636-391-0091 Manchester (West St. Louis County) or 636-282-8800 Jefferson County

The Do’s and Don’ts of the Septic System

Brewer’s Home check-up Blog

Brewer Inspection Services has been serving the St. Louis metro region for over 25 years and has inspected over 40,000 homes and business's. Our Blog is where we hope to provide additional useful information that prevents home and property owner problems and helps solves their existing issues. Our blog post are typically about things that we see while inspecting area homes and preventive home maintenance tips. If you'd like us to discuss a specific topic send us a message and we'll be happy to help!
Septic system illustration
The septic system is designed to provide many years of service, with an overall life expectancy of about 20 years. As with any other system in your household septic systems require maintenance and can become overwhelmed with use and misuse.

 

12 Simple Rules Every Property Owner with a Septic System Should Follow.

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WindowRegular maintenance will help keep your windows and doors operating smoothly, both newer and older technology windows and doors will develop air leaks over time and require some care and maintenance.

For those that are fortunate enough to have newer technology windows (insulated glass), window maintenance prior to winter is relatively straightforward. Ensuring that windows are truly aligned and latched properly will prevent air and/or moisture intrusion. It is not uncommon, over the seasons, that window sashes are left in a partially open and unlocked condition, resulting in air/moisture leaks. Additionally, ensuring that rubber seals have not been damaged or torn is also important. Simple cleaning of the bottom part of the track will help ensure that the windows will not only seal properly to the sash, but also prevent air, moisture and snow and/or ice accumulation.

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saddle valve

Water saddle valves are just plain wrong

In practically every home inspection the home inspector will see at least one if not more water saddle valves to be exact a self piercing water saddle valve. These valves are universally part of ice maker and humidifier hookup kits. They are widely used because they are cheap and a fast simple install but are just plain wrong.

The saddle is placed around the water pipe with a rubber seal then tightened down against the pipe. When the self piercing valve is tightened or screwed all the way in it pierces the pipe creating approximately a 1/4” hole. Then when backing off the valve water begins to flow.

Here is why

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valve body corrosionThe other day I was doing a home inspection for a buyer and ran across a situation which we are seeing more frequently. The issue I found was defective water shut off valves which were exhibiting valve body corrosion. These defective valves we are typically finding in homes built in the last 20 years. Most of the valves are indicative of import water stop valves and if you find one or two odds are that most of your valves may be effected.

How do you know if you have any defective water shut off valves?

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What you should know about the gas pipe in your home.

gas meterWhen inspecting homes we see different types of gas lines used in the interior of the home which include black iron, galvanized steel, brass (containing not more than seventy-five (75) percent copper), copper and CSST (flexible piping). All of these gas pipe types were acceptable at some point in time. However, standards change and now galvanized pipe is not recommended for use as gas pipe due to the possibility of the galvanized coating flaking which could damage appliances and plug up valves or orifices.

Today we see more copper and CSST gas pipe than black iron primarily because the of cost of black iron piping is significantly more. Both rigid (types K, L or ACR)  and soft copper can be used for gas lines. You can tell the difference between copper piping that is used for water and gas primarily by the type of solder joint at the connections of fittings and pipe. Water lines are typically joined together with soft solder which tends to be shiny, while gas line joints are brazed together with silver solder which tends to have a darker appearance. See fig.1 Because of the similarities it is important that your gas pipes be repetitively painted yellow every three to four feet and in some cases labeled “GAS” for identification and safety reasons. The last thing you want is someone to accidentally tap into a gas line thinking it’s a water line.

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Do you have tree branches hanging over or touching your roof? Then you need to think about trimming trees and branches.

Tree branches that are touching a roofIt has been our past experience, over many years, that the lack of trimming trees and proper tree maintenance leads to tree branches overhanging and/or in close proximity to roof lines can be not only a hazard to the roof itself resulting in rubbing of the tree branches against the roof line, wearing shingles and damaging finishes, but also and possibly more importantly, can result in significant damage to roof components, such as lead flashings by rodents accessing the roof by way of the tree branches. We have discovered that squirrels, specifically, seem to favor “chewing” on the lead and, in some cases chewing the lead down past the roof line and completely exposing the attic space to the elements, allowing for the intrusion of water, snow and/or ice. This impacts most older homes and/or some newer homes that use lead as pipe flashings. In addition to squirrels, raccoons, possums and other like animals also use tree branches to gain access to homes. These significantly larger animals can result in additional and/or more significant damage, and they also have a habit of burying their young in enclosed areas, such as attics and crawl spaces. This can lead to a significant issue as these animals are also very territorial, resulting in significant costs for removal and/or potential harm to families. Extreme precautions, as with all wildlife and with those that are prone to carrying natural diseases, such as rabies, should be exercised by those equipped and experienced for these circumstances.

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gutter with volunteer treesIt’s that time of year when temperatures are getting cooler at nights and the leaves are starting to fall. Before long you’ll be raking the yard. I thought it might be a good time talk gutter guard. Gutters and downspouts this time of year will get clogged up with leaves and debris which can lead to all sorts of problems and potential damage. It’s important to maintain clean gutters all year round, but especially through the winter months.

There are basically five types of gutter guards

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a typical newer furnace installationWhat should we do to prepare for home heating season before the cold weather creeps down from the north? Well, there’s many thing but today we will concentrate on just a few. So as the cold weather approaches have your furnace checked out. If you have gas heat or any gas appliances make sure you have at least one working carbon monoxide detector (more is better). Have your chimney inspected by a professional and cleaned if necessary. To reduce drafts replacing any worn or missing weather striping.

Make sure your furnace is operating properly and efficiently. The best thing you can do is to have a professional heating contractor give your heating system a thorough servicing. If you do consider using a professional, why not have all your gas appliances checked to make sure they are operating safely. You’ll want to have them clean your heating system and check your heat exchanger (for gas furnaces) which are largely concealed and require a professional to verify they are safe and void of any safety defects. If you have a humidifier make sure that is also clean and operating properly.

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It’s that time of year, so before you light your first fire of the season have your fireplaces inspected.

freeimages.com Rajmund Barnes

Fireplace maintenance:

It’s important to check your fireplaces out to make sure they ready and safe to use. The best thing you can to is to hire a professional chimney sweep to check your fireplaces out. Fireplace maintenance and chimney maintenance is crucial to prevent chimney fires and save lives.

Clean chimneys typically don’t catch fire!

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Some of you may have heard about the new water heater energy standards that took effect of April 16, 2015. The National Appliance Energy Conservation Act (NAECA) was updated and therefore directly impacted the water heater energy factor (EF) on all residential water heating devices and some commercial ones. Any water heaters manufacture prior to that date and still available are not affected by the new rules.

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cloths dryer fireIt is estimated that annually over 15,000 house fires are attributed to clothes dryer fires with 51 deaths, 380 injuries and 236 million dollars in direct property damage with a rise in these types of fires during the fall and winter months. What caused the majority of the fires? Lint and the type of dryer vent piping used; impairing the ability to expel the lint that the dryer lint screen doesn’t catch. It doesn’t help that most people install their dryer and never maintain the vent piping.

Most of these fires can be attributed to the lack of maintenance.

lint accumulation causes dryer vent firesImproperly installed dryer vents and some are attributed to the type of dryer vent material used to vent the dryer. A broad range of dryer vent duct or piping is available including – flexible vinyl duct, flexible aluminum foil duct, semi-rigid aluminum duct, rigid sheet metal duct and rigid right angle periscope type duct Lets talk about each type, some of the components, recommended installation and dryer maintenance.

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Today I’d like to talk about the smoke alarm.  I don’t want to tell you how many times we inspect homes and see missing alarms or ones that have been taken down and never replaced because they were chirping.

Everyone knows smoke alarms save lives!

So why do three of every five home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms?

“Smoke spreads fast and you need smoke alarms to give you time to get out. Having a working smoke alarm cuts the chances of dying in a reported fire in half. Almost two-thirds of home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.”

Alarm Placement-from BRK manual

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The large majority of home owners with attached garages use the garage at the main point to enter and exit the home. Garages are typically where today’s family keeps all of their sporting goods and outdoor activity supplies. Therefore, it’s important we talk about garage safety. Garage doors manufactured prior to 1993 may not be equipped with some safety devices and “one in 15 garage doors lack the latest safety features” says Todd Wilkinson, Field manager with Liftmaster a manufacture of overhead garage door openers.

Garage doors are equipped with primary two safety devices that should be checked three to four times a year.

Simple 3 Step Garage Door Opener Safety Checklist

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thermal expansion tank

When inspecting homes people often ask what’s that little tank above the water heater.

Answer: A Thermal Expansion Tank

Thermal expansion tanks have been required in most areas for the last 10 years or so when installing a new water heater. This code was adopted because of the advent of backflow preventers, water meter check valves and pressure reducing valves without a bypass being installed. When water is heated in the water heater it expands, since it cannot return to the public water supply preventing possible cross contamination it needs someplace to go. Thermal expansion is the number one reason that water heaters fail prematurely. In some cases water heater failure, due to thermal expansion, can have devastating results.

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street-creep

When inspecting homes, we sometimes run across Street Creep

No, I’m not talking about the “creepy guy” standing in the street or a reason to call the police. What home inspectors are referring to is a phenomenon where the street actual creeps or moves exerting the force on your driveway and thus potentially damaging your garage and house foundation.

If your home has an attached garage facing the street and both the driveway and street are made of concrete your house’s foundation maybe effected by street creep (also known as concrete creep). Houses located at the intersection of two streets (a T), in a cul-de-sac, on the outside of a curved street or on the downhill side of your road tend to be effected. Gravity, thermal expansion, expansive soils and the inertia of traffic can cause the road to move and push your driveway into the-the garage and/or house foundation thus damaging the foundation.

If the driveway was installed where the concrete driveway is thicker than the expansion joint creating concrete to concrete pressure the expansion joint is useless. In this case, when the concrete moves or expands it is still pushing on concrete not compressing the expansion joint.

The Fix

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ladder safety

Accidents in and around the home happen all the time, which is why today we are talking about ladder safety.

Among those injuries, Slips and Falls are the most frequent cause of injuries in the home.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year more than 10 million people suffer injuries on residential properties serious enough to require visits to the emergency room. Residential injuries account for more than 6 million homeowner claims each year. These injuries include falling from ladders and while on staircases, slipping on spilled drinks or oil left on garage floors and more.
Occasionally in our blog we talk about tasks which sometimes require the use of ladders, for example, cleaning of gutters.  So it is very important that we talk ladder safety!

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fall home maintenance checklist

Fall is rapidly approaching

(September 23rd) so it’s a important time to start preparing for the cooler season and freezing winter temps to follow. You can prepare for winter using our home maintenance checklist while taking advantage of the beautiful fall weather with our fall maintenance tips guide. According to the farmers almanac we’re in for a winter full of typical cold with higher than average snowfall.

EXTERIOR HOME MAINTENANCE:

Caulk and seal areas where wire and pipes penetrate the exterior and enter the home, around window and door frames and at the juncture of siding to trim. Check window, door and door threshold weather striping, these areas are typically where air infiltration occur. In addition to air infiltration openings in the structure are a pathway for rodents looking for a warm place to nest and water to get in and freeze, resulting in potential water and ice damage from severe winter conditions.

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welcome to our new websiteIt’s with great excitement and pleasure that your hometown inspection team, Brewer Inspection Services introduces our new mobile friendly home inspection responsive website to you. It’s a new look with new features that will hopefully benefit you and your clients. If your looking for information on inspections you need to look no further. We’ve spent a lot of time to make sure that the information is easy to find, well organized, and that the flow of information is as organic and natural as possible. We’ve gone to great lengths to ensure that all of the information is easy to read on any device, being naturally responsive to your device’s width. This means that it looks great on the web, your computer, your iPhone, smart phone, or tablet.

Aside from an updated look, we’ve added new features to the website, a research center, an answers forum and a blog to bring you more helpful information, better/fresher content, and keep you updated on relevant common and not so common issues homeowners should be aware of along with exciting home technology news. In the answers forum you can ask anything about inspections, maintenance issues, construction methods, new technology for the home or for general advice and recommendations related to home and property issues. The research center is a living breathing animal so we will be regularly packing it full of new information, pictures, videos, PDF’s and more. If you can’t find what your looking for just ask and we’ll do our best to assist you.

We’ve also added a place that you can Schedule Your Inspection Online and a place for you to leave a review. So if you need to book an inspection either start at www.brewer-inspect.com or call us at 636-282-8800. Plus don’t forget if you’ve had a great experience with Brewer Inspection Services leave us a review.

Lastly, we would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the real estate agents and clients over the years for continuing to support us. We remain the same local ownership and after serving the metro region for over 25 years we are still your local home town home inspection team.

Deck image - Photo credit FlickerWinter and our prolonged rains are hard on decks and porches which are mostly build out of wooded surfaces including pressure treated, cedar and redwood decking materials.  Carefully review all components from top to those areas beneath.  Structures sheltered from the sun’s rays have more potential for rot as they are not exposed to the natural drying process of sunlight.  Repair/replace any damaged components and properly seal wood to extend it’s useful life.

Summertime is a great opportunity to address exterior home maintenance issues and improvements. Such as siding, paint and caulk.  Walk around your home, look for loose and damaged siding, paint and caulk failure.  Review exterior devices and fixtures for damage.Remember if it doesn’t look right changes are it’s not.  Spending a little time on maintenance can help prevent problems come winter.Review hard surfaces (walks, patio, driveway’s, etc…).  Winter freeze/thaw reaps havac on those surfaces.  Look for the obvious “trip-hazards” and “broken” concrete.  Seal all joints/seams and cracks to help minimize additional frost damage.  Coating and sealing surfaces can minimize heat damage as well.


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