by Nick Gromicko, CMI®, Founder, International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI)

Graphics by InterNACHI’s Lisaira Vega
More than 2 million decks are built and replaced each year in North America.  InterNACHI estimates that of the 45 million existing decks, only 40% are completely safe.
Deck inpection.
Because decks appear to be simple to build, many people do not realize that decks are, in fact, structures that need to be designed to adequately resist certain stresses. Like any other house or building, a deck must be designed to support the weight of people, snow loads, and objects.  A deck must be able to resist lateral and uplift loads that can act on the deck as a result of wind or seismic activity.  Deck stairs must be safe and handrails graspable.  And, finally, deck rails should be safe for children by having proper infill spacing.   
A deck failure is any failure of a deck that could lead to injury, including rail failure, or total deck collapse.  There is no international system that tracks deck failures, and each is treated as an isolated event, rather than a systemic problem.  Very few municipalities perform investigations into the cause of the failure, and the media are generally more concerned with injuries rather than on the causes of collapses.  Rail failure occurs much more frequently than total deck collapses; however, because rail failures are less dramatic than total collapses and normally don’t result in death, injuries from rail failures are rarely reported.  
Here are some interesting facts about deck failure:
  • More decks collapse in the summer than during the rest of the year combined.
  • Almost every deck collapse occurred while the decks were occupied or under a heavy snow load.
  • There is no correlation between deck failure and whether the deck was built with or without a building permit.
  • There is no correlation between deck failure and whether the deck was built by a homeowner or a professional contractor.
  • There is a slight correlation between deck failure and the age of the deck.
  • About 90% of deck collapses occurred as a result of the separation of the house and the deck ledger board, allowing the deck to swing away from the house.  It is very rare for deck floor joists to break mid-span.
  • Many more injuries are the result of rail failure, rather than complete deck collapse.
  • Deck stairs are notorious for lacking graspable handrails.
  • Many do-it-yourself homeowners, and even contractors, don’t believe that rail infill spacing codes apply to decks.

This document does not address specific building codes, balconies, lumber species, grade marks, decks made of plastics or composites, mold, or wood-destroying insects.

This document focuses on single-level residential and commercial wood decks.  Recommendations found within this document exceed the requirements of both InterNACHI’s Residential Standards of Practice and the International Standards of Practice for Inspecting Commercial Properties. 
A proper deck inspection relies heavily on the professional judgments of the inspector.  This document will help improve the accuracy of those judgments.

Required Deck Inspection Tools:

  • flashlight;
  • measuring tape;
  • ladder; 
  • level;
  • plumb bob;
  • probing tool; and
  • hammer.

Optional Inspection Tools:

  • moisture meter;
  • magnet; and
  • calculator.
Deck Loads:
A deck inspection should progress in much the same order as deck construction.  Inspectors should start at the bottom.  If a deck is deemed unsafe from underneath, the inspector should not walk out onto the deck to inspect decking, handrails, etc. The inspector should stop and report the safety issues.

The image above depicts an evenly distributed deck load.  Building codes require decks to be designed to carry a uniformly distributed load over the entire deck.  If evenly distributed, half of the load is carried by the deck-to-house connection, and the other half is carried by the posts.
The image above depicts a typical deck load distribution.  People tend to gather near the railings of a deck, and so more load is likely carried by the posts.
Hot tubs filled with water and people are heavy and can weigh a couple of tons. Most decks are designed for loads of 40 to 60 pounds per square foot. Hot tubs require framing that can support over 100 pounds per square foot.
Footings and Posts:
Required footing depths vary based on local building codes. The depth is normally below the frost line, or 12 inches (where frost lines are not applicable).

The above image depicts the 7-Foot Rule. On steep properties, the slope of the ground around the footing could affect the footing’s stability. The 7-Foot Rule states that there should be a least 7 feet between the bottom of a footing and daylight.
Posts in contact with soil should be pressure-treated and oriented so the cut end is above grade.
The image above depicts a free-standing deck (not attached to the home or building). A footing near a home must be on undisturbed soil.  Some codes consider soil to be “undisturbed” if it hasn’t been disturbed in more than five years.  It may be difficult to find undisturbed soil near the foundation of a new home.
Unattached post.
The image above depicts a post base that is not attached to its footing. Posts should be connected to their footings so that the posts don’t lift or slip off.

Pre-cast concrete pier.

The image above depicts a pre-cast concrete pier. Posts can lift out of pre-cast concrete piers, and piers can slide. Posts should be connected to their footings so that the posts don’t lift or slip off.

The image above depicts a proper post-to-footing connection.  Posts should be connected to their footings so that the posts don’t lift or slip off their footings.
The image above depicts an adjustable post-to-footing connection. Posts should be connected to their footings so that the posts don’t lift or slip off their footings.

The above image depicts a lawn sprinkler keeping a deck post wet.  Lawn sprinkler systems that regularly keep the deck wet contribute to decay.  
 
The image above depicts a downspout contributing to post decay.  Downspouts should not discharge near deck posts.
 
The image above depicts the indentation left over from the footing hole, causing a puddle.  Puddles contribute to post decay.
Wood can decay and degrade over time with exposure to the elements. Decay is a problem that worsens with time. Members within the deck frame that have decayed may no longer be able to perform the function for which they were installed. Paint can hide decay from an inspector and so should be noted in the report.
                                   

The image above depicts a “pick test.” The pick test uses an ice pick, awl or screwdriver to penetrate the wood surface. After penetrating the wood, the tool is leveraged to pry up a splinter, parallel to the grain, away from the surface. The appearance and sound of the action is used to detect decay. The inspector should first try the pick test in an area where the wood is known to be sound to determine a “control” for the rest of the inspection. Decayed wood will break directly over the tool with very few splinters, and less or almost no audible noise compared to sound wood. The pick test cannot detect decay far from the surface of the wood. 
 
The image above depicts a pick test on a deck post. Although deck inspections are visual-only inspections, inspectors may want to dig down around posts and perform pick tests just below grade level to look for decay.
      
The image above depicts a high deck being supported with 4″x 4″ posts.   Tall 4″x 4″ posts twist under load and 4″x 4″ posts, even when treated, decay below grade too quickly.  In all but the lowest of decks, deck posts should be at least 6″x 6″, and be no higher than 12 feet; 14 feet is acceptable if cross-bracing is used. 
Often, the bottoms of the stringer boards for deck stairs have been found to rest on soil, concrete block or rock, as opposed to resting on posts installed below the frost line.  Posts set on soil are subject to rot due to moisture.  Posts that are set in unsound footings may cause movement and make the deck above unstable.
 
Girders and Beams:
 
The image above depicts the minimum distance of untreated support members from grade. Untreated joists should be at least 18 inches away from the ground. Girders should be 12 inches away from the ground. However, in many situations, exceptions are made where the elevation of the home does not provide for these minimum distances and the climate is very dry. 

Girder-post connection.
The image above depicts a girder improperly relying on the sheer strength of lag bolts. Girders should bear directly on posts.
Notched post to beam attachment.
The image above depicts a girder properly resting on a notched post. Girders should bear directly on posts.
 Proper girder to post connection.
The image above depicts a girder properly resting on a post. Girders should bear directly on posts.
Girders supporting joist should not be supported by deck ledgers or band joists.
  
The image above depicts a butt joint improperly located within a girder span. Butt joints in a girder span are generally not permitted unless specially engineered. Butt joints typically must be located above posts.  

The image above depicts notches in a supporting beam. Notches must be less than one-quarter the depth of the member. On the tension and compression faces, the notch depth must be less than one-sixth of the member’s depth, and the notch length must be less than one-third of the member’s depth. Notches are not permitted in the middle third of spans, or on the tension face of members that are greater than 3½ inches thick.
Inspecting for beam sag. 
The image above depicts a level being used to check for beam sag. Even with a carpenter’s level, it can be difficult to see beam sag from the front. 
 
The image above depicts beam sag being eyed-up. Often it is easier to detect beam sag by eye than with a level by looking along the bottom edge of the beam.
Ledger Connection:
 
The most common cause of deck collapse is when a ledgers pulls away from the band joists of homes and buildings. 
The two most common ways to correctly attach a ledger to a structure are with lag screws or through-bolts. The installation of through-bolts requires access to the back-side of the rim joist which, in some cases, is not possible without significant removal of drywall within the structure.
Most building codes state that, where positive connections to the primary building structure cannot be verified during inspection, decks shall be self-supporting (free-standing).
Determining the exact required spacing for the ledger fasteners is based on many factors, including:
  • joist length;
  • type of fastener;
  • diameter of fastener;
  • sheathing thickness;
  • use of stacked washers;
  • type of wood species;
  • moisture content;
  • band joist integrity; and
  • deck loads… 
…and so is beyond the scope of a visual inspection.  However, the spacing of ledger fasteners is primarily determined by the length of the joists.  
InterNACHI’s ledger fastener spacing formula provides inspectors with a rule-of-thumb:
On-center spacing of ledger fasteners in inches = 100 ÷ joist length in feet.
A deck with substantially fewer ledger fasteners than that recommended by InterNACHI’s formula may be unsafe.

The image above shows the minimum distance of fasteners to the edges and ends of a ledger board. Lag screws or bolts should be staggered vertically, placed at least 2 inches from the bottom or top, and 5 inches from the ends of the ledger board. Some codes permit the lag screws or bolts to be as close as 2 inches from the ends of the ledger board; however, avoiding the very ends of the ledger boards minimizes splitting from load stress.
Through-bolts should be a minimum of ½-inch in diameter, and have washers at the bolt head and nut. Lag screws should also be a minimum of ½-inch in diameter and have washers.  Expansion and adhesive anchors should also have washers.
Deck ledgers should be of at least 2’x 8′ pressure-treated wood.
Ledger Board and Band Joist Contact:
  
The image above depicts washers being used as spacers between the ledger board and band joist, which is incorrect.
In some cases, the ledger board and band joist are intentionally kept separated by a stack of washers on the lag screw or bolts to allow water to run between the two boards. In other cases, there is insulation between the two boards. Even worse is when the siding or exterior finish system was not removed prior to the installation of the ledger board. Situations like this, where the ledger board and band joist are not in direct contact, significantly reduce the strength of the ledger connection to the structure and are not recommended by InterNACHI, unless the two members are sandwiching structural sheathing.
 
The image above depicts a ledger board and band joist sandwiching the structural sheathing (correct).
All through-bolts should have washers at the bolt head and nut. 
 
The image above depicts a hold-down tension device. The 2007 IRC Supplement requires hold-down tension devices at no less than two locations per deck. 
Codes in some areas outright forbid attaching a ledger board to an open-web floor truss.
The image above depicts a ledger board attached to a concrete wall. Caulking rather than flashing is used.
The image above depicts a ledger board attached to hollow masonry. When the ledger is attached to a hollow masonry wall, the cell should be grouted.
The image above depicts a ledger board improperly supported brick veneer. Ledger boards should not be supported by stone or brick veneer.
Ledger boards should not be attached directly (surface-mounted) to stucco or EIFS, either. Stucco and EIFS have to be cut back so that ledger boards can be attached directly to band joists; however, cut-back stucco and EIFS are difficult to flash and weather-proof.
Ledger board flashing.
The image above depicts both over and under ledger board flashing. The ledger board should always be flashed even when the home or building has a protective roof overhang.  
 
Aluminum flashing is commonly available but should not be used. Contact with pressure-treated wood or galvinized fasteners can lead to rapid corrosion of aluminum.
 
The image above depicts a deck ledger attached to an overhang.  Decks should not be attached to overhangs. 
 
 
The image above depicts proper framing around chimneys or bay windows that are up to 6 feet wide. Framing around chimneys or bay windows that are more than 6 feet wide requires additional posts.
Maximum cantilever.
The image above depicts a cantilevered deck.  Joists should be cantilevered no more than one-quarter of the joist length and three times the joist width (nominal depth). Both conditions must be true.
Maximum cantilever.
The image above depicts a joist cantilever in the front of the deck and girder cantilevers on both sides of deck posts. Joists should be cantilevered no more than one-quarter the joist length and three times the joist width (nominal depth). Girders can be cantilevered over their posts no more than on-quarter the girder length. 
 
There are three ways a joist can be attached to a ledger: 
 
The first is by resting the joist on a ledger strip. The image above depicts a joist properly resting on a 2″x 2″ ledger strip. 
Joist notched over ledger strip. 
The second is by notching over a ledger strip. The image above depicts a notched joist properly resting a 2″x 2″ ledger strip. 
 
The third is by hanging the joists with joist hangers. The image above depicts joists properly attached to a ledger by way of metal joist hangers. 
The image above depicts a joist cut too short. Joists may rest on 2″x 2″ ledgers like the one above (or in joist hangers), but joists must be cut long enough to reach the ledger or band joist that is supporting them. 
 
The image above depicts joists that are not fully resting in their joist hangers. Joists should be fully resting in their joist hangers. 
 
Bracing: 
The image above depicts a deck with post-to-joist diagonal bracing. Decks greater than 6 feet above grade should have diagonal bracing from posts to girder, and from posts to joists.
The image above depicts a deck with post-to-girder diagonal bracing.  Decks greater than 6 feet above grade should have diagonal bracing from posts to girder, and from posts to joists.
Free-standing decks (not supported by the home or building) should have diagonal bracing on all sides.
The image above depicts underside diagonal bracing of a deck. Decks greater than 6 feet above grade that do not have diagonal decking should have diagonal bracing across the bottoms of the joists to keep the deck square. A deck that is not held square could permit the outer posts to lean to the right or left, parallel to the ledger board, and thus twist the ledger away from the home or building.
 
Cracks: 
As wood ages, it is common for cracks to develop. Large cracks (longer than the depth of the member) or excessive cracking overall can weaken deck framing.  Toe-nailed connections are always at risk for splitting.  Splitting of lumber near connections should be noted by the inspector.
Connectors and Fasteners:
The inspector should note missing connectors or fasteners.  All lag screws and bolts should have washers.
The image above depicts a “hammer test.”  Depending on how the deck was built, vital connections may have degraded over time due to various factors.  Issues such as wobbly railings, loose stairs, and ledgers that appear to be pulling away from the adjacent structure are all causes for concern.  The tightness of fasteners should be checked.  If it is not possible to reach both sides of a bolt, it may be struck with a hammer. The ring will sound hollow with vibration if the fastener is loose.  The ring will sound solid if the connection is tight.  The hammer test is subjective, so the inspector should hammer-test bolts that can be confirmed as tight or loose, and compare the sounds of the rings to develop a control. 
Corrosion of Connectors and Fasteners:
 
All screws, bolts and nails should be hot-dipped galvanized, stainless steel, silicon bronze, copper, zinc-coated or corrosion-resistant.  Metal connectors and fasteners can corrode over time, especially if a product with insufficient corrosion-resistance was originally installed. Corrosion of a fastener affects both the fastener and the wood.  As the fastener corrodes, it causes the wood around it to deteriorate.  As the fastener becomes smaller, the void around it becomes larger.  Inspectors normally do not remove fasteners to check their quality or size, but if the inspector removes a fastener, s/he should make sure that removal doesn’t result in a safety issue.  Fasteners removed should be from areas that have the greatest exposure to weather. Some inspectors carry new fasteners to replace ones they remove at the inspection.   
 
Posts and Rails: 

Missing posts.

The image above shows a guardrail supported solely by balusters. Guardrails should be supported by posts every 6 feet.
The image above depicts a notched-deck guardrail post attachment.  This common notched-type of attachment is permitted by most codes, but could become unsafe, especially as the deck ages. Because of leverage, a 200-pound force pushing the deck’s guardrail outward causes a 1,700-pound force at the upper bolt attaching the post. It is difficult to attach deck guardrail posts in a manner that is strong enough without using deck guardrail post brackets.
Notched guardrail post.
The image above depicts a notched-deck guardrail post attachment. This notched-around-decking type of attachment is permitted by most codes, but could become unsafe, especially as the deck ages. Because of leverage, a 200-pound force pushing the deck’s guardrail outward causes a 1,700-pound force at the upper bolt attaching the post. It is difficult to attach deck guardrail posts in a manner that is strong enough without using deck guardrail post brackets.

The image above depicts a deck guardrail post properly attached with brackets. Because of leverage, a 200-pound force pushing the deck’s guardrail outward causes a 1,700-pound force at the upper bolt attaching the post. It is difficult to attach deck guardrail posts in a manner that is strong enough without using deck guardrail post brackets.
Level cut post and balusters.
The image above depicts a post and balusters cut level and not shedding water. The end-grain of vertical posts and balusters should not be cut level.
Angle cut post and balusters.
The image above depicts a post and balusters properly cut at angles to shed water. The end-grain of vertical posts and balusters should be cut at an angle.
 
Missing Guardrails:
 
Decks that are greater than 12 inches above adjacent areas should have guardrails around the edges. Some codes require guardrails only around the edges of decks 30 inches or higher.
Improper Guardrail Height:
 
Most residential codes require the top of the guardrail to be at least 36 inches from the deck surface. Most commercial code height is 42 inches. 
The image above depicts child-unsafe guardrail infill. Infill should not permit a 4-inch sphere to pass through.
The image above depicts horizontal balustrades. Ladder-type guardrail infill on high decks is prohibited by some local codes because they are easy for children to climb over. 
 
Decking:
Decking overhang <= 6 inches.
The image above depicts deck framing near a chimney or bay window. The ends of decking boards near the chimney or bay window can extend unsupported up to 6 inches.
Improperly spaced decking.  
The above image depicts decking that is laid too tight. Decking should have 1/8-inch gaps between boards so that puddles don’t form.

The above image depicts decking that is properly spaced. Decking should have 1/8-inch gaps between boards so that puddles don’t form. 
The image above depicts decking that isn’t staggered properly. Decking should be staggered so that butt joints don’t land on the same joist side by side.
The image above depicts decking lengths.  Some are too short. Each segment of decking should bear on a minimum of four joists.
Decking should be attached to the floor joists and rim joist, especially in high-wind areas.
Decking Nail Pull-Out:
Inspectors should look for splitting in decking and nail pull-out. Aside from the structural issue, nails that have pulled out or screws that are not driven into the decking fully can cause injury to bare feet.
Stairs:
Deck stair stringer.
The image above depicts a deck stair stringer. Stair stringers shall be made of 2″x 12″ lumber at a minimum, and no less than 5 inches wide at any point.
The image above depicts deck stair stringers. Stringers should be no more than 36 inches apart.
Stair ledger strips.
The image above depicts ledger strips properly located under stair treads. Where solid stringers are used, stair treads should be supported with ledger strips (as depicted), mortised, or supported with metal brackets.
Open stair risers.
The image above depicts a set of stairs with open risers. Most deck stairs have open risers and are not safe for children. Risers may be open but should not allow the passage of a 4-inch diameter sphere.
Uniform riser height.
The image above depicts stair riser height. To minimize tripping, the maximum variation amongst riser heights (difference between the tallest and shortest risers) should be no more than 3/8-inch.
The bottom step of a stairway leading up to a deck is typically at a different height than the rest of the steps. This can present a trip hazard.
Steps with open risers can present a tripping hazard if a user catches his foot by stepping too far into the tread. To mitigate this hazard, the risers can be closed or the treads can be made deeper.
Deck Lighting:
Decks rarely have light sources that cover the entire stairways. Any unlit stairway is a safety issue.
Stair Handrails:
Stairs with four or more risers should have a handrail on at least one side. According to the International Standards of Practice for Inspecting Commercial Properties, ramps longer than 6 feet should have handrails on both sides.
Handrail height.
The image above depicts proper stair handrail height. Handrail height should be between 34 and 38 inches measured vertically from the sloped plane adjoining the tread nosing.
The image above depicts a stair handrail that is not graspable. Many deck handrails improperly consist of 2″x 6″ lumber or decking. Handrails should be graspable, continuous and smooth.
The images above show that handrail ends should be returned or terminate in newel posts.
The next three images depict graspable handrails:
Graspable handrail.

The three images directly above depict graspable handrails. Many deck handrails improperly consist of 2″x 6″ lumber or decking. Handrails should be graspable, continuous and smooth.
Minimum distance between handrail posts.
The image above depicts the minimum distance between stair handrail posts.  Stair handrails should have posts at least every 5 feet.
Stair child safety.
The image above depicts permitted spacing at stairs.  Larger spacing presents a child-safety issue.
Electrical Receptacle:
The image above depicts a deck with an electrical receptacle, but the receptacle does not have a weatherproof cover.  As of 2008, the National Electric Code requires at least one receptacle outlet on decks that are 20 square foot or larger.
Weatherproof receptacle cover. check all outlets during home inspection
The image above depicts a weatherproof receptacle cover.  The deck receptacle should have a weatherproof cover.
Deck Location:
Poor deck location.
The image above depicts a deck located above a septic tank access.  Decks should not be located where they might obstruct septic tank accesses, underground fuel storage tanks, well heads, or buried power lines.
Deck obstructing emergency egress. check during home inspection
The image above depicts a deck obstructing a basement bedroom’s emergency egress window.  Egress openings under decks and porches are acceptable, provided the escape path is at least 36 inches (914 mm) in height, and the path of egress is not obstructed by infill or lattice.
This article is from InterNACHI and can be found at  https://www.nachi.org/deck-inspections.htm.

by Nick Gromicko, CMI®

  
Clothes Closet Lighting Ssafe lighting for a clothes closet in a home near spearfish sd
People don’t often think about the fire risks posed by the light in their clothes closet, but it’s one of the few places in the house where a source of high heat can get too close to flammable materials. Lighting must be installed safely with adequate separation from clothes, boxes and other flammables stored in the closet.  Additionally, the quality of the light, as well as bulb efficiency, will influence your lighting choices.
The 2009 International Residential Code (IRC) on “Permitted Luminaires and Clearance from Clothing”
The IRC defines a “luminaire” as follows:
a complete lighting unit consisting of a lamp or lamps, together with the parts designed to distribute the light, to position and protect the lamps and ballast (where applicable), and to connect the lamps to the power supply.
Types of luminaires permitted by the 2009 IRC include:
  • surface-mounted or recessed incandescent luminaires with completely enclosed lamps, surface-mounted or recessed fluorescent luminaires; and 
  • surface-mounted fluorescent or LED luminaires identified as suitable for installation within the storage area. 

Luminaires not permitted by the 2009 IRC:

  • Incandescent luminaires with open or partially enclosed lamps and pendant luminaires or lamp-holders should be prohibited. 

Clearances permitted by the 2009 IRC:

The minimum distance between luminaires installed in clothes closets and the nearest point of a storage area shall be as follows:

1. Surface-mounted incandescent or LED luminaires with a completely enclosed light source shall be installed on a wall above the door or on the ceiling, provided that there is a minimum clearance of 12 inches (305 mm) between the fixture and the nearest point of a storage space.

2. Surface-mounted fluorescent luminaires shall be installed on the wall above the door or on the ceiling, provided that there is a minimum clearance of 6 inches (152 mm). 

3. Recessed incandescent luminaires or LED luminaires with a completely enclosed light source shall be installed in the wall or the ceiling, provided that there is a minimum clearance of 6 inches (152 mm). A hazardous lighting situation! found in a home near sturgis sd

4. Recessed fluorescent luminaires shall be installed in the wall or on the ceiling, provided that there is a minimum clearance of 6 inches (152 mm) between the fixture and the nearest point of storage space. 

5. Surface-mounted fluorescent or LED luminaires shall be permitted to be installed within the storage space where identified within this use. 
Also, metal pull chains may be dangerous; if the base cracks, the chain can become electrified.
Color Rendering Index (CRI)
CRI is a quantitative measure of the ability of a light source to reproduce the colors of various objects faithfully, in comparison with an ideal or natural light source. The closer the CRI of a lamp is to 100, the more “true” it renders colors in the environment. Poor CRI is the reason that a shirt and pants that seemed to match at home now clash in the restroom at work. For clothes closets lighting, the CRI should be as high as possible. Incandescent lights are inefficient but they have a CRI of 100, making them the most aesthetic lighting choice. Compact fluorescents lights (CFLs) are far more efficient and have a longer life than incandescent bulbs, but they have a CRI in the low 60s, making them a poor choice for clothes closet applications. Low-voltage halogen and LED lights are relatively efficient, long-lasting, and have a high CRI, although not as high as incandescent bulbs.
In summary, homeowners should replace lighting in their clothes closets if the light has the potential to ignite flammable materials in the closet.  This article is from InterNACHI and can be found at https://www.nachi.org/clothes-closet-lighting.htm.

by Nick Gromicko, CMI®

 

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas that forms from incomplete combustion of fuels, such as natural or liquefied petroleum gas, oil, wood or coal.

Facts and Figures

  • 480 U.S. residents died between 2001 and 2003 from non-fire-related carbon-monoxide poisoning.
  • Most CO exposures occur during the winter months, especially in December (including 56 deaths, and 2,157 non-fatal exposures), and in January (including 69 deaths and 2,511 non-fatal exposures). The peak time of day for CO exposure is between 6 and 10 p.m.
  • Many experts believe that CO poisoning statistics understate the problem. Because the symptoms of CO poisoning mimic a range of common health ailments, it is likely that a large number of mild to mid-level exposures are never identified, diagnosed, or accounted for in any way in carbon monoxide statistics.
  • Out of all reported non-fire carbon-monoxide incidents, 89% or almost nine out of 10 of them take place in a home.

Physiology of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

When CO is inhaled, it displaces the oxygen that would ordinarily bind with hemoglobin, a process the effectively suffocates the body. CO can poison slowly over a period of several hours, even in low concentrations. Sensitive organs, such as the brain, heart and lungs, suffer the most from a lack of oxygen.

High concentrations of carbon monoxide can kill in less than five minutes. At low concentrations, it will require a longer period of time to affect the body. Exceeding the EPA concentration of 9 parts per million (ppm) for more than eight hours may have adverse health affects. The limit of CO exposure for healthy workers, as prescribed by the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration, is 50 ppm.

Potential Sources of Carbon Monoxide

Any fuel-burning appliances which are malfunctioning or improperly installed can be a source of CO, such as:

  • furnaces;
  • stoves and ovens;
  • water heaters;
  • dryers;
  • room and space heaters;
  • fireplaces and wood stoves;
  • charcoal grills;
  • automobiles;
  • clogged chimneys or flues;
  • space heaters;
  • power tools that run on fuel;
  • gas and charcoal grills;
  • certain types of swimming pool heaters; and
  • boat engines.
PPM   % CO
in air 
Health Effects in Healthy Adults  Source/Comments 
0 0% no effects; this is the normal level in a properly operating heating appliance
35 0.0035% maximum allowable workplace exposure limit for an eight-hour work shift The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
50 0.005% maximum allowable workplace exposure limit for an eight-hour work shift               OSHA
100 0.01% slight headache, fatigue, shortness of breath,
errors in judgment
125 0.0125% workplace alarm must sound (OSHA)
200 0.02% headache, fatigue,
nausea, dizziness
400 0.04% severe headache, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, confusion; can be life-threatening after three hours of exposure evacuate area immediately
800 0.08% convulsions, loss of consciousness;
death within three hours
evacuate area immediately
12,000 1.2% nearly instant death

CO Detector Placement
CO detectors can monitor exposure levels, but do not place them:

  • directly above or beside fuel-burning appliances, as appliances may emit a small amount of carbon monoxide upon start-up;
  • within 15 feet of heating and cooking appliances, or in or near very humid areas, such as bathrooms;
  • within 5 feet of kitchen stoves and ovens, or near areas locations where household chemicals and bleach are stored (store such chemicals away from bathrooms and kitchens, whenever possible);
  • in garages, kitchens, furnace rooms, or in any extremely dusty, dirty, humid, or greasy areas;
  • in direct sunlight, or in areas subjected to temperature extremes. These include unconditioned crawlspaces, unfinished attics, un-insulated or poorly insulated ceilings, and porches;
  • in turbulent air near ceiling fans, heat vents, air conditioners, fresh-air returns, or open windows. Blowing air may prevent carbon monoxide from reaching the CO sensors.

Do place CO detectors:

  • within 10 feet of each bedroom door and near all sleeping areas, where it can wake sleepers. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) recommend that every home have at least one carbon monoxide detector for each floor of the home, and within hearing range of each sleeping area;
  • on every floor of your home, including the basement (source:  International Association of Fire Chiefs/IAFC);
  • near or over any attached garage. Carbon monoxide detectors are affected by excessive humidity and by close proximity to gas stoves (source:  City of New York);
  • near, but not directly above, combustion appliances, such as furnaces, water heaters, and fireplaces, and in the garage (source:  UL); and
  • on the ceiling in the same room as permanently installed fuel-burning appliances, and centrally located on every habitable level, and in every HVAC zone of the building (source:  National Fire Protection Association 720). This rule applies to commercial buildings.

In North America, some national, state and local municipalities require installation of CO detectors in new and existing homes, as well as commercial businesses, among them:  Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Vermont and New York City, and the Canadian province of Ontario. Installers are encouraged to check with their local municipality to determine what specific requirements have been enacted in their jurisdiction.

How can I prevent CO poisoning?

  • Purchase and install carbon monoxide detectors with labels showing that they meet the requirements of the new UL standard 2034 or Comprehensive Safety Analysis 6.19 safety standards.
  • Make sure appliances are installed and operated according to the manufacturer’s instructions and local building codes. Have the heating system professionally inspected by an InterNACHI inspector and serviced annually to ensure proper operation. The inspector should also check chimneys and flues for blockages, corrosion, partial and complete disconnections, and loose connections.
  • Never service fuel-burning appliances without the proper knowledge, skill and tools. Always refer to the owner’s manual when performing minor adjustments and when servicing fuel-burning equipment.
  • Never operate a portable generator or any other gasoline engine-powered tool either in or near an enclosed space, such as a garage, house or other building. Even with open doors and windows, these spaces can trap CO and allow it to quickly build to lethal levels.
  • Never use portable fuel-burning camping equipment inside a home, garage, vehicle or tent unless it is specifically designed for use in an enclosed space and provides instructions for safe use in an enclosed area.
  • Never burn charcoal inside a home, garage, vehicle or tent.
  • Never leave a car running in an attached garage, even with the garage door open.
  • Never use gas appliances, such as ranges, ovens or clothes dryers to heat your home.
  • Never operate un-vented fuel-burning appliances in any room where people are sleeping.
  • During home renovations, ensure that appliance vents and chimneys are not blocked by tarps or debris. Make sure appliances are in proper working order when renovations are complete.
  • Do not place generators in the garage or close to the home. People lose power in their homes and get so excited about using their gas-powered generator that they don’t pay attention to where it is placed. The owner’s manual should explain how far the generator should be from the home.
  • Clean the chimney. Open the hatch at the bottom of the chimney to remove the ashes.  Hire a chimney sweep annually.
  • Check vents. Regularly inspect your home’s external vents to ensure they are not obscured by debris, dirt or snow.

In summary, carbon monoxide is a dangerous poison that can be created by various household appliances. CO detectors must be placed strategically throughout the home or business in order to alert occupants of high levels of the gas.  This article is from InterNACHI and can be found at https://www.nachi.org/carbon-monoxide.htm.

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

by Nick Gromicko, CMI® and Kenton Shepard
Between approximately 1965 and 1973, single-strand (solid) aluminum wiring was sometimes substituted for copper branch-circuit wiring in residential electrical systemsAluminum and copper wiring, with each metal clearly identifiable by its color something to look for during a home inspection due to the sudden escalating price of copper. After a decade of use by homeowners and electricians, inherent weaknesses were discovered in the metal that lead to its disuse as a branch wiring material. Aluminum will become defective faster than copper due to certain qualities inherent in the metal. Neglected connections in outlets, switches and light fixtures containing aluminum wiring become increasingly dangerous over time. Poor connections cause wiring to overheat, creating a potential fire hazard. In addition, the presence of single-strand aluminum wiring may void a home’s insurance policies. Inspectors may instruct their clients to talk with their insurance agents about whether the presence of aluminum wiring in their home is a hazard, a defect, and a problem that requires changes to their policy language.
According to the InterNACHI Home Inspection Standards of Practice, a home inspector is required to report upon single-strand, solid conductor aluminum branch-circuit wiring, if observed by the home inspector.
Facts and Figures 
 
  • On April, 28, 1974, two people were killed in a house fire in Hampton Bays, New York. Fire officials determined that the fire was caused by a faulty aluminum wire connection at an outlet.
  • According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), “Homes wired with aluminum wire manufactured before 1972 [‘old technology’ aluminum wire] are 55 times more likely to have one or more connections reach “Fire Hazard Conditions” than is a home wired with copper.”
Aluminum as a Metal

Aluminum possesses certain qualities that, compared with copper, make it an undesirable material as an electrical conductor. These qualities all lead to loose connections, where fire hazards become likely. These qualities are as follows:

  • higher electrical resistance. Aluminum has a high resistance to electrical current flow, which means that, given the same amperage, aluminum conductors must be of a larger diameter than would be required by copper conductors.
  • less ductile. Aluminum will fatigue and break down more readily when subjected to bending and other forms of abuse than copper, which is more ductile. Fatigue will cause the wire to break down internally and will increasingly resist electrical current, leading to a buildup of excessive heat.
  • galvanic corrosion.  In the presence of moisture, aluminum will undergo galvanic corrosion when it comes into contact with certain dissimilar metals.
  • oxidation. Exposure to oxygen in the air causes deterioration to the outer surface of the wire. This process is called oxidation. Aluminum wire is more easily oxidized than copper wire, and the compound formed by this process – aluminum oxide – is less conductive than copper oxide. As time passes, oxidation can deteriorate connections and present a fire hazard.
  • greater malleability. Aluminum is soft and malleable, meaning it is highly sensitive to compression. After a screw has been over-tightened on aluminum wiring, for instance, the wire will continue to deform or “flow” even after the tightening has ceased. This deformation will create a loose connection and increase electrical resistance in that location.
  • greater thermal expansion and contraction. Even more than copper, aluminum expands and contracts with changes in temperature. Over time, this process will cause connections between the wire and the device to degrade. For this reason, aluminum wires should never be inserted into the “stab,” “bayonet” or “push-in” type terminations found on the back of many light switches and outlets.
  • excessive vibration. Electrical current vibrates as it passes through wiring. This vibration is more extreme in aluminum than it is in copper, and, as time passes, it can cause connections to loosen.

Identifying Aluminum Wiring

  • Aluminum wires are the color of aluminum and are easily discernible from copper and other metals.
  • Since the early 1970s, wiring-device binding terminals for use with aluminum wire have been marked CO/ALR, which stands for “copper/aluminum revised.”
  • Look for the word “aluminum” or the initials “AL” on the plastic wire jacket. Where wiring is visible, such as in the attic or electrical panel, inspectors can look for printed or embossed letters on the plastic wire jacket. Aluminum wire may have the word “aluminum,” or a specific brand name, such as “Kaiser Aluminum,” marked on the wire jacket. Where labels are hard to read, a light can be shined along the length of the wire.
  • When was the house built? Homes built or expanded between 1965 and 1973 are more likely to have aluminum wiring than houses built before or after those years.

Options for Correction

Aluminum wiring should be evaluated by a qualified electrician who is experienced in evaluating and correcting aluminum wiring problems. Not all licensed electricians are properly trained to deal with defective aluminum wiring. The CPSC recommends the following two methods for correction for aluminum wiring:

  • Rewire the home with copper wire. While this is the most effective method, rewiring is expensive and impractical, in most cases.
  • Use copalum crimps. The crimp connector repair consists of attaching a piece of copper wire to the existing aluminum wire branch circuit with a specially designed metal sleeve and powered crimping tool. This special connector can be properly installed only with the matching AMP tool. An insulating sleeve is placed around the crimp connector to complete the repair. Although effective, they are expensive (typically around $50 per outlet, switch or light fixture).

Although not recommended by the CPSC as methods of permanent repair for defective aluminum wiring, the following methods may be considered:

  • application of anti-oxidant paste. This method can be used for wires that are multi-stranded or wires that are too large to be effectively crimped.
  • pigtailing. This method involves attaching a short piece of copper wire to the aluminum wire with a twist-on connector. the copper wire is connected to the switch, wall outlet or other termination device. This method is only effective if the connections between the aluminum wires and the copper pigtails are extremely reliable. Pigtailing with some types of connectors, even though Underwriters Laboratories might presently list them for the application, can lead to increasing the hazard. Also, beware that pigtailing will increase the number of connections, all of which must be maintained. Aluminum Wiring Repair (AWR), Inc., of Aurora, Colorado, advises that pigtailing can be useful as a temporary repair or in isolated applications, such as the installation of a ceiling fan.
  • CO/ALR connections. According to the CPSC, these devices cannot be used for all parts of the wiring system, such as ceiling-mounted light fixtures or permanently wired appliances and, as such, CO/ALR connections cannot constitute a complete repair. Also, according to AWR, these connections often loosen over time.
  • alumiconn. Although AWR believes this method may be an effective temporary fix, they are wary that it has little history, and that they are larger than copper crimps and are often incorrectly applied.
  • Replace certain failure-prone types of devices and connections with others that are more compatible with aluminum wire.
  • Remove the ignitable materials from the vicinity of the connections.

In summary, aluminum wiring can be a fire hazard due to inherent qualities of the metal. Inspectors should be capable of identifying this type of wiring. This article in from InterNACHI and can be found at https://www.nachi.org/aluminum-wiring.htm.

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

by Nick Gromicko, CMI®

With barbecue season already here, homeowners should heed the following barbecue safety precautions in order to keep their families and property safe. Here are a few barbecue safety tips courtesy of InterNACHI.
  • Propane grills present an enormous fire hazard, as the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is aware of more than 500 fires that result annually from their misuse or malfunction. The following precautions are recommended specifically when using propane grills:
    • Store propane tanks outdoors and never near the grill or any other heat source. In addition, never store or transport them in your car’s trunk.
    • Make sure to completely turn off the gas after you have finished, or when you are changing the tank. Even a small gas leak can cause a deadly explosion.
    • Check for damage to a tank before refilling it, and only buy propane from reputable suppliers.
    • Never use a propane barbecue grill on a terrace, balcony or roof, as this is dangerous and illegal.
    • No more than two 20-pound propane tanks are allowed on the property of a one- or two-family home.
    • To inspect for a leak, spray a soapy solution over the connections and watch for bubbles. If you see evidence of a leak, reconnect the components and try again. If bubbles persist, replace the leaking parts before using the grill.
    • Make sure connections are secure before turning on the gas, especially if the grill hasn’t been used in months. The most dangerous time to use a propane grill is at the beginning of the barbecue season.
    • Ignite a propane grill with the lid open, not closed. Propane can accumulate beneath a closed lid and explode.
    • When finished, turn off the gas first, and then the controls. This way, residual gas in the pipe will be used up.
  • Charcoal grills pose a serious poisoning threat due to the venting of carbon monoxide (CO). The CPSC estimates that 20 people die annually from accidentally ingesting CO from charcoal grills. These grills can also be a potential fire hazard. Follow these precautions when using charcoal grills:
    • Never use a charcoal grill indoors, even if the area is ventilated. CO is colorless and odorless, and you will not know you are in danger until it is too late.
    • Use only barbecue starter fluid to start the grill, and don’t add the fluid to an open flame. It is possible for the flame to follow the fluid’s path back to the container as you’re holding it.
    • Let the fluid soak into the coals for a minute before igniting them to allow explosive vapors to dissipate.
    • Charcoal grills are permitted on terraces and balconies only if there is at least 10 feet of clearance from the building, and a water source immediately nearby, such as a hose (or 4 gallons of water).
    • Be careful not to spill any fluid on yourself, and stand back when igniting the grill. Keep the charcoal lighter fluid container at a safe distance from the grill.
    • When cleaning the grill, dispose of the ashes in a metal container with a tight lid, and add water. Do not remove the ashes until they have fully cooled.
    • Fill the base of the grill with charcoal to a depth of no more than 2 inches.
  • Electric grills are probably safer than propane and charcoal grills, but safety precautions need to be used with them as well. Follow these tips when using electric grills:
    • Do not use lighter fluid or any other combustible materials.
    • When using an extension cord, make sure it is rated for the amperage required by the grill. The cord should be unplugged when not in use, and out of a busy foot path to prevent tripping.
    • As always, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Safety Recommendations for General Grill Use
  • Always make sure that the grill is used in a safe place, where kids and pets won’t touch or bump into it. Keep in mind that the grill will still be hot after you finish cooking, and anyone coming into contact with it could be burned.
  • If you use a grill lighter, make sure you don’t leave it lying around where children can reach it. They will quickly learn how to use it.
  • Never leave the grill unattended, as this is generally when accidents happen.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher or garden hose nearby.
  • Ensure that the grill is completely cooled before moving it or placing it back in storage.
  • Ensure that the grill is only used on a flat surface that cannot burn, and well away from any shed, trees or shrubs.
  • Clean out the grease and other debris in the grill periodically. Be sure to look for rust or other signs of deterioration.
  • Don’t wear loose clothing that might catch fire while you’re cooking.
  • Use long-handled barbecue tools and flame-resistant oven mitts.
  • Keep alcoholic beverages away from the grill; they are flammable!
In summary, homeowners should exercise caution when using any kind of grill, as they can harm life and property in numerous ways.  This article can be found at https://www.nachi.org/barbeque-safety.htm.
Red Horse Home Inspection of the Black Hills is certified, licensed, and insured.  If you need a home inspection please give us a call or schedule your home inspection online.  Follow us on Instagram and Facebook to get safety and maintenance tips.

by Nick Gromicko, CMI® and Kenton Shepard

Anti-tip brackets are metal devices designed to prevent freestanding ranges from tipping. They are normally attached to a rear leg of the range or screwed into the wall behind the range, and are included in all installation kits. A unit that is not equipped with these devices may tip over if enough weight is applied to its open door, such as that from a large Thanksgiving turkey, or even a small child. A falling range can crush, scald, or burn anyone caught beneath.

Bracket Inspection

Inspectors can confirm the presence of anti-tip brackets through the following methods:

  • It may be possible to see a wall-mounted bracket by looking over the rear of the range. Floor-mounted brackets are often hidden, although in some models with removable drawers, such as 30-inch electric ranges made by General Electric, the drawers can be removed and a flashlight can be used to search for the bracket. Inspectors should beware that a visual confirmation does not guarantee that the bracket has been properly installed.
  • Inspectors can firmly grip the upper-rear section of the range and tip the unit. If equipped with an anti-tip bracket, the unit will not tip more than several inches before coming to a halt. The range should be turned off, and all items should be removed from the stovetop before this action can be performed. It is usually easier to detect a bracket by tipping the range than through a visual search. This test can be performed on all models and it can confirm the functionality of a bracket.
If no anti-tip bracket is detected, inspectors should recommend that one be installed.
Clients can contact the dealer or builder who installed their range and request that they install a bracket. For clients who wish to install a bracket themselves, the part can be purchased at most hardware stores or ordered from a manufacturer. General Electric will send their customers an anti-tip bracket for free.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), there were 143 incidents caused by range tip-overs from 1980 to 2006. Of the 33 incidents that resulted in death, most of those victims were children. A small child may stand on an open range door in order to see what is cooking on the stovetop and accidentally cause the entire unit to fall on top of him, along with whatever hot items may have been cooking on the stovetop. The elderly, too, may be injured while using the range for support while cleaning. InterNACHI inspectors who inspect ovens should never leave the oven door open while the oven is unattended.
In response to this danger, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) created standards in 1991 that require all ranges manufactured after that year to be capable of remaining stable while supporting 250 pounds of weight on their open doors. Manufacturers’ instructions, too, require that anti-tip brackets provided be installed. Despite these warnings, retailer Sears estimated in 1999 that a mere 5% of the gas and electric units they sold were ever equipped with anti-tip brackets. As a result of Sears’ failure to comply with safety regulations, they were sued and subsequently required to secure ranges in nearly 4 million homes, a measure that has been speculated to have cost Sears as much as $500 million.
In summary, ranges are susceptible to tipping if they are not equipped with anti-tip brackets. Inspectors should know how to confirm that these safety devices are present. This article is courtesy of InterNACHI and can be found at https://www.nachi.org/anti-tip.htm.
Red Horse Home Inspection is proud to service the Black Hills and surrounding area.  If  you are looking for a home inspection give us a call or schedule online.  Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for maintenance and safety tips.

by Nick Gromicko, CMI®, and Kenton Shepard

Adjustable steel columns, also known as screw jacks and beam jacks, are hollow steel posts designed to provide structural support. An attached Adjustable steel column found during a home inspection in Spearfish sdthreaded adjustment mechanism is used to adjust the height of the post.

A few facts about adjustable steel columns:

  • They are usually found in basements.
  • In some parts of North America, adjustable steel columns are called lally columns, although this term sometimes applies to columns that are concrete-filled and non-adjustable.
  • They can be manufactured as multi-part assembles, sometimes called telescopic steel columns, or as single-piece columns.

The following are potentially defective conditions:

  • The post is less than 3 inches in diameter. According to the 2012 International Residential Code (IRC), Section R407.3, columns (including adjustable steel columns)…”shall not be less than 3-inch diameter standard pipe.”
Poles smaller than 3 inches violate the IRC, although they are not necessarily defective. A 2½-inch post may be adequate to support the load above it, while a 4-inch post can buckle if the load exceeds the structural capacity of the post. Structural engineers — not inspectors — decide whether adjustable steel posts are of adequate size.
  • The post is not protected by rust-inhibitive paint. The IRC Section R407.2 states:

“All surfaces (inside and outside) of steel columns shall be given a shop coat of rust-inhibitive paint, except for corrosion-resistant steel and steel treated with coatings to provide corrosion resistance.”

Inspectors will not be able to identify paint as rust-inhibitive. In dry climates where rust is not as much of a problem, rust-inhibitive paint may not be necessary. Visible signs of rust constitute a potential defect.

  • The post is not straight. According to some sources, the maximum lateral displacement between the top and bottom of the post should not exceed 1 inch. However, tolerable lateral displacement is affected by many factors, such as the height and diameter of the post. The post should also not bend at its mid-point. Bending is an indication that the column cannot bear the weight of the house.
  • The column is not mechanically connected to the floor. An inspector may not be able to confirm whether a connection between the post and the floor exists if this connection has been covered by concrete.
  • The column is not connected to the beam. The post should be mechanically connected to the beam above to provide additional resistance against lateral displacement.
  • More than 3 inches of the screw thread are exposed.
  • There are cracks in upstairs walls. This condition may indicate a failure of the columns.
In summary, InterNACHI inspectors may want to inspect adjustable steel columns for problems, although a structural engineer may be required to confirm serious issues.  This article is from InterNACHI and can be found at https://www.nachi.org/adjustable-columns.htm.
Schedule your home inspection with Red Horse Home Inspection, we proudly service Rapid City and the surrounding areas. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram to get home maintenance and safety tips.

by Nick Gromicko, CMI®

Vermiculite insulation found during a home inspection

 Vermiculite is a naturally occurring mineral composed of shiny flakes that resemble mica. When heated rapidly to a high temperature, this crystalline mineral expands into low-density, accordion-like strands. In this form, vermiculite is a lightweight, odorless and fire-resistant material that has been used in numerous applications, such as insulation for attics and walls.

Asbestos Contamination

Vermiculite forms over millions of years due to weathering of the mineral biotite. Unfortunately, biotite deposits are often in close proximity to deposits of diopside, which transform into asbestos due to the same weathering processes that create vermiculite. Asbestos can be easily inhaled because it tends to separate into microscopic particles that become airborne. Exposure to asbestos can result in lung cancer, mesothelioma, inflammation of the chest cavity, and a scarring disease of the lungs known as asbestosis. The risk of contracting these diseases generally increases with the duration and intensity of exposure to asbestos, and smokers may face an even greater risk of lung cancer.

The largest and oldest vermiculite mine in the United States was started in the 1920s near Libby, Montana. Although it was known that the vermiculite there was contaminated with tremolite, a highly toxic form of asbestos, the mine continued to operate until stiffer environmental controls finally forced it to close in 1990. Sadly, by this time, the damage had already been done; the asbestos-infused insulator had been installed in tens of millions of homes in the United States alone. As over 70% of all vermiculite sold in the U.S. from 1919 to 1990 originated from the Libby mine, it is safe to assume that all vermiculite insulation found in buildings is toxic.

IdentificationZonolite brand vermiculite is likely contaminated by asbestos found during a home inspection

Vermiculite insulation is a pebble-like or rectangular, chunky product about the size of a pencil eraser, and usually gray-brown or silver-gold in color. Inspectors should be on guard for empty bags in the attic that bear the name Zonolite®, as this was the commercial name for vermiculite mined in the notorious Libby mine.

What should be done about asbestos found in homes?

Inspectors should advise their clients to never disturb vermiculite or any asbestos insulation. These products must be airborne to cause a health risk through inhalation, which most likely happens when they are removed or handled. The following are some additional tips that inspectors can pass on to clients with vermiculite issues:

  • Consider that contractors may track vermiculite into the house if they have to enter the attic.
  • Dispose of waste and debris contaminated with asbestos in tight containers.
  • Do not allow children to play in an attic.
  • Do not launder clothing exposed to vermiculite with family clothing.
  • Do not overreact. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA), asbestos-related illnesses are usually the result of high levels of exposure for long periods of time. Left undisturbed in the attic, asbestos is generally not a life-threatening situation. Furthermore, air generally flows into the attic from the house, and not the other way around.
  • Do not use the attic as a storage area.
  • Hire a professional asbestos contractor before remodeling or renovating if these processes may disturb the vermiculite.
  • Never use compressed air for cleaning around vermiculite. Avoid dry-sweeping, vacuuming, shoveling, or other dry clean-up methods. Wet methods are best.
  • Seal cracks and holes in attics, such as around light fixtures and ceiling fans, where insulation may pass through.
  • Use proper respiratory protection. Disposable respirators or dust masks are not appropriate for avoiding asbestos exposure.
In summary, vermiculite is a potentially hazardous mineral used as an insulator in buildings, but its dangers can be mitigated with some simple precautions. This article is courtesy of InterNACHI and can be found at https://www.nachi.org/vermiculite.htm. Click on Mesothelioma Types
for information on mesothelioma.

Exterior stairs that have more than three steps needs to have a handrail.  The handrail should be between 34 to 38 inches above the front edge of the stair tread.  Exterior stairs and walk ways that are 30 inches above adjacwhat home inspector should look forent grade need to have a guardrail.  The guardrail should be not less than 36 inches high and have intermediate rails that will not let a 4 inch sphere pass between them.  The stair riser heights should be uniform with no more than 3/8th of an inch difference between rises.  The rise should be no more 7 3/4″ and no less than 4″ and the run should be no less that 10″.

As a home owner your responsibility is to make sure your stairs and guardrail are in good repair and safe.  You should test the strength of your handrail and guardrail by pulling on them.  They should be able to withstand 200 pounds of a concentrated load applied along the top rail in any direction.  If the stairs and rails are made of wood they should be checked yearly for rot and loose fasteners.  Stairs and railing made from steel should be checked for rust and loose fasteners and make any repairs needed.

Red Horse Home Inspection of the Black Hills is proud to service Rapid City, Black Hawk, Piedmont, Sturgis, Whitewood, Belle Fourche, Spearfish, Lead, Deadwood, Custer, Hot Springs, Hill City, Keystone, Hermosa, Box Elder, and surrounding areas.  If you are buying or selling a home in the Black Hills have in inspected by Red Horse Home Inspection.  You can easily schedule online.  Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for maintenance and safety tips.

Electricity is an essential part of our lives. However, it has the potential to cause great harm. Electrical systems will function almost indefinitely, if properly installed and not overloaded or physically abused. Electrical fires in our homes claim the lives of 485 Americans each year and injure 2,305 more. Some of these fires are caused by electrical system failures and appliance defects, but many more are caused by the misuse and poor maintenance of electrical appliances, incorrectly installed wiring, and overloaded circuits and extension cords.

Some safety tips to remember:
  • Never use anything but the proper fuse to protect a circuit. 
  • Find and correct overloaded circuits.
  • Never place extension cords under rugs.
  • Outlets near water should be GFCI-type outlets.
  • Don’t allow trees near power lines to be climbed.
  • Keep ladders, kites, equipment and anything else away from overhead power lines.
Electrical Panels
Electricity enters the home through a control panel and a main switch where one can shut off all the power in an emergency. These panels are usually located in the basement. Control panels use either fuses or circuit breakers. Install the correct fuses for the panel. Never use a higher-numbered fuse or a metallic item, such as a penny. If fuses are used and there is a stoppage in power, look for the broken metal strip in the top of a blown fuse. Replace the fuse with a new one marked with the correct amperage. Reset circuit breakers from “off” to “on.” Be sure to investigate why the fuse or circuit blew. Possible causes include frayed wires, overloaded outlets, or defective appliances. Never overload a circuit with high-wattage appliances. Check the wattage on appliance labels. If there is frayed insulation or a broken wire, a dangerous short circuit may result and cause a fire. If power stoppages continue or if a frayed or broken wire is found, contact an electrician.
Outlets and Extension Cords
Make sure all electrical receptacles or outlets are three-hole, grounded outlets. If there is water in the area, there should be a GFCI or ground-fault circuit interrupter outlet. All outdoor outlets should be GFCIs. There should be ample electrical capacity to run equipment without tripping circuit breakers or blowing fuses. Minimize extension cord use. Never place them under rugs. Use extension cords sparingly and check them periodically. Use the proper electrical cord for the job, and put safety plugs in unused outlets.

Electrical Appliances

Appliances need to be treated with respect and care. They need room to breathe. Avoid enclosing them in a cabinet without proper openings, and do not store papers around them. Level appliances so they do not tip. Washers and dryers should be checked often. Their movement can put undue stress on electrical connections. If any appliance or device gives off a tingling shock, turn it off, unplug it, and have a qualified person correct the problem. Shocks can be fatal. Never insert metal objects into appliances without unplugging them. Check appliances periodically to spot worn or cracked insulation, loose terminals, corroded wires, defective parts and any other components that might not work correctly. Replace these appliances or have them repaired by a person qualified to do so.
Electrical Heating Equipment
Portable electrical heating equipment may be used in the home as a supplement to the home heating system. Caution must be taken when using these heating supplements. Keep them away from combustibles, and make sure they cannot be tipped over. Keep electrical heating equipment in good working condition. Do not use them in bathrooms because of the risk of contact with water and electrocution. Many people use electric blankets in their homes. They will work well if they are kept in good condition. Look for cracks and breaks in the wiring, plugs and connectors. Look for charred spots on both sides. Many things can cause electric blankets to overheat. They include other bedding placed on top of them, pets sleeping on top of them, and putting things on top of the blanket when it is in use. Folding the blankets can also bend the coils and cause overheating.
Children
Electricity is important to the workings of the home, but can be dangerous, especially to children. Electrical safety needs to be taught to children early on. Safety plugs should be inserted in unused outlets when toddlers are in the home. Make sure all outlets in the home have face plates. Teach children not to put things into electrical outlets and not to chew on electrical cords. Keep electrical wiring boxes locked. Do not allow children to come in contact with power lines outside. Never allow them to climb trees near power lines, utility poles or high tension towers.
Electricity and Water
A body can act like a lightning rod and carry the current to the ground. People are good conductors of electricity, particularly when standing in water or on a damp floor. Never use any electrical appliance in the tub or shower. Never touch an electric cord or appliance with wet hands. Do not use electrical appliances in damp areas or while standing on damp floors. In areas where water is present, use outlets with GFCIs. Shocks can be fatal.
Animal Hazards
Mice and other rodents can chew on electrical wires and damage them. If rodents are suspected or known to be in the home, be aware of the damage they may cause, and take measures to get rid of them.
Outside Hazards
There are several electrical hazards outside the home. Be aware of overhead and underground power lines. People have been electrocuted when an object they are moving has come in contact with the overhead power lines. Keep ladders, antennae, kites and poles away from power lines leading to the house and other buildings. Do not plant trees, shrubs or bushes under power lines or near underground power lines. Never build a swimming pool or other structure under the power line leading to your house. Before digging, learn the location of underground power lines.
Do not climb power poles or transmission towers. Never let anyone shoot or throw stones at insulators. If you have an animal trapped in a tree or on the roof near electric lines, phone your utility company. Do not take a chance of electrocuting yourself. Be aware of weather conditions when installing and working with electrical appliances. Never use electrical power tools or appliances with rain overhead or water underfoot. Use only outdoor lights, fixtures and extension cords. Plug into outlets with a GFCI. Downed power lines are extremely dangerous. If you see a downed power line, call the electric company, and warn others to stay away. If a power line hits your car while you are in it, stay inside unless the car catches fire. If the car catches fire, jump clear without touching metal and the ground at the same time.
MORE SAFETY PRECAUTIONS :
  • Routinely check your electrical appliances and wiring.
  • Hire an InterNACHI inspector. InterNACHI inspectors must pass rigorous safety training and are knowledgeable in the ways to reduce the likelihood of electrocution.
  • Frayed wires can cause fires. Replace all worn, old and damaged appliance cords immediately.
  • Use electrical extension cords wisely and don’t overload them.
  • Keep electrical appliances away from wet floors and counters; pay special care to electrical appliances in the bathroom and kitchen.
  • Don’t allow children to play with or around electrical appliances, such as space heaters, irons and hair dryers.
  • Keep clothes, curtains and other potentially combustible items at least 3 feet from all heaters.
  • If an appliance has a three-prong plug, use it only in a three-slot outlet. Never force it to fit into a two-slot outlet or extension cord.
  • Never overload extension cords or wall sockets. Immediately shut off, then professionally replace, light switches that are hot to the touch, as well as lights that flicker. Use safety closures to childproof electrical outlets.
  • Check your electrical tools regularly for signs of wear. If the cords are frayed or cracked, replace them. Replace any tool if it causes even small electrical shocks, overheats, shorts out or gives off smoke or sparks.
In summary, household electrocution can be prevented by following the tips offered in this guide and by hiring an InterNACHI inspector.https://www.nachi.org/electric.htm
Red Horse Home Inspection in proud to service the Black Hills of South Dakota including Rapid City, Black Hawk, Piedmont, Sturgis, Spearfish, Deadwood, Lead, Custer, Hot Springs, Keystone, Hill City, Hermosa, Box Elder, and surrounding areas.  Schedule your home inspection with us today.
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