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The Sandcastles Observer

An Ongoing Series of Informational Entries Relating to Life at the South Jersey Shore

Thwarting a water damage insurance disaster.

August 7, 2017

   Do you know how water damage is covered by your homeowners' insurance policy? I recently read this informative article in a newsletter provided by Thomas H. Heist Insurance Agency who serves our South Jersey shore towns. (Click on photo to follow link to full article.) 

   In some states, like Florida, homeowners' insurance policies do not cover damages caused by theft, water, insects, etc. if a home has been left unoccupied for longer than 30 days. That's one reason why there are a lot more Home Watch companies in Florida. You must have proof that the home has been physically visited in order to collect on coverage for such damages. 

   In some ways homeowners' insurance policies in New Jersey, although not a mandatory requirement, can also be ineligible for coverage of water damage if an issue is left unnoticed and unattended for a period of time. As sited in the article, sudden flooding from a burst pipe, a broken hot water heater or broken washing machine hose that may lead to some damages, would be covered. However, if there are other damages that occurred over the span of several months because the toilet was leaking, such as mold and mildew, those damages are not eligible. 

   That's when having regular documented visits made to your home while you're away can be quite advantageous. The cost of Sandcastles Home Watch is minimal. The cost to repair a toilet leak is minimal. The cost of having mold remediation is not only expensive but certainly not what you were planning to deal with when you came down to your shore home with the intention of enjoying a long weekend. 

   We like to think of Sandcastles Home Watch services as the Difference Between Damage and Disaster for our clients' homes. 

Thought for the Day: “It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit


Mud Daubers are our friends...who da thunk? 

August 14, 2017 

   How many times have you seen one of these mud nests and wondered what the heck is this and where did it come from? It's actually a Mud Dauber's nest and I'm sorry to say that I didn't read this article before I crushed one outside of my garage last week. (Click on photo to be taken to link for full article.) 

   Mud Daubers are a wasp but not aggressive. It is actually very rare for them to sting a person and even more rare for the sting to cause much more than localized swelling. Having Mud Daubers near your home can be quite beneficial as they primarily hunt spiders and other pesty pests. There are a number of varieties that build various looking nests and may be very specialty prey driven. For instance, the Blue Daubers prefer immature widow spiders for food for their young. 

   Probably the biggest beef about this winged insect is the stain an unwanted nest can leave behind. Most often it can be easily scraped off with a flat implement, like a screw driver or paint scraper followed by wiping with warm water and soap to dissolve any remnants of the mud. 

   But if you can live with the nests, you may want to consider keeping these beneficial little buggers around. 

Thought for the Day: Let's all take a minute and be thankful that bugs aren't the                                       same size as us. 

Driven or Stored? Weighing It Out

September 18, 2017

   Leaving a vehicle behind while away for an extended vacation or season requires a little thought and planning but is easy to execute with the right information. It's a big ticket item that you don't want to take a chance on having costly issues, as well as being inconvenienced, upon your return. Whether you decide to have it driven or stored can both be good options when you intend to not use your vehicle for 30 days or more. I recently came across an article on the EDMUNDS site and found it to be an excellent resource for weighing out the options and making preparations. 

(Click on photo to the left to be taken to the Edmunds article link.)

   A few of the most common aftereffects of a vehicle left to sit without driving it are tire flat spots, dead batteries and rodents setting up camp. These can all have costly outcomes. 

Tire Flat Spots

Cars sitting for long periods without being moved can develop flat spots on their tires that develop faster in cold climates. The only remedy is to replace the tires. The easiest solution to avoid this is to have the vehicle moved regularly. If you plan to leave the car sit idle for longer than a month it's best to have the wheels removed and the vehicle set up on jacks. 

Dead Batteries

The best way to avoid a dead battery is to have the car driven for about 15 minutes every two weeks. This has other advantages as well. This short drive helps to maintain the lubrication of the engine and other system components. As an alternative, you can plug the battery into a trickle charger if you are storing it indoors. The least effective solution is disconnecting the negative battery cable.

Rodent Infestation 

Rodent infestation is more likely to occur when a car is left inside of a garage or storage facility. This can even happen when a car is being used regularly but you would more than likely be aware of it earlier on. Having traps, mothballs or other deterrents in the garage are the best way to safeguard, as well as someone checking for any signs of rodent waste pellets and to remove dead rodents that may have been trapped so you don't have a smelly issue to deal with when you return. 

   Sandcastles Home Watch takes car driving very seriously and is only performed by Ken or Jacqueline. We choose a 15-20 minute route made up of a variety of driving speeds and braking situations. We also run your air conditioner and heater so all systems are thoroughly maintained. This service is very reasonably priced and is based on whether we are doing it in addition to another service we are providing at your home, or independently. 


Thought for the Day: Your best teacher is your last mistake. 

Life at the South Jersey shore

Birding in Cape destination in the world!

May 24, 2018

I recently read that more and more people are taking up birding as a hobby. What surprised me though was that so many people under 30 are getting involved. The reason is partially because of the internet. Identifying an interesting looking bird can be just a few clicks away with an easily downloaded app. 

We are very fortunate to have one of the top hot spots in the world for birding available to us in Cape May, NJ. Spring to early summer and the fall during migrations is typically best to see a wider range of species who may be just passing through but  I have seen many majestic eagles and other amazing birds who hang out here throughout the summer months. 

Just click on the photo to the left to be taken to a great article called "The Ultimate Beginners Guide to Bird Watching" at Hobby Help. Have fun exploring this free gift of nature. 

Thought for the Day: “You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.”― Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon

Life at the South Jersey shore

Fire Prevention: Why Doesn't EVERYONE Know About This?

January 6, 2020

August 1, 2017

About 2 weeks ago I walked into an unusual and serious situation at a home that I watch during the winter months and want to share it with as many people as possible since it truly may save lives and your property from an electrical fire catastrophe.

I visit this particular property every other week and upon opening the front door that day, gone was the calm setting that I am used to. Now into my 3rd year of checking it, I've had some issues occur with security system false alarms, security light bulbs and smoke alarm batteries needing to be replaced and other routine maintenance but all and all, it is a stable home and I always referred to it as 'The Fortress' as the water is OFF and has a whole house generator. 

On this day, literally every major kitchen appliance, the alarm keypad and anything else with a light or a sound was screaming and blinking. First I checked to see if the generator was running. It was not. I checked the breaker box and nothing was tripped. When I turned on an overhead light, it was very dim and flickering so I immediately called Atlantic City Electric's emergency service line.  In the meantime, I measured the temperature in the house to compare with the thermostat reading and found that is was cooler than the thermostat showed and I could hear the furnace in the garage clicking like it was trying to ignite so I shut the furnace off. The bin of ice that had been left in the freezer was melted and felt to be room temperature so I knew had been in trouble for awhile. It was like the house was possessed. 

The electric company service technician arrived within an hour. He determined from a quick outside test that it was a bad neutral line coming into the house; the hard part would be to track where the compromised section of wire was. The situation was remedied from beginning to end in about 5 hours. 

I went back to the house to turn on the furnace, checked the TV and waited as everything started back up to be as sure as I could that the none of the appliances had fried and that all appeared to be running normally.  I was in communication with the homeowners the entire time and they chose not to call their electrician or HVAC service contractors to perform a service call to confirm all was well. I have to say, I was a little uncomfortable about that. 

This was a very lucky homeowner. Continuous surging of electricity and a damaged neutral line can often times damage appliances, cause a house fire and/or electrocution. 

A sign that their may be a bad neutral line coming into your home is when lights come on BRIGHTER when you turn on an appliance. If this ever occurs, call your electric company immediately. 

For more information about a bad neutral wire within your home, click on the picture to the left and it will take you to a link with more details.

Thought for the Day: Safety isn't expensive; it's priceless.  - Jerry Smith

Life at the South Jersey shore

The Sandcastles Observer

August 1, 2017

Welcome to our Sandcastles Home Watch blog. We're glad you found us. The objective of the Sandcastles Observer is to offer you useful information that spans a variety of topics related to South Jersey shore living. Thanks for joining us. 

Thought for the Day: Sometimes you need to look at Life 

                                                   from a different perspective.

Our Blog

An ongoing series of informational entries

After the BIG FREEZE...check your water pipes!

January 10, 2018

The South Jersey shore recently experienced quite a blast from Mother Nature in the forms of extremely low temperatures and a blizzard that dumped 15-17" of snow.  Major drifting created by wind gusts up into the 50 mph range further hampered the area calling for a two-day State of Emergency status. It was a mess. Even as of this morning the Cape May - Lewes ferry operations have been suspended since January 4th due to the ice covered Delaware Bay. The biggest blessing was that we did not have any widespread power outages in the area. 

The greatest concern for a home in this situation is freezing, followed by bursting pipes as the thaw is underway. Preventative measures, although not guaranteed, are key. Clicking on the photo to the left will lead you to a recent article in the OCNJ Daily that addresses the situation of thawing pipes and bursts as things begin to thaw. 

The best plan is to prepare ahead of time and have someone trustworthy to check the inside and outside of your home at least once per day during the crisis period. A deep freeze (below freezing temps) for a solid 5 days requires changes to be made to your home. Raising thermostat in the neighborhood of 60-65 degrees is one step. If you leave your water on inside of the home then it is a good idea to begin a trickle at each sink. I placed pink utility maker flags at the site of each clients' water main shut offs on the properties so that in case of an emergency it could be identified quickly, especially since we knew we would have snow cover. 

Even with all of these precautions in place situations can arise which makes regular checks crucial. We discovered one of our homes had a heater malfunction which in turn shut down the electrical panel. Had we not been checking daily this home would have suffered major damage. My sister's condo in Ocean City had all the cold weather preparations done but in the midst of the blizzard the strength of the wind literally blew open her locked french door and quickly was filling her home with snow and ice. It was discovered quickly by her friend across the street and it was remedied. 

Not every disaster can be thwarted but making arrangements ahead of time for someone to watch your home saved these two Sandcastles. 

Thought for the Day: “Winter is not a season, it's an occupation.”

― Sinclair Lewis

The Sandcastles Observer

An ongoing series of informational entries related to life at the South Jersey Shore

Precautions to Avoid Freezing and Bursting Pipes

December 1, 2017

Our biggest concern during times of a hard freeze...frozen and bursting pipes. Ugh. 

Although it's not a guarantee, preventative planning is your best protection.  

As you get into multiple days of temps never rising above freezing it's time to take some precautions. Raising the thermostat to the 60-65 degrees range is the first line of defense. If it becomes exceedingly colder, below 20 degrees, you may find it necessary to open each sink faucet to a trickle. This may not prevent the water from freezing, although it can help, but primarily you are trying to prevent pressure to build in a pipe if it does freeze and expand like a soda can in the freezer. 

Click on the photo to the left to be taken to some great information at the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety site on how to avoid, detect and remedy frozen pipes. 

Thought for the Day: “What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.” 

― John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America