Veteran Home Inspections, PLLC

Veteran Home Inspections, PLLC

Highlights from our home inspections and news you can use as you buy or sell a home.

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Galvanic Corrosion

Galvanic corrosion (also known as bimetallic corrosion or dissimilar-metal corrosion) is an electrochemical disintegration that occurs when dissimilar metals come in contact with each other while immersed in an electrolyte. Galvanic corrosion is of major concern anywhere moisture can reach metal building components. Corrosion asGalvanic Corrosion a broader category is defined as the disintegration of a material into its constituent parts, which may be caused by crevice corrosion, microbial corrosion, and high-temperature corrosion.

There are three conditions that must exist for galvanic corrosion to occur:

  • Two electrochemically dissimilar metals must contact one another. They are dissimilar in the sense that they are far apart on the anodic index, which rates metals based on their electrode potentials. Metals that are more active (such as magnesium and zinc) will corrode in the presence of metals that are less active (such as gold and platinum).
  • There must be an electrically conductive path between the two metals. Any non-metal, liquid substance that can conduct an electric current (such as saltwater or rainwater) can function as an electrolyte. Common examples are ordinary seawater, citric acid, and bases.
  • An electrical path must exist to allow metal ions to move from the active metal to the less active metal. Typically, the metals merely touch one another.

The Statue of Liberty is perhaps the most famous case of galvanic corrosion. Contact between the wrought-iron support and the outer copper skin amidst rainwater exposure has allowed the structure to gradually corrode. The famous icon’s builder anticipated this problem and installed asbestos cloth soaked in shellac insulation in the 1880s.  This worked for some time until it dried up and became porous, acting as a sponge that held saltwater close to the contact points between the two metals. An inspection in 1981 revealed severe galvanic corrosion of the iron supports, causing them to swell and push saddle rivets through the copper skin. This rapidly worsening situation was the main drive to restore the statue in 1986, when the iron was replaced with a variety of corrosion-resistant steel. The solution has held up, and native New Yorkers and visitors alike have been able to enjoy a landmark free from corrosion that will last long into the 21st century.

Examples in Houses

  • ACQ (alkaline copper quaternary) lumber includes copper, which can corrode when it comes in contact with common aluminum building nails. With this type of lumber, it’s best to use G185 galvanized steel or stainless steel fasteners, as they will resist corrosion.
  • Aluminum wiring can become compromised. In the presence of moisture, aluminum will undergo galvanic corrosion when it comes into contact with certain dissimilar metals.
  • Piping commonly rusts and corrodes, especially at joints. The failure of pipe thread is commonly caused by corrosion where carbon steel pipe directly meets a brass valve, or where it transitions to copper pipe. Dielectric unions may be installed to separate these metals to resist damaging corrosion in pipe connections.
    Galvanic Corrosion on water heater piping
  • The elements of an electric water heater often rust and fail. The copper sheathe and steel base, if they become wet, may corrode. Installing galvanized unions with plastic nipples on the top of the water heater can prevent corrosion.

Galvanic Corrosion Can be Prevented in the Following Ways

  • Electrically insulate the dissimilar metals. Plastic can be used to separate steel water pipes from copper-based fittings.  A coat of grease can be used to insulate steel and aluminum parts.
  • Shield the metal from ionic compounds. This is often accomplished by encasing the metal in epoxy or plastic, or painting it. Coating or protection should be applied to the more noble of the two metals, if it is impossible to coat both. Otherwise, greatly accelerated corrosion may occur at points of imperfection in the less noble (more active or anodic) metal.
  • Choose metals that have similar potentials. Closely matched metals have less potential difference and, hence, less galvanic current. The best such solution is to build with only one type of metal.
  • Electroplate the metals.
  • Avoid threaded connections, as they are most severely weakened by galvanic corrosion.

 

In summary, galvanic corrosion is the disintegration of metals in the presence of an electrolyte. It can occur in homes wherever dissimilar, joined metals become damp.

To have your home inspected by a Certified Master Inspector, visit www.vhillc.com or call 210-202-1974.

What to Look for When Buying a House

Veteran Home Inspections was asked to contribute to this article on Redfin:

What to Look for When Buying a House

If you’ve ever been to an open house or toured a home then you’ve most likely marveled at different home layouts, lamented over beautifully designed kitchens or critiqued the color choice in the bathrooms. But beyond the veneer that makes a house shine to potential home buyers, have you ever wondered what could be lying below the surface?

Is the home you’re touring actually in good shape or are there hidden issues that only a trained eye can spot? Here’s your chance to learn what to look for when buying a house so you too can begin touring homes like a professional home inspector.

Inspecting the driveway

All parts of the home need to work in unison and that includes your driveway. When entering a driveway you’ll want to look at its surface conditions, levelness, and the areas around the driveway.

Walk the entire driveway, noting any deterioration, cracking, heaving or settling. Driveways are known to crack over time but the reasons behind these cracks can vary, such as:

  • Improper compaction of the soil prior to pouring the concrete.
  • Trees near the driveway can cause heaving if their roots grow underneath the concrete.
  • A slope in the driveway can cause rainwater to settle, causing it to erode the supporting dirt below.
  • Deterioration of any wood used in the pouring of the driveway may leave a gap that can both become a tripping hazard and a means of moisture entering the fissure, causing more damage.

Scot Baker

Baker Inspection GroupModesto, CA

Inspecting the living room

When inspecting the living room, use three passes to look at everything.

On the first pass, walk the floor in a circle and look for any signs of the floor moving or shifting, water damage, or any damage to the floor itself.

During the second pass, check out the ceiling by walking around the room again. Check for water stains and any cracks that could indicate a structural problem. Also, check out any air conditioning vents to see if they are clean, as dust or other debris around these vents may signal a lack of maintenance.

On your third pass, look only at the walls, keeping an eye out for cracks or separations between the walls, the ceiling, or the fireplace that could be another indication of a structural problem. Look at the electrical outlets to make sure they are clean (not painted) and don’t show any indications of smoke or burn marks. And don’t forget to check all of the light switches and ceiling fans to make sure they work.

David Selman

Selman Home InspectionsDallas, TX

Inspecting the fireplace

Fireplaces can be an attractive focal point in many homes. It’s a place where family and friends get together to relax and warm themselves during the cold winter months. That’s why when touring a home you’ll want to know if that fireplace with a great mantle is a winner, or if it will be in need of repair.

First, you’ll want to inspect the exterior of the chimney by looking for any structural issues around the foundation, as well as the chimney case, crown, flue and cap (if installed). Whether it’s around the foundation, firebox area, or chimney case you should make a note of any signs of cracks as these indicate some deterioration. These cracks could have occurred from normal settling of a home, movement from past earthquakes, or the deterioration could have been caused by years of moisture seeping into these cracks, resulting in more damage. Most of the time these areas can be repaired by a mason.

Inspection of the chimney crown, flue and cap usually means a trip up to the roof, which during a home tour you most likely won’t do. If you decide to make an offer on the house, your home inspector will look for any damage to these areas to make sure dangerous carbon monoxide or moisture is not reentering the home.

Inside the home, you’ll want to inspect the fireplace for signs of cracked or damaged mortar and brickwork. Your home inspector will go one step further by inspecting the fireplace throat and determine if it has a proper sized hearth and that the mantel is secured properly.

Mike Phegley

Napa Valley Home InspectionsCalistoga, CA

Inspecting fire and carbon monoxide detectors

In a newly constructed home, smoke detectors should be installed inside each bedroom and in the adjoining area outside the bedroom door (such as a hallway). Newer homes are required to have smoke detectors wired into the electrical system with battery back-ups. They should be interconnected so that activation of one alarm sets off all alarms. In older homes, at least one smoke detector is required per floor, including basements, and should be within 21 feet of each bedroom.

Carbon monoxide (CO) detectors are highly recommended for homes with gas appliances such as stoves, hot water heaters, furnaces, and when the home has an attached garage. They should be installed on each floor of the home and within 15 feet of all bedrooms.

After you buy a home, it is a good idea to test the smoke and CO detectors every 2-3 months to ensure functionality. You’ll also want to replace your batteries regularly and it is recommended that you replace your devices after 10 years.

Ryan Sorensen

Sorensen Construction & InspectionsPilot Rock, OR

Inspecting the kitchen

A good idea for prospective homeowners attending an open house or touring a home privately is to look under the kitchen sink, which can actually tell you a lot about the overall condition of a house.

If you see a well-kept cabinet under the sink, it’s usually a good reflection about the upkeep of the rest of the home. In fact, if you see water damage or possible mold under the kitchen sink, it usually means the rest of the house is in disrepair. Of course, this doesn’t always hold true but more often than not, it’s a great barometer of the house as a whole.

When touring a home like a home inspector, the kitchen is obviously a major component since they are unique in regards to the volume of items that can have issues.

During a typical inspection, home inspectors usually operate all installed appliances such as the dishwasher, range/oven, microwave, vent hood, disposal, and sink. They also note issues with the countertops, cabinets and drawers, R/O systems, compactors, and built-in refrigerators (if any).

Liz O’Neall

AZ Property InspectionsPhoenix, AZ

Inspecting bathrooms

In each bathroom, you will want to turn on all the lights and the bathroom fan. If there isn’t a fan, make sure you take note because if you end up buying the house you’ll need to open a window every time you shower. Also, you’ll want to check and make sure there is a heat/air conditioning vent.

Next, look for water stains around the toilet, the bathtub/shower, and especially under the sink. You’ll also want to make sure the toilet is secure. Start by straddling it and then using your knees see if the toilet rocks or moves.

Look at any glass within five feet of the shower or bath and make sure there is a tempered stamp etched in the corner. Do the same for the shower doors as well if they are glass. You’ll also want to check for water damage around windows of the shower enclosure. Then make sure the shower head pipes and faucets don’t wiggle.

Check for an electrical outlet within thirty inches of each sink and that they are 3-prong (grounded). One of the bathrooms should have a GFCI electrical outlet. You can easily spot it as it’s the outlet with the two buttons in the middle.

Finally, look at the ceiling, walls, and floors to make sure there isn’t any damage. If the bathrooms are on an upper level, go downstairs and look for water stains or patches on the ceiling under the bathrooms.

Michael Marlow

Veteran Home Inspections, PLLCSan Antonio, TX

Inspecting bedrooms

Houses with bedrooms that are too small, too few or on the wrong floor can make a great house dysfunctional for your needs. Luckily, when it comes to inspecting, bedrooms are easy for most homebuyers to evaluate for themselves.

You’ll want to note the number of windows each bedroom has. Something that most people do not realize is that building codes do not require a bedroom to have a closet, so make sure to see if each bedroom has one.

Bedrooms also require several important features and security measures, such as a smoke alarm, an emergency escape/rescue opening (such as a window or door), heat, and some means of light and ventilation. The condition of the bedroom will often be indicative of the overall condition of the house as damaged and scratched doors, stained walls and carpets, and dirty ductwork can indicate a poorly maintained home. Consider the heating and cooling system for each room and note any bedrooms above garages as with older houses these can be less comfortable.

Dylan Chalk

Orca Inspection ServicesBainbridge Island, WA

Inspecting the basement

The basement may not be the place you seek out first on a home tour. However, basements can offer great extra space in a home that you can potentially use as extra bedrooms, a family room or playroom, or storage area.

If the basement is unfinished and insulation is not covering the foundation walls, then you have a great opportunity to view the foundation wall for signs of structural concerns.  While minor concrete cracking is somewhat typical, larger cracks and, in particular, horizontal cracks, can be an indication of structural movement.

A white powder-like substance called efflorescence, can be an indication of poor drainage around the home and possibly a grading or gutter issue. Your nose is one of the best tools for inspecting a basement. If things smell musty or damp, this can also be an indication of moisture concerns.

Lastly, look around for signs of any unwanted insects or rodents who tend to make their way into a home through the basement. Droppings could indicate a pest concern.

George Scott

Scott Home InspectionDenver, CO

Inspecting the garage

When entering the garage make sure all light switches work. Though you most likely won’t check electrical outlets during a home tour, your home inspector will do it for you during the home inspection and report any that are not working.

You’ll want to check the walls and ceiling to see if they are fully sheetrocked. Sheetrock provides a fire barrier to your home when properly installed.Also, make sure that the access point to the attic also has a sheetrock cover; if it’s just plywood this would be a breach in the fire barrier.

Test the garage doors and the wall mounted remote as well. Look at the condition of the springs, tracks, and rollers of the garage door. Do they appear to be in good condition? Your home inspector will go further by testing all remotes, the laser eye barrier, and reverse sensor to make sure it meets minimal resistance.

Look at the garage floor, also known as the garage slab. Slight cracks are pretty common, but you should take note if you see excessive cracks or settlement.

Clinton Betchan

Betchan Home InspectionsGuthrie, OK

Below are things you won’t typically see during a home tour. However, your home inspector will certainly look into these areas of the house during a home inspection.

Inspecting the HVAC

One of the largest systems in the home, the heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems (HVAC), require periodic maintenance to ensure they run properly for years. Neglected and dirty HVAC equipment is the main reason for system failures. Though you most likely won’t inspect these systems, here’s an overview of what’s involved during an inspection:

  • Visual inspection of each component of the system if it is accessible.
  • Check for loose connections, leaking gas lines, worn out components, and damaged coolant lines.
  • Inspect the heat exchanger and evaporator coils to ensure they are clean and in good condition.
  • Listen for hard starts, irregular combustion, and worn out bearings.
  • Check for clogs in the condensate line and verify there is a proper discharge location.
  • Check the filter to ensure it has been changed regularly.

The average gas furnace lasts 15-25 years, the heat pump about 12-20 years, and standalone AC 12-15 years. An annual inspection is a small investment to protect your HVAC system. It’s a good idea to maintain your HVAC system biannually in the spring for air-conditioning units and the fall for furnaces. To improve efficiency, use a small portable vacuum to remove any dust buildup on the system and the air-conditioning coils.

Grant Waller

PacWest Home InspectionsBeaverton, OR

Inspecting water heater

You probably won’t personally inspect the water heater during an open house, however, you can count on your home inspector to:

  • Visually inspect the surfaces of the tank and plumbing lines for signs of leakage and overall condition.
  • Verify proper earthquake strapping—one strap on the top third of the tank, one strap on the lower third.
  • If it’s a gas water heater, the home inspector will inspect the fuel supply piping, ensure a proper sediment trap is present, check the length and type of the flexible fuel supply hose, and look at the burner and venting from the water heater.
  • If it’s an electric water heater, they will ensure the electrical supply is protected in the conduit, check for a ground wire attachment on top of the tank, and ensure the element covers are present and properly secured.
  • Inspect the Temperature Pressure Relief (TPR) valve and ensure proper material, routing, and termination of the discharge piping.
  • Evaluate for vehicle impact if in a garage – typically, a bollard (post) should be present in case the water heater is in the path of a vehicle.
  • Look at the area around the tank checking for past leaks, ensure the tank is sitting on a stable base.
  • Refer to the manufacturer’s identification label for size, age, and capacity of the tank.

 Matt Fellman

Crawford Inspection ServicesPortland, OR

Inspecting the home’s exterior

When approaching the home, take a look at the roof ridge to make sure it is level and not sagging. This will give you a clue that the house itself is not sinking and the walls are not spreading. It can also give you a feel for the solidity of the roof support.

Look at the grounds around the home and make sure the soil is sloped away from the home and that gutters, downspouts, and downspout extensions are present and in good shape. This is especially important if the home has a basement as it helps prevent water intrusion into the basement and to protect the integrity of the foundation.

Walk around the home observing the condition of the siding, eaves, fascia, and soffits.  Look for wood rot, termite damage, and water staining, as well as carefully examine caulking and flashings.  Look for deteriorated or missing caulk and flashings especially around windows, doors, butt joints, and siding transitions.  These simple observations can save some huge expenses down the road.

Michael Stanford

Watch Dogs Home InspectorsLas Vegas, NV

Inspecting the Landscape Irrigation (sprinkler) System

On a home tour, take note if the property has an irrigation sprinkler system, as many homes have these types of systems to water the lawn. Though you probably won’t be able to test it, your home inspector will inspect the irrigation system controller along with each sprinkler zone.

Any broken sprinkler heads and leaks found will be noted, and the backflow valve will be visually inspected for damage.  The findings of the inspection will be included in your home inspection report along with photos of each zone during operation.

Danny Smith

Semper Fi Home InspectionsDallas, TX

Inspecting fences

Inspecting the fence of a residence is extremely important as it provides for the safety and security of a home. During a home tour, you’ll first want to note what material the fence is made of (most commonly treated wood) and then see if there is any indication of rot, damage, and other signs of deterioration.

The home inspector will also look for those same things but then test the amount of resistance the fence can withstand and what type of code may need to be applied. Once those items have been identified, the inspector is notified about the property line to ensure they are inspecting the proper fencing for the specific property. Next, the inspector will then assess whether the standard expectations associated with the fence have been applied, including:

  • 4×4 posts should be at least 2 feet in the ground and they should be 6 to 8 feet from each other depending upon the crossbar and planks being used.
  • Concrete used to hold each post in place should be 3 times the width of the 4×4 posts.
  • The crossbar should be a 2×4 if being used with the standard 4×4 posts.
  • Each post should be perfectly vertical or plumb.
  • The proper industry standard brackets need to be used to secure the cross beams to the posts.
  • Any insect damage will be carefully identified.

Only if all of these standards are identified with the fence in mind can the inspector be sure that the fence is meeting code and will provide safety and security for the homeowners.

James Beck JR

Sound View Home InspectionsSeattle, WA

Inspecting decks

Decks can be a great asset, especially during the summertime, but also they may have hidden hazards. Often times, they were added to a home by do-it-yourselfers who had good intentions but may not have used safe construction methods.

During a home tour, pay particular attention to how decks attach to the home, which is usually done with a ledger or starter board. A pro will use ½” lag bolts with washers in a staggered pattern to attach this board. They also will protect the ledger with flashing to stop water infiltration. If there is no flashing water will weaken and rot the ledger over time, possibly finding its way into the home and causing hidden pockets of rot and mold.

Railings also get extra scrutiny at inspection.  Did you know that railings need to resist 200 pounds of force at any point along their length? Always look at a deck with safety in mind. If someone stumbles at your next BBQ, the railing needs to prevent them from going over the edge.

There are many considerations when it comes to deck construction and all decks should be professionally inspected and regularly maintained.

Steve Nadeau

Metro Home InspectionsDenver, CO

Inspecting retaining walls

Retaining walls are used to hold back earth and landscaping and are typically made of poured-in-place concrete and then backfilled. You want to make sure these walls are perfectly plumb (vertical) without any leaning away from the retained earth.

This rule also applies to basement foundation walls as well. Besides the retaining wall being plumb, there should not be any significant cracks. Small fractures are typical but any differential movement on either side of the crack may be of concern.

If there is a crack, see if it is wide at the top and narrow at the bottom, which would indicate one portion of the wall is sinking in relation to the other. If one part of the wall is sticking out in relation to the other side of the crack, that is a concern as well. Sometimes these walls can be lifted back into position or pulled back towards the earth but this generally requires excavation and added structural support.

Joe Konopacki

Insight Property Services, Inc. – Naperville, Illinois

Inspecting the roof

Each type of roofing has a different life expectancy. However, the variables of installation, exposure, attic venting, and maintenance are what determine the actual life of each roof.

Roof inspection begins in the attic by checking for water staining, leaks, damaged roof members, and evaluating the available venting. Heat and moisture build up quickly in improperly vented attics and shorten the lifespan of the roof.

An accurate assessment of the roof condition can only be determined from closely examining the surface of the roofing. Inspectors will look to determine the number of roof layers, such as multiple layers of roofing hold more heat which causes more wear. Once on the roof, we evaluate the surface of the roofing, flashing, and roof transitions. We also evaluate roof penetrations (skylights, vents, chimneys) and note conditions like overhanging trees that can damage the roofing.

Chad Sulloway

PDX Inspect IncPortland, OR

Inspecting the foundation

The most important part of any home, foundations are primarily built with stone, brick, concrete or block. A home inspector will inspect the foundation for any damage that can affect the integrity of the house.

When inspecting the foundation the inspector looks at both the exterior and interior for cracks, deterioration, and other environmental factors. Most foundation damage is the result of water infiltration such as a missing gutter system, which can result in water entering cracks and crevices of the foundation and then, in the colder winter months, freezing, resulting in damage due to hydrostatic pressure.

Type, size, and location of cracks in the foundation are very important to note. Any cracks in the foundation should be monitored over time for movement and water penetration. Shrinkage and settlement cracks are common in most homes, as are hairline cracks in foundations. V-Shape cracks are something to be concerned about as these could be evidence of structural settlement. Depending upon the size and location, these cracks generally require further evaluation, especially those greater than 3/16 of an inch.

Thomas Herbst

Clayton Home Inspection Inc. – Boston, MA

Inspecting crawl spaces

Every part of the country has their own unwanted pests, so when inspecting the crawl space be aware that you might not be alone. As such, a strong flashlight and keen eyesight are required.

The most important system in the crawl space is the foundation. There are several types of foundations, each with their own unique components and possible problems. Regardless of which type of foundation the home has, look for loose material (stone, bricks, etc..), bulging walls, excessive settling, sagging, moisture intrusion, and how the building structure is secured.

Ventilation and moisture control are another key factor. Is a vapor barrier required in your area? Is there sufficient vent area for outside air to displace the moisture? Dryer vents should never end in the crawl space, and HVAC ducts should be supported and insulated. In colder climates, the floor should be well insulated from underneath.

Plumbing components in the crawl space should not only be inspected for leaks but also for proper supports, hangers, and insulation. Some crawl spaces have a sump pump to remove excess water and these should be inspected as well.

Electrical connections and terminations must be contained in sealed junction boxes and often, mechanical systems are found in the crawl space and require inspection.

Steven Von Ehrenkrook

White Glove Home InspectionsPeoria, AZ

Source: Redfin

Fire Safety Checklist for Your Home

Handling an emergency situation quickly and correctly requires some practice before hand. When a fire starts in your home, it can rapidly grow into a very dangerous situation, so knowing what to do is critical. Of course the best option is to take steps now to reduce the chances of a fire starting in the first place. Here’s a checklist to guide you through checking your home for fire safety issues.

The kitchen can be one of the most dangerous rooms in the house:

1) Do adults supervise when food is being cooked on the stove?

2) Are the counters and stove tops uncluttered and clean?

3) Are the pot holders within a reachable distance of the stove?

4) When cooking, are the handles of the pots turned inwards so that nobody bumps into them?

5) Are curtains and other loose fabric away from the stove?

6) Do you keep kids free zone around the stove when adults are cooking?

7) Are the electrical appliances in the kitchen, such as toaster oven, blenders, food processors, coffee makers, and microwave plugged into different receptacle outlets?

Heating System:

1) When there is no one at home or when adults go to sleep are space heaters turned off?

2) Are space heater placed at a distance of at least three feet away from everything such as furniture, people, and pets, especially material which can burn easily?

3) Is the fireplace equipped with a sturdy screen in order to catch the sparks?

4) Is the chimney cleaned and inspected every year?

5) Is the furnace cleaned and inspected every year?

6) Are propane tanks and other fuels stored outside the house?

Electrical gadgets and electric circuits are also dangerous if not handled properly. To check them, here is the check list:

1) Are the extension cords laid safely and not across the doorways, under the carpet, or in areas where people walk?

2) Are the electrical cords in excellent condition and not worn out, cracked or frayed?

3) Do you unplug electrical appliances, even things like lamps, after using them?

4) Do you have Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters in your electrical panel, and do you test them monthly?

Smoke alarms and fire extinguishers should be installed on every floor of the house.  Early notification of a fire and the ability to fight very small fires can save lives and property.

1) Are there smoke alarms installed on every level of the house, including the attic or basement and also outside every sleeping area?

2) Is there a working smoke alarm in every bedroom/sleeping area?

3) Do you have Carbon Monoxide detectors on every level and outside of every sleeping area?

4) Are the smoke alarm batteries working in all of them?

5) Are the smoke alarms tested by pressing the test button, and are they less than 10 years old?

6) Is there more than one exit from the house?

7) Are all the home exits clear of furniture, clutter, and toys?

8) Can all of the doors/windows be opened from the inside without a key? This includes security bars if you have those installed.

9) Is there home fire escape plan which also includes two exits? The two exits can consist of door and windows? Here’s a great resource for planning your home escape plan. 

10) Has the family practiced your home fire drill in the past six months?

11) Does everyone know the designated outside safe place to meet after exiting the home?

12) Does everyone in the household know the fire department’s emergency phone number, which needs to be dialed from the neighbor’s phone since everyone has to evacuate the house in case of fire?

13) Do all of the adults and older children know where the utility shutoffs are (electric, gas, water) and how to operate them?

If all the questions of every checklist are answered as yes then the house and the family members are ready to face fire accidents. If the answer is yes to twenty to twenty-nine questions then few adjustments are needed to be made to ensure safety in case of fire emergencies. And if only ten to nineteen questions are answered as yes, then the family members need to double up and put in extra effort in order to be hit a fire safety home run. If less than ten questions are answered as yes, then the whole house needs to be revamped in order to make it a safe place to live in. Not only do the adults of the house need to get trained but also the children. If there is a pet in the house, it also needs to be included in the plan.

Specialist Home Inspectors for the Inspection of Older Homes

Are you considering getting a home inspection for an older home? A general home inspector could very well do the job. But there might be instances or cases when there is a need to hire specialists to make sure inspections of specific areas would be accurate. You could also hire an experienced home inspector like Veteran Home Inspections to take care of most of the issues.

The home inspector is a certified and experienced professional in carrying out home inspections. However, they might not be able to cover all aspects and parts of the home. A regular inspector might be able to tell if there is something wrong with an air conditioning and heating system, for example, but he could not exactly identify malfunctions and faulty linings. Therefore, when you are looking for a home inspector for an older home, look for an experienced home inspector that understands the systems and materials used in older construction, and knows how to inspect them.

Inspections Veteran Home Inspections can perform:

Mold – You know molds are fungi, microorganisms that might trigger several health problems to inhabitants. However, there are many types of molds. A mold inspection should be conducted to ensure good and healthy air quality inside the house.

Formaldehyde – Old homes could have been constructed using building materials that may contain chemicals like formaldehyde, a flammable gas that has also been proven to cause specific cancers in rats.

Well water quality– If the home has a well, you should have a water quality analysis done to ensure the water is healthy to drink.

Plumbing systems – Older plumbing systems can include materials like lead, galvanized, and cast iron pipes. All of these materials are well past their expected service life, so a thorough inspection is essential to help prevent problems after you move in. We also recommend having Veteran Home Inspections perform a sewer camera inspection to examine the integrity of the main sewer line.

Lead-based paint – It was only in 1978 that lead-based paint was banned in the United States. Thus, old homes constructed before 1978 should be tested for presence of lead-based paint. Veteran Home Inspections has the equipment to quickly and accurately test the painted surfaces in your home for lead based paint. The testing is non-destructive, and results are instant. If lead-based paint is found, lead abatement contractors should be hired to remove such paint.

Septic Systems – If you are buying a home with a septic system, you should definitely have that system inspected. Unfortunately, many home owners neglect their septic systems, and we frequently find systems that have not been pumped or maintained in decades. This neglect can lead to the entire system needing to be replaced.

Roof – Home inspectors generally inspect roofs. However, for old homes, there are sometimes specialized roofing systems that an inexperienced home inspector may not be familiar with. While we can inspect any roofing type, some roofs that are especially steep or high may still require a specialist.

Electrical System – When we inspect older homes, the electrical system can sometimes be like walking through a museum showing all the various types of wiring that were used through the ages. From fuse panels to knob-and-tube wiring, some of these systems may not have aged as well as the rest of the house, and it takes extra experience to find the issues associated with older electrical systems. Make sure your inspector is well educated on them, so you don’t get an unwelcome surprise down the road.

Wood Destroying Insects – Termites, carpenter ants, powder post beetles, and more love to infest older homes.  While a wood destroying insect inspection is recommended on all homes, it’s essential on an older home.  Most home inspectors are not licensed to inspect for these insects, in fact the home inspection laws specifically exclude them from the home inspection process.  Veteran Home Inspections is licensed to inspect for them, so we can do this inspection at the same time as your home inspection.

Inspections where you will need a specialist:

Trees around the house – An arborist is a specialist in trees. Home inspections should not miss trees and plants in the surroundings, which might affect the structure and security of the home.

Easements and encroachments – Title policies basically disclose easements. However, before buying any home, especially old ones, you may have to hire a surveyor. You may ask the title company about actual easement records and documents from public records.

Square footage – You may hire an appraiser instead if you aim to verify square footage of the house. Public records are basically input by people, making them susceptible to human error.

Well Equipment – While we can inspect the above-ground components of the well, if you are concerned about the water supply and underground equipment, a well specialist would need to be hired.

As you consider hiring a home inspector, first look at the age of the house. Newer homes may not require tedious and specialized inspections. Older houses certainly do.

How to Sell Your Home Faster, with Less Stress

Are you planning to sell a home? If you are, be reminded that home buyers are almost certain to hire a professional home inspector before purchasing your home. The idea is to take a closer look at the house before buying, so that they can be sure the home is in good condition. Who in his right mind would want to buy a house that has major issues?

What if I told you that you could speed the process up, and even avoid possible problems that may affect or hinder your potential home sale. Did you know you could hire a qualified home inspector before listing your house, so you could make the necessary repairs long before you put the house up for sale. Of course, the home inspector is supposed to cover a number of important systems and parts of the home. However, there are ‘hot spots’ or usual areas of the house that most buyers worry a lot about.

First, mold and mildew stains with accompanying odors almost always scare prospective home buyers. Mold and mildew presence may pose health risks because the fungi may be carried by ventilation and the air to be breathed by inhabitants. Mildew odors also automatically point to a very moist basement or crawlspace. Take note that constant moisture deteriorates materials in buildings, and can also attract insects like termites and carpenter ants. Moisture may also lead to suspicions about the drainage system, the roofing, the water flow, and even to possible foundation problems.

Roofs and chimneys are of course main concerns. Roofs function as natural protection of the entire house against harsh sunlight and torrential rains. Home inspectors naturally complete a thorough inspection of the roofing system because doing so is very important. As for the chimneys, the base’s flashing system should be watertight. The bricks and mortar should always be in excellent condition, the flue clean, and a spark arrestor/rain cap should be installed.

The plumbing system is an important area because no home buyer would want to encounter any problem with it. The home inspector will check water pressure by flushing toilets and turning on different faucets at the same time. Several inspectors may go as far as checking the septic system. However, in most cases, septic and sewerage inspections would have to be referred to specialists who know more about them. At Veteran Home Inspections, we can check both the septic system and the underground drain lines in addition to a regular home inspection.

The electrical system is always a cause of alarm. Many home fires occur because of faulty electrical wiring. Inspectors should be able to identify such faulty and troublesome wiring. Circuit breakers and panels should be configured appropriately to run adequately and cater to the house needs. They will also check the quality and safety of receptacles, outlets, lighting systems, and electrical box. Professional electricians are needed to do a more thorough and more accurate electrical system check.

Other hot spots for home inspections include cooling and heating systems, foundation and structure, and appliances. Security alarms like smoke and burglar detectors should also be functional. Overall, you should hire a home inspector with the aim to make the necessary repairs so your home sale process runs smoothly.

Of course home buyers always have the option to hire their own home inspection, but wouldn’t it be nice to know that there won’t be any surprises?

We have a dedicated program built specifically for pre-listing inspections, that will not only help you sell your home faster, but also for more money. For more information about the program, visit http://vhillc.com/move-in-certified/ and give us a call today at 210-202-1974 to schedule your pre-listing inspection.

Useful Tips To Ensure A Storm Safe Home

With the arrival of spring comes the threat of storms. Storm safety and maintenance measures need to be taken before you head into the seasons where they are more likely. There are certain safety measures, which should be taken by you for your as well as your family member’s safety.

Storms can quickly pop up and become very dangerous, so make sure that every one in the family is familiar with safe routes from school, home, work or wherever they are. Make sure that your vehicles are in good condition. Always keep an emergency kit in your vehicle. Make a list and buy all the necessary items, which you and your family will need, in case you are not able to get out of the home for a few days due to dangerous conditions.

Your storm safety and maintenance plan should include a weather radio for your home. Most modern cell phones also have an emergency alert feature, but this relies on the cell networks being operational. Make sure that you are familiar with the frequency of radio stations that provide weather details, so that you can tune in to your radio easily when required.

Make a backup plan for all family members. In case people are separated during a storm, which is quite possible during a daytime storm, then you must know about a safe destination, where all of you will get together. Teach your children about emergency numbers and how to dial them. This is very important for their safety, especially if they will be home alone. Keep flashlights and candles in easy to find places. You should also have a supply of batteries for the flashlights that is not used for other purposes, such as toys.

Storm safety and maintenance is also important for your home. If you have roof leaks then get them repaired. Clean rain gutters. Make sure you have weather proof doors, windows and shutters. Take a look around outside to make sure you don’t have any trees or tree limbs that could fall and damage your house when high winds hit. You should also keep an eye out for items in the yard that can easily be blown around by the wind. We’ve all seen the pictures of trampolines blown into interesting locations by a storm.

Taking a few minutes now to prepare can help you get through a storm with much less stress and danger. It can also help reduce potential damage to your home or injury to you and your family.

Preventive Maintenance can Save You Big Money

Home repairs can be expensive and some are unavoidable, however they can be even more expensive when they have to be done unexpectedly, such as when a water heater bursts and ruins your carpet and possibly other items. Or maybe you have a leaky roof you’ve been meaning to get to until one day a heavy rain comes and part of the roof collapses into your home. Now you have an expensive roofing job to do and you have to clean up the mess in the home. What’s more, you’ll likely have water damage or other types of damage to the inside of your home if this happens to you.

Not only is emergency home repair more expensive; the event that leads up to you having to do emergency home repair could be dangerous. There’s just no better solution than preventive maintenance to keep your home and family safe and to avoid unexpected and costly repairs. Get organized so you will know which tasks you should do on a monthly or yearly basis. Keep receipts of all items you buy that have to do with home repair and maintenance and keep warranties together. Some people like to use a filing system while a binder works well for others. It really doesn’t matter what kind of system you use as long as you keep careful and current records of the home maintenance tasks you perform.

There are quite a few preventive maintenance tasks you should do to keep your home running smoothly. Although we won’t go over all of them here, we will touch on just a few. Keep your water heater running smoothly by checking the pressure relief valve twice a year. This is a preventive device that could keep your water heater from exploding and it is important that the valve be in good working condition. This valve is present on all water heaters, both gas and electric and when checking it you should hear water escape through the valve. If this doesn’t, you should have a plumber replace the valve. Also, check for rust around the base and replace the water heater if any is spotted.

Something as simple as changing your filter on your home heating and air conditioning system can make the unit run more efficiently, make your home more comfortable, and save on costly repairs down the road. Thinner, 1″ filters should be changed monthly, while the thicker 4-5″ filters may be able to go 3-4 months. If you have pets or live in a dusty area, you will need to change the filters more often. Also, inspect dryer hoses at least once a year and check for lint around the vent area and in the hose. Built-up dryer lint can cause a fire and reduce the efficiency of your dryer so it is important to ensure that the vent tubing is clear of lint. It’s also very important to clean the lint filter after every load of laundry.

There are many more preventive home maintenance tasks you will need to do each year. Many of them are quite simple and all of them are far easier than cleaning up the mess after a disaster strikes.

Are Home Warranties Worth It?

We are frequently asked to contribute to national press articles on issues about homes and home inspection.  Here is the link to an article we contributed to about Home Warranties.  Of course they couldn’t name names in the article, but I can here.  The company that only offered me $700 to replace the HVAC their technicians screwed up was American Home Shield.  The Home Warranty we now offer, and carry on our own home, is the Residential Warranty Services Simple Home Warranty, and you can order it nationwide at this link.  As a bonus, if we do your home inspection, you will get an 18-month warranty for the price of 12!

Fire Separation Doors from the House to the Garage

I’d like everyone to take a minute to think about two potentially very dangerous situations.  Both of them have to do with your garage.  If your garage is attached to your house, you should have a door between them.  The door needs to be able to withstand a fire in the garage, as well as help keep deadly gasses from seeping through (like Carbon Monoxide).  Because of these threats, the door must meet some very specific requirements.  These are addressed in the International Residential Code:

“R302.5.1 Opening protection. Openings from a private garage directly into a room used for sleeping purposes shall not be permitted. Other openings between the garage and residence shall be equipped with solid wood doors not less than 1-3/8 inches (35 mm) in thickness, solid or honeycomb-core steel doors not less than 1-3/8 inches (35 mm) thick, or 20-minute fire-rated doors, equipped with a selfclosing device.”

Fire resistance:  The door must be able to withstand a fire in the garage long enough for you to get out of the house.  Preferably long enough for the fire department to get there and extinguish the fire.  One of the most common defects I find in my area is that the door isn’t thick enough.  The common practice here is to use a solid wood door, which would normally be fine.  However, a flat panel door doesn’t seem to fit in the decor of all the houses here, so most often I see 6-panel doors.  These doors are about 1-5/8″ – 1-3/4″ thick, but if you measure the thickness at the recesses in the door, it’s less than 1-3/8″.  These doors do not meet the stated requirement, and should be replaced with a door that does.

Self-Closing:  This requirement is there for one purpose, to make sure the door is fully closed so that it can do its job.  It can’t keep fire and carbon monoxide out of the house if it’s open.  The way the requirement is written, a lot of people read it that a self-closing device is only required on 20-minute fire-rated doors.  The confusion comes about because of the oxford comma before the last requirement.  I reached out to the International Code Council (the group that writes the International Residential Code) for clarification, and they replied: “The self-closing device is a requirement for all the types of doors mentioned in Section R302.5.1”

So, please take a minute and go check the door to your garage.  If it looks like the door in this picture, you probably have an improper door.  Also make sure that the self-closing devices reliably close the door to the point the latch catches.  If not, have them adjusted.  Your safety could depend on it.

Improper Fire Door

Improper Fire Door

Of course this is just one of the many things we inspect during our comprehensive home inspection.  To book your inspection, call 210-202-1974, or click here to book online.

 

 

 

 

Arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs)

We frequently get asked what the difference is between AFCI and GFCI protection is.  Here is a short post about AFCIs, describing their function, as well as their importance.

Arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) are special types of electrical receptacles or outlets and circuit breakers designed to detect and respond to potentially dangerous electrical arcs in home branch wiring.


How do they work?

 

AFCIs function by monitoring the electrical waveform and promptly opening (interrupting) the circuit they serve if they detect changes in the wave pattern that are characteristic of a dangerous arc. They also must be capable of distinguishing safe, normal arcs, such as those created when a switch is turned on or a plug is pulled from a receptacle, from arcs that can cause fires. An AFCI can detect, recognize, and respond to very small changes in wave pattern.


What is an arc?

 

When an electric current crosses an air gap from an energized component to a grounded component, it produces a glowing plasma discharge known as an arc. For example, a bolt of lightening is a very large, powerful arc that crosses an atmospheric gap from an electrically charged cloud to the ground or another cloud. Just as lightning can cause fires, arcs produced by domestic wiring are capable of producing high levels of heat that can ignite their surroundings and lead to structure fires.


According to statistics from the National Fire Protection Agency for the year 2005, electrical fires damaged approximately 20,900 homes, killed 500 people, and cost $862 million in property damage. Although short-circuits and overloads account for many of these fires, arcs are responsible for the majority and are undetectable by traditional (non-AFCI) circuit breakers.


Where are arcs likely to form?

 

Arcs can form where wires are improperly installed or when insulation becomes damaged. In older homes, wire insulation tends to crystallize as it ages, becoming brittle and prone to cracking and chipping. Damaged insulation exposes the current-carrying wire to its surroundings, increasing the chances that an arc may occur.


Situations in which arcs may be created:

  • electrical cords damaged by vacuum cleaners or trapped beneath furniture or doors.
  • damage to wire insulation from nails or screws driven through walls.
  • appliance cords damaged by heat, natural aging, kinking, impact or over-extension.
  • spillage of liquid.
  • loose connections in outlets, switches and light fixtures.

Where are AFCIs required?

 

Locations in which AFCIs are required depend on the building codes adopted by their jurisdiction.


The 2006 International Residential Code (IRC) requires that AFCIs be installed within bedrooms in the following manner:

E3802.12 Arc-Fault Protection of Bedroom Outlets. All branch circuits that supply120-volt, single-phase, 15- and 20-amp outlets installed in bedrooms shall be protected by a combination-type or branch/feeder-type arc-fault circuit interrupter installed to provide protection of the entire branch circuit.

Exception: The location of the arc-fault circuit interrupter shall be permitted to be at other than the origination of the branch circuit, provided that:

  1. The arc-fault circuit interrupter is installed within 6 feet of the branch circuit overcurrent device as measured along the branch circuit conductors, and
  2. The circuit conductors between the branch circuit overcurrent device and the arc-fault circuit interrupter are installed in a metal raceway or a cable with metallic sheath.

The National Electrical Code (NEC) offers the following guidelines concerning AFCI placement within bedrooms:

Dwelling Units. All 120-volt, single phase, 15- and 20-ampere branch circuits supplying outlets installed in dwelling unit in family rooms, dining rooms, living rooms, parlors, libraries, dens, sun rooms, recreation rooms, closets, hallways, or similar rooms or areas shall be protected by a listed arc-fault circuit interrupter, combination-type installed to provide protection of the branch circuit.

 

What types of AFCIs are available?

 

AFCIs are available as circuit breakers for installation in the electrical distribution panel, as well as replacement receptacles to add protection on household circuits.. 

 

Nuisance Tripping

 

An AFCI might activate in situations that are not dangerous and create needless power shortages. This can be particularly annoying when an AFCI stalls power to a freezer or refrigerator, allowing its contents to spoil. There are a few procedures an electrical contractor can perform in order to reduce potential “nuisance tripping,” such as:

  • Check that the load power wire, panel neutral wire and load neutral wire are properly connected.
  • Check wiring to ensure that there are no shared neutral connections.
  • Check the junction box and fixture connections to ensure that the neutral conductor does not contact a grounded conductor.

Arc Faults vs. Ground Faults

 

It is important to distinguish AFCI devices from Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) devices. GFCIs detect ground faults, which occur when current leaks from a hot (ungrounded) conductor to a grounded object as a result of a short-circuit. This situation can be hazardous when a person unintentionally becomes the current’s path to the ground. GFCIs function by constantly monitoring the current flow between hot and neutral (grounding) conductors, and activate when they sense a difference of 5 milliamps or more. Thus, GFCIs are intended to prevent personal injury due to electric shock, while AFCIs prevent personal injury and property damage due to structure fires.

 

Now, before you go further, go to your electric panel, and make sure you have AFCI breakers.  Push the test button on each one, and make sure it trips and you can reset it.  If it doesn’t trip, or you can’t reset it, call an electrician to have it replaced.  Make sure you test these breakers monthly.

 

In summary, AFCIs are designed to detect small arcs of electricity before they have a chance to lead to a structure fire. 

To schedule your comprehensive home inspection (which of course includes an electrical inspection) either on a new home, or a home you already own, call 210-202-1974 or click here.

by Nick Gromicko, Mike Marlow and Kenton Shepard