Salem

Flat Roof Deck failure and the Story of Repeated Deck Replacements

The coolness factor of a deck/patio that you can walk out onto and having living space underneath cannot be denied.  When houses are built on/in hills it can be a very efficient way to maximize the usable space while minimizing concrete.

These deck/patio areas are considered “flat roofs.” Everyone hears the word “level” when I say flat and that is not true.  Flat roofs are any roof with a less than 4-12 pitch.  They all have slope, some more than others.  The tricky thing about flat roofs is that they don’t really get to take advantage of gravity to bring the moisture down and away.  The water is flowing down the slope of the surface just much slower and if there are any low areas of areas of ponding water will sit and work on any vulnerable areas until there is a leak.  

Case in point:

With this decking system we can look into the past a little and see that as the contractors installed the framing and sheathing everything was nice and sloped and smooth.  Then the roofing was installed and part of the roofing at the lowest edge a 90° edge metal was installed.  This created a little high area, right alond the edge that wouldn’t let water drain effectively but over all it was sloped and the standing water could be managed.  Almost done right?  Oh, wait!  We still need a railing!

If the rail has not been thought about until this point in the deck’s construction it is screwed (in more ways than one!).  There is no good way to install deck posts that won’t damage or hamper another part of the roof surface.  With the deck surface needing a rail and a nice (mostly flat) roof surface to the edge the contractor chose to go right through the surface of the roof with fasteners.  This is a terrible installation for structural stability (toe-nailed fasteners are not very reliable against lateral/horizontal forces).

Now, right at the edge of the roof slope, where remember we had those areas of ponding, the roofing membrane was filled full of holes to mount the wooden posts.  The poor home owners tried to caulk this post-to-roofing transition, but it was too late.  

Inside the thermal camera did not see any smoking guns (sometimes it can be hard when temperature inside and outside is very close to the same), the moisture meter was able to confirm current ongoing leakage in this system under the edges and especially where the rail posts where installed.

The top sides of the windows are always a good place to check for leakage.  Even if it is not active the tannins in the water from soaking through wood framing alow you to see the “tea” colored stains.

By failing to plan for the finishes and rail this deck was doomed to fail.  These decks can be done much better, but it takes an experienced contractor who knows what the issues are going to be 5 steps ahead!

As always if you have any questions or would like some help diagnosing an issue just give me a call or email:

Jim Allhiser 503.508.4321

Jallhiser@PerfectionInspetionInc.com

Your favorite Salem Home Inspector.

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Lets settle this crack issue

One thing that comes up often during home inspections is foundation cracks.

Most people have heard about someone who had a terrible foundation crack that cost them thousands! Unfortunately, these stories can be true but let’s unpack the term foundation and take a better look at those dreaded cracks.

The term foundation refers to the structure that transfers the weight/load of the house to the soil.

The most conventional modern foundation in Salem, Oregon is a poured concrete continuous perimeter foundation. This type of foundation is made with poured concrete (obviously) and will have a crawlspace most of the time but can have a basement. We don’t see to many basements in this part of Oregon due to the lack of frost. In colder climates the depth of the footing must be below the frost depth or how deep the ground freezes, to prevent heaving. That is why you see basements in cold climate areas. This perimeter foundation can also be made with concrete/masonry block (this was popular in the 1960’s in the Salem area).

Foundations can also be slabs. The entire footprint of the house is a concrete slab with a thicker section around the perimeter to act as a footing. We don’t see very many slab foundations in the Salem, Oregon area. Continuous perimeter foundations are more common because they are less expensive (they use less concrete than a slab) and a crawlspace is a great area to run pipes and wires after the house is built.

On very old houses, 100 years+, we can still see post and beam houses. Some real estate pros will state that because the house does not have a “continuous perimeter” foundation that these houses don’t have a foundation. This is not true as the definition of foundation is the transfer of weight to the soil. Although unconventional by today’s standards these houses are still transferring the weight/load of the house to the soil. These posts and beams can be huge timbers 16″x16″x30′. They typically have issues with wood destroying insects but that is more about moisture management issues than anything else.

Now that we have a pretty good idea about foundations and what they are let’s look at the cracks that can occur in continuous perimeter foundations.

The most common types of cracks are small (less than 1/4″ and mostly vertical). This type of cracks indicates shrinkage. Concrete cures or hardens as a chemical reaction and I have heard people say that it hardens for 100 years! As it is hardening it is also shrinking. As it shrinks is needs to take up less space and it cracks. These cracks do not affect the ability of the concrete to transfer load to the soil and are very normal.

small, vertical= shrinkage= not a concern

Now we can start looking at cracks that are of concern. In general, any crack that is bigger than 1/4″ should be further investigated, but the shapes of cracks can also indicate the type of movement.

Diagonal cracks. Diagonal cracks are an indicator of movement. Typically, there is a soil/water issue that is affecting the ability of the soil to carry the weight of the house.

“V” shaped cracks are also movement indicators.

Horizontal cracks are another type of crack to watch for.

That covers the most common types of cracks that we see during inspections. As always, if you have any questions about a crack in your life feel free to shoot me a call or email!

I have Moss all over my Roof! Now what?

Moss is very common in this area. Moss and algae 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 roof’s 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 into 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 the liquid anti-moss chemicals and a hose end attached shrub and tree sprayer to be a handy tool.

Moss out for roofs
Moss killing powder

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 several roofs and the major issue with these is the fact that the ridge shingles did not appear to be impregnated and still need to be treated for moss/algae growth.

https://www.certainteed.com/residential-roofing/certainteeds-streakfighter-algae-resistant-technology/

3. Mechanically removing the moss is also an option. This option is really only for the very worst conditions.

It involves a paint scraper, screwdriver, putty knife or something similar and trekking 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 algae growth but moss looks at the little strips and laughs. You may have noticed some homes around town that have clear/clean sections of shingles under the metal roof vents. What is going on here is the zinc from the galvanized steel roof vents is leaching onto the roof surface and running down every time it rains. This has lead people to believe that sections of copper wire or small strips of zinc could be an effective way to kill moss. In the wet PNW this is not an effective technique. The difference is all about surface-area. The galvanized roof vents have a good amount of metal exposed and therefore a pretty good amount of zinc washes down the roof surface. Compare that surface to the 2″ wide strip of zinc and you can see there will be far less leaching occurring off the little zinc strips. The strips usually are effective for 2 to 3 feet down the slope. I have seen the strips added every 2 feet down an entire roof slope. This installation appeared to be effective, but it was weird looking and I have only seen that once on the top of a three-story apartment building.

5.  Power washing, scraping with brooms, or laundry detergent. Unfortunately, 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 asphalt composite roof is a bad idea.

-There may be some contractors who use power washers to clean roofs, but these individuals are licensed, bonded (and most importantly insured) and have the experience to know which nozzle to use and how far to hold it away from the roof surface. Even with this experience and expertise roof life is blasted away. It is probably the last 5-10 year of roof life, so you may not see issues for a while. Power washing should be strictly limited to the driveway and walkways surfaces around your home.

-Brooms and other mechanical abrasives 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 removes the ultraviolet resistance 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.

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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Picture/Thermal Challenge for Salem Oregon home Inspections

I have been having so much fun with Perfection Inspection’s fan page and my picture challenge I decided to branch out and have it help me get some Google juice.

The idea is:  I post a picture, thermal/infrared or interesting visual picture that I capture on a recent home inspection.

Then you guess what the picture is.

  • I am toying with the timelines but for now I will post for 1 week and at the end of that week I will post the answer and the first closest guess gets a $5.00 Starbucks card.
  • Only one guess per person and the moderator will be the sole decider of the closest guess.
  • People that I think know the answer (because they were at the inspection where the image was taken) will be excluded

Now enough with the legal disclosures and on the the challenge:

What is it?

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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Wet Crawlspaces,…Ok what now?

Being a home inspector lets me witness a condition that pops up fairly often in Salem, Oregon, area: Water in crawl spaces.  Home inspections do not allow me participate in diagnostics very often but sometimes I do get called out to diagnose where water is coming with my high-tech infrared camera.

Crawl space construction in this area is very popular for a few reasons.  The two main reasons are; one: it takes less concrete, read- Cheaper. and Two: it puts the wood members of the house up off the ground when our high water table potentially allows water to bubble up from the ground.  Ideally crawl spaces should not be wet however it is not a terribly uncommon issue in this area and  the main culprit is the gutters and downspouts and what they are up to when they go underground.

Right after the foundation is poured, the underground piping is installed.  This means that every other trade that is working on their part of the home has to step over the newly installed plastic pipes.  Once the pipes are covered up, near the end completion of the home it is sometimes out of sight and out of mind.

The most compelling evidence I had for this condition was on a listed home that had an offer and a home inspection.  The sellers called me out to try and locate the source of the water.  After some trial and error per my suggestions the handy home owner disconnected the downspouts and shoved the garden hose down the pipe and filled the pipe with water.  He went into the crawlspace and noted the water bubbling up under the foundation near his front door.


The door had a nice slab of concrete leading to the entrance so the home owner rerouted that troublesome pipe into a drywell near the perimeter of his lot and promptly dried up his wet crawlspace.


Diagnostics don’t always work like that but for years I have seen water in crawl spaces and a majority of the time I can find the gutter and downspout that is the contributor.

You can find more information on crawlspaces here:

Crawlspaces need love and attention too

Problems under the Surface

Your cat is Killing this Salem, Oregon Home Inspector and your Home’s crawlspace


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

“Always on the cutting edge”

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Work that Network to find Great professional Real Estate Agents and Inspectors

The state of Oregon has a regulation system for home inspectors and home inspections (check out the Oregon State Standards of Practice for Home Inspections). These regulations have created minimum levels of competency and insurance and this has been a very good thing for consumers.

In some states it is still possible to hire a home inspector that has no more training than to buy a flash light and a screw driver. There will be good home inspectors in most areas but weeding through the new screwdriver/flashlight business owners can be more challenging.

A good agent can still open doors

My number one source of business is referrals. I dearly appreciate the agents that are willing to put their good names and the safety of their clients in my hands. This level of trust is not taken lightly. Local Real estate can be a very small community and inspectors that make a habit of providing less than the absolute best can get known for that.

If you are shopping for a home inspector start with the real estate agents. State licensing is a good start but the reality of day in and day out performance will only be realized on the ground an in the community.

It just makes sense for a person that does not work in the field of real estate to trust a good advisor. A good agent is much more than a creature that can open a door for you.

Probably the number one thing a home buyer/seller can do to ensure a  trouble-free transaction is to- find a great agent. Through education, training, and plain old feet on the ground experience a good agent can help advise a home buyer/seller on every phase of a transaction.

Finding a good agent is not always easy. It will take time so start early. I spent about two years doing home inspections before I found a referral base that I felt really good about. Agents that cared about their clients more than the deal. Agents that realized that their job was that of an advisor and not a warm body to open a door. Two years of total immersion it took for me to find those agents. Most people don’t have two years to spend on the task of meeting an agent but a little more reasearch than calling the phone number on the sign should be considered.

First place to start is your circle of influence. Most adults have had experiences with agents. Ask local people like your doctor, repair contractor, and friends and neighbors. Get a few names of some good agents and then hit the web. Many good agents have blogs and a Google search for local agent blogs can turn up a lot of useful information.

The beautiful thing about an agent’s blog is that you can get to know that person before you actually meet! Face to face interaction is great but some times it can be difficult to get to know someone by having a few minutes if conversation in their office.

Wood Chip siding/OSB Problems and Maintenance Ideas Noted on Salem Oregon Home Inspections

As wood products have become more and more expensive the search for a viable inexpensive alternative has intensified.  In the world of siding real wood is still hard to beat.  Real wood sheds liquid water and allows water vapor to effectively come and go.  Solid wood is really a fantastic siding material but it is expensive so creative companies have been trying to develop a product that could be made from wood by-product (wood chips and fiber).

Wood chip siding has been around for many years but in the late 80’s and early 90’s a certain type of OSB (Oriented Strand Board) siding really became popular around Salem, Oregon and the Pacific Northwest.  The type that really had issues was the lap type made by Louisiana Pacific (LP).  This product had an adhesive that did not resist moisture effectively, and because proper sealing with primer and paint and continued home owner maintenance cannot be counted upon, the siding began to absorb moisture very quickly and began to deteriorate (grow mushrooms/fall apart).

LP went back to the drawing board, made some adjustments and continued to produce a very similar “wood chip” lap siding.  The adjustments were made to the sealing process.  They primed the entire board at the factory not just the front face, and they put a bevel on the drip edge of the siding that would help water drip off instead of being absorbed.

Wood chip siding also comes in panel form and although it is a similar product to the lap siding it doesn’t have as high of a percentage of vulnerable areas.  With the lap siding the bottom drip edge and all the other edges (only the front face is really the only durable side) are vulnerable and should be actively sealed/maintained with primer

and paint.  The panel boards come in 4’x8′ sheets and again only the edges are vulnerable but the damage resistant surfaces (again the front face) are much larger per piece.  The panels edges still need to be sealed actively.

One of the most common mistakes I see on home inspections around Salem, Oregon is the very bottom edge of the siding not getting painted.  Of course I carry a mirror that makes it easier for me to see that bottom edge that is only 8″ off the ground, but even with out fancy home inspector g ear you can get down on your knees and make sure this most vulnerable of areas gets sealed.  Both panel and lap siding have this issue and usually from waste down is where the lap goes bad and the very botto m is where the panel siding doesn’t get painted and begins to fail.

Now what is “failure/deterioration/dry rot?” In one of my earlier posts I wrote about “dry rot,” and why I do not use that term.  I prefer to use the term deterioration and basically that refers to a level of hardness or lack-of-hardness.  A good rule of thumb is: “If you poke it with your finger does it flex easily?” or (and if you are looking to buy a home that is not yours yet please leave this method to the professional home inspector) “Will a screwdriver/awl/knife point penetrate easily?”  If the answer is “yes” to either of those questions then the siding will not be able to sufficiently hold on to primer/paint and therefore it will not be able to shed water effectively and will continue to deteriorate and possibly begin to allow deterioration of related areas of the home (wall structure).

Some of the composite (wood chip/particle) sidings begin to swell when the paint is failing and allowing water to be absorbed.  Sometimes this swelling can be stifled with prudent and active painting.  But again the siding has got to be “hard” still. If it flexes it will not be able to hold on to the paint that will prevent further moisture absorption and will need to be replaced.

As the siding products have evolved, there have been good and not so good products.  The siding’s job is to shed water while allowing water vapor to come and go.  This job must be achieved while striving for low cost, durability, and ease of installation.  The “wood chip,” siding met a few of those needs, low cost and ease of installation, while suffering in the durability aspect.  However with knowledge of this type of siding’s vulnerabilities and active/aggressive maintenance it can be a lasting and effective siding system.




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

“Always on the cutting edge”
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Pest and Dry Rot? What is That?? Explanations of some confusing Salem, Oregon real estate terms.

Pest and Dry Rot.  Seems like some pretty straight forward items eh?  Actually this can be a little more confusing than you might think.

Pest and Dry Rot is an unbelievably ambiguous term that gets thrown around a lot during the course of a real estate transaction.  To limit the amount of confusion lets dissect the parts and expectations of a Pest and Dry Rot inspection:

Most of the time, around Salem, Oregon the “P and D,” is what loan companies want to see (if anything) as far as the inspections.  So right from the start, things can get weird.  Unlike an appraiser I, the home inspector, do not work for the loan company.  My contract is with my clients (usually the buyers) and I do an inspection for my client’s benefit.  I do not care about what a loan company finds important, they did not hire me.

What is a pest?  I have had neighbors that definitely qualify as pests.  I have even known some real estate agents and mortgage officers that might fall under that guise.  So how am I, your well meaning home inspector, supposed to comment on Pests?  Stay tuned and I will further delve into what this term actually means……:

Wood Destroying Organisms Part 2

Wood Destroying Organisms Part 3

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

“Always on the cutting edge”

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