This is not a Ladder to Heaven!

I took this selfie so people would know what to look for if i never came back from another Attic adventure. The ladder behind me leads to this home's attic. Why am I dressed this way? Well starting at my shoes - I bought these covers originally to not track dirt and mud into the interiors of the properties I was inspecting. I start inspections around the exterior of the house and then after getting down from the roof it is time to inspect the interiors -  and this is usually when I put on the shoe covers. I found out that the covers also work great to keep the attic insulation off your shoes. The next protection I am wearing is my knee pads. Crawling over joists or truss web members on your knees can be painful if they are not protected. Then there is my dust mask - attics are dusty, and I usually stir up this dust doing attic inspections, along with fiberglass insulation. I can definitely tell the difference in my sinuses at the end of the day between not wearing the mask or wearing the mask in the attic. The cap - that is actually a fashionable hard hat - it helps to have protection on my head when ducking under rafters and walking under roof sheathing with the sharp end of nails sticking thru the sheathing. The head lamp - very much needed to see into the far corners of the attics.

What have I found up in attics i have inspected? First thing I find is that attics in Florida are very similar to a dry sauna. Then the item I usually will put in my report is missing or shoddy insulation. Found a squirrel once, and lots of scat (look it up) in other attics. Found a large brick chimney supported by wood framing - which is unsafe. Truss webs cut to make way for skylights - also unsafe and not recommended. Several home owner fixes or "improvements" that would not pass inspection if the work was done using a building permit.

So when you call me to inspect your property - I will be the one to give the best answer when someone asks you "What's in your attic?"

Caulking basics

This photo is of a caulked joint located at a window on a three year old house. As you can see - the caulking has separated from the top materiel - which is the vinyl window frame. The caulking has become hard and brittle and could not stretch as the two materials (vinyl window - and the trim) expand and contract due to temperature differential.

The caulk is more then likely a carbon based acrylic sealant - and also the incorrect material to use in this application. The subcontractor should have used a higher quality silicone adhesive sealant. Silicone has several advantages over acrylic when it comes to choosing a caulk. The best is longevity. It does not have to replaced every few years like this acrylic caulk. As an example of silicone's longevity - a building in Atlanta built in 1969 still had working silicone sealant joints when the sealant was replaced as part of a remodeling upgrade. Silicone also does not get brittle, adheres better, and is not affected by temperatures extremes like the acrylic caulking. Silicone may cost more but it is worth the extra money for the better sealing and lower maintenance.

Trump or Clinton?

November elections are coming up real soon and the American public will be heading to the polls to make a choice on who to vote for. If you are buying or selling a home - one smart choice to make is to have an inspection. Call Inspections by Randall to take advantages of all the reasons an inspection is a wise investment.

1. When buying a home you are making a large investment and do not want to be stuck with unseen problems in that dream home. You looked at the home you a purchasing online and walked through it a few times. My inspections will look closer at your dream home from top to bottom and all in-between. I will take 3-4 hours to examine the site, roof, heating system, cooling system, duct-work, insulation, electrical system, plumbing system, appliances, doors ,windows and other items. Within a day of my visual inspection you will have your report in hand and be much better informed about your purchase then when you signed the contract. You will be very wise to have a my thorough report in hand. You can see sample reports at my website and realize they are not the checklist reports some inspectors will sell to those consumers that are only interested in the lowest price inspections. My report is custom made with descriptions and photos of your property. Armed with my report you will either have peace of mind about your purchase and will go forward with your purchase as is, or there will be some items found during the inspection that will have to be negotiated with the seller. Hopefully the seller is reasonable and will make the necessary repairs or will work with you on reducing the selling price to cover the cost of the repairs. Either way you are a smart consumer to have me produce your inspection report.

2. When selling a home you are wise to hire me to inspect the home you will be putting on the market. Time is of the essence when selling a home and the smoother the sale the better for all parties involved. Let me inspect your home to catch items in need of maintenance or repair to allow your home to show better and to receive a clean report if the purchaser orders an inspection report. Sometimes the buyer will even forgo the inspection report when they see that a Inspections by Randall a Certified Florida Inspector has written up a report and all items mentioned in the report have been attended to.

Either way be a wise consumer and make this great investment. The smart choice is having me inspect your home for your safety and peace of mind.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors -

This photo is of a carbon monoxide detector installed in the hallway of a home built in the 70's. One of the reasons we have building codes is for safety. They are written re-actively stemming out of past situations. In the past people were sickened or killed by carbon monoxide and the building codes were updated to address this issue for everyone's protection. It is always recommended to update your home to meet the latest safety standards. If you have gas or propane piped into your home for a furnace, water heater, fireplace, or even an simply an attached garage, and do not have a carbon monoxide detector then you are putting yourself and your family at risk of harm from carbon monoxide poisoning.

553.885 Carbon monoxide alarm required.—

(1) Every separate building or addition to an existing building... constructed on or after July 1, 2008, and having a fossil-fuel-burning heater or appliance, a fireplace, an attached garage, or other feature, fixture, or element that emits carbon monoxide as a byproduct of combustion shall have an approved operational carbon monoxide alarm installed within 10 feet of each room used for sleeping purposes in the new building or addition, or at such other locations as required by the Florida Building Code. The requirements of this subsection may be satisfied with the installation of a hard-wired or battery-powered carbon monoxide alarm or a hard-wired or battery-powered combination carbon monoxide and smoke alarm.

Below is a photo of a combination smoke and carbon monoxide detector in a newer home. This detector is installed in a home without any gas or propane - but it has an attached garage. The carbon monoxide gas would emit from the exhaust of an automobile or other type of engine that was left running in the garage, and somehow made it into the living space.

 

Smoke and Carbon monoxide detector

Smoke and Carbon monoxide detector

For those that want to read further into this topic - here is a link to some in depth information:

http://www.carsondunlop.com/home-inspection-services/carbon-monoxide-know-the-symptoms-and-sources/

 

During an inspection I like to take a look around with my thermal scanner to look for abnormal heat signatures. My thermal scan showed an area warmer - i.e. 85 degrees instead of the normal 75 at the rest of the ceiling during one of my latest inspections. When I went into the attic this was the photo I took of that warm spot from the top side - the warm spot is the white area in the center of the photo - a bare spot of gypsum board - there was no insulation at that spot! It was over 100 degrees in the attic at the time - so the air conditioner was effectively cooling the ceiling gypsum board down to the 85 degrees. The photo taken in the attic was in an area not to hard to get to, but there were a couple areas I could not physically get to in the attic that had the same heat signature, meaning they also do not have any insulation.

Wind Mitigation Reports

W M F partial.jpg

If you are someone new to Florida or just have not been aware of the steps recommended to reduce damage from Hurricanes - then this link below is a great website to help one understand why insurance companies are interested in the Wind Mitigation reports you have paid me to produce. This web site also goes beyond the basics to discuss how to guard against hour after hour of wind blow water. Generally homes built before 2002 need a Uniform Wind Mitigation Verification Form - filled out by a qualified inspector such as myself

http://www.floridadisaster.org/mitigation/rcmp/strengthen/Tutorial/index.htm

A older home, if it was built or retrofitted to higher standards, can get an insurance rate reduction for such upgrades as the following:

1. Decreasing the nail spacing from 12" to 6" for the nails that fasten the roof sheathing panels to the framing. The new nails are also upgraded to better holding #8 ring shank. Roof should be upgraded when you re-roof a house - and most insurance companies will not insure your home if you have an asphalt shingle roof that is over 20 years old unless you re-roof. Newer homes usually have the 6" nail spacing and use 2 1/2" long #8 nails to fasten the roof sheathing to the framing.

2. Upgrading the metal clips that connect the roof framing to the wall framing. Most roofs are connected with clips that have 3 nails - the upgrade would be changing to a metal strap that wraps over the top of the roof framing member and is attached on both sides with 3 nails on each side of the member.

3. Roof Geometry can help reduce your premiums - If the house you are interested in purchasing has a Hip roof you will get an insurance reduction, gables are very popular right now and if only 10% of your roof is a gable, and the rest of the roof is hipped - insurance companies will rate this as a hipped roof.

4. Secondary Water Resistance Protection - this is nicknamed SWR and is a stick on membrane, or foam that is attached to the roof sheathing and will be under the roofing. This is a supplemental means to protect the house from water intrusion in the event of roof covering loss, and also a way to reduce your insurance bill.

5. We have seen homes and condos with shutters over their windows and doors, this is what the insurance companies call Opening Protection. All openings in the house - that is all doors, all garage doors, all windows, all glass block, and all skylights - are protected from wind blow debris damage. Impact resistant coverings vary in their protection but the top of the line are designed to resist what the testers of these systems call a 9 pound missile.

Humid air needs to be kept outside

Moisture and water vapor move in and out of a house in three ways:

  • with air currents;
  • by diffusion through materials; and
  • by heat transfer.

Of these three, air movement accounts for more than 98% of all water vapor movement in building cavities. Air naturally moves from a high-pressure area to a lower one by the easiest path possible—generally, through any available hole or crack in the building envelope. Moisture transfer by air currents is very fast—in the range of several hundred cubic feet of air per minute. Thus, to control air movement, a house should have any unintended air paths thoroughly and permanently sealed.

Latest studies about homes built in Humid areas like Florida show that buildings need to have all holes and cracks sealed to prevent humid air from finding its way to the interior spaces. Contractors will use the latest ZIP systems, or building wraps to keep out the rains we see, but it what we do not see that we need to also stop. The relative humidity outside in the hot air will bring in lots of water if not stopped.

Why do you want to keep this water vapor out of the interiors? To prevent water damage. I have been trained to spot common types of moisture problems in buildings during an inspection.  Most (if not all) moisture-related problems can become serious and expensive if not taken care of quickly and completely.  Therefore, it is important for me to call out or recommend further evaluations and/or repairs by qualified professionals when any moisture intrusion is discovered.

Concrete tile roofs last forever - but need maintenance.

Cracked Roof Tile

When inspecting a home with a concrete tile roof, it is recommended not to walk on the roof. Before I became a certified inspector myself I hired a Master Inspector to inspect the house I was wanting to purchase. He did not walk the concrete tile roof. The reason he told me was to avoid cracking the tiles. What this Master Inspector did to inspect my roof was use binoculars from the ground -he told me the roof did not have any problems. What I learned the hard way from my master inspector is that this is not the best way to inspect a roof. What I do at all my inspections when possible - I stay off the roof, but still inspect the roof on all accessible sides from a ladder leaned against the roof edges. The photo above, shot from my ladder, is of a cracked tile at one of my inspections - it is about an inch wide - this tile needs to be replaced or repaired. This crack was not visible from the ground with binoculars.

What I found on my own roof after the master inspector told me the roof was fine and I had bought the house were three tiles that needed work. Two had slid down and needed to be pushed back into place and I replaced another one that was broken in half just like the photo above. If the Master Inspector I paid to inspect my house had used his ladder instead of binoculars from the ground he would have seen these tiles that needed work.

This is just another reason why my inspections are better and you should use Inspections by Randall LLC for your next inspection.

 

Understanding Hurricane Protection

If you are someone new to Florida or just have not been aware of the steps recommended to reduce damage from Hurricanes - then this is a great website to help one understand why insurance companies are interested in the Wind Mitigation reports you have paid me to produce. This web site also goes beyond the basics to discuss how to guard against hour after hour of wind blow water. Generally homes built after 2002 do not need these Wind Mitigation reports - unless - and yes that is an unless - you have a property that has been built or retrofitted with upgrades from the standard requirements.

http://www.floridadisaster.org/mitigation/rcmp/strengthen/Tutorial/index.htm

A newer home, if it was built or retrofitted to higher standards, can get an insurance rate reduction for such upgrades as the following:

1. Decreasing the nail spacing from 12" to 6" for the nails that fasten the roof sheathing panels to the framing. This is usually done when you re-roof a house - and most insurance companies will not insure your home if you have an asphalt shingle roof that is over 20 years old unless you re-roof. Newer homes usually have the 6" nail spacing.

2. Upgrading the metal clips that connect the roof framing to the wall framing. Most roofs are connected with clips that have 3 nails - the upgrade would be changing to a metal strap that wraps over the top of the roof framing member and is attached on both sides with 3 nails on each side of the member.

3. Roof Geometry can help reduce your premiums - Hip roofs get an insurance reduction, gables are very popular right now and if only 10% of your roof is a gable, and the rest of the roof is hipped - insurance companies will rate this as a hipped roof.

4. Secondary Water Resistance Protection - this is nicknamed SWR and is a stick on membrane, or foam that is attached to the roof sheathing and will be under the roofing. This is a supplemental means to protect the house from water intrusion in the event of roof covering loss.

5. All openings in the house - that is all doors, all garage doors, all windows, all glass block, and all skylights - are protected from wind blow debris damage. Impact resistant coverings vary in their protection but the top of the line are designed to resist what the testers of these systems call a 9 pound missile.

The $5 "power" wash

I see many homes in our humid Florida that have a grungy black stain on their roofs, eaves, and walls. There are several companies that would love to remove this black crud for a few hundred dollars with their power washers - that high price is probably why the homes stay black with the crud, Most people just do not know it can be removed with a $5 gallon of bleach. I had some build up of this black crud on my gutters and eaves even though the house is 3 years old. The photo above shows the tools needed besides the gallon of bleach. A sprayer designed to handle the caustic effects of bleach can be purchased at the hardware store of your choice. Water - the bleach should be diluted with water to a 50/50 mix for tough stains or 25% bleach to 75% water for more mild crud. A ladder - to get close to the area to be sprayed so the nozzle of the sprayer can just mist on the cleaning solution. Which brings up the hose - spray all your plants and ground level areas to keep them wet and so they will not be damaged by the spraying above (I found the misting technique lessens the dripping). In the photo is also my protection - gloves and goggles to go with the clothes you will be wearing. Cover up your skin with old clothes that you do not care if they get bleached from errant drops of bleach water. When all the ground areas and plants have been soaked you are set to go - just mist on the solution and the crud will disappear and leave your home looking new again. No need to rinse. The other areas that you can't reach with a ladder and the mist technique will require the spray wand nozzle being turned to spray or stream - which uses a lot more solution and can be messy - just have your hose handy to wet down any over spray.

A Rare Sight

Attic Access.jpg

An important part of the inspection is the attic area - there are a number of items "hidden" away up there. Homes without garage pull down ladders will have an attic access hatch (note to designers - do not put these in a closet) which is usually a piece of the ceiling gypsum board held in place by gravity.  My procedure for this situation when it is time to go into this "sauna" (never have found a cool attic yet) is to spread out a sheet on the floor, place my ladder, and put on my eye protection. I then push up on the hatch door to gain access to the attic. Usually the first item to start falling down on me is loose insulation, which is why the sheet is on the floor - to catch this insulation and whatever else is up there around the hatch. The photo above is the first time I have ever seen an access have the code required insulation baffle. Code states the baffle is there "to prevent the loose fill insulation from spilling into the living space when the attic access is opened, and to provide a permanent means on maintaining the installed R-value of the loose fill insulation". In this case the insulation could be 14" all the way to the edge of the opening. There should be an equivalent R-value of fiberglass insulation batts on top of the access door which should fall back in place when the door is shut.  What I have not ever seen yet is the code required weatherstripping of the attic access door. What is the rest of the story - this house was built before the 2010 Florida building codes that required these features.

Wall science for Hot Humid Climates

Diagram from National institute of Building Sciences - click on illustration to read more

Diagram from National institute of Building Sciences - click on illustration to read more

We love the Emerald Coast and the rest of NW Florida - but we are also live in a hot humid climate zone that is very different then climate zones to the North. Building science has demonstrated that walls need to be built differently then one would think coming from colder climates. In hot-humid regions, walls must be able to dry to the inside. Homeowners in such regions must be educated not to limit the ability of walls to dry toward the interior by adding non-breathable interior finishes on exterior walls. Finishes that could compromise the wall’s ability to dry inward include vinyl wallpaper finishes and vapor diffusion-retarder paints. (see illustration on the right)

In hot-humid climates, exterior wall systems should dry toward the interior by installing vapor retarding materials on the outside of the wall assembly and using vapor-permeable interior materials.

Providing some resistance to outdoor moisture vapor from diffusing into the wall assembly limits moisture problems during hot and humid periods of the year. And by keeping the interior-side of the wall assembly vapor-permeable, any moisture within the wall system can migrate to the cool and dry interior of the building.

If a vapor-retarding material, such as polyethylene or even vinyl wallpaper, is used toward the inside of the wall assembly, it could block vapor migration on its cool surface and cause condensation problems. Instead, materials toward the interior of the wall assembly should be semi-permeable or permeable, such as unfaced fiberglass batts with permeable interior paint on the gypsum board.

 

So you think your new house is perfect?

This is an infrared thermal image of the raised ceiling area of a brand new house. My clients wanted me to inspect it before they did their final walk through. There were a few items that needed to be corrected, but the one that could not be seen with a purely visual inspection was lack of attic insulation. I had been in the attic before taking this photo later when I was back inside the living area. It was only 65 degrees outside but still warmer in the attic enough to show this hot area that shows up in Orange when a thermal image is taken.

I have added the black lines to help one see the walls and the ceiling junction. The insulation sub-contractor did not do a very good job of installing the attic wall insulation. The insulation batts up there were loose and the blow in insulation was sloughing off at the edge of the ceiling. There needs to be an insulation baffle to keep the insulation at the required R-38 all the way to the edge of the flat living room ceiling. This was on a "warm" day in the winter - imaging how much more heat would be radiating from the attic when the Summer sun hits the roof.

ECAR Power Partner

Recently joined the Emerald Coast Association of Realtors (ECAR) as a Power Partner. At the same time I also went to their office and signed up for my Supra Key access with the help of MLS director Susan Beck. A simple process thanks to my Home Inspector Certification #HI8798 status with the state of Florida.

The Supra key allows me to access home inspections in Bay, Walton, and Okaloosa counties without the agent having to schedule their day to meet me at the inspection site. This is an especially nice feature and convenience for both of us, especially if the property is vacant and I would be able to start my work day with an early morning inspection.

Having never been to ECAR office - it was impressive to see it is a large modern building and a hub of activity. Both conference rooms were being used and the nicely landscaped parking area was full of cars. Looking forward to a good relationship with ECAR and its members.

Selling your home? Why it is good to order a Pre-Inspection

Think your home is in top shape to sell? Not so fast. There are several unexpected hazards a home inspector can uncover that are enough to make prospective buyers run. Some are literally hidden from view; others are ones that sellers simply miss.

“People who live in a house for a long time often overlook the defects,” says Nick Gromicko, founder of the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors “It’s not that they’re trying to hide them – they just don’t notice them anymore.”

To catch these problems before it’s too late, consider hiring a me to conduct a home inspection before putting your house on the market. In fact, having your home pre-inspected could save you money in the long run.

“It gives the seller time to obtain estimates and get repairs done, which is an advantage since jobs that are done fast usually cost more,” says Gromicko. “Also, if you deal with these problems in the eleventh hour you may be forced to give the buyer some large credit that’s financially much more than what it would cost to repair these things yourself.”

A home that is listed as pre-inspected might also provide a marketing advantage, adds Elizabeth Mendenhall, vice president and liaison to committees for the National Association of Realtors and CEO of RE/MAX Boone Realty in Columbia, Mo. That’s because prospective buyers are given a sense of security knowing that major problems have already been taken care of and won’t cost them a fortune down the line.

Inspectors may find flaws in that 'perfect' home

Nancy Furst - a Realtor with Berkcshire Hathaway and the 2015 chair of the Houston Association of Realtors wrote this article for the Houston Chronicle: Copy and paste the following URL to read her article.

  http://www.chron.com/news/article/Realtor-s-view-Inspectors-may-find-some-flaws-in-6177168.php#comments

For those purchasing a new house and do not know about the advantages of home inspection this article is very helpful. Remember just call me at 850-714-1955 for all your inspection needs.

 

How to find a home inspector


You have found me - no need to search any longer. I am happy to report that Dian Hymer, author of "Buying and Selling a Home A Complete Guide," Chronicle Books, San Francisco; 1994, advises looking for someone with demonstrable qualifications. "Ideally, the general inspector you select should be either an engineer, an architect, or a contractor. When possible, hire an inspector who belongs to one of the home inspection trade organizations." With inspections by Randall you are getting an Architect that is also a Certified home Inspector and a member of the InterNachi (International Association of Certified Home Inspectors) trade association.

 

Have you looked at your future property after a rain storm?

One of the items suggested when purchasing a new home is to go by the home after a rain storm to see if there may be a problem with drainage. This photo of homes surrounded by water was taken after a rainstorm and the front house is for sale. It has a "sale pending" rider sign - I drove by the house again today and it now has a"sold" rider sign.

Flood.jpg

Remodels and who will do the final detailing?

Here is an example of what I see regularly in attics when improvements have been made to upgrade electrical or to add duct work. This photo show the attic side of a can light. Do you notice what is missing? I know you can't see that the electrician did not seal the space between the metal can and the drywall - which would help control infiltration thru the ceiling, but did you notice that there is no attic insulation surrounding this metal can. The electrician did his job of installing the new can light - but there was no follow up to reinstall the attic insulation that was pulled back for the upgrade.