In this economical market everyone is trying to save money every way possible.  I find that many home owners try to maneuver their thermostat with double digit movements.

I recently met a couple that hired me to inspect their new home in Wilmette, Illinois.  The home boasted 3 floors with two split heating and cooling systems.  A split system is a heating and cooling system with an exterior cooling system.  This is standard in newer homes.  Generally, the compressor is the part of a cooling system that is on the outside of the home and the “a-coil” is the portion above the furnace in a plenum. To heat and cool a home of the size I was inspecting in Wilmette, you would most definitely need two heating systems and two cooling systems.

I overheard my clients from the Wilmette home inspection explaining to each other how they were going to keep the thermostat very low when they were not home and turn it up when they came home.  I explained to them that their gas and electric bills would be 50% higher due to this vast movement in temperature.

You can adjust your thermostat up to 5 degrees and not see much of a change in your utility bills.  When you increase these temperature spreads the furnace or air conditioner must run longer to catch up to the new desired temperature.  Example- If you keep your thermostat at 70 degrees during the day when you are home and at night when you are sleeping you set the thermostat to 60 degrees your heating/cooling system will need to run for at least 1-2 hours to catch up.  If this is done daily the costs can be compounded.

My clients from the Wilmette home inspection thought the complete opposite, as do most people.  I also advised having your heating /cooling system evaluated by a heating contractor annually.  This generally costs $99.00 depending on where you live.  You can see other repair prices at home inspection repair prices.

As you now can see, maneuvering your thermostat takes some finesse when trying to save some money on your utility bills.  Keep your thermostat movement to no more than 5 degrees and you will save money in the big picture.  If you have further questions, contact me at Wilmette home inspector.

·         Thanks for stopping by and get saving your money.  Jim Kolke

Recently I was hired for a home inspection in Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood.  The property that was to be inspected was a beautiful rehabbed basement duplex condo unit.  A basment duplex unit usually is one that incorporates the basement and the first floor of a condo building or apartment building.  Unfortunately these type of units do get a bad rap for having moisture issues, flooding, mold and so on.  Luckily for my clients of the Chicago condo home inspection I specialize in this type of property.  If you decide to purchase a basement duplex unit then I would advise you to hire a home inspector with extensive plumbing knowledge along with extensive building knowledge.  I’m not going to bore you with my credentials but I am a licensed plumber (Chicago lic # 194988).

This article will explain that if certain building systems are not installed that they most certainly can be installed to make your choice of home still attainable.  There are no “bad homes” just corrections to make them “great homes”.

When prospective home buyers consider garden condos they look at the finishes and that’s basically it.  If these items look good  and they like the neighborhood its a buy.  There are basically 4 items we look for when performing a garden condo home inspection.

  1. Flood control system is a part of a plumbing waste system that can be comprised of one of two systems.  The first is the building has overhead sewers and will have an ejector pit that will take waste water from floor drains in utility rooms, laundry rooms and waste water from bathrooms in the basement.  The other is a more complex system.  A backflow preventer is a check valve that will not allow water from the sewer main to come back into the floor drains, toilets, showers and or tubs of a garden condo.  Most home owners or sellers don’t know what type of system they have and that is why you really need a home inspector with extensive plumbing background.  Don’t worry.  If your garden condo does not have either one of these systems they can be added in the future by a contractor.
  2. Radon gas can cause health issues with the respiratory systems of the occupants of the home.  You can ask if the garden condo has been tested by a home inspector to see what the radon levels are.  Acceptable levels are under 3.9pci/l and can only be tested by a licensed radon measurement company when used in a real estate transaction.  The tests generally cost between $175.00 and $225.00 depending on where you are in the country.  If  high levels are found, radon mitigation can be done to correct this issue.
  3. Insulation and general construction can be hard to detect by a home buyer with little or no experience in the construction field.  We use  Fluke thermal imagers to detect if there is insulation in exterior walls and the possibilities of water intrusion.  Unfortunately you won’t be able to know this by just looking at the walls but there might be portions of the garden condo that are not finished and can be evaluated for insulation.
  4. Sump pump systems are a must for garden apartments and garden condos.  I also always suggest adding a battery back up sump pump system if one is not already installed.  The sump pump will take water through drain tiles under the concrete floor of the basement to a pump in a pit that pumps the water to the exterior of the property.  You want to make sure that the grading of the building is pitched away from the building and the drain pipe is at least 6′ away from the foundation walls.

As you can see there are some basic items to look for when choosing a garden condo.  My clients from the Chicago home inspection used me as a check list before choosing their duplex basement condo.  If you are looking at garden condos and have questions when your looking please contact Jim Kolke at ~

Thanks for stopping by.  Jim Kolke

If you live in a climate that experiences a cold season then you need to read this.  Recently I performed a home inspection in Chicago, Illinois and found that the hoses were still connected to the hose bib.  It is common to find that hoses are still connected to the hose bib and it is common that the water in the hose will back up into the hose bib and cause the hose bib or the water piping that supplies it to split.

Luckily for the owners of the home I was inspecting in Chicago, Illinois I disconnected the hoses that were connected to both hose bibs that the home had.

There are 2 type of hose bibs that we find when doing home inspections.  The first is a standard gate valve hose bib that is a basic valve that opens and closes with a “gate” to stop the water.

The second type of hose bib is an anti-freeze hose bib.  This type of hose bib has stops that are 9″ – 18″ in the wall depending on how thick your exterior walls are will determine the length you will need.  These valves don’t allow the water close to the valve on the outside of the home.  This is generally where you will see that these valves will freeze and possibly split and have a plumbing issue.  There is also a vacuum breaker on the top of this valve that will prevent issues when a hose is connected… sometimes.  The Chicago home inspection had anti-freeze hose bibs but I still disconnected them because all mechanical systems can fail.

If you were to have a frozen hose bib the repair costs could be from the hundreds to the thousands depending if the water entered the home.  You can see other prices for repairs at ~

Issues with water can cause structural issues and possibly health issues and should not be taken lightly.  If you have further questions about hose bibs that I found at the Chicago home inspection then please contact me at ~

Thanks for stopping by.  Jim Kolke

If you live in the northern part of the United States then you know how cold the winters can be.  It does not take much of an opening or lack of insulation on an exterior wall to get a draft on a water supply pipe and in turn a frozen pipe.

 I was at a Skokie home inspection recently and tried to inspect the powder room on the first floor of the home when I noticed the cold water supply would not turn on.  I checked the emergency stop or angle stop and it was open.  Luckily the basement was not finished  and the plumbing piping was exposed.  The foundation wall had frost on it near the ledger plate.  The cold supply pipe for the powder room was on the exterior wall with no insulation to protect it from the cold.  I inspected the pipe to make sure there were no bulges or cracks from frozen water.  That is a big plus when trying to thaw out this pipe.

The situation at the Skokie home inspection was pretty easy repair.  To do this repair you will need:

  1. Hair dryer
  2. 3/4″ piece of pipe insulation
  3. small piece of fiberglass insulation
  4. duct tape

Turn the water on on the side of the fixture that is frozen.  Take the hair dryer and heat the pipe back and forth along the pipe until you hear the water running in the fixture above.  Your repair may require that you open a wall or a ceiling.  The repair at the Skokie home inspection was  as easy as it can be.  The repair area was open with plenty of room to work .

The next step is to install the pipe insulation around the pipe that froze.  You may have to install electrical tape that will require more work if the area is prone to freezing and insulation wont remedy the freezing.  You can purchase electrical tape at any hardware store.

The final step is to add insulation on the exterior wall at any area that will allow air or may possibly touch the pipe.  Duct tape or staple the insulation on the wall to prevent it falling down.  This repair can save you hundreds if you can follow these directions.  You can see prices on other repairs at ~

If your pipe has a burst or is leaking water then I suggest turning the water supply off at the main.  Generally the main is in your basement in the front of the home.  I advise you to call a plumber next because portions of the piping will require replacement.  The home owners of the Skokie home inspection were elated that there was no water damage and my clients were still buying the home.

If you have an issue like this and need my help contact me at ~

Thanks for stopping by.  Jim Kolke

Sewer gas is not like carbon monoxide, the fact is it will not kill you.  It can make you feel sick to your stomach though.  Recently, I was hired for a new home inspection in Geneva, Illinois.  Just because a home was just completed ,does not mean there wont be any problems.  Maintenance issues will always be in need of repair.

My client was looking to hire a home inspector that had a background in plumbing.  Lucky for him, I carry a Chicago plumbing license  pl#194988.   When I was hired for the new home inspection in Geneva I was instructed to be very diligent on my inspection on the roof.

When I inspect a roof, I inspect for: Roofing material condition, vents, flashing, skylights, ice shield, chimney condition, chimney crown, gutters, leaders, downspouts and plumbing vent stacks.  As you already know, I found issues with blockages in the plumbing vent stacks of the new home inspection in Geneva.  You can see a roof inspection at ~

A blocked plumbing vent stack  can cause the traps in a home to be siphoned and in turn allow methane gas to be emitted into the home.  Methane gas from a sewer will not kill you, but will make you sick to your stomach.  If you have a blocked plumbing vent stack, I suggest you clear it as soon as possible.  You can hire a plumber to clear it for about $100.00 or you can finish reading my blog and do it yourself.  You can see prices of repair/ replacement items at ~

I suggest purchasing a Rigid flat sewer tape.  Generally, you should not pay more than $50 for this tool but you will be able to use it over and over again.  If you have trees over your house than this will be a good investment.

Depending on the time of the year and your location in the country I would also bring a hose with a sprayer up also.  You first add enough water so that the water does not run over the top of the top of the vent. The vent will probably hold water  because the leaves and debris in the vent.  Take your rigid flat sewer tape and push the end in slowly going back and forth until the blockage clears away.  The debris will fall into the sewer and it will wash away to the street sewer main.  If this does not clear the first time, keep repeating the procedure.  This is the same info I passed on to my client from the new home inspection in Geneva, Illinois.

This is the same procedure I used when called to clear your blocked vent when I was a plumber.  This should save you hundreds of dollars in the future.  If you need further instruction please contact me at ~

Thanks for stopping by.  Jim Kolke