Jeff Barnes of Kansas Home Inspector Licensing Board caught issuing fake license to himself.

More than a month before the Kansas Home Inspector Licensing Law goes into effect, the Chairman of the Kansas Home Inspector Licensing Board, Jeff Barnes was caught secretly issuing himself a counterfeit license #0001.  The abuse-of-office scheme was uncovered when Mr. Barnes began an advertising campaign touting himself as “The only licensed inspector in Kansas” and “Kansas’s 1st Registered Inspector” in an effort to gain a market advantage over competing inspectors.

Read investigative reporter David Klepper of the Kansas City Star’s November 27, 2009 article regarding the corruption scandal.

InterNACHI’S life-expectancy chart for household materials and components

Ever wonder how long different household materials and components will last? Well, InterNACHI has assembled a comprehensive, 200+ item report detailing the predicted life-expectancy of everything you may encounter in or outside a house. Browse the list, which includes items that are in a home (air conditioners, washers and dryers, etc), part of a home (ceramic tile, plumbing, etc), or outside of a home (fences, patios, etc). To see for yourself, take a look at InterNACHI’s brand new, robust life expectancy chart for household materials and components.

New article on “cool” energy-efficient roofs

In times like these, one has to wonder why more houses and businesses don’t have “cool” reflective roofs, which are roof surfaces that reflect the sun’s radiant energy back into space. Conventional asphalt shingles absorb most of this energy and convert it into heat, leading to higher costs for air conditioning, especially in warm climates. But it doesn’t have to be this way – specially designed white roofs can reflect almost all of the sun’s energy and reduce cooling expenses dramatically. Some companies even offer dark-colored asphalt shingles that look virtually the same as conventional shingles, but they still reflect large amounts of solar radiation. They do this by absorbing visible light but reflecting the radiation we cannot see, namely infrared and ultraviolet. Cool roofs last longer than “un-cool” roofs because they don’t experience as much expansion and contraction. True, they cost a bit more, but not nearly as much as other energy-saving endeavors, such as solar panels and geothermal systems. To find out more, check out our new article on cool roofs.

New article on inspecting toilets

Toilets can fail in many ways and inspectors should not overlook them in their inspections. Defects range from cosmetic and irritating (cracks in lid or weak flush) to serious (continuously running toilets can cause a well’s pump to burn out). Inspectors may also want to be aware of the toilet designs that differ from standard gravity toilets, especially the “green” designs that conserve water and are becoming more popular. To find out more, check out our new article on inspecting toilets.

New article on geothermal heating and cooling systems

Geothermal heating and cooling systems get their heat from the ground. While this concept has been exploited since ancient times, it is only a niche market today. But it’s growing in popularity, especially as fuel prices rise and fears of global warming have begun influencing lifestyles. Granted, geothermal systems are very expensive to install, but they last longer than most conventional heating and cooling systems and they cost much less to operate. Here’s how they work – they tap in to the year-round constant temperature of soil that’s below the frost line and use that soil to heat the home in the winter and absorb heat from the home in the summer. It’s really quite ingenious, and it works basically everywhere, even in Maine (you would just have to drill down a little deeper to get below the frost line). For more information about geothermal and some basic ways to inspect the systems, check out our new article on geothermal heating and cooling systems.

New article on ladder safety

Ladders are – very – dangerous devices, probably more dangerous than you realize. According to some sources, nearly one person dies per day from a ladder fall. Most of these fatal falls are from less than 10 feet and many of the victims were trained professionals who simply got careless. Interestingly, it is over-reaching that causes the most ladder falls. We researched the topic and created an article combining common sense with novel safety tips. To see what we came up with, check out our new article on ladder safety.

New article on attic pull-down stairs

A lot of houses have a pull-down ladder that you can use to access the attic, which is a lot more convenient than access hatches that require you to bring a portable step ladder. Unfortunately, pull-down ladders are installed more often by homeowners than by professionals, which leads to shoddy, unsafe work. Homeowners may get lazy and neglect some of the fasteners, use the wrong kind of nail, or sometimes even cut into structural trusses in the attic. To find out more ways that they can be defective, take a look at our new article on attic pull-down stairs.

New article on safe rooms

The Jodie Foster movie Panic Room popularized safe rooms, but they were around long before then. The construction of a fortified room designed to protect building occupants from various threats – be it extreme weather, a home invasion, or nuclear attack – is a fairly old idea. Safe rooms have become more common these days among the wealthy due to fears of terrorism, burglary and kidnapping, and inspectors should be prepared to encounter them. Even if safety defects are not found, inspectors may want to be able to inform their clients about what they should have stored in the safe room, and also be able to spot potential weak points in the room that may compromise their effectiveness. To find out more, check out our new article on safe rooms.

Chimney Crickets

Lets talk about chimney crickets and how they pertain to home inspection. Do they matter? What is the purpose of a chimney cricket? Will my home inspector inspect my chimney cricket? How do I know if I need a chimney cricket?

First of all, we need to know what a chimney cricket is. Without spelling out the technical definition, let’s make it easy. It is a small peaked roof built on the backside, or high side, of a chimney to direct water and debris away. When a cricket is installed on your chimney, debris will be less likely to build up behind the chimney and therefore will not deteriorate your roof material.

A chimney cricket will help keep the back side of your chimney free of debris and water puddling or ponding. Picture this in early spring in a northern climate. Water trickling down the roof in the day time begins to freeze as the temperatures drop. Now if that water freezes right behind the chimney, you may have an ice dam issue. By having the chimney cricket, the water will be directed around the chimney, rather than gathered up directly behind it.

As a rule of thumb, chimney crickets are recommended on chimneys that are over 30′ wide. Do not be fooled by this rule however. If you are having problems with debris behind your chimney that is less than 30″ wide, you may still want to consider a chimney cricket. A good home inspector will note the absence or presence of a chimney cricket for you, and may also make recommendations as to the effectiveness of a chimney cricket.

If you are unable to access your roof to see behind your chimney, hire a home inspector or other chimney professional to do a proper examination of the area to see if a chimney cricket is needed behind your chimney. If a chimney cricket is needed, hire the proper professional to do the work for you, and have it inspected upon completion of the work or repair.