by Ralph Brady
Brady Home Inspection
As a home inspector my main concern is for the safety of the home for people. For many people their pets are almost like a member of the family. I feel that way with my cat. Just last week I heard of a another cat that was killed the week before by a garage door opener. This is the third story that I have heard from people who personally lost their pets to the garage door opener. The single most important thing to prevent this from happening is to have properly working and operating sensor eyes at the base of the garage door. The eyes should be no more than 6 inches off the ground. To protect pets, it would probably be best to keep them 2″ – 4″ off the ground. If you have an older garage door opener that does not have the sensor eyes, then it may be advisable to get one with them, especially if you have pets.
Get more information on garage door safety here.
Here is a good blog post on Activerain about home inspectors that meet only the minimum standards:
The Bare Minimum
I was asked this question on a recent blog about GFCI protection. Because this does come up on inspections fairly often, I thought I would clarify it with a post. Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) is the proper and full name. The name comes from the fact that the device is monitoring the current in the circuit. If too much current is leaving the device and not coming back, it must be going to ‘ground’ – a ground fault. When it detects the ‘ground fault’ it interrupts (turns off) the voltage/current to the circuit.
I believe the only reason the the acronym GFI is used instead of GFCI often times is that it is much easier to say. Not much of a reason, but I do it myself sometimes. I think the fact that it is one letter shorter and still conveys the meaning makes sense. After all you are already reducing it to first letters only, you might as well reduce it a little more.
Thanks to Charles Perkins for asking this question and suggesting to make it a post!
We have had a spate of spontaneous combustion ignited fires in our small community lately. One local town has had at least four confirmed spontaneous combustion fires in the last 6 months. One of the recent fires destroyed an apartment building “when rags containing an organic or vegetable-based oil were placed wadded up in a carboard box after they were used to refinish a floor.”
See the local story here.
There was also a fire at a local carpet store a few years ago, which I know was also started due to spontaneous combution of oil soaked rags.
Lindseed oil is one of the worst offenders. The oil soaked rags can ignite with no external heat source within 5 – 10 hours after use. These oils are typcially associated with wood finishing.
The safest way to deal with oil soaked rags is to put them in an airtight metal container filled with water. Another method is to lay them flat on a concrete surface and allow them to dry for a few hours after which they can be disposed of. If they are left to dry, you must be careful to not let them be blown into a pile, where they could ignite.
I see many home inspectors stating that GFCI’s should be installed to prevent electrical shocks. The fact is GFCI’s do absolutly nothing to reduce the risk of an electrical shock. A properly functioning GFCI device can greatly reduce the risk of electrocution (death by electric shock) or serious injury.
A GFCI is designed to disconnect power if a maximum of 6 ma (milliamps) is exiting the circuit and not returning (for example when the 6 ma is going through a person). A 6 ma shock is very painful and could still result in injury or possibly a remote chance of death. I certainly encourage the use of GFCI’s, but people should be aware that they could still get a pretty nasty shock if they are not careful.
You can read more about GFCI’s here.
Please forgive the font changes, I can’t seem to correct it.
Tired after Thanksgiving? Maybe it’s not the turkey. There is no difference between the natural gas flame in your oven and the flame in your furnace or water heater. Nobody would think it was OK to vent the furnace or water heater directly into your home would they. A properly burning gas flame is very clean and should outgas only a minimal amount of carbon monoxide. A furnace or water heater is going to burn quite a bit more gas than a stove or range, they can turn on in the middle of the night when everyone is sleeping and the flames are not readily visible. That is why they must be properly vented to the exterior.
However you cannot be too careful with the oven either. Ovens and ranges are typically not vented to the exterior like a furnace or water heater. I have heard that one possible reason that people get tired after thanksgiving is the carbon monoxide from cooking all day. It is probably best to keep a window at least partially open to keep fresh air in the house. Use of a range hood that is vented to the outside would also be a good idea. If the flame at the oven or stove is yellow in color or has an odor to it, it may not be burning properly and could be creating excess carbon monoxide. A yellow flame should be evaluated and repairs should be done to promote proper combustion.
Have a good and safe Thanksgiving.
How long should a home inspection take? There are many variables to this question. The size, age, condition and foundation type of the house are the biggest variables. A new 1000 square foot house on a slab foundation is going to take much less time to inspect than a 2500 square foot, 100 year old house with a raised pier and post foundation. Here in Humboldt county California, most houses have raised foundations and we have a lot of older homes.
Probably the next biggest variable is the level of detail that the inspector is committed to performing. An inspector that barely meets the minimum inspection standards will be able to do a faster inspection. Minimum standards only require testing of a representative number of receptacles and windows. The interior rooms, minus bathrooms and kitchen can also be treated as a single section. Appliances can also be excluded. Personally I prefer to test every accessible receptacle and window, document each room, and test built in appliances including jetted tubs.
The type of data entry and report delivery that the inspector uses is another factor. I have developed a 4 page color coded checklist to use during the inspection. The checklist allows me to document things quickly and helps me to avoid missing anything. I could save myself an hour or two of data transfer by entering the data into a computer on site, but I try to keep my on-site time to a minimum. Finishing the report on site will also take longer. I take an average of about 75 pictures per inspection, and I really feel I personally can do a better inspection report by taking more time reviewing my photos and digesting all the information.
If the client is on site, the inspection will generally take longer, even if it is just the time to go over the findings with them.
The general consensus seems to be that a typical inspection should take at least 2 – 3 hours. With a larger or older house it can take up to 4+ hours. If your inspector can inspect the entire inside of an average house including the attic, bathrooms, kitchen, garage, water heater, furnace, electrical in less than 1 1/2 hours, they must be meeting no more than the minimum standards. Would anybody advertise that fact? I proudly exceed the minimum standards, so it does take me a little longer, but I do my best to minimize the time the real estate agent has to be on site.
Performing a home inspection requires a great deal of concentration and a fairly strict routine. There is a LOT to look at in a relatively short period of time. A home inspector is most likely going to have a written checklist or a computer to use for on-site data entry. I use a very detailed check list myself. Portions of my routine are flexible but only to a certain extent. When I enter the house, I turn on the stove and dishwasher and take reference pictures before I actually start the interior inspection. I then start my inspection at the front door and work my way around the house from room to room, ussually in a counter-clockwise rotation. After doing the interior rooms I go into the attic then test/inspect the furnace and water heater. I save the bathrooms and kitchen for last so that any leaks won’t have time to dry up before I go into the crawlspace. With a slab I can do the bathrooms during my normal rotation. I can do the exterior and roof either before or after the interior.
I welcome the buyers to attend the inspection and alway enjoy meeting them, however if they are there the entire time they can get pretty bored. Some buyers will also want to point things out in different areas of the house other than where I am working. That not only slows me down, but can cause me to miss part of my normal routine. It never hurts to have another set of eyes, and if they point something out to me, I will address it because it obviously is a concern to them. I think the best approach is for the client to show up towards the end of the inspection. That way I can walk them around and point out observed issues and talk to them about what I found. They can also ask me any questions they have about the house at that time. Once my client gets the report they can also call me with any questions. The fact is, I never meet most of my clients. I also get almost no phone calls for questions. I believe that is because my reports are written in easy to understand terms, concise with pictures included. If the client feels more comfortable meeting me and talking with me about the house, they are always welcome.
I am a home inspector in Humboldt County California. I have inspected over 1400 homes and have over 7 years of experience as a home inspector.
I wanted to start this blog to share some of my thoughts and tips. I typically repeat these blog posts on Activerain and Facebook.