Burglar Resistant Homes

by Nick Gromicko and Kenton Shepard
There are a number of measures that homeowners can take to ensure that their homes are not attractive to burglars. If clients are concerned about break-ins, inspectors can pass on to them basic strategies for burglar-proofing their homes.
 
Some interesting statistics concerning break-ins in the United States:Homes Port Charlotte
  • InterNACHI estimates that theft makes up more than three-quarters of all reported crime. 
  • In 2005, law enforcement agencies reported more than 2 million burglary offenses.

According to a survey, burglars enter homes through the following locations:

  • 81% enter through the first floor;
  • 34% of burglars enter through the front door;
  • 23% enter through a first-floor window;
  • 22% enter through the back door
  • 9% enter through the garage;
  • 4% enter through the basement;
  • 4% enter through an unlocked entrance;
  • 2% enter through a storage area; and
  • 2% enter anywhere on the second floor.
Some interesting statistics (2002) concerning break-ins in Canada:
  • The burglary rate in Canada (877 per 100,000 people) is seven times higher than that of the country with the fewest break-ins, Norway.
  • The burglary rate in Canada is slightly higher than that of the United States (746 per 100,000 people) but significantly less than the burglary rate in Australia (2,275 per 100,000 people).

Exterior Doors

  • Doors should be made of steel or solid-core wood construction. Hollow-core wood doors are more easily broken than heavy, solid-core doors.
  • Doors should be free of signs of rot, cracks and warping.
  • Doors should be protected by quality deadbolt locks. Chain locks are not adequate substitutes for deadbolt locks, although chain locks may be used as additional protection.
  • If a mail slot is present, it should be equipped with a cage or box. Mail slots that are not equipped with cages or boxes have been used by burglars to enter homes.  Burglars can insert a contraption made of wire and cord into the mail slot and use it to open the lock from the inside, if no box or cage is present.
  • If a door is equipped with glass panes, they should be installed far from the lock. Otherwise, burglars can smash the glass and reach through the door to unlock the door.
  • Spare keys should not be hidden in obvious locations. Burglars are very good at finding keys that homeowners believe are cleverly hidden. The best place for a spare key is in the house of a trusted neighbor. If keys must be hidden near the door, they should not be placed in obvious locations, such as under a doormat, rock or planter. 
  • A peephole can be installed in doors so homeowners can see who is on their doorstep before they open the door.
  • Clients should consider installing bump-resistant locks on their doors. “Bumping” is a technique developed recently that can open almost any standard lock with less effort than is required by lock-picking. This technique uses “bump keys,” which are normal keys with slight modifications. Lock companies such as Schlage, Primus and Medeco manufacture a number of locks that offer some bump-resistance.

Pet Doors

  • Pet doors can be used by burglars to enter homes. Some burglars have reached through pet doors in order to unlock the door. It is advisable to not have a pet door, but if one is necessary, it should be as small as possible and installed far from the lock.
  • A crafty burglar may convince or coerce a small child to crawl through a pet door and unlock the door. Also, some burglars are children.
  • Electronic pet doors are available that open only when the pet, equipped with a signaling device in their collar, approaches the door. These doors are designed to keep stray animals out of the home, and may provide protection against burglars, as well.

Sliding Glass Doors

  • They should be equipped with locks on their tops and bottoms.
  • They should not be able to be lifted from their frames.
  • A cut-off broom handle, or a similar device, can be laid into the door track to prevent it from being opened.

Illumination

  • Lights should be installed on the exterior of all four sides of the house. Burglars prefer darkness so they cannot be seen by neighbors or passersby.
  • When building occupants are not home, a few lights should be left on.
  • It is helpful to install exterior lights that are activated by motion sensors. Burglars that are suddenly illuminated may flee.

Windows

  • All windows should be composed of strong glass, such as laminated glass, and be in good operating order.
  • They can be installed with bars, grilles, grates or heavy-duty wire screening. Barred windows must be equipped with a quick-release mechanism so occupants can quickly escape during a fire.
  • Windows should not be hidden by landscaping or structures. If landscaping or structures cannot be moved, lighting can be installed around the windows.

Landscaping and Yard

  • Shrubs and trees should not obscure the view of entrances. Shielded entrances can provide cover for burglars while they attempt to enter the residence.
  • Fences are helpful burglar deterrents, although they should not be difficult to see through.

While the house is vacant:

  • A loud radio can be used to make burglars think someone is home. Timers can be used to activate radios and lights to make the home seem occupied.
  • A car should always be parked in the driveway. A neighbor’s car can be parked there so that it appears as if someone is home.
  • The lawn should be cut regularly. Uncut grass is a clue that no one is home.
Other Tips
  • Dogs are excellent burglar deterrents. For clients who cannot own dogs, they can place “Beware of Dog” signs around the yard for nearly the same effect.
  • If no security system is installed, the client can post security alarm stickers around the yard.
In summary, there are a number of tactics that inspectors can pass on to their clients that will help safeguard their homes from break-ins.

Edible gardens beautify and satisfying

Flowers aren’t just for weddings anymore. When planting an edible garden, flowers, trees, bushes and plants can provide a beautiful landscape as well as add flavor at the dinner table. Roses, tulips, red clover and violets can add a slightly sweet flavor as a garnish or in a salad. Daylilies mimic the taste of a summer squash and borage has a cucumber like flavor.

Flowering bush’s also produce edible flowers, like hibiscus, produce orange, red, or purplish red flowers that taste like cranberry and have citrus overtones. White elderberry flowers are sweet to the taste.

When planning the location of  an edible garden, sun is the most important factor. A space close to the kitchen and visible from a kitchen window is helpful. When a garden is easy to see a access, it will serve as a visible reminder to head outdoors when it needs attention. Soil quality is important, and poor soil can be mediated with organic matter, or even by creating raised beds on top of the poor soil. A 20 foot by 20 foot plot will allow for a variety of spreading plants, but a 10 foot by 12 foot still provides room for a profusion of greens, herbs, peppers, beans, cucumbers and edible flowers. Both edible and non-edible flowers are good to include in the garden, not only for their beauty, but as a way of attracting bees and other beneficial insects.

If designing from scratch, plotting the garden on paper is helpful, dividing the area into sections and adding the names of plants that will be assigned to various spots. To make the most of the available sun, the garden bed should have an east to west orientation, the tallest plants placed on the north end. This will reduce the chance of tall plants shading shorter ones. Once a healthy topsoil of 8 to 10 inches is prepared, it is decision time. Beans, squash, tomatoes, lettuce and Swiss chard are some of the easiest plants to grow, and can be good crops for novice gardeners. In early spring, plants that can be grown directly from seed or directsow crops such as beets, carrots, parsnips, peas, radishes and spinach can be planted. The seedlings adapt to cooler spring temperatures and grow particularly fast from seed. Warmer weather vegetables such as beans, cucumbers, corn, and squash can be direct sown a little later in the growing season. To fully enjoy an edible landscape, it’s important to research carefully the types of plants are planning to serve. Some flowers contain substances that can cause an upset stomach, rashes, or headaches. Pollen can cause allergic reactions. Even edible flower should be eaten in moderation.

Experienced gardeners will discover interesting ways of maximizing the planting space. For example, quick maturing crops, such as lettuce, can be planted around slow growers, such as broccoli. The lettuce will be harvested by the time the broccoli needs the space. In addition of flowers, vegetables and herbs, bush and bramble fruits such as blueberries and raspberries, are another easy way to expand the harvest from the landscape. Compared with fruit trees, bushes are easy to grow, rarely require spraying for pests, and begin bearing some fruit the year after planting. By their third season they should be in full production. Perhaps most important, they’re very space efficient.

Easy updates for a tired bath

There is a good reason to start redecorating projects in the bathroom – -it’s small. What ever upgrades are considered will cost less, and if they look isn’t quite right, there will be time and money left over to allow a do-over or two.

For example, painting the walls is inexpensive and will provide an immediate change in the look and style of the room. Faux techniques can be tried, and if they don’t work, can be repainted the next day. Soft shades of purple, pink, lime green and turquoise are trendy paint colors this year, but gray can serve as a neutral, allowing for bright colored accents. (Bathroom formula paint should always be used to help prevent mold and mildew).

When a homeowner isn’t ready to replace the bathroom floor, there is the next best option to consider… Divert attention upwards. To get the look of old fashioned tin ceilings, there are several ceiling tile wallpapers available which are paintable. This textured wallpaper gives the impression of embossed plaster and will keep visitors looking upward. Another option is a ceiling sized stencil, some paint and crown molding, to create a one of a kind ceiling space.

Staying at ceiling level, a space saving addition to consider is a narrow shelf, over the doorway, just wide enough to hold extra rolls of toilet paper. A 6 inch deep shelf can be supported directly on the door frame, held in place by small bracket. This small shelf can also be used to house decorative items that take up too much space on the vanity tops.

Even with a new ceiling, the bathroom floor can’t hide forever. Wood floors are a popular option in most homes today, But homeowner shy away from wood floors in a wet environment such as a bath. Today, it’s possible they have both the warm look of wood and the durability of vinyl. Vinyl planks are available from most Home Supply Stores and come with textured finishes that simulate real wood. Finishes include oak, maple, bamboo and other exotic woods. Cost can range from $1.00 to $4.00 per square foot, and the small size of the room makes it possible to lay a new floor in a day or two.

If the bathroom floor is vinyl, but one that is looking tired and worn out, a coat of paint and 5 to 6 applications of polyurethane can give a floor a whole new look. To do the job, the floor needs to be primed first with a specialty primer. It can then be painted using a stencil to mimic a tile pattern or to create a border. One decorator has experimented with using brown paper bags to create the look of leather or stone on a bathroom floor. She suggest tearing off irregular pieces of the bag, gluing them to the floor and topping with 4 to 6 coats of polyurethane.

Even a change as small as replacing hardware to the bathroom and much needed a lift. Toilet handles, cabinet handles, and or hardware and towel racks can all shine brightly and give the bathroom some sparkle.  You can even change the hardware and trim on a shower stall from gold to a trendier color, and without removing doors are other shower hardware. It can be done using 220 grit sandpaper, steel wool and elbow grease, for starters. Once the hardware has been thoroughly scraped, spray on automobile primer needs to be applied. Metallic spray paint in black or another color goes on last. The technique can even be applied to shower fixtures. One caveat – lay in an adequate supply of painters masking tape.

Simple things like a new toilet seat and a pedestal sink are relatively easy and inexpensive fixes.

 

Prevent mold for healthier indoor air

You may not believe that of mold actually does serve an important purpose outdoors. Molds play a key role in the breakdown of leaves and other plant debris. Unfortunately indoor mold can play a key role in making a room, or in severe cases, a home uninhabitable. Mold create tiny spores to reproduce and when spores are released and become Airborne they can settle on inside surfaces. If the inside surface is damp the spore can begin to grow and multiply. In addition to moisture, unfortunately for homeowners, mold spores are particularly fond of cloth, wood, wallboard, and insulation. (In reality mold can grow on almost anything. Lack of water or moisture is the key factor in limiting mold growth).

It is important to prevent mold growth because of its potential to cause health problems. Mold produce substances considered allergens (particles that can cause allergic reactions), irritants, and in some cases, potentially toxic substances called mycotoxins. Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic reactions including symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, red eye, and skin rash. Mold can cause asthma attacks in people with asthma who are allergic to mold.

While there is no practical way to eliminate all mold and mold spores indoors, indoor mold growth can be controlled by controlling moisture. It is best to identify and eliminate leaks in walls or the roof, to keep mold from taking hold on drywall or other interior surfaces. Ways to do this include;

  • Making sure the ground slopes away from the building foundation, so that water can’t enter or collect around the foundation.
  • Keeping indoor humidity low. If you’re not sure of the indoor humidity, it can be measured with a moisture or humidity meter, found for around $20.00 at most hardware stores.
  • Preventing condensation by adding insulation around cold surfaces such as windows, piping, exterior walls, roof and floors.
  • Increasing indoor ventilation by opening doors and windows, and using a fan or dehumidifier as needed.
  • Venting appliances that produce moisture (such as the dryer or stove) outside.
  • Running the bathroom fan or opening the window when bathing and showering, and using the exhaust fan or opening windows when cooking, or running the dishwasher.
  • Inspecting, cleaning and repairing roof gutters regularly.
If condensation or moisture does collect on floors, walls are pipes, the surfaces should be died immediately to eliminate any moisture collection. The source of water should then be located and repaired.
In general, if wet materials are thoroughly dried within 48 hours of a water leak, in most cases, mold will not grow.

Chimney Sweeping Is Important

Before enjoying the warmth of a cozy fire this winter, it’s a good idea to have a chimney inspection performed, especially if the chimney hasn’t been cleaned in a while. Creosote is a combustible deposit left behind as wood smoke condenses from a blazing fire.  Over time, the creosote build-up can restrict airflow, creating even more deposits. This process can damage the fireplace chimney. Creosote build-up is also a major cause of chimney fires.

Upon requesting an inspection, the chimney inspector comes prepared to visually inspect the inside of the chimney using special lighting. In recent years, higher levels of inspections have included the use of chimney inspection cameras. These systems are called video scanners and are designed to record imagery from inside the chimney, documenting the interior condition and highlighting defects or problem areas. The camera system can also be used after the chimney has been cleaned to ensure there is no residue left behind.

Once the inspector determines the scope of the work, they use rods, wire brushes, and high powered vacuum systems to remove creosote and soot along the walls, from corners, ledges and other hard-to-reach areas.

In cases in which the creosote has hardened and can’t be swept away, a chemical may be applied to the glaze to break it down. After allowing several days for the chemicals to process, the inspector will return to vacuum out the deposits that remain. During the last visit, the inspector will apply a chemical neutralizer and perform a final sweep.

According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), inspections can fall into one of three categories. A level-one chimney inspection includes a visual check of the fireplace and chimney using extra illumination, but not requiring a trip up to the roof. The inspector will be looking for creosote build-up, soot, chimney damage or obstructions from animal nests or other debris. If the chimney needs cleaning, an inspector can perform the action during the visit for a cost of $100 to $200.

A level-two chimney inspection might be considered in cases of earthquake or other dramatic weather conditions, or if the home has been recently purchased. In these cases, the inspector will include a visit to the roof, attic or crawl space to check conditions, and will utilize scanning equipment and other tools. If feasible, the chimney can be cleaned at the same time, or another visit can be scheduled for additional clean-up. A level-two inspection can range from $200 to $500.

A level-three inspection might be necessary when major damage has been done to a chimney — for example in cases of a chimney fire. It can involve tearing down and replacing parts of the chimney, and may cost from $1000 to $5000.

Buyers Looking Back When Eyeing New Homes


Telephone: 941-404-4646 Email: paul@maggioreinspections.com

 

 

For Sale By Owners: Positives and Negatives

When deciding how to go about the undertaking of selling their homes, homeowners should carefully consider the pros and cons of hiring a real estate agent. While most sellers choose to hire an agent to advise them with the sale, a minority of them choose to sell it themselves. In 2006, these “for sale by owner” (or FSBO) sellers totaled 12% in 2006, according to the National Association of Realtors. FSBO sellers stand to protect an enormous amount of money, but to do this effectively, they must be proficient and shrewd in a territory which they may find strange.

In the U.S., real estate agents typically take 4 – 6% of the value of the home, which many home owners view as unjustifiably large, considering the agent puts none of their own money into the home and comparatively small amount of their time. Yet, sellers must take into account that this fee is usually split between the buyer’s agent and seller’s agent, and the brokerage must be rewarded too. After taxes, the average real estate agent makes a humble living. Although, understandably, the seller doesn’t care about how the fee is split up, as they’d much fancy to pocket the whole amount.

There are also psychological considerations why homeowners choose to sell their homes themselves. Some people enjoy the feeling of being in control of the transaction and unencumbered by the potential problems or ulterior motives of professionals. The agent might want to accept a low offer because they’re in a hurry to sell the home, get their fee and move on, even if the seller is in no rush and desires to proceed at their own tempo. Moreover, the balance of the commission will be impacted very little by a change in the final sale price, leaving the agent with little incentive to dicker over a couple thousand dollars.
Of course, many sellers will easily pay a real estate agent a hefty commission, especially in buyers’ markets, when the seller can’t acquire sufficient attention to sell the residence on their own. Also, the thought of a property transaction– perhaps the most significant financial move of someone’s life – without having a professional may be unsettling to both the buyer and the seller. Brokers understand what agreements must be signed and which laws must be observed (such as disclosure requirements), decreasing a lot of hassle for the buyer and seller, and keeping them both out of the courtroom. A real estate agent will also operate as a shield between the buyer and seller, who could very well feel uncomfortable interacting with one another directly.

Potentially the finest reason to use the services of a real estate agent is that they know how to price a house, and, without their support, the seller may waste months trying unsuccessfully to sell an overpriced house, or, worse, sell the residence for too little. When selling a home devoid of an agent, owners will be accountable not only for making sure they pay the fees charged by numerous professionals, but they will also be responsible for finding these business people in the first place. A knowledgeable real estate agent will know to not skimp on the home assessment, for instance, by exclusively hiring InterNACHI inspectors.

Sellers can save thousands of dollars by avoiding the services of a real estate agent, but to do this adequately, they are going to have to earn that money. The subsequent tips are a good start for FSBO home sellers:

Don’t skimp on your own home preparation. Your selected house will be in competition with houses listed by agents who coach their clients on how to organize their house for showings. Be trained about legal requirements for disclosures in your location. If you do not reveal certain information to the buyer, they might be able attack you later in court. Familiarize yourself with the documents and contracts required by a real estate transaction. It usually pays to hire a lawyer to check the contract. Study ad and marketing tools available to you on the Internet. There are a number of sites that will even help you develop a video tour of your home. Hone your negotiating skills and be equipped to turn down some offers. Real estate agents are skilled negotiators, and the buyer’s agent might try to take advantage of your lack of experience.
In summary, it might make sense to seek the services of a real estate agent to aid with the sale of a home, but knowledgeable, responsible homeowners can save a great deal of money by selling their properties themselves.

Electrical Safety At Home

In this video Maggiore Inspections discusses electrical safety in the home.

Reverse Polarity Outlets

In this video Maggiore Inspections discusses reverse polarity in an electrical system.

10 Tips to Speed Up Your Home Inspection

This video summarizes 10 tips to speed up your next home inspection.