Everybody’s an Electrician (Evidently)

By Tim Shuford, NPI Franchise Owner, Jamestown, North Carolina

Fire HazzardMaybe it’s because so many of us were encouraged to learn about electricity by experimenting with batteries, wire, light bulbs, small motors, etc. during our youth.  (And I certainly don’t discourage this experimentation, since that provides critical learning opportunities.)  But it sure does seem that a lot of folks missed the lesson that some additional precautions and rules apply to the electrical system in a home.

A couple of the most common electrical findings (especially in attics and crawl spaces) during home inspections are splices not enclosed in electrical boxes and electrical boxes without proper covers installed.  The National Electric Code requires splices to be made inside enclosed electrical boxes and that electrical boxes have covers installed.  The drivers behind these requirements are fire safety and shock hazard prevention.  Since we see this so often, one might wonder how important this really is, since the houses obviously haven’t burned down and we typically don’t observe any electrocuted bodies near these installations.  (In case you didn’t know, the NEC is published by the National Fire Protection Association.  This fact should allow some of the old brain cells to conclude that not following the NEC rules just might result in a fire.)

Of course, there are many other electrical deficiencies that are discovered by home inspectors.  A significant percentage of these deficiencies were obviously created by a well-meaning DIY-er or handyman with an ultimate goal in mind.  Unfortunately, the “how to do it correctly” knowledge seems to be based largely on the discoveries made by playing with batteries and wires many years prior.  The scary part is how much stuff may be hidden in walls and other areas inaccessible for observation during an inspection.

Although preferred, I’m not necessarily a stickler that all electrical work in a home must be performed by a licensed electrician, but it would seem to be reasonable that such work be done in a manner that provides a safe result for the occupants of the home.  If folks are not going to hire a professional to make modifications to an electrical system, then they should put forth some effort to gain an understanding of how to do it correctly.

Now, how many other areas in the home and in life could we say this about?

 

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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Nice Touch!

By Tim Shuford, NPI Franchise Owner, Jamestown, North Carolina

Bathroom_shutterstock_103857686Property inspectors routinely discover things in homes that are unusual or “out of the norm.” Unfortunately, there are often deficiencies (electrical, plumbing, structural, safety, etc.) associated with some of the handiwork that went into creating these unusual features, and the deficiencies are the things documented in an inspection report.

As an inspector, I’m sure that I often don’t pay much attention to the “nice touches” that may be incorporated into or added onto a home — unless there’s a deficiency associated with it. I try to note positive features in a house that required extra thought or effort on somebody’s part to provide some added convenience, functionality or aesthetic appeal on the home, regardless of whether there are associated deficiencies or not.

Here is a sample of my observations and discoveries that might fall into the “nice touch” category:

  • Location: An 89-year-old, 1,400-square-foot bungalow with a crawl space and partial basement in a not-so-great part of town. Some of the things I’m likely to see are water intrusion at the foundation walls, sagging and out-of-level floors, cracks in the plaster, foundation problems, inadequate support of floor framing — and, yes, they were all present. Something that jumped out at me before I entered the home was a decorative mosaic tile feature in a brick paver walkway about halfway to the backyard, with an inscription in Latin that appears to be translated as “Way of Life,” or possibly “Pathway of Life,” given its location on a path to the backyard that had a nice little patio area for relaxing. Somebody spend a lot of time creating this piece of art, which is located where almost no one will ever see. Nice touch!
  • During the course of the inspection on the same home, I had noticed that some improvements to the bathroom had been done, but I didn’t look too closely until it was time to inspect that room. To my surprise, there sat a nice jetted tub (equipped with a heater and proper GFCI protection) in the space where the original tub had been. The bathroom was the only place inside the home that had received any upgrades. Nice touch!
  • While inspecting an 11-year-old, 1,400-square-foot home, I noticed that there were at least four exterior electrical receptacles installed on the home. (Nice touch!) The amazing thing was that each of these receptacles and the receptacles in the bathrooms were individually GFCI-protected. So, if GFCI protection trips, the home owner doesn’t have to launch an all-out search for where the tripped GFCI receptacle is located. Pretty convenient for not a lot of added cost. (I’d like to nominate this electrician to revise some construction standards.)
  • While inspecting a roof that was at least 20 years old, I become curious about an anomaly at the ridge cap shingles in one area. What I discovered was a dollar sign ($) carved out of a shingle and nailed on the ridge of the roof. Not sure what that was about, but I got a chuckle out of it. Given the state of the plumbing vent flashings, I may have been the first person to see this handiwork since it was installed. Thanks for the chuckle, Mr. Roofer. Nice touch!

StaircaseThere’s nothing terribly spectacular about any of these examples. But, I do believe that each helps illustrate my point. Somebody made some extra effort, put some thought into, spent some extra time, and/or put a few extra dollars into creating a “nice touch” feature. I’m also challenging myself to spend a small amount of time trying to figure out what might have motivated folks to create some of the things that evoke the, “That’s unusual,” or “That’s strange” reactions when I see them, and maybe better appreciate the effort that went into making them happen. Some thoughts, questions for pondering, and examples:

  • It must have taken a tremendous effort to get the jetted tub into the bathroom of the home mentioned above. I assume that they broke the original cast iron tub into pieces in order get it out, as the doorways are narrow, there tight corners to navigate getting to the bathroom, and there’s very little working space once the tub is inside the room. There was no apparent damage to the hardwood floors, walls, door trim, etc. The home owner must have had some motivation for installing this tub that was greater than getting a bathtub upgrade for the home. Maybe the owner needed the tub for health reasons. Maybe the owner’s loved ones gifted the installation as an expression of their love. I guess I’ll never know.
  • What would motivate the roofer to carve the dollar sign and install it? Maybe he was bored. Maybe this was his “signature mark” that he put on every roof he installed. Maybe he’d been out of work, and this roofing job provided the first opportunity in a long time to bring home a paycheck and provide for his family.
  • What was the motivation for an unusual placement of some feature in a home (such as the laundry location, bathroom location, a seemingly random sink location, some kind of cabinet or storage nook, etc.)? What was the motivation simply an over-engineered contraption that doesn’t have an intuitive purpose? Maybe a husband was trying to provide a convenience for his stressed-out wife (or vise-versa) that would save two extra steps every day. Maybe a grown child was trying to provide added convenience for a frail parent. Depending on the installation, there is probably at least one plausible explanation.

If I could find a potential reason and/or purpose behind something unusual that I find, then it might just take on a “nice touch” perspective, even if it still seems strange.

The home inspection report probably doesn’t provide the best avenue to elaborate on “nice touch” features discovered, but a photo with a little description might provide some added value for the client (and Realtor). A wrap-up discussion with the client is certainly a great time to point out any “nice touch” features and discuss the potential reasons behind things that seem odd. It could also help take the edge off any deficiencies associated with the oddities.

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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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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NPI and GPI Welcome New Business Owners and Employees

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

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