Tag Archives: shaw island

Fun Facts Friday!

The most common type of bricks are made from clay. The clay is heated to over 1832°F (1000°C).

Red bricks get their color from the iron used to make them. Bricks made with higher temperature firings are often darker in color too!

The indentation on the surface of a brick is called a frog.

In 200 BC, workers used 8 million bricks to create the Great Wall of China.


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 inspection 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 DIY projects 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 Gary Sturdy, PE, owner at Sturdy Engineering Corporation in Anacortes. Additionally, more information about related structural engineering topics is available via our Real Estate Unveiled! podcast page.

Q1: My old house appears to have settled over time and is “leaning” somewhat.  What are some things I should be on the lookout for to see if I need a contractor to further evaluate?

A gradual settling observed over years is an indication of poor soil conditions below the foundation.  The problem must first be identified; applying a fix to the symptoms may worsen it. 

The first objective is to determine soil conditions under the foundation, including depth of poor soils.  Once that is determined, a proper solution can be engineered to solve the problem.  As an example, adding width to the existing foundation will add weight and might create even greater settlement. 

Q2: The masonry chimney on my old house appears to have settled and isn’t perfectly plumb; I can see a gap between the chimney and the home.  How can I tell if this is historic or a major structural concern and safety issue?

A snapshot in time will not give you answers to historic events.  That gap might have been there for years without change, which would indicate that the settlement has stopped and the underlying soils are stable.  Continual monitoring with measurement over time or soil testing will determine if the underlying soils are unstable.

An engineer can help you determine how far out of plumb is safe for your particular chimney style and construction.  At that time, the engineer can determine if remedial action is imminent.

Q3: Wood destroying organisms (WDOs), like Carpenter ants, Anobiid beetles, and Pacific Dampwood termites are commonplace in the Pacific NW.  Eliminating elevated moisture is absolutely the key to keeping a home free of WDOs.  Recognizing that these insects literally eat wood structure, is there a general rule-of-thumb for when replacement may, or may not, be necessary? In older homes, for instance, minor WDO damage is commonplace, and replacing all structural elements with minor insect damage would involve substantially replacing most of the home’s structure. Is this really necessary, or is there a more practical, “real-world” approach?

Each piece of lumber has an allowable load, or maximum weight that it can withstand.  For example, a piece of lumber might only be loaded to 50-percent of its allowable value.  In this case, the bugs can eat away a significant amount of wood before safety is an issue.  On the other hand, a piece of lumber that is fully loaded cannot withstand any bug damage. An experienced engineer can determine what repairs are required for your safety, while integrating practical and economical solutions.

About Sturdy Engineering Corporation 

Sturdy Engineering Corporation in Anacortes provides structural analysis & design for residential, commercial, light industrial, recreational, and agricultural structures. These structures may utilize a variety of building materials, including wood/logs, timber frames, concrete, steel, and structural insulated panels. More information at https://www.sturdyengineering.com/#

A big “thanks” to Gary for his responses!

If you have questions or comments about structural issues or home inspections in general, 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 Twitter or Facebook.

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


As a home inspector, I’m often on the road, traveling around San Juan, Island, Whatcom, and Skagit counties. Along the way, I’m often awed by what I see. On the first Saturday of the month, I plan to share some of these great scenes with you. 

I invite you to share your Northwest Washington imagery, too! Take your picture or video showing why you appreciate the region, tag it with #AllIslandsLife, and share via social media.

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


Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know we are overdue for “The Big One.” 

Perhaps you’ve seen or heard stories on the news, or read about terrifying accounts like this New Yorker article from a few years back that pretty much freaked everyone in our region out.

Yeah, it’s going to be a doozy. 

Good news: From a housing perspective, there are a few key tasks you can undertake now to prepare your home. While preparations can’t prevent all the damage, they can go a long way towards making your house—and loved ones—safer.

First and foremost, make sure your home is bolted to its foundation. If your house is a somewhat recent construction, chances are it already is. However, for older homes, it may not be bolted. 

Also make sure that items in your house—particularly big furniture that might tip over and even home décor—are bolted to walls or affixed in place.

Small things that can make a big difference.

I hope this helps!

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


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).

Fun Facts Friday

Ostriches do NOT bury their heads in the sand. This tale originates from the fact that the male ostrich will dig a large hole (up to 6 to 8 feet wide and 2-3 feet deep) in the sand for the nest / eggs. Predators cannot see the eggs across the countryside which gives the nest a bit of protection.

In flight, the fastest bird is the spine-tailed swift of Siberia which can reach speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour, but the fastest bird in the water is the Gentoo penguin, which swims at about 22 mph.