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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by Nick Gromicko, Kenton Shepard, and Mike Marlow
 While we here in Texas don’t get the frigid winters of our northern neighbors, we do still see colder, and sometimes freezing temperatures.  Even a couple days of cold weather, with temperatures dropping below freezing at night, can cause damage.  Make sure you take a look around your house for areas that need attention.

Winterization is the process of preparing a home for the harsh conditions of winter. It is usually performed in the fall before snow and excessive cold have arrived. Winterization protects against damage due to bursting water pipes, and from heat loss due to openings in the building envelope. Inspectors should know how winterization works and be able to pass this information on to their clients

Plumbing System

Water damage caused by bursting pipes during cold weather can be devastating. A ruptured pipe will release water and not stop until someone shuts off the water. If no one is home to do this, an enormous quantity of water can flood a house and cause thousands of dollars’ worth of damage. Even during very small ruptures or ruptures that are stopped quickly, water leakage can result in mold and property damage. Broken water pipes can be costly to repair.

  • All exposed water pipes in cold areas, such as attics, garages, and crawlspaces, should be insulated. Foam or fiberglass insulation can be purchased at most hardware stores.  Insulation should cover the entirety of a pipe.
  • Plastic is more tolerant of cold expansion than copper or steel. Houses in colder climates might benefit from the exclusive use of approved plastic plumbing.
  • Water supply for exterior pipes should be shut off from inside the house and then drained.
  • Sprinkler systems are particularly vulnerable to cracking due to cold-weather expansion. In addition to turning them, it helps to purge the system of any remaining water with compressed air.
  • Homeowners should be aware that much of the plumbing system travels through areas that are significantly colder than the rest of the house. Because it is impossible to monitor the temperature of every portion of the plumbing system, indoor air temperature should be kept high enough throughout the winter to keep pipes in any unheated places from freezing.

Leaks in the Building Envelope

Leaky window frames, door frames, and electrical outlets can allow warm air to escape into the outdoors.
  • Windows that leak will allow cold air into the home. Feeling for drafts with a hand or watching for horizontal smoke from an incense stick are a few easy ways to inspect for leaks. They can be repaired with tape or caulk.
  • On a breezy day, a homeowner can walk through the house and find far more leaks than they knew existed. Leaks are most likely in areas where a seam exists between two or more building materials.
Insulation
  • Because hot air rises into the attic, a disproportionately larger amount of heat is lost there than in other parts of the house. Like a winter hat that keeps a head warm, adequate attic insulation will prevent warm indoor air from escaping. Attic insulation should be 12 inches thick in cold climates.
  • Storm doors and windows should be installed to insulate the house and protect against bad weather.
Heating Systems
The heating system is used most during the winter so it’s a good idea to make sure that it works before it’s desperately needed. The following inspection and maintenance tips can be of some help to homeowners:
  • Test the furnace by raising the temperature on the thermostat. If it does not respond to the adjustment quickly it might be broken.
  • Replace the air filter if it’s dirty.
  • If the furnace is equipped with an oil or propane tank, the tank should be full.
Cooling Systems
  • Use a hose to remove leaves and other debris from the outdoor condensing unit, if the home is equipped with one. Protect the unit with a breathable waterproof cover to prevent rusting and freezing of its components.
  • Remove and store window air conditioners when they are no longer needed. Cold air can damage their components and enter the house through openings between the air conditioner and the windowpane.
  • Ceiling fans can be reversed in order to warm air trapped beneath the ceiling to recirculate. A fan has been reversed if it spins clockwise.
Chimneys and Fireplaces
  • The chimney should be inspected for nesting animals trying to escape the cold. Squirrels and raccoons have been known to enter chimneys for this reason.
  • The damper should open and close with ease. Smoke should rise up the chimney when the damper is open. If it doesn’t, this means that there is an obstruction in the chimney that must be cleared before the fireplace can be used.
  • A chimney-cleaning service professional should clean the chimney if it has not been cleaned for several years.
  • The damper should be closed when the fireplace is not in use. An open damper might not be as obvious to the homeowner as an open window, but it can allow a significant amount of warm air to escape.
  • Glass doors can be installed in fireplaces and wood stoves to provide an extra layer of insulation.
Roofs
  • If debris is left in gutters, it can get wet and freeze, permitting the formation of ice dams that prevent water from draining. This added weight has the potential to cause damage to gutters. Also, trapped water in the gutter can enter the house and lead to the growth of mold. For these reasons, leaves, pine needles, and all other debris must be cleared from gutters. This can be done by hand or with a hose.
  • Missing shingles should be replaced.
Landscape
  • Patio furniture should be covered.
  • If there is a deck, it might need an extra coat of sealer.
Adequate winterization is especially crucial for homes that are left unoccupied during the winter. This sometimes happens when homeowners who own multiple properties leave one home vacant for months at a time while they occupy their summer homes. Foreclosed homes are sometimes left unoccupied, as well. The heat may be shut off in vacant homes in order to save money. Such homes must be winterized in order to prevent catastrophic building damage.
In addition to the information above, InterNACHI advises the following measures to prepare an unoccupied home for the winter:
  • Winterize toilets by emptying them completely. Antifreeze can be poured into toilets and other plumbing fixtures.
  • Winterize faucets by opening them and leaving them open.
  • Water tanks and pumps need to be drained completely.
  • Drain all water from indoor and outdoor plumbing.
  • Unplug all non-essential electrical appliances, especially the refrigerator. If no electrical appliances are needed, electricity can be shut off at the main breaker.
In summary, home winterization is a collection of preventative measures designed to protect homes against damage caused by cold temperatures. These measures should be performed in the fall, before it gets cold enough for damage to occur. Indoor plumbing is probably the most critical area to consider when preparing a home for winter, although other systems should not be ignored.

By Nick Gromicko and Mike Marlow
We have a lot of older and historic homes in the area we cover.  Personally, I love inspecting older homes.  Most older homes, if they have been maintained, are better than the new homes we have popping up all over the place.  One of the challenges to these homes though, can be the increased cost of cooling (and occasionally heating) them.  Read on for more information about enhancing the energy efficiency in older homes.
As the cost of energy rises, resource supplies become precious and the public becomes increasingly aware of environmental dangers associated with the Historic houses pose unique challenges to energy-reducing retrofitsburning of fossil fuels, home energy efficiency has become more than a fringe concern. Homeowners worldwide are currently enhancing their homes’ energy efficiency, although owners of historic homes have met some unique challenges: How do you introduce new architectural elements into an old home without interfering with its original design? As luck would have it, this concern is somewhat balanced by energy-saving qualities already present in many historic homes that reduce the need for alterations. This article details the ways that historic homes are inherently energy-efficient, and offers ways that such assets can be further improved.

Historic buildings are often more energy-efficient than modern construction. In fact, studies have shown that buildings constructed before 1940 require less energy consumption for heating and cooling than houses built during the subsequent 35 years. Before electricity was available, homes capitalized on natural sources of lighting, heating and ventilation because the house itself – not electric lights and heaters – was all that protected occupants from the elements.

Some specific elements of older buildings that contribute to their excellent energy efficiency are as follows:

  • thick, heat-retaining masonry walls made from stone or brick;
  • exterior balconies, porches, wide roof overhangs, rooftop ventilators, clerestories, skylights, awnings and shade trees were all used in homes built in warmer climates;
  • windows often include exterior shutters, interior Venetian blinds, curtains and drapes which make them more energy-efficient than modern windows;
  • exterior walls were often painted light colors to reflect the hot summer sun, resulting in cooler interior living spaces;Skylights, which maximise natural sunlight, were more common in older homes than they are today.
    and
  • windows were only installed where they could effectively allow for lighting and ventilation. Modern architecture, by contrast, relies on more windows than are necessary as a stylistic measure, with a reduced R-value as an unfortunate side effect.

Retrofit dangers to avoid in historic buildings:

  • avoid waterproofing old masonry. Waterproof coatings will trap moisture against the masonry, potentially causing deterioration during the freezing cycle;
  • damage to or removal of historic architectural elements. Replacing solid, historic materials or components, such as natural wood with substitutes made of plywood or plastics, have short lifespans under certain conditions;
  • exposing occupants to toxins, such as lead dust and asbestos. Older homes were built before much was known about the health effects of certain chemicals, some of which might become airborne during the retrofit process. Be sure to ask your InterNACHI inspector about concerns during your next inspection;
  • introducing materials that may damage existing components. Certain cellulose insulation uses ammonium or aluminum sulfate as a fire retardant, which may react with moisture in the air to form sulfuric acid and damage metals (including plumbing and wiring), building stones, brick and wood; and
  • retrofits that violate rules imposed by committees overseeing historic districts. In some areas, even exterior paint color must be approved.
  • removing historic windows and other components, adding aluminum siding, or installing dropped ceilings in interior spaces.

Retrofits in Historic Buildings

The following retrofits are often used in historic buildings to make them more energy-efficient:

  • Add insulation to crawlspaces. This feat may be significantly more cumbersome than adding attic insulation because crawlspaces are often excessively moist. If insulation is added to moist areas of the house, care should be taken to ventilate the area, perhaps with the assistance of an exhaust fan.
  • Add weatherstripping to doors and windows. A common problem in historic buildings is leaky windows and doors, which can be mitigated by caulking open cracks and joints. Be sure to only use appropriate colors that do not interfere with the historic character of the house. Also, do not seal the building so much that moisture cannot escape the building.
  • Add insulation to the attic. This process is often easier than adding insulation in other areas, such as in walls, and is hugely energy saving. The most common insulation materials include cellulose, mineral wool, fiberglass, and vermiculite.
  • Add storm windows. Rather than removing historic windows, supplement them with storm windows that reduce thermal transmission and do not affect the historic character of the building. Storm windows can be painted if their colors are inappropriate. Care should be taken during installation to avoid damage to the historic window frames. Storm windows will be effective regardless of whether they are installed on the interior or exterior of the original frame, although this decision will have consequences; interior storm windows may cause the historic windows to become excessively cold, causing moisture to condense, resulting in peeling paint and deteriorated wood. If the storm windows are installed on the exterior, however, they may interfere with the building’s image.Shade trees lessen the need for air conditioning in summer
  • Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs. This change is a good idea in any home regardless of its age, but it is especially helpful in older homes because it disturbs none of the home’s character.
  • Replace old appliances. Old buildings often have old appliances, which should be replaced with ENERGY STAR-rated appliances.
  • Add a shade tree. A tree can be an effective barrier against the sun during the summer months, and it increases the natural, historic appeal of an old house. A deciduous tree is best because it will lose its leaves in the winter and allow sunlight to enter the house when it is most needed. The tree should be placed at a safe distance from the house to avoid damage to the foundation and falling limbs during a windstorm.
  • Install storm doors in cold climates, although they are often not cost-effective in warmer climates. Historic doors usually require little alteration, especially if they are solid wood and in good condition, or if they are critical to the historic appearance of the house.
  • Vestibules are architectural features that reduce heat loss by creating an additional airspace while the exterior door is open. They are often not, however, cost-effective as an add-on due to their high price of installation. Also, they are not likely to mesh with the appearance of historic buildings.
  • Replace windows. This should be done only when the historic windows are damaged to the point where repair is impractical. The new windows should be selected to match the style of the building. As mentioned earlier, the addition of storm windows is an effective, minimally invasive way to reduce utility costs.
In summary, historic homes possess qualities that make them inherently energy-efficient while simultaneously resistant to retrofits that would enhance energy savings. Homeowners should thus take care while altering their old homes, but also grateful for the hardwired efficiency they have inherited from previous generations.

by Nick Gromicko, Ethan Ward, and Mike Marlow

What is a GFCI?

A ground-fault circuit interrupter, or GFCI, is a device used in electrical wiring to disconnect a circuit when unbalanced current is detected between an energized conductor and a neutral return conductor.  Such an imbalance is sometimes caused by current “leaking” through a person who is simultaneously in contact with a ground and an energized part of the circuit, which could result in lethal shock.  GFCIs are designed to provide protection in such a situation, unlike standard circuit breakers, which guard against overloads, short circuits and ground faults.
It is estimated that about 300 deaths by electrocution occur every year, so the use of GFCIs has been adopted in new construction, and recommended as an upgrade in older construction, in order to mitigate the possibility of injury or fatality from electric shock.

History

The first high-sensitivity system for detecting current leaking to ground was developed by Henri Rubin in 1955 for use in South African mines.  This cold-cathode system had a tripping sensitivity of 250 mA (milliamperes), and was soon followed by an upgraded design that allowed for adjustable trip-sensitivity from 12.5 to 17.5 mA.  The extremely rapid tripping after earth leakage-detection caused the circuit to de-energize before electric shock could drive a person’s heart into ventricular fibrillation, which is usually the specific cause of death attributed to electric shock.

Charles Dalziel first developed a transistorized version of the ground-fault circuit interrupter in 1961.  Through the 1970s, most GFCIs were of the circuit-breaker type.  This version of the GFCI was prone to frequent false trips due to poor alternating-current characteristics of 120-volt insulations.  Especially in circuits with long cable runs, current leaking along the conductors’ insulation could be high enough that breakers tended to trip at the slightest imbalance.
Since the early 1980s, ground-fault circuit interrupters have been built into outlet receptacles, and advances in design in both receptacle and breaker types have improved reliability while reducing instances of “false trips,” known as nuisance-tripping.

NEC Requirements for GFCIs

The National Electrical Code (NEC) has included recommendations and requirements for GFCIs in some form since 1968, when it first allowed for GFCIs as a method of protection for underwater swimming pool lights.  Throughout the 1970s, GFCI installation requirements were gradually added for 120-volt receptacles in areas prone to possible water contact, including bathrooms, garages, and any receptacles located outdoors.

The 1980s saw additional requirements implemented.  During this period, kitchens and basements were added as areas that were required to have GFCIs, as well as boat houses, commercial garages, and indoor pools and spas.  New requirements during the ’90s included crawlspaces, wet bars and rooftops.  Elevator machine rooms, car tops and pits were also included at this time.  In 1996, GFCIs were mandated for all temporary wiring for construction, remodeling, maintenance, repair, demolition and similar activities and, in 1999, the NEC extended GFCI requirements to carnivals, circuses and fairs.

The 2008 NEC contains additional updates relevant to GFCI use, as well as some exceptions for certain areas.  The 2008 language is presented here for reference.

2008 NEC on GFCIs

100.1 Definition

100.1  Definitions. Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter. A device intended for the protection of personnel that functions to de-energize a circuit or portion thereof within an established period of time when a current to ground exceeds the values established for a Class A device.

FPN: Class A ground-fault circuit interrupters trip when the current to ground has a value in the range of 4 mA to 6 mA.  For further information, see UL 943, standard for Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters.

210.8(A)&(B)  Protection for Personnel

210.8 Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter Protection for Personnel.

(A)  Dwelling Units. All 125-volt, single-phase, 15- and 20-ampere receptacles installed in the locations specified in (1) through (8) shall have ground-fault circuit-interrupter protection for personnel.

(1)   bathrooms;

(2)   garages, and also accessory buildings that have a floor located at or below grade level not intended as habitable rooms and limited to storage areas, work areas, and areas of similar use;

Exception No. 1: Receptacles not readily accessible.

Exception No. 2: A single receptacle or a duplex receptacle for two appliances that, in normal use, is not easily moved from one place to another and that is cord-and-plug connected in accordance with 400.7(A)(6), (A)(7), or (A)(8).

Receptacles installed under the exceptions to 210.8(A)(2) shall not be considered as meeting the requirements of 210.52(G)

(3)   outdoors;

Exception: Receptacles that are not readily accessible and are supplied by a dedicated branch circuit for electric snow melting or deicing equipment shall be permitted to be installed in accordance with the applicable provisions of Article 426.

(4)   crawlspaces at or below grade level.

Exception No. 1: Receptacles that are not readily accessible.

Exception No. 2:  A single receptacle or a duplex receptacle for two appliances that, in normal use, is not easily moved from one place to another and that is cord-and-plug connected in accordance with 400.7(A)(6), (A)(7), or (A)(8).

Exception No. 3: A receptacle supplying only a permanently installed fire alarm or burglar alarm system shall not be required to have ground-fault circuit interrupter protection.

Receptacles installed under the exceptions to 210.8(A)(2) shall not be considered as meeting the requirements of 210.52(G)

(6)   kitchens, where the receptacles are installed to serve the countertop surfaces;

(7)   wet bar sinks, where the receptacles are installed to serve the countertop surfaces and are located within 6 feet (1.8 m) of the outside edge of the wet bar sink;

(8)   boathouses;

(B) Other Than Dwelling Units. All 125-volt, single-phase, 15- and 20-ampere receptacles Installed in the locations specified in (1), (2), and (3) shall have ground-fault circuit interrupter protection for personnel:

(1)   bathrooms;

(2)   rooftops;

Exception: Receptacles that are not readily accessible and are supplied by a dedicated branch circuit for electric snow-melting or de-icing equipment shall be permitted to be installed in accordance with the applicable provisions of Article 426.

(3)   kitchens.

Testing Receptacle-Type GFCIs

Receptacle-type GFCIs are currently designed to allow for safe and easy testing that can be performed without any professional or technical knowledge of electricity.  GFCIs should be tested right after installation to make sure they are working properly and protecting the circuit.  They should also be tested once a month to make sure they are working properly and are providing protection from fatal shock.
To test the receptacle GFCI, first plug a nightlight or lamp into the outlet. The light should be on.  Then press the “TEST” button on the GFCI. The “RESET” button should pop out, and the light should turn off.
If the “RESET” button pops out but the light does not turn off, the GFCI has been improperly wired. Contact an electrician to correct the wiring errors.

If the “RESET” button does not pop out, the GFCI is defective and should be replaced.

If the GFCI is functioning properly and the lamp turns off, press the “RESET” button to restore power to the outlet.

The following chart details the predicted life expectancy of appliances, products, materials, systems and components.

 

Consumers should note that these life expectancies have been determined through research and testing based on regular recommended maintenance and conditions of normal wear and tear, and not extreme weather or other conditions, neglect, over-use or abuse.  Therefore, they should be used as guidelines only, and not relied upon as guarantees or warranties. 

 

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Surface preparation and paint quality are the most important determinants of a paint’s life expectancy. Ultraviolet (UV) rays via sunshine can shorten life expectancy.  Additionally, conditions of high humidity indoors or outdoors can affect the lifespan of these components, which is why they should be inspected and maintained seasonally.

 

ADHESIVES, CAULK & PAINTS YEARS
Caulking (interior & exterior) 5 to 10
Construction Glue 20+
Paint (exterior) 7 to 10
Paint (interior) 10 to 15
Roofing Adhesives/Cements 15+
Sealants 8
Stains 3 to 8

 

 

Appliance life expectancy depends to a great extent on the use it receives. Furthermore, consumers often replace appliances long before they become worn out due to changes in styling, technology and consumer preferences.

 

APPLIANCES       YEARS
Air Conditioner (window) 5 to 7
Compactor (trash) 6
Dehumidifier 8
Dishwasher 9
Disposal (food waste) 12
Dryer Vent  (plastic) 5
Dryer Vent  (steel) 20
Dryer (clothes) 13
Exhaust Fans 10
Freezer 10 to 20
Gas Oven 10 to 18
Hand Dryer 10 to 12
Humidifier (portable) 8
Microwave Oven 9
Range/Oven Hood 14
Electric Range 13 to 15
Gas Range 15 to 17
Refrigerator 9 to 13
Swamp Cooler 5 to 15
Washing Machine 5 to 15
Whole-House Vacuum System 20

 

 

Modern kitchens today are larger and more elaborate.  Together with the family room, they now form the “great room.”

 

CABINETRY & STORAGE    YEARS
Bathroom Cabinets 50+
Closet Shelves 100+
Entertainment Center/Home Office 10
Garage/Laundry Cabinets 70+
Kitchen Cabinets 50
Medicine Cabinet 25+
Modular (stock manufacturing-type) 50

 

 

Walls and ceilings last the full lifespan of the home.

 

CEILINGS & WALLS
YEARS
Acoustical Tile Ceiling 40+ (older than 25 years may contain asbestos)
Ceramic Tile 70+
Concrete 75+
Gypsum 75
Wood Paneling 20 to 50
Suspended Ceiling 25+

 

 

Natural stone countertops, which are less expensive than they were just a few years ago, are becoming more popular, and one can expect them to last a lifetime. Cultured marble countertops have a shorter life expectancy, however.

 

COUNTERTOPS YEARS
Concrete 50
Cultured Marble 20
Natural Stone 100+
Laminate 20 to 30
Resin 10+
Tile 100+
Wood 100+

 

 

Decks are exposed to a wide range of conditions in different climates, from wind and hail in some areas, to relatively consistent, dry weather in others. See FASTENERS & STEEL section for fasteners.

 

DECKS YEARS 
Deck Planks 15
Composite 8 to 25
Structural Wood 10 to 30

 

 

Exterior fiberglass, steel and wood doors will last as long as the house, while vinyl and screen doors have a shorter life expectancy. The gaskets/weatherstripping of exterior doors may have to be replaced every 5 to 8 years.

 

DOORS YEARS
Closet (interior) 100+
Fiberglass (exterior) 100+
Fire-Rated Steel (exterior) 100+
French (interior) 30 to 50
Screen (exterior) 30
Sliding Glass/Patio (exterior) 20 (for roller wheel/track repair/replacement)
Vinyl (exterior) 20
Wood (exterior) 100+
Wood (hollow-core interior) 20 to 30
Wood (solid-core interior) 30 to 100+

 

 

Copper-plated wiring, copper-clad aluminum, and bare copper wiring are expected to last a lifetime, whereas electrical accessories and lighting controls, such as dimmer switches, may need to be replaced after 10 years.  GFCIs could last 30 years, but much less if tripped regularly.

 

Remember that faulty, damaged or overloaded electrical circuits or equipment are the leading cause of house fires, so they should be inspected regularly and repaired or updated as needed.

 

ELECTRICAL YEARS
Accessories 10+
Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs) 30
Bare Copper 100+
Bulbs (compact fluorescent) 8,000 to 10,000+ hours
Bulbs (halogen) 4,000 to 8,000+ hours
Bulbs (incandescent) 1,000 to 2,000+ hours
Bulbs (LED) 30,000 to 50,000+ hours
Copper-Clad Aluminum 100+
Copper-Plated 100+
Fixtures 40
Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) up to 30
Lighting Controls 30+
Residential Propane Backup Generators 12
Service Panel 60
Solar Panels 20 to 30
Solar System Batteries 3 to 12
Wind Turbine Generators 20

 

 

Floor and roof trusses and laminated strand lumber are durable household components, and engineered trim may last 30 years.

 

ENGINEERED LUMBER YEARS
Engineered Joists 80+
Laminated Strand Lumber 100+
Laminated Veneer Lumber 80+
Trusses 100+

 

Fastener manufacturers do not give lifespans for their products because they vary too much based on where the fasteners are installed in a home, the materials in which they’re installed, and the local climate and environment.  However, inspectors can use the guidelines below to make educated judgments about the materials they inspect.

 

FASTENERS, CONNECTORS & STEEL YEARS
Adjustable Steel Columns 50+
Fasteners (bright) 25 to 60
Fasteners (copper) 65 to 80+
Fasteners (galvanized) 10+
Fasteners (electro-galvanized) 15 to 45
Fasteners (hot-dipped galvanized) 35 to 60
Fasteners (stainless) 65 to 100+
Steel Beams 200+
Steel Columns 100+
Steel Plates 100+

 

 

Flooring life is dependent on maintenance and the amount of foot traffic the floor endures.

 

FLOORING YEARS
All Wood Floors 100+
Bamboo 100+
Brick Pavers 100+
Carpet 8 to 10
Concrete 50+
Engineered Wood 50+
Exotic Wood 100+
Granite 100+
Laminate 15 to 25
Linoleum 25
Marble 100+
Other Domestic Wood 100+
Slate 100
Terrazzo 75+
Tile 75 to 100
Vinyl 25

 

 

Concrete and poured-block footings and foundations will last a lifetime, assuming they were properly built.  Waterproofing with bituminous coating lasts 10 years, but if it cracks, it is immediately damaged.

 

FOUNDATIONS YEARS
Baseboard Waterproofing System 50
Bituminous-Coating Waterproofing 10
Concrete Block 100+
Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs) 100
Permanent Wood Foundation (PWF; treated) 75
Post and Pier 20 to 65
Post and Tensioned Slab on Grade 100+
Poured-Concrete Footings and Foundation 100+
Slab on Grade (concrete) 100
Wood Foundation 5 to 40

 

 

Framing and structural systems have extended longevities; poured-concrete systems, timber frame houses and structural insulated panels will all last a lifetime.

 

FRAMING YEARS
Log 80 to 200
Poured-Concrete Systems 100+
Steel 100+
Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) 100+
Timber Frame 100+

 

 

The quality and frequency of use will affect the longevity of garage doors and openers.

 

GARAGES YEARS
Garage Doors 20 to 25
Garage Door Openers 10 to 15

 

 

Home technology systems have diverse life expectancies and may have to be upgraded due to evolution in technology.

 

HOME TECHNOLOGY YEARS
Built-In Audio 20
Carbon Monoxide Detectors* 5
Doorbells 45
Home Automation System 5 to 50
Intercoms 20
Security System 5 to 20
Smoke/Heat Detectors* less than 10
Wireless Home Networks 5+

* Batteries should be changed at least annually.

 

 

Thermostats may last 35 years but they are usually replaced before they fail due to technological improvements.

 

HVAC YEARS
Air Conditioner (central) 7 to 15
Air Exchanger 15
Attic Fan 15 to 25
Boiler 40
Burner 10+
Ceiling Fan 5 to 10
Chimney Cap (concrete) 100+
Chimney Cap (metal) 10 to 20
Chimney Cap (mortar) 15
Chimney Flue Tile 40 to 120
Condenser 8 to 20
Dampers 20+
Dehumidifier 8
Diffusers, Grilles and Registers 25
Ducting 60 to 100
Electric Radiant Heater 40
Evaporative Cooler 15 to 25
Furnace 15 to 25
Gas Fireplace 15 to 25
Heat Exchanger 10 to 15
Heat Pump 10 to 15
Heat-Recovery Ventilator 20
Hot-Water and Steam-Radiant Boiler 40
Humidifier 12
Induction and Fan-Coil Units 10 to 15
Thermostats 35
Ventilator 7

 

 

As long as they are not punctured, cut or burned and are kept dry and away from UV rays, cellulose, fiberglass and foam insulation materials will last a lifetime. This is true regardless of whether they were installed as loose-fill, housewrap or batts/rolls.

 

INSULATION & INFILTRATION BARRIERS YEARS
Batts/Rolls 100+
Black Paper (felt paper) 15 to 30
Cellulose 100+
Fiberglass 100+
Foamboard 100+
Housewrap 80+
Liquid-Applied Membrane 50
Loose-Fill 100+
Rockwool 100+
Wrap Tape 80+

 

 

Masonry is one of the most enduring household components. Fireplaces, chimneys and brick veneers can last the lifetime of the home.

 

MASONRY & CONCRETE    YEARS
Brick 100+
Insulated Concrete Forms (hybrid block) 100+
Concrete Masonry Units (CMUs) 100+
Man-Made Stone 25
Masonry Sealant 2 to 20
Stone 100+
Stucco/EIFS 50+
Veneer 100+

 

 

Custom millwork and stair parts will last a lifetime and are typically only upgraded for aesthetic reasons.

 

MOLDING, MILLWORK & TRIM YEARS
Attic Stairs (pull-down) 50
Custom Millwork 100+
Pre-Built Stairs 100+
Stair Parts 100+
Stairs 100+

 

 

The lifetime of any wood product depends heavily on moisture intrusion.

 

PANELS YEARS
Flooring Underlayment 25
Hardboard 40
Particleboard 60
Plywood 100
Softwood 30
Oriented Strand Board (OSB) 60
Wall Panels 100+

 

 

The quality of plumbing fixtures varies dramatically.  The mineral content of water can shorten the life expectancy of water heaters and clog showerheads.  Also, some finishes may require special maintenance with approved cleaning agents per the manufacturers in order to last their expected service lives.

 

PLUMBING, FIXTURES & FAUCETS YEARS
ABS and PVC Waste Pipe 50 to 80
Accessible/ADA Handles 100+
Acrylic Kitchen Sink 50
Cast-Iron Bathtub 100
Cast-Iron Waste Pipe (above ground) 60
Cast-Iron Waste Pipe (below ground) 50 to 60
Concrete Waste Pipe 100+
Copper Water Lines 70
Enameled Steel Kitchen Sink 5 to 10+
Faucets and Spray Hose 15 to 20
Fiberglass Bathtub and Shower 20
Gas Lines (black steel) 75
Gas Lines (flex) 30
Hose Bibs 20 to 30
Instant (on-demand) Water Heater 10
PEX 40
Plastic Water Lines 75
Saunas/Steam Room 15 to 20
Sewer Grinder Pump 10
Shower Enclosure/Module 50
Shower Doors 20
Showerheads 100+ (if not clogged by mineral/other deposits)
Soapstone Kitchen Sink 100+
Sump Pump 7
Toilet Tank Components 5
Toilets, Bidets and Urinals 100+
Vent Fan (ceiling) 5 to 10
Vessel Sink (stone, glass, porcelain, copper) 5 to 20+
Water Heater (conventional) 6 to 12
Water Line (copper) 50
Water Line (plastic) 50
Water Softener 20
Well Pump 15
Whirlpool Tub 20 to 50

 

 

Radon systems have but one moving part:  the radon fan.

 

RADON SYSTEMS
YEARS
Air Exchanger 15
Barometric Backdraft Damper/Fresh-Air Intake 20
Caulking 5 to 10
Labeling 25
Manometer 15
Piping 50+
Radon Fan 5 to 8

 

 

The life of a roof depends on local weather conditions, building and design, material quality, and adequate maintenance.  Hot climates drastically reduce asphalt shingle life.  Roofs in areas that experience severe weather, such as hail, tornadoes and/or hurricanes, may also experience a shorter-than-normal lifespan overall or may incur isolated damage that requires repair in order to ensure the service life of the surrounding roofing materials.

 

ROOFING YEARS
Aluminum Coating 3 to 7
Asphalt (architectural) 30
Asphalt Shingles (3-tab) 20
BUR (built-up roofing) 30
Clay/Concrete 100+
Coal and Tar 30
Copper 70+
EPDM (ethylene propylene diene monomer) Rubber 15 to 25
Fiber Cement 25
Green (vegetation-covered) 5 to 40
Metal 40 to 80
Modified Bitumen 20
Simulated Slate 10 to 35
Slate 60 to 150
TPO 7 to 20
Wood 25

 

 

Outside siding materials typically last a lifetime.  Some exterior components may require protection through appropriate paints or sealants, as well as regular maintenance.  Also, while well-maintained and undamaged flashing can last a long time, it is their connections that tend to fail, so seasonal inspection and maintenance are strongly recommended.

 

SIDINGS, FLASHING & ACCESSORIES YEARS
Aluminum Gutters, Downspouts, Soffit and Fascia 20 to 40+
Aluminum Siding 25 to 40+
Asbestos Shingle 100
Brick 100+
Cementitious 100+
Copper Downspouts 100
Copper Gutters 50+
Engineered Wood 100+
Fiber Cement 100+
Galvanized Steel Gutters/Downspouts 20
Manufactured Stone 100+
Stone 100+
Stucco/EIFS 50+
Trim 25
Vinyl Gutters and Downspouts 25+
Vinyl Siding 60
Wood/Exterior Shutters 20

 

 

Site and landscaping elements have life expectancies that vary dramatically.

 

SITE & LANDSCAPING YEARS
American Red Clay 100+
Asphalt Driveway 15 to 20
Brick and Concrete Patio 15 to 25
Clay Paving 100+
Concrete Walks 40 to 50
Controllers 15
Gravel Walks 4 to 6
Mulch 1 to 2
Polyvinyl Fencing 100+
Sprinkler Heads 10 to 14
Underground PVC Piping 60+
Valves 20
Wood Chips 1 to 5
Wood Fencing 20

 

 

Swimming pools are composed of many systems and components, all with varying life expectancies.

 

SWIMMING POOLS
YEARS
Concrete Shell 25+
Cover 7
Diving Board 10
Filter and Pump 10
Interior Finish 10 to 35
Pool Water Heater 8
Vinyl Liner 10
Waterline Tile 15+

 

 

Aluminum windows are expected to last between 15 and 20 years, while wooden windows should last nearly 30 years.

 

WINDOWS YEARS
Aluminum/Aluminum-Clad 15 to 20
Double-Pane 8 to 20
Skylights 10 to 20
Vinyl/Fiberglass Windows 20 to 40
Window Glazing 10+
Wood 30+

Note: Life expectancy varies with usage, weather, installation, maintenance and quality of materials.  This list should be used only as a general guideline and not as a guarantee or warranty regarding the performance or life expectancy of any appliance, product, system or component.

To have your home inspected by Veteran Home Inspections, click the link above to order an inspection.  Or call 210-202-1974 to order by phone.

 

 

by Nick Gromicko, Kenton Shepard, and Michael Marlow

We inspect a lot of homes that do not have proper backflow prevention around San Antonio and the Texas Hill Country area we cover.  These simple devices are essential to the protection of public and private water supply systems.  Read on to learn more about how these work and why they are important.

Backflow is the reversal of the normal and intended direction of water flow in a water system. Devices and assemblies known as backflow preventers are installed to prevent backflow, which can contaminate potable water supplies.
 
Why is backflow a problem?

Backflow is a potential problem in a water system because it can spread contaminated water back through a distribution system. For example, backflow at uncontrolled cross connections (cross-connections are any actual or potential connection between the public water supply and a source of contamination or pollution) can allow pollutants or contaminants to enter the potable water system. Sickness can result from ingesting water that has been contaminated due to backflow.

Backflow may occur under the following two conditions:

back-pressure:
Back-pressure is the reverse from normal flow direction within a piping system as the result of the downstream pressure being higher than the supply pressure. This reduction in supply pressure occurs whenever the amount of water being used exceeds the amount of water being supplied (such as during water-line flushing, fire-fighting, or breaks in water mains).

back-siphonage:

Back-siphonage is the reverse from normal flow direction within a piping system that is caused by negative pressure in the supply piping (i.e., the reversal of normal flow in a system caused by a vacuum or partial vacuum within the water supply piping). Back-siphonage can occur when there is a high velocity in a pipe line, when there is a line repair or break that is lower than a service point, or when there is lowered main pressure due to high-water withdrawal rate (such as during fire-fighting or water-main flushing).
Atmospheric Vacuum Breakers 

Backflow prevention for residences is most commonly accomplished through the use of atmospheric vacuum breakers (AVBs). AVBs operate by allowing the entry of air into a pipe so that a siphon cannot form. AVBs are bent at 90 degrees and are usually composed of brass. Compared with backflow preventer assembles, AVBs are small, simple and inexpensive devices that require little maintenance or testing. They have long life spans and are suitable for residential purposes such as sprinkler systems. InterNACHI inspectors can check for the following:

  • The AVB must be at least 6 inches above any higher point downstream of the device. For this reason, they can never be installed below grade. Even if they are installed 6 inches above grade, inspectors should make sure that they are not installed less than 6 inches above some other point in the system downstream of the device.
  • The AVB cannot be installed in an enclosure containing air contaminants. If contaminated air enters the water piping, it can poison the potable water supply.
  • A shut-off valve should never be placed downstream of any AVB, as this would result in continuous pressure on the AVB.
  • AVBs cannot be subject to continuous pressure for 12 hours in any 24-hour period or they may malfunction.
  • Spillage of water from the top of the AVB is an indication that the device has failed and needs to be replaced.

 

Types of Backflow Preventer Assemblies

Some types of assemblies are common in commercial and agricultural applications but are rare for residential uses. The appropriate type of backflow preventer for any given application will depend on the degree of potential hazard. The primary types of backflow preventers appropriate for use at municipalities and utilities are:

  • double check valves:  These are commonly used in elevated tanks and non-toxic boilers. Double check-valve assemblies are effective against backflow caused by back-pressure and back-siphonage and are used to protect the potable water system from low-hazard substances. Double-checks consist of two positive-seating check valves installed as a unit between two tightly closing shut-off valves, and are fitted with testcocks.
  • reduced pressure principle assemblies:  These are commonly used in industrial plants, hospitals, morgues, chemical plants, irrigation systems, boilers, and fire sprinkler systems. Reduced pressure principle assemblies (RPs) protect against back-pressure and back-siphonage of pollutants and contaminants. The assembly is comprised of two internally loaded, independently operating check valves with a mechanically independent, hydraulically dependent relief valve between them.
  • pressure vacuum breakers:  These are commonly used in industrial plants, cooling towers, laboratories, laundries, swimming pools, lawn sprinkler systems, and fire sprinkler systems. Pressure vacuum breakers use a check valve designed to close with the aid of a spring when water flow stops. Its air-inlet valve opens when the internal pressure is one psi above atmospheric pressure, preventing non-potable water from being siphoned back into the potable system. The assembly includes resilient, seated shut-off valves and testcocks.
Requirements for Testers and Inspectors

A number of organizations, such as the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and the American Backflow Prevention Association (ABPA) offer certification courses designed to train professionals to test backflow preventers. Requirements for training vary by jurisdiction. Inspection of backflow preventers requires knowledge of installation requirements, although inspectors are not required to become certified.
In summary, backflow preventers are designed to prevent the reverse flow of water in a potable water system. They come in a number of different types, each of which is suited for different purposes.

Speed up your home sale by preparing your home ahead of time using the following tips. Your home inspection will go smoother, with fewer concerns to delay closing.


 

  1. Confirm that that the water, electrical and gas services are turned on (including pilot lights).
  2. Make sure your pets won’t hinder your home inspection. Ideally, they should be removed from the premises or secured outside. Tell your agent about any pets at home.
  3. Replace burned-out light bulbs to avoid a “light is inoperable” report that may suggest an electrical problem.
  4. Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and replace dead batteries.
  5. Clean or replace dirty HVAC air filters. They should fit securely.
  6. Remove stored items, debris and wood from the foundation. These may be cited as “conducive conditions” for termites.
  7. Remove items blocking access to HVAC equipment, electrical service panels, the water heater, attic and crawlspace.
  8. Unlock any locked areas that your home inspector must access, such as the attic door or hatch, the electrical service panel, the door to the basement, and any exterior gates.
  9. Trim tree limbs so that they’re at least 10 feet away from the roof.  Trim any shrubs that are too close to the house and can hides pests or hold moisture against the exterior. 
  10. Repair or replace any broken or missing items, such as doorknobs, locks or latches, windowpanes or screens, gutters or downspouts, or chimney caps.

Checking these areas before your home inspection is an investment in selling your property. Better yet, have your InterNACHI inspector ensure that your home is Move-In Certified™.  Your real estate agent will thank you!

To schedule an inspection with a Certified Master Inspector, call Veteran Home Inspections at 210-202-1974 or book online at www.vhillc.com

We have searched high and low for a warranty program to offer our clients that was actually worth the paper it was written on.  We finally came across a great package offered by Residential Warranty Services, which we feel will be a useful bonus for you, our customers.  This package includes a 90-day mechanical & structural warranty, 90-day MoldSafe warranty, 90-day SewerGard warranty, and the 5-year Platinum Roof Protection Plan.  Also included in this is an appliance RecallChek membership.  We hope that these additional benefits will help cover you for any unexpected breakdowns as you move into your new home.


 

Congratulations, you’ve found the house you want to buy, and had your home inspection. Chances are, there were a few issues that came up during the home inspection, and now you need to figure out what to do. So, what are the best ways to handle this? As a home inspector, I’ve been asked this question more times than I can count, and unfortunately I can’t answer that question for you. I can give you some advice on how to go about the negotiations.

  1. Take a deep breath and relax. Sit down and read the inspection report cover-to-cover a couple times. Print it out and make notes of the issues. Some inspectors provide a summary of the issues they think are important, but there could be other things in the report that are not in the summary, so don’t just rely on that.
  2. Call or email your inspector with any questions you have. Make sure you understand the issue and it’s potential effects.
  3. Take a piece of paper and make three lists. The first list is the items that absolutely have to be addressed, or you won’t buy the house. These are the major issues that are show stoppers. The second list is the items that you would like to have repaired, but you are open to negotiation on. The third list is the stuff that you will take care of on your own. (Make sure you actually do take care of them though!) At the end of this exercise, you should have every issue noted in the report listed. Double check to make sure something wasn’t left out.
  4. Work with your real estate agent to build a the repair request addendum. This is the list of repairs you are asking the sellers to do. Be very specific on what you want done. For example, make sure you specify that the repairs are completed by a licensed tradesman. For electrical repairs, request that they be done by an electrician. Also, request a receipt and any warranties provided be provided to you after the work is done. Some sellers may want to do the repairs themselves, but this is not the dime for DIY projects. Most of the time, that’s what got them to this point to begin with. Note: we have a great online system for your agent to build the repair request straight from your inspection report. This way, the seller will have the exact issue presented to them, so there’s no confusion about what you want done.
  5. Negotiate the repair list. It’s rare that a seller will want to complete every item on your list (hence why we built three lists in the first place). The seller may also want to provide a credit towards repairs. If they do this, make sure it comes with an estimate for the repair. Call the contractor and make sure they will do the work for you at that price. If they don’t send an estimate, get one yourself.
  6. Once the repairs are complete, get your home inspector out there to do a reinspect. Yes, you will likely have to pay them to go out there again. I typically charge half of the original inspection fee. Some charge a set fee per item reinspected. I will note that in all of the reinspections I’ve done, not one has had all of the negotiated repairs completed. I’ve even had repairs where a receipt was provided where the repairs weren’t done. One of the worst examples was a seller that agreed to replace the Polybutylene plumbing, but then once she got the quote decided not to do it because it was too expensive ($15k). She took the estimate, stamped it “Paid” and sent that to the buyers. The reinspection went downhill from there.
  7. Once you’ve closed, take care of any repairs that were funded by the seller, and anything they didn’t agree to do. Remember, that stuff is still important to do. You may also want to look at having your home inspector out every year or so to do an annual property review.

Negotiating repairs can be one of the most stressful parts of a real estate transaction. You may be overwhelemed with the condition of the house that you thought was so perfect. The seller may be frustrated, or even insulted when they find out their asset isn’t as perfect (or valuable) as they thought it was. This is where your agent will really earn their commission, by helping you negotiate a fair agreement on the repairs the house needs. Remember to be reasonable, but also keep in mind what you decided you were willing to accept.

To get your home inspected by Veteran Home Inspections, call 210-202-1974 or click the book and inspection button above. We look forward to helping you with all your inspection needs.

Some sellers – often, those working without an agent – want to sell their home “as is” so they don’t have to invest money fixing it up or take on any potential liability for defects.  There is nothing wrong with buying a home “as is,” particularly if you can buy it at a favorable price, but if you are considering buying an “as is” home, you should still hire a competent home inspector to perform an inspection.  There are several reasons for this.

First, you don’t know what “as is” is. Sure, you can walk through the home and get an idea of its general condition.  You may even spot some defects or items in obvious need of repair.  But you won’t obtain the same detailed information you will receive if you hire a home inspector.  Home inspectors are trained to look for things you are not likely to notice.  InterNACHI inspectors, for example, must follow InterNACHI’s Residential Standards of Practice and check the roof, exterior, interior, foundation, basement, fireplace, attic, insulation, ventilation, doors, windows, heating system, cooling system, plumbing system, and electrical system for certain defects.  Armed with a home inspector’s detailed report, you will have a better idea of what “as is” means regarding that home, which means you’ll be in a better position to know whether you want to buy it.  You may also be able to use information from the home inspection to negotiate a lower price.

Second, many states require the seller to provide you with written a disclosure about the condition of the property.  Sellers often provide little information, and a few even lie.  A home inspection can provide the missing information. If an inspector finds evidence that a seller concealed information or lied to you, that may be a sign that you don’t want to buy a home from that seller.

Finally, if you buy a home “as is” without hiring a home inspector and then later discover a defect, all is not lost.  A home inspector may be able to review the seller’s disclosure and testify as to what the seller knew or should have known about.  The inspector may find evidence that the seller made misrepresentations or concealed relevant information from you.  Even the seller of an “as is” home may be held liable for misrepresentation or concealment. 

But the better choice, obviously, is to hire a home inspector first.  Remember:  The cost of a home inspection is a pittance compared to the price of the home.  Be an informed consumer, especially when buying an “as is” home, and hire an InterNACHI Certified Professional Inspector®.  

To schedule your inspection, go to www.vhillc.com

Used with permission from https://www.nachi.org/as-is.htm

by Mark Cohen, J.D., LL.M., InterNACHI General Counsel, Michael Marlow, Veteran Home Inspections, PLLC Founder, and Nick Gromicko, InterNACHI Founder

One of the services we provide is FHA 203(k) and Fannie Mae HomeStyle consulting. Both of us are 203(k) Consultants, and we really enjoy this part of being a home inspector. Going back, one of the drivers that lead us to become home inspectors, is that it’s a required qualification for becoming a 203(k) Consultant. When we bought our house in Annapolis, MD in 2010, it was the dictionary definition of foreclosure. Thankfully, our Realtor was familiar with the 203(k) program, and was able to explain it well enough to get us interested. Unfortunately, the 203(k) Consultant she referred us to was not on our side. Due to the consultant and the contractor working in cohoots, we were taken advantage of. Thankfully, we were able to put them both out of business.

We came into this profession with the goal of taking care of our clients. One of the values we hold most dear is that of Integrity, and that’s the guiding principle of Veteran Home Inspections. We will take care of our clients, no matter what.

So, what are these programs? Very simply, they are programs that allow you to buy a house and remodel it with the same mortgage. Both of these programs can also be used for refinancing. For readability’s sake, I’m just going to use 203(k) to refer to both unless otherwise indicated. The basics of these loans are that you find a house to buy, or refinance a house you own, and you include the money to renovate it in the loan. As 203(k) Consultants, we are there to guide you through the entire process. We start off once you find your new home, and we do an inspection of the home to determine what needs to be done to get it up to minimum standards. After that, we ask you what you want to do to upgrade the home. We then provide you with a detailed Specification-of-Repairs (also called a Work Write-up), that lists everything that needs to be done, along with the estimated cost. You then send this list (without the prices) to a few contractors to get bids. After selecting your contractor, we finalize the Specification-of-Repairs, and your loan is processed. The appraiser needs this document so they can determine the After Repaired Value (ARV) of the home. For 203(k) loans, you can borrow up to 110% of the ARV, and HomeStyle allows 95% of the ARV.

After the loan closes, we stay with you through the renovation process. We process all of the draw requests to ensure that the work was actually done, and done correctly, before the contractor is paid. We also handle any change order requests along the way.

So, what can you do with one of these loans? You can do almost anything, except build a new house with these loans. For a full breakdown of what’s allowed, visit http://vhillc.com/203k-consultant/ Also, the pictures on the page are before and after shots of our house in Maryland.

If you are interested in one of these loans, let us know. We’ve done a lot of these projects, and have been in your shoes as well. There’s not many questions about these loans that we can’t answer. We look forward to working with you to make a house you like into a home you love. For 203(k) Consultant services, we cover a much larger area than it shows, including up to 150 miles from Bandera, TX. If you’re wondering if we’ll go to your area, give us a call.