Houses of any age will shift and settle over time, resulting in cracks. Cracks may appear in finishes, structural components or both. Though they usually don’t have any structural significance, it’s worth some visual detective work to help homeowners understand the difference between different types of foundation cracks.
Concrete shrinks as it cures, so a newly poured concrete foundation may develop small vertical shrinkage cracks, which are not structurally significant. Characteristics of shrinkage cracks include:
The crack will be small and vertical, usually less than 1/8” wide.
The crack is in the foundation wall only and does not extend up through the structure.
Shrinkage cracks usually occur in the middle third of the length of the foundation wall. If it’s located toward the end of the length of the foundation wall, it is probably not a shrinkage crack.
Like shrinkage cracks, settlement cracks are vertical, but they extend up through the structure. In block or brick foundations, cracks may follow the mortar joints in a step pattern rather than vertical. Most settlement cracks are caused by short-term settlement. Ongoing settlement is uncommon but can cause structural problems over time. Here are some ways to get an idea of whether ongoing settlement is likely:
Crack size: Settlement cracks more than 1/4” wide are more likely to indicate ongoing movement than smaller cracks.
Direction of movement: The edges of a typical settlement crack line up and fit together vertically, much like pieces of a puzzle. If the edges of the crack have shifted, or sheared, so that they no longer line up, the 1/4” rule described above doesn’t apply. This type of crack can be a significant structural concern.
Repaired and re-cracked: Unless it is a hairline crack, a settlement crack that was repaired and has re-cracked could also indicate ongoing movement and should be addressed.
Horizontal Cracks – Basement Foundation Wall
In homes with true basements, a horizontal crack in the foundation wall, below grade and running the full length of the basement is likely a sign of foundation failure. For a house with a full basement, the soil outside the foundation wall exerts a tremendous amount of pressure on the foundation wall. Occasionally, unanticipated additional loads exert pressure and cause horizontal cracking in the foundation wall. Do not wait to address this potential issue as it could cause much greater problems down the line, including structural failure.
Contact your local Pillar To Post Home Inspector for further information on these and other home-related issues.
Planning that summer vacation? Here are our top tips to give you added peace of mind while you’re away.
One of the most effective steps is to make your home appear occupied. Use timers or an app on a few lights throughout the house, scheduling them to turn off and on at various times after dark.
Use extra caution when communicating about your vacation dates on Facebook and other social media. And don’t post photos until you’re back. Information spreads quickly, and you don’t want it to get into the wrong hands.
Advise friends and trusted neighbors of your travel plans. Make sure you can be reached in an emergency if necessary.
Have the post office hold your mail and suspend any newspaper and package deliveries, or ask a neighbor to collect them for you each day. A buildup of mail or uncollected packages or papers are obvious signs that no one is home.
Ask a neighbor to park in your driveway on occasion so it looks like there is someone at home.
Arrange to have someone mow the lawn in your absence if you’re going to be gone for more than a week.
Close the window coverings in ground-level rooms so that would-be thieves aren’t tempted by valuables and other items visible from outside.
Unplug appliances such as the coffee maker, toaster, microwave, computers, gaming systems and televisions. Be sure to leave the refrigerator and freezer plugged in of course.
To avoid the potential of water damage from an unpredictable leak or a burst hose, shut off the water supply lines for the toilets, sinks, washing machine, dishwasher, and ice maker. It takes just a few minutes and can prevent coming home to a disaster.
Adjust the water heater to its lowest temperature setting or to vacation mode if it has one. Maintaining the hot water at its normal temperature while you’re away wastes energy and money.
If possible, pack your vacation gear into the car while it’s in the garage so that you’re not announcing to passersby that you’re on your way out of town.
Lock the garage, gates, and storage structures. Don’t forget to lock any side doors to the garage, as well as doors leading into the house from the garage.
Enjoy your time away, knowing that you’ve taken these smart measures to help keep your home safe and secure.
Buyers and sellers often hear about plumbing upgrades, but just what does this mean? Generally speaking, upgraded plumbing in the context of buying or selling a home refers to both fixtures and/or the plumbing system itself. Here’s our list of the most frequently recommended upgrades:
New faucets are an easy way to add style to kitchens and baths without a lot of spend. If a home is being prepped for sale, use fixtures that will appeal to the most potential buyers. The idea is not necessarily to draw attention to the faucets, but to demonstrate that they’re modern and in good condition.
Toilets are another simple upgrade that will also have a positive effect on how the home is perceived. If space allows, an elongated bowl and a high-profile height are smart choices. A neutral color that works with the existing tile and walls is always best.
A shower upgrade can be as basic as adding a handheld shower unit to the existing setup, or install a rain-type shower head, which are very popular in new homes. Also consider a thermostatic valve for the shower, which prevents scalding while the shower is running. It’s a nice feature that’s inexpensive to add.
Home re-piping continues to grow in popularity for older homes. During this process, all water lines in the home are replaced. Sometimes the line from the water main to the house may need to be replaced as well.
Why re-pipe? Over time, old galvanized metal pipes will degenerate, increasing the potential for leaks, reducing water flow, and causing material to flake off inside the pipes. The taste and appearance of water can also be adversely affected. Some older homes have lead pipes, which are less subject to corrosion but pose a serious health hazard for children.
Typically, replacement piping is made of copper or one of several types of PVC. The best material to use depends on a number of factors, including the hardness of the water and winter temperatures. Always seek out the opinions of several contractors before making the important – and not inexpensive – decision to re-pipe the home. Depending on your location, re-piping may not pay off in terms of return on investment but could be a very appealing feature to a potential buyer.
Buyers typically don’t want to think about plumbing, so upgrades are often welcome. As with any upgrades, however, consider market conditions and comparables when making recommendations to your sellers.
Spread tasks over a few weeks to be set for a worry-free, enjoyable summer.
Close the chimney flue to prevent insects from entering and to help keep cool air in.
If possible, take area rugs outside and hang them over a deck or porch rail to air out.
Change the rotation of ceiling fans to the summer setting. Give the unit a good dusting to avoid blowing dust around the room.
Switch out heavy bedding for lightweight summer fabrics. Have your winter bedding cleaned before storing it away for the season.
Repot houseplants to give their roots a fresh start for the summer.
Power wash decks and patios and seal surfaces as appropriate.
If paint is peeling, cracking, or chipped, repair and repaint now to limit damage to the underlying materials.
Remove window screens and clean them with a soft brush and soapy water. Rinse well and allow them to dry in the sun before reinstalling.
Have the air conditioning unit serviced to ensure peak operation. Promote good air intake by keeping plants around the unit trimmed.
Clear dirt and debris from gutters and eaves.
Seal cracks in the driveway and keep walkways clear of debris and overgrown plants.
Test irrigation and sprinkler systems and replace any broken sprinkler heads or emitters. Check for proper water coverage and adjust if necessary.
Now, on to summer!
Be sure to pack these items in your car to make the first few days in your new home easier.
Medications that you will need right away.
A couple of pots, pans, cups and plates so you don’t have to rummage through those kitchen boxes when it’s breakfast time.
Clothes for the first few days, whether for work, school or just unpacking.
A few activities, toys, books, or games for the kids.
Pet food and medications, litter boxes, leashes and treats.
Towels, shampoo and soap, so you’re set for that first shower.
Sheets, pillows and blankets so you’re ready for the first night. Sleep tight!
Too Much or Too Little?
You want your home to be cool and comfortable when the temperatures soar. But an air conditioning system that’s oversized for the house isn’t the best way to go. “Oversized” doesn’t refer to the physical size, but rather the system capacity. An oversized system is sized to operate optimally on the hottest day of the season, but the rest of the time that capacity isn’t needed. Yes, it will cool the house very quickly, using short “on” cycles. However, this is inefficient and won’t dehumidify the house adequately, wasting energy and leaving the air feeling cold and clammy.
If you want peak efficiency and dehumidification without worry that your system can’t keep up in the hottest day, choose a system that will operate at two capacities. It’s like having two AC systems in one – an undersized mode that will have very long “on” cycles and a larger capacity mode to keep you comfortable even on the hottest days of the year.
If you’re considering a replacement air conditioning system, be sure to ask your installer about these two-stage compressor systems. You’ll be ready to beat the heat efficiently and comfortably.
How To Use That Extra Paint
Have some paint left over from a recent project? Don’t just store it away. Put it to good use with some of these creative ideas:
Paint the inside of a linen or coat closet.
Use it on shelves or cabinets in your garage or shed.
Refresh a patio bench or table with leftover exterior paint.
Paint picture frames to create a unified look for your photo gallery.
Add a quick coat to the inside of a bookshelf for a pop of color.
Paint the outsides of flower pots in a solid color, or get creative with a design.
Transform a yard-sale table or chair into a one-of-a-kind find.
Customize a canvas tote with water-thinned latex paint.
HOME & LIFE
Pet Project: Hot Weather and Your Furry Friends
Pets can overheat when the temperature and humidity climb. Some simple precautions to take include:
Have plenty of clean, fresh water available indoors and out.
Provide a shady spot so your pets can get out of the sun.
Avoid walking or running with your dog during the hottest part of the day. If you must walk, remember that paved surfaces can burn your dog’s paws.
Never leave your pets alone in the car, even with the windows open. Cars heat up very quickly, even if it’s not that hot outside.
Keep older or overweight cats and dogs indoors as much as possible.
Dog and cat breeds with flat faces are particularly susceptible to heat-related issues.
Know the warning signs of overheating. Your pet may pant excessively, have an increased heart rate or find breathing difficult. Check with your veterinarian for more information.
Treat Your Windows Right
Choosing window treatments can be a bewildering task. Here’s an overview of the most popular types of window coverings.
Shades are available in many styles, including roller and Roman types. Room-darkening materials are great for bedrooms, while light-filtering fabrics afford privacy and sunlight. Solar shade material lets you enjoy the view while keeping out glare.
Drapes can go formal or casual, depending on the fabric and style. Hang drapes at ceiling height to make the window and room look taller, and make sure the fabric
extends all the way to the floor for a stylish look.
SHUTTERS & BLINDS
Crisp and clean, these give a polished look to any room while offering flexible light and privacy control. Either can be opened or closed completely, and the slats are adjustable for just the right amount of light and view.
Start by thinking about what you want the window treatment in a room to do, then you can narrow down the options that meet your needs and budget.