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.
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.
Tim Hance, owner of All Islands Home Inspections, recently discovered dangerously low overhead electrical service entrance conductors that were a clear safety issue at a recent home inspection in Friday Harbor, WA. Additionally, these older wires were unconventionally run alongside the home’s exterior and vulnerable to mechanical damage. A qualified electrician was recommended to further evaluate and make necessary repairs for safety reasons.
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.
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.
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.
Anti-scald valves, also known as tempering valves and mixing valves, mix cold water in with outgoing hot water so that the hot water that leaves a fixture is not hot enough to scald a person.
Facts and Figures
- Scalds account for 20% of all burns.
- More than 2,000 American children are scalded each year, mostly in the bathroom and kitchen.
- Scalding and other types of burns require costly and expensive hospital stays, often involving skin grafts and plastic surgery.
- Scalding may lead to additional injuries, such as falls and heart attacks, especially among the elderly.
- Water that is 160º F can cause scalding in 0.5 seconds.
Unwanted temperature fluctuations are an annoyance and a safety hazard. When a toilet is flushed, for instance, cold water flows into the toilet’s tank and lowers the pressure in the cold-water pipes. If someone is taking a shower, they will suddenly feel the water become hotter as less cold water is available to the shower valve. By the same principle, the shower water will become colder when someone in the house uses the hot-water faucet. This condition is exacerbated by plumbing that’s clogged, narrow, or installed in showers equipped with low-flow or multiple showerheads. A sudden burst of hot water can cause serious burns, particularly in young children, who have thinner skin than adults. Also, a startling thermal shock – hot or cold – may cause a person to fall in the shower as he or she scrambles on the slippery surface to adjust the water temperature. The elderly and physically challenged are at particular risk.
Anti-scald valves mitigate this danger by maintaining water temperature at a safe level, even as pressures fluctuate in water supply lines. They look similar to ordinary shower and tub valves and are equipped with a special diaphragm or piston mechanism that immediately balances the pressure of the hot- and cold-water inputs, limiting one or the other to keep the temperature within a range of several degrees. As a side effect, the use of an anti-scald valve increases the amount of available hot water, as it is drawn more slowly from the water heater. Inspectors and homeowners may want to check with the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) to see if these safety measures are required in new construction in their area.
Installation of anti-scald valves is typically simple and inexpensive. Most models are installed in the hot-water line and require a cold-water feed. They also require a swing check valve on the cold-water feed line to prevent hot water from entering the cold-water system. They may be installed at the water heater to safeguard the plumbing for the whole building, or only at specific fixtures.
The actual temperature of the water that comes out of the fixture may be somewhat different than the target temperature set on the anti-scald valve. Such irregularities may be due to long, uninsulated plumbing lines or defects in the valve itself. Users may fine-tune the valve with a rotating mechanism that will allow the water to become hotter or colder, depending on which way it’s turned. Homeowners may contact an InterNACHI inspector or a qualified plumber if they have further questions or concerns.
In summary, anti-scald valves are used to reduce water temperature fluctuations that may otherwise inconvenience or harm unsuspecting building occupants.
by Nick Gromicko, InterNACHI
One thing that brick chimneys, stone chimneys and fireplaces have in common is that eventually most will require some type of maintenance to keep a water tight seal. Leaks into a chimney can cause unsafe heating equipment as well as costly damage to the chimney, the appliances connected to it, and to the building itself. Is your chimney leaking? Are you experiencing water marks on the ceiling or walls near your chimney? Is there water appearing in the firebox? Similarly, are you experiencing cracks on the exterior of the chimney which seem to keep getting bigger or are bricks actually flaking off from your chimney? Water is the common thread between all of these problems (for the most part) and following this checklist should help you to be able to arrest water infiltration or prevent further damage.
Keep your family safe with these fireplace safety tips. Build the right size fire, and baby proof the fireplace. Heed safety concerns when cleaning a fireplace and chimney. Learn about fireplace inspection and proper disposal of fireplace ashes. Not sure if you need a chimney sweep to come out to your house? Or, concerned about getting your home dirty? And, what is the difference between having your chimney inspected and having it swept? Chimney Safety Institute of America offers two short online tutorials that walk you through the basics on chimney sweeping and inspections
I was unable to test a bathroom outlet at a recent home inspection in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island because it was placed directly against the vanity cabinet, rendering plugging any appliances into it very difficult. I certainly couldn’t insert my plug tester. This is a reportable issue because, (1) I couldn’t test the outlet or verify it was GFCI protected and (2) future homeowners need to know they likely need to make repairs to have a functional MBA outlet.