Tom Kollias, Chicago and Suburban Home Inspector Home Inspections in Orland Park, Tinley Park, Frankfort, Mokena, Palos Heights, Oak Forest, Palos Park, Chicago and all surrounding Communities

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Emergency Shut-off locations are the first thing that homeowners need to be aware of. Depending on the emergency, it often becomes necessary to shut-off a utility quickly. Therefore, every responsible member of a household should make a mental note of the shut-off locations and understand how each operates.

residential water meter
Water: Water can be turned off either at a meter near a curb or at one close to a house. Shutting it off near a meter usually requires a plumber's key and a little muscle, although some modern valves are able to be turned off with an ordinary wrench, and some with just fingers. When the water is on, the valve key should lie in the same direction as the pipe, and can be turned off with a ninety degree turn, leaving the key at right angles to the pipe.

Shutting it off at the house is considerably easier, and accomplished by turning a gate valve clockwise until it stops, or by turning the handle of a sweep valve until it stops or is at right angles to the pipe.
Main gas shutoff
Gas: Shutting off the gas works in exactly the same way, except the valve is nearly always on a vertical pipe below the meter. It requires either an adjustable wrench or a specialized slotted tool. The valve can be turned ninety degrees in either direction, or until it is at right angles to the pipe.
distribution panel
Electricity: Turning off electricity is easy. Most modern electric panels have a disconnect switch inside a weatherproof cover, which shuts off the entire service as shown in the picture below. However, older panels could have a similar switch, or fused pull-out, in an adjacent panel. And some could have a lever at the side of the panel, which serves the same purpose.

Landscaping is important to a home. It can add beauty and brighten our lives with birds, bees, flowers, and shrubbery. There are few sights more pleasant than a crocus that has pushed its way through a bank of snow and turned to follow the sun, or night-blooming cactus that has opened its petals to the moon, or the delicate dance of butterflies.

Most people enjoy nature and spend many happy hours pruning and tending to their gardens. However, if a property is not maintained it will quickly return to a wild state, and this is not good for any structure. Seemingly innocent bushes and vines can quickly overgrow a house, deteriorate its surfaces and introduce vermin, moisture, and insects.

Trees and bushes need to be pruned, and foliage kept 12 inches away from house, walls, and other structures. Tree roots can crack driveways, walkways, and other hard surfaces with relative ease, and trees should never be planted too close to the foundation of a house. Ivy provides an inexpensive and hardy ground cover, but it can also become a haven for rodents.

Residential landscaping

electrical outlet tester
outlet tester also tests for GFCI protection
Testing grounded outlets is quite simple with ordinary electrical testers, such as those in the picture to the left, which are available at most hardware stores. They will show common faults in the wiring, such as an open ground, open hot, open neutral or reversed polarity, which are explained on the testers. The round button on the tester to the left (right image) allows the user to see if the outlet is ground fault protected. Even though it may not appear to be, it could be protected by a breaker in a panel or from a ground fault protected outlet in another location, such as in a garage or a bathroom. Common but potentially dangerous faults with the wiring are indicated on the testers as follows:
Open ground means that the ground wire is not attached or not present and cannot provide a pathway to ground, which poses a safety-hazard.

Open neutral means that the neutral wire is not attached, and the outlet will not work.

Open hot means that the hot wire is not attached, and the outlet will not work.

Hot/ground reverse means exactly as stated, and is a dangerous defect.

Hot/neutral reverse means that the hot and neutral wires have been installed in reverse, a dangerous defect commonly referred to a "reverse polarity".
Safety Concerns: Electricity can kill, and should only be serviced by qualified personnel. Homeowners should never service any component unless you are qualified to do so.

Safety Concerns: All plate glass sliding doors should be replaced with doors that have tempered glass or, at the very least, should be retrofitted with safety-film. Also, they should have decals at eye level to alert persons to what can be an almost invisible barrier.

Safety Concerns: Store fuels and flammable objects away from ignition sources. If children or domestic animals occupy the residence, make sure that the garage door opener has an infra-red reversing mechanism or is pressure-sensitive. All electrical outlets should be ground fault protected.

Safety Concerns: Ducts (where visible) should be inspected annually to ensure that there is no open seams where energy is being lost and where rodents could enter. In addition, wherever there is moisture, and this includes condensation, there is the possibility of mold.

Winter Safety Tip: As winter takes hold across the Midwest your furnace and other heating equipment will be used more often. Purchase a Carbon Monoxide Detector. CO poisoning is a colorless, odorless gas that is produced during the combustion of fossil fuels, including natural gas. Many CO related incidents could be avoided by simply installing a CO detector. In fact as of 2007 Illinois law requires that every home a properly operating CO detector installed within 15 feet of every room used for sleeping.

Those exposed to dangerous levels of CO will experience flu-like symptoms including dizziness, nausea, headache and coughing, irregular heartbeat, and pale skin with cherry red lips.
  You can avoid the buildup of dangerous levels of CO in your home by following these guidelines.
  •Never run a combustion engine, such as the one found in your car,    portable generator, lawn mower or snow blower in enclosed areas.
  •Never leave a fuel-burning portable heater unattended while people sleep.
  •Never heat you home with your gas range or oven.
  •Never burn charcoal inside your home or garage.
  •Be sure to open your chimney flue when using your fireplace.
  •Have your furnace cleaned and checked by a qualified contractor    annually.


Algae Streaks, They're destroying the longevity and curb appeal of your roof.

The streaks and stains are actually an algae feeding on the limestone filler in the asphalt shingle on your roof.

Roof Algae is photoautotrophic cyananobacteria spores that grow in colonies and are carried by wind, birds, squirrels, etc. The colonies need heat, moisture and nutrients to grow. What better place for them to thrive than on your shingles causing ugly black streaks?

If left neglected for too long this algae will shorten the life span of your roof and destroy your property's curb appeal. Don't let anyone use a power washer on your roof - IT WILL DESTROY IT!

DON'T LET ANYONE TELL YOU TO REPLACE YOUR ROOF, have it professionally cleaned by a qualified roof cleaning company.

• If you have an artificial tree, be sure it's labeled, certified or identified as fire retardant.

• If you buy a live tree, make sure it's fresh. The needles should be hard to pull off the branches.

• To keep a live tree fresh, cut off about two inches of the trunk for better water absorption, and make sure the tree has plenty of water.

• Place the tree away from heat sources and high-traffic areas.

• Check your tree lights for frayed or broken wires. Replace when necessary.

• Take care with candles. Place them away from flammable decorations and in locations where they cannot be knocked over or reached by children or pets. Never leave them unattended.

Finding a Contractor
When searching for a contractor you should:

• Ask neighbors and friends if they have worked with any contractor they would recommend

• Look in the yellow pages / internet

• Focus on local companies

• Get three bids with details in writing

• Ask about previous experience

• Check references

• Check with the Better Business Bureau if any complaints

 10 Tricks to Scare Away Burglars

• Check the latest tech. There are all sorts of new home security devices, like doorbells that ring on your cell phone and inexpensive easy to install surveillance systems, such as the Canary. get advice at your electronics store or read on-line reviews.

• You can't hide. Crooks know all the "secret" places so forget about hiding your keys around the house. Instead ask a trusted neighbor or friend who lives nearby to keep spare set. Or better yet, consider a keyless entryway.

• Forget Facebook. Resist posting pictures of your vacation on social media while you're away. Friends may not be the only ones reading.

• Don't advertise big buys. An empty computer or television carton left on the curb is a flag to crooks. So drive those big boxes to a recycling plant or cut them up.

• Ask for a reference. Before hiring anyone get personal recommendations. Even so, don't leave a worker alone in your home, even for a few minutes.

• Keep your mail out of reach. Identify thieves can find a treasure trove in your mailbox, so consider a locking model. And if you haven't gone paperless, remember to shred important documents before putting them in the trash.

• Stay well-trimmed. Over grown shubbery provides cover for thieves, so make sure that your house is clearly visible from the street. Keep the front of your house well-lit. Guard access to your backyard.

• Get a virtual pet. Burglars think twice when they hear a barking dog. If you don't have a pet. get a CD of a growling hound. Or put a dog bowl by your door.

• Call the police. Some departments have crime-prevention officers who will survey homes and offer security recommendations.

• Know your neighbors. It's the oldest safety system around, but still works like a charm. Ask your neighbors to keep an eye on your home, and do the same for them.

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