Wind Loss Mitigation Insurance Inspections

October 2021

Frank J. Delle Donne, Inspector and co-owner of Regal Home Inspections, LLC, has passed the National Association of Certified Home Inspectors (NACHI) class to perform Wind Loss Mitigation inspections. Wind loss mitigation inspections are done in an attempt to save money on your home insurance in hurricane zones.  The class taken and passed is based on various Florida construction codes including Miami Dade’s codes but is an insurance industry process so the insurance company can determine if the home is less likely to sustain damage (Financial losses) in a high wind event like a hurricane.

The training requires inspection and documentation of a number of wind and projectile protection mechanisms in a home. That includes the types of windows and glazing as well as the roof structure and strapping that can help prevent a roof from being pulled from a home in a High Velocity Hurricane Zone.

Call for a quote. 908 902 2590 or email at frank07722@gmail.com

Home Purchase Due Diligence

Due Diligence. Is it only for big corporate acquisitions?

October 12, 2021

Frank J. Delle Donne

 

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.
The same oil lines near the water meter and water pipes.
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.

 

 

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.
    home inspector monmouth county nj
    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!
  • home inspections monmouth county nj
    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!

Rain Water Management – Part 3

Minimizing and Managing Potential Basement Water Problems

Rain Water Management – Part 3

By Frank J. Delle Donne, Licensed Home Inspector

May 29, 2018

Introduction

In September, 2014 I was inspired to write Part 1 because of what I had observed in my inspections and a call that I received from a client. In December, 2014 I wrote Part 2 because on October 18, 2014 and November 8, 2014 I performed two inspections that I was reminded of prior to writing Part 2.

This past, Memorial Day weekend, if you were in central New Jersey you know how hard it rained on Sunday, May 27. The link below confirms that in the town where I live, over 4 inches of rain fell.

https://forecast.weather.gov/product.php?site=NWS&issuedby=PHI&product=PNS&format=ci&version=1&glossary=1

Based on the amount of water in a couple of buckets I had in my yard, I think the 4+ official inches in this link is low. Regardless, let’s use the official number and do the math.  Why am I now writing this?  Because over the past couple of days I received a text and a call from home inspection clients saying that they had water in the basement after this weekend’s rains. The lessons and recommendations in the previous parts of this series of articles remains the same. Keep rain water away from your house; Maintain your gutters and downspouts. Have downspout extensions as far from the house as possible. Make sure the soil and pavements slope away from the house. I also recommend maintaining any sump pumps and have battery back up for the sump pumps too.

How much water is in 4.72 inches of rain?  For this example we’ll assume a 40 foot by 60 foot house. That’s 2400 square feet of surface area. After the math is done, just coming off the roof is over 7000 gallons of water! If we add in a five foot apron around the house, that’s another 2943 gallons making the total amount of water from this one day’s rain was over 10,000 gallons deposited close to the house.

The consequences of epic rainfalls like this can’t be determined during the course of a 2 – 3 hour home inspection.

Keep your gutters clean and maintain your gutters and downspouts.

Make sure the soil and pavement are sloped away from the house.

Maintain your sump pump systems.

 

 

 

Is Your New Home Going Solar?

Solar Panels and the Home Inspection

By Frank J. Delle Donne, Licensed Home Inspector

January 1, 2016

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

Solar panels have been on houses for 20+ years and are becoming more and more common today due to technology.  They may be an important element of the home to an owner as they relate to energy conservation, renewable energy, a person’s desire to live a, “Green” lifestyle, etc.  However, the functional value of different types of solar panels can be subjective just like the value of a swimming pool.  Some people prefer a home with a pool and some people will not consider purchasing a home with a pool. To each his own as the saying goes.  This article will discuss solar panels. I will attempt to identify a couple of different types of solar panel systems that I have seen.  I will share the wording of the New Jersey Administrative Code, Chapter 40, Subchapter 15 Rules of the Home Inspector Licensing Act to the degree that it mentions solar equipment.  I will also share my opinion on how the rules for home inspections applies (or doesn’t) with regard to solar panels and solar systems.

Like other aspects of the home inspection, the inspector may recommend that you have a system or component evaluated by a qualified professional.  For example, a licensed plumber should address plumbing problems or concerns.  If the electrical panel (circuit breaker panel) seems too small for your plans for the new house, the inspector may suggest having a licensed electrician evaluate your electrical needs and the capacity of the existing system and make recommendations as that electrical professional deems necessary.  If there’s an issue with a deck’s structure the inspector may recommend evaluation by an architect or structural engineer.  If you are considering purchasing a home with solar panels and you have concerns, it is appropriate to have the solar system inspected by a solar panel expert.  Home inspectors are residential house generalists. We may appear to be expert and some inspectors may come from a background of plumbing or general construction but very few are experts in any one field and hardly anyone is even generally knowledgeable when it comes to solar panels.  On a side note, I built my first (and only) solar panel back in the late 1970s when I was a teenager.  The family pool water was too cold.  The solar panel was a wood box that was built to fit a piece of glass that I had.  I put a piece of tin, painted black on the bottom.  It had a series of plastic pipes (first mistake as the heat wasn’t conducted well in plastic piping) that was coiled inside the box under the glass on top of the tin.  I also lacked a pump so I connected a garden hose to one end.  The water warmed but didn’t get hot.  Oh well.

The New Jersey Administrative Code that governs the home inspector is very specific with regard to what is required.  As defined by the NJAC, a, “ ‘Home inspection’ means a visual, functional, non-invasive inspection conducted without moving personal property, furniture, equipment, plants, soil, snow, ice or debris, using the mandatory equipment and including the preparation of a home inspection report of the readily-accessible elements of the following components of a residential building; structural components, exterior components, insulation components and ventilation system, fireplaces and solid fuel burning appliances, or any other related residential housing component as determined by the Board, in consultation with the Committee, by rule, but excluding recreational facilities and outbuildings other than garages or carports.”

Solar panels are mentioned a couple of times but relating to heating systems and the roof.  The photovoltaic solar panels of today weren’t common when the NJAC was written and I am not aware of any updates to the solar technology.

So there isn’t any confusion, I have emphasized (all CAPS, underline and bold) important words in the following passages.

The NJAC as it relates to roofs – The inspector shall inspect, “i. Roofing surface, EXCLUDING antennae and other installed accessories such as solar heating systems, lightning arresters, and satellite dishes;”

The NJAC as it relates to heating systems – The inspector shall inspect, “i. Installed heating equipment and energy sources, ….. and EXCLUDING humidifiers, electronic air cleaners and solar heating systems.”

Unless the inspector has specific, specialized training in the area of solar panels, they should not present themselves as an expert in that field.  However, the home buyer may appreciate a general overview or explanation of the solar system’s various elements.

Types of Solar Panels

I am aware, and have inspected houses with two different types of solar panels.  While there are some differences, there are also common elements that the home inspector should be looking for.  The general types are solar panels that help heat water and solar panels that generate electricity.  Solar thermal panels that help heat water are the original solar panel system.  There are panels on the roof that have a set of pipes.  A liquid like anti-freeze (not water) flows through the pipes that are inside the panel and exposed to the sun’s rays and heat.  There is a small circulating pump that circulates the anti-freeze liquid.  Inside the house there is a heat exchanger.  A heat exchanger is a device that allows the heat from the sun-warmed anti-freeze liquid to transfer to water either in a water heater or perhaps a radiant floor heating system.  In this fashion, heat from the sun can be captured and used to heat the home’s drinking water or to heat the house itself.  I would estimate that this type of solar system was used from the late 1970s until the early 2000s.

More recently, as the technology evolved, more efficient and less expensive, photovoltaic solar systems have become more popular.  These systems use the sun’s rays to generate small amounts of electricity.  String enough small photovoltaic cells together and you start to generate some useful amounts of electricity.  According to Wikipedia, “A photovoltaic system, also solar PV power system, or PV system, is a power system designed to supply usable solar power by means of photovoltaics.”  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photovoltaic_system

What SHOULD the Inspector Look for?

Let’s not forget that the purpose of the inspection is to inspect the house. To prepare a report that describes various systems and components and identifies Material Defects in accordance with the NJAC.  The systems and components that might be directly impacted by a solar system include 1) The roof surface material (shingles). 2) The roof structure. 3) The plumbing system and 4) The electrical system.

When inspecting the roof the inspector should visually inspect the connection points between the solar panel posts and the roof.   Do the connection points appear to compromise the water repellent nature of the roof? Are shingles missing or damaged?  Are there screw/bolt holes that will allow water to penetrate inside?  The inspector is not inspecting the panels per-se but noting and documenting how the panels impact the roof which is definitely part of the inspection. These photos are from a house in Barnegat, NJ.

DSCF0275-400   DSCF0276-400

Another area that the inspector may want to look is inside the attic.  Most roofs in this area are designed for a snow load.  Different areas of the country have different requirements based upon the potential snow fall.  Most roofs are not designed to carry a static or dynamic load other than snow.  Roofs aren’t designed to hold heavy, static load so often the roof rafters will be bolstered to handle the additional weight of the solar panels.  In the photos below one can see that every original (darker colored) roof rafter has been, “Sistered” with a new piece of lumber.  The additional roof rafter lumber is specifically installed to help carry the additional weight of the solar panels (plus any snow).  According to http://www.civicsolar.com/resource/roof-load-considerations-pv-arrays PV panels can weigh up to 50 pounds each and there are numerous panels on a roof.  The photos below are from the attic in a house in Eatontown, NJ that had PV panels outside.

DSCF7428-400   DSCF7429-400

In neither of these houses were the operation or efficiency of the solar panel systems inspected.  I explained the components of the thermal system; Circulating pump, heat exchanger, etc. and pointed out that a replacement water heater that has the heat exchanger coil built in may be considerably more expensive than a common water heater.  For the photovoltaic system, the seller had the paperwork from the installer along with the nature of the business deal with the electric company or solar provider.

Some PV systems are leased by the homeowner and some are owned.  I highly recommend that you understand, 100% the nature of the business arrangement that you are buying into when you purchase a home with a PV system.  You should ask the seller for any and all paperwork you have from the PV solar provider.  This is something that you may want to have your attorney review.  There are numerous business models that the PV supplier and your new, electricity business partner (yes, you may be in a business relationship with the PV contractor to some degree) may have.  It’s important to know what your obligations and opportunities are.

Most PV systems capture/generate electricity and likely send the generated energy back into the electric grid.  I have seen houses with a second meter associated with the PV solar system.  Your regular electric meter keeps track of the electricity you use.  The second meter, part of the PV system, likely keeps track of the electricity that your PV system generates and sends back into the grid.  If you use 10kw of electricity and your PV system generates 4kw, your contract with the energy company may (based on your contract) then require you to only for the net 6kw that you use.

Some PV systems may be more sophisticated and also have batteries.  If your PV system generates and stores the electricity for your use, there is likely to be a large set of batteries (imagine heavy-duty shelves with dozens of car batteries – we’re not talking D-cell batteries here).  Since the batteries are DC electricity and the house uses AC electricity, there will also be an inverter in this sophisticated system. The inverter converts DC to AC.  Please note that this is a very specialized application of PV solar panels and definitely requires a specialist to inspect as well as the knowledge that there may be regular maintenance of the batteries.

Conclusion

If you’re purchasing a house with, “Solar panels” make sure you understand what type of solar system you have. Thermal? PV? If it’s an older thermal system, you may want to assess its value as there may not be many companies skilled in the thermal systems and the replacement components may be either hard to find or expensive, or both.  If it’s a PV system, make sure you understand the nature of the ownership and financial arrangement with whomever installed it and who will be buying the excess energy that you may be returning to the power grid.  PLEASE CONSULT AN EXPERT.

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 and have performed over 500 inspections.  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 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.

 

A Superior Effort and Inspection – Part 2

A Superior Effort Part 2

By Frank J. Delle Donne, Licensed Home Inspector

January 10, 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

On Friday, January 9, 2015 I was hired to conduct an inspection on a nicely renovated 52 year old house. It had been remodeled with updated bathrooms, new siding and despite its age, looked very nice and it absolutely was for the most part. Like the Superior Effort article I wrote in December 2014, I was informed that the house had also been recently inspected. The seller told me that the house had been inspected in the summer of 2014 by another potential buyer. That deal, I was told, fell through because of septic issues but the seller had the septic system replaced following that deal’s demise. I was also told by the seller that the, “only other thing” the other inspector found was an issue with the chimney flashing which they had fixed.

Just like I said in the December 20 edition of the Superior Effort article, perhaps another inspector would have cruised the rest of the way home on this second inspection but I did not. Following are some examples as to why, in my humble opinion, you should hire Regal Home Inspections, LLC to perform your new home inspection.

Examples

Here are some of the items that I found during the inspection that the, “other” inspector should have found.

1) The New Jersey law that oversees home inspectors requires that home inspectors test the, “Entrapment Protection Mechanism” for garage doors. This includes the photo-eye beams mounted close to the floor on the garage door tracks and the auto reverse in the event something gets caught under the door as it’s closing. One garage door had the photo-eye but the other did not. Additionally the doors required adjusting on the down-force-tension because they did not reverse when tested. Starting in 1993, garage door openers had to come with these safety features. It should be reported if they aren’t installed or operating in a home inspection report.

2) New Jersey Home Inspection laws follow the Standards of Practice of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI). ASHI is actually mentioned in the NJ Administrative Code that oversees home inspectors and how they should perform their job. The Standard of Practice allows inspectors to inspect a sampling of regular electric outlets but the inspector must inspect all Ground Fault Circuit Interrupt (GFCI) outlets. GFCI outlets help protect people by disconnecting the electricity if the GFCI outlet detects that the electricity is going-to-ground in a manner that is abnormal. This might occur if stray voltage and current went through a person because of faulty wiring. That’s why GFCI outlets are required outside, in garages and near all water appliances; sinks, etc. to name a few. GFCI outlets are basics in 2015 construction just like a foundation and roof.  GFCI outlets in specific areas are mandatory. So when a house is being inspected for a sale, the inspector HAS TO CHECK EVERY GFCI outlet and every outlet that should be GFCI. Without getting too technical, suffice it to say that one GFCI outlet can protect the others that it serves in a multi-outlet circuit. In this photo, the GFCI outlet on the right (the one with the buttons), operates as it should.

DSCF3587
Outlet on right is GFCI. Outlet on left is NOT GFCI protected PLUS it has reverse polarity.

However, not only is the outlet next to it NOT GFCI, it is wired backward! The polarity is reversed. Again, without getting too technical, this is very dangerous. An outlet that is wired with reversed polarity has the potential to electrocute someone very easily because the “Hot” line is in the wrong place.

3) Another blatant error on the part of the inspector that was here 6 months back is the duct for the bathroom exhaust fan. Inspectors are trained to be aware of bathroom exhaust fans that are not installed with the duct work to the outside. They sometimes vent to inside the attic (see the @regalhomeinspec Inspection find of the week from late December with the vent fan with no ductwork). While they are often very hard to find because the fans and ducts are often under insulation or in hard to reach places, in the house yesterday, it was very easy to see and right in front of you, if you looked and cared to know what you were looking at.

DSCF3637
Silver duct from bathroom fan is blowing moist exhaust air into the attic. This can promote mold growth.

Conclusion

The bottom line is that I will do the best inspection possible. Combine that with my competitive pricing and I believe I offer the best professional home inspection value in New Jersey. For a house that was “inspected” by another licensed home inspector within the past 6 or 7 months, I found items that should have been found previously.

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 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.

 

A Superior Effort and Inspection

A Superior Effort and Inspection

By Frank J. Delle Donne, Licensed Home Inspector

December 23, 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

On Saturday, December 20, 2014 I was hired to conduct an inspection on a 9 year old house. It was a large house with over 5000 square feet of living space, 6 bathrooms and 5 bedrooms. I arrived early, which I usually do, and introduced myself to the seller and asked for their permission to start the exterior portion of my inspection before the real estate agents and clients arrived. I was about 30 minutes into the exterior inspection (remember it’s a very large house) when the listing agent arrives and shares with me that this was the third time the house was under contract in recent months and for the previous two times, each potential buyer also had the house inspected. He pointed out that a few, small items were found but were fixed and that I should have a fairly smooth inspection. In case you’re wondering, I don’t know why the previous deals fell through and to tell you the truth, it doesn’t matter to me in a professional, home inspector capacity.

Perhaps another inspector would have cruised the rest of the way home on this third inspection but I did not. Following are some examples as to why, in my humble opinion, you should hire Regal Home Inspections, LLC to perform your new home inspection.

Highlights of a Superior Inspection

  1. I climbed the roof! Even though the roof was only 9 years old, I still climbed on the roof. Here’s a view of the house from the side so you can see it’s a large home. Now the New Jersey Administrative Code that governs the home inspection process, NJAC Chapter 40, Subchapter 15 (13:40-15.17 Mandatory tools and equipment) states that the minimum required length ladder is 11 feet. I believe most inspectors meet this minimal requirement and lean on the law to avoid climbing on roofs. Technically an inspector can inspect a roof from the ground with binoculars. I carry a 22 foot ladder and when it’s safe to do so I climb on the roof. I have walked roofs by climbing a ladder. I have walked roofs by climbing out a window to access the roof. I have found issues with roofs and other components, like the chimney or flashing because I climb the roof! The easy way out here would have been to use the binoculars. Now there weren’t any issues on this house but for the client, I didn’t take the easy way out.                                                                  DSCF1424
  2. Also according to the NJAC and the Standards of Practice that the NJAC includes, a representative number of electrical outlets (such as one per room) can be tested but all, GFCI outlets must be tested. The Standards of Practice, (as well as the National Electric Safety Code) require that all outside electrical outlets be GFCI protected. This has been the standard since 1973.   So not only did the local building inspector miss this in 2005 when the house was built but two, licensed, (apparently) professional home inspectors missed the fact that the outside outlet on the balcony was not GFCI protected. I found out it wasn’t because I tested it because as a professional home inspector, following the NJAC, the inspector must test GFCI outlets. I don’t know who they were but there are two inspectors out there that didn’t, otherwise they would have found it.  Once on the deck it took about 30 seconds to test the outlet with a GFCI tester.  The outside outlet that was not GFCI is on the covered deck on the second floor which can be seen in the photo above.
  3. This house had over 65 windows. Now it’s possible that the one that I found that was cracked, wasn’t cracked when the other two inspections occurred. I’ll give them that. I did check the glazing and also found that one window had the thermal seal broken. The other inspectors should have found this however.  The seller wasn’t even aware of that and it is a master bedroom window.
  4. Finally, while inspecting a bathroom I noticed some staining near the exhaust vent. This bathroom, apparently hadn’t been used in a while and I would bet dollars to donuts that the stains are not new. The stains looked like it might be mold but of course, without laboratory analysis, it can’t be determined conclusively in the field by naked eye. For an inspector, the staining should indicate the need for some additional investigation. When it was time to inspect the attic I made note of the direction and distance of the bathroom and the vent from the attic stairs. As I approached the area my curiosity was elevated because I didn’t see any exhaust duct work. That didn’t mean that it wasn’t there because it could have been installed between the joists. When I checked, I found out that the duct wasn’t installed at all. Ever since this house was built, the exhaust vent fan blew the air from the bathroom directly into the insulation in the attic. Luckily this was a spare bathroom that was rarely used (remember, this house had 6 bathrooms).
DSCF1761
Bath exhaust vent without any duct work.

Conclusion

The bottom line is that I will do the best inspection possible. Combine that with my competitive pricing and I believe I offer the best professional home inspection value in New Jersey. For a house that was relatively new and that had been, “inspected” by two other licensed home inspectors within the past few months, this wasn’t the easy inspection I was told to expect. I would not have lowered my standards regardless. I have inspected $150,000 houses and I have inspected houses well in excess of $1,000,000. I bring the same professional skills and attitude to every inspection. Am I perfect? No I am not perfect. Will I do everything in my power to make every inspection the best inspection possible? Absolutely I will.

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. I can also help facilitate the testing of septic system, chimney inspections 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.