Sprinkler system could contaminate home's water
Q. The home inspector who checked my house recommended anti-siphon valves for the lawn sprinkler system. This came as a surprise because the system works perfectly. Please tell me the purpose of anti-siphon valves and whether they're truly necessary.
A. The absence of anti-siphon valves indicates your irrigation system was installed by someone who lacked adequate plumbing knowledge. The purpose of anti-siphon sprinkler valves is to prevent contaminated water in your irrigation system from flowing back into the water supply lines in your home.
Irrigation pipes in lawns and gardens retain water long after the system has been turned off. This water can become stagnant, harboring bacteria and other microorganisms. In the event of back-siphonage, unsanitary contaminants can infect the potable water supply. For this reason, the Uniform Plumbing Code requires all irrigation lines to be equipped with anti-backflow protection.
To ensure that this repair is properly done, have the work performed by a licensed plumber.
Q. We're planning to buy a home in the desert. In the neighborhoods where we've looked, some houses have stucco exteriors, while others have either vinyl or aluminum siding. We asked our home inspector what is best, but he didn't seem to have a preference. Any tips on how to decide?
A. Preferences in exterior siding are often a matter of personal taste. However, there are some practical considerations that weigh in support of a stucco exterior.
• Stucco is a long-lasting material, good for the life of a building, maintaining its color and fresh appearance for at least 25 years.
• Stucco provides insulation against hot weather, helping to keep a home cool in summer (especially if it has a light reflective color).
• Stucco insulates against outside noises, making the inside of your home noticeably quieter.
• Stucco strengthens a home, providing additional structural rigidity. This is because a stucco building is essentially encased in an envelope of wire and cement.
Among the disadvantages of vinyl and metal siding is a general tendency to cheapen the overall appearance of a building. From a distance, these materials offer the traditional appearance of wood siding, but up close they tend to look and feel less substantial than conventional building materials. What's more, vinyl and aluminum are more fragile than wood, resulting in cosmetic damage that cannot be easily repaired. Manufacturers of these products offer warranties for as long as you own your home -- a claim that might seem to be a lifetime guarantee. The rub is that people typically sell a house within three to seven years of purchase. The warranty is then void to subsequent owners of the property.
If you don't like the look of stucco (a matter of personal taste), wood siding or cement siding (commonly known as Hardy Board) are better choices than aluminum or plastic. However, none of these sidings will last as long or be as free of maintenance as stucco.
• To write to Barry Stone, visit him on the web at www.housedetective.com, or write AMG, 1776 Jami Lee Court, Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, CA 94301.
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