Category Archives: Interior

IS YOUR ELECTRICAL HANDYWORK SAFE?

Handyman electrical work is something I come across on a regular basis. Electrical work can be expensive, so DIY work in this arena makes perfect sense if possible.

During a recent inspection on Lopez Island, I found yet another example of handyman electrical work when I discovered exposed Romex electrical wiring within a covered porch that needed to be sleeved in conduit or otherwise protected from mechanical damage.

Wiring should always be protected from the elements, and properly installed. If you are going to be a handyman, make sure your work is safe.

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

ARE YOU PROPERLY MAINTAINING YOUR WATER HEATER?

It’s easy to take hot water for granted, but did you know it’s important to maintain your water heater annually? Whether you have a tankless or conventional water heater—electric, propane or gas—annual maintenance is essential for safety reasons, efficient/reliable operation, and to extend the serviceable life of the appliance. Here’s a great DIY resource giving tips and advice about maintaining water heaters. 

And, here’s a tip: If you have an electric water heater, consider purchasing replacement elements and thermostats (they’re inexpensive) and storing them next to the water heater. In this way, you’re prepared to quickly and easily replace elements/thermostats to restore hot water without making a long trip to the hardware store (fingers crossed that they have what you need). You’ll be a hero restoring hot water quickly, trust me! Finally, if you ever notice that your water heater tank is leaking or corroding, that’s your tell sign that the water heater is at end-of-life and requires replacement ASAP.   

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

JUST USE A LITTLE TAPE…

Sometimes, no words are required. 

I applaud the creativity of this handyman repair. Maybe it’s not something that will earn the most style points, but it is a very impressive use of resources.

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

MORE HANDYMAN FLUE PIPE WORK: CAN YOU IMAGINE WHAT HAPPENS WHEN IT GETS WINDY?

Sometimes, I see the nuttiest things when it comes to handyman repairs. Case-in-point: I recently came across a pair of metal corrugated flue pipes on a rooftop in San Juan County that penetrated the chimney chase.

Aside from having an “alien-like” quality in appearance, they were also not properly terminated or secured.

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

DOING YOUR ELECTRICAL WORK? BE CAREFUL!

Surprisingly, electrical issues are common discoveries at home inspections, with the most common being improperly wired switches, outlets, and handyman/unprofessional wiring practices. Purchasing an outlet tester (costs less than $10) is a simple, quick way to determine if your home’s outlets are correctly wired. You’ll probably be surprised to find a few in your home! Unless you’re entirely confident and competent, I recommend hiring a licensed, bonded, and insured electrician to perform any and all electrical work. 

If you DIY and your work doesn’t appear professional (think PERFECT), it will likely be called out by a home inspector when your home is sold. Competent electricians are fastidious and “fussy” with their work (it’s their signature after all), and there’s nothing better than a “fussy” electrician I like to say! 

Be sure to check with the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries, as most electrical work requires a permit and final inspection. Permits are easily obtainable and inexpensive. Furthermore, having a third-party review of electrical work is just another layer of safety and insulation against potential future electrical issues. Plus, it’s the law! Finally, for the DIY homeowners out there, a great book is “For Pros by Pros: Wiring a House by Rex Cauldwell. I’ve relied on this book for years of building and remodeling. It’s excellent!

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

GOOD TRY, BUT SOME REPAIRS ARE BEST LEFT TO THE PROS

While I appreciate it when homeowners attempt to take on handyman repairs on their own, sometimes it’s best to leave things to the professionals.

Case in point: during a recent inspection on Shaw Island, I noticed handyman plumbing practices at a copper supply line within the kitchen sink base cabinet. Its execution left a bit to be desired. 

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

IN A ‘JAMB’?: DOOR ISSUES RARELY INDICATE STRUCTURAL ISSUES

Uh oh: Your door is not closing properly.

It used to work seamlessly, but now it doesn’t stay open or close correctly. Perhaps it rubs against the floor or its jamb. What’s changed? What’s wrong? Is the structural integrity of my home at-risk? Why is this happening? 

Oh no!

Okay, maybe it’s not that dramatic, but sometimes doors that don’t function properly can cause homeowners great concern. Problematic doors are a particularly common issue for historic homeowners. However, most of the time, the causes and solutions for fixing the problem are simple—and not of structural concern.

Recently, while inspecting a house in Skagit County, I came upon this issue. A bedroom door in the home was rubbing against its jamb. In my report, I recommended that a qualified contractor further evaluate the door and make any needed repairs. I also noted the issue didn’t appear to be of any significant structural concern.

Case (and door) closed.

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

3 QUESTIONS: HEATING SYSTEMS WITH FOSS HEATING & COOLING

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 heating systems with Alex Gravley, manager at Foss Heating & Cooling in Mount Vernon.


Q1: Home inspectors are always calling for annual service of furnaces, fireplaces and heat pumps. Is this really necessary?

It sure is! Yearly maintenance not only ensures that the comfort system is performing at its rated output and efficiency, but can identify potential problems like component failure/wear and fix issues before they become emergency repairs.


Q2: When you inspect furnaces, are you able to fully see and inspect the heat exchanger? This critical component isn’t fully visible to home inspectors.

We cannot fully inspect a heat exchanger on a furnace without completely removing it. This service is not intended by manufacturers and thus is difficult and time-consuming. We employ a few procedures to ensure the heat exchanger is intact. A combination of pressure testing, Carbon Monoxide testing, visual inspection, and flue gas analysis is the best way to be sure a heat exchanger is not in failure and dangerous. 


Q3: Do customers get an economy-of-scale discount by contracting with you to service multiple appliances in one trip?

Yes, we have lower pricing built in for our customers that have multiple units to service all at once.

Bonus Q: Is it really important to make sure the arrows on furnace filters are pointed in the correct direction, or is this kind of silly?

There is an anti-microbial coating on many disposable media filters that is only on one side of the filter. This is the main reason for the arrows, but in reality, someone would likely not notice a difference if the filter was installed backward.

About Foss Heating & Cooling

Foss Heating & Cooling has been serving Skagit Valley since 1974. The company specializes in residential and light commercial service, retrofit, air quality, and water heaters. The business is a Trane Comfort Specialist and Mitsubishi Diamond Dealer, which means that Foss Heating & Cooling must attend training and offer support for those brands while servicing all other brands as well. The company’s focus is on 100 percent customer satisfaction and taking extra care to educate clients on the importance of proper equipment sizing, efficiency, safety, air quality, yearly service, and properly sized, sealed, and insulated ductwork.

For more information, visit www.fossheating.com.
 
A big “thanks” to Alex for his responses!

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

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).