The 4th of July can come at any time of the year!

OK–so no brainer–EVERYONE old enough to stick bobby pins in receptacles knows electricity is dangerous. We all know that if we are not careful, that unpleasant tingling feeling can run through our bodies, whether it is from peeing on an electric fence or sticking one’s fingers inside a light socket.

Few of us “deliberately” seek out the pleasures of recreational defibrillation.

On an inspection a while ago I had an electrical service wire that was very close to the roof surface–in fact it was in contact with the roof surface where it crossed the hip of the roof.

wornoverheadwires1

In this next picture one can see the black area where the plastic covering of the wire has rubbed off on the sharp granules of the shingles.

wornoverheadwires2

For those of you that don’t know, roofing granules are ceramic–that is how they get all the cool colors!

Anyway, where there are sharp ceramic granules in contact with moving plastic-covered-wires bad things are bound to happen to the wire–not the granules so much.

So just how much damage can be done?

As you can see in this next picture the covering is completely worn away leaving the gleaming metal exposed.

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For those of you that are not as familiar with what exposed wires look like, I have highlighted the exposed wires in the next picture.

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The service wire running to the house is no ordinary current carrying wire. The wire is for all intents and purposes un-fused and only limited by the capacity of the fuse at the transformer out at the Utility company pole–many, many thousands of volts.

The question is–how long will it be before enough of the wire is worn away that the bare neutral conductor comes in contact with the hot conductor?

This is why the 4th of July can come at any time of the year.

 

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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What IS THAT STENCH!

What is one to think when one comes across window trim that looks like this?

heater melted paint1

It looks……

Melted?

Sure enough, right below this nasty melted paint there was more evidence of what a forced air wall heater can do.

heater melted paint2

Heat does rise after all (especially in a chimney created by curtains) and this is a good example of why it is so important to make sure these electric wall heaters don’t get covered with drapes, towels furniture or anything else that can prevent them from doing the job they were designed to do.

While they might appear, on occasion, to be fire starting devices, they are actually designed to heat the space they are in.

While we are on the subject of these little heaters, it is a good time to remind everyone that they must routinely be taken apart and professionally cleaned. Cleaning them can also be dangerous so make sure the power is off and that you know what you are doing–otherwise hire someone that does.

All year long, while the heaters are not in use, they are busy collecting dust that circulates through the units. When the unit is fired up (no pun intended) the lint is literally burned off and if there is enough of it a little fire can start up that can damage the unit and/or burn your house down.

One time as an inspector, I turned one of these heaters on that apparently had not been operated for several years and there was so much dust and lint in the unit that it actually did catch on fire. In the next picture you can see the little flames flickering at the top of the unit and the smoke billowing out.

heater melted paint3

It actually made quite a stench (burning skin and dust mites will do that) and I was grateful that the unit had been vacant for many months and that prior to being rented again the unit was to undergo renovations due to roof leaks. I was also grateful the dang thing didn’t burn the place down.

Ever since this lesson, I turn the units on ONLY long enough to see if they warm up and then turn them back off as quickly as possible. In the report it merely states that the heater “turned on” and to make sure the heater gets cleaned prior to use.

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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The Bear in the Doghouse!

Just because you do not see the bear in the woods does not prevent one that is there from seeing you.

oiltankdog1Most home inspector standards of practice attempt to protect (or absolve) the home inspector from some of these bears that might turn around and bite them where the sun does not shine.

The ASHI Standards of Practice reads like this (under General Exclusions), the inspector is not required to determine:

  1. the presence of potentially hazardous plants or animals including, but not limited to, wood destroying organisms or diseases harmful to humans including molds or mold-like substances.
  2. the presence of any environmental hazards including, but not limited to, toxins, carcinogens, noise, and contaminants in soil, water, and air.

The Washington State Standards of Practice reads like this (under Exclusions & Limitations), the inspector is not required to:

(3) Report the presence of potentially hazardous plants or animals including, but not limited to, wood destroying insects or diseases harmful to humans; the presence of any environmental hazards including, but not limited to mold, toxins, carcinogens, noise, and contaminants in soil, water or air; the effectiveness of any system installed or methods utilized to control or remove suspected hazardous substances.

It is through these “exclusions” that most inspectors attempt to deal with a myriad of issues that they, the agents, and their buyers would just as soon not exist.  However, in the end, it is the buyer that will be faced with dealing with these “bears.”  Finding out about them after the fact, might just result in the bear being set loose on the inspector and/or agent.

The way I see it, these exclusions are in place so that the home inspector cannot be held responsible for any bears that simply do not give themselves away.  Isn’t this only logical?  The woods is no doubt full of bears but if they are all sleeping during the day, away in some shady cave, how is the inspector to know?  Obviously they cannot.

On the other hand, if in the process of walking through the woods, the inspector stumbles upon a sleeping bear, would it not be prudent to warn others people in the vicinity—all the while carefully backing away from the bear—and hopefully not waking it?

There is a long list of these sorts of bears in any home—but especially older homes.   Take for example vermiculite—a substance known to have a high probability of asbestos (in fact the EPA says to “assume” vermiculite contains asbestos).  While the inspector might be within his or her right to ignore this “bear” and say absolutely nothing about it to the buyer, does this provide an acceptable “level of care” for the client?

If the inspector discovers that the heating system duct work in the recently nicely remodeled and flipped home are yellow with the signs of heavy cigarette smoking, does he or she say nothing?

How about the mold covered wall where the bed has been shoved up against the wall?

There are also the bear cubs that must be dealt with—those items in the house that are “possibly” problematic—where problems associated with them might be a little less conclusive.  For example all sorts of floor covering materials may or may not have asbestos.  To me, mentioning that some of these bear cubs are known to contain asbestos and some don’t and to recommend testing in the context of remodeling is a prudent level of care that informs the client and protects the inspector.

oiltankdog2I find it a little difficult to understand how hiding behind the “exclusions” of our Standards of Practice either protects us as inspectors or does real service to our clients.

To me, the exclusions are meant to cover our butts when there is in fact a bear in the house but there is no way for us to know.  Does this open the door to someone else claiming that the bear was clearly visible and the inspector should have seen it?  Of course it does—but that door is always open anyway and pretending otherwise is just another version of ignoring the bear in the woods.

These exclusions are also meant to protect us from all the new types of bears that have yet to be recognized.  There once was a time when there were no Asbestos Bears, Lead Bears, Oil Tank Bears, or Meth Lab Bears.

In the end, if you saw a bear sleeping in the dog house in the back yard—would you say nothing about it?

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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