Homeowner Tips From a Certified Home Inspection Pro

Tools Every Homeowner Should Have Flashlight: None of the tools you own will be of any use if you can not visually inspect the situation. The problem-and solution-are similar only with a good flashlight. A traditional two-battery flashlight is typically sufficient, as larger flashlights may be too unwieldy. Of course, having backups at home (as…

Tools Every Homeowner Should Have

Flashlight: None of the tools you own will be of any use if you can not visually inspect the situation. The problem-and solution-are similar only with a good flashlight. A traditional two-battery flashlight is typically sufficient, as larger flashlights may be too unwieldy. Of course, having backups at home (as well as in all your vehicles) is a must for emergency situations.

Tape Measure: Measuring house projects requires a tape measure-not a ruler or a yardstick. Tape measures come in many lengths, although one that is at least 25 feet is best. Measure everything at least twice to ensure accuracy, regardless of the project.

Hacksaw: A hacksaw is useful for cutting metal objects, such as pipes, bolts and brackets. Hacksaws look thin and flimsy, but they'll easily cut through even the hardest of metals. Blades are replaceable, so focus your purchase on a quality hacksaw frame. Use a stable surface for cutting, and use caution, as a hacksaw injury can be painful and deep.

Torpedo Level: Only a level can be used to determine if something, such as a shelf, appliance or picture, is correctly oriented. The torpedo-style level is unique because it not only shows when an object is perfectly horizontal and vertical, but it also has a gauge that shows when an object is at a 45-degree angle. The bubble in the viewfinder must be exactly in the middle-not merely close.

Safety Glasses: For all tasks involving a hammer, saw or a power tool, you should always wear safety glasses or goggles. They should also be worn while you mix chemicals, install insulation, and do major renovation projects involving tear-downs of building materials, such as drywall, because anything that can go airborne upon destruction can wind up in your eyes, causing irritation or injury.

Fire Safety for the Home

The National Fire Protection Association's fire prevention program promotes the following eight tips that people of all ages and abilities can use to keep family members safe, especially during the threat of a house fire.

Plan and practice your escape from fire

We've heard this advice before, but you can not be prepared to act in an emergency if you do not have a plan and everyone knows what that plan is. Panic and fear can spread as quickly as a fire, so map out an escape route and a meeting place outdoors, and involve even the youngest family members so that everyone can work as a unit to make a safe escape. If you live in a condo or apartment building, make sure you read the signs posted on your floor advising you of the locations of stairways and other exits, as well as alarm pull stations and fire extinguishers.

Plan your escape around your abilities

Keeping a phone by your bedside will allow you to call 911 quickly, especially if the results of your home are blocked by smoke or flames. Keep a pair of shoes near your bed, too. If your home or building has a fire escape, take some time to practice operating it and climbing it.

Smoke alarms save lives

If you do not already have permanently installed smoke alarms hard-wired into your electrical system and located outside each bedroom and on each floor, purchase units and place them in those locations. Install them using adhesive or screws, but be careful not to touch your screwdriver to any internal wiring. Doing this can cause an electrostatic discharge and disable them. Also, install carbon monoxide detectors as they can protect family members from lethal poisoning even before a fire starts.

Give space heaters space

Whether saving on utility bills by using the furnace infrequently, or when using these portable units for spot heating, make sure you give them at least 3 feet of clearance. Be sure to turn off and unplug them when you leave or go to bed. Electrical appliances draw current even when they're turned off, and a faulty unit can cause a fire that can spread through the wires in the walls at a deadly pace.

If you smoke, smoke outside

Not only will this keep your family members healthy and your home smelling fresher, it will minimize the chance that an errant ember from your cigarette will drop and smolder unnoticed until it causes damage.

Be kitchen-wise

This means monitoring what you have on the stove and keeping track of what's baking in the oven. Do not cook if you're tired or taking medication that clouds your judgment or makes you drowsy. Being kitchen-wise also means wearing clothing that will not easily catch on the handles of pots and pans, or graze open flames or heating elements. It also means knowing how to put out a grease fire: water will make it spread, but salt or baking soda will extinguish it quickly (as will covering the pot or pan with a lid and turning off the stove). Always use your cook top's vent fan while cooking. Also, keep a small, all-purpose fire extinguisher in a handy place such as under the sink. These 3-pound lifesavers are rated “ABC” for their fire-suppressing contents. Read the instructions on these inexpensive devices when you bring them home from the store so that you can act quickly, if the time comes.

Stop, drop and roll

Fight the urge to panic and run if your clothes catch fire because this will only accelerate its spread. Tamping out the fire by rolling is effective, especially since your clothes may be on fire on your back or lower body where you may not be immediately aware of it. If ground space is limited, cover yourself with a blanket to tamp out any flames, and douse yourself with water as soon as you can. Additionally, always stay close to the floor during a fire; heat and smoke rise, and breathable air will typically be found at the floor-level, giving you a greater chance of escape before being overcome by smoke and toxic fumes.

Keep your family safe by following these simple tips!

Electrical Panel Safety

All homeowners should know where their electrical panel is located. When you open the door to it, you should find breakers that are labeled which correspond to the different rooms or areas of the home. Breakers will sometimes trip due to a power surge or outage, and the homeowner can flip the switch to reactivate the current to the particular room or area. Behind the breakers is the dead front, and it is this electrical component that should be removed only by a qualified electrician or inspector.

Before touching the electrical panel to re-set a breaker, ask yourself the following questions:

Do I have an escape path? Make sure that you know where you can safely turn or step if you must escape a dangerous surprise, such a bee or a spark. An unfortunately placed shovel or extension cord, for instance, can turn a quick jerk into a dangerous fall.

Is the floor wet? Never touch any electrical equipment while standing on a wet surface!

Does the panel appear to be wet? Check overhead for dripping water that may have condensed on a cold water pipe.

Is the panel rusty? Rust is an indication of previous wet conditions that may still exist.

Are there scorch marks on the panel door? This can indicate a past or very recent arc, and further investigation should be deferred to a licensed electrician.

Here is a list of defective conditions that a homeowner may see that may be called out during an electrical inspection:

Insufficient clearance. According to the 2008 National Electrical Code, most residential electrical panels require at least a 3-foot clearance or working space in front, 30 inches of width, and a minimum headroom clearance of 6 feet, or the height of the equipment, whichhever is greater .

Sharp-tipped panel box screws. Panel box cover screws must have blunt ends so they do not pierce the wires inside the box.

Circuit breakers that are not properly sized

Oxidation or corrosion to any of the parts. Oxidized or corroded wires will increase the resistance of conductors and create the potential for arcing.

Damage caused by rodents Rodents have been known to chew through wire insulation in electrical panels (and other areas), creating an unsafe condition. Rodents have been electrocuted this way, leaving an unsightly mess inside the panel.

Evidence of electrical failures, such as burned or overheated components

Evidence of water entry inside the electrical panel Moisture can corrode circuit breakers so that they will not trip, make connections less reliable and the equipment unsafe to touch.

A panel manufactured by Zinsco or Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) These panels have a reputation for being problematic, and further evaluation by a qualified electrician is recommended.

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