Archive for category Home Inspection

Heat loss during the winter months (or the myth of energy efficiency.)

 More and more, builders are promoting Energy Efficient Homes and that’s a good thing except when they cut corners or do things that the average home buyer doesn’t know or understand. I want to discuss a few here.

Many attics are rated as R-38. Depending on the material used that is about 10” to 12” of insulation material. (See .)  If your attic is 1,000 SF, that’s 20’x50’ of ceiling area and if you have a pull down stair installed that is 10 SF or 2’x5’, you are losing over 25% of your insulation value! It’s even worse if you have blown-in insulation and it is not evenly distributed. Think of being nice and warm under a down quilt and someone pulls the blanket off your feet. The fix is to distribute the insulation evenly, properly cover any ‘high hat’ lighting, and insulate the attic stairs. Look for any other obvious gaps that are not properly covered or insulated.

 In the article Ducts in the Attic? What Were They Thinking?”by David Roberts and Jon Winkler, they discuss the effects of installing ductwork in attics. This, according to their research, is a very poor idea especially in warmer climates. Builders are installing energy efficient Heat Pumps or Air Conditioners, to the ‘wow’ of home buyers but are cutting corners by using the attic as a chase. The builder is saving less than a thousand dollars and costing the consumer much more over the long run, especially if the ducts leak. The unit will have to run harder and longer shortening its life. If you are remodeling make sure your HVAC guy reads this article. If you already have ducts in the attic have a professional check them out for kinks & sharp bends, undersized runners and torn or improper connections. Think 20% to 25% energy loss.

 Then there are the obvious. We all feel the cold air coming through window AC units or just the windows themselves. I wrap all my window units from the outside and cover the inside and there is still a draft. When the temperature is in the single digits it makes a big difference.

 Make sure your heating units are in good shape and serviced. They are running full tilt some nights and you don’t need problems when you’re asleep or you may stay asleep if the CO gets too high. I am not a big fan of the inexpensive CO detectors and have a hand held that I use to check the whole house often. If you do have a ceiling or wall mount CO detector, a remote alarm that will warn you in the bedroom if the basement heater is leaking can save your life.

 I tell clients that having a fireplace is nothing more than building a fire IN your house. The obvious cautions apply. Make sure the flue is cleaned as often as necessary. I usually do ours mid-winter when we get that freak warm spell. Don’t stack firewood too close to the stove and make sure a proper hearth is in place.

 Be safe, enjoy the winter. It only lasts a short while.

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Just because it’s new, don’t mean its right.

I don’t get many calls to inspect new homes but when I do, I thank the buyer for being savvy enough to think of doing so.  All houses are put together using sub-contractors.  Even if you know the General Contractor and their good reputation, doesn’t mean there isn’t at least one newbie working for a Sub.  Junior workers make entry level wages until they learn their trade.  It may be YOUR house that they are practicing on!  I also recommend the buyer get an 11 month re-inspection before the contractor’s 1 year warranty expires.  It’s smart money.

As Inspectors, our fees are cheap compared to one repair that you may argue over with your contractor.  It’s kind of like sending your steak back to the kitchen to have it cooked more.  You never know what they are going to do to your meat.  It makes good sense to have an experienced pair of eyes go over a new or a used home.  I have received compliments from Realtors for not taking advantage of the fact that a home is only 10 years old and blowing through the inspection.  10 years is a long time.  A lot of things are wearing out by then.  Even so, no home is perfect and if you are expecting it to be, then you are mistaken.

More people are seeing the advantages of having a home inspection and according to Harris Interactive, 88% of home buyers say that a home inspection increases their confidence in a decision about a property.

Be smart; get an inspection, save yourself some grief.

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May is National Deck Safety Month

I know I talked about this before but it’s important…especially if you have a deck.  Did you check yours last year when I told you about it?  Naughty, naughty……if not then please do it this year and even if you did last year, well… it’s time again.  A year is a long time to be out in the weather.

The North American Deck and Railing Association has a web site with several check lists you can use along with 2 videos showing a simulated deck collapse.  Well worth the watch.  All of this is even more important if your deck is at a second floor (or higher) level.  There are horror stories every year about a deck party that turned ugly.  A simple check can save you a lot of grief. Some things to look at.

  1. Are the posts on footings?  Most of the time they are but sometimes they are sitting on a broken cinder block or worse, right on the ground.
  2. How is it fastened to the house?  There are new requirements now that call for it to be tied back into the structure… I mean way back in the structure.  If it’s just nailed to the siding I wouldn’t go out there.
  3. Flashing.  It may not seem like much but I rarely see flashing against the house.  This allows rain to get behind your siding and the ledger.  Guess what happens?  The wood can rot and green things grow in the wall.
  4. Are the joists properly supported?  This could mean a lot of things form a metal joist hanger to a properly fastened ledger board.  Having them just nailed or screwed to a beam is NOT adequate.
  5. Is there lateral bracing?  If you can make the deck sway by shifting your weight this is a bad thing.
  6. Are the handrails loose?  They should be able to withstand 200 pounds of lateral pressure.  Are there guardrails in place?  So they meet the 4” spacing rule?
  7. Stairs…. They should be secure and have the correct riser height or a landing if there is a long run.

This is just a small sampling of what you should be looking for.  If you are in doubt hire a Home Inspector or a Deck expert for a review.

A good source of information is;

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Got Mold?

As a Home Inspector I see mold all the time.  In fact, most of us see it and know what it is.  However not every home owner crawls around under stairs or in crawlspaces, so when you hire a home inspector you expect us to do that for you.  That is what we do… inspect!

Currently I’m not ‘certified’ to tell you what is and isn’t mold so my insurance carrier says I have to say something like, “There is a substance that appears to be mold or mildew noted” or, “there is an unidentified organic growth…” “This inspection does not include testing for mold type or toxicity….” Yada, yada, yada.

The truth is, mold is everywhere.  Given the correct conditions it will grow, remove the conditions and it will usually stop growing.  Moisture is the problem for so many home issues. I’ve gotten on my soapbox before about moisture.  Keeping humidity between 30% and 50% will help slow mold growth.  The sooner you eliminate moisture the better.

I feel it’s my responsibility to tell the home owner what I see regardless of my certifications.  It’s not rocket science when you see a green, black or white fuzzy substance to assume it doesn’t belong there unless it’s part of a Halloween decoration.  I will always recommend having it tested.  With so many different types of mold there is always a possibility that you may be exposed to serious health hazards.

The EPA has some good information and a booklet that will answer many of your questions and then some.

If I was a lawn inspector and wasn’t certified in trees I would have to say something like, “I was looking at your front yard and there is a big wooden thing with oak leaves on it.”  “It appears to be an organic growth.” “I recommend further evaluation.”  One of my mentors told me to not be a ‘girlie man’ and say what it is, not that it appears to be, or seems to be or could possibly be…………………………  OK………………… On your lawn is an Oak Tree.  There, I said it!

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If you have to go in your attic for something this time of year, the heat is unforgiving.  Besides trying to get out as soon as possible you should be thinking about ventilation and, “Do I have enough?”

Minimum recommended attic ventilation is 1 Sq Foot for every 300 Sq Feet of attic area.  Multiplying the length by the width of your home should give you the area.  You should have as much intake ventilation as exhaust ventilation.  Truth is you can’t have too much ventilation if you stick to the 50/50 rule.  50% intake under the eaves and 50% exhaust at or near the roof peak.  However, most homes have too little.  So what’s the big deal?

When I do a home inspection I’m on the warpath for moisture.  We often think of moisture in the form of rain or groundwater and these are culprits but moisture in the form of humidity can be just as evil.  Moisture in improperly ventilated attics can cause mold, mildew and rot.  Higher temperatures can shorten the life span of building materials like your roof.  Ventilation is just as important in the cold months too, but the hot weather can bring it to the forefront of our thinking, especially if you have to go “up there.”

Gable roofs are the easiest to ventilate because they have the longest ridges.  Hip roofs are more of a challenge as are Mansard roofs. Dormers create their own set of challenges.  Surprisingly many builders don’t understand proper ventilation and sometimes opt for the cheapest way to “Git-R-Done.”

A good Home Inspector should be looking at the attic ventilation as part of the overall picture.  If you are not planning on a home inspection in the near future, pick a cooler day and take a good look at your attic ventilation.  You can save money and costly repairs by simply increasing it.

A source of good information on ventilation is Lomanco.

Stay cool!

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Homeowners Agree Their Home Inspection Helped Them Avoid Potential Problems

A New Poll from ASHI Reports More Than 70 Percent of Homeowners Agree Their Home Inspection Helped Them Avoid Potential Problems

DES PLAINES, Ill.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI):

“It is important for consumers to do their homework before hiring an inspector”

  • Nearly 90 percent of all U.S. homeowners surveyed believe home inspections are a necessity, not a luxury.
  • A home inspection conducted by an ASHI Certified Inspector examines the physical structure and systems of a house.
  • ASHI is the only professional organization of home inspectors that has completed NCCA certification process.

Nearly three in four (72 percent) U.S. homeowners agree the home inspection they had when they purchased their current primary residence helped them avoid potential problems with their home, according to a survey released today by the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI). Also, almost two in three (64 percent) noted, in the long run, they saved a lot of money as result of their home inspection. As the housing market begins to recover, ASHI encourages homeowners and buyers to hire a certified home inspector and to get a home inspection to help further protect their investment.

Complete Story.

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Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y and the Home.


When I was growing up our toothpaste came in lead tubes, lead paint chips abounded and we blew asbestos out of the car’s brake linings while smoking non filtered cigarettes.  Mom would make us scrub mold off the basement walls without gloves and Radon might have been a car part but I never heard of it.  How did we survive?

Baby boomers were not as educated as the generations that followed and if you ask most of us today we hardly care.  Does this mean it’s not important?  Of course not!  Much time and research has gone into investigating the ill effects of these things.  Will everyone have issues with mold or Radon?  No.  Obviously some people are more sensitive to mold and with thousands of different types of good and bad mold there is no definitive way to know how you will react unless you are tested. So… what should you do?

Get your home and your body tested.  I’m not particularly affected by mold or allergies while my wife is very sensitive.  We have spent more than $10 having her tested and to this day still don’t know exactly what she is allergic to.   Should I care?  Of course…. She might read this…

There are many professional testing companies and plenty of home testing kits available.  We can generally avoid Lead except when China tries to sneak some in on their products but mold and Radon… start with eliminating moisture!

High moisture elevates Radon levels.  High moisture is the primary contributor to mold.  Eliminate moisture and these conditions can be improved.  Simple grading around the building is generally what a Home Inspector will recommend.  Have your downspouts cleaned, connected properly, and discharging at least 6 feet away from the home and make sure the water is draining away!  In addition to reducing moisture, this helps eliminate breeding grounds for wood destroying insects. So what about Generation X and Y?

They want to know.  In this age of information they are very concerned about having the most and correct information and then being able to make an educated decision about a direction to take.  I applaud the younger generations for this.  They are willing to take the time and incur the expense so they can do the right thing, and why not, it’s their health.  Information abounds.  Isn’t America great?

Now… give me a Camel and pass that air compressor… I want to blow the dust off your brakes.


Resources for your perusal.

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How To Survive a Home Inspection

A home inspection is one of the most crucial steps on the path to old-house ownership. Here’s how to use it to determine if you should take the plunge on that fixer-upper.

By Jane Powell

Buyer beware: What looks like a dream house from a distance could turn out to be riddled with problems upon closer inspection.
Buyer beware: What looks like a dream house from a distance could turn out to be riddled with problems upon closer inspection. Lori Martin photo

You’ve taken the leap and made an offer on an old house, and the seller has accepted it. Caught between euphoria and dread, you have only a few short weeks to reassure yourself that it’s the right house for you—and make sure you haven’t agreed to sink your life savings into a proverbial money pit.

And while you need to investigate the neighborhood, the zoning, the schools, and other concerns, the biggest piece of what the real estate people call “due diligence” will be the physical inspection of the house. Much of your decision on whether to go ahead with the sale, and a large part of your plans for fixing the house after you buy it, will be based on this document.


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Divorce and the Home Inspection.

I am celebrating 29 years of marriage with my first wife in April so I don’t know about divorce other than second hand knowledge. I can’t imagine how it feels to go through it.  What I do know is that often one spouse or the other gets the house while the other get the pension, savings or other assets they have accumulated together.  If you end up with the house don’t get the short end of the stick…get a Home Inspection before you agree to your final terms.  Here’s why.

Regardless of the age of the building there can be serious defects that may devalue the property.  It’s not unthinkable that portions, let’s start with the roof, could be nearing the end of its useful life.  Replacing a roof can cost thousands of dollars.  A Heater, AC or Heat Pump is also a major expense.  These things, according to Murphy’s Law, will happen just when you can’t afford it.  A divorce is basically a business transaction, so treat it as such.  Keep the emotions out of it and make sure you know what you’re getting.

If you have lived in the home for a while, it is likely that the major house systems have worked just fine, and most people don’t contemplate replacing big items until they fail.  Nothing lasts forever, things break or wear out.

Worse than the things that you might expect to replace and may have even taken into consideration, is the unexpected.  There are many potential issues with foundations.  Unless you know what to look for, a seemingly minor issue may lead to substantial costs.  It’s not uncommon for structural repairs to go into the tens of thousands of dollars.

Don’t mistake an appraisal for a Home Inspection.  Appraisers don’t necessarily take into account repairs that may be needed.  You need a Home Inspection!

There is a lot of information available and more Lawyers and Realtors are becoming aware of the value of a Home Inspection before a divorce is final.  Consider one for your peace of mind.

For more information check out,  Kelly Lise Murray’s Web Site

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What to look for in Home Inspections

A home inspection often means the difference between a sale and no sale, even if the deal that results isn’t exactly what the owner expected.

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