Prevent Hot Water Burns

Family at Home_shutterstock_151320977Protecting young children and others in your home from burns caused by hot water can be a concern. Water temperatures over 120° F (48° C) can potentially cause scalds. That’s why a water temperature assessment is part of a general home inspection.

This assessment has two parts: First, the inspector uses a thermometer, usually held under the water in the shower while operating at least one other water fixture to determine any significant changes in water temperature. The temperature in the shower is adjusted to about 105° F (40° C). Next, the inspector will flush the toilet and turn on the sink. If the water temperature in the shower shifts more than five degrees, the inspector will note it in the inspection report. This same test is also used help assess and report on water volume and flow in the home. The inspector will note visible changes in the water volume or flow when all three fixtures are operating.

To test the general temperature of a home’s hot water, your inspector will turn on the hot water in the kitchen and test it with the thermometer. Inspectors frequently find that a home’s water is too hot, but the temperature setting usually can be changed on the water heater to protect people in your home.

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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Today’s Tip: Don’t Neglect Your Water Heater

By Jon McCreath, NPI Franchise Owner, Emerson, Georgia

Water Heater_shutterstock_113790454If you’re like most savvy homeowners, one of your main goals is to maintain your appliances for as long as possible before the need to replace them forces a new purchase. Water heaters are no exception to this, and they are one of the most important appliances in your home.

How Long Does the Average Water Heater Last?
According to manufacturers’ information, the average life expectancy of a traditional tank-style electric or natural gas water heater is around eight to 10 years. Some estimates show that electric water heaters may last slightly longer — up to 15 years. Years can be added or subtracted, however, based on weather, the unit’s design, its original installation, and the level of maintenance the unit has been given. Maintaining your water heater on an annual basis may add as many as five years to the life of the unit.

How to Maintain Your Water Heater
The first step in providing the appropriate maintenance is to have a professional plumbing company perform an annual inspection. When managing electricity or gas with water, you’ll want to ensure that repairs and installations are completed by thoroughly trained, licensed and insured technicians.

The majority of work takes place during the process of draining and flushing the water heater. This should be done at least once a year. A technician will test the temperature-pressure-release valve (this valve stops the tank pressure from climbing too high). Next, they will drain the heater and stir up sediment by opening the cold-water supply valve. They will repeat this process is until the water runs clear.

Excessive sediment is important to remove, as it will not only cause the tank liner to crack, but it will also coat the anode rod with calcium and allow it to corrode. The anode rod is used to slow down corrosion inside the tank and extend the life of your water heater, and it should be replaced if it’s less than 1/2 inch thick or covered. A technician can also adjust your thermostat to the recommended 120° F (49° C). This prevents the tank from overheating and causing damage.

Looking to save even more on energy costs? A technician can help you with that, too. By lowering your water temperature by 10 degrees, you may save up to 5 percent on your utility bills! Enclosing hot- and cold-water pipes with foam pipe insulation will preserve water temperatures as well.

When Should You Replace a Water Heater?
Age is not always a prime indicator for appliance replacement, but an appliance does warrant evaluation if you are investing in more repairs as the unit ages. If your water heater is more than 10 years old, it could be on its last leg. Other signs that a water heater replacement is in your future: it operates intermittently, produces rusty water (a qualified plumber can tell you whether you have a rusty tank or the issue is in the pipes), makes rumbling noises (which may be caused by hardened sediment in your tank), or leaks.

McCreath PhotoJon McCreath is a professional National Property Inspections home inspector in northwest Georgia. If you live in the area, call 404.426.3661 to schedule your home inspection with Jon.


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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Today’s Tip: Freshen Up Your Garbage Disposal

Kitchen Faucet_shutterstock_85457362The kitchen is a source of odors in the home. Some, like apple pie, are pleasing. Others, like the odor emitting from a kitchen drain, can hit you right in the gut.

To clean and freshen your drains, pour the juice from half a lemon and a handful of baking soda down the drain. Flush well with hot water.

Garbage disposals are another part of the sink that can get stinky. To freshen your garbage disposal:

  1. Cut a lemon in quarters.
  2. Run cold water down the disposal.
  3. Turn on the disposal and drop in one piece of lemon.
  4. Follow with a second piece.
  5. Once both pieces of lemon clear the disposal, add a handful of baking soda.

Remember to keep your fingers away from moving parts at all times. While the disposal runs, use the other lemons to make refreshing drinks.

Cold water should always be used with a garbage disposal because it helps congeal the fats and grease that may be in the disposal. Warm water will liquefy these items, but could cause them to congeal and block the plumbing before they are completely flushed from the system.

Although the garbage disposal itself generally requires little maintenance, the area under the kitchen sink is prone to leaks. Every month, be sure to open the cabinet doors, remove all of the items and check carefully for dampness or drips. Stopping leaks early can prevent expensive fixes later.

If your house has a septic system, there may be something you may not have thought of: If you have a garbage disposal, you likely will have will to clean the septic system more frequently because of the build-up of solid foods and grease from the disposal.

Your local NPI or GPI home inspector can provide you with a full assessment of your home’s systems and condition. To find an inspector near you, visit one of the links below.

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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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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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Should You Refinish Your Bathtub or Replace It?

Bathtub_shutterstock_148016765Over time, a bathtub can begin to show its age from stains, scratches or even chips in the finish. No matter how much you clean it, the damage is still visible because it cannot be removed by cleaning.

One option is to purchase and install a new tub, but new tubs can be expensive. In addition, the plumbing may have to be replaced or readjusted to fit the new tub. Another option may be to have your tub refinished, resurfaced or reglazed.

Benefits of Bathtub Refinishing

Cost. On average, it will cost somewhere between $350 and $500 to have a bathtub professionally refinished, whereas a new basic bathtub and installation costs between $700 and $1400.

Time. It takes around three to five hours to refinish a bathtub, and you can use it within 24 hours. Installing a new bathtub can take days, depending on a number of factors that may or may not surface during the installation process. Plumbing issues could have to be corrected, or door frames or doors could be damaged by moving the tubs in and out, and other complications could arise.

Ease. Refinishing a tub is much easier than tearing out an old tub and installing a new one. Refinishing is similar to any other painting job and involves preparing the area and the surface, applying the paint, and allowing it to dry.

Should You Refinish Your Tub Yourself?
Refinishing your tub yourself is an option and could save money. The following are some things to consider before you choose to tackle the project by yourself:

  • Expense: How much will the project cost if you purchase the materials and do it on your own versus having a professional do the job? How much could you potentially save?
  • Inconvenience: How much time do you have to devote to the project? Do you have a second bathroom that can be used while the tub is being refinished?
  • Experience: How much experience do you have with do-it-yourself projects like plumbing, dry walling or carpentry? Do you have an experienced friend or family member who is willing to help?

Whether you decide to replace or refinish your tub, contact three professional companies for quotes. In addition, you should inquire about completion times, warranty on the work, and the potential for unforeseen damage.

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What to Make of Polybutylene Piping

By Patrick Riley, NPI Home Inspector, Savannah, Georgia

We often are asked whether our clients should be scared of polybutylene piping in their houses. Perhaps. After all, the manufacturers of polybutylene piping have paid almost US$1 billion in class-action lawsuits (though they have never admitted there is anything wrong with their product). Polybutylene piping was installed from the late ’70s until the mid-’90s, and it is estimated that up to 10 million homes were built with polybutylene pipes. In other words, if you are buying a home built during the polybutylene era, then there is a good chance your home inspector will find polybutylene.

What is so bad about polybutylene piping? Simple answer: It leaks. Although, in defense of polybutylene, so does every other pipe that has ever been made. The difference is that we think we know why polybutylene leaks. Research leads us to believe that chlorine and possibly other oxidants in the public water supply break down polybutylene piping, ultimately causing it to leak.

Is polybutylene piping dangerous? Only in that a leak from polybutylene could cause issues such as mold or damage to the structure of a home. However, the material doesn’t cause cancer and won’t steal your identity or anything like that. It just leaks — again like every other pipe.

When a home inspector discusses polybutylene piping with a client, it can be tricky because polybutylene carries such a negative stigma. However, many home buyers no longer remember what polybutylene piping even is. Therefore, most are not preconditioned to be wary of polybutylene. Furthermore, with PEX piping hitting the market, home owners no longer have to replace polybutylene piping with copper piping. The price of PEX is a fraction of the cost of copper, and the installation is generally easier and cheaper.

In closing, do your homework on polybutylene. I guarantee you’ll find some horror stories as well as some information that may lead you to believe that polybutylene piping is no worse than any other plumbing pipe on the market.

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When Do You Need a Permit for Home Improvement Projects?

Improving the design and condition of your home is always exciting, but a home improvement project can turn into negative if you try to sell your house and the necessary permits weren’t issued for a project. As a home owner, it can be difficult to determine which projects require a permit and which don’t, so we have created a handy guide for you.

Permit Chart

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Ask the Inspector: Winterizing Outdoor Faucets

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

Water PipesQ. My neighbor just had a basement leak caused by her outside tap freezing, which busted a pipe. I’m concerned this might happen to us. Is there a proper way to winterize our outside water faucets?

A. This is a really good question, but the answer may depend on the age of the home or the type of exterior faucet in use. In older homes, the exterior faucet is a simple compression faucet that has a type of in-line shutoff valve inside the home, which should also have a small brass drain cap located on the side of the valve. As well, the copper pipes for this older configuration should slope toward the exterior faucet.

The proper procedure to winterize this older exterior faucet is to first shut off the inside valve by turning the handle clockwise, then proceed to the exterior faucet and open the faucet by turning that handle counter-clockwise. The homeowner should then proceed back to the inside shut-off valve and open up the small brass bleeder drain cap, which would then allow all of the water to drain out of that section of copper pipe. The reason the water needs to be drained out of the exterior faucet is the risk that any water left inside the exterior faucet may cause damage to the water pipe if the temperature outside were to go below the point that water freezes.

The newer type of exterior faucet is called a frost-proof faucet, or freeze-proof faucet. As the name implies, these are designed to minimize the risk of water freezing inside the unit and possibly rupturing the water pipe. However, just like the older configuration, these units need to be installed with the pipe sloping toward the exterior of the home. This unit is also a type of compression faucet, but the physical shut-off valve is actually up to 12 inches away from the exterior tap and located inside an insulated wall or rim joist area.

If you’re not sure if your exterior faucet is an older style or a frost-proof type, the general rule of thumb is that the handle for the frost-proof faucets tend to be perpendicular to the home.

Unfortunately, although most home owners may be familiar with this quick overview of a winterizing process, some may not understand that the garden hose must be disconnected before winter or there is a very real risk that the garden hose would keep water inside the faucet, which could potentially freeze and possibly rupture the water pipe.

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