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What Are These Things in My House?

What Are These Things in My House?

(By: Comfort Home Inspections owner Keith Hoaglund)

This post is meant to be helpful for a new homeowner who is learning the ins and outs of their new single-family home. First, welcome to home ownership! There are plenty of things in your home to be aware of and that may require your attention or maintenance. Don’t worry though, I’ll go through some the basics here to help make homeowning a piece of cake.

1.) Furnace Filter

If you take a look at your furnace, you should notice a slot or narrow panel alongside it, usually part of the ductwork, where the furnace filter goes. These come in various sizes but generally will be a dimension like 16x25x1 or something similar.

furnace replacing filterfurnace filter






I recommend purchasing a box of these and labeling them by month (1/2018, 2/2018, 3/2018, etc.), then simply install a new one every month. You’ll always know if you are caught up with the month and year already written on the filter.

2.) Dyer Vent

cleaning dry vent outside wallKeep an eye on the laundry vent to clean and remove lint as necessary. If your dryer has flexible ducting, consider upgrading to metal.

Where flexible duct is required, always use a metal or aluminum type of duct – never a plastic flex pipe! Plastic can overheat and become a fire hazard.

Check the end of your vent on the exterior of your home. Make sure there is no screen present and that the door swings freely. Vent cleaning kits are available at most home stores and consist of a long, flexible rod or cable with a brush on the end. These will remove a surprising amount of lint from your duct and help the dryer work more efficiently.

3.) Water Softener

water softener maintenance saltIf your house is equipped with a water softener, the main thing to remember is to keep the salt level up. Water softener salt is required for the regeneration cycle which flushes out the system and allows the unit to continue providing soft water.

There are several service companies that will bring bags of salt to you on a regular basis if you don’t cherish the idea of carrying the 40-pound bags into your mechanical room.

4.) Sump Pump

sump pump maintenanceNot all homes have a sump pump, but if yours does, you want it to be in working condition. The worst thing would be to be in need of a sump pump and find it not functional.

A sump pump is designed to take ground or surface runoff water that has filtered down around your foundation and remove it out and away from your home.

The “sump” refers to the large container, vessel, or actually sometimes a hole in your basement floor about the size of a trash can. Generally, these have lids installed. The lid is very important as it not only prevents humans or other creatures from falling in, but it also prevents debris from collecting or falling in, which can adversely affect the proper function of the pump.

I once observed a property with a flooded basement where the sump pump was fully functional, but a Barbie doll had fallen into the uncovered sump and had jammed the float preventing the pump from operating.

The “pump” refers to the actual electric motor and integrated pump that sits down in the sump waiting for water to come in. It has a float mechanism that allows for automatic operation. When the water reaches a certain level, the pump kicks on and discharged the water safely outside the home. The easiest way to test the function of this is to add water to the sump until you observe the float raise and the pump turn on and remove the water.

If you happen to be in an area that has a high water table or poor drainage in general, you may hear you sump pump cycle frequently in the spring or during heavy rains. If this is the case, it is crucial to maintain this unit and keep it working in top-notch condition. When in doubt, replace it. Again, you don’t want to be caught needed it when it isn’t working. Any qualified plumber can replace your sump quickly for a few hundred dollars. Far less than the cost of damage repair to a flooded basement.

5.) Fresh Air Intake Duct

fresh air intake ductA fresh air intake duct is a simple, round tube that enters the mechanical room and generally hangs down toward the floor. Many times, these six-inch round, insulated ducts will be connected to the return air duct of your heating system, in which case they can be difficult to spot.

This duct is designed to draw in fresh air as needed to replace the air that is pumped out of the house by, among other things, the bathroom exhaust fan, exhaust hood above the range, dryer, and furnace.

You may feel cool air coming in during winter and immediately make efforts to close it off. That’s a bad idea. The main thing is to keep these open and unobstructed. Your duct should terminate with a “J” bend or could be directed into a pail to slow the cold air down and keep it from “falling” into your house when not needed.

This will be a multi-part blog series. I will make reference to five more things in your new home next month. Stay tuned!

6 Common Home Renovation Mistakes

6 Common Home Renovation Mistakes

Seeing a contractor’s estimate after unloading your wallet on a new house can be enough to think, I’ll just fix this myself. But to avoid costly mistakes, many home repairs and renovations should be completed by a trained professional.

The skills, experience, and tools professionals have are almost always worth the cost and can save you when it comes time to sell. Here are six of the most common DIY repair mistakes made by homeowners.


1. Not waterproofing.

If you’re replacing a bathroom countertop, replacing pipes, or doing repairs to weather-prone areas, be sure you’re waterproofing enough to keep the area dry. Use caulking, backsplashes, and sealants in the right places to avoid water damage and potential mold.

2. Using the wrong materials.

There’s a difference between PVC pipes, uPVC pipes, and CPVC pipes, and using the wrong one today can force you into more repairs tomorrow. Sealants and valves are also designed for specific purposes. The wrong materials can cause leaking, warping, and permanent damage.


3. Cutting wires too short (or too long).

When replacing outlets and light switches, wiring should stick out about three inches from the wall. Shorter wires can cause poor electrical connection while longer wires can make it difficult to fit everything into the electrical box as well as determine which wires to work with in the future.

Also be sure to strip a wire at the appropriate length, usually listed on the back of the outlet or light switch. Remember, home inspections are very thorough.

4. Using the wrong wires.

When wiring a brand new switch or outlet, purchase a wire that is rated for the appropriate amperage of what you’re installing. 14-gauge wiring is able to carry up to15 amps of current, while a 12-gauge wire can carry up to 20 amps. Check your fuse in the circuit breaker for which wiring to use.


5. Removing studs.

Maybe a room would get more sunlight if a wall wasn’t there, or a pocket for a shelf would look great if those studs weren’t in the way. If you’re ever considering cutting or removing studs and you’re not sure of the implications, call a professional.

Removing the wrong stud could cause weakness in the structure of your home, and you never know what electrical or plumbing you’ll run into when you start removing sheetrock.

6. Enthusiastic painting.

This one isn’t a safety hazard, but the effects can be just as influential to a buyer in the future. When you paint, make sure you take your time, use painter’s tape, and focus on making the paint job look even and smooth. A bad paint job can cause buyers to second guess or lower their offer. Even your guests may notice a thick drip or bare patches.

Bonus renovation mistake:

Removing unfamiliar items.

Some things in your home may look completely out of place and entirely useless, but take a minute to research if a pipe, wire, or plug is actually necessary before ripping it out.

For example, you may find an empty duct in your basement reaching from outside of the house to hanging above the floor, looking like a forgotten project. But this is a combustion air duct, and it’s actually very important because it brings in outside air to replace expelled air from bathroom fans or fireplaces. Not having this duct can cause your home to fill with exhaust gases from your furnace.

In the end, use caution

The bottom line: If you break out the tools and decide you’re not sure of the consequences of your project, ask a pro. You can also often find answers to your questions with a quick internet search. Just be sure to consider the buyer’s point-of-view if you ever plan to sell your home.