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The whitish vapor you see coming out the flue that is closest to you is indicative of a safety problem. It is also something an inspector sees a lot of. I was up on a roof and had identified the two flues to the right as having come from abandoned fireplaces. In that case, they should have been capped off. However, as I was up on the roof, suddenly the steam and distinctive exhaust gases from a gas burning appliance started coming out the one flue. This is an unsafe way to vent gas appliances. Full details of why this common, but (13 comments)
Nice Plumbing Repair - 04/17/08 10:41 PM
My friend Charles Buell is always very critical of duct tape -- the miracle cure of last century and still a hot commodity today. I have seen everything from the skins of mobile homes and fuel tanks to shoes repaired with the stuff. I always love it when I open a cabinet and find it at the drain under the sink. Come on folks, the stuff really is not very waterproof and let's be honest it is a really lousy way to repair a leak. The photo below does a wonderful job of capturing a leak in progress. What --- a (10 comments)
Another Close, But No Cigar, Job - 04/17/08 10:15 PM
Below is an electric water heater with an installation that is close to right. But close is not good enough. There is a temperature pressure relief valve and the drain line from it is even routed down and out of the home. And the lower section of the drain is CPVC tubing which is a plastic that is approved for hot water. If you look at the vertical section that goes up to the valve, well that is plain old PVC. PVC works with cold water but is not approved for use with hot water and that includes at the TPR drain. (4 comments)
Common and a Real Mess! - 04/16/08 11:30 PM
The view in this photo is so very common, but I always hate to see it. When a roofer takes an old wood shingle or shake roof off, it seems that about eight times out of ten the wood debris ends up inside the attic. Just what a homeowner wants is a bunch of old wood shingles in the attic. What makes better kindling than old, dry wood shingles? The answer to that I do not know because old, dry, wood shingles work pretty good for me. In my own house, and a rental I own, I had to go up (16 comments)
Gambler's Guide To Home Buying - 04/16/08 09:44 AM
In life there are many gambles. Anyone in business has to assume some risk and take some gambles. Even hanging out your shingle, doing whatever it is you plan to do, involves risk. I am not one who is afraid of some risk. One of the best business decisions I ever made, which I can now look back on, was a risk. That was buying a radio station on a shoestring in the mid-1980's. Worked out great more than a decade later but it was not without lots of worry in the middle. So, as far as business and getting ahead, (5 comments)
They're Alive, They're Alive - 04/15/08 10:35 PM
This is not an out of body experience, or some tale that will make you think I am any weirder than what you might already think. After all, you have probably heard stories of the dead coming back to life -- on shows like the Twilight Zone. Call it reincarnation, call it hibernation, or call it whatever you want but please don't call me late for dinner. Take this story as you will, perhaps you will think it silly, perhaps you will think it a miracle, but it is my story and here goes. In December I did an inspection at Birch Bay and found (10 comments)
Steve's Greatest Hits And B Sides - 04/14/08 11:48 PM
I was looking at my statistics the other day and found that my first serious activity at Active Rain was one year ago yesterday, as in last Sunday. Wow, how time flies when you are getting all wet in the rain. A while back, a friend had suggested that he had positive comments by posting, or re-posting, links to blogs that were popular. I decided to do the same thing here, with a twist. I am posting, for you to review, five of my most popular blogs, all featured by AR over the past year. I weeded through the featured blogs and put (2 comments)
Canada and US Border Communities - 04/11/08 09:37 AM
The local daily newspaper, the Bellingham Herald, had a story today that confirmed a trend I have noticed in my inspection business for the past eight months or so -- the rising Canadian dollar, which fluctuates from a bit below to a bit above the US dollar, has led to more Canadians spending money in the US at communities located near the border. The figures, in the story, are retail sales; however, not a month goes by (no I am not challenging the universe here) where I don't have Canadians using the services of my inspection business. That means they are buying US homes, as I (2 comments)
Cricket, More Than Just A Game - 04/10/08 07:04 PM
No wonder people who are learning English go crazy sometimes. Take, for example, the word "cricket." You probably think it means an insect or a game the British favor that is similar to baseball. Well, there is a third meaning as you are about to learn. The photo below is a good example of a wide chimney, more than five feet across, that should have a "cricket" behind it, at the junction with the roof. If you are wondering why anyone would want a cricket, as in a little insect, behind the chimney then you have never learned, or heard, that third (4 comments)
Home Inspection, Why Must We Get Out Of The Car? - 04/09/08 10:02 PM
Charlie Buell and I sometimes joke around that there are times you could do a home inspection from the publicity photos of the property. It is amazing the things the trained eye can see and, from the photos, you know to look very carefully at certain areas or you might be able to predict a problem in advance. The photo, an inspection photo, is one of those instances where you know most of the story from looking at the picture. If this was an inside shot, then the problem would be the missing cover on the receptacle -- little fingers can get (1 comments)
If It Fits It Must Work - 04/09/08 08:48 PM
This photo has to go in that goofy and misguided category we home inspectors see so often -- "if it fits then it has to work". The photo below, believe it or not, is a dryer vent. If you have ever cleaned a dryer vent, or looked at all the lint and junk they spit out, you know just how illogical the location of this vent really is. It has maybe, at most, an inch of clearance between the concrete and the lower lip of the vent. This, by the way, is the new location for the dryer vent. They did not (4 comments)
Little Mistake, Big Problem - 04/09/08 04:02 PM
Warning, unsafe workmanship on display. In some cases, getting something "close" to right will probably get you by for quite some time. There are other times when "close" just does not cut it. No truck driver thinks "close" is good enough if his or her semi whacks an overpass.
The photo below is kind of like that. A drain on a hot water heater temperature pressure relief valve (TPR) must be routed down. To the uninformed, this one is routed down. Right? Heck yes, it does go down over at the right side. The problem is there is also a small section that first (14 comments)
And The First Clue Was - 04/09/08 03:24 PM
We home inspectors look for clues to problems. For example, the leak from the bathroom sink might have also created conducive conditions or damage that is apparent in the crawl space. One component of a home that we look at carefully is the furnace. Especially gas and oil furnaces, are complex and can be dangerous so, as inspectors, we are searching for clues that they have been properly maintained or serviced. By service I mean an annual going over by an HVAC professional, not the homeowner. The older the furnace gets, and the farther into it's design life we get, the more critical that issue (2 comments)
Mushrooms on the Siding or Anyone know a Mycologist? - 04/05/08 02:48 PM
L-P innerseal siding was the oriented strand board (OSB) siding that probably received the most negative media coverage and, among other manufacturers, was involved in a huge class-action lawsuit and a payout to consumers. This Louisiana Pacific product went off the market, officially, in the late 1990's. Fact is, as most inspectors will tell you, the jury is still out or lukewarm regarding even the newer generations of OSB sidings. My experience is that, yet again, they are not all that durable in a damp climate like here in Washington. Below are some recent photos of L-P innerseal siding that is over ten (5 comments)
Another Close One - 04/05/08 02:23 PM
I have done a few posts in the last weeks about people with good intentions, who kind of understand something, but end up missing the mark. You might call it the "close but no cigar" category. The photo below is a good example. This installer must have known that routing gutter water away from the home, and into an underground drainage system, is a good idea. They came up with a way to do this, but it is not working. They seem to have put in the drain and then they installed small grills over that. So the water coming out (2 comments)
You've Seen It From Both Sides Now - 04/03/08 10:35 AM
Especially at new homes, the builder often leaves a couple inches of clearance between the bottom of crawl space vents and the soil. Then the landscapers come in and they install landscape bark. In so doing, they (about 90% of the time from what I see) end up putting the bark up past the bottom of the vents. Crawl space wells are one solution to protect the vents from debris, grading the soil back sometimes works too if it is practical. Then there are the people who do not think it is a problem, either way. Those are folks who have (3 comments)
Pressure-treated Lumber - 04/02/08 02:23 PM
In the State of Washington, a conducive condition that is mandated by the state is "wood to earth contact". Wood to earth contact will, sometimes sooner than later, lead to rot or decay of the wood. Generally this is pretty clear cut -- if wood does not have proper clearances to soil then it is listed as a conducive condition. There is a common scenario that is less straight forward and I spoke with the WSDA about it a couple years ago. That discussion involved pressure-treated lumber, some of which is advertised as being able to last 40 or more years when (5 comments)
Oh My Achin' Back - 04/02/08 01:27 PM
It is like workin' on the chain gang. But the fact is, despite the title, my back is fine. The photo below is a good example of something that can really complicate and slow down a home inspection. And, since so many realtors have to ensconce themselves on-site during the inspection, that is usually not a popular thing -- dragging out the inspection. So, there is not any point in doing so unnecessarily. Obviously, normal issues and conditions often do a pretty good job of stretching out the inspection anyway. This is a photo from inside attached garage. Often, when people are (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.