Now more than ever, our home has become our sanctuary, a place where we can feel safe and protected no matter what kind of storm is raging outside. But it also has become our new social hub and the center of daily activity.
From online chats with friends and family, to telecommuting for work, to the creation of at-home gyms to keep us active, we are all learning how our homes can now support every aspect of our lives. It is no surprise, then, that the real estate market continues onward with buyers who are searching for a place to call their own. The shopping process may have changed, with more online chats and virtual tours, but the end result remains the same. After all, home-sweet-home starts with the right home. And we’re still here to help you find it.
It’s a beautiful day here in Chicagoland! A great chance to open up some windows and begin a little Spring cleaning. Removing dirt and debris from window tracks and away from weep holes will ensure that your windows drain well when heavy rains come. An old toothbrush works well for getting dirt out of the tight corners. It’s also a good chance to finally let a little fresh air into the house to clear out indoor air pollution that may have built up in the stagnant winter air. Enjoy the sunshine and mild weather this week!
Spring has arrived in the Chicago area, and while it is a welcome sight, it brings with it wildly fluctuating weather conditions. As rains soak the city and surrounding suburbs, homeowners everywhere may find themselves battling flooding situations. Even if your home is situated a safe distance from a body of water, you can still suffer the effects of torrential rains, as saturated or still-frozen soil allows the water to seep around foundations, into basements and crawlspaces. Therefore, we are touching on many water-related home maintenance issues. Water damage happens so easily, is very exhausting to clean, and can be terribly costly to repair, so we want to keep you well informed about protecting your home.
In addition to maintaining gutter systems, as described in a previous article, maintaining an appropriate grade around your home is equally important. Properly functioning gutters work in conjunction with proper grading around a house. The gutter’s purpose is to effectively divert water away from the foundation, but many homes will have developed a negative grade around the foundation due to settling of the soil. If water is draining from a roof into an area of negative grade, it will pool around the home’s foundation and quickly enter any cracks or windows in that area, draining into the adjacent area of the home. If you notice settling around your home, don’t be alarmed; it is a very normal occurrence and can easily be remedied.
Settling occurs as back-filled soil sinks around the new foundation, and usually happens within five to seven years after a home is built. Over time, the displaced soil settles into the air pockets around the homes foundation, causing a negative slope toward the home instead of away from it. Correcting the problem is easy, as you simply need to have additional soil added to areas of negative grade around the foundation. It is a simple solution, but not a labor-free one, so while you could certainly apply soil to the needed areas yourself, you might want to enlist the services of a local landscaper or nursery to do the job for you.
Whether you choose to complete the work yourself or hire someone, make sure that the process follows these guidelines:
- Landscaping may obscure a settling problem and may need to be removed in order to properly back-fill and correct the grading.
- The settled area should be back-filled with a heavy clay-based soil — not mulch, stone, sand, etc.
- The grade around a foundation should start six to eight inches below the siding and/or below the sill plate on the foundation.
- Grade the new material so that it is pitched at one or two inches per linear foot away from the house.
- Sometimes a high soil level can make it difficult to achieve this grade, and in these cases a swale may be added between seven to ten feet away from the house to divert water away from the foundation. French drains may also be installed to help divert water away from the house.
Hopefully this information will help you keep your home water-tight this season. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. And don’t forget, Home Inspections aren’t just for buyers or sellers – It’s always a good idea to have the condition of your home evaluated by an unbiased professional. If you would like a thorough evaluation of your current home’s maintenance needs, just contact us to schedule a Maintenance Check-Up Inspection!
How Does a Home Inspection Benefit Current Home Owners?
A home inspection is not only important for anyone buying a home; current home owners will benefit from having one as well. How long have you lived in your home? How long has it been since a professional home inspection was performed, if ever? Chances are you have lived in your home long enough for changes to take place to all of its components. A home inspection can help you find and address a problem before it leads to damage or costly repairs.
Would you like an unbiased opinion about the condition of your roof, siding, furnace, air-conditioning, chimney, etc? A home inspector will evaluate the elements of your home from a purely objective point of view. He or she draws no benefit from finding defects – or the lack thereof – and therefore is a more reliable source of information than someone who is paid to do repair work. Not only that, a home inspector evaluates all of a home’s components, all in one visit. Think of it as a physical check-up for your home.
For example, do you know how well your roof or siding are holding up to snow and extreme temperatures? Are there any signs of leaks, mold, or structural damage throughout your home? Have any contractors done work in your home since you bought it, and was that work done correctly? Is your furnace operating inefficiently or, worse, leaking dangerous carbon monoxide into the air? Could replacing an aging water heater be all that is needed to prevent thousands of dollars in costly water damage?
These are only some of the issues that overwhelm home owners. Having a home inspection can help you properly maintain your home, as well as identify potential problem areas before they deteriorate and become costly.
REMEMBER: If we perform a home inspection for you our expertise is available to you for as long as you own your home. We will happily answer any questions you may have.
It’s that time of year again. Winter has descended on the Chicago area bringing snow, sleet, and rain. While it seems that the icy blast will never leave us, tomorrow is the Winter Solstice, bringing longer, sunnier days. Before we know it Spring will be upon us, and any melting ice and snow will begin putting roof and gutter systems to the test.
One of the most important issues at this time of year, with storms regularly moving into the area, is to ensure that gutters and downspouts are functioning properly. Gutters are the front line of defense against water damage. They are extremely important for keeping a basement, crawl space, or lower level of a home dry, as failure to divert roof runoff may result in moisture in one of these areas. As soon as it is safe to do so, make sure that dirt and debris are removed from gutters so that melting snow and rainwater can flow freely. Even homes with gutter guards are not maintenance-free; many of these guards don’t work dependably and still need to be removed and cleaned to remove the debris that builds up behind the guard. Gutters that are damaged or sagging are equally problematic, since water will quickly follow the easiest route in its path and spill over an uneven edge. Overall, blocked or sagging gutters are worse than no gutters at all, as large amounts of water will build up and drain over one area onto the ground, rather than draining evenly over the length of a roof edge.
Debris-free gutters often do their job just fine, but if you find that water still drains over roof edges during heavy rains, consider installing commercial grade downspouts. These downspouts are larger in diameter and can handle almost twice as much water as traditional downspouts, therefore allowing heavy rains to quickly drain from the roof. More importantly, consider redesigning where your gutter downspouts are emptying water runoff. Gutters may be operating perfectly, but if the downspout is directing runoff into an area adjacent to your home, the water can easily accumulate against your foundation and find its way into the house. Fortunately this is an easy fix. Downspout extensions can be purchased at any home improvement center, and are easily installed. They should divert water a minimum of five to seven feet away from the foundation. If you find that they are unsightly, or impeding a walkway, you can opt to install an underground extension made of corrugated plastic, with a pop-up emitter attached at its end. This option allows you to direct the water away from your home to a destination of your choosing, whether it be a rain garden, a nearby drain, or the street.
If your gutter system is in good shape, then you are already set to go. If you do need to make improvements, don’t despair. A little bit of maintenance goes a long way in this case, and will allow for peace of mind when the first Spring rainstorm rolls into town.