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How Groundhog Day Could Affect Your Pipes

By | Home Maintenance Tips, Seasonal Home Maintenance | No Comments

The fate of Central Texas’ “winter” of 2020 all comes down to one day: February 2. On Sunday, Groundhog Day, Punxsutawney Phil will emerge from his burrow to look for his shadow. If he sees it, we can prep for six weeks of cold weather, but if he doesn’t see his shadow (due to a cloudy, shadowless day), bring on spring! While this iconic holiday is built on the pillars of American legend and lore, the team at Barfield Home Inspection want to ensure your home is prepared, just in case winter strikes!

With a careful eye on the forecast, February is generally the coldest month in our region. This is a great time to double-check the insulation on your pipes to ensure your water stays hot and your pipes stay open. Pipe insulation can help to save energy all year, and avoid plumbing catastrophes that can result in flooding and mold.

Check out this helpful guide from the folks at Home Depot for installing fiberglass pipe wrap and tubular insulation (pipe sticks):

To help ensure the highest quality of insulation, be sure to disconnect exterior garden hoses and use caulk to seal any cracks or holes near water pipes.

Have a great Groundhog Day and stay warm, regardless of what that Phil says! Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram for the latest tips, tricks and real estate news from the Austin, Texas area.

Why the GFCI?

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If you’ve ever woken up to a coffee pot that didn’t brew to its programmed specifications after an overnight storm, you know the frustration of a tripped outlet. While you may reset your ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet automatically and wait impatiently for your first cup of morning joe, ruminate on this: That GFCI may have just saved your life.

An electrical system can experience a number of different faults. Simply put, a fault is any abnormal flow of electricity. A ground-fault occurs when there is a break in the low-resistance grounding path from a tool or electrical system and the electrical current takes an alternative path to the ground. The danger comes in when a person enters the path of least resistance from the electrical current to the ground. Unfortunately, this can result in a serious shock or in extreme cases, death.

Before we get too grim, push pause on the panic and turn your attention to the GFCI. The GFCI, commonly found in residences, is a fast-acting circuit breaker designed to shut off electric power in the event of a ground-fault within as little as 1/40 of a second. It works by comparing the amount of current going to and returning from equipment along the circuit conductors. When the amount going differs from the amount returning by approximately 5 milliamperes, the GFCI interrupts the current.

According to OSHA,
“The GFCI is rated to trip quickly enough to prevent an electrical incident. If it is properly installed and maintained, this will happen as soon as the faulty tool is plugged in. If the grounding conductor is not intact or of low-impedance, the GFCI may not trip until a person provides a path. In this case, the person will receive a shock, but the GFCI should trip so quickly that the shock will not be harmful.”

Additionally, the GFCI protects against fires, overheating and destruction of wire insulation. Here are a few tips to help ensure you GFCI outlets stay in good working order:

  • Check the operation of all ground-fault circuit interrupter outlets by pushing the “test” button. The “reset” button should pop out indicating the receptacle is operating properly.
  • Check the GFCI safety breaker in your electrical panel. The buttons are typically white, yellow, or purple. Once the breaker has been tripped, move the breaker all the way to the “Off” position and then flip to the “On” position. If any breakers or outlets do not reset, contact a licensed electrical contractor to further evaluate.

While you may be shocked to learn the importance of your GFCI outlets, we hope this information is helpful and keeps you from experiencing an actual electrical charge. For more tips and tricks, follow us on Facebook and Instagram. Happy circuit testing!

What to expect from the Austin market in 2020

By | Home Maintenance Tips, Real Estate News | No Comments

With the holidays in our rearview mirror, we remember all we are thankful for and are reminded to celebrate on a daily basis. Living and working in the bustling mecca of Austin, Texas is at the top of our gratitude list.

While home sales, and thus inspections, tend to experience a lull in the winter months, that has not been true in 2019. In fact, December was one of our busiest months this year! We are elated to share that with the help of amazing real estate experts across Central Texas, we inspected nearly 1,000 homes in 2019. We extend heartfelt thanks to everyone who trusts our team with your business and your home. We look forward to working with even more agents and homebuyers in 2020. If you’re in the market, here’s what we might expect as the new decade begins:

  • Austin is number one. It comes as no surprise that Austin will be the top market in real estate in 2020, according to the annual Emerging Trends in Real Estate report. Although traffic and affordability are issues noted in the report, Austin also took home the highest local expectation of investor demand.
  • Will the market continue to rise? Short answer: YES. According to Mashvisor, a thriving young population, talented workforce, economic growth and tourism account for Austin’s rise in popularity. As property prices continue to rise above the national average, the metro area has the population and economy to warrant it, with no bubble in sight. Mashvisor projects an increase demand for single family homes with the possibility of a shift toward a buyer’s market.

So, what does this all mean for us? The Austin real estate market is HOT and only getting hotter as we usher in a new decade. As you prepare to sell or buy a home, we hope you will trust our team with your inspection. We’ve been in the game since 2003, and Randy Barfield was one of the first inspectors in Texas to become state licensed. We value you, your business and will always tell you like it is.

We look forward to working with you in 2020. For the latest tips, tricks and real estate market information, follow us on Facebook and Instagram. Cheers to a happy and prosperous new year!

Protect your pipes to winterize your home

By | Home Maintenance Tips, Seasonal Home Maintenance | No Comments

The time has come for us all to face the facts: winter is coming. With the first day of the season right around the corner, this is an excellent time to prepare your home for the coldest months of the year.

The biggest threats to your home during winter come from water. Water expands as it freezes, which puts tremendous pressure on metal or plastic pipes. Expanding pipes, such as those that are exposed to severe cold and your home’s exterior, and in unheated areas like basements, crawl spaces, garages and kitchen cabinets are most susceptible to breaking under pressure.

Here are a few tips for winterizing your home this month and preparing for the freezing temperatures ahead:

  • Insulate any exposed exterior plumbing pipes and hose bibs. Pick up a nice cover from the local hardware store. Alternatively, you can use duct tape, newspaper or paper bags work for a temporary fix. Duct tape is good for just about any kind of wrapping job. I even use it to wrap my wife’s presents!
  • Keep the outside valve open so that any remaining water in the pipe can expand without breaking the pipe.
  • Drip the hot and cold faucets. When temperatures dip below freezing, allowing water to trickle through exposed pipes will help prevent the pipes from freezing.
  • Open cabinets under your sinks so the warm air from the house can help keep the pipes warm enough to prevent freezing. If you have pets or small children, be sure to remove harmful chemicals before leaving the doors open.

These quick fixes can help keep your water flowing freely throughout the winter. For more tips and tricks, follow us on Facebook and Instagram. Happy insulating!

Decorating your home for the holiday

By | Home Maintenance Tips, Seasonal Home Maintenance | No Comments

With Thanksgiving behind us, it is safe to say we are officially in the holiday season! If you’re like the majority of Americans, you already have or soon plan to decorate your home with a tree, ornaments, and lights. Before you tear out the ladder, lights and tinsel, check out these tips and tricks that will help you save time, energy and help keep you and your home safe amidst all that sparkle this holiday season:

• According to the American Christmas Tree Association, 77 percent of Americans will decorate their home with a Christmas tree this year. Whether you prefer a natural or artificial tree, be sure to keep it away from all heating sources in your home. Enough said.

• Keep a fire extinguisher handy. From trees to candles, as well as extra garland and tinsel, your home is likely filled with more décor than usual. Keep fire extinguishers in accessible locations throughout your home, and ensure everyone knows how to operate it if necessary. Most fire extinguishers operate using the following P.A.S.S. technique:
PULL the pin. This will also break the tamper seal.
AIM low, pointing the extinguisher nozzle (or its horn or hose) at the base of the fire.
NOTE: Do not touch the plastic discharge horn on CO2 extinguishers, it gets very cold and may damage skin.
SQUEEZE the handle to release the extinguishing agent.
SWEEP from side to side at the base of the fire until it appears to be out. Watch the area. If the fire re-ignites, repeat steps 2-4.

• Turn all candles off before you turn in. A holiday favorite, candles provide ambient lighting and the fragrances of home. But if you’re likely to forget blowing these out on a nightly basis, turn to flameless instead.

• Whether you’re going full-on Clark Griswold or have something more tasteful in mind, you may find yourself on a ladder this month. Be sure someone stays at the ladder base to help stabilize and give you a hand if needed.

• Unfortunately, the most popular holiday plant, the poinsettia, is also toxic for pets and children. Be sure to keep these decorative displays out of harm’s reach.

We hope you have a wonderful time making your home warm, cozy and bright this holiday season, and that these tips go a long way to ensuring your safety in the process. For more tips and tricks, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

On behalf of the entire Barfield Home Inspection team, we wish you and yours a happy holiday season!

Understanding your home’s heating system

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As our Central Texas days and nights turn cooler, you may find yourself reaching for the thermostat dial to turn on what we so dearly avoid most of the summer: heat. Although some homes are heated with radiators, boilers or heat pumps, the most common residential heating source is a furnace. In preparation for winter, here are a few things you should know about your furnace to ensure it runs in tip-top shape all season long. If you run into trouble, understanding the basics of how your furnace works could save you time and money down the road.

A furnace uses gas to heat air in one area of your home, and then forces warm air through other areas via ductwork and vents. Acting as your home’s central nervous system, the thermostat sends a signal to the furnace when you adjust the temperature setting. From there, the furnace gas valve opens, igniting a burner and regulating the amount of heat. The heat circulates through the tubes of the heat exchanger, converting the heat to air. The blower then moves the newly created heat through your home’s ductwork and out through vents. The combustion gases are vented out of your home through a flue pipe, leaving comfortable, cozy, clean air to heat your casa

Before you turn your furnace on for winter, it’s a good idea to have your system inspected. In addition to ensuring your system is working efficiently, a professional can inspect the pilot light, ventilation system and look for cracks that can allow dangerous gas to seep into your home. If you smell gas, often described as having an odor similar to rotten eggs, evacuate your home immediately and call your utility company. Do not reenter the home until a professional gives you the green light. Test your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors monthly as an extra precaution.

Understanding how your furnace works can save money on rising utility bills, and give you an added sense of pride in your home. Visit our preferred vendors list for a heating professional you can trust. Stay warm, and follow us on Facebook and Instagram for the latest home maintenance tips, updates on upcoming events and other news.

Trick or Treat: It’s Halloween!

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With the coldest Halloween in decades looming, you are likely preparing to dole out candy within the next two days. Do what you can to ensure this is a safe and happy Halloween for everyone by following these simple tips:

Clear your driveway, walkways and yard for any tripping hazards, including large sticks, rocks or toys. Eager children often let their stomachs override their eyesight, and may run through these areas without looking for obstacles. Make the evening easier for them (and yourself!) by eliminating any unnecessary barriers.

Turn up the ambiance and the lights! Aid trick-or-treaters with a well-lit pathway to candy distribution.

Let Fido have a restful evening. Despite the rise of adorable pet costumes, Halloween is not ideal for pets. Be sure your pets are housed in a safe location to reduce the likelihood of escape from the combination of a constantly ringing doorbell and opening door.

Lock your doors. Although it may be tempting to leave your door open as neighborhood children come by in a steady stream, the adage “better safe than sorry” rings true here. Unfortunately, burglaries often take place without forced entry, where a door or window is unlocked. On this holiday, avoid unwanted ghouls in your home.

Go flameless. Jack-o-lanterns are an iconic decoration for any home, but unfortunately pose a fire hazard risk. Get the same effect with a lot less worry by using flameless candles, which now come in a variety of colors and even flicker!

From the entire Barfield team, we hope you have a boo-tiful Halloween, full of tricks and treats. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for the latest home maintenance tips, and updates on upcoming events and other news.

Clean your gutters this October to protect your home

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Gutters are easily one of the most forgotten components of your home’s exterior. Homeowners tend to forget about them, until they’re not working. The trouble is, gutters play a vital role in your home’s maintenance and longevity.

Simplistic by nature, gutters play one primary role: they protect your home from water damage. Gutters collect rainwater and use downspouts to divert the water from your home’s foundation. When your gutter system works properly, it averts these dangers:

• Water damage to your roof, which can cause rot, deterioration or mold in shingles, soffit, fascia and masonry
• Moisture in windows that can damage sills or interior walls
• Water along the foundation, which can quicken erosion, damage your foundation and landscaping, and even cause basement flooding

Like any functional tool, gutters need regular maintenance to work properly. Falling leaves and other debris can build up in your gutters, preventing them from working effectively. Even though we haven’t seen much rain in Central Texas, your home needs gutters. Take advantage of the end of our dry season to clean your gutters before winter and cooler temperatures set in.

To clean your gutter system, you’ll need:
• A ladder
• A bucket
• A hand shovel
• Gloves to scoop out leaves and other debris

While removing your gutters from buildup is the primary goal, use this as an opportunity to inspect for leaks. Leaks typically start around joints or seams, and can be repaired caulk or sealant. Once you’re finished, give our team a call. We are happy to come out and inspect your work, and make recommendations about any necessary repairs.

Maintaining your gutters can protect the longevity of your roof, foundation and home. Utilize a few hours this fall to ensure they are in good working order before winter, and if you need a hand, give us a call! Before you get started, reference these ladder safety tips from OSHA and remember to be safe up on the roof.

Following these tips should help to protect your home from cooler weather and water. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more year-round home maintenance tips.

Join us for our Fall Homebuying Happy Hour

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Believe it or not, fall has begun! Although temperatures are still above average, so is performance in the local real estate market. Randy and the team at Barfield Home Inspection have just the answer to help you cool off and wrap your head around the biggest questions facing Austin home buyers and real estate agents alike: happy hour!

Mark your calendars and join us for our FREE Fall Homebuying Happy Hour, Thursday, October 3 from 4–6 p.m. You’ll hear from local real estate industry experts Randy Barfield of Barfield Home Inspection, Joani Ferris of Movement Mortgage, and Phillip Gunter of Farmer’s Insurance as we cover the latest trends and challenges in the marketplace, and what not to do when buying a home.

This is a great opportunity to network with Austin’s leading experts who can guide you through the home buying process, and the best part is that the advice, food and drinks are completely free! Enjoy delicious food, courtesy of grill master Randy Barfield, and drinks while our expert panel walks you through the what, when, how and whys of home buying. We will also hold a raffle to help get your home in tip-top shape for fall.

Realtors and home buyers are welcome to attend. Reserve your seat now. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and  Instagram for more events and year-round home maintenance tips. We hope to see you next Thursday!

Prepping your home for fall football

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You waited patiently through a mild winter, quick spring, and relentless summer, and it was all worth it, because tonight the NFL kicks off the 100th season of football pandemonium across the United States. Whether you are a professional or college football fan, or are just looking to spruce up your home a bit for the cooler relief of fall, here are a few tips to help you get kick started:

1) Throw a home football party. Clean your grill in time for kickoff and prepare to have a great time (as long as your team is winning). A clean grill looks better, is safer to use, and works better all around. Check out these tips from Popular Mechanics for regular cleaning, and deep cleaning, which we recommend performing twice each year.

2) Hang up your gardening hat for the fall. Make extra room in your backyard by putting away your gardening tools for the season. Before you store metal tools like rakes and shovels, scrape away any remaining soil, and spray exposed metal with a shot of WD-40 to promote longevity.

3) Clean your driveway and prep for selling this fall or winter. A good pressure wash can do wonders for your driveway and sidewalks. Just as dust can collect and create layers in your home, the same thing happens with dirt and grime in your driveway. Remove that layer of gunk for an entryway that creates an inviting appeal to your home. If you don’t own a pressure washer, home improvement stores usually rent these out for reasonable prices.

Following these tips should help to prepare your home’s exterior for fall and football weather. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more year-round home maintenance tips. Go team!