Wednesday, May 9, 2018

SitePro Home Inspections: What Causes Condensation On The Inside Of Windows ...

SitePro Home Inspections: What Causes Condensation On The Inside Of Windows ...: The science behind the problem is fairly simple. Warm air expands and can hold more humidity (moisture) than cool air, but when it comes ...

What are the Pros and Cons of Vinyl liners vs. Fiberglass vs. Concrete in-ground pools?

Each type of construction has both advantages and disadvantages to consider when you decide to make your backyard pool-party ready. Most contractors specialize in one type and are well-versed in the best features of their favored construction method. Here’s how they compare:

Vinyl Liner Pools

•Lower Initial cost - Liner pools are usually, but not always, the least expensive in-ground pool.
•Plenty of custom shapes available - Because the backing panels are manufactured in numerous shapes and lengths, they interlock into plenty of creative shapes. Photo above is a liner pool.
•Smoothest surface - Less abrasive than other pools.
•Less algae growth - Smooth surface makes it harder to algae to take hold.


•Liners have a short life - Average of 7 to 10 years. The decorative “tile” imprint will fade noticeably above water line as it ages.
•Liner comparatively fragile - Dogs trying to climb out of the the pool, objects around the pool, or a tree branch falling into the pool can tear the 20 to 30 mil thick liner and start a leak.
•Least prestigious - No matter how elegant the coping and surrounding deck, a liner pool is a liner pool.

Fiberglas Pools

•Fast installation - Because the complete shell is manufactured off-site and craned into place, this is the fastest pool to install.
•Built-in steps and seats - Incorporated into shell at factory.
•Smoother surface than concrete -Less algae growth problems.


•Limited size - Because the pool must be trucked to site there is a 16-foot width limitation.
•Not as many shape choices - Each design requires a large custom mold, so selection is somewhat limited.
•Refinishing more difficult - Both liner and concrete pools are easier to repair/replace the surfacing. There are plenty of marcite pool resurfacing contractors, but not so many tradesmen for repairing fiberglass pools as they age, and the color can be difficult to match when repairing.

Concrete Pools (gunite or shotcrete)

•No size limits - Any size, shape or depth you want.
•More design options - Vanishing edge, grotto, beach entry and waterfalls possible.
•Most prestigious - Concrete pools look more substantial.
•Longer lifespan - With regular maintenance.


•Higher maintenance cost - Most expensive to resurface.
•Needs more chemicals - The textured surface of the pool requires more chemicals and filtration to prevent algae.

•Longest construction time - Usually several months.

Is the WDO (Termite) inspector allowed to poke holes in my wood siding and trip during his inspection? 

Wood Destroying Organism (WDO) inspection is a Florida state-licensed and regulated activity. Although it is often referred to as a “termite inspection,” the inspector is also required to look for evidence of wood decay fungi (wood rot) and wood-destroying beetles.

The inspection is essentially visual, but the inspector is allowed to sound and probe wood surfaces to look for any WDO problems. “Sounding” is the process of tapping the wood and listening for a dull sound that indicates hollow termite galleries or wood rot underneath the paint surface.  Solid wood makes a clear, “bright” knock. It is not a destructive inspection technique, and we don’t know of any consumer complaints about sounding.

But wood probing is a different matter. Sometimes home sellers are upset about the holes left in the wood around the exterior of their home by an inspector probing for soft, damaged wood. If a probe can penetrate the wood, that means it is damaged and needs to be repaired in order to get a “clean” WDO report—which is required for some federally-insured types of financing.

Because probing is necessary for a thorough inspection, it is referred to in the Florida Administrative Code [5E-14.142(5)(c)(2)] for WDO inspections with the following statement: “The inspection will be visual but may include probing and sounding of structural members as deemed necessary by the inspector, based upon a preliminary finding of visual evidence of infestation or damage.”

There is also a further delineation of the limits of probing in a document entitled “Baseline Practices for a WDO Inspection,” which was prepared by a committee of pest control industry professionals in coordination with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), and is intended to provide a consensus on Good Industry Practice Standards (GIPS). This is their definition of probing:

“Probing” - the act of penetrating through the surface of a suspected area to determine the type of WDO present. Probing will cause some degree of “defacement of property.” Defacing property shall be strictly limited to that which is required to determine the type of WDO damage/evidence present.

So probing is allowed, and a limited amount of defacement of property is acceptable, but only as necessary to determine the type of wood destroying organism causing the damage. Digging out all of the soft wood to determine the extent of the damage is not defined as acceptable.

Some inspectors use a large screwdriver to probe wood for soft spots of damage. We use a knife with the intent of limiting the size of the probed opening in the wood. But, whatever tool is used by the inspector, gouging out large areas of soft wood angers home sellers and is not allowed.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

How Can I Find Out The Age Of A Roof?

There are three ways to determine the age of a roof of a home you are considering buying or already own:

1) Find out the date of the building permit. This the most accurate way to age a roof, but not all jurisdictions require building permits for roof replacement and sometimes the homeowner has the roof replaced without a permit. Many of the larger municipal and county governments in Florida have a database that the public can access online to find all the permits issued for a property. The address of the property or property appraisers’ parcel number can be used to start your search. Smaller building departments will often provide permit record information over the phone or from a fax request.

2) Ask the seller or previous homeowner. While this is the easiest solution, it is often less accurate. The memory of years gone by gets slippery, especially for senior citizens. Also, don’t be surprised if the response you get is something like “Well when we bought the house in 2008 the previous owner said she thought the roof was about 7 years old.”

3) Have a home inspector or roofer estimate the age of the roof. What you will get is an educated guess and, because a number of conditions can make a roof age faster or slower than average, it will be a rough estimate at best. But the inspector or roofing contractor can often make a more accurate estimate of the years of life left in the roof based on its current condition—which is even more important to know.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

What Causes 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 a happy home!”

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Do Stains On The Ceiling Mean The Roof Is Leaking?

Maybe...or maybe not. The first thing we try to determine with a ceiling stain is whether it was caused by a roof leak or some other problem, such as a leaking air conditioning condensate-water drain line in the attic. If we conclude that a roof leak is the culprit then the next question is: active leak or previous leak?

If the home has a newer roof, then we might be looking at the problem that caused the homeowner to recently replace the roof. Perhaps they just haven’t repaired the ceiling damage/staining yet. Further investigation in the attic and on the rooftop itself will give us a clearer picture of what’s happening.

One of the first tools we pull out for this puzzle is our infrared camera. A visual tool that sees heat instead of light, the infrared easily recognizes wet areas because the evaporation of the moisture cools the surface in the area of the wetness. And a wet area at the staining is an indication of an active problem. If the infrared camera sees signs of moisture, then we use another tool called a moisture meter to verify and measure how much water is in the material.

But a dry area is not necessarily an indication of an issue that has already been repaired: if the cause is a roof leak, and it has not rained recently, then it is possible to have an active roof leak but no moisture at the time of testing.

Looking up at the area directly above the stain in the attic tells us more about what’s happening; then, checking the area of roofing above that for defects that would cause leaking is next. Because the water in a roof leak doesn’t always fall directly down from where it penetrates the roof covering, sometimes even more probing is necessary. A roof leak can migrate downward between the roof covering and roof sheathing before it enters the attic, then run down the surface of roof framing lumber before it finally falls onto the ceiling.

But eventually, we track down the problem--and recommended solution--for you.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

What Can I Do Right Now To Prepare My House For A Hurricane?

There are a number of structural improvements you can make to your home, especially if it’s an older one, to dramatically improve its resistance to hurricane damage. The work takes time and money--typically thousands of dollars and the hiring of a contractor--and we will address that in another blog soon. But, the following plan covers three do-it-yourself projects you can get done at the beginning of hurricane season or as a storm approaches, to make your home better prepared to withstand the blast of wind and water.

The 3-project plan was compiled by the Institute for Business and Home Safety, an insurance industry-sponsored safety organization:

Water can invade homes in a number of ways, especially when it’s being blown horizontally.  To emphasize how important it is to seal areas to prevent water intrusion, consider this: hurricane force winds can blow water uphill.  In fact, a 74 mile per hour wind (the lowest hurricane wind) can blow water up a wall about 4 inches.  A 110 m.p.h. wind can blow water up a wall nearly 6 inches.  With that kind of force, gallons of water can be pumped through even very small cracks in walls and end up in the wall cavity or living space.

Consequently, penetrations in walls can allow enough water into a house to cause lots of damage.  If there is a loss of power for air conditioners (AC) or dehumidifiers to dry things out, that water damage could lead to mold.

Look for holes where wires, cables, and pipes enter and exit the house.  In addition to openings for cable TV and telephone lines, seal all the way around electrical boxes and circuit breaker panels.  Pipe penetrations include AC refrigerant lines, AC condensate lines, water heater pressure relief lines and water pipes.  Also seal cracks around wall outlets, dryer vents, bathroom and kitchen vents and electrical devices such as wall lights.

Gooseneck vents, turbine vents and a variety of roof vents that work in ordinary wind probably will not keep out water in a hurricane.  Most are not designed to operate in strong winds and few are designed to handle the wind loads induced.  The vents should be removed or anchored more securely and well sealed.  If you remove them, securely seal the opening with a cover that will not be blown or sucked off.

Windows and Doors: Check for leaks around your windows and doors, especially near the corners. Check for peeling paint, it can be a sign of water getting into the wood. Inspect for discolorations in paint or caulking, swelling of the window or doorframe or surrounding materials.

Foundation and Exterior Walls: Seal any cracks and holes in external walls, joints, and foundations, in particular, examine locations where piping or wiring extends through the outside walls. Fill all cracks in these locations with sealant.

Flashing: Flashing, which is typically a thin metal strip found around doors, windows, thresholds, chimneys, and roofs, is designed to prevent water intrusion in spaces where two different building surfaces meet. Look for any loose or rusted-out flashings.

Vents: All vents, including clothes dryer, gable vents, attic vents, and exhaust vents, should have hoods, exhaust to the exterior, be in good working order, and have boots.

Attics: Check for holes, air leaks, or bypasses from the house and make sure there is enough insulation to keep house heat from escaping. Among other things, air leaks and inadequate insulation results in ice damming. If ice dams collect around the lower edge of a roof, rain or melted snow can back up under the shingles and into the attic or the house. Check the bottom side of the roof sheathing and roof rafters or truss for water stains.

Basements: Make sure that basement windows and doors have built-up barriers or flood shields. Inspect sump pumps to ensure they work properly. A battery backup system is recommended. The sump pump should discharge as far away from the house as possible.

Expansion Joints: Expansion joints are materials between bricks, pipes, and other building materials that absorb movement. If expansion joints are not in good condition, water intrusion can occur. If there are cracks in the joint sealant, remove the old sealant, install a backer rod and fill with a new sealant.

Exterior Wood Sheathing and Siding: Replace any wood siding and sheathing that appears to have water damage. Inspect any wood sided walls to ensure there is at least 8" between any wood and the earth.

Drywall: Since drywall is an extremely porous material and is difficult to dry out completely, damaged areas should be replaced if any signs of moisture are present. One way to protect drywall from moisture intrusion in the event of a flood is to install it slightly above the floor and cover the gap with molding.

Exterior Walls: Exterior walls should be kept well painted and sealed. Don't place compost or leaf piles against the outside walls. Landscape features should not include soil or other bedding material mounded up against walls.

Soffits: Keeping soffits in place can help keep water out of your house.  Aluminum and vinyl soffits were often blown off homes during the 2004 hurricane season. An inexpensive recommendation for soffit strengthening is to apply a bead of polyurethane sealant along the joint between the edge of the channel and the wall, installing sharp pointed stainless steel screws through the fascia and channels so that they connect the soffit material to the edge supports and applying sealant in the grooves where the fascia material butts up against the fascia and wall channel.

Keeping shingles on your house is extremely important.  Check to make sure they are well secured to the roof, particularly along the roof edges.

A common problem is that edge shingles are not well fastened or extend beyond the drip edge more than the 1/4” typically recommended for high wind areas.  Once the perimeter shingles lift off, a peeling process starts and creates a domino effect.

The attachment of perimeter shingles can easily be checked by gently trying to lift the lower edge of the shingle.  If it comes up without much effort (older shingles become brittle and may crack when bent too much), then you should secure them, which is easy.

If you find that a lot of shingles, including ones away from the edge, are poorly adhered, budget for a new roof in the near future.  There have been significant improvements in shingles and the adhesive strips that anchor them to the ones below.  New high wind rated shingles installed according to manufacturer’s recommendations for high wind areas and with extra edge sealing performed very well in the hurricanes of 2004.

Repair or replace shingles around any area that allows water to penetrate the roof sheathing. If you feel like replacing shingles is a bigger job than you want to tackle, call a roofer.

Leaks are particularly common around chimneys, plumbing vents, and attic vents. To trace the source of a ceiling leak, measure its location from the nearest outside wall and then locate this point in the attic using a measuring tape. Keep in mind that the water may run along the attic floor, rafters, or truss for quite a distance before coming through the ceiling.

Use roofing cement in 10 oz. caulk tubes that fit ordinary caulk guns to secure roof shingles.  It's inexpensive and one tube is enough for about 25 feet of shingles.  Perimeter shingles include those along the eaves and gable edges, plus the ones on the ridge and hips.  Place three 1" diameter dabs under each shingle tab (near the edges and in the middle).  On gable ends, secure the three shingle tabs closest to the gable edge.   If the roof is not too steep, an able-bodied person with practical skills should accomplish this in just a few hours.

Limiting possible sources of wind-borne debris before a storm will help protect your home and those around you.

Replace gravel/rock landscaping materials with shredded bark.  In a particularly strong hurricane, gravel has been found in mailboxes and has shredded vinyl siding.

Limit yard objects like garden spheres or gnomes, and remove chairs or other furniture when not in use, so there’s less work to do to prepare for a hurricane.

Landscaping: Keep trees trimmed so that branches are at least 7 feet away from any exterior house surface. This will help prolong the life of your siding and roof and prevent insects from entering your home from the tree. Vines should be kept off all exterior walls because they can help open cracks in the siding, which allows moisture or insects to enter the house.

Be prepared to move anything outside that can become flying debris into your house or garage.