Tag Archives: orcas island

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).

STANDALONE SATURDAYS: FOREST BENCH

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).

BAR SINKS SHOULDN’T DOUBLE AS IRRIGATION SYSTEMS

During a recent home inspection on Orcas Island, I came across a bar sink drain line not connected to the home’s septic system. Furthermore, the sink’s line discharged directly onto the front lawn.

That can’t be good for the landscaping.

I recommended that my clients seek further evaluation and repair by a qualified plumbing contractor to address the issue.

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

CHIMNEY SYSTEM CRACKS ARE NO LAUGHING MATTER

During a recent home inspection on Orcas Island, I came across a CMU masonry chimney system that made me feel like I was a comedian. That’s because it was cracking up. Get it, “cracking up?”

Okay, I admit that was pretty bad. Alright, back to the chimney, minus the poor attempt at humor. Maybe…

Chimney cracks do come in all shapes and sizes. As you’ll see in the video, this particular crack extended nearly the entire length of the system when viewed from the outside. I say nearly because outwardly, it appeared to stop just short of the home’s independent footing. This is important because if it did, it would be a telltale sign of potential significant structural damage.

However, without popping off the chimney cap at the top, it was impossible for me to know this for sure. The best course of action, in this case, was to recommend further evaluation by a qualified contractor, who could verify my initial hunches and also seal the cracks.

While these cracks were probably not a big deal, they were the likely contributing factor to water intrusion (presenting as efflorescence deposits and water stains) near the fireplace in the home’s living room. Invasive moisture is just one of many reasons to repair chimney cracks.

See, no more terrible jokes. At least until next time, right?

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

3 QUESTIONS: ROOFING WITH TIMBERLINE CONSTRUCTION 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, 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).

OH DEER(S)! ORCAS ISLAND DEER NEAR THE BEACH

Share your Northwest Washington imagery with the All Islands Home Inspections community. Simply take your photo and/or videos, and tag it with #AllIslandsLife on Twitter or Facebook. 

Throughout the year, those who tag their photos will have a chance to win some fun prizes. 

Do you have questions or comments about Island living or home inspections in general? Go “All” in and let us know at @AIHomeInspect

STANDALONE SATURDAYS: WILD ISLAND JUICE BAGELS AND BOWLS, ORCAS ISLAND

Share your Northwest Washington imagery with the All Islands Home Inspections community. Simply take your photo and/or videos, and tag it with #AllIslandsLife on Twitter or Facebook. 

Throughout the year, those who tag their photos will have a chance to win some fun prizes. 

Do you have questions or comments about San Juan Island living or home inspections in general? Go “All” in and let us know at @AIHomeInspect

Standalone Saturdays: Sunrise on Orcas

Share your Northwest Washington imagery with the All Islands Home Inspections community. Simply take your photo and/or videos, and tag it with #AllIslandsLife on Twitter or Facebook. 

Throughout the year, those who tag their photos will have a chance to win some fun prizes. 

Do you have questions or comments about San Juan Island living or home inspections in general? Go “All” in and let us know at @AIHomeInspect

‘BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE’: GREAT SONG, NOT A GOOD IDEA FOR YOUR HOUSE

It’s surprising how often I come across this issue when doing home inspections: metal flue pipes serving furnaces and water heaters that come in contact with roof sheathing and underlayment in the attic. When this occurs, it’s a very obvious safety issue.

This issue is especially common when roofs are replaced. Why? Contractors may neglect to appropriately cut back roofing materials during installation. 

If you want to make sure your home doesn’t inspire David Byrne to write another song about burning structures, you’d be well-served to provide 1-inch of clearance, free and clear, around the flue pipe at all times. And again, this is especially important if you have had your roof recently replaced.