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Pet Friendly Home by Homecheck

For many, welcoming a pet into the home is as joyous and significant as bringing home a new baby from the hospital.

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For many, welcoming a pet into the home is as joyous and significant as bringing home a new baby from the hospital. Pets easily find their way into our hearts with their playful antics and friendly companionship. When you decide you are ready for the responsibility of caring for a pet, it is imperative that you are willing to make adjustments to your living space. Preparing your home, pantry, and yard for your new pet is important to their well being and your ease of mind. This article offers pointers to those who are considering adopting a companion animal, or those who already have pets. Although the article focuses primarily on cats and dogs, many of the tips will work for most four legged friends. The tips may seem like common sense, but it may slip your mind to check for commonplace hazards when a new pet is underfoot exploring its' new surroundings. Many times we take for granted that things are safe or would be of no interest to animals. However, that adorable puppy running down the hall with toilet paper streaming behind him would beg to differ!

Part I: Preparing Your Home

When bringing a new pet home, the last thing anyone wants to think about is cleaning and proofing their home. However, taking a little time to do so will prevent headaches and possible heartaches. It will keep your pet, your prized possessions, and your sanity intact. This is true whether you are bringing home a new pet or adjusting an older one to a new home. Or, perhaps you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of losing possessions to a pet who has never had boundaries set up in the home. Whatever your reason, these tips will help proof your home for the new, old, and mischievous pets in your life.

Think Below the Knees
Get down on all fours and look around at the same level as your pet. There is a whole other world down at their viewpoint!

  • Think low! Remove objects on low shelves, coffee tables, and anywhere else that is easy access. Anything destructible, such as paper, books, anything made of cloth (i.e. laundry). It is much easier to 'chew train' a pet if they do not learn a bad habit of "where to look" for destructible goodies when you aren't looking.
  • Also think about food and snacks. Don't leave pop cans, candy wrappers, crumbs or anything else on a low counter. Leaving out these delicious tidbits can easily lead to "counter surfing".
  • Since kittens and ferrets may actually have the ability to walk on your counters, make certain to keep an eye on them when cooking. You may have food on the counter and the stove burners on - both can be dangerous. If you are a messy chef you may have a very happy kitty, but it could be dangerous if you don't keep an eye on them!
  • Speaking of food and snacks, make sure if you have smaller pets, like mice, that they are out of reach to your new puppy or kitten. Don't forget your fish - sometimes the idea that the aquarium is invincible can be tested.
  • Smokers - do not leave cigarette butts where pets may reach them. If eaten it can lead to nicotine poisoning and the filters aren't good on the digestive system.
  • Children's toys can be great fun for pets too! Make sure your kids realize they may loose their toy if it is left out and unattended. Also many toys may have small parts or can be easily broken into small parts by your pet which can be dangerous.
  • Overall keep you place picked up of daily messes. For example: Newspaper whether read or not is still fun to shred and eat. (Same goes for the mail!) Just got home from shopping? Put away the bags! Plastic bags can be either chewed and swallowed (pups) or can suffocate some pets accidentally (kittens & ferrets).
  • Sometimes pets will eat something that will require surgery to remove. Small objects to watch out for include rubber bands, balloons, beads, buttons, Q-tips, sewing needles, thread, staples, string, pantyhose and coins - to name a few!
  • Medication should never be left around the house. Make sure it is secure - just like with children!
  • Keep heating vents covered. Many pets love to snuggle up to these and you don't want your pet falling in.
  • Smaller pets like ferrets should be blocked off from holes and other hideaways - you don't want them to find a comfy spot and not come out! Also be certain to check under recliners before moving them as your pet may find it a nice place to hide out.
  • Plants should be moved to higher ground or blocked. Watch out for vine plants that your pet might grab and bring the whole thing down. * Some household plants are poisonous to pets. Here are a few: aloe verra, amaryllis, caladium, holly berries, lilies, mistletoe, mums, and poinsettias. For a complete listing check out the Poisonous Plants resource links.

Playtime
Unless they are sleeping, or eating, they are playing!! Some tips to make this non-stop action fun and safe for both of you!

  • Keep an eye on your pet at play with certain toys. Some toys don't hold up to your pets hunting prowess and become shredded in no time. Toys with squeakers are fun but many pets will work hard to remove them if your not watching. Just keep in mind if you are in the other room, you may never see them devour their cut up prey! A solution would be have toys for when you can see them and more durable toys for when they are in the yard, other room, or you are not at home.
  • Also watch older toys. If they don't fall apart they may actually be warn into sharp edges, don't let your pet play with damaged toys, they can cut themselves easily. Look before you step when playing with all our small pets. Try this pattern "Turn, Look, Step"
  • Some small animals such as rabbits are chewers and it normal to give them various chew toys such as: Cardboard boxes, empty oatmeal containers, bird toys, cardboard paper towel rolls, things to shred. Try to keep them away from your wooden furniture - they love wood! Instead wood sticks are available at pet stores.

Road Blocks
If they can't reach it, they can't eat it, scratch it, or all out destroy it!

  • Don't forget the garbage! Take the garbage outside or make sure you can close it away in a closet/room where pets cannot reach it. Not only will they make a mess rifling through all the goodies they can also hurt themselves if there are any rough objects they rifle through.
  • Keep some rooms closed. It is perfectly reasonable for there to be certain rooms that pets may not visit unless supervised. One obvious choice would be the bathroom (remember that puppy running down the hall with toilet paper - cute - but after the 20th time said pup turns from cutie to lil'-demon). If you don't have a door to a particular area look into getting a child gate or blocking it off with other materials.
  • If you have a mixture of pets you may not want them to be able to access certain areas of each others space. A prime example is keeping kitty litter from dogs, some seem to find the "deposits" tasty snacks. In this instance you can set up a roadblock for the dog that the cat can still easily climb over.
  • If your pet is especially good with its nose or paws you may want to get childproof latches. They will work well to keep them out of lower cabinets in your home.
  • Keep the lid down on the toilet, especially if you use strong cleaners. Small, curious pets may fall in and pets taking a drink can be poisoned by cleaners - some of them even contain anti-freeze!
  • Speaking of cleaners, here are some examples of cleaners that are really dangerous to your pets (to name a few!): ammonia, bleach, disinfectants, drain cleaner, oven cleaner, paint, rat/bug poison.
  • Keep electric cords out of reach or secure them to baseboards. When first home keep an eye on where your pet is at all times. Some may try chewing on the cords. You can deter this with a taste deterrent like "Bitter Apple", a mix of vinegar and water, or hot sauce. Or even better, block access to them altogether.
  • Speaking of cords, watch those drapery cords as well. Tie them up so all your window treatments aren't pulled to the ground.
  • Many animals are attracted to fire. The light of a candle or the heat of a fireplace will peak their interest. Make sure candles are never left unattended. For the fireplace make sure Fluffy knows just how close they are allowed to get for a good snooze - warm is good, singed is bad.
  • Keep the upstairs windows and any cellar doors shut. Young pets are just like children with their curiosity but can easily misstep and fall.
  • Be careful when working in the garage. It is best to keep them out and make sure you clean up thoroughly! Such toxins like anti-freeze are very lethal to pets - a drop the size of a dime can be lethal! (You hear a lot about anti-freeze, not only is a small amount incredibly lethal, anti-freeze is also sweet smelling and tasting to pets - they will seek it out!!)
  • Watch our for open dresser drawers, closets and other nice dark places, kittens are especially curious and many are drawn to these make-shift dens. Have you heard about the kitten jumping in the dryer? Its not a urban legend, be alert and check before you shut the door.
  • Another warm place kittens like to snuggle is on a car engine. If your kitten has access to your car (or the neighborhood cat for that matter) it may help pound on the hood of your car and honk you horn. If you don't want to do this every day try to limit access to your car.
  • One of my favorite words of advice when watching out for the sleeping kitten: "Locate your kitten before you sit down on the sofa or use the recliner." (Of course, depending on your house rules, that may go for your other pets too!)

Holiday Playground
The holidays are fun for everyone - including your pets!

  • Decorations should be up high or in rooms that pets have limited access.
  • Any holiday lights should be treated the same as other electrical cords. Get it out of the way or secured so your pets don't accidentally trip over them. Also keep a lookout and make sure they do not chew on them; again a taste deterrent like "Bitter Apple" will work.
  • Other holiday items to keep from you pets include: metal ornament hooks, popcorn strands, tinsel, angel hair (it is spun glass), and decorative artificial snow or tree flocking - to name a few.
  • Don't forget that holiday plants like holly berries, mistletoe, and poinsettias are poisonous!
  • Fourth of July fireworks are fun for us but many pets find all the racket frightening. One suggestion is to have treats nearby and give them treats whenever there is "Boom!" so they associate the noise with happier things (mostly used for dogs). Another thing to keep in mind if you are leaving for the festivities, don't leave pets alone out in the backyard. They may panic and do things they normally wouldn't do like digging their way out!
  • Many holidays include house guests that are not familiar with your pet or household rules. After introducing your guest to your pet, make certain you let your guests know not to leave doors open, feed table scraps or any other important household rules. If there are a lot of guests you may want to arrange a quiet place for your pet to retreat.

Home Alone
What do they do when you leave the home? Preferably it doesn't involve eating the couch!

  • Before you leave for a long day at work it is important your pet is calm. For dogs a good walk in the morning may be necessary. For cats a little play time will help with bonus energy. Teach your pet tricks and have them perform for you before you head out. Our pets sleep more then we do and getting rid of morning energy will help them settle for a nap while your out earning money to spend on them.
  • If you have a really active breed you may want to look into a dog daycare or walking service for a couple days out of the week. Taking your dog to a pet daycare is like taking them to camp. They get to romp with other dogs and usually come home tired and ready for a good night sleep. Many find that a few days out of the week is enough to hold them over on the days in-between.
  • Crates can be lifesaver when you are gone. If you have pet that is still undergoing training and is not sure of all the rules, a crate or restricted room is a must. Cautionary tale on the restricted room - we placed one of our pups in a room in our house as we went out to get a bite to eat. There was no furniture in the room except for her crate with her toys. When we came back she had climbed the crate and chewed the metal blinds on the window and also proceeded to dig up part of the carpet!

Part II: Preparing Your Pantry

Your kitchen is not only the place where you prepare your family's meals and sometimes serve them, but it is also the most widely used area in the home chosen by pet owners to feed their pets. U.S. consumers spend more than $11 billion a year on cat and dog food, according to the Pet Food Institute. And pet food manufacturers compete for these dollars by trying to make their products stand out among the many types of dry, moist, and semi-moist foods available. Pet food packaging carries such descriptive words as "senior," "premium," "super-premium," "gourmet," and "natural." These terms, however, have no standard definition or regulatory meaning. But other terms do have specific meanings, and pet foods, which are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM), must carry certain information on their labels. Consumers can be confident that their pets are eating a nutritionally sound food if they understand the full significance of these labels.

Pet Food Safety
When determining your pets diet, be sure to verify that all foods have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Veterinary Medicine.

Food & Drug Administration's Center for Veterinary Medicine
http://www.fda.gov/cvm/default.html

Menu Foods Pet Food Recall
http://www.menufoods.com/recall/

Pet Food Recall Frequently Asked Questions
http://www.fda.gov/cvm/MenuFoodRecallFAQ.htm

Table Manners
Don't feed table scraps to your pets. Many times people don't realize that some foods okay for us can be toxic or hard on the system for animals. Some foods to be aware of:

Alcohol
Chicken & Turkey Bones
Nutmeg Apples (stems & seeds)
Chocolate
Onion Apricots (seeds)
Coffee (grinds & beans)
Peaches (seeds)
Avocados
Dairy Products (large amounts)
Pears
Baking Powder
Fatty Foods
Plums
Baking Soda
Garlic
Potatoes (peelings & green)
Broccoli (large amounts)
Grapes
Raisins Cherries (stems & seeds)
Macadamia Nuts
Yeast
**Tobacco, although not a food, ingestion can be poisonous

Part III: Preparing Your Yard 

Your yard should be a fun and safe place for your pet to enjoy the outdoors, and maintaining it to prevent hazards is relatively easy. Although the outdoors may not be suitable for some pets, such as birds, mice, and rabbits, and those who stay in pens or restricted kennels/runs may not be able to enjoy your yard to its fullest extent, the tips below will address pets that have more freedom. These pets roam a fenced backyard or prowl around the perimeter of your house (i.e. small dogs & cats). Read on for a checklist of ways to make your yard safe and entertaining for your pets.

Yard Maintenance
When maintaining your yard you want to keep your pets in mind.

  • When working on the yard keep pets indoors. Our dogs like to chase the lawnmower - bad idea - so they now watch from inside. Some pets may be just the opposite and try either to attack the mower or try to escape in a panic - equally bad idea. Besides the lawnmowers, trimmers, leaf blowers, chainsaws, and other loud tools should not be used when pets are around.
  • Be careful with other tools such as shovels, rakes, spades, etc. Some pets may try to "help" you do the yard work and can inadvertently be struck by these items.
  • Review the chemicals you use on your yard. Weed killers, bug killers/bait and other chemicals can be poisonous to your pets as well. Some you may still be able to use, however, you may need to let the yard sit for x amount of hours before letting your pets back out. Symptoms of poisoning usually include: vomiting, diarrhea and sometimes convulsions or unconsciousness.
  • Keep your yard clean of waste. Especially with puppies, they can get in the habit of eating their waste. Besides, you will both enjoy your yard much better if it is not covered in poo mines! For cats you should have an outdoor litter box. This will be easier to clean and prevent the cat from laying waste to your (or your neighbor's) flowerbeds.
  • Remove any ladders, tools or stacked piles (i.e. wood), etc. that young pets may try to climb or knock over. If you do keep the stacks in your yard, check that they are secure and cannot roll onto your pet. C
  • Consider carefully what you plant in your yard. Plants that can cause complications include: Rhododendron, Japanese Yew, Lilly of the Valley, Peach and Cherry Trees (pits) to name a few. See our links to Poisonous Plants for more details.
  • You may want to try to keep your yard clear of the bee family by getting rid of nests on your property. Your dog cannot escape bees flying through the yard, but cutting down their numbers may help. All dogs are naturally allergic to bee stings. Depending on the location of the sting they may have to visit the vet for medication. If it is on the mouth/head it can lead to swelling and difficulty breathing.

The Kingdom
Your pets will make your yard into their own domain. Make sure their kingdom is safe and enjoyable.

  • Check the fence of the yard for holes or gaps that may be an easy escape. Make sure your gates are locked and secured and guests and children know to do so as well.
  • It is best not to have any young pets around water unattended. If you have a pool or pond make sure to watch them around this area carefully. Some trainers even suggest teaching pets how to get out of the pool or pond early on, sort of a "Swimming 101" for the pet in case they get into trouble when your back is turned. If your pet does get into a pool, make sure they get a bath so none of the harsh chemicals can effect their skin and coat.
  • Most pets are sun lovers. If your pet likes to "sunbathe" keep an eye that they don't get too hot. Signs of heat exhaustion include: restlessness, panting excessively and drooling. The worst case scenario is the pet collapsing and eventually falling into a coma. To counter it, wrap them in a damp cool (not cold) towel and go to your vet or animal hospital.
  • In hot weather keep plenty of water. Refresh and refill it often. If you keep food outside as well make sure it does not sit too long. The heat may cause it to spoil and flies may contaminate it.
  • Make sure you have shade in your yard. You may even want to add a structure such as a doghouse for your pup to rest
  • Ask your vet to recommend a flea & tick prevention plan right for your pet. Depending on how much your pet is outside, where it goes, etc. you may need more preventive tools. It is imperative you ask your vet as many medicinal solutions are measured by your pets size, weight, age, etc.
  • Your pet may like to make or find a burrow to rest in. Block off crawl spaces under sheds or decks. You don't want them to get trapped or hurt by any debris you cannot see underneath.

Ideas for your Pet Friendly Yard
Below are just a few ideas of things you may do to improve your yard for your pet.

  • Placing markers around your yard for your dog to potty on or for your cat to scratch on can help save some of your other trees. Start by blocking the trees you want to save and place toys or treats by the markers you want them to use. Eventually you can train you pet to have a habitual like for that particular log(s)!
  • Prepare digging spots for your pets. For your dog it can be a small area of dirt and sand where you keep toys to encourage him to be there. For cats you can have one container/pot with catnip or another enticement. By keeping them interested in their designated digging spot they will learn to have fun there and leave the rest of your yard alone (most of the time!).
  • If you don't want your dog in your flower bed try a wooden or stone fence. Some dogs will learn to stay out of the area due to the road block, however you may need to supplement the roadblocks with additional training.
  • Dogs are going to do their rounds around "their" territory. This will leave worn paths in the grass. You may want to lay a nice stone path on their route to beautify it.
  • Continuing with a dogs tendency to make paths, for smaller yards you can make a maze path for them. Using placing flowerbeds and other structures you can create a winding route for them for their territorial routine.

Conclusion

Pets are a wonderful addition to the family and home. Taking time to prepare your home, pantry, and yard will make both of your lives a lot easier. It may seem like a daunting task at first, however, your pet will soon learn the house rules. You may even be able to reclaim certain areas of the house as your own once your pet matures and understands not to destroy your possessions. You, too, will learn a thing or two and will begin to naturally watch out for potential pet hazards. Eventually you won't even realize your new habits. It is simply part of the lifestyle change that happens when you adjust your life to accommodate animals in your home. Just remember to be pro-active, and you'll have far fewer headaches in the long run, with great company and lots of fun! Useful Links! | Adopt a Pet | Animal Care | Dangerous Foods | Find a Vet | | Pet Insurance | Poisonous Plants | Selecting Food | | Just for Fun | Adopt a Pet AdoptAPet.com www.adoptapet.com Millions of young, healthy, beautiful companion animals are euthanized needlessly each year because there are too many pets and not enough homes or people interested in providing food, water, shelter, medical care and LOVE to these animals. Use these resources to unite animals with loving homes. American Kennel Club www.akc.org The American Kennel Club, a not-for-profit organization established in 1884, maintains a purebred dog registry, sanctions dog events and promotes responsible dog ownership. Petfinder.com www.petfinder.org Search 193,550+ adoptable pets with our advanced search or our Quick Search. Locate shelters and rescue groups currently caring for adoptable pets. Browse our resource library and learn more about how to care for your pet. Post classified ads for lost or found pets, pets wanted, and pets needing homes. Sign up to be a volunteer to help your local shelter or rescue group. Animal Care Doctors Foster & Smith Pet Care www.drsfostersmith.com At Drs. Foster & Smith we care about the health & safety of your pet. That's why we've developed this resource for pet owners like you. Healthy Pet www.healthypet.com The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) is an international association of more than 33,000 veterinary care providers who treat companion animals. Established in 1933, AAHA is well known among veterinarians and pet owners for its standards for hospitals and pet health care. PetEducation.com www.peteducation.com Fulfilling their commitment to provide pet owners with trustworthy pet care information, every Drs. Foster & Smith catalog contains up to 30 articles written by the doctors about the health and care of pets. Veterinary Partner www.veterinarypartner.com VeterinaryPartner.com is here to support your veterinarian and you in the care of your companion animals by providing reliable, up-to-date animal health information from the veterinarians and experts of the Veterinary Information Network (VIN), the world's first and largest online veterinary database and community. Dangerous Foods PetEducation.com www.peteducation.com - Dogs, Cats Some foods which are edible for humans, and even other species of animals, can pose hazards for dogs because of their different metabolism. PetPlace.com http://petplace.netscape.com/ Americans spend over $10 billion dollars on pet food for our pets. Despite buying the best food available, some pets would rather eat what we eat. However, certain foods can be dangerous to your pet causing varying degrees of illness. Some food is toxic due to ingredients and some by improper cooking, storage or poor hygiene. Find a Vet Healthy Pet www.healthypet.com Use Healthypet's Hospital Locator to find a veterinary hospital near you or nearly anywhere you want to go! VetLocater http://vetlocator.petplace.com/ Access to over 26,000 veterinary clinics in the United States and 2,400 veterinary clinics in Canada. Pet Insurance Pet Assure www.petassure.com Pet Assure, headquartered in Lakewood, New Jersey, is the nation's premier pet health care organization with thousands of veterinarians in 46 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Conceived in 1996, the company mandate is to enable pet owners to obtain quality care for their extended family members, at an affordable price. PetCare Pet Insurance www.petcareinsurance.com PetCare Pet Insurance Programs start at under $10/month. It's a small investment that will help you prepare for a secure and happy life for both you and your pet VPI Pet Insurance www.petinsurance.com From unexpected illnesses and accidents to routine care for your dog or cat, we recommend the VPI Superior Plan and Vaccination & Routine Care Coverage. For those who want minimum coverage we also offer the VPI Standard Plan. Poisonous Plants American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) http://www.aspca.org Please note that the information contained in our plant lists is not meant to be all-inclusive, but rather a compilation of the most frequently encountered plants. For general information on plants not included on either list, please feel free to contact us at napcc@aspca.org. Cornell University www.ansci.cornell.edu/plants/ This is a growing reference that includes plant images, pictures of affected animals and presentations concerning the botany, chemistry, toxicology, diagnosis and prevention of poisoning of animals by plants and other natural flora (fungi, etc.). Cyber Canine www.cybercanine.com/toxicplants.htm Here are some of the toxic plants you should keep away from your pets. If you suspect that your dog might have eaten any plant that might be toxic, contact his/her vet immediately. Many common house and garden plants can be toxic to animals if swallowed. The symptoms can be diarrhea, nausea, or skin allergies. Veterinary Medicine Library www.library.uiuc.edu/vex/toxic/intro.htm This database was created by Mitsuko Williams (Veterinary Medicine Librarian, 1983-2003) in order to assist the University of Illinois veterinary students in identifying common plants that are toxic to animals. This database brings together information available in library books, plants grown in the Poisonous Plant Garden, mounted specimens of plants, and the reference notes for a toxicology course (VB320) which is taught during the fall semester each year. Selecting Food Animal Protection Institute www.api4animals.org/689.htm Commercial pet food is a great convenience for busy caregivers. You want the best for your companion animals, but with a bewildering array of foods and claims to choose from, how do you decide what's best for your animals? US Drug & Food Administration www.fda.gov U.S. consumers spend more than $11 billion a year on cat and dog food, according to the Pet Food Institute. And pet food manufacturers compete for these dollars by trying to make their products stand out among the many types of dry, moist, and semi-moist foods available. Pet food packaging carries such descriptive words as "senior," "premium," "super-premium," "gourmet," and "natural." These terms, however, have no standard definition or regulatory meaning. But other terms do have specific meanings, and pet foods, which are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM), must carry certain information on their labels. Consumers can be confident that their pets are eating a nutritionally sound food if they understand the full significance of these labels. Just for Fun Neopets www.neopets.com Neopets® is the greatest Virtual Pet Site on the Internet. With your help, we have built a community of over 70 million virtual pet owners across the world! Neopets has many things to offer including over 160 games, trading, auctions, greetings, messaging, and much much more. Best of all, it's completely FREE!

Got Attic Mold? How to Diagnose Common Sources.

It happens to countless homeowners around the end of the year – you make the annual visit to your attic to collect the holiday decorations and what do you find?

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Got Attic Mold? How to Diagnose Common Sources.
By Mark D. Tyrol, P.E./Battic Door Energy Conservation Products

It happens to countless homeowners around the end of the year – you make the annual visit to your attic to collect the holiday decorations and what do you find? Spots and blotches covering the bottom of the roof sheathing. Worse yet – it turns out to be attic mold! What does energy conservation have to do with mold in the attic? Well if you take a step back and consider how the house behaves as system, they are often directly related. Building science experts have long been using the “house as a system” approach to diagnose the cause and origin of building defects. For example, ice dams. These are often caused by warm air seeping into the attic which causes the snow and ice on the roof to melt. The water drains to the edge of the roof (which is colder than the rest of the roof because it is an overhang and not warmed by the attic), freezes and creates an ice dam. As this process is repeated daily, the ice dam grows larger. Eventually water is forced under a shingle where it can seep into the house. Understanding how the house behaves as a system and the various causes and effects is necessary to diagnose most building related problems. But how about that attic mold? How did it get there? Mold requires chronic moisture to form and to thrive, so source(s) of moisture must be present. Possibly the moisture came from outdoors. The roof is newer and a quick check of the roof shows no obvious damage or leaks. Possibly the moisture came from indoors. During the heating season, the interior of the house frequently has high moisture levels, especially bathrooms and kitchens. A quick check shows that all bathroom fans, kitchen vents, etc. are properly ducted completely outdoors and not into the attic. The amount of insulation looks good and the attic is well ventilated. Don’t give up – you are almost there! Remember the house as a system? You know that warm, moist air is in the house, but how is it getting into the attic? By air leaks! Air leaks are the leading source of energy loss in most houses, and a frequent source of chronic moisture that can cause attic mold. Most homeowners are well aware of air leaks around windows and doors (especially old ones), but many overlook the numerous gaps leading directly into the attic! Have a look around the attic and you may find large gaps around recessed lights and fans, holes where wires or pipes are installed, even large gaps around the chimney. And don’t overlook the whole house fan and especially the folding attic stair - a big, uninsulated hole in your ceiling that is often overlooked! These gaps can add up to a large hole that allows warm, moist air from the house to flow right into the cold attic. The warm moist air condenses on the cold roof sheathing, creating chronically damp conditions that can lead to attic mold growth. And the energy loss – it can be like leaving a window open all winter long! Seal these air leaks and you stop a significant moisture source. And just think of all the energy you can save and the cold drafts you can stop! Mark D. Tyrol is a Professional Engineer specializing in cause and origin of construction defects. He developed several residential energy conservation products including an attic stair cover and a fireplace draftstopper. To learn more visit www.batticdoor.com

How to Hire a Home Inspector

You need an experienced professional.

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So, you are buying or selling a home and you feel that you need an experienced professional to inspect the property so that you go into the sale/purchase knowing everything that you need to know to make the proper decisions and arrive at the dollar/value amount that the property is worth to you. But, how do you go about it? All of the Inspectors’ ads seem the same - they all tout the same lines of how great they are, etc., etc. It’s impossible to get a referral because you really don’t know anyone who has bought or sold a home recently, and you surely don’t trust the Realtor's choice because you are pretty sure the Inspectors that they use are “their good Ol' boys” that solicit the Realtors for work. So, what’s a person to do? 

Well, let me make it easy for you to cut right through all of the hype and “fairy tales.” I’m going to give you a downloadable short chart that you can print. On the chart will be a few of the most pertinent questions you would want to be asking of your prospective Inspector as to his/her qualifications to be sure that they will be the one that will give you the knowledge and peace of mind to move forward into one of the biggest investments/transactions you will make in your life. If you use the chart as it is designed to be used, you will be able to fill in the boxes below each Inspector's name with check marks or minimal info relating to the answers you receive from the several Inspectors that you interview. It will become evident in short order who is the most qualified Inspector that you should hire, unless, of course, you are an individual that is of the opinion that all Inspectors are the same, all inspection reports are the same, and the only difference is who is the cheapest, which, in that case, I’m sure that you will get exactly what you bargained for. Besides, who better than the Inspector himself knows what he/she is worth! Download the Home Inspectors Hiring Questionnaire as a printable PDF file.

Finally, for those that really want to know who they are hiring to perform such an important service for them, I will give you a list of additional questions that you can ask that will further qualify an Inspector to you, if you wish to know more and take the time to ask them. Hey, you’re only talking about a few hundred thousand dollars of your hard earned money here, so taking a few extra minutes of your time to hire a true professional who will be supplying you with the knowledge and peace of mind that you need at a cost of less than ½ of 1% of what the transaction will be is, well, maybe worth the extra effort. I’ll make it even easier for you; I’ll give you some links (see box to the right) to go to so you can check if the answers the Inspectors give you are true.

So, roll up your sleeves, pull out the telephone book, and go online and decide on a few Inspectors that on the surface look promising. Write their names at the top of the columns and then start dialing the phone and asking the questions and filling in the blank boxes with check marks and info.

Questions To Ask:

  1. How long have you been inspecting?
  2. How long have you been in the Construction and Home Repair business?
  3. Are you “certified” by any national organization as a Home Inspector? Are you a licensed General Contractor?
  4. Are you licensed in any thing?
  5. Have you ever hands-on built a home from scratch? If so what, where, when?
  6. Have you ever spent any “real” time in the home repair field? If so, what, when?
  7. Do you solicit realtors to obtain your work/inspections?
  8. What, EXACTLY, do you inspect and include in your inspection report?
  9. Is the report computer generated, easy to understand and have digital color pictures? Do you offer a money back guarantee?
  10. How long will the inspection take?
  11. What is your fee?

These should be the short list, lucky thirteen if you will, that should shed a little light on just how much experience your Inspector has, how qualified they are and the basics of what you can expect from them should you hire them. http://www.unbiasedinspections.com/index.htm

Additional Questions You May Want To Ask:

  1. Do have a website and what is its address?
  2. Do you have any references you would like to share with me?
  3. Can I accompany you during the inspection?
  4. Have you ever been sued over one of your inspections?
  5. How do you stand behind your inspection if a problem comes up?
  6. How much continuing education do you take every year? What other services do you offer?
  7. Do you belong to the local Realtors Board?
  8. Do you advertise in any of the real estate companies’ sales fliers?
  9. What/whose Standards of Practice do you inspect to?
  10. What Home Inspection organization(s) are you most proud to belong to and why?

MY ANSWERS To The Questions:

I have been in the Home Inspection business for 40 years.

I have been in the Construction and Home Repair business for 45 years.

I am certified as a Home Inspector by the following organizations: CalNACHI, NACHI International, IHINA.

I have been a licensed General Contractor since 1977.

I am licensed in the following: California General Contractor & California Structural Pest Inspector.

I have built many structures since 1977, including such projects as a geodesic dome home.

I have 45 years of hands-on “real” time in the home repair field/structural pest control business.

I do NOT solicit realtors to obtain inspection work.

For each report I inspect all visible and accessible portions and systems of the house and property.

Each computer generated report is easy to understand and includes digital color pictures.

I offer a money back guarantee and stand firmly behind it!

Each inspection will take 4 – 8 + hours depending on the property to be inspected.

The fee will vary depending on the property to be inspected.

I have a website at www.unbiasedinspections.com.

I have numerous client references on my website at Client Testimonials.

I encourage my clients to accompany me during the inspection, or at least be on site near the end of the inspection. 

I have never been sued over an inspection, even though I’ve been inspecting homes since 1968.

If a problem comes up regarding an inspection, I have a money back guarantee.

Each year I obtain usually 40 - 50 hours of continuing education in pertinent home inspection classes.

Other services offered… structural pest (termite) inspections, thermography scans and reports, floor level mapping, consulting.

I do not belong to the local Realtors Board in order to avoid any perception of conflict of interest or collusion.

I absolutely do NOT advertise in any of the real estate companies’ sales fliers.

My home inspections are performed under the Standards of Practice of CalNACHI (National Association of Certifed Home Inspectors).

The Home Inspection organization(s) of which I most proudly belong is CalNACHI (National Association of Certifed Home Inspectors) because of their high standards and stringent continuing education requirements. I’m also proud to be a member of Independent Home Inspectors of North America (IHINA) because in order to be a member you must sign a pledge NOT to solicit business from realtors!

- Ron Ringen Ringen's

Unbiased Inspections http://www.unbiasedinspections.comhtm

Homes fo the Future

Smart homes and integrate technology.

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What better way to open the new year with a look at the future. In particular the technology and innovation behind homes of the future. There is no doubt that as technology changes so many aspects of our lives it will soon also effect our personal sanctuary. Last year we looked at how computers were changing how we watched television. Other simple pastimes such as reading are also affected by computers and software notebooks that change our libraries. Music collections can now be slimmed down from plastic CD to bits of data on our computer. But what about the home structure itself? How will new technology effect how we use energy, water, communications and the natural environment surrounding the home? What might the homes of the future look like? Below we take a look at some of the more fast approaching changes to residential buildings that we might see take hold in the next few years.

Homes with a Brain - The new smart homes integrate new technology while keeping flexible for future innovations. A central command for everything from lights, security, and temperature control to entertainment features such as TVs, computers, and music are all connected to one central powerhouse that can be accessed from anywhere in the home. Programming options will allow you to set the home to various tasks based on the time of day. Imagine waking as the blinds open to the sun in your room, the kids are all woken for school by the house using lights and/or radio alarms, the coffee is already brewed and the security system turns off the evening protections so you don't set it off as you grab your morning paper. At the end of your day, the house checks that all the lights are off for you, all the doors and windows are locked, the security system is on, and maybe the refrigerator tallies its contents so it can remind you in the morning that you are running low on milk.

  1. Automated Climate Control - Homeowners with newer heating and cooling systems already know the benefit of automated temperature control. Currently the system can check the temperature and adjust to the ideal climate you preprogrammed. In the future, these systems will be even smarter. Look for future heating and cooling systems to respond to more than just temperature. They will also adjust according to sunlight and wind - perhaps your shades will automatically close against a setting sun. Climate control will also become easier by zone or area. You can control heating to the bedrooms at night in the winter while balancing the rest of the house so you are not paying to heat empty rooms.
  2. The Efficient "Big Brother" - Smart homes of the future will help us monitor how we use energy and resources. With a fully integrated home, families can examine how they are using and wasting energy, water, etc. They can then easily determine where they can make changes to make their homes more energy efficient and environmentally friendly.
  3. Smart Appliances - These futuristic appliances can tell when your dishes are clean and will stop washing automatically. Your laundry will also only run until the rinse water is clean which will moderate water use and shorten cleaning time. Or better yet, instead of running the whole timed 60 minutes, the dryer will stop as soon as your clothes are dry.

Solar Energy - Recent oil prices and environmental concerns have created a resurge in the use of solar power. The new solar panels are not the same ones from the 70s. Instead, new solar panels on the market collect more photovolatic energy and are easier to install. Many homes are already including a few solar panels on the roof to offset energy costs. Setting the panels at the right slop towards where the house receives the most sun exposure is key. Even in a sunny state like California, consumers should realistically expect only a 50-75% savings at this time. But this is still substantial! Just imagine, as technology improves, so will our ability to use the sun's energy.

Wind Energy - Harnessing wind energy for a single urban residence is in a much more experimental/infancy stage than solar energy. But in the future, wind energy may help offset your energy costs just as much. Traditionally, wind power has been on a large scale and usually used rurally because the size of the turbines. But there are innovative thinkers already creating compact wind turbines for the urban resident. A recent example is the Clarian Jellyfish that is no more obstructive than a TV antenna on the roof.

Wireless Energy - Various forms of wireless energy are still under experimentation. Some are already proven to work in models - such as the WiTricity created by MIT Professor Marin Soljacic. In the future, using electromagnetic induction, microwaves or even lasers, energy may be transferred without the use of wires. In cases such as electromagnetic induction, the transmitting energy is reportedly safe to humans as energy moves from the power source to the receiver at a resonant frequency that matches each other but not other items in the environment. At this point the idea is that homes will still be connected to the city power grid, but all the devices in the home would be powered without wires. Imagine never having to charge your cell phone again or hanging a television on the wall without any wires. To read a bit more, click here.

Phones - Will your home in the future have a standard phone line? Many customers have been dropping phone line use in favor of wireless options - in fact, last year it was estimated that one in every five homes only uses wireless phones.* In addition, homes are now using more Internet phone and communication options such as video conferencing. Homes in the future may not be built with a standard phone line as more users switch to an IP based or wireless phone plan. Already many businesses are cutting costs by either not upgrading or not installing these phone lines for reconstruction or new construction projects. Starting with the business sector first, it may only be a matter of time when the phone line becomes optional for new homes.

Security - Many of the gadgets from the movies are now a reality for the everyday consumer. It is becoming easier to set up cameras around your home that you can access from any computer on a secured site. Add to this new electronic locks that allow you to lock/unlock your home online - perhaps you forgot to lock the doors this morning but can now do so from work or you want to let your neighbor in to bring in the paper while you're on vacation. And yes, these new locks will let you track which doors are opened, when and, in the future, by whom. You can already get fingerprint readers that will limit access to computers and/or your home. Some of the new model homes also include iris scans that make keys almost unnecessary.

Space - In the cities our available living space can be limited and will be even more so in the future. For urban living, therefore, it makes sense that our living spaces take on multiple functions. Tucking away what is not in use and creating efficient use of space is a common element many urban homes are adopting. For example, compact, built-in furniture features can help turn a living room into a bedroom or dining room. Perhaps suburban and even some rural homes will adopt some of these innovations as they give evidence of their cost effectiveness. Homebuyers may use urban designs to lower energy bills and the cost of building or remodeling a home. However, large homes will not disappear overnight and design will not change in most of the country until these slim urban concept designs prove their efficiency without sacrificing comfort.

Plants - Plants can help make a room more appealing and complete. In the future, plants may also be used to facilitate cleaner air in the home or to help clean waste water. Plants already can act like a carbon filter and help in taking gases such as carbon monoxide and formaldehyde out of the air.* Maybe start this today and get a spider plant which is reported to work on both of these gasses. Currently plants may also be used around the home to help slow chemicals from storm runoff, safely adsorbing chemicals and creating clean waste. In the future, as more ways to treat water through phytoremediation are developed, this technology may become more accessible and plants may take a greater role in helping remove toxins from the water coming in and out of our homes.

Sprinklers - Okay, so not as impressive as say wireless energy, but the new sprinkler systems are still pretty neat - and cost effective. New systems allow for thinking sprinkler systems that will water the lawn only as needed. Set to read the amount of rain already received - you won't see automated sprinklers on during a rainstorm again!

Galvanized Pipes in Older Homes

My husband and I are buying an 80 year old home in Columbia, South Carolina, but we are not sure about the galvanized water pipes under the house, What is the life expectancy of these pipes?

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Galvanized pipes have a general life expectancy of 50 years, but this can be shortened considerably by the amount of minerals in the water supply. Columbia has naturally soft water, and galvanized pipes here tend to last longer. Other areas of the country such as Southern California have rather hard water, and as a consequence, galvanized pipes won’t last as long there. Two things happen to galvanized pipes as they age.

First, minerals tend to slowly build up on the inner walls of the pipe decreasing the inside diameter. In extreme cases, this can slow the water flow to a trickle.

The other common problem with galvanized pipes is corrosion at the joints. In the process of cutting the threads for the pipe fittings, the protective galvanizing is cut away exposing bare metal. Over time, these threaded joints will corrode and eventually break. In the case of your 80 year old house, if the pipes are original I would definitely consider replacing them. If you are not sure how old they are, I recommend that a qualified home inspector examine them and look for signs of corrosion at the fittings, and check for low water flow at all of the faucets.

HOMEOWNER’S TIPS

IMPORTANT HOME INSPECTION TIPS

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IMPORTANT HOME INSPECTION TIPS

1. Order a home inspection soon after your purchase offer has been accepted. Real estate contracts typically allow a limited number of days to complete a home inspection (and then to request repairs, if applicable). 

2. Reputation is important. Choose a home inspector who is known for competence and professionalism — a referral from your lender or realtor is a good place to start. Make sure the inspector you select has access to ongoing technical support and offers you post-inspection advice, if needed.

3. If the home has been vacant, ask the seller to have all utilities turned on during the home inspection. Failure to do so may require a second trip to the home and may involve additional fees. To properly evaluate the home, an inspector must be able to operate all systems.

 4. If your inspector recommends a further evaluation, have a specialist in that area conduct a more extensive examination prior to closing.

5. Be sure you understand all conditions identified in the inspection report and reported defects/and or areas of concern have been resolved to your satisfaction before closing. 6. Your inspector can arrange for other services such as radon screening, termite inspection, water analyses, lead-based paint testing and septic/well system evaluation. Take advantage of your inspector’s contacts when necessary to further minimize unexpected after-sale problems or hazards in your new home.

More information at: http://www.southernhomeservices.biz/index4.htm