Friday, February 13, 2015

Carpenter Ants

Mistaken Identity
Carpenter Ants should not be confused with termites. Termites are white in color and are smaller than a grain of rice. Carpenter ants look like regular black ants, except a little bigger. Adult carpenter ants grow to be as much as one-half inch long. Queens are often twice that size.
If you get really intimate with a carpenter ant you will notice that they have bent or “elbowed”
antennae. They only have one Node or bump on the joint between their thorax and abdomen (the thorax is the middle section and the abdomen is the rear section), and the thorax on some carpenter ants is burnt orange or chestnut red in color. They also have hairy abdomens.
You will never see a termite unless you break open a piece of infested wood or a shelter tube (tunnels that termites use to get from the soil, where they live, to the wood they are eating). Carpenter ants, on the other hand, roam around looking for food the same way ordinary ants do.
Termites eat wood. Carpenter ants do not. Instead, they burrow into wood to make a nest and they push the wood and other debris (called frass) out of their colonies. The inside of the infested wood is spotlessly clean and consists of smooth galleries through the wood.
Finding A Home
Most carpenter ant nests are outdoors in tree stumps, fence posts, and unfortunately, sometimes in porches. But these ants will also nest indoors in rotten or damp wood or sound wood adjacent to a source of moisture such as a sweaty pipe, washing machines, dishwashers or baseboards in damp areas. Although they normally excavate their colonies, they sometimes live in hollow doors, window frames, etc.
Carpenter ants are omnivorous meaning they eat all different types of food. Outdoors they eat plants, insects, (their favorite are aphids), fruit, etc. Indoors they eat household foodstuff, especially syrup, honey, sugar, fat and grease.
On their way back to the colony, they rarely take the same route twice, which can make it difficult to locate the nest. Even though the colony may be indoors, most of the ants will go outdoors to feed. This also reduces the likelihood of detection. To make matters worse, the ants are more active at night than in the daytime and some colonies go dormant during the winter. (The colony is most active during the spring and summer.)
Coming Out of the Closet
In the summer months, swarms of winged carpenter ants (both male and female) leave the
colony. They mate on the fly, return to earth and shed their wings. The female (queen) then finds a suitable place to lay her eggs which hatch into larvae. The larvae develop into adults in 2 to 10 months depending on the temperature. These adults are workers and at this stage the colony is only a queen plus 10 to 20 workers. The colony takes 3 to 6 years to develop, during which time the queen lays eggs and the workers care for the young. A queen has a life expectancy of 8 to 12 years while workers can live 4 or 5 years. When the colony has developed, winged males and females form. They remain in the colony over the winter and take flight the next summer to begin the process again. A developed colony may contain thousands of ants. Needless to say, the damage to wooden components can be significant to make a home for this many ants.
Kissing Your Ants Goodbye
We have to find the colony to get rid of the ants. This can be tricky. Sawdust at entrances to the colony is one method. Listening for the ants is another. At quiet times, a dry rustling sound can be heard from the colony (some specialists use stethoscopes to listen for them). If you bang on the wood, it disturbs them and the noise level from the colony will increase. Finding and eliminating the colony is best left to a pest control specialist.

Your best defense against carpenter ants is elimination of damp environments and rotted wood within the home. Storing firewood adjacent to the house or in the basement is not wise. While chemical treatment can kill the colony, they’ll be back next year if suitable conditions exist.
Courtesy of CarsonDunlop/com

Monday, February 9, 2015

EPA’s renovation, repair and painting rule (RRP)

EPA’s renovation, repair and painting rule (RRP)
The EPA’s Lead-Based Paint Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule took effect in April 2010. It is a federal regulatory program covering anyone who disturbs painted surfaces where lead may be present.
Specifically, any contractor, including renovators, electricians, HVAC specialists, plumbers, painters and maintenance staff, who disrupts more than six-square-feet of lead paint in pre-1978 homes, schools, day care centers and other places where children spend time, must be certified.
Companies are certified and individuals must be trained in lead-safe work practices. Training providers must be accredited by the EPA.
Alert Consumers
EPA has launched an education program to alert consumers that unqualified workers could spread lead paint dust in housing built before 1978 even in doing a small job. Three simple steps help parents protect their children:
  • Get Your Home Tested. Ask for a lead inspection before you buy a home built before 1978.
  • Get Your Child Tested. Ask your doctor to test your young child for lead even if they seem healthy.
  • Get the Facts. More information about preventing childhood lead poisoning is available at
To protect tenants and family members when renovations take place, landlords, homeowners and home-buyers are directed to locate a contractor who is Lead-Safe Certified by visiting or calling 800-424-LEAD.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

common ice dam locations

Understanding Attics

Understanding the Attic
If you’re like most homeowners, you know the importance of insulating and tightening up your house to conserve energy. But what you may not know is that certain areas of a house need to breathe. One of these areas is the attic, which requires proper ventilation not only to maintain comfort below, but also to keep the very roof over your head solid and secure!
There are two particular villains that proper ventilation will fend off. These are heat and humidity.

Attic - Typical types of roof ventilation

Sources of Heat
Heat comes from the sun and, in summer, a poorly ventilated attic can reach temperatures as high as 150˚F which means that even with insulation in the attic floor, the rooms below will be hotter than necessary, less comfortable, and more expensive to air condition. Excess heat also can shorten the life of some roofing materials.
Sources of Humidity
Humidity comes primarily from within the home, drifting upward from showers, unvented clothes dryers, humidifiers and kitchen ranges. It also comes from other, not-so-obvious sources.
During cold weather, water vapor may condense in various areas of an insufficiently ventilated attic, seeping into wooden rafters or roof sheathing and rotting them. Moisture in the attic area can cause roof shingles to buckle and insulation to lose its effectiveness. It also creates an environment that is conducive to mildew.
In recap, four reasons you need proper attic ventilation, to help:
  • Prevent structural damages caused by moisture
  • Increase the life of the roofing materials
  • Reduce energy consumption
  • Enhance the comfort level of the rooms below the attic

Ice Dams
Ice DamsIf adequate ventilation is not installed, serious problems such as attic condensation, wood rot, mold, mildew and rusting metal will occur. These problems can affect the integrity of the roof as well as the integrity of the house, and can even cause health problems for family members in the home. One of the biggest roof problems associated with improper attic ventilation is an ice dam.
Ice dams occur when snow melts near the ridgelines of warm roofs (roofs without adequate ventilation). As the water runs down the roof to the overhand, it cools and freezes. If the snow continues this melt and freeze process, an ice dam can form that can seep under the shingles, through the sheathing and into the home.
Points to Ponder
To maintain the most efficient attic ventilation, make sure that vents from your bath, kitchen and laundry are not routed to the attic, but instead go directly to the outside.

Never block off your attic ventilation in winter, since moisture generated inside the home that rises to the attic can cause more problems in winter than in summer. With proper insulation between the attic floor and ceiling below, the ventilation will not lower the temperature in the house.


A career as a Home Inspector does not look very glamorous or rewarding to most people and, to be honest, some people actually give off the impression that the Home Inspector is beneath them in some areas of the world.  Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and view of others and, regardless of what anyone may think, a Home Inspector is a very important person and a MAJOR part of their Clients Real Estate Transaction, which, for most, will be the largest investment of their lives.

Going to work every day, meeting new people from all walks of life, and seeing a different home every day, makes the life of a Home Inspector very interesting and fun.  The best part of my job is meeting new people every day, whether they are our Clients (the home buyers and sometimes sellers), Real Estate Agents, and also the current homeowners, is something I enjoy and something that has even led to lifelong friendships. Overall, the GREATEST part of my job as a Home Inspector is being able to HELP our Clients from making a bad investment or giving them that little bit of reassurance or confidence they have been waiting for in order to move forward with their investment.
Sometimes emotions get in the way and play a major part of a real estate transaction, which can sometimes lead to a poor decision or bad investment, which is the reason Home Inspectors are so important.

Helping our Clients have greater peace of mind during the real estate transaction and providing our expert input and recommendations on repairs and maintenance, is the greatest part of our job and it truly is rewarding.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Understanding Plumbing

Plumbing has come a long way since the days of outhouses and hand pumps. We rely on the convenience of today’s plumbing systems so much that we take their reliability for granted.

Unfortunately, many home owners don’t know the basics of their plumbing systems. When a major problem occurs, they are left at the mercy of a contractor, trusting their estimate of the damage and the repairs needed. So knowing what you can about plumbing may help in selecting the best possible contractor.

Water Supplies
Your potable water is supplied by either a municipality, utility company or a well. If you have a well, water is pumped for the well by a motorized pump into a pressure tank and then into the supply system. When demand in the house causes pressure in the tank to drop, the pump turns on and water is drawn out of the well to refill the tank. The pump shuts off automatically when the pressure is reestablished.

Most interior residential water supply systems use one or more of the following material for piping:
•galvanized iron

If your piping is lead, you want to have your water laboratory-tested to determine if the lead is contaminating your water supply. **Contact Pro Chek Home Inspection Services at #800-338-5050 to schedule your Water Lead Test or Private Well Water Test at your home to ensure the Water in your home is potable and not making you and your Family ill.

Water Heaters
Most homes have their water heated by electric, gas, or oil-fired heaters. Tanks normally range in size from 30 to 82 gallons. Some larger homes have two waters heaters, or even point of use water heaters. Most modern tanks are guarded against corrosion by a thin coating of enamel inside the tank. Also insulation is placed between the tank and outer jacket to minimize heat loss.

To guard against excessive temperature or pressure, every water heater must have a temperature/pressure relief valve that automatically releases water when the temperature or pressure in the tank reaches its limit.

Follow the manufactures recommendations for temperature settings to prolong the life of the tank. Some tanks have replaceable magnesium rods which are suspended in the water to attract corrosive electrolytes that would otherwise consume the tanks walls. Check the manufactures instructions for replacement schedules for these rods.


To most people, the workings of the toilet seem complicate, however they’re really quite simple. When the tank handle is pushed or lifted, a connecting rod or chain raises a rubber stopper from a value seat at the bottom of the tank. Water from the tank ruses into the bowl and the tanks float ball drops with the water level. As water fills the bowl, gravity and a siphoning action draw the contents of the bowl through the trap and into the drainage system.

After the tank water is released into the bowl, the rubber stopper drops down to seal the valve seat at the bottom of the tank. Water from the supply line flows through a ball cock valve to refill the bowl and then the tank. The float ball rises with the water and when the water reaches the proper level the ball cock valve shuts off the water to the tank until the next flush.

General Plumbing Tips1.When in doubt about any plumbing problem call a licensed plumber.
2.Clean pop-up sink drains and strainers every month.
3.Try to keep fat, greases and coffee grounds out of drains and dishwashers.
4.Never pour paint or chemicals down drains.
5.Flush the garbage disposal with one pot of hot water and a half cup of baking soda each month.
6.Take note of any pipe repairs that have used caulk or tape or other temporary repair methods or materials. Have these repaired by a licensed plumber.
7.Make sure caulk is in good condition. Fixtures should be firmly attached to the wall or floor.
8.Periodically inspect your water heater for signs of rust or leakage. If the tank or relief valve is leaking call a licensed plumber immediately.
9.Make sure any sump pump in use is connected to a surface grade drain or to a storm drain and not a septic tank or sewage system. Always check with your local township or city to see what type of drainage system is allowable. Some areas of the US are switching footing drains to drain into storm sewer systems instead of sewage systems. Any sump pump installed should have its own dedicated electrical outlet.
10.Check with your local authorities to find out what plumbing projects need permits, and when completed have it inspected and approved by the local authorities.