As a home inspector, we come across a lot of the same issues.  I wanted to share 5 common defects found during a home inspection.  Some of these issues could have been easily prevented with education.  Others can be fixed before they cause damage and cause costly repairs.  Let’s take a look at the 5 common defects found during a home inspection and how to fix or prevent them.

Defect #1:  Foundation Clearance to Grade

The soil around your home’s perimeter should be a minimum of 6″ below brick and 8″ below siding or stucco.  This clearance is there to prevent water from intruding during heavy rain.  It also helps water from splashing up and soaking into the siding.   Sometimes planters or gardens are installed against a homes brick or siding.  This can lead to water infiltration and cause damage to siding, sill plate, rim and floor joist, and drywall.  Make sure the grading slopes away form your home, it should slope 6″ in the first 10′.

Defect #2:  Attic Ventilation

Attics should be ventilated.  This is to guard against moisture build-up and mold formation.  It also extends the life of the roof covering.  Many times exhaust fans are not vented to the exterior of the home like they should be and are vented into the attic.  This adds moisture to the attic and can lead to a mold issue.  Proper attic ventilation can help prevent ice dams, too.  The best ventilation would be continuous ridge and soffit vents.

Defect #3:  Gutter and Downspout Placement

Gutters and downspouts carry water from the roof away from the foundation.  Downspouts should not drain onto lower roofs.  This can damage the roof and void manufacture’s warranty.   They should drain into a lower gutter or drain at least 6′ away from the home’s foundation.  These two tips will keep your basement dry and prevent damage to your roof.

 

 

Defect #4:  Structure Damaged Caused by Plumbing

Some times joist, studs, and foundations can be damaged when pipes are ran for plumbing. Lack of planning can lead to the home’s structure being modified without engineers approval.  Most of the times these issues can’t be seen, that is why a phase inspection is recommended during the construction.

Defect #5:  Lack of GFCI

Over the years the requirement for GFCI’s in your home have changed.  Most homes are not up to the current safety standards.  GFCI’s are required in garages, bathrooms, kitchens, exterior receptacles, swimming pools, wet bar, crawlspaces, and laundry areas.  If your home’s electrical system has not been updated with GFCI’s, we highly recommend it.

Schedule your home inspection today.

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by Nick Gromicko, CMI® and Kate Tarasenko
About 2.5 million children are injured or killed by hazards in the home each year. The good news is that many of these incidents can be prevented by child proofing your home using simple child-safety devices on the market today. Any safety device you buy to child proof your home should be sturdy enough to prevent injury to your child, yet easy for you to use. It’s important to follow installation instructions carefully when child proofing your home.
In addition, if you have older children in the house, be sure they re-secure safety devices. Remember, too, that no device is completely childproof; determined youngsters have been known to disable them. You can childproof your home for a fraction of what it would cost to have a professional do it. And safety devices are easy to find. You can buy them at hardware stores, baby equipment shops, supermarkets, drug stores, home and linen stores, and through online and mail-order catalogues.

InterNACHI inspectors, too, should know what to tell clients who are concerned about the safety of their children. Here are some child-safety devices that can help prevent many injuries to young children.

1.  Use safety latches and locks for cabinets and drawers in kitchens, bathrooms, and other areas to help prevent poisonings and other injuries. Safety latches and locks on cabinets and drawers can help prevent children from gaining access to medicines and household cleaners, as well as knives and other sharp objects.

Look for safety latches and locks that adults can easily install and use, but that are sturdy enough to withstand pulls and tugs from children. Safety latches are not a guarantee of protection, but they can make it more difficult for children to reach dangerous substances. Even products with child-resistant packaging should be locked away out of reach; this packaging is not childproof.

But, according to Colleen Driscoll, executive director of the International Association for Child Safety (IAFCS), “Installing an ineffective latch on a cabinet is not an answer for helping parents with safety.  It is important to understand parental habits and behavior.  While a latch that loops around cabinet knob covers is not expensive and easy to install, most parents do not consistently re-latch it.”

Parents should be sure to purchase and install safety products that they will actually adapt to and use.
2.  Use safety gates to help prevent falls down stairs and to keep children away from dangerous areas. Look for safety gates that children cannot dislodge easily, but that adults can open and close without difficulty. For the top of stairs, gates that screw into the wall are more secure than “pressure gates.”
New safety gates that meet safety standards display a certification seal from the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA). If you have an older safety gate, be sure it doesn’t have “V” shapes that are large enough for a child’s head and neck to fit into.
3.  Use door locks to help prevent children from entering rooms and other areas with possible dangers, including swimming pools.
To prevent access to swimming pools, door locks on safety gates should be placed high, out of reach of young children. Locks should be used in addition to fences and alarms. Sliding glass doors with locks that must be re-secured after each use are often not an effective barrier to pool access.
Door knob covers, while inexpensive and recommended by some, are generally not effective for children who are tall enough to reach the doorknob; a child’s ingenuity and persistence can usually trump the cover’s effectiveness.
4.  Use anti-scald devices for faucets and shower heads, and set your water heater temperature to 120° F to help prevent burns from hot water. A plumber may need to install these.
5.  Use smoke detectors on every level of your home and near bedrooms to alert you to fires. Smoke detectors are essential safety devices for protection against fire deaths and injuries. Check smoke detectors once a month to make sure they’re working. If detectors are battery-operated, change batteries at least once a year, or consider using 10-year batteries.
6.  Use window guards and safety netting to help prevent falls from windows, balconies, decks and landings. Window guards and safety netting for balconies and decks can help prevent serious falls.  Check these safety devices frequently to make sure they are secure and properly installed and maintained. There should be no more than 4 inches between the bars of the window guard. If you have window guards, be sure at least one window in each room can be easily used for escape in a fire. Window screens are not effective for preventing children from falling out of windows.
7.  Use corner and edge bumpers to help prevent injuries from falls against sharp edges of furniture and fireplaces. Corner and edge bumpers can be used with furniture and fireplace hearths to help prevent injuries from falls, and to soften falls against sharp and rough edges.
Be sure to look for bumpers that stay securely on furniture and hearth edges.
8.  Use receptacle or outlet covers and plates to help prevent children from electrical shock and possible electrocution.
Be sure the outlet protectors cannot be easily removed by children and are large enough so that children cannot choke on them.
9.  Use a carbon monoxide (CO) detector outside bedrooms to help prevent CO poisoning. Consumers should install CO detectors near sleeping areas in their homes. Households that should use CO detectors include those with gas or oil heat or with attached garages.
10.  Cut window blind cords to help prevent children from strangling in blind-cord loops. Window blind cord safety tassels on mini blinds and tension devices on vertical blinds and drapery cords can help prevent deaths and injuries from strangulation in the loops of cords. Inner cord stops can help prevent strangulation in the inner cords of window blinds.
However, the IAFCS’s Ms. Driscoll states, “Cordless is best.  Although not all families are able to replace all products, it is important that parents understand that any corded blind or window treatment can still be a hazard.  Unfortunately, children are still becoming entrapped in dangerous blind cords despite advances in safety in recent years.”

For older mini blinds, cut the cord loop, remove the buckle, and put safety tassels on each cord. Be sure that older vertical blinds and drapery cords have tension or tie-down devices to hold the cords tight. When buying new mini blinds, vertical blinds and draperies, ask for safety features to prevent child strangulation.

11.  Use door stops and door holders to help prevent injuries to fingers and hands. Door stops and door holders on doors and door hinges can help prevent small fingers and hands from being pinched or crushed in doors and door hinges.

Be sure any safety device for doors is easy to use and is not likely to break into small parts, which could be a choking hazard for young children.

12.  Use a cell or cordless phone to make it easier to continuously watch young children, especially when they’re in bathtubs, swimming pools, or other potentially dangerous areas. Cordless phones help you watch your child continuously without leaving the vicinity to answer a phone call. Cordless phones are especially helpful when children are in or near water, whether it’s the bathtub, the swimming pool, or the beach.
In summary, there are a number of different safety devices that can be purchased to ensure the safety of children in the home. Homeowners can ask an InterNACHI inspector about these and other safety measures during their next inspection.  Parents should be sure to do their own consumer research to find the most effective safety devices for their home that are age-appropriate for their children’s protection, as well as affordable and compatible with their household habits and lifestyles. https://www.nachi.org/childsafety.htm
Red Horse Home Inspection of the Black Hills services Rapid City, Sturgis, Spearfish, Lead, Deadwood, Custer, Hot Springs, Hill City, Keystone, Hermosa, Box Elder, and surrounding area.
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At Red Horse Home Inspection LLC, we have five goals for every home we inspect.  Our first goal is to identify major defects that could lead to costly repairs for the home buyer.  No one wants to pay out for costly repairs after moving in to their new home.  Our second goal is to give the home buyer an overall condition of the home.  This could include identifying any deferred maintenance issues, pointing out issues that could lead to future problems.  The third goal is to identify safety issues. This could include pointing out trip and fall hazards around the property, identifying unsafe decks and guardrails and informing you of electrical issues that could be dangerous.  The forth goal is to educate our clients about their new home.  We make sure that you know where the main water and gas shutoffs are located.  Let you know what type of energy is used to heat and cool your home.  We will try and answer any questions you have about your home the day of the inspection or you can call us anytime and we will be happy to answer any questions you have.  Our final goal is you let you know the age of all your major components.  This includes water heaters, central heating and cooling system, refrigerator, and oven.  With every inspection we give our clients a home maintenance book which includes a life expectancy chart for almost all components of your home.  This will give you an idea on how long your components will last before needing replaced.  Red Horse Home Inspection is proud to service Rapid City, Sturgis, Spearfish, Deadwood, Lead, Custer, Hot Springs, Keystone, Hill City, Hermosa, Summerset, Box Elder and surrounding areas.  If you are ready to schedule you home inspection please call 605-490-2916 or schedule online.

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by Nick Gromicko, CMI®

A building’s central air-conditioning system must be periodically inspected and maintained in order to function properly. While an annual inspection performed by a trained professional is recommended, homeowners can do a lot of the work themselves by following the tips offered in this guide.Exterior Condenser Unit
Clean the Exterior Condenser Unit and Components
The exterior condenser unit is the large box located on the side of the building that is designed to push heat from the inside of the building to the outdoors. Inside of the box are coils of pipe that are surrounded by thousands of thin metal “fins” that allow the coils more surface area to exchange heat. Follow these tips when cleaning the exterior condenser unit and its inner components — after turning off power to the unit!
  • Remove any leaves, spider webs and other debris from the unit’s exterior. Trim foliage back several feet from the unit to ensure proper air flow.
  • Remove the cover grille to clean any debris from the unit’s interior. A garden hose can be helpful for this task.
  • Straighten any bent fins with a tool called a fin comb.
  • Add lubricating oil to the motor. Check your owner’s manual for specific instructions.
  • Clean the evaporator coil and condenser coil at least once a year.  When they collect dirt, they may not function properly.
Inspect the Condensate Drain Line
Condensate drain lines collect condensed water and drain it away from the unit. They are located on the side of the inside fan unit. Sometimes there are two drain lines—a primary drain line that’s built into the unit, and a secondary drain line that can drain if the first line becomes blocked. Homeowners can inspect the drain line by using the following tips, which take very little time and require no specialized tools:
  • Inspect the drain line for obstructions, such as algae and debris. If the line becomes blocked, water will back up into the drain pan and overflow, potentially causing a safety hazard or water damage to your home.
  • Make sure the hoses are secured and fit properly.
Clean the Air Filter
The air filter slides out for easy replacement
Air filters remove pollen, dust and other particles that would otherwise circulate indoors. Most filters are typically rectangular in shape and about 20 inches by 16 inches, and about 1 inch thick. They slide into the main ductwork near the inside fan unit. The filter should be periodically washed or replaced, depending on the manufacturer’s instructions. A dirty air filter will not only degrade indoor air quality, but it will also strain the motor to work harder to move air through it, increasing energy costs and reducing energy efficiency. The filter should be replaced monthly during heavy use during the cooling seasons. You may need to change the filter more often if the air conditioner is in constant use, if building occupants have respiratory problems, if  you have pets with fur, or if dusty conditions are present.
 
Cover the Exterior Unit

When the cooling season is over, you should cover the exterior condenser unit in preparation for winter. If it isn’t being used, why expose it to the elements? This measure will prevent ice, leaves and dirt from entering the unit, which can harm components and require additional maintenance in the spring. A cover can be purchased, or you can make one yourself by taping together plastic trash bags. Be sure to turn the unit off before covering it.

Close the Air-Distribution Registers
Air-distribution registers are duct openings in ceilings, walls and floors where cold air enters the room. They should be closed after the cooling season ends in order to keep warm air from back-flowing out of the room during the warming season. Pests and dust will also be unable to enter the ducts during the winter if the registers are closed. These vents typically can be opened or closed with an adjacent lever or wheel. Remember to open the registers in the spring before the cooling season starts. Also, make sure they are not blocked by drapes, carpeting or furniture.
In addition, homeowners should practice the following strategies in order to keep their central air conditioning systems running properly:
  • Have the air-conditioning system inspected by a professional each year before the start of the cooling season.
  • Reduce stress on the air conditioning system by enhancing your home’s energy efficiency. Switch from incandescent lights to compact fluorescents, for instance, which produce less heat.
In summary, any homeowner can perform periodic inspections and maintenance to their home’s central air-conditioning system. https://www.nachi.org/central-air-conditioning-system-inspection.htm

Red Horse Home Inspection recommends that you have a radon test with your home inspection.  A radon test insures the safety of you and your family.  We use Airthings Corentium Pro radon monitor.  The results are available in as little as 48 hours.  Here is short article from InterNachi on radon.  The full article is available at https://www.nachi.org/radon.htm

Home Buyer’s and Seller’s Guide to Radon 

The EPA recommends that you test for radon if you are buying or selling a home. For a new home, ask if radon-resistant construction features were used and if the home has been tested.  Fix the home if the radon level is 4 picoCuries per liter (pCi/L) or higher. The EPA estimates that radon causes thousands of cancer deaths in the U.S. each year.

Radon is a cancer-causing, radioactive gas

You cannot see, smell or taste radon. Your risk of lung cancer is increased if you breath air with radon gas.  The Surgeon General of the United States has warned that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States today.  Your chance of getting lung cancer are increased if your are a smoker.

Should You Test for Radon

Testing is the only way to find out your home’s radon levels. The EPA and the Surgeon General recommend testing all homes below the third floor for radon.

Can You Fix a Radon Problem

If you find that you have high radon levels, there are ways to fix a radon problem. You can reduce your radon to safe level even with high readings.

Should I Test My House

If you put your home on the market, you should have your home tested for radon.  If elevated radon levels are found, steps should be taken to lower your radon levels. Make sure that you keep all records to show the new  home buyers.  This could be a positive selling point.

If  You Are Buying a Home

The EPA recommends that you know what the indoor radon level is in any home you are considering buying.  Ask the seller for their radon test results.  If the home has a radon-reduction system, ask the seller for information they have about the system.

The home should be tested if it has not been tested yet.

This guide recommends three short-term testing options for real estate transactions.  The EPA recommends testing a home in the lowest level which is currently suitable for occupancy.

Why Do You Need to Test For Radon?

Radon gas can found in homes all over the United States. It comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water, and gets into the air you breathe. Radon typically moves up through the ground to the air above, and into your home through cracks and other holes in the foundation. Even well water can allow radon to enter your home. Your home can trap radon inside.

Any home can have a radon problem, including new and old homes, well-sealed and drafty homes, and homes with or without basements. You and your family are most likely to get your greatest radiation exposure at home.

Nearly one out of every 15 homes in the United States is estimated to have an elevated radon level (4 pCi/L or more).  Elevated levels of radon gas have been found in homes in your state.

The EPA and the Surgeon General Recommend That You Test Your Home

Testing is the only way to know if you and your family are at risk from radon. The EPA and the Surgeon General recommend testing all homes below the third floor for radon.

You cannot predict radon levels based on state, local, or neighborhood radon measurements.  Do not rely on radon test results taken in other homes in the neighborhood to estimate the radon level in your home.  Homes which are next to each other can have different radon levels.  Testing is the only way to find out what your home’s radon level is. If you need a radon test please schedule.

Check out https://www.nachi.org/radon.htm for the rest of the article.

by Nick Gromicko, CMI® and Kenton Shepard
This article is about attached garage fire hazards and the purpose of this article is two fold. First, at InterNACHI, we’d like you to take measures to keep your attached garage free from fire. Fortunately, there are ways these hazards can be reduced, some of which are described below. Secondly, garage fires do happen, and we’d like you to make sure that a fire cannot not easily spread to the rest of your house. While you can perform many of the recommendations in this article yourself, it is a good idea to hire an InterNACHI inspector to make sure your home is safe from attached garage fire.

Why do many garages pose a fire hazard?

  • Where are you most likely to do any welding, or any work on your car? These activities require working with all sorts of flammable materials.
  • Water heaters and boilers are usually stored in garages, and they can create sparks that may ignite fumes or fluids. Car batteries, too, will spark under certain conditions.
  • Oil and gasoline can drip from cars. These fluids may collect unnoticed and eventually ignite, given the proper conditions.
  • Flammable liquids, such as gasoline, motor oil and paint are commonly stored in garages. Some other examples are brake fluid, varnish, paint thinner and lighter fluid.

The following tips can help prevent garage fires and their spread:

  • If the garage allows access to the attic, make sure a hatch covers this access.
  • The walls and ceiling should be fire-rated. Unfortunately, it will be difficult for untrained homeowners to tell if their walls are Type X fire-rated gypsum. An InterNACHI inspector can examine the walls and ceiling to make sure they are adequate fire barriers.
  • The floor should be clear of clutter. Loose papers, matches, oily rags, and other potentially  flammable items are extremely dangerous if they are strewn about the garage floor.
  • Use light bulbs with the proper wattage, and do not overload electrical outlets.
  • Tape down all cords and wires so they are not twisted or accidentally yanked.

If there is a door that connects the garage to the living area, consider the following:

  • Do not install a pet door in the door! Flames can more easily spread into the living area through a pet door, especially if it’s made of plastic.
  • Does the door have a window? An InterNACHI inspector can inspect the window to tell if it’s fire-rated.
  • The door should be self-closing. While it may be inconvenient, especially while carrying groceries into the house from the car, doors should be self-closing. You never know when a fire will happen, and it would be unfortunate to accidentally leave the door open while a fire is starting in the garage.
  • Check the joints and open spaces around the door. Are they tightly sealed? Any openings at all can allow dangerous fumes, such as carbon monoxide or gasoline vapor, to enter the living area. An InterNACHI inspector can recommend ways to seal the door so that fumes cannot enter the living area.

Concerning items placed on the floor, you should check for the following:

  • Store your flammable liquids in clearly labeled, self-closing containers, and only in small amounts. Keep them away from heaters, appliances, pilot lights and other sources of heat or flame.
  • Never store propane tanks indoors. If they catch fire, they can explode. Propane tanks are sturdy enough to be stored outdoors.
In summary, there are plenty of things that you can do to prevent garage fires from spreading to the rest of the house, or to keep them from starting in the first place. However, it is highly recommended that you have your garage periodically examined by an InterNACHI inspector.
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The winter holidays are a time for celebration, and that means more cooking, home decorating, entertaining, and an increased risk of fire and accidents. Red Horse Home Inspection recommends that you follow these guidelines to help make your holiday season safer and more enjoyable.