Month: July 2009

Break-away crotch

I do love disposable coveralls.  The crawlspaces that I frequent in Salem, Oregon seem to be places where critters relieve themselves and where they decide to die.  All of that feces, urine and dead carcasses add up to some pretty disgusting crawling and it can be challenging to bring my coveralls in the house after crawling through a litter box.

Overall the disposables are totally sufficient, especially after I belly crawl through one of those litter boxes that people call their crawlspace. All of the disposables however, have one fatal flaw:

The crotch.

I don’t know if they mean to build them with a “break away crotch” but being a home Inspector, that is not one of my requirements.


What to Expect when you’re Inspecting, Disclaimers

What to expect when you’re inspecting

You have gotten an offer accepted and scheduled with the best and brightest inspector in town.  Now it is time to check out his legal disclaimers.
Home inspectors as a rule do not accept liability.  It sounds funny, but in truth it is a defense against what we couldn’t see.  That means that home inspections are a visual snap shot.  We inspectors do our best to not miss anything but depending on the environment (read: boxes piled to the ceiling), the time of the year (hard to look at a roof under snow) or even a lazy or forgetful seller (they cover up stuff due to lack of proper knowledge) some things can be very hard if not impossible to see.
I frequently read about the poor couple that bought the turn-of-the-century home and had an inspection, only to find out later that the walls were full of rot and termites.  The media has a neat little way of tilting the story.  It is never mentioned that the finishes and accessible areas of the home showed no signs of damage in the walls under the windows.  It is never brought up that the window sills had been collecting water for close to a century before being repaired and they forget that the poor home owners learned about the damage only after they actually started destroying the home’s walls to do remodeling.
I frequently explain to my clients that I am an inspector that they are paying to spend 2 1/2 to 3 hours with them and I will do my darnedest to not miss anything significant but I will not buy them a new home if I do turn out to be a human being.  There is always the possibility for things to be going on under the surface but most of the time there will be indications of those things.
When I bought my first home, I was amazed at the home inspection.  The dude spent 45 minutes in my 1950’s fixer.  He did a very poor job and missed some major things.  In my previous post I suggested getting out their and shopping inspectors, something that I did not.  I let my agent schedule the inspection for me and I came away with a very bad taste in my mouth for the home inspection industry as a whole.  A little less than a year after that I heard about thermal imaging and home inspectors that were using it to help with a more in-depth education for their clients.  I knew that it would not be hard if my last inspector was the guy that was my competition!
That first home inspection experience ensures that I do my best inspecting every day for every client.  Even though my disclaimer says that, “…its not my fault and you agree..”  I try to make it a personal goal to not miss significant issues.
Of course every thing is negotiable.  I had clients recently ask me to adjust my disclaimer.  That is just fine but realize what you are getting for around $400.  If you expect a home inspector to suffer liability the price of the inspection must change.  If you increase liability you increase risk you increase price.  I am thinking around $5000 might justify my liability but on second thought I want to be a home inspector not a defendant, please go find yourself another inspector…

Salem Oregon Home Inspections

What to Expect when you’re Inspecting

What to expect when inspecting your Salem, Oregon Home

A fantastic local agent, my friend and web guru Melina w/ Tomson Burnham LLC had a great idea for a series titled: What to Expect when you’re Inspecting. Cute and clever and she said she would let me use it.

I figured I would start from the beginning of the home inspection process and go through it step by step.

Get it scheduled

So first things first: you just received notice of an accepted offer and you have a certain amount of time to get all of the applicable inspections and make negotiations. If you are working with a good agent they will give you some names of home inspectors that they know do a good job. Check these guys/ladies out. Check their website, read their blog, and give them a call. Learn about their experiences and what makes them better than the other inspectors. Talk to them about your new home. Find out how they communicate. I wish I would have done this when I bought my first home. The guy I hired to do my home inspection gave me a lot of grumbles and, what I now call the “home inspector shrugs.” A home inspection is not like a loan. With a loan, the numbers are what you need to focus on. Everyone plays with the same numbers. A home inspection is a very personal thing and for the same number (price) home inspections can range from a gobbledy gook mess of check boxes and confusion to a clear concise description of the repair and maintenance issues with your new home and can actually be future user’s manual. Beside the report, how is the inspector at educating you. If the inspector grunts, shrugs a lot but you saved $50….maybe that isn’t the best place to save a couple bucks.

Once you have found your favorite inspector and you have confirmation on your deal you should get on the internet and book yourself an inspection. Most of the time buyers negotiate a 10 business day window however if you find yourself dealing with the bank you might only get 5 calendar days to get your inspections. If you are hoping for a really great inspector during the summer months and you only have 5 days…….good luck. 10 business days gives you two calendar weeks and should be enough to get your all of your inspections done but you need to start immediately if not before your offer is accepted. I have been at least a calendar week out since April and I have had to do my share of referrals to other good, but not as good, home inspectors in the Salem Oregon area.

So you need to make a choice, really good in-demand inspector or mister inspector guy that can fit me in tomorrow. It is up to you and who knows, that short notice guy might just do a good job for you.

Heating Oil Tank Program in Oregon

Oil tanks were very common between the 1920s and 1960s to store the relatively cheap heating oil for the oil furnace. If the home has exchanged hands a few times a hidden underground tank may not be known about. The presence of hidden underground oil tanks is an issue that can rear its ugly head on a home inspection every now and then. Thankfully the Oregon DEQ is doing something to help.

The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) here in Oregon, has a program to help keep track of those oil tanks that may have been forgotten.

The site is:

There is a trick to using the search engine however: You must just enter the address number only!!

If you enter the street name it will not work.

If excavation or redevelopment is planned you can find information on known and suspected Heating Oil Tanks (HOT). Information on: if the site has received a closure letter for the decommissioning, assessment and certification of a HOT is available.

If a HOT is present there may be contamination of the surrounding area and a cleanup may be required. Decommissioning, assessment, and cleanup must be performed by a DEQ licensed HOT Service Provider.

For you agents out there check out this publication: What agents should know about underground oil tanks.

I posted this information a few months back and the links were not functional (my own mistake for not checking for myself). But last week I actually found two little copper line in the crawlspace on a home in Silverton. These lines are a great indicator of underground storage tanks so I raised a bright orange flag and alerted my client. The home had been owned by 4 different people in the last 20 years and the current owner had the home for the last 6 months. There was very little chance the current owner had a clue about oil tanks and whether proper decommissioning had occurred.

So I tried the search myself and by entering the address numbers but not the street name found documentation that the tank had leaked and had been removed and cleaned up in 2003! That is info that can now be linked to the home no matter who owns it.

Kill your heating system one month at a time

How great it feels to take a deep breath. To feel the stretch of the lungs as they fill with air. It is refreshing and satisfying.


A little dramatic, I admit but it is very similar to how your furnace feels. Most forced air systems use a big fan to suck air in and push that air over a heat exchanging device and then blow that newly conditioned air throughout the home. The thermostat, usually located centrally in the home, calls for heat the furnace starts heating up. When the brains of the furnace decide the heat exchanging area has heated up enough the fan turns on. It is now the fan’s job to pass air over the heated area and blow that heated air throughout the home.

It is my job to look at furnaces and filters every day and as a general rule: people change their furnace filter when they move in and when they move out. When the filter is dirty the fan is forced to work much harder. Less air is moving over the heat exchanger so more energy is used. This also shortens the life of the entire unit.

Change your filters at least every 30 days in the cooling cycle and 60 days in the heating cycle at least. It will save you money on energy, extend the life of your system and give your poor furnace a welcome breath of fresh air.

Kickout Flashing

Kick-out flashing is an important and misunderstood type of flashing for today’s tight building systems.  The guys at InterNACHI wrote a great article on the finer points of Kick-out flashing and its importance:

By Nick Gromicko, Rob London and Kenton Shepard

Kickout flashing, also known as diverter flashing, is a special type of flashing that diverts rainwater away from the cladding and into the gutter. When installed properly, they provide excellent protection against the penetration of water into the building envelope. Several factors can lead to rainwater intrusion, but a missing kickout flashing, in particular, often results in concentrated areas of water accumulation and potentially severe damage to exterior wakick-out-flashinglls.

Inspectors should make sure that kickouts are present where they are needed and that they are installed correctly. Water penetration into the cladding can occasionally be observed on the exterior wall in the form of vertical water stains, although inspectors should not rely on visual identification. There may be severe damage with little or no visible evidence.

Inspectors may observe the following problems associated with kickout flashing:

The kickout was never installed.

•The need for kickout flashing developed fairly recently and the builder may not have been aware that one was required. The increased amount of insulation and building wrap that is used in modern construction makes buildings less breathable and more likely to sustain water damage. Kickout flashing prevents rainwater from being absorbed into the wall and is more essential than ever.

The following are locations where kickout flashing is critical:

•anywhere a roof and exterior wall intersect, where the wall continues past the lower roof-edge and gutter. If a kickout flashing is absent in this location, large amounts of water may miss the gutter, penetrate the siding, and become trapped inside the wall; and

•where gutters terminate at the side of a chimney. The kickout was improperly installed.

•The bottom seam of the flashing must be watertight. If it is not, water will leak through the seam and may penetrate the cladding. missing-kick-out-flashing

•The angle of the diverter should never be less than 110 degrees. The kick-out was modified by the homeowner.

•Homeowners who do not understand the importance of kickouts may choose to alter them because they are unsightly. A common way this is done is to shorten their height to less than the standard six inches (although some manufacturers permit four inches), which will greatly reduce their effectiveness. Kickout flashings should be the same height as the side wall flashings.

•Homeowners may also make kickout flashings less conspicuous by cutting them flush with the wall. In summary, kickout flashing should be present and properly installed in order to direct rainwater away from the cladding.

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