Home Inspections

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!

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.

How can I Buy Agent Referrals? Or Why I don’t give out Chocolates and Pens.

A few years ago the Construction Contractor’s Board did some revising to one section of their “Standards of Practice for Home Inspections.”  The section referred to gifts or rewards for the purposes of referrals.  It was always a little ambiguous and in order to clear up some confusion they posted 4 pages worth of, “what the rule really means.”

If you would like to read the post in its entirety it is here: http://ccbed.ccb.state.or.us/WebPDF/CCB/Publications/HI_FAQs.pdf

Here are the highlights as I see it:

2. May a home inspector advertise on a website

containing listings for homes for sale? In general, the

answer is yes. However, if the website is maintained by a

real estate agent and the home inspector buys the

advertisement to induce the real estate agent to refer

business to the home inspector, the practice is prohibited.

3. May a home inspector advertise on a real estate agent’s

website if the home inspector did not pay for the

advertisement? Yes, so long as the home inspector did not

pay the real estate agent nor give the real estate agent

anything of value.

10. May a home inspector share the cost of joint

advertising with a real estate agent? No. The real estate

agent would receive the benefit of the reduced cost of

advertising. Joint advertising likely implies a recommendation

of the home inspector by the real estate agent.

11. May a home inspector hand out to the general public

pens, notepads, magnets, coffee mugs, calendars,

candies or similar items with the home inspector’s

name? Yes. The rules do not prohibit home inspectors from

providing items of nominal or actual value to the general

public or to potential or actual customers.

12. May a home inspector deliver to a realty agent pens,

notepads, magnets, coffee mugs, calendars, candies or

similar items with the home inspector’s name? No.

Since the items are likely to be used or consumed by the

realty agent, the implicit purpose is to encourage a referral.

The conduct is prohibited. It does not matter that the items

may have only a nominal or small value. The rule does not

distinguish on the basis of the value of the items.

20. May a home inspector with a booth at a realty agent

trade show offer a (relatively modest) door prize torealty agents?

No. Since the door prize is intended for

realty agents, to obtain business referrals, the conduct is

prohibited.

21. May a home inspector with a booth at a realty agent

trade show offer chocolate candies to the realty

agents? No. Since the chocolate candies are intended for

realty agents, to obtain business referrals, the conduct is

prohibited. The new rule does not distinguish on the basis of

the value of the item provided.

22. May a home inspection company that operates on a

national or regional basis hold a contest or drawing,

open both to the general public and to realty agents,

and give out randomly won prizes? Yes. Presumably,

there is no distinction between entrants, be they realty agents

or other members of the general public. (There may be other

government regulations that restrict contests or drawings.

Our answer does not address those laws.)

These rules and definitions come from a good place.  There is no good that comes from buying referrals.  Inspectors that do not precisly understand that they are contracted to protect the client’s interest may have feelings that they are there to help the referring agent.  This only creates bad feelings and distrust throughout the entire realestate process.

My main referral source is the great agents that recommend me to their clients.  The only reason these wonderful agents recommend me is because I protect their clients and, indirectly, their good name and real estate license.  These agents realize that even though deals may fall apart by the time I am done it is because of the home’s condition and the inability of the buyer and seller to come together.  For better or for worse their clients should know as much as possible about their home before the deal closes.

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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That’s what that thingy is for??

The most important part of a good home inspection is the education about the home.  Above and beyond the defects that good home inspectors will find, helping the new home owners understand the weird knobs and switches that are in a typical home is really where good inspectors earn their wage.
One type of knob in particular that I see often in more recently built homes is the “hose bib winterization valve.”
It seems simple enough however they usually are not anywhere near the hose bib (outside water faucet)!
In a two-story home, these valves are usually stuffed under an upstairs bathroom sink.  The placement is good because if you shut the water off and open the bleed valve the water will readily drain out the outside water faucet.
If you have a recently built home and see one of these under the sink:
you now know what that weird thingy is for.


Jim Allhiser

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

“Always on the cutting edge”

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New hands free device

Thank you Salem, Oregon for helping to keep me safe.
With the new rules, since 1/1/2010, we are no longer allowed to talk on cell phones while driving without a hands free device.


Now instead of the distraction of holding a phone up to our heads we are all forced to be distracted with blue tooth thingys that don’t work right, speakers that are unintelligible and the whole process of setting up and getting used to a new piece of technology while driving.


The fine folks @ Ticor had a nifty educational get together last fall in preparation for the new law.  I was doing home inspections and was not able to attend the event however I did see some of the “hands free” devices that they were showing off.



One in particular caught my eye. I liked the simplicity and the durability and I knew that I just had to have it:






It is sooo trendy and new you probably won’t see anyone but me wearing them.  Maybe the movie stars will get theirs for the summer!





Jim Allhiser

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

“Always on the cutting edge”

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What to Expect when you’re Inspecting, Disclaimers

What to expect when you’re inspecting

You have gotten an offer accepted and scheduled with the best and brightest inspector in town.  Now it is time to check out his legal disclaimers.
Home inspectors as a rule do not accept liability.  It sounds funny, but in truth it is a defense against what we couldn’t see.  That means that home inspections are a visual snap shot.  We inspectors do our best to not miss anything but depending on the environment (read: boxes piled to the ceiling), the time of the year (hard to look at a roof under snow) or even a lazy or forgetful seller (they cover up stuff due to lack of proper knowledge) some things can be very hard if not impossible to see.
I frequently read about the poor couple that bought the turn-of-the-century home and had an inspection, only to find out later that the walls were full of rot and termites.  The media has a neat little way of tilting the story.  It is never mentioned that the finishes and accessible areas of the home showed no signs of damage in the walls under the windows.  It is never brought up that the window sills had been collecting water for close to a century before being repaired and they forget that the poor home owners learned about the damage only after they actually started destroying the home’s walls to do remodeling.
I frequently explain to my clients that I am an inspector that they are paying to spend 2 1/2 to 3 hours with them and I will do my darnedest to not miss anything significant but I will not buy them a new home if I do turn out to be a human being.  There is always the possibility for things to be going on under the surface but most of the time there will be indications of those things.
When I bought my first home, I was amazed at the home inspection.  The dude spent 45 minutes in my 1950’s fixer.  He did a very poor job and missed some major things.  In my previous post I suggested getting out their and shopping inspectors, something that I did not.  I let my agent schedule the inspection for me and I came away with a very bad taste in my mouth for the home inspection industry as a whole.  A little less than a year after that I heard about thermal imaging and home inspectors that were using it to help with a more in-depth education for their clients.  I knew that it would not be hard if my last inspector was the guy that was my competition!
That first home inspection experience ensures that I do my best inspecting every day for every client.  Even though my disclaimer says that, “…its not my fault and you agree..”  I try to make it a personal goal to not miss significant issues.
Of course every thing is negotiable.  I had clients recently ask me to adjust my disclaimer.  That is just fine but realize what you are getting for around $400.  If you expect a home inspector to suffer liability the price of the inspection must change.  If you increase liability you increase risk you increase price.  I am thinking around $5000 might justify my liability but on second thought I want to be a home inspector not a defendant, please go find yourself another inspector…


Salem Oregon Home Inspections

Multi-wired circuits

A material and man-hour (read MONEY) conservation technique I have noticed more and more recently is called multi-circuit wiring. The purpose of this technique is to save money on wires and man-hours by pulling only one wire for two circuits.

Seems like a good idea and there are definitely a fair amount of contractors that agree. During normal operation of most circuits no significant problems will be noted. However if too many watts are added, the circuits could be prone to overheating.

The issues come from the neutral wire. With a single circuit wire there is a black wire for the hot, and a white wire for the neutral. For simplicity sake let’s look at these as the supply=hot(black) and the return=neutral(white) for the current respectively.

A 15amp circuit should use a 14 gauge wire for supply and return. That means that if the maximum amount of power (allowed by the breaker) is called for, the wire on the supply and on the return are both thick enough to hold all of 15 amps or 1800watts at 120 volts. [(15amps)x(120volts)=1800watts]

Now let’s save some time and materials during installation by running a multi-circuit wire. This wire has two supplies and only one return. Remember each one of the 14 gauge wires are designed to hold 15 amps but now you have two wires that could be called on to hold all of 15 amps and only one 14 gauge return/neutral wire for 30amps! (15+15=30amps) Normal alternating current modulation will prevent the neutral from having to carry both loads at the same time but if something goes wrong and the neutral does experience over current in this manner the breaker will not trip, because breakers only protect the hot/supply wires.

The deal is the authorities that say this is ok are betting that there will never be a situation that causes both wires to call for the entire load at the same time. As a home inspector here in Salem, Oregon I am paid to be a “worst case scenario,” guy. It is my job to alert my clients to not only issues but also potential issues and educate them as best I can.

Mold our Constant Microscopic Companion

This is mold that you can see

This is mold that you can see

Mold is one of the scariest problems in today’s issues with Indoor Air Quality. The problem is you can’t see it.

 

Don’t get me wrong, if it looks and smells like a duck it usually is, however I have been surprised on inspections here in Salem, Oregon, by laboratory results often enough to know that speculation of microscopic content is not a good idea.

There are definitely conditions that you can detect with unaided human senses that will lead to mold growth. Earlier posts of mine labeled mold as a symptom of the problem. The problem (water) can be detected….usually.

If you have water, organic material and ventilation issues you have perfect conditions for mold growth. Do not let moisture loose on your home. But even with uncontrolled moisture I have seen very low spore counts in the air.

The moral of the story is: if you think you have mold growing, get it tested, and do it right by hiring a trained, professional mold sampling technician.