Ask the Inspector: What Are Weep Holes?

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Brick can be a structural component of a home, serving as the wall itself, or it can be a veneer, which is a type of siding. As a veneer, a single thickness of brick is added to the outside of a wood-framed home and serves the same purpose as any exterior siding.

One way to identify the presence of brick veneer is to look for weep holes — small openings at the bottom of brick veneer walls. Weep holes are designed to give moisture that accumulates between the home’s interior wooden wall and the exterior veneer a way out. Without weep holes for ventilation, moisture may become trapped in this cavity, causing mold, reducing the effectiveness of insulation, encouraging the formation of rot and attracting pests.

Weep holes can often be identified by open slots on a course, or row, of bricks near the foundation. The holes are typically 32 to 33 inches apart and should be kept unobstructed. It is a good idea to check and clear weep holes periodically. Do not allow dirt, mulch or broken pieces of mortar to block the holes and trap moisture inside.

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The Overly Disclaimed Home Inspection Report

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

Inspection Report_shutterstock_79995865Let’s say you are buying a house and you’re ready to have it inspected. You go with your Realtor’s recommendation for a home inspector, give him/her the necessary information about the house and set up your inspection. The inspector tells you to check your email for the preinspection agreement, which will need to be signed before the inspection can be done.

When you open the preinspection agreement, you find that is really long — more than five or six pages. Then, after the inspection, your inspector delivers a report that is 75 to 100 pages long. You notice that both the preinspection agreement and the report are full of disclaimers, such as, “In an occupied home with furnishings,” “Depending on usage, “Except under extreme conditions,” and “The inspector may not be able to guarantee discovery.” If this is the case, you may be the recipient of an overly disclaimed home inspection report.

Because home inspectors may be held responsible for damage or problems that are visibly present at the time of inspection but not included in the inspection report, some inspectors include an overabundance of disclaimers in their preinspection agreements and reports. While it is important that home buyers know the limitations of a home inspection, an overly disclaimed inspection report is needlessly long and tedious.

So, what do those disclaimers really mean?

  • In an occupied home with furnishings: The inspector likely had limited visibility of certain areas due to furniture, clutter, moving boxes, etc.
  • Depending on usage: The inspector is covering the bases by saying that using the component too much (or too little) could affect its life span.
  • Due to the weather: The inspector should note the weather at the beginning of the report, as rain and snow may impede his/her ability to inspect components like a roof or grading.
  • Except under extreme conditions: This is unclear, as “extreme” is often a matter of opinion.
  • The inspector may not be able to guarantee discovery: Again, this is usually stated in the preinspection agreement and maybe at the beginning of the report. It doesn’t need to appear more often than that.

How to Spot a Good Inspection Report
Each section of your home inspection report should state the facts about the property’s condition at the time of inspection. Any disclaimers, within reason, and limitations should be listed in the “scope of work” section of the preinspection agreement. There’s no need for an inspector to add a disclaimer to every statement or note in the report.

A competent inspector will clearly outline any limitations and exclusions specific to the inspection. For example, “The roof was not accessible for inspection due to snow,” or “The attic was not inspected due to home owner’s personal possessions blocking the access.” In situations such as these, the inspector should document the disclaimer statement with a photograph.

The main reason you’re having an inspection is to find out any problems with the house, right? So, in the inspection report, your inspector should state any problems, include a photograph of each problem, explain why something is or could be a concern, and describe the corrective course of action. Your inspector may also point out outstanding or superior features of the property. If the inspector sticks to this process, then there is really no need to include an excess of disclaimers, and certainly not in every statement throughout the report.

Your inspection report should be written in simple laymen’s terms, with comments that are clear and concise. You (and your real estate agent) are less likely to read an entire report that is overwritten. Regardless of the report’s length, do make sure to read the entire report, and if there’s terminology or anything you don’t understand, don’t be afraid to call your inspector and ask for clarification.

Yates PhotoWith more than 10 years of experience in his current position and over 30 years of experience in remodeling and contracting, Randy Yates provides technical training to new NPI/GPI inspectors and provides field support to all NPI/GPI inspectors. To find an inspector in your area, click one of the links below:

 

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Do You Need to Add a Vapor Barrier in Your Home?

TS-77902336_vapor-barrier-crop_s4x3.jpg.rend.hgtvcom.1280.960Because common foundation materials, such as concrete blocks, are somewhat porous, adding an air or vapor barrier can be important an important step when it comes to insulating a basement, crawl space, garage or other unheated area of a house. To improve comfort and utility costs for adjacent heated rooms, home owners may consider adding insulation to the ceiling or walls of the unheated space. Another thing to consider is adding a vapor barrier.

A vapor barrier installed on the warm side of the insulation will prevent air from moving through the insulation, adding to the insulation’s effectiveness. A vapor barrier is difficult to install once insulation is already in place, so if you are planning to re-insulate an area of your home, you might want to consider also adding a vapor barrier.

It is important to avoid putting vapor barriers on the cold side of the insulation. This can trap moisture in the insulation, causing possible rot around wood framing or walls. Air and vapor barriers also should not be used to hold insulation to the ceiling of an unheated garage or crawl space.

An earthen floor in a crawl space or basement can cause elevated moisture levels in the air and promote rot in wooden structural beams, so it is advisable to add a moisture barrier like a polyethylene sheet over such floors. The moisture barrier should be sealed at the joints and around the perimeter. A layer of gravel or sand can help prevent rips or tears.

Your local NPI or GPI home inspector can provide you with a full assessment of your home’s systems and condition. To find an inspector near you, visit one of the links below.

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Spring Home Maintenance Checklist

Spring House_shutterstock_63824962Welcome to spring, everyone! Now is the perfect time for our spring home maintenance checklist. Whether you’re a seasoned home owner or a first-time home owner, here are some of the things to check and prepare around the house as the weather warms up.

  • Check and change the furnace filter.
  • Check the electrical panel for any scorching or burn marks. Call an electrician if you find any.
  • Clean the clothes dryer exhaust, duct, damper and space under the dryer.
  • Check the basement or crawl space for dampness, leaks and evidence of termites.
  • Check to make sure the sump pump (if present) is operating correctly.
  • Check the attic for proper ventilation and insulation.
  • If you have multipane windows, check them for fog, which indicates a broken seal.
  • Inspect around the foundation for signs of termite infestation.
  • Inspect the roof for potential leaks.
  • Check for damaged, raised or missing flashing and shingles.
  • Check vents, louvers and chimney caps for bird’s nests and debris.
  • Check the underside of the roof in the attic and under the eaves for water stains.
  • Examine the exterior of the chimney for cracks and signs of damage.
  • Check for overhanging tree limbs, and trim if needed.
  • Inspect gutters for signs of sagging, damage or rust. Also, clear debris from gutters and downspouts.
  • Check windows for loose or missing putty/glazing, broken glass, and damaged screens.
  • Check the grading around the house — the ground should slope away from the house for proper drainage.
  • Move firewood stored close to the house. Firewood should be stored at least 18 inches off the ground at least 2 feet from the house.
  • Check outside hose faucets for freeze damage.
  • Clean leaves and other debris away from an outdoor air conditioning unit.
  • Remove vines growing on the house, siding, brick or mortar.
  • Check for soft mortar joints or missing mortar.
  • Check your siding:
    • Check brick veneer for cracks that are wider than 1/16 inch.
    • Check vinyl and aluminum siding for cracks and damage.
    • Check wood siding, window trim and frames for peeling paint and damaged wood.
  • Check wooden decks for deterioration and repair or seal when necessary.
  • Repair all cracked, broken or uneven driveways, patios and walks.
  • Check gas- and battery-powered lawn equipment and tools to be sure they are ready for spring and summer use.

Your local NPI or GPI home inspector can provide you with our seasonal home maintenance guide. Contact your inspector to receive a copy of this useful manual.

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Light Bulb Technology Gets Smart

CFL BulbsIf you thought the newest light bulb technology was the CFL or LED bulb, then you’re in for a big surprise. The latest innovations are smart light bulbs that offer a vast array of exciting features, such as wi-fi and Bluetooth, automation, and color changing. Here are just a few of the new options available:

BeOn Starter Pack
Each BeOn smart bulb houses a removable battery pack that allows the bulb to illuminate even when the light switch is turned off. This feature is handy in the case of power outages, and you can leave the battery pack in any bulbs that you want to stay on while you’re out of the house.

BeOn bulbs offer a unique security feature: If the bulbs “hear” your doorbell or alarm, they’ll light up automatically to make it look like someone is home, and in the event of a fire, they will hear your smoke alarm and light up so you can safely get out of the house. According to CNET, BeOn bulbs “also have a sort-of DVR function that lets you set them to ‘replay’ your typical at-home lighting patterns when you’re out on vacation.”

C by GE LED Starter Pack
Science suggests that the color temperature of lighting affects humans’ circadian rhythms. For example, a warm, lower color temperature tone (such as orange) can help you sleep better, while a cooler, higher color temperature (such as white) can help perk you up in the morning. With this in mind, the C by GE LED bulb changes color temperatures automatically, which can help stimulate melatonin levels and balance your circadian rhythm.

In addition, each bulb contains a Bluetooth radio, so you can pair it with your phone to control brightness and to turn the bulb on and off.

Qube
Qube bulbs offer built-in wi-fi and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), so the bulbs can connect to your mobile devices without a hub. You can also use your mobile device to control the bulb’s color, brightness and motion (dancing lights, anyone?). Priced under $20 per bulb, Qube claims to be the most comprehensive and affordable lighting solution.

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‘Good Fences Make Good Neighbors’

By Jon McCreath, NPI Franchise Owner, Emerson, Georgia

McCreath1Backyard fences can provide a feeling of security and privacy, as well as a decorative element that pulls your yard together. But fence installation can be hard work, so if you’re interested adding one around your property, consider hiring a professional do it for you.

The cost of adding a fence to your property will depend on a couple of factors, the main one being the materials used. There are all kinds of backyard fences to choose from: Wood, vinyl, chain-link and wrought iron are some of the most popular. Another factor in the cost of a fence is the size of your yard.

Below are some popular fence choices:

Vinyl Fences
Sometimes vinyl fencing is more than three times the cost of wood, but there are advantages to this material. Vinyl is easy to maintain, easy to clean and more durable. In fact, it can be up to five times as strong as wood, and animals big and small will have a hard time chewing through it or damaging it. Vinyl fencing also comes in a range of colors and styles, so you’ll be able to find something that suits your house.

Wood Fences
Cedar and pine are the most popular wood fencing choices. When choosing wood as your material, you can either select from picket or privacy-fence styles, as well as the type and quality of the wood itself. Wood fences do require some maintenance, such as periodic cleaning and application of a water sealant or stain.

Chain-link Fences
If you’re more interested in security than privacy, chain-link fencing is a good option. Keep in mind that even though chain-link is galvanized, it is vulnerable to scratching and over time rust may develop.

Wrought-iron Fences
Wrought iron fencing is the king of backyard fences. It looks great and can really add the finishing touch to your home. The downside is that you will pay for that quality.

Fencing Price Considerations
Fence material is priced by the linear foot, so remember that fences used for privacy that block the view into your yard will require more material. Decorative features, such as post caps and gates, will also add to the price.

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.

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AFCI and GFCI Outlets Improve Electrical Safety in Your Home

Electrical OutletAdvancements in electrical protection devices help keep homes and businesses safe. These devices include ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) and arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs). Both help prevent electrical shock and fires caused by erratic surges in electrical current.

GFCI outlets are designed to trip when they sense even a minor imbalance in current between the hot (black) and neutral (white) legs of an electrical circuit. They cut off power to the receptacle in a fraction of a second — fast enough to avoid a potentially fatal shock. Although requirements vary by location, GFCIs are generally found in kitchens, bathrooms, basements, garages and other areas where water may be present, such as a workshop. GFCI outlets have test and reset buttons, and it’s a good idea to test them monthly to make sure they are operating properly.

AFCI outlets are designed to help prevent fires caused by arcing faults — erratic current flows that get hot enough fast enough to start a fire without ever tripping the breakers. In many areas, AFCIs are required on branch circuits that serve residential bedrooms in newly constructed homes. Existing structures are not required to have AFCIs, but it may be a good idea to look into having them installed in your home. A home inspector can help pinpoint areas where added safety measures such as AFCI or GFCI outlets could help protect your family.

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 and its electrical system.

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Talk to Your Home Inspector

By Ken Roleke, NPI Franchise Owner, Tucson, Arizona

Inspector + Client + Fireplace10Because I am an old-fashioned Jack-of-All-Trades to the extreme, I did not always understand the need for home inspectors. I was a builder, general contractor and property manager, and the people I interacted with the most were in construction and property maintenance.

I was surprised a couple of years ago when my neighbor pointed at his electric meter and asked me if it was the water meter or the electric meter. Then, last year, a home inspection client complained to her Realtor that I did not show her where the utility shut-offs were and how to turn off the water and electricity in case of an emergency. Because I’ve spent so many years in the construction industry, I didn’t realize that many people don’t know the basics about their homes. Just as other people have their areas of expertise that I know little about, most people don’t know much about home construction or building systems.

Until I worked with that client, I pointed out items needing repair during the inspection walk-through with home buyers. Now, I also point out the water shut-off valve and the circuit breakers. I explain the heating and cooling to home buyers. I also discuss the mostly frame stucco exteriors and the concrete slab on grade foundations we have here in southern Arizona, especially when I know the clients are moving from a cold climate where homes are constructed differently than here.

Most of all, I encourage my clients to ask me questions. There are things I take for granted about home and building construction that they may not. Every client has concerns, whether it’s the amount of attic insulation, the irrigation system or the roof. So, talk to your home inspector. Ask questions, and let him/her know what about the house is important to you. Your inspector wants to do a good job for you, so don’t be afraid to speak up and ask questions.

Roleke PhotoKen Roleke is a professional National Property Inspections home inspector in Tucson, Arizona. If you live in the area, call 520.870.2341 to schedule your home inspection with Ken.

 

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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Where Should Your Thermostat Be Located?

Thermostat_shutterstock_92965054Thermostats control the operation of heating and/or cooling systems in your home. Proper location, maintenance and operation of your thermostat keeps indoor temperatures comfortable and can save on utility costs.

Your thermostat should be located on an interior wall near the center of your home. It should not be in direct sunlight or near radiated heat from fireplaces, radiators or other heat sources. Generally, the thermostat is placed outside the kitchen. It should also be away from doors and windows that open and close frequently. Thermostats are generally located about five feet above the floor so they can be read or adjusted easily, and they may be controlled by a gauge, a dial or digitally with a panel of buttons. Thermostats should be assessed as part of a home’s general mechanical system during a home inspection.

Most thermostats for gas-fired appliances also have a variable anticipator to help prevent overheating. The anticipator “fools” the heating unit into shutting down just before the room hits the set temperature so the heat remaining in the furnace finishes the job.

Whenever changing a thermostat or performing routine maintenance, it’s a good idea to make sure the settings for the anticipator are correct.

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 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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