Cracked Hose Bib Can be an Expensive Lesson

The split in the hose bib is circled.

The split in the hose bib is circled.

Here’s what can happen when you forget to detach your garden hose from the house when temperatures reach below freezing: a cracked hose bib. One of our employees left the hose attached to the house over the winter and discovered that the pipe leaked when she turned on the water this spring. The culprit was this cracked hose bib. This happens when water gets trapped in the hose bib and freezes, bursting the hose bib. Fortunately, she realized what had happened and turned off the water as soon as it started leaking, so no damage occurred inside the house.

It’s a costly lesson. This one cost $325 to repair, with no water damage inside the house.

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There’s a Bat in the House

Submitted by A.R. Goldyn, Marketing Manager, NPI/GPI Corporate Office

bat-134For several years, friends often joked that I was Batgirl because I’d find a couple of bats in my bedroom every year. The first time it happened, I woke up in the middle of the night because my cat was making a terrible clamor behind my bedroom door. I yelled at him and all of the sudden something started flying around my bedroom. “How did a bird get in here?” I thought sleepily. Suddenly, I realized that was no bird; it was a bat.

Back then, the Nebraska Humane Society had an emergency number that you could call, and they’d come to your house, capture the bat and release it. The following year, when I had another bat in my house, NHS no longer offered that service, so I was on my own. Living in that house for 10 years, I became something of an expert at capturing bats and releasing them. I also called the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission for information about what to do when you have a bat in your house and why I kept finding bats in my bedroom. Here are some tips to keep you from going batty when you have a bat in the house:

  1. The first thing to do is isolate the bat in whatever room it is in. Remove pets from the room and close the door if possible.
  2. You should wear heavy leather gloves when trying to capture a bat.
  3. If you have a net, use it to capture the bat and take it outside to release it.
  4. If you don’t have a net, wait for the bat to land and cover it with a towel. The bat won’t be able to move. Scoop up the bat in the towel and take it outside to release it.
  5. If the bat lands on a wall, use a plastic container to cover the bat, then slide a piece of cardboard between the wall and the container to keep the bat in the container. Take the container outside and release the bat.
  6. Bats can’t take flight from the ground, so when you release the bat, you should set it on a tree trunk.
  7. If you wake up to a bat in your bedroom, you should capture it, put it in a box and have it tested for rabies. Bats have tiny teeth, and you could have been bitten while sleeping and not know it. Having the bat tested at your local game and parks commission, humane society, or veterinary office will save you a lot of worry and the pain of rabies vaccination. This is also a good time to mention that you should always have your pets vaccinated, even if they’re indoor-only pets. As my vet said, vaccinating is about what can get inside the house, too.
  8. Bats are a lot like mice in that they can enter your home through tiny holes and cracks. If you have a bat in the house, you should try to determine how it entered your home — whether it was through the chimney, the attic, the basement or a gap around a window frame — and seal any cracks or gaps to prevent more bats from entering your living space.

I’ve since moved from that house, and I haven’t had any encounters with bats in my new home. So, I am no longer Batgirl, but I’ll bet I could still capture a bat quickly and easily.

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Some Days I Don’t Inspect Houses

Submitted by Paul Duffau, National Property Inspections Franchise Owner, Asotin, Wash.

Fixed-a-DSC_0321And now, for something totally different. A restaurant. They’re always interesting to inspect. Sometimes, though, you see stuff and you scratch the joint from the “favorite eateries” list. Don’t think that will happen today.

Just a note — there are no state standards for commercial inspections. When Washington passed the home inspector licensing law and the regulations were written, the limit was set at  four-unit buildings to comprise residential construction.

Commercial inspections usually follow ASTM standards but can be modified by any of the parties to include more or less information. As an example, I do American with Disabilities Act (ADA) surveys to help businesses stay in compliance with federal law. The ASTM standard specifically excludes this type of work, but nothing prevents me from performing it — or charging for it. It’s an extra fee.

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Standards of Practice

Submitted by Lawrence Englehart, Global Property Inspections Franchise Owner, Nova Scotia, Canada

ÁþVWhat does it mean to be a member of CAHPI and follow their standards of practice?

First, I’d like to explain a bit more about who CAHPI is. CAHPI is short for the Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors and can trace its roots back more than 30 years. It is a national association with regional representation across Canada and whose mission is to promote and develop the home inspection profession. It represents the interests of its members (i.e., professional home inspectors) and the public through promoting and enhancing its members’ professionalism and competency.

To assist in accomplishing these goals, CAHPI has set up four objectives:

  • Establishing and maintaining the status of the professional home and property inspectors with consumers, governments, stakeholders and all associated agencies and professionals across Canada
  • Establishing and maintaining a national standard for education, certification and professional practice for home and property inspectors across Canada
  • Supporting programs that are beneficial to Canadian home and property inspector provincial/regional organizations and their individual members
  • Enabling transferability of certification within all Canadian home and property inspector provincial/regional organizations

In our area, our regional association is called CAHPI-Atlantic and covers all four Atlantic Provinces. CAHPI-Atlantic embraces the goals and objectives of CAHPI National through education and fellowship. It is devoted to promoting the National Standards of Practice (SOP) and Code of Conduct/Ethics, as the broadly accepted requirements for home inspectors.

However, to become a member of this association, inspectors must first meet minimum professional and educational requirements; they must also successfully complete a certification exam, have their reports verified as having met specific quality standards and then perform a test inspection followed by a peer review. Furthermore, members must also meet annual education requirements to maintain their membership.

The National Standards of Practice are the most widely accepted home inspection guidelines in use, and include all of the home’s major systems and components. These National Standards of Practice enable the building being inspected to be compared with a building that was constructed in accordance with the generally accepted practices at the time of construction.

Home inspections performed to these standards of practice are intended to provide the client with objective information regarding the condition of the systems and components of the home as observed at the time of the home inspection. The inspector will evaluate the condition of the structure, roof, basement, drainage, electrical, plumbing, heating system, visible insulation, walls, windows and doors. Following the inspection, the inspector is to provide a documented report on those observed items that require major repairs or improper building practices, fire and safety concerns, as well as any items that have overdue maintenance issues. After the inspection, you will know more about the house, which will allow you to make decisions with confidence.

It is important to note that only CAHPI members have the legal right to use the CAHPI logo and the term RHI (Registered Home Inspector). Using a CAHPI RHI is your assurance that you are working with the highest quality and trained home inspectors in Nova Scotia. This verification can be easily found at www.cahpi-atl.com.

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Beautiful, Cursed Trees

Submitted by Roland Bates, President, National Property Inspections/Global Property Inspections

Trees are not necessarily part of a home inspection. However, to a homeowner, trees provide beauty, shade and privacy from that neighbor kid who creeps everybody out. Cleaning leaves from gutters adds a little excitement and danger to our lives. And, raking leaves from the lawn provides a great cardio workout — unless one doesn’t like their neighbor, then one simply lets the leaves blow into the neighbor’s yard. Some of us have no shame.

To a professional home inspector, however, trees necessitate some consideration. Oftentimes tree branches overhang a roof, where they can abrade the shingles and possibly damage the siding. Tree branches can interfere with overhead power lines, cable connections and the like. In this case, a little snow, ice, gravity and a broken tree branch, and the homeowner could lose power, heat and the ability to watch reality TV all at once.

No problems here. How else can raccoons get on the roof?

No problems here. How else can raccoons get on the roof?

A tree’s root system more or less mirrors its branches. If there are tree branches overhanging a roof, it’s very possible its roots could damage the foundation. In many cases, we have found tree roots growing in crawl spaces and/or through foundation walls. When this happens, it can be both tricky and expensive to repair.

Tree roots can also wreak havoc on driveways and sidewalks. Some species of maple trees are particularly prone to their roots working their way above grade. If there are driveways or sidewalks nearby, it can cause considerable cracking and lifting, as well as a tripping hazard. No one wants the delivery man dropping the box of china they just bought from Amazon.com.

If there are tree roots above grade, it is not an easy fix. Sometimes building a bridge or walkway over the exposed roots is the best solution. Otherwise, always check with an arborist before cutting or removing any exposed tree roots.

And perhaps the most dreaded of all: Tree roots can obstruct sewer lines, and no one but no one wants that. No one who’s experienced a sewer backup says, “I’m sure glad I never paid for a scan of my sewer lines. I saved a bundle.” Well, somebody might, but not me.

In reality, most homeowners plant trees too close to the house. Trees are generally planted when they are small, and little consideration is given to what grief they might cause at maturity. It’s like having kids and forgetting they become teenagers. A good rule of thumb for planting trees is the one-half rule: Whatever height the tree reaches at maturity, plant it one half that distance from the house. For example, if a tree is expected to reach 50 feet at maturity, plant it at least 25 feet from the house.

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Your Septic System: Traditional Versus Aerobic

Submitted by Kenn Garder, Technical Support, NPI/GPI Corporate Office

Septic 1

A traditional septic system

When we flush or drain a sink where does the water go? In a public sewer system, wastewater is channeled to a water treatment plant. In a house without public sewer access, a septic tank and drain field are the most common method of treating wastewater. The owner of the property is usually responsible for maintaining the septic system.

A traditional septic system has four main components: a pipe from the house, a holding tank (septic tank) a drain field, and the soil. The septic tank is a buried water-tight container that can be made of concrete, fiberglass or polyethylene. Wastewater is held in the tank long enough to allow the solids to settle out, creating sludge and oil and grease to float to the surface creating a scum on the top. This allows for bacteria to start the decomposition of the solid materials. To keep this type of system in good working order, the scum and sludge need to be removed by pumping water and solids that build up in the septic tank.

A way to increase the decomposition of the solid material is to use an aerobic septic system. This system is similar to the traditional system, using the pipe, tank, drain field and soil. However, the aerobic system uses oxygen to support the growth of aerobic bacteria that digest the solids more efficiently than a traditional system. This provides a high-quality wastewater treatment alternative to traditional septic systems.

Septic 2

An aerobic septic system

It is estimated that two-thirds of the land in the United States is unsuitable for the installation of septic systems. The lot a house is built on may not have enough land area for the drain field, the water table may be high, or the house may be located close to a body of water, increasing the chance for wastewater pollution if the septic system does not work properly.

An aerobic system, while not the solution for every situation, offers a reasonable alternative for difficult sites when installing a new septic system or replacing an existing system.

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Have You Cleaned Your Dryer Vent Lately?

Submitted by Randy Yates, Technical Supervisor and Technical Training Administrator, NPI/GPI Corporate Office

One of the most common household components installed by HVAC contractors — and one of the most common elements that requires maintenance other than changing a furnace filter — is a clothes dryer vent. According to statistics, clothes dryer vents are among the leading cause of home fires in the United States and Canada. How often to you look at the vent opening on the outside of your house let alone think about cleaning and maintaining the vent system?

DryerVents1

 

The above-pictured positive-flow louvered dryer vent opening in itself looks like it is time for replacement let alone time for clean out, as pictured below.

DryerVents2

Dryer vents require normal maintenance — meaning, yes, you do have to clean out your dryer vent at least annually and maybe more often because of the material that was or is used or the actual total length of the vent pipe itself that comes off the back of the dryer and goes to the outside of the house. The International Residential Code (IRC) states the following:

Material used for the vent pipe should be smooth metal duct with no screws.

Hm, wonder where somebody came up with the idea to use the white plastic accordion-like flexible tubing found at most of the big-box stores and, believe it or not, sold in the aisle with the right type of material. The white flexible material is for exhausting maybe a vent fan or something that doesn’t produce heat like a dryer vent can. The foil-like looking material is almost as bad.

Next is the length of the vent pipe. Again, IRC states maximum length can be according to manufacturer’s instructions (AMI) or 25 to 35 feet — this is depending on what version of the IRC you are looking at. Regardless, you have to take into account that elbows — 90- and 45-degree elbows — add to the total length of the vent. A 90-degree elbow adds 5 linear feet and a 45-degree elbow adds 3 linear feet to the total length. So, in some cases, you may have a longer vent pipe than what you realize. In some cases you may have to deal with longer-than-normal allowances.

Having the right type of material and length of pipe can reduce your maintenance. It is advised, though, to periodically check the louvered door on the outside of the house. Furthermore, annually, if not biannually, you should have the vent pipe system cleaned and inspected.

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Residential Roof and Floor Framing Systems, Part 1: Trusses

Submitted by Geoffrey D. and Julie C. Lowrey, National Property Inspections Franchise Owners, Winter Haven, Fla.

Prior to purchasing my franchise in 2012 and becoming a licensed home inspector, I spent nine years working as a structural engineer in the residential roof and floor truss industry.

So, for this article, my first blog, I decided to write about my area of expertise — roof and floor framing systems in residential structures. When I began, I had big ambitions of talking about all types of roof and floor framing systems, trusses, conventional framing, and engineered wood products (EWP). It quickly became obvious to me that if I wrote about all of that in one post, my blog article would turn out to be more of a book, so I decided to do this in a series. For this post, I will be talking about prefabricated metal-plated wood roof and floor trusses. I will describe these components, giving a quick explanation on how trusses and truss systems work, and I will describe some common issues that may be found during a home inspection.

What is the Purpose of Framing?
The purpose of framing is to transfer dead loads (from roofing and flooring materials) and live loads (wind and/or seismic loads and occupancy loads) into the walls and down to the foundation. Framing includes the roof, floor and walls of the structure and, in design, should be considered as an entire system working together, not just individual components. Figure 1, below, shows an illustration of a prefabricated metal-plated wood roof truss system.

Figure 1. Illustration of a prefabricated metal-plated roof truss system

Figure 1. Illustration of a prefabricated metal-plated roof truss system. Click to enlarge.

Prefabricated Metal-Plated Wood Trusses
In engineering, trusses are defined as a set of pin-connected axial members. The members usually form a series of triangular cells for structural rigidity and stability. In prefabricated metal-plated wood trusses, the axial members are usually made up of dimensional lumber (2×4, 2×6, 2×8, etc.). These members are connected at the joints using galvanized steel plates with built in teeth that are hydraulically pressed into the wood (refer to Figure 2, below).

Figure 2. Top Image: shows truss plates and teeth. Bottom Image: shows installed truss plates. Click to enlarge.

Figure 2. Top Image: shows truss plates and teeth. Bottom Image: shows installed truss plates. Click to enlarge.

Trusses are composed of members known as chords and webs. The top-most truss members that define the top profile of the truss are referred to as top chords. The bottom-most truss members that define the bottom profile of the truss are referred to as bottom chords. The internal truss members (if there are any) are referred to as webs. The top and bottom chords are designed to support both vertical and axial loading. The webs are designed only to support axial loading. The loads in the members are based on engineering analysis of the truss as a whole using loading prescribed by the engineer of record. Engineering analysis of each individual truss member is used to determine the required size, lumber species and grade. Engineering analysis is also used to size the galvanized steel plates required at each truss joint.

Figure 3. Typical roof truss. Click to enlarge.

Figure 3. Typical roof truss. Click to enlarge.

Figure 4. Typical floor truss. Click to enlarge.

Figure 4. Typical floor truss. Click to enlarge.

The defining characteristic of a roof truss is usually pitched top chord members, though in more complex truss systems, it is not uncommon for some of the roof trusses to have flat sections of top chord. In addition, roof truss members are usually installed with the long lumber dimension oriented vertically. Floor trusses, on the other hand, typically have flat top chords, and the truss members are usually arranged in the flat-wise orientation, meaning the long dimension is oriented horizontally.

Metal-plated wood trusses are a relatively new technology and are primarily used in homes built after 1980. Trusses can be designed and built with a multitude of different profiles, as shown in Figure 5, below.

Figure 5: Some examples of possible truss profiles. Click to enlarge.

Figure 5: Some examples of possible truss profiles. Click to enlarge.

Bracing
Bracing is required in roof and floor framing systems for increased stability and to help transfer loads through the systems into the walls and, eventually, down to the foundation. Dimensional lumber is typically used as bracing in wood roof and floor framing systems. There are two types of bracing: temporary bracing and permanent bracing. Temporary bracing is just that — temporary. It is installed during erection to provide stability to the truss system while the permanent bracing and sheathing is installed. Since the temporary bracing is only used during the construction process, it has no bearing on the home inspection process, so it does not require any further discussion. Permanent bracing is made up of structural members that tie the trusses together so they act as a system. Because permanent bracing is part of the truss framing system, it will be covered in this section.

The bracing in a roof truss system can be complex and must be designed by an engineer. Permanent bracing includes the chord bracing, web bracing, and diagonal bracing. Without engineering drawings it would be difficult to make heads or tails out of the web and diagonal bracing. Truss chord bracing, however, usually consists of the plywood or oriented strand board (OSB) on the top chords and the drywall on the bottom chords. If rigid sheathing is not present on the chords, then wood structural members called purlins are usually required to provide lateral bracing for the chord members. If there is no sheathing on the top and/or bottom chords and no purlins, then this should raise a red flag during the inspection. Figure 6, below, shows an illustrated example of permanent roof truss bracing near a gable end. This illustration was taken from the BCSI Guide to Good Practice for Handling, Installing, Restraining & Bracing of Metal Plate Connected Wood Trusses.

Figure 6. Illustrated example of permanent roof truss bracing near a gable end. Click to enlarge.

Figure 6. Illustrated example of permanent roof truss bracing near a gable end. Click to enlarge.

The bracing in a floor truss system is less complex. Generally the top chords are still braced by the floor sheathing, usually plywood. In addition, braces known as strongbacks are installed in the floor system. Strongbacks are lateral braces that help reduce the dynamic response of a floor system by increasing stability. In other words, they keep the floor from bouncing underfoot. Strongbacks are not considered structural elements. They do not require engineering design and are installed by prescription. They help distribute the load on a floor truss to the adjacent trusses, helping the floor system to act as a unit. Figure 7, below, shows an illustrated example of strongback bracing in a wood floor truss. This illustration was taken from the Building Component Safety Information (BCSI) Guide to Good Practice for Handling, Installing, Restraining & Bracing of Metal Plate Connected Wood Trusses.

Figure 7. Illustrated example of strongback bracing in a wood floor truss. Click to enlarge.

Figure 7. Illustrated example of strongback bracing in a wood floor truss. Click to enlarge.

Inspecting Truss Systems
The following is a list of common problems that may be found during a home inspection.

  • Broken, Cracked or Split Truss Members and Loose or Damaged Truss Plates: This sort of damage usually occurs during transportation and installation of the trusses during construction and should have been repaired. This type of damage undermines the structure of the truss, and if the truss were ever to see full design loads, it could lead to structural failure. If you see any of these conditions and it does not appear that a repair has been applied, it should be reported in the home inspection and the inspector should recommend further evaluation by a qualified licensed engineer. The inspector should also recommend repairs as required and state that the repairs should be designed by a qualified licensed engineer, and professionally installed by a qualified licensed contractor.
  • Wood-Destroying Organism (WDO) Damage: This can include anything from dry rot fungus in the wood truss members due to a roof leak or damage caused by wood destroying insects such as termites or carpenter ants. If these conditions exist and there is significant section loss, the trusses may no longer be able to function as designed under full design loads. Again, these conditions should be reported in the home inspection report and the inspector should recommend further evaluation by a qualified licensed engineer. The inspector should also recommend repairs as required and state that the repairs should be designed by a qualified licensed engineer and professionally installed by a qualified licensed contractor.
  • Missing Truss Members: This is often the result of a tradesman cutting out a section of a truss to make room for work that needs to be done. I have seen this many times in older homes when the HVAC system needs replacement and the air handling unit is located in the attic. Truss webbing is cut out to make room to install the new unit. Often, I find the cut web lying near the scene of the crime. Once, however, I found that the installer had used a metal cutting blade to cut though the truss webs and then, when they were finished, replaced the webs and toe-nailed them into place. However, without the web in its designed location, the truss cannot function properly under full design loading. These conditions should be reported in the home inspection report and the inspector should recommend further evaluation by a qualified licensed engineer. The inspector should also recommend repairs as required and state that the repairs should be designed by a qualified licensed engineer, and professionally installed by a qualified licensed contractor.
  • Numerous Shiners: Shiners are nails that missed their mark when the sheathing was attached to the top chords of the trusses. A few shiners here or there are probably not a big deal, but if there are long lines of shiners along the sides of several of the trusses, then there is a problem. This means the sheathing is not properly attached to the trusses. If the sheathing is not properly attached, then the top chords in these areas are not properly braced, and also cannot transfer loads throughout the roof system properly. Depending on the severity of this condition, this can lead to structural failure of the truss or truss system. If you see an excessive number of shiners during a home inspection, you should report this condition and recommend repair by a licensed roofing contractor.
  • Improper Strongbacking: Most of the time, this is not something you will see, but rather feel. Most of the time, floor truss framing systems are obscured by the floor and floor covering above and by the ceiling drywall and finish below, so the strongbacks are not visible. Even if they were, it is out of the scope of the home inspection to determine whether there are enough of them or if they are spaced properly. However, if you walk into an upper story room and you feel like you are walking on a very stiff trampoline, it is very likely the strongbacks were not properly installed. Often, this is not a structural issue, but it does give an uncomfortable feeling to those walking through the room. If you experience this issue during a home inspection, you should report the floor in that upper story room feels “bouncy” underfoot and recommend further evaluation and repair as needed, by a qualified licensed contractor.

Now, the next time you are climbing through a maze of truss webs and bracing, you will be better able to appreciate the importance of truss framing, and identify situations that should be included in the home inspection report.

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Winterizing and De-winterizing a Sprinkler System

Submitted by Roland Bates, President, National Property Inspections/Global Property Inspections

Picture A

Picture A – Click to enlarge

There are different methods for installing a sprinkler system and “back-flow prevention.” Picture A incorporated herein depicts one of those methods. The number of zones and sprinkler heads can vary depending on the size of the lot, and, of course, zones and sprinkler heads are buried below grade. The timers/controls could be located in the garage, a basement, etc.

Specifically, Picture A represents the water source coming from the house and supplies the water used to sprinkle the lawn. This picture also shows applicable backflow prevention. Briefly, under the right circumstance it is possible for contaminated water (think lawn fertilizer) to find its way back and into the “potable” water. That could be hazardous to the health of the homeowner. Backflow prevention is what keeps this from happening.

Picture B - Click to Enlarge

Picture B – Click to enlarge

Note in Picture A the positioning of the two green handles (red arrows) and the two screws (green arrows). This tells us this system has been winterized. Keeping it simple, the water to the sprinkler system was shut off inside the house. The two handles and the two screws were then positioned as seen in this picture. This positioning allows the system to drain. (With self-draining sprinkler heads and a little luck, this might be enough to keep the system from freezing.) However, playing it safe and using a compressor to push/blow any remaining water through the zones is the preferred method.

To de-winterize the system, and again keeping it simple, the two green handles would be positioned where they are in direct alignment with the pipe in which they are located. The two screws would be positioned (where the flathead screwdriver fits) perpendicular to the handle it is closest to. Then, of course, the water would be turned on from inside the house and the timers reset per the homeowner’s wishes.

Picture C - Click to enlarge

Picture C – Click to enlarge

Picture B depicts the fact that the homeowner did not unscrew/detach the water hose from the exterior hose bib. When this happens, this leaves a certain amount of water in the hose and the hose bib going back into the house. If it gets cold enough, the hose bib can freeze and split as depicted in photo C. Most homeowners will not realize this has happened until the spring when they use the hose for the first time. A flooded basement or other damage is the likely result.

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NPI and GPI Welcome New Business Owners and Employees

We really are like a family at National Property Inspections and Global Property Inspections, and we get excited when we have new business owners to welcome to the family as they bring NPI and GPI to new areas of North America. Please help us welcome the following new business owners and employees to our family.

  • Gary Drenning, Hollidaysburg, Pa., NPI franchise owner
  • Scott Hoenig, Mansfield, Texas, NPI franchise owner
  • Ken Roleke, Tucson, Ariz., NPI franchise owner
  • Tim Shuford, Jamestown, N.C., NPI franchise owner
  • Dean Walter, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, employee of GPI franchise owner Gerry Millen
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