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Criterium-Dudka Engineers Blog

Turn the Water Tank Temp Up or Down? It's a Hot Question.

Turn the Water Tank Temp Up or Down? It's a Hot Question.

Is your hot water safe??   Too hot and you can be seriously burned.  Not hot enough and your hot water may harbor dangerous bacteria.   It’s not a simple question!!

What’s the “correct” temperature at which to set a water heater? The question is more complicated and more hotly debated than you might imagine.  And the answer depends on whether by ‘correct’ you mean energy-conscious, health-conscious, or safety conscious.

If your primary concern is energy conservation, you would follow the advice offered by the Department of Energy and repeated on virtually every list of energy-saving tips: Set the temperature at 120 degrees, which is well below the industry default setting of 140 degrees.  If safety is your primary concern, you would also set the dial at 120 degrees to reduce scalding risks. But if you are worried about Legionnaire’s Disease – a form of pneumonia that can be fatal ─you wouldn’t go a degree below 140, because the higher temperature is required to kill Legionella, the bacteria that causes the disease. 

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Repeated Mistakes

In February we celebrated Groundhog Day which reminded me of that iconic movie with Bill Murray of the same name.  In the movie if you remember, Bill Murray’s character relives the same day, Groundhog Day, over and over until he gets it right. 

It got me thinking of the same issues we see each day with home and building structures.  Common issues/concerns with structures that could have been avoided or significantly delayed.  I know we’re all busy, and it’s hard to find the time to self-educate when adding an addition, new wiring, new plumbing, or new or removal of walls, to name a few.  In these projects a permit is typically required, and for good reason.  If you don’t pull a permit, you may risk significant complications when you try to sell.  Even more serious, you may make a renovation that is unsafe and or may reduce the value of the property. More at that topic in future issues.

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The Many Faces of Siding

Is all house and condominium siding the same?  Of course not!  And choosing the right siding is more than just color, design, aesthetics and curb appeal.  Durability is very important as well as energy efficiency which is fast becoming more commonplace and available.  When it comes time to sell, the right siding can up the resale value.  Siding acts as a barrier to prevent rain, snow, wind, insects and dust from seeping into your home.  Choosing it and then installing correctly will make your home more comfortable, beautiful, and appealing.

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House Wrap?

We know it’s the holidays and you may be exchanging wrapped gifts to friends, colleagues and loved ones.   Well, don’t forget to wrap your house too!  Wrap a house?  Yes, your house!

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Basement Water Can Be Managed

Basements Water Can Be Managed

Criterium Dudka Engineers

In an existing home, we’re not always sure how the foundation perimeter was completed because it is not visual, unless of course we begin digging.  Uhg!  Acquiring the “as built” plans of your home from the town is always a good idea and are usually readily available from your town office.  The "as built" plans will show what the builder ultimately completed on your property, most times.  Either way, if you have water in your basement, digging around a foundation, an expensive undertaking (and backbreaking) is not necessarily a required first step to try to solve the problem.

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Safe and Effective Wood Stoves

There are several important safety considerations that must go hand in hand with the use of solid fuel (coal and wood) stoves.

These stoves are responsible for many fires every year. In some parts of the country, wood and coal stoves are the number one cause of house fires. In general, when properly used, coal stoves are less hazardous than wood stoves. However, they both deserve to be treated with respect.

Here are some tips for safe operation:

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When a Critical Component Fails Early

It happens to even the most prepared of associations. The roof that was supposed to last 25 years starts leaking after only 15. A harsh winter takes its toll on the parking lot and you’re suddenly faced with a large re-paving project 5 years before anticipated. The elevators in a high-rise are constantly out of order, despite their being only 20 years old. These items will need to be immediately replaced or extensively renovated – which means unexpectedly using a significant portion of your reserve budget.

When key common elements fail early, a number of factors will help determine what to do next and how to pay for it. A board member or property manager’s primary responsibility is the protection and enhancement of the association’s investment.

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You Have a Choice in Home Inspections. Which is right for you?

Recommending a home inspection company is a helpful and valuable service a real estate agent performs, howeverif not done objectively, it canlead to a real estate lawsuit.   The buyers expect that with the experience of the Realtor, comes knowledge of buildings and that they will alert you to potential problems.  When under contract, the Realtor wants to assist the buyers in the task of completing the home inspection contract contingency.  With that in mind, they provide the buyer with a particular home inspection companies and their phone numbers.  While generally, the Realtor is not liable for merely referring a buyer to a third party service provider, it is a frequent allegation when problems arise after the closing and the transaction goes south.  How does the Realtor avoid that liability?

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New Construction is Predictable. Or is it?

In fact, new construction is anything but predictable. However, we often make that ASSUMPTION. In fact, we make a lot of assumptions about new construction. That’s what this article is about, ASSUMPTIONS. By the way, the following applies equally well to renovation projects.

If you are considering having a new home built, how many of the following assumptions have you made? You may have made some of these assumptions consciously whereas others may be unconscious; you just never thought about them. Making any of the following assumptions will typically lead to unsatisfactory results and, even worse, legal disputes that could go on for a long time and consume significant financial resources. These are some of the more significant assumptions:

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Municipal and Association Responsibility

Homeowners new and old to association living question why they have to pay monthly dues or assessments, particularly for items such as trash removal and sidewalk repair. Aren’t those covered by the local municipal government? In reality, these services are quickly becoming the sole responsibility of community associations across the country.

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How to Sell the Results of a Reserve Study Without a Revolt

While the importance of associations building a strong reserve fund is no mystery to you, raising fees or assessments is often a sensitive subject with homeowners. Every association needs a long-term planning goal, and a reserve study creates an accurate timetable for all major improvements.


One of the primary business duties of community associations is maintaining and preserving property values of the associations’ common property. To do this properly, associations must develop funding plans for future repair or replacement of major common-area components.

A reserve study is a budget-planning tool that identifies the current status of the reserve fund and establishes a stable and equitable funding plan to offset the anticipated future major common-area expenditures. Being prepared for non-annual expenses allows your association to change the unexpected to the expected. Reserve studies are one of the best strategies for financial and physical health at the association’s disposal. In order to keep the replacement costs current, the reserve study should be updated (with a site visit) every three to four years.

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The Home Inspector’s Role in the Home Buying Transaction

As I have traversed this great state of MA and spoken to home buyers, Realtors, mortgage companies, and even warranty companies, the message from each group varies:

“Are you a deal killer?”

“Is the home safe and built properly?”

“Is this property/asset worth the asking price?”

“Is something going to go wrong once the deal is closed?”

Each group has their own perspective and, quite frankly a valid and vested interest to protect the role they play in the transaction.   Misrepresentation of a property affects the seller starting with their disclosure survey all the way to the buyer, and everyone in between.  And despite the root cause, everyone’s reputation takes a hit.  And we know one bad internet review can have a significant impact.

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New Construction: If It's New, Is It Good?

How good is new construction in the United States and Canada? Generally, it is pretty good, but there are some significant areas of concern.

Our goal is to provide information that will allow quality-oriented builders to improve upon the products they deliver.

The following is based on information and opinions gathered from the more than 70 offices of Criterium Engineers. Criterium Engineers is a network of affiliated offices throughout North America, in 35 states and British Columbia, Canada. The objective was to identify problem areas that have significant impact on the functional performance and quality "feel" of new homes. We asked our engineers just one question – "What problems are you finding?" An item made it to our list if we received the same response from various offices so as to consider it widespread geographically.

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DECKS AND BALCONIES - Source of pleasure and problems

 Pieces of concrete falling from above.  Party goers falling from a failing deck.  Children falling through a railing.  These are any association manager's nightmare.  But they do happen.  We've seen them.

Decks and balconies are architectural features that greatly enhance the enjoyment of single family, multifamily, and town homes, as well as most condominium complexes.  Yet we find that they are often the cause of many expensive problems.  Further, if left to deteriorate, they can be downright dangerous.

What causes the problem?  Most often, as with many building problems, the culprit is moisture.

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Seven Things You Must Know Before Conducting Your Next Reserve Study

CRITERIUM ENGINEERS in Association with Mitchell H. Frumkin, P.E., R.S

One of the primary business duties of Community Associations is maintaining and preserving property values of the Associations common property. To do this properly, Associations must develop funding plans for future repair or replacement of major common-area components. A Reserve Study is a budget planning tool that identifies the current status of the Reserve fund and a establishes a stable and equitable funding plan to offset the anticipated future major common-area expenditures. The Reserve Study consists of two parts: the physical analysis and the financial analysis.

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Building Codes - Myths and Reality

What is a building code? Is it a law? Or a guideline? Or a voluntary standard?

What do building codes mean to my home?

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Mold - Hype or Real Risk?

Increasingly, we are talking about specific kinds of mold, not just old mold. Is this a new problem or just one that our technology is now allowing us to detect more effectively?

Are we overreacting or should we be concerned? If we should be concerned, what products or actions are most effective? Unfortunately, there is not a simple answer.

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Stairways and Decks Aren’t Safe Unless their Railings Are Secure

You’re standing in the basement waiting for a friend, who is following you down the stairs.  Missing a step, your friend reaches for the railing, which breaks away from the wall.  This will not end well for your friend, who may be seriously injured or worse; a

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