Tuesday, January 31, 2017

What Are The Most Common Defects With Over-The-Range Microwaves?



Because we work and live in a vacation resort area, and inspect a lot of condominiums near the beach, the over-the-range microwave receives close attention. It is a vacationers second most-used food prep appliance—after the phone for ordering pizza. Microwaves get a lot of abuse, and don’t have a long lifespan. Also, the replacement units are usually installed by a handyman. So a condo is an enhanced version of the microwave problems we find in a regular residence. Here’s our top 5 typical defects:

1)Does not vent to exterior - Microwaves come out-of-the-box set up to exhaust out the front and the baffle plate has to be adjusted and fan rotated to reconfigure for top or back exhaust, so it blows through a duct to the roof or out an exterior wall. A microwave that has ductwork in place to exhaust cooking fumes to the exterior, but has not been configured to do it by the installer, is a common defect. 

2)Not on separate circuit - The building code requires that a microwave which is fastened in place have a separate 20-amp circuit. Depending on the size, they are rated to draw between 8 and 13 amps. Other appliances operated at the same time can overload the circuit if the microwave is on a shared circuit. We test by seeing If the microwave still works when we trip the GFCIs at the countertop or the kitchen appliance breaker(s). It is not uncommon in a remodeled older house to find that the dishwasher and microwave are both on a single countertop appliance circuit.

3)Loose mounting - Even a mounting that is slightly loose is noted because, once it begins to loosen, the mounting deteriorates progressively with usage. 

4)Not functional - There are two kinds of “not functional”: a) completely dead, with unresponsive control panel, and b) sounds like it is working but does not heat a test cup of water.

5)Radiation leakage due to damaged door or handle - This is typically only a problem if there is damage to the seal around the door or the handle. We use a digital microwave leakage meter, shown below, and report if the leakage exceeds the 5.0 milliwatt threshold set by the EPA. A recent survey by appliance service technicians found that over half of the microwaves more than two years old have leakage at least 10% higher than 5.0 milliwatts.
A separate issue that is open to interpretation at this time is the height of the bottom of the microwave above the top of the range. The IRC (Interational Residential Code) defers to the manufacturer’s installation instructions regarding the correct distance. All the manufacturer installation manuals we
have seen specify that the top of the microwave should be located 66 inches above the floor. This is, coincidentally, also the standard height of the bottom of a wall cabinet in most kitchens for installation of a range hood fan. But an over-the-range microwave/fan combo is taller, between 15 and 18 inches high. When you deduct the 36-inch height of a range, the space between the top of the range and the bottom of the microwave is between 12 and 15 inches. If the controls are at the back of the range, most people of normal height cannot see the controls while standing upright, and have to lean down and reach over the hot range—just a few inches above large, and possibly boiling, pots—to change a temperature setting. Conversely, the NKBA (National Kitchen and Bath Association) recommends that the bottom of the microwave be no more than 54 inches above the floor, which allows 18 inches clearance above the range. Otherwise, a shorter person would be reaching over their head to remove a hot item from the microwave—which is also dangerous. One building department jurisdiction in our area now requires an 18 inch clearance between range and bottom or microwave. We (SitePro Home Inspections) think that higher or lower should probably be determined by the needs of the occupants of the house.

Monday, January 30, 2017

A Typical Outline of the SitePro Home Inspection:

A SitePro Home Inspection consist of an educational tour of the property if you are available. We encouraged you to accompany our SitePro inspectors to gain valuable "show & tell" information, to ask questions, and to gain knowledge regarding the true condition of the property. 
SitePro Home Inspectors will follow a practiced, efficient and comprehensive methodology to examine the entire home. The SitePro inspector will also use an earnest effort to disclose the visual problems of importance and to document those observations in a final narrative report that you can read and understand in order to make intelligent decisions. The inspection process begins with a tour of the exterior of the home including the roof, and then progresses into the attic.
Outside, the inspector will observe such things as the drainage grade on the property, vegetation, driveways & walks, entrances, porches, decks, foundation above grade, sliding doors & windows, soffit, garage, roof, gutters and chimneys. While not required, an effort is made to climb on the roof to inspect it from above unless the height, pitch and weather conditions put the inspector's safety at risk. If climbing on the roof is not possible, the roof is examined by binoculars, or from a sub-roof or by a ladder at the eaves. While outside, the inspector will observe the condition and function of each of the mechanical systems including: heating system, electrical system, plumbing system, hot water heater and central air conditioning system. Also the professional SitePro home inspector will observe the condition of the structure including: foundation, columns and floor frame.
Special efforts are made to disclose any evidence of decay or water infiltration. Progressing upwards, the inspector next examines the kitchen. He checks the function of the sink and all plumbing connections and briefly operates the appliances.
Each bathroom fixture is examined and the functional condition is evaluated. Within the living spaces, walls, floors, ceilings and staircases are all examined along with a representative sample of windows, outlets, switches & lights. The SitePro professional inspector will even stick his head inside the fireplace. While in the attic, the building inspector will examine the accessible parts of the roof structure. He also alerts you regarding signs of previous roof or flashing leaks and potential leakage points. The attic insulation, vapor barrier and means of ventilation are also inspected.
At the conclusion of the actual inspection of the property a full verbal report will be given to you. The inspector will then return to the SitePro office where a full reference library is available to the inspector so any additional facts can be copied and made available to you, something a on the spot report cannot do. We spend on average 2-3 hours after the property inspection to prepare a very comprehensive narrative final report. The report will document all of the observations made at the time of inspection and will advise you to contact other qualified experts when major repairs are anticipated. The report is then delivered to you in a form that can be easily read and understood. After the SitePro residential inspection process has been completed we will always provide as much free phone consultation as needed

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Seller Gave Me A Report From A Previous Home Inspection. Should I use It Or Get My Own Inspector?



At the beginning of a home inspection in Navarre a few years ago, the seller, an older woman, met us at the front door with an imperious gaze. “I want you to know that there were only three things wrong with this house,” she stated, before even introducing herself. “And we fixed two of them. Perhaps...perhaps you will be able to find the one we didn’t.”

Two hours and over 40 defects later, including mold, a roof leak, and multiple electrical safety issues, we were done. The deal was dead, and she stormed out onto the patio, mumbling under her breath, while we packed up to go.

Sellers have a high regard for their property, even when it is not accurate, and often produce old inspection reports, building permits, magazine clippings, contractor invoices, and before-and-after photos to prove the superior quality of their home. While they are all worth taking the time—and doing the seller the courtesy—of looking at, it should only be a starting point in your investigation.

The only thing you should take seriously is the condition of the home at the moment you are buying it, which is why we recommend having an inspector that you have hired and paid, examine it carefully and issue an up-to-date inspection report. The items the seller provides may prove helpful, based on your review of them, when alerting the inspector to your concerns before the inspection.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

A "This Home Has Been Winterized" Notice Posted In A Foreclosure Home Means What?


Originally a winterization notice meant that an empty, unheated home’s plumbing was prepared to endure a hard winter freeze without having any burst pipes or water damage. The winterization always involves draining the water from the pressurized supply piping and the water heater and putting “DO NOT USE” notices over the sinks and toilets. In harsher climates than Gainesville a winterized house also has anti-freeze added to the system.

But today it often means that all the utilities have been disconnected. So the plumbing fixtures cannot be tested in a winterized home, and you may not be able to operate the electric and gas appliances too.

Here’s the rub: if you make an offer on the home, and the bank accepts it, the house has to be de-winterized in order to do a proper home inspection. And, when the inspection is complete, it often requires re-winterizing. Some banks handle this for the buyer through the listing agent, and some don’t. And sometimes the bank requires the buyers to arrange, at their expense, for the utilities to be turned on briefly for the inspection--which is not an easy process.

For the really cheap “bargain” properties, you may not be allowed to turn the utilities on at all. It’s as is, where is; take it or leave it. But a competent home inspector can still tell you a lot about the condition of the home and its components during a “dry” inspection--we just don’t like to do it that way, because there are invariably a few unpleasant surprises when the utilities kick on.

When you see the bank’s winterization notice in the front window of a property that you want to make an offer on, be sure to find out from your realtor how de-winterizing works with that particular financial institution, so you know what to expect when you proceed with the home inspection.

Monday, January 23, 2017

What Problems Should I Look For When Buying A House That Has Been Vacant Or Abandoned?



It’s amazing how fast a house starts deteriorating when it has been abandoned. A vacant house fares better when the electricity and air conditioning is still on, but shares some of the same problems that plague abandoned homes. Here’s what SitePro looks for during an inspection:

•Water intrusion—such as roof, wall, or plumbing leaks—happens occasionally in any home. But it gets noticed and repaired quickly in an occupied house. The water puddles and spreads in an empty residence, then the carpets and drywall begin absorbing it. Water can also collect in wall cavities, and insulation will suck it upward in a wall. Wood rot and mold begin eating away at the materials within a few days.

Long-term water damage is usually easy to spot. It’s ugly and the smell of mold hits you immediately when you open the door. Smaller leaks, especially roof leaks that don’t work their way down to the ceiling, require examination of the attic to find. Many home inspectors, including us, also use an infrared camera to search for areas of moisture intrusion that may not have created stains yet. It’s also useful for seeing how far the moisture has spread beyond the visible discoloration.

•Mold can grow in an empty house with no air conditioning, even if there is no water intrusion. It’s typical to find a thin layer of white mold on wood kitchen cabinets and interior doors when the a/c has been off for a while. Also, mold can grow around window openings that have only a minor leak or condensate problem. If the home was still air conditioned, the low humidity would cause the small amount of moisture to evaporate from the interior surfaces. But when the dehumidification that air conditioning provides is gone, the moisture stays and small areas of mold develop.

•Appliances develop problems when sitting unused for an extended period time. For example, the electronic valves in dishwashers, called solenoids, that open and close to control the flow of water get stuck closed when not run through a cleaning cycle for months. Also, the rubber gasket around the dishwasher door ca  harden and leak water onto the floor.

•Pipes fracture during a hard winter freeze if the water service is left on. Exterior pipes at well equipment and hose faucets are especially vulnerable if not insulated.

•Electric meter is gone in homes that have been vacant for an extended period of time. The utility company removes it and, in some cases, requires a licensed electrician or an inspector from the local building department to certify that the electrical system is in satisfactory condition before reconnecting service.

•“THIS HOME HAS BEEN WINTERIZED” sign in the front window means the home has been put in hibernation mode by the bank that owns the foreclosed property. Utilities (electric, water, gas) have been locked off. The main water shut-off, along with the valves under sinks, toilets and at the water heater have been closed. Any deadbolt door locks have been removed and a blank plate installed over the lock hole in the door. In climates that experience severe winters, anti-freeze will also be added to plumbing system.

•Vandalism and theft may have occurred. Criminals, or the even homeowners themselves, sometimes strip the home of appliances, light fixtures, and even the water heater and air conditioning system.

•Evidence of squatters or break-ins can be a problem in rural homes or where the house is not visible by neighbors or passers-by. More than once, a homeless person has ran out the back door of a vacant house as we walked in the front. The damage ranges from minor debris and the smell of rotten garbage up to a scorched area and smoke damage from an fire started on the floor for winter heat.

•Rodent and insect infestation is typical. Any food left behind by the residents will have already been consumed in a long-vacant home, but the cabinets, crawl space and attic are attractive nesting sites. The mud tubes on a wall that are early signs of termites go unnoticed in an abandoned home, and structural damage can be extensive if left untreated for years.

•Abandoned hazardous materials may be present. Sometimes it’s just a pile of plastic containers of used motor oil in the yard and simple to remediate. But when there are signs that the home was used as a marijuana grow house or meth lab, cleaning up the damage can be expensive and complicated.

•Tree damage can be caused by limbs dropping on the roof or rubbing back and forth on the roof covering in the wind. Dead trees that have not been removed can fall on the home.
 Most vacant homes can be rehabbed. Repair cost increases in tandem with the length of time the house has been abandoned. But we occasionally inspect a home that is past the point where repairing it is financially practical—nicknamed “dozer bait” by construction professionals.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

What Causes Sweating (Condensation) On The Inside of Windows In The Winter?




The science behind the problem is fairly simple. Warm air expands and can hold more humidity (moisture) than cool air, but when it comes in contact with window glass that is significantly colder than the air, the surface chills and shrinks the air volume. This squeezes out some of the humidity as condensation water on the glass surface.

So, the two things that are necessary for condensation on window glass are 1), a significant temperature difference between the interior surface of the glass and the air and 2), high humidity in the air. You can eliminate, or greatly reduce, sweating window glass by reducing both of the factors that cause it.

We see the solution as something like a “Combination Plate Special” on a Chinese restaurant menu. Pick one from column A and one from column B, and your fortune cookie will read “Happy windows make happy home!”

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Should a Front Door Open In or Out?


Most front entry doors in our area swing inward, and the justification for it used to be that outswing doors are unsafe because their hinge pins are exposed outside, where they are easily popped out by a burglar to get into the house. But that argument doesn’t fly anymore. Most prehung entry door manufacturers now install special security hinges on their outswing doors that have non-removable pins. You must open the door and unscrew one side of each hinge to remove the door. Another type of security pin is only removable when then door is open.

So outswing exterior doors have become more acceptable. But there are pros and cons for both types of door swing. Here’s our list:

OUTSWING DOORS

PRO

-More resistant to high wind and driving rain in a storm. The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) recommends outswing exterior doors as more hurricane resistant because “positive pressures actually push them more tightly against the door seals, which helps reduce water intrusion, and because it is much easier to achieve impact resistance from an outward swinging door.” Most exterior doors installed in South Florida’s high-velocity hurricane wind zone are outswing for this reason.

-Not easily forced open from the exterior.

CON

-Not practical in cold regions, where a heavy snowfall could prevent opening the door.

-Not what most people are used to.

INSWING DOORS

PRO

-The customary swing for a front door.

-Enables installation of a storm or screen door.

CON

-Easier for a burglar to force the door open with a blunt impact. Conversely, this also makes it faster for fire/emergency services to knock the door down when necessary.

-Less weather resistant than an outswing door.

Exterior doors for commercial buildings always swing outward, with just a few allowed exceptions, because the door must open in the direction of the flow of people exiting the building in an emergency. You will likely have your choice of which way to swing your residential front door, but we recommend checking with the county or municipal building department for any special local restrictions before making your decision. The available floor or landing area for the door swing is another consideration.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Are House Numbers Required By Law On The Front Of A House?




The requirement to have house address numbers is not part of the building code, but is almost universally required by municipal ordinances. Each city or county has a slightly different standard, but their intentions are the same: that your house numbers be clearly visible from the street so that the police, paramedics or a fire engine responding to your 911 emergency call can locate the right house.

The numbers do not have to be on the house itself. They can be on a mailbox, fence, or post in front of the home. The minimum height of the numbers in City of Gulf Breeze is three inches, and in Santa Rosa County it’s four inches. There are also typically specifications on the minimum width of the stroke of each number and that there be sufficient contrast between the numbers and the background for them to be easily readable.

All of this may seem like another example of government’s intrusion on the right of a private citizen to use their own property without interference...until your spouse has a heart attack in the middle of the night and an emergency paramedic van goes screaming by the house, then has to turn around and double back, using a searchlight to try to find your house number.

Also, a common problem that emergency responders have in locating a house is that the numbers are there but have been obscured by foliage growth over time, like in the photo at the top of the page.
 
Here’s an excerpt from the City of Gulf Breeze ordinance:

Sec. 23-30. Posting of numbers.


New and existing buildings shall have approved address numbers placed in a position to be plainly legible and visible from the street or road fronting the property, whether or not mail is delivered to such building or property. These numbers shall contrast with their background. Address numbers shall be Arabic numerals or alphabet letters. It shall be the duty of the owners of each building in the incorporated area to post the assigned building number on the property in the following manner:

           (1) The building (address) number shall be affixed to the front of the building, or to a separate structure in front of the building (such as mailbox, post, wall, fence, etc.), in such a manner so as to be clearly visible and legible from the public or private way on which the building fronts.

           (2) Numerals shall be Arabic and shall not be less than three inches in height and one-half inch in stroke width for residential buildings, structures, or portions thereof, and at least six inches in height for all other buildings, structures, or portions thereof. Where address identification is required by the fire official on other elevations of buildings, structures, or portions thereof, such numerals shall be not less than three inches in height for residential                  and at least six inches in height for all other buildings, structures, or portions thereof. Existing numbers may be exempt if approved by the city fire inspector.

          (3) The numerals shall be of a contrasting color with the immediate background of the building or structure on which such numerals are affixed.



           

Saturday, January 14, 2017

How Do I Remove Carpet? | DIY Basics


If you’re shopping for a new car, you have hundreds of choices, and it can be overwhelming. So which car is the best choice in any given segment? Cars.com regularly evaluates the players in weeklong tests. Kelsey Mays of Cars.com calls out the winners of each 2016 challenge in this week’s segment of Driving Smart.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

How to Match Historic Molding


Ask This Old House general contractor Tom Silva and host Kevin O’Connor look at ways to match historic molding.

Time: varies

Cost: varies

Skill Level: Easy

Steps:

1. Tom uses a molding profile jig to show Kevin how to match historic moldings.
2. Tom pushes the pins of the jig into the molding and it forms an outline of the molding. Homeowners can then trace the design onto a piece of paper and bring it to a mill shop.
3. You can either match that tracing to one a stock profile in a mill shop or they could make a molding for you with a custom knife so you can replicate the profile on your choice of wood.

Monday, January 9, 2017

How Much Is The Ground Required to Slope Away From a House?


The minimum drainage slope of the ground around a home is 6 inches of drop in the first 10 feet away from the home, according to the International Residential Code (IRC) and the Florida Building Code (FBC - M401.3), and this applies to all sides of the home. Where the house is closer to the property line than 10 feet, or walls or other barriers prevent compliance, drains or swales should be constructed to ensure adequate drainage away from the house. Impervious surfaces within 10 feet of the home, such as a driveway, are required to be sloped a minimum of 2 percent away from the house, which equals approximately 1/4 inch per foot.

Draining rainwater away from the home is important to protect your home’s foundation. Although a new home gets inspected by the local building department to be sure it meets these requirements, we often see older homes in which the homeowner’s landscaping has mounted soil that unintentionally reversed the slope of the ground towards the home. This seems to happen most often at inside corners of exterior walls, a place where a lot of water is running off the valley between two intersecting slopes of the roof above—exactly where it is most important keep water from ponding near the foundation.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Make Over Your Master Bath for Less


With too much tub and not enough shower, this master bathroom needed a functional facelift. See how the homeowners achieved a major makeover without blowing their budget.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Can Termites Infest Masonry Homes?


One of the greatest things about owning a masonry home is that termites will never move in, right? Nope. Those little winged, wood-boring insects can, and do take up residence in any type of construction, even concrete block and brick. No home is 100 percent termite safe.

Why, you might wonder, would termites even bother? If there’s no wood framework for them to gnaw on, what’s the attraction? The answer is inside the home. Most homes have wood somewhere. And where there’s a hungry termite, any wood is fair game.

How Termites Get Into a Masonry Home

Without a wood buffet outside to feast upon, it doesn’t seem likely that termites would break in at all. But every home has cracks. And cracks lead indoors.

Termites live in the soil. So if there’s a point of entry from the bottom of a house, such as a crack in a block or mortar, they have a tunnel to come through. There’s also a fiberboard expansion strip under some older masonry homes, and termites love fiberboard. They can also infest a masonry house from the top down. Where there’s an open soffit vent, dry wood termites can find themselves a new home.


Telltale Signs of a Termite Infestation

If you search for images of termites, you’ll see a lot of flying insects. But a winged termite around the home doesn’t mean there’s an infestation. At least not yet. When they swarm, they have wings. But when they settle in, the wings are dropped. If you notice a strange pile of wings and no insects to claim them, you’ve spotted a landing spot where termites moved inside. Indoors, termite tunnels can be much more obvious in a masonry house than one that’s stick built. Termite tubes, which resemble crooked straws made of mud, might travel up or down a wall or from the ceiling, says SitePro Home Inspections. Look for more traditional tunneling on interior woods such as baseboards, doors and furniture.

Where Termites Can Travel

Unfortunately, termites can go nearly everywhere. If they enter through a soffit vent, they can travel down to the foundation if there’s any wood to be found. And the same applies in reverse. Termites that enter through a crack in the foundation can work their way up to the attic, where they might find wood ceiling trusses or joists.

Termites can also travel through a house. That’s a disheartening fact that some homeowners find the hard way. Of course, you don’t inspect the furniture inside a house. But if there’s an infestation, the tunneling signs on wood furniture might not be difficult to spot on a walk-through.

No home is truly safe from termites, not if there’s any wood to be found inside or out. They’re hungry creatures. And where there is one, there are usually many, many more. If you spot surface tubes, chances are the homeowner will need to call a termite inspector or exterminator.


Van Hibberts, CMI

Certified Residential Building Code Inspector ICC-5319905
IBHS Fortified  Certified Inspector  #FEV32561020109 
ARA Certified Inspector #20302 (Applied Research Associates)
Florida-State Certified Master Inspector Lic. #HI 89
Certified Owens-Corning Roof Data Inspector
Florida-Certified Wind Mitigation Inspector
WDO Certificate #JE190791 
InterNACHI #10071802

362 Gulf Breeze Parkway, #214
Gulf Breeze, Florida 32561

850.934.6800  (Office)                                          
850.485.3209  (Cell / Text Msg)                          

"Looking Beyond The Obvious"