Category Archives: Interior

WATER + LINT + ELECTRICITY = PROBLEM

During a recent inspection in Freeland, I noticed condensation and lint accumulation within the electrical panel enclosure—which was installed near open dryer vent ducting.

Savvy homeowners understand that dryer vent ducting should always be routed to the exterior of the home, so it didn’t take a great detective to determine this was a problem. The panel was being coated in moisture and lint, and…do I even need to continue?  

Nope, you know where this is going.

In my report, I recommended fully extending and discharging dryer vent ducting to the exterior to prevent recurrence. I also suggested further evaluation, repair, and cleaning of the electrical panel by a qualified contractor for safety reasons.

If you have questions or comments about electrical issues, tweet me (@AIHomeInspect).

VIDEO: DON’T GET ‘TRAPPED’ WITH THIS PLUMBING PROBLEM

Today, I’m going to write about a plumbing issue that is as easy to diagnose as counting “1-2-3,” or—more aptly—“A-B-C.”

I’m talking about “S-traps” and “P-traps.”  If you don’t know what these are, this video gives a nice overview. After watching this, you’ll better understand why you may want to consider making the switch from “S” to “P” in your home’s sinks.

I recently came across this very issue during an inspection on Fidalgo Island, where I found an “S-Trap” installed under the kitchen sink. As a result, I recommended the homeowner install a “P-Trap” in my report.

If you have questions or comments about plumbing issues, tweet me (@AIHomeInspect).

GHOSTING: NOT JUST SOMETHING THAT HAPPENS AFTER A BAD DATE

If you own a wood stove and live in an under-insulated house, there is a good chance you’ve seen mysterious-looking stains on your walls and ceilings. This “sooting”— a phenomenon known as “ghosting”— typically suggests incomplete combustion byproducts condensing upon cooler framing members. 

In other words, hot meets cold, and then invites dust and/or soot particles to the party. While it may resemble mold, it’s usually not.

I recently noted this during a visit to a home in Friday Harbor where visible soot outlined underlying framing elements. As you can see in the picture, ghosting can sometimes create unique patterns. 

If your home is experiencing “ghosting,” learn about addressing the possible causes

If you have questions or comments about “ghosting”-related issues, tweet me (@AIHomeInspect).

GIVE YOUR VEGETATIVE OVERGROWTH A MUCH-NEEDED HAIRCUT

Electricity and flammable objects don’t play well together—unless you define “playing well together” as starting a house fire.

If you take the traditional view on what “playing well together” means, however, I would suggest you pay attention to vegetative overgrowth in direct contact with overhead electrical service entrance conductors. Allowing this type of contact is a bad idea. 

I came across this issue recently on a home inspection in Bellingham, and I noted in my report to provide proper clearance for safety reasons.

Do you have questions or comments about electrical issues? Go “All” in and tweet us (@AIHomeInspect).

ACTIVE LEAK AND CORROSION AT GALVANIZED PIPE FITTING: IT’S JUST A MATTER OF TIME UNTIL THIS GETS MUCH WORSE

If you don’t take care of leaks when they first occur, a funny thing begins to happen: they get worse. Recently, during an inspection in Langley, I discovered an active plumbing leak in the crawl space at the main water shutoff valve. 

I also noted corrosion at the galvanized pipe fitting. I stated in the report that my clients should consult a qualified plumbing contractor to take care of this before the problem worsened.

Do you have questions or comments about plumbing issues? Go “All” in and tweet us (@AIHomeInspect).

DON’T LIKE INSECTS? THEN LOSE THE MOISTURE!

Wood-destroying insects are attracted to moisture and seek it out, so it’s imperative to keep your home dry. This moisture may come from issues such as plumbing leaks, water intrusion, and improper ventilation.

Good news, though: If your home is dry, these wood destroying insects will not have any interest in your home’s wood elements. So, keep on top of the moisture, and you stay on top of the problem.

I recently came across active water and insect activity/damage while inspecting a laundry room facility in a house on Whidbey Island. In my report, I noted insect frass, delaminated floor coverings, and saturation when probed with a moisture meter. I also noted the possibility of underlying damage not visible without invasive inspection.

Do you have questions or comments about insect activity in your home? Go “All” in and tweet us (@AIHomeInspect).

3 QUESTIONS: STRUCTURAL ELEMENTS WITH ARMSTRONG ELECTRICAL SOLUTIONS LLC

Every month, we seek to bring our readers insight from the worlds of home construction, home repair, and home maintenance straight from local Northwest Washington contractors in a segment we call “3 Questions.” Yep, you guessed it: we ask three questions, and the contractors answer them.

This month, we talk about electrical issues with Stan Armstrong, owner of Armstrong Electrical Solutions LLC in Eastsound.

Q1: Sylvania Zinsco and Federal Pacific electrical panels are frequently called out as potential safety hazards in home inspection reports.  Do you recommend replacement of these panels and, if so, what’s a typical replacement cost for a 200-AMP panel?

Yes, those circuit breakers have had issues tripping when there is an over-current situation on the conductor. The Zinsco breaker could melt to the bus bar and never trip. Poof, a fire in your panel or even on your conductor or at the devices it feeds. 

Secondly, as the electrical panel world has evolved to a Combination Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupter (CAFI), its protection was required in Washington State for permits acquired after June 2014. All single-pole residential interior circuits must be Combination Arc-Fault Circuit Breakers (this provides protection against overloads, short circuits, parallel arcing, and series arcing). 


If you change a device or extend a circuit over six feet, the circuit is required to be upgraded. 

A new 200-AMP electrical panel will typically cost between $1,300 – $3,000 depending on the number of circuits and complexity. If you’re buying an old home, that correction should be a bargaining chip as you will want to replace it.   

Q2: Separating grounds from neutrals is typically recommended for subpanels, although older subpanels don’t always observe this practice.  What’s your advice if grounds aren’t separated from neutrals in a subpanel?

This depends on if the subject panel is the service panel or a feeder panel. Service panel grounds and neutrals are always bonded together. 

Prior to the 2002 code change, the neutral conductors in feeder panels were bonded together, no 4th conductor, and the ground conductor was installed in the conduits. 

After 2002, all installations that involve feeder panels—a panel fed with a current limiting interrupter upline—shall have the neutrals isolated or floating, whereas the ground conductors are bonded to the metal panel body. If that panel is not attached to the home, it is also required to have two ground electrodes connected by a ground electrode conductor. 

Q3: When testing outlets, my test equipment frequently discovers “hot-neutral reverse,” which typically indicates a loose neutral in the circuit.  In your experience, why does this happen?

When amateurs/handymen install electrical wiring, they may be confused and not know the difference between a non-grounded conductor, or hot conductor, and the neutral that eventually feeds back to ground, known as the grounded conductor. The appliance or device switch will turn off the neutral return path but leave the appliance energized, resulting in possible electrocution. 

BONUS: Do you have any pet peeves or electrical advice you’d like to share with our audience?

When we find short conductors (wires) in a junction box, we often know the homeowner or amateur has been in there. Trained professionals generally have 6-9” coming out of the junction box. 

Another Issue: Bigger circuit breakers beyond what the conductor is designed to handle.

Someone may put a 20-AMP breaker on 15-AMP circuit, with a 14-American wire gauge (AWG) conductor because their breaker continues to trip. The conductor could become overheated and is a safety issue. 

About Armstrong Electrical Solutions LLC

Armstrong Electrical Solutions LLC (AESLLC) was created with a vision to provide innovative electrical solutions for both the simple and complex home. The company uses durable, time-trusted products, and incorporates technological solutions when appropriate. 

The business serves clients on Orcas Island, its outer islands and the San Juan Islands in general. Owner Stan Armstrong has been involved in the construction/electrical industry since 1984. Recently, the company focus has been developing electrical solutions for high-end residential construction clients.

For more information, visit www.armstrongesllc.com

A big “thanks” to Stan for his responses!

Do you have questions or comments about home inspections in general? Go “All” in and tweet us (@AIHomeInspect).

HEY FLUE PIPE: KEEP YOUR DISTANCE!

Is your flue pipe a little too cozy with other elements of your home? 

During a recent home inspection on Shaw Island, I noticed a combination furnace-water heater double wall B-vent flue pipe in direct contact with sheetrock and floor carpeting within a hallway closet. 

This is a big “no-no” because the pipe did not observe proper clearance-from-combustible requirements, a significant safety issue. 

Typically, 1″ of space, free and clear from contact, is advised around this type of piping.

If you have questions or comments about home inspections in general, tweet us (@AIHomeInspect).

COME ON NOW, GIVE ME A CHALLENGE, THAT’S TOO EASY A DEFECT TO SPOT! OR, MAYBE THEY WERE TRYING TO HIGHLIGHT IT?

Sometimes, home inspection problems can be hard to spot. And other times…

A recent inspection in Bow provided one of these “other times,” when I discovered an active plumbing leak in the bathroom. It was kind of impossible to miss the bright, yellow bucket that had been installed to catch the dripping water. 

It certainly made my job easier. 

If you have questions or comments about plumbing issues in general, tweet us (@AIHomeInspect).

TAKE CARE OF YOUR APPLIANCES AND THEY WILL TAKE CARE OF YOU

So, your kitchen isn’t exactly top-of-the-line anymore?

Maybe the dishwasher doesn’t make the dishes quite as sparkly clean as it used to? Or perhaps the milk doesn’t seem quite so cold, even though the refrigerator runs at a low setting?

This week, I wanted to share a helpful video produced by This Old House entitled “How to Maintain Kitchen Appliances.” Maybe, just maybe, it will help you to get one more ice cube or heat another hot kettle of water.

Do you have questions or comments about home inspections in general? Go “All” in and tweet us (@AIHomeInspect).