What is a Crawl Space?

Crawl Space under house with dirt

A crawl space is similar to a basement. While most crawl spaces are between two and three feet high, they aren’t necessarily defined by how tall they are, and could be just as tall as a basement. The primary difference between a crawl space and a basement is that, unlike basements, crawl spaces vent to outside air.

You may have heard that crawl spaces are bad. If you’re wondering why houses have crawl spaces, we’re here to tell you that they both serve an important function and cause problems down the line. Let’s take a look at what purpose they serve and what issues to watch out for. After reading, if you think you need your crawl space inspected, reach out to your Naperville-area home inspectors, BrickKicker, for a cost-effective crawl space inspection

Why Do Houses Have Crawl Spaces? 

Why was your house in Aurora built on top of a crawl space? If your house was built on any kind of slope, it can be incredibly expensive to level the dirt and lay a concrete pad. Building a crawl space is a cost-effective way around this expensive procedure. But what else is a crawl space for? 

Crawl spaces are an excellent, easy-access place to put your HVAC system, piping, and all of those other fundamental systems that often need repair. They also help to consolidate and conceal them so that they don’t take up unnecessary space or disturb the look and feel of your home.

Are Crawl Spaces Bad? 

Now that you know what a crawl space is, how a crawl space differs from a basement, and what purposes it is serves, let’s take a look at some of the issues that can arise from having a crawl space: 

  • Moisture: Crawl spaces are dark, exposed to the outside, and accumulate moisture. With moisture comes the potential for wood rot, termites, and mold. 
  • Floor Failure: If you allow the wood in your crawl space to rot, or don’t address issues caused by termites, your floor could collapse. 
  • Increased Heating/Air Conditioning Bills: If your crawl space isn’t properly insulated, your house will struggle harder to properly circulate the air from your HVAC unit. 

These are just a few of the issues that a crawl space can cause for you and your home. If you’re planning on having your house appraised and selling it, it’s important that you keep your crawl space in good condition. Let BrickKicker inspect your crawl space for you, so you can address any problems before you put it on the market.

How Can BrickKicker Help? 

There are a number of things you can do to protect yourself from the problems that crawl spaces can create. If you suspect that your crawl space has rotten wood, or isn’t properly insulated, our home inspectors can identify the specific problems that need to be addressed and put you into contact with a professional who can resolve any issues your crawl space may be vulnerable to. If you have other concerns, take a moment to explore our blog for helpful reads! 

Now that you know why houses have crawl spaces, how crawl spaces differ from basements, and what kind of issues crawl spaces can cause, if you think you need an inspection, call us at 800-821-1820.

digital radon testing device on table

How to Test for Radon

digital radon testing device on table

Radon is a naturally occurring gas that’s found at low levels outdoors; however, it tends to concentrate indoors, and at high concentrations, exposure can cause lung cancer. In fact, it’s estimated that Radon poisoning causes thousands of cases of lung cancer in the U.S. each year and is responsible for more deaths than drunk driving, drownings, home fires, and accidental falls.

Whether you’re wondering about how to prepare for a Radon test, or you’d like to know how long a Radon test takes, or you’re wondering, “How does Radon testing work?”, read on to learn everything you need to know. If you think you need the help of a home inspector, don’t hesitate to reach out to BrickKicker in Naperville, IL! 

What is Radon? 

Radon gas is caused by the natural breakdown of Uranium in the water, soil, and air. If your house happens to have a higher concentration than 4 picocuries per liter, it’s imperative that you work to reduce its concentration in your Aurora home. Read on to learn about how to test for Radon. 

How Does Radon Testing Work? 

You’ll have three options when it comes to how to test for Radon. The safest bet is to hire a home inspector to perform a professional inspection. BrickKicker is happy to help you out, but if you prefer to do it yourself, you’ll want to procure a short-term Radon test or long-term Radon test.

  • Short-term Radon Tests: Radon levels vary from day-to-day. A short-term Radon test measures those levels across a shorter period of time than a long-term test. How long does a short-term Radon test take? From between two and ninety days. This type of test is less accurate than a long-term test, but if you’re anxious, it will provide you with more immediate results. 
  • Long-term Radon Tests: A long-term test is any Radon detector that requires you to leave it in your house for longer than ninety days. These tests will give you a much better idea of what the average yearly Radon levels in your house are.  

We recommend performing a short-term test first. If the Radon levels seem a little high, perform a long-term test for definitive results. Anything above 1.3 pCi/L should be followed with a long-term test.   

How to Prepare for a Radon Test 

When using a short-term test kit that provides results in less than four days, you’ll want to make sure that all of your windows and doors are closed twelve hours prior to the test. Any fans that draw air from outside and circulate it through your house should be turned off. 

Regardless of which type of test you use, you should place it on the lowest “lived-in” area of your house. That said, do not place the kit in the kitchen or bathroom. Once you’ve settled on a room, put the kit on a surface 20 inches above the floor. Make sure that it isn’t near a draft or in a damp area. Then leave the test kit there for the amount of time specified in the instructions. Once that time has passed, mail the kit to a test lab using the packaging supplied with the test.

Let BrickKicker Help! 

1 in 15 homes has high levels of a Radon, and new homebuyers are well-aware of the dangers that Radon poses. If you’re planning to sell your house, and you’d like to ensure that you’re passing a safe home onto the next owners in Chicagoland, get in touch with BrickKicker. Our home inspectors can give your home a deep and careful inspection to make sure that it’s in top-top shape, safe for its next owners, and ready to sell at full value. If you have other home care concerns, take a moment to explore our blog!

leadpaintslide

How to Identify Lead Paint

leadpaintslide

According to the EPA, two-thirds of homes built before 1940 and one-third of homes built between 1940 and 1960 contain lead paint. When did they stop using lead paint? In 1978, officially. If your house was built before this time, it’s statistically probably that lead was applied in your home.

It’s important for your property value and your health to address any lead presence. Lead can be detected with a home test, but for definitive results, you should leave the job to a Chicagoland professional like BrickKicker in Naperville. But first, take a moment to educate yourself about why lead paint is dangerous and how to get rid of lead paint. 

Is Lead Paint Dangerous? 

If you have lead paint in your house, and it’s begun to deteriorate, it can contaminate the air in your domicile with particles of lead. In order for lead to be dangerous, it needs to be ingested. Even low-level exposure can cause serious problems. Take a moment to learn about the potential hazards of lead poisoning by degree of exposure: 

Low-level Exposure Can Cause: 

  • Reductions in IQ 
  • Difficulties paying attention 
  • Behavioral change and conduct disorders 

Children are especially susceptible to the issues with intellectual development that lead paint can cause.  

High-level Exposure Can Cause: 

  • Comas
  • Severe brain damage 
  • Convulsions 
  • Death 

How to Get Rid of Lead Paint

The first thing to understand is that, if the lead paint in your house isn’t flaking, it’s not necessarily dangerous. You can encapsulate and repaint the lead coat. Lead paint becomes dangerous when it’s flaking because lead particles can enter the air. If you have a lead coat that’s in bad shape, you’ll want to act fast.

Hire an EPA-contractor to remove the lead paint. This job should not be performed by 99% of homeowners. If you plan on DIY removal, the first question you should ask is: “Do I have a Hazmat suit?” Also, bear in mind that your city will have nuanced regulations dictating every step of the removal process. When you choose the BrickKicker to perform your lead paint test, we can determine the condition any lead coat is in, scale the degree of danger, and connect you to a professional for affordable, effective, lawful, and safe lead paint removal. 

Get Help from BrickKicker Inspection Services in Naperville 

Most home improvement stores sell lead detectors that can help you identify and measure levels of lead in your home. That said, they’re not very accurate, and lead paint is dangerous. If you’d prefer to rely on a seasoned professional to perform this job and give you a thorough consultation on how to get rid of lead paint and who to call, BrickKicker can provide Aurora homeowners with a professional lead paint test and expertise.

Loading Dock Inspections

The inspection of manufacturing, industrial, or some office spaces, often include a loading dock feature. This is the means for which deliveries flow to and from the building. Industrial or shipping buildings could have dozens of docks spread across the building campus. A professional commercial building inspector has to have an understanding of how a loading dock works and what failures or safety issues exist. 

In order to understand more about loading docks, there has to be an understanding of the various parts, components and types of loading docks.  Some loading docks are just a raised platform to the height of a standard truck allowing the load to easily move on and off the truck.  There is the depressed dock where the dock is lower than the interior floor and the truck has to back downward in order to load or unload.  Lastly, there is the raised dock.  This type of dock uses a raised ramp to bring the load up to a door, but since the load is higher than the floor an unloading vehicle has to remove the load from the truck.

Regardless of the type of ramp or dock, if there is an opportunity to have a truck, trailer, or any other machinery come into contact with the building, bumpers and bollards are used.  The bumper protects the blunt force impact from direct impact.  A bumper can also be used as the resting end so the driver knows when to stop.  A bollard is the vertical post, often painted bright yellow and placed at corners, or other potential impact points.  Bollards are often the first line of defence from building or system impact.

Not all trucks or trailers are the same height.  The finished height of the building floor is static so a dock leveler has to be used to help bridge that gap.  This device is often constructed of steel and utilizes compressed air, hydraulic pumps, or mechanical springs to move the plates up and down or in and out.  The mechanical leveler is the most common because it does not require electricity or any other powered equipment.

There are conditions in the building that require the truck or trailer to be sealed.  This could be to keep refrigerated buildings from leaking air or other security concerns.  The cushion or curtain that is creating this is called a shelter or seal.  Dock seals provide a soft surface for the back of trailers backing into the loading dock.  This protects both the trailer and the building from damage caused by impact.  The shelter protects dock personnel  and equipment from outside elements.  These are constructed similar to the seal but provide a tighter seal.

A serious safety concern for dock workers is the unwanted or unannounced trailer departure.  This is when the trailer is removed from the dock without notice.  A dock worker inside of the truck can fall from the trailer because they will be under the belief that the trailer and dock are still on the same level or stationary.  When a truck restraint system is installed, the trailer will not be able to be separated from the dock until all personnel are altered or in a safe location.

Docks and ramps are often depressed on raised platforms.  These can have as much as a five foot rise or fall.  Without some form of guard or hand railing, this varied height can cause huge safety concerns.  A properly installed railing will protect the entire length of the dock.  A bollard should be installed to protect the railing or concrete retaining walls from impact.

Depressed loading docks or loading docks built into the building at a height lower than the finished floor typically have drains installed at the bottom of them.  These could be simple drains directly plumbed into the storm or sewer system or  plumbed into a sump system and pumped into an appropriate location.

Now that there is an understanding of loading docks, what does an inspector have to report on or inspect.  Every inspector will have a different experience level or, through proposal, create a different client expectation, but the same basic safety observations and function notes should be made.

Any failures in the concrete surfaces or walls should be noted.  Wherever there is an opportunity to protect personnel from falling,  guard or hand railings should be placed.  If there is a location where a trailer or vehicle can come into contact with the building or dock feature, a bollard should be installed.  Any mechanical, weather, or other damage present to the shetlers and seals should be identified.  Most inspectors are not going to operate or inspect levelers but identifying the locations will be of benefit to your clients.  Flooding is always a concern to your clients.  Locating the drain in the bottom of the ramp and locating the direction of where the drain is going should be part of the inspection.  The sump system, if present, should be operated as well.
Regardless of to what extent you inspect a loading dock, your clients will appreciate photos of the various elements and systems present and the visual condition at the time of the inspection.

Preventing Buyer’s Remorse

“As-Is” Doesn’t Need to Turn Into Buyers Remorse

Some Buyers are skipping their due diligence period and buying homes “As-Is” without a home inspection. We get it. The market is demanding bold offers. We know you want to protect your clients by giving them sound advice that gets them into the home they want in the areas of town they prefer. You don’t want them to walk blindly into a money pit and then blame you when Buyers Remorse sets in.

Here’s what we are seeing: Sellers are taking advantage of market conditions and listing properties that would never sell at all in a normal market. Buyers are desperate to find housing and are willing to pay over the appraised value with no contingencies. That doesn’t mean they want to move into a home that they know nothing about and allow minor issues to turn into major repairs down the road. When this happens, who do they have to blame? There may be no legal liability, but will your reputation be at stake?

Here are a few things we saw this week on “market-ready” properties:

If your clients choose to accept the risk and purchase a home without an inspection, let them know they can still have the property inspected after closing. We routinely inspect homes for homeowners that have lived in their homes for years and want a check-up, or because they think their homes are making them sick, or because they suspect they have a problem but can’t identify it. Home Inspections are not just for Buyers and Sellers and you can help protect your clients that make the boldest offers by recommending that they have a home inspection after closing.

Packaged HVAC – RTU’s

Package HVAC Units – RTU’s

The packaged HVAC unit is also called a RTU (roof top unit).  This is a unit where the heating and air conditioning are both contained in the same assembly.  These are called RTU’s because they are most often located on the roof, but can also be installed on the ground and ducted through a sidewall into a building.  These units have also been found in residential properties, but mostly identified with commercial installations.

A Typical RTU consists of:

  • An Evaporator Core
  • A Condenser
  • A Compressor
  • A Blower motor and fan unit
  • A Cooling motor and fan
  • An Intake for Outside Air ( economizer )
  • A Heat Source ( furnace )
  • An Exhaust Flue 

This unit is connected to the supply and return duct systems, located on the inside of the building.

Combining the heating and cooling into one unit saves on the footprint necessary to house both units, and also removes the need for two different locations for maintenance.  This will also ensure that the heating and cooling will remain properly matched for size.

Advantages of an RTU:

  • A RTU typically uses less energy; since it’s assembled and configured in a factory, under optimal conditions.
  • The RTU is mounted on the roof, it does not take up any interior space.
  • Installation is typically easier.  The only interior components are the ducts needed to distribute the comforted air.
  • Diagnostics and repair may be easier, as all of the components are in one location.

Disadvantages:

  • Placement on the roof can require a crane
  • Location on the roof can inhibit frequent maintenance
  • Environmental damage can be frequent (hail or other weather damage)

Inspection

  • Review the exterior of the unit for any visible damage or missing components, covers or other issues.
  • Record the size and type for reporting purposes.
  • Identify operating conditions – does the unit operate in one mode (heating or cooling)
  • Has the interior filter been maintained
  • Has the exterior metal fiber filter been maintained.
  • Identify if there are any openings or other adverse conditions to exterior ductwork
  • Review the electric connections and gas supply pipes.
  • Locate a service or convenient electric outlet, in a general area of the unit.

The statistical life of an RTU unit is between 20 and 25 years.  Units older than 25 years should be considered beyond statistical lifespan and budgeting for replacement should be made.  Only damage to the fin systems, on the cooling side, should maintain the same reporting expectations as with residential split units.  Exposed coils or excessively damaged fins will cause issues with the cooling. 

Commercial RTU’s

The Roof Top Unit or RTU as most people call it is the most widely used used HVAC system present in commercial buildings.  This type of system packages the heating and cooling into one complete unit.  The reason it is called an RTU is because they are mostly found on the roof however, they can be installed on the ground as well.

The cooling system is a standard compressor driven fan-cooled condensing and evaporating system and the heating is most often a gas forced air system.

The most common RTU consists of the following components:

  • An evaporator core to absorb heat
  • A condenser to release heat
  • A compressor to change the refrigerant gas to liquid
  • A blower motor and fan to move air
  • An intake for makeup or outside air
  • A heat source or forced air furnace
  • An exhaust flue

The advantages of an RTU is that it typically uses less energy.   Since it  is assembled and configured in a factory the entire system works as a complete balanced unit.  The unit is located on the roof so it does not take away any square footage of the interior of the building.  Installation is often easier because only the interior ducts need to be installed separately.  Diagnostics and repairs are often easier because all of the components are located in one location.

The disadvantages are; since the unit is located on the roof the maintenance my require a ladder or special hatchway.  Another is the replacement may require a crane or other lifting device.

The typical life of a maintained unit could be twenty to twenty-five years.

Safety Items Every Home Needs

hands around house

In these unprecedented times, we are constantly reminded about the importance of safety. Make sure you take all precautions necessary to keep your home and family safe. Here is a home safety items checklist from The BrickKicker. Make sure you have these safety essentials for your home.

Home Safety Items Checklist

Each and every home should be equipped with the following items to ensure you and your family are safe and prepared for any issue that may arise.

Hand Sanitizer and Extra Masks

If repair workers, or even friends and family, come into your home, make sure you have extra PPE gear on hand for them to use. It will minimize risk and excuses.

Smoke Detectors

Every home should have at least one smoke detector on each floor of the house plus one outside each bedroom. It’s a good idea to get in the habit of changing the batteries each fall and spring when you change the clocks back for daylight savings. You should also test them monthly to make sure they are working correctly. They should all be replaced about every ten years.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Recommendations for CO detectors are similar to recommendations for smoke alarms. At a minimum, each home should have at least one CO detector on each floor and one in, or just outside, each bedroom.

Fire Extinguishers

Your house should have one fire extinguisher in the kitchen so you can put out any cooking catastrophes, one on each additional floor, and one near any fireplaces. Make sure every family member knows how to use one, and regularly check their expiration dates.

Fire Ladder

If your home has upstairs bedrooms, make sure they have a fire ladder that everybody knows how to use.

First Aid Kit

When it comes to safety essentials for your home, be sure to have a first aid kit on hand. You can buy a pre-assembled first aid kit or make it yourself. 

Flashlights

Ensure everyone has access to a working flashlight near their bed. You might need it in the event of a power outage. Also, have an extra supply of batteries next to each flashlight.

A Safe

A safe protects essential papers and valuables from theft and keeps them safe from fire and water damage.

Outlet covers

Even if you don’t have small children in your home, eventually, you will. That is why you should keep unused electrical outlets covered with safety covers. 

Keep Your Home Safe With The BrickKicker

Home Inspections usually include not only a list of needed repairs but also ideas for safety improvement. Now that you know the safety items every home needs, you can be proactive and get these safety essentials for your home. If you need a home inspection, contact The BrickKicker or schedule it online.

October is Cyber Security Month

Cybercriminals have become quite savvy in their attempts to lure people in and get you to click on a link or open an attachment.

Know the Basics

Keep your business safe by reviewing the following tips:

  • Spam is the electronic equivalent of junk mail. The term refers to unsolicited, bulk – and often unwanted – email.
  • Phishing attacks use email or malicious websites (clicking on a link) to collect personal and financial information or infect your machine with malware and viruses.
  • Spam, phishing and other scams aren’t limited to just email. They’re also prevalent on social networking sites. The same rules apply on social networks: When in doubt, throw it out. This rule applies to links in online ads, status updates, tweets, and other posts.

Avoid Becoming a Cyber Victim

  • Don’t reveal personal or financial information in an email, and do not respond to email solicitations for this information. This includes following links sent in email.
  • Before sending or entering sensitive information online, check the security of the website.
  • Pay attention to the website’s URL. Malicious websites may look identical to a legitimate site, but the URL may use a variation in spelling or a different domain (e.g., .com versus .net).
  • If you are unsure whether an email request is legitimate, try to verify it by contacting the company directly. Contact the company using information provided on an account statement, not information provided in an email.
  • Keep a clean machine. Keep all software on Internet-connected devices – including PCs, smartphones, and tablets – up to date to reduce the risk of infection from malware.

What to Do if You Are a Victim

  • Report it to the appropriate people within the organization, including network administrators. They can be alert for any suspicious or unusual activity.
  • If you believe your financial accounts may be compromised, contact your financial institution immediately and close the account(s).
  • Watch for any unauthorized charges to your account.

When in doubt, consider reporting the attack to your local police department, and file a report with the Federal Trade Commission or the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

The BrickKicker is committed to excellence and being your consultant throughout your commercial property involvement.

for your Commercial Clients
Peace of mind 
with The BrickKicker!

Chimney Cleaning and a Tragic Story

Many house hunters have a fireplace on their wish list, and for good reason. Fireplaces provide warmth and a beautiful architectural feature, but they can also be a source of danger. Taking care of your fireplace is important part of home maintenance for ongoing enjoyment and safety, but how often should a chimney be cleaned, and what wood should you use in a fireplace? The BrickKicker is here to help.

How Often Should a Chimney Be Cleaned?

The frequency at which you clean you chimney will depend on a couple of factors, including:

  • How often you use it
  • What kind of wood you use
  • The condition of your chimney’s interior

Burning wood produces smoke and creosote. What is creosote? Creosote is a resin from the wood that is extremely flammable and toxic. As wood burns, creosote is released in the smoke and travels upward, often solidifying near the top of your chimney. Once cooled, it hardens into a tar-like substance and can continue to build up and obstruct proper ventilation.

It does not take much buildup to cause a fire. This is one of the reasons why we bring in professional chimney sweeps to keep our chimneys clean. Homeowners should schedule an annual chimney inspection to assess its conditions, especially before winter, and those results will determine how often your chimney should be cleaned.

Inspectors will look for the following factors:

  • What woods are you burning? Soft woods will create more creosote than harder woods and therefore require more frequent cleaning.
  • How often are fires burned fires and how much is burned? Professional chimney sweeps recommend cleaning a chimney every time a face cord of wood is burned. A face cord is typically the measurement of one truckload of wood or about 8 feet long X 4 feet high X one stick of wood.
  • What does the interior of the chimney looks like? If you looked up your chimney you will see that the smoke has turned the inside of the chimney black. After a few fires this black will begin to build up and create a tar. This tar is glossy. Shining a light and seeing the reflection on the tar is a sure sign of the creosote build up.

What Wood Should You Use in a Fireplace?

We recommended using harder woods in your fireplace, because they create less creosote. Some examples of popular hard woods include:

  • Oak
  • Walnut
  • Maple
  • Cherry
  • Birch

Softer woods may burn more easily but they also create more ash and have more sap pockets that can cause unwanted sizzling and snapping, potentially throwing embers beyond the fireplace hearth. Soft woods such as fir and pine should be avoided if possible to cut down on creosote and additional safety risks.

Here are some more factors to consider when choosing what wood to use in your fireplace:

  • Seasoned wood produces more heat and burns cleaner.
  • Never burn painted or treated wood as it will release harmful chemicals.
  • Store wood in a well-ventilated area.
  • Start small and build up your fire slowly, only using as much wood as you need.

What Happens If You Don’t Clean Your Chimney?

Chimney fires are a real thing. They are devastating to everyone involved. Here is a link to a recent video produced by Rachael Ray. Her home recently was lost to a chimney fire.

https://www.rachaelrayshow.com/articles/rachael-opens-up-about-house-fire-for-the-first-time-shows-whats-left-of-her-home

If you have more questions about what is creosote or how often should a chimney be cleaned, contact The BrickKicker. We can help inspect your chimney and ensure it’s safe and ready for use. Contact us to schedule an inspection.