A/C Springtime MaintenancePosted by admin on May 7th, 2014

It’s starting to stay warm lately and soon enough you’ll want to use your air conditioning system. Make sure you’ll be ready to go when it’s time!


  • Clear the immediate area around the unit- much vegetation growth has happened since you last used the unit!
  • Do NOT use when the temperature is below 65 degrees- this can damage the system!
  • When you first start the air conditioner, set your thermostat 5 degrees above room temperature to lubricate the system.
  • Change the filter at the interior unit- this should be done regularly, especially if you have allergies!
  • Learn what to have a qualified professional do for you.
  • Learn about Freon and how low levels can damage the system.

If you haven;t had your A/C system, serviced in a while, it’s probably time. Don’t wait until scorching temperatures are in the forecast!

Are You Social?Posted by admin on April 23rd, 2014

We are! Follow us on social media to get maintenance, home improvement and green building tips as well as links to relevant housing articles and neighborhood events for the Portland area.

Don’t be shy! We’re happy to help. If you have a question, ask us in any of these ways:


Twitter: @HomeGnomePDX

Linked In:


Call: 503-913-1281

Toot toot!Posted by admin on April 21st, 2014

I’m not really the type of person to toot my own horn, but this article on Faces from the Neighborhood is so well-written and deserves a read! Learn a little about my history, my fascination with crawlspaces and why I gave up architecture.

Thanks to Lisa Ratzlaff for her wonderful interview and superb writing. She hit the nail on the head. Read the article here: Faces from the Neighborhood

Nicole in a crawlspace

If you’re looking for a realtor here in the Portland area, contact Lisa- she’ll take care of you!

Lisa Ratzlaff
Re/Max Equity Group
Cell: 971-200-5259

My Moisture Meter Is Ready For Its Next Home Inspection!Posted by admin on April 10th, 2014

moisture meter skin testI changed the battery and calibrated my moisture meter this morning. I also successfully tested my skin and it contains moisture, so that’s good… but how do I use my moisture meter in a home inspection?

I use my moisture meter anytime I see moisture stains or have pinpointed a suspicious area that needs checking. Common areas that I check with my meter are:

  • Ceilings and walls (particularly at chimneys and at potential plumbing and roof leaks)
  • walls/ceilings/floors near plumbing
  • in basements and crawlspaces under plumbing and where foundations show previous or current leaks

My moisture meter is an invaluable tool to have in a home inspection and I use it a lot (mostly just to be sure) but surprisingly, I don’t usually find an alarming amount moisture. (Testing wood is tricky because it naturally contains moisture.) It’s even more difficult to detect moisture during the summer months when it hasn’t rained for a while so little moisture is present from a lack of rain.

If the house you’re getting inspected has had leaks or moisture issues in the past that the realtor and client know about, let me know so I can check it with my meter!

First time home buyer? Join me!Posted by admin on February 15th, 2014

Choose one that best describes you:

A. I’ve never purchased a home before.

B. It’s been a while since my last purchase and I think I’m about ready to purchase my next home…  think things have changed, haven’t they?

C. Buying a home is something I plan on doing in the future. What can I start to think about and plan for now?

D. I’m bored. I like free food and drinks. I want to meet that one home inspector lady….

If you chose one or more of the answers above, you are in luck.

I’ve been graciously invited to participate in a first time home buyer’s event on Thursday, February 20th at John L. Scott Woodstock. Join us to find out the role of the realtor, what you (as a buyer) can do; hear from a lender, a title company and a home inspector (that’s me!); get your home-buying questions answered. These presenters know the process and business inside and out and they are on your side.

We will have plenty of information and handouts (and I’ll be passing out coupons for your next home inspection). Snacks and beverages will be provided. Best of all: this is a free event!


RSVP if you’re so inclined (not necessary):



Testimonial from Amanda and NatePosted by admin on June 16th, 2013

I got the best testimonial today:

My wife and I have had two different home inspections performed by Home Gnome.  We ended up not purchasing the house from our first inspection due to some things found that weren’t obvious to us.  We were very satisfied with the thoroughness of the inspector’s work and we contracted her to inspect a different property that we ended up purchasing.

The inspection reports are very thorough and easy to read.  Everything is summarized at the beginning of the report for quick reference and described in further detail in the subsections.  Photos are included so you can visualize the issues discovered.  The detailed reports and photos are helpful if you need to describe something to a third party.  Home Gnome’s attention to detail and perfectionism is invaluable. With her background in architecture, Home Gnome has the expertise and eye to see things possibly missed by someone without that experience.

The customer service was fabulous.  If there was something we didn’t understand and needed some clarification, we were able to reach out and get a prompt response.

I would recommend Home Gnome to anyone considering purchasing a house and looking to get a home inspection.  If you would like any further information about my experience please contact me at

Roof Maintenance TipsPosted by admin on June 9th, 2013

Wondering what to do to keep your roof in tip top shape? Read this Seattle Times article to learn some roof maintenance tips.

With all the moisture we have in the Pacific Northwest, your roof is one of the most important components to maintain!

Did You Know….? (Now you do!)Posted by admin on May 30th, 2013

I’ve been asked several times now where I get the info for the “Did you Know?” info that I include with each inspection report (not to be confused with the “Did you Know” section at right on my website).

If I haven’t done an inspection report for you yet, I’ll explain what this feature is: along with every inspection report, I include links and/or info about the neighborhood, house style or some fascinating detail about the home which I inspected. Sometimes this is a series of fun facts about the neighborhood, an explanation about those metal rings that are stuck to your curb, why your home has a parlor or where your street got its name… whatever detail it is, it piqued my curiosity and at some point and I researched it. The result is some (usually) obscure trivia about your home and/or the area. I am wildly passionate about the history of houses and details like these and I would find it a crime to not pass this info on to you since you will probably be living there!

I’ve got all kinds of sources for the info I use, but one of my new favorites is Tanya Lyn March’s blog, History Treasured and Sometimes Endangered. If you like to nerd out on the history of Portland and its architecture, I highly suggest following her blog and taking one of her walking tours.

Spring Cleaning & MaintenancePosted by admin on April 12th, 2013

It’s that time again! I imagine you’ll be doing some spring cleaning and yard work when the weather gets nice again. It’s a good idea to also do some basic maintenance around your house to save money, energy and possibly headaches later. If you maintain the systems in your home, you will have less of a chance of an expensive catastrophe and your appliances and house components will last longer, saving you money in the long run. Here are my recommendations for spring house maintenance:

Clean or replace your HVAC filters. This needs to be done regularly- I recommend doing it monthly when in use. A clean filter saves on energy costs and extends the life of your system. A dirty filter forces your system to work harder (reducing the life) to force air through all the built-up dirty particles and can re-distribute pollens and dirt throughout your home. Do you have allergies? This is a MUST!

Vacuum your refrigerator coils. Dirty coils (on the back of your fridge) cause your fridge to work harder to extract heat from the interior of the fridge which means more money out of your pocket! Use a vacuum cleaner hose or a brush to clean the coils.

Replace the batteries in your smoke detectors. This is probably the easiest but most often skipped home maintenance task. Having these in working order is important for safety of you and your family so don’t skip it! for added safety, get a carbon monoxide detector for each level of your home and each bedroom as well- safety first!

Clean your dryer vent. This also saves energy and money- when your vents are dirty, the exhaust air from your dryer doesn’t have a clear path to the exterior, so it has to work harder which causes inefficiency as you may have to run your dryer for longer periods of time. This means higher energy bills. Built-up lint is also a fire hazard. Be sure to also clean your lint trap inside the dryer before EVERY cycle!

Clean and inspect the gutters. I know I recommended this in the fall too, but dust, pollen, leaves and branches fall year-round and spring is the second most important time to clean them. Evaluate the overall condition of the gutters- be sure there are no leaks and that the drainage is away from the foundation. Use a gutter scoop to clear gutters and be sure the connections to downspouts is also clear. A friend of mine said he found a tennis ball in his gutter- no wonder it wasn’t draining properly!

Clear space around your AC compressor. Prepare for the warmer weather by clearing anything that can block airflow- this increases efficiency and extends the life of your unit.

Prepare your lawn mower. Sharpen the cutting blade and change the engine oil. Your mower will run like a champ and your lawn will look better too.

Happy spring!

Why I Used to Specialize in Houses Built Before 1947Posted by admin on April 5th, 2013

So many people have asked me why I have such a passion for homes built before 1947. Why 1947? What significance does that year have? In the architecture and urban planning realm, this year is pivotal. World War II ended in 1945 and veterans returning to the US were finding themselves in need of affordable housing. Because of this, President Truman approved a program called the Veterans’ Emergency Housing Act on On May 22, 1946.

Essentially, the Veterans’ Emergency Housing Program (VEHP) was to create lots of houses (one million were planned to be started in the first year) to be built very quickly and consequently sold for less money due to the volume. This essentially created a factory of mass-produced homes that ended up looking mostly the same, lacking the quality construction and detail that homes built before this time had such as Victorian, Tudor and Craftsman. This also made construction materials more affordable and created jobs. Building materials were decontrolled and channeled into these low- to mid-price houses.

The land that was used for these new houses was generally on the outskirts of established towns and city cores- the land was cheaper the further from the city center it was. This created a reliance on the automobile which was just getting popular and becoming considerably more affordable during this time. No longer did people need buses or public transportation- they now had cars and along with it- complete freedom. These developments are called the suburbs.

Now, any architect or urban planner will tell you that the suburbs are not the place where innovation happens or where communities thrive. Density and high walk scores are better for successful cities and communities. Suburbs create and nurture sprawl and sprawl is a waste of resources. I could go on and on about this, but I’ll spare you the theorizing. If you are interested in the exact source of my specialization/interest and some really good info about suburbs and how they came about, I highly recommend the film “The End of Suburbia”- it’s available at your local library for free.