Here in the Chicago land area bricks are used for cladding in a homes exterior 75% of the time. In fact, almost all of the older homes used bricks for the exterior. Some of these homes that were built from 1890-1960 were made solely of bricks. This was the case of the home inspection in Brookfield, Illinois.

Generally,  there isn’t any framing on the walls.  The bricks are  installed to be the structure of the home.  They interlace the bricks by changing the course of bricks.  This is called “soldiering” or interlacing the courses. You will see a change in pattern of the brick course when this is done.

On older homes, the maintenance is called tuck pointing or pointing.  Brick homes seem to need this after 50 years of  their build date.  In the case of the home inspection in Brookfield the brick was tuck pointed.  Then next question was  “Is it tuck pointed right?”

There are a couple ways of testing this.  The way I test is with a screw driver.  I tap the joints in various areas to see if it is solid or hollow. If it is hollow that generally means that the tuck pointing has not been done correctly.  An incorrect tuck point job is what I found during this particular home inspection in Brookfield.

The proper way to tuckpoint is to grind all the joints out 1/2 the depth of the brick with a grinder. The right type of mortar is the next crucial step.

What happens if the proper measures aren’t followed?  The first thing is that the mortar from the tuckpoiting job will eventually crack and fall out of the joints. The second is related to the first.  The brick will be open to water damage because the brick interior is open to the elements. The brick will have the opportunity to take in water and cause the hard coating of the brick to pop. This will definitely shorten the lifespan of the brick.  This is what the bricks were like at the home inspection in Brookfield. When you get to this point, portions of bricks will need to be removed and replaced by a brick layer contractor.

It is always better to do home repairs the right way the first time. The second time will always cost you more money!!

If you have tuck pointing issues on your home or a home you are trying to purchase a brick home please contact us with your questions at    Jim Kolke

Please leave a comment or ideas for blogs about home issues that you need help with.

“Green” is the thing to do these days.  This includes appliances, water heaters, cars, plumbing fixtures and furnaces or boilers, almost anything.  At the home inspection in Elmhurst, Illinois is where I found a 2 year old Trane High efficient furnace.  What is a high efficient furnace you ask??  It is a furnace that uses the gas that heats the air better basically.  The key to the high efficient furnaces is that they are installed correctly.

The  Trane furnace at the home inspection in Elmhurst was almost installed correctly.  The gas line had a drip leg, filter box, electric was wired right.  The issue that I found at the home inspection in Elmhurst was that the venting from the furnace had multiple bends in it.  There were multiple bends and the piping was pitched to condensate back to the unit which is how it is recommended to be installed.  In this case there were so many bends ,the pitch was so great  and there wasn’t a “goose neck”  condensate trap on the vent when it exited the wall where it exited.

Basically you need a ” goose neck ” trap to get most of the condensate to exit or drip on the exterior of the home versus in the piping and down back into the unit.  Some units have condensate drains in the unit.  That wasn’t the case at the home inspection in Elmhurst.   My recommendation was to have a professional heating contractor come and open the unit and examine the unit to make sure there isn’t any damage to the firebox.

The buyers realtor called me to thank me for the recommendation because the firebox was cracked and the unit was going to be replaced at the cost of the home owners.   My clients of the home inspection in Elmhurst were thankful that I didn’t just brush off the surface rust you can see in the picture above with the arrows pointing at were the damage was and move on.

If you think you have issues like this in your home or a home your interested in buying contact us at~  Jim Kolke

One of the most asked questions when I’m in a basement is “has this basement had water?”  A large percentage of the homes we inspect are 25 years old or more. So telling my clients that the property hasn’t had water damage in 25 years, I had better be real sure what I tell them.  This question did come up on the home inspection in Arlington Heights, Illinois.  My clients hired me to inspect a home that was built in 1967. The home was a solid built raised ranch that is frequently seen through out the Chicago land area.

We were in the basement and the water question did come up and I explained that it is almost impossible to tell if the home had water intrusion in 43 years. What I could tell them, was if there was any recent water damage in the basement of the  home inspection in Arlington Heights. I scanned the whole basement with a Fluke thermal imager to see if there were any areas showing temperature variances.  The next test was to do a visual inspection of the baseboards and drywall of the basement walls to see if there were any water stains that stood out.

In the case of the home inspection in Arlington Heights there were water stains 3″ off of the floor.  They were definitely old stains.  How old?  I couldn’t  tell, honestly.  I took out a radio wave moisture meter (tramex)  that I used to scan the basement foundation perimeter to see if there were any readings detected.  The meter came up negative for moisture readings. My clients from the home inspection in Arlington Heights were still seeking the answer to the “has the basement had water before?” question.

By following “due diligence” and probing deep into the basement the answer was “yes”.  The reason I gave was the sump pump gave out years past and there wasn’t any mold or water issues at this time.  My recommendation was to put a battery back up sump pump to insure that this didn’t happen again. The back-up pump will start up if the 1st pump fails.  This will provide protection also when the electricity is lost with the battery back up.

If you have questions on your home or a home you are buying has water intrusion issues, contact us at~  Jim Kolke


Condos have been around forever.  They are a great way to attain home ownership with little maintenance of the  property.  You basically only own the unit you live in.  There are generally assessments that are paid monthly.  These fees cover items that you might or might not use like lawn care maintenance, pool, sun deck, cleaning services for hallways, elevator services, doormen, parking attendants, water, heat, electric and anything that could be  used in a multi-unit building.  We were hired for a home inspection in Mount Prospect, Illinois recently.

When we inspect a condo, we inspect all the public areas that we are allowed to have access to.  This was definitely the case at the home inspection in Mount Prospect.  We were granted access to the roof of the 8 story multi- unit building by the maintenance company.  This is great for are client because we want to make sure there aren’t any potential issues on the roof that could form into  a special assessment.  A special assessment is a fee that will need to be collected by every owner of each unit in the building to pay for the items in need of attention.

The issues with the home inspection in Mount Prospect was there was a chance that there was going to be a special assessment for the remodeling of the hall ways and front foyer.  There was going to be a 1 time payment of $1700.00 dollars that would be due after the voting of the condo association.  I got this information while talking to some of the neighbors at the home inspection in Mt. Prospect, Illinois.

That is one of the major issues I’m diligent on trying to establish.  I don’t know of any of my past clients that have $1700.00 burning a hole in their pocket to spend without notice.  So if you are planning to buy a condo, make sure to have your inspector ask these questions to protect your bottom line.

If you are buying a condo and need help with possible special assessment and what to look for contact us at~  Jim Kolke


Almost all single family homes have driveways.  There is a wide variety of types of driveways available to the consumer.  The choice of driveway materiel can be dictated by the cost of the material and labor of each type depending on where you live in the United States.  The choices of material are asphalt, concrete, paver, peat gravel, asphalt with paver border, concrete with paverboarder  and many other styles and variations of the above materials.  In the case of the home inspection in Palatine, Illinois  a  Uni-lock paver driveway was installed.

This type of driveway is my personal driveway of choice because if it shifts you can pull the pavers and rearrange the grading.  The grading was one of the issues with the paver driveway at the home inspection in Palatine.  When you have shifting  or sagging in a paver driveway it is generally due to poor pitch or poor compaction of the 12″ of stone compact stone beneath the pavers. This generally will need a maintenance call to the Uni-lock paver installer.  The contractor’s in the Chicago land area  give a 1 year warranty on all work.

The next item found in need of repair was a 17″ * 17* circle of motor oil on the driveway at the home inspection in Palatine.   Most people go through the Uni-lock contractor to pull the bricks out and replace them with new clean ones.  Uni-lock pavers are great because their color is solid through out the core of the paver.  My advise to my client was to use a cleaning product called Pour -n-Restore oil stain remover.  I have actually used it on my own paver driveway and was skeptical of the promises it boasted.  It removed the oil that a contractors van had left on my driveway like it was never there.  (I’m not affiliated with this company in anyway, follow all directions on label) The home owners of the home inspection in Palatine overheard the remedy for the driveway and were impressed also.

If you have questions about maitece on your driveway  please contact us at  Jim Kolke