Category Archives: Advice

Save money by insulating your attic hatch

Did you know that insulating and weather-stripping your attic access hatch, like that pictured here, can be one of the most cost-effective strategies for significantly improving the thermal efficiency of your home?  In fact, I understand that you can lose 30-40% of heated air through hatches that are neither insulated or weather-stripped.  Think about that, 30-40%, it’s a HUGE number!  For a small investment (less than $20), you can save hundreds of dollars annually.  It’s a no brainer.  This picture was taken at a recent home inspection in Burlington, Washington.

Textured “popcorn” ceilings and asbestos

Textured “popcorn” ceilings, like that pictured here, could contain asbestos, especially in homes constructed prior to 1978.  Because some sheetrock and painting contractors kept stores of this material into the early 1980s, it’s possible that textured “popcorn” ceilings in the 1980s could contain asbestos as well.  Provided the material is in good condition and not delaminating from the ceiling, this isn’t a health concern because it’s not considered “friable,” e.g., you can’t breathe it.  But if you intend to remodel (or scrape) “popcorn” ceilings, or it they’re in poor condition, testing is advised.  Asbestos can only be confirmed by laboratory testing.  This was discovered at a recent home inspection in Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island.

Checking soffit vent screens

It’s important to periodically (annually is good) check your soffit vent screens around the perimeter of your home to make sure the metal screening is in good condition.  Oftentimes, birds will damage screening, attempting to gain access to the (warm, protected) attic area.  Replacement of damaged screening should be undertaken as soon as practical.  Don’t just cover and block the vents as this can compromise attic ventilation which can lead to mold growth in the attic, a costly problem.  This was discovered at a recent home inspection on Samish Island.

Active water intrusion

Pictured here is active water intrusion (wet spot) and historic water intrusion (water stains) discovered within a side attic at a recent home inspection in Anacortes on Fidalgo Island.  Obviously, a roofing contractor will need to further evaluate and make necessary repairs.  The issue at this home, unfortunately, is that the ceilings were vaulted (e.g., no attic access) so without invasive inspection, one really doesn’t know what’s going on behind ceiling finishes.  With water intrusion, water related issues like mold, deterioration and insect activity should be suspected.  Ultimately, I’m not sure if this client heeded my advice to invasive inspect, but I’m hopeful he did.

Proper wiring for hot tubs

So, you’ve decided it’s time to finally get a hot tub!  It’s important to install wiring serving the hot tub properly for obvious safety reasons.  Pictured here is wiring simply run in the grass to the hot tub appliance. Hopefully it doesn’t get hit by a lawn mower or someone doesn’t trip over it!  Wiring should be sleeved in conduit, run underground to the hot tub and have a GFCI-protected subpanel installed within sight of the hot tub and readily accessible.  Also, any and all wiring modifications or additions at a home require a permit and inspection through the Department of Labor & Industries.  This was discovered at a recent home inspection in Mount Vernon.

Dealing with rusting metal flashing

Rusting metal flashing details can often be painted with a high quality, exterior-rated metal paint to extend serviceable life and prevent further deterioration.  If you see rusting flashing details atop your roof or around your chimney, I highly recommend painting to prevent further damage; replacement of deteriorated flashing details- especially around masonry fireplaces- can be costly.  These pictures show rust presenting at one flashing detail, corrosion- and due for replacement- at another.  This was discovered at a recent home inspection on Camano Island.

Open wires

Open wires, like those pictured here, need to be secured and properly terminated/enclosed in a covered junction box or have the appropriate fixture installed for obvious safety reasons.  This is called out frequently at home inspections and with real estate appraisals.  It’s a simple, straightforward repair.  These pictures were taken at a recent home inspection in Anacortes on Fidalgo Island. 

Temperature pressure relief (TPR) valves

Pictured here is a typical TPR (temperature-pressure-relief) valve, installed on all water heaters.  Code requires the installation of a ¾-inch solid pipe, discharging to the exterior or extending to within six (6) inches of the floor for safety reasons.  The TPR valve is designed to discharge high temperature and/or high pressure water if the water heater overheats or develops too much internal pressure.  Without a TPR valve, the water heater could literally blow up in the event of overheating or excessive pressure build-up.  The reason we extend the pipe is because, in the event that it discharges, we don’t want it discharging high pressure, high temperature water towards a person which would be a definite safety issue.   This was discovered at a recent home inspection on Shaw Island in the San Juan Islands.

Vinyl dryer ducting

While you can still purchase vinyl dryer ducting at most hardware stores, one of my personal “peeves” is to have it replaced with metal ducting, ideally smooth metal ducting.  Dryer lint is highly flammable and vinyl burns, so it doesn’t make a lot of sense- at least to me- to use vinyl dryer ducting.  Smooth metal is best because it doesn’t have corrugated folds that can catch lint and cause it to build up, but flexible metal is good if smooth metal isn’t practical.  I always recommend replacing vinyl dryer ducting when I see it.  This was noted at a recent home inspection in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island.

Damage to roofing due to pressure washing

Colored granules on your roof coverings are what protect the roof coverings themselves from the elements.  This is why it’s important to NOT pressure wash your roof as doing so can lead to granular loss and reduce the roof’s life expectancy. In fact, I’ve seen newer roofs completely destroyed by pressure washing (treatment with zinc granules is the most common way to keep moss off your roof).  Pictured here is substantial granular loss and exposed underlying fiberglass underlayment.  These roof coverings were in poor condition, clearly due for replacement.  This was discovered at a recent home inspection on Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands.