Drafty Windows? We Have Help

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There is a chill in the air, the North Wind has an extra bite and a draft is coming through the windows. What can you do?

First, open and close the window and look for any torn or missing weather-stripping on the sash. Make sure the window lock is adjusted properly to close the window tight against the weather-stripping. If there are storm windows, make sure they are shut and latched properly.

Next try to determine where the air is coming in. Make sure all of the windows are closed. Make sure window coverings are held away from the glass and will not ignite. Light a candle and hold the flame near each window, fairly close to the window at the seam between the widow frame and the sash. Move the candlestick slowly around the frame and the sash, pausing to allow the flame to steady. If the flame bends or flickers while in the pause mode, then there is probably a leak, mark the area with a piece of tape or a sticky note and continue around that window and the others in the home and mark any suspect area.

Once you have identified the problem areas and drafts, you need to seal them up. Some methods can be completed by the homeowner; other, more complicated methods of repairs may be best left to a contractor.

  • Weather-stripping can be purchased at a hardware store or home center. Different products are available, most commonly plastic, felt, foam or metal. These materials can be cut and pressed into the gaps between the frame and the sash, or installed on the frame and pressed against the sash to create a good seal.
  • Caulking is usually installed on the exterior, so this is a task for warmer weather. Caulking can be applied where the trim meets the window frame and where the trim meets the wall covering. If old, deteriorating caulking is in place, remove it by scoring the caulk where it meets the trim and the frame, and remove it with a putty knife or chisel. Make sure to clean the area well with a brush before applying new caulking. A good exterior latex caulk may be preferred for ease of application and cleanup, this type of caulking is usually paintable if the caulk does not match the window or if you wish to paint the window in the future. Be sure to follow the installation instructions on the tube of caulking for proper installation.
  • Insulating film. If the window will not be opened during the winter months, then a layer of shrink film can be applied to the window. The film is usually applied to the window using double-sided tape. The window trim should be clean so the tape will stick properly, then apply the tape and film as directed in the instructions. This film is usually removed in the spring and summer months so the windows can be opened.
  • Replacement windows. This is usually an expensive venture, but in most cases the cost of the replacement is at least partially recouped in the sale of the home. Until the home is sold, you still have the benefit of fewer or no drafts and lower energy bills. Proper installation and insulation is important when replacing windows.

Several options are available to reduce drafts, and your local utility companies may offer energy audits and recommendations for weatherization contractors to help limit the amount of energy lost by drafty windows.

Submitted by Kenn Garder, Technical Support, NPI/GPI Corporate

Two-Prong Outlets Vs. Three-Prong Outlets: Does It Matter?

Ever wonder why the older electrical receptacles have only two slots, and don’t have the hole below the slots to allow three prongs? Think they can just be switched out? Sometimes they can, but other times that would be a potentially dangerous mistake.

Understanding the implications of two prongs or three can be one of the more bewildering situations a home buyer has to deal with.

Let’s review a little of the history of residential wiring to see how this came about. Knob-and-tube (KNT) wiring was phased out in the 1930s, as both nonmetallic sheathed cable (NM for short, commonly referred to as Romex) and armored cable (AC, commonly referred to as BX) became prevalent. Until the early 1960s, most NM and AC cable for residential use did not have a grounding conductor. The two-prong receptacles normally used until this time have only a “neutral” slot, and a smaller “hot” slot, without the additional hole below for the ground. As houses were wired with the grounding conductor starting in the early 1960s, three-prong receptacles were generally installed.

Why should an electrical receptacle be grounded? The lack of a ground path could lead to getting an electrical shock. If there were a short circuit, then an ungrounded metal object could become energized, and the circuit breaker would not trip. The ground protects you from getting a shock, as it directs a large amount of current back to the circuit breaker, causing the breaker to trip.

A properly wired three-prong receptacle is both more convenient and safer than an ungrounded two-prong, so how and when can they be switched? If a house is wired with BX without the ground wire but metal boxes, then the metal armor and box will still generally be grounded. A three-prong receptacle can be grounded to the box with a grounding wire.

It is more complicated, and normally not worth the trouble to install a three prong receptacle when the wiring is Romex cable without the ground wire. That would require running a separate ground wire or a completely new cable with ground wire.

Often the solution is to install GFCI circuit breakers and three-prong receptacles, or, what is more commonly done, to replace the two prong receptacles with GFCI receptacles. The receptacles should be labeled “No Equipment Ground”. These labels come in the box when purchasing GFCI.

The GFCI function is not the same as grounding, but in most cases, it is even safer. GFCI outlets and breakers trip, disconnecting the circuit when it detects leakage current that the electric current is not balanced between the energized conductor and the return neutral conductor. And it trips quicker than a regular circuit breaker.

Unfortunately, too many homeowners and contractors, either through ignorance or to save money, have taken the easy solution, by simply replacing the two-prong receptacle with the three-prong. And some have even gone a step further: They create a “bootleg” or false ground by making a connection between the ground and neutral on a receptacle. This is not detectable with a simple receptacle tester used by most inspectors. If it is suspected, then there is more sophisticated equipment, although the simple solution is to remove the electric plate and check whether the wire was added between the neutral and ground screws on the receptacle.

Submitted by Ken Roleke, NPI Franchise Owner, Tucson, Arizona

How to Remove a Popcorn Ceiling

Popcorn ceilings are just one of those things. Some of us barely notice them, while others put them in the same category as fake wood paneling when it comes to outdatedness. If you’re of the latter opinion, the good news is that you don’t have to live with your popcorn ceilings forever. While it can be a pretty messy task, you can still remove all that texture with a little DIY know-how.

When in doubt, check for asbestos!

For any popcorn ceiling installed before 1980, you run the risk of dealing with asbestos, a common cause of lung cancer. You can purchase a testing kit for around $50 and send a small sample of scrapings to a lab for definitive results. Be sure to follow the directions in your kit carefully. Even a small scraping can introduce a good number of (potential) asbestos particles to the air.

You can also hire a local professional asbestos testing service. This can be considerably more expensive, but quite a bit more comprehensive since they’ll test multiple areas, air quality and more. If your home was built long before 1980 and you’re not sure of its renovation history, a professional test is well worth it for the peace of mind.

If your test does come back positive for asbestos, your popcorn ceiling project will need to be put on hold. You can hire a professional removal team or cover your ceiling with tongue-and-groove planks or new drywall. With a cover-up, you’ll be looking at a painting-only project instead of a scraping-then-painting one.

Prepare your space for a rather large mess.

We’re not going to beat around the bush: removing a popcorn ceiling can turn your space into a gloppy mess in minutes. You’ll want to invest in drop cloths . . . lots of drop cloths. The plastic variety is best because you can scrunch it up, trapping the mess inside, and just throw it away. Cover rugs and carpets and hang drop cloths in doorways, making sure they reach the floor.

It’s best to remove any furniture from the space you’ll be working in. If that isn’t possible, you’ll want to group it together in one area of the room and be sure it’s completely covered with drop cloths. You can move your furniture cluster around the room as needed while you work in different areas.

Prepare yourself.

Did we mention that removing a popcorn ceiling is a messy job? Wear old clothes and shoes. If your skin is sensitive, you may want to wear clothing that covers your arms and legs—you’re almost guaranteed to be up to your elbows in damp white gunk once the scraping begins. You’ll also need to have a dust mask that securely covers your nose and mouth on hand for the sanding phase.

Remove light fixtures and ceiling fans, protect light cans and cover electrical boxes.

Trust us, you won’t want to skip these prep steps. Taking the time to cover or remove anything on your ceiling will help you avoid needing replacements in the long-run when the wet popcorn inevitably starts flying. You’ll need to remove light fixtures and ceiling fans, and stuff newspaper or rosin paper in any light cans. You’ll also need to make sure you turn off the circuit breaker or fuse box connected to those lights. If there are any electrical boxes in the ceiling, you need to cover those as well. Use painter’s tape to keep the wiring dry.

Mist the ceiling with a pump sprayer.

To eliminate most of the dust that would get kicked up from scraping popcorn dry, you’ll first mist a four foot by four foot area of the ceiling with water. An inexpensive pump sprayer from the gardening department of your local hardware store will work nicely. Only mist lightly—you don’t want to oversaturate—then let it soak for about 15 minutes before you proceed with scraping. By this time, the texture should have softened. If it hasn’t softened yet, you’re probably dealing with a painted ceiling. Doing a little dry-scraping first can help the water penetrate more effectively.

Start scraping.

Remember to wet the next section you plan to work in right before you start scraping the one you’ve been waiting to work with. This will help you get into a rhythm and work faster. Working in the small section you’ve misted with water, start scraping. You can hold a mud pan up to catch much of the wet popcorn before it hits the floor. The edge of the pan is also handy for cleaning your scraper when it gets covered.

Sand the ceiling to prep for painting.

Your last step is going to be to sand the ceiling so that you have a smooth surface for paint application. You also may have small gouges or dings to fill in. And that’s it!

Call National Property Inspections today to schedule your inspection.

Our inspectors have the expertise to access all of your home’s major systems. Call us to order an inspection and receive your full report.

Prevent Injuries by Practicing Ladder Safety

 

Inspector on Ladder

A Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) report on ladder safety showed some startling statistics concerning the frequency and severity of ladder-related accidents in the United States. Every year thousands of people are injured and hundreds are killed. By understanding the causes of ladder accidents the vast majority could be prevented.

  • More than 90,000 people receive emergency room treatment from ladder-related injuries every year
  • Elevated falls account for almost 700 occupational deaths annually
  • These deaths account for 15 percent of all occupational deaths
  • OSHA believes that 100 percent of all ladder accidents could be prevented if proper attention to equipment and climber training were provided
  • Over the last 10 years, the number of ladder-related injuries has increased 50 percent
  • According the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 50 percent of all ladder-related accidents were due to individuals carrying items as they climbed
  • The most common type of ladder-related injury, with 32 percen, is fractures

Ladder accidents are extremely common even though they are entirely preventable. Ladder accidents can occur as a result of a wide variety of issues, but the following four causes account for the vast majority. If these simple loss-prevention tips for each cause are followed, then ladder accidents could almost be eliminated.

1. Selecting the Wrong Type of Ladder

Each ladder is designed to support a maximum weight limit, and if the climber exceeds that limit, the ladder could break and cause the user to fall or become injured. There are three basic types of ladders:

  • Type III — Household, light duty, load capacity of 200 lbs.
  • Type II — Commercial, medium duty, load capacity of 225 lbs.
  • Type I — Industrial, heavy-duty, load capacity of 250 lbs.
  • For extra-heavy duty work, such as roofing and construction, there is the Type IA with a 300-lb. rating. The strongest type of ladder is the Type IIA (holding 375 lbs.) for special duty, such as heavy industrial construction work.

2. Using Worn or Damaged Ladders

Another common contributing factor to ladder accidents is the use of old, worn or damaged ladders. Thoroughly inspect each ladder before using it. If any damage is found, do not use the ladder until it has been safely repaired to the manufacturer’s specifications or it has been replaced.

3. Incorrect Use of Ladders

Human error is by far the leading cause of ladder accidents. Never use a ladder in any other way than what the manufacturer intended it to be used for. Important use tips include the following:

  • Do not lengthen or alter a ladder in any way.
  • Maintain three points of contact (feet and hands) at all times.
  • Wear slip-resistant shoes.
  • Do not carry anything while climbing a ladder.
  • No more than one person on ladder at a time.
  • Always face the ladder when ascending or descending.
  • Do not climb higher than the third rung on extension ladders or the second rung on stepladders.
  • Never try to move a ladder while standing on it.

4. Incorrect Placement of Ladders

Follow these tips for correct placement of ladders.

  • Place the ladder on level and firm ground.
  • Ladders should never be placed in front of a door that is not locked, blocked or guarded.
  • If possible, have a helper support the base while using a ladder.
  • The feet of the ladder can be staked if you are using a ladder outside and no one is available to support the feet of the ladder.
  • Do not use a ladder that is too short for the necessary height.
  • Do not place the ladder on something to extend its reach.
  • Use a 1:4 ratio in placement of the ladder: Place the ladder base 1 ft away from the surface it is leaning against for every 4 ft of height to the point where the ladder contacts at the top.

By Jon McCreath, NPI Franchise Owner, Emerson, Georgia

How Should a Seller Prepare for a Home Inspection?

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This is an excellent question to ask, as I’ve actually seen too many houses that were not ready for a home inspection, and unfortunately, this did have a negative effect on the sale of those properties. Most Realtors will advise you that preparing for a home inspection is very similar to when you prepared your home for its first viewing or for an open house. It is best to have the property neat and tidy, and if necessary, with keys labelled and available for any locked access. It is also advisable to provide a safe place for your pets. This may mean a sturdy, appropriately sized kennel in the home, or it can mean taking the pet to a friend or relative they are comfortable with until things are more settled. Please remember, a home inspector will need to view both the interior and exterior of the home, so simply putting pets in an open yard is not enough.

As a seller, you should be aware that most professional home inspectors tend to arrive about 15 to 30 minutes earlier than the scheduled home inspection appointment. This gives the home inspector the opportunity to inspect the exterior of the home, while waiting for the client and the Realtor to arrive. To that end, I’d suggest leaving the home at least 30 minutes prior to the booked time.

Having everything ready on the day of inspection can prevent unnecessary delays. Unfortunately, for liability reasons, the home inspector is not required, nor advised, to move items blocking access to areas that need to be inspected. Additionally, for liability reason, they are not required to operate any system or component that has been shut down, and this may include any shut-off valves or even tripped breakers in the electrical panel. The home inspector does not have enough information to know why a particular system has been shut down and if they were to reactivate it, it could potentially put your house, the component or a system at risk.

If possible, you should consider leaving a written list, plus receipts that could answer typical maintenance-related questions from the buyer and the home inspector. As an example, can you provide information about the age of the roof, heating system, recent upgrades, etc. and are there any transferrable warranties?

To make the process as smooth as possible, you should verify the following:

  • All utilities are on.
  • Attic access doors are clear of clothing or stored items. Access may be in a closet, hallway or garage.
  • Crawl-space entrances are not blocked or nailed in place.
  • Water meter and main water line are accessible.
  • Water heater and surrounding area are accessible.
  • Furnace and surrounding area are accessible.
  • Air conditioning/heat pump units and surrounding area are accessible.
  • Electrical panels are accessible and not locked.
  • Electrical subpanels are accessible.
  • Decorative items from doors and windows are removed (including sun catchers, plants, etc.).
  • Kitchen countertops are clear.
  • Foundation walls, especially the corners of the basement are clear of stored items.
  • The garage overhead and service doors are clear of items.
  • Be sure all exterior doors are accessible
  • Remove any locks on outside gates, which prevent full access to the exterior.

As a general rule of thumb, the home inspector will need at about three feet of workspace in order to safely access electrical panels, heating systems, HRV, etc. So, please remove boxes, stored items and debris from these areas.

Submitted by Lawrence Englehart, GPI Franchise Owner, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Top Five Problems Revealed During a Home Inspection

Purchasing a house is a major decision, and a home inspection report can be used to assist in the decision-making process. Here are some of the more common issues found during a home inspection.

 

Poor Grading and Drainage

Water should run away from any structure to help prevent moisture intrusion. If the soil around a house slopes toward the house, or if water pools around the perimeter of the foundation, that moisture can create hydronic pressure in the soil that can move the foundation, causing cracks and leaks that can lead to extensive damage and expensive repairs. If water wicks into the wood framing members, the wood will rot over time. This moisture also provides a haven for wood-destroying organisms (WDO) because it provides a water and food source.

Erosion around the perimeter of a house may be caused by water spilling over gutters due to clogged downspouts or downspouts that terminate near the foundation. Downspout extensions or spill ways can be installed to keep water away from the foundation.

Roof Coverings

The roof of a house is designed to withstand most of what Mother Nature can dish out, whether it be rain, wind or sun. If installed properly, the roof should keep water out of the home.

The life expectancy for roof coverings varies depending on the material. Asphalt composite shingles, for instance, typically have a life expectancy of 15 to 25 years. As the roof covering ages, it can become more susceptible to water infiltration and leaking.

Plumbing Problems

Notice a theme here? Controlling water is one of the most important issues in home maintenance.

Leaking supply water and drain lines can cause damage to walls and floors, or they can become the water source for mold and mildew. Outdated (galvanized) or problematic systems (polybutylene) can develop leaks more frequently. Wax rings under toilets can develop leaks and damage the floor around the toilet or the ceiling below.

Electrical Issues

House fires caused by faulty wiring and overloading circuits are common. It is not unusual for a home inspector find evidence of DIY additions to a home’s electrical system. Many times these additions work but were not done properly, causing safety issues.

Exposed wire connections and double taps in the panel are also common problems. If your home inspector finds these or other electrical issues, he/she will recommend that you have the system evaluated and repaired by a qualified licensed electrician

HVAC Havoc

Inadequate maintenance of the HVAC equipment is common. Dirty condenser coils on the air conditioner condenser unit and dirty furnace filters can lead to major repairs. The equipment may be at or near its life expectancy and need to be replaced. Gas-fired furnaces may not burn properly.

With proper maintenance, an HVAC system can continue to heat and cool the house, but many times heating and cooling systems are “out of sight out of mind.”

This is a sampling of typical issues found during a home inspection. These items may vary depending on the geographical location of the property and the overall maintenance of the property.

By Kenn Garder, National Accounts Manager and Technical Support, NPI/GPI

Content originally published in February of 2016.

December 2018: Preparing for Winter

Ask The Inspector

Top 5 Problems Revealed During a Home Inspection

Purchasing a house is a major decision, and a home inspection report can be used to assist in the decision-making process. Here are some of the more common issues our inspectors find during a home inspection. Learn more

How Should a Seller Prepare for a Home Inspection?

If your home is being inspected, there are certain things you’ll need to do to prepare. Find out the best way to get appliances, systems and more ready with this advice—straight from one of our Global Property Inspections inspectors. Learn more

Expert Advice

Prevent Injuries by Practicing Ladder Safety

A recent Consumer Product Safety Commission report on ladder safety showed some startling statistics: each year, thousands of people are injured and hundreds more lose their lives. By understanding the leading causes of ladder accidents, the vast majority can be prevented.  Learn more

How to Remove a Popcorn Ceiling

Love them or hate them, popcorn ceilings have a real presence in older North American homes. If you’re in the “no way” camp, the good news is you don’t have to live with your popcorn ceilings forever. Learn how to remove all that texture with a little DIY know-how. Learn more

Two-Prong Outlets vs. Three-Prong Outlets: Does it Matter?

Ever wonder why the older electrical receptacles have only two slots, and don’t have the hole below the slots to allow three prongs, or if they can be switched out? Sometimes they can, but other times that would be a potentially dangerous mistake. Here’s why. Learn more

Snapshots From The Field

What’s wrong with this picture?

This photo shows Styrofoam used as a filler in a poured concrete foundation wall of a house in an area of California at risk for earthquakes. As you may have guessed, Styrofoam is not an acceptable filler in this situation, and the home inspector recommended further evaluation by a qualified structural engineer.

Maintenance Matters

Drafty Windows? We Have Help

There is a chill in the air, the North Wind has an extra bite and a draft is coming through the windows. What can you do to keep the cold air out? Try these four tried and true DIY projects you can complete in just one weekend. Learn more

Water in My Basement? Never

No homeowner would knowingly do anything that would lead to a wet basement. “Knowingly” being the operative word. Here’s what builders, contractors and homeowners alike can do to prevent drainage issues and keep homes dry. Learn more

Tips for Proper Furnace Maintenance

Gas furnaces are a fixture in countless homes. To help your system stay strong throughout its lifespan, you’ll want to get on a regular maintenance program. Whether you decide to undertake upkeep yourself or you hire a professional, here’s what you need to know about your gas furnace. Learn more

 

Monthly Trivia Question

Question: True or False: New home constructions don’t need to be inspected.

False.

Add Value to Your Home with These Improvements

You probably have a long list of remodeling projects you want to get around to, and sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. Of course you want to remodel your home based on your personal tastes, but if you’re looking to move soon, it’s better to look at renovations and improvements that will add value to your home. We’ve compiled the four best home upgrades that will put the most money in your pocket when it comes time to sell.

1. A New Front Door

Nothing beats a new steel front door when it comes to recouping your investment. A new steel front door boosts curb appeal, rejuvenating your home’s appearance to make a great first impression for homebuyers. You can have a professional install your new door (for give or take $2000), in which case you’ll recover about 75% of the cost, or you can DIY this project (for around $250) and recoup up to a whopping 600%.

If you go the DIY route, make sure to get acquainted with the parts of the door you’re installing before you start in. If it’s your first time, you can expect to spend a bit more time on this project (don’t be surprised if it takes you six or eight hours). Oh, and enlist a friend to help—it’s a lot easier with two people, trust us.

2. New Hardwood Floors

Buyers love hardwood floors, and they’ll pay to get them (to the tune of about $5000 at closing). If you install those hardwood floors yourself, you can potentially make a 282% profit. It might be a multi-day affair if you haven’t worked with flooring before, but don’t worry—the techniques aren’t hard to master and it’s worth rolling up your sleeves to pocket the extra savings. Even if you hire a professional, though, this improvement will just about pay for itself.

If you have hardwood floors already and just want to give them a facelift, you can do that with a simple sand-and-refinish job. Floor sanders and other supplies are available to rent at most home improvement stores to make the process easy and affordable.

3. A Bathroom Update

We’re not talking about demolition down to the studs, but a mid-range bathroom update will definitely add value to your home and improve your return on investment. Replacing your bathroom’s essentials (meaning the tub, tile surround and floor, toilet, sink, fixtures and vanity) will run you somewhere in the range of $10,500, while you’ll average a tidy $10,700 back at closing. Of course if you do the update yourself instead of hiring out, you’ll pocket even more.

4. Fiberglass Attic Insulation

Attic insulation is one of those things you never pay attention to, but you sure know if it’s not there. Having adequate insulation is the best way to keep comfortable in both hot and cold weather while keeping your energy bills low, but up to an astounding 90 percent of homes don’t have enough. If you can see the floor joists in your attic, you have at most 6-7 inches of insulation, only half of what the U.S. Department of Energy recommends. Depending on where you live, you could need even more.

The good news is that insulation is easy to add yourself, and it’s also one of the most inexpensive and worthwhile upgrades on our list, costing you only about $700 to add $1500 of value when you sell.

National Property Inspections Helps You Improve Your Home

From home energy audits to full inspections, NPI has you covered when you want to find ways to add value to your home. Find your local inspector today to schedule an appointment.

Tips for Proper Furnace Maintenance

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A gas furnace is a key piece of equipment in a home. Most furnaces are installed centrally in the house but often are tucked away in a closet, up in the attic, or in the basement or crawl space. In other words, they may not be the easy to access. To help your home’s heating equipment live a good, long life, regular maintenance is strongly recommended. Just because the furnace is out of sight doesn’t mean it should be out of mind.

Many HVAC companies offer service agreements that include a regular scheduled maintenance program. Or maybe you’re a handy do-it-yourselfer who wants to get their hands dirty and take care of things themselves. If that’s you,  here are a few furnace maintenance tips.

  1. Change the filter regularly. The filter prevents dirt from entering the furnace. Dirt and debris can build up on the blower fan and in the ductwork, which can also reduce air flow, wasting fuel and drastically lowering the unit’s efficiency. The filter may be changed monthly, quarterly or annually, depending on the type of filter and the conditions the furnace is operating under. Generally, we recommend changing the filter monthly. Make sure to use the proper size filter.
  2. Remember safety first. When maintaining your furnace, follow some basic safety practices. Most furnaces have a service switch that can be shut off so the unit won’t turn on during maintenance. Check for gas leaks and loose wires before you begin cleaning the furnace. If you smell gas smell or notice a loose wire, contact an HVAC professional.
  3. Clean the blower and ducts. The blower assembly is usually next to the filter, so the dust and dirt that penetrates or goes around the air filter goes to the blower. Use a damp cloth or vacuum to clean the blower, belts and pulleys to remove any accumulated dirt.
  4. Inspect the fan. After the dirt has been removed, make sure the fan spins smoothly and is properly secured. The bearings on the fan and motor may need lubricating, and if the fan is belt-driven, then the fan belt should be checked for proper tension.

Cleaning and maintaining a furnace is not a daunting task and is fairly inexpensive to complete. Proper maintenance will extend the service life of your equipment and help your furnace stay energy efficient.

By Kenn Garder, National Accounts Manager and Technical Support, NPI/GPI

Water in My Basement? Never

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No home owner would knowingly do anything that would lead to a wet basement. “Knowingly” being the operative word.

Let’s start with the builder. Hopefully, every builder knows to grade the yard in such a fashion that rainwater will naturally run away from the house on all four sides. If that’s done, then so far so good.

Many home owners like to add flowerbeds next to the house to enhance the beauty of the property (the maintenance of which virtually eliminates any free time they might otherwise have, but that story is for another day). That flowerbed next to the house is now flat, or nearly flat, and won’t necessarily direct rainwater away from the house. Sometimes home owners go one step further and use landscape timbers to wrap or frame the flowerbeds next to the house. Now we have a framed-in, flat space next to the house that rather than shedding rainwater probably traps it. This is not a guarantee that this will lead to a wet basement, but it greatly increases the odds.

Let’s go back to the builder for a moment. I couldn’t find a picture that shows this and was too lazy to keep looking, so please use your imagination. Depending on how the builder ties a sidewalk into a patio or driveway and wraps that sidewalk back toward and close to the house, this trapped space between the sidewalk and house — just like the landscape timbers mentioned previously — can act as a dam that holds water that just might find a way into the basement.

A missing downspout is a common cause for a wet basement. It might be something as simple as the homeowner removed it while mowing the grass and forgot to replace it — and then it rained that night.

How about a wet basement and an optical illusion? My neighbor told me he got water in one corner of his basement every time it rained hard. The gutter and downspout in this corner looked fine, and the grading appeared sufficiently pitched to shed rainwater. However, when I pulled back all the mulch piled up in this corner, I found a significant depression causing negative grading. Rather than shedding rainwater away from the house, it was being funneled directly toward this corner. Once discovered, it was a relatively easy fix for my neighbor.

A point I would like to leave you with is this: A home inspector is not going to routinely pull back mulch to look for negative grading. It could be there and simply hidden by an optical illusion. A good inspector can tell you a lot, but based on the limited time on the premises, they can’t tell you everything.

By Roland Bates, President, NPI/GPI