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.

 

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.

 

Understanding the Home Inspection – Setting Expectations

Understanding the Home Inspection

Setting Expectations

By Frank J. Delle Donne, Licensed Home Inspector

Originally Posted April 30, 2014

Updated June, 2015

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

Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

The Inspection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Optional Services

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

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

Summary

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

Customer Comments: Regal Home Inspections

Originally Posted April 21, 2014

Updated October 20, 2014

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

If you are a client, please review our services.   Click Here  and then click on, “Write a Review”.

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

“I strive to ensure that every clients is as happy as the client reviews highlighted here.” Frank

Thank you for considering Regal Home Inspections, LLC

7/22/14 “Frank, from Regal Home Inspections, came to do a home inspection on the house I am trying to buy. In addition, he also coordinated to get someone to do a termite inspection and based on the results of the home inspection, an additional mold inspection was performed by Frank. 

It went great!!! Frank was on time, professional, and really spent time with me explaining everything in the home and what I would see on the inspection report. For someone with no home experience, this was really useful to me for him to take the time and explain things to me in easy terms. Frank provided the report within 36 hours. Overall I was extremely happy with Frank’s work ethic and product. I would recommend him to all that need a home inspection.” M.D. Lincroft, NJ

7/8/14  “Frank from Regal Home Inspections completed a home inspection on the about 40 year old home I plan to purchase.

First, Regal Home replied to my email inquiry within hours. Each time I have called to contacted Regal they have responded within hours. Regal’s prices were competitive. Regal was most professional, prompt and responsive to each request. They provide follow up and re-inspection without charging another fee. What made my experience with Regal outstanding was that it was much more than a home inspection. Frank explained everything he was doing and why. It was an inspection and it also an orientation to my new home. I learned where the fuse box was, where the electric and water shut-offs were. I learned about the heating and A/C and furnace shut off were as well as how to change the air filter. It was educational and also a delightful experience. I recommend Regal without reservation.”  E.C., Middletown, NJ

6/25/14 “The job was done fantastically, Frank is very professional. We couldn’t have been more pleased.” M.A., Colts Neck, NJ

6/13/14 “I contacted 4 home inspectors and Frank was the first and only one to get back to me.  His prices were reasonable and he did the job we paid him to do.” J.P., Piscataway, NJ

5/28/14 “Very thorough and informative”  N.T., Little Silver, NJ

5/28/14 “Frank has done and continues to do an outstanding job as my  home inspector. He was knowledgeable on the laws and codes involved and even though my building is dated 1929, he was able to explain and educate me on how things work.  Frank was extremely thorough, surpassing what I had expected and found issues that I would not have anticipated. Even though the kitchen was recently remodeled he found some electrical issues which, since the kitchen was new, I had just assumed that area would have been the least of my concerns. He enlightened me on inherent characteristics of older masonry walls which put me at ease knowing that my unit and the building is solid and in great historical shape. He showed me where emergency shutoffs are to water and electric in my unit. He also tested the moisture content of my window sealing and sill areas, which is actually higher than it should be. He went above and beyond and has contacted window repair companies for me and I should be getting estimates for the repairs needed, which saves me valuable time in this hectic pre-close time period. I would absolutely recommend Frank for your pre-buying home inspection, he does a great job!” A.B., Asbury Park, NJ

5/20/14 “We would recommend Regal Home Inspections to anyone looking to purchase a home or even people looking for some professional advice on their existing home. We couldn’t have been happier with the service we were given from start to finish. Frank Delle Donne, the owner of the firm, took us through all stages of the process. Regal was flexible to our scheduling needs and was able to offer a full spectrum of inspections services we required. Regal performed a meticulous inspection and Frank took was sure to take us through every aspect of the home providing feedback on how the systems work and any recommendations. The report was delivered within 48 hours and included a listing of even the slightest potential issue, photos of everything, references to building codes, and general suggestions. It was a complete document that not only were we able to use through the home buying process, but as a reference point going forward with future home maintenance. We were very happy that we made the decision to use Regal Home Inspection and would rely on any of their services, if given the chance, in the future.” D.P., Colts Neck, NJ

4/25/14 “A very thorough home inspection that was very professional and helpful for us as future home buyers.  Frank is highly professional and handled every aspect of the inspection with great detail. His report was extremely detailed with photos and recommendations on what should take place after inspection and I would highly recommend his services to any one buying in Bergen county area.” S.W., Ridgewood, NJ

3/2014 “Frank was extremely professional, courteous, informative, knowledgeable, patient & friendly. Not only during the inspection (I tend to be overly inquisitive), but after when I continued to seek his guidance & recommendations for subsequent services (e.g. chimney, termite, structural, radon, etc). I cannot say enough, he truly went above & beyond. HIGHLY recommend Frank!” E.R.

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

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

2/15/2014 “Frank was excellent! He is very professional and did an excellent job on our home inspection! He goes above and beyond to do all that he can to help you in the process. He also performed radon testing and even took lead paint samples for us. His inspection report was very detailed and thorough and included many photos. He always makes himself available for any questions you may have. I highly recommend him for a home inspection. You will not be disappointed!” M.M.

10/2013 “He went through the whole house, including basement and roof very thoroughly. It went well. He walked us through the home and explained about different potential problems.” BH, Old Bridge, NJ

1/2014 “Frank is a wonderful guy. He performed services needed and on time. He was very helpful in helping me find additional men for services I needed. I would definitely use Frank in future inspections.” DA, Millstone, NJ