Pool Barriers

It is summertime again and so begins pool season. Owning or using a pool carries a great deal of responsibility. Accidental or unintentional access to a pool from a child is a leading cause of drowning. This can be avoided by having the proper barrier around a pool. This barrier cannot have a gap larger that 2 inches at the bottom and no more that 4 inches between slats.

80 Pool fence

This barrier could be as simple as having a locked fence around the entire pool area. This fence has to be at least 48 inches high and have a gate that automatically closes and locks.

Many homes might not have the large inground pool but rather the traditional above ground pool. These pools are terrific for families and budgets but are just as dangerous. These pools also need to have barrier protection. The same requirements exist. There pools must be at least 42 inches above the ground and if they are not there needs to be an installed barrier fence around the edges of the pool. This is why many of these pools look like they are in a cage.

It is important to review your safety barriers every year. Wood can deteriorate, locks can fail and elements can move. If you have any questions about your pool or barriers please call The BrickKicker.


Just because the government calls it an inspection does not mean it is actually an inspection. Let’s talk about your FHA and VA home purchase. Using the opportunities afforded through an FHA or VA loan is an excellent means to achieving home ownership. This article will not get into the specifics of what an FHA or VA loan is or how to qualify for one. Please go to www.HUD.gov for talk with with our lender for that information, but rather what steps you can take in the home inspection process.

As a consumer you are considered to be the mortgagee and bank or financial institution is the mortgagor. It is very important to understand that before moving forward. FHA is the governmental agency providing insurance or assurance to the mortgagor that the mortgagee will not default on the loan. Because FHA is a assuring the mortgagor that the mortgagee will not default the home has to be in a condition where if the default happens the government will have the ability to resell the home without having to place considerable funds into repairs or upgrades. This could also be seen as making sure that the home is in suitable condition that the mortgagee does not have to be strapped with issues in the home directly upon the purchase.

While FHA does not require the mortgagee too specifically engage the services of a professional home inspector it greatly encourages it. FHA will require an FHA certified appraisal to be performed. Many times this appraisal is called an inspection but in fact it is an appraisal for value but during this value appraisal the appraiser has to perform a condition report. In this value condition report created by the appraiser will have to identify or recognize issues with the roof, plumbing, electric, structure, HVAC, and waterproofing systems of the home. If any issues are found the mortgagor will have to have those issues professionally inspected and certified.

It is only the mortgagor who can call for and hire the third party professional to provide these certificates and approvals. The mortgagee or Real Estate professional cannot cal or hire these services. The challenge is; hiring the two, three or four different professionals cost considerable money and adds time to the process. These contractors could also be biased toward replacement of the system instead of repair solutions. These contractors are in the business of selling their services and products.

If the mortgagee (home purchaser) enlists the services of a The BrickKicker inspector they would be able to not only receive a superior home inspection but have a professional that can help decipher the various standards required by FHA or VA. These could include roof statistics, plumbing issues, peeling paint, and hand railings on stairs. There are over forty different major component issues that must be identified and found to be satisfactory and you inspector is and expert and each of them.

There is also one other advantage in the process. The BrickKicker inspector is approved by HUD to provide all 6 of the certifications required. This eliminates the need for bringing a biased contractor into the process and speeds up the transaction.

Do not let your FHA or VA purchase go without the hiring of your The BrickKicker inspector. They will be your ally and consultant in the purchase process and will also be able to help identify any issues that might be a stumbling block in the FHA and VA process. Every The BrickKicker inspector knows and understands the FHA 4150.2 home requirements and elements which the appraiser is required to identify. Call you local The BrickKicker today and talk to them about your FHA or VA home purchase and how they can help you through the process.

Meter Grounding

Did you know that your overhead electric service needs to have a driven rod ground even if you have your water pipes bonded?

Grounding is also called “earthing” and is the term used to dispose unwanted electric to the ground. This could come from a lightening strike or static electricity. It is similar to when you walk across the carpet and touch a metal object. That small spark of static electricity is created when you become the ground.

When the service of a home is overhead and not underground the service wires have to travel down through a meter before the electricity enters the home and the service distribution panel. There has to be some form of protection from lightening that might strike anywhere on the service grid providing the electricity to the home. If lightening was to occur it would travel through the wire, down the service, through the meter and directly to the ground and the rod imbedded into the soil. This is grounding.

Since 1987 a driven rod is required on the exterior of all electric services, especially those that are overhead. This is why, as inspectors, we look for those and report on the presence or absence. If you have any questions please contact your The BrickKicker inspector and they would be happy to talk to you about grounding.

Inspect My Deck

You cannot help but wonder if there is a deck contest in most suburban communities.  “My deck is bigger and better than your deck.”  There are even “How-to” shows on television solely dedicated to the backyard and a family’s deck.  The challenge for the home inspector is… there are a vast number of decks constructed by those very homeowners and they were not built well.  In order to build a deck construction “foundation’, we should look at the total deck picture from foundation to flashing.

The Wood

Most of the time an exterior deck is constructed of pressure treated lumber.  There are several variations of this lumber and different manufacturers have different treating methods but this lumber is designed for 30 – 40 years of useful life.  The top of the deck  flooring can be conventional wood or a composite material.  Wood flooring can last about 10 years and a composite decking can last 25 -30 years.  

Solid Wood

The Fasteners

A wood deck does not have the capacity to be self supporting.  There has to be some form of mechanical support and fastener to marry the various elements together.  A galvanized joist hanger will not last forever.  The environment and elements which they are subjected to can greatly cause different lifespans and outcomes.  In some cases the joist hanger does not last as long as the material it is designed to support.  Any other fasteners, through bolts, lag bolts, nails, and screws,  should also be exterior rated.  This would mean they are either galvanized or stainless steel.  You should never see conventional hardened nails or screws on an exposed material like an exterior deck.


Deck construction should be very similar in concept to conventional home construction.  A deck has to be built on a solid foundation.  This foundation can vary depending on the zone of construction.  A deck built in the southeast might not have to have a deep frost footing where a deck constructed in the north would have to have a foundation that extends below the frost line.  Some decks have spread bases and others have deep columns.  Many times these bases will not be accessible for inspection nor visible without excavation.  

There are several challenges with deck foundations.  One contractor or homeowner might use a tube form and use entirely concrete as a foundation where another might imbed the column or post directly in the soil or within the concrete.  The tube would require a mechanical connection to keep the column from rotating or sliding where the  direct column would not.  But, the direct column, embedded in the concrete would be subject to deterioration and accelerated failure. 

Deck inpection.

June might be National Deck Inspection Month but every should be deck awareness day. More than 2 million decks are built and replaced each year in North America. InterNACHI estimates that of the 45 million existing decks, only 40 % are completely safe.

A The BrickKicker inspector is trained and an expert in the deck inspection. Regardless of whether you are purchasing a home or an existing home owner do not hesitate to contact you local The BrickKicker for a deck inspection.

So, I sat on the toilet and the toilet moved.

A toilet is supposed to be secure to the floor. It is not designed to be a rocking chair. Moving side to side or front to back is not right and a wobbly toilet is something that should be repaired. In fact, the loose toilet is one of the top ten things found most frequently during a The BrickKicker home inspection.

A loose toilet can be caused from several conditions. There could be a broken flange. The flange is the mechanical connection where the toilet is mounted to the plumbing at the floor. There could be deterioration of the floor and an unstable base. There could be floor variations that cause the flat base of the toilet to rock on the irregular surface. And maybe it is just loose from the mounting bolts or a failed wax ring.

Regardless of why the toilet is loose it really should be secured properly so that it does not leak or become damaged from excessive rocking.

Most people have never removed a toilet before. So fixing a toilet can be a daunting experience. This can be a do-it yourself project or maybe you might need to call a professional. A professional will typically cost between $250.00 and $400.00 to repair a loose toilet or you could try to tackle it alone and at a fraction of the price.

The BrickKicker is not a plumbing service and will always encourage our clients to work within their comfort zones and not try to do repairs they are not familiar with, but the repair of a toilet is something that is not terribly difficult.

Repairing a Broken Flange – (Proceed at your own risk!)

The only way to determine if the flange is broken is to remove the toilet from the floor. If you are going to take this on you should know that toilets are heavy and contain water and when they are removed the water often leaks on the floor. There is also a wax ring that can be messy and difficult to clean up.

Before removing the toilet you should inspect the mounting bolts that secure the toilet to the flange. These are on either side of the toilet and typically under dome shaped covers. These should never go all of the way through the floor but rather secure the toilet to the flange. You might get lucky and just be able to tighten down these bolts, but if the toilet has been rocking for a while then inspecting the flange might be important.

The first step is to turn off the water supply to the toilet. There is typically a water valve under the toilet. Next, give the toilet a flush. This should remove most of the water from the tank and the bowl. There will still be some water in the bowl but most will be removed. It is time to remove the two bolts holding the tank down.

Some people will have a large wash tub, plastic sheets, extra towels or even the bathtub so that when you lift the toilet from the floor you have a place to put it where it will not leak or damage anything. Tilting the toilet will cause all of the remaining water to evacuate the toilet and leak on the floor.

How to easily repair a broken toilet flange - YouTube

Inspect The Flange

With the toilet removed you can see if the flange is broken or in good shape. If it is broken you have two choices. You can fix the broken flange with a repair kit or replace it altogether. Fixing it is typically the the more popular way to go because there are repair and adapter kits available at most home stores. The replacement option is one that often requires a plumber’s attention and help.

The repair is a semi-circle piece that fits over or underneath the broken flange and gives a new and secure location for the mounting bolts to attach the toilet to. Make sure that when attaching this repair kit you follow all of the manufacturer’s instructions.

Fernco Fix-A-Flange | Fernco - US
Ferno Fix-a Flange Kit

The Wax Ring

Most toilets have a wax ring under them. This is the soft attachment between the porcelain toilet and the plumbing drain pipe. It is designed to keep the water tight seal and not allow the unit to leak or produce sewer odors to the room. Some newer systems might have a rubber or vinyl gasket and not a wax ring. This should be replaced when the toilet is removed. There are several sizes of these rings, depending on the depth between the floor height and the plumbing. Make sure you replace the ring with the proper one(s).

Toilet Wax Seal | Toilet Installation | Toilet Wax Ring | Fluidmaster

Once replaced or repaired you can remount the toilet to the flange and it should be secure to the floor once again. Do not over tighten the mounting bolts because the toilet porcelain can crack and then you will have to replace the. toilet.

Where Should I Store My Firewood?

Firewood stacked next to home

It may seem logical and convenient to store freshly cut firewood in your fireplace, near it, or on the back patio of your Aurora home, but can you store firewood in or near your home? When planning firewood storage for winter, you should always store your freshly cut wood far away from your property. Read on to learn about best practices on firewood storage. Then, if you have questions along the way, don’t hesitate to contact the BrickKicker

Can I Store Firewood in My Home? 

As we mentioned earlier, you shouldn’t store firewood in or right outside your Naperville home. That includes your garage. This is because firewood attracts pests. So, where should you store your firewood? We recommend storing your firewood in a dry area about 20 feet away from your house with great airflow. To ensure ventilation in your outdoor firewood stack, stack your logs in rows that are no more than 4 feet high, with the bark-side of the split wood pointed upwards. 

How Long Can I Store Firewood?  

When you cut wood, each log needs time to ripen before you should use it in your fireplace. Fresh logs are known as “green wood,” which doesn’t burn well, gunks up your chimney, and increases carbon monoxide build-up. One of the reasons you should store your logs outside is to create the right conditions for your logs to ripen. Proper firewood storage for winter involves keeping your wood stacked outside for 6 months, in the summer and fall months leading up to winter. 

As you cure your firewood, make sure to purchase a firewood cover in order to protect your logs from the elements. Only use it during inclement weather, making sure to remove it, so you can maintain an open space with adequate airflow around your firewood stack. If kept dry and properly stacked, firewood can last up to 10 years.  

What Should I Do If My Firewood Stack Develops Termites?

If you’ve gone a few years without covering your firewood stack, it’s likely accumulated a lot of moisture and rot. This is a perfect breeding ground for termites, which can travel into your house, and almost definitely will if you bring infested wood into your fireplace.

To avoid this scenario, inspect your wood for termites. If you see little holes in your wood, tunnels on the surface of the wood, and even worker termites, don’t bring it inside. Most of these holes run in clusters, so if you see an isolated hole or two, it may not be cause for concern.

If you notice an infestation, check your yard and house for other signs of infestation and take care of the problem ASAP as it can develop quickly. On a side note, the BrickKicker is more than equipped to detect signs of termite infestation in your Lisle home. 

Have Questions About Proper Firewood Storage for Winter?  

Now that you know where you should store your firewood and whether you can store firewood in your home, if you have further questions, call the BrickKicker in Chicagoland at (800) 821-1820. If you find yourself in need of a home inspection for any reason, be sure to explore our services, and if you’re curious about other home care topics, check out our blog for helpful reads about how to get rid of mold and how to clean gutters and downspouts.

How to Clean Your Kitchen Exhaust Fan

Kitchen with exhaust fan

Your kitchen exhaust fan helps pull steam, odors, heat, and grease away from your cookware and stove. By vacuuming and dispersing the above, it helps to keep you cool while cooking at the stove and prevents build-ups of grease to minimize the risk of fires. It’s important that you know how to clean your exhaust fan filters, how often to clean your exhaust fans, and when to have them inspected professionally. If you don’t clean your filters, your fan will stop doing its job effectively, and your stove will become a fire hazard. Read on to learn about the steps you should take, and if you find you’re in need of a home inspector near Naperville, contact the BrickKicker for affordable help! 

Simple Steps for How to Clean Exhaust Fan Filters 

Wondering about how to clean the kitchen exhaust fan in your Aurora home? You’ll want to clean both the fan filter and the fan blades. Take a look at our easy-to-follow instructions for degreasing both components of your kitchen exhaust fan. 

How to Clean Exhaust Fan Filters 

  • Remove the filter from the fan. 
  • Soak it in boiling water. 
  • Then scrub it with grease-cutting dish soap that won’t harm the mesh in the filter. 
  • Rinse it and reinstall it. 

How to Clean Exhaust Fan Blades

  • Turn off the power in your breaker box. 
  • Unplug your exhaust fan. 
  • Procure a trisodium phosphate cleaner. 
  • Make sure to wear a mask. 
  • Scrub at the back of the fan case. 
  • Then, scrub the blades with the solution. 
  • Repeat this process until you’ve broken up all of the grease. 
  • Dry as you go. 

How Often To Clean Exhaust Fans 

We recommend that you clean your kitchen fan every 6 months. If you frequently cook, aim for every 3 months to 4 months. If your kitchen fan features a charcoal filter, it can’t be cleaned. To ensure your safety, have your kitchen exhaust fan inspected by a professional annually. 

Have Questions About How to Clean Exhaust Fan Filters? 

Now that you know how to clean your kitchen exhaust fan and how often to clean your kitchen exhaust fan, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to the BrickKicker. Our phone number is (800) 821-1820. We can answer your questions and if you need an affordable home inspection, we can provide you with our 30-plus years of expertise in Chicagoland at a surprisingly low price. In the meantime, explore our services and browse through our blogs for other helpful reads, including our guides on Radon testing and how to save energy at home!

Electric Clearance

One of the most common issues found during a home inspection is poor clearance to the electric panel or service. The electric panel could be placed in just about any location of a home. We have found them in closets, kitchens, basements, garages and hallways.

While the specific location might have some jurisdictional requirements there is one standard that is consistent across the country. An electric panel must have at least 30 inches of clearance from side to side and at least 3 feet of clearance from front to back. This is the magic work zone or clearance that has to be maintained at all times.

A wall could be finished in a basement and this wall could be enclosing the panel into a closet or behind an impediment. If there is not a 3 foot clearance zone between the panel and the wall, the wall is not correct.

This clearance has been created for the safety of the electrician or anyone else coming into contact with panel. The inspection or service of the electric panel is very dangerous. Coming into contact with live electricity can cause injury or even death.

Your The BrickKicker inspector is an expert on the electric distribution and identifying the visual issues of the electric system of a home. Please reach out to them with any questions you might have with your electric panel or system.


This is a huge topic to discuss. The best way to talk about this is to really bring it down to the most basic level of conversation. There are three major inhabitants of this earth. They are animals, plants and fungi. Within those three inhabitants there are hundreds of thousands of species fighting for equal existence. All this is deep but we need to talk about mold and where it fits in this conversation.

Mold like other fungi, has several different species within the family. Each of these species has a different role and job to do. Mold is also a hitchhiker and can attach to other species. These could even be us. We could walk across the grass and have mold attach to our shoes and walking into our homes brings in the molds.

One of the challenges with mold is there are not governmental standards producing a “pass or fail” level of mold. This is mainly because there are so many different molds there would have to be a standard created for each of the various species of them. The other is each person has a different tolerance or personal action level for each mold. A great example is cat or dog dander. One person might be very content to have a pet rub up against them while another will have an allergic reaction to that same animal. Mold is similar. One person might have a reaction to one species while another has no reaction.

The easiest way to look at mold is to lump all of various molds and species into three very basic categories; Allergenic, Toxigenic, and Pathogenic. Allergenic molds are those that might make a person sneeze and wheeze. There might be some form of allergic reaction. A toxigenic mold is one that might make someone have a more adverse reaction and more significant reactions. A pathogenic mold could be a mold that is more extreme with the potential of a fatal reaction.

By looking at the mold this way one might consider the action levels to produce a varied cleaning or action plan. Allergenic molds are very topical and could be thoroughly cleaned. This cleaning should eliminate the molds and leave the surfaces or areas safe. Toxigenic molds might require a more invasive cleaning which includes removal of the affected areas and thoroughly cleaning to leave the areas free of the molds. When pathogenic molds are present advanced and professional remediation is always recommended. These cleanup measures will be very invasive and potentially costly.

A home inspector might test for mold with the goal as to produce a list of the various species present and levels of mold of those species quantified. By identifying these species and noted what, of the three types are present, an educated action plan can be created.

A The BrickKicker inspector has the ability to provide mold sampling. These samples are sent to a lab and your mold report will be created. The BrickKicker is not a remediation specialist and so we can help you with any of your next steps.

The Importance of a Thorough Inspection Following a Natural Disaster

Natural disasters are a common occurrence. Be it a tornado, hurricane, mudslide, earthquake, tsunami, wildfire, or some other type, these destructive events can wreak havoc on everything that comes in their path. Often, however,  natural disasters leave behind unseen damage that can be a health hazard to people nearby. 

Homes are often seriously compromised in a variety of ways following a natural disaster. So, if you’re the owner of a house that’s just gone through a natural disaster, let’s take a look at the importance of performing a thorough inspection after the fact. 

1. Obtaining Disaster Relief

If your home went through a federal disaster like a major hurricane or something similar, you’ll likely qualify for some kind of disaster relief. Disaster relief is given out in accordance with the level of damage your home has suffered in most cases, so getting an inspection to officially verify the amount of damage that occurred is crucial to getting the relief you’re entitled to. A proper inspector can inspect the framing of a house as well as all other areas to get a full tally of everything. 

2. Prevent Further Catastrophe

If a major structural issue has been caused by a natural disaster, you can address it before it gets worse by identifying it through inspection. High winds, especially, are known to knock things loose and place homes in precarious positions, primed to collapse or cave-in in some way. You also might have damage that could take a while to discover.

Like if your basement heating is damaged, for example, you might not know until winter rolls around and you try to turn on the heating. By hiring an inspector to go through and test your whole home to see if it had been compromised in a way that might lead to a safety concern, you can avoid potential injury or worse. 

3. Insurance Purposes

Even if you didn’t go through a federally recognized natural disaster, you can still qualify for insurance help for residential properties. Especially if your home was damaged in a way that is covered by your insurance, the first thing you’ll want to do is have an inspector come out and tally up the damage. 

Getting this arbitrary inspection and being able to present the results to your insurance company is crucial to getting compensated for the cost of repairs, as well as any other costs you may be entitled to. 

4. Proper Documentation

If you want to sell your home in the future, having an inspection on record after a natural disaster will put a lot of people at ease who might be interested in buying your property. 

Natural disasters are known to cause immense amounts of undocumented damage whenever they strike, so by proving that your home is up to code with local regulations even after a natural disaster, you can make your property seem that much more legit. 

You can also use a post-disaster inspection to take account of garage door replacement costs as well as other costs you covered during the cleanup and repair process. 

Inspections are Vital After a Natural Disaster

If you own a home of any type, natural disasters are your worst enemy. They can strike at any time and cause untold amounts of damage and destruction. That’s why, if your home has lived through a natural disaster, you need an inspection pronto. 

Getting an inspection directly after a natural disaster will help you resolve issues, tally up costs, invest in repairs, and document everything for insurance purposes, and more down the road. 

Brian Jeffries is the content director for the Innovative Building Materials blog and a content writer for the building materials industry. He is focused on helping fellow homeowners, contractors, and architects discover materials and methods of construction that save money, improve energy efficiency, and increase property value.