InterNACHI "The Inspectors Journal®"

New article on protective equipment for inspectors

August 24th, 2009

Some of the protective items you bring on inspections are pretty common sense – gloves, flashlights, coveralls, etc. But some aren’t, and they can protect you and your client from injury, or potentially worse – a lawsuit. Inspector Outlet offers “Danger” signs that can be used to alert passersby to hazardous situations, such as an opened crawl space in which you can fall into. There are some novel techniques that use ordinary equipment, too – such as placing a road cone behind your car so that no one will park too close behind and make it hard for you to remove your ladder without banging someone in the head with it. Our new article on inspector safety equipment covers the basics and more.

This blog entry was posted by Rob London.

Free, online “How to Inspect the Exterior” course.

August 23rd, 2009
InterNACHI has released a new, free, online How to Inspect the Exterior course.  The purpose of this course is to provide accurate and useful information for performing an inspection of the exterior at a residential property.  The exterior is where most inspectors start their inspections.  This course covers the components and materials of the exterior that may be present during a residential inspection including siding types, site drainage, moisture intrusion, windows and doors, flashing, exterior structures, garage, and other exterior systems and components.  This course is free to all InterNACHI members and can be taken again and again, without limit.
The new course is one of InterNACHI’s largest and most comprehensive.  It includes:
  • 43 sections;
  • 54,286 words;
  • 135 photos, graphics, and diagrams;
  • 3 tables;
  • 18 quizzes;
  • a 60-question final exam (drawn from a larger pool);
  • instant grading;
  • a downloadable, printable Certificate of Completion; and
  • accreditations and state approvals.
The course covers the following categories:
  • Learning Objectives
  • Table of Contents
  • Inspection Tools
  • Inspection Procedure
  • Residential Standards of Practice
  • Identification
  • Doors
  • Windows
  • Siding
  • Siding Types
  • Wood Siding
  • Solid Wood and Lumber Siding
  • Plywood Siding
  • Shingles and Shakes
  • Hardboard
  • OSB Siding
  • Particleboard Siding
  • Considerations
  • Finish Problems
  • Chalking
  • Rot
  • Aluminum or Steel Siding?
  • Aluminum
  • Steel
  • Grounding Metal Siding
  • Vinyl Siding
  • SIPs
  • Brick
  • Stone
  • Stucco and EIFS
  • Asbestos Cement-Based Siding
  • Clay and Slate Shingles
  • Asphalt Shingles
  • Insulation Value of Siding
  • Siding Materials Chart
  • Masonry Exterior Wall Covering
  • Concrete Blocks
  • Manufactured Stone
  • Load-Bearing or Veneer?
  • Common Problems with Masonry Exterior
  • Foundation Cracks and Water
  • Inspecting the Visible Masonry and Foundation
  • Checking the Masonry
  • Masonry Foundation and Piers
  • Shrinkage Cracking
  • Sweeping or Horizontal Cracking?
  • Above-Ground Masonry Walls
  • Eaves, Soffit and Fascia
  • Wall Assembly
  • Housewrap
  • Waterproofing and Damp-proofing
  • Permanent Wood Foundations
  • Common Problems with Walls
  • Inadequate Clearance from the Roof Cover
  • Dense Vegetation
  • Wood and Soil Contact
  • Water Intrusion
  • Flashing of Wall Components and Moisture Problems
  • Understanding and Inspecting Flashing
  • Flashing
  • Flashing and Caulking
  • Sealants for Through-Wall Penetrations
  • Kickout Flashing
  • Exterior Drainage Systems
  • Site Surface Drainage
  • Foundation Drainage
  • Roof and Surface Drainage
  • Roof Overhangs and Projections
  • Roof Drainage, Gutters and Downspouts
  • Checking the Site and Foundation
  • Inspection of Drainage Slope
  • Property Drainage
  • Sump Pumps
  • Landscaping
  • Fences
  • Windows and Doors
  • Common Problems
  • Windowsills and Door Sills
  • Window Sill Height
  • Putty
  • Weather Stripping
  • Shutters
  • Awnings
  • Fogged Windows
  • Egress Doors
  • Ramps
  • Stairways
  • Risers and Treads
  • Guards
  • The Spheres
  • The Handgrip
  • Attachment
  • Emergency Escape and Rescue Openings
  • Window Wells
  • Basement Walkouts
  • Exterior Decks
  • Inspecting a Garage
  • Garage Door Opener Inspection
  • Other Systems
  • Chimneys
  • Defensible Space
  • Retaining Walls
  • Driveway, Walkways and Pavements
  • Buried Oil Tanks
  • Other Exterior Considerations
  • Additional Exterior Structures
  • Yards and Courts
  • Flood Zones
  • Exterior Water
  • GFCI-Protection for Exterior
  • Clothes Dryer Exhaust
  • Private Wells
  • Septic Systems
  • Other Exterior Factors
  • Guide for Homeowners: Water Management and Water Damage Prevention
  • and more
Upon completion of this course and passing of the 60-question final exam, yout can download and print your own Certificate of Completion which is auto-generated in your own name.
Your information is recorded on InterNACHI’s servers for membership compliance verification, and automatically logs completion into InterNACHI’s online Continuing Education log.  It counts as 16 InterNACHI CE hours.
This blog entry was posted by Nick Gromicko.

New article on central humidifiers

August 20th, 2009

Many homes are equipped with central humidifiers, which are devices hardwired into the home’s heating and plumbing systems so that the indoor air stays moist and comfortable during the dry winter months. Inspectors and homeowners should be aware that under the right conditions, humidifiers can introduce dangerous bacteria into the air. They can also cause condensation to form on cold surfaces, such as windows and walls, contributing to wood rot and the growth of mold. In order to prevent these things from happening, the humidistat must be adjusted daily and the humidifier cleaned out as needed. To find out more, take a look at our new article about central humidifiers.

This blog entry was posted by Rob London.

New article on wind mitigation

August 19th, 2009

Limiting the amount of damage caused by intense winds should be the concern of everyone, and especially those who live in states vulnerable to hurricanes. With hurricanes costing the country many billions of dollars every year and the skyrocketing insurance premiums bearing down on homeowners, wind mitigation is more important than ever. In Florida, there’s actually a law mandating credits for homeowners who use certain wind mitigation techniques to enhance their homes. These techniques help everyone, from private insurers to the federal government and taxpayers. Homeowners may want to familiarize themselves with these strategies so they are prepared for the next windstorm, as should inspectors, who are relied upon for their sound judgment and expertise. Check out our new article on the subject of wind mitigation to find out more.

This blog entry was posted by Rob London.

New article on reserve studies

August 17th, 2009

A reserve study is a formal assessment of the contributions required by members of a homeowners association to offset the eventual costs of repairing shared elements. Shared elements may include a sidewalk, roof, front gate, or any other common areas in a complex of privately-owned homes. Professionals examine these shared elements and attempt to predict their lifetime and how much it will cost to replace them. They then take a look at the member contributions to see whether enough money is collected annually to cover the costs of the eventual repairs. Reserve studies are an interesting aspect of real estate because they have the potential to raise or lower property values. To find out more about this little-known yet essential subject, take a look at our new article on reserve studies.

This blog entry was posted by Rob London.

New article on shrinkage cracks in concrete

August 14th, 2009

Shrinkage cracks are cracks in concrete caused by the relatively rapid rate of evaporation of water from the surface of the cement. Do you know how to differentiate shrinkage cracks from other types of cracks, such as those caused by the corrosion of sub-surface steel bars? Or how about cracks caused by the reaction of an aggregate with alkali hydroxides in the concrete, known as an alkali-aggregate reaction? To find out more about shrinkage cracks, take a look at Kenton Shepard’s new article on shrinkage cracks.

This blog entry was posted by Rob London.

New article on soil and settlement

August 13th, 2009

House construction is affected by soil composition more than most people would expect. Approximately half of the composition of soil is water and air, both of which can be squeezed out of soil under the weight of a building. This loss of soil volume will cause the building to sink into the soil, creating serious structural issues. Houses built on hillsides are especially vulnerable to sinking into the soil if the right precautions are not taken. Soil must undergo compaction (removal of air) and consolidation (removal of water) with various tools, such as a jumping jack tamper, before it is firm enough to support a significant load. To find out more about this subject, take a look at this new, well-researched article by Kenton Shepard.

This blog entry was posted by Rob London.

11 Steps that help home inspectors avoid lawsuits.

August 11th, 2009
My new article gives inspectors 11 easy, inexpensive steps to take to help prevent lawsuits.  It goes over level of care and acceptable practice, incorporating, using InterNACHI’s Certificates of Training in court, independent contractor agreements, turning away certain difficult consumers, InterNACHI’s pre-inspection agreement, disclaimer of warranties, liquidated damages, jurisdiction, “Stay Back” stop signs, report narratives, “Now that You’ve had a Home Inspection” book, InterNACHI’s Client Satisfaction Survey, and general releases.
This blog entry was posted by Nick Gromicko.

InterNACHI releases new, free, online Deck Inspections course.

August 9th, 2009
Today InterNACHI released a free, online Deck Inspections course.  The new course teaches the inspector to perform residential and commercial wood deck inspections.  It includes a review of all common deck defects.  And, in keeping with InterNACHI’s commitment to continuing education, this deck course is open and free to all members and can be taken again and again, without limit.
The Deck Inspections course includes:
  • 35 sections;
  • 80 photos, diagrams and custom graphics;
  • 5 quizzes;
  • a 25-question final exam (drawn from a larger pool);
  • instant grading;
  • a downloadable, printable Certificate of Completion; and
  • accreditations and state approvals.

The course covers the following categories:

  • Introduction
  • Course Objectives
  • Decks and Similar Structures
  • Decks Defined
  • Porches
  • Verandahs
  • Balconies
  • Patios
  • From the Ground Up
  • Deck Load
  • Footings and Posts
  • Wood Decay
  • Moisture and Wood Decay
  • The Pick Test
  • Support and Connections
  • Girders and Beams
  • Ledger Connections
  • Overhangs
  • Framing Around
  • Cantilevered Decks
  • Bracing
  • Connections and Fasteners
  • Posts and Rails
  • Guardrails and Supports
  • Decking
  • Board placement and Support
  • Stairs
  • Stringers, Risers and Treads
  • Lighting
  • Handrails
  • Electrical Receptacles
  • Receptacle Requirements
  • Weatherproof Receptacles
  • Other Considerations
  • Location and Egress

Upon completion of the Deck Inspections course and passing of the 25-question final exam (drawn from a larger pool), the student can download and print their own Deck Inspections course Certificate of Completion which is auto-generated in their own name.

The student’s (InterNACHI member’s) information is recorded on InterNACHI’s servers for membership compliance verification, and automatically logs completion into InterNACHI’s online Continuing Education log.  It counts as three (3) InterNACHI Continuing Education hours.
This blog entry was posted by Nick Gromicko.

Flammable Vapor Ignition Resistant (FVIR) Water Heater

August 9th, 2009

In 2003, a new standard for water heaters was developed and phased in.  It says, “The water heater should not ignite flammable vapors outside the water heater created by the spilling of gasoline onto the floor.”  The Consumer Products and Safety Commission found thousands of fires, injuries and deaths were related to water heaters.  Most of these cases were because of improper storage or handling/spillage of gasoline.

If the tank is in compliance with the FVIR standards, it does not have to be raised 18 inches in garages or similar locations, unless required by the manufacturer or local code authorities.

A FVIR water heater has the following components: 1) a device to prevent ignited vapors from passing out of the combustion chamber, 2) a one-way intake system to control the movement of makeup air into the combustion chamber, 3) an inner door and burner assembly to create a sealed junction with the combustion chamber, preventing combustion air and flammable vapors from entering the chamber through the front of the water heater.

All FVIR water heater tanks have things in common.  1) A flame arrestor plate.  Located under the burner, the metal plate is designed to allow combustion air into the combustion chamber but keep flames from escaping downward and igniting flammable vapors below.   2) Thermal cutoff switch.  It is designed to shut down the heater if it senses excessive temperatures caused by inadequate combustion air inside the chamber.  Inadequate combustion air can be caused by an explosion of flammable vapors, inadequate venting, inadequate makeup air or the accumulation of lint, dust, or oil on the screen.  3) A lint, dust, and oil screen.  The screen is designed to protect the combustion process from lint, dust, or oil.  The screen openings can become clogged, especially when the tank is located in a basement or utility room.

FVIR System on a Bradford White Defender Water Tank
During normal operation, air for combustion is drawn into the water heater through the openings in the jacket.  This air travels down and around the combustion chamber and enters through holes in the very bottom of the corrosion-resistant combustion chamber.  The air then travels up through the oriented flame arrestor plate louvers, where the velocity of the air is increased and its direction altered.  The air then mixes in a normal manner with the supplied gas and is efficiently combusted, producing very low NOx emissions (nitrogen oxides).

In the case where trace amounts of flammable vapors are present in the air flowing into the chamber, the vapors are harmlessly ignited by the burner/pilot flame.  If flammable vapors are in sufficient quantity to prevent normal combustion, the burner/pilot flame is shut down.

Should the flammable vapors continue to the burner, the flame arrestor plate prevents the flames from traveling backwards and igniting vapors outside of the combustion chamber.  The calibrated, multipurpose thermal switch recognizes this and shuts down the pilot and main burner.  This switch also deactivates the burner and pilot in the unlikely event of restricted airflow caused by severe lint, dust, or oil accumulation on the arrestor plate.

“Hot to Properly Inspect a FVIR Hot Water Tank” – Online training video for property inspectors.

This blog entry was posted by Ben Gromicko.

Water Leak Catch Pan

August 9th, 2009

A water heater tank should be installed inside a pan in locations in a dwelling where a leak from a conventional hot water tank could cause damage to the structure or property.  The pan is intended to catch water leaks from the tank or associated connections, or condensate from the tank.

The pan should be galvanized steel or other listed material for that use, with a minimum thickness of 24-gauge (0.016 inch) (0.4 mm).  Prefabricated aluminum and plastic pans are common and widely used.  Aluminum and plastic pans may not be allowed by the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) or code official, because they are not galvanized steel.  Some tank manufacturers require the use of a metal pan only.

A relief-valve pipe terminating into a water leak catch pan is not permitted, because the pan is not an indirect waste receptor.  Most pans have only a ¾ inch-diameter (19 mm) drain outlet, which is not capable of gravity draining the pressurized discharge of the relief valve at full flow.

The pan should not be less than 1.5 inches (38 mm) deep.  The pan should be of sufficient size and shape to catch all dripping water or condensate leaks.  The pan should be drained by an indirect waste pipe having a minimum diameter of ¾ inch (19 mm).  The pan drain must not be reduced in size over its entire length, because a reduction will act as a restriction and will impede the discharge.

The pan must not connect directly to the drainage system.  The pan should terminate over a suitably located indirect waste receptor or floor drain or extend to the exterior.  An air gap must be provided to prevent backflow when the pan drain terminates into an indirect waster receptor or a floor drain.

When the pan terminates to the exterior of the dwelling, it should terminate at least 6 inches (152 mm) and at most 24 inches (610 mm) above the adjacent ground surface.  This makes the pan low enough not to be a nuisance and high enough to prevent the pan drain from becoming blocked by vegetation, snow, and ice.

“How to Properly Inspect Hot Water Tanks” – An online training video for property inspectors.

This blog entry was posted by Ben Gromicko.

Inspector Selection, A Real Estate Agent’s Duty.

August 9th, 2009
By Nick Gromicko
Founder, International Association of Certified Home Inspectors

The seller has accepted your clients’ offer and now with your help, your clients must choose a home inspector.   Should you steer them toward the inspector who writes the softest reports?  Should you steer them toward the inspector that pays to be on your office’s preferred vendor list?  Should you help them find the cheapest inspector?  The answers to these questions are of course no, no, and hell no.

You have fiduciary duty to your client and therefore must recommend the very best inspectors.  If you recommend a patty-cake inspector, an inspector who indirectly pays for your recommendation, or a cheap inspector, you violate your fiduciary duty to your client.

The National Association of REALTORs defines your duties in their Code of EthicsArticle 1 requires you to protect and promote your client’s interests.  Article 6 requires you to disclose any financial benefit you may receive from recommending related real estate services (this includes benefit to your broker also).

Because most real estate agents only get paid if the real estate transaction successfully takes place, your personal interests and your fiduciary duties already conflict.  Don’t make your situation any worse.  The best way to avoid negligent referral claims, operate ethically, and fulfill your fiduciary duty is to help your client find an inspector based solely on merit.  And although no real estate agent can guarantee the thoroughness of any particular inspector, there is a strong correlation between an inspector’s fees and his/her competence (you get what you pay for).  Helping your client find a cheap inspector during the purchase of their lifetime, is a violation of your fiduciary duty.    When in doubt, shop price, and seek out the most expensive inspectors for your clients.

This blog entry was posted by Nick Gromicko.

New article on meth labs

August 7th, 2009

Ever inspect a home saturated with battery acid, bleach and drain cleaner? How about methanol, which can kill you in one gulp? Meth labs require an assortment of extremely toxic chemicals and they produce waste that is just as bad. Meth dealers, unfortunately, are often not the more careful or tidy people and they may not clean up chemicals that spill onto carpet or walls. “Cookers”, as they are called, will dump chemical waste down the drain, in the yard, or just leave it sitting in jars and then abandon the property. Future tenants may not even know that their house was ever used as a meth lab, even while they breathe in toxic chemicals or their children touch it as they crawl on the floor. Inspectors should know how to identify former meth labs so their clients know of the dangers they pose. For more information, check out our new article on meth labs.

This blog entry was posted by Rob London.

New article on home energy efficiency for homeowners

August 6th, 2009

InterNACHI has just launched a new article database designed for homeowners. Inspectors can print these articles off and leave them with their clients so they can do maintenance work themselves rather than hire expensive contractors. Appreciative clients will remember the inspector and make sure to hire them again, especially since the articles recommend inspection be performed routinely. The first article is titled 10 Easy Ways to Save Energy in Your Home, and explains simple tips that homeowners can use to save money and increase comfort levels.

This blog entry was posted by Rob London.

New article on vinyl windows

August 5th, 2009

Vinyl is the most common material used to make window frames, and with good reason – they are energy efficient, require relatively little maintenance, and they are recyclable. But of course, there’s no perfect building material, and even vinyl has its drawbacks. It bends, its corners separate, and it can leak water into the house. To find out more, check out our new article on vinyl windows.

This blog entry was posted by Rob London.