Archive for Storm Water

Selling Your Home? Consider an Inspection First.

Posted in Around Your Home, I Wish I'd Thought About That, New Homes, Sell your Home, Worth Repeating with tags , , , , , , on February 5, 2014 by Pat Hansen

If you plan to sell your home soon, it may be wise to get a home inspection before you list your home. You can speed things along by getting a home inspection and analyzing the condition of your home and making necessary repairs before the house is under contract.

Whole home inspections cover numerous systems within the house, but there are some hot spots that seem to worry buyers the most:

Roofs and Chimneys

  • Decaying ShinglesDeteriorated shingles or other roof coverings are one of the first things home buyers and inspectors notice. If the elements underneath the shingles are moist or rotted, you can bet repairs will be requested.
  • Make sure flashing around the base of the chimney is watertight, and that mortar and bricks are in good condition.

Radon

  • Radon may or may not be part of a home inspection, but it is a good idea to ask for a radon test since radon has been linked to lung cancer. If an unacceptable level is found, then a radon mitigation system will be required. There are recommended companies that do radon mitigation and they can be found by contacting the MDEQ (Michigan Department of Environmental Quality).

Mold and Mildew

  • Mildew stains and odors scare buyers, especially since toxic black mold is such a hot topic. Chances are you won’t even get an acceptable offer if mold and mildew are present. Even if the mold is the normal variety, get rid of it and fix the source of the problem.

Plumbing ProblemsShower Inspection

  • Fix leaks long before the home inspection takes place. The inspector will check water pressure by turning on multiple faucets and flushing toilets at the same time. The inspector will also run the dishwasher.

Damp Basements and Crawlspaces

  • Mildew odors signal that a basement is too moist. Buyers and home inspectors will look closely at the walls and floors for patches of mildew and signs of dampness. The inspector might use a meter to determine how much moisture is present in these spaces because moisture deteriorates building materials and attracts insects.
  • Cover exposed earth in basements and crawl spaces with plastic to help keep moisture levels down.
  • Most foundation leaks are a result of poor drainage that funnels water towards the foundation.
  • Make sure gutters are clean so that rainwater flows toward downspouts instead of spilling over gutter sides along the foundation.
  • Point drainage downspouts away from the house.
  • Check water flow through buried drainage lines by flooding them with water from a hose. If water comes back towards you, the line is plugged and should be cleared.
  • If foundation problems do exist and you cannot make repairs, you might need to lower the price of the house upfront, with the understanding that the price reflects the problem. Another option is to give the buyers an allowance to make the repairs after closing.

Inadequate Interior Electrical Systems

  • Electrical PanelThe electrical panel and circuit breaker configuration should be adequate for the needs of the house.
  • The inspector will look for receptacles with ground fault interrupters (GFI) in bathrooms and kitchens. These receptacles contain mini circuit breakers that click off during a short circuit or overload. The inspector will make sure the receptacles are what they appear to be, and not “dummies” that are not wired correctly.
  • The inspector will test a portion of the remaining receptacles in the house.

Other Important Home Inspection Checks

Furnace inspectionHeating and cooling

  • The home inspector will check the heating and cooling systems, making sure they work and will comment on their efficiency.

Structure and Foundation

  • The inspector will take a close look at the structure and foundation.

Appliances and Smoke Detectors

  • The inspector will check the appliances that will remain with the house, including running the dishwasher and testing smoke detectors.

Before the Home Inspection

  • Sample Inspection ReportDo everything you can to get the house in good condition before you attempt to sell it, but don’t be discouraged if the inspection report contains a few negative comments. Home inspectors make a note of everything they see. They can identify problems in the making and suggest preventative measures that might help avoid costly repairs in the future.
  • Home inspections usually take 2-3 hours, or more in some instances. Costs vary from $250 to as much as $500. Home inspectors are not required to be licensed in most states; however, many are certified by ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors).

Selling Your Home? Consider an Inspection First

Posted in I Wish I'd Thought About That with tags , , , , on February 2, 2012 by Pat Hansen

If you plan to sell your home soon, it may be wise to get a Home Inspection before you list your home. You can speed things along by getting a home inspection and analyzing the condition of your home and making necessary repairs before the house is under contract.

Whole home inspections cover numerous systems within the house, but there are some hot spots that seem to worry buyers the most:

Radon

  • Radon may or may not be part of a home inspection, but it is a good idea to ask for a radon test since radon has been linked to lung cancer. If an unacceptable level is found, then a radon mitigation system will be required. There are recommended companies that do radon mitigation and they can be found by contacting the MDEQ, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

Mold & Mildew

  • Mildew stains and odors scare buyers, especially since toxic black mold is such a hot topic. Chances are you won’t even get an acceptable offer if mold and mildew are present. Even if the mold is the normal variety, get rid of it and fix the source of the problem.

Damp Basements and Crawlspaces

  • Mildew odors signal that a basement is too moist. Buyers and home inspectors will look closely at the walls and floors for patches of mildew and signs of dampness. The inspector might use a meter to determine how much moisture is present in these spaces, because moisture deteriorates building materials and attracts insects.
  • Cover exposed earth in basements and crawl spaces with plastic to help keep moisture levels down.
  • Most foundation leaks are a result of poor drainage that funnels water towards the foundation.
  • Make sure gutters are clean so that rainwater flows toward downspouts instead of spilling over gutter sides along the foundation.
  • Point drainage downspouts away from the house.
  • Check water flow through buried drainage lines by flooding them with water from a hose.  If water comes back towards you, the line is plugged and should be cleared.
  • If foundation problems do exist, and you cannot make repairs, you might need to lower the price of the house upfront, with the understanding that the price reflects the problem. Another option is to give the buyers an allowance to make the repairs after closing.

Roofs and Chimneys

  • Deteriorated shingles or other roof coverings are one of the first things home buyers and inspectors notice. If the elements underneath the shingles are moist or rotted, you can bet repairs will be requested.
  • Make sure flashing around the base of the chimney is watertight, and that mortar and bricks are in good condition.

Plumbing Problems

  • Fix leaks long before the home inspection takes place. The inspector will check water pressure by turning on multiple faucets and flushing toilets at the same time. The inspector will also run the dishwasher.

Inadequate Interior Electrical Systems

  • The electrical panel and circuit breaker configuration should be adequate for the needs of the house.
  • The inspector will look for receptacles with ground fault interrupters (GFI) in bathrooms and kitchens. These receptacles contain mini circuit breakers that click off during a short circuit or overload. The inspector will make sure the receptacles are what they appear to be, and not “dummies” that are not wired correctly.
  • The inspector will test a portion of the remaining receptacles in the house.

Other Important Home Inspection Checks

Heating and cooling

  • The home inspector will check the heating and cooling systems, making sure they work and will comment on their efficiency.

Structure and Foundation

  • The inspector will take a close look at the structure and foundation.

Appliances and Smoke Detectors

  • The inspector will check the appliances that will remain with the house, including running the dishwasher and testing smoke detectors.

 Before the Home Inspection

  • Do everything you can to get the house in good condition before you attempt to sell it, but don’t be discouraged if the inspection report contains a few negative comments.  Home inspectors make a note of everything they see. They can identify problems in the making and suggest preventative measures that might help avoid costly repairs in the future.
  • Home inspections usually take 2-3 hours, or more in some instances. Costs vary from $250.00 to as much as $500.00. Home Inspectors are not required to be licensed in most states; however, many are certified by ASHI, American Society of Home Inspectors.

Help Keep Local Waterways Healthy

Posted in Around Your Home, Green Building with tags , , , , on July 11, 2011 by Kevin Fox

There’s no question that everybody wants healthy streams, creeks and green spaces in their community for their family to enjoy safely. 

Storm-water management — keeping excess runoff from rain and snow and the contaminants that they carry from polluting local water sources — is essential to maintain the health and well-being of native fish and wildlife, as well as the quality of water that your family uses every day.

Home builders install silt fences and dig retention ponds to control storm-water runoff during construction.  But once a community is completed, the way it is maintained makes a big difference to the health of nearby waterways.

Consider the following ways that you can help keep your community clean and healthy for the enjoyment of many generations to come.

Lawn aeration

Often overlooked is the need to aerate your lawn.  Over time the soil becomes compacted.  Aeration allows water to penetrate the ground, rather than run off.  This helps reduce compaction while allowing your lawn’s roots to grow deeper.  A deeper root system gives your lawn the ability to better withstand  the dry summer months. Aeration is best done before the ground dries up and hardens.  The best times are spring and fall.  Fertilizing your lawn after aeration is a good practice as it allows the fertilizer to be more effective and less fertilizer will be washed away during a rain.

Fertilizing

When it rains, lawns that are over-fertilized can wash pesticides and herbicides into the storm drains on your street, eventually carrying it to the local water source — possibly the source of your drinking water.

According to the Center for Watershed Protection, more than 50 percent of lawn owners fertilize their lawns, but only 10 to 20 percent of those home owners actually perform a soil test to determine the fertilization needs of the lawn.  Before you buy your first bag, take time to do the soil test — you may find that you don’t even need to fertilize.

If you do need to fertilize your lawn:

  • Aerate your lawn first
  • Keep it on the grass, use it sparingly, and consider using organic products
  • Hold off if there is a chance of a rain storm shortly after applying it to your lawn
  • When you mow, don’t bag the grass. The clippings will naturally fertilize your lawn. But sweep those fertilizer-rich clippings off the sidewalk and roadway so they don’t go down the storm drain.

Trees

Planting a tree is a great way to help keep polluted storm-water from reaching storm drains.  The roots help rain water filter back into the soil, cutting down on excess runoff.  

As an added benefit, trees can help cut summer cooling costs by providing shade to the home, and in many cases they help to increase the value of your home.

Gardens

Plants that are native to your region require less water and nutrients to survive and are more resistant to pests and disease — therefore less fertilization is required.  Information about native Michigan plants can be found at the following web sites:

MICH DNR – Native Plants

Absolute Michigan

Rain Barrels

Rain barrels collect storm-water runoff from a home’s roof via the rain gutters. They hold the water temporarily, cutting down on the amount of water that reaches the sewer system. The water can then be used to water lawns and gardens.  

Purchase your rain barrel at a local home and garden store or build it yourself — step-by-step instructions are available on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) website, EPA – Rain Barrels

These are just a few suggestions to help get you started on the road to a cleaner and healthier community.  Get involved in your local watershed organization to find out how you can make a difference.  Visit www.epa.gov and search for “surf your watershed.”

For more information on storm-water management and other environmental initiatives visit the National Association of Home Builders at www.nahb.org

Rain Gardens: Combining Beauty with Function

Posted in Around Your Home, Green Building, I Wish I'd Thought About That, Renovation, The Drawing Board with tags , , , , on May 18, 2011 by Pat Hansen

The purpose of a rain garden isn’t limited to what grows in it. It is a landscape area that functions as a small-scale, temporary wetland.

A rain garden consists of a shallow depression that is planted with shrubs, flowers and grasses that are native to a region. Also called a bio-retention area, the rain garden’s saucer-like shape and water tolerant native plants, help precipitation absorb into the ground. It is not a retention pond, which can become a breeding area for mosquitoes. A rain garden is designed to hold water above ground for only a short while, as it filters down into the soil, making it a good landscaping choice for low-lying, often soggy problem areas in many yards. These planting beds work to manage excessive rainfall.

Rainwater itself, usually isn’t the problem, storm water runoff is. By allowing the runoff to be absorbed into a rain garden, the amount of pollution and sediment reaching creeks, streams and rivers can be significantly reduced. The gardens offer an earth friendly, attractive alternative to piping rainwater to the nearest sewer.

Native plants are recommended for rain gardens because they adapt to both extreme dry and extreme wet conditions. These plants take up excess water flowing into the rain garden, and standing water is only present for a limited amount of time. The water filters through both soil layers and root systems, before entering the groundwater system, which enhances infiltration, moisture redistribution and provides habitat for microbial populations involved in bio-filtration. Also, through the process of transpiration, rain garden plants return water into the atmosphere and provide a local cooling effect. Rain gardens can contain many different mixes of wildflowers, sedges, rushes, ferns, shrubs and small trees. Plants from a local nursery are well adapted locally, and are usually the safest to use in the long run. It is important to determine where the plants came from before purchasing them. Were the plants wild-collected or were they propagated at the nursery? Collecting plants in the wild can devastate local plant populations, so insist on plants propagated from division, cuttings or seeds. Additionally, propagated plants tend to be healthier than wild-collected plants making them better for the rain garden.

  • It is recommended that the garden bed be built with a planting mix of sand (25-35%), compost (50% or more) and native soil (15-25%). For a small rain garden, variations of these proportions may be workable.
  • Stabilize the top of the garden with natural mulch, 2-3 inches deep. The mulch acts as a sponge to capture heavy metals, oils and grease. Bacteria break down the pollutants as the mulch decays. The mulch also reduces weeds and maintenance.
  • Select natural mulch such as aged, shredded hardwood bark that will gradually decompose, adding compost (humus) to the soil. Apply the mulch to a depth of 2-4 inches and replenish as needed.

Ask your local nursery for plant, tree and shrub suggestions. It may be a good idea to do a sketch, to scale, of the rain garden area before going to the nursery to purchase your plantings.

A rain garden gives you an opportunity to make the most of every rainy day. Rather than allowing rainwater runoff to flow into the sewer, why not capture this valuable resource in your own beautiful and functional rain garden?

For more information on Michigan native plant material, you can read more HERE

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