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Home Inspection Blog

Sump Pump

Neglecting to test a sump pump routinely especially if it is rarely used - can lead to severe water damage, especially when a heavy storm, snow melt, or flooding sends water against the home.

Overload of the sump pump, due to poor drainage elsewhere on the property can lead to pump failure. Frequent sump pump operation can be a sign of excessive water buildup under the basement floor, due to poorly sloped landscaping, poor rain runoff, gutter back-flows and other problems.

Lack of a back-up sump pump, which can be quickly installed in the event the first pump fails, can lead to serious water damage and property loss. This is especially important if the sump pump is relied upon to maintain a dry basement, or if the house is located in an area of seasonally high groundwater. Sump pump failure can cause extensive water damage and the loss of valuable personal belongings.

residential sump pump

residential gutter and downspout
Gutters & Downspouts

Clogged gutters can force rainwater to travel up onto the roof under shingles, or to overflow and travel down the inside of the wall, or to overflow and collect at the home's foundation.

First floor gutters can overflow if second floor gutters have been mistakenly directed to drain into them.

An insufficient number of or undersized downspouts can cause gutters to overflow. Downspouts that don't empty far enough away from the foundation walls can lead to foundation wall damage and a wet basement.

Attic Access

Seal up the attic access panel with weather stripping. Cut a piece of fibre glass or rigid foam board the same size as the attic hatch and glue it to the back of the attic access panel.

If you have pull-down attic stairs or an attic door, these should be sealed in a similar manner using weather stripping and insulating the back of the door. Treat the attic door like an exterior door to the outside.

main attic hatch   attic pull down staircase

electrical distribution panel
Main Electrical Service Panel
(Breaker Box)

The main electric service panel is the distribution center for electric service within the building. The primary function of the breakers or fuses (overcurrent protection devices) is to protect the house wiring from overloads.

All service panels must have covers or dead fronts. All openings should be closed.

Main disconnect. A means of disconnect for service must be located either outside or inside the dwelling unit nearest the point of entrance of the service conductors. No more than six hand movements or no more than six circut breakers may be used to disconnect all service. Typically a main disconnect switch is required by the local authority. The main disconnect should be clearly marked to identify it as the service disconnect.


Plumbing. Obviously, you always want to check for water drips or leaks. Check operation of the lavatory, toilet, tub and shower. A common problem in bathrooms is water leakage around the tub and shower.

It is a good idea to look up and check the ceiling below each bathroom for signs of water or to catch the development of a major water leak.

If a toilet is not a water-saving fixture, consider replacing it with a water-saving toilet that has a 1.6 gallon flushing capacity. Pressure assisted toilets use water pressure to compress air in a tank that makes the 1.5 to 1.6 gallon flush very effective in cleaning the fixture bowl and preventing buildup in the soil pipe.

bathroom fixtures

electrical distribution panel
Remove Snow and Ice from Your Gas Meter:

The regulator on your gas meter has to be able to release gas in the event of a malfunction. If ice or snow covers the vent, the regulator will sense that it cannot release gas. As a result the entire system will automatically shut down, stopping gas service to your home. To avoid gas service interruption, keep your meter free from snow and ice build up, assuring proper operation. However snow removal that damages or dislodges your gas meter can cause a dangerous gas leak, so make sure you follow these guidelines.

 • Use a broom (not a shovel) to clear snow from your meter, regulator and    vents.
 • Remove icicles hanging above your meter.
 • Sweep snow away from the outside vent openings of natural gas appliances    (such as clothes dryers) to avoid a backup of dangerous CO gas into your    home.
 • Be sure whomever removes snow from your property is aware of the    placement of your meter if it is near a sidewalk or driveway.
 • If your meter becomes encased in ice or if you believe your meter has been    damaged call your local Gas supplier immediately.

Programmable Thermostats

You can save as much as 10% a year on your heating and cooling bills by simply turning your thermostat back 10% to 15% for 8 hours. You can do this automatically without sacrificing comfort by installing an automatic setback or programmable thermostat.

Using a programmable thermostat, you can adjust the times you turn on the heating or air-conditioning according to a pre-set schedule. As a result you don't operate the equipment as much when you are asleep or when the house or part of the house is not occupied.

Programmable thermostats can store and repeat multiple daily settings a day (six or more temperature settings a day ) that you can manually control without affecting the rest of the daily or weekly program. When shopping for a programmable thermostat be sure to look for the ENERGY STAR label.

programmable thermostat

The 10 Best Places to Hide Valuables in Your Home

Burglary is a crime of opportunity. And burglars don't want to spend allot of time looking through a home to find things of value to steal, which is why there are obvious locations that they always check. That means that there are ways to outsmart them by hiding your valuables in not-so-obvious places, and sometimes in plain sight.

Depending on the size and type of them, the best places to hide valuables are those that burglars don't want to search through or wouldn't bother with, including places that are inconvenient or difficult to search, messy, or uninteresting.

Here are the Top 10:

1. hollowed out books on your bookshelf. If you have only a few books on the shelf, this may be a clue that they're actually hiding places for your valuables, so make sure your library is large enough to serve as a tedious place to search.

2. a false VHS tape or VHS carton. Who watches VHS tapes anymore? Again, follow the rules above for books. A few can be a clue, but many can be a time consuming distraction.

3. false containers in the kitchen cupboard, under the sink, and in the bathroom, such as fake food cans and boxes, false cleaning product bottles, and personal hygiene items, and even in a heavy tub of "cat litter". Some false containers available on the market today actually look like false containers, so you might want to save yourself the expense and create your own.

4. In the false bottom or under the plastic liner of a bathroom or kitchen trash can. No one wants to go pawing through your trash.

5. wrapped in plastic and aluminum foil and stored in the back of the freezer. This is also a good place to store documents and paper currency in case of a house fire.

6. in a floor safe in the bedroom closet. While this location may be obvious, a burglar would have to exert a lot of time and energy -- and create a lot of noise -- trying to break into a floor safe, which is generally of the heavy variety, making it not only hard to open, but hard to steal whole, if the thief has plans to break into it later.

7. inside a house plant. Using the same method as for trash containers, a plant's soil can be contained in a waterproof liner that can be lifted up to hide items underneath. Just make sure the items you're hiding are in a waterproof container, too.

8. inside a false wall outlet. Make sure it's not a live receptacle or in the way of any electrical wiring.

9. within hollowed-out/removable building components, such as wainscoting, floor panels, door jambs, window sills, and cabinet doors.

10. in the garage inside boxes marked with mundane labels, such as "Xmas Ornaments", "Kid's Clothes", "School Projects", etc. Again, the more the boxes you have the longer the burglar will have to search --if he's so inclined--to find something worth stealing.

8 Fundamentals of Fire Safety

Don't get alarm lazy. Make sure you got ionization and photo-electric alarms on every floor, including the basement. When the alarm clirps, replace the battery.

Do get a multisensory device.
If you are deaf or hard of hearing, you may need an alarm that flashes or vibrates to alert you that something is amiss.

Toss after 10. Problems with electric blankets and heating pads tend to occur when they're more than 10 years old. Replace if they have charred spots, they have frayed or cracked electrical cords, or they're a decade or more old.

Beware of overload. Older homes may not be equipped to handle today's stash of electronics. Overburdened systems can spark fires. Replace, don't repair damaged electrical cords.

Tend to the furnace. Faulty fireplaces and wood stoves are prime hazards. Have a trained professional inspect your system, especially if it's bee a while. Generators should also be checked, ideally every year.

Practice makes protection. Have an escape plan and practice it. Any plan should have two ways out of every room: make sure windows and doors open easily. Remember: Stay low and go.

Smoking no's. Smoking-related fires cause the most fire deaths in the US. It's best not to smoke inside your house, but fires can start out-side too. Dampen butts and ashes before throwing them away.

Banish old space heaters. They can lower your utility bills, but they're also a prime cause of home fires. Buy a new model that turns off automatically if it tips over or gets overheated.

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