Hurricane Season is serious business on the Gulf Coast. The hurricanes affect residents from the coastal counties and extending many miles inland, causing severe property damage as the hurricane dissipates moving inland. DO NOT underestimate the ability of even a small hurricane to do serious damage and pose a serious hazard to life and safety. Damage can occur from both high winds, wind-driven water, rising water, and storm surge near the costal areas.
Consider this document as a basic primer about the things you should consider in preparation for hurricane season. Keep in mind that preparations will vary based upon the needs of you and your family, your location, and your home. You should contact your local city manager and office of Emergency Management for further information and recommendations specific to your area. Much of the information in this document was taken from resources found in the links at the end of this document. These links have been included at the end of this document to help you to find additional information.
The following recommendations should be considered at the start of hurricane season.
The following recommendations should be considered in the event a storm is imminent in your area.
If you choose the stay during a storm you should only do so if a mandatory evacuation order has not been issued. If one is issued, leave immediately:
The following links are provided to allow you to collect more information on being prepared for a disaster such as a hurricane.
Texas Department of Emergency Management: www.txdps.state.tx.us/dem
Galveston Country Office of Emergency Management: www.gcoem.org
Brazoria County Office of Emergency Management: www.brazoria-county.com/em/index.asp
Harris County Office of Emergency Management: www.hcoem.org
Developing Emergency Plans and Kits: www.texasprepares.org
Evacuation Plans: www.fema.gov/plan/prepare/evacuation.shtm
Zip Code Zone Evacuation Information: www.gcoem.org/content/view/138/145
Houston Road Conditions: traffic.houstontranstar.org/layers/
Texas Road Conditions: www.dot.state.tx.us/travel
Texas DOT Hurricane Information: http://www.dot.state.tx.us/travel/hurricane.htm
For many of the residents of the Houston area, watering your foundation is critical to its health. The expansive soil which exists to some extent throughout the greater Houston area shrinks as it dries and causes differential settlement which results in the cracks in the brick, sheetrock, and damage to the structure which often leads to the need for foundation repair. Often preventing such damage is as simple as watering your foundation.
Recently a competitor of mine here in the Houston area published a video on how a home owner can setup a simple watering system to get water to the foundation effectively. The video is pretty good and should be of use to my clients which makes it worth sharing here even if I did not create it. The only suggestion I wish to make is that in most cases in the Houston area the use of a pressure regulator and removal of the flow restrictor disks as shown in the video is not a necessary expense. This is my opinion based upon testing and experience and results may vary. Also I do not recommend runs longer that 75 feet, and 50 feet is normally considered optimal for this type of setup. You should also consider burying the soaker hose a few inches below the soil to prevent mower damage. This can be done by inserting a spade in the soil and creating a separation by rocking it to create a small channel you can stuff the hose into without actually digging.
Keep in mind that in some cases there area also concerns such as the need for root barriers and improvements in drainage which will drastically affect the performance of a watering system but those are beyond the focus of this video. If you want a commercial system installed, check our links page. The system shown in the video requires a great deal of maintenance and should be checked weekly to insure it is working and that components have not failed including the soaker hose.
The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) has released a white paper on corrosive drywall (CDW) found to have been used in some U.S. homes built or renovated starting in approximately 2001 through approximately 2007. Most of the complaints related to CDW have occurred in Florida, Louisiana, and Virginia, although there have been reports of complaints in other states, as reported by the Florida Department of Health. Noxious odors (e.g., smell resembling a burnt match), visible corrosion of copper and silver items, and health concerns have been associated with the installation of drywall.
The document briefly indentifies the problems which are believed to be caused by CDW, suggestions on evaluation, discussion of remediation with comments on the known data, and suggestions for more research. Citations are provided throughout the document to support the provided data and to allow for further research on the subject matter. The intent of the document is to help to clarify existing information and provide recommendations to promote future research in all areas of this problem.
I have read the paper through, but I have not attempted any critical review based upon the citations; however, based upon a review of this document, it is clear that it is difficult and impractical in some cases to fully evaluate a home under consideration for purchase for this type of defect. Evaluation for this type of defect exceeds most, if not all, standards of practice for a visual inspection by engineers and home inspectors and, clearly, there are problems in detection even when air quality experts attempt to find and quantify suspected problems. Even a minimal evaluation during a home inspection would require disassembly of components in a home at representative locations or of equipment which is not normally disassembled. In some cases, a licensed technician is necessary to perform such disassembly for an adequate evaluation. Further information in the document stresses the need for a maintenance history of the building to detect problems because off-gassing and its damaging effects may not be consistent, and the resulting odors or damages may not be apparent at the time of evaluation. It is difficult enough to get basic information on the age of the roof and history of known defects, such as foundation repairs, so it is doubtful such a history will be available from most homeowners.
The document is clear to point out that there is a lack of clear and specific scientific information due to difficulties in field testing inherent to the problem of CDW. This is apparently the point of the paper, that there is a specific need for coordination in the community to tackle this complex problem.
Did you know that not all contractors have the credentials they claim to have, including inspectors? This raises the question as to how to check on the credentials of the person providing your inspection services. Aside from state licensing agencies, it appears there is little in the way of tools to quickly and cheaply verify a contractor’s credentials. Although may list them such verification is often not provided by trade associations or business affiliation and, thus, relies on a buyer’s own due diligence to investigate.
If you Hire an Engineer
If you hire an engineer to provide your inspection as an engineer then they should be licensed by the Texas Board of Professional Engineers and should be able to provide you with a license number. In Texas, an individual cannot hold themselves out as an “Engineer” or provide “Engineering Services” without a valid license or without a firm registration. The board has set up access to a search tool on their web site which allows you to check the existence and status of an individual or company’s licensure status. These credentials can be verified online at:
Search Texas Board of Professional Engineers Licensure
If you Hire a TREC Inspector
If you have hired an inspector licensed by the Texas Real Estate Commission, you can visit their site and do a search for your inspector based upon their license number. This will give you information on the status of a TREC inspector’s license. If you have interest, you can also do a search of Realtor license numbers. When doing your search be sure you select the correct search database with the options selection since Realtor and inspector databases are searched independently. Incorrectly selecting a box will result in a blank search result.
Search TREC Licensure (page is slow)
Be careful of how an individual’s credentials are presented. There are some TREC inspectors who may claim they have an engineering background or a degree in engineering, with no way to verify this information. If an individual does not claim to be an “engineer” but only claims to have engineering education, they can elude the engineering boards’ interest. There is no easy way to verify education credentials without doing a costly background check, and most schools in Texas do not appear to directly verify attendance or to pursue those who may misrepresent their school record. Some degreed engineers will keep a copy of their transcripts for review, but I suspect this is rare.
When it looks like we are about to get into some freezing weather, the first thought that comes to mind is if you have adequately protected your home. You may have some special considerations for your home, depending upon what systems you have and how they are configured; however, this should get you moving in the right direction. Whether a system needs protection beyond these recommendations is beyond the scope of this document, so be sure to consult with your plumber or other professional who is familiar with your system and needs.
The needed degree of protection will be very dependent upon the age of your home, (and thus the quality of built-in protection), as well as the temperatures and the duration of the low temperatures expected.
Probably the most urgent need that comes to mind is protection of the pipes in your home. This may be less of a concern in newer construction where the pipes are normally more thoroughly protected. In general, you want the pipes to be sufficiently protected to prevent loss of heat so they don’t get so cold they freeze. In older homes, this may include the need to insure the pipes at the attic, outside fixtures, crawlspace, and garage are protected because, frequently, they are not. Don’t forget locations such as outdoor kitchens or quarters. In very old homes where insulation may not exist in the walls containing pipes, and depending upon how cold it is expected to get, this may be more of a problem.
Secondary to the pipes in your home is plumbing in your yard such as pools, fountains, sprinklers, etc. These should be protected and are much more vulnerable to freezing since they rely mainly on the energy from the ground for protection. Running pumps for pools or fountains where the water can take on energy from the ground to keep it above freezing can be effective if it can be assured that all plumbing is in use. Where this cannot be assured, insulation should be applied with care that pumps are kept free of obstructions, which could affect proper cooling. Sprinkler systems should have exposed plumbing well insulated.
If you must leave your home unoccupied for an extended period during the freeze, consider leaving on the heat sufficient to prevent freezing of the water at the fixtures and at the walls and attic. If you cannot do this, then winterize the house by draining the water from the plumbing system and adding an antifreeze to plumbing traps.
Be sure your heating systems are in good and safe operating conditions. By this time you may have already had them checked and have been running them. If not, plan to have your winter service to be sure the equipment is safe to run.
Before the Freeze
If you must leave your house:
If Your Pipes Freeze
The following articles outline the common construction defects found during inspections in the Houston area. Due to the nature of some defects you should recognize that in some cases it is difficult to detect certain defects even when looking for them and they may not be readily apparent until some degree of failure has occurred. Often early dectection would require disassebly also known as "destructive testing" which most inspection companies do not perform during a visual inspection if at all.
In each article I will try to help you to detect these problems and understand a possible solution. You should always consult a professional to best understand specific problems since the best method of repair in any situation is most often dictated by the actual configuration of the construction being assessed.
Over the years I have inspected a number of whirlpool tubs in homes. The ones I typically see are have been used for years and often when they are turned on debris are ejected out of the jets as a result of organic growth in the plumbing system. This almost always prompts my clients to question how tubs should be cleaned.
Most manufacturers provide specifications for cleaning. As a result of questions I have gotten on this subject I have prepared a list of informational links and documents on this page. If you have comments or further information please submit them either through your account or on the "Contact Us" page and I will be glad to include useful information.
by: Jessy Norman
Whatever your home improvement needs - large or small - you need a professional contractor you can trust. A contractor who will provide you with sound advice on products, reasonable explanation of procedures, and, most important solid results. It's difficult to determine the capabilities and reliability of a contractor. That's why this was prepared - a simple, step-by-step guide designed to help you find the contractor right for you.
Step 1: where to begin
Any home improvement is a complex combination of elements, the success of which depends on the quality of materials, installation, and over-all construction. There are many ways to start your search for the contractor who meets your individual needs. Referrals are obviously the best source for names of credible companies. Ask friends and family members who they have used in the past. Contact your local chamber of commerce about contractors who are active in the community The Better Business Bureau, state and local licensing authorities, local trade associations, and your local yellow page directory are also excellent sources of information. Also, local suppliers of building products.
STEP 2: meeting and evaluating potential contractors
After you have compiled a list of possible contractors, take time to evaluate each one carefully A professional contractor will be happy to provide any information you may require. Many homeowners have been mystified by the seeming lack of interest and response from the contractors they call. To get a contractor to respond to your call, tell him you are shopping around, but are only interviewing three contractors, not ten. A contractor is shopping for good jobs that will make a fair profit and bring future referrals. Many contractors have had experiences with unreasonable or dishonest homeowners. Therefore, they look for warning signs of customer problems during the initial job interview.
Set up a meeting to discuss your needs and their qualifications, and be sure to pay close attention to the attitude of the company representative. Good contractors take pride in their work and will be enthusiastic about the possibility of helping you with your problems. If you feel confident that the contractor is truly interested in your project, ask for the company's vital statistics - specific business information which will help you make your final decision.
|Business Name and Address:||A good, professional contractor will provide the telephone number. These are essential when checking on the company's previous business dealings.|
|Experience:||The training and experience of a contractor, as well as the age of his or her company, will help you determine its ability to successfully complete your project.|
|Licensing/Bonding:||Some states require special licensing for contractors. Ask for business license numbers and information on the company that bonds the contractor. Then check with local authorities to see that the company complies with regulations.|
|Insurance Coverage:||A contractor should carry worker's compensation and general liability insurance. Request the name and address of the insurance carrier, along with a copy of the company's insurance certificate. Beware of low bids which are a result of incomplete insurance coverage and workmen's compensation.|
|Professional References:||Your contractor's past can help determine your future.Ask for credit references, banking information, and a list of completed projects including the names and telephone numbers of previous clients.|
|Company Philosophy:||Discuss application techniques and workmanship guarantees. Does the contractor stand behind his work?|
Step 3: utilizing the contractor's product knowledge
Your contractor should have up-to-date knowledge on quality products for your project. He or she is the best source of information, but you should play an active role in the product selection process. Ask questions about different materials Such as brand names, life span, thickness, design, available colors and warranties. Selecting the best products is as important to your job as selecting the right contractor.
Step 4: Understanding and negotiating the contract
Prior to drafting a contract, most contractors will provide you with either an estimate or a proposal. An estimate typically provides a single price, a generically described product, a color, and no options. A proposal offers more detail with a choice of products by brand name, prices, services, and designs. A proposal will normally offer options good, better and best - and include product samples and literature. A contractor who takes the time to prepare a good proposal will most likely do a more thorough job. All items to be accomplished should be written as part of your contract. Get it in writing. Beware of verbal promises. When a contract is presented, it should spell out the proposed work, prices, and completion date. Read the contract carefully Misunderstandings are the most common cause of contract disputes. Pay special attention to be certain that at least the following points are covered in the contract. Building permits - what's necessary? Consider local ordinances, costs, posting requirements. Start and completion dates - including plan of action in case of weather delays. Products materials - what will be used, brands, colors, etc. Protect Inspections and number of inspections, completion timetable Site procedures - work hours, clean-up procedures on and around your home, safety precautions, etc. Warranties - including both workmanship and product. Terms - detailed -as method and timing of payment to include a lien waiver upon final payment.
Liens - you should be aware that under the laws of most states, a contractor who does work on your home, or a supplier of materials for such work, has a right to place a lien on your property Make sure all essential elements of your agreement are written down and understood by both parties.
Also, require the contractor to inform you of who his supplier will be along with any subcontractors that will be used on the job. Either pay them yourself or require that you have a receipt showing they have been paid before paying your contractor.
Right-to-rescind - providing the right to cancel the contract without penalty within a set period of time (usually three days).
Step 5: sit back and relax
A little well-planned research up front will undoubtedly save you a lot of time and trouble later on. Once you feel confident that you have the best contractor, the best products, and the best value simply relax and let your contractor do his job. Do, however monitor the progress of your project to be certain your contractor lives up to his superior reputation. Hopefully this information will simplify the task of choosing a professional contractor.
Jessie Srader is a Houston roofing contractor A special thanks for sharing this information and making it available.
From the June 1997 issue of "The ASHI Reporter"
|PASS ALONG:||ASHI Members and Candidates are welcome to duplicate this and pass it along to their customers, when a appropriate. However, the material should not be edited or otherwise amended in any other, fashion, and credit should be given to the author and to the Reporter.|