Regal Home Inspection Is Infrared Certified!

Thermal Imaging Certified

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.

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

Minimizing Basement Water Problems

Minimizing and Managing Potential Basement Water Problems

Rain Water Management – Part 2

By Frank J. Delle Donne, Licensed Home Inspector

December 15, 2014

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

Introduction

Back in September 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. I am now inspired to write Part 2 for almost the same reasons.

On October 18th and November 8th I performed two inspections that I was reminded of last week. Both sales closed last week coincidentally, December 9th and December 11th to be exact. One was a town house and one was a single family home. The townhome was built in 1996 and the single family home was built in 1935.

From a home inspection and maintenance recommendations point of view both houses had damaged or substandard rain water management (piping) systems. Specifically there were issues with one or more of the following; Gutters, downspouts or the downspout extensions. Properly installed and maintained gutters, downspouts and downspout extensions are fundamental to keeping basements dry. Of course a chronically wet basement can decrease the value of a house, damage property and belongings as it becomes flooded and potentially be a health hazard if the chronic moisture feeds the growth of mold.

So with the title of this article, the introduction thus far and the following detail one can probably guess where this is headed. If you recall, the New Jersey area had a nor’easter storm on 12/9/14. According to the National Weather Service Philadelphia/Mount Holly Bureau, Southern NJ received approximately 2.5 inches of rain as of 7pm on Tuesday, December 9, 2014. What I’d like to do is translate that amount of rainfall into water volume and then demonstrate how potentially destructive that water can be if the gutters, downspouts and downspout extensions are not designed, built and MAINTATINED properly.

The Inspections and Findings

During the inspections for both of these houses, and of course in the written report, the topic of rain water management was discussed and documented because there was damage or substandard conditions to the gutters, downspouts or the downspout extensions. For one house, there wasn’t any downspout extension and therefore all the rain water coming off the roof was being deposited right up against the basement wall. For the other house it was a little more interesting. First, the 1935 house apparently was built without any gutters. I specifically asked the seller and he stated that when he bought the house it didn’t have gutters and the open soffit design of the roof/eave area would support the idea that gutters were not part of the original house design. On the 1935 house there was also a flat section of roof and that area drained to one downspout connection that was about 10 inches long (Photo 3) and in need of repair and redesign. In the report for the 1935 house it was even pointed out how the cascading water from the 10 inch, insufficient downspout was, “eroding” the ground directly below (Photo 2). Both clients were closing last week. The clients buying the 1935 house were having their pre-closing final walk through during the rain event on December 9th. The other was having their pre-closing walk through on Thursday, December 11th. Both clients called (on the 9th and 11th respectively) because they noticed wet basements in their final walk through. We reviewed the inspection’s findings and the report’s recommendations, photos, conditions found during the inspections and the recommendations to repair or add gutters, downspouts or downspout extensions as each situation required.  Noting too that poor gutter, downspout and downspout extension maintenance could lead to water in the basement.

I’d like to show you each finding individually and in the next section of this article, put the findings into different terms so that the potential water volume accumulation of a damaged or substandard rain water management system on a home can be better understood.

One situation (Photo 1) was simply in need of a downspout extension (and maybe some soil grading). As noted in Part 1 of this article series, it would be great to extend the rain water drainage (downspout extension) to a minimum of 6 feet away from the foundation wall. The further the better.

DSCF9303
Photo 1 – Downspout extension and proper soil grading required.

The other situation not only requires gutters but looking at the flat roof section of the house only, a proper downspout and downspout extension are required.  The PVC pipe that fell off is significantly heavier than regular downspout material and over time gravity will cause the heavy PVC pipe to fall off. The lower part of the PVC pipe that was used as a downspout is seen in the photo below.  The drain connection is in the next photo, Photo 3.

DSCF7822
Photo 2 – Eroded soil and inappropriate downspout and no extension.
DSCF7815
Photo 3 – Only pipe draining from flat roof section.

 

Setting up the Formulas

How much water might actually be dumped next to the foundation in each situation knowing that some of it will work its way back into the basement?

1935 House – The flat roof section of this house is approximately 12’ by 20’. Additionally the pitched roof section of the house, with no gutters or rain water management at all is approximately 30’ by 40’. The pitched roof section is a gable design so one half is sloped to the front and the other half is sloped to the back. Overall, this 1935 house covers approximately 1400 square feet of property.

1996 house – This is a center unit townhome and this particular house is approximately 18’ wide by approximately 30’ deep. This house covers 540 square feet of property. There were two downspouts in the front so in my calculations I will apply the theory that half the water flows to the front and half of that goes to the left downspout and half to the right downspout that is seen in Photo 1. So each one of the 2 downspouts in the front of this house manages the rain water from approximately 135 square feet of area. 270 square feet in total for the front half of the house.

Let’s do the Math Using the 12/9/14 Rainfall Statistics

1935 house. The flat roof is approximately 240 square feet. I actually convert everything to square and cubic inches to do the math but the bottom line is that in a 2.5 inch rain event, that would equate to 50 cubic feet of water landing on the flat roof. That is equivalent to 374 gallons of water that was collected on the flat roof and then deposited in one day at the corner of the basement in the 1935 house where the damaged downspout is located.

DSCF7822
Approximately 374 gallons of water were dumped in this spot on 12/9/14.

On December 9th, with the 2.5 inch rain event, the 1935 house’s pitched or sloped roof shed a total of 1870 gallons of water. Half was shed to the front next to the foundation wall and half was dumped in the back next to the foundation wall. That’s over 2200 gallons of water that was dumped immediately next to the foundation wall of that 80 year old house because of damaged and/or substandard rain water management. Is it any wonder why some water made its way into the basement? The solution here (as stated in the report) is to A) Fix the downspout and add a properly sized extension and B) Add gutters, downspouts and extensions to the rest of the house. Proper soil grading is also a good option.

For the 1996 house it’s not as dramatic but it helps demonstrate the need for properly functioning gutters, downspouts and downspout extensions. When we convert 135 square feet of roof surface area into gallons for a 2.5 inch rainfall event this equals slightly over 210 gallons of water deposited at the spot in this photo. And yes, if you pour that much water so close to the basement wall, some water will make its way back into the basement.

DSCF9303
Approximately 210+ gallons of water was deposited on the dirt in this photo from 2.5 inches of rain on 12/9/14.

Soil grading is also important. If the soil is flat immediately next to the house, as it appears in the photo here, in a 2.5 inch rain event, each square foot of soil will have 1.7 gallons of rain fall in that 1 square foot area. Let’s apply these facts to the 1935 house. The 1935 house has approximately 164 linear feet of foundation at the perimeter. Roughly, if you consider a 3 foot wide apron of soil around the perimeter, that’s a 492 square foot apron of soil. Of course, any rain fall will land on this apron of soil. In the 2.5 inch rainfall event and my calculation that each square foot of soil will have 1.7 gallons land on it during this event, we’re looking at another 836 gallons of water that lands within 3 feet of the foundation wall! And other than proper soil grading, to pitch the dirt so the water runs away from the foundation, there’s not too much we can do about this.

If we add it all together, this 1935 house had over 3000 gallons of water dumped within 3 feet of the foundation wall in one rain event on 12/9/14. YES, some of that water will make its way back into the basement.

Conclusion (Same as those in Part 1 of this series)

To reduce the potential for water to enter your basement, please remember these suggestions:

  1. Make sure your gutters and downspouts are properly maintained and are clear of debris.
  2. Make sure your downspout extensions are sloped properly and at least SIX feet long.
  3. Make sure the overall grading of the land around the entire house is graded so that any surface water is likely to flow away from the house, not toward the house.

Doing these things will help promote a drier basement.

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.

 

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

Plumbing – What Letter is Your Sink’s 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

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 Trap

When water exists 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.   While 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 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 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.

DSCF7440
Example of a P trap.
DSCF7921
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 creating 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 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 NJ Licensed Home Inspector. I am the owner and Inspector at Regal Home Inspections, LLC. In addition to being a New Jersey Licensed Home Inspector I am also a NJ-DEP certified Radon Measurement Technician and Regal Home Inspections, LLC has also collected samples for lead paint, allergens and mold. We are affiliated with the state’s best labs that perform the sample evaluation and testing. We can also help facilitate the testing of septic system and numerous aspects of oil tank evaluations. This includes oil tank integrity testing, tank locate services and soil samples. We work to ensure that the house you’re buying is sound or that you know of any issues.

 

Minimizing and Managing Potential Basement Water Problems

Minimizing and Managing Potential Basement Water Problems.

Managing the Sources – Part 1

By Frank J. Delle Donne, Licensed Home Inspector

September 9, 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

As I began writing this article my phone rang and a gentleman from a prior inspection asked about repairing some downspouts that weren’t functioning properly. As a result the rain water coming off the roof was being dumped too close to the foundation of the house and this gentleman needed it to be repaired as recommended in the inspection report. As I learned in my home inspection training, approximately 90% of water that ends up in the basement comes from the surface of the ground. Not from a high water table or underground springs. Therefore if you can manage and maintain the gutters, downspouts and down spout extensions you can significantly reduce the potential for water from getting into your basement.

Sub Soil Water Management

New homes with basements are constructed with a set of perforated pipes around the perimeter of the foundation close to the footing. The footing is the portion of the foundation wall upon which the wall, and the rest of the house, stands. It is made of concrete and is wider than the foundation wall and is well below the frost line. The footing provides the house with its base making contact with the soil below.

The perimeter drain is a pipe that sits very close to the footing and is routed around the foundation and is connected to the sump pit in the basement. The purpose of this perimeter pipe is to relieve the hydraulic pressure that may be created from high amounts of ground water. Instead of the ground water applying pressure to the foundation wall and perhaps seeping into the basement, the components (perimeter pipe, sump pit and associated sump pump) gives the water a place to go, be collected (in the pit) and discharged (via the sump pump) BEFORE it enters the interior of the basement.

This is a good way to manage the water once it seeps against the foundation wall and toward the footing/drain pipe/sump pit area but it would be better water management if we could keep the water away from ever getting that close. And to help accomplish that we will look at gutters, downspouts and the important downspout extensions.

Tools of Managing Rain Water

The tools to manage rain water include the collection of the water as it is repelled by the roof shingles and into your gutters. Gutters should be properly secured, of course, and properly sloped so that the water is drawn, by gravity, to the lower parts where the downspouts should be connected. Occasionally I inspect a house where the gutters are not slopped properly and water can remain sitting in the gutters with only evaporation as a way for it to go away.

Gutters should also be properly sized. If it’s an estate home, gutters with wider openings may be necessary to handle the large volumes of water that may come off the roof. If a gutter is undersized or if there is a clog preventing the water to flow to and through the downspout, the gutter will overflow. An overflowing gutter or a damaged gutter/downspout system can both lead to too much water being too close to the house.

The downspouts should be secured with screws to the gutter and each downspout section should also be attached with screws. Simply relying on the friction fit of one downspout section connected with another is not sufficient to keep the connection intact for a long time.

DSCF4425
Splash block too close to the house.

Downspouts often deposit the water onto a “splash block”. A splash block may be made of concrete or of a plastic material. While one purpose of the splash block it to disperse the water a more important function is to direct the water away from the foundation. However, splash blocks are usually 2 feet long and therefore the water run off is landing on the ground only 2 feet from the foundation wall and that’s too close.

DSCF4069
Downspout is to the right. Notice the left is higher. The water will not climb uphill!

So to get the water further away we can use downspout extensions. Downspout extensions may be rigid metal just like the downspouts themselves or they may be flexible, corrugated plastic. No matter the material, good connections and proper slopes and distances are the key. According to The Home Reference Book by Carson & Dunlap, the downspout extensions should effectively deposit the water at least 6 feet from the house. This will help ensure that the water, once it hits the ground, will probably not seep back into the basement. A longer distance is even better. Additionally the grading of the soil around the entire perimeter of the house should slope down at least 6 inches for the first 6 – 10 feet of horizontal distance. This will help ensure that any groundwater will be channeled away from the house.

Conclusion

To reduce the potential for water to enter your basement, please remember these suggestions:

  1. Make sure your gutters and downspouts are properly maintained and are clear of debris.
  2. Make sure your downspout extensions are sloped properly and at least SIX feet long.
  3. Make sure the overall grading of the land around the entire house is slopped so that any surface water is likely to flow away from the house, not toward the house.

Doing these things will help promote a drier basement.

Make sure that when you hire an inspector you hire someone with the experience of Regal Home Inspections, LLC. My mother is 85 years old and when I do an inspection for an older client I approach it as though I was doing the inspection for my mother. Similarly, I have done inspections for young ladies and when I do I approach it as though I was doing the inspection for my 23 year old daughter. I take a personal interest in my occupation and all of my clients. It’s not just a job.

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

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

 

Buying a Home in a Retirement Community

Retirement Community Homes

Are they really maintenance free?

By Frank J. Delle Donne, Licensed Home Inspector

August 14, 2014

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

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

Introduction

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

Age Matters

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

Electrical Issues – Findings of a Home Inspector

Electrical Issues – Part 4

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

By Frank J. Delle Donne, Licensed Home Inspector

August 1, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

Introduction & Disclaimer

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

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

General Panel Observations

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

DSCF1766
Missing Panel Cover

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

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

Location, Location, Location

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

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

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

A Particularly Hazardous Condition

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

 

 

Maintain Your Home. Findings of a Home Inspector.

Maintaining Your Home

Help the Sale Go Smoothly

Findings of a Home Inspector

By Frank J. Delle Donne, Licensed Home Inspector

June 17, 2014

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

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

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

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

Introduction

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

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

Brief Review

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

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

But did you think about:

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

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

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

Here are a couple that aren’t as obvious.

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

Electrical Issues – Part 3

Electrical Issues – Part 3

Observations of a Home Inspector

By Frank J. Delle Donne, Licensed Home Inspector

May 15, 2014

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

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

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

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

Introduction

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

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

Double Taps

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

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

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

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

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

Bad Electrical Panels

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

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

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

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

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

DSCF5560
Obvious Rust
DSCF5561
Rusted screws on breaker and Double Taps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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