Author: salemoregonhomeinspector

About salemoregonhomeinspector

I have been in construction for years and in 2004 I heard about thermal imaging and how it was revolutionizing home inspections. I now enjoy my job very much and I love to help home buyers and sellers protect themselves and learn all about the home that they are buying or selling. I live and work around Salem, Oregon and I am doing my best to be an authority on home inspections, Mold, Pest and dry rot, and Thermal inspections.

Internet House Research

When looking at a house to buy there may be several things that can be learned while in the comfort of your own home.

I use the web to start the inspection process when the appointment is booked.  I can usually determine the age of the house which will tell me things like where the mechanical systems will be (water heater, furnace, electrical panel(s)), where the attic and crawlspace accesses are located.  Here is my process:

  1. First, I just do a general search on the address. This will bring up the real-estate-based pages like Zillow, Redfin,, Trulia, and any real estate companies that have had the property as a listing.  Most of these sites have the same information because they all grab the same info from the local listing service, but it doesn’t hurt to check them all out. There may be old photos from a previous listing that can give you some history of repairs/remodeling and sometimes agents will enter more information about the house on their own site than they enter on the MLS site.  This can be not-so-valuable when a listing agent does not do a good job of entering information, but if the listing agent does a thorough job of entering the info about the house there is quite a bit of info to be gathered.
    1. Year built: This is an important step because building styles and materials have followed patterns and almost everyone was building similar very houses with similar materials at any given time. Of course, there are special houses but if you are looking at the majority of what was built in a year range most houses will have similar features.  Such as: LP siding in the mid ‘80’s’80s to early ‘90’s’90s in the PNW. Crawlspace accesses were outside before the 1970s. ‘90’s’90s or newer two-story houses- crawlspace access will be under the stairs on the first floor and the attic access will be in the master bedroom closet. Electrical panels from the 1970s until now are mostly in the garage. The list goes on, but you get the idea. Here is a presentation on Age-Based Inspections.
    2. Pictures:  From my limited research of real estate in other areas I have found that, in this part of the world (west side of Oregon), real estate agents do a very good job at listing photos.  With a bunch of wide-angle and close-up shots you can learn a lot about a house. (Just keep in mind: wide angle lenses can make spaces look WAY bigger than they actually are. Sometimes the listing photos can be a bit misleading) 
    3. The area around the house: How does the driveway look? Does it slope toward the garage? What about plants and large trees? Although plants can be nice, they can also cause damage if they are touching, especially large trees touching the roof.  What does the yard look like? Will you need to be anticipating deck or fence repair? (The answer is YES, if it has a wooden deck and/or fence) How about the roof and entire lot? Aerial pictures? 

Here you can see the “meeting rails” where this triple-wide manufactured house came together.  Although it was not called a manufactured house in the listing, we can now be certain of the fact that it is a manufactured house and will be looking for other things like: how are the deck and garage attached to the building (hopefully they are not!) (update after the inspection: the garage was attached to the building and will require some serious rebuilding to repair the engineering!) and polybutylene plumbing if it was built in the ‘90’s’90s which it was. (update: it had PB plumbing!).

  1. Inside pictures:  Is there wear and tear on the walls, doors, floors, cabinets, counters?  Carpet in bathrooms? Skylights?  These pictures are not usually very helpful because no one wants to take a picture of an issue or a worn out system but sometimes some things can be spotted if you look close enough.
  2. General maintenance info:
    1. Does the house have a septic or sewer system? These components should always be camera inspected. Just get mentally prepared for this, we haven’t bought this house yet, we are still researching.
    2. City water or well?   Again, this is just a get-ready thing.  If it has a well there will be pumps, tanks, piping and wiring that will be your responsibility. If it has city water there is not too much to worry about with that system.
    3. Property tax estimate?  It might be good to know what those taxes will be!
    4. Homeowners’ association?  If there is an association, you should get some minutes from meetings or a copy of the by-laws.  Some associations can be over the top. I have heard of association reps measuring grass length with rulers to ensure compliance! These will be all things that can be important issues that should be further researched.
  3. Next, check out mapping services.  Google maps and Bing
    1. Satellite photos can give an idea of how close the house sits to the neighbors, or highway, or shared driveways. Do the neighbors have a huge garbage pile or a junkyard behind their house? (This can lead to rodent issues for everyone!) Also, how close is the house to the nearby parks, schools, and stores?  Looking at a map can quickly help you see that a cool little park is only 2 blocks away if you cut between two neighborhoods, for instance. Google satellite photos get “enhanced” as you zoom in and can get weird looking.  Google Earth is the best I have found for high-definition satellite photos.  It is a separate program that you download to your computer and there are a bunch of cool features with this program such as a “birds eye” view (which gives you an angle that can view the property instead of from the very top) and a timeline feature that you can scroll back in time and view old satellite photos back into the 1980s’ and 90s’ (although the older satellite pics are pretty grainy and low definition).
    2. Street view can be pretty cool for a view of the house that no one expects.  You can zoom around the neighborhood, 360° picture-by-picture. You can see the front of the house and sometimes different angles on the house. Also along the bottom of the screen is the date that the image was captured. Some areas that have had multiple years of the 360° Google cars will have a date scroll in the top left corner: This allows you to choose older dates to see what the house/neighborhood looked like 10 years ago or in the spring vs. fall.  Bing has its street view too, so that can give you another look at the house/neighborhood at a particular point in time. In the upper right of the Bing Street view, you can see the date the picture was taken.
    3. Bing also has a “birds eye view” setting.  While not very helpful for heavily treed lots, you can rotate the cardinal dial to view the house from the north, east, south and west.
South side "bird's eye" view
East "bird's eye" view
North "bird's eye view
  1. The G-terrain feature is not very helpful.  It is a pretty basic and hard to read topo map with some shading to indicate slopes and flats.
  2. The last place I might dig would be the local building official website.  It is not terribly reliable due to paper forms being/not being converted to soft copies and currently (12/2022) the site states that they only have records from 2005 (although I have seen permits back into the 1960’s on this site).  Also, you must jump through some hoops and get yourself registered.  But once all of that is done you can insert an address and see what has happened (or at least been permitted) in the last 15 years.

So I just picked a house I am about to inspect and pulled up 6 separate permits, dating back to 1999. 

In 1999 it had a kitchen remodel: Bob Hise was the contractor, and I can open each of the reviews for a little more information.

That is about it.  With the information superhighway at all of our fingertips, you too can start inspecting your potential property before you even leave the house!   Let me know if there are other handy resources that I didn’t mention.  As always if you have any questions, please drop me a call or email:  

Jim Allhiser



Flat Roof Deck failure and the Story of Repeated Deck Replacements

The coolness factor of a deck/patio that you can walk out onto and having living space underneath cannot be denied.  When houses are built on/in hills it can be a very efficient way to maximize the usable space while minimizing concrete.

These deck/patio areas are considered “flat roofs.” Everyone hears the word “level” when I say flat and that is not true.  Flat roofs are any roof with a less than 4-12 pitch.  They all have slope, some more than others.  The tricky thing about flat roofs is that they don’t really get to take advantage of gravity to bring the moisture down and away.  The water is flowing down the slope of the surface just much slower and if there are any low areas of areas of ponding water will sit and work on any vulnerable areas until there is a leak.  

Case in point:

With this decking system we can look into the past a little and see that as the contractors installed the framing and sheathing everything was nice and sloped and smooth.  Then the roofing was installed and part of the roofing at the lowest edge a 90° edge metal was installed.  This created a little high area, right alond the edge that wouldn’t let water drain effectively but over all it was sloped and the standing water could be managed.  Almost done right?  Oh, wait!  We still need a railing!

If the rail has not been thought about until this point in the deck’s construction it is screwed (in more ways than one!).  There is no good way to install deck posts that won’t damage or hamper another part of the roof surface.  With the deck surface needing a rail and a nice (mostly flat) roof surface to the edge the contractor chose to go right through the surface of the roof with fasteners.  This is a terrible installation for structural stability (toe-nailed fasteners are not very reliable against lateral/horizontal forces).

Now, right at the edge of the roof slope, where remember we had those areas of ponding, the roofing membrane was filled full of holes to mount the wooden posts.  The poor home owners tried to caulk this post-to-roofing transition, but it was too late.  

Inside the thermal camera did not see any smoking guns (sometimes it can be hard when temperature inside and outside is very close to the same), the moisture meter was able to confirm current ongoing leakage in this system under the edges and especially where the rail posts where installed.

The top sides of the windows are always a good place to check for leakage.  Even if it is not active the tannins in the water from soaking through wood framing alow you to see the “tea” colored stains.

By failing to plan for the finishes and rail this deck was doomed to fail.  These decks can be done much better, but it takes an experienced contractor who knows what the issues are going to be 5 steps ahead!

As always if you have any questions or would like some help diagnosing an issue just give me a call or email:

Jim Allhiser 503.508.4321

Your favorite Salem Home Inspector.

Lets settle this crack issue

One thing that comes up often during home inspections is foundation cracks.

Most people have heard about someone who had a terrible foundation crack that cost them thousands! Unfortunately, these stories can be true but let’s unpack the term foundation and take a better look at those dreaded cracks.

The term foundation refers to the structure that transfers the weight/load of the house to the soil.

The most conventional modern foundation in Salem, Oregon is a poured concrete continuous perimeter foundation. This type of foundation is made with poured concrete (obviously) and will have a crawlspace most of the time but can have a basement. We don’t see to many basements in this part of Oregon due to the lack of frost. In colder climates the depth of the footing must be below the frost depth or how deep the ground freezes, to prevent heaving. That is why you see basements in cold climate areas. This perimeter foundation can also be made with concrete/masonry block (this was popular in the 1960’s in the Salem area).

Foundations can also be slabs. The entire footprint of the house is a concrete slab with a thicker section around the perimeter to act as a footing. We don’t see very many slab foundations in the Salem, Oregon area. Continuous perimeter foundations are more common because they are less expensive (they use less concrete than a slab) and a crawlspace is a great area to run pipes and wires after the house is built.

On very old houses, 100 years+, we can still see post and beam houses. Some real estate pros will state that because the house does not have a “continuous perimeter” foundation that these houses don’t have a foundation. This is not true as the definition of foundation is the transfer of weight to the soil. Although unconventional by today’s standards these houses are still transferring the weight/load of the house to the soil. These posts and beams can be huge timbers 16″x16″x30′. They typically have issues with wood destroying insects but that is more about moisture management issues than anything else.

Now that we have a pretty good idea about foundations and what they are let’s look at the cracks that can occur in continuous perimeter foundations.

The most common types of cracks are small (less than 1/4″ and mostly vertical). This type of cracks indicates shrinkage. Concrete cures or hardens as a chemical reaction and I have heard people say that it hardens for 100 years! As it is hardening it is also shrinking. As it shrinks is needs to take up less space and it cracks. These cracks do not affect the ability of the concrete to transfer load to the soil and are very normal.

small, vertical= shrinkage= not a concern

Now we can start looking at cracks that are of concern. In general, any crack that is bigger than 1/4″ should be further investigated, but the shapes of cracks can also indicate the type of movement.

Diagonal cracks. Diagonal cracks are an indicator of movement. Typically, there is a soil/water issue that is affecting the ability of the soil to carry the weight of the house.

“V” shaped cracks are also movement indicators.

Horizontal cracks are another type of crack to watch for.

That covers the most common types of cracks that we see during inspections. As always, if you have any questions about a crack in your life feel free to shoot me a call or email!

The Return of the Rains

The return of the winter rains have occurred in Salem, Oregon.    Although our wonderful indian summer was enjoyable, it prolonged my inability to find leaks effectively.

Now that a sufficient soaking rain has occurred I can once again find leaks that are not readily visible.

Check out this skylight I inspected recently:

Visual inspection of a leaking skylight on a Salem Oregon Home inspection

Looks good right?









The visible surface of the drywall appeared to be just fine with no stains or bubbles or any tell tale signs of problems.  Thank goodness I have a highly advanced thermal camera:

Thermal image showing skylight roof leakage on a Salem Oregon home Inspection

Those blue areas are current moisture










I am sad to see the sunshine go away but my effectiveness as a home inspector just went up a few notches!

Back Draft Call Back

Gas water heaters use a special flue connection, called a draft hood, that allows indoor or surrounding air to induce a draft up the flue increasing speed and efficiency of the exhaust of the combustion gasses.

That is the theory anyway.

Melted collars on a Salem Home inspection

The plastic collars were melted due to back drafting

If the flue is installed properly it should draft properly but there can be problems that can be hidden that can cause problems with proper draw.

When the draft hood does not function properly you get what is called backdrafting.  This is where combustion air would rather spill back into the home or garage instead of getting effectively sucked up the chimney.  This is potentially dangerous because sometimes gas appliances do not burn as clean as they should and monoxide is a by-product of improper combustion.

On a recent home inspection I noted issues with draft on the water heater.  The combustion air was spilling into the home.  So much so the plastic trim on the water pipes were melted!   I suggested that this was potentially dangerous and a licensed professional plumbing/heating and air contractor repair as necessary.

Several weeks later I was asked by my client to re-inspect the work that was done.  Everything looked great until I got to the water heater draft hood.   No change to the back drafting condition could be noted.

Testing Back draft on a home inspection in Salem Oregon

Fogged mirror indicates back drafting.

One of the problems with repairs done by the seller is that they usually want to meet the agreed upon conditions for the least amount of money as possible!

A week later I was called back to inspect the back draft once again.  This time I met the heating and air contractor who was involved in the repair.  He told me how he began to fix sections of the flue and he kept discovering problems.  He ended up replacing the entire flue all to way up to the roof line due to the deteriorated, unlined masonry chimney that was at the root of all of the issues.

Multi-Layer Roofs

Multi- Layer roofs are roofs that have had an additional layer of roofing added over the top of a layer that has reached the end of its useful life.

Multi-layer roofs are the goto solution for house “flippers” and people that need a new roof surface but would like to do it as inexpensively as possible.

Salem, Oregon home inspection showing a multi layer roof

The edge of the roof is the best location to determine if you have a multi-layer roof.

There are some benefits and some problems with this situation:
The main upside to going over the top of an existing layer of shingles is cost. The labor that it takes to remove the old roof and the dump costs can be directly subtracted from the cost of the new roof. In general this savings equals around 10 to 20 percent of the cost of the new roof. If you are planing to move in the near future this saving may seem like a good deal.

Now lets look at the downsides. Wear and tear: Multi layer roofs are usually not warranted by the shingle manufactures and they will not last as long. How much shorter the new shingle’s life will be depends on many variables but two thirds to three quarters the life is a safe bet. Also multi-layer roofs will have more issues with nail pops, or fasteners that poke through the surface of the new shingles. This condition is due to the fasteners not being long enough to penetrate through the old shingles and in to the wood sheathing properly.

As a local Salem, Oregon home inspector I see these type roofs often and it is important my client understands what a multi-layer roof actually means. Most shingles are at least 20 year products (if they are installed correctly!) so even on a multi-layer roof you should have at least 12-15 years of relatively trouble free roofing.

Thermal imaging/Infrared helps to find Siding Leakage

Siding systems are continually evolving, changing and sometimes improving as new materials are developed and new understandings in building envelopes are improved.

We are always looking for the sidings that need less maintenance, are inexpensive and, are easy to install with very little instruction. Those three attributes fuel the evolution of sidings and over the years some have been great and some have not been so good. In the last 20 years there has been a siding that has worked well in other parts of the country but has failed so consistently in the northwest it has actually been banned in Oregon! This wonderful siding is very adept at allowing water into the wall cavity while appearing visually good.

Synthetic stucco, Exterior Insulating Finishing Systems (EIFS), or even by the brand name “Dry-vit.”

Like most siding systems the problems arise with poor installation. Lack of proper installation training appears to be at the heart of the problems with EIFS. If EIFS is installed precisely and maintained aggressively, it can shed water properly.

Perfect installation is very rare. So rare, that I have only seen one home that had a proper EIFS installation and the home had just undergone a $100,000+ insurance claim siding remodel that involved forensic siding specialists!

If you are going to buy a home that is covered in EIFS you should plan on having an inspection that will include invasive probing. The foam boards that make up the substrate can be a very clever thermal barrier…

EIFS is still allowed on commercial buildings and on a recent inspection in Salem, my clients did not negotiate for invasive probing and thankfully the pictures that the thermal camera captured made the total replacement of the siding a compelling option:

Infrared finds leakage in Stucco

Leakage in Siding noted with Infrared/ thermal imaging
Visual view of the EFIS stucco siding      The blue is the moisture that can be located with infrared/thermal imaging
Blue = leakage noted with Infrared/ thermal Imaging
More Infrared located leakage

Window Cleaning

A majority of my job includes highlighting or making people aware of things in their home that they never think about.  Items in everyones’ homes that need attention but are out of the way, out of sight and seldom considered during our daily lives.  One component in particular seldom gets looked at directly but it is in our direct line of sight daily.  Not only are these components in our line of sight, we look through them all the time.  When is the last time you actually looked at your windows?

Most windows these days are vinyl and very low maintenance.  Notice I said “low,” and not “NO,” maintenance!  In the Salem, Oregon area our windows on the south sides tend to do quite a bit of water shedding.  All of this moisture can cause things to grow in the inner workings of the vinyl channels.  On the other sides of our homes the glass and vinyl gets dirty and does not get washed with rain and will need to be cleaned periodically.

What is the proper way to clean these windows?  Here is what I do:

Materials:  I tend to keep things pretty simple as far a chemicals.  Most of the “work” with window clean is unfortunantly good old elbow grease.

1.Toothbrush-  I like the cheap motorized brushes.  The twisting bristles can get in to some tight areas!

2. Vaccuum- To get the bulk of the loose dust, bugs, etc….

3. Vineagar and Water solution-   This is a pretty standard cleaning solution.

4. Funiture polish-  This will be for the final lubrication on the rollers and the vinyl-to-vinyl surfaces.

-Now for the work!

Have you ever heard someone say that, “..they don’t do windows,”?   There is a good reason for that cliche.  Cleaning a window properly is a lot of work!

I have two styles of windos in my home and I will deal with how to take them apart separatly.

I will tackel the sliding style first:

The first thing you need to do is remove the movable section.

-For sliding windows the movable section should be slid to the center and lifted up.  There should be enough clearance to tilt the bottom of the window out of the track and pull the section out.

Sliding window sash removed

Once the sash or moveable section is removed you get a good look at the bottom roller track:Dirty window track, soon to be cleaned

To properly clean this section you must remove the track.  Sometimes a screwdriver is needed to pop the track up.  Here is what the track looks like when it comes out:

Removal of a sliding window bottom track

Things are pretty simple with sliding sashes.  The only mechanical parts are the rollers and ususally the crud is collected at the bottom of the track and not where the rollers are functioning.

Roller on my Salem Oregon vinyl window

With the sash removed, wipe out the window. Then reinstall the track and sash.   Lubricate the vinyl surfaces with funiture polish and you are done!











Next is the single hung window:

You must first find the spring retention clip.

Sash spring retention clip

These are little clips on the upper tracks that ‘grab’ onto the springs on the movable sash.  When the springs are retained the window can be opened a little more and slid to the side.  This slight amount of tucking to the side in the track will allow the opposite side of the window to clear and tip out of the track. With that opposite side out of track clear you can now slide the window toward that side and remove the sash from the track.

With the sash out it is time to clean.

Dirty window sash


I use my daughter’s old motorized tooth brush.  It does a  great job of cleaning out the inside corners!











The last thing to do once all of the parts are cleaned up is to lubricate the vinyl-to-vinyl surfaces.

Vinyl window lube











Like most things, cleaning a window properly is not that hard, the tricky part is actually getting started!

Clean windows will last longer, be better functioning and will just be nicer to look out.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact me!