What’s Your Grading Grade?

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Spring is a great time to grade the grading of your house. Give yourself an “A” if the soil around your foundation is sloped away from the house at least 6 inches in the first 10 feet, with 3 to 4 inches in the first 5 feet on all sides.

Give yourself a “B” if you have any low spots at all around the foundation. These low spots many times are near inside foundation corners and near where utilities enter the house. Make sure to look under bushes and other landscaping, too.

Give yourself a “C” if the grading is at or near level around a significant portion of the foundation. If you have a yard that slopes toward the house and water pools at or near the foundation with wet, spongy ground in the vicinity of the foundation, give yourself a “D.” If you have moisture in your basement or crawl space, especially during rainstorms, and water stains on the interior side of the foundation walls, then you get an “F.”

Any time excess moisture is present around a foundation, the potential for foundation problems increases. The water itself creates what is called hydraulic pressure, which presses the foundation walls inward and can lead to cracks, settlement and shifting of the foundation. If left unchecked, this can ultimately cause structural failure and cost many thousands of dollars to repair. If you live in area with expansive soils, such as the Midwest, the effects tend to happen much faster. Ongoing moisture issues can also lead to mold, insect infestation and rot within the structure — all of which are expensive to repair.

In many cases, the proper grade can be achieved by simply adding soil around the foundation to slope the grade away from the house. Forty-pound bags of topsoil can be purchased at home improvement centers for about $1.50 for small projects, or you can have a truck load of topsoil delivered. Be advised that both soils are pulverized and will settle and compact a significant amount, so be sure to by extra. On large jobs or jobs that require extensive regrading, it may be best to hire professional. In the long run, this will be less expensive than repairing a foundation.

Remember to leave at least 2 to 3 inches of space between the soil and the top of the foundation or the bottom of the siding. This will prevent moisture from wicking into the siding and help limit insects from entering the structure. Adding downspout extensions and/or splash blocks is also a good idea to help move water away from the foundation. If you have a sump pump, make sure that it, too, is discharged well away from the foundation.

By Scott Ward, NPI Franchise Owner, Southern Johnson County, Kansas

Common Defects in Newly Built Homes

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When it comes to new-home construction, there really is no limit as to what can go wrong or not be done correctly during building. Defects are common; in fact, it has been said that a home inspector can sometimes find more things wrong with a newly constructed home than an existing home. This is why it’s important to always have a home inspection when buying a house — even if the house is newly built.

You might wonder what kinds of defects a new house could possibly have. Here is a list of problems home inspectors often find:

Structural Defects
Premature cracking and settlement in foundation walls can be caused when builders don’t allow the proper amount of curing time for concrete in poured and block foundation walls and slabs. In addition, improper framing techniques — which may not be apparent at first — can cause cracks to develop in drywall. These are typically hairline in nature.

HVAC Problems
Our inspectors occasionally discover that the vent pipe from a gas-fired furnace has not been connected and has come loose during the initial operation. This is a major safety hazard, as carbon monoxide may enter the residence. In one situation, the PVC pipes used to vent a gas-fired furnace were not properly glued together. In addition, our inspectors sometimes find thermostats that do not respond to normal functions. Another common problem is missing drip legs on condensate lines.

Electrical Errors
The list is long for typical electrical problems, and most would not be obvious to the average home buyer or owner. The problem with defects in your home’s electrical system is that most are a fire and/or safety hazard. Here are the most common electrical problems our inspectors find in new houses:

  • Missing switch plates or receptacle covers
  • Improperly wired outlets
  • Open grounds — ground wire is not connected properly
  • Reversed polarity
  • Open knock-outs in the main electrical panel
  • Improper wire sizes on breakers
  • Double-taps on breakers in main panels — when two wires connect to a single breaker
    Jumpers ahead of the main lugs (double-tapping) — when two wires connect to a single lug

Plumbing Blunders
Plumbing problems are something you certainly don’t want in a new house. Leaks can cause major damage and mold issues, while other defects are more of a nuisance. But shouldn’t your brand-new home be free of nuisances? Here are some of the most common plumbing issues:

  • Unglued or improperly glued PVC pipe connections frequently develop leaks — you may never know about the weak joint until standing water begins to seep through
  • Hot/cold reversed faucets and fixtures
  • Bathroom sink drain stoppers that were not connected
  • Improperly vented plumbing systems may be noisy and/or smelly
  • Drain pipes that were not connected (One of our inspectors really did find a drain pipe in a crawl space that was never connected)

Miscellaneous Mistakes
Believe it or not, our inspectors have found all of the following problems in newly constructed houses:

  • Incomplete door hardware on closet doors, cabinetry and entrance doors
  • Improper fire-rated assemblies for pull-down attic stairs
  • Missing handrails on stairs
  • Missing or insufficient insulation
  • Leaky windows
  • Siding defects
  • Improper grading, which could lead to water intrusion and foundation damage

What these defects tell us is that if you are moving into a newly built house, don’t skip the home inspection. Even the best builders in your area use subcontractors, so you can’t assume that everything in your house is top-quality just because you builder is. Plus, you have to allow for human error, which is how many of the problems mentioned here happen. So, even if you just had your house built, it’s worth the cost of a home inspection to ensure that everything was done correctly, and that your new home will be safe and worry-free.

By Randy Yates, Training Consultant Administrator, NPI/GPI Corporate

Should You Be Concerned About Radon?

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Radon is a radioactive gas that is slowly released during the natural decay or breakdown of uranium in the earth, and it moves freely though any soil, rock and water. Because it is the heaviest gas in nature, radon can easily accumulate in high levels in the basement or poorly ventilated areas of a house or building.

Why Is Radon Dangerous?

As radon decays, it further breaks down to form radioactive elements that can be inhaled into the lungs, where they can damage the cells that line the lung, causing lung cancer.

Health Canada reports that radon exposure is linked to 16 percent of lung cancer deaths and is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. In Nova Scotia, the Department of Natural Resources has developed an amazing radon risk map; you can enter your physical address and it will show whether you are in a low-, medium- or high-risk area. In the United States, you can find a radon zone map on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) website.

How Much Radon Is Too Much?

In North America, radon test results have shown that 40 percent of buildings in high-risk areas exceed Health Canada and EPA guidelines; however, even homes in low-risk areas should be tested, as this is the only way to know how much radon is in your home.

In Canada, radon is measured in Becquerels per cubic meter (Bq/m3), and the current Canadian guideline for radon action is 200 Bq/m3. In the United States, radon is measured in picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L), and the current guideline for remediation is any level higher than 4 pCi/L. In both countries, the higher the number, the higher the risk. However, even the current action level is equivalent to the radiation exposure from 30 medical chest x-rays per year (assuming radon exposure at home for 12 hours per day).

Radon levels can vary over time and especially from season to season, which is why home owners should conduct radon testing over a duration of 91 days or longer to properly determine radon levels and better understand whether remedial action will be required.

For the average home owner, a simple do-it-yourself radon testing kit can be ordered online or purchased in a hardware or home improvement store.

Should You Test Your House for Radon?

When it comes to buying or selling a house, a long-term test is considered unrealistic, so a short-term test of lasting 48 to 72 hours should be performed. Make sure you hire a certified radon inspector who has been specifically trained to an industry-recognized standard of practice and are held accountable for working to established radon testing guidelines. Your home inspector may be a certified radon tester; if not, he/she can recommend a professional to conduct the test for you.

By Lawrence Englehart, GPI Franchise Owner, Halifax, Nova Scotia

January 2019: Happy New Year

Ask The Inspector

Ask The Inspector

Add Value to Your Home with These Improvements

You probably have a long list of remodeling projects you want to get around to, and sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. We’ve compiled the four best home upgrades that will put the most money in your pocket when it comes time to sell. Learn more

How to Survive Winter: 7 Genius Snow Hacks

Snow is stressful, but just because it’s the dead of winter doesn’t mean you should be left out in the cold. We’re here to make it easier with these seven brilliant snow hacks you can add to your winter routine right now. Learn more

Expert Advice

Expert Advice

How to Remove Salt Stains the Easy Way

If pesky salt stains are getting in the way of keeping your floors sparkling, you’ll want in on this secret: vinegar. Find out how this inexpensive household staple can help you get rid of winter salt stains in a flash. Learn more

How to Remove Static from Your Home

It’s that time of year again. . .you can’t walk across a room without feeling an irritating little zap.  Read on to learn about a few easy solutions for removing static from your home and your person. Learn more

DIY Countertop Repair for Scratches and Scuffs

If you cook a lot, chances are your countertops have seen better days. Every scratch and chip tells a story, from that pan you dropped to the knife that slipped. The good news is that there are some simple countertop repairs you can do yourself to make your counters look like new and save some money in the process. Learn more

Snapshots From The Field

Most of us have dreamt of having our very own indoor pool at one point or another. Many determined homeowners are willing to DIY their way there, no matter what it takes. So what’s wrong with this picture?

Snapshots from the field

Answer: it’s hard to know where to start! This 45,000-gallon aboveground pool was installed in a home by the owner. Though he didn’t get a permit, he had a lot of things technically “right.” Lights are rated for a wet environment, an exhaust fan helps keep humidity levels at bay and the pool’s surroundings are perfectly dry. What makes installing an indoor aboveground pool so problematic is the risk.

In addition to humidity from a pool potentially wrecking your home’s foundation, the humidity can also wreak havoc on the rest of your home—even all the way up to the attic! And it doesn’t stop at just water. A pool’s chemicals can slowly erode a foundation and cause metal corrosion over time. Though the lights check out for a wet environment in this case, the electrical outlets aren’t protected, leading to risk of electrocution and injury. And we’ll go ahead and throw out the obvious, too: if this pool fails in any way, it could lead to flooding, severe water damage and/or a collapsed floor.

Take it from us: as tempting as it is to swim indoors all year round, installing an aboveground pool in your home is simply not worth it!

Maintenance Matters

Maintenance Matters

Your Crash Course in Dryer Vent Cleaning

It’s hard to believe that your home’s dryer vent is also one of its most dangerous fire hazards. Luckily, preventing safety issues is easy as long as you keep the area free of debris. Learn more

The Best Electrical Outlets for Your Needs

As long as they’re functioning properly, electrical outlets are something most of us don’t even think about. But believe it or not, certain outlets are better for certain purposes. Find out how to protect your home and connect to all your devices with this quick outlet guide. Learn more

 

5 Ways to Know if You Need a Gutter Replacement

Healthy gutters are an integral part of any home. With winter in full force and spring on the way, gutters become more important than ever for keeping your house free of water damage. Look for these five telltale signs to determine if it’s time for a replacement. Learn more

 

Monthly Trivia Question

Question: How many times a year should you swap out your thermostat’s batteries?

Be the first to answer correctly and win a $10 Starbucks’s gift card. Submit your answer to NPI inspector to find out if you’ve won.

Drafty Windows? We Have Help

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There is a chill in the air, the North Wind has an extra bite and a draft is coming through the windows. What can you do?

First, open and close the window and look for any torn or missing weather-stripping on the sash. Make sure the window lock is adjusted properly to close the window tight against the weather-stripping. If there are storm windows, make sure they are shut and latched properly.

Next try to determine where the air is coming in. Make sure all of the windows are closed. Make sure window coverings are held away from the glass and will not ignite. Light a candle and hold the flame near each window, fairly close to the window at the seam between the widow frame and the sash. Move the candlestick slowly around the frame and the sash, pausing to allow the flame to steady. If the flame bends or flickers while in the pause mode, then there is probably a leak, mark the area with a piece of tape or a sticky note and continue around that window and the others in the home and mark any suspect area.

Once you have identified the problem areas and drafts, you need to seal them up. Some methods can be completed by the homeowner; other, more complicated methods of repairs may be best left to a contractor.

  • Weather-stripping can be purchased at a hardware store or home center. Different products are available, most commonly plastic, felt, foam or metal. These materials can be cut and pressed into the gaps between the frame and the sash, or installed on the frame and pressed against the sash to create a good seal.
  • Caulking is usually installed on the exterior, so this is a task for warmer weather. Caulking can be applied where the trim meets the window frame and where the trim meets the wall covering. If old, deteriorating caulking is in place, remove it by scoring the caulk where it meets the trim and the frame, and remove it with a putty knife or chisel. Make sure to clean the area well with a brush before applying new caulking. A good exterior latex caulk may be preferred for ease of application and cleanup, this type of caulking is usually paintable if the caulk does not match the window or if you wish to paint the window in the future. Be sure to follow the installation instructions on the tube of caulking for proper installation.
  • Insulating film. If the window will not be opened during the winter months, then a layer of shrink film can be applied to the window. The film is usually applied to the window using double-sided tape. The window trim should be clean so the tape will stick properly, then apply the tape and film as directed in the instructions. This film is usually removed in the spring and summer months so the windows can be opened.
  • Replacement windows. This is usually an expensive venture, but in most cases the cost of the replacement is at least partially recouped in the sale of the home. Until the home is sold, you still have the benefit of fewer or no drafts and lower energy bills. Proper installation and insulation is important when replacing windows.

Several options are available to reduce drafts, and your local utility companies may offer energy audits and recommendations for weatherization contractors to help limit the amount of energy lost by drafty windows.

Submitted by Kenn Garder, Technical Support, NPI/GPI Corporate

Two-Prong Outlets Vs. Three-Prong Outlets: Does It Matter?

Ever wonder why the older electrical receptacles have only two slots, and don’t have the hole below the slots to allow three prongs? Think they can just be switched out? Sometimes they can, but other times that would be a potentially dangerous mistake.

Understanding the implications of two prongs or three can be one of the more bewildering situations a home buyer has to deal with.

Let’s review a little of the history of residential wiring to see how this came about. Knob-and-tube (KNT) wiring was phased out in the 1930s, as both nonmetallic sheathed cable (NM for short, commonly referred to as Romex) and armored cable (AC, commonly referred to as BX) became prevalent. Until the early 1960s, most NM and AC cable for residential use did not have a grounding conductor. The two-prong receptacles normally used until this time have only a “neutral” slot, and a smaller “hot” slot, without the additional hole below for the ground. As houses were wired with the grounding conductor starting in the early 1960s, three-prong receptacles were generally installed.

Why should an electrical receptacle be grounded? The lack of a ground path could lead to getting an electrical shock. If there were a short circuit, then an ungrounded metal object could become energized, and the circuit breaker would not trip. The ground protects you from getting a shock, as it directs a large amount of current back to the circuit breaker, causing the breaker to trip.

A properly wired three-prong receptacle is both more convenient and safer than an ungrounded two-prong, so how and when can they be switched? If a house is wired with BX without the ground wire but metal boxes, then the metal armor and box will still generally be grounded. A three-prong receptacle can be grounded to the box with a grounding wire.

It is more complicated, and normally not worth the trouble to install a three prong receptacle when the wiring is Romex cable without the ground wire. That would require running a separate ground wire or a completely new cable with ground wire.

Often the solution is to install GFCI circuit breakers and three-prong receptacles, or, what is more commonly done, to replace the two prong receptacles with GFCI receptacles. The receptacles should be labeled “No Equipment Ground”. These labels come in the box when purchasing GFCI.

The GFCI function is not the same as grounding, but in most cases, it is even safer. GFCI outlets and breakers trip, disconnecting the circuit when it detects leakage current that the electric current is not balanced between the energized conductor and the return neutral conductor. And it trips quicker than a regular circuit breaker.

Unfortunately, too many homeowners and contractors, either through ignorance or to save money, have taken the easy solution, by simply replacing the two-prong receptacle with the three-prong. And some have even gone a step further: They create a “bootleg” or false ground by making a connection between the ground and neutral on a receptacle. This is not detectable with a simple receptacle tester used by most inspectors. If it is suspected, then there is more sophisticated equipment, although the simple solution is to remove the electric plate and check whether the wire was added between the neutral and ground screws on the receptacle.

Submitted by Ken Roleke, NPI Franchise Owner, Tucson, Arizona

How to Remove a Popcorn Ceiling

Popcorn ceilings are just one of those things. Some of us barely notice them, while others put them in the same category as fake wood paneling when it comes to outdatedness. If you’re of the latter opinion, the good news is that you don’t have to live with your popcorn ceilings forever. While it can be a pretty messy task, you can still remove all that texture with a little DIY know-how.

When in doubt, check for asbestos!

For any popcorn ceiling installed before 1980, you run the risk of dealing with asbestos, a common cause of lung cancer. You can purchase a testing kit for around $50 and send a small sample of scrapings to a lab for definitive results. Be sure to follow the directions in your kit carefully. Even a small scraping can introduce a good number of (potential) asbestos particles to the air.

You can also hire a local professional asbestos testing service. This can be considerably more expensive, but quite a bit more comprehensive since they’ll test multiple areas, air quality and more. If your home was built long before 1980 and you’re not sure of its renovation history, a professional test is well worth it for the peace of mind.

If your test does come back positive for asbestos, your popcorn ceiling project will need to be put on hold. You can hire a professional removal team or cover your ceiling with tongue-and-groove planks or new drywall. With a cover-up, you’ll be looking at a painting-only project instead of a scraping-then-painting one.

Prepare your space for a rather large mess.

We’re not going to beat around the bush: removing a popcorn ceiling can turn your space into a gloppy mess in minutes. You’ll want to invest in drop cloths . . . lots of drop cloths. The plastic variety is best because you can scrunch it up, trapping the mess inside, and just throw it away. Cover rugs and carpets and hang drop cloths in doorways, making sure they reach the floor.

It’s best to remove any furniture from the space you’ll be working in. If that isn’t possible, you’ll want to group it together in one area of the room and be sure it’s completely covered with drop cloths. You can move your furniture cluster around the room as needed while you work in different areas.

Prepare yourself.

Did we mention that removing a popcorn ceiling is a messy job? Wear old clothes and shoes. If your skin is sensitive, you may want to wear clothing that covers your arms and legs—you’re almost guaranteed to be up to your elbows in damp white gunk once the scraping begins. You’ll also need to have a dust mask that securely covers your nose and mouth on hand for the sanding phase.

Remove light fixtures and ceiling fans, protect light cans and cover electrical boxes.

Trust us, you won’t want to skip these prep steps. Taking the time to cover or remove anything on your ceiling will help you avoid needing replacements in the long-run when the wet popcorn inevitably starts flying. You’ll need to remove light fixtures and ceiling fans, and stuff newspaper or rosin paper in any light cans. You’ll also need to make sure you turn off the circuit breaker or fuse box connected to those lights. If there are any electrical boxes in the ceiling, you need to cover those as well. Use painter’s tape to keep the wiring dry.

Mist the ceiling with a pump sprayer.

To eliminate most of the dust that would get kicked up from scraping popcorn dry, you’ll first mist a four foot by four foot area of the ceiling with water. An inexpensive pump sprayer from the gardening department of your local hardware store will work nicely. Only mist lightly—you don’t want to oversaturate—then let it soak for about 15 minutes before you proceed with scraping. By this time, the texture should have softened. If it hasn’t softened yet, you’re probably dealing with a painted ceiling. Doing a little dry-scraping first can help the water penetrate more effectively.

Start scraping.

Remember to wet the next section you plan to work in right before you start scraping the one you’ve been waiting to work with. This will help you get into a rhythm and work faster. Working in the small section you’ve misted with water, start scraping. You can hold a mud pan up to catch much of the wet popcorn before it hits the floor. The edge of the pan is also handy for cleaning your scraper when it gets covered.

Sand the ceiling to prep for painting.

Your last step is going to be to sand the ceiling so that you have a smooth surface for paint application. You also may have small gouges or dings to fill in. And that’s it!

Call National Property Inspections today to schedule your inspection.

Our inspectors have the expertise to access all of your home’s major systems. Call us to order an inspection and receive your full report.

Prevent Injuries by Practicing Ladder Safety

 

Inspector on Ladder

A Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) report on ladder safety showed some startling statistics concerning the frequency and severity of ladder-related accidents in the United States. Every year thousands of people are injured and hundreds are killed. By understanding the causes of ladder accidents the vast majority could be prevented.

  • More than 90,000 people receive emergency room treatment from ladder-related injuries every year
  • Elevated falls account for almost 700 occupational deaths annually
  • These deaths account for 15 percent of all occupational deaths
  • OSHA believes that 100 percent of all ladder accidents could be prevented if proper attention to equipment and climber training were provided
  • Over the last 10 years, the number of ladder-related injuries has increased 50 percent
  • According the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 50 percent of all ladder-related accidents were due to individuals carrying items as they climbed
  • The most common type of ladder-related injury, with 32 percen, is fractures

Ladder accidents are extremely common even though they are entirely preventable. Ladder accidents can occur as a result of a wide variety of issues, but the following four causes account for the vast majority. If these simple loss-prevention tips for each cause are followed, then ladder accidents could almost be eliminated.

1. Selecting the Wrong Type of Ladder

Each ladder is designed to support a maximum weight limit, and if the climber exceeds that limit, the ladder could break and cause the user to fall or become injured. There are three basic types of ladders:

  • Type III — Household, light duty, load capacity of 200 lbs.
  • Type II — Commercial, medium duty, load capacity of 225 lbs.
  • Type I — Industrial, heavy-duty, load capacity of 250 lbs.
  • For extra-heavy duty work, such as roofing and construction, there is the Type IA with a 300-lb. rating. The strongest type of ladder is the Type IIA (holding 375 lbs.) for special duty, such as heavy industrial construction work.

2. Using Worn or Damaged Ladders

Another common contributing factor to ladder accidents is the use of old, worn or damaged ladders. Thoroughly inspect each ladder before using it. If any damage is found, do not use the ladder until it has been safely repaired to the manufacturer’s specifications or it has been replaced.

3. Incorrect Use of Ladders

Human error is by far the leading cause of ladder accidents. Never use a ladder in any other way than what the manufacturer intended it to be used for. Important use tips include the following:

  • Do not lengthen or alter a ladder in any way.
  • Maintain three points of contact (feet and hands) at all times.
  • Wear slip-resistant shoes.
  • Do not carry anything while climbing a ladder.
  • No more than one person on ladder at a time.
  • Always face the ladder when ascending or descending.
  • Do not climb higher than the third rung on extension ladders or the second rung on stepladders.
  • Never try to move a ladder while standing on it.

4. Incorrect Placement of Ladders

Follow these tips for correct placement of ladders.

  • Place the ladder on level and firm ground.
  • Ladders should never be placed in front of a door that is not locked, blocked or guarded.
  • If possible, have a helper support the base while using a ladder.
  • The feet of the ladder can be staked if you are using a ladder outside and no one is available to support the feet of the ladder.
  • Do not use a ladder that is too short for the necessary height.
  • Do not place the ladder on something to extend its reach.
  • Use a 1:4 ratio in placement of the ladder: Place the ladder base 1 ft away from the surface it is leaning against for every 4 ft of height to the point where the ladder contacts at the top.

By Jon McCreath, NPI Franchise Owner, Emerson, Georgia

How Should a Seller Prepare for a Home Inspection?

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This is an excellent question to ask, as I’ve actually seen too many houses that were not ready for a home inspection, and unfortunately, this did have a negative effect on the sale of those properties. Most Realtors will advise you that preparing for a home inspection is very similar to when you prepared your home for its first viewing or for an open house. It is best to have the property neat and tidy, and if necessary, with keys labelled and available for any locked access. It is also advisable to provide a safe place for your pets. This may mean a sturdy, appropriately sized kennel in the home, or it can mean taking the pet to a friend or relative they are comfortable with until things are more settled. Please remember, a home inspector will need to view both the interior and exterior of the home, so simply putting pets in an open yard is not enough.

As a seller, you should be aware that most professional home inspectors tend to arrive about 15 to 30 minutes earlier than the scheduled home inspection appointment. This gives the home inspector the opportunity to inspect the exterior of the home, while waiting for the client and the Realtor to arrive. To that end, I’d suggest leaving the home at least 30 minutes prior to the booked time.

Having everything ready on the day of inspection can prevent unnecessary delays. Unfortunately, for liability reasons, the home inspector is not required, nor advised, to move items blocking access to areas that need to be inspected. Additionally, for liability reason, they are not required to operate any system or component that has been shut down, and this may include any shut-off valves or even tripped breakers in the electrical panel. The home inspector does not have enough information to know why a particular system has been shut down and if they were to reactivate it, it could potentially put your house, the component or a system at risk.

If possible, you should consider leaving a written list, plus receipts that could answer typical maintenance-related questions from the buyer and the home inspector. As an example, can you provide information about the age of the roof, heating system, recent upgrades, etc. and are there any transferrable warranties?

To make the process as smooth as possible, you should verify the following:

  • All utilities are on.
  • Attic access doors are clear of clothing or stored items. Access may be in a closet, hallway or garage.
  • Crawl-space entrances are not blocked or nailed in place.
  • Water meter and main water line are accessible.
  • Water heater and surrounding area are accessible.
  • Furnace and surrounding area are accessible.
  • Air conditioning/heat pump units and surrounding area are accessible.
  • Electrical panels are accessible and not locked.
  • Electrical subpanels are accessible.
  • Decorative items from doors and windows are removed (including sun catchers, plants, etc.).
  • Kitchen countertops are clear.
  • Foundation walls, especially the corners of the basement are clear of stored items.
  • The garage overhead and service doors are clear of items.
  • Be sure all exterior doors are accessible
  • Remove any locks on outside gates, which prevent full access to the exterior.

As a general rule of thumb, the home inspector will need at about three feet of workspace in order to safely access electrical panels, heating systems, HRV, etc. So, please remove boxes, stored items and debris from these areas.

Submitted by Lawrence Englehart, GPI Franchise Owner, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Top Five Problems Revealed During a Home Inspection

Purchasing a house is a major decision, and a home inspection report can be used to assist in the decision-making process. Here are some of the more common issues found during a home inspection.

 

Poor Grading and Drainage

Water should run away from any structure to help prevent moisture intrusion. If the soil around a house slopes toward the house, or if water pools around the perimeter of the foundation, that moisture can create hydronic pressure in the soil that can move the foundation, causing cracks and leaks that can lead to extensive damage and expensive repairs. If water wicks into the wood framing members, the wood will rot over time. This moisture also provides a haven for wood-destroying organisms (WDO) because it provides a water and food source.

Erosion around the perimeter of a house may be caused by water spilling over gutters due to clogged downspouts or downspouts that terminate near the foundation. Downspout extensions or spill ways can be installed to keep water away from the foundation.

Roof Coverings

The roof of a house is designed to withstand most of what Mother Nature can dish out, whether it be rain, wind or sun. If installed properly, the roof should keep water out of the home.

The life expectancy for roof coverings varies depending on the material. Asphalt composite shingles, for instance, typically have a life expectancy of 15 to 25 years. As the roof covering ages, it can become more susceptible to water infiltration and leaking.

Plumbing Problems

Notice a theme here? Controlling water is one of the most important issues in home maintenance.

Leaking supply water and drain lines can cause damage to walls and floors, or they can become the water source for mold and mildew. Outdated (galvanized) or problematic systems (polybutylene) can develop leaks more frequently. Wax rings under toilets can develop leaks and damage the floor around the toilet or the ceiling below.

Electrical Issues

House fires caused by faulty wiring and overloading circuits are common. It is not unusual for a home inspector find evidence of DIY additions to a home’s electrical system. Many times these additions work but were not done properly, causing safety issues.

Exposed wire connections and double taps in the panel are also common problems. If your home inspector finds these or other electrical issues, he/she will recommend that you have the system evaluated and repaired by a qualified licensed electrician

HVAC Havoc

Inadequate maintenance of the HVAC equipment is common. Dirty condenser coils on the air conditioner condenser unit and dirty furnace filters can lead to major repairs. The equipment may be at or near its life expectancy and need to be replaced. Gas-fired furnaces may not burn properly.

With proper maintenance, an HVAC system can continue to heat and cool the house, but many times heating and cooling systems are “out of sight out of mind.”

This is a sampling of typical issues found during a home inspection. These items may vary depending on the geographical location of the property and the overall maintenance of the property.

By Kenn Garder, National Accounts Manager and Technical Support, NPI/GPI

Content originally published in February of 2016.