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.

Hardwood Flooring

By Kenn Garder, Corporate Accounts Manager, NPI/GPI Corporate Office

Empty RoomHardwood flooring has been used for years; the flooring, if properly maintained, can last the lifetime of the building.  The most common issues with hardwood flooring stem from moisture.  Wood is a natural product and is considered hygroscopic; It gains and loses moisture as the relative humidity and temperature of the air around it changes.

To minimize moisture issues the hardwood floor manufacturer usually dries the lumber so it has a moisture content of 6 to 9 percent before milling into the flooring.  The flooring should not be installed in rooms that are exposed to high moisture.  It is recommended that the flooring be delivered to the site of installation and allowed to acclimate for up to 4 days in an area that has been climate controlled for at least 48 hours and the sub floor is dry.  Following these recommendations is important to help minimize the amount of movement, but it’s not a guarantee that there won’t be issues caused by the changes in relative humidity.

Months and sometimes years after the floor has been installed and finished, moisture can still cause some visible issues.

Cracks and separation:  When the room is heated in the winter the relative humidity decreases, shrinking the wood. This can cause the wood to separate resulting in cracks.  To minimize these cracks moisture can be added to the air during the heating months.

Cupping:  Wood flooring can cup or curl at the edges leaving the center lower, resulting in an uneven surface. The wood expands when the relative humidity is higher or if water is spilled on the wood’s surface and absorbed.  As the wood expands, compression can result as the boards are crushed together deforming the edge of the boards. Humidity control will help the floor dry out and improve over time.

 

Crowning:  This is the opposite of Cupping. The center of the board is higher than the edges.  Crowning can occur if the wood is left exposed to high humidity or water for an extended period of time.  Another cause is sanding a cupping floor before it is dry; as the cupped wood continues to dry the edges will shrink more than the center of the board.

 

Buckling:   Because of excessive moisture, the flooring pulls up from the sub floor, lifting several inches from the sub floor.  When the floor is flooded with water for an extended period of time, buckling can occur.  A floor that has buckled will probably require more than drying out, typically, after drying out sections of the floor will need to be evaluated to determine if repairs can be made.

 

When these conditions are present in a hard wood floor, determine the water or moisture source and control or stop the moisture exposure to the wood.  In hot humid weather using air conditioning and possibly a dehumidifier to control the relative humidity will help to reduce the movement in the floor.

 

Garder PhotoWith 10 years of experience in his current position, Kenn Garder is the central point of contact for NPI/GPI’s national accounts. He also provides technical support to our franchise owners/inspectors and teaches the commercial segment of our training program.

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

 

 

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What Did My Inspector Mean When He Talked About Grading and Slope Around My House?

Grading_shutterstock_135142733The exterior of your house is just as important as the interior systems when it comes to a well-functioning, well-sealed structure. Because of this, home inspectors should begin the inspection long before they ever reach the door, assessing grading, utility hookups, walkways, decks, driveways, windows and doors, roofing, and exterior cladding or siding.

The grading around your home’s exterior helps prevent water intrusion, which can cause wood rot, mold and mildew. Proper grading also prevents structural movement and damage, keeps out unwanted pests, and helps regulate temperatures inside your home.

Preventing water intrusion begins with the grading of the lot, or the way the ground is shaped around the house. For best results, the ground should visibly slope away from the structure (positive slope). Negative-sloped grading around a home (the ground slopes toward the house) can cause water to pool at the foundation and eventually soak into the walls. Positive slopes move water away from the home and help prevent damage to the foundation.

When a house is built at the bottom of the hill, swales (small ditches) may be built to direct water around the house and away from the foundation. Your home inspector should assess the property’s slope and grading, noting the specific location of negative slope or pooling water. One common problem area is the garage apron. If the flooring is not poured with proper slope, then water will run under the door and pool inside. Inaccessible or obstructed areas of the foundation will also be noted in your inspection report.

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Why Are Gutters, Downspouts and Splash Blocks Important?

Gutter_shutterstock_147483605Gutters, downspouts and splash blocks are used to move water away from a house or building, protecting the exterior surfaces of the home, the foundation and landscaping materials from water damage.

  • Gutters are valleys that can be made of a variety of materials and which are located on the edge of the roof.
  • Downspouts connect to the gutters to contain the water on its way to the ground.
  • Splash blocks are found at the end of the downspouts to disperse water away from the foundation.

A variety of gutter systems are available, depending on the type of home, slope of the roof and aesthetic concerns. Gutters on residential homes may or may not have seams, may be attached to the outside of the roof, or may be an integral part of the soffit. Gutters are made of plastic or metal, and they may have screens on top to prevent large debris from causing clogs. Leaks are most common at the seams, elbows and corners of gutters.

Drainage on flat roofs, generally found more often on commercial buildings, can be accomplished with gutters and downspouts, an interior drainage system or scuppers. Scuppers are holes cut in walls that extend above a roof line. Generally a downspout is connected to the scupper to move water away from the building.

Damaged or leaking gutters can allow water to stain walls and ceilings, pool against the foundation, or seep into the walls damaging the frame.

An unbiased, independent inspection by your NPI or GPI inspector includes a thorough examination of the home’s gutters and downspouts to provide the information you need for.

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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Ask the Inspector: What Are Weep Holes?

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Brick can be a structural component of a home, serving as the wall itself, or it can be a veneer, which is a type of siding. As a veneer, a single thickness of brick is added to the outside of a wood-framed home and serves the same purpose as any exterior siding.

One way to identify the presence of brick veneer is to look for weep holes — small openings at the bottom of brick veneer walls. Weep holes are designed to give moisture that accumulates between the home’s interior wooden wall and the exterior veneer a way out. Without weep holes for ventilation, moisture may become trapped in this cavity, causing mold, reducing the effectiveness of insulation, encouraging the formation of rot and attracting pests.

Weep holes can often be identified by open slots on a course, or row, of bricks near the foundation. The holes are typically 32 to 33 inches apart and should be kept unobstructed. It is a good idea to check and clear weep holes periodically. Do not allow dirt, mulch or broken pieces of mortar to block the holes and trap moisture inside.

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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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The Nasty Mold And Mold Removal

By Todd Newhook, GPI Franchise Owner, Markham, Ontario

Newhook Photo 2Quite often, home inspectors come face to face with a so-called enemy : The Nasty Mold. As professional home inspectors, we are obligated to report to our clients the presence of possible mold whenever we see visible staining, and we also must recommend next steps.

Many home inspectors are certified to test for mold. I’ve been testing for mold for about six years and also have considerable mold remediation experience. Our clients and real estate agents appreciate our level of expertise and industry experience. (A little side note [shhhh]: Mold is not necessarily bad for you and is an important part of our ecosystem.)

Mold in general requires a food source to grow — moisture — and something to grow on, such as substrates. It is important to ensure that the house you live in is well maintained, and that includes ensuring proper indoor humidity levels and temperatures. You know those silly cracks and the deteriorated caulking around your house? If you don’t maintain these areas, water will get inside at some point. Concerning mold, preventive maintenance is key.

Attic mold is common in our area (Canada) due to the changing seasons, extreme cold temperatures and sometimes poor home-owner maintenance (e.g., disturbed insulation, poor ventilation, leaks). If not properly assessed and treated, mold can cause damage like dry rot to the structure.

From my experience, mold often causes a hiccup in the real estate transaction process when discovered. That being said, typically mold can be easily treated, and remediation runs between $2,000 and $4,000. If your home inspector finds mold in a house you are planning to buy, your options include but are not limited to ice and soda blasting, which removes a thin layer of wood and removes mold stains; acid Newhook Photo 1treatment and scrubbing; and disinfecting and encapsulation. The photos at the right show before and after views of an attic with the sheathing/structure disinfected and encapsulated with an anti-mold paint.

Mold in the living area of a house is a different issue. Depending on the amount and type, mold may be harmful to your health. A common area of mold growth that you can’t see is in your furnace. If there is an air conditioner, then there is likely an A coil just above the heating system, with a condensation pan. If the drain in the pan plugs with debris, then water will pool. A dark environment plus elevated moisture levels, changing temperatures and humidity can certainly cause mold. Guess what happens when you turn on your furnace or AC? You likely are blowing mold spores throughout the house. This is just one of the reasons to have your furnace and air conditioner serviced and cleaned annually by a qualified HVAC technician. Duct cleaning is also a great option, as technicians can spray disinfectants through the ductwork system.

Another common area for mold to appear is in bathrooms. Many older homes do not have adequate ventilation, such as bathroom and kitchen fans. Due to high levels of humidity, we typically find surface stains of possible mold or mildew. Fortunately, with proper housekeeping and upkeep of seals and caulking, this type of mold is easily cleaned with disinfectants. Upgrading or installing fans and vents will help control humidity levels and prevent mold.

Your home inspector will note if there is other possible mold in the home — for example, from leaks that present visible stains. If you or your inspector suspects mold, you should consult a mold expert. If ever in doubt, always contact a mold expert. Don’t take chances with your health.

Mold is not necessarily a bad thing “or nasty,” but it’s important to be aware of potentially toxic mold and take care of your home and your health.

Newhook Photo

Todd Newhook is a professional Global Property Inspections home inspector in Markham, Ontario. If you live in the area, call 855.504.6631 to schedule your home inspection with Todd or a member of his team.

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 to help reduce elevated levels of harmful mold in your home.

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Icicles Signal Problems for Home Owners

IciclesThis winter, take special note of any icicles hanging from your roof. Small icicles are normal, but large, thick icicles can be dangerous if they fall and usually spell trouble for your home. Fortunately, most problems that cause icicles can be remedied easily.

Icicles typically indicate ice damming on your home’s roof, a problem usually caused by insufficient or missing insulation and ventilation in your attic and between your house and your attic. During the winter, this warms the roof, causing snow to melt more rapidly and move down the roof to the overhang, where it refreezes in the form of icicles. It can also cause an ice dam to form, which eventually pushes the water up under the roof’s shingles. This damages the roof and gutters, and it can lead to water intrusion causing leaks in ceilings or walls, or soaking insulation, which would make it ineffective. As if those problems weren’t bad enough, ice dams can cause structural decay and rot to your house, or cause mold and mildew to form in your attic and on wall surfaces.

Try the following remedies to reduce or eliminate ice damming and the damage it causes:

  • Seal all holes or gaps connecting your heated living space and your attic.
  • Ensure that the attic is properly insulated.
  • Attached with clips along the roof’s edge in a zigzag pattern, heated cables prevent ice dams, allowing you to equalize your roof’s temperature by heating it from the outside instead of blowing in cold air from the outside.
  • Use an aluminum roof rake to pull snow off of your roof.
  • Install a ridge vent and continuous soffit vents to circulate cold air under the entire roof.
  • Make sure that ducts connected to the kitchen, bathroom and dryer vents all lead outdoors through either the roof or walls — never through the soffit.
  • Seal gaps between chimneys and the house framing with L-shaped steel flashing held in place with unbroken beads of a fire-stop sealant.
  • DO NOT attack an ice dam with a hammer or other tool to chop it up, as you could cause further damage to your roof. If necessary, contact a roofing company to steam the ice dam off.
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Top Five Problems Revealed During a Home Inspection

By Kenn Garder, National Accounts Manager and Technical Support, NPI/GPI

Purchasing a house is a major decision, and a home inspection report can be used to assist in the decision-making process. Here are some of the more common issues found during a home inspection.

Poor Grading and Drainage
Water should run away from any structure to help prevent moisture intrusion. If the soil around a house slopes toward the house, or if water pools around the perimeter of the foundation, that moisture can create hydronic pressure in the soil that can move the foundation, causing cracks and leaks that can lead to extensive damage and expensive repairs. If water wicks into the wood framing members, the wood will rot over time. This moisture also provides a haven for wood-destroying organisms (WDO) because it provides a water and food source.

Erosion around the perimeter of a house may be caused by water spilling over gutters due to clogged downspouts or downspouts that terminate near the foundation. Downspout extensions or spill ways can be installed to keep water away from the foundation.

Roof Coverings
The roof of a house is designed to withstand most of what Mother Nature can dish out, whether it be rain, wind or sun. If installed properly, the roof should keep water out of the home.

The life expectancy for roof coverings varies depending on the material. Asphalt composite shingles, for instance, typically have a life expectancy of 15 to 25 years. As the roof covering ages, it can become more susceptible to water infiltration and leaking.

Plumbing Problems
Notice a theme here? Controlling water is one of the most important issues in home maintenance.

Leaking supply water and drain lines can cause damage to walls and floors, or they can become the water source for mold and mildew. Outdated (galvanized) or problematic systems (polybutylene) can develop leaks more frequently. Wax rings under toilets can develop leaks and damage the floor around the toilet or the ceiling below.

Electrical Issues
House fires caused by faulty wiring and overloading circuits are common. It is not unusual for a home inspector find evidence of DIY additions to a home’s electrical system. Many times these additions work but were not done properly, causing safety issues.

Exposed wire connections and double taps in the panel are also common problems. If your home inspector finds these or other electrical issues, he/she will recommend that you have the system evaluated and repaired by a qualified licensed electrician

HVAC Havoc
Inadequate maintenance of the HVAC equipment is common. Dirty condenser coils on the air conditioner condenser unit and dirty furnace filters can lead to major repairs. The equipment may be at or near its life expectancy and need to be replaced. Gas-fired furnaces may not burn properly.

With proper maintenance, an HVAC system can continue to heat and cool the house, but many times heating and cooling systems are “out of sight out of mind.”

This is a sampling of typical issues found during a home inspection. These items may vary depending on the geographical location of the property and the overall maintenance of the property.

Looking for a professional, qualified home inspector in your area? In the United States, visit http://npiweb.com/FindAnInspector. In Canada, visit http://gpiweb.ca/FindAnInspector.

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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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