Are you having a home built, or are you planning a move to a newly constructed house? You might feel like it is not necessary to have a home inspection for your pending purchase - after all - it’s brand new.
Unfortunately, issues come up even in newly constructed homes. So, home inspections are recommended even for new home construction and, in fact, a second inspection prior to the expiration of your home warranty may also prove to be a smart move.
Those of us in the upper Midwest have earned a nice warm and sunny spring and summer, with outdoor entertainment on our attached decks. The deck or patio becomes the favorite place for many people in the Midwest in the summer. The winter snow, wind and cold can take its toll on your outdoor oasis, so a quick safety inspection is a simple project that can make sure that your deck can safely hold the crowds for the upcoming cookout or gathering or graduation party. May is deck safety month, so we’ll take a moment to go through some quick deck tips to help you to have a safe location for summer outdoor festivities.
1. Inspect the connection between your deck and house. Your deck should be connected to your house by a ledger board, which is a large piece of lumber connected directly to the house. Check if there is a gap between the ledger board and the house. Check if any of the lag bolts are loose or if there is any rot or deterioration of the board.
2. Inspect the rest of the structure–the network of beams under the deck that support the entire structure. Make sure that none of the members are sagging or twisting. Check for any evidence of rot or insect activity.
3. Check the posts. Make sure that they are sill plumb (straight up and down) and that there is no evidence of rotting wood. The base of the posts can be especially susceptible to rot because it is more exposed to moisture and debris than other parts of the deck.
3. Check the decking - the planks that make up the deck surface. Inspect these elements for any signs of rot, loose nails or screws, insect activities or splinters. Clean everything off of the deck and use a power washer or a stiff brush to remove any mildew from the top surface to prevent slips and falls. Apply a fresh coat of weather seal if it is needed.
4. Check the railings. Railings should be secure and should not move when you apply pressure to them – remember that your friends will be leaning against the rails and may even jump up and take a seat. Check the bolts that connect the railings to the structure to make sure that they have not loosened and that there is no evidence of wood rot around the bolt holes.
5. Inspect the steps. The steps should be secure to the upper structure of the deck and should not sag or sway when you step or push on them. Check the stair railings and check all of the wood for signs of rot or insect activities. Check all of the bolts and hardware to make sure that they are not loose.
6. Check all of the hardware – screws, bolts, nails and joist hangers. Make sure that they are not loose or rusted. Replace any hardware that is missing, loose or rusted.
7. Check the wood for deterioration. Use an ice pick or small flathead screwdriver to check for split or decaying wood. Basically, if you can insert your instrument more than ¼ inch deep into the wood or if it feels soft and spongy, it is at some level of decay and will need to be replaced in the near future.
8. Check the lighting and electrical. Test your lights and outlets to make sure that they are all working properly. Test any GFCI outlets and replace any burned out bulbs.
This is not intended to be a comprehensive deck inspection, but merely a checklist of things that you can do yourself. If you think you could use some assistance inspecting your deck this spring or if something just doesn’t look right, give us a call! We can help to give you peace of mind that your deck will be a safe entertainment area for the upcoming barbecue season.
If you are a homeowner, especially a first-time homeowner, you will soon learn that home maintenance and repairs need to be included in your regular budgets. How much money should you plan to spend on home maintenance and repairs? It's impossible to predict exactly what repairs your home will need, but average homeowner costs can be helpful and often fairly accurate. Using average costs, there are a couple of rules of thumb that can help guide this calculation. And you can adjust your initial results based on factors like the age and general condition of your home.
Rules of Thumb
Two common rules of thumb estimate your yearly expenses based on the home value or on the square footage. The first says that that one percent of the purchase price of your home should be set aside for repairs. The second says that $1 per square foot of your house should be expected each year for ongoing maintenance. For example, if your home cost $250,000, you should budget $2,500 per year for maintenance; or, if your home is 1,500 square feet, you should expect a long-term average of about $1,500 per year for maintenance and repairs.
That doesn’t mean you’ll spend that set amount every year. It just means that, on average, over a span of a long time period (10 years or more), you’ll spend this much annually. Some years you’ll spend far more; a roof replacement or a new furnace or air conditioner, for instance, might cost significantly more than your yearly budget, but you will spend much less in other years.
Special Factors to Consider
While these rules of thumb can give you a ballpark estimate of annual maintenance costs, they don't take into account the age or condition of the home itself or the setting that it resides in. There are several additional factors that have an impact on the cost of maintenance and repairs for a specific house.
Age of the home: The age of the property can play a big role. A new home built within the last 10 years or so might need less maintenance, while homes in the 10 to 20 year old range could need more. If a house is more than 20 years old, some of those original components are probably near the end of their useful life and may need to be replaced if they have not been replaced already.
Some homes are more than 100 years old but are in fantastic condition thanks to the previous and current owners paying close attention to care and maintenance. Other homes, however, have been neglected and poorly repaired over the years. The older the home, the more impact a previous and current owner’s care (or lack thereof) will impact the home’s maintenance needs.
Workmanship: The quality of any work completed on the home can have an influence on the long-term maintenance and repair costs. An addition that has poor workmanship may not only need repairs but may also indicate that a former homeowner may have done other low-quality work on the property that could need future repairs.
Weather: Homes in Minnesota and other areas affected by freezing temperatures, hail storms, strong winds, or heavy snowfall are subject to more strain than homes in areas unaffected by cold weather. Many of the large repairs caused by the weather can be covered by insurance, but the deductible and smaller damages that do not warrant an insurance claim will eat away at a part of your budget.
Skill level: Are you a qualified DIYer who can correctly do many of the home maintenance projects that might come up? This can have a significant impact on your yearly spending. If you are able to complete small projects on your own, those repairs will cost much less than needing to hire a handyman or contractor. Be sure that if you do repairs yourself, you check with your local jurisdiction for any permit and code requirements.
Type of home: Are you living in a single-family home or a town home or condo? A detached single-family home needs a larger maintenance budget than a town home or condo because you will be responsible for exterior maintenance such as roof, siding, gutters and landscaping. Those repairs for a condo or town home are normally covered under a homeowner’s association and you pay for that through a required monthly payment.
Estimate the Big-Ticket Items
Generally, there are certain items that are expected to need replacement over time that can be considered “big-ticket” items and will be a large percentage of your maintenance budget. The roof, furnace, air conditioner, hot water heater, appliances are all items that have a life expectancy. If you can tabulate these items, their approximate remaining life expectancy, and their estimated cost to replace, you can come up with a yearly repair estimate. See my previous blog on life expectancy of a few of these larger items. If you know the approximate age and life expectancy of these big-ticket items and have a reasonable estimate for replacements, you can use that to calculate a yearly cost for those, which will constitute a huge percentage of your long-term maintenance costs.
For example, if a new furnace costs about $4,000 installed and has a life expectancy of 20 years, you can assume a yearly cost of $200. But, if that furnace is already 18 years old and you have not budgeted for its replacement in the near future, that cost could be $2,000 per year over the next two years to make sure to have enough set aside. The same methods can be used with your roof, air conditioner, appliances and other more expensive projects around the home. Take your annual cost of all of those “big ticket” items and add about 10-20 percent to come up with a ballpark estimate of yearly expenses.
Now that you’ve put together your home maintenance estimates and budgets, what do you do with them? You can just feel good about having them, but it won’t do any good if your air conditioner goes out and you have not set aside the funds needed to replace it.
I suggest opening a separate account to be used for home improvements and repairs. Take the average of your estimated monthly expenses and deposit that into your account each month with maybe even 5-10 percent extra as a contingency. Try to use that money only for home maintenance and repairs so that you are prepared when a home emergency arises in the future. Consider it a bonus if you are able to save a little bit on your repairs or if you file an insurance claim for one of your big ticket items. Consider it money well saved if something goes out any you have the cash on hand to replace or repair it.