Thursday, October 24, 2019

Home ownership is new to me; what things require ongoing maintenance?

I'm glad you asked; I just happen to have a list of maintenance items for you to keep on hand.  Probably the one thing I see most often that reduces the value of a home is the lack of simple maintenance.  Keeping your home's components in good working order is the best way to retain the value of your home and avoid costly repair bills.

Here in the state of Texas, we have to worry about many things that affect our homes, like dramatic shifts in weather, from an extremely hot & dry summer to a wet spring and fall which have a profound affect on the soil surrounding our foundations.  Our water supply tends to be calcium rich and hard; this can negatively affect our plumbing components.  Pollens and dust seem out of control in certain times of the year, requiring vigilant replacement of HVAC air filters.  There are a lot of maintenance items to keep track of - here's a list for you to keep handy...


Home Maintenance Schedule

Preventive maintenance is the very best way to keep your house performing as intended.  It maintains a safe environment, reduces surprises, and controls expenses.  In the long-run, it improves the odds of selling your home at fair market value, when it comes time to move on.
Take care of your home; you’ll be taking care of yourself!

Upon Taking Ownership
Change locks of all exterior doors
Replace batteries in all smoke/CO detectors; then test
Create a plan of action in the event of a fire in your home
Review your home inspection report for all safety related issues to be addressed
Investigate the location of the main shut-offs for plumbing, electric, heating, and water

Spring and Fall
Replace HVAC air filters, or clean if reusable
Have HVAC system(s) inspected and cleaned
Clean humidifiers / electronic air filters
Clean gutters, downspouts, window wells
Replace batteries in all smoke/CO detectors; then test
Inspect attic for evidence of leaks, condensation, or vermin activity

Inspect faucets, toilet flappers, water valves at sinks and toilets
Inspect shower enclosures for grout repair needs
Trim back vegetation from foundation and exterior walls
Have chimney(s) inspected and cleaned
If home has hot water heating system, bleed radiator valves
Clean/replace exhaust fan filters in kitchen
Examine roof for damage to roof covering, flashing, chimney(s)
Ensure fire extinguishers are fully charged -- Recharge if necessary
Inspect exterior walls and foundation for evidence of cracks/movement
Test all ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets
Flush water heater(s) sediment using bottom valve; ensure no leakage
Carefully test breakers in electric panel (flip off/on) for functionality (AFCI's have a test button)
Carefully test garage door opener safety features; both electric-eye and resistance auto-reverse
Inspect and clean windows/sills inside and out; check operation, weather seal, protective paint needs
If wood-destroying insects are common in your area, get inspected by a licensed (WDI) specialist
In summer, ensure a soaker hose (or irrigation line) surrounding the foundation keeps soil moist
In winter, shut off isolating valves for exterior hose bibs (if present) or cover with insulating shield

Where Details Matter!

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

GFCI and AFCI; What's the difference?

In a nutshell, they are both designed for electrical safety.  A GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupter) is a specialized electrical receptacle that protects against accidental shock at that outlet.  They are the receptacles with the "test" and "reset" buttons (see picture below), although other nearby regular-looking receptacles may be tied to this GFCI.  Those receptacles that are tied to a GFCI are called "slaves" and are simply normal looking receptacles that are wired to a nearby GFCI and all have the same safety features.  By nearby, I mean along the same kitchen counter, in an adjoining bathroom, or sometimes in the bathroom directly above/below.  These normal looking, slave GFCI receptacles should be marked "GFCI protected outlet" with a sticker, but often are not.  How a GFCI receptacle works is that it monitors the amount of current flow from hot to neutral.  Once there is an imbalance, it trips that circuit.  These receptacles should be tested by depressing the "test" button periodically to ensure they are working.  You will hear an audible click when tested, indicating that the circuit is no longer active.  Press the reset button to reset the outlet.  If you do not hear this click, the receptacle is no longer providing adequate protection and should be replaced ASAP.  Slave receptacles can be tested with a receptacle tester.

GFCI Outlet

GFCI "Slave" Outlet

AFCI's are something quite different.  An AFCI (arc-fault circuit interrupter) is an electrical breaker found in your electric panel.  They are breakers designed to detect arc-faults.  An electrical arc happens when a wire becomes loose or is damaged by being nicked or cut.  If this happens, the electrical current will "jump" through the space of disconnect or cut with an electrical arc.  This electrical arcing usually happens behind the wall and can cause a fire at that location.  When arcing is detected, an AFCI breaker will trip and neutralize that circuit.  AFCI's can be spotted in your panel box by their unique small test buttons and coiled white wires.  These should be tested periodically by pressing the "test" button to ensure they are functioning as intended.  The breaker switch will trip and can be reset by flipping the switch off and then back on.  Be careful not to touch anything else in this panel as electricity is dangerous.  You can certainly hire a qualified licensed electrician to perform these tests for you.

See the source image
AFCI Breaker

GFCI's and AFCI's have not always been required in new home construction.  Specific requirements for GFCI's have been implemented and revised throughout the past 48 years.  Requirements for AFCI's have been implemented over the past 20 years.  There is a very good chance your home is not completely up to current code in this area...most are not.

For more information on these AFCI's and GFCI's, click here.

I am not a professional electrician and am only providing informational perspective and opinion.
If you have any specific electrical safety concerns and/or further questions about AFCI/GFCI outlets, you should contact a professional electrician.

Is a Pool/Spa part of the Home Inspection?

Generally is considered an "optional" component and must be asked for specifically.  A pool/spa inspection is an important consideration during the home purchasing process.  Its purpose is to provide a snapshot of the condition and functionality of a pool/spa at the present time.  It will inform you and your client what is working and what is not, what is damaged and what is not, and what is safe and what is not.  A pool inspection is typically not part of the home inspection process, as it is considered an “optional” component.  This means you need to ask for it in addition to the home inspection!  Other things that fall into this "optional" category include: out-buildings, septic systems, lawn irrigation systems, whole house vacuum systems.

The inspector’s task is to determine if the minimal standards of safety and functionality are met, as outlined in the TREC “Standards of Practice” – Section 535.233.  Included in this inspection are the following key components:

  •          Functionality of Equipment/Components
  •          Construction Condition (Pipes, Surfaces, Components)
  •          Safety (Child-Proof Barriers, Electrical/Bonding, Surface/Drain/Component Hazards)

But you might be surprised by a few things.  Did you know?

       1.     Not all Inspectors are  Equally Qualified
Not all inspectors are qualified to conduct these “optional system” inspections, so it’s important to ask upfront if your inspector is “certified’ to inspect a specific optional system.  A qualified pool inspector should be able to cite a specific pool inspection certification or education source and inform you when the certification began and is scheduled to expire.  There is typically a 5-year certification window.  One such source for pool/spa inspection training is the National Swimming Pool Foundation (NSPF), which offers Certified Pool Inspector (CPI) and/or Certified Pool Operator (CPO) certifications.

That said, TREC does not require “certification” for any optional system inspection.  Per the “Standards of Practice” (SOP), if an inspector feels he is qualified to inspect an optional system, it is incumbent upon him/her to know all of the rules and regulations governing that optional system.  In my opinion, it is safe to say that an inspector who has formal pool inspection certification and is current in that certification is a better choice for the home buyer than an inspector without those credentials.

       2.     Current Standards ≠ Standards at Time of Construction
Local municipalities each define their own set of codes and regulations regarding initial pool/spa construction.  These codes are often updated and/or changed over time.  As such, not all pools, even in the same city/town will have the same construction or safety design.  So, when an inspector points out a deficiency, he/she is referring to an existing condition, as compared to, “current” industry standards.  I.e. – the deficiency noted may not have been a deficiency at the time of construction – but it is now.  This does not mean that the deficiency must be corrected; merely that it exists.  It is up to the new home buyer whether or not to correct the deficiency or not.

       3.     The Source of “Industry Standards” is the ISPSC
The “Industry Standards” come from the International Swimming Pool and Spa Code™ (ISPSC™), published by the International Code Council (ICC), which uses prescriptive and performance-related provisions to establish minimum safety requirements for public and residential pools, spas and hot tubs. ISPSC was developed with input from a wide range of industry experts, including the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals (APSP), and was finalized through the Code Council’s governmental consensus process.
(Source: International Code Council (ICC) -

       4.     Pool-Safety Information is Readily Available
Should you want to know more about specific pool/spa safety precautions, there are a few great sources just a click away: 
a.     U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
b.     National Swimming Pool Foundation (NSPF)
c.     International Code Council (ICC)