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Reverse Polarity: What it Is and Why You Should Be Concerned

Quite simply, reverse polarity means that the wires in an electrical receptacle were installed incorrectly. A receptacle with reverse polarity will have the white (neutral) wire screwed to the hot side (copper screw) and the black (hot) wire screwed to the neutral side (silver screw). The bare or green wire should be connected to the green ground screw on the receptacle.

A home inspector will flag any outlets that are reversed polarity. Why should you be concerned about reversed polarity? Most electrical appliances and devices are designed so that the on/off switch interrupts electrical power at the point of entry into the appliance, device circuitry or components. If the hot and neutral wires are reversed, then it is possible that the device could be energized even if the switch is turned off. Reversed polarity on an electrical outlet should be considered an unsafe condition, as the risks include damage to the appliance, short circuit, shock or fire.

How Can I Tell if My Receptacles Have Reverse Polarity?

You can purchase a plug-in type voltage tester at your local hardware store. These are generally inexpensive. The tester will include a chart that will tell you which lights should illuminate when you plug it in to a properly wired outlet. The chart will also indicate what the other lighting combinations mean, such as an open ground condition.

How Do I Fix Reverse Polarity?

Once you find a receptacle with reversed polarity, leave the plug-in tester plugged into the receptacle and find the circuit breaker that is delivering the voltage to that line. Turn the breaker OFF. When you return to the receptacle there should be no lights lit up on the tester. If there are, then you turned off the wrong breaker. Try again.

With the power to that circuit OFF, remove the cover plate and the two screws holding the receptacle to the wall box. Gently pull the receptacle out of the box. If there are any other wires inside the box, use a touch-style voltage tester to ensure that they are also OFF. If they are hot, find the circuit breaker feeding them and turn it OFF as well.

Inspect your receptacle. A receptacle with reversed polarity will have the white (neutral) wire screwed to the hot side (copper screw) and the black (hot) wire screwed to the neutral side (silver screw). The bare or green wire should be connected to the green ground screw on the receptacle. Simply remove the white and black wires and connect them to their properly intended sides of the receptacle. To wire it properly, the black gets connected to the dark or copper-colored screw and the white wire gets connected to the silver screw. If the wire looks brittle or damaged, use wire strippers to cut the old wire away and strip off a 3/4-inch fresh section of insulation. Wrap a strip of electrical tape around the screw terminals for added safety, resecure the receptacle to the wall box and attach the cover plate.

Finally, plug the voltage tester in to the receptacle and then turn the circuit breakers back on. When you get back to the receptacle, the tester should indicate proper wiring. If, for whatever reason it still reads reverse polarity, then the problem may be in another receptacle or in a junction box somewhere. In that case, your best bet would then be to call a licensed electrician.

By Jon McCreath, NPI Franchise Owner, Emerson, Georgia

How to Organize Your Garage in One Weekend

The garage is one of those spaces that often serves as a “dump” zone. Not only does it house bikes, tools and lawnmowers, anything that can’t be stored inside tends to get shuffled off there. And before you know it, you can’t see the floor! While we realize everyone’s storage space and belongings are different, we have a few tips to help you organize your garage in a stress-free way that makes sense.

It’s Not Just You

Before you go feeling ashamed at the state of your garage, know that up to 57 percent of people with a two-car can’t even park one vehicle inside due to the sheer volume of clutter. Whether you want to blame it on consumerism, the homeowner DIY movement, or something else entirely, Americans have a lot of stuff. And with our busy schedules, we don’t make a lot of time to think about how we store it.

Because we’re betting on there being several years’ worth of clutter to sort through, we recommend setting aside one full weekend to conquer your garage with your undivided attention. It might not be the most fun you’ve ever had, but it’ll be worth it.

Make it a Family Event

Depending on how much stuff you’re dealing with, you may want to enlist the help of family or friends. Order lunch and have snacks and drinks on hand to make it an event. You may even be able to pass along your unwanted items to someone who’ll use and love them right then and there, saving you a trip to a donation center and making it a win-win for everyone.

Prepare to Go Through Every Single Item

No cutting corners! You’ll want to go through every drawer, cabinet, box and shelf to determine what stays and what needs to go. If you have screwdrivers and other small items scattered to the winds, try to place them together in a clearly labeled box so you can see what you have to work with.

Make Keep, Donate, Sell and Throw Away Piles

Everything in your garage will ideally fall under the categories of Keep, Donate, Sell and Toss. Clearly label sections of your driveway or yard for these areas and make sure all your helpers are onboard with the plan (it’s surprisingly easy to get mixed up once you’re on a roll!).

Sort Everything That’s Left Over

Once everything is divided into the above four categories, it’ll need to be broken down even further into frequently used items, like items, rarely used items and things that can be stored off the floor. You might categorize things accordingly:

Frequently used items: items like boots, jackets, pet leashes, shopping bags and seasonal sports equipment should be placed near the door that leads into your home for easy access. All the better if they can hang on hooks to keep floor space clear.

Like items: Gardening and lawn care, auto care, off-season sports equipment and any hobby items, like painting supplies, for example, should be organized together in different zones. A large shelving unit works well for this purpose.

Rarely used items: Holiday decorations, table saws, spare tires . . . these are all important items to have on hand, even if they don’t get used more than once a year. A separate shelving unit devoted to these objects will help you keep them organized. Be sure to clearly label any opaque bins with stickers facing outward so that you’re not stuck going through a bunch to find what you need.

Off-the-floor items: The more empty floor space you leave yourself to work with, the more clean and open your garage will feel. Follow this simple rule—anything that can be stored off the floor should be stored off the floor. Find hooks and hanging apparatuses for everything from shovels and rakes to bicycles and lawn chairs at your nearest home improvement store.

Get Ready to Cut Your Losses, Even on Big Ticket Items

In an ideal world, we would make back the majority of our money on gently used items that we wanted to sell rather than donate. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always pan out this way. Storing items that need selling long-term will only put a roadblock in your way to a clean and organized garage. Make a deal with yourself: you’ll hang on to items that you’d like to recoup some money from for two weeks. Post them on Facebook, advertise them in your front yard, put an ad on Craigslist and spread the word among friends and family. If no one is biting, demand might be too low, and you’ll need to let go of it for free.

Check Your Local Home Improvement Store for Storage Solutions

Once you’ve got your garage organized, you’ll need storage solutions that will be up to the task for the long haul. Choose your hooks, bins, tool chests and shelving carefully. Avoid guesswork: see what you have to store after you’ve finished with the task of sorting through your things and draw up a plan for what you have left. Take measurements and bring your sketch with you to the store so that you can get valuable feedback from staff.

Most Importantly: Stop Tossing Things in the Garage

You don’t want to go back to square one, do you? Break the habit of tossing stuff in your garage once and for all and save yourself a ton of time and effort later. Make it a yearly task to sort out the small amount of clutter that will inevitably end up there, and keep using your garage for its intended purpose.

Call National Property Inspections Today for Your Residential Inspection Needs

At NPI, our inspectors are trained to access the condition of all the major systems in your home, including the roof, foundation, plumbing and more. Contact us today!

Solid vs. Hollow: A Quick Primer on Door Types

Door TypesWe’ve talked before about how new doors can do wonders for your home’s curb appeal and give the interior a more modern look. But there’s more to consider besides color and style. You’ll want to know about the different door types and which one is best-suited for your needs.

Hollow Door Types: Interior Use Only

The first rule of door shopping is to reserve hollow doors for interior use only. While these door types aren’t technically hollow (they have a fiberboard honeycomb structure inside to prevent warping), they’re still lightweight. This means an intruder could easily break them in with a blunt object – something we all need to avoid.

Hollow core doors are inexpensive, lightweight and easy to install, but they do have a few drawbacks. For one, sound can travel easily through a hollow door. If soundproofing is of special concern in your home, you’ll want to choose solid doors (which we’ll get to in a moment). Also, if you haven’t found the perfect finish and plan to do some refurbishing work, you may want to reconsider hollow doors. The surface of a hollow door is only about one eighth of an inch thick. This doesn’t account for much, if any sanding.

So what are hollow doors good for? Many homeowners prefer to opt for this low-cost alternative for utility rooms, laundry rooms, closets, basements and other areas where soundproofing and aesthetics aren’t as important. Depending on the size of your home, you could save hundreds of dollars!

Splurge on Solid Wood Doors

One cursory peek at door prices at your local home improvement store will tell you that solid wood doors can be significantly more expensive than other options. But there are several reasons why solid wood doors might be a valuable investment for your home.

First, solid wood doors are attractive, and they’re sturdy. They’re weighted well and give your home an elevated feel. Solid wood doors are also durable and can withstand years of heavy use. Among the various door types, they provide the most insulation, making them excellent for your energy bill. These insulating capabilities extend beyond energy to sound – with solid wood doors, you likely won’t need additional soundproofing (unless you happen to have a full-time musician in your midst). And if you plan to sell soon, solid wood doors could help you name a higher asking price.

Solid Core Doors: The Perfect Compromise

With solid core doors, hollow core doors and solid wood doors meet in the middle to create yet another option that might just help you experience the best of both worlds. Only moderately more expensive than hollow core doors, solid core doors have the potential to provide just as much soundproofing as the solid wood variety. They have a solid fiberboard core, which gives them more weight and sturdiness, as well as a surface that allows for some finishing work.

National Property Inspections Can Help You Find Hidden Repairs in Your Home

For answers to questions about all your home’s most important systems, call National Property Inspections. Our inspectors can keep you in the know when it comes to maintaining your most important investment – your home.

Painting Upholstery: Easier and More Effective Than You Think

  • painting upholsteryWe have to admit, the idea of transforming a piece of furniture that’s seen better days with just a little paint seems too good to be true. Believe it or not, painting upholstery actually works, provided you know the right technique. Here’s how you can achieve a soft finish and the best results.

Get Some Practice In

It might seem like a pain, but it really helps to try out painting upholstery on a “practice” piece of furniture before you try it out on a piece you’re set on keeping. Maybe a friend or family member has a chair, couch or loveseat they wouldn’t mind passing along. You can also scout yard sales and thrift stores for a great deal. If the piece is a similar color to the one you’re flipping for real, you’ll also have the added bonus of being able to swatch colors pretty accurately.

The Secret to a Soft Finish

You’re probably wondering if painting upholstery leaves it stiffer. In some cases, with certain materials, yes, you’ll definitely achieve a more leather-like finish that might even be prone to a little cracking. Our technique is designed to leave your furniture as soft as it was originally. And the secret? It’s just about the simplest ingredient you can think of: water. Yep, the key to treating paint so that it works more like a fabric dye is to dilute it with water.

For this project, you’ll need:

  • Water
  • A spray bottle
  • Measuring cups
  • A stiff brush
  • 1 quart Latex paint in the color of your choice
  • Fabric/Textile Medium (plan on two to four bottles for a chair and more like four to eight for a sofa)
  • Large container for mixing (you may want to opt for a disposable bowl for easy cleanup)
  • Sand paper

Step 1: Mix Up Your Paint and Get Your Spray Bottle Ready

You’ll be working with this ratio:

1 part paint : 1 part fabric medium : 2 parts water

Use your measuring cups to get the ratio right and mix everything in your container or bowl. Then fill your spray bottle up with water—room temperature is fine, don’t worry about going ultra-cold or hot.

Step 2: Apply the Mixture

Before you apply the mixture, you need to make sure that the fabric is damp, but not soaking wet. Getting the fabric damp will keep your paint mixture from running all over the place and creating a mess.

Don’t spray the entire piece at once. Instead, you’ll work section by section. Spray a section, then use long strokes to paint the mixture on with your brush. You’ll be adding multiple coats to take care of any splotches or patterns peeking through, so you don’t need to worry about applying it too thick. Just one thin layer will do. Allow the first layer to dry completely.

Step 3: Sand Down Pills

Once the first layer of paint is completely dry, you’ll probably notice a little pilling. Use your sandpaper to gently remove it. Sanding also helps keep the fabric nice and soft, so it’s not a bad idea to go over the whole piece. You shouldn’t notice much, if any, paint loss.

Step 4: Apply Another Layer

Using the exact same method described above, apply another layer of paint, first taking care to dampen the fabric. Allow it to dry completely and repeat the sanding process. You may find that two coats is enough, but it does depend on the type and color of the upholstery. You can repeat the painting and sanding process until you’re satisfied with the results.

Call National Property Inspections Today for Your Home Inspection Needs

At National Property Inspections, our highly trained expert inspectors can help determine the condition of your home’s major components. Call us today and buy or sell with confidence.

April 2018: Spring Tips for the Home

Ask The Inspector

Understanding Your Home’s Phantom Load

What if we told you your home is full of phantoms? Your home’s phantom load, or the amount of energy that appliances consume when they’re turned off, can be scary for your electric bill. Luckily, you can cut back phantom usage with this quick guide. Learn More

3 Tips for Child Safety at Home

While home is often the safest place to be, your house could pose unseen threats to your family. Here are some ways you can prevent accidents around your home and have a healthier, happier household. Learn More

Expert Advice

Flipping Houses 101

If you’ve already mastered homeownership, you may be looking for your next investment. Here’s how to know if flipping houses is right for you, as well as the best types of fixer-upper homes to look out for. Learn More

Why Does My House Smell?

Sometimes previous owners can leave things behind. And sometimes, those things aren’t tangible items, like plates and furniture – they’re smells. Before you walk away from your dream home, use these tips to pinpoint the source of odors and be on your way to breathing easy. Learn More

Snapshots From The Field

Every day on the job, our inspectors come across safety hazards that you and your family should know about. Here’s one that’s far more common that you might think, and fortunately there’s an easy fix.

A clogged dryer vent is one of your home’s most dangerous fire hazards. Each year, more than 2,900 house fires originate in clogged dryer vents. While we cover the topic a lot, this photo from just a few weeks ago proves that it never hurts to keep spreading the word!

Remember, when it comes to your dryer vent, it doesn’t end with cleaning the lint trap (though that’s definitely part of it). You’ll also need to periodically clean the vent itself. Here’s how to go about cleaning if your vent is less than three feet long and leads outside:

  1. Empty the lint screen like you normally would after a load of laundry.
  2. Unplug the dryer, then move it away from the wall to access the vent.
  3. You’ll notice a tube leading from the back of your dryer to a hole in the wall—this is the vent, and the tubing will have to be detached from the back of the dryer in order to clean it. It’s generally attached to your dryer with a set of four screws, which can be removed with a normal flat or Philips head screwdriver.
  4. Using the nozzle attachment on your vacuum cleaner, vacuum as much lint as you can, as far as you can down the tube and into the vent.
  5. Hook everything back up.
  6. Going outside, locate the escape vent and make sure it’s also clear of visible debris. Once the vent is clear, run the dryer and make sure hot air is flowing freely to the outside.
  7. You’re done!

If your vent is long and doesn’t vent directly outside, just give a call your nearest professional.

Maintenance Matters

How to Remove Scratches from Wood Floors

We all know that replacing hardwood floors can be time-consuming and expensive. Before you start looking for a contractor, try this simple technique for fixing scratches, pet damage and more. Learn More

Your 7-Item Checklist for an Efficient Air Conditioner

Whether you run your A/C year-round or you’re gearing up for warmer temperatures, you can perform this easy checkup on your system to make sure that it’s running as smoothly as possible. Learn More

How to Clean a Clogged Showerhead in 6 Easy Steps

There’s nothing more annoying than a clogged showerhead. If your water pressure has been feeling weak lately, try this simple, chemical-free trick for unclogging a blocked showerhead. Learn More

Dos and Don’ts for Pet Stains in Carpet

If you’ve ever been frustrated that a pet stain hasn’t fully disappeared no matter how hard you scrub, this article is for you. We’ll tell you everything you need to know to get your carpets looking fresh and new again. Learn More

Monthly Trivia Question

How much electricity (in U.S. dollars) do modern appliances on low power mode waste each year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency?

A. $1Million
B. $5 Million
C. $4 Billion
D. Over a Trillion

Be the first to answer correctly and win a $10 Starbucks’s gift card. Submit your answer to find out if you’ve won.

DIY Countertop Repair for Scratches and Scuffs

Granite and tile countertop repair

If you cook a lot, chances are your countertops have seen better days. Every scratch and chip tells a story, from that pan you dropped to the knife that slipped. The good news is that there are some simple countertop repairs you can do yourself to make your counters look like new and save some money in the process.

Granite

Granite countertops are known for their durability, but even granite can show signs of wear like scratches, chips and cracks with regular use. Granite is also one of the most expensive options when it comes to counters, so it’s lucky that there are inexpensive options to repair it.

To repair an unsightly crack or scratch in granite, you’ll need to gather a few materials: acetone or nail polish remover, an epoxy resin granite repair kit (you’ll find this at your local home improvement store), a scrub sponge, a razor blade, paper towels and a hairdryer.

Acetone works wonders for cutting through grease or any other residue to make your granite surface really clean. Wet a paper towel with it and wipe over your countertop (if you’re using nail polish remover, do a spot test first to make sure it doesn’t discolor your surface). Use your scrub sponge to further loosen any deposits, then wipe the granite down with another paper towel to make sure the surface is dry (hit it with the hairdryer for a few minutes on low to be sure).

Now you’re ready for the epoxy kit. Epoxy resin can be colored to match the dominant color of your granite for an undetectable repair. Mix the epoxy according to the manufacturer’s directions, then apply it to the crack with the stir stick included in the kit. Since the epoxy will settle a little as it cures, apply epoxy above the level of the crack. Put a piece of tape over the epoxy (this helps the surface flatten as it dries).

Tile

Repairing tile countertops can be easy if you have extra matching tiles saved. Identify the cracked tile that needs replacing, then use a grout saw to cut around and loosen the tile. Next, use a hammer to break the tile into pieces. Add a chisel to the equation to remove all the broken tile pieces, then vacuum up whatever’s left in terms of loose debris. Once you have a clean surface to work with, take your new tile and apply mortar to the back, pressing it into place. Once the mortar is dry, regrout around the tile and you’re done!

If you don’t have extra tile, you still have some options. First, you can use fine-grit sandpaper to fade scratches (just make sure you don’t rub too hard, otherwise you’ll end up with an irregular surface). For deeper scratches, nicks or chips, you can use an acrylic repair kit, available at any home improvement store, that’s colored to match your tile.

Butcher Block Counters

If you’ve been using your butcher block counter as a cutting board and want to breathe some life back into it, first you’ll have to thoroughly clean it.

  • For any stuck-on food residue, remove it with the edge of a metal spatula, taking care not to gouge the wood
  • Next, use hot water, a scrub sponge and some mild dish soap to scrub the counter. Rinse well with a clean dishcloth and more hot water.
  • After the countertop dries completely, you can move on to the next step, sanding.

Preferably you want to use an orbital sander for this, using fine-grit sandpaper and applying light pressure over the entire surface of the counter for an even finish. This helps remove light scratches and scuffs. For deeper scratches and gouges in the wood, you can fill them with wood putty that matches the color of your counter. Roll the putty between your fingers and pack it tightly into any deeper scratches. Once it dries and hardens, you can sand the putty down to a smooth surface. Finish by conditioning your butcher block counter with a light coat or two of mineral oil.

Repairing your countertops is an easy way to add value to your home once it’s time to sell. National Property Inspections is here to help you make the most of your biggest investment, so call us today and make an appointment.

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. Call us today to schedule an appointment.

Your Crash Course in Dryer Vent Cleaning

It’s hard to believe that your home’s dryer vent is also one of its most dangerous fire hazards. In fact, more than 2,900 residential fires originate in dryer vents every year. Besides the fire risk, a clogged dryer vent mixed with the warm, humid air of your dryer can lead to mold problems, too. Luckily, preventing safety issues is easy as long as you keep the area free of debris. Keep reading to learn how to spot a dicey venting situation as well as the best dryer vent cleaning methods.

First, let’s break down how a clothes dryer actually works and why it needs a vent in the first place. Dryers help evaporate water by blowing hot air past clothes as they tumble in a drum. Depending on the size of the load and type of garments, dryers can eliminate up to a gallon of water.

If it weren’t for your external dryer vent, all that moisture, not to mention a good amount of lint and fuzz would wind up back in your home. This probably goes without saying, but all that moisture and lint is terrible for your indoor air quality, plus it makes for quite a mess (think a thick coating of gray dust. . .everywhere).

Here’s how to know if you’re facing a clogged dryer vent:

  • A burnt smell emanates from the laundry room whenever you turn the dryer on
  • Your clothes are hotter than normal at the end of the dryer’s normal cycle
  • Your clothes are taking forever to dry or aren’t fully dry after one cycle
  • The outside of your dryer is unusually hot
  • Your laundry room is hot and humid

How to Clean a Clogged Dryer Vent

If your dryer vent is less than three feet long and vents directly outside without any twists or turns, you can probably clean it yourself using these steps:

  1. Empty the lint screen like you normally would after a load of laundry.
  2. Unplug the dryer, then move it away from the wall to access the vent.
  3. You’ll notice a tube leading from the back of your dryer to a hole in the wall—this is the vent, and the tubing will have to be detached from the back of the dryer in order to clean it. It’s generally attached to your dryer with a set of four screws, which can be removed with a normal flat or Philips head screwdriver.
  4. Using the nozzle attachment on your vacuum cleaner, vacuum as much lint as you can, as far as you can down the tube and into the vent.
  5. Hook everything back up.
  6. Going outside, locate the escape vent and make sure it’s also clear of visible debris. Once the vent is clear, run the dryer and make sure hot air is flowing freely to the outside.
  7. You’re done!

If your dryer vent is long and doesn’t vent directly outside (say if your laundry room isn’t adjacent to an exterior wall), it’s time to call in the professionals. A professional dryer vent cleaning service can run anywhere from $89 to $179 depending on your area, but it’s well worth it to prevent a house fire.

How to Prevent a Clogged Dryer Vent

The best way by far to keep your dryer vent as clear of lint as possible is to clean the lint trap after every load of laundry. This captures the vast majority of lint before it can make its way into the actual vent. Even if you clean the trap every time, though, a little bit of lint will still make its way through. If you have the kind of tubing that’s made of flexible ribbed material, lint can build up over time in the ribbing and cause problems. You can replace your ribbed dryer hose with a smooth-walled metal one, which will go a long way to keep lint from building up.

National Property Inspections Keeps Your Home Safe

Your NPI inspector is here to keep your family safe and healthy in your home. We can identify potential issues before they become big problems, so call us today today to schedule an appointment!

How to Remove Caulk the Right Way

We’re not going to beat around the bush—removing old caulk takes time and patience . . . in spades. But today we’re sharing a few tips that will make the job much easier in the long-run.

Step 1: Apply a caulk remover and walk away

For most caulk removers, the recommended wait time after application is two to three hours before you start prying up the old stuff. But in reality, the longer you wait, the easier it is to remove the caulk. Try waiting 12 hours (or overnight), and up to 24 hours if there are multiple layers to contend with. See, we told you it takes patience!

Step 2: Use the right tool for the job

Do not attempt to use a utility blade or knife. We repeat: do not attempt to use a utility blade or knife. Sure, you might see professionals use this sort of tool, but as a DIYer, you risk damaging the wall, not to mention yourself. Instead, use a caulk remover tool. These tools feature an easy-to-grip plastic handle and a shape that’s designed to align perfectly with old caulk. And don’t worry about cost. At approximately five to ten dollars each, caulk remover tools won’t break the bank.

Step 3: Use short back and forth motions to pry up caulk

Now that you’ve done all your waiting around and you’ve got your caulk remover tool in hand, it’s time to actually start prying. Place the hooked end of the tool into the seam and start using choppy, back-and-forth movements to loosen up the caulk. It should come up somewhat easily in long strips once you’ve gotten started. You might notice a fair bit of residue being left behind, but we’ll take care of that in a moment.

Step 4: Go back for the rest with a putty knife

Your caulk remover tool may be too large to get down in especially hard-to-reach areas, but a putty knife, or even a toothbrush can take care of the rest. Use the putty knife to gently pry up small, stubborn areas of caulk and the toothbrush to scrub away any excess. This is the part of the job that can get truly time-consuming, but totally worth it. Doing the job right is something to feel good about, after all.

Step 5: Clean your caulk-free surface

To make sure your newly cleaned surface is truly caulk and residue free, you’ll need to swab it with rubbing alcohol. Because mold is almost always a concern with old caulk, you’ll also want to create a cleaning solution that with eliminate mold and mildew. Mix together 1/3 cup of bleach with one gallon water, dip in a rag and wipe down the entire area, allowing it to air-dry completely. Before you go in with new caulk, you’ll need to make sure that you deep-clean all tile since soap scrum and other grime can affect the caulk’s ability to stick.

Call National Property Inspections today to have all your important home maintenance questions answered. Our expertly trained inspectors are knowledgeable about the ins and outs of both residential and commercial property and they have the skills to help you make the best decision for your home.

October 2016: Home Exteriors

Ask The Inspector

Home Exteriors

Some people quip – don’t judge a book by its cover – but when it comes to home inspections, conditions on the outside of the home are extremely important. The home’s exterior wall covering prevents water, pest and weather intrusion. As part of a general home inspection, your NPI professional will assess:

Ask The Inspector

  • The type of exterior cladding: brick, stucco, EIFS, traditional and vinyl siding, stone, asbestos or wood shingles.
  • The condition of exterior surfaces, including the presence or absence of any cracks, blisters, chips, evidence of moisture intrusion and improper installation practices.
  • The adequacy of clearance between the soil and exterior surface. Generally, 6-8 inches of clearance between the soil and exterior siding surfaces is preferred. Soil in contact with siding can cause rot and deterioration of the siding. Close contact can also promote termite and other wood destroying organisms and decay. The exception is brick masonry.

Each style and type of finish surface reacts differently to weather conditions and age. Based on the findings, an inspector may identify areas that need maintenance: repairs, repainting or caulking. This can be handy when planning budgets in years to come. Contact us for a quote on your next residential or commercial property inspection.

Be Advised

Weep holes

Brick can be a structural component of a home, serving as the wall itself, or a veneer, a type of siding. As a veneer, a single thickness of brick is added to the outside of a wood-framed home serving the same purpose as any exterior siding.

Be Advised

One way to identify brick veneer is the presence of weep holes. Weep holes are small openings at the bottom of brick veneer walls. They are designed to give moisture that accumulating in the space between the interior wooden wall and the exterior veneer a way out. Without weep holes for ventilation, moisture can become trapped in this cavity, causing mold, reducing the effectiveness of insulation, encouraging the formation of rot and attracting pests.

Weep holes can often be identified by open slots on a course, or row, of bricks near the foundation. The holes are typically 32-33 inches apart and should be kept clear of obstruction. It is a good idea to check and clear these weep holes periodically. Do not allow dirt, mulch or broken pieces of mortar to block the holes and trap moisture inside.

Snapshots From The Field

What’s Wrong With This Photo?

Snapshots From The Field

  1. A little caulk should solve this problem
  2. Install a drip cap and pan flashing to finish sealing the window
  3. The window installation is okay, there’s nothing wrong with it
  4. This is what appears to be an under-sized replacement window that has not been installed correctly.

Correct Answer is 4. This is what appears to be an under-sized replacement window that has not been installed correctly. Unless it is trimmed and sealed properly it will leak like a sieve.

Noteworthy News

Painting tips

A fresh coat of paint on wood siding or trim can often give a house some needed sparkle before an open house or sale. Fall, when weather is cool and dry, is a great time for this improvement. Here are a few tips to pass on to those who may consider painting the exterior of their home:

Noteworth News

If using a paint sprayer, make sure to move cars or other vehicles away from the area being painted. The paint does tend to drift. If the home pre-dates 1978, lead paint is probably present. Call the National Lead Information Center, 1-800-424-LEAD and request information before proceeding with your project.

Before climbing ladders, check corners, eaves, soffits, small holes and behind shutters for wasp or other stinging insect nests. Remove the nests before climbing the ladder. It’s important to locate any areas of damage, popped nails or failed caulking and to fix those areas prior to painting.

Right before making exterior maintenance changes to prep a house for sale may be the best time for an NPI pre-listing inspection. Pre-listing inspections include a thorough visual review of the exterior cladding for the home seller. Details of any damage are clearly outlined in the written report. This can help the seller select areas of maintenance to tackle and improve buyer confidence.

Maintenance Matters

Fall Clean-up Tips

There’s no better time to get prepared for cooler weather and wrap up end of year maintenance then October. Here are some things you can do to get ready for the winter:

Noteworth News

  • Make sure window screens are removed and storm windows are installed.
  • Automotive fluids and pesticides should be stored safely in their original containers in a location where children cannot reach them.
  • Clean or change your furnace filters depending on the type of system you have.
  • Check and clean the clothes dryer exhaust and the space under the dryer, removing any lint, dirt or other debris?
  • Make sure trees are trimmed safely back from the home reducing the danger of damage during storms?
  • Caulk all windows, doors and other openings in the home to keep heating costs down?

Be sure to be prepared for the winter to come. Taking some time now to hammer out those final maintenance items will allow for a stress-free winter.

Did You Know?

Ivy on Brickwork

A well-built masonry wall, constructed with quality materials, can be expected to last hundreds of years. A covering of ivy may shorten its life some if allowed to dislodge mortar and masonry. If construction is weaker, the effects of the ivy will be greater. Tendrils, and plant growth may also hold water against surfaces, staining the walls.

On the positive side, ivy shades the walls and can reduce summer cooling costs. Large leaves may help shed rainwater away from the wall. According to the Brick Industry Association, removal of ivy may cause more damage to the brickwork than the plants themselves. If removed, ivy should be cut, not pulled away from the wall. Using chemicals or acids can further damage the masonry construction. Growing vines should be trimmed away from windows, gutters, eaves, woodwork and other decorative items.

Monthly Trivia Question

What type of house has proven resilient enough to withstand the shock of earthquakes in seismic zones?

Be the first to answer correctly and win a $10 Starbuck’s gift card. Submit your answer to find out if you’ve won.