Give Your House a Facelift Refresh, Renew, Restore your Siding

give-your-house-a-faceliftWhen selling your home, curb appeal is essential. However, it isn’t all pretty flowers and shrubs that your buyer is purchasing. It’s the house itself.

For a very modest investment, you may find giving your house a little facelift by restoring or repairing your siding will greatly improve the appeal and structure of your home, and increase it’s odds of selling.

Below here are some easy and inexpensive cleaning routines to revive your home’s siding by cleaning it with the right tools and chemicals.


Wood Siding
Wood siding on homes are typically made from Cedar wood. This material is susceptible to growing alge of mildew so it should be cleaned periodically. Left untreated the dampness can rot the wood and lead to the siding having to be replaced. Cedar can be cleaned safely and easily by using a light power washer. Simply hook a power washer up to a water source such as a garden hose and insert the yellow tip to avoid damage. Apply the pressure washer detergent as the instructions indicate. To eliminate mold and mildew use a solution purchased from your local hardware store. Test a small section to ensure there is not too much bleach. Spray your entire house and watch the soiled siding become new again.

Vinyl Siding
Although vinyl siding is fade resistant, this material is susceptible to discoloration and chemical staining. The good news is that a simple water and mild detergent solution can remove those imperfections from siding. In addition to the cleaning solution, you may need a pole to attach to a soft brush for scrubbing the upper rows of siding. Once all of the supplies have been gathered and prepared, wet the siding. Starting at the bottom, scrub the siding with the solution, gradually moving toward the top row until the siding has been thoroughly cleaned. Rinse the siding again and the task is complete.

Aluminum Siding
The basic cleaning process for aluminum siding is very similar to vinyl siding: soak the siding, scrub the siding and finish by rinsing the siding. The differences in restoring the two comes from the finish on aluminum siding. Since aluminum siding can be painted, obtaining the original paint and luster requires more intensive scrubbing and stronger chemicals.

After the siding has been cleaned, you can apply Armor All other approved products to the area to restore the luster of the siding.

In cases where the discoloration is severe, repainting the siding is a good option. To ensure a flawless paint job, clean the siding and then paint with 100 percent acrylic paint.

Brick Exterior
If you’re lucky enough to have a home with charming brick walls, keep them looking their vey best by keeping them clean. Cleaning brick is actually fairly simple as long as you have the right tools. Prep the area by covering any shrubs or greenery with a tarp, and sealing the windows with painters tape. To get rid of the first simply attach a pressure washer to a water source such as a garden hose.If there are any areas where the brick is damaged refrain from using the pressure washer in that area. Take a steel brush and scrub with detergent and warm water.

Hard to Remove Stains
For any difficult stains, consult or 1.888.367.8741 for advice or reference the following chart to remove stubborn stains.

Crayon Lestoil
Felt-tip pen Fantastik, water-based cleaners
Grass, grease and oil Fantastik, Lysol, Windex
Rust Fantastik, Windex
Tar Soft Scrub
Dirt, soil Fantastik, Lestoil


If you choose to repaint your wood or aluminum siding, clean the surface before applying the primer coat. A primer is necessary particularly when painting over darker surfaces with lighter colors or over glossy finishes. Paint can be brushed, rolled or sprayed onto the siding.  Avoiding painting in direct sunlight or in poor weather conditions to achieve the highest quality paint job.

You may also have to replace caulk on your siding. Purchase the best option available to you at a price point that you feel comfortable spending on the product.


Using this information as a reference will make restoring your siding well worth your effort. If you feel that cleaning and resurfacing you siding still is not enough, consult your local NARI chapter of licensed and bonded contractors for a quote on comprehensive restoration.

Do you have a question regarding your existing or future home? 
Send us an email at


Test for Radon before You Sell


what-is-radonWhat is Radon?
Radon is an colorless, odorless radioactive gas. It forms naturally from the decay of radioactive elements (e.g. granite, uranium) which are found at different levels in the soil and rock around the base and under your home. The radon gas given off by the rock and soil can enter buildings through minute fractures in the basement floor or foundation, walls, construction joints, or gaps in the foundations around pipes, wires and pumps.




Why Test for Radon?
The EPA estimates that about 20,000 lung cancer deaths each year in the U.S. are radon-related.

Radon is present year round even in the most beautiful new homes and condos.
Testing for Radon during the Winter to Spring months will also give you the most accurate reading, and the comfort that you’ve made a wise business decision that will also improve your health.  Usually, the seller often covers the cost of the test.

Always have your home Radon tested by a certified AARSTprofessional.


Why is Winter is the best time to test for radon?
Radon levels are usually at their highest during Winter months particularly in basements when the concentration of Radon gas is often the highest. This is because the windows and doors, which often help vent the gas in the warmer months, are now closed.

By testing your home’s radon levels now, you’ll get the most accurate reading and know if your home requires a mitigation system.

The testing is not difficult and should take no more than 48 hours.  Follow all directions given by your certified NRPP – EPA – AARST professional to ensure accurate results (e.g. do not touch the monitor; do not open any windows.)


Common Myths about Radon    
1. Why should I have professional perform my test versus one of those store kits?
Most store kits are indeed cheap, but are very often inaccurate, dated or spoiled. More importantly, they are not EPA certified for real estate transaction testing, and can take up to 90 days to get a reading.

It is best to have an AARST certified and experienced professional like Scot McLean of Towne & Country Building Inspection — we are listed with the State of Wisconsin Department of Health and EPA as a certified testing and monitoring specialist with approved equipment. If you need radon testing in Milwaukee please call us today.

Towne & Country Building Inspection’s
NRPP ID#:   ID3800RT


2. True or False:  Test Once and Done
FALSE!  U.S. Surgeon General recommends annual radon tests to prevent unnecessary exposure and ensure that your mitigation system (if you already have one) is installed correctly and working properly.

3. True or False:  
I don’t need to test as no one in my neighborhood seems to have a problem.
FALSE!  Because radon is invisible and odorless most home owners don’t even know if they have a problem. This can be of particular challenge to both buyers and sellers, especially when a basement is finished and used as living space. Know for certain by having it tested before the sale as it is a prudent business and health decision.

4. True or False:
I don’t need to test since my home or condo is brand new.
FALSE!  Even newly constructed homes and condos are susceptible to radon gas leaking through the foundation and cement floor slabs.  Have it tested before you buy and again every year to be sure.

5. True or False:
I don’t have a basement so I don’t need to test for radon. 
FALSE!  If your home doesn’t have a basement, it definitely still has a cement slab you are living on top of – particularly in condos, town homes, duplexes and tri-level homes. Thus, the same rules apply for how Radon gas can get into ground level living space.

Who Should Repair or Install a Radon Mitigation System?
There are no state regulations specifically for radon mitigation or testing businesses in Wisconsin. It is essential to follow EPA testing and mitigation standards. So, make sure your repair professional is certified and listed by:
Other Radon Resources


What is RADON? by the EPA
Do you have a question regarding your existing or future home?
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Is it Time For a New Furnace?

is-it-time-for-a-new-furnaceWhen it comes time to replace that old furnace, you may have tons of questions and probably a few concerns. You can speak to as many contractors as you wish and get as much advice as possible, the choice to replace it will ultimately be yours to make. Knowing the key things that go into you making an informed choice is most important. Most people don’t know much more about their furnace other than how to turn it on and/or where the filter is located. Below are answers to key questions that should be answered prior to replacement.


Key Terms

Ductwork/Ducts –
A system of tubes in rectangular and circular shapes that carry heated or cooled air throughout your home. Supply ducts move the heated or cooled air into the room, while return ducts help the internal air from rooms return to the furnace.

Heat Exchanger – This is a device in your furnace that keeps the exhaust from the fire in the furnace separate from the air that blows it out of the supply ducts and into the rooms of your home. The flames heat the inside of the heat exchanger, and the exhaust flows through it directly to the exterior of your home through the exhaust vent. The air coming into the furnace from the return duct then passes over the outside of the hot heat exchanger; heating the air which then blows out of the supply ducts into the rooms of your home

Blower – This is a fan that moves the air through the furnace. It sucks air into the furnace through the return ducts and blows it out of the furnace into the supply ducts.

Inducer/Draft Inducer fan – The fan that moves the combustion products (exhaust) through a mid or high efficiency furnace and out through the exhaust vent. Standard efficiency furnaces do not have this feature.

Thermostat – A device that senses the temperature of the room and uses the information to turn the furnace off or on as needed.

How does a furnace work?
A forced air furnace burns fuel and distributes warm air throughout your home. Gas is burned below the heat exchanger. The heat that has been produced flows up through the heat exchanger and then out through the exhaust vent. Depending on your furnace, the exhaust vent maybe be a metal vent that goes into a chimney or through the roof, or it may be a plastic vent that exhausts directly to the exterior of your house.Anytime the thermostat senses that the temperature is too low in the home it sends a signal that turns on the furnace. Combustion occurs and warms the heat exchanger. After a short period of time the blower turns on and circulates the heated air.

The furnace circulates the warm air through your home using the supply ducts, and the cool air is sucked in through the return ducts and goes back to the furnace to be heated again.

Types of Forced Air Furnaces

Standard Efficiency Furnace – A furnace that has an efficiency of about 60%. These types of furnaces are used to heat homes built in 1970 or earlier. They must be vented using either a masonry or metal chimney. It uses a simple system with no draft inducer fan, but it wastes energy and heat.

Mid-Efficiency Furnace – A furnace that has an efficiency of about 80%. It has a better heat exchanger that utilizes more of the heat created from the combustion to heat your home. Condensation is mostly prevented inside the furnace but is possible in the chimney. This condensation is acidic and puts wear on chimneys.

High-Efficiency Furnace – A furnace that has an efficiency of about 90%. It uses a second heat exchanger to remove even more of the heat from the exhaust before venting, making it even more efficient. Because the exhaust is cooler, the furnace can be vented with a plastic pipe instead of metal. There are also furnaces that can go beyond the 90% efficiency.


Which Efficiency Should I Choose?
When deciding between a mid or high efficiency furnace, there are several things that should be considered beyond just cost and energy savings.

Water heaters, like furnaces, can have different types of exhaust vent pipes or none at all. Electric water heaters do not have exhaust since there is no flame inside heating the water. Direct vent water heaters use a fan to blow the exhaust outside through a plastic pipe. Most water heaters use a metal exhaust vent which they often share a chimney from a standard or mid efficiency furnace.

If you update to a high efficiency furnace that doesn’t use the chimney, the chimney flue is too large for just the water heater. This can result in damage to the chimney and exhaust back drafting into the house. A metal chimney liner must be installed to prevent this. As a result, many times the cost of either installing a chimney liner or updating the water heater must be considered as part of the process of picking a furnace.

One of the potential benefits of installing a high efficiency furnace and either electric or direct vent water heater is that a chimney is no longer needed and can be removed. The space can then be opened up or used to add extra storage shelving. Another great use in older homes with two stories or finished attics is to run additional return ductwork up through the space where the chimney was since often these areas weren’t built with sufficient, if any, return ducts to allow a central air conditioner to cool the air.

Does the Size Matter?
The “size” of a furnace is based upon the input BTU per hour. A residential furnace can be as small as 40,000 BTU or larger than 200,000 BTU. Furnaces installed more than 20 years ago are often oversized and can be switched out for a smaller one. Your contractor will help choose the correct size of your furnace size by performing a heat loss calculation and taking into account other factors (e.g. square footage, home type, number of stories, number of windows, insulation, orientation and sun exposure.)

Do I Need a Contractor?
Furnaces and air conditioners should be maintained every year by a qualified contractor. It is vital that you find contractor that you are able to trust. He or she is responsible for helping you choose the right type of furnace as well as maintaining it. When asking others for a reputable contractor be sure to check their online ratings and customer references. A good contractor is the key to a safe and comfortable home.

Do you have a question regarding your existing or future home?
Send us an email at

How to keep the Basement Dry

how-to-keep-the-basement-dryNo one wants to come home to a flooded basement: family heirlooms, old vacation photos, workout equipment, theatre system all ruined. Fact is, this becomes the reality of many families every single year especially during the spring months of increased rain. There are a few different things that can be done to avoid this tragic disaster.

Sanitary and Storm Sewers
First it helps to have some sort of knowledge on the type of sewer system that are in your neighborhood. Most cities have two different types of sewers. There are sanitary sewers, storm sewers and combined sewers. Sanitary sewers carry waste from sinks, toilets and other bathroom fixtures. Storm sewers collect rain and surface water and transport it to local bodies of water. Combined systems is a combination of storm and sanitary sewers. They are connected either under your house or in the street.

The two systems keep from wasting money treating street water, and keep the treatment plants from being flooded. The city of Milwaukee has a deep tunnel system that fills up to keep from having sewage overflow into bodies of water.

Your house is connected to the sewer system through us of a floor drain or plumbing fixtures in your basement. Waste is carried out of the house and into pipes leading to the sewage treatment plant. The waste is moved either downhill by gravity, or by using a pump. If you have a sump pump in your house it should be rerouted to to the storm sewer.

Drain Tile Systems
Homes that have drain tile systems have components that collect and remove water from around the foundation of your house. Exterior drain tiles are on or above the footings of the house. The tiles are covered with two or more feet of gravel. Older homes have concrete tiles,and newer homes have plastic pipes. Interior drain tiles absorb the water from exterior drain tiles through bleeders placed in the footings. The interior drain tiles then route the water to either a sump pump or a palmer valve. In order to keep water out of the rest of the basement a thin layer of tar or water proofing material is applied to the outside of the foundation, and block basement walls are coated with a thin layer of concrete on the outside under the water proofing material.

Palmer Valves- Drain tile systems in homes built in 1920’s to the 1950’s were often connected to the basement floor drain through a one way valve called a Palmer Valve. However many cities require that the valve be removed because it drains storm water into the sewage often causing overflowing systems. As a home owner you should check to make sire that the valve opens freely.

Sump Pump- Drain tile systems in homes build after 1950’s have a sump pump that removes the storm water and pumps it to an underground storm sewer line.

Septic Systems and Basement Drainage- A septic system is basically a personal sewage treatment system, and are only located in rural areas. The drainage is the same, but it goes to a septic tank for treatment instead of a city sewage treatment facility. With a septic system the sewage drains from a different location so the house may have an additional pump. There usually are not storm sewers. All storm water is routed to the surface where they generally drain into ditches.

How Sewage Backs Up Into Your Basement

If the sewage system backs up it could cause sewage in your basement. The blockage of the system could be caused by a blocked pipe, a blocked pipe in the street, and/or the combined system is backed up or overflowing.

If the sanitary system or combined system become backed up sewage can get into your home through floor drains or any plumbing fixture.If it is an issue that occurs in all of the houses of a neighborhood, it is due to either a blockage of a major sewer line or the line has more flow than it can handle. For example in an instance of heavy rain the system may not be able to handle the sudden increase in flow. There is not much that can be done to prevent instances of neighborhood sewage backup, but to work with your city to make sure problems are fixed in a timely manner.

How Rainwater Backs Up Into Your Basement
If your home has poor surface drainage, gutter or downspout problems, rainwater can easily enter your basement. Drainage systems are not designed to hold excess amounts of surface water so if water pools around the foundation of your home it can get into your basement.

Water from the Sump Pump- If you live in a home with a sump pump, you can experience flooding if the power goes out. The discharge is blocked so the flow becomes too great and the pump malfunctions. The storm water can fill and overflow the sump pump crock, run down the floor drain and possibly flood your basement.

Water From The Walls, Window Wells, Cracks, And Floors-Water can leak into your basement due to poor surface grading, problems with gutters, or downspouts, and/or sump pump discharges. Leaks can also be caused as a result of problems with the palmer valve, drain tile, storm sewer line, or window wells.

Avoiding and Correcting Problems
1. Keep gutters and downspouts clean, and direct the water flow away from the basement preferably 6 feet from the foundation.
2. Grade soft surfaces.
3. Grade hard surfaces.
4. Grade the soil around window wells to direct water away.
5. Check the Palmer Valve.
6. Check the Sump Pump.
7. Look for gaps and cracks in joints.
8. Check for cracks in poured concrete walls or block walls.
9. Check problems with underground storm drain lines.
10. Investigate underground water supply lines.
11. Investigate all homeowner installed underground drain lines.
12. Watch for roots in the Sump Pump crock.
13. Fix / level concrete that pitches towards your home through mudjacking.

Before Doing Major Repair, Test Drain Tiles
If you have continued seepage it could indicate damage. However before ever starting a major repair first evaluate the interior and exterior drain tiles. This test costs approximately $400.

An interior drain test requires cutting holes into the basement floor to expose interior drain tiles and bleeders in several areas so they can be inspected for debris and water flow. Exterior drain tiles are tested with a “water spud” which is a small pipe that looks like a tree root fertilizer tool. The pipe is inserted into the ground next to the foundation and water is forced into the ground through the pipe, and the flow is traced. If the flow is obstructed water will appear on the basement walls and floor.

Knowing When You Need An Expert
If you have continual leakage even after maintenance, then you should have your basement evaluated by an expert. You also need an expert if you discover leaking wall and/ or floor cracks. Find an expert who is not associated with a repair company, to avoid the danger of paying for unnecessary costly repairs. When choosing a contractor remember to take your time and check references.

Do you have a question regarding your existing or future home?
Send us an email at

Please welcome Joy Douthwaite to the Towne & Country Building Inspection Team!

Welcome Joy Douthwaite

to Towne & Country Building Inspection Team!


joy-douthwaiteWe are growing and are pleased to announce that Joy Douthwaite has joined the Towne & Country Building Inspection team.

Joy has nearly 10 years as a home inspector and is dedicated to helping prospective home owners of Southeastern Wisconsin with the very best home inspection and evaluation services.

Joy is an active member of her professional community — 


Wisconsin Association of Home Inspectors 
– past president of the Milwaukee Chapter
– Committee Chair for Website & Message Board
– Frequent speaker and presenter on inspector training and ethics

American Society of Home Inspectors
– National Leadership Conference
– CORE member invitee to Board of Directors

Business Networking International 
– Secretary & Treasurer of Milwaukee Chapter


Book your next home inspection by calling 414-228-6573

Email any questions or requests at

Will your Insurance Company cover the Roof over your head?

will-your-insurance-companyIn the last six months, a number of brand name insurance companies, who write home owner policies, have been declining home insurance coverage based on roof age and wear issues. While this sounds like a common and sensible practice, roofs that are 8, 12, 15 years old are frequently not getting coverage. 

Commonly, the agent will ask the new home owner the general age of the roof and binder coverage is sought for the real estate purchase.  The insurance company will then have one of their licensed representative drive by fill out a descriptive form and take a few pictures to be submitted to the underwriters. A phone call and or a notice letter is sent stating whether or not they are going to provide insurance coverage to the residence.  All this you hope will happen just before the closing but legally can still happen days or weeks after. If prior, this can hold up the sale.  And, if the latter, the new home owner may be given only 60 days to put on a roof or have coverage cancelled. In fact, I’ve personally have a client who purchased a home, owned it about 2 months only to receive such a cancellation letter unless a new roof was installed in 60 days.

A Wisconsin home inspector has guidelines for providing information to clients on condition and wear, and maintenance needs when they do a home inspection. The concerns and criteria can vary and are different for each home inspection evaluation, and are based on manufacturers guidelines and common industry standards of practice. However, home owner insurance underwriting criteria is not directly correlative to these guidelines nor a home inspection evaluation.

The insurance underwriting criteria seems rather basic and simple, that being, that the roof is dubious if over 8 years old,” any” wear evident is a problem. The insurance companies are making a business decision on their risk exposure, and now they don’t want “any” concerning roofing systems. Recently there has been a significant increase in the number of complete roof replacements claimed as total losses when hit by hail across the State of Wisconsin. In fact, insurance companies in Waukesha have been absorbing huge losses in Wisconsin and across the country that they have begun the practice of Cherry Picking and endorsing only what they perceive to the best roofing systems. While this may sound reprehensible and limiting, I suggest that you investigate such matters when seeking insurance to make sure that your carrier does not engage in this type of activity as there are only a few who don’t.

We recommend being aware of these recent insurance business practices and how this might affect your real estate transaction and your client’s needs. 


Do you have a question regarding your existing or future home?  Send us an email at


Updating Your Cabinets + Making Your Kitchen Uniquely Yours

cabinet-renovationsWe all spend a lot of time in our kitchens. It seems that any time family and friends come together, the kitchen is the center of all the activity. We like our kitchens to be welcoming, functional, and beautiful. But what if your custom kitchen cabinets are old and worn, out of style, or have those dark, nasty stains around the handles? Cabinets are the face of your kitchen; when they are in poor condition, they can affect the whole atmosphere of your space and even decrease the value of your home.

If you decide that it’s time to update the look of your cabinets, you have 4 options with different price ranges to consider:

  • Repaint
  • Refinish
  • Reface
  • Replace


Using paint to change the appearance and color of your cabinets provides a modern look for your kitchen. Repainting is also the cheapest option because materials are not too expensive and you can do the work yourself. However, repainting does not allow for changes in design or layout. If a more significant change is what you are looking for, you will want to consider re-facing or even replacing your cabinets entirely. But for a simple change, repainting is the way to go.

Despite what you may see on some of the popular (cheap, quick, and wrong) DIY shows on TV, you should not just slap a coat of paint onto your existing cabinets. You may get a quick and easy change of color, but in the process you will also be getting a maintenance and durability problem. If you decide to repaint your cabinets, you will need to dismantle, prep the surfaces, prime and then paint for a durable and professional look.


Many kitchen cabinets are finished just like furniture- the wood is stained and then covered with a clear, protective top coat. Refinishing these types of cabinets requires a similar process to refinishing old furniture. You can clean and remove part of the top, clear surface with solvents, even out the color, and then apply a fresh top coat for a perfect finish. Basically, you are maintaining the color and appearance of the wood while restoring the top coat of clear finish.  Please note that cabinets made prior to 1980 may have lead in the paint or finish. If you think this may be the case with your cabinets, make sure you consult a professional for your refinishing needs.

Like repainting, refinishing must be done correctly. You will want to dismantle the cabinets and properly prep the surface before you begin refinishing. Typically, there is no need to completely strip the finish from the cabinet door unless paint has been applied and you want a stained and varnished finish.  Keep in mind, however, that stripping paint and refinishing is a big job. If you really want to strip the paint from your cabinets for a real wood finish, it is usually better to just go with refacing or replacing your cabinets entirely.

Jigs and multi-mark tools are excellent for seamlessly installing hardware.Reface
If you want to make a more substantial change to the look of your cabinets, you may consider refacing them. Refacing your cabinets can get pricey, but this option is still cheaper than replacing your cabinets altogether. You maintain the framework of your existing cabinets and simply replace the door and drawer fronts.

If you decide to reface your cabinets, make sure that the existing frames are in good condition. If your cabinets were not made of quality materials to begin with or the frames are old and worn out, refacing will only postpone a problem that will need to be fixed eventually. Chances are that later down the road you will end up completely replacing your cabinets anyway. If you decide to try refacing your cabinets, it is best to bring in a professional; he can tell you if refacing is the best option for your kitchen and ensure that you get a quality and updated look that will last.

Replacing provides you with the opportunity to not only change the appearance of your kitchen cabinets, but the style and layout as well. Replacing is also the best option if your existing cabinets are made out of poor quality materials or are in poor condition. In either case, replacing your cabinets can not only improve and update the look of your kitchen but increase the value of your home as well.

Replacing your kitchen cabinets is the most expensive option. You will want to hire a professional to install your cabinets for you, and bringing in an interior designer may be a good idea as well to ensure that the style of cabinets will best suit your lifestyle and the design of the rest of your home. Replacing cabinets often makes up the majority of the cost of a kitchen renovation. However, if done properly, it is usually worth it.

Whichever option you choose, repainting, refinishing, refacing or replacing, the decision to update your cabinets is one that you will be happy you made every time you walk into a kitchen that is uniquely yours.

Do you have a question regarding your existing or future home?  Send us an email at

What’s that smell?!

whats-that-smellFall is usually full of new smells in the air like apples, leaves falling from the trees and baked goodies.

But have you ever walked into a home or room and been assaulted by a bad smell?

Nothing will turn away visitors faster. There are dozens of everyday things can cause buildup and bad smells in and around a home that can be eliminated by using simple household items.

Musty Smell from Sink
If the sink is overfilled, water drains through the small overflow hole(s), through a passageway, and into a trap. Thick, smelly material can build up in the passageway causing an odor.

To clean this material mix a strong solution of detergent and very hot water. Pour it down the overflow. If the smell persists, try a mixture of bleach and water followed by thorough rinsing with water. If you are able to see sludge, loosen it with a stiff brush and rinse it away.

Smelly Garbage disposal
If your garbage disposal will not freshen up with the normal vinegar, cleaner, or baking soda treatment, the rubber cover may be dirty. Food and other particles can collect under the rubber flaps. This gunk stays damp and creates a strong stench. To get rid of it, turn off the disposal and use a stiff brush or rag to clean underneath the rubber flaps and rinse it away.

Sewer Smell in Home
When you detect a sewer smell in your home, there may be a dry trap in the drainage system. Often the smell comes from a floor drain in the basement.
All drains to a sewer system have a “P” shaped trap which is usually filled with water. The trap provides a seal to keep out sewer gas. If your basement floor drain is rarely used, water evaporates from the trap over time. Eventually the seal is eliminated, allowing sewer gas into your house. The solution is easy: pour water into the drain.

If the smell is noticeable try flushing a strong cleaner and bleach down the sink’s overflow. When the sink fills to near overflowing, water is routed through an inner chamber to the drain. Debris can collect inside the inner chamber, causing odor.

If neither of these measures solves the problem, there may be a small leak in one of the vent lines of the plumbing system, or a small leak around the base of a toilet or other fixture. You may need the help of a plumber.

Water Supply smell like rotten eggs
Some homeowners have recurring problems with bad odor in the water supply-especially the “rotten egg” smell of sulfur. Water odors are a tough problem to solve, but I suggest you follow up on these ideas.

First, check whether your neighbors are experiencing similar problems. If your water comes from a municipal well, maybe your local water utility can help.
It is relatively common to have this rotten egg odor in hot water only. In that case, the water heater’s “sacrificial” anode rod is the issue. This rod, made of magnesium, helps protect the tank lining from corrosion; instead, the rod itself corrodes. However, as it does, the magnesium gives off electrons that nourish sulfate reducing bacteria. Removing this rod may eliminate the problem.

If your home has its own well, the smell may be coming from the well system. There could be sulfate reducing bacteria in the water supply.

To eliminate sulfate reducing bacteria from the water heater, you need to raise the water temperature above 140F degrees for 8 hours. Bacteria die out at temperatures above 140F degrees. To safely follow this procedure, first make sure your water heater has a functioning temperature and pressure relief valve.

Also, to prevent accidental scalding, warn users that water will come out of faucets extremely hot and should not be used at the increased temperature.
Do you have a question regarding your existing or future home?  Send us an email at

Quick Plumbing Fixes

quick-plumbing-fixesThe holiday season is fast approaching. So, now is the best time to check and make those needed plumbing repairs. These tips make this sometimes-daunting task simple and easy for anyone to do.

Repairing a dripping faucet
The newer faucets without washers are relatively easy to repair. Anyone with average “fix-it” abilities can fix a drip or leak. The hardest part is determining the type and brand of faucet.


Look for a brand name on the handle, spout or base of the faucet. Take a picture if necessary.

Ball type faucet-the base of the handle has a circular fitting.

Barrel cartridge or disk type faucet-the handle moves up and down for volume and left and right for temperature

If you go it alone in the store, you’ll need to locate parts based on the brand, type and appearance of the faucet. Most of the repair part packages will have sketches of the faucets and descriptions of parts.
Once you have the correct repair kit, read the instructions on how to dismantle and repair the faucet. Some kits also include special equipment you’ll need, such as an Allen or spanner wrench.

Dripping Interior Valves
Sometimes an indoor valve (e.g. a basement valve for an outside water connection) develops a slow drip. Fixing it Is simple. If you take the time to look closely at the valve, you’ll see that the handle is mounted on a round brass stem or shaft. The shaft enters the body of the valve through a hole in a hex nut. If you tighten this hex nut (packing nut), the leak should stop. You only need to tighten this packing nut slightly to stop the drip.

Dripping Water Heater
On the side of the water heater is a temperature/pressure valve with a handle. This valve is designed as a safety measure. In the event that the water heater overheats and creates excessive pressure the valve will open.
When the valve develops a leak, water runs down the tube and drips on the floor. A leaky valve should be replaced because the leak can get worse. Also, the constant flow of water can corrode or seal shut the valve with hard water scale. A new valve costs about $20 and takes approximately 30 minutes or less to install.

Garbage Disposal repair and tips
Even if you do not frequently use it run the disposal every once in a while to prevent the buildup of any food or waste. If you leave it out of operation, it will eventually freeze up and be ruined.

If you do use your garbage disposal fairly regularly and it simply stopped working it is a fairly easy fix. Turn the unit off at the wall switch. Then look under the sink and locate a small red button on the base of the unit. This is the electrical reset. If the unit is no longer humming, it probably means the overload has been tripped. Push this button in to reset the thermal overload/reset.
Try to switch the unit on. If the unit now hums but will not run, turn it off immediately. You have a jam in the disposal that needs to be cleared.

Check under the sink for a small L-shaped service wrench that looks like an Allen wrench with a bend on each end. The installer of the disposal unit left it there for you (very thoughtful, wouldn’t you say?). It may be in a small plastic pouch stapled to the side of the cabinet. At the end of this tool is a hex wrench that fits into a hole you’ll find on the bottom of the disposal, in the center. Work the wrench back and forth until the unit moves freely for several revolutions. As you move the wrench, you are moving the shaft of the disposal.

Preventing Grout stains
Grout is very porous, and once mildew and other stains penetrate deeply, the only solution is completely replacing the grout.

To prevent problems it is a good idea to seal the grout with silicone based sealer. This will help to keep water stains from penetrating and causing damage.

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Preparing for the Fall: Home Emergency Tips

preparing-for-the-fallWith school back in session, it’s the perfect time to recheck your home’s emergency plan. Included in your plan, should be a maintenance list with information related to major appliances and household systems (e.g. shut-off valves, on/off switches, and locations of devices.)

You may have to hire someone to locate, repair or maintain some of these valves and switches. Be sure to have all controls and switches marked or tagged to identify each one and the last time they were serviced.

It is also important to orientate each household member with the locations, purpose and precautions noted here and in your own emergency plan.


Key Controls

Main electrical disconnect

Located at the main fuse box or breaker panel. Usually there is one main switch or fuse box, but on older systems there can be more than one.

Main water valve
This valve turns off all the water in your home. If the valve is old, rusty, or worn have a plumber check it. If you use municipal water the valve will be in the basement on the street side of the house near the water meter. If you have a well the valve is near the pressure tank. To disable the system turn off the valve and electrical switch.

Hot water shut-off
Located on top of the cold water inlet at the top of the water heater. It cuts off the cold water supply to the water heater.

Natural gas main
Located near the gas meter that is located either outside or inside your home. You may need a wrench for this valve. If the valve is parallel to the pipe it is on. To turn it off turn it a quarter of the way to be perpendicular with the pipe.

Local gas valves
These are located on every gas operated appliance. You can close this with a quarter turn to the perpendicular position as well.

Furnace and air conditioning main switch
This is usually on the furnace. Modern ones resemble a light switch. It will turn the central heating and cooling system on or off.

Air conditioning disconnect
This switch is 240-volts and is located next to the exterior part of the air conditioner.

Emergency phone numbers
Keep a list of phone numbers that will be paramount in the event of an emergency. (e.g plumber, insurance)

Fire extinguishers
Place them in the kitchen, garage and basement ares and make sure that everyone is aware of how to use them. Be sure to review the labels for expiration dates.

Emergency release for garage door
Do you know where the key is? To pull the cable disconnect from exterior. To release the garage door opener in case of a power outage you have to open a special lock and remove the cable.Pulling the cable out through the opening will release the manual garage opener. Make sure the door is down before testing the release.

Emergency toolbox
Keep basic tools such a flashlight, screwdrivers, wrench etc. in case of emergencies. The flashlight should be rechargeable and always mounted on the charger.

Power Loss
Flooding is common during a power outage due to the sump pump no longer have electricity running through.

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