The following items are essential tools, but this list is by no means exhaustive. Feel free to ask an InterNACHI inspector during your next inspection about other tools that you might find useful.
A clogged sink or toilet is one of the most inconvenient household problems that you will face. With a plunger on hand, however, you can usually remedy these plumbing issues relatively quickly. It is best to have two plungers -- one for the sink and one for the toilet.
2. Combination Wrench Set
One end of a combination wrench set is open and the other end is a closed loop. Nuts and bolts are manufactured in standard and metric sizes, and because both varieties are widely used, you’ll need both sets of wrenches. For the most control and leverage, always pull the wrench toward you, instead of pushing on it. Also, avoid over-tightening.
3. Slip-Joint Pliers
Use slip-joint pliers to grab hold of a nail, a nut, a bolt, and much more. These types of pliers are versatile because of the jaws, which feature both flat and curved areas for gripping many types of objects. There is also a built-in slip-joint, which allows the user to quickly adjust the jaw size to suit most tasks.
4. Adjustable Wrench
Adjustable wrenches are somewhat awkward to use and can damage a bolt or nut if they are not handled properly. However, adjustable wrenches are ideal for situations where you need two wrenches of the same size. Screw the jaws all the way closed to avoid damaging the bolt or nut.
5. Caulking Gun
Caulking is the process of sealing up cracks and gaps in various structures and certain types of piping. Caulking can provide noise mitigation and thermal insulation, and control water penetration. Caulk should be applied only to areas that are clean and dry.
None of the tools in this list is of any use if you cannot visually inspect the situation. The problem, and solution, are apparent only with a good flashlight. A traditional two-battery flashlight is usually sufficient, as larger flashlights may be too unwieldy.
7. Tape Measure
Measuring house projects requires a tape measure -- not a ruler or a yardstick. Tape measures come in many lengths, although 25 feet is best. Measure everything at least twice to ensure accuracy.
A hacksaw is useful for cutting metal objects, such as pipes, bolts and brackets. Hacksaws look thin and flimsy, but they’ll easily cut through even the hardest of metals. Blades are replaceable, so focus your purchase on a quality hacksaw frame.
9. Torpedo Level
Only a level can be used to determine if something, such as a shelf, appliance or picture, is correctly oriented. The torpedo-style level is unique because it not only shows when an object is perfectly horizontal or vertical, but it also has a gauge that shows when an object is at a 45-degree angle. The bubble in the viewfinder must be exactly in the middle -- not merely close.
10. Safety Glasses / Goggles
For all tasks involving a hammer or a power tool, you should always wear safety glasses or goggles. They should also be worn while you mix chemicals.
11. Claw Hammer
A good hammer is one of the most important tools you can own. Use it to drive and remove nails, to pry wood loose from the house, and in combination with other tools. They come in a variety of sizes, although a 16-ounce hammer is the best all-purpose choice.
12. Screwdriver Set
It is best to have four screwdrivers: a small and large version of both a flathead and a Phillips-head screwdriver. Electrical screwdrivers are sometimes convenient, but they're no substitute. Manual screwdrivers can reach into more places and they are less likely to damage the screw.
13. Wire Cutters
Wire cutters are pliers designed to cut wires and small nails. The side-cutting style (unlike the stronger end-cutting style) is handy, but not strong enough to cut small nails.
14. Respirator / Safety Mask
While paints and other coatings are now manufactured to be less toxic (and lead-free) than in previous decades, most still contain dangerous chemicals, which is why you should wear a mask to avoid accidentally inhaling. A mask should also be worn when working in dusty and dirty environments. Disposable masks usually come in packs of 10 and should be thrown away after use. Full and half-face respirators can be used to prevent the inhalation of very fine particles that ordinary facemasks will not stop.
15. Duct Tape
This tape is extremely strong and adaptable. Originally, it was widely used to make temporary repairs to many types of military equipment. Today, it’s one of the key items specified for home emergency kits because it is water-resistant and extremely sticky.
by Nick Gromicko and Ben Gromicko
Most people don’t know how easy it is to make their homes run on less energy, and here at InterNACHI, we want to change that.
Drastic reductions in heating, cooling and electricity costs can be accomplished through very simple changes, most of which homeowners can do themselves. Of course, for homeowners who want to take advantage of the most up-to-date knowledge and systems in home energy efficiency, InterNACHI energy auditors can perform in-depth testing to find the best energy solutions for your particular home.
Why make your home more energy efficient? Here are a few good reasons:
As much as half of the energy used in homes goes toward heating and cooling. The following are a few ways that energy bills can be reduced through adjustments to the heating and cooling systems:
Demand-type water heaters (tankless or instantaneous) provide hot water only as it is needed. They don't produce the standby energy losses associated with traditional storage water heaters, which will save on energy costs. Tankless water heaters heat water directly without the use of a storage tank. When a hot water tap is turned on, cold water travels through a pipe into the unit. A gas burner or an electric element heats the water. As a result, demand water heaters deliver a constant supply of hot water. You don't need to wait for a storage tank to fill up with enough hot water.
3. Replace incandescent lights.
The average household dedicates 11% of its energy budget to lighting. Traditional incandescent lights convert approximately only 10% of the energy they consume into light, while the rest becomes heat. The use of new lighting technologies, such as light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), can reduce the energy use required by lighting by 50% to 75%. Advances in lighting controls offer further energy savings by reducing the amount of time that lights are on but not being used. Here are some facts about CFLs and LEDs:
Sealing and insulating your home is one of the most cost-effective ways to make a home more comfortable and energy-efficient, and you can do it yourself. A tightly sealed home can improve comfort and indoor air quality while reducing utility bills. An InterNACHI energy auditor can assess leakage in the building envelope and recommend fixes that will dramatically increase comfort and energy savings.
The following are some common places where leakage may occur:
The following systems can be installed to conserve water usage in homes:
Appliances and electronics account for about 20% of household energy bills in a typical U.S. home. The following are tips that will reduce the required energy of electronics and appliances:
Daylighting is the practice of using natural light to illuminate the home's interior. It can be achieved using the following approaches:
About one-third of the home's total heat loss usually occurs through windows and doors. The following are ways to reduce energy lost through windows and doors:
An enormous amount of energy is wasted while cooking. The following recommendations and statistics illustrate less wasteful ways of cooking:
by Nick Gromicko, Ben Gromicko, and Kenton Shepard
Every year, tens of thousands of Americans contract diseases from their pets. Combine that with the fact that 85 million U.S. families (or 68% of all households) own at least one pet, and you’ve got a reason to be concerned. Though they are rare, these pet-borne diseases – known as zoonotic diseases – range from salmonella to the plague, and can be contracted directly or indirectly. Luckily, there are simple measures that homeowners can take to ensure their family's and their pet's health.
Aquarium fish inhabit their own self-contained spaces and, as such, tend to be safe for the household. But Mycobacterium marinum, a bacterium that causes skin infections in people, still manages to invade the home via contaminated aquarium water. Affected fish may have lesions, scale and fin loss, and/or a lack of appetite, though they do not always exhibit symptoms. When purchasing a new fish, pay careful attention to ensure that your prospective pet inhabits clean, clear water, is energetic, is eating properly, and displays the typical coloring for its species.
Mycobacterium marinum is usually spread to humans through exposure to contaminated water via accidental consumption or an open wound, so cover all wounds when handling the aquarium, and thoroughly wash your hands afterward.
Cats are the second most popular pets in the United States. They can be indoor, indoor-outdoor, or stray. Among the most common diseases transmitted by cats is toxoplasmosis, which is caused by a parasite that infiltrates the cat's system through the consumption of contaminated raw meat or infected rodents. It can spread to people through the cat's food or from exposure to the infected cat's feces.
Healthy people who suffer from toxoplasmosis usually only experience flu-like symptoms. However, those with compromised immune systems can endure confusion and even seizures. Pregnant women are at greatest risk, which is why they're discouraged from coming into contact with cat litter boxes. A fetus that contracts the disease during the third trimester may die in utero. Most affected newborns show no symptoms at all but may develop deafness, blindness, and/or mental disorders later in life.
Avoiding the threat of toxoplasmosis is easy, however. You can opt to keep your cat indoors. Regardless of whether you have an indoor or outdoor cat, you should also regularly clean its litter box, ensure that all food (both human and pet) is properly stored, and maintain your home's cleanliness to keep it pest- and rodent-free.
Cat-scratch disease isn’t quite as easily avoided. It’s caused by Bartonella henselae, a bacterium that 40% of all cats will carry at some point in their lifetime, although kittens are the likeliest carriers. Symptoms in people include infection at the site of a scratch or bite, swollen lymph nodes, fever, headache, lack of appetite, and exhaustion.
The best way to avoid cat-scratch disease is by deterring scratching and biting behavior so that an injury doesn’t happen in the first place. If you wind up getting scratched, disinfect the wound and dress it properly, even if it’s small.
Both MRSA (a type of staph) and hookworm (a parasitic nematode) are passed from animals to humans through direct contact. Your cat can carry MRSA without any symptoms. On the other hand, with hookworm, your cat may suffer anemia, weight loss, and perhaps eventual death if left untreated. Prevention in both cases entails sanitary practices (i.e., the use of gloves when handling feces), keeping your cat indoors, scrutinizing your cat for any observable changes to its health, and scheduling regular visits with the veterinarian.
Last but not least is the family dog. Because of its exercise and toilet requirements, it's not practical to keep your dog indoors in an attempt to eliminate the risk of their coming into contact with bacteria or parasites. So, there's no shortage of possible health concerns that must be addressed in order to protect the lives of people and their canine companions.
The best-known threat is rabies, a virus most often passed through bites from infected animals. Symptoms can develop within days or months after the initial exposure. These include fever, nausea, vomiting, difficulty swallowing, excessive salivation, anxiety, confusion, hallucination, and paralysis.
One crucial way to avoid rabies transmission is to supervise your dog when it's outside. Hunting dogs are particularly vulnerable to rabies exposure by both prey and predators. So, be sure to familiarize yourself with the area around your property, and find out if there are any caves or other natural features that may attract a concentration of wildlife.
Salmonella is another threat, and, oddly enough, you are most likely to be exposed to it through your pet’s food. Both raw and dry pet food can become contaminated, so handle it with care, and ensure that small children do not have access to it.
What It All Means
It goes without saying that this is not an exhaustive list. Efficient and diligent sanitary practices are your first and most effective line of defense against pet-borne parasites and bacteria. Regularly observe and maintain the health of your pets. Wash your hands after handling their food, toileting materials, and their toys and equipment. Maintain the cleanliness of your home by sweeping, vacuuming and wiping down surfaces. And supervise your pet when it's outdoors.
As is always the case, the start to a healthy home is an attentive and engaged homeowner — especially when that homeowner has a pet. And don't forget to contact your InterNACHI®-certified home inspector to get an Annual Home Maintenance Inspection to keep your home safe and in top condition year-round.
My Names Keith Provencher, your friendly Texas Home Inspector. I am putting this blog together to give home owners past, present, or future some advice on keeping your home in top shape. Some maintenance here and there and that investment you made will last for generations