erobinson's blog

Introduction to Tile Decoupling Membranes

I occasionally run into clients who have cracks in their tile floors due to differential settlement in the foundation.  Where such tile cracks occur over a bending or shrinkage crack in the foundation the foundation cracks often telegraph through the tile finish with seasonal differential settlement in the foundation common in our area.  This type of product uncouples the tile from the supporting structure to reduce this occurrence.  I do not wish to specifically recommend this  or any other product; however, this provider offers a good presentation.  Do a little research and you will find other providers who may have suitable products for your specific needs.

 

Foundation Performance Can Improve in Winter Months

I was listening to the radio this morning and one of the foundation repair ads caught my attention.  The ad started off to say that, “..the recent rains and cooler weather is masking your foundation problems, but they just won’t go away by themselves.”.  This made me laugh because, actually, sometimes with rain and cool weather they simply do, at least for a while.  For me this ad emphasizes the point that when you think you have a foundation problem you should have it evaluated by an engineer who can lay out a reasonable course of corrective action.  It may very well be possible to improve or repair the foundation performance without the need for very costly repair piers or piles.

Seasonal differential settlement of foundations in the Houston area is a common problem.  The key term here is, “seasonal”.  If you are experiencing differential settlement that seems more severe in the summer months than in the winter months, or if most of what you now see seems to have occurred in the last 12-18 months, then there is a good chance you are experiencing seasonal differential settlement which has been made worse by our current drought conditions.  This most often occurs due to drying of the soils supporting your foundation, causing the clays in the soil to shrink in a non uniform manner around the foundation.  This bends the foundation and damages the structure it supports.  This can be made significantly worse by a lack of consistent watering around your foundation, by the existence of heavy vegetation at the foundation, and large tree near the building.

If you are having problems with cracks in your sheetrock, separations in your siding, or doors that don’t fit, don’t call a foundation repair contractor, call us.  Professional Engineering Inspections can provide recommendations to either repair your foundation through improved maintenance and the use of root barriers or watering systems, or where necessary, implementation of pier or pile support.

Home Foreclosures May Jump 25% This Year

According to a recent article I read in Business Week magazine Online foreclosures are anticipated to be up as much as 25% over the next year.  This is expected to occur as legal scrutiny of foreclosure practices ease and the backlog of foreclosures is addressed.

If you are considering the purchase of a foreclosed property keep in mind that some of these properties are significantly distressed.  This may include foundation performance problems, deterioration of exterior surfaces such as the roof and siding, or other damage related to a general lack of proper maintenance of a long period of time.  As home owners struggle to pay their mortgage they often find themselves unable to maintain components of the home properly.  Failure to keep up with regular maintenance can take a toll on the structure in a short time especially related to foundation performance given our current drought conditions.

Let us help you determine the condition of the property you are purchasing.  Our consulting services allow us to provide a better understanding of the condition of property through inspection than a simple TREC licensed inspection contractor can provide.

Bloomberg Newsweek Article

Injuries Around the House

I was working around my house this weekend and managed a pretty good puncture injury working on my vehicle.  It made me think that my immunizations were not up to date and I ran down to my local clinic to get updated.  As an outdoorsman growing up in the country I normally manage to injure myself in a minor way at least once every 10 years, enough to remind me about updating my immunizations and you should consider it too.  This is especially true if you work in the garden.

If you work in the inspection field, are a builder, contractor, or just work around the house you should consult your doctor about the need and recommended frequency of immunizations to protect yourself against unnecessary illness due to minor injuries.


CDC Vaccines and Preventable Diseases:

Maintain Your Gutters

With all the rain we have gotten recently have you noticed the performance of your gutters?

Gutters are installed at the lower edges of the roof system to manage water runoff.  They collect the water as it runs off the building to make porches and sidewalks usable during rains.  A good gutter system can protect your home from premature deterioration of siding and trim, reduce the potential for water entry through the exterior walls and penetrations of your home, and help to maintain the foundation performance by properly directing water flow away from the foundation, preventing damaging erosion.  As we get into the rainy winter months and out of fall in our area, homeowners should schedule maintenance of their gutters.  It is at this time that that trees and shrubs are losing their leaves, which clog gutter systems.

It is recommended that your hire a general contractor or gutter installation and repair contractor to provide repair services above ground level due to the inherent dangers of working from the roof or from a ladder.  Working from a ladder requires proper training and improper use of a ladder or improperly completing high work can result in serious injury or death.

The things you should look for:

  1. Have your gutters checked for leaves and debris clogging the gutters.  It is good to check your gutters 2 to 3 times a year but especially in the fall and winter as the trees loose their leaves.  Clogged gutters will hold water and can become damaged due to excessive weight.  They will also allow excessive water to run over your cornice work and, over a long time, may result in premature rot of trim or the potential for water entry.
  2. Be sure to check the fascia board behind the gutters.  This is the board the gutters rest against.  Often these are made of wood and will rot with age.  They often get overlooked during painting if the gutters are not removed, which results in deterioration.  If rot is located, the gutters should be removed to allow repair of the fascia and any associated cornice work.
  3. Clean any debris off the roof system to ensure it will not get washed into the cleaned and repaired gutter system.
  4. During cleaning of you gutters, check the gutter system for proper slope to the downspouts.  This will ensure there is no standing water at the gutter system that can harbor mosquitoes during the summer months.
  5. The anchor points should be checked for loose or damaged anchors, which can allow the gutters to sag and hold water.
  6. Joints in the gutter system should be checked for leaks.  The best gutter systems are mostly continuous and have few joints.  Joints which do exist should be well secured with fasteners and sealed to prevent leaks.  If you notice water leaking from gutter joints during normal operation, have them checked.
  7. Check your gutter downspouts for damage.  This can include crushed gutters, gutters with missing downspout elbows, or downspouts that have become loose from the gutter or from the anchorage to the wall.
  8. Check the downspout discharge points.  They should discharge to a splash block or into an area drain system.  This will prevent erosion of soil at the foundation, which may affect foundation performance.  Generally, water should not be allowed to run or stand against the foundation.  You may also need to periodically check and clean the area drain system.

Take care of your gutters and they will help to make your house a comfortable and well maintained home.

FDS Rebuilds Homes in Joplin

Friends Disaster Service rebuilds home in Joplin after the tornados destroy them.  If you are looking to contribute to this cause contact FDS and donate time, resources, or funds.  I know this group personally and they are doing great work.  Check their web site here.

FDS Rebuilds Homes in Joplin

Photos From the Field - Catch Basin

Somtimes you cannot make it up.  This is a catch basin under a furnace penetration through the roof with a little cable TV wiring in the mix for fun.

Storm Damage in North Houston

Looks like some houses were damaged by the onging storms.   Let us know if we can help you evaluate and document the damage.

Images of Damage on 11 news.

Dealing With a Difficult Contractor

One of the email blasts I get weekly is from Angie's list.  This is a reference service you must subscribe to in finding contractors among other business offerings.  It appears to be a pretty good service for both businesses and members serving the function that the Better Business Bureau in a modern online format.

This week there was a video article discussing the art of dealing with contractors and how to make the experience go more smoothly.

Also check out our suggestions for selecting and dealing with contractors.

Tips on Choosing a Contractor

 

Cleaning Your Dryer Vent

Dryer vents are something that is not inspected as part of a residential home inspection and probably something that is often overlooked in general by a home owner.  Inspection requires invasive and destructive access to the vent system and is beyond the scope of a typical home inspection.  Clogging of a dryer vent is especially of concern where utility rooms may exist at the interior of a structure requiring long dry vent duct runs which are more prone to clogging over time.

Did you know that chimney sweeps clean dryer vents?  Lee Roff with Lord’s Chimney  does just that and sent me some interesting information on this subject.

According to information Mr. Roff sent me from a 2007 FEMA article:

  • Clothes dryer fires account for about 15,600 structure fires, 15 deaths, and 400 injuries annually.
  • Eighty percent of clothes dryer fires in structures occur in residential buildings.
  • Annually, 12,700 clothes dryer fires occur in residential buildings resulting in 15 deaths and 300 injuries.
  • “Failure to clean” is the leading factor contributing to clothes dryer fires in residential buildings.
  • New home construction trends place clothes dryers and washing machines in more hazardous locations away from ohttp://www.lintalert.com/utside walls such as bedrooms, second-floor hallways, bathrooms, and kitchens.

There is also a relatively new product that Lord’s Chimney is recommending on systems they clean called “Lint Alert”.  This product detects restrictions on a vent system and tells you when you need to have it inspected and cleaned due to increased backpressure.

Visit their link for more information: http://www.lintalert.com/

This information is good to have since many of us do not consider the dryer vent requires periodic maintenance to keep functioning and is not typically included in the scope of a home inspection.

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