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Serious Offer To California Fire Victims - 10/26/07 04:42 PM
Active Rain members, when this was sent to me by a business woman whom I know professionally (I inspect homes for her as she acquires them as part of her short-term rental and vacation home business) I asked if I could help out by sharing the power of Active Rain to publicize her offer. Lori is a business pro and her sole business involves property and rentals. She has this wonderful vacation lodge in British Columbia and she has extended a generous humanitarian offer to some family that has been seriously hit by the fires in California. I am -- with her (4 comments)
Whatcom County Home Inspections (King of the House): Drywood Termites - 10/24/07 05:20 PM
Well, the photo below is something I have yet to run into doing inspections. In fact, many inspectors in this state, probably most, have never seen the pest below -- in action at least. Now, most of us have seen some species of this world-class house-wrecker. But this particular termite species is rare in the state of Washington, to the point that WSDA does not consider it to be an established pest. What menace am I speaking of? And why am I speaking of it now? Well, a friend of mine who is a busy Seattle home inspector (Charles Buell Inspections) (10 comments)
Bellingham Wa Home Inspection (King of the House): Galvanized Plumbing Pipes - 10/24/07 03:38 PM
Obviously, the stated purpose of a home inspector is to inspect a home. That is really the only calling for a home inspector. A watch dog's job is to scare intruders and a home inspector inspects homes. So, if that is what an inspector does, he or she should try to do the job well and with detail. That is my opinion of course. However, even when one is serious about the job and trying to find all of the significant issues, there are times when a person might be misled or miss clues to a problem. An inspector has to be (0 comments)
Whatcom County Home Inspections (King of the House): Water Heater Safety - 10/24/07 03:03 PM
I know, I have written about this before. But it seems that I see poorly installed temperature pressure relief valves and their drains so often that it is obviously a concern that needs to be front and center. In older homes the valve or drain is installed wrong at least thirty percent of the time in inspections that I do. There are lots of things that can be wrong: No TPR valve, just a plug (the worst); A TPR valve that shoots straight out with no drain at all; A TPR valve with the drain made of the wrong type of (2 comments)
Mount Baker Home Inspection (King of the House): Crawl Space Posts - 10/24/07 02:29 PM
Imagine the surprise my client would have had, at some point down the road, had he not had an inspection. The example here is not one single, solitary isolated incident of a builder who was in a rush. There were about thirty posts under the house and all of them were like this. Longterm stability was not running in their favor. For one thing, there were no proper concrete piers. They were all resting on pieces of wood, some of which were round halves of firewood. They had no positive connections at the top and this one was much like the (12 comments)
Bellingham Home Inspector (King of the House): Unchain My Gutter - 10/24/07 11:16 AM
While I do not see this arrangement much, the whole concept of chains for downspouts is certainly not a wise idea, at least not in the wet Pacific Northwest. It might work great somewhere where there is minimal rain, but then again, in such locations they often have no gutters to begin with. The photo below took the chain theory to a new art form. The small cable, or chain, had below it a wooden device that doubled as yard art or sculpture. It looked like something made to confound marauding squirrels. Anyway, at this particular home the inadequate downspouts had been in (0 comments)
B-Vent Safety and Combustible Clearances - 10/24/07 10:18 AM
I was rummaging through my inspection photos and found a couple that I thought make a good point about an often seen problem -- combustibles packed around the B-vent in the attic. Especially in older homes, time and time again, the inspector sees insulation resting in contact with the B-vent. A B-vent is the metal duct that is normally used to vent gas and propane appliances such as furnaces and water heaters. These vents can achieve temperatures of 300 degrees when gas appliances are operating. Therefore, insulation, including fiberglass, should be a couple inches away from a B-vent to eliminate the hazard of (2 comments)
Last Call: College Level Bellingham Home Inspector Training - 10/24/07 08:49 AM
Any inspectors or realtors in Washington state might pass this information on to anyone interested in the field of home inspection. The next four week professional level home inspector training course begins at Bellingham Technical College next Monday, 10/29. Minimum enrollment has been met, so the class will go. This time, which is pretty neat, we have a commitment from Dr. Dan Suomi of the WSDA to attend the session on wood destroying organisms. He is, among other things, the man who investigates complaints against inspectors and compliance to state law. Being an entomologist, he also knows the wood destroying organisms. We (0 comments)
This photo is from Lake Como. For some reason, on this trip, we hit some of the best spots we have ever found in Italy. Since we have been there four times, we have seen quite a bit of the country. We went to Lake Como and Lake Garda. By far and away, we liked Lake Como better. It is just a very beautiful place and there is a busy ferry system, that is affordable, so you can hop from one village or city to another in just a few minutes. Great and interesting places. In one, while we were (1 comments)
Nixon in China, Huh? - 10/23/07 05:32 PM
Hi, I have not been able to post much this week, kind of embroiled in work and some other matters that are time consuming and tiring. I did want to share this. Verona, which is one of my favorite cities in Italy, has this ancient roman theatre. It is not as big but in better shape than the coliseum in Rome. They have any number of concerts there on a regular basis. The seats are stone and the whole place looks like a big trip hazard, but it sure has a great historical ambiance. We were too tired when we were (0 comments)
Not The Wood Burner You Want To See - 10/20/07 09:42 PM
A couple times I have inspected homes where the wood stove (burner) was some concoction designed by the homeowner. This dual arrangement of old metal barrels probably took the cake for me. I remember seeing a number of single barrels like this, as stoves, in the 1960's but not recently. This fellow wanted to get a roaring blaze going with two. Devices like this would not even come close to meeting today's wood burning emissions guidelines. Basically, when I see something like this, I state that it is an old fashioned, probably homemade, system that is certainly no where near the quality of (4 comments)
When Anobiid Beetles Strike - 10/18/07 09:28 PM
This is another photo from the Pacific Northwest, where the anobiid beetles had been working in a crawl space. I enlarged the photo, so you can take a good look. All the little shot sized holes are where the larvae pupated, turned into an adult and then left the wood. The larvae eats in the wood for about 5 years before leaving and causes real damage. It seems like every time I run into a crawl space with blocked vents, unless the house is pretty new, I find some anobiid damage. You will also see some fine powder, the anobiid frass, (0 comments)
Whatcom County Home Inspection (King of the House): Duplex Pricing - 10/18/07 06:22 PM
It makes sense to me, but sometimes people balk when they find that it costs more, or they have to pay more at least, to have a duplex inspected than a home of the same size. If you think about it, that should not be such a surprise. The uninitiated will think that the duplex is just a bigger house. Fact is, there is some truth to that. There is usually only one roof and the exterior. However, think of all the other things that are multiple. There are almost always two electrical systems and panels to inspect. There are two or (0 comments)
Photos from Umbria - 10/18/07 06:06 PM
I have been busy and distracted by a bit of a family emergency lately, but thought I would post a few more photos from my recent vacation in Italy. Whenever I do so, I get interesting comments. Now, this first photo might make you think that I thought the whole trip was a bore. But, in fact, that is not the case. Both of these photos show stores or markets where typical products from Umbria are being sold. The top one is a store with all kinds of meats, kind of like summer sausage, from the region. Also the man is (2 comments)
I saw this deck over the weekend. I have seen this design element before, but not in a long time. The deck is non pressure treated lumber and this stump had either had the deck built around it or it is conceivable that, originally, the stump was really a tree and protruded up from the deck. It might have rotted so they cut it off. Either way, a stump that is decomposing is not what you want sticking out of your deck, or next to the house. Such a stump, especially in the damp climate in the Pacific Northwest, will (2 comments)
In newer homes, the grounding electrode (or electrodes) almost always have been put in by licensed electricians. As a result of that, the electrode is done properly and usually driven deep into the ground. However, when I inspect older homes that had knob and tube wiring, which had no such ground originally, I often see electrodes such as the one in the photo. About half of it is still hanging out of the ground. Why? Well, sometimes the person putting it in is just lazy. Other times, they give it a lot of effort but it ends up that the rod (0 comments)
Bellingham Wa. Home Inspection (King of the House): Unsafe Deck Surfaces - 10/16/07 03:49 PM
When it comes to decks, I have to reiterate again just how careful a person needs to be when walking on them. I did an inspection this weekend, where the deck surface clearly had some problems. In closer investigation, it was apparent that a person could step in the wrong place and, perhaps, break through down below. This was not a high deck, only a couple feet. But, even at that, it is not too safe to have a foot drop below while the rest of you is up on top. The first photo shows a board that moved when stepped (1 comments)
Travel Photo: Gelato in Italy - 10/16/07 03:23 PM
I know, this would be better to look at in the summer, when it is hot, but I think this is a nice photo. Those of you who have visited Italy have seen this type of display before. Gelato stores, like pizza parlors, are a major part of the storefronts in cities in Italy. In the USA, often we cannot actually see the ice cream, just the tubs. But in Italy I think every store does what they can to make the product very eye appealing. They keep the stainless steel containers with the gelato orderly and full of all kinds of (5 comments)
Skagit County Home Inspection (King of the House): Knob and Tube Wiring - 10/16/07 10:16 AM
The photo below shows a situation where the evidence tells you one thing, but it does not go far enough to make a general statement. Uncertainty prevails. This is knob and tube wiring, removed, from a home that is more than 100 years old. Now, the fact this is not energized is encouraging. Obviously someone has replaced some of it. On the other hand, even when some knob and tube is removed, it is not uncommon to find that a few circuits, that were hard to get at, were left energized. This might include circuits to ceiling lights or even circuits that go (3 comments)
Firewood contact with the structure of the home is a bad idea. It is a way in which wood-destroying organisms might end up in the structure of the home. Fact is, it is not uncommon for firewood to have wood destroying insects inside. I have old firewood by my woodshed, away from the home, that has inside of it a species of anobiid beetle that is thriving. By stacking firewood against the home, you create a couple situations. First, and probably the worst, is simply that the wood against the home leads to moisture collecting against the siding. After a (3 comments)
One thing an inspector should look for is failed thermal-seal windows. Sometimes they can be hard to spot, depending on how cloudy they have become. Another factor that can make it hard to identify them is the general cleanliness of the windows. More than once, I have found myself trying to wipe a window, both sides, just to see if it cleaned up. When looking for failed windows, hard to see locations can include skylights and windows that are high off the floor. One essential place to look, because it can be more costly to replace them, is at sliding (0 comments)
The composition roof in the photo below is on its last legs. It is shot! I do not care if it is a 25-year roof at only 12 years of age, this roof is toast. The manufacturer's warranty means little more than being a rudimentary guideline of quality and durability. The real key is that the roof must be maintained. Neglect it and the years roll off the life very quickly. A 35-year roof might be dead in ten years, if abused. Beware; when the composition roof starts losing the granular material, demise is imminent. That granular material is not (2 comments)
My Much Anticipated, Long Awaited Dissertation On The Italian Pizza - 10/11/07 03:42 PM
While in Perugia, which is in Umbria, I wrote about the real life Italian pizza. Now, truth is, there is quite a variation in pizza recipes just inside Italy. Naples claims to have invented the pizza and is quite snobbish about it. My wife's tutor came from that area and only likes Neapolitan or Naples pizza. One of the things those of us from North America are surprised about is how basic the typical Italian pizza is. Many of the people there eat something as simple as tomatoes on a crust. Below I have listed, from a take home menu I (2 comments)
Pictures From Italy: Verona - 10/11/07 03:05 PM
A city that we had never visited before was Verona. Verona is only a few miles from Venice and part of the Veneto region. We had four days to fill, before meeting another couple in Lake Como so my wife picked Luca and I picked Verona. The architecture and the people are much like you find in Venice. Instead of the canals, the city has a river that runs around it. I think that the wife and I both agree that it is one of our favorite cities in Italy and Sicily, places we have visited a lot. The population is about (0 comments)
Over the years, many building or construction details have changed. In the older homes - like the one I live in - they commonly had the ends of rafters, fascia or trim rest on the roof. And at my house, in spite of this taking place for 50 plus years, the wood is still okay. Fact is, over time with the wood touching the shingles, the wood will decay. Knowing that, today builders should leave some space, ideally a couple inches between the wood trim and the roofing. As long as there is a reasonable gap, most home (0 comments)
Sometimes, while doing home inspections, I see expensive and nicely applied roofs that are well maintained. That is the exception. I am astounded at how few people seem to realize that a roof takes some upkeep. For example, any roof that continually has moss, leaves, needles and other tree debris on it is going to stay wet and not dry out. Add to that the fact that most roofs are sloped and, with that type of roof, the primary design element is to keep the water moving down off the roof. The sloped roofs are shedding not watertight. The photo (0 comments)
It always seems like common sense to me, that one should protect against children falling from high decks, but I guess that is not the case. I am amazed by the number of times, on home inspections, that I see unsafe situations like those apparent in the photo below. This is by the lake, a high deck about 12 feet up, and there is another 20-foot drop down a cliff below. As you can see, the deck's guardrail has holes in it that you could drive a small car through. To be safe, based on today's standards, a guardrail for (2 comments)
A home inspector sees many outdoor outlets. Probably the most dangerous outlet I have seen was in Skagit County, at a house between Mount Vernon and Burlington. It was a serious shock hazard. Some of the time outlets work great and are well maintained but others have problems. What kind of problems? Well, in modern building and even to make an older home safer, exterior outlets should be GFCI protected. You cannot always tell if an outlet is GFCI by looking at it. Often an outlet will be GFCI protected even if it looks like an ordinary outlet - no (1 comments)
People tend to take decks for granted. Sellers, buyers, realtors, and inspectors too, will go right up on the deck - usually - without thinking twice about it. That is especially true of lower decks. They are simple and common structures- right? True, but often decks, even the low ones, can be treacherous. The low deck in the photo below was only about 3' off the ground but the decking was completely rotten. When I got up on it, I could tell by the springiness that there was a problem. The realtor had not realized this and became more cautious (0 comments)
As I inspect around the Pacific Northwest, even in the older homes, I usually see newer windows: thermal pane vinyl or sometimes aluminum. But, sometimes at older homes, the inspector will find old single pane glazed windows. Obviously, such windows are not as energy efficient as newer windows. However, often the bigger problem is plain and simple -- a lack of maintenance. The window below is an example. The glass is about to fall out and if it is held in by anything it would have to be a few old metal glazing points. A buyer, who wishes to repair (2 comments)
In the Pacific Northwest we have moss. It can be very beautiful, especially in the rain forests. But when it is growing on the roof, as in the photo, or on the roof and the siding then it is not a good thing. Thick, green, healthy moss collects moisture, leads to the wood and other materials, being kept wet virtually all of the time. Over time, and not necessarily over a very long time, this will lead to degradation of all of the materials. This home is not unlike many homes that I see located in the woods, with dense, (1 comments)
One of the things a home inspector sees a lot of, on the older homes we hope, is settling. We are talking about settling sidewalks, settling steps or even foundations that have settled. When sidewalks settle, it seems that the lower side (unfortunately) ends up next to the home -- so that can lead to runoff water being diverted against the foundation. A foundation settling can be a serious concern. As for the steps, the photo below is a classic example. Granted, you do not need the level to see that they are way lower on the left side but (0 comments)
Often buyers fall in love with the foliage and plants growing around the home. Sometimes the vegetation is spectacular. In Washington state, by law, the home inspector has to throw a bucket of water on the jubilation (and admiration of the plants beauty) if the plants are touching the home. The state lists vegetation against the home as a mandated (you have to call it) conducive condition. If you are wondering what the problem is, the answer is fairly simple. Basically there are two concerns (1) the vegetation keeps the exterior of the home from drying quickly (2) some pests, (2 comments)
Closets and storage areas should not have exposed light bulbs. These incandescent bulbs get very hot and can start a fire. They should be in covered fixtures. I saw an older gentleman almost set his house on fire. He had a closet with a bare bulb. He hung his hat on it and he knew not to turn on the light. A visitor got a coat from the dark closet, left the light on, the hat caught on fire and the smoke detectors went off - luckily so. This area below, where the homeowner might store paper towels, and who (2 comments)
Steven L. Smith, King of the House Home Inspection, provides information for real estate buyers, sellers and real estate industry professionals.
Blog posts emphasize issues commonly found in Bellingham, WA and Whatcom County. Smith is Washington State Licensed Home inspector #207, a state licensed structural pest inspector and one of the most experienced inspectors in the northwest corner of the Pacific Northwest.
Steven L. Smith is lead instructor of home inspection at Bellingham Technical College and teaches classes for Washington State University and the Washington State Department of Agriculture. Steve was a two-term member of the state licensing board.
Disclaimer: ActiveRain Corp. does not necessarily endorse the real estate agents, loan officers and brokers listed on this site. These real estate profiles, blogs and blog entries are provided here as a courtesy to our visitors to help them make an informed decision when buying or selling a house. ActiveRain Corp. takes no responsibility for the content in these profiles, that are written by the members of this community.