Roof-Covering Maintenance

Although homeowners aren’t necessarily expected to climb on their roofs every season as part of regular home maintenance, there are some conditions that should be monitored to prevent roof damage and to help you get the longest life out of your roof-covering materials. Certain types of damage can lead to water and pest intrusion, structural deterioration, and the escape costly energy.

Weathering

Hail and storm damage, known as weathering, can weaken a roof’s surface even if you haven’t lost any shingles/shakes/slates following a storm. It’s the most common source of environmental damage for roofs. Strong, sustained winds can cause uplift to the edges of shingles and shakes, which can weaken their points of attachment and allow rainwater and melting snow to reach the roof’s underlayment. Wind can also send projectiles through the air, which can damage every surface of the home’s exterior, including the roof. You should always inspect your roof after a heavy weather event, as far as it is practical to do so without taking any undue risks, to check whether you have lost any roof-covering materials, or if any parts look particularly weathered or damaged. A small fix now could prevent costly repairs later.

Tree Damage

Tree damage results from wind-blown tree branches scraping against shingles and from the impact of falling branches blown by wind and/or because the nearby tree has dead branches that eventually break off and fall. Branches that overhang the roof should always be cut back to avoid damage from both abrasion and impact, and to prevent the accumulation of leaf debris on the roof, its valleys, and in the gutters, which will interfere with proper drainage and lead to pooling of rainwater and snowmelt. Of course, it’s especially important to make sure that tree limbs near the home’s roof and exterior are a safe distance away from utility and power lines. Tree-trimming is a type of homeowner maintenance task should be undertaken by qualified professionals, as it can lead to accidentally cutting off the service or power from an overhead line, being electrocuted by an energized line, being struck by an unsecured tree branch, falling off the roof or a ladder, and any number of similar mishaps that the homeowner is not trained to anticipate and avoid.

Animal Damage

Squirrels and raccoons (and roof rats in coastal regions) will sometimes tear through shingles and roof sheathing when they’re searching for a protected area in which to build nests and raise their young. They often attack the roof’s eaves first, especially on homes that have suffered decay to the roof sheathing due to a lack of drip edges or from problems caused by ice damming, because decayed sheathing is softer and easier to tear through. If you hear any activity of wildlife on your roof, check inside your attic for evidence of pest intrusion, such as damaged insulation, which pests may use for nesting material. Darkened insulation generally indicates that excess air is blowing through some hole in the structure, leading the insulation to become darkened by dirt or moisture.

Biological Growth

Algae, moss and lichen are types of biological growth that may be found on asphalt shingles under certain conditions. Some professionals consider this growth destructive, while others consider it merely a cosmetic problem. Asphalt shingles may become discolored by both algae and moss, which spread by releasing airborne spores.

Almost all biological growth on shingles is related to the long-term presence of excess moisture, which is why these problems are more common in areas with significant rainfall and high relative humidity. But even in dry climates, roofs that are shaded most of the time can develop biological growth.

What we commonly call “algae” is actually not algae, but a type of bacteria capable of photosynthesis. Algae appears as dark streaks, which are actually the dark sheaths produced by the organisms to protect themselves from the ultraviolet radiation of the sun. When environmental conditions are right, the problem can spread quickly across a roof.

Algae can feed on mineral nutrients, such as the calcium carbonate in limestone used as asphalt shingle filler. Calcium carbonate also causes asphalt to retain moisture, which also promotes algae growth, so shingles with excessive filler may be more likely to suffer more algae growth. The rate of filler consumption is slow enough that it’s not generally considered a serious problem.

Algae attach to the shingle by secreting a substance that bonds it tightly to the surface. Growth can be difficult to remove without damaging the roof. The best method is prevention. Algae stains can sometimes be lightened in color by using special cleaners. Power-washing and heavy scrubbing may loosen or dislodge granules. Chemicals used for cleaning shingles may damage landscaping. Also, the cleaning process makes the roof wet and slippery, so such work should be performed by a qualified professional.

Moss is a greenish plant that can grow more thickly than algae. It attaches itself to the roof through a shallow root system that can be freed from shingles fairly easily with a brush. Moss deteriorates shingles by holding moisture against them, but this is a slow process. Moss is mostly a cosmetic issue and, like algae, can create hazardous conditions for those who climb on the roof.

Lichens are composite organisms consisting of a fungus and a photosynthetic partner, such as green or blue-green algae. Lichens bond tightly to the roof, and when they’re removed from asphalt shingles, they may take granules with them. Damage from lichen removal can resemble blistering.

“Tobacco-juicing” is the brownish discoloration that appears on the surface of shingles, under certain weather conditions. It’s often temporary and may have a couple of different causes. After especially long periods of intensely sunny days, damp nights and no rain, water-soluble compounds may leach out of the asphalt from the shingles and be deposited on the surface. Tobacco-juicing may also appear under the same weather conditions if the air is especially polluted. Tobacco-juicing won’t harm asphalt shingles, although it may run down the roof and stain siding. Although it’s more common in the West and Southwest, it can happen anywhere that weather conditions are right. You can spray-wash or paint the exterior of the home to remove tobacco-juicing.

Your InterNACHI inspector should investigate signs of roof damage or deterioration before you call a roofing contractor. That way, you’ll know exactly what types of problems should be addressed before you break out the checkbook for repairs.

GFCIs

A ground-fault circuit interrupter, or GFCI, is a device used in electrical wiring to disconnect a circuit when an unbalanced current is detected between an energized conductor and a neutral return conductor. Such an imbalance is sometimes caused by current “leaking” through a person who is simultaneously in contact with a ground and an energized part of the circuit, which could result in a lethal shock. GFCIs are designed to provide protection in such a situation, unlike standard circuit breakers, which guard against overloads, short circuits and ground faults.

It is estimated that about 300 deaths by electrocution occur every year, so the use of GFCIs has been adopted in new construction and recommended as an upgrade in older construction,in order to mitigate the possibility of injury or fatality from electric shock.

Testing Receptacle-Type GFCIs

Receptacle-type GFCIs are designed to allow for safe and easy testing that can be performed without any professional or technical knowledge of electricity. GFCIs should be tested right after installation to make sure they are working properly and protecting the circuit. They should also be tested once a month to make sure they are working properly and are providing protection from fatal shock.

To test the receptacle GFCI, first plug a nightlight or lamp into the outlet. The light should be on. Then press the “TEST” button on the GFCI. The “RESET” button should pop out, and the light should turn off.

If the “RESET” button pops out but the light does not turn off, the GFCI has been improperly wired. Contact an electrician to correct the wiring errors. If the “RESET” button does not pop out, the GFCI is defective and should be replaced.

If the GFCI is functioning properly and the lamp turns off, press the “RESET” button to restore power to the outlet.

Electrical Panel Safety

All homeowners should know where their electrical panel is located.  When you open the door to it, you should find breakers that are labeled which correspond to the different rooms or areas of the home.  Breakers will sometimes trip due to a power surge or outage, and the homeowner can flip the switch to reactivate the current to the particular room or area.  Behind the breakers is the dead front, and it is this electrical component that should be removed only by a qualified electrician or inspector.

Before touching the electrical panel to re-set a breaker, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I have an escape path?  Make sure that you know where you can safely turn or step if you must escape a dangerous surprise, such a bee or a spark. An unfortunately placed shovel or extension cord, for instance, can turn a quick jerk into a dangerous fall.
  • Is the floor wet?  Never touch any electrical equipment while standing on a wet surface!
  • Does the panel appear to be wet?  Check overhead for dripping water that may have condensed on a cold water pipe.
  • Is the panel rusty?  Rust is an indication of previous wet conditions that may still exist.
  • Are there scorch marks on the panel door?  This can indicate a past or very recent arc, and further investigation should be deferred to a licensed electrician.

Here is a list of defective conditions that a homeowner may see that may be called out during an electrical inspection:

  • insufficient clearance. According to the 2008 National Electrical Code, most residential electrical panels require at least a 3-foot clearance or working space in front, 30 inches of width, and a minimum headroom clearance of 6 feet, or the height of the equipment, whichever is greater.
  • sharp-tipped panel box screws. Panel box cover screws must have blunt ends so they do not pierce the wires inside the box.
  • circuit breakers that are not properly sized.
  • oxidation or corrosion to any of the parts. Oxidized or corroded wires will increase the resistance of conductors and create the potential for arcing.
  • damage caused by rodents. Rodents have been known to chew through wire insulation in electrical panels (and other areas), creating an unsafe condition. Rodents have been electrocuted this way, leaving an unsightly mess inside the panel.
  • evidence of electrical failures, such as burned or overheated components.
  • evidence of water entry inside the electrical panel. Moisture can corrode circuit breakers so that they won’t trip, make connections less reliable and the equipment unsafe to touch.
  • a panel manufactured by Zinsco or Federal Pacific Electric (FPE). These panels have a reputation for being problematic, and further evaluation by a qualified electrician is recommended.

Fire Safety for the Home

The National Fire Protection Association’s fire prevention program promotes the following eight tips that people of all ages and abilities can use to keep family members safe, especially during the threat of a house fire.

  1. Plan and practice your escape from fire.
    We’ve heard this advice before, but you can’t be prepared to act in an emergency if you don’t have a plan and everybody knows what that plan is.  Panic and fear can spread as quickly as a fire, so map out an escape route and a meeting place outdoors, and involve even the youngest family members so that everyone can work as a unit to make a safe escape.  If you live in a condo or apartment building, make sure you read the signs posted on your floor advising you of the locations of stairways and other exits, as well as alarm pull stations and fire extinguishers.
  2. Plan your escape around your abilities.
    Keeping a phone by your bedside will allow you to call 911 quickly, especially if the exits of your home are blocked by smoke or flames.  Keep a pair of shoes near your bed, too.  If your home or building has a fire escape, take some time to practice operating it and climbing it.
  3. Smoke alarms save lives.
    If you don’t already have permanently installed smoke alarms hard-wired into your electrical system and located outside each bedroom and on each floor, purchase units and place them in those locations.  Install them using adhesive or screws, but be careful not to touch your screwdriver to any internal wiring, which can cause an electrostatic discharge and disable them.  Also, install carbon monoxide detectors, which can protect family members from lethal poisoning even before a fire starts.
  4. Give space heaters space. 
    Whether saving on utility bills by using the furnace infrequently, or when using these portable units for spot heating, make sure you give them at least 3 feet of clearance.  Be sure to turn off and unplug them when you leave or go to bed.  Electrical appliances draw current even when they’re turned off, and a faulty unit can cause a fire that can spread through the wires in the walls at a deadly pace.
  5. If you smoke, smoke outside. 
    Not only will this keep your family members healthier and your home smelling fresher, it will minimize the chance that an errant ember from your cigarette will drop and smolder unnoticed until it causes damage.
  6. Be kitchen-wise.
    This means monitoring what you have on the stove and keeping track of what’s baking in the oven.  Don’t cook if you’re tired or taking medication that clouds your judgment or makes you drowsy.  Being kitchen-wise also means wearing clothing that will not easily catch on the handles of pots and pans, or graze open flames or heating elements.  It also means knowing how to put out a grease fire:  water will make it spread, but salt or baking soda will extinguish it quickly, as will covering the pot or pan with a lid and turning off the stove.  Always use your cooktop’s vent fan while cooking.  Also, keep a small, all-purpose fire extinguisher in a handy place, such as under the sink.  These 3-pound lifesavers are rated “ABC” for their fire-suppressing contents. Read the instructions on these inexpensive devices when you bring them home from the store so that you can act quickly, if the time comes.
  7. Stop, drop and roll.
    Fight the urge to panic and run if your clothes catch fire because this will only accelerate its spread, since fire needs oxygen to sustain and grow.  Tamping out the fire by rolling is effective, especially since your clothes may be on fire on your back or lower body where you may not be immediately aware of it.  If ground space is limited, cover yourself with a blanket to tamp out any flames, and douse yourself with water as soon as you can.  Additionally, always stay close to the floor during a fire; heat and smoke rise, and breathable air will normally be found at the floor-level, giving you a greater chance of escape before being overcome by smoke and toxic fumes.
  8. Know your local emergency number. 
    People of all ages need to know their emergency number (usually, it’s 911).  Posting it near the phone and putting it on speed-dial will save precious moments when the ability to think clearly may be compromised.

Keep your family safe by following these simple tips!

Garage Door Safety

The garage door is the largest moving object in a house. Its parts are under high tension. All repairs and adjustments should be performed by a trained garage door systems technician. To find a technician, visit the International Door Association website. If the garage door appears inoperable or out of plumb, do not attempt to operate the garage door opener. If the door appears plumb, you can perform some basic testing to ensure that your garage door is operating as it should.

Photo-Electric Eyes

Federal law states that residential garage door openers manufactured after 1992 must be equipped with photo-electric eyes or some other safety-reverse feature. If the garage door has an opener, check to see if photo-electric eyes are installed. They should be near the floor, mounted to the left and right sides of the bottom door panel. The beam of the photo-electric eyes should not be higher than 6 inches above the floor.

Non-Contact Reversal Test

This check applies to door systems that are equipped with photo-electric eyes. Standing inside the garage and safely away from the path of the door, use the remote control or wall button to close the door. As the door is closing, wave an object in the path of the photo-electric eye beam. The door should immediately reverse and return to the fully-open position.

Contact Reversal Test

This check applies to doors with openers when the opener’s force setting has been properly set, and when the opener reinforcement bracket is securely and appropriately attached to the door’s top section. If you’re concerned that a contact reversal test may cause damage to the garage door or its components, don’t do it.

Otherwise, begin this test with the door fully open. Under the center of the door, place a 2×4 piece of wood flat on the floor in the path of the door. Standing inside the garage but safely away from the path of the door, use the wall push button to close the door. When the door contacts the wood, the door should automatically reverse direction and return to the fully-open position.

If your garage door fails or is slow to respond to any of these tests, contact a qualified technician who can check for any necessary repairs or upgrades.

10 Tools Every Homeowner Should Have

  1. Plunger:

    A clogged sink or toilet is one of the most inconvenient household problems. With a plunger on hand, you can usually get the water flowing again fast. It’s best to have two plungers: one for the sink and one for the toilet.

  2. Combination Wrench Set:

    One end of a combination wrench is open and the other end is a closed loop. Nuts and bolts are manufactured in standard and metric sizes, so it’s handy to have set of different sizes in both types. For the most leverage, always pull the wrench toward you. Also, avoid over-tightening.

  3. Slip-Joint Pliers:

    Use these to grab hold of a nail, nut, bolt, and much more. These pliers are versatile because of their jaws, which feature both flat and curved areas for gripping many things. They also have a built-in slip-joint, which allows you to quickly adjust the jaw size to suit most tasks.

  4. Adjustable Wrench:

    It can be somewhat awkward to use at first, but an adjustable wrench is ideal when you need wrenches of different sizes. Screw the jaws all the way closed to avoid damaging a bolt or nut.

  5. Caulking Gun:

    Caulking is a quick way to seal up gaps in tile, cracks in concrete, and leaks in certain types of piping. Caulking can provide thermal insulation and control water penetration. Caulk should be applied only to areas that are clean and dry.

  6. Flashlight:

    None of the tools you own will be of any use if you cannot visually inspect the situation. The problem—and solution—are apparent only with a good flashlight. A traditional two-battery flashlight is usually sufficient, as larger flashlights may be too unwieldy.  Of course, having backups at home (as well as in all your vehicles) is a must for emergency situations.

  7. Tape Measure: 

    Measuring house projects requires a tape measure—not a ruler or a yardstick. Tape measures come in many lengths, although one that is at least 25 feet is best.  Measure everything at least twice to ensure accuracy, regardless of the project.

  8. Hacksaw: 

    A hacksaw is useful for cutting metal objects, such as pipes, bolts and brackets. Hacksaws look thin and flimsy, but they’ll easily cut through even the hardest of metals. Blades are replaceable, so focus your purchase on a quality hacksaw frame.  Use a stable surface for cutting, and use caution, as a hacksaw injury can be painful and deep.

  9. Torpedo Level: 

    Only a level can be used to determine if something, such as a shelf, appliance or picture, is correctly oriented. The torpedo-style level is unique because it not only shows when an object is perfectly horizontal and vertical, but it also has a gauge that shows when an object is at a 45-degree angle. The bubble in the viewfinder must be exactly in the middle—not merely close.

  10. Safety Glasses / Goggles: 

    For all tasks involving a hammer, saw or a power tool, you should always wear safety glasses or goggles. They should also be worn while you mix chemicals, install insulation, and do major renovation projects involving tear-downs of building materials, such as drywall, because anything that can go airborne upon destruction can wind up in your eyes, causing irritation or injury.

Dryer Vent Maintenance For Safety

Did you know that your dryer vents and ducts need to be cleaned every year? If they are not thoroughly cleaned, the consequences could be deadly.

Several variables can influence the required frequency of dryer system cleaning: the number of people in your home, the frequency of clothes washing, lifestyle (sports and/or outdoor activities), etc.

Some dryers are connected directly to an exterior wall, reducing the duct length. However, others may exhaust upward through the roof or they may be located in the middle of the home. What does this mean? Long dryer ducts provide more opportunity for lint buildup. An uncleaned system may lead to

  • higher utility bills
  • clothing that shrinks or gets damaged by heat
  • reduced life expectancy of the dryer
  • a house fire.

That’s right—fire. In fact, some 15,500 fires, 310 injuries, and 10 deaths are attributed each year to dryer fires, according to estimates by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

If you haven’t already, put your dryer vent on a regular cleaning and maintenance schedule.

Here are some links to help:

Dryer Safety: dryersafety.org

How to Clean Your Dryer Vent and Other Quick Tips: consumerreports.org/clothes-dryers/how-to-clean-your-dryer-vent

Find a Certified Professional in Your Area: csia.org

Burglary Facts

  • Every 14.6 seconds a burglary takes place in the United States.
  • Most burglaries occur during the day, between the hours of 10am and 3pm.
  • Burglars spend an average of just 10 minutes in the home, creating an average loss of $2,000, not to mention, stealing personal identification information like checks, credit card statements and passports.

*US DOJ – FBI

The best defense against burglary is prevention.

With a little planning you can reduce your home’s “curb appeal” to burglars, increase your safety, and dramatically reduce your odds of becoming another statistic.

With the peak months for burglaries just ahead, A Superior Inspection, LLC and Federal Protection, Inc. would like to help prevent you from becoming a victim with the following information and practical tips.

The Usual Suspects – Burglars drive through neighborhoods looking for homes that appear to be vacant and with few obstacles to gaining entry. They are typically young males, (13 to 25 years of age) Often supporting a drug habit, which make them particularly dangerous and desperate.

They are looking for the path of least resistance and don’t want to get caught. Therefore, you’ll want to harden the target and draw attention to them in case they do gain access.

Tips to “Harden the Target and Draw Attention”

Be a Good Neighbor – Consider starting a neighborhood watch program. Let your neighbors know when you’ll be gone so they can set your trash out and pick up your mail and papers. Also consider leaving a car in the driveway, interior lights and/or even a television on when you are away.

Lock it Up – Don’t leave valuables like bicycles and expensive gas grills out in plain view and ALWAYS lock all your doors and windows when you’re away. 1/3 of all burglars gain access through an unlocked door or window. Sliding glass doors should also be secured with pins or a “Charlie bar” in the track. For long trips, consider using the slide lock on your garage door and unplugging your opener.

Light it Up – Make sure exterior lights illuminate all entrances to your home. Consider Motion Lights and Make sure your house numbers are well-lit and clearly visible from the road to help responding authorities find your home during a burglary or other emergency.

Make ‘Em Famous – Don’t give burglars a place to hide.

  • Remember the 2:6 Rule: Keep bushes and shrubs trimmed to two feet off the ground and tree limbs trimmed to no lower than six feet. This will provide neighbors and others passing by an unobstructed view of your residence.
  • Consider surveillance cameras for the exterior of your home. Cameras provide a definite deterrent to a would-be burglar as they do not want the risk of being identified.
  • Consider a professionally installed, centrally monitored home security system. Even a modest burglar alarm will provide immediate response and cause the intruder to flee, knowing the authorities are being dispatched.

IF YOU SUSPECT A BURGLARY HAS TAKEN PLACE

  • Do NOT enter!
  • Do NOT confront suspects
  • Do call the police or sheriff office immediately from a safe location
  • Do provide dispatcher with all necessary information (including suspect/vehicle descriptions and direction of travel and follow the dispatcher’s directions).
Perry Workman
Security Consultant
Federal Protection, Inc
417-493-8159
pworkman@federalprotection.com
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Home Value

Part of owning a home is the hopeful idea that it will appreciate in value with time. The appreciation of value over time is considered an investment. So the general goal if most homeowners is to be able to make money off the home by renting or selling the house.

The disconnect I have experienced over the last 10 years as a residential and commercial contractor, is the assumption that day to day life in a home is enough to maintain the home. The unfortunate reality is that ALL natural components used in construction WILL breakdown over time. Repair or replacement of ALL building components is inevitable. Even man-made materials, if not in perfect conditions, will fail. (Ie. Plastics in proximity to excessive heat, pressure, etc.)

My mission is to educate and encourage property owners about the importance of vigilant proactive maintenance to ensure your investment continues to appreciate in value and assist in your success.30