Ten Tools Every Homeowner Should Have

A little know-how and a handful of elbow grease can go a long way to keeping repair costs down and increasing the value of your investment. That being said, the joy of ownership means you can customize any and every inch of your new property, and with a bit of moxie you can tackle most tasks for a fraction of the price. A few must-have tools for homeowners, some solid DIY tips, and you’ll be well on your way to that well-maintained home, perfectly tailored to you. So, what tools should a homeowner have?”

   

Must-Have Tools for Homeowners

Tape Measure

No matter how handy you are, a tape measure will help decide where to put that new couch, or what dimensions your flatscreen upgrade should be. A self-retracting tape measure as well as a soft plastic one are both must-have tools for homeowners 

Box Cutter/Utility Knife

A retractable utility knife makes it easy to break down those accumulating boxes, but they’re great for cutting tape, paper, and other packing materials with ease as well. 

Screwdrivers

Screwdrivers are an obvious answer to “What tools should a homeowner have?” Few things you can order online will arrive without assembly instructions, and a screwdriver is necessary for most of them. Get one with interchangeable heads, or get a set. Either way, you’ll need multiple sizes for your home projects. 

Plunger

We assume that if you’re asking, “What tools should a homeowner have?” you probably have a plunger around. Inexpensive and necessary. 

Pliers, A Couple Sets

Not only are needle-nose pliers useful for basic home care, especially when pulling nails without indenting the surface, they have a range of uses for first-aid kits and beyond. We recommend also picking up a pair of slip joint pliers and tongue and groove pliers for those strangely-shaped bolts the last residents added. 

Adjustable Wrench Set/Crescent Wrench

Allen wrenches, or as they’re sometimes called, hex keys, are most useful when it comes to bicycles, cars, certain electronics, and furniture. Pair a set of those with another of the top ten tools every homeowner should have, a few adjustable crescent wrenches, and you’ll be good to go. 

Hammers

A couple of hammers, one lightweight and one heavyweight, will suffice for most any household task. There’s no substitute for a solid claw hammer when it comes to removing/replacing nails, but the range of this instrument makes it one of the top must-have tools for homeowners. 

A Selection of Hardware

From hanging a painting, turning part of your yard into a garden, simple repairs, or merely keeping things organized– a selection of brads, screws, nails, and coils of wire will be useful to have around. 

Drill and Drill Bits

A battery-powered drill with a set of drill bits opens a lot of doors–and keeps them from falling off. If you’re hanging heavy objects using the studs as an anchor, a power drill is a necessity, but its use extends far beyond that. If you’re preparing for a home inspection, a drill quickly becomes essential in almost every task.

Keep Your Home in Top Shape With the The BrickKicker

With the must-have tools every homeowner should have, and a list of safety items every home should have, you should be ready to take on any task your house drops in your lap. If you’re wondering how to increase the value of your investment with precision and the right expertise, get in contact with The BrickKicker today. Our services can help homeowners identify problems long before they become imminent.

How Long Does a Sump Pump Last?

A sump pump is a crucial piece of equipment for many homeowners, but it has a lifespan just like any other appliance. Just how long does a sump pump last on average? You can typically expect around 7 years out of a brand new model. However, it’s a good idea to keep tabs on your sump pump to ensure that it’s free of malfunctions – or you could end up with a big mess on your hands. Let’s go into some common problems and guidelines.

   

Common Sump Pump Issues

Replacement of old sump pump

So you know how long do sump pumps last, why do some models malfunction? Here are some key warning signs that your equipment isn’t working properly:

  • Pump won’t engage: Loose-fitting lids and debris can lead to clogged lines.
  • Pump is old: After 7 years, start planning for a replacement.
  • – Base is rusting: Corrosion promotes bacteria, which can clog your system.
  • – Pump stays on: If your pump won’t turn off, it’s working too hard and runs the risk of failure.
  • – Power outages: Power surges can interfere with your pump’s performance, particularly if you don’t have surge protection technology or a backup power system.

Replacing Your Sump Pump

Many homeowners install a sump pump and forget about it over the years, so how do you remember when to replace your pump? Here are a few tips and tricks:

  • “Replace By” Sticker: A simple “replace by” sticker can save you a headache. Just write down when your system was installed and add a “replace by” date around 7 years out.
  • – Wi-Fi Technology: Consider an app-based sump pump outlet that tracks your pump data. These systems will alert your smartphone when something unusual happens.
  • – Backup Systems: From battery backups to second sump systems, backup protection can be a huge asset – particularly if you encounter frequent outages.

And while we recommend homeowners take a look at their sump pump periodically, we’re also happy to offer professional help with our residential home inspection services. Not only can we ensure that your pump is working properly, but we can also take a look at everything from mold testing to pest control.

Find Out More With The BrickKicker Team

If you’re wanting the peace of mind that comes with an inspection, contact us at The Brickkicker for all your home needs. Our team will make sure that your residence is safe and secure, so you can enjoy total peace of mind. Feel free to get in touch with any questions about how long do sump pumps usually last!

Risk Management for Realtors

Google “Real Estate Risk Management” and you will get several articles claiming that there are x number of ways to manage risk. For the purpose of this article we are going to narrow it down to three strategies: Accepting the risk, Sharing the Risk or Transfering the Risk. There is another thing I see Real Estate Agents do on a regular basis: They reclaim the risk. I know, that sounds absurd. Let me explain.

The Origin Story of The Home Inspector

Once upon a time, a real estate salesperson told a buyer not to worry about a giant crack in the foundation of the home they were buying. It turned out to be a major structural issue that costs tens of thousands of dollars to fix. The buyer sued the agent and the agent lost big. They advised their client on the suitability of a structure and they had no business doing so. They accepted a huge risk and it came back to haunt them. They were found to be negligent.

Accepting the risk turned out to be a terrible idea. A new industry partner was born: the Home Inspector. 

That’s the short version of the story. I’ve heard it repeated at home inspection conferences for years. Home Inspectors are a tool that real estate agents use to transfer risk during the sale of a home. So what do I mean they are reclaiming the risk?

  1. Sharing the Risk

In many real estate markets, home inspectors get the bulk of their business from agent referrals. When an agent refers their client to their favorite home inspector they are sharing the risk. As a home inspector, I absolutely love this risk strategy. I do not discourage it. Everyone, please share the risk with The BrickKicker.

  1. Transferring the Risk

It is more common for agents to give out a list of 3 or more home inspectors to transfer the risk. Some agents will put them in alphabetical order to make sure they are not showing preference. (By the way, the first person on the list has an 80% chance of getting the job but only if they answer the phone or return the call within 8 minutes.) Most agents do this because their brokers require it but some (mistakenly) believe it is required by law. As a risk management tool, they are transferring their risk. (They are really transferring it back to their buyer. More on that later.)

  1. Reclaiming the Risk

So far, so good. Our agent has shared or transferred the risk that the home they are selling their client has a material defect that could result in a lawsuit. What happens next? The agent reclaims the risk. Here are a few ways they do it:

  • Telling their client not to attend the inspection or to show up at the end.

Real Estate Agents may not think it’s worth their time to attend a home inspection but their buyers definitely should. When buyers don’t understand the inspection process, the limitations the inspector had and what the inspector did and did not do, liability is going to creep back in. If the inspector told them not to come, that is on them, but an agent does not want to encourage their client to minimize their due diligence.

Sometimes home inspectors have this preference. They don’t want a buyer to slow them down or get in the way of the inspection. Again, let the home inspector add liability if they want. Frankly, it’s a dumb thing for a home inspector to request. Clients that are present understand the home inspection process and its limitations.

  • Interpreting report findings instead of deferring back to the inspector.

Agents are frequently called on to interpret report findings for their clients. That doesn’t mean they should. If a buyer thinks something is a big deal and their agent does not, they should both lean on the inspector. An agent that minimized the issue is inviting trouble. Evaluating signs of structural movement or determining if something is a theoretical hazard is beyond the expertise of a real estate profession. 

  • Referring to inspectors that are unqualified and/or uninsured.

Georgia does not license Home Inspectors and they probably never will. For this reason, Agents should make sure the inspectors on their list are qualified. Like any industry operating in a state without licensure, the home inspection industry can become flooded with self-proclaimed inspectors because the barrier to entry is minimal, if any in addition to the number of “online schools” that provide a certifications. This industry is supported by two major associations, each with the basis of helping inspectors offer the best inspection possible. The BrickKicker – Georgia has aligned it’s vision and expectations with the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), the pioneering association into this industry and strong advocate for proper practices in the real estate realm. ASHI Certified Inspectors have taken the National Home Inspector Exam (in a testing center, closed book, and not in their PJs) and had a national background check, among other things. ASHI meet the requirements of almost every state that has licensing requirements.

E&O (Errors and Omissions) Insurance is also a must for a home inspector that makes an agent’s referral list. A good E&O policy should also provide referral indemnity to protect the referring party if they are named in a lawsuit. (That is the ultimate tool for transferring risk.)

Pool Safety

Pools come in every shape and size, and offer refreshing relief during hot summer weather. While pools provide tremendous amounts of fun, they also have inherent dangers. Drowning, slipping, falling, and traumatic injury are all common risks, but using these home swimming pool safety tips can help keep you and yours safe while soaking in the sun. 

Rules for Having a Pool in Your Backyard

Drowning, by far, carries the most significant amount of risks and children are the most likely victims. Between 2015 and 2017, 6,400 children were treated for non-fatal drowning incidents. During that same time period, 1,000 children lost their lives. In 2017, drowning was the second leading cause of death for children between the ages of 1 and 14. 

A parent or guardian cannot remove all of the risks but through careful consideration and diligent observations they can mitigate the risk. Establishing a set of rules of having a pool in your backyard helps swimmers understand how to stay safe and avoid injury. 

Some basic home swimming pool safety tips include: 

  • Swimming under supervision: Being alone in a pool can be dangerous as there is no one there to assist you during an emergency. Make sure to swim in pairs or groups with at least one adult present. 
  • No pushing, running, or diving: Most home swimming pools are not deep enough for diving, and frequent splashing leads to slippery pool decks. 
  • Use floatation devices: Any swimmers who are not confident in their skills should wear a life vest or floaties, especially for younger swimmers. 

Pool Safety Tips

When you own a swimming pool, you have a responsibility to keep guests safe. Protect yourself, your property, and all swimmers by installing the proper safety equipment and precautions using these home swimming pool safety tips: 

  • Install a proper barrier around the pool: Pool barriers keep children from accessing the pool when there is not proper supervision. This barrier could include a fence, gate, or barrier wall, and should completely protect the pool enclosure. Barrier gates must open away from the pool and have a self closure and self-latching mechanism. Above ground pools located at least 42 inches from the ground do not require a fence so long as the ladder or stairs are removable or lockable. If the above ground pool is less than 42 inches it can be enclosed with a barrier attached to the pool. 
  • Review pool attachments and toys: Slides, ladders, stairs, diving boards, skimmers, drains, and jets can all lead to injury if not properly monitored and maintained. Any metal structures fastened to the pool deck can fatigue and rust, becoming structurally unsound and unsafe. A fall from six or eight feet above a concrete or solid pool deck can cause significant injury. Diving boards introduce risk if your pool is not at least 8 feet deep, and weather and exposure can cause wood, fiberglass, or composite materials to eventually fail.
  • Check drains and pool construction: While drains cycle water back through the filters, pumps, and mechanical equipment, they can also be an enticing source of fun for a child. Children may be tempted to swim down to the bottom and play with the suction, but this can lead to suction injury or drowning. Modern installation standards require drains to no longer be flush and now raised. The raising of the drain helps prevent most of the entrapment risk. 
  • Apply texture to the pool deck: When you get out of a pool dripping wet, you are creating a slip and fall risk to everyone in and around the pool. This is why most pool decks have some form of texture, as a smooth surface can be as slippery as walking on ice. Most people do not have footwear on while swimming, but it can help with traction and prevent your feet from abrasion or injury. A trip hazard is any one inch raised surface but, it does not take much to stub a toe or cut your foot. Inspecting and monitoring your pool surface for those injury points is key to safety. This would include looking for slip or damaged wood, damaged or split brick or concrete and cracking.

These enclosures, barriers, and surfaces need to be inspected at least annually as part of your seasonal home maintenance checklist. Wood can deteriorate. Metal can fatigue and rust. PVC and break down and fracture. Gates and loosen and handles and locks can break. Thoroughly reviewing the entire perimeter of the pool enclosure should be a part of your normal maintenance routine.

Inspect Your Pool for Endless Enjoyment with The BrickKicker!

Pools can provide hours or enjoyment and social interaction but do have inherent risks. Most of the risks can be managed through good custodial ownership and maintenance. It is important to schedule an annual pool inspection as sometimes it takes a different set of eyes to keep everyone safe. Contact us to have The BrickKicker help you with these important tasks!

We Broke What?

Here is one you might have heard before: A home inspector walks into a home and they broke my ….

A home inspector has a certain routine and organization to their motion through a home. Most like to perform their inspection in a top down routine. This allows them to follow the plumbing as well as to stay organized. We are very much creatures of habit.

After a few hundred inspections most inspectors move through the home like instinctual animals. They have a choreography like a ballet dancer. Because of this an inspector will just grab for that tub faucet knob or sink handle like they have done hundreds of time before.

Our challenge is, this time the knob was not connected to the plumbing and it falls off in the inspector’s hand. The inspector will write in their report that the faucet handle is failed and will recommend attention. The inspector did nothing different than they have done countless times before. The inspector did not exert any additional pressure or force then they have done before but yet we are about to be blamed for breaking the faucet.

Now I do not know if it is a seller trying to ready the blame on someone else or if they are just ambivalent over the entire condition buy yet the inspector is still going to be blamed.

As a professional inspector we would love to have the sellers of the home leave us a note letting us know if there are any conditions we should know about. This could include loose handles, trick drawers or cabinet doors, maybe the special instructions to turning on the spa tub or anything else that might raise a question.

Things are going break. Inspectors are human and if we break something we will take ownership and responsibility but if we did not break it we will hold our grown.

CODE is a Four Letter Word

I learned most of the four letter words from John Murphy on the back of the fourth grade school bus.  This is where most of us learned them.   But, he never said the “big” one, CODE.  Code is absolutely the biggest of all the four letter words and now in my old age I try very hard to never utter that word.

Code is a minimum standard.  Code is a basic safety standard.  Codes change from year to year as well.  Code is dependent on the local jurisdiction or municipality where the home was built.  Code is only enforceable by dully authorized representatives of the local building official and not a part of a professional home inspection.  

Yes, code is not a part of the home inspection.  A home inspection is designed to help the client understand the systems and components of the home.  A home inspection is designed to identify the readily accessible issues of life safety, structure and function but, it is not a code inspection.  

There is not a home inspection performed that does not include at least one question from the client about code or the client asking, “is that code?”  The home inspector should not answer that questions but rather talk about safety or function.  The next time you are on a home inspection try not to use that four letter word and concentrate on what is most important.  The life safety, structure, and the function of the home. 

Who Should Attend an Inspection?

Recently there have been updates to safety requirements regarding home inspections and how many people can be inside the home at one time due to COVID. This guide deals with who should be present for a home inspection outside of pandemic safety guidelines. If you want to know who should attend an inspection, read on, and if you have questions, contact your realtor or The BrickKicker.

Should the Buyer be at the Inspection?

Should the buyer be at the inspection? In a nutshell, home buyers are always encouraged to attend a home inspection because they need to know as much as possible about the home, and may have several questions to ask. However, it isn’t mandatory. If you can’t get time off work, don’t worry. There will be an entire report with pictures for you to review.

Family Members

It’s not unusual for moms, dads, or even friends to be present during a home inspection, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best idea. While it is nice to have their support and opinions,  it can distract the home inspector. Imagine having lots of different voices talking all at the same time while you’re trying to do your job? The home inspector needs uninterrupted time to be able to complete the job on time.

Contractors

As a home buyer, you may already have a list of changes you want to be done to your new home. Are you thinking of ripping out the carpet and putting in hardwoods? That’s fine, but having contractors in the house during a home inspection only creates more confusion. Plus, sometimes contractors like to “talk shop” with the inspector, which is just an additional distraction. It’s best to schedule a separate time for contractors to enter the house.

Does the Seller Need to Attend an Inspection?

Does the seller need to attend the inspection? The answer is no. Home sellers are emotionally involved in the house and may take any issues that arise personally. Therefore, it’s always best if the home seller and their realtor are not present during a home inspection. However, there are many things home sellers can do to make the home inspection go more smoothly, like doing regular seasonal maintenance.

Schedule Your Home Inspection Today

The only people that should attend an inspection are those individuals that will be on the mortgage and their realtor because they are the ones that need to make decisions. The inspection report can be distributed to as many friends and family as they like, so there is no need to have anyone else present during the inspection. You can schedule your inspection or pre-listing inspection online or give us a call.

Coronavirus and the Home Inspection

We have survived the recession on the 1990’s, the crash of the 2000’s and now it is the Covid-19 Coronavirus.  We know this too will pass. As a professional home inspector I pride myself as first, being professional, second, being consultative, and third, providing the the valuable information so my clients can purchase their homes intelligently.  That is not going to change.

Home buyers are buying homes today for potential move-in dates 30, 60, or 90 days from now.  Most of the experts are saying that by that time the health risks will be greatly mitigated but, what are you going to do right now?

Each home inspector or home inspection company will have a different point of view on the topic of health safety.  Most home inspectors are pretty crusty. We have been going in and out of all types of homes for years. Some might say this builds up our immune systems.  I don’t believe that but I will take it if that is the label I must wear.

Moving forward and for the next foreseeable future I will be taking the guidance of the medical experts and first, wearing gloves during my inspections.  I will also be suggesting that my clients and all others at the inspections maintain a distance. I will also be encouraging my clients to NOT attend the inspections with me.  I will offer to call them during the inspection and discuss my finding or call them after the inspection and walk them through the report. While this is not ideal it will eliminate the casual and unnecessary contact.  Each of us have to do our parts to slow the progression or this virus.

Remember, we are buying homes today and not moving in for weeks.  Life will continue to move on and The BrickKicker is here to help you through the process.  For more information about The BrickKicker please go to www.brickkicker.com.  If you would like information about the corona virus please go to  www.coronavirus.gov.

Spring Showers = Leaking Homes

April showers bring May flowers.  We all sang that rhyme as children, but April and Spring showers can also bring many headaches to homeowners.  The most common headaches are leaking basements and leaking roof gutters. The only sure fire, 100% accurate, foolproof, never get water into your foundation is to build your home on the peak of the mountain.  While you might not get water into your foundation; there just aren’t enough mountains to go around, plus there is no way the “prize patrol” is ever going to find you there.  

Because of this, we build our homes with some form of topographical relief or plan and this plan has to include carrying the water away from the foundation.  Most homes have some form of roof drainage, usually in the form of gutters and downspouts. Often these gutters can be clogged in the winter and sometimes with the fall leaves and debris.  If these gutters are clogged the water will not be properly carried to the downspouts.

If the downspouts do not carry the water far enough away from the foundation, the water will back cycle or be backpitched toward the foundation and possibly into the lower levels.  When dealing with downspouts, there really is only a right and wrong way of looking at them. Is water draining away from the home or is it draining back toward the foundation? It is as simple as that.  Some homes might require several feet of extension; where others only need a small splash block.

Keep water out of your home this Spring.  Clean your gutters and monitor your downspouts.  You might just need to add to your downspouts.

The Home Inspector is Not a Babysitter

It is funny how the home inspection has changed from fact finding, to negotiation tool, and now it is everything all rolled into one. During the beginning years of the home inspection industry, the Realtor was present during the entire inspection.  The Realtor was the only one with access to the keys or the home and they were also the liaison between the buyers and the sellers.  Now everything has changed.

A home inspector typically has a set routine and road map on how they migrate through a home.  Some home inspectors like to be left alone, while others provide their clients with a moving dialog.  Regardless of what the inspector’s style is, the inspector is just that, the home inspector.

Here is a recent review left about an inspection:  

Ramona Sandru ★★★☆☆

Wrinkled bed sheets No water in refrigerator

I have been a home inspector for 30 years and I know how tiring it can be.  You are scheduled to do three inspections in a day; you have to trudge through the snow, drive 100 miles between the three jobs and talk with three different clients.  Yes, we all lay down on the bed for a 15 minute nap.  NO! I have never heard of that.  However, I have seen clients sit on the beds and I have seen client’s children jump on beds.  We cannot control what they do, nor should we ever be responsible for their actions.  

I think of a recent inspection.  The Realtor came to unlock the vacant home, the client and members of the family were present, and then the Realtor left to go to another appointment.  The client’s children arrived a little bit later, after school, to look at the home.  I finished the inspection and had to go to my next one, but the client wanted to stay to measure more things and show the children the home.  I asked them to leave but they insisted the needed to stay.  Again the home is vacant.  I left because I needed to get to my next inspection, but soon after I was called asking if I locked the door and everything was fine.  The realtor was upset I did not force them to leave.  

We had another seller recently call the office and voice their disappointment and rudely complaint that we opened the kitchen cabinet and removed a glass.  The glass left in the sink was their evidence of the action.  But, the rest of the story is; the inspector needed to test the water dispenser on the refrigerator door.  He could have hit the button and let the water run in his hand or down the door but instead he used a glass.

The moral is, People need to be responsible for themselves.  The client should know they are in someone else’s home; and should have been taught as children not to touch other people’s stuff.  And, the Realtor should stay and be present during the inspection because too many times the realtors just do not show up or just sit in the car. 

The home inspection is a service.  As an inspector, I am biased and I believe it is an important service.  The market has placed this service as one of the lowest monetary valued services in the home transaction; all the while the inspector maintains the highest amount of liability.  So, for the love of all things fair and equitable, have your Realtor stay during the inspection.  The inspector is not there to babysit.