More Home Inspection Surprises

When inspecting homes, ordinary doors can provide a surprise. Some doors lead to rooms, some doors lead to a dark void, and some doors are curiously locked. Sometimes you get all three.

I was inspecting a large vacation home north of Cashiers, North Carolina, on a fast running creek. It was full of boulders, twists and turns, and waterfalls. The drive to the home was narrow and steep, leading to a heavy gate. The remote the agent gave me worked, and the gates slowly opened on complaining hinges.

The house was beautifully built into the side of the granite ledges, with stunning floor to ceiling windows. Although the home had a small footprint – perhaps 1500 square feet – two stories towered upwards, taking advantage of the very steep lot. The home had been foreclosed on, and was now vacant.

The first part of the inspection on the first floor revealed no anomalies. I started up the stairs to move upwards and noticed a closet door with a deadbolt lock. When you see something like this, owners are usually trying to protect something. Normally I note in the report that I could not access the closet or room, but in this case the bank was the owner and I doubted that they knew anything about this locked door.

I quickly got on the phone to the real estate agent.

“I’ll call the bank,” she said.

Three minutes later the phone rang.

“No one has a key to that door. If we did I’d say enter and report what you find. Can you pick it?”

“I’m no locksmith. No problem, I’ll put it in my report,” I said and hung up.

But I was curious.

I ran my hand across the top of the door trim which is where I “hide” a key. My fingers encountered an object with Velcro stuck to the trim. A key! I put the key in the lock and tried rotating it. It worked! Leaving the key in the tumbler, I turned the knob and opened the door.

A black void.

I pulled out my flashlight and aimed it into the area. A black metal circular staircase came into view. Now I felt like Nancy Drew. I started slowly down the narrow stairs and began to hear the sound of water. When I reached the bottom, my feet were on an uneven stone floor and I was in a room about six by six feet with two more doors in the walls. I looked around for a switch. I found it on the opposite wall. I flipped the switch and light filled the room. I was amazed to see that the walls were carved into the cliff.

One closet was a tiny space with an electrical box. The other door was locked with a deadbolt like the one upstairs.

“Oh! I left the key upstairs,” I said to myself. “Shoot, I’ll have to go back up and get it.”

I went back up the circular staircase to retrieve it. I moved back down the stairs to the locked door. The key worked, and I opened the door. I was in a very narrow passageway. The walls were solid rock and I could see the furrows where blasting caps had been used. I was feeling a little claustrophobic. Should I keep going?

The sound of water grew stronger as I moved slowly down the cavern path. After traveling 12 feet, I was suddenly outside! The waterfall that was visible from inside the home was directly in front of me.

What a surprise! Never underestimate what might be behind a locked door.

Lisa is a North Carolina licensed general contractor and home inspector, and the home improvement columnist for the Clay County Progress. She has designed and built several innovative homes with an eye to low maintenance and simplicity. Lisa founded Your Inspection Expert, Inc., a residential inspection company, in 2008. Experience gleaned from hundreds of inspections form the foundation for the advice in her articles.

Drape the Entrance and Walls With Incredibly Pretty Artistic Handcrafted Tiles

Tiring of excessive technology and industry, contemporary society certainly needs solace in traditional handmade goods for a change. Whether it is garments or footwear, tiles and home designs, the custom built, the handcrafted and the rustic attract a great deal of attention. Though the great variety of dramatic architectural designs nowadays witnessed do deserve a lot of praise, the artistic touch seems to be missing. The expanses of glass in the building facades and the metallic roofs and plastic canopies are mostly of single shades like a minimalist setting. Why not bring some on art that stands out amidst the concrete?

Handcrafted tiles satisfy that thirst for the traditional touch! Can you imagine each tile made by hand with a mold to get the required shape? The molds serve a great variety of shapes and sizes. It is obvious that all the tiles will not be exactly like each other, unlike the manufactured tiles. That adds the personal touch and the happiness is greater.

Which tile materials do you fancy? Porcelain tiles and glass, natural stone and metal are the most commonly used tile materials. They could all be custom built. Glass tiles bring a luminous surrounding, as if in the midst of the open. Exotic blends of metal, stone and glass are preferred in lavish business premises to attract attention. Some opulent homes do look like business centers too.

A variety of tile materials
Travertine and quartzite, porphyry and sandstone, limestone and basalt, cobble and concrete, an infinite variety would be available. Along with colors and textures, designs are necessary that stand out and make an impression. If the home is associated with a business or philosophy, such an idea could be incorporated into the artistic façade or the walls and work just like an extended advertisement. Get the required designs or pictorial patterns, motifs or themes made exactly as desired on the tiles.

A fish-breeding company would have appropriate depictions of marine life and foliage. Nature-based symbolism is rather common as we get more and more segregated from the natural world. A company that manufactures computer parts would have software-inspired designs to communicate the idea. If you are familiar with decal and wall paper patterns, they could be reproduced on tiles too, the difference being that tiles are far more permanent.

Imagine walls glowing partly and perhaps an entire accent wall from floor to ceiling with abstract shapes. Would you decorate the home entrance vividly in Mediterranean patterns? We need several forms of art to relieve the monotony of modern lives and such handmade tiles inspire a lot of sweet thoughts. Choose from the sheer beauty and variety of mosaics in the tile material of your choice.

Simple Tips For Low Cost Home Improvements

Have you been thinking about remodeling your home? Keep in mind that you can often achieve your goal without a giant expense. Small improvements introduced in almost every room, including the exterior of the house can make all the difference.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

Keep it clean and keep it simple!

A clean and neat house is appealing and eye-catching. You can start improving the appearance of your house simply by cleaning out the debris. Try making your garden look like an ideal place with some weeding and cleaning out the flower beds. Paint the front door to give your home a more welcoming feeling.

De-cluttering is also a part of cleaning, so get rid of things you don’t need to make room for new ones. The first glance is usually enough for a selective buyer to quickly estimate a house.

Does the exterior of your home need repainting? Is there a walkway that you can highlight by introducing some flowers? Remember to keep it simple. Focus on making things neat and tidy.

Two hot spots of every home:

The two most closely inspected rooms of a house are the kitchen and the master bathroom. If you are looking to focus on two hot spots, these are the interior rooms where the most value can be added during a sale, so make them look their best to increase your return on investment.

Is your kitchen may be in need of an upgrade? A well updated kitchen will dramatically increase the value of your home, so focus on spicing up this room to grab buyer attention. Renovating your kitchen using modern décor is going to instantly improve the value of your home. Many times a buyer will compromise on other rooms and will buy a home just because its kitchen is well-maintained and inviting.

The same holds true for bathrooms, especially the master bathroom. You will charm open house-goers with modern upgrades like dual vanities and soaking tubs in your master bath. Replace the faucets and clean up the bathroom counter. We would again emphasize on simplicity because for easy maintenance.

What to Invest in?

So, you’re done de-cluttering, cleaning and upgrading. What’s next? Well, if you are willing to make a good upgrade investment, it is recommended to divide your renovation plan into four parts to bring impressive improvements to your home. Here are the four areas you may want to seriously consider upgrading:

Lighting: If you are not satisfied with the lighting system in your house, replace it.

This would entail buying lighting fixtures and other equipment for each room to make it look consistent and attractive.

Plumbing: Many old homes have rusty pipes and some leakage in the plumbing that needs attention. Your home will not sell fast and at a price you have in mind if you haven’t already upgraded the plumbing system.

Flooring: Most people nowadays look for hardwood floors or alternatives that are easy to manage and provide health benefits instead of carpeting. Tiled floors are also fairly acceptable. If you think this improvement would bring you higher profits, make the investment without delay.

HVAC Replacement: Today new energy-efficient HVAC systems are being introduced to the market that incur a one-time cost and help you save huge amounts of money on utility bills. You can add a unique selling feature to your house by making this replacement part of your home improvement strategy.

What’s really worth repairing?

Remember that not all things are worth repairing; some need to be thrown out and others need to be replaced. This is a good principle to follow when staging a home.

Inspect every aspect of your home and then come up with a plan within your budget to bring a fresh crisp look to your home. You may want to replace outdated appliances in the kitchen with new modern models. Repairing old appliances is not an option. If your budget doesn’t allow an appliance upgrade, simply give the ones you use a color-boost to improve their appearance.

If you already have wooden floors installed at home, look for scratches and be prepared for some refinishing. Wooden floors are highly desirable, even if they are old and worn. Give them a little lift-up to make them more attractive and appealing.

Nowadays energy-efficiency has found its way into many of our systems including the windows. Home buyers look for the latest windows and other systems that are designed as energy-efficient since they provide a number of economical, health and environmental benefits. Replace your old windows for new energy-efficient windows to improve the value of your home.