Inspective - The ASHI Blog

Can You Guess? See What's Wrong in These Home Inspection Pics

posted by Dave Kogan (10/4/2017)

Originally published in

By Jeanne Sager


They say a picture is worth a thousand words. And that's especially true of the all-important step of the home-buying process known as the home inspection. When inspectors scrutinize a house for problems, they do more than take detailed notes of the places they inspect—they snap photos, too. It's a crucial safeguard, since if flaws are caught at this stage, home buyers can request that the sellers make repairs before the deal goes through, or at least throw them some cash to fund these fix-its. Home inspectors can save home buyers a ton of money on issues that otherwise might have slipped under the radar.

Photos from home inspectors may not raise many alarm bells to the untrained observer, but in some cases, they sure should. See if you can figure out what's wrong with these home inspection photos below ... and if you're stumped, keep reading to learn more about the problems lurking within.

Suspicious studs

The paint job on these studs is something a home inspector is trained to spot.The paint job on these studs is something a home inspector is trained to spot.Towne & Country Building Inspection

When Scot McLean, a home inspector with Towne & Country Building Inspection in Milwaukee, WI, walked into the basement of this home, he noticed that the top half of the exposed studs were bare wood, but the bottom half had been recently painted. Coupled with the dehumidifier and some fresh cans of waterproof paint that McLean spotted in the basement, he was able to detect a poorly executed cover-up: There had been a recent leak that hadn't been disclosed to the buyer. Gotcha!

Don't forget to look up

This chimney has not one, but two big issues.This chimney has not one, but two big issues.Big Moose Home Inspections, Inc.

Tom Ruemenapp, an inspector with Big Moose Home Inspections, Inc. in Bessemer, MI, found not just one, but two problems with this chimney. One, that little crack in the cement could have led to a chimney fire if wasn't repaired. Two, that green moss on top was a symptom of further deterioration.

Chimney fixes can cost a homeowner tens of thousands of dollars, so it's particularly important to catch these problems before a deal goes through. And since a chimney's so high up, these flaws are especially hard to spot. After all, climbing on a roof is dangerous, which is why some home inspectors won't even go up there—particularly if it's steep or more than three stories high (here are some other things home inspectors won't check). Some inspectors use drones to get a better look.

Moldy matters

Hey, what's that black stuff? A serious mold issue.Hey, what's that black stuff? A serious mold issue.Big Moose Home Inspections

Just some random ceiling stains? Hardly: That's mold, which can cause a whole host of health problems. Yet mold isn't always apparent to the naked eye.

"A simple visual inspection of the mold does not tell a homeowner what they really need to know," Ruemenapp explains. That's why most inspectors use a moisture meter to gauge the level of humidity in a home, which could prompt them to dig deeper.

If these floors could talk...

What's lurking under the floorboards?What's lurking under the floorboards?Big Moose Home Inspections, Inc.

Check out this image, shot underneath the floorboards of a crawl space. Most home buyers aren't going to squeeze into these tight confines, but it's an area prone to problems. This floor, in particular, was loaded with mold due to a lack of ventilation. Catching this before the sale went through saved the buyer from a ton of headaches and hassles.

Left high and dry?

This dryer vent is a serious fire hazard.This dryer vent is a serious fire hazard.Mr. Appliance

You know how you have to clean a dryer's lint trap? Well, it doesn't trap everything; in fact, it only removes 25% of the debris that flows through the system. The rest heads through the vent that carries that air outside ... and not all of that escapes to freedom, either.

Home inspectors with Mr. Appliance in Waco, TX, shared this pic of dryer events above to point out that it's more than just unsightly; it's also a fire hazard waiting to happen. Luckily, this is a fairly easy fix: Just clean out your dryer vents already! It's easy to do yourself, no home inspector required ... although we shudder to think what might have happened if these friendly home inspectors hadn't pointed this out.

Jeanne Sager has strung words together for the New York Times, Vice, and more. She writes and photographs people from her home in upstate New York.

Thermal expansion of water and the role of an expansion tank

posted by Dave Kogan (10/2/2017)

By Reuben Saltzman

When a water heater is connected to a closed system, an expansion tank must be installed to prevent excessive pressure in the water. To help understand what this is all about, please read on.

Why most Minnesota homes don't have a problem with excessive water pressure

When a water heater fires up, the water in the tank expands. When this happens, where does the water go? Right back out the cold water inlet, all the way back to the water supply coming into the house. The municipal water supply for the house acts as a gigantic expansion tank… and nobody notices. This is illustrated in the diagram below.

Natural expansion

Closed systems are different

What happens when a one-way valve, or check valve, gets installed on the water supply piping for the house?

check valve on water supply

The water has nowhere to go. As the water heater heats the water, it expands, which builds up pressure. When the pressure builds up enough, the temperature and pressure relief valve on the water heater simply does its job. It relieves the excess pressure by leaking a little bit of water.

Pressure regulator prevents expansion

Here's a short video clip showing this happening:

This doesn’t happen every time that a pressure reducing valve or check valve is installed, but there may be other problems that show up in the house, such as the toilet fill valves randomly re-filling toilets, or faucets chronically dripping.

In Minnesota, it’s rare for a check valve to be installed on the water supply line for the house, but it’s fairly common to have a pressure regulator installed. The problem that these regulators can create is that they will act as a check valve; they’ll allow water into the home, but they won’t allow water back out. This creates what is called a ‘closed system’.

Expansion tank to the rescue

When a closed system exists on the water distribution piping in a home, an expansion tank needs to be installed somewhere on the plumbing system. This is a fairly simple and straightforward fix; an expansion tank will give the water somewhere to go when it expands, and the temperature and pressure relief valve on the water heater will stop causing problems.

Expansion tank installed

This rule also applies to hot water heating systems; when a boiler heats the water in a hydronic heating system, the expansion tank allows for the water to expand without the pressure relief valve leaking. If the pressure relief valve on a boiler system chronically leaks, even after replacement, it probably means there is a problem with the expansion tank.

Is an expansion tank required, or simply a good idea?

Expansion tanks are required by any time that a closed system exists, both by water heater manufacturers and by the plumbing code. The Minnesota State Plumbing Code requirements can be found under chapter 6. Section 608.2 requires an expansion tank when a pressure regulator is installed:

An approved expansion tank shall be installed in the cold water distribution piping downstream of each such regulator to prevent excessive pressure from devleoping due to thermal expansion and to maintain the pressure setting of the regulator.

Section 608.3 requires an expansion tank when a check valve or backflow preventer is installed on the water supply line:

A water system provided with a check valve, backflow preventer, or other normally closed device that prevents dissipation of building pressure back into the water main shall be provided with an approved, listed, and adequately sized expansion tank or other approved device having a similar function to contrl thermal expansion.

Author: Reuben SaltzmanStructure Tech Home Inspections

FaceTime or face time? You can’t do it all on your smartphone

posted by Dave Kogan (9/25/2017)

Apple, Samsung, or Pixel?

You can Google a video on how to fix your running toilet or set your alarm, video chat with someone across the planet and send out a 140-character opinion that could reach more than a million people.

You can see who’s at your front door while you’re at work, turn on your oven and air conditioner, watch your kitty-cam, and most assuredly receive immediate updates the moment a house that meets your criteria hits the market.

However, there are a couple of things you might find difficult to do with your phone, and you might actually want to be present.

Go look at the house. This requires that you reach out to your Realtor and have her make an appointment to tour the home. Your Realtor has a magic app on her phone that releases the key to the house from its lockbox.

Now you can see if the rooms are as large as they appeared in the photos and video you saw on your phone.

Is the floor real wood or laminate? Is that a big stain on the carpet or an intentional pattern? Can the driveway really fit six cars or was that just distortion from the photographer’s wide-angle lens? Can you hear traffic noise from the street? Is that a moldy smell coming from the closet under the stairs or were they making wine in there? Where are the 14 fruit trees mentioned in the property description?

Now, get back on your phone.

Call or text your agent to discuss the terms of your offer. Open your email to review the purchase agreement and click to sign and initial as indicated. Visit the home inspector’s website to schedule your inspection date and time. Send your lender updated bank statements, pay stubs, and tax returns. Give your lender your credit card information to pay for the appraisal.

Then brace yourself for the three other things you need to do the old-fashioned way.

Show up for the home inspection, at least at the very end when the inspector will give you a summary of his findings. That way you can see, touch, smell, and feel whatever the finding may be. You can also look the inspector and your Realtor in the eye to figure out how significant the finding may be to the health and safety of the house.

Secondly, you’ll need to fill out your Statement of Information, which will come in your escrow instructions. There’s lots of tedious personal information required that only you can supply. Most buyers do this by hand, but if you have a PDF editor, have at it.

The last thing you will need to do is go to the escrow office and sign your loan documents. These have to be notarized, and the notary has to witness your signing. In person.

Contributing columnist Leslie Sargent Eskildsen is an agent with Realty One Group. Shcan be reached at 949-678-3373 or @leslieeskildsen.