Remodeling – Avoid Home Improvement Disasters Involving Gas and Electricity

Opportunity and danger are two sides of the same coin. Home improvement projects offer the opportunity to enjoy your home and to increase its value. Such projects; however, present the danger of personal injury, property damage, and unexpected expense if the work contains construction defects. Here are some steps you should take to maximize the opportunity and minimize the danger of home improvement projects. This article addresses common construction defects in exterior projects involving gas pipes and electrical wires. Related articles cover other construction defects.

1. Do your homework. People research many major purchases; but they spend thousands of dollars on home improvements with little or no research about avoiding construction defects or about hiring a qualified and reliable contractor. Information that can help homeowners is available from many sources. Books explain basic construction and building code concepts in plain language. Manufacturer’s installation instructions for many products are available on the internet. This does not mean that you need to become a construction expert before you embark on a home improvement project. You can and should; however, become educated so that you can recognize common construction defects. Being able to recognize construction defects puts the contractor on notice that you are an informed consumer.

2. Use only licensed and experienced contractors. Verify the status of the contractor’s license and whether any complaints have been filed against the contractor. Complaints against a contractor are not always a deal killer, but they are a red flag that requires more investigation. Obtain references from the contractor and contact them. Use at least one reference from a project completed over one year ago to help you determine the contractor’s response to warranty issues.

3. Obtain a building permit, if required. A building permit is usually required if new electrical circuits, water pipes, or gas pipes are installed or if there are significant additions or changes to any of these systems. A permit is usually required when adding to or making structural changes to a building. A permit is an inexpensive way to get inspections of the work by a qualified third party. It may also reduce your potential liability if a problem occurs. The contractor should obtain the permit. If the contractor is reluctant to obtain a permit, this is a red flag. The contractor may not be licensed to do the work, or he may have other problems that you may want to know about.

4. Look for common construction defects. Here are some examples of common construction defects in exterior home improvement projects.

Failure to bury gas pipes and electrical wires at required depth. Digging around buried gas pipes and electrical wires can damage them and cause gas leaks and electrical shocks. Bury most gas pipes at least twelve inches below the finished dirt level. Bury electrical wires at least twelve inches if the wires are ground fault circuit protected. Bury wires enclosed in metal conduit at least six inches. Bury most other electrical wires at least eighteen inches.

Failure to place electrical receptacles on a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) circuit when required. This is an electrical shock hazard. Place all exterior receptacles and all receptacles in garages on a GFCI protected circuit.

Failure to properly install and protect electrical wires. This is an electrical shock hazard if the wires become loose or damaged. Place most exposed and accessible electrical wires in approved conduit. Place electrical connections and wire splices in a covered electrical junction box. Electrical wires that are installed outdoors or that are buried must be approved for these uses.

Failure to protect gas pipes from corrosion. Corroded gas pipes can leak. Protect gas pipes against corrosion when they are in contact with the ground and when they are in contact with masonry and concrete. The gray paint on gas pipes around gas meters and pipe wrap tape are common corrosion protection methods.

Failure to properly install gas appliance flexible connectors. This is a gas leak hazard. Flexible connectors are the yellow (one common color) flexible tubes that you see between the rigid gas pipe and a gas water heater. These connectors are intended to connect one rigid gas pipe to one gas appliance. You should be able to move the connector at least two inches at the center of the connector. A connector that cannot be moved and is too tight strains gas connections at the pipe and at the appliance. The connector should not have a bend with a radius smaller than 1 ½ inches. A tight radius bend can weaken the connector and reduce gas flow.

Seize the opportunity to beautify and improve your home; but be aware of the dangers that such projects present and empower yourself to avoid these dangers.

Home Improvement Maintenance Tips – Increase Property Value and Save Money

Home ownership is an investment just like any other, and with most investments you generally get out of them what you put in. If you make home improvements and take proper care of your property and its equipment, you increase the value of the home and extend the life of your property.

Home Improvement Maintenance Tips

One of the first home improvement maintenance tips is to change your HVAC filter often. If your unit has the type of filter you can clean and replace, be sure to perform this task regularly. The unit runs more efficiently which prolongs its life. It also uses less energy.

Have an HVAC system checkup at least once yearly. Twice is better, once just before the height of the cooling season and again just before winter.

If your home has gutters, they need to be cleaned out regularly. Debris, leaves, nests, etc. accumulate and if not removed periodically will break down and decompose, causing damage to your gutters and possibly your roof and fascia. Additionally, water will become trapped and unable to escape, causing moisture problems, which defeats the purpose of the gutters in the first place.

Outdoor maintenance is important, too. Picking up loose limbs and keeping leaves raked and burned is easier if done regularly rather than letting it build up to an intense and time consuming job. Your landscape needs to be cared for just as your home does.

Weatherstripping may need to be replaced around doors and windows for increased energy efficiency and utility bill savings. Insulation may need to be inspected to see if an upgrade is needed.

The roof requires regular inspection for leaks and missing, loose, or damaged shingles. Water is one of the worst enemies of a property, and if allowed to seep through the roof it can cause mold, mildew, structural damage, not to mention what it can do to your interior and personal belongings.

Some tasks in your home are best left to professionals, such as with your HVAC and electrical systems. If you are not properly educated in electrical wiring, it is advised to avoid shock or electrocution by allowing a trained professional to work on your wiring. Improper wiring can also cause electrical fires, possibly resulting in loss of your home.

Termites favor moist and dark conditions, and you can deter them by routing water away from your foundation. Also avoid placing wood piles up against the building; if you store firewood, store it away from the residence. Hire a professional exterminator to do regular termite inspections; it can end up saving you a lot of money later if any problems are detected early.

Discourage mold growth by controlling the humidity in your home. A dehumidifier and a system to control temperature (air conditioner) both help prevent mold. Any time there is a leak, flood, or other type of water problem, it needs to be handled quickly to avoid spreading mold and mildew throughout your home. Moisture, remember is one of the biggest enemies of a home.

Performing home improvement maintenance does require some expense and time. It is a good idea to sock some money away each month as a part of your budget to put in a home maintenance account. Then when funds are needed for improvements and maintenance, it isn’t such a hardship thanks to the money you’ve set aside for this purpose.

Should you decide to sell your home or remain in it yourself, taking good care of it all along will definitely pay off in the end.