Home Reviews

No more hunting down device chargers!

Built-in device chargers
Built-in device chargers make life so nice!

Install new Leviton USB outlets everywhere you want device chargers. Kitchen, office, living room, patios or anywhere! Convert any existing home outlet location into a fast-charging station with this powerful built-in smart chip technology.

The Type A and Type-C USB Device Charger/Tamper Resistant Receptacle (shown above) offers superior charging power for smartphones, tablets, laptops, monitors, printers and more. Two high powered vertical USB Ports, one Type A and one Type-C, deliver a combined total of 5.1A charging current and 25+ watts of power. Smart chip technology recognizes and optimizes the charging requirements of individual devices and the Type-C Port enables the cables to be inserted easily in either direction. The Type A and Type-C USB Charger/Tamper Resistant Receptacle is a powerful solution to help keep your devices charged with ease and style. Use your lightning cable and charge up to 60% faster.

Outlet Features

  • Smart chip recognizes and optimizes the charging requirements of individual devices including Apple, Samsung, Nexus, Pixel and more
  • Type-C Port provides up to 59% faster charging power over competition using Lightning cable on Type-C Port with iPhone 7, iPad Mini 1, iPad Pro 9.7
  • Combined total of 5.1 A charging capacity – Type-C Port can charge a maximum of 3 Amps and the Type A Port can charge a maximum of 2.4 Amps
  • Two high-powered charging ports with 25+ watts of power
  • Type-C Port permits the cables to be easily inserted in either direction

These outlets are also available in dual Type-C, and in six colors. Contact us at info@homepreservation.com for installation or more information.

How to burn your house down without even trying!

Do you own a magnifier mirror? If so, we recommend you be careful where you mount it because it could be a fire danger!

Ever heard of a “mirror fire”? In the photo below, see the dark diagonal lines on the window trim? Those are burns etched more than 3/8” into the wood. They were caused by sunlight reflecting off of a magnifier type make-up mirror. You can see the chrome mounting plate for the mirror which we removed.

Here’s a closer view:

mirror fire

As you can see, the burning happened several times. Some of the burns even show smoke stains where the wood was clearly on fire or close to it. Our lucky HPS Stewardship customer did not even know.  

If there had been anything more flammable in the area, like curtains or a paper blind the house would surely have gone up in flames. Mirror fires are not something you hear a lot about, but there you are.

If you want to avoid issues like this, get help from HPS Palo Alto Inc. at www.homepreservation.com . We’ve seen a thing or two, too!

EarthTalk: Environmentally Friendly House Gutters

When new gutters are needed, consider green choices

Originally published in the Christian Science Monitor

 

By The Editors of E Magazine

Q:We will need to replace our house gutters soon. What are our best options from an environmental perspective?
– Jodie Green, Dallas

A: Use a material that is the most durable for your climate. Ultimately, the longer your gutters last, the less environmental cost there will be – from manufacturing to recycling. A cheaper product that degrades twice as fast as another would not be the best choice, even if it has a greener production process. Also, the extra cost of having to fix your water- damaged home could make a “cheaper” gutter in reality much more costly.

“Galvanized steel, copper, and aluminum are preferred gutter materials,” reports Austin Energy, the Texas capital’s community-owned electric utility. Copper is a more expensive, high-end gutter material, as are stainless steel and wood, although wood is used mostly in historical restoration.

According to home improvement expert Don Vandervort, who writes for ThisOldHouse.com, galvanized steel and aluminum each have big pluses. Steel is sturdy, while aluminum will not rust. Copper and stainless steel are sturdy and lasting, too, says Mr. Vandervort, but they can cost three to four times as much as steel or aluminum.

“Steel gutters can stand up to ladders and fallen branches better than aluminum,” he says. “But even thick galvanized steel eventually rusts.” He advises buying “the thickest you can afford.” Austin Energy says that gutters should be a minimum of 26 gauge galvanized steel or 0.025 inch aluminum.

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is also used for gutters, but “can get brittle with age or in extreme cold,” says Vandervort, and they cannot carry as much snow load as metal gutters. PVC is also not a very green-friendly choice. When produced or burned, says the Center for Health, Environment and Justice , PVC releases dioxins.

Replacing your gutters can provide an environmental opportunity, because the way you handle your roof’s water is important. Consider linking your gutters to a “rooftop catchment system” that captures rainwater in a cistern or rain barrels and can then be used to water nonedible plantings.

Efficient water use is a guideline in the US Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) for homes standard for certifying green-built homes.

Finally, if you have a problem with debris in your gutters, consider a RainTube. This recycled-plastic gutter insert (which won the 2008 Sustainable Product Award from Green Building Pages) keeps gutters clear of debris, preventing overflow into your house. Of course, cleaning your gutters now and then is probably the best environmental option because it may head off any need for replacement or modification.

Creating A Home Repair Emergency Fund

You may already have enough in savings-just make it more accessible

Any unexpected large home repair is bad enough; but combine that with having no way to pay for repairs or temporary shelter and you have the ultimate home disaster. A home emergency fund can help to save you from financial discomfort or worse. Even if you believe your house is in great shape, you never know when you’ll have to deal with a surprise repair.

Even if you diligently perform recommended preventive maintenance tasks and follow all the rules for making proactive replacements, you may not be able to protect yourself from an unexpected catastrophe. Our poor friends in Texas this year, with no power, frozen pipes and flooding will attest to that. But you can still be prepared by having an emergency repair fund handy. 

What’s a home repair emergency fund? 

A home repair emergency fund is money set aside to pay for unexpected, emergency-type home repairs. These repairs are considered normal but not predictable. I am not talking about natural disasters, wars, riots or alien invasions, but having an emergency fund can help with any of those also. 

An emergency repair fund should consist of money available in a readily liquid form. Not cash, but a checking account with access to funds. You don’t want to have the money in a long-term savings portfolio where you’ll face massive fees if you pull money out early.

Homeowners don’t need to get too creative with an home repair emergency fund. A simple savings or money market account will suffice so long as it is separate from your normal checking account and thus less visible and tempting. The most important thing is the money must be there when you need it. A useful option is to have access to cash through a debit card or a pre-approved line of credit. Credit cards can work as a temporary resource also, but you will be faced with huge fees and interest rates if you don’t pay it completely off when due.


Even if you believe your house is in great shape, you never know when you’ll have to deal with a surprise repair.


How much money should you save in your emergency fund?

Some financial advisors suggest that homeowners create a cash reserve of three to six months of living expenses. Others recommend you have a cash reserve target of about 1% to 3% of your home value. So, if your home is worth $500,000, this suggests setting aside $5,000 to $15,000.

A good way to check if you’ve saved enough is to learn what items are most likely to fail in your home, then allow for the highest possible cost to repair/replace them.  Some examples of the most likely items to fail are: Emergency water heater replacement $2500-$5,000; burst pipe water damage $10,000-$100,000; hot water re-circulator pumps $600-$800; septic systems $5,000-$10,000; gutter replacement $2500-$5,000; downspouts $600-$1200; drainage system failures $4,000-$8,000; sump pump replacement $500-$1,000; dishwasher flooding and replacement $1200-$5,000; spoiled refrigerator/freezer food $400-$800; down tree removal $3,000-$8,000.  Some of these numbers are staggering.

Of course, each situation is different. A new home with all new systems and appliances is less likely to tap into a home repair emergency fund for many years. Fixer-uppers and older homes, of course, will probably require that money sooner. Larger homes should have a larger fund than a smaller home. 


Some financial advisors suggest that homeowners create a cash reserve of three to six months of living expenses. Others recommend you have a cash reserve target of about 1% to 3% of your home value.


General emergency funds

In addition to a home repair emergency fund, it’s also wise to create two general emergency funds: an everyday emergency fund and a disaster fund. Everyday emergencies—such as a worn out dishwasher in your home—can cut into your monthly budget, so having some cash stowed away will allow you to still pay your rent or mortgage. Work toward having about 10% of your annual wage in your everyday emergency savings account tor if you’re self-employed, put aside 20% since the income is likely to be more variable.

The second emergency fund—the disaster fund—is for life’s calamities that interrupt your income. It could be suffering a natural disaster, losing your job, falling ill and/or needing to take time off work, dealing with a death in the family.

The concern is when something catastrophic happens that people could risk losing their home because all suddenly they can’t make their mortgage payment.

Work toward saving 20% of your mortgage balance for the dire emergency fund. If you put aside money automatically from each check and you’ll quickly begin to get closer to your goal. For instance, putting aside $25 every week will get you $1,300 in a year.

“Put aside” means to have a savings account where the money is readily available through checks or a cash card. Use a savings or money market account for your emergency fund. Something that is safe, low risk and easily accessible when needed.

What if you have too small an emergency fund

Let’s say your septic system dies in the middle of summer and you desperately need to replace it, but you don’t have a home repair emergency fund. Where do you turn? Two options are a home equity loan and a home equity line of credit, or HELOC.

Both of these solutions let you tap into the value of your home to cover emergency costs. A major difference is that the home equity loan is a lump sum and you often have a fixed interest rate.  Equity loans take longer to approve and longer to fund and thus may be unacceptable for an emergency situation.

HELOC is a line of credit that you can borrow. These are usually set up in advance and the homeowner can draw on the money quickly and at any time. A HELOC lets you draw money from the account as much as you need up to the available maximum amount. Also, a HELOC usually has an adjustable interest rate. 

In a worst-case situation, without some emergency amount saved, a credit card may have to do.

Six Disaster Preventers Every Home Needs!

Current times have been tough for homeowners. Just when your home needs to serve as sanctuary for you and your family, it seems to be under attack from all directions. Disaster safety and prevention is more important now than ever.

This winter has shown that severe weather can happen anytime, anywhere and affect anyone. In addition, both natural and man-made disasters like fires, floods, power outages and earthquakes lurk around every corner.  

When a disaster strikes and you really need help, it’s too late! Stores are closed, materials are sold-out, contractors are suddenly unavailable, and first responders are overstressed, or defunded. Experience tells us that when a crisis happens, you need to be able to get through it on your own.

I’ve prepared a list of the most important things you need to help you get prepared.

The big six!

Here are the six most high-priority, disaster deterrents you must do right away.

  1. Whole-house inspection
  2. Regular maintenance and timely repairs
  3. Back-up power system
  4. Leak sensing main water valve operator
  5. Seismic gas shut-off valve
  6. Video doorbell

Whole-house safety inspection

Homeowners distracted by the unending demands of daily life don’t have the time (or ability) to keep track of the condition of the home.  Time speeds by and the condition of your home can slowly deteriorate… till it’s too late. A regular whole-house inspection will keep you informed of your home’s condition and bring attention to potential disasters in the making.

Maintenance and repairs

Once you have the inspection, you must act. Make the repairs that are needed and don’t delay. Then commit to regular routine maintenance to help keep repairs at bay and make everything last longer. Check out the HPS Stewardship program.

Back-up power

A standby generator system has become the single most important disaster safety and prevention feature for any home built in the last 50 years. A backup energy system is not just a convenience, it is mandatory for the protection of all modern homes with features like electronic controls, finished basements, sump pumping stations for flood control, sewage ejector systems or uninsulated water lines.

Even small generators can help prevent the house from freezing, keep critical systems like pumps and ejectors working and avoid the flooding and other catastrophic damage. More sophisticated systems consisting of automatic switching, a battery bridge and a properly sized whole-house generator can seamlessly bridge any power outage so you don’t even know it happened.

Leak sensing water shut-off device

These “smart” devices are able to determine when an abnormal water leak has occurred in the home and will automatically shut off the main water supply. These are fairly new (in the last 10 years) but have proven extremely effective at saving millions of dollars in floods from frozen pipes, loose refrigerator water lines or any other plumbing disaster involving failed and flowing water lines in the home.

HPS has installed many of these marvelous devices and have saved untold amounts of damage and distress. They require professional installation near an electrical outlet, a new valve on the main water line and the programming of the unit so that it becomes “aware” of your water use habits.

Seismic gas shut-off safety device

Seismic safety and prevention shut off valve
Seismic gas shut-off valve

Here is another simple but effective device.  A seismic valve eliminates the need to manually shut off your gas service during an earthquake. The device senses the movement of the earth and shuts off the gas. The gas flow can then be re-established by manually resetting the valve once you have determined it safe to do so.

These devices are installed between the gas meter and you home on the main line and require no power. We have installed dozens of these devices. They are simple, effective and foolproof.

Ring doorbell and video surveillance

Video surveillance of the entry of your home is now as easy as installing a new doorbell. The video camera is activated anytime the doorbell senses movement and records the time and date of each occurrence so you can retrieve and review at any time.  The video is accessible wirelessly on your smart phone or computer. Additional cameras can be installed around the home to get complete coverage.

Do these six things now!

Don’t become a victim. The Big Six are easy to deploy and will help you to avoid or get through even the most difficult scenarios. If you need help with disaster safety and prevention, HPS can provide more information or do all these things for you. Just contact us at www.homepreservation.com.



Study Confirms Stewardship is Strong Environmental Strategy


Finally, a formal study has confirmed what I have been advocating and putting into practice through my company now for over 25 years. Properly caring for and maintaining our existing home inventory results in enormous benefits to the environment compared to building new. Stewardship is proven to be a powerful and affordable environmental strategy.

The study looked at both commercial and residential buildings in Portland, Phoenix, Chicago, and Atlanta and revealed the potential for large carbon impact reduction by comparing the relative environmental impacts of building maintenance, reuse and renovation (Stewardship) vs. new construction over an assumed 75-year period.

“It makes sense that if you don’t have to replace something, you avoid having to use up labor, energy and raw materials to make it.”-Steve Spratt

Contrary to popular belief, the benefits of reusing and renovating buildings far outweighed the benefits of constructing new energy-efficient structures. According to the study, a new building that is even 30% more efficient than the average building takes up to 80 years to overcome the negative climate change impacts resulting from construction.

Even building re-use projects that produced carbon impact reductions that seemed small when considering only one building, showed substantial savings when large numbers went under the microscope. The highest returns came from simply maintaining existing structures properly. The returns came from reduced failures and increases in durability and life while maximizing operational efficiency. It makes sense that if you don’t have to replace something, you avoid having to use up labor, energy and raw materials to make it.

“…building reuse can avoid unnecessary carbon outlays and help communities achieve their near-term carbon reduction goals…”

“If the city of Portland were to retrofit and reuse the homes and commercial office buildings that it is otherwise likely to demolish over the next 10 years, the potential impact reduction would total approximately 231,000 metric tons of CO2 – approximately 15% of their county’s total CO2 reduction targets over the next decade,” so says the Preservation Green Lab, a division of the National Trust.

Roughly 82 billion square feet of existing space will likely be demolished and replaced between 2005 and 2030, representing about 25% of the existing building stock in the U.S., projects the Brookings Institution. Reusing these buildings and renovating them for higher efficiency – especially with renovations requiring fewer material inputs – have the potential to realize the greatest short-term carbon savings, the study authors note.

“Most climate scientists agree that immediate-term action is crucial to staving off the worst impacts of climate change,” the research stressed. “This study finds that building reuse can avoid unnecessary carbon outlays and help communities achieve their near-term carbon reduction goals.”

Bottom line, Stewardship is a better environmental strategy than building new. Maintenance matters.

Want to live better AND help the environment? Contact HPS Stewardship now!

Source: Preservation Green Lab, National Trust

Avoid being a real estate loser

How Homeowners Can Avoid Being Real Estate Losers

A strategy for maximizing the value of your home…and enjoying it more too!

If you’re thinking about selling your home and wondering what you should do to fix it up, I’m afraid I have bad news.  It may already be too late.  I hate to tell you that you are about to lose time, money, and any enjoyment the sprucing up of your home would have brought you.

It’s true, even if you rake in a ton of equity from appreciation, you are still losing out because you will not be getting anywhere near what you could and should have. The reason is simple and it’s a lesson that most homeowners learn too late.

The more marketable your home is kept, the more value it has.

Here’s the secret: Even if you do not intend to sell your home…having the ability to market it quickly makes it more valuable. In other words, the faster it can sell, the more it is worth.

Your home is not a “liquid” asset and getting money from one is not like cashing a check at the bank. Selling a home is complicated and takes time…and time is money.  Once you have decided to sell, you will need to hire a realtor, have the home inspected, perhaps fix it up, set a price, advertise, market, hold open house, entertain offers, open escrow, allow buyer inspections, repair problems, negotiate the price further and hopefully the buyer can secure their loan and finally, actually close the sale. All this can take months even if your home is in perfect condition…and it probably is not.

Today’s home buyers want homes that are in good, and preferably excellent condition. Fixer-uppers are not desirable and will be avoided or heavily discounted at best. If your home needs work the selling process will take longer, and there will always be more work than you expect.

Your home has to be exceptional as it will be competing with others for buyers and these days home shoppers are very sophisticated, more demanding and much less handy than in the past.  Buyers will be hiring professional inspectors who will pick your home apart if it is not in good shape. Splashing a little black paint on the front door and replanting a few dead shrubs is not going to cut it if you really want to get top dollar. And you do!


Waiting around till the last minute to fix up your home for sale is the worst possible strategy.


don't be a real estate loser

Bottom line, having your home ready to sell at any moment makes it more valuable. Conversely, waiting around till the last minute to fix up your home for sale is the absolute worst possible strategy.

“Fixing up” will cost more than you think. It will also take longer than you want, and as a final insult, you will not get to enjoy the benefits from any of the improvements. Those will go to the lucky buyer.

Forget about enjoying the new paint, carpet, water heater, cooktop, oven and shower etc. …you waited too late.

Here’s my tip. The way YOU can get maximum value from your home is to do something almost no homeowner ever does…start planning for the eventual sale the minute you take ownership.

With my strategy, you can avoid falling into this money losing trap while enjoying a nicer home too, but you need to start now.   This is what I call the “live like royalty” strategy. Keeping your home in palace-like condition all the time.

Start living better!

And here’s the really good part.  In order to make your home more valuable you must start living better.  Yes, you have permission.  You must stop delaying repairs, stop avoiding replacing those aged appliances, stop deferring maintenance and start enjoying your home more while keeping it at top value at the same time. It means everything about the home is maintained proactively and kept in excellent condition. The way it must be to sell. And you get to enjoy living in it that way!

Why don’t most homeowners do this? Good question.  Many can barely afford to buy the home and perhaps do not have the resources to care for it. Some simply do not know how. Some have no time. Others are just misinformed and think that this big expensive home will never wear out.

It will.

I’m sure there are other reasons why homeowners don’t do this, and I am trying hard to inform them otherwise… but seriously who cares? As long as you know better… your home will be more valuable and more fun to live in… and that is what matters.

If you have $500,000 in cash, the best way to keep it from drifting away is to put it in a bank vault. Unfortunately, you can’t put your home in a vault, so the best way to maintain its value is to keep it in perfect condition… through a smart Stewardship strategy from HPS.

Want to know more?  Keep reading this website or go to www.homepreservation.com and learn how they can do it all for you. This year HPS is celebrating 25 years of service to Silicon Valley’s finest homes and smartest homeowners.

 

How fast does a new home deteriorate?

The answer is much faster than you think!

Your new home needs maintenance
Welcome to your new home! Now get to work…

A brand, new home is truly a wonderful thing. It’s all yours! No other human has ever lived there. Everything from the kitchen to the garage is fresh and clean and shiny. Doors and windows work smoothly, and the paint is still clean and free of marks. Even the cabinets are empty and waiting for your things to arrive.

False security: New homes need maintenance too!

Along with a fresh smell, the new house also brings to the new owners a fresh feeling of confidence and security. Like a new car. You are certain nothing can go wrong now. After all, everything around you is new. And it has a warranty. Right?

Actually no!  This line of thinking is a big mistake.

Deterioration starts early

Your new home is largely an organic entity, so even before it was completed things were starting to go south.  Wood was beginning to lose moisture and shrink. Some timbers were beginning to twist or crack. More than a few bugs, including termites and other organisms were already finding a home in your new structure.

How do I know that? I know these things because this is my business. I witness these goings-on all the time. But rather than lecture you with anecdotal truths, I’ve decided instead to document and report the deterioration of my own “new home”. A kind of case study in attrition and chaos theory.

A case study 

To document how even a new home needs maintenance, I’ll perform regular inspections and record all the things that I find going wrong. I’ll then report them to you by posting them on this website. I’ll include images and even tell you the things that went right. In addition, I’ll also report on why it happened, describe the various repairs needed and report the cost in both time and money.

We finished our new custom home in October 2017.  Me, my wife, and our dog Bella moved in just in time to have our first Thanksgiving dinner in the home. We were ecstatic to say the least… especially after two years of planning and construction.

At this point, I think some context about the construction of my home is important.  First, I built my house with durability in mind. I hired the best contractor and designer in the area. They in turn hired and supervised the best support team and subcontractors. We also used top quality materials. Not exotic materials, just top quality. Then we carefully selected where to use them to maximize durability and ease of maintenance.

Quality and durability

 Everyone on our build team did their best to produce a home that would last for ages. And the completed home is a jewel. It has won a number of awards for excellence including the Peoples Choice and Best Home awards from its entry into the home builders show in 2018. It also won an award for the best driveway paving in the state of Oregon for 2018.

I think you will be as surprised as I have been at how many things have needed attention despite all the planning and effort. Some fails were quite major and expensive. Also notable is that the first twenty six items all occurred in the first 22 months that we lived in the home. I think it will be an interesting study.

Follow along

If you are already signed up with www.homepreservationmanual.comto receive our checklists or newsletters you will get automatic notifications as more items are found. Please sign in if you have not done so. Or simply check back often to see how things are going! 

…and DON’T ignore your home every. Even a brand new home needs maintenance!

Chronology of issues:

Move In

October 15, 2017

Move In

Inspection discovers a stucco crack

January 15, 2018

Inspection discovers a stucco crack

The first thing to fail was a large 6’ long horizontal crack in the stucco on the front of the home. We reviewed construction photos and found no reason for the crack. The contractor removed the entire area of stucco and redid the work. It has been fine since. N/C

Roof protection tape

January 25, 2018

Roof protection tape

New metal roofing comes with a blue protective plastic coat to keep it from scratching during installation. By the time the material for the barn was installed it had been sitting for nearly a year. When the clean-up crew tried to remove the protection, it would not come off.  Half of the barn roof was replaced N/C

Inspection discovers a failed IGU

March 14, 2018

Inspection discovers a failed IGU

During the first winter we discovered that the insulated glazing unit (IGU) of the center kitchen window had failed. Pella replaced the unit at no charge.

Inspection discovers the main line from septic tank to leach field has failed

April 24, 2018

Line appears to have had a weak glue joint in the line. This would not have been found without an inspection that noted the excessive moisture on the ground. Original contractor makes repair at no charge.

Change air filters

April 24, 2018

Scheduled change of filters 2x/year for two furnace air-handlers. Cost: ½ man hour plus $75 for four filters.

Housekeeper reports problem with vacuum hose:

June 15, 2018

Housekeeper reports problem with vacuum hose:

Hose will not retract into the wall as designed. Turns out this was caused by housekeeper not understanding how to work the system properly. Subcontractor trains housekeeper and makes repair at no charge.

Install power shades to prevent sun damage

June 19, 2018

Install power shades to prevent sun damage

Large west facing windows collect too much heat in the afternoons. Installing electrically operated shades cut the heat by 80%. Cost $3600

Window cleaning difficulty

June 20, 2018

Window cleaners report that high windows require scaffold to clean safely. We strike a deal with the window washing firm to clean/dust/inspect the entire upper ceiling area (exposed beams, large fan, window-sills, etc.) at same time that windows are cleaned in order to get full use from the scaffold cost. Upper reaches of the home would not otherwise get needed attention. The first inspection reveals peeling paint, spider nests and webs and heavy accumulations of dust. The peeling paint was touched

Change water and air filters

October 24, 2018

Scheduled change of air filters 2x/year, and water filters 1x/year. Cost: 1.5 man hours and $251 for filters (one of our water filters is expensive)

Inspection finds batteries missing in the fireplaces

February 26, 2019

Inspection finds batteries missing in the fireplaces

An extended power outage left the house without heat. Attempts to start the fireplaces failed and it was discovered that the back-up batteries had not been installed. Cost: ½ hour labor plus eight AA batteries $6.

Snow Damage

February 27, 2019

Snow Damage

Inspection finds snow collapsed a tree onto the wood fence shattering a post and breaking four redwood fence boards. New boards were installed by homeowner. Cost: 3 man hours and $100 fence rail material

Snow bends the gutters

March 3, 2019

Unusually heavy snowfall had accumulated on the roof for a week. As it melted and slid off, parts of the perimeter roof gutters were damaged. This has not yet been repaired.

Inspection reveals that snow/cold has killed three cacti in the landscape

April 15, 2019

These will not be replaced as we will have cold weather again and feel this particular  plant would not hold up well.

Inspection finds that the main barn sliding door is stuck

April 15, 2019

Inspection finds that the main barn sliding door is stuck

Homeowner adjusted the door hardware and to prevent dragging and door works fine. Cost: 2 hours labor

inspection finds that one of the window frames in the kitchen is delamination on the exterior

April 17, 2019

We reported this to our contractor who determined it to be a factory defect.  The window manufacturer has agreed to repair. Unfortunately the window is a small cost as the window will need to be ordered (six weeks), the old window must be carefully removed and the new window installed with patching to blend into existing finishes. This is no easy job as the existing window abuts to marble in the interior and is surrounded by stucco on the exterior. Heavily inconvenient, we have no cost data yet.

Change air filters

April 24, 2019

Scheduled change of filters 2x/year for two furnace air-handlers. Cost: ½ man hour plus $75 for four filters.

Window cleaning firm finds spiders up high in beams on both interior and exterior

June 15, 2019

Window cleaning firm finds spiders up high in beams on both interior and exterior

These are difficult to see or clean from below. Contractor agrees to clean and dispense a spider insecticide. Cost: $150

Inspection finds that hall closet shelves have collapsed

June 30, 2019

The pins holding an upper shelf came out of their pockets and allowed the top shelf to fall onto the shelf below starting a chain reaction. There was nothing stored in the closet yet and no damage was done. Contractor has agreed to repair at no cost.

Inspection discovers that the stain has failed at entry exterior wood beams structure

June 30, 2019

Inspection discovers that the stain has failed at entry exterior wood beams structure

This area takes full sun most of the day. The beams are equipped with metal top shields to prevent rot and damage from above. Failed stain means the expensive wood material is susceptible to deteriorating sun and rain damage. The entry beams were recoated with several coats of matching stain. Cost: $3500

Inspection discovers that the dead cactus reported earlier has come back to life and is sporting new growth!

June 30, 2019

Inspection discovers that the dead cactus reported earlier has come back to life and is sporting new growth!

Inspection reveals that an LED downlight had quit working in the entry beam system

June 30, 2019

This has yet to be replaced. We estimate an hour of electrician time and a new fixture approx. $250

Dog has accident on carpet

July 13, 2019

Dog has accident on carpet

Thankfully it was a throw rug and we were able to take it outside and wash it down!

Inspection revealed that the runs for the three horse stalls are not draining properly

July 15, 2019

Inspection revealed that the runs for the three horse stalls are not draining properly

An analysis of the material shows us that the wrong type sand was used. We had specified a large grain, washed, river sand. The material delivered was a crushed, softer material that breaks down quickly under horse pressure and clogs up the drain system.  We do not know who caused the mistake. The sand was removed and replaced with proper material.  Cost: $4200

Inspection finds that mites have killed a small tree planted a year earlier as part of the landscape project

August 16, 2019

Inspection finds that mites have killed a small tree planted a year earlier as part of the landscape project

The tree was removed immediately to prevent spread of the mites. A new tree will be found for the spot. Cost: Labor 1.5 hours plus tree budget of $250.

Inspection finds that the finish has failed on half dozen exterior sconce lights

August 16, 2019

Inspection finds that the finish has failed on half dozen exterior sconce lights

These are out of warranty and will need to be replaced. Cost: $1200

Inspection reveals that the horses have chewed on some posts in their stall runs

August 16, 2019

Note: All posts and wood surfaces have been protected by aluminum angle iron. In these areas the clever horse has found a way to get to the back side of two unprotected areas.  A long reach. The repair is minor and will leave as is in honor of the great effort expended to get to this exposed wood.

Inspection notes that caulking has failed along trim areas at the barn siding above and below the large side windows

August 16, 2019

Inspection notes that caulking has failed along trim areas at the barn siding above and below the large side windows

If not found early this is an area that could develop rot. Any failed caulking must be replaced immediately while the weather is hot and dry. Cost: 2 hrs labor and $45 material.

Inspection shows that the paint/stain on the big rear patio beams has failed just as it did earlier on the front beams

August 16, 2019

These are under a roof protection so they have lasted longer than the front entry stain, but will still need to be done soon.

Refinish covered patio beams

September 16, 2019

Refinish covered patio beams

These beams are large and require scaffold to work on safely, The cost to refinish all four was about $2500. they now look like new again and the wood was much less porous this time.

Siding joints look bad

October 18, 2019

Siding joints look bad

After a couple years we started to notice the caulking joints between the siding members starting to look bad.  Turns out the contractor did not do a good job cleaning the joints when they were installed.  Cost to repair $700

Ring Doorbell Dies

April 13, 2020

Ring Doorbell Dies

Ring doorbells are designed to work wirelessly using a rechargeable battery for power. That’s great except when the battery dies you have to remove the doorbell and recharge it. To get around that problem, you can run the normal bell wires from the door button location to a transformer in order to keep the battery charged all the time. We have now learned that a normal doorbell transformer will not work because they only put out 12-18

First cracks appear in concrete walks

May 15, 2020

First cracks appear in concrete walks

It took two years, but the first cracks finally arrived. It’s a very small “hairline” crack and considering there is over 10,000 square feet of slab, I consider this miraculous. Bravo to our concrete contractor!

Door gaskets deteriorated

June 25, 2020

Door gaskets deteriorated

Our exterior doors have a rubberish gasket at the bottom that helps seal out the weather. The gaskets are failing now after just two and a half years. Cost to replace $600

Cement backer board

The new kid under your tile 

To say that the home building industry adapts to changes in technology a bit slowly would be a vast understatement. Professional builders have to warrant their work, and they are also concerned about their reputation. As a result, they adopt new techniques only when they are fairly certain that the change won’t end up as a call back.

cement backer board
cement backer board

By building industry standards, Cement (backer) Board came onto the scene fairly recently. The first time I recall seeing it was in the mid 90’s when it appeared on the rack at one of our lumber yards. Cement board is a combination of concrete and reinforcing fibers formed into 3-foot by 5-foot sheets. These sheets are 1/4 to ½-inch thick and are typically used as a backing board for tile installations.

Cement board can be nailed or screwed across wood or steel studs. This creates a fast, really flat substrate for vertical floor tile or attached to plywood for stone or tile kitchen counters and backsplashes. It can also be used on the exterior of buildings as a base for exterior plaster (stucco) systems and sometimes as the finish system itself.

Cement board adds impact resistance and strength to the wall surface as compared to gypsum boards. Fabricating cement board in thin sheets allows bending for curved surfaces.

Thin set tile

Before cement board came along, many bathrooms in “tract” homes or spec-builds used a tiling method called “thin-set”. When it first got started, it was crap! Thin-set eliminated the traditional mortar layer beneath the tile. This saved time and material and required less skill. Thin-set was applied directly to a water-resistant version of gypsum sheetrock called “green” board because of its greenish color.

cement backer board options
Water resistant gypsum board

 

Unfortunately, “green” board did not resist impacts well nor did it stand up as a water-proof backing to the tile. Tile cracks, caulking or mortar failure could lead to water damage and sometimes mold.

Backer board makes Thin-Set tile acceptable

As a tile backing product, Cement Board has far better long-term performance than paper-faced gypsum core products. It is concrete after all, not gypsum. As a result, it will not mildew or physically break down in the continued presence of moisture or leaks. Also, cement board provides a stronger bond and support with tiles than typical gypsum board.  Cement Board has made thin-set tiling an acceptable building practice.

cement backer board
Thin set tile diagram

Tough but not waterproof

Cement board resists water damage but is itself not waterproof. It will actually absorb moisture, but it has excellent drying properties. In areas continually exposed to water like spray from showers, a waterproofing material is required behind the sheets, Plastic waterproofing sheets can be used or perhaps a trowel-applied liquid membrane.

Weight and installation

One major disadvantage of cement board is the weight per square foot. It is approximately twice that of gypsum board, making handling by one person difficult. Cutting of cement board must also be done with carbide-tipped tools and saw blades. Due to its hardness, and brittleness, pre-drilling for fasteners is recommended. Cement board is hung with corrosion resistant screws or ring-shank nails.

Cement board has very little movement under thermal stress. Still the boards are usually installed with a slight gap at joints in shower pans, bathtubs, and each other. These joints are then filled with silicone sealant  or the manufacturer’s taping compounds before applying a finish. Joints are taped like conventional gypsum board, but with fiberglass tapes that provide additional water resistance.

Summary

Combined with a water impermeable finish, cement board is a stable, durable backing board. Cement board is slightly more expensive than water-resistant gypsum board but will certainly provide better long term value.

Your Home is Both Refuge and InvestmentThis Pandemic reminds us that home is both refuge and investment.

At HPS, we have always promoted the home as serving two valuable functions for the family. First, your home is a refuge. A trouble-free, safe, comfortable place where you and your family can retreat, reconnect and reenergize. Second, your home is a financial investment, an asset that should be protected and kept at its highest marketable value at all times.

Since most of us have been confined at home to help control the spread of this pandemic, the last seven weeks have offered a good opportunity to assess how your home is serving you. Has your home been a comfortable refuge? Do you feel the home is in its top marketable condition?

Make your home both a refuge and investment

If the answer is no to either of those questions, it is time to allow HPS to provide some more help. Here’s how we do it:

Getting the home into top marketable condition is a matter of inspecting the home, preparing a list of defects, repairs and worn out items and creating a prioritized plan to get them fixed as quickly as your budget allows. Once the repair list is fixed, our quarterly Stewardship maintenance will help to keep the home in top condition.

To turn your home into more of a refuge for you and your family requires a more personal approach. Bottom line, you should love being in your home, even after seven weeks. If you don’t, the solution is to make a list of things that you don’t like or that irritate you or make you uncomfortable. Then let HPS help you create a strategy to change those things.

It’s amazingly easy to implement change once you have developed a plan to make your home is a refuge and investment.  Just let HPS follow through with quality planning, estimates and repairs!

The last several weeks have given us all an opportunity to learn more about our home. Let’s use what we’ve learned to better care for it. Contact HPS and let us help you create and implement a plan to take better care of this most valuable family refuge… and investment.

Disinfecting sheets are helping keep us safe from Coronavirus, but do NOT flush them down the toilet!


Are disposable wipes flushable?
Disposable wipes for everyone…

You’ve truly come a long way baby. Disposable wipe products are now available for use as enhanced toilet paper, antibiotic disinfectants, leather conditioner, glass cleaner, electronic equipment dusters, make-up removers and for many other applications. But seriously are baby wipes flushable? The short answer is no. All these products are super convenient and disposable, but none of these wipes should ever be flushed.

Super TP

It’s very common now for households to have baby wipes (aka flushable wipes) available in every bathroom for babies of all ages who like things shall we say, “super-clean.” Disposable wipes are soft, moist, nice smelling and leave you feeling really fresh. Because of these things they have become very attractive. Personally, I find them surprisingly cold.  They have for many now come to serve as a super enhanced toilet paper and naturally after use, they end up in the toilet.

To flush or not to flush

Unfortunately, your sewer system does not find them as nice as you might. Don’t trust the ads and labels that scream these baby wipes are safely flushable. Wipes may in theory be successfully flushed, but in practice they are actually not. This is thanks to the rough internal surfaces and uneven joints and connections found in everyday waste piping.  This means some of the wipes, that are flushed (like tampons) will hang up in the piping and seriously clog up the works. Wipes are especially damaging to systems that rely on sewage ejector pumps.  The wipes can sometimes get tangled up in the float switch and cause the ejector to overflow.  In the worst cases they can jamb up the pump itself.

are baby wipes flushable
Cosmetic remover wipes

Non-biodegradable

Flushed wipes are not “processable” by the municipal sewage treatment plant. This is because the wipes are not biodegradable. Most are made up of a high percentage of polyester plastic that will not break down for a hundred years or more. These disposed wipes end up increasing the amount of trash just like cigarette filters, plastic caps, condoms, tampons and other debris that are routinely flushed and have to be filtered out by the treatment plant. Once removed from the sewage stream, it has to be taken to the land fill.

Chemicals

Wipes are also loaded with all kinds of chemicals. If you flush these wipes, the chemicals end up leaching into the water stream. Many of these chemicals cannot be removed during the sewage treatment.

Are baby wipes flushable?
Read the disposable wipe label?

Septic tank issues

For homes served by a septic tank system, the problem is even worse. Nothing should ever be flushed into a septic tank that will not decompose in just a few hours. Flushable wipes do not decompose. They end up in the tank and clog up the solid side and can even hinder the pumper when it is time to clean the tank. This is also why kitchen garbage disposers should be used with extreme caution if you are on a septic tank system.

So what to do?

 

If you like the super cleanliness that the wipes produce (and who wouldn’t?) good alternates include toilets equipped with Toto’s “washlette” features, or good old-fashioned bidets. The French and Japanese always seem to be ahead of us when it comes to hygiene.

If you plan to stick with the wipes, you need to provide a separate trash can to dispose them in along with the tampons and other un-biodegradable bathroom products.

are baby wipes flushable
Toto toilet with optional Washlette seat
Alternatives to disposable towelettes
Toto washlette remote control

Is your washer contaminated with mold or E. Coli?

Well if you have a front loader the answer is YES, you have mold in your washing machine!

If your clothes smell terrible no matter how much you wash them or what kind of detergent you use, it’s not likely your clothes. Rather, there could be residual moisture left in your washing machine between loads, where it’s probably growing hidden colonies of mold and bacteria.

I’m talking mainly about front-loading washing machines. Front loaders are some of the most popular models from the biggest appliance companies[1]. These appliances became popular in the last 15 years because they fit nicely into todays sleek contemporary architecture and they claim to be the most energy and water efficient.

Unfortunately they also act like Petri dishes and they grow a mildew called Erysiphales that makes your clothes and towels stink. The problem is tough to get rid of because it lurks hidden in the detergent drawer, rubber seals, and inside the washer drum itself.

Front load washing machine gasket
Looks clean right? Wrong!
Mold growing in washing machine
Hidden mold growing in washing machine

 

So, what is the problem with front loaders? Lack of ventilation mainly. On top-loaders any moist air naturally rises out of the machine and it quickly dries. But a front-loader is   sealed, so the water and the moisture stay trapped inside. It’s a very humid environment … and it’s perfect for growing mold.

How preventing leaks can cause mold to grow?

Front-loader machines rely on rubber door gaskets to prevent leaks. The gaskets are installed in layers. This design traps moisture and lint materials and provides all kinds of places that are impossible to clean or sanitize. A condition that inevitably grows mold.

I’ve read that some “experts” claim you just need to leave the appliance door open when not in use. Not true! Others recommend wiping down the door seals in your machine with a 10 percent bleach solution. This might work fine on areas you can see. Unfortunately, there are many folds and weep holes in the seal that make it impossible to thoroughly clean. In the worst cases you may need to replace the entire door seal. This is a labor-intensive task and can be expensive.

The problem is obviously difficult to cure so it is best to try and prevent. Religiously clean the interior of your washing machine once a month beginning when new. Always towel dry the seal and leave the door open to allow air to circulate. These preventive measures are about the only ways you can keep your front loading washing machine gunk-free and reduce your family’s exposure to mold, germs and infections.

Leaving the door open won’t solve the problem once started.

Here’s a fairly effective cleaning process you can follow:

  • Physically clean and remove any soap or lint build-up from the rubber gasketing all around the door. Use a rag and a cleaner that contains bleach or a 1:10 solution of bleach and water, or a 1:1 solution of vinegar and water. This is not easy because there are many folds and holes and they go all the way around the seal.
  • Fill the bleach dispenser with liquid bleach and run the empty washing machine through a cleaning cycle set to “sanitize”. If you’re sensitive to bleach, use baking soda and vinegar instead. Dilute and pour in 1/2 cup of baking soda and 2 cups of distilled white vinegar.
  • Leave the door or lid open overnight after the cleaning cycle is complete. Make sure the interior has completely dried out before you do your next wash.

E. coli risks

Washing machines can harbor E.coli too. Be especially diligent about sanitizing your washer on a regular basis if you live with an elderly relative, a newborn, or if you have an ill family member. Also be wary of public washing machines and machines kept in humid environments such as barns, garages or sheds, since these are the perfect environments for bacteria to thrive. Almost all laundromats have front loaders.

Carefully choose wash settings on a case-by-case basis depending on how your clothing became dirty. Regular home laundering will adequately remove normal levels of grease, dirt and other soil. However, if fabrics are contaminated with blood or body fluids, the laundering process should be enhanced with disinfecting solutions such as hydrogen peroxide, bleach, or Borax, and in water that’s at least 160°F. Many newer washers have a “sanitize” setting that will bring the wash water up to these higher temperatures.

Odor causing bacteria will even grow on the clothing itself.  Some, like Micrococci can give you B.O. thank you very much! It likes to live on polyester and wool but is less likely to grow on fleece and viscose. Polyester textiles seem to be a great place to live for Micrococcus, for Enhydrobacter, and for Propionibacterium. These all play an important role in creating bad odors from sweat. Another bacteria, Staphylococcus epidermidis grows like mad on both cotton and the polyester textiles used in popular lines of fitness clothes.

A stink free solution

Washing machine mold
Hidden mold in your front-load washer
Washing machine mold
Washing machine mold

Want a permanent stink-free solution?  Get an old fashioned, top-load washing machine. Your laundry must have space above the appliance for the lid to open fully, but these machines almost never have the mold problems associated with their front-loading cousins. Or, there is a cheaper and even more effective method you can employ to keep pathogens and nasties out of your clothes: a clothes line. One of the best germ killers is simple exposure to the sun and that way you can get rid of your dryer entirely.

Here are some clothes washing tips:

  1. Clean your washing machine: Your washer holds moisture, which leads to bacteria, mildew growth and musty-smelling clothes. Clean and sanitize it monthly.
  2. Do not overload the washer: packing your washer may actually be preventing your clothes from getting clean. Part of what helps clothes get clean is their ability to move around freely and generate friction with each other. Wash smaller loads
  3. Add less detergent: More detergent doesn’t necessarily mean a better clean. In fact, too much detergent can cause your clothes to hold onto dirt and bacteria. Read the clothing label and carefully measure out the detergent.
  4. Rotate hot/cold water settings: If you wash everything in cold water to reduce energy use and hot water bills it may not always be the best choice for getting clothes really clean. For the fabrics that can handle it, washing clothes in the highest water temperature possible can kill odor-causing bacteria and result in a better clean. Always read clothing labels to ensure fabrics are hot-water safe.
  5. Use a deodorizer: A fabric softener doesn’t neutralize odors. The slightly acidic nature of vinegar acts as a great deodorizer. Add one or two tablespoons of vinegar per load to remove odors. It will also prevent fading.
  6. Take clothes out to dry immediately: While your clothes are sitting in a dark and damp environment, bacteria and mold are setting up shop. Move your clothes into the dryer as soon as the wash is done. If you forget and they’ve been sitting more than two hours, run the clothes through a hot rinse cycle, then immediately dry them.
  7. Hang your clothes in the sun: The UV from the sun will kill most pathogens and the fresh air will make everything smell crisp and clean.

[1] Front loaders have become popular because they claim to be more efficient and they appeal to designers trying to eliminate the space required above the top-loader machines.

Clothes stink?
Where a lot of front-loaders are ending up.

Germs such as E. colisalmonella, and Klebsiella oxytoca can cause pneumonia, skin infections, abdominal cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea, especially in people with compromised immune systems.

 


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