Do you remember the “greasers?”

People love to beautify their yards with trees and other plants.

For some it is like some sort of “homeowner right” to plant whatever they want, wherever they want, without giving any consideration as to how big that plant or tree will get and how it might affect them or their neighbors.

Some species of bamboo, if left to their own devices, can be a nightmare for a neighbor who doesn’t love bamboo as much as you do.  There are lots of trees with different growth profiles that make more sense to plant in some locations as opposed to others.  For example planting that little Sequoia you bought for a Christmas tree, two feet from the foundation on New Year’s Day, might not seem like such a good idea to the home buyer or home inspector 50 Christmas’s from now.  For 50 years it will have been trashing the roof and gutters with huge amounts of debris.  Its limbs in contact with the gutter will have been a great pathway for a perpetual rodent infestation in the attic.  Its roots will have been playing sumo wrestler with the foundation.

All told, by the time the foundation is repaired, the Pest Control Company is paid many many times, the attic is cleaned (maybe more than once), the attic is re-insulated (maybe more than once), the gutters are replaced, the roof is patched several times, and finally, the 50 year old tree is removed, it got to be one heck of an expensive Christmas tree.

Most trees, even the ones that say “dwarf” on the label will need pruning and controlling to keep bad things from happening.  This is true even when they are planted with some forethought.  For example take the small maple in the picture below.

greasers1
This tree is what would be considered a “dwarf,” and right now it is pretty much clear of the structure—at least no branches are touching the house.  A squirrel or rat could likely climb out on a branch and its own weight would  lower the critter to the roof—maybe—but why they would bother is anybody’s guess.  On the other hand, all the moss visible at the corner of the roof is consistent with the tree being much closer to the roof recently.  Fairly recent pruning of the tree in that area agrees with that scenario.

That the tree was much closer to the roof and the side of the house in recent history would explain the evidence of a rather huge rat infestation in the attic.  With tree branches in contact with the home, they could maintain a virtual highway into the attic through the hole in the vent screen at the soffit in that area.
greasers2
Once again the familiar rodent “body grease” markings from the “original greasers,” at the entrance hole and on the wood platform below the hole, are images worth a thousand words.

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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Closets have their hang-ups—or should anyway.

The standard depth of a closet is typically 24 inches. As a builder, the rough framing depth was typically 25″ so that you ended up with an inside finish dimension of 24 inches. This allows a standard 16 inch hanger on a hanger bar centered in the space to have enough room for whatever is on the hanger. It has to be that deep so that giant mink coat with the sleeves that poof out several inches will still have adequate room to fit in the closet.

You can get away with a little bit less than 24” but things start to get a little tight and might actually interfere with by-passing type doors and bi-fold type doors.

Recently I had a closet that was a problem in this respect. Nobody had noticed it yet. Casually walking by the closet it just looked like any normal closet with a hanger bar and shelf. These metal brackets are triangular shaped and designed to hold a shelf and a bar that ends up automatically centered in the closet space. I have no problem with these brackets—they work just fine–as long as they are adequately attached to the wall.

But this one is likely not going to be satisfactory and I think you can see from the picture just why.

clothes-closet

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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Nail Guns vs Hammers

Like any tool–pneumatic nail guns can be misused.

Having spent a good part of my life framing houses, I would argue that for framing–nail guns are of little value. Sure they are faster, but you still have to lug a hammer around to drive things into proper position anyway. I know that I am not going to get much agreement about this but I will gladly tilt at this windmill regardless. I have worked side by side guys with nail guns and they never finished what they were doing before I finished what I was doing and the work was certainly never as good.

A guy and his hammer can climb around on a house without dragging hoses and heavy guns around and even nail one handed if necessary. A proficient carpenter can start a 16 penny nail and finish it with one whack–maybe two depending on what kinds of materials are being nailed. Only a novice would take more than one whack to drive sheathing nails once they are started.

That said, nail guns are awesome for interior finish work. It is very difficult to compete with them by hand nailing.

But this diversion is distracting me from talking about nail guns.

On a recent inspection of a roof I noticed that there were many nail heads sticking through the roof surface.

Improperly driven nail working its way through the surface

Improperly driven nail working its way through the surface

On my planet I would not allow the use of nail guns to install asphalt shingles. To properly nail a roof shingle the pressure of the nail gun must be set such that it neither drives the nail through the shingle nor leaves the nail head sticking up. This is much more difficult than one might think because it takes much less pressure to drive a nail into the roof near a rafter or truss than it does in the field between the rafters or trusses. The nail tends to “bounce” more and ends up not driven all the way in. Hand nailing can adjust for the differences in amounts of pressure required to drive the nail properly.

With thicker roof sheathings the reverse can happen, where the pressure is OK for driving the nails in the field area but won’t push the nail into the truss or rafter. Add to this problem that if the roofer does not hold the gun so that it is directly perpendicular to the roof, the nail will be driven at an angle. The angled head will then, over time, work its way through the shingle that is covering the nail head.

Roofs with this condition will often have shingles that lift up easily because the adhesive strip was never able to function properly due to the nail heads holding the shingles up, as can be seen in the following picture.

Nail not driven far enough

Nail not driven far enough

Can you see the nail sticking up jut to the left of my thumb?

So while nail guns “can” be used properly–they often are not.

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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