Home Reviews

Why attic fans don’t work well and what to do instead!

With the summer season upon us, now is a good time to review an uncomfortable topic. Hot attics, and why traditional exhaust fans don’t work well enough to cool them off!

A very hot problem

Last week we had some warm weather for the first time this year. One of our clients called to say that their second floor was extremely hot and requested we install a larger and more powerful attic fan. The client had decided a new fan was needed to replace a solar unit they had installed several years ago. The solar fan  “didn’t seem to be working as it should.” Compared to the rest of the house, the second-floor rooms were extremely hot and impossible to live in during the afternoon and evening.

Attic construction

Why attic exhaust fans do not work
Attic exhaust fan

On inspection, I found the villain in the attic exactly as the customer described.  A single, roof mounted, solar powered attic exhaust fan. It was working.

There was no other ducting or HVAC equipment in the attic. Insulation was a 6”-8” layer of blown-in fiberglass on the top of the ceiling, plus random pieces of R-19 fiberglass batts tossed askew atop the blown-in material, but not fully covering the space.

The 2×6 roof rafters with 4” skip sheathing, and ½” plywood shear was all fully exposed to view. 6”x24” eave vents were installed around the perimeter every 8’ and vents were clear and unblocked by the insulation. The temperature of the roof sheathing inside the attic was 147 degrees. The 45’x24’ (approx. 4500 cubic foot) attic space was very hot.

I explained to our client that the idea of attic fans to remove hot air from the attic area might seem logical. But they actually might need a bigger and better solution

Anatomy of attic heat

Imagine yourself laying in the sun on a beach in Cancun. All is good for about 5 minutes then you start to feel hot. You go and get a big fan and set it up to blow air over you. Ah, feels better for about another 5 minutes. Soon even the blowing air feels hot, so you exchange the fan for an air conditioner and let that blow cold air on you. Feels great now so you stay out in the sun till you notice that your skin is red and blistered and burned to a crisp.

What happened? You got zapped by UV rays, a form of invisible radiant heat! It’s why you can still get a terrible sunburn even on a cold or cloudy day. Radiant heat zips right through cold air without any affect and cooks your skin. So, what does that have to do with your house?

Attic exhaust fans
Radiant heat transfer

The roof structure of your home is like your skin. Radiation from the sun heats the surface of the roof. From there, the entire mass of the roof (roofing, roof paper, nails, sheathing, rafters) warms up through conduction. Soon the roof’s structural mass is so hot that it will radiate heat on its own (like the sun). This radiant heat passes down through the attic space and hits the material on the surface of the ceiling structure (insulation, wood joists, drywall, ducting etc.). Very quickly the entire mass of the ceiling structure also becomes a giant heat radiator. This heat moves back up towards the roof again and will continue to radiate heat well after the sun goes down. If your ceiling is not sealed airtight and extremely well-insulated, much of this heat is going to radiate downward into your home too.

Hot air

Air in the attic that comes in contact with the surfaces of the hot framing, will become heated through conduction. This creates a kind of hot air sandwich formed between the roof and ceiling structures. The warming of all these surfaces is why the attic interior gets so much hotter than the exterior temperature.

Ventilation

Trapped air and heat in the attic would cause problems for some roofing materials. It could also cause  condensation leading to mold issues. This is why attic spaces are required to have ventilation built into the structure. Air openings are placed along the lower eave areas and the upper roof ridge or gable end. These openings allow fresher and cooler outside air to circulate naturally via convection up from the eaves and out at the gable or ridge vents.

Mechanical fans

This is where an attic fan can help. A mechanical fan working in an attic space equipped with adequate ventilation openings can move hot air out and increase the flow of air through the attic. This will indeed help reduce the temperature in the attic, but only marginally unless the incoming air from outside is substantially colder (not likely in the summer till nightfall) You also need to exchange the air quickly. For instance, if the attic is 150 degrees and you circulate air through it that is coming in at 110 degrees from the outside, then you can expect that the cooling effect may bring the attic temperature down to perhaps 125-130 degrees. The faster the air changes, the closer you can get to the incoming air temperature. But you cannot get lower than 110. There are formulas for this that engineers use in determining heat transfer and the proper amounts of air flow needed.

The problem with attic fans is in how they are marketed. Homeowners need to know that fans can only be effective if sized properly and mated with the proper amounts and placements of ventilation openings. Even then, they will not “cool” a home in the way most homeowners understand the term. Fans will only lower temperatures a bit in the attic, and will require some power to do so. Still, a little improvement may be better than nothing. If you consider using an attic fan, you will need to also decide (as with any solution suggested here) if the benefits are worth the cost in installation and operation.  This will be a topic for another article.

Equipment and ducting suffer greatly in a hot attic

A hot attic space is bad enough. But if you have equipment, ducting or piping up there, working in elevated temperatures, you can expect a stressful and likely shortened life for those items.

If you have ductwork, furnaces, air conditioners, water heaters, water piping etc. in your attic, it would be a good consideration to:

  1. Move the ducting and equipment to the crawlspace or the interior of your home.
  2. Meticulously seal seams and add reflective insulation around your ductwork
  3. Convert your attic to a conditioned space. Do this by moving a radiant barrier and insulation  to the sloped roof assembly. Spray foam insulation makes this possible but you will need to create and follow protocols to avoid trapped moisture and ventilation issues with the existing roof framing. 

The point here is that if you have a hot attic space, it is going to shorten the life of any equipment residing there.

Fan problems

Even though an attic exhaust fan can incrementally lower the temperature of a very hot attic, using a fan does not stop the source-radiant heat. During the day, any cooler air brought in by the fan will be heated up immediately by the surrounding structure. Most fans cannot keep up. At night, after the sun’s radiation source halts, the structure will continue to be hot for some time.  Any cooler air brought in from outside will eventually lower the the attic structure temperature, but that will happen VERY slowly. As soon as the sun rises in the morning, the radiant heating process will start again.  

In the example of our client’s solar fan above, the unit was way too small to have an effect. It was only rated at 1000 CFM meaning it would take forty five minutes to replace all the hot attic air with outside air just once. It could not keep up with the radiant heat gain.

In some worst-case instances, attic fans can actually create more problems than they solve.

  • If there are not enough soffit, gable or ridge vents, a powerful attic exhaust fan can pull the air from your home through the ceiling if it is not perfectly sealed off.
  • Strong attic fans can actually back draft furnaces or water heaters by pulling combustion gases out of their burners and into the home.
  • Good attic ventilation is excellent for preventing moisture and condensation but it is usually not enough for cooling in the summertime.

A retrofit example that works

I believe the best solution may be a combination of radiant barrier to stop the sun’s heat from warming up the attic structure to begin with along with proper ventilation, attic exhaust fan(s), insulation and air sealing.

1. Seal off any air leaks at the ceiling. This prevents air/dust movement from living space to attic. This will also prevent excessive moisture from migrating in and out of your attic.

2. Install additional insulation to bring the total to over R-30 everywhere-even over the access hatch. Cover the tops of any wood ceiling joists by at least 3 inches.

3. Make sure the eave, gable and ridge vents are wide open and unobstructed.

4. Install radiant barrier foil between the rafters. You will need to allow the foil to “sag” at least an inch below the sheathing to allow an air space. You can get radiant barrier foil from Amazon here.

A reader Ken from Tennessee sent in his experience:

On my attached pictures I’m showing around 30 degrees on the sunny side and only 3 degrees on the shaded side.. I have a ridge vent and roof edge vents, because the contractor forgot to put soffet vents onto the house. Pictures were taken on December 12 2015, in eastern Tennessee. No attic fan.

Southwest “sunny” side of roof no insulation 105 degrees 12/15
1 rafter bay over with radiant barrier 71.9 degrees 12/15

On the shady side of the roof, the results were as follows:

Northeast “shady” side of roof 78.9 degrees
Northeast side with radiant barrier 74 degrees

Summary

If you your house has a hot attic and ceilings during the summer, the solution is a system and not simply a powered attic exhaust fan or ventilator. To eliminate a hot attic you should consider a plan that includes radiant barriers and proper ventilation This is always best done when the home is under construction. Once constructed it may be difficult or impossible to retrofit this without major work to the structure. 

What you must do is prevent heat from migrating down into the home. Your plan will likely require a completely sealed ceiling, a very thick layer of insulation, radiant barriers (reflective foil layers) above the insulation (preferably between the rafters) to block the radiation and isolate your hot attic from your cool house, additional ventilation openings and possibly a powered attic fan to remove warm air from the attic at the proper exchange rate.

Consider another, even better solution, the conditioned-space attic. Our client from above eventually opted to create a conditioned-space in their attic using a foam insulation applied to the pitched roof. This created a completely cool attic, dramatically reduced power bills and easy to maintain temperatures in the second floor rooms. Although their plan cost a bit more, this solution delivered a totally cool and comfortable second floor.  I will publish more details on this option later.

Clearing Clogged Drains 

Step by Step to a Solution.

By far, most calls to plumbers involve clearing plumbing drains or dealing with backed-up sewers. But not all backed up drains are alike. Some are easy to resolve like simply clearing hair out of a bathroom sink trap or unclogging too many artichoke leaves stuffed down a disposal. These may only require a couple of hand tools or maybe a snake (drain auger). If your handy or tend toward DIY then it may be a good investment to keep a small hand operated plumbing snake handy. Get a good one here from Amazon.

Do not use liquid drain cleaners. I have written entire articles on this topic of liquid drain cleaners. Clogged drains require a sound mechanical clearing solution not a poisonous liquid miracle.

Unfortunately, about 30 percent of the calls are more difficult than simply clearing plumbing drains and require more work and bigger equipment.

Clearing plumbing drains
Don’t use chemicals to clear your drains

Video cameras

Clearing clogged drains
Plumbing video camera
Clearing plumbing drains
Plumbing inspection camera

When clearing a plumbing drain, if the clog cannot be resolved after several attempts with a normal snake, alternatives need to be recommended. If the clog is stubborn and the drain water is fairly clear, we may recommend a video be taken of the interior of the clogged line.

A video can usually tell what type of material may be causing the line to fail. For instance, has the line has been blocked by a collapsed or disconnected pipe? Or is something solid, like a large root or some other obstruction blocking the line? The video may provide enough visual clues to determine the next step.  Even if the blockage is not visible, running a special video camera into the line will at least help determine the approximate location (distance and direction) of the clog.

Resolving the blockage

If the blockage is caused by a visible break in the line or if there is a solid root filling up the space, there will be no alternative but to dig up the line and replace it. On the other hand, if the blockage appears to be of grease, caked on dirt or some mass of smaller roots, then a Hydro-flush may be in order. A hydro-flusher is an expensive pressure washer. It consists of a high-pressure hose with an optional cutting bit attached to the end. It is then fed into the line and run through to the blockage. The high operating pressures will clear anything loose in the line and can sometimes cut through masses of smaller roots.  

Unfortunately, even a hydro-flusher it will not cut out large roots. It is important to note that if roots of any size are the problem, the clearing will only be temporary. When roots are present in the line it means they have an access point somewhere. Likely a crack or an open joint in the pipe. Even if you cut them out they will be back soon. When you find roots in your system, it is best to replace the line.

When clearing clogged drains is not enough

Replacing the drain line can be done by trenching, or trenchless construction. The choice usually  depends on the cost of avoiding obstacles in the way of the work. Trenchless can be a good option of the path of the line is obstructed with a lot of surface hardscape. Trenching by hand may also be required if equipment will cause damage.

Either way, a lot of work will be involved in replacing a sewer lateral from house to the street. If you have to do this work do not skimp on replacement materials or workmanship. Do the job right so you don’t have to deal with it again. Use the heaviest duty materials with well-sealed joints and the proper number of clean-outs in order to make future maintenance easy. Cut-back or block off all invasive tree roots. Backfill carefully around the new line with the proper material to achieve the required slope and avoid settling and dips along the length of the line.

Here’s to clog-free plumbing in your future!

This stainless steel “passivation”treatment reduces rust and corrosion and makes it look like new.

Nothing is sadder for a homeowner than to see expensive and gorgeous materials that have been left to corrode in the elements.  Stainless steel finishes are a good example. Most homeowners don’t know the basics of caring for these nice finishes and if you happen to live in a corrosive environment or close to the ocean, it really really can take a toll.

Here is a process we use at HPS Palo Alto, Inc. to clean, polish and passivate exterior stainless steel architectural finishes. This is a time and labor extensive process but is quite effective at returning weathered stainless back to original glory. This treatment should also be a mandatory specification for new stainless steel products and installations. Let your designer or architect know.

Stainless steel passivation
Before with heavy corrosion
Stainless steel passivation and polishing
After treatment

Material needed:

Stainless steel passivation
Stainless steel gate after treatment
  • Scotch Brite pads
  • Wichinox paste
  • Phosphoric acid (available in bulk from some commercial nursery suppliers)
  • Baking soda
  • Distilled water
  • Denatured alcohol
  • Molecular surface sealer (Everbrite Protectaclear)
  • Dust free absorbent cloth for drying and application of alcohol.

 

Warning!

Do not use this process on stainless steel sheet material with a factory machined finish. Always test first on an area that is least exposed to be sure that it meets with your aesthetic needs.

The stainless steel passivation process

Step 1

First wash and scrub the metal with regular tap water and a Scotch Brite pad. This will remove dirt, dust, bird droppings and any accumulated surface residue.

Step 2

Next vigorously scrub the entire surfaces with fresh pads along with a mix of 2 parts phosphoric acid and 10 parts distilled water. Scrub the length of the metal parts and go with the “grain” not across it.  Continue to scrub and polish the metal until all rust and corrosion has been satisfactorily removed. Do this in small sections at a time in order to not miss any spots. Heavily corroded and hard to access areas may need to be done several times.

Step 3

During the first step, apply Wichinox paste to any welds in the work area while the acid mix is still wet on the metal. The welds are the worst areas and the paste help to give the phosphoric acid longer to work its magic. Rinse off the acid mix from the rest of the work but leave the weld areas with paste for at least 15 minutes before rinsing.

Step 4

Mix baking soda and distilled water together in a ratio of about a box of soda to 5 gallons of water. Carefully wash all surfaces of the metal with the baking soda/water mix. This will completely neutralize any of the acid that may be left from the previous step. Scrub the welds if necessary with this mix using a clean toothbrush to remove all the paste. Rinse with a fresh batch of distilled water when done and allow to air dry.

Step 5

Wipe all metal surfaces with denatured alcohol and let dry. This removes all residue from prior steps including fingerprints, dust, oils, grease etc. and leaves the surface clean and ready for the sealer.

Step 6

When the surface is completely dry from the above step, and the appearance of the metal surface is completely satisfactory, then apply two coats of Everbrite Protectaclear sealer waiting 1 hour between coats.

Note:

The sealer is a wafer thin molecular protectant and it is completely invisible. It will last in harsh conditions and direct sun for about 2 years and keep the steel looking new and shiny. After two years the sealer will begin to break down and the steel will again be exposed and vulnerable to corrosion. The manufacturer recommends that the metal be washed again and a new coat of sealer applied every year. This way the bare steel is never again exposed to corrosion. The wash and re-coating process is much faster than the initial treatment.

Summary

If you like your expensive metal trim looking like new, this is the only reliable and lasting way to accomplish it.

Stainless steel passivation
Stainless rail after treatment

Dryer Duct Maintenance Issues

Your dryer duct is probably not something that you think much about. And really you shouldn’t have to as it is permanently built into your home. Unfortunately, clogged dyer ducts are the reason for a large percentage of dryer failures, malfunctions and warranty calls. This happens because your dryer duct needs regular maintenance and is likely not getting any. Most homeowners either don’t know how or the duct has not been installed to allow proper service.

Here’s how the dryer duct works. Your dryer extracts moisture from your clothes during the drying process and pushes this moisture out of the dryer through the duct to the exterior. As this warm moist air passes through the duct, condensation will occur as it makes contact with the cold metal duct walls. See more about washers and dryers here.

If there are lint particles in the moist air, they will stick to and slowly build up on the inside of the moist duct walls. The lint screen in your dryer is designed to keep this lint out of the air stream. That is why it is so important to keep the lint screen clean and from getting damaged or clogged.

Maintaining your dryer duct
Poorly maintained dryer lint screen

Even with proper cleaning of the lint screen, over the course of a year or so enough minute lint particles and dust will build up inside the duct to require service. The maintenance process includes pulling out the dryer, disconnecting the flexible duct connector hose, and then running a brush through the solid dyer duct all the way to the exterior of the home. This removes the lint from the duct walls and clears any blockages allowing the air to flow free again.

Proper ducting material

Proper built-in dyer ducting is made of smooth rigid metal, sealed air tight at all joints and with gentle curves at any bends. This is so cleaning brushes can slide through easily.

Flexible ducting used for this purpose is a code violation. Flex duct is not to be used for any built-in dryer vent ducting except for the final connection to the appliance. Code allows the total dryer ducts to be no longer than 14′ with two elbows.  For vent lengths exceeding 14′ and 2 elbows, a dryer booster fan should be added.

At HPS we occasionally see cheap flexible ducting installed, especially in “flipped” homes. When we see it we recommend immediate replacement so that the duct can be properly maintained down the road. If you have flex in your home, you should replace it with rigid. Your local HVAC contractor can do this for you.

We sometimes also see dryer ducts that terminate in the attic or crawlspace. This is a code violation and it allows moisture and lint to a accumulate in those areas. Elevated moisture and humidity is exactly what mold loves and an open duct is always a nice place for rodents to take up residence. More than once we have found dead rodents in the dyer duct. This is not a good way to have fresh smelling clothes coming from your dryer.

Maintaining your dryer duct
Flexible ducting is NOT for dryers
Maintaining dryer ducts
Dryer duct cleaning kit

Cleaning

Be sure to follow a regular service schedule so you don’t forget to do this. Download your monthly maintenance checklist for this month. Removing the dryer from its location is probably the hardest part of this exercise. Be careful not to damage the floor during the move.

Once out, you can clean the space behind and recover all those lost socks that went missing over the year. Use a flexible brush kit to thoroughly clean the entire length of the duct system from the dryer connection all the way to the termination on the exterior. You can use these brushes with or without a handheld drill. I recommend using the drill combined with a vacuum as shown in the video below. You can make a transition fitting like the one shown in the video for the vacuum and brush to work together from an ABS-Y fitting. Get the brush kit at Amazon here:

Check out this video on how to clean your dryer duct:

Summary

Inspect and make sure you have rigid ducting for your dryer, and have it cleaned at least once per year. Make sure you clean the dryer lint screen after every use of the appliance. Inspect the termination at the exterior and make sure the flapper closes securely and there are no shrubs touching. Rodents can use them as ladders into your dryer. Your dryer duct termination should look something like the one below and its should have a damper flap on the inside.  Get one here from Amazon.

Maintaining your dryer duct
Dryer exterior wall termination

www.homepreservationmanual.com is the place to visit if you want information on: maintaining your home; how to improve air quality; ways to improve the real value of your home; what are the best housekeeping services; the problems with handymen services; how to plan and execute home renovation and home improvement projects; tips for spring cleaning; tidying up a messy house; and generally how to be a better homeowner.

Make sure you download your monthly maintenance checklistfor this month.

Reminder

Stucco crack patching
Dealing with ugly stucco cracks

Just a reminder that the spring and summer months are a good time to patch up any cracks that might be showing up on your exterior stucco walls.  To learn more refer back to our article on Stucco Cracks.

Outdoor Kitchen Mistakes Homeowners Must Avoid


Homeowners avoid these outdoor kitchen mistakes
Outdoor kitchen mistakes to avoid

Last year a new client came to HPS to enroll a gorgeous new contemporary home into our Stewardship program. During our start-up inspection we were startled to find a BBQ island on the back patio that had caught fire and burned.  When asked about the fire our client reported that during his first cookout, the island had simply burst into flames. The expensive stainless BBQ was ruined, and its supporting base cabinet was a total loss too.

The original developer/contractor had disappeared, so our client asked us to fix it.  During the repair we uncovered a number of construction mistakes that ultimately led to the fire. I’ve shared these mistakes below to help future outdoor kitchen installers avoid similar results. Homeowners can add more value and enjoyment to their home by following these tips:

    1. The installation did not include an insulated BBQ liner/jacket

      Every built-in BBQ, especially if the counter boxes are built with a combustible material, should be installed with an insulated metal grill liner. This is a kind of protective metal jacket for your grill. Many outdoor kitchens have gone down in flames solely because an insulated grill jacket was not installed with the grill.

      Insulated grill jackets surround the BBQ and prevent heat from transferring into the cabinet structure. These devices will prevent any melting, burning, warping or fires. The jackets also provide the additional benefit of supporting and protecting your grills undercarriage from premature weathering and corrosion.

      outdoor kitchen mistakes to avoid
      Insulated BBQ jacket

      Many designers leave these protective liners out of the plans either because they don’t know about them, or they dislike their appearance. Cumbersome looking or not, they are an absolute necessity when building your outdoor kitchen with or without any combustible materials.

      Installing an insulated grill jacket will ensure your outdoor kitchen will last for many years of cookouts. NOTE: Not all BBQ brands offer these protective liners for their appliances. Make sure you purchase your grill from a brand that does, or plan to have one custom made for your application.

    2. The BBQ cabinet box was not fitted with vent panels.

      Outdoor kitchen mistakes to avoid
      BBQ cabinet vent panels

      When using a natural gas or propane BBQ, the enclosure cabinet must be properly vented to prevent an accidental explosion. During construction, the proper placement of the vents is critical. Install vent panels every four feet along the length of the structure to prevent any possible leaking gases from building up.

      The type of gas you are using will dictate where each vent panel is installed on the cabinet. If using natural gas (NG), make sure to install each vent panel as high as possible on the body of the island because natural gas rises. When using propane (LP), make sure to install the vents as low as possible on the cabinet since propane is a heavier gas that sinks. 

      Always use a licensed contractor who knows the codes for natural gas and propane installations. You might save a few bucks by attempting to do this yourself, or leaving out the proper vents entirely. But you could also end up having to replace your entire outdoor kitchen, or home, or possibly seriously injuring someone.

    3. Cabinet drawers blocked access to the plumbing

      Eight BBQ mistakes to avoid
      Outdoor BBQ cabinet drawers

      Having drawers in your outdoor kitchen cabinets can be very useful, but always consider the placement layout beforehand. Many outdoor kitchen owners  purchase drawers units for the cabinets, then realize they need to have access for plumbing. This is also a common issue with grills because the gas or propane plumbing requires access.

      When planning your outdoor kitchen, think carefully about the placement of your doors and drawers, and whether or not you can install appliances in the given space. Instead you may just want to use access doors that open into the existing void space of the island structure.

    4. Make sure the cabinet and appliances are outdoor rated.

      When equipping your outdoor kitchen, buy only appliances that are rated for exterior use by the manufacturer. Outdoor units are “hardened” to insure safety and durability when exposed to harsh weather. Indoor appliances are just not up to an environment that may subject it to humidity, heat, cold, blowing sand, rain, rodents and sunshine. In very short order, using indoor appliances outdoors will lead to problems. The appliances finish will become discolored or the unit may fail completely. You can be assured that your warranty will be nullified. It is also a good idea to order a custom cover for the entire countertop. This will protect it from the elements when not in use or during the off-season.

       

      Outdoor cabinets and enclosures also need to be constructed ideally of steel or concrete in order to remove the possibility of dry rot, fire or rodent access. You can order pre-fabricated outdoor kitchen cabinets from Amazon here.  Or here.

      Outdoor kitchen mistakes to avoid
      Make sure you have one of these
    5. Never install your cooking and cooling appliances next to each other.

      When designing an outdoor kitchen always separate the cooking appliances from the cooling appliances. Never install a refrigerator directly underneath or adjacent to your grill. Excessive heat means the refer will have to work much harder than it should. Overheating the internal parts can easily become a cause for them to fail sooner. If space is tight, install your refer at least one foot from your grill or side burner. Make sure a solid barrier is placed between the two appliances inside the island structure. A good layout will help your appliances operate at a reasonable temperature and as a result, last longer. 

      For safety purposes, design to prevent people from using the refrigerator with close exposure to the hot grill, either directly, next to, or above them.

    6. Know your appliances dimensions before making cut-outs.

      It is frustrating and expensive to have your cabinet spaces or countertops pre-cut for your appliances, only to find out they do not fit when it’s time to install them. Double and triple check the exact dimensions for the built-in pieces before making any cuts. If possible, it is always best to have the actual products on-hand to measure them for accuracy and a good fit. If you are using a stone slab countertop make sure the top fabricator templates the area just like they would for the kitchen. The rule of “measure twice and cut once” is especially important when working with stone.

      Outdoor kitchen mistakes to avoid
      Countertop cut too large for the BBQ-this allows debris to fall in creating fire risk
    7. Don’t forget to leave some extra counter space.

      Like most homeowners, you likely want to deck out your new outdoor kitchen with all sorts of appliances, for all kinds of cooking drink mixing and entertaining. However, not many appliances actually are rated for outdoor use. Mixers, coffee makers, microwaves etc. can all be ruined by a surprise rain, an errant sprinkler or even a heavy dew.  So don’t leave these non-rated appliances outside.

      Also, in all the excitement don’t forget the importance of empty counter space. It is best to leave plenty of empty counter space for things like food preparation, serving, eating and staging. When designing your outdoor kitchen, make sure you leave plenty of work space on the countertop for easy and convenient use.

    8. Do your research and choose reliable appliances

      There are tons of outdoor appliances on the market and it can be hard to choose the perfect products for you. Everyone wants great looking and functional appliances, but the important characteristic is durability. For that reason, its most important to do your homework before buying. An outdoor kitchen is something you want to last for many years, so it is crucial to select the perfect appliances when building.

Summary

Avoid the mistakes discussed above when designing your outdoor BBQ kitchen.  Take time creating a good appliance layout.  Read over any available customer and expert reviews. Research how well the appliance performs and only select products that are made for the outdoors. By doing your research beforehand, you will be much happier with your choices in the years to come. See How to Buy a BBQ. Contact me at info.homepreservation.com if you would like more information about planning and and constructing a quality outdoor kitchen area.

Preventive maintenance can make homeowners money


preventive maintenance makes money
Maintaining a light fixture

Study shows preventive maintenance efforts return high yields.

Is maintenance really worth the effort? Does preventive maintenance make money? No matter how obvious some things appear, often these same things remain very difficult to prove. Consider the simple act of taking care of your stuff. At a gut level we all understand that if you take care of an object, it will last longer. But how much longer will it last? If it lasts longer, what is the value of that? How much extra does it cost to take care of an object versus not?

Until now the economic value of preventive maintenance has been elusive to prove because it has been difficult to both study and calculate. Now a long-awaited study published by Jones Lang Lasalle has finally quantified the facts some of us have suspected all along. Preventive Maintenance is a killer investment. Yes!! Preventive maintenance is not only a nicer way to own and care for a home…it makes money.

Study results are stunning

The study showed that the money spent on preventive maintenance produced a whopping 545% ROI.  The returns came solely from energy savings and extending the useful life of the equipment and infrastructure. Any homeowner knows that those are not even attributes where the REAL value resides.

Bigger returns await you

The biggest values to most homeowners are in 1) disaster avoidance and 2) making the home more beautiful or fun to live in. What is the value in money saved if your water heater never floods your home?

The 545% return would actually have been much higher still if it had been able to account for the very real value of the breakdowns, disasters and emergencies avoided.

Cleaning a metal roof
Maintaining a metal roof

If you are a homeowner what are you waiting for? Start spending some money on maintenance and get rich… in comfort!

Read the Study

You can read the full study here:http://www.sitemason.com/files/b2tJra/Preventive Maintenance.pdf

Enjoy!

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Metal Roofing Update

Metal makes for stylish lifetime durability

These panels were used by the jillions to roof barns and other shelters are still in use today. Recycled examples with a nice layer of rust and patina are actually in high demand.

I admire homeowners who choose metal roofs for value and durability. Be concerned though if your installer only offers a one-year guarantee on workmanship. A weak workmanship warranty is a red flag about the installer so check them out.  A weak warranty is also at odds with metal roofing’s exceptional material warranties and durability. 

The industry’s Metal Roofing Alliance offers courses for metal roofing installers and contractors to make sure their work stands up to the durability of the metal material, and the test of time. By using proper installation practices your contractor should be offering workmanship guarantees that are more commensurate with a lifetime roofing material.

Use compatible accessories

An expensive metal roof can be ruined by using cheap or incompatible trim, fasteners, and accessories. Using galvanized materials or fasteners on a galvalume roof, for example, can cause irreparable corrosion and oxidation, compromising the quality of the panels and shortening a metal roof’s life.

The cause is poor training, planning or laziness because it only costs a small amount more for the proper trim, fasteners, and accessories that are compatible with the metal roofing material. The long-term assurance of reduced call-backs… and even better, satisfied customers is well worth the trouble.

Install with water runoff in mind

Use roof flashings and curbs made from aluminum or stainless steel that are most compatible for metal roofs. Galvanized flashing is inferior, won’t last as long and can actually cause corrosion damage. If using galvalume flashing, minimize and check seam welding as this can melt the material’s protective coating.

Use well thought-out flashings and under/over curbs. Make sure you plan for proper clearance in order to give water some room to run off and avoid pooling (a good rule of thumb is a minimum of 12 inches between panel ends and the diverter on the upslope end, and 6 inches between the curb’s sides and panel seams). For big curbs with a heavyweight load, be sure you have proper structural support underneath. Demand use of curbs around chimneys, caulking alone will not hold over time to prevent leaks.

Penetrations

For metal roof plumbing penetrations, do not use standard residential pipe jacks or those made for membrane roofs. Use a pipe boots made to last, from galvalume or aluminum. Move the penetrations to miss panel seams and avoid blocking the flow of water. If other trades need to make penetrations in the roof (like HVAC), be sure they are supervised by the roofer and coordinate the location and method so that only proper techniques and materials designed for metal are used.

Summary

Contractors with the proper training should be confident enough in their product to offer workmanship guarantees that make sense. The value of a fine metal roof deserves that.

Halting Stainless Steel Corrosion

Yes stainless steel can rust?

It may come as a surprise, but stainless steel is not really stainless. In fact, stainless steel can to some degree both rust and corrode. To help you understand better, this post is all about the care required for halting stainless steel corrosion.

What is stainless steel

Stainless steel is a very precise alloy (blend) of iron, nickel, chromium and carbon. What makes this alloy of steel so corrosion resistant is a chromium content of at least 10.5% with a small amount of molybdenum. The corrosion and pitting resistance increases with higher amounts of chromium and molybdenum. Unfortunately, increasing those amounts too much can also affect the strength and brittleness of the metal. The result is numerous special grades of stainless steel all with varying chromium and molybdenum ratios for the diverse environments that must be endured.  Choosing the right grade of stainless steel for the job is important.

Grades of stainless steel

Over the years more than 250 grades of stainless steel have been developed. Of those, there are only five basic types.  Ferritic, Austenitic, Martensitic, Duplex and Precipitation. There is a sixth type called Superalloys. Superalloys are much stronger and more durable than the other steels. They are also rare and come with extremely high prices. Made for submarines and other exotic uses, I’m sure our military loves Superalloys. Homeowners could care less about most of these.

Here are the grades that homeowners need to know about:

304 Most common grade, magnetic, appliances, BBQs

316 Marine grade, food and surgical stainless steel, jewelry grade (except Rolex), marine exposed appliances and BBQ’s

409 Low cost, stainless auto exhausts

420 Low cost, mass market cutlery grade

430 Auto trim, decorative material

440 High grade, cutlery steel, razor blades

904L Rolex Stainless Steel Daytona watches

Passivation

preventing rust on stainless steel
Passivating stainless steel

When a stainless steel part is machined and fabricated various contaminants and abrasive particles can permeate the surface of the metal. Debris, dirt residue such as free iron, grease and machining oils all can become embedded in the surface. These can be microscopic and often go unseen to the human eye. These contaminants weaken the metals resistance to corrosion and make it more susceptible to degradation. It is this contamination that allows stainless steel to corrode.

The passivation process (sometimes called pickling) can return the stainless steel surface back to its original specifications. It does this by aggressively removing the contaminants from the surface, neutralizing the electrical charge and then submerging the part into a protective bath. The process essentially improves, purifies and protects the surface of the part. The restored surface allows the metal to perform as designed to protect itself.

It is important to note that passivation does not change the original outward appearance of the base metal.  I have developed a low cost formula if you are interested in optimally protecting your stainless steel. Register with this site and send an email request. We will forward it to you. 

Summary

The passivation of stainless steel material is a process performed to make a surface passive or less reactive. A surface film is created that causes it to lose its chemical reactivity. Stainless steel is already known as being corrosion-resistant, however the passivation process strengthens its’ natural coating by improving the exterior surface of the material. Stainless steel passivation purges the stainless steel of the oxygen absorbed by the metal surface, creating a monomolecular oxide film. Passivation results in a highly desired, low corrosion surface on the metal.

Advantages of Passivation

    • Improved Corrosion Resistance
    • Uniform, Smooth Appearance & Finish
    • Deburring (Polished Surface)
    • Cleanliness
    • Improved & Extended Life of Product

Help me to help you

Congratulations on taking time to use this free website. I hope you find the information here fun and useful? Please send me your comments and feedback. Writing and maintaining this site is a lot of hard work. By sharing these pages with your friends, you help me to continue the effort.  You can easily share these pages to all your favorite social media sites via the shortcut buttons on the sidebar. You can also simply email the page link to your friends. Please share often.

The very best way to help me occurs when you use the embedded links to buy things. Using a link is easy and free, yet it provides a great source of support for this site. The vendors I’ve chosen to link to have proven to be the very best resources available so that is why I recommend them personally.

This is the place to visit if you want information on: How to improve air quality; ways to improve the value of your home; what are the best cleaning services; do you really need handyman services; how to plan and execute home renovation and home improvement projects; ways to hire a handyman; what to do during spring cleaning; ways to go about tidying up a messy house; and generally how to be a better homeowner.

If you have questions or just want to say hi, please send me a note. If you are looking for help performing the work described and you are in the San Francisco area, go toHPS Palo Alto Inc.and request a free evaluation.

Thanks again!

Avoid Chemical Drain Cleaners

They are deadly to pipes, septic systems and pocketbooks

And away goes trouble down the drain!

Advertisements for liquid chemical drain cleaners are convincing. After all, backed up drains are a nightmare and not something anyone is well prepared for. Liquid drain cleaners make the prospect of clearing away any plumbing problems seem so neat and easy. Almost convenient. Just grab a can and pour it down the sink.

dangers of chemical drain cleaners
Chemical drain cleaner ad

But don’t believe it. Chemical drain cleaners are poisonous and dangerous to have laying around waiting for use. Once used, they end up in the sewer treatment plant and will eventually seep into the water system. They are also devastating to your plumbing and your septic tank if you have one. Here is a kitchen drain fitting that was destroyed by a liquid rooter chemical.

Dangers of chemical drain cleaners
Damage drain from chemical cleaners gone wrong!

Bad chemicals in the water supply

Do you know what chemicals are in that can of drain cleaner? And what happens when they get flushed into our water supply?

There are two basic types of drain cleaners, alkaline and acidic. Alkaline cleaners contain either sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide (lye). Acidic cleaners contain sulfuric acid in fairly strong concentrations.  Both of these can dissolve cellulose and proteins like hair, grease and fats.If you have a septic system, they will alsokill the good enzymes and bacteria in your septic tankthat help to break down the waste, so these cleaners should never be used if you are on a septic tank.

 

Lye, even in diluted amounts causes irritation of eyes with tearing, redness and swelling. Greater exposure causes severe burns and possible blindness if in the eyes. Chronic exposure and prolonged contact with diluted solutions or dust has a destructive effect on human tissue.

It is interesting that there is very little information available on the dangers of these chemical drain cleaners once they leach into the sewer system and water supply. Since drain cleaners are habitually washed down our drains, you would think the municipal systems would have a comment on it? Perhaps some reader will have some information and help me update this post.

Figure Out What’s Really Causing The Clog?

Think before you pour. Liquid drain cleaners only work on a few organic blockages. Yet, plumbing drains can run slow for many other reasons. Mechanical obstructions, improper slope and lack of plumbing vents can all cause problems with drainage.  

Instead of defaulting to the use of caustic chemicals, it is better to try to understand what might be causing the problem in the first place. Could something like a bottle cap have gotten into the drain? Perhaps there is a systemic problem with the plumbing itself? Is the plumbing in a difficult place that may have affected the slope of the piping. Maybe there is a lack of, or improper location of vents?

In the case of the photo below, the slow drain (that initiated the use of the chemical drain cleaner) was caused by inadequate slope to the plumbing and NOT by organic debris clogging the line. Not only was the liquid ineffective, since there was no slope, the chemical just sat in the line and eventually dissolved the pipe. Once the pipe was breached, the water leaked down into the ceiling and walls below causing water damage, mold and a repair bill in excess of $100K.

Image showing hole in drain pipe caused by chemical drain cleaner
Chemical drain cleaner damage to drain with no slope

Alternatives

Before using any chemical drain cleaner, try running a small plumbers snake or even a straightened coat hanger wire down the drain to see if that helps.

 

Also, you can act to prevent debris from entering the drains in the first place. Reduce the dumping of loads of garbage down your kitchen disposer and use removable screens over bathroom sink, tub and shower drains to reduce exposure to hair.

 

Recommendation

In the end, if you still have a persistent and stubbornly slow drain, have your plumber snake and video the line to troubleshoot the problem for a permanent repair. It may not be a blockage after all. In any case, avoid the chemicals. If drain cleaners can do this kind of damage to pipes, can you imagine what other unseen damage they might be causing downstream to sewer systems and water?

On the radio today Edwin Starr was asking “what is it good for” in his famous song about war.  I was pondering the exact question about drain cleaners and coming up with the same answer: “absolutely nothin’.”

dangers of chemical drain cleaners
Avoid liquid drain cleaners

Help me to help you

Thank you for taking time to use this free website. I hope you find the junk-free information here fun and useful? Please send me your comments and feedback. Writing and maintaining this site is a lot of hard work. By sharing these pages with your friends, you help me to continue the effort.  You can easily share these pages to all your favorite social media sites via the shortcut buttons on the sidebar. You can also simply email the page link to your friends. Please share often.

The very best way to help me occurs when you use the embedded links to buy things. Using a link is easy and free, yet it provides a great source of support for this site. The vendors I’ve chosen to link to have proven to be the very best resources available so that is why I recommend them personally.

This is the place to visit if you want information on: How to improve air quality; ways to improve the value of your home; what are the best cleaning services; do you really need handyman services; how to plan and execute home renovation and home improvement projects; ways to hire a handyman; what to do during spring cleaning; ways to go about tidying up a messy house; and generally how to be a better homeowner.

Make sure you download your monthly maintenance checklistfor this month.

If you have questions or just want to say hi, please send me a note. If you are looking for help performing the work described and you are in the San Francisco area, go to HPS Palo Alto Inc. and request a free evaluation.

Thank you!

Copyright and permission to use information.

It is unlawful to make copies including cut and paste or especially in the form of making printouts for personal use. If you wish to make a print for personal use, I will happily grant you one-time permission if you will kindly send me a request in writing.

Thanks again!


Help me to help you

Thank you for taking time to use this free website. I hope you find the junk-free information here fun and useful? Please send me your comments and feedback.

Writing and maintaining the information in this manual is a lot of hard work. By sharing these pages with your friends, you help me to continue the effort.  You can easily share these pages to all your favorite social media sites via the shortcut buttons on the sidebar. You can also simply email the page link to your friends. Please share often.

The very best way to help me happens when you use the embedded links to buy things. Using a link is easy and free, yet it provides a great source of support for this site. The vendors I've chosen to link to have proven to be trustworthy and are the very best resources available. That is why I recommend them personally.

HomePreservationManual.com is the place to visit if you want information on

  • maintaining your home
  • how to improve air quality
  • ways to improve the real value of your home
  • what are the best housekeeping services
  • the problems with handymen services
  • how to plan and execute home renovation and home improvement projects
  • tips for spring cleaning; tidying up a messy house
  • and generally how to be a better homeowner.

Make sure you download your monthly maintenance checklist for this month.

Linking to this site

Do you want to link to anything on this site? Please do! Go right ahead. I appreciate it and am honored to be considered as a resource on your website. Always feel free to link to anything you find helpful. Of course, please never copy anything (everything is copyrighted and registered), but link away and thanks!

Thank you!

Copyright and permission to use information.

If you have questions or just want to say hi, please send me a note. If you are looking for help performing the work described and you are in the San Francisco area, go to HPS Palo Alto Inc.and request a free evaluation.

As a reminder, it is unlawful to make copies including cut and paste or especially in the form of making printouts for reuse. If you wish to make a print for personal use, I will happily grant you one-time permission if you will kindly send me a request in writing.

Thanks again!