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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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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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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What’s Wrong With These Photos?

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

Englehart-BlogI came across this on a home inspection. This property is only 12 years old. The seller did not have a home inspection when he purchased the house because it was brand new.

The roof was too high to safely climb, so I took a picture from below (Photo 1). The first picture shows the exterior depression in the roof, and Photo 2 shows the top of the drain-waste-vent (DWV) stack inside the attic space — which shows that the sewer vent had not been extended above the roof line. As a result, the warm, moist sewer gases have been deteriorating the sheathing in this area for more than 12 years!

The dry-rot of the oriented strand board (OSB), shown in Photos 3 and 4, is so severe that anyone who would have walked on the roof might have fallen through this rotted area. In fact, it looks like last winter’s snow load may have caused the depression, which now leaks when it rains.

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Home Inspection Red Flags

By Randy Yates, Training Consultant Administrator, NPI/GPI

“Buyer beware” is the catchphrase that often may not be given as advice to a home buyer or even to a property inspector. Certain problems that could be revealed during a home inspection would make the faintest of heart run away from a deal, but when you major issues are discovered, any buyer may run away fast. Here are some examples of red flags that could be discovered during a home inspection:

Too Many Roof Layers
Some areas now allow only one layer of asphalt or fiberglass composition shingles. Other areas allow two, but it’s rare for more than two layers to be considered acceptable. So, if you find a house that has three layers and the third layer looks like it was just installed, you may ask, “Why do I have to tear off a brand new roof?” It’s all about the weight factor, and the third layer will tip the scale and add too much weight to the home’s structure.

Foundation Issues
If your home inspector discovers a foundation that has anchoring plates installed on the inside and notes that they “may require frequent torqueing with seasonal changes,” you should know that this is not part of normal maintenance.

Electrical Issues
You inspect a home built prior to 1950-ish. Knob-and-tube (KNT) wiring all over the place. Although the National Electrical Code (NEC) may still recognize it, few insurance companies will provide coverage for houses with KNT because of the potential fire hazards.

These are just a few of the potential pitfalls to be aware of when buying a house. The good news is that every problem can be fixed, so don’t walk away just because a house has some issues. Whether major issues like those mentioned here and others are deal killers depends on a couple of things:

  • Will the seller repair the problems?
  • If the seller won’t repair the problems, will they discount the price so you can have the issues repaired?
  • If the seller won’t repair and won’t discount the price, do you have the time and money to repair the problems yourself?

If the seller is unwilling to work with you and you don’t have the money to fix the problems, then your best option may be to walk away from the deal.

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How Can I Tell if the Shingles on My Roof Need to Be Repaired or Replaced?

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

Roof Shingles_shutterstock_154579022The roof helps to protect the building and its contents from the effects of weather. You should think of your roof as your home’s protective covering, and as such, its care and upkeep should be an important part of your regular maintenance to-do list. Depending of the type of shingles installed on your roof, you should be able to expect shingles to last upward of 20 years, or even longer.

However, many factors can negatively affect the life expectancy of shingles. These can include improper installation methods, insufficient attic ventilation, adverse weather conditions and trees.

An outdoor roof inspection can be performed safely from your driveway or backyard with a set of binoculars or a good digital camera that has a high-optical zoom.

Look for telltale signs of cupping or curling of the shingles; excessive granular loss; split, cracked or missing shingles; or areas with organic growth (e.g., algae, moss, fungus, staining).

An indoor roof inspection can be performed easily with a ladder and a flashlight from your attic access. Look for signs of damaged, split or sagging wood framing, dark areas that look wet, or significant discolouration on the underside of the roof sheathing. When excessive humidity is allowed to build up in the attic space, it is not unusual for mould to grow, and this will quickly deteriorate the sheathing and can have an adverse effect on the indoor air quality of the home.

Ventilation is extremely important to the health of your entire roofing/attic system.

If you do notice any of these deficiencies, you should first contact a trusted roofing professional for a more thorough examination of your roofing system. Sometimes the solution may be only a minor repair or “tune-up” versus replacing the entire roof.

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Why Should I Get a New-construction Home Inspection?

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

I hear this question often from folks buying a newly built home, and it has compelled me to explain the virtues of having a new-construction home properly inspected by a professional and qualified home inspector.

Firstly, I am not writing this to bash home builders, per se. For the most part, I know many custom home builders who do a fine job. Unfortunately, I also know many home builders who do a mediocre to poor job and who are only concerned with their bottom line regardless of the marketing propaganda they feed new-home shoppers. I have been labeled “Deal Killer” by some of these builders because I point out the flaws and poor workmanship they try to pass on to their buyers.

Home inspectors are the one — and often only — party who has no skin in the game. What does it benefit us to be a deal killer? The builder makes money selling the house; inspectors are the only objective party involved in the transaction because we are paid to inspect the home whether or not a buyer goes through with the purchase. Buyers of new-construction homes are often inexperienced in the new-construction home buying process. They mistakenly assume that because a home has passed all local code inspections, it must be OK.

My short answer is this: Don’t assume your builder, or the subcontractors they use, did a good job just because the home passed code inspections. A professional home inspector is your last line of defense against major and minor defects that could literally cost you thousands of dollars and cause you many a restless night.

At National Property Inspections, we work with many professional Realtors, and they know us and understand that we are here to help our mutual clients and keep them from being fleeced by parties who choose to ignore poor quality or simply don’t care.

OK, I’m getting off my soap box. Here, I outline the most severe issues I regularly find during new-construction home inspections.

Improperly Installed Cement Fiber Plank Siding
Most frequently, I find multiple issues with improperly installed cement fiber planks. Major manufacturers of this product are James Hardie and Certainteed. I’m not going into the class-action lawsuits that are currently in process with some cement fiber plank manufacturers — that’s for a later discussion. I’m simply pointing out that many new-construction homes I have inspected have siding that has been installed improperly.

I find that nails are often overdriven or multiple nails are driven into small areas. Nails that are overdriven no longer have holding strength and/or crack the corners of the siding. In either case, the individual planks will begin to fail over time, and some fall completely off the house, many times within just a few weeks after construction.

Per the Certainteed installation specs: “Do not over-drive the fasteners. Seating them below the surface of the siding reduces their holding power and creates an entryway for moisture. Do not place fasteners in the center, unsupported area of the siding.”

Another issue is siding planks and boards that have large gaps between the ends of the siding. The butt ends of siding should be in moderate contact and should have joint flashing, joint caps or sealant at each joint connection. (Depending on local code, many manufacturers recommend against using any joint sealants.) Open gaps between the butt ends allows easy access for water intrusion behind the siding.

Problems With Stone Veneer Siding Installation
Improperly installed manufactured stone veneer siding is also a common defect. Failure to follow the manufacturer’s installation procedures can lead to water intrusion inside the wall cavity behind the siding. At a recent 11-month builder’s warranty inspection, we discovered very high moisture readings on the interior walls of the home using a Tramex encounter plus noninvasive moisture meter. The manufactured stone veneer, commonly referred to by builders as “lick and stick” was installed with no visible weep system at the base of the wood frame walls or horizontal transitions. We found other problems, too:

  • No visible weep system at the tops of windows and/or doors
  • No visible sealants along seams between the stone cladding and siding, trim, windows and/or doors
  • No indication of a flashing and/or weep system where the stone cladding is in contact with roofing materials or along head flashings
  • Metal lath was visible, indicating that the proper base coats of mortar were not applied prior to installation of the stone cladding

The lack of proper detailing and flashing is conducive to water penetration behind the stone cladding and possible hidden damage. The home owner contacted the builder after receiving our report that night (we always deliver same-day reports). The builder started removing stone, and multiple areas of the interior wall had water-soaked insulation and mold growth. We saved the customer thousands of dollars for which she repaid us by referring at least six of her neighbors in this new-home community, all for 11-month builder’s warranty inspections.

Rayn Properties Architectural Images

Unprotected Roof Penetrations
We frequently discover improperly installed flashing and boot vents at roof penetrations, as well as missing kick-out flashing at the end of sidewalls. We were inspecting a brand-new home on the same day our customer was doing the walkthrough with the builder. It was raining on the day of inspection, and as we made our way into the attic, I noticed a large puddle on the OSB plywood just in front of the furnace. Upon further inspection I determined that the subcontractor who cut the hole penetration in the roof to extend the furnace flue had cut the hole much too large allowing water to pour into the attic area.

This is a brand-new house — even after the roofers, HVAC technicians and who knows who else had been in or around this roof and attic, nobody noticed the light coming in around the furnace flue penetration, and no one saw the gaps around the flue penetration on the exterior roof while they were putting on the shingles? Had the customer not had a home inspection, how much damage would this leak have caused before it would be discovered?

On a 10-year-old brick home we inspected, kickout flashing was missing over a window at the front porch, and visible staining was noted on the exterior brick veneer. On the interior walls, we found moisture intrusion, and the window sill area was very soft. At the band sill (viewed during the crawl space inspection), our inspector noted rot and severe water damage directly under the area missing the kick-outs. If the missing kick-outs had been noted at the time of construction (regardless of code), these home owners would not have been looking at spending thousands of dollars in repairs 10 years later.

Plumbing Fails
During the crawl space inspection of a new-construction home just this year, I noted water leaking from under the master bathroom toilet area. It appeared that the plumber forgot to install a wax seal! I have actually caught this three times in new-home construction.

Funny story: My Daddy was a plumber, so from the time I was able to walk, I was required to be a plumber’s helper. I can clearly remember Daddy having me finish installing some copper supply lines in a bathroom of a new-construction home when I was about 14 years old, while Daddy went back to the supply house to pick up some elbows. I was fluxing my heart out and connecting pipes and was so proud of the job I did. I remember when Daddy was testing the water pressure all the joints blew at the bathroom I completed — seems I forgot one important task: soldering the joints. Not my best moment! Point being, everybody makes mistakes or forgets things sometimes. A home inspection will catch many of these lapses.

Improperly Flashed Window and Door Openings
This defect is normally only discovered if the customer is having a pre-drywall inspection (a very good idea for new-home-construction buyers). We got a call to do an inspection on a 4-year-old house in a new home development that stalled in 2009 during the economic crash after several houses had already been constructed.

In the interior of the home, around the back-door threshold area, the floor was very soft and “giving” when stepped on. During the crawl space inspection, we noted evidence of water intrusion, wood rot and mold growth in the subflooring components under the back-door threshold. The sellers agreed to repair the problem, and the contractor doing the repair work started demolition. They discovered that there was absolutely no flashing around the door threshold, which could have been caught with a pre-drywall inspection.

This year, we have done several new-construction inspections and pre-drywall inspections in that same neighborhood (building resumed full force in 2014), and we are finding that this particular builder is routinely failing to install flashing at some areas of windows and doors, or not using any type of rubber tape adhesive flashing at some of the corners (bowtie cuts) and just using caulk sealant. This is sloppy work by a subcontractor, which will lead to expensive damage in the future.

These are just a few of the major issues we have discovered during new-construction home inspections that have saved our customers thousands of dollars and more than justify the cost of a home inspection. All of these issues have been identified by a qualified professional home inspector.

A new home will be the largest financial investment most of us make in our lifetimes. For the cost of pennies on the dollar, you can buy peace of mind that your purchase is a sound financial investment with an objective home inspection. Call National Property Inspections today to book your next home inspection. We will save you money in the long run.

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Ask the Home Inspector: Roof Inspections

By Randy Yates, Technical Supervisor and Technical Training Administrator, NPI/GPI Corporate

Roof_shutterstock_145024390Q. What does a roof inspection entail?

A. One of the largest areas of concern to a home buyer is the roof. After all, it covers and protects the home, and replacing it can be a big investment.

First and foremost in a roof inspection is the question of accessibility: Can the inspector physically walk the roof, or will they need to conduct the inspection from the ground with binoculars or by placing a ladder at the eave at various locations? Limitations to consider are the roof’s height and its pitch or steepness. Many home inspectors are not comfortable climbing up on a roof that is taller than two stories, and a 4 to 5/12 pitch (steepness) is about the comfort zone for most inspectors. Weather is also a consideration, as a home inspector should only walk on a roof in dry conditions. And finally, there are certain types of roof materials that an inspector cannot and must not walk on. Regardless, an inspector must disclose in the report how the roof was inspected.

Perform an Overall Roof Inspection
Another big question that comes up during a home inspection is, “How old is the roof?” Sellers are typically the best source, as home owners usually know how old their roof is. If the home owners are unavailable or don’t know the age of the roof, then a home inspector should give a ballpark estimate as to the roof’s age. In general, composite aggregate shingles have more definitions that provide visible indications as to age.

Design life expectancies for roofing materials are determined by the National Home Builders Association (NHBA) and can be used as a guideline for life expectancy. Each type of roof covering system can vary, with most lasting anywhere from 20 to 25 years all the way up to what some manufacturers call “lifetime.”

A home inspector will also report the roof’s overall condition: Are the shingles or materials cracked, curled, cupped or split? Are there any missing shingles? Are any/all penetrations sealed or properly flashed? Penetrations are anything from plumbing vent pipes, furnace and water heater flues, skylights or fireplace chimneys that actually penetrate thorough the roofing system. Any penetration can be a potential leak source for water intrusion. Your home inspector will visually inspect the flashings and penetrations for proper installation and signs of leakage.

Finally, the inspector will check whether the roof system was installed correctly according to the manufacturer’s specifications.

Describe the Roof Material
Inspectors should report the type of material covering the home’s roof, which can be the following:

  • Asphalt/fiberglass three-tab or architectural
  • Stone aggregate composite shingles, which are most common
  • Man-made (synthetic) slate
  • Clay or concrete tile
  • Cedar shingle or shake, which in some states are no longer allowed to be installed, according to state laws and guidelines
  • Metal, which is becoming more popular for residential roofing systems, as well as commercial applications
  • Different types of rubber and PVC membrane systems for flat roof systems

Record the Number of Layers
How many layers are present? In certain jurisdictions, multiple layers of roofing material are only acceptable with asphalt/fiberglass three-tab or architectural, or with stone aggregate composite shingles. Usually, no more than two layers are allowed.

It is an industry-known fact that the life expectancy of this type of roofing system does not meet the normal expected life expectancy when it becomes a layered roof, thus National Property Inspections and Global Property Inspections always recommend that home inspectors check with the local authority having jurisdiction.

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What’s a ‘Green Roof’?

Submitted by Roland Bates, President, NPI and GPI

green-rooftop-waterproofing-systemImagine a combination of grass, plants, shrubs and possibly small trees growing on top of a building. A green roof can be just about anything. It’s possible to have green roofs on residential property, but more likely they will be found on flat commercial rooftops.

One of the reasons for a green roof is to reduce the amount of sunlight that hits the top of the building, making it less hot inside the building in the summer and in warm climates. A green roof can reduce energy consumption for cooling and the like.

Depending on how it’s built, a green roof could add a lot of weight to the roof; therefore, it might be necessary to beef up the structure to carry the extra load. Naturally, this would add to the cost of the building, as would the addition of a sprinkler system to maintain all of the plants, etc.

NPI and GPI do a lot of inspections on existing commercial buildings, as well as a lot of commercial draw inspections (new construction). Green roofs are a trend that we’re not seeing much of on new buildings. One contention is that the dark green leaves from the plants absorb more UV heat than does some sort of lighter-colored reflective roof, so maybe this is why companies aren’t really buying into the idea of a green rooftop. It will be interesting to see how popular they become in the coming years.

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