Posts Tagged Home Inspection

Is that Hot Tub Safe?

When I was a young lad working in construction, the first job I worked on was the Bellevue Stratford right after the first known outbreak of Legionnaires Disease happened and killed 34 people.  In 1977, Dr. Joseph McDade discovered a new bacterium, which was identified as the causative organism.  Named after the American Legion gathering that took place in Philly it has become widely known as Legionella.

‘Legionella’ is a type of aerobic bacteria that causes a potentially fatal infectious disease that affects the respiratory system and can cause fever, pneumonia and acute influenza.  A milder strain of this is called Pontiac Fever. There are at least 40 species that occur naturally in the environment. Typically Legionella can take up to 2 weeks to develop but the milder strain (Pontiac Fever) can show symptoms in just 2 hours.

What you NEED to know is where it can grow and take precautions to prevent exposure and possible infection.   The list of water systems that have been known to harbor the Legionella bacteria is extensive.  However, today we are talking about Hot Tubs, a place where Legionella grows easily.

Warm water provides an ideal environment for the bacteria to thrive.  It’s not necessary to be in the water.  Just standing near moist infected water can cause a person to contract the disease.  The aerated water can make this likely to happen although any water source can become infected, even your house shower.

In Hot Tubs the chemical balance needs to be maintained and as they say, “The more the merrier” can translate to, “The more people the more chances.”  Hot Tubs that are not routinely cleaned and maintained  are potential health threats.   Of course we expect Hotels and Commercial Spas to maintain their equipment properly and we can’t know if they do, but you can keep your own Hot Tub safe.

EMSL Analytical Inc. says, “The unit should not be run using untreated tap water. Proper maintenance includes not only treating the water but also shutting down the unit weekly to scrub away any biofilm deposits on the sides of the unit and cleaning/replacing the filters.  The unit should then be refilled using tap water treated with the correct dosing of water treatment chemicals.”

 It’s not just the water!

 Don’t forget to check and clean the filters on a regular basis too.  Recommendations are to keep several sets of filters available so each set can be thoroughly dried after cleaning.

Higher risk individuals are of course, my age group (over 50), Smokers (current or former), people with chronic lung disease (such as emphysema and chronic asthma) and individuals with weakened immune systems, to name a few.

Testing is available and if you have any question about your Hot Tub, please get it checked and avoid that great deal on a Hot Tub that has been sitting on your neighbor’s lawn all winter that says, “For Sale”

Check out;

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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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Moisture, moisture, moisture…

You’ve heard it before right here, unless you’re taking a shower or getting a drink of water you don’t need any extra moisture around the house.

Its spring and we venture out doors now to enjoy our yards and gardens and whatever else you like.

As an aside you may glance back and up at your house in one of those routine look-a-bouts to see how the house fared during the winter.  Small trees are growing out of your gutters and there is black soot and staining on the siding.  You remember saying to yourself in the fall that you were going to clean the gutters but something happened…. Oh yeah…. It was football season.  So now it needs desperate attention.  Off to the shed…

First thing is be careful… well first thing is to dig through the shed and find the ladder.  If you liked ladders it would have been done already, so don’t get sidetracked yet, the mower can wait.

Whatever type of ladder you use, an extension, “A” frame or if the gutters are low enough maybe a pair of saw horses and a plank just be careful.  Figure on needing a few heavy contractor bags for the debris depending on what’s growing around the house.  Don’t figure because you don’t have trees that there is no junk in the gutters.  Granules from the shingles accumulate and birds, squirrels and even that kid down the street that lost his tennis ball can affect your special place.  Scoop out what you can before you hose them out.  If you system empties into an underground system you have more work to do.  Disconnect the downspout and clean them, THEN make sure the underground system is clean.  Run a hose through it and check the discharge point.



 Actual photo – not a dramatization!

Usually you can lean the ladder against the gutters themselves but use caution.  I know… I’m starting to sound like you mom… sorry.  The point is that gutters should be cleaned twice a year or more depending on your particular layout.  Neglecting this WILL mean that moisture will end up too close to the building and bigger issues will develop.

Get it done now before baseball get rolling.  I’ll remind you again in the fall.

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More often than not, when I check water temperatures during a home inspection, the temperature is set too high.  If you own the home it’s easy to get ‘used’ to a setting and you compensate. However a visitor that isn’t familiar with your home may get a surprise.  It’s not uncommon for me to find temperatures in excess of 140 degrees… that’s just TOO hot!  The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) urges all users to lower their water heaters to 120 degrees Fahrenheit.  In addition to preventing accidents, this decrease in temperature will conserve energy and save money.

If you have a standalone water heater there is usually a dial on it where you can set the temperature, or if it’s not marked clearly, at least adjust it until the water is the right temp.  Here in Pennsylvania, boilers are common and with a Summer/Winter hookup, domestic water runs through a coil in the boiler and will always be too hot unless a tempering valve is installed.  About half of the homes I inspect have working tempering valves.

You can use a candy or cooking thermometer to check your water heater temperature. Go to the faucet nearest the water heater. Run the hot water for one full minute (this will heat the water pipes and give you a more accurate reading ). Fill a coffee cup from the faucet and read the thermometer.

This easy to do tip can save someone from getting burned.  Ask your Inspector to check this for you.

Helpful Links.

Water Heater Repair Guide.

U.S. Department of Energy.

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

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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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