DIY Series – Painting Tips!

Currently we here in PA, and many others throughout the country, are temporarily on a stay-at-home order due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather than waste time, I figured I would be productive and create a number of do-it-yourself (DIY) videos to help teach homeowners how to do tasks around the house that many either don’t know how to do or simply view beyond their abilities. In reality, many tasks are much easier than you might think, and what better time to learn to complete some long overdue home projects than when you’re forced to stay at home?

The next many posts will contain links to instructional videos, and I hope you find them very helpful. Please be sure to subscribe, like and share to help get the information out to as many people as possible, as we’re hoping to help as many homeowners as we can!

The first video goes over painting tips and can be found here:

Now Offering Thermal Imaging!

We are excited to announce that we are now offering thermal imaging (infrared) services for inspections. To our knowledge, this service is not currently being offered elsewhere in our service area, and we are confident it will prove to be a very useful benefit to our clients.

Home inspections are non-invasive, meaning we do not tear apart any components to uncover potential defects during an inspection. Needless to say, this can be somewhat limiting as many possible defects may exist in non-visible or inaccessible areas.

The use of a thermal imaging camera greatly helps with this limitation. While our eyes can only see light from the visible light spectrum, a thermal imaging camera sees heat signatures – that is, the heat radiating off surfaces. Infrared is just one of several types of energy associated with the electromagnetic spectrum, but it is extremely valuable – especially for home and other building inspections.

A high quality infrared camera allows us to see potential leaks that can be verified with a moisture meter, as well as insulation voids, overheated electrical components, and even pests that may otherwise be undetectable. In short, what is normally invisible becomes visible, which greatly enhances our perception and our ability to provide a truly comprehensive report.

Needless to say, the ability to accurately interpret thermal images takes a good bit of training and knowledge. What may appear to be a leak may, in fact, be air leakage. An apparent temperature difference of only five degrees may, in fact, be 75 degrees when the emissivity of an object is taken into account. At HPI, we’re trained to understand these complex factors to provide you with accurate and highly valuable reporting.

If you’re in the Western PA area and in need of an inspection, give us a call to take advantage of all we have to offer, including our thermal imaging services.

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Tree Maintenance

Most people love having trees on their property and even close to their home. Many are stately, majestic, and add great curb appeal in addition to providing some much desired shade.

Like most things, though, trees come with many pros as well as cons. As a home inspector, I’m obviously more concerned about potential cons than pros, so I’d like to review some of the most common problems associated with trees so you can manage the trees on your own property as effectively as possible.

Large trees have large root systems, which demand a great deal of water and take up quite a bit of space underground. Large roots can suck up moisture from soil, creating an imbalance that can lead to shrinkage at your home’s foundation. Often times when trees next to homes are cut down, voids are created where their roots used to exist, and this can lead to some deflection at the foundation and subsequent cracks in mortar joints. It’s hard to believe, but your home’s foundation and the surrounding foliage actually work hand-in-hand to some degree. When roots make contact with a foundation wall they typically move along the wall rather than through it, but occasionally they can become invasive in more extreme and rare circumstances. Of course, this is very noticeable, and intrusive limbs will alert you to contact a professional immediately. These issues are often not overly concerning in most cases, unless root intrusion has actually occurred.

We often encounter tree limbs overhanging roofs or very close to the roof surface. As a general rule, we like to see limbs not directly overhanging the roof surface and kept at least 10 feet away. It goes without saying, but this guideline exists to help prevent possible damage from limbs that may fall. Beyond the obvious, though, leaves and twigs from close limbs often fall off and cover the roof surface or clog gutters which can lead to inadequate drainage or even potential leaking over time as debris gets wedged beneath shingle tabs providing an entry point for water. Close limbs also provide an easy pathway to your home for pests, such as wood-destroying insects, making keeping limbs away all the more important.

Since many trees occur naturally, it’s not uncommon for intrusive limbs on your property to be part of a tree that exists on a neighbor’s property. This obviously complicates matters, but coming to a mutual understanding isn’t always an impossible task. If you find yourself in a difficult situation, it’s always advisable to research your local regulations and consult a relevant person with authority in your jurisdiction.

So, here’s the quick run-down for properly maintaining trees close to your home… 1) Keep limbs trimmed back so that none are directly overhanging the roof or within 10 feet of the roof surface, 2) Water around large trees often to prevent their roots from absorbing enough water in the soil to create an imbalance, 3) Continually monitor your foundation walls that are adjacent to large trees to ensure no root intrusion is occurring, 4) Keep your gutters cleaned, or install gutter guards to help prevent accumulation of vegetation debris, 5) IF any trees are posing a clear threat, consider having them removed altogether. It may be hard to see that beautiful, old tree go, but keeping it isn’t likely worth the risk it poses.

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Security 101

Some people are extremely concerned about safety and home security. Others… not so much. Regardless of where you live, security is always a concern – even if you live in a neighborhood that is generally considered safe and free of crime. Your home could be broken into and your family endangered at any time, and ensuring proper safety measures are in place is of utmost importance.

Having a security system in place is definitely preferred, and many advancements have been made in recent years to systems that allow them to be controlled remotely, offer additional features, and optimize protection. For many, though, even the relatively low cost of owning a security system can be somewhat cost-prohibitive, so I’d like to review some less expensive, more simplistic options that anyone can use to help ensure your family is as safe and secure as possible.

First, ensure that deadbolts are installed on exterior doors. Contrary to the latch bolts that come with standard doorknobs and are fairly easy to pry open for people intent on doing so, deadbolts are thick and solid and have squared off edges that make them much stronger. If you don’t already have deadbolts and plan to install them, ensure that the keyed side (the side that requires use of a key for operation) is located on the exterior. The last thing you want is to have to locate and use a key in the event you need to escape during a possible emergency.

Next, check the screws in your strike plates. They typically come with short screws, but you can replace those with longer screws that will better secure them and prevent them from easily being pried off.

Windows (especially older ones) are often slightly misaligned and do not fully lock shut because the sashes are a little uneven when closed. It’s easy to overlook this seemingly minor problem when the windows still fully close, but they become a potential entry point for would-be intruders when they do not physically lock when shut. Most unlocked windows can be opened from the outside with relative ease.

An often overlooked home security feature is lighting. Statistics show that burglars are greatly deterred when lights are either already on, or suddenly come on, during a possible robbery or break-in. Dusk to dawn and motion sensor flood lights work great for this purpose. Dusk to dawn lights sense a decrease in natural light and come on when it’s dark (the time that break-ins are more likely), and motion sensors come on only when detecting motion. They also literally “flood” the area with light, providing great visibility and little room for intruders to hide. Even interior lights that are turned on are a good deterrent to potential intruders, which is why many people set lights on timers when they’re away from home.

There are other obvious security related practices that I won’t address here given varying beliefs and sensitivities. I would stress, though, that the more consequential a security measure may be, the more dangerous it may also be if not properly managed. Responsibility is vital, and any security plan should be practical, well planned and clearly communicated to all of the home’s residents.

It’s worth taking some time to evaluate your home’s security measures and to plan for improvements. This brief article provides some basic insight that will hopefully be helpful, but your own plan will likely involve numerous factors that align with your own property, your level of concern, and even your beliefs. Regardless, it is a good idea to ensure that your family and home are as safe as possible.

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