by Nick Gromicko, CMI® 

Water”hardness” refers to the level of minerals found in a home’s water supply.  Hard water results when an excessive amount of minerals, chiefly calcium and magnesium, are dissolved into water as it passes through soil and rock. The degree of hardness becomes greater as the mineral content increases. Hard water presents numerous mechanical and aesthetic problems in homes, but it is not Shower heads can become calcified as a result of hard waterconsidered a health hazard to humans.

Identifying Hard Water

The best way to determine whether or not a home has hard water is to have it tested. For homes served by municipal water systems, you can ask the water supplier about the hardness level of the water they deliver. Private water supplies can be tested for hardness. However, hard water (especially if it is excessively hard) can be detected by inspectors and their clients through the negative effects it has on a home. The most common problems associated with hard water are:

  • poor washing machine performance. Clothes washed in hard water often look dingy and feel scratchy or stiff. Continuous laundering in hard water can damage fibers and shorten the lifespan of clothes;
  • a mineral ring around the tip of a faucet or in a toilet bowl;
  • unsightly, whitish scale deposits in pipes, water heaters, tea kettles, pots, silverware and dishes;
  • calcification of taps and shower- heads;
  • inefficient and costly operation of water-using appliances. Pipes can become clogged with scale that reduces water flow, ultimately requiring pipe replacement. Crystalline deposits (limescale) have been known to increase energy bills considerably;
  • soap curd and scum in washbasins and bathtubs. Bathing with soap in hard water leaves a film of sticky soap curd on the skin, which may prevent removal of soil and bacteria. Soap curd on hair may make it dull, lifeless and difficult to manage. Soap curd also interferes with the return of skin to its normal, slightly acid condition, and may lead to irritation; and
  • limescale in solar heating systems. Solar heating, often used to heat swimming pools, is prone to limescale buildup, which can reduce the efficiency of the electronic pump.

Hard Water Concentration Levels

Descriptions of water hardness correspond with ranges of mineral concentrations, as measured below in parts per million (ppm):

Description of Water Hardness Level
Harness Level Concentration of harness minerals in grains per gallon (gpg)
Milligrams per liter (mg/l) or parts per million (ppm)
Soft less than 1
less than 17
Slightly Soft 1 – 3.5
 17 – 60
 Moderately Hard
 3.5 – 7
61 – 120
 Hard
7 – 10.5
 121 – 180
Very Hard
 more than 10.5
 more than 180

Note that since water’s acidity and temperature partly determines the behavior of hard water, a single-number scale does not adequately describe the realistic effects of hard water on household components.

Hard Water and Human Health

The World Health Organization reports, ” There does not appear to be any convincing evidence that water hardness causes adverse health effects in humans. In contrast, the results of a number of epidemiological studies have suggested that water hardness may protect against disease.” The report further states that hard water often contributes a small amount toward total calcium and magnesium human dietary needs.Map showing the hardness of water throughout the United States

Geographic Distribution of Hard Water in the U.S.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, softest waters are in the Pacific Northwest, parts of New England, the South Atlantic-Gulf states, and Hawaii. Moderately hard waters are common in many rivers of Alaska and Tennessee, in the Great Lakes region, and the Pacific Northwest. Hardest waters (greater than 1,000 mg/L) are measured in streams in Texas, New Mexico, Kansas, Arizona and Southern California.

Treatment:  Softeners and Conditioners

Water softeners remove unwanted minerals through an ion-exchange process. Incoming hard water passes through a tank of ion- exchange beads that are super-saturated with sodium. The calcium and magnesium ions in the water attach to the resin beads, replacing the sodium, which is then released into the water. The softened water is subsequently distributed for use throughout the house, but it may be unsuitable for drinking due to its high sodium content.

In water conditioners, by contrast, calcium ions remain suspended in the water as small particles, but their tendency to form limescale is diminished. This system allows the benefit that the calcium, which is a good dietary mineral, remains in the water. Water conditioners are more controversial and they do not work in every situation.

In summary, the common problem of hard water is easy to spot and mitigate.  This article is from InterNACHI and can be found at https://www.nachi.org/hard-water.htm.

What is a home inspection?

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

Why should I get a home inspection?

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

Where can I find a home inspector in my area?

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

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

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

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

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

How much does a home inspection cost?

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

How long does a home inspection take?

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

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

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

Should I be present for the inspection?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s how this program works:

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

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

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

by Nick Gromicko, CMI® and Ben Gromicko

Efflorescence is the white chalky powder that you might find on the surface of a concrete or brick wall. It can be a cosmetic issue, or it can be an indication of moisture intrusion that could lead to major structural and indoor air quality issues. A home inspector should understand what efflorescence is in order to recognize potential moisture problems.
Indications of Moisture

Efflorescence (which means “to flower out” in French) is the dissolved salts deposited on the surface of a porous material (such as concrete or brick) that are visible after the evaporation of the water in which it was transported. The moisture that creates efflorescence often comes from groundwater, but rainwater can also be the source. Efflorescence alone does not pose a major problem, but it can be an indication of moisture intrusion, which may compromise the structural material.

Porous Building Materials

Building materials, such as concrete, wood, brick and stone, are porous materials. Porous materials can absorb or wick water by a process called capillary action. As water moves through the porous material, salts can be drawn with it.

Concrete, wood, brick, stone and mortar are porous materials that contain salts. The ground in which these materials can come into contact also contain salts. Capillary action can literally suck water and transport it through porous building materials.

Capillary Action

Porous building materials are capable of wicking water for large distances due to capillary action with a theoretical limit of capillary rise of about 6 miles. That’s 6 miles directly up. Think of a tree and how a tree can transport water from its roots to its leaves. That’s capillary action. And it’s very powerful. When you add salt to that capillary process, it can be destructive.

Salts dissolved by groundwater can be transported by capillary action through porous soil. Building materials in contact with soil will naturally wick the water inward and upward. Take concrete footings — they are typically poured directly onto soil without any capillary break. Sometimes this is called rising damp. This is the beginning of how water can wick upward into a structure.

Destructive Pressures

When the capillary flow of water reaches the surface of a building material, evaporation occurs. As the water evaporates, salt is left behind. As this evaporation of capillary flow continues, the salt concentration increases, which creates an imbalance, and nature abhors imbalance and always wants to put things back into equilibrium. This is process is called osmosis. To re-establish equilibrium through osmosis, water rushes toward the salt deposit to dilute the concentration. This rush of water creates massive hydrostatic pressures within the porous material, and these pressures are destructive.

The pressure from osmosis can create incredibly strong hydrostatic pressure that can exceed the strength of building materials, including concrete.

Here are some examples of how that pressure translates:

  • diffusion vapor pressure: 0.3 to 0.5 psi
  • capillary pressure: 300 to 500 psi
  • osmotic pressure: 3,000 to 5,000 psi

As you can see from the list above, osmosis can create pressure that is greater than the structural strength of concrete, which can be from 2,000 psi to 3,000 psi. The action of water rushing to the surface due to capillary action creates incredible forces that can cause materials to crack, flake and break apart.

Spalling

When efflorescence leads to strong osmotic pressures—greater than the strength of the building material—and the material literally breaks apart, the resulting damage is called spalling. Hydrostatic pressure can cause spalling, but spalling can also be caused by freeze-thaw cycles in building materials that have a high moisture content.

Both efflorescence and spalling can be prevented with capillary breaks, such as by installing a polyethylene sheeting under a concrete slab.

Identifying Efflorescence

InterNACHI inspectors should already know how to distinguish between mold and efflorescence, but it is possible for homeowners to confuse the two. The expense of a mold test can be avoided if the substance in question can be identified as efflorescence.
Here are a few tips that inspectors can offer their clients so that they understand the differences:
  • Pinched between the fingers, efflorescence will turn into a powder, while mold will not.
  • Efflorescence forms on inorganic building materials, while mold forms on organic substances. However, it is possible for mold to consume dirt on brick or cement.
  • Efflorescence will dissolve in water, while mold will not.
  • Efflorescence is almost always white, yellow or brown, while mold can be any color imaginable. If the substance in question is purple, pink or black, it is not efflorescence.
Aside from mold, the following conditions can result from excess moisture in a residence:
  • fungi that rot wood;
  • water damage to sheetrock; and
  • reduced effectiveness of insulation.
    White mold.
Inspectors should note the presence of efflorescence in their inspection reports because it generally occurs where there is excess moisture, a condition that also encourages the growth of mold.
Prevention and Removal of Efflorescence

Prevention

  • An impregnating hydrophobic sealant can be applied to a surface to prevent the intrusion of water. It will also prevent water from traveling to the surface from within. In cold climates, this sealant can cause material to break during freeze/thaw cycles.
  • During home construction, bricks left out overnight should be kept on pallets and be covered. Moisture from damp soil and rain can be absorbed into the brick.
  • Install capillary breaks, including polyethelene sheeting between the soil and the building material, such as concrete.

Removal

  • Pressurized water can sometimes be used to remove or dissolve efflorescence.
  • An acid, such as diluted muriatic acid, can be used to dissolve efflorescence. Water should be applied first so that the acid does not discolor the brick. Following application, baking soda can be used to neutralize the acid and prevent any additional damage to the masonry. Muriatic acid is toxic, and contact with skin or eyes should be avoided.
  • A strong brush can be used to simply scrub the efflorescence off.
NOTE:  The use of water to remove efflorescence may result in the re-absorption of crystals into the host material, and they may later reappear as more efflorescence. It is advisable that if water is used in the removal process that the masonry is dried off very quickly.
In summary, efflorescence is a cosmetic issue, but it indicates a potential moisture problem. Inspectors should know the how capillary forces can cause structural damage to building materials and educate their clients about efflorescence and the potential problems it may cause. This article is courtesy of InterNACHI and can be found at https://www.nachi.org/efflorescence.htm.

by Nick Gromicko, CMI®

Carpet at Risk

Carpeting is an area of the home that can be at high risk for mold growth.  In order to grow, mold needs 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 that contains dust for them to feed on, mold growth will soon follow. Wall-to-wall carpeting, as well as area rugs, can provide an ample breeding ground for mold if conditions are right.  At especially high risk for mold growth are carpeting located below ground level in basements, carpet in commonly moist or damp climates, and carpet that has been wet for any period of time.

The Dangers of Mold

Molds produce allergens, which are substances that can cause allergic reactions, as well as irritants and, in some cases, potentially toxic substances known as 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 cause 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.  Symptoms other than the allergic and irritant types are not commonly reported as a result of inhaling mold, but can also occur.

 

Identifying Mold in Carpeting

Just because mold is not immediately apparent or visible on a carpet’s surface does not mean that mold growth is not in progress.  In fact, mold will probably only be visible on the surface of carpets in unusually severe cases of growth, such as carpet damaged in flooding that has remained wet for some time.  The following are some examples of identifiable instances where mold growth has occurred or is likely to occur:

  • visible mold growth:  As stated above, this can be a rare case, but sometimes it may be obvious from visual inspection that mold growth is occurring. Carpet in this condition is most likely not salvageable and should be disposed of and replaced. Often, even if mold growth is not visible on the top of carpeting, it may be occurring underneath the carpet where it can’t be easily seen. Carpet suspected of containing mold should always be examined on both sides.
  • carpet mildew:  Any discoloration or odor on carpeting that might be described as mildew is probably a case of mold.
  • wet or water-damaged carpet:  Any carpet that has been subjected to water damage from flooding or standing water will most likely need to be disposed of. Conditions are ripe for mold growth, in this case. Even if visibly apparent mold growth has not yet begun, it is highly likely to happen unless the carpet is completely removed, cleaned and dried within 24 to 48 hours. Even then, removal and cleaning are not guaranteed to prevent mold growth. It is more likely that the carpet will need to be replaced.
  • wet padding beneath carpet:  If padding beneath the carpet has become wet for any reason, or has become moist from condensation, the padding as well as the carpet on top are at risk for mold growth. The padding may need to be replaced, as will the carpet, in some cases.
  • basement carpet:  Carpeting in basements below grade level is especially at risk in areas where humidity is high, or where wide temperature swings can produce condensation.
  • odors and stains:  There is a wide range of things that can cause odors and stains on carpets.  If mold is suspected, samples can be taken and sent for analysis to determine if mold growth has occurred.

Preventing Mold Growth in Carpeting

The best method for combating mold is to not allow mold growth in the first place.  The best way to do so is by ensuring that conditions conducive to growth do not exist.  Below are some ways to prevent mold growth in carpets.

  • Reduce indoor humidity.  The use of dehumidifiers will help control moisture in the air, depriving mold spores of the water they need to grow into mold. A range of 30% to 60% humidity is acceptable for interiors.
  • Install intelligently.  Do not install carpeting in areas that are likely to be subject to frequent, high moisture. Carpet in a bathroom, for example, will quickly turn to a breeding ground for mold growth due to the high humidity from constant water use in that area.
  • Choose high-quality carpet padding.  Solid, rubber-slab carpet padding with anti-microbial properties is available. It is slightly more expensive than other types of padding but can be helpful for preventing the growth of mold, especially in climates prone to periods of high humidity.
  • Never allow standing water.  Carpet exposed to standing water will quickly be ruined. If standing water ever occurs because of a leak or a spill, all carpeting exposed must be immediately cleaned and dried. The top and bottom surfaces of the carpet, any padding, and the floor underneath must be cleaned and completely dried within a short period of time after exposure to standing water if the carpet is to be saved. If a large flood has occurred, or if standing water has been present for any extended period of time, the carpet will probably need to be replaced.
  • Clean smart.  When carpeting needs to be cleaned, try to use a dry form of cleaning, when possible. If any water, liquid, or other moisture has come in contact with the carpet during cleaning, be sure it is dried thoroughly afterward.

Removing Mold From Carpet

In many cases, if mold has grown on carpet, cleaning will not be possible.  If growth has occurred on more than one area of the carpet, or if there is a large area of growth, the carpet will probably need to be replaced.  

Small areas of growth that have been quickly identified can sometimes be dealt with.  Detergent and water used with a steam-cleaning machine may be enough to clean the carpet thoroughly.  It is then important to ensure that the carpet dries completely after cleaning to prevent the growth from recurring.  Stronger cleaning agents can be substituted if detergent does not work.  Anything stronger than detergent or common rug-cleaning products should first be tested on an inconspicuous area of the carpet to ensure that the rug will not be damaged during cleaning.  About 24 hours is a reasonable amount of time to wait after testing to be sure that wider cleaning will not discolor or damage the carpet.

Another option in instances where mold growth is not widespread is to remove the ruined section of the carpet.  If cleaning has been attempted unsuccessfully, the area of mold growth may be removed and replaced with a patch of similar carpet.  Of course, this will only work in situations where aesthetics are not a big concern, since exactly matching the patch to the original carpet may be difficult and the seam may be visible.  If mold has grown in more than one area of the carpet, or if the area of growth is larger than a couple of feet, this will probably not be an effective method of mold removal.
As with all areas of the interior at risk for mold growth, prevention is the best method of control for carpet mold.  Eliminating high-moisture conditions and preventing the risk of flooding or standing water will reduce the possibility of growth.  Inspectors will want to know where to look for and how to identify mold growth in carpeting.  It is also helpful to know how to determine if carpet should be replaced, or whether there is a possibility of cleaning and saving it.  This article in from InterNACHI and can be found at https://www.nachi.org/carpet-mold.htm.
by Nick Gromicko, CMI® and Kenton Shepard

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

A vent that exhausts moist air to the home’s exterior has a number of requirements:
  1. It should be connected. The connection is usually behind the dryer but may be beneath it. Look carefully to make sure it’s actually connected.
  2. It should not be restricted. Dryer vents are often made from flexible plastic or metal duct, which may be easily kinked or crushed where they exit the dryer and enter the wall or floor. This is often a problem since dryers tend to be tucked away into small areas with little room to work. Vent elbows are available which is designed to turn 90° in a limited space without restricting the flow of exhaust air. Restrictions should be noted in the inspector’s report. Airflow restrictions are a potential fire hazard.
  3. One of the reasons that restrictions are a potential fire hazard is that, along with water vapor evaporated out of wet clothes, the exhaust stream carries lint – highly flammable particles of clothing made of cotton and polyester. Lint can accumulate in an exhaust duct, reducing the dryer’s ability to expel heated water vapor, which then accumulates as heat energy within the machine. As the dryer overheats, mechanical failures can trigger sparks, which can cause lint trapped in the dryer vent to burst into flames. This condition can cause the whole house to burst into flames. Fires generally originate within the dryer but spread by escaping through the ventilation duct, incinerating trapped lint, and following its path into the building wall.
InterNACHI believes that house fires caused by dryers are far more common than are generally believed, a fact that can be appreciated upon reviewing statistics from the National Fire Protection Agency. Fires caused by dryers in 2005 were responsible for approximately 13,775 house fires, 418 injuries, 15 deaths, and $196 million in property damage. Most of these incidents occur in residences and are the result of improper lint cleanup and maintenance. Fortunately, these fires are very easy to prevent.
The recommendations outlined below reflect International Residential Code (IRC) SECTION M1502 CLOTHES DRYER EXHAUST guidelines:

M1502.5 Duct construction.
Exhaust ducts shall be constructed of minimum 0.016-inch-thick (0.4 mm) rigid metal ducts, having smooth interior surfaces, with joints running in the direction of air flow. Exhaust ducts shall not be connected with sheet-metal screws or fastening means which extend into the duct.

This means that the flexible, ribbed vents used in the past should no longer be used. They should be noted as a potential fire hazard if observed during an inspection.
M1502.6 Duct length.
The maximum developed length of a clothes dryer exhaust duct shall not exceed 35 feet from the dryer location to the wall or roof termination. The maximum length of the duct shall be reduced 2.5 feet for each 45-degree (0.8 rad) bend, and 5 feet for each 90-degree (1.6 rad) bend. The maximum length of the exhaust duct does not include the transition duct.
This means that vents should also be as straight as possible and cannot be longer than 35 feet. Any 90-degree turns in the vent reduce this 35-foot number by 5 feet, since these turns restrict airflow.
A couple of exceptions exist:
  1. The IRC will defer to the manufacturer’s instruction, so if the manufacturer’s recommendation permits a longer exhaust vent, that’s acceptable. An inspector probably won’t have the manufacturer’s recommendations, and even if they do, confirming compliance with them exceeds the scope of a General Home Inspection.
  2. The IRC will allow large radius bends to be installed to reduce restrictions at turns, but confirming compliance requires performing engineering calculation in accordance with the ASHRAE Fundamentals Handbook, which definitely lies beyond the scope of a General Home Inspection.
M1502.2 Duct termination.
Exhaust ducts shall terminate on the outside of the building or shall be in accordance with the dryer manufacturer’s installation instructions. Exhaust ducts shall terminate not less than 3 feet in any direction from openings into buildings. Exhaust duct terminations shall be equipped with a backdraft damper. Screens shall not be installed at the duct termination.

Inspectors will see many dryer vents terminate in crawlspaces or attics where they deposit moisture, which can encourage the growth of mold, wood decay, or other material problems. Sometimes they will terminate just beneath attic ventilators. This is a defective installation. They must terminate at the exterior and away from a door or window. Also, screens may be present at the duct termination and can accumulate lint and should be noted as improper.

M1502.3 Duct size.
The diameter of the exhaust duct shall be as required by the clothes dryer’s listing and the manufacturer’s installation instructions.
Look for the exhaust duct size on the data plate.
M1502.4 Transition ducts.
Transition ducts shall not be concealed within construction. Flexible transition ducts used to connect the dryer to the exhaust duct system shall be limited to single lengths not to exceed 8 feet, and shall be listed and labeled in accordance with UL 2158A.
Required support for lengthy ducts is covered by the following section:

M1502.4.2 Duct installation.
Exhaust ducts shall be supported at intervals not to exceed 12 feet and shall be secured in place. The insert end of the duct shall extend into the adjoining duct or fitting in the direction of airflow. Exhaust duct joints shall be sealed in accordance with Section M1601.4.1 and shall be mechanically fastened. Ducts shall not be joined with screws or similar fasteners that protrude more than 1/8-inch into the inside of the duct.

Additionally, makeup air for the laundry room in an amount equal to the sum – in cubic feet per minute (CFM) – of the dryer vent fan, and of any laundry room fans, must be supplied when both fans are operating. Depending on the laundry room’s size, this may approach 300 CFM. Makeup air would need to be supplied from some source. If the door is closed and there is no window, this may present a problem, including extended drying times and reduced dryer vent flow that can cause an excess accumulation of lint in the exhaust vent, which is a potential fire hazard.
In general, an inspector will not know specific manufacturer’s recommendations or local applicable codes and will not be able to confirm the dryer vent’s compliance to them, but will be able to point out issues that may need to be corrected. This article is from InterNACHI and can be found at https://www.nachi.org/dryer-vent-safety.htm.
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by Nick Gromicko, CMI®
When a home is sold, there is a point in the transaction known as the closing, when the title to the property is transferred to the new owner. The buyer and/or seller commonly Closing costs can be substantialincur miscellaneous fees, which are collectively known as closing costs. These fees can be significant, averaging approximately 2% to 4% of the purchase price, although they may be as much as 8%.
Take a look at the following guide to get a better idea of what buyers and sellers are expected to pay upon closing:
  • inspection fees. Lenders may require a termite inspection or an analysis of the structural condition of the property in order to assure that a home will be reliable collateral to secure against a loan. An inspection of the septic system and water supply tests may also be required in rural areas. Always be sure to hire an InterNACHI inspector to get the most out of an inspection.
  • points. This one-time, prepaid interest is paid by the buyer to the lender as a way to reduce the rate of interest on the mortgage loan. One point equals 1% of the loan’s principal. For example, one point on a $200,000 loan is $2,000. If the borrower plans to live in the home for a long time, it might be to his advantage to negotiate for more points. Points can be financed by adding them to the loan, or they may be paid upfront and deducted from the current year’s income taxes.
  • title search fees. This one-time fee is used by buyers and lenders to make sure that the seller legally owns the property, and that the property has no outstanding liens or restrictions for use of which the buyer is unaware. If divorces, contested wills or court judgments are discovered during the title search, future complications can be avoided. Anyone may perform a title search, but borrowers commonly hire an attorney or title company to perform a thorough search.
  • title insurance. Title insurance policies are purchased to protect the lender against an error in the results of the title search, which would otherwise endanger the lender’s investment in the borrower’s mortgage. In case the title is challenged in court, title insurance will reimburse the insured up to a predetermined dollar amount.
  • appraisal fees. Lenders want to be assured that the property to be purchased is worth at least as much as the amount of the loan. An appraisal, performed by a licensed professional appraiser, will determine the fair market value of the property. The requirement of an appraisal may be waived if one has been performed recently.
  • recording fees. These are paid to the clerk and recorder’s office of the county where the property is located for the service of entering an official record of the change of a property’s ownership.
  • application fee. This cost covers the assessment of the buyer’s credit report and the initial processing fee of the mortgage loan. The cost is several hundred dollars.
  • loan origination fee. This umbrella charge covers the evaluation and preparation of the loan, which may include fees charged by the lender’s attorney or notary. The total cost can be several thousand dollars, although it can be reduced somewhat by a larger down payment.
  • prepaid interest. While the new homeowner’s first mortgage payment may not be due for some time after closing, interest starts accruing immediately after closing. For instance, if the deal closes on October 11th, the homeowner will owe interest for the 20 days preceding the first mortgage payment.
  • prepaid property insurance. Lenders typically require that the first year’s premiums of property insurance be paid in advance.
  • property survey fee. A survey is performed of the lot and its structures to confirm the deed’s legal description of the property,  including the property’s dimensions, and to check for encroachments, and verify that the house and other structures are where the seller says they are.
  • homeowners association (HOA) dues. If the property is part of an HOA, the buyer will need to cover, in advance, the requisite fees for the part of the remaining year that they will own the property.
  • property taxes. Like HOA fees, buyers must pay upfront the share of the property taxes for which they are proportionally responsible.

Tips for Reducing Closing Costs

  • Home buyers short on cash can roll the closing costs into the mortgage loan. It is also possible for the lender to pay the closing costs in exchange for a higher interest rate.
  • Choose a closing date that’s near the end of the month, as this will save money on prepaid interest.
  • Negotiate with the seller of the property to help pay for some of the closing costs.
In summary, closing costs include a variety of miscellaneous fees paid by the home buyer and/or seller.
This article is from InterNACHI and can be found at https://www.nachi.org/closing-costs.htm.
If you are ready to schedule your inspection with Red Horse Home Inspection you can do it online.  Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for maintenance and safety tips.

by Nick Gromicko, CMI® and Kenton Shepard 

Bathroom ventilation systems are designed to exhaust odors and moist air to the home’s exterior. Typical systems consist of a ceiling fan unit connected to a duct that terminates at the roof.
Fan Function  
 The fan may be controlled in one of several ways:
  • Most are controlled by a conventional wall switch.
  • A timer switch may be mounted on the wall.
  • A wall-mounted humidistat can be pre-set to turn the fan on and off based on different levels of relative humidity.

Newer fans may be very quiet but work just fine. Older fans may be very noisy or very quiet. If an older fan is quiet, it may not be working well. Inspectors can test for adequate fan airflow with a chemical smoke pencil or a powder puff bottle, but such tests exceed InterNACHI’s Standards of Practice.

Bathroom ventilation fans should be inspected for dust buildup that can impede air flow. Particles of moisture-laden animal dander and lint are attracted to the fan because of its static charge. Inspectors should comment on dirty fan covers.

Ventilation systems should be installed in all bathrooms. This includes bathrooms with windows, since windows will not be opened during the winter in cold climates.
Defects
The following conditions indicate insufficient bathroom ventilation:
  • moisture stains on walls or ceilings;
  • corrosion of metal;
  • visible mold on walls or ceilings;
  • peeling paint or wallpaper;
  • frost on windows; and
  • high levels of humidity.
The most common defect related to bathroom ventilation systems is improper termination of the duct. Vents must terminate at the home exterior.
The most common improper terminations locations are:
  • mid-level in the attic. These are easy to spot;
  • beneath the insulation. You need to remember to look. The duct may terminate beneath the insulation or there may be no duct installed; and
  • under attic vents. The duct must terminate at the home exterior, not just under it.
Improperly terminated ventilation systems may appear to work fine from inside the bathroom, so the inspector may have to look in the attic or on the roof. Sometimes, poorly installed ducts will loosen or become disconnected at joints or connections.
Ducts that leak or terminate in attics can cause problems from condensation. Warm, moist air will condense on cold attic framing, insulation and other materials. This condition has the potential to cause health and/or decay problems from mold, or damage to building materials, such as drywall. Moisture also reduces the effectiveness of thermal insulation.
Mold
Perhaps the most serious consequence of an improper ventilation setup is the potential accumulation of mold in attics or crawlspaces. Mold may appear as a fuzzy, thread-like, cobwebby fungus, although it can never be identified with certainty without being lab-tested. Health problems caused by mold are related to high concentrations of spores in indoor air.  Spores are like microscopic seeds, released by mold fungi when they reproduce. Every home has mold. Moisture levels of about 20% in materials will cause mold colonies to grow. Inhaling mold spores can cause health problems in those with asthma or allergies, and can cause serious or fatal fungal infections in those with lung disease or compromised immune systems.
Mold is impossible to identify visually and must be tested by a lab in order to be confidently labeled. Inspectors should refrain from calling anything “mold” but should refer to anything that appears as mold as a material that “appears to be microbial growth.” Inspectors should include in their report, and in the inspection agreement signed by the client, a disclaimer clearly stating that the General Home Inspection is an inspection for safety and system defects, not a mold inspection.
Decay, which is rot, is also caused by fungi. Incipient or early decay cannot be seen. By the time decay becomes visible, affected wood may have lost up to 50% of its strength.
In order to grow, mold fungi require the following conditions to be present:
  • oxygen;
  • temperatures between approximately 45° F and 85° F;
  • food. This includes a wider variety of materials found in homes; and
  • moisture.
If insufficient levels of any of these requirements exist, all mold growth will stop and fungi will go dormant. Most are difficult to actually kill.
Even though mold growth may take place in the attic, mold spores can be sucked into the living areas of a residence by low air pressure. Low air pressure is usually created by the expulsion of household air from exhaust fans in bathrooms, dryers, kitchens and heating equipment.
Improper Ventilation 
Ventilation ducts must be made from appropriate materials and oriented effectively in order to ensure that stale air is properly exhausted.
Ventilation ducts must:
  • terminate outdoors. Ducts should never terminate within the building envelope;
  • contain a screen or louvered (angled) slats at its termination to prevent bird, rodent and insect entry;
  • be as short and straight as possible and avoid turns. Longer ducts allow more time for vapor to condense and also force the exhaust fan to work harder;
  • be insulated, especially in cooler climates. Cold ducts encourage condensation;
  • protrude at least several inches from the roof;
  • be equipped with a roof termination cap that protects the duct from the elements; and
  • be installed according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
The following tips are helpful, although not required. Ventilation ducts should:
  • be made from inflexible metal, PVC, or other rigid material. Unlike dryer exhaust vents, they should not droop; and
  • have smooth interiors. Ridges will encourage vapor to condense, allowing water to back-flow into the exhaust fan or leak through joints onto vulnerable surfaces.

Above all else, a bathroom ventilation fan should be connected to a duct capable of venting water vapor and odors into the outdoors. Mold growth within the bathroom or attic is a clear indication of improper ventilation that must be corrected in order to avoid structural decay and respiratory health issues. This article is courtesy of InterNACHI and can be found at https://www.nachi.org/bathroom-ventilation-ducts-fans.htm.

Red Horse Home Inspection services Rapid City, Summerset, Sturgis, Spearfish, Belle Fourche, Lead, Deadwood, Custer, Hot Springs, Hill City, Keystone, Hermosa, Box Elder, and surrounding area.  Schedule your home inspection with us online or give us a call at 605-490-2916.

by Nick Gromicko, CMI®

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

by Nick Gromicko, CMI® and Kenton Shepard

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

Bracket Inspection

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

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

by Nick Gromicko, CMI®, and Kenton Shepard

Adjustable steel columns, also known as screw jacks and beam jacks, are hollow steel posts designed to provide structural support. An attached Adjustable steel columnthreaded adjustment mechanism is used to adjust the height of the post.

A few facts about adjustable steel columns:

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

The following are potentially defective conditions:

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

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

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

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