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Hard to Notice Plumbing Leak in Basement

These photos were taken of an interesting leak we encountered during a home inspection which was done in Parker Colorado.  Our company, Magpie Property Inspections, found and active leak which was showing up in an unfinished utility room in the basement. It became apparent after checking further that the most likely cause of the leak was the toilet in an adjoining bathroom. It appears the seal at the base of the toilet where it rests on the drain line is not seated properly, or has some wear or damage.

What made this interesting was that the active leaking was not causing water damage to visible walls in the basement bath or hall area between the likely source of the leak and the drain in the utility area. It could be possible not to notice this was going on for some time if the utility area was not checked or entered. It became apparent the water was somehow moving under the ceramic tile and becoming visible in an unfinished area pictured .

This situation is a good reminder to check around your home now and then; look in areas you don’t use often, closets, basement rooms, garages etc. to make sure there are no small leaks or other problems occurring in remote places that could be happening undetected.

 

Service Drop Clearances Above Ground

 

 

During an inspection in Aurora, Colorado, my company, Magpie Property Inspections LLC noticed that the outside power line in to the house (known in electrical parlance as the overhead service drop) did not meet current standard. As the pictures illustrate, the line passed over a patio area accessed by pedestrian traffic. In this case, the line is approximately 9 feet above the patio. It should have been installed at least 10 feet high in this location. If you have a rural or older home with an overhead service drop, make sure the line is high enough for the safety of occupants and guests around your home. Below is a useful guide to follow provided by Dream Home Consultants LLC:

Service Drop Clearance Above Ground
1. Measure the vertical clearance between service drop wires and the ground, walkway, driveway, or street beginning at the lowest point of the service drop wires and ending at the surface under the wire’s lowest point. The lowest point of the service drop wires is often at the drip loop, but it could be at the point of attachment to the house or it could be where the wires enter the house.
2. Provide at least (≥) 10 feet vertical clearance between service drop wires and areas or sidewalks accessed by pedestrians only.
3. Provide at least (≥) 12 feet vertical clearance between service drop wires and residential property and driveways.
4. Provide at least (≥) 18 feet vertical clearance between service drop wires and public streets, alleys, roads, or parking areas subject to truck traffic.

If you think your home needs to have remedial work done to the electrical line to meet these safety standards, contact a licensed electrical contractor to inspect and advise you.

 

Hazardous Decks

These are pictures of decks inspected by my company, Magpie Property Inspections of homes in Parker Colorado and Castle Rock Colorado. The first two photos were taken of a deck which has deteriorated to the point that walking on it caused the decking to break exposing the joists underneath. As you can see, the joists and framing members supporting the deck are all rotted and in poor condition. This deck should be removed and replaced. The deck is almost 30 years old and appears to have incurred so much repeated moisture exposure without needed maintenance it is literally falling apart.

The last two photos were taken of a cantilevered deck in similar condition. Cantilever decks are often not supported with posts at the end, and are attached to the joists or beams inside the structure, protruding openly. These decks need to be maintained and monitored carefully as they can become very hazardous when they deteriorate to the condition we have found here. We recommend having vertical supports installed on all decks where possible to help provide stable support as the materials wear.  With the weight of people and property added, this deck could collapse and cause injury. It should be replaced just like the other deck pictured.

Decks are great additions to a home, but they are also an area of mandatory maintenance to prevent situations like this from occurring.  They should be inspected from on top and underneath several times a year. Look for dark discoloration, splitting members, loose hangers and connections and materials with a generally weathered appearance. If your deck is several years old, it is a good idea to have a professional take a look to make sure it is still safe.

Tracking Moisture Damage During a Home Inspection.

During a recent home inspection on a new home in Denver Colorado, my company, Magpie Property Inspections,  found that a drain line from the plumbing above this living area was leaking. After testing the bathroom fixtures upstairs, a pool of water was noted on the floor below as indicated in the first photo. Since the water was not continuing to collect in this area it was apparent the leak was coming from a drain line and not a fresh water pipe.  Through the use of our infra-red camera, we were able to follow the pool of moisture behind the wall, through an electrical outlet to a wall area above the outlet as indicated in the second and third photos. The darker areas on the infra-red photos indicated cooler temperatures which can be an indication of moisture, particularly when it looks like this.  A moisture meter was then used to locate the area where the greatest moisture intrusion was noted as shown in the fourth photo. It was possible to mark the wall area indicated in the fifth photo as the logical place to start demolition to locate the leak in order to repair the problem. This will also help the contractor to inspect the affected area to remove and repair all the areas of the structure which have incurred water damage.  Tools like these are used by qualified contractors to help expedite repair and reduce the amount of damage needed to address a problem with moisture intrusion or leaking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fire Rated Garage Entry Doors

 

This photo was taken during a home inspection by my company, Magpie Property Inspections in Parker Colorado. The door between the house and garage has had its fire protection breached because the owner installed a pet door. An opening like this can allow fumes given off by vehicles, garden equipment motors or other harmful vapors from the garage to enter the home. It can also  allow smoke and fire to readily enter the living area should one occur in the garage. This should not be done as it creates a potential safety hazard.

Current building standards require the following:  “Openings from a private garage directly into a room used for sleeping purposes shall not be permitted. Other openings between the garage and residence shall be equipped with solid wood doors not less than 13/8 inches in thickness, solid or honeycomb-core steel doors not less than 13/8 inches thick, or 20-minute fire-rated doors, equipped with a self-closing device.”

By creating an opening like this, this standard is violated. We recommending making sure the door to the garage is solid, meets these requirements and fits and locks completely.

 

 

 

 

 

Improper Drain Waste and Vent line installation in Basement Finish

These photos were taken during a home inspection conducted by my company, Magpie Property Inspections, in Aurora Colorado. Drain, waste and vent lines installed during a basement finish were improperly installed in the gap between the sole plate ( a 2 x 4 which is connected to the concrete floor) and the bottom plate of the stud wall on framing using floating wall construction. Floating wall construction involves installing walls which are suspended from the floor joists above with a 3 inch gap between the sill and sole plates on the stud walls and floor to allow the concrete floor to move without damaging the structure. This is required when the slab is installed on grade in most localities along the front range in Colorado because of the expansive nature of our soil. Having these plumbing lines route in this manner can interfere with the ability of the concrete slab to move in the event of a change in the soil conditions which could cause soil expansion. They could also be damaged if this were to occur causing water damage. It is apparent this work was not completed in accordance with accepted standard practice and it is very unlikely the work was inspected and approved by the local building department with jurisdiction. Having a basement finished, an addition completed, kitchen or bath updated or other significant construction work completed should be done by qualified individuals and inspected and approved to prevent problems like this from occurring.

 

Overgrown Vegetation and Debris Can Lead to Damage to Structure.

 

In an earlier post submitted by my company, Magpie Inspections LLC, we discussed vines and vegetation damaging an electrical panel which is presenting a Safety hazard. These photos were taken during home inspections we conducted in Parker and  Littleton Colorado earlier this year. Two of the photos illustrate how  vines and shrubs have grown up onto siding, covered the gas meter, window well and fencing almost completely. The other photo shows firewood and other wood debris stacked up against the wood siding of a home. This type of debris and vegetation attracts insects, rodents and reptiles and having this situation can lead to moisture and insect damage to wood structural components and rodent infestation. It also covers deterioration that may be occurring to the home. In addition, watering within 5 feet of the foundation is never a good idea, particularly here in the Denver Metro area, because of the type of expansive soils present in most areas that can contribute to putting hydro static pressure on basement and foundation walls and lead to structural problems. At Magpie Property Inspections, we recommend always keeping the area around the perimeter  clear of  debris and vegetation.

Kitchen Ventilation – Range Hoods and Vents

The photos enclosed were taken of a kitchen range and range hood during a home inspection conducted by my company, Magpie Property Inspections LLC in Parker Colorado. It has an exterior vented hood.  It raises the question as to whether a cooking range or cook top is required to be vented in a kitchen. While some jurisdictions may have specific requirements regarding installing exhaust ventilation in kitchens, it is not a strict requirement all areas. In some cases, an openable window in close proximity to the range is sufficient to meet the local building requirement.  Regardless of whether it is required, we believe all kitchens should be vented for safety and to help keep the kitchen and home clean. It removes smoke and odor, or in the case of an unvented fan, helps it circulate the smoke through a filter to help it dissipate more quickly.

There are two types of fans:

Vented Range Hoods: The fan in a vented range hood is attached to a duct, so it moves air from the kitchen to the outdoors.

Unvented Range Hoods: An unvented, or ductless, range hood has a fan but no duct to the exterior. Instead, it uses several types of filters to clean the air, and then recirculates the air into the kitchen (these models are sometimes called recirculating hoods).

It is much better to vent the air outdoors than to recirculate it into the room. A vented hood that removes steam, smoke, heat, and cooking odors is the best way to keep your kitchen clean. It will help to get rid of grease and dirt particles that can accumulate on your walls and cabinets.

Unvented range hoods do filter some grease and cooking odors from the air, but they are not nearly as effective.  They do not remove heat and humidity, so they won’t help keep your kitchen cool while you cook.

If you do not have a fan in your kitchen, or are planning to remodel your kitchen, we strongly recommend installing an exterior vented range hood. It is a good investment in our view.

Overgrown Electrical Panel Presents a Serious Hazard.

This panel box is attached to a townhome inspected by my company, Magpie Property Inspections LLC recently in Denver Colorado. The unit is located outside on the west side of the building maintained by the Homeowners Association. The entire area has become overgrown with vegetation and as you can see, it now has a number of vines growing inside the panel box putting pressure on the breakers and service conductors. The panel box and breakers are very old and worn, which is a concern, but the contact with all of  these vines presents a serious hazard. The panel should be evaluated for repair or replacement by a qualified electrician.

This example brings to mind the need for homeowners to check on their electrical panels regularly, particularly those stored outside. It should always be clean and dry inside. It should be readily accessible with at least 30 inches of clearance in front for easy service.  Water and vegetation should never be in contact, or be placed near the electrical panel or outside service drop. A situation like this represents serious neglect which could end up causing a serious injury and/or loss to property.

 

Amazing Old Furnace Found During Home Inspection

On a recent home inspection in Aurora Colorado, our company, Magpie Property Inspections, inspected a home built in 1953. Unbelievably, the home still had the original gas furnace unit manufactured by American Furnace Company! It operated, and we did not detect any gas leaks or carbon monoxide emitting from the combustion chamber during operation when checked.  Needless to say, our recommendation was that it was time for this one to go. Finding someone to service and repair it would be nearly impossible let alone getting replacement parts.  As you can see from the photos, it has been a very long time since it was serviced. Our client intends to renovate the home and replacing this old guy heads the list of things to be updated.  Furnaces can operate a long time if they are maintained regularly and checked by a qualified technician, but after 20 to 25 years, it is a good idea to move on to a new unit.

If there is a furnace hall of fame out there some where, this one should be enshrined in it.