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5 Home Repairs You Should Not Ignore

clock October 23, 2009 13:48 by author blogadmin
Ignoring these home repairs could cost you thousands of dollars in repairs and compromise your family's health.

 

Consumer Reports magazine: June 2009

This article is the archived version of a report that appeared in June 2009 Consumer Reports magazine  

 5 home repairs you shouldn't ignore

Use our expert advice to stop trouble in its tracks Too little, too late

 

You might be tempted to put off fixing your home until the economy rebounds. Rebuild the patio? Sure, right after your 401(k) rallies. But some problems, if left unchecked, can lead to thousands of dollars in repairs (rebuilding a foundation wall, for instance) and might even compromise your family's health, such as mold contamination.

The trouble signs are easy to spot, provided you know what to look for. What's more, contractors aren't as busy now, so they're likely to be more flexible on price. Here are the five biggest red flags of home maintenance, with our advice on how to deal with them.

1. Runaway rainwater "If there are 10 things that can go wrong with a house, 15 of them have to do with water," says Bill Loden, a Madison, Ala., home inspector. Gutters, downspouts, and leader pipes collect rainwater and channel it away from the house. In very wet regions, leaders should extend at least 5 feet from the house. Check the entire gutter system seasonally for proper pitch and for clogs, corrosion, broken fasteners, and separation between connections and where gutters meet the fascia board. When inspecting gutters, extend straight ladders 3 feet beyond the roof at a 75-degree angle to the ground. The soil around the foundation should slope away from the house at least 1 inch per foot for 6 feet or more. If you have planting beds along the foundation, make sure the grading of the bed, its edging, or the edge of the lawn isn't keeping water from draining away from the house.

2. Roof and siding Roofs are the most vulnerable to water infiltration, given their exposure to the elements and the laws of gravity. On a sunny day, use binoculars to spot cracked, curled, or missing shingles, which are signs that the roof is near its end of life. Also check flashing around chimneys, skylights, and roof valleys, and the rubber boots around vents for cracks. Siding is also susceptible to leaks, especially where it meets windows and doors. A $5 tube of caulk might save you thousands of dollars in structural repairs. If you live in a cold climate, check the siding under the roof eaves for water stains, which could be a sign of ice damming. Adding attic insulation and sealing gaps around pipes, recessed lighting, and ducts into the attic might help prevent future damming and lower your heating and cooling bills.

3. Pest infestations Termites and carpenter ants gravitate to moist soil and rotting wood, another reason to make sure your gutters are in good shape and soil around your foundation is graded properly. Also keep mulch, firewood, and dense shrubbery away from your foundation. Once termites infiltrate a home, they can bore through the structure in a few short years. Formosan termites, which are prevalent throughout the South, have been known to rip through studs and floorboards in a matter of months. To detect termites, probe the sill plate (also called a mudsill) that sits on top of the foundation with a screwdriver to check for rotted wood. To check for carpenter ants, look for piles of sawdust along baseboards. Regular termites also shed wings along windowsills, walls, and other entry points. Rodents gravitate toward disorder and debris, such as leaf piles around the foundation. Plug holes in the siding and the foundation walls with expandable foam. Don't forget to look up for signs of birds, bees, or squirrels in soffits and attic vents.

4. Mold and mildew Even houses in arid climates aren't immune. Hot outdoor temperatures can drive even small amounts of water trapped in the structure to condense on colder interior surfaces, leading to mold. Musty odors, dank air, and family members with chronic runny noses are warning signs. Check under carpets and around windows for visible mold or mildew. Also remove cover plates for cable-TV, phone, and Internet connections, and use a flashlight to peer behind walls and wallpaper for mold. Avoid mold tests sold at home centers and online. Each of the kits we tested had significant flaws that were serious enough to earn them a Not Recommended Rating in our 2006 tests. If indoor mold covers less than 10 square feet, treat it yourself with a homemade solution of 1 cup chlorine bleach per gallon of water. Be sure to don an N-95 disposable respirator, goggles, and heavy-duty gloves. Professional remediation is required for larger outbreaks, if the ventilation system is contaminated, or if an allergy sufferer lives in the home. 

5. Foundation cracks Some cracks are harmless, but others can mean trouble. James Katen, a home inspector from Gaston, Ore., suggests walking around the house with a No. 2 pencil in hand. Hairline cracks are probably the result of concrete curing or minor settling, he says, and can be filled with an epoxy-injection system. "But if the pencil can go into the crack up to the yellow paint on the pencil, that's a pretty wide crack and might be a sign of a major problem," Katen says. A ruler is another handy tool: Cracks wider than 3/16 inch, even vertical ones, can be a problem. Mark smaller cracks with tape and monitor their progress over the coming months. Also be on the lookout for horizontal cracks or bulging or buckling. Along with expanding cracks, those conditions require the attention of a structural engineer. The longer you wait to correct a problem, the more costly it will probably be.

More red flags

 ·                            Cracks at upper corners of windows and doors (uneven foundation settling)

·                            Mushrooms or fungus growing out of siding (moisture in the walls)

·                            Soft boards or loose rails on outdoor decks (decaying deck structure)

 



Hybrid – The New Foundation Repair Marketing Term

clock October 14, 2009 10:21 by author blogadmin
If you want to support your home or commercial building permanently, hire an engineer to get a quality steel piering system that offers a lifting system.

 

The service industry has always relied on marketing to promote their wares and service. Sometimes the truth is stretched in these promotions to create excitement in the consumer. Often times these promoters attach themselves to keywords or terms that are in vogue. Recently this has happened in the foundation repair industry with the term – Hybrid.

 

The definition of hybrid is – the combination of two or more different things, aimed at achieving a particular goal or objective. On the surface this sounds good and globally responsible ideas pop into our minds. In 2009 hybrid congers up the idea of “Green Technologies” and smaller carbon footprints, and this is exactly why marketers use the term hybrid.

 

In the foundation repair industry hybrid pier systems are the combination of two or more differing materials to achieve an objective. Sounds great doesn’t it. But, what is the objective? And, does combining any two or more materials always create a better product? Well with out question the objective is to sell more product for the manufacturer. This may not necessarily be good for the consumer, just more expensive. Next, just because you combine two or more materials together does not mean that it will perform better that either of the materials alone. Combining oil and water does not make better oil or better water.

 

 Today we hear about combining steel and concrete to make “hybrid” foundation repair systems. They will advertise “the best of both worlds”, “the strength of steel with the benefits of concrete”. Well this sounds good but you must look past the advertising and see the engineering. Placing steel piers below concrete cylinders actually will take away the advantages of the steel piers and hamper the strength of the concrete. They say that they use steel to achieve depth (reading between the lines – concrete cylinders do not drive deep enough to supply support) and concrete in the upper soil zones to prevent corrosion. If this is the case, then why do they use steel shims at the very top of their system? Next, if the steel piers are galvanized to structural standards how are they going to corrode?

 

The next thing to think about is how will they drive the steel piers to the required depth if they are putting shallow driving concrete cylinders on top of the steel pier sections? The truth is, they will drive deeper than they were with concrete segmented piles alone but not as deep as true engineered steel piering systems.

 

Another combination of steel and concrete is to fill the steel pipe with a cement or grout mixture to “increase strength”. Sounds good, but does it work? Well let us look at it from a logic stand point (marketing people hate this), if the grout mixture is not as strong as the steel will it really increase the strength of the system? No! Adding a weaker component to a strong component will not make the system stronger it only makes it a hybrid. Do not fall for this smoke and mirrors advertising. The simple solution is to ask an engineer what they recommend. Engineers do not fall prey to slick commercials and fast talking salesmen, they look at numbers, calculations and sound engineering practices.

 

So remember, if you want to buy a hybrid car to save money on fuel and leave a smaller carbon footprint – great buy it. If you want something to support your home or commercial building permanently listen to an engineer and require the highest quality steel piering system available that incorporates a manifold lifting system.

 



Building Swales to Protect your Home

clock October 4, 2009 17:51 by author blogadmin
Apply drainage swales on your property to protect your home from standing water and move a portion of the runoff into the ground.

 

A swale is a broad channel used for the movement and temporary storage of runoff. They can be made of concrete or formed with natural materials. Swales are the best way to move large amounts of water away from your home. Swales also can move a portion of the runoff into the ground and filter out runoff pollutants.

Drainage swales that are planted with native vegetation are commonly called bioswales. Swales can be effective alternatives to enclosed storm sewers and lined channels, where their only function is to rapidly move runoff from a developed site. On some sites, natural drainage courses may still be present and it is recommended that they be retained as part of the site drainage plan. Golf courses are probably the best example of the effective use of bioswales. In the design of golf courses, water management is key to controlling water conservation.

Many times swales can safely move water away from your foundation while conserving this same water for grass and other landscape plantings. Effectively moving water around a property can prevent foundation repairs while saving money on watering plants. In contrast to conventional curb-and-gutter concrete swales, bioswales can reduce both the rate and volume of storm water runoff around your home. Since this is achieved via absorption of runoff into the soil, swales in sandy soils will be much more effective than swales in clay soils. Swales are most effective in reducing runoff volumes for small storm events and on an annual basis can reduce storm runoff volumes by up to 15 percent in clay soils.

Drainage swales are applicable on virtually all residential sites. In suburban settings swales generally will be used in conjunction with foundation drainage. This effective combination can prevent water buildup around foundations which can cause foundation failures and water infiltration. While eliminating those areas in the yard that seemingly has constantly standing water or swampy areas, bioswales are the green way of conserving water. Take a look at your property today and devise a plan to protect your home while conserving natural water runoff.



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