Thursday, May 29, 2008

I Never Heard of a Home Inspector and I am About to Become One

That next Monday at work uncle Norm told me about the structural inspections Mr. Holloway needed, and convinced me I could do them. He said I needed to inspect the foundation, framing and roof, and write a one or two page report. The part that convinced me to do the work was the part where good old Uncle Norm said, “You can charge about a $100 each and you can do them after work and on Saturdays”.

I had just got married that April and really needed the extra cash, so I said “I will do it Unc”. He told me to call Mr. Holloway and set up a day and time to do the first inspection, and assured me if I made a good impression, I would get more inspections. I called Mr. Holloway that evening and set up the inspection for the next day after work.

Join me tomorrow for my first inspection.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Home Inspector’s Beginnings (part 2)

Mr. Holloway approached my uncle at a get-together one Saturday night about some properties his lending institution was considering making loans for. His concern was lending money on another house with a structural defect, such as a failing foundation His company had already lost too much money like that in the past.

Mr. Holloway wanted my uncle to inspect the properties his company was considering lending money for, to make sure there were no major structural defects. My uncle’s name was Norm, and he was well noted for his commercial and residential building and repairs, and Mr. Holloway thought he would be perfect to pre-inspect these houses. My uncle Norm declined because he just did not have the time, but said he would see if his nephew (me) could do the inspections.

Little did I know at the time that the home inspection business was a business that soon was going to be a standard for home buyers, and a household word for Realtors.

Join me tomorrow as I get closer to doing my first inspection.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Home Inspector’s Beginnings (part 1)

The year was 1972 and I was working as a brick mason for my dad and his brother’s commercial masonry company. My dad’s brother (my uncle) had a lot of affluent friends in the community, and among them was a vice-president of a large lending institution, and we will call him Mr. Holloway.

Mr. Holloway’s lending institution had financed several homes over a short period of time that had been abandoned by the buyers and his company became stuck with these houses. The reason all of these houses had been abandoned was because shortly after these houses were purchased, major structural problems were discovered. In all of the cases the structural problems were going to be very expensive to repair, so the buyers just turned the houses back over to the lending institution. This left the lending institution stuck with a house that needed major work, and usually what happened was the house would be sold at an auction for a big loss to the lending institution.

This is how my home inspection career started.

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Year of the Home Inspector

On this year I did my first Home Inspection, I could just tell you the year, but instead I will give you some hints; I heard the words Watergate for the first time, Nixon was president, and we had troops in Vietnam still.

You need more clues? Okay, a Canadian Environmental organization changes their name to Greenpeace Foundation, Governor George Wallace was shot and paralyzed while campaigning for president, Mark Spitz won seven swimming gold medals in the Munich Olympics.

Okay a few more: there was the terrorist attack on Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, the Dow Jones Industrial average closed above 1,000 for the very first time and the world lost Reberto Clemente.

The year was (drum role please) 1972.

I have one more name from that year, Ziggy Stardust - think about it.

Join me tomorrow as I start the journey to my first Inspection.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Home Inspector finds Shocking Evidence of Mud

We were talking about crawl spaces and how they can hold surprises, what they are not supposed to hold is water. Water or excessive moisture in a crawl space can cause the wood floor structure to rot and fail. If an Inspector finds water or moisture, they will try to figure out what is causing the problem.

It was my first inspection of the day and it was out a winding road in the country. When I arrived at the house, I found it to be an eighteen-year-old ranch house, you guessed it, it was on a crawlspace. As I started to enter the crawl space, I noticed that there was no vapor barrier in the crawlspace just dirt floor. Well okay it was more like mud on the floor. The further I went the deeper the mud became. I had been feeling a tingly sensation from the mud. To make a long story short, I discovered a sixty-five gallon electric water heater buried in the center of the crawlspace, with only eight inches of the top showing.

It was installed when the house was built, and to my wonderment it was still heating water. Now keep in mind it was still heating water, but it was rusted out under ground and had made the crawl a very large pool of mud. The tingling I had been feeling, was from the bare electric wire on the water heater under ground.

After the water heater was replaced and installed above ground, the crawl quickly dried out with no damage to the house.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Sidewalk Less Traveled

Like I mentioned before, you never know what you will find in a crawl space. I have found wildlife, pets (both dead and living), standing sewage, live electric wires and countless other things.

Where would you expect to find a sidewalk? Outside, correct? Okay where would Scully and Mulder find a sidewalk? Well we are talking about crawl spaces. Yes you guessed it; they found a sidewalk in the crawl space. Here are the pictures to prove it:

I will keep you posted on the adventures of Scully and Mulder as they discover or should I say 'uncover' the unusual.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Home Inspector that needed an Extension ladder to inspect the Crawl

Let me take you to Cleveland, that is Cleveland, GA by the way, to two of my very good friends and fellow Home Inspectors. We will just call them Scully and Mulder, this became their nicknames because of the unusual things they find inspecting. If you have not figured it out, the nicknames are from the two main characters in the show X Files. When you are inspecting a crawl, it is important to get up close a personal with the wood framing of the floor structure. This is usually not hard to do, except if you are Scully and Mulder. Here are some pictures of a Crawl space that Scully and Mulder needed a thirty-foot extension ladder to complete the crawl inspection. Not much crawling on this one.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Home Inspector learns to Crawl

Out of the three popular foundation types, the basement, slab, and crawl space, I would have to say as a Home Inspector the crawl space type definitely offers more of a challenge to inspect. When an inspector opens the crawl door, it is like opening a grab bag, you just never what you are going to see.

The heart of the floor framing and main carry structure is visible from the crawl, not to mention the plumbing, electric, and HVAC systems. Home Inspectors are not required to enter a crawl if it has less than an eighteen-inch height clearance or if there is a perceived danger. Eighteen inches high, do you need that much clearance? Yes you do, but that is not to say that I have not gone in tighter spaces. Home Inspectors follow a set Standard of Practice and Code of Esthetics, set buy such affiliations as ASHI, this is were the eighteen inches comes from. Some times you might wish that the crawl were only eighteen inches high.

More about this tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Home Inspector said, “ Your CFCIs don’t work”

It was a beautiful Saturday morning, as I loaded the boat for a little fishing trip, when the phone rang, it was Bonnie, a Realtor friend of mine. She was upset about a buyer’s inspection on one of her listings, and wanted a second opinion. She said that there were 10 GFCIs in this house and the report stated that none were functional. With the boat in tow, I met Bonnie at the house.

The house was a 1956 three-story. The house had been well maintained and appeared to be in perfect condition. Houses from this era were built with two-prong outlets, instead of the three prong outlets we see today, because back then the house wiring did not require a ground wire. Later CFCI outlets were installed in the bathrooms, kitchen, garage and outside receptacles of this house. GFCI outlets offer protection from accidental electrocution in areas where water is present. GFCIs are three prong outlets, but can be installed in the place of a two-prong outlet, but the GFCI will not be grounded.

This is what fooled the home inspector to thinking the GFCIs did not work. A home Inspector uses a three-prong outlet tester, with a button to push to trip a GFCI for testing. What fooled the Home Inspector was the fact that the button on his tester uses the ground to cause the small short to trip the GFCI. Since there is no ground on the old two prong system the test button will not work. The GFCIs will have to be tested with the test button on the outlet it self. I tested all ten of the outlets this way and they all worked, Bonnie was happy and I went fishing. I have a saying, “all's well that ends with fishing”.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Choose a professional Home Inspector

You know what stupid is? I will tell you. Stupid is using price shopping for the reason to price a Home Inspector. It does not matter if you are the seller and hiring a Home Inspector to do a pre-listing inspection, or a buyer hiring a Home Inspector to perform the buyer’s inspection. There is no substitution for a professional, not even a few bucks. A non-professional inspection will end up costing you more money than you saved hiring the lowest bidder.

Okay, Back to Mr. Know-it all. A funny thing he put on the report was, “there was no access to the crawl space” and recommended access to the crawl space prior to closing. This set my closing date back two weeks. A professional Home Inspector would have given this advice, if in fact the house were built on a crawl space. The problem with what Mr. Know-it-all said, is the house was built on a slab on grade, and not a crawl space. This bad reporting cost the expense of hiring a professional inspector to find that there was not a crawl, but indeed a slab construction. So, in this case, it cost the lending company, who by the way paid Mr. Know-it all to do a bad job, the expense of hiring another Inspector and set the closing back two weeks.

So hire professionals from the start! This will save you time and money. . Case and point!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Home Inspector called my House Old Yellow

I bought my first house when I was twenty. It was scary to think my $110 rent was now going to be a $165 mortgage - my, how times have changed...

I found a house built in the early twenties by neighbors of a local farmer for his daughter. The house was every bit of 600 square feet with the windows open, but it was located on a lot of land in a very secluded place. The land backed up to Pocahontas State Park.
With this location, all of my neighbors were four legged. I was living in an apartment in the city, and when I found this little house on this spot, I thought I was buying a little slice of heaven - well, untill the inspector for the bank came.

It was the second week of April when I met the bank inspector at my soon-to-be house, and I will never forget that day. This guy rolled up to the house all most an hour late, and the first thing he said was, why do you want a house out here? And why do you want this house? This was only the beginning. The little house had a fresh coat of bright yellow paint, and this guy started calling it “Old Yellow”, he did not mean it as a compliment.

This went down hillfrom there and you won’t believe the rest of his inspection.

Tune in tomorrow for the rest of the story.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Home Inspector sniffs out roof problem

I knew the sheathing was failing on this roof, but I was soon to find out why. The attic inspection usually reveals the source of the problem and that it did. This attic did not have drop-down steps, but just a two-foot by two-foot scuttle. I got my ladder in place and opened the scuttle, and what I found next was breath taking. I do mean breath taking, the smell of raw sewage rolled out of the attic opening so bad it took my breath away.

As a home Inspector you have to be ready for surprises, I was not ready for that. After I got myself together from the smelly surprise, I got my head up in the attic enough to see that the waste vent stopped about three foot of going through the roof. The attic was full of sewer gas, and had been since the roof had been replaced four years a go. The waste vent stack was made of sections of cast iron pipe. When the roof was replaced the top two sections of this pipe was removed to replace bad sheathing, and never re-installed. The excessive moisture in the attic over time had destroyed most of the roof sheathing.

The seller was not happy to find out that all of the roof sheathing needed to be replaced and new shingles installed. The buyer was happy to find out this problem before he purchased the house. The seller made all of the repairs and the buyer moved in a week later than planed, but all is well that ends well.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Old Farmhouse Inspection

It was the summer of 1974, August of 1974 to be exact, and I was following a narrow graveled road to an old farmhouse I was about to do a home inspection on. As I turned into the drive of the house, the first thing I noticed was the roof sagging between the rafters. As a Home Inspector I knew it was probably from poor ventilation, and most likely not a big problem, or not one that would be expensive to repair.

Back then, I would start my home inspection at the roof, and walking the roof was the way I did the roof inspection. I got my old wooden ladder off my pick-up and went up on the roof. I found myself only able to walk where rafters were present, because of the very soft sheathing.

Later I would find a very strange problem that caused this failing roof.

You will find out what I found in my next blog.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Common Problems FOund During a Home Inspection

I have been inspecting houses for a long time, and I guess I don’t mind when I am called “old school”. Houses are old school to a seasoned home inspector, mainly because even though building methods and materials have changed over the years, the most common defects found during a home inspection remain about the same. So, here is a little old school on the ten most common problems found in our homes:

Roof Problems
Electrical Safety
Poor Drainage
Environmental Hazards
Failing or Aging Heating and Cooling Systems
Deferred/Improper Maintenance
Plumbing Problems
Inadequate Ventilation
Deck and Porch safety
Rotted Wood

Join my next blog for more details, and maybe a story or two.