<![CDATA[Jon Bronemann Home Inspections, LLC ​Proudly Serving Cedar Falls, Waterloo and Surrounding Areas - Blog - \"Hitting Home\"]]>Fri, 16 Mar 2018 14:32:57 -0500Weebly<![CDATA[Smoke Alarms - BUY YOURSELF TIME]]>Thu, 15 Mar 2018 17:04:04 GMThttp://jbch.us/blog---hitting-home/smoke-alarms-buy-yourself-timeAs a home inspector I see all kinds of homes - all sizes, all ages, all conditions.  One of the largest SAFETY issues that I report on has to do with smoke detectors.  A large percentage of homes either don't have them where they are needed or they are too old and wouldn't work anyway.  We can do better.  WE MUST DO BETTER!  This post will be written in simple and blunt wording.

Below is a link to a video from a newscast that shows a real world test on smoke detectors.  In the beginning of the video the newscaster introduces the story by saying, 'we all have smoke detectors in our homes.'  As a home inspector I can tell you for a fact that "ALL" is not a word that I would use to describe reality in our homes.  In fact, smoke detectors are either missing where required or just too old to work in the overwhelming majority of the homes that I inspect here in the Cedar Valley.  Take a look at the video and then keep reading.  
In the video, notice the three types of smoke detectors and the time it took to sense the fire.  Keep in mind, THESE WERE WORKING SMOKE DETECTORS! 

As the video states there are 3 types of smoke alarm sensors: ionization, photo-eye,  and combination photo-eye/ionization. 
Rough Costs:
Ionization (least expensive and detect fast burning)  $5 to $10.00
Photo-eye (mid-priced and detect slow smoldering) $20.00 and up.
Combination or dual sensing (most expensive BUT MOST EFFECTIVE)  $30 and more.
In the video notice how quickly the dual sensing unit responded.  Notice how LONG it took the cheap ionization detector to respond to a slow smoldering fire.  The smoke would kill you before the flames ever do.

Updated national building codes REQUIRE dual sensing detectors.  Only 10% of the homes in America have a dual sensing device.   Codes are updated for a reason.  Thirty or forty years ago when homes were made of natural materials the time to evacuate a home was about 15 minutes.  Today, due to many man-made materials we have about 3 minutes to get out of the house.  For example, there is a reason that the fire department will NOT enter a home to fight the fire once it is confirmed that everyone is out safely. 

The floor structure of a newer home is made of materials that rely on glue and high pressure to bond layers of wood together during the manufacturing process to make the individual joist members and plywood as opposed to the solid wood floor joists many years ago.  Once the glue reaches a high temperature it simply melts and the system fails.  There is no warning.  There is no sound.  Tests have shown that a manufactured floor system can fail in as little as four minutes. For this reason get as much time as you can to evacuate the home.  Use devices that detect slow smoldering fires.  It takes several minutes for a cheap detector to sense a fire, several more minutes for you to call 9-1-1, several more for the fire department to show up to even begin to look for you.  Television shows make it all happen before the next commercial break.  It doesn't happen this way.  Realistically, you have only the time OF A COMMERCIAL BREAK to get out safely.  "Buy" yourself that time.  Get dual sensing smoke detectors.  

To make matters worse, most of the detectors I see in a home are either not working due to the batteries or the device is older than 10 years old.  Yes, detectors do wear out and need to be replaced.  While pushing the test button on the device MAY activate the alarm to sound it is NOT an indication that the "sniffer" on the device is functioning.  

Below are some diagrams on where to install smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors (CO) and fire extinguishers.  Notice,  MORE THAN ONE SMOKE DETECTOR is required per floor with livable space.  If you have bedrooms or livable space in the basement you would need to follow the same requirements as the other floors.
In the video these test results even made the fire fighter conducting the test change his own detectors at home.  He knows that time is something you just don't have in a fire.  "Buy" yourself all the time you can.
<![CDATA[Proper Water Heater Temperature]]>Thu, 30 Nov 2017 00:48:07 GMThttp://jbch.us/blog---hitting-home/proper-water-heater-temperatureI have seen a lot of different temperatures on water heaters when I test them during a home inspection.  I test the temperatures at several places in the home for several different reasons.
  1. Showers and bathtubs:  I am looking for a temperature of 120 deg F and NO HIGHER.  Why?
    In showers and tubs I am especially concerned about burns.  The plumbing code talks about the temperature of water provided from these two fixtures specifically.  Under 120 deg F is the magic number.  They deem this a safe temperature.  Honestly, 110 deg F is plenty hot for a hot shower.  More on how this is regulated in a minute.  Ironically, the maximum temperature in the code for a bidet is 110 deg F and for OBVIOUS REASONS.  Use your imagination and if you don't know what a bidet is - Google it. 
  2. Kitchen sinks, laundry, bathroom sinks and other faucets:  I am looking for a temperature of more than 120 deg F.  Why?  In these fixtures, especially in the kitchen sink and laundry room and other hand washing areas over 120 deg F is what it takes to kill bacteria, especially Legionella bacteria growth (Legionnaires Disease) - The minimum temperature to prevent Legionella bacteria growth is 122°F. Above 122°F and up to 131°F, Legionella bacteria survives, but will not multiply. At 131°F, it takes about 5 to 6 hours for the bacteria to die. At 140°F, the bacteria dies in about 32 minutes. At 151°F, the bacteria dies instantly. The recommended minimum disinfection temperature is a few degrees above 151°F, which is 158°F for about 5 minutes. To prevent bacteria growth, a safety factor of a couple of degrees would require a minimum of 124°F at the coolest spot in the hot water distribution system (the pipes).  Now, this is why it is a good practice to let water that has sat in the pipes for awhile to just drain out and run down the drain.
Now, back to the shower and tub faucet temperature.  The plumbing code requires that these fixtures have a feature that prevents the flow of water over 120 deg F.  This is called an anti-scald device.  It mixes cold water with the hot water to keep it at a safe temperature.  If you have small children that use the tub or shower it is recommended that 110 deg F be the setting on these devices.  

So, with that in mind what should a hot water heater be set at? 
It is acceptable to turn your water heater as high as 140ºF if required but higher energy consumption will occur. Be aware that turning up the temperature on your water heater WILL increase your electric or gas bill every month. Adjusting the water heaters temperature higher is sometimes required if it is located far from the point of usage or if it is not properly insulated. If your shower is located on the other side of your home from the water heater, you may want to adjust the temp higher. If there are multiple showers in your home and they are all being used at the same time you can adjust the temperature to prevent running out of hot water.
Increasing your water heater temperature by just 10ºF from 130ºF to 140ºF may increase heat loss resulting in a larger electric bill from $30 to $75 dollars annually. Setting the temperature to 140ºF can also increase standby losses (cost of keeping water hot all the time) resulting in an annual expense around $500 dollars. One benefit from setting your water heater to 140ºF is that this temperature is hot enough to kill almost anything that could be growing inside the water heater itself. If you do decide to raise the temp on your heater for whatever reason, use caution when using faucets, bath tubs, or showers as severe scalding can occur. To minimize the scalding risk, you should ensure you either have or install mixing valves or other temperature regulating devices on any taps you use for washing or bathing.  If you turn up your water heater make sure to check the supply temperature at your showers and bathtubs so that the mixing valves are putting out 110 to 120 deg F water.  The mixer valves may need to be adjusted again.

With all of this being said I am sure you are asking where I set my water heater?  Well, I have mixing valves on my tubs and showers set to 110 deg F.  My water heater is set at 132 deg F because I want to kill the bacteria.  The water heater sits there all day usually doing nothing but just keeping hot for when I come home and need a shower so 5 to 6 hours of standby time is normal. 

So, remember we were discussing about water sitting in the pipes and cooling off? Well, that can be addressed too by installing a re-circulating pump.  This insures that hot water is regularly circulated through the distribution system and the amount of time you stand at the fixture waiting for hot water to come out is reduced.  Yes, this does use energy, but you may want to consider this with any plumbing upgrade.

I hope you found this helpful and educational.  Stay tuned for future posts on home issues.  

<![CDATA[Water Heater Maintenance - What you should know.]]>Wed, 30 Aug 2017 22:45:07 GMThttp://jbch.us/blog---hitting-home/water-heater-maintenance-what-you-should-knowMessage From Jon:
This article below is given as an informational source to help you understand that water heaters do require maintenance.  This should give you an idea of what a professional will do, why it should be done and help you decide if it is something you can attempt yourself.  Keep in mind, even if you decide you can't attempt this maintenance, it is still something that should be done to prolong the use and efficiency of a water heater.  Believe me, it does make a difference.  The total replacement cost of a water heater can be as high as $1,000 depending on the type and size and difficulty of installation.

by Fran J. Donegan for The Home Depot

​Storage tank water heaters are the type of appliance that can hum along for years. Once installed, they don’t need constant attention. However, they do require maintenance to keep them running at peak efficiency. These are mostly simple tasks that you can do yourself, but you can also hire a pro to perform regular maintenance for you. Here are some tips on how you can keep your water heater working proficiently, and how often it will need maintenance.

Understanding Your Water Heater
Be sure to review the owner’s manual that came with your water heater. It usually spells out necessary maintenance tasks, as well as other important information, such as safety precautions and size specifications. When in doubt, refer to the manual. If you can't find the manual, check the manufacturer’s website for instructions on obtaining a copy.

Consult a professional before attempting any maintenance tasks, and make sure that the water line and the power to the water heater are safely shut off before beginning.

Ongoing Maintenance
Keep the area around the water heater free of clutter. Gas heaters have vents at the bottom that must be kept clear to aid in the heating element combustion. Never store anything with flammable vapors, such as gasoline or paint thinner, near a gas water heater. Providing a clear space around the appliance makes it easy to get to the water shutoff in an emergency. It also gives repairmen room to work on the heater, should a service call be necessary.

Every Few Months
Drain some of the tank’s water to remove the sediment that collects on the bottom of the tank. All incoming water contains sediment that, over time, can hinder the performance of your water heater. The amount you need to drain will depend on the condition of the water.
  1. Shut off the power. For electric heaters, shut the unit down completely. For gas heaters, move the control dial to "pilot.
  2. Turn off the cold water supply to the tank.
  3. Connect a garden hose to the drain valve located near the bottom of the tank, and then run the hose to a drain.
  4. Open a hot water faucet in a nearby sink and leave it open.
  5. Open the water heater’s drain valveCaution: Be careful. The water will be very hot.
  6. Drain the tank until the water runs clear. This may take a few minutes or longer.

    Pro Tip: Plumbers will often turn the water on and off a few times to help stir up the sediment at the bottom of the tank.

  7. Once the water is clear, close the drain valve and turn on the water supply. You'll know the tank is full when water is flowing through the faucet you left open earlier.
  8. When the tank is full, turn the power back on.
The frequency of this procedure will depend on the condition of your water. If the water is perfectly clear from the start, you probably don't need to drain your tank often. If the water is very dirty, you may need to drain it more frequently.

Test the temperature/pressure-relief valve. It's located near the top of the storage tank and should be attached to a long tube that extends almost to the bottom of the tank. The valve is designed to relieve pressure that builds up above acceptable levels inside the tank.
  1. Place a small bucket under the extension tube.
  2. Lift the valve up, and then push the lever back into position to close the valve. Caution: Stand back because hot water will be released from the valve.
  3. If there is no release of pressure in the form of air and/or water, the valve may be defective. Consult a plumber to have it fixed.
Check to make sure the venting system is operating properly on your gas water heater. On top of the tank is a draft hood raised above the flue, which is located inside the tank. The hood should be attached to connectors that run to the chimney. If the flue is not drawing adequately, gases that should be going up the chimney could be lingering into the room.
  1. Turn the temperature controls up so that the burner starts. Wait a few minutes to give the unit time to get going.
  2. Place your fingers near the opening between the hood and the top of the tank. If you feel air brush across your fingers and up the draft hood, the flue is drawing properly, so you can reset the water to normal operating temperature.
  3. If you don’t feel air, the flue may not be drawing.  Black soot around the top of the tank and the vent hood is also a sign that system is not venting properly. There could be a couple of reasons for the problem, including blockage in the chimney.  To be safe, shut down the unit and call in a professional to inspect the system.

Every Few Years
Check the anode rod, and replace it, if necessary.  The rod is usually made of aluminum, magnesium, zinc, or a combination of corrodible metals, and is suspended inside the tank. Its purpose is to attract any corrosive elements in the water. The theory is that any corrosion that attacks the rod will not attack the inside walls of the tank. Eventually, corrosion will get the best of the rod, and a new one must take its place.
  1. Turn off the power to the water heater, and shut off the water.
  2. Drain off 4 or 5 gallons of water through the drain valve. This will help prevent water splashing up on you as you remove the rod. It is not necessary to drain the entire tank.
  3. Locate the rod. It’s often threaded to the top of the tank. You may see it right away, or you may need to consult your manual for its location.
  4. To remove the rod, you will need a ratchet with a 1-1/16-inch socket. Have a helper hold the tank steady while you loosen the rod, and then carefully pull it out.
  5. If there are sections of the rod missing, you should replace the rod. If necessary, cut the new rod to match the size of the old one. Apply some plumber’s tape to the threads of the new rod, and then carefully lower it into the tank and tighten it.
  6. Turn the water on and wait for the tank to fill up again. Then, turn the power to the water heater back on.
Keeping your water heater running at optimal performance can save you from needing to replace the unit more often than necessary. Performing regular maintenance will ultimately help extend the life of your water heater, which should be a priority for all homeowners.]]>
<![CDATA[Attic Pull-Down Ladders]]>Wed, 07 Jun 2017 16:22:07 GMThttp://jbch.us/blog---hitting-home/attic-pull-down-laddersby Nick Gromicko and
additional commentary by Jon Bronemann
Coauthor's Note:  I was having this discussion about attic ladders with my neighbor the other day and thought it would be a good time for an article on this.  I see so many of these violations during my home inspections here in Iowa.  Many times the violations are on homes that passed a final inspection and then homeowner's, unlicensed contractors or others no familiar with proper safety requirements get into a project that is really over their head and can allow fire to spread or causes structural damage to a home because of the way it was installed.  
Attic pull-down ladders, also called attic pull-down stairways, are collapsible ladders that are permanently attached to the attic floor. Occupants can use these ladders to access their attics without being required to carry a portable ladder.
Common Defects
 Homeowners, not professional carpenters, usually install attic pull-down ladders. Evidence of this distinction can be observed in consistently shoddy and dangerous work that rarely meets safety standards. Some of the more common defective conditions observed by inspectors include:
  • cut bottom cord of structural truss. Often, homeowners will cut through a structural member in the field while installing a pull-down ladder, unknowingly weakening the structure. Structural members should not be modified in the field without an engineer’s approval;
  • fastened with improper nails or screws. Homeowners often use drywall or deck screws rather than the standard 16d penny nails or ¼” x 3” lag screws. Nails and screws that are intended for other purposes may have reduced shear strength and they may not support pull-down ladders;
  • fastened with an insufficient number of nails or screws. Manufacturers provide a certain number of nails with instructions that they all be used, and they probably do this for a good reason. Inspectors should be wary of “place nail here” notices that are nowhere near any nails;
  • lack of insulation. Hatches in many houses (especially older ones) are not likely to be weather-stripped and/or insulated. An uninsulated attic hatch allows air from the attic to flow freely into the home, which may cause the heating or cooling system to run overtime. An attic hatch cover box can be installed to increase energy savings;
  • loose mounting bolts. This condition is more often caused by age rather than installation, although improper installation will hasten the loosening process;
  • attic pull-down ladders are cut too short. Stairs should reach the floor; 
  • attic pull-down ladders are cut too long. This causes pressure at the folding hinge, which can cause breakage;
  • improper or missing fasteners;
  • compromised fire barrier when installed in the garage.  The door should have the same fire barrier material as the ceiling.  This is usually 1/2" drywall.
  • attic ladder frame is not properly secured to the ceiling opening;
  • closed ladder is covered with debris, such as blown insulation or roofing material shed during roof work. Inspectors can place a sheet on the floor beneath the ladder to catch whatever debris may fall onto the floor; and
  • cracked steps. This defect is a problem with wooden ladders. 
  • In sliding pull-down ladders, there is a potential for the ladder to slide down quickly without notice. Always pull the ladder down slowly and cautiously. 
 Relevant Codes
The 2009 edition of the International Building Code (IBC) and the 2006 edition of the International Residential Code (IRC) offer guidelines regarding attic access, although not specifically pull-down ladders. Still, the information might be of some interest to inspectors.
2009 IBC (Commercial Construction):
1209.2 Attic Spaces. An opening not less than 20 inches by 30 inches (559 mm by 762 mm) shall be provided to any attic area having a clear height of over 30 inches (762 mm). A 30-inch (762 mm) minimum clear headroom in the attic space shall be provided at or above the access opening.
2006 IRC (Residential Construction):
R807.1 Attic Access. Buildings with combustible ceiling or roof construction shall have an attic access opening to attic areas that exceed 30 square feet (2.8m squared) and have a vertical height of 30 inches (762 mm) or more. The rough-framed opening shall not be less than 22 inches by 30 inches, and shall be located in a hallway or readily accessible location. A 30-inch (762 mm) minimum unobstructed headroom in the attic space shall be provided at some point above the access opening.
  • Do not allow children to enter the attic through an attic access. The lanyard attached to the attic stairs should be short enough that children cannot reach it. Parents can also lock the attic ladder so that a key or combination is required to access it.
  • If possible, avoid carrying large loads into the attic. While properly installed stairways may safely support an adult man, they might fail if he is carrying, for instance, a bag full of bowling balls. Such trips can be split up to reduce the weight load.
  • Replace an old, rickety wooden ladder with a new one. Newer aluminum models are often lightweight, sturdy and easy to install.
In summary, attic pull-down ladders are prone to a number of defects, most of which are due to improper installation.]]>
<![CDATA[10 Easy Ways to Save Money & Energy in Your Home]]>Thu, 26 Jan 2017 18:00:57 GMThttp://jbch.us/blog---hitting-home/10-easy-ways-to-save-money-energy-in-your-homeBy Nick Gromicko, Ben Gromicko, and Kenton Shepard of InterNACHI
Most people don’t know how easy it is to make their homes run on less energy.  The professional inspector organization, InterNACHI, that I belong to is trying to educate people and change that. we want to change that. 
Drastic reductions in heating, cooling and electricity costs can be accomplished through very simple changes, most of which homeowners can do themselves. Of course, for homeowners who want to take advantage of the most up-to-date knowledge and systems in home energy efficiency, InterNACHI energy auditors can perform in-depth testing to find the best energy solutions for your particular home. 
Why make your home more energy efficient? Here are a few good reasons:
  • Federal, state, utility and local jurisdictions' financial incentives, such as tax breaks, are very advantageous for homeowners in most parts of the U.S.
  • It saves money. It costs less to power a home that has been converted to be more energy-efficient.
  • It increases the comfort level indoors.
  • It reduces our impact on climate change. Many scientists now believe that excessive energy consumption contributes significantly to global warming.
  • It reduces pollution. Conventional power production introduces pollutants that find their way into the air, soil and water supplies.
1. Find better ways to heat and cool your house. 
As much as half of the energy used in homes goes toward heating and cooling. The following are a few ways that energy bills can be reduced through adjustments to the heating and cooling systems:
  • Install a ceiling fan. Ceiling fans can be used in place of air conditioners, which require a large amount of energy.
  • Periodically replace air filters in air conditioners and heaters.
  • Set thermostats to an appropriate temperature. Specifically, they should be turned down at night and when no one is home. In most homes, about 2% of the heating bill will be saved for each degree that the thermostat is lowered for at least eight hours each day. Turning down the thermostat from 75° F to 70° F, for example, saves about 10% on heating costs.
  • Install a programmable thermostat. A programmable thermostat saves money by allowing heating and cooling appliances to be automatically turned down during times that no one is home and at night. Programmable thermostats contain no mercury and, in some climate zones, can save up to $150 per year in energy costs.
  • Install a wood stove or a pellet stove. These are more efficient sources of heat than furnaces and they look pretty cool too.
  • At night, curtains drawn over windows will better insulate the room.
2. Install a tankless water heater.
Demand-type water heaters (tankless or instantaneous) provide hot water only as it is needed. They don't produce the standby energy losses associated with traditional storage water heaters, which will save on energy costs. 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. A gas burner or an electric element heats the water. As a result, demand 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.
3. Replace incandescent lights.
The average household dedicates 11% of its energy budget to lighting. Traditional incandescent lights convert approximately only 10% of the energy they consume into light, while the rest becomes heat. The use of new lighting technologies, such as light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), can reduce the energy use required by lighting by 50% to 75%. Advances in lighting controls offer further energy savings by reducing the amount of time that lights are on but not being used. Here are some facts about CFLs and LEDs:
  • CFLs use 75% less energy and last about 10 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs.
  • LEDs last even longer than CFLs and consume less energy.
  • LEDs have no moving parts and, unlike CFLs, they contain no mercury.

​​4. Seal and insulate your home. Sealing and insulating your home is one of the most cost-effective ways to make a home more comfortable and energy-efficient, and you can do it yourself. A tightly sealed home can improve comfort and indoor air quality while reducing utility bills. An InterNACHI energy auditor can assess  leakage in the building envelope and recommend fixes that will dramatically increase comfort and energy savings. The following are some common places where leakage may occur: electrical receptacles/outlets; mail slots; around pipes and wires; wall- or window-mounted air conditioners; attic hatches; fireplace dampers; inadequate weatherstripping around doors; baseboards; window frames; and switch plates. Because hot air rises, air leaks are most likely to occur in the attic. Homeowners can perform a variety of repairs and maintenance to their attics that save them money on cooling and heating, such as:  Plug the large holes. Locations in the attic where leakage is most likely to be the greatest are where walls meet the attic floor, behind and under attic knee walls, and in dropped-ceiling areas. Seal the small holes. You can easily do this by looking for areas where the insulation is darkened. Darkened insulation is a result of dusty interior air being filtered by insulation before leaking through small holes in the building envelope. In cold weather, you may see frosty areas in the insulation caused by warm, moist air condensing and then freezing as it hits the cold attic air. In warmer weather, you’ll find water staining in these same areas. Use expanding foam or caulk to seal the openings around plumbing vent pipes and electrical wires. Cover the areas with insulation after the caulk is dry. Seal up the attic access panel with weatherstripping. You can cut a piece of fiberglass or rigid foamboard insulation in the same size as the attic hatch and glue it to the back of the attic access panel. If you have pull-down attic stairs or an attic door, these should be sealed in a similar manner. 

Jon Bronemann Home Inspections, LLC can use thermal imaging to help you find the spots in the home that need attention.  See the video below of how this technology works.

5. Install efficient showerheads and toilets. The following systems can be installed to conserve water usage in homes: low-flow showerheads. They are available in different flow rates, and some have a pause button which shuts off the water while the bather lathers up; low-flow toilets. Toilets consume 30% to 40% of the total water used in homes, making them the biggest water users. Replacing an older 3.5-gallon toilet with a modern, low-flow 1.6-gallon toilet can reduce usage an average of 2 gallons-per-flush (GPF), saving 12,000 gallons of water per year. Low-flow toilets usually have "1.6 GPF" marked on the bowl behind the seat or inside the tank; vacuum-assist toilets. This type of toilet has a vacuum chamber that uses a siphon action to suck air from the trap beneath the bowl, allowing it to quickly fill with water to clear waste. Vacuum-assist toilets are relatively quiet; and dual-flush toilets. Dual-flush toilets have been used in Europe and Australia for years and are now gaining in popularity in the U.S. Dual-flush toilets let you choose between a 1-gallon (or less) flush for liquid waste, and a 1.6-gallon flush for solid waste. Dual-flush 1.6-GPF toilets reduce water consumption by an additional 30%.

6. Use appliances and electronics responsibly.
Appliances and electronics account for about 20% of household energy bills in a typical U.S. home. The following are tips that will reduce the required energy of electronics and appliances:
  • Refrigerators and freezers should not be located near the stove, dishwasher or heat vents, or exposed to direct sunlight. Exposure to warm areas will force them to use more energy to remain cool.  
  • Computers should be shut off when not in use. If unattended computers must be left on, their monitors should be shut off. According to some studies, computers account for approximately 3% of all energy consumption in the United States.
  • Use efficient ENERGY STAR-rated appliances and electronics. These devices, approved by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR Program, include TVs, home theater systems, DVD players, CD players, receivers, speakers, and more. According to the EPA, if just 10% of homes used energy-efficient appliances, it would reduce carbon emissions by the equivalent of 1.7 million acres of trees.
  • Chargers, such as those used for laptops and cell phones, consume energy when they are plugged in. When they are not connected to electronics, chargers should be unplugged.
  • Laptop computers consume considerably less electricity than desktop computers
7. Install daylighting as an alternative to electrical lighting.
Daylighting is the practice of using natural light to illuminate the home's interior. It can be achieved using the following approaches:
  • skylights. It’s important that they be double-pane or they may not be cost-effective. Flashing skylights correctly is key to avoiding leaks;
  • light shelves. Light shelves are passive devices designed to bounce light deep into a building. They may be interior or exterior. Light shelves can introduce light into a space up to 2½ times the distance from the floor to the top of the window, and advanced light shelves may introduce four times that amount;
  • clerestory windows.  Clerestory windows are short, wide windows set high on the wall. Protected from the summer sun by the roof overhang, they allow winter sun to shine through for natural lighting and warmth; and 
  • light tubes.  Light tubes use a special lens designed to amplify low-level light and reduce light intensity from the midday sun. Sunlight is channeled through a tube coated with a highly reflective material, and then enters the living space through a diffuser designed to distribute light evenly.
8. Insulate windows and doors.
About one-third of the home's total heat loss usually occurs through windows and doors. The following are ways to reduce energy lost through windows and doors:
  • Seal all window edges and cracks with rope caulk. This is the cheapest and simplest option.
  • Windows can be weatherstripped with a special lining that is inserted between the window and the frame. For doors, apply weatherstripping around the whole perimeter to ensure a tight seal when they're closed. Install quality door sweeps on the bottom of the doors, if they aren't already in place.
  • Install storm windows at windows with only single panes. A removable glass frame can be installed over an existing window.
  • If existing windows have rotted or damaged wood, cracked glass, missing putty, poorly fitting sashes, or locks that don't work, they should be repaired or replaced.
9. Cook smart.
An enormous amount of energy is wasted while cooking. The following recommendations and statistics illustrate less wasteful ways of cooking:
  • Convection ovens are more efficient that conventional ovens. They use fans to force hot air to circulate more evenly, thereby allowing food to be cooked at a lower temperature. Convection ovens use approximately 20% less electricity than conventional ovens.
  • Microwave ovens consume approximately 80% less energy than conventional ovens.
  • Pans should be placed on the matching size heating element or flame. 
  • Using lids on pots and pans will heat food more quickly than cooking in uncovered pots and pans.
  • Pressure cookers reduce cooking time dramatically.
  • When using conventional ovens, food should be placed on the top rack. The top rack is hotter and will cook food faster. 
10. Change the way you do laundry.
  • Do not use the medium setting on your washer. Wait until you have a full load of clothes, as the medium setting saves less than half of the water and energy used for a full load.
  • Avoid using high-temperature settings when clothes are not very soiled. Water that is 140° F uses far more energy than 103° F for the warm-water setting, but 140° F isn’t that much more effective for getting clothes clean.
  • Clean the lint trap every time before you use the dryer. Not only is excess lint a fire hazard, but it will prolong the amount of time required for your clothes to dry.
  • If possible, air-dry your clothes on lines and racks.
  • Spin-dry or wring clothes out before putting them into a dryer. 
Homeowners who take the initiative to make these changes usually discover that the energy savings are more than worth the effort. InterNACHI home inspectors can make this process much easier because they can perform a more comprehensive assessment of energy-savings potential than the average homeowner can.  
<![CDATA[Understanding your best about asbestos]]>Mon, 12 Dec 2016 17:42:00 GMThttp://jbch.us/blog---hitting-home/understanding-your-best-about-asbestosAsbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous mineral used in many construction products. It is considered to be a carcinogen. Asbestos has been used in: sealant, putty, and spackling compounds; vinyl floor tiles, backing for vinyl sheet flooring, and flooring adhesives; ceiling tiles; textured paint; exterior wall and ceiling insulation; roofing shingles; cement board for many uses, including siding; door gaskets for furnaces and wood-burning stoves; concrete piping; paper, millboard and cement board sheets used to protect walls and floors around wood-burning stoves; fabric connectors between pieces of metal ductwork; hot water and steam piping insulation, blanket covering and tape; and as insulation on boilers, oil-fired furnaces, and coal-fired furnaces. The use of asbestos was phased out in 1978, but many older houses contain asbestos-bearing products. 

Products containing asbestos are not always a health hazard. The potential health risk occurs when these products become worn or deteriorate in a way that releases asbestos fibers into the air. Of particular concern are those asbestos-containing products that are soft, that were sprayed or troweled on, or that have become crumbly.  In this condition, asbestos is considered to be in a friable state.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency believes that as long as the asbestos-bearing product is intact, is not likely to be disturbed, and is in an area where repairs or rehabilitation will not occur, it is best to leave the product in place. If it is deteriorated, it may be enclosed, coated or sealed up (encapsulated) in place, depending upon the degree of deterioration. Otherwise, it should be removed by a certified professional. 

A certified environmental professional could perform an inspection and make the decision whether to enclose, coat, encapsulate or remove deteriorated asbestos-containing products. Testing by a qualified laboratory, as directed by the environmental professional, may be needed in order to make an informed decision. Encapsulation, removal and disposal of asbestos products must be done by a qualified asbestos-abatement contractor. 

I have found suspected asbestos materials in all areas of the Cedar Falls, Waterloo, Waverly and surrounding areas in my years of construction in home built prior to 1978.  It is always best to identify, test, verify and react appropriately to these materials.  

For more information, visit
<![CDATA[Smelly Front Load Washer Settlement]]>Wed, 28 Sep 2016 21:14:49 GMThttp://jbch.us/blog---hitting-home/smelly-front-load-washer-settlementIf you purchased, acquired, or received as a gift a new Whirlpool, Kenmore, or Maytag front-loading washing machine manufactured between 2001 and 2010, you may be entitled to cash or other compensation as part of a class action settlement.A settlement has been reached with Whirlpool Corporation (“Whirlpool”) and Sears, Roebuck and Co. (“Sears”) (together, “Defendants”) in several class action lawsuits claiming that certain front-loading washing machines manufactured between 2001 and 2010 fail to adequately self-clean themselves of laundry residue, resulting in mold or mildew buildup that can cause bad odors and ruined laundry. Defendants deny they did anything wrong. CLICK HERE to see a complete list of the washer models that are included in the settlement, referred to as the “Class Washers.”
If you are included in the Settlement, you may qualify for one of a variety of benefits including a cash payment, a rebate on the purchase of a new washing machine or dryer, or reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses incurred due to past mold or odor problems in your washing machine.
Your legal rights are affected whether you act or don’t act. Please read the FAQ notice carefully.

I own one of these washers.  I filled out the form online.  It is easy to do.  Just follow the links here for more information.

For your Professional Home Inspection by a certified InterNACHI inspector in Cedar Falls, Waterloo, Waverly, Grundy Center, Hudson, Reinbeck, Clarksville, Allison, Shell Rock, Janesville, Evansdale, Elk Run Heights, Jesup, Independence, Dysart, La Porte City, Dike, Iowa call Jon Bronemann Home Inspections, LLC at 319-239-5880

<![CDATA[Dishwasher - high loop drains]]>Tue, 20 Sep 2016 18:03:08 GMThttp://jbch.us/blog---hitting-home/dishwasher-high-loop-drainsOne of the most noted issues I find when inspecting the kitchen plumbing of a home is with the dishwasher.  While there are several things that I inspect here one of them I note most often is "lack of a high loop on the dishwasher drain hose."​

The purpose of the "high loop" or a separate "anti-siphon device" on a dishwasher is to prevent the drain waste water from the kitchen sink from entering the bottom of the dishwasher when draining the sink basins. The anti-siphon device is a safer way of acc
​omplishing this as it incorporates an air gap making it almost impossible for bacteria to reach the clean dishes, whereas a high loop would only be a problem if both sinks were full and drained at the same time, or the drain from the kitchen sink were plugged partially and the waste water can travel back into the bottom of the dishwasher basin. Once the dishwasher starts its cycle, that waste water combines with the fresh water and is splashed onto your dishes, hopefully getting pumped out and cleaned on the next cycle.

Typically, when the dishwasher is in its drain cycle, you will hear a gurgling noise coming from the kitchen sink drain or the disposal side if that is where it is connected. If any water or waste is backing up the line, there is some issue with the drain itself.

Installing a high loop is quite simple whereas a anti-siphon device will entail drilling into your counter top and installing the appropriate device.

​While we are on the topic of dishwashers don't forget the following things:
1.  Wipe down the door seals and remove any residue that may keep the seal from performing properly.
2.  Clean out the food strainer in the middle of the washer compartment under the washer arm.

High Loop 
Air Admittance Valve

Call your local inspectors office to find out which type of protection they require in your city/town.  Some jurisdictions require a countertop type anti-siphon device.  

For your professional home inspection in Cedar Falls, Waterloo, Waverly, Grundy Center, Reinbeck, Iowa and surrounding areas call Jon Bronemann Home Inspections, LLC at 319-239-5880. 

<![CDATA[How to Clean Algae and Moss Off Asphalt Shingles]]>Fri, 02 Sep 2016 15:21:03 GMThttp://jbch.us/blog---hitting-home/how-to-clean-algae-and-moss-off-asphalt-shingles
I often see algae and moss growing on asphalt shingles during my inspections in the Cedar Falls and Waterloo area  and honestly just driving down the street.  Ok, I am weird.  I look at stuff like this.  What I don't get is all of you folks that spot an item for sale in a yard.  I never see them.  I'm busy looking for defects in houses we drive by...hahahaha.   Anyway, here is how you can attempt to solve this issue if you have it on your home.

How to Clean Algae and Moss Off Asphalt Shingles
by Michael Chotiner of The Home Depot

Stains on asphalt roofing shingles make a house look shabby, which detracts from its value. In some cases, stains are merely a cosmetic issue.  But sometimes they’re symptomatic of a problem that, if left unchecked, can lead to more serious damage and, eventually, roof failure. It's not always hard to distinguish the causes of stains, nor, in most cases, to get rid of them and prevent the stains from recurring.

Common Causes of Staining

Dark stains on an asphalt roof could be caused by a number of conditions, including:

Eroded mineral surface. 
If the roof-covering material has been on the house for 15 years or so, it could be that the surface granules are wearing off the shingles and the asphalt base is starting to show through. On older roofs, you may additionally see cracked and/or shingles with curled edges. If you determine that age and wear are the causes of darkening, it may be time for a new roof.

Algae growth. 
More often than not, blue, green or black stains on an asphalt-shingle roof are caused by algae. Algae staining begins with small spots which, over time, can develop into streaks. Algae stains, which are often mistaken for mold or mildew, aren't harmful to anything other than the appearance of asphalt shingles, but nobody likes the look.

Green, velvety masses of moss often grow on north-facing roof surfaces and on tree-shaded roofs. Unlike algae, moss left on roof surfaces can develop beyond an aesthetic problem. It can infiltrate the roof structure underneath the shingles and make their edges lift and curl, which can lead to cracking and blow-off during high winds and storms. Heavy moss growth can actually form dams that can cause water to back up under the shingles and damage the roof deck. It's best to clean moss off a roof as soon as you notice it's growing there.

Safety First 
Both algae and moss can be easily removed from asphalt shingles with a 50/50 solution of chlorine bleach and water. Laundry-strength bleach is sufficient, or you can opt for any of a number of proprietary roof cleaners, some of which don't contain bleach, lye, or other potentially harmful chemicals.
Since bleach and some cleaners can be harmful to plants and humans, it's a good idea to take some precautions when working with them, including the following:
  • Wait for a calm, windless day to clean your roof.
  • Spray landscape plants near the house with water and cover them with tarps to protect them from chemical overspray and runoff.
  • Wear protective clothing, including long sleeves, pants and gloves, as well as goggles to protect your eyes, and shoes with high-traction soles.
Before climbing up to clean stains from your roof, be aware that about 30,000 people fall off ladders and roofs each year.  Consider using a safety harness, just as the pros are required to do, and follow the common-sense rules for properly positioning and using a ladder, which can be found in InterNACHI’s article on ladder safety.  Also, be sure to notify someone that you’ll be on your roof.  In case of an accident that incapacitates you, you’ll want someone to know where to look for you.

How to Clean Algae and Moss from a Roof 
Apply the bleach solution with a garden sprayer. Let it stand on the surface for about 20 minutes, then rinse it off with spray from a garden hose. Don't let the bleach solution stand on the roof for more than 30 minutes or so without rinsing. And don't use a pressure washer, which can damage the shingles by removing their protective layer of asphalt granules.
If accumulations of algae or moss are heavy, at least some of it should wash off the roof surface right away with the stream from the hose. You can try brushing off algae and moss with a brush or broom with medium-stiff bristles, but don't scrub too hard. You don't want to separate the mineral granules from the shingles.
If chunks of algae or moss or heavy stains remain on the surface after rinsing, let the roof dry, then spray on the bleach solution again. Wait 30 minutes and rinse. Don't worry if some staining remains after the second rinse. It should wash off over time with exposure to rain and sunlight.

How to Prevent Algae and Moss Stains from Recurring 

Algae and moss tend to grow roof surfaces that are shaded and retain moisture. So, it’s a good idea to cut away tree branches that overhang the roof and block sunlight. Keep the roof surface clean by blowing off leaves and fallen branches during seasonal maintenance.

For long-term stain prevention, have zinc or copper strips installed under the cap shingles, leaving an inch or two of the surface exposed at roof peaks, along hips, and under the first course of shingles at the base of dormers. Copper and zinc are sacrificial metals that shed tiny bits of their surface with each rainfall. The metals coat the roof and inhibit organic growth for many years.
Following these maintenance tips can help homeowners enjoy an attractive roof.  They can also help extend the roof’s service life, which is important whether you plan to stay in your home or sell it in the future.

Author Michael Chotiner is a DIY expert who writes about home improvement projects for roofs and other external areas of the house for The Home Depot. Michael is a career carpenter and has owned and managed his own construction business.  Visit The Home Depot online to see their roofing shingle options.]]>
<![CDATA[Asbestos In The Home -  now what?]]>Thu, 11 Feb 2016 17:18:47 GMThttp://jbch.us/blog---hitting-home/asbestos-in-the-home-now-what
Asbestos tile found by Jon Bronemann Home Inspections, LLC in Cedar Falls Iowa
Asbestos tile sitting on a shelf during a home inspection.
I had a home inspection a little while back where we suspected that some of the material in the home was asbestos.  Right away my client became very concerned - and rightly so.  However, being educated about it is really the key.  Knowing how to deal with it is really the biggest thing.  Knowledge is key.  Fears and concerns can be relieved with knowledge.

What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a mineral fiber that can be positively identified only with a special type of microscope. There are several types of asbestos fibers. In the past, asbestos was added to a variety of products to strengthen them and to provide heat insulation and fire resistance.
How Can Asbestos Affect My Health?
From studies of people who were exposed to asbestos in factories and shipyards, we know that breathing high levels of asbestos fibers can lead to an increased risk of lung cancer in the forms of mesothelioma, which is a cancer of the lining of the chest and the abdominal cavity, and asbestosis, in which the lungs become scarred with fibrous tissue.
The risk of lung cancer and mesothelioma increase with the number of fibers inhaled. The risk of lung cancer from inhaling asbestos fibers is also greater if you smoke. People who get asbestosis have usually been exposed to high levels of asbestos for a long time. The symptoms of these diseases do not usually appear until about 20 to 30 years after the first exposure to asbestos. 
Most people exposed to small amounts of asbestos, as we all are in our daily lives, do not develop these health problems. However, if disturbed, asbestos material may release asbestos fibers, which can be inhaled into the lungs. The fibers can remain there for a long time, increasing the risk of disease. Asbestos material that would crumble easily if handled, or that has been sawed, scraped, or sanded into a powder, is more likely to create a health hazard. 

Where Can I Find Asbestos and When Can it Be a Problem?
Most products made today do not contain asbestos. Those few products made which still contain asbestos that could be inhaled are required to be labeled as such. However, until the 1970s, many types of building products and insulation materials used in homes contained asbestos. Common products that might have contained asbestos in the past, and conditions which may release fibers, include: 
  • steam pipes, boilers and furnace ducts insulated with an asbestos blanket or asbestos paper tape. These materials may release asbestos fibers if damaged, repaired, or removed improperly;
  • resilient floor tiles (vinyl asbestos, asphalt and rubber), the backing on vinyl sheet flooring, and adhesives used for installing floor tile. Sanding tiles can release fibers, and so may scraping or sanding the backing of sheet flooring during removal;
  • cement sheet, millboard and paper used as insulation around furnaces and wood-burning stoves. Repairing or removing appliances may release asbestos fibers, and so may cutting, tearing, sanding, drilling, or sawing insulation;
  • door gaskets in furnaces, wood stoves and coal stoves. Worn seals can release asbestos fibers during use;
  • soundproofing or decorative material sprayed on walls and ceilings. Loose, crumbly or water-damaged material may release fibers, and so will sanding, drilling or scraping the material;
  • patching and joint compounds for walls and ceilings, and textured paints. Sanding, scraping, or drilling these surfaces may release asbestos fibers;
  • asbestos cement roofing, shingles and siding. These products are not likely to release asbestos fibers unless sawed, dilled or cut;
  • artificial ashes and embers sold for use in gas-fired fireplaces, and other older household products, such as fireproof gloves, stove-top pads, ironing board covers and certain hairdryers; and
  • automobile brake pads and linings, clutch facings and gaskets.
Where Asbestos Hazards May Be Found in the Home
  • Some roofing and siding shingles are made of asbestos cement.
  • Houses built between 1930 and 1950 may have asbestos as insulation.
  • Asbestos may be present in textured paint and in patching compounds used on wall and ceiling joints. Their use was banned in 1977.
  • Artificial ashes and embers sold for use in gas-fired fireplaces may contain asbestos.
  • Older products, such as stove-top pads, may have some asbestos compounds.
  • Walls and floors around wood-burning stoves may be protected with asbestos paper, millboard or cement sheets.
  • Asbestos is found in some vinyl floor tiles and the backing on vinyl sheet flooring and adhesives.
  • Hot water and steam pipes in older houses may be coated with an asbestos material or covered with an asbestos blanket or tape.
  • Oil and coal furnaces and door gaskets may have asbestos insulation.

What Should Be Done About Asbestos in the Home?

If you think asbestos may be in your home, don't panic.  Usually, the best thing to do is to leave asbestos material that is in good condition alone. Generally, material in good condition will not release asbestos fibers. There is no danger unless the asbestos is disturbed and fibers are released and then inhaled into the lungs. Check material regularly if you suspect it may contain asbestos. Don't touch it, but look for signs of wear or damage, such as tears, abrasions or water damage. Damaged material may release asbestos fibers. This is particularly true if you often disturb it by hitting, rubbing or handling it, or if it is exposed to extreme vibration or air flow. Sometimes, the best way to deal with slightly damaged material is to limit access to the area and not touch or disturb it. Discard damaged or worn asbestos gloves, stove-top pads and ironing board covers. Check with local health, environmental or other appropriate agencies to find out proper handling and disposal procedures. If asbestos material is more than slightly damaged, or if you are going to make changes in your home that might disturb it, repair or removal by a professional is needed. Before you have your house remodeled, find out whether asbestos materials are present. 
How to Identify Materials that Contain Asbestos
You can't tell whether a material contains asbestos simply by looking at it, unless it is labeled. If in doubt, treat the material as if it contains asbestos, or have it sampled and analyzed by a qualified professional. A professional should take samples for analysis, since a professional knows what to look for, and because there may be an increased health risk if fibers are released. In fact, if done incorrectly, sampling can be more hazardous than leaving the material alone. Taking samples yourself is not recommended. If you nevertheless choose to take the samples yourself, take care not to release asbestos fibers into the air or onto yourself. Material that is in good condition and will not be disturbed (by remodeling, for example) should be left alone. Only material that is damaged or will be disturbed should be sampled. Anyone who samples asbestos-containing materials should have as much information as possible on the handling of asbestos before sampling and, at a minimum, should observe the following procedures: 
  • Make sure no one else is in the room when sampling is done.
  • Wear disposable gloves or wash hands after sampling.
  • Shut down any heating or cooling systems to minimize the spread of any released fibers.
  • Do not disturb the material any more than is needed to take a small sample.
  • Place a plastic sheet on the floor below the area to be sampled.
  • Wet the material using a fine mist of water containing a few drops of detergent before taking the sample. The water/detergent mist will reduce the release of asbestos fibers.
  • Carefully cut a piece from the entire depth of the material using a small knife, corer or other sharp object. Place the small piece into a clean container (a 35-mm film canister, small glass or plastic vial, or high-quality resealable plastic bag).
  • Tightly seal the container after the sample is in it. 
  • Carefully dispose of the plastic sheet. Use a damp paper towel to clean up any material on the outside of the container or around the area sampled. Dispose of asbestos materials according to state and local procedures.
  • Label the container with an identification number and clearly state when and where the sample was taken.
  • Patch the sampled area with the smallest possible piece of duct tape to prevent fiber release.
  • Send the sample to an asbestos analysis laboratory accredited by the National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP) at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Your state or local health department may also be able to help.  

How to Manage an Asbestos Problem
If the asbestos material is in good shape and will not be disturbed, do nothing! If it is a problem, there are two types of corrections: repair and removal. Repair usually involves either sealing or covering asbestos material. Sealing (encapsulation) involves treating the material with a sealant that either binds the asbestos fibers together or coats the material so that fibers are not released. Pipe, furnace and boiler insulation can sometimes be repaired this way. This should be done only by a professional trained to handle asbestos safely. Covering (enclosure) involves placing something over or around the material that contains asbestos to prevent the release of fibers. Exposed insulated piping may be covered with a protective wrap or jacket. With any type of repair, the asbestos remains in place. Repair is usually cheaper than removal, but it may make removal of asbestos later (if found to be necessary) more difficult and costly. Repairs can either be major or minor. Major repairs must be done only by a professional trained in methods for safely handling asbestos. Minor repairs should also be done by professionals, since there is always a risk of exposure to fibers when asbestos is disturbed.
Doing minor repairs yourself is not recommended, since improper handling of asbestos materials can create a hazard where none existed. If you nevertheless choose to do minor repairs, you should have as much information as possible on the handling of asbestos before doing anything. Contact your state or local health department or regional EPA office for information about asbestos training programs in your area. Your local school district may also have information about asbestos professionals and training programs for school buildings. Even if you have completed a training program, do not try anything more than minor repairs. Before undertaking minor repairs, carefully examine the area around the damage to make sure it is stable. As a general rule, any damaged area which is bigger than the size of your hand is not considered a minor repair. 
Before undertaking minor repairs, be sure to follow all the precautions described previously for sampling asbestos material. Always wet the asbestos material using a fine mist of water containing a few drops of detergent. Commercial products designed to fill holes and seal damaged areas are available. Small areas of material, such as pipe insulation, can be covered by wrapping a special fabric, such as re-wettable glass cloth, around it. These products are available from stores (listed in the telephone directory under "Safety Equipment and Clothing") which specialize in asbestos materials and safety items. 
Removal is usually the most expensive method and, unless required by state or local regulations, should be the last option considered in most situations. This is because removal poses the greatest risk of fiber release. However, removal may be required when remodeling or making major changes to your home that will disturb asbestos material. Also, removal may be called for if asbestos material is damaged extensively and cannot be otherwise repaired. Removal is complex and must be done only by a contractor with special training. Improper removal may actually increase the health risks to you and your family.
Asbestos Professionals: Who Are They and What Can They Do? 
Asbestos professionals are trained in handling asbestos material. The type of professional will depend on the type of product and what needs to be done to correct the problem. You may hire a general asbestos contractor or, in some cases, a professional trained to handle specific products containing asbestos. 
Asbestos professionals can conduct inspections, take samples of suspected material, assess its condition, and advise on the corrections that are needed, as well as who is qualified to make these corrections. Once again, material in good condition need not be sampled unless it is likely to be disturbed. Professional correction or abatement contractors repair and remove asbestos materials. 
Some firms offer combinations of testing, assessment and correction. A professional hired to assess the need for corrective action should not be connected with an asbestos-correction firm. It is better to use two different firms so that there is no conflict of interest. Services vary from one area to another around the country. 
The federal government offers training courses for asbestos professionals around the country. Some state and local governments also offer or require training or certification courses. Ask asbestos professionals to document their completion of federal or state-approved training. Each person performing work in your home should provide proof of training and licensing in asbestos work, such as completion of EPA-approved training. State and local health departments or EPA regional offices may have listings of licensed professionals in your area. 
If you have a problem that requires the services of asbestos professionals, check their credentials carefully. Hire professionals who are trained, experienced, reputable and accredited -- especially if accreditation is required by state or local laws. Before hiring a professional, ask for references from previous clients. Find out if they were satisfied. Ask whether the professional has handled similar situations. Get cost estimates from several professionals, as the charges for these services can vary. 
Though private homes are usually not covered by the asbestos regulations that apply to schools and public buildings, professionals should still use procedures described in federal or state-approved training. Homeowners should be alert to the chance of misleading claims by asbestos consultants and contractors. There have been reports of firms incorrectly claiming that asbestos materials in homes must be replaced. In other cases, firms have encouraged unnecessary removal or performed it improperly. Unnecessary removal is a waste of money. Improper removal may actually increase the health risks to you and your family. To guard against this, know what services are available and what procedures and precautions are needed to do the job properly. 
In addition to general asbestos contractors, you may select a roofing, flooring or plumbing contractor trained to handle asbestos when it is necessary to remove and replace roofing, flooring, siding or asbestos-cement pipe that is part of a water system. Normally, roofing and flooring contractors are exempt from state and local licensing requirements because they do not perform any other asbestos-correction work.
Asbestos-containing automobile brake pads and linings, clutch facings and gaskets should be repaired and replaced only by a professional using special protective equipment. Many of these products are now available without asbestos.

If you hire a corrective-action contractor:
  • Check with your local air pollution control board, the local agency responsible for worker safety, and the Better Business Bureau. Ask if the firm has had any safety violations. Find out if there are legal actions filed against it.
  • Insist that the contractor use the proper equipment to do the job. The workers must wear approved respirators, gloves and other protective clothing.
  • Before work begins, get a written contract specifying the work plan, cleanup, and the applicable federal, state and local regulations which the contractor must follow (such as notification requirements and asbestos disposal procedures). Contact your state and local health departments, EPA regional office, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's regional office to find out what the regulations are. Be sure the contractor follows local asbestos removal and disposal laws. At the end of the job, get written assurance from the contractor that all procedures have been followed.
  • Assure that the contractor avoids spreading or tracking asbestos dust into other areas of your home. They should seal off the work area from the rest of the house using plastic sheeting and duct tape, and also turn off the heating and air conditioning system. For some repairs, such as pipe insulation removal, plastic bags may be adequate. They must be sealed with tape and properly disposed of when the job is complete.
  • Make sure the work site is clearly marked as a hazardous area. Do not allow household members or pets into the area until work is completed.
  • Insist that the contractor apply a wetting agent to the asbestos material with a hand sprayer that creates a fine mist before removal. Wet fibers do not float in the air as easily as dry fibers and will be easier to clean up.
  • Make sure the contractor does not break removed material into smaller pieces. This could release asbestos fibers into the air. Pipe insulation was usually installed in pre-formed blocks and should be removed in complete pieces.
  • Upon completion, assure that the contractor cleans the area well with wet mops, wet rags, sponges and/or HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) vacuum cleaners. A regular vacuum cleaner must never be used. Wetting helps reduce the chance of spreading asbestos fibers in the air. All asbestos materials and disposable equipment and clothing used in the job must be placed in sealed, leakproof, and labeled plastic bags. The work site should be visually free of dust and debris. Air monitoring (to make sure there is no increase of asbestos fibers in the air) may be necessary to assure that the contractor's job is done properly. This should be done by someone not connected with the contractor. 
Caution! Do not dust, sweep or vacuum debris that may contain asbestos. These actions will disturb tiny asbestos fibers and may release them into the air. Remove dust by wet-mopping or with a special HEPA vacuum cleaner used by trained asbestos contractors.
<![CDATA[Anti-tip (no, not referring to cheap skate diners).]]>Thu, 11 Feb 2016 14:53:04 GMThttp://jbch.us/blog---hitting-home/anti-tip-no-not-referring-to-cheap-skate-dinersJon Bronemann Home Inspections, LLC Cedar Falls IowaOne style of anti-tip device for kitchen stoves.
Anti-tip brackets are metal devices designed to prevent freestanding ranges from tipping. They are normally attached to a rear leg of the range or screwed into the wall behind the range, and are included in all installation kits. A unit that is not equipped with these devices may tip over if enough weight is applied to its open door, such as that from a large Thanksgiving turkey, or even a small child. A falling range can crush, scald, or burn anyone caught beneath.
Bracket Inspection
You can confirm the presence of anti-tip brackets through the following methods:
  • It may be possible to see a wall-mounted bracket by looking over the rear of the range. Floor-mounted brackets are often hidden, although in some models with removable drawers, such as 30-inch electric ranges made by General Electric, the drawers can be removed and a flashlight can be used to search for the bracket. Inspectors should beware that a visual confirmation does not guarantee that the bracket has been properly installed.

  • You can firmly grip the upper-rear section of the range and tip the unit. If equipped with an anti-tip bracket, the unit will not tip more than several inches before coming to a halt. The range should be turned off, and all items should be removed from the stovetop before this action can be performed. It is usually easier to detect a bracket by tipping the range than through a visual search. This test can be performed on all models and it can confirm the functionality of a bracket.
If no anti-tip bracket is detected it is recommend that one be installed.

Homeowners can contact the dealer or builder who installed their range and request that they install a bracket. For clients who wish to install a bracket themselves, the part can be purchased at most hardware stores or ordered from a manufacturer. General Electric will send their customers an anti-tip bracket for free.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), there were 143 incidents caused by range tip-overs from 1980 to 2006. Of the 33 incidents that resulted in death, most of those victims were children. A small child may stand on an open range door in order to see what is cooking on the stovetop and accidentally cause the entire unit to fall on top of him, along with whatever hot items may have been cooking on the stovetop. The elderly, too, may be injured while using the range for support while cleaning. You should never leave the oven door open while the oven is unattended. 

Jon Bronemann Home Inspections, LLC   Cedar Falls Iowa
This is EXACTLY why anti-tip devices are so important. Imagine the stove tipping. Burns are bad enough, but crushing is worse.

In response to this danger, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) created standards in 1991 that require all ranges manufactured after that year to be capable of remaining stable while supporting 250 pounds of weight on their open doors. Manufacturers' instructions, too, require that anti-tip brackets provided be installed. Despite these warnings, retailer Sears estimated in 1999 that a mere 5% of the gas and electric units they sold were ever equipped with anti-tip brackets. As a result of Sears’ failure to comply with safety regulations, they were sued and subsequently required to secure ranges in nearly 4 million homes, a measure that has been speculated to have cost Sears as much as $500 million.

In summary, ranges are susceptible to tipping if they are not equipped with anti-tip brackets. Have yours checked today.  If you can't check it yourself please call a competent contractor to do so immediately.

If you like this post there are many more like it right here.  If you are in need of a home inspection in Cedar Falls Iowa, Waterloo Iowa, Waverly Iowa, Janesville Iowa, Grundy Center Iowa, Hudson Iowa, Dike Iowa, Parkersburg Iowa, Independence Iowa, feel free to contact Jon Bronemann Home Inspections, LLC.  Contact information on the home page.
<![CDATA[Five Biggest Home Inspection Mistakes]]>Thu, 21 Jan 2016 19:21:11 GMThttp://jbch.us/blog---hitting-home/five-biggest-home-inspection-mistakesThe five biggest home inspection mistakes.  By Alyson McNutt English • Bankrate.com

A home inspection is one of the most important steps you can take to make sure your new home is a sound investment and a safe place to live.

But, many people don't fully understand what happens in a home inspection or what they need to do to get the most out of it. Find out what inspectors say are the five biggest mistakes buyers make during the home inspection, and how you can avoid these potentially pricey pitfalls.

Mistake No. 1: Not having new construction inspected.  
Even experienced homebuyers sometimes make this rookie mistake. They assume that because a home has passed all local codes and ordinances, it must be in good shape. Don't be so sure, says Jim Troth, owner of Habitation Investigation LLC, a Mechanicsburg, Ohio, home inspection company. Troth once inspected a brand new home that had just passed the final municipal and county building inspections. But when he explored the crawl space beneath the house, he discovered someone had removed about 3 feet of the home's main support beam to accommodate duct work.

"The house was already beginning to sink in that area," he says.

The moral of the story: Don't assume your builder -- or the contractors -- did everything right just because the home passed code. An inspector is your last line of defense against major defects that could quite literally sink your financial future.

Mistake No. 2: Choosing an inspector for the wrong reasons.  
When you choose an inspector, you're selecting the professional who will give one of your biggest investments a full physical checkup. You want to choose someone you know who is competent, thorough and trustworthy. Unfortunately, too many buyers just go with the cheapest inspection company or the one recommended by their Realtor.

"The least expensive person is often the person with the least experience, ability and technical savvy," says Aaron Flook, owner of Pittsburgh-based A.M. Inspection Services LLC. "If you want a referral from your real estate agent, ask for two or three different names, then interview each one to determine who you feel most comfortable with."

Always ask about licensing, professional affiliations and credentials, and whether the inspector carries errors and omissions insurance.

Mistake No. 3: Not going along on the inspection.
The written report you get from the inspector doesn't give you nearly as clear a picture of the condition of the house as you might think. Flook says buyers who don't go along on the inspection can overemphasize minor problems, or worse, not realize how serious a defect is.

"I did one inspection where the buyer didn't come along, and he ended up getting worked up about first-floor plugs that weren't grounded and completely ignored that the water tank was drafting carbon monoxide," Flook says. "You really need to go along with the inspector, ask questions and listen when he gives you his professional opinion on the house."

Mistake No. 4: Not following up on the inspector's recommendations.  
Sometimes, buyers don't follow up on items discovered in the inspection before they close. Like the man who didn't grasp that the carbon monoxide coming from his water heater was a big problem, you may not realize how much it will cost to fix a given defect. Often inspectors will recommend buyers get an issue evaluated further, but the buyers wait to do it until after closing, says Kathleen Kuhn, president of the inspection company HouseMaster of Bound Brook, N.J.

"If buyers wait to have a system evaluated until after closing, it can turn out to be more expensive or a bigger deal than what they anticipated," Kuhn says.

Kuhn says you should always get several estimates on repairs before closing, and you should feel comfortable calling your inspector to discuss these estimates. "The inspector may be able to share some insight into the contractors' suggestions," she says.

Mistake No. 5: Expecting your home inspector to be a psychic.  
No matter how experienced or skilled your home inspector is, he can't see the future. "Home inspectors don't have crystal balls, so they can't specifically predict when an aging system will fail," Kuhn says. "Sometimes, optimistic homebuyers think a system still has a few good years just because there aren't visible signs of malfunction at the time of inspection."

A home inspector can tell you that an air conditioning system like the one in the home you're buying usually only lasts 10 years, and yours is 11 years old. But he can't tell you when it will fail. That's when you need to follow up with people who know more about each specific system about which you have questions.

And remember, the home inspector is hired by you. He's there to give you an honest, straight opinion about the house.

"The inspector is one of the few people in the buying process whose income doesn't depend on the home closing," Troth says. "They're paid to inspect, not to sell. So they're in a better position to be neutral."

Call me for your home inspection in Cedar Falls, Waterloo, Parkersburg, Charles City, Manchester, Independence, Waverly, Dike, Hudson, Jesup, Center Point, New Hampton, Oelwein, West Union, Decorah and other areas in the Cedar Valley.]]>
<![CDATA[Dishwashers]]>Mon, 18 Jan 2016 15:47:02 GMThttp://jbch.us/blog---hitting-home/dishwashersHow Does a Dishwasher Work?
Dishwashers are labor-saving and water-conserving appliances that were first invented in the U.S. in the 1850s.  There are both portable units and permanently installed units that are found in most homes today. 
Permanently installed dishwashers rely on the home's electrical and plumbing systems, which is why their proper operation and maintenance are critical to household safety and trouble-free use.

A dishwasher operates with sprayed water using multiple cycles of washing and rinsing, followed by drying, using hot, forced circulated air.  These cycles may be further distinguished according to length of cycle, power and temperature.

Dishwashers could b plugged into a dedicated electrical receptacle at the back of the sink cabinet or hardwired as part of a switched circuit in the sink cabinet, and usually plumbed into the home's hot water supply, although the cold water supply is also an option.  This assures that the dishwasher's load is optimally washed and rinsed using the maximum recommended temperature range of between 130°  F and 170° F. 

The dimensions of an average unit are 24x24 inches, although deluxe models may be wider and/or deeper to accommodate larger loads.  Its interior components are typically made of stainless steel and/or plastic, and the exterior door may be metal, enamel-covered metal, or having a wood or wood-like veneer to match the decor of the kitchen cabinets.

Use, Maintenance and Precautions
Dishwasher-safe glasses, cups, plates, bowls, pots, pans and utensils, as well as some ceramic-ware and cutlery, are loaded into pull-out racks and baskets.  They can be safely washed and rinsed in cycles that vary in intensity and length. 

Many users rinse, soak or pre-treat cookware to remove solids and excess food waste before loading it in the dishwasher; this is a matter of personal preference, as well as how well the unit works on everyday and heavy-duty loads, although waste that cannot be adequately drained should be removed from dishware before the soiled items are loaded into the unit.

Dishwashers can also be used to effectively disinfect toothbrushes, infants' plastic toys, formula bottles and synthetic nipples, and teething rings, as well as other household and personal hygiene items. However, extremely soiled items that come into contact with potentially hazardous or toxic materials, such as tools, gardening implements and the like, should not be washed in a dishwasher, as the toxic residue may not fully rinse out of the interior, which can contaminate future loads of dishware and utensils, as well as clog plumbing lines.
Soaps, pre-treaters and rinsing agents to prevent or eliminate water spots are available in a variety of costs, quality and effectiveness.  They also come in both powder and liquid form.  Regardless of the type of detergent used, it should be specifically for dishwasher use only, as other soaps can leave behind residue, as well as create excess foam and leaks.

Maintenance is relatively
easy and can be done by running the unit through a hot-water cycle while it is empty, but this is only suggested following an especially dirty load where residue has not fully washed and drained for some reason.  ALSO, do not forget to wipe out the seal area.  Food particles get stuck in this area on the sides and bottom of "the box".  Keeping this clean will ensure a good door seal. 

Dishwashers should never be overloaded.  Loads should be distributed and racked such that cleaning will be effective.  It is recommended that plastic items be loaded into the unit's top rack to avoid their coming into contact with hot elements in the unit's bottom and then melting, or being jostled by the power of the sprayers and subsequently blocking them, which may prevent the water from reaching the unit's entire load. 

It is important to monitor the unit for failure to fully drain, as well as for leaks, excessive noise and movement, and burning smells, which can indicate a burned-out motor, an issue with the plumbing connected to the unit, or a problem with its original installation.  A qualified professional should evaluate a malfunctioning unit and perform any repairs.

<![CDATA[Double tapping.....and I am not talking about playing electric guitars.]]>Fri, 15 Jan 2016 02:13:12 GMThttp://jbch.us/blog---hitting-home/double-tappingand-i-am-not-talking-about-playing-electric-guitarsI was talking with an electrician friend of mine at a gathering this Christmas and we talked about one of the most commonly called out defects, double tapped circuit breakers, during an home inspection.  While it means "business" for him he was saying how some home inspectors don't know exactly what they are noting and cause undo concerns when everything is actually OK.  He quizzed me.  I passed.  

I am not an attorney and didn't seek the super-duper advice before writing this post, so here is my disclaimer before giving any electrical how-to information:  Don’t do any of this work if you’re not qualified.  Qualified means LICENSED and trained in electrical work. Reading this article, or watching a home improvement show, does not make you qualified.  You could be seriously hurt or killed.  This is only an  informative overview on what I have found.

There is no official term for this, so "double tap" is the trade slang.  Two conductors are connected under one screw or terminal inside a panel.  This could be on a circuit breaker or on a neutral bar.  I will write about neutral bars another time.  Let's just say that a  neutral bar is not a drinking establishment for both Cardinal and Cubs fans.  They should always be separate, but I digress.  

When IS a "double tap" a DEFECT? 
This is a defect when the circuit breaker isn’t designed for two conductors.  It doesn’t matter if it’s just a simple doorbell transformer wire that’s added on to the circuit breaker that already has a wire on it – the issue isn’t about the load imposed on the circuit, it’s about the physical connection of the wires.

When is "double tapping" NOT a defect? 
Double tapping is perfectly fine if the circuit breaker is designed for two conductors.  Only circuit breakers designed for two conductors will say so right on the circuit breaker, and the terminal of the circuit breaker will be designed to hold two conductors in place.  The only manufacturers  that make circuit breakers that are designed to hold two conductors are Square D (QO and HOM Series) and Cutler Hammer (CH Series).  Earlier some Square D HOM series breakers were made, but were only rated for ONE conductor.  This is a change that has been made over time.  The breaker would still say how many conductors it was rated for.  Currently General Electric (GE) and Siemens breakers are not rated for double tapping conductors.

Why is "double tapping" a problem? 

If the circuit breaker isn’t designed to hold two conductors, the conductors could come loose at some point in the future, even if they feel very tight today.  Loose conductors can lead to overheating, arcing, and possibly a fire.  This is a particular concern when two conductors that are not of equal size are landed under the screw of a breaker that IS NOT double tap rated.

Now, how can this defect be corrected?  Here is where the licensed electrician comes in and should be doing the work.
1.  Pig Tail:  
The most common repair is a pigtail.  The two conductors under the screw of the circuit breaker are disconnected from the circuit breaker and tied together with a new single conductor under a wire connector rated for the number and size of conductors.  This wire connector is commonly called a "wire nut".   Your electrician will know what to do.  I just want to point out that it is a simple repair.
2.  New Breaker:
Another remedy would be to replace the circuit breaker with a type that is designed for two conductors, as long as the panel is designed for it.  The breaker MUST be the same manufacturer as the panel.  DO NOT MIX AND MATCH BRANDS.  

Why Does This Happen:

If there are more problems going on besides just a double tap, the remedy might require more investigating and work.  I have seen this happen because of some of the following reasons.
  • A homeowner finished off a basement and added a circuit wire for the new basement bedroom.  This would be a red flag to me because current requirement state that bedrooms be on Arc Fault Breakers.
  • A homeowner added a bathroom to the home.  Bathrooms should not share a circuit breaker with anything else in the home but another bathroom.
  • Double taps on breakers that are not rated for them just SCREAM of projects done without permits or inspections.  Usually this kind of work was done by "I have a buddy who knows electrical" folks.  

Can this be repaired?
  • Add A Circuit Breaker.  If there is room in the panel, another circuit breaker can be added and the conductors split off to the two different circuit breakers.  The breakers need to be of the same series and manufacturer of panel.  NO NOT MIX and MATCH.  I have seen GE breakers stuck in Square D panels.  They do NOT fit exactly and are not rated to be used, but they do conduct electricity.  It is just that later down the road that because they don't fit exactly arcing can happen on the bus bar and damage the bar and the breaker.  This can be a fire hazard. 
  • Install a tandem breaker if the panel is designed to use tandem breakers and a tandem breaker can be properly used in lieu of the wrong circuit breaker, this is another acceptable fix.  This is basically a way to install two circuit breakers in one space.  HOWEVER, the tandem breaker must be installed in the exact spots shown on the wiring schematic on the panel.  This is why electricians go to school and learn to read and know what the schematic drawing tells them.
  • In cases where the panel won't accept tandem breakers or if breakers are no longer available for that panel the panel should be replaced.  A licensed electrician will be able to make that determination and give recommendations.

As stated before, this article is for education purposes only.   Do not attempt to make these repairs or diagnose electrical issues if you are not trained and licensed.  If you have questions contact your favorite home inspector or electrician.

Call Jon Bronemann Home Inspections, LLC  for your home inspection in Cedar Falls, Waterloo, Parkersburg, Charles City, Manchester, Independence, Waverly, Dike, Hudson, Jesup, Center Point, New Hampton, Oelwein, West Union, Decorah and other areas in the Cedar Valley.
<![CDATA[January 14th, 2016]]>Thu, 14 Jan 2016 16:27:33 GMThttp://jbch.us/blog---hitting-home/january-14th-2016Before The Levy Breaks
Plumbing has always been one of the most frequently referred subcontractor when my customers and friends call me for "who do I call".  Naturally, if the sink is stopped up, you have a leak, toilet does not work, OR WORSE  you want it fixed, and fast.

That’s why I advise homeowners to establish — before a plumbing emergency — a connection with a highly rated local plumber. I also urge you to find your home’s main water shutoff valve (it’s usually near the water meter, by the way). Quickly turning off water to your home could forestall extensive water damage from a leak or overflow that isn’t stopped by shutting off an individual toilet or appliance’s water supply.  Let your kids know where it is too.  Don't pile stuff in front of it.  When you need it -- YOU NEED IT.

Set aside money each month in a home maintenance account.  Have the plumber come one a year ( or while they are there for something else), and exercise all the valves in the house, tighten connections, drain the water heater of silt, tighten the toilet bolts to the floor, and a host of other very easy things that they can do very quickly and not add a lot to the bill.  Your plumbing is a system and keeping that system in good working order can help keep costly drywall, carpet, and structural damage to a minimum later.

Always follow the tried-and-true advice of only hiring plumbers who are appropriately licensed, insured and bonded and who have positive consumer reviews on a trusted online site and ESPECIALLY from a good contractor who uses top subcontractors on a normal basis.

I can also identify these items as part of an Annual Home Maintenance Inspection.  If you have lived in your home for awhile and don't know what to look for or have questions about how your home's systems work, you can call me and we can review them together.  As part of the process you will receive a booklet that help you track maintenance items and plan for future items.

<![CDATA[January 11th, 2016]]>Mon, 11 Jan 2016 16:29:49 GMThttp://jbch.us/blog---hitting-home/january-11th-2016What Really Matters in a Home Inspection
by Nick Gromicko and Ben Gromicko
Buying a home? The process can be stressful.  A home inspection is supposed to give you peace of mind, but often has the opposite effect.  You will be asked to absorb a lot of information in a short time.  This often includes a written report, a checklist, photographs, environmental reports, and what the inspector himself says during the inspection.  All this, combined with the seller's disclosure and what you notice yourself, makes the experience even more overwhelming.  What should you do?
Relax.  Most of your inspection will be maintenance recommendations, life expectancies for various systems and components, and minor imperfections. These are useful to know about.  However, the issues that really matter will fall into four categories:
  1. major defects.  An example of this would be a structural failure;
  2. things that lead to major defects, such as a small roof-flashing leak, for example;
  3. things that may hinder your ability to finance, legally occupy, or insure the home; and
  4. safety hazards, such as an exposed, live buss bar at the electrical panel.
Anything in these categories should be addressed.  Often, a serious problem can be corrected inexpensively to protect both life and property (especially in categories 2 and 4).
Most sellers are honest and are often surprised to learn of defects uncovered during an inspection.  Realize that sellers are under no obligation to repair everything mentioned in the report.  No home is perfect.  Keep things in perspective.  Do not kill your deal over things that do not matter.  It is inappropriate to demand that a seller address deferred maintenance, conditions already listed on the seller's disclosure, or nit-picky items.
<![CDATA[Ground Fault Outlets (GFCI) that tell you when they trip]]>Thu, 07 Jan 2016 17:11:43 GMThttp://jbch.us/blog---hitting-home/ground-fault-outlets-gfci-that-tell-you-when-they-tripHas your GFCI outlet tripped and you didn't know it and your food spoiled in the refrigerator or freezer? What if you heard an alarm to warn you? Easy fix.

GFCI protection is vital to ensure electrical safety in both residential and commercial settings. A power interruption due to a ground fault provides important protection to people but can shut down freezers, sump pumps and other necessary equipment if left undetected. Often, however, GFCIs in garages, basements or large commercial kitchens may be located in an out-of-the-way place such as a back corner or storage area making daily visual checks for tripping unlikely. The new SmartlockPro Slim GFCI with Audible Alert is the smart solution.

When a condition exists causing the SmartlockPro Slim GFCI with Audible Alert to trip, users will be alerted by the sounding of an audible alarm. This audible alert indicates that power has been disconnected from loads plugged into or fed from the GFCI so users can immediately assess the reason and reset the device. The GFCI with Audible Alert offers all the outstanding benefits you expect from SmartlockPro products, including our patented reset/lockout feature. Plus, the slim profile is compact and easy to install in any wallbox, even shallow ones.

Think of it this way, wouldn't you like to know that your half a beef in the garage or basement freezer that you don't get into everyday, but just walk by is in danger of being a real mess just because the outlet tripped?  I know what I am installing the next time I go to the big box store.  I recommend that YOU call an electrician.  It will still be cheaper than replacing the beef.

Call me for a Home Maintenance Inspection and together we can identify this and other needs in your home to save you money and possibly save you money before the unexpected happens.
<![CDATA[Adjustable Steel Columns]]>Mon, 28 Dec 2015 19:18:56 GMThttp://jbch.us/blog---hitting-home/adjustable-steel-columnsHere is a fantastic article that explains issues with steel columns.  I see these A LOT in new homes and older homes.  Sadly, I see them in home where they don't have a proper footing under them and are not attached at either end and rely on the weight of the structure to hold them in place.  Read on and be safe with your home.

Adjustable Steel Columns

by Nick Gromicko and Kenton Shepard  
Adjustable steel columns, also known as screw jacks and beam jacks, are hollow steel posts designed to provide structural support. An attached threaded adjustment mechanism is used to adjust the height of the post.
A few facts about adjustable steel columns:

  • They are usually found in basements.
  • In some parts of North America, adjustable steel columns are called lally columns, although this term sometimes applies to columns that are concrete-filled and non-adjustable.
  • They can be manufactured as multi-part assembles, sometimes called telescopic steel columns, or as single-piece columns.
The following are potentially defective conditions:

  • The post is less than 3 inches in diameter. According to the 2012 International Residential Code (IRC), Section R407.3, columns (including adjustable steel columns)...

    "shall not be less than 3-inch diameter standard pipe." 
Poles smaller than 3 inches violate the IRC, although they are not necessarily defective. A 2½-inch post may be adequate to support the load above it, while a 4-inch post can buckle if the load exceeds the structural capacity of the post. Structural engineers -- not inspectors -- decide whether adjustable steel posts are of adequate size.
  • The post is not protected by rust-inhibitive paint. The IRC Section R407.2 states: 
All surfaces (inside and outside) of steel columns shall be given a shop coat of rust-inhibitive paint, except for corrosion-resistant steel and steel treated with coatings to provide corrosion resistance.Inspectors will not be able to identify paint as rust-inhibitive. In dry climates where rust is not as much of a problem, rust-inhibitive paint may not be necessary. Visible signs of rust constitute a potential defect.
  • The post is not straight. According to some sources, the maximum lateral displacement between the top and bottom of the post should not exceed 1 inch. However, tolerable lateral displacement is affected by many factors, such as the height and diameter of the post. The post should also not bend at its mid-point. Bending is an indication that the column cannot bear the weight of the house.
  • The column is not mechanically connected to the floor. An inspector may not be able to confirm whether a connection between the post and the floor exists if this connection has been covered by concrete.
  • The column is not connected to the beam. The post should be mechanically connected to the beam above to provide additional resistance against lateral displacement.
  • More than 3 inches of the screw thread are exposed.
  • There are cracks in upstairs walls. This condition may indicate a failure of the columns.
<![CDATA[Why hire a qualified Home Inspector?  They are all the same, right?]]>Thu, 17 Dec 2015 04:58:57 GMThttp://jbch.us/blog---hitting-home/why-hire-a-qualified-home-inspector-they-are-all-the-same-rightThat “perfect” four-bedroom, two-bath house you stumbled upon in a beautiful suburban neighborhood could hide some serious problems. The best way for homebuyers to find out about potential issues is with a good home inspection.

In fact, you’ll have to get a home inspection to meet mortgage lenders’ requirements before you buy. But not all licensed inspectors will thoroughly inspect and report on your potential home’s defects.

So before you hire the first home inspector you find on Google or whoever your Realtor or lender suggests, do your homework. It’s acceptable to interview a home inspector before you decide to drop $300 or more on the inspection fee.

Here are the seven most important questions to ask before you schedule a home inspection:

1. Are you a member of a professional inspection organization?

Reputable home inspectors will be members of one of these organizations: the National Association of Home Inspectors, the American Society of Home Inspectors or the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors. Many states also have statewide associations, which are acceptable alternatives.

Each organization has certification and licensing procedures and requires members to follow procedural and ethical standards when conducting home inspections. Membership to one of these organizations doesn’t guarantee a home inspector is an expert, but you should probably rule out any inspectors who aren’t members of a respected professional organization.

2. What’s your background?

The best home inspectors are typically those who have experience in the building industry. You want to work with an inspector who knows what’s inside the walls of your home and understands the basics of local building codes and requirements. (Note: A home inspector will not be able to tell you if every single plumbing, electrical and/or structural aspect of your potential home is up to the latest codes. For this, you’ll need a more specialized inspection by a licensed plumber, electrician or contractor.)

Background is especially important if you’re planning to purchase an older home, as inspectors may need to look for problems in older homes that are uncommon in newer properties. So if you’re buying an older home – or a fixer-upper – find an inspector with a background in inspecting similar homes.

3. How much experience do you have?

It’s OK to work with a rookie home inspector who has a background in construction or home repair. But be sure you hire someone who has, at the very least, undergone extensive training – or who will have the assistance of a more experienced inspector during the inspection.

4. How long will the inspection take?

On average, a home inspection should take two to three hours to perform. If you’re dealing with a large home, a fixer-upper or an older home, the inspection should take even longer. Don’t hire someone who promises to be in and out within an hour or two, as this is too short a time to thoroughly inspect a home.

5. What will you inspect?

Keep in mind that it’s not a home inspector’s job to inspect things that can’t be seen. The inspection won’t reveal any wiring problems hidden behind drywall or any mold problems under the shower tiles.

With that said, an inspector should evaluate every possible visible place in your home, including the roof, basement and attic. And the home inspector should be in physical shape to access these places, even if a ladder or flashlight is required.

An inspector should also look at things such as the water heater, furnace and electrical box. Again, the inspector may be unable to tell you if your home’s systems are up to local codes. But the professional should have enough knowledge to inform you if the systems are safe or in need of major repairs.

6. Can I attend the inspection?

A refusal to this simple request is a red flag. A home inspection is a fabulous opportunity to learn about your home and talk about any possible repairs that may be needed. A good inspector will take you along on the inspection, if you wish. A great inspector will talk you through everything he sees.

7. What kind of inspection report do you offer?

Most inspectors will provide a report within 24 hours. It’s important to be sure the inspector’s reporting style will meet the requirements of your lender as well as your own personal preferences. Ask to see samples of their previous home inspections if you aren’t sure.

Of course, you’ll also want to ask about the inspector’s fees and schedule. But before you get to those, find the right inspector by asking these seven questions.

<![CDATA[Reasons to hire a professional before doing things yourself.]]>Fri, 10 May 2013 01:15:06 GMThttp://jbch.us/blog---hitting-home/reasons-to-hire-a-professional-before-doing-things-yourself Weigh Your Options Before a Do-it-Yourself Remodel

According to HUD and the U.S. Census Bureau, home owner do-it-yourself (DIY) projects accounted for 37 percent of all home remodeling projects performed nationwide from 2010-2011. While most professional remodelers understand that home owners will do some of their own home repairs or small renovations, after repairing many a DIY gone awry they overwhelmingly believe that many jobs should be left to the pros.

The desire among home owners to tackle repair and remodeling projects has risen with the popularity of Pinterest and design blogs and the prevalence of home improvement stores. Before attempting to recreate the gorgeous bathroom from your Pinterest board in your own home, consider the following before sinking your resources into the project.


Without the proper training and preparation, a DIYer can and has landed in the emergency room. Unfamiliarity with new tools and techniques can lead to life-threatening accidents. Follow product directions and safety procedures and always use proper safety equipment.

A good rule of thumb for any home owner is to avoid projects that require a license. Veteran remodelers advise against doing electrical or plumbing work on your own and avoid making structural changes to walls, roofs and floors. You run the risk of compromising the structural integrity of your home and having a large hole in your roof or floor. Leave this work in the hands of professionals with the proper training.

Even projects that appear simple like laying floor tile can result in you stubbing your toes every time you are in that room if improperly installed.


DIYers often tackle larger projects than they can handle before the holidays so that visiting family can enjoy the updates. But when something goes wrong, there is no one to hold to the deadline. Hiring a professional will ensure that you have a contract with a completion date and that the remodeler will bring in whatever help is necessary to get the job finished on time.

Even professional remodelers sometimes need extra time on projects when they find surprises behind walls. Troubleshooting these issues often takes more time and expertise than originally planned. If timing is a priority for your weekend warrior, call a professional remodeler to get your project completed.


Purchasing new tools is exciting but consider the price of all the specialty tools used for a one-time project when they are sitting untouched in your garage for a few years.

Additionally, many of the products purchased for the DIY market, although designated by a name brand, are not always the same quality available to contractors. It is also important to verify the terms of the product warranty. Many warranties become void by improper installation.

Robert Criner, GMR, CAPS, CGP of Criner Remodeling in Yorktown, Va. cautions all motivated DIYers, “Does it really pay to do the job twice when you can pay a professional to do it once?”

There are some home projects that professional remodelers believe can be tackled by determined DIYers such as hanging pictures, interior painting, caulking, changing door knobs and cabinet pulls, and some aesthetic work (depending on skill level) such as installing crown molding. Just consider the safety risks, time and cost involved in a DIY project of any size.

Still think you can tackle a big remodeling project? Just remember, DIY projects should be fun and suit your skill level. If they’re not, then consider hiring a professional.  Remember that your home is an investment and when you go to sell it you really should have something that someone will want to purchase.

<![CDATA[Smoke Detectors Do Have Expiration Dates]]>Sun, 04 Nov 2012 02:35:35 GMThttp://jbch.us/blog---hitting-home/smoke-detectors-do-have-expiration-datesTonight is Day Light Savings Time and we fall BACK.  Of course you will be setting your clocks back one hour and of course you will be changing your smoke and carbon monoxide detector batteries and if you are not doing the later you should be. 

While you are at it you should check the expiration date on your detector.  If you are unsure how to check the date this video will show you how and tell you why it is important.  If you can't change your batteries or change your detectors if they are hard wired (and they need to have the batteries changed too -- so do it)  you can contact me and I would be happy to do that as part of a service call.

Your detectors may not be doing what you are depending on them to do when it really matters - alert you to a fire or carbon monoxide and save your life and the lives of your family.

<![CDATA[Exhausted]]>Wed, 24 Oct 2012 02:05:43 GMThttp://jbch.us/blog---hitting-home/exhaustedWell, today was no big surprise.  Same old same old.  Homeowner was complaining about mold and mildew growing on the walls and ceilings of their bathroom.  I won't even go into the fact that the ceiling tile in the bathroom was not rated for moist areas (like a bathroom, but they bought it  because it was on sale at Menards a few years ago.  That is a discussion for another day.)

So, the first thing I ask, and check on, is the exhaust fan working?  So, we flick the switch and sure enough the fan is working.  Next I take a closer look and the fan cover has more dust and hair on it than a dirty cat in a desert storm.  So, together we clean the cover, change the burned out light bulb and remove the moldy ceiling tile.  Upon removing the last piece of tile around the fan I notice that someone stole the vent pipe and the vent to the outside. (Ok, being silly here.  Who 'steals' this?)  Unfortunately the do-it-yourself previous homeowner put this in and didn't properly vent the fan to the outside.  Basement fans get exhausted through the floor rim joist and upper floors through the roof or side wall.  This just vented to the joist space.  Upon further investigation of the joist space I found, you guessed it, MORE mildew and mold.  Here is the magic formula for this:  moisture plus warmth plus organic source (like wood, ceiling tile and drywall) equals mold growth.  If you remove any of those from the equation you remove the problem.  The exhaust fan can remove the moisture from the room.

So, I connected a vent pipe to a new through the joist vent and turned on the fan.  The home owner was impressed how fast the odor in the room left.  They thought that the whole fan needed to be replaced because of the mold and mildew issue.  No actually.  Just hooked up.  I showed them that the 60 cu. ft. per minute rated fan they had was plenty for the  five by eight room. 
Length x width x height of room
Then multiply by 8 because bathroom should have 8 air changes per hour.
Then divide by 60 because we went to know how many Cubic Feet Per Minute (CFM) fan we should have.

8ft x 5ft x 8ft =320 cubic feet of room volume
320 x 8 air changes per hour = 2560 cu ft per hour
2560 / 60 minutes per hour=42.67 cfm   so the 60 cfm rated fan they had was plenty of "fan" for the job, it just needed to be hooked up and of course kept clean.  Imagine if you had a hairball in your throat, would you breath very well?

Well, that is all for now.  I hope that something in this little story "Hit Home" with you.
<![CDATA[Hidden junction boxes]]>Tue, 21 Aug 2012 00:50:48 GMThttp://jbch.us/blog---hitting-home/hidden-junction-boxes
A few weeks ago on a living room remodel the customer requested minor electrical be done to 'update' the room.  We added a few can lights over a beautiful fireplace, relocated some outlets and added a ceiling fan/light to the center of the room to move that new heat source around the room in the winter time and help with air circulation in the summer.  Well, while we were adding the fan box we found junction boxes like this above the ceiling that were not accessible.  Under the Residential Electrical Code junction boxes can not be "inaccessible".  What made matters worse was that the boxes we found were grossly over loaded with wires.  Each box has a limit which is called "box fill".  Each wire of each size has a certain number of cubes.  Each box has a maximum cube rating.  Packing wires into a box just causes problems and it did in this case.  We removed this box from the circuit and ended up rewiring not only the lights in the living room but also the kitchen.  The unsafe conditions in this home were repaired, in fact, the local electrical inspector THANKED me and the electrician for fixing this.  This work that was done previously was done without a permit and not inspected.  It was a safety hazard to the home.  Please hire a qualified contractor for all of your work.  Doing otherwise will only cause you issues later.
<![CDATA[Tile Backsplash]]>Wed, 22 Feb 2012 02:57:45 GMThttp://jbch.us/blog---hitting-home/tile-backsplash
I worked on the kitchen shown below before Christmas.  She called me back to do the back splash now.  This was the wonderful lady who called the wrong number for a contractor to bid on her kitchen and ended up with me.  I don't think that this other guy has called her back yet even and I've had 2 jobs from her.  His loss.  She is just a peach and one of my favorite customers.

This is glass mosaic tile.  It was about $9.00 a 12" x 12" sheet plus thinset and grout.  Not really a do-it-yourself job if you don't have a diamond blade for a grinder and a grout float.  The sheet tile were pretty easy to install and were a bit forgiving on this slightly uneven wall.  

It will need to have the grout sealed in the next week or so after the grout cures.  This will help keep the grout joints looking new and make it easier to clean.  That part is a very easy DIY job and better off left to the customer.  No sense in calling me back to do this easy job.  Besides, it should be done every so often anyway.

This is a good time to replace the old dirty outlets.  We did that on this job too.  Man it looks nice.  The photos don't do it justice.  Since it is glass tile you can actually look at them and almost seem to see through them.  This is one reason to use WHITE thinset as it will reflect the light back out.  

The joint at the countertop is a caulked grout joint.  Special sanded caulk to match the grout.  This "gives" a little with any movement of the counter top due to slamming doors, dropping things on it, or movement in the floor.  

She will enjoy this for YEARS now.  Up next... BATHROOM!

Here is the kitchen prior to new cabinets.


Here is the kitchen with new cabinets.  But we are not done just yet.


Isn't it amazing what a mosaic tile back splash can do for a kitchen?

<![CDATA[Bye, bye pastel colors and hello room makeover.]]>Sun, 19 Feb 2012 18:02:22 GMThttp://jbch.us/blog---hitting-home/bye-bye-pastel-colors-and-hello-room-makeoverThis week I did an extensive refresh to a 2nd floor master suite.  Stripped the wall paper, prepped the existing trim and walls for new paint, added trim that was missing.  This room just wasn't helping all the rest of the improvements we did to the home to sell it.
Here is the room before.  Ugly, torn wallpaper and a color scheme that just wasn't working.  Missing trims and dated fixtures.

BAMM! (borrowed from Emeril)  A grey/green paint with the darker shade on the bottom and the lighter on the slanted and flat ceiling.  The trims were all caulked and  painted to give it a professional quality finish.
We picked the light color first and then stayed on the same card for the accent.  This is a pretty good rule of thumb to follow when selecting multiple colors in the room.

Check out the trim and the accents on this knee wall. 

New chair rail trim and white accent paint  gave this 1940s home a real sprucing up.  Bye, bye wall paper.


After.... simple and clean.  Ready for a new owner to decorate with their own items, not a paint can.

All of the walls were primed first to ensure that the old color would not bleed through and that the new coats of paint would stick.  The primer also seals in any pet odors.