How is that wood siding working out?

Damaged wood sidingWood siding is extremely common in the San Jose area and Silicon Valley as a whole, both on condominiums & townhouses and also on houses.  (We do not see a lot of vinyl siding here, as we might in other parts of the country.) Water is the #1 enemy of houses – even more than termites!  It is necessary to control water intruding into the wood, because if it gets in, fungus and rot can get a start on your home.

How do you prevent  water damage, fungus, and dry rot on wood siding?

Exterior wood needs to be painted about every five years or it can crack, peel, and otherwise allow moisture intrusion. If the wood is kept sealed, it can do very well against water. Another big cause of expensive wood repairs outdoors is earth to wood contact.  If you have ever built a fence, or had one made for you, you’ve probably seen that the best practice is to put the wooden posts into concrete rather than directly into the dirt.  The reason is simple: soil gets damp and the wood will wick up the moisture, whether it’s fence boards, posts, part of a wooden deck, or the siding on your home.  If the siding or other wood comes near the soil, the recommendation is to separate them one way or the other. In the photo I’ve included with this article, the siding of this townhome complex was allowed to touch the earth.  You can see the results: expensive repairs needed! The old saying goes that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of curse”.  It’s especially true with caring for wood siding and other times of wood on the outside of your home or in your yard.   If you can remember to do a walk-around every few months, at least twice a year, you are more likely to find the beginnings of issues before they become thousands of dollars.  Keep a schedule for painting and make sure you do it before it looks like it’s needed.  If you wait until there’s chipping and cracking, you may already have trouble!  Watch for earth to wood contact, and rake away the soil or take other measures to protect your siding. This is true for owners of townhomes too.  It seems like decades ago, home owner associations were often responsible for siding, but in the last few years I’ve been finding more and more HOAs make that the owner’s responsibility, even if the HOA is in charge of the painting schedule.    Make sure that you have a look at your siding regularly so that you can stop fungus and dry rot in their tracks and prevent a small headache from becoming extremely costly. Finally, it’s a good idea to have a pest inspection (termite inspection) every 3 to 5 years to nip any issues in the bud. Related reading: What Is Cellulose Debris (in a pest or termite report)?

 

 

 

What is fumigation prep work?

What is fume prep?If a house or other building is going to be fumigated for drywood termites (not subterranean termites), certain things must be done for the tent to go on and to effectively seal the structure.  We call that “fume prep” work or “fumigation prep” work. It is sometimes included in the cost of the fumigation, and sometimes not – so if this work is being done at your property, be sure to ask if it’s part of the bid!  If it’s not included, there are companies that can be hired to do these jobs if you do not want to or cannot do them yourself. (If you need one in Silicon Valley, please email me and I can give you a name or two.)

Anything which obstructs being able to enclose the home or building must be cut back, disconnected or removed.  For instance:

  • fences or gates which touch the building must have a few slats or sections removed so the tent can be placed next to the house
  • bushes, hedges, trees and other plants which are adjacent to the house must be trimmed back or pulled away as much as possible – at least 12″ from the structure (if trees are touching it, they must be trimmed)
  • any other structure such as a trellis or deck must either be included with the fumigation or separated from the house so that a tent can go between it and the house
  • downspouts connected to French drains must be disconnected at the ground
  • loose gravel, tanbark or mulch needs to be raked back or removed at least 12″
  • any stored items up against the building must be removed (more…)

Trees, Branches, and Property Lines in Silicon Valley

oak-treeRecently I had a listing in Sunnyvale where an enormous tree graced not only the front yard of my clients’ house, but stretched over a next door neighbor’s yard and even over the neighbor’s roof. We got the home I’d listed sold quickly,  but prior to closing, the neighbor complained about the limbs.

The sellers, wanting to close escrow on time, agreed to trim the large bough that threatened her roof. They only wish that she had mentioned it sooner so that it could have been a “non issue” during the time of the sale. Ideal would have been a request in spring, which is the better, healthier time for trimming a tree.

And more recently, something similar happened in Los Gatos (with a home not for sale). A property manager of a tenant-occupied house showed up on the doorstep of a tree owner whose large tree arches over the fence. The property manager demanded that the tree be trimmed and that the tree owners pay for it. “It is your responsibility,” she asserted. (Interestingly, she showed up with a gardener – not a tree professional – and had no business card so that she could later be contacted about this issue. So it wasn’t the most amicable approach.)

My understanding of laws around trees and property lines was simple: the neighbors can cut the tree if they want to back to the property line, but the tree owners don’t have to pay to cut it unless it is truly damaging or about to damage the others’ property. If the neighbors harm the tree while pruning it, they can be liable for damages.

But just to be sure, I phoned the California Association of Realtors’ Legal Hotline and spoke with an attorney about it. My understanding was correct: the lawyer cited case law and verified that the tree owners can’t prevent the neighbors from trimming the tree if they want and that the neighbors cannot force the tree owners to trim it unless it is truly causing (or immediately threatening to cause) damage.

The property manager was mistaken and out of line.

A friendly phone call and inquiry about tree maintenance goes a long way toward neighborliness. Most tree owners will take good care of their trees and do pruning in spring, and will discuss the timing with their neighbors so that it is convenient for the arborist to also clean up any dropped branches in adjacent yards. Open communication is always helpful for neighbor relations. It helps when requests come in a pleasant way without rushing or pressuring. But that would be true about any issue, whether it’s trees, fences, noice, odors, junky cars or anything else.