How could anyone do this with a straight face?

To state that the kitchen had some electrical issues would be accurate. That there was only one circuit for all the receptacles in the kitchen is not that unusual—if the house was from 1900—but this was basically “new” work, done less than 7 years ago.

The work was “less than professional” and most likely the work had no chance of being done under permit.

If this was the end of the story you would be perfectly justified in just clicking away–but hang in there, you just know it has to get better.

So this one circuit “begins” on one side of the kitchen where it picks up the refrigerator. It then wiggles its way over to the adjacent bathroom receptacle. It then goes through the wall to kitchen receptacle number one, toward the kitchen sink and receptacle number two where it then goes past the kitchen sink to receptacle number three—and then “apparently” to number four on the side panel of the washer/dryer.

But wait a minute–how come I haven’t said GFCI yet? So I plugged my little 3-bulb tester into a receptacle and pushed the test button. I heard the familiar “snap” as the GFCI tripped.

Now imagine in your own mind, a whole bunch of words I am saying in my mind, that I cannot use in this post.

The “snap” came from behind the stacking washer/dryer at the end of the kitchen countertop—behind the side panel that encloses the washer/dryer.

How could anyone do this?

But wait a minute–as it turns out, the WASHING MACHINE is the first receptacle in the circuit, not the last as I originally thought, and of course they are all GFCI protected–bathroom included!

For those of you that do not know–there is required to be at least two countertop appliance circuits. The washing machine needs its own circuit. The bathroom needs its own circuit (or at least a circuit separate from the things that it shares in this case).

The chorus:

How could anyone do this?

It least it gave me the reason why the sloppily installed receptacle on the side panel of the washer/dryer was not functional. AHHHH those silver linings!

It was not actually a receptacle at all, as you can see in the picture I was able to get with my camera over the top of the stacked washer/dryer.

It was one of those fake receptacles that people put over a hole in the wall where they hide their flash-drives, drugs and mad money.

Now you can see it through the access hole.

Well it seems at least the “Why would anyone do this,” is at least a little bit better.

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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Is your insulation doing what you think it is doing?

I do not want to tackle the huge ugly topic of whether fiberglass insulation should be used at all–as it frequently is in attics.

For today, I just want to talk about one obvious issue with fiberglass insulation that prevents it from performing as expected.

The short version of what is wrong with fiberglass insulation is that it is not an air barrier, therefor, if it is not encapsulated and air sealed on all six sides its performance suffers. In an attic, at most, only five sides is likely to be sealed leaving the entire top not sealed.

This post is about the sides, which can and must be air sealed. The vented sides are typically not adequately air sealed, especially along the eaves. Insulation baffles, designed to keep insulation out of the lower roof venting and to allow for air flow into the attic, rarely gets adequately sealed.

Soffit vent that allows air flow into the attic

Because the baffle/top plate connection is not air sealed, and because fiberglass insulation represents very little resistance to air flow, air pushes its way into the attic right through the insulation. As it does this, it either cools the ceiling in the area, or warms the ceiling in the area depending on the season and/or side of the house.

In the winter and/or the north side of the home, the air will tend to make the ceiling cooler in the area of the vent. In the summer, especially on the sun side, the air will tend to warm the ceiling in the area of the vent. This will increase both heating and cooling loads of the home.

This next picture shows what that area looks like at the interior ceiling with Infrared camera on the South side of the home. Warm air is moving through the insulation and warming the ceiling.

In the same house on the North side we can see how the ceiling area near the vent, as indicated by infrared camera, is “cooler.” In the actual picture we can see the fungal growth present because this vent happens to be in the area of the bathroom. The moisture in the bathroom condenses on the cooler surface creating a perfect environment for mold growth.

The only real repair for this condition is to pull back the insulation and properly air seal the gaps where the insulation baffle and the house framing meet.

Spray foams are good for sealing the areas where the baffle makes contact with the framing as indicated in the circle in the picture above. Of course, in a perfect world, we would not use fiberglass insulation at all, and instead use types of insulation that are much better at stopping the flow of air. Cellulose fiber insulation can do a much better job at this.

 

Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

New construction home? Why not?

I inspected a very nice new construction home a while back–excellent builder, that obviously cares about the homes he builds.

I love new construction.

Let me put it a better way.

I LOVE NEW CONSTRUCTION.

Sure there can be issues, but if old and new homes consist of 1000 things that can go wrong, starting at anything less than 500 issues is way better than starting at 1000. Of course I am exaggerating in both extremes. The reality is most older homes are going to have more issues to deal with than a new home will. This new one was better than most new ones. In other words–there was not much to fix. If you think my analogy is wacky let me create a basic list of things to think about:

Grading,

Retaining walls,

Drainage,

Foundation,

Exterior cladding,

Decks,

Windows,

Framing,

Insulation,

Interior finishes,

Plumbing,

Appliances,

Heating/Cooling systems,

Energy efficiency,

Air sealing,

Wiring,

Roofing,

Chimneys,

In older homes, every single one of the things on this list can have issues of deal killer proportions–not to mention just normal everyday kinds of issues from leaky faucets to outdated finishes (unless someone has already spent the money to remedy them–and then of course the house will still have a marginal foundation, marginal framing–or whatever else that has not been upgraded).

Of course we have not even yet started to talk about lead, asbestos and buried oil tanks.

In a new home, how many of the things on that list are going to have issues of deal killer proportions?

I rest my case.

I am sure that most of the things I found wrong in this new home were things that were already on the builder’s own punch list. One thing that I found wrong was in the kitchen, when I turned on the gas range. This is what the burners looked like.

It looked more like what you want your gas fireplace to look like than what you want your range to look like. The problem is a simple one. Someone had not changed the orifices from natural gas to propane.

While I was doing the inspection there was a flurry of activity all around the home as workers rushed to get the place cleaned and detailed. Realistically I was about a week early–but the inspection had already been put off a couple of weeks and it had to be done.

By the time I finished the upstairs and came back downstairs, the appliance installer had changed out the orifices and now the flame looked better.

This meant that now I would not have to report on the defect, but would instead get to use it as blog fodder. So all was not lost.

Did I tell you how much I love new construction?

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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