Fire Safety

Please read when installing

Funny thing about labels, they can tell you some useful things but there is a trick…..you need to actually read them.

There are labels for almost anything, to tell you when you should purchase something, or throw it away or even how it should be installed…..

I was in a Salem, Oregon attic the other day and I noticed some labels.  These labels were on building components and the labels had instructions or indications for how the product should be installed.  The first label I noticed was on the fiberglass batt insulation:

Clearly, right on the surface of the paper face were some instructions, “Apply this side toward living space.”   I was in the attic space and it was definitely not set up for “living.”  The reason for this label has to do with the movement of moisture vapor as it leaves the living space and enters an unheated space.  With the vapor barrier/paper face installed improperly, water vapor that is traveling up through the ceiling and through the insulation hits the big temperature difference at the paper face and condenses into liquid.  Here the liquid water is trapped and will cause bad things to happen to the home (mold, rot, deterioration, ect).  When the paper face is installed properly the vapor will not hit the dew point till it is past the vapor barrier/paper face and if the vapor condenses into liquid in the fiberglass batting, it can breath and escape and most importantly, is not trapped!

A few feet away I saw another label.  The manufactures for the gas flue for the water heater wanted to help the installers and make sure to remind them of proper installation:


Looks like this was another instance of lack of proper literacy.   The purpose for the 1″ gap requirement is fire safety.  The type B vent is designed to stay cooler than a straight walled pipe however it does heat up.  Over the years the combustible materials that are too close to the pipe will heat up over and over again.  Each time this heating occurs there are slight changes in the molecular structure and the material’s flash point, temperature that it catches fire, drops.  Eventually this may become a fire hazard.

Labels are important.  Read, read, read and if you don’t know why you should do something, call someone, like a wonderful home inspector, who does!


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Not everyone knows about the Old Cadet fire hazards that lurk in Salem Homes.

A few years ago a little company was producing a neat little electric wall heater that was easily installed, relatively inexpensive and allowed wonderful zonal heating (read-“energy efficient”)!

Things were wonderful for sometime but like most things there were a few issues with the first models. The little electric heaters were made by the Cadet corporation and after the release to the general public it was discovered that if housekeeping was not top notch these little heaters had the tendency to overheat (read-“catch on fire” and there could be “flames, sparks or molten particles spewing through the front grill cover of the heaters into the living areas”)!

The problem arose at the heat exchanging point. This is the point in every heating device where the heat that is produced in the heating device is transfered or “exchanged” to the medium that will carry heat to the home. The little wall heaters used fans to transfer heat directly to the home’s air through convection.Heat transfer of convection to describe problems with cadet heaters

The more surface area that the heating device can have exposed to the house air the better the transfer of heat. The more volume of air flows through the device the better transfer as well. There is a point between these two conditions where a balance between the two is chosen.

The little wall heaters that were brand new, met both of those expectations very well. Lots of heating elements (red hot wires) exposed to the air and the little fans did a very functional job of moving a large volume of air over the heated electric coils.

To prevent the red hot wires from getting dirty, which would insulate the heater elements from the air, hampering the exchange of heat, a small screen was placed in front of the fan. The little screen did a good job of keeping the elements clean, too good of a job.

The screens, especially in dusty areas or homes with pets became plugged very quickly. Even with the label on the side stating, “clean the heater fins every month,” these screens and heaters got neglected.Recalled cadet wall heater showing the vulnerability to over heating and fire in during a Salem Home Inspection

Although the heaters had wonderfully clean elements, the flow of air had been destroyed by the plugged screens. The thermostats didn’t know about the restriction of air and kept asking for heat. The elements got hotter and hotter as very little house air was able to flow over the elements to absorb the heat. This occurred over and over until the unit or the wall or both caught fire.


This is not new information as the CPSC noted the recall in Jan 1999. However, I still see the dangerous units in homes that I inspect around the Salem area.

The moral of this tale is; while we are in our friends, family and neighbor’s homes this holiday season we should keep our eyes open for these dangerous units. We should mention the recall to our hosts if we notice the electric wall heaters.

The way to determine if the units are dangerous is the model number.  You should look for: models FWFXLXTKZAZRARKRLXRXRW and ZC

The model number should be on the inside of the unit and behind the front panel.  At the risk of being like me, “that annoying home inspector guy,” you should try to locate the serial number without removing the panel.  I have learned that it is rude to take out a screw driver and start removing panels during a dinner party!  Also there is that little thing of high voltage live wires behind the panel…..

At the very least, you have a conversation starter for those awkward moments during the parties……..Where to find the cadet wall heater model number for the recall verification on a Salem Oregon home inspection

Aluminum Wiring

Written by:  Jim Allhiser President/Inspector
When I trained to become a home inspector I went to a national school and learned about all sorts of things that good home inspectors should be aware of when inspecting homes.  Over the years of doing inspections in Salem, Oregon I have noticed real patterns in building materials that were not reflected by the home inspector schooling.
Bricks for one thing are very popular in other parts of the country.  My schooling spent hours on the issues that can be noted with brick siding.  We have brick siding here, but at a very small percentage compared to the east and the south.  Most of this difference has to do with the shale that composes bricks.  We do not have shale mines on the Pacific coast and so if you want brick it has to be shipped in from the south or east.

Recently Chinese Drywall has received quite a bit of media attention.  That stuff is bad news but for all of the newly built homes that I am inspecting, none of the associated issues have manifested.  I have been looking for it and well educated home buyers have been asking about it but it seems that  our area did not receive the supply of drywall from those particular problem vendors.
Aluminum wiring was also a large topic of education at the home inspector training.  It is also another material that, for whatever the reason, we North-westerners largely managed to escape.  From the mid 60s to the early 70s aluminum was widely used for the smaller (15 and 20 amp) branch circuits in homes.  Problems occurred when the small aluminum wires were used with devices that had connections specifically designed for copper.  Aluminum also tends to expand and contract more than copper (which can cause loose connections) and it can corrode (which is an insulator), all bad things when consistent conduction is desired.  These issues lead to house fires and if your wiring is a fire hazard it is a very big deal!  I have seen and heard of small aluminum branch circuits in manufactured homes in this area but I have only seen one stick built home that had aluminum wires in 5 years!
The more experience I gain the more specific my inspections become, relating to the issues with Salem, Oregon homes.  Still, I can’t forget about those nationally recognized issues.  A great home inspector not only needs to know about homes in this area but also about building products that are not generally used in this area.



Jim Allhiser President/Inspector
http://SalemOregonHomeInspections.com
503.508.4321         jallhiser@perfectioninspectioninc.com

“Always on the cutting edge”

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Dryer ducts- The “Forgotten About” Fire Hazard

Written by:  Jim Allhiser  President/Inspector


The consumer product safety commission estimated that in 1998 clothes dryers were associated with 15,600 fires, which resulted in 20 deaths and 370 injuries!
A vast majority of these fires could have been prevented with a little home owner style maintenance.
The duct work that exhausts all of that warm dryer air is usually the culprit, and as far as routine home owner maintenance, is usually completely forgotten about.
Ideally these ducts should be hard and completely smooth.  This minimizes the slow down of the hot air that will cause lint to build up.   This means that the flexible corrugated metal ducts that all do-it-youselfers love are terrible.  Everyone of those little ridges in the duct pipe create turbulence that slows down the flow of air.

Fire hazard or Dryer duct? Both.

Even with hard ducting the joints are a critical point of contention.  With forced air furnaces, the joints between one hard duct to another, are usually secured with sheet metal screws.  If this technique is put into practice with dryer ducts all of those sharp little screws that are in the flow of air act as lint catchers.
The moral of this story is:  If you have not cleaned your dryer and ducting recently it is time to do so.  If you have an issue with the duct and need to install a new duct, it is usually best to hire a professional to install a HARD DUCT with proper seams that are TAPED and not screwed together.
My job as a home inspector requires me to crawl and poke around other people’s homes every day and this is one of the most neglected fire hazard that I see.
Jim Allhiser
President/Inspector
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The Door between the Garage and the Home: Your first line of Defense

The door between the garage and the home can be a very important part of fire safety in modern homes.  The issue that I routinely run into as a home inspector is this fact has only been an accepted building technique since the early 80s.  If a home was built before that, chances are that the door is not a “fire rated door.” The garage is a great place for a fire to start.  As far as house fires go,  the garage is where a vast majority of fires are started.  Paint cans, gasoline, natural gas appliances are all things that are usually in garages and are great for burning the house down.

If a fire does start in the garage a proper fire rated door and properly constructed fire wall are the best lines of defense to allow you to make your escape before the fire comes into the home.

There are a few ways to tell if your door has been updated.  Most solid-core and metal doors are fire rated.  There can also be a little metal tag on the hinge side of the door that will give some more information.

The pictures show what a hollow-core door looks like with thermal imaging/Infrared.  The strips you can see are actually sections of cardboard.

Jim Allhiser President/Inspector
http://SalemOregonHomeInspections.com
503.508.4321         jallhiser@perfectioninspectioninc.com

“Always on the cutting edge”

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Thermal Imaging/Infrared sees electrical issues before problems occur on a South Salem Home Inspection

I was doing a home inspection the other day on a very nice, and newer home here in south Salem today.  The home had very few minor issues but one thing popped out when I used the thermal camera to scan the master bedroom.

The circuit did not appear to be hot enough to cause a fire however there was no significant load on this circuit and it should not have been heating-up.  As it turns out there was a loose wire in the heated outlet in the picture.  The heat was produced because of the looseness/resistance of the connection.

Just another issue that can be easily resolved with the help of thermal imagining/Infrared.


Jim Allhiser President/Inspector
http://SalemOregonHomeInspections.com
503.508.4321                   jallhiser@perfectioninspectioninc.com

“Always on the cutting edge”

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