Telling the difference between a gate and a wall

There are lots of metaphors related to the paths our lives can take.  There are even metaphors of metaphors.

nowheregateWe like to think that we can pretty much do whatever we want.  The reality, for most of us, is that our choices are limited by where we have been–where we have come from–and the many restrictions our culture places on us.  Most of the time it is difficult to tell, except in retrospect, that we have truly chosen.  If the outcome turns out “OK” we take credit.  If the outcome is less desirable we are not quite so willing to take responsibility for what has happened.

Our “choices” more closely resembles our being driven–as opposed to our choosing.

Sometimes the road blocks are obvious—sometimes not.  They are mostly of our own making but often there are limits based on the culture we grow up in.

Freedom beyond being a “state of mind” is very difficult to pin down.

Ultimately, that is all it can ever be.

Some paths appear blocked, we know they are blocked.  We may even know they are supposed to be blocked and yet we still look for a way around or through them.

Such is the case with the gate in the above picture.

Why do we waste time–sometimes our whole lives–on paths that are obviously blocked?  Sometimes we have to look very closely to tell the difference between a gate and a wall.

While some obstacles along the way are meant to be pushed out of the way, climbed over or even ignored–sometimes we need to learn when it is more efficient to go around.

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

If you enjoyed this post, and would like to get notices of new posts to my blog, please subscribe via email in the little box to the right. I promise NO spamming of your email! 🙂

What’s a little raw sewage between friends?

OK–nasty subject–I get that, but what is an inspector to do?

These sorts of issues are considered life/safety issues and the purpose of modern plumbing is to keep “stuff” where it belongs.  We like it when the drinking water stays in the pipes, the waste stuff stays in the pipes and the two don’t get mixed together.

ejectorpump1This sounds like a good plan.

I don’t like sewage ejector pumps–but they exist so I have to deal with them occasionally.  They are common whenever you have plumbing fixtures that cannot drain by gravity.  The effluent has to be pumped up to a level where it can drain by gravity.

Homeowner installation of these devices is almost always obvious and tragic.  At a recent inspection I found one in the basement of a home where a non-conforming kitchen and bathroom had been added.  The bathroom properly drained to the sump below the surface of the basement floor.

The kitchen sink drain however was tied into what amounted to the vent pipe for the unit (the lower pipe that runs off to the right).  However, because there was a big hole cut in the sump cover, no vent was really necessary for the pump to function.  The vent is there because under normal operation a vacuum would be created if it was not there.  A vacuum could suck the water out of the traps of the fixtures it was servicing.  The hole in the cover eliminates any possibility of there ever being a vacuum created.

There also has to be a check valve to prevent water that has been pumped out from draining back into the sump.  There also has to be a gate valve and unions so that the unit can be taken apart to be serviced.  Most importantly there HAS TO BE A SEALED LID!

ejectorpump2

Without a sealed lid the sewage could flood the basement if the pump were to fail–not to mention the likely continual odors of sewage that would be present.

I can only guess why anyone would destroy a perfectly good lid to create this health and safety issue.

The installation needs a new lid—but more importantly it needs a licensed plumber.

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

If you enjoyed this post, and would like to get notices of new posts to my blog, please subscribe via email in the little box to the right. I promise NO spamming of your email! 🙂

Being well grounded is not just about one’s well being–but it could be.

There was a time, in the not so distant past, when the only way a house’s electrical system was “grounded” was by connecting the grounding conductor to the metal water pipe coming to the house. There are still a large number of such houses around the country.

While I could talk about where this wire gets connected in relation to where it is supposed to be connected, that could be another whole blog post all by itself.

Today I want to talk about how this particular means of grounding the electrical system, often gets compromised by the installation of plastic components. It is also about how plumbers are not electricians and electricians are not plumbers, so these compromises happen too often. The lowly home inspector is about the only one that is going to draw attention to the problem.

One of the most common ways these older systems get compromised is when the old galvanized pipe from the street is no longer functional (from a plumbing stand point) and gets replaced with a new plastic water line. The installation eliminates the house electrical systems grounding electrode, resulting in the loss of a proper path to ground for dissipation of static charges that might build up on metallic systems  in the home.

The ground path is not totally eliminated however. There is also a grounding path back to the ground rod at the utility transformer on the pole at the street–which could be several houses away.

For electrical safety it is important to maintain grounding redundancy.

There could also be ground rods present in addition to the water pipe grounding electrode.

Another way these systems get compromised is when the pipe is repaired with plastic components—resulting in a break in continuity of the grounding conductor.

In the following pictures we can see where the old water line has been abandoned.

Water Pipe Grounding

And while the new water line from the street is metal, plastic components have been used to connect the new pipe coming to the home to the water pipes inside the home. The grounding conductor attached to the pipe on the house side of the plastic pipe is effectively no longer connected to the incoming water line–to either of the metal pipes.  Both would still likely be required to be used as grounding electrodes for the home’s electrical system.

Repairs will not be difficult, but needs to be done to provide proper grounding of the electrical system.

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

If you enjoyed this post, and would like to get notices of new posts to my blog, please subscribe via email in the little box to the right. I promise NO spamming of your email! 🙂