12/13/2013 8:09:00 AM Ask the contractor: Don't ignore warning signs that your home's foundation is being compromised
Sandy Griffis Yavapai County Contractors Association
This time of the year, due to wet weather, we see many foundation issues start to surface. There are early warning signs that you could have a foundation issue, and it is better to address those problems now then wait and be faced with several thousand dollars' worth of repairs.
We know that houses settle over time, and it is important to be attentive and watchful for any changes, such as doors that are difficult to close or windows that are hard to open and close. If you see cracks in the walls or over doorjambs and above the windows, you could have a problem. Cracks in ceramic tile flooring is another indicator there could be a foundation problem.
Make sure you have gutters installed and that all water is draining away from the foundation. Never install flowerbeds and landscaping up against the foundation, as this leads to water seepage. Check the outside of the home to see if the foundation is straight and that there are no curves or bulging of stucco or concrete block. Make sure that the perimeter foundation is not chipping or flaking away - concrete should never be soft or able to be chipped away.
If you have a crawlspace or a basement, check for moisture or ponding water. These are signs of moisture entering the home.
Stair-step cracks in masonry joints are an issue and a concern, especially if the crack is larger than 1/4 inch.
Horizontal cracks are an issue and this should be looked at immediately.
Hairline cracks in the mortar or concrete are considered nothing to worry about, unless they start to expand and become larger.
If you have concerns, it would be good to call in a structurural engineer for a report, and they can determine if this is normal settling and/or a structural issue. Most structural engineers charge for these inspections and evaluations and a solution.
Q: We are in the market for a new water heater and are thinking of going with a tankless system.-Tom and Ruth, Prescott
A: Washing clothes, showering and doing dishes are major users of hot water, and a tankless system is a way to keep you out of "hot water" financially because of several advantages over a standard system.
A tankless system does not warm the water until you need it, whereas a standard system keeps the water warm whether or not you are using it.
Tankless systems take a small amount of space and can even be mounted on a wall. A tankless system can last up to 20 years, while a standard system has a life of 10+ years. A tankless system is less likely to rust and leak than the conventional water heaters.
If you are thinking of going with a tankless system, figure out what size unit you require. Tankless systems are rated by the gallons of hot water they produce per minute. The amount of hot water that you use in your home at any time will be the determining factor. The average rule of thumb is 3-4 gallons per minute of hot water for a family.
There are tax credits available through the end of the year, but it would be wise to confirm with a plumber to make sure the unit you are considering qualifies for the tax credit. Energy Star says that a standard home can reduce water-heating expense by $100-$120 per year with an energy-efficient gas tankless water heater. It is important to look at the payback period as well.
If your standard system is starting to show wear, now would be a good time to get it replaced before the end of the year to take advantage of the tax credit. Better now than when it stops working, because when a water heater fails there is a huge probability for a big, wet mess, the likelihood of being without hot water for an extended period of time, and having to call in a plumber on an emergency basis.
Yavapai County Contractors Association (YCCA) is a professional association representing licensed, bonded and insured contractors, suppliers, distributors and business entities. Call YCCA for information on hiring a contractor at 778-0040. Submit questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or through www.ycca.org.