Friday, September 15, 2017

What To Do After Disaster Strikes

Many homeowners face natural disasters that force them to leave their belongings behind and evacuate their homes. Before returning home, homeowners should ensure that local officials have determined that it is safe to re-enter their neighborhood. Then contact SitePro Home Inspections, as well as a FEMA inspector, to assist homeowners in documenting any damage that occurred to the home and property, as well as make necessary recommendations.

The following information can help when dealing with the aftermath of a natural disaster:


  • Inspect the property carefully to identify post-disaster hazards (e.g., mold, chemical spills, live wires, structural damage).
  • Take photos of damage to the building and its contents to any document losses.
  • Clean up debris and damage.
  • Keep records and receipts for each cost incurred in cleaning up or repairing your home.


Look up your address at DisasterAssistance.gov to find out whether your area is in a presidentially declared disaster area eligible for FEMA's Individual Assistance (IA) Program.

If you're a renter or homeowner whose primary home is in a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration Area, you may qualify for assistance and should apply for FEMA assistance, even if you're not yet sure what kind of assistance you'll need. You can apply for FEMA assistance at DisasterAssistance.gov or by visiting FEMA.gov.

If you have not already contacted your insurance agent to file a claim, do so as soon as possible. Failure to file a claim with your insurance company may affect your eligibility for some assistance. For a flood disaster, you'll need to file a Proof of Loss with your insurance company within 60 days of the flood.

If your primary home was damaged, you will receive a call within 10 days of submitting your FEMA application from a FEMA home inspector to schedule an appointment to visit you. In the event of a catastrophic disaster, all timeframes may be slightly longer.

The FEMA inspector will assess disaster-caused damage to your real and personal property. There is no fee for the Inspection. SitePro Inspectors are contractors, not FEMA employees, but your inspector will have picture identification. You or someone at least 18 years of age, living in the damaged home at the time of the disaster, must be present for your scheduled appointment.

Homeowners can contact local officials to request Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) funds for qualified projects. Contact your state or local emergency management or building department to find an HMGP point of contact to gain more information about eligibility.
Local officials may share information about HMGP through:


  • Social media online;
  • State and local government websites;
  • Traditional media outlets (newspapers, radio, television, billboards, etc.); and/or
  • Town hall meetings.



Figure 1. Disaster assessment flowchart (image courtesy of FEMA)


Figure 2. Disaster assessment flowchart descriptions (image courtesy of FEMA)


Decide on your recovery options:  Will you repair, repair and mitigate, or sell the property? Consider the following information when making that decision:


  • Level of damage and structural condition;
  • Technical feasibility of repairing the structure;
  • Health hazards that must be remediated;
  • Building code requirements;
  • Costs of the various approaches;
  • Insurance and your other financial resources, including:
    • savings;
    • flood insurance payment (or other insurance payments); 
    • FEMA Assistance to Individuals and Households;
    • Small Business Administration (SBA) loans;
    • Support from non-governmental or nonprofit or voluntary organizations; and/or
    • Increased Cost of Compliance (ICC) funding through the National Flood Insurance Program       (NFIP).
  • Repair the structure, which means to return a structure to the pre-disaster condition.
  • Repair the damage and mitigate against future damage, which means to repair and to modify the structure to reduce or eliminate the likelihood of damage in the future.
    • If you decide to repair and mitigate the structure or to sell it, find out if there is a possibility of qualifying for FEMA mitigation funding.
    • Contact local government officials to learn if the local government will be applying for Hazard Mitigation Assistance (HMA) funds. There are three HMA programs:
      • Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP)
      • Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM) program
      • Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA) program
      • ICC funding (which may be available through your NFIP insurance policy)
  • Sell the property:
    • Local jurisdictions may offer to acquire your property and permanently restrict it as open space to eliminate future disaster damage.
    • The structure may be relocated to a safer location.
    • The structure may be demolished and you may rebuild at a safer location.
    • Local jurisdictions may also receive funds from the state and FEMA to help pay for property acquisitions.  The following conditions may apply:
      • only occurs if the property owner is willing;
      • is a fee-simple purchase of property, which transfers full ownership of the property, including the underlying title, to another party;
      • requires an appraisal to determine fair market value of the property and structure;
      • results in the homeowner receiving fair market value of the structure and land after deducting any duplication of benefits received from other programs; and
      • results in open space that must be permanently maintained as open space.


Important Reminder
Homeowners may start their HMGP-funded projects only after notification of approval by their state, tribal, or local government official. Any work started before FEMA review and approval is ineligible for funding, which means that FEMA will not reimburse the cost of any mitigation work already started or completed prior to FEMA approval. However, this does not include basic repair work necessary to make the residence habitable.

Summary
If a natural disaster has forced a homeowner to evacuate their home, dealing with the impact can be devastating and difficult. When returning home, homeowners should make sure to properly inspect their home by contacting SitePro a Certified Professional Inspector or FEMA Inspector to properly assess the damage and to make necessary recommendations. If your primary home is in a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration area, you may qualify for assistance and should apply for FEMA assistance. Homeowners can contact local officials to request Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) funds for qualified projects.

Van Hibberts, CMI

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

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

850.934.6800  (Office)                                          
850.485.3209  (Cell / Text Msg)         

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

What Is The Life Expectancy Of Wiring In A House?


Copper wire should last 100 years or more, but the insulation around it will deteriorate sooner and is the determining factor in lifespan. Each era of electrical wiring has a different expected life, and he earliest type still around in a few older houses is knob-and-tube. It was standard up until the early 1940s and, as the name implies, depends on knobs at changes in direction of the wiring and tubes at penetrations of flammable material like wood, along with air space around the wiring for insulation.

Part of the problem with knob and tubing wiring that is still functional in a home is simply its age. The insulation is at least 70-years old, brittle, and flaking off. Another problem is the low current-carrying capacity compared to modern wiring, and difficulty in safely splicing K&T with modern NM-cable. Also, all knob and tube wiring systems are “two-wire,” meaning that they do not contain a third wire for grounding, which has been required for residential electrical systems since about 1960. While K&T is now obsolete and requires replacement when found during a home inspection, it’s worth noting that it was once state-of-the-art technology.

The next type of wiring was insulated with a rubber-like material and embedded fabric, shown in the photo above. It was used up through the 1950s. The insulation has not held up well in hot attics of North Florida, especially in areas near the attic hatch opening where it has been walked on repeatedly or pushed around by stored Christmas decorations. The wiring is at the end of its serviceable life now in most cases, with cracked insulation flaking off the at bends and splayed fabric; however, sometimes it is still in marginally satisfactory condition, with the expectation of replacement very soon.

Plastic wire insulation with good resistance to thermal deterioration followed next in the mid-1950s, and the formulation of the plastic was upgraded in the 1980s for better heat resistance. The newer wiring is expected to have a lifespan of 80 years or more...but only time will tell.

Many of our customers buying older houses are concerned about the possibility of a fire due to arcing of damaged or deteriorated wiring in the walls or attic. Two options to consider are wiring replacement or installation of AFCI-breakers in the panel for the general household circuits. AFCI stands for Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter, and an AFCI breaker does double duty: it protects against too much current flowing through the wires, just like a regular breaker, but also recognizes any sparking in wiring, and trips when either problem occurs. We recommend discussing your options with a professional electrician, who can evaluate the current condition of your house wiring and discuss the pros and cons of the two alternatives.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Why Do New Homes Have More Moisture And Mold Problems Than Older Houses?


Let’s get one thing out of the way up front: this is not a home inspector’s rant about how the old ways of building a house were better and “they don’t build ‘em like they used to.” It’s about how building technology advances that have made homes more energy efficient, along with the addition of features that make a house more comfortable to live in and are now considered standard, but would have been luxuries in a pre-1950 home, have provided more routes for moisture to get into a house and be trapped.

Older homes, especially in Florida, were designed for ventilation—to “breathe.” Big openable windows, corner windows for cross-ventilation, a whole-house fan that sucked outdoor air into the house, then up and out through the attic vents, and louvered transoms over bedroom doors to provide air flow even when the door was closed. You could close everything up in the winter, but air leakage through jalousie windows was unavoidable. It didn’t matter because the heating was relatively cheap, and it was more important to be comfortable during the summer in the era before air conditioning.

New homes are designed to be air conditioned and heated all year and must be well-sealed and insulated to maintain the temperature and humidity differential between the inside and outside while keeping energy costs reasonable. Many of the problems today relate to having one continuous temperature and humidity level on the inside of a wall, and widely variable temperatures and humidity on the other side of the wall, with minimal air exchange between the two sides.

This fact is often repeated as the main problem with modern homes, but it is also why they are more comfortable to live in than their predecessors, and it is not accurate to blame everything on houses being “built too tight.” Here’s our list of other factors that have changed over the years and contribute to a higher likelihood of moisture and mold problems occurring in a newer home:

Every plumbing fixture in a home is a potential location for leakage, either of incoming water or outgoing waste. Most older homes had plumbing at only two places inside the home: the kitchen and a single bathroom. The water heater and laundry were often in a utility room behind the carport or an attached laundry shed. Today’s homes have at least two bathrooms, a dishwasher, water and ice service at the refrigerator door, an indoor laundry and water heater. That’s the basics. Then there’s the optional spa tub in the master bath, wet bar, and laundry sink.

Manufactured roof trusses, beginning in the 1960s, made it easier for a builder to make complex and appealing roof lines that would have been prohibitively labor-intensive to construct on-site previously. But that means more flashings at the intersections of all those gables and hips that are usually the first place to fail on an older roof. Add in a few skylights and you’ve got more potential locations for water intrusion.  Any roofer will tell you “it’s not if a skylight will leak, it’s when.”

Construction materials are constantly being improved, but not all new building technology holds up over the years. Wonder materials of a few decades ago, such as polybutylene piping and composition wood siding, proved to be water-intrusion headaches still lingering around in some homes. Complaining homeowners and lawsuits eventually removed them from the market.

Synthetic stucco, also called “EIFS,” is a newer exterior siding material that got off to a rocky start and, after widespread incidents of wood rot and mold behind it from water entrapment, the installation specs were changed to allow drainage behind the material.

People today are more conscious of the potential danger of living in a house with mold. Growing up in South Florida in the 1960s, we were both used to hearing “Oh, honey, that’s just a little mildew. Nothing to worry about.” Not anymore.

A big advance in efficient home construction was the concrete floor slab, which became the norm by the end of the 1950s. It’s faster and much less expensive than framing an elevated wood floor over a crawl space, but that air gap provided a barrier to water intrusion from the ground and an easy way to verify if there is a moisture problem under the floor.

Landscape sprinkler systems are standard-issue for new homes in Florida, except for the low-end of the market. Without regular maintenance adjustment, they start spraying on the walls of a home. When we see wood rot at window trim, we turn on the sprinklers to see which one is soaking down the wall.

Pressure washers are really better labeled as a “hand-held hurricane.” They are great for driveways but terrible for houses. When a homeowner uses this popular power tool on the exterior walls of a home, they force water at high-pressure into the siding and loosen window caulking. Plus, the pressure often pops the seal on double-pane insulated windows, making them lose their insulation ability and eventually turn cloudy between the panes.

Pressure washing an asphalt shingle roof loosens the tab adhesion at the leading edge of the shingles and blasts away surface granules that protect the shingle from sunlight UV-deterioration. Granddad didn’t have one.

A lot of good research has been done to improve air exchange rate and indoor air quality while keeping homes weather tight. We think that’s great and don’t want to go back to the old days. Just want to point out that there are more reasons for moisture and mold problems in newer homes than simply that they need to “breathe.”



While we hope you find this series of articles about home inspection helpful, they should not be considered an alternative to an actual home inspection by a local inspector. Also, construction standards vary in different parts of the country and it is possible that important issues related to your area may not be covered here. Courtesy of McGarry and Madsen Inspection

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Can I Remodel An Old Mobile Home Without A Building Permit?


It depends on two things: 1) how extensive the remodeling is, and 2) what building department jurisdiction you are in. Although the original construction of a manufactured/mobile home is solely under the rules and supervision of HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development), except for local building and zoning regulations about placement on the site, once the home is installed any modifications or additions must comply with the building codes where it is located.

Most jurisdictions do not require that work such as painting, siding or skirting repair, or interior flooring installation have a building permit. Beyond that, each building department has a slightly different threshold past which a permit is necessary, but anything that alters the structure, such a re-roofing, window replacement, electrical, plumbing, heating/air conditioning, and the addition of a deck or site-built attached room requires a permit and inspection.

While you may have neighbors that “mind their own business” and are not inclined to call the local code enforcement officer about any construction work you do without a building permit, the short-term savings of the cost and aggravation of a permit and inspection is offset nowadays by the problem you may encounter on selling the home to a buyer that expects to see building permits (with a final inspection sign-off) on all of the home’s improvements.

The problem we see most often with mobile homes that are remodeled by a homeowner without a building permit relates to a very specific HUD requirement that is also enforced by local jurisdictions: no additions can bear on the mobile home structure. A mobile home is designed to support itself and nothing more. Any additions, including porches and porch roofs, can connect to the mobile home but must be supported separately and not put any additional load on the mobile home structure.


While we hope you find this series of articles about home inspection helpful, they should not be considered an alternative to an actual home inspection by a local inspector. Also, construction standards vary in different parts of the country and it is possible that important issues related to your area may not be covered here. Courtesy of McGarry and Madsen Inspection

Monday, September 4, 2017

What Is The Life Expectancy Of A Mobile Or Manufactured Home?


Today’s manufactured homes have a life expectancy of 30 to 55 years, depending on the level of maintenance, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). We agree with HUD’s lifespan estimate, but there are a number of variables other than owner care that will affect how long a mobile home lasts:

1) The HUD projection was based on today’s standards for mobile home construction. They established a nationwide building code for manufactured homes in 1976, and have ratcheted up the construction standards every few years since then. Newer homes are built to be more windstorm and fire resistant, along with other requirements that make the homes sturdier overall.
 
We have found that Florida mobile homes built to the lower standards of the 1970s, and now 40 to 50 years old, are reaching the end of their serviceable life—even in well-maintained senior citizen manufactured home developments. Florida’s humid environment is one factor, but the lesser quality materials such as wood fiber-board flooring also come into play. As the water supply piping fails and it's time for the second re-roofing, along with soft spots appearing in the floor, many homeowners make the decision to have their old home towed away and pull in a new one.

2) While an aging mobile home may still be habitable, there are several downsides to continuing to maintain it. Lack of adequate insulation is one problem. Older mobiles are notorious for high utility bills during the winter heating or sweltering summer seasons. Many have 60 or 100-amp electric panels, which are marginally adequate for today’s higher electric usage. Also, the floor plans often feel cramped by modern standards, with narrow hallways and tiny bathrooms.

3) The budget models that offered lots of square footage at an amazingly low price when they were originally purchased will not last as long the more expensive, better quality homes. Lower-priced mobile homes can start to show signs of age within 10 years if poorly maintained.

4) The conditions at the home site also affect the longevity of a manufactured home. If the home is installed over ground that is wet for part of the year or the site is not graded so that rainwater will flow away from the home on all sides and it’s prone to puddling water under the home, then moisture will begin to deteriorate the underside of the home prematurely, especially if the belly board has been torn open in places. Homes built during the 1980s with fiberboard siding are especially vulnerable to high moisture.

5) Remodeling an older mobile home can be a sensible strategy for extending its life, especially if a large part of the budget goes to roofing, siding, insulation, windows, and interior upgrades that will improve both the weather-tightness and livability of the home. For more on remodeling, see our blog “Does it make sense to remodel an older mobile home?”
 
In summary, selecting a better quality manufactured home and careful maintenance of both the home and its site are the keys to reaching the 50+ years of longevity for your mobile home that HUD predicts.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Home Inspections The Site-Pro Way


SitePro produces easy to read, nationally recognized reports.

Our typical home inspection includes these components and systems:
  • Exterior/Site: Grading, driveways, sidewalks, front porch, patio, gates, fences/walls, decks and stairs.
  • Structure: Exterior walls, trim, foundation, basement, crawl space, exterior doors and chimneys.
  • Roof: Roof covering, flashings, attic and insulation.
  • Electrical: Entrance wires, main electrical panels and branch wiring.
  • Plumbing: Piping, valves, water heater and sprinkler/irrigation system.
  • Heating/Cooling/Air Distribution System: Heating system, cooling system, air handler and evaporative cooler.
  • Interior: Walls, floors, ceiling, doors, windows and screens.
  • Bathrooms: Counter tops, cabinets, sinks and built-in appliances.
  • Kitchen: Counter tops, cabinets, sinks and built-in appliances.
  • Miscellaneous: Vehicle parking area, overhead garage door, garage-to-house door, laundry room, interior stairs and fireplaces.

Our inspection reports are informative and easy-to-use. Each section is categorized along with a detailed summary that makes it convenient and easy to reference repairs quickly. All reports are posted on our website, produced at time of inspection, or faxed to you within 24 hours of the inspection followed by a mailed detailed report and useful maintenance tips and information.

Our detailed, computerized inspection reports include:
  • A Summary Section listing defective and marginal items as well as helpful recommendations for repair or replacement
  • A Helpful Home Maintenance Guide
  • Pre-Closing Inspection checklist for checking on repairs before Closing
  • Useful Tip Guide for Maintaining Your Home
  • Free digital copies of photographs taken during the inspection

Choosing the right home inspector can difficult. Unlike most professionals, you probably will not get to meet me until after you hire me. Furthermore, different inspectors have varying qualifications, equipment, experience, reporting methods, and yes, different pricing. One thing for sure is that a home inspection requires work, a lot of work. Ultimately a through inspection depends heavily on the individual inspector’s own effort. If you honor me by permitting me to inspect your home, I guarantee that I will give you my very best effort.

This is my promise to you.

Permit Searches: Have there been any renovations, additions, or improvements made on the home you are buying? Was the home “flipped”? Are you concerned about the quality and professionalism of the repairs? In many instances we can perform a permit search for you to uncover if required permits were obtained, code inspections performed, was the work passed, and who did the work.

Roof Condition Certification: Inspection of roof covering, flashing and structure to clarify remaining life and condition in regards to leaks or damage.

Condominium Inspections: The structure is owned by the homeowners association, therefore a through review of your condominium documents is recommended for recent roof replacement/ repairs/maintenance.