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 Hearths     Home Inspections     Homeowner's Associations     HVAC     In-Line Water Heaters



1. INSTALLING A HEARTH ON A WOOD FLOOR: Any tile or masonry work placed directly on a wood sub-floor should be reinforced with a tile backer board, or with lath mesh.
2. CHOOSING A HEARTH WHEN USING CULTURED STONE: It is often difficult to choose a hearth material when using cultured stone. In my opinion, the cultured stone hearth materials, unlike the cultured stone itself, can look fake. One solution is to find a real stone hearth that is compatible in color and texture. The picture shows a river-rock cultured stone face with a bluestone hearth.
3. SELECTING HEARTH MATERIALS: It is often difficult to choose a hearth material when using cultured stone. There are not too many cultured stone hearth slabs available, and the ones that are available not only tend to look fake, but may not hold up to spills of specific chemicals. One option is to use a granite slab. The picture shows a cultured stone face with a black granite slab hearth and mantel.
4. REAL BRICK AND STONE FIREPLACES NEED SOLID FOUNDATIONS: Real brick and stone fireplaces require a solid concrete foundation. So when planning your new home, make sure you anticipate the type of fireplace you intend to install.


1. HOW EFFECTIVE ARE HOME INSPECTIONS?: Home inspections are usually so limited as to be nearly useless. Most home inspections are done by the unqualified to satisfy the gullible. This may be an overly harsh assessment, but a home inspector very rarely finds a dangerous or potentially expensive problem that cannot be spotted by an observant buyer. This is because most home inspections are limited to what can be seen, and, frankly, most home inspectors do not know what to look for beyond that.
2. HOME INSPECTOR QUALIFICATIONS: Home inspectors don’t need a lot of training, and generally have a poor track record of spotting real problems. This is primarily because a home is a collection of various rather complex systems, with hundreds of suppliers and products, and no one can be an expert at everything. The best home inspectors are former builders or remodelers, because they not only can spot the problems, but know how much weight to give them. The worst are former or current engineers. While they are good at finding the larger structural problems, they tend to over-emphasize the severity of those problems. Like the T.V. home inspector on the cable channel, he never encountered a minor problem but always insists on tearing half the house down.
3. HOME INSPECTIONS ARE GOOD FOR BARGAINING: While my opinion that most home inspections are done by the unqualified to satisfy the gullible, many jurisdictions require them. There is a good argument for using a home inspector. Home inspectors can give you a list of major or minor repairs that may be needed. You can use that list to negotiate with the seller. It is a rare homeowner that will not reduce the price a little in the face of a repair list.


1. HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATIONS CAN LIMIT JUST ABOUT ANYTHING THEY CHOOSE: Homeowner's Associations can limit just about anything from the color of your house to the type of roofing you will be allowed to install. If you are buying a home in a community that has a Homeowner's Association or even some recorded covenants, read the CCRs (Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions) very carefully or you may get an unpleasant surprise later.
2. HOMEOWER'S ASSOCIATION DUES: Homeowner's Associations do much more than just tell you what color you may paint your home. Most Homeowner's Associations have been given the power to lien your home in the event of non-payment of dues. Some may even force the sale of your home. If you are looking to purchase a condominium or a home in a plat that has a homeowner's association, read the CCRs very carefully before you buy.


1. BLOCKED OR PARTIALLY BLOCKED HEAT RUNS: A common problem in new home heating systems is a heat run that has been partially blocked by construction debris. If one particular heat register seems a little weak, check for drywall or other construction debris that may have fallen into the ducts before the vent covers were put on.
2. BALANCING YOUR HEATING SYSTEM: Most heating systems are a simple combination of a trunkline (usually an 18” round metal duct), in combination with 6” flex ducts that feed off to the individual rooms. They rely on the furnace fan to pressurize the entire system at once, and usually the only way to control the system is the baffle on the duct cover in each room. By partially closing the baffle in rooms that are too warm, you may help force more heat into rooms that are too cold.
3. BLOCKED OR DISCONNECTED HEAT DUCT: If, after balancing your heating system, you still have a room that is too cold, check the air flow to the heating duct when the furnace is running. If there is no air flow, or if it is substantially less than the other ducts, the individual duct may be blocked or disconnected.
4. BLOCKED OR DISCONNECTED HEAT DUCT: If you have an individual room that is not getting any heat when the furnace is running, the duct may be disconnected or blocked. This is not uncommon, even in a new home. The first place to check is at the metal “boot” where the flex-ducting connects to it. This should be visible just under the register cover.
5. TRACKING DOWN A DISCONNECTED HEATING DUCT: If you have an individual room that is not getting any heat when the furnace is running, and if the duct is connected to the metal “boot” just under the register cover, you may have to track the duct back to the trunkline. If your home has a crawl space, the furnace trunkline is usually in the crawlspace. A disconnected or crushed duct may be the culprit.
6. AIR FILTER IS MOST NEGLECTED MAINTENANCE ISSUE: The number one most neglected maintenance item in most homes is the furnace air filter. Annual replacement or cleaning is recommended, and the best way to remember that anniversary is to mentally tie it to some other more significant annual date, such as your birthday. Happy birthday, time to change my furnace filter.
7. HEAT PUMP IS BEST ENERGY SAVER: A heat pump is the best energy saving investment you can make for the long term. While adding insulation can save you pennies, a heat pump can save dollars.

















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