As we enter the time of striking autumnal color and acorn-gathering squirrels, all of us at A-Pro Home Inspection wish you a prosperous sales season! In our latest issue of From the Rafters, we’ve gathered our own seeds of knowledge for you to share with your clients: info about skylights, structural hazards in the home, and common driveway issues. Plus, we’ve included a few fall conversation-starters for your next open house. How fast can you eat three pounds of candy corn? Read on to find out the world record.
We look forward to serving you as magnificent fall unfolds! Just let us know how A-Pro can help.
President, A-Pro Home Inspection
A Proper Home Inspection
Can Illuminate Skylight Problems
For many home-shoppers, a skylight may not be an essential feature on their “must-have” list, but the sight of a room bathed in natural light can often be a major selling point when showing off a property—especially on a sunny day. Whether featuring curved or flat glazing, skylights can brighten rooms and provide homeowners with another window to the outside world. But as any experienced home inspector will tell you, skylights—when not properly installed and maintained—can pose problems. This is why a checkup of all skylights is part of a foundation-to-roof inspection like those performed by A-Pro. So while you’re pointing out the beams of light warming the breakfast nook, it’s a good idea to know some of the common issues that affect skylights. Here are a few:
Leaks: Not to sound like a broken record, but our newsletter can’t reiterate this point enough: Water is a home’s greatest nemesis. Unlike regular vertical windows, skylights take the full brunt of whatever Mother Nature dishes out, from driving rain to hail, sleet, and snow. While all skylights may leak over time, those that are flush-mounted rather than curb-mounted are historically more susceptible to leakage. The inspector will look for signs of wood rot and mold growth often caused by slow, undiscovered leaks; interior staining; malfunctioning interior trays around the perimeter; and amateurish repairs, such as applications of materials intended to patch leaks (e.g., caulk or cement used in roofing). One of the main culprits that cause leakage is time. Like any system, skylights will become worn as years pass, leading to problems such as shrinking rubber gaskets which are known to leak at the corners. In addition to water leaks, skylight defects can make the home less energy efficient and perpetuate roof ventilation and ice dam conditions.
Glazing Issues: Glazing used for skylights, whether glass, fiberglass, polycarbonate or other material, is typically stronger than the glass found in windows due to the more intense downward forces the structure must endure. The home inspector will report on any cracks or breaks in the glazing, as well as fogging of the lens.
Inadequate Installation: There’s nothing simple about a skylight installation—a task which requires a combined understanding of carpentry, roofing, windows, and metalwork. Faulty craftsmanship and poor decision-making when putting in a skylight sit at the top of the list of problems cited by home inspectors. A trained inspector can quickly discern whether the skylight installation and subsequent repairs were the work of a professional or weekend “home improvement guy.” Among other common problems, the inspector will note skylights that are not sufficiently secured to the roof; incorrectly installed or missing flashing that doesn’t allow water or debris to be shed; the choice of a skylight system that does not match what is required for the type of roof (flat versus sloped) or that doesn’t meet special installation requirements of certain roofing materials; use of weaker window glass rather than stronger, skylight-preferred glazing; and lack of skylight insulation or a vapor barrier when necessary.
Mechanical Damage: Like the rest of the roof, a skylight isn’t safe from squirrels and other relentless critters looking for access to the home. Skylights can also be dinged by impact damage from trees that drop large branch during inclement weather. The certified home inspectors at A-Pro perform complete skylight inspections as part of a 500-point, foundation-to-roof assessment. To schedule a home inspection, call 205-538-2425 or visit here.
Home Inspections—Important Warnings that
Can Reduce the Risk of Accidents
Besides reporting on problems that can cost a potential homebuyer money (leaky windows and doors that lead to higher utility bills, failing roofs that need replacing, etc.), highlighting areas that pose risk of injury or death is one of the home inspector’s most important jobs. So the next time a client says, “The house looks fine. Why do I need a home inspection?” you can answer, “Because it could save your life.” In the annals of real estate sales, there are countless stories of home inspectors who have pointed out to homebuyers and sellers hazards that warrant correction, including the presence of dangerous mold; carbon monoxide; poorly installed or outdated wiring; lead pipes and lead-based paint; asbestos; chimney fire dangers; furnace/water heater deficiencies that could lead to explosions; and many others. Today, we’ll touch on three structural areas that can pose significant threats:
Interior Steps: Thousands of homeowners are killed or injured by falls on stairs. Elderly individuals are particularly prone to these types of accidents, but no one is immune to taking an untimely tumble. And while you may be familiar with how to navigate the quirks of your often-trod stairwell and deck steps, visitors to your home may not be so lucky. A stairwell inspection includes checks for missing, damaged, or loose handrails; overly steep construction; inadequate corridor lighting; broken or uneven treads; uneven risers (no more than 3/8-inch variation between them) or those that are too tall; balusters spaced in a manner that would let a child get his or her head stuck (less than four inches apart); slippery or loose stair carpeting; missing or broken nosing (the protruding edge of a stair); and other conditions.
Exterior Steps: In addition to performing many of the same safety checks required for interior steps, home inspectors determine if the landing at the top of exterior steps is large enough to prevent an individual from being struck by an opening door. Non-uniform steps (caused in some cases by settling) are a major cause outdoor falls. Other potentially fall-inducing conditions, such as steps with a precipitous rise and short threads, will be noted by the inspector, as well as crumbling concrete, wood rot, sagging, and carpeted steps that retain moisture and can deteriorate wood over time.
Decks: Experts estimate that only four in ten decks are totally safe. It’s no secret that a deck collapse can cause serious injury, so your inspector will check to see if the deck can support the weight of people and loads. Deck issues include the absence of graspable handrails; missing nails and hanger joists that compromise the structure; dangerous baluster spacing; support posts that are too small; inadequate bracing; use of incorrect ledger board fasteners; substandard or lack of ledger flashing; weak guardrails; failing post connections; and improperly attached stairways. Look for more house hazards in future issues of From the Rafters.
Real Estate Question Corner
Is a checkup of the driveway included in a home inspection? What about walkways? Yes, an assessment of the driveway and walkways is part of the exterior portion of a home inspection, which includes other non-structural examinations such as checking for proper soil grading and reporting on vegetation that may have a negative impact on the building. Harsh weather, impact by vehicles, poor construction, oil, salt, grease, and gasoline can play a role in undermining a driveway’s health. The home inspector will note damage to asphalt and concrete that can result from normal wear, contraction and expansion, and frost heaving, which pushes up the surface. Even what appear to be minor cracks will be identified, since the freeze/thaw cycle—particularly in wintry climates—can rapidly worsen the problem. During installation, the lack of a proper base and use of improperly mixed and poured materials can expedite deterioration. Significant problems such as large cracks and deep potholes that allow severe water penetration and are unsafe for walkers will be reported. Less obvious concerns will be highlighted as well. These include driveways that don’t slope away from the foundation, directing rainwater toward the house rather than away from it—a situation that can lead to costly foundational damage. When a sloped driveway is not possible due to the home’s low position relative to the street level, a well-functioning drainage system should be in place to prevent rain from reaching the house or garage. The home inspector may recommend periodic applications of sealers that have shown to prolong the life of concrete and asphalt driveways, as well as other smart practices such as filling cracks/potholes and removing grass and weeds. When assessing walkways, the inspector will report on uneven sections which present a tripping hazard (generally those at least ½ inch), buckling and cracking from tree roots, sections that encourage water to get trapped, cracking, spalling, and drainage concerns.
Fun Fall Facts
Time to mark your calendar! October 30th is National Candy Corn Day. The annual celebration honors the odd little confection created by George Renninger of the Wunderle Candy Company in the 1880s. When it comes to this triangular-shaped, multi-colored goody with the waxy texture, people either seem to love it or loathe it. Recent surveys point to the latter, as candy corn routinely ranks as one of the least-liked items in a trick-or-treat sack. But don’t tell that to Jamie McDonald, who set a world record for consuming three pounds of candy corn in 20 minutes and 34 seconds. Yuck or yum? You be the judge. Are you ready for some footballs? They certainly are in Ada, Ohio. Known as the “Football Capital of the World,” the northwestern Ohio town (population 6,000) is home to the Wilson Football Factory, which turns out 700,000 footballs annually. For the Super Bowl alone, the factory produces more than 200 pigskins (actually made of cowhide). All footballs used in NFL games are assembled by the craftspeople at the Ada factory, which also supplies the NCAA and many high schools. Looking for a cool road trip? Factory tours are available.
A Final Thought: When your clients need home inspections this fall– or any season – give your local team at A-Pro a call. We’ve performed thousands of inspections from coast to coast since 1994. Reach us in Birmingham at 205-538-2425 or schedule an inspection here.