Your Appliances May Be Trying to Tell You Something

Appliance PlugDoes the circuit breaker trip every time you start your microwave? Did your toaster give you an unexpected shock this morning? When an appliance repeatedly trips a circuit breaker, blows a fuse or gives you a shock, it’s not just a fluke — something is wrong with the appliance.

Prevent further and possibly more dangerous malfunctions by immediately unplugging the appliance. Don’t use it until you have it checked out and repaired by a professional electrician or repairman — although in some cases, it may be less expensive just to replace the appliance.

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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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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12 Mistakes to Avoid When Building a House

Adult couple looking at blue prints uid 3So, you’re ready to build your dream home? It might surprise you to know that all too often home buyers make critical mistakes during the home-building process. We’ve rounded up the top mistakes people make when building a home, so you will surely want to avoid these pitfalls.

1. Acting as Your Own General Contractor
A general contractor will gather bids; work with any subcontractors; and make sure that the work on your house is done correctly, within budget and on schedule. You may think it sounds like a great idea to save money and do all of that yourself, but it could end up costing you more money in the long run.

A general contractor has something you don’t: connections and relationships with subcontractors who want to do exceptional work for them because they know that’s how they stay in business. You probably won’t get the same quality from a subcontractor you hire yourself because they know they probably won’t ever work for you again. Not to mention the scammers and rogue tradesmen who will gladly take your money and split.

2. Taking a Laid-back Approach
This dream home is going to be one of the biggest investments of your life. Don’t assume things will take care of themselves:

  • Read and understand the contract, and have a lawyer review it if necessary.
  • Ask for copies of the builder’s insurance policy to ensure that you are not held responsible for medical bills of injured workers.
  • Carefully consider what you want before getting started so you don’t have costly changes to the plans.

3. Cutting Corners
A builder who can build your dream home $30,000 cheaper and two months faster than any of the others likely indicates a significant difference in the quality of materials. In addition, a builder may bid low to win your business and then tack on expenses later.

Even if you are working within a tight budget don’t cut corners on design and materials, especially those for bricks, roof tiles and windows. Also, if a job requires 20 hours, don’t try to convince the tradesman to do it in less time. Quality workmanship comes at a price.

4. Choosing a Poor Location
When scoping out the land for your dream house, think about the following:

  • Busy streets and stores are not quiet or family-friendly.
  • Consider resale value before settling on a lot because it’s the cheapest around.
  • Consider the lot’s slope, water table and terrain, which affect how easy it is to build a home on the land.

5. Building a House That Doesn’t Fit the Neighborhood
Before designing your home, take a good look at the other houses in the neighborhood. Make sure the size of your home is similar to others in the area. The smallest or largest home in a neighborhood is often the most difficult to sell. Furthermore, the style and architecture of your home should be in line with the rest of the neighborhood. A stucco home is going to stick out like a sore thumb in a neighborhood full of Victorian-style homes.

6. Setting a Budget Without a Buffer
A budget is crucial when building a home, but make sure to include an additional amount that takes into consideration unforeseen circumstances and overages. Even with the best-intentioned bid, incidentals will likely arise. Make sure your budget is as detailed as possible. It may help to find out other people’s build costs to use as a guide for your project.

7. Working With the Wrong People
When hiring a builder, take the time to find someone who is right for you. Interview a few builders, talk to their previous clients, check out their websites, check out review sites like Angie’s List, ask to see examples of other houses they’ve built (both photos and in person). Make sure the builder you choose is one you feel a connection with and who can transform your ideas into reality for your dream home.

Professional architects have a formal education, sit exams and do years of apprenticeships to become licensed. If you are building a custom home and don’t hire an experienced and qualified architect, you may find that the plans don’t turn out the way you wanted.

Paying builders in advance is another common mistake. If a builder does not trust you enough to start work without cash up-front, you should not trust them either. Set up terms and pay when different stages of the work are completed.

9. Not Designing the Home to Fit Your Needs
When designing your own home you should take your lifestyle and habits into consideration: How long do you plan to stay in this home? Will you need to accommodate safety features for new or young children? Think ahead, long term, to where you will be and what you will need from your home.

Make sure your planning sessions with your architect produce a plan that is exactly what you want and need in terms of space and layout for your new home. Do not start the build unless you are completely sure of what is laid out on paper. Any changes made after the design plans are finalized can throw off the whole project and trigger a domino effect of problems and costs. Make sure to plan the size and placement of closets smartly. And, although a playroom, game room, gym or multipurpose room sounds enticing, make sure it’s a room you will use or it will likely become a dumping ground.

10. Forgetting to Plan for Lighting Needs
Light fixtures, electrical outlets and windows should be plentiful. Windows should be present in every room and as large as possible. Natural light, when possible, should be the main source of light.

11. Not Considering the Placement of Rooms

  • The laundry room, or washer and dryer, should be relatively close to the bedrooms.
  • Bedrooms need to be as far away from noise and traffic as possible. The master bedroom should be away from the central living areas.
  • The kitchen is more convenient near a garage or back entrance.
  • The garage should lead to the main level, near a mud room or the kitchen.

12. Thinking You Don’t Need a Home Inspection
Your house was just built, so everything is perfect, right? And the city inspector passed the house, so it must be fine, right? Not so fast. Defects are common in newly built homes. It doesn’t necessarily mean your builder was bad, but with the number of subcontractors who worked on your house, it’s likely something was installed wrong, missed or forgotten.

Any problems are covered under your builder’s warranty, but if you don’t have a home inspection done, you may not notice certain problems, such as negative grading, missing caulk, or improper or missing flashing. These are issues the city inspector didn’t look for; he/she checked the house to ensure it matches the plans and that the structure and major systems are up to code. A professional home inspector, however, is trained to look for additional problems and issues and can help reveal defects so you can have your builder fix them. Don’t skip the home inspection just because the house is newly built.

National Property Inspections and Global Property Inspections offer builder’s warranty home inspections on new construction. To find an inspector in your area, visit the following links:

 
Sources: Angie’s List, Freshome.com, StyleAtHome.com

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The Nasty Mold And Mold Removal

By Todd Newhook, GPI Franchise Owner, Markham, Ontario

Newhook Photo 2Quite often, home inspectors come face to face with a so-called enemy : The Nasty Mold. As professional home inspectors, we are obligated to report to our clients the presence of possible mold whenever we see visible staining, and we also must recommend next steps.

Many home inspectors are certified to test for mold. I’ve been testing for mold for about six years and also have considerable mold remediation experience. Our clients and real estate agents appreciate our level of expertise and industry experience. (A little side note [shhhh]: Mold is not necessarily bad for you and is an important part of our ecosystem.)

Mold in general requires a food source to grow — moisture — and something to grow on, such as substrates. It is important to ensure that the house you live in is well maintained, and that includes ensuring proper indoor humidity levels and temperatures. You know those silly cracks and the deteriorated caulking around your house? If you don’t maintain these areas, water will get inside at some point. Concerning mold, preventive maintenance is key.

Attic mold is common in our area (Canada) due to the changing seasons, extreme cold temperatures and sometimes poor home-owner maintenance (e.g., disturbed insulation, poor ventilation, leaks). If not properly assessed and treated, mold can cause damage like dry rot to the structure.

From my experience, mold often causes a hiccup in the real estate transaction process when discovered. That being said, typically mold can be easily treated, and remediation runs between $2,000 and $4,000. If your home inspector finds mold in a house you are planning to buy, your options include but are not limited to ice and soda blasting, which removes a thin layer of wood and removes mold stains; acid Newhook Photo 1treatment and scrubbing; and disinfecting and encapsulation. The photos at the right show before and after views of an attic with the sheathing/structure disinfected and encapsulated with an anti-mold paint.

Mold in the living area of a house is a different issue. Depending on the amount and type, mold may be harmful to your health. A common area of mold growth that you can’t see is in your furnace. If there is an air conditioner, then there is likely an A coil just above the heating system, with a condensation pan. If the drain in the pan plugs with debris, then water will pool. A dark environment plus elevated moisture levels, changing temperatures and humidity can certainly cause mold. Guess what happens when you turn on your furnace or AC? You likely are blowing mold spores throughout the house. This is just one of the reasons to have your furnace and air conditioner serviced and cleaned annually by a qualified HVAC technician. Duct cleaning is also a great option, as technicians can spray disinfectants through the ductwork system.

Another common area for mold to appear is in bathrooms. Many older homes do not have adequate ventilation, such as bathroom and kitchen fans. Due to high levels of humidity, we typically find surface stains of possible mold or mildew. Fortunately, with proper housekeeping and upkeep of seals and caulking, this type of mold is easily cleaned with disinfectants. Upgrading or installing fans and vents will help control humidity levels and prevent mold.

Your home inspector will note if there is other possible mold in the home — for example, from leaks that present visible stains. If you or your inspector suspects mold, you should consult a mold expert. If ever in doubt, always contact a mold expert. Don’t take chances with your health.

Mold is not necessarily a bad thing “or nasty,” but it’s important to be aware of potentially toxic mold and take care of your home and your health.

Newhook Photo

Todd Newhook is a professional Global Property Inspections home inspector in Markham, Ontario. If you live in the area, call 855.504.6631 to schedule your home inspection with Todd or a member of his team.

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 to help reduce elevated levels of harmful mold in your home.

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Penny Wise, Pound Foolish

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

Inspector + water heater7The first question I tend to be asked is how much I charge for a home inspection. Although I can appreciate the need for people to find ways to minimize the extra costs associated with purchasing a home, it is important to remember that the largest investment of your lifetime should not be based on the cheapest home inspector you can find.

Sadly, the home inspection industry is still unregulated in many parts of Canada and the United States, and this has made hiring a competent home inspector that much more challenging.

To further complicate matters, the Internet is rife with offers on how to become a “certified home inspector” by taking a two-week training course. Ironically, having a background in any of the building construction trades is not considered a prerequisite.

Whenever I am reminded of these two-week wonders, the best analogy I can think of comes from an article called “The Business and Art of Home Inspection” by Ron Sawlor, in which Sawlor was surprised and disturbed to discover that some home inspectors in our area had little training and/or very few qualifications.

In this article, he wrote: “Even were I to attend an excellent, two-week training course in how to inspect used cars for potential problems for prospective buyers, at the end of such a course I would not be able to bring to this task the degree of experience and knowledge of someone who has worked on vehicles for a significant portion of their lives. While it would be quite possible for me, after this hypothetical training course to identify some problems and perform an inspection that might yield some useful results, I could never compare to someone with true, directly related, hands-on familiarity and experience. This seems quite obvious and logical, so I was surprised to learn of the small amount of training required to achieve certification as a home inspector …”

The majority of all professionals, in whatever sector or industry they are in, tend to charge the same amount for the same type of service. This can be said with the fees associated with home inspections, with some minor differences that usually have to do with the age, type or size of the home, or if an infrared camera is used.

Unfortunately, rookie home inspectors know how difficult it is to compete with a competent, established home inspector, so they tend to offer “discounts” to attract potential clientele.

But this could end with a bad case of a home buyer being penny wise and pound foolish, as the less-expensive home inspector tends to be inexperienced and any potential missed or overlooked deficiency could end up costing the home buyer significantly more than they ended up saving.

Ultimately, when it comes to hiring a competent home inspector, you should consider much more than just the price they are charging.

The most reliable indication of a home inspector’s qualifications is to find out whether they are a member of a home inspector association, such as the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), InterNACHI, the National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI), or the Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors (CAHPI).

To become a member of an association, an inspector must meet minimum professional and educational requirements, and may be required to pass the National Home Inspector Exam. Using a home inspector that is registered with one or more associations is your assurance that you are working with a quality and trained home inspection professional.

Englehart PhotoLawrence Englehart is a professional Global Property Inspections home inspector in Halifax, Nova Scotia. If you live in the area, call 902.403.2460 to schedule your home inspection with Lawrence.

NPI and GPI home inspectors have the tools and knowledge to assess your home. Consult with your local NPI or GPI inspector for an assessment of your home to help reduce elevated levels of harmful mold in your home.

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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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Common Defects in Newly Built Homes

By Randy Yates, Training Consultant Administrator, NPI/GPI Corporate

Home under construction uid 1When it comes to new-home construction, there really is no limit as to what can go wrong or not be done correctly during building. Defects are common; in fact, it has been said that a home inspector can sometimes find more things wrong with a newly constructed home than an existing home. This is why it’s important to always have a home inspection when buying a house — even if the house is newly built.

You might wonder what kinds of defects a new house could possibly have. Here is a list of problems home inspectors at National Property Inspections and Global Property Inspections often find:

Structural Defects
Premature cracking and settlement in foundation walls can be caused when builders don’t allow the proper amount of curing time for concrete in poured and block foundation walls and slabs. In addition, improper framing techniques — which may not be apparent at first — can cause cracks to develop in drywall. These are typically hairline in nature.

HVAC Problems
Our inspectors occasionally discover that the vent pipe from a gas-fired furnace has not been connected and has come loose during the initial operation. This is a major safety hazard, as carbon monoxide may enter the residence. In one situation, the PVC pipes used to vent a gas-fired furnace were not properly glued together. In addition, our inspectors sometimes find thermostats that do not respond to normal functions. Another common problem is missing drip legs on condensate lines.

Electrical Errors
The list is long for typical electrical problems, and most would not be obvious to the average home buyer or owner. The problem with defects in your home’s electrical system is that most are a fire and/or safety hazard. Here are the most common electrical problems our inspectors find in new houses:

  • Missing switch plates or receptacle covers
  • Improperly wired outlets
  • Open grounds — ground wire is not connected properly
  • Reversed polarity
  • Open knock-outs in the main electrical panel
  • Improper wire sizes on breakers
  • Double-taps on breakers in main panels — when two wires connect to a single breaker
    Jumpers ahead of the main lugs (double-tapping) — when two wires connect to a single lug

Plumbing Blunders
Plumbing problems are something you certainly don’t want in a new house. Leaks can cause major damage and mold issues, while other defects are more of a nuisance. But shouldn’t your brand-new home be free of nuisances? Here are some of the most common plumbing issues:

  • Unglued or improperly glued PVC pipe connections frequently develop leaks — you may never know about the weak joint until standing water begins to seep through
  • Hot/cold reversed faucets and fixtures
  • Bathroom sink drain stoppers that were not connected
  • Improperly vented plumbing systems may be noisy and/or smelly
  • Drain pipes that were not connected (One of our inspectors really did find a drain pipe in a crawl space that was never connected)

Miscellaneous Mistakes
Believe it or not, our inspectors have found all of the following problems in newly constructed houses:

  • Incomplete door hardware on closet doors, cabinetry and entrance doors
  • Improper fire-rated assemblies for pull-down attic stairs
  • Missing handrails on stairs
  • Missing or insufficient insulation
  • Leaky windows
  • Siding defects
  • Improper grading, which could lead to water intrusion and foundation damage

What these defects tell us is that if you are moving into a newly built house, don’t skip the home inspection. Even the best builders in your area use subcontractors, so you can’t assume that everything in your house is top-quality just because you builder is. Plus, you have to allow for human error, which is how many of the problems mentioned here happen. So, even if you just had your house built, it’s worth the cost of a home inspection to ensure that everything was done correctly, and that your new home will be safe and worry-free.

To find an NPI home inspector in your area in the United States, please visit www.npiweb.com/FindAnInspector. To find a GPI inspector in your area in Canada, please visit www.gpiweb.ca/FindAnInspector.

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Check Your Deck

By Scott Ward, NPI Franchise Owner, Southern Johnson County, Kansas

IMG_8631On a recent home inspection I was appalled to see that both decks on a duplex were badly rotted where they attached to the house. Both decks sagged 2 to 3 inches and were pulling away from the wall. The result could have been deck collapse with serious injuries involved. The attempted repair was a cobbled-together mess that would likely have caused the deck to pole-vault out into the yard. Although decks here in the Midwest and northern regions are not used frequently in the winter, now is a good time to perform a quick inspection of your deck, which could avert a disaster in the future.

Until fairly recently, a deck was attached to the house using just nails or deck-type screws. Deck flashing was rarely used, nor was any type of spacing used between the house and the deck ledger board (the board attached to the house). This was the case at the duplex I inspected. Moisture became trapped between the deck and the house, which resulted in wood rot and corrosion of the nails.

A basic visual inspection of your deck often will identify any issues that may be present. Look for excessive gaps at the joints of the deck’s framing members. From the underside of the deck, use a small screwdriver to probe for soft or rotted siding or decking materials. Also, look for old paint lines that have suddenly appeared along the ledger board where it attaches to the house. If an old paint line is present, this could indicate that the deck has slipped.

Many jurisdictions now require that decks be bolted to the house with at least a half inch of spacing between the house and the ledger board. This configuration allows a much stronger and more permanent attachment to the house, as well as prevents water from becoming trapped between the house and the ledger board, thereby preventing rot in this area.

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