Casement Windows

Anderson Window Cranks Often Need Repair

In the last 20 years, we have done over 18,000 inspections. Many of the homes we’ve inspected have older Anderson Casement windows. (Casement windows are the ones with cranks, and double-hung windows are the ones that slide up and down). During our inspections, we operate many of the windows. Unfortunately, many of these casement windows are difficult to open and close because of damaged crank mechanisms. Often, the crank handle gears are stripped, or the mechanism is faulty. It appears that Anderson produced these mechanisms for many years until they finally improved the design.

FYI, Typical replacement parts cost less than $50, and it is not difficult to change the mechanisms. The repairs can be accomplished relatively quickly by a handyman.

 

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Crack in a cinder block building foundation

Substantial Concern, Long Horizontal Foundation Cracks

Foundations often have cracks, most of which are not substantial concerns. However, long horizontal cracks are a different story.

Long horizontal cracks are an indication that the foundation wall is bowing inwards and may continue year after year until it becomes a problem that needs to be dealt with. Unfortunately, the repair can be difficult and expensive.

Long horizontal cracks are typically found in block foundation walls rather than poured concrete. Further, these cracks are often associated with excess water collecting in the soil outside the foundation because of poor drainage and the “freeze-thaw” cycle. Water freezes, creating inward pressure on the foundation, which can cause the crack to enlarge over time. (By the way, if you have a drainage problem outside the foundation, it should be dealt with for several other reasons, but that’s a topic for another newsletter).

The bottom line, if you see a long horizontal crack in the foundation, be aware that it may become a substantial problem. We would advise you to consult with a structural engineer for advice.

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House search concept isolated on white background.

BUYERS SKIPPING INSPECTIONS

Some buyers are purchasing real estate without having an inspection. This, of course, is brought about by such a tight market and competition for homes to purchase. It’s understandable! Especially since buyers have lost several transactions to better cash offers.

Over the past few years, we have had countless inspection appointments canceled because the sellers received a better offer. Then, on the next house, they elected to forgo the inspection completely. Some of these buyers have called us back after they closed on the house without an inspection because serious surprises popped up. They called us after the fact to help them deal with defects. In some cases, the defects involved structural issues. In one case, the house had aluminum wires, mold, and asbestos throughout, and several galvanized and cast-iron plumbing pipes that needed to be replaced due to leakage.

Other buyers are making their offer without an inspection contingency, but they are still doing the inspection just so that they don’t get surprised after they close. If there is no inspection, buyers should understand that there may be unexpected substantial defects.

Of course, everything circles back, and eventually, the market will soften, and buyers may not feel the need to skip the inspection.

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Home For Sale Real Estate Sign and Beautiful New House.

Seller’s Inspection Benefit

Seller’s Inspection Benefit

Most people don’t realize how beneficial Seller’s Inspections (Pre-Marketing Inspections) can be.

We feel it’s beneficial for the seller to understand the following two options after a seller’s inspection:

  1. First, the seller has the opportunity to disclose defects upfront and state that they are selling as-is. Buyers will have a hard time negotiating inspection items if they are told about the defect before making their offer. For example, if the buyer has been advised the roof needs replacement, they would have difficulty trying to negotiate the roof issue after their inspection.
  2. Secondly, the seller can deal with certain defects before they cause a problem with the sale. For example, buyers get concerned about termites. So, if we find termites, we recommend a termite treatment; as a result, the termite issue goes away before the buyer gets involved. Similarly, other items may come up during a home inspection that may cause problems with the transaction unless they are dealt with before the house goes on the market.
  3. Here’s a short YouTube video that explains the benefits. https://youtu.be/tNeDhhfvQVg

Based on the above, we feel that Seller’s Inspections provide substantial benefits that most people aren’t aware of. So, if you are a real estate agent or real estate attorney, would you want to advise your clients about Seller’s Inspections?

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Always use licensed and qualified contractors!

I hate to say it, but if the plumber is this stupid (look closely at the above picture), more than likely there are lots of other hidden plumbing issues. This plumber was not “licensed and qualified.”

Sometimes when we first arrive at an inspection, we meet the seller, and he tells us that he did most of the work in the house. This raises a red flag for us. He may have done a great job on the work but doing repairs and modifications to homes is oftentimes not as easy as it looks and requires specialized knowledge and experience. Watching HDTV is not the same thing as being licensed and qualified.

We use the term “licensed and qualified,“  because even though the contractor may be licensed, he may not be qualified. So, when you’re searching for a contractor, keep in mind that you’re looking for a “licensed AND qualified” Contractor.

Of course, don’t be in a rush to hire the cheapest contractor. Check references and reviews, and make sure the contractor has valid insurance.  Find out how long he’s been in the business and even talk to some of his past customers. Visit some of his past jobs. Use due diligence, especially on bigger and more expensive projects. You’ve probably heard stories about homeowners who made a substantial down payment, and the contractor never came back!

So, the moral of the story is to be careful when you’re hiring contractors.

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Broken concrete pedestrian footpath revealing a large underground cavity, posing a danger to the general public. Needs urgent repair attention from the local authority.

Are yard depressions a problem?

Sometimes during our inspections, we see a yard depression. Is this a problem? Well, it depends.

As inspectors a few scenarios go through our minds, some with more important implications than others.

Is it a functioning or an abandoned cesspool? Cesspools often get abandoned which entails filling in the old cesspool with soil. The soil may have settled over the years leaving a depression in the yard. It could also be an abandoned cesspool that never got filled in. Is it a working cesspool that is in a deteriorated condition? Is the depression from a tree that got removed? Is it an oil tank? Is it a broken sewer line washing out the soil? Is it a sinkhole?

All these scenarios have different implications. Based on what was discovered during the inspection, the recommendation may be to do nothing, or it may be to contact a sewage company and/or an oil tank specialist for further evaluation. If a deteriorated cesspool is suspected, it should be dealt with quickly due to safety concerns.

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Don’t Repair Oil Tanks

When we see an oil tank that needs any kind of repair, our advice is don’t repair it, just replace it! Sometimes we see fiberglass repairs on the bottom of the tank. Again, our recommendation is to just replace the tank. The downside of a badly leaking oil tank can be a nightmare! We’re talking lots of money to clean it up, not to mention the major inconvenience, odors, etc.! There’s even a possibility the EPA could get involved if oil somehow gets into the soil.

We know of a case where the oil tank overflowed during the filling process. Oil got into the soil and the EPA got involved. The entire basement slab had to be ripped up and all the contaminated soil had to be removed/replaced. The contaminated soil had to be carried out of the house bucket by bucket, traipsing through the kitchen. Also, an air venting system had to be installed to get rid of the odors.

The expected useful life of an oil tank is about 20 years. It may last a lot longer than that, but the recommendation by most experts is to replace it on a preventive maintenance basis after 20 to 25 years. Often, there is no sign of deterioration on the outside of the tank but the inside of the tank is where it deteriorates first. Most residential oil tanks are 275 gallons. When the tank is filled it’s pumped under pressure and the tank fills up within a minute or two. That’s a lot of weight all at once. Sometimes the tanks fail during the fill-up.

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Fire extinguisher, smoke detector and carbon monoxide alarm.

MISSING SMOKE AND CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTORS

One of the most important and common issues that we see during our inspections are missing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.  We recommend having an electrician install new smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in all required locations according to the current electrical code.  Many houses have some detectors present but not in all the required locations, or they are old and batteries are dead. By the way, all new detectors are required to be rated for a 10-year life.

We recommend getting high-quality units. It’s like anything else, you get what you pay for. In my opinion, the best protection for you and your family, as well as your home is a new top-of-the-line combination smoke and carbon monoxide detector system.

A system that I have direct experience with is Google’s Nest Protect.  It’s an excellent high-quality product!  But there are other systems on the market today with similar functionality.

  • They can speak clearly in plain language and warn you as to what the nature of the problem is and where it is.
  • They test themselves periodically and warn you clearly in plain language before their self-test.
  • The units are interconnected so that if one unit detects a problem all the units tell you about the problem.
  • These units are Wi-Fi connected and periodically report to your phone or another device as to what has been happening with the system over the last 30 days (for example).
  • Get fast alerts on your phone or device when the system detects a problem.
  • When you approach one of the detectors at night the unit automatically illuminates your pathway.
  • You can “hush” the alarm with your phone.
  • You can test the system with your phone

They can be hardwired to your home’s electrical system, or you can purchase them with a lithium battery that lasts at least 10 years. (Meets New York State laws.)

Of course, the system can be monitored by a central station monitoring company.

It is recommended that these units be installed on the ceiling, one unit in each bedroom, and 1 outside of the sleeping area (in the hallway), at least one detector on each level including the basement.

This may be the single most important piece of technology in your home because it has the potential to save your life and the lives of your family and friends in the event of a fire or carbon monoxide situation, which by the way are far more common than most people think.

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electrical failure in power outlet isolated

Electrical Outlet Safety

Many people ask us what we discover to be the most common electrical issues during a  home inspection.

It’s very rare to find a home that doesn’t have a few incorrectly wired electrical outlets.  Problems such as ungrounded outlets and reversed polarity outlets are very common. Although these aren’t major electrical hazards, they should be rectified to avoid any potential shock hazards. Missing GFCI’s are also very common. GFCI’s prevent electrical shock when an appliance comes into contact with water such as a hair dryer falling into a sink or bathtub. The outlet automatically shuts off to prevent electrocution. These may seem like small issues but could actually save a life!

By the way, we recommend that you enlist the services of a licensed electrician. When it comes to electric and fire safety you can’t be too careful.

All these problems are relatively easy and inexpensive to rectify. We recommend that you have an electrician evaluate all your outlets as well as your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and make modifications as needed.

 

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Close-up view of light gray tile with large diagonal cracks and chips.

Got Cracked Floor Tiles?

Often during our inspections, we see cracked or loose ceramic floor tiles. By the way of background, there are two types of “beds” in tile floor installations. One type is called Thinset, and the other type is called Mortar Bed or more commonly know as a “Mud Bed.”

Thinset consists of a thin layer of bonding cement intended to adhere the tile to the subfloor. Usually, it’s only about 3/8 of an inch thick. It is cheaper to install than a Mud Bed, but it does not allow for movement of the subfloor. Most subfloors move as time goes on, which can result in cracked and loose tiles associated with Thinset installations.

Mud Bed installations are typically considered superior to Thinset applications because:

  1. Mud Beds are usually at least 1 ¼ inches thick offering much more stability
  2. Mud Beds can level out uneven subfloors
  3. Create an ideal surface to which the tile can be bonded
  4. Can incorporate a slope in the tile layer if needed (e.g., slope to a drain)
  5. Reinforces the subfloor (usually relevant in wood framing applications)
  6. Allow radiant hydronic tubing to be installed.

So, if you have the option, we suggest going with a Med Bed rather than a Thinset if possible.

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