Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Halloween Is Home Maintenance Time:

Don't Be Afraid!

Spooky sounds and strange odors are part of the season. They are your home's way of telling you that it's ready for some care.

Monsters in the Attic

The fall is a time when many creatures are looking for suitable places to spend the winter. Make sure your roof vents are covered with screens or you may have creepy critters move into your attic where they can create real havoc. Raccoons and squirrels can chew wires and potentially start a fire! It's a good idea to trim trees that are close to your home so that these little "Monsters" don't have an easy path to your roof.

What is that Ghastly Smell?

Now that it's cooler out and our windows are closed, you may notice strange odors that you've not noticed before. Identifying them is key to having a healthy home that doesn't become a graveyard. Let's put on our sleuthing hats and take the mystery away.

Many smells are obvious - like the smell of burning dust coming from your furnace. It's been awhile since it's been used and that burning dust smell is an indication that you should have your annual HVAC tune and clean. A clean and lubricated furnace is much less likely to have an untimely death.

If it's more of a rotten egg smell - don't go down in the basement! Natural gas is odorless, but they add butyl mercaptan to give it that distinctive smell to alert you to any leaks. Go to a neighbor's house and call your gas utility to check on your gas lines and connections. Most utility companies will perform a safety check for little or no cost. Better safe than sorry!

The Haunted Fireplace

Have you smelled burnt wood, but there's no fire? It could be your fireplace. This Ghost Odor may be caused by a poorly sealing damper. The outside air can come back down the chimney, bringing old burnt wood smells with it. Have a qualified fireplace service person clean your chimney and make sure that your damper is in good working order. You’ll get rid of the smells and you might save on your energy bill, too.

Creaking and Groaning

Is it a Ghost wandering the halls?  Goblins trying to open the windows? Most likely, it's your home shrinking and settling.  Wood is dynamic, and it will grow and contract with temperature and humidity changes. Pops and squeaks happen when different materials expand or contract at different rates. This is a good reminder to check your caulking and weather stripping.  Caulk seals will fail because of this movement and will result in a drafty home.

Some noises come from vents for bathrooms and clothes dryers.  They often have dampers at the sidewalls of the house.  These flaps sometimes move and rattle in the wind.  Often, they are held partially open from the buildup of lint.  A good cleaning and lubrication will often stop them from scaring you awake in the middle of the night.

Rest In Peace

Winter is coming, don't let it be a frightening time. Your home can keep you safe and warm. All it asks in return is that you give it a little TLC. Most maintenance can be done by yourself, some should be deferred to a specialized tradesperson. But don't forget, an ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure. 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

There's a Nip in the Air...

You can feel the seasons changing.

With the coming of Fall, your mind turns to Home and Hearth.

My mind turns to inspecting fireplaces!

Most modern fireplaces - whether they're wood burning or Natural Gas - are pretty safe and trouble free. As a Home Inspector, the type that gives me the most issues is a wood burning fireplace that has been converted to gas.

These are popular because they are relatively inexpensive and, if you're handy, fairly easy to install. But all too often I'm inspecting a home where these logs have been installed by someone who is less than handy, and the result can be disasterous.

I find the gas line is frequently pulled in through the wall of the firebox by way of a jaggedly punched hole. This is a recipe for disaster. Flames or super-heated gasses can be drawn back through the hole and start a smouldering fire inside the wall cavity that may not ignite into a full blown fire for hours or days! That pipe line has to be sealed tight!

Another common issue is the damper on the original fireplace must be clamped into the "open" position. This prevents dangerous Carbon Monoxide gas from coming back into the living space. A wood fire would warn you that the damper is closed by causing the room to fill with smoke, but that doesn't happen with gas logs.

An Automatic Damper
  for Gas Log Fireplaces
A big down side of your damper being locked open is that precious warm air (and the money that heated it) flows out of the house through the chimney whether there is a fire or not. This will create cold drafts throughout your home as well.

Not exactly the "snuggly fire" scenario you had in mind, is it?

An option that will help is having an automatic damper installed. This little wonder will set you back a few dollars, but by sealing off the chimney when not in use, you'll save money in the long run through lowered heating costs.

A better option may be to have a Glass Front installed.  The best kind is a sealed unit, but you will have to allow for combustion air for your gas logs to burn.  A more affordable (but less efficient) option is purchasing a glass door that is opened while the fire is burning, but closed when the fire is out to keep unwanted drafts to a minimum.

Before you settle in for a romantic evening of hot cocoa and cookies, make an appointment with a fireplace specialist to make sure your fireplace is ready for the season. There's a lot of options out there for a safe and cozy fireplace, and the first step is to know your fireplace is a safe one.