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Andy Alvarez
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The Inspector Newsletter
January 2015: Energy Loss
Maintenance Matters

Maintenance Matters

Monitor Cracks in Your Foundation

Cracks in poured concrete foundations can appear for many reasons. Cracks that are less than 1/8-inch with both surfaces even are generally caused by the shrinkage that occurs as concrete cures. Most of the time, these cracks will be vertical in nature and occur along the joints where the foundation forms come together. These are common and usually of no concern.

Diagonal cracks, many times starting in a corner or at a window or door opening, or horizontal cracks indicate foundation wall movement. This movement is usually inward. These types of cracks are caused by pressure exerted inward from the soil around the foundation. Water, whether it be rain or groundwater,can cause the soil surrounding the foundation to expand and contract creating a hydraulic ram effect pushing the wall inward.

With diagonal cracks, even cracks less than 1/8-inch should be of concern, as they do indicate movement and should be monitored. Cracks larger than 1/8-inch should also be monitored, especially if there are signs of moisture intrusion. As a rule of thumb, any wall leaning in more than 2 inches from plumb is structurally unsound and should be inspected by a foundation specialist or structural engineer.

A small crack in a newer home is of more concern than a small crack in an older home. NPI home inspectors discuss with buyers the severity of the crack(s), such as location and type of crack, and advise them not to pass on a house specifically because of cracks. Unless there are structural or moisture issues, most cracks can just be monitored and, if needed, many repairs are not hugely expensive. However, keep in mind that foundation issues come in many forms, and, when in doubt, you should consult a specialist.

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Did You Know?

Insulation Tips

Making sure you have the proper amount of insulation in your attic can save you money on energy bills. Energy.gov has some great tips for insulating:

  • Consider factors such as your climate, home design, and budget when selecting insulation for your home.
  • Use higher R-value insulation, such as spray foam, on exterior walls and in cathedral ceilings to get more insulation with less thickness.
  • Install attic air barriers such as wind baffles along the entire attic eave to help ensure proper airflow from the soffit to the attic. Ventilation helps with moisture control and reducing summer cooling bills, but don't ventilate your attic if you have insulation on the underside of the roof. Ask a qualified contractor for recommendations.
  • Be careful how close you place insulation next to a recessed light fixture—unless it is insulation contact (IC) rated—to avoid a fire hazard. See the Lighting section for more information about recessed lights.
  • Follow the manufacturer's installation instructions, and wear the proper protective gear when installing insulation.

For more information about the type and amount of insulation recommended for your area, visit http://energy.gov/energysaver/articles/tips-insulation in the United States and http://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/co/grho/grho_010.cfm in Canada.

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MONTHLY TRIVIA CONTEST

Q. List three areas of a house where ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets are necessary.

Be the first to answer correctly and win a $10 Starbucks gift card. Submit your answer to your local NPI inspector to find out if you’ve won.

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