What Did My Inspector Mean When He Talked About Grading and Slope Around My House?

Grading_shutterstock_135142733The exterior of your house is just as important as the interior systems when it comes to a well-functioning, well-sealed structure. Because of this, home inspectors should begin the inspection long before they ever reach the door, assessing grading, utility hookups, walkways, decks, driveways, windows and doors, roofing, and exterior cladding or siding.

The grading around your home’s exterior helps prevent water intrusion, which can cause wood rot, mold and mildew. Proper grading also prevents structural movement and damage, keeps out unwanted pests, and helps regulate temperatures inside your home.

Preventing water intrusion begins with the grading of the lot, or the way the ground is shaped around the house. For best results, the ground should visibly slope away from the structure (positive slope). Negative-sloped grading around a home (the ground slopes toward the house) can cause water to pool at the foundation and eventually soak into the walls. Positive slopes move water away from the home and help prevent damage to the foundation.

When a house is built at the bottom of the hill, swales (small ditches) may be built to direct water around the house and away from the foundation. Your home inspector should assess the property’s slope and grading, noting the specific location of negative slope or pooling water. One common problem area is the garage apron. If the flooring is not poured with proper slope, then water will run under the door and pool inside. Inaccessible or obstructed areas of the foundation will also be noted in your inspection report.

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U.S. Energy Standards for Air Conditioning Equipment

By Kenn Garder, Corporate Accounts Manager, NPI/GPI Corporate Office

Inspector + ACThe U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) implemented the Appliance and Equipment Standards Program in the 1980s. In 2015, U.S. consumers saved an estimated $63 billion on utility bills, largely due to the increased efficiency of appliances and equipment.

It is estimated that that 60 percent of U.S. houses have a central cooling system, and most new homes are designed and built with central air systems. About 19 percent of those units are heat pumps. Many other technologies can improve the efficiency of these systems. For example, variable speed motors, advanced compressing methods, and a greater area of heat distribution from the coils of the condenser all can reduce energy consumption.

Residential central air conditioners and heat pumps use electric motors and compressors usually housed in a cabinet installed outside the house. A unit’s Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) is the cooling output during a typical cooling season divided by the total electric energy input during the same period. In short, the higher the unit’s SEER rating the more energy efficient it is. In 2006, the United States increased the national standards for central air conditioners and heat pumps from 10 SEER to 13 SEER.

New efficiency standards from the DOE went into effect in January 2015. Unlike previous standards, the 2015 standards create minimum-efficiency standards that vary by region. There are three regions established using population-weighted heating degree days (HDD). The lower 48 states are divided into these regions: Northern — states with an HDD greater than or equal to 5,000; Southern — states with an HDD less than 5,000; and Southwestern.  Click here to see a map of the regions and the SEER requirements.

Federal energy efficiency standards benefit the environment, reducing carbon dioxide created to produce the electricity. They also benefit consumers by reducing energy use and bills. And finally, these standards also benefit manufacturers, as they reduce the potential patchwork of state standards with a single federal standard, streamlining the design and production process.

Garder PhotoWith 10 years of experience in his current position, Kenn Garder is the central point of contact for NPI/GPI’s national accounts. He also provides technical support to our franchise owners/inspectors and teaches the commercial segment of our training program.

To find an NPI or GPI inspector in your area, click one of the links below:

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My Three Favorite ‘Photo Follies’

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

Our home inspectors frequently send me pictures for my “you won’t believe this” file — known here at NPI and GPI as “photo follies” — so I thought I’d share three of my most favorite. To be honest, each is my favorite in its own right. These are pictures of things our inspectors have found during the course of their inspections of items, construction practices and installations. They are often amateurish, shoddy work or projects done by home owners who think they know how to build, fix or install things. Of the three I‘ve selected, some are self-explanatory and others you may have to think about.

This is what the home owner got with a brand-new roof installation.

This is what the home owner got with a brand-new roof installation.


I call this one, “The note says it all.”

I call this one, “The note says it all.”


Do you see the problem? If not, look at the roof shingles creeping up the siding. They’re not supposed to do that.

Do you see the problem? If not, look at the roof shingles creeping up the siding. They’re not supposed to do that.


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.

NPI and GPI home inspectors have the tools and knowledge to assess your home from roof to foundation. Consult with your local NPI or GPI inspector for your next home inspection.

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Should You Be Concerned About Radon?

By Lawrence Englehart, GPI Franchise Owner, Halifax, Nova Scotia
IMG_0634Radon is a radioactive gas that is slowly released during the natural decay or breakdown of uranium in the earth, and it moves freely though any soil, rock and water. Because it is the heaviest gas in nature, radon can easily accumulate in high levels in the basement or poorly ventilated areas of a house or building.

Why Is Radon Dangerous?
As radon decays, it further breaks down to form radioactive elements that can be inhaled into the lungs, where they can damage the cells that line the lung, causing lung cancer.

Health Canada reports that radon exposure is linked to 16 percent of lung cancer deaths and is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. In Nova Scotia, the Department of Natural Resources has developed an amazing radon risk map; you can enter your physical address and it will show whether you are in a low-, medium- or high-risk area. In the United States, you can find a radon zone map on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) website.

How Much Radon Is Too Much?
In North America, radon test results have shown that 40 percent of buildings in high-risk areas exceed Health Canada and EPA guidelines; however, even homes in low-risk areas should be tested, as this is the only way to know how much radon is in your home.

In Canada, radon is measured in Becquerels per cubic meter (Bq/m3), and the current Canadian guideline for radon action is 200 Bq/m3. In the United States, radon is measured in picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L), and the current guideline for remediation is any level higher than 4 pCi/L. In both countries, the higher the number, the higher the risk. However, even the current action level is equivalent to the radiation exposure from 30 medical chest x-rays per year (assuming radon exposure at home for 12 hours per day).

Radon levels can vary over time and especially from season to season, which is why home owners should conduct radon testing over a duration of 91 days or longer to properly determine radon levels and better understand whether remedial action will be required.

For the average home owner, a simple do-it-yourself radon testing kit can be ordered online or purchased in a hardware or home improvement store.

Should You Test Your House for Radon?
When it comes to buying or selling a house, a long-term test is considered unrealistic, so a short-term test of lasting 48 to 72 hours should be performed. Make sure you hire a certified radon inspector who has been specifically trained to an industry-recognized standard of practice and are held accountable for working to established radon testing guidelines. Your home inspector may be a certified radon tester; if not, he/she can recommend a professional to conduct the test for you.

Englehart PhotoLawrence Englehart is a professional Global Property Inspections home inspector and C-NRPP Certified Radon Measurement Professional 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, and many of our inspectors hold additional certifications for radon, mold or lead testing. Consult your local NPI or GPI inspector for an inspection of your home or a home you are planning to purchase.

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Why Are Gutters, Downspouts and Splash Blocks Important?

Gutter_shutterstock_147483605Gutters, downspouts and splash blocks are used to move water away from a house or building, protecting the exterior surfaces of the home, the foundation and landscaping materials from water damage.

  • Gutters are valleys that can be made of a variety of materials and which are located on the edge of the roof.
  • Downspouts connect to the gutters to contain the water on its way to the ground.
  • Splash blocks are found at the end of the downspouts to disperse water away from the foundation.

A variety of gutter systems are available, depending on the type of home, slope of the roof and aesthetic concerns. Gutters on residential homes may or may not have seams, may be attached to the outside of the roof, or may be an integral part of the soffit. Gutters are made of plastic or metal, and they may have screens on top to prevent large debris from causing clogs. Leaks are most common at the seams, elbows and corners of gutters.

Drainage on flat roofs, generally found more often on commercial buildings, can be accomplished with gutters and downspouts, an interior drainage system or scuppers. Scuppers are holes cut in walls that extend above a roof line. Generally a downspout is connected to the scupper to move water away from the building.

Damaged or leaking gutters can allow water to stain walls and ceilings, pool against the foundation, or seep into the walls damaging the frame.

An unbiased, independent inspection by your NPI or GPI inspector includes a thorough examination of the home’s gutters and downspouts to provide the information you need for.

NPI and GPI home inspectors have the tools and knowledge to assess your home from roof to foundation. Consult with your local NPI or GPI inspector for your next home inspection.

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Common Mistakes Home Owners Make

Couple Planning Remodel_shutterstock_111839573Your home may be the largest purchase you ever make, so it’s worth your time to keep it in good repair. What you don’t want to do is create more work for yourself. The following are some common mistakes home owners often make in the name of maintenance or home improvement:

Ceiling fans: Ceiling fans are not ordinary light fixtures. Their weight, size and motion require extra support. Never hang a ceiling fan from a light fixture box or install it without the proper electrical connections or support. Improperly installed ceiling fans will be noisy and potentially dangerous.

Wooden fences: To help prevent wood-destroying insect (WDI) problems, keep wood — including fences — away from the walls and foundation of your home. Use decorative rocks or other materials instead of wood mulch, and avoid nailing wood fence posts to the walls of the house.

Permits: Before starting any home remodeling project, determine what permits and inspections are necessary. Check with your local building department or other regulatory agency to ensure that your project adheres to the proper safety and local building codes. This can save you money in the long run, and prevent problems when you sell the house.

NPI and GPI home inspectors have the tools and knowledge to assess your home from roof to foundation. Consult with your local NPI or GPI inspector for your next home inspection.

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Keep Your Home Safe and Secure

Security CameraWhile many home owners have installed home security systems, plenty of people can’t afford the expense of installation and monthly service fees. Here are some inexpensive tips to help you safeguard your home if you don’t have a security system.

  1. Security cameras are very useful, but even dummy cameras will deter many burglars.
  2. Even if you don’t have a security system, you can buy decals that say the premises are protected by an alarm. These stickers are available at most hardware and home improvement stores. Place them prominently on doors and windows.
  3. When you go out of town or on vacation, put mail and newspaper deliveries on hold, and ask a neighbor to watch your house. Also, refrain from announcing on social media sites that you’re going on vacation or are on vacation. It’s tempting to post those pictures right after you take them, but that lets burglars know your house is empty.
  4. It sounds like common sense to make sure to lock up the house while you’re away, but you’d be surprised how many home owners become burglary victims because of unlocked doors and windows.
  5. If you’re working on a home improvement project, never leave a ladder outside — it allows burglars to easily climb into high windows, which home owners often leave unlocked.
  6. Close your blinds and curtains when you’re away from home or sleeping to prevent snoopy burglars from scoping out your valuables through the windows.
  7. Hide your valuables in unlikely places so burglars are less likely to find them. Click here for some clever ideas.
  8. You can add layers of protection to your house with deadbolts, chain locks, slide bolt locks, window alarm kits and doorstop alarms.
  9. Use light to your advantage: Add timers to indoor lights, lamps, and radios or TVs to make it look and sound like you’re home even when you’re away. Outdoors, install dusk-to-dawn photocell motion lights that will light up at night when someone comes near your house or door.
  10. Don’t leave electronics boxes at the curb — this only lets thieves know you recently bought a computer, large TV, or other item they’d love to steal.

NPI and GPI home inspectors have the tools and knowledge to assess your home from roof to foundation. Consult with your local NPI or GPI inspector for your next home inspection.

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Today’s Tip: Don’t Neglect Your Water Heater

By Jon McCreath, NPI Franchise Owner, Emerson, Georgia

Water Heater_shutterstock_113790454If you’re like most savvy homeowners, one of your main goals is to maintain your appliances for as long as possible before the need to replace them forces a new purchase. Water heaters are no exception to this, and they are one of the most important appliances in your home.

How Long Does the Average Water Heater Last?
According to manufacturers’ information, the average life expectancy of a traditional tank-style electric or natural gas water heater is around eight to 10 years. Some estimates show that electric water heaters may last slightly longer — up to 15 years. Years can be added or subtracted, however, based on weather, the unit’s design, its original installation, and the level of maintenance the unit has been given. Maintaining your water heater on an annual basis may add as many as five years to the life of the unit.

How to Maintain Your Water Heater
The first step in providing the appropriate maintenance is to have a professional plumbing company perform an annual inspection. When managing electricity or gas with water, you’ll want to ensure that repairs and installations are completed by thoroughly trained, licensed and insured technicians.

The majority of work takes place during the process of draining and flushing the water heater. This should be done at least once a year. A technician will test the temperature-pressure-release valve (this valve stops the tank pressure from climbing too high). Next, they will drain the heater and stir up sediment by opening the cold-water supply valve. They will repeat this process is until the water runs clear.

Excessive sediment is important to remove, as it will not only cause the tank liner to crack, but it will also coat the anode rod with calcium and allow it to corrode. The anode rod is used to slow down corrosion inside the tank and extend the life of your water heater, and it should be replaced if it’s less than 1/2 inch thick or covered. A technician can also adjust your thermostat to the recommended 120° F (49° C). This prevents the tank from overheating and causing damage.

Looking to save even more on energy costs? A technician can help you with that, too. By lowering your water temperature by 10 degrees, you may save up to 5 percent on your utility bills! Enclosing hot- and cold-water pipes with foam pipe insulation will preserve water temperatures as well.

When Should You Replace a Water Heater?
Age is not always a prime indicator for appliance replacement, but an appliance does warrant evaluation if you are investing in more repairs as the unit ages. If your water heater is more than 10 years old, it could be on its last leg. Other signs that a water heater replacement is in your future: it operates intermittently, produces rusty water (a qualified plumber can tell you whether you have a rusty tank or the issue is in the pipes), makes rumbling noises (which may be caused by hardened sediment in your tank), or leaks.

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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The Top 5 Things Sellers Should Do to Prepare for the Home Inspection

By Wes Grant, NPI Franchise Owner, Indian Trail, North Carolina

Inspector + Electrical9When you’re selling your home, preparing everything for the home inspection can prevent unnecessary delays during the closing process. For liability reasons, home inspectors are not required, nor advised, to move items blocking access to areas that need to be inspected. If you don’t provide access to these areas during the inspection, it can lead to incomplete results, callbacks, additional fees or a frustrated buyer. Most home inspectors charge an additional fee if they must return to the property to inspect items which were not accessible.

If you’re selling your home, you probably want to make the process as smooth as possible. Here are five tips to help you along:

1. Make sure all utilities (power, gas, water, etc.) are on for the inspection. Few things are more frustrating to a home inspector than arriving at a scheduled inspection only to find that none of the utilities are turned on or the pilot flames are not lit. This normally requires the inspection to be rescheduled and oftentimes results in the buyer having to extend due diligence, which therefore extends the closing date.

2. Create clear access to the electrical panel, water heater, furnace, attic and crawl space. If major appliances are not readily and easily accessible, the inspector will be unable to closely examine the equipment, which may again result in a return trip after you have cleared access to these important components of the home. Again, this will result in a delay and additional costs.

3. Board or kennel the pets. The home inspector is there to perform a thorough inspection, which takes a great deal of skill, knowledge and concentration. I love dogs (not so much a cat guy, though, sneaky critters), but we go in and out of the house quite a lot during a home inspection as we check different components of the home. Dogs that bark endlessly or cats that like to run out of an open door affect the inspector’s concentration, which could be detrimental to you or the buyer.

4. Don’t stuff the garage or the attic. It’s always a good idea to de-clutter your home in preparing to put it on the market, but don’t do so at the expense of stuffing everything in the attic or garage, as that will make those areas inaccessible (see No. 2 above). There are potentially defects that need to be noted in the attic and garage, and as has been the case for everything so far, that could lead to a return trip, delays and additional costs. It’s better to rent a storage unit or a POD that can be stored on your property.

5. Do some repairs and cleaning. I always recommend that sellers spruce up the house by doing some of the maintenance they may have let slip. Change burned-out bulbs in light fixtures; and caulk or seal around bathtubs, exterior windows/doors, anywhere there are gaps that allow water or pest intrusion. Dust, paint areas that need it, clean windows, clean bathrooms and the kitchen. Like they say, “Dress to impress.”

In conclusion, if you as a home seller follow these “Big 5” recommendations in preparing your home for an inspection, the process will go a lot smoother with no delays and minimal frustration. You will also be able to concentrate on your own schedule of finding another another home without the frustration of rescheduling inspections for the buyer of your current house. Happy selling, and remember to call NPI before you buy — or sell!

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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