by Nick Gromicko, CMI® and Ethan Ward

What is a GFCI?

A ground-fault circuit interrupter, or GFCI, is a device used in electrical wiring to disconnect a circuit when unbalanced current is detected between an energized conductor and a neutral return conductor.  Such an imbalance is sometimes caused by current “leaking” through a person who is simultaneously in contact with a ground and an energized part of the circuit, which could result in lethal shock.  GFCIs are designed to provide protection in such a situation, unlike standard circuit breakers, which guard against overloads, short circuits and ground faults.
It is estimated that about 300 deaths by electrocution occur every year, so the use of GFCIs has been adopted in new construction, and recommended as an upgrade in older construction, in order to mitigate the possibility of injury or fatality from electric shock.

History

The first high-sensitivity system for detecting current leaking to ground was developed by Henri Rubin in 1955 for use in South African mines.  This cold-cathode system had a tripping sensitivity of 250 mA (milliamperes), and was soon followed by an upgraded design that allowed for adjustable trip-sensitivity from 12.5 to 17.5 mA.  The extremely rapid tripping after earth leakage-detection caused the circuit to de-energize before electric shock could drive a person’s heart into ventricular fibrillation, which is usually the specific cause of death attributed to electric shock.

Charles Dalziel first developed a transistorized version of the ground-fault circuit interrupter in 1961.  Through the 1970s, most GFCIs were of the circuit-breaker type.  This version of the GFCI was prone to frequent false trips due to poor alternating-current characteristics of 120-volt insulations.  Especially in circuits with long cable runs, current leaking along the conductors’ insulation could be high enough that breakers tended to trip at the slightest imbalance.

Since the early 1980s, ground-fault circuit interrupters have been built into outlet receptacles, and advances in design in both receptacle and breaker types have improved reliability while reducing instances of “false trips,” known as nuisance-tripping.

NEC Requirements for GFCIs

The National Electrical Code (NEC) has included recommendations and requirements for GFCIs in some form since 1968, when it first allowed for GFCIs as a method of protection for underwater swimming pool lights.  Throughout the 1970s, GFCI installation requirements were gradually added for 120-volt receptacles in areas prone to possible water contact, including bathrooms, garages, and any receptacles located outdoors.

The 1980s saw additional requirements implemented.  During this period, kitchens and basements were added as areas that were required to have GFCIs, as well as boat houses, commercial garages, and indoor pools and spas.  New requirements during the ’90s included crawlspaces, wet bars and rooftops.  Elevator machine rooms, car tops and pits were also included at this time.  In 1996, GFCIs were mandated for all temporary wiring for construction, remodeling, maintenance, repair, demolition and similar activities and, in 1999, the NEC extended GFCI requirements to carnivals, circuses and fairs.

The 2008 NEC contains additional updates relevant to GFCI use, as well as some exceptions for certain areas.  The 2008 language is presented here for reference.

2008 NEC on GFCIs

100.1 Definition

100.1  Definitions. Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter. A device intended for the protection of personnel that functions to de-energize a circuit or portion thereof within an established period of time when a current to ground exceeds the values established for a Class A device.

FPN: Class A ground-fault circuit interrupters trip when the current to ground has a value in the range of 4 mA to 6 mA.  For further information, see UL 943, standard for Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters.

210.8(A)&(B)  Protection for Personnel

210.8 Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter Protection for Personnel.

(A)  Dwelling Units. All 125-volt, single-phase, 15- and 20-ampere receptacles installed in the locations specified in (1) through (8) shall have ground-fault circuit-interrupter protection for personnel.

(1)   bathrooms;

 

(2)   garages, and also accessory buildings that have a floor located at or below grade level not intended as habitable rooms and limited to storage areas, work areas, and areas of similar use;

Exception No. 1: Receptacles not readily accessible.

Exception No. 2: A single receptacle or a duplex receptacle for two appliances that, in normal use, is not easily moved from one place to another and that is cord-and-plug connected in accordance with 400.7(A)(6), (A)(7), or (A)(8).

Receptacles installed under the exceptions to 210.8(A)(2) shall not be considered as meeting the requirements of 210.52(G)

(3)   outdoors;

Exception: Receptacles that are not readily accessible and are supplied by a dedicated branch circuit for electric snow melting or deicing equipment shall be permitted to be installed in accordance with the applicable provisions of Article 426.

(4)   crawlspaces at or below grade level.

Exception No. 1: Receptacles that are not readily accessible.

Exception No. 2:  A single receptacle or a duplex receptacle for two appliances that, in normal use, is not easily moved from one place to another and that is cord-and-plug connected in accordance with 400.7(A)(6), (A)(7), or (A)(8).

Exception No. 3: A receptacle supplying only a permanently installed fire alarm or burglar alarm system shall not be required to have ground-fault circuit interrupter protection.

Receptacles installed under the exceptions to 210.8(A)(2) shall not be considered as meeting the requirements of 210.52(G)

(6)   kitchens, where the receptacles are installed to serve the countertop surfaces;

(7)   wet bar sinks, where the receptacles are installed to serve the countertop surfaces and are located within 6 feet (1.8 m) of the outside edge of the wet bar sink;

(8)   boathouses;

(B) Other Than Dwelling Units. All 125-volt, single-phase, 15- and 20-ampere receptacles Installed in the locations specified in (1), (2), and (3) shall have ground-fault circuit interrupter protection for personnel:

(1)   bathrooms;

(2)   rooftops;

Exception: Receptacles that are not readily accessible and are supplied by a dedicated branch circuit for electric snow-melting or de-icing equipment shall be permitted to be installed in accordance with the applicable provisions of Article 426.

(3)   kitchens.

Testing Receptacle-Type GFCIs

Receptacle-type GFCIs are currently designed to allow for safe and easy testing that can be performed without any professional or technical knowledge of electricity.  GFCIs should be tested right after installation to make sure they are working properly and protecting the circuit.  They should also be tested once a month to make sure they are working properly and are providing protection from fatal shock.
To test the receptacle GFCI, first plug a nightlight or lamp into the outlet. The light should be on.  Then press the “TEST” button on the GFCI. The “RESET” button should pop out, and the light should turn off.
If the “RESET” button pops out but the light does not turn off, the GFCI has been improperly wired. Contact an electrician to correct the wiring errors.

If the “RESET” button does not pop out, the GFCI is defective and should be replaced.

If the GFCI is functioning properly and the lamp turns off, press the “RESET” button to restore power to the outlet.  This article if from InterNACHI and can be found athttps://www.nachi.org/gfci.htm.

by Nick Gromicko, CMI®

“A TV can be a child’s best friend, but it also can be a parent’s worst enemy,” says the mother of a 3-year-old who was crushed by a television, according to a 2009 Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) study. The watchdog organization recently published an 18-year study on the dangers of furniture tip-overs, including startling findings that should be heeded by inspectors and parents alike.Dressers can easily tip over onto children
 Here are some facts and figures from the CPSC study:
  • From 1990 to 2007, an average of nearly 15,000 children under 18 visited emergency rooms each year for injuries received from furniture tip-overs. The number shows a 40% increase in injury reports over the duration of the study, hinting that the problem is growing worse. About 300 fatalities were reported.
  • Most injuries were to children 6 and under, and resulted from televisions tipping over.
  • The most severe injuries were head injuries and suffocation resulting from entrapment.
  • More than 25% of the injuries occurred when children pulled over or climbed on furniture.
  • Most of the injured children were males under 7 who suffered blows to the head.
  • The newer flat-screen TVs are not as front-heavy as the older, traditional TV sets, which means they may be less likely to tip over. Experts warn, however, that flat-screen TVs are still heavy to children, and they often have sharp, dangerous edges.
  • In 2006, Pier 1 Imports announced the recall 4,300 TV stands after one of them resulted in the death of a child in Canada.

The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) has established standards for manufacturers which stipulate that dressers, chests of drawers and armoires should be able to remain upright when any doors or all drawers are open two-thirds of the way, or when one drawer or door is opened and 50 pounds of weight are applied to the front, simulating a climbing child. In addition, Underwriters Laboratories (UL) requires units to be able to remain upright when placed on a 10-degree angle with 70 pounds on top, to simulate the weight of a television. The ASTM and UL standards are voluntary, however, and many manufacturers will cut corners to save money. And despite efforts by the CPSC to enforce these standards, sub-standard furniture is still regularly sold at retail stores.

Parents can minimize the risks posed to their children from furniture tip-overs by practicing the following strategies:
  • Supervise young children at all times.
  • Place televisions low to the ground and near the back of their stands.
  • Strap televisions and furniture to the wall with heavy safety straps or L-brackets. Many of these devices do not require that any holes be drilled into furniture, and they can secure items up to 100 pounds.Safety Straps for furniture and TVs
  • Heavy items, such as televisions, should be placed far back on a dresser rather than at the front edge, which would shift the center of gravity forward and make the whole assembly more likely to tip over. Ideally, the center of gravity for furniture should be as low as possible, with the furniture placed back against a wall.
  • Only purchase furniture that has a solid base, wide legs, and otherwise feels stable.
  • Install drawer stops that prevent drawers from opening to their full extent, as a full extension can cause a dangerous forward-shift in the center of gravity.
  • Keep heavier items on lower shelves and in lower drawers.
  • Never place items that may be attractive to children, such as toys, candy or a remote control, on the top of a TV or piece of furniture.
  • Do not place heavy televisions on dressers or shelving units that were not designed to support such weight.
  • Place electrical cords out of the reach of children, and teach kids not to play with them. A cord can be used to inadvertently pull a TV, and perhaps its supporting shelf, onto a child.
  • Read the manufacturer’s instructions to learn about additional tips and hazards regarding the placement and use of your TV and furniture.
In summary, TVs and furniture can easily tip over and crush a small child if safety practices are not followed by parents. This article is from InterNACHI and can be found at https://www.nachi.org/furniture-tv-tip-over-hazards.htm.
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by Nick Gromicko, CMI® and Kenton Shepard

Kickout flashing, also known as diverter flashing, is a special type of flashing that diverts rainwater away from the cladding and into the gutter. When installed properly, they provide excellent protection against the penetration of water into the building envelope.  proper kickout flashing from home inspection in sturgis sd
Several factors can lead to rainwater intrusion, but a missing kickout flashing, in particular, often results in concentrated areas of water accumulation and potentially severe damage to exterior walls. InterNACHI inspectors should make sure that kickouts are present where they are needed and that they are installed correctly. Water penetration into the cladding can occasionally be observed on the exterior wall in the form of vertical water stains, although inspectors should not rely on visual identification. There may be severe damage with little or no visible evidence.
Inspectors may observe the following problems associated with kickout flashing:
The kickout was never installed.
  • The need for kickout flashing developed fairly recently and the builder may not have been aware that one was required. The increased amount of insulation and building wrap that is used in modern construction makes buildings less breathable and more likely to sustain water damage. Kickout flashing prevents rainwater from being absorbed into the wall and is more essential than ever.
The following are locations where kickout flashing is critical:
  • anywhere a roof and exterior wall intersect, where the wall continues past the lower roof-edge and gutter. If a kickout flashing is absent in this location, large amounts of water may miss the gutter, penetrate the siding, and become trapped inside the wall; and
  • where gutters terminate at the side of a chimney.


The kickout was improperly installed.missing kickout flashing from home inspection in sturgis sd

  • The bottom seam of the flashing must be watertight. If it is not, water will leak through the seam and may penetrate the cladding.
  • The angle of the diverter should never be less than 110 degrees.

The kick-out was modified by the homeowner.

  • Homeowners who do not understand the importance of kickouts may choose to alter them because they are unsightly. A common way this is done is to shorten their height to less than the standard six inches (although some manufacturers permit four inches), which will greatly reduce their effectiveness. Kickout flashings should be the same height as the side wall flashings.
  • Homeowners may also make kickout flashings less conspicuous by cutting them flush with the wall.In summary, kickout flashing should be present and properly installed in order to direct rainwater away from the cladding.  This article if from InterNACHI and can be found at https://www.nachi.org/kick-out-flashing.htm.

Schedule your home inspection with Red Horse Home Inspection LLC of the Black Hills.  Follow us on Facebook to see the latest blogs.

 

by Nick Gromicko, CMI®

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

Luminaires not permitted by the 2009 IRC:

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

Clearances permitted by the 2009 IRC:

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Nick Gromicko, CMI®

Rodents are a problem not just because they can destroy personal property and create problems with a home’s structure, but also because they can spread serious diseases to humans and their pets. Rodent-borne disease may be spread directly — by touching rodents or their Rat in a PVC pipeurine, feces or saliva — or indirectly — by coming into contact with fleas or other insects that have fed on an infected rodent host. Inspectors should use extreme caution and wear appropriate personal protective equipment when entering a home that is known to be infested with rodents.
Some diseases resulting from direct contact with mice and rats include:
  • hantavirus pulmonary syndrome;
  • hemorrhagic fever with renal; syndrome;
  • Lassa fever;
  • leptospirosis;
  • lymphocytic chorio-meningitis;
  • plague;
  • rat-bite fever;
  • salmonellosis;
  • South American arenaviruses; and
  • tularemia.
Some diseases resulting from indirect contact with mice and rats include:
  • babesiosis;
  • Colorado tick fever;
  • human granulocytic anaplasmosis;
  • lyme disease;
  • murine typhus;
  • scrub typhus;
  • rickettsialpox;
  • relapsing fever; and
  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

Rodents also pose a danger to the integrity of the structures they inhabit. They have strong teeth and they may chew through structures to gain access to food sources. The best method for preventing exposure to rodents is to prevent rodent infestation in the first place, according to the Centers for Disease Rodent trapControl (CDC) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

How can you tell that a home is infested?
Actual rodent sightings in the home are a good indicator that a severe infestation may be in progress.  Mild cases of infestation might not result in actual rodent sightings.
Indicators of an infestation are:
  • chewing or clawing sounds that come from inside or outside a home. Noises may even come from the roof, as tree-dwelling rodents may try to gain access to a home from above the living space;
  • stale smells coming from hidden areas;
  • evidence of structural damage that can provide entry points into the home;
  • evidence of gnawing and chewing on food packaging;
  • nesting material found in small piles, such as shredded paper, fabric or dried plant matter; and
  • rodent droppings anywhere in the home, especially near food packages in drawers and cupboards, and under the sink.
How can rodent infestation be prevented?
The following measures can be taken to eliminate rodents’ food sources, according to the CDC:
  • Keep food in thick plastic or metal containers with tight-fitting lids.
  • Clean up spilled food right away, and wash dishes and cooking utensils soon after use.
  • Keep outside cooking areas and grills clean.
  • Always put pet food away after use and do not leave pets’ food or water bowls out overnight.
  • Keep bird feeders away from the house.  Utilize squirrel guards to limit access to the feeder by squirrels and other rodents.
  • Use thick plastic or metal garbage cans with tight-fitting lids.
  • Keep compost bins as far away from the house as possible.
  • Dispose of trash and garbage on a frequent and regular basis, and eliminate clutter in and around the property to discourage nesting.
Mice can squeeze through a hole the size of a nickel, and rats can squeeze through a hole the size of a half dollar, according to the CDC. Consequently, smaller gaps may be filled cheaply and easily with steel wool and caulk may be used to seal it in place. Larger gaps and holes may be filled with lath screen or lath metal, cement, hardware cloth or metal sheeting.
Common places where gaps may be found inside the home are:
  • inside, under and behind kitchen cabinets, refrigerators and stoves;
  • inside closets near the floor’s corners;
  • around the fireplace;
  • around doors;
  • around plumbing pipes under sinks and washing machines;
  • around the piping for hot water heaters and furnaces;
  • around floor vents and dryer vents;
  • inside the attic;
  • in the basement or crawlspace;
  • near the basement and laundry room floor drains; and
  • between the floor and wall juncture.
Common places where gaps may be found outside the home are:
  • in the roof among the rafters, gables and eaves;
  • around windows;
  • around doors;
  • around the foundation;
  • near attic vents and crawlspace vents;
  • under doors; and
  • around holes for electrical, plumbing, cable and gas lines.
Any potential nesting sites outside the home should be eliminated. Elevate hay, woodpiles and garbage cans at least 1 foot off the ground. Move woodpiles far away from the house. Get rid of old trucks, cars and old tires that mice and rats could use as homes. Keep grass cut short, and keep shrubbery within 100 feet of the home well-trimmed.
What should be done if a house is found to be infested with rodents?
It is important to stay away from rodents, and to protect children and pets from direct and indirect contact if they are found in the home. Droppings should be handled only with extreme caution, even if they have dried. A face mask and gloves should be worn if handling and cleaning up these droppings because disturbing fecal particles may precipitate airborne contaminants. Affected areas should be sterilized after the droppings have been removed.All holes, cracks, and gaps in a home should be sealed to keep out rodents
In mild cases of infestation, homeowners may choose to eliminate the rodents themselves. They should make sure to take preventative measures while doing so.  To remove rodents, homeowners will need to use traps or rodenticides.
Some different types of traps include:
  • lethal traps, such as snap traps, that are designed to trap and kill rodents;
  • live traps, such as cage-type traps, that capture rodents alive and unharmed, requiring that the rodents then be released or killed; and
  • glue boards, which are low-cost devices that use sticky substances to trap rodents, requiring a further decision regarding disposal, since such traps are not lethal.
Traps should be set in any area where there is evidence of frequent rodent activity. Some rodents, particularly rats, are very cautious and several days may pass before they approach the traps. Other rodents, such as house mice and deer mice, are less cautious and may be trapped more quickly. Glue traps and live traps may scare mice that are caught live, causing them to urinate. This may increase a homeowner’s risk of being exposed to diseases, since the rodent urine may contain germs or disease-borne pathogens.

Rodenticides are products intended to kill rodents, and are typically sold as powders in bait and tracking form.  Some rodenticides include:

  • baits, which combine rodenticides with food to attract rodents.  They may be formulated as blocks or paste and may be enclosed in a bait station;
  • tracking powders, which are rodenticides combined with a powdery material.  The powder sticks to the rodents’ feet and fur and is swallowed when the animals groom themselves.  After consuming the chemical poison contained in the bait or tracking powder, the rodents die.  Some rodenticides (including tracking powders) may be legally applied only by certified pesticide applicators because they may pose a risk to human health.
The following measures should be observed when an infestation is being eliminated:
  • Traps and baits should be placed in areas where children and pets cannot reach them.
  • Products should be used according to the label’s directions and precautions.
  • Only traps that are appropriate to the type and size of the targeted rodent should be used.
  • Glue boards should be placed in dry, dust-free areas, as moisture and dust will reduce their effectiveness.

It is advisable to contact a professional exterminator to deal with more severe infestations, since rodents reproduce constantly and quickly.

In summary, rodent infestation poses a serious risk to human health, and extreme caution must be taken when eliminating the problem.  This article is from InterNACHI and can be found at https://www.nachi.org/rodent-inspection.htm.

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by Nick Gromicko, CMI®

Galvanic corrosion (also known as bimetallic corrosion or dissimilar-metal corrosion) is an electrochemical disintegration that occurs when dissimilar metals come in contact with each other while immersed in an electrolyte. Galvanic corrosion is of major concern anywhere moisture can reach metal building components. Corrosion asGalvanic Corrosion from home inspection in rapid city sd a broader category is defined as the disintegration of a material into its constituent parts, which may be caused by crevice corrosion, microbial corrosion, and high-temperature corrosion.

There are three conditions that must exist for galvanic corrosion to occur:

  • Two electrochemically dissimilar metals must contact one another. They are dissimilar in the sense that they are far apart on the anodic index, which rates metals based on their electrode potentials. Metals that are more active (such as magnesium and zinc) will corrode in the presence of metals that are less active (such as gold and platinum).
  • There must be an electrically conductive path between the two metals. Any non-metal, liquid substance that can conduct an electric current (such as saltwater or rainwater) can function as an electrolyte. Common examples are ordinary seawater, citric acid, and bases.
  • An electrical path must exist to allow metal ions to move from the active metal to the less active metal. Typically, the metals merely touch one another.

The Statue of Liberty is perhaps the most famous case of galvanic corrosion. Contact between the wrought-iron support and the outer copper skin amidst rainwater exposure has allowed the structure to gradually corrode. The famous icon’s builder anticipated this problem and installed asbestos cloth soaked in shellac insulation in the 1880s.  This worked for some time until it dried up and became porous, acting as a sponge that held saltwater close to the contact points between the two metals. An inspection in 1981 revealed severe galvanic corrosion of the iron supports, causing them to swell and push saddle rivets through the copper skin. This rapidly worsening situation was the main drive to restore the statue in 1986, when the iron was replaced with a variety of corrosion-resistant steel. The solution has held up, and native New Yorkers and visitors alike have been able to enjoy a landmark free from corrosion that will last long into the 21st century.

Examples in Houses

  • ACQ (alkaline copper quaternary) lumber includes copper, which can corrode when it comes in contact with common aluminum building nails. With this type of lumber, it’s best to use G185 galvanized steel or stainless steel fasteners, as they will resist corrosion.
  • Aluminum wiring can become compromised. In the presence of moisture, aluminum will undergo galvanic corrosion when it comes into contact with certain dissimilar metals.
  • Piping commonly rusts and corrodes, especially at joints. The failure of pipe thread is commonly caused by corrosion where carbon steel pipe directly meets a brass valve, or where it transitions to copper pipe. Dielectric unions may be installed to separate these metals to resist damaging corrosion in pipe connections.
  • The elements of an electric water heater often rust and fail. The copper sheathe and steel base, if they become wet, may corrode. Installing galvanized unions with plastic nipples on the top of the water heater can prevent corrosion.

Galvanic Corrosion Can be Prevented in the Following Ways

  • Electrically insulate the dissimilar metals. Plastic can be used to separate steel water pipes from copper-based fittings.  A coat of grease can be used to insulate steel and aluminum parts.
  • Shield the metal from ionic compounds. This is often accomplished by encasing the metal in epoxy or plastic, or painting it. Coating or protection should be applied to the more noble of the two metals, if it is impossible to coat both. Otherwise, greatly accelerated corrosion may occur at points of imperfection in the less noble (more active or anodic) metal.
  • Choose metals that have similar potentials. Closely matched metals have less potential difference and, hence, less galvanic current. The best such solution is to build with only one type of metal.
  • Electroplate the metals.
  • Avoid threaded connections, as they are most severely weakened by galvanic corrosion.
In summary, galvanic corrosion is the disintegration of metals in the presence of an electrolyte. It can occur in homes wherever dissimilar, joined metals become damp.  This article is from InterNACHI and can be found at  https://www.nachi.org/galvanic-corrosion.htm.

by Nick Gromicko, CMI® and Kate Tarasenko

Part of responsible homeownership includes, of course, regular home maintenance.  And there are some tasks that, if deferred, can lead to a home system that’s inefficient and overworked, which can result in problems and expenses.  One such task is changing the filter of the home’s HVAC system.  It’s simple and inexpensive, and taking care of it at least every three months can meair filter from home inspection near rapid city sdan the difference between optimum comfort and avoidable repairs.

What Can Go Wrong

Most homes have some sort of furnace or heat pump, and many of those homes (especially newer ones) have combined heating, ventilation and air-conditioning or HVAC systems.  Each type uses some type of air filter or screen to prevent larger airborne particles (up to 40 microns) from entering the system and clogging sensitive machinery.  A system that has a dirty filter can suffer from pressure drop, which can lead to reduced air flow, or “blow-out,” resulting in no air infiltration at all.  Any of these conditions can cause the system to work harder to keep the home warm or cool (depending on the season and the setting).  And any mechanical component that has to work harder to run efficiently puts undue stress on the whole system, which can lead to premature failure, resulting in repair or replacement.

Also, a dirty filter that’s exposed to condensation can become damp, which can lead to mold growth that can be spread throughout the home by the HVAC system.  This can lead to serious health consequences, not to mention a compromised unit that will likely require servicing and may require replacement, depending on the severity of the moisture problem.

Types of Filters

Most HVAC and furnace filters are disposable, made of biodegradable paper or similar media, and shaped in cells, screens or fins designed to trap as much airborne debris as possible.  Filters can typically be purchased in economical multi-packs, and there are many types that will fit different models of furnace/HVAC units.  It’s important to use the appropriate filter for your unit; using the wrong filter that doesn’t fit the unit properly can create the same types of problems as having a dirty filter.  Your HVAC installer can show you where the filter goes and how to remove the old one and install a new one.  Your unit may also have an affixed label with directions for easy filter replacement.

How Often?

Your HVAC or furnace technician should service your unit once a year.  Because a furnace/HVAC unit contains moving parts, it’s important that belts are not cracked and dry, ventilation ductwork is not gapped, cracked or rusted, and components, such as coils and fans, are clog-free and adequately lubricated for unimpeded operation.  This sort of evaluation is best left to the professional, unless the homeowner has had the appropriate training.

The filter of the unit, especially if it’s an HVAC unit that will tend to get nearly year-round use, should be changed by the homeowner at least every three months, but possibly more often.

Check your filter’s condition and change it once a month if:

  • You run your unit six months a year to year-round.
  • You have pets.  Pet dander can become airborne and circulate through the home’s ventilation system just as typical household dust does.
  • You have a large family.  More activity means more household dust, dirt and debris.
  • You smoke indoors.
  • You or someone in your household suffers from allergies or a respiratory condition.
  • You live in a particularly windy area or experience high winds for extended periods, especially if there are no nearby shrubs or trees to provide a natural windbreak.
  • You live in an area prone to or having recently experienced any wildfires.  Airborne ash outdoors will eventually find its way indoors.
  • You have a fireplace that you occasionally use.
  • You live on a working farm or ranch.  Dust and dirt that gets kicked up by outdoor work activity and/or large animals can be pulled into the home’s ventilation system, especially through open windows.
  • You have a large garden.  Depending on its size and how often you work it, tilling soil, planting, pulling weeds, using herbicides and pesticides, and even watering mean that dirt, chemicals and condensation can be pulled into your home’s ventilation system.
  • There is construction taking place around or near the home.  You may be installing a new roof or a pool, or perhaps a neighbor is building a home or addition.  Even if the activity is only temporary, dust and debris from worksites adjacent to or near the home can be sucked into the home’s ventilation system, and this increased activity can tax your HVAC system.

Change the filter immediately if:

  • The filter is damaged.  Whether it happened inside the packaging or while being installed, a damaged filter that has bent fins, collapsed cells or holes will not work as well as an undamaged filter, especially if it allows system air to bypass the filter at any point.
  • The filter is damp.  A filter affected by moisture intrusion, system condensation, or even high indoor humidity can quickly become moldy and spread airborne mold spores throughout the home via the ventilation system.
  • There is evidence of microbial growth or mold on the filter.  Mold spores already infiltrating the home via the HVAC system are not only bad for the unit itself, but they can pose a health hazard for the family, ranging from an irritated respiratory system to a serious allergic reaction.  The musty smell produced by a moldy HVAC filter is also unpleasant and may take a while to completely eradicate from inside the home.  If you discover that you have moldy air filter, it’s important to have the cause investigated further.  An InterNACHI inspector or HVAC technician can help determine the problem so that it doesn’t recur.

Tips on Changing the Filter

  • Turn off the unit before replacing the filter.
  • Use the right filter for your unit and make sure it’s not damaged out of the package.
  • Follow the directions for your unit to make sure you’re installing the filter properly.  For example, many filters use different colors for the front and back (or upstream and downstream flow) so that they’re not installed backwards.
  • Make sure there aren’t any gaps around the filter frame.  If this is the case, you may have the wrong size filter, or the filter itself may be defective or damaged.
  • Use a rag to clean up any residual dust before and after you replace the filter.
  • Securely replace any levers, gaskets and/or seals.
  • Turn the unit on and observe it while it’s operating to make sure the filter stays in place.
  • Note the date of filter replacement in a convenient location for the next time you inspect it.  A filter that becomes dirty enough to change within a short period of time may indicate a problem with the unit or ventilation system, so monitoring how often the filter requires changing is important information for your technician to have.

Call a technician for servicing if:

  • Your unit fails to turn back on.
  • The fan is slow or makes excessive noise, or the fins are bent.
  • The coils are excessively dusty or clogged.
  • You notice moisture intrusion from an unknown source anywhere in the system.
Homeowners who take care of the easy task of changing their HVAC filter can help prevent system downtime and avoidable expenses, as well as keep their families living and breathing comfortably.  Your InterNACHI inspector can provide more useful tips and reminders during your annual home maintenance inspection.  This article is from InterNACHI and can be found at https://www.nachi.org/change-hvac-filter.htm.

by Nick Gromicko, CMI® and Kenton Shepard

Carpeted bathrooms are bathrooms that have carpeted floors instead of traditional floor surfaces, such as tile or vinyl. Despite their tendency to foster mold and bacteria, carpets are sometimes installed in residential bathrooms for aesthetic purposes. Carpets should never be installed in bathrooms in commercial buildings.
Advantages of Carpets in Bathroomscarpeted bathroom some thing to look for in a home inspection
  • They make bathrooms appear more warm and inviting.
  • They are softer than tile and many people find them comfortable on bare feet.
  • Bathroom slip hazards are reduced. It is easier to slip on hard bathroom surfaces, such as tile, than on carpet.
  • Installation is generally quick and inexpensive.
Disadvantages of Carpets in Bathrooms
The pad beneath the carpet may soak up large amounts of moisture.  Some of the common ways that carpets may come into contact with moisture in bathrooms include:
  • Steam from the shower will condense on the carpet.
  • Water splashes from the tub or shower.
  • Water sheds from shower/tub occupants as they step onto the carpet.
  • Water splashes out of the sink.
  • Water drips from the vanity.
  • Water leaks from the toilet.
The presence of moisture in the pad will lead to the growth of decay fungi on the wood or oriented strand board (OSB) sub-floor. The sub-floor will be decayed and weakened by mold. Mold also releases spores that can cause respiratory ailments, especially for those with certain health problems. Inspectors can use moisture meters to determine if there is excess moisture beneath a carpet.

In addition to potential mold growth beneath the carpet, bacteria can accumulate in carpeting that surrounds the toilet. Bacteria are contained in urine, which can be accidentally deflected onto the carpet.

Carpeted Bathrooms in Commercial Buildings
It is against code to install carpet in commercial bathrooms. The 2007 edition of the International Building Code (IBC) states the following concerning carpeted bathrooms in commercial buildings:
In other than dwelling units, toilet, bathing and shower room floor finish materials shall have a smooth, hard, nonabsorbent surface. The intersections of such floors with walls shall have a smooth, hard, nonabsorbent vertical base that extends upward onto the walls at least 4 inches (102 mm).
Recommendations for Clients
The following are recommendations that InterNACHI inspectors can pass on to clients who are experiencing urine- or moisture-related problems with their bathroom carpet:
  • Clean the carpet regularly to remove any mold or urine that may be present.
  • Keep the carpet as dry as possible. Various devices exist that prevent water from bypassing the shower curtain.
  • Install a bathroom fan, if one is not installed already. If a fan is installed, operate it more often.
  • Inspectors can inform their clients about why they are experiencing problems.
In summary, carpets installed in bathrooms can trap moisture and urine, substances that can cause structural damage and health problems.  This article is from InterNACHI and can be found at https://www.nachi.org/carpeted-bathrooms.htm.
Schedule your home inspection with Red Horse Home Inspection of the Black Hills.  Give us a call at 490-2916 or schedule online.  Follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

by Nick Gromicko, CMI®

Water Damage Concerns

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

Properly waterproofing a basement will lessen the risk of damage caused by moisture or water.  Homeowners will want to be aware of what they can do to keep their basements dry and safe from damage.  Inspectors can also benefit from being aware of these basic strategies for preventing leaks and floods.

Prevent water entry by diverting it away from the foundation.

Preventing water from entering the basement by ensuring it is diverted away from the foundation is of primary concern.  Poor roof drainage and surface runoff due to gutter defects and improper site grading may be the most common causes of wet basements.  Addressing these issues will go a long way toward ensuring that water does not penetrate the basement.
Here are some measures to divert water away from the foundation:
  • Install and maintain gutters and downspouts so that they route all rainwater and snow melt far enough away from the foundation of the building to ensure that pooling does not occur near the walls of the structure.  At least 10 feet from the building is best, and at the point where water leaves the downspout, it should be able to flow freely away from the foundation instead of back toward it, and should not be collecting in pools.
  • The finish grade should be sloped away from the building for 10 to 15 feet.  Low spots that may lead to water pooling should be evened out to prevent the possibility of standing water near the foundation.
  • Shallow ditches called swales should be used in conditions where one or more sides of the building face an upward slope.  A swale should slope away from the building for 10 to 15 feet, at which point it can empty into another swale that directs water around to the downhill-side of the building, leading it away from the foundation.

 

Repair all cracks and holes.
If leaks or seepage is occurring in the basement’s interior, water and moisture are most likely entering through small cracks or holes.  The cracks or holes could be the result of several things.  Poor workmanship during the original build may be making itself apparent in the form of cracks or holes.  Water pressure from the outside may be building up, forcing water through walls.  The house may have settled, causing cracks in the floor or walls.  Repairing all cracks and small holes will help prevent leaks and floods.
Here are some steps to take if you suspect that water is entering the basement through cracks or holes:
  • Identify areas where water may be entering through cracks or holes by checking for moisture, leaking or discoloration.  Every square inch of the basement should be examined, especially in cases where leaking or flooding has not been obvious, but moisture buildup is readily apparent.
  • A mixture of epoxy and latex cement can be used to fill small hairline cracks and holes.  This is a waterproof formula that can help ensure that moisture and water do not penetrate basement walls.  It is effective primarily for very small cracks and holes.
  • Any cracks larger than about 1/8-inch should be filled with mortar made from one part cement and two parts fine sand, with just enough water to make a fairly stiff mortar. sign to look for during a home inspection It should be pressed firmly into all parts of the larger cracks and holes to be sure that no air bubbles or pockets remain.  As long as water is not being forced through basement walls due to outside pressure, the application of mortar with a standard trowel will be sufficient if special care is taken to fill all cracks completely.
  • If water is being forced through by outside pressure, a slightly different method of patching with mortar can be used.  Surface areas of walls or floors with cracks should first be chiseled out a bit at the mouth of the crack and all along its length.  Using a chipping chisel and hammer or a cold chisel, cut a dovetail groove along the mouth of each crack to be filled, and then apply the mortar thoroughly.  The dovetail groove, once filled, should be strong enough to resist the force of pressure that was pushing water through the crack.

Apply sodium-silicate sealant to the walls and floor.

Once all runoff has been thoroughly diverted away from the foundation, and all cracks and holes have been repaired and no leaking is occurring, a waterproof sealant can be applied as a final measure.

Sodium silicate is a water-based mixture that will actually penetrate the substrate by up to 4 inches.  Concrete, concrete block and masonry have lime as a natural component of their composition, which reacts with the sodium silicate to produce a solid, crystalline structure which fills in all the microscopic cracks, holes and pores of the substrate.  No water vapor or gas will be able penetrate via capillary action because the concrete and masonry have now become harder and denser from the sodium silicate.
Here are some steps and tips for its application:
  • Special care should be taken when applying sodium silicate.  It is an alkaline substance and, as such, can burn skin and eyes if it comes into contact with them.  Inhalation can also cause irritation to the respiratory tract.
  • Sodium silicate must be applied only to bare concrete, concrete block or masonry that has been cleaned thoroughly and is free of any dirt, oil, adhesives, paint and grease.  This will ensure that it penetrates the substrate properly and fills in all microscopic cracks.  It can be applied using a garden sprayer, roller or brush to a surface that has first been lightly dampened with a mop or brush.  Apply two to three coats to the concrete, waiting 10 to 20 minutes between each application.  Concrete block and masonry will take three to four coats, with the same 10 to 20 minutes between applications.  Any excess should then be wiped away.  Sodium silicate should not be over-applied or it will not be completely absorbed by the substrate, leaving a white residue.
  • Paint can then be applied without fear of water vapor getting trapped between the paint and the wall, which could eventually cause blistering and peeling.  Adhesives for tile or floor covering can also be used more effectively, once the substrate has been sealed.
Diverting water away from foundations so that it does not collect outside basement walls and floors is a key element in preventing flooding and water damage.  Ensuring that any water that does end up near basement exteriors cannot enter through holes or cracks is also important, and sealing with a waterproof compound will help prevent water vapor or gas from penetrating, as well.  By following these procedures, the risk of water-related issues in basement interiors can be greatly reduced, protecting the building from damage such as foundation rotting, mold growth, and peeling paint, as well as improving the interior air quality by blocking the transmission of gasses from the soil outside.  This article is from InterNACHI and can be found at https://www.nachi.org/waterproofing-basements.htm.

by Nick Gromicko, CMI® and Kenton Shepard

 

Backdrafting is the reverse flow of gas in the flues of fuel-fired appliances that results in the intrusion of combustion byproducts into the living space. Many fuel-fired water heaters and boilers use household air and lack an induced draft, which makes them especially vulnerable to backdrafting when indoor air pressure becomes unusually low. Inspectors should try to spot evidence of backdrafting in homes.

How does backdrafting happen?

Fuel-fired water heaters, boilers, wall heaters, and furnaces are designed to exhaust the byproducts of combustion to the outdoors through a flue. These hot gases rise through the flue and exit the home because they are not as dense as indoor air. The pressure differential that allows for the release of combustion gases can be overcome by unusually low indoor air pressure caused by a high rate of expulsion of air into the outdoors through exhaust fans, fireplaces and dryers. When this happens, combustion gases can be sucked back into the house and may potentially harm or kill building occupants. Improperly configured flues or flue blockages can also cause backdrafting.

How can InterNACHI inspectors test for backdrafting?

  • An inspector can release smoke or powder into the draft diverter to see whether it gets sucked into the duct or if it spills back into the room. A smoke pencil or a chemical puffer can be used to safely simulate smoke.
  • An inspector can hold a lighter beside the draft diverter to see whether there is sufficient draft to pull the flame in the direction of the flue.
  • Combustion gases that back-draft into a house may leave a dark residue on the top of the water heater. The presence of soot is an indication of backdrafting, although its absence does not guarantee that backdrafting has not happened.
  • A carbon monoxide analyzer can be used to test for backdrafting of that gas. Inspectors should be properly trained to use these before they attempt to use one during an actual inspection, primarily to avoid false negatives.While performing the above-noted tests, it is helpful if inspectors ask their clients to turn on all devices that vent air into the outdoors in order to simulate worst-case conditions. Such devices may be dryers, or bathroom and kitchen fans.

Types of fuel-fired water heaters:

  • Atmospheric DraftMost backdrafting is the result of the characteristics of this type of water heater. Combustion gases rise through the ventilation duct solely by the force of convection, which might not be strong enough to counter the pull from dips in indoor air pressure.
  • Induced Draft
    This system incorporates a fan that creates a controlled draft. The potential for backdrafting is reduced because the induced draft is usually strong enough to overcome any competing pull from an indoor air-pressure drop.
  • Sealed Combustion
    The combustion and venting systems are completely sealed off from household air. Combustion air is drawn in from the outdoors through a pipe that is designed for that purpose. The potential for backdrafting is nearly eliminated because the rate of ventilation is not influenced by indoor air pressure, and the vented gas has no pathway into the home.
  • Water Heater Location
    The installation of fuel-fired water heaters in particular household locations can increase the chances of personal harm caused by backdrafting. The 2006 edition of the International Residential Code (IRC) states the following concerning improper location:

Fuel-fired water heaters shall not be installed in a room used as a storage closet. Water heaters located in a bedroom or bathroom shall be installed in a sealed enclosure so that combustion air will not be taken from the living space.

This article is from InterNACHI and can be found at https://www.nachi.org/backdrafting.htm.

If you are buying a home in the Black Hills of South Dakota let Red Horse Home Inspection inspector your home.  Easily schedule online today.  Follow us on Facebook and Instagram.