Tag Archives: mount vernon


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).


It’s always good to see homes that are well-insulated in crawl space and basement areas.

However, the types of insulation that homeowners use require different levels of care and awareness. One common insulation material is pink foam board insulation—which is combustible (as this highly unscientific video sort of documents, starting at 9:56).

I recently encountered exposed pink foam insulation while inspecting a crawl space in Mount Vernon. In my report, I recommended that it be covered with non-combustible material for safety reasons.

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


On Saturdays throughout the year, I hope to give you a peek of what I see as a home inspector traveling around San Juan, Island, Whatcom, and Skagit counties through photos and videos I’ve taken along the way.

I’m sure if you know or live in Northwest Washington, you probably feel the same about how special it is here. That’s why I invite you to share your Northwest Washington imagery! Simply take your picture or video showing why you appreciate the region, and tag it with #AllIslandsLife on Twitteror Facebook.

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


I see lots of old houses with lots of handyman repairs when I’m on the job. While these repairs may not be up to code, I have to applaud ingenuity when I see it. 

For example, I recently noted handyman construction practices at an exterior deck stoop in Mount Vernon, where a brick was strategically placed to prop up a deck support column. Well-played, homeowner. Well-played…

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


Most of us keep all the highly flammable stuff we own in a specific area of the house. Typically, this is the garage. Or on the third shelf of the refrigerator (have you ever tried ghost pepper hot sauce? Yee-ow!) 

For this post, we’ll focus on the garage and not your condiment collections. So, what if your garage were to catch on fire? Good news: if it was well-made and is up-to-code, garage ceilings and walls are considered fire separation barriers. In other words, these walls and ceilings would (hopefully) burn first, and buy a little time before the fire department arrives and the rest of your home catches on fire.

During a recent home inspection in Mount Vernon, I came across a garage with holes in the sheet rock ceiling that needed to be taped, mudded and sealed. Again, that’s because the ceiling and walls of a garage are considered a fire separation barrier in a home. 

Is a fire separation barrier the same as a firewall? Nope. The Uniform Building Code defines a firewall as the following: 

FIREWALL: A fire-resistance-rated wall having protected openings, which restricts the spread of fire and extends continuously from the foundation to or through the roof, with sufficient structural stability under fire conditions to allow collapse of construction on either side without collapse of the wall.

“The closest thing you’ll find (to an actual firewall) in residential construction is a one-hour fire-resistance-rated wall,” wrote Minnesota-based home inspector Reuben Saltzman in a recent article. “This is needed between townhomes and two-family dwellings, with a lot of fine print and special requirements.”

While it probably doesn’t have a firewall, your garage should always be considered and maintained as a fire separation barrier and an extra level of safety for your home and those who live in it.

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


I think this goes without saying, but you really need to make sure your electrical panels have fully installed cover fronts. When I say fully installed, I mean that all the appropriate fasteners are in place and the front is secure. 

And when I say appropriate fasteners, I mean screws that are not sharp—which can potentially pierce underlying wiring. 

And when I say potentially…I’m just kidding. No more italics

So, what if you don’t have a panel cover front in the first place? This is a scenario I recently came across recently during an inspection in Mount Vernon. 

Obviously, if the circuits, circuit breakers, conductors, and other fun stuff are exposed to the world, you are inviting trouble to the party. 

And trouble is a terrible guest. 

The takeaway? Get your panel a cover, pronto!

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


Almost there isn’t quite good enough for this ladder.

I recently discovered this unique version of an attic access hatch during a recent home inspection in Mount Vernon. The pull-down ladder in the garage was undersized and did not fully extend to the concrete slab below; furthermore, the pull-down ladder hatch did not close fully, which was a safety issue as the garage ceiling is considered a fire separation barrier between the garage and the home. 

In the home inspection, we have a very technical term for this: double trouble!

Questions or comments about attics or home inspections in general? Go “All” in and let us know at @AIHomeInspect

DETERIORATION at Window and Trim

Tim Hance with All Islands Home Inspections recently discovered completely deteriorated trim, with the real possibility of underlying structural damage, at a recent home inspection in Mount Vernon, WA. Keeping your exterior elements properly sealed (e.g., painted and caulked) will prevent deterioration. It’s all about protecting your home from the elements! When deterioration is discovered, it should be repaired and replaced as necessary, and then painted and caulked. The longer one waits, the more expensive the issue becomes.

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.

Water hammer issues?

Plumbing Equipment On House PlansWater hammer is a specific plumbing noise, not a generic name for pipe clatter. It occurs when you shut off fast-moving water suddenly, bringing it to a quick halt and creating a sort of shock wave and a hammering noise. Fix “water hammer” by draining the plumbing system. Open the uppermost faucet (or the one furthest from the water meter) and the lowest (or closest to the meter) and allow the water to flow to a lower-level sink or floor drain. Draining the system restores air to air chambers. Close the lowest faucet and refill the system. For more detailed information see this article.