Home Maintenance Resources

Home Maintenance Links & Resources
 
Inclusion of any site is strictly for convenience and informational purposes only, and does not imply any endorsement.
 
Associations
NACHI, the National Association of Certified Home Inspectorswww.nachi.org
 
Consumer Advisory
Known Product Related Failures - Search for product recalls which may be safety hazards
http://www.cpsc.gov

CPSC product recalls by type - http://63.74.109.29/cgi-bin/recalldb/prod.asp
 
Environmental
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) - epa.gov
Radon Zone Map - EPA - http://www.epa.gov/iaq/radon/zonemap.html
Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) - http://www.epa.gov/iaq/
Carbon Monoxide: Answers - http://www.coheadquarters.com/CO1.htm
How Carbon Monoxide Effects Humans - http://www.inspect-ny.com/hazmat/asgasinf.htm
Septic systems Information - http://www.inspect-ny.com/septbook.htm
Water testing Information - http://www.inspect-ny.com/water/watrtest.htm
 
Home Improvement and Maintenance
Hometime - http://www.hometime.com/
Do It Yourself. - http://www.doityourself.com/
Today's Homeowner / This Old House - http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/
House Detective - http://housedetective.com/index.shtml
Home and Garden Television - http://www.hgtv.com/
Improvenet.com - http://www.improvenet.com/index.html?src=homeheroLandscapeUSA
Landscaping - http://www.landscapeusa.com/default.asp
Lowe's - http://www.lowes.com
The Home Depot - http://www.homedepot.com
Ace Hardware - http://www.acehardware.com/index.asp
 
Water Heaters
Water Heater Safety Information
- http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/heatingcooling/article/0,13422,214930,00.html
Bradford White Water Heaters - http://www.bradfordwhite.com/default.asp
Water heater Help from A.O. Smith. - http://www.hotwater.com/frame.html?topage=techhome.htm
State Industries Water Heaters - http://www.stateind.com/

Building Materials
Siding Claims Services - http://www.homeclaimservices.com/
More Siding Claims Services - http://www.sidingclaims.com/
Class Action Lawsuits Information - http://www.hadd.com/casuits.html
Masonite (r) Siding - http://www.masoniteclaims.com
EIFS Consumer Advocate Site - http://www.eifsfacts.org
More EIFS Information - http://www.gahi.com/eifshome.htm

Swimming Pools
Pool Safety Tips for Children - http://www.aap.org/family/tipppool.htm
Pool Safety Information - http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/chdrown.html
More Pool Safety Information - http://www.cdc.gov/health/spsafety.htm
Operating Your Pool - http://www.poolmanual.com/

Plumbing
Toilet Information - http://www.toiletology.com/index.shtml
Polybutylene Piping information - http://www.plumbing911.com/
Class Action Settlement for Polybutylene Piping - http://www.pbpipe.com/index1.htm
Univ. of Arizona study on Polybutylene Piping - http://ag.arizona.edu/AZWATER/awr/nov94/leaks.html

Electrical
Aluminum Wiring - http://www.inspect-ny.com/aluminum.htm
Federal Pacific Panel Box Information - http://www.inspect-ny.com/fpe/fpepanel.htm
More Information about Federal Pacific Panel Boxes - http://www.inspect-ny.com/fpe/CPSCsummary.htm

Fireplaces & Chimneys
Locate A Chimney Sweep - http://www.csia.org/
Heating with Wood - http://www.woodheat.org/
Chimney Safety and Care - http://www.chimneys.com/
Wood Stoves: Installing and Operating - http://www.cdc.gov/nasd/docs/d000101-d000200/d000132/d000132.html
Chimney and Fire Investigation Services - http://f-i-r-e-service.com/f-i-r-e-service/

Heating & Cooling
Troubleshooting Your HVAC - http://www.hvacwebtech.com/
Help for Home Heating Systems - http://www.heatinghelp.com/
Commonly Reported HVAC Problems - http://www.hannabery.com/faq.shtml
 
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
"Everything You Want To Know About MOLD"
http://www.epa.gov/iaq/pubs/moldresources.html
 
Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet --- Entomology 
Termites-- Identification, Life Cycle, Habits, and Control 
http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/2000/2092.html
 
Mass. Department of Environmental Protection
Information on septic systems, drinking water, hazardous wastes, recycling, wetlands, underground tanks, lawn and garden and air quality. http://www.state.ma.us/dep/consumer/consumer.htm
 
This Old House (Web-site of the PBS Series).More helpful topics than can be listed here... http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/
 
JLCOnline-- Journal of Light Construction
Since 1982, they have provided unbiased coverage of products, materials, and building techniques http://www.jlconline.com/
 
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
Flood Insurance Information, Flood Maps, Urban Search-and-Rescue, Fire Prevention
http://www.fema.gov/
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The below listing is a sampling of life expectancies for different products and materials used in homes, as listed in a report titled "1997 Housing Facts, Figures and Trends" published by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), Washington, D.C.
 


APPLIANCES
Compactor - 10 years.
Dishwasher - 10 years.
Garbage Disposer - 10 years.
Dryer - 10 years.
Freezer (compact) - 12 years.
Freezer (standard) - 16 years.
Microwave Oven - 11 years.
Range (freestanding and built-in, electric) - 17 years.
Range (freestanding and built-in, gas) - 19 years.
Range (high oven, gas) - 14 years.
Refrigerator (compact) - 14 years.
Refrigerator (standard) - 17 years.
Washer (automatic and compact) - 13 years.
Exhaust Fans - 20 years.
 
BATHROOM FIXTURES
Cast Iron bathtub - 50 years.
Fiberglass bathtub and shower - 10-15 years.
Shower door (average quality) - 25 years.
Toilet - 50 years.
 
CABINETS
Kitchen cabinets - 15-20 years.
Medicine cabinet/bath vanity - 20
 
COUNTERTOPS
Laminate - 10-15 years.
Ceramic tile (high grade installation) - Lifetime.
Wood/butcher block - 20+ years.
Granite - 20+ years.
 
DOORS
Screen - 25 - 50 years.
Interior (not perfect hollow core) - <30 years to life.
Interior (solid core) - 30 years to life.
Exterior (protected overhang) - 80-100 years.
Exterior (unprotected and exposed) - 25-30 years.
Folding - 30 years to life.
Garage door - 20 - 50 years.
Garage door opener - 10 years.
FINISHES (Used for waterproofing)
Paint, plaster and stucco - 3-5 years.
Sealer, silicone, and waxes - 1-5 years.
 
FLOORS
Oak or pine - Lifetime
Slate flagstone - Lifetime
Vinyl sheet or tile - minimum
Terrazzo - Lifetime
Carpeting - 11 years
Marble – Lifetime
 
FOOTINGS & FOUNDATIONS
Poured footing & foundation - 200 years.
Concrete block - 100 years.
Cement - 50 years.
Waterproofing (bituminous coating) - 10 years.
Termite proofing - 5 years.
 
HEATING, VENTILATION & AIR CONDITIONING
Air conditioning unit (central) - 15 years.
Air conditioning unit (window) - 10 years.
Baseboard heat units - 20 years.
Humidifier - 8 years.
Water Heater (electric) - 14 years.
Water Heater (gas) - 11 - 13 years.
Forced air furnace, heat pump - 15
Furnace, gas or oil fired - 18 years.
 
HOME SECURITY
Intrusion system - 14 years.
Smoke Detector - 12 years.
Smoke/fire/intrusion system - 10 years.
 
LANDSCAPING
Wooden deck - 15 years.
Brick and concrete patio - 24 years.
Tennis court - 10 years.
Concrete walk - 24 years.
Gravel walk - 4 years.
Asphalt driveway - 10 years.
Swimming pool - 18 years.
Sprinkler system - 12 years.
Fence - 12 years.
 
PAINTS & STAINS
Exterior paint on wood, brick and aluminum - 7-10 years.
Interior wall paint - 5-10 years.
Interior trim and door paint - 5-10 years.
Interior wallpaper - 7 years.
 
PLUMBING
Faucets (low quality) - 13-15 years.
Faucets (high quality) 15-20 years.
Sinks (enamel steel sink) - 5-10 years.
Sinks (enamel cast iron sink) - 25-30 years.
Sinks (Porcelain sink) - 25-30 years.
Waste pipe (concrete) - 50-100 years.
Waste pipe (cast iron) - 75-100 years.
 
ROOFING
Asphalt and wood shingles and shakes - 15-30 years.
Asphalt composition shingle - 15-30 years.
Asphalt overlay - 25-35 years.
Built-up roofing (asphalt) - 12-25 years.
Built-up roofing (coat and tar) - 12-30 years.
Gutters and downspouts - 30 years.
Slate - 50-100 years.
Sheet metal - 20-50 years.
Tile - 50 years.
 
SIDING
Aluminum Siding - 20-50 years.
Steel Siding - 50 years to Life.
Vinyl Siding - 50 years.
Wood Siding - 10 - 100 years.
 
WINDOWS
Aluminum casement - 10-20 years.
Wood casement - 20-50 years



“How’s the Roof?”
 
It’s a deceptively simple question that rarely has a simple answer, but it shows the concerns that people have about roofs. They want to hear that it doesn’t leak. Inspecting them is a hazardous business; because of personal and property safety, roofs just shouldn’t be walked on. I inspect it from a variety of vantage points using powerful binoculars.

There are many different roof types, and every roof will wear differently relative to its age, the number of its layers, the quality of its material, the method of its application, its exposure to direct sunlight or to other prevalent weather conditions, and its maintenance. There are two basic roof types, pitched and flat. Pitched roofs are the most common, and the most dependable. They are typically finished with composition shingles, or concrete, composite, Spanish, or metal tiles that have a design-life of forty to fifty years, and gravel roofs that have a lesser pitch and a shorter design-life of ten to fifteen years. These roofs may be layered, or have one roof installed over another, which is a common practice but one that is never recommended because it reduces the design-life of the new roof by several years. Layering is not always obvious. I know of a case in which after escrow closed, when the new owner was in the process of adding an addition, it was discovered that the roof actually had three layers, which the local building inspector insisted had to be removed before the addition could be tied into the existing roof. The roof had been indexed; that is, successive layers of shingle had been cut back to a point above the top- plate, and were not readily evident in a non-invasive inspection.   

 There are a wide variety of composition shingle roofs, which are comprised of asphalt or fiberglass materials impregnated with mineral granules that are designed to deflect the deteriorating ultra-violet rays of the sun. These roofs are warranted by the manufacturer to last from twenty to twenty-five years, and are typically guaranteed against leaks by the installer for three to five years. The actual life of the roof will vary, depending on a number of interrelated factors besides the quality of the material and the method of installation. The most common cause of leakage results when roofs are not serviced or kept clean, and foliage and other debris blocks the drainage channels. Poor maintenance is the most common cause of roof failure, but a southern exposure can cause a roof to deteriorate prematurely, as will the practice of layering over another roof. However, the first indication of significant wear is when the granules begin to separate and leave pockmarks or dark spots. This is referred to as primary decomposition, which means that the roof is in decline, and therefore susceptible to leakage. This typically begins with the hip and ridge shingles and to the field shingles on the south facing side. This does not mean that the roof is ready to be replaced, but that it should be serviced or monitored. Regular maintenance will certainly extend the life of any roof, and will usually avert most leaks that only become evident after they have caused other damage. This is important, because in accordance with industry standards our inspection service does not include a guarantee against leaks. For such a guarantee, you would need to have a roofing company perform a water test and issue a roof certification. However, the sellers or the occupants will generally have the most intimate knowledge of the roof, and you ask them about its history and then schedule a regular maintenance service.
 
What remains true of all roofs is that, whereas their condition can be evaluated, it is virtually impossible for anyone to detect a leak except as it is occurring or by specific water tests, which are beyond the scope of our service. Even water stains on ceilings, or on the framing within attics, will not necessarily confirm an active leak without some corroborative evidence, and such evidence can be deliberately concealed. Consequently, only the installer can credibly guarantee that a roof will not leak, and they do. We cannot, and do not give any such guarantees. We will examine every roof and evaluate it, but we will not predict is remaining life expectancy, nor guarantee that it will not leak. Naturally, the sellers or the occupants of a residence will generally have the most intimate knowledge of the roof and of its history. Therefore, we recommend that you ask the sellers about it, and that you either include comprehensive roof coverage in your home insurance policy, or that you obtain a roof certification from an established local roofing company.

Roof leaks usually result as a consequence of neglect and poor maintenance; that explains why they need to be maintained and why I will not endorse any that are not absolutely perfect. There are a wide variety of roofing materials, some better than others. Always ask the seller about the history of the roof or, better yet, on any home that is over 3 years old, obtain a roof certification from an established local roofing company.

 
 
 
 
 
 
There are a wide variety of composition shingle roofs, which are comprised of asphalt or fiberglass materials impregnated with mineral granules that are designed to deflect the deteriorating ultra-violet rays of the sun. The commonest of these roofs are warranted by manufacturers to last from twenty to twenty-five years, and are typically guaranteed against leaks by the installer for three to five years. The actual life of the roof will vary, depending on a number of interrelated factors besides the quality of the material and the method of installation. Poor maintenance is the most common cause of roof failure, but a southern exposure can cause a roof to deteriorate prematurely, as will the practice of layering over another roof. However, the first indication of significant wear occurs when the granules begin to separate and leave pockmarks or dark spots. This is referred to as primary decomposition, which means that the roof is in decline, and therefore susceptible to leakage. This typically begins with the hip and ridge shingles and to the field shingles on the south facing side. This does not mean that the roof is ready to be replaced, but that it should be serviced or monitored. Regular maintenance will certainly extend the life of any roof, and will usually avert most leaks that only become evident after they have caused other damage. This is important, because in accordance with industry standards our inspection service does not include a guarantee against leaks. For such a guarantee, you would need to have a roofing company perform a water test and issue a roof certification. However, the sellers or the occupants will generally have the most intimate knowledge of the roof, and you ask them about its history and then schedule a regular maintenance service.
 
Wood shingles and shakes are among the oldest of roofing materials, but they are coming under increasing criticism and are no longer permitted in some jurisdictions. They are comprised of uniformly thin shingles or thick shakes, installed on either spaced or solid sheathing. Spaced sheathing consists of strips of wood that run perpendicularly to the rafters, on which the shingles or shakes are fastened. These are easily broken, and are now considered to be seismically vulnerable and structurally suspect. In addition, the open spaces between them permit a fire to draft more rapidly, and whatever chemical fire-retardant the shakes or shingles may have been impregnated with it diminishes over time. Wood roofs with solid sheathing are structurally sounder, but are still not permitted in some jurisdictions. Regardless, whereas such roofs have a life expectancy of twenty-five years, which is similar to many other roofs, they tend to weather more rapidly and must be carefully monitored and maintained. This is particularly important, because our service does not include a guarantee against leaks. For such a guarantee, you would need to have a roofing company perform a water test and issue a roof certification. However, the sellers or the occupants will generally have the most intimate knowledge of the roof, and you ask them about its history, and then schedule regular maintenance service.
 
There are different types of metal roofs, but the most common ones consist of ribbed, interlocking panels, or tiles that have been coated with a mineral compound that are warranted for as long as fifty years. They tend to be maintenance-free, and many can be walked on, but some can be damaged by careless foot-traffic, and it is essential for service personnel to wear soft shoes and to tread directly in the pan and not across the tile. As with other pitched roofs, many metal roofs are dependant on the waterproof membrane that is concealed beneath them and cannot be examined, and this is why our service does not include a guarantee against leaks. For such a guarantee, you would need to have a roofing company perform a water test and issue a roof certification. However, the sellers or the occupants generally have the most intimate knowledge of the roof, and you should request the installation permit, which could include a warranty or guarantee.
 
Flat roofs are designed to be waterproof, not just water resistant, and to last approximately fifteen years. They are rarely flat, and generally slope toward drains, in or near surrounding parapet walls. However, water ponds on many of these roofs that will only be dispersed by evaporation. For this and related reasons, flat roofs have always been problematic and must be maintained. They are comprised of several layers of rolled roofing materials, which are either hot-mopped or torched-down that expand and contract in the daily and sometimes radical temperature extremes, and eventually buckle, split, separate, and finally deteriorate. When this happens, the roof is susceptible to leaks. However, although gradual decomposition of the roofing materials is inevitable, most leaks result from poor maintenance. Therefore, regardless of the age of a flat roof, it should be inspected seasonally, kept clean, and serviced frequently. Although less expensive that other roofs, they can end up costing more if they are not maintained. This is important, because our inspection service does not include a guarantee against leaks. For such a guarantee, you would need to have a roofing company perform a water test and issue a roof certification. However, the sellers or the occupants will generally have the most intimate knowledge of the roof, and you ask them about its history, and then schedule a regular maintenance service.
 
Gravel roofs are among the least expensive of roofs. They are designed to last for approximately fifteen years, and are typically guaranteed against leaks by the installer for three years. They are similar to flat roofs, inasmuch as they are comprised of layers of fifteen-pound asphalt paper and a heavier mineral cap sheet that is swabbed with boiling tar and then covered with rock and gravel, which is designed to deflect the deteriorating rays of the sun. They are low-pitched and do not drain efficiently. The gravel further impedes drainage, and moisture is actually held at the edges by metal that is designed to prevent the gravel from spilling over. For this reason, flat roofs are particularly susceptible to moisture damage at the eaves and must be kept clean and inspected regularly. However, poor maintenance is the most common cause of roof failure. The first indication of wear will be evident on the ridges and hips or at other points where the gravel has been displaced, and which leaves the cap sheet susceptible to ultra-violet deterioration. This does not mean that the roof is ready to be replaced but that it is in decline and will need to be monitored more closely. Regular maintenance will certainly extend the life of any roof, and will usually avert most leaks that only become evident after they have caused other damage. This is important because our inspection does not include any guarantee against leaks. For such a guarantee, you would need to have a roofing company perform a water-test and issue a roof certification. However, the sellers or the occupants will generally have the most intimate knowledge of the roof, and you should ask them about its history and then schedule a regular maintenance service.
 
NOTE: Certified Inspectors are not Licensed Roofers and cannot comment on life expectancy / proper installation of roof.
 
EXTERIOR STRUCTURE
The word foundation is a timeless metaphor of strength and security, and people quite naturally have genuine concerns about the foundations on which their homes rest. For this reason, people need to be educated about foundations in general and specific types in particular, and I include such information in every report. This is what I include about slab on-grade foundations, and you are welcome to use all or any part of it that you might find useful.
 
We examine the visible portion of the stem walls on the exterior of the structure for any evidence of significant cracks or structural deformation. However, we do not move furniture or lift carpeting and padding to look for cracks, and we do not use any specialized tools or measuring devices to establish relative elevations or determine any degree of differential settling. Interestingly, many slabs are found to contain cracks when the carpet and padding are removed, but there is no absolute standard for evaluating them. However, those that are less than 1/4" and which exhibit no significant vertical or horizontal displacement are not regarded as being structurally threatening. They typically result from common shrinkage, but can also be caused by a deficient mixture of concrete, deterioration through time, seismic activity, adverse soil conditions, and poor drainage, and if they are not sealed they can allow moisture to enter a residence, and particularly if the residence is surcharged by a hill or a slope, or if downspouts discharge adjacent to the slab. However, in the absence of any major defects, we may not recommend that you consult with a structural engineer or a foundation contractor, but this should not deter you from seeking the opinion of any such expert, and we would be happy to refer one.