Tag Archives: Inspections

New Construction

new constructionShould new construction be inspected? This question comes up a lot. Many clients call for an inspection after the property is finished and we do what his called a walk thought inspection. In my most current case it would have been wise to have phase inspections completed. In this case there has been a change of contractor. I was called in to inspect only the electrical to look for code violations. The new electrical contractor did not want to take over the work from the old contractor – he wanted to rip it out and start over. And I can’t really say that I blame him. Most of the work was done in an un-workman- like manner – it was very sloppy, and there definitely a few code     violations.

new constrution

The first and biggest violation was the placement of the interior panel box. The picture at the right shows where he ran the wires. They were at the back-end of the slab. That slab was installed for the washer and dryer, which will not longer fit on the slab due to the placement of the box. Even if the box would fit there, it is a violation of work space and access per the National Electric Code. The code calls for 36 inches of unobstructed work space in front of all panel boxes. In order to work blueprintson the box in the future, the electrician would have to climb on the dryer to have direct access. As you can see from the blueprints, the box was supposed to be placed about 30 inches in front of the slab, which was actually opposite the meter on the exterior wall.

 

 

new constructionThe next code issue was the service lateral. The original electrical contractor had installed Schedule 40 PVC pipe. This pipe is not allowed in this location. Both the NEC and  FPL call for either galvanized pipe or Schedule 80 PVC pipe to be installed. Schedule 40 pipe should never be used in a location that could be subject to physical damage. Schedule 80 and galvanized pipe are much stronger and can withstand more punishment without damaging the pipe.

Posted by Bill Siegel Florida Home Inspection Team Inc

How do you Choose a Home Inspector?

To choose a Home Inspector can be a difficult decision. You have made the decision to by a house. Now you have the task of wading through realtors, title companies, mortgage companies, appraisal, and inspections (and I am sure other things). The realtor, the title company, and the mortgage company all get paid at closing. The appraiser may also get paid at closing. Inspections are paid by the borrower at the time of the inspection. So, your home inspector must be chosen carefully, as they are the ones that will give you the real details on your new home.

Referrals:

Most buyers will let the realtor choose the inspector for them, either knowingly for unknowing. A list of three home inspectors is usually given to the borrower by the real estate agent. Now, if you like your agent, you are going to believe them. But do they really have your best interest at heart, or are they giving you three inspectors that write ‘soft’ reports to help the sale go though. I do know that there are plenty of good realtors out there that do have their buyers best interest at heart, but there are also many that do not.

Asking a friend that has bought a home is a good source for a referral. They have already used an inspector and they will tell you how they did. Ask them how long the inspection took to complete, when did the report arrive, did they explain the major issues, while also listing all of the minor issues, and did they have an understanding of when the roof, AC, and water heater may need to be replaced. Also ask if any problems occurred after the inspection.

Web searches:

The last place you can look in on the internet. Most inspectors have beautiful looking web sites. However, most of these sites all say pretty much the same thing. Here is what to look at when doing an online search:

1} How long does is say the person has been inspecting homes. Most will list 20-30 years in the industry, but not be very specific as to their area of expertise or how long they have been actually been conducting home inspections. If Florida you can get an idea by their license number. Anyone with a high number over 6000 has only been in business a short time. Licensing came about in 2011 and at that time there were about 4000 that obtained their license.

2) How many inspection does it say they have completed. I look at a lot of web sites and normally is see anywhere from 5000 to 15,000 inspections completed. Does that make sense for the years in business? And are those inspections full home inspections, or just insurance inspections. There is a big difference.

3) Look to see what certifications they have. All that is needed in Florida is a license to operate. Be wary of association certifications. Many of them are very easy to get – most only require an online course (one or two hours) and a test at the end. Also see how many hours of continuing education the inspector does every cycle. Florida only requires 14 hours per cycle, or 7 hours per year, which is not very much, especially with the codes changing every few years. Do they go above an beyond or do they only do the minimum?

You should always interview your inspector before hiring them. You want to get the best value for your money, and that does not always equate into the cheapest price. Remember that the bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.

Ask if they know or cite building code references in their reports. Most will say they do not, that they are not code inspectors. Citing code has nothing to do with being a code inspector. It has to do with knowledge of how things are built. They can be used as clarification as to why something was installed improperly. The most important thing an inspector can do is back up what he is calling out with a reference. This will save all parties involved time and energy trying to figure out why something was written.

Sample reports:

You should always ask for a sample report. Most reports are computer generated using industry software. They should be easy to read and understand. It is not only our job to tell you something is deficient, but why it is deficient. We should be calling for repair or replacement and in South Florida, most inspectors will give a cost estimate. If the report calls for ‘further evaluation’ by a licensed professional on every item, why bother hiring a home inspector in the first place. Why not just hire the roof, AC company, plumber, and structural engineer the first time around.

Be wary of inspectors that offer warranties for everything they inspect. Most of these warranties are sort term only and don’t cover what you would hope they would cover, and many come with deductibles. Ask yourself this – if the inspector is good, why should I need all of these short-term warranties. In my opinion all they do is give the inspector a reason not to do a good job. They can rush from one job to the other. Also, do you want to have to deal with a warranty company. If the inspection was done right the first time you may have been able to get the seller to fix or replace those items.

The last thing I can tell you, and it has been mentioned above, is do not choose your home inspector by price. The experienced inspector will cost more, and that is because he has more knowledge. In the end, a good report will list multiple items, Some will need repair, some will need replacement, and some are maintenance items. If you read and understand the report you will most likely be able to re-negotiate for a better price. Many clients have been able to negotiate hundreds or thousands of dollars based on good inspections and well written report. One of my recent clients was able to save $39,000 off the purchase price, and that was after the seller brought in their own contractors to verify what was in the report.

Posted by Bill Siege Florida Home Inspection Team Inc.

Is It Okay to Install Different Brands for your AC system?

AC s;ystemChoosing the right AC system replacement is a complex decision. You will have to take into account installation factors, capacity, efficiency ratings and many other criteria in order to choose the system that will work best for your heating or cooling needs.

When making this decision, limiting yourself to a single brand can feel restrictive. You may think you have found the perfect furnace, but have heard reasons to only buy a brand that matches your current AC system. Likewise, your furnace could be fine but you want a new AC system without being limited to using the same brand as your furnace.

Using different brands of units — often called a “mismatched system” — usually has no major short-term consequences as long as the coils, blower and wiring used are compatible and properly sized. However, you could see marginal losses in performance from a mismatched system that decrease efficiency and could potentially reduce the service life of your HVAC system overall.

Also, in 2007, energy rules changed in the USA that now require higher SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating) and they were raised once again in 2015. In Florida both units must be matched to meet this rating. While this is often ignored, a confirmation of the rating is supposed to be supplied with the system.

Why a Matching System Matters

Your HVAC system is like a conjoined twin. The outdoor unit of your AC only houses the compressor and the condenser coils. The rest of the system lives inside the air handler unit somewhere in the interior of your house. Contained in the air handler is the evaporator, and attached to the air handler is a blower that circulates air. A refrigerant line runs between the outdoor unit and the air handler.

If the interior component of the AC is not connected properly with the exterior, this is the equivalent of having a major internal organ removed when separating conjoined twins with surgery. One component cannot function without the other. This fact means that replacing the outdoor unit will require you to either hook up to the aging indoor unit or purchase a new air handler and evaporator coil system.

Even more importantly, the AC unit and the furnace share the same air handler, usually joined as part of the furnace. If there are problems with the connection, both systems will have trouble functioning.

Why Properly-Installed Mismatched Systems Can Still Have Issues

Even with an expert HVAC contractor linking the two systems, you could still see problems in the long run. For one, the older unit or the one with lower efficiency will decrease the efficiency of the system overall.

To see why this would happen, imagine two dogs pulling a sled. Both get tired, but only one is replaced. The slower one will keep the quicker one from making a difference, bogging the whole system down.

Along with decreased efficiency can come decreased lifespan. The Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute cautions that “when improperly matched, the efficiency and longevity of these systems are significantly compromised.” More breakdowns and an overall shorter service life could be the result.

On top of all this, some manufacturers will not honor a warranty if you replace only one element of the system — i.e., you try to replace the outdoor unit but not the evaporator coil.

So Do I Absolutely Have to Replace Both Systems at the Same Time with the Same Brand?

It is recommended. First, your air handler and evaporator will likely age at the same rate as your outdoor unit, meaning both should be replaced around the same time. If your new evaporator fits inside the old air handler and your blower and furnace are otherwise working fine, you could be fine without replacing the whole system with matching brands as long as it can be connected properly.

You may see problems that can gradually get worse over time, though, as indicated above. In the end, your decision usually comes down to saving some money up front with less installation or saving money in the long run with a perfectly matched system.

Second, if you suspect your furnace will need to be replaced in 3-5 years anyway, it is generally cheaper to have the whole system installed at once and to use matching brands that make install easier and more effective.

Posted by Bill Siegel Florida Home Inspection Team Inc

What is the Purpose of a Home Inspection

Home InspectionThe purpose of a home inspection is to inform the buyer of the condition of the property so that you know what you are buying before you buy it.  It is not to corner the seller with a repair list. All homes have defects. No home will be perfect. What you want is a working knowledge of significant defects before you close escrow.

Many home sales today are considered to be “as is” with the right to inspect. The sellers are not obligated to make any repairs. Many home buyers often regard an inspection report as a repair list for sellers, but sellers are not required to provide a flawless house. Unless specified in the purchase contract or required by state or municipal law, they have no obligation to make repairs.

Some purchase contracts require sellers to correct problems disclosed in a pest control report, such as dry rot or termite infestation. When it comes to home inspections, most repairs are subject to negotiation between buyers and sellers.

In most transactions, buyers will request that various conditions found by their home inspector be repaired before the close of escrow, and sellers usually agree to some of these demands. In these cases, sellers make repairs as a matter of choice, not as an obligation. Typically, they do so as a gesture of goodwill or to facilitate completion of the sale. Some sellers flatly refuse to fix anything, even at the risk of losing the sale. Fortunately, this is the exception rather than the rule. Still, sellers maintain the legal right to refuse most repair demands.

Before submitting your repair requests to the seller, try to evaluate the inspection report with an eye toward problems of greatest significance and cost. Look for conditions that compromise health and safety or that involve active leakage. Most sellers will address problems affecting crucial areas such as the roof or electrical wiring.

Routine maintenance conditions call for a lesser degree of concern and should not be pressed upon the seller. If the house is not new, it is unreasonable to insist upon correction of minor defects. Nit-picky demands can alienate the seller and kill the sale. Your willingness to accept minor problems may persuade a seller to correct conditions of greater importance.

Posted by Bill Siegel. Florida Home Inspection Team.com. 305-490-2513 Miami home inspector

 

 

Seven Inspection Results That May Require a Specialist

Home inspectors have the expertise and knowledge of home building to make sure that a house is going to be safe and livable. They can provide you with important information that can have a major impact on a sale, but they’re not the only ones who may need to get involved in the process.

But even home inspectors have their limits. Some don’t have the qualifications to inspect certain aspects of the home, like the sewer drains and chimney, which is why home-buyers may want to call in a specialist to review trouble zones.

Often paying the up-front costs for a full inspection today, or before a home ins listed, can save future expenses and headaches further down the line.

roofRoofs:  The roof is one of the most expensive components of a house to repair or replace. Roof repairs are costly and can cause major problems. For homes that have shingle roofs, a home inspector will look for shingles that are cracked, loose, or curling. Inspectors will look for leaks, which they can spot if there are water stains on the back side of the fascia. On tile roofs the inspector will look for loose and cracked tiles. A good inspector will crawl as much of the attic as possible looking for stains and damaged sheathing and trusses / rafters. Also, the inspector will check for indications inside of leaks, which usually appear as stains on the ceiling.  In today’s world, you should hire an inspector that uses thermal imaging, as this can show wet areas that cannot be seen with the naked eye. A good inspector will be able to tell you the approximate, if not the replacement date, of a roof. This will help you in your decision, as all roof systems have a certain life expectancy. On a small house the cost to replace a roof can cost $6000.00. Larger homes can be upwards of $30,000.00. Shingle roofs will be less expensive than tile or metal roofs. We always recommend obtaining estimates prior to the close of the inspection period to have a full understanding of the costs involved.


air conditioningAir Conditioning & Heating:
With the new energy codes in effect, replacing and AC system can cost anywhere from $4000.00 to $8000.00+, depending on the size, SEER rating, and brand. It is important to know the age of the system, as most system have a life expectancy of 10-12 years. Once they reach this point, you have to make a decision on whether to try to repair a system or have it replace. Most home inspectors are not HVAC technicians. They do not carry gauges to test refrigerant pressure or leaks. Newer systems may have required that the liquid and gas lines be replaced. These are two things a licensed AC contractor can confirm.
chimneyChimneys: If the roof inspection reveals signs of damage around the chimney, a chimney specialist should give it a closer examination. This is done with the aid of a chimney inspection camera. Inspectors will also look at the exterior, interior, and accessible parts of the chimney, giving special attention to the strength of the chimney structure and the condition of the flue, The Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends a level II inspection on all homes that are sold.

sewer lineSewers: A sewer line is a heavily used piece of equipment in any home that is underneath a property and connect to a public sewer system or septic system. Home inspectors sometimes call on plumbers and specialty contractors to do a “sewer scoping” with a specialized camera. This can show any potential problems with the line. Any home-built before 1975 might have cast iron pipe. This pipe can corrode on the inside. Also, if there are trees in the path of the sewer line, the roof could damage the pipe. Plumbers can unclog the sewer pipe to get it operational again. But if a sewer pipe needs to be replaced, the price to do so can go upwards of $10,000.
termiteTermite: Buyers often pay for a termite inspection since many lenders require a full report on any termite-related issues before approving a loan. Termite damage is something that may be impossible to access because most of the damage may be hidden behind walls. Most termite reports will identify termite damage, but not the extent of damage. A home inspector will also not be able to determine the extent of damage. He can only inspect the areas that are visible and make recommendations for further investigation. Subterranean termites cause the most damage. Door frames and the attic truss / rafter system should be inspected closely. If damage is found, we suggest having more exhaustive inspection done.
moldMoisture and Mold: Every last inch of a house needs to be checked for these potential deal killers. Inspectors will look for physical signs of mold and moisture and take temperature and moisture readings. Once again, you should consider hiring an inspector that uses thermal imaging. This can pick up moisture in the wall that may not be visible to the naked eye. All suspect areas need to be verified with moisture meter. When wet areas are found, further investigation will be needed to determine the exact cause of the moisture and the extent of damage. A lot of the damage may be contained within the walls or between the floors.
permit

Proper Use: Any major additions or alterations to a home need to have been properly permitted for the sale to be legal. The garage that was converted into a home office might be beautiful, but if the inspector finds out that the proper permits weren’t obtained it could negate the deal. Your home inspector, or real estate agent, should alert you to possible additions, conversions, and remodeling, all of which require permits. If you are unsure if a permit was required, contact the local building department. Remember, any violations stay with the property owner and not the person. Once the house closes, everything passes on to the new owner.

Posted by BIll Siegel. Florida Home Inspection Team Inc. 305-490-2513 Miami Home inspector

General Roof Information for Florida

roof

The following article off roof systems apples to Florida only. Other areas of the county may have different rules and regulations.

Roofing System: Your  roofing is more than shingles, tiles, or metal – it is a system that brings it all together. The key to a roof systems’ effectiveness is complete protection, which can be negatively affected by even a few missing, torn, or worn out shingles. Moisture protection is a factor from all angles in a roof system. This requires consideration of factors such as avoiding condensation and proper flashing.

Roofing Materials: There are many different types of roofing materials available. In Florida they must meet a certain minimum standard. The most common roofing materials are fiberglass / asphalt singles, metal, tile (clay or concrete), and built up (modified bitumen or cap sheet. Other types include wood, slate, copper, EPDM, PVC, SPF and TPO. When choosing a material for your roof, cost can become a factor, but this involves more than looking at up front costs. More expensive materials may yield immediate savings in lower utility bills and possible lower insurance rates, intermediate savings in better protection from storms, and long-term savings in the longevity before your next roof replacement.

Contractor Qualifications: All roofing contractors are not alike. Hiring the right contractor will make a big difference in the quality of your roof and the experience of roofing your house. Florida requires that all roofing contractors be licensed under chapter 489, Florida Statutes. They may also need a local occupational license. In addition to licensure, Florida law requires compliance with workers’ compensation insurance coverage. This is especially important since roofing is dangerous work. If your contractor does not have proper insurance, you may be held responsible for any injury or damage.

Cautions:

  • Re-roofing estimates and work can be heavily impacted by the quality of previous roofing work, including repairs.
  • If roof damage is extensive, you may be required to bring your entire roof (not just the damaged portions) up to current building standards. This should be verified with your local building department.
  • Failure to hire a contractor properly licensed and qualified may invalidate your homeowners insurance coverage for roofing or other damage related to the performance of your roof. It may also subject you to criminal charges.
  • Failure of your contractor to obtain a permit and comply with workers’ compensation and safety requirements may stop work and cost you more money to complete the work.
  • Your contractor should always obtain the permit. It is never a good idea for the homeowner to do so. It is your responsibility to make sure that all the material suppliers an subcontractors (if any) are paid. If you pay your contractor and they do not pay others, you may legally be required to pay twice (Florida Constriction Lie Law, part 1, Chapter 713, Florida Statutes).

Posted by Bill Siegel. Florida Home Inspection Team Inc. 305-490-2513 Miami home inspector

Is Hurricane Protection Included in a Home Inspection

 hurricane shuttersHurricane protection is vital in the state of Florida. This topic recently came up on one of the message boards recently. A client call a home inspector complaining because there were not enough shutters to cover the windows during Hurricane Matthew. He felt that the home inspector did not do their job. I do not know at this time if the inspector included a disclaimer / exclusion of any kind prior to the inspection with regards to the shutters.

So, is it our job to comment on hurricane protection?

Under section 61.30.810 of the state standards of practice, Exterior components it states: 3.a: The inspector is not required to inspect windows  and door screening, shutters, awnings, and similar seasonal or protective accessories and devices.

So, what does this mean? It specifically states shutters, but then groups them into seasonal or other protective accessories and devices. Hurricane shutters are not seasonal and they are not an accessory. They are required by the building code. If something is required, it is my feeling that we should mention them in  our report. Does that mean that we have to test each accordion shutter or count and / or install the panels for verification. I do not believe it does. But I do believe that we should comment on the presence or absence of shutters and state that we do not test them and to have our client verify that they are all present prior to closing. Our standards state two things in section 61.0.810. The first is that it is not required to inspect those items. That does not meant that they cannot be inspected. I do not believe we have to inspect non compliant shutters, but, once again, it should be mentioned that they are not impact rated.

The next argument comes from our license law. All contractors are required to report on health and safety issues. We are supposed to look out for the health, safety, and welfare of our clients. I believe this covers the presence or absence of shutters. If they were supposed to be installed and were not, that puts our clients at risk in the event of a high wind event. 

While it is not specifically stated in our standard of practice, the standards do not preclude an inspector from rising above the standards and reporting on shutter issues. The problem, as I see it, is that too many inspectors only want to do the minimum and as many inspections in a day as possible. Their pricing structure does not consider the amount of work that really needs to be done. This is hurting the entire home inspection industry, as prices are at the same level as they were 15 years ago.

This is one of the reasons that I charge more than most inspectors. I take the time to verify that shutters are present. If newer windows were installed, I look for permits. If they were installed after a certain date, they must have opening protection. Do I verify that shutters are all present and accounted for. No, I do not. But I put in my report that my client needs to verify this with the seller. If they are not on the property, and are supposed to be, my client now has a negotiation  point. Houses that are supposed to have hurricane protection, but do not, are not code compliant. People are putting themselves at risk by not being protected. 

In my opinion, verification of shutters should be noted in every report, especially for houses that required them by code. 

Posted by Bill Siegel. Florida Home Inspection Team Inc. 305-490-2513 Miami home inspection