Frost free and not frost free all at the same time!

Hosebib1Most parts of the country are well into the throes of winter, and hopefully everyone has already taken care of their outside hose faucets to protect them from freezing.  It is still a good time to talk about frost-free outside faucets–or hose bibs–or sill-cocks–or whatever you call them in your neck of the woods.

This is a good time to talk about them because there is one particular defect that you may not be aware of related to frost-free type faucets.

Working on plumbing pipes when it is 10 below zero is no fun (ahhhh the flip side of hot & humid–gotta love it–is it any wonder there are so many bars and churches in New England?) but it beats working on them after they have broken and flooded your home.

A frost-free faucet works by having the part that actually shuts off the water way inside the wall where it is (theoretically) always warmer. The piece of pipe that connects the shut-off to the handle at the outside is supposed to be installed at a little angle so that it can drain out when you shut the water off. If you look at any frost-free type faucet the handle is always going to be perpendicular to the wall because it is attached to a long rod that runs through the pipe to the shut-off that is inside wall.

These things actually work very well.

Unfortunately many people are either clueless or they think the faucets are “frost-free” by some kind of magic. Leaving a hose on them during the winter essentially makes them a non-frost-free type faucets as water stays in the pipe all the way out through the hose–typically. This fact is apparently lost on most people given the number of hoses that I do not reconnect between September and March.

Another way to make one of these faucets non-functional is for the valve to be installed so that it can’t drain. I have taken the previous picture and drawn lines to show how this valve actually points upward at the outside at almost the angle it should be pointing downward–clearly trapping water against the valve deep inside the wall.

To test your frost-free type faucets, just turn them on and then turn them off. If some amount of water continues to come out after you shut it off–there is a good chance it is draining. You can also look at the valve from the side and see if the body of the valve points down–as in the red dotted line of the picture below.


If it looks like the picture above—have it fixed.

The faucets come with a little triangular shim that the installer can use to assist in keeping them sloped properly.

Hosebib3 Of course, like anything—one can get a little carried away.


By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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Teen Pregnancy and Buying a House

teen-pregnacy3One could argue that teens end up pregnant due to hormones, rebellion, religion–or even lack of religion. While I am sure these are factors in some cases, I think another huge factor is “lack of information.”

Of course, even with the best information, “things can happen in the dark” that seem less pleasant in “the light of day.”

I will seemingly digress from the point of this post for a moment–but I promise, the conversation will all come back together soon enough.

Of course all of this discussion, so far, of teen pregnancy, ignores the fact that Evolution wants it that way–and the younger the better.

One can get an idea of how Evolution thinks in the following examples. If Evolution can conjure up a pregnancy by the age of 13, before the girl “knows any better,” just think of how many more reproductive years there are ahead and how many more pregnancies can happen.

These “early-pregnancy” genes get looked upon very favorably by the reproductive process.

Working closely with Evolution (and perhaps part of Evolution) are the long standing religious prohibitions on even preventing pregnancy–let along ending them.

teen-pregnancyOn the other hand, if a woman holds off until she “knows better,” or until she has a career, or if she never gets pregnant, or she only has one or two children, those “fewer-pregnancy” genes quickly go out of favor as counter-productive–or better yet “counter-reproductive.”  Perhaps the few that choose to have fewer pregnancies are merely overwhelmed by all those that “choose” more pregnancies.  Of course I use the word “choose” in the widest of contexts.

And of course the boys–we cannot forget the boys–after all it can’t happen AT ALL without them. They are equally a part of evolution’s insidious little scheme, and they are wired perfectly for the job. To make it even more complicated, it is often considered a right of passage for boys to have sex at an early age.

The big problem with kids however, is that “age” and “willingness-to-acquire-good-information” are at odds with each other.

Add to this the fact that some parents, and society itself, deliberately withholds good information and we have a recipe that plays right into the hands of what nature wants. It seems that parents think that the less the kids know, the better (more good planning on nature’s part).

Even the culture we live in is on Evolution’s side. Just look at the advertising aimed at pre-teen girls. We would love to think that we can intellectualize the problem away, but Evolution has a grander plan, and frankly favors the “uninformed.” In a sense favoring the “stupid” in us all. It will be interesting to see if, as a species, we can “rewire” mother nature–or will we find that religions that frown on birth control had it right all along. For thousands of years some people have tried to figure out how to rewire Nature’s plans. I think there was a time when this “grand plan” was necessary to human survival–now we seem on the verge of having too many trees in the forest.

teen-pregnancy2But now to come back around to the point of this post.

This whole teen pregnancy scenario is almost exactly analogous to buying houses.

Buyers are like wide eyed, hormonally driven teens as they run uninformed and unprotected into the house buying process–throwing all caution to the wind.

Uninformed buyers get themselves “in trouble” all the time. Ruining their own lives is not uncommon.

On the other hand, it is easy to recognize an “informed” home buyer (or teenager for that matter) when you see one. They know what questions to ask–and they ask them. They may be shy, but they don’t let their nervousness–especially if it is their first time–get in the way of getting what they need.

For example, not only do they know before hand that they want a home inspection–they know what the home inspection should look like–they are not about to get caught with their pants down because of what is going on in all the “dark places” of the home. They actually want to do it out in the open–where everyone can see–in the light of day. They want transparency.

The current economic crisis has shown us that keeping people uninformed, and careless, has resulted in a huge number of unwanted house ownership failures and gotten a lot of people in trouble.

Informed buyers now are less likely to be fooled by a “pretty face,” and will recognize the “lipstick” on that flip, for the money pit it really is. They are mature enough to actually be able to wait for the right one to come along and are not easily swayed by silver-tongued suits, in spiffy cars and greased back hair putting the moves on them.

They don’t rely on the “parents” involvement or lack of involvement. They fully expect their agents to take care of them and they know what being “taken care of” looks like.

They are informed.

They are protected.

They are after all……….expecting!


By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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We all know you should put whipped cream on just about everything!

I would love to be able to appeal to “common sense” as the solution to several issues present in the picture below. Of course the picture is of one defect in particular, but also captures several other issues.


I took the picture to document the cutting of the floor joist. It was cut to allow for running the duct from the down draft exhaust fan of the kitchen cook top.

Once again this is “new construction.”

I would like to appeal to the installer’s “common sense,” in terms of the “other” issues present, but I think anyone that would cut the joists like this, without providing additional proper supports, likely would be the wrong person to look to for “common sense.”

It is not likely very hard for you, my readers, to understand what is wrong with cutting this joist like this. Over time this area of the floor will likely suffer from some amount of deflection–especially as there is a very heavy granite covered kitchen island above, and the span is considerable.

Obviously the insulation being out of place and the ductwork not being insulated are other issues but there is also another issue that should be addressed.

The rectangular duct that drops through the floor has a nice end cap on it and the round duct pipe that runs to the exterior is connected into the side of the rectangular duct. The problem I have with this installation is that a sort of “unapproved” grease trap is created at the bottom of the rectangular duct. If all the floor and ductwork was properly insulated nobody would be any the wiser that the condition was even there.

Excessive grease in ductwork is considered a fire hazard and is why ducts need to be properly cleaned every now and then. To create a special place to unintentionally collect large amounts of grease, over time, just seems a little risky.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, the “whipped cream” was installed to keep the rats out of the island kitchen cabinets.  Well not really, but it might help with that, while it keeps  the opening from becoming an improper air intake to the home.

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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