Crawlspaces are notorious for the nasty discoveries made there by inspectors, and it isn’t hard to figure out why; for one thing, their cool, dark environment attracts undesirable pests and can promote dangerous conditions. And since crawlspaces are mostly unmonitored, hazards can breed there unchecked for long periods of time. The following are some of the more common dangers discovered in crawlspaces: Read more
A/C Condensate drain lines are normally installed near the outdoor condenser unit and drains condensate water to the exterior of the home. Condensate water is produced when warm air from the blower inside your air handler is passed over cold evaporator coil. Condensation occurs when warmer air hits a cold surface and that warm air releases its moisture. A good example would be a cold glass of ice water sitting on your dining room table, when the glass sweats and water runs down the glass. In an a/c system, that moisture has to be drained, and if the drain lines are routed correctly, should drain to the outside. The condensate drain line is a white circular drain pipe not less than 3/4 of an inch in diameter.
The problem that I see often as a Licensed Home Inspector is that most a/c condensate drain lines are routed outside, which is ideal, but stop or terminate 2 to 3 inches from the homes foundation. This is considered standard building practice, but it does not mean that it is a good idea. In order to have a complete understanding of what I am about to share, it would require having a good knowledge of the water content of soil and how it relates to bearing capacity. Most average people do not have this knowledge, so I will try to simplify it through a story.
Know that it is fact that when soil is dry and compacted, it is able to hold more weight. When you add water to compacted soil, it expands(clay) or compacts further and loses its ability to hold the the same amount of weight without sinking(soil) or applying upward force(expansive clay) on the object sitting on top of it. Ok, that is settled. It is a hot summer day and the a/c unit for your home is running often, trying to keep the house at your set temperature. The ground is dry and it has not rained in awhile. When the a/c unit is running, it is putting out condensate water from the condensate drain. The ground near the foundation of the home absorbs this water and the soil expands as well as not having the same load carrying capacity. When there is a thunderstorm and lots of rain, the ground around the home is uniformly wet, which is ok. When it is mostly dry around the home, and there is an area where water is concentrated, that area is not uniformly wet to the rest of the foundation, which may cause long term problems.
The most experienced inspectors recommend that the a/c condensate be routed no less than 12 inches from the foundation wall to avoid long term implications. I have seen cracked foundation walls on homes due to concentrated water discharge of downspouts, a/c condensate, etc. Water is the number one destroyer of homes and commercial buildings when it is not properly controlled. Have the a/c unit evaluated once a year by a qualified contractor and suggest that he/she extend the condensate drain 12 inches from the foundation wall.
Bathtubs & Showers
Bathtubs are made from many different types of materials, including enameled cast-iron, porcelain-enameled steel, and plastic. Plastic tubs are made from materials including ABS, PVC, fiberglass, fiberglass-reinforced plastic, acrylic, and cultured-marble acrylic. Bathtubs that are equipped with shower fixtures should be manufactured with slip-resistant surfaces. Bathtubs should have a drainage outlet (tailpiece) with a minimum diameter of 1-1/2 inches. Every tub should be equipped with a stopper. The bathtub should have an overflow outlet installed. The overflow prevents flooding if the tub is being filled while unattended, and prevents overflow of the water when a person enters a tub that is full.
Bathtubs made of plastic are tested for fire ignition. They are made with fire-resistant chemicals to reduce their fuel contribution in a house fire, or an accidental exposure to a plumber’s torch.
Large Bathtub Loads
Some bathtubs are so large that they can accommodate more than one person at a time. These larger bathtubs may need special and additional structural support underneath them to adequately support the load.
A 3×4-foot bathtub may have a capacity to hold 200 gallons or more. The weight of the bathtub, water, and occupants may total over 1 ton, considering:
200 pounds for the bathtub
+ 1,600 pounds of water
+ 350 pounds for two people
= 2,150 pounds
A very large tub may cause structural problems because live-loading for a typical residential home is 40 pounds per square foot. The live load for a 3×4-foot occupied tub may be assumed to be only 480 pounds, but may weigh over 2,000 pounds while it is in use.
The homeowner should make sure that the tub is free of cracks, rust and other staining, and that all edges, gaps and surrounding tile are adequately caulked to ensure that moisture cannot leach behind the tile work and drywall, which can lead to leaks and structural damage behind walls that won’t be evident until the issue becomes extensive and expensive to fix.
Plastic, pre-fabricated shower units are constructed of various synthetic materials, including ABS, PVC, gel-coated fiberglass-reinforced plastic, cultured marble, cast-filled fiberglass, polyester, cultured marble acrylic, and acrylic. These shower units are impregnated with fire-retardant chemicals to reduce the fuel contribution during a fire, and protection against an accidental burn by a plumber’s torch.
The showerhead height is not typically regulated by building codes, but the head is commonly installed 70 to 80 inches above the shower floor.
Shower Water Pipes
Water-supply pipes from the shower valve to the showerhead outlet — referred to as the shower riser pipes — whether exposed or not, must be firmly attached to a structural component to prevent the pipes from leaking caused by stress fractures or joint failures. Movement of the showerhead may move the riser piping, possibly causing failure of the piping. The risers must be firmly secured.
The common practice for installing the riser pipe is to place a drop-ear elbow at the top of the riser pipe. The elbow has two wing connections. They can be screwed to a structural backing board, such as a 2×4. A pipe strap can be used instead of a drop-ear elbow. When the riser is exposed, the manufacturer will typically provide a strap or attachment device to match the finish of the fixture and pipe. The strap or attachment device should be firmly secured to a structural component.
The waste outlet for a shower should have minimum diameter of 1-1/2 inches. The shower outlet should have a strainer that is at least 3 inches in diameter, with dimensional openings in the strainer of at least a 1/4-inch. The strainer should be removable.
A shower compartment should have an interior cross-sectional area of at least 900 square inches. This will allow an average-sized adult to clean the lower body while bending over. A shower that’s any smaller would be inadequately sized. Shower compartments should be at least 30 inches in minimum dimension. This measurement is based on the movement of an adult body inside a shower and measured from the finished interior dimension of the compartment, excluding fixture valves, showerheads, soap dishes and grab bars. There are exceptions for showers having fold-down seats, and those with compartments at least 25 inches wide and 1,300 square inches in cross-sectional area.
The exception allows for a shower with one dimension being 25 inches, provided the compartment has at least 1,300 square inches of cross-sectional area. This is useful to contractors and DIY homeowners who remove an old bathtub and install a standup shower fixture in the same space.
Showers and bathtubs with installed showerheads should be finished with a non-absorbent surface that shall extend to a height of not less than 6 feet above the floor level of the room, or 70 inches above the shower floor. It should be constructed of smooth, corrosion-resistant and non-absorbent materials to protect the structural components from moisture damage. The gypsum or cement wallboard behind ceramic tiles of a shower wall should be water-resistant. The water-resistant material is not required in the rest of the bathroom, although it is a common practice to use water-resistant gypsum wallboard in other areas of the bathroom because of the moisture levels.
Shower Access and Egress Opening
Many injuries in a home are related to accidents in the bathtub or shower. The minimum opening requirements for access and egress allows an adult enough room to safely step into and exit the shower area without having to twist or turn through a narrow opening. The shower opening (or access and egress opening) should be at least 22 inches of clear and unobstructed finish-width. The 22-inch width is based on the approximate shoulder width of an average-sized adult, and provides comfortable access to service the valves, showerheads and drain. It allows for emergency response and rescue access, and emergency egress.
The shower floor surface must be watertight with smooth, corrosion-resistant, non-absorbent, waterproof materials. Joints between the floor and walls of the shower must be sealed or flashed to prevent water penetration. Ideally, there should be some type of slip-resistant floor surface. The shower floor structure needs proper support by a smooth and structurally sound base. The base of the shower floor should be designed to support both dead (structural) and live (people and water) loads.
Shower pans and liners are installed under and around showers to prevent moisture intrusion from getting into the structural supports under and behind the shower enclosure. They must meet specific standards for material, installation and size in order to support both dead and live loads.
Glass doors enclosing the shower should be made of safety glazing. If a window is installed in the shower, the window should be made of safety glazing to provide protection. If a person slips or falls inside the shower, s/he may be seriously injured by broken glass if the glass is not made of safety glazing. The safety glazing should be correctly labeled by being permanently marked in a corner, legible and visible after installation, and indoor applications should be marked “indoor use only.”
Similar to other bathroom fixtures, the homeowner should make sure that the shower is free of cracks, rust and other staining, and that all edges, gaps and surrounding tile are adequately caulked to ensure that moisture cannot leach behind the tile work and drywall, which can lead to leaks and structural damage behind walls that won’t be evident until the issue becomes extensive and expensive to fix. Additionally, if the glazing for the showers doors is damaged, it should be replaced, as cracked glazing can break without notice and cause serious injuries.
Bathroom Sinks – Lavatories
A lavatory is a washbasin or sink located in a bathroom or washroom. “Lavatory” means washbasin or sink, and is derived from the Latin word lavatorium, which means washing vessel, and the French word laver, meaning “to wash.” Lavatories come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They are available in enameled cast-iron, vitreous china, stainless steel, porcelain-enameled formed steel, plastic, and non-vitreous ceramic. They can be wall-mounted, hanger-mounted, under-mounted, pedestal, rimmed, and above-center basin types.
Countertops integrated with lavatories are constructed of a variety of materials, including ABS, PVC, gel-coated fiberglass-reinforced plastic, acrylic, polyester, and cultured marble. Plastic vanity tops should be impregnated with fire-resistant chemicals to reduce the fuel contribution of the lavatory during a house fire or the accidental fire from a plumber’s torch. They are also made to resist the effect of a burning cigarette left unattended on the vanity top.
Lavatories should have a waste outlet of at least 1-1/4 inches in diameter. Each lavatory must have a strainer, a pop-up stopper, a crossbar, or other mechanism to prevent items such as rings, toothbrushes and cosmetic items from dropping into the drain.
Former standards required lavatories to have an overflow, but that is no longer the case. The overflow is now an option of the manufacturer. The reason for not requiring an overflow at a lavatory is because of the lack of use of the overflow, which can cause bacterial and micro-organism growth.
Where a lavatory does have an overflow installed, the cross-sectional area of the overflow should be a minimum of 1-1/8 inches; anything larger can promote bacterial and micro-organism growth. The overflow should be able to prevent overflowing of the sink for a minimum of five minutes when tested from the onset of water flowing into the overflow’s opening.
There are many different designs of lavatories, including artisanal styles that sit up on the vanity, rather than being dropped into a recessed cavity in the vanity or countertop. Regardless of the style or whether it includes an overflow opening, the washbasin should be securely attached to the vanity, be free of cracks and other defects, and have gaps that are properly caulked to prevent moisture buildup, which can lead to unsanitary conditions, including mold growth.
Toilets & Bidets
A water closet in the U.S. is commonly referred to as a toilet. The term “water closet” originates from the time when plumbing was brought indoors, and defecation took place in a small, closet-size room with a pot.
There are three styles of water closets: close-coupled, one-piece, and flushometer valve. The most common is the close-coupled water closet, which has a bowl and separate gravity-type tank or flushometer tank that is supported by the bowl. A one-piece water closet is constructed with the gravity-type tank or flushometer tank and bowl as one integral unit. A flushometer-valve water closet is a bowl with a flushometer valve. Water closet bowls come in six styles: blow-out, siphon jet, reverse trap, wash-down, siphon vortex, and siphon wash.
A water closet has a water consumption limit of a maximum average of 1.6 gallons of water per flush. The general bowl rim height above the floor is between 14 and 15 inches. Other rim heights may be needed for water closets used by children (10 inches), and the elderly and persons with physical disabilities (18 inches). Elongated water closet bowls are required for public or employee use but are often installed in homes. An elongated bowl is 2 inches longer than a regular bowl.
Defects at Toilets
The water closet (toilet) may have a clogged drain. While flushing the toilet, watch the flush performance, and use toilet paper as part of this test. There should be no excessive odors around the water closet. Check the flooring around the toilet with your foot. Using the side of your leg, check to see if the toilet is securely attached to the floor. If it wobbles, the screws at the base may be loose, or the wax ring that adheres the fixture to the waste pipe may be worn or of the wrong size. If so, it should be replaced. Look for dampness around the bottom of the toilet base. Toilets sometimes run continuously. Check for a water shut-off valve. Some toilets are mistakenly connected to the hot water system. Tank lids are often cracked. Any defective parts should be immediately replaced to avoid backup flooding.
Common in much of Europe and Asia, bidets are toilet-like plumbing fixtures designed to promote posterior hygiene. They’re becoming increasingly common in North America. Contrary to popular belief, a bidet is not an alternative to a toilet. Its purpose is as a hygiene device following toilet use. However, some bidets have been incorporated into toilets, especially in bathrooms that are not large enough for both fixtures.
Bidets, like toilets, are typically made from porcelain and contain a deep recess within a wide rim. They emit an arc of clean water from a nozzle that may be located beneath the rear of the rim or deep within the fixture’s cavity. Users can sit on the rim (or seat, if it has one), or straddle the fixture and face in either direction. He or she can decide which direction to face based on the water jet configuration and the part of their body that needs cleaning. Water temperature and pressure can be adjusted with knobs in order to arrive at the desired settings.
Some bidets come with built-in air dryers. Toilet paper can be used for this purpose if no dryer is available. The bidet can be rinsed after use to keep it clean.
- People who suffer from hemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome, or have recently had surgery can find relief with the more gentle water flow of a bidet.
- As the bidet requires less operator mobility, they are easier to use for the elderly, disabled and obese.
- Many believe that the use of bidets is more hygienic and effective than toilet paper.
- Users should familiarize themselves with the rate of temperature and pressure changes that occur when they adjust the controls. Sensitive regions can be burned if the user is not careful, and high water pressure can be irritating.
- Users should know in advance the direction of the water arc and position themselves accordingly. The spray can be powerful enough to strike a person in the face.
A water heater is an appliance that heats potable water and supplies heated water to the home’s plumbing distribution system. Most tanks are insulated steel cylinders with an enamel coating on the inner surface. They are referred to as glass-lined tanks. The lining helps prevent corrosion. A water heater can literally explode if it’s not installed properly. There are standards that regulate the materials, design and installation of water heaters and their related safety devices. Certification marks on them from approved agencies indicate compliance with approved standards. Read more
Hail and/or storm damage, referred to as weathering, can easily deteriorate a roof’s finish despite the fact that you haven’t lost any shakes or shingles after having a storm. It is the most prevalent reason for external problems for roof coverings. Intense, continual winds can result in uplift to the edges of shingles, that may damage their points of connection and enable rain and melting snowfall to get to the roof’s underlayment. The wind can likewise send projectiles through the air, that may affect each area of the home’s exterior, even the roof. You’ll want to regularly perform maintenance of your roof covering following a significant weather event, when it’s convenient to accomplish this without acquiring any unnecessary dangers, to confirm whether or not you’ve lost some roof-covering materials, or if any components appear particularly weather-beaten or damaged. A slight correction today may possibly avoid expensive repairs tomorrow.
Tree damage effects from wind blown tree limbs scraping on shingles and coming from the impact of falling branches taken by wind and due to the fact the neighboring tree has dead branches which ultimately snap off and fall. Branches which overhang the roofing must continually get clipped back in order to prevent problems from both abrasion and impact, and to avoid the buildup of leaf clutter upon the roofing, its valleys, as well as in the gutters, that might conflict with appropriate water drainage and result to pooling of rain and snowmelt. Maintenance of your roof covering is particularly essential to make certain that tree branches close to the home’s roofing and exterior are a safe distance away from public utility and electrical power wires. Tree-trimming is a form of property owner maintenance tasks that really should be performed by competent specialists, because it can lead to unintentionally cutting down the service or electricity from an overhead line, getting electrocuted by an energized line, becoming hit by an unsecured tree branch, slipping off the roofing or even a ladder, as well as any other quantity of comparable accidents that the property owner is not qualified to predict and prevent.
Squirrels and raccoons (as well as roofing mice in coastal areas) can occasionally rip through shingles and roof sheathing whenever they’re hunting for a secure location in which to build nests as well as raise their young. They frequently attack the roof’s eaves first, particularly on properties that have experienced decay to the roofing system sheathing due to an absence of drip edges or possibly from issues brought by ice damming, mainly because rotted sheathing is softer and much less difficult to rip through. In case you discover any kind of activity of wild animals on your roofing, always check within your attic for evidence of rodent entrance, such as battered insulation, which unwanted pests might utilize for nesting material. Discolored insulation commonly suggests that excessive air is coming through some opening in the structure, causing the insulation to become discolored by dirt or moisture.
A residential smoke alarm, also known as a smoke detector, is a device that detects smoke and issues an audible sound and/or a visual signal to alert residents to a potential fire.
- Almost two-thirds of reported deaths caused by home fires from 2003 to 2006 resulted from fires in homes that lacked working smoke alarms.
- Older homes are more likely to lack an adequate number of smoke alarms because they were built before requirements increased.
- In 23% of home fire deaths, residential smoke alarms were present but did not sound. Sixty percent of these failures were caused by the power supplies having been deliberately removed due to false alarms.
- Every year in the United States, about 3,000 people lose their lives in residential fires. Most of these deaths are caused by smoke inhalation, rather than as a result of burns.
Every year, roughly 2.5 million children are treated in the United States for fall-related injuries. Of these, falls from low windows tend to be the most serious and fatal, especially among male toddlers. Older children are more likely to be seriously injured by window falls as summer approaches and they spend more time around the home. This problem is heightened by the fact that windows are left open for ventilation more often during the summer months than the rest of the year. Inspectors should be ready to field questions from concerned clients, especially those with small children, about the dangers posed by falls from low windows.
The following are window safety tips that inspectors can pass on to their clients: