Why a good contractor is hard to find

Posted on 17. Nov, 2015 by in Caring for your Home, Home Improvement

Tim Allen: enthusiastic amateur

Home improvement is not as easy as it looks. Homes are unique, not commodities like facial tissue or breakfast cereal. Homes differ in age, the number character occupants, improvements, orientation, methods of construction, and materials. One size or solution rarely fits.

 

DIY stores have become part of American culture

Home repair and improvement demand equal amounts of brainpower and physical strength. Visible defects are only the tip of the iceberg. The true extent of damage remains hidden until the project is underway. Constant revision is the norm. Even experienced contractors need to make multiple trips to Home Depot.

No Rules, DIY, Ignorance, Indifference, Cowboys and Economics

 

Building Science guru Joe Lstiburek explains how to keep water out of walls

The first rule in home improvement is that there are no rules in home improvement 
Nominal oversight is absent from many projects. Unlike commercial construction licensure, permits and insurance are an option, not a requirement.

No BS is bad for Business

Many in the home improvement industry do not understand Building Science; the study of interaction between occupants, the building, and forces of nature. This diagnostic tool is essential. If you don’t understand the source of the problem you probably will spend your time fixing symptoms again and again.

You can do it, we can help
Home Depot helped popularize Do It Yourself (DIY) home repair. The public perceives home contractors as fundamentally simple-minded like the Tim Allen character on the show Home Improvement. The real world is different. My inspection reports document defects that arise when amateurs are confronted with professional level projects.

There ain’t no app for this

Have you got an App for that?
I use my computer to research home improvement videos, text, and specs.  Home repair apps are touted as the Uber of home repair. The underlying assumption behind these apps is that information is all you really need.

Wild Wild West
Cowboy Contractors make a point to assert their independence. They don’t care much about customer service, appearance, timeliness, responsiveness and documents. They’re independent, proud of it, and if you don’t like they way they work that’s your problem, not theirs.

Macro-Economics
When the building boom collapsed in 2008 talent, especially young talent, left the construction industry. According to linked report they haven’t returned.

Where Did All the Construction Workers Go?

Franchises and Trade Associations

How to decide which product or service really works for you?

Home Improvement franchises follow the same principles as other types of franchising:
Individuals or groups buy and operate the business and pay the franchisor advertising and management fees. Improvements typically come with a warranty. People feel less at risk with a large, brand-name company.

 

Some products work in the short term then fail over time

Trade associations set standards, promote training and lobby for favorable policy and regulations. They’re also in the business of business. Their goal is to help their members succeed professionally and financially.

Square Pegs and Round Holes

Franchises develop uniform products or services. Homes aren’t uniform, they’re unique. While franchise methods work in most situations sometimes they don’t.

 

Moisture managed: whole house dehumidifier with fresh air intake

Overhead
Franchisers have to pay their sales and office staff, warranty and legal expenses, taxes and other costs associated with their business. Trade-offs for the increased cost of franchise-provided home improvements are less risk, better service, and a quality product.

Failure to Launch
Some products and services fail to meet claims made by the manufacturer or provider, especially over time. Some may appear useful on display but fail to deliver. Sales staff may be more interested in their commission than solving their clients problems.

Trade Groups find profits in new rules
Some construction industry associations use revisions in the building code and industry standards to generate new business. Revising standards is normal. Identifying previously acceptable systems as hazards needing costly repair is, to this inspector, problematic. Is the intention of new standards to improve safety or to generate income for members? The line between the two is sometimes blurred.

Save-a-lot: Stick with the Basics

For what it’s worth
Many of us are hardwired to be cheap. If you want quality you’ve got to pay for it.  Not a fortune, but enough to cover the cost of the project, including profit. Be aware that low bids may equate with low quality.

 

 

“Yelped” now the vernacular

Help, I’ve been Yelped!
Contractor referral websites can be a valuable resource. But be aware that reviews, good and bad, are easily falsified. Dissatisfied customers post more reviews than satisfied ones. Some companies attack their competitors with negative reviews and/or post multiple positive reviews about themselves. For many contractors the rush be page one Google is no longer the main marketing goal.

 

Assess first, then repair
Building Science informs us that identifying causes, not symptoms is key. Mold is caused by excessive moisture. The permanent solution for mold problems is to remove the source of moisture before you treat the mold.

Deferred Maintenance
Some repairs require immediate repair. But it’s cheaper to replace an appliance, fixture or component before a crises occurs. Check the age and condition of your appliances. Look in your attic and under the home. For an overall review of your home’s systems and components consider a maintenance home inspection.

DeKalb will pay you 100 dollars towards replacing an old toilet like this

To many things there is a season
Don’t expect to get a great deal on an A/C unit in mid-summer, a chimney in mid-winter, a drainage system in the midst of a flood or a sprinkler system in the midst of a drought. Work tends to be cheaper and is definitely finished sooner in the off-season.

Freebies and New Efficiencies
We’re getting a 50 dollar check for our old refrigerator including free pickup. Georgia Power and other utilities offer rebates for this and other energy-related improvements. DeKalb county has a toilet rebate program. Improved technology can save you money over long term. Paybacks for efficient light bulbs, water heaters and washing machines are well worth the investment.

 

Look around your house for deferred maintenance or get a professional home inspection

Bottom Line: Do your Home Work before you write that check

 

  • The larger and more costly the repair, the more research needed.
  • When in doubt: Google it
  • Handyman are great for small jobs, large firms for big ones 
  • Be aware of issues with franchises, trade groups and online apps and referrals
  • Ask friends and neighbors who they’ve used
  • Follow the three bid rule, more as needed
  • Use reputable organizations like BBB and AARP to find out more
  • Lists and contact information must be current  

Good contractors can be hard to find. And some prefer it that way. 

2014 So Far: The Good, the Bad, and the Future

Posted on 03. Oct, 2014 by in Architecture, Building Science, Caring for your Home, Eco-Inspector, Energy, Ethics, New Homes, Older Homes

The end of spring/summer real estate season is time to catch up on personal business, analyze trends and plan ahead.

Armed with flashlight, screwdriver and little gray cells here’smy look around the housing industry

Mega-trends

I’ve worked for up-and-coming multi-degreed professionals, investors, software engineers/designers/managers, medical professionals, first-time buyers, retirees, divorced and widowed persons; everyone except my main source of income; the middle-middle class.   Many homes are still underwater…. there are mega-reasons it’s taking Atlanta so long to recover:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/02/28/how-the-recession-turned-middle-class-jobs-into-low-wage-jobs/  

Commons place with View

Atlanta

Accessible Atlanta is fact, and not just with Millennials.  Walkable Urban Places, WalkUPs, are where the money is: http://www.smartgrowthamerica.org/2013/10/03/new-report-reveals-historic-shift-in-real-estate-demand-in-atlanta-ga/

Codes and Safety: avoid the 200F wall

Contractors, Permits and Appraisals 

Most inspection defects aren’t the fault of reputable contractors-they’re caused by homeowners who believe they can do it with just a click of the mouse and a trip to the big box DIY store. http://www.freep.com/story/sponsor-story/hire-it-done/2014/09/26/contractors-are-people-too/16258659/

Un-licensed homeowners, flippers and jackleg contractors cost morein the long run.  Here’s a list of trades requiring licensure.  http://www.contractors-license.org/ga/Georgia.html

Revised appraisal rules taking locally established professionals out of their literal areas of expertise, are a mixed blessing
http://realestate.msn.com/article.aspx?cp-documentid=21080260

Licensed plumbers know sewer should drain downhill

Water Conservation, Energy Efficiency, Healthy Home

The oft-misunderstood DeKalb Water Conservation Ordinancediscussed in detail:  http://dekalbrealtors.com/realtor-tools/

Energy improvements offer above-market returns, not to mention healthier air and better comfort.  Here’s a link to certified energy contractors http://www.bpi.org/tools_locator.aspx?associateTypeID=CT 

Whole-house dehumidifier at Villa Curl also provides a dedicated source of fresh air

 

 

 

 

 

Builders get the first part of the “Build it tight, ventilate it right”equation, they’ve yet to master the second.  Here’s a good first step to understand how to breathe easy.
http://www.southface.org/ez/media/gapoweriaqbooklet.pdf

 

Next time:  History Lesson:  Why 1995 was the 9/11 for Atlanta housing.

Put in a good word for Dan Curl and Comprehensive Home Inspections at Google Review
https://plus.google.com/105379744050065013937/about

 

Letters Home

Posted on 16. Aug, 2014 by in Architecture, Building Science, Caring for your Home, Eco-Inspector, Energy, Ethics, General, Healthy Home, Heating and Air-Conditioning, Nature, New Homes, Older Homes

Moore’s Law in practice: Duct system zone control motherboards that used to cost 9000 are now 400

Inspectors typically work Point of Sale transactions.  A lot of what we do gets lost in the buyers rush to negotiate, move and settle. Here are my reasons to schedule aMaintenance Inspection every 6-9 years.

The science of how we build and live in homes is changing.  Materials, methods and lifestyle all have an impact on function and durability.

 

The Whole Enchilada: Electric code now requires upgraded mains, panel, breakers, wiring and fixtures. Main panel should have been moved during this kitchen renovation

IT makes for affordable components and systems. There’s no reason to assume that the way we build homes will remain unchanged while the world around us is speeding along at the rate of Moore’s Law

Because of bureaucratic hassle obtaining a building permit in metro Atlanta may be considered an option, not a requirement.  Most Building Codes are updated every three years.  Significant codes changes respond to major disasters or building component failures.

 

Dirty cooling fins reduce efficiency and appliance life

A home built or renovated to code is worst structure you can legally build. Go below that minimum at your own risk.  Exceed it and you’ll benefit in the long run.

Systems and components last an average 6-15 years.  Simple and easy maintenance extends service life

Latent, long-developing defects due to sunlight, heat and moisture are less noticeable and, eventually, more costly to repair

 

 

Moisture wicking through foundation wall makes a moldy basement and reduced wall strength

Additions, renovations and energy upgrades alter the movement of heat, air and moisture inside the home. Good time for an inspection.  Not going to move?  Don’t count on it.  I inspect Never-gonna-move-again homes all the time.

The culture of how we build communities is changing:  http://wabe.org/post/what-do-you-do-broken-suburb.  Keeping up with the Jones is more about re-sizing and lifestyle options.

 

 

 

Not Good Housekeeping. Are you using your mechanical closet for storage?

Lost in Translation:  “the idea that houses can loved and beautiful…..has been reduced to a grim business of facts and figures, an uphill struggle against the relentless urge of technology and bureaucracy, in which human feeling has almost been forgotten.”  Buildings, especially homes, should speak the character and aspirations of their owners.  A home can be more than just new countertops.

Homeowners, builders and realtors may not know all that is, and is becoming, aboutHow Homes Work. That’s my job, let me help.

 

 

House-smart realtor Peggy Desiderio noticed a knothole-split deck stair stringer

Applied Building Science. Adjacent crawl vent feeds moist 93F air onto a 55F supply air duct. The result: 100% saturated subfloor and mold

New methods, durable materials. Moisture barrier and weather-resistant stainless steel exhaust housing

 

 

Postcards from the field

Posted on 30. Jul, 2014 by in Building Science, Caring for your Home, Eco-Inspector, Energy, Healthy Home, Heating and Air-Conditioning, Older Homes

These recent intown Atlanta inspections put my understanding of building science to the test

Nowhere to run: organic clays do not drain

1.  Poor Drainage

A reputable builder purchased mid-block properties in an older neighborhood.  Local ordinance required he dispose of roof and surface moisture on-site, not to the storm sewer.  He built a comfortable, durable and efficient Earthcraft home.  This property and adjacent lots contain large amounts of organic clay soil. Organic clays do not disperse water, they adsorb it.  My client has a wonderful house and a permanently wet yard.  The builder has a problem:  he’s built himself into a wet corner.

Spliced knob and tube wiring is a fire hazard. Bathroom exhaust is not vented outside. Note that exhaust is directed through the recessed light fixture and further degrades the cloth-covered wiring

2.  Faulty Wiring

While inspecting an infill home in East Atlanta the A/C circuit breaker kicked off.  When reset it kicked again.  I’ve seen the tripped breaker, flickering light, crazed electronic poltergiest before:  voltage drop from loose service main conductors caused a compensatory spike in amperage tripping the breaker.  A bootleg tap (unapproved connection to the public power supply), proved to be the poltergiest.  Make your electrician pull a permit for major improvements.

 

 

Amateur repairs below the chimney were hidden by drywall. Unless properly supported roof framing in this area will eventually fail

3.  Roof Leaks:  The Chimney Cricket and the Soft Wall 

A chimney cricket is a small false roof built behind a chimney on the main roof to divert rainwater away from the chimney.  While inspecting I found a cricket, new metal crown, newer shingles and new siding.  All good, right?  After closing the my client’s painter noted “soft” drywall at the room below the chimney.  Further investigation revealed amateur wall framing repair.

 

This furnace vent connector is blocked by fallen masonry where it enters the chimney compromising both function and occupant safety

4.  Unsafe Heating System

Equate gas appliance operation to a fire: everything’s good as long as there’s plenty of combustion air to feed the flames and an open flue to disperse the byproducts of combustion.  Finished basements rarely provide enough combustion air-especially when gas appliances are closeted.  Gas appliances vented into unlined chimneys are readily blocked by fallen bricks.  The solution for both is to install direct-vent appliances.  They’re designed to draw combustion air from and vent exhaust to the outside.

Moisture from the unvented dryer affects comfort and health: high moisture levels are uncomfortable and conducive to mold growth

5.  Poorly Maintained

We’re all guilty of procrastination when it comes to home maintenance.  Left undone deferred repairs will not only kill a sale, they often lead to expensive repairs.  Always change your furnace filter-when it gets dirty. Install the 4″ pleated fabric type for best results.   Clean your dryer vent inside and outside.  Never vent the dryer inside or under your house.  Replace plastic dryer vents with metal, they’re a fire hazard.  Don’t vent dryers near your A/C unit.

 

 

 

20 years after copper laterals were replaced the vertical galvanized fixture legs are failing

6.  Minor Structural Damage

Understand the redundant method of wood construction:  each repetitive framing member supports and is dependent upon the others around it.   One rafter or joist failure may not lead to an immediate system failure yet progressive failure will occur if the damaged structure is not repaired.  Make sure your contractor understands construction-no amateurs!

 

The lack of external pressure reduction valve and internal thermal expansion device coupled with a rusted-shut water heater safety valve is a potentially explosive situation!

7.  Plumbing Problems

When galvanized piping fails plumbers replace the laterals-the horizontal sections of piping below the home.  They do not replace the main line or or vertical legs (shorter sections run up through walls) unless they’ve failed.  And fail they will, 20 years on.  I called out compromised flow and fouled faucets in an otherwise acceptable 94 year old Virginia Highlands bungalow.Rusted-shut temperature and pressure relief valves are an all too common and potentially explosive safety issue.  Manage water piping pressure with reduction valves, thermal expansion devices and water hammer arrestors. And make sure your water heater relief valve is operable.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sMDTEjJUImw

 

 

8.  Window Woes

After the painter has gone verify at least one window per bedroom is operable.  If there’s a fire you need to get out quick.  Windowsills are by definition exposed to heat and moisture.  Keep them in good repair, especially newer finger-jointed lumber. Double-pane window seals fail faster when exposed to direct sunlight.  There are several lawsuits pending against manufacturers of vinyl and metal-clad wood windows, they rot.  Give your window frames a squeeze.

9.  Inadequate Ventilation

Build it tight but don’t forget to ventilate it right  Whole house and thermostatic exhaust fans are out-they create negative pressure within the building. Install passive roof exhaust like ridge vents and turbines. Negative pressure induced when running exhaust fans, especially in tightly built homes, should have a replacement mechanism.  Here’s one solution: http://www.aircycler.com/

There is no provision to replace air combustion and makeup air and the mechanical closet is stuffed with Volatile Organic Compounds (paint cans)

10.  Environmental Hazards

My client, who had a history of respiratory sensitivity, decided she didn’t want  to purchase a home that made her sick, no matter how nice it looked.  My analysis revealed inadequate ventilation and the presence of Volatile Organic Compounds in a tightly built, beautifully appointed Brownstone.

A comprehensive, whole-house approach informed by Building Science gives me the tools I need to assess the condition of your home, old or new, big or small.  Reach me at www.dancurlhomeinspector.com 

Cool in June

Posted on 17. Jun, 2014 by in Architecture, Building Science, Caring for your Home, Eco-Inspector, Energy, Healthy Home, Heating and Air-Conditioning, Nature

The Streetlight Effect: convenience trumps reality

Thermostat Wars and The Streetlight Effect

Too much A/C gives me sinusitis, too little and I can’t sleep.  You may be comfortable at 79, but it’s 78 for me. Family beach week is a constant battle between the 70F-crew and grumpy uncle Dan.
Individual comfort depends very much on the specific needs of the comforted. How homeowners solve cooling deficiencies depends upon their understanding of the problem. When I see a fan in every room during an inspection I consider the Streetlight Effect.

The Streetlight Effect 

The easy fix is tempting.  The quite human tendency to accept the most convenient solution is known as The Streetlight Effect
http://io9.com/5983112/how-the-streetlight-effect-keeps-scientists-in-the-dark

Ceiling fans (Air velocity) is just one of six comfort metrics. 
http://www.hse.gov.uk/temperature/thermal/factors.htm

Common Cooling Fixes: 

More fans may be a simple answer but not the right solution

Appliances:  Rule of thumb load calculations and latent discomfort

Rule of Thumb vs Load Calcs
Determining appliance size and duct layout with default measurements from what was done on the previous job is a Streetlight Effect shortcut.  Make your HVAC installer perform appliance and duct load calculations to determine the correct amount of energy it takes to heat and cool.  Too big, small, fast or slow may compromise comfort. Software makes the math easy.  Meet the Code, do load calcs 

Over-Loads: 500 square foot vaulted west-facing addition with 12 windows and 3 skylights

 

It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity  Latent heat control is the key to comfort.  Opt for dehumidifiers and variable speed appliances. Unmanaged humidity is conducive to mold.
http://www.buildingscience.com/documents/bareports/ba-0214-conditioning-air-in-the-humid-south-creating-comfort-and-controlling-cost

Building Enclosure:  Don’t let living large=costly discomfort

Fouled filters are the HVAC equivalent of going for run with sock stuffed down your throat

 

Big homes don’t have to be energy-expensive and uncomfortable.  Atlanta has a corps of energy-savvy design and installation experts trained to fix problems like:

  • Energy-hogging FROGS (family room over garage)
  • Hot-topped, cold-bottomed split level homes
  • Vaulted, glass-walled, skylit BIG ADDITIONS 
  • Burning Hot Poptop attic conversions

Atlanta’s Southface http://www.southface.org/ is a clearing house for energy efficient, healthy design

Use industry standards for comfort and health

Don’t monkey around with Ducts

Obsess about furnace filters.  Dirty filters are bad for airflow, equipment, and air quality
Balance airflow with larger, strategically located return air openings
Support and straighten ducts. Crushed and sagging ducts slow airflow and dehumidification. 

Holes in pressurized duct systems blow your dollars away.   Secure and seal ducts and plenums
Take it inside  Ducts and equipment in 150F Hotlanta attics are 45% less efficient than those in conditioned space

Cooling comfort is attainable and sustainable.  Contact a comfort-smart independent inspector who knows his BS……before you buy that next fan.

A Question of Balance

Posted on 23. May, 2014 by in Architecture, Building Science, Caring for your Home, Eco-Inspector, Healthy Home

Five small windows work where one big one would not. Reflected light on the counter and island complete the effect. Architecture Tourist TK agrees

Economies in Equilibrium

Efficient systems require balance.   Part of my job is to discover out-of-balance components before they compromise function and safety.  I rail against the over-emphasis on appearance at the expense of durability because I know, sometime in the future, failures will occur.
Appearances do make a difference, especially when they express common architectural language with a unique voice.

nman Park window vernacular, three color scheme, simple lines and durable features

Lowes and Lead Paint

Contractors are tasked with identifying and controlling lead paint during renovations. This new approach is still a bit out of balance:
http://www.remodeling.hw.net/business/regulations/lowes-to-pay-record-500k-penalty-over-subs-lead-paint-rule-violations_o

Simple screened porch jazzed-up with red floor and bright fabrics. Curtains moderate light and privacy

Pressure Balance

Pressure Regulating Valves (PRV) protect your water piping from excessive external pressures generated from the public water supply.  Thermal expansion devices protect piping from internal pressures.  You need both.

Valves prevent high street pressure from damaging pipes, fixtures and fittings

Too small return forces the airhandler to suck cold from the slab foundation. Increased air speed whistles Dixie

Negative Returns

Balanced airflow in a forced air duct system is critical.  If the area of return openings is insufficient pressure is balanced by drawing air from outside the conditioned space.  This often leads to comfort and air quality deficiencies.  A house without adequate return openings is pressure negative.  It sucks.

Thermal Expansion Devices control internal pressures like those created when heated water expands

 

 

 

 

 

2014 Atlanta Home Trends

Posted on 22. Apr, 2014 by in Architecture, Building Science, Caring for your Home, Eco-Inspector, Energy, Heating and Air-Conditioning, Intown Neighborhoods, Nature

These real-world trends in the Atlanta market are worth a look. Thanks to agent Peggy Desiderio and landscape contractor David Curl for your knowledge and advice

 

Boomer-town Decatur is popular with the 50 and over crowd

Walk To Pizza

What was once a lifestyle decision is now an economic necessity.   This nation-wide trend holds for Atlanta, ITPand OTP.
http://www.theatlanticcities.com/jobs-and-economy/2012/05/why-you-pay-more-walkable-neighborhoods/2122/

 

 

Walkable Neighborhood: Jazz night in Oakhurst

Sprawled Out
Hell on Wheels Atlanta traffic has put the brakes on outward expansion

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take the Last Train to Boomerville 

Ranch-condo quads for the 55 and older set are hot properties if they have the right features:  lock ‘n leave maintenance, water and energy efficiency, big kitchens, good detailing and NO STAIRS!

Seaside, Florida designer Andres Duany explains
retirement communities:  http://vimeo.com/6517061

Icycylene foam insulation helped transform this 100 year old crawl into a dry, conditioned basement-like space

New Science for Crawl Spaces

Cleaning, sealing and conditioning your crawl space works. I know.  I’ve done it at my house.

http://www.crawlspaces.org/

Direct, Efficient Solutions

Direct vent gas appliances allow installers to draw air for combustion and dilution from outside, a logical choice where finished basements limit available air and in older homes to bypass failing masonry chimneys.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vjZa-S-b7F4

Killing Two Birds with One Foam

Icycylene foam forms an efficient pressure and
thermal barrier.  Foam keeps moisture and bugs out while increasing R-values in roofs, walls and floors. The nature of the material allows it to fill irregular spaces traditional materials cannot.

 

Hardscaped Outdoor Room Fire pit, sit wall, water feature, Cherokee stone patio

Hardscapes and Edible Gardens 

Landscape clients spend more on patios, sit walls and fire pits than on trees and shrubs.

Many prefer kitchen gardens with fruit trees, berries and herbs and designs that reduce water use

On the Way Out……

Road Warrior no more  Commutes over 30 minutes are no longer the norm.

Chimneys don’t make energy sense.  Switch-activated gas appliances provide convenient, safe heating.

Rarely used jetted tubs are giving way to the oversized stall showers.

Made for another era furnace humidifiers, whole house, attic exhaust and ceiling fans often do more efficiency and air quality harm than good.  Better to have a tight building with a designed ventilation system.

http://www.panasonic.com/business/building-products/ventilation-systems/index.asp

Dan’s List: Media, Products and Services With not much of an apology to Angie

Posted on 29. Mar, 2014 by in Architecture, Building Science, Caring for your Home, Eco-Inspector, Healthy Home, Heating and Air-Conditioning

They’re smiling because someone else is paying

Homes on TV

Tearing houses apart makes for a show, not an inspection.  The inspector’s goal is not to entertain but to assess and recommend cost-effective repairs. If Tom tells Kevin “We’ll just have to tear it out and start over” he’s spending money most of my clients don’t have.  

The success of This Old House created a market for home-style reality TV.  Many of these shows do not reflect the true nature of the industry.  It’snot real. That’s why they call it entertainment.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kg0iPVF-SZw

 

Knowledge, experience and ethical conduct saved Scott a toolbag’s worth of cash

Fear Factor Moisture Control

Scott still had moisture in his crawl space after following my drainage recommendations. Waterproofing contractors bid 15K, 7K and 3K to fix it.  We took a look and found water entering through a small opening at the stepped foundation. True cost of repair:  7.99 for a tub of hydraulic cement
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TzFY0Q0TBPQ

Dirty Ducting:  The Old Bait and Switch 

Every con artist knows how to manipulate Greed and Fear.  The bait, a cheap duct cleaning fee,  is followed by the switch, the misunderstood, hot-button, scientifically vague, four letter hazard-of-the-moment word MOLD.
http://www.americanownews.com/story/22110668/air-duct-cleaning-scams

Monkeying Around This install illustrates an all-to-common ignorance of basic design standards

Flexduct: Cheap and Non-Durable

Flexible plastic ribbed ducts have replaced metal ducts as the industry standard.  HVAC contractors save money by going cheap on ducting-and it shows.

http://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/blogs/dept/building-science/should-flex-duct-be-banned

The Hail You Say

I got some nasty emails when I first published this article
http://tk-jk.net/judi_dan_archive/blog/HailChasers.html
Be on your Gutter Guard

These very expensive products work as long as it doesn’t rain very hard.  A niche product at best.
http://www.pressurewashinghickorync.com/gutter-guards-do-they-work
Leaky Windows update 8.1

Inspector Marko Vovk is back with another great video.  His observations and knowledge of building science accurately describe how and why windows fail.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YP0o9do4eSc
 

Don’t let misconception, misunderstanding or ignorance translate into financial loss Invest in an impartial, third-party inspection BEFORE you write that fat check.  770-457-2787

Open Up

Posted on 12. Mar, 2014 by in Building Science, Caring for your Home, Eco-Inspector, Healthy Home, Heating and Air-Conditioning, Nature

Rotting windowsill on a not-so-old house

For 28 years I’ve seen the windows of neglect: bound with paint, sashes screwed shut, locked-never to be opened, damaged hardware and screens, rotted sills.

No matter what type home, town or country, big or small, rich or poor, black or white, folks do not open windows.

 

Windows are designed for the simultaneous and independent control of:

Natural illumination

Natural ventilation:  The subject of this newsletter 

View out

View in

Passage of insects

Passage of water

Passage of heat-radiant, conducted, convected

Lots of un-opened windows

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) is up to five times worse inside your home than outside.  The situation is getting worse as people spend more time inside and tightly built homes limit infiltration

Spring and Fall are the shoulder seasons, the interim between cold/dry and hot/humid.

The Japanese understand and appreciate ventilation.  Their building codes guarantee access                                                   to sunlight and wind, nature’s cleansing mechanisms

Designed for ventilation and ease of operation. Will the owners trouble themselves to open the slider doors?

Americans are special.  We love to mechanize our solutions.   Ultra-violet lights and ozone air purifiers emulate the healthy effects of sun and wind.

House deodorants, scents and candles emulate the smell of freshness.

Poor ventilation and filtration worsen your indoor air by trapping air pollutants.   Open windows on opposite sides of your home for ten minutes daily and the cross ventilation will improve your indoor air quality

 

Kiwis think so too.  http://www.energywise.govt.nz/your-home/ventilation

 

There’s something deeper to this than neglected windows

 

Building Science informs us that homes are environmental separators that provide a designed environment for human use and occupancy.

 

In these hectic, uncertain times homes have become psychological separators.  They are our castles, our place of refuge.

 

Windows stay closed to separate us from the outside of traffic, nosy neighbors, pollen, criminals, darkness, dogs barking, leafblowers roaring, planes ascending-from the craziness of a world we don’t want to let in.

 

At Villa Curl I’ve found pleasure in the sounds of wind-shuffled leaves, of trains and planes, church bells sounding the hour and the pastry-sweet smell the local pie factory.  Yes, the traffic is noisome, dogs bark, the world can have sharp edges.   I’ve come to accept these things.

 

Try opening windows ten minutes each day.  It’s guaranteed to improve your home and your health-and it just might improve your peace of mind.

 

Tips for Home Christmas Gifts

Posted on 13. Dec, 2013 by in Caring for your Home

Decorative hooks make opening and closing your fireplace damper easy

Decorative hooks make opening and closing your fireplace damper easy

Comfort, health, safety and efficiency are great presents for your whole family

Open on Christmas Eve:  Decorative handles remind you to OPEN and CLOSE your chimney damper.  Open dampers are holes in your home’s comfort and efficiency.

Greenlight:  LED Christmas lights are easy to install, easy on your power bill and don’t overload circuits.

 

Frosty Windows:  Energy efficient window treatments increase thermal efficiency where it’s needed most.  Treatments come in a variety of styles and colors.

Roast only Chestnuts:  Detect smoke before the fire.  Recent studies show photoelectric alarms better at detecting smoky fires than ionization type.

http://www.nfpa.org/safety-information/for-consumers/fire-and-safety-equipment/smoke-alarms/ionization-vs-photoelectric

Cellular window treatments come in various styles and colors

Cellular window treatments come in various styles and colors

Schedule a home maintenance and efficiency inspection