Home Maintenance

Window Cleaning

A majority of my job includes highlighting or making people aware of things in their home that they never think about.  Items in everyones’ homes that need attention but are out of the way, out of sight and seldom considered during our daily lives.  One component in particular seldom gets looked at directly but it is in our direct line of sight daily.  Not only are these components in our line of sight, we look through them all the time.  When is the last time you actually looked at your windows?

Most windows these days are vinyl and very low maintenance.  Notice I said “low,” and not “NO,” maintenance!  In the Salem, Oregon area our windows on the south sides tend to do quite a bit of water shedding.  All of this moisture can cause things to grow in the inner workings of the vinyl channels.  On the other sides of our homes the glass and vinyl gets dirty and does not get washed with rain and will need to be cleaned periodically.

What is the proper way to clean these windows?  Here is what I do:

Materials:  I tend to keep things pretty simple as far a chemicals.  Most of the “work” with window clean is unfortunantly good old elbow grease.

1.Toothbrush-  I like the cheap motorized brushes.  The twisting bristles can get in to some tight areas!

2. Vaccuum- To get the bulk of the loose dust, bugs, etc….

3. Vineagar and Water solution-   This is a pretty standard cleaning solution.

4. Funiture polish-  This will be for the final lubrication on the rollers and the vinyl-to-vinyl surfaces.

-Now for the work!

Have you ever heard someone say that, “..they don’t do windows,”?   There is a good reason for that cliche.  Cleaning a window properly is a lot of work!

I have two styles of windos in my home and I will deal with how to take them apart separatly.

I will tackel the sliding style first:

The first thing you need to do is remove the movable section.

-For sliding windows the movable section should be slid to the center and lifted up.  There should be enough clearance to tilt the bottom of the window out of the track and pull the section out.

Sliding window sash removed

Once the sash or moveable section is removed you get a good look at the bottom roller track:Dirty window track, soon to be cleaned

To properly clean this section you must remove the track.  Sometimes a screwdriver is needed to pop the track up.  Here is what the track looks like when it comes out:

Removal of a sliding window bottom track

Things are pretty simple with sliding sashes.  The only mechanical parts are the rollers and ususally the crud is collected at the bottom of the track and not where the rollers are functioning.

Roller on my Salem Oregon vinyl window

With the sash removed, wipe out the window. Then reinstall the track and sash.   Lubricate the vinyl surfaces with funiture polish and you are done!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next is the single hung window:

You must first find the spring retention clip.

Sash spring retention clip

These are little clips on the upper tracks that ‘grab’ onto the springs on the movable sash.  When the springs are retained the window can be opened a little more and slid to the side.  This slight amount of tucking to the side in the track will allow the opposite side of the window to clear and tip out of the track. With that opposite side out of track clear you can now slide the window toward that side and remove the sash from the track.

With the sash out it is time to clean.

Dirty window sash BeforeAfter

I use my daughter’s old motorized tooth brush.  It does a  great job of cleaning out the inside corners!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last thing to do once all of the parts are cleaned up is to lubricate the vinyl-to-vinyl surfaces.

Vinyl window lube

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like most things, cleaning a window properly is not that hard, the tricky part is actually getting started!

Clean windows will last longer, be better functioning and will just be nicer to look out.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact me!

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Basement and Crawlspace Leakage and Waterproofing (part 2)

If you have read my earlier post on crawlspace and basment leakage and waterproofing, and you have taken steps to remove the downspouts discharge from near the home but you still are having moisture manifest in unwanted areas under or in your home what are the some of the next steps that you should consider?

Evidence of moisture leakage in the basement floor
Lets address basements specifically:
We know that the basement is a hole dug into the ground.  A ground that we also know becomes saturated.
Lets say that proper steps have been taken to divert the downspouts at least 10 feet away from the home and the grading around the home slopes away for the first 10 feet but moisture is STILL coming in, now what?
There are many different options.  The proper solution depends on your budget, and how you want the basement to be used.
-Lets say that the basement is mostly unfinished, concrete floor, mechanical systems, and open framing in the ceiling.  This type of basement is the best for some seasonal moisture intrusion however any uncontroled moisture in a home is not ideal.  Standing water in basements, even unfinished ones, can contribute to high moisture levels throughout the home.  High moisture levels can lead to poor air quality and fungal deterioration all the way up to the attic.  Having a dry basement is important no matter to what degree it is “finished.”
The manner in which to remedy this situation depends on where the water is manifesting:
Foundation wall Exterior water proofing: The best corse of action is to collect the moisture that is bubbling up from the ground before it gets to your home.  Serious excavation of the exterior of the foundation is ideal. By digging down to the base of the foundation, drainage can be added and waterproofing can be applied to the outside of the wall.  This is kind of like water proofing the surface of a pool only backwards.  Taking these steps will ensure that the excess water around and under the home is properly collected and prevented from entering the home in the first place. This excavation is serious work and can be dangerous. A trench that is at least 8 feet deep has the real potential of caving in if not properly supported. These steps are usually not for the handy homeowner and should be contracted out to licensed, insured, professionals. (read-$$$)Waterproofing the outside of the foundation wall in Salem, Oregon

There are some fantastic pictures and descriptions of the installation of these various water collection techniques here: http://www.finehomebuilding.com/PDF/Free/021140064.pdf
If huge excavation projects are not your idea of a good time you are going to have to take steps to control the moisture just before or just after it penetrates the foundation wall/slab.The best way to collect and control this moisture in a basement would be with the installation of a complete interior perimeter drain.
-Like a exterior foundation drain the interior foundation drain is designed to collect water before it gets a chance to come in contact with your home.  As water rises it enters a trench of open pore gravel and a drainage pipe that has holes in the top and sides.  The water enters the pipe and flows down grade to a collection point, usually a sump pump.sump pump and trench water collection for leaking basements and crawlspaces
This system also requires a fair amount of labor for installaion because it involves jack hammering up the slab around the perimeter and digging a sloped trench.  All of the busted up concrete and soil that is removed usually has to be carried out one bucket at a time. (read- back breaking and $$) This installation is also best left up to the professionals that have had practice and know the tricks of the trade.
This system is also can have a flashing system added to the wall that allows moisture that comes in through the wall to run down in to the drainage system under the slab.  There is a picture of this system on page 6 of the previous link.

-If jack hammers and mud and buckets do not sound fun you are now looking at the least invasive and most inexpensive alternative: the surface gutter system.  This system is very similar to roof gutters where water is collected at the edge and diverted to a collection system. Depending on the amount of water and where it is coming from this may be a great, relatively low cost solution.
a less expensive basement water collection system for your Salem, Oregon home
This is a great site with some step-by-step procedures for how to install this basement “guttering system”: http://www.waterproof.com/DIY-installation/squidgee-installation-all.html
I worked on a basement waterproofing crew when I first moved to the Salem, Oregon area.  We installed quite a few of these systems.  They are relatively inexpensive and do not involve a whole lot of back breaking labor.
The gutter system has downsides in that the water is in the home.  The standing water can still lead to high humidity and mold issues on the back side of the wall.
If you still have questions about which system would be best you can always give me a call.  Your friendly local Salem, Oregon Home Inspector who also has expirence installing all of these systems.


I have Moss all over my Roof! Now what?

Moss is very common in this area. Moss and algea grow mostly in areas of low light and high moisture. Low light and high moisture pretty well describes most of the western Pacific Northwest and the wintertime.  Some of the most common ways to treat and maintain your roof are listed below.

One of the areas that moss is a concern on homes in this area our roofs. Depending on the roofs exposure moss can grow most of the year.  If sections of your home’s roof are shaded throughout the day and stay moist these are likely areas to grow moss.

Over time moss can damage your shingles if left un-checked. As the moss develops into a larger and larger colony more and more moisture is held against your roof. The colonies will also develop root systems that will dig in to the surface fibers on your shingles. As the colonies grow larger, they can actually lift the edges of the shingles. This can leave the shingles vulnerable to wind damage.

There are lots of ways to kill moss. Most of the good techniques involve some sort of the heavy metal application usually copper or zinc. Some really bad ideas involve laundry detergent and or power washers…..

In general the more trees you have around your house in the steeper your roof the more applications of moss killer you’ll need.

1.  The best way to control moss is with an annual or biannual application of a powdered or liquid name brand moss killer designed for roofs. For steep roofs I have found a hose end attached shrub and tree sprayer to be a handy tool.

moss out for roofs Shrub and tree sprayer for application of roof moss killer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Another option for continuous moss control are some new

shingles that are actually impregnated with copper

granules. I have only seen the shingles used on two

different roofs and the major issue with these is the fact that

the ridge shingles were not impregnated in a still need to be

treated for moss/algae growth.

Moss growth on Keizer Oregon ridge shingles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Mechanically removing the moss is also an option.

This option is really only for the very worst conditions.

It envolves a paint scraper, screwdriver, putty knife or

something similar and trecking across your roof slope and very

carefully removing the moss growth.

This technique is very prone to damage of the asphalt

composition shingles and should be used as a last resort.

Moss on a Salem, Oregon home

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Zinc or Copper strips- These may be ok for preventing

algea growth but moss looks at the little strips and laughs.

You may have noticed some homes around town that have

clear sections of shingles under metal roof vents.

roof moss killed by zinc in Silverton, OregonWhat is going

on here is the

zinc in the

galvanized steel

is leaching on to

the roof every

time it rains.

This has lead to

people thinking that they could install little strips or even

sections of wire to kill moss and algea, but this is not

usually an effective technique.The difference is all

about-surface area.The roof vents have a rather large

amount of exposed surface and therefore a good amount

of rain hits the vents. Compare this situation to a 2 inch

wide strip of zinc and you

can see that there will be far less leaching occurring off

of the little strips.The strips usually are effective for 2 to 3 feet,

and I have seen the strips added every 2 or 3 feet down

an entire roof slope. This installation appeared to be

effective but I have only seen this once.

zinc moss strips

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5.  Power washing, scraping with brooms, or laundry detergent. Unfortunantly I see the aftermath of these steps to control roof moss on far too many Salem area home inspections. If you are reading this post you probably have educated yourself enough to know that blasting or scraping the surface off of your aspahlt composite roof is a bad idea.  The folks that commit these heinous crimes are usually the people that already know-it-all and they maintain their homes the way they see fit.

-There may be some contractors who use power washers to clean roofs, but these individuals are licensed and bonded and have the experience to know which nozzle to use and how far to hold it away from the roof surface. Power washing should be strictly limited to the driveway and walkways surfaces around your home.

-Brooms and other mechanical abrasion are also techniques that should either be left on the ground or for qualified professional contractors. The removal of the surface granules on the asphalt shingle also removes the ultraviolet resistance and of the shingles.

-Laundry detergent, although will kill moss on your roof, is full of degreasers. An asphalt based composite shingle is a petroleum based grease compound. Do not put degreasers on your greasy roof.  (Thanks Joe Ocilia for educating me on this fact!)

Those are my 2¢ on how to control moss. Being a Salem, Oregon home inspector, I get the chance to see various maintenance techniques. By far the best one to use is the first one, which is a chemical, powdered or liquid, commercially available moss killer applied at annually or biannually.

Leaks in the Roof tracked back to Problems with Original Installation and some Ideas for a quick and dirty Tar Seal

The other day I helped a client with an unfortunate situation: her home’s roof was leaking.


The worst part of this issue was the fact that she had paid roofers to find and repair this leak multiple times.

This last summer she even had the drywall repaired under the leak
figuring that the roofers had actually done what they had been paid to
do.

By the time she got a hold of me she had reached the end of her
rope and was on the edge of tears. I told her that I would be happy to
come do an inspection to locate the leak and hopefully give her some unbiased answers.


When I got to her home she showed me the areas of concern. I crawled up
in her attic and there was little doubt as to the source of the leakage.
The valleys were soaking wet.


Roofing like other construction trades is relatively basic but just
because it’s basic does not mean that it should be slapped together any
old way. The installation guidelines must be strictly followed.
Something as simple as an additional bevel cut into the end of a shingle
can be the difference between proper installation an leakage.

There are many different ways to do a proper valley installation. Each style has their own particular guidelines.

This particular home had a “Closed cut valley.”

 

-1. The first part of this installation is the lining of the valley
with an additional layer of building paper or metal liner.
This layer
serves to be a ‘last line of defense’ if all of the other layers of
protection fail.

-This step was likely neglected on this particular
roof.


 

-2. The next step is that one entire roof slope (the smaller section of roof or lower slope) of shingles should be
installed completely and extended past the center line at least 12
inches.

-It is difficult to determine if this guideline was followed.


-3. The next step is to roof the other adjoining roof slope.  Along with this step the top edge of the shingles must be cut-back and beveled to prevent water infiltration. The acute angle that is at the tips of these extended shingles may
act as a scoop and funnel if they are not provided with an additional
cut to bevel this edge.

-This step was neglected on this roof.

-4. When all of the shingles that are close to the valley are fastened to the roof it is important to hold the
fasteners away from the center line of the valley at least six inches.

-This step was also not adhered to precisely.

The bad news is that my client has some work ahead of her.  She is not quite ready to sell and the rest of her roof has at least 5 more good years of service.  It is not a great financial decision to properly repair the valleys since the rest of her roof will need replacement in the near future. So what kind of patching options are there?

Since the valleys are the issue it is possible to seal the leaks with a generous coat of tar.  However most tar (flexible asphalt based sealers) are recommended to be installed when the surface is dry.  With a little research I found this stuff:

http://www.dewittproducts.com/catalog.asp?prodid=627618&showprevnext=1

This product claims that it is specially formulated to be installed upon wet surfaces! Sounds pretty good to me!

I also discovered a great little post from someone in a similar situation about how to apply the goop: http://www.hammerzone.com/archives/roof/patch1/tar/temporary.htm

The person in the above post makes it pretty clear that the tar is a TEMPORARY SEAL!!! This is an important point and as long as a good layer is reapplied in the summer my client should be leak free until she is ready to replace the entire roof.

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Time to winterize

Many posts have been written about how you should prepare your home for the winter months. Here in the willamette valley our

Plugged gutter on a home in Keizer, Oregon noted on a home inspection

winters are not all that extreme. It does stay wet, however we don’t get much snow on the valley floor and our temperatures very rarely dip much below freezing.  These moderate temperatures do have their own set of maintenance issues:

1. Gutters: Gutters, gutters, gutters. Did I mention gutters? Seriously, gutters. The manner in which we receive rain requires properly functioning gutters. For around 8 months we stay wet. Not huge downpours, just steady and wet. Every drop of rain that hits your roof is supposed to be concentrated and collected into a few spots around the home. If the collection system is plugged or allowing water to splash or dump around the home serious problems can develop. This is my number one thing to keep functional on my own home.

2. De-moss the roof. In general, every two years you will want to spread some moss killer. The shady slopes and roofs that are near large trees may need additional applications of the copper or zinc.

3. Remove the hoses from the outside water faucets.
I do not use the styrofoam cover thingys.  Again, it is all about our climate. If you remove your hoses it will not usually get cold enough to need those cover thingys.

Foundation vent plug in on a Salem Home Inspection

4. Crawlspace vents. There seems to be a viral belief in the necessity to plug the foundation vents. I do not think that this is a verygood thing to do. Most of our winter temperatures are going to be around 40 degrees. Pipes do not freeze at 40 degrees. More likely than frozen pipes is the possibility of moisture bubbling up from underneath the home. If the vents are all plugged, and water is present you have created a moist, stagnant area that is perfect for critters and fungus that eat the wood that is holding up your home. The moral of all of this is: Do not plug your vents unless it dips below 25 degrees, and as soon as it warms up again, take the plugs out.

Don’t make Griping about Gutters so easy on this Marion County Home Inspector

Debris Noted on a Roof Inspection on this North East Salem Oregon GutterYour gutters need attention.  The shorter days have told the trees to drop their leaves.  Not only that, the rains are about to begin again. Your gutters will be working overtime for the next few months in this area.  It is important to keep your gutters clean.  This will require cleaning your gutters out several times over the next few months as the different trees around your home drop their leaves at different times.

We all know that the parts that are exposed to the elements (and leaves) are important to keep clean but lets not forget about the underground pipes as well. These pipes are low and out of sight and are easy to forget about. Those underground pipes are probably the most important part of the system as they will collect, concentrate, and (hopefully) remove the concentrated storm water from around your house.a home inspection of a downspout revealed leakage on this Illahe home inspection

In Marion and the surrounding counties, the underground pipes are usually where things are going wrong and unless inspections or unusually close attention is paid, things can go wrong for months or even years.   It really is all about the way we receive rain.

The rains in the Willamette valley, in Salem and surrounding parts of Oregon show up in mid October and things stay moist until the middle of May.  We don’t necessarily receive a lot of rain, it is just steady and the clouds do not usually part long enough to dry anything out.

The gutters, downspouts and underground pipes are the wettest points around our home.  If there is water in your crawl space or basement the gutter and downspout system is usually the main culprit.  Standing water in the crawlspace of this South Salem Home

A great test for the underground system is to shove a garden hose in it and see where the water comes out.  If water bubbles to the surface in the area you are testing…….you have some work to do.

Secrete leak detector

A large part of home owner maintenance is paying attention to little things

Check here for leaks

Areas that are above or below the line of sight, tend to be the most neglected areas. Deterioration, rot and leaks can hide in these areas that are just out of sight.  These areas are the places that keep home inspectors in business.

Plumbing supply and waste lines are always in areas that are out of sight. Special attention needs to be paid to these pipes periodically. Small leaks under the sink, or worse, in the crawlspace, can lead to big issues.
For those of us that do not really want to go into the crawlspace…….  there is a secrete little leak detector on most water meters.

The little dial on most water meters have a little red or white triangle. The triangle will spin with very little water movement. This can be a pretty handy way to check for leaks without actually going into the crawlspace!

On a recent home inspection in Silverton, Oregon I noted the red triangle spinning.  No water was being used in the home……  The buyer and or seller now have some more investigation to do.

As an attentive homeowner you should check this “little thing” to ensure that your supply pipes are not leaking.

Things that go Pee in your Crawlspace.

Believe it or not this post is not about incontinent home inspectors.  That will have to be another post. This post is about fuzzy critters and how they get under your home.

These tight, nasty, potentially wet areas are easy to neglect.  Low, out of sight and most likely disgusting it is usually best to not even think about these places.

This mentality also leads to the fact that I will often find defects in these areas.  One of the most popular defects I note is openings that allow pest access.

Most crawlspaces have these neat little vents for air flow.  Compared to the concrete foundation the metal screens on these vents are much easier to bash and slash to allow access for pipes and wires.   Most contractors care more about their next few hours than about the damage that occurs to the home due to pest infiltration over the years from a hasty hole cut into the crawlspace screen.

As an active, preventatively thinking home owner one of the best things to do (short of actually go into your crawlspace because really who wants to do that?) is to open the lid to your crawlspace and smell.   Yeah, seriously take a wiff.  If you are slapped in the face with years of rodent urine……you may have some more investigation to do.

Today as I was doing a home inspection and crawling around looking for damage to my client’s potential home, I put my arm down and something, ……rather large…..*gulp*….pushed back.  I figured it was a healthy rat under the plastic vapor barrier.  This close encounter along with the smell of a public urinal led me to look for the rodent’s access opening.

Finding the hole was easy.  Right where the downdraft vented out, the metal screen was completely open.  This gave most neighborhood rodents plenty of room to move in.

The point of my wonderful, rambling tale is that you can and should check your vents.  These are on the perimeter of the home, which means you do not need to enter my place of business (your crawlspace) to see these open critter funnels.  Just take a stroll around the outside of your home and look and bend down to get a good look at those vents.  Especially the vents near the AC unit, cable, and or satellite connections.

That is NOT how to clean moss of your roof!

First time home buyers are fantastic.  Never before have you had to do any kind of maintenance on the place that you were living.  If there was a problem you just called the landlord.

Now, you are going to be in charge of an ENTIRE house!!  It can be intimidating, especially after a good home inspection!  Not to fear you first timers, there have been lots of people in your shoes and many with even less technical understanding of the maintenance issues that plague your new home.

In the Salem, Oregon area one very common issue that will require attention is moss growth on your roof.  To be fair, this is not a life and death issue, however with less than a few hours of attention a year this issue can be effectively controlled.

Moss tends to grow in the shady sides of the home.  Mostly this has to do with the 8 months or so that your roof will stay wet in these areas.  This constant moisture creates an ideal location for algae population.  If moss is allowed to flourish unchecked it can create little pockets that catch and hold moisture.  Also the moss can actually begin to lift the shingles.  All of this catching and lifting will slow the water that is running down the slope and the longer water is on your roof the shorter the life of your roof will be.

Ok, we know that moss is not good but how do we control it?  Moss killer.

Moss does not like reactive metals like zinc and copper.  Commercial available moss killers like, “MossOut or any of the other sprays or powders are best.

  • The moss control measures that do not work or maybe work too well, at the expense of the life of your roof are: Strips of zinc that claim to leach onto the roof and kill moss continually.  These strips are good only in theory and only tend to protect about two feet of the down hill roof surface.
  • Also, moss will die if treated with laundry detergents, however laundry soaps have surfactants (read: de-greasers).  Composite shingles are made of asphalt (read: grease!).  These detergents can quickly chew holes in your roof!!
  • Power washers.  Please, please DO NOT power wash your composite shingle roof.  The idea behind killing moss is to prolong the life of your roof.  You will quickly shorten the life of the roof you are trying to prolong by blowing it to smithereens with a well meaning power washer.

That is NOT how your sliding glass door is supposed to lock!!

There are things that well trained and practiced home inspectors can find on homes over and over.  Many times these are issues that relate to components that are or have worn out.  Water heaters are a great example because

there is not a whole lot you can do to prevent them from wearing out (short of changing the anode rod).Other things relate to the difficulty of proper installation.  Sliding glass doors for instance, many people that can read a level and drive a nail with a hammer can install a sliding glass door.  However getting the door to latch properly takes a higher level of patience and/or skill.

The wall plate must be in a precise position to allow the lock bolt to clear as the bolt is thrown.  If the wall plate
is too high, the bolt will come in contact with the wall plate and not open fully.  You have probably seen the sliding doors that you must open the lock partially while the door is open, then close the door, and finally close the latch.  While this does get the job accomplished it is not proper.
If the wall plate is too low the latch will not engage at all and the door can be opened with the lock fully engaged.  This is seen less often but is also not proper and a stick in the door should not be relied upon! 

The wall plate could also be in the wrong position side-to-side.  This is likely the cause of most of

the installation defects that I encounter.  If the position of the wall plate will not allow the bolt to clear properly and up and downadjustments do not improve the situation the plate may need to be shimmed to allow proper operation.
Once the wall plate is in the right spot to allow you to close the door, then throw the bolt and have the bolt engage it is time to install the 3” or better “security screws.” This is another item that I see missing over and over.  The long screws tie the whole door frame to the wood frame of the home.  This is much better than relying on the vinyl frame and provides a more stable lock. 

Hearing about contractors that state, “this is how the door is designed to lock,” is the worst and I must explain to my client’s that it is time to find a new contractor.

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Jim Allhiser President/Inspector
http://SalemOregonHomeInspections.com
503.508.4321         jallhiser@perfectioninspectioninc.com

“Always on the cutting edge”

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