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inspection report, home seller, home buyer

Home Inspection Report: Who owns it? Who gets to see it?

Our house is on the market. Last week a home inspection took place. Later the buyer backed out, but before we received a copy of the inspection report. Our realtor says that if we request a copy of that inspection report now, we are then obligated to share it with other buyers. Is that correct, or if we get the report, can we then retain it for our own information and use only? Thank you.

Our Answer

This is a legal question and I'm not a lawyer — but now that that's out of the way, in my 20+ years of experience as a home inspector, it's always been my understanding that the home inspection report is the property of the client that paid for it, which in your case is the home buyer.  Most real estate contracts do require however that if the buyer wants anything fixed, or chooses to back out as the result of that report, then the seller must be given the inspection report.

Now, as for your knowledge of it – the bigger issue is your knowledge of any defects.  If you know something is broken or damaged and don't disclose it, that would be fraud, in which case not selling your house will be the least of your worries.  I'd recommend you get the report, review it and then take action to fix anything that needs repair.  THEN, hire your own home inspector to be sure everything has been addressed (different inspectors can find different issues, based on a wide range of reasons).  Make sure whoever you hire is a member of The American Society of Home Inspectors, your best source to find a qualified pro.

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red paint, concrete

Learn to Repair and Paint Concrete Foundation Walls

I just purchased a new home with a solid poured concrete wall foundation. I am not looking to "finish" the basement, but I would like to paint the concrete foundation walls to brighten up and make the basement look clean.  Is there a material that I can use that would also fill in all the little holes in the concrete and paint the walls at the same time?

Our Answer

Solid concrete foundation walls are about as good as it gets for a strong base for your home.  The concrete walls themselves are not really designed to be a finished surface, as the steel forms leave ridges when they are removed, and small voids where air has settled in the concrete results in pock marks.  These ridges and pock marks, as well as even minor shrinkage cracks on the concrete foundation should be considered minor and mostly cosmetic.

Basement wall paints tend to be fairly thick and  no matter what you do, the concrete walls will not be silky smooth.  If the concrete wall has any large areas that need repair, I'd recommend the products from Quikrete.  These patches and fillers do a good job on repairing holes and voids in concrete. After the repair, you can paint the solid concrete foundation walls using paint specially formulated for concrete.

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washer, washing machine, garage

Can I Move My Washer and Dryer to My Garage?

I'd like to move my washer and dryer from my basement to my unheated garage.  Other than plumbing for the washer, do I need to do anything special beforehand, like add insulation to the space or heat it? My partner thinks it's a bad idea, but I have a hard time with the stairs to the basement, and there is no other room in the house that will fit them.  Also, I believe this will help dry up the basement and our poor little humidifier will finally get some relief!

Our Answer

There are a few very real deterrents to moving your washer and dryer to your garage:  First, I don't know what climate you live in, but yes - without additional heating - you risk water lines freezing in an unheated space. 

Since heating a garage quickly becomes expensive, even once it's insulated, you might find yourself spending far more money than you ever anticipated on clean clothes and convenience! But there's something else in your question that concerns me: Your mention of dehumidifying your basement by removing the washer and dryer.  This is an unwise motive.  If your dryer is properly vented, it shouldn't be contributing to basement moisture. 

If I were in your shoes, I'd concentrate on dehumidifying the basement by taking steps independent of the washer and dryer.  And if you really need to make the washer and dryer more accessible,  consider a stacked unit  - a dryer on top of a washer - that is more likely to fit in your closet or your kitchen.  There's a quality one from Santa Fe, and if that's too big, there are smaller appliances and models designed for apartments and compact homes.  Good luck!

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central air conditioning systems, HVAC

Air Conditioning Options: Choosing the Air Conditioning System That is Right for You

I would like to install air conditioning on the 1st floor of my 2 story home.  I have casement style windows that swing out so I can't install a window unit. I could install central air, but I don't use the 2nd floor of the house.  The windows are 10 yr old Anderson.  Should I replace 1 window with a double hung window so I can fit in an air conditioner or should I opt for central air?

Our Answer

My first choice for energy efficiency, as well as overall comfort in air conditioning options, would be to install a central air conditioning system.  Central air systems can be zoned so they will only cool one floor of the home and not both.  However, you certainly should plan on both and discuss that with your contractor as it may be less costly to install some of the ducting to get ready for cooling the second floor at some point in the future.

Another option might be to install a through-the-wall air conditioning unit.  Many of the larger air conditioning units are available with wall mounted sleeves.  To install, you'd need to cut a hole in the exterior wall and frame it out the same way you'd frame an opening for a window or door.  It is very important to do this correctly, as you will be impacting the structural integrity of the house.  Also, this type of system will very likely cause a heat loss in the winter, as it is very difficult to seal it to prevent cold air leaking in. 

A better air conditioning option, which cost-wise will be in between the cost of a central system and a through-the-wall mounted portable, might be a ductless split system.  I have Fujitsu system like this in my office and it works extremely well as a supplement to my central system, which doesn't fully extend into the office space.  With ductless air conditioning, you have a wall blower that hangs on the inside wall of your home.  This is connected via a refrigerant line to a small compressor which sits outside, just like a central system.  The compressor supplies chilled refrigerant to the blower inside, which circulates the cooled air.

Given the above air conditioning options, my choice would be (1) central; (2) ductless; and (3) through-the-wall. Regardless of what you ultimately decide with the air conditioning options, you should be certain to choose the most energy efficient unit possible.  The Department of Energy' has excellent to help you understand cooling efficiency and options.

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storage shed

Weatherproof Outdoor Storage: Choosing a Storage Shed for Extra Space and Protection of Your Belongings

I need an outdoor storage space that is weatherproof and low maintenance to store lawn and garden equipment and bicycles. Do you have any suggestions?

Our Answer

Homeowners are always looking for more storage space in and around the house, especially weatherproof outdoor storage. Often items like lawn mowers, power tools and pesticides are often kept in the garage, and wind up taking the space where the car should reside. Not only do they clutter the garage, but they can be especially hazardous to curious children who can get hurt by sharp tools or dangerous chemicals in their reach.

The good news is that there's a whole new generation of prefabricated sheds that are durable, lockable and more inexpensive and appealing than their predecessors. People don't have to be stuck with wood sheds that constantly need to be painted or treated for termites, or metal sheds that rust and warp over time. High-quality plastic sheds can be easily assembled and will both store and protect your belongings.

When selecting a weatherproof outdoor storage shed, select one constructed with steel-reinforced plastic, which is stronger and durable enough to protect your belongings from outdoor elements. Look for sheds with high-pitched roofs, allowing quick drainage of rain and snow, and special slip-resistant flooring helps keep homeowners safe. Screen vents and skylights allow for airflow while keeping pests out.

Outdoor storage sheds may also come with windows and lights so that it's easy to find things in the shed any time you need them. And some are also expandable so they can get bigger as your storage needs expand.  One tip: make sure you measure the area where you plan to put your weatherproof outdoor storage shed. The last thing you want is to get the shed home and then realize that it's too big to fit in the designated spot!

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cleaning, washer

High-Efficiency Washer: Reinforcing Floor

The manual for my high efficiency washer says I may need to reinforce the floor. What does this mean? New subfloor? How big a job is this? What can I expect to pay?

Our Answer

Generally speaking, if your floor is supporting its current use (a laundry area) and isn't otherwise rotting or in disrepair structurally, there is no reason why it needs to be reinforced.  However, high-efficiency washers can vibrate.  That is because the drum rotates much faster than a regular washing machine during the spin cycle.  It's very important that both the floor and the washer are level to minimize the vibration.  To remedy it further, you can get an anti-vibration pad to place under the washer.  There is a company called KE Shake-Away that makes a very good one. 

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Dishonest Waterproofing Company

I'm selling my house. The buyer had a mold remediation specialist in to check for mold. They are also a waterproofing company. We subsequently got slapped with a report that stated we had an ongoing water problem in basement, and that a full french drain system is needed (we already have a french drain leading to a sump pump - no mold found btw, and the original inspection said the basement was dry). I will be speaking with the waterproofing company soon. What questions can I ask to make sure the company clearly articulates the issue and reason for suggested remediation?

Our Answer

This scenario has conflict of interest written all over it!  First off, you are dealing with one of the most disreputable groups of contractors in the remodeling industry. Waterproofing company contractors ALWAYS recommend expensive solutions to wet basement problems that are almost always easily fixed with simple improvements to grading and gutter drainage.   And they do so by panic peddling an expensive solution, that is almost never needed.  They'll tell you your home will essentially collapse underfoot unless your get out your checkbook -- and fast.   

More recently, this slippery sub-section of the home improvement industry have also declared themselves "mold experts" which is rarely the case.  If pressed, I'd be shocked if they could produce any credible example of a certification, license, or degree that would truly qualify them as mold remediation experts.

In your case, it's even worse since it sounds very much like they are declaring a problem where none may exist. Plus, the solution they suggest is already installed!

My recommendation is to push back - hard - with the buyer. Let them know sending a contractor with a clear conflict-of-interest to proclaim a problem that will enrich their pockets isn't going to fly, especially when the very solution they recommend is already installed and where their own home inspector reported the basement as dry.  Tell them if they want to send in a State licensed structural engineer to do a proper inspection and submit a report signed and sealed by that engineer, you'll consider your options.  But otherwise, I'd refuse to do anything and find another buyer. 

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floor, cleaning, dust

Why Is My House Always Dusty?

When I dust my house in the evening, everything is covered again by the next morning.  Could the problem be stemming from the heat pump system? We've had the unit thoroughly cleaned inside and out, to no avail.

Our Answer

Consider upgrading or adding filters to your HVAC system to reduce the dust problem and improve air quality.  Filtrete makes a range of filters customizable to various issues from excess dust to allergies. However, your best solution - albeit a more expensive one - is an electronic air cleaner that can remove even virus-sized particles from the air.  It's mounted on a return duct and protects your home from mold and pollen - and will do a number on that dust!

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electric wire, fire

How Can I Test for Bad Wires?

I recently lost power to two rooms in my house. I've checked for those little switches above the electrical outlets, but there aren't any in my home.  I spoke to a relative who had me test a few things, and he said there is a bad wire somewhere in the wiring.  I would hire an electrician but we're trying to save money right now, so I'd rather do this myself.  Is there a device i can use to test the wiring in the house to find this bad wire?  Better yet, how should I go about doing this?

Our Answer

There's a reason electricians work for several years before earning their licenses: Electrical work is hazardous, especially in a situation like yours where you're trying to find a needle in a haystack. So while I understand your desire to save money by making this a DIY project, this is not the kind of undertaking I recommend trying on your own.  However, one simple thing you can do before calling a pro is pick up an outlet tester.  Outlet testers are inexpensive, and will let you know whether at least your outlets are wired correctly.  As for determining where that disconnect is, that's gonna take some detective work.

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EVP, floor, bathroom, laminate

What’s the Best Bathroom Flooring?

What is the best kind of laminate flooring to use in a bathroom?

Our Answer

Hey Karen, that's a great question. There have been many changes in laminate flooring over the last few years with one being that more and more laminate is now designed for wet locations like bathrooms.  That said, even water-resistant laminate is not capable of taking a prolonged soaking. The good news is that there are several other new and equally affordable options to consider.  

Engineered Vinyl Plank: Waterproof, kid-proof, pet-proof! Engineered vinyl plank (EVP) has a vinyl veneer with a rigid PVC core which makes it even easier to install. Plus the designs it is available in look as much like wood as the real thing.

Click Ceramic Plank: Whether your master bathroom is ready for a remodel or your kitchen needs a makeover, NEW Click Ceramic Plank (CCP) is ideal for any room in your home! These quick-locking ceramic based planks are easy to install – no grout or mortar needed. CCP is great for DIYers and the easy maintenance is a bonus.

These new vinyl and ceramic products look so much like the real thing, I'd skip laminate for a bathroom space and consider them instead.

Tom Kraeutler

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mosquito, trap

Best Bug Repellars?

Have you had any experience with electric ultra sonic bug repellers? If so do they work well for bug infestations?

Our Answer

I've never heard good things about so called "sonic" bug repellers of any kind.  Over the last two years however, I have become a very big fan of the DynaTrap Insect Trap.  Our home is located adjacent to wetlands where mosquitoes are very prevalent. Over the last two years I have used DynaTrap, we hardly had a single bite!

DynaTrap works differently than other mosquito products.  It emits a UV light that draws bugs close, and then CO(irresistible to mosquitoes) is released by the photo-catalytic reaction of Titanium Dioxide treated surfaces and UV-Light. Finally, a fan captures the insects and draws them into a screened in basket where they literally pile up.  If you get one, here's a tip -- plug it in and leave it on 24/7. Over time, it actually decreases the mosquito population, making it even more effective.

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gas stove, range, cooking

Electric to Gas Stove: Good Return on Investment?

We currently have an old electric stove and we are not sure if we should add a gas line and put in a gas stove. Would there be a good return on investment? Or, are electric stoves now more energy efficient and have more benefits than before?

Our Answer

Converting an electric to gas stove will result in a lower operating cost by about 26%, according to some gas conversion estimates, but like most things, its not that simple.  When factoring in the cost of a new gas stove appliance, it would take many, many years for any real savings to occur.  That said, since the electric stove is old and would need to be replaced soon anyway, now would be a good time to make the switch.

Other benefits would include reduced CO2 emissions and more precise control of your cooking temperature.  Plus, there may be rebates available from your local utility company.  My suggestion would be to contact the utility company next, and ask both about the rebates, as well as any costs to run the gas line to your home.  In my experience, so long as you are installing at least one gas appliance, there would be little to no charge from the utility company for hooking you up -- plus now you'll have another fuel option to consider when it comes time to replace your water heater or furnace too.

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dryer, duct, lint, fan

Dryer Duct Too Long

Recently bought my first house. Went to install my dryer and the duct has about 2 inches of lint all the way through it. There is about 60 feet of rigid and flex duct with a blower in the middle. My home inspector said the blowers are illegal due to the fire hazard. I want to avoid the fire hazard of the blower. At Home Depot I found a possible solution that is just 4 feet of flex duct that empties into a bucket that you put an inch of water into. However lint still goes everywhere and I've heard stories of the condensation caused by this causing mold. My dryer is located in the utility room in the basement and duct work runs along the ceiling and out the back of the house. There is no where else to move my dryer. What are your thoughts?

Our Answer

The dryer duct configuration you describe definitely sounds unsafe.  Dryers should be ducted via the shortest distance possible and through rigid ducting, with as few turns as possible.  Adding a booster fan is a possible solution but I'd make this a last resort.  Dryer duct booster fans are specialized fans designed to turn on and off with the dryer itself.  Ducting the vent into a pail of water is not a solution as the heat and humidity will be uncomfortable at best, and can also raise your energy bills and allow mold to grow.  Given everything you said, I'd look for another location for the washer and dryer.  Keep in mind that full sized-machines can also be stacked with the dryer placed on top of the washer to save space.

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Interior Painting Preparation: Three Steps to a Beautiful Finish

I'm about to tackle my first interior painting project and don't want to wind up with the same rough-looking results I've seen in other homes. What painting preparation steps do I need to take to make sure my interior painting project turns out well?

Our Answer

There are several interior painting preparation steps you'll need to take to make sure your painting project comes out perfectly, starting with preperation.  Many interior painting projects that have turned out badly are the result of a lack of interior painting preparation.  Too many times first-time painters get so excited about the new paint color that they skip over the "boring" parts of a proper paint job.

Here are the three basic interior painting preparation steps:

  1. Clean all surfaces. The first step in proper interior painting preparation is to scrub away any accumulations of smoke, oil and grime that can keep paint from adhering. Use liquid sandpaper to remove buildup from trim, and wash walls down with a TSP (trisodium phosphate) solution, available at most home centers and hardware stores. Tip: Apply the solution with a sponge-head floor mop for an easier reach and avoidance of ladder catastrophes.
  2. Smooth everything out. Once cleaned surfaces are completely dry, you'll need to smooth them out. This is where a lot of the painting preparation work happens, so don't skimp or get lazy with the details, because the new paint won't hide them. Fill all holes and cracks, followed by a thorough allover sanding and removal of the resulting dust. Then grab a really strong flashlight and hold it against and parallel to the wall to check your work. As the light bounces over the repaired area, you'll be able to see exactly how the surface will look when sunshine hits it. If this test reveals unsightly details, go back and smooth them before packing up the sander.
  3. Mask marvelously. Finally, you'll need to mask off everything you don't want painted and carefully create a clean edge for every coat of paint. For this preparation step, apply painter's tape along trim and glass edges, and use it in combination with plastic sheeting or masking paper to cover fixtures that can't be moved and large surface areas to be left out of the equation. Also remove switch and socket plates (followed by a bit of tape over remaining switches and plugs) and all possible hardware. Also important to your interior painting preparation is make sure the room temperature is below 90 degrees and above 55 so that paint goes on smoothly. Then begin the primer application, cutting in around edges and then filling in surfaces. After the primer is dry, apply your new paint shade in two rounds for a durable, beautiful finish that reflects the proper preparation you've put into your painting project.
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radon, radon gas

Where Should My Radon Vent End?

I just discovered that the radon vent in my two-year-old home ends in the attic, above the bedrooms. It is not vented to the outdoors. Is this okay? Thanks, Jan

Our Answer

Over the last several years, builders have been required to rough in radon mitigation systems in new homes.  This way, should high levels of radon be discovered, it's not too difficult to complete the installation of the radon vent.

That pipe you describe sounds like it was installed for that purpose. If a radon test revealed high levels of radon gas,  it would be connected to a fan and then extended through the roof to the outdoors.  The fan would pull the radon gas from under your basement floor to the home's exterior to keep you safe. 

How can you be sure your shouldn't be a functional radon mitigation system?   I recommend picking up one or two charcoal adsorpotion canisters, and follow the directions for testing.  Generally these are left in the lowest living area of the home for period of 2-7 days, then sent to a third party lab for analysis.  If radon levels exceed 4 picoCuries per liter of air, then completing that radon mitigation system would be warranted.