Fifteen Tips to a Safer, Sounder Home

    Fifteen Tips to a Safer, Sounder Home

    We take pride in our homes, no question about it.

    Yet many of us are surprised when we try to sell them only to find that a home inspector finds fault with our pride and joy.

    As your spring cleaning begins, why not go over your home with a home inspector’s eye and avoid 15 common missteps?

    Matthew Barnicle of All Bay Home Inspection Services identified the top things homeowners should look out for during their regular home maintenance.

    Pull county permits and hire licensed contractors. Any contractor that encourages you not to pull county permits – or asks you to pull them for a job instead of the contractor – should be quickly shown the door. In the short term, you’ll save money with this illegal approach. Without a county inspector looking over his shoulder, the contractor will cut corners, putting your home at risk. In the long run, however, you’ll pay more when the project has to be redone. Many of these shortcuts are later flagged by home inspectors, forcing homeowners to bring them up to code before selling the home.

    Further, never pull a permit for the contractor. When the contractor pulls a permit and leaves a job unfinished, the county can take action against him. If you pull the permit, the county will come after you to finish the job.

    Also, never use a contractor without a current license or adequate insurance. Both will better protect you in the case a job goes sideways. Both also help insure the company you’ve hired is professional and reputable.

    Don’t believe roof shingle guarantees. Whether your asphalt roof shingle guarantee is 25 or 30 years, given the power of the Florida sun’s ultraviolet rays, you can bet on a shorter lifespan. “The average statistical expectancy of a roof in Westchase is 20 years if it’s asphalt shingle,” said Barnicle. “If it’s at the 10 year mark, have it inspected. At 15 years start budgeting.”

    Barnicle added, “Tile roofs are more difficult to assess because the actual waterproof membrane is hidden below the tiles. At minimum, use binoculars to look for any cracked tiles or slipping tiles on the exterior roof surface and then look inside for any moisture staining on the ceilings. Have a roofing contractor inspect the roof by crawling through the attic after a heavy rain storm.”

    Barnicle, however, cautioned, “Crawling the attic is not a safe activity and should not be done by inexperienced homeowners.”

    Further, don’t wait until the asphalt shingle roof is leaking to replace it. Many minor, slow leaks aren’t detectible inside a home. Yet such leaks quickly destroy the underlying plywood. Replacing the shingles before the roof decking is damaged will save you money in the long-run. Also, once your roof is replaced, call your home insurance provider. After shelling out $100 for a wind mitigation inspector, you’ll likely save $400-600 annually on your home insurance premium.

    Examine window casements. A home’s greatest natural enemy is moisture. “Once a year, replenish the caulk around exterior windows, doors, stucco cracks and any other penetrations where water might sneak in during a wind-blown rain,” Barnicle advised. “Use a paintable latex-based caulk. Sashco brand (http://www.sashco.com) has many good caulking products, including one which will exactly match your home’s paint color,” he added. “Smaller cracks and penetrations can even be spanned with a touch up of thick paint.”

    Control moisture elsewhere. A common homeowner mistake is failing to maintain a home’s raincoat. “The main thing in Westchase that people need to understand is how important it is to keep their homes well painted, especially on the second floor if it’s wood framing,” said Barnicle.

    This also goes for concrete block coated with stucco. Barnicle said homeowners should ensure they keep the stucco healthy. “Seal or fill any cracks that they see with caulk and then paint,” he said.

    How often should you paint your home’s exterior?

    “On average painting should be done every seven years,” Barnicle said. “Find a part of your home which gets a lot of sun exposure. Rub your fingertips down the wall. If you see chalk rub off on your fingertips, you are well overdue for a new paint application.”

    Properly direct sprinkler heads. “Be sure sprinkler heads are not spraying the side of the house,” counseled Barnicle. “Especially near window areas.”

    Maintain proper grading systems. Any water that pools against the home needs to be addressed, Barnicle advised. When landscaping, be sure not to change the slope of the land to ensure water drains away from your home’s walls. Also, don’t just constantly add mulch to your landscaping beds. Once the bed is too high, the moisture retained by mulch can eventually migrate through the concrete block wall and into flooring, baseboards or other building materials. “Strip out a layer of mulch before replenishing and be sure the grading is at least four inches below the interior floor slab level and that it generally slopes away from the home,” Barnicle said.

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