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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Foreclosure Home Inspections – Trust Your Gut

So, you want to buy a house cheap, and you look to the foreclosure market. Considering the over-abundance of these properties and just how little many of them are going for, it’s tempting to jump on the bandwagon and buy up. And it may pay off as a long-term investment.  But, like any other major purchase, you should know as much as you can about a property before you buy it, which is why home inspections, performed by certified InterNACHI inspectors, are necessary.
Unfortunately, many real estate agents, who don’t like bargaining with banks, are advising clients that home inspections are of no value as a bargaining tool, since banks don’t negotiate on “as is” properties. As an added disincentive, banks selling properties “as is” have no legal responsibility for any lurking defects. While the agent’s advice to forgo an inspection as a means to negotiate on the price may be logical, it is startlingly counter-intuitive, and possibly even negligent. Would you buy a car without knowing whether it has a transmission?  The same premise holds true for a house, regardless of whether you intend to live in it, or fix it and flip it. The Realtor may be trying to salvage a deal that could possibly be scrapped if an inspector uncovers damage that the bank is unwilling to pay for, and you, as the buyer, have to realize that the agent’s advice is not in your best interest. In this case, they’re putting you at risk in order to ensure they get their commission.
Any Realtor advising against an inspection on a foreclosure (or neglecting to recommend that one be performed) is ignoring the likelihood that, long before the previous owners stopped making mortgage payments, they deferred required maintenance tasks. Moisture intrusion leading to leaks and mold are just a few of the major problems commonly found by inspectors in foreclosed properties.  Tales abound of bizarre discoveries in abandoned properties, from wild boars to colossal bees nests. Former owners may loot their own properties, taking with them anything they can pry up or unscrew, and leave behind trash and junk that you have to pay for to have removed.
There are also stories of foreclosed properties that have been intentionally vandalized by their former owners in acts of retaliation against their banks. In one infamous case in early 2010, an Ohioan bulldozed his $250,000 home after the IRS placed liens on his carpet store, and then threatened to take his house. The damage done by the owner was apparent, but there are probably less extreme situations where the damage isn’t as obvious, making a home inspection of utmost priority.
You should always get a home inspection before buying a property, especially when you’re buying a bank-owned foreclosure.  In such cases, it may be impossible to find out how well the home was cared for, or whether major damage was done right before the past owners left the property. Ask the bank how much time you have after your initial offer to have an inspection performed, and schedule one immediately. If it goes well, you’ll enter into the deal with peace of mind and a better idea of what repairs you’ll have to deal with. That alone is worth the price of an inspection. If the inspection reveals a costly disaster, you can back out of the deal and save tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.
To schedule your home inspection, call 210-202-1974, or visit www.vhillc.com/request-inspection to schedule online.
by Nick Gromicko, Mike Marlow, and Kate Tarasenko

Modular vs. Manufactured Homes

While the terms “modular home” and “manufactured home” refer to two very different things, they are sometimes used interchangeably. Perhaps some of this confusion stems from the fact that modular homes are, in fact, manufactured (“manufactured” might be an unfortunate label.) Also, traditional “site-built” homes are not necessarily better than modular homes, despite the stigma associated with their assembly-line origin. There have been cases where Realtors and builders of manufactured homes have misrepresented manufactured homes as modular homes, and buyers were not informed enough to know the difference. Everyone (especially inspectors, who make their living examining residences) should understand the distinguishing features of these two types of houses.

Modular Homes
Modular homes are residences constructed entirely in factories and transported to their sites on flatbed trucks. They are built under controlled conditions, and must meet strict quality-control requirements before they are delivered. They arrive as block segments and are neatly assembled, using cranes, into homes that are almost indistinguishable from comparable ones built on-site. Wind and rain do not cause construction delays or warp building materials. In addition, modular homes:
  • must conform to the same local, state and regional building codes as homes built on-site;
  • are treated the same by banks as homes built on-site. They are easily refinanced, for example;
  • follow the same market trends as site-built houses;
  • must be structurally approved by inspectors;
  • can be of any size, although the block sections from which they are assembled are uniformly sized;
  • are often more basic than homes built on-site, but they tend to be sturdier;
  • are highly customizable. Design is usually decided by the buyer before construction has begun; and
  • generally take eight to 14 weeks to construct. Differing from a site-built home, the foundation can be dug at the same time that the house is being constructed.

Proponents of modular homes claim that their indoor, environmentally controlled construction affords them greater strength and resilience than homes built on-site. They also tend to be constructed using more precise building techniques and with more building material than comparable site-built residences. One reason for this is that they must be able to withstand the stress of highway transport. A study by FEMA found that modular homes withstood the wind and water from Hurricane Andrew better than most other homes in the area. They take less time to construct than site-built homes, are more energy-efficient, and generally cost less.


Manufactured Homes
 
The term “manufactured home” is the most recent label for what were once called “mobile homes” or “trailers.” They are relatively inexpensive, small, and are held to less stringent standards than modular and site-built homes. Their obvious advantages are their mobility and affordability, factors that allow buyers to make home purchases without a serious monetary or geographical commitment. They are available in three sizes that escalate as follows: “single-wide,” “double-wide” and “triple-wide.” In addition, manufactured homes:
  • conform only to Housing and Urban Development (HUD) code. Some homes contain a red tag that confirms that the unit was manufactured in compliance with this code;
  • are inspected, but do not have to be structurally approved by an inspector;
  • are manufactured in sections at factories;
  • are never more than one story;
  • do not have a permanent or conventional foundation;
  • tend to lose value over time because they are difficult to expand or improve;
  • are transported to the site on their own wheels;
  • are transported on steel chassis that are never removed;
  • are often placed on property owned by others, such as public land that is leased by the homeowner;
  • are treated as a separate lending category from modular and on-site built homes; and
  • are rarely custom-designed. The buyer can choose from homes that have already been built and receive it within days.
Despite their manufacturing process, modular homes are essentially the same as homes that are built on-site. They are treated the same under the law, and their basic structural features are almost indistinguishable from site-built homes, once assembled. Manufactured homes are relatively small, inexpensive, mobile residences that require a smaller commitment than is required by modular and site-built homes. It is important to understand the differences between these home types in order to reduce the influence of stigmas, misrepresentation and ignorance.
Many lenders will also ask for a foundation certification from an engineer to certify that the foundation is proper.  Through our partnership with an engineering firm, we can handle this requirement at the same time as the home inspection.
To have your modular or manufactured home inspected, call Veteran Home Inspections at 210-202-1974 or visit www.vhillc.com to book online.

Formaldehyde in Homes

Formaldehyde is a colorless, pungent-smelling chemical widely used in industries that manufacture building materials and numerous household products. Thus, it may be present in substantial concentrations in indoor environments.

Where indoors may formaldehyde be found?International Association of Certified Indoor Air Consultants

  • pressed-wood products (such as hardwood plywood wall paneling, particle board and fiberboard), and furniture made with these pressed-wood products. Mobile homes are especially at risk for indoor formaldehyde pollution because of their abundance of composite wood in construction, and relatively compact interior space;
  • carpet backing and urea-formaldehyde foam insulation (UFFI).  In the 1970s, many homes were insulated with UFFI as an energy-conservation measure before it was discovered that UFFI contained dangerously high levels of formaldehyde.  Fortunately, formaldehyde emissions in this product decline over time, so older houses with UFFI are unlikely to have high levels of formaldehyde now. This insulation is not very common in modern housing;
  • tobacco smoke;
  • durable-press drapes and other textiles;
  • un-vented, fuel-burning appliances, such gas stoves and kerosene space heaters; and
  • glues.

Is it dangerous?

Several years after concern arose over high levels of formaldehyde found in some FEMA trailers, there is still a great deal of confusion regarding permissible levels of airborne formaldehyde in indoor environments.  Additional attention was drawn to formaldehyde when elevated levels were found in laminate flooring sold by Lumber Liquidators.

Formaldehyde is known to cause the following conditions:
  • watery eyes;
  • burning sensations in the eyes and throat;
  • nausea;
  • wheezing, coughing and difficulty breathing;
  • asthma attacks;
  • fatigue;
  • skin rash;
  • severe allergic reactions; and
  • cancer. Uncertainty remains as to how to compare measured air concentrations of formaldehyde to cancer incidence.  No definitive “high risk” level can be drawn because many other factors besides formaldehyde exposure play a role in the development of cancer. In general, however, the lower the level and shorter the duration of exposure, the less risk of cancer and other health effects there are.

In 1992, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) declared formaldehyde a “toxic air contaminant,” meaning that there is no safe level of exposure. In June 2004, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reclassified formaldehyde from “probably carcinogenic to humans” to “carcinogenic to humans,” specifically concerning nasopharyngeal (upper throat) cancer, while the National Toxicology Program (NTP) continues to classify formaldehyde as “reasonably anticipated to be a carcinogen in humans” for nasopharyngeal cancer.

Steps to Reduce Exposure

  • Use exterior-grade pressed-wood products (lower-emitting, because they contain phenol resins, not urea resins).
  • Use air conditioning and dehumidifiers to maintain a moderate temperature and reduce humidity levels.
  • Increase ventilation, particularly after bringing new sources of formaldehyde indoors.
  • Seal non-laminated surfaces of products containing formaldehyde with paints, varnish or polyurethane-like materials.
In summary, formaldehyde is an irritating and potentially dangerous gas that may accumulate in indoor environments.  Now, for the good news!  We can do non-destructive testing to determine if your home has elevated formaldehyde levels.  We offer this service either with a home inspection, or as a stand-alone service.  Contact us today to schedule your formaldehyde testing.

Galvanic Corrosion

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

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

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

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

Examples in Houses

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

Galvanic Corrosion Can be Prevented in the Following Ways

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

FAQs about Home Inspections

What is a home inspection?

A home inspection is a visual examination of the home’s major structure, systems and components that are visible and safely accessible.  The inspector should substantially adhere to a standards of practice that outlines what should be covered during a general home inspection, as well as what is excluded. Some inspectors may strictly follow the standards of practice, while others, like Veteran Home Inspections, may exceed the standards and inspect other items, or perform a more detailed inspection. Whatever the inspector includes in his or her inspection should be discussed prior to the inspection – this is known as the scope of work. The inspector should be able to provide you with a copy or online link to the standards of practice they follow.  The inspector should provide you with a written report, which may include photos and/or recommendations, of his or her findings of the inspection.  Read InterNACHI’s Standards of Practice to find out what is typically included and excluded in a home inspection.  For Texas Specific Standards of Practice, click here.

 

Why should I get a home inspection?

Buying a home is typically the biggest investment you will ever make, so it’s important to get a home inspection because the inspector should be able to discover and document defects that may or may not be obvious to you as a prospective buyer.  Such defects can range from simple replacements or repairs, to severe damage or safety and health concerns. Additionally, most mortgage companies require a home inspection on a property before approving the home loan. Read InterNACHI’s Top 10 Reasons to Get a Home Inspection.

 

Where can I find a home inspector in my area?

There are several ways to find a home inspector. You may be able to find one online or in local ads. You may also find inspectors’ brochures by visiting a real estate office. There is no single method that is superior when it comes to finding an inspector who’s right for your inspection needs.  If you are in the greater San Antonio, TX and Hill Country area, click here to schedule your home inspection, or call 210-202-1974.

If you are outside of our service area, here are some online resources for finding a home inspector near you:

How can I be sure that a home inspector is qualified?

It is important to choose a home inspector who is qualified and holds a license or certification in the field. Many jurisdictions do not regulate home inspections, meaning that anyone could call themselves a home inspector. However, just because someone performs home inspections doesn’t mean that they’re actually qualified to do so. If you are buying or selling a home in an unregulated jurisdiction, make sure to look for a home inspector with the proper certifications. If you are located in a state or province that does require licensing of home inspectors, you should hire only a licensed professional.  Texas does license Home Inspectors.

Contact your state by phone or online to find out whether they license home inspectors, and what qualifications they’re required to have.  License numbers in licensing states may vary in appearance, but you should be able to independently verify it. If your state doesn’t require licensing, find out what qualifications and certifications your home inspector has. The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors – InterNACHI® – is the largest and most trusted home inspector association in the world.  Its members undergo rigorous training to become Certified Professional Inspectors (CPIs)®.  They also follow a Standards of Practice and adhere to a Code of Ethics.  Also, the Master Inspector Certification Board grants qualified inspectors the title of Certified Master Inspector® (CMI®), which is the highest professional designation in the inspection industry.  Find out if your inspector is licensed and/or a CPI or CMI® before you hire him or her. This will ensure that you are hiring only an individual who has received the best training to become a home inspector. Veteran Home Inspections is led by a Certified Master Inspector.

How much does a home inspection cost?

There is no set cost for a home inspection. The cost will vary based on the inspector, the local market, the geographic region, the scope of the inspection to be performed, and more. Before the inspection, you should find out what will be included in the inspection and what won’t, and these details should also be outlined in the inspection agreement that you will need to sign prior to the inspection.

 

How long does a home inspection take?

Depending on the home’s age, size, and location, as well as the home inspector’s own work protocols and ethic, your home inspection may take up to three hours. Adding square footage, outbuildings, and/or ancillary services (such as mold or lead paint testing) will increase that time. It may be necessary for your inspector to bring in a helper for a very large property. If your general home inspection takes significantly less than two to three hours, it may indicate that the inspector was not thorough enough.

 

At what point in the real estate transaction should I schedule a home inspection?

A home inspection is usually scheduled after an offer has been made and accepted, but before the closing date. That way, the inspector can rule out any major defects that could be dangerous or costly. In rare cases—due to timing or contractual issues—the inspection can be scheduled after the closing date. If this is the case, the home buyer should schedule the inspection for the earliest possible date after closing.

 

Should I be present for the inspection?

You should attend the inspection, and you should reconsider hiring an inspector who doesn’t allow this. You can learn a lot by following an inspector through the home. You will certainly gain a better understanding of the home’s condition, which will give you insight into its potential sale points and defects. Additionally, you will likely learn information about the home’s maintenance, systems and components that may provide useful for the transaction and ongoing maintenance of your home.

 

Can the home inspector also repair any defects he or she finds?

What if your home inspector is also a licensed contractor? Sounds great, right? Not always. Although it may seem convenient to have an inspector who is also a contractor, it poses a conflict of interest. According to InterNACHI’s Code of Ethics:

The InterNACHI member shall not perform or offer to perform, for an additional fee, any repairs or associated services to the structure for which the member or member’s company has prepared a home inspection report for a period of 12 months. This provision shall not include services to components and/or systems that are not included in the InterNACHI Standards of Practice.

If an inspector financially benefits from finding any defects, this can impact the accuracy of the report (whether intentional or not). Make sure the inspector you hire abides by a Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice.

 

What happens if the inspection reveals problems?

If your home inspection reveals any problems, it is important to understand the severity of the defect. For example, a missing shingle or dirty air filter can be easily fixed at a low cost. However, if the defect is more extreme, such as a major foundation crack, wood-destroying organism infestation, or evidence of mold, you should find out how these problems can be addressed, and whether you can negotiate their cost with the seller. If it is determined after you move in that your home has a severe defect that wasn’t reported by your InterNACHI® Certified Master Inspector®, you should check to see if he or she participates in InterNACHI’s “We’ll Buy Your Home Back” Guarantee.  Veteran Home Inspections offers this on all home inspections.

 

What is the Buy-Back Guarantee and how does it work?

If your InterNACHI® Certified Professional Inspector® participates in the Buy-Back Guarantee, InterNACHI® will buy your home back if the inspector misses something on your inspection.

Here’s how this program works:

  • It’s valid for home inspections performed for home buyers only by participating InterNACHI® members.
  • The home must be listed for sale with a licensed real estate agent.
  • The Guarantee excludes homes with material defects not present at the time of the inspection, or not required to be inspected, per InterNACHI’s Residential Standards of Practice.
  • The Guarantee will be honored for 90 days after closing.
  • InterNACHI will pay you whatever price you paid for the home.

 

What about warranties?

A normal home inspection is just a snapshot in time, and there is no warranty of future conditions or issues that will arise.  Some home inspection companies, like Veteran Home Inspections, offer a full package of warranties that provide some protection to you for stuff that pops up within 90 days of the inspection.  The best home inspection companies will also offer an extended home warranty at an additional cost that can cover you for 18 months after purchase.  For information on our 90 day warranties, click here.  To check out the best 18-month home warranty in the industry, click here.  If you are shopping around, make sure the inspector will actually stand behind their inspection.

Defensible Space to Protect Against Wildfires

Defensible space refers to the area surrounding a building that is mitigated to protect it from wildfires. Along with the quality of a building’s roofing material, adequate defensible space is one of the most important factors in determining a building’s ability to survive a wildfire. Inspectors should know enough about defensible space to educate their clients, particularly in fire-prone regions.
Defensible space performs the following functions:

  1. Ideally, a carefully maintained defensible space will not contain enough fuel to allow a wildfire to reach a house. Even if the space is breached, the fire will have been slowed and weakened, helping firefighters to defend the house.
  2. A defensible space provides an accessible area for fire trucks to park and firefighters to work during a structure fire.
  3. If there is a pond near a burning house, it can be used to replenish a fire truck’s water supply. The perimeter of the pond should be thinned of trees and brush sufficiently so that firefighters can access it.
The size requirements for defensible space vary by jurisdiction because the potential for wildfires varies by region. Buildings in forested areas of the Southwest need a much larger protective space than in New Jersey, for instance. As of 2006, California state law mandates a minimum of 100 feet of defensible space for houses in rural locations. Trees and shrubs surrounding a house should be trimmed and spaced apart a safe distance from one another. Chainsaws can be used to remove trees and branches, pruning shears to trim plants, and rakes for removing pine needles and other ground-level combustibles. Trees that are very close to the house should be removed because this is where fire-prevention is most critical. Vegetation can be plentiful towards the perimeter of the space if it is green and pruned.

Colorado State University divides defensible space into three categories in the following manner:

Zone 1:  The first 15 feet from a home should be devoid of all flammable vegetation. Firewood and other flammable materials should not be stored in this region.

Zone 2:  This area of fuel reduction should extend from Zone 1 outward to between 75 to 125 feet from the structure. Trees and large shrubs should be no less than 10 feet apart, especially in steep terrain. Trees must also be pruned to a height of 10 feet from the ground, and any “ladder fuels” (vegetation with vertical continuity) removed from the base of the trees. Grass, trees and shrubs in this region should be green and adequately spaced. Pine needles, dead leaves, branches, dead or dying vegetation and other flammable debris on the ground should be removed whenever they appear.

Zone 3:  This region of traditional forest management is of no particular size, although it normally extends to the property limits. More trees are permitted here than in Zone 2, although their health and vigor should be maintained.

Precautions That Inspectors Can Pass on to Their Clients
  • Homeowners should obey all environmental protection laws while creating and maintaining defensible spaces. In particular, removal of vegetation should not interfere with the well-being of endangered species, air and water quality, or archaeologically significant resources. Homeowners may need to obtain a permit to cut down trees over a certain size, depending on local jurisdictions.
  • Vegetation removal can cause soil erosion, especially in steep terrain. InterNACHI advises that in areas that are prone to wildfire and soil erosion, it can be helpful to replace highly flammable plants and trees with less-flammable alternatives.
In summary, buildings can be spared from wildfire damage through the removal of surrounding flammable vegetation. Defensible spaces are critical in hot, dry, forested regions, although their presence is recommended everywhere.
by Nick Gromicko, Mike Marlow, and Kenton Shepard

Septic Systems

Septic systems treat and disperse relatively small volumes of wastewater from individual and small numbers of homes and commercial buildings. Septic system regulation is usually a state and local responsibility. The EPA provides information to homeowners and assistance to state and local governments to improve the management of septic systems to prevent failures that could harm human health and water quality. 
 
Information for Homeowners

If your septic tank failed, or you know someone whose did, you are not alone. As a homeowner, you are responsible for maintaining your septic system. Proper septic system maintenance will help keep your system from failing and will help maintain your investment in your home. Failing septic systems can contaminate the ground water that you and your neighbors drink and can pollute nearby rivers, lakes and coastal waters.

 Ten simple steps you can take to keep your septic system working properly:
  1. Locate your septic tank and drainfield. Keep a drawing of these locations in your records.
  2. Have your septic system inspected at least every three years. Hire an inspector (like Veteran Home Inspections) trained in septic inspections.
  3. Pump your septic tank as needed (generally, every three to five years).
  4. Don’t dispose of household hazardous waste in sinks or toilets.
  5. Keep other household items, such as dental floss, feminine hygiene products, condoms, diapers, and cat litter out of your system.
  6. Use water efficiently.
  7. Plant only grass over and near your septic system. Roots from nearby trees or shrubs might clog and damage the system. Also, do not apply manure or fertilizers over the drainfield.
  8. Keep vehicles and livestock off your septic system. The weight can damage the pipes and tank, and your system may not drain properly under compacted soil.
  9. Keep gutters and basement sump pumps from draining into or near your septic system.
  10. Check with your local health department before using additives. Commercial septic tank additives do not eliminate the need for periodic pumping and can be harmful to your system.
How does it work? 
A typical septic system has four main components: a pipe from the home, a septic tank, a  drainfield, and the soil. Microbes in the soil digest and remove most contaminants from wastewater before it eventually reaches groundwater. The septic tank is a buried, watertight container typically made of concrete, fiberglass, or polyethylene. It holds the wastewater long enough to allow solids to settle out (forming sludge), and oil and grease to float to the surface (as scum). It also allows partial decomposition of the solid materials. Compartments and a T-shaped outlet in the septic tank prevent the sludge and scum from leaving the tank and traveling into the drainfield area. Screens are also recommended to keep solids from entering the drainfield. The wastewater exits the septic tank and is discharged into the drainfield for further treatment by the soil. Micro-organisms in the soil provide final treatment by removing harmful bacteria, viruses and nutrients.

Your septic system is your responsibility!

Did you know that, as a homeowner, you’re responsible for maintaining your septic system? Did you know that maintaining your septic system protects your investment in your home? Did you know that you should periodically inspect your system and pump out your septic tank? If properly designed, constructed and maintained, your septic system can provide long-term, effective treatment of household wastewater. If your septic system isn’t maintained, you might need to replace it, costing you thousands of dollars. A malfunctioning system can contaminate groundwater that might be a source of drinking water. And if you sell your home, your septic system must be in good working order.
Pump frequently…
You should have your septic system inspected at least every three years by a professional, and have your tank pumped as necessary (generally every three to five years).
Use water efficiently…
Average indoor water use in the typical single-family home is almost 70 gallons per person per day. Dripping faucets can waste about 2,000 gallons of water each year. Leaky toilets can waste as much as 200 gallons each day. The more water a household conserves, the less water enters the septic system.
Flush responsibly… 
Dental floss, feminine hygiene products, condoms, diapers, cotton swabs, cigarette butts, coffee grounds, cat litter, paper towels, and other kitchen and bathroom waste can clog and potentially damage septic system components. Flushing household chemicals, gasoline, oil, pesticides, anti-freeze and paint can stress or destroy the biological treatment taking place in the system, as well as contaminate surface waters and groundwater.
 
How do I maintain my septic system?
  • Plant only grass over and near your septic system. Roots from nearby trees or shrubs might clog and damage the drainfield.
  • Don’t drive or park vehicles on any part of your septic system. Doing so can compact the soil in your drainfield or damage the pipes, the tank or other septic system components.
  • Keep roof drains, basement sump pump drains, and other rainwater and surface water drainage systems away from the drainfield. Flooding the drainfield with excessive water slows down or stops treatment processes and can cause plumbing fixtures to back up.
Why should I maintain my septic system?
 
A key reason to maintain your septic system is to save money! Failing septic systems are expensive to repair or replace, and poor maintenance is often the culprit. Having your septic system inspected (at least every three years) is a bargain when you consider the cost of replacing the entire system. Your system will need pumping every three to five years, depending on how many people live in the house and the size of the system. An unusable septic system or one in disrepair will lower your property’s value and could pose a legal liability. Other good reasons for safe treatment of sewage include preventing the spread of infection and disease, and protecting water resources. Typical pollutants in household wastewater are nitrogen, phosphorus, and disease-causing bacteria and viruses. Nitrogen and phosphorus are aquatic plant nutrients that can cause unsightly algae blooms. Excessive nitrate-nitrogen in drinking water can cause pregnancy complications, as well as methemoglobinemia (also known as “blue baby syndrome”) in infancy. Pathogens can cause communicable diseases through direct or indirect body contact, or ingestion of contaminated water or shellfish. If a septic system is working properly, it will effectively remove most of these pollutants.
Veteran Home Inspections will be adding septic inspections to our available services in March 2018.  In the interim, we can also coordinate a septic inspection for you.

Do I need an inspection for new construction homes?

In short, YES!

With the amount of new construction going on in this area, an inspection on new construction is critical.  First and foremost, outside of the major cities, there isn’t any code enforcement.  In other words, the city or county doesn’t inspect the builders work.  Some builders will hire their own inspectors to check up on their work, but this is really not sufficient.  I have seen these inspectors on site, and to be honest, I was not impressed.  They work for the builder, and therefore, are beholden to them.  Some have even outright lied and tried to tell buyers that the city inspected it, when they are outside city limits.

Most new construction contracts allow for 2-3 inspections throughout the building process.  The most common are pre-drywall and pre-closing (or final) inspection.  Some will also allow for slab inspections.  Make sure you get an inspector in at every opportunity, as we always find issues.  If you are presented with a contract that limits inspections to less than these, don’t sign it.  Also, beware of clauses that may restrict the inspector.  One large builder recently tried to prevent inspectors from things like inspecting the roof, opening the electric panel, and running appliances.  I think they were publicly shamed into changing their stance on that though (but if you get something like this, let me know).  Also, make sure you can pick your inspector.  Some will try to steer you to the blind inspector that never finds anything major.  We’ve had a couple builders try to blacklist us because we found too much, but thankfully (for our customers) they didn’t succeed.

So, what do we find on new construction?  Just over the last few months we’ve found issues with just about every major component.  Missing rebar in the foundation, damaged and improperly installed roofs, framing deficiencies, improper gas lines, electrical issues galore, heat registers that weren’t hooked up, plumbing leaks too numerous to count, missing insulation, and dangerous decks.

Another inspection that people are starting to get more frequently, is the 11-month warranty inspection.  Almost every new home comes with a 1-year warranty.  Make sure you get an inspection at the 11 month mark, so that we can not only find hidden issues that may have popped up, but we can also document that they were there before the warranty expired.

We know that you are spending a lot of money for your new home, and an inspection is just one more expense.  I can honestly say though, that we have never found less in needed repairs than our fee.  We do offer discounted packages for more than one inspection on a new construction house.

To schedule your new construction home inspection, call 210-202-1974 or click the link to request an inspection at the top of this page.

Improve Indoor Air Quality at Home in 4 Easy Steps

Did you know indoor air can be up to 2-5 times more polluted than the air outdoors?

Step #1 Let Fresh Air In.

Fresh air and adequate air circulation will significantly improve your home air quality. When weather permits, open your windows and patio doors to allow the fresh air to circulate throughout your home. Turn on the ceiling fans to circulate airflow when opening windows isn’t an option. Purchase an air purifier for your home during winter months and for basements without windows. Make sure your exhaust fans are cleaned regularly and that exhaust systems from your appliances are checked regularly for sufficient performance.

Step #2 Purchase Houseplants.

Plants emit oxygen and they also absorb carbon dioxide. NASA’s Clean Air Study researched how effective plants can be in purifying indoor air. Their studies generated a list of which plants were most effective in filtering benzene, formaldehyde, ammonia, xylene, toluene and trichloroethylene from the air inside of your home. The plants capable of filtering the most toxic chemicals from indoor air are: English ivy, peace lily, chrysanthemums, red-edged dracaena, and the variegated snake plant. Purchase several houseplants and place them throughout your home. It is suggested to have at least one plant per 100 square feet for maximum effect. These are common house plants and can be purchased from a local nursery. You can also order these plants from online retailers. Make sure to watch how much you water them since over watering can lead to mold growth.

Step #3 Perform a Thorough Cleaning.

Dust, pollen, pet dander, and particles settle on the surfaces of objects and flooring in your home. If you want to breathe healthier air you will need to thoroughly clean your home in order to get rid of these irritants. Vacuum carpeting with a HEPA filtered unit. Dust surfaces and clean hard wood and tile flooring with a microfiber cloth that will trap these irritants and particles rather than just moving them around. Pay attention to areas where dust and other particles may accumulate such as the tops of ceiling fan blades, the tops of doors and windows, and taller appliances.

Step #4 Limit use of Chemical Cleaners and Air Fresheners.

Chemical cleaners contain dozens of toxic materials contaminating your home air. Many cleaning products contain over 100 chemicals including: formaldehyde, benzene, chloroform and toluene. Use natural cleaning products such as vinegar and baking soda as a healthier alternative. Air fresheners and fragrance sprays contain toxic chemicals. Many popular brands of air fresheners contain phthalates, which have been proven to cause birth defects, reproductive problems, and hormonal abnormalities. They also may contain cancer-causing chemicals such as benzene and formaldehyde. Get rid of these and any other household products you use containing hazardous chemicals or limit their use and store them in an airtight container.

To schedule your Indoor Air Quality testing, including Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), Formaldehyde, and Mold, contact Veteran Home Inspections at 210-202-1974, or click the link above!

Air Fresheners and Indoor Air Quality

A fresh & clean smelling home is desired by all. This desire drives consumers to purchase air fresheners, sprays, and plug-ins regularly. What we must consider however, is how the air fresheners affect your health, your pets, and the home environment.

What are Air Fresheners Composed of?

The type of air freshener you choose will determine the level of chemical impact it has on the indoor air. Scented items and fresheners that use flame, such as candles and incense, can add micro-particulates and formaldehyde to the air in addition to the unregulated fragrance chemicals. Spritzing or spray fresheners can introduce additional chemicals such as alcohols, propylene glycol, glycerin and many others to your air. A number of chemicals such as propane or butane, ethers, carbon dioxide, or Freons™ may also be present, acting as the propellant in aerosol cans or carrier liquid in standard pump spray bottles. Gel and potpourri style fresheners are the least intrusive and may also be perceived as less effective. Used in moderation, scented air fresheners can be pleasant. Which should you choose to ensure the comfort of your family and guests?

5 questions to explore when purchasing an Air Freshener:

1. What ingredients are in the air freshener? Check labels but also know that certain toxins may not be listed such as the specific chemicals used to produce the fragrance itself.

2. Are there pregnant people in the house? Pregnant women, elderly, and children are more susceptible to adverse health effects that are a result of the added chemicals from the air fresheners.

3. Do people have allergies in the house? Those with allergies may experience adverse reactions or heightened symptoms with the use of aerosol/spray fresheners in addition to fresheners that add particulates to the air.

4. Is there a smell you are trying to mask? If there is a specific smell you can’t seem to get rid of, you may want to have your home’s indoor air quality tested. You may have an active mold growth problem.

5. How often will you use the freshener and can it be sealed while not in use? Moderate use of air fresheners should not have a lasting effect on the indoor air quality as long as they can be properly sealed and stored when not in use. Long term use of air fresheners can add significantly to the Total Volatile Organic Compounds in the air. In many cases, additional units may be purchased as you become accustomed to the smell, compounding the ill effects.

Alternative ways to keep you home smelling fresh:

There are ways to freshen stale air in the home without harsh chemicals. Never underestimate the use of open windows when the weather permits. Keep up on cleaning duties such as the garbage, dishes, and vacuuming. Remember to use vent fans and allow for fresh air exchange during deep cleaning with harsh cleaners. Opt for the use of natural fresheners such as flowers and baking soda, and use indoor air quality purifiers with VOC trapping filters when needed. If you suspect a more serious odor problem such as mold growth, an indoor air quality test can help to determine the source.