Builders are Just Human or You Still Need a Home Inspection on a new Salem Oregon Home

I was poking around one of the many good deals in real estate here in Salem, Oregon the other day and I noticed this “small” roof leak.

I love my job.  Above and beyond me finding problems with my client’s new homes, my job is to educate them on how their home works.  Most people who are willing to climb on a roof could notice that this roof vent is out-of-place but explaining the vital function of the roof vent is my job and I love it.

Home inspections are more than just a check list of the “problems” in a home.   They are a great start in the educational process that we as homeowners need to actively pursue.



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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Edge metal flashing on rake rafters

This flashing’s improper installation is pervasive. Despite the fact that there are instructions on every bundle of shingles detailing this as an improper installation.

It must seem like a good deal to put the metal on the top. Maybe it seems like a good thing to cover the edge of the hand-cut shingles that, due to lack of experience, look like a rodent chewed on them.

No matter what the reasoning, putting edge metal on top of the shingles is always wrong. When rain is hitting and running down the top of the shingles, edge metal on top allows water to wick under the metal and access the wood rafter and sheathing. This condition will promote wood rot.

Unfortunately repair of this condition can become significant if the edge flashings have been in place for a few years. Ideally you should replace the shingles that were involved when the metal was nailed down. Although those holes could be filled, you would need to re-fill the holes every few years as the caulking/tar releases its grip. Depending on how long the flashing was installed incorrectly, there will also be sheathing and possibly rafter damage.

The repair of this issue is quickly approaching the exclusive realm of a professional contractor. Although I am a big fan of DIY sometimes the mark of a true craftsman is knowing when to sub out to a qualified professional.

Roofing and Creative home owners

Roofing is one of the few skilled professions where being a licensed contractor is not required if you do it on your own home here in Salem Oregon. Hiring a licensed contractor is definitely encouraged, however a home owner with a little DIY initiative can tackle the job on their own with no distractions (like code enforcement inspections) from the city building department.

A roof shingle system is one of the few things on a home that will wear out. Unlike siding that can be painted and painted and preserved for eons, there is nothing to do about your roof shingles wearing out. There are things to do to extend the roof’s life. Adding ventilation, keeping debris off, treating moss and having a very steep roof will all prolong the life of the roof however even the best ventilated, cleanest, and steepest roof will generally only increase the life of the shingles by 20 years max.

Enter the creative home owner:

One way or another most homeowners will face a roof replacement at some time. Just like most trades you do not have to be a Harvard graduate to install a roofing system. The steps are, overall, very straight forward and logical. The problems most unskilled craftsmen face will be at tricky transitional zones: flashings, valleys, roof-to-wall and the dreaded skylight. It must be a testosterone thing but from what I have seen as a home inspector if problems are encountered they are handled one of two ways: Gallons of roofing tar, or scab-it-in and forget-about-it.

I guess maybe I have seen some roofs that have been replaced by home owners who knew enough to know that they needed some advice. That is what the internet is for as far as I am concerned. Those roofs maybe just flew under my radar mostly because they were done properly. So thank you very much to those homeowners who stopped and asked.

Gutters/Downspouts: the most important system on your home in Salem, Oregon

I am a home inspector in Salem Oregon. Home inspections are generally based on a perfect home. The one issue with that is that there is no such thing as a perfect home.

The job of a competent home inspector is to see and comment on everything. It would be impossible to determine what our clients did or didn’t care about in the thousands of components and systems that we look at. So we comment on everything and let our clients determine what they find important and significant.

Of course there are exceptions such as, in the Salem area of the Willamette valley Oregon, gutters and downspouts. If there is one system that needs to work perfectly it is the gutters and downspouts.

It has everything to do with how we receive rain. In our area the rain comes down relatively slowly. Very seldom do we get sudden volume, like an inch in a few hours, like other parts of the country. Our rain just seems to be slow and constant for about 5 to 6 months.

This means that grading is not terribly important. The soaking rains will soak in to the soil before they have a chance to run towards your home.

Gutters and downspouts however have an absolutely critical role in moisture management. If they are not fully functional they allow excess water to spill on around or under your home for 5 to 6 months. If the gutters are plugged or the seams leak they will spill water on to the soffit, fascia or splash water against the siding for 5 to 6 months! All of this wood and water is an ideal condition for things that eat wood. Fungus, wood boring beetles, and termites will all enjoy the easy refined cellulose meal that is your home.

Plugged downspout?

Even if the gutters appear to be fully functional above ground there is the, out-of-sight-out-of-mind, below grade downspouts. The downspouts going below ground has been very popular for the last 20 years. This is a major source of water intrusion for the crawlspaces in our area. When newly installed the downspouts should hug the foundation around the perimeter of the home and flow toward the storm drain. This is one of the first items to be installed on a new home and possibly vulnerable to damage until it is covered during final grading. If the concrete walkway poured over the pipe damages or disconnects the pipe, it can dump all of the water collected on the roof on to the soil near the crawlspace. This condition can lead to water in the crawlspace but also foundation movement.

Homes are not perfect. Lack of maintenance, wear and age can all have effect on homes. If you own a home in the Salem area of the Willamette valley keep your eyes on your gutters and next time it is raining, investigate your downspouts. They are one of the most important components of your home.