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can have issues of deal killer proportions–not to mention just normal everyday kinds of issues from leaky faucets to outdated finishes (unless someone has already spent the money to remedy them–and then of course the house will still have a marginal foundation, marginal framing–or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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The futile business of cleaning gutters.

As long as people insist on not installing gutter-guard systems on their homes, the gutters will insist on regular maintenance—and even then will still require some maintenance.

So what does “regular maintenance” look like?  Certainly not like the following picture.

The amount of maintenance necessary will depend on lots of factors.  The types of vegetation present that will fill the gutters, how long it takes for this to happen and seasonal loading for some kinds of vegetation around the home—and of course kids and dogs.

Kids and Dogs?

It is amazing the kinds of stuff I find on roofs and in gutters related to either being tossed by kids or from things being tossed for dogs to chase.  Hopefully nobody really expected the dog to get up on the roof.  I was actually surprised in the picture above that the ball apparently did not float out of the way.

While some dams might be constructed of bricks they should not be used to dam up gutters.

In some cases cleaning might be required every month—for some homes once a year might be enough.  I know that if I had to clean mine every month I would be thinking really hard about installing a gutter guard system.

As you can see in the following pictures it does not take very much debris to completely dam up a gutter.

Overflowing gutters defeats the purpose of the gutters—which is to collect it, send it down the downspouts where it can be directed away from the foundation (either above ground or below ground).

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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Log homes and energy efficiency

On a recent road trip around the State of Washington, we stayed at a motel constructed of older style Pan Abode buildings built sometime in the late 50’s. 

The structures seemed in remarkably good condition for their age, but the stresses on these structures are perhaps not what they would be in a wetter area of the state–like west of the mountains–in the Seattle area.  The structures seemed well suited to their hot and dry climate.

What I found interesting was the insulating ability of the 4″ thick walls–or their lack of ability would perhaps be more accurate.

This first picture is of the exterior wall.  The red rectangle corresponds to an area at the interior that will be discussed below.

Pan-abode type building

This next picture is what the wall structure looks like.  You can see the double tongue and group shape with the wall being approximately 4″ thick.

Pan-abode type wall structure

On the interior, with thermal camera, the wall and pillow temperatures show in the next two pictures.

Thermal image Thermal image

In this next picture we see the wall with the pillows moved away from the wall to reveal how the wall was “insulated” by the pillows.  The wall, heated up by the direct sun shining on it at the exterior, could not give up its heat to the interior as readily as the other areas of the wall. Thermal imageThermal image

My understanding is that modern Pan Abode structures are a double-wall type of construction that allows for the installation of insulation inside the walls.  This would certainly be required by modern energy codes for both heating and cooling. 

Regardless, these pictures demonstrate very well how poor 4″ of wood is as insulation (about R-4).  By themselves, it would take exceptionally large logs to meet modern energy efficiency standards.

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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