Do New Homes Need an Inspection?

One question I get asked regularly is, do I need a home inspection with a new construction home? At first glance the answer would seem like a ‘no.’ You’re likely thinking you had code inspectors come out and you have a reputable contractor. In reality your assumption could not be further from the truth.

A new construction home actually needs more then 1 home inspection! The first issue here being there’s a significant difference between a home inspection and a code inspection; the second issue is contractors are not inspectors and also have a biased opinion (reasonably so); third it will be beneficial in law suits and home warranty claims.

Code inspections monitor the building process for governing codes, home inspectors monitor buildings for building standards of practice. The difference meaning codes are the minimum requirements while standards of practice are based on best building practices.

Additionally home inspections monitor system functionality. If you imagine building a car the quality control inspector ensures that everything is put together properly and is similar to a code inspection; the home inspection is more in line with a test drive, we drive the car checking brakes, turn signals, transmission function etc. There is some overlap here because best practices aline with codes and home inspectors are reasonably familiar with codes and base inspection on those as well.

I have personally never inspected a home that passed the code inspections but passed the home inspection. The most recent home inspection I did on a new construction home cost the home buyer $385, for their money I found $7,000 worth of defects from a reputable contractor. The contractor now had to fix those issues and saved the client thousands on future repairs and issues when listing the house.

Contractors do inspect their work, but even good crews get anxious at 5 o’clock on Friday. Ordering inspections in process at key stages may cost you an extra few hundred dollars but ensures your home is built properly and issues cannot be hidden. We can also save the contractor money by conducting those inspections so they are not fixing them after it is built.

Small things that the code doesn’t require, the inspector can recommend that the contractor fix providing you the ability to get the work done at no cost to you. Codes don’t necessarily require counter flashing but the home inspector will require these to be put in. Now you no longer have to rebuild the wall when you go to sell the house because the contractor had to fix it. If he refuses and you have issues in the future you now have a report backing the claim recommending them.

If you order an inspection at 11 months after the house is built you then have a report backing all warranty claims (even things you don’t have an issue with yet). For the price of an inspection you saved thousands because you are no longer the one responsible for fixing the issues.

The last issue is some clients ask the professionals they’ve hired to tell them whether they need an inspection. The professional doesn’t get paid until you buy the house so of course they will tell you ‘no’ so they can push the deal through. A decent professional with their clients best interest truly in mind will advise you to get it done; whether that’s the lawyer, insurance agent, realtor, or builder they should recommend you have it performed.

The recommendation for a new construction home is to have several (usually 2) in process inspections, one full inspection on completion, and another full inspection with mold test at 1 year. This can obviously add up but the return in savings is well worth it, remember this is the largest asset you will ever own have the foresight to get it inspected correctly.

Tips to Your First Home

Alright so you’ve just purchased your first home… the excitement is overwhelming and you are still in shock at the simplicities that come with it. You no longer have to ask a landlords permission to paint or make cosmetic changes, the money spent on them is now going back in your pocket, and every time you walk in to the house the realization hits you that you own it.

There is almost no greater feeling in the world then purchasing your own home and more specifically your first home. However, with that purchase come some pitfalls and shortcomings that can be scary and intimidating.

Don’t Remodel Yet!

When you bought the home it may have been outdated and ugly or maybe just not your style. You went through it with your spouse (or those of us that are single with your dog) and dreamed about all the changes you “needed” to make to it.

Realize first that those changes are “wants” and not “needs” overspending right now can you lead you right back on the path to being an apartment dweller by defaulting on your loan. Remember the Les Brown quote; “the quickest way to get back on your feet is skip two car payments!”

Believe me I get it the shag carpet is horrible, the velvet Elvis is permanently mounted to the wall, and the grey flowered wall paper absolutely has to go. Keep in mind you just made a huge downpayment, paid for a home inspection (if you were smart), and have all these maintenance items to care for first.

Bottom line her is take care of your maintenance items and savings account first, then you can begin your upgrades.

Leading us to the second point… Maintenance!

I cant tell you how many homes i’ve inspected that simply have drastic deferred maintenance with them. I’ll write a brief maintenance article over the next few weeks but in short don’t forget that your HVAC filters need to be changed monthly, HVAC needs serviced annually, shingles need patched, siding needs cleaned and painted, windows need caulk, the list literally goes on.

These things begin to add up and can cost you a significant amount over the course of the year. In general I budget $100 a month for maintenance, this is excessive for most months but on the occasion where you need a new AC, furnace or hot water heater the money is already there for it. Don’t be foolish save the money now and take care of these issues before they become bigger problems.

One thing that no one ever wants to admit they need is an annual maintenance inspection. Most home owners, especially the do-it-yourselfer believes they have the knowledge to identify issues. In part they can, which is why annual maintenance inspection can run significantly cheaper then a standard inspection. In realty, it takes a trained inspector to identify issues you aren’t yet having or the ones you cant see… like water leaks behind a wall.

Pay for Quality

When it comes to home maintenance, repairs, and remodels nothing seems scarier or more outside the realm of possible then getting a quote from a qualified contractor. 1st contractors can be hit or miss and they are not created equal (much like home inspectors).

It’s difficult to find good contractors even more so to find good ones with decent prices. As it appears the ones that are good usually know it and charge a premium for their services. I recently had a client that purchased services from a contractor, in short the work was screwed up miserably and the client is facing a lengthy court battle; to win a case that she will likely never see a return on her money because the failure bankrupt the general contractor.

What’s the point here? Shop quality services for your home not price. The same holds true with inspections. People call me all the time price shopping and asking if I will match another inspectors price. I tell them simply ‘no’ because my inspections will be much more thorough and in depth. As an example, I did a home inspection last week that was an average size home with no special features besides a pool to add to the price. That inspection took me 5 hours plus an additional hour to complete the report; had I completed it to the minimum required standard I could have easily been finished in 2 to 2.5 hours. That is simply not the way I do business, I provide a high quality service and charge accordingly.

Track your information.

Keep track of everything in a binder or online (clients of Timberline Inspections receive a lifetime subscription to Home Binder). Save receipts! Save everything! When you come back in 5 years and need to match the paint to fix dings, it will save you the trouble of repainting, try to match a broken tile without it and you’ll feel my pain.

On that same note buy and save extra on everything it’s good to have leftover originals to do repairs in 5 or 10 years. Store them in your attic out of the way and leave it if you ever sell the house. Remember products get discontinued and suppliers go out of business, so don’t wait until it’s too late to match it. Even if you knew that wouldn’t happen it’s still imperative because different batches can produce different coloring and a new one 10 years late likely wont match.

Don’t skimp on insurance

Being an inspector I deal a lot with property inspection for insurance claims, some companies are better then others and the only two I would ever use are Nationwide and USAA. Are they the cheapest? Certainly not but guess what! When there’s a claim they just pay it…

I’ve dealt with both companies and both seem to be great, as a Veteran I’m slightly biased to use USAA but having gone through the claims process with them on several occasions they just pay up. Neither of those companies try to sneak by with technicalities and get themselves out of paying you.

Pick a deductible you can afford, if you only have $1000 in your emergency fund then your deductible should be no more then half that. Imagine if you picked it at $5000 and then had a major fire or storm damage… How will you cover the added expense? and even so doing you will then be out of money completely. There’s time to save on the premiums later just get one you can afford now and pay for a disaster.

Fixing The Whirlpool Oven Lock

I’m writing this article because Whirlpool thoroughly ticked me off with my oven/microwave combo! Since owning this oven I used the self clean for the first and last time and will never purchase one of these again.

Now for those of you reading this to find the fix for this ridiculous issue keep reading it’s at the bottom of the article. Let’s first discuss the problem so we are all on the same page. After running Whirlpools Gold Accubake Micro/Oven Combo in self cleaning mode for the first time I was excited to see how well it cleaned (a hole in the tinfoil caused a meal to leak fat all over the bottom of the oven). So I scrubbed and scraped until only the residue was left and thus entered the nightmare of self cleaning mode.

During that mode the door locks and you cannot use your oven for several hours. After completion the lock releases and you should be able to wipe out the oven and be done. This was not the case for myself, and based on the online research many, many others!

The door lock wouldn’t release, and after several hours of reading posts and struggling through Whirlpools (waste of time) troubleshooting guide, the only thing I managed to learn was that I had multiple faults from E0-F1 through E7-F5. What this told me was that Whirlpool had figured out ‘Every’ way to ‘F*&%’ me 5 times.

I then read that on some models the code that I was pulling meant the wiring harness was loose in the back and the cover needed to be removed. I doubted this was the case since it happened during the self cleaning, but at this point in time what the hell! Next I learned that you cannot remove the panel without opening the oven door to remove two screws, which I obviously couldn’t do since it was the door lock that was not working… am I in the Twilight Zone?

So to no avail I was on my last result, of calling Whirlpool; if you’ve ever dealt with customer service you understand my hesitation here. I wasn’t in the mood to spend an hour on hold being redirected to different departments to finally get tech support that would then ask me to turn off the oven and turn in back on (FYI this is what Dish Network does, can’t wait to be out of my contract there… but I digress). Afterwords I would get scheduled for a technician to come out and billed $300, only to tell me I need a new oven… but they will apply the $300 for a 2.5% discount at purchase.

Now on to the fix!

As a home inspector in Birmingham I’m reasonably familiar with appliances and thought maybe I had enough knowledge to fix the guts of the oven. (as a disclaimer I should tell you under no circumstances should you attempt this. You could void the warranty, damage the oven, or subject yourself to injury or death from electrocution).

As I looked in between the oven and microwave I realized the vent lead to some of the internals. Inside there is a small piston that activates the door lock. Since the oven doesn’t use the lock for anything except cleaning, this was a relatively useless feature. With a metal coat hanger (piece of plastic would be better with the electronics, but be sure you disable the power before you attempt anything,) I was able to easily depress the piston and release the lock. ​

Since the lock is not used the code immediately reset, with the power being off, and did not come back on. As you have it I have a working oven again for the low price of one coat hanger. I haven’t tried the self cleaning feature since and don’t intend to use it again, but the oven works fine now and saved me a service fee or a new oven. Moral of the story here is don’t buy Whirlpool Gold appliances, normally I would chalk this up to a lemon until I found that so many people had the same issue and Whirlpool did nothing to help. Disappointing too because Whirlpool was a brand I was always fond of prior to this experience.


Making Use Of Scrap Materials

A lot of things accumulate around your home including keys and chargers in your junk drawer, or even Cheerios in every nook and cranny imaginable if you have children. Some of this junk can be useful, most importantly the spare hardware that could be hiding in every room or leaning up against the shed in the backyard. The old wooden door by the tool shed, loose nails, hooks, screws, doorknobs, and hinges, all of these are useful treasures that you can make repairs with in and around your home. For the purpose of this article I will use as an example the half door that my wife requested for Christmas, to keep the dogs out of the kitchen. Keep in mind the project described here will not be detailed because the goal is for you to figure out what you can do with your spare materials to improve your home without a big price tag and thin out the junk piles in the process.​


My wife’s request
In our house we have three “fur babies” and although we love them, they stay underfoot. This is not normally a big deal, however the one place it really bugs my wife is in the kitchen. Leaving the house through the back door meant fighting back 3 fuzzy sharks attempting to escape when they smelled freedom.  To remedy this, she requested a door to keep them out but did not want it to feel completely closed off. With that in mind we decided a half door was the only viable option. This simply meant cutting a door in half as if to make a Dutch door but leaving the top half off.
My wife and I live in a beautiful craftsman style house built in 1922 which means a lot of things with our own experiences differ from most. One perk is that a century of existence combined with solid concrete walls, (something unique for the age and style) has caused the dwelling to accrue a plethora of assorted hardware. To avoid special drill bits and mounting options, the owners over the years had opted to hang decor from the ceiling (or so I assume judging by the number of hooks in the tongue and groove). The windows and doors being original, had mix match pieces of locking mechanisms, which made for a rather interesting collection. I decided to tackle the project using the homes accumulated surplus not only for the satisfaction of building something for my wife, but also to keep cost down and preserve the style of our house. By the way yes, for those thinking it, I have been accused of being cheap many times.


The build
   I began with an old undersized door that had been removed years before and had taken up residence in my tool shed. All the original hardware was still attached with a few missing parts, so I removed them and soaked them in 50/50 white distilled vinegar and water to clean off paint and rust. I then turned my attention to the door. My wife wanted to keep some of the patina, so I sanded and Scraped off only the loose and flaking paint on both sides. The kitchen side received a clear coat to seal and preserve the weathered look, and the dining room side got the turquoise treatment that the rest of our dining room/ living room doors had been given by a previous owner. When it came to the desired height she simply stood in the door and showed me where she wanted it to be, I took a measurement and then cut the door to size.
The hinges I robbed from some old removed built-in doors. They were undersized but were adequate for the project and will eventually be upgraded. All of the hinges and other hardware were fastened using screws but for the top cap, made from spare wood, I used trim nails to avoid splitting. The next step after mounting was to install a knob. This part was simply cosmetic since it did not have the ability to latch, and to keep the door closed I repurposed a hook latch with a screw in eyelet. However, I turned to the doorknob collection once again provided by our house and chose one that was glass.


It works! 
The door turned out great, and matched the style and color scheme of the house. My wife loved it and it kept the dogs out of the kitchen. The best part was discovered the next time we left the house, when we moved to block the fuzzy sharks from running out the door and remembered they weren’t there. That part she loved the most. As I mentioned, the project used spare hardware that was no longer being used therefore not everything was a perfect fit. At certain times during the build I had to backup and rethink, or alter parts. With common knowledge and a basic set of tools, however any obstacle encountered during the project can be overcome. Also parts that need upgrading can always be improved after completion.
Even if you don’t think you can take on building or fixing something because you don’t have the know how, countless books, and websites, have been created about taking on tasks around the house. There is a certain sense of accomplishment creating something, or repairing something for oneself, no matter how big or small. The goal of course is to learn as much as you can so you can do the job correctly if it’s something that can drastically affect the wellbeing and condition of your home. My wife’s door could have been constructed better with newer store bought materials but that door does not degrade the structure and operates as intended.
Wife approved, dogs restrained, mission accomplished. Good luck on your projects!Cody McCandeless
Timberline Inspections LLC
Greater Birmingham Area Home Inspector

8 Tips to Prepare Your Home For A Storm

In Alabama we get a significant amount of storms, everything ranging from small rainstorms, tornadoes, blizzards and even hurricanes and tropical storms. It comes as no surprise that we have to be prepared to weather a storm.

1. Trim and Clear. I see this on just about every list online, trim and clear trees back from your house. In areas of the country with prominent forest fires keeping a fire barrier between the wood line and your house is often a building code requirement. Though its not a requirement in the South East United States it still passes the common sense test to do the same.
Blown down trees will damage power lines, roofs, and even structural supports of your home. One heavy log can cause thousands in damage, and don’t forget you wont be able to cosmetically match paints and shingles very well, so you’ll likely be viewing the mismatch until it’s time to completely redo it. Any home owner with a chainsaw and a ladder can get trees and limbs cleared up so nothing is over-hanging your house.
Required materials: Ladder, Chainsaw or limb saw, pruning shears, rope

2. Clean your gutters. This seems like a minor issue but it’s worth noting because a backed up gutter will push rain water under the eaves and into your house. This can get significantly worse in a snow storm when the ice starts damming up and the water has no where to go.
While you’ve got the ladder out you’ll want to inspect the roof and replace any broken or damaged shingles. This is also a good time to inspect your flashing and place another bead of roofing joint compound to reseal them. Mastic wears over time and cracks, causing leaks you’ll never know about until it’s coming through your bedroom ceiling.  You still have to do this same step even if you have a metal roof.
Required materials: Caulk gun, roofing nails, roofing sealant, hammer, utility knife, gloves, trash bag.

3. Walk the yard. Grading is important and with the amount of home inspections we do in a year in Birmingham I can tell you one of the most common causes of moisture issues is grading and gutters. Even if the site was fine last year, its important to realize your land settles and it may not be graded correctly anymore; It doesn’t usually hurt to go more but a rule of thumb for the minimum is 1 inch every 10 feet from the house.
At the same time you should check the gutters discharge too. We see a lot of houses during inspection that discharge water immediately next to the house. Short term this can cause water entry in a bad storm, but long term you’ll start to rot the wood all around it, and even damage masonry. Even if it’s not touching the brick, concrete foundation and mortar all soak it up and absorb it into the surrounding area. This causes a significant amount of damage over time.
Required materials: Shovel, fill dirt, 6 foot level, tape measure, splash blocks.

4. Back Ups: Two is one, and one is none. During a bad storm is not the time to have things quit working on you. However, this is the time we can almost guarantee some things will. I live out in the country, it’s pretty well a guarantee that anytime we have a decent storm ill lose power for a short term, and during the snow storms ill lose it over night. if not longer This is a minor irritant unless you have a freezer stocked full of food and rely on electricity for your heat.
As home inspectors we always recommend two sources of heat for just this reason… even in the South! Im not suggesting you have two types of furnaces, but2 days below 30 degrees with no heat can be deadly. If you have electric heat and a gas log fire place you can at least get some heat in the house. Whether you have backup heat or not, having a generator is invaluable. It can run a freezer so food doesn’t go bad and allow you to use your electric cook top, microwave, or oven. More than that if you have a basement or problematic crawl space it will allow you to run your sump so you don’t get flooding.
On that same note sump pumps are inexpensive enough it doesn’t hurt to have a back up, and it doesn’t need to be a high quality backup. They’re cheap and having one you’ll never need is good insurance against a flooded basement with $10,000 in mold and water damage. Required materials: Sump pump, generator, back up heat system, back up cooker, propane.


5. Have your emergency supplies ready. I wont give a huge list here, there’s lots of experts on the subject and an entire blog post could be devoted to just this. I will, however, through some basic principles on the subject. Food, water, shelter (meaning clothing and blankets), and comfort should be readily available. A plastic tub of some sort stored in a convenient area (somewhere you can get to without a light) filled with necessities can handle any number of issues, FEMA recommends 3 days worth. Include in this tub:

  • Flashlights W/ Batteries
  • Candles
  • Warm clothing and shoes
  • Food (with cooking appliances)
  • Propane Camp stove, pots, utensils, etc.
  • Bottles of water
  • Copies of important document

You may be wondering about some of these items and why we recommend keeping it in a tub. Earthquakes, hurricanes, and severe tropical storms can have you leaving the home. Having everything you need to do so, packed in a water-resistant container offers obvious advantages should the need arise. But even in things as minor as power outages it is safe and secure to have everything in a place you can get to without the lights on.
You may keep your important papers in one secure place like a safe. In the military it was common practice to have what was referred to as an “I love me” book with all this information in there. Any documentation that would be needed to start life over on a move: land deeds, vehicle titles, court documents etc.
Flooding, forest fires, tornadoes all can force you to start over. During that mess is not the time to be hunting down birth certificates, passports, marriage certificates (or divorce decrees) etc.

6. Check with your insurance provider to ensure you’re covered against any issues that may arise. Rebuilding a home from cash while paying off your mortgage to a house you no longer live in, all because you didn’t know it wouldn’t be covered sounds like a horrible way to spend the next ten years of your life.


7. Service your equipment: Having a GOOD HVAC technician review your equipment and verify it’s working correctly can save you $1000’s. At a minimum they should top off your freon, check the lines, acid wash the coils, and take temperature readings.
This is also a good time to have the hot water heater serviced but this is something you can do yourself with minimal knowledge. We will publish a blog soon on how to do that.
The bottom line is that during a storm is not the time to have your heater go out. As I mentioned if you are on electric you will likely lose it anyways, so do all that you can to avoid the loss.

8. Put your plumbing on drip: This is one of the things we tend to neglect if we are home but can save a significant amount if your heat goes out while you’re asleep. Blankets and the brandy you were drinking will likely ensure you a solid nights sleep even if it gets a little cold. Put a tap on drip because even if you have freeze proof exterior hose bibs, the plumbing in your walls can still freeze. This is true even with the heat on and you at home!
Give the water a little room to expand and you can sleep easy knowing it cost you less than $0.05 to run the drip all night and your pipes can release pressure.

Ventless Fireplaces: Are You Safe?

What is it?
Ventless gas fireplaces are self explanatory but for our yankee friends up North, who have no idea what Im talking about let me explain. In the South ventless fireplaces are far more common, this is because our winters are so much more mild in comparison that our fireplaces tend to be mostly aesthetic.

The further North you go the more people tend to fully rely on there fireplaces, growing up in Idaho we used wood to heat, and our fireplace was far from aesthetic. In Birmingham when performing home inspections we rarely come across a functional wood burning stove, and only slightly more common,  is a well maintained wood burning fireplace.

The predominant component we see, and the one taking the market by storm with new construction homes is ventless gas fireplaces. They are significantly cheaper to install, since running a flue pipe can get expensive in a hurry, cheaper to purchase in general, and are fairly easy and carefree to operate.

Are they safe?

The question we often get is “is this safe to operate? what about Carbon Monoxide?” First I will say that I wouldn’t operate one in my house without a Carbon Monoxide detector nearby. Second, I would make sure and have an annual inspection performed by Timberline Inspections (If you need an inspection in Birmingham) because we will check the gas lines and ensure there’s nothing leaking. Third, what I’m about to explain is not from a physics background and incorporates a B- understanding of thermodynamics.

Ventless fireplaces combust in a process called “complete combustion,” during which essentially the harmful elements are not present. In this process the oxygen in combination with your natural gas combine to create two virtually harmless byproducts, H2O and CO2. Carbon Monoxide is present in only trace amounts and is generally not a concern.

These units are virtually safe to run provided there’s no issue with the combustion process; the combustion process can become incomplete when the available oxygen is depleted, the gas supply is interrupted, or the unit is just old and not functioning at top condition from age.

Oxygen can get depleted from a number of causes, multiple stoves running in unison, candles or oil lamps being burned in a power outages, a wood stove running in another area of the house, even a tightly sealed home can allow the unit to theoretically burn oxygen faster than it can replace it. This lack of oxygen can, unknowingly, change the combustion process causing carbon monoxide levels to soar. Even more scary, deadly levels of carbon monoxide can accumulate and not be enough to trigger your detector. When was the last time you checked your batteries? Is yours hardwired in?

Modern fireplaces are built with oxygen depletion sensors, that help to prevent potential issues. In theory, these should shutdown the fireplace when the oxygen levels get low, causing “incomplete combustion.” Unfortunately there’s not really a good way to test these and ensure they are functioning, and depending on the manufacturer date of your unit, it may not even have it.

University of Illinois commissioned a study that found 20% of homes observed, had levels of carbon monoxide greater than what is approved by the EPA and WHO.

Water vapor being the other byproduct is also a danger and one that is overlooked. Growing up in the dry areas between Alaska and Idaho a little extra moisture in the air hardly ever hurts. In fact dad used to leave an old cast iron pot on top of the wood stove just to add a little moisture in the air.

Down South we have the opposite experience, our moisture content is already high and increasing it here is never a good thing. We love our air conditioning so much more in the south because it removes the moisture from the air. Northern people don’t often know what the condensate line does on their HVAC system, in the South we have to have drainage setup for it.

Increasing water vapor inside the house in winter causes condensation on cold surfaces, windows are particularly susceptible and we will often see moisture running down them and hitting the sills in winter. We don’t usually notice until the sill is rotten and we are replacing windows and framing. But that’s not the worst part. a significant amount of that moisture is condensing behind your wall and not being allowed to dry. This causes mold and mildew, which can lead to pungent smells and health hazards. It’s reasons like this why we recommend mold testing regardless of whether we see indicators of mold.

This is one of the reasons that most manufacturers give a recommended run time of 2 hours or less. Also to avoid the buildup of carbon monoxide.

To Vent Or Not To Vent?

Should you go ventless really depends on you. Me personally, Ive never understood the point of aesthetically pleasing fireplaces and would rather have something functional for wintertime heat. However, if I was going to install a gas fireplace I would almost certainly get a ventless system. The reason being they are cheaper, safe when installed and used correctly, and less to maintain and worry about. Birds and pests nest in flue pipes, why have it if you don’t need it?

Your take aways to operating your fireplace safely and keeping your family from being one of the horror stories we hear on the news is to, first purchase and PROPERLY install CO detectors. Second, units are cheap replace them when they are outdated and make sure they have plenty of combustion air. Third, if you’re in Birmingham call us to get an annual home inspection, or call your local provider. annual inspections are cheap quick and painless and a good inspector can make sure you’re operating in a safe manner.

Gutters & Roofs

A homes gutter system consists of the gutters, downspouts and splash blocks or extension pipes Its purpose is to channel rainwater or melted snow and ice to an area away from the home and its foundation.  This article focuses on problems that can occur from neglected maintenance of a gutter system.

Trouble at the top 
Most commonly gutters are attached to the eaves with fasteners driven through the fascia board and into the rafter tails If gutters clog or fall into disrepair, water can overflow and cause the fascia board, rafter ends, soffit and decking to become wet and begin to rot.

Trouble at the bottom 
It is important to realize that water allowed to pool against the foundation of a home can eventually find its way into the basement or crawl space.  Even modern materials used for foundation construction, (concrete block or poured cement) are porous.  Channeling the water away from the homes foundation with gutters is the first line of defense.

It would be difficult to predict and describe all of the issues that could arise from neglected maintenance. However, another noteworthy danger is posed to a homes foundation. Foundation problems are to be expected (as I mentioned before when no gutter system has been installed) but even a missing section or disconnected downspout on an existing system can cause damage. Also, worth mentioning is that even when well maintained, if terminations aren’t directed and channeled far enough away issues can also occur. Almost all foundation materials are porous to some extent but older methods can be more so than newer ones.

A personal horror story 
About a year ago my wife and I purchased a beautiful Craftsman/Bungalow style home built in 1922. The home had a walk-in cellar with 3 elevated crawl spaces constructed of field stone, sand and a few sections of poured cement. This was in the middle of a 3 month drought so there was no moisture present at the time of inspection.

Approximately 4 months after we purchased the house even though it had rained of and on, Mother Nature suddenly overcompensated and it rained… and it rained… and finally it rained some more. Toward the end of the rainstorm, my wife was walking passed the below grade walkout when

she noticed something. It was now a swimming pool! 1 ½ feet of water completely covered the floor of an approximately 500 square foot cellar. On one occasion I was working in the cellar when it started raining.
The rain was so heavy that it came shooting out of the wall at me soaking me from 4 feet away. We later discovered that damaged and missing down spouts had allowed years and years of rain water to tunnel under the masonry porch. Over time the water bored through the foundation wall as a result of
the pooling underground against the below grade section of the wall.

The gutters and downspouts on the masonry porch had been neglected, and not properly directed. This failure to perform routine maintenance had overtime caused foundation issues which can if not addressed cause issues in every other part of the home. A building, even though designed to flex with normal swelling and shrinking, is still rigid. If one corner of a structure sinks or drops a even an inch the rest of it can only respond in a few ways. It will either flex/shift to compensate, or stay in place and the moving portion will separate. In the case of movement and separation, cracks will begin to appear on interior and exterior surfaces. Roughly $5000 later our basement is dry and changes in settlement are starting to
become apparent.

Last but not least, evil black goo 
As for that black stuff in your gutters, we once again return to neglected maintenance. It is nothing more than the anaerobic breakdown/ decomposition of organic matter. As the seasons change we get to enjoy the beauty. Spring and summer bring pollen and new growth, fall gives us the calming colors before the cold, and then winter brings the freeze compounding the point. However during the show we forget what else is going on.

Pollen leaves and debris are washed from your roof into the gutters. The debris endures temperature change and is compacted even more by moisture.  Another undesirable side effect of standing water in your gutters is that it becomes a breeding ground for mosquitoes plant growth whose roots may enter your roof structure(This comes up more during a home inspection than you think). The simple fact is that neglecting to maintain systems meant to lengthen the life of your home can in fact shorten it.

There is no reason for alarm if you have an issue or are buying your first home and have an inclination to be proactive. Simply remember to keep up preventative systems such as your gutters and keep water away from your home. As far as the rest of your home there is plenty of help and info out there. You can also find plenty of professionals if you simply can’t do the work yourself.

Annual Maintenance Plans: Why You Need It!

Annual maintenance inspections are probably one of our most valuable products and one of the hardest sells. As a general rule people don’t like to spend money maintaining their largest asset, they want to upgrade the kitchen. Now any appraiser will tell you that the most valuable thing you can do to your home, is keep up on the maintenance.

So what does the annual plan actually do? Well that depends on which service you actually get. We have two products that we provide to the Birmingham market: 1st, is our standard annual maintenance plan. This is identical to a traditional home inspection or commercial property inspection. These are slightly more expensive than our other version, and in truth more detailed than what most home owners need. Where these are beneficial is if Timberline Inspections did not perform your initial home inspection, or if you have had a new home built and are using it as your warranty inspection.

The reason we suggest this is because the cost benefit ratio is not there; once you’ve lived in the home you typically know the little things that are wrong with it and don’t need to pay us to tell you. Our 2nd version is a 4 point inspection where we will review the roof (& attic), HVAC system, Electrical system, and plumbing (to include hot water heater).

This is a truly useful service and is very cheap on an annualized basis. We will come out once per year and review correct operation and maintenance of all these systems. General price for this is $225 but can vary slightly based off the size of the house. (Call us for an exact price! 205-545-2050)

The argument we hear a lot (mostly from guys ladies tend to be smarter here), is that “I know what’s wrong with my house.” This couldn’t be further from the truth, most people have no idea what’s wrong with their house provided it isn’t affecting functionality. Ask yourself a few questions:

  • When was the last time you were in your attic and checked for leaks?
  • How long has it been since you pulled the electrical panel?
  • When was the last time you opened the cover on your air handler?
  • Walked the roof recently?
  • Did you do any of these from the eyes of an independent licensed building inspector?

The bottom line is there are things we look for that most home owners simply don’t know to see. Our full blown annual maintenance plan is beneficial for people that lack construction skills or are physically unable to review their property.

Every 3,000 miles you get your oil changed, the fluids topped off and a general overlook of your vehicle. This typically costs about $50 and is done 4 times a year, while the average new car price is $33,500 (Kelley Blue Book), you are fully willing to pay this for an item that depreciates in value. Conversely, the average home price in Birmingham is around $157,000 and we are unwilling pay $225 annually (or $200 if you get on a 3 year plan) for our largest and most expensive asset. Not to mention the value goes up!

That last sentence is important, your houses value goes up. Every year and a home is an investment as well as the place to hang your hat. What’s most notable about this is that your homes value is most directly correlated with the amount of maintenance performed on it. What that means, is that from an appraisal standpoint your house goes up in value if it’s well maintained and kept current.

For example, you want new kitchen cabinets, the ones you have are outdated and you’re going to update the counter top and some appliances too. This really just added a significant amount of sales appeal when you spent the $10,000 to do that. The fact that you need a new roof is paramount to you staying dry but it is also going to knock $10,000 off the sale price if not more. It also scares potential buyers away and they can walk away regardless of you having the roof repaired.

The same holds true with your HVAC system, the electrical system, the plumbing system and hot water heater, etc. Maintenance is the single biggest action you can do to maintain a homes rising value. Updating is next, remodeling is the last thing on that list.

Introduction To Residential Real Estate

Since the beginning of time, real estate has been a driving factor in the stability, growth or decline in all societies. The first hunters wanted to find land with healthy ecosystems, plenty of wildlife and water. As time progressed, land was sought out for pastures and farming. Quiet sleepy towns became vibrant with the establishment of the rail roads and then roads for automobiles. As cultures have evolved and exploration of our world increased, so has the demand of real estate. Tradition states that owning land is part of the American dream and while the small suburban home with a white picket fence may not be your ideal of that American dream, the surest way to find the home that fits you is with a realtor.
Pam Patterson Crain and I (Amandalyn Rennich) have been in the real estate world for about 16 years collectively. We believe everyone has the right to come home to an oasis, not just a house built of bricks and mortar; but a place to build memories and retreat from the pressures of life. We believe your home is not just a mortgage payment but a launching pad for your real estate future. And with these beliefs, we have thrown our heart and souls into striving to exceed expectations regarding residential real estate. We want to invest in the lives and families that are placed before us locally, regionally, nationally and even internationally. The sky really is the limit in the real estate world.


Real estate is also known as real property, land, immoveables, landed property. Aside from fresh water, land is the most valuable commodity we have. The availability of such land is in part what drives the value of said land. Land within a city or in a suburb of a large city has the potential to increase in value simply because of the location. Areas that were once rural are growing and becoming the next best area to move to.  At the end of the day, real estate prices are directly related to how much people are willing to pay for it. Bidding wars often happen on ‘hot’ property without much consideration to the quality of the structure of the home. Yes, the home must pass an appraisal (and home inspection, of course) if being purchased with a loan; however, cash is always king. Investors are constantly looking for the next big deal for a steal. Later, we will discuss financing options versus cash purchases. But be encouraged, even if your cash-flow is not like you want it, there are ways to leverage what you do have!
People often ask me “Why real estate?” The answer is simple; because it is an honor and privilege to partner with people as they transition from season to season in their lives. Everybody needs a home. Statistically, most people stay in their home for up to 7 years. A third of marriages end in divorce and often a house is involved. Newly-weds are excited about finding their first home together. Babies arrive and more space is needed. Empty nesters downsize. Job transfers happen unexpectedly. Life happens.  Behind every season of life there is a house waiting to become a home. As a realtor, we get a sneak peek into the lives of our clients and often we are not just their realtor, but their champion, fighter, counselor and confidant. It is our job to place the fiduciary needs of our clients above that of our own.  A good realtor knows the ins and outs of their territory, local, state-wide and national housing trends. Often, we live in the same area that we work and it is not uncommon meeting former clients in the grocery store, school functions or ball games. Referrals are the most important tool realtors have for actively serving their community. Word of mouth by far outweighs any purchased lead or traditional marketing.

In upcoming blog posts, we will discuss the pros and cons of “For Sale By Owner”, how to prepare your home for listing, staging, photography do’s and don’ts, tips to consider when looking for a home, buying new construction or existing structure, financial tips to help improve credit, geographical and research tools to explore in regards to prospective locality. The world of real estate is constantly moving and shifting. Housing laws are tweaked and revised and it is our job to know how these legal changes affect the real estate market. Expect guest posts from commercial realtors, lenders and other industry related professionals!
Pam and I are professional realtors with Keller Williams Realty and Keller Williams was just ranked number one in the world of real estate companies! This is truly a blessing because we have a world-wide team of agents to network with, learn from and share information. Our company “mission is to build careers worth having, businesses worth owning, lives worth living experiences worth giving, and legacies worth leaving. Our vision is to be the real estate company of choice for agents and their customers. Values are God, family, then business. Perspective is to be a technology company that provides the real estate platform that our agent’s buyers and sellers prefer. Keller Williams thinks like a top producer, acts like a trainer-consultant, and focusses all its activities on service, productivity, and profitability.” What does all this mean in practical aspects? We, Keller Williams agents, strive to be the very best agents in all areas of life. We have coaches and mentors, have the responsibility to teach and lead others, honor the precious time with family, keeping God first and foremost and staying abreast in technology and legislation passed that directly and indirectly influences the market . Pam and I are excited to enter this new arena of blogging and sharing real, personal stories of interest in regards to real estate. There is never a dull moment when we jump in feet first for our clients! It is our goal to share nuggets of truth, and to be honest and transparent about what we have learned through success and failures.  This truly is the best time to explore the real estate world and we welcome you aboard in this journey.

​Amandalyn Rennich
Keller Williams
(205) 834-6893

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