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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Are your clients alive and kicking?

Most of us can remember the movie “Vacation,” where Chevy Chase is much more interested in getting to Wally World than almost anything else along the way, as they drive across country. The scene where he spends less than 5 seconds taking in the Grand Canyon is epic.

Home inspections can be a bit like this scene from vacation.

Inspectors are so interested in getting to “Wally World” they minimize the importance of what happens along the way–ever ready to give up 5 seconds (or less) to any given scene—and then “move on.”

What “moving on” is often more about is, the inspector being concerned about moving on to the next inspection—the next stop on his way to Wally World (his own bank account). The inspector has simply lost touch with the client’s Wally World.

Without the “process” along the way, the client is left like grandma on the roof of the car and no longer with us by the time we get to our destination.

Inspectors can do so much more, but it takes time, knowledge and willingness.

When the inspector finds an issue, they can describe thoroughly what is going on, what it means to the big picture, what should be done about the problem and even who should make the repairs.

Sometimes this means the inspector will need to do research off site to provide the best level of information for the client. Researching manufacturer’s requirements, code requirements or other sources of “best practice” is often necessary with this approach.

The more experienced inspectors will even be able to describe possible options as to what those repairs might look like. This can help put things in perspective for the buyer. Otherwise the client might not grasp either how inconsequential the issue is or how serious the issue is. They may just conclude the issue is serious, triggering a flight and fight response. Knowledge is power and freedom.

This approach takes seeing their client as what is most important, so that ultimately when they do get to their destination, the client has the information and ammunition they need to proceed in a meaningful way.

And, they are still alive and kicking!

 

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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Two wrongs still don’t make it right.

Two wrongs still don’t make it right.

As you can see in the picture, the cut truss (wrong #1) is pointing right at the whole house fan (wrong #2).

While whole house fans may have been a good idea, once upon a time in some climates, they have virtually no place in modern energy efficient construction. In northern climates they are of particular concern as they are typically NOT adequately insulated and sealed against heat loss in the winter. When they are not insulated and sealed, the natural stack-effect of the home will pull warm air into the attic more or less around the clock.

The idea of these units is to flush the warm daytime air from the home at night, and then pull in the cool night air to cool the home off. Not a bad idea really. While this principle works in older poorly insulated homes, in modern well insulated homes they should not be necessary. Merely opening a few windows on opposite sides’ f the home should achieve the same result.

If the home is overheating during the day, one should look to the causes of that overheating and fixing the overheating as opposed to installing a system that should not be necessary. If one’s home is overheating and one considers it “well insulated,” I would argue that one should perhaps re-think one’s definition of “well insulated” or that perhaps there are other factors contributing to the overheating.  A good question to ask might be, “what are the air sealing abilities of the insulation?”  Not all insulation is created equal.

As a side note, I can pretty easily argue that even newly constructed homes in areas of the country with high cooling needs are NOT adequately insulated to appreciably reduce energy costs. Code requirements for energy conservation are “minimum” standards, and make no distinction between the air sealing characteristics of the various kinds of insulation.

If installed properly, and if used properly, and if maintained properly in the off season, these fans can help reduce air conditioning costs, improve comfort and improve air quality. Please note that this statement includes a lot of “ifs” and their installation can more often result in increased heating costs in the off season.

Another issue that arises from these fans is that if they are not sized properly (and they rarely are) they are capable of drawing more air into the attic than the attic space can get rid of. This can result in pressurizing the attic and minimizing the effectiveness of the fan—oversized or not. Regardless, even if additional venting is installed to compensate, there will then be compromised and possibly inadequate venting of the roof structure for that part of the year when the fan is merely wasting energy. It might be possible to balance these differences, but the reality is that often the different requirements for the different functions are simply not taken into account—or, worse yet, not even possible to take into account. More often than not, when I see them installed in the Northwest, they seem to be installed on the insistence of someone that has moved here from a climate where they worked or were possibly even necessary.

For the installation above, someone is now going to have to incur the cost of removing the fan and repairing the damaged truss. These costs will now need to be added to the increased energy costs created by the installation in the first place

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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