I always recommend that my clients request documentation on components are listed as new or newer... You don't need to know what the homeowner paid for the component, but if the roof, or furnace is new, you want to know who installed it, and exactly which manufacturer's material was used.
The other time to get documentation is when something is noted as "repaired", and regarding environmental concerns... While inspecting a home's exterior this past summer, I noticed a couple pipes behind some bushes. Two pipes (such as these) usually is an indication that there is, or was an oil tank on the premises.
The homeowner happened to be present and said, "the tank was drained and filled when they bought the home". I noted this in my report, and recommended that my client obtain documentation stating the tank was properly documented by the county. Unfortunately, no documentation was available at the county or city. The buyer insisted that the tank be inspected, and everyone was amazed to find that the tank was not properly abandoned, AND that it was still 1/3rd full of oil!! The tank had to be pumped, removed, and the area back-filled.
Be well-informed... We can help; give Pinnacle a call!
In almost every home that I inspect, I find at least one area where a GFCI is either missing, or not functioning properly. What's a GFCI?? Everyone should be familiar with GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) outlets. They're another important safety component that needs to be tested regularly; just like the smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.
These devices actually shut the power off in the event of a ground fault.
Simply explained, a GFCI is a device that turns the electric power off when it detects that the electrical current is flowing in the wrong path; such as through water or a person. A GFCI outlet should be installed whenever the outlet is within 6 feet of damp/wet areas. That means: Bathrooms, Kitchens, Laundry Areas, Unfinished Basement or Crawl Areas, Exterior, and Garage.
The OSHA website definition is: "The ground-fault circuit interrupter, or GFCI, is a fast-acting circuit breaker designed to shut off electric power in the event of a ground-fault within as little as 1/40 of a second. It works by comparing the amount of current going to and returning from equipment along the circuit conductors. When the amount going differs from the amount returning by approximately 5 milliamperes, the GFCI interrupts the current.
The GFCI is rated to trip quickly enough to prevent an electrical incident. If it is properly installed and maintained, this will happen as soon as the faulty tool is plugged in. If the grounding conductor is not intact or of low-impedance, the GFCI may not trip until a person provides a path. In this case, the person will receive a shock, but the GFCI should trip so quickly that the shock will not be harmful."
Now, if you didn't get the part where it said "if it is properly installed and maintained", you need to review it again. These devices have a notice on them similar to smoke and c/o detectors to; "TEST MONTHLY". As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, I see many that are not functioning, or simply not installed. This is NOT something that should be taken lightly. It's your's and your love ones' lives that are at stake!
To test a GFCI you simply follow the instructions. Push the TEST button, and you should hear a "snap", and the power should go off (if you have something plugged into the outlet). Simply push the RESET button to engage the outlet again. If the outlet does not shut off, or if it will not reset, there is a problem; you should have a qualified electrician review the outlet. Do not delay!
This photo shows that I am pushing the test button, but my outlet tester is still lit. This GFCI has a problem that should be reviewed further. It can be a wiring problem, or a faulty GFCI outlet.
So, review your home, and make sure GFCI outlets are installed in the proper areas (or that GFCI breakers are in the main panel). Next step is to test them regularly. If you do not have them installed, or if they are not functioning properly, contact an electrician.
If you're not sure about your home's electrical and want some advice, you can always contact me; I'll try to help. Be safe!
An friend recently had a plumbing leak and to make it worse, they found that basement floor drain wasn't working! The ordeal ended up ruining a portion of the basement carpet and drywall... They tried to get the drain working with cleaners, but they didn't help...so he asked me to look at it.
I stopped by with a drain snake, and found that it wouldn't even penetrate the clog; it actually ruined my snake! It appeared that the drain was clogged with debris from when the home was renovated. I start fishing out particles with a long tool which turned out to be pieces of metal! After an hour with a magnet and other tools, the drain was then running clear. I was amazed at what was in the pipe.
So, do yourself a little favor... add "testing your floor drain" to the yearly list of things to review and maintain. It may just save your basement!!
If your home has an Air-Exchanger included in the systems, this component needs maintenance just like the furnace. Many home buyers (and owners) don't know what these components do, or how they operate.
Because newer homes area sealed tighter, they need to have fresh air integrated on a regular basis. These components are meant to do just that by removing stale (contaminated) air, and introduce fresh air so that the home can essentially "breathe". Exchangers transfer some of the heat (or heat and humidity) from the outgoing interior air to the incoming exterior air in order to help your home stay cooler or warmer as efficiently as possible.
There are different types of air exchangers: HRV (Heat-Recovery Ventilator) and ERV (Energy-Recovery Ventilator). Models and manufacturers vary, so the best advice for anyone is to "make sure they read the manual and follow the maintenance recommendations"... if a manual isn't in the home, it will be available on the manufacturer's website.
These systems are not dehumidifiers, and do not take the place of bath fans, although they are being used as such in some homes. Yes, during the heat and energy transfer from indoor to outdoor air, there can be some condensation/humidity that is eliminated or exchanged during certain times of the year, but DO NOT rely on these to eliminate excessive moisture in the home.
I have been in many homes where these systems are turned off or unplugged because people don't understand them. Be informed, read the manuals, know when you should run them (or not) and do the maintenance....
Whether you are living in your home, buying, or selling a home, you want to keep your family safe and comply with the codes. Many people are simply not aware of the requirements for alarms in a home, and it can get confusing.
There are really five areas of concern:
1: Age. Alarms are only good for 8-10 years. Make sure your alarms are current. If not, replace them. Even if you are selling the home, you'll take that one item off the list that a home inspector will (should) catch.
2: Non-Functioning: I see many alarms that simply are not operating, which really is inexcusable in any home. Either the battery or the electrical wire has been removed (as with the photo above). This really is a sign that the alarm was probably beeping (probably old) and the owner didn't know what to do. Also, test them monthly as they state; your life could depend on it!
4: Painted Over: All smoke and CO alarms state "do not paint", but some people don't take the time to read; they simply spray the ceiling. If your alarm has been painted over, replace it.
5: Compliance: There are requirements of where smoke and CO alarms are to be placed in the home and what is required depending on the age of the home. I'm not going to copy & paste a ton of legal information, but simply give you a link to the best information, which is from the MN Fire Marshal's Office. It's very easy to read and will give you the best information. You can find it on the Pinnacle website under the "Resources/Links"tab at http://www.pinnacle-inspections.com/links.html
Keep yourself and your family safe. Maintain your smoke & CO alarms regularly.
It's assumed that most home inspectors are fairly knowledgeable and keep up on the building products, but sometimes we just have to use common sense.
I emailed the company, but since I was on a deadline for my report, I called the customer service line where I was told, "our wood casements can be installed in the awning position". Then my email was replied to, and it said: "Installing casement windows in a awning window orientation is not recommended. These products are not tested to perform or operate when installed incorrectly."
The company also followed up with an email 2 days later stating: "After speaking with our product team, they were unable to confirm, from the picture provided, if the window is an awning window or a casement installed in an awning application. That being said, they did confirm that our casement windows should not be installed as an awning window."
So, sometimes you, or your inspector may just have to go on instincts... and you may not get a definitive answer before needing to make a decision. But at the very least the client should always be made aware of a potential concern.
I have been through a few different cordless screwdrivers in my business, and finally have found one that works great!
Meet the Dewalt DCF680 Cordless Screwdriver!
This tool is rugged and has an adjustable handle (you can use it in the straight position or in the standard position for more push-power...
I bought it online and it came with two 8V Lithium Ion batteries, charger, a case, and a bit set. There are several things that I really like:
Yes, it's a little more expensive,but if you're looking for a good, versatile tool... don't overlook this one. You won't be disappointed!
Many clients ask me about duct cleaning... Whether it is a "good thing" to do, and how effective it is.
I had this same question several years ago after doing an extensive renovation to my own home. Throughout the construction I was very careful to turn off the furnace/fan when I could, I covered registers and return ducts in rooms were were working, etc... When all the dust cleared (from construction), we were still left with a quite a bit of dust in the ducts.
So, I decided to give duct cleaners the test. I called and researched several companies; looking at before/after photos on there websites, etc... which to me looked too good to be true on some websites!
I decided on a company and the day before they came into our home, I took the end off the main return duct and took photos (for the purpose of this blog I'm not including all the photos), and did the same in the sub-slab ducts. The company came in and the employees were very courteous, and seemed very thorough...
After paying close to $400, I went back to work... I took the end off the return duct and took photos, and took photos in the sub-slab ducts...and I was amazed. The debris that was in the areas I photographed was all still there, just moved around a little; nothing like the company's "after" photographs. Now, I didn't do this to expose anyone, but used it as a learning experience for me and my clients; so I didn't complain to the company.
I then went to my local retailer and purchased extra hose for my shop vac, and went back to work. I turned off my furnace, and cleaned out the main return duct and sub-slab ducts properly, then took off all the returns in the rooms and did the same. When I was done, I felt my ducts had been properly cleaned. Please note: This is not a blanket "do your own duct cleaning" blog... if you don't know what you are doing, you can get create more problems than it's worth.
So, should you or shouldn't you have your ducts cleaned? It's a personal preference. I do have to include that the company/team I hired may have had a "bad day"... But, if you are purchasing a home that has had several pets or some construction, it might not be a bad idea to ask for the ducts to be cleaned. I tell clients, "it's a good idea to look at the furnace filter and into a few floor registers when you are going through a home; you may see some of what you'll be breathing...."
Me?...I'll probably do my own cleaning from now on.
" I often get asked by clients:
"What about Mold", or "Do you Test for Mold?"
The short answer is "no, I don't think it's worth "selling" the customer on mold testing, and here's why:
A few years ago I looked into the addition of "air sampling" to my services. I had many clients asking about it, and several vendors trying to sell me kits to perform the tests. There are two different testings that can be done; one is air sampling, and the other is physical swabbing of areas. Both types are sent to labs for evaluation. I have read several articles from labs, and companies selling the supplies, and it seemed like it may be a good addition. Then I began looking at information from some Indoor Air Quality Specialists, the MN Dept of Health, the EPA, etc., and it changed my thinking.
Air sampling needs to be done in several areas of the home and can be expensive, and the test doesn't necessarily narrow down infected areas. Samples can be contaminated with various items, and the reports don't usually tell the amount of hazard; nor can the report tell you where it is located. Swabbing is only done after you find the source, and doesn't tell you how bad the problem is in the home.
As a Home Inspector and homeowner, I know that we need to prevent water from entering the home, and to keep moisture (humidity) controlled at all times. Excessive moisture and poor ventilation will result in mold growth, period! I tell my clients is this: Almost every home has some degree of mold or bacteria. They should try to accept this, or they should build a new home, but there's no guaranty there either... What the home inspector needs to do, is to be diligent during the inspection and call out the potential areas, concerns, and what (if anything) should be done to correct it.
Keep in mind; if you are buying a home that does not have a drain tile and sump system, I expect to find some signs of mold. If you are buying an older home, I expect to find some signs of mold. If there IS a sump system AND it's an older home, I expect to find some signs of mold... The key is to keep it in perspective, and as you discover mold, formulate a plan to deal with it. If the home smells musty, and/or there are signs of mold, you need to assume that you'll have to do some demolition if you want to find most of it.
With moisture and mold/organic growth in the home, there are 4 things to remember:
1) All exterior water needs to be managed away from the home's foundation; meaning gutters, downspouts, extensions, and drainage should run away from the home.
2) Running a dehumidifier in the basement is not a bad thing, and many times it is necessary.
3) You should keep a hygrometer in your home to measure/maintain the humidity.
4) Proper ventilation needs to be maintained in all areas, especially attics, bathrooms, kitchens, and basements.
The EPA and the MN Dept of Health websites, both state that if mold is visible, then mold sampling generally is not needed, but it should be removed or mitigated. The amount of mold will determine if you need a specialist, or if you can do it on your own. For more information about mold, visit the MN Dept of Health, http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/eh/indoorair/mold or the EPA https://www.epa.gov/mold/mold-and-your-home or at their websites; type in "Mold in Homes".
Mold is real, and there are many people who are afflicted with breathing disorders and need to limit their contact with poor air quality. Those people need to make really good choices on potential homes and look for the signs of mold.
So should you test for mold? My answer is - not unless your or someone in your family is extremely allergic/affected by it. I don't recommend or perform mold testing in homes, but I do recommend removal or mitigation if is found; but be smart and be proactive.
Remember, a home inspector can only report on what they see, so it is important to hire someone who is willing to look. Contact Pinnacle Inspections at http://www.pinnacle-inspections.com
ASHI Certified, Pinnacle Inspections strives to give our clients the best reporting and advice. They regularly ask "how" to get things done, and hopefully we can share some useful tips or products on this blog.