The Scariest Thing About a Home Inspection

By Tim Shuford, NPI Franchise Owner, Jamestown, North Carolina

Inspecting homesFrom this home inspector’s perspective, one of the scariest things about many home inspections is what I can’t see.  As you probably know, a home inspection is a “non-invasive” inspection of readily-accessible components and systems.  That means that the things hidden inside walls or other inaccessible areas are not inspected.  If a home inspector had X-ray vision or some other super-power, I feel sure that inspection reports would list a lot more areas of concern.  Here are a three “real life” examples of what I’m talking about.

Several hundred homes in a nearby housing development were constructed 20-30 years ago.  Almost all the homes were clad with composite hardboard (Masonite type) siding, and no re-siding has been done on approximately half the homes.  A small percentage of the homes now have cement-fiber siding, and the remainder are now clad with vinyl siding.  It’s pretty common knowledge that most 20-30 year old composite hardboard siding has some amount of deterioration, and a lot of it is badly deteriorated……maybe to the extent of allowing water to reach the structural components and cause decay and other moisture-related issues….and this development is no exception.  (Of course, there’s also plenty of decay typically found in the window sills and trim, door jambs, etc. on these homes.)   When inspecting one of these homes with deteriorated hardboard, it’s easy to report the defects and indicate that there could be structural damage due to water intrusion.  The scary homes in the development are the ones that have vinyl siding and aluminum trim installed.  You just have to suspect that the newer surface treatment was installed right over whatever deterioration and decay existed, without much thought of whether any underlying damage was present.  Unfortunately, there’s not much to report here, as long as the siding and trim is intact and installed properly, and there’s no other evidence of structural problems.

Occasionally, we’ll inspect a home with an area (such as a basement) that was obviously finished by the homeowner.  (Well, maybe they did invite some friends to join in and provide some pizza and beer.)  It seems that most of the time, we’ll find some kind of electrical deficiency (such as a spliced electrical cable not enclosed in a junction box) in an accessible area of the same home.  You just have to wonder if similar conditions exist behind the finished walls or ceilings.  Again, there’s not much to report unless you can see it.

Many homes (especially older homes) have portions of the crawl space that are inaccessible, due to low clearances, ductwork, etc.  It’s not uncommon to find structural problems, electrical problems, etc. in the accessible areas of these crawl spaces.  So, why would I think that everything is “just fine” in the areas of the crawl space that I can’t inspect?

The “gut feeling” that goes along with inspecting a property like this is not the best.  You want to make sure that the condition of the property is as accurately represented as possible, and your gut tells you that there are probably some hidden items that need repair.  I guess that the best we can do is just try and make sure the client knows that there are areas in the home that we can’t see or inspect.

 

Shuford PhotoTim Shuford is a professional National Property Inspections home inspector in Jamestown, North Carolina. If you live in the area, call 336.823.6605 to schedule your home inspection with Tim.
NPI and GPI home inspectors have the tools and knowledge to assess your home. Consult with your local NPI or GPI inspector for an assessment of your home.

Everybody’s an Electrician (Evidently)

By Tim Shuford, NPI Franchise Owner, Jamestown, North Carolina

Fire HazzardMaybe it’s because so many of us were encouraged to learn about electricity by experimenting with batteries, wire, light bulbs, small motors, etc. during our youth.  (And I certainly don’t discourage this experimentation, since that provides critical learning opportunities.)  But it sure does seem that a lot of folks missed the lesson that some additional precautions and rules apply to the electrical system in a home.

A couple of the most common electrical findings (especially in attics and crawl spaces) during home inspections are splices not enclosed in electrical boxes and electrical boxes without proper covers installed.  The National Electric Code requires splices to be made inside enclosed electrical boxes and that electrical boxes have covers installed.  The drivers behind these requirements are fire safety and shock hazard prevention.  Since we see this so often, one might wonder how important this really is, since the houses obviously haven’t burned down and we typically don’t observe any electrocuted bodies near these installations.  (In case you didn’t know, the NEC is published by the National Fire Protection Association.  This fact should allow some of the old brain cells to conclude that not following the NEC rules just might result in a fire.)

Of course, there are many other electrical deficiencies that are discovered by home inspectors.  A significant percentage of these deficiencies were obviously created by a well-meaning DIY-er or handyman with an ultimate goal in mind.  Unfortunately, the “how to do it correctly” knowledge seems to be based largely on the discoveries made by playing with batteries and wires many years prior.  The scary part is how much stuff may be hidden in walls and other areas inaccessible for observation during an inspection.

Although preferred, I’m not necessarily a stickler that all electrical work in a home must be performed by a licensed electrician, but it would seem to be reasonable that such work be done in a manner that provides a safe result for the occupants of the home.  If folks are not going to hire a professional to make modifications to an electrical system, then they should put forth some effort to gain an understanding of how to do it correctly.

Now, how many other areas in the home and in life could we say this about?

 

Shuford PhotoTim Shuford is a professional National Property Inspections home inspector in Jamestown, North Carolina. If you live in the area, call 336.823.6605 to schedule your home inspection with Tim.


NPI and GPI home inspectors have the tools and knowledge to assess your home. Consult with your local NPI or GPI inspector for an assessment of your home.

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My Three Favorite ‘Photo Follies’

By Randy Yates, Training Consultant Administrator, NPI/GPI Corporate Office

Our home inspectors frequently send me pictures for my “you won’t believe this” file — known here at NPI and GPI as “photo follies” — so I thought I’d share three of my most favorite. To be honest, each is my favorite in its own right. These are pictures of things our inspectors have found during the course of their inspections of items, construction practices and installations. They are often amateurish, shoddy work or projects done by home owners who think they know how to build, fix or install things. Of the three I‘ve selected, some are self-explanatory and others you may have to think about.

This is what the home owner got with a brand-new roof installation.

This is what the home owner got with a brand-new roof installation.

 

I call this one, “The note says it all.”

I call this one, “The note says it all.”

 

Do you see the problem? If not, look at the roof shingles creeping up the siding. They’re not supposed to do that.

Do you see the problem? If not, look at the roof shingles creeping up the siding. They’re not supposed to do that.

 

Yates PhotoWith more than 10 years of experience in his current position and over 30 years of experience in remodeling and contracting, Randy Yates provides technical training to new NPI/GPI inspectors and provides field support to all NPI/GPI inspectors.

NPI and GPI home inspectors have the tools and knowledge to assess your home from roof to foundation. Consult with your local NPI or GPI inspector for your next home inspection.

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Nice Touch!

By Tim Shuford, NPI Franchise Owner, Jamestown, North Carolina

Bathroom_shutterstock_103857686Property inspectors routinely discover things in homes that are unusual or “out of the norm.” Unfortunately, there are often deficiencies (electrical, plumbing, structural, safety, etc.) associated with some of the handiwork that went into creating these unusual features, and the deficiencies are the things documented in an inspection report.

As an inspector, I’m sure that I often don’t pay much attention to the “nice touches” that may be incorporated into or added onto a home — unless there’s a deficiency associated with it. I try to note positive features in a house that required extra thought or effort on somebody’s part to provide some added convenience, functionality or aesthetic appeal on the home, regardless of whether there are associated deficiencies or not.

Here is a sample of my observations and discoveries that might fall into the “nice touch” category:

  • Location: An 89-year-old, 1,400-square-foot bungalow with a crawl space and partial basement in a not-so-great part of town. Some of the things I’m likely to see are water intrusion at the foundation walls, sagging and out-of-level floors, cracks in the plaster, foundation problems, inadequate support of floor framing — and, yes, they were all present. Something that jumped out at me before I entered the home was a decorative mosaic tile feature in a brick paver walkway about halfway to the backyard, with an inscription in Latin that appears to be translated as “Way of Life,” or possibly “Pathway of Life,” given its location on a path to the backyard that had a nice little patio area for relaxing. Somebody spend a lot of time creating this piece of art, which is located where almost no one will ever see. Nice touch!
  • During the course of the inspection on the same home, I had noticed that some improvements to the bathroom had been done, but I didn’t look too closely until it was time to inspect that room. To my surprise, there sat a nice jetted tub (equipped with a heater and proper GFCI protection) in the space where the original tub had been. The bathroom was the only place inside the home that had received any upgrades. Nice touch!
  • While inspecting an 11-year-old, 1,400-square-foot home, I noticed that there were at least four exterior electrical receptacles installed on the home. (Nice touch!) The amazing thing was that each of these receptacles and the receptacles in the bathrooms were individually GFCI-protected. So, if GFCI protection trips, the home owner doesn’t have to launch an all-out search for where the tripped GFCI receptacle is located. Pretty convenient for not a lot of added cost. (I’d like to nominate this electrician to revise some construction standards.)
  • While inspecting a roof that was at least 20 years old, I become curious about an anomaly at the ridge cap shingles in one area. What I discovered was a dollar sign ($) carved out of a shingle and nailed on the ridge of the roof. Not sure what that was about, but I got a chuckle out of it. Given the state of the plumbing vent flashings, I may have been the first person to see this handiwork since it was installed. Thanks for the chuckle, Mr. Roofer. Nice touch!

StaircaseThere’s nothing terribly spectacular about any of these examples. But, I do believe that each helps illustrate my point. Somebody made some extra effort, put some thought into, spent some extra time, and/or put a few extra dollars into creating a “nice touch” feature. I’m also challenging myself to spend a small amount of time trying to figure out what might have motivated folks to create some of the things that evoke the, “That’s unusual,” or “That’s strange” reactions when I see them, and maybe better appreciate the effort that went into making them happen. Some thoughts, questions for pondering, and examples:

  • It must have taken a tremendous effort to get the jetted tub into the bathroom of the home mentioned above. I assume that they broke the original cast iron tub into pieces in order get it out, as the doorways are narrow, there tight corners to navigate getting to the bathroom, and there’s very little working space once the tub is inside the room. There was no apparent damage to the hardwood floors, walls, door trim, etc. The home owner must have had some motivation for installing this tub that was greater than getting a bathtub upgrade for the home. Maybe the owner needed the tub for health reasons. Maybe the owner’s loved ones gifted the installation as an expression of their love. I guess I’ll never know.
  • What would motivate the roofer to carve the dollar sign and install it? Maybe he was bored. Maybe this was his “signature mark” that he put on every roof he installed. Maybe he’d been out of work, and this roofing job provided the first opportunity in a long time to bring home a paycheck and provide for his family.
  • What was the motivation for an unusual placement of some feature in a home (such as the laundry location, bathroom location, a seemingly random sink location, some kind of cabinet or storage nook, etc.)? What was the motivation simply an over-engineered contraption that doesn’t have an intuitive purpose? Maybe a husband was trying to provide a convenience for his stressed-out wife (or vise-versa) that would save two extra steps every day. Maybe a grown child was trying to provide added convenience for a frail parent. Depending on the installation, there is probably at least one plausible explanation.

If I could find a potential reason and/or purpose behind something unusual that I find, then it might just take on a “nice touch” perspective, even if it still seems strange.

The home inspection report probably doesn’t provide the best avenue to elaborate on “nice touch” features discovered, but a photo with a little description might provide some added value for the client (and Realtor). A wrap-up discussion with the client is certainly a great time to point out any “nice touch” features and discuss the potential reasons behind things that seem odd. It could also help take the edge off any deficiencies associated with the oddities.

Shuford PhotoTim Shuford is a professional National Property Inspections home inspector in Jamestown, North Carolina. If you live in the area, call 336.823.6605 to schedule your home inspection with Tim.


NPI and GPI home inspectors have the tools and knowledge to assess your home. Consult with your local NPI or GPI inspector for an assessment of your home.

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What’s the HWBB Heating Pipe Doing in the Attic?

By Lawrence Englehart, GPI Franchise Owner, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Englehart_Kitec

My client was wondering why their house’s addition above the garage was so difficult to heat during our Canadian cold winter season, and why their heating costs were so high. I guess that’s what happens when an incompetent contractor (nine years ago) installs the Kitec hot-water baseboard (HWBB) heating pipe on top of the attic insulation, which runs for more than 20 feet in an unconditioned space! The attic was relatively warm on the day I inspected it, about 0° C (32° F), versus this pipe at 70° C (162° F).

Englehart PhotoLawrence Englehart is a professional Global Property Inspections home inspector in Halifax, Nova Scotia. If you live in the area, call 902.403.2460 to schedule your home inspection with Lawrence.

NPI and GPI home inspectors have the tools and knowledge to assess your home. Consult with your local NPI or GPI inspector for an inspection of your home or a home you are planning to purchase.

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I’m a Guy; I Can Fix Anything

By Roland Bates, President, NPI/GPI

Man Hanging Light Fixture_shutterstock_190995362To preface this article, I need to explain that a ballast is a crucial component of a fluorescent light fixture. It controls the amount of current that flows to the bulbs and provides the current to start the bulbs.

That said, the ballast went out in one of my two kitchen lights a couple of months ago. My lovely wife asked me to replace it. As a guy, I was thinking that if one out of two lights work, what’s the rush? It turns out women don’t think that way.

I am pretty comfortable doing electrical wiring. Thus, I went to the hardware store and purchased a new ballast and installed it. Ignoring the instructions, and certain that I had wired it correctly, I turned the light on and off numerous times to make sure it was working and then went to do other things.

Fast-forward four or five weeks later: The ballast I replaced quit working. The hardware store obviously sold me a defective ballast. So, I purchased another new one and installed it. Again, I turned the light on and off numerous times to make sure it was working, and went then I went off to do other things.

Four or five weeks later: The same ballast quit working yet again. Now I want to sell my stock in the hardware store. What kind of operation are they running, anyway? After installing a third new ballast, I glanced at the installation instructions, which previously I had just thrown away. I had wired it correctly each time; however, in big, bold, red letters it clearly stated, “Upon initial installation, leave the light burning continuously for at least 48 hours to allow the ballast to ‘season.’” Whoops.

Did I tell my lovely wife that my failure to read the instructions cost me all that extra grief? Nah, no guy is going to do that.

Roland PhotoRoland Bates’ high energy, willingness to work hard and optimistic outlook are the cornerstones of success for NPI and GPI. His easy manner and family attitude inspire a friendly and close atmosphere at the company. Before he founded NPI/GPI in 1987, Roland owned a general contracting company, where he worked for eight years as a general contractor. Prior to that, he spent five years as a property claims supervisor and regional claims manager.

To find an NPI or GPI inspector in your area, click one of the links below:

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Talk to Your Home Inspector

By Ken Roleke, NPI Franchise Owner, Tucson, Arizona

Inspector + Client + Fireplace10Because I am an old-fashioned Jack-of-All-Trades to the extreme, I did not always understand the need for home inspectors. I was a builder, general contractor and property manager, and the people I interacted with the most were in construction and property maintenance.

I was surprised a couple of years ago when my neighbor pointed at his electric meter and asked me if it was the water meter or the electric meter. Then, last year, a home inspection client complained to her Realtor that I did not show her where the utility shut-offs were and how to turn off the water and electricity in case of an emergency. Because I’ve spent so many years in the construction industry, I didn’t realize that many people don’t know the basics about their homes. Just as other people have their areas of expertise that I know little about, most people don’t know much about home construction or building systems.

Until I worked with that client, I pointed out items needing repair during the inspection walk-through with home buyers. Now, I also point out the water shut-off valve and the circuit breakers. I explain the heating and cooling to home buyers. I also discuss the mostly frame stucco exteriors and the concrete slab on grade foundations we have here in southern Arizona, especially when I know the clients are moving from a cold climate where homes are constructed differently than here.

Most of all, I encourage my clients to ask me questions. There are things I take for granted about home and building construction that they may not. Every client has concerns, whether it’s the amount of attic insulation, the irrigation system or the roof. So, talk to your home inspector. Ask questions, and let him/her know what about the house is important to you. Your inspector wants to do a good job for you, so don’t be afraid to speak up and ask questions.

Roleke PhotoKen Roleke is a professional National Property Inspections home inspector in Tucson, Arizona. If you live in the area, call 520.870.2341 to schedule your home inspection with Ken.

 

NPI and GPI home inspectors have the tools and knowledge to assess your home. Consult with your local NPI or GPI inspector for an assessment of your home.

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Is the Roof on Your New Home Installed Properly?

By Wes Grant, NPI Franchise Owner, Indian Trail, North Carolina

Roof Shingles_shutterstock_154579022Many buyers and Realtors often don’t see the need to have a newly constructed home inspected, or they prefer to wait until the 11th month after purchase to get what is known in the industry as a builder’s warranty inspection. A builder’s warranty inspection is a full home inspection to find any builder defects in a house prior to the expiration of the builder’s one-year warranty. (Some builders may offer a two-year warranty). My concern with waiting until after purchasing the home to have your inspection is that you may experience problems that could easily have been avoided and corrected without any disruption to your daily life if they had been corrected before you moved into the house.

Some of the problems I find in newly built homes are roof installation issues. Now, I know what some of you are thinking — surely the builder is working with qualified roofers, so there should never be any problems with the roof, right? Unfortunately, WRONG! I am sure that most reputable builders assume they are hiring qualified professionals, but sometimes they simply are not and the roofing contractor they use may have a lot of “rookies” working in their company. Based upon my observations, many of these rookies have not received enough training.

Recently, I was hired to perform a new-construction home inspection. During my exterior inspection, and as I walked around to the rear of the home, I immediately noted that the roof looked very strange and irregular. The architectural shingles on the rear part of the roof had been installed with the thick tab areas of the shingles all in alignment. Upon closer inspection, however, I could see that the shingles were not installed with the correct amount of offset or stagger.

Stagger is a term many roofing contractors use for the shingle offset, also known as the spacing between butt joints of adjacent shingles. Some contractors call it “shingle offset” or “edge-to-edge spacing.” It does not matter what you call it, maintaining proper shingle stagger is important to prevent roof leaks and to conform to the shingle manufacturers’ specifications, thereby keeping the warranty intact.

If the shingle stagger is too small — less than 4 inches — water can travel into the shingle butt edge to the butt edge joint of the shingle below (less than 4 inches away) and leak. Leaking roofs can cause serious moisture issues, including rot and mold. If not identified and corrected quickly, a leaky roof can cause thousands of dollars in damage. A qualified home inspector would likely identify this problem during an 11th month builder’s warranty inspection, but by that time, you may have a lot more damage. For example, if you stored personal items in the attic, irreplaceable items such as pictures and photo albums may be damaged. The builder would be responsible for fixing the damaged roof and areas of the attic, but you can’t replace some things. There is also the hassle that comes with repair work going on while your family is living their daily lives. Having the home inspection at time of purchase will save you future hassles.

Needless to say, the buyer and Realtor for the new home I recently inspected were very happy that I caught this issue, potentially saving the client thousands of dollars and a lot of headaches. The sad thing is that in this particular new neighborhood, multiple houses had the exact same issues with the shingles, and my guess is that many of these houses will be purchased without home inspections. Some of those owners may unfortunately be the one on the hook for repairs.

So, please, do yourself a favor: Get a home inspection prior to purchasing any home. I have seen this type of roofing issue show up not just on both brand-new houses and existing houses that have had the roofs replaced.


Grant PhotoWes Grant
is a professional National Property Inspections home inspector in Indian Trail and the surrounding Union County area in North Carolina. If you live in the area, call 704.628.6601 to schedule your home inspection with Wes.

NPI and GPI home inspectors have the tools and knowledge to assess your home. Consult with your local NPI or GPI inspector for an assessment of your home, from roof to foundation.

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Common Defects in Newly Built Homes

By Randy Yates, Training Consultant Administrator, NPI/GPI Corporate

Home under construction uid 1When it comes to new-home construction, there really is no limit as to what can go wrong or not be done correctly during building. Defects are common; in fact, it has been said that a home inspector can sometimes find more things wrong with a newly constructed home than an existing home. This is why it’s important to always have a home inspection when buying a house — even if the house is newly built.

You might wonder what kinds of defects a new house could possibly have. Here is a list of problems home inspectors at National Property Inspections and Global Property Inspections often find:

Structural Defects
Premature cracking and settlement in foundation walls can be caused when builders don’t allow the proper amount of curing time for concrete in poured and block foundation walls and slabs. In addition, improper framing techniques — which may not be apparent at first — can cause cracks to develop in drywall. These are typically hairline in nature.

HVAC Problems
Our inspectors occasionally discover that the vent pipe from a gas-fired furnace has not been connected and has come loose during the initial operation. This is a major safety hazard, as carbon monoxide may enter the residence. In one situation, the PVC pipes used to vent a gas-fired furnace were not properly glued together. In addition, our inspectors sometimes find thermostats that do not respond to normal functions. Another common problem is missing drip legs on condensate lines.

Electrical Errors
The list is long for typical electrical problems, and most would not be obvious to the average home buyer or owner. The problem with defects in your home’s electrical system is that most are a fire and/or safety hazard. Here are the most common electrical problems our inspectors find in new houses:

  • Missing switch plates or receptacle covers
  • Improperly wired outlets
  • Open grounds — ground wire is not connected properly
  • Reversed polarity
  • Open knock-outs in the main electrical panel
  • Improper wire sizes on breakers
  • Double-taps on breakers in main panels — when two wires connect to a single breaker
    Jumpers ahead of the main lugs (double-tapping) — when two wires connect to a single lug

Plumbing Blunders
Plumbing problems are something you certainly don’t want in a new house. Leaks can cause major damage and mold issues, while other defects are more of a nuisance. But shouldn’t your brand-new home be free of nuisances? Here are some of the most common plumbing issues:

  • Unglued or improperly glued PVC pipe connections frequently develop leaks — you may never know about the weak joint until standing water begins to seep through
  • Hot/cold reversed faucets and fixtures
  • Bathroom sink drain stoppers that were not connected
  • Improperly vented plumbing systems may be noisy and/or smelly
  • Drain pipes that were not connected (One of our inspectors really did find a drain pipe in a crawl space that was never connected)

Miscellaneous Mistakes
Believe it or not, our inspectors have found all of the following problems in newly constructed houses:

  • Incomplete door hardware on closet doors, cabinetry and entrance doors
  • Improper fire-rated assemblies for pull-down attic stairs
  • Missing handrails on stairs
  • Missing or insufficient insulation
  • Leaky windows
  • Siding defects
  • Improper grading, which could lead to water intrusion and foundation damage

What these defects tell us is that if you are moving into a newly built house, don’t skip the home inspection. Even the best builders in your area use subcontractors, so you can’t assume that everything in your house is top-quality just because you builder is. Plus, you have to allow for human error, which is how many of the problems mentioned here happen. So, even if you just had your house built, it’s worth the cost of a home inspection to ensure that everything was done correctly, and that your new home will be safe and worry-free.

To find an NPI home inspector in your area in the United States, please visit www.npiweb.com/FindAnInspector. To find a GPI inspector in your area in Canada, please visit www.gpiweb.ca/FindAnInspector.

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Check Your Deck

By Scott Ward, NPI Franchise Owner, Southern Johnson County, Kansas

IMG_8631On a recent home inspection I was appalled to see that both decks on a duplex were badly rotted where they attached to the house. Both decks sagged 2 to 3 inches and were pulling away from the wall. The result could have been deck collapse with serious injuries involved. The attempted repair was a cobbled-together mess that would likely have caused the deck to pole-vault out into the yard. Although decks here in the Midwest and northern regions are not used frequently in the winter, now is a good time to perform a quick inspection of your deck, which could avert a disaster in the future.

Until fairly recently, a deck was attached to the house using just nails or deck-type screws. Deck flashing was rarely used, nor was any type of spacing used between the house and the deck ledger board (the board attached to the house). This was the case at the duplex I inspected. Moisture became trapped between the deck and the house, which resulted in wood rot and corrosion of the nails.

A basic visual inspection of your deck often will identify any issues that may be present. Look for excessive gaps at the joints of the deck’s framing members. From the underside of the deck, use a small screwdriver to probe for soft or rotted siding or decking materials. Also, look for old paint lines that have suddenly appeared along the ledger board where it attaches to the house. If an old paint line is present, this could indicate that the deck has slipped.

Many jurisdictions now require that decks be bolted to the house with at least a half inch of spacing between the house and the ledger board. This configuration allows a much stronger and more permanent attachment to the house, as well as prevents water from becoming trapped between the house and the ledger board, thereby preventing rot in this area.

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