Tag Archives: home inspection

Greening Your Inspection Business

by Nick Gromicko and Kate Tarasenko, InterNACHI
Most small business owners have their hands full just trying to stay on top of their current workload, as well as marketing themselves for more work, and inspectors are no exception.  But everyone can make some simple and painless improvements to their workplace and work habits that will minimize their carbon footprint, save money, and even appeal to prospective customers as marketing tools.

Here are some tactics that you can start using today:

•  Use recycled paper for your inspection reports and marketing materials, and make sure you use a logo that tells your customers so.  “Printed on 90% post-consumer waste” (or whatever applies) can provide your prospective clients with a positive heads-up that you’re environmentally conscious.  Recycled paper and cardstock are also generally cheaper, which can lower your costs for office supplies.  Also, if you must print out something and it’s for internal use only, use the reverse side of paper that you would otherwise throw away.

•  Recycle your printer cartridges.  Most printer service and retail outlets will accept these and reward you with a discount on your next purchase.

•  Get organized.  Maximize your time by minimizing your driving trips around town.  Shop online, when possible.  You’ll save wear and tear on your vehicle, and you’ll spare the air of your emissions.

•  Pay your bills online.  This decreases what you spend on postage, and cuts down on the mail you receive, much of which winds up in the trash anyway, such as promotional inserts and window envelopes.

•  If it’s cold in your office, add a layer of clothing, rather than turn up the heat.  Likewise, if it’s warm, open a window instead of turning on the A/C.  If ventilation to the outdoors is not practical, consider running the A/C intermittently rather than continuously throughout the day.  Be sure to use fans to assist with air movement, as well as shades to block the sunlight through windows.

•  If you don’t already have a low-flow toilet at your office, place a brick in the tank of your toilet to save on water used for flushes.

•  Find ways to let natural light into your workspace to cut down on the use of electric lights.  Where practical, change your incandescent bulbs to energy-saving compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) and T8 fluorescent bulbs, which can reduce your lighting energy costs by up to 75%.

•  Use cups, plates and silverware in your office kitchen, rather than paper products.  If you buy disposable products, consider purchasing the newer biodegradable plastics made of corn.   Also, purchase paper supplies in bulk, which will reduce your shopping trips, as well as your expenses.

•  When upgrading tools and equipment, donate what you no longer use, if selling is impractical.  Many thrift stores, including outlets run by Habitat for Humanity, will gladly accept a worn tape measure, flashlight, and even work boots.  Just make sure that items such as ladders are safe before passing them along.

•  Many office supply stores that sell tech, such as Staples, OfficeMax and Kinko’s, will accept your outmoded cell phones, computers and printers to dispose of at bulk savings to them, or they will refurbish them for resale or donation.  Tech hardware disposed of in landfills is among the most toxic sources of soil and groundwater contamination today because of the chemicals contained in their components, and the results of the biochemical breakdown of their materials.  If you don’t want to pay a fee to dispose of these items responsibly, take them to a recycling center or retail outlet that will gladly take them off your hands.

•  Before hauling something out to the Dumpster, consider re-purposing it.  An old door can be converted into a work table, and cork and foamboard can be used as a message board.  Old t-shirts make handy rags for the office and work truck.

•  Make sure your computers, printers and copiers are set to energy-saving or sleep mode when not in use for extended periods.  Also, consider routinely unplugging electrical items at the end of the day, since coffee makers, lamps and power strips that are turned off but remain plugged in continue to draw current.

•  Before making a purchase, look online at websites such as Craigslist and Freecycle to see if you can find what you need for less than new, or even free.  Several different categories on such sites offer building supplies and materials, tools, and office equipment and products at second-hand prices for sometimes brand new items, which can save you money that you can put toward more meaningful purchases.

•  If you must buy new office furniture, consider buying chairs, desks, tables and bookcases made from wood that has been reclaimed or that originates from sustainably harvested forests.  Look for certifications on wood products from the Forestry Stewardship Council and the Rainforest Alliance.  In addition to sparing living trees, reclaimed and sustainably harvested wood has the advantage of being free of formaldehyde and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which is better for your health, as well as the planet’s.

•  Make your inspection website robust.  Take advantage of InterNACHI’s many marketing tips and tools so that your prospective clients can find the information they need about you and your services online.  This will save them time (and aggravation), and will impress them with your technological savvy.  For many people, using technology to its fullest potential is equivalent to being green, and this method of marketing yourself can set you apart from your competition.  Consider producing your own online video commercial through NACHI.TV to give your prospective customers a genuine sense of yourself and your (green) business ethic.

Video: Remove vent caps above roof

Plumbing vent caps are installed during construction to pressure test the drain-waste-vent plumbing system before it’s filled with water and used regularly. Once the test is passed (e.g., the pipes hold pressure and don’t leak), these caps are supposed to be removed to ensure proper drainage within the home. This vent cap was discovered at a 1999 home on Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands. Surprisingly, I call this out all the time. If the vent has been abandoned, the cap is appropriate; but this usually isn’t the case. Usually, the plumbing contractor forgets to get back on the roof to remove caps. So, if you see caps, I’d remove them if the pipes aren’t abandoned.

Two Vapor Barriers and Standing Water in Crawl Space

Tim Hance of All Islands Home Inspections discovered two (2) or more vapor barriers in a crawl space filled with water at a recent Anacortes, WA home inspection. The reason that two (2) or more vapor barriers is frowned upon is because water, if it enters the crawl space, can become entrapped between vapor barriers, prolonging evaporation time and leading to stagnant water conditions. Here in the Pacific NW, water intrusion into a crawl space or basement should be dealt with promptly as it can lead to structural damage/settling and insect activity (e.g., carpenter ants, anobiid beetles and Pacific Dampwood termites are attracted to moist areas). In this particular case, the installation of a perimeter curtain drain was recommended to the clients by a licensed contractor.

Wild animal at San Juan Island home inspection!

Inspecting a home in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island today, I happened upon this “friendly” raccoon! So friendly, in fact, that I had some difficulty getting around the exterior inspection without having to whisk the creature away from time to time. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to animals, so never a dull moment inspecting that’s for sure!

Water stains on ceiling

Water stains were noted at a wood ceiling, immediately adjacent a skylight, at a recent home inspection in Roche Harbor on San Juan Island.  Probed with a moisture meter, the underlying ceiling cavity was dry at the time of inspection, but there obviously was water intrusion at some point in time.  The skylight flashing detail appeared to be in excellent condition, suggesting the water intrusion could have been from wind-driven rain, or that it predated the skylight installation when the roof was replaced a decade ago.  In any event, I recommended the client monitor for recurrence into the future and repair if noted.  It’s important to monitor all roof penetrations (e.g., skylights, stove flues, vent pipes, solar tubes, etc.) for water intrusion and repair immediately when/if noted.

CUT TRUSSES in Garage!

Tim Hance with All Islands Home Inspections recently discovered unconventionally constructed trusses in a garage that have been cut at a home inspection on Orcas Island. Cutting trusses is expressly NOT ALLOWED as it can, and likely will, lead to structural settling and failure over time. In this case, the roof plane showed clear evidence of settling/sagging when viewed from the exterior; when I went inside, it was clear why the roof was settling. With an appropriate snow load, or with time, some of these trusses will likely crack and fail. In this particular situation, repair was difficult because the trusses were cut to accommodate large garage doors; the recommended interim solution was to install intermediate posts and beams, in the middle of the garage, to properly support the roof and allow for vehicle access and egress.

“Fogged” windows

“Fogged” windows, or windows with condensation between glass panes, are commonly discovered at home inspections.  From my perspective, it’s a cosmetic issue because the condensation between panes isn’t a water intrusion issue for the home’s health itself.  Sure, you’ll lose some thermal efficiency when the window panes lose their seals, but it’s somewhat negligible in the grand scheme of things.  In my experience, Realtors are about 50% successful in negotiating replacement of “fogged” windows in real estate transactions. The Seller typically takes the stance that the “fogged” windows were obvious when the offer was made.  The Buyer, on the other hand, may take the position that (a) they didn’t notice the “fogged” windows or (b) they had no idea what it would cost to replace.  If you have a significant number of fogged windows, replacement adds up quickly. Standard “fogged” windows typically cost $300-$500 each to replace; contractors can usually pop-out the old glass pane and install a new one, without having to encumber trim and siding elements.  These pictures were taken at a recent home inspection on Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands.

DETERIORATED Eave Sheathing

Tim Hance with All Islands Home Inspections discovered completely deteriorated OSB eave sheathing at a recent home inspection in Anacortes, WA. If your soffit sheathing is discolored, particularly adjacent the gutters, you may very well have water and insect damage requiring your attention and repair. Left unchecked, deterioration will continue and become more expensive with time. Keeping gutters clean and installing a metal drip-edge flashing detail will help prevent recurrence into the future.

Deteriorated wood gutters

Wood gutters are cool, but they definitely require maintenance and are, from my perspective, a bit impractical.  Pictured here are substantially deteriorated wood gutters requiring replacement.  Many homeowners with wooden gutter systems will flash the interiors of the gutters (sometimes even with copper!) to help prevent water damage and extend serviceable life.  But the reality is that wood gutters are generally not painted/sealed (e.g., to maintain that cool wood look) so they will deteriorate over time from moisture which leads to WDO (wood destroying organism) damage.  Most gutter systems today are constructed with aluminum, metal, copper or plastic.  Gutters aren’t just to keep rain off your head as you enter your house!  They’re important to divert rain/storm water away from the building envelope.  This was discovered at a recent home inspection in Anacortes on Fidalgo Island.

Moldlike Growth in Attic

At a recent home inspection on Orcas Island, I discovered plywood sheathing in the attic that was stained with a mold-like growth. This typically, almost always, indicates an insufficient ventilation or elevated moisture issue within the attic. Vents could be restricted, vent ducts may be discharging into the attic, or the interface between the main home and attic may need to be better sealed. In any event, a contractor needs to first resolve the underlying cause of elevated moisture and make necessary repairs. The mold-like growth is then typically remediated with a mildicide and then painted with mildicide paint to encapsulate historic mold growth. I recommend tinting the paint TAN because white or black mold growth will be obvious if it returns (e.g., you’ll see it on tan paint). If the attic is forever tan, you know the issue has been addressed satisfactorily. Because most home buyers want this issue addressed prior to closing, and remediation can be expensive, I recommend peeking into your attic on an annual basis and dealing with any apparent mold-like growth sooner than later if noted.