The Walking and Crawling Home Inspector

Home inspectors often have to crawl over, under and inside things in the process of inspecting a home. It is not a job for the claustrophobic, or those that do not possess an irrational sense of adventure, or unrealistic curiosity.

Of course every inspector will have their own line-in-the-sand as to what they will do and won’t do, but generally speaking, as a group, home inspectors tend to do what no one else in their right mind would do.

On a recent inspection, while traversing the attic I had to crawl through an unusual tunnel between two chimneys that had been corbelled together so that they could both pass through the roof at just one location.

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I guess finding this in the attic I should have been prepared for what it would take to get from one side of the crawl space to the other. I wish I could have filmed myself crawling under this duct.

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Laying on one’s back, it was possible to slither under the duct–but it was a little disconcerting having no way to really know what was on the other side until I got there.

Of course it was well worth the trip, as there was extensive water damage in the crawl space on the other side.

It is my business model to do what it takes to provide the best information I can–sometimes it just is not possible and I have to recommend that proper access be made and that I be called back for further evaluation. I don’t like it when I am forced to become one of the things that keep the process from moving along.

Plus, the more difficult the access, the more likely nobody else has been willing to go in there either, and the more likely there will be things that need to be discovered.

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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Grateful for the wind in my face!

One of my recent posts, More Attic Ventilation Is Not Going To Help, was about excessive moisture in an attic due to breaches in the air barrier between the indoors and the attic space.

As that post discussed, these by-passes can be obvious or hidden. There are often multiple breaches in the same home and some may be easy to find and other may be very difficult to fine. When I find these breaches I point them out and recommend that proper repairs be made. These breaches, if not a problem now, may become a problem in the future.

The picture below is an example of an obvious breach in the connection of the ceiling heat register to the insulated duct in the attic. The picture is looking down at the insulation and the pink insulation is part of the wrap that goes around the heat duct that runs to the ceiling register.

It was pretty easy to find because the heating system was running and this little hole in the insulation was blowing air in my face as I climbed through the access hatch into the attic.

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If the heating system had not been running, I like to think I would not have just thought it was a mouse hole.

The truth is though—it does not look at all like a mouse hole because there is no trail.

I’m just grateful for the wind in my face.

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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Two approaches to wrong

The roof on a building I inspected a while ago had two steps where the elevation of the roof changed. Both were flashed improperly. The metal flashing at this transition should never be a continuous piece whether it is installed on top of the shingles:

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Or under the shingles:

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Regardless of its position, if the metal flashing is continuous, water will eventually either travel across the shingles and then into the roof structure or under the shingles and across the flashing to the roof structure. Of course any water should then encounter the felt paper under the shingles, but the felt paper is not designed to be water proof—it is full of holes from nailing all the shingles down. Eventually either method of installation will result in damage to the roof structure.

This transition should have step flashings. Proper step flashings will result in as many overlapping pieces as there are rows of shingles. This will guarantee proper drainage and prevent damage to the roof.

Obviously the flashings should also be counter-flashed. In both of the installations pictured above it is likely intended (or was intended) for a fascia to be installed to lap over the flashings. While this will likely prevent water from getting behind the improper continuous metal flashings from above—it will result in the higher roof shingles not overhanging the fascia enough to prevent water from wicking behind the fascia or into the upper roof structure.

Installation of some sort of metal counter-flashing will likely be necessary in conjunction with removal of the continuous flashings and installation of proper step-flashings.

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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