So I’ve had several “discussions” with my wife about the actual function of curtains, and I think the story makes for a decent blog post.

My wife feels that the only function for curtains is as a decorative piece.

They are indeed mostly for decoration in this day in age.

But originally, curtains had several different functions. First and foremost was to cover windows to curtail / prevent drafts. Older windows had none of the insulation and thermal protection that modern windows have.

In the past, curtains were comprised of animal skins or furs. One can only imagine how ineffective those solutions were for stopping drafts.

Over time with the advent of more modern sewing techniques, curtains became both a functional item as well as a decorative item.

Curtains also provide a means to sleep during the daylight hours, provide privacy to the inhabitants of a home, and to muffle outdoor noise.

These days, I think people tend to forget that most existing items / features in a home once had a practical function.

Please check out the following website for a more comprehensive history of curtains:’s%20not%20much%20evidence%20of,dividers%20in%20place%20of%20screens.

During a home inspection, curtains are something that tends to impede our ability to inspect the windows. So for a home inspector, a curtain is more of a nuisance item to be sure.

Thank you from First Choice Home and Building Inspections!

Mike McCarty

A Canadian Dormer, also known as a “Dramatic Dormer” is best be described as a very tall, steep sloped “A” Frame Dormer with a window. The high peak ends up being just an architectural feature, and doesn’t offer any additional “functional” space.

Canadian Dormers are an architectural feature that is commonly found in many parts of New Hampshire, but more specifically in the city of Manchester.

There is a heavy French Canadian influence in Manchester, so it’s no surprise that you can find Canadian architectural features in the city.

And as home inspectors, we don’t necessarily need to know the names of architectural features, but as rule, it’s good to know the correct name.

We could just call them just regular dormers and that would be an accurate description. But considering that here in New England we have all kinds of unique and sometimes odd architectural, it’s fun to be knowledgeable for our clients, especially those clients that are from outside of New England.

Be on the lookout for Canadian Dormers as you admire the unique architecture present here in New England!

At First Choice Home Inspection, our established process of inspecting a home helps to protect your investment!

Mike McCarty
NH Licensed Home Inspector # 316
HUD 203k Consultant # 1939

When doing home inspections, we often encounter architectural peculiarities on homes. Especially in New England.

So the other day we came across a house with an addition attached to it. This particular type of addition is known as a “Beverly Jog” in New England.

How the name “Beverly Jog” came about is unknown, but it is suspected / conjectured that the feature possibly originated in Beverly, Massachusetts.

The feature is best described as an addition attached to the original home that has a sloped, shed roof and a cliff-like face. The addition juts out from the home, hence the term “jog.”

Typically, the feature was added to the home to provide an enclosure for interior stairs leading to the 2nd story of the home.

Once in my career I came across a “Beverly Jog” structure that had been moved from 10 miles away and then attached to an existing home. The structure that was moved was literally just a shed! When it was attached to the existing home, it became a “Beverly Jog.” Voila!

Check out these pictures of a few famous homes in Massachusetts with “Beverly Jogs” attached.

At First Choice Home Inspection, our established process of inspecting a home helps to protect your investment!

Mike McCarty
NH Licensed Home Inspector # 316
HUD 203k Consultant # 1939

I used an expression yesterday with a colleague of mine during a 1 to 1 meeting. In case anyone doesn’t know what a 1 to 1 is, it’s a networking term or more specifically a BNI term for a meeting where two BNI members converse and learn about each other’s businesses.

So I was talking about how we conduct home inspections at First Choice Home Inspections and how important it is to have an established process in place for inspecting a home. And I used the expression “Dawn Came Over Marblehead.” This was an expression that my younger colleague had never heard.

When I explained what the saying meant, my colleague thought it was a very interesting saying.

Being from Boston Massachusetts, often times we Bostonians tend to use our own language or vernacular that people in other in the rest of the country have never heard of. Think Matt Daman, Ben Affleck and the Wahlbergs.

So what does the saying “Dawn Came Over Marblehead” mean?

Let’s start by looking at the beautiful, picturesque town of Marblehead Massachusetts. The town is distinctive for many reasons, not the least of which being that the town experiences two sunrises. You’re probably wondering, how is this possible?

There is a peninsula that stretches the length of the town located on the other side of the Marblehead harbor. If you stand on the peninsula before dawn, you will witness a beautiful sunrise coming up over the ocean.

If you move quickly enough and get back into your car (pronounced “cah” in Boston), and drive back to the mainland, you can witness the sunrise all over again as the sun crests over the peninsula and shines down on the actual town of Marblehead.

Hence the terminology of “Dawn Came Over Marblehead” or “Dawn Breaks Over Marblehead,” or even “Light Dawns on Marblehead.”

I should provide my source given that I couldn’t find any real information about this saying came to be on the internet. This information was shared with me on a trip I took to Marblehead in the mid 1990s, when I had a conversation with an older gentleman that had lived his entire life in Marblehead and had witnessed the phenomenon numerous times.

Of course I made sure to witness it myself the phenomenon several times while staying in town.
So how the phrase work?

The phrase typically is attached to something that should have been obvious – something the person didn’t immediately realize or understand. So when the realization hits the person, the phrase can be applied.

No doubt the fact that the name Marblehead can be construed as having a double meaning, i.e. a thick person or someone with a rock for a head who doesn’t pick up on stuff quickly, makes the expression even more handy.

So after all that, you’re probably wondering, how is any of this relevant to home inspections?

Well many times when we are inspecting a home, something we see on one end of the home doesn’t make any sense until we get to the other end of the home.

This is why we always ask our clients to let us finish sections of the home and then report back to them with our findings. That way, we are able to take all the clues and then put them together to form a more conclusive hypothesis.

At First Choice Home Inspection, our established process of inspecting a home helps to protect your investment!

Mike McCarty
NH Licensed Home Inspector # 316
HUD 203k Consultant # 1939

So I’ve been witness to an odd phenomenon over the past week or so that I feel inclined to share with everyone.

I’ve heard on numerous occasions what I believed to be woodpeckers knocking on the exterior of our house. For the life of me, I couldn’t remember ever seeing woodpeckers during the winter.

So when I went over and looked out the windows on either side of my front entry door, I was surprised by what I saw. I saw 5 Blue Jays looking back at me.

I watched in dismay as they pecked away at the exterior paint on the front entry doorframe. They chipped off pieces of paint, and then they flew away, carrying away the paint chippings as they departed.

What is behind this curious behavior? And of course I tinkered with the question of was I going crazy?

I was genuinely surprised when I found two articles on this same phenomenon – both referencing Blue Jays as the culprits. Thank goodness – I wasn’t going crazy.

So of course I did what anyone would do in this day and age of information accessibility – I Googled the behavior.

So here’s what I discovered…

Apparently, during the winter, songbirds such as Blue Jays experience a calcium deficiency. They can’t properly store the calcium during the cold winter months. They need the calcium in anticipation of the coming nesting season in the spring – presumably for the formation of their own eggs. So they seek out calcium sources wherever they can find it.

So Limestone is an ingredient in paint. And Limestone is a source of calcium.

Somehow Blue Jays and other songbirds have figured out that they can get their calcium fix from exterior house paint.

Amazing! Once again, mother nature finds a way…

Okay so fantastic – I figured out what they were doing. But then the question came up of how can I stop this behavior before they destroy the entire exterior of our home?

Well thankfully the articles I found offered a great solution. Give the birds an alternative source of calcium!

Both articles recommended placing empty egg shells near the scene of the crime where the birds are continuously attacking the paint. When the birds realize that they have an alternative source of calcium, they should stop assaulting the exterior of our home.

So thankfully, we eat a lot of eggs in our home.

We placed the discarded shells of 6 eggs out on both the front and rear decks of our home this morning, and lo and behold, we watched as the Blue Jays swooped in and took all the shells.

Who knew this was even a thing?

Mike McCarty
NH Licensed Home Inspector # 316
HUD 203k Consultant # 1939

So I came across a rare piece of equipment the other day in a home inspection – a plastic electrical panel.

Yes, they really do exist!

I was talking to a master electrician just last week and he said he has been in the business for 32 years and has never come across one of these types of panels before.

Amazingly, this is actually the 2nd one I’ve across in my home inspection career within the last 6 months!

The manufacturer for both of the two panels I’ve witnessed was Square D – one of the most well known names in Electrical Panels in the United States. The name on the two panels is Trilliant.

This type of panel was manufactured between the years of 1990 – 1996.

Plastic electrical panels were widely adopted in Europe, however the panels were viewed with skepticism by most electricians here in the United States and as a result, were not widely adopted in any area of the country.

As a result, this panel and other types of plastic electrical panels were effectively phased out of use.
There are no known major deficiencies that are associated with this particular type of panel. However, the circuit breakers and other parts are known to be very expensive to replace.

The only know potential issue with the panel is an issue with the surge protectors that were designed for use in the panels. The surge protectors were recalled in 1995.

Also, the plastic screws are very difficult to operate and can break easily. And of course, the screws are very hard to replace. If you lose enough screws, you have an unsecured dead front cover.

At First Choice Home Inspection, we will do the research for you on every home inspection!

Mike McCarty
NH Licensed Home Inspector # 316
HUD 203k Consultant # 1939

I had the pleasure this past week of inspecting a 240 year old house located in Webster, NH. The home was a foreclosure and had been shut down and neglected for about 8 years.

As I went through the home, I marveled at the wonderful craftsmanship that went into the construction of the home and I thought about the generations of people that lived in the home. The home had held up very well considering the age of it.

The home even had a library with custom built bookshelves encircling the room.

One characteristic was particularly fascinating to me. All of the windows in the home were equipped with Indian Shutters. Not the modern version of this type of shutter that is often called an Indian Shutter – the actual definitive item.

These shutters were actually concealed on each side of the window and had graspable notches that could be used to pull the shutters together and effectively block the windows.

I had heard in the past that these types of shutters were a myth. But there they were – in the flesh so to speak. And every one of the shutters was functional.

What a marvel and a testament to human creativity!

Imagine a time when people felt it was necessary to install this feature in a home! It reminded me that in the past, homes were once considered fortresses as well.

At First Choice Home Inspection, we appreciate every aspect of the home!

Mike McCarty
NH Licensed Home Inspector # 316
HUD 203k Consultant # 1939

So with the crazy hot real estate market right now, and the dwindling inventory levels out there, it’s no surprise that people are gravitating toward older homes now as possible starter homes.

Older homes usually come with a lot of charm and interesting architectural features.
But, they also occasionally come with baggage in the form of hazardous materials and old electrical systems.

I’ve been inspecting a lot of old homes lately, and have been coming across those curious 9×9 tiles – often times hidden under new flooring.

To the general public, 9×9 tiles don’t often trigger any questions or concerns. But to a builder or an experienced home inspector, it typically stops us in our tracks.

6×6, 9×9, 12×12, and even 18×18 tiles are known to sometimes contain asbestos fibers.

In fact, if your home was constructed between 1920 and 1960, it’s fair bet that the tiles do indeed contain asbestos fibers.

So what is asbestos? Well, believe it or not it is not a man-made material as most people in my experience are convinced.

Asbestos actually occurs in nature. It’s a silicate / fibrous material that is actually mined out of the ground.

The reason asbestos has been used in construction over the years is because the material is heat-resistant. It was widely used in this past century as a fire-proofing material.

On the downside, asbestos fibers are known to be a serious health hazard. If the fibers get into the human lungs, they fester and can potentially cause cancer or other asbestos-related ailments. Our bodies can not reject the material.

For this reason, asbestos was eventually prohibited from use in modern construction. It was outlawed in the 1970s, but was used right up until the early 1980s (when the material was allowed to be sold off from hardware stores).

Asbestos is considered dangerous when the material in question is “friable,” which means the fibers can be released into the air if the material deteriorates or crumbles and then becomes airborne.

So how can the average person tell if you have asbestos tiles in your home? Well, if you can view a cross section of the tiles, you might be able to see if there are any asbestos fibers protruding out of the material.

Or, to be sure, you can bring a sample to a local testing lab (I usually recommend using Optimum Analytical and Consulting in Salem, NH). You can bag up the sample and bring it to their lab, and they will analyze it and give you the breakdown of what the material contains.

Okay, so what if you do have asbestos tiles located in your home?

So there are two ways you can deal with it. The easiest was is to simply encapsulate the tile material – typically under a new floor. This is the solution we see most often as home inspectors.

Most of the time I wouldn’t even know the tiles are present in the home until I open up a closet door and see the old tiles on the floor of the closet.

And even then, our home inspection license forbids us from positively identifying the material as containing asbestos. We have to defer to having the material tested to make an accurate determination.

Encapsulating the material is considered a safe option in most states and local municipalities. If you do chose to have the material removed, it should be done by a qualified contractor that will strictly adhere to the parameters of removing the material safely from the home.

But check the local regulations before you move forward with the removal. Be aware that the proper disposal of the material is strictly regulated as well.

At First Choice Home Inspection, our goal is to educate you about your new home!

Mike McCarty
NH Licensed Home Inspector # 316
HUD 203k Consultant # 1939

Please note this resource regarding exposure to Asbestos products:

Understanding Your Home Energy Score

After receiving your Home Energy Score, you may have some questions about what it means and how to improve your score. While your Home Energy Score Assessor will
know the most about your score and your home, the information provided here gives additional background about the Home Energy Score.
Your Home Energy Score report is comprised of three parts: the Score itself, facts about your home and its estimated energy use, and recommendations to improve your home’s score.

The Home Energy Score uses a 1 through 10 scale where a 10 represents the most energy efficient homes. The scale is determined using U.S. Census housing data, and is adjusted for local climate.

This way houses all over the country in different climates can be compared. Click on link for full write up of what my energy score means.


What Does My Score Mean Fact Sheet (1)

John Voisine, First Choice Home Inspection

CMI, Certified Master Inspector, Licensed NH Home Inpsector #294 

Certified Home Energy Score Assessor by the Department of Energy