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Incorrectly attached metal deck joist hangers

Metal deck joist hangers should NOT be fastened directly to exterior siding, as pictured here.  It’s important to fasten deck joist hangers to a bolted ledger for safety reasons.  Amazingly, this is discovered quite frequently.   The easiest “fix” for this is to install a bolted ledger directly underneath the deck joists.  This photograph was taken at a recent home inspection in Bellingham.

Fun Fact Friday!

If you lift a kangaroo’s tail off the ground it can’t hop.

Pteronophobia is the fear of being tickled by feathers.

When hippos are upset, their sweat turns red.

A toaster uses almost half as much energy as a full-sized oven.

The total number of steps in the Eiffel Tower are 1665.

Installing Attic Insulation

by Nick Gromicko and Barry Fowler
According to the EnergyStar™ Program, heating and cooling costs can be slashed by up to 20% per year by properly sealing and insulating the home. Insulating the attic should be a top priority for preventing heat loss because as heat rises, a critical amount of heat loss from the living areas of the home occurs through an unfinished attic. During the summer months, heat trapped in the attic can reduce a home’s ability to keep cool, forcing occupants to further tax the home’s cooling system.

The aim should be to insulate the living space of the house while allowing the roof to remain the same temperature as the outside. This prevents cold outside air from traveling through the attic and into the living area of the home. In order to accomplish this, an adequate venting system must be in place to vent the roof by allowing air flow to enter through soffit-intake vents and out through ridge vents, gable vents or louver vents.

If there is currently a floor in the attic, it will be necessary to pull up pieces of the floor to install the insulation. In this case, it will be easier to use a blower and loose-fill insulation to effectively fill the spaces between the joists. If you choose to go with blown-in insulation, you can usually get free use of a blower when you purchase a certain amount of insulation.

When installing fiberglass insulation, make sure that you wear personal protective equipment, including a hat, gloves, and a face mask, as stray fiberglass material can be inhaled and cause irritation to the lungs, eyes and exposed skin.

Before you begin actually installing the insulation, there is some important preparation involved in order to ensure that the insulation is applied properly to prevent hazards and to achieve maximum effectiveness.

Step 1: Install Roof Baffles

In order to maintain the free flow of outside air, it is recommended that polystyrene or plastic roof baffles are installed where the joists meet the rafters. These can be stapled into place. 
Step 2: Place Baffles Around Electrical Fixtures
Next, place baffles around any electrical fixtures (lights, receptacles, etc.), since these may become hot while in use. Hold the baffles in place by cross-sectioning the rafters with 2x4s placed at a 3-inch clearance around the fixture. Cut the polystyrene board to fit around the fixture and inside the wood square you have just created.

Step 3: Install a Vapor Barrier

If you are installing insulation with a vapor barrier, make sure it faces the interior of the house. Another option for a vapor barrier is to take sheets of plastic and lay them between the ceiling joists. Then, using a staple gun, tack them to the sides of the joists.
Step 4: Apply the Insulation
Begin by cutting long strips of fiberglass to measure, and lay them in between the joists. Do not bunch or compress the material; this will reduce the insulative effect.
If you are not planning to put in an attic floor, a second layer of insulation may be laid at 90º to the first layer. Do not lay in a second moisture barrier, as moisture could potentially be trapped between the two layers. This second layer of insulation will make it easier to obtain the recommended R-value. In colder climates, an R-value of 49 is recommended for adequate attic insulation. In warmer climates, an R-value of 30 is recommended. Fiberglass insulation has an R-value of roughly 3 per inch of thickness; cellulose has an R-value of roughly 4 per inch, but it doesn’t retain its R-value rating as well as fiberglass.

If an attic floor is in place, it will be easier to use a blower to insert cellulose insulation into the spaces. The best way to achieve this is to carefully select pieces of the floor and remove them in such a manner that you will have access to all of the spaces in between the joists. Run the blower hose up into the attic. A helper may be needed to control the blower. Blow the insulation into the spaces between the joists, taking care not to blow insulation near electrical fixtures. Replace any flooring pieces that were removed.

Loose-fill insulation, either fiberglass or cellulose, is also a good option in cases where there is no attic floor. In such circumstances, you won’t need a blower, and can simply place the insulation between the joists by hand. You may also wish to even out the spread with a notched leveler.

When inspecting an attic, ensuring that there is a free flow of outside air from the soffits to the roof vents is key to a well-functioning insulation system. The lack of adequate ventilation in insulated attics is a common defect. When inspecting the attic, look behind the baffles to see if there is any misplaced insulation obstructing the natural air flow, and check the roof vents to make sure that outside air is exhausting properly. Check for a moisture barrier under the insulation. Also, look for spots where the insulation is compacted; it may need to be fluffed out. In the case of loose-fill insulation, check for any thinly spread areas that may need topping up. Finally, look for dirty spots in the insulation where incoming air is admitting dust into the material.

Ants!

Ants are among the most prevalent pests in households, restaurants, hospitals, offices, warehouses, and virtually all buildings where food and water can be found. While mostly harmless to humans, ants (especially carpenter ants) can cause considerable building damage.  Inspectors can expand their knowledge base by being able to identify some of the telltale signs of ant infestation.

Ant Behavior

Ants are social insects that live in colonies divided into three castes: queens, males and workers. Most of the ants you may observe, which are responsible for gathering food, are sterile female workers. Winged males and females will leave the nest to mate, and to find suitable locations for new colonies. After mating, the males die and the impregnated females (queens) shed their wings and lay eggs that will hatch into the legless, grub-like larvae. The queen takes care of these larvae as they develop until they finally become pupae. Within a few weeks, adult worker ants emerge from these pupae and take over the job of tending the young.

Distinguishing Ants from Termites

Winged ants are often mistaken for winged termites, which also leave their nests to mate. These insects can be distinguished from one another by three main characteristics:

  • The ant’s body is constricted, giving it the appearance of having a thin waist, while the termite’s body is not constricted.
  • The ant’s hind wings are smaller than its front wings, while the termite’s front and hind wings are about the same size. Wings might not always be present, however, as both species eventually lose them.
  • Winged female and worker ants have elbowed antennae, while the termite’s antennae are not elbowed.

Termites and ants both construct nests in moist wood, but ant nests are typically smoother and lack mud structures commonly found in termite nests. Also, termites actually subsist on wood, so the structural damage they leave it their wake is generally more severe than that caused by ants, which merely tunnel through wood. (read full article on InterNACHI)

Drones and Inspections

Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), commonly known as drones, are legal for people to fly for recreational use.  Mounted with cameras, drones are also being used for surveillance, emergency rescue, fire safety, disaster management, and even filmmaking.  The applications for home and commercial property inspections are numerous, such as for inspecting roofs (especially those with several pitches), as well as getting a bird’s-eye view of the surrounding property.  Some home inspectors have said that they’re currently experimenting with low-flying drones mounted with video cameras.

(read full article on InterNACHI)

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning and Detectors

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas that forms from incomplete combustion of fuels, such as natural or liquefied petroleum gas, oil, wood or coal.

Facts and Figures

  • 480 U.S. residents died between 2001 and 2003 from non-fire-related carbon-monoxide poisoning.
  • Most CO exposures occur during the winter months, especially in December (including 56 deaths, and 2,157 non-fatal exposures), and in January (including 69 deaths and 2,511 non-fatal exposures). The peak time of day for CO exposure is between 6 and 10 p.m.
  • Many experts believe that CO poisoning statistics understate the problem. Because the symptoms of CO poisoning mimic a range of common health ailments, it is likely that a large number of mild to mid-level exposures are never identified, diagnosed, or accounted for in any way in carbon monoxide statistics.
  • Out of all reported non-fire carbon-monoxide incidents, 89% or almost nine out of 10 of them take place in a home.

(read full article here)

Fun Fact Friday!

Bears have been known to eat almost anything, including snowmobile seats, engine oil, and rubber boots.

Approximately half of Iraq is covered by inhospitable desert.

The world’s oldest known bottle of wine dates back to A.D. 325 and was in Germany.

Approximately 1/3 of cat owners think their pets are able to read their minds.

In the film Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock used Bosco chocolate syrup for blood in the famous shower scene.