In This Issue:
- Hello
- Did You Know?
- Fall Maintenance Checklist
- Best Kept secret

Contact Info:
Fred Comb
Home Inspections of Minnesota
190 Wildwood Bay Drive
Mahtomedi, MN 55115

Services Include:
- Home Buyer Inspections
- Pre-Listing Inspections
- Home Seller Inspections
- New Construction Insp.
- Remodeling Inspections
- Multi-Family Inspections
- Warranty Inspections
- Commercial Inspections
- Radon Testing
- Carbon Monoxide Testing
- Moisture/Mold Testing
- Expert Witness Testimony
- Consulting
- Mediation - Arbitration

Weather Facts:
Sept 26 - earliest 1" snowfall
Oct 1 - avg high 65
Oct 1 - avg low 45
Oct 5 - avg 1st freeze
Halloween 1991 - 28.4"
Nov 1 - avg high 51
Nov 1 - avg low 33
Nov 18 - avg 1st 1" snowfall
For more weather info
Visit Sven at KARE11

Newsletter From:
Home Inspections of Minnesota

By Fred Comb

I hope this newsletter finds you happy and healthy.

As many veteran homeowners already know and many new first-time homeowners are about to discover, fall is the time of year that our homes need extra special care, more care than any other time of year. It should not come as any surprise, but fall is here.

To help you give your home the special care it deserves, I have included a Fall Maintenance Checklist below. It's a long list, and not everything will apply for every home.

Recently, I added many new e-mail addresses and if you are a new reader, welcome! I try to send a newsletter at least twice a year, three times if there is important information to convey. If you do not want to receive future newsletters, please click HERE

If you are a recent home inspection client, I encourage you to locate your inspection report and reread it. If you can't find it, I can e-mail it. Be reminded of any item that deserves further attention.

Did You Know?
Carbon Monoxide Detectors:
A new Minnesota law requires Carbon Monoxide (CO) detectors to be located within 10 feet of all sleeping rooms. This is in addition to smoke detectors. Approved CO detectors may be hard-wired, battery operated or plugged into an un-switched outlet. The law is already in effect for new construction and will take effect August 1, 2008 for all existing homes, August 1, 2009 for multi-family apartments. Most hardware stores and home centers stock many models to choose from and most are easy to install. The entire law can be found HERE.

Garage Door Operators:
Even though a law took effect in 1991, which requires a safety reverse mechanism on all garage door operators, many do not function properly. Many operators are equipped with two safety mechanisms. One relies on a beam of light located near the base of the door, which, if tripped, will automatically reverse the door. Test this device by passing an object through the beams path while the door is closing, the door should reverse. If not, repair is necessary. Another safety reverse mechanism may be located at the motor, and should sense an object once a closing door comes into contact. Test this device, but observe safety precautions to prevent injury. One person can push the control button to close the door while a second person carefully grabs the base of the door near the center. As the door is closing, apply pressure in an attempt to stop the door, be sure to avoid being trapped or pinched by the closing door. The door should reverse without applying excessive pressure/force. If not, readjust the "down force" adjustment screw located on the motor to apply less force to a closing door. Re-test until the proper setting is determined. If you are unsure how to test or the door does not reverse, call a professional.

Stucco Siding Issues Continue:
If your home has stucco siding or you are involved with homes that have stucco siding and they were built since the late 1980's, please take a moment to evaluate your situation. As some of you know, the City of Woodbury has been keeping a close watch on stucco and moisture intrusion issues and their observations and findings continue to be stunning. Stucco issues continue and I would be remiss if I do not encourage owners of stucco siding to test or retest stucco. Even if I once tested your home and gave it the okay, please consider testing again.

Why do I say that?
According to the City of Woodbury:
  • 41% of stucco homes built in Woodbury between 1990 and 1999 have suffered from significant water intrusion, which required major repairs, many exceeding $100,000.
  • 11% of stucco homes built in Woodbury since 1999 (after more restrictive building codes designed to prevent water intrusion took effect) have suffered from significant water intrusion, which required major repairs.
  • 5% of previously repaired stucco homes, failed again.

Clearly, this is a delicate issue for homeowners, buyers, sellers, Realtors, contractors and attorneys. But the fact remains, Woodbury is demonstrating that stucco issues continue. So be careful and remember the key to preventing major damage is discovering the problem early.

Also, be aware of developing issues with a growing trend and reliance on infrared temperature testing as a substitute for intrusive two-pin moisture testing. While infrared technology is capable of producing fascinating thermal images, it has limits with moisture testing. At the present time, there is no substitute for intrusive two-pin testing.

Additional moisture testing info can be found HERE.

Building Contractors:
New 2007 Building Codes adopted (with some exceptions) the 2006 International Residential Code (IRC). The IRC is available at most libraries and available for purchase online. Be aware that the IRC does not replace other special codes like the Energy Code, etc., the IRC is in addition to other existing codes. Additional info can be found HERE.

Top Five Hidden Home Hazards:
In August, the US Consumer Protection Safety Commision (CPSC) released a new list of the Top Five Hidden Home Hazards. I include it here because the list is vastly different from my list and may surprise you. The CPSC list can be found HERE.
The Home Inspections of Minnesota list of top ten defects can be found HERE.

Fall Maintenance Checklist

Gutters - Remove leaves and debris. Leaves may need removal more than once. Insure proper downspout operation. If gutters and downspouts provide drainage at critical areas, install heating cables to facilitate use in winter.
Roof - Look for loose or missing roof covering and observe its general condition. Remove leaves, sticks and debris. If you have asphalt (tar) flashing, check for cracks and shrinkage, repair as necessary. Remove bird nests from roof vents. If your home experienced hail damage over the summer, consider contacting your insurance agent.
Storm Windows - Install as necessary. Be sure weep holes at sills remain open. If you have removable wood screens, store them where they will not warp but not in direct contact with a concrete floor.
Windows - Prepare for moisture condensation on interior surfaces in winter. Apply paint/stain/sealant to protect wood components as necessary. Check weather striping. Fully close and latch windows to reduce condensation and frost in winter.
Siding - Look for cracks and holes. Apply caulk and paint if necessary. If you have stucco siding or suspect water intrusion or moisture in walls, have it tested by a professional.
Vents and air intakes - Check covers and screens. Clean if necessary.
Landscape - Insure proper downhill slope for drainage away from the home. Cover and protect sensitive plants. Trim shrubs and trees but trim oak only in winter months. Call a professional if near power lines. Remove dirt from valuable flowerpots and planters or tip on side to reduce cracking. Winterize water features and pumps. Install heaters in birdbaths. Clean out window wells, under decks and hard to reach areas.
Driveways - Seal cracks. Keep water out of cracks. Freezing water will expand and make cracks grow.
Swimming Pools, Spas, etc. - Lower water levels and winterize all water lines, skimmers, pumps, heaters, filters, etc. or call a professional. If you have a year-round spa, be sure the cover and insulation are in place and controls are set to maintain a temperature above freezing.
Air Conditioning - To cover or not to cover? If you do, don't wrap in plastic, condensation can build up inside and cause corrosion. Sloped plywood on top is best, but be sure to remove prior to Spring start-up.
Outside Faucets - Disconnect hose from faucets, even frost proof faucets. If faucet is non-frost proof or if you are unsure, close inside shut-off valves and open outside faucet to drain, leave faucet open. If faucets have an external vacuum breaker or backflow prevention device, carefully manipulate the plunger in-and-out to allow water to drain.
Underground Sprinkler - Close the inside shut-off valve and prevent accidental opening in winter. Blow out and drain the entire system. Unplug or turn off controls. Call a professional if you are unsure or not able to blow out the entire system.
Septic Systems - Test high water alarm. If inspections are current and your system is operating properly, no special maintenance should be necessary. If you deferred inspections, consider having them done before the ground freezes and fees increase. If you have a shallow tank, a seasonal home or a reduced number of occupants (such as 1 person in a 3 bedroom home), then you may be wise to pile leaves over the septic system to provide additional protection from freezing.
Wells - In most cases, no special maintenance is necessary, just clean around the pump and/or pressure tank to prevent mold. If the well is located in an unheated pump room or pit, it may need protection from freezing during cold spells. If so, be sure a temporary heat source is available. If in doubt, install an indoor/outdoor thermometer.

Filters and Ducts - Clean or replace all filters. Check the furnace, humidifier, air exchange system, kitchen exhaust hood, clothes dryer duct, etc.
Safety and Emergency Systems - Test smoke detectors and Carbon Monoxide (CO) detectors. Don't have one? Get one. Test GFCI outlets and circuit breakers. Check fire egress windows and insure access. Test emergency generators and switching devices, replace fuel or add fuel preservative. Check fire extinguishers and flashlights. Review fire escape plan with family.
Attic - Look for roof leaks and water condensation. Observe roof vents for obstructions. Check exhaust fan ducts and be sure they vent outside and not into attic.
Garage Door and Operator - Lubricate wheels and track. Check automatic safety reverse mechanisms.
Heating System - Look for rust and corrosion, if present call a professional. If you have hot water heat, check water pressure (usually 10-14 is best), add water if necessary. Check the flame, if natural gas or propane, the flame should be mostly blue. Clean and service as necessary. Check and clean air filters. Add oil to motors if necessary. Do not store items near furnace, boiler or flues. Keep combustible material away from baseboard heat. Check thermostat setback settings. If in doubt call a professional.
Fireplace - Check the damper and flue; look for obstructions, loose brick and excessive build-up. Clean and service as necessary or call a professional. Obtain clean seasoned firewood; hardwood is best. Cleaning obscured glass on a gas fireplace requires special chemicals and disassembly of the front panel. Be sure to reassemble the front panel just as it was. Follow manufacturer recommendations for lighting a gas fireplace. If you have gas logs that are manually controlled, the damper should be equipped with a device that prevents closing, make sure the device is in place and the damper is open before lighting gas logs. If you have a coal-burning fireplace and are unsure of correct operation, call a professional.
Water Pipes - Be sure all water lines have adequate freeze protection. Shut-off and drain garage and outbuilding fixtures as necessary. Check crawl spaces, hidden corners, etc. Test low temperature warning alarms. If you have a seasonal home that is unheated in winter, be sure to drain water lines and add RV anti-freeze to traps at all fixtures and toilets. If you are unsure how to winterize plumbing in a seasonal home, call a professional.
Water Leaks - Fix them! Water is the #1 enemy of a house.

Heating Fuel - Fill fuel oil and propane tanks as necessary.
Refrigerators and Freezers - Vacuum louvered vents and refrigerant coils located under or behind the unit. Check weather-strip on doors. If you shut down a seasonal-use refrigerator or freezer, un-plug and leave doors open to reduce mold.
Bees and Wasps - A gloved hand can remove annoying hives in freezing weather.
Mice, Squirrels, Critters - They will be looking for winter homes, if they are not welcome in yours, seal and close all openings and holes. Check the base of storm doors, garage doors, etc. Check the air conditioner refrigerant line as it enters the home. Seal all openings and holes.
Pets - Check kennels and doghouses and be sure they provide adequate protection in winter.
Snow Blower, Lawn Mower, etc. - Change oil, fill snow blower with fresh gas and test. Run lawn mower and other gas-powered items until they run out of gas or add fuel preservative.
Snow Removal Contract - Reconfirm arrangements.

Feel free to forward this list to family and friends and let them know it came from

Fall Color and a Best-Kept Secret
For those of you who have recently moved to Minnesota, you may not be aware of one of Minnesota's rare and spectacular places, Minnesota's North Shore. This may seem like a tourism ad, but this time of year is considered by many to be the best time to visit the North Shore. Fall colors and the world's largest fresh water lake are truly spectacular. But the color lasts only for a few short weeks. The edge of the lake is just a 2.5 hour drive from the heart of the Cities. If you go, plan a full-day trip or a weekend. Just follow highway 35 north, when you see the exploding view of Lake Superior in front of you, you'll know you've arrived. Highway 35 turns into 61, choose the scenic drive option; you can follow the shore all the way to Canada or just part way.

About an hour north of Duluth, if you see a small blue road sign that says, "Palisade Head," turn in, it's a state park. Most people drive right by and never see one of Minnesota's best-kept secrets. The park features a twisting one-lane road; find your way to the end. This is a great place to enjoy a gourmet picnic lunch and explore panoramic views of Lake Superior. Bring a camera!

Thanks for reading,

Home Inspections of Minnesota, 190 Wildwod Bay Drive, Mahtomedi, MN 55115

To join this newsletter list CLICK HERE
To be removed from the e-mail list CLICK HERE

Copyright 2007, Home Inspections of Minnesota