Since opening our doors in Los Angeles in 1979, we have found that consumers often have questions about home inspections and commercial building inspections. Below, we provide answers to the most frequently asked questions. We have also included consumer tips about property maintenance, remodeling, and health & safety issues that you may find helpful.

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Inspection FAQ's for Buyers

What Is A Building Inspection?

A building inspection is a visual evaluation of the structure, and the components and systems of a building. Simply speaking, an inspector gives a building a ‘physical’ examination.

What Does An Inspection Include?

At a minimum, a building inspection should include an examination of the following components and systems:
structureroof & flashingswater heaterair conditioning
foundationroof drainagegas systemappliances
exterior groundsattic & ventilationplumbing fixturesfloors & ceilings
exterior wallschimney & fireplaceelectrical systemdoors & windows
exterior building componentswater pipes & waste systemcomfort heating systeminterior building components

In addition, safety-related issues are an important part of an inspection. Some inspections also include pools and spas.

What Does An Inspection Exclude?

An inspection excludes items that are concealed or are inaccessible such as pipes or wires in walls, plumbing lines below soils, and flooring beneath carpets. Also excluded are systems and components that cannot be reached, entered or viewed without moving obstructions, or that require action that could result in damage to the property or personal injury to the inspector. In addition, most inspections do not include geological or engineering evaluation. An inspector should provide you with a list of those things that are not included in their inspection.

What Is A 'Safety-Related' Issue?

A safety-related issue is something that could affect the health, safety or well-being of a visitor or occupant of a property. Examples include the potential for fall at a stairway without a handrail, a young child could crawl through or get stuck in guardrail pickets that are spaced too wide, a person could fall over a guardrail that is too low, a child could fall through an openable window that is too close to the floor. At certain locations, non-tempered glass creates a potential for injury. Proper fencing and other related issues are vital for pool or spa properties. Rodent feces in an attic or animal feces below a home are a potential health hazard. These, and much more, are conditions that a competent inspection will address.

Do I Need An Inspection?

Whether it is a residence, a multi-family dwelling or a commercial building, the purchase of real property is one of the single largest investments most people will make in their lifetime. A thorough inspection can help you avoid costly, unpleasant surprises. Are those water stains a result of an isolated incident, or an indication of a chronic problem? Is the roof functional, does it need repair, will it soon need replacement? Are the water pipes copper or galvanized, are they leaking, were they professionally installed? Are the drain lines clear? Is the wiring older or newer, are there any problems that could cause injury or even a fire? Is the heating system functional, is it safe to operate? Is the foundation system sound, is it bolted for earthquake resistance? Are there any safety-related issues? A competent inspection will provide you with a clear understanding of the property you are about to purchase so you can make an informed decision.

The Building Is Brand New - What Could Be Wrong?

No building, regardless of how well it is constructed, is totally free of defects. A builder may have the best intentions, but the nature of construction is such that some problems will occur. It is always easier to have a builder repair or replace defects before a sale is complete, than to discover problems later and try to get them to return to do this work.

The City Building Inspector Approved It - What Could Be Wrong?

At times, an inspection will reveal something that does not comply with code, but it was approved by the local building authority. City building inspectors are often pressed for time and because of this they may occasionally overlook something. Also, like all humans, they sometimes simply make mistakes. Building officials recognize this and therefore the code provides that any such approval is invalid. Unfortunately, being built with permit and approved by a City building inspector doesn’t always mean a building complies with code. In fact, a Building Official has the authority to require a property owner remedy a violation EVEN THOUGH THE CITY APPROVED IT.

The Builder Said I Don't Need An Inspection

Many builders encourage an inspection. However, there are some that do not welcome the opinion of an independent consultant. They will state that the home has been “built to code” and was “already inspected and approved by the City building inspector” (see ‘The City Building Inspector Approved It’, above). It is important to understand that a builder only needs to comply with ‘minimum’ standards – but your standards may be higher. In addition, a City building inspector is not concerned with workmanship as long as building ‘minimums’ are attained. It is always in your best interest to have a consultant with no financial attachment to the project render a professional, independent opinion.

When Should I Have An Inspection?

When buying property, the best time to have it inspected is right after your offer has been accepted. The purchase contract usually provides a grace period to have this done. However, it is important to check with your Realtor® to see when this period ends. If your contract does not contain a provision for an inspection, you should have this added. In addition, you should make sure the contract clearly states that your obligation to purchase the property is contingent upon the results of the inspection.

Can I Inspect The Building Myself?

Most homeowner’s do not have the knowledge, expertise or experience required to evaluate a building and its systems. A professional inspector, however, will be thoroughly knowledgeable in the myriad of systems and components included in the construction and maintenance of buildings, and equally familiar with the building codes. In addition, a competent inspector will have evaluated thousands of properties. Above all, it is difficult for most buyers to be completely objective and unemotional about their purchase, and because of this, their judgment may be clouded.

Can A Contractor Friend Do The Inspection?

Some contractors are qualified to perform property inspections, but most do not have the expertise or experience necessary to thoroughly inspect an entire building and its systems. Although it may be tempting to have a friend inspect your purchase, if they are not truly qualified, the money you think you are saving could actually cost you several thousand dollars. More importantly, it could also cost you a friendship.

Should I Attend The Inspection?

It is not necessary for you to be at the inspection, but if you can attend, it’s always a good idea. Not only will you be able to meet your inspector and ask him/her questions, but also after the inspection is completed, the inspector will be able to discuss and point out their findings with you. This information will help make the written inspection report more meaningful.

Can A Building Fail An Inspection?

No. A professional inspector is providing an independent, objective opinion on the current condition of a building. He/she simply describe its present condition, and point out potential safety-related issues and items that need maintenance, repair or replacement. As an independent third party, the inspector should not offer an opinion on the value of the building, or if you should proceed with your purchase.

The Inspection Revealed Problems - What Should I Do?

No property is perfect, even brand new construction. The discovery of problems does not mean you shouldn’t buy, but this information will help you make a well-informed decision. Many different factors can influence a decision whether to proceed with the purchase. What is the extent of the problems and how much will it cost to repair them? What is your budget? Are you paying fair market value, or are you buying the building below or above this value? Is the seller willing to make some repairs? These, and much more, are some of the things you need to consider and discuss with your Realtor®

The Inspection Was Favorable - Did I Really Need It?

Definitely. Now you can make an informed decision to proceed with your purchase and have peace of mind about the condition of the property. In addition, you will have learned some things from the inspection that will help you maintain, take care of and enjoy your new property.

Are Inspectors Licensed?

Not in California; there is no professional license for building inspectors. If an inspection company represents they are licensed building inspectors you should have them clarify this. If you believe they were intentionally misleading, you should seek another inspector.

What Should I Look For In An Inspector?

A competent inspector will have passed written comprehensive certification exams given by the International Code Council (ICC), the same prerequisite for employment as a City building inspector. Preferably, they will also be a member of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI). This is your assurance that the inspector is a professional and that they have demonstrated through both testing and experience their knowledge and understanding of the myriad of different building systems and their various components.

How Do I Find A Qualified Inspector?

One way is through a referral from a friend, relative or business acquaintance that has had a recent inspection and was satisfied with the service provided by their inspector. Another way is to contact the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI). This organization has established high standards of practice for the inspection profession, and their members must abide by these standards as well as a code of ethics. In addition, members must maintain continuing education in the latest building technologies and materials to ensure a professional inspection for the consumer.

Inspection FAQ's for Sellers

Is A Seller Required To Have Their Home Inspected?

There is no legal obligation for a seller to have their home inspected; however, to minimize unpleasant surprises and unexpected difficulties, it is sensible to learn as much as you can about your home before you list it. A Pre-listing inspection may identify the need for repairs, builder oversights or simple maintenance that will bring it into good shape. The knowledge you gain from a Pre-listing inspection will allow you to make decisions with confidence before you place your home on the market.

How Does A Pre-listing Inspection Benefit A Seller?

A professional inspection provides a seller with an opportunity to repair any defects that are uncovered prior to placing their home on the market. In addition, it may forewarn them of potential concerns. A seller can use this information to help put prospective buyers at ease, reduce negotiating points and avoid delays, and in so doing facilitate a smoother transaction.

What Does A Pre-listing Inspection Include?

An inspection should include an examination of the major components and systems of a home, including safety-related issues. Some inspections also include pools and spas. Because of normal wear-and-tear, and other factors such as diverse construction practices, a professional home inspection can help provide a wealth of information to a seller.

What Is A 'Safety-Related' Issue?

A safety-related issue is something that could affect the health, safety or well being of a visitor or occupant of a property.

Can A Home Fail An Inspection?

No. A professional inspector is providing an independent, objective opinion on the current condition of a home. He simply describes its condition, and points out potential safety-related issues and items that need, or may soon need repair or replacement.

Is A Seller Obligated To Disclose Things About Their Property?

In California, a seller of a single-family dwelling, or of 1 to 4 units, has a duty to disclose relevant facts concerning the property for sale. This is done through a form known as a Transfer Document Statement (“TDS”). Put simply, a seller has a legal obligation to reveal to perspective buyers adverse conditions of the property known or that should have reasonably been known to them. While a Pre-listing Inspection report cannot be used as a substitute for the TDS form, it does allow a seller to provide prospective buyers with additional information that is based on the opinion of an unbiased, third party.

What If The City Building Inspector Approved It?

At times, a professional inspection will reveal something that does not comply with code, but it was approved by the local building authority. City building inspectors are often pressed for time and because of this, they may occasionally overlook something. Also, like all human beings, sometimes they simply make mistakes. Building officials recognize this, and therefore the codes provide that any such approval is not valid. Unfortunately, being built with permit and approved by the City building inspector doesn’t always mean that it complies with code.

Are Inspectors Licensed?

No. In California, there is no professional license for home inspectors. If an inspector represents that they are licensed, you should have them clarify this. If you believe they were intentionally misleading, you should seek another inspector.

Inspection FAQ's for Lessees

What Type Of Properties Do Lessees Have Inspected?

Pre-lease inspections are commonly provided for residential, commercial and industrial properties.

How Does A Pre-lease Inspection Benefit A Lessee?

A professional inspection will help establish the current physical condition of a property. This is particularly important when a tenant or lessee is responsible for maintenance of the building structure, systems and components, and the costs associated with repairs or replacement. A competent inspection will provide you with a clear understanding of the property so you can make an informed decision. This can help you avoid costly, unpleasant surprises. It can also help eliminate misunderstandings about pre-existing conditions when a tenant or lessee vacates a property.

What Does A Pre-lease Inspection Include?

An inspection should include an examination of the structure, and the major systems and components of a property. In addition, it should identify any excessive wear-and-tear and include safety-related issues. Not only will this information let you make decisions with confidence, but also the condition of the property before you take occupancy will be documented.

What Does A Pre-lease Inspection Exclude?

An inspection excludes items that are concealed or inaccessible. Also excluded are systems and components that cannot be reached, entered or viewed without moving obstructions, or that require action that could result in damage to the property or personal injury to the inspector. An inspector should provide you with a list of those things that are not included in their inspection.

What Is A 'Safety-Related' Issue?

A safety-related issue is something that could affect the health, safety or well being of an employee, visitor or occupant of a property.

The Lessor Said I Don't Need An Inspection

Many lessors encourage an inspection; however, there are some that do not welcome the opinion of an independent consultant. They will state that there is nothing wrong with the property. It is important to understand that a lessor may not be aware of problems, especially if a tenant occupies the premises. In addition, they may not be looking at the property with an objective eye. It is always in your best interest to have an independent consultant render a professional, unbiased opinion.

Can A Building Fail An Inspection?

No. A professional inspector is providing an independent, objective opinion on the current condition of a property. He simply describes its condition, and points out potential safety-related issues and items that need, or may soon need repair or replacement.

If The Inspection Reveals Problems What Should I Do?

There is no perfect building, even brand new construction. The discovery of problems does not mean you shouldn’t lease a property, but this information will help you make a well-informed decision. Many different factors can influence a decision whether to proceed with the lease. What are the terms of the lease? Who will be responsible for maintaining the building structure, its systems and components? Who will pay costs associated with repairs or replacement? If you will be accountable, what is the extent of the problems and how much will it cost to repair them? What is your budget? Is the lessor willing to make some repairs?

Are Inspectors Licensed?

No. In California, there is no professional license for building inspectors. If an inspector represents that they are licensed, you should have them clarify this. If you believe they were intentionally misleading, you should seek another inspector.

Inspection FAQ's for Lessors

What Type Of Properties Do Lessors Have Inspected?

Pre-lease inspections are commonly provided for residential, commercial and industrial properties.

How Does A Pre-lease Inspection Benefit A Lessor?

A professional inspection will establish the current physical condition of a property. This documentation can help eliminate misunderstandings about pre-existing conditions when a tenant or lessee vacates a property.

What Does A Pre-lease Inspection Include?

An inspection should include an examination of the structure, roof, HVAC, plumbing, and electrical systems, and other major systems and components of a property.

What Does A Pre-lease Inspection Exclude?

An inspection excludes items that are concealed or inaccessible. Also excluded are systems and components that cannot be reached, entered or viewed without moving obstructions, or that require action that could result in damage to the property or personal injury to the inspector. An inspector should provide you with a list of those things that are not included in their inspection.

What Does A Building Inspection Cost?

Fees are determined by the size of and type of property to be examined. The fee for the inspection of a 5,000 s.f. home with a swimming pool will be more than a 1,500 s.f. home without a pool, a 30-unit apartment complex more than a 4-plex, and a 50,000 s.f. office complex with a parking structure more than a 2,500 s.f. retail store with on-street parking.

Because the inspection industry is unregulated, fees differ from company to company. The more qualified and experienced inspectors charge more for their work. However, you should not let higher fees be the determining factor in your selection; a lower-priced inspection may not be the bargain it seems. Whom of us would choose a doctor for a critical surgery just because they offered the lowest fee? The doctor may indeed have performed the procedure more than a thousand times, but only has a mediocre record and is frequently sued for malpractice. As the saying goes, “You get what you pay for; the cheapest is never the best and the best is never the cheapest.” At BOATWRIGHT, we are neither the cheapest nor the most expensive. You can feel confident and assured that we provide the finest services available. The prudent buyer should research and check the credentials of the firm they select.

Air Conditioning

Regular Inspections of Air Conditioning Systems Can Save Money

Routine maintenance of your air conditioning system is part of being a sensible and smart homeowner. Unseen problems resulting from deferred maintenance are common and demonstrate why the cost of repairing a neglected system will always exceed that of having kept it up. There are things every homeowner can do to save a lot of money, frustration and sweat in the long run.

Five Easy Steps To Help Prevent Problems

    1. Inspect the filters. The first step in maintaining a well-functioning air conditioning system is to inspect the air filters. These should be changed or cleaned at least twice a year. Monthly maintenance is recommended if the system is in constant use or if the air is dusty and dirty.
    2. Make sure the moving parts are properly lubricated. Over time, friction can increase within the system. Oil the motor and bearings twice a year. Be sure to turn off all electricity to the unit when servicing.
    3. Inspect the fan belts. Check fan belts and pulleys for wear and proper tension. Have a professional replace worn parts.
    4. Clean the outdoor condensing unit. Foreign objects and dirt can affect the performance of the system. Brush away or hose off any insects, dirt or other items on the outdoor condensing unit.
    5. Clean the drain line. Inspect the drain line to make sure there are not any problems with the termination. If algae are present, wash the affected area with chlorine.

Asbestos

What is Asbestos? – Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral fiber. The fibers are strong, durable and resistant to heat and fire. Because they are long, thin and flexible, they can even be woven into cloth. Because of these qualities, asbestos fibers have been used in thousands of different products.

How Does It Affect Health? – From studies of people who were exposed to asbestos in factories and shipyards, we know that breathing high levels of asbestos fibers can lead to an increased risk of lung disease, such as:

  • lung cancer
  • mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the chest and the abdominal cavity; and,
  • asbestosis, a disease in which the lungs become scarred with fibrous tissue

The risk of getting an asbestos-related lung disease increases with the number of fibers inhaled (the risk is greater if you smoke). Most people exposed to small amounts of asbestos will not develop any related health problems. However, if disturbed, asbestos-containing material may release asbestos fibers into the air where they can then be inhaled into the lungs. The fibers can remain in the lung for a long time, increasing the risk of disease. Asbestos-containing material that crumbles easily if handled, or material that has been sawed, scraped, or sanded into a powder, is more likely to create a health hazard because of the release of the fibers into the air.

Where Can Asbestos Be Found in A Home? – Asbestos has been used in thousands of consumer, industrial, maritime, automotive, scientific and building products. Examples asbestos-containing products used in homes are:

  • Some roofing and wall siding shingles are made of asbestos-containing cement.
  • Houses built between 1930 and 1950 may have asbestos-containing insulation.
  • Asbestos may be present in textured paint and in patching compounds used on wall and ceiling joints. Their use was banned in 1977.
  • Asbestos fibers may be present in sprayed-on acoustic ceiling plaster, drywall tape and drywall joint compound.
  • Artificial ashes and embers sold for use in gas-fired fireplaces may contain asbestos.
  • Older products such as stove-top pads may have some asbestos compounds.
  • Walls and floors around wood burning stoves or gas-fired furnaces may be protected with asbestos-containing paper, millboard or cement sheets.
  • Asbestos is found in some vinyl floor tiles and the backing on vinyl sheet flooring and various floor adhesives. Some carpets also have asbestos-containing backing.
  • Hot water and steam pipes in older houses may be covered with an asbestos-containing insulation and/or tape.
  • The insulation on some heating ducts is asbestos-containing.
  • Some exhaust flues are made of asbestos-containing cement.

Should You Do Anything About Asbestos in Your Home? – The U.S. EPA states that “Usually the best thing is to LEAVE asbestos-containing material that is in good condition ALONE. Generally, material in good condition will not release asbestos fibers into the air. THERE IS NO DANGER unless fibers are released and inhaled into the lungs.”

Damaged material is more apt to release asbestos fibers (this is particularly true if it is often disturbed by hitting, rubbing or handling, or if it is exposed to extreme vibration or air flow). If you suspect a material may contain asbestos, don’t touch it, but look for signs of wear or damage such as tears, abrasions or water damage. If asbestos-containing material is more than slightly damaged, or if you are going to make changes in your home that might disturb it (such as remodeling), you should contact a qualified asbestos professional.

How Can You Identify Materials With Asbestos? – Unless labeled, you can’t tell if a material contains asbestos by looking at it. The material must be microscopically analyzed. If in doubt, treat the material as if it contains asbestos or have it sampled and analyzed by a qualified professional. Taking samples yourself is not recommended because if done incorrectly, sampling can be more hazardous than leaving the material alone.

Qualified Asbestos Professionals – Asbestos consultants can conduct home surveys to identify materials that may contain asbestos, take samples of suspected material, assess its condition and advise about what corrections are needed. Asbestos abatement contractors are trained in handling and removing asbestos-containing material. Some firms offer combinations of testing, assessment and correction. A professional hired to assess the need for corrective action should not be connected with an asbestos-correction firm. It is better to use two different firms so there is no conflict of interest.

Standards for asbestos consultants and asbestos abatement contractors vary from state to state and sometimes, city to city. You should verify the standards required by your local building authority before having any work done.

Need More Information? – The following links provide further information or explanations about asbestos:

Chinese Drywall

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), thousands of U.S. homes built from 2001-2008 are tainted by Chinese-made drywall. The emission of high levels of hydrogen sulfide gas from this product is linked to the corrosion of building components such as electrical wiring, copper plumbing, and air conditioning units, as well as household items like computers and jewelry. In addition, the drywall may be connected to possible throat, nose and lung irritation.

On April 2, 2010, based on completed and ongoing scientific study of the problem, HUD and CPSC issued interim remediation guidance to help homeowners struggling to rid their properties of problem drywall (the interim protocol was released before all ongoing scientific studies on problem drywall are completed so that homeowners can begin remediating their homes). The interim guidance recommends consumers remove all possible problem drywall from their homes, and replace electrical components and wiring, gas service piping, fire suppression sprinkler systems, smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms. Taking these steps should help eliminate both the source of the problem drywall and corrosion-damaged components that might cause a safety problem in the home. CPSC will continue to release its scientific studies as they are completed.

Completed studies show a connection between certain Chinese drywall and corrosion in homes. The top ten reactive sulfur-emitting drywall samples were all produced in China. Certain Chinese samples had emission rates of hydrogen sulfide 100 times greater than non-Chinese drywall samples. The patterns of reactive sulfur compounds emitted from drywall samples show a clear distinction between the certain Chinese drywall samples manufactured in 2005/2006 and non-Chinese drywall samples. Some Chinese drywall samples were similar to non-Chinese samples. Finally, several Chinese samples manufactured in 2009 demonstrate a marked decrease in sulfur emissions as compared to the 2005/2006 Chinese samples. CPSC is continuing to look at long term health and safety implications.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warns consumers to exercise caution in hiring contractors who claim to be experts in testing for and removing problem drywall. In a December 2009 Consumer Alert, the FTC recommends that homeowners confirm a contractor’s references, qualifications and background before agreeing to hire them.

Energy Conservation

A Simple Review of Your Home Can Improve Energy Efficiency

Many homeowners are searching for ways to lower their future energy bills. A review of a home’s energy efficiency can often help reduce heat loss from the home and keep furnaces from being overworked.

Surprisingly, many homeowners think that home heating costs are out of their control. In reality, however, there are a number of things they can do to increase the energy efficiency of their home and keep heating costs down. The following are some simple recommendations for homeowners to improve their home’s energy use:

    • Doors and Windows – Examine all of the home’s doors and windows, looking for water damage, wood decay and energy dissipating drafts. If they are old and worn, new windows/doors may be necessary. Otherwise, a simple piece of weather stripping or minor caulking can help to reduce the amount of heat escaping.
    • Insulation – Check the attic for sufficient or missing insulation – the current standard is 12” of material. Many older homes only have 4” to 6”, in which case having more installed can prove to be cost effective. Additionally, insulation is often misplaced or removed where cable television or phone work has been performed.
    • Furnace – Have your furnace inspected to make sure it is running properly. If the unit is old, it may be wise to invest in a new, more energy efficient model.

If you are unsure whether your home meets these recommended standards, consider obtaining a home inspection. Aside from informing the homeowner about ways they can increase their energy efficiency, an inspection will provide a complete overview of the condition of the home, which can help prevent unpleasant surprises.

All homes are subject to the effects of aging, so periodically monitoring the overall condition of a home is crucial. Tending to problems in advance will help improve a home’s use of energy, plus save a homeowner from extensive and costly repairs down the road.

Furnace Recall In California

Defective Furnaces in California

Consolidated Industries (formerly Premier Furnace Co.), manufactured approximately 140,000 furnaces for sale in California between 1983 and 1994 that pose a substantial risk of fire. The units involved are gas-fired horizontal furnaces equipped with steel “NOx” rods installed above the burners and are commonly called NOx rod furnaces. Although it has been more than two decades, many of these furnaces are still in use today.

On July 9, 2001, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced a recall of approximately 30,000 of the subject furnaces that were sold by private labelers. The firms that sold these furnaces under their own labels are: Amana, Bard, Carrier, Goetti, Goodman, Heat Controller, and Trane. The additional estimated 110,000 of these furnaces were distributed under the brand names Consolidated, Premier, Addison, and Weatherking. These were not covered by the recall program and there was private litigation to enable consumers to recover at least some of their out-of-pocket expenses for replacement or repair of the involved furnaces, but the opportunity for remedy from litigation has expired.

Normally, the involved furnaces are installed in attics, although some may be installed in crawl spaces. The brand name and model number are written on a label on an outside panel of the furnace, and a listing of the recalled furnaces can be obtained at the CPSC’s web site at the following link:

Consolidated or Premier furnaces with model numbers starting “HAC”, “HBA”, “HCA”, or “HCC” and ending with an “X” in the last three characters (e.g. X, RX, RXC, RXD) and Addison Products Company Addison and Weatherking furnaces models beginning with “GHC” and ending in either “CC” or “DX” are included in the safety alert.

Suggestions for improving fire safety of all horizontal forced-air furnaces in attics

  • Protect the wood framing on which the furnace is mounted by covering it with a non-combustible material such as cement board that extends a minimum of 12″ past the side of the furnace.
  • Provide an air space beneath the furnace. A licensed contractor can perform this work and can offer the homeowner several ways to accomplish this.
  • Make sure the furnace is installed correctly and serviced at least annually. The inspection should include a safety inspection of the burner assembly and heat exchanger.
  • Install an ionization-type smoke detector inside the attic to provide an early warning of smoke or fire (we recommend this be directly linked to an active smoke detector in the habitable space of the dwelling).

Garage Door Safety

Garage vehicle doors and door openers are easy and convenient to use. However, if operated or maintained improperly, garage doors can cause serious injury or even death. It is very important to be alert for potential hazards. An annual inspection by a professionally trained service person will help prevent problems. With a safely designed garage door and garage door opener, detailed instructions to family members, warning labels in key locations and regular maintenance, the risk of damage to property and injury from garage doors and openers can be dramatically reduced. The following are some key points to be aware of:

Door Hardware

  • A garage door that does not travel smoothly when operated manually may have an out-of-balance spring system. This will cause premature wear-and-tear on the door hardware. Sometimes this can be corrected by simple adjustment. However, depending on how worn the springs are, they may need to be replaced.
  • Beware of old springs. Garage door springs are tightly wound and under high tension. Eventually, all springs will wear out and break. A breaking spring that is not properly constrained with a safety containment cable can fly out and strike property or people causing serious damage or injury.
  • When a spring is replaced, if a door has two springs both should be changed, even if one is not broken. This will not only prevent any damage caused by the breaking of the second spring, but also keep the door working efficiently.
  • A garage door that does not travel smoothly when operated manually may have an out-of-balance spring system. This will cause premature wear-and-tear on the door hardware. Sometimes this can be corrected by simple adjustment. However, depending on how worn the springs are, they may need to be replaced.
  • Springs, along with attached hardware, are under extreme tension at all times. All tension must be released from springs before any work is performed on the springs, door sections, or hardware.
  • When manually closing a garage door, no attempt should be made to close the door by using the door sections as a place to grab onto the door. Serious injury can result. The step plate/lift handle or pull rope attached to the door should be used to pull the door closed.

Door Openers

  • A faulty or improperly adjusted reversing mechanism on a garage door opener can damage a car or injure a child or pet that inadvertently gets caught in the way of the closing door. All garage door openers manufactured and installed after 1991 are required to have a safety reversing mechanism. If properly adjusted, reversing mechanisms activated by contact can prevent most damage or injuries caused by a garage door closing automatically.
  • Photo cells (“photo eyes”) have been required on all garage door openers manufactured and installed after 1993. This device provides additional safety from closing vehicle doors. However, if bumped or jarred the photo cell may become disabled. Properly installed photo cells are connected at the bottom of the door track and reverse the door when a beam of light is broken. Safety is improved because nothing has to make contact with the door before it reverses.
  • Always keep the door in full view as it operates and do not leave the area until the door completely opens or closes.
  • Accidents can occur when children play with the remote controls for an automatic garage door opener. Remote controls should be kept out of the reach of children. Also, children should be educated about the potential dangers associated with these mechanisms and the garage doors they operate.
  • Many homes have been broken into and burglarized by thieves using universal controls that open a garage door by reading the access code in the opener. “Rolling access” code technology is one way to prevent this. Rolling access code technology changes the code of an automatic opener after every use, so the thieves’ universal controls are rendered useless.

Mold

General Information About Mold

Mold has been around for years and is commonly found in homes. But while often harmless, too much of certain kinds of mold in a home can be dangerous. Mold always indicates excessive moisture and the source should be corrected immediately.

Molds naturally grow in the indoor environment and mold spores may also enter through open doorways, windows, heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. But when mold spores drop in places where there is excess moisture and a food source such as common building materials, they will grow and often spread. This frequently happens where leakage may have occurred in roofs, pipes, walls, plant pots, or areas affected by a flood. If this mold growth is toxic or pathogenic, some people might experience health problems as a result. Health conditions have been found to include such symptoms as congestion, chronic fatigue, bloody noses and flu-like symptoms that won’t go away.

Because mold can grow in moist areas that are often undetected, it is important for homeowners to have their home evaluated for areas that may be troublesome. A home inspection is an evaluation of the overall condition of a home and points out visual deterioration that exists throughout a house. This may alert a homeowner to problem areas that exist or sections of the home that may be susceptible to mold problems.

Mold Control Tips

If a homeowner knows they have mold in their house, it is important to clean affected areas and eliminate sources of excess moisture. Additionally, to help prevent mold in the future, the following is recommended:

    • Fix leaky plumbing, roof leaks or other sources of water immediately. Moisture saturation of insulation in wall cavities and attic spaces are major mold growth areas.
    • Wash mold off hard surfaces and dry completely. Absorbent materials, such as ceiling tiles and carpet, may have to be replaced.
    • Keep drip pans in your air conditioner, refrigerator and dehumidifier clean and dry.
    • Use exhaust fans or open windows in kitchens and bathrooms when showering, cooking or using the dishwasher.
    • Place vents for clothes dryers and bathroom exhaust fans outside the home.
    • Remove and replace flooded carpets and drywall.
    • Maintain low indoor humidity, ideally between 30-50% relative humidity. Humidity levels can be measured by hygrometers, which can often be found at local hardware stores.
    • Clean bathrooms with mold killing products.
    • When painting the home, add mold inhibitors to paint.
    • Do not carpet bathrooms.
    • If problem persists, or if anyone in the house is susceptible to mold and mildew, have the problem evaluated by an expert in mold/moisture intrusion.

Pool & Spa Safety

The following is an excerpt from a safety and real estate bulletin by the California Real Estate Inspection Association about pool and spa fencing:

All homeowners and potential home buyers should take pool and spa fencing seriously. According to recent studies, more than half of all pool drowning’s that occur in the U.S. involve children under the age of five. Attention to pool fence and other safety issues is a vital imperative for everyone owning or living near a pool or back yard spa.

Requirements for pool fencing are not as rigidly set as most other standards in the Uniform Building Code because they are contained in the appendix portion of the code, rather than the main chapters. Municipalities that adopt the code into law have the option to include the fence requirements in the appendix or to write specific standards of their own. It’s wise to consult your professional home inspector or local building department with regards to pool or spa safety.

In jurisdictions where standard fence requirements are in force, there are ten basic rules to keep in mind when fencing an area around a pool or spa:

    1. Fencing should totally surround the pool area.
    2. Fencing should be at least four feet, but preferably six feet in height.
    3. The bottom edges of fencing should be within 4 inches of pavement or within 2 inches of unpaved ground.
    4. To prevent children from squeezing between vertical components of a fence, the spacing should not exceed 4 inches.
    5. Fencing should provide no footholds or handholds that would facilitate climbing.
    6. Diamond-shaped chain-link fence openings should be no larger than 1.75 inches, or have inserts to prevent climbing.
    7. Pedestrian gates allowing access into the pool area should be self-closing/self-latching and latch mechanisms should be out of reach of small children.
    8. Pedestrian gates should swing in a direction away from the pool (so small children do not push them open).
    9. Gates for non-pedestrian use should remain locked when not in use.
    10. When an exit door from the home or any adjacent buildings enters directly into the pool area, each such door should be equipped with a self-closing device and an audible alarm.

Pools and spas can be very enticing to small children, sometimes with tragic results. By following these basic standards and consulting your local building department for additional requirements, your pool area should be reasonably protected from child access.

Radon

What Is Radon? – Radon is a radioactive, naturally occurring gas. It is tasteless, odorless and cannot be seen. Radon is produced from the natural radioactive decay of uranium and can be found in high concentrations in soils and rocks. In outdoor air, radon is diluted to such low concentrations that it is usually nothing to worry about. However, once inside an enclosed space such as a home, radon can accumulate. Indoor levels depend on the building’s construction and the concentration of radon in the underlying soil.

What Health Effect Is Associated With Radon? – As radon naturally decays, other radioactive particles are formed. These airborne particles can become trapped in the lungs. As these particles decay further, small amounts of radioactive energy are released which can damage sensitive lung tissue and lead to lung cancer. The risk of developing lung cancer from exposure to radon depends upon the concentration of radon in the air and the length of exposure. Exposure to a slightly elevated radon level for a long time may present a greater risk of developing lung cancer than exposure to a significantly elevated level for a short time. In general, the risk increases as the level of radon and the length of exposure increase.

Do All Homes Have A Problem? – Houses may have high indoor radon levels caused by natural deposits of uranium in the soil or by building materials contaminated by waste from uranium mines, but most homes are unlikely to have elevated levels of radon. However, a relatively few homes do have high levels. The dilemma is that no one knows which houses have a problem and which do not. Because radon is a gas, it can move through the small spaces in the soil and rock on which a house is built. Radon can seep into a home through dirt subfloors, hairline cracks in concrete floors, walls, joints and tiny cracks or pores in block walls. It can also be entrained in water and be released into a home with a private well when the water is used.

How Is Radon Detected? – Since radon cannot be seen, smelled or tasted, special equipment is needed to detect it. Some of these devices are commercially available for home owners. Other devices require operation by trained personnel. In real estate transactions, a continuous radon monitor is normally recommended. This device is usually used for a 48-hour “screening” test and measures the radon concentration at 1-hour intervals.

What Do The Test Results Mean? – The EPA has set guidelines for whether or how quickly to take action to reduce radon levels. The screening test results will provide an idea of the average radon concentration throughout a home. Based on the results, corrective action may or may not be recommended.

Standards for radon consultants and radon contractors vary from state to state and sometimes, city to city. You should verify the standards required by your local building authority before having any work done.

Need More Information? – The following EPA link provides further information about radon:

Remodeling Tips

The Value Of An Inspection When Remodeling

Many homeowners are tapping into their home’s equity to take on home improvement and remodeling projects. Considering the investment of remodeling projects, it is often wise to have the home inspected for safety and reliability. A professional home inspection can make sure the remodeling is performed to industry standards and accepted methods while also providing peace of mind, regardless of the project’s size or budget.

When To Call A Home Inspector – There is no wrong time to call upon a home inspector, particularly during a remodeling project.

    • Before the project – An opportune time to schedule an inspection is before undertaking any remodeling project, whether you are doing it yourself or hiring a specialist. The home inspector can offer advice on the area(s) of the home that require the most immediate attention.
    • During the bidding process – Consider consulting with a home inspector before hiring a professional renovation expert. Assuming the expert has submitted a bid on the project, the home inspector can help a homeowner review the proposals. If the homeowner has received several different bids, an ASHI inspector can help provide an understanding of what a reasonable price may be.
    • During the project – Arranging for an inspection during the course of a remodeling project ensures the project is on the right path and construction is being done correctly.
    • Upon completion – An inspection following completion of a project helps ensure that work was performed to specification.

For the purposes of remodeling, a home inspector is a consultant for home improvement and renovations. They can assist you throughout the entire process to help make sure your project is done correctly.

Water Heater Safety

A standard tank-type water heater may look benign, but if improperly installed or maintained it is potentially very dangerous. Every year in the U.S., a few water heaters explode, leak deadly exhaust gas or cause fires with devastating results. Following are several general steps that can be taken to help prevent this from happening to you (for specific installation requirements for your unit, please consult your local building authority):

  • All paper, accumulated dust or other combustibles should be removed from the water heater enclosure and never store combustibles close by. (gas water heaters)
  • Extinguish the pilot light before using flammable liquids or setting off aerosols near the unit. (gas water heaters)
  • If the water heater is in a garage, the unit is required to be elevated so the pilot light is at least 18″ above the floor; this can help prevent ignition of gasoline vapors that collect near the floor. (gas water heaters)
  • If the unit is installed in a location where it may be subject to vehicle impact (e.g., garage, driveway, etc.), it should be protected by an approved barrier.
  • An improperly functioning exhaust flue can leak deadly exhaust gases. The exhaust flue should slope upward, have no breaks or gaps and be free of any obstructions. Additionally, the unit’s downdraft diverter must be properly installed at the base of the flue on top of the water heater. (gas water heaters)
  • An approved temperature/pressure-relief valve (TPR valve) should be installed on the unit. This faucet-like device is mounted on the top, or near the top on the side of the water heater. Excessive temperature increases tank pressure which can cause a water heater to explode. A properly installed and functioning TPR valve will relieve pressure and prevent a steam explosion.
  • An approved metal discharge pipe should be installed on the TPR valve. This pipe should point down and extend to within 6″ of the floor.
  • If installed inside a home, an approved catch pan should be placed below the unit. This will help prevent damage to the home if the water heater leaks. These pans are commercially available.
  • If the water heater is not located within line-of-site of the electrical panel, an approved electrical service disconnect must be provided nearby to prevent accidental electrocution of anyone servicing the unit. (electric water heaters)
  • The water heater should be securely strapped to help prevent the unit from falling during an earthquake.