Home Inspection 120 Day Warranty*

Adding A Home Inspection Warranty

*  120-Day Brochure

January, 2024

Regal Home Inspections, LC strives to provide our home buying clients with the best value, detailed and thorough inspection and comprehensive written report. Between Frank & Brian, the father-son inspection team, we hold 4 different New Jersey State licenses. Both Frank & Brian are, of course, licensed to conduct your home inspection.  Both are also licensed as Radon Measurement Technicians and regularly conduct radon tests as an added service of the home inspection and as a stand-alone test for clients that want to screen their existing home. Frank also holds a NJ DEP Pesticide Applicator license that, technically, would allow him to apply pesticides as a commercial service but he does not. The Pesticide license also allows him to conduct termite (aka Wood Destroying Insect) inspections and prepare the industry recognized, “Termite Report” (aka NPMA-33). Brian is also licensed to conduct Lead Paint testing. This is a specialized license. Occasionally Brian conducts lead paint testing and evaluations associated with a home inspection but most of the inspections he conducts are the landlord required lead paint testing. Landlords are required to have rental homes and apartments inspected for lead. Brian is licensed to do so.

Effective February 1, 2024, Regal Home Inspections, LLC is adding an appliance warranty to our full home inspection offering at no additional cost to the client. This, or our Home Inspection Warranty, is through Complete Appliance Protection, Inc. Their brochure is attached and here’s a link to their web site. Complete Appliance Protection: Best Home Warranty Company (completehomewarranty.com)

Home Inspection Including A 120 Day Warranty

When you call for an inspection, we’ll give you a competitive price for the services you need from us. For projects that include a home inspection the price will also include the Complete Protection ® warranty. *Please be sure to read and understand all the Terms and Conditions on Page 2 of the attached brochure (Above).

For first-time buyers this could be the very thing that they rely on to move forward.

Please feel free to call Brian 732-740-8365 or Frank 908-902-2590 to ask about the warranty, inspections, radon tests, termite inspections or lead paint testing/evaluations.

Inspecting Older Homes (100+ years old) In NJ

What To Expect When Inspecting Older* Homes In NJ

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

February 1, 2023

Inspecting Older Homes Bick Ocean County NJ
The white, left side of this home was built in the 1800s. The right-side (Stone wall section) dates back to 1740.

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

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

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

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

     

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

Brian – 732-740-8365

Frank – 908 902 2590

Evolution of Residential Lighting

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

Maintaining Your Home – Part 2

Help the Sale Go Smoothly

Findings of a Home Inspector

By Frank J. Delle Donne, Licensed Home Inspector

July 11, 2014

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

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

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

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

Introduction

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

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

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

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

Preparing Your House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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.

 

 

Residential Electrical Problems. Part 2 – Branch Circuit Wiring

The Electrical System in Your Home.

Common Problems Found by a Home Inspector.

Part 2 in a Multi Part Series.

Branch Circuit Wiring.

By Frank J. Delle Donne, Licensed Home Inspector

December 16, 2013

 

About the author.  I am a NJ Licensed Home Inspector.  I am the owner and Senior Inspector at Regal Home Inspections, LLC.  I am a member of the New Jersey Association of Licensed Professional Home Inspectors (NJ-ALPHI) and the National Association of Certified Home Inspectors (NACHI).  The standards used to inspect your home’s systems are in accordance with New Jersey State laws, the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) and NACHI Standards of Practice.  Regal Home Inspections, LLC can also test your house for Indoor Air Quality; Mold and Allergens.  Radon testing is coming soon.  We can also facilitate testing of septic systems and oil tanks; tank integrity and soil tests below ground.

 

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 perform electrical work yourself unless you are a licensed electrician.

 

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 ASHI & NACHI Standards of Practice.  This is not a “to code” inspection.  Our inspection DOES NOT guarantee conformance to local electrical codes. 

Introduction

This article in the electrical series will cover the Branch Circuit Wiring.  Branch Circuit Wiring includes the wiring FROM the circuit breaker box to your outlets, switches and appliances.  What is the inspector looking for?  What have I found that can become an issue with a Home Inspection Report?  Occasionally a home has a Sub Panel which is a second or smaller circuit breaker panel. There are many reasons for their use but for this article, I will deal only with the wiring to outlets, switches and appliances.

 

General Description

Branch Circuit Wiring is the cabling in your home that distributes the electricity to outlets, switches for lights and other fixtures (e.g. a ceiling fan) and often times directly to an appliance like your furnace or Air Conditioner Compressor.  As you may recall, electricity operates in a circuit and the electrons flow from the circuit breaker (or fuse) through the “hot” or “ungrounded” conductor to and through the appliance consuming the electricity and then it returns on (usually) the, “white” or “neutral” wire back to the circuit breaker panel.  If that circuit is opened at any point the electrons stop flowing and the appliance will not work.  The “open” can simply be a result of a switch being shut off, a  light bulb filament breaking, a plug being pulled out of a socket (all normal occurrences thus far) or a connection coming loose.  This last one is not normal but nonetheless still stops the flow of the electrons. 

In your circuit breaker panel the hot wire is connected to a lug on a circuit breaker.  This is usually the black wire and sometimes the red wire.   The corresponding white wire is connected to a lug on the neutral bus bar.  Please note that specialty circuits such as a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupts (covered in a later article) may be terminated differently.  This description applies to 120V non GFCI.

 

Over the years different types of branch circuit cabling and conductors have been used in homes.  Let’s focus this discussion on modern homes and let’s define a modern home built from 1965 to present.   So with that in mind the two main types of conductors used are copper (predominant) and for a period of the mid 1960s to the early 1970s aluminum was used.  Around this time a third, ground conductor was also commonplace as was the three-prong outlet that we are familiar with.  The three prongs are hot, neutral and ground.  Both types of conductors were insulated (early on the ground conductor was left bare) and then the conductors were wrapped in a jacket.   Metal or Armor jacketing is common and often referred to as, “BX”.  Non metal wrapped jackets are very common as well and commonly referred to as, “romex”.   

The gauge or thickness of the individual conductors is very important because the type of metal and the thickness of the conductor (among a few other things) determines the electrical carrying capacity of the wires and therefore cables.  This capacity is measured in Amps or Amperes and for typical branch circuit wiring varies from 14 gauge copper for a 15 amp circuit breaker to 12 gauge copper for a 20 amp circuit breaker.  These are very typical for the vast majority of household circuits and appliances.  However when we consider appliances like pools, hot tubs, air conditioning compressors, electric furnaces, electric clothes dryers and other large appliances, 12 and 14 gauge wire is inadequate.  This too is a topic for another article. Suffice it to say that the smaller the gauge the larger the diameter of the conductor and these large appliances may require 10, 8, 6 or lower gauge and hence, thicker wire. 

 

Observations

As an inspector I see some pretty awful wiring and would like to share a few examples.  If you see things like this in your house it would be wise to call Regal Home Inspections for a thorough inspection and it would be prudent to call a licensed electrician afterward to correct the problems before you try to sell the house.   

Here are some examples of poor residential electrical wiring.

 

Do you think this was installed by a Licensed Electrician?  Photo 1 is under a deck.  This is “romex” type cabling.  Can’t verify that it’s designed and approved for outdoor use.  Use of a rigid conduit is appropriate.  Not only is this highlighted in an Inspection Report but it will also raise concern that the work was not done by a professional, with a legitimate permit in place and I can assure you that it wasn’t inspected. 

 Carrs Tavern 065

Photo 1

An inspector should alert the client that this would have never been done by a qualified, licensed electrician. As a result this will be a clue that work has occurred in this house that may not be legitimate.  By this I mean that there may be electrical work that was likely not done with a permit and inspection.  Consequently there may be other aspects of the house, like plumbing, structural changes, etc. that may have been done by the homeowner.  Not necessarily the person you are buying from but perhaps someone that they bought from and the last inspector didn’t find for whatever reason.  

Poorly maintained outlets also seem to be very commonplace in homes that I have inspected. Photos 2, 3 and 4 are examples of outlets and a junction box that should be covered and secure.   Some should be completely removed. If you look carefully you can see an outlet without its cover in Photo 2.  The issues with Photo 3 include no cover to the junction box, no cover to the outlet, the receptacle isn’t grounded (as indicated by the green test probe) and it should be a GFCI outlet.  GFCI outlets are required in unfinished basements. GFCI outlets have been required in unfinished basements since 1990.  In Photo 4 is a junction box with wires hanging down.  The uncovered junction box is located in an attic space.

   Carrs Tavern 099                    557 Penn St 100

    Photo 2                                                                                Photo 3

Carrs Tavern 199

Photo 4

I come across numerous light fixtures that aren’t mounted properly and have exposed wires.  Here are a couple of examples in Photos 5 and 6.  Please note that in Photo 5, a globe should cover the exposed bulb.  Although this fixture was in a crawl space I have seen many fixtures like this in closets, stairwells and basements.

Carrs Tavern 110

Photo 5

  

557 Penn St 137      

Photos 6

These are just a few examples of electrical issues I have found in homes.  When inspecting a home I try to identify every electrical problem that I see.  As soon as I have identified one, single electrical problem the standard template words include, “consult a licensed electrician” to help/correct/evaluate, etc.   Most inspectors will stop there as soon as they find the first electrical problem.  In an effort to help the client I try to identify as many issues as I can find in my report.  In this manner the client can either have the issues properly priced and ask the seller to fix them or they can evaluate the cost and perhaps ask the seller for some price concession.  If the seller isn’t willing or able to pay for obvious corrections, in the case of a bank owned short sale for example, at least the client has a thorough list of the issues and can share that with an electrician and get a more accurate estimate of the repairs.  If I find 10 problems with the electrical system, for example, it’s probable that a licensed electrician will find a few more.  My findings are not intended to be an exhaustive list nor a list of work items that is required to fulfill the requirements of an electrical work permit but it will give the client an idea of the extent of the work; Minor, extensive or major repairs necessary.

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

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