Foundation cracks are typically something that home inspectors look for around the perimeter inside and out. Foundations in Marion and Polk counties are usually a poured concrete or possibly concrete block type foundation.
Concrete does two things, it gets hard and it cracks. Small, less than an eighth inch, vertical cracks are typically indicators of shrinkage and are a normal part of the concrete curing process. The cracks that are potentially structural in nature falling in a few categories.
1. Diagonal cracks: these cracks typically occur near corners and indicate that the corner has settled. This happens either with moving down, or uplifting moving up. Diagonal cracks typically occur in pairs. One on either side of the corner.
2. Horizontal cracks: these cracks typically indicate pressures against the foundation wall from soils. Either in properly backfilled soils or soils that have unusual amounts of moisture creating excessive pressures.
3. Cracks with displacement: displacement indicates movement on either side of the crack. One side of the foundation has moved forward or back more than the other side. Displacement can occur with any of these types of cracks and is always an indicator of structural movement.
4. Cracks that are wider than one quarter inch: this indication can also occur with any of the previous mentioned cracks. Cracks that are larger than one quarter inch may indicate a significant amount of structural movement and repairs may be needed. When cracks of this size are noted standard operating procedure for most good home inspectors is to recommend a structural engineer further evaluate.
Those are the styles of foundation cracks to look for. If any of the above four are noted it may be time for further evaluation. Home inspectors are always a good non biased source for structural evaluations.
A large part of my job is learning. Learning about materials, techniques and styles allows me to be a resource when questions arise. it is important for home inspectors to be “know it alls” about most things relating to homes. Just as important as knowing about stuff is realizing that there is always new stuff to learn about. I am never surprised when I discover something completely new and that is one of the best parts of my job.
The video below was taken on a re-inspection. I had griped about the lack of power to the second outlet in the bathroom on the initial inspection. The sellers enlightened me on the more secretive purpose for this particular outlet!
Your gutters need attention. The shorter days have told the trees to drop their leaves. Not only that, the rains are about to begin again. Your gutters will be working overtime for the next few months in this area. It is important to keep your gutters clean. This will require cleaning your gutters out several times over the next few months as the different trees around your home drop their leaves at different times.
We all know that the parts that are exposed to the elements (and leaves) are important to keep clean but lets not forget about the underground pipes as well. These pipes are low and out of sight and are easy to forget about. Those underground pipes are probably the most important part of the system as they will collect, concentrate, and (hopefully) remove the concentrated storm water from around your house.
In Marion and the surrounding counties, the underground pipes are usually where things are going wrong and unless inspections or unusually close attention is paid, things can go wrong for months or even years. It really is all about the way we receive rain.
The rains in the Willamette valley, in Salem and surrounding parts of Oregon show up in mid October and things stay moist until the middle of May. We don’t necessarily receive a lot of rain, it is just steady and the clouds do not usually part long enough to dry anything out.
The gutters, downspouts and underground pipes are the wettest points around our home. If there is water in your crawl space or basement the gutter and downspout system is usually the main culprit.
A great test for the underground system is to shove a garden hose in it and see where the water comes out. If water bubbles to the surface in the area you are testing…….you have some work to do.
Universal symbols are everywhere these days. Traffic signs especially have pictures and symbols instead of words so that any person, know matter what language they speak, can understand what is expected of them. There are universal symbols that all good home inspectors should recognize as well. Mushrooms growing out of your siding, large cracks in foundations and carpenter ants streaming out of a sill-plate are all things that any home inspector should recognize as a universal symbol of problems.
Another important universal symbol for home inspectors recognize in this area are two small copper lines, going into the ground in garages or crawl spaces. These copper lines, can be indicative of underground oil tanks. These tanks, if not remediated properly can be a significant cost and an environmental hazard to a home-owner/home-buyer.
The Department of Environmental Quality in Oregon does maintain a database of remediated oil tanks. As I wrote previously, the database is relatively new and unless the tank has been remediating recently, there would not be record of the tank. This means that it is still important for home inspectors to keep their eyes out for the universal symbols and to let the buyers, agents and sellers that are involved in the transaction know about this potential environmental issue.
The cabinet under the kitchen sink is a highly neglected area.
This is the area that we shove highly noxious cleaners and surfactants. Many people even have garbage cans under their sinks. For me, the soap and cleaners are no exception however I do not keep any garbage under my sink. In fact I keep a tub to collect some of the best stuff that my household produces.
The tub holds all kinds of material that is just full of macro and micro nutrients. It is organic, all natural and when I take it to it’s place of magic, outside, it is just teeming with molds, fungus and all sorts of wiggling organisms doing their part to better my life.
The tub is a significant part of the process however the real magic does not happen till it goes outside. Once the tub’s payload is delivered the previously mentioned critters go to work. Through (hopefully) aerobic bacterial action the complex materials are consumed and wastes are excreted. Sounds gross but it is actually exactly what I want!
Once most of the available complex materials are consumed most of the micro organisms die. Sad, but it is an integral part of the process, and their death releases tons of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium as well as all sorts of other trace elements that are ready and waiting for the lucky plants that get to grow their roots in to the piles of decomposed micro organisms.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, I am talking about the lowly compost pile. It begins as a pile of food debris under my kitchen sink but ends up feeding my plants what they need to grow strong and healthy.
My favorite part of being a home inspector here in Salem, Oregon is learning CONSTANTLY! For an attentive observer, there are always things to learn about.
A few years ago I was on a roof and the agent asked me how old the roof was. I told her that I couldn’t really tell, but that I guessed that it was maybe 1 or 2 years old. She asked me why didn’t I look at the date stamp on the flashing boot?
………….(•blank-home-inspector-look•) The wha…….?
Yup, every so often even the know-it-all home inspector has something to learn. Right there, stamped for all whom know where to look, is the date that the flashing was made. Of course this is not an exact date of roof installation but it is usually within 6 months.
Pretty neat little trick.
A large part of home owner maintenance is paying attention to little things.
Check here for leaks
Areas that are above or below the line of sight, tend to be the most neglected areas. Deterioration, rot and leaks can hide in these areas that are just out of sight. These areas are the places that keep home inspectors in business.
Plumbing supply and waste lines are always in areas that are out of sight. Special attention needs to be paid to these pipes periodically. Small leaks under the sink, or worse, in the crawlspace, can lead to big issues.
For those of us that do not really want to go into the crawlspace……. there is a secrete little leak detector on most water meters.
The little dial on most water meters have a little red or white triangle. The triangle will spin with very little water movement. This can be a pretty handy way to check for leaks without actually going into the crawlspace!
On a recent home inspection in Silverton, Oregon I noted the red triangle spinning. No water was being used in the home…… The buyer and or seller now have some more investigation to do.
As an attentive homeowner you should check this “little thing” to ensure that your supply pipes are not leaking.
Believe it or not this post is not about incontinent home inspectors. That will have to be another post. This post is about fuzzy critters and how they get under your home.
These tight, nasty, potentially wet areas are easy to neglect. Low, out of sight and most likely disgusting it is usually best to not even think about these places.
This mentality also leads to the fact that I will often find defects in these areas. One of the most popular defects I note is openings that allow pest access.
Most crawlspaces have these neat little vents for air flow. Compared to the concrete foundation the metal screens on these vents are much easier to bash and slash to allow access for pipes and wires. Most contractors care more about their next few hours than about the damage that occurs to the home due to pest infiltration over the years from a hasty hole cut into the crawlspace screen.
As an active, preventatively thinking home owner one of the best things to do (short of actually go into your crawlspace because really who wants to do that?) is to open the lid to your crawlspace and smell. Yeah, seriously take a wiff. If you are slapped in the face with years of rodent urine……you may have some more investigation to do.
Today as I was doing a home inspection and crawling around looking for damage to my client’s potential home, I put my arm down and something, ……rather large…..*gulp*….pushed back. I figured it was a healthy rat under the plastic vapor barrier. This close encounter along with the smell of a public urinal led me to look for the rodent’s access opening.
Finding the hole was easy. Right where the downdraft vented out, the metal screen was completely open. This gave most neighborhood rodents plenty of room to move in.
The point of my wonderful, rambling tale is that you can and should check your vents. These are on the perimeter of the home, which means you do not need to enter my place of business (your crawlspace) to see these open critter funnels. Just take a stroll around the outside of your home and look and bend down to get a good look at those vents. Especially the vents near the AC unit, cable, and or satellite connections.
By: Jim Allhiser President
The term “home inspector” brings to mind report cards where a home “passes” or “fails.”
To some other inspectors this may be their reality. Through confusion and posturing other inspectors get to pretend like they get to make decisions. This is a small and disappointing group of my profession, as most good home inspectors want to make it very clear that home inspectors don’t pass or fail anything!
As a good inspector all I am there to do is to consult. I should take a good look at the home and compare it to a perfect home (which is fantasy, by the way). There is no way that I could predict what my client will find important so I tell them about everything! Besides that, I am not loaning my client money and I am not going to be living with them. I really don’t care if the gutters get cleaned or if the window trim gets caulked properly. I am simply an observer and suggester.
This utter lack of authority can be very confusing to some people involved in the transaction. I frequently hear agents, who should know better, talk about how homes “passed.” Or clients ask me if I “require” this or that. I just have to smile and tell my poor buyers that the only people that can pass or fail things are the people that are buying the home. This can be frustrating for some that wish to hide behind an inspector, but I am about empowering people. With proper education, my empowered buyer can ask the seller to have the deterioration in the flooring repaired and feel that this is reasonable.
Buyers often ask me, “..Would you buy this home?” This is an impossible question for me to answer and that is not a cop-out! The fact is that I have not been looking for a home. I have not been mentally preparing for the change in lifestyle, finances, and the move. I do not know what the school is like. I have no idea what the other similar homes are like. My buyers are frequently much more savvy about the competing homes than I am. They have been doing serious real estate research! I have not. Homes can be a very emotional decision. How could I guess the emotional state my clients are in after spending 3 hours poking around a house?
Trust a good inspector to do a great job at observing most all of the things that buyers will find important relating to the CONDITION OF THE HOME. Ask as many questions as you would like but don’t be surprised if we never tell you if the home passes or fails!
First time home buyers are fantastic. Never before have you had to do any kind of maintenance on the place that you were living. If there was a problem you just called the landlord.
Now, you are going to be in charge of an ENTIRE house!! It can be intimidating, especially after a good home inspection! Not to fear you first timers, there have been lots of people in your shoes and many with even less technical understanding of the maintenance issues that plague your new home.
In the Salem, Oregon area one very common issue that will require attention is moss growth on your roof. To be fair, this is not a life and death issue, however with less than a few hours of attention a year this issue can be effectively controlled.
Moss tends to grow in the shady sides of the home. Mostly this has to do with the 8 months or so that your roof will stay wet in these areas. This constant moisture creates an ideal location for algae population. If moss is allowed to flourish unchecked it can create little pockets that catch and hold moisture. Also the moss can actually begin to lift the shingles. All of this catching and lifting will slow the water that is running down the slope and the longer water is on your roof the shorter the life of your roof will be.
Ok, we know that moss is not good but how do we control it? Moss killer.
Moss does not like reactive metals like zinc and copper. Commercial available moss killers like, “MossOut“ or any of the other sprays or powders are best.
- The moss control measures that do not work or maybe work too well, at the expense of the life of your roof are: Strips of zinc that claim to leach onto the roof and kill moss continually. These strips are good only in theory and only tend to protect about two feet of the down hill roof surface.
- Also, moss will die if treated with laundry detergents, however laundry soaps have surfactants (read: de-greasers). Composite shingles are made of asphalt (read: grease!). These detergents can quickly chew holes in your roof!!
- Power washers. Please, please DO NOT power wash your composite shingle roof. The idea behind killing moss is to prolong the life of your roof. You will quickly shorten the life of the roof you are trying to prolong by blowing it to smithereens with a well meaning power washer.