Flat Lot Considerations

As a home builder there are actually a lot of different considerations that you are going to want to make. When you have a specific lot that you are going to be building on, you will want to consider what it is that you have to work with and how your current lot is going to impact the types of building that are available to you.

  • The difference between a flat lot and a sloped lot may not seem like a big deal, but there are huge considerations to make. You really need to be able to make sure that the plot of land and the building and foundation style are accommodating to one another, because they need to agree with one another in order for your home to be structurally sound and cost effective.
  • Flat lots may have drainage problems, for example, in situations where the soil is not ideal for good drainage. If your soil is not going to work for your drainage considerations, then you need to plan to bring in a specialist who can help you make the right building decisions in preparation for your home.
  • You should choose your lot first, and then choose your home style. Or choose a home style and then select a lot that actually suits the house plans that you have chosen. It is essential that you ensure that they accommodate one another before you begin the building process.

For example, the differences between flat lots and sloping lots are numerous, and are actually going to have a pretty large impact on what types of homes you can build on the lot, especially as far as foundations are concerned. Here are some of the flat lot considerations that you are going to want to make.

Basement Considerations

If you are looking to install a basement in your home, and you are living in an area where the soil beneath the home is not going to drain well, such as a type of clay soil for example, then the truth is that you should avoid a flat lot. On the other hand, you will find that your footing drains are going to better benefit from a sloping lot because it is going to provide the ample amount of drainage that you are looking for.

When you are looking at a flat lot, you are definitely going to want to consider the type of soil that you are dealing with. If you have any doubts, bring in a specialist who can test your soil and give you some advice about how to proceed with the building of your home. Take their advice seriously: If they tell you that you have poor soil and need to change your drainage considerations, then make sure that you follow their direction so that you can build a home that suits the land that you are working with. Poor quality soil is definitely capable of leading to more expensive foundation considerations. It is definitely going to benefit you to have your soil tested before you buy the lot so that there are no surprises later on in the process.

Sloping Lot Benefits

There are a lot of benefits of choosing a sloping lot over a flat lot in this particular instance. For example, if you choose a sloping lot it is going to make it possible for you to design your home using a walkout basement, which means that you could use windows or doorways on one side of your basement in order to provide the space with some natural ventilation and natural light. Another consideration is that in some areas you will be able to use frame construction on the open side of your walkout basement, and this is generally going to be a lot more cost effective in comparison to a concrete block or poured concrete basement.

If you absolutely have to build a basement foundation but you are dealing with a flat lot that has poor soil for drainage purposes, then it is going to be a wise idea for you to hire a professional subcontractor that can help you with the waterproofing and drainage considerations that your home is going to need.

Waterproofing Exterior Basement Walls

When you hire a specialist to help with your drainage and waterproofing, then they will be able to take some extra care in the waterproofing of your exterior basement walls. They will be able to provide you with footing drains that will drain either into a sump pump or into a lower elevation somewhere on your property depending on how much land you have to work with. It is going to be important for you to consider local codes because sometimes there are specific codes in place that dictate where your drainage is allowed to be discharged, and you are going to want to make sure that you are building in such a way that you are following all of the local and state building codes so that there are no nasty surprises along the way.

Non-Basement Building Considerations

If you are not actually interested in building a basement foundation for your home, then it will definitely benefit you to find a lot that is relatively flat in nature. The reason for this is because you are not going to have to deal with excessive amounts of crawl space. This is also the best course of action if you are looking to build your home on a slab foundation, which is a foundation that involves pouring concrete directly onto the ground and then building atop the concrete with no basement or crawl space.

The type of foundation that you want to build is going to have an impact on what type of lot you need to buy for your building purposes. On the other side of the coin, the type of lot that you buy is definitely going to have an impact on the type of foundations and the types of homes that you will reasonably be able to build. If you buy the land first, make sure that your foundation and home styles correspond with the land that you buy. If you have your heart set on a specific type of building or a specific type of foundation, then you should absolutely make sure that the plot of land you buy corresponds with the building style so that you do not end up with a problem somewhere along the way.

Choosing a Foundation

If you are not sure what foundation style you are currently interested in, then you might allow the lot that you choose to dictate what foundations are available to you. On the other hand, you can do a little research and find out what types of foundations are common in the immediate area and then make your choice accordingly. Crawl spaces are more cost effective as a foundation style as compared to basement foundations, but basement foundations obviously offer their own benefits in that they create additional living space for the family living in the home. If you are looking for the most cost effective foundation and your lot is flat, then choosing a poured concrete foundation is definitely a solid way to go. The drawback here, of course, is that there is no space under the home for living space or to access the various mechanical systems of the home.

Ultimately you are going to need to weigh the pros and the cons for each type of foundation and then make your choice accordingly. Take into account the types of lots and the types of soil that you have in your area so that when you buy your land, the land is going to correspond with the type of foundation that you want to build. If you do not necessarily have a foundation preference, then feel free to make your choice based on whatever type of lot you end up buying.

Ultimately, though, you need to make sure that you are considering how different slopes of land can impact the types of foundations and the types of homes that you can build on the space. Flat lots and sloped lots have completely different building considerations for you to make, especially when drainage is considered. If you build the wrong type of foundation for the type of land that you are working with, or if drainage considerations are ignored, then you can end up with a moisture and drainage problem, or even worse, you could end up with a home that is not structurally sound.

When in doubt, work with a specialist who can give you honest answers about your options. Bringing in professional help is often the best course of action when you are trying to make the right decisions about your home building. If there are any doubts about the shape of your lot, the drainage options available or the ideal foundation style, then asking for some advice will definitely behoove you in the long run.

Main Sewer Line Inspections

Replacing the main sewer line can potentially be the most expensive repair ever made to a home. Homebuyers should take this into consideration when purchasing a home and they also need to be aware that inspecting the main sewer line (from the home to the city connection) is not included in a standard home inspection.

There are two main reasons that it is excluded:

First, inspecting the main sewer line requires expensive equipment that most home inspectors do not have and many can not afford. It’s a no-brainer for a plumber to spend $7000 on a sewer camera because it will pay for itself in a year or two.

Second, many homes do not have accessible sewer cleanouts and a plumber may be necessary to inspect the sewer line. It may be necessary to install or replace a cleanout or remove and replace a toilet to complete the inspection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

roots protruding sewer line
clean sewer line

Not every home needs a main sewer line inspection. (We call it a “sewer scope.”) If the home has a septic system, a septic inspection is necessary. If the home is newer, there is a potential from problems but they are less likely. A good candidate for a sewer scope is a home that is 20+ years old that has trees in the front year and has a new cleanout cap. This is a good indication of a past sewer line problem and if the homeowner has not replaced the line problems may recur in short order. (In a newer home, evidence that the sewer line has settled may indicate a problem.)

Typical set up for sewer scope inspection

At The BrickKicker we are able to offer a sewer scope for an additional fee. With advance notice, we can often have the sewer camera available at the inspection. Frequently our inspectors will recommend the sewer scope based on conditions observed at the inspection. We can usually take care of the sewer scope within a day or two and if a plumber is going to be needed, we can advise you on local plumbers that perform this service.

Not every The BrickKicker location offers this service but those who do often charge $175 to $225.00 for a sewer scope. Prices from a licensed plumber vary, but the typical fee is $250 to $300. When you order a sewer scope from The BrickKicker we will also provide photos of any issues uncovered and a video of the inside of the sewer line to aid in requesting and ordering repairs.  You are also getting an unbiased opinion versus an opinion for a contractor who is looking to perform additional services.

If you would like more information on sewer scope inspections or would like to schedule one today, please call us or visit www.brickkicker.com.

Foundation Settlement

Foundation Settlement

Foundation settlement is a serious deal for a homeowner, and it often requires that swift action be taken to prevent structural damage from occurring to the home. The causes behind settlement of the foundation are actually rarely due to the actual design or the under design of the home itself. The most common causes for the damage that leads to foundation settlement have to do with changes that occur to the soils around the foundation and the soils that are responsible for surrounding and supporting the entire structure. The following is a look at some of the potential causes for foundation settlement and what they can mean for the future of the foundation and the structure itself.

Weak Bearing Soil Issues

There are certain types of soil that are simply not capable when it comes to supporting the weight of the foundation or bearing the pressure that the foundation of the building exerts. Resulting from this fact, the foundation’s footings can press down or sink into softer soils. In cases such as these, the footings are going to need to be designed in such a way that they are going to spread the load across the weaker soils. The purpose for this is so any potential settlement of the foundation can be reduced. However, you still need to be aware of the fact that in most problems involving the settlement of the foundation where the bearing soil is weak, the reason is because the residential construction used standard footings rather than better load bearing footings. The reason for this is because the footings are typically going to be designed based on general guidelines rather than on soil information that is specific to the site.

Poor Compaction Issues

Both when developing commercial subdivisions and residential subdivisions, there is a common practice that people will place fill soils. Generally speaking, buildable lots are created by cutting down hilltops or by filling in valleys in order to create spaces that are flat and compacted. Fill soils that are placed properly and compacted properly should be more than capable of creating an adequate amount of support for the foundation of these businesses. However, it is important to note that when these fill soils are compacted but not in an adequate manner, then they may be capable of compressing under the load of the foundation. The result is that the structure and the foundation can settle, causing structural integrity problems in the future.

Changes in the Moisture Content

When a foundation soil experiences an extreme change in the moisture content, then this can result in damage to the foundation in the form of settlement. An excess amount of moisture is capable of saturating the soil of the foundation, and this can easily lead to a softening or a weakening of silt or clay soils. When the soil is no longer capable of supporting the load, the result is often settlement of the foundation. An increased amount of moisture within the soil beneath the foundation often comes as a consequence when there is poor drainage on the surface around the structure, when there is a leak in the water line, when there is a leak in the plumbing or when there is a raised groundwater table.

Soils that have a lot of clay content in them can also generally have a tendency to shrink when it comes to the loss of moisture. As soils with high clay contents begin to dry out, they can contract or shrink. This is going to result in the general and gradual decrease of the soil’s volume. As a result, settlement damage is often going to be observed when it comes to structures that are supported on soil that has become dried out. Drying out of the foundation soil can often be caused by conditions that are extensively drought-like as well as other causes. For example, maturing vegetation and trees can cause a drying out of the foundational soil. Another cause for drying of the foundation soil is a leaking of an HVAC or heating, ventilation and air conditioning system in the subfloor.

 

Maturing of Trees or Vegetation

As mentioned above, this is another problem that can lead to settlement of the foundation, and so it must be watched for with time. Maturing of the trees, bushes and any other types of vegetation that are in close proximity to the building of the home is a common reason for foundation settlement to occur. When trees and other types of vegetation mature, they are going to grow in size and as such, the demands they place on the soil for water and nutrients are also going to grow. The root system for these types of vegetation is also going to grow and expand on a continuous basis with time, and as such, the roots are going to be trying to draw moisture out of the soil around and beneath the building’s foundation.

Soils that are rich in clay, as a result of this action, are going to shrink with time as they lose their moisture content. This is going to result in a settlement of the overlying structure including the foundation and the building built over the top of the foundation. Many building owners and home owners have said that they never had any problems with the settlement of the foundation until many, many years following the building of the structure. Unfortunately, it can take as many as several decades before this type of problem becomes apparent, and so it can make things difficult for the home owner who suddenly has to make repairs to the foundation below the home. The reason for this is because it takes many decades for new vegetation and trees to really grow, and that is why these types of foundation issues really do not crop up until later on in the life of the building.

Foundations that are closer to the surface of the ground are generally going to be affected more often by soil dehydration issues. The reason for this is because of tree roots. Basement level foundations and foundations that are deeper are generally not going to experience as many problems with this type of soil settling issue. As a general sort of rule, the diameter of the root system for the tree is going to be at least as big as the canopy of the tree. Considering this may help you determine whether or not you are going to have issues with mature vegetation in the future.

Soil Consolidation

The concept of soil consolidation is something that occurs when a structure’s weight compresses down on a weaker, lower soil, or when newly placed soil for the purpose of filling does the same thing. A lower clay-based soil that is naturally weaker is not going to be able to withstand the pressure from the structure or the heavier fill soil, and so soil consolidation is going to occur as a result. The applied load is generally going to force some water content out of the weaker clay soil. What this is going to do is to allow for individual soil particles to space out in a denser manner. The consolidation is going to result in a downward movement of these overlying structures, or in a settlement of the foundation as a result.

When settlement is caused by a consolidation of the foundation soil, it typically occurs over a lengthy period. This type of foundation settlement can generally occur over several weeks, several months or even several years before it is considered to be complete.

Dealing with Foundation Issues

Unfortunately, when foundation settlement begins to occur, you are already in trouble. It is vitally essentially that you start dealing with this problem as soon as possible so that you can nip it in the bud before it becomes even more serious. If your foundation is sinking or settling, then there is a good chance that it is going to continue to do so until help is provided. The best thing that you can do is to determine the exact cause of the foundation settling so that you can prevent it from becoming worse.

If you are ever in doubt about what is causing your foundation to settle, it would be very wise for you to bring in some professional help so that you can get feedback and advice. Because it is so essential that you stop allowing the foundation to sink or settle, getting quick and effective professional help is going to be a really important consideration for you to make. Dealing with a settling or sinking foundation quickly and effectively is the best way to save and preserve the structural integrity of your structure, allowing it to stay in good condition for many years to come. If you do not address the problem, the continued settling may jeopardize the structural integrity of your building, causing it further harm and potential damage in the process.

Georgia Radon – What You Need to Know

Radon is a cancer causing, radioactive gas. The Surgeon General has warned the radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer, killing 21,000 people per year in the United States. You cannot see, smell or taste radon. When you breathe air containing radon, you increase your risk of getting lung cancer. Testing is the only way to find out your home’s radon levels. The EPA and the Surgeon General recommend testing all homes for radon. If you find that there are high levels, the home can be fixed. Even very high levels of can be reduced to acceptable levels. We use Sun Nuclear continuous radon monitors. These devices are very expensive but will show the radon measurement over time, note any unusual or abnormal reading in the test, detect tampering with the device and produce reliable results that you can be confident with. You will get a detailed report the day the test is completed. We do not need a lab or 3rd party to interpret our results.

The test must run for a minimum of 48 hours and sometimes we can drop them off in advance of your inspection to give you the results sooner. If you would like to add a radon test, please contact our office and we will make sure your inspector has one available the day of your inspection. Occasionally they may have one on hand at the inspection and you can add it then, but please do not count on it.

For EPA information on Radon please visit their website: https://www.epa.gov/.

For information on Radon measurements in Georgia, please visit the UGA Cooperative Extension radon information page: https://www.fcs.uga.edu/extension/home-radon

When Realtors Price Shop for Their Clients

Recently we had some feedback from some Realtors that know and trust us. The question we asked was “You send us most of your clients but sometimes you tell them to call another company. What makes you think they are better in some situations?” The answer was the same for all three of the agents: price. They all agreed that we were the most thorough and most qualified inspectors in the area but sometimes their clients were purchasing homes that were “easy” so they referred them to a low-cost competitor. This may seem like they are looking out for their clients’ best interests but is it really?

If a buyer is completing their due diligence and is paying for a home inspection they are doing it to uncover latent defects or upcoming expenses. If a client is only hiring a Home Inspector to check off a box, why hire one at all? Why save 7% when you can save 100%? If the house appears to be in order and well taken care of, then the last thing you need is a discounted inspector. This is when you need a thorough and well trained inspector the most. In my experience, the worst houses I’ve seen are the “well maintained by a single owner” or “contractor renovated” homes. They have been given meticulous attention to cosmetic details but no one has been in the attic or the crawlspace since it was built.

Instead of focusing on price, let’s turn their attention to value. What does the other inspection company offer with the inspection? At The BrickKicker we offer several things that are unmatched by our competitors. We offer a free Homebinder Account with every inspection. In addition to the value of the service ($120), if used properly it can increase the value of the home when it’s time to sell. The Porch Home Assistant (a $350 value) will help them transfer or set up utilities and find qualified contractors for repairs for the life of the home. We even give them $100 in discounts to help pay for these repairs. We offer other bonus gifts like $100 off their first gas bill with Gas South and a free alarm system from ADT. We also offer an unmatched Inspection Guaranteed. They have a full 90 Days to decide if they are satisfied with our work. If they find out later that we missed something, they can get their money back.

Here’s another reason to keep The BrickKicker at the top of your list: liability. By having consistent referral practices you are exercising the same standard of care for all of your clients. When you decide that the home doesn’t need attention to detail and thoroughness because the house is an “easy one”, you are making an exception to the way you treat a particular client. If the cheaper inspector misses something, your client had good reason to question why you made this exception and recommended the cheaper inspector.

So, the next time you want to help your client save money, tell them to call The BrickKicker. If you really think it’s worth risking your reputation to save them $25 dollars, I suggest asking Jen Fleece for a coupon first. She has a stack of them in her car.

The BrickKicker has referral indemnity that covers all referring parties and you will always be covered when you refer us.

NOTE:  Each The BrickKicker operation is independently owned and operated.  Some services and programs may not be available in all locations.  Please call your local The BrickKicker to see what is available in your location.

 

What does a realtor look for in a home inspection?

Most home buyers look to their Realtor for advice on who to choose when they are looking for a Home Inspector. Some Realtors are reluctant to recommend anyone because they fear that it will hurt their reputation if the inspector does a poor job or misses something. Most Realtors will give a list of three names without committing to a particular inspector to shield themselves from liability. Buyers need their Realtors to help them make decisions and guide them through the home buying process and this includes helping them choose a Home Inspector.

 

So what does a Realtor look for in a Home Inspector?

 

The easiest way to vet your inspector is to let someone else do it for you. Georgia will let anyone work as a home inspector so long as they tell their clients, in writing, that it’s a visual inspection and report their findings in writing. That’s it. There isn’t even a minimum standard and there is no licensing body or any consumer protection. It’s “Buyer beware.” Realtor beware as well. We recommend choosing an ASHI Certified Inspector. ASHI has the highest standards in the industry and is the only accredited professional Home Inspector association, period.

 

Let ASHI vet your home inspectors for you.

 

No matter how many names are on your list, your client is only going to choose one inspector and their professionalism may reflect on you no matter how hard you have tried to distance yourself from the decision. You want to make sure they communicate well, maintain a professional image and they deliver a useful report in a timely manner.

 

You should never refer an inspector that does not carry E&O insurance. Never. There is always the potential for things to go sideways and if they do, you want to be sure your client is protected. Imagine if things did go terribly wrong. Imagine the oversight (or negligence) is so great that no inspector could afford to make things right. E&O insurance can ensure that your client gets a check. As a bonus, the right E&O policy will protect the referring Realtor as well. The BrickKicker carries E&O with a $1,000,000 limit that also covers referring parties.

 

The BrickKicker services most of Northeast Georgia, including Athens, Oconee, Winder, Buford, Jefferson, Auburn, Monroe, Braselton, Hoschton, Oglethorpe and Madison Counties. We have multiple ASHI certified inspectors that each have over 500 inspections under their belt. Call us today to hire the experience your client need to fully protect them, and you.

 

To Walk, or Not To Walk

To walk,or not to walk that is the question.  Whether ’tis nobler to use a selfie stick or to climb a ladder.  For who would risk damage or personal dangers.  The slings and arrows of discovery and proper identification is the answer.   We are not sure if this is what William Shakespeare had in mind when he wrote Hamlet but for a home inspector this is one of the first tests they have to take when inspecting a home.

A home inspector is not required to walk a roof.  Most trade organizations, National Associations and state statutes only require the inspector to identify the method used to inspect the roof.  Many clients have the expectation that every roof should be walked.  It is truly up to the inspector to make that determination at every home and during every different condition.

 

Walking a roof is typically the easiest way to cause damage to it.  If a roof has a significant slope the walking of the roof will loosen the ganuales and potentially cause damage.  The steeper the slope the more difficult it will be for the inspector to walk the roof without damage.  If the conditions are very hot the roof will be extremely pliable or hot as well.  The walking of a roof could leave footprints or damage as well.  How about the bitter cold.  If the roof is older and it is bitter cold the roof shingles will be brittle and could also be damaged.

This is why many inspectors use different methods or techniques to inspect the surface of the roof.  One could be on a ladder at the roof’s edge.  This is very effective for getting a bird’s eye view of the representative surface of the roof.  The inspector can lift, bend, touch, and visually inspect the condition of the roof surface.  The typical condition at the edge is consistent throughout the entire roof system.    Another method could be form a second floor window.  Opening the window and physically touching the roof is similar to the roof’s edge method.

The inspector could use a drone.  Drones have become very popular.  Flying the drone around the roof will certainly provide a bird’s eye view of the entire roof system.  This could include the chimney, venting, flashing and skylights as well.  Yet another very effective and less damaging method could be using a long camera mounted pole.  This places a camera high in the air and can see the entire upper areas of the roof and the roof systems without having to fly a drone or damage anything.  The only potential danger is to the inspector.  The inspector has be careful around live electricity and lightning.  Either of these methods provide an excellent view of the roof conditions.

The inspector’s responsibility is to work hard for every client and provide the best inspection possible.  They also have a responsibility to work safe and go home every night to their family.  Most inspectors have the experience to quickly identify whether the conditions necessary to inspect the roof are safe or not safe.

I you would like to schedule a The BrickKicker Home inspection please hit the button below.

Request an Inspection

 

Pre-Listing Inspections

Pre-Listing Inspections have never really taken hold in our industry. There are a lot of reasons why but the most commonly reported is that Sellers do not want to have to disclose the results of their Pre-Listing Inspection. This argument may have some merit but unless there are material defects, the findings should not cause a disclosure issues. Material defects that are known by the seller can often be worked into the price and disclosed upfront so they do not derail the negotiations later. In my experience the Seller’s Disclosure is so frequently inaccurate that I wonder if these types of claims are even actionable. (I refer to the Seller’s Disclosure as “The Book of Lies.”)

Recently there has been a huge (and largely unsuccessful) push from the home inspection industry to make Pre-Listing Inspections the norm. I don’t think this is news to anyone but the reasons why it is happening now should really raise an eyebrow. Real Estate agents have been spending tons of money for online leads and it has drawn the attention of some people who see it as an opportunity. There are several groups in the inspection industry that have come up with different strategies to capture buyer leads and sell them to the highest bidder.

Here is the basic premise: A home inspector can offer a free or discounted home inspection to a seller in exchange for ownership of the report. The seller and their agent will advertise the availability of the report online and direct interested parties to a website where they can download the pre-listing inspection for a small fee. Anyone who is willing to pay $5-$10 dollars for a home inspection report on a listed property is probably a qualified buyer. The home inspector has now captured their information and will be able to sell the lead to real estate professionals, mortgage brokers, insurance agents and anyone else who has an interest in a qualified buyer. Some programs even have the agents pay a subscription fee to be eligible to receive the leads. The buyer may have spent $10 on a report but they are typically encouraged to have their own pre-purchase inspection.

Another type of Pre-Listing Inspection we are seeing is one that advertises the home as “Move-In Certified.” This inspection will also post the report online and available for download but the seller pays full price for the inspection and the inspector may even edit or update the report after the homeowner has made certain types of repairs. This tactic is typically promoted by new inspectors who have difficulty obtaining business from buyers so they want to short circuit the process and do the inspection for the seller. Since it is the inspector that is actually promoting the home as “Move-In Certified” the seller is off the hook for everything the inspector misses and the buyer has no claim against the inspector because they didn’t hire them in the first place. This tactic is sometimes successful in tricking the Buyer into believing they have completed their due-diligence when they have not.

There is third option that I think is much more suitable for all parties in the transaction. I call it the Pre-Listing Walk and Talk. This is not an inspection at all but a consultation. Ideally the Seller has the consultation before they even put the home on the market. They will hire a qualified Home Inspector (an ASHI Certified Inspector if one is available) to review the home in the same way they would for a buyer during a home inspection. The seller will learn what deficiencies or deferred maintenance will be highlighted during a typical home inspection and they can decide how to handle them. The inspector may also advise them on what issues are frequently misunderstood by other inspectors in the area and what issues are real safety concerns. There is no written report, but the seller can take their own notes and decided what will be updated, repaired or disclosed before settling on a list price with their Realtor. In this way they can allocate their resources appropriately, they will be able to anticipate any concessions the buyer may request and they can price the home accordingly.

At The BrickKicker of Athens, we offer the Pre-Listing Walk and Talk for 50% of whatever we would charge for a Pre-Listing Inspection that included a written report. Other The BrickKicker operations have similar programs.  This is a win for every party involved. (Also, there is no need for a seller to disclose that they had a consultation with a home inspector.) If there are material defects that they were not aware of, the Seller can address them before setting a purchase price, whether by repair or disclosure. They can also plan concessions before agreeing on a list price or accepting an offer. (Sure, it has been a “Sellers’ Market” but that often means frequent terminations.) The Agents win because the due diligence period will have no surprises. There is no increase in liability because material defects are disclosed or repaired before the house goes to market. The contract is less likely to be terminated because of issues that come up during the home inspection. (That doesn’t mean another home inspector isn’t going to blow some deferred maintenance out of proportion.) The buyer wins because material defects are disclosed before they make their offer and they can complete their due diligence without any surprises.

My advice to Sellers and their Agents is to find a qualified Home Inspector before you list the house. Let them tell you what issues are going to come up and address them before you set the list price. This may be your most powerful negotiation tool. By disclosing material defects you have removed them from the equation. Don’t be tricked into schemes like “Move-In Ready” that are designed to discourage buyers from completing their due-diligence. A discerning buyer may interpret this as a sign that the seller is hiding something and may avoid making an offer at all.

Home Maintenance Review (HMR)

What is a Home Maintenance Review (HMR)?  The best way to describe an HMR is that it is all the best parts of a The BrickKicker home inspection without having to sell your home.  It will put all unbiased expertise and inspector knowledge to use in your home and help you keep this huge asset in top working order.

The BrickKicker has been providing expert, professional, unbiased home inspections since 1989.  We have tens of thousands of clients how have relied on us to help them make informed decisions before they purchase their homes.  Who better for you to rely upon to help you keep it maintained, then that same trusted expert.

We recommend having your home reviewed at least every eighteen months.  We will focus on many of the same elements as your original home inspection but will focus on the maintenance aspects.  If you have future plans for a remodel or an enhancement.  The BrickKicker inspectors are experts at homes.  We can be there to help you avoid certain mis-steps or expensive design extras which can directly effect the budget.

Remember, often times if you call a professional in a certain discipline they will likely recommend the replacement of an entire system.  If you call someone who is unbiased and not there to sell anything, you will only receive a professional opinion.  Isn’t that what you are looking for?

Consider contacting your local The BrickKicker and schedule your HMR today.

Water Heaters

What is a Water Heater?

First, before we say one more word.  It is a water heater.  Many will say “Hot water heater” and they would be WRONG.  If it was a “hot water heater” the water would be supplied to the home or the unit already hot.

Like many other household conveniences, a good supply of hot water is only truly appreciated when it stops.  And if it stops when you’re in the shower, this realization can arrive quite abruptly.   Fortunately, it doesn’t happen that often.

The systems that provide hot water are generally reliable and operate for years.  Most homes have a tank-type water heater.  While others have a stand-alone instantaneous water heater.  Either way, there is an appliance present which creates the hot water for a home or a fixture.

Water Heaters

Not all water heaters are created equal.  What is a tankless water heater?  What are the differences between a tankless water heater and a conventional tanked water heater.  This article will look at the differences.

Tank-Type Water Heaters

The standard water heater comes in two flavors: electric and fuel-fired. In the latter, the fuel most commonly used is gas, either natural or propane, but oil-fired heaters are popular in many areas. Fuel-fired units have a vent pipe at the top to carry away exhaust gases. Electric models, on the other hand, simply have a power cable that connects the heater to your electric service panel.

The job of the tank-type heater is not only to heat the water, but to store it until it’s ready to use. Therefore, in addition to the tank’s heating system, every tank is equipped with insulation to help keep the water warm between heating cycles.

On top of every tank you’ll find the water supply and delivery pipes. The supply pipe routes cold water to the bottom of the tank through the dip tube. The hot-water delivery pipe takes water from the top. For safety, all water heaters are equipped with a T&P valve (temperature-and-pressure relief valve). This valve opens if either the temperature or pressure of the water exceeds a safe limit. The valve is connected to a pipe that runs down the outside of the tank, ending about 6 in. from the floor. It’s a good idea to keep a bucket under the end of the pipe to catch water if the valve opens. The T&P valve should not be connected to a drain. If the valve did open, a sign that a problem exists, you might never know that it had opened.

Most tanks are made of steel, which is glass-lined on the inside to help prevent corrosion. In fact, corrosion is the primary reason that tanks fail. Once rust produces a hole, there are temporary fixes, but the tank should be replaced. All tanks also have an anode rod to control corrosion. The magnesium anode rod protects the tank by corroding in place of the steel. Because the rod is designed to corrode, it will eventually wear away. After this happens, corrosion of the steel accelerates. It’s a good idea to check the anode rod once a year, and replace it if necessary. At the bottom of every tank is a drain cock to empty the heater, and a valve on the supply pipe allows you to shut down the hot-water plumbing without affecting the cold-water supply to the house.

Heater Effectiveness

Because water heaters both heat and store water, the rate at which the water is heated and the capacity of the tank affect the supply of hot water at your fixtures.

The speed at which a unit heats water is called its recovery rate. This figure indicates the amount of water in gallons that can be heated to 100 degreesF in 1 hour. Once you draw water faster than it’s heated, the temperature drops.

However, because the tank stores hot water, its capacity also affects the ongoing availability at the tap. Choosing a water heater that has an appropriate capacity and recovery rate depends on how much water your home demands and how your unit heats the water. Typically, heaters with low recovery rates have a high tank capacity. Although it takes longer to heat the water, there’s more of it for intermittent use. Electric heaters fall into this category. On the other hand, a fuel-fired heater with a high recovery rate needn’t have a large tank, because it can heat the water faster. In general, electric models have the lowest recovery rate, and oil-fired units have the highest.

Tankless Water Heaters

Tankless water heaters, a.k.n as On-demand or Instantaneous water heaters, provide hot water  only when it is needed.  They do not have a reservoir holding heater water for or the storage of heater water waiting for use or distribution in a home.

HOW THEY WORK

Tankless water heaters heat water directly without the use of a storage tank. When a hot water tap is turned on, cold water travels through a pipe into the unit. Either a gas burner or an electric element heats the water. As a result, tankless water heaters deliver a constant supply of hot water. You don’t need to wait for a storage tank to fill up with enough hot water. However, a tankless water heater’s output limits the flow rate.

Typically, tankless water heaters provide hot water at a rate of 2–5 gallons per minute. Gas-fired tankless water heaters produce higher flow rates than electric ones. Sometimes, however, even the largest, gas-fired model cannot supply enough hot water for simultaneous, multiple uses in large households. For example, taking a shower and running the dishwasher at the same time can stretch a tankless water heater to its limit. To overcome this problem, you can install two or more tankless water heaters, connected in parallel for simultaneous demands of hot water. You can also install separate tankless water heaters for appliances — such as a clothes washer or dishwater — that use a lot of hot water in your home.

ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES

For homes that use 41 gallons or less of hot water daily, demand water heaters can be 24%–34% more energy efficient than conventional storage tank water heaters. They can be 8%–14% more energy efficient for homes that use a lot of hot water — around 86 gallons per day. You can achieve even greater energy savings of 27%–50% if you install a demand water heater at each hot water outlet. ENERGY STAR® estimates that a typical family can save $100 or more per year with an ENERGY STAR qualified tankless water heater.

The initial cost of a tankless water heater is greater than that of a conventional storage water heater, but tankless water heaters will typically last longer and have lower operating and energy costs, which could offset its higher purchase price. Most tankless water heaters have a life expectancy of more than 20 years. They also have easily replaceable parts that extend their life by many more years. In contrast, storage water heaters last 10–15 years.

Tankless water heaters can avoid the standby heat losses associated with storage water heaters. However, although gas-fired tankless water heaters tend to have higher flow rates than electric ones, they can waste energy if they have a constantly burning pilot light. This can sometimes offset the elimination of standby energy losses when compared to a storage water heater. In a gas-fired storage water heater, the pilot light heats the water in the tank so the energy isn’t wasted.