Sellers

What do I do If there may be an Underground Oil Tank for my home in Salem Oregon

Jim Allhiser President
503-508-4321
Web: www.SalemOregonHomeInspections.com
Email: Jallhiser@PerfectionInspectionInc.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/PerfectionInspectionInc
Blog: https://salemoregonhomeinspector.com/
OCHI# 916 CCB# 179533

Oil tanks were very common between the 1920s and 1960s for the relatively cheap heating oil for the oil furnace and for a while it was thought that sticking those tanks in the ground would be a great idea. If the home has exchanged hands a few times a hidden underground tank may be easily forgotten. The presence of a hidden underground oil tank is an issue that can rear its ugly head during a real estate transaction/home inspectionevery now and then. There are some things that you should know to help protect your client and yourself. A licensed professional tank locating service is the best way to ensure that no problem tanks exist under the surface however there are a few things that buyers, agents and home inspectors can look for that can be flags that indicate the need for further evaluation. Fill, or Vent Pipes or the tank itself: The tank is pretty self explanatory but the fill and vent pipes are usually a little more concealed and you must know what to look for. The fill lines will usually be a 2 or 3 inch pipe sticking up from the soil or out the side of the home. The vent lines will be smaller 1 inch pipeswith special vent caps like these photos.  These tubes are not terribly reliable because they are easy to cut off andcover up.Supply lines: Short of a metal detector and probes (professional tank finder tools) the supply lines are the best indicators of underground tanks. Supply pipes will be small(1/4″) copper lines. These lines, or the reminents of the lines will be located in the basement/garage, near the furance (or where the furnace once waslocated) or in the crawlspace. In general two lines indicate underground tanks. One is for the supply and the other is for the unburnt oil to return to the tank that is lower than the furnace. If only one line is present it may be an indication for an above ground tank. Unfortunantly these are general rules and underground tanks could have still used one line. The two lines to the left could be noted in the crawlspace. The crawlspace is the place where things are least likley to be “covered up.” The clipped lines to the left were noted in a home that had an oil tank that had been properly remidiated. Unfortunantly these lines were going to a completely different tank in on the oposite side of the home! If any of the above conditions can be noted it is time to do some more investigation. The internet and the DEQ is the first place tocheck.

  1. The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) here in Oregon, has a program to help keep track of those oil tanks that have leaked. The site is:http://www.deq.state.or.us/lq/tanks/lust/LustPublicLookup.aspThere is a trick to using the search engine: 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 Leaking Heating Oil Tanks (HOT) and if the site has received a closure letter for the decommissioning, assessment or certification of the HOT.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, check out this publication: What agents should know about underground oil tanks.   http://www.deq.state.or.us/lq/pubs/factsheets/tanks/hot/BuyingSellingHomeHOT.pdf I posted this information a few months back and last week I found two little copper lines in the crawlspace under 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. 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.

If documentation of the tank cannot be located online the next step is to call the DEQ. The database is for only tanks that have leaked and if the tank was above ground or removed with no evidence of leakage it will not be in that database. The DEQ has records of tanks that have been decommissioned but it is not online. I have made a contact with:

Ingrid Gaffney  Gaffney.Ingrid@deq.state.or.us

with DEQ HOT

503-229-6170   and found her to be very helpful!

If the above steps are taken and proper documentation cannot be located it is time to call a professional oil tank location/removal/remediation company.     I recommend two in the Salem area:

  1. Enviro-Probe

    (503) 304-9653   Karl VanZandt

  1. Xavier Environmental

                                                     (503) 236-3796 office    http://www.xavierenvironmental.com/

These are the proper steps to take if an underground tank is suspected. The responsibility of proper remediation fall on the current owner and the cleanup of leaking underground tanks can easily exceed $10,000. Pay attention and don’t be surprised with that expense. I welcome calls or emails if additional information is desired.

Jim Allhiser President

503-508-4321

Web: www.SalemOregonHomeInspections.com

Email: Jallhiser@PerfectionInspectionInc.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/PerfectionInspectionInc

Blog: https://salemoregonhomeinspector.com/ OCHI# 916 CCB# 179533

Advertisements

Basement and Crawlspace Leakage and Waterproofing – Part 1

It is pretty rare to find a home around the Salem Oregon area that is built with the basement in the last 20 years. The reason for this is basements are low, cut into the ground, and in this part of the country the water tables rise in the wintertime and it takes extra work to keep these basements dry. There are a few newer homes being built with basements and the techniques and materials they use for waterproofing these basements have come a long ways. For the most part, the added expense of waterproofing has been traded for more straightforward and larger margins for error with the crawlspace design.  If water enters a crawlspace it is not imidiately damaging however it is not good to have a seasonal lake in your crawlspace either!

So let’s assume you own a home or are interested in buying a home that has a basement or crawlspace. Let’s look at some areas to keep your eye on and ideas for fixing the issue of water in basements and crawlspaces.

Basement leakage

The picture above shows typical areas that home inspectors look for when inspecting basements.  Water stains cannot tell you how often the leakage occurs but it does indicate an issue and something that may need further investigation and repair.

In Salem, Oreogn, most of the water penetration issues in basements or crawlspaces will be related to ground water.  The term “ground water,” refers to the water table.  The water table is the point in the ground where saturation reaches full capacity.   Picture the water table like a sponge that is stood up on end, and water is added.  The water will flow through the sponge and pool up at the bottom until gravity overcomes surface tension.  The line of saturation at the bottom is kind of like the water table.  As we recieve rain the ground soaks it up.  The amount of rain we get determines how high the table will rise.  The water table is continually rising and falling based on the percipitation.

Now dig a hole in that sponge and place footings and foundation walls for a basement or crawlspace.  Quickly you realize that basements and crawlspaces are the first places to get wet.

Water in a Salem Oregon basement

What now?   Now that we know where that water is comming from we can look for solutions.

Sump Pumps-

By the time the buyer’s home inspection is conducted time tables are short and repairs are needed quickly.  This can be troubling because to properly fix a basement/crawlspace water issue you should take some time to properly diagnose the issue.  Sump pumps have become the do-it-all band-aid and often the water issue should have been corrected in a another area.  Sump pumps should be a last resort, and unfortunantly in the real estate world they are usually the first idea, due to the time constraints.

Proper sump pump installation

In general the water in the crawlspace or basement needs to be rerouted at the source.  Determining where the water is coming from takes time.  I met a wonderful Salem agent years ago when she was envolved with a buyer and a wet crawlspace.  I was hired by the seller to help determine why there was water in the crawlspace.  The buyer’s inspector stated that there was water in the crawlspace and repairs were needed.  The sellers hired a waterproofing contractor and the contractor told them  they needed a sump pump and trenching (surprise, surprise!  contractor’s feed their familys by installing sump pumps and trenching!). I came in and started looking at where and why the water was entering the crawlspace and, over the course of two weeks of rainy weather and diagnostics, the seller ended up disconnecting the downspout near the front entry slab, routing it away from the home and *poof* the crawlspace dried up!  Without digging up the entire perimeter of the home it was speculated that the underground downspout piping was crushed/disconnected/plugged near the front entry slab and dumping all of the water collected by the roof and gutters right against the foundation and crawlspace!

Would a sump pump have dried up the crawlspace too?  Yes, however sump pumps are perennial maintenance items and must be checked on to verify that they are working properly.  I don’t know about you, but I prefer to not enter my crawlspace if I don’t have to.  Why use a pump that needs constant attention in a place that I don’t want to go?

That situation was unusual because we actually had time to find and properly diagnos the problem.  Unless you get a “pre-sale” or “seller’s” inspection, you usually do not have that kind of time to ferret out the real cause of the water.

That situation was not unusual in the fact of water in basements and crawlspaces ususally manifests from gutters and downspouts.  These are the first places to investigate and repair if water issues are noted.  If your home was built in the last 20 years your downspouts will pour into underground piping.  It is critically important that these pipes are functional and if these pipes are plugged or crushed it is time to do some shovel work.  If you do have to re-route your downspouts a good rule of thumb is that the downspouts need to dump at least 10 feet away from your home! Those silly little splash blocks, although they may make an FHA appraiser happy, are not a good solution for keeping your basement or crawlspace dry.

silly downspout splash block


What if you have a basement, you have made sure all of the storm water dumps 10 feet away and downhill of your home and you STILL have moisture issues periodically in your home, whats next?


Evidence of moisture leakage in the basement floorThe next post I will delve into some other options for “de-watering” or drying out your home.

Seller’s inspections are good for everyone!

Buyer: “I do not want that home.”

Listing agent: “….but the defect in the roof is relatively minor, and can be fixed for a few hundred dollars.”

Buyer: “If the contractors did this wrong who knows where else they cut corners!”
fungus growing on roof sheathing on this new home Missing building paper on this home's roof in Dallas Oregon.  Noted on a home inspection.
This situation happens more often than you would think. A good home inspector is paid to enter a home and tell the client about how the home works and how the house compares to a perfect house. Home inspectors that have been in the business for some time rely heavily on professionals in the real estate field who refer us. Finding relatively small material defects that cause our clients to want to scrap the deal happens more often than most of us would prefer. Our client’s risk tolerance is not up for us to decide and a relatively minor defect in one person’s eyes can be looming shadow over the entire rest of the house in another’s.

To combat the dreaded “surprise defects,” seller’s inspections have become more and more popular. In my opinion these inspections are one of the best things that can be done by a seller to prepare their home to sell.

There is no such thing as a “perfect” home. This is one the first things that I tell a client, whether they’re buying or selling a home. The purpose of a good home inspection is to be a consultation. As a comparison I use a “perfect home,” as a fictitious example of the ways and a home could be better.

Every home has issues and as a part of preparing your home to sell, it should be in the best possible condition. Repair issues that can be easily taken care of, by a seller, can and do scare away buyers. This can only be prevented by discovering defects early. This early discovery allows you to take care of the issue on your terms.

Having your home inspected first can also attract buyers. If a buyer knows that there are no big issues with a home they will be more comfortable. Another benifit to consider……
Buyer’s agents may be more likely to show your home if they know that it will not be a waste of time.

Seller inspections are good for everyone involved in the transaction

I have Moss all over my Roof! Now what?

Moss is very common in this area. Moss and algea grow mostly in areas of low light and high moisture. Low light and high moisture pretty well describes most of the western Pacific Northwest and the wintertime.  Some of the most common ways to treat and maintain your roof are listed below.

One of the areas that moss is a concern on homes in this area our roofs. Depending on the roofs exposure moss can grow most of the year.  If sections of your home’s roof are shaded throughout the day and stay moist these are likely areas to grow moss.

Over time moss can damage your shingles if left un-checked. As the moss develops into a larger and larger colony more and more moisture is held against your roof. The colonies will also develop root systems that will dig in to the surface fibers on your shingles. As the colonies grow larger, they can actually lift the edges of the shingles. This can leave the shingles vulnerable to wind damage.

There are lots of ways to kill moss. Most of the good techniques involve some sort of the heavy metal application usually copper or zinc. Some really bad ideas involve laundry detergent and or power washers…..

In general the more trees you have around your house in the steeper your roof the more applications of moss killer you’ll need.

1.  The best way to control moss is with an annual or biannual application of a powdered or liquid name brand moss killer designed for roofs. For steep roofs I have found a hose end attached shrub and tree sprayer to be a handy tool.

moss out for roofs Shrub and tree sprayer for application of roof moss killer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Another option for continuous moss control are some new

shingles that are actually impregnated with copper

granules. I have only seen the shingles used on two

different roofs and the major issue with these is the fact that

the ridge shingles were not impregnated in a still need to be

treated for moss/algae growth.

Moss growth on Keizer Oregon ridge shingles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Mechanically removing the moss is also an option.

This option is really only for the very worst conditions.

It envolves a paint scraper, screwdriver, putty knife or

something similar and trecking across your roof slope and very

carefully removing the moss growth.

This technique is very prone to damage of the asphalt

composition shingles and should be used as a last resort.

Moss on a Salem, Oregon home

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Zinc or Copper strips- These may be ok for preventing

algea growth but moss looks at the little strips and laughs.

You may have noticed some homes around town that have

clear sections of shingles under metal roof vents.

roof moss killed by zinc in Silverton, OregonWhat is going

on here is the

zinc in the

galvanized steel

is leaching on to

the roof every

time it rains.

This has lead to

people thinking that they could install little strips or even

sections of wire to kill moss and algea, but this is not

usually an effective technique.The difference is all

about-surface area.The roof vents have a rather large

amount of exposed surface and therefore a good amount

of rain hits the vents. Compare this situation to a 2 inch

wide strip of zinc and you

can see that there will be far less leaching occurring off

of the little strips.The strips usually are effective for 2 to 3 feet,

and I have seen the strips added every 2 or 3 feet down

an entire roof slope. This installation appeared to be

effective but I have only seen this once.

zinc moss strips

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5.  Power washing, scraping with brooms, or laundry detergent. Unfortunantly I see the aftermath of these steps to control roof moss on far too many Salem area home inspections. If you are reading this post you probably have educated yourself enough to know that blasting or scraping the surface off of your aspahlt composite roof is a bad idea.  The folks that commit these heinous crimes are usually the people that already know-it-all and they maintain their homes the way they see fit.

-There may be some contractors who use power washers to clean roofs, but these individuals are licensed and bonded and have the experience to know which nozzle to use and how far to hold it away from the roof surface. Power washing should be strictly limited to the driveway and walkways surfaces around your home.

-Brooms and other mechanical abrasion are also techniques that should either be left on the ground or for qualified professional contractors. The removal of the surface granules on the asphalt shingle also removes the ultraviolet resistance and of the shingles.

-Laundry detergent, although will kill moss on your roof, is full of degreasers. An asphalt based composite shingle is a petroleum based grease compound. Do not put degreasers on your greasy roof.  (Thanks Joe Ocilia for educating me on this fact!)

Those are my 2¢ on how to control moss. Being a Salem, Oregon home inspector, I get the chance to see various maintenance techniques. By far the best one to use is the first one, which is a chemical, powdered or liquid, commercially available moss killer applied at annually or biannually.