by Nick Gromicko, CMI® and Kenton Shepard

There are a number of measures that homeowners can take to ensure that their homes are not attractive to burglars. If clients are concerned about break-ins, inspectors can pass on to them basic strategies for burglar-proofing their homes.
Some interesting statistics concerning break-ins in the United States:
  • InterNACHI estimates that theft makes up more than three-quarters of all reported crime.
  • In 2005, law enforcement agencies reported more than 2 million burglary offenses.
According to a survey, burglars enter homes through the following locations:

  • 81% enter through the first floor;
  • 34% of burglars enter through the front door;
  • 23% enter through a first-floor window;
  • 22% enter through the back door
  • 9% enter through the garage;
  • 4% enter through the basement;
  • 4% enter through an unlocked entrance;
  • 2% enter through a storage area; and
  • 2% enter anywhere on the second floor.
Some interesting statistics (2002) concerning break-ins in Canada:
  • The burglary rate in Canada (877 per 100,000 people) is seven times higher than that of the country with the fewest break-ins, Norway.
  • The burglary rate in Canada is slightly higher than that of the United States (746 per 100,000 people) but significantly less than the burglary rate in Australia (2,275 per 100,000 people).

Exterior Doors

  • Doors should be made of steel or solid-core wood construction. Hollow-core wood doors are more easily broken than heavy, solid-core doors.
  • Doors should be free of signs of rot, cracks and warping.
  • Doors should be protected by quality deadbolt locks. Chain locks are not adequate substitutes for deadbolt locks, although chain locks may be used as additional protection.
  • If a mail slot is present, it should be equipped with a cage or box. Mail slots that are not equipped with cages or boxes have been used by burglars to enter homes.  Burglars can insert a contraption made of wire and cord into the mail slot and use it to open the lock from the inside, if no box or cage is present.
  • If a door is equipped with glass panes, they should be installed far from the lock. Otherwise, burglars can smash the glass and reach through the door to unlock the door.
  • Spare keys should not be hidden in obvious locations. Burglars are very good at finding keys that homeowners believe are cleverly hidden. The best place for a spare key is in the house of a trusted neighbor. If keys must be hidden near the door, they should not be placed in obvious locations, such as under a doormat, rock or planter. 
  • A peephole can be installed in doors so homeowners can see who is on their doorstep before they open the door.
  • Clients should consider installing bump-resistant locks on their doors. “Bumping” is a technique developed recently that can open almost any standard lock with less effort than is required by lock-picking. This technique uses “bump keys,” which are normal keys with slight modifications. Lock companies such as Schlage, Primus and Medeco manufacture a number of locks that offer some bump-resistance.

Pet Doors

  • Pet doors can be used by burglars to enter homes. Some burglars have reached through pet doors in order to unlock the door. It is advisable to not have a pet door, but if one is necessary, it should be as small as possible and installed far from the lock.
  • A crafty burglar may convince or coerce a small child to crawl through a pet door and unlock the door. Also, some burglars are children.
  • Electronic pet doors are available that open only when the pet, equipped with a signaling device in their collar, approaches the door. These doors are designed to keep stray animals out of the home, and may provide protection against burglars, as well.

Sliding Glass Doors

  • They should be equipped with locks on their tops and bottoms.
  • They should not be able to be lifted from their frames.
  • A cut-off broom handle, or a similar device, can be laid into the door track to prevent it from being opened.

Illumination

  • Lights should be installed on the exterior of all four sides of the house. Burglars prefer darkness so they cannot be seen by neighbors or passersby.
  • When building occupants are not home, a few lights should be left on.
  • It is helpful to install exterior lights that are activated by motion sensors. Burglars that are suddenly illuminated may flee.

Windows

  • All windows should be composed of strong glass, such as laminated glass, and be in good operating order.
  • They can be installed with bars, grilles, grates or heavy-duty wire screening. Barred windows must be equipped with a quick-release mechanism so occupants can quickly escape during a fire.
  • Windows should not be hidden by landscaping or structures. If landscaping or structures cannot be moved, lighting can be installed around the windows.

Landscaping and Yard

  • Shrubs and trees should not obscure the view of entrances. Shielded entrances can provide cover for burglars while they attempt to enter the residence.
  • Fences are helpful burglar deterrents, although they should not be difficult to see through.

While the house is vacant:

  • A loud radio can be used to make burglars think someone is home. Timers can be used to activate radios and lights to make the home seem occupied.
  • A car should always be parked in the driveway. A neighbor’s car can be parked there so that it appears as if someone is home.
  • The lawn should be cut regularly. Uncut grass is a clue that no one is home.

Other Tips 

  • Dogs are excellent burglar deterrents. For clients who cannot own dogs, they can place “Beware of Dog” signs around the yard for nearly the same effect.
  • If no security system is installed, the client can post security alarm stickers around the yard.
In summary, there are a number of tactics that inspectors can pass on to their clients that will help safeguard their homes from break-ins.  This article is from InterNACHI and can be found at https://www.nachi.org/burglar-resistant.htm.

Red Horse Home Inspection of the Black Hills

Red Horse Home Inspection is proud to service the Black Hills of South Dakota.  Red Horse Home Inspection is fulling insured, licensed in the state of South Dakota, and is an InterNACHI Certified Professional Inspector.  Red Horse Home Inspection offers buyer and seller home inspections, radon gas test, and water testing.  We cover Rapid City, Sturgis, Spearfish, Deadwood, Lead, Hot Springs, Custer, Keystone, Hill City, Hermosa, Box Elder, Summerset, New Underwood, and everywhere in between.  If you are ready to schedule your home inspection with us do it online or call 605-490-2916.  Follow us on Facebook.

by Nick Gromicko, CMI® and Kenton Shepard

Backflow is the reversal of the normal and intended direction of water flow in a water system. Devices and assemblies known as backflow preventers are installed to prevent backflow, which can contaminate potable water supplies.
Why is backflow a problem?

Backflow is a potential problem in a water system because it can spread contaminated water back through a distribution system. For example, backflow at uncontrolled cross connections (cross-connections are any actual or potential connection between the public water supply and a source of contamination or pollution) can allow pollutants or contaminants to enter the potable water system. Sickness can result from ingesting water that has been contaminated due to backflow.

Backflow may occur under the following two conditions:

back-pressure:
Back-pressure is the reverse from normal flow direction within a piping system as the result of the downstream pressure being higher than the supply pressure. This reduction in supply pressure occurs whenever the amount of water being used exceeds the amount of water being supplied (such as during water-line flushing, fire-fighting, or breaks in water mains).

back-siphonage:

Back-siphonage is the reverse from normal flow direction within a piping system that is caused by negative pressure in the supply piping (i.e., the reversal of normal flow in a system caused by a vacuum or partial vacuum within the water supply piping). Back-siphonage can occur when there is a high velocity in a pipe line, when there is a line repair or break that is lower than a service point, or when there is lowered main pressure due to high-water withdrawal rate (such as during fire-fighting or water-main flushing).
Atmospheric Vacuum Breakers backflow from home inspection near rapid city sd

Backflow prevention for residences is most commonly accomplished through the use of atmospheric vacuum breakers (AVBs). AVBs operate by allowing the entry of air into a pipe so that a siphon cannot form. AVBs are bent at 90 degrees and are usually composed of brass. Compared with backflow preventer assembles, AVBs are small, simple and inexpensive devices that require little maintenance or testing. They have long life spans and are suitable for residential purposes such as sprinkler systems. InterNACHI inspectors can check for the following:

  • The AVB must be at least 6 inches above any higher point downstream of the device. For this reason, they can never be installed below grade. Even if they are installed 6 inches above grade, inspectors should make sure that they are not installed less than 6 inches above some other point in the system downstream of the device.
  • The AVB cannot be installed in an enclosure containing air contaminants. If contaminated air enters the water piping, it can poison the potable water supply.
  • A shut-off valve should never be placed downstream of any AVB, as this would result in continuous pressure on the AVB.
  • AVBs cannot be subject to continuous pressure for 12 hours in any 24-hour period or they may malfunction.
  • Spillage of water from the top of the AVB is an indication that the device has failed and needs to be replaced.
Types of Backflow Preventer Assemblies

Some types of assemblies are common in commercial and agricultural applications but are rare for residential uses. The appropriate type of backflow preventer for any given application will depend on the degree of potential hazard. The primary types of backflow preventers appropriate for use at municipalities and utilities are:

  • double check valves:  These are commonly used in elevated tanks and non-toxic boilers. Double check-valve assemblies are effective against backflow preventer from home inspection near sturgis sdbackflow caused by back-pressure and back-siphonage and are used to protect the potable water system from low-hazard substances. Double-checks consist of two positive-seating check valves installed as a unit between two tightly closing shut-off valves, and are fitted with testcocks.
  • reduced pressure principle assemblies:  These are commonly used in industrial plants, hospitals, morgues, chemical plants, irrigation systems, boilers, and fire sprinkler systems. Reduced pressure principle assemblies (RPs) protect against back-pressure and back-siphonage of pollutants and contaminants. The assembly is comprised of two internally loaded, independently operating check valves with a mechanically independent, hydraulically dependent relief valve between them.
  • pressure vacuum breakers:  These are commonly used in industrial plants, cooling towers, laboratories, laundries, swimming pools, lawn sprinkler systems, and fire sprinkler systems. Pressure vacuum breakers use a check valve designed to close with the aid of a spring when water flow stops. Its air-inlet valve opens when the internal pressure is one psi above atmospheric pressure, preventing non-potable water from being siphoned back into the potable system. The assembly includes resilient, seated shut-off valves and testcocks.
Requirements for Testers and Inspectors
A number of organizations, such as the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and the American Backflow Prevention Association (ABPA) offer certification courses designed to train professionals to test backflow preventers. Requirements for training vary by jurisdiction. Inspection of backflow preventers requires knowledge of installation requirements, although inspectors are not required to become certified.
In summary, backflow preventers are designed to prevent the reverse flow of water in a potable water system. They come in a number of different types, each of which is suited for different purposes.   This article is from InterNACHI and can be found at https://www.nachi.org/backflow-prevention.htm.

Red Horse Home Inspection of the Black Hills.

Red Horse Home Inspection is proud to service the Black Hills area.  We offer buyer and seller home inspections, radon gas testing, and water testing.  Our home inspector is licensed in the state of South Dakota and is an InterNACHI Certified Professional Inspector.  Our service area includes Rapid City, Sturgis, Spearfish, Deadwood, Custer, Hot Springs, Hermosa, Black Hawk, Summerset, Box Elder, New Underwood, and everywhere in between.  If you are buying or selling in the Black Hills please give us a call at 490-2916 or if you are ready to schedule your inspection you can do it online.  Please follow us on Facebook.

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.

by Nick Gromicko, CMI® and Kenton Shepard

Sump pumps are self-activating electrical pumps that protect homes from moisture intrusion. They are usually installed below basement or crawlspace floors to remove rising groundwater and surface runoff before it has a chance to seep into the home. Accumulated water can cause interior damage and encourage the growth of mold, mildew, and fungus. Pumps should be maintained and equipped with all necessary components in order to ensure their reliability.

How a Sump Pump Works

A pit, known as a sump pit or sump trench, can be dug at the lowest part of the basement floor to capture and contain any flowing water. A sump pump sits at the bottom of this trench (or beside it) and expels excess water through a series of interconnected pipes to a suitable discharge location. The pump can sense water levels through a float that rises and falls with fluctuating water levels in the trench. The sump pump becomes activated and deactivated based on the height of the float, providing a simple, automated way to monitor and deal with variable water levels.
Types of Sump Pumps
  • Pedestal sump pumps sit above the water line beside the sump trench and are not designed to get wet. Since they are not contained within the sump pit, they can be accessed easily but are also very noisy. They cost roughly $60 to $200, which is significantly less than other varieties.
  • Submersible sump pumps rest underwater at the bottom of the sump pit, and are much quieter than pedestal pumps. Their oil-cooled motors and tight seals protect against water and dust and afford them a long lifespan. They can cost up to $600.
  • Water-powered sump pumps are normally used as backups and kick in when the main pump experiences an electrical or mechanical failure.
Maintenance
  • The pump must be kept clean and free of debris. The inlet screen prevents the passage of dirt and other solid material from entering the pump, but it can become overwhelmed. Cleanings should occur often for pumps that run constantly.
  • Inspectors should make sure that the float is not tangled or jammed in one position. A sump pump with a jammed float is useless because it will not sense when it should turn on and shut off.
  • The pump can be tested by pouring water into the pit to make sure it becomes activated and expels the water. The homeowner should seek professional assistance if the pump does not activate.
  • Maintenance should take place annually, and when the home is sold.
  • When testing the pump, no one should ever reach into the pit. The float can be reached and manipulated with a household item such as a golf club (with a rubber handle) or anything else non-conductive that happens to be lying around.
Inspectors should check for the presence of the following:
  • a GFCI. There is considerable debate among inspectors concerning whether or not a sump pump should be connected to a GFCI. It is possible that a GFCI can prevent electrocution, but it is extremely unlikely that a sump pump will energize water in the first place. It is much more likely that a GFCI will trip during safe conditions and deactivate the sump pump when it is needed. A sump pump is among the most critical of all household appliances, and its deactivation, especially if the tenants are not home, could allow catastrophic building damage. Codes recommend that appliances in basements and crawlspaces be connected to GFCIs to reduce the chance of electrical shock, but this advice is often ignored due to these concerns over nuisance tripping.
  • an alarm. Sump pumps can burn out, lose power, become clogged or misaligned, or malfunction in a variety of other ways. It is valuable to have a warning device installed that will signal water build-up. These alarms can alert homeowners or neighbors of flooding so that it can be resolved before water damage occurs. Alarms are especially important in residences that are not occupied for long periods of time. Inspectors should keep in mind that, while an alarm can be helpful, it is not a requirement.
  • a check valve. This device is the same diameter as the discharge pipe into which it fits and is usually a different color. A check valve should be installed in order to prevent pumped water in the discharge line from re-entering the sump pit when the device is turned off. Without this valve, the pump will have to work twice as hard to remove the same column of water, which causes unnecessary strain to the pump components. A check valve can also prevent the rare yet disturbing possibility that a discharge line connected to a stream or pond will back-siphon into the sump pit.
  • a backup power source. Power outages are most likely to happen during heavy rains and floods, which are situations when the sump pump is most needed. For this reason, combined with the nuisance-tripping from GFCIs, sump pumps should have a backup power source to rely on. A pump powered by a battery or the home’s water pressure can also be installed as a backup. Installation of a backup power source or backup pump is not a requirement, but can be offered to a client as a recommendation.
  • that the pit that is large enough for the pump. The sump pit does not need to be constructed from any particular material, as long as it is solid and provides permanent support for the pump. It must, however, be large enough to allow the pump room to work properly. Some homeowners use a 5-gallon bucket as a sump pit, but this is insufficient. For most homes, the sump pit should not be less than 24 inches deep and 18 inches wide. One of the most common reasons why sump pumps fail is that the float gets jammed between the pump and the pit because the pit is too cramped.
  • a cover. The sump pit should be covered to prevent water from evaporating into the home.
Discharge Location

InterNACHI inspectors are not required to check for a proper discharge location. They can note an improper discharge if they see it, but searching outdoors for the discharge is not recommended. The following is good general information that can be passed on to the homeowner:

  • Water must be discharged at least 20 feet from the building.
  • Water should not drain back into the house! Cycling water will place unnecessary strain on the pump and can weaken the structure’s foundation.
  • Water should not drain onto a neighbor’s property without their approval.
  • Many jurisdictions do not permit pumped water into public sewer systems.
  • Pumped water should never drain into a residence’s septic system. Especially during heavy rain, a septic drain field will become saturated and will struggle to handle the normal flow of water from the house. Additional water from the sump pump can damage the septic system.
In summary, sump pumps are used to remove excess water from homes that would otherwise cause property damage. There are multiple types, but they all monitor water levels and ensure that they do not rise higher than predetermined levels. Proper maintenance and inspection will ensure pump efficiency and prolong their lifespan.
This article is for InterNACHI and can be found at https://www.nachi.org/sump-pumps.htm.
Red Horse Home Inspection is based out of Rapid City, SD and services the entire Black Hills area.  Our certified home inspector offers buyer home inspection, pre-listing home inspection, radon testing, and water testing.  If you need to schedule a home inspection you can easily schedule online or call Clint at 490-2916.  Follow us on Facebook.
by Nick Gromicko, CMI® and Ben Gromicko
The following items are essential tools, but this list is by no means exhaustive. Feel free to ask an InterNACHI inspector during your next inspection about other tools that you might find useful.
Standard plunger
1.  Plunger
A clogged sink or toilet is one of the most inconvenient household problems that you will face. With a plunger on hand, however, you can usually remedy these plumbing issues relatively quickly. It is best to have two plungers — one for the sink and one for the toilet.

 

2.  Combination Wrench Set

One end of a combination wrench set is open and the other end is a closed loop. Nuts and bolts are manufactured in standard and metric sizes, and because both varieties are widely used, you’ll need both sets of wrenches. For the most control and leverage, always pull the wrench toward you, instead of pushing on it. Also, avoid over-tightening.

3.  Slip-Joint Pliers

Use slip-joint pliers to grab hold of a nail, a nut, a bolt, and much more. These types of pliers are versatile because of the jaws, which feature both flat and curved areas for gripping many types of objects. There is also a built-in slip-joint, which allows the user to quickly adjust the jaw size to suit most tasks.

4.  Adjustable WrenchCaulking gun

Adjustable wrenches are somewhat awkward to use and can damage a bolt or nut if they are not handled properly. However, adjustable wrenches are ideal for situations where you need two wrenches of the same size. Screw the jaws all the way closed to avoid damaging the bolt or nut.

5.  Caulking Gun
Caulking is the process of sealing up cracks and gaps in various structures and certain types of piping. Caulking can provide noise mitigation and thermal insulation, and control water penetration. Caulk should be applied only to areas that are clean and dry.
6.  Flashlight
None of the tools in this list is of any use if you cannot visually inspect the situation. The problem, and solution, are apparent only with a good flashlight. A traditional two-battery flashlight is usually sufficient, as larger flashlights may be too unwieldy.
7.  Tape Measure
Measuring house projects requires a tape measure — not a ruler or a yardstick. Tape measures come in many lengths, although 25 feet is best.  Measure everything at least twice to ensure accuracy.

8.  Hacksaw
A hacksaw is useful for cutting metal objects, such as pipes, bolts and brackets. Torpedo level use during a home inspectionHacksaws look thin and flimsy, but they’ll easily cut through even the hardest of metals. Blades are replaceable, so focus your purchase on a quality hacksaw frame.

9. Torpedo Level
Only a level can be used to determine if something, such as a shelf, appliance or picture, is correctly oriented. The torpedo-style level is unique because it not only shows when an object is perfectly horizontal or vertical, but it also has a gauge that shows when an object is at a 45-degree angle. The bubble in the viewfinder must be exactly in the middle — not merely close.

10.  Safety Glasses / Goggles
For all tasks involving a hammer or a power tool, you should always wear safety glasses or goggles. They should also be worn while you mix chemicals.

11.  Claw Hammer
A good hammer is one of the most important tools you can own.  Use it to drive and remove nails, to pry wood loose from the house, and in combination with other tools. They come in a variety of sizes, although a 16-ounce hammer is the best all-purpose choice.

12.  Screwdriver Set
It is best to have four screwdrivers: a small and large version of both a flathead and a Phillips-head screwdriver. Electrical screwdrivers areWire cutter sometimes convenient, but they’re no substitute.  Manual screwdrivers can reach into more places and they are less likely to damage the screw.

13.  Wire Cutters
Wire cutters are pliers designed to cut wires and small nails.The side-cutting style (unlike the stronger end-cutting style) is handy, but not strong enough to cut small nails.

14.  Respirator / Safety Mask
While paints and other coatings are now manufactured to be less toxic (and lead-free) than in previous decades, most still contain dangerous chemicals, which is why you should wear a mask to avoid accidentally inhaling. A mask should also be worn when working in dusty and dirty environments. Disposable masks usually come in packs of 10 and should be thrown away after use. Full and half-face respirators can be used to prevent the inhalation of very fine particles that ordinary face masks will not stop.

15.  Duct Tape
This tape is extremely strong and adaptable. Originally, it was widely used to make temporary repairs to many types of military equipment. Today, it’s one of the key items specified for home emergency kits because it is water-resistant and extremely sticky.
This article is from InterNACHI and can be found at https://www.nachi.org/15-tools.htm.
Red Horse Home Inspection LLC services the Black Hills of South Dakota.  We provide buyer home inspection and pre-list home inspections.  Red Horse Home Inspection offers radon and water test as add on services to your home inspection.  We are based out of Rapid City, SD.  If you are ready to schedule your home inspection you can do it online or call us anytime at 490-2916.  Follow us on Facebook.

by Nick Gromicko, CMI® and Ethan Ward

Mold in the Home

Health concerns related to the growth of mold in the home have been featured heavily in the news.  Problems ranging from itchy eyes, coughing and sneezing to serious allergic reactions, asthma attacks, and even the possibility of permanent lung damage can all be caused by mold, which can be found growing in the home, given the right conditions. home inspector mold inspection rapid city sd

All that is needed for mold to grow is moisture, oxygen, a food source, and a surface to grow on.  Mold spores are commonly found naturally in the air.  If spores land on a wet or damp spot indoors and begin growing, they will lead to problems.  Molds produce allergens, irritants and, in some cases, potentially toxic substances called mycotoxins.  Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.  Allergic responses include hay fever-type symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash (dermatitis).  Allergic reactions to mold are common.  They can be immediate or delayed.  Molds can also trigger asthma attacks in people with asthma who are allergic to mold.  In addition, mold exposure can irritate the eyes, skin, nose, throat and lungs of both mold-allergic and non-allergic people.

As more is understood about the health issues related to mold growth in interior environments, new methods for mold assessment and remediation are being put into practice.  Mold assessment and mold remediation are techniques used in occupational health.  Mold assessment is the process of identifying the location and extent of the mold hazard in a structure.  Mold remediation is the process of cleanup and/or removal of mold from an indoor environment.  Mold remediation is usually conducted by a company with experience in construction, demolition, cleaning, airborne-particle containment-control, and the use of special equipment to protect workers and building occupants from contaminated or irritating dust and organic debris.  A new method that is gaining traction in this area is abrasive blasting.

Abrasive Blasting

The first step in combating mold growth is not to allow for an environment that is conducive to its growth in the first place.  Controlling moisture and assuring that standing water from leaks or floods is eliminated are the most important places to start.  If mold growth has already begun, the mold must be removed completely, and any affected surfaces must be cleaned or repaired.  Traditional methods for remediation have been slow and tedious, often involving copious amounts of hand-scrubbing and sanding.  Abrasive blasting is a new technique that is proving to be less tedious and time-consuming, while maintaining a high level of effectiveness.

Abrasive blasting is a process for cleaning or finishing objects by using an air-blast or centrifugal wheel that throws abrasive particles against the surface of the work pieces. Sand, dry ice and corncobs are just some of the different types of media used in blasting.  For the purposes of mold remediation, sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and dry ice are the media commonly used.

Benefits of Abrasive Blasting

Abrasive (or “media”) blasting provides some distinct advantages over traditional techniques of mold remediation.  In addition to eliminating much of the tedious labor involved in scrubbing and sanding by hand, abrasive blasting is extremely useful for cleaning irregular and hard-to-reach surfaces.  Surfaces that have cross-bracing or bridging can be cleaned more easily, as well as areas such as the bottom of a deck, where nails may be protruding.  Areas that are difficult to access, such as attics and crawlspaces, can also be cleaned more easily with abrasive blasting than by traditional methods.  The time saved is also an advantage, and the typical timeframe for completion of a mold remediation project can often be greatly reduced by utilizing abrasive blasting.

Soda-Blasting

Soda-blasting is a type of abrasive blasting that utilizes sodium bicarbonate as the medium propelled by compressed air.  One of the earliest and most widely publicized uses of soda-blasting was on the restoration of the Statue of Liberty. In May of 1982, President Ronald Reagan appointed Lee Iacocca to head up a private-sector effort for the project.  Fundraising began for the $87 million restoration under a public-private partnership between the National Park Service and The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc.  After extensive work that included the use of soda-blasting, the restored monument re-opened to the public on July 5, 1986, during Liberty Weekend, which celebrated the statue’s  centennial.

The baking soda used in soda-blasting is soft but angular, appearing knife-like under a microscope.  The crystals are manufactured in state-of-the-art facilities to ensure that the right size and shape are consistently produced.  Baking soda is water-soluble, with a pH near neutral. Baking-soda abrasive blasting effectively removes mold while minimizing damage to the underlying surface (i.e., wood, PVC, modern wiring, ductwork, etc.).  When using the proper equipment setup (correct nozzles, media regulators, hoses, etc.) and technique (proper air flow, pressure, angle of attack, etc.), the process allows for fast and efficient removal of mold, with a minimum of damage, waste and cleanup.  By using a soda blaster with the correct-size nozzle, the amount of baking soda used is minimized. Minimal baking soda means better visibility while working, and less cleanup afterward.

Dry-Ice Blasting

Dry ice is solidified carbon dioxide that, at -78.5° C and ambient pressure, changes directly into a gas as it absorbs heat.  Dry ice pellets are made by taking liquid carbon dioxide (CO2) from a pressurized storage tank and expanding it at ambient pressure to produce snow.  The snow is then compressed through a die to make hard pellets.  The pellets are readily available from most dry ice suppliers nationwide.  For dry-ice blasting, the standard size used is 1/8-inch, high-density dry ice pellets.

The dry-ice blasting process includes three phases, the first of which is energy transfer.  Energy transfer works when dry ice pellets are propelled out of the blasting gun at supersonic speed and impact the surface. The energy transfer helps to knock mold off the surface being cleaned, with little or no damage.

The freezing effect of the dry ice pellets hitting the mold creates the second phase, which is micro-thermal shock, caused by the dry ice’s temperature of -79º C, between the mold and the contaminated surface.  This phase isn’t as much a factor in the removal of mold as it is for removing resins, oils, waxes, food particles, and other contaminants and debris.  For these types of substances, the thermal shock causes cracking and delaminating of the contaminant, furthering the elimination process.

The final phase is gas pressure, which happens when the dry ice pellets explode on impact.  As the pellets warm, they convert to CO2 gas, generating a volume expansion of 400 to 800 times.  The rapid gas expansion underneath the mold forces it off the surface.

HEPA Vacuuming

A HEPA vacuum is a vacuum cleaner with a high-efficiency particulate air (or HEPA) filter through which the contaminated air flows.  HEPA filters, as defined by the U.S. Department of Energy’s standard adopted by most American industries, remove at least 99.97% of airborne particles that are as small as 0.3 micrometers (µm) in diameter.  HEPA vacuuming is necessary in conjunction with blasting for complete mold removal.

While abrasive blasting with either baking soda or dry ice is an effective technique, remediation will not be complete until HEPA filtering or vacuuming has been done.  Abrasive blasting removes mold from contaminated surfaces, but it also causes the mold spores to become airborne again.  The spores can cover the ground and the surfaces that have already been cleaned.  So, the mold spores need to be removed by HEPA filters.  Additionally, while some remediation companies claim that there will be no blasting media to remove after cleaning, especially with the dry-ice method, there will be at least a small amount of visible debris left by the blasting that must be removed before HEPA vacuuming can occur.  HEPA vacuuming removes all invisible contaminants from surfaces and the surrounding air.  When HEPA vacuuming is completed, samples at the previously contaminated areas should be re-tested to ensure that no mold or mold spores remain.

Abrasive blasting using dry ice or baking soda, combined with HEPA-filter vacuuming, is an effective method for mold remediation.  InterNACHI inspectors who offer ancillary mold inspection services should be aware of the benefits and applications of this technique adapted for remediating mold in homes.  This article is from InterNACHI and can be found at https://www.nachi.org/abrasive-blasting.htm.
Red Horse Home Inspection services the Black Hills of South Dakota.  We cover all of the Black Hills which includes Rapid City, Piedmont, Black Hawk, Summerset, Sturgis, Whitewood, Spearfish, Belle Fourche, Deadwood, Lead, Hot Springs, Custer, Hill City, Keystone, Hermosa, Hermosa, Box Elder, Rapid Valley, and everywhere in between.  Our home inspector is certified and licensed in South Dakota.  Red Horse Home Inspection offers radon testing and water testing.  You can easily schedule your home inspection, radon, and water test online.  Please follow us on Facebook.

Buying a home? It is probably the most expensive purchase you will ever make. This is no time to shop for a cheap inspection. The cost of a home inspection is very small relative to the value of the home being inspected. The additional cost of hiring an InterNACHI-certified inspector is almost insignificant by comparison.

You have recently been crunching the numbers — negotiating offers, adding up closing costs, shopping for mortgages — and trying to get the best deals. Don’t stop now. Don’t let your real estate agent, a “patty-cake” inspector, or anyone else talk you into skimping on the home inspection. InterNACHI-certified inspectors perform the best inspections by far.

InterNACHI-certified inspectors earn their fees many times over. As the most qualified inspectors, they do more, they deserve more, and — yes — they generally charge a little more. Do yourself a favor and pay a little more for the quality inspection you deserve.  This article is from InterNACHI and can be found at https://www.nachi.org/smartchoice.htm.
Our home inspector at Red Horse Home Inspection is an InterNACHI certified home inspector.  If you are ready to schedule your home inspection you can do it online.  Follow us on Facebook.

by Nick Gromicko, CMI® and Kenton Shepard

The Home Inspection Defined

A general home inspection is a visual inspection for system and major accessible component defects and safety issues. The inspection is not technically exhaustive. A “general home inspection” and a “home inspection” are the same thing.

A home inspection is designed to reflect, as accurately as possible, the visible condition of the home at the time of the inspection. Conditions at a home for sale can change radically in only a day or two, so a home inspection is not meant to guarantee what condition a home will be in when the transaction closes. It’s not uncommon for conditions to change between the time of the inspection and the closing date.

Above:  an overloaded outlet with no cover

It’s a Visual Inspection

A “visual” inspection means that a home inspection report is limited to describing conditions in those parts of a home that an inspector can see during the inspection. Obviously, parts of the home that are permanently hidden by wall, ceiling and floor coverings are excluded, but so are parts of the home that were inaccessible during the inspection for some other reason. Some reasons might include lack of an access point, such as a door or hatch, or a locked access point, or because an occupant’s belongings blocked access, or because of dangerous or unsanitary conditions.

There can be many more reasons. The point is that if an inspector can’t see a portion of the home, the inspector can’t assume responsibility for ensuring that a safe and proper condition exists or that systems are operating properly in that hidden space.

Safety

Safety can be a matter of perception. Some conditions, such as exposed electrical wiring, are obviously unsafe. Other conditions, such as the presence of mold, aren’t as clear-cut.

In the example of the possible existence of mold, it’s difficult to accurately call it out during a general home inspection because mold sometimes grows in places where it can’t be readily seen, such as inside walls, making its discovery beyond the scope of the inspection.  Also, the dangers to human health are from the inhalation of spores from indoor air.

Most people with healthy immune systems have little or no problem with inhaling spores. A few people whose immune systems are compromised by lung disease, asthma or allergies can develop serious or even fatal fungal infections from mold spore levels that wouldn’t affect most people. Every home has mold and mold colonies can grow very quickly, given the right conditions. Mold can be a safety concern, but it often isn’t. The dangers represented by mold are a controversial subject. Other potential safety issues also fall into this category.

Above:  the cutting torch and gutter system of roof drainage management

System Defects
Although the majority of the inspection is visual, the InterNACHI Standards of Practice do require inspectors to operate space and water heating equipment, and air-conditioning equipment, if it can be done without damaging the equipment.

Inspectors will also examine the major accessible components of certain systems as required by the Standards of Practice. Furnace air filters are one example.

A home inspection is not technically exhaustive, meaning that systems or components will not be disassembled as part of the inspection. For example, an inspector will not partially disassemble a furnace to more accurately check the condition of the heat exchanger. Inspectors typically disclaim heat exchangers.

Hazardous Materials

Asbestos, mold, lead, water purity, and other environmental issues or potential hazards typically require a specialist inspection, and may additionally require laboratory analysis.

Home Inspectors are Generalists

Home inspectors are not experts in every home system but are generalists trained to recognize evidence of potential problems in the different home systems and their major components. Inspectors need to know when a problem is serious enough to recommend a specialist inspection. Recommendations are often made for a qualified contractor, such as a plumber or electrician, and sometimes for a structural engineer.

Above:  the result of subfloor movement

Inspector Qualifications

Very few home inspectors have been in the inspection industry for their entire working lives. According to an InterNACHI poll, about half the home inspectors have a background in the building trades. Those with a construction background started with a general idea of the systems and components that they might find installed, as well as how those systems age and fail.

This doesn’t mean that inspectors with a background in something other than the building trades are not qualified — only that they started in the inspection industry at a relative disadvantage. Building the skills and developing the judgment to consistently recognize and interpret evidence correctly and make appropriate recommendations are things that can be improved with practice and continuing education.

Above:  improper electrical splice

Managing Expectations

Part of a home inspector’s job is to manage the expectations of their client. This is especially true when a client has never dealt with a home inspector before. Explaining the limitations of a home inspection to a client will help them develop realistic expectations concerning what to expect from a home inspection report, and what lies beyond the scope of the inspection.

When a home buyer is interviewing inspectors, the buyer should ask about how the inspector handles special safety concerns.

Disclaimers are portions of an inspection agreement or report in which an inspector notifies the client that the inspector will not accept the responsibility for confirming the condition of a portion of the home or of a particular system or component.

Creating realistic expectations in a client’s mind will help prevent misunderstandings and promote smooth real estate transactions.  This article is from InterNACHI and can be found at https://www.nachi.org/limitations-home-inspection.htm.
Red Horse Home Inspection of the Black Hills of South Dakota, preform home inspections, radon test, and water test.  You can easily schedule your home inspection online.  Follow us on Facebook.
by Nick Gromicko, CMI® and Kenton Shepard
condensation in window home inspection rapid cityCondensation is the accumulation of liquid water on relatively cold surfaces.

Almost all air contains water vapor, the gas phase of water composed of tiny water droplets. The molecules in warm air are far apart from one another and allow the containment of a relatively large quantity of water vapor. As air cools, its molecules get closer together and squeeze the tiny vapor droplets closer together, as well. A critical temperature, known as the dew point, exists where these water droplets will be forced so close together that they merge into visible liquid in a process called condensation.

Double-pane windows have a layer of gas (usually argon or air) trapped between two panes of glass that acts as insulation to reduce heat loss through the window. Other types of gas used in this space have various effects on heat gain or loss through the window. Some windows also have a thin film installed between panes that separates the space between the panes into two spaces, further reducing heat loss and heat gain through the window. If multiple-pane windows appear misty or foggy, it means that the seal protecting the window assembly has failed.

Silica Desiccantsilica desiccant home inspection rapid city

A desiccant is an absorbent material designed to maintain dryness in the space it protects. In a double-paned window, silica pellets inside the aluminum perimeter strip absorb moisture from any incoming air that enters the space between the panes. If not for the silica desiccant, any moisture in the space between the panes would condense on the glass as the glass cools below the dew point temperature.

Silica gel has an immense surface area, approximately 7,200 square feet per gram, which allows it to absorb large amounts of water vapor. As the sealant protecting this space fails over time, increasing amounts of moisture-containing air will enter the space between the panes, and the silica pellets will eventually become saturated and will no longer be able to prevent condensation from forming. A double-paned window that appears foggy or that has visible condensation has failed and needs to be repaired or replaced.

Why Double-Paned Windows Fail:  Solar (Thermal) Pumping
Although double-paned windows appear to be stable, they actually experience a daily cycle of expansion and contraction caused by thermal pumping. Sunlight heats the airspace between the panes and causes the gas there to heat up and expand, pressurizing the space between the panes. At night, the window cools and the space between the panes contracts. This motion acts like the bellows of a forge and is called thermal pumping.

Over time, the constant pressure fluctuations caused by thermal pumping will stress the seal. Eventually, the seal will develop small fractures that will slowly grow in size, allowing increasing amounts of infiltration and exfiltration of air from the space between the panes.

Failure Factors

Windows on the sunny side of a home will experience larger temperature swings, resulting in greater amounts of thermal pumping, seal stress and failure rates.

Vinyl window frames have a higher coefficient of expansion resulting in greater long-term stress on the double-pane assembly, and a higher failure rate. Windows also experience batch failure, which describes production runs of windows, especially vinyl windows, that are defective, meaning that the pane assemblies have been manufactured with seals that have small defects that will cause the window to fail prematurely.

The Nature of Damage

If it’s allowed to continue, window condensation will inevitably lead to irreversible physical window damage. This damage can appear in the following two ways:

  • riverbedding.  Condensed vapor between the glass panes will form droplets that run down the length of the window. Water that descends in this fashion has the tendency to follow narrow paths and carve grooves into the glass surface. These grooves are formed in a process similar to canyon formation.
  • silica haze.  Once the silica gel has been saturated, it will be eroded by passing air currents and accumulate as white “snowflakes” on the window surface. It is believed that if this damage is present, the window must be replaced.

Detecting Failure

Condensation is not always visible. If the failure is recent, a failed window may not be obvious, since condensation doesn’t usually form until the window is heated by direct sunlight. Windows in the shade may show no evidence of failure, so inspectors should disclaim responsibility for discovering failed double-paned windows.

Thermal Imaging as a Detection Tool

Under the right conditions, it’s possible to use an infrared (IR) camera to detect failed windows. IR cameras are designed to record differences in temperature. thermal image from home inspection rapid city sd

InterNACHI provides a thermal imaging course that includes information on using IR cameras for this purpose, and has a message board forum devoted to IR.

Recommendations for Failed Windows

According to industry experts, the glazing assembly can be replaced  approximately 75% of the time.  Occasionally, the sashes must be replaced, and only about 5% of those cases require that the entire window be replaced.

Inspectors should be aware that there are companies that claim to be able to repair misty windows through a process known as “defogging.”

This repair method proceeds in the following order:

  1. A hole is drilled into the window, usually from the outside, and a cleaning solution is sprayed into the air chamber.
  2. The solution and any other moisture are sucked out through a vacuum.
  3. A defogger device is permanently inserted into the hole that will allow the release of moisture during thermal pumping.

Inspectors should know that there is currently a debate as to whether this process is a suitable repair for windows that have failed, or if it merely removes the symptom of this failure. Condensation appears between double-paned windows when the window is compromised, and removal of this water will not fix the seal itself. A window “repaired” in this manner, although absent of condensation, might not provide any additional insulation. This method is still fairly new and opinions about its effectiveness range widely. Regardless, “defogging” certainly allows for cosmetic improvement, which is of some value to homeowners. It may also reduce the potential for damage caused by condensation in the form of mold or rot.  Some skepticism exists about the effectiveness and cost effectiveness of this method of repair.

In summary, condensation in double-paned windows indicates that the glazing assembly has failed and needs repair or replacement. Visible condensation can damage glazing and is the main indication of sealant failure.  This article is from InterNACHI and can be found at https://www.nachi.org/condensation-double-paned-windows.htm.

Red Horse Home Inspection is proud to service the Black Hills of South Dakota.  Red Horse Home Inspection inspects homes in Rapid City, Piedmont, Black Hawk, Summerset, Sturgis, Whitewood, Spearfish, Belle Fourche, Deadwood, Lead, Hot Springs, Custer, Hermosa, Box Elder, Rapid Valley, and surrounding areas.  Schedule your home inspection online and follow us on Facebook.

by Nick Gromicko, CMI®

Asbestos cement is a composite material consisting of Portland cement reinforced with asbestos fibers. When manufacturers figured out ways to produce siding made using asbestos cement, it became very popular for a number of years before being banned in the U.S. in the 1970s. InterNACHI inspectors are likely to come across this form of exterior cladding during inspections. Inspectors and homeowners alike can benefit from knowing more about how the known health risks of asbestos apply to asbestos cement siding, too, as well as some of the common problems and issues associated with the material’s damage and deterioration.

History

Asbestos cement first came into use as an exterior cladding after 1907, when Austrian engineer Ludwid Hatschek came up with a way to shape the material into sheets, allowing it to be manufactured as siding and shingles. By the 1920s, the National Board of Fire Underwriters recommended that asbestos cement replace wood as siding and roofing material because of its superior fire-resistant properties. This recommendation from a nationally known insurance board contributed to a boost in sales and, by the 1940s, hundreds of thousands of homes in the U.S. had been constructed using asbestos cement siding.

During the late 1960s and early ‘70s, however, the news media began to report on the health hazards associated with asbestos. As reports increased, concern grew, so the federal government took action and, in 1973, the EPA banned the use of asbestos in the manufacture of building products.

Health Risks Associated with Asbestos Cement

Asbestos fibers are a proven health hazard if inhaled. Asbestos dust is a known cause of a type of lung cancer called asbestosis. Mesothelioma, another deadly form of cancer that attacks internal organs, can also be caused by exposure to asbestos. However, asbestos cement siding that has been properly installed and is not in a state of decay presents no health risks as long as it remains undisturbed. This is because the cement binds the asbestos fibers and prevents their release into the air, under normal use and maintenance.

The EPA deems asbestos to be hazardous when it is in a friable state, meaning that it can be crumbled, crushed or pulverized by hand pressure. Crushed asbestos in a powdery form can allow its particles to become airborne and inhaled, causing potential health problems. Asbestos cement products that are not in a friable state are not considered hazardous. The only potential danger is when the cement is disturbed in a way that causes the asbestos fibers to become airborne.

If mechanical activities performed on the siding, such as chipping, sawing, grinding or sanding, allow particles to become airborne, then the cement is considered in a friable state and, consequently, hazardous. Deterioration can also lead to particles becoming airborne and potentially dangerous.

Advantages

  • Asbestos cement siding is highly fire-resistant and will not burn or melt the way vinyl and wood siding will.
  • It resists termite damage.
  • It resists rotting.
  • It has been manufactured with textures intended to simulate the look of other cladding materials, such as wood grain.
  • It is fairly easy to clean and maintain.
  • Unlike more porous siding materials, such as wood clapboard, asbestos cement siding will not quickly soak up paint, which allows it to be painted more easily.

Disadvantages

  • Asbestos cement siding is very brittle and can be easily chipped, cracked or broken.
  • The use of a pressure washer for maintenance can crack the siding and lead to moisture intrusion, if the pressure setting is high enough.
  • Asbestos cement can be dangerous if pulverized by sawing, sanding, breaking, etc.
  • It is difficult to find replacement siding for repairs.
  • This product cannot be refurbished, unlike other forms of siding.  Wood clapboard, for example, can be sanded and re-painted, and cedar shake siding can be sand-blasted and re-stained.  Either of these methods can restore wood close to its original state.  But this is not possible with asbestos cement siding.
  • It is no longer considered aesthetically desirable.

Maintenance

Damage and deterioration can lead to structural and health issues, so proper maintenance of asbestos cement building materials is a primary concern.  Keeping the siding clean and performing any minor repairs as soon as they become necessary are both important.

Asbestos cement siding is fairly brittle and has little resistance to cracking, chipping and damage from impact, which can cause asbestos particles to become airborne.  Damage to the siding can also lead to other damage related to moisture intrusion.  Damaged areas that cannot be fixed can be replaced with non-asbestos fiber cement by a professional.  Specific fiber cement materials have been manufactured for repairs that are intended to mimic the look of asbestos cement siding.

Landscaping features, such as a row of shrubs, can be incorporated around the home to help protect the siding from impact damage.

Inspection Tips

Here are some common problems associated with asbestos cement siding that inspectors are likely to encounter:

  • Chipping and cracking often occur with this brittle material.
  • Fasteners used to hold the siding in place may deteriorate at a faster rate than the siding.
  • Discoloration and staining may occur from corrosion or runoff from an adjacent material.  The discoloration may be normal, but it could also indicate a chemical reaction that has decreased the durability of the material.
  • Like many other cement products, efflorescence may appear on asbestos cement siding.  This crystalline growth can indicate that water is passing through the material, promoting deterioration of the cement.
  • Biological growth, such as moss and algae, can occur if conditions are favorable.  This growth may stimulate surface deterioration and staining.
Because it was such a popular cladding material for many years, inspectors are likely to encounter asbestos cement siding when inspecting exteriors.  Knowing some of the health risks associated with this material can be useful when answering clients’ questions about asbestos, although any specific concerns should be deferred to the appropriate healthcare professional.  Homeowners will want to hire an InterNACHI inspector for the periodic inspection of this type of cladding as part of their annual or regular home maintenance.  This article is from InterNACHI and can be found at https://www.nachi.org/asbestos-cement-siding-inspection.htm.