Clothes Dryer Safety

By Jon McCreath, NPI Property Inspector, Emerson, Georgia

Clogged Dry VentAccording to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 15,000 fires are sparked every year by clothes dryers.  Lint and other debris can build up in your dryer vent, reducing air flow to the dryer, backing up dryer exhaust gases, creating a fire hazard.

Here are some of the signs that it’s time to clean your vent:

  • Clothing does not dry completely after a normal drying cycle.
  • Drying time for clothing takes longer than 35 to 40 minutes in duration.
  • A musty odor is noticed in the clothing following the drying cycle.
  • Clothing seems unusually hot to the touch after a complete drying cycle.
  • The dryer vent hood flap does not properly open as it is designed to do during the operation of the dryer.
  • Debris is noticed within the outside dryer vent opening.
  • Excessive heat is noticed within the room in which the dryer is being operated.
  • Large amounts of lint accumulate in the lint trap for the dryer during operation.
  • A visible sign of lint and debris is noticed around the lint filter for the dryer.
  • Excessive odor is noticed from dryer sheets that are used during the drying cycle.

Tips to decrease debris

  • Limit the use of dryer sheets used when drying clothing.  Instead of dryer sheets, use liquid fabric softener.
  • Only operate clothing dryers for intervals of 30 to 40 minutes per batch of laundry.  This allows more air circulation within the dryer and less lint build up from occurring.
  • When possible hang clothing such as heavy bedding, pillows and other large articles outside to line dry.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.

    Canada: gpiweb.ca/FindAnInspector
    United States: npiweb.com/FindAnInspector

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Christmas Tree Safety Tips From The Inspector

 

By Stephen Gremillion, NPI Property Inspector, Montgomery, Texas

Christmas tree fireEvery year fires are started or fueled by Christmas trees. Now in no way am I saying that you should substitute a real tree for a fake one but here are some tips to help keep your home more safe.

Water Your Tree!
It may seem a little too obvious but a dry, dead tree is the first step to a fire and it can be easy to forget.

Switch to LED lights.
Not only do LED’s use less power but they also produce less heat. It’s a win-win; save on power while keeping your home and family safe. Most new light strands are LED so this is something to be cautious of if your lights are older.

tree2Remove Nearby Heat Sources.
It can be easy to do it without even thinking about it. Maybe you put an electric heater next to your tree. Or maybe an end table with a candle. Just be mindful and pay attention to avoid a potentially devastating mistake.

Check On Your Tree Regularly.
Remember your tree is most flammable when it’s dry. If it becomes a too dry you may want to consider removing the lights.

Ttree3urn the Lights Off When You’re Not Around.
Even though LED’s give off very little heat it’s still a good idea to turn them off when unattended. Just unplug the lights when you leave or go to bed. It may also prevent unwanted attention from pets.

Take the Tree Out By the End of December.
Don’t be someone who still has their tree up in the middle of February. By then it will be as dry as a tinder box.

Keep these tips in mind to make it a great holiday for you and your family.

 

Stephen Gremillion Stephen Gremillion is a professionally trained NPI property inspector working for franchise owner/inspector Garner Gremillion in Montgomery, Texas. If you live in the area, call 936 230-3440 to schedule your home inspection with Garner or Stephen.

Before you move, make sure to have your house inspected by an NPI or GPI home inspector. Visit the links below to find an inspector near you.

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Is Your Deck Really Safe? (Or Do You Just Think It Is?)

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

Deck4I have been told that more than 70 percent of decks have some type of structural issue. A structural issue typically equates to a safety concern. Based on my observations of as a property inspector, the 70 percent estimate is pretty accurate. In addition to the structural deficiencies, I commonly find many other safety hazards.

I believe there are a couple of fundamental reasons that so many decks have structural weaknesses:

  1. Many home owners tend to take a DIY approach to outdoor projects, such as adding or expanding a deck, even though they have limited construction knowledge and experience. If they’re not brave enough to tackle it themselves, then they probably have a neighbor, friend or relative who constructed their own deck — and that must be a testament to their qualifications, right?
  2. Many decks are unpermitted, so they haven’t undergone inspection by the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ), even though they were supposed to.

Does Your Deck Have One or More of These Problems?
Here is a sampling of structural and safety concerns that home inspectors frequently find on decks:

  • The deck is nailed to the house with no other visible means of attachment. Nails can corrode and fail behind the deck band, causing the deck to collapse. Concealed damage to framing behind the deck can also result in deck collapse.
  • The deck is only supported by the brick veneer on the home, and not bolted to the home’s framing. Brick veneer is not a structural element, and the deck may pull the veneer away from the home. In addition, it is also common to find other unapproved fasteners and deck bolts without nuts.
  • The deck is nailed to the support posts with no other visible means of attachment. Nails by themselves just don’t have the structural strength to provide the vertical support needed for a deck, and they may pull out over time. (This was the cause of a widely publicized deck collapse during a family reunion a couple of years ago.)
  • Joists are nailed to the beams without joist hangers or ledger strips to provide vertical support. Again, nails alone may not provide the structural strength needed.
  • Support posts are not resting on proper concrete footings. This can allow for settlement and movement of the deck, which can also result in structural failure.
  • No flashing applied where the deck connects to the home. This can allow water intrusion and damage to the structure of the home.
  • Undersized deck framing that does not provide adequate structural integrity. Also, decks are sometimes constructed using unconventional framing techniques, and further evaluation by a specialist may be required to determine if the deck is structurally adequate.
  • Stair risers are not adequately fastened to the deck structure. This problem can allow the stairs to fail, causing a fall and/or injury.
  • Loose decking boards. These can present tripping hazards, as can nails that have backed out of the deck surface (called “nail pops”).
  • Deck railings are often inadequate to provide proper fall protection, especially for children. Openings in railings may not provide adequate guarding. This includes pickets or balusters that are spaced too far apart. Railings are often not tall enough and contain horizontal or diagonal components that would allow children (or pets) to climb the railing. Railings may not have adequate strength to support the weight of an adult who falls against them, or they may have loosened over time.
  • Weathered wood. Because decking materials are exposed to the elements, wooden components are subject to cracking and splintering, which is certainly a hazard to bare feet.

This list is not intended to be inclusive of every concern that a home inspector may find. Please note that the specifics concerning the requirements for many of these concerns were omitted, since specific requirements vary depending on location, etc.

As warmer weather approaches, folks will be migrating back to their outdoor living spaces — so take a look at your deck with an eye toward safety.

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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Happy New Year From NPI and GPI!

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Historical Houses Often Reveal Hidden Treasures

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

Photo A

Photo A – Click to enlarge

Home inspectors come across unique items in the course of a home inspection. Photo A is of a main service panel found in use in a house built in the early 1900s. Keep in mind that at the time it was built, very few houses had an electrical system, and if they did it was small — typically two circuits. So, while this panel was certainly state-of-the-art, it could also be considered a piece of art in its design and functionality. Nevertheless, it does not meet today’s safety standards, and the home inspector recommended upgrading the panel.

Below is some information from the manufacturer’s specification document for a similar product, from the “Descriptive Catalog and Price List” of the Bossert Electric Construction Company, published in 1896:

DISTRIBUTING

Box is intended to be used for “concealed” work, and arranged for 12 branch circuits. It is entirely made of iron, and contains main and branch circuit terminals, also binding posts for main and branch wires, all conveniently arranged.

All fuse terminals are calculated to receive standard fuse links. The box is also provided with a specially designed 100-amp double-pole knife switch; the operation of same does not interfere with closing and locking of door, whether circuit is thrown “on” or “off.” As will be seen from cut, the box is provided with ornamental iron door and lock. Box can be furnished from 6 to 12 circuits, with or without main switch, for either brass or iron armored conduit work.

IMG_9509

Photo B – Click to enlarge

PRICE

12-circuit Box, without switch, plain slate, metal work dipped, $15.00

12-circuit Box, without switch, enameled slate, metal work dipped, 16.50

12-circuit Box, without switch, enameled slate, metal work polished, 20.00

12-circuit Box, with 100-amp double-pole knife switch, enameled slate, metal work polished and lacquered 25.00

I guess the moral of the story is to be on the lookout for treasures in historical houses!

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Proper Construction and Maintenance of Your Deck

By Jon McCreath, NPI Franchise Owner, Emerson, Georgia

McCreath BlogDepending on your geographic location, your deck may be one of the most popular areas of your home. Just like the rest of your home, decks require ongoing maintenance and inspection to make sure that all components are functioning as intended. A well-maintained deck adds both form and function to your home. Over time, however, several factors contribute to wear and tear, giving home owners a choice between replacing the deck or attempting deck repair.

Deck Maintenance
Cleaning and treatment of the deck boards is often overlooked. Decking is exposed to the elements and over time may show signs of water damage, fading color, and deterioration or rotting.

Decks require cleaning and treatment every couple of years, and this may include applying paint or sealant. Cleaners can restore some of the original color. Power washing the deck is an option for cleaning, but care is required in not using too much force or too narrow of a spray pattern. This is also a good way of removing algae, that unsightly green coating that you may see.

Once the deck is cleaned, and prior to treatment with paint or stain, examine the condition of the deck boards and replace any that may be deteriorated or rotting. If you are experiencing wood rot, it is important to determine why. There may be an issue with the gutters or flashing that is directing water onto a particular area of the deck. There are a number of restoring deck paints that are thick and able to fill in some cracks, but if the wood is too deteriorated, then rotting may continue under the paint.

The most common material used for decking is pressure-treated wood. Cedar and redwood are also used, but may require more frequent maintenance. Composite decking is now becoming more popular, as it requires less maintenance. Certain types of wood will shrink over time and may create gaps, and you may also find that the deck boards are cracking or splitting. It is best to replace any deck boards that show evidence of these issues.

Proper Deck Construction
Too often, decks are installed by inexperienced home owners and the structural integrity may be compromised. Ledger boards, fasteners, posts, footings and railings are all critical components of the deck. If any structural compromise is suspected, it is best to have the deck examined by a qualified contractor.

Decks should be attached to the house using ledger boards and lag bolts, and this is one of the most critical aspects of deck construction. Deck joists should be attached to the ledger board, either by joist hangers or setting atop a ledger strip. If using joist hangers, attention must be given to the manufacturer’s instructions, and you must use approved nails. If using a ledger strip, it should be a minimum 2 in. x 2 in. that is fastened to the bottom of the ledger board with three nails under each joist. The joists are then toe-nailed into the ledger board. Toe-nailing of the joists alone, without hangers or ledger strip, is not recommended.

Beams should be secured to the top of the posts, not to the side of the posts. Beam attachment to the posts should be done with either a bracket or by notching the post and securing the beam with bolts. The exception to this would be only for a low-level deck that has short-spanning joists and beams and a number of support posts.

Deck footings should generally be set below the frost line. In regions where the frost line is not an issue, it is common to see precast foundation blocks on top of the exposed grade. At a minimum, regardless of frost line, the footings should be set 12 inches into the soil. In colder climates, the minimum depth may be much higher, up to 36 inches in some cases.

Finally, your deck’s guardrails should be 36 inches minimum height, with balusters not exceeding 4 inches separation, and there should be a graspable handrail with four or more risers.

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Should You Do Your Home Inspection Yourself?

By Dale Senkow, GPI Franchise Owner, Prince Albert, Saskatchewan

Everything in the house you’re planning to buy may look great from a distance; however, a home inspector is a trained professional with vast knowledge and an arsenal of tools. You can’t imagine some of the things our inspectors run into. Sometimes home owners ev en take the advice or word of the seller — sure, they may have lived there for some time, but what if they’re moving because the house has a hidden danger or major problem that only a home inspector can identify? It’s a pretty big risk to skip a professional inspection and rely on what you see yourself.

You can hire a home inspector for a fraction of the home’s purchase price. It’s money well spent when you have the assurance of knowing that your investment is the home you need it to be.

Here, we share some of the problems we recently discovered during home inspections.

Senkow 1

 

 

Wow if that floor wasn’t so clean we wouldn’t have noticed the filled-in window. The pipe insulation in the far right corner isn’t helping much, either.

 

 

 

 

 

Senkow 2

 

 

The smoke detector has a disconnected wire. Since this is a room in a condo, it not only puts the home owner in danger but it also puts others in danger. Home inspectors know where smoke detectors should be strategically placed and that they should be wired into the home’s panel box and have a battery backup for power outages. Remember to test your smoke detectors regularly and replace them every five years.

 

 

Senkow 2

 

 

Never have your barbecue or grill beside your house. This photo shows what happens to a house’s siding when a grill is too close. You’ll only make that mistake once.

 

 

 

 

 

Senkow 2

 

 

 

Home inspectors have rules to follow. They’re not supposed to move belongings. In this room, the clutter is also a safety issue and a possible fire hazard. Furthermore, the attic hatch is located in this room and cannot be safely accessed by the inspector.

 

 

 

Senkow 2

 

 

 

The reserve tank on the toilet is leaking. The foam seal needs to be replaced and is squished too tight. Every time the toilet flushes, water flows out.

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Home Inspection: Inspecting the Water Supply Pipe

By Ken Roleke, NPI Franchise Owner, Tucson, Arizona

Water PipesYour home inspector should identify the water supply pipe used in the house and point out any deficiencies associated with it. It is not always easy to identify the type of pipe used in plumbing a house. Quite often, one material (often copper) may be used where the plumbing is visible, as well as on the exterior, at the hot water heater connection and at turn-off valves, and another piping material might be used inside the walls and is not visible to the inspector. Keep in mind that a home inspection is a visual, noninvasive inspection of the property, so  your home inspector won’t be able to see the piping inside walls.

Water supply pipe materials have each had their time as the most widely used —galvanized, copper, polybutylene and PEX.

Galvanized steel pipe was prevalent in the 1950s to the mid-1960s. It has an estimated lifespan of 40 to 75 years, depending on the volume of use and the chemicals in the water. Over time, galvanized pipe corrodes from the inside, becoming clogged and reducing water volume and flow. For this reason, homes originally plumbed with galvanized pipe often have repairs made with other pipe material.

Something to watch out for is when a repair is made by connecting galvanized pipe directly to copper pipe. Connecting two dissimilar metals will lead to galvanic corrosion unless a dielectric fitting, which isolates the two metals with a rubber or plastic washer, is used. The most common area of the home where an inspector will encounter this problem is at the hot water heater.

Copper has also been used extensively for home water supply since the 1950s and is still used today. It was the dominant material from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s. Copper’s price fluctuates, and it has increased substantially over the years relative to other materials. One problem to be aware of with copper pipe is repairs done with thin-wall Type M copper instead of the thicker walled Type L.

Later, polybutylene came to the forefront for pipe material — until it was determined to be defective and was discontinued. Polybutylene was used in several million homes from 1970 to the mid-1990s. A class action lawsuit and settlement paid for home owners to replace polybutylene pipes; however, many home owners did not take advantage of this, so there are still many homes with polybutylene today.

PEX, properly known as cross-linked polyethylene pipe, is the dominant water supply pipe used in houses built today. The material is lower cost and less labor-intensive to install than copper.

So how will your inspector determine what type of pipes your house has? Sometimes pipes are visible in the crawl space or attic. Other times, an inspector’s knowledge of the builder or subdivision, the age of the house, or what was and is allowed in a municipality will make him fairly certain of the pipe material used. Finally, older houses, due to repairs and additions, are much more likely to have more than one type of pipe.

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Home Inspection 101: Inspecting a Home’s Grading

Submitted by Ken Roleke, NPI Franchise Owner, Tucson, Arizona

New House + Landscaping_iStock_000002119557SmallAn important component of a home inspection that is not always obvious to the home buyer is the grading of the yard. I have seen homes that are meticulously maintained inside but have poor grading, even holes in the yard. Unfortunately, grading is often considered a low priority, but the effects of improper grading can be disastrous.

Rainwater ponding outside, or worse, running toward the house, can wreak havoc. Basements can flood, damaging items in the basement, as well as drywall, carpet and more. Even a slab-on-grade house with no basement is susceptible to water damage, as it could develop mold from water seeping into the walls, and the moisture could attract termites. Furthermore, standing water in cold climates can freeze and damage brick paver decking and other hardscapes.

The ideal grading that the home inspector should look for is for the ground to slope away from the house in all directions a half inch per foot. Other factors besides the slope of the ground can cause problems, including downspouts that disperse water right against the building, instead of directing it away, and vegetation that holds water and keeps it from draining away.

If the property looks like it has drainage problems, then the best way to know for sure is to check during or immediately after a rainstorm. When this is not practical, the inspector could try running a hose in the questionable area.

While the best and most foolproof way to remedy the grading is to build up the ground to slope away from the house in all directions, it’s often just not possible. Small lot sizes, the elevation of the house, where the house transitions from foundation to framed wall, the elevation of the neighbor’s land, existing vegetation, hardscape and accessory buildings, and especially cost are all factors in the equation.

Remedies for improper grading include connecting downspouts to a pipe to direct the roof rainwater further away from the house and French drains, which are basically a trench filled with gravel or perforated pipe that catches the water in the yard and directs it away from the house.

For more information about grading, read our previous post, “What’s Your Grading Grade?

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