ferndale: Handrail and Guardrail Safety - 11/09/14 10:30 PM
Often, at a deck or landing, the home inspector will find that handrails and guardrails are not in accordance with safety guidelines. Another area where deficiencies often stick out like a sore thumb, include when the inspector is hired to inspect an outbuilding. The photo below, stairway to a barn loft, is an excellent example of the problem at hand.The shape and dimensions of the handrail are not readily graspable and there is no rail return at the bottom end. Furthermore, lack of spindles and the gaps at the side of the rail would not stop a child from climbing through the … (12 comments)

ferndale: Extent of Damage Unknown: Real Estate Purchase Uncertainty - 08/04/14 12:20 PM
The role of a home inspector is to identify problems. Obviously, in the course of any given inspection, the inspector will not be able to locate every problem. But the intent and the hope is that the inspector will locate, at a minimum, the bigger issues. Unfortunately, the home inspection process includes instances of uncertainty.
Below is a photo of wood destroying organism damage -- structural lumber was exposed at the exterior. The scenario is not hard to understand: Heavy moisture exposure and rot. There were, also, signs of tunneling by wood destroying insects. Probable culprits are carpenter ants but, on the other … (6 comments)

ferndale: Federal Pacific Electric Panel (King of the House) Bellingham WA Home Inspector - 07/27/14 12:42 AM
The most frequently seen older electric panel of questionable merit, here in Bellingham WA and Whatcom County, would be Zinsco-Sylvania brand. More often than not, when I recommend replacing an electric panel, it will be Zinsco brand.
However, maybe once every two or three years, I run into a  "Federal Pacific Electric" service panel with "Stab-Lok" circuit breakers. These old panels are controversial: The manufacturer and the Consumer Product Safety Commission wrestled safety issues with this panel for 30 years. The manufacturer aggressively argued that the panels were safe. Then, only a few years back, the Consumer Product Safety Commission threw up … (6 comments)

ferndale: Building Houses to Last -- NOT! - 04/27/14 06:16 AM
There are building techniques that will survive for only a few years, then there are methods that will result in materials lasting for many, many years. A classic example of non-durable, short term, construction is the way many contractors pay no heed to the consequences of moisture wicking up into wood.

The photo above is a wood column that supports an overhang roof. The overhang protects part of this concrete patio from rain but not the edge. And, where the post rests on damp concrete, rot-decay was developing. Even pressure-treated lumber lasts longer if it is not damp all of the … (39 comments)

ferndale: Unintentional Misrepresentation: Knob and Tube Wiring - 04/02/14 11:44 PM
If I think back on homes that I have inspected in Bellingham and Whatcom County, a runner-up for the most misrepresented detail is the wiring.
Potential clients will call telling me they are buying an older house. I explain that my fee will be higher due to the probability of old cast iron or galvanized plumbing pipes and knob and tube wiring. More often than not, they will tell me that the owner said the knob and tube wiring had all been replaced so I need not factor that in. Yeah, right!
I will go so far as to state that, at least, … (3 comments)

ferndale: Home Inspection: Where the Uncommon is Common - 02/22/14 12:19 AM
Anyone who says that a home inspector sees the same old things over and over again, is either not familiar with the territory of home inspection or he or she is ill informed. Sure, most of what we see is repetitive with varying degrees of good or bad going on.
But there are so many different systems and devices, and many harebrained repairs, that sometimes the unusual becomes apparent. I think I have seen maybe two systems like the one I am writing about here -- Apollo Hydro Heat. At first glace, the unit looks like a furnace. But, in fact, it utilizes hot … (4 comments)

ferndale: New Furnace, Service It! - 02/15/14 11:40 PM
When inspecting a new home, the professional home inspector might have to call for service at a new furnace -- even if the furnace is only a few months old. The problem has to do with wet weather. At least in the wet climate of Bellingham and Whatcom County, builders cut wood and drywall in the garage during the fall and winter. They do so, logically so, to get out of the cold and wet. But guess what is located in the garage at many houses. Yep, the furnace.
And all of that sawdust, shavings and drywall dust ends up inside the … (14 comments)

ferndale: Motorized Vehicle Door Hazards - 12/01/13 12:04 PM
Motorized vehicle doors present serious safety risks for consumers who are unaware of the dangers associated with defective doors. The door, in the video below, is an example of what you do not want to see happen when an overhead door strikes an object that was set flat on the garage floor.

Anybody or anything under that door would be seriously injured. This is a real world problem, I have met people who have had pets maimed or killed by unsafe garage vehicle doors. A motorized door, when it is operating correctly, will reverse at the floor level if it … (3 comments)

ferndale: Home Inspection: Take Nothing for Granted - 11/13/13 01:16 PM
Most people believe that a home inspector should, and can, make a number of general assumptions. You know, the basics like if a professional builder did the work, and the code authorities signed-off on the job, then it was done right.
If only that were true, it would make the home inspector's work much simpler and less stressful. Fact is, we have to stay on our toes at all times because there is very little about a home that one can take for granted.
That reality was brought to the forefront at a recent inspection. At a home, less than five years … (3 comments)

ferndale: Government Trusts in Thee (to do the right thing) - 08/25/13 08:06 AM
In the course of a home inspection in Whatcom County, I ran into an unusual situation. The home was about 30 years of age, so trying to decipher the series of events that took place, from that many years ago, is pretty much impossible to do. But, based on the state inspector's notes inside the remote distribution or sub-panel, I have a hunch as to what took place.
I think the state code inspector approved the electrical panel and wiring subject to corrections: (1) properly wiring the sub-panel (2) installing GFCI receptacles.

As you might anticipate, this was not … (5 comments)

ferndale: Frost-free Yard Hydrants - 07/07/13 03:02 PM
Most "modern" faucets, that I see attached to the exterior of the home in Bellingham and Whatcom County, will be frost-free hose bibbs with backflow prevention devices -- to keep gray water out of the potable water system.
However, frequently even at new homes, out at the garden or at perimeter locations, I will see a simple faucet mounted on a piece of pipe (anything from PVC plastic pipe to copper or galvanized steel) sticking out of the ground. Most of the time these faucets are not frost-free and, even if they were, the associated pipe would not be. Unsupported plastic … (18 comments)

ferndale: Please Shut The Door - 05/19/13 04:39 AM
This is an amusing and a revealing photo taken recently at an inspection at a large commercial building. It was dark inside the building, and bright sunlight prevailed at the outside. The picture tells the story, pretty poor energy efficiency at this door. You might be thinking that I should have shut the door before snapping the photo. Well, look again, fact of the matter is that door is shut and latched.

All that daylight is the result of a poor fit, lack of weatherstrippings and a threshold. When you put those missing ingredients together, you have a door that … (36 comments)

ferndale: HUD Manufactured Home Foundation Certifications in Bellingham, WA - 02/11/13 03:40 AM
People today have too little time in the workday. Reducing the amount of chasing around, paperwork, the number of phone calls and Emails involved in a business transaction benefits any home buyer, home seller, real estate professional or lender. 
Locally, I know that many lenders and real estate professionals become frustrated when the federal government is involved in financing a manufactured home sale. The home will probably require a HUD compliant certification inspection stating that the foundation meets with HUD Permanent Foundation Guidelines for Manufactured Homes -- a requirement for FHA-insured loans.

Photo: View under manufactured home in Whatcom County, … (5 comments)

ferndale: So Have You Ever Misplaced Your Keys? - 02/09/13 11:15 PM
Do you ever misplace, or worse yet, lose your keys? If so, let me tell you about a nifty device.
Over the years, my wife and I have each lost a set of keys. At the best, that is inconvenient. At worst, especially with the transponder car keys that cost money to replace, losing keys is a big inconvenience and a bummer.
I am more likely to misplace keys that to actually lose them. On inspections, I try to put the keys in a special place while I am working. But, a few times, for one reason or another, the keys were … (11 comments)

ferndale: Safety Is Not Age Dependent -- High Decks - 12/24/12 07:23 AM
It does not really matter when a house was built and what codes, if any, applied at the time of construction: An unsafe guardrail is just as unsafe at a 100 year old home as it is at a new house.
As a home inspector in Bellingham, WA, I point out that codes are not retroactive but I, also, inform buyers of critical safety issues.
This is a guardrail, high upper deck at a two-story residence, and "part" of the rail is of sufficient height -- 36" over the surface of the deck. However, at another section of the same … (4 comments)

ferndale: Flashing the Deck or Landing - 12/22/12 04:30 AM
Time and time again, working here in Bellingham as a home inspector, I find improperly installed or, more often than not, decks installed without proper flashings at the wall.  The problem is simple enough, where that horizontal landing attaches to the house, moisture collects thanks to our "liquid sunshine" here in the Pacific Northwest. So, given a few years, it is just a matter of time until rot forms at that transition point and, often, the rot will spread back into the wall.
Here is a photo of a deck that is of particular concern.

This is a traditional stucco … (10 comments)

ferndale: Aged Metal Plumbing Pipes, Bellingham WA Home Inspections - 12/18/12 10:55 PM
In the course of performing home inspections at older homes, along with knob and tube wiring, one of the most common issues that I find involves aged metal plumbing pipes. The old pipes commonly found in the Bellingham area and Whatcom County include cast iron, galvanized steel (drain and supply pipes) and even lead pipe at toilet drains.
Some clients wonder why the old pipes would even be considered a problem. The answer to that, based on when the materials were commonly installed, is that most old metal pipes are at, or beyond, estimated design life of 50 or so years. … (4 comments)

ferndale: The Home Inspector Does Not Pass or Fail Houses - 12/16/12 05:57 AM
 There is a misconception, among many people (including buyers and sellers), that we home inspectors "pass" or "fail" houses. That is not the case. Inspectors do not give letter grades A through F at any house.  

On the other hand, the home inspector will report the conditions that are present and visible.  For example, there are obvious problems at this building. A good inspector will describe those deficiencies in detail but he or she will not give the house a letter grade. 
The inspector's job is to provide pertinent information on the condition of the home.  It is the job of the client … (4 comments)

ferndale: Moisture Ant Infestation (King of the House) Bellingham Home Inspector - 09/30/12 05:42 AM
When sellers or agents hear that there is an ant infestation at a residence, the primary suspect will usually be one of the numerous species referred to as "carpenter ants." In the northwest, another common ant infestation involves "moisture ants."
These opportunistic insects, moisture ants and carpenter ants, do not eat wood but they mine wood to make residences. Carpenter ants are most likely to start tunneling in wet or damaged wood and they might move into sound materials. In the case of moisture ants, the insects are only attracted to soggy or decayed lumber. They will not mine sound … (2 comments)

ferndale: Frost-free Hose Bibbs (Bellingham Real Estate Inspections) - 08/23/12 03:11 AM
Frost-free hose bibbs are nifty devices.  For the most part, they end the worry about outside faucets freezing in winter. At least they do the job here in Whatcom County's maritime climate, where it never gets too frigid.
I have seen problems with the devices but that is, usually, due to a lack of common sense on the part of a homeowner or a builder. In the case of the homeowner, if hoses are left on the faucets during the winter, expect both the hoses and the faucets to freeze.  In some instances, if a builder has run a long supply … (5 comments)

Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) Rainmaker large

Steven L. Smith

Bellingham WA Home Inspector

Bellingham, WA

More about me…

King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.

Address: 1609 East Maplewood Ave, Bellingham, WA, 98225

Office: (360) 319-0038

Mobile: (360) 319-0038

Email Me

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, ASHI certified inspector #252760 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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