Archive for the ‘Handyman’ Category

Why construction building permits are so important

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

Just a few years ago no one seemed to care if a home improvement or addition was done without permits.  Appraisers are now required to call out differences between square footage on tax records and actual measurements.  If the home has an addition that was done without permits some banks will not lend on the property, others reduce or eliminate the value of the addition.

When you buy a foreclosure permits are even more important because you don’t get any history of what improvements were done or who did the work.  When improvements are done by a homeowner or unskilled worker the results can be disastrous.  I have seen beautiful bathrooms with the marble falling off the shower walls because it was not installed correctly.  This is something you would not be able to see, and likely a home inspector would not be able to find until the damage was obvious.  I have also run into homes that had windows installed without permits and the windows did not have any headers (the beams that support the wall and roof above the window).  The windows in this same house were installed in such a fashion that the walls had no shear (support that would keep the home from falling down in strong winds or mild earthquake).

Electrical work done by homeowners is almost always done incorrectly and creates unsafe wiring and grounding, overloaded circuits, and unprotected wires.

We don’t like getting permits because it cost money, slows down the job, and of course the building inspector will see everything you are doing. Most people feel they are doing a good job and the permits are not necessary but building codes are designed for safety and are not always easy to follow.

If you buy a home that had work done without permits and you start a project with permits it is possible the building inspector will notice the other work that was done and make you get permits for the old work.  Remember, the responsibility follows the home so once you own the home you also own the improvements that were done by prior owners.

Most homes in Marin County are older and I would guess that many, if not most, of them have had work done without the proper permits.  When buying a home a full investigation of its permit history is in order.   Talk to the county or City, look at the permits and if the permit does not have a “final” stamp that means the work was not done or at least not signed off by the building inspector.  Buy the house if you like it but discount your price for work that may need to be redone.

Is Your Granite Countertop Radioactive

Tuesday, August 5th, 2008
Granite Countertop

Granite Countertop

The fad for granite kitchen countertops looks like it may last a couple of million years, the radiation that is, not the fad. According to Rice University physics professor, W.J. Llope, some granite countertops have enough uranium to pose a danger to humans. Some of the countertops produce both radon and radiation. Radon is the number two cause of lung cancer just behind smoking.

Some granite countertops emit radiation at levels much higher than typical atmosphere exposure. Some samples have levels 25 times higher than recommended EPA levels. Not much testing has been done on kitchen radiation and radon levels but it appears most countertops are in the safe range according to the Marble Institute of America. None the less, if it were my home I would go for the testing.

The American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologist have a web site that can help you find someone local and qualified to test your counters. The cost can run several hundred dollars. Also, if you Google “radon test kits” you can find them for under $12.00 at Amazon but they will not test for radiation. I would recommend the professional over the self-test kits.

Most of Marin County real estate does not have an issue with radon from the ground so not many properties here have been tested but it looks like this might be a newly popular test, for the kitchen anyway.

Tired of paying the MMWD

Friday, August 1st, 2008
Water Well

Water Well

With ever increasing water rates and the constant threat of a water shortage it makes you wish you had own well.  Getting a well that produces enough water may not be as easy or inexpensive as you imagine as I learned while hunting for agriculture land for a client.

Wells are measured by the number of gallons per minute they produce.  For residential use usually five gallons per minute is adequate and even with that amount you many need to time when you water your yard.  One solution for temporary heavy usage is to have a storage tank that will fill during slack usage.

Drilling a test well usually run $15,000 a pop and it can take several tries before they hit water, if they find it at all.  Then there is the issue of well running dry.  It can happen seasonally or during low water years.  If you are in the county and that happens you need to truck water in.

I do know of someone that drilled their own well in San Anselmo.  This was in the “old days”, it was hand drilled and he only had to go 30 feet when he found an underground spring.  That sounds great, but the time being I will stay with the Marin Municipal Water District.

Warren Carreiro, Broker

Switching over to an electric leaf blower

Sunday, July 27th, 2008

Some communities in Marin have banned or restricted gas leaf blowers.  The original bans in Belvedere were enacted because of noise issues.  Who wants to be woken up by your neighbor’s gardener at 8:00 A.M. Saturday morning? 


I still have my old gas blower in the garage; it has not been used in years, not because I was the first to go Green or didn’t want to disturb the neighbors.  They are just too hard to start, it would take me ten or fifteen minutes just to get the blower out of the garage and started. 


My wife purchased an electric Toro blower/vacuum for the yard and she loves it.  I was somewhat skeptical, how could that machine keep up with a Tim-the-tool-man Taylor gas blower?  Well, it does and we never have to run to the gas station, worry about neighbors, and are as green as you can be without raking (that will be our next step).  Not that I have anything against raking, it often works best, but for some of those tricky areas, nothing seems to work as well as a weed blower. 


I think the trend is good, we need to learn to get away from these gas powered lawn mowers and blowers.  Not only are the noisy but they also are not good for the environment and who wants to make our oil-producing neighbors richer than they already are.



Warren Carreiro, Broker

Frank Howard Allen Realtors


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