Postcards from the Field
|Nashville's Most Trusted Inspection and Consulting Company|
Every year I get several request for photos of strange items I find while doing inspections. ASHI has a great source for the strange and unusual inspection finds by inspectors from all across the country. Postcards from the Field has been sharing the strange and unusual for many years. Take a look at Postcards from the Field and enjoy. Every issue of the ASHI Reporter will have several Postcards from the Field in it. Just check each issue for some great photos in addition to some very informative articles.
Postcards from the Field
If you have ever seen what looks like missing mortar between the bricks about every two or three feet on a brick veneer wall you are most likely looking at what are called weep holes or weeps.
They are an important part of the brick or masonry veneer system. In building construction, weeps are typically found in a masonry veneer or cavity wall, just above the flashing. The cavity serves as a way to drain this water back out through the weep holes. The weep holes allow wind to create an air stream through the cavity. The stream removes evaporated water from the cavity to the outside. Weep holes are also placed above windows to prevent dry/moisture rot of a wooden window frame.
Now the other day while doing an inspection on a 5400 square foot six year old home, I found something that I see a few times a year. A homeowner thought that the weep holes were a defect or mistake made by the mason when the brick was placed on the home. So Mr. Home Owner decided that he needed to seal each and every single weep hole with silicone.. I stopped counting at the 26th sealed weep! This really could be a major problem if the silicone can't be fully removed from the weep holes. It would defeat the reason for the weeps and could cause major damage to the wall of the home.
So never seal those open holes in the brick walls on your home!
A good deck can improve the value of your home and make for an enjoyable space to relax with family and friends, but improperly built decks are also one of the number one problematic items we find during a home inspection. So many folks do not follow the prescribed and published deck building guidelines for the proper construction of a deck and very seldom are permits taken out to build a deck, so no permit means no inspection or oversight of its construction.
Even the professional deck builders make mistakes! While doing an inspection I came across this deck. It was a large deck that measured 20' in length and at it's widest point 18'. They built the deck with composite deck boards, which are not inexpensive. They used composite railings, guards and handrail on the stairs. this is a very expensive deck.. The listing agent said it was valued at $16,000!
When I walked up the stairs, I noticed that I had to bend to the side to hold the handrail. The handrail was only 23" high at it's highest point along the deck stairs. It should be at a minumn 34" along the stairs.. So we have a problem! The deck builder had only one job to do and that was to build the deck properly and they didn't do that! Handrails are so important and need to be built to current safety guidelines.
So, if you are having a deck built be sure you check and follow up with the work that is being done. Take that permit out so that it will be inspected and better yet, call a qualified inspector like Trace Inspections to double check that contractors work!
If you are building a home you should consider having a pre-drywall inspection performed. This type of inspection is done once all of the framing, electrical and plumbing rough-in's are complete and right before the insulation is installed. With this type of inspection many defects that would normally be covered with insulation and drywall can be discovered. The most common issues that are discovered are framing and plumbing problems. Both can cause costly problems in just a few years or normally right after the builder 1 year warranty is up!
Many many items are viewed during a pre-drywall inspection. The following are just a few that I found during one.
The Red pipe is a PEX waterline, it is a form of plastic. The silver fixture is a recessed light. PEX should not be closer than 12" to a lighting fixture!
This is an electrical cable that has been nicked by a nail from when the siding was installed!
Well what we have here is a PEX line going through the top cord of a TJI joist. The plumber has damaged this joist to the point that it will most likely need to be replaced.
The above three items were found during a pre-drywall inspection. They were not discovered by the builder, the builders quality control inspection or when the city did their inspection. Any single one of the above items could cause serious problems to the home if not corrected.
So you have a nice covered patio or porch but the air gets a little still and just wish you had more of a breeze, so what can you do? Install a ceiling fan! Brilliant! Now those fan paddle blades can push that air and create an arctic blast during those hot summer months… Well, that's not such a good solution when that covered porch or patio ceiling is only around 7' to 8' in height! That ceiling fan really needs to be no lower than 7' otherwise it stands a good chance of whopping someone upside their head!
The blades on this fan were right at my head when I walked under it. Just a little too low for comfort.
While performing an EIFS and moisture inspection on a seven year old home I discovered something that was very unique. After my exterior inspection and scanning of the EIFS with various moisture meters I moved to the interior. After looking at over 1500 EIFS structures since 1998 I have discovered that it is just as important to inspect the interior walls and to scan them with special moisture meters and with an infrared camera.
Well what I found was not moisture, which I was actually looking for and expecting to find! I found a cold spot on the ceiling in one of the rooms in this home. It was about three feet out from the wall and in the middle of roof. What had I found? I found an HVAC air duct supply register that had been covered over when the home was built and the drywall was installed. The drywall contractor just failed to cut the hole out for the register and covered it!
Fast forward seven years…….. The home inspector that referred the buyer to me for the EIFS inspection noted that the room was a little warmer than the other rooms, but they failed to notice that the room had no HVAC supply register in the ceiling. That is why it was warmer than any other room in the home. It is a fairly easy fix but I still chuckle when I think about how many years went by and nobody ever noticed that the room did not have a supply register in the ceiling.
We had a home inspection and the home inspector said that the water heater needed an "Expansion Tank" installed on the cold water supply line. What does this mean?
All tank type water heaters, regardless of heat source (gas, oil, electric, solar or indirect), can suffer the effects of thermal expansion. In every tank-type water heater, cold water is heated as it enters the water heater tank.. This increases the overall water volume and pressure inside the tank. For safety, the increase in volume and pressure must be relieved in some way. The most common is a dripping at the (temperature pressure relief)TPR valve. While this will reduce some of the pressure it can also damage the valve and prevent it from working properly.
We've never had to have one before, so why now?
Before major controls were placed upon city water supplies, it was possible for excess water pressure build-up in a water heater to flow back into the city water supply. This created a simple and efficient system for removing excess pressure in water heaters. Now most city water supplies are protected by backflow preventers at the meter or home. If a home has a pressure reducing valve (PRV) to reduce the city water pressure to a usable pressure inside the home this also acts as a backflow preventer.
The installation of a thermal expansion tank in the cold water line of the water heater can protect the system from the damaging effects of thermal expansion and increased pressure.
The thermal expansion tank controls the increased pressure generated within the normal operating temperature range of the water heater. The small tank with a sealed, compressible air cushion provides a space to store and hold the additional expanded water volume.
Do you know how to properly display the American flag on Memorial Day?
With Memorial Day not far away, it is never too early to start preparing of it.
The following procedure is for a standing flagpole:
In the morning when the flag is posted it should be raised properly to half-mast (staff). Proper raising of the flag is to take the flag to the top of the pole and then slowly and with honor, lower the flag to half-mast.
Then at the Noon hour the flag should be slowly lowered and then briskly with pride and honor, raised to the top of the flagpole. It should remain at this position for the rest of the day.
Why half mast and then full mast?
The first part of the day while the flag is at half-mast is in remembrance for those that have given their life for our country. The rest of the day when the flag is at full mast is in remembrance and in honor for those that are serving or have served our country.
I hope all will fly the American Flag with pride on Memorial Day!
On a side note:
If your flag is in faded, torn or tattered do not fly it! Go and purchase a new flag and then call a local Boy Scouts of America district office or contact a local BSA Troop and ask them if you can bring your flag to them so that it can be honorably retired and disposed of. If you have never seen a USA flag properly retired it is a very moving experience that all should witness.
That is an old phrase that means we are running out of the good stuff! The apples are always fresher at the top of the barrel and tend to become a stinky pile of mush at the bottom. The same holds true with our housing stock, as the stock depletes(like we are seeing now) the homes left on the market are for the most, the bottom of the barrel.
Several of my fellow home inspectors were talking about this just a few weeks ago over lunch and we all agreed that the homes we are seeing now are some of the worst we have see in years. It seems that the changeover started a couple of months ago and it has done nothing but progress with no end in sight. The sad part is that the ones who are really getting hurt are those that do not get an inspection and those that pay for two, three or more inspections trying to find a descent home.
So what can be done?
It needs to start with the real estate agents taking control of their sellers that have their homes listed with them. Agents just need to flat tell their sellers that they need to repair the obvious items like rotting wood, dripping faucets, water stains on ceilings, leaking roofs, windows that do not open, etc, etc, etc…….. It's almost like everyone is looking at the world through rose colored glasses with blinders!
Faux Stone, Man-made Stone, Cultured Stone and my favorite “Lick-n-Stick Stone” are all names for manufactured stone veneer or AMSV (applied manufactured stone veneer).
Manufactured Stone Veneer is a product that has the appearance of natural stone, but is manufactured with concrete. Today the veneer is increasing in popularity and being used to give commercial, residential and landscape applications a rich, upscale look.
The advantages of manufactured stone veneer over natural stone are:
• Cost (cost of material, cost of application)
• Weight (ease of application)
• Variety of designs and colors
• Good look for home, office, Hotel etc.
Manufactured veneer is cheaper than natural stone, approximately 1/3 to 1/2 the cost of natural stone. Its lightweight eliminates the need for wall ties or footings and makes it easier and cheaper to build. The variety of designs and colors makes available options, which would not be available with natural stone, since natural stone is used in the general area around the locality, which it is extracted.
There are also disadvantages for stone veneer compared to natural stone: It is not as strong as natural stone; if a piece breaks, or if a piece is removed from the wall, then unless it is replaced, it shows significantly; it is not reusable as natural stones are. Furthermore, manufactured stone veneer has a larger waste factor than natural stone. Natural stone can be chipped, cut, and shaped to any size needed. The cut off pieces can be reused.
While manufactured stone veneer cannot be cut to fit because it exposes the undesirable inner concrete from which the manufactured stone is made of. I often find cut and broken pieces on new homes. Those cut or broken pieces really stick out like a red flag once you know what to look for.
Manufactured stone contains lime nuggets, which can leech out, and stain the surface over time when exposed to water. Manufactured stone is not a naturally occurring product and, due to its cast origin and painted exterior, it is subject to color changes caused by exposure to the UV in sunlight and moisture. It is also a very labor intensive product to install, not unlike stucco. In fact I call it “Bumpy Stucco” as it is basically installed in a similar fashion.
Manufactured stone is a porous product. It absorbs much more water than real stone and it will transfer the moisture through to the wall of the structure causing many of the same issues seen with improperly installed stucco. Being a porous product manufactured stone is subjected to ice wedging and freeze thaw problems. As water seeps into the manufactured stone and then freezes, chunks of the face will pop off leaving a rugged edge, which looks similar to the edge of a broken sidewalk. Repair can be expensive as the entire piece of stone must be cut out and replaced. The repair also doesn’t stop the issue from re-occurring.
I and many other experts feel that AMSV is the next EIFS or Artificial Stucco fiasco! We seeing more and more signs with this product. If you think you have a moisture problem with your AMSV do not wait any longer. If you need a referral to an inspector in your area, I might be able to direct you to a knowledgeable person. Give me a call or email I will be glad to help if I can.
Scott Patterson has been a professional home inspector since 1995 and works out of the Greater Nashville TN area. You can contact him at his office 615-302-1113 or on his cell at 615-870-4162 via text or voice.