Photovoltaic Panels

Residential Solar Panels are here to stay.

As a professional home inspector we have the opportunity to help our clients purchase their homes intelligently. It has been increasingly more popular to have photovoltaic (PV) solar panels mounted on our homes. These take the sun’s energy and convert it to usable electricity in our homes. While there is a cost to the installation of these systems the sunny’s energy could help pay for that cost in the form of rebates and electricity savings.

Roof mounted array

There are two basic systems installed on homes today. One is a usage system that produces electricity and puts it directly to use and the other is storage system that will store electricity in a battery for use later. Both are effective but the latter can be more expensive.

Regardless of the system installed on the home the most effective use of the PV electricity created is the ability to sell it back to the utility. This surplus electricity has the ability to flow back to the grid when the power generated is greater than the supply needed. This could be all day while the sun is out and you are at work. Very little electricity is consumed but the sun is generating surplus power and the homeowner is getting the credit or rebate to their account.

The PV system is a very basic system. There is a collection panel that captures the solar energy. This energy is DV current. An inverter changes the DC current to usable AC current and this is distributed into the power supply in your home. If you wish to store some of this energy for times when the sun is not out or the grid is not active then a battery pack is installed prior to entering the house power supply.

Any one part of these systems can fail or have issues. Your The BrickKicker inspector understands these systems and can help insure the proper operation or installation. Please never hesitate to ask us any questions you might have. If you would like to know more about the various incentives for installing PV systems please go to: www.dsireusa.org

How to Keep Your Pipes from Freezing

Frozen pipe bursting water

Why do pipes freeze? Simply put, the subzero winters of greater Chicago can cause your pipes to freeze and potentially burst. While this most commonly happens to pipes on the exterior of your house, and those pipes that run through unheated interior spaces like your basement, it can also happen to the pipes inside your cabinets. If your pipes freeze and burst, you may be looking at a $5,000 repair job. Thankfully, a little preparation can go a long way. Let’s take a look at what can prevent pipes from freezing. 

What Can You Do to Prevent Your Pipes From Freezing Over? 

If you’re wondering about how to keep your pipes from freezing, it’s quite a simple and inexpensive process. Just follow these tips:

  • Pipe insulation is sold at most hardware stores around Aurora, and costs about 50 cents per foot. Apply it liberally. 
  • Run a light trickle from your faucets
  • Keep your garage doors closed
  • Keep your kitchen and bathroom cabinets open to allow warm air to circulate around the pipes they house. 
  • Leave your thermostat at the same temperature all the time—it should be above 65 degrees. 
  • If there’s a room in your house with pipes that just won’t heat up, you can always turn a space heater on in the room when you know that temps are going to drop below freezing.  

How to Thaw Frozen Pipes 

If you turn your faucet on and nothing comes out, it’s possible that your pipe froze. It may not have burst, however, and you’ll want to very carefully attempt to thaw the pipe in hopes that the situation won’t get any worse. Before you do anything, shut off your water line at the main shutoff valve. Then, grab a hair dryer, a heating pad, a space heater, or wrap your pipe in a towel soaked with hot water, and attempt to melt the ice blockage inside the pipe. Turn your faucet on now and then to check. Continue to apply heat until your full water pressure returns. 

Let the BrickKicker Help You Winterize Your Naperville Home 

Now that you know why pipes freeze and how to keep your pipes from freezing, if you need help winter-proofing your home in Chicagoland, reach out to the BrickKicker. We can give your home a thorough inspection and tell you exactly what steps you need to take to keep it in tip-top-shape, and what problems may lie on the horizon. Our phone number is 800-821-1820. In the meantime, explore our blog for other informative reads about home care, including our guide on when to get a chimney inspection!

How to Get Rid of Radon

digital radon testing device on table

Radon is an invisible and odorless gas that can cause lung cancer at high saturation levels. It’s caused by the natural breakdown of uranium in water, air, and soil, and is present everywhere in low levels. If radon levels are too high in your home, extended exposure presents a significantly raised risk of developing lung cancer. So, what are acceptable radon levels? Read on to find out, and to learn how to mitigate radon and reduce radon levels in your Naperville home. If you find you need a radon test in greater Chicagoland, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the BrickKicker for help with all things related to home inspection

What Are Acceptable Radon Levels? 

In low levels, radon isn’t harmful. The average level of radon in the air outdoors is .4 pCi/L. Since your house isn’t open air, it will likely have higher radon levels than that. After all, the EPA recommends you aim to keep your radon levels between 2 and 4 pCi/L. If you have a radon test conducted in your home and your levels are above 4 pCi/L, you’ll need to learn how to mitigate your radon levels, so you can reduce your risk of developing lung cancer. Unfortunately, high radon levels are common, with 1 in 15 U.S. homes featuring over 4 pCi/L. 

How to Mitigate Radon Levels? 

First, you’ll want to schedule a radon test through the BrickKicker. If you find that you have high levels, we can put you into contact with a crew that can implement a number of strategies to reduce radon levels in your home. Here’s how to get rid of radon:

  • Sub-slab depressurization: This involves inserting hoses through your floor and into the areas around your concrete slab in order to suck up radon gas and vent it outside of your home. 
  • Sub-membrane depressurization: In this process, your crawl space is sealed up with plastic to prevent the spread of radon gas. Then, the radon gas is vacuumed up with suction pipes. 
  • Heat Recovery Ventilation: This process involves using a heat recovery ventilator to dilute the radon levels in your home by exchanging exterior and interior air. 

Have More Questions About How to Mitigate Radon? 

Now that you know about what acceptable levels of radon are and how to get rid of radon, if you have any unanswered questions, give us a call at 800-821-1820. We’ll walk you through everything you need to know, and arrange for a radon test if necessary. In the meantime, take a moment to read our guides on how to test for asbestos and mold! We look forward to helping you keep your Aurora home safe and in good condition!

How Do I Get My Home Ready for the Fall?

fall turning color of leaves in forest

With summer behind us, fall in our midst, and winter on the horizon, you may be wondering, “What should I get done to my house in the fall?” If you live in an especially cold area like Aurora or Naperville, you might also be wondering about how to protect your home from frozen pipes. The BrickKicker is here to answer all of your questions. We’ve put together a fall season checklist you can follow to make sure your house is ready for dropping temps and more! If you find you need a home inspection along the way, don’t hesitate to contact us and make an appointment! 

Fall Seasonal Checklist 

  • Check Your Home for Water Leaks: If you have a leak, it will raise your water bill and waste water. When the temps start to drop, if your pipe freezes, it could widen the leak and exacerbate the problem. 
  • Have a Heating Professional Check Your Heating System: Chicagoland has some of the most brutal winters in the U.S. If your HVAC goes out in February, and you’re unprepared, you’ll probably need to live elsewhere until you get a new heating system installed. To prevent that scenario, it’s best to check up on the condition of your HVAC in the fall. 
  • Protect Your Home from Frozen Pipes: Insulate all of your pipes before winter hits, so that you don’t have to worry about them freezing and bursting. You can use heat tape or pipe insulation. We also recommend constantly running your thermostat at 67 degrees or above, and continuously running your faucets at just the slightest trickle. 
  • Have a Certified Chimney Sweep Inspect Your Flues and Check Your Fireplace Damper: Whether you have a gas or wood burning chimney, you need to have it inspected and cleaned every year. This not only helps to drive out pests who’ve taken up residence in your flue, but it also helps to keep you safer when you start to light your chimney up in the cold winter months. A chimney sweep can inspect your gas lines for leaks and the rest of your system for faulty components, helping to ensure that it isn’t at risk for an explosion or a carbon monoxide leak.   
  • Clean Your Gutters and Downspouts: Although it may be in the form of snow or sleet, your gutters funnel a much greater amount of water in the winter. You need to be sure that they’re clear of blockages. If any ice dams settle in your gutters or downspouts, they can freeze and cause damage to your roof. 
  • Change the Batteries in Your Smoke and Carbon Detectors/Alarms: It’s time to change the batteries out in your carbon detectors and alarms. We assume that you’ll be firing up the hearth come winter, but even if you’re not, your gas lines are more vulnerable to develop leaks in the cold, so make absolutely sure your carbon monoxide detectors and fire alarms are in great shape! 
  • Replace Windows Screens with Storm Windows: We recommend replacing your window screens with storm windows. They’re great at trapping heat inside your house, which will keep you and your pipes warmer, all while keep your gas bill down! 

Have Questions? Turn to the BrickKicker for Help 

Now that you know how to protect your home from frozen pipes and what you should get done to your house in the fall, if you feel you’re wondering, “How do I get my home ready for fall?” give us a call! Our number is 800-821-1820. We’re a leading home inspection company in Chicagoland and have locations all over the metroplex. Our home inspectors can take a close look at your house, and ensure you know everything that needs to be done this fall to keep it winter proof! Be sure to explore our blog for other informative reads, and to explore our residential home inspection services to see how we can help!

What is the Difference Between a Basement and a Crawl Space?

Crawl Space under house with dirt

If you’re buying a new home in greater Chicago, take a moment to read our comparison between a crawl space vs. a basement. We’ll compare crawl space vs. basement costs for construction and maintenance, among other crawl space vs. basement pros and cons. If, after reading, you’d like to hire a home inspector to evaluate a crawl space or basement in a house you’re considering, get in touch with the BrickKicker in Naperville for help! 

Crawl Space vs. Basement: Pros and Cons

What is a Crawl Space? Crawl spaces are unheated, lower-clearance spaces built underneath a house that vent to the outside. This allows them to circulate outside air to prevent excess moisture build-up. In wetter climates, crawl spaces can be critical to preventing mold and rot around your foundation. 

  • Pros: In wetter climates, crawl spaces can be critical to preventing mold and rot around your foundation. This not only helps to preserve the structural integrity of your house, but helps to deter the build-up of molds and mildews that can harm your health. They’re a great place for storing electrical lines, heating ducts, and other unsightly appliances. Finally, while they take the same amount of time to build as a basement does, they’re much more affordable. 
  • Cons: While crawl space ventilation often keeps cooling costs low in the summer, they make it harder for your house to trap heat, so you can expect a higher gas bill in the winter. Crawl spaces are natural homes for rodents and other pests who can make their way into your house. They’re also vulnerable to termite infestations, so you’ll need to be sure to take extra precautions.

What is a Basement? Basements are completely insulated and heated spaces built at least partially underground. They don’t feature any open air vents to the outside, and have much taller ceilings than crawl spaces. If you’re wondering about the difference between a basement and a crawl space based on livability, you’ll find that basements are much more accommodating.

  • Pros: Basements hold heat, so you can live, work, and play in them. They don’t have the same levels of vulnerability to pests that crawl spaces do. Because they have concrete foundations, they’re not vulnerable to termites. They can also be a great place to house your electrical wires, heat ducts, HVAC, and other, more mechanical aspects of your house. 
  • Cons: When it comes to crawl space vs. basements costs, you can expect to spend $5,000 to $10,000 dollars more when constructing a basement. Basements are prone to humidity and subject to mold build-up, just like crawl spaces. Furthermore, it’s difficult to keep a basement dry, and they can be vulnerable to flooding, which may require you to install a sump pump to divert water flow. Finally, houses with basements are at greater risk for high radon levels. 

Do You Have Questions About Our Crawl Space vs. Basement Comparison? 

If you have unanswered questions about the difference between a basement and a crawl space or crawl space vs. basement pros and cons, don’t hesitate to give the BrickKicker a call at 800-821-1820. If you’re considering a home, and you need to have a basement inspected for radon levels, or you want to make sure the crawl space is in good condition before finalizing the deal, we provide comprehensive and affordable home inspections for domiciles across Chicagoland!

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.