Why a pre-listing inspection is beneficial for you

Like every other homeowner, you are desirous of fetching the highest possible for your house through its sale. You clean and de-clutter and prepare the home well to make it attractive for prospective buyers. You know the buyer will get the home inspected after signing the contract with you. However, a pre-listing inspection is not only desirable but also highly beneficial on your part. Here are some important benefits accruing to you should you go for an inspection before putting your house on the market.

It will give you a lot of peace of mind

Like selling your used car. You need to know the issues in the structure of your house before listing it on the MLS. It gives you a correct idea about its marketability. You know that you are not selling something that will in any way compromise with the financial and emotional interests of the buyer. If you are not aware of some issues. They are later brought to your attention during inspection ordered by the buyer. It will upset your calculations and cause stress in your mind.

You can rectify the problems easily at your own pace

If any major issues are revealed in the inspection after signing the contract, you could be asked by the buyer to undertake repairs to their full satisfaction. Why not order an inspection yourself? Then carry out improvements in your own budget and flexible schedule rather than facing the ultimatum given by the buyer later on?

It helps in setting the right asking price

You can get rid of the problems of price haggling buyers indulge in when home inspection report reveals some issues with the structure of the house. By carrying out as pre-listing inspection, you get a clear idea about the fair market value of the house based upon its features and condition. You are confident about the asking price because you have adjusted it according to the actual condition of the house.

There are no surprises in store for you later

If you are honestly not aware of any problems with your house, you can be taken aback when the home inspection ordered by the buyer reveals them. When you have carried out a pre-listing inspection yourself, you are confident dealing with the buyer as you know everything is OK. Pre-listing home inspection ensures smooth and hassle-free sale of your house.

Some sellers – often, those working without an agent – want to sell their home “as is” so they don’t have to invest money fixing it up or take on any potential liability for defects.  There is nothing wrong with buying a home “as is,” particularly if you can buy it at a favorable price, but if you are considering buying an “as is” home, you should still hire a competent home inspector to perform an inspection.  There are several reasons for this. Why Get a Home Inspection If You’re Buying “As Is”?

First, you don’t know what “as is” is. Sure, you can walk through the home and get an idea of its general condition.  You may even spot some defects or items in obvious need of repair.  But you won’t obtain the same detailed information you will receive if you hire a home inspector.  Home inspectors are trained to look for things you are not likely to notice.  Signature Home Inspection inspectors, for example, follow InterNACHI’s Residential Standards of Practice and check the roof, exterior, interior, foundation, basement, fireplace, attic, insulation, ventilation, doors, windows, heating system, cooling system, plumbing system, and electrical system for certain defects.  Armed with a home inspector’s detailed report, you will have a better idea of what “as is” means regarding that home, which means you’ll be in a better position to know whether you want to buy it.  You may also be able to use information from the home inspection to negotiate a lower price.

Why Get a Home Inspection If You’re Buying “As Is”?

Second, many states require the seller to provide you with written a disclosure about the condition of the property.  Sellers often provide little information, and a few even lie.  A home inspection can provide the missing information. If an inspector finds evidence that a seller concealed information or lied to you, that may be a sign that you don’t want to buy a home from that seller.

Finally, if you buy a home “as is” without hiring a home inspector and then later discover a defect, all is not lost.  A home inspector may be able to review the seller’s disclosure and testify as to what the seller knew or should have known about.  The inspector may find evidence that the seller made misrepresentations or concealed relevant information from you.  Even the seller of an “as is” home may be held liable for misrepresentation or concealment.

So why get a home inspection? The better choice, obviously, is to hire a home inspector first.  Remember:  The cost of a home inspection is a pittance compared to the price of the home.  Be an informed consumer, especially when buying an “as is” home, and hire Signature Home Inspection.

Kickout flashing, also known as diverter flashing, is a special type of flashing that diverts rainwater away from the cladding and into the gutter. When installed properly, they provide excellent protection against the penetration of water into the building envelope. 
Several factors can lead to rainwater intrusion, but a missing kickout flashing, in particular, often results in concentrated areas of water accumulation and potentially severe damage to exterior walls. InterNACHI inspectors should make sure that kickouts are present where they are needed and that they are installed correctly. Water penetration into the cladding can occasionally be observed on the exterior wall in the form of vertical water stains, although inspectors should not rely on visual identification. There may be severe damage with little or no visible evidence.
Inspectors may observe the following problems associated with kickout flashing:
The kickout was never installed.
  • The need for kickout flashing developed fairly recently and the builder may not have been aware that one was required. The increased amount of insulation and building wrap that is used in modern construction makes buildings less breathable and more likely to sustain water damage. Kickout flashing prevents rainwater from being absorbed into the wall and is more essential than ever.
The following are locations where kickout flashing is critical:
  • anywhere a roof and exterior wall intersect, where the wall continues past the lower roof-edge and gutter. If a kickout flashing is absent in this location, large amounts of water may miss the gutter, penetrate the siding, and become trapped inside the wall; and
  • where gutters terminate at the side of a chimney.

The kickout was improperly installed.

  • The bottom seam of the flashing must be watertight. If it is not, water will leak through the seam and may penetrate the cladding.
  • The angle of the diverter should never be less than 110 degrees.

The kick-out was modified by the homeowner.

  • Homeowners who do not understand the importance of kickouts may choose to alter them because they are unsightly. A common way this is done is to shorten their height to less than the standard six inches (although some manufacturers permit four inches), which will greatly reduce their effectiveness. Kickout flashings should be the same height as the side wall flashings.
  • Homeowners may also make kickout flashings less conspicuous by cutting them flush with the wall.
In summary, kickout flashing should be present and properly installed in order to direct rainwater away from the cladding.

Is condo life right for you?

Buying a condo instead of a single-family home offers first-time buyers, urban dwellers and empty nesters many advantages, including less maintenance, access to amenities, often a desirable location and, of course, a lower price tag.

Not all condo associations or boards are created equal, so you should definitely research the

Condo Inspection

Condo Inspection

property. Here are a few things you should consider when buying a condo or a town home.

Governance – Find out how the homeowners association (HOA) makes decisions about finances, use of common property and enforcement of bylaws. It’s also a good idea to learn what your voting rights would be as a property owner.

Property Management – Determine if the property is managed by the homeowners or by a third-party management company.

Bylaws – Determine if there are any rules and regulations that you may not be able to comply with. Common bylaws include pets, noise, parking, use of amenities, maximum occupants, age restrictions, unit rental and alteration of the unit space.

Finances – Review the financial statements and annual operating budget to determine if there are adequate reserve funds set aside for future repairs and building maintenance.

Building Condition – In addition to having the unit inspected, assess the overall building and common property. Often the property management company will be able to provide a technical audit that details current conditions and anticipated repairs.

HOA Fees – Review what is included in the HOA fees. Ask if there have been any special assessments, which could signal construction issues or poor financial management.

In random order, I present to you seven ways to use a home inspection report can be used by parties to a real estate transaction for mutual advantage and benefit.
  1. Buyers can consider the reported conditions of the home’s systems to determine their ability to afford and maintain the property.  A home with a 12-year-old water heater, an 18-year-old furnace, and a 25-year-old composite-shingle roof is going to need some costly investments in the near future.
  2. Buyers can sometimes use information regarding undisclosed defects to negotiate the seller’s action to repair the defect(s) or adjust the asking price for the home.
  3. Sellers can obtain a home inspection and use the report to disclose known defects to potential buyers.
  4. Sellers can obtain a home inspection and use the report to identify and correct significant defects that could interfere with a buyer’s desire to submit a contract to buy the property.
  5. Buyers can use the inspection report as a punch list (or to-do list) for maintaining the property after purchase.
  6. Buyers/Sellers can use the report to communicate to contractors the nature of the defect(s) to obtain estimates for repair or to arrange for repairs or replacements.
  7. Buyers can sometimes use the inspection report as a means to withdraw from the contracted agreement to purchase the home when certain types of undisclosed defects are reported.
sample-report
Buyers and sellers should consider obtaining inspection reports only from professional, full-time home inspectors.  Builders and contractors who generate inspection reports often use them as marketing tools and as a means to generate business for maintenance and repairs.  Doing so is a conflict of interest, so their reports do not always represent the actual conditions of the property.  Always use home inspectors who abide by a Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice, and who continually upgrade their knowledge and skills with regular Continuing Education courses.
by James Bushart of www.MissouriHomeInspection.com
Radiant heating systems directly heat the floor or panels in the wall or ceiling of a house, rather than heating the air, as do forced-air heating systems. The technique can be likened to standing in full sun on a chilly day, or feeling the warmth of a distant bonfire even though the air is cold. Despite their name, radiant heating systems also depend on convection — the natural circulation of heat within a room — caused by heat rising from the floor.

Radiant heat has been used since ancient times, perhaps as far back as 4000 BC in Mongolia. The ancient Romans, too, made useRadiant Heating Systems of a type of radiant heating known as a hypocaust to heat their houses and public baths. Recent decades have seen more mainstream use of radiant heating in Europe, although it is finally gaining popularity in the United States, especially in new-home construction, where installation is more economical. While European inspectors have far more experience with these systems, American and Canadian inspectors should be prepared to encounter them with increasing frequency.

Radiant heating systems use one of two heating mediums, each of which is described below:
  • water (hydronic) radiant heat: This system uses hot water carried by tubing, arranged in a grid, to heat the home.
  • electric radiant floors: This system uses electricity carried by cables or floor mats to heat the home.

An installation of a radiant floor heating systems is either wet or dry (not to be confused with the aforementioned distinctions), and the decision to use one or the other is largely based on whether the system will be installed in new or existing construction. These two methods are briefly summarized as follows:

  • In a wet installation, the heating panels are installed on the floor, and a thin layer of concrete or gypsum is spread over the installation, sandwiching the cables or tubing between two layers of flooring or concrete. This installation is ideal in new-home construction, where a concrete slab, which has high thermal mass, is used to build the ground floor.
  • Radiant floor dry installations are relatively new strategies in which the cables or tubing run in an air space beneath the floor. Tubing is often sandwiched between layers of plywood or beneath the subfloor. Dry heating is more common in retrofits and when the floors in new homes are not poured concrete.

Advantages of Radiant Heating

  • efficiency. Radiant heating systems use less energy than convective heating systems where the same fuel is being used. This is due to a number of reasons:
    • The thermostat can be set to a lower temperature and still afford the same comfort. Rooms heated by radiance are typically heated uniformly from floor and ceiling, in contrast with forced-air systems, which leave the floors cold. Studies conducted by the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) indicate that people can be as comfortable at temperatures 6 to 8 degrees lower with radiant heating than with convective heating that uses air as the primary heat-transfer medium.
    • They require no ducts or pipes, which account for heat losses in other systems.
    • There is less heat loss through windows because air is not being blown.
    • Radiant heaters can be zoned so that energy is only used to heat individual rooms. You can thus more easily direct heat to areas that are more trafficked or chillier, while directing heat away from rooms that see little use.
  • Radiant heating systems, unlike forced-air systems, pose little threat of spreading dust, pollen and germs.
  • flexible fuel choices. Hydronic systems can be heated with a wide variety of energy sources, such as solar water heaters or gas, wood or oil-fired boilers.
  • unobtrusive. Radiant heating systems are not visible in the occupied space, which saves floor space and allows for more decorative freedom.
  • quiet and clean. Radiant heating systems are quiet, clean and require little or no maintenance. An oil-fired heating boiler, on the other hand, requires annual maintenance.
  • Radiant heaters take a long time to cool. This can be beneficial in several ways:
    • The heater can be run at night during off-peak hours when electricity rates are cheaper. It can then be turned off, yet still radiate heat, during peak hours.
    • As it takes a long time for radiant heaters to cool down, they will continue to provide heat for hours into a blackout.

Disadvantages of Radiant Heating

  • Additional under-slab insulation is required for radiant heating systems mounted on the ceiling.
  • limited choice of floor covering. Carpet, due to its properties as a thermal insulator, reduces efficiency of in-floor systems. Wood, too, may not be a good choice because of its tendency to crack or shrink when heated. If wood must be used, it is best to use wood with a low moisture level to avoid shrinking and gaps.
  • potentially high utility costs. In some areas, electricity is the most expensive way to provide heat.
  • high up-front cost. Due to their complex installation, up-front costs can be prohibitive.
  • long warm-up period. Electric systems heat up faster than liquid systems, although both take longer than conventional forced-air systems.
  • They can only be used to heat. Separate systems are required to provide cooling, air cleaning and ventilation. A forced-air system, by contrast, can do all of these things.
  • Maintenance and repair of pipes may be difficult due to their lack of accessibility.
In summary, radiant heating is an attractive alternative to conventional heating systems, although neither system is perfect.

From Radiant Heating Systems – InterNACHI http://www.nachi.org/radiant-heating-systems.htm#ixzz34XDlAaG9

Engineered wood flooring is an alternative to solid hardwood flooring made entirely out of real wood.  It’s currently the most popular type of flooring in the world.  North America is the only area left where traditional, solid wood floors still outnumber engineered floors, but engineered wood flooring is quickly catching up, with the rate of use for new builds, as well as remodels, increasing steadily every year for the past few decades.  Inspectors and homeowners alike may be interested in how this product is manufactured and installed, and what its advantages are compared to older, more traditional forms of flooring.
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Brief History

The beginnings of mass-produced wood flooring can be dated as far back as 1903, when an E. L. Roberts mail-order catalog offered “wood carpeting.”  This flooring consisted of 1½ x 5/16-inch wooden strips that were glued to heavy canvas that was then installed by tacking it down with brads.  The wood was then sanded and finished.  The varnishes used were usually slow-curing tung oils from China.  These were not durable in themselves, so the floors were hot-waxed and buffed to a shine with a floor brush.

Early examples of the “wood carpet” eventually evolved into more modern iterations, such as laminate flooring, which consists of melamine-infused paper as its upper layer, and wood-chip composite beneath.  Laminate flooring typically features a printed or embossed top layer meant to approximate the look of real hardwood.

The current incarnation of engineered wood flooring has been available since the 1960s, and has steadily increased in quality, leading to improved advantages over traditional hardwood flooring.

Composition

Engineered wood flooring is most commonly made with a plywood-core substrate and a real hardwood veneer or skin, which comes pre-finished from the factory.  The top veneer, which looks just like the top of a traditional solid wood plank, is called the lamella.engineeredwood

Some engineered flooring utilizes a finger-core construction, with a substrate comprised of small pieces of milled timber running perpendicular to the lamella.  This can be made with an additional layer of plywood running parallel to the lamella, which gives it added stability.  Fiberboard-core flooring is also available, but it’s generally considered to be an inferior option.

Engineered wood flooring is meant to be indistinguishable from traditional hardwood floor once it’s installed, and only the lamella is visible.  The lamella veneers available are made from nearly every type of common wood, as well as many more exotic ones, in order to provide the same variety of aesthetics typical of quality hardwood floors.  The substrate that the veneer is attached to is just as strong and durable as hardwood — if not stronger — and the finish applied at the factory often outlasts one applied on-site to solid wood flooring.  Even surface effects are available that can be applied to the finish to give the flooring a time-worn look, such as light distressing.

Engineered flooring runs the gamut from the low end, starting at $3 per square foot, to the high, at $14 and more. To judge quality, check the thickness of the lamella, the number of layers in the substrate, and the number of finish coats.  Typically, the more layers, the better. Listed below are descriptions of the advantages of adding layers to the construction in the common classes of engineered boards:

  • 3-ply construction: 1- to 2-mm wear layer; five finish coats; 10- to 15-year warranty; 1⁄4-inch thick; current price is about $3 to $5 per square foot.  Options for lamella veneer are limited to common species, such as oak and ash, and just a few stains are available;
  • 5-ply construction: 2- to 3-mm wear layer; seven finish coats; 15- to 25-year warranty; 1⁄4-inch thick; about $6 to $9 per square foot.  More species, such as cherry, beech, and some exotics are available for lamella, as well as all stains, and a few surface effects, such as distressing; and
  • 7-ply or more: 3+-mm wear layer, which can be sanded two or more times; nine finish coats; 25+-year warranty; 5/8- to 3⁄4-inch thick; average price is about $10 to $14 per square foot.  The widest selection of species is available for lamella, including reclaimed options.  More surface treatments are also available, such as hand-scraped and wire-brushed.

The cost of engineered flooring can be around 20% more than that of traditional flooring, but the difference can be offset or recouped by saving on installation, staining and sealing.

Installation

Installation of engineered wood flooring is generally quite simple compared to the installation of traditional hardwood, and can often be accomplished by a homeowner without the help of a professional flooring contractor.  If the services of a professional are enlisted, the job can be done more quickly and cost-effectively than if solid hardwood were to be installed.  Engineered flooring can be fastened in place with screws or nails, glued down, or left to “float,” relying on its mass to hold it in place.  Listed below are several installation methods:

  • A bead of glue can be applied to the tongue of each board, which is then tapped into place with a block. The floor floats, unattached to the sub-floor except by force of gravity.
  • A floor stapler and compressor can be used to rapidly secure the boards to the existing floor, without having to deal with any glue.
  • Boards can be laid in a bed of adhesive, as is done with tile.  This approach works particularly well over cured concrete, which precludes the use of staples.
  • Some types of engineered floor are designed with milled tongues and grooves that lock together without glue or fasteners. It’s the quickest and cleanest installation method.

Advantages of Engineered Flooring

While solid hardwood is a great traditional building material that provides aesthetically pleasing and structurally sound flooring, it does have its limitations.  For example, it cannot be installed directly on concrete or below grade, such as in basements.  It is generally limited in plank width and is more prone to gapping, which is excessive space between planks, and cupping, which is a concave or “dished” appearance of the plank, with the height of the plank along its longer edges being higher than the center with increased plank size.  Solid hardwood also cannot be used where radiant-floor heating is in place.
Engineered wood flooring, on the other hand, can actually provide some distinct advantages over traditional hardwood in many instances and applications.  Some of these include:
  • Lamella veneer is available in dozens of wood species.
  • Surface effects can be applied to further enhance its appearance.
  • The factory finish can outlast site-applied finish on solid hardwoods.
  • Drying time for the finish is eliminated because it’s pre-applied at the factory.
  • It can be used in basements and over concrete slabs.
  • Installation is quick and easy.
  • It can be used over radiant-heat systems.
  • It can be refinished to repair normal wear and tear.
  • The core layer can expand and contract more freely without warping.
  • The flooring can be removed and re-installed elsewhere, if desired.
Engineered wood flooring is increasingly the first choice for floor installations, and its advantages, in many circumstances, can be exceptional.  Homeowners with a little DIY experience can usually install it themselves.  Inspectors are likely to encounter it in new builds as well as remodels even more frequently as it continues to gain in popularity every year.

From Engineered Wood Flooring – InterNACHI http://www.nachi.org/engineered-wood-flooring.htm#ixzz30Ha3zpjC

Efflorescence is the white chalky powder that you might find on the surface of a concrete or brick wall. It can be a cosmetic issue, or it can be an indication of moisture intrusion that could lead to major structural and indoor air qualityefflorescence-signature-home-inspection issues. A home inspector should understand what efflorescence is in order to recognize potential moisture problems.

Indications of Moisture

Efflorescence is the dissolved salts deposited on the surface of a material (such as concrete or brick) that are visible after the evaporation of the water in which it was transported. The moisture that creates efflorescence often comes from groundwater, but rainwater can also be the source. Efflorescence alone does not pose a major problem, but it can be an indication of moisture intrusion.

Porous Building Materials

Building materials, such as concrete, wood, brick and stone, are porous materials. Porous materials can absorb or wick water by a process called the capillary action. As water moves through the porous material, salts can be drawn with it.

Concrete, wood, brick, stone and mortar are porous materials that contain salts. The ground in which these materials can come into contact also contain salts. Capillary action can literally suck water and transport it through porous building materials.

Capillary Action

Porous building materials are capable of wicking water for large distances due to capillary action with a theoretical limit of capillary rise of about 6 miles. That’s 6 miles directly up. Think of a tree and how a tree can transport water from its roots to its leaves. That’s capillary action. And it’s very powerful. When you add salt to that capillary process, it can be destructive.

Salts dissolved by groundwater can be transported by capillary action through porous soil. Building materials in contact with soil will naturally wick the water inward and upward. Take concrete footings — they are typically poured directly onto soil without any capillary break. Sometimes this is called rising damp. This is the beginning of how water can wick upward into a structure.

Destructive Pressuressignature-home-inspection-efflorescence

When the capillary flow of water reaches the surface of a building material, evaporation occurs. As the water evaporates, salt is left behind. As this evaporation of capillary flow continues, the salt concentration increases, which creates an imbalance, and nature abhors imbalance and always wants to put things back into equilibrium. This is process is called osmosis. To re-establish equilibrium through osmosis, water rushes toward the salt deposit to dilute the concentration. This rush of water creates massive hydrostatic pressures within the porous material, and these pressures are destructive.

The pressure from osmosis can create incredibly strong hydrostatic pressure that can exceed the strength of building materials, including concrete.

Here are some examples of how that pressure translates:
  • Diffusion vapor pressure: 0.3 to 0.5 psi
  • Capillary pressure: 300 to 500 psi
  • Osmotic pressure: 3,000 to 5,000 psi

As you can see from the list above, osmosis can create pressure that is greater than the structural strength of concrete, which can be from 2,000 psi to 3,000 psi. The action of water rushing to the surface due to capillary action creates incredible forces that can cause materials to crack, flake and break apart.

Spalling

When efflorescence leads to strong osmotic pressures—greater than the strength of the building material—and the material literally breaks apart, the resulting damage is called spalling. Hydrostatic pressure can cause spalling, but spalling can also be caused by freeze-thaw cycles in building materials that have a high moisture content.

Both efflorescence and spalling can be prevented with capillary breaks, such as by installing a polyethylene sheeting under a concrete slab.

Identifying Efflorescence

InterNACHI inspectors should already know how to distinguish mold from efflorescence (at right), but it is possible for homeowners to confuse the two. The expense of a mold test can be avoided if the substance in question can be identified as efflorescence.
Here are a few tips that inspectors can offer their clients so that they understand the differences:
  • Pinched between the fingers, efflorescence will turn into a powder, while mold will not.
  • Efflorescence forms on inorganic building materials, while mold forms on organic substances. However, it is possible for mold to consume dirt on brick or cement.
  • Efflorescence will dissolve in water, while mold will not.
  • Efflorescence is almost always white, yellow or brown, while mold can be any color imaginable. If the substance in question is purple, pink or black, it is not efflorescence.
Aside from mold, the following conditions can result from excess moisture in a residence:
  • fungi that rot wood;
  • water damage to sheetrock;
  • reduced effectiveness of insulation.
Inspectors should note the presence of efflorescence in their inspection reports because it generally occurs where there is excess moisture, a condition that also encourages the growth of mold.
Prevention and Removal of Efflorescence

Prevention

  • An impregnating hydrophobic sealant can be applied to a surface to prevent the intrusion of water. It will also prevent water from traveling to the surface from within. In cold climates, this sealant can cause material to break during freeze/thaw cycles.
  • During home construction, bricks left out overnight should be kept on pallets and be covered. Moisture from damp soil and rain can be absorbed into the brick.
  • Install capillary breaks, including polyethelene sheeting between the soil and the building material, such as concrete.

Removal

  • Pressurized water can sometimes be used to remove or dissolve efflorescence.
  • An acid, such as diluted muriatic acid, can be used to dissolve efflorescence. Water should be applied first so that the acid does not discolor the brick. Following application, baking soda can be used to neutralize the acid and prevent any additional damage to the masonry. Muriatic acid is toxic, and contact with skin or eyes should be avoided.
  • A strong brush can be used to simply scrub the efflorescence off.
Note:  The use of water to remove efflorescence may result in the re-absorption of crystals into the host material, and they may later reappear as more efflorescence. It is advisable that if water is used in the removal process that the masonry is dried off very quickly.
In summary, efflorescence is a cosmetic issue, but it indicates a potential moisture problem. Inspectors should know the how capillary forces can cause structural damage to building materials and educate their clients about efflorescence and the potential problems it may cause.

 

From Efflorescence for Inspectors – InterNACHI http://www.nachi.org/efflorescence.htm#ixzz2zvIED6NQ

Septic systems treat and disperse relatively small volumes of wastewater from individual and small numbers of homes and commercial buildings. Septic system regulation is usually a state and local responsibility. The EPA provides information to homeowners and assistance to state and local governments to improve the management of septic systems to prevent failures that could harm human health and water quality. 
 
Information for Homeowners

If your septic tank failed, or you know someone whose did, you are not alone. As a homeowner, you are responsible for maintaining your septic system. Proper septic system maintenance will help keep your system from failing and will help maintain your investment in your home. Failing septic systems can contaminate the ground water that you and your neighbors drink and can pollute nearby rivers, lakes and coastal waters.

 Ten simple steps you can take to keep your septic system working properly:
  1. Locate your septic tank and drainfield. Keep a drawing of these locations in your records.
  2. Have your septic system inspected at least every three years. Hire an InterNACHI inspector trained in septic inspections.
  3. Pump your septic tank as needed (generally, every three to five years).
  4. Don’t dispose of household hazardous waste in sinks or toilets.
  5. Keep other household items, such as dental floss, feminine hygiene products, condoms, diapers, and cat litter out of your system.
  6. Use water efficiently.
  7. Plant only grass over and near your septic system. Roots from nearby trees or shrubs might clog and damage the system. Also, do not apply manure or fertilizers over the drainfield.
  8. Keep vehicles and livestock off your septic system. The weight can damage the pipes and tank, and your system may not drain properly under compacted soil.
  9. Keep gutters and basement sump pumps from draining into or near your septic system.
  10. Check with your local health department before using additives. Commercial septic tank additives do not eliminate the need for periodic pumping and can be harmful to your system.
How does it work? 
A typical septic system has four main components: a pipe from the home, a septic tank, a  drainfield, and

Septic System

Septic System

the soil. Microbes in the soil digest and remove most contaminants from wastewater before it eventually reaches groundwater. The septic tank is a buried, watertight container typically made of concrete, fiberglass, or polyethylene. It holds the wastewater long enough to allow solids to settle out (forming sludge), and oil and grease to float to the surface (as scum). It also allows partial decomposition of the solid materials. Compartments and a T-shaped outlet in the septic tank prevent the sludge and scum from leaving the tank and traveling into the drainfield area. Screens are also recommended to keep solids from entering the drainfield. The wastewater exits the septic tank and is discharged into the drainfield for further treatment by the soil. Micro-organisms in the soil provide final treatment by removing harmful bacteria, viruses and nutrients.

Your septic system is your responsibility!

Did you know that, as a homeowner, you’re responsible for maintaining your septic system? Did you know that maintaining your septic system protects your investment in your home? Did you know that you should periodically inspect your system and pump out your septic tank? If properly designed, constructed and maintained, your septic system can provide long-term, effective treatment of household wastewater. If your septic system isn’t maintained, you might need to replace it, costing you thousands of dollars. A malfunctioning system can contaminate groundwater that might be a source of drinking water. And if you sell your home, your septic system must be in good working order.
Pump frequently…
You should have your septic system inspected at least every three years by a professional, and have your tank pumped as necessary (generally every three to five years).
Use water efficiently…
Average indoor water use in the typical single-family home is almost 70 gallons per person per day. Dripping faucets can waste about 2,000 gallons of water each year. Leaky toilets can waste as much as 200 gallons each day. The more water a household conserves, the less water enters the septic system.
Flush responsibly… 
Dental floss, feminine hygiene products, condoms, diapers, cotton swabs, cigarette butts, coffee grounds, cat litter, paper towels, and other kitchen and bathroom waste can clog and potentially damage septic system components. Flushing household chemicals, gasoline, oil, pesticides, anti-freeze and paint can stress or destroy the biological treatment taking place in the system, as well as contaminate surface waters and groundwater.
 
How do I maintain my septic system?
  • Plant only grass over and near your septic system. Roots from nearby trees or shrubs might clog and damage the drainfield.
  • Don’t drive or park vehicles on any part of your septic system. Doing so can compact the soil in your drainfield or damage the pipes, the tank or other septic system components.
  • Keep roof drains, basement sump pump drains, and other rainwater and surface water drainage systems away from the drainfield. Flooding the drainfield with excessive water slows down or stops treatment processes and can cause plumbing fixtures to back up.
Why should I maintain my septic system?
 
A key reason to maintain your septic system is to save money! Failing septic systems are expensive to repair or replace, and poor maintenance is often the culprit. Having your septic system inspected (at least every three years) is a bargain when you consider the cost of replacing the entire system. Your system will need pumping every three to five years, depending on how many people live in the house and the size of the system. An unusable septic system or one in disrepair will lower your property’s value and could pose a legal liability. Other good reasons for safe treatment of sewage include preventing the spread of infection and disease, and protecting water resources. Typical pollutants in household wastewater are nitrogen phosphorus, and disease-causing bacteria and viruses. Nitrogen and phosphorus are aquatic plant nutrients that can cause unsightly algae blooms. Excessive nitrate-nitrogen in drinking water can cause pregnancy complications, as well as methemoglobinemia (also known as “blue baby syndrome”) in infancy. Pathogens can cause communicable diseases through direct or indirect body contact, or ingestion of contaminated water or shellfish. If a septic system is working properly, it will effectively remove most of these pollutants.
Septic System Drain Field

Septic System Drain Field

Article information by Nachi.org

Signature Home Inspection is a Certified Home Inspection service located in California serving Orange County, San Diego County, Los Angeles County, Riverside County, Santa Clara County, San Mateo County, San Francisco County, Contra Costa County, and San Bernardino County California.

www.signaturemore.com                                               888-860-2688

Why You Need Homeowner’s Insurance

The largest, single investment most consumers make is in their homes. The consumer can protect their home, possessions, and liability with a homeowner’s insurance policy. The homeowner’s insurance policy is a package policy that combines more than one type of insurance coverage in a single policy. There are four types of coverages that are contained in the homeowner’s policy: dwelling and personal property; personal liability; medical payment; and additional living expenses.

Manhattan-Beach-Home-Inspection

Manhattan Beach, California

Property Damage Coverage

Property damage coverage helps pay for damage to your home and personal property. Other structures, such as a detached garage, a tool shed, and any other building on your property are usually covered for 10% of the amount of coverage on your house.

Personal property coverage will pay for personal property, including household furniture, clothing, and other personal belongings. The amount of insurance coverage is usually 50% of the policy limit on your dwelling. The coverage is also limited by the types of loss listed in the policy. The coverage only pays the current cash value of the item destroyed, unless you purchase “replacement cost” coverage. Your homeowner’s policy also provides off-premises coverage. This means that the policy covers your belongings against theft even when they are not inside your home.

Personal Liability Coverage

Homeowners’ policies provide personal liability coverage that applies to non-auto accidents on and off your property if the injury or damage is caused by you, a member of your family, or your pet. The liability coverage in your policy pays both for the cost of defending you and paying for any damages that a court rules you must pay. Liability insurance does not have a deductible that you must meet before your insurer begins to pay losses. The basic liability coverage is usually $100,000 for each occurence. You can request higher limits that are available for an additional cost.

Medical Payment Coverage

Medical payment coverage pays if someone outside your family is injured at your home, regardless of fault. This includes payment for reasonable medical expenses incurred within one year from the date of loss for a person who is injured in an accident in your home. The coverage does not apply to you and members of your household. The medical-payments portion of your homeowner’s policy will also pay if you are involved in the injury of another person away from your home in some limited circumstances. Medical payments coverage limits are generally $1,000 for each person.

Additional Living Expenses

If it is necessary for you to move into a motel or apartment temporarily because of damage caused by a peril covered in your policy, your insurance company will pay an amount up to 20% of the policy limit on your dwelling for these expenses. If you move in temporarily with a friend or relative and do not have any extra expenses, you will not be paid any addditional living expenses by your insurance company.

Home Business

If you operate a home business full- or part-time, you might be uninsured and not realize it. Many home business owners believe that their homeowner’s insurance policy covers all of their home business needs. You should not assume that your homeowner’s insurance policy will cover your home business. Your homeowner’s policy may provide coverage, but probably only a maximum of $2,500 for business equipment in the home, and $250 away from the premises.

The price you pay for your homeowner’s insurance can vary by hundreds of dollars, depending on the insurance company you buy your policy from. Here are some things to consider when buying homeowner’s insurance.

1. Shop around.

It will take some time, but could save you a good sum of money. Ask your friends, check the Yellow Pages, and contact your state insurance commission. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners has information to help you choose an insurer in your state, including complaints that are filed by consumers. States often make information available on typical rates charged by major insurers, and many states provide the frequency of consumer complaints by company. Also check consumer guides, insurance agents, companies, and online insurance quote services. This will give you an idea of price ranges and tell you which companies have the lowest prices. But don’t consider price alone. The insurer you select should offer a fair price and deliver the quality of service you would expect if you needed assistance in filing a claim. So, in assessing service quality, use the complaint information from state regulatory agencies and talk to a number of insurers to get a feeling for the type of service they provide. Ask them what they would do to lower your costs. When you’ve narrowed the field to three insurers, get price quotes.

2. Raise your deductible.

Deductibles are the amount of money you have to pay toward a loss before your insurance company starts to pay a claim, according to the terms of your policy. The higher your deductible, the more money you can save on your premiums. Nowadays, most insurance companies recommend a deductible of at least $500. If you can afford to raise your deductible to $1,000, you may save as much as 25%. Remember, if you live in a disaster-prone area, your insurance policy may have a separate deductible for certain kinds of damage. If you live near the coast in the East, you may have a separate windstorm deductible; if you live in a state vulnerable to hailstorms, you may have a separate deductible for hail; and if you live in an earthquake-prone area, your earthquake policy has a deductible.

3. Don’t confuse what you paid for your house with rebuilding costs.

The land under your house isn’t at risk from theft, windstorm, fire and the other perils covered in your homeowner’s policy. So don’t include its value in deciding how much homeowner’s insurance to buy. If you do, you will pay a higher premium than you should.

4. Buy your home and auto policies from the same insurer.

Some companies that sell homeowner’s, auto and liability coverage will take 5% to 15% off your premium if you buy two or more policies from them. But make certain this combined price is lower than buying the different coverages from different companies.

5. Make your home more disaster-resistant.

Find out from your insurance agent or company representative what steps you can take to make your home more resistant to windstorms and other natural disasters. You may be able to save on your premiums by adding storm shutters, reinforcing your roof, and buying stronger roofing materials. Older homes can be retrofitted to make them better able to withstand earthquakes. In addition, consider modernizing your heating, plumbing and electrical systems to reduce the risk of fire and water damage.  Even small measures, such as keeping a fire extinguisher in your kitchen, will often qualify you for a discount on your premiums and save you money in the long run.

6. Improve your home security.

You can usually get discounts of at least 5% for a smoke detector, burglar alarm and dead-bolt locks. Some companies offer to cut your premium by as much as 15% to 20% if you install a sophisticated sprinkler system and a fire and burglar alarm that rings at the police, fire or other monitoring stations. These systems aren’t cheap, and not every system qualifies for a discount. Before you buy such a system, find out what kind your insurer recommends, how much the device would cost, and how much you’d save on premiums.

7. Seek out other discounts.

Companies offer several types of discounts, but they don’t all offer the same discount or the same amount of discount in all states. For example, since retired people are at home more than working people, they are less likely to be burglarized and may spot fires sooner, too. Retired people also have more time for maintaining their homes. If you’re at least 55 years old and retired, you may qualify for a discount of up to 10% at some companies. Some employers and professional associations administer group insurance programs that may offer a better deal than you can get elsewhere.

8. Maintain a good credit record.

Establishing a solid credit history can cut your insurance costs. Insurers are increasingly using credit information to price homeowners’ insurance policies. In most states, your insurer must advise you of any adverse action, such as a higher rate, at which time you should verify the accuracy of the information on which the insurer relied. To protect your credit standing, pay your bills on time, don’t obtain more credit than you need, and keep your credit balances as low as possible. Check your credit record on a regular basis, and rectify any errors promptly so that your record remains accurate.

9. Stay with the same insurer.

If you’ve kept your coverage with a company for several years, you may receive a special discount for being a long-term policyholder. Some insurers will reduce their premiums by 5% if you stay with them for three to five years, and by 10% if you remain a policyholder for six years or more. But make certain to periodically compare this price with that of other policies.

10. Review the limits in your policy and the value of your possessions at least once a year.

You want your policy to cover any major purchases or additions to your home. But you don’t want to spend money for coverage you don’t need. If your five-year-old fur coat is no longer worth the $5,000 you paid for it, you’ll want to reduce or cancel your floater — defined as extra insurance for items whose full value is not covered by standard homeowners’ policies, such as expensive jewelry, high-end computers and valuable art work — and pocket the difference.

11. If you are in a government plan, look for private insurance.

If you live in a high-risk area — say, one that is especially vulnerable to coastal storms, fires or crime — and have been buying your homeowner’s insurance through a government plan, you should check with an insurance agent or company representative, or contact your state commission of insurance for the names of companies that might be interested in your business. You may find that there are steps you can take that would allow you to buy insurance at a lower price in the private market.

12. When you’re buying a home, consider the cost of homeowner’s insurance.

You may pay less for insurance if you buy a house close to a fire hydrant or in a community that has a professional rather than a volunteer fire department. It may also be cheaper if your home’s electrical, heating and plumbing systems are less than 10 years old. If you live in the East, consider a brick home because it’s more wind-resistant. If you live in an earthquake-prone area, look for a wooden frame house because it is more likely to withstand this type of disaster. Choosing wisely could cut your premiums by 5% to 15%.

Check the CLUE (Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange) report of the home you are thinking of buying. These reports contain the insurance-claim history of the property and can help you judge some of the problems the house may have. Remember that flood insurance and earthquake damage are not covered by a standard homeowner’s policy. If you buy a house in a flood-prone area, you’ll have to pay for a flood insurance policy that costs an average of $400 a year. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides useful information on flood insurance on its Web site at www.fema.gov/nfip. A separate earthquake policy is available from most insurance companies. The cost of the coverage will depend on the likelihood of earthquakes in your area.

If you have questions about insurance for any of your possessions, be sure to ask your agent or company representative when you’re shopping around for a policy. For example, if you run a business out of your home, be sure to discuss coverage for that business. Most homeowners’ policies cover business equipment in the home, but only up to $2,500, and they offer no business liability coverage. Although you want to lower your homeowner’s insurance cost, you also want to make certain you have all the coverage you need.

Common Questions Asked by Homeowners About Insurance

If a fire, flood, earthquake, or some other natural disaster were to damage or destroy your home, would you have the right insurance coverage to rebuild your house? Based on the questions consumers ask most frequently, this list explains what is and is not covered in a standard homeowner’s policy. Where gaps in coverage exist, it tells you how to fill them. To simplify explanations, assume that you have a policy known as Homeowners-3 (HO-3), the most common type of homeowner’s policy in the United States. Find out what type of homeowner’s policy you have. If you have a different policy, you should review your options in question #17.

1.  Am I covered for direct losses due to fire, lightning, tornadoes, windstorms, hail, explosions, smoke, vandalism and theft?

Yes. The HO-3 provides broad coverage for these and other disasters or “perils,” as they are called in the policy, including all those listed in the question. You should check the dollar limits of insurance in your policy, and make sure you are comfortable with the amount of insurance you have for specific items. Also, if you live near the Atlantic or Gulf Coasts, there may be some restrictions on your coverage for wind damage. Ask your agent about windstorm/hurricane deductibles. In areas prone to hailstorms, you may have a specific hail-damage deductible.

2.  Are my jewelry and other valuables covered?

The standard policy provides only from $1,000 to $2,000 for theft of jewelry. If your jewelry is worth a lot more, you should purchase higher limits. You may wish to add a floater to your policy to cover specific pieces of jewelry and other expensive possessions, such as paintings, electronic equipment, stamp collections and silverware, for example. The floater will provide both higher limits and protect you from additional risks not covered in your standard policy.

3.  If my house is totally destroyed in a fire and I have $150,000 worth of insurance to cover the structure, will this be enough to rebuild my home?

If the cost of rebuilding your home is less than or equal to $150,000, you would have enough coverage. The HO-3 policy pays for structural damage on a replacement-cost basis. If the cost of replacing your home is, say, $120,000, then that is all the insurance you need. On the other hand, if the cost of rebuilding your home is $180,000, then you will be short $30,000.

If you live in an area that is frequently hit by major storms, ask your insurance company about an extended or guaranteed replacement-cost policy. This will provide a certain amount over the policy limit to rebuild your home, so that if building costs go up unexpectedly due to high demand for contractors and materials, you will have the extra funds to cover the bill.

If you choose not to rebuild your home, you will receive the replacement cost of your home, less depreciation. This is called “actual cash value.” You should make sure that the amount of insurance you have will cover the cost of rebuilding your house. You can find out what this cost is by talking to your real estate agent or builders in your area.

Do not use the price of your house as the basis for the amount of insurance you purchase. The market price of your house includes the value of the land on which the house sits. In almost all cases, the land will still be there after a disaster, so you do not need to insure it. You only need to insure the structure.

4.  Am I automatically covered for flood damage?

No. If you live in a flood-prone area, it may be wise to purchase flood insurance. Flood insurance is provided by the federal government under a program run by the Federal Insurance Administration. In some parts of the country, homes can be damaged or destroyed by mudslides. This risk is also covered under flood policies. Contact your agent or company representative to get this insurance, or call the FEMA at 1-800-427-4661 or visit www.fema.gov.

5.  If a pipe bursts and water flows all over my floors, am I covered?

Yes. The HO-3 covers you for accidental discharge of water from a plumbing system. You should check your plumbing and heating systems once a year. While you are covered for damage, who needs the mess and hassle?

6.  What if water seeps into my basement from the ground — am I still covered?

No. Water seepage is excluded under the HO-3. And if the water seepage is not due to a flood, you will not be covered under a flood policy. Seepage is viewed as a maintenance issue and is not covered by insurance. You should see a contractor about waterproofing your basement.

7.  Am I automatically covered for earthquake damage?

No. Earthquake coverage is sold as additional coverage to the homeowner’s policy. To find out whether you should buy this insurance, talk to your agent or company representative. The cost of this coverage can vary significantly from one area to another, depending on the likelihood of a major earthquake.

8.  A neighbor slips on my sidewalk or falls down my porch steps and threatens to take me to court for damages. Does my policy protect me?

Yes. The policy will pay for damages if a fall or other accident on your property is the result of your negligence. It will also pay for the legal costs of defending you against a claim. Also, the medical-payments part of your homeowner’s policy will cover medical expenses if a neighbor or guest is injured on your property. You should check to see how much liability protection you have. The standard amount is $100,000. If you feel you need more, consider purchasing higher limits.

9.  A tree falls and damages my roof during a storm. Am I covered?

Yes. You are covered for the damage to your roof. You are also covered for the removal of the tree, generally up to a limit of $500. You should cut down dead or dying trees close to your house and prune branches that are near your house. It’s true that your insurance covers damage, but falling trees and branches can also injure your family. Ask your InterNACHI inspector about problem trees during your next inspection.

10.  During a storm, a tree falls but does no damage to my property. Am I covered for the cost of removing the tree?

Your trees and shrubs are covered for losses due to risks such as vandalism, theft and fire, but not wind damage. However, if a fallen tree blocks access to your home, you may be covered for its removal. Decide if you need extra insurance for the trees, plants and shrubs on your property. You may be able to purchase extra insurance which will not only cover the cost of removing fallen trees, but will also cover the cost of replacing trees and other plants.

11.  If a storm causes a power outage and all the food in my refrigerator and freezer is spoiled and must be thrown out, can I make a claim?

The general answer is no. However, there are a number of exceptions. In some states, food spoilage is covered under the homeowner’s policy. In addition, if the power loss is due to a break in a power line on or close to your property, you may be covered. You should check with your agent to find out whether you are covered for food spoilage in your state. If not, you can add food-spoilage coverage to your policy for an additional premium.

12.  My children are away at college. Are they covered by my homeowner’s insurance?

If they’re full-time college students and part of your household, your insurance generally provides some coverage in a dorm, typically 10% of the contents’ limit. If they live off-campus, some companies may not provide this limited coverage if the apartment is rented in the student’s name.

13.  My golf clubs were stolen from the trunk of my car. Does my homeowner’s policy cover the loss?

Yes. The HO-3 covers your personal property while it is anywhere in the world. However, if your golf clubs are old, you will get only their current value, which may not be enough to purchase a new set. Consider buying a replacement-cost endorsement for your personal property. This way, you will get what it costs to replace the golf clubs, less your deductible.

14.  I have a small power boat. If it is stolen, am I covered? What if there is a boating accident and I get sued? Am I covered for that?

Whether or not you are covered for either theft or liability depends on the size of the boat, the horsepower of the engine, and your insurance company. Coverage for small boats under homeowners’ policies varies significantly. Ask your insurance representative whether you need a boat owner’s policy.

15.  My house is close to the ocean. I’ve heard that if it is destroyed by the wind, the town’s new building code requires me to rebuild the house on stilts. This will add $30,000 to the cost of rebuilding my house. Am I covered for this extra cost?

No. The HO-3 excludes costs mandated by ordinances and laws that regulate the construction of buildings. You can purchase an ordinance or law endorsement. This will cover the extra costs involved in meeting new building codes.

16.  Am I covered for “acts of God”?

Sometimes. The term “acts of God” is not specifically mentioned in homeowners’ insurance policies. It usually refers to natural disasters, such as hurricanes and tornadoes, as opposed to man-made acts, such as theft and auto accidents. Some natural disasters, such as damage from windstorms, hail, lightning, and volcanic eruptions, are covered under homeowner’s insurance. Damage from floods and earthquakes is not.

17.  What should I do if my policy provides less coverage than the HO-3?

Review your coverage with your agent. Some older policies provide less coverage than the HO-3. They may not provide coverage for water damage, theft or liability. They may also provide coverage for the house on an actual cash-value basis, rather than a replacement-cost basis.

“Actual cash value” means replacement cost less depreciation. For example, if your roof is destroyed in a storm, the insurance will pay only for the cost of a new roof less the amount of depreciation of the old roof. If your roof was in great shape, this deduction will not be large. However, if the roof was old and worn out, the deduction for depreciation may be significant. You should try to get an HO-3.

Article information by Nachi.org

Signature Home Inspection is a Certified Home Inspection service located in California serving Orange County, San Diego County, Los Angeles County, Riverside County, Santa Clara County, San Mateo County, San Francisco County, Contra Costa County, and San Bernardino County California.

www.signaturemore.com                                               888-860-2688