being overcome by smoke and toxic fumes.
  8. Know your local emergency number. 
    People of all ages need to know their emergency number (usually, it’s 911).  Posting it near the phone and putting it on speed-dial will save precious moments when the ability to think clearly may be compromised.
Keep your family safe by following these simple tips!

13 Ridiculous Home Improvement Fails That Will Make You Cringe

BY 

Reader’s Digest

Everyone loves saving money, but not all DIY projects are a savings in the end, as these homeowners found out the hard way.

 

[su_button url=”https://www.rd.com/home/improvement/home-improvement-fails/” target=”blank” style=”bubbles” background=”#2dc9ef” color=”#ffffff” icon=”icon: external-link”]Read the full Reader’s Digest Article[/su_button]

Why Smart Home Buyers Hire Home Inspectors

www.daveramsey.com

Home inspections are an indispensable part of the home-buying process. You need to know what you’re getting for your money.

 

[su_button url=”https://www.daveramsey.com/blog/hire-home-inspectors” target=”blank” style=”bubbles” background=”#2dc9ef” color=”#ffffff” icon=”icon: external-link”]Read Dave Ramsey’s Full Article[/su_button]