Tag Archives: Home Inspection

Montgomery County Radon Law

Montgomery County Bill 31-15 will take effect on October 1st of this year requiring radon testing for certain residential Real Estate transactions.

In an article published last fall the ‘Bethesda Beat’ discusses some of the ramifications of this bill.

The article erroneously suggests, however, that radon test kits can be had for as little as $15-25 at hardware and lumber stores. Had the authors taken the time to actually read the instructions with these kits, they would have known that an additional $50-75 fee is necessary to submit these kits to a lab by mail.

For a Real Estate transaction the time required to test and mail the kits may not accommodate the settlement schedule. Radon Testing for a Real Estate transaction will require a minimum two day (48 hour) short term test. A professional Radon Testing company, like myself, can provide results the same day that testing concludes.

Bob Kenney
Independent Home Inspection

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Danger of CSST

¬¬¬¬There has been a good deal of concern lately about a material called CSST. The letters stand for Corrugated Stainless Steel Tubing. The name accurately describes what it is, but its use for natural gas (or propane) lines in your home may not be so obvious.

Gas is traditionally piped through the house with ‘black pipe.’ This is a steel pipe that is not galvanized and must be threaded to accommodate junctions and elbows. The threading is an arduous time consuming process done on the job site.

CSST was developed to be flexible and can be run to appliances throughout the house without multiple threaded junctions. Ends are terminated with suitable threaded connectors that are easily installed. The product greatly simplifies gas plumbing in new homes.

The ‘danger’ occurs when lightning energizes a CSST line and arcs to an adjacent grounded metal surface. The arc readily punctures the thin walls of the CSST and ignites the gas now leaking out of the puncture.

Bear in mind that direct lightning strikes can severely damage a home with or without CSST. Certain geographical areas of the US are more prone to lightning storms, and seasonal prevalence of lightning varies across the country.

Proper installation of CSST requires ‘bonding’ (create an electrical path) the CSST to the homes electrical ground. The intended purpose of bonding is to prevent the CSST from becoming the lightnings electrical path by diverting the energy to ground.

Maryland law requires a statement in a home inspection report to suggest that only a licensed Master Electrician can verify a properly bonded CSST system.

While this is certainly good advice, it bears mentioning that proven fires caused by CSST represent a fraction of one percent of all the current installations. To date no class action lawsuits against CSST manufacturers have been successful in proving their case.

One reputable law firm on the internet advises that, “Since August 2011, it has been reported that at least 140 fires involving lightning and CSST have occurred across the United States.” Continued reading on this site reveals that there are more than six million homes across the United States that are equipped with CSST. You do the math.

There is no question that CSST should be properly installed and bonded, but don’t let its presence scare you away from a perfectly good home.

Independent Home Inspection 410-504-3751

Are You Winterized?

My Grandfather and then my father seemed like they wore sweaters pretty much all year as they got older.  You could say they were ‘winterized,’ but that’s not what I’m asking.

As a youngster growing up in a non-air conditioned house, winterized meant the screens were taken off the windows and the storm windows were installed.  The furnace was serviced and the boiler lit.  If you’re a home owner already the term “winterized’ may mean something similar to you.

My concern as a home inspector though deals with those homes that have had their electricity and water turned off to save money during an extended vacancy.  Usually bank owned properties.

On more than one occasion I have scheduled an inspection for a client only to find out that the home has been ‘winterized.’  Hopefully I can find this out before the scheduled time has arrived and the inspection can be postponed until such time as the utilities have been restored.

A Home Inspector simply cannot perform a thorough inspection without running water or electricity.  Toilets can’t be flushed, faucets cannot be operated to check for proper water flow, and with nothing to drain… well you can’t very well check for proper drainage or leaks.

No electricity, no heat, hence the reason the water was turned off to start with; to prevent the pipes from freezing. So now the Home Inspector can’t check outlets, switches, light fixtures, appliances, garage door openers…the list goes on.  Wouldn’t you like to know if your heat or air conditioning actually operates?  We forget how much we depend on the daily convenience of all these things.

Despite all the precautions taken to prevent pipe freezing when the electricity is turned off (typically an anti-freeze is added to the water remaining in the pipes), a house I was contracted to inspect recently suffered broken pipes when the water was restored.  The necessary repairs created over a month of delay before a home inspection could be performed.

Now you know the reason a Home Inspector will not turn on the utilities in a ‘winterized’ home.  It is the seller’s responsibility to insure utilities are turned on at the time of inspection and make any repairs should damage occur.

Inspecting a house without these items, well. . .it’s not really inspecting a house!

Bob

Carbon Monoxide in your home?

Many of us are familiar with the poisonous fumes of automobile exhaust as carbon monoxide. One carbon atom joined to one oxygen atom its molecular abbreviation is easily recognized as the letters CO.

Now before we go too far it’s important to recognize that CO is a colorless, odorless gas. Completely invisible it is not to be confused with the visible water vapor or oil smoke associated with car exhaust. Just as important is the fact that CO is a byproduct of incomplete combustion. Any combustion, so this includes any fuel burning device or appliance in your home.

Fuels that are most often burned inside the home are heating oil, natural gas, propane, wood, and some years ago coal.

The most obvious appliance to burn any fuel is the home furnace or boiler and if you heat your home with wood then a wood stove or fireplace. Gas cooking ranges and ovens can be fueled either by natural gas or propane as can be your water heater which might alternately be fueled by oil.

Did you know that your gas dryer’s combustion exhaust is vented through the same four inch duct as the moist air? It is essential here to use a metal foil duct.

For the most part all of these devices are vented through a chimney in some way to the outdoors. A negative pressure in the home or an equipment malfunction (flue damage) can occur which does not allow the combustion gasses from these appliances to vent properly. Should this happen a working CO detector can save your families’ life.

The place to put your CO detector is in the hallway outside the bedrooms or one in each bedroom. Yes, I know the furnace is not in your bedroom, but the time when you are most susceptible to CO poisoning will be when you are asleep. While you are asleep your air handler will distribute the CO, should any occur, to the various bedrooms. This might happen in either a heating or cooling situation, you will want the earliest possible alarm so you can move your family to fresh air (outside) and call someone to correct the problem.

Take a moment this evening to consider your homes fuel burning appliances. Install a CO detector, readily available at all the lumber outlets, outside of the sleeping areas for your families’ protection.

Visit me at: http://www.IndependentHomeInspectionMD.com for more information on this and other safety items in the home.

Water Heaters

We expect hot water when we turn the tap handle and have become so accustomed to it that we rarely think about it. In essence it is just another convenience readily taken for granted.

Many of us have seen a recent television commercial depicting a water heater explosion. Although humorous in content and oriented towards loss recovery rather than prevention few of us have considered the real threat of a water heater explosion. It does happen!

The physics of such an event are easy enough to understand. When water is heated it expands. When it is contained pressure increases proportionately with heat. When pressure exceeds the containment vessel ratings; BOOM!

The optimum temperature of a water heater is 120 degrees. This temperature has been tested and recommended to prevent scalding. When properly adjusted a water heater will regulate the heating element to maintain this desired temperature. Note: Water heaters that supply home heat may have higher temperatures and should be supplied with tempering valves to prevent scalding at fixtures.

The first clue you may have to a water heater problem may be a noticeable increase in the temperature of the water. A higher temperature means higher water pressure inside the water heater tank and should be corrected.

An essential safety component of your water heater is the temperature pressure relief valve (TPR). Located at the top of your water heater, where the water is hottest, it is designed to release the hot water in the event that the temperature or pressure exceeds a predetermined safe level (typically 150 psi and 210 degrees F). Proper installation requires that the TPR discharge be directed through a pipe toward the floor and no more than 6 inches from the floor to prevent hazardous discharge.

By now you can see that a number of things must happen together to create an explosion. This can and does happen however, and your awareness should give you a new understanding of the need for qualified service when problems arise.

Independent Home Inspection examines water heater components, age and installation during your Home Inspection. Call for more information. 410-504-3751

visit me at http://www.IndependentHomeInspectionMD.com

Servicing Your New Home

Several clients have inquired about services for their new home.

They may need pool maintenance, fuel delivery or septic services on a regular, annual or semi-annual basis.
You may have found this to be the case with your home purchase.
The best and most convenient solution is simply to inquire from the seller who they might have used in the past. Be sure to ask how satisfied they were with these services.
Your new neighbors may also require many of these services and can be a wealth of information about local service providers and their reputation.
The benefit of these approaches is to find a service/maintenance provider who is already familiar with the property, its location, equipment, and scheduling needs.
This ‘foot in the door’ approach relieves you of the burden of researching and contacting local service providers with whom you have no experience. If, at a future time you need to make a change in these arrangements, you will have more time and flexibility to do so.

‘As is’ Contracts

Maryland, D.C. and Virginia standard home contracts have been revised according to The Greater Capital Area Association of REALTORS (GCAAR) and the Northern Virginia Association of REALTORS (NVAR) to no  longer include standard contingencies.

This means the buyer’s need for a thorough home inspection is doubly important.  Buyers can no longer be assured that the property they are considering will have basic functioning amenities.  Homes sold under the new contract will be completely ‘as-is.’

A home inspection is now, more than ever, a necessity for a new home purchase.

The seller no longer has any obligation to ensure that anything is in normal working condition. Now it’s all negotiable.

Energy Conservation

Belkin Conserve Socket F7C009q

In this day and age we are all accustomed to the convenience of appliances that turn themselves on and off. A great help for people who are away from home most of the day.

We are equally familiar with rising energy costs associated with our home and the need to conserve.

Belkin’s Conserve Socket is great for those items we leave plugged in that continue to use electricity even when not in use. These might include charging adapters for phones, hand tools or that heated appliance that we leave on occasionally; i.e. irons, hair curlers, etc.

With three preset times of 1/2, 3, or 6 hours it will turn off your appliance for your peace of mind and the safety of your home not to mention the energy savings that will acrue over time.

Google Belkin Conserve Socket F7C009q for availability.