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

Can Radon Levels Fluctuate Inside a House?

January 15, 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flippin’ Flippers

Flippin’ Flippers

by Frank J. Delle Donne  

October, 2022

Flipping houses has become an occupation for some. There are many homes that have been restored and updated by investors and DIYers. Many of them are very nice. However, as home inspectors, we’ve come across a number of flipped houses that fall under the category of what I call “Buyer Beware”. One such example was inspected October, 2022.

Due to some findings at this house, I was motivated to write this article as a word of caution to prospective buyers of flipped houses and a strong word of encouragement to hire a professional, licensed home inspector.  Your due diligence includes the inspection of the house including a termite inspection, sewer scope and tank sweep at least.  Most flipped houses are not occupied when you are thinking of buying it and have been empty for a while. Many flipped homes are old.

The standard, New Jersey home inspection covers structure, roof, electric, plumbing, etc. All very important things. I am also licensed to conduct a termite inspection and both inspectors here at Regal Home Inspections are also licensed to conduct radon tests.  Commencing in the very near future, one inspector at Regal Home Inspections, LLC will also be NJ licensed/certified to perform LEAD PAINT testing as well.

From what I’ve learned, anecdotally, many mortgage companies require a termite inspection. Even if yours does not, it’s very important that you hire a thorough inspector for Wood Destroying Insects (WDI).  WDI usually include termites, carpenter ants and carpenter bees. There are others but these are the three, most common.

While most houses should have a radon test, Monmouth County, for example, has a number of towns that are classified by the NJ DEP as, “High radon potential” areas. A few towns in Middlesex County and Somerset County. No towns in Ocean County are classified as high radon potential areas but we have seen homes with levels of radon that require mitigation. A radon test is important for a home you’re buying and periodic radon tests are important for occupied homes.

Back to the, “Flippin’ Flippers.”

The flip-house we recently did in Monmouth County had a nice looking kitchen and nicely renovated bathrooms and floors, etc. But what exists outside of the obvious is what matters. For this home, the major issues included:

Extensive, structural damage in the basement from termites.

Structural damage due to bad trade-practices in the crawl space and

Very poor implementation of aspects of the roof/plumbing vents and fan venting to the outside.

Termite Damage – Sometimes, termite damage is hard to find. It’s often limited and in a small area. Sometimes the indications are seen outside and sometimes inside. In this case, there was termite damage in a number of floor joists and in the subfloor. The termites rendered a number of joists as worthless for their intended purpose. Consequently, floors were no longer level and the structure of the house was compromised. Of course, following the NJ HI standards of practice, this is a material defect.  I’m going out on a limb and speculate that the flipper didn’t do their own inspection because this would have/should have been found.  In our report to the client we identified the problem, told them why it was important – damages the structure/reduces structural integrity – and advised them on what to do next. In this case it’s getting in an expert to provide a quote to repair and replace all the damaged wood so they can negotiate the purchase price with the flipper and receive some concession.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Structural Damage – While crawl spaces are not places I enjoy going, as I sometimes tell people, “Going into the crawl space was, “worth the price of admission”. In this same, flip-house there were two joists, under a bathroom no less, that had notches and split. These joists are holding up the weight of the tub and toilet and they are now capable of supporting a load that’s only a fraction of the joists’ intended strength.

Joist is poorly notched and now a split is forming from the weak point.
This notch significantly weakens the joist. Furthermore, both of these joists are below a bathroom. There appear to be some sagging in the joist at the notch. That’s understandable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roof issue. This is one for the Hall of Shame in my opinion. A sincere, “Thank you” to the flipper for making it so easy to identify.  From the outside of the house there were two elements of the roof that caught my attention. Now please note, the NJ home inspection laws require inspectors have an 11 foot ladder. Following the ladder’s safety instructions, that means I can’t get on a roof that more than, approximately 8 feet off the ground.  I also carry a 22 foot ladder but for this home, that too was not long enough. So, I use the telephoto lens of my camera and zoom into the roof as close as possible.

The first 2 photos below caused some concern when seen from the outside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I went into the attic, I could see what was actually done. To give you an idea, my first reaction was to use a descriptive word for the actions of the flipper such as, “egregious”. A quick Google search for the definition of egregious results in, “outstandingly bad; shocking.”  Yes, that’s how I felt. My inspection partner, Brian, told me to edit that out of the report so I did. I substituted it with, “poor craftsmanship” or something similar.  The conditions still are material defects. The conditions were these…

For the pipe boot seen from the outside (Right photo above), the craftsman, inappropriately left the plumbing vent short and inside the attic and stuffed a bathroom fan’s vent together at the bottom of the pipe boot. The boot is absolutely not intended for that configuration. Someone knew they were doing that work incorrectly and in a substandard manner but did it anyway.

 

 

 

 

 

For the first photo from the roof, someone just stuck the open end of a 4 inch diameter, flexible foil vent duct through the roof! That’s basically a 4 inch diameter hole in the roof.  For both of these things, what were they thinking?

Water will enter the vent and collect at the bottom of the duct inside the attic. The potential exists for either the duct to leak onto the ceiling above or the water accumulate so much that it starts draining out of the ceiling fan in the bathroom!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bottom line, these matters were found and properly reported back to the client. There were also other findings that require attention; Electrical, safety and maintenance items (Like clogged and loose gutters).

Bottom line, hire a capable inspection company. Although you have to pay for these things, get the inspection, oil tank sweep, sewer scope, termite inspection, radon test and even a lead paint inspection.  There are also other things that may or may not apply such as pool inspections, Level 2 chimney inspections, etc.  If you have any questions please call Brian Delle Donne at 732 740 8365 or Frank at 908 902 2590.

 

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

Plumbing – What Letter is Your Sink Trap?

By Frank J. Delle Donne, Licensed Home Inspector

October 24, 2014

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

Introduction: P Traps And S Traps In Plumbing

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

Drain Pipe System and the Sink Trap

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

The Sink Trap as a Safety Device

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

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

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

What Type of SINK Trap Do I Have?

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Conclusion

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

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

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

 

Inspected Single Family Home Monmouth County NJ

Is Your New Home Going Solar?

Solar Panels and the Home Inspection

By Frank J. Delle Donne, Licensed Home Inspector

January 1, 2016

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

Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Types of Solar Panels

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

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

What SHOULD the Inspector Look for?

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

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

DSCF0275-400   DSCF0276-400

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

DSCF7428-400   DSCF7429-400

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

About the author.  I am a NJ Licensed Home Inspector and have performed over 500 inspections.  I am the owner and Inspector at Regal Home Inspections, LLC.  In addition to being a New Jersey Licensed Home Inspector I am also a NJ-DEP certified Radon Measurement Technician and Regal Home Inspections, LLC has also collected samples for lead paint, allergens and mold.  We are affiliated with the best labs that perform the sample evaluation and testing.  We can also help facilitate the testing of septic system and numerous aspects of oil tank evaluations. This includes oil tank integrity testing, tank locate services and soil samples.  We work to ensure that the house you’re buying is sound or that you know of any issues.

 

A Superior Effort and Inspection – Part 2

A Superior Effort Part 2

By Frank J. Delle Donne, Licensed Home Inspector

January 10, 2015

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

Introduction

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

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

Examples

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

 

A Superior Effort and Inspection

A Superior Effort and Inspection

By Frank J. Delle Donne, Licensed Home Inspector

December 23, 2014

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

Introduction

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

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

Highlights of a Superior Inspection

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

Conclusion

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

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

About the author. I am a NJ Licensed Home Inspector. I am the owner and Inspector at Regal Home Inspections, LLC. In addition to being a New Jersey Licensed Home Inspector I am also a NJ-DEP certified Radon Measurement Technician. I can also help facilitate the testing of septic system, chimney inspections and numerous aspects of oil tank evaluations. This includes oil tank integrity testing, tank locate services and soil samples. We work to ensure that the house you’re buying is sound or that you know of any issues.

 

Minimizing Basement Water Problems

Minimizing and Managing Potential Basement Water Problems

Rain Water Management – Part 2

By Frank J. Delle Donne, Licensed Home Inspector

December 15, 2014

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

Introduction

Back in September I was inspired to write Part 1 because of what I had observed in my inspections and a call that I received from a client. I am now inspired to write Part 2 for almost the same reasons.

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

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

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

The Inspections and Findings

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Setting up the Formulas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doing these things will help promote a drier basement.

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

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

 

Minimizing and Managing Potential Basement Water Problems

Minimizing and Managing Potential Basement Water Problems.

Managing the Sources – Part 1

By Frank J. Delle Donne, Licensed Home Inspector

September 9, 2014

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

Introduction

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

Sub Soil Water Management

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

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

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

Tools of Managing Rain Water

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

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

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

DSCF4425
Splash block too close to the house.

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Doing these things will help promote a drier basement.

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

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

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

 

Buying a Home in a Retirement Community

Retirement Community Homes

Are they really maintenance free?

By Frank J. Delle Donne, Licensed Home Inspector

August 14, 2014

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

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Introduction

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

Age Matters

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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