Chimney Inspection with Damage

When you are thinking about how much you want to spend on your home inspection, you should consider the cost you may encounter for repairs with some of the systems we inspect. The roof and chimney systems are just two of the major components we inspect, any type of chimney repairs or replacement can be expensive. In this video, I will show you how the cost of the home inspection pays for itself within the first 15 minutes of our inspection.

Residential Electrical Ground & Bonding

What are grounding and bonding?  This is one of the easiest hard questions to answer.  Even electricians find it difficult to follow and keep current the extensive NEC codes.  As a homeowner you are not expected to know the entire code, that’s why we have electricians that are licensed.  This article is meant for informational purposes only for the homeowner and is not an exhaustive overview of the actual electrical code.  Always consult a qualified electrician with questions or before modifying your homes electrical system.

Now that we have the disclaimers out of the way, let’s start with grounding. There are many definitions for grounding but, I prefer the definition of grounding according to National Home Inspection Manual. It states that “Grounding provides an alternate path for current to return to its source, in an electrical power system, the source is the transformer belonging to the utility company, and ultimately the power plant.”  Essentially the grounding system helps deal with uncommon voltage surges such as lightning or if a higher voltage circuit contacts the electrical system.  The grounding system simply provides a safe low resistance path to dissipate those uncommon surges or mishaps that may accidentally charge a metal object such as a refrigerator cabinet or your new flat screen. 

Generally, bonding has the biggest impact for a homeowner at the outlets and switches, also referred to as branch circuits.  If your home was built after the early 1960’s you will most likely have outlets with three slots.  These are bonded/grounded outlets and you are good to go for modern electronics. (Beware, it is easy to put a three prong plug on a two-wire system and the plug will operate just fine but, it is still a two-wire plug.  (If you are not sure your house has grounded plugs you can pick up an inexpensive outlet tester at your local hardware store.)   Until about 1960, grounding was found only at the service panel (electric box).  Up to then, most homes operated on a two-wire system that only consisted of 1 hot and 1 neutral wire.  These two wire systems utilized plugs with only two slots.  These two slot plugs were the common practice for years and are not technically “wrong”, they are just not grounded and therefore, do not have the added protection of a grounded plug.  This makes the two prong outlets more susceptible to power surges and electric shocks.  This can result in electrical shock to your fingers when plugging or unplugging a cord, mostly it is a detriment to all the modern electronic devices such as computers and TVs that are susceptible to surges.  If you have a two-wire system currently and would like to have the benefits of grounded outlets, you have two options. You can upgrade your electric system or you can install a GFCI circuit breaker in the electrical panel or a GFCI outlet at the first outlet from the electric box.  In short, grounding/bonding gives electricity a safe place to go if there is a surge or something that should not be electrified is electrified by accident.

Grounding and bonding are often thought of as similar terms and often mistakenly used interchangeably.  Although they are used in conjunction with each other, they have distinctly different roles.  As we discussed above, grounding provides a safe path to ground for excess electricity.  Bonding is described in the NHIE Home Inspection Manual as, “The process of connecting, both physically and electrically, all metal components of the electrical system that are not intended to carry electrical current.  While grounding gives a low resistance back to its source, bonding ensures that any metal components in the home all have the same electrical potential.  There is a myth that electricity takes the path of least resistance, the reality is it takes all paths.  By bonding all the metal components together such as water and gas piping everything bonded has the same electrical potential.  Higher voltage is not passed to a lower voltage path because it all is equal. If someone were to create a ground fault, (grabbing a toaster while doing dishes,) the electricity will all return back to its source utilizing everything that is bonded together, the first stop being at the breaker or fuse.  Just think about those tall power lines with birds perched from one end to the other.  By sitting on one wire they are not touching any anything of a different potential.  Therefore, the electricity will not flow through them and they live to fly south for another winter.

For the homeowner, this translates down to this.  Grounding acts as a surge protector for the home when unpredictable things happen.  Bonding makes everything have the same potential so you do not become the low resistance path to ground.

If you have any further questions about residential electrical inspections, please feel free to email or call us. 

By Brian Tregoning

Kick Out Flashing Is Critical!

As home inspectors, we are generalists.  Meaning that when we inspect a home we not only look at individual components, we look at how those components perform together as a system.  In this case, we will look at a component known as kickout or diverter flashing and how it is a small but important part of the roof/gutter system.

Figure 1

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As you can see kickout flashing makes up a very tiny portion of the roof system, however, it can be the proverbial chink in the armor.  The roof system is meant to operate as an umbrella for your home.  It catches all the rain and snow that nature provides all year round.  All that water needs to go somewhere, so in steps the gutter system.  The gutter system is meant to take all that water and send it far away from the foundation. (This is one of the most important systems for maintaining the structural integrity of a home.)  Now, as you can see from the diagram in figure 1 there is a lot of effort put forth in the construction of a home to take that water deposited on the roof and send it into the gutter system.  Gutters, just like everything else in construction have come a long way over the years, but the one thing they have not been able to achieve is a flush meeting where a gutter meets a side wall.  Therefore, kickout flashing is used.  Where a gutter meets a sidewall creates an opportunity for a concentrated water intrusion point.  If water makes entry at this point of the home and makes its way behind the siding, there is a good chance it will not be noticed until it becomes a significant issue. See

Figure 2

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If you do not have kickout flashing on your home currently, don’t feel too bad.  Kickout flashing is a relatively new practice and it is relatively inexpensive to get installed.  Finally, if your home inspection report calls this feature out, there is reason for it.  A good home inspector spends countless hours in supplemental training and keeping up with the latest developments in construction practices and will be able to recognize this, then recommend a plan of action.

By Brian Tregoning

Roof FlashingFlashingRoof Inspections

You've Got Mold...Now What

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Whenever we come out of a crawl or attic space and tell our clients we identified areas with mold; they think the house is doomed. However, they don’t always understand mold, what caused it, and how mold plays an essential role in the biodegradation process of dead leaves, wood, and plants. It then becomes our job to explain what mold is and how it found it’s way into the home.

Mold is a micro-organism that decomposes dead organic material and often found in damp locations. Air or moisture can carry mold spores that are released to new places. When the mold spores attach to wood or other types of organic materials, they will appear as black stains on the surface of the material.  Mold spores need moisture, a food source (your house), oxygen, a temperature between 40-100 degrees Fahrenheit and the humidity above 60%. The digestive fluids from the mold spores will decompose the substrate (wood) and continue to spread and feed off the materials in the space. Inorganic materials such as concrete do not have the nutrients to support mold growth, however, if dust or dirt layers are present on inorganic materials mold will be able to grow on the surface.

Since mold spores require moisture to spread and grow, we need to be familiar with the sources of moisture in our homes. Steam from cooking and taking showers, air humidifiers, condensation from warm air leaking into the attic and crawl spaces, and water leaks are some of the sources of moisture in our homes today. These sources and improper ventilation contribute to higher humidity levels, resulting in condensation and mold growth. Food (building materials) is always available for mold spores, keeping your home dry and eliminating the sources of moisture will decrease the potential for mold growth.

If your home does, unfortunately, have some mold growth, the first thing you need to do is have the underlying moisture problem located and repaired.  Remember, the mold must have water or some moisture to grow, keeping your house dry and limiting moisture and condensation will help reduce mold growth. You can reduce moisture by installing exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathrooms and making sure your clothes dryer vent is clean and adequately venting hot air to the exterior of the house. If you have a crawl space, have it inspected for water leaks and a proper vapor barrier. If a crawl space is not conditioned (sealed) it will become damp and a prime target for mold spores. If your attic space is not adequately insulated, warm air from your house will escape into the attic and condensate will form on the wood building materials, creating a food source for mold spores.  

Remember, mold is everywhere. We just need to learn how to prevent it from taking up residence in our homes. Doing the items listed above will help keep your home dry and becoming a food source for mold. If you have any questions about mold, we would be happy to answer them for you. Please feel free to give us a call if mold is a concern in your home or the home you are looking to purchase.

Why Decks Fail!

I did a short video from one of my inspections today. We see and hear about decks failing every year, and unfortunately, people are seriously hurt or killed.  Please take the time to watch this video, if you are planning on having a deck install it's important to make sure you ask your contractor some questions.  If you don't know what to ask, feel free to give us a call, we would be happy to help.