Beat Summer’s Heat with a Radiant Barrier You Install Yourself!

Based on original content from Elizabeth Spencer; US Department of Energy

Radiant barriers are installed in attics—primarily to reduce summer heat gain and reduce cooling costs. The barriers consist of a highly reflective material that reflects radiant heat rather than absorbing it.

How They Work
Heat travels from a warm area to a cool area by a combination of conduction, convection, and radiation. Radiant heat travels in a straight line away from any surface and heats anything solid that absorbs its energy. When the sun heats a roof, it's primarily the sun's radiant energy that makes the roof hot. Much of this heat travels by conduction through the roofing materials to the attic side of the roof. The hot roof material then radiates its gained heat energy onto the cooler attic surfaces, including the air ducts and the attic floor. A radiant barrier reduces the radiant heat transfer from the underside of the roof to the other surfaces in the attic. To be effective, the reflective surface must face an air space. Dust accumulation on the reflective surface will reduce its reflective capability. A radiant barrier works best when it is perpendicular to the radiant energy striking it. Also, the greater the temperature difference between the sides of the radiant barrier material, the greater the benefits a radiant barrier can offer.

Radiant barriers are more effective in hot climates than in cool climates, especially when cooling air ducts are located in the attic. Some studies show that radiant barriers can reduce cooling costs 5% to 10% when used in a warm, sunny climate. In cool climates, however, it's usually more cost-effective to install more thermal insulation than to add a radiant barrier. In the DELMARVA, the radiant barrier installation pays you back at least half the year, during hot and humid days when your air conditioning loads are greatest. It doesn’t do much for your home energy savings during the really cold months but may assist in melting ice and snow accumulations in some cases. Installed in the attic of Tokori’s global headquarters, it shaves about 10-20 percent off the BGE bills from April through October.

If you choose to do the installation yourself, carefully study and follow the manufacturer’s instructions and safety precautions and check your local building and fire codes. The reflective insulation trade association also offers installation tips. It's easier to incorporate radiant barriers into a new home, but you can also install them in an existing home, especially if it has an open attic. In a new house, an installer typically drapes a rolled-foil radiant barrier foil-face down between the roof rafters to minimize dust accumulation on the reflective faces (double-faced radiant barriers are available). This is generally done just before the roof sheathing goes on, but can be done afterwards from inside the attic by stapling the material to the bottom of the rafters. Ideally, leaving a mid-span run of the material removable (Velcro or fasteners), will enable periodic inspection of the roof decking to check for leaks or signs of deterioration (it will be unobservable otherwise). When installing a foil-type barrier, it's important to allow the material to "droop" between the attachment points to make at least a 1.0 inch (2.5 cm) air space between it and the bottom of the roof. Foil-faced plywood or oriented strand board sheathing is also available. Note that reflective foil will conduct electricity, so workers and homeowners must avoid making contact with bare electrical wiring. If installed on top of attic floor insulation, the foil will be susceptible to dust accumulation and may trap moisture in fiber insulation, so it is strongly recommended that you NOT apply radiant barriers directly on top of the attic floor insulation.

Beauty & the Beast--A Newly Remodeled House Often Has Ugly Secrets!

Amateur Wiring Causes Smoke Detector to Malfunction in Flip House

Thanks to a significant rise in area real estate “flipping,” the serious and oft-times hazardous problems associated with non-professional, unpermitted work are increasing as well. This is particularly a problem for first-time home buyers who thought they were getting a “turnkey” remodeled home. It’s hard for them to believe that something that looks so nice actually has so many hidden defects. For lurking inside this beauty is actually a deceptive beast that wrecks budgets and threatens your family’s health and safety!

“Whenever there’s big money involved, there’s always dishonesty…”

Two Dozen Warning Signs of Serious Defects in a Shoddily Remodeled Home

1. Lack of permits or well/septic system certifications (check public records).
2. Seller is an LLC or is hard to identify as an individual. Past litigation history (check public records!)
3. Improperly closing doors or windows that were recently installed.
4. Extensive evidence of debris (paint chips, glass, etc.) in the yard.
5. Mismatched roof coverings and rusted flashing on replaced roofs.
6. Improperly installed HVAC equipment or new mixed with old components.
7. Standing water or staining in the basement or inside the crawl space.
8. Rotten or deteriorated joists, rafters, or other structural members.
9. 4x4 posts supporting a deck. Improper mounting and railings.
10. Stairs without handrails or handrails made of 2x4s or closet poles.
11. Unrepaired sidewalks, steps, or other walking surfaces.
12. Missing utility connections (such as washer and dryer connections).
13. Loose, newly installed electrical and plumbing fixtures.
14. Uneven floors or cabinetry. Soft spots in carpeted or vinyl covered floors.
15. PVC and ABS mixed with cast iron wastewater lines. Lots of abandoned lines.
16. Lack of proper roof penetrations for exhaust fan and plumbing vents.
17. Uncleaned or “scary” crawl space with no lighting, venting, or vapor barrier.
18. Tightly installed vinyl siding lacking proper channeling and clearances.
19. Gutter downspouts discharging directly on roof surfaces or at foundation wall.
20. Open junction boxes with heavily taped connections or exposed wiring.
21. Makeshift supports placed underneath home.
22. Excessive glue on PVC plumbing joints. Improper or missing traps/vents.
23. Original drain with new diverter/fixtures in tub, shower, or sink.
24. Heavily painted over or textured surfaces, or unusual colors on ceilings or walls.

Nobody looks out for you like you do, so avoid being swindled and invest in a professional home inspection!

Real Estate 101: The Seller ALWAYS Pays More for the Buyer's Home Inspection!

Most Agents will tell you that the home inspection is usually a required contingency of most purchasing agreements, it is at the buyer's option and they are the ones paying for it.


Most buyers will opt for a home inspection—typically investing $300-$400 to get a comprehensive report of the home’s condition. Note that they are investing, not spending, this extremely small fraction of the cost of the home they have agreed to buy.

Why is the buyer's home inspection a low-risk investment and not the cost that I was told?

Every home has deferred maintenance issues, which the buyer's inspector is obliged to point out in their report. This means that their report will always include a list of defects that, if they deem significant enough, can potentially put the terms of the sale, or the entire agreement, at risk and ultimately force the relisting of the house. The seller, now presented with a repair or replacement "punch list" is forced into unpleasant renegotiation with the buyers and one or both Agents--ultimately having to do one of three things at this point: 1) agree to an offset or discount of the purchase price to cover the oft-times inflated costs of repairs; 2) agree to have negotiated items repaired or replaced at the seller's cost; or 3) do nothing and hope the deal doesn't fall through and force the relisting of the house. So, to recap, the buyer's small investment in a report has forced the seller to come back to the table and has provided the leverage needed to compel crisis concessions in their favor, or if the deal is cancelled, to back out--demanding the required return of their earnest money and moving on without penalties. In some cases involving buyer's remorse, this amounts to their "get out of deal free card."

Why is the seller paying and risking so much more than the buyer?

The terms of the agreement are time-bound--forcing any repairs or replacement to be done yesterday and usually by overqualified senior-level tradesmen when a general handyman or even the seller could effect the repairs. All repairs have to be "satisfactorily" repaired in order to stay on the closing timetable—typically, the combined costs of these repairs and replacements average $2,000!!! Not to mention the extra drama and stress of going through the whole rigmarole in the first place…Remember sellers, it is YOU, not your Agent, representing the material condition of your home. Failure to properly disclose defects is not only wrong, it’s a liability that could end up in an expensive lawsuit following closing, and “as is” is an extremely weak position to take in these cases—most wind up settling out of court. What better way to make a new start--searching and paying for an attorney to represent you in the city you just left…

The first one to get the home inspection wins!

So, the buyer invests $400 to get the seller to to spend thousands for the house they're getting. That's quite an ROI, and they haven't even gotten the keys yet! Of course, the seller could have avoided the extra hassle and expense by investing in their own prelisting home inspection, shopping around for the best value in making the repairs, and then enabling their Agent to use the report and repair invoice as a marketing advantage for their listing. It also helps to reduce the uncertainty that is a normal part of the transaction and gives the more impulsive and potentially unqualified buyers pause before they sign up for an agreement they may be unable to back out of. So, will you invest $400 for your integrity, a marketing advantage, and "deal insurance" or will you be forced to pay $2,000 or more in concessions or repair costs to salvage your deal and put and end to the emotionally draining negotiations?

Tenant Fire Escape Planning 101 for Landlords

October is Fire Prevention Month and Fire Prevention Week runs October 7th-13th. This commemorates the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, but more so offers us the opportunity to ensure our preparedness measures are in effect at home. Be sure to pass along the FEMA flyer with helpful safety tips for tenant/occupant fire escape planning tips: (click on the title to auto enable hyperlink to FEMA infographic or copy and past this address into your browser)

As a landlord, you can assist tenants by creating a fire escape plan depicting at least two ways out of each bedroom in your rental unit.

It doesn't need to be really fancy, but a basic floor plan schematic with all available exits and fire safety related equipment (smoke detectors, escape ladders, fire extinguishers, etc.) should be posted during a change in tenancy (we put them in a Dollar Store frame and hang them in an inconspicuous space). Additionally, the same type of floor plan drawing is very useful when detailing walk-thru defects, such as wall or floor covering damages, etc.--helping to support a case for determining whether or not post tenancy repairs are due to pre-existing conditions or tenant-caused damages/neglect.

Portable Fire Extinguishers Increase Risk to Tenants and Your Bottom Line

Fire is fast! In less than 30 seconds a small flame can turn into a major fire. Smoke and toxic gases from a home fire kill more people than flames. Every home needs fire protection and a plan for escape. Part of this protection includes safety equipment, but, what about portable fire extinguishers?

Many landlords assume they have to provide one or more portable fire extinguishers in their single-family rental units; however, this is not a requirement and we do not recommend doing so.

To begin with, enabling tenants to "fight" a fire almost never ends well, and giving them the means to do so is actually counter to the safety messages put forth from the National Fire Protection Association, as well as city and county fire departments--all of which stress the importance of getting out of a burning structure as soon (and as safely) as possible. Another draw back is that most people (especially children) have not operated a fire extinguisher and are universally incapable of using one properly or gauging the level of danger involved in fighting a fast-spreading fire. Voluntarily providing a fire extinguisher unduly encumbers the landlord to maintain and periodically replace this device--adding to nuisance maintenance costs (for "accidental discharges") and material replacement of post-tenancy missing equipment (these frequently get packed up on move-out day), etc.

An excerpt from Baltimore County Code § 35-5-213. - FIRE SAFETY AND PROTECTION. (b) Fire protection.
(1) The property owner shall maintain all fire protection systems and equipment in proper operating condition at all times.
(4) If a housing unit is equipped with portable fire extinguishers, the property owner shall keep the fire extinguishers visible and accessible and maintained in an efficient and safe operating condition.

Because fire grows and spreads so rapidly, the #1 priority for residents is to get out safely. Providing fire extinguishers creates extra cost and may actually serve to endanger the occupants--including curious children that may be playing with them.

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