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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.

Jet Tubs and GFCI Protection

During a recent home inspection conducted in Parker Colorado by my company, Magpie Property Inspections LLC , these photos were taken. The home has an older jet tub installed which was operational during the inspection.  The installation, while older, was OK overall. The pump motor and electrical components were protected by an outlet which was GFCI protected. Jet tubs are required to have their own, separate GFCI outlet which is not connected to other bath outlets.

As discussed in a previous blog,  a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) is an electrical outlet with a device that shuts off an electric power circuit when it detects that current is flowing along an unintended path, and/or in an unbalanced level. A GFCI works by monitoring the current which leaves a power source, such as the ungrounded or live wire and checks it against the current which returns to the neutral wire in the electrical system. If they become unequal due to a fault in the system, or an unusual demand on the system, or the current is somehow leaking in an unwanted way, the GFCI shuts the power off. The outlet will keep shutting off until the source of the problem is corrected. They are now required to be installed in these areas:

Bathrooms

Kitchens

Outside outlets

Garages

Basements

Laundry rooms

And a separate outlet is required for a jet tub as discussed.

Built up – Tar and Gravel Roofing vs EPDM Roofing Systems.

These photos were taken during  two home inspections conducted by my company, Magpie Property Inspections LLC in Denver Colorado. The photos above are of an mid century home with a low pitched  roof which has an older tar and gravel type roof installed. This type of roofing was typically used on flat and low slope roofing and on commercial installations. It is comprised of several layers of asphalt saturated felt which are layered in opposite directions, then covered with hot asphalt roof coating. While the asphalt is still hot, gravel is typically spread over the roof  to deflect heat and light and to protect the felt and asphalt which provides the actual water proofing.

This example shows the problems that may develop with this type of roofing. Cracking and wear around exposed areas of felt have occurred which may be allowing moisture penetration. The gravel layer has worn loose and the saturated felt is “Alligatoring” from heat and drying of the materials. Vent and stack openings have developed cracks which can leak.

The photo below is of a more modern, improved roofing type used on low slope and flat roofs. It is called EPDM, (ethylene propylene diene terpolymer) roofing.  It is a type of rubber material. As with most construction choices, there are good points as well as drawbacks to a rubber roof.  Low relative cost and the ability to patch and repair areas of roofing are a plus. The vast majority of EPDM roofs are black, but EPDM can also come with a white coating that can aid in heat reflection and thereby reduce energy costs.  EPDM roofs are also fully compatible with solar panels and even support rooftop gardens and decks well.  Another advantage is the material’s relatively light weight. It adapts to any shape or style of roof (not just flat roofs) with all of the same advantages.

As with any roofing system, there are also drawbacks to EPDM roofing. These roofs generally cannot be installed by the homeowner. Some professional installers who claim familiarity with the roofs may not have enough experience with it to install it correctly. Obviously this problem can be solved by using the trained and certified installers with a track record of experience successfully installing EPDM roofing.

It is also possible for small leaks to develop around vent pipes and other openings on a roof, especially if the installers are not as familiar with rubber roofs as they should be.  Punctures can also occur in a rubber roof, but all of these defects can be easily repaired by a roofer skilled in EPDM roofs.

If you are considering replacing an old tar and gravel roof, make sure to consult a qualified roofing contractor to explore your best options.

 

Connecting Galvanized and Copper Pipes in Older Homes

This photo was taken during a home inspection conducted by my Company, Magpie Property Inspections LLC in Aurora Colorado. Many older homes like this one built in the 1960’s and earlier were originally plumbed with galvanized pipes as illustrated above. The typical lifespan of galvanized steel is anywhere from 25 to 40 years. Steel pipes are galvanized when they are dipped into molten zinc. This coating helps prevent deterioration inside and outside the piping, but after decades of use, corrosion and rust will normally build up on the inside of these pipes, which can cause problems. To determine what type of pipes you have, there are a few ways you can tell. One easy way is to find the area where pipes enter your home and carefully scratch the pipe with a metal object. If the surface of the pipe is the color of a penny, then the pipe is probably made from copper. Galvanized steel pipes, on the other hand, are a steel-gray color.

In many older homes, some of the old galvanized plumbing may be partially replaced with copper plumbing. When combining metal pipes of different types, it is important to install proper connections. Dielectric unions stop corrosion between different types of metal caused by electrolysis by using a rubber or plastic washer and sleeve to keep the metals from touching. In the illustration above, copper and galvanized plumbing has been improperly joined without the appropriate connectors. The image next to the older plumbing is a standard dielectric connector. If you have concerns about your older plumbing, make sure to have it evaluated by a qualified licensed plumber to make the appropriate repair.