Posts

5 Signs You Might Have a Foundation Problem

5 Signs of Foundation Problems

Foundation issues can easily be one of the most expensive things you’ll deal with as a homeowner. The thing is, most of the time it’s kind of hard to tell what a real foundation problem is and what isn’t. Since literally everything rests on your foundation, you can see subtle signs that might spell foundation trouble all over your house—you just have to know where to look.

Before We Begin

It’s important to note that the following warning signs of foundation problems don’t necessarily mean you have one. The truth is that all houses settle over time—there’s no way around it, and a little bit of settling is to be expected. However, if you’re noticing many of these occurring at once, it’s a good idea to bring in a professional to get their opinion.

Also, keep in mind that the age of your home isn’t the only factor involved with foundation issues. Depending on the condition of the soil, the climate and more, even new houses can exhibit the problems below.

1. Doors and Windows are Tough to Close

A substantial shift in your foundation often causes doors and windows throughout the home to misalign. Windows might be difficult or impossible to open, while you’ll find that doors won’t latch easily and might catch on the frame and jamb.

2. Sagging Floors or Ceilings

Sagging floors or ceilings can indicate a number of problems: excessive settlement, termite infestation, or improperly spaced or altered floor joists. Sagging floors will generally be easy to recognize—you might notice some separation between your floorboards and baseboards, and you may even be able to feel the slope of a floor when standing on it.

3. Your Chimney’s On the Move

If your chimney’s starting to look like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, don’t ignore the issue. This can be a sign that the soil beneath your home has eroded and isn’t able to support it. Even if it’s not noticeably tilting, though, looks for signs of movement like cracked mortar or an uneven hearth that can signal the beginning of larger problems to come.

4. A New Mold Problem

You haven’t had mold problems in the past, but now it seems like new spots are popping up everywhere, including the basement. Before you blame the humidity, take a look at the state of your walls. Are there any cracks letting in moisture from outside? Cracks can be a normal part of house settling, but if they’re letting the elements in, they need some attention, stat.

5. Cracks in the Walls

This bears repeating—just because you have cracks in your walls, doesn’t mean you need to panic. Small vertical cracks around windows or doors are most likely normal and due to seasonal expansion and contraction of drywall and the wooden structure underneath. Cracks that are more than one-eighth inch wide, are horizontal or diagonal, or show a telltale “stair step” pattern in masonry joints are more of a cause for concern. Call in the experts when you see these signs.

Call National Property Inspections Today

NPI inspectors are professionally trained to identify the condition of a home’s most important features, including the foundation. Call us today to schedule an inspection before you buy.

September 2018: End of Summer

Ask The Inspector

Ask The Inspector

Building Permits: Why You Need One and How to Get It

As a home improvement guru, you might have the idea that building permits are a nuisance. While it’s true that building permits can be a pain, they actually serve a very important role that makes the process worthwhile. We’ll explain why building permits are a thing, why you need one and how to get one. Learn more

5 Signs You Might Have a Foundation Problem

Foundation issues can easily be one of the most expensive things you’ll deal with as a homeowner. Since literally everything rests on your foundation, you can see subtle signs that might spell trouble all over your house—you just have to know where to look. Learn more

How Long Your Appliances Will Last

Whether you’re getting ready to move into your new home with its own set of aging appliances, or you’re just taking stock of the ones you already own, it’s helpful to know just how much life is left in them. Here’s a breakdown of how long each appliance should last and how you can lengthen their lifespans. Learn more

Expert Advice

Ask The Inspector

 

How to Remove Paint from Wood

Removing paint from wood can be painstaking, but it’s definitely worth it for the results. We’ll show you the best tools and techniques to make the process as easy as possible. Learn more

Your Guide to the Humble Hammer

Few tools are more essential and multifunctional than a hammer. Hammers aren’t as simple as they look, though—there’s a variation for every job you can think of, and using the wrong one can be a waste of time and material, or even dangerous. Here’s a handy guide to some of the most common types of hammers and what they’re used for. Learn more

How to Tell If You Have Hard Water

Hard water. Soft water. If you’re not sure what the difference is, or what that difference means for your home, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll explain everything you need to know about hard water and how to tell if it’s an issue in your home. Learn more

Snapshots From The Field

What’s wrong with this picture?

Pictured here is the entrance to the attic in a brand new construction. But there appears to be something blocking the doorway—a roof truss!

When building or repairing a home, blocking any entry point should be avoided at all costs, but trusses present an especially big challenge. Since attic trusses support your home’s structure and help bear the weight of the roof, they play an endlessly important role in your home’s overall condition. Some trusses are more crucial than others, but it’s difficult to tell exactly what the “workload” of each truss is. To keep your home and family safe, you should never cut or attempt to remove a truss without a consultation from a professional engineer.

As for whether the truss blocking access to the attic in this new home will present a problem, it’s still up in the air. At worst, if any mechanical systems have been installed in the attic, it could be impossible to remove them for maintenance or replacement down the road without cutting the truss. At best, the partially obstructed access could prove an annoyance for the homeowners when it comes to placing items in the space for storage or other maintenance matters.

Maintenance Matters

Ask The Inspector

Do I need a new roof?

If you’ve asked yourself the question, “Do I need a new roof?” you might be wondering exactly how you can tell. Since it’s far better to get your roof replaced on a regular 20- to 25-year schedule than to wait until you experience leaks, we’re here to help you determine if it’s time for an overhaul. Learn more

8 Cleaning Tasks You Might Be Overlooking

Keeping a neat and tidy house is no easy task, and you’ll inevitably overlook a few much-needed cleaning duties from time to time. Here are eight oft forgotten jobs that are worth the extra effort for a healthier, happier home. Learn more

 

Monthly Trivia Question

Question: Which type of furnace typically lasts longer by up to three years, gas or electric?
Be the first to answer correctly and win a $10 Starbucks’s gift card. Submit your answer to find out if you’ve won.

August 2017: Foundation Inspections

Ask The Inspector

Foundation Inspections

Q: What Will my home inspector check on my home’s foundation?

Ask The Inspector

A. The structure of a home’s foundation depends on several factors, including soil type, climate, structural materials, building footprint, topography of the area and age of the building. Whether you have a basement or a slab, a good foundation is essential to a safe structure.

A home inspector will visually inspect the interior and exterior of the house to determine what type of foundation was used, including the materials. The inspector will also assess the current condition of visible areas of the foundation, including noting cracks, leaks, and areas where shifting or settling are visible.

Here are some elements an inspector will be on the lookout for:

  • Bowed or leaned foundations
  • Excessive water around the perimeter of foundation
  • Gaps and major cracks in the foundation
  • Crumbling or missing mortar joints
  • Decayed brick
  • Peeling stucco
  • Rock or brick piers that have begun to disintegrate
  • Wood columns that are rotted at ground level
  • Concrete piers that have major cracks
  • Rotting skirtboards at ground level

Home inspectors are not engineers and are not licensed to discuss the structural integrity of a house or areas that cannot be visually assessed, so in some cases your inspector may recommend further investigation by a structural engineer.

What your home or commercial inspector can do is point out problem areas, check the grading slope, assess the drainage of areas around the foundation where water ponding may cause leaks, and point out conditions that may become dangerous. For example, standing water in a basement or crawls pace, evidence of previous water damage, or water damage near electrical elements can be safety issues for anyone occupying the home.

Be Advised

Be Prepared For Future Home Projects

When you’re a homeowner, remodeling and repair projects seem like they never end. The process of home repair is daunting and the planning phases can often be stressful. Here are some tips to help you stay organized and prepared for your future projects:

Be Advised

Keep a notebook of repairs. List the date the work was completed, the cost and company you used. This can be an asset when it comes to building confidence in buyers if you ever decide to move and a quick resource when you need the next repair.

Mark electrical, water and gas shutoffs. If you plan to do the work yourself, make sure the appropriate utilities are off before you begin to work.

Call the national diggers hotline 8-1-1 if you plan to do any digging at all. Area utility representatives will come out and mark the locations of underground utility lines so that you can avoid hitting electrical lines, gas lines, telephone lines and cable service. One call can help prevent injury and costly property damage.

Keep a house savings fund. A good rule of thumb is to save 1-3 percent of the market value of your home each year for future maintenance.

Taking on these remodeling projects is always an excellent way to add value to your home. It makes your house more livable and turns it into the space you’ve always wanted. With a little planning, you can be organized and get your projects off the ground.

Snapshots From The Field

What Does This Photo Depict?
Snapshots From The Field

  1. This is the way to properly stair-step the shingles.
  2. Staggering the shingles this way helps shed rain water faster.
  3. This is a brand-new roof installed improperly.
  4. Tar on the flashing around the chimney is a permanent repair method.

Correct Answer C. This is a brand-new installation of a roof laid improperly.

Noteworthy News

Tips for Indoor Lighting

Indoor lighting serves both functional and ambient purposes. Some people prefer bright, overhead lighting while others are more at home in dimmer, lamp-lit settings. Regardless of your preference, you can certainly save money on your monthly electric bills by changing the way you light your home. Here, we offer several tips that will keep your home lit and inviting, as well as reduce energy use and costs:

Noteworthy News

  • Turn off the lights when you’re not in a room, or consider installing occupancy sensors to reduce the amount of time your lights are on.
  • Instead of those bright, overhead lights, use task lighting — focus the light where you need it by using lamps and under – cabinet lights.
  • Three-way lamps and bulbs allow you to set light bright when you need and save energy by setting the bulb for less light when you don’t need it.
  • Replace conventional light fixtures with 4-foot fluorescent fixtures in your garage, workshop, unfinished basement and laundry area.
  • Switch from incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) in all of your light fixtures and lamps. If you dislike the harshness of fluorescent light, look for CFLs marked “soft white.”
  • Maximize the sun’s light by choosing window coverings that allow light inside. Consider blinds that open and close, and try using light — colored, loose — weave curtains.
  • Compact fluorescent torchieres use 60 to 80 percent less energy than halogen torchieres. They also can produce more light and the bulbs stay cooler than halogen.
  • When you purchase light fixtures and lamps, look for the ENERGY STAR® label.

Using the right lighting means lower utility bills and more livable spaces. Find the lighting options that make for a more comfortable home, while benefiting from lower electrical usage.

Maintenance Matters

What You Need To Know About Your Foundation

In addition to having your foundation inspected by a qualified professional, there are also important foundation must-knows and must-dos that home owners should be familiar with:

MAINTENANCE MATTERS

Here are some key things you should look for:

  • Understand the type of foundation that supports your home
  • Protect your foundation from water damage by never allowing water to pool around it
  • Protect your foundation (and the rest of your home) from insects
  • Understand the basic structure of your home
  • Never modify or remove structural framing without an expert’s advice
  • Excessive cracking or movement may indicate potential problems that need to be further investigated
  • Keep gutters clean to prevent plugging and overflowing of downspouts and storm sewer lines
  • Keep window wells clean and free of all plant material. Fill the bottom of the well with gravel to allow for good drainage and stop plant growth

The foundation needs to be regularly checked and maintained like any other part of your home. It’s one of the most important components of any house and when taken care of, your home will stand strong for years to come.

Did You Know?

Focus on Your Fridge

Today, the average refrigerator lasts between 14 and 17 years, but the replacement cost can range from $900 to $8,000, so you’ll want to keep your fridge working efficiently as long as possible. Here are a few fridge tips to maximize the appliance’s life:

  • Check and clean door seals twice a year. To see whether your fridge seals are sealing properly, close a dollar bill in the door; if it slips out easily, have the seals checked by a professional.
  • Clean the condenser coils twice a year. Coils covered in dust and pet hair keep a fridge from running efficiently. To clean the coils, unplug the fridge, pull it away from the wall and vacuum the coils with the brush attachment.
  • Clean the condenser fan. While you have the fridge unplugged and pulled out from the wall, to clean the coils, remove the lower back cover with a screwdriver and then brush and vacuum the fan.
  • Keep the fridge full. A fridge needs thermal mass to maintain low temperatures, so if you don’t keep a full fridge all the time, store a few jugs of water inside.

Monthly Trivia Question

What is considered the ideal conditions for a buyer’s market?

  1. There are more houses for sale than buyers, homes take longer to sell, and sellers may have to cut prices.
  2. When there are more buyers than homes for sale, home prices rise higher than they normally would, and homes tend to sell more quickly.
  3. A transitional period when housing demand and supply are approximately equal and pricing typically stabilizes.

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

May 2016: Home Foundation Inspection

Ask The Inspector

Q. What will my home inspector check on my home’s foundation?Ask The Inspector

A. The structure of a home’s foundation depends on several factors, including soil type, climate, structural materials, building footprint, topography of the area and age of the building. Whether you have a basement or a slab, a good foundation is essential to a safe structure.

A home inspector will visually inspect the interior and exterior of the house to determine what type of foundation was used, including the materials. The inspector will also assess the current condition of visible areas of the foundation, including noting cracks, leaks, and areas where shifting or settling are visible. Home inspectors are not engineers and are not licensed to discuss the structural integrity of a house or areas that cannot be visually assessed, so in some cases your inspector may recommend further investigation by a structural engineer.

What your home or commercial inspector can do is point out problem areas, check the grading slope, assess the drainage of areas around the foundation where water ponding may cause leaks, and point out conditions that may become dangerous. For example, standing water in a basement or crawls pace, evidence of previous water damage, or water damage near electrical elements can be safety issues for anyone occupying the home.

Be Advised

What Home Owners Should Know About Wastewater, Sewers and Septic Systems

Be Advised

Water that flows down any drain in a house is wastewater — water that must be cleaned before being returned to the environment. Depending on where you live, wastewater may be treated at a municipal sewer plant or on your own property, through a septic system.

If you live where a municipal system is in place, wastewater leaves your home through a series of pipes below the street. Using gravity or pumps, the water flows through increasingly larger pipes until it reaches the treatment facility to be properly cleaned. Some municipalities have separate systems of pipes for sanitary sewer waste and storm water. Storm water systems carry rainwater that flows off of roofs and concrete through a series of separate pipes. Eventually, this water enters a stream or river.

If you do not live in an area where a sewer treatment plant is available, you will have a private septic system, a large underground tank and absorption field, on your property. Septic systems must be professionally pumped and inspected periodically to remove solids and help microorganisms clean the wastewater more effectively.

Snapshots From The Field

What’s Wrong With This Photo?

Snapshots From The Field

  1. Nothing. Styrofoam is an efficient, cost-effective filler in a solid poured concrete foundation wall.
  2. Closed-cell foam, not Styrofoam, is the correct foam for this project.
  3. They used polyisosanurate foam instead of expanded polystyrene foam.
  4. This is Styrofoam, which is not acceptable for use as a filler in a solid poured concrete foundation wall.

Correct Answer D. The photo shows Styrofoam used as 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

Planning Your Landscape

MAINTENANCE MATTERS

Spring is in the air, and many home owners are eager to get outdoors and work on their landscaping. Even in the colder regions of North America, mid-May is usually past the period for freezing temperatures and a good time to start planting. So, get your gardening tools ready; it’s time to spruce up your yard.

To better define your project and your goals, take 10 or 15 minutes to carefully consider your yard before beginning a landscaping project. Look at the property from across the street. Walk up to it from several angles. Consider how your house looks with the existing vegetation.

Gardens, or landscapes, come in many varieties: oriental gardens, cottage gardens, herb gardens, even butterfly gardens. As you decide which fits the style of your home and family, first consider the broadest categories: formal gardens and informal gardens.

A formal garden or landscape is symmetrical, usually planted along a line, or axis, and centering on the front door. A secondary axis, or cross, may be designed in the backyard, perpendicular to the initial axis. Formal gardens usually include carefully tended, geometrically shaped flower beds with hard-surface paths in between each.

An informal garden is generally asymmetrical, with curved pathways and plants allowed to grow to their natural height and fullness. Plantings are more haphazard, but they can still include both native and non-native plants. Paths may be natural surface, grass or a hard surface.

Did You Know?

Keep Your Dishwasher Humming

The first motor-powered dishwasher was unveiled at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. An electric model followed in 1908. Silverware baskets were added to the door in 1969. It seems like even a century ago people despised washing dishes by hand.

Today’s dishwashers have come a long way, with self-cleaning features, hard-food disposers, china-cleaning modes and energy-saving settings. Modern dishwashers appeared in around 50 percent of United States homes in 2001, according to Energy Information Administration statistics.

For many people, dishwashers made “dishpan hands” obsolete; however, keeping them operating well takes a little maintenance.

Clean the filter: Many dishwashers, especially older versions, have a filter near the bottom of the machine to keep food particles off the motor. Clean this filter as needed or according to your maintenance guide.

Clean the spray arms: A dishwasher sprays water onto dirty dishes through small holes on the spray arms. These holes can become clogged with food and other particles. To clean them, remove the arms according to the maintenance guide, and use small, stiff wire to clear the holes. Dip the arms in warm water and white vinegar to remove calcium deposits.

Fight odors: To remove odors from a dishwasher that hasn’t been operated in a week or more, place a cup of white vinegar in a small container on both the top and bottom racks. Run this through one normal cycle.

Go Back to Top

Monthly Trivia Question

What is the term for deliberate improvement of homes and commercial properties in urban areas to increase property values?

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