Welcome to the Homeowner’s Newsletter!  Each month, you’ll find plenty of useful information for keeping your house in great condition so that you can enjoy it for years to come. Preserve your investment—and keep your family safe and healthy—by maintaining your home using the following tips.

Water Heaters

A water heater is an appliance that heats potable water and supplies heated water to the home’s plumbing distribution system.  Most tanks are insulated steel cylinders with an enamel coating on the inner surface. They are referred to as glass-lined tanks. The lining helps prevent corrosion.  A water heater can literally explode if it’s not installed properly. There are standards that regulate the materials, design and installation of water heaters and their related safety devices. Certification marks on them from approved agencies indicate compliance with approved standards.

Conventional residential water heaters have life expectancies that vary greatly.  The typical water heater has a lifespan of about 10 years, based on the following factors: correct installation; usage volume; construction quality; and maintenance.

Correct Installationhome inspection of water heater
A water heater should generally be installed upright. Installing a water heater on its side will place structural stress on it due to inadequate support for the heater and its pipes, and may cause premature failure.  Water heaters should be installed in well-ventilated areas — not just for fire safety requirements and nitrous-oxide buildup, but also because poor ventilation can shorten its lifespan.  A water heater should also not be placed in an area susceptible to flood damage. Water can rust out the exterior and pipes, decreasing the life expectancy and efficiency of the unit.  A water heater is best placed in an easily accessible area for maintenance.  It should also be readily visible for fire and health-hazard requirements.

Usage
The life expectancy of the water heater depends a great deal on the volume of water used. Using large quantities of water means that the water heater will have to work harder to heat the water. In addition, the greater the volume of water, the greater the corrosive effect of the water will be on the tank materials, pipes, etc.

Construction Quality
As with most household systems and components, you get what you pay for in a water heater. Cheaper models will generally have a shorter lifespan, while more expensive models will generally last longer. A good indication of a water heater’s construction quality is its warranty.  Longer warranties naturally imply sound construction. According to a 2007 Consumer Report that deconstructed 18 different models of water heaters, it was determined that models with longer warranties were of superior manufacturing quality, with nine- and 12-year models typically having larger or higher-wattage heating elements, as well as thicker insulation. Models with larger heating elements have a much better resistance to mineral buildup or scum.

Pay attention to the model’s features.  For example, porcelain casing provides an additional layer of protection against rusting, and a greater level of heat insulation. Some models come with a self-cleaning feature that flushes the pipes of mineral deposit buildup, which can affect the unit’s lifespan.  Models with larger or thicker anodes are better-equipped to fight corrosion.

Maintenance and Parts Replacement
The hardness of the water is another consideration when looking at estimating the lifespan of a water heater.  In areas where there is a higher mineral content to the water, water heaters have shorter a lifespan than in other areas, as mineral buildup reduces the units’ efficiency. Even in areas where the water is softer, however, some mineral deposition is bound to occur.  A way to counteract this mineral buildup is to periodically flush the water heater system, which not only removes some of the buildup, but, in tank systems, the process heats the water in the tank. Higher-end models typically come equipped with a self-flushing feature.  In models for which manual flushing is required, it is important not to damage the water heater valve, which is usually made of plastic and is easy to break.

Although an older model may appear to be well-maintained, a question arises:  Is the maintenance worth it? Warranties often exclude labor costs, so a good rule to follow is that if the total repair cost per year is greater than 10% of the cost of buying and installing a new water heater, it is probably not worth replacing any damaged parts.

Toilets & Bidets

A water closet in the U.S. is commonly referred to as a toilet.  The term “water closet” originates from the time when plumbing was brought indoors, and defecation took place in a small, closet-size room with a pot.

Toilet Styles   
There are three styles of water closets: close-coupled, one-piece, and flushometer valve.  The most common is the close-coupled water closet, which has a bowl and separate gravity-type tank or flushometer tank that is supported by the bowl.  A one-piece water closet is constructed with the gravity-type tank or flushometer tank and bowl as one integral unit.  A flushometer-valve water closet is a bowl with a flushometer valve.  Water closet bowls come in six styles: blow-out, siphon jet, reverse trap, wash-down, siphon vortex, and siphon wash.
Toilet Measurements
A water closet has a water consumption limit of a maximum average of 1.6 gallons of water per flush. The general bowl rim height above the floor is between 14 and 15 inches.  Other rim heights may be needed for water closets used by children (10 inches), and the elderly and persons with physical disabilities (18 inches).  Elongated water closet bowls are required for public or employee use but are often installed in homes.  An elongated bowl is 2 inches longer than a regular bowl.

Defects at Toilets
The water closet (toilet) may have a clogged drain.  While flushing the toilet, watch the flush performance, and use toilet paper as part of this test.  There should be no excessive odors around the water closet.  Check the flooring around the toilet with your foot.  Using the side of your leg, check to see if the toilet is securely attached to the floor.  If it wobbles, the screws at the base may be loose, or the wax ring that adheres the fixture to the waste pipe may be worn or of the wrong size.  If so, it should be replaced.  Look for dampness around the bottom of the toilet base.  Toilets sometimes run continuously.  Check for a water shut-off valve.  Some toilets are mistakenly connected to the hot water system.  Tank lids are often cracked.  Any defective parts should be immediately replaced to avoid backup flooding.

Bidets
Common in much of Europe and Asia, bidets are toilet-like plumbing fixtures designed to promote posterior hygiene. They’re becoming increasingly common in North America.  Contrary to popular belief, a bidet is not an alternative to a toilet.  Its purpose is as a hygiene device following toilet use.  However, some bidets have been incorporated into toilets, especially in bathrooms that are not large enough for both fixtures.

Bidets, like toilets, are typically made from porcelain and contain a deep recess within a wide rim. They emit an arc of clean water from a nozzle that may be located beneath the rear of the rim or deep within the fixture’s cavity. Users can sit on the rim (or seat, if it has one), or straddle the fixture and face in either direction. He or she can decide which direction to face based on the water jet configuration and the part of their body that needs cleaning. Water temperature and pressure can be adjusted with knobs in order to arrive at the desired settings.

Some bidets come with built-in air dryers. Toilet paper can be used for this purpose if no dryer is available. The bidet can be rinsed after use to keep it clean.

Benefits

  • People who suffer from hemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome, or have recently had surgery can find relief with the more gentle water flow of a bidet.
  • As the bidet requires less operator mobility, they are easier to use for the elderly, disabled and obese.
  • Many believe that the use of bidets is more hygienic and effective than toilet paper.

Safety Precautions

  • Users should familiarize themselves with the rate of temperature and pressure changes that occur when they adjust the controls. Sensitive regions can be burned if the user is not careful, and high water pressure can be irritating.
  • Users should know in advance the direction of the water arc and position themselves accordingly. The spray can be powerful enough to strike a person in the face.

 

Bathroom Sinks (Lavatories)

Lavatories
A lavatory is a washbasin or sink located in a bathroom or washroom.  “Lavatory” means washbasin or sink, and is derived from the Latin word lavatorium, which means washing vessel, and the French word laver, meaning “to wash.” Lavatories come in a variety of shapes and sizes.  They are available in enameled cast-iron, vitreous china, stainless steel, porcelain-enameled formed steel, plastic, and non-vitreous ceramic.  They can be wall-mounted, hanger-mounted, under-mounted, pedestal, rimmed, and above-center basin types.
Countertops integrated with lavatories are constructed of a variety of materials, including ABS, PVC, gel-coated fiberglass-reinforced plastic, acrylic, polyester, and cultured marble.  Plastic vanity tops should be impregnated with fire-resistant chemicals to reduce the fuel contribution of the lavatory during a house fire or the accidental fire from a plumber’s torch.  They are also made to resist the effect of a burning cigarette left unattended on the vanity top.

Lavatories should have a waste outlet of at least 1-1/4 inches in diameter.  Each lavatory must have a strainer, a pop-up stopper, a crossbar, or other mechanism to prevent items such as rings, toothbrushes and cosmetic items from dropping into the drain.

Lavatory Overflows
Former standards required lavatories to have an overflow, but that is no longer the case.  The overflow is now an option of the manufacturer.  The reason for not requiring an overflow at a lavatory is because of the lack of use of the overflow, which can cause bacterial and micro-organism growth.

Where a lavatory does have an overflow installed, the cross-sectional area of the overflow should be a minimum of 1-1/8 inches; anything larger can promote bacterial and micro-organism growth.  The overflow should be able to prevent overflowing of the sink for a minimum of five minutes when tested from the onset of water flowing into the overflow’s opening.

Maintenance Tips
There are many different designs of lavatories, including artisanal styles that sit up on the vanity, rather than being dropped into a recessed cavity in the vanity or countertop.  Regardless of the style or whether it includes an overflow opening, the washbasin should be securely attached to the vanity, be free of cracks and other defects, and have gaps that are properly caulked to prevent moisture buildup, which can lead to unsanitary conditions, including mold growth.

Bathtub & Showers

Bathtubs
Bathtubs are made from many different types of materials, including enameled cast-iron, porcelain-enameled steel, and plastic. Plastic tubs are made from materials including ABS, PVC, fiberglass, fiberglass-reinforced plastic, acrylic, and cultured-marble acrylic. Bathtubs that are equipped with shower fixtures should be manufactured with slip-resistant surfaces. Bathtubs should have a drainage outlet (tailpiece) with a minimum diameter of 1-1/2 inches. Every tub should be equipped with a stopper. The bathtub should have an overflow outlet installed. The overflow prevents flooding if the tub is being filled while unattended, and prevents overflow of the water when a person enters a tub that is full.

Fire-Resistance
Bathtubs made of plastic are tested for fire ignition.  They are made with fire-resistant chemicals to reduce their fuel contribution in a house fire, or an accidental exposure to a plumber’s torch.

Large Bathtub Loads
Some bathtubs are so large that they can accommodate more than one person at a time.  These larger bathtubs may need special and additional structural support underneath them to adequately support the load.
A 3×4-foot bathtub may have a capacity to hold 200 gallons or more.  The weight of the bathtub, water, and occupants may total over 1 ton, considering:

200 pounds for the bathtub
+ 1,600 pounds of water
+    350 pounds for two people
= 2,150 pounds

A very large tub may cause structural problems because live-loading for a typical residential home is 40 pounds per square foot.  The live load for a 3×4-foot occupied tub may be assumed to be only 480 pounds, but may weigh over 2,000 pounds while it is in use.

Maintenance Tips
The homeowner should make sure that the tub is free of cracks, rust and other staining, and that all edges, gaps and surrounding tile are adequately caulked to ensure that moisture cannot leach behind the tile work and drywall, which can lead to leaks and structural damage behind walls that won’t be evident until the issue becomes extensive and expensive to fix.

Showers
Plastic, pre-fabricated shower units are constructed of various synthetic materials, including ABS, PVC, gel-coated fiberglass-reinforced plastic, cultured marble, cast-filled fiberglass, polyester, cultured marble acrylic, and acrylic.  These shower units are impregnated with fire-retardant chemicals to reduce the fuel contribution during a fire, and protection against an accidental burn by a plumber’s torch.

The showerhead height is not typically regulated by building codes, but the head is commonly installed 70 to 80 inches above the shower floor.

Shower Water Pipes
Water-supply pipes from the shower valve to the showerhead outlet — referred to as the shower riser pipes — whether exposed or not, must be firmly attached to a structural component to prevent the pipes from leaking caused by stress fractures or joint failures.  Movement of the showerhead may move the riser piping, possibly causing failure of the piping.  The risers must be firmly secured.

The common practice for installing the riser pipe is to place a drop-ear elbow at the top of the riser pipe.  The elbow has two wing connections.  They can be screwed to a structural backing board, such as a 2×4.  A pipe strap can be used instead of a drop-ear elbow.  When the riser is exposed, the manufacturer will typically provide a strap or attachment device to match the finish of the fixture and pipe.  The strap or attachment device should be firmly secured to a structural component.

Shower Outlets
The waste outlet for a shower should have minimum diameter of 1-1/2 inches.  The shower outlet should have a strainer that is at least 3 inches in diameter, with dimensional openings in the strainer of at least a 1/4-inch.  The strainer should be removable.

Shower Area
A shower compartment should have an interior cross-sectional area of at least 900 square inches.  This will allow an average-sized adult to clean the lower body while bending over.  A shower that’s any smaller would be inadequately sized.  Shower compartments should be at least 30 inches in minimum dimension.  This measurement is based on the movement of an adult body inside a shower and measured from the finished     interior dimension of the compartment, excluding fixture valves, showerheads, soap dishes and grab bars.  There are exceptions for showers having fold-down seats, and those with compartments at least 25 inches wide and 1,300 square inches in cross-sectional area.

The exception allows for a shower with one dimension being 25 inches, provided the compartment has at least 1,300 square inches of cross-sectional area.  This is useful to contractors and DIY homeowners who remove an old bathtub and install a standup shower fixture in the same space.

Shower Walls
Showers and bathtubs with installed showerheads should be finished with a non-absorbent surface that shall extend to a height of not less than 6 feet above the floor level of the room, or 70 inches above the shower floor.  It should be constructed of smooth, corrosion-resistant and non-absorbent materials to protect the structural components from moisture damage.  The gypsum or cement wallboard behind ceramic tiles of a shower wall should be water-resistant. The water-resistant material is not required in the rest of the bathroom, although it is a common practice to use water-resistant gypsum wallboard in other areas of the bathroom because of the moisture levels.

Shower Access and Egress Opening
Many injuries in a home are related to accidents in the bathtub or shower.  The minimum opening requirements for access and egress allows an adult enough room to safely step into and exit the shower area without having to twist or turn through a narrow opening.  The shower opening (or access and egress opening) should be at least 22 inches of clear and unobstructed finish-width.  The 22-inch width is based on the approximate shoulder width of an average-sized adult, and provides comfortable access to service the valves, showerheads and drain.  It allows for emergency response and rescue access, and emergency egress.

Shower Floors
The shower floor surface must be watertight with smooth, corrosion-resistant, non-absorbent, waterproof materials.  Joints between the floor and walls of the shower must be sealed or flashed to prevent water penetration.  Ideally, there should be some type of slip-resistant floor surface.  The shower floor structure needs proper support by a smooth and structurally sound base.  The base of the shower floor should be designed to support both dead (structural) and live (people and water) loads.

Shower pans and liners are installed under and around showers to prevent moisture intrusion from getting into the structural supports under and behind the shower enclosure.  They must meet specific standards for material, installation and size in order to support both dead and live loads.

Shower Glazing
Glass doors enclosing the shower should be made of safety glazing.  If a window is installed in the shower, the window should be made of safety glazing to provide protection.  If a person slips or falls inside the shower, s/he may be seriously injured by broken glass if the glass is not made of safety glazing.  The safety glazing should be correctly labeled by being permanently marked in a corner, legible and visible after installation, and indoor applications should be marked “indoor use only.”

Maintenance Tips
Similar to other bathroom fixtures, the homeowner should make sure that the shower is free of cracks, rust and other staining, and that all edges, gaps and surrounding tile are adequately caulked to ensure that moisture cannot leach behind the tile work and drywall, which can lead to leaks and structural damage behind walls that won’t be evident until the issue becomes extensive and expensive to fix.  Additionally, if the glazing for the showers doors is damaged, it should be replaced, as cracked glazing can break without notice and cause serious injuries.

 

Red Horse Home Inspection is proud to service the Black Hills area.  We perform home inspections, radon testing, and water testing.  Our service area covers Rapid City, Piedmont, Black Hawk, Sturgis, Whitewood, Spearfish, Belle Fourche, Deadwood, Lead, Hot Springs, Custer, Hills City, Keystone, Hermosa, Rapid Valley, Summerset, and everywhere in between.  If you would like to schedule your home inspection call 490-2916 or easily schedule online.  Follow us on Facebook. Check our our Google My Business Page.

Welcome to the Homeowner’s February Newsletter!  Each month, you’ll find plenty of useful information for keeping your house in great condition so that you can enjoy it for years to come. Preserve your investment—and keep your family safe and healthy—by maintaining your home using the following tips.

Indoor Air Quality Issues

Indoor air quality is generally worse than most people believe, but there are things you can do about it.

Some Quick Facts:

  • Indoor air quality can be worse than that of outdoor air.
  • Problems can arise from moisture, insects, pets, appliances, radon, materials used in household products and furnishings, smoke, and other sources.
  • Effects range from minor annoyances to major health risks.
  • Remedies include ventilation, cleaning, moisture control, inspections, and following manufacturers’ directions when using appliances and products.

Many homes are built or remodeled more tightly, without regard to the factors that assure fresh and healthy indoor air circulation. Many homes today also contain furnishings, appliances and products that can affect indoor air quality.

Signs of indoor air quality problems include:

  • unusual and noticeable odors;
  • stale or stuffy air and a noticeable lack of air movement;
  • dirty or faulty central heating or air-conditioning equipment;
  • damaged flue pipes and chimneys;
  • unvented combustion air sources for fossil-fuel appliances;
  • excessive humidity;
  • the presence of molds and mildew;
  • adverse health reactions after remodeling, weatherizing, bringing in new furniture, using household and hobby products; and
  • feeling noticeably healthier outside.

Common Sources of Air Quality Problems
Poor indoor air quality can arise from many sources. At least some of the following contaminants can be found in almost any home:

  • moisture and biological pollutants, such as molds, mildew, dust mites, animal dander, and cockroaches;
  • high humidity levels, inadequate ventilation, and poorly maintained humidifiers and air conditioners;
  • combustion products, including carbon monoxide from unvented fossil-fuel space heaters, unvented gas stoves and ovens, and back-drafting from furnaces and water heaters;
  • formaldehyde from durable-press draperies and other textiles, particleboard products, such as cabinets and furniture framing, and adhesives used in composite wood furniture and upholstery;
  • radon, which is a radioactive gas from the soil and rock beneath and around the home’s foundation, groundwater wells, and some building materials;
  • household products, such as paints, solvents, air fresheners, hobby supplies, dry-cleaned clothing, aerosol sprays, adhesives, and fabric additives used in carpeting and furniture, which can release volatile organic compounds (VOCs);
  • asbestos, which is found in most homes more than 20 years old. Sources include deteriorating, damaged and disturbed pipe insulation, fire retardant, acoustical ceiling tiles, and floor tiles;
  • lead from lead-based paint dust, which is created when removing paint by sanding, scraping or burning;
  • particulates from dust and pollen, fireplaces, wood stoves, kerosene heaters, and unvented gas space heaters; and
  • tobacco smoke, which produces particulates, combustion products and formaldehyde.

Tips for Homeowners
•       Ask about formaldehyde content before buying furniture, cabinets and draperies.
•       Promptly clean and dry water-damaged carpet, or remove it altogether.
•       Vacuum regularly, especially if you have pets, and consider using area rugs instead of wall-to-wall carpeting. Rugs are easier to remove and clean, and the floor underneath can also be easily cleaned.
•       Eliminate unwanted moisture intrusion by checking for sources (such as holes and cracks in the basement and other areas, and leaks from appliances), and by using a dehumidifier.
•       Open windows and use fans to maintain fresh air with natural and mechanical air circulation.
•        Always open the flue damper before using the fireplace.  This will also prevent carbon-monoxide poisoning.
•       If your air conditioner has a water tray, empty and clean it often during the cooling season.
•       If you smoke, smoke outdoors and away from any windows and doors.
•       Use the range vent above your stove whenever you cook.
•       Use the bathroom vent whenever you use the bathroom.
•       Don’t leave vehicles or lawn care equipment running in your garage.  Make sure the door leading from the home to the garage has a door sweep to help keep out vapors.

Your InterNACHI inspector can recommend more ways to help you maintain healthy indoor air quality for you and your family.

Dryer Vent Maintenance & Safety

House fires caused by dryers are far more common than are generally believed.  According to the National Fire Protection Agency, fires caused by dryers in 2005 were responsible for approximately 13,775 house fires, 418 injuries, 15 deaths, and $196 million in property damage. Most of these incidents occur in residences and are the result of improper lint cleanup and maintenance. Fortunately, these fires are very easy to prevent.

Clothes dryers evaporate the water from wet clothing by blowing hot air past them while they tumble inside a spinning drum. Heat is provided by an electrical heating element or gas burner. Some heavy garment loads can contain more than a gallon of water that will become airborne water vapor and leave the dryer and home through an exhaust duct, more commonly known as the dryer vent.

A vent that exhausts damp air to the home’s exterior has a number of requirements:
•       It should be connected. The connection is usually behind the dryer but may it be under it. Look carefully to make sure it’s actually connected.
•       It should not be restricted. Dryer vents are often made from flexible plastic or metal duct, which may be easily kinked or crushed where they exit the dryer and enter the wall or floor. This is often a problem since dryers tend to be tucked away into small areas with little room to work. Vent hardware is available that is designed to turn 90 degrees in a limited space without restricting the flow of exhaust air.  Air flow restrictions are a potential fire hazard.
•       One of the reasons that restrictions pose a fire hazard is that, along with water vapor evaporated out of wet clothes, the exhaust stream carries lint – highly flammable particles of clothing made of cotton, wool and polyester. Lint can accumulate in an exhaust duct, reducing the dryer’s ability to expel heated water vapor, which then accumulates as heat energy within the machine. As the dryer overheats, a subsequent mechanical failure can trigger a spark, which can cause the lint trapped in the dryer vent to burst into flames. This condition can cause the whole house to catch fire.  Fires generally originate within the dryer but spread by escaping through the ventilation duct, incinerating trapped lint, and following its path into the home’s walls.

Problems & Tips
If your dryer vent terminates in the crawlspace or attic, it can deposit moisture there, which can encourage the growth of mold, wood decay, and other structural problems. The vent may also terminate just under the attic ventilators. This is also a defective installation. Make sure your dryer vent terminates at the exterior and away from any doors and windows so that damp, exhausted air won’t re-enter the home. Also, the end of the dryer vent should have a free-moving damper installed to keep out birds and other pests that like to build nests in this warm environment.  If you find a screen, this is a defective installation because a screen can block lint and other debris, causing it to accumulate and leading to a house fire.  If it’s safety accessible, make sure your dryer vent is unobstructed and that the damper works properly.

WDO & Pest Control

Wood-destroying organisms and other pests can cause serious problems in the wooden structural components of a house, and an infestation may go unnoticed until the damage is already extensive. Control measures include preventing insect entry by sealing holes and cracks, and hiring a professional to apply chemicals for remedial treatment.  The most commons types of destructive insects are termites and ants.

Termites
Subterranean termites are the most damaging insects of wood. Their presence is hard to notice, and damage usually is found before the termites are seen. You should take measures to prevent infestations, which may require hiring a pest-control service.
If you see the following signs in your house, you might have termites:
•       frass or sawdust-like droppings, which result from the termites’ tunneling activity;
•       dirt or mud-like tubes or trails on various parts of the home’s structure, such as wooden support members, plumbing pipes, etc.;
•       damaged wood members (such as window sills); and
•       swarming winged insects within the home, especially in the spring or fall.

Ants
Ants are among the most prevalent pests in households, restaurants, hospitals, offices, warehouses, and virtually all buildings where food and water can be found. While mostly harmless to humans, carpenter ants can cause considerable damage.
The following clues are evidence that your home is host to an ant infestation:
•       long trails of ants, perhaps numbering in the hundreds or thousands. Ants assemble in long trails along structural elements, such as wires and pipes, and frequently use them to enter and travel within a structure to their destination;
•       a few straggler ants, which are scouts in search of food and nesting sites;
•       holes or cracks in walls or the foundation, especially where pipes enter the building, and around windows and doors. These can provide entry points for ants and other insects.  The kitchen (where food is stored and prepared) is a particular problem area;
•       frass deposits, which result from the ants carving tunnels or galleries in the wood;
•       a distinctive rustling sound similar to the crinkling of cellophane. Ants are small but their nests are large enough to produce perceptible noise; and
•       nests in mulch and vegetation outdoors next to the foundation. Check under potted plants, patio blocks, stepping stones, in piles of rocks, lumber and firewood.

Other Pests
Snakes, spiders, bees and/or scorpions may be living in your crawlspace, and while they pose little structural danger to the house, they certainly can harm you. Rapid retreat there can be difficult, so if you’re in your crawlspace for any reason (storing items, looking for moisture intrusion or a water leak, etc.), be aware of your escape paths, and carry an extra flashlight in case the one you’re using suddenly stops working.

Your crawlspace is also the most likely area in the house where hantavirus may be found. This is partly due to the fact that rodents that carry the pathogen are attracted to areas that are undisturbed by humans. Also, crawlspaces are generally dark places that lack ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which can rapidly inactivate the virus. Exposure to hantavirus may lead to Hantavirus Cardiopulmonary Syndrome (HCS), characterized by headaches, fever, difficulty breathing and, often, death. There is no known cure, vaccine or treatment that specifically targets HCS. However, if the symptoms are recognized early, patients may benefit from oxygen therapy.

The Importance of a WDO Inspection
Regular inspections of your house are an important part of home maintenance. Inspecting for wood-destroying insects can alert you to possible infestations in the wooden structural components of your home—a serious problem that often goes undetected for a long time.

Schedule you home inspection with Red Horse Home Inspection.  Follow us on Facebook.

 

Welcome to the Homeowner’s Newsletter for January!  Each month, you’ll find plenty of useful information for keeping your house in great condition so that you can enjoy it for years to come. Preserve your investment—and keep your family safe and healthy—by maintaining your home using the following tips.

Radon

Radon is a cancer-causing, radioactive gas. You cannot see, smell or taste radon. But it still may be a problem in your home. Although radon is a naturally occurring gas in our environment, it is also the second leading cause of lung cancer deaths in the U.S., according to the U.S. Surgeon General. Nearly one out of every 15 homes is estimated to have elevated radon levels. The Surgeon General and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommend testing all houses. Millions of Americans have already tested their homes for radon, and you should, too.  (And if you smoke and your home has high radon levels, your risk of lung cancer is especially high.)

Let your InterNACHI inspector test your home for radon.
You cannot predict radon levels based on state, local or neighborhood radon measurements. Do not rely on radon test results from other homes in the neighborhood to estimate the radon level in your own home. Homes that are next to each other can have different radon levels. Testing is the only way to find out what your home’s radon level is.  Your InterNACHI inspector uses special interference-proof air-canister testing devices that will measure the radon levels in different areas of the home over a limited period of time, which will help determine whether installing a mitigation system is recommended.  A radon mitigation system can aid in continuously and automatically filtering outdoor ground air that enters the home, which will help reduce your home’s radon level.

Radon in Water
If the results of your radon air sampling test show elevated levels and your water comes from a private well, have your inspector test your water, too. The devices and procedures for testing for radon in your home’s water supply are different from those used for measuring radon in indoor air. If your water tests positive for radon, this can add to your risk of exposure because the radon can be released into the air during showering and while performing household tasks using water.

The EPA estimates that radon causes thousands of cancer deaths in the U.S. each year. Testing is the only way to determine your home’s radon levels. Contact your InterNACHI inspector to conduct your radon inspection.

Preventing Water Intrusion in Basements & Crawlspaces

The biggest concern for homeowners related to their basement and/or crawlspace area is unwanted moisture intrusion.  This can be the result of several factors, which is why homeowners should occasionally check these areas.

The basement is typically the area of a home most at risk for water damage because it’s located below grade and surrounded by soil.  Soil releases the water it has absorbed during rain or when snow melts, and the water can end up in the basement through cracks.  Water can even migrate through solid concrete walls via capillary action, which is a phenomenon whereby liquid spontaneously rises in a narrow space, such as a thin tube, or via porous materials.  Wet basements can cause problems that include peeling paint, toxic mold contamination, building rot, foundation collapse, and termite damage.  Even interior air quality can be affected if naturally occurring gases released by the soil are being transmitted into the basement.

Properly waterproofing a basement will lessen the risk of damage caused by moisture or water.  Homeowners should be aware of what they can do to keep their basements and crawlspaces dry and safe from damage.

Prevent water entry.
You can help prevent water from entering the basement by ensuring that it’s diverted away from the foundation.  Poor roof drainage and surface runoff due to gutter defects and improper site grading may be the most common causes of a wet basement.

Here are some measures to use to divert water away from the foundation:

  • Install and maintain gutters and downspouts so that they route all rainwater and snow melt at least 10 feet away from the foundation to prevent pooling near the exterior walls.  At the point where water leaves the downspout, it should be able to flow freely away from the foundation instead of back toward it, and it should not be collecting in standing puddles.  A backsplash and diverter can help with this.
  • The finish grade should be sloped away from the building for 10 to 15 feet.  Low spots that may lead to water pooling near the foundation should be re-graded and evened out.
  • Shallow ditches called swales should be dug if one or more sides of the home face an upward slope.  A swale should slope away from the home for 10 to 15 feet, at which point it can empty into another swale that directs water around to the downhill-side of the property, leading it away from the foundation.

Repair all cracks and holes.
There are several causes of cracks and holes that permit moisture intrusion.  Poor workmanship during the home’s construction is one factor.  Water pressure from the outside can also build up, forcing water through the walls.  The house may have settled, causing cracks in the floor or walls.  It’s important to repair all cracks and small holes to prevent leaks and floods.  Any large cracks or holes should be evaluated by a professional after consulting with your InterNACHI home inspector.

Here are some steps to take if you suspect that water is entering the basement through cracks or holes:

  • Examine the basement for holes and cracks and for moisture, leaks and discoloration.
  • A waterproof mixture of epoxy and latex cement can be used to fill small hairline cracks and holes.
  • Any cracks larger than about 1/8-inch should be filled with mortar made from one part cement and two parts fine sand, with just enough water to make a fairly stiff mortar.  It should be pressed firmly into all parts of the larger cracks and holes to be sure that no air bubbles or pockets remain.  As long as water is not being forced through the basement walls due to outside pressure, the application of mortar with a standard trowel will be sufficient if special care is taken to fill all cracks completely.
  • If water is being forced through by outside pressure, a slightly different method of patching can be used, involving chiseling out the mouth the crack along its length and cutting a dovetail groove, which is then filled with mortar.  You may wish to defer this type of repair to a masonry professional.
  • Sodium silicate is a water-based mixture that will actually penetrate the substrate by up to 4 inches.  Concrete, concrete block and masonry include lime as a natural component, which reacts with the sodium silicate to produce a solid, crystalline structure that fills in all the microscopic cracks, holes and pores.  No water vapor or gas will be able penetrate via capillary action because the concrete and masonry have now become harder and denser from the sodium silicate.  It is an alkaline substance and, as such, can burn the skin and eyes on contact.  Inhalation can also cause respiratory irritation.  All surfaces receiving this treatment must be prepared, and the several required applications must be thorough.  These are all reasons that this type of work should be performed by a trained professional.

Always have any large cracks evaluated by your InterNACHI inspector before undertaking any repairs yourself or hiring a professional, and check your basement and crawlspace regularly for moisture intrusion.

A humble request

If you think that I did a good job inspecting your home, please mention me to anyone you know who will need a home inspector.  If there’s any reason you would hesitate to recommend me, please let me know.  If you need a home inspection you can easily schedule online or give me a call at 490-2916.  Follow Red Horse Home Inspection of Facebook and Instagram from new blogs and maintenance tips.

by Nick Gromicko, CMI®

Anti-scald valves, also known as tempering valves and mixing valves, mix cold water in with outgoing hot water so that the hot water that leaves a fixture is not hot enough to scald a person. Anti-scald valves are used to regulate water temperature in buildings you might see one during a home inspection

Facts and Figures

  • Scalds account for 20% of all burns.
  • More than 2,000 American children are scalded each year, mostly in the bathroom and kitchen.
  • Scalding and other types of burns require costly and expensive hospital stays, often involving skin grafts and plastic surgery.
  • Scalding may lead to additional injuries, such as falls and heart attacks, especially among the elderly.
  • Water that is 160º F can cause scalding in 0.5 seconds.

Unwanted temperature fluctuations are an annoyance and a safety hazard. When a toilet is flushed, for instance, cold water flows into the toilet’s tank and lowers the pressure in the cold-water pipes. If someone is taking a shower, they will suddenly feel the water become hotter as less cold water is available to the shower valve. By the same principle, the shower water will become colder when someone in the house uses the hot-water faucet. This condition is exacerbated by plumbing that’s clogged, narrow, or installed in showers equipped with low-flow or multiple showerheads. A sudden burst of hot water can cause serious burns, particularly in young children, who have thinner skin than adults. Also, a startling thermal shock – hot or cold – may cause a person to fall in the shower as he or she scrambles on the slippery surface to adjust the water temperature. The elderly and physically challenged are at particular risk.

Anti-scald valves mitigate this danger by maintaining water temperature at a safe level, even as pressures fluctuate in water supply lines. They look similar to ordinary shower and tub valves and are equipped with a special diaphragm or piston mechanism that immediately balances the pressure of the hot- and cold-water inputs, limiting one or the other to keep the temperature within a range of several degrees. As a side effect, the use of an anti-scald valve increases the amount of available hot water, as it is drawn more slowly from the water heater. Inspectors and homeowners may want to check with the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) to see if these safety measures are required in new construction in their area.

Installation of anti-scald valves is typically simple and inexpensive. Most models are installed in the hot-water line and require a cold-water feed. They also require a swing check valve on the cold-water feed line to prevent hot water from entering the cold-water system. They may be installed at the water heater to safeguard the plumbing for the whole building, or only at specific fixtures.

The actual temperature of the water that comes out of the fixture may be somewhat different than the target temperature set on the anti-scald valve. Such irregularities may be due to long, uninsulated plumbing lines or defects in the valve itself. Users may fine-tune the valve with a rotating mechanism that will allow the water to become hotter or colder, depending on which way it’s turned. Homeowners may contact an InterNACHI inspector or a qualified plumber if they have further questions or concerns.

In summary, anti-scald valves are used to reduce water temperature fluctuations that may otherwise inconvenience or harm unsuspecting building occupants.  This article is from InterNACHI and can be found at https://www.nachi.org/anti-scald-valve.htm.

Schedule your home inspection with Red Horse Home Inspection.  Follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

What is a home inspection?

A home inspection is a visual examination of the home’s major structure, systems and components that are visible and safely accessible.  The inspector should substantially adhere to a standards of practice that outlines what should be covered during a general home inspection, as well as what is excluded. Some inspectors may strictly follow the standards of practice, while others may exceed the standards and inspect other items, or perform a more detailed inspection. Whatever the inspector includes in his or her inspection should be discussed prior to the inspection – this is known as the scope of work. The inspector should be able to provide you with a copy or online link to the standards of practice they follow.  The inspector should provide you with a written report, which may include photos and/or recommendations, of his or her findings of the inspection.  Read InterNACHI’s Standards of Practice to find out what is typically included and excluded in a home inspection.

Why should I get a home inspection?

home inspector inspecting furnace rapid city sd spearfishBuying a home is typically the biggest investment you will ever make, so it’s important to get a home inspection because the inspector should be able to discover and document defects that may or may not be obvious to you as a prospective buyer.  Such defects can range from simple replacements or repairs, to severe damage or safety and health concerns. Additionally, most mortgage companies require a home inspection on a property before approving the home loan. Read InterNACHI’s Top 10 Reasons to Get a Home Inspection.

Where can I find a home inspector in my area?

There are several ways to find a home inspector. You may be able to find one online or in local ads. You may also find inspectors’ brochures by visiting a real estate office. There is no single method that is superior when it comes to finding an inspector who’s right for your inspection needs.

Below are some online resources for finding a home inspector near you:

How can I be sure that a home inspector is qualified?

It is important to choose a home inspector who is qualified and holds a license or certification in the field. Many jurisdictions do not regulate home inspections, meaning that anyone could call themselves a home inspector. However, just because someone performs home inspections doesn’t mean that they’re actually qualified to do so. If you are buying or selling a home in an unregulated jurisdiction, make sure to look for a home inspector with the proper certifications. If you are located in a state or province that does require licensing of home inspectors, you should hire only a licensed professional.

Contact your state by phone or online to find out whether they license home inspectors, and what qualifications they’re required to have.  License numbers in licensing states may vary in appearance, but you should be able to independently verify it. If your state doesn’t require licensing, find out what qualifications and certifications your home inspector has. The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors – InterNACHI® – is the largest and most trusted home inspector association in the world.  Its members undergo rigorous training to become Certified Professional Inspectors (CPIs)®.  They also follow a Standards of Practice and adhere to a Code of Ethics.  Also, the Master Inspector Certification Board grants qualified inspectors the title of Certified Master Inspector® (CMI®), which is the highest professional designation in the inspection industry.  Find out if your inspector is licensed and/or a CPI or CMI® before you hire him or her. This will ensure that you are hiring only an individual who has received the best training to become a home inspector.

How much does a home inspection cost?

There is no set cost for a home inspection. The cost will vary based on the inspector, the local market, the geographic region, the scope of the inspection to be performed, and more. Before the inspection, you should find out what will be included in the inspection and what won’t, and these details should also be outlined in the inspection agreement that you will need to sign prior to the inspection.

How long does a home inspection take?

Depending on the home’s age, size, and location, as well as the home inspector’s own work protocols and ethic, your home inspection may take up to three hours. Adding square footage, outbuildings, and/or ancillary services (such as mold or radon testing) will increase that time. It may be necessary for your inspector to bring in a helper for a very large property. If your general home inspection takes significantly less than two to three hours, it may indicate that the inspector was not thorough enough.

At what point in the real estate transaction should I schedule a home inspection?

A home inspection is usually scheduled after an offer has been made and accepted, but before the closing date. That way, the inspector can rule out any major defects that could be dangerous or costly. In rare cases—due to timing or contractual issues—the inspection can be scheduled after the closing date. If this is the case, the home buyer should schedule the inspection for the earliest possible date after closing.

Should I be present for the inspection?

You should attend the inspection, and you should reconsider hiring an inspector who doesn’t allow this. You can learn a lot by following an inspector through the home. You will certainly gain a better understanding of the home’s condition, which will give you insight into its potential sale points and defects. Additionally, you will likely learn information about the home’s maintenance, systems and components that may provide useful for the transaction.

Can the home inspector also repair any defects he or she finds?

What if your home inspector is also a licensed contractor? Sounds great, right? Not always. Although it may seem convenient to have an inspector who is also a contractor, it poses a conflict of interest. According to InterNACHI’s Code of Ethics:

The InterNACHI member shall not perform or offer to perform, for an additional fee, any repairs or associated services to the structure for which the member or member’s company has prepared a home inspection report for a period of 12 months. This provision shall not include services to components and/or systems that are not included in the InterNACHI Standards of Practice.

If an inspector financially benefits from finding any defects, this can impact the accuracy of the report (whether intentional or not). Make sure the inspector you hire abides by a Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice.
What happens if the inspection reveals problems?

If your home inspection reveals any problems, it is important to understand the severity of the defect. For example, a missing shingle or dirty air filter can be easily fixed at a low cost. However, if the defect is more extreme, such as a major foundation crack, wood-destroying organism infestation, or evidence of mold, you should find out how these problems can be addressed, and whether you can negotiate their cost with the seller. If it is determined after you move in that your home has a severe defect that wasn’t reported by your InterNACHI® Certified Professional Inspector®, you should check to see if he or she participates in InterNACHI’s “We’ll Buy Your Home Back” Guarantee.

What is the Buy-Back Guarantee and how does it work?

If your InterNACHI® Certified Professional Inspector® participates in the Buy-Back Guarantee, InterNACHI® will buy your home back if the inspector misses something on your inspection.

Here’s how this program works:

  • It’s valid for home inspections performed for home buyers only by participating InterNACHI® members.
  • The home must be listed for sale with a licensed real estate agent.
  • The Guarantee excludes homes with material defects not present at the time of the inspection, or not required to be inspected, per InterNACHI’s Residential Standards of Practice.
  • The Guarantee will be honored for 90 days after closing.
  • InterNACHI will pay you whatever price you paid for the home.

This article is from InterNACHI and can be found at https://www.nachi.org/home-inspection-faq-buyers-sellers.htm.

Schedule your home inspection with Red Horse Home Inspection.  Follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

by Nick Gromicko, CMI®

 

Some sellers – often, those working without an agent – want to sell their home “as is” so they don’t have to invest money fixing it up or take on any potential liability for defects.  There is nothing wrong with buying a home “as is,” particularly if you can buy it at a favorable price, but if you are considering buying an “as is” home, you should still hire a competent home inspector to perform an inspection.  There are several reasons for this.

First, you don’t know what “as is” is. Sure, you can walk through the home and get an idea of its general condition.  You may even spot some defects or items in obvious need of repair.  But you won’t obtain the same detailed information you will receive if you hire a home inspector.  Home inspectors are trained to look for things you are not likely to notice.  InterNACHI inspectors, for example, must follow InterNACHI’s Residential Standards of Practice and check the roof, exterior, interior, foundation, basement, fireplace, attic, insulation, ventilation, doors, windows, heating system, cooling system, plumbing system, and electrical system for certain defects.  Armed with a home inspector’s detailed report, you will have a better idea of what “as is” means regarding that home, which means you’ll be in a better position to know whether you want to buy it.  You may also be able to use information from the home inspection to negotiate a lower price.

Second, many states require the seller to provide you with written a disclosure about the condition of the property.  Sellers often provide little information, and a few even lie.  A home inspection can provide the missing information. If an inspector finds evidence that a seller concealed information or lied to you, that may be a sign that you don’t want to buy a home from that seller.

Finally, if you buy a home “as is” without hiring a home inspector and then later discover a defect, all is not lost.  A home inspector may be able to review the seller’s disclosure and testify as to what the seller knew or should have known about.  The inspector may find evidence that the seller made misrepresentations or concealed relevant information from you.  Even the seller of an “as is” home may be held liable for misrepresentation or concealment.

But the better choice, obviously, is to hire a home inspector first.  Remember:  The cost of a home inspection is a pittance compared to the price of the home.  Be an informed consumer, especially when buying an “as is” home, and hire an InterNACHI Certified Professional Inspector®. https://www.nachi.org/as-is.htm

If you’re buying a home being sold “as is” schedule your home inspection with Red Horse Home Inspection.

Water may be essential to life, but, as a destructive force, water can diminish the value of your home or building. Homes as well as commercial buildings can suffer water damage that results in increased maintenance costs, a decrease in the value of the property, lowered productivity, and potential liability associated with a decline in indoor air quality. The best way to protect against this potential loss is to ensure that the building components which enclose the structure, known as the building envelope, are water-resistant. Also, you will want to ensure that manufacturing processes, if present, do not allow excess water to accumulate. Finally, make sure that the plumbing and ventilation systems, which can be quite complicated in buildings, operate efficiently and are well-maintained. This article provides some basic steps for identifying and eliminating potentially damaging excess moisture.

Identify and Repair All Leaks and Cracks water damage found during a home inspection in sturgis sd
The following are common building-related sources of water intrusion:
  • windows and doors: Check for leaks around your windows, storefront systems and doors.
  • roof: Improper drainage systems and roof sloping reduce roof life and become a primary source of moisture intrusion. Leaks are also common around vents for exhaust or plumbing, rooftop air-conditioning units, or other specialized equipment.
  • foundation and exterior walls: Seal any cracks and holes in exterior walls, joints and foundations. These often develop as a naturally occurring byproduct of differential soil settlement.
  • plumbing: Check for leaking plumbing fixtures, dripping pipes (including fire sprinkler systems), clogged drains (both interior and exterior), defective water drainage systems and damaged manufacturing equipment.
  • ventilation, heating and air conditioning (HVAC) systems: Numerous types, some very sophisticated, are a crucial component to maintaining a healthy, comfortable work environment. They are comprised of a number of components (including chilled water piping and condensation drains) that can directly contribute to excessive moisture in the work environment. In addition, in humid climates, one of the functions of the system is to reduce the ambient air moisture level (relative humidity) throughout the building. An improperly operating HVAC system will not perform this function.
Prevent Water Intrusion Through Good Inspection and Maintenance Programs
Hire a qualified InterNACHI inspector to perform an inspection of the following elements of your building to ensure that they remain in good condition:
  • flashings and sealants: Flashing, which is typically a thin metal strip found around doors, windows and roofs, are designed to prevent water intrusion in spaces where two building materials come together. Sealants and caulking are specifically applied to prevent moisture intrusion at building joints. Both must be maintained and in good condition.
  • vents: All vents should have appropriate hoods, exhaust to the exterior, and be in good working order.
  • Review the use of manufacturing equipment that may include water for processing or cooling. Ensure wastewater drains adequately away, with no spillage. Check for condensation around hot or cold materials or heat-transfer equipment.
  • HVAC systems are much more complicated in commercial buildings. Check for leakage in supply and return water lines, pumps, air handlers and other components. Drain lines should be clean and clear of obstructions. Ductwork should be insulated to prevent condensation on exterior surfaces.
  • humidity: Except in specialized facilities, the relative humidity in your building should be between 30% and 50%. Condensation on windows, wet stains on walls and ceilings, and musty smells are signs that relative humidity may be high. If you are concerned about the humidity level in your building, consult with a mechanical engineer, contractor or air-conditioning repair company to determine if your HVAC system is properly sized and in good working order. A mechanical engineer should be consulted when renovations to interior spaces take place.
  • moist areas: Regularly clean off, then dry all surfaces where moisture frequently collects.
  • expansion joints: Expansion joints are materials between bricks, pipes and other building materials that absorb movement. If expansion joints are not in good condition, water intrusion can occur.
Protection From Water Damage
  • interior finish materials: Replace drywall, plaster, carpet and stained or water-damaged ceiling tiles. These are not only good evidence of a moisture intrusion problem, but can lead to deterioration of the work environment, if they remain over time.
  • exterior walls: Exterior walls are generally comprised of a number of materials combined into a wall assembly. When properly designed and constructed, the assembly is the first line of defense between water and the interior of your building. It is essential that they be maintained properly (including regular refinishing and/or resealing with the correct materials).
  • storage areas: Storage areas should be kept clean. Allow air to circulate to prevent potential moisture accumulation.
Act Quickly if  Water Intrusion Occurs
Label shut-off valves so that the water supply can be easily closed in the event of a plumbing leak. If water intrusion does occur, you can minimize the damage by addressing the problem quickly and thoroughly. Immediately remove standing water and all moist materials, and consult with a building professional. Should your building become damaged by a catastrophic event, such as fire, flood or storm, take appropriate action to prevent further water damage, once it is safe to do so. This may include boarding up damaged windows, covering a damaged roof with plastic sheeting, and/or removing wet materials and supplies. Fast action on your part will help minimize the time and expense for repairs, resulting in a faster recovery. https://www.nachi.org/waterdamage.htm

Your Homeowner’s Newsletter from Red Horse Home Inspection, LLC

Welcome to the Homeowner’s Newsletter!  Each month, you’ll find plenty of useful information for keeping your house in great condition so that you can enjoy it for years to come. Preserve your investment—and keep your family safe and healthy—by maintaining your home using the following tips.

Roof-Covering Maintenance

Although homeowners aren’t necessarily expected to climb on their roofs every season as part of regular home maintenance, there are some conditions that should be monitored to prevent roof damage and to help you get the longest life out of your roof-covering materials.  Certain types of damage can lead to water and pest intrusion, structural deterioration, and the escape costly energy.

Weathering
Hail and storm damage, known as weathering, can weaken a roof’s surface even if you haven’t lost any shingles/shakes/slates following a storm.  It’s the most common source of environmental damage for roofs.  Strong, sustained winds can cause uplift to the edges of shingles and shakes, which can weaken their points of attachment and allow rainwater and melting snow to reach the roof’s underlayment.  Wind can also send projectiles through the air, which can damage every surface of the home’s exterior, including the roof.  You should always inspect your roof after a heavy weather event, as far as it is practical to do so without taking any undue risks, to check whether you have lost any roof-covering materials, or if any parts look particularly weathered or damaged.  A small fix now could prevent costly repairs later.

Tree Damage
Tree damage results from wind-blown tree branches scraping against shingles and from the impact of falling branches blown by wind and/or because the nearby tree has dead branches that eventually break off and fall.  Branches that overhang the roof should always be cut back to avoid damage from both abrasion and impact, and to prevent the accumulation of leaf debris on the roof, its valleys, and in the gutters, which will interfere with proper drainage and lead to pooling of rainwater and snowmelt.  Of course, it’s especially important to make sure that tree limbs near the home’s roof and exterior are a safe distance away from utility and power lines.  Tree-trimming is a type of homeowner maintenance task should be undertaken by qualified professionals, as it can lead to accidentally cutting off the service or power from an overhead line, being electrocuted by an energized line, being struck by an unsecured tree branch, falling off the roof or a ladder, and any number of similar mishaps that the homeowner is not trained to anticipate and avoid.

Animal Damage
Squirrels and raccoons (and roof rats in coastal regions) will sometimes tear through shingles and roof sheathing when they’re searching for a protected area in which to build nests and raise their young. They often attack the roof’s eaves first, especially on homes that have suffered decay to the roof sheathing due to a lack of drip edges or from problems caused by ice damming, because decayed sheathing is softer and easier to tear through.  If you hear any activity of wildlife on your roof, check inside your attic for evidence of pest intrusion, such as damaged insulation, which pests may use for nesting material.  Darkened insulation generally indicates that excess air is blowing through some hole in the structure, leading the insulation to become darkened by dirt or moisture.

Biological Growth 
Algae, moss and lichen are types of biological growth that may be found on asphalt shingles under certain conditions. Some professionals consider this growth destructive, while others consider it merely a cosmetic problem.  Asphalt shingles may become discolored by both algae and moss, which spread by releasing airborne spores.

Almost all biological growth on shingles is related to the long-term presence of excess moisture, which is why these problems are more common in areas with significant rainfall and high relative humidity.  But even in dry climates, roofs that are shaded most of the time can develop biological growth.

What we commonly call “algae” is actually not algae, but a type of bacteria capable of photosynthesis. Algae appears as dark streaks, which are actually the dark sheaths produced by the organisms to protect themselves from the ultraviolet radiation of the sun. When environmental conditions are right, the problem can spread quickly across a roof.

Algae can feed on mineral nutrients, such as the calcium carbonate in limestone used as asphalt shingle filler. Calcium carbonate also causes asphalt to retain moisture, which also promotes algae growth, so shingles with excessive filler may be more likely to suffer more algae growth.  The rate of filler consumption is slow enough that it’s not generally considered a serious problem.

Algae attach to the shingle by secreting a substance that bonds it tightly to the surface. Growth can be difficult to remove without damaging the roof. The best method is prevention. Algae stains can sometimes be lightened in color by using special cleaners.  Power-washing and heavy scrubbing may loosen or dislodge granules. Chemicals used for cleaning shingles may damage landscaping. Also, the cleaning process makes the roof wet and slippery, so such work should be performed by a qualified professional.

Moss is a greenish plant that can grow more thickly than algae. It attaches itself to the roof through a shallow root system that can be freed from shingles fairly easily with a brush.  Moss deteriorates shingles by holding moisture against them, but this is a slow process. Moss is mostly a cosmetic issue and, like algae, can create hazardous conditions for those who climb on the roof.

Lichens are composite organisms consisting of a fungus and a photosynthetic partner, such as green or blue-green algae. Lichens bond tightly to the roof, and when they’re removed from asphalt shingles, they may take granules with them. Damage from lichen removal can resemble blistering.

“Tobacco-juicing” is the brownish discoloration that appears on the surface of shingles, under certain weather conditions. It’s often temporary and may have a couple of different causes. After especially long periods of intensely sunny days, damp nights and no rain, water-soluble compounds may leach out of the asphalt from the shingles and be deposited on the surface.  Tobacco-juicing may also appear under the same weather conditions if the air is especially polluted.  Tobacco-juicing won’t harm asphalt shingles, although it may run down the roof and stain siding. Although it’s more common in the West and Southwest, it can happen anywhere that weather conditions are right.  You can spray-wash or paint the exterior of the home to remove tobacco-juicing.

Your InterNACHI inspector should investigate signs of roof damage or deterioration before you call a roofing contractor.  That way, you’ll know exactly what types of problems should be addressed before you break out the checkbook for repairs.

Attic Insulation

Heating and cooling costs can be slashed by up to 30% per year by properly sealing and insulating the home. Insulating the attic should be a top priority for preventing heat loss because as heat rises, a critical amount of heat loss from the living areas of the home occurs through an unfinished attic.  During the summer months, heat trapped in the attic can reduce the home’s ability to keep cool, forcing the home’s cooling system to work overtime.

The lack of adequate ventilation in insulated attics is a common problem.  Ensuring that there is a free flow of outside air from the soffits to the roof vents is key to a well-functioning insulation system. Look behind the baffles to see if there is any misplaced insulation obstructing the natural air flow, and check the roof vents to make sure that outside air is exhausting properly. Also, look for spots where the insulation is compacted; it may need to be fluffed out.  If loose-fill insulation is installed, check for any thinly spread areas that may need topping up. Finally, look for dark spots in the insulation where incoming air is admitting wind-blown dust and moisture into the material.  Any unintended openings or holes caused by weathering or pest damage should be repaired first.

Installing Attic Insulation
The objective in an attic insulation project is to insulate the living space of the house while allowing the roof to retain the same temperature as the outdoors. This prevents cold outside air from traveling through the attic and into the living area of the home. In order to accomplish this, an adequate venting system must be in place to vent the roof by allowing air flow to enter through soffit-intake vents and out through ridge vents, gable vents or louver vents.

If there is currently a floor in the attic, it will be necessary to pull up pieces of the floor to install the insulation. In this case, it will be easier to use a blower and loose-fill insulation to effectively fill the spaces between the joists. If you choose to go with blown-in insulation, you can usually get free use of a blower when you purchase a certain amount of insulation.

When installing fiberglass insulation, make sure that you wear personal protective equipment, including a hat, gloves, goggles and a face mask, as stray fiberglass material can become airborne, which can cause irritation to the lungs, eyes and exposed skin.

Before you begin actually installing the insulation, there is some important preparation involved in order to ensure that the insulation is applied properly to prevent hazards and to achieve maximum effectiveness.

Step 1: Install Roof Baffles
In order to maintain the free flow of outside air, it is recommended that polystyrene or plastic roof baffles are installed where the joists meet the rafters. These can be stapled into place.

Step 2: Place Baffles Around Electrical Fixtures
Next, place baffles around any electrical fixtures (lights, electrical receptacles, etc.), since these may become hot while in use. Hold the baffles in place by cross-sectioning the rafters with 2x4s placed at a 3-inch clearance around the fixture.  Cut the polystyrene board to fit around the fixture and inside the wood square you have just created.

Step 3: Install a Vapor Barrier
If you are installing insulation with a vapor barrier, make sure it faces the interior of the house. Another option for a vapor barrier is to take sheets of plastic and lay them between the ceiling joists.  Then, using a staple gun, tack them to the sides of the joists.

Step 4:  Apply the Insulation
Begin by cutting long strips of fiberglass to measure, and lay them in between the joists. Do not bunch or compress the material; this will reduce the insulative effect.
If you’re not planning to put in an attic floor, a second layer of insulation may be laid at a 90-degree angle to the first layer. Do not lay in a second moisture barrier, as moisture could potentially be trapped between the two layers. This second layer of insulation will make it easier to obtain the recommended R-value. In colder climates, an R-value of 49 is recommended for adequate attic insulation. In warmer climates, an R-value of 30 is recommended. Fiberglass insulation has an R-value of roughly R-3 per inch of thickness; cellulose has an R-value of roughly R-4 per inch, but it doesn’t retain its R-value rating as well as fiberglass.

If an attic floor is in place, it will be easier to use a blower to add cellulose insulation into the spaces. The best way to achieve this is to carefully select pieces of the floor and remove them in a manner such that you will have access to all of the spaces in between the joists. Run the blower hose up into the attic. A helper may be needed to control the blower. Blow the insulation into the spaces between the joists, taking care not to blow insulation near electrical fixtures. Replace any flooring pieces that were removed.

Loose-fill insulation, either fiberglass or cellulose, is also a good option in cases where there is no attic floor. In such circumstances, you won’t need a blower; you can simply place the insulation between the joists by hand. You may also wish to even out the spread with a notched leveler.

Attic Access Pull-Down Stairs

An attic pull-down ladder, also called an attic pull-down stairway or stairs, is a collapsible ladder that’s permanently attached to the attic floor.  It’s used to access the attic without being required to use a portable ladder, which can be unstable, as well as inconvenient.

Common Defects
It’s typical for the homeowner, rather than the professional builder, to install the attic pull-down stairs, especially if it’s an older home or a newer home that’s been built upward in order to use the attic for living or storage space. That’s why these stairs rarely meet safety standards and are prone to a number of defects.
Some of the more common defective conditions include:

  • cut bottom cord of structural truss.  The homeowner may have cut through a structural member while installing a pull-down ladder, unknowingly weakening the structure. Structural members should not be modified without an engineer’s approval;
  • fastened with improper nails or screws. Drywall or deck screws may be used instead of the standard 16d penny nails or ¼x3-inch lag screws. Nails and screws that are intended for other purposes may have reduced shear strength and may not support the pull-down ladder;
  • fastened with an insufficient number of nails or screws. Manufacturers provide a certain number of nails with instructions that they all be used, and they do this for a good reason;
  • lack of insulation. The attic hatch or door is not likely to be weatherstripped and/or insulated, which will allow air from the attic to flow freely into the living space of the home, and this will cause the heating or cooling system to run overtime. An attic hatch cover box can be installed to increase energy savings;
  • loose mounting bolts, which is typically caused by age, although improper installation will hasten the loosening process;
  • attic pull-down ladders that are cut too short. The stairs should reach the floor;
  • attic pull-down ladders that are cut too long. This causes pressure at the folding hinge, which can cause breakage;
  • improper or missing fasteners;
  • compromised fire barrier (when the attic and access are above an attached garage);
  • attic ladder frame that is not properly secured to the ceiling opening; and
  • closed ladder that is covered with debris, such as blown insulation or roofing material shed during roof work; a
  • cracked steps. This defect is a problem with wooden ladders.

Safety Tips:

  • If yours is a sliding pull-down ladder, there is a potential for it to slide down too quickly, which can lead to an injury. Always pull the ladder down slowly and cautiously.
  • Do not allow children to enter the attic unattended. The lanyard attached to the attic stairs should be short enough that children cannot reach it. Parents can also lock the attic ladder so that a key or combination is required to access it.
  • If possible, avoid carrying large loads into the attic. While a properly installed stairway will safely support an adult, it might fail if you’re carrying a very heavy load. Many trips can be made to reduce the total weight load, if possible.
  • Replace an old, rickety wooden ladder with a new one. The newer aluminum models are lightweight, sturdy and easy to install.  If you do install a new ladder, follow the manufacturer’s instructions to the letter, and test the ladder’s operation before actually using it.

Schedule your home inspection with Red Horse Home Inspection.

At Red Horse Home Inspection LLC, we have five goals for every home we inspect.  Our first goal is to identify major defects that could lead to costly repairs for the home buyer.  No one wants to pay out for costly repairs after moving in to their new home.  Our second goal is to give the home buyer an overall condition of the home.  This could include identifying any deferred maintenance issues, pointing out issues that could lead to future problems.  The third goal is to identify safety issues. This could include pointing out trip and fall hazards around the property, identifying unsafe decks and guardrails and informing you of electrical issues that could be dangerous.  The forth goal is to educate our clients about their new home.  We make sure that you know where the main water and gas shutoffs are located.  Let you know what type of energy is used to heat and cool your home.  We will try and answer any questions you have about your home the day of the inspection or you can call us anytime and we will be happy to answer any questions you have.  Our final goal is you let you know the age of all your major components.  This includes water heaters, central heating and cooling system, refrigerator, and oven.  With every inspection we give our clients a home maintenance book which includes a life expectancy chart for almost all components of your home.  This will give you an idea on how long your components will last before needing replaced.  Red Horse Home Inspection is proud to service Rapid City, Sturgis, Spearfish, Deadwood, Lead, Custer, Hot Springs, Keystone, Hill City, Hermosa, Summerset, Box Elder and surrounding areas.  If you are ready to schedule you home inspection please call 605-490-2916 or schedule online.

Check us out on Facebook and Instagram!

 

home inspection rapid city sd

The winter holidays are a time for celebration, and that means more cooking, home decorating, entertaining, and an increased risk of fire and accidents. Red Horse Home Inspection recommends that you follow these guidelines to help make your holiday season safer and more enjoyable.