Jim Allhiser President/Inspector
Jim Allhiser President/Inspector
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.
Now enough with the legal disclosures and on the the challenge:
What is 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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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……:
Jim Allhiser President/Inspector
I have noticed that recently appraisers are starting to
look at the condition of homes. Although
I have no real issue with this practice I am curious about the training that
these appraisers have obtained that allows them to comment on rot, deterioration, electrical, plumbing
and various other issues.
While doing a
home inspection here in Keizer, Oregon the other day, the client and agent mentioned that the
appraiser had commented on the rot in the siding at the front and side of the
home. This was good and I did not disagree but what about
the large section of garage door trim that you could stick your finger
through? The appraiser apparently missed
I am not
concerned for my job as an independent home inspector/ consultant. I am just curious about the direction of the appraisal industry. I have no training and very
little knowledge about home values, so I try to not comment on, or even pay
attention to home prices. I thought the inverse might be true for appraisers. There is no
doubt that an untrained person could recognize significant deterioration in the
siding but what about the termite infestation at the very back of the stairs
that was not recognized because the person has no training on wood destroying
organisms? Does that not become a condition of the loan?
I guess I am just venting/wondering out loud. Where do you think this issue/appraisal industry is headed?
Jim Allhiser President/Inspector
I was telling my father about my on-line marketing and how it was effective at driving business and contacts to me for very little money. I was telling him that my blog and FaceBook are serious tools that allow me to be found when I am doing other things (like home inspections!) He mentioned that he really had no idea what I was taking about. So I started to think about my understanding of this on-line world that I have so-far been able to leverage.
I watched the movie, “I love you man,” the other day and I got to thinking about billboards. In the movie, the real estate agent’s friend puts up all kinds of silly billboards for his friend. The advertising was very visible and really got the agent noticed.
I told my dad that blogging and networking on-line was kind of like that. I put up a billboard in cyberspace every time I write a blog or post a comment. The freeway on and off ramps are controlled by search engines (Google, Yahoo, MSN). If you are looking for, say a Home inspection in Salem Oregon, for instance, you would drive your car into cyberspace and ask one of those engines to show you where to go and the applicable billboards.
Now to back track a little; the way a search engines work is by continually cruising around on those freeways. They all have little robots or spiders that are driving around looking at billboards that are being erected in cyberspace. They take note of these billboards and catalog them according to what is on the billboards and where the billboards point. The more entries the spider robots get in their catalogs that point at one place, the higher they rank that location for those terms.
Of course that is a very down and dirty explanation of things and there can be a significant amount of refinement and development. That is a basic idea of how Search Engine Optimization works. The point of this; is that blogging and on-line social networking is very inexpensive compared to real world (as opposed to cyber-world) advertising. For much less than $1000 dollars a year I have easily doubled my business and done my fair share of puttin’ my name out there where it is going to be seen.
Google Docs people!!
My little garden of irritation for Windows products has been growing and thriving lately. I guess anything that you rely on day-in and day-out will let you down now and then. I don’t really have any experience with anything else, but I have heard some wonderful things……
One of the fantastic little products that I have started using is Google Docs. …Um, can you say, “suck-it ms Word?” Not only does G.Docs work every time, it is on-line so that there are no formatting issues when I cut and paste a blog that I have written and to which pictures have been added. Did you read that last part? Yeah, things just cut-and-paste like you think they should, weird huh?
It is important that you take warning from this post. As of today there are about 10 previously written blog posts on my computer that are locked in a bizarre ms Word purgatory. I can only partially open them and I cannot highlight to cut-and-paste. For me, there is little hope. But for all of you that read this, please do something today. Put down that widows pacifier and try the solutions that were created for the people!!