Category Archives: Home Maintenance

Home Maintenance – AC Condensate Water

Owning Tucson Real Estate requires maintenance. Keeping your property well maintained adds value not only to your own property, but also to the entire neighborhood.

An important thing to consider in home maintenance is where the AC condensate water is going.  If it is not going where it belongs, it could be causing problems elsewhere.  Mark Andrews with H&A Services (a home inspection company) has a great story regarding under slab water leaks in his August 2010 Newsletter:

We have covered this topic in several newsletters but we see issues weekly. Since the consequences of condensate drain failures can be very expensive (water damage, mold, etc.), this topic is worth covering again.
Condensate 101: AC systems squeeze moisture out of the air resulting in cooler and drier air. This moisture (called condensate) drains off of the evaporator coil and into a pan. A drain line from the pan carries the condensate to the building’s exterior (95% of the time) or into the homes waste system.
Here’s what you need to know:
The location of the air handler/evaporator coil for each AC system:
-Packaged units: System is one piece and evaporator coil is in the unit
-Split systems: System is two pieces and evaporator coil/air handler may be in the attic, garage, hall or exterior closet
The location of the condensate line termination:
-Roof mounted packaged units: At the roof edge or into a plumbing vent
-Attic air handlers: Through the home’s exterior wall or into a plumbing vent or plumbing waste pipe
-Hall or garage closet: Through the exterior wall or pumped to a plumbing waste pipe
– Exterior closet: Through the exterior wall
Your Job: When the AC units are operating, is condensate water flowing to its designed termination? This simple task is important and needs to be checked regularly. If you have pipes through the side wall, are the low pipes dripping when the system is operating? Caution; if you have a high and a low pipe on the exterior wall with water dripping from the high pipe, your primary line is blocked!
Why do condensate drain systems fail:
-Pipes separate
-Bugs build nests in pipes (enter at the pipes termination)
-Dirt, dust, and debris block entry to the drain pipe (at the pan)
-Condensate pumps stop working

Remember to keep your Tucson Real Estate maintained.

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Grandfathered Items in Home Inspections

An important aspect of purchasing Tucson Real Estate is understanding the home inspection.  Mark Andrews with H&A Services (a home inspection company) has a great story regarding grandfathered Items in Home Inspections in his April 2008 Newsletter:

What constitutes a Grandfathered item relative to home inspections findings?

First a brief note about building codes. National building codes and construction practices change typically every three years. Municipalities review the national codes (building, electrical, plumbing, etc,) and modify these codes for their particular geographic area (snow loads, earth quakes, high wind, etc. may or may not be a factor). Accordingly, codes vary by municipality and the dates of adoption vary as well. The majority of home inspectors have a reasonable knowledge of IRC International Residential Codes) but few inspectors are code certified and none would be intimately familiar with code changes that may be adopted by the various municipalities. Accordingly, a home inspection is not a code compliant inspection and inspectors do not cite building codes in inspection reports. The question of “grandfathered” items comes up when inspectors point out items that do not meet current standards. Examples include: GFCI circuit breakers, smoke detectors, two prong ungrounded electrical receptacles, anti-siphon devices, safety glass, fuses in electrical circuits, etc. There is no grandfather language in the code books but it is understood that no municipal code compliance inspector will come to your home and require that the home be upgraded to current codes. So the issue is this: a home inspector points building practices and devices that would be considered not as safe as the current standard, the buyer decides that these are desired changes, the seller says “that’s the way it was built” and I’m not paying to have it changed. The home inspector is no longer involved; his job was just to point these things out. So, it’s a negotiation; an area where real estate agents show their value. There are circumstances that are not as black and white including: Kitchen and bathe remodels where the electrical work was not brought to current standard, two prong electrical outlets that have been replaced with three prong (but still ungrounded) outlets, flex gas pipe in furnaces (if the gas is shut off at the meter, the gas company will not turn it back on until the pipe is changed). Summary: Most of these issues are related to changes in building standards to make homes safer. Home inspectors point out many of these items allowing the buyer to make decisions appropriate to the next occupant’s circumstances.

Remember to be sure you have a reputable home inspector do an inspection before purchasing Tucson Real Estate.

Home Maintenance – Under Slab Water Leaks

Owning Tucson Real Estate requires maintenance. Keeping your property well maintained adds value not only to your own property, but also to the entire neighborhood.

One of the most disturbing things you may experience can be an under slab water leak.  These water leaks can cost thousands of dollars to repair and can also be VERY inconvenient.  Mark Andrews with H&A Services (a home inspection company) has a great story regarding under slab water leaks in his February 2008 Newsletter:

Under Slab Water Leaks
Since yours truly just experienced an under slab water leak at our home, I will detail the discovery and repair process (I hope you never get one)!
Discovery of a potential leak:
1. You hear water running in the home but can’t find the source
2. Your water bill is much higher than the same month last year
3. The triangle dial on your water meter turns continually
4. You see a “permanent” water/wet area around your foundation
Finding the location of the leak (assuming it’s under the slab):
1. The plumber calls in a specialist. Sending an electrical charge into the pipes allows the specialist to trace the copper/galvanized piping and mark its location on the floor.
2. Pressuring the pipes with compressed air and utilizing a headset and “stethoscope”, the specialist pin points the location of the leak within about a foot. Masking tape “X” marks the spot.
Fixing the leak:
1. The plumber jackhammers a hole in the slab at the “X”
2. The plumber digs out the pipe and locates the break
3. The plumber repairs/replaces the pipe
4. The plumber backfills the pipe and re-cements the hole in the slab
Note: The plumber may recommend rerouting the piping through the attic, etc. This may be the best option; especially with very expensive flooring, cabinetry, etc.
Fixing the floor/cabinets, etc:
1. This is the responsibility of the homeowner
So, what happened at our home? Following the above scenario:
• Lauren heard the water running and saw a wet area at the patio
• The home warranty company sent a plumber who called in a specialist to isolate the leak – Under slab/below kitchen cabinets
• I removed the dishwasher and the corner cabinets
• The plumber opened a hole in the slab and found a pin hole in a copper pipe, replaced that section, and repaired the slab
• I spent a week repairing the cabinets and putting the kitchen back
Bottom line: $1500 ($1000 paid by warranty company), plus $100 for supplies and 30 hours of my time and $200 to replace the main shut off (old gate valve didn’t work).
Safety Tip of the Month: Water Shut Offs
Older gate valves and kitchen and bath shut offs frequently do not operate. Since you will only know this when you “need to shut off the water”, we recommend having all older valves that are not in regular use changed to ball valves and quarter turn angle stops (in bathrooms, laundry, and kitchen). Consider having a plumber change all of these valves now and not having to hold your breath when turning an older valve.

Remember to keep your Tucson Real Estate, maintained especially the plumbing.

Home Maintenance – Asphalt Shingle Roofing

Owning Tucson Real Estate requires maintenance. Keeping your property well maintained adds value not only to your own property, but also to the entire neighborhood.

If you have a pitched roof, then you probably have asphalt shingle roofing.  There are different levels of quality in asphalt shingle roofing but all need to be maintained.  Here are some tips from H&A Services, LLC if you have asphalt shingle roofing:

Asphalt shingles are an excellent choice for pitched roofs on Arizona homes. Asphalt shingles are light weight and durable, shingles lay flat, readily shed water, and resist wind driven rain.
1.   Shingle design life: Shingles can be purchased with 15, 20, 25, 30 years and longer design lives. A rule of thumb in Arizona is to discount shingle design life by 20%.
2.   Installation: The design life is applicable if the manufacturer’s installation instructions are followed including: roof sheathing, underlayment (tar paper), fastening, overlap, starter course, drip edge, etc.
Note about re-roofs: Adding a second layer of shingles over the original layer will further reduce a shingles design life.
3.   Life considerations: Sun exposure reduces life, excess attic heat reduces life, roof pitch (steeper roofs last longer), and valleys and transitions are typical trouble spots for leakage.
4.   Events: Wind storms, weather (especially hail), and tree or branch contact can cause damage.
5.   Home owner related: Mounted items including satellite dishes, basketball hoops, and antennas can allow water to seep around the mounts. Evaporative coolers and AC units that drain onto the roof deteriorate shingles. Failure to perform timely repairs can result in damage or allow moisture under the roofing material causing damage. Tree or pigeon debris on the roof holds moisture on the shingles and reduces life.
6.   Common areas of leakage: Evaporative coolers, roof penetrations, roof vents (plumbing, exhausts, and flues), skylights, valleys, and roof transitions (where roofs change elevation or direction).
Inspect your roof periodically and after every significant storm. Look for moisture stains on roof overhangs, ceilings, and in the attic as part of the inspection.

So remember, keep your Tucson Real Estate maintained, especially the roof.

Never a Bad Time to Upgrade

Here is an interesting article I stumbled across on the Internet.

Mad for makeovers
By Marni Jameson, Special to The Times

IN a booming housing market, people are quick to spend money to fix up their homes.
What’s surprising is that in today’s depressed housing market, people are still quick to
remodel — and, in fact, are remodeling at a near-record pace.

“In an up market, people fix up the houses they want to sell and the ones they buy,” said
Richard Johnston, senior researcher at the Home Improvement Research Institute in
Tampa, Fla. Home improvement and moving go together. But, apparently, so do home
improvement and not moving.

“Remodeling in a down market can make a lot of sense,” said Dan Fritschen, author of
2005’s “Remodel or Move? Make the Right Decision.” “You just have to be smart about
it.”

A national survey that Fritschen’s Web company, RemodelEstimates .com, conducted last
fall among 5,000 homeowners found that folks are planning to spend as much as ever on
home improvements in 2008 but that they plan to do so more carefully. And we are
talking billions.

“A year ago, high home prices were causing homeowners to feel the wealth effect, and
they were remodeling with a blank-check attitude,” he said. “Our survey shows that
homeowners are planning to get more for their dollars by doing more of the work
themselves.”

In the survey, conducted last fall, 36% said that in the coming year they planned to be
their own contractors — up from 25% in 2005 — and 64% planned to do some of the work
themselves, up from 60% in 2005.

The Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies noted that while home fix-up
spending dropped 2.3% in 2007 over the previous year, it was still the second-highest
year on record — $173.6 billion, compared with $177.7 billion in 2006, according to
third-quarter reports.

“That’s nowhere near the drastic declines we’re seeing in other sectors, such as new
residential construction, starts and sales, where declines are in the double digits,” said
Abbe Wills, a Joint Center researcher who tracks home improvement spending.

The National Assn. of Home Builders also reported that remodeling activity held up well
for the third quarter of 2007.

“The remodeling market is not experiencing the dip in production and sales being seen in
the new-home-building sector of the industry,” said NAHB Remodelers Chairman Mike
Nagel.

… Nonetheless, if you’re leery about investing in your home when the market is softer than a feather bed, here are some guidelines:

… Make low-cost, high-impact improvements. Fritschen recommends investing in
inexpensive upgrades that yield great results. Upgrading baseboards and doors is a good
example. “For between $5,000 and $7,000 you can greatly enhance the look of the
average home. Throw in some fresh paint and new carpet, and the change is dramatic,” he
said. Fix eyesores. Don’t neglect home maintenance. A sinkhole in the driveway, a leaky
roof, damaged flooring — all need to be repaired to protect your investment, regardless of
the market.

If you sell the house, these problems will be noticed in a home inspection, and buyers
probably will want you to fix them. Also, many maintenance issues just worsen and get
more expensive if postponed.

… Put your bucks into great kitchens and bathrooms. If you want to increase the value
of your home, remodel the kitchen and bath, advises researcher Johnston.

Upgrades in these rooms are more likely to pay off, plus you can enjoy them in the
meantime, with a few key exceptions. If you’ve already built a really nice kitchen and just
want to change it, you won’t get that money back at resale. Or if you put a Mercedes
kitchen in a Hyundai neighborhood, don’t expect to get that money back either. But if all
the homes on your street have three bathrooms, and your home has one, adding a bath is a
sure bet. Just don’t exceed the norm of the neighborhood….

Los Angeles Times January 06, 2008

Please visit Marni’s website.

And remember, it’s never a bad time to upgrade your Tucson Real Estate.

Home Maintenance – Foam Roofing

Owning Tucson Real Estate requires maintenance. Keeping your property well maintained adds value not only to your own property, but also to the entire neighborhood.

If you have a low slope (flat) roof, then you would be lucky to have foam roofing.  It is a bit more expensive than conventional roofing but well worth the extra cost.  In the long run, there will be fewer leaks and less need for replacement.  So a slightly larger initial investment can save you headaches and money in the long run.  Just like all roof material however, foam roofing needs maintenance.  Here are some tips from H&A Services, LLC for foam roofing maintenance:

General Foamed roof information:
Polyurethane Foam is an expensive roofing product that is typically utilized on low sloped roofs (NOT FLAT- all roofs must slope to drain).
Application: Foam is sprayed on the prepared decking as a liquid which expands (chemical reaction creates millions of cells). Foam is then top coated with an elastomeric product (this layer protects the foam).
Benefits: Foam is seamless and can be applied over irregular surfaces, is light weight, a good insulator (on the order of R-7), reflects the sunlight (generally white), and has a 25 year type life if properly, applied, and maintained.
Critical application conditions: 1. Clean, dry (free of oils and moisture) surfaces that the foam will bond to.  2. Materials designed for the environment (Arizona heat and dryness).  3. Qualified contractors with significant foam roofing experience.
Inspection of foamed roofs:
When:  Foamed roofs should be inspected at least yearly (more often if bird damage is typical or hail storms have occurred).
What to look for:
·         Open blisters: Bubbles in the foam that have opened (note: an ideal foam roof does not have blisters!)
·         Holes: Birds often peck holes in the foam (see picture above).
·         Cracked/peeling topcoat: Caused by the UV in sunlight breaking down this layer. White topcoat should be uniform and continuous
·         Chalking: Rub your hand on the topcoat; residue is a sign of aging
·         Exposed Foam: Foam is yellow and should not be viewable. The sun will degrade foam fairly quickly
·         Water ponding: Dirt left in low areas indicates drainage issues
·         Debris on roof: Debris traps water and promotes premature degradation. Debris should not be allowed to build up.
Maintenance:  We recommend that foamed roofing be maintained by roofing professionals. Many home owners purchase maintenance contracts with foamed roofing companies (these contracts include regular inspections). When necessary (based upon inspections), damaged areas are professionally patched, roofing is power washed, and a new elastomeric coating is applied (may be one or several coats depending on material and condition of the roofing).
Lack or Regular maintenance: Exposed foam will deteriorate; water will seep into and degrade the foam, and the foam/deck bond will deteriorate. At that point, the foamed roof will need to be replaced.

So remember, keep your Tucson Real Estate maintained, even the foam roof.