Keep Vegetation Trimmed And Far From The House - 09/30/11 06:57 AM
It is crucially important to keep vegetation trimmed and far from the house.
Why? Vegetation holds moisture against the foundation, can grow under and into siding introducing moisture and insects into the walls, and generally do damage. Aggressive roots of trees too close can damage foundations!
This is one corner of a house on a recent inspection. Per agreement, this house is to be maintained by the occupant.
This is NOT maintained.
And that shrubbery is FULL of poison ivy to boot!
Is that corner of the house moist?
HOARDING - 09/29/11 05:50 AM
There were many issues with a circumstance I encountered in a recent inspection. One those many issues was a condition called HOARDING.
The Mayo Clinic says this about hoarding:
" Hoarding is the excessive collection of items, along with the inability to discard them. Hoarding often creates such cramped living conditions that homes may be filled to capacity, with only narrow pathways winding through stacks of clutter. Some people also collect animals, keeping dozens or hundreds of pets often in unsanitary conditions.
Hoarding, also called compulsive hoarding and compulsive hoarding syndrome, may be a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). But
A Very Sad And Dangerous Inspection - 09/28/11 07:16 AM
I was called on to do a very sad and dangerous inspection.
The homeowner and a local County found me on line and teamed up to hire me to literally condemn a house. I have never been called on to do that before. Of course I have no ability or authorization to condemn anything. But my report can be used by County officials to justify it.
THE STORY - a soft-hearted homeowner hears of a circumstance of an 86 year-old lady, who's husband had recently died, and a doctor has just "opened [her] up to close [her] back up giving [her]
Jay's Tuesday Free Enterprise Quote - 27 September 11 - 09/27/11 06:01 AM
"The characteristic mark of economic history under capitalism is unceasing economic progress, a steady increase in the quantity of capital goods available, and a continuous trend toward an improvement in the general standard of living."
Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973)
When has freedom not produced free people?
When has individual liberty not produced free people?
When has rugged individualism not produced free people?
When and where has such freedom been allowed to begin and thrive?
When has the economic progress, of which Dr. von Mises speaks, not been unceasing?
When has the quantity of capital goods, of which Dr. von Mises speaks,
Before The Drywall Goes Up, Things MUST Be Dry! - 09/26/11 04:58 AM
On a recent pre-drywall inspection, which usually happens a day or two before the insulation and drywall are installed, I noticed a section of the house that was very wet. And, before the drywall goes up, things MUST be dry!
This is behind a gas fireplace, with a very large cavity above where a TV would be installed on the wall, with two large shelving units beside.
The cavity is only about 15" deep, but it will be entirely enclosed, not accessible from the back side.
I wondered where this water was coming from. The roof was supposed to have been
Lean To The Left, Lean To The Right, A Leaning Gazebo, Is Best Upright! - 09/25/11 04:25 AM
It's the old college try, putting up a gazebo, with its many elements. But sometimes a college cheer applies when one of these gets put up: Lean to the left, Lean to the right, A leaning gazebo, Is best upright!
A gazebo is a structure that requires a fair degree of professional carpentry experience. There are a lot of angles! Things need to be fitted properly, connected properly, supported properly and safe. If those elements are not all done well, a gazebo can be a dangerous attraction! I say attraction because I love them, and think they are attractive. If I
He Ain't Heavy, He's My Hot Tub - 09/24/11 06:33 AM
Hot tubs are heavy. You cannot put them anywhere you want. You certainly shouldn't sing, "He ain't heavy, he's my hot tub..."
Clients often ask me how heavy a hot tub is.
A four person hot tub holds 300 gallons, or so.A six person hot tub holds 500 gallons, or so.And an eight person hot tub holds 700-800 gallons of water, or so!
A gallon of water weighs 8.35 pounds, if I remember my 9th grade lab science class.
So, looking at this picture, this is a six person hot tub and holds 500 gallons.
That's 4175 pounds of JUST WATER!
What If The Home Features Listed Were Right ... And Wrong? - 09/23/11 06:35 AM
When features lists are left on the kitchen counter, my clients like to review them. Sometimes things that are left in the house actually convey. But, what if the home features listed were right ... and wrong?
Since there is no water feature in the neighborhood, is this what they meant?
"Upgraded electric system"
Yes, in the 60s, adding a Federal Pacific Stab-lok box. The amperage did not change.
"No evidence of previous flooding"
"Solid wood construction"
Except for the areas riddled with termites.
Permits? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Permits! - 09/22/11 05:39 AM
Things have gotten to the point where I can walk into a basement and almost smell if there's no permit pulled when they finished it. It's like the basement is saying, "Permits? We don't need no stinkin' permits!"
BUT YOU DO! A PERMIT SHOULD ALWAYS BE PULLED!
If for no other reason to make sure you don't do something that makes it impossible to do future repairs!
Backing up the wagon now. Case in point.
This is a finished bathroom. They used the roughed-in plumbing left by the builder. Fine and dandy.
The plumbing hardware is all along an interior wall.
"We Should Have Listened To You Three Years Ago. Can You Come Back Over?"" - 09/21/11 04:12 AM
Eight years ago I did an inspection on a new construction that I thought might have future water issues. I recommended better grading and extending the downspouts. After the recent very soaking rains, I got a phone call which said, "We should have listened to you three years ago. Can you come back over?"
Wait, didn't I say I did the inspection eight years ago?
I did. And three years ago we had a similarly soaking rain. They called me then too. There was some moisture intrusion into the house, in this corner!
This is the innocuous corner in question, from
Jay's Tuesday Free Enterprise Quote - 09/20/11 05:34 AM
"There is no place in civilization for the idler. None of us has any right to ease."
Henry Ford (1863-1947)
If there was anyone in life who was not an idler, it was Henry Ford. He was a bona fide tinkerer. Not so much an inventor, but he was always tinkering with something.
His objective was to produce! And produce he did. His production process relied on two things: 1. good people, whom he paid very well to encourage them to stay with him, and 2. the assembly line.
Ford did not invent the assembly line. People think he did! No,
Wood Pecked - 09/19/11 06:31 AM
This is one wood pecked, popular tree!
It's not a Poplar Tree however, but a pecan.
No doubt it is tasty!
Every trunk and branch of this tree looks like this!
When I inspected this house 8 years ago my clients and I saw the damage on this tree. I recommended that a pro look at it and when they moved in they had an arborist come to assess its condition.
He said the tree was stressed, near death and would last one or two more years.
Not only is it healthy and still growing, but the same woodpecker comes back
Be Burglar Blockers - What To Do If You've Been In Your Home For A While - 09/17/11 05:30 AM
This is similar to yesterday's post - and suggests we be burglar blockers - what to do if you've been in your home for a while.
First of all, if you have not read yesterday's post and suggestions, you might. It is a good place to start no matter who you are.
Remember, burglars are opportunists and predators. As such, they are very good at watching and planning and moving at the right time. Theirs is usually a practiced technique. One friend of mine is a Washington DC detective. He says that burglars know more about our homes than we do!
Be Burglar Blockers - What To Do When You First Move Into A House - 09/16/11 06:31 AM
One thing you should do when you first move into a house, whether it's brand new or older, is make it hard for burglars to feel good about it. So, be burglar blockers - what to do when you first move in.
Burglars are opportunists. Burglars are predators. What do predators do? They go after the weakest, slowest, sickest, least able to defend itself in any group. Most of us live in groups - apartments, neighborhoods and developments.
Like predators, burglars examine those groupings very carefully. They are very smart, in a criminal way. Once a target is identified, they watch
Inundate A Foundation With Water, And What Do You Get? - 09/15/11 06:15 AM
This is shared space. Not only do these townhouses reside side to side, but, being condos, one resident lives upstairs and others downstairs in the same townhouse.
No matter what the building style, inundate a foundation with water, and what do you get?
I calculate these two roofs together to be about 850 square feet.
Why is that relevant?
Look to the right. Because they both drain to the same place.
When it rains 1" of water on 850 square feet, that translates to about 530 gallons of water.
Last week we had between 6 and 8" of rain. That's
Biggie Box Woods - 09/14/11 05:58 AM
When you see something at an inspection that is so very unusual, it should be shared! How about some biggie box woods?
The sellers tell me that the front yard at one time was so full of box woods that from the road you could not tell there was a house there!
How old are these box woods?
The house was built in 1928.
In the family room I saw a picture on the wall of the house taken in 1940.
The box woods in that picture were 6 or 8' in diameter! So I would guess they are about 80
Jay's Tuesday Free Enterprise Quote - 09/13/11 07:02 AM
"This year in world history class, we will learn from history that we learn nothing from history."
That was the first thing I heard in the first class I had in my first year of college.
I was shocked and did not believe her.
Of course we learn from history!
Well, apparently not! Why do we keep doing the same stuff over and over and expect different results?
(Einstein called that the definition of insanity, but I digress)
The cartoon to the left appeared in one of my college economics textbooks. It was first published in the Chicago Tribune,
I Don't Think The Foundation Repairs Worked! - 09/12/11 02:27 PM
A recent inspection on a beautiful house that had undergone extensive foundation repairs proved interesting. I don't think the foundation repairs worked!
We did the inspection just at the tail end of enormous rains, which had been happening for over two days.
The house is positioned on a sloped lot - high at the front, and low and the rear.
First of all, I noticed outside that the grading was sending water from a 30' hill beside the house directly to the foundation - from the top corner of the house, all along the wall, toward the lower corner at the
The Cricket Isn't Cricket - 09/12/11 07:00 AM
What do you do when the cricket isn't cricket?
Do you know what a cricket is?
It's a little, triangular feature roofers build behind a wide chimney. In roofing slang, it's called a cricket!
It's intended to divert water around that chimney, so it doesn't flow rapidly down a roof and splash violently into the chimney, causing a leak.
I would assume this cricket has been behind this chimney long before the recent roof shingle replacement.
But even if the cricket was built then, it wasn't angled or flashed properly.
How do I know this?
BECAUSE I WENT INTO THE ATTIC
Looked Up, Looked Down, Looked All Around - 09/11/11 04:43 AM
Entering the garage I looked up at the ceiling. I always look up first.
As I looked up, what did I see? A swelling stain in the drywall. One of many actually.
But this one looked like a question mark!
(I couldn't take it's picture with the flash, as the swollen stuff was whited out. And there wasn't enough light to take it without a flash. But I did find some orange cellophane and used it as a makeshift filter, and viola! Eat your heart out Thornton...)
I began questioning what I saw!
So I looked down.
What did I
Do You Know What This Is? It's An HVAC Register! - 09/10/11 06:41 AM
Do you know what this is? It's an HVAC register!
This is a high-velocity forced air system, sometimes called a "mini-duct" system.
And the ducts are really small! About 2" wide. And the covers are very attractive!
Larger rooms can need more than one register! Very large rooms as many as 4 or 6.
These systems blow a lot of air. These registers are blowing a little over 1200 cubic feet per minute.
A register on a traditional system would be 400-600cfm.
Depending on where the unit is located, like in the attic, the registers can
Be Careful When The Builder Says Your Insulation Is "Green Certified" - 09/09/11 07:18 AM
One thing people tell me when I do one-year and two-year warranty inspections is that the builder said the house was "green certified," or whatever phrase is used.
Be careful when the builder says your insulation is "green certified."
First of all, who knows what criteria is being claimed.
Second of all, unless you are provided some written example of such "certification," you got nothin'!!
THEY CAN SAY ANYTHING THEY WANT. WITHOUT SOME RECOGNIZED CERT, YOU HAVE JUST ANOTHER HOUSE.
When I ask clients if there is paper work on the window quality, insulation R-values for floors, walls and unfinished attic,
One Year Inspections - I Am Looking High And Low - 09/08/11 05:59 AM
People can live in a house and not notice things. I find that out all the time on warranty inspections. And because of that, on one year inspections - I am looking high and low.
These photos come courtesy my client as my camera was on the wrong setting!
This is your basic water main. It is located in the furnace room.
What I don't see often is this kind of proximity to the main drain stack.
But I always check the water main assembly for leaking, pin holes, damage, and so forth.
Often I have to move things to get
One Year Inspections - Improper Smoke Detector Placement Can Cause False Positives - 09/07/11 06:16 AM
Every time my client uses the oven and heats the kitchen up the smoke detector would go off. They found out that improper smoke detector placement can cause false positives. When they called the builder about it they were told it is "normal." What!!??
Well, of course the detector going off would be "normal" when the detector is in the kitchen only 8' from the range! Heat is one of the things that set off smoke detectors!
That is not an appropriate positioning of the smoke detector by anyone's definition of appropriate.
EXCEPT MAYBE THE BUILDER...
I told my client that
Jay's Tuesday Free Enterprise Quote - 09/06/11 07:03 AM
" 'Need' now means wanting someone else's money. 'Greed' means wanting to keep your own. 'Compassion' is when a politician arranges the transfer. "
Joseph Sobran (1946-2010)
It's hard to understand economics when a people is conditioned to look to the gubment for satisfaction of its needs and thinks it's entitled to whatever the "gubment" provides.
Of course the gubment has nothing it hasn't taken prior from someone else. And to think that this trend is not frightening to these people!
What happens when "the people" are tapped out? Or can't give? Or STOP giving "voluntarily?" (Remember how we're told that
"Our Air Conditioning Doesn't Blow Very Hard." - 09/05/11 05:24 AM
"Our air conditioning doesn't blow very hard." How often have I heard this!
"Well, it blows hard in two rooms. In the rest it's very weak. We'd like you to try to figure out why."
This time it was over the phone when someone scheduled a new-construction warranty inspection.
And they were right. On the middle level, the main living space, two rooms blew air at nearly 700 cubic feet per minute. That would be pretty high. The rest had various air flows, but all weak, in the 100-200cfm range. The basement was similarly weak. Ideally 400-600cfm is a good air
The Symmetry Of Nature - A Hugger Tree - 09/03/11 06:34 AM
You've heard of tree huggers? Well, this is a hugger tree!
I thought its symmetry to be very unusual.
And there are two different forms of symmetry!
How nature pulls these things off is interesting.
It's almost as if someone is involved in creative design and just showing off to prove it can be done!
This is just one of many beauties on a little 37 acre property in Warrenton VA. It's quite the scene!
They symmetry of nature on display once again.
What does it remind you of?
Pet Peeves - 09/02/11 07:08 PM
All home inspectors probably have their pet peeves. My biggest involve carbon monoxide. PVC vents that I think are too close to windows or doors and furnace/water heater vents through the roof that are very short and vulnerable to back drafting are two that come to mind.
I was reminded of this the other day on a one-year inspection.
All of the houses had the high-efficiency furnaces with PVC exhaust venting. And all of the houses looked like the photo on the left.
Manufacturer recommendations say, depending on the