Buying a Home in a Retirement Community

Retirement Community Homes

Are they really maintenance free?

By Frank J. Delle Donne, Licensed Home Inspector

August 14, 2014

For most people, purchasing a house is the largest purchase they have thus far made. Help ensure that you, “Buy with confidence. Sell with pride” ® by using Regal Home Inspections, LLC.

Please leave a review of this article or of our services.   Click Here and then click on, “Write a Review”.

Introduction

Since approximately 1958 my parents have lived in and owned, as their primary residence, a single family home. In 2004 my parents moved from a 100 year old single family home to a new home in a new development that was designed for people 55 years old and older. It was a brand new house in a new community. Everything from the streets to the sidewalks to the houses and the appliances inside each house were no older than brand new when they moved in February 2004. This community in Middlesex County, NJ was ideal. The lawn maintenance was taken care of by the association. The community pool was managed by the association. The snow removal, right up to the front door was taken care of by the association.   The appliances, dishwasher, water heater, heating and air conditioning were all brand new in 2004. The roof and siding were all brand new. Ten years later appliances start to get old and things wear out. I have had the opportunity to perform a number of inspections for people looking to buy into similar, low maintenance houses in maintenance free communities. What I have seen however could be a lesson to potential buyers, particularly in older, more established communities.

Age Matters

I am inspired to write this article because one of the first inspections that I performed that resulted in the buyer deciding not to buy the house, due to the inspection’s findings, was in a, “retirement community”. What should have been retired was the house. Please consider the following:

  1. The house was built in 1984. On January 22, 2014 when the inspection was done the house was 30 years old.
  2. The original owner was making the transition from living on her own to living with assistance. Whether that was to move in with family or into an assisted living facility I don’t know nor is it relevant. Just that the house was being sold. Only one person lived in the house when it was inspected. The spouse was no longer there.
  3. The roof was original and showed signs of its age. Shingles lifting and bowing for example. New roof, maybe $6000.00
  4. The slab of brick veneer above the garage door was separating from the wood structure behind it. A slab of brick that was 3 feet high and 20 feet long could fall at any moment. I was sure to warn everyone not to walk beneath it. Brick repair, I estimate $3000.00.

    10 Surray Ct Marlboro 007
    Notice the slab of bricks that might fall any minute.
  5. The electrical system was inferior when compared to today’s standards. As an example, GFCI outlets had not been required in kitchens until 1987. This house was built 3 years earlier. Electrical upgrades possibly $1000.
  6. The water heater, while not original, was ready for replacement again and left to the buyer. It was 13 years old when inspected. New water heater – $1500.
  7. The AC compressor/condensate coil (outdoor unit) was 12 years old and ready for replacement. New outdoor coil only – $2000. New outdoor coil and indoor, “A” coil – $4000.
  8. While I could not determine a manufacture date for the furnace, via the serial number which is pretty common, the furnace appeared to be very old and indicated flame roll-out and rust. Like looking at a horse’s teeth to determine its age, the general appearance of the furnace, evidence of roll-out and the rust indicated to me that this furnace may have been original and likely in need of replacement. New furnace $4000. New furnace/AC combo probably right around $8000.
  9. Many of the double pane window seals were broken and at least 6 windows were foggy from the condensation that builds where the vacuum should be. At $500 per window, at least $6000.

For the right price might this house be worth buying and then investing money in some upgrades as I have mentioned? Absolutely. But the point is most people looking to buy at this point in their lives, in a community that connotes the low maintenance lifestyle, in my opinion, will continue to look elsewhere. And they will look elsewhere due to the maintenance aspects as I have mentioned. Most people that are interested in buying in an age restricted, retirement community are not looking to buy a, “fixer upper” but that’s exactly what this was and others that I have inspected also are. This was not the exception. Extremely old AC units, furnaces, water heaters, siding, trim, walls, plumbing fixtures in disrepair and electrical systems and components in need of upgrade. There have been others needing a lot of repair but there have been a number that were very well kept and in move-in condition.

Conclusion

If you are considering buying in an age restricted or retirement community be aware that homes as young as 10 years old will start to require maintenance. Please consider that water heaters last 8 – 10 years. AC units last about 10 – 12 years. Both can last longer but the law of averages says they will not. Just because it might be a potential, “New” home for you it may not be that new at all. Make sure that when you hire an inspector you hire someone with the experience of Regal Home Inspections, LLC. My mother is 85 years old and when I do an inspection for an older client I approach it as though I was doing the inspection for my mother. Similarly, I have done inspections for young ladies and when I do I approach it as though I was doing the inspection for my 23 year old daughter. I take a personal interest in my occupation and all of my clients. It’s not just a job. I would appreciate your comments about this article.

Please email your comments to frank07722@gmail.com About the author. I am a NJ Licensed Home Inspector. I am the owner and Inspector at Regal Home Inspections, LLC.

In addition to being a New Jersey Licensed Home Inspector I am also a NJ-DEP certified Radon Measurement Technician and Regal Home Inspections, LLC has also collected samples for lead paint, allergens and mold. We are affiliated with the state’s best labs that perform the sample evaluation and testing.

We can also help facilitate the testing of septic system and numerous aspects of oil tank evaluations. This includes oil tank integrity testing, tank locate services and soil samples. We work to ensure that the house you’re buying is sound or that you know of any issues.

Electrical Issues – Findings of a Home Inspector

Electrical Issues – Part 4

Findings of a Home Inspector – Electrical (aka Circuit Breaker) Panels

By Frank J. Delle Donne, Licensed Home Inspector

August 1, 2014

For most people, purchasing a house is the largest purchase they have thus far made. Help ensure that you, “Buy with confidence. Sell with pride” ® by using Regal Home Inspections, LLC.

Please leave a review of this article or of our services.   Click Here and then click on, “Write a Review”.

Never perform electrical work yourself unless you are a licensed electrician. Nothing in this article suggests that you should attempt to diagnose any electrical problems you may have or make any repairs yourself. Any attempt to make electrical repairs or upgrades can lead to your death. ALWAYS hire a licensed electrician to perform any electrical work. Electricity kills. Never remove the cover to your circuit breaker panel.  

If you’d like a visual inspection of your home’s electrical system because you think there might be problems with it, please call Regal Home Inspections, LLC and we can perform a limited, visual electrical inspection of your system in accordance with the New Jersey Home Inspection laws and ASHI & NACHI Standards of Practice.

This is not a “to code” inspection. Our inspection DOES NOT guarantee conformance to local electrical codes.

Introduction & Disclaimer

I would predict that 90% or more of the homes that I have inspected have had some sort of electrical system issue. Because of the fact that electricity is very dangerous if not handled by professionals most of the time an electrical issue is determined to be a Material Defect (aka Major Defect) because it is a SAFETY issue. Being classified as a Major Defect in a home inspection report usually means that some corrective action should be taken by the seller prior to closing or that monies have been set aside (escrow) so that the buyer can address the problem after closing occurs. It is very important that if the later of these two situations exist that the buyer use the money for the intended electrical repairs. As defined by NJ State Law, a Material Defect is a condition of the structure or of a System or Component that substantially affects the habitability, value or safety. Since electricity can kill, and often does, electrical issues almost always rise to the level of a major SAFETY issue.

This article looks at some all-too-common issues with circuit breaker panels. While some panel issues may have been mentioned in Parts 1, 2 or 3, these examples were from inspections that were done in June and July 2014. The areas that I’ll cover today include the circuit breaker panel location and the issue of double taps. I will also point out an example of a bad situation in which there wasn’t any panel cover at all.

General Panel Observations

Circuit breaker panels (referred to as, “panel”) should be accessible from the front. Technically, if there isn’t 3 feet of clearance in front of a panel, by rights, a licensed home inspector may not even try to inspect it. If you are buying a home, it’s worth a call and ask the seller to ensure that the panel is accessible. Below is an example of a panel that was tucked behind a refrigerator/freezer in a utility room. Luckily I was also performing a radon test which required that I return in a couple of days. The buyer was able to ask the seller to move the refrigerator so I could get access to it when I returned for the radon. It was a slight delay in completing the report but it had to be done.

DSCF1766
Missing Panel Cover

Some panels are too readily available. This panel’s cover was no where to be found. I cannot emphasize enough the potential of death (that’s not too extreme of a scenario) when the panel cover is not there. Would you ever climb a ladder and grab the electrical wires from the pole to your home? Of course not. But when the panel cover is missing it is practically the same shock/electrocution/death potential inside your home. Imagine you trip and reach out to stop your fall and your hand goes into the panel? Imagine you are sweeping or mopping the floor and you are using a metal pole mop or broom and you accidentally turn and the handle of the mop touches the inside of the panel box. It can be a death causing event. That’s why panel covers are REQUIRED!!!

Also, under the heading of general panel observations, if you are selling a home, make sure the legend in the panel box is complete and accurate. Don’t sell a house that doesn’t have the proper “operator instructions”. An incomplete or non existent legend should be pointed out in a home inspection report. Some may think it’s minor (and it’s not necessarily a Material/Major Defect) but it should be complete and accurate.

Location, Location, Location

As mentioned earlier, a panel should have adequate space in front of it for access. Ideally 3 feet to allow an inspector to open the door, remove the screws, lift off the panel cover and inspect the internal wiring and condition. Additionally, the top of the panel should not be too high. Ideally the main disconnect should not be higher than 6 feet. This will ensure the probability that even someone that is not too tall can reach up and turn off the main-breaker in the event of an emergency.

Panels should also not be located in closets. Below are 2 examples of panels situated in clothes closets. There have been others. One is of particular concern. The shelf in the closet prevents the panel door from opening completely not to mention the fact that the panel shelf is right up against the panel cover. I was able to remove it but I think most inspectors would record the condition as a “Limitation” to the inspection process and not inspect further. This is perfectly appropriate if invoked but I wouldn’t let that stop me from doing the best job for the client.

DSCF8563
Panel in Closet.
DSCF0051
Panel in closet has access hampered by shelving.

A Particularly Hazardous Condition

In a previous article I wrote about “Double Taps”. As stated then, a double tap is when someone incorrectly tries to connect two wires to the circuit breaker lug and is of concern because most circuit breakers are designed to hold only 1 wire. When 2 wires are installed into a single lug there is a potential that the wires are of differing gauges (sizes and therefore wire diameters). The larger one may be tight but the smaller will have a poor, possibly high resistance connection and that, as we know, can generate heat or arcing and be a fire hazard.

DSCF1769
Double Tap in Main Breaker. Very Bad!!!

This, however is a particularly hazardous situation (photo above). Someone double-tapped into the main feed and the main circuit breaker.  The other end of the wire is connected to a breaker below, back-feeding power to the panel with no main breaker protection.

With this condition, it is impossible to actually disconnect power from one half of the panel. In the series of photos that follows, notice that there are two wires into the main breaker. One comes from the electric meter and is the live feed. There is a double tap into the same main breaker lug and as a result, the second line is ALWAYS energized. It then goes to another breaker in the panel. To tell you the truth, I cannot figure out what the purpose of this is but this is exactly how I found the panel when it was inspected.

Conclusion

I continue to share some of the more dangerous and interesting findings that I come across as a home inspector. I invite you to use this and the other posts as learning aids and that they help you learn mre about the home’s systems. Remember, electricity can kill. Do not attempt to fix any electrical problems you may notice. Call a licensed electrician.

I would appreciate your comments about this article. Please email your comments to frank07722@gmail.com

About the author. I am a NJ Licensed Home Inspector. I am the owner and Inspector at Regal Home Inspections, LLC. In addition to being a New Jersey Licensed Home Inspector I am also a NJ-DEP certified Radon Measurement Technician and Regal Home Inspections, LLC has also collected samples for lead paint, allergens and mold. We are affiliated with the state’s best labs that perform the sample evaluation and testing. We can also help facilitate the testing of septic system and numerous aspects of oil tank evaluations. This includes oil tank integrity testing, tank locate services and soil samples. We work to ensure that the house you’re buying is sound or that you know of any issues.

 

 

Maintaining Your Home – Part 2; Help The Sale Go Smoothly

Maintaining Your Home – Part 2

Help the Sale Go Smoothly

Findings of a Home Inspector

By Frank J. Delle Donne, Licensed Home Inspector

July 11, 2014

For most people, purchasing a house is the largest purchase they have thus far made. Help ensure that you, “Buy with confidence. Sell with pride” ® by using Regal Home Inspections, LLC.

Please leave a review of this article or of our services.   Click Here and then click on, “Write a Review”.

Reading this article will not guarantee that you will sell your home. It offers observations of issues found in homes both new and old. However, older homes usually contain more issues. 

If you are planning to sell your home and would like to have a Seller’s Inspection conducted please call Regal Home Inspections, LLC. We can perform a thorough inspection and make recommendations that should help any buyer feel more comfortable in making an offer.   We can perform a New Jersey Administrative Code (NJAC) compliant home inspection. We can conduct a radon test and have your house professionally inspected for termites and Wood Destroying Insects and Wood Destroying Organisms (WDI/WDO). We can also conduct pool inspections. If issues are found we can help facilitate additional levels of expertise. All in an attempt so that your home, a small cape cod or a country estate, will be better prepared for the eventual buyer’s inspection and closing.

Introduction

In the first part of this two part series I tried to introduce the reader to some not-so-obvious maintenance issues that I have found during my home inspections. The reason they are important is because they are safety related and some are objectively deemed to be Material (aka Major) Defects. This article looks at a few others. The goal here is that possibly sellers will read this, consider their home and either perform a more thorough inspection on their own or, better yet, hire Regal Home Inspections, LLC to perform a Seller’s Inspection so that when it comes time for the buyer’s inspector to come through, many of the issues may have been addressed already. There are two ways that a seller can benefit from a Seller’s Inspection performed by Regal Home Inspections, LLC. First, the seller can use the findings to make corrections and/or repairs. Second, the seller can always include those items found in the Seller’s Inspection in the Seller’s Disclosure. I find that home sales hit snags when things are found by the buyer’s inspector that weren’t previously known by the seller or the seller knew but was hoping the inspector wouldn’t find. Quite the roll of the dice for all parties.

Brief Review (This section is repeated from the initial article)

The NJAC has many requirements of an inspector. However, when it comes to the actual inspection and the reporting there are a few key points. The NJAC follows the Standards of Practice of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI). When it comes to the inspection, the inspector is required by law to DESCRIBE specific systems and components of the house; Plumbing, electrical, exterior, etc. The inspector is required to IDENTIFY any Material (aka Major) Defects; Findings that effect the habitability, safety or value of the home (in very simplified terms here). And the inspector is required to PREPARE a written report memorializing the previously mentioned elements.

What the inspector is not doing is determining if the curtains match the rug. If the choice of siding materials matches or clashes with the general theme of the other houses. We are looking for very specific things that are not otherwise apparent to the buyer or the seller and for this reason, it’s a very good idea for the seller to be as prepared as best as possible. You painted the walls so they look fresh, right? You had the grass fertilized and the bushes trimmed so the yard has curb appeal, right? Maybe you’ve even put some chocolate chip cookies in the oven to make the house smell good for that open house?

Preparing Your House

Does anybody decide on a Monday, out of the clear blue, that they are going to list and try to sell their home that day? Isn’t it more reasonable that people know in advance that they will be selling their home? It may not be known years in advance but a month, maybe two at least. “Honey, maybe we should plan on selling our home when we retire next year?” Or perhaps, “I just got offered a new job at work but it requires a relocation. The company wants me to move to California in 2 months.” My wife and I have been in our current home for almost 22 years with no plans to leave…yet. However, when we moved into our previous home in April, 1987, we knew that in the summer of 1991 (over 4 years later) we would be moving again. We used the summer when our oldest child would be between kindergarten and 1st grade as the target. I am not kidding when I say that we knew at the house closing in 1987 that between the end of June and early September, 1991, we’d be making another move.

Literally, the day before my son started 1st grade on September 5, 1991, we moved into our current home. That 1st grader is now 29 years old!

Sure there are exceptions. Parents pass away suddenly and the home has to be sold as part of an estate is one example and there are others. The point is that in the majority of situations planning can occur and fixing inspection related issues should be high on the priority list. Especially for estate sales!

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Ground Fault Circuit Interrupt (GFCI) outlets are currently required in any outdoor outlet, kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, garages, unfinished basements and elsewhere. A home inspector must look for and test GFCI outlets. GFCI outlets (and GFCI protected circuits) protect people from stray electrical current that they may inadvertently come in contact with. Electricity wants to follow the path of least resistance to ground. When people are struck by lightning, they accidentally become the path of least resistance to ground for that lightning bolt. If there is a damaged electrical circuit in the kitchen, bath or elsewhere, a person may accidentally become the path of least resistance to ground. A GFCI outlet or circuit can detect that unintentional path and in a tiny fraction of a second, the GFCI shuts the electricity off.

When I am inspecting a house I provide the client with information that shows, for example, that GFCI outlets haven’t been required in kitchens since 1987.   I inspected a house last week that was built in 1977. Before I went inside the house I provided information to the client and stated, we may not find GFCI in the kitchen…and we didn’t. It’s a Safety item on the report.   This sale may not go through because the GFCI are one item on a not too long list of things that need to be fixed. It’s an estate sale with, “who gives a damn” sellers that just want their money.

Does your house have a door between the attached garage and the living area? If it does, is the garage door solid core or metal? Is it fire-rated? Does the garage door have a mechanism (spring loaded hinges or other device) that AUTOMATICALLY closes and latches the door between the garage and living area? Spring loaded hinges cost about $10 each at Home Depot or Lowes. Don’t have a fire rated door or it doesn’t automatically close and latch? It’s a Material Defect related to SAFETY.

How close does the soil get to your siding? In a wood framed house you have the foundation wall and then the wood frame sits on top of that. The siding, let’s assume vinyl, covers the wood framing and exterior wood sheathing. It’s not a Material Defect or a Safety item but the inspector will recommend that there is at least 6 inches of space between the top of the soil and the bottom of the siding and wood framing. Does a buyer want to close on a new house and then spend the next couple of weekends digging and raking the dirt away from the house? I’d bet the answer is a resounding, “NO”. If you’re planning to sell, hire a landscaper and pay them some money to re-grade your yard so that you can see 6 inches of concrete foundation between the top of the soil and the siding. Do you know why it’s important? Let me put it to you this way. If the soil comes to the siding and framing, the inspector will tell the buyer that the condition makes it easy (conducive) for termites to go from the soil to the wood. Do you know what the buyer thinks? They think, “if I buy this house I’ll have termites!” All they will remember is, TERMITES! An associated aspect to this is if you are planning to sell, get a termite inspection and treatment. Have the pesticide company give you a certificate and share that with the buyers. Turn a potential negative into a positive.

Conclusion

I have just shared three inspection issues that are A) Relatively easy to fix and B) Can scare the heck out of a buyer and chase them away. Regardless if you are buying or selling a home, it is a significant transaction either way. Buy with confidence and sell with pride by having Regal Home Inspections, LLC conduct your inspection. We look for things that you probably never considered. That’s why we can help you avoid issues and delays in closing when the buyer and seller are of different minds on whom should address inspection item A, B or C. We can help get some of them out of the way for the seller or help the buyer identify issues that may not be obvious.

Regal Home Inspections, LLC starts every inspection with the presentation of a folio of information for the client. That folio includes general information but also includes a written introduction to the inspection. I present an initial overview of the main elements detailed in this article; Laws that govern the inspection process, areas that will be inspected and more. I believe this is unique to the service that Regal Home Inspections, LLC provides.

I would appreciate your comments about this article. Please email your comments to frank07722@gmail.com

About the author. I am a NJ Licensed Home Inspector. I am the owner and Inspector at Regal Home Inspections, LLC. In addition to being a New Jersey Licensed Home Inspector I am also a NJ-DEP certified Radon Measurement Technician and Regal Home Inspections, LLC has also collected samples for lead paint, allergens and mold. We are affiliated with the state’s best labs that perform the sample evaluation and testing. We can also help facilitate the testing of septic system and numerous aspects of oil tank evaluations. This includes oil tank integrity testing, tank locate services and soil samples. We work to ensure that the house you’re buying is sound or that you know of any issues.

Maintain Your Home. Findings of a Home Inspector.

Maintaining Your Home

Help the Sale Go Smoothly

Findings of a Home Inspector

By Frank J. Delle Donne, Licensed Home Inspector

June 17, 2014

For most people, purchasing a house is the largest purchase they have thus far made. Help ensure that you, “Buy with confidence. Sell with pride” ® by using Regal Home Inspections, LLC.

Please leave a review of this article or of our services.   Click Here and then click on, “Write a Review”.

Reading this article will not guarantee that you will sell your home. It offers observations of issues found in homes both new and old. However, older homes usually contain more issues.

If you are planning to sell your home and would like to have a Seller’s Inspection conducted please call Regal Home Inspections, LLC. We can perform a thorough inspection and make recommendations that should help any buyer feel more comfortable in making an offer.   We can perform a New Jersey Administrative Code (NJAC) compliant home inspection. We can conduct a radon test and have your house professionally inspected for termites and Wood Destroying Insects and Wood Destroying Organisms (WDI/WDO). We can also conduct pool inspections. If issues are found we can help facilitate additional levels of expertise. All in an attempt so that your home, a small cape cod or a country estate, will be better prepared for the eventual buyer’s inspection and closing!

Introduction

I have inspected homes of various ages, sizes and in different geographies; Bergen County to Ocean County. Some have been urban and some suburban. From 1200 square feet to approximately 8000 square feet. From 1 furnace and no air conditioners to a single home with four furnaces and 5 air conditioners.

Regardless of the age, size, price or location there have been inspection related issues found with nearly every inspection I have performed. In this article I will share some examples because they are probably not the type that the seller has ever considered. Some are easy to prepare for. Some not as easy and you should be prepared. It’s when the seller is unprepared and the item is deemed to be significant* that there’s potential for contention. * Significant is subjective when it comes to the buyer. Items of note should not be subjective for the inspector but one never knows how the buyer will judge an issue. Some examples are in the article.

Brief Review

The NJAC has many requirements of an inspector. However, when it comes to the actual inspection and the reporting there are a few key points. The NJAC follows the Standards of Practice of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI). When it comes to the inspection, the inspector is required by law to DESCRIBE specific systems and components of the house; Plumbing, electrical, exterior, etc. The inspector is required to IDENTIFY any Material (aka Major) Defects; Findings that effect the habitability, safety or value of the home (in very simplified terms here). And the inspector is required to PREPARE a written report memorializing the previously mentioned elements.

What the inspector is not doing is determining if the curtains match the rug. If the choice of siding materials matches or clashes with the general theme of the other houses. We are looking for very specific things that are not otherwise apparent to the buyer or the seller and for this reason, it’s a very good idea for the seller to be as prepared as best as possible. You painted the walls so they look fresh, right? You had the grass fertilized and the bushes trimmed so the yard has curb appeal, right? Maybe you’ve even put some chocolate chip cookies in the oven to make the house smell good for that open house?

But did you think about:

  1. Having your furnace or air conditioner serviced?
  2. Checking to make sure your electrical system was up to date?
  3. Did you check to make sure there aren’t any leaks under any of your sinks?
  4. Did you check to make sure your dryer vent is clean and relatively lint free?

The inspector will go even further. Let’s look at some examples.

  1. How old is your garage door and garage door opener? Since 1993 garage doors have to have entrapment protection mechanisms. In fact the NJAC REQUIRES that they inspector check for functioning garage door entrapment protection mechanisms.   Furthermore, if they are not functioning properly, this is classified as a SAFETY issue (remember the Material Defect definition in the NJAC? I paraphrased above but SAFETY issues are included).
  2. Do you know what the difference between a guardrail and a handrail on a set of steps? The inspector better and if there isn’t either where they should be that too is a SAFETY issue. On a related note, do you know how far apart the spindles of a guardrail should be? If they are too far apart this is a SAFETY issue.
  3. While we’re on the general subject of steps and stairs, do you know how high a step’s riser (the vertical part) can be? How about the minimum depth for the tread (the part where your foot goes) before it too is a SAFETY issue?
  4. Your water heater and air conditioner are working fine, right? As a home inspector part of our inspection process is to determine how old some of the major appliances are. When I mention, “Major appliance” I am referring to water heaters, furnaces and central air conditioners, not microwaves as an example. If you, as the seller, don’t have receipts or records of when the water heater, furnace or air conditioner was purchased, the inspector can almost always determine the manufacture date from the serial number. Different manufacturers code the date differently but it’s almost always there. Sometimes the year is coded to a letter or the year is abbreviated; “0803” for manufacture the 8th week if 2003 or C99 where the “C”, 3rd letter in the alphabet corresponds to March and the “99” is 1999. What’s my point? If the water heater, AC or furnace is too old it may be flagged as a Material (aka Major) Defect. It’s not subjective but it’s objective. If a water heater is 20 years old, it is well past its typical useful life and every day that it continues to work is a gift. The buyer is being told by the inspector that they should have no (zip, zero, nada) expectation that the 20 year old water heater will work another day and therefore, the “value” of that NJAC required system or component is practically $0 but there is an expectation that the house’s price includes a working, functioning and reasonably reliable water heater. The seller thinks it is but the inspector will use the facts to determine that it is not.

Here are a couple that aren’t as obvious.

  1. For a single family home or townhome, there is often an attic. A space above the regular living area but below the surface of the roof. The science behind most attic designs is that the air inside the attic should be the same temperature as the outside temperature. In the summer it’s tough to keep the attic at 90 degrees on a day when it’s 90 degrees and sunny out but in the winter, when it’s 5 degrees outside, the attic science says that the air temperature in the attic should also be 5 degrees. Why? Well, if the air in the attic is 50 degrees when it’s 5 degrees outside, where might that heat source be coming from? Some may be the sun load but most is probably heat leaking from inside the house’s living space into the unheated attic. Do you pay to heat your attic when there’s no one living or sleeping there? I don’t. Secondly, when the roof is snow covered, if it gets too warm inside the attic the snow on the roof will melt and the water will freeze. The water will make its way up under the roof shingles and then freeze. Constant freeze thaw cycles will shorten the life of your roof surface. I just had my roof replaced at my home. The manufacturer’s warranty states that the warranty does not cover damage due to, “Inadequate ventilation”. Inadequate ventilation will cause the roof surface and the sheathing (plywood) below to get way too hot in summer and the freeze damage mentioned in winter. Proper ventilation helps in all seasons.
  2. I’ve had this come up twice in the last few weeks. A situation that I don’t believe any homeowner would notice but one that will be identified as a SAFETY issue on an inspection report. Many homes have had old oil furnaces replaced with newer gas furnaces. Perhaps the water heater too. I came across this situation this week. A couple of weeks ago I saw an old wood burning fireplace converted to a gas fireplace. The old designs for both these houses had oil or wood appliances and properly designed and sized flue pipes were originally built. The clay flue pipes inside the chimneys were built to a height that allowed the hot (oil or wood) exhaust to rise up the flue and exit the chimney where the vapors cooled. Please note that the exhaust is very caustic and when it cools it condenses into water which is also, caustic.   Comparatively, believe it or not, gas appliance exhaust isn’t as hot as oil exhaust or wood smoke.

When the gas exhaust enters the clay flue in the original chimney, since the gas doesn’t start out as hot, it actually cools and condenses before it leaves the clay flue pipe. The caustic materials in the gas have now attached, mixed with water, inside the clay flue pipe. Over time this caustic water can corrode the clay, the mortar connection clay sections and the mortar and brick of the chimney’s structure.

When the appliance is upgraded to gas, an insert should be installed. The metal flue duct will reduce the diameter and make the draft characteristics of the metal flue pipe much more efficient and appropriate for a gas appliance.

Conclusion

Regardless if you are buying or selling a home, it is a significant transaction either way. Buy with confidence and sell with pride by having Regal Home Inspections, LLC conduct your inspection. We look for things that you probably never considered. That’s why we can help you avoid issues and delays in closing when the buyer and seller are of different minds on whom should address inspection item A, B or C. We can help get some of them out of the way for the seller or help the buyer identify issues that may not be obvious.

Regal Home Inspections, LLC starts every inspection with the presentation of a folio of information for the client. That folio includes general information but also includes a written introduction to the inspection. I present an initial overview of the main elements detailed in this article; Laws that govern the inspection process, areas that will be inspected and more. I believe this is unique to the service that Regal Home Inspections, LLC provides.

I would appreciate your comments about this article. Please email your comments to frank07722@gmail.com

About the author. I am a NJ Licensed Home Inspector. I am the owner and Inspector at Regal Home Inspections, LLC. In addition to being a New Jersey Licensed Home Inspector I am also a NJ-DEP certified Radon Measurement Technician and Regal Home Inspections, LLC has also collected samples for lead paint, allergens and mold. We are affiliated with the state’s best labs that perform the sample evaluation and testing. We can also help facilitate the testing of septic system and numerous aspects of oil tank evaluations. This includes oil tank integrity testing, tank locate services and soil samples. We work to ensure that the house you’re buying is sound or that you know of any issues.

Electrical Issues – Part 3

Electrical Issues – Part 3

Observations of a Home Inspector

By Frank J. Delle Donne, Licensed Home Inspector

May 15, 2014

For most people, purchasing a house is the largest purchase they have thus far made. Help ensure that you, “Buy with confidence. Sell with pride” ® by using Regal Home Inspections, LLC.

Please leave a review of this article or of our services.   Click Here and then click on, “Write a Review”.

Never perform electrical work yourself unless you are a licensed electrician. Nothing in this article suggests that you should attempt to diagnose any electrical problems you may have or make any repairs yourself. Any attempt to make electrical repairs or upgrades can lead to your death. ALWAYS hire a licensed electrician to perform any electrical work. Electricity kills. Never remove the cover to your circuit breaker panel.  

If you’d like a visual inspection of your home’s electrical system because you think there might be problems with it, please call Regal Home Inspections, LLC and we can perform a limited, visual electrical inspection of your system in accordance with the New Jersey Home Inspection laws and ASHI & NACHI Standards of Practice. This is not a “to code” inspection. Our inspection DOES NOT guarantee conformance to local electrical codes.

Introduction

I would predict that 90% or more of the homes that I have inspected have had some sort of electrical system issue. Because of the fact that electricity is very dangerous if not handled by professionals most of the time an electrical issue is determined to be a Material Defect (aka Major Defect). Being classified as a Major Defect in a home inspection report usually means that some corrective action will be taken by the seller prior to closing or that monies have been set aside (escrow) so that the buyer can address the problem after closing occurs. It is very important that if the later of these two situations exist that the buyer use the money for the intended electrical repairs. As defined by NJ State Law, a Material Defect is a condition of the structure or of a System or Component that substantially affects the habitability, value or safety. Since electricity can kill, and often does, electrical issues almost always rise to the level of a major SAFETY issue.

This piece looks at three situations that have recently been found (in the last 2 months prior to the date of this article) that have been highlighted as SAFETY issues and require immediate attention by a licensed electrician.

Double Taps

When working with electricity it is very important to have and maintain a secure, tight connection whenever two pieces of the electrical system are connected together. This applies to situations when two wires are spliced (twisted) together or when one wire is connected to a mechanical connection. The mechanical connection may be a screw on the back side of a light switch or outlet or it may be a screw lug on a circuit breaker in the Main Panel or Sub Panel. Why is a good, tight and secure connection necessary? Without getting too far down into the detail, if there is a loose connection and electricity is flowing there is a high potential for a small gap to occur and sparks (or arcing) to occur. If there’s a less-than-ideal gap then the connection between these two metal components may be a high resistance connection. This could lead to the buildup of heat. Both of these two potential situations can lead to fire.

A double tap is when someone incorrectly tries to connect two wires to the circuit breaker lug and is of concern because most circuit breakers are designed to hold only 1 wire. When 2 wires are installed into a single lug there is a potential that the wires are of differing gauges (sizes and therefore wire diameters). The larger one may be tight but the smaller will have a poor, possibly high resistance connection and that, as we know, can generate heat or arcing and be a fire hazard.

From a circuit breaker function point of view, the breaker should still trip (shut off) if the total current draw reaches the breaker’s trip rating (15amp, 20amp, etc.) due to the total load from the double tap wires.

The photo(s) below show what a double tap looks like.

DSCF6011
The 2, lower left circuit breaker lugs each have 2 wires into them.

Bad Electrical Panels

Electrical panels should protect people and property from high voltage energy as found inside an electrical panel. Make no mistake, the energy entering and inside the electrical panel is more than enough to kill someone or start a fire. The panel is designed to isolate the energy fields so the hot or ungrounded wires are not energizing metallic components that should not be energized. When energy is present where it shouldn’t be it is sometimes called, “stray” energy.

Of course, all hot electrical components should be insulated as not to be a possible source of electrocution and the Electrical (or Service) Panel is no different.

They should be clean and free of contaminants or damage. The cover should be properly secured using the correct types of screws. Screws used to connect a panel cover are special in that they do not have sharp points like most screws. The screws for electrical panels have flat tipped screws reducing the possibility that the screw will poke a hole in a wire’s insulation and allow electricity to stray to the panel box.

The panel box should be completely sealed. No holes or gaps where someone can poke something in and accidentally get electrocuted. They should be clear of dirt and debris and garbage.

These photos are indicative of a very bad panel. Can you tell why?

DSCF5560
Obvious Rust
DSCF5561
Rusted screws on breaker and Double Taps

Knob and Tube Wiring (State of the Art in electrical wiring Circa 1900)

It is not too uncommon to find working (energized) K&T wiring in a very old house today. When electricity was first deployed residentially the technology was Knob and Tube. They did not have cable like we have today. Today, a cable is a tube or jacket of metal or plastic or rubber like material and inside there are multiple wires and each wire is insulated with its own plastic jacket. Sometimes the, Ground wire isn’t insulated but the Hot and the Neutral wires that make up the circuit are.

Well in the ”olde tyme” days wiring was different and as mentioned earlier, it’s still here in some old houses. Way back when, the electrician installed individual wires and used ceramic knobs and ceramic tubes to attach and route the wires up the walls and through the floor joists for example. You can see this in the photos below.

In fact way, way back when, they used one wire and looped one big circuit. This is like the old Christmas tree light problem. One bulb goes out and the circuit is broken therefore all the lights go out. This too can be seen in the photo below. Note the one wire going into the lit bulb and one wire out. Remove the bulb, or if the bulb pops, and all the lights on that circuit go out!

So what’s the home inspection philosophy about K&T wiring? Well, ideally, if you have K&T wiring that is energized you should remove it. It’s like still having gas lamps in the house to provide light. You wouldn’t, right? But technically, the mere presence of K&T wiring is not a Material (aka Major) Defect if (and it’s a HUGE if) the K&T wiring was never modified or touched electrically. Heck, it has lasted this long. It can last longer. However, if it was touched, modified, tapped into, etc. it must be removed. It’s good advice and good, prudent practice.

In the photos below look for the white, ceramic knobs and the white ceramic tubes and the wires associated with them.

DSCF5125
Notice the one wire in and out of the light as well as the ceramic knobs holding the wires off the wood framework.
DSCF5130
Can you pick out the two wires and the white, ceramic tubes in the wood joist?

Conclusion

There are way too many electrical issues to mention in one article that I have seen in my inspection career. More articles will come but for now, here are a few of the problems that I have seen and thought you might be interested in learning about.

Regal Home Inspections, LLC starts every inspection with the presentation of a folio of information for the client. That folio includes general information but also includes a written introduction to the inspection. I present an initial overview of the main elements detailed in this article; Laws that govern the inspection process, areas that will be inspected and more.

I would appreciate your comments about this article. Please email your comments to frank07722@gmail.com

About the author. I am a NJ Licensed Home Inspector. I am the owner and Inspector at Regal Home Inspections, LLC. In addition to being a New Jersey Licensed Home Inspector I am also a NJ-DEP certified Radon Measurement Technician and Regal Home Inspections, LLC has also collected samples for lead paint, allergens and mold. We are affiliated with the state’s best labs that perform the sample evaluation and testing. We can also help facilitate the testing of septic system and numerous aspects of oil tank evaluations. This includes oil tank integrity testing, tank locate services and soil samples. We work to ensure that the house you’re buying is sound or that you know of any issues.

 

 

Understanding the Home Inspection – Setting Expectations

Understanding the Home Inspection

Setting Expectations

By Frank J. Delle Donne, Licensed Home Inspector

Originally Posted April 30, 2014

Updated June, 2015

For most people, purchasing a house is the largest purchase they have thus far made. Help ensure that you, “Buy with confidence. Sell with pride” ® by using Regal Home Inspections, LLC.

Introduction

In accordance with New Jersey Administrative Code (NJAC) Chapter 40, Subchapter 15, as of May 29, 2003, “No person shall perform or hold oneself out as permitted to perform a home inspection nor represent or call oneself a home inspector unless licensed pursuant to NJAC 13:40-15.5 or 15.6.” 

The aforementioned licensing is well documented in the NJAC and requires a potential home inspector to take approved training from an authorized training service in accordance with the Standard of Practice as detailed by the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) as stated within the NJAC. The candidate is also required to perform forty hours of field work and take a national home inspection test. The candidate must also apply to the state of New Jersey to obtain a home inspection license number. Regal Home Inspections, LLC is licensed with NJ State License number 24GI00125100.

A license may also be obtained if they were in the business prior to May 29, 2003 or if they performed over 200 inspections as an apprentice inspector while working for a licensed inspector.

Starting one’s own inspection business, like Regal Home Inspections, LLC, requires further documentation such as proof of a legal business, Federal Tax information, proof of state regulated minimum insurance (types of coverage and amounts) and other pertinent information must be provided.

Ask your home inspector to provide a copy of their license, proof of insurance, etc. Every inspector must have their state issued license on their person when they are performing a home inspection.

The Inspection

Contrary to popular belief, a NJAC home inspection IS NOT a “to code” inspection. An inspector will not “Determine compliance with codes, regulations and/or ordinances.” according to the NJAC. Please note that this description below is an overview and not intended to cover or address every detail of the NJAC.

The process and procedure of the home inspection is very well documented in the NJAC. New Jersey has these, highlighted requirements (this is not a complete list):

  1. Within 24 hours of setting an appointment (scheduling a date) the inspector must provide the client with a written contract. The contract can be emailed of course but the NJAC cites exactly what the contract must address. A few examples include the date/time of the inspection and the cost. Regal Home Inspections, LLC’s Inspection Agreement is comprehensive and asks for the client’s signature. On a side note, after it is signed, the home inspection company must retain a copy of the signed agreement for five years.
  2. The inspector must provide you with a Home Inspection Report. Click Here For Sample Report Regal Home Inspection, LLC’s reports are very thorough and comprehensive. We use photographs and written text to document our findings. Many photographs are captioned in addition to the detailed explanation. I use arrows and circles to additionally highlight areas of concern or interest in a photograph. One should not rush through the reporting process and quickly hand you a report as they are getting into their car. For every hour I spend on site doing my visual inspection I spend at least another hour preparing the report. Some inspectors simply use a checklist. While technically legal, it does not provide a detailed account of the findings. Some inspectors prepare their inspection report on site. I do not believe that they are providing you with the best service possible. The report is the product you are buying. Insist on a thorough report with a detailed section as well as a Summary Section. At the request of an attorney, early in my inspection career, I was asked to include a Summary Section. This attorney didn’t want to have to read the entire report to find the Material (aka Major) Defects or Safety items. My report contains a Summary Section that re-lists the Material Defects and Safety items that were found during the inspection. The main body of the report has all the detail, photos, maintenance suggestions, serial numbers as well as those important items that are mentioned again, in summary form, in the Summary Section.
  3. The overall inspection and the report must include a description of the Systems and Components inspected as well as a list of any of the specific areas (mentioned below) that were not inspected and why. These are called “Limitations”. For example, during the months of January and February 2014, on many inspections the roofs were completely covered with snow. If inspector’s safety is an issue or due to a condition like complete snow cover, it is accepted that the roof may not be inspected. However, it should be noted in the report as a limitation. As detailed in the NJAC, the Systems and Components to be inspected include:
    1. Structural Components
    2. Exterior
    3. Roofing
    4. Plumbing
    5. Electrical
    6. Heating & Cooling
    7. Interior (doors, windows, walls, etc.)
    8. Insulation and ventilation
    9. Fireplaces, wood stoves, etc.

Recreational elements aren’t listed including spas, swing sets, etc. There are items that are not part of a home inspection, both inside and out. Areas excluded include pools, sheds, etc.

  1. The report should state the significance of the findings. Specifically, were there any “Material Defects” (aka Major Defects) found? And if there were, “Provide recommendation…to repair, replace or monitor a system or component or to obtain examination and analysis by a qualified professional, tradesman… without [the home inspector] determining the methods or costs of corrections”.

This leads us to the core of the discussion and often a bone of contention between inspectors and real estate agents, buyers and sellers. What is a Material Defect? The following definition is an exact quote from the New Jersey Administrative Code Chapter 40, Subchapter 15.

“ ‘Material Defect’ means a condition, or functional aspect, of a structural component or system that is readily ascertainable during a home inspection that substantially affects the value, habitability or safety of the dwelling, but does not include decorative, stylistic, cosmetic, or aesthetic aspects of the system, structure or component.” 

As we read this important definition, what are some of its key elements?

  1. The aspects are limited to the Systems and Components as mentioned in 3) a. – i. above.
  2. They are “readily ascertainable.” Remember, this is a visual (and non-destructive) inspection. The inspector is usually hired by the prospective buyer and the prospective buyer does not yet own the house. The inspector does not cut holes in finished basement walls to see if the foundation behind it is sealed, dry and well insulated. The home inspector IS NOT even required to move furniture or storage boxes if these items are prohibiting the inspector from accessing one of the systems or components. Ascertain means to find out or to learn with certainty. Home inspectors should not guess. So the condition or situation must be easily (readily) learned with certainty (ascertained) during the inspection.
  3. “Substantially affects”. Substantially is defined as, “considerable in quantity, significantly large”. “Affect” is defined as “to produce a material influence upon or alteration in”. Does any matter associated with a system or component have a significantly large influence upon the system or component so that it causes a problem with the value, habitability or safety of the dwelling?

This is where the home inspector should apply their training. Let’s look at an example. A “beam” refers to a main structural, element supported at its end points usually by the foundation wall and mid span by columns. It could be a large piece of wood or a steel I-beam.   A “joist” is a smaller structural member that often rests on top of a beam (perpendicular to the beam) and it is the structural platform for the floor of a house. A beam should never be notched, cut or have any holes in it. A joist, within reason, can have holes and/or notches. A hole or notch in a beam is a material defect. A hole or notch in a joist may, or may not be a material defect. A notched beam affects the habitability of the dwelling. It needs repair. It is not the inspector’s responsibility to say “the beam will break if you dance on the floor above.” or “a strong wind will cause the house to collapse”. A beam should never be notched! This situation needs to be analyzed by an architect or structural engineer and repaired by a qualified technician or tradesman as that expert deems necessary.

Here’s another that causes angst. A typical forced hot air furnace may have a useful life of 10 – 15 years. In this example, the home being inspected has a forced hot air furnace that is 25 years old. The furnace is part of the HVAC system and it is definitely an element of the home that is inspected. Let’s assume the furnace works. It heats the house but it is 10 years past its useful life. The inspector needs to state the facts; A) The furnace is 25 years old.  B) Furnaces typically last 10 – 15 years. C) This furnace is past its expected lifespan. It could stop running any day or it may continue to provide heat for years to come. You can’t tell what may happen during the course of a brief furnace inspection. They should, at least, provide information so the buyer can make an informed decision. The inspector should state the facts and advise the buyer to seek the services of a furnace expert for further analysis. If the buyer (client) wants to negotiate with the seller, prior to closing, for a new furnace that is their option. The age of the furnace may have been part of the seller’s disclosure and a new furnace is already factored into the asking price of the house. That’s not for the inspector to get involved with.

Let’s consider some examples. Those that I think have obvious answers are not answered (like #3 and #5).

  1. A hole in the roof is a material defect.
  2. A furnace that is leaking carbon monoxide gas into the house is a material defect.
  3. Is a closet door that sticks a material defect?
  4. If the pump in the hot tub in the back yard isn’t working, is that a material defect?
  5. Wallpaper is peeling in the kitchen. Is that a material defect? If the cause is a hole in the exterior wall that is allowing moisture to enter the wall it very well may be. If the wall paper is peeling because it wasn’t installed with the proper wall paper glue, it is not.
  6. A kitchen floor tile is cracked. Is this a material defect? If the tile is cracked because someone dropped a hammer on it then no, it is not a material defect. If the tile is cracked because the floor and beam beneath it are falling, then it’s an indication of a material defect elsewhere. You have bigger problems.
  7. A broken electrical outlet above the bathroom sink? Is this a material defect? Does this pose a safety issue for the occupants? Yes, it is a shock hazard.
  8. How about a crack in the sidewalk or a railing that is missing on the front porch? Are either or both of these material defects? They may, or may not be. It depends on the details of the situations and herein hide the challenges for inspectors.

Your inspector shouldn’t be an alarmist. They can point out items that are not material defects in the interest of helping the buyer understand maintenance issues or things that might require maintenance in the near or distant future. They should stay focused on those items that NJAC requires; System and Component Descriptions and Material Defects.

Optional Services

An inspector may provide additional services, but please be aware that some services also require their own licensure or certification and some do not. As an example, NJ Department of Environmental Protection (NJ-DEP) requires certification to set and collect devices for a radon tests.

As of this writing, New Jersey does not require regulated certification or licensing to collect samples for lead paint, allergens, mold or conduct indoor air quality tests. The inspector should be familiar with the sample collection procedures. For all of these the inspector is facilitating the test by collecting the sample(s) and sending it (them) to a licensed laboratory in the state or elsewhere (but licensed by the state) for analysis and reporting. Often times the inspector can help you understand the findings of the report.

Summary

  • The home inspection professional must be licensed and insured in NJ.
  • A contract must be tendered in a timely manner so the client (usually the buyer) and their lawyer have a chance to review the agreement.
  • Inspection is visual, non-destructive.
  • The inspection must produce a written report.
  • The report must include a description of the aforementioned Systems and Components.
  • The report must include an accounting of any Material Defects found, implications of those defects, if not self-evident, and recommendations (bring in an expert, etc.).

Conclusion

Understanding the intended scope of a home inspection is important and it is the responsibility of the home inspector to set those expectations such as the systems and components to be inspected as listed earlier and that this is neither a “to code” inspection nor an inspection for cosmetic blemishes.

Regal Home Inspections, LLC starts every inspection with the presentation of a folio of information for the client. That folio includes general information but also includes a written introduction to the inspection. I present an initial overview of the main elements detailed in this article; Laws that govern the inspection process, areas that will be inspected and more.

I would appreciate your comments about this article. Please email your comments to frank07722@gmail.com or you can call on 908 902 2590.

About the author. I am a NJ Licensed Home Inspector. I am the owner and Inspector at Regal Home Inspections, LLC. In addition to being a New Jersey Licensed Home Inspector I am also a NJ-DEP certified Radon Measurement Technician and Regal Home Inspections, LLC has also collected samples for lead paint, allergens and mold. We are affiliated with the state’s best labs that perform the sample evaluation and testing. We can also help facilitate the testing of septic system and numerous aspects of oil tank evaluations. This includes oil tank integrity testing, tank locate services and soil samples. We work to ensure that the house you’re buying is sound or that you know of any issues.

Customer Comments: Regal Home Inspections

Clients are now also leaving reviews at Google+.  Please visit REVIEWS .

If you are a client, please review our services.   Click Here  and then follow the on-screen instructions.

The reviews here are typical of the results of a home inspection conducted by Frank and Brian of Regal Home Inspections, LLC. These quotes are taken from a popular online service review website.

“We strive to ensure that every client is as happy with our work.” Frank

Thank you for considering Regal Home Inspections, LLC. Sincerely, Frank & Brian

Chris B.

December 2022

I’ve purchased over 10 homes and the Regal team (Frank and Brian) were by far best, most thorough, organized, professional, and responsive inspection team that I have utilized. Every step of the process (proposal for job, scheduling, execution, report-out, etc.) was clear, timely, and well-done. They completed an extremely comprehensive review of the home and had a detailed report with findings and recommendations back to me with 24 hours. I strongly recommend the Regal team for any/all of your inspection needs.

Erin D.

November 2022

I had a wonderful experience working with Frank and Brian. Both were punctual, professional, and extremely thorough. As a first time home owner, I wanted to be selective who I chose to complete my home inspection and I loved that they were familiar with the area. Frank and Brian surpassed my expectations. The report was extremely detailed. Frank and Brian answered all of my questions and were extremely prompt to respond via email/phone. It is evident they take great pride in their work. I would highly recommend them to others!

Michael P.

August 2022

Frank and his son Brian were extremely professional, thorough and helpful home inspectors. They took the time to explain existing problems, as well as pointing out things that could become problems in the future. The inspection report was incredibly helpful in assessing the priorities that we needed to focus on when fixing up our new home. Our experience with them was top notch and I can’t recommend them highly enough!

Michael B.

December, 2021
Frank and his employees were prompt, professional, and extremely thorough. He personally walked me through pretty much every phase of the inspection and was extremely helpful and informative when I had questions / concerns. Would definitely recommend.

Lynn M.

December, 2021
Frank and his son were a pleasure to work with. They always responded quickly to emails, were on time for the inspection and were very detailed in the inspection. This is the 2nd time I’ve had Frank to do an inspection for us and he was wonderful both times! I give them 10 stars!
Frank and his son Brain were very thorough and explained everything to us as they went through the home. They also supplied us was a very detailed report the next day. I would highly recommend them to anyone looking for a home inspector.

 

We are very pleased with our experience with Regal Home Inspection (Frank). Not only was the inspection scheduled promptly, it was extremely thorough and we had the detailed report, with photos, in our in -box the same day. Frank came to us as a recommendation and we will be sure to pass his info along to others. Very positive experience all around!!!

Kyle T

2020
Had a home inspected by them. Frank and Brian did a great job, very detailed, thorough, and responsive.

Sam B.

Feb 2020
Frank and his team were amazing! They did an extremely thorough inspection and were very professional throughout. As a first time home buyer they provided me a great deal of comfort in the decision I was making. I highly recommend Regal Home Inspection, as I would not use anyone else!!

Older – To emphasize the long term commitment of Regal Home Inspections, LLC to the client.

4/2014 “Better than I could have ever imagined. Great communication and feedback. Frank made me feel complete at ease the entire time. Pleasure to work with.” C.J., Elizabeth, NJ

3/17/2014 “I was not able to be present at the time of inspection but he was very trust worthy and I am glad with my decision of going with him. He was very helpful in the process of buying my condo.” D.T.

Radon. What does 4pCi/L mean and why is it important?

Radon

What does 4.0pCi/L represent?

By Frank J. Delle Donne, Licensed Home Inspector

January 16, 2014

About the author.  I am a NJ Licensed Home Inspector.  I am the owner and Senior Inspector at Regal Home Inspections, LLC.  I have been a volunteer Emergency Medical Technician for over 20 years and was  a past member of the Colts Neck, NJ Board of Health and was Chairman of that Board for 2008 and 2009.    During my studies to become a Home Inspector and earning my NJ Certification to be a Radon Measurement Technician I learned a great deal about Radon and felt compelled to share that information in a manner that is easy to understand and increases awareness.  Every home in New Jersey should be tested for Radon on a regular basis.  Regal Home Inspections, LLC is having a New Year 2014 SPECIAL on Radon testing.  These discounted prices are good through February 28, 2014.  Please call now to schedule your Radon test.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been leading the effort to make citizens aware of radon and closer to home, the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (NJ-DEP) has been following suit.  Please read our earlier post for general information about radon.   This piece is intended to explain the measured results; When is it an issue and when is it not?

Background

A few points that I’d like to repeat from the earlier article is that radon is everywhere and it is naturally occurring.  It is a radioactive gas which means that it transforms spontaneously and in that transformation it releases tiny bursts of energy.  It is these tiny bursts of energy that cause harm.

Radon, like other radioactive materials, are measured in pCi/L.  This stands for pico Curies per liter of air.  A “pico Curie” is one-trillionths of a Curie.  A Curie is equivalent to 37 Billion radioactive disintegrations per second.  Therefore one pico-Curie works out to 2.2 radioactive disintegrations per minute (dpm) in a liter of air.  A “Curie” is of course named after Marie Curie who lived in the late 1800s to the 1930s.

Action Level

The EPA (and NJ-DEP) refers to 4.0pCi/L as measured over a minimum of 48 hours as the Action Level for radon mitigation.  This applies uniformly to real estate transactions and for the self motivated homeowner who tests for radon, they too should mitigate at this, measured level.

As mentioned in the previous article, the radioactive disintegrations take on three different forms.  There is Alpha radiation, Beta radiation and Gamma radiation.  The result of a, “disintegration” is a new element (Polonium, Lead, Bismuth or Radon) but the process that the atoms change also releases energy in Alpha, Beta or Gamma form.

At 2.22 dpm per pico Curie at 4pCi/L (assuming each one of your lungs holds a liter of air) that’s 16.88 (8.44 per lung) radioactive disintegrations that are occurring inside your lungs!  While these releases of energy are extremely tiny, they have the potential to damage cells and DNA.  This can lead to the events that begin the formation of mutant or cancerous cells.

So is 3.5pCi/L that much better?  Not really but for the real estate transaction, a radon test measurement that reads 4.0pCi/L will result in a letter from the buyer’s attorney to the seller/seller’s attorney stating that the seller must mitigate the radon and provide new test results that show the level is, post mitigation, less than 4.0pCi/L.

At or above 4.0pCi/L and a letter is coming.  A reading of just below 4.0pCi/L may ask for a second test where the two tests might be averaged.  Rest assured that at or above 4.0pCi/L and the seller will be calling a radon mitigation company.

Mitigation

Radon mitigation comprises of a system, usually a vent, that will reduce the measured radon inside at the lowest, “livable” area.

A very common type of mitigation system is a sub soil depressurization system.  In this method, a pipe is placed below the concrete basement floor.  That pipe (usually a 4” PVC pipe) is routed to the outdoor and a fan is placed to draw the air (and radon) from below the basement floor and vent it to the outdoors before it enters the house.  With this system the basement floor has to be sealed which means that sump pits are sealed and French drains are sealed.   Also, any cracks or other basement floor penetrations must also be sealed for the sub soil depressurization system to be most effective.

radon-mitigation-system-3
The white pipe is the radon mitigation system pulling air and radon from below the basement floor, up and outside before the radon gas enters the house. The area of the vent system that bulges out is a fan. The fan runs constantly.

The cost for such a system can be as low as $1500 but based upon many factors could be higher.   After the system is installed and activated, it should be left operation AT ALL TIMES.  It should be operating for at least 12 hours to allow “Dynamic Equilibrium” to occur.  This is a fancy way for saying that the positive effects of the new mitigation system should be set in place after 12 hours.  After this period of time a post-mitigation test must be done to ensure that the mitigation steps were successful.  In some cases secondary or tertiary mitigation steps must be taken to achieve a reading below 4.0pCi/l.  If for example your initial test reading was 8.0pCi/l and the first mitigation effort reduced the radon by 25%, Post-Mitigation test #1 may indicate a 25% drop but that’s still 6.0pCi/L.  A second mitigation system may have to be added which may reduce the radon by another 25%.  6.0pCi/L less 25% is only a 1.5pCi/L reduction so you STILL may be above 4.0pCi/L.  A third mitigation system may be necessary to finally get you below 4.0pCi/L.

Conclusion

Radon is a serious health issue but it can be minimized.  Likely, it cannot be eliminated.  It’s naturally occurring and exists in nature.  It’s not man-made nor can we stop it from existing.  We can, however, minimize its pathways into our homes and help ensure a healthy and safe environment.

Please call today to schedule your  radon test for your family.  Discounted prices are valid for tests started by February 28, 2014.  Please mention, “Radon Discount” when you call.  Also, if you need radon consultation, Regal Home Inspections, LLC can help guide you through the testing and mitigation process.

I would appreciate your comments about this article.  Please email your comments to frank07722@gmail.com .

Pre-Listing or Seller’s Inspection

Pre-Listing or Seller’s Inspection.

Why is it the right thing to do?

By Frank J. Delle Donne, Licensed Home Inspector

January 9, 2014

About the author.  Frank J. Delle Donne is a NJ Licensed Home Inspector, owner and Senior Inspector at Regal Home Inspections, LLC.  and a member of the New Jersey Association of Licensed Professional Home Inspectors (NJ-ALPHI) & the National Association of Certified Home Inspectors (NACHI).  Frank graduated from Pace University in New York City and he is a 30+ year veteran of the telecommunications industry.  Frank founded Regal Home Inspections, LLC and is building it into the most professional, comprehensive and thorough inspection company in New Jersey leveraging his technical skills as well as his professional sales skills learned during over 3 decades of industrial sales.    Regal Home Inspections, LLC can also test your house for radon having exceeded the NJ requirements to obtain a Radon Measurement Technician certification.  Indoor Air Quality, Mold and Allergens are also tests we can provide for real estate transactions or for the self motivated, concerned homeowner.  We can also facilitate testing of septic systems and oil tanks; tank integrity and soil tests below ground.

Introduction – Preparing to List Your Home

Most homeowners like their homes.  They’ve probably lived in it for a number of years and, for whatever reason, are compelled to sell.  Perhaps it’s to downsize or upgrade.  Perhaps to relocate to a new area, move to a better school district, move back home or away from the in-laws.  Whatever the reason, you have decided to sell your house.  So what’s next?  You contact a Realtor® or a number of agents.  You compare recent sales in your area or, “comps”.  You think about an asking price and perhaps a minimum price and think, “I won’t go below this price or that.”.  You consider the balance on your mortgage, interest rates for a new mortgage and how much new home you can afford to buy.  Your new commute, your new local taxes, and you should consider the condition of your house.  There are lots of things, right?

Perhaps the last point is one that you should give some extra consideration to.  Why?  We all know that it’s the buyer’s market.  A qualified buyer with a no-contingency purchase, good credit and ready to move in is what every seller is looking for and for that purchaser, there are probably numerous options for them in your area, in that school district, with an easier commute, etc.

So how do you attract the buyer to your house?  Well, you could drop the price or initially set the price so low it sells in days.  In my opinion, if you see a house that has a contract for sale within a few days of its listing the price was probably set too low.

Sprucing Up Your Home – Curb Appeal and Neutral Colors

I am no strange to these real estate sales TV shows.  Whether it’s someone flipping a house or a team of experts showing someone how to prepare their home for sale, like them or not, they have a point.  Homes with great curb appeal and those that present well inside will sell faster than a house that looks like it needs significant repairs and improvements.

I don’t think anyone disagrees that a new coat of paint in the rooms and halls, steam cleaning the rugs, lighting a few scented candles or baking a batch of chocolate chip cookies or an apple pie during the open house will help present the house well.  Good work.  Your plan to appeal to the senses seems to have worked.  You get a contract and it goes into and out of attorney review and then the buyer schedules a home inspection.   This is when the items in disrepair and other issues come to the surface quickly surpassing the positive benefit of the coats of paint and aroma of the pies and cookies.  And you start thinking, is the deal going to go south?

Solution

While there are no guarantees in life except death and taxes, you can help minimize the potential for a last minute deal crash by having Regal Home Inspections, LLC perform a Pre-Listing or Seller’s Inspection.   As you may have read in some of the other articles I have written, there are numerous problems that I find that a homeowner isn’t even aware that I will be looking for.  The step on your front porch that measures 9 inches high, the downspout that dumps all the rain water off your roof next to your basement wall then the water enters your basement!  Or the simple electrical outlet problem that becomes a highlighted safety item in my or any inspector’s report.  Even something as simple as having (or not) the service records for your heating system and central air conditioner could result in price negotiations with the buyer at the last minute.  This is particularly important if those appliances are more than 10 – 15 years old.

The solution is to get a Pre-Listing or Seller’s Inspection.  Share that information with prospective buyers.  Perhaps correct as many as possible.  Show the buyer that you are diligent and thorough too.  You can, “Sell with Pride” and you can help them, “Buy with Confidence” as we say here at Regal Home Inspections, LLC.

Even if you don’t lift a finger to correct any of the items a Pre Listing or Seller’s Inspection may identify, you can at least use that information in your Seller’s Disclosure and state that the asking price has been set with these inspection items in mind.  Then when the buyer’s inspector finds the same issues, they are not a surprise to you or the buyer.

As we all know, if you get a buyer to agree to $X for your home and then the Inspector finds numerous safety and major defect items (items that a Pre-Listing or Seller’s Inspection would have found) the buyer is going to demand a reduction in price to fix those items.   You will either lose the sale or reduce the price.  This price concession can be for the water heater that’s perfectly fine but it’s 12 years old or the 100 am circuit breaker panel that many consider inferior for today’s living.

Summary

If the cost of a Pre Listing or Seller’s Inspection is $350 but it saves you $10,000 in last minute price concessions is it worth it?  If the inspection costs $450 but it saves you $5000 in last minute negotiations with the buyer or having to hire a plumber or electrician at premium wages to fix a problem  at the last minute to save the deal, is the $450 worth it?

Of course the Pre Listing or Seller’s Inspection is worth the cost.

I would appreciate your comments about this article.  Please email your comments to frank07722@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

Plumbing – Part 1 – What Makes up a House’s Plumbing System?

Plumbing:

Part 1 in a Multi Part Series.

By Frank J. Delle Donne, Licensed Home Inspector

January 6, 2014

 About the author.  I am a NJ Licensed Home Inspector.  I am the owner and Senior Inspector at Regal Home Inspections, LLC.  I am a member of the New Jersey Association of Licensed Professional Home Inspectors (NJ-ALPHI) and the National Association of Certified Home Inspectors (NACHI).  The standards used to inspect your home’s systems are in accordance with New Jersey State laws, the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) and NACHI Standards of Practice.  Regal Home Inspections, LLC can also test your house for Indoor Air Quality; Mold and Allergens.  Radon contamination is a big issue with homes in New Jersey.  Many parts of Monmouth County and areas around it are considered “High Radon Potential” by the NJ DEP. We are certified by the NJ DEP to perform Radon Testing.

We can also facilitate testing of septic systems and oil tanks; tank integrity and soil tests below ground.

 

Never perform plumbing work yourself unless you are a licensed plumber.  Nothing in this article suggests that you should attempt to make any repairs yourself.  Any attempt to make plumbing repairs or upgrades can result in significant water damage.  ALWAYS hire a licensed plumber to perform any work.   Poorly performed plumbing work can lead to water damage, ongoing leaks and other, related issues.

Introduction

The plumbing system in a standard home inspection is extensive.  There are many aspects to a house’s plumbing systems, not just the pipes that carry water to the faucets and other appliances that use water.  The typical plumbing system in a home includes the pipes carrying cold and hot water but, not including the water heater as a separate plumbing element there are actually three (3) sets of piping in your home that are included in the plumbing inspection.

Before I get into a conversation about the plumbing systems let me point out that often times the vast majority of the plumbing systems are hidden behind finished walls, under floors and above finished ceilings.  Therefore we can actually see a very small portion of the plumbing and to the best extent possible, we make observations and come to conclusions about the entire system based upon what we can see.  In homes with extensively finished basements the amount of plumbing that is visible may be very, very little.

Plumbing Systems

In very general terms the, “plumbing” in a house consists of at least three sets of pipe, the water service entrance and water meter with its main shut off valve(s) and the water heater(s).  The appliances (sinks, toilets, tubs and showers) are also part of the plumbing system so overall the plumbing system in a house is extensive. And to make matters worse, if any one element has a defect which results in a drip, for example, you could have serious problems.  So let’s take a look at the components that comprise the plumbing in a house.

1) Supply Piping.  In a relatively modern home this is the copper piping.  The copper piping is usually ¾ or ½ inch in diameter.  It starts at the water meter (or pressure tank for a private well house) and carries the water to the isolation valves just before the appliance.  An example of an isolation valve is the valve behind the toilet bowl or under the sink.  In the case of the bowl, as you know, there is one valve as the toilet is served by cold water.  Under your sinks there is, of course, a hot and a cold isolation valve.  The copper pipes may also carry water to a hose bib that provides a convenient water valve outside your home.  These may, or may not have an isolation valve.

The supply piping is unique for a number of reasons but it is the only system that is under pressure.  Typical household water pressure is between 40psi and 60psi.  If your pressure is too low you will not get good water flow.  If it is too high, (at or above 80psi) you may have the potential to burst pipes, valves, gaskets and the like.  If you are concerned about your water pressure being too low, perform the following, simple test.  This may be an indication that your supply piping is in need of maintenance or replacement.

  1. Go to the highest bathroom in your house.  Usually it will be a full bath on the second floor.  If you have a ranch then any full bathroom will do.
  2. Turn on the sink valves and the tub and/or shower.  They should all be fully opened and running.
  3. Then, flush the toilet.  Watch the flow of water from the sink and tub/shower.  If the flow rates at the sink and tub/shower do not diminish, then you have adequate household pressure to operate your plumbing fixtures.  If they all slow down when you flush the bowl, you likely do not have adequate flow.

For a home built in 2014, the supply piping may not be made of metal.  There are a number of plastics used in current construction.  In homes built in the early 1900s and up to about 1940 you might actually find lead in the residential piping.  This should be replaced.   Galvanized steel was also used up to about the 1950s.  Galvanized steel rusts from the inside out and it is prone to becoming clogged inside the pipe from the rust build up.  Also, with this inside-out rusting the thinner areas where the pipe is threaded is  prone to leaking.   Brass may have been used in homes built in the early 1900s as well.

Copper has been in use since the middle 1900s.  It is durable, resistant to corrosion unlike the galvanized steel, and it’s relatively easy to work with. In summary, depending on the age of the home you may find different supply pipe materials, some of which should (must) be replaced.

2) Waste Piping.  The waste piping carries all the waste water and solids from the sink drains, washing machines and toilet bowls outside the house to the sewer system or to a private, septic system.  Modern waste piping is made of economical and easy to install PVC or a similar plastic material.  This is either white or the other forms of plastic piping may be black.  If it is visible, perhaps from an unfinished basement, you will see a series of feeder pipes running vertically into larger horizontal pipes and eventually the larger pipes will exit through the foundation wall in either a basement or perhaps in a crawl space.  This waste piping is not pressurized and for those sections that are not vertical, the slope should be relatively mild; about ¼ inch of slope per foot of horizontal pipe.

In older homes the waste piping may be cast iron.  Much heavier than modern materials and more difficult to handle and install.  There are all manners of interconnection devices so if a home improvement is being done you can remove sections of cast iron and replace it with PVC and they will interconnect very reliably.

3) Vent Piping.  Vent piping is the series of pipes that run (mainly) vertically and allows the waste water to flow properly.  To explain how the vent piping works and why it’s important think for a minute about a soda bottle.  If it’s full and you hold it upside down and then remove the cap the soda will gulp, gulp out and not evenly flow.  If you then poke a hole in the upper part of the inverted bottle the soda will pour out because the hole allows air to enter behind the soda.  The vent piping performs the same basic function as poking a hole in the soda bottle.  The vents allow air to follow the water as the water exits the house.  Without the vent piping the waste water would gulp, gulp, gulp its way out of your home.

The tops of the vent piping can usually be seen along the rear roof line of the home.  The vents penetrate the roof and allows air to flow behind the water.

These plumbing vents should NEVER terminate inside the attic or any living area.  Sewage gasses pass up through the vents and you do not want these gasses getting into the attic or any other living are of the house.  Vents should also not terminate near windows as the gasses could flow back into the house through the open window.  The gas needs to dilute quickly with the outside air and become benign.

So those are the three types of piping; Supply, waste and vent.

The entire plumbing system also consists of the water heater and the fixtures or appliances (sinks, bowls, etc.) that are connected to the supply and waste piping.

Water Heaters

Most water heaters are of the storage tank variety.  A few years ago instant-hot water heaters became popular and only made hot water when it was needed.  Personally, I believe the “instant” hot water is a slight misrepresentation.  The “instant” hot water maker begins to generate hot water as soon as a hot water valve is turned on but it could take a few minutes for the hot water to actually get to the faucet where the person is.  I don’t think that’s instantaneous as the name implies.

True, a tank hot water heater will maintain the desired hot water temperature in the tank whether the hot water is needed or not so this is somewhat inefficient.  The system I have is ideal in my opinion.  True, it is not as energy efficient as the “instant” water heater but in my case energy efficiency is not my primary concern.  And to tell you the truth, the simple convenience of being able to step into the shower 10 seconds after I turn on the water is also, not my primary objective.  In my house our water comes from a private well and the waste goes into a private septic.  If I didn’t have the system I have over the course of 1 year I would have pulled thousands of extra gallons of water from my well and dumped thousands of extra gallons of perfectly clean water down the septic system.  My primary goals are to be as efficient as possible with my water consumption and with my water disposal.  Conservatively I calculate that I have saved well over 12,000 gallons of water in the 6 years that I have had my hot water circulating system.  That’s 12,000+ fewer gallons pumped from the well and 12,000+ fewer gallons unnecessarily  poured into the septic.

A tank water heater with a re-circulating pump and a parallel hot water line is the best system for my needs.  I constantly have hot water circulating though my hot water pipes.  When none of the hot water valves is open the system is closed but constantly circulating hot water.  In the case of the master bath shower, 110 degree water is about 8 feet away from the shower head.  It’s like having a dedicated water heater a few feet away from every hot water valve.  In contrast, if I didn’t have the re-circulating pump the hot water from the tank would have to travel over 80 feet from the tank to the shower head.

So in this case, I am saving many gallons of water every day.  Yes it is costing me a little more in energy (natural gas) to keep the water hot but for my application, the system I have is what I need.

If you are interested in a hot water circulating pump for your house call Regal Home Inspections, LLC or email and I’ll put you in touch with the local plumber that installed mine.

When inspecting a home I look for a number of things associated with the water heater.  Not all are mentioned here but on an inspection the heater is thoroughly checked.   Let’s start with the make and serial number and capacity of the tank.  The first two data points will help indicate the year of manufacture.  If the heater is very old the buyer will be informed that the water heater may be nearing the end of its useful service life.

Where the pipes enter the tank on the top surface there is usually stamped into the metal the words, “Hot” and “Cold”.  Let’s make sure the heater is installed correctly!

The water heater may be electric but if it’s natural gas or oil I will check some other things including the exhaust vent piping and the burner area.

Of course I am looking for rust on the tank and indications that it may be leaking.   These are a few of the things that I look for on the water heating appliance within the overall household plumbing system.

Finally there are the appliances that use water that are considered part of the plumbing system.  The sinks, toilets, tubs, showers, clothes washing machine and dishwasher are parts of the plumbing system too.  Details on what I am looking for on these appliances will be covered in a future article.

If you are planning to sell your home, give Regal Home Inspections a call and hire us to perform a pre-listing inspection.  Here’s the logic.  If you allow Regal Home Inspections to perform an inspection before you list you can take care of some of the things up front.  You can use the inspection findings to make a list for the seller’s disclosure. More importantly, you can set the price with this knowledge.  Think about it…if you ignore the issues now, then when it comes time to execute the contract, the buyer’s home inspector will find these problems.  Then you are either negotiating away premium dollars to appease the buyer or you’re hiring an electrician (or a plumber, etc.) at the last minute to make corrections and that will cost you top dollar as well.  Deal with the issues you can and disclose the other issues.  That’s why at Regal Home Inspections we say, “Buy with confidence.  Sell with Pride.”

I would appreciate your comments about this article.  Please email your comments to frank07722@gmail.com