Failing Caulk or Grout Can Lead to Mold, Mildew or Worse

To seal joints, such as those between a tub and wall, caulk is applied to create an airtight and watertight junction.  In the past tar or pitch were often applied for nautical or plumbing purposes, but today, caulk is made of materials such as silicone, latex or acrylic.

Since caulk is often employed in areas that are wet or damp, it may become moldy or begin to decay over time.  When caulk fails, walls or other surfaces may experience water damage.  That is why periodically old caulk may need to be removed and new caulk applied.

To make easier work of caulk removal, applying a gel to the caulk and letting it work overnight can make the stripping easier.  Once it has softened, a caulk removal tool (scraper) can be used to remove it.  Some people prefer a utility knife or blade, but an inadvertent poke or jab can lead to wall damage.  Loose pieces of caulk can be pulled off by hand and any residue removed by scrubbing with an old toothbrush.  Once the area is clean, a very mild concentration of bleach and water should be carefully applied to remove any mold spores.  The surrounding tile should also be cleaned, to make sure the new caulk will adhere properly.  Once the joints are completely dry, new caulk can be piped in.

Another joint sealant that may need attention from time to time is grout placed between floor or wall tiles to hold tiles in place.

Sometimes a structural failure may cause a floor to shift and grout will then dissolve or crumble over time.  Alternatively, grout may have been mixed with too much water, causing it to break down.  Whatever the reason, the floor or wall needs to be re-grouted before the problem expands to other areas.

Damaged grout can be removed most easily by inserting the blade of a grout saw into the joint with the damaged grout and moving it back and forth.  More force can be applied if necessary, but it is important to keep surrounding tiles intact.  After cleaning the grout line with a vacuum, new grout can be added.  Pre-mixed grout has the proper proportions of sand and cement, and needs the addition of water to make the grout pliable.  It can then be pushed into the joint with a grout float and smoothed with the rounded end of a craft (Popsicle) stick.

Once the grout is in place, it is necessary to clean the surrounding tiles of excess grout.  Using a clean sponge and rinsing often will prevent smearing.  A mixture of equal parts of water and white vinegar can also serve as an effective rinse.  Temperatures and humidity will affect drying times but contact with the floor should be avoided until the grout has totally set.

The final step is the application of a grout sealer with a small brush.  The sealer also needs adequate time to dry.  In a pinch, most tile shops offer sanded caulk in colors that will match most existing grout colors. This caulk should only be used for very minor tile gaps of one-quarter inch or less.

Home Inspections: Protecting Your Investment

A good home inspection process is something that most people don’t know about but should. Truth be told, it can protect one of the biggest investments of your life.

Some people consider home inspectors as doomsayers but in reality, they are actually your best friends in ensuring that you get the most value for your money when investing in a home.

A home inspection is a visual examination of a house’s physical structure and utility systems, from the roof to the foundation and structural integrity. In all this, the current condition of a house is determined.

The standard home inspection procedure establishes the condition of the house’s internal and external set-up, ranging from the plumbing,electrical systemcentral air conditioning system, roof and attic, visible insulation, as well as the walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors, and the foundation structure that includes the basement and its components.

When buying a house, ensuring it with a home inspection helps to avoid the hassles of dealing with substandard building materials or hidden flaws in a house’s structure.

Even if selling a house is far from your mind, a home inspection can be a great aid in determining any problems that exist in the home as well as how to prevent the costly repairs that would develop.

Take note of these important things:

  • Never attempt to conceal any defects that you are aware of and always allow the inspector to take their time in inspecting the condition of the home.
  • Remember the inspector is there to help you identify problems that may need your immediate attention and help save you the trouble of costly repairs.
  • Another important area the inspector will go through is the house’s electrical system.  The inspector may need to remove the cover on the electrical panel to examine the components, so be sure that the panel is accessible and that the cover can easily be removed.
  • Every area of the home must be made accessible, particularly the utility room areas, basement, attic, and crawl spaces.

Be aware of these things when preparing for the home inspection and that will make it a pleasant experience.

The bottom line is to focus on not just consumer protection, but for the investment of the client, since investing in a home is not a joke, it could be the biggest investment you make.

So think of it this way: home inspectors are there to protect your investment!

10 Steps To A Smooth Inspection And Cleaner Report

1) If you own pets, it’s recommended that they be caged or removed from the home during the inspection. Your potential buyer and their family will likely attend the inspection and even the most friendly pet may become uncomfortable or territorial around strangers.

2) Keep in mind that a little house cleaning goes a long way in helping speed the inspection process. You may also consider cleaning up after your pets to avoid a negative impression for your buyer and/or accidental tracking into your home.

3) It’s important to make sure that all the utilities to the home are turned on and that all gas appliances are lit. You will also want to be sure that all major components in the home have easy access and are cleared for inspection.  Inspectors are not allowed to ignite gas appliances or move personal belongings to access items or areas such as the; attic, crawlspace, electrical panel, furnace, water heater, etc. Also, remember to open any locked areas.

Special note: It is likely that loose insulation or debris will drop from the attic access when opened. Although we are very careful, you may wish to open the access yourself or cover up any personal items below the access, prior to the inspection. 

4) All kitchen appliances will need to be tested. Clearing your stove, oven, microwave and dishwasher, will help speed the process and prevent accidental damage to stored items.

5) To keep these minor issues from appearing on the inspection report, you should consider changing your furnace filter, blown or missing light bulbs and smoke detector batteries. You may wish to make small repairs like installing missing light switch and receptacle covers, fixing minor plumbing leaks or cracked windows.

6) All windows and toilet tank lids will need to be opened for inspection. It’s a good idea to remove any decorations placed in these locations to avoid accidental damage or a disclaimer of “not inspected” to appear in the report.

7) Windows will be inspected and operated throughout the home. Opening your blinds and curtains will help to prevent accidental damage and allow for a much quicker inspection.

8) If you would like to let the inspector know anything about your home, please feel free to leave a list/letter on the kitchen counter. Any repair and/or maintenance records regarding the home and it’s systems will also be very helpful to the inspector and your potential buyer.

9) It is customary for the seller of the home to not be present at the inspection. If you plan on attending the inspection, please be courteous to your buyer by being available to answer any questions but keep yourself separated throughout the inspection process. It’s important to allow your buyer the needed space to talk comfortably with the inspector about the home.

10) At the end of the inspection, the inspector will review his findings with your potential buyer. The review is very critical to the buyers understanding of the inspection. To allow the buyer to be comfortable asking questions and addressing any concerns with the inspector, we recommend that you not be present at this time.

Special note; If access to any items or areas is blocked, due to personal storage, the potential buyer may request that “the seller” pay for a re-inspection. Having the home properly prepared can greatly reduce the need for a re-inspection.

Radon Gas Testing:

If a radon gas test has been requested by the buyer, please maintain closed home conditions.

Closed-house conditions means keeping all windows closed, keeping doors closed except for normal entry and exit, and not operating fans or other machines which bring in air from outside. Fans that are part of a radon-reduction system or small exhaust fans operating for only short periods of time may run during the test.
Please keep closed home condition 12 hours prior to the test being conducted as well as during the 48 hour test.

After The Inspection:

Please know that at Five Star Home Inspections we try our very best to leave your home in the same condition we found it. However, we also know that we are human and want to ensure your safety and the proper function of items that have been tested.

Please re-check all your window and door locks, your thermostats for desired setting and GFCI receptacles, especially if you have a freezer or refrigerator plugged into a GFCI.  GFCI receptacles are mechanical, they can and do fail during and after testing.

Who Gets The Report?

The “Client” is the person who paid for the report and they are the sole owner of the report. Please remember, we cannot release the inspection report to anyone except the “Client” due to privacy rights.

Radon: The Invisible Hazard In Your Home

Did you know that the earth gives off natural radiation which can seep into your home and become an indoor air hazard for your family? This form of radiation is called radon gas and it comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in rocks and soil.

Radon is all around us, but when it is trapped indoors, it becomes a serious health concern. In fact, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer among smokers and the top cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. It is responsible for about 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year — killing more people than even drunk driving.

Radon is invisible and odorless and can appear in any type of home: old, new, with or without a basement. High indoor radon levels have been found in every state. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates about 1 in 15 homes have high levels of radon. That’s about 8 million homes with high levels.

Radon gas moves from the soil and rocks into our homes through openings and cracks in our home’s foundation and through sump pumps, floor drains, and even through concrete block walls. Radon can also get in through drinking water. Once indoors, radon can build up indoors to dangerous levels. When this happens, it becomes necessary to take action.

Radon is consistently rated as one of the top environmental risks addressed by the federal government and the leading environmental cause of cancer.

You can find out more about testing for, and fixing home radon problems at

What to Expect When You Are Inspecting

A property inspection is one of the most important parts of the purchasing process, yet many buyers don’t know what to expect from the various players involved. Here’s a guide to the roles and responsibilities each of the players has during a typical property inspection.

You, the Buyer

Prior to the inspection, review the seller’s property disclosures and know up front what questions you have for the inspector. Before you release your inspection contingency, know exactly what you are purchasing and that there are not any surprises down the road. Consider the importance of a termite inspection, radon testing and a sewer scope inspection. Know and understand what each test will involve and the type of issues that may or may not be discovered.

Depending on the size of the home it is recommended that you block out about 2.5 hours for the inspection. Typically the buyer’s agent and hired inspectors will be present, and these few hours can be critical. Most inspections go smoothly, but some can be the beginning of tough negotiations.

The Buyer’s Agent

Your agent should be standing by your side to walk you through the inspection process.  Professional Real Estate Agents have handled many inspections and negotiations after the inspection. If you’re getting a really good price on the home, your agent would likely advise you not to bother the seller for small fixes. If you’re paying top dollar and discover serious flaws, your agent can guide you on how to best proceed after the inspection.

The Inspector

As the buyer, you hire the home inspector, preferably ASHI Certified (American Society of Home Inspectors), the most respected professional association for home inspectors in North America.  A good inspector will remain impartial and they will point out things to be addressed. Whenever possible, follow the inspector through the process so you can learn all of the positive items of the home, any deficiencies of the home, and learn some great maintenance tips.

A wise buyer will want to know what to expect when purchasing a home and will want to be prepared for current and possible future issues.