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Moldy Old Secrets - 02/28/10 05:17 PM
Mold is a hot topic, probably a hotter topic than it should be. Just how big of a problem it really is and for whom has been argued by health professionals and environmental scientists. What is mold, what is mildew, what are microbial growths? Enough already! Despite all the big talk, I will show you a place where I often find mold. In fact, I would put this right up there with under sinks where there has been a leak or right up there with leaking roofs over attics or just plain poorly ventilated attics.
You recognize that location? (9 comments)
There's Information On The Plate - 02/28/10 08:57 AM
When it is possible to do so, a home inspector not only reports problems at homes but many of the items on a report are basic information. A good example of that would be reporting on the hot water heater. At a new house, at least around here, the odds of the hot water heater being okay are good. But in our seismic region we still check it for earthquake straps, a cold water shutoff valve, a proper TPR valve and drain, an expansion tank. If the tank is inside the house is there a drain pan under it? A gas (7 comments)
I looked at the calendar today and, surprised, realized that the week after next is the beginning of the next fundamentals of home inspection training class at Bellingham Technical College. Monday, March 8, is the day.
The beginning of the class, without fail, means I have to watch my schedule. Although there are several of us who teach the class, classroom duties on certain days, shall we say, make scheduling inspections for clients a challenge. This is a four week course and the first three weeks are comprised of 120 hours of fundamentals training and instruction while the (3 comments)
Vapor Barriers and Cellulose Scraps - 02/26/10 06:07 PM
One of the most common problems seen in the new house is a vapor barrier that is not complete, builder shortcut. Along with that, much of the time, the inspector will also find scraps of wood and cardboard left over in the crawl space.
Since moisture from the ground will pass around the vapor barrier, and that moisture will end up inside the house, it is important to have the vapor barrier cover the earth. In a related matter, scrap wood and cellulose, including paper and cardboard, serve as shelter for wood destroying organisms. That is to be avoided (5 comments)
Spoiling Everyone's Day - 02/26/10 05:06 PM
One tough find, especially at a new house that looks good otherwise, is discovering a wet crawl space. Dry is necessary in a crawl space. It is important to keep not only the lumber in the crawl space dry but the humidity levels upstairs will be a problem if water from below evaporates up. I once had a client query if it was not okay to have substructure water, just as long as there wasn't a plumbing leak causing it.
The resounding answer to that question is "no." In a practical sense, seasonally, we northwest inspectors see some crawl space water at (3 comments)
Sudden Valley Serenity - 02/26/10 12:04 AM
I was out at Sudden Valley the other day. That is a community south of Bellingham. You go by Lake Whatcom and suddenly you are at Sudden Valley. It has it's own little lake -- Lake Louise. I remember going to see Lake Louise as a kid, before Sudden Valley was a thought in anyone's mind. My dad would drive there, with me in tow, and no one was ever around except an old guy, probably a squatter, who lived in a tar paper shack. There were deer too, and I still take photos of deer almost every time I go (12 comments)
True Ghost Story -- Bellingham Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection) - 02/25/10 09:08 AM
I had a chilling experience the other day while up on a roof that was icy on one side. I did not go over to that side, for safety. But there was an interesting phenomenon in play. Have any of you ever heard of spirit photos? During the days when spirit seances were taken very seriously, in the early part of the last century, spirit mediums would produce photos that would shock people by having an unexpected ghost in the photo. I always guffawed at those. But wait! Last Saturday morning I was up on this roof. I swear that only (13 comments)
Just A Little Stroll In The Neighborhood - 02/23/10 10:39 PM
I have, over the last several years, made a habit of posting my deer photos at Active Rain. Deer are very photogenic. Over and over again, when I see deer, it is at home inspections at Sudden Valley. Heck, they might be on the road but, more often than not, they come right up to me to visit. Here is one that I took a shot at (camera shot) right after the creature went meandering by.
Thanks for stopping by, Steven L. Smith
Silly Gimmicks and Worthless Gadgets - 02/21/10 06:19 PM
This photo is very descriptive of the topic of this post. See the gimmick in the gutter? It looks kind of like a badminton birdie.
Here in the northwest, where we have lots of runoff water, it seems like people are always looking for gimmicks and gadgets that will perform miracles so they no longer have to do routine maintenance on these critical drainage systems. The miracles that often do not work include elementary gutter guards which are a good enough idea but I find that the gutters below them are always blocked with crud anyway. But, due to the (15 comments)
Bellingham Technical College is now an approved provider for the supplemental training course that is mandatory for those home inspectors who require more education in order to meet state licensing requirements. Many home inspectors had previously taken home inspector education, but the courses did not meet current state guidelines. If students had taken a sufficient number of hours, then they are allowed to take 40 hours of supplemental training and that will qualify them to take the state exam. BTC is offering the supplemental course in conjunction with our regular fundamentals classes. Those requiring supplemental training will attend key refresher (1 comments)
Fundamentals of Home Inspection Training -- March 8 at Bellingham Technical College - 02/21/10 09:49 AM
Bellingham Technical College has another Fundamentals of Home Inspection training course beginning on March 8. This state approved course will provide instruction in structure, exterior and interior inspections, electrical, plumbing, wood stoves, chimneys, insulation and ventilation, HVAC and the laws that regulate the profession including rules that apply to home inspectors and structural pest inspectors. One guest who we have come in to the class, when it is possible, is Dr. Dan Suomi of the Washington State Department of Agriculture. Dan is the regulator who oversees licensed structural pest inspectors. Dan also is an educator and believes that the more he (0 comments)
New Construction Specific Issue - 02/20/10 09:26 PM
You do not see this one often at older houses because the yard is usually done. But you see it fairly often around my area at new construction. This is a photo from a new home that is being purchased in the near future. The buyers want to make sure that they are first in line at the house, so they have ordered an inspection prior to everything being complete. The house is there but the site work is not complete.
The builder has some soil piled against the siding and the decks. It is not all like this, but (7 comments)
Incomplete Wiring Practices - 02/20/10 10:28 AM
I do not often see this at new construction, but in homes that are just a few years old it seems that a previous homeowner, somewhere along the way, could not restrain the urge to do some wiring.
This often leads to improperly terminated wires, sometimes energized and sometimes not, and they might be found in the attic, the crawl space the garage, outside. Trying to predict locations in advance is difficult because these do-it-yourselfers might leave the wire just about anywhere. The fact is that electric wires and splices should be properly terminated and that includes putting connections in (13 comments)
Gravel and Porous Materials - 02/19/10 02:31 PM
At an inspection the other day I saw a heavy layer of gravel around the outside of a foundation and that reminded me of a conversation I had recently with a former student. The student was studying for a licensing exam and he wanted clarification as to the correct answer to an exam prep question.
The question said: Which statement is the potential inspection concern when gravel (porous material) is in close proximity to the foundation around the perimeter of a home? A. Gravel is easily disturbed, fine sand is better B. Gravel is a primary cause of foundation cracks C. The true (10 comments)
It was announced today by the State Department of Licensing that Bellingham Technical College is now an approved provider for a supplemental training course for those home inspectors who require more education in order to meet state licensing requirements.
There were a number of home inspectors who had previously taken home inspector education, but the courses did not meet the guidelines that were, eventually, set by the state. If those students had a sufficient number of hours, then they are allowed to take 40 hours of supplemental training and that will allow them to meet the state requirements. BTC is, (0 comments)
The “Perfect Storm”----Home Inspectors and Foreclosures - 02/17/10 10:06 AM
This is an excellent piece on the topic of the numerous foreclosures and short sale properties. Experienced agents will be keenly aware of the circumstances that can apply to such properties. Less experienced agents, or inspectors, should read this article. Sometimes the distressed lenders, trying to keep from throwing good money after bad, degrade the quality of the properties they are holding by turning off heat and power in the winter months, Via Charles Buell, Seattle, WA, Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections.com): Another example of “collateral damage” in the current Real Estate mess----that most of the country finds itself----is that more (7 comments)
Sometimes you have to go with the flow! - 02/17/10 10:01 AM
As a home inspector, personally evaluating functional flow can be a pain. I know what I think is decent flow. Client's opinions vary. If you have a client who is moving from a marginal well system, they might be impressed with a trickle. You get someone else who comes from a city supply, with no pressure reducer, and they are used to about 120 PSI and raging water. Even normal pressure and normal flow does not make them happy. They think it is wimpy. Via Charles Buell, Seattle, WA, Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections.com): Poor functional flow of water at sink (0 comments)
Perhaps if I say, “Please?” - 02/17/10 09:56 AM
Often people are under the impression that those concerns we inspectors cite are immediately remedied. That would be the situation at a perfect world. I have, a number of times, gone back to re-inspect a home that I inspected a couple years before. In almost all instances, about the only thing that has changed is, maybe, they had the furnace serviced. Then again, maybe not. Sometimes it is discouraging to see how little is done if the recommendations are of a critical nature. Via Charles Buell, Seattle, WA, Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections.com): How long ago is 1971? It is (2 comments)
Do you have a credit card that works whether you have any credit or not? - 02/17/10 09:51 AM
Evaluating the various exterior doors and locks around the property for function and safety is an important task for the home inspector. Unlike Charlie, I do not try to pick or slide the lock. But, being Charlie, it is not surprising that he does. Poor security in this day and age, except in a few smaller communities where people do not even lock their doors, is a real risk. Via Charles Buell, Seattle, WA, Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections.com): Yes!----it is the all new “forever card." Just like Forever Stamps----once you get this card it works “forever” whether you go bankrupt (0 comments)
Half Right, Completely Wrong - 02/16/10 02:57 PM
Below was one of those instances where a job was done half right, however the bottom line is that it was done one hundred percent wrong. This is a receptacle that is only a few feet away from the kitchen sink in an older house. At some point, someone involved realized that, for added safety, a GFCI protected receptacle should be installed near the sink.
Result: The receptacle over there at the left is GFCI protected. However, the one sharing the same plastic cover at the right is not. According to Washington State Law a home inspector must recommend an upgrade (8 comments)
President's Day Is A Holiday - 02/15/10 11:26 AM
I think this is the first President's Day in a few years where I actually have the day off. I am booking other work on other days and it always makes it harder to schedule later in the week when one has scheduled a day off. But I have any number of tasks to catch up on, including getting the tax information in order from 2009 and that is a big yuck. While some of us take the day off, of course, there are those who work. There are those in restaurants and cafes and essential services and some folks even (13 comments)
Fundamentals of Home Inspection Training -- Bellingham Technical College - 02/14/10 02:35 PM
The next state approved fundamentals of home inspection training course, to be offered at Bellingham Technical College, begins on March 8. The space available at BTC, this class, limits enrollment to 12 students. As of today, there are only five slots left. Obviously the goal here is to provide quality training and not to "crank" cookie cutter students. Anyone interested in the course may obtain more information here.
This is a four week course: The first three weeks are comprised of 120 hours of fundamentals training and instruction while the last week consists of 40 hours of field training. (0 comments)
Even Twelve-legged Destructo Machines Sleep - 02/14/10 10:58 AM
The other day I wrote a post about one of the boys, basic pest control operators and office staff, who work around my office. In that post, I showed evidence of how these guys are often up to shenanigans and it can be hard to catch them in the act. To review that post, click here.
I am here to tell you that even twelve-legged destructo machines sleep. I was busy working on a report the other day and I thought things were quite quiet. In sneaking into the other room to check things out -- you know what they (9 comments)
Iceman Cometh -- Unsafe At Any Speed - 02/13/10 04:49 PM
The standards of practice for home inspectors in this state make it mandatory for a home inspector to traverse a roof if it can be done safely and without damaging the roof. This puts pressure on an inspector to, whenever possible, traverse the roof. There are times however when it is hard to follow through on this guideline. I try to start inspections fairly early in the morning and, this time of year in Bellingham and Whatcom County, that can lead to patches of ice on the roof.
I took this photo the other day from the ridge of the (10 comments)
High Tech Time-lapse Camera Nabs Suspect - 02/12/10 04:05 PM
Thank goodness for high tech gadgets. My wife has a table that she uses for projects. There is a lamp on that table. Time and time again, on a daily basis, she comes home to find that the lamp has been tipped over and over and over again. When we would inquire among the various household species, there was always a claim of total ignorance -- no clue what happened. Well, we setup a time-lapse camera, the idea of my certifried assistant, and look at what we got. The first one was taken right after the lamp tipped. That look of (6 comments)
Peace Arch Border Report -- Olympics - 02/12/10 09:56 AM
I had a pleasant surprise yesterday. I had to do a home inspection up in Point Roberts. There have been times, in the past, where I had a half hour wait going into Canada and two hours coming home. I dread those delays. That is the problem with Point Roberts, you have to go through two borders each way and, as an inspector with tools, you cannot get a Nexus pass. The traffic to the upcoming Olympics in Vancouver had me nervous. Earlier I had talked to an inspector friend of mine, Curtis Brown of CurtisC Home inspections, because he had (3 comments)
Christmas In February - 02/09/10 10:00 AM
When we were in Mexico, a couple weeks ago, colors were vibrant and everywhere. That included the brightly colored buildings and also the plants. When I got home to Bellingham, it was quite balmy here. Yet, on the other hand, it did not compete with Mexico as far as being warm. One thing that I did notice, once we got home, was that one of our rhododendrons was in full bloom. This is one that we bought years ago and it is the earliest bloomer of the rhododendrons that we have. It is appropriately named "Christmas" because it blooms so early. I do (5 comments)
Fly Like An Eagle - 02/08/10 11:45 PM
I was disappointed today. I was driving out near Blaine, which is very close to the US/Canada border. I turned a corner on a country road and what do I see standing beside the road -- a bald eagle. As I turned, he decided that he better fly. But he did not fly very far. He only went a few feet up in the tree. I had a camera and was hoping to get a good shot. Mr Eagle had a different idea on that. He did not care if I got a shot or not. Basically, I ended up with (14 comments)
Deadbolt Lock Considerations -- Give It A Try - 02/07/10 02:20 PM
I have been working this weekend on some potentially new study guides and test revisions that we could use at Bellingham Technical College to prepare students to learn the basics and to work in the field of home inspection.
This is associated with the state approved fundamentals of home inspection training program that is offered through Bellingham Technical College several times a year. I thought that some of the Active Rain people might like to give this sample question a try.
This deadbolt lock, interior view, is on a door that provides egress at a private residence. Of the choices below, which is the best statement (13 comments)
Old-Fashioned Progress - 02/07/10 01:46 PM
During my recent visit to Oaxaca, Mexico, it was impossible not to notice the major work going on to improve the infrastructure. The initial impression was that they were improving the roads and sidewalks because all of the streets were torn up. In fact, they had to tear the streets and sidewalks up to make it possible to get to and replace the old sewer lines. And, in so doing, they were also upgrading water lines into some of the buildings that were located by the streets and sidewalks. The most obvious difference to construction methods as seen in the USA, was (5 comments)
Art Appreciation -- By Nutsy - 02/06/10 03:54 PM
On the recent Mexico vacation, when the boss went to the beach, I stayed in Oaxaca city. As many of you know, I spent that time doing good deeds and having fun. For example, like the boss, I had my photo taken with Frida Kahlo.
I also spent many hours watching another great artist. There are many artists in that part of Mexico. But I was particularly impressed with an artist who prunes shrubs. In fact, that artist was so intelligent about what makes a good subject that he asked my permission to sculpt my likeness. Let me be the (9 comments)
on Facebook until three weeks ago. Everyone told me that I should -- so I did. When I did that, I got quite the surprise. I am wondering if anyone in AR land understands just how the folks at Facebook do the things they do. I will be direct about this. I was amazed and stymied, as to the source of the information, when Facebook recommended potential friends to me. They had an uncanny match. That batch of initial friends that were suggested to me (19 comments)
Butter You Say? -- A Traveler's Saga - 02/05/10 02:37 PM
My wife and I have an amusing time communicating in Mexico. We go to Oaxaca, not nearly as touristy as some of the Mexico destinations, so some of the locals speak good English, others very little. Back in high school, forty years ago, I took two years of Spanish. I learned many words and pronunciations at the time, but many of the words have flown the coup. My wife speaks reasonably good Italian. She has been studying it now for about five years at a local college and with a private tutor. Italian is, in many ways, similar to Spanish. For (7 comments)
Rock and Roll -- Disco Bus To Bless Your Soul - 02/04/10 04:59 PM
You have got to love some of the strange sights, at least based on what we are used to around here, that you see in Mexico. They worry less about litigation I think. In Huatulca, which is an ocean front community, they have one of the more unusual tourist attractions that I have ever witnessed. If you go into La Crucecita, the city center, at night you will find the famous Disco Bus. This bus is colorful, decked-out with bright paint, and it is a double-decker with the roof cut out up above at the top deck. It takes a "party on wheels" (9 comments)
The Day the Music Died -- 51 Years Ago Today - 02/03/10 01:46 PM
I have not written a music related blog post in some time. I have been too busy or otherwise preoccupied. I had an enquiry asking if I would write a post about the tragic events that transpired on this date 51 years ago. This day is referred to in popular lore and music as "The Day the Music Died." Three young, shining talents in the field of rock n' roll, which was emerging as a major force in those early years of the genre, perished in an airplane crash in the early morning hours of February 3, 1959. The performers were part of a (13 comments)
Fundamentals Of Home Inspection Training - 02/03/10 09:57 AM
The next fundamentals of home inspection training course will begin at Bellingham Technical College on March 8. The course is fully approved by the state of Washington.
This is a four week course. The first three weeks consist of the 120 hours of fundamentals training and the last week is field training, 40 hours. The student who successfully completes the course, both elements of it, will be qualified to sit for the state home inspector licensing exams. Anybody who would like additional information on this course should call 360-752-8600, extension 8796. The cost of the course, including the text books, (1 comments)
Ancient Stucco - 02/03/10 09:45 AM
During my recent trip to Oaxaca, Mexico, my wife and I visited an archaeological site that is called Yagul. There are several such sites in this region, the most amazing of the group being Monte Alban. However, Yagul was interesting as well. This ancient civilization dates back to several hundred years B.C. Much of the residential building took place between 1200 and 1500 A.D.
One of the things that I found interesting about it, being a home inspector, was that certain areas of the construction were finished with early stucco.
Stucco is one of the most common exterior finish (2 comments)
Urgent message to all Washington State Real Estate Agents! - 02/01/10 08:18 AM
I do not know of any other standards of home inspection that state an inspector must attempt to locate all of the possible mold. Inspectors, if we see it, will inform clients that there is an apparent problem. We are not, however, expected at this time to be responsible for any mold that might be found at some later date when the person moves in. This is a can of worms and liability that is way beyond what those who are not inspectors believe it to be. They think it is simple, it is not.
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.
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