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Your Homeowner's Newsletter from Distinct Home Inspections


Welcome to my homeowner’s newsletter! Each month, you’ll find plenty of useful information for keeping your house in great condition so that you can enjoy it for years to come. Preserve your investment—and keep your family safe and healthy—by maintaining your home using the following tips.

15 Tools Every Homeowner Should Have (Part 1)

  1. Plunger: A clogged sink or toilet is one of the most inconvenient household problems. With a plunger on hand, you can usually get the water flowing again fast. It’s best to have two plungers:  one for the sink and one for the toilet.
  2. Combination Wrench Set: One end of a combination wrench is open and the other end is a closed loop.  Nuts and bolts are manufactured in standard and metric sizes, so it’s handy to have set of different sizes in both types. For the most leverage, always pull the wrench toward you. Also, avoid over-tightening.
  3. Slip-Joint Pliers: Use these to grab hold of a nail, nut, bolt, and much more. These pliers are versatile because of their jaws, which feature both flat and curved areas for gripping many things. They also have a built-in slip-joint, which allows you to quickly adjust the jaw size to suit most tasks.
  4. Adjustable Wrench: It can be somewhat awkward to use at first, but an adjustable wrench is ideal when you need wrenches of different sizes. Screw the jaws all the way closed to avoid damaging a bolt or nut.
  5. Caulking Gun: Caulking is a quick way to seal up gaps in tile, cracks in concrete, and leaks in certain types of piping. Caulking can provide thermal insulation and control water penetration. Caulk should be applied only to areas that are clean and dry. 
Five more tools will be covered next month!

Safe Railings & Stairs at Porches & Decks

Most DIY homeowners (and a surprising number of contractors) aren’t aware that the railings and stairs at decks and porches should follow certain measurements for safety.  This is especially important for households with children and/or visitors with children. 
 
Here are some basic rules for steps:
  • Most deck stairs have open risers (the vertical space between stairs) that are not safe for children, as well as adults who may step too far into the tread or surface of the step.  Risers may be open but should not allow the passage of a sphere 4 inches in diameter.  Another way to make an open-riser stairway safer is to increase the depth of the tread.
  • It’s typical for steps or risers in the same stairway to be of slightly unequal heights, but the difference between the shortest and tallest (including the very bottom step) should not exceed 3/8-inch.  This is to ensure that a person’s natural stride is not interrupted, which can otherwise lead to tripping.
  • A smooth and graspable handrail should be provided on at least one side of a stairway having four or more steps.  A handrail is considered graspable if the average person can hold onto it using a natural grip for balance and support.  It should also be between 34 and 38 inches high.
  • Outdoor lighting at steps is essential for night-time safety.  Solar-powered stake units are a low-cost and energy-efficient option.
Here are some rules for railings:
  • The guardrail surrounding a deck or porch should be supported by posts at least every 6 feet.  This includes most decks that are higher than 12 inches above adjacent areas.
  • The spindles or balusters between the posts should be less than 4 inches apart to prevent children from slipping through or becoming stuck between them.
  • Balusters should be vertical rather than horizontal or ladder-type to prevent anyone from climbing on them and damaging them or hurting themselves.
If you suspect that your deck or porch doesn’t meet these guidelines, a tape measure will help ensure your family’s and guests’ safety.  Check with your local building department for code compliance and other requirements.

Garage Door Safety

The garage door is the largest moving object in a house.  Its parts are under high tension.  All repairs and adjustments should be performed by a trained garage door systems technician.  To find a technician, visit the International Door Association website.  If the garage door appears inoperable or out of plumb, do not attempt to operate the garage door opener.  If the door appears plumb, you can perform some basic testing to ensure that your garage door is operating as it should.

Photo-Electric Eyes

Federal law states that residential garage door openers manufactured after 1992 must be equipped with photo-electric eyes or some other safety-reverse feature.  If the garage door has an opener, check to see if photo-electric eyes are installed.  They should be near the floor, mounted to the left and right sides of the bottom door panel.  The beam of the photo-electric eyes should not be higher than 6 inches above the floor.  
 

Non-Contact Reversal Test 

This check applies to door systems that are equipped with photo-electric eyes.  Standing inside the garage and safely away from the path of the door, use the remote control or wall button to close the door.  As the door is closing, wave an object in the path of the photo-electric eye beam. The door should immediately reverse and return to the fully-open position.

Contact Reversal Test 

This check applies to doors with openers when the opener’s force setting has been properly set, and when the opener reinforcement bracket is securely and appropriately attached to the door’s top section.  If you’re concerned that a contact reversal test may cause damage to the garage door or its components, don’t do it. 
 
Otherwise, begin this test with the door fully open.  Under the center of the door, place a 2x4 piece of wood flat on the floor in the path of the door.  Standing inside the garage but safely away from the path of the door, use the wall push button to close the door.  When the door contacts the wood, the door should automatically reverse direction and return to the fully-open position.
 
If your garage door fails or is slow to respond to any of these tests, contact a qualified technician who can check for any necessary repairs or upgrades.
 
Regards,

Marco Ramos
Distinct Home Inspections
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