Termites

Where do termites live?

Termites live in the ground, not in wood. Mature termite nests can contain 60,000 to 2,000,000 termites. They live in the ground because they don’t like light, and they don’t like dryness, so below ground is perfect. When they enter the structure looking for food, they make a “shelter tube” made of mud. They usually start eating the wood which is closest to the point of entry which is typically the sill plate (the first piece of wood above the concrete foundation). Then, they start spreading out.

Termites can do a lot of damage which can be expensive to repair. It’s best to get an annual termite inspection so you catch them before there’s too much damage. Fortunately, there are effective means of treatment. But, if you don’t have it inspected, you will not know termites are active in your house. Termites can be inside of a wall, and you would never know it. When there is substantial termite damage on a 2 x 4, for example, you can poke a screwdriver right through it with ease.

Again, for the reasons above, it’s best to get an annual termite inspection from a licensed exterminator. By the way, Safe Harbor Inspections is not an exterminator. However, we do termite inspections as part of a home inspection.

If you are interested, all our previous newsletters are available on our website blog. Click on the following link and it will take you right to it.

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Falling Trees

I live in Lloyd Neck where during the last storm we actually had a tornado! Our street is no more than a mile long and at least 250 trees fell in a matter of minutes when the tornado struck. I noticed that the houses that were damaged from fallen trees had trees that were too close to them. The houses that were not damaged had trees that were far enough away from the house as to not cause any damage to the structure when they fell.

In these days of global warming, we highly suggest that you have an arborist or expert tree contractor evaluate the trees surrounding your home and remove the ones that are threatening it. And we suggest that you put it on your schedule ASAP rather than wait for Mother Nature’s schedule. You will be glad you did during the next storm!

If you are interested, all our previous newsletters are available on our website blog. Click on the following link and it will take you right to it.

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Possible Health Risks From Dirty Air Ducts

Like it or not, we are coming into the heating season! Be aware that Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) can be substantially worsened from dirty air ducts and other air distribution components. Think about dust buildup on floors, furniture, and other surfaces in your home. It seems like within a few weeks clumps of dust buildup and need to be vacuumed. Now think about your air ducts. They probably haven’t been cleaned since they were installed. Dust buildup is inevitable! And where there is dust, there is a potential for degradation of indoor air quality. Dust can Harbor all kinds of things that we don’t even like to think about, such as dust mites, mold, bacteria, and even viruses. According to the EPA “there are examples of ducts that have become badly contaminated with a variety of materials that may pose risks to your health. The duct system can serve as a means to distribute these contaminants throughout a home.”

However, before you hire somebody to clean your system, we recommend that you have an HVAC (Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning) contractor evaluate your air distribution system in order to determine if it makes sense to have your system cleaned. Here’s an excellent in-depth article from the EPA which provides a lot of information that you should consider. https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/should-you-have-air-ducts-your-home-cleaned

If you are interested, all our previous newsletters are available on our website blog. Click on the following link and it will take you right to it.

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Service Your Heating System

As we head into the fall, it’s a good idea to have your heating system serviced. If you don’t have a service contract, we recommend getting one. Heating systems have many components that should be checked for proper operation and safety. Also, if your heating system is not serviced regularly, you may be paying extra for fuel because of poor performance. If your heating system is not serviced, it may be more prone to break down.

In addition, you may be very glad you have a service contract with a good HVAC (heating ventilation and air conditioning) company if your heating system fails in the dead of winter. Usually, if you have a service contract, you’ll get fast service because you have an account. Without a service contract, you may get put at the bottom of the service list. Especially when it’s very cold, because the heating company takes care of their existing customers first, especially if they’re busy.

If you are interested, all our previous newsletters are available on our website blog. Click on the following link and it will take you right to it.

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Closeup view on air filter. Filtration concept.

Changing Your Air Filter

Proper operation of your air conditioning unit requires a clean air filter. If the air filter gets clogged, it can cause the air conditioning unit to freeze up and stop working or at least degrade its functionality.

We’re not at the end of the cooling season yet. People often forget to change the filter this time of year. But it’s easy and it’s cheap, and it’s a good idea to change it every 3 months. By the way, there are good filters and there are cheap filters. We recommend a HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Absorbing filter). HEPA filters are substantially better than the cheap ones. If you want to go to the next level, talk to your air conditioning service company about electrostatic filtration which utilizes electricity and HEPA filters to remove about 99% of particulates including many strains of mold, bacteria, and viruses. By the way, all these suggestions apply to hot air heating systems. In the winter, the air in your home is often very dry which leads to more particulates in the air which makes it even more important to have a good filtration system.

If you are interested, all our previous newsletters are available on our website blog. Click on the following link and it will take you right to it.

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Ever wonder why things fall apart?

 

Ever wonder why things fall apart?

It seems that real estate is in a constant state of aging, and we all know what happens with aging! This is a picture of a bulkhead that was probably installed about 20 years ago. When it was new it looked great and now it doesn’t. Soil is eroding from the yard through the wall and into the water. It will need to be replaced soon.

There is a concept in physics called MAXIMUM ENTROPY. This means things go from organized (good condition) to disorganized (bad condition). For instance, if you drop an egg on the floor, it goes from organized in its shell to a disorganized mess on the floor. That’s nature, and it can’t be changed! It could be said that real estate is in a constant state of falling apart, unfortunately, that’s just how it is.

Of course, there are different materials that can be used with different expected useful lives, along with better designs and installations that can result in a longer expected useful life. For example, if the wall was made out of natural stone, and if it was installed correctly, it would last a long time, even 100 years, or more.

So, does this happen to every component in real estate? YES. But things deteriorate at different rates. Wood that is subject to moisture is prone to rotting quickly. Whereas AZEC (made of PVC/plastic) is not prone to rotting and can therefore last a long time.  A cheap roof may be designed to last 10 years versus a slate roof which can last hundreds of years.  Some water heaters may be designed to last about 10 years. Versus a high quality stainless steel water heater which may be guaranteed for life.

If you are interested, all our previous newsletters are available on our website blog. Click on the following link and it will take you right to it. https://safeharborinspections.com/blog/

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Luxury Homes Versus Modest Homes

Inspecting large luxury homes and estates versus more modest homes

Large luxury homes and estates are typically much more complex and time-consuming to inspect than more modest homes. Smaller homes typically have one electrical panel, one heating system, one air conditioner unit etc. Larger luxury homes and estates may have 10 or more electrical panels, several heating systems, several air-conditioning units, several attics, etc.

Larger homes and estates may take a single inspector more than a full day to inspect. It can be overwhelming, which may cause the inspector to get tired and gloss over important items. Whereas smaller homes can typically be inspected in a few hours by one inspector.

We at Safe Harbor inspections Inc. feel that large homes and estates should be inspected by a team of inspectors, each focusing on a different aspect of the home. We typically bring three or four inspectors to a large home or estate. The inspection can be done efficiently and completed within a few hours. Buyers, sellers, and agents all appreciate the faster and more efficient inspection. And believe me, the inspectors appreciate it too!

If you are interested, all our previous newsletters are available on our website blog. Click on the following link and it will take you right to it.

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Point of Demarcation

During our inspections, we are often asked “is that the utility company’s responsibility or mine?” The answer is, between the street and the structure, there is a “Point of Demarcation”. Typically, for electricity, it’s where the wires connect to the Structure, and for gas, it’s where the gas line connects to the gas meter. For water, it’s at the water meter.

So, from the Point of Demarcation out to the street, it’s the utility company’s responsibility. From the Point of Demarcation into the structure, it’s the owner’s responsibility. So, PSE&G has a responsibility for the power lines up to the point where it connects to the structure.  And the gas and water companies, have responsibility from the street all the way up to the meter.

So, for example, if the wires are damaged in the owner’s yard, it’s the responsibility of the utility company. If there is a problem between the gas/water meter and the street, it is the utility company’s responsibility. From the meters into the structure, it is the owner’s responsibility. The Points of Demarcation can vary depending on the location, but what I said above, is typical.

If you are interested, all our previous newsletters are available on our website blog. Click on the following link and it will take you right to it.

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Stainless steel electrical circuit box open with circuits named by hand in basement on rough concrete block wall with conduit and ceiling and other pipes overhead painted black with dust on them

How many AMPS do I need?

Many houses built before 1950 originally had less than 100 Amps, which by today’s standards would be considered too low.  Fortunately, most of those electrical systems have been updated to 100 Amps or more.  Today, 100 Amps is considered okay for a smaller house, unless there are large electrical draw appliances, such as air conditioning systems, swimming pools, hot tubs, electric dryers, and electric stoves.  Often, 100 Amp electrical services get updated to 150 or 200 Amps.  If the electrical service is too low for the structure, the main circuit breaker may trip and become a nuisance and possibly an electrical hazard.

Most main electrical panels have one large circuit breaker labeled 100, 150 or 200.  Those numbers represent Amps, which means the amount of electricity the system can deliver (the total amperage should be confirmed by an electrician because it can be a bit tricky).  200 Amps provides plenty of power for small and medium sized homes.  Larger homes often have more than 200 A.

By the way, updating the system to more power provides a secondary benefit of having a brand-new electrical panel along with brand-new circuit breakers.  These new components provide a substantial benefit to the electrical system of the home.

If you are interested, all our previous newsletters are available on our website blog. Click on the following link and it will take you right to it.

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Installing a flexible steel flue liner into a chimney during a wood burning stove installation, UK

Metal Chimney Liner for Gas Conversion

When a home is converted from oil to gas as a fuel for heating, a new metal liner is required in the chimney.

Why?  Oil burners produce relatively dry gases that exit the home through the chimney.  Clay liners hold up very well with an oil burner.  However, if you convert to gas, warm moist air is produced which can become acidic and condense inside the chimney, which in turn, can deteriorate the clay liner.  That’s why metal inserts are required upon a conversion from oil to gas.  Without the metal chimney liner, the clay can deteriorate and create blockages in the chimney.  Although it’s rare, blockages in the chimney can cause carbon monoxide and possibly, even a fire in the home.

During our home inspections, we often see a conversion to gas without a metal liner having been installed.  We always make the recommendation to have a chimney contractor install a metal liner in the chimney for safety reasons.

If you are interested, all our previous newsletters are available on our website blog. Click on the following link and it will take you right to it.

https://safeharborinspections.com/blog/

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