Dead Legs might not kill you but they can make you sick.

deadlegs

Plumbing and electrical rough-in for future bar sink

A dead leg is any part of your house water supply where water cannot circulate. They are most common in extensions to the plumbing system for future use.

An example of a dead leg would be plumbing installed for a future bar sink in the basement. Over the life of the home, as those pipes sit full of water—not circulating with the rest of the house water supply—there is a risk of bacteria growing inside the pipes. The same can happen with bathrooms that are not used very often.

Circulating loops, especially on the hot water supply side is one way to avoid this stagnation of water in the pipes but honestly there is no real easy answer to the problem. When you consider that a dead leg is considered to be anything more than 2 pipe diameters away from the flow of water, it does not take very much to create a pocket of water where water can stagnate. Contaminated watering holes come to mind.

There are increasing numbers of Legionella cases being attributed to Dead Legs and the number of actual illnesses is likely much higher, with many cases of flu-like symptoms going unreported or undiagnosed.

Recommendations for how homeowners should deal with dead legs is evolving, but certainly any sections that are intended for future use should be properly isolated from the house system until such time as the installation can be completed.

For further information: Promoting Water Quality and Hygiene

 

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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Balcony barrier railings can’t just look OK—they have to be OK too.

The focus of this blog post is the upper level balcony visible in the following photo.

Balconies on a building

Balconies on a building

Standing on the balcony, it is about 16 feet to the carport floor below. Surely a fall from this level, onto the hard concrete below, could prove deadly or result in injuries perhaps worse than death.

The problem is the barrier railing.

Non-continuous deck barrier railing

Non-continuous deck barrier railing

The issue with the railing is not readily apparent, and from the ground it certainly looks fine. From the deck itself however, we can see that the barrier railing is spliced right in the middle—and merely toe-nailed together.  The top of this barrier should be able to withstand 200 lbs of lateral force.  It is unlikely that it could do that.

split top railing

split top railing

This barrier certainly would not resist the impact that could be produced by a couple of kid’s or adults rough-housing, as kids of all ages are prone to do. The barrier can’t just look OK—it has to be OK.

At the very least it should be one solid piece the length of the deck, and a secondary solid piece under the top piece the whole length of the deck would be even better.

Let’s hope it gets repaired prior to something bad happening.

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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Trees grow and trees rot

Life is full of “plan ahead” moments.

When it comes to building things, if things aren’t well thought out, all kinds of unintended consequences can occur. The less experienced the “doer” is, the more likely someone is going to end up the “doee.” I realize “doee” is not a proper word but it ought to be.

A doee is anyone that has to deal with the unintended consequences of a doer.

Now granted, not all unintended consequences can be foreseen, but when it comes to residential construction, most things have been done over and over again so many times, the only real excuses for things being done wrong are laziness, ignorance, arrogance, or fraud.

Today we will pick on ignorance.

Take this driveway for example.

As the tree roots decay the surface can settle

As the tree roots decay the surface can settle

The settled areas are the result of the collapse of the ground under the asphalt. Now there can be many causes of this settlement but all of them relate to improper preparation of the ground before the asphalt was laid down.

Pulling out stumps and filling the holes with the surrounding dirt is a common cause of this type of settlement. Another cause is where the stumps were simply cut off and left to rot under the driveway. This eventually results in settlement as the stumps rot away. A properly prepared substrate for the driveway, including drainage gravel and proper removal of stumps and roots, can make for a very long lasting installation.

This is where the “experience” and “understanding” of the doer assists in having a happy outcome for the doee.

Another example of unintended consequences is where the original installation itself may have been well thought out, but some element was included that over time created unintended consequences.

In the following pictures one can clearly see that the doer had no idea that trees grow.

Patio destroyed bu tree roots

Patio destroyed bu tree roots

Patio destroyed by tree roots

Patio destroyed by tree roots

What likely started out as a nice little tree at the center of this nice patio, has–over time–completely destroyed the patio–unless the original intention was to create a “self-building skate board park.”

The thing is–in both these instances–there is no new information involved.

Trees have always grown–and stumps always rot.

 

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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