Winter Time Tips: Keeping the Furnace Area Safe

Winter Time Tips: Keeping the Furnace Area Safe

By Guest Blogger Kala Bell

 As the fall winds down and the winter gets closer, many people throughout the country and even in Texas will rely on heat to warm up water and air around the house during the rare instances of cold weather. For many, water heaters and furnaces are located inside the actual house, especially in the case of older models that were designed during prior building practices.

 Of course, a water heater or furnace can be dangerous, when you think about the fact that combustion and natural gas can be inside a home, this could be a major home inspection issue. Luckily, there are some techniques to help make your furnace safe which don’t require it to be moved to an outside location. The closet where the furnace is located can be updated and improved to fit all the proper codes of today. Because San Antonio apartments and homes could house an indoor furnace, it’s important to seek some advice about any risk that may be caused. With a lot of do it yourself people out there, some steps can be taken to build a new closet for a furnace, with full correlation of proper codes and safety.

 In the area that the furnace is located, regular access to air and oxygen is vital. This can be assured by the use of combustion vents inside the closet. These vents are usually pipes that stem down from the attic, with one near the top of the closet and the other dropping to the bottom portion. These combustion vents usually need to extend well into the attic (14 inches) for safety.

 Finishing out the ceiling and top parts of the closet are also vital parts to the process. . Whether it was a new location for the closet with no ceiling or already enclosed, you can improve it to make the home safer. With a no ceiling closet, drywall may have to be installed to enclose the area. If the ceiling is already enclosed or has been enclosed, insulation is the next key addition. With insulation, it’s important to remember to keep the areas where the vents are clear of insulate, that way air can move freely.

 One of the steps that can be taken to ensure a totally safe spot for an indoor furnace is to work on the door itself. Wood can be used to close off any vent locations within the door. A piece of plywood can be connected to the backside of the door and sealed for the proper ventilation.

Finally, weather stripping the door itself can make sure that the water heater extends beyond the building envelope. This will give the door to the closet a good, tight seal that helps to cap suggestions to making your furnace area safer.

 With most combustion or furnace issues, the smartest thing to do is to contact a licensed home inspector or contractor to help decide the best technique for improving your home experience. Consultation with a licensed and experienced home inspector will allow you to seek knowledge from someone who has the knowledge and wherewithal to suggest a proper technique for making your home safer.

Foundation Watering in the San Antonio Area

Foundation Watering in the San Antonio Area

By Kala Bell

Home owners certainly have a bunch to take care of on a daily basis, so much so that certain responsibilities can often get lost in the fold, especially with first time home owners. This could be any number of things from a simple indoor task, to home inspection or maintenance issues that simply need to be tended to on a regular basis.

With the heat and dry weather being a problem in the area, foundation watering is often a crucial part of the home maintenance process. Whether you are running a San Antonio apartments complex or are a first time home owner, you will want to follow a watering schedule to help prevent any long run foundation issues with your home.

Having a solid foundation at home is something that is often lost on homeowners in the area. Unfortunately, sometimes a foundation can experience movement that can damage a house. Soil that is expansive often acts like a sponge, absorbing water, and then swelling to lose water as it shrinks down. A controlled watering program can help to put an end to damage from season to season.

A great way to ensure good results is to install a soaker hose a proper distance away from the foundation. It’s important not to have the hose right against the foundation, as this can cause trouble. Water can end up moving through the cracks and accumulate at the bottom. This could end up affecting the tightness of the soil, as well as the sturdiness of the foundation itself.

One necessity during the process of watering the foundation is to invest in a water timer. This is mainly because many people simply forget to consistently water the area. Most times of the year, the timer should be set to water for once a week for about an hour. Obviously the timer itself would also have to be altered based on the current weather conditions.

Certainly, the summertime can boast greater necessity for watering during the dry and hot months of the year. The amount could go up considerably in comparison to the cooler months. Finding the right amount will require comparing an increase in the water bill and the control of the foundation itself. Long term, there will need to be enough water to keep the moisture stable in the soil under the foundation itself.

While foundation watering is just one of the many lawn maintenance issues that could arise as a home owner, it could end up being very crucial, especially in an area that has dry weather throughout the years such as Texas does.

So now you have found that dream home, what next? (part 2)

Ok, you are now into your option period!


You have paid your option fee and the seller has set an option period. What is the option period and what do you do now? The option period is the length of time you have to back out of your contract for any reason what so ever, this is the time in which you need to have the home inspected and peruse any bids for repairs that was noted on the inspection report. It is wise to have the home inspected for WDI (wood destroying insects) as well. After the option period has expired, you have further executed your contract and it becomes much more difficult to back out of the agreement without being held liable for additional damages to the seller under BREACH OF CONTRACT.

Most option periods are from 5-10 days but can be as little as one day or as long as 30 days, some sellers base the option fee off of the length of the option period. We recommend that you obtain 10-14 days for an option period 1-5 days is just not long enough to do everything that needs to be done during this time period. Keep in mind the option period does include weekends and the day of execution of the contract. If your contract is executed at 2 pm although most of that day is wasted it still counts as one of your option days.

Find your Home Inspector and WDI inspector before you sign your Option Period Contract a good inspector can inspect which ever home you choose (we will go into more detail on other posts on this subject). Don’t waste valuable time during the option period trying to locate the Inspectors you want to use. Don’t forget every day counts.
Although time is of the essence don’t be lead into the option period thinking you have to get your inspection the first day (hopefully you have 10-14 days). Many people will feel so pressured by the time line and thinking it must be inspected the first day that they will hire the first inspector that can get out to the home. This is a huge mistake you don’t want to make, but at the same time don’t put it off till the last day or two either. Hopefully by the 2nd or 3rd day you are having your inspection, review the report and decide if this home is for you. Don’t forget you have not bought it just yet, you can still back out.

Take a day and review your report line by line, if you believe this is the right home for you highlight the items of importance to you and obtain bids, as well further investigate your concerns with the contractors, try to hurry you are on a time crunch don’t take too long getting contractors on site to further evaluate the problems. Have the contracts give you bids on the items of concern so you know what the cost will be. At this point you will have to make a decision, by the house as is with no repairs, negotiate repairs with the seller or ask for a price concession. Once you figure out how you want to peruse your negotiations, an Addendum to the Option Fee Contract will have to be made based on your decision. This is where your agent comes in to help you.

Never feel pressured into buying a home by anyone, only you know what’s right for you and your family, don’t get a bunch of advice from friends and family, often bad advice is given and it hurts those relationships. You make your own decisions; surround yourself with competent people for Inspections, Contractors for bids & a course of action for repairs and obtain you a Realtor for Real Estate advice only.
Once you have done all of these things you will find you are down to your last day of a 10 day option in most cases. Don’t be rushed by others, think things through, if you don’t buy the house don’t forget there are other homes out there. Don’t feel compelled to buy the home because you’re running out of time or maybe someone else is looking at it. Sleep on things and get competent contractors involved to go more in depth. A 100 dollar option fee lost is a small price to pay in the scheme of things.

I know this is very confusing on one hand you need to take your time and think things through, on the other hand you must hurry to get all the experts involved and on site before your Option Period is Up. After all the experts have been on site, you need a good day to crunch the numbers and insure this is a wise decision.

Jeff Adams

So now you have found that dream home, what next? (part 1)

So now you have found that dream home

what next?


  Most contracts to purchase a preowned home start with an option period contract, what is an option period contract? You will hear lots of different ideas of what the option contract means all of which seem to be somewhat flawed in idealism. Basically what happens is you agree to purchase a home, you put up your earnest money to show your intent on purchasing the home,  but wait that’s not the end.


  An option contract is executed when the option fee is agreed upon (usually 25.00-100.00) and the option period time line is set (usually 3-10 days) by the buyer and seller, the option fee is basically a fee paid by the buyer to secure a period to inspect the home and still back out. There is a lot of problems with this idea, in no other instance can i find where you have to pay a non refundable fee to inspect the goods.


  When was the last time you were at Best Buy to look for a T.V and before you could turn on the T.V. the sales person says wait I need 25.00 dollars that you don’t get back just to turn on the T.V., or when you were car shopping the Sales Person won’t let you test drive the car until you pay a 50.00 dollar fee? It is widely reported by the Real Estate sales Community the fee is because while you’re looking at buying the home and having your inspections the seller is taking the home off the market, this is just not the case, all the time during your option period the home is being marketed for back up contracts and in many cases the home is still being shown.


  The option contract is a way to further tie you to the home, over the years the option fee has steadily increased and will probably do so in the future. The higher the fee the more compelled a buyer will become to not want to walk away from the fees but rather feel obligated to hang in there and negotiate the purchase of the home (at least that’s the plan devised). The one good thing about the fee is it does allow you to back out for any reason during this option period with the only damages due the seller are the option fee’s, although this sounds great in theory it is still a farce. Almost all of the time there are enough substantial repairs on an existing home, the inspection report alone is enough to be able to kill the deal on your end no matter how late in the game it becomes. Most lenders will not lend on a home with a substantial repairs if they are made aware of the defects. Not securing your loan is grounds to terminate the contract.


  Now that we understand a little about the OPTION PERIOD CONTRACT it seems a little ludicrous that without paying the seller a fee you do not have the right to inspect the goods, this Option Period Contract may be a way to circumvent numerous Laws. We talked about the Car Dealer above, if the idea the seller is being paid for taking the home off the market and losing perspective buyers couldn’t the same thing be said about the car dealer, while you are out test driving a car they could lose sales, yet you do not have to pay them a fee or while trying out that new TV another prospective buyer can’t look at that TV. It is the cost of doing business. We will go a step further, while your realtor is out showing you a house, they are losing perspective clients, yet you are not paying a fee to them while they are out with you.


  Don’t forget you already put up Ernest money to show your good faith on the purchase of the home, the Option Period is just another Poor Tactic Used in the purchase of your home. Be smart Limit your amount of damages by negotiating long option periods with a low option fee being paid.

Part 2 of Option Period Contract

Failures in Builders Binding Arbitration



State-sought home fixes rarely made

Construction board lacks authority to have builders correct defects


04:50 PM CDT on Thursday, October 12, 2006

By PAULA LAVIGNE / The Dallas Morning News

Buyers of brand-new homes with cracked foundations, leaking roofs and other problems are still living with defects after turning to a state-run program designed to resolve their disputes with builders.

Good news: In about nine of 10 investigations, Texas officials have told builders to make repairs.

Bad news: Two years into the program, most builders haven’t made the fixes.

The Dallas Morning News contacted more than 60 homeowners in North Texas who took their problems to the Texas Residential Construction Commission. Of the 23 who responded, only four said the builder made some or all of the repairs recommended.

The informal survey seems to echo the sentiment of a statewide review of 102 homeowners. Of those, 88 said the builder didn’t make the repairs suggested by the commission, according to a state comptroller’s office report released this year. Some of those included cases still being reviewed, commission officials said.

The Legislature formed the construction commission in 2003 to handle complaints about new homes. The commission investigates and recommends repairs, but it lacks the power to force builders to comply. As a result, homeowners and consumer activists have criticized the agency for its inaction.

Agency set to put complaints online
Visit the Wilson home, where cracks run through concrete, drawers don’t open, and a ball rolls down the crooked mantle
Chat transcript: TRCC executive director Duane Waddill on reporting problems and getting information on builders
Home Owners for Better Building
• Tell your story and view other complaints
Texas Residential Construction Commission
• Search for builders 

Contact the commission at (877) 651-TRCC(8722) or by e-mail at
Agency officials said their rulings would help homeowners prevail in whatever legal action or other options the owners pursued. But owners say the rulings have not provided a boost.

Even builders acknowledge that progress has been slow, with only 35 percent of those involved in complaint investigations saying they’ve resolved their disputes with homeowners, according to agency reports.

“I’d like the number to be higher,” said TRCC executive director Duane Waddill, who said he’s personally investigating cases in which the builder is not cooperating.

Homeowners often find that if they don’t get relief through the agency, their options are limited.

Some may opt for a private, fee-based arbitration hearing. An arbitrator’s decision is legally binding, not subject to appeal and not made public, unlike a court judgment. Almost all large builders have mandatory arbitration clauses in their contracts. But arbitration can be a risk for homeowners, as some end up owing the builders.

Disgruntled owners can also file lawsuits if their contracts allow, but legal fees can mount.
Only fraction complain

Builder associations support the agency’s oversight and say most homeowners are satisfied customers.
The 525 investigations initiated in two years with the TRCC represent about one-tenth of 1 percent of about 373,000 homes built and registered in Texas during that time.
Investigations can include multiple problems. Inspectors reviewed 7,730 alleged defects. They confirmed about 60 percent and suggested the builder make repairs, according to a TRCC report released last month.

Most cases with defects found were in homes built by custom or smaller-scale builders. The region’s top 20 large-volume builders, such as D.R. Horton, accounted for fewer than 10 percent of cases with recommended repairs, according to a Morning News analysis of two years of TRCC records.

“We’re focusing on a very, very small number of situations where … communication and other things have broken down,” said Scott Norman, vice president of governmental affairs and general counsel for the Texas Association of Builders.

“A lot of the time [defects] might be a minor paint blemish or ruffled carpet. Those are all getting repaired,” Mr. Norman said.

Robert Martinez of Tyler said his builder blew him off for two years before he complained to the TRCC.
Water had seeped in from a leaky window and damaged his hardwood floors.

The TRCC inspector ordered the builder to fix the window, replace the floors and make other repairs stemming from a plumbing leak, Mr. Martinez said.

The builder started work within a month, Mr. Martinez said.

“I’m pretty satisfied,” Mr. Martinez said. “I guess I was one of the few fortunate ones.”
‘Builder said no’

Sachse homeowner Jean Cogdell is still waiting.

TRCC officials ruled in February that her home’s foundation shifted because the builder failed to properly prepare the soil. They recommended the builder consult an engineer on foundation repairs, improve the drainage and fix interior cracks.

“The builder said no,” Ms. Cogdell said.

Now she, her husband and their attorney are assessing whether they should go to arbitration – required by their contract – or just pay for repairs themselves.

“Most [homeowners] are barred from filing lawsuits and are subjected to a biased and costly binding arbitration process,” said Janet Ahmad, president of HomeOwners for Better Building, a national consumer advocacy group based in San Antonio. “Without enforcement authority, builders have no incentive to build homes correctly or even make repairs.”

But Mr. Waddill said he’s trying to do as much as he can within the TRCC’s powers.

He described a recent encounter with a McKinney builder.

“I asked, ‘What is your good faith effort? What are you doing to operate with integrity and honesty in the state of Texas? What actions are you taking to deal with this?’ ” he said, adding that the builder later offered the owners money for repairs.

Some builders say that they’ve offered to make repairs but that some demands are unreasonable.
Bradley Taylor, division president of Lennar Homes in Dallas, said his company agreed to make the TRCC-recommended repairs for an Allen homeowner more than two years ago, but the owner wanted more.

Mr. Taylor said, “If they called me today and said, ‘Next Wednesday at 5 o’clock,’ I’d make that [the repairs] happen. … I feel like we’ve gone above and beyond.”

Other options
Homeowners whose problems are not resolved by the agency are faced with myriad options that are often complicated and costly. 

Irving homeowner Sam Lyle said it would cost up to $38,000 to repair his foundation. An attorney told him she thought he’d have a good case against the builder. But he can’t afford her $500 fee.

“I don’t intend to give up,” he said. “Who knows, maybe $500 will just fall out of the sky.”
Some smaller, custom homebuilders simply disappear or threaten bankruptcy if homeowners don’t agree to a settlement.

Ms. Cogdell, whose Sachse home needs foundation repair, said builder Doug Buchar told her that he might file for bankruptcy if she continued the case.

Mr. Buchar could not be reached at several phone numbers.

The Cogdells’ contract requires arbitration. Agreeing to that process means that both sides consent to bringing disputes before a private arbitrator, whose decision is binding. It also means that owners give up their right to have a judge or jury decide the case.

Guy Combs, a homeowner in Alpine in West Texas, said arbitration backfired for him. He lined up about 20 expert witnesses and provided several inspection reports to support his claims that builder negligence led to damaged stucco, a leaking roof and mold.

The arbitrator ruled against him, in part because, she said, he contributed to the damages. She ordered him to pay the builder $68,000 for legal fees, which he negotiated to $50,000.

Favoring arbitration
Builders favor arbitration over the courtroom because arbitrators come from a pool of people – attorneys, inspectors, appraisers – who have construction expertise. Critics of arbitration say those ties create a bias. They also suspect arbitrators prefer to side with builders because they want repeat business.

Jeff Adams, a home inspector in San Antonio who worked as an arbitrator, said he received a couple of cases a month until he decided a case in favor of a homeowner.
“I never got another assignment after that,” he said.

Leaders of two of the nation’s largest arbitration providers, the American Arbitration Association and Construction Arbitration Services, say that strict ethical standards guide their practice and that arbitrators have no incentive to favor builders.

We would refuse to do business with any organization in any industry that wanted to influence us in any way,” said Edward Hartfield, executive director of CAS in Clinton Township, Mich. “We will never compromise neutrality and impartiality.”

Both Mr. Hartfield and Richard Naimark, senior vice president of the American Arbitration Association, believe there’s a balance between the percentage of cases decided in favor of builders vs. the percentage won by homeowners.
But they don’t have hard numbers or definitive studies.

By year’s end, the TRCC hopes to have results from a Texas study of arbitration cases and demographics based on discussions with attorneys, builders, homeowners and arbitrators, Mr. Waddill said. The report is to be presented to the Legislature in January.

Mr. Waddill said he requested money for three ombudsmen and two clerical workers to help follow up with homeowners struggling to get builders to make repairs.

The agency also plans to make detailed information about complaints and resolutions searchable on its Web site.

Location: Allen

REX C. CURRY / Special to DMN Richard and Olivia Tackett had problems when water came through the synthetic stucco on their Allen home.
Defect: Synthetic stucco on the home’s exterior allowed water to seep in, ruining the framing and baseboards and prompting mold growth.

Response: The builder did not respond to the Texas Residential Construction Commission’s repair recommendations. The Tacketts sued. Both parties agreed to mediation and settled on an amount to pay for the repairs. The exact terms are sealed, but Mrs. Tackett said the couple, “significantly compromised on our demands to settle the dispute.”

Builder: Norman Barfield, Barfield Building Company, of Roanoke

Builder’s comments: Mr. Barfield did not return calls.

Location: Hunt County near Caddo Mills

Defect: The Wilsons pointed out more than 20 defects in their home, backed up by a private inspector who said the problems were caused by shoddy construction. But the commission’s inspector ruled that the builder’s only fault was using the wrong paint. He recommended the builder pay to correct the color.

Action: The builder did not respond to the commission recommendation, and he did not address the other issues.

Builder: Richard Willingham, formerly of Garland

Builder’s comments: Mr. Willingham said the Wilsons still owed him money for his work on the house, which is the main reason he didn’t take care of their paint problems. He disagrees with the second inspector’s report. “There was nothing wrong with that house,” he said.

Location: Forney

REX C. CURRY / DMN Kathy Heddin said her builder did not make repairs that were promised.

Defect: The commission determined that the builder needed to fix an electrical outlet, level the bathroom floor, repair cracks in the drywall, replace portions of the sidewalk and fix a possible leak that was causing the foundation to shift. Both the homeowners and builder believe the house shifted because of a drainage problem, but they disagree on who is at fault.

Action: The builder did not make the repairs. The Heddins filed a lawsuit and are awaiting the builder’s response. Mrs. Heddin (above) said the builder has threatened to file for bankruptcy.

Builder: Jeffrey Todd Liles, Liles Custom Homes, of Garland

Builder’s comments: Mr. Liles said the Heddins ruined the drainage when they leveled their back yard, causing the foundation to shift. He said he’s willing to take care of all other problems outlined in the report, but the foundation issue stands in the way. “They requested I buy the house back at $200,000, when I only sold it to them for $150,000. It’s way above and beyond what I had any intention of doing.”


Please visit the full Article at: The Dallas Morning News