Raw Code

Why you need to check for permits

If you read any real estate agent blogs about “worst lessons I learned during my first five years” or spend time on Reddit real estate boards, you’ll notice a few recurring themes that are the source of endless anguish from buyers and agents alike. Unpermitted work is one of them. People go through lawsuits, insurance nightmares, expensive repairs, penalties, and teardowns of an entire section of a house — all because a prior owner did unpermitted work on the home.

And yet, nonetheless, quite a few real estate agents and professional tradespeople will say, “Go on — convert that garage into a bedroom. Add a false wall. Lenders don’t care, and if it’s inside the home, no one can see so it doesn’t matter.”

The fact is lenders do care, and so do insurers and municipal building officials.

The immediate repercussions

“If the improvements are not recognized by the town, you won’t be able to get a clear title,” says appraiser Dina Miller, the founder, and principal of Florida appraisal firm Dina Miller Associates and a former co-founder of New York appraisal firm Miller Samuel.

“For example, if you add an addition without proper permits, the property will not match the town records. The bank won’t lend without consistency between the appraisal and town record.”

So from the jump, unpermitted work in a home may cause your loan to get denied. But there are many people who contend that permits are never scrutinized, especially if work was minor or didn’t affect the structure of the house. Some even say that appraisers and inspectors can’t identify a false wall or unpermitted plumbing job.

The long-term risks

Let’s say this is true. Here’s how the scenario could play out. The home has an extra bedroom that was created by adding a false wall. The appraiser for the lender doesn’t notice. Neither does the inspector. The home has a few electrical outlets that don’t work after your unpermitted rewiring, but again, no one notices. You buy the home and five years later have a problem with the electrical and a minor fire in the unpermitted room. The electrical wiring is deemed not up to code, and thus, the insurance refuses to cover the fire damage.

“People don’t think about that but it’s a real issue, so it’s better and safer to be legal,” says Miller.

There are absolutely homeowners who will sue if they uncover this type of discrepancy, and those are the people who become a real estate agent’s worst nightmare. Because if the seller didn’t disclose, and the agent’s inspector didn’t investigate the faulty outlets, the buyer might well have a case.

Finally, if you buy a house with unpermitted work and a city inspector catches it somehow, you become liable for retroactive permitting, paying penalties, or getting rid of the unpermitted work.

There are a lot of very good reasons to double-check that all work requiring a permit was done by the book and approved by the city before you commit to a home.

How to check for permits on past work

You should receive a disclosure statement from the seller at the beginning of the contract process detailing any repairs and renovations to the house. These are typically pretty trustworthy since it is a legal document that can either protect a seller or make them liable in the event of future lawsuits.

Since some sellers do lie, if you want to be extra cautious, at the beginning of the inspection phase, put in a request with the city or county building to see any permits on the house. This will show any open, revoked, expired, or completed permits. (Note that it will not show unpermitted work.) Many cities at this point have a website where you can access or request the information, but you may need to go there in person.

To make this step very easy you can purchase the full “Permit History Report” directly from NxtMove Inspections for a minimal fee. Receive an easy to ready PDF delivered within 24 hours of ordering.

The permit search process should line up with the window to request repairs based on inspection findings, but sometimes it takes longer. In that case, you can try a couple of other routes:

Homeowners Associations (HOAs) often like to have permits on file as well, and they also like to have thorough information on what homeowners are doing to the properties in their communities. So you can try asking the HOA to see permit records for the home you’re looking at.

Code violations will often come up in a title search, and in many cases, unpermitted work is what causes code violations.

You can also call your own appraiser or inspector specifically to check for work that looks like it may have been done off the books, and then cross-check that against the seller’s disclosure.

Protect yourself

In case all those strategies don’t uncover complete information, many attorneys put a clause in the contract that states, “Seller shall, at seller’s cost, satisfactorily close out any open or expired permits and resolve any code violations prior to closing.”

Whether you’re thinking of buying or selling a home with unpermitted work, the most honest solution is retroactively permitting — but be aware that policies around retroactive permitting vary at a local level, and that the cost varies according to the project.

If you see a beautiful DIY remodel or perfect play yard with a swing set, your first emotion shouldn’t be dread. The decisions around what work must be permitted are determined at a local (town or county) level. And some building officials are decidedly more relaxed, especially in rural areas. So make sure to confirm that a permit was required and that the cost of retroactive permitting is excessive before you walk away from a home you really like.

Order a permit history report here.

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Estimating the Lifespan of a Water Heater

While the typical water heater has a lifespan of about 10 years, careful consideration of the factors that pertain to its lifespan can provide the InterNACHI home inspector and the homeowner with information about the potential costs that would be incurred by replacing the water heater. These factors include correct installation; usage volume; construction quality; and maintenance.

Correct Installation

Water heaters should be installed upright in well-ventilated areas — not just for fire safety requirements and carbon monoxide buildup, but also because poor ventilation can shorten the lifespan of the water heater. 

A water heater should not be placed in an area susceptible to flood damage. Water can rust out the exterior and pipes, decreasing the life expectancy and efficiency of the unit.  A water heater is best placed in an easily accessible area for maintenance.  It should also be readily visible for fire and health-hazard requirements.

The inspector may wish to inquire as to whether the heater was installed professionally. Homeowners may install their own units to save money, but the installation of a tankless gas water heater, for example, requires more skill than the average DIY task.  In the case of the owner-installed tankless gas water heater, the home inspector may want to check the gas pipework for leaks to determine whether there is adequate ventilation.

Usage

The life expectancy of the water heater depends a great deal on the volume of water used. Using large quantities of water means that the water heater will have to work harder to heat the water. In addition, the greater the volume of water, the greater the corrosive effect of the water will be.

water heaterConstruction Quality of the Water Heater

As with most household systems and components, you get what you pay for in a heater. Cheaper models will generally have a shorter lifespan, while more expensive models will generally last longer. A good indication of a water heater’s construction quality is its warranty.  Longer warranties naturally imply sounder construction. According to a 2007 Consumer Report that deconstructed 18 different models of water heaters, it was determined that models with longer warranties invariably were of superior manufacturing quality, with nine- and 12-year models typically having larger or higher-wattage heating elements, as well as thicker insulation. Models with larger heating elements have much better resistance to mineral buildup or scum.

Pay attention to the model’s features.  Porcelain casing, for example, provides an additional layer of protection against rusting, and a greater level of heat insulation. Some models come with a self-cleaning feature that flushes the pipes of mineral deposits, which is an important consideration in the unit’s lifespan.  Models with larger or thicker anodes are better-equipped to fight corrosion.


Maintenance and Parts Replacement

The hardness of the water is another consideration when looking at estimating the lifespan of a heater.  In areas where there is a higher mineral content to the water, water heaters have shorter lifespans than in other areas, as mineral buildup reduces the units’ efficiency. Even in areas where the water is softer, however, some mineral deposition is bound to occur.  A way to counteract this mineral buildup is to periodically flush the water heater system, which not only removes some of the buildups but, in tank systems, the process heats the water in the tank. High-end models typically come equipped with a self-flushing feature.  In models for which manual flushing is required, it is important not to damage the water heater valve, which is usually made of plastic and is easy to break.

Although an older model may appear to be well-maintained, a question arises:  Is the maintenance worth it? Warranties often exclude labor costs, so a good rule to follow is that if the total repair cost per year is greater than 10% of the cost of buying and installing a new heater, it is probably not worth replacing damaged parts.

It is debatable whether the cost in time and money of replacing the sacrificial anode in a water heater is worth the benefit of prolonging the use of the existing water heater by a couple of years. In the tricky process of emptying the tank and replacing the anode, it is easy to damage the unit, and, as some warranties can be voided by anode replacement, the cost of future repairs or maintenance that might otherwise be covered must be considered.

In summary, there is a variety of factors influencing the lifespan of a water heater. Beyond the basic telltale signs, such as a leaky puddle under the heater or cold showers in the morning that indicate that a new water heater is probably in order, the homeowner should consider the age and warranty of the model, and carefully weigh the cost-benefit of maintaining an existing heater versus buying a new one.
GFCI

Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) 

What is a GFCI?

A ground-fault circuit interrupter, or GFCI, is a device used in electrical wiring to disconnect a circuit when an unbalanced current is detected between an energized conductor and a neutral return conductor.  Such an imbalance is sometimes caused by current “leaking” through a person who is simultaneously in contact with a ground and an energized part of the circuit, which could result in lethal shock.  GFCIs are designed to protect in such a situation, unlike standard circuit breakers, which guard against overloads, short circuits, and ground faults.
It is estimated that about 300 deaths by electrocution occur every year, so the use of GFCIs has been adopted in new construction, and recommended as an upgrade in older construction, to mitigate the possibility of injury or fatality from electric shock.

History

 

The first high-sensitivity system for detecting current leaking to the ground was developed by Henri Rubin in 1955 for use in South African mines.  This cold-cathode system had a tripping sensitivity of 250 mA (milliamperes) and was soon followed by an upgraded design that allowed for adjustable trip-sensitivity from 12.5 to 17.5 mA.  The extremely rapid tripping after earth leakage-detection caused the circuit to de-energize before electric shock could drive a person’s heart into ventricular fibrillation, which is usually the specific cause of death attributed to electric shock.

Charles Dalziel first developed a transistorized version of the ground-fault circuit interrupter in 1961.  Through the 1970s, most GFCIs were of the circuit-breaker type.  This version of the GFCI was prone to frequent false trips due to poor alternating-current characteristics of 120-volt insulations.  Especially in circuits with long cable runs, current leaking along the conductors’ insulation could be high enough that breakers tended to trip at the slightest imbalance.
Since the early 1980s, ground-fault circuit interrupters have been built into outlet receptacles, and advances in design in both receptacle and breaker types have improved reliability while reducing instances of “false trips,” known as nuisance-tripping.

NEC Requirements for GFCIs

The National Electrical Code (NEC) has included recommendations and requirements for GFCIs in some form since 1968 when it first allowed for GFCIs as a method of protection for underwater swimming pool lights.  Throughout the 1970s, GFCI installation requirements were gradually added for 120-volt receptacles in areas prone to possible water contact, including bathrooms, garages, and any receptacles located outdoors.

The 1980s saw additional requirements implemented.  During this period, kitchens and basements were added as areas that were required to have GFCIs, as well as boat houses, commercial garages, and indoor pools and spas.  New requirements during the ’90s included crawlspaces, wet bars, and rooftops.  Elevator machine rooms, car tops, and pits were also included at this time.  In 1996, GFCIs were mandated for all temporary wiring for construction, remodeling, maintenance, repair, demolition, and similar activities and, in 1999, the NEC extended GFCI requirements to carnivals, circuses, and fairs.

The 2008 NEC contains additional updates relevant to GFCI use, as well as some exceptions for certain areas.  The 2008 language is presented here for reference.

2008 NEC on GFCIs

100.1 Definition100.1  Definitions. Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter. A device intended for the protection of personnel that functions to de-energize a circuit or portion thereof within an established period of time when a current to ground exceeds the values established for a Class A device.FPN: Class A ground-fault circuit interrupters trip when the current to ground has a value in the range of 4 mA to 6 mA.  For further information, see UL 943, standard for Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters.210.8(A)&(B)  Protection for Personnel210.8 Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter Protection for Personnel.(A)  Dwelling Units. All 125-volt, single-phase, 15- and 20-ampere receptacles installed in the locations specified in (1) through (8) shall have ground-fault circuit-interrupter protection for personnel.

(1)   bathrooms;

(2)   garages, and also accessory buildings that have a floor located at or below grade level not intended as habitable rooms and limited to storage areas, work areas, and areas of similar use;

Exception No. 1: Receptacles not readily accessible.Exception No. 2: A single receptacle or a duplex receptacle for two appliances that, in normal use, is not easily moved from one place to another and that is cord-and-plug connected in accordance with 400.7(A)(6), (A)(7), or (A)(8).Receptacles installed under the exceptions to 210.8(A)(2) shall not be considered as meeting the requirements of 210.52(G)

(3)   outdoors;

Exception: Receptacles that are not readily accessible and are supplied by a dedicated branch circuit for electric snow melting or deicing equipment shall be permitted to be installed in accordance with the applicable provisions of Article 426.

(4)   crawlspaces at or below grade level.

Exception No. 1: Receptacles that are not readily accessible.Exception No. 2:  A single receptacle or a duplex receptacle for two appliances that, in normal use, is not easily moved from one place to another and that is cord-and-plug connected in accordance with 400.7(A)(6), (A)(7), or (A)(8).Exception No. 3: A receptacle supplying only a permanently installed fire alarm or burglar alarm system shall not be required to have ground-fault circuit interrupter protection.Receptacles installed under the exceptions to 210.8(A)(2) shall not be considered as meeting the requirements of 210.52(G)

(6)   kitchens, where the receptacles are installed to serve the countertop surfaces;(7)   wet bar sinks, where the receptacles are installed to serve the countertop surfaces and are located within 6 feet (1.8 m) of the outside edge of the wet bar sink;(8)   boathouses;

(B) Other Than Dwelling Units. All 125-volt, single-phase, 15- and 20-ampere receptacles Installed in the locations specified in (1), (2), and (3) shall have ground-fault circuit interrupter protection for personnel:

(1)   bathrooms;(2)   rooftops;

Exception: Receptacles that are not readily accessible and are supplied by a dedicated branch circuit for electric snow-melting or de-icing equipment shall be permitted to be installed in accordance with the applicable provisions of Article 426.

(3)   kitchens.

Testing Receptacle-Type GFCIs

Receptacle-type GFCIs are currently designed to allow for safe and easy testing that can be performed without any professional or technical knowledge of electricity.  GFCIs should be tested right after installation to make sure they are working properly and protecting the circuit.  They should also be tested once a month to make sure they are working properly and are providing protection from fatal shock.
To test the receptacle GFCI, first, plug a nightlight or lamp into the outlet. The light should be on.  Then press the “TEST” button on the GFCI. The “RESET” button should pop out, and the light should turn off.
If the “RESET” button pops out but the light does not turn off, the GFCI has been improperly wired. Contact an electrician to correct the wiring errors.

If the “RESET” button does not pop out, the GFCI is defective and should be replaced.

If the GFCI is functioning properly and the lamp turns off, press the “RESET” button to restore power to the outlet.

Child-Proofing Your Home: 12 Safety Devices to Protect Your Children

About 2.5 million children are injured or killed by hazards in the home each year. The good news is that many of these incidents can be prevented by using simple child-safety devices on the market today. Any safety device you buy should be sturdy enough to prevent injury to your child, yet easy for you to use. It’s important to follow installation instructions carefully.

In addition, if you have older children in the house, be sure they re-secure safety devices. Remember, too, that no device is completely childproof; determined youngsters have been known to disable them. You can childproof your home for a fraction of what it would cost to have a professional do it. And safety devices are easy to find. You can buy them at hardware stores, baby equipment shops, supermarkets, drug stores, home and linen stores, and through online and mail-order catalogs.
InterNACHI inspectors, too, should know what to tell clients who are concerned about the safety of their children. Here are some child-safety devices that can help prevent many injuries to young children.

1.  Use safety latches and locks for cabinets and drawers in kitchens, bathrooms, and other areas to help prevent poisonings and other injuries. Safety latches and locks on cabinets and drawers can help prevent children from gaining access to medicines and household cleaners, as well as knives and other sharp objects.

Look for safety latches and locks that adults can easily install and use, but that are sturdy enough to withstand pulls and tugs from children. Safety latches are not a guarantee of protection, but they can make it more difficult for children to reach dangerous substances. Even products with child-resistant packaging should be locked away out of reach; this packaging is not childproof.
But, according to Colleen Driscoll, executive director of the International Association for Child Safety (IAFCS), “Installing an ineffective latch on a cabinet is not an answer for helping parents with safety.  It is important to understand parental habits and behavior.  While a latch that loops around cabinet knob covers is not expensive and easy to install, most parents do not consistently re-latch it.”
Parents should be sure to purchase and install safety products that they will actually adapt to and use.
2.  Use safety gates to help prevent falls downstairs and to keep children away from dangerous areas. Look for safety gates that children cannot dislodge easily, but that adults can open and close without difficulty. For the top of stairs, gates that screw into the wall are more secure than “pressure gates.”
New safety gates that meet safety standards display a certification seal from the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA). If you have an older safety gate, be sure it doesn’t have “V” shapes that are large enough for a child’s head and neck to fit into.
3.  Use door locks to help prevent children from entering rooms and other areas with possible dangers, including swimming pools.

To prevent access to swimming pools, door locks on safety gates should be placed high, out of reach of young children. Locks should be used in addition to fences and alarms. Sliding glass doors with locks that must be re-secured after each use are often not an effective barrier to pool access.

Doorknob covers, while inexpensive and recommended by some, are generally not effective for children who are tall enough to reach the doorknob; a child’s ingenuity and persistence can usually trump the cover’s effectiveness.
4.  Use anti-scald devices for faucets and showerheads, and set your water heater temperature to 120° F to help prevent burns from hot water. A plumber may need to install these.

5.  Use smoke detectors on every level of your home and near bedrooms to alert you to fires. Smoke detectors are essential safety devices for protection against fire deaths and injuries. Check smoke detectors once a month to make sure they’re working. If detectors are batt

ery-operated, change batteries at least once a year, or consider using 10-year batteries.

6.  Use window guards and safety netting to help prevent falls from windows, balconies, decks and landings. Window guards and safety netting for balconies and decks can help prevent serious falls.  Check these safety devices frequently to make sure they are secure and properly installed and maintained. There should be no more than 4 inches between the bars of the window guard. If you have window guards, be sure at least one window in each room can be easily used for escape in a fire. Window screens are not effective for preventing children from falling out of windows.
7.  Use corner and edge bumpers to help prevent injuries from falls against sharp edges of furniture and fireplaces. Corner and edge bumpers can be used with furniture and fireplace hearths to help prevent injuries from falls, and to soften falls against sharp and rough edges.
Be sure to look for bumpers that stay securely on furniture and hearth edges.
8.  Use receptacle or outlet covers and plates to help prevent children from electrical shock and possible electrocution.
Be sure the outlet protectors cannot be easily removed by children and are large enough so that children cannot choke on them.
9.  Use a carbon monoxide (CO) detector outside bedrooms to help prevent CO poisoning. Consumers should install CO detectors near sleeping areas in their homes. Households that should use CO detectors include those with gas or oil heat or with attached garages.
10.  Cut window blind cords to help prevent children from strangling in blind-cord loops. Window blind cord safety tassels on mini blinds and tension devices on vertical blinds and drapery cords can help prevent deaths and injuries from strangulation in the loops of cords. Inner cord stops can help prevent strangulation in the inner cords of window blinds.
However, the IAFCS’s Ms. Driscoll states, “Cordless is best.  Although not all families are able to replace all products, it is important that parents understand that any corded blind or window treatment can still be a hazard.  Unfortunately, children are still becoming entrapped in dangerous blind cords despite advances in safety in recent years.”
For older mini blinds, cut the cord loop, remove the buckle, and put safety tassels on each cord. Be sure that older vertical blinds and drapery cords have tension or tie-down devices to hold the cords tight. When buying new mini blinds, vertical blinds and draperies, ask for safety features to prevent child strangulation.
11.  Use door stops and door holders to help prevent injuries to fingers and hands. Door stops and door holders on doors and door hinges can help prevent small fingers and hands from being pinched or crushed in doors and door hinges.
Be sure any safety device for doors is easy to use and is not likely to break into small parts, which could be a choking hazard for young children.

12.  Use a cell or cordless phone to make it easier to continuously watch young children, especially when they’re in bathtubs, swimming pools, or other potentially dangerous areas. Cordless phones help you watch your child continuously without leaving the vicinity to answer a phone call. Cordless phones are especially helpful when children are in or near water, whether it’s the bathtub, the swimming pool, or the beach.

In summary, there are a number of different safety devices that can be purchased to ensure the safety of children in the home. Homeowners can ask an InterNACHI inspector about these and other safety measures during their next inspection.  Parents should be sure to do their own consumer research to find the most effective safety devices for their home that are age-appropriate for their children’s protection, as well as affordable and compatible with their household habits and lifestyles.
stucco

Historic Stucco

The Preservation and Repair of Historic Stucco

The term “stucco” is used to describe a type of exterior plaster applied as a two- or three-part coating directly onto masonry, or applied over wood or metal lath to a log or wood-frame structure. Stucco is found in many forms of historic structures throughout the United States. It is so common, in fact, that it frequently goes unnoticed, and is often disguised or used to imitate another material. Historic stucco is also sometimes incorrectly viewed as a sacrificial coating, and consequently removed to reveal stone, brick, or logs that historically were never intended to be exposed. Age and lack of maintenance hasten the deterioration of many historic stucco buildings. Like most historic building materials, stucco is at the mercy of the elements, and even though it is a protective coating, it is particularly susceptible to water damage. Stucco is a material of deceptive simplicity; in most cases, its repair should not be undertaken by a property owner unfamiliar with the art of plastering. Successful stucco repair requires the skill and experience of a professional plasterer. Although several stucco mixes are representative of different periods, they are provided here for reference.  Each project is unique, with its own set of problems that require individual solutions.

  
Historical Background 
  

The stucco on the early-19th century Richardson-Owens-Thomas House in Savannah, Georgia, is a type of natural cement.

Stucco has been used since ancient times. Still widely used throughout the world, it is one of the most common of traditional building materials. Up until the late 1800s, stucco, like mortar, was primarily lime-based, but the popularization of Portland cement changed the composition of stucco, as well as mortar, to a harder material. Historically, the term “plaster” has often been interchangeable with “stucco”; the term is still favored by many, particularly when referring to the traditional lime-based coating. By the 19th century “stucco,” although originally denoting fine interior ornamental plasterwork, had gained wide acceptance in the United States to describe exterior plastering. “Render” and “rendering” are also terms used to describe stucco, especially in Great Britain. Other historic treatments and coatings related to stucco, in that they consist (at least in part) of a similarly plastic or malleable material, include: parging and pargeting, wattle and daub, “cob” or chalk mud, pise de terre, rammed earth, briquete entre poteaux or bousillage, half-timbering, and adobe. All of these are regional variations on traditional mixtures of mud, clay, lime, chalk, cement, gravel or straw. Many are still used today.

  

The stucco finish on Arlington House, Arlington, Virginia, was marbleized in the 1

Revival Styles Promote the Use of Stucco

The introduction of the many revival styles of architecture around the turn of the 20th century, combined with the improvement and increased availability of Portland cement, resulted in a craze for stucco as a building material in the United States. Beginning about 1890 and gaining momentum into the 1930s and 1940s, stucco was associated with certain historic architectural styles, including Prairie; Art Deco and Art Moderne; Spanish Colonial, Mission, Pueblo, Mediterranean, English Cotswold Cottage, and Tudor Revival styles; as well as the ubiquitous bungalow and four-square house. The fad for Spanish Colonial Revival, and other variations on this theme, was especially important in furthering stucco as a building material in the United States during this period since stucco clearly looked like adobe.

Although stucco buildings were especially prevalent in California, the Southwest, and Florida, ostensibly because of their Spanish heritage, this period also spawned stucco-coated, revival-style buildings all over the United States and Canada. The popularity of stucco as a cheap and readily available material meant that, by the 1920s, it was used for an increasing variety of building types. Resort hotels, apartment buildings, private mansions and movie theaters, railroad stations, and even gas stations and tourist courts took advantage of the “romance” of period styles and adopted the stucco construction that had become synonymous with these styles.

  

The damage to this stucco appears to be caused by moisture infiltration.

A Practical Building Material

Stucco has traditionally been popular for a variety of reasons. It was an inexpensive material that could simulate finely dressed stonework, especially when scored or lined, in the European tradition. A stucco coating over a less finished and less costly substrate, such as rubblestone, fieldstone, brick, log, or wood frame, gave the building the appearance of being a more expensive and important structure. As a weather-repellent coating, stucco protects the building from wind and rain penetration and also offers a certain amount of fire protection. While stucco was usually applied during construction as part of the building design, particularly over rubblestone or fieldstone, in some instances, it was added later to protect the structure, or when a rise in the owner’s social status demanded a comparable rise in his standard of living.

Composition of Historic Stucco

Before the mid-to-late 19th century, stucco consisted primarily of hydrated or slaked lime, water, and sand, with straw or animal hair mixed in as a binder. Natural cement was frequently used in stucco mixes after their discovery in the United States during the 1820s. Portland cement was first manufactured in the United States in 1871, and it gradually replaced natural cement. After about 1900, most stucco was composed primarily of Portland cement, mixed with some lime. With the addition of Portland cement, stucco became even more versatile and durable. No longer used just as a coating for a substantial material like masonry or log, stucco could now be applied over wood or metal lath attached to a light wood frame. With this increased strength, stucco ceased to be just a veneer and became a more integral part of the building structure.

  

Caulking is not an appropriate method for repairing cracks in historic stucco.

Today, gypsum, which is hydrated calcium sulfate or sulfate of lime, has, to a great extent, replaced lime.  Gypsum is preferred because it hardens faster and has less shrinkage than lime. Lime is generally used only in the finish coat in contemporary stucco work.

The composition of stucco depends on local custom and available materials. Stucco often contains substantial amounts of mud or clay, marble or brick dust, or even sawdust, and an array of additives ranging from animal blood or urine to eggs, keratin or glue size (animal hooves and horns), varnish, wheat paste, sugar, salt, sodium silicate, alum, tallow, linseed oil, beeswax, and wine, beer or rye whiskey. Waxes, fats, and oils were included to introduce water-repellent properties, sugary materials reduced the amount of water needed and slowed down the setting time, and alcohol acted as an air entrainer. All of these additives contribute to the strength and durability of the stucco.

The appearance of much stucco was determined by the color of the sand — or sometimes burnt clay — used in the mix.  Often, stucco was also tinted with natural pigments, or the surface whitewashed or color-washed after stuccoing was completed. Brick dust could provide color, and other coloring materials that were not affected by lime, mostly mineral pigments, could be added to the mix for the final finish coat. Stucco was also marbled or marbleized — stained to look like stone by diluting oil of vitriol (sulfuric acid) with water, and mixing this with a yellow ochre, or another color. As the 20th century progressed, manufactured and synthetic pigments were added at the factory to some prepared stucco mixes.

Methods of Application

Stucco is applied directly, without lath, to masonry substrates, such as brick, stone, concrete, or hollow tile. But on wood structures, stucco, like its interior counterpart plaster, must be applied over lath in order to obtain an adequate key to hold the stucco. Thus, when applied over a log structure, stucco is laid on horizontal wood lath that has been nailed on vertical wood furring strips attached to the logs. If it is applied over a wood frame structure, stucco may be applied to wood or metal lath nailed directly to the wood frame; it may also be placed on lath that has been attached to furring strips. The furring strips are themselves laid over building paper covering the wood sheathing.

  

The dry materials must be mixed thoroughly before adding water to make the stucco.
Wood lath was gradually superseded by expanded metal lath introduced in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. When stuccoing over a stone or brick substrate, it was customary to cut back or rake out the mortar joints, if they were not already recessed, by natural weathering or erosion, and sometimes the bricks themselves were gouged to provide a key for the stucco. This helped provide the necessary bond for the stucco to remain attached to the masonry, much like the key provided by wood or metal lath on frame buildings.

Like interior wall plaster, stucco has traditionally been applied as a multiple-layer process, sometimes consisting of two coats, but more commonly as three. Whether applied directly to a masonry substrate or onto wood or metal lath, this consists of a first “scratch” or “pricking-up” coat, followed by a second scratch coat, sometimes referred to as a “floating” or “brown” coat, followed finally by the “finishing” coat. Up until the late 19th century, the first and the second coats were of much the same composition, generally consisting of lime or natural cement, sand, perhaps clay, and one or more of the additives previously mentioned. Straw or animal hair was usually added to the first coat as a binder. The third, or finishing coat, consisted primarily of a very fine mesh-grade of lime and sand, and sometimes pigment. As already noted, after the 1820s, natural cement was also a common ingredient in stucco, until it was replaced by Portland cement. Both masonry and wood lath must be kept wet or damp to ensure a good bond with the stucco. Wetting these materials helps to prevent them from pulling moisture out of the stucco too rapidly, which results in cracking, loss of bond, and generally poor-quality stucco work.

Traditional Stucco Finishes

Until the early 20th century when a variety of novelty finishes and textures were introduced, the last coat of stucco was commonly given a smooth, troweled finish, and then scored or lined in imitation of ashlar. The illusion of masonry joints was sometimes enhanced by a thin line of white lime putty, graphite, or some other pigment. Some 19th-century buildings feature a water table or raised foundation of roughcast stucco that differentiates it from the stucco surface above, which is smooth and scored. Other novelties and textured finishes associated with the “period” or revival styles of the early 20th century include the English cottage finish, adobe and Spanish, pebble-dashed or dry-dash surface, fan and sponge texture, reticulated and vermiculated, roughcast (or wet dash), and sgraffito.

Regular Maintenance

Although A.J. Downing alluded to stuccoed houses in Pennsylvania that had survived for over a century in relatively good condition, historic stucco is inherently not a particularly permanent or long-lasting building material. Regular maintenance is required to keep it in good condition. Unfortunately, many older and historic buildings are not always accorded this kind of care. An InterNACHI inspector can be consulted for advice regarding stucco maintenance.

Because building owners knew stucco to be protective, but also somewhat fragile coating, they employed a variety of means to prolong its usefulness. The most common treatment was to whitewash stucco, often annually. The lime in the whitewash offered protection and stability and helped to harden the stucco. Most importantly, it filled hairline cracks before they could develop into larger cracks and let in moisture. To improve water repellency, stucco buildings were also sometimes coated with paraffin, another type of wax, or other stucco-like coatings, such as oil mastics.

Assessing Damage

Most stucco deterioration is the result of water infiltration into the building’s structure, either through the roof, around chimneys, window and door openings, or excessive groundwater or moisture penetrating through or splashing up from the foundation. Potential causes of deterioration include ground settlement lintel and door frame settlement; inadequate and leaking gutters and downspouts; intrusive vegetation; moisture migration within walls due to interior condensation and humidity; vapor drive problems caused by the furnace, bathroom, and kitchen vents; and rising damp resulting from excessive groundwater and poor drainage around the foundation. Water infiltration will cause wood lath to rot, and metal lath and nails to rust, which eventually will cause stucco to lose its bond and pull away from its substrate.

  

The deteriorated surface of this catch basin is being re-stuccoed.

After the cause of deterioration has been identified, any necessary repairs to the building should be made first before repairing the stucco. Such work is likely to include repairs designed to keep excessive water away from the stucco, such as roof, gutter, downspout and flashing repairs, improving drainage, and redirecting rainwater runoff and splash-back away from the building. Horizontal areas, such as the tops of parapet walls and chimneys, are particularly vulnerable to water infiltration and may require modifications to their original design, such as the addition of flashing to correct the problem.

Previous repairs inexpertly carried out may have caused additional deterioration, particularly if executed in Portland cement, which tends to be very rigid and, therefore, incompatible with early, mostly soft lime-based stucco that is more flexible. Incompatible repairs, external vibration caused by traffic and construction, and building settlements can also result in cracks that permit the entrance of water and cause the stucco to fail.

Before beginning any stucco repair, an assessment of the stucco should be undertaken to determine the extent of the damage, and how much must be replaced or repaired. Testing should be carried out systematically on all elevations of the building to determine the overall condition of the stucco. Some areas in need of repair will be clearly evidenced by missing sections of stucco or stucco layers. Bulging or cracked areas are obvious places to begin. Unsound, punky, or soft areas that have lost their key will echo with a hollow sound when tapped gently with a wooden or acrylic hammer or mallet.

Identifying the Stucco Type

Analysis of the historic stucco will provide useful information on its primary ingredients and their proportions and will help to ensure that the new replacement stucco will duplicate the old in strength, composition, color, and texture as closely as possible. However, unless authentic, period restoration is required, it may not be worthwhile, nor in many instances even possible, to attempt to duplicate all of the ingredients (particularly some of the additives) in creating the new stucco mortar. Some items are no longer available, and others, notably sand and lime — the major components of traditional stucco — have changed radically over time. For example, most sand used in contemporary masonry work is manufactured sand, because river sand, which was used historically, is difficult to obtain today in many parts of the country. The physical and visual qualities of manufactured sand versus river sand are quite different, and this affects the way stucco works, as well as the way it looks. The same is true of lime, which is frequently replaced by gypsum in modern stucco mixes. And even if the identification of all the items in the historic stucco mix were possible, the analysis would still not reveal how the original stucco was mixed and applied.

There are, however, simple tests that can be carried out on a small piece of stucco to determine its basic makeup. A dilute solution of hydrochloric (muriatic) acid will dissolve lime-based stucco, but not Portland cement. Although the use of Portland cement became common after 1900, there are no precise cutoff dates, as stuccoing practices varied among individual plasterers, and from region to region. Some plasterers began using Portland cement in the 1880s, but others may have continued to favor lime stucco well into the early 20th century. While it is safe to assume that a late-18th or early-19th century stucco is lime-based, late-19th or early-20th century stucco may be based on either lime or Portland cement. Another important factor to take into consideration is that an early lime-stucco building is likely to have been repaired many times over the ensuing years, and it is probable that at least some of these patches consist of Portland cement.

Planning the Repair

Once the extent of damage has been determined, a number of repair options may be considered. Small hairline cracks usually are not serious and may be sealed with a thin slurry coat consisting of the finish coat ingredients, or even with a coat of paint or whitewash.

Commercially available caulking compounds are not suitable materials for patching hairline cracks. Because their consistency and texture is unlike that of stucco, they tend to weather differently, and attract more dirt; as a result, repairs made with caulking compounds may be highly visible and unsightly. Larger cracks will have to be cut out in preparation for more extensive repair. Most stucco repairs will require the skill and expertise of a professional plasterer.

  

The stucco will be applied to the wire lath laid over the area to be patched.

In the interest of saving or preserving as much as possible of the historic stucco, patching rather than wholesale replacement is preferable. When repairing heavily textured surfaces, it is not usually necessary to replace an entire wall section, since the textured finish, if well-executed, tends to conceal patches, and helps them to blend in with the existing stucco. However, because of the nature of smooth-finished stucco, patching a number of small areas scattered over one elevation may not be a successful repair approach unless the stucco has been previously painted, or is to be painted following the repair work. On unpainted stucco, such patches are hard to conceal, because they may not match exactly or blend in with the rest of the historic stucco surface. For this reason, it is recommended, if possible, that stucco repair be carried out in a contained or well-defined area, or if the stucco is scored, the repair patch should be “squared-off” in such a way as to follow existing scoring. In some cases, especially in a highly visible location, it may be preferable to re-stucco an entire wall section or feature. In this way, any differences between the patched area and the historic surface will not be so readily apparent.

The repair of historic stucco generally follows most of the same principles used in plaster repair. First, all deteriorated, severely cracked and loose stucco should be removed down to the lath (assuming that the lath is securely attached to the substrate), or down to the masonry if the stucco is directly applied to a masonry substrate. A clean surface is necessary to obtain a good bond between the stucco and the substrate. The areas to be patched should be cleaned of all debris with a bristle brush, and all plant growth, dirt, loose paint, oil, and grease should be removed. If necessary, brick or stone mortar joints should then be raked out to a depth of approximately 5/8-inches to ensure a good bond between the substrate and the new stucco.

To obtain a neat repair, the area to be patched should be squared-off with a butt joint using a cold chisel, a hatchet, a diamond blade saw, or a masonry bit. Sometimes, it may be preferable to leave the area to be patched in an irregular shape, which may result in a less conspicuous patch. Proper preparation of the area to be patched requires very sharp tools and extreme caution on the part of the plasterer not to break keys of surrounding good stucco by “over-sounding” when removing deteriorated stucco.

To ensure a firm bond, the new patch must not overlap the old stucco. If the stucco has lost its bond or key from wood lath, or the lath has deteriorated or come loose from the substrate, a decision must be made whether to try to re-attach the old lath, to replace deteriorated lath with new wood lath, or to leave the historic wood lath in place and supplement it with modern expanded metal lath. Unless authenticity is important, it is generally preferable (and easier) to nail new metal lath over the old wood lath to support the patch. Metal lath that is no longer securely fastened to the substrate may be removed and replaced in kind, or left in place and supplemented with a new wire lath.

When repairing lime-based stucco applied directly to masonry, the new stucco should be applied in the same manner, directly onto the stone or brick. The stucco will bond onto the masonry itself without the addition of lath because of the irregularities in the masonry or those of its mortar joints, or because its surface has been scratched, scored or otherwise roughened to provide an additional key. Cutting out the old stucco at a diagonal angle may also help secure the bond between the new and the old stucco. For the most part, it is not advisable to insert metal lath when re-stuccoing historic masonry in sound condition, as it can hasten deterioration of the repair work. Not only will attaching the lath damage the masonry, but the slightest moisture penetration can cause metal lath to rust. This will cause the metal to expand, eventually resulting in spalling of the stucco, and possibly the masonry substrate, too.

  

The final finish coat will be applied to this scratch coat.

If the area to be patched is properly cleaned and prepared, a bonding agent is usually not necessary. However, a bonding agent may be useful when repairing hairline cracks, or when dealing with substrates that do not offer a good bonding surface. These may include dense stone or brick, previously painted or stuccoed masonry, or spalling brick substrates. A good mechanical bond is always preferable to reliance on bonding agents. Bonding agents should not be used on a wall that is likely to remain damp or where large amounts of salt are present. Many bonding agents do not survive well under such conditions, and their use could jeopardize the longevity of the stucco repair.

A stucco mix compatible with the historic stucco should be selected after analyzing the existing stucco. It can be adapted from a standard traditional mix of the period, or based on one of the mixes included here. Stucco consisting mostly of Portland cement generally will not be physically compatible with the softer, more flexible, lime-rich historic stuccos used throughout the 18th and much of the 19th centuries. The differing expansion and contraction rates of lime stucco and Portland cement stucco will normally cause the stucco to crack. Choosing a stucco mix that is durable and compatible with the historic stucco on the building is likely to involve considerable trial and error, and probably will require a number of test samples, and even more, if it is necessary to match the color. It is best to let the stucco test samples weather as long as possible — ideally, one year, or at least through a change of seasons — in order to study the durability of the mix and its compatibility with the existing stucco, as well as the weathering of the tint, if the building will not be painted and color-match is an important factor.

If the test samples are not executed on the building, they should be placed next to the stucco remaining on the building to compare the color, texture, and composition of the samples with the original. The number and thickness of stucco coats used in the repair should also match the original.

After thoroughly dampening the masonry or wood lath, the first scratch coat should be applied to the masonry substrate, or wood or metal lath, in a thickness that corresponds to the original (if extant), or generally about 1/4-inch to 3/8-inch. The scratch coat should be scratched or crosshatched with a comb to provide a key to hold the second coat. It usually takes 24 to 72 hours, and longer in cold weather, for each coat to dry before the next coat can be applied. The second coat should be about the same thickness as the first, and the total thickness of the first two coats should generally not exceed about 5/8-inch. This second or leveling coat should be roughened using a wood float with a nail protruding to provide a key for the final or finish coat. The finish coat, about 1/4-inch thick, is applied after the previous coat has initially set. If this is not feasible, the base coat should be thoroughly dampened when the finished coat is applied later. The finish coat should be worked to match the texture of the original stucco.

Colors and Tints for Historic Stucco Repair

  

The new addition on the right is stucco scored to imitate the limestone of the historic building on the left.

The color of most early stucco was supplied by the aggregate included in the mix — usually, the sand. Sometimes, natural pigments were added to the mix, and 18th- and 19th-century scored stucco was often marbleized or painted in imitation of marble and granite. Stucco was also frequently coated with whitewash or a color wash. This tradition later evolved into the use of paint, its popularity depending on the vagaries of fashion, as much as a means of concealing repairs. Because most of the early colors were derived from nature, the resultant stucco tints tended to be mostly earth tones. This was true until the advent of brightly colored stucco in the early decades of the 20th century. This was the so-called “Jazz Plaster” developed by O.A. Malone, the “man who put color into California,” and who founded the California Stone Products Corporation in 1927. California Stucco was revolutionary for its time as the first stucco/plaster to contain colored pigment in its pre-packaged factory mix.

When patching or repairing a historic stucco surface known to have been tinted, it may be possible to determine through visual or microscopic analysis whether the source of the coloring is sand, cement, or pigment. Although some pigments or aggregates used traditionally may no longer be available, a sufficiently close color match can generally be approximated using sand, natural or mineral pigments, or a combination of these. Obtaining such a match will require testing and comparing the color of the dried test samples to the original. Successfully combining pigments in the dry stucco mix prepared for the finish coat requires considerable skill. The amount of pigment must be carefully measured for each batch of stucco. Overworking the mix can make the pigment separate from the lime. Changing the amount of water added to the mix, or using water to apply the tinted finish coat, will also affect the color of the stucco when it dries.

Generally, the color obtained by hand-mixing these ingredients will provide a sufficiently close match to cover an entire wall or an area distinct enough from the rest of the structure that the color differences will not be obvious. However, it may not work for small patches conspicuously located on a primary elevation, where color differences will be especially noticeable. In these instances, it may be necessary to conceal the repairs by painting the entire patched elevation, or even the whole building.

Many stucco buildings have been painted over the years and will require re-painting after the stucco repairs have been made. Limewash or cement-based paint, latex paint, or oil-based paint are appropriate coatings for stucco buildings. The most important factor to consider when repainting a previously painted or coated surface is that the new paint be compatible with any coating already on the surface. In preparation for re-painting, all loose and peeling paint, and other coating material not firmly adhered to the stucco, must be removed by hand-scraping or natural bristle brushes. The surface should then be cleaned.

Cement-based paints, most of which now contain some Portland cement and are really a type of limewash, have traditionally been used on stucco buildings. The ingredients were easily obtainable. Furthermore, the lime in such paints actually bonded or joined with the stucco and provided a very durable coating. In many regions, whitewash was applied annually during spring cleaning. Modern, commercially available, pre-mixed masonry and mineral-based paints may also be used on historic stucco buildings.

If the structure must be painted for the first time to conceal repairs, almost any of these coatings may be acceptable, depending on the situation. Latex paint, for example, maybe applied to slightly damp walls or where there is an excess of moisture, but latex paint will not stick to chalky or powdery areas. Oil-based or alkyd paints must be applied only to dry walls; new stucco must cure up to a year before it can be painted with oil-based paint.

Contemporary Stucco Products

There are many contemporary stucco products on the market today. Many of them are not compatible, either physically or visually, with historic stucco buildings. Such products should be considered for use only after consulting with a specialist in historic masonry. However, some of these pre-packaged tinted stucco coatings may be suitable for use on stucco buildings dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as long as the color and texture are appropriate for the period and style of the building. While some masonry contractors may, as a matter of course, suggest that a water-repellent coating be applied after repairing old stucco, in most cases, this should not be necessary, since color washes and paints serve the same purpose, and stucco itself is a protective coating.

Cleaning Historic Stucco Surfaces

Historic stucco buildings often exhibit multiple layers of paint or limewash. Although some stucco surfaces may be cleaned by water-washing, the relative success of this procedure depends on two factors: the surface texture of the stucco, and the type of dirt to be removed. If simply removing airborne dirt, smooth unpainted stucco, and heavily-textured painted stucco, may sometimes be cleaned using a low-pressure water wash, supplemented by scrubbing with soft natural bristle brushes, and possibly non-ionic detergents. Organic plant material, such as algae and mold, and metallic stains may be removed from stucco using poultices and appropriate solvents. Although these same methods may be employed to clean unpainted roughcast, pebble-dash, or any stucco surface featuring exposed aggregate, due to the surface irregularities, it may be difficult to remove dirt without also removing portions of the decorative textured surface. Difficulty in cleaning these surfaces may explain why so many of these textured surfaces have been painted.

When Total Replacement is Necessary

Complete replacement of the historic stucco with new stucco of either a traditional or modern mix will probably be necessary only in cases of extreme deterioration — that is, a loss of bond on over 40% to 50% of the stucco surface. Another reason for total removal might be that the physical and visual integrity of the historic stucco has been so compromised by prior incompatible and ill-conceived repairs that patching would not be successful.

When stucco no longer exists on a building, there is more flexibility in choosing a suitable mix for the replacement. Since compatibility of old and new stucco will not be an issue, the most important factors to consider are durability, color, texture and finish. Depending on the construction and substrate of the building, in some instances, it may be acceptable to use a relatively strong cement-based stucco mortar. This is certainly true for many late 19th and early 20th century buildings, and may even be appropriate to use on some stone substrates, even if the original mortar would have been weaker, as long as the historic visual qualities noted above have been replicated. Generally, the best principle to follow for a masonry building is that the stucco mix, whether for repair or replacement of historic stucco, should be somewhat weaker than the masonry to which it is to be applied in order not to damage the substrate.

General Guidance for Historic Stucco Repair

A skilled professional plasterer will be familiar with the properties of materials involved in stucco repair and will be able to avoid some of the pitfalls that would hinder someone less experienced. General suggestions for successful stucco repair parallel those involving restoration and repair of historic mortar and plaster. In addition, the following principles are important to remember:

  • Mix only as much stucco as can be used in one-and-a-half to two hours. This will depend on the weather (mortar will harden faster under hot and dry, or sunny conditions).  Experience is likely to be the best guidance. Any remaining mortar should be discarded; it should not be re-tempered.
  • Stucco mortar should not be over-mixed. (Hand mix it for 10 to 15 minutes after adding water, or machine-mix for three to four minutes after all ingredients are in mixer.) Over-mixing can cause crazing and discoloration, especially in tinted mortars. Over-mixing will also tend to make the mortar set too fast, which will result in cracking and poor bonding or keying to the lath or masonry substrate.
  • Wood lath or a masonry substrate, but not metal lath, must be thoroughly wetted before applying stucco patches so that it does not draw moisture out of the stucco too rapidly. To a certain extent, bonding agents also serve this same purpose. Wetting the substrate helps retard drying.
  • To prevent cracking, it is imperative that stucco not dry too fast. Therefore, the area to be stuccoed should be shaded, or even covered, if possible, particularly in hot weather. It is also a good idea in hot weather to keep the newly stuccoed area damp, at approximately 90% humidity, for a period of 48 to 72 hours.
  • Stucco repairs, like most other exterior masonry work, should not be undertaken in cold weather (below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and preferably warmer), or if there is a danger of frost.

Historic Stucco Textures

Most of the oldest stucco in the U.S. dating prior to the late 19th century will generally have a smooth, troweled finish (sometimes called a “sand” or “float” finish), possibly scored to resemble ashlar masonry units. Scoring may be incised to simulate masonry joints, the scored lines may be emphasized by black or white penciling, or the lines may simply be drawn or painted on the surface of the stucco. In some regions, at least as early as the first decades of the 19th century, it was not uncommon to use a roughcast finish on the foundation or base of an otherwise smooth-surfaced building. Roughcast was also used as an overall stucco finish for some outbuildings and other less-important types of structures.

  

This stucco house has a roughcast finish.

A wide variety of decorative surface textures may be found on revival style stucco buildings, particularly residential architecture. These styles evolved in the late 19th century and peaked in popularity in the early decades of the 20th century. Frank Lloyd Wright favored a smooth finish stucco, which was imitated on much of the Prairie style architecture inspired by his work. Some of the more picturesque surface textures include English Cottage or English Cotswold finish; sponge finish; fan texture; adobe finish; and Spanish or Italian finish. Many of these finishes and countless other regional and personalized variations on them are still in use.

The most common early 20th-century stucco finishes are often found on bungalow-style houses and include: spatter or spatter dash (sometimes called roughcast, harling, or wet dash), and pebble-dash or dry dash. The spatter dash finish is applied by throwing the stucco mortar against the wall using a whisk broom or a stiff fiber brush, and it requires considerable skill on the part of the plasterer to achieve a consistently rough wall surface. The mortar used to obtain this texture is usually composed simply of regular sand, lime, and cement mortar, although it may sometimes contain small pebbles or crushed stone aggregate, which replaces half the normal sand content. The pebble-dash or dry dash finish is accomplished manually by the plasterer throwing or “dashing” dry pebbles (about 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch in size)onto a coat of stucco freshly applied by another plasterer. The pebbles must be thrown at the wall with a scoop with sufficient force and skill that they will stick to the stuccoed wall. A more even or uniform surface can be achieved by patting the stones down with a wooden float. This finish may also be created using a texturing machine.

Stucco on historic buildings is especially vulnerable not only to the wear of time and exposure to the elements but also at the hands of well-intentioned “restorers” who may want to remove stucco from 18th and 19th-century structures to expose what they believe to be the original or more “historic” brick, stone or log underneath. Historic stucco is a character-defining feature and should be considered an important historic building material, significant in its own right. While many 18th and 19th century buildings were stuccoed at the time of construction, others were stuccoed later for reasons of fashion or practicality. As such, it is likely that this stucco has acquired significance, over time, as part of the history and evolution of a building. Thus, even later, non-historic stucco should be retained, in most instances; and similar logic dictates that new stucco should not be applied to a historic building that was not stuccoed previously. When repairing historic stucco, the new stucco should duplicate the old as closely as possible in strength, composition, color, and texture.
This article was sourced from the United States National Park Service

Sell Your House Fast: 7 People You Need on Your Team

So, you’ve decided to sell your home. Congratulations! Before you start playing with a mortgage calculator to see how much you can afford on your next home, you’ll want to know how to sell your current home fast. Ideally, you’re looking to list your home, generate interest quickly from potential buyers, and in a perfect world, a bidding war will ensue and you will get more than the asking price for your house. But before all of this can happen, you’re going to want to spend some time gathering a team of people who can help you along the way.

Whether you’re a first time or experienced seller, having a talented team of professionals on your side can mean the difference between a quick and stress-free selling experience and one that isn’t. So before you put your house on the market, here are seven key people you’ll want on your team to help sell your house fast.

  1. Real Estate Agent 

Selling a house can be a complex process. That’s why the first person you’ll want by your side is a real estate agent. The job of a listing agent is to guide you through the entire home selling process. This can include necessary house preparations and repairs, pricing the home correctly, setting up the staging, executing a strategy to promote your home, negotiating with the buyer, and closing on the home.

But to do all of this you don’t want just any agent – you need the right agent for you. So, how do you choose a real estate agent? Well, you’ll want to find someone who will super-serve you, sell your house fast, and for the most money. So it’s important that you do your research and read reviews to make sure you’re choosing the best person for this important role. 

  1. Home Inspector 

It’s true that buyers are typically going to have a home inspection conducted before they agree to purchase the property, but what if you were to beat them to it? Hiring a home inspector to do a pre-listing home inspection is a proactive approach to getting your house ready to sell and it offers some advantages to sellers that you may not be aware of. With the pre-listing inspection, you can find out the exact condition of your property, what issues and repairs need to be addressed beforehand, fix them, and then focus on the next task of selling your home fast.

Also, knowing the condition of your home can be an asset during the negotiation phase. As you may already know, buyers often use their home inspection as a way of getting concessions from sellers, such as asking you to drop your list price. If you’ve already addressed these repairs, it is less likely that anything new will come up and impact your negotiation.

  1. House Cleaner

Having a home that is fresh, clean, and inviting for potential buyers is crucial when selling. If buyers are interested in your home, they’ll open closets, explore cabinets, and they might move furniture around. The difference between inspecting a sparkling clean house and a place that hasn’t been thoroughly cleaned can make or break a deal. That’s why your home needs to be spotless from top to bottom. Although you can clean your house by yourself, hiring a professional cleaning service might prove helpful during what is likely to be a very busy time for you. Also, professionals have experience with the thorough cleaning needed to sell a house. They will use high-quality products and equipment to deep clean your entire home – even the nooks and crannies that you didn’t know existed.

It’s also important to consider the timing of cleaning your home. You don’t want to wait to hire a professional cleaner after your home has been listed. It is something you should invest in before your home is on the market, so the listing photos can reflect your clean and decluttered home. You should also consider having your home cleaned regularly while it’s on the market. It could take some time to sell, and if you’re living in it during that time it may be extremely difficult to keep it in pristine condition.

  1. Home Stager

Staging is one of the most important parts of the selling process. Contrary to what many may think, home staging is about more than just preparing a house for sale. There is an art and a science to staging a home that goes above and beyond simply cleaning and decluttering a space. Staging is about making the home look larger, brighter, cleaner, and more welcoming. It is about selling a lifestyle that buyers will experience if they own the home. In fact, research shows that 83% percent of buyers’ agents said staging a home made it easier for a buyer to visualize the property as a future home.

Professional stagers know exactly how to showcase a space using furnishings, color, artwork, and accessories. They are able to offer prospective buyers a glimpse into how each room can be utilized. When all is said and done, a home stager will be key in helping you transform your space to appeal to the greatest number of buyers, which can help sell your house fast.

  1. Real Estate Photographer

The key to successfully listing and selling your home quickly is the photos. Today, more than ever before, online browsing is a critical part of the home buying process. Buyers can tour your entire home without ever leaving their couch and if they aren’t sold on the images that they see online, they will move on. That’s why having professional real estate photos of your home is so important. You may think you can take some of these photos yourself, but research shows hiring a professional photographer can help homes sell faster and for more money. Just remember, the better you represent your house online, the faster it will sell.

In addition to traditional real estate photography, consider adding in aerial photography – which can show off your entire property, a scenic view, and the surrounding area. Maybe you’re selling a home with a large plot of land in Dallas, TX. An aerial shot can easily put into perspective the full scope your home has to offer.

  1. Painter

Painting your home before you sell it may sound like a hassle, but homebuyers may be turned off by your turquoise bathroom, or your teenager’s darkly colored bedroom. Hiring a professional painter to give the inside and/or the outside of your home a fresh look with neutral, bright colors will be more appealing to a wide range of homebuyers, both in-person and online. It may also help sell your house fast when your property is one of the nicer looking available homes on the market.

  1. Handyman

There will be few things more off-putting to a prospective homebuyer than touring a property with chips taken out of the walls, broken fixtures, or loose floorboards. So before listing your home, you’ll want to make sure you’ve made the necessary repairs and renovations. Sure, there will be projects you can easily complete yourself, but what if you don’t have the time with everything else going on or a repair project is over your head? That’s where a handyman comes in. A handyman, or handyman service, is a skilled jack-of-all-trades who can help you handle a wide range of repairs in your home.

Additionally, before you can sell your home, it will likely need to go through a home inspection. A professional home inspector will give you a home inspection report, which is usually a list of any issues needing attention. Handyman services can be extremely helpful for addressing problems on that list and making sure any repairs are done up to code.

Selling a home and navigating the housing market can be a stressful experience. But having the right people on your team during this journey – all working together to help sell your house fast – can make all the difference. So before you list your home, consider bringing these seven people onto your team as their advice, expertise, and guidance can help be invaluable during the selling process.

 

Originally published by Redfin

How to sell your home in 2021

How to Sell Your House in 2021

So, you’ve evaluated your finances, thought about your lifestyle, and made the big decision to sell your home. Maybe you’ve decided to downsize, or you’re moving out of the big city because you can now work remotely, or maybe you just want to live somewhere warmer and bought a house in Phoenix or a condo in San Diego. Whatever your reason, you’re ready to sell. With so many things to consider, selling a house can be an overwhelming process, and this is especially true during a pandemic. Luckily, for you, we put together a comprehensive guide on how to sell your house in 2021.

 

What to expect from the housing market in 2021

The coronavirus pandemic has had a major impact on our lives – from how we work to how we socialize and travel. It has also affected how we buy and sell homes. So, if you’re planning on selling your house in 2021, it’s important to understand what to expect from the housing market this year and how to best prepare. Luckily, Redfin Chief Economist Daryl Fairweather gives us her keen insights into what to look out for in 2021.

 

“Typically, the home-buying season starts in late spring, but this year, we expect the home-buying season to begin by late January. That’s because buyers will want to take advantage of record-low mortgage rates before they begin to rise. So if you are thinking about selling this year, you should get your home ready now. Buyers want move-in ready homes because they don’t want to worry about having contractors in and out of their new home during a pandemic. It won’t hurt to list your home early.”

 

Regardless of if you’re a first-time or seasoned home seller, this step-by-step guide will help you navigate how to sell your house this year.

 

1) Hire a home inspector

You’re probably thinking, wait, isn’t that the buyer’s responsibility? You’re not wrong. When you’ve accepted an offer, the buyer will most likely request a home inspection of their own. So, why would you have one? First, if a home inspection turns up something that needs repair, wouldn’t you prefer to resolve it before entering into negotiations?

 

In fact, if you end up needing to make repairs that take weeks to fix, you may lose that buyer altogether. Having a home inspection is a proactive approach to getting your home ready to sell. Known as a pre-listing home inspection, you can find out the exact condition of your property, what issues and repairs need to be addressed beforehand, fix them, and then focus on the next task to sell your home fast.

 

Also, knowing the condition of your property will further assist you during the negotiation phase with potential buyers. As you may already be aware, buyers often use their home inspection as a way of getting concessions from sellers, such as asking you to drop your list price. If you’ve already addressed these repairs, it is less likely that anything new will come up and impact your negotiation. Before hiring an inspector, be sure to inquire about what measures they are taking to protect their customers from COVID-19.

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2) Make repairs and small upgrades to your house

After you receive a comprehensive list of repairs you should make, it’s time to get started either making the repairs yourself or contracting out the right person. This may also be a great time to make small upgrades to your home.

 

Understand what today’s homebuyers are looking for

Due to the pandemic and so much time spent at home, certain features are becoming a necessity for homeowners. For example, homebuyers want a home office. If you don’t have a designated office space, stage a spare bedroom or extra space as a home office. Add a desk, a plant, and a bookshelf to give it a look that will stand out on Zoom calls. Homebuyers are also looking for deluxe kitchens. This is no surprise as so many picked up cooking or baking as a new hobby in 2020. Consider upgrading your kitchen with new appliances and quartz or granite countertops. (Granite countertops are actually one of the top 10 home trends with the highest sale-to-list ratio in the U.S.)

 

Enhance your outdoor space

When you are selling your house, you want to find ways to make it stand out and what better way than having the most beautiful entrance and lawn on the block. You don’t necessarily have to paint the exterior of your house to impress homebuyers. Simple things like trimming your hedges and a freshly mowed lawn will go a long way. Even freshly laid beauty bark and newly planted flowers can really make your yard pop. If these improvements seem like too much to handle while you’re trying to prepare your home to sell, look into hiring a landscaper to assist.

 

Brighten your home

When it comes to first impressions, a poorly lit home is at an automatic disadvantage. Darkness can make a home feel uninviting, dirty, and cramped even when it isn’t. So, before putting your home on the market, you’ll want to find simple ways to brighten your home. These can include painting your ceilings white and choosing a wall color that is brighter and more neutral, adding mirrors, replacing light bulbs, and adding additional light sources.

3) Declutter and prep your house to sell

Decluttering and prepping your house are steps you should make a priority when learning how to sell your house. Renting storage units is becoming an increasingly popular method of decluttering one’s house before selling it. The idea is to limit the amount of stuff in your house so that potential future owners can envision themselves (and their stuff) in that space. Even removing photos is a great way to allow potential buyers to think about what they would hang on those walls. If you’re looking for a quick turnaround, bring in a professional organizer, or schedule a virtual consultation. They can help get your house in order, while also preparing you for a stress-free move. 

4) Find a real estate agent

 

 

Finding a real estate agent is easy, finding a great real estate agent can be more of a challenge. Getting referrals and reading online reviews is a great way to start narrowing down your options. You’ll want to understand what you’re looking for when hiring a real estate agent to represent your best interests. Here are some questions to consider asking any potential candidate:

  • How many clients have you served this year?
  • Has a client ever filed a complaint against you?
  • What is your fee?
  • What services do you offer beyond negotiations and escrow?

 

After you decide on a real estate agent, you and your agent should come up with a plan of action for how to sell your house. It should include a timeline, from the pricing of your house, and getting it listed on MLS to personal showings. You and your agent should be on the same page at all times and a plan of action will help ensure that.

5) How to price your house to sell

Now is the time to find out what price you should list your home. You can start by using online tools to help you get an idea of what your home is worth. However, you should never set your sights on a single number and expect it to happen. Market conditions change all the time and so does buyer behavior.

 

Another option is to conduct an appraisal. Home appraisers are licensed professionals that will assess the value of your house based on the state of your property and overall housing market conditions. They will look at the size of your property, the interior and exterior conditions of your house, any upgrades, additions, or home improvements you’ve done, and then calculate your home’s worth based on the local market conditions.

Looking at comparables of recently sold homes in your area will also help you settle on a price. These homes should be similar in size, location, and sold within the last few months. Furthermore, you want to be strategic about your pricing. Instead of lumping the price of your house in with others in the area, strategize your pricing based on your home’s selling features. In other words, if there are three houses for sale in your area and they are priced at $350,000, you might be able to justify $360,000 or more because you have a larger lot size or maybe you’re located in a popular neighborhood.

 

6) Stage your home to sell 

If you don’t deem yourself a design-minded individual, consider hiring a professional home stager to help. Given the current climate, however, not everyone necessarily wants a professional stager to enter their house. Luckily, many staging services offer virtual consultations as a popular alternative. Regardless if you work with a professional or handle the staging on your own, here is a list of things to consider that will really help you make your house shine:

 

  • Clear the clutter: You may have already transferred most of your belongings to a storage unit by this point. Now is the time to focus on cleaning up the clutter on countertops and tables. Put away newspapers, mail, or magazines, or if you have children, help them pick up their toys.
  • Deep clean your house: Nothing turns off buyers more than an unclean bathroom. That is also true for the rest of your house. Now more than ever is the time to wash your windows, windowsills, and scrub your grimy glass shower doors.
  • Add white accents: White accents such as flowers or towels in the bathroom create a sense of welcome cleanliness.
  • Arrange furniture: You don’t have to n
    ecessarily rent furniture to stage your home. You can most likely use what you have. The key is to limit the number of furniture pieces in any one room. Then arrange them in a way that’s inviting to people as they enter the room.
  • Bring in light: Think about removing your curtains or keeping them drawn back to allow as much light into your house as possible. If you have rather large elaborate curtains, consider storing them away until you get to your next home.
  • Highlight your floors: Floors are key features homebuyers are looking at, especially if you have wood floors. Show them off by removing any rugs or unneeded furniture so more of your flooring can be seen. If you have wood floors, think about polishing them to really make them pop.
  • Organize all closets and drawers: Homebuyers touring your home will most likely look in your closets to determine space and, frankly, to see if their stuff will fit in there. They will also likely open kitchen drawers and cabinets as well, so make sure everything is nice and tidy.
  • Dust: Concentrate on all the areas that you’ve most likely have turned a blind eye to for some time, like ceiling fans, baseboards, on top of doorways, appliances, etc.

 

7) Get professional photos taken of your home

Nothing sells a house faster than professional photos. This is especially true now, as many prospective buyers are conducting their home search completely online due to the coronavirus. Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes. They are searching online, looking at every home that comes up for sale within their filtered interests the moment it’s listed. If your house is represented online by poorly shot photography, your listing will see very little traffic. Not to mention, it’s widely observed that houses with professionally shot photos, on average, sell for more money than other listings.

 

When planning how to sell your house, you should also strongly consider having your home digitally scanned for an online 3D tour. These 3D walkthroughs, where you point and click through a home from your computer, are more than 5 times as popular now as they were before the pandemic. And with more buyers buying from out-of-town, a 3D walkthrough can help out-of-town buyers decide whether to make an offer on your home before they have a chance to see it in person.

 

Lastly, aerial photography that shows a bird’s eye view of one’s home and its surrounding area has become increasingly popular with buyers looking online. Many agencies include some or all of these services as a component of their overall services to you as a seller. Just remember, the better you represent your house online, the faster it will sell.

8) List your home to sell

Your real estate agent will list your home online on MLS (Multiple Listing Service), for it to start showing up on real estate websites for potential buyers. Also, don’t limit the marketing of your house to your real estate agent and online search. Market your house yourself. Spread the word through your family and friends. Share your listing on social media and send out emails asking people to share your listing with others.

 

9) Have a plan in case your home doesn’t sell quick enough

You and your real estate agent should have already gone over this beforehand, but not every house sells quickly. There are many factors at play and depending on the condition of the housing market for your area, your real estate agent may have to use some other strategies in their arsenal to get your house sold. If it’s lowering the price of your home or holding more tours, you’ll want to agree on what the next steps should be in case your house isn’t seeing any offers.

 

10) Negotiate the sale price of your home

One thing to consider is that the buyer is trying to get the absolute best price they can, while you’re doing the same. There will be multiple factors to consider, as each home sold and purchased is different. For example, if it’s a buyer’s market, that means the buyer has the upper hand because there are multiple listings with fewer offers being made. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to make huge concessions to sell your house.

 

This is where your agent really steps up. They will help you navigate the negotiation process, and will give you their advice on how to proceed when offers are being made. Luckily, you interviewed and hired the right agent, so you know they have your best interests in mind.

 

11) Sign and close

You and your agent have been working towards this moment. You’ve agreed on a price with the buyers, all inspections and appraisals of your home have been completed, and you are now ready to sign the papers and close. To comply with social distancing guidelines, some states are now allowing completely electronic closings, called eClosings. Once you’ve signed all of the paperwork – congratulations, you’ve sold your house!

Want to schedule that pre-listing inspection? Click here!

Check out our sample reports. Click here!

Originally published by Redfin

plumbing terms

Plumbing Terms

Plumbing may be defined as the practice, materials and fixtures used in the installation, maintenance and alteration of all piping, fixtures, appliances and appurtenances in connection with sanitary and storm drainage facilities, the venting system, and public and private water supply systems. Plumbing does not include the trade of drilling water wells, installing water-softening equipment, or the business of manufacturing or selling plumbing fixtures, appliances, equipment or hardware. A plumbing system consists of three separate parts: an adequate potable water supply system; a safe, adequate drainage system; and ample fixtures and equipment. 

Background Factors 

The generalized inspection of a home is concerned with a safe water supply system, an adequate drainage system, and ample and proper fixtures and equipment. This article explains features of a residential plumbing system, and the basic plumbing terms the inspector must know and understand to properly identify housing code violations involving plumbing and the more complicated defects that s/he will refer to the appropriate agencies. Only InterNACHI inspectors are sufficiently trained to spot complicated defects that others will overlook.
Definitions

Air Chambers

Pressure absorbing devices that eliminate water hammer. They should be installed as close as possible to the valves or faucet and at the end of long runs of pipe.
Air Gap (Drainage System)
The unobstructed vertical distance through the free atmosphere between the outlet of a water pipe and the flood level rim of the receptacle into which it is discharging.
Air Gap (Water Distribution System)
The unobstructed vertical distance through the free atmosphere between the lowest opening from any pipe or faucet supplying water to a tank, plumbing fixture, or other device and the flood level rim of the receptacle.
Air Lock
An air lock is a bubble of air which restricts the flow of water in a pipe.
Backflow
The flow of water or other liquids, mixtures, or substances into the distributing pipes of a potable water supply from any source or sources other than the intended source. Back siphonage is one type of backflow.
Back Siphonage
The flowing back of used, contaminated, or polluted water from a plumbing fixture or vessel into a potable water supply due to a negative pressure in the pipe.
Branch
Any part of the piping system other than the main, riser, or stack.
Branch Vent
A vent connecting one or more individual vents with a vent stack.
Building Drain
The part of the lowest piping of a drainage system that receives the discharge from soil, waste, or other drainage pipes inside the walls of the building (house) and conveys it to the building sewer beginning 3 feet outside the building wall.
Cross Connection
Any physical connection or arrangement between two otherwise separate piping systems, one of which contains potable water and the other either water of unknown or questionable safety or steam, gas, or chemical whereby there may be a flow from one system to the other, the direction of flow depending on the pressure differential between the two systems. (See Backflow and Back siphonage.)
Disposal Field
An area containing a series of one or more trenches lined with coarse aggregate and conveying the effluent from the septic tank through vitrified clay Pine or perforated, non-metallic pipe, laid in such a manner that the flow will be distributed with reasonable uniformity into natural soil.
Drain
Any pipe that carries waste water or water-borne waste in a building (house) drainage system.
Flood Level Rim
The top edge of a receptacle from which water overflows.
Flushometer Valve
A device that discharges a predetermined quantity of water to fixtures for flushing purposes and is closed by direct water pressures.
Flush Valve
A device located at the bottom of the tank for flushing water closets and similar fixtures.
Grease Trap
See Interceptor.
Hot Water
Potable water that is heated to at least 120°F and used for cooking, cleaning, washing dishes, and bathing.
Insanitary
Contrary to sanitary principles injurious to health.
Interceptor
A device designed and installed so as to separate and retain deleterious, hazardous, or undesirable matter from normal wastes and permit normal sewage or liquid wastes to discharge into the drainage system by gravity.
Leader
An exterior drainage pipe for conveying storm water from roof or gutter drains to the building storm drain, combined building sewer, or other means of disposal.
Main Vent
The principal artery of the venting system, to which vent branches may be connected.
Main Sewer
See Public Sewer.
Pneumatic
The word pertains to devices making use of compressed air as in pressure tanks boosted by pumps.
Potable Water
Water having no impurities present in amounts sufficient to cause disease or harmful physiological effects and conforming in its bacteriological and chemical quality to the requirements of the Public Health Service drinking water standards or meeting the regulations of the public health authority having jurisdiction.
P & T (Pressure and Temperature) Relief Valve
A safety valve installed on a hot water storage tank to limit temperature and pressure of the water.
P Trap
A trap with a vertical inlet and a horizontal outlet.
Public Sewer
A common sewer directly controlled by public authority.
Relief Vent
An auxiliary vent that permits additional circulation of air in or between drainage and vent systems.
Septic Tank
A watertight receptacle that receives the discharge of a building’s sanitary drain system or part thereof and is designed and constructed so as to separate solid from the liquid, digest organic matter through a period of detention, and allow the liquids to discharge into the soil outside of the tank through a system of open-joint or perforated piping, or through a seepage pit.
Sewerage System
A sewerage system comprises all piping, appurtenances, and treatment facilities used for the collection and disposal of sewage, except plumbing inside and in connection with buildings served and the building drain.
Soil Pipe
The pipe that directs the sewage of a house to the receiving sewer, building drain, or building sewer.
Soil Stack
The vertical piping that terminates in a roof vent and carries off the vapors of a plumbing system.
Stack Vent
An extension of a solid or waste stack above the highest horizontal drain connected to the stack. Sometimes called a waste vent or a soil vent.
Storm Sewer
A sewer used for conveying rain water, surface water, condensate. cooling water, or similar liquid waste.
Trap
A trap is a fitting or device that provides a liquid seal to prevent the emission of sewer gases without materially affecting the flow of sewage or waste water through it.
Vacuum Breaker
A device to prevent backflow (back siphonage) by means of an opening through which air may be drawn to relieve negative pressure (vacuum).
Vent Stack
The vertical vent pipe installed to provide air circulation to and from the drainage system and that extends through one or more stories.
Water Hammer
The loud thump of water in a pipe when a valve or faucet is suddenly closed.
Water Service Pipe
The pipe from the water main or other sources of potable water supply to the water-distributing system of the building served.
Water Supply System
The water supply system consists of the water service pipe, the water-distributing pipes, the necessary connecting pipes, fittings, control valves, and all appurtenances in or adjacent to the building or premises.
Wet Vent
A vent that receives the discharge of waste other than from water closets.
Yoke Vent
A pipe connecting upward from a soil or waste stack to a vent stack for the purpose of preventing pressure changes in the stacks.
Main Features of an Indoor Plumbing System

The primary functions of the plumbing system within the house are as follows:

  1. To bring an adequate and potable supply of hot and cold water to the users of the dwelling.
  2. To drain all waste water and sewage discharged from these fixtures into the public sewer, or private disposal system.

It is, therefore, very important that the housing inspector familiarize himself fully with all elements of these systems so that he may recognize inadequacies of the structure’s plumbing as well as other code violations.

Elements of a Plumbing System  

Water Service: The piping of a house service line should be as short as possible. Elbows and bends should be kept to a minimum since these reduce the pressure and therefore the supply of water to fixtures in the house. The house service line should also be protected from freezing. The burying of the line under 4 feet of soil is a commonly accepted depth to prevent freezing. This depth varies, however, across the country from north to south. The local or state plumbing code should be consulted for the recommended depth in your area of the country.

The materials used for a house service may be copper, cast iron, steel or wrought iron. The connections used should be compatible with the type of pipe used. 

  • Corporation stop:  The corporation stop is connected to the water main. This connection is usually made of brass and can be connected to the main by use of a special tool without shutting off the municipal supply. The valve incorporated in the corporation stop permits the pressure to be maintained in the main while the service to the building is completed.
  •  Curb stop:  The curb stop is a similar valve used to isolate the building from the main for repairs, nonpayment of water bills, or flooded basements. Since the corporation stop is usually under the street and would necessitate breaking the pavement to reach the valve, the curb stop is used as the isolation valve.
  • Curb stop box:  The curb stop box is an access box to the curb stop for opening and closing the valve. A long-handled wrench is used to reach the valve.
  • Meter stop:  The meter stop is a valve placed on the street side of the water meter to isolate the meter for installation or maintenance. Many codes require a gate valve on the house side of the meter to shut off water for house plumbing repairs. The curb and meter stops are not to be used frequently and can be ruined in a short time if used very frequently.
  • Water meter:  The water meter is a device used to measure the amount of water used in the house. It is usually the property of the city and is a very delicate instrument that should not be abused. Since the electric system is usually grounded to the water line, a grounding loop-device should be installed around the meter. Many meters come with a yoke that maintains electrical continuity even though the meter is removed.

Hot and Cold Water Main Lines: The hot and cold water main lines are usually hung from the basement ceiling and are attached to the water meter and hot-water tank on one side and the fixture supply risers on the other. These pipes should be installed in a neat manner and should be supported by pipe hangers or straps of sufficient strength and number to prevent sagging. Hot and cold water lines should be approximately 6 inches apart unless the hot water line is insulated. This is to insure that the cold water line does not pick up heat from the hot water line. The supply mains should have a drain valve or stop and waste valve in order to remove water from the system for repairs. These valves should be on the low end of the line or on the end of each fixture riser.

The fixture risers start at the basement main and rise vertically to the fixtures on the upper floors. In a one-family dwelling, riser branches will usually proceed from the main riser to each fixture grouping. In any event the fixture risers should not depend on the branch risers for support but should be supported with a pipe bracket. Each fixture is then connected to the branch riser by a separate line. The last fixture on a line is usually connected directly to the branch riser.

Hot Water Heaters: Hot water heaters are usually powered by electricity, fuel oil, gas, or in rare cases, coal or wood. They consist of a space for heating the water and a storage tank for providing hot water over a limited period of time. All hot water heaters should be fitted with a temperature-pressure relief valve no matter what fuel is used. This valve will operate when either the temperature or the pressure becomes too high due to an interruption of the water supply or a faulty thermostat.

Pipe Sizes: The size of basement mains and risers depends on the number of fixtures supplied. However, a 3/4-inch pipe is usually the minimum size used. This allows for deposits on the pipe due to hardness in the water and will usually give satisfactory volume and pressure.

Drainage System

The water supply brought into the house and used is discharged through the drainage system. This system is either a sanitary drainage system carrying just interior waste water or a combined system carrying interior waste and roof runoff.

Sanitary Drainage System: The proper sizing of the sanitary drain or house drain depends on the number of fixtures it serves. The usual minimum size is 6 inches in dial diameter. The materials used are usually cast iron, vitrified clay, plastic, and in rare cases, lead. For proper flow in the drain the pipe should be sized so that it flows approximately one-half full. This ensures proper scouring action so that the solids contained in the waste will not be deposited in the pipe.

  • Sizing of house drain – The Uniform Plumbing Code Committee has developed a method of sizing of house drains in terms of “fixture units.” One ”fixture unit” equals approximately 71 D2 gallons of water per minute. This is the surge flow-rate of water discharged from a wash basin in 1 minute. All other fixtures have been related to this unit.

Sanitary Drain Sizes

  • Grade of house drain – A house drain or building sewer should be sloped toward the sewer to ensure scouring of the drain. The usual pitch of a house or building sewer is 1 D4 inch fall in 1 foot of length.
  • Fixture and branch drains – A branch drain is a waste pipe that collects the waste from two or more fixtures and conveys it to the building or house sewer. It is sized in the same way as the house sewer, taking into account that all water closets must have a minimum 3-inch diameter drain, and only two water closets may connect into one 3-inch drain.

All branch drains must join the house drain with a “Y” -type fitting. The same is true for fixture drains joining branch drains. The “Y” fitting is used to eliminate, as much as possible, the deposit of solids in or near the connection. A build-up of these solids will cause a blockage in the drain.

  • Traps – A plumbing trap is a device used in a waste system to prevent the passage of sewer gas into the structure and yet not hinder the fixture’s discharge to any great extent. All fixtures connected to a household plumbing system should have a trap installed in the line.

The effect of sewer gases on the human body are known; many are extremely harmful. Additionally, certain sewer gases are explosive. A trap will prevent these gases from passing into the structure. The depth of the seal in a trap is usually 2 inches. A deep seal trap has a 4-inch seal.

The purpose of a trap is to seal out sewer gases from the structure. Since a plumbing system is subject to wide variations in flow, and this flow originates in many different sections of the system, there is a wide variation in pressures in the waste lines. These pressure differences tend to destroy the water seal in the trap. To counteract this problem mechanical traps were introduced. It has been found, however, that the corrosive liquids flowing in the system corrode or jam these mechanical traps. It is for this reason that most plumbing codes prohibit mechanical traps.
There are many manufacturers of traps, and all have varied the design somewhat. The “P” trap is usually found in lavatories, sinks, urinals, drinking fountains, showers, and other installations that do not discharge a great deal of water.

Drum trap

The drum trap is another water seal-type trap. They are usually used in the 4×5-inch or 4×8-inch sizes. These traps have a greater sealing capacity than the “P” trap and pass large amounts of water quickly. Drum traps are commonly connected to bathtubs, foot baths, sitz baths, and modified shower baths.

Objectionable traps

The “S” 1 and the 3h “S” trap should not be us in plumbing installations. They are almost impossible to ventilate properly, and the 3h “S” trap forms a perfect siphon.
The bag trap, an extreme form of “S” trap, is seldom found.

Any trap that depends on a moving part for its effectiveness is usually inadequate and has been prohibited by the local plumbing codes. These traps work, but their design usually results in their being higher priced than the “P” or drum traps. It should be remembered that traps are used only to prevent the escape of sewer gas into the structure. They do not compensate for pressure variations. Only proper venting will eliminate pressure problems.

Ventilation
A plumbing system is ventilated to prevent trap seal loss, material deterioration. and flow retardation.

Trap Seal Loss

The seal in a plumbing trap may be lost due to siphonage (direct and indirect or momentum), back pressure, evaporation, capillary attraction, or wind effect. The first two named are probably the most common causes of loss. If a waste pipe is placed vertically after the fixture trap, as in an “S” trap, the waste water continues to flow after the fixture is emptied and clears the trap. This is caused by the pressure of air on the fixture water’s being greater than the pressure of air in the waste pipe. The action of the water discharging into the waste pipe removes the air from that pipe and thereby causes a negative pressure in the waste line. In the case of indirect or momentum siphonage, the flow of water past the entrance to a fixture drain in the waste pipe removes air from the fixture drain. This reduces the air pressure in the fixture drain, and the entire assembly acts as an aspirator such as the physician uses to spray an infected throat.

Back Pressure

The flow of water in a soil pipe varies according to the fixtures being used. A lavatory gives a small flow and a water closet a large flow. Small flows tend to cling to the sides of the pipe, but large ones form a slug of waste as they drop. As this slug of water falls down the pipe the air in front of it becomes pressurized. As the pressure builds it seeks an escape point. This point is either a vent or a fixture outlet. If the vent is plugged or there is no vent, the only escape for this air is the fixture outlet. The air pressure forces the trap seal up the pipe into the fixture. If the pressure is great enough the seal is blown out of the fixture entirely. Figures 6-17 and 6-18 illustrate this type of problem.

Vent Sizing

Vent pipe installation is similar to that of soil and waste pipe. The same fixture unit criteria are used. Vent pipes of less than 11 D4 inches in diameter should not be used. Vents smaller than this diameter tend to clog and do not perform their function.
  • Individual fixture ventilation:  This type of ventilation is generally used for sinks, lavatories, drinking fountains, and so forth
  • Unit venting:  The unit venting system is commonly used in apartment buildings. This type of system saves a great deal of money and space when fixtures are placed back to back in separate apartments.
  • Wet venting:  Wet venting of a plumbing system is common in household bathroom fixture grouping. It is exactly what the name implies: the vent pipe is used as a waste line.
Total Drainage System
Up to now we have covered the drain, soil waste, and vent systems of a plumbing system separately. For a working system, however, they must all be connected.
home insurance

Homeowner’s Insurance

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.

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.
holiday home safety

Holiday Safety Tips

  
The winter holidays are a time for celebration, and that means more cooking, home decorating, entertaining, and an increased risk of fire and accidents. Holiday home safety is often over looked during this time of the year. NxtMove Inspections recommends that you follow these guidelines to help make your holiday season safer and more enjoyable.
Holiday Lighting
  • Use caution with holiday decorations and, whenever possible, choose those made with flame-resistant, flame-retardant and non-combustible materials.
  • Keep candles away from decorations and other combustible materials, and do not use candles to decorate Christmas trees.
  • Carefully inspect new and previously used light strings, and replace damaged items before plugging lights in. If you have any questions about electrical safety, ask an InterNACHI inspector during your next scheduled inspection. Do not overload extension cords.
  • Don’t mount lights in any way that can damage the cord’s wire insulation.  To hold lights in place, string them through hooks or insulated staples–don’t use nails or tacks. Never pull or tug lights to remove them.
  • Keep children and pets away from light strings and electrical decorations.
  • Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights, and a person touching a branch could be electrocuted.
  • Before using lights outdoors, check labels to be sure they have been certified for outdoor use.
  • Make sure all the bulbs work and that there are no frayed wires, broken sockets or loose connections.
  • Plug all outdoor electric decorations into circuits with ground-fault circuit interrupters to avoid potential shocks.
  • Turn off all lights when you go to bed or leave the house. The lights could short out and start a fire.
Decorations
  • Use only non-combustible and flame-resistant materials to trim a tree. Choose tinsel and artificial icicles of plastic and non-leaded metals.
  • Never use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens. Always use non-flammable holders, and place candles where they will not be knocked down.
  • In homes with small children, take special care to avoid decorations that are sharp and breakable, and keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children.
  • Avoid trimmings that resemble candy and food that may tempt a young child to put them in his mouth.
Holiday Home Safety Entertaining
  • Unattended cooking is the leading cause of home fires in the U.S.  When cooking for holiday visitors, remember to keep an eye on the range.
  • Provide plenty of large, deep ashtrays, and check them frequently. Cigarette butts can smolder in the trash and cause a fire, so completely douse cigarette butts with water before discarding.
  • Keep matches and lighters up high, out of sight and reach of children (preferably in a locked cabinet).
  • Test your smoke alarms, and let guests know what your fire escape plan is.

    Trees
  • When purchasing an artificial tree, look for the label “fire-resistant.”
  • When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness. A fresh tree is green, needles are hard to pull from branches, and when bent between your fingers, needles do not break.
  • When setting up a tree at home, place it away from fireplaces, radiators and portable heaters. Place the tree out of the way of traffic and do not block doorways.
  • Cut a few inches off the trunk of your tree to expose the fresh wood. This allows for better water absorption and will help to keep your tree from drying out and becoming a fire hazard.
  • Be sure to keep the stand filled with water, because heated rooms can dry live trees out rapidly.
  • Make sure the base is steady so the tree won’t tip over easily.

    Fireplaces
  • Before lighting any fire, remove all greens, boughs, papers and other decorations from fireplace area. Check to see that the flue is open.
  • Use care with “fire salts,” which produce colored flames when thrown on wood fires. They contain heavy metals that can cause intense gastrointestinal irritation and vomiting if eaten.
  • Do not burn wrapping papers in the fireplace. A flash fire may result as wrappings ignite suddenly and burn intensely.

    Toys and Ornaments
  • Purchase appropriate toys for the appropriate age. Some toys designed for older children might be dangerous for younger children.
  • Electric toys should be UL/FM approved.
  • Toys with sharp points, sharp edges, strings, cords, and parts small enough to be swallowed should not be given to small children.
  • Place older ornaments and decorations that might be painted with lead paint out of the reach of small children and pets.

Children and Pets 
  • Poinsettias are known to be poisonous to humans and animals, so keep them well out of reach, or avoid having them.
  • Keep decorations at least 6 inches above the child’s reach.
  • Avoid using tinsel. It can fall on the floor and a curious child or pet may eat it. This can cause anything from mild distress to death.
  • Keep any ribbons on gifts and tree ornaments shorter than 7 inches. A child could wrap a longer strand of ribbon around their neck and choke.
  • Avoid mittens with strings for children. The string can get tangled around the child’s neck and cause them to choke. It is easier to replace a mitten than a child.
  • Watch children and pets around space heaters or the fireplace. Do not leave a child or pet unattended.
  • Store scissors and any sharp objects that you use to wrap presents out of your child’s reach.
  • Inspect wrapped gifts for small decorations, such as candy canes, gingerbread men, and mistletoe berries, all of which are choking hazards.
Security
  • Use your home burglar alarm system.
  • If you plan to travel for the holidays, don’t discuss your plans with strangers.
  • Have a trusted friend or neighbor to keep an eye on your home.
  • Educate other members of the family on holiday home safety to ensure everyone is on the same page.
NXTMOVE INSPECTIONS WISHES YOU
A SAFE & JOYOUS HOLIDAY SEASON!
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