Category Archives: Three Questions


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
A big “thanks” to Alex for his responses!

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

Originally posted 2019-08-28 12:05:56.


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 flooring issues with WoodCraft Wood Floors, Inc. in Mount Vernon.

Q1: Oftentimes, home inspectors observe and report water-damaged or cupped wood flooring in kitchens, bathrooms, or adjacent exterior doors.  Can this be repaired and restored?

Floors that are water damaged can be replaced and refinished, or if the floor is not too far damaged by water, they can be dried and re-sanded. This must be determined by a hardwood flooring professional.

Q2:  In older homes, with original wood flooring, can the floors typically be refinished and restored?  Any advice or pointers for DIY weekend warriors thinking about restoring old wood floors?

Yes, old homes that have wood floors can be refinished. We typically don’t recommend DIY sanding floors because—if you do not know what you are doing—you can damage the floor and sand down too much of the surface, which can sand all the life left on the wear surface.

Q3: What’s your favorite type(s) of wood flooring, and why?

Red and white oak flooring is still a classic that does not go out of style.  It is a stable wood that is not susceptible to a lot of movement.

Bonus Q: Having floors refinished professionally vs. the DIY weekend warrior: what’s the typical cost difference one can expect?

Professional refinishing can run approximately $4.50 per square feet and up. DIY will cost rental, sanding materials (paper, wood filler, sealer, finish, applicators), time and labor.

About WoodCraft Wood Floors, Inc.
Woodcraft Wood Floors, Inc has been serving Skagit, Whatcom, Island, San Juan and part of Snohomish Counties since 1980. In the 1980s, the company operated under the name of Woodcraft Construction, and focused on design and building construction with a wood flooring division. Over the years, its wood floors became so popular that the business decided to close the design-build portion of its business and concentrate on only wood flooring. In 1991, it became Woodcraft Wood Floors, Inc. Woodcraft Wood Floors is also a member of the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA), which sets the standards for the wood flooring industry. For more information, visit

A big “thanks” to Woodcraft Wood Floors for their responses.

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


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.

Bob Shupe

This month, we talk about mold in the attic with Bob Shupe, Principal at Cleaner Guys in Mount Vernon.

Q1: Mold: It’s a hot topic and frequently discovered in attics above homes in the Pacific Northwest.  Is this a health issue for the home’s occupants?

Unfortunately, the answer has to be “maybe.” There are numerous variables involved with making a determination like that where the occupants of a home are concerned. Generally, mold in an attic space is not an immediate health concern/risk for the occupants simply due to the unlikely exposure to attic mold. People spend little or likely no time in their attic so they would not be directly exposed to it. Additionally, most health risks associated with mold are chronic exposure issues, not acute exposure. An example of chronic exposure would be to have a bedroom in a basement where there is groundwater intrusion regularly causing active mold growth in a wall cavity. Because people spend many hours per day in their bedroom, an active mold problem in the walls could develop into a health problem. There are still many factors that contribute to this (including the general health of the person exposed, the severity of the mold problem, general home cleanliness, etc.). Significant risk multipliers would be pre-existing health issues such as respiratory or immune system conditions/disease etc.

For the structure itself, it is crucial to keep in mind that active mold colonization is slowly consuming the building materials. As a microorganism, mold is using the wood of a building as a food source. Eventually, serious structural damage may be done if mold is not removed/remediated/killed, etc. There also has to be water for the mold to be actively growing. Often times, the water intrusion and/or water damage can be a bigger problem in terms of damage, health concerns and cost than the mold. If a house has a bad roof and water is leaking in—causing damage to sheeting and framing materials—the roof is eventually going to cave in, causing potential harm to the occupants regardless of their pre-existing medical conditions. We have all seen the abandoned home or old barn where the roof eventually caves in. This is the same thing, and there is almost always going to be a mold component to the structural collapse in the case of water intrusion. This is a long/slow process and not likely to happen in an occupied home, but the illustration is realistic. Keep in mind that house framing/roofing systems are engineered for a particular load rating. As the materials deteriorate so does the load rating. This does not mean the roof is going to fall in under its own weight, but it could mean that the roof will not hold a snow load as it should or resist wind forces or perhaps a tree falling on the roof. A weakened roof structure would likely lead to a worse failure of the systems that would normally be expected because the roof and framing strength have been compromised by water damage and/or mold growth. These are pretty extreme examples though, most mold growth we observe in homes is due to poor or non-existent ventilation or other water vapor issues than significant water intrusion. The result is slow, mild mold/mildew growth on sheeting materials that is frequently seasonal and going through phases of growth and dormancy. Most molds thrive in narrow bands of temperature and moisture content levels. In the Pacific Northwest, we have sufficient seasonal changes where you might get mold growth in the fall when we have rain and moderate temperatures and then slowing of growth during the earlier part of the year when it’s cold, followed by a re-emergence of growth in the spring and then dormancy in the summer when it’s hot.

Back to the potential of specific health issues for people living in a home with active mold growth in an attic, the natural air flow in a building is working in favor of the occupants. Warm air rises and—for the most part—air coming into a house goes up, through and out of the attic. There are anomalies of course, but as a general principle, mold or spores are unlikely to migrate from roof sheeting to the living space of a home. If there is water intrusion to the degree that the ceiling drywall is getting wet and mold is growing on the drywall, I would eventually anticipate mold growth on the drywall in the living space—which becomes a very different issue than mold in an attic.

Q2: In your experience, what’s the most frequent cause of mold growth in attics?

All attic mold is caused by the same thing: the right growing conditions for mold. The key ingredient for mold growth is water. It is the key because, realistically, it is the only ingredient we can have a positive impact on. Like any plant, mold needs water, air, food and a temperature range appropriate for the species of mold. We build houses out of wood (food source), and the air is obviously present. Therefore, by controlling water issues, we can control mold growth. This means proper ventilation, no acute moisture sources such as leaks, bathroom vents blowing steam into the attic space, etc. Engineering controls can be put in place to give an attic better resistance to higher levels of water and water vapor—but it’s always best to prevent water from entering initially. Building materials can be treated with mold-resistant coatings, powered fans can be installed to create high air flow rates—but if you have a bathroom fan blowing steam in the attic every time someone takes a shower, just fix that. If there is some mold as a result, it can be remediated. Once this occurs, this will likely be the end of it because both the cause and effect have been corrected. Sometimes, however, the cause cannot be adequately repaired, and so some degree of a long-term solution needs to be implemented. For example, if the home is in an area where it’s shady most of the time, it’s more likely there will be moisture buildup/condensation in the attic than a home where the roof is in the sun most of the time. This is the same reason we see moss growing on one side of a tree and not the other. In a situation like that, applying a mold-resistant sealer and a powered exhaust fan that is controlled by a humidistat (turns the fan on/off based on the humidity in the attic) can work together to help an attic avoid mold colonization even though there are higher-than-average humidity levels. Applying a mold-resistant sealer will also make it much easier to identify mold growth through routine visual inspection and—to some degree—it will be easier to remediate from a sealed wood surface than a bare/raw wood surface. If a high-quality sealer is used, there should not be mold growth on the sealer for a very long time. If mold does start growing on a sealed surface, it’s actually more likely that the mold is eating dust or other surface contamination than the wood that is sealed.

Q3: Can you give an approximate average cost for remediation of mold in attics? 

There really is no magic formula for arriving at the cost of a mold remediation project, especially in an attic. To properly conduct a mold remediation project you have to have containment set up to prevent cross-contamination (workers, tools, supplies, and equipment going in and out of the contaminated area to an un-contaminated area). We do this through building temporary structures in the house that isolate the work area from the home. We use large air filtration equipment to keep the work area and containment chambers under negative air pressure (vacuum) so that air migration is always from the work area (through a HEPA filter and then to the outdoors). Access to the attic space itself and then access around the attic weigh heavily on the cost of a project. If the mold is in a garage with no drywall ceiling or insulation and the roof is framed with rafters instead of trusses, the cost will be less. If the attic access is a small hatch in the ceiling of a closet and the roof is framed with trusses, the cost is going to be higher due to the additional time required to access all of the affected areas for cleaning/remediation. In addition to investigating the underlying cause of the mold/water sources, etc., it is crucial to assess the access to provide a comprehensive bid on work before bidding on the remediation project.

BONUS: What advice can you share with our audience about preventing mold growth in attics?

Always be aware of the conditions in your home, generally. Keep the roof/gutters clean and flowing. Ensure all vents/ducting and mechanical systems are functioning correctly. Ensure attic venting is open/free-flowing and adequate for your site and living conditions. If you don’t have an ability or interest in making sure all of these systems are working correctly, periodic inspection by a qualified party like Tim is well worth the cost compared to long-term water damage or mold problems.

About Cleaner Guys

Cleaner Guys is a well-established business in Mount Vernon that provides exceptional cleaning and restoration services.  As a fully licensed and bonded general contractor, the company also performs repair and reconstruction work, making it a one-stop-shop for property damage clean-up, restoration and remodeling projects.

The business specializes in water, fire, mold and wind damage restoration for clients in North Puget Sound. Cleaner Guys also offers carpet cleaning, tile/grout cleaning services and general project/site cleaning for both residential and commercial clientele. 

For more information, visit

A big “thanks” to Bob for his responses!


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

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).


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 roofing systems with Richard Steiner, president at Cascade Roofing Company Inc. in Burlington.

Q1: Do you have any advice, or pet peeves, to share with our audience about roofs? 

Please do research on your contractor, such as: 

• Are they licensed, bonded, and insured?

• How many years have they been in business?

• Are they recommended by the Better Business Bureau?

Q2: Do you perform roof repairs on an older roof installed by another contractor or is this too high of liability?

We do all types of repairs, old and new.  If another company may have installed the roof, check with them first to see if you still have a warranty.  If a warranty is still in place and we were to do the repair it could void your current warranty.

Q3: What’s your preferred method of roof ventilation and why? Soffit / gable vents, soffit / roof vents or soffit / ridge vents?

For roof ventilation, continuous ridge vent or can vents are our preferred method. We also use soffit vents, which are considered a positive air flow system whereas gable vents are deemed inadequate.

Bonus Q: What advice can you give homeowners about how to best maintain their roof system?

Roof maintenance is best done by a professional.  But if it’s not in the budget, we recommend moss treatment and keeping gutters and drains free from any debris.  Note:  Have a contractor install some tie off anchors before doing your own maintenance so that you can be safe on the roof.

About Cascade Roofing Company Inc.

Cascade Roofing Company Inc. provides commercial and residential roofing services throughout the Skagit Valley and Whidbey Island regions. With more than 30 years of experience, the company guarantees quality workmanship at affordable rates. The organization is also a proud member of The Skagit/Island Counties Builders Association (SICBA) and is accredited with the Better Business Bureau.

For more information, visit .
A big “thanks” to Richard for his responses!

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


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 asbestos with Dan Dunne, Manager at CAZ Environmental in Bellingham.

Q1: In your experience how common is asbestos in our area? 

“Because of its unique properties of being fireproof, chemically resistant, waterproof, and durable, asbestos was deliberately mixed into thousands of different building materials.  We commonly see asbestos in popcorn ceiling, vinyl floors, drywall and drywall mud, roofing, fire blocking, mastics, attic insulation, siding, stucco, window caulking, heating ducts, and water pipes.”

Q2: Even though 1978 was the cutoff year for asbestos, do you recommend testing homes with “popcorn” textured ceilings constructed in the 1980s tested, too? 

“A common misconception is that asbestos is banned in the United States.  A wide variety of products are allowed to contain asbestos and be manufactured, imported, processed, or sold in the U.S., including cement corrugated sheet, cement flat sheet, clothing, pipeline wrap, roofing felt, vinyl floor tile, cement shingle, millboard, cement pipe, gaskets, and roof coatings. 

“Many manufacturers have stopped adding asbestos to their products, even if allowed, due to the clear link between asbestos and lung disease.  However, asbestos mines in Asbest (Russia) and Gansu Province (China), continue to produce more than a million metric tons of chrysotile per year.

“The continued use of asbestos is part of the reason why any building material that is disturbed or demolished is required to be tested for asbestos and, if positive, to be removed by a certified asbestos abatement contractor.”

Q3: What is the typical cost for an asbestos test and how long does it take to get results? 

“Asbestos tests cost $500-$1500 per home, depending on the number of materials in the home that need to be sampled.  We also process samples that are dropped off at our office for $50 per sample.  Results are generally available the next business day.  Asbestos removal in a home can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $30,000, depending on the type and amount of material being removed, and how easy it is to access.”

About CAZ Environmental

CAZ Environmental was founded in 2013 with a mission to protect the health and safety of its clients, employees, and public throughout Northwest Washington. The company works with 13 employees to sample and remove asbestos, lead, and mold in residential, commercial and industrial settings that range from mobile homes to mansions. 

If there is one thing Dan Dunne recommends, it’s this: When in doubt, get it tested.

“Whether you are a property owner, contractor, or handyman, the fines, lawsuits, and medical issues that result from improperly removing or disposing of asbestos can quickly ruin your day,” he said. A big “thanks” to Dan and CAZ Environmental for their responses!

Questions or comments about asbestos or home inspections in general? Go “All” in and tweet us (@AIHomeInspect).

Originally posted 2019-02-06 06:44:29.


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, in our inaugural edition of “3 Questions,” we spoke with Norman Flint—owner of Timberline Construction LLC—about some common roofing questions.”

Q1: What’s your favorite type of composition roof and why?
“Architectural composition is the most universal and widely used. It has longevity and looks good on a variety of buildings.”

Q2: What are your thoughts about pressure washing roofs?
“Pressure washing roofs tend to cause more damage than benefit. Moss treatment products are best applied early. Consistent maintenance for moss is a better approach. Once the moss gets rooted, it is a difficult process of scraping and light pressure washing. It is best to address moss in the dry months when the roots of the moss are dried out.”

Q3: For asphalt composition roofs, what are the most significant issues you discover when inspecting roofs coming to end-of-life? 
“The biggest problem with any roof coming to the end-of-life is that owners wait too long to replace them. This leads to a host of issues, ranging from (roofing) blow off, leaks, water damage, and rot-related issues.”

About Timberline Construction
Timberline performs full construction services for new construction and remodels, including services related to roofing, siding, decks, additions, etc. The company—started in 1990 by Norman—is based in Eastsound on Orcas Island, and serves Orcas Island, Shaw Island and the outer islands.

“We are a small, hands-on crew, which ensures quality for our customers,” Flint said. A big thanks to Norman and Timberline for their responses.

Questions or comments about roofing or home inspections in general? Go “All” in and tweet us (@AIHomeInspect).

Originally posted 2019-01-30 08:56:30.

3 Questions: Orcas Power & Light Cooperative (OPALCO)

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 and organizations in a segment we call “3 Questions.” Yep, you guessed it: we ask three questions, and these experts answer them. This month, we learn about energy efficiency issues with Krista Bouchey, communications specialist with Orcas Power & Light Cooperative (OPALCO). 

Q1. Utility companies often offer attractive rebate incentives for improving energy efficiency. Can you tell us about some of your current incentives? 

OPALCO offers an extensive list of rebates, including super-efficient ductless heat pumps, windows, insulation, appliances, and EV charging stations. We also have a great program called Switch It Up!, which offers on-bill financing for some of these energy efficiency projects, including fiber to your home. These projects save members money, increase comfort, reduce carbon usage, and drive up the value of their homes. 

Q2. Is it easy to apply for a rebate, and how often do the rebate incentive programs change? 

Our rebate applications are super easy: apply online at or email The rebate program gets updated each year (January), but most of the same rebates are available each year. There are also two “fuel switching” rebates: one for ductless heat pumps and an EV charger incentive that rewards switching away from fossil fuels. These rebates are available as funds last each year.  

Q3. Does it make sense to install solar on my home? 

For those who have a good location, putting solar on your home can help offset the cost of energy use, but we recommend a solar assessment to determine the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of your site. There are many different factors to consider, including orientation to the sun, shading/tree trimming, the type of roof you have—as well as cost, maintenance, and return on investment. Another option is to purchase a piece of OPALCO’s next Community Solar project: the payback is faster, and you don’t have to manage the equipment on your property. Participants get credits on their monthly power bill based on the solar production of the project—you can invest a little or a lot and offset your energy use. We expect to have a project coming out in 2021—stay in the loop by emailing

BONUS Q: Do you have a favorite energy efficiency story or lesson you can share? 

We’re super inspired by the cool projects our members are doing. This is one of my favorites: 


Orcas Power & Light Cooperative (OPALCO) is a member-owned, non-profit cooperative utility providing energy services to San Juan County since 1937. Delivered to the islands by way of submarine cables, our mostly hydro-electric power is generated by Bonneville Power Administration (BPA). OPALCO distributes energy to 20 islands in the archipelago and employs approximately 50 people in the county. Co-op member-owners elect a seven-member Board of Directors, who set policy, rates and direction. Elections are held each year prior to our Annual Meeting. The OPALCO wholly-owned subsidiary, Rock Island Communications, provides broadband Internet services in San Juan County. For more information, visit

A big “thanks” to Krista for her responses!
If you have questions or comments about energy efficiency issues or home inspections in general, tweet me (@AIHomeInspect).

3 Questions: Melnick Electric

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 learn about electrical issues with Gunnar Melnick, owner of Melnick Electric.

Q1: I’ve noticed that my light dimmer switch is hot to the touch.  Is this an issue that I should be concerned about and have repaired right away?

When you encounter a warm dimmer, make sure it’s not burning to the touch. Dimmers can be warm from the current passing through them, but they should never be hot to the touch. If you encounter a hot dimmer switch, call your local licensed electrician to service it.  
Q2: I have a newer home with those fancy AFCI, GFCI, and dual-function circuit breakers (e.g., the breakers in the electrical panel that have “test” buttons).  Periodically, I lose power in a circuit and have to reset some of these breakers.  Is this normal or should I be concerned?

AFCI and GFCI breakers are a new standard for safety. They both have two jobs that will save your home (and even your life) from an electrical fire or shock. Whether the device has been installed in a new home or older, if you ever have a tripping breaker, you should call a licensed electrician to come and inspect the circuit. 

Q3: These new tamper-resistant outlets in my home are driving me crazy!  Sometimes, it can be impossible to insert an appliance plug.  Do you have any advice to help with this common complaint?

Tamper-resistant outlets are a wonderful safety feature for any home. They’re designed to keep anything that’s not an appliance plug out, such as paper clips, forks, or small objects. When trying to plug in appliances, try to angle the prongs so the left prong enters first, following with the right and the lower. When all else fails, a little wiggling helps with these outlets.

About Melnick Electric
Gunnar Melnick is the owner of Melnick Electric in Oak Harbor, Wash. The business is licensed, bonded, and insured. Contact Gunnar at 360-720-4764.
A big “thanks” to Gunnar for his responses!

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


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 learn about structural issues with Pete Bird, owner of Fidalgo Restoration Log Home Repair LLC.

Q1: Log homes are beautiful, but they do require regular maintenance. How fastidious do I need to be about sealing typical cracks that inevitably develop in exterior logs?

I do not believe sealing “cracks” (the professional term is “checks”) in the logs is a good idea. I have repaired thousands of feet of rot repair on homes in the last 16 years in business. Some of the rot is from neglect and a lack of stain, some from poor design, and some from a well-intentioned attempt at sealing checks. In the course of the year, logs will expand and contract based on the temperature and humidity in the air. This constant expansion and contraction varies based on the region and based on weather conditions, etc. “Checks” are nearly impossible to fill and remain sealed over the course of a year. The check usually begins and ends in a hairline fissure in the wood, and any attempt to seal the check will fail for several reasons. It will fail because it is nearly impossible to prepare the wood surface inside the check to assure good adhesion. It will also fail because of the aforementioned expansion and contraction of the logs. This will cause the material to stretch and compress and cause failure. It is also impossible to fill enough material at the lateral ends of the check where it tapers down to a hairline fissure. All of these attempts result in moisture seeping past the “seal,” and then being trapped behind the sealant and causing rot. 

Q2: The cut ends of logs should be properly sealed as this seems to be one of the first areas to show deterioration. Is there a slick way to seal log ends? How about flashing them with metal?

Flashing the top of a course of logs on the ends is a good idea if they are sticking out beyond the overhangs. I do not recommend sealing ends because this attempt will usually trap moisture and cause rot. This is a recommendation on horizontal logs. If you have log posts on your deck, I do recommend using a cap such as an HVAC-type cap or a custom cap you can find at I don’t recommend sealants on the ends of logs since I believe they trap moisture in the logs and cause rot. I recommend grinding the ends during restoration and soaking them with a good stain, then keeping an eye on them each year and reapplying if they appear to be fading away. I don’t recommend the sealants that some companies tout as a way to seal ends. Let the logs breath and off-gas any moisture they draw in during rain events.

Q3: “Chinking” is an elastomeric material used in log homes to fill horizontal gaps between logs. When cracks develop in the chinking, do they need to be sealed right away? How long should the chinking last and can a handy homeowner repair failed chinking?

Chinking, if correctly applied, is the most durable product used on a log home. I have seen professionally applied chinking on logs that has been on the home for 30 years. The key to chinking is correct prep and application. The substrate for the chinking needs to be viable and clean. That means the existing stain on the home needs to be in really good shape and at least washed with a log wash product prior to chinking. The chinking should be applied in accordance with tech specs for temperature and amount of chinking to ensure adhesion and longevity. To repair chinking, it is best to cut out the section with a box knife and lightly sand the edges and clean it, then apply the recommended amount of material (minimum 3/8 of-an-inch depth) to the repaired area and brush it out with a stiff bristle brush, water, and some Dawn dishwashing soap in the water. Look online for some videos to see how it is done. Use a 1″ stiff bristle cheap paintbrush. Or call a professional to assess the overall condition of the chinking, because if it is splitting, most likely it was not applied correctly, and you may need all-new chinking! 

About Fidalgo Restoration Log Home Repair LLC

Fidalgo Restoration Log Home Repair LLC will restore the natural warmth and beauty to your log home and cedar-sided home using state-of-the-art restoration techniques and materials. The company provides log home and cedar-sided home restoration services to Washington State and California. Fidalgo Restoration Log Home Repair LLC provides rot repair services as well as chinking, caulking and sealing for your home. Fidalgo’s chinking process significantly reduces or eliminates drafts, insect incursion and will minimize wintertime heat loss. The rot repair process can save your log or cedar home from the destruction caused by rot fungus and possible structural failure if left unchecked. Fidalgo Restoration Log Home Repair LLC has extensive knowledge and experience restoring log- and cedar-sided homes back to their original state. For more information, visit

A big “thanks” to Pete for his responses!If you have questions or comments about plumbing issues or home inspections in general, tweet me (@AIHomeInspect).