Surprise! You Have Termites!

Submitted by Mike Hunger, NPI Franchise Owner, Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Termites + Damage_shutterstock_190584746It’s spring … lots of activity out there: trees budding, flowers blooming, bugs moving.

Last weekend my grandson was out in the garage playing with his friends when he came rushing in to tell me “Opa, there are bugs flying all over the garage.” I had an idea that it was flying ants because I had seen some about a week earlier and had made sure that they were indeed ants, not termites.

A little later, I decided to go out to the garage and take a look at the little critters to make sure my assumption was true. Well, the verdict was not good. Under a magnifying glass, it was apparent that they were termites.

Because I inspect houses almost daily, I am well aware of the damage termites can do, so I spend a little time under my own house several times a year. My last visit was only a couple of months ago, so I was surprised to see termites in the garage. I had never seen any evidence of activity during my previous visits under the house.

So, I put on my gear and went under. To my surprise, I found no evidence of them anywhere in the structure. No tubes coming up the foundation wall, no wood destruction, no tubes on the framing, sill plates, etc. I’m perplexed. I treated the area with carpenter ant and termite killer, and crawled back out.

Upon returning to the garage, I moved the refrigerator, freezer, and storage cabinets to see if I could find the source. Finally, I saw where they were emerging — behind the refrigerator and in the gap between the foundation wall and the garage floor. There was about 3 feet of dirt tubing. I immediately opened the tubing, destroying as much as I could, and doused the area with the termite killer. All activity ceased.

Thinking back on the experience, I consider myself fortunate because I am able to inspect the area under my house. I have also done this for some of my neighbors. But there are many who may not have the time, ability or desire to visit the area under their house. Someone should go under there; there’s a lot of things that can go wrong.

For information about termite inspections, contact your local NPI or GPI home inspector. In the United States, visit http://npiweb.com/FindAnInspector/tabid/80/Default.aspx; in Canada, visit http://gpiweb.ca/FindAnInspector/tabid/157/Default.aspx

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The Home Inspector’s Routine: Where in the House Should an Inspector Start?

Submitted by Roland Bates, President, NPI/GPI

Inspector + window2Should a home inspector start on the outside of the house or the inside? Should they start on the roof or in the basement? And, as they move about the house, should they go clockwise or counterclockwise? I am now confused and dizzy.

Most inspectors develop a set routine they like to following while performing a home inspection, and there are valid reasons for all of the different approaches. I know how I performed inspections, but I would never say my way was the best way or the only way.

Even if an inspector has a standard routine that they prefer to follow, they always need to be flexible. For example, imagine an inspector who prefers to do the interior first and then the exterior: If it’s late in the day and it’ll be dark soon, then this inspector will probably do the exterior first and then do the interior. If an inspector prefers to do the exterior first, and then the interior: If it’s raining, then it’s not good inspection etiquette to get wet and then go into someone’s home. Thus, in this case the inspector would probably do the interior first and then the exterior.

I can’t possibly cover every scenario or give every reason for doing or not doing something. The following are just a few random ideas to consider:

  • Some inspectors might prefer to conduct the lots and grounds inspection first. If they see negative grading, then they can look closely for signs of water intrusion in the basement in other specific areas.
  • Some inspectors prefer to start the inspection in the kitchen. It takes time for the dishwasher to run through a cycle, and the kitchen is arguably the most expensive room in the house. Thus, why not start there?
  • If the house has been vacant or otherwise unoccupied for a period of time, starting the plumbing inspection on the upper floors might be a good idea, this would allow the possibility for wet spots to start to show on ceilings as the inspector works their way down through the house.
  • Starting the structural inspection in the basement and looking for cracks, settlement and other issues in the foundation walls might lead to further discovery of deflection in floors, as well as doors and windows that are out of square.
  • Starting the inspection in either a clockwise or counterclockwise direction should not make any difference; although going in both directions helps reduce the possibility that shadows or optical illusions hid something the first time around.

In short, the inspection routine does not matter as much as having a highly skilled and professional inspector who does a thorough inspection and delivers a professional and easy-to-understand report.

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Why Should You Consider a Prelisting Inspection?

Submitted by Lawrence Englehart, GPI Franchise Owner, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Large GPI PreinspectedQ) We are in the process of selling our home and our Realtor has suggested it would be a good idea to have our home preinspected to give us a listing advantage. Why should a seller have their own home inspected?

A) Actually, your Realtor has given you some very sound advice! Eventually, every home that is up for sale will get inspected — it is a normal part of the purchase agreement — so having the home inspected is not something that can be easily avoided. It is a simple fact that “knowledge is power,” which is why more and more sellers are starting to realize the benefits of taking charge of their own destiny by having the home preinspected prior to listing their property for sale.

Otherwise, any major defective system, component or safety issues discovered during a buyer’s home inspection could lead to delays, maybe even renegotiations, or in a worst-case scenario it could give the purchaser the opportunity to cancel the entire purchase agreement. Sometimes this is because a major problem was discovered that no one was aware of. Sometimes it could be because the inspection report confused a nontechnical purchaser, who simply may not understand that minor and typical maintenance related issues are just that —minor and typical!

A prelisting inspection is the same as a home inspection but is done to provide the seller with a better understanding of their own home’s condition, as well as to allow them to address any areas of concern, deficiency or overdue maintenance-related items before they become a potential issue for a purchaser. Identified problems that were corrected — or even last-minute repairs — can then be fully disclosed to the future buyer. This would certainly allow the seller to be better able to manage their own expectations, and it would also help the purchaser to know the true condition of the property from the beginning, as they may wish to negotiate any needed repairs into their offer prior to conducting their own home inspection.

However, the primary difference should be that unless the buyer’s home inspector is able to identify a major deficiency that was not discovered during the prelisting inspection, there should be no reason for any delays, concerns or issues that could jeopardize the sale of the home.

Again, the objective of a prelisting inspection is to allow the seller to be more in control, as they can choose a competent home inspector based on reputation, credentials and experience instead of relying on the purchaser, who may use a friend, relative or a company that might not be qualified to inspect their home.

Having the home pre-inspected should eliminate any possibility the purchaser would walk away from the deal because they found problems or deficiencies in the house that no one was aware of.

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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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Home Inspection Checklist

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

Inspection Report_shutterstock_79995865A home inspection is a visual, noninvasive inspection of a residential property. This means that your home inspector won’t do things like remove wall coverings to check inside walls. It is not technically exhaustive, so concealed conditions, latent defects or consequential damages may not be observed. Nevertheless, a home inspection is still recommended before purchasing a house.

You may wonder what a “visual, noninvasive inspection” covers in a house. Here we offer a general list of what a home inspection should cover. Please note that state and trade association standards of practice may vary from this general list.

Exterior
Inspect, describe and document condition of the following:

  • Grading
  • Driveway
  • Walks and steps
  • Porches and stoops
  • Decks and balcony
  • Patio
  • Fences and gates
  • Retaining walls
  • Roofing materials
  • Roof drainage system
  • Roof flashing
  • Skylights
  • Chimney
  • Windows
  • Exterior doors
  • Garage or carport
  • Garage overhead and pedestrian doors
  • Exterior wall coverings (siding)
  • Exterior soffits and fascia

Attic
Inspect, describe, and document the condition and method of inspection of the following:

  • Attic structure
  • Attic insulation
  • Attic ventilation

Structure
Inspect, describe and document condition of the following:

  • Foundation
  • Floor structure
  • Wall structure
  • Ceiling structure

Plumbing System
Inspect, describe and document condition of the following:

  • Interior water supply and distribution system
  • Interior drain and vent system
  • Water heating equipment
  • Sewage ejector pumps
  • Sump pumps

Electrical System
Inspect, describe and document condition of the following:

  • Electric service
  • Electric conductors and raceway
  • Electric service equipment
  • Interior components of electric service panel
  • Representative number of electric fixtures, switches and outlets

HVAC System
Inspect, describe and document condition of the following:

  • Installed heating equipment
  • Vent Systems for gas- or fuel-burning equipment
  • Fuel storage and fuel distribution Systems
  • Distribution system
  • Air conditioning system

Interior
Inspect, describe and document condition of the following.

  • Interior walls, ceilings and floors
  • Cabinets and countertops
  • Interior doors and windows
  • Installed appliances
  • Solid fuel-burning fireplace or stove
  • Chimney and vent systems

There are limitations to the degree that any of the above items can be inspected. Inspector safety, systems or components that have been shut down or turned off, and systems that will not operate using normal operating controls are the most common limitations.

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Inspecting Brand-new Homes

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

Inspector + ACNew home buyer or first-time home buyer: “I’m buying a new house. How could there be anything wrong with it?”

Realtor: “You don’t need a home inspection; it’s a brand-new house.”

Really?

The misconception of both of these statements is that they think because the buyer is purchasing a brand-new house, everything was done right, completed as planned — like a new car. But new cars go back to the dealers often enough, so why assume that everything in a newly constructed home is perfect?

Actually, some statistics state that there can more problems with a new home than an existing home — not that existing homes don’t have problems, too, when it comes to an inspection. It’s just that the dust has settled, so to speak, with an existing home.

So, where do the problems lie with a new home? Inexperience in construction, quality of or the wrong materials, improper engineering and architecture, defective materials and components from manufacturers, improper installation of components, and lack of communication. One would hope that a contractor takes great care in how he builds a house, but you need to take into consideration that he may not have.

So, what’s the difference in inspecting a new home compared to an old home? There is no difference. And, how long does it take to inspect either a new house or an existing house? The inspection takes as long as long as it takes.

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Today’s Tip: Avoid Frozen Hose Hook-ups

Submitted by Scott Ward, NPI Franchise Owner, Southern Johnson County, Kansas

Picture C - Click to enlarge

Cracked hose bib

Hose faucet, hose bib or spigot — all are the same thing but called different names in different parts of the country. It’s where you hook up the garden hose to water the lawn or wash the car. If you live in warm climates it doesn’t matter if you leave the hose hooked up year-round. However, if you live in the Midwest or north, and by mistake you left the hose connected in the winter, there is a good chance that the faucet has been freeze damaged. I have done a number of inspections in the Kansas City area lately where the faucet has frozen and been damaged, causing leakage inside the house.

These outdoor faucets are designed so that the valve is recessed inside the wall and only the handle and connection pipe are exposed on the exterior. The valve is located 6 to 12 inches back on the interior of the building where potential freeze issues are minimal. The faucet is supposed to drain when turned off but cannot do this with a hose attached. When the water in the faucet freezes, it is likely to burst the pipe inside the house wall. When it thaws, water will usually not leak into the house until the valve is turned on. A significant amount of water can leak in a short period of time. Many times the faucet internals are in a basement area and may not be noticed leaking right away. If the basement is finished, the damage can get expensive very quickly.

If you have left your hose attached during freezing weather, carefully check that no water is leaking in the faucet area when the faucet is turned on. Check both outside and inside areas. If the valve part of the faucet is visible, then many times the damage will look like a rip in the metal pipe — but be advised that ice can damage the seals, too, and such damage cannot be seen. When this happens, the faucet usually drips from the connection pipe or the handle. The only option is to replace damaged faucets. Also make sure that the faucet is tipped toward the exterior slightly so that it will drain properly. All garden hoses, watering timers, extra valves, etc., should be removed prior to freezing weather.

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New Water Heater Standards This Month

Submitted by Jon McCreath, NPI Franchise Owner, Emerson, Georgia

McCreath BlogEvery year, the date of April 15 generally has some significance for most Americans as the deadline for filing our taxes. This year, the following day, April 16, also has some significance, as it is the date that all residential water heaters manufactured in the United States, on and after this date, must meet the increased NAECA energy-efficiency standards.

The National Appliance Energy Conservation Act (NAECA) was enacted in 1975 to create efficiency standards for household appliances, including refrigerators, dishwashers, clothes washers and dryers, and water heaters. The standards help ensure that manufacturers build products at maximum energy efficiency levels. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) issued a ruling that as of April 16, 2015, the energy efficiency standards, as measured by the energy factor (EF Rating) will change on almost all residential gas, electric, oil and tankless gas water heaters. These changes will affect not only the manufacturers, but also the distributors, contractors, and consumers.

The EF rating measures how much of the energy source delivered to the water heater is converted to hot water. Of course, the higher the EF rating, the more efficient the water heater. For example, a 50-gallon electric water heater has a current standard of .90 EF. The 2015 standard for the same electric water heater will change to .95 EF, which means that 95 percent of the electricity used is converted to hot water. According to the U.S. DOE website, these new standards will save approximately 3.3 quads of energy and result in approximately $63 billion in energy bill savings between 2015 and 2044. While that sounds pretty good for everyone, there are some important considerations.

Water heaters manufactured prior to April 16, 2015, that do not meet the new NAECA standards can still be sold and purchased after this date. Consumers may want to consider purchasing a prestandard water heater now, even if their existing water heater is not in need of replacement. Consumers may be able to realize savings in buying an older model now, and then saving it until needed, as manufacturers and distributors will likely be competitively pricing these older units to clear inventories. It is estimated that the newer water heaters will be 20 to 30 percent higher in price.

The newer water heaters will most surely be larger in size due to the standards, possibly 1 to 2 inches taller and wider. Changes in size and output may require relocation of the unit if the existing space is not large enough to accommodate it. Some units, depending on size and energy source, may require additional technology, such as heat pumps or condensate disposal systems. Eventually, water heaters over 55 gallons will be phased out, which might mean that some consumers may need multiple units.

Although the initial costs for new standard water heaters will likely be higher, the long-term value will be realized in increased energy savings and better performance.

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What’s Wrong With This Photo?

WWWTPA. This light fixture cannot be used in this shower stall application as it is not designed for wet locations.
B. This is an improper shower head for this shower
C. The corner shelves of the shower are improperly installed.
D. You can install any type of light fixture in a shower as long as it’s installed high.

 

Correct Answer: A. This light fixture cannot be used in this shower stall application unless it is a water-tight-rated or wet-use-location light fixture.

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