People are not perfect. Despite the name of my business, my inspections are not perfect, but I strive every day to make them as close as I can. People build homes and no matter what there is always something that could be adjusted, maintained, or updated to help the home be more “perfect.”
These improvements can sometimes be debatable but some things, like the proper ducting and expulsion of bathroom exhaust, are not negotiable.
The little exhaust fans in our bath and laundry rooms’ ceilings are often forgotten about. These little fans can collect and concentrate significant amounts of moisture. If the vapor that they collect is not expelled out of the home it can cause moisture-related issues like deterioration, fungus, termites, beetles, etc…
Traditionally the fans are ducted with a flexible metal duct up to a roof vent. Where the air that is leaving the attic carries the moist bathroom air up and out of the attic. It is currently acceptable to vent the ducts to the soffit, but I am definitely not a fan of this idea because the soffit vents are intakes and all of the warm moisture-laden bathroom air that is blown out of these vents is usually sucked back into the cool attic.
I popped my head up into a new home’s attic the other day during a home inspection and noticed something was missing. The bathroom fans all worked fine, the ducting was routed properly up to the upper roof vents, there was just one key component that was not installed properly….
The hole for the roof vent, although cut through the OSB sheathing, had not been cut through the roofing shingles and building paper.
The home was so new there had not been any substantial moisture added to the attic and repairs simply involved cutting a hole.
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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Toxic Talk was the title of the Salem Association of Realtor’s Educational Event yesterday.
I wanted to give everyone a quick review of the information that I learned:
Radon: It will kill you. Any home might have an issue. It comes out of the ground and even with a well ventilated crawlspace your home can concentrate this poisonous, radioactive gas.
Moral: Get your home tested
Arsenic in Water: It will kill you. Wells will be required to be tested for it during a real estate transaction. If you have it and install a filter CHANGE YOUR FILTER carefully and regularly.
Moral: Get your water tested
Disaster Clean-up: It will kill you. (see a pattern developing?) Rodent urine and feces is a toxic bio hazard
Moral: Hopefully you won’t have to call these guys EVER!
Lead: It will kill you. (yup, believe it or not) Soon Oregon is going to have some changes that require certifications of ANYONE dealing with repairs of older homes and mandatory lead testing of all of these homes!
Moral: Whether you like it or not your home will be tested…..
Mold: (everyone now!) It will kill you. Mold is EVERYWHERE and it is not necessarily the issue but an indicator of moisture conditions that are a problem
Moral: Get your home tested.
Crawlspace/basement leakage: This will probably kill you too but I think the moisture just causes stuff that will kill you…. Crawlspaces and basements are swimming pools and although there are ways to minimize the water intrusion, they are not required by code.
Jim Allhiser President/Inspector
“Always on the cutting edge”
On a home inspection the other day I popped my head into the attic space of a vintage 1950 home. At first glance the attic felt unusually warm and moist. From the outside the gable vents appeared to be large enough and should have kept this attic effectively ventilated however the current renter had some other ideas. He told me that he had been in construction for years and was currently unemployed.
This vintage home had a minimum amount of insulation and the gable vents were covered with plastic!! All of the warm moist air coming up out of the home was being trapped in this unheated, unvented, ideal mold growing limbo. The roof sheathing was covered with a soft and fuzzy patina, very artistic but not very pleasing for home maintenance and air quality.
The moral of the story is those openings in your attic and there for a reason and very important. They are not there to make you suffer when it is time to pay the heating bill. Insulation should be used on HEATED surfaces. Your attic is not a heated space. The floor of the attic is next to a heated space and this is the only surface that should be insulated. The rest of the attic should have enough vents to keep the attic as close to the exterior temperature as possible. This will vent excess moisture, cool the roof system and provide a good environment for maintenance of the structure of the roof.
Home inspections in Salem, Oregon. Mold, Inspector, Keizer
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.
Ah mold. It is such a hot button. I know just by putting the word MOLD into my title this post will get attention.
People are interested, but I am still surprised at the lack of knowledge or the inaccuracy of knowledge (even you agents who need to know the basics).
This is not intended to be a general knowledge post. (go here for that) This is a heads up for everyone on the issues concerning acurrently accepted means of exhausting bathroom vents. It is acceptable, by International building codes to duct bathroom vents to an attic vent (any vent). This is usually a good thing and definitely better than venting directly into the attic. Recently I came across a very new home (only four years old) that had some mold growth in the attic. Not really a huge amount, however mold spores are microscopic and you cannot determine if it is affecting Indoor Air Quality without getting a lab involved. With closer investigation it could be noted the exhaust fan for the shower and toilet area was ducted to the nearby soffit vent. This is currently acceptable by building standanrds however in this case it was the root of the issue.
The way an attic vent system works is like a chimney, as the roof heats cool air is pulled into the soffit vents and hot air is exhausted out the ridge vents. So as the diligent home owners ran their exhaust fans during the steamy shower all of the warm steam was pointed at an intake vent!! All the moisture exhausted toward the vent and promptly turned around and was able to condense on the cool attic surfaces as the soffit vent did its job.