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.

View older posts on our Google Blogger Page

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.

Clothes dryers evaporate the water from wet clothing by blowing hot air past them while they tumble inside a spinning drum. Heat is provided by an electrical heating element or gas burner. Some heavy garment loads can contain more than a gallon of water which, during the drying process, will become airborne water vapor and leave the dryer and home through an exhaust duct (more commonly known as a dryer vent).
A vent that exhausts moist air to the home’s exterior has a number of requirements:
  1. It should be connected. The connection is usually behind the dryer but may be beneath it. Look carefully to make sure it’s actually connected.
  2. It should not be restricted. Dryer vents are often made from flexible plastic or metal duct, which may be easily kinked or crushed where they exit the dryer and enter the wall or floor. This is often a problem since dryers tend to be tucked away into small areas with little room to work. Vent elbows are available which is designed to turn 90° in a limited space without restricting the flow of exhaust air. Restrictions should be noted in the inspector’s report. Airflow restrictions are a potential fire hazard.
  3. One of the reasons that restrictions are a potential fire hazard is that, along with water vapor evaporated out of wet clothes, the exhaust stream carries lint – highly flammable particles of clothing made of cotton and polyester. Lint can accumulate in an exhaust duct, reducing the dryer’s ability to expel heated water vapor, which then accumulates as heat energy within the machine. As the dryer overheats, mechanical failures can trigger sparks, which can cause lint trapped in the dryer vent to burst into flames. This condition can cause the whole house to burst into flames. Fires generally originate within the dryer but spread by escaping through the ventilation duct, incinerating trapped lint, and following its path into the building wall.
InterNACHI believes that house fires caused by dryers are far more common than are generally believed, a fact that can be appreciated upon reviewing statistics from the National Fire Protection Agency. Fires caused by dryers in 2005 were responsible for approximately 13,775 house fires, 418 injuries, 15 deaths, and $196 million in property damage. Most of these incidents occur in residences and are the result of improper lint cleanup and maintenance. Fortunately, these fires are very easy to prevent.
The recommendations outlined below reflect International Residential Code (IRC) SECTION M1502 CLOTHES DRYER EXHAUST guidelines:

M1502.5 Duct construction.
Exhaust ducts shall be constructed of minimum 0.016-inch-thick (0.4 mm) rigid metal ducts, having smooth interior surfaces, with joints running in the direction of air flow. Exhaust ducts shall not be connected with sheet-metal screws or fastening means which extend into the duct.

This means that the flexible, ribbed vents used in the past should no longer be used. They should be noted as a potential fire hazard if observed during an inspection.
M1502.6 Duct length.
The maximum length of a clothes dryer exhaust duct shall not exceed 25 feet (7,620 mm) from the dryer location to the wall or roof termination. The maximum length of the duct shall be reduced 2.5 feet (762 mm) for each 45-degree (0.8 rad) bend, and 5 feet (1,524 mm) for each 90-degree (1.6 rad) bend. The maximum length of the exhaust duct does not include the transition duct.
This means that vents should also be as straight as possible and cannot be longer than 25 feet. Any 90-degree turns in the vent reduce this 25-foot number by 5 feet, since these turns restrict airflow.  45-degree turns reduce the number by 2.5 feet.
A couple of exceptions exist:
  1. The IRC will defer to the manufacturer’s instruction, so if the manufacturer’s recommendation permits a longer exhaust vent, that’s acceptable. An inspector probably won’t have the manufacturer’s recommendations, and even if they do, confirming compliance with them exceeds the scope of a General Home Inspection.
  2. The IRC will allow large radius bends to be installed to reduce restrictions at turns, but confirming compliance requires performing engineering calculation in accordance with the ASHRAE Fundamentals Handbook, which definitely lies beyond the scope of a General Home Inspection.
M1502.2 Duct termination.
Exhaust ducts shall terminate on the outside of the building or shall be in accordance with the dryer manufacturer’s installation instructions. Exhaust ducts shall terminate not less than 3 feet (914 mm) in any direction from openings into buildings. Exhaust duct terminations shall be equipped with a backdraft damper. Screens shall not be installed at the duct termination.
Inspectors will see many dryer vents terminate in crawlspaces or attics where they deposit moisture, which can encourage the growth of mold, wood decay, or other material problems. Sometimes they will terminate just beneath attic ventilators. This is a defective installation. They must terminate at the exterior and away from a door or window. Also, screens may be present at the duct termination and can accumulate lint and should be noted as improper.
M1502.3 Duct size.
The diameter of the exhaust duct shall be as required by the clothes dryer’s listing and the manufacturer’s installation instructions.
Look for the exhaust duct size on the data plate.
M1502.4 Transition ducts.
Transition ducts shall not be concealed within construction. Flexible transition ducts used to connect the dryer to the exhaust duct system shall be limited to single lengths not to exceed 8 feet (2438 mm), and shall be listed and labeled in accordance with UL 2158A.
In general, an inspector will not know specific manufacturer’s recommendations or local applicable codes and will not be able to confirm the dryer vent’s compliance to them, but will be able to point out issues that may need to be corrected.
Dryer vents are just one of the many systems we inspect during a home inspection.  To schedule your inspection, click on the “Request an Inspection” link above, or call 210-202-1974.
by Nick Gromicko, Kenton Shepard, and Mike Marlow

More than 2 million decks are built and replaced each year in North America.  InterNACHI estimates that of the 45 million existing decks, only 40% are completely safe.  Personally, I can count on one finger the number of decks I have inspected that didn’t have any defects.
 Deck inpection.
Because decks appear to be simple to build, many people do not realize that decks are, in fact, structures that need to be designed to adequately resist certain stresses. Like any other house or building, a deck must be designed to support the weight of people, snow loads, and objects.  A deck must be able to resist lateral and uplift loads that can act on the deck as a result of wind or seismic activity.  Deck stairs must be safe and handrails graspable.  And, finally, deck rails should be safe for children by having proper infill spacing.  
 
A deck failure is any failure of a deck that could lead to injury, including rail failure, or total deck collapse.  There is no international system that tracks deck failures, and each is treated as an isolated event, rather than a systemic problem.  Very few municipalities perform investigations into the cause of the failure, and the media are generally more concerned with injuries rather than on the causes of collapses.  Rail failure occurs much more frequently than total deck collapses; however, because rail failures are less dramatic than total collapses and normally don’t result in death, injuries from rail failures are rarely reported. 
Here are some interesting facts about deck failure:
  • More decks collapse in the summer than during the rest of the year combined.
  • Almost every deck collapse occurred while the decks were occupied or under a heavy snow load.
  • There is no correlation between deck failure and whether the deck was built with or without a building permit.
  • There is no correlation between deck failure and whether the deck was built by a homeowner or a professional contractor.
  • There is a slight correlation between deck failure and the age of the deck.
  • About 90% of deck collapses occurred as a result of the separation of the house and the deck ledger board, allowing the deck to swing away from the house.  It is very rare for deck floor joists to break mid-span.
  • Many more injuries are the result of rail failure, rather than complete deck collapse.
  • Deck stairs are notorious for lacking graspable handrails.
  • Many do-it-yourself homeowners, and even contractors, don’t believe that rail infill spacing codes apply to decks.

This document does not address specific building codes, balconies, lumber species, grade marks, decks made of plastics or composites, mold, or wood-destroying insects.

This document focuses on single-level residential and commercial wood decks.  Recommendations found within this document exceed the requirements of both InterNACHI’s Residential Standards of Practice and the International Standards of Practice for Inspecting Commercial Properties.
A proper deck inspection relies heavily on the professional judgments of the inspector.  This document will help improve the accuracy of those judgments.

Required Deck Inspection Tools:

  • flashlight;
  • measuring tape;
  • ladder;
  • level;
  • plumb bob;
  • probing tool; and
  • hammer.

Optional Inspection Tools:

  • moisture meter;
  • magnet; and
  • calculator.
Deck Loads:
A deck inspection should progress in much the same order as deck construction.  Inspectors should start at the bottom.  If a deck is deemed unsafe from underneath, the inspector should not walk out onto the deck to inspect decking, handrails, etc. The inspector should stop and report the safety issues.

The image above depicts an evenly distributed deck load.  Building codes require decks to be designed to carry a uniformly distributed load over the entire deck.  If evenly distributed, half of the load is carried by the deck-to-house connection, and the other half is carried by the posts.
The image above depicts a typical deck load distribution.  People tend to gather near the railings of a deck, and so more load is likely carried by the posts.
Hot tubs filled with water and people are heavy and can weigh a couple of tons.  Most decks are designed for loads of 40 to 60 pounds per square foot.  Hot tubs require framing that can support over 100 pounds per square foot.
Footings and Posts:
Required footing depths vary based on local building codes.  The depth is normally below the frost line, or 12 inches (where frost lines are not applicable).

The above image depicts the 7-Foot Rule.  On steep properties, the slope of the ground around the footing could affect the footing’s stability.  The 7-Foot Rule states that there should be a least 7 feet between the bottom of a footing and daylight.
Posts in contact with soil should be pressure-treated and oriented so the cut end is above grade.
The image above depicts a free-standing deck (not attached to the home or building).  A footing near a home must be on undisturbed soil.  Some codes consider soil to be “undisturbed” if it hasn’t been disturbed in more than five years.  It may be difficult to find undisturbed soil near the foundation of a new home.
Unattached post.
The image above depicts a post base that is not attached to its footing.  Posts should be connected to their footings so that the posts don’t lift or slip off.

Pre-cast concrete pier.

The image above depicts a pre-cast concrete pier.  Posts can lift out of pre-cast concrete piers, and piers can slide.  Posts should be connected to their footings so that the posts don’t lift or slip off.

The image above depicts a proper post-to-footing connection.  Posts should be connected to their footings so that the posts don’t lift or slip off their footings.
The image above depicts an adjustable post-to-footing connection.  Posts should be connected to their footings so that the posts don’t lift or slip off their footings.

The above image depicts a lawn sprinkler keeping a deck post wet.  Lawn sprinkler systems that regularly keep the deck wet contribute to decay. 
 
The image above depicts a downspout contributing to post decay.  Downspouts should not discharge near deck posts.
 
The image above depicts the indentation left over from the footing hole, causing a puddle.  Puddles contribute to post decay.
Wood can decay and degrade over time with exposure to the elements.  Decay is a problem that worsens with time.  Members within the deck frame that have decayed may no longer be able to perform the function for which they were installed. Paint can hide decay from an inspector and so should be noted in the report.
                                   

The image above depicts a “pick test.”  The pick test uses an ice pick, awl or screwdriver to penetrate the wood surface.  After penetrating the wood, the tool is leveraged to pry up a splinter, parallel to the grain, away from the surface.  The appearance and sound of the action is used to detect decay.  The inspector should first try the pick test in an area where the wood is known to be sound to deterimine a “control” for the rest of the inspection.  Decayed wood will break directly over the tool with very few splinters, and less or almost no audible noise compared to sound wood.  The pick test cannot detect decay far from the surface of the wood.
 
The image above depicts a pick test on a deck post.  Although deck inspections are visual-only inspections, inspectors may want to dig down around posts and perform pick tests just below grade level to look for decay.
      
The image above depicts a high deck being supported with 4″x 4″ posts.   Tall 4″x 4″ posts twist under load and 4″x 4″ posts, even when treated, decay below grade too quickly.  In all but the lowest of decks, deck posts should be at least 6″x 6″, and be no higher than 12 feet; 14 feet is acceptable if cross-bracing is used. 
Often, the bottoms of the stringer boards for deck stairs have been found to rest on soil, concrete block or rock, as opposed to resting on posts installed below the frost line.  Posts set on soil are subject to rot due to moisture.  Posts that are set in unsound footings may cause movement and make the deck above unstable.
 
Girders and Beams:
 
The image above depicts the minimum distance of untreated support members from grade.  Untreated joists should be at least 18 inches away from the ground.  Girders should be 12 inches away from the ground.  However, in many situations, exceptions are made where the elevation of the home does not provide for these minimum distances and the climate is very dry.

Girder-post connection.
The image above depicts a girder improperly relying on the sheer strength of lag bolts.  Girders should bear directly on posts.
Notched post to beam attachment.
The image above depicts a girder properly resting on a notched post.  Girders should bear directly on posts.
 Proper girder to post connection.
The image above depicts a girder properly resting on a post.  Girders should bear directly on posts.
Girders supporting joist should not be supported by deck ledgers or band joists.
  
The image above depicts a butt joint improperly located within a girder span.  Butt joints in a girder span are generally not permitted unless specially engineered.  Butt joints typically must be located above posts. 

The image above depicts notches in a supporting beam.  Notches must be less than one-quarter the depth of the member.  On the tension and compression faces, the notch depth must be less than one-sixth of the member’s depth, and the notch length must be less than one-third of the member’s depth.  Notches are not permitted in the middle third of spans, or on the tension face of members that are greater than 3½ inches thick.
Inspecting for beam sag. 
The image above depicts a level being used to check for beam sag.  Even with a carpenter’s level, it can be difficult to see beam sag from the front.
 
The image above depicts beam sag being eyed-up.  Often it is easier to detect beam sag by eye than with a level by looking along the bottom edge of the beam.
Ledger Connection:
 
The most common cause of deck collapse is when a ledgers pulls away from the band joists of homes and buildings.
The two most common ways to correctly attach a ledger to a structure are with lag screws or through-bolts.  The installation of through-bolts requires access to the back-side of the rim joist which, in some cases, is not possible without significant removal of drywall within the structure.
Most building codes state that, where positive connections to the primary building structure cannot be verified during inspection, decks shall be self-supporting (free-standing).
Determining the exact required spacing for the ledger fasteners is based on many factors, including:
  • joist length;
  • type of fastener;
  • diameter of fastener;
  • sheathing thickness;
  • use of stacked washers;
  • type of wood species;
  • moisture content;
  • band joist integrity; and
  • deck loads…
…and so is beyond the scope of a visual inspection.  However, the spacing of ledger fasteners is primarily determined by the length of the joists. 
InterNACHI’s ledger fastener spacing formula provides inspectors with a rule-of-thumb:
On-center spacing of ledger fasteners in inches = 100 ÷ joist length in feet.
A deck with substantially fewer ledger fasteners than that recommended by InterNACHI’s formula may be unsafe.

The image above shows the minimum distance of fasteners to the edges and ends of a ledger board.  Lag screws or bolts should be staggered vertically, placed at least 2 inches from the bottom or top, and 5 inches from the ends of the ledger board.  Some codes permit the lag screws or bolts to be as close as 2 inches from the ends of the ledger board; however, avoiding the very ends of the ledger boards minimizes splitting from load stress.
Through-bolts should be a minimum of ½-inch in diameter, and have washers at the bolt head and nut.  Lag screws should also be a minimum of ½-inch in diameter and have washers.  Expansion and adhesive anchors should also have washers.
Deck ledgers should be of at least 2’x 8′ pressure-treated wood.
Ledger Board and Band Joist Contact:
  
The image above depicts washers being used as spacers between the ledger board and band joist, which is incorrect.
In some cases, the ledger board and band joist are intentionally kept separated by a stack of washers on the lag screw or bolts to allow water to run between the two boards.  In other cases, there is insulation between the two boards.  Even worse is when the siding or exterior finish system was not removed prior to the installation of the ledger board.  Situations like this, where the ledger board and band joist are not in direct contact, significantly reduce the strength of the ledger connection to the structure and are not recommended by InterNACHI, unless the two members are sandwiching structural sheathing.
 
The image above depicts a ledger board and band joist sandwiching the structural sheathing (correct).
All through-bolts should have washers at the bolt head and nut. 
 
The image above depicts a hold-down tension device.  The 2007 IRC Supplement requires hold-down tension devices at no less than two locations per deck. 
Codes in some areas outright forbid attaching a ledger board to an open-web floor truss.
The image above depicts a ledger board attached to a concrete wall.  Caulking rather than flashing is used.
The image above depicts a ledger board attached to hollow masonry.  When the ledger is attached to a hollow masonry wall, the cell should be grouted.
The image above depicts a ledger board improperly supported brick veneer.  Ledger boards should not be supported by stone or brick veneer.
Ledger boards should not be attached directly (surface-mounted) to stucco or EIFS, either.  Stucco and EIFS have to be cut back so that ledger boards can be attached directly to band joists; however, cut-back stucco and EIFS are difficult to flash and weather-proof.
Ledger board flashing.
The image above depicts both over and under ledger board flashing.  The ledger board should always be flashed even when the home or building has a protective roof overhang. 
 
Aluminum flashing is commonly available but should not be used.  Contact with pressure-treated wood or galvinized fasteners can lead to rapid corrosion of aluminum.
 
The image above depicts a deck ledger attached to an overhang.  Decks should not be attached to overhangs.
 
 
The image above depicts proper framing around chimneys or bay windows that are up to 6 feet wide.  Framing around chimneys or bay windows that are more than 6 feet wide requires additional posts.
Maximum cantilever.
The image above depicts a cantilevered deck.  Joists should be cantilevered no more than one-quarter of the joist length and three times the joist width (nominal depth).  Both conditions must be true.
Maximum cantilever.
The image above depicts a joist cantilever in the front of the deck and girder cantilevers on both sides of deck posts.  Joists should be cantilevered no more than one-quarter the joist length and three times the joist width (nominal depth).  Girders can be cantilevered over their posts no more than on-quarter the girder length.
 
There are three ways a joist can be attached to a ledger:
 
The first is by resting the joist on a ledger strip.  The image above depicts a joist properly resting on a 2″x 2″ ledger strip.
Joist notched over ledger strip. 
The second is by notching over a ledger strip.  The image above depicts a notched joist properly resting a 2″x 2″ ledger strip.
 
The third is by hanging the joists with joist hangers.  The image above depicts joists properly attached to a ledger by way of metal joist hangers.
The image above depicts a joist cut too short.  Joists may rest on 2″x 2″ ledgers like the one above (or in joist hangers), but joists must be cut long enough to reach the ledger or band joist that is supporting them.
 
The image above depicts joists that are not fully resting in their joist hangers.  Joists should be fully resting in their joist hangers.
 
Bracing:
The image above depicts a deck with post-to-joist diagonal bracing.  Decks greater than 6 feet above grade should have diagonal bracing from posts to girder, and from posts to joists.
The image above depicts a deck with post-to-girder diagonal bracing.  Decks greater than 6 feet above grade should have diagonal bracing from posts to girder, and from posts to joists.
Free-standing decks (not supported by the home or building) should have diagonal bracing on all sides.
The image above depicts underside diagonal bracing of a deck.  Decks greater than 6 feet above grade that do not have diagonal decking should have diagonal bracing across the bottoms of the joists to keep the deck square.  A deck that is not held square could permit the outer posts to lean to the right or left, parallel to the ledger board, and thus twist the ledger away from the home or building.
 
Cracks:
As wood ages, it is common for cracks to develop. Large cracks (longer than the depth of the member) or excessive cracking overall can weaken deck framing.  Toe-nailed connections are always at risk for splitting.  Splitting of lumber near connections should be noted by the inspector.
Connectors and Fasteners:
The inspector should note missing connectors or fasteners.  All lag screws and bolts should have washers.
The image above depicts a “hammer test.”  Depending on how the deck was built, vital connections may have degraded over time due to various factors.  Issues such as wobbly railings, loose stairs, and ledgers that appear to be pulling away from the adjacent structure are all causes for concern.  The tightness of fasteners should be checked.  If it is not possible to reach both sides of a bolt, it may be struck with a hammer. The ring will sound hollow with vibration if the fastener is loose.  The ring will sound solid if the connection is tight.  The hammer test is subjective, so the inspector should hammer-test bolts that can be confirmed as tight or loose, and compare the sounds of the rings to develop a control.
Corrosion of Connectors and Fasteners:
 
All screws, bolts and nails should be hot-dipped galvanized, stainless steel, silicon bronze, copper, zinc-coated or corrosion-resistant.  Metal connectors and fasteners can corrode over time, especially if a product with insufficient corrosion-resistance was originally installed. Corrosion of a fastener affects both the fastener and the wood.  As the fastener corrodes, it causes the wood around it to deteriorate.  As the fastener becomes smaller, the void around it becomes larger.  Inspectors normally do not remove fasteners to check their quality or size, but if the inspector removes a fastener, s/he should make sure that removal doesn’t result in a safety issue.  Fasteners removed should be from areas that have the greatest exposure to weather. Some inspectors carry new fasteners to replace ones they remove at the inspection.  
 
Posts and Rails:

Missing posts.

The image above shows a guardrail supported solely by balusters.  Guardrails should be supported by posts every 6 feet.
The image above depicts a notched-deck guardrail post attachment.  This common notched-type of attachment is permitted by most codes, but could become unsafe, especially as the deck ages.  Because of leverage, a 200-pound force pushing the deck’s guardrail outward causes a 1,700-pound force at the upper bolt attaching the post.  It is difficult to attach deck guardrail posts in a manner that is strong enough without using deck guardrail post brackets.
Notched guardrail post.
The image above depicts a notched-deck guardrail post attachment.  This notched-around-decking type of attachment is permitted by most codes, but could become unsafe, especially as the deck ages.  Because of leverage, a 200-pound force pushing the deck’s guardrail outward causes a 1,700-pound force at the upper bolt attaching the post.  It is difficult to attach deck guardrail posts in a manner that is strong enough without using deck guardrail post brackets.

The image above depicts a deck guardrail post properly attached with brackets.  Because of leverage, a 200-pound force pushing the deck’s guardrail outward causes a 1,700-pound force at the upper bolt attaching the post.  It is difficult to attach deck guardrail posts in a manner that is strong enough without using deck guardrail post brackets.
Level cut post and balusters.
The image above depicts a post and balusters cut level and not shedding water.  The end-grain of vertical posts and balusters should not be cut level.
Angle cut post and balusters.
The image above depicts a post and balusters properly cut at angles to shed water.  The end-grain of vertical posts and balusters should be cut at an angle.
 
Missing Guardrails:
 
Decks that are greater than 12 inches above adjacent areas should have guardrails around the edges.  Some codes require guardrails only around the edges of decks 30 inches or higher.
Improper Guardrail Height:
 
Most residential codes require the top of the guardrail to be at least 36 inches from the deck surface.  Most commercial code height is 42 inches.
The image above depicts child-unsafe guardrail infill.  Infill should not permit a 4-inch sphere to pass through.
The image above depicts horizontal balustrades.  Ladder-type guardrail infill on high decks is prohibited by some local codes because they are easy for children to climb over.
 
Decking:
Decking overhang <= 6 inches.
The image above depicts deck framing near a chimney or bay window.  The ends of decking boards near the chimney or bay window can extend unsupported up to 6 inches.
Improperly spaced decking. 
The above image depicts decking that is laid too tight.  Decking should have 1/8-inch gaps between boards so that puddles don’t form.

The above image depicts decking that is properly spaced.  Decking should have 1/8-inch gaps between boards so that puddles don’t form.
The image above depicts decking that isn’t staggered properly.  Decking should be staggered so that butt joints don’t land on the same joist side by side.
The image above depicts decking lengths.  Some are too short.  Each segment of decking should bear on a minimum of four joists.
Decking should be attached to the floor joists and rim joist, especially in high-wind areas.
Decking Nail Pull-Out:
Inspectors should look for splitting in decking and nail pull-out.  Aside from the structural issue, nails that have pulled out or screws that are not driven into the decking fully can cause injury to bare feet.
Stairs:
Deck stair stringer.
The image above depicts a deck stair stringer.  Stair stringers shall be made of 2″x 12″ lumber at a minimum, and no less than 5 inches wide at any point.
Stair stinger span.
The image above depicts deck stair stringers.  Stringers should be no more than 36 inches apart.
Stair ledger strips.
The image above depicts ledger strips properly located under stair treads.  Where solid stringers are used, stair treads should be supported with ledger strips (as depicted), mortised, or supported with metal brackets.
Open stair risers.
The image above depicts a set of stairs with open risers.  Most deck stairs have open risers and are not safe for children.  Risers may be open but should not allow the passage of a 4-inch diameter sphere.
Uniform riser height.
The image above depicts stair riser height.  To minimize tripping, the maximum variation amongst riser heights (difference between the tallest and shortest risers) should be no more than 3/8-inch.
The bottom step of a stairway leading up to a deck is typically at a different height than the rest of the steps.  This can present a trip hazard.
Steps with open risers can present a tripping hazard if a user catches his foot by stepping too far into the tread.  To mitigate this hazard, the risers can be closed or the treads can be made deeper.
Deck Lighting:
Decks rarely have light sources that cover the entire stairways.  Any unlit stairway is a safety issue.
Stair Handrails:
Stairs with four or more risers should have a handrail on at least one side.  According to the International Standards of Practice for Inspecting Commercial Properties, ramps longer than 6 feet should have handrails on both sides.
Handrail height.
The image above depicts proper stair handrail height.  Handrail height should be between 34 and 38 inches measured vertically from the sloped plane adjoining the tread nosing.
The image above depicts a stair handrail that is not graspable.  Many deck handrails improperly consist of 2″x 6″ lumber or decking.  Handrails should be graspable, continuous and smooth.
The images above show that handrail ends should be returned or terminate in newel posts.
The next three images depict graspable handrails:
Graspable handrail.

The three images directly above depict graspable handrails.  Many deck handrails improperly consist of 2″x 6″ lumber or decking.  Handrails should be graspable, continuous and smooth.
Minimum distance between handrail posts.
The image above depicts the minimum distance between stair handrail posts.  Stair handrails should have posts at least every 5 feet.
Stair child safety.
The image above depicts permitted spacing at stairs.  Larger spacing presents a child-safety issue.
Electrical Receptacle:
The image above depicts a deck with an electrical receptacle, but the receptacle does not have a weatherproof cover.  As of 2008, the National Electric Code requires at least one receptacle outlet on decks that are 20 square foot or larger.
Weatherproof receptacle cover.
The image above depicts a weatherproof receptacle cover.  The deck receptacle should have a weatherproof cover.
Deck Location:
Poor deck location.
The image above depicts a deck located above a septic tank access.  Decks should not be located where they might obstruct septic tank accesses, underground fuel storage tanks, well heads, or buried power lines.
Deck obstructing emergency egress.
The image above depicts a deck obstructing a basement bedroom’s emergency egress window.  Egress openings under decks and porches are acceptable, provided the escape path is at least 36 inches (914 mm) in height, and the path of egress is not obstructed by infill or lattice.
Are you planning on entertaining on your deck?
Have Veteran Home Inspections
inspect it first!
by Nick Gromicko, Founder, International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI), and Michael Marlow, Founder, Veteran Home Inspections, PLLC
Graphics by InterNACHI’s Lisaira Vega

Congratulations, you’ve found the perfect home to buy! Right about now, you are probably on information overload, and looking for resources to get everything ready. One of the most important steps you need to take after getting that ratified contract is to get the home inspected. Like most subjects on the internet, there is a ton of information about home inspections, and how to hire them. One source that is very underrepresented though is probably the best one out there: the home inspectors themselves. No, I’m not just talking about reading their websites, since anyone can put up whatever they want. Instead, we went to a group of highly respected home inspectors and posed this question: If you were hiring a home inspector to inspect a home for your out-of-state family member, what questions would you ask them?

1. What are your certifications?

If you are in one of the many states where home inspectors are licensed, that is just a minimum level to be able to do the job. As a group, we will look for a home inspector that has taken the time to get extra certifications above and beyond the minimum. There are multiple home inspection organizations (both national and local) that offer certifications for inspectors. The two major organizations are the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI), and the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI). Both offer multiple levels of certifications based on both experience and continuing education. InterNACHI has the Certified Professional Inspector and Certified Master Inspector certifications. ASHI has the ASHI Associate, Inspector, and Certified Inspector certifications.

In states where there isn’t a licensing program for home inspectors, it is even more important to make sure the inspector has a certification, since essentially anyone can call themselves a home inspector! In these cases, it can be tempting to hire someone like a general contractor to just walk through the house with you. But, as Andrew Jolley with JODA Home Inspections in Stansbury Park, Utah said “unlike contractors, home inspectors have a system they follow so that all systems are evaluated and nothing is left out of the inspection.” Additionally, a certified home inspector has received training on all of the systems in a house, as well how to inspect them and look at the whole house as a system.

2. What kind of report do you provide and when will I receive it?

Hopefully any legitimate inspector will be providing you with a written report that you can use in your evaluation of the home purchase. That being said, reports differ in both style and level of detail. An inspection report should include digital pictures of defects as well as narrative statements about the systems and defects found. Some reports will also include things like video, glossaries, and summaries. If there is a summary, make sure you still read the entire report!

The turnaround time for a report should also be determined. As inspectors, we understand the tight timelines your real estate agent has put you under, so we will always get you the report as quick as possible. Remember that sometimes a little extra research is required, so don’t expect to get the report at the end of the inspection. Most inspectors should have the report to you within 24 hours of the end of the inspection.

3. Walk me through your typical inspection, what are the most important things?

Norm Tyler of Sage Inspections in St. Louis, MO says: “I’d ask this for a couple reasons. It would help me decide if his approach would be similar to mine. Every inspector is a little different, some will detail 500 little issues, while I’m more of a ‘disregard petty cosmetic stuff so I can focus on finding $1000 problems’ kind of guy. More importantly, if the inspector takes the time to walk me through his approach now, while I’m just a prospect – he’ll probably take all the time needed to take care of me as a customer.”


4. Are you available after you send the report for questions and/or clarification?

This was one of the most popular questions I received from the inspectors I talked to. We all strive to write a report that explains all of the issues as clearly as possible, but sometimes things may not make sense to you. Being able to call or email your inspector with questions after the inspection is critical, especially if you can’t make it to the inspection.

Along with this, you should probably ask the inspector about their policy for follow-up inspections. Once you have negotiated repairs with the seller, make sure you get those repairs re-inspected. I have done a lot of re-inspections, and I have yet to find that all of the repairs were done. Sometimes I am given receipts for repairs that were clearly not even attempted. You should expect to pay for this re-inspection, so find out what it will cost ahead of time so there aren’t any surprises.

5. What is your home inspection experience?

You will find that home inspectors come from many different backgrounds. Some may have been in the building trades, and some may be doing it as a second career. The important thing to look for is an inspector that has experience doing home inspections. David Sharman of County Home Inspection in Peterborough, Ontario mentioned to ask them how many inspections they’ve done in the last 12 months. This number could vary based on the market, but it should be a reasonable number. Look for someone doing at least a few inspections a week, but be wary of those that have really high numbers (unless they have multiple inspectors at their company). This can be a sign of someone that is just doing the minimum to get on to the next inspection of several that day.

6. How many inspections do you do in a day?

Hopefully the answer is only one or two. Most inspectors will do a morning and an afternoon inspection. Some will add in an evening inspection. If it gets over three, start to worry about how long they are spending on your inspection. Most inspections will take 2-3 hours for an average size house. Smaller houses don’t really cut down on the time, but larger houses can significantly increase the amount of time it takes to inspect.

7. What extra services can you provide?

Michael Conrad II, at Diligent, LLC in Nashville, TN points out that you should check with the inspector to see if they offer any other inspection services, such as Thermal Imaging, Termite, Radon, and Mold inspections. This can help you in many ways, since not only do you get all of the inspections you need from one company, it allows your inspector to look at the whole house as a system and provide the best assessment of the house. Some areas require separate licenses for these extra inspections, so make sure they have those licenses as well if required. If licensing isn’t required, make sure they have a third-party certification.


8. Can I accompany you on the inspection?

The inspection is your time to learn about the house. Odds are, the inspection is the longest amount of time you will spend in the house until you own it, so make the most of it. Your inspector should encourage you to ask questions as the inspection is going on. After all, it’s a lot easier to explain (and understand) an issue with it right in front of you. If you wait until a day or two later, now the inspector has to explain it over the phone, and they’ve inspected more houses since then. Charles Buell, of Charles Buell Inspections, Inc in Shoreline, WA, says that he wants the client there the whole time. This is their time to learn about the house.

Additionally, Jim Holl with 5 Star Home Inspections LLC in Hillsborough, NC says: A professional home inspector wants you, the future occupant, to attend the inspection so you can ask questions and see most of what the inspector sees. Since you are going to live there and get to maintain it, for safety, health and financial reasons, this is your opportunity learn all about your new castle. If the inspector doesn’t want you to observe, move on to the next inspector you want to interview.


9. Who will be doing the inspection?


This is mainly for the multi-inspector firms, but Ian Mayer of IM Home Inspections in Woodland Hills, CA warns to watch out for the bait-and-switch. The owner of the company may have really great certifications, but he sends out the guy that was just certified last week to do your inspection.

10. What warranties/guarantees are included with the inspection?

A home inspection is, by definition, a snapshot in time. It shows the condition of the house on the day of the inspection. None of us have a crystal ball to predict the future of a house, and sometimes sellers will intentionally hide known defects. Some home inspectors offer various warranties and guarantees with their inspection. Make sure you read the fine print on anything offered to ensure you understand what you are getting and what the limitations are. Frank Rotte of Certified Inspection Services, LLC of San Diego points out that many repairs are actually under the deductible, so the buyer ends up paying for the repair anyways.


11. How much does the inspection cost?

This is the last question you should ask, and it’s really only so you know how much to write the check out for. In other words, don’t price shop, and don’t look for the cheapest inspector. (How much are you paying for that house again?) James Braun with Braun Inspection Consultations in Jefferson City, MO rightly says that “A good inspector is not cheap, and a cheap inspector is not good.” You are making what may be the largest purchase of your life, do you really want the cheapest inspector you can find to do your inspection?

Thank you for sticking with me for this long, and I hope that it has been informative for you. The best home inspectors are those that work for you, and inspect each home as if they, or their favorite relative, were buying it. These home inspectors have nothing to gain except providing you with the best inspection they can, which allows you to make an extremely important decision. Now, go out there and hire the best home inspector you can find.

Veteran Home Inspections, PLLC

For more information, or to book your full home inspection, visit http://www.vhillc.com or call 210-202-1974.

Today’s post is a bit different from my past posts, as all of the issues are from one house.  I inspected this house for an investor client and couldn’t believe the number of issues I found.

The trim around the house was deteriorated in several locations.  This one had sagged so much that a family of birds had moved in!

The sill plate under the deck ledger had deteriorated so much that I was able to push a car key in with no effort at all.  This will be a major repair, as the entire exterior wall sits on this piece of wood.

 The siding on this, and several other houses in the area, was falling off.  This makes me wonder if an incompetent contractor went through after a storm and got a bunch of people to let them make repairs.

 This is the ceiling in the garage where the exterior trim was damaged.

Here is the master bedroom closet right above that mold stain in the closet.

Hopefully most people realize that trees should be kept away from the roof to prevent damage, but this tree had already made its mark on the roof.

This is what I found in the bedroom closet right under where the tree had damaged the roof.

Even though this water damage was fairly evident, here’s what it looked like on the thermal imaging camera.

It took me a minute to figure out what they had done here.  This is actually the sump pump discharge.  No, it shouldn’t be dumping into the house’s drain system, and that’s just where the problems began.

This breaker was for the heat pump, and was overheating quite a bit.

Thankfully it stood out quite clearly on the thermal imaging camera.

This was the ductwork, and it’s one of the worst I’ve seen.  I have a feeling this will require a complete replacement of the ductwork.  I couldn’t get a picture of the inside, but I wouldn’t want to breath the air coming out of it.

A neighbor told me that the basement had flooded at least once.  The fuzzy walls in the basement confirmed it.

 What’s missing on this bathroom sink…hint for the Star Wars fans out there…It’s a Trap!

 This addition was just screaming for attention.  I would guarantee there was no permit pulled for this one.  It was built on the old patio slab and supported with 4x4s.  Inside the drywall was cracked in many places, and I would have to say there was some structural movement going on.

This is the underside of the addition, and aside from the insulation being installed upside-down, you can see the deteriorating support posts.  This is one addition that will probably not be able to be retroactively permitted.  My advice to my client was to plan on it coming down.

Just for a little humor, this was posted on the electric furnace.

I always harp on making sure that your home inspector goes into the attic.  This is one of the few I didn’t go into, since the critter this bait was set up for didn’t take the bait and was still hanging out.

That’s all for now folks.  Stay safe out there, and remember to hire the best home inspector you can find.  For more on our services, check out www.vhillc.com

Did you know the following facts about lead?

FACT: Lead exposure can harm young children and babies even before they are born.

FACT: Even children who seem healthy can have high levels of lead in their bodies.

FACT: You can get lead in your body by breathing or swallowing lead dust, or by eating soil or paint chips containing lead.

FACT: You have many options for reducing lead hazards. In most cases, lead-based paint that is in good condition is not a hazard.

FACT: Removing lead-based paint improperly can increase the danger to your family.

If you think your home might have lead hazards, read on to learn about lead and some simple steps to protect your family.

Health Effects of Lead

  • Childhood lead poisoning remains a major environmental health problem in the U.S.
  • Even children who appear healthy can have dangerous levels of lead in their bodies.
  • People can get lead in their body if they:
    • put their hands or other objects covered with lead dust in their mouths;
    • eat paint chips or soil that contains lead; or
    • breathe in lead dust, especially during renovations that disturb painted surfaces.
  • Lead is even more dangerous to children than adults because:
    • babies and young children often put their hands and other objects in their mouths. These objects can have lead dust on them;
    • children’s growing bodies can absorb more lead; and
    • children’s brains and central nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead.
  • If not detected early, children with high levels of lead in their bodies can suffer from:
    • damage to the brain and nervous system;
    • behavioral and learning problems (such as hyperactivity);
    • slowed growth;
    • hearing problems; and
    • headaches.
  • Lead is also harmful to adults. Adults can suffer from:
    • difficulties during pregnancy;
    • other reproductive problems (in both men and women);
    • high blood pressure;
    • digestive problems;
    • nerve disorders;
    • memory and concentration problems; and
    • muscle and joint pain

Where is Lead Found?

In general, the older your home, the more likely it has lead-based paint.

Paint

Many homes built before 1978 have lead-based paint. The federal government banned lead-based paint from housing in 1978. Some states stopped its use even earlier. Lead can be found:

  • in homes in the city, country and suburbs;
  • on apartments, single-family homes, and both private and public housing complexes;
  • on the interior and exterior of the house;
  • in the soil around a home.  Soil can pick up lead from exterior paint and other sources, such as past use of leaded gas in cars;
  • in household dust. Dust can pick up lead from deteriorating lead-based paint and from soil tracked into a home;
  • in drinking water. Your home might have plumbing that uses lead pipes or lead solder. Call your local health department or water supplier to find out about testing your water. You cannot see, smell or taste lead, and boiling your water will not get rid of lead. If you think your plumbing might have lead in it:
    • Use only cold water for drinking and cooking.
    • Run water for 15 to 30 seconds before drinking it, especially if you have not used your water for a few hours.
  • on the job. If you work with lead, you could bring it home on your hands or clothes. Shower and change clothes before coming home. Launder your work clothes separately from the rest of your family’s clothes;
  • in old (vintage or antique) painted toys and furniture;
  • in food and liquids stored in lead crystal, lead-glazed pottery and porcelain;
  • from lead smelters and other industries that release lead into the air;
  • with hobbies that use lead, such as making pottery or stained glass, or refinishing furniture.
  • in folk remedies that contain lead, such as “greta” and “azarcon” used to treat an upset stomach.

Where is Lead Likely to be a Hazard?

  • Lead from paint chips, which you can see, and lead dust, which you can’t always see, can be serious hazards.
  • Peeling, chipping, chalking and cracking lead-based paint is a hazard and needs immediate attention.
  • Lead-based paint may also be a hazard when found on surfaces that children can chew or that get a lot of wear-and-tear. These areas include:
    • windows and window sills;
    • doors and door frames;
    • stairs, railings and banisters; and
    • porches and fences.

Note: Lead-based paint that is in good condition is usually not a hazard.

  • Lead dust can form when lead-based paint is dry-scraped, dry-sanded, or heated. Dust also forms when painted surfaces bump or rub together. Lead chips and dust can get on surfaces and objects that people touch. Settled lead dust can re-enter the air when people vacuum, sweep or walk through it.
  • Lead in soil can be a hazard when children play in bare soil, or when people bring soil into the house on their shoes.

Checking Your Family and Home for Lead

  • Have your children and home tested if you think your home has high levels of lead.
  • Just knowing that a home has lead-based paint may not tell you if there is a hazard.

To reduce your child’s exposure to lead, get your child checked, have your home tested (especially if your home has paint in poor condition and was built before 1978), and fix any hazards you may have.

Your Family

  • Children’s blood lead levels tend to increase rapidly from 6 to 12 months of age, and tend to peak at 18 to 24 months of age.
  • Consult your doctor for advice on testing your children. A simple blood test can detect high levels of lead. Blood tests are important for:
    • children at ages 1 to 2;
    • children and other family members who have been exposed to high levels of lead; and
    • children who should be tested under your state or local health screening plan.

Your doctor can explain what the test results mean and if more testing will be needed.

Your Home

You can get your home checked in one of two ways (or both):

  • A paint inspection tells you the lead content of every different type of painted surface in your home. It won’t tell you whether the paint is a hazard or how you should deal with it.
  • A risk assessment tells you if there are any sources of serious lead exposure, such as peeling paint and lead dust. It also tells you what actions to take to address these hazards.

Have qualified professionals do the work. There are standards in place for certifying lead-based paint professionals to ensure that the work is done safely, reliably and effectively. Be sure to ask us about lead paint during your next inspection. Trained professionals use a range of methods when checking your home, including:

  • a visual inspection of paint condition and location;
  • a portable x-ray fluorescence (XRF) machine;
  • lab tests of paint samples; and
  • surface-dust tests.

Note: Home test kits for lead are available, but studies suggest that they are not always accurate. Consumers should not rely on these tests before doing renovations or to assure safety.

What You Can Do to Protect Your Family

If you suspect that your house has lead hazards, you can take some immediate steps to reduce your family’s risk:

  • If you rent, notify your landlord of peeling or chipping paint.
  • Clean up paint chips immediately.
  • Clean floors, window frames, window sills, and other surfaces weekly. Use a mop, sponge or paper towel with warm water and a general all-purpose cleaner, or a cleaner made specifically for lead.

REMEMBER: NEVER MIX AMMONIA AND BLEACH PRODUCTS TOGETHER, SINCE THEY CAN FORM A DANGEROUS GAS.

  • Thoroughly rinse sponges and mop heads after cleaning dirty and dusty areas.
  • Wash children’s hands often, especially before they eat, and before nap time and bed time.
  • Keep play areas clean. Wash bottles, pacifiers, toys and stuffed animals regularly.
  • Keep children from chewing window sills and other painted surfaces.
  • Clean or remove shoes before entering your home to avoid tracking in lead from soil.
  • Make sure children eat nutritious, low-fat meals high in iron and calcium, such as spinach and dairy products. Children with good diets absorb less lead.

In addition to day-to-day cleaning and good nutrition, you can temporarily reduce lead hazards by taking actions such as repairing damaged amd painted surfaces, and by planting grass to cover soil with high lead levels. These actions, called “interim controls,” are not permanent solutions and will need ongoing attention. To permanently remove lead hazards, you must hire a certified lead-abatement contractor. Abatement (or permanent hazard elimination) methods include removing, sealing or enclosing lead-based paint with special materials. Just painting over the hazard with regular paint is not enough. Always hire a person with special training for correcting lead problems — someone who knows how to do this work safely and has the proper equipment to clean up thoroughly. Certified contractors will employ qualified workers and follow strict safety rules set by their state or the federal government. To be safe, have us do a lead paint inspection during your home inspection.

Are You Planning to Buy or Rent a Home Built Before 1978?

Many houses and apartments built before 1978 have paint that contains lead (called lead-based paint). Lead from paint, chips and dust can pose serious health hazards if not taken care of properly. Federal law requires that individuals receive certain information before renting or buying pre-1978 housing.

  • Residential Lead-Based Paint Disclosure Program
    • LANDLORDS have to disclose known information on lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards before leases take effect. Leases must include a disclosure form about lead-based paint.
    • SELLERS have to disclose known information on lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards before selling a house. Sales contracts must include a disclosure form about lead-based paint. Buyers have up to 10 days to check for lead hazards.

If not conducted properly, certain types of renovations can release lead from paint and dust into the air.

  • Pre-Renovation Education Program (PRE)
    • RENOVATORS have to give you a pamphlet titled “Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home” before starting work.
  • Take precautions before your contractor or you begin remodeling or renovations that disturb painted surfaces (such as scraping off paint or tearing out walls).
    • Have the area tested for lead-based paint.
    • Do not use a belt-sander, propane torch, heat gun, dry scraper or dry sandpaper to remove lead-based paint. These actions create large amounts of lead dust and fumes.
    • Lead dust can remain in your home long after the work is done.
    • Temporarily move your family (especially children and pregnant women) out of the apartment or house until the work is done and the area is properly cleaned. If you can’t move your family, at least completely seal off the work area.
    • If you have already completed renovations or remodeling that could have released lead-based paint or dust, get your young children tested and follow the steps outlined to protect your family.

To more information on lead paint inspections or to schedule your lead paint inspection, please contact us at www.vhillc.com  Proudly serving the San Antonio, TX area.

Since we are now certified to do mold testing, here is a quick article on the benefits and issues with doing air samples for mold testing.  Veteran Home Inspections can provide you with air sampling, tape lift sampling, and a complete mold inspection, which helps identify the causes of indoor mold. 

Taking air samples during a mold inspection is important for several reasons.  Mold spores are not visible to the naked eye, and the types of mold present can often be determinair sampleed through laboratory analysis of the air samples.  Having samples analyzed can also help provide evidence of the scope and severity of a mold problem, as well as aid in assessing human exposure to mold spores.  After remediation, new samples are typically taken to help ensure that all mold has been successfully removed.

 

Air samples can be used to gather data about mold spores present in the interior of a house.  These samples are taken by using a pump that forces air through a collection device which catches mold spores.  The sample is then sent off to a laboratory to be analyzed.  InterNACHI inspectors who perform mold inspections often utilize air sampling to collect data, which has become commonplace.

Air-Sampling Devices

There are several types of devices used to collect air samples that can be analyzed for mold.  Some common examples include:

  • impaction samplers that use a calibrated air pump to impact spores onto a prepared microscope slide;
  • cassette samplers, which may be of the disposable or one-time-use type, and also employ forced air to impact spores onto a collection media; and
  • airborne-particle collectors that trap spores directly on a culture dish.  These may be utilized to identify the species of mold that has been found.

When and When Not to Sample

Samples are generally best taken if visual, non-invasive examination reveals apparent mold growth or conditions that could lead to growth, such as moisture intrusion or water damage.  Musty odors can also be a sign of mold growth.  If no sign of mold or potential for mold is apparent, one or two indoor air samples can still be taken, at the discretion of the inspector and client, in the most lived-in room of the house and at the HVAC unit.

Outdoor air samples are also typically taken as a control for comparison to indoor samples.  Two samples — one from the windward side and one from the leeward side of the house — will help provide a more complete picture of what is in the air that may be entering the house through windows and doors at times when they are open.  It is best to take the outdoor samples as close together in time as possible to the indoor samples that they will be compared with.

InterNACHI inspectors should avoid taking samples if a resident of the house is under a physician’s care for mold exposure, if there is litigation in progress related to mold on the premises, or if the inspector’s health or safety could be compromised in obtaining the sample.  Residential home inspectors also should not take samples in a commercial or public building.

Where to Sample and Ideal Conditions

In any areas of a house suspected or confirmed to have mold growth, air samples can be taken to help verify and gather more information.  Moisture intrusion, water damage, musty odors, apparent mold growth, or conditions conducive to mold growth are all common reasons to gather an air sample.  Samples should be taken near the center of the room, with the collection device positioned 3 to 6 feet off the ground.

Ten minutes is an adequate amount of time for the air pump to run while taking samples, but this can be reduced to around five minutes if there is a concern that air movement from a lot of indoor activity could alter the results.  The sampling time can be reduced further if there is an active source of dust, such as from ongoing construction.

Sampling should take place in livable spaces within the house under closed conditions in order to help stabilize the air and allow for reproducibility of the sampling and measurement.  While the sample is being collected, windows and exterior doors should be kept shut other than for normal entry and exit from the home.  It is best to have air exchangers (other than a furnace) or fans that exchange indoor-outdoor air switched off during sampling.

Weather conditions can be an important factor in gathering accurate data. Severe thunderstorms or unusually high winds can affect the sampling and analysis results.  High winds or rapid changes in barometric pressure increase the difference in air pressure between the interior and exterior, which can increase the variability of airborne mold-spore concentration.  Large differences in air pressure between the interior and exterior can cause more airborne spores to be sucked inside, skewing the results of the sample.

Difficulties and Practicality of Air Sampling

It is helpful to think of air sampling as just one tool in the tool belt when inspecting a house for mold problems.  An air sample alone is not enough to confirm or refute the existence of a problem, and such testing needs to be accompanied by visual inspection and other methods of data collection, such as a surface sample.  Indoor airborne spore levels can vary according to several factors, and this can lead to skewed results if care is not taken to set up the sampling correctly.  Also, since only spores are collected with an air sample and may actually be damaged during collection, identification of the mold type can be more difficult than with a sample collected with tape or a cultured sample.

Air samples are good for use as a background screen to ensure that there isn’t a large source of mold not yet found somewhere in a home.  This is because they can detect long chains of spores that are still intact.  These chains normally break apart quickly as they travel through the air, so a sample that reveals intact chains can indicate that there is mold nearby, possibly undiscovered during other tests and visual examination.

In summary, when taken under controlled conditions and properly analyzed, air samples for mold are helpful in comparing relative particle levels between a problem and a control area.  They can also be crucial for comparing particle levels and air quality in an area before and after mold remediation.

To schedule your complete mold inspection and testing appointment, call 210-202-1974 or visit www.vhillc.com.

by Nick Gromicko and Ethan Ward

used with permission from: https://www.nachi.org/air-sampling-mold-inspection.htm