Blog: Weekly Inspection Information and Updates

Residential Roof Types – Part 1

Pictured above are common types of residential roofing which you may see in the Denver Colorado area. I took these photos while conducting inspections in Parker Colorado, Castle Rock Colorado, and Lakewood Colorado. These roofing types all have one thing in common. They are all composition type roofing. That means, they are made with a base layer of heavy saturated felt material (normally thick paper which is saturated with roofing tar) with a layer of asphalt applied over the base layer and ground up stone granuals applied over the base layer. The photo in the upper left corner is of older 3 tab shingles. These were popular for many years and you still see them on a number of houses. The upper right photo is the more current type of composition shingles on the market which are known as dimensional or architectural shingles. They are manufactured in the same way as the 3 tab shingles with abase layer of saturated felt with granuals applied. The third picuture is a third type of composition roofing, known as rolled roofing. It has this name because it is manufactured in rolls which are 36 inches wide. The rolls of roofing are laid out on the roof surface in strips and sealed along he edges with roof coat cement to seal the seams to make the surface water tight. Rolled roofing is normally applied to flat, or relatively flat surfaces as it is designed to be applied and sealed in a manner which prevents water from entering beneath the material. 3 tab and dimensional style shingles must be applied to sloped roof surfaces where there is at least 3 feet of pitch for every 12 feet of run. All are nailed or stapled in place over the roof decking which has been prepared with a single layer of 15 pound felt applied for added protection against seepage.
Composition shingles are being replaced to a large degree by fiberglass composition shingles which look much the same as the felt type, but with a base layer of fiberglass material in place of the saturated felt. In next week’s blog we will look at that type of shingle, rolled roofing membrane with a fiberglass base, wood shingles, and tile. You won’t wont to miss the next exciting episode.

Attic Insulation

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAInsulation in the attic of your home is an important component in reducing the amount of energy used to heat and cool your home. Using the right type of insulation and making sure it is installed correctly will prevent structural problems with the roofing, the wood decking supporting the roofing, and the rafters or trusses which frame the roof and attic area. During home inspections in Denver Colorado, and Aurora Colorado, I took these pictures of the insulation present. Most homes built in the last 20 years, or updated within that time frame, have blown in type insulation as pictured here, made of either cellulose material or loose fiberglass. Both are fire retardant and provide appropriate insulation if installed in proper depths. It is recommended that homes have between 10 and 12 inches of attic insulation to achieve a level of R30, which is the minimum level most building jurisdictions now require.
In some cases fiberglass batts are used in attics. Batts are sheets of insulation usually 15 inches or 23 inches wide, with varying widths and packaged in rolls. Batts may have paper backing, foil backing or come without any backing attached. It is important that attic insulation be allowed the “breathe” or let air move through the material to prevent moisture in the attic from forming or collecting on structural components and possibly causing mold or rot. If you intend to add insulation to the attic of your home, make sure to research the correct type to use and have it installed properly to protect the ventilation in the attic, and receive the most benefit from the added material.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Whirpool Tub Installation Safety


This is a photo of a whirlpool tub installed in the bathroom of a home I inspected in Castle Rock, Colorado. The tub is located in the master bath, is of good quality and is installed correctly. One of the most important safety features in a correct installation is to have the unit installed with its own separate GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) connection. This provides a safety shut-off of power in the event of an overload of current or problem with the wiring in the bathroom. The GFCI can be located in a wall outlet like this one, or under the vanity in the bath cabinets. It is essential that the tub unit have its own GFCI and not be part of the other GFCI installed for other outlets in the bath, as most electrical codes require this.


Drainage around Foundations – Part 2

As discussed in the last post, drainage around foundations is a critical issue in Colorado as detailed in Publication 43 provided by the Colorado Geological Survey. The front range in Colorado has moderate to high concentrations of expansive clay soils. These soils expand and contract when they become wet and absorb moisture, and then dry out. The degree of expansive soil content varies from location to location, but precautions should be taken in all areas along the front range in Colorado. Pictured below is a drain which was installed adjacent to the basement wall and foundation on a home I inspected in Parker Colorado. Drains like this should be installed as part of an overall plan to control moisture penetration by professional contractors and/or engineers.
In this case, the area around the drain opening needs to be repaired to allow it to draw water correctly. The cement around the drain is cracked and has settled. In addition, The owner should make sure that the outlet is located downslope from the drain inlet with at least 6 inches of fall for every ten feet of run of drain line. The outlet must be free of grass and debris for easy drain flow.

Drainage Around Foundations

The Colorado Geological Survey recommends in their “Publication 43” that homeowners take care to keep the soils around the foundation of their home free of as much moisture as possible. This includes installing gutter extensions which carry roof drainage from gutters and downspouts. The extensions should be at least 5 feet long, and should be installed at a height which will allow drainage away from the home and to an area which has sufficient grade to prevent the moisture from backing up toward the structure.
The front range in Colorado has moderate to high concentrations of expansive clay soils. These soils expand and contract when they become wet and absorb moisture, and then dry out. The degree of expansive soil content varies from location to location, but precautions should be taken in all areas along the front range in Colorado. The photo below is a home I inspected in Littleton Colorado and example of a home which needs to have extension installed.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors

New homes are being built with both hardwired smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in most jurisdictions in the US. Most, if not all counties in Colorado, now require both in new homes being constructed. When existing homes have additions or electrical modifications, most building inspectors will require that CO2 detectors be added in order to enhance occupant safety. Typically, it is now required that when homes are sold these units are to be installed within 15 feet of any bedroom or sleeping area. In a recent home inspection in Castle Rock Colorado, this unit was photographed. This is a typical CO2 detector that can be purchased from a home improvement store and plugged into any wall outlet in a home. This is a simple and inexpensive way to update a home to comply with current building codes and make a home safer for the occupants.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Venting for Gas Appliances is a Major Safety Concern


During a home inspection I conducted in Denver Colorado in September 2013, I discovered this hot water heater and the loose vent connection which is pictured here.  Hot water heaters, gas fireplace inserts and gas forced air furnaces all produce carbon monoxide as a by-product of the combustion process involved in burning natural gas to produce heat. It is essential that these appliances be vented correctly in order to have the hazardous gasses emitted from them exit the home. If the venting is not installed and attached properly, a condition known as back-draft can occur, in which the carbon monoxide gasses flowing from the combustion chamber of an appliance do not flow effectively into the exhaust ductwork and outside. A home inspection should involve checking for this condition around any gas appliance, and as a homeowner, or tenant, it is important to have properly installed and functional carbon monoxide detectors in your home. It is also a good idea to inspect the gas appliances periodically to make sure a situation like this is not present. If you discover something which causes concern regarding any gas appliance, contact a licensed contractor to inspect and advise you regarding any needed repair to ensure its use is safe.

Treated Air Boosters Can Improve Heating or Cooling

On a recent home inspection in Aurora Colorado, My company, Magpie Property Inspections inspected a home that was equipped with a Duct Booster like this one.  A unit like this is designed to increase the flow of heated air in warm heating systems, or cooled air in air conditioning systems. In most cases, a duct booster’s size limits its use to individual rooms, not the main supply line. They can normally be mounted on round or flat ducts. They are frequently installed on a warm air duct of a gravity warm air furnace to provide heating for a basement area, or may also be helpful in moving treated air to a remote room or through long spans of ductwork. If you have a room or area of your home which is difficult to heat or cool, this might be a solution for you.

Water Heater Temperature Pressure Relief Piping


This water heater is an example of an important safety issue that homeowners and home buyers should check out. This home in Lakewood Colorado has an almost new hot water heater with a major defect in the installation. It was discovered during a recent home inspection. The tank wall section pictured shows the TPR valve (Temperature Pressure Relief Valve) which is required on all gas or electric hot water heaters. These valves will allow the hot water to release and escape from the tank at approximately 160 pounds per square inch of pressure ensuring the tank will not explode in the event of a malfunction in the heating and storage process. Attached to each TPR valve should be a 3/4 inch (usually copper) pipe which directs any pressurized water to the floor. The pipe should terminate approximately 6 inches from the floor like the one in the second picture. This prevents hot pressurized water from spraying outward from he unit and possibly scalding people or pets who might be in an area adjacent to the tank or damaging property.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Fall Gutter Cleaning


This home I inspected in Aurora Colorado has a problem many of us will need to address this fall. Clogged gutters are a common concern as leaves begin to fall or are blown onto the roofs and gutters of houses. Clogged gutters can cause a number of problems including back-up or drainage into the interior of homes through the roof decking, improper gutter drainage effecting ground water drainage from basements and damage to the gutters themselves from the weight of water accumulating within the system. Gutters will wear far more quickly if the water sits in the system and does not allow immediate drying after a rain or snow storm. Having a clean well functioning gutter system is an important way to keep home well maintained and something that should be documented in a home inspection provided the roof and guttering is accessible.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA