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Home improvement tips

If you did not do your home inspection properly before buying, or defects have developed due to bad home maintenance, poor design or materials, you got a problem on your hands. Advertising this home for sale in the hopes of buying a better home may prove a waste of time and money, as the dwelling quality in a given place for a given price is pretty much the same. You are likely to buy a different set of problems, but these new problems are unlikely to make you happier. The only happier people will be the ones you pay in the process.

Most of home improvements we see on television are just advertising intended to keep the industry buoyant. The main reason for home improvement seems to be revenue generation through buying a house, painting it and selling the house. It is not unusual to see anyone improving a house to have a better environment to live in, though this theme is not much popular on television, apparently because of lack of businesses that would have a ROI from the screening. It is rarely seen when people actually do inspection of their homes to see if there are problems developing. We all understand that our cars need to be inspected, but rarely we care for the biggest asset we have.

Home improvement should literally be about improving our home. What we usually associate with the "Home Improvement" is improvement of our life in the home or profit from selling the home.

First, the longevity of the house should be ensured.
    Take time to check the following between the seasons:
  • Underfloor ventilation. Make sure that all the corners are ventilated and no vent is obstructed. You should be able to feel the air movement near any vent.
  • Underfloor water. Ensure that no water is entering the underfloor space. Check for rainwater, ground water, home water supply or sewage. The best time to check is after a prolonged period of rain, during pouring rain, and when someone is having a shower. A shower cabin often delivers nasty problems and should always be checked.
  • Underfloor rot. Take a screwdriver and a good light. Inspection in semi-darkness would be a waste of time. Poke the suspected timbers with the screwdriver to see if they are affected. It is much easier to stop the leakage or provide ventilation than repair a part of floor.
  • Foundation crumbling. This is a usual problem in old houses, but also happens in newer dwellings. The problem is usually caused by combination of poor concrete work, poor quality reinforcement bars and wetness of the concrete. The reinforcement bars increase in volume as they rust, and break the concrete that they were supposed to enforce, from the inside. This is symptomatic to New Zealand, where City Councils encourage rain absorption at the section rather than directing the run-off to storm water collectors.

    The concrete foundations get saturated with water, especially if not specifically protected. Ground water level rises, and makes the underfloor area a perfect place for rot and fungi. Often it just becomes a swamp that evaporates for weeks through the ground floor up into the rooms and stays there making the occupants sick. With time you will need a building consent to try fixing the foundation and the underfloor. You guess who profits from this the most... And what would life be like without fungi, mould and related health problems like asthma and cancer? There will be nothing to show on television (apart from the "home improvements programes?).

  • Roof. If you are rich enough to have underroof space, take a good light and get there during a heavy rain. Every drop of water makes damage to your house. Mark the problem areas with a permanent marker. Check that the supporting timbers are still straight. Check suspicious spots for rot. Check for signs of timber-eaters activity (see below). If there is no underroof cavity, the only easy way to inspect the roof is to observe colour irregularities on the ceiling and climb on the roof.
  • Walls. Everyone heard about leaky houses in New Zealand. The defect is caused by a combination of reasons, and mostly manifests itself by destroying walls. In NZ most walls have a timber frame, which is hidden from observation and the rot is not obvious until it is too late. Ensure that rain water can't get into the wall from roof, especially if the roof is of complex shape. Ensure that the windows and doors frames do not let water entering the wall cavity. Another common way to get water inside a wall is a leaking water supply pipe joint or condensation on a cold water pipe. If anything suspicious was found, it makes sense to talk to professionals that have experience with the "Leaky houses".
  • Timber eaters. The timber eating termites commonly known as "Borer" live in virtually every New Zealand house. You may see results of their activity as spots of fine dust covering the timber as adolescent acne. The insects have complex reproduction cycle and are vulnerable at specific times only. The chemicals to kill the insects are notoriously expensive. It is cheaper to talk to professionals that provide the eradication services.
Now, when you know the problems, it is a good time to address them, or do the "home improvements" before the "home demolition" becomes the best option.