News

COVID-19 Update from Home GnomePosted by Nicole on March 18th, 2020

Yes, I’m still inspecting and testing for radon! I’m doing everything I can to prevent the spread while still providing services as best I can.

• I wash my hands as often as I can when I’m on an inspection.
• I bring disinfectant wipes with me and use them on all surfaces I touch to keep both myself and the occupants/sellers safe.
• I require that any occupants be absent during the inspection for social distancing.
• I try to keep at least 6 feet of distance to agents and buyers (if they choose to be present) during the inspection.
• Agents and buyers can choose to do a coordinated phone or FaceTime slideshow in place of the slideshow on site.
• I also disinfect my car, all of my tools & equipment (including my radon testing equipment) at the end of and/or before my inspections/radon tests.

Basically, everything I touch in homes gets disinfected!

As you can imagine, these precautions take a bit of extra time, so for now I am suspending my same-day report delivery guarantee. It’s possible (and even likely) that you’ll receive the report later that same night, but I can’t guarantee it.

Thanks for your patience while the world feels so surreal! If you have any questions about my process or want to discuss further, please contact me. Stay healthy!

How Detailed Should Your Home Inspector Be?Posted by Nicole on February 9th, 2020

If you’ve had an inspection with me, you’ll notice that my reports are quite detailed. I inspect and report on each home as if I were buying it myself- what would I want to know before I make the largest purchase I’ve ever made? I’ve been told by many real estate agents that my reports are the most detailed and thorough they’ve seen. I am a Type A personality, so this doesn’t surprise me (I take it as a compliment). What does surprise me is how many important details other inspectors seem to miss or not even report on. I’m saying this from personal experience- I had two home inspections before becoming a home inspector myself. I’ve also seen reports for the exact same property that I inspected, making it easy to compare my report to another inspection company’s report. Although I’m obviously biased, the things that are missing from the other reports are too important to ignore. 

For instance: I test as well as check the manufacture dates on every single smoke alarm and carbon monoxide alarm whenever possible. Why? BECAUSE ALARMS SAVE LIVES! Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms are required both by law and by your lender to be installed in a real estate transaction. Knowing that the sensors on these alarms become less sensitive over time, don’t you, as a buyer, want your home to be as safe as possible? 10 years is the life of a smoke alarm; 5-7 years for carbon monoxide alarms. Alarms that are any older need to be replaced. I am adamant in my inspections about this. Furthermore, this simple thing is probably the easiest and most affordable requirement to fulfill in a real estate transaction, having (potentially) the largest safety factor. It’s a no-brainer.

Case in point: I recently inspected a newly constructed home- nobody has lived there yet… the paint was probably still drying. Any normal person would assume that all the smoke & carbon monoxide alarms are brand new, right? WRONG. Two of the six smoke alarms in this home were 13 years old– they’d been reused from another home when they should have been disposed of three years ago. Now, if I had assumed all the alarms were new because the home is new, I’m putting my clients’ safety at risk. This is just one example of the level of detail that I take a little bit of extra time to verify so that your home is SAFE.

Now… it’s possible that my inspections take a tad longer than the “average” inspector, but I guarantee that it’s worth it. Does that little bit of extra detail really make a difference? I believe it can mean the difference between (excuse the scare tactics- see above) life and death… and, well, that’s also a no-brainer. Don’t you agree?

The following are excerpts of inspection reports from the exact same house- one from a competitor and then Home Gnome’s report.

Competitor’s report- Heating System
Home Gnome Inspections’ report- Heating System

Getting Ready for Cold WeatherPosted by Nicole on January 13th, 2020

Here are some quick tips on getting your home ready for cold weather!Foundation vent plug

Install insulation blocks or close foundation vents (if you have a crawlspace). These polystyrene plugs fit into the screened openings at your foundation. If your vents have little flaps on them, just close the flap to help keep cold temperatures out. IMPORTANT: Don’t forget to open the vents/remove the plugs once the threat of freezing has passed- you do NOT want to suffocate your crawlspace!

faucet protector

Winterize hose faucets.  Disconnect all your garden hoses and turn off interior valves (usually located at interior side of wall near hose faucet or under a nearby sink) for all hose faucets. Then, turn the faucet back on temporarily in order to remove the remaining water in the pipe. Once the water in the pipes has been bled out, install styrofoam faucet covers on the hose faucets.

Supply piping insulation

Insulate exposed supply piping in your attic, crawlspace and garage. Supply piping is the smaller size piping that carries water to the plumbing fixtures in your home. Freezing temps can cause pipes to burst since water is in these pipes all the time.

Be sure your furnace filter has been changed recently. An inefficient furnace wastes energy, restricts air movement and causes unnecessary wear on your furnace.

Weatherstrip doors & insulate single pane windows. Install sweeps at bottom of doors, weatherstripping at sides & top of doors. Install insulating shrink film kit to help keep the cold out at single-pane windows.

Door sweepV-seal weatherstripWindow insulating kit

Bonus tip: Now’s a great time to test your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms as well as check the dates on them... especially if you have a fireplace that creates carbon monoxide. Smoke alarms should be less than 10 years old and carbon monoxide alarms should be less than 5 years old. The sensors become worn and less sensitive as time goes on. Replacement is needed if these alarms are too old! Manufacture dates are printed on the back or side of alarms. If you can’t find a date (it’s usually tiny), it’s probably outdated and should be replaced.

How Important Is Attic Ventilation in the Winter?Posted by Nicole on February 26th, 2019

Many homeowners believe that ventilation is only important in the summer, but it is just as important in the winter! Did you know that the primary cause of ice dams is lack of ventilation, not necessarily lack of insulation?

Ice dams are barriers that occur near the gutters and eaves of the roof, causing water/ice to back up under the shingles at the drip edge. The cycle begins with heat being trapped in the attic (lack of exhaust ventilation) which traps heat in the upper attic near the ridge. This condition melts the snow/ice at the top portion of the roof and prevents the snow/ice from melting near the bottom of the roof (at eaves/overhangs). The melted snow/ice then runs down the roof and collects at the eaves where it freezes/refreezes, creating an ice dam.

Large snow events are rare in Portland, but severe ice damming can cause the shingles, roof sheathing, rafter/truss tails and top plate to be damaged. If not fixed, the damage can cause mold and mildew.

Although adding more insulation can slow down the heat transfer from the interior living space, the heat transfer will still occur and, without appropriate ventilation to take that warm air away, the ice dam will occur.

It is important to note that your attic should be very close to the exterior temperature! A well-ventilated, well-balanced ventilation system ideally keeps the top of the roof and the bottom side of the roof close to equal temperatures, eliminating the conditions required to form an ice dam.

Call me if you’d like an evaluation of the ventilation and insulation in your attic! Building science is my passion.


Ice dam

Diagram courtesy of Connell Insurance.

The Alhambra CondominiumsPosted by Nicole on June 12th, 2016

See Inside My Favorite Condo Building in Portland

The Alhambra, located at NW Irving St. and NW 20th Ave., has been my very favorite condo building in all of Portland since the first week I moved here… I used to go out of my way to walk by because I love this building so much.

The owners of 6 (of the 8) units were gracious enough to open their homes to a small tour on Friday evening, courtesy of the Architectural Heritage Center. I was fortunate enough to be able to see inside these amazing condos that I’ve been drooling over for years! See my entire album from the tour here.

My favorite kitchen at the Alhambra condosSemi-private balconies at the Alhambra

Affordable Disaster Supply KitPosted by Nicole on January 28th, 2016

Join Us in Gathering a Budget-Friendly Disaster Supply Kit!

We’re slowly gathering items for a 3-day disaster supply kit. Join us as we get items in small increments for a complete bin of emergency supplies. Each phase will be posted with a photo, a list of items, the cost of the items and an emergency tip or action item. Join us in this process so you can be ready when disaster strikes! Here are the first two phases:

PHASE ONE:

-Large container for storing your kit – we chose a clear, 66 quart bin with latching lid (clear – so you don’t have to guess what’s inside!) $9
– 1 gallon of water 89 cents Disaster supply kit, phase one
– Flashlight $10
– Whistle $1
– Permanent marker $2
– Dietary supplements/electrolyte replacements $8
– 2 Ready-to-eat tuna packets $3 ($1.49 each)
– Can of beans $1
– Manual can opener $5

Total spent this phase: Approximately $40. Don’t be alarmed- this is the most expensive phase!

Phase One tip: Put food you would normally eat in your disaster kit. Your body will be stressed after an emergency so it’s best to eat things that your system is accustomed to.

PHASE TWO

Disaster supply kit, phase two

Disaster supply kit, phase two

– Toilet paper, 2 rolls $1.50
– Another gallon of water 89 cents
– Upset stomach meds $5
– Roll of antacids $1
– Hand sanitizer $2.49
– Hydrogen peroxide $1
– Isopropyl alcohol $1.25
– Tissues 89 cents
– Pain reliever $6 (Or free! See tip below.)

Total spent this phase: Approximately $20.

Phase Two tip: When you run across useful disaster kit items that are Buy One Get One Free at the store, buy one for your home, then get one FREE for your emergency supply kit!

Follow along on Home Gnome’s Facebook page for the next phases!

Five for Friday with Paris Group Realty!Posted by Nicole on January 15th, 2016

I was honored to be the guest on Five for Friday, a weekly blog post from Paris Group Realty. Paris Group is a wonderful group of amazing women who are sharp as tacks! Each Friday, they ask 5 questions of a person who works in the realm of homes. You won’t believe what I say about mold & mildew! Read the interview here.

Review Home Gnome on Angie’s List!Posted by admin on December 24th, 2015

Have you had a home inspection or radon testing through Home Gnome? Are you a real estate agent that we’ve worked with in the past? We finally have a central location for leaving reviews! Please leave us a review here on Angie’s List.

As always, real estate agents can save their clients $25 off the first inspection with me!

New on Redfin! Read Nicole’s Latest ReviewsPosted by admin on March 24th, 2015

I’m new on Redfin! Read my latest reviews right here. I really don’t like asking people for testimonials or reviews, but luckily Redfin does a great job of gathering them for their users. Redfin requires their real estate agents to provide information on every person involved in the transaction.

gnome redfin

Thanks Jennie, Trevor and Redfin! Visit my Redfin page here.

6 Reasons to Clean Your Furnace & DuctsPosted by admin on March 23rd, 2015

I recently had the ducts and furnace cleaned at my house. Why, you ask? Here are 6 reasons to clean your furnace & ducts:

1. The life of your furnace. Dirt slows down air movement and creates more resistance so that your furnace has to work harder, reducing the life of the equipment and ultimately costing you more money. This dirt gets stuck inside your ducts, furnace and a good portion gets stuck to your filter. (That means it is VERY important to change or clean your filter so that your furnace doesn’t have to work so hard to push the air through a filthy filter!)

2. Allergies and cleaner air. Even if you don’t have allergies, whatever is blowing around in the air can tickle your nose and get into your lungs. AaaaaahCHOO!

3. Breathe your own air. Especially if you’re moving into a new home, you don’t want to be breathing in someone else’s dust or dead skin, allergens/pollens, dirt and pet hair from 12 years ago. When years of build-up is camped out in your furnace and ducting, a lot of it can just be re-circulated into the air you breathe. Ewwwww!

4. Mold! Air has moisture. Moisture likes to stay in cozy areas. Cozy areas provide a nice home for mold. Where is pretty cozy in your house? Your heating ducts!

5. The secret is the filter. Have you done a remodeling project lately? Has there recently been road construction nearby your house? Any thing that increases particles in the air of your home means that at the very least, your filter probably needs to be changed. Those particles can fill up a filter faster than you think. Depending on how often you use your heating/cooling system,  the depth of your filter, your family’s daily life (smoking, allergies) and if you have pets, it should be changed every 1-3 months. When in doubt, change it out. It is MUCH cheaper to clean or change your filter regularly than to pay for a new furnace.

6. Less dust. If you’re like me, you have little time or energy left after a busy week to clean. Let your filter do the work- you can sit back and relax.

The following are photos of my furnace blower and return air duct the before and after it was cleaned. If I inspect a house and I see a dirty blower or ducts, I recommend cleaning. If I don’t see maintenance records for the furnace, I recommend a complete service.

Furnace blower after cleaning

Furnace blower after cleaning

Furnace blower before cleaning

Furnace blower before cleaning

clean return air duct

clean return air duct

Return duct before cleaning

Return duct before cleaning