Inspecting Older Homes (100+ years old)

What to expect when inspecting an old* home.

*We’re am defining, “old” as 100 year old and older.

February 1, 2023

The white, left side of this home was built in the 1800s. The right-side (Stone wall section) dates back to 1740.

By Brian S. Delle Donne & Frank J. Delle Donne

This is Regal Home Inspections’ 10th year in operation. Over these years we’ve inspected new homes and many homes built in the 1900s. We’ve also had the challenge of inspecting homes built in the 1800s and even a handful built in the 1700s.  The first old home I inspected was on Queen Rd. in Stockton, NJ. It was inspected on January 5, 2015. There were two sections in the home. The, “newer” section was built in the 1800s. The original home was built in 1740. Can you imagine, that’s 36 years BEFORE the signing of the Declaration of Independence!!!  In 2019 we inspected a house in Middletown, NJ that was built circa 1765. We’ve seen some pretty interesting things. For example, since the beams and timber used to build the house were made from trees cut down on the property or nearby, you can still see the chisel marks from the people that shaped the wood over 200 years earlier. In 2 houses that we’ve inspected, and clearly visible in the attic, the roof rafters had Roman numerals chiseled into them. So the two raters that meet at the ridge of the house each have the Roman numerals I, II, III, IV, etc. My prediction is, and I’m very confident that this is correct, because they used mortise and tenon construction, those rafters were shaped on the ground and then like puzzle pieces, carried or lifted to the roof area and constructed. I goes with I. IV matches to IV, etc.  Pretty neat I think.

But what inspired me to write this piece today was an inspection that Brian and I did this past weekend. Literally, within the past 11 days we inspected 2 houses built in 1910. One in Matawan and one in Wall Township. We also inspected a house built in 1927 in Carteret over the past week.  If you’re thinking about purchasing an old house, be sure to have it inspected. This applies for newer homes as well but NEVER waive your inspection on an older home.  This blog points out a few findings that are often seen in older homes and as a buyer, you must be aware of going into the deal.  Now I know the saying is that the 3 most important things in a home purchase are location, location and location, but the older the home the bigger the potential for it to be a money pit. If you have the tolerance for that going in and you have the money for some things you may not have considered then great, go for it. But if you’re extending yourself a little further than you’d like and may not have a large amount of cash to reverse some of the issues that may exist, be aware, get an inspection from a reputable company and one that’s familiar with these things.

  • In older homes (200+ YO) if you’re lucky the foundation exists and maybe it’s stones. Stones that were sourced from the area and used to build the foundation. Sometimes the issue isn’t the stones themselves but the mortar that holds them together. In older homes (Even those built up to the early 1900s), the mortar that holds the stones (And brick in 100 YO homes) turns to sand. Think of the mortar as the glue that holds the stones, brick or more modern concrete blocks together. If the mortar loses its adhesive properties, the stones or brick will become loose. This can cause the foundation walls to move and often bow inward due to the pressure from the dirt outside.
    200+ year old stone foundation. Middletown, NJ.
    200+ year old stone foundation. Middletown, NJ.

     

  • The structure also includes the wood; Beams and joists are what are visible in the basement. Rafters are seen in the attic. Beams and joists may be held together with mortise and tenon joints. This is where they cut a tab into the end of the joist and a corresponding hole in the beam. The tab is set into the hole. But as the house ages and may shift, the mortise and tenon joints may separate. With respect to the wood, beams will sag over the decades and cause floors above to not be level. This is very common. Also, 100+ year old wood may have been infested with powder post beetle larvae. These insects hatch and bore small holes in the wood. The way I describe the powder post beetle damage to people is as follows: You know how good wood has fibers in it. The fibers help give the wood strength. Power post beetles change the structure of the wood so it has a composition kind-of similar to chalk. When you break a piece of chalk it just snaps.  The powder post beetle damaged wood may not snap but the intended structure of the wood no longer exists.
This joist is splitting at the tenon. The tenon creates a weak part in the joist. Similar cracks seen in a few of the other photos.
The tenon is pulling away from the mortise that was cut in the beam to support the joist.
This appears to be a stud that goes vertically, up above the floor above. There’s a mortise and tenon as well as a peg that holds the stud in place instead of nails.
Cracks in the wood at the tenon.
Poorly supported mortise and tenon connection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Powder post beetle exit holes can be seen here. The holes are about the size of a pin head.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tree trunks being used as structure in a home. A column seen here.
An original, circa 1765, joist seen here. The tree trunk joist has since been reenforced with modern joists. The tree trunk column in the previous photo still stands strong.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a view of the joists above the 1st floor of the house in the cover photo. From the 1740 section. It’s not an optical illusion. The joists are sagging.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here and the next photo, chisel marks can be seen in joists in the 1740 home. Can you picture the men chiseling the wood into shape to use to build this house? I can.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can you see the Roman numerals cut into these 2 pieces of wood? This is from an exposed wall in a building in Holmdel, NJ. I also saw similar markings on roof rafters in a very old home in Keyport, NJ. Maybe the same builder?

 

  • Electrical and Lighting. This is a big thing in older homes. 125+ years ago houses may have been illuminated with gas lamps. Pipes were installed in the walls and throughout the house the pipes came out of the wall with a little valve and one could literally light an open gas flame to provide illumination at night. Not a big deal now because they aren’t used but I find it interesting enough to mention.

The real issue with the older home is the wiring circa 1930s called Knob and Tube (KnT). This was found in the house inspected this past weekend. Built 1910 and wired with KnT in that era. This may have been the first house in the neighborhood with electric lighting. Pretty impressive for 1910 but today, insurance companies frown upon KnT. We advise buyers that it must all be removed by a licensed electrician. Obtaining homeowner’s insurance with reasonable premiums may be difficult. As I tell people, insurance companies don’t like risk or you’ll pay for the risky lifestyle; Smokers, parachute jumpers, waterfront/oceanfront properties, etc. Reduce risk and you can reduce costs.

Examples of Knob and Tube wiring seen here and the next photo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Hazardous materials. Also seen on the 1910 built house this past weekend was asbestos. A known carcinogen. Not only was residual asbestos seen on the steam boiler pipes, small pieces of asbestos (Like duct) were on just about every flat surface in the basement’s utility area. Luckily I carry facemasks (Covid) so I put one on and continued. However, from a home purchase perspective, I’m not sure how expensive it will be to remove all of the asbestos but we all know, “It ain’t (sic) going to the cheap!”
  • Not seen at this past weekend’s house but seen on many others is galvanized steel pipe. Galvanized steel is known for corroding from the inside. It often looks OK from the outside but inside it corrodes and as the rust builds up it reduces the diameter inside the pipe. Flow is restricted. It’s often seen on the water supply pipes as well as drain pipes. If the service pipe from the street is visible and it’s galvanized steel, replacement is a requirement for buyers. Which party pays (Buyers or sellers) is not up to the inspection company to decide but from an inspection perspective…replace it.

These are but a few of the things that we’re highly aware of in older homes.  If you’re considering buying an old home, Regal Home Inspections, LLC is a great option for you. With our formal training and experience with 4 centuries of homes inspected, we’ll provide you with a thorough inspection and comprehensive and informative report.

You can reach either Brian or Frank to ask questions and schedule an inspection.

Brian – 732-740-8365

Frank – 908 902 2590

Can Radon Levels Fluctuate Inside a House?

January 15, 2023

As part of a home inspection done on a home in Red Bank, Regal Home Inspections, LLC performed a radon test. This occurred about 4 years ago. Following the protocols for the placement of the radon test the test was conducted over a 2, 3 or 4 day period. I don’t recall the exact interval but I know, 100%, that it was done following the testing requirements. Those requirements have a minimum exposure time of 48 hours and as many as 144 hours (The equivalent of 6 full days). The test came back below the NJ DEP’s, “Action level” of 4.0 pico Curries per liter of air (pCI/L) so there was no further action that needed to be taken. Case closed.  A couple of years later I received a call from the young lady that hired us for the Red Bank inspection and radon test because they had decided to sell that home and when the new buyer did their radon test it came back ABOVE 4.0. She asked can that happen and I said, “Yes” it’s possible.

In 2022, we did another home inspection including a radon test and this time, the test we did in association with the home inspection came back ABOVE 4.0pCi/L. The seller disagreed, hired someone else to do a test and the second test came back below 4.0.  The seller complained but didn’t understand that radon levels can change. She complained that I had done something that made the test come back high.  In my response I stated that, “It’s not like I carry a spray can of radon with me!”  Additionally, I called one of the labs we’re affiliated with to ask a lab specialist if it’s possible for someone to fake a high result. His response was basically if the radon canister was opened, placed upside down on the basement’s concrete floor over a crack in the floor it’s nearly impossible to fake a high reading.  Now please remember that A) Radon is one of the elements on the Periodic Table of the Elements. Just as is Oxygen, Helium, Iron, Gold, Uranium, etc. B) It’s a radioactive element so unless one wants to expose themselves to Alpha radiation, Beta radiation or Gamma radiation, it’s not a good idea to mess around with this stuff.  It’s not like I can sprinkle some radon pixie dust on the test device to fake a high reading. C) The test device has to be placed following recognized protocols which we ALWAYS do.

Those are two anecdotes that give a little background.  For over 31 years my family and I have lived in an area identified by the NJ DEP as a Tier 1 or “High radon potential” area.  During the 10 years or so that I’ve been a home inspector and certified to conduct radon testing I’ve tested my home (In the basement) about 5 times. The results have always been between 2.4 and 2.7pCI/L. Late, last winter (2022) I purchased an active radon monitor. It hangs on the wall like a thermostat. It has an app to by smartphone and constantly measured for radon. Here’s an actual photo of the monitor. It’s manufactu-

AirThings Monitor in my basement.
Screenshot of the app on my phone on 1/15/2023.

red by a company called AirThings and I urge everyone to have one in your home. Their website is…  Airthings | The world’s leading radon and indoor air quality monitors Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer for non-smokers and 2nd only to cigarettes in causing lung cancer. Estimates are that 21,000 people die each year from radon caused lung cancer.

Again, the AirThings monitor was installed in the late winter of 2022. Everything looked good and the monitor read, as I was expecting, in the 2.5pCi/L range. Then Spring arrived. What do many of us do when spring arrives and the outside temperature rises to the mid 60s or 70s? We open all the windows as we did.  About 2 days later the AirThings app on my phone issued an alarm of sorts. MUCH to my surprise, it notified me that the radon level in my basement rose above 4.0!!!  The radon training requires that the test be done while maintaining, “Closed House Conditions.”  That means no open windows, refrain from using the fireplace, etc. Why, because as I experienced 1st hand, opening the windows and airing out the house can cause negative pressure inside the house. Naturally the house wants to equalize the pressure which, in my case, led to drawing radon into the basement.

To rectify the situation, I opened a couple of windows in my basement. Just a crack, mind you, but enough to get some fresh air in. That seemed to do the trick. The average radon level dropped to below 2.0 and often close to 1.0pCi/L.

Then…I turned on a portable heater in my basement. There is some heat from the forced hot air heating system but I was working on a project and painting some cabinet doors that had been removed and placed on a couple of tables in the basement. With the intention of increasing the temperature of the basement to aid in the paint drying a little quicker, I turned on a portable, electric heater and closed the windows.  It did the job I wanted it to do and the basement was nice and warm. However, warm air rises. I believe what happened is that as the warm air rose from the basement it, again, created negative pressure inside the basement. The way the house equalized the pressure was to draw air into the basement from the perimeter drain, etc. That caused the radon to spike to 3.0pCi/L. My project is done. The heater is off and the window is open again and the radon levels are going down.

So, what are the key take aways from this story?

  • Radon levels change. Do not ASSUME that if it tests low once that it will always be low.
  • Test regularly if that’s possible.
  • And test at different times of the year. Since your home’s conditions may change seasonally, test seasonally until you get a good indication how the radon potential changes year-round.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss your specific situation, please call either Brian or Frank at Regal Home Inspections, LLC. We’re both licensed by the NJ DEP to test for radon.  Regal Home Inspections, LLC is licensed to test for radon in single family homes, townhouses, duplex homes, single unit condominiums. Frank is also licensed to perform radon testing in commercial buildings, large and small and schools including preschools and child care centers. Commercial buildings, large and small and schools including preschools and child care centers require a great deal of pre-testing analysis, coordination and fact finding and then strict adherence to the rules set forth by the American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists (AARST).

Call – Brian @ 732 740 8365 or Frank @ 908 902 2590.

Evolution of Residential Lighting

Regal Home Inspections, LLC recently did an inspection in Matawan, NJ.  The house was over 100 years old and it’s a time capsule for the evolution of residential illumination (Lighting).  In this home were at least 3 distinct technologies seen.  Assuming that they never used candles, the original illumination in the house was gas lights. Pipes were installed that delivered gas to the wall fixture. An open flame illuminated the area. There’s a movie, Gas Light where someone uses a gas light to try to convince another that they’re crazy. The phrase was popularized in 2022 making, “Gaslight” one of the words of the year.

An old gas light fixture. Estimate to be Pre-1920s.

 

This was in the attic of this Matawan house.  Also in the house was Knob & Tube wiring.

Knob and Tube wiring being tested with a voltage detector. The circuit was energized.

The next iteration of residential wiring was knob and tube. Knob and Tube (KnT) wiring was the state-of-the-art around the 1920’s and 1930’s. We’ve found a lot of knob and tube wiring during the nearly 4000 inspections over the years.  In addition to KnT being old, insurance companies don’t like the added risk that it causes. KnT circuits are usually ungrounded. There is no ground wire. That wasn’t much of an issue in the 1930s but 21st century electronics (Computers, modern TVs, etc.) all must be grounded.

KnT circuits have, knobs (Seen in all three photos starting with the one immediately to the left and the two following). The knobs are ceramic and secure the individual wires.

The tubes are also ceramic and are used when the wires have to be installed through wood joists or rafters. If you’re considering buying a home built in the 1940s and earlier, MAKE SURE to have an inspection and use an inspector, like Regal Home Inspections, LLC, that knows what to look for in determining if KnT is or may be present.  If KnT is present, a licensed electrician must evaluate and replace all KnT wiring.

KnT was also seen in the attic. Modern electrical cable has the hot wire, neutral wire and ground inside one jacket (aka casing). KnT, as seen here, has two separate conductors.
KnT is often buried in insulation which is also bad.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Circa the 1940s & 50s, cloth sheathed cables and conductors were used. The wire, in many cases, was tinned-copper. That is a solid copper conductor with a very thin, tin coating.  There’s still a lot of this type & era cable in service. Except for the fact that the insulating materials on the wires can become brittle and break, it’s not an issue like KnT and the aluminum (Next topic).  If there are indications of the insulating materials deteriorating, a licensed electrician must evaluate and repair.

Around the early 1960s more common Non Metallic (NM) cables were used. Key among this era of cables is that all** the conductors were copper. These are still available and the predominant type of electrical cables used. One brand name is ROMEX and the entire category of NM cables are often generically referred to as, “Romex”.  We also see some metal, armor jacketed cables commonly called, “BX”.  BX is still available today and commonly used. Some jurisdictions, such as New York City/Manhattan, still requires BX or metal, armor jacketed cables today.  The NM and BX cables described in this paragraph are STILL the state of the art.  **However, there was a brief period when The Great Garden State allowed solid aluminum conductors in NM cables. From what I’ve been told, toward the end of the Vietnam War some jurisdictions (Including NJ) allowed solid conductor aluminum to be used. From about 1967 through about 1974 it was an option for builders and electricians. My home, built in 1972, had nearly all solid conductor aluminum wire when we moved into it in 1991. If you’re planning to purchase a home build 1967 – 1974, make sure to select an inspector that is aware of the use of aluminum in that era. For a few reasons, aluminum was known to cause fires. Insurance companies don’t like it and it’s expensive to replace.  A technique called, “Pig-tailing” is often used to mitigate the issues with aluminum.  For my home, I decided to replace it all with solid copper, BX cable which is superior to the electrical code for NJ. There is a little, modern, copper, NM cable but the vast majority is copper conductor, BX.

P Traps and S Traps. What Letter is Your Sink Trap?

Plumbing – What Letter is Your Sink Trap?

By Frank J. Delle Donne, Licensed Home Inspector

October 24, 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.

Introduction: P Traps And S Traps In Plumbing

Inspectors are required to look high and low at the obvious and the subtle. In NJ, we are required to follow the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) Standard of Practice. Within the plumbing section, we are required to describe the systems and components that are part of the house’s plumbing. This includes the supply pipe material, drain and waste pipe material, location of the main shut-off, and more. This article will look specifically at the drainage pipes and, more to the point, the trap, under the sink.

Drain Pipe System and the Sink Trap

When water exists in any sink, kitchen, bathroom, laundry, bar, etc., it makes its way toward the sewer or septic system. The obvious purpose of the drain pipe system is to route the water, without leaking, out of the house. Within the drain, pipe system is the TRAP. This is the little loop directly below the sink, usually seen from inside the cabinet below. In comparison, a secondary benefit of the trap may be to trap your wedding ring when it falls off when you are doing the dishes, but in fact, the primary purpose of the trap is a safety device.

The Sink Trap as a Safety Device

Sewage gasses are created as the waste matter decomposes. Just like a garbage dump generates methane gas that has to be vented, the sewer or septic system creates methane gas, and unless it is kept from rising through the drain and waste plumbing, it will enter the house. Methane gas is flammable, so, therefore, it is dangerous.

The trap facilitates the creation and maintains a water plug that prevents these unwanted gasses from entering the house. That is the absolute primary purpose of the trap, to hold the water plug. If it also saves your marriage, that’s a side benefit.

The trap works because there is usually a vent pipe next to it. The vent pipes are part of the piping systems that you can often see penetrating the roof of a house. The open vent above the roof helps water drain properly and helps create the water trap.

What Type of SINK Trap Do I Have?

Most sinks have a “P” trap below it and then, in most applications, behind the wall is a vertical vent pipe that goes up through the roof as well as the pipe that goes down that carries the water.   The typical P trap looks like a P if you envision the flat section of the letter P horizontally. Take the letter P and turn it 90 degrees clockwise. The P trap in conjunction with the vent ensures that enough water will remain behind to ensure the water plug does its job.

Occasionally the plumbing under a sink is an “S” trap.   This is when the drain from the sink comes down a few inches, loops back up, then loops back down. See the accompanying photos. P traps are good. S traps are bad.

P Sink Trap
Example of a P trap.
S Sink Trap
Example of an S trap

 

Why are S Traps Bad, and how can it be fixed?

S traps are bad because they present the potential for water from the sink to create a siphon, and as the water empties, once the water starts flowing, without a vent, the last few inches of water don’t know that they have to be the water plug and gravity and the force of the emptying water carries all of the water out of the S trap. There is no water plug, and gasses can enter the house. If you’re merely running the faucet, a water plug will probably be maintained. However, if you ever fill the sink and pull the stopper, there’s a lot of force, and a siphon can be created so that the last bit of water follows the water molecules in front, and nature’s course is for every drop of water to follow the one before it, and the last ones never get the message to stop and become the water plug.

Plumbers can now use Air Admittance Valves (AAV) where an S trap exists. This can be an inexpensive fix to a potentially harmful condition. The AAV is a mechanical, one-way valve that can let air in behind the water to ensure that the water plug remains and when there isn’t water draining, it closes to prevent gasses from entering the house.

Plumbing AAV
Diagram of a drain and trap with an Air Admittance Valve (AAV).

 

Conclusion

Regular P traps are the most common and provide a valuable function. S traps are an issue on a home inspection but rest assured that there is a fix that shouldn’t deter you from buying the home you are considering.

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

About the author. I am a Licensed and Certified NJ 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 sample evaluation and testing. We can also help facilitate the testing of septic systems 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.

 

Working Hard For Our Clients | Home Inspector Monmouth County NJ

Selecting the right inspector for your needs.

There are probably near 1000 licensed and active home inspectors in New Jersey. I started Regal Home Inspections, LLC in late 2013 after 33+ years in the telecommunications industry. While in the telecom industry I learned the vital importance of the customer. In that industry a client was usually a repeat customer so it’s not like a car salesman that sees someone once or perhaps once every 3 or 4 years.

While the home inspection business requires a sales effort, it’s usually not a repeat sale.  The vast majority of times we do an inspection once for a buyer, they move in then usually that’s the last we hear of them.  I’ve never counted but there are some repeat customers. Maybe the first house didn’t work out and they keep looking. Sometimes it’s the inspection report that scares someone away but sometimes it’s financial such as the house not appraising as high as it was priced for. We’ve done inspections for people and then a few years later when they move again, into a bigger home or nicer neighborhood and call us again. And frequently, while not a repeat customer, we get referrals from past customers for children, family members or friends. One of the things that I’m proud of is that I’ve received calls from attorneys and their statement is usually along these lines; “You did an inspection for my client, and I liked the report and the thorough job you did. My child (Or friend or they) are buying a house and can you do that inspection?”

Closing attorneys see lots of inspection reports and having them ask me to do an inspection for them or an acquaintance is special.

I received an email on March 28, 2022. This is a quote from that email. “You did the home inspection for the buyer of my home located at ### Hayes Court and although I wanted to choke you at the time, I thought it was a very good inspection and was wondering what the cost is as I need one done for a home I’m purchasing in…”

I’m proud of that statement. We mean no harm or inconvenience to the seller but we’re there for the buyer, following of course, the Standards of Practice set forth in the NJ Home Inspection Administrative Code. I’d like to apologize for the grief we caused when he was playing the role of the seller (Back in February).  He did hire us and I think he was happy with the thorough inspection we did for him, this time, as the buyer and client.

Big or small we’d appreciate an opportunity to conduct your inspection. When considering inspectors please ask for a copy or sample report. We are proud of the work product of the inspection, our report.  Since my 1st inspection on October 4, 2013, my son and business partner and/or I have conducted over 3000 inspections. We’d appreciate an opportunity to provide you with a quote for an inspection and, conduct your home inspection.

Other Services | Certified Home Inspector Monmouth County NJ

home inspector monmouth county njRegal Home Inspections, LLC is thermal imaging certified and offers Monmouth County NJ certified home inspections, condo inspections, estate inspections, and townhouse inspections.

It’s likely your mortgage company will require a wood-destroying insect inspection. Regal Home Inspections has the NJ DEP Core & 7B Pesticide Applicator license, so we can offer professional termite and wood-destroying insect inspections as well!

Call 908-902-2590 for your free quote or if you have any questions!

Home Purchase Due Diligence

Due Diligence: Is it only for big corporate acquisitions? | Home Inspections Colts Neck NJ

 

Due diligence is the investigation or exercise of care that a reasonable business or person is normally expected to take before entering into an agreement or contract with another party or an act with a certain standard of care.

It can be a legal obligation, but the term will more commonly apply to voluntary investigations. A common example of due diligence in various industries is the process through which a potential acquirer evaluates a target company or its assets for an acquisition.[1] The theory behind due diligence holds that performing this type of investigation contributes significantly to informed decision making by enhancing the amount and quality of information available to decision makers and by ensuring that this information is systematically used to deliberate on the decision at hand and all its costs, benefits, and risks.”   Due diligence – Wikipedia

 

Like any purchase of significance due diligence is important and you probably don’t realize it but you already do it to a much, much simpler degree. Do you compare performance information and mileage for a new vehicle you may be considering buying?  That’s due diligence.  Do you compare school districts or the time to commute to and from work for the new home you’re thinking of buying?  That’ due diligence. And of course, the purpose of this piece is to make sure that you recognize that a home inspection is a critical aspect of your home purchase due diligence.

By law, the home inspection is a non-destructive inspection of various systems and components of the home. Exterior, roof, electrical elements, baths, etc. We at Regal Home Inspections, LLC, of course, follow the law to the letter of the law and we strive to surpass the bare minimum as required. For example, the law requires we check 1 outlet per room and one window per room.  If accessible, we usually check as many as we can, not the minimum. The purpose of this piece however it not to review the home inspection due diligence that Regal Home Inspections, LLC does but what you may want to consider (Or we may recommend) beyond the scope of the NJ home inspection standards of practice.  To that point, I am also licensed by the NJ DEP (License # 59628B) to inspect for wood destroying insects and prepare the industry recognized, “Termite Report”.  Both my son & business associate and I are also licensed to conduct radon measurements (NJ DEP Radon Measurement Technicians) MET14070 and MET13186 respectively.

You may not realize it but you’re already paying for elements that fall under due diligence. The title search that you’re doing.  The appraisal that the mortgage company may require.  The appraisal is more due diligence for the lender than it is for you, the buyer.  While I’m talking about the lender, when they verify your income and credit rating, that’s part of the business due diligence of them making the loan to you.

There are things beyond those that we do as home inspectors (Inspection, termite and radon) that we sometimes recommend and sometimes urge you get as part of your home purchase due diligence. As of now we don’t do them but we can refer you to good companies that do.

  • An oil tank sweep. Oil tanks were common for many years. Going back decades, natural gas was not as prevalent as it is today.  In the past, houses may have been heated with electric or oil if natural gas wasn’t available. There are many houses still heated with electricity and there are still some with oil.  However, it’s the ones that no longer have oil but did that we’re concerned with. What do the sellers know and is it accurate?  Years ago it was OK to have an old oil tank cleaned and abandoned in place. However, as I’ve heard, insurance companies will charge a higher premium if the property has an abandoned oil tank. If the property you’re considering buying as an old tank decommissioned and left in the ground, INSIST, that it be removed by the seller. You absolutely do not want to purchase the risk and liability of an underground oil tank. An oil tank sweep is relatively inexpensive and worth every penny. Usually the cost is between $275 and $450 depending on the size of the property.
certified home inspections colts neck nj
The same oil lines near the water meter and water pipes.
certified home inspections monmouth county nj
Old oil lines in the basement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Sewer scope analysis. Information suggests that up to 80% of the waste pipes from the house to the sewer connection have some type of issue. It could be roots that have grown into the waste pipe. Bellies where there’s a dip in the pipe that can collect waste and hinder good drainage. Breaks in the pipe, cracks or holes. Often, a family of 4 or 5 is buying a house from an original owner where one person has been living in the home for years. Years earlier there was a family but as the children grew up and moved out, eventually, like me and my wife, there are two people living in the home.  The water use for an older couple or a single, older occupant is very, very different than for a family of 3, 4 5 or more. The waste pipe from the house may be able to handle the one or two loads of laundry a week and a few showers a week for the older occupants but when the young family moves in and there are multiple showers and baths a day and multiple loads of laundry a day, etc. The corroded waste pipe is no longer able to handle the waste water volume of the young family as it could for the older couple. A video, sewer scope analysis of the sewer pipe is worth it’s weight in gold.

Financially, for both the oil tank and sewer scope, you’re talking about $300 for each to be sure vs. many thousands of dollars to repair.  Is it 10 to 1?  $300 vs. $3000?  No, it could be more like 30 to 1 or 50 to 1.  That’s $9000 to repair or $15,000 to repair and quite possibly more.

 

In conclusion, think of your home purchase as a business acquisition and your duty is to perform all of the reasonable due diligence needed. The home inspection is #1. DO NOT WAIVE YOUR HOME INSPECTION!  #2 Think about some other, important services: Radon test, termite inspection, oil tank sweep, sewer scope analysis, lead paint, mold and pools.  Anything that’s important to you should be part of your home purchase due diligence.

 

Other Services | Certified Home Inspector Monmouth County NJ

Regal Home Inspections, LLC is thermal imaging certified and offers Monmouth County NJ certified home inspections, condo inspections, estate inspections, and townhouse inspections.

It’s likely your mortgage company will require a wood-destroying insect inspection. Regal Home Inspections has the NJ DEP Core & 7B Pesticide Applicator license, so we can offer professional termite and wood-destroying insect inspections as well!

Call 908-902-2590 for your free quote or if you have any questions!

 

Be Aware! Part 1. Termites and Structural Issues (Horizontal cracks in the foundation wall)

Termites and Structural Issues | Home Inspections Colts Neck NJ

Be Aware!  As a homeowner look for things that don’t look right. Often people comment that my son and inspection partner Brian and I are, “very thorough” or words to that effect.  Well, it’s our job to be thorough.  We’re not only looking for things that appear to be wrong but we’re also, “Looking” for things that aren’t there. This is the first in what hopefully will be a series of posts that point things out to homeowners and prospective buyers that will help you either see things (For the owner) that may require some immediate attention and for a buyer, may help you notice things when you look at a prospective home to buy that will require attention.  On a side note, I am appreciative when someone calls for an inspection and says, “I noticed… (Fill in the blank)… when we visited the house. Can you take a look when you do the inspection?”

 

Termites

We did an inspection this week. From the outside it looked like a nice house, well kept and it appeared to be well maintained. However, when inside the basement there were text book termite mud tubes. It’s easy for me to say now but a homeowner must be aware of their surroundings.  If these tubes were there from the start then shame on the termite inspector for not seeing them. However, if they occurred over the years that the current occupant lived in the house then shame on them.  I don’t understand how someone doesn’t see this and then not investigate what it is followed by asking, what do I do next?  Often termite tubes or termite damage are hard to find. As a termite inspector, there may not be any outward signs but when the wood is probed, the wood shreds because the termites have destroyed the wood internally with very few outward signs.  If you see things like I’ve shown below, call a pesticide company.  If you’re not sure, call a home inspector and ask for just a termite inspection.

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Not until the wood was hit with a probe did the termite damage become apparent.

 

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Termite tubes are hanging down from the joists like stalactites seen in caves.

 

 

 

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Termite mud tube seen growing from the floor joist along the plywood sub floor.

 

 

 

 

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Termite mud tubes seen at the corner of the floor joist and the plywood sub-floor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Horizontal Foundation Cracks

Home inspectors, at least we at Regal Home Inspections, don’t like to be the bearers of bad news. It’s our job to find these issues and matters and we’re are thankful when we find them because it’s usually very important information for the clients. Horizontal cracks in foundation walls are one such example.  The follow up for some findings in an inspection report are easy; For example, call and electrician to replace an outlet. Others are much more difficult and the next steps to fully evaluate a horizontal foundation wall crack are not easy and costly but are required. In accordance with the NJ Home Inspection laws and standards of practice, an inspector is required to: A) Identify material defects. B) Explain why the material defect finding is important and then C) What the client must do next.  For a horizontal crack (It’s been identified) it’s B) important because the foundation wall is structural and a horizontal crack indicated that the foundation wall has moved inward. From an inspection perspective, the next steps C) Should include further evaluation by a structural engineer and then repair as that professional deems necessary.

 

The engineer may recommend that the crack be, “Patched and monitored” if it’s hairline. An engineer may specify repair. Often, the repair is intended to strengthen the wall to prevent additional movement. This may be done by having a qualified contractor install “I beams” vertically against the wall.

If your house has exposed, foundation walls, look at them. Notice their condition. Notice any changes that you may see over time.  Ask yourself, “Why is that different now than how it was before?”  This applies to all areas, not just foundation walls and termite tubes.  I’ll try to cover other items at a later date.

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The gray colored, vertical I-beam can be seen here. It was installed to provide additional support to the foundation wall that has cracked.
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Horizontal crack. Here and the next 2 photos are from another house.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A horizontal crack through the buttress.
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The buttress is moving away from the top of the wall because the inward movement of the foundation wall, evidenced by the horizontal crack, is creating a gap at the top between the buttress and the foundation wall. A clear indication of foundation wall movement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other Services | Home Inspections Monmouth County NJ

Regal Home Inspections, LLC is thermal imaging certified and offers Monmouth County NJ certified home inspections, condo inspections, estate inspections, and townhouse inspections.

It’s likely your mortgage company will require a wood-destroying insect inspection. Regal Home Inspections has the NJ DEP Core & 7B Pesticide Applicator license, so we can offer professional termite and wood-destroying insect inspections as well!

Call 908-902-2590 for your free quote or if you have any questions!

Structural Issues – Don’t waive your NJ home inspection part 2

Structural Issues – Don’t waive your NJ home inspection part 2

Let’s start with the overarching purpose of the home inspection in the great, Garden State.  Identifying “Material Defects”.  By law here in NJ a material defect is defined (Paraphrasing for brevity) as a condition of a structural system or component that’s, “Readily ascertainable” (aka visible) and, “Substantially effects” the value, habitability or safety.

In my experience, most of the material defects are for safety reasons and most (I haven’t actually counted) are electrical in nature.  And the majority of the electrical issues are relatively easy for a licensed electrician to fix. They may include a GFCI outlet in a bathroom that doesn’t work, an incorrectly wired outlet, loose wires, etc. Some are very serious but most are not.

This piece however is intended to look at some structural issues that are often, material defects as well.  That could be due to the fact that the structural matter jeopardizes the structural integrity of the home or because it also effects the value requiring significant cost to repair to restore the intended structural integrity.  As with all material defects, the inspector’s job is to A) Identify the problem. B) Tell you why it’s important and C) Give you a recommendation of what needs to be done next to address the matter.

Here are a few structural matters seen recently in different home inspections.

Horizontal cracks and foundation wall issues. Vertical cracks may or may not be a structural issue. Horizontal cracks are usually of significance. Horizontal cracks seen from inside a basement are almost always caused by an exterior force pushing against the foundation wall. It could be a tree root, water pressure, frozen soil and is occasionally due to the force of landscaping installed outside.

A buttress is an integral part of a foundation wall and is often there to provide additional, structural support against lateral (aka side-ways) movement. When the buttress is cracked or the foundation wall’s movement shifts the buttress, those are some significant forces at play.

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Crack through the buttress.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Gap at the top of the buttress.

 

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Horizontal crack.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This next problem is all too frequent. Other trades people, in this case a plumber, needs to place a pipe exactly where there’s a joist.  Joists are important because the joists hold the floor up (And the ceiling but we’re talking about floor joists here). Joists usually rest on the perimeter foundation wall at one end and often a beam in the middle of the floor.

Occasionally, the joists are run from foundation wall to foundation wall

without a beam in the middle.  The structural issue seen here is that a plumber cut a joist in half to place their pipe. Now, not only is this joist NOT supporting the floor above, it’s actually the floor above that’s holding the joist up! Another joist issue is termite damage that has eaten the joist rendering this, structural element, irrelevant.

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Severed joist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The end of the joist was eaten by termites.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the interest of brevity, the next issue, all too often found in older homes and in crawl spaces are poorly constructed columns. The columns support beams and the beams support the joists, etc. If one domino fails, the others that are relying on the 1st one also, may fail.

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The post/column is one issue. Another is that the beam sections are not the same height. And the beam ends should be supported.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Substandard support column.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the difficult parts of this job is going through crawl spaces. They are usually very dirty, filled with cob webs and other insects, often wet and occasionally they’re filled with mold.  But it’s part of the inspection job.  NJ home inspection law does not require inspectors go into spaces that in the opinion of the inspector may jeopardize their safety. Also, NJ home inspection laws don’t require inspectors to climb through hatches that are too small.  It’s important to make the effort but safety, my safety is paramount. On that note, as important as it is that the inspector do what the law requires, it’s equally important the inspector tell you what they’re supposed to do but couldn’t do and why.  Safety is a justifiable reason not to climb on a roof, open an electrical panel (If there’s a puddle of water on the floor in front of the pane for example) or go into a crawl space that, in the inspector’s opinion jeopardizes their safety.

 

Other Services | Home Inspections Monmouth County NJ

Regal Home Inspections, LLC is thermal imaging certified and offers Monmouth County NJ certified home inspections, condo inspections, estate inspections, and townhouse inspections.

It’s likely your mortgage company will require a wood-destroying insect inspection. Regal Home Inspections has the NJ DEP Core & 7B Pesticide Applicator license, so we can offer professional termite and wood-destroying insect inspections as well!

Call 908-902-2590 for your free quote or if you have any questions!

Do Not Waive Your Home Inspection. Part 1.

Electrical Issues…A Great Reason NOT to Waive your right for a home inspection.

July 27, 2021

We’re in the COVID Era.  Many people are in a panic, including, for the first time, panicking about where they live.  My wife and I came to New Jersey, from Staten Island, NY in 1987.  We, like many New Yorkers, sought a better life and standard of living for our young and expanding family.  And, without a shadow of a doubt, we achieved a better life in the Garden State.

As a licensed home inspector in Monmouth County, NJ I’ve done many inspections for people moving to NJ for a better life.  NJ’s beaches and rural, suburban areas were a welcome change and attraction for people moving from Staten Island, Brooklyn and occasionally Queens. At one time the cost of living in NJ was an attraction too but unfortunately that may no longer be the case but that’s not important when compared to the other, quality of life issues.

Covid has been the catalyst for change in many, many ways. As it relates to the real estate business, Covid is pushing people to NJ. To some degree people are still coming to NJ for a better quality of life but 2020 has given New Yorkers other reasons to flee the Empire State and the Big Apple; Congestion, crime, unbridled riots the summer of 2020 and more. To some degree the real estate industry in NJ has benefited. I heard that Connecticut is also a welcome alternative to New York.

This all means that the competition for buyers is tough. Many buyers and too little inventory.  Supply and demand. What gives? Bid prices go up and sellers put stipulations that only structural or environmental inspection will be permitted. What? For buyers that’s a bad proposition.  You could be buying a money pit or a safety hazard.

Here are some examples of egregious electrical issues recently found that you would have no knowledge of if you gave up your right for a FULL inspection.  One area that a run of the mill DIY homeowner must never do is electrical work!  It could kill if not done properly, start a fire and worse. The examples shown are, in my opinion, so bad that there’s no way they were done by a licensed electrician or an apprentice working under the guidance of a licensed electrician. Items 1 and 2 are from one house inspected the week of July 19, 2021. Items 3 and 4 are from a house inspected the week of July 12, 2021.

  • A sub panel that’s mis-wired.  Neutrals and grounds are together on 2 different bars.  One set, on the top right is wrong because the bar is, by design, electrically isolated from the metal box (Also part of the electrical ground). So the ground wires are not really grounded.  “No big deal” you say?  Wrong, it is a big deal. If one of the hot wires short circuits it will want to go to the ground wire and to an earth ground. But due to the way it’s wired, there is no metallic path to an earth ground. The electricity from the short circuit will energize all of the other wires in the house and potentially electrocute someone or start a fire.
  • The same panel’s ground bar (Bottom left) also has neutrals wired to it. The grounds are grounded but so are the neutrals.
  • certified home inspector monmouth county nj
    Improperly wired sub panel.
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    Grounds and neutrals on the same bar. The problem is that it’s not grounded.

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    Neutrals are also part of the ground.
  • At another house there’s a 20amp circuit breaker with a 14 gauge wire. That’s definitely a safety issue. If you don’t believe me try Googling, “Can a 14 gauge wire be connected to a 20amp circuit breaker?”  The 1st response is, “You can not use 14 AWG anywhere on a circuit that has a 20A breaker.”  For me it’s case closed.
  • At Regal Home Inspections, LLC we use combustible gas detectors and check the natural gas valves and couplings around the water heater, furnace or boiler and dryer when accessible. Yes, we found a gas leak. Do you want to move into a house with a gas leak? Of course that’s rhetorical question, of course you don’t. But if you give up your right to an inspection, that’s what you may end up doing!
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    Gas leak detected.

Don’t give up your right to a full home inspection.  If you plan on renovating the bathrooms and kitchen, fine, exclude them from your inspection and maybe the seller will be OK with that.  But do not give away your right to identify Material Defects that effect the safety or habitability of the house.

 

Other Services | Home Inspections Monmouth County NJ

Regal Home Inspections, LLC is thermal imaging certified and offers Monmouth County NJ certified home inspections, condo inspections, estate inspections, and townhouse inspections.

It’s likely your mortgage company will require a wood-destroying insect inspection. Regal Home Inspections has the NJ DEP Core & 7B Pesticide Applicator license, so we can offer professional termite and wood-destroying insect inspections as well!

Call 908-902-2590 for your free quote or if you have any questions!

 

Thermal Imaging Certified

home inspector monmouth county njThermal Imaging Certified | Home Inspector Monmouth County NJ

Frank J. Delle Donne, owner and inspector at Regal Home Inspections, LLC has become certified by InterNACHI, the largest home inspector association, as a thermal imager. This requires taking and passing classes in Building Science and Thermal Imaging. This service will be rolled out this year as an ancillary service for home inspection clients or clients needing the specific analysis of thermal imaging.

What is thermal imaging? Thermal imaging is the use of specialized cameras that can look at the thermal (Heat and cool) properties of objects. A thermal imaging camera compares the thermal signatures of building surfaces comparing hot (or warmer) areas to cold (or cooler) areas. Then, using the training, a skilled thermographer can interpret the images that may identify moisture or poor insulation for example. In the photos below some examples show how the thermal imaging can identify or confirm electrical issues as well. Not all thermal imaging efforts are to identify issues. As shown below, thermal imaging can be used to confirm the operation of radiant heating in a ceiling or floor. The radiant heat is very subtle and not able to be distinguished with a laser thermometer, for example. But, as shown below, a thermal image can confirm the proper operation of a radiant heat system.

The thermal imaging service will be offered to home inspection clients at a steeply discounted rate or offered as a singular service for home or building owners. For more information call Frank at 908 902 2590.

This photo shows the heat of a light against the background of the cooler ceiling. Building anomalies such as moisture, poor insulation and electrical issues can be photographed in the infrared spectrum to identify issues that are not apparent to the naked eye.

 

There was a small stain on the kitchen ceiling, approximately 6 inches wide. The thermal image shows (the dark area in the photo) an area approximately 3 feet wide that’s wet from a bathroom leak above the kitchen ceiling.
Visually, an overheating wire can be seen.

 

The thermal image confirms that the circuit breaker and wire are warmer than the surrounding breakers and wires.

 

The thermal image camera can detect the heating coils for a radiant heat system. The coils can’t be seen with the naked eye but are in sharp focus with thermal imaging. This image is of the heating coils in the ceiling.
These two photos (above and below this caption) are of the radiant heating coils in the floor of a bathroom.

 

Other Services | Home Inspections Monmouth County NJ

Regal Home Inspections, LLC is thermal imaging certified and offers Monmouth County NJ certified home inspections, condo inspections, estate inspections, and townhouse inspections.

It’s likely your mortgage company will require a wood-destroying insect inspection. Regal Home Inspections has the NJ DEP Core & 7B Pesticide Applicator license, so we can offer professional termite and wood-destroying insect inspections as well!

Call 908-902-2590 for your free quote or if you have any questions!