White Debris From Forced Air Heating

Jun 10 2014

The House Detective:  by Barry Stone, Certified Home Inspector

Dear Barry:  Ever since we installed wood flooring, we notice little white granules on the floor every morning. We previously had white carpet, so we never noticed this before. We suspect that this is coming from the forced air registers in the ceiling, but we had the furnace checked by a heating contractor. He said the system was OK. We’re tired of vacuuming every day and are worried that this might be a health risk. What do you recommend?  Joan

Dear Joan:  If the white granules are coming from the heating system, this could be the symptom of a serious defect in your furnace. Step one is to confirm whether the forced air heating system is the source of the white granules. To do this, you should place filters inside the air registers where the problem is occurring. If white particles show up on the filters, the furnace is the source of the problem. If your heating contractor failed to identify this, you should contact another heating contractor and should discontinue use of the system until you have a reliable evaluation.

The combustion exhaust in a furnace is acidic. If this makes contact with galvanized steel, the acid will react with the zinc in the galvanizing, and this can produce a white powdery residue, as is commonly seen on the terminals of a car battery. If this substance is getting into the circulating air system, there could be a crack or hole in the heat exchanger, and that would be hazardous. Again, you should have this system thoroughly evaluated by a qualified HVAC contractor. You can also have the white particles analyzed by an environmental laboratory to determine their chemical composition. 

The House Detective is distributed by 1000WattConsulting. Do not republish without written consent. To purchase reprint rights please contact marc@1000wattconsulting.com

Questions regarding home inspection please email Barry Stone at questions@housedetective.com

Agent Gives Bad Inspection Advice to Buyers

May 22 2014

The House Detective:  by Barry Stone, Certified Home Inspector

Dear Barry:  We are currently buying a home and are troubled about our recent home inspection. Our agent recommended this inspector as the one she always uses, and she advised us not to attend the inspection, saying that most buyers do not attend home inspections. We have since learned that most agents give buyers a list of three home inspectors, advising them to choose one. We would actually like to hire another home inspector for a second opinion, but we don’t want to offend our agent. We can’t afford to buy a fixer-upper and are wondering what we should do. What do you recommend?  Jenn

Dear Jenn:  Choosing a home inspector can be a problem when you rely on someone else’s choice rather than your own. When referrals come from Realtors, the results can be good or bad, depending on the agent. Some Realtors recommend qualified home inspectors and some do not. Some give a list of three qualified home inspectors, and some give lists of mediocre inspectors. Therefore, whether you were given a list or a single referral is not a determining factor.

The red flag in your situation was your agent’s advice not to attend the inspection. No knowledgeable, experienced agent who is honest and ethical would give such misleading advice to a client. Your presence at the inspection was not only a good idea; it was essential. You are on the verge of making an extremely expensive investment. Your home inspector is there to educate you about the condition of the property so that you can make a wise purchase decision. What your agent did was to limit your exposure to the information you need from your inspector. Again, this is not something that an honest and ethical agent would do.

A second home inspection is definitely a good idea, and you should not worry about whether this is objectionable to your agent. It is her job to protect your financial interests. If she doesn’t perform that duty, you need to do it for yourself. If a second inspection reveals defects not found by the first inspector, your agent should reimburse you for the first inspection.

The House Detective is distributed by 1000WattConsulting. Do not republish without written consent. To purchase reprint rights please contact marc@1000wattconsulting.com

Questions regarding home inspection please email Barry Stone at questions@housedetective.com

Home Inspector Pans Remodeled Home

Apr 23 2014

The House Detective:  by Barry Stone, Certified Home Inspector

Dear Barry:  We’re selling our house after spending $150K on a complete remodel. The place is in excellent shape, but the buyers’ home inspection report was hideous! The inspector said the toilets are loose and need new seals, but they were installed less than a year ago, and we can’t budge them. He also said the framing is rotted under the house, but we’ve had all of that repaired. When we asked why there were no foundation photos in the report, he said he “didn’t want to get his camera dirty.” We think the inspector wrote a bad report to help the buyers negotiate a lower price. Another related problem is that we wanted to be home during this inspection, but the buyers’ agent said it was illegal for us to be in the house when the inspection was being done. This is such a mess, but we don’t know what to do. What do you recommend?  Randi

Dear Randi:  If the home inspector’s findings are questionable, you should state your concerns in writing to the buyers, and the inspector should verify his findings with photos. If he doesn’t want to get his camera dirty, he should cover it with a plastic bag while he is under the house, or perhaps he can borrow your camera. Either way, he should show exactly what he saw regarding the alleged wood rot.

It is also wise to hire your own home inspector to provide a second opinion of the property’s condition. If the reports agree, you can have the defects repaired. It they differ, the one whose finding agree with the photos wins. If the buyers back out of the deal, the second inspection report will help to provide disclosure to future buyers.

As for the Realtor: The idea that it is illegal for you to be in your own home during a home inspection is preposterous. It is your home. You own it. You have the right to be there any time you want, regardless of home inspections or other circumstances. The agent can request that you not be home during the inspection, but no one can legally compel you to leave your home.

The House Detective is distributed by 1000WattConsulting. Do not republish without written consent. To purchase reprint rights please contact marc@1000wattconsulting.com

Questions regarding home inspection please email Barry Stone at questions@housedetective.com

Agent Advises Buyers Not to Attend Home Inspection

Mar 14 2014

The House Detective:  by Barry Stone, Certified Home Inspector

Dear Barry:  We are in escrow to buy a home, and we hired the home inspector who was chosen by our real estate agent. When my husband asked if he could attend the inspection, our agent told him there was no need to attend and that most homebuyers don’t. Not knowing any better, we agreed to hire her inspector and simply wait for the report. Since then, we’ve read articles that say an agent should give buyers a list of home inspectors from which to make their own choice. Now we want to hire an inspector of our own to do a second inspection, but we don’t want to offend our agent. At the same time, we don’t want to buy a money pit because we didn’t get a good inspection. What do you advise?  Jenn

Dear Jenn:  Choosing the inspector for you, rather than allowing you to choose for yourselves, may or may not have been a bad thing. Some agents choose inspectors who are competent and highly qualified, while other agents choose inspectors whose work is not very thorough. Likewise, there are agents who give their clients a list of competent home inspectors, while other agents provide lists of the less qualified.

Your agent’s big mistake was advising you and your husband not to attend the inspection. Agents who are honest and ethical do not give that kind of misleading advice to clients. Your presence at the home inspection was more than just a good idea: It was essential. You are on the verge of making an extremely high-cost investment. The home inspector was there for one purpose — to educate you about the condition of the property so that you could make a prudent purchase decision.

In advising you not to attend the inspection, your agent has limited your exposure to the information you need from your inspector. Again, that is not something that an ethical agent would do.

A second inspection by a home inspector of your choice is not a bad idea, and you shouldn’t worry about whether this is objectionable to your agent. It was her job to protect your financial interests. If she is not performing that duty, then you should do it for yourselves.

The House Detective is distributed by 1000WattConsulting. Do not republish without written consent. To purchase reprint rights please contact marc@1000wattconsulting.com

Questions regarding home inspection please email Barry Stone at questions@housedetective.com

Confusion Over Roofing Defects

Feb 06 2014

The House Detective:  by Barry Stone, Certified Home Inspector

Dear Barry:  When we bought our house, the home inspector identified several roof defects and recommended repairs by a licensed roofing contractor. The seller hired a roofing contractor to repair the conditions in the inspection report. But now we are having leaks in places that were not mentioned in the inspection report. Do we have recourse against the inspector?  Frank

Dear Frank:  The home inspector identified the fact that roof repairs were needed. It is possible that he failed to recognize other problem areas. However, it is also possible for a roof to leak in places where there are no visible defects. You should call your inspector and ask for a re-inspection of the places where the recent leaking occurred.

You should also ask the roofing contractor to attend that meeting. It was the job of the roofing contractor to review the entire roof to make sure that there were no visible defects besides the ones mentioned in the inspection report. If the contractor merely repaired the reported defect, without reviewing the entire roof, then he was not doing a thorough job.

Another possibility is that the roofing contractor did review the entire roof and did discover additional defects. In that case, it would have been the seller’s decision whether to pay for the additional repairs.

Whatever circumstances led to the lack of adequate roof repair will be matters for discussion when you meet with the inspector and the contractor.

 

The House Detective is distributed by 1000WattConsulting. Do not republish without written consent. To purchase reprint rights please contact marc@1000wattconsulting.com

Questions regarding home inspection please email Barry Stone at questions@housedetective.com

Home Inspector Makes Suspicious Mold Disclosure

Jan 15 2014

The House Detective:  by Barry Stone, Certified Home Inspector

Dear Barry:  Our home recently fell out of escrow, and the circumstances were very suspicious. The buyers hired a home inspector who reported that we have mold. We were unable to see any mold, but the inspector said it was only visible with a special flashlight. We agreed to remove the mold ourselves, but the buyers said they wanted it done by a professional. Lo and behold, the home inspector was also in that line of work – for a fee of $1500. While we were negotiating this, the buyers cancelled the sale. What do you think of this situation?  Valerie

Dear Valerie:  The fact that the home inspector was ready to remove mold that no one else could see is highly suspect. Furthermore, it is a conflict of interest for a home inspector to perform repair work on a home that he has inspected. To do so violates the codes of ethics of every home inspector association.

The main issue for now is to determine whether you actually have mold in your home and what to disclose to future buyers. To answer the mold question, you should hire a professional mold inspector for an evaluation. If mold is found, you can have a qualified contractor do the remediation. And make sure that the one who does the removal is not the one who did the inspection.

If it turns out that you do not have mold, you can use the mold report for disclosure to future buyers. You can also use the report as evidence if you file an ethics complaint against the home inspector.

 

The House Detective is distributed by 1000WattConsulting. Do not republish without written consent. To purchase reprint rights please contact marc@1000wattconsulting.com

Questions regarding home inspection please email Barry Stone at questions@housedetective.com

New Home Inspector Seeks Startup Advice

Jan 09 2014

The House Detective:  by Barry Stone, Certified Home Inspector

Dear Barry:  I just completed an 80-hour classroom course in home inspection. Now that I’ve got my certificate, I’m not sure what to do next. What do you suggest?  Randy

Dear Randy: Now that you’ve learned the basics of home inspection, your internship is about to begin. Home inspection is a learn-as-you-go business. The longer you do it, the more you learn and the more proficient you become as a home inspector. And no matter how long you do it, you never learn it all. The problem with the first few years in business is legal and financial liability for defects that you fail to report. Therefore, to spur the learning process, join a local chapter of ASHI or a recognized state association, and participate as much as possible in their educational programs. If possible, find an experienced home inspector who will let you ride along on a few inspections. This is one of the best ways to learn the ropes.

The House Detective is distributed by 1000WattConsulting. Do not republish without written consent. To purchase reprint rights please contact marc@1000wattconsulting.com

Questions regarding home inspection please email Barry Stone at questions@housedetective.com

Buyers Worried About Radon Gas in Home

Jan 07 2014

The House Detective:  by Barry Stone, Certified Home Inspector

Dear Barry:  We are in the process of buying a house and were informed that the sellers installed a radon mitigation system last year. Radon levels before the system was installed were about 7 picocuries per liter. What should we do about this situation, and what are the effects of radon exposure to occupants?  Ananda

Dear Ananda:  If the mitigation system that was installed in the home has effectively reduced the radon level below 4 picocuries per liter, there is no need to worry. Ask the sellers for radon test results taken after the system was installed. If a follow-up test was not done, or if they do not have documentary results of the test, you should request that a test be done as a condition of the purchase.

Radon is a radioactive gas that is produced by the decay of uranium in the soil or in ground water. It is particularly common in areas where the soil contains granite or shale. Radon is regarded as the second highest cause of lung cancer (next to smoking) and is credited with approximately 21,000 deaths annually in the United States.

Radon gas is emitted from the earth worldwide, with an average outdoor level of 0.4 picocuries per liter. When radon emerges from the ground beneath a building, indoor levels can become concentrated. The average indoor radon level in American homes is about 1.3 picocuries per liter. The threshold level for concern, according to the EPA, is 4 picocuries per liter. When indoor radon is measured at that level, mitigation is recommended for the health and safety of occupants.

Fortunately, mitigation systems are simple and relatively inexpensive. The type most commonly used is known as the soil suction radon reduction system. It consists of vent pipes with a fan that pulls radon from beneath the building. For increased effectiveness, cracks and seams in the floor should be thoroughly sealed.

Again, be sure to verify that radon levels have been sufficiently lowered. You should also ask for proof that the mitigation system was installed by a contractor who is licensed as a radon mitigator.

For more information on radon, visit www.epa.gov/radon/pubs.

 

The House Detective is distributed by 1000WattConsulting. Do not republish without written consent. To purchase reprint rights please contact marc@1000wattconsulting.com

Questions regarding home inspection please email Barry Stone at questions@housedetective.com

Home Inspector Didn’t Report Wood Rot

Dec 30 2013

The House Detective:  by Barry Stone, Certified Home Inspector

Dear Barry:  We purchased our home about six months ago, and the home inspector said nothing about wood rot. I recently discovered rotted eave boards when I was repainting the exterior. Shouldn’t this have been reported by our home inspector?  John

Dear John:  Wood rot is caused by fungus. In most states, inspection for wood destroying organisms such as fungus is not within the scope of a home inspection. Damage of this kind is typically covered by a licensed pest control operator, commonly known as a termite inspector. You should check your records to see if there was a pest report when you purchased the property. If so, call that company and ask them to re-inspect the eaves around your home.

The House Detective is distributed by 1000WattConsulting. Do not republish without written consent. To purchase reprint rights please contact marc@1000wattconsulting.com

Questions regarding home inspection please email Barry Stone at questions@housedetective.com

Installing Dual Pane Windows

Dec 27 2013

The House Detective:  by Barry Stone, Certified Home Inspector

Dear Barry:  We have old steel frame windows in our home and would like to minimize heat loss. Rather than install dual-pane replacement windows, we’d like to install inside windows and leave the old windows in place. This might not look as good, but we don’t want the mess and expense of removing the old windows. Do you think this is a good idea?  Walter

Dear Walter:  Adding interior windows will reduce some heat loss from your home, but vinyl-frame, dual-pane replacement windows will do this much more effectively and with much less mess that you expect.

Removal of the old windows does not involve removing the frames from the walls. When replacement windows are installed, the old glass and dividers are taken out, but not the frames that are embedded the siding. The replacement windows are installed over the old metal frames.

Before deciding which way to go, check out the prices for replacement windows, and discuss the replacement procedures with the window installer.

The House Detective is distributed by 1000WattConsulting. Do not republish without written consent. To purchase reprint rights please contact marc@1000wattconsulting.com

Questions regarding home inspection please email Barry Stone at questions@housedetective.com

Barry Stone

Barry StoneKnown today as "America's House Detective," Barry advises readers from coast to coast about home inspection and real estate disclosure, providing honest clarity, fresh wit, consumer protection, and even-handed fairness in his responses to real estate questions. Read more.

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