Fire Separation Doors from the House to the Garage

I’d like everyone to take a minute to think about two potentially very dangerous situations.  Both of them have to do with your garage.  If your garage is attached to your house, you should have a door between them.  The door needs to be able to withstand a fire in the garage, as well as help keep deadly gasses from seeping through (like Carbon Monoxide).  Because of these threats, the door must meet some very specific requirements.  These are addressed in the International Residential Code:
“R302.5.1 Opening protection. Openings from a private garage directly into a room used for sleeping purposes shall not be permitted. Other openings between the garage and residence shall be equipped with solid wood doors not less than 1-3/8 inches (35 mm) in thickness, solid or honeycomb-core steel doors not less than 1-3/8 inches (35 mm) thick, or 20-minute fire-rated doors, equipped with a selfclosing device.”
Fire resistance:  The door must be able to withstand a fire in the garage long enough for you to get out of the house.  Preferably long enough for the fire department to get there and extinguish the fire.  One of the most common defects I find in my area is that the door isn’t thick enough.  The common practice here is to use a solid wood door, which would normally be fine.  However, a flat panel door doesn’t seem to fit in the decor of all the houses here, so most often I see 6-panel doors.  These doors are about 1-5/8″ – 1-3/4″ thick, but if you measure the thickness at the recesses in the door, it’s less than 1-3/8″.  These doors do not meet the stated requirement, and should be replaced with a door that does.
Self-Closing:  This requirement is there for one purpose, to make sure the door is fully closed so that it can do its job.  It can’t keep fire and carbon monoxide out of the house if it’s open.  The way the requirement is written, a lot of people read it that a self-closing device is only required on 20-minute fire-rated doors.  The confusion comes about because of the oxford comma before the last requirement.  I reached out to the International Code Council (the group that writes the International Residential Code) for clarification, and they replied: “The self-closing device is a requirement for all the types of doors mentioned in Section R302.5.1”
So, please take a minute and go check the door to your garage.  If it looks like the door in this picture, you probably have an improper door.  Also make sure that the self-closing devices reliably close the door to the point the latch catches.  If not, have them adjusted.  Your safety could depend on it.
Improper Fire Door
Improper Fire Door
Of course this is just one of the many things we inspect during our comprehensive home inspection.  To book your inspection, call 210-202-1974, or click here to book online.

Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCI)

We frequently get asked what the difference is between AFCI and GFCI protection is.  Here is a short post about AFCIs, describing their function, as well as their importance.

Arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) are special types of electrical receptacles or outlets and circuit breakers designed to detect and respond to potentially dangerous electrical arcs in home branch wiring.

How do they work?
AFCIs function by monitoring the electrical waveform and promptly opening (interrupting) the circuit they serve if they detect changes in the wave pattern that are characteristic of a dangerous arc. They also must be capable of distinguishing safe, normal arcs, such as those created when a switch is turned on or a plug is pulled from a receptacle, from arcs that can cause fires. An AFCI can detect, recognize, and respond to very small changes in wave pattern.

What is an arc?
When an electric current crosses an air gap from an energized component to a grounded component, it produces a glowing plasma discharge known as an arc. For example, a bolt of lightening is a very large, powerful arc that crosses an atmospheric gap from an electrically charged cloud to the ground or another cloud. Just as lightning can cause fires, arcs produced by domestic wiring are capable of producing high levels of heat that can ignite their surroundings and lead to structure fires.

According to statistics from the National Fire Protection Agency for the year 2005, electrical fires damaged approximately 20,900 homes, killed 500 people, and cost $862 million in property damage. Although short-circuits and overloads account for many of these fires, arcs are responsible for the majority and are undetectable by traditional (non-AFCI) circuit breakers.

Where are arcs likely to form?
Arcs can form where wires are improperly installed or when insulation becomes damaged. In older homes, wire insulation tends to crystallize as it ages, becoming brittle and prone to cracking and chipping. Damaged insulation exposes the current-carrying wire to its surroundings, increasing the chances that an arc may occur.

Situations in which arcs may be created:

Where are AFCIs required?
Locations in which AFCIs are required depend on the building codes adopted by their jurisdiction.

The 2006 International Residential Code (IRC) requires that AFCIs be installed within bedrooms in the following manner:
E3802.12 Arc-Fault Protection of Bedroom Outlets. All branch circuits that supply120-volt, single-phase, 15- and 20-amp outlets installed in bedrooms shall be protected by a combination-type or branch/feeder-type arc-fault circuit interrupter installed to provide protection of the entire branch circuit.
Exception: The location of the arc-fault circuit interrupter shall be permitted to be at other than the origination of the branch circuit, provided that:
  1. The arc-fault circuit interrupter is installed within 6 feet of the branch circuit overcurrent device as measured along the branch circuit conductors, and
  2. The circuit conductors between the branch circuit overcurrent device and the arc-fault circuit interrupter are installed in a metal raceway or a cable with metallic sheath.
The National Electrical Code (NEC) offers the following guidelines concerning AFCI placement within bedrooms:
Dwelling Units. All 120-volt, single phase, 15- and 20-ampere branch circuits supplying outlets installed in dwelling unit in family rooms, dining rooms, living rooms, parlors, libraries, dens, sun rooms, recreation rooms, closets, hallways, or similar rooms or areas shall be protected by a listed arc-fault circuit interrupter, combination-type installed to provide protection of the branch circuit.
What types of AFCIs are available?
AFCIs are available as circuit breakers for installation in the electrical distribution panel, as well as replacement receptacles to add protection on household circuits.. 
Nuisance Tripping
An AFCI might activate in situations that are not dangerous and create needless power shortages. This can be particularly annoying when an AFCI stalls power to a freezer or refrigerator, allowing its contents to spoil. There are a few procedures an electrical contractor can perform in order to reduce potential “nuisance tripping," such as:
Arc Faults vs. Ground Faults
It is important to distinguish AFCI devices from Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) devices. GFCIs detect ground faults, which occur when current leaks from a hot (ungrounded) conductor to a grounded object as a result of a short-circuit. This situation can be hazardous when a person unintentionally becomes the current’s path to the ground. GFCIs function by constantly monitoring the current flow between hot and neutral (grounding) conductors, and activate when they sense a difference of 5 milliamps or more. Thus, GFCIs are intended to prevent personal injury due to electric shock, while AFCIs prevent personal injury and property damage due to structure fires.
 
In summary, AFCIs are designed to detect small arcs of electricity before they have a chance to lead to a structure fire. 


Now, before you go further, go to your electric panel, and make sure you have AFCI breakers.  Push the test button on each one, and make sure it trips and you can reset it.  If it doesn't trip, or you can't reset it, call an electrician to have it replaced.  Make sure you test these breakers monthly.

To schedule your comprehensive home inspection (which of course includes an electrical inspection) either on a new home, or a home you already own, call 210-202-1974 or click here.

by Nick Gromicko, Mike Marlow and Kenton Shepard

Garage Doors

Garage doors are large, spring-supported doors. Garage door openers control the opening and closing of garage doors, either through a wall-mounted switch or a radio transmitter. Due to the strain that garage door components and openers regularly endure, they may become defective over time and need to be fixed or replaced. Defective components may create safety hazards as well as functional deficiencies to the garage door assembly.
 
The following facts demonstrate the dangers posed by garage doors:
Home owners should not attempt to fix any garage door defects they may encounter. They should have the door examined and repaired by a trained garage door technician. The following components should be present and devoid of defects:
 
  1. colored red;
  2. easily distinguishable from rest of the garage opener system; and
  3. no more than 6 feet above the standing surface.
  1. fatigue;
  2. cracking and dents. Aluminum doors are especially vulnerable to denting; and
  3. separation of materials.
  1. a spring warning label, attached to the spring assembly;
  2. a general warning label, attached to the back of the door panel;
  3. a warning label attached to the wall in the vicinity of the wall control button, and;
  4. a tension warning label, attached to garage door’s bottom bracket.
Note:  Do not operate the door until you have inspected the track mounts and bracing. Doors have been known to fall on people and cars when they were operated with tracks that were not securely attached and supported.
In addition, the button must:
  1.    be mounted in clear view of the garage door; and
  2.    be mounted away from moving parts.
Important note:  You should always make sure to disable the manual lock on the garage door before activating the switch.
Methods for testing the automatic reverse system:
  1. This safety feature can be tested by grasping the base of the garage door as it closes and applying upward resistance. Use caution while performing this test because you may accidentally damage its components if the door does not reverse course.
  2. Some sources recommend placing a 2x4 piece of wood on the ground beneath the door, although there have been instances where this testing method has damaged the door or door opener components.
 
Safety Advice for Home Owners:
In summary, garage doors and their openers can be hazardous if certain components are missing or defective. Inspectors should understand these dangers and be prepared to offer useful safety tips to their clients.
Inspecting the garage door and installed openers is just one of the many things we inspect during a Veteran Home Inspection.  To schedule your inspection, call 210-202-1974 or book online at www.vhillc.com.

Dryer Vent Safety

One of the most common issues we note during home inspections is with dryer ducts.  For what appears to be a simple system, there are some very important intricacies that have to be followed to make sure they are safe.
Clothes dryers evaporate the water from wet clothing by blowing hot air past them while they tumble inside a spinning drum. Heat is provided by an electrical heating element or gas burner. Some heavy garment loads can contain more than a gallon of water which, during the drying process, will become airborne water vapor and leave the dryer and home through an exhaust duct (more commonly known as a dryer vent).
A vent that exhausts moist air to the home's exterior has a number of requirements:
  1. It should be connected. The connection is usually behind the dryer but may be beneath it. Look carefully to make sure it’s actually connected.
  2. It should not be restricted. Dryer vents are often made from flexible plastic or metal duct, which may be easily kinked or crushed where they exit the dryer and enter the wall or floor. This is often a problem since dryers tend to be tucked away into small areas with little room to work. Vent elbows are available which is designed to turn 90° in a limited space without restricting the flow of exhaust air. Restrictions should be noted in the inspector's report. Airflow restrictions are a potential fire hazard.
  3. One of the reasons that restrictions are a potential fire hazard is that, along with water vapor evaporated out of wet clothes, the exhaust stream carries lint – highly flammable particles of clothing made of cotton and polyester. Lint can accumulate in an exhaust duct, reducing the dryer’s ability to expel heated water vapor, which then accumulates as heat energy within the machine. As the dryer overheats, mechanical failures can trigger sparks, which can cause lint trapped in the dryer vent to burst into flames. This condition can cause the whole house to burst into flames. Fires generally originate within the dryer but spread by escaping through the ventilation duct, incinerating trapped lint, and following its path into the building wall.
InterNACHI believes that house fires caused by dryers are far more common than are generally believed, a fact that can be appreciated upon reviewing statistics from the National Fire Protection Agency. Fires caused by dryers in 2005 were responsible for approximately 13,775 house fires, 418 injuries, 15 deaths, and $196 million in property damage. Most of these incidents occur in residences and are the result of improper lint cleanup and maintenance. Fortunately, these fires are very easy to prevent.
The recommendations outlined below reflect International Residential Code (IRC) SECTION M1502 CLOTHES DRYER EXHAUST guidelines:
M1502.5 Duct construction.
Exhaust ducts shall be constructed of minimum 0.016-inch-thick (0.4 mm) rigid metal ducts, having smooth interior surfaces, with joints running in the direction of air flow. Exhaust ducts shall not be connected with sheet-metal screws or fastening means which extend into the duct.
This means that the flexible, ribbed vents used in the past should no longer be used. They should be noted as a potential fire hazard if observed during an inspection.
M1502.6 Duct length.
The maximum length of a clothes dryer exhaust duct shall not exceed 25 feet (7,620 mm) from the dryer location to the wall or roof termination. The maximum length of the duct shall be reduced 2.5 feet (762 mm) for each 45-degree (0.8 rad) bend, and 5 feet (1,524 mm) for each 90-degree (1.6 rad) bend. The maximum length of the exhaust duct does not include the transition duct.
This means that vents should also be as straight as possible and cannot be longer than 25 feet. Any 90-degree turns in the vent reduce this 25-foot number by 5 feet, since these turns restrict airflow.
A couple of exceptions exist:
  1. The IRC will defer to the manufacturer’s instruction, so if the manufacturer’s recommendation permits a longer exhaust vent, that’s acceptable. An inspector probably won’t have the manufacturer’s recommendations, and even if they do, confirming compliance with them exceeds the scope of a General Home Inspection.
  2. The IRC will allow large radius bends to be installed to reduce restrictions at turns, but confirming compliance requires performing engineering calculation in accordance with the ASHRAE Fundamentals Handbook, which definitely lies beyond the scope of a General Home Inspection.
M1502.2 Duct termination.
Exhaust ducts shall terminate on the outside of the building or shall be in accordance with the dryer manufacturer’s installation instructions. Exhaust ducts shall terminate not less than 3 feet (914 mm) in any direction from openings into buildings. Exhaust duct terminations shall be equipped with a backdraft damper. Screens shall not be installed at the duct termination.
We see many dryer vents terminate in crawlspaces or attics where they deposit moisture, which can encourage the growth of mold, wood decay, or other material problems. Sometimes they will terminate just beneath attic ventilators. This is a defective installation. They must terminate at the exterior and away from a door or window. Also, screens may be present at the duct termination and can accumulate lint and will be noted as improper.
M1502.3 Duct size.
The diameter of the exhaust duct shall be as required by the clothes dryer’s listing and the manufacturer’s installation instructions.
Look for the exhaust duct size on the data plate.
M1502.4 Transition ducts.
Transition ducts shall not be concealed within construction. Flexible transition ducts used to connect the dryer to the exhaust duct system shall be limited to single lengths not to exceed 8 feet (2438 mm), and shall be listed and labeled in accordance with UL 2158A.
Required support for lengthy ducts is covered by the following section:
M1502.4.2 Duct installation.Exhaust ducts shall be supported at intervals not to exceed 12 feet (3,658 mm) and shall be secured in place. The insert end of the duct shall extend into the adjoining duct or fitting in the direction of airflow. Exhaust duct joints shall be sealed in accordance with Section M1601.4.1 and shall be mechanically fastened. Ducts shall not be joined with screws or similar fasteners that protrude more than 1/8-inch (3.2 mm) into the inside of the duct.
In general, we may not know specific manufacturer’s recommendations or local applicable codes and will not be able to confirm the dryer vent's compliance to them, but will be able to point out issues that may need to be corrected.

To schedule your home inspection, visit www.vhillc.com or call 210-202-1974
by Nick Gromicko, Mike Marlow, and Kenton Shepard

Home Repair Rip-offs

by Nick Gromicko and Mike Marlow
 Here in Texas, every time we get a hail storm through the area, the shady contractors show up offering to replace your roof.  Additionally, contractors don’t have to be licensed except in the larger cities, so anyone can call themselves a contractor.  It’s truly buyer beware around here, so read on to learn more about some of the schemes that are pulled.
Homeowners have more to worry about than being ripped off by shady contractors in this lagging economy, but such a climate brings desperation — and with it, sadly, fraud. Of course, the majority of tradesmen are generally honest professionals, but there is a large number of unscrupulous contractors who will fix items that don’t need fixing, or grossly overcharge you for services or parts. Worse, there are plenty of con artists posing as tradesmen who will simply take your money and run. Inspectors are often the first ones to uncover such fraud, so they too need to be familiar with its common forms in order to best serve their clients.Yes, this fortress was made by thousands of termites, but it is not evidence that any of them have entered your house.
Some common home repair scams include:
Homeowners should heed the following advice whenever they hire a contractor:
In summary, homeowners and inspectors alike should be wise to the plethora of ways that home repair contractors, or those posing as such, rip off their clients.  Don’t be afraid to call Veteran Home Inspections at 210-202-1974 to have us inspect your home for needed repairs, or to check up on your contractor’s work.  We do not work on houses we inspect, so we are completely impartial.  You can also check us out online at www.vhillc.com

Foreclosure Home Inspections - Trust Your Gut

So, you want to buy a house cheap, and you look to the foreclosure market. Considering the over-abundance of these properties and just how little many of them are going for, it’s tempting to jump on the bandwagon and buy up. And it may pay off as a long-term investment.  But, like any other major purchase, you should know as much as you can about a property before you buy it, which is why home inspections, performed by certified InterNACHI inspectors, are necessary.
 
Unfortunately, many real estate agents, who don’t like bargaining with banks, are advising clients that home inspections are of no value as a bargaining tool, since banks don’t negotiate on “as is” properties. As an added disincentive, banks selling properties “as is” have no legal responsibility for any lurking defects. While the agent's advice to forgo an inspection as a means to negotiate on the price may be logical, it is startlingly counter-intuitive, and possibly even negligent. Would you buy a car without knowing whether it has a transmission?  The same premise holds true for a house, regardless of whether you intend to live in it, or fix it and flip it. The Realtor may be trying to salvage a deal that could possibly be scrapped if an inspector uncovers damage that the bank is unwilling to pay for, and you, as the buyer, have to realize that the agent's advice is not in your best interest. In this case, they’re putting you at risk in order to ensure they get their commission.
 
Any Realtor advising against an inspection on a foreclosure (or neglecting to recommend that one be performed) is ignoring the likelihood that, long before the previous owners stopped making mortgage payments, they deferred required maintenance tasks. Moisture intrusion leading to leaks and mold are just a few of the major problems commonly found by inspectors in foreclosed properties.  Tales abound of bizarre discoveries in abandoned properties, from wild boars to colossal bees nests. Former owners may loot their own properties, taking with them anything they can pry up or unscrew, and leave behind trash and junk that you have to pay for to have removed.
 
There are also stories of foreclosed properties that have been intentionally vandalized by their former owners in acts of retaliation against their banks. In one infamous case in early 2010, an Ohioan bulldozed his $250,000 home after the IRS placed liens on his carpet store, and then threatened to take his house. The damage done by the owner was apparent, but there are probably less extreme situations where the damage isn’t as obvious, making a home inspection of utmost priority.
 
You should always get a home inspection before buying a property, especially when you’re buying a bank-owned foreclosure.  In such cases, it may be impossible to find out how well the home was cared for, or whether major damage was done right before the past owners left the property. Ask the bank how much time you have after your initial offer to have an inspection performed, and schedule one immediately. If it goes well, you’ll enter into the deal with peace of mind and a better idea of what repairs you’ll have to deal with. That alone is worth the price of an inspection. If the inspection reveals a costly disaster, you can back out of the deal and save tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.

To schedule your home inspection, call 210-202-1974, or visit www.vhillc.com/request-inspection to schedule online.

by Nick Gromicko, Mike Marlow, and Kate Tarasenko

What Every Home Inspector Wished Their Home Buyers Knew

We were recently asked to contribute to an article about what we wished our clients knew about the home inspection process.  Here is the final article: http://bit.ly/2oRYkv0 and there is some great information from some very experienced home inspectors.

Modular vs. Manufactured Homes

While the terms “modular home” and “manufactured home” refer to two very different things, they are sometimes used interchangeably. Perhaps some of this confusion stems from the fact that modular homes are, in fact, manufactured (“manufactured” might be an unfortunate label.) Also, traditional “site-built” homes are not necessarily better than modular homes, despite the stigma associated with their assembly-line origin. There have been cases where Realtors and builders of manufactured homes have misrepresented manufactured homes as modular homes, and buyers were not informed enough to know the difference. Everyone (especially inspectors, who make their living examining residences) should understand the distinguishing features of these two types of houses.

Modular Homes
 
Modular homes are residences constructed entirely in factories and transported to their sites on flatbed trucks. They are built under controlled conditions, and must meet strict quality-control requirements before they are delivered. They arrive as block segments and are neatly assembled, using cranes, into homes that are almost indistinguishable from comparable ones built on-site. Wind and rain do not cause construction delays or warp building materials. In addition, modular homes:
Proponents of modular homes claim that their indoor, environmentally controlled construction affords them greater strength and resilience than homes built on-site. They also tend to be constructed using more precise building techniques and with more building material than comparable site-built residences. One reason for this is that they must be able to withstand the stress of highway transport. A study by FEMA found that modular homes withstood the wind and water from Hurricane Andrew better than most other homes in the area. They take less time to construct than site-built homes, are more energy-efficient, and generally cost less.

Manufactured Homes
 
The term “manufactured home” is the most recent label for what were once called “mobile homes” or “trailers.” They are relatively inexpensive, small, and are held to less stringent standards than modular and site-built homes. Their obvious advantages are their mobility and affordability, factors that allow buyers to make home purchases without a serious monetary or geographical commitment. They are available in three sizes that escalate as follows: “single-wide,” “double-wide” and “triple-wide.” In addition, manufactured homes:
Despite their manufacturing process, modular homes are essentially the same as homes that are built on-site. They are treated the same under the law, and their basic structural features are almost indistinguishable from site-built homes, once assembled. Manufactured homes are relatively small, inexpensive, mobile residences that require a smaller commitment than is required by modular and site-built homes. It is important to understand the differences between these home types in order to reduce the influence of stigmas, misrepresentation and ignorance.
 
Many lenders will also ask for a foundation certification from an engineer to certify that the foundation is proper.  Through our partnership with an engineering firm, we can handle this requirement at the same time as the home inspection.
 
To have your modular or manufactured home inspected, call Veteran Home Inspections at 210-202-1974 or visit www.vhillc.com to book online.

Indoor Air Quality is a Rising Concern for Home Buyers

The spring and summer months are the busiest time of year for the real estate market. Whether you are building your dream home or purchasing an older home that has been listed on the market, indoor air quality should be a major priority during your search. Learn about how you can make sure your future home’s air is safe and healthy by addressing these concerns BEFORE you buy.
Indoor air concerns when building new construction:
Opting to build a new home will provide you with the greatest opportunity to ensure your indoor air quality is healthy. During the past decade, home builders have documented a sharp increase in the number of buyers looking for eco-friendly building materials. From cabinets to flooring, buyers want to purchase materials that are sustainable for the environment and free of dangerous chemicals such as formaldehyde.
Builders that are able to address a buyer’s health concerns about toxic building materials and indoor air quality have a higher perceived home value and positive brand impact when compared to other builders. Buyers are willing to spend more money in order to select from eco-friendly building materials that are not only better for the environment but that are also better for your family.
Indoor air concerns when buying an existing home:
It will require more diligence on your part when you are buying an existing home and want to ensure you and your family will be breathing clean, healthy air. A home inspection by the highly trained professionals at Veteran Home Inspections can alert you to the presence of organic threats such as mold but you will need to go the extra mile in making sure the home does not contain dangerously high amounts of other chemical toxins.
The recent media coverage concerning high formaldehyde levels found in laminate flooring purchased through Lumber Liquidators has increased consumer awareness in regards to the number of household items and building materials that contain toxic levels of chemicals. As more consumers become aware of the chemical hazards found in flooring, common furniture and cabinet adhesives, particleboard furniture, and dozens of other building materials, consumer demand for safer building materials is on the increase.
The only way you can be certain the air you and your family are breathing is healthy is by performing an IAQ Home Survey test to alert you to the presence of indoor air pollutants. This test will provide you with an extensive and accurate assessment of a home’s air before you move in.
Veteran Home Inspections can provide you with high quality air testing for Volatile Organic Compounds, Formaldehyde, and even Tobacco Smoke Compounds.  Call 210-202-1974 today to schedule your IAQ Home Survey.  You can also schedule online at www.vhillc.com

Do I need an inspection for new construction homes?

In short, YES!
With the amount of new construction going on in this area, an inspection on new construction is critical.  First and foremost, outside of the major cities, there isn’t any code enforcement.  In other words, the city or county doesn’t inspect the builders work.  Some builders will hire their own inspectors to check up on their work, but this is really not sufficient.  I have seen these inspectors on site, and to be honest, I was not impressed.  They work for the builder, and therefore, are beholden to them.  Some have even outright lied and tried to tell buyers that the city inspected it, when they are outside city limits.
Most new construction contracts allow for 2-3 inspections throughout the building process.  The most common are pre-drywall and pre-closing (or final) inspection.  Some will also allow for slab inspections.  Make sure you get an inspector in at every opportunity, as we always find issues.  If you are presented with a contract that limits inspections to less than these, don’t sign it.  Also, beware of clauses that may restrict the inspector.  One large builder recently tried to prevent inspectors from things like inspecting the roof, opening the electric panel, and running appliances.  I think they were publicly shamed into changing their stance on that though (but if you get something like this, let me know).  Also, make sure you can pick your inspector.  Some will try to steer you to the blind inspector that never finds anything major.  We’ve had a couple builders try to blacklist us because we found too much, but thankfully (for our customers) they didn’t succeed.
So, what do we find on new construction?  Just over the last few months we’ve found issues with just about every major component.  Missing rebar in the foundation, damaged and improperly installed roofs, framing deficiencies, improper gas lines, electrical issues galore, heat registers that weren’t hooked up, plumbing leaks too numerous to count, missing insulation, and dangerous decks.
Another inspection that people are starting to get more frequently, is the 11-month warranty inspection.  Almost every new home comes with a 1-year warranty.  Make sure you get an inspection at the 11 month mark, so that we can not only find hidden issues that may have popped up, but we can also document that they were there before the warranty expired.
We know that you are spending a lot of money for your new home, and an inspection is just one more expense.  I can honestly say though, that we have never found less in needed repairs than our fee.  We do offer discounted packages for more than one inspection on a new construction house.
To schedule your new construction home inspection, call 210-202-1974 or visit www.vhillc.com to schedule online.

Septic Systems

Septic systems treat and disperse relatively small volumes of wastewater from individual and small numbers of homes and commercial buildings. Septic system regulation is usually a state and local responsibility. The EPA provides information to homeowners and assistance to state and local governments to improve the management of septic systems to prevent failures that could harm human health and water quality. 
 
Information for Homeowners
If your septic tank failed, or you know someone whose did, you are not alone. As a homeowner, you are responsible for maintaining your septic system. Proper septic system maintenance will help keep your system from failing and will help maintain your investment in your home. Failing septic systems can contaminate the ground water that you and your neighbors drink and can pollute nearby rivers, lakes and coastal waters.
 Ten simple steps you can take to keep your septic system working properly:
  1. Locate your septic tank and drainfield. Keep a drawing of these locations in your records.
  2. Have your septic system inspected at least every three years. Hire an inspector (like Veteran Home Inspections) trained in septic inspections.
  3. Pump your septic tank as needed (generally, every three to five years).
  4. Don’t dispose of household hazardous waste in sinks or toilets.
  5. Keep other household items, such as dental floss, feminine hygiene products, condoms, diapers, and cat litter out of your system.
  6. Use water efficiently.
  7. Plant only grass over and near your septic system. Roots from nearby trees or shrubs might clog and damage the system. Also, do not apply manure or fertilizers over the drainfield.
  8. Keep vehicles and livestock off your septic system. The weight can damage the pipes and tank, and your system may not drain properly under compacted soil.
  9. Keep gutters and basement sump pumps from draining into or near your septic system.
  10. Check with your local health department before using additives. Commercial septic tank additives do not eliminate the need for periodic pumping and can be harmful to your system.
How does it work? 
A typical septic system has four main components: a pipe from the home, a septic tank, a  drainfield, and the soil. Microbes in the soil digest and remove most contaminants from wastewater before it eventually reaches groundwater. The septic tank is a buried, watertight container typically made of concrete, fiberglass, or polyethylene. It holds the wastewater long enough to allow solids to settle out (forming sludge), and oil and grease to float to the surface (as scum). It also allows partial decomposition of the solid materials. Compartments and a T-shaped outlet in the septic tank prevent the sludge and scum from leaving the tank and traveling into the drainfield area. Screens are also recommended to keep solids from entering the drainfield. The wastewater exits the septic tank and is discharged into the drainfield for further treatment by the soil. Micro-organisms in the soil provide final treatment by removing harmful bacteria, viruses and nutrients.

Your septic system is your responsibility!

Did you know that, as a homeowner, you’re responsible for maintaining your septic system? Did you know that maintaining your septic system protects your investment in your home? Did you know that you should periodically inspect your system and pump out your septic tank? If properly designed, constructed and maintained, your septic system can provide long-term, effective treatment of household wastewater. If your septic system isn’t maintained, you might need to replace it, costing you thousands of dollars. A malfunctioning system can contaminate groundwater that might be a source of drinking water. And if you sell your home, your septic system must be in good working order.
Pump frequently…
You should have your septic system inspected at least every three years by a professional, and have your tank pumped as necessary (generally every three to five years).
Use water efficiently…
Average indoor water use in the typical single-family home is almost 70 gallons per person per day. Dripping faucets can waste about 2,000 gallons of water each year. Leaky toilets can waste as much as 200 gallons each day. The more water a household conserves, the less water enters the septic system.
Flush responsibly… 
Dental floss, feminine hygiene products, condoms, diapers, cotton swabs, cigarette butts, coffee grounds, cat litter, paper towels, and other kitchen and bathroom waste can clog and potentially damage septic system components. Flushing household chemicals, gasoline, oil, pesticides, anti-freeze and paint can stress or destroy the biological treatment taking place in the system, as well as contaminate surface waters and groundwater.
 
How do I maintain my septic system?
Why should I maintain my septic system?
 
A key reason to maintain your septic system is to save money! Failing septic systems are expensive to repair or replace, and poor maintenance is often the culprit. Having your septic system inspected (at least every three years) is a bargain when you consider the cost of replacing the entire system. Your system will need pumping every three to five years, depending on how many people live in the house and the size of the system. An unusable septic system or one in disrepair will lower your property’s value and could pose a legal liability. Other good reasons for safe treatment of sewage include preventing the spread of infection and disease, and protecting water resources. Typical pollutants in household wastewater are nitrogen, phosphorus, and disease-causing bacteria and viruses. Nitrogen and phosphorus are aquatic plant nutrients that can cause unsightly algae blooms. Excessive nitrate-nitrogen in drinking water can cause pregnancy complications, as well as methemoglobinemia (also known as “blue baby syndrome”) in infancy. Pathogens can cause communicable diseases through direct or indirect body contact, or ingestion of contaminated water or shellfish. If a septic system is working properly, it will effectively remove most of these pollutants.
Veteran Home Inspections will be adding septic inspections to our available services in March 2018.  In the interim, we can also coordinate a septic inspection for you.  To schedule, call 210-202-1974 or visit www.vhillc.com to schedule online.

FAQs about Home Inspection

What is a home inspection?
A home inspection is a visual examination of the home’s major structure, systems and components that are visible and safely accessible.  The inspector should substantially adhere to a standards of practice that outlines what should be covered during a general home inspection, as well as what is excluded. Some inspectors may strictly follow the standards of practice, while others, like Veteran Home Inspections, may exceed the standards and inspect other items, or perform a more detailed inspection. Whatever the inspector includes in his or her inspection should be discussed prior to the inspection – this is known as the scope of work. The inspector should be able to provide you with a copy or online link to the standards of practice they follow.  The inspector should provide you with a written report, which may include photos and/or recommendations, of his or her findings of the inspection.  Read InterNACHI’s Standards of Practice to find out what is typically included and excluded in a home inspection.  For Texas Specific Standards of Practice, click here.

Why should I get a home inspection?
Buying a home is typically the biggest investment you will ever make, so it’s important to get a home inspection because the inspector should be able to discover and document defects that may or may not be obvious to you as a prospective buyer.  Such defects can range from simple replacements or repairs, to severe damage or safety and health concerns. Additionally, most mortgage companies require a home inspection on a property before approving the home loan. Read InterNACHI’s Top 10 Reasons to Get a Home Inspection.

Where can I find a home inspector in my area?
There are several ways to find a home inspector. You may be able to find one online or in local ads. You may also find inspectors’ brochures by visiting a real estate office. There is no single method that is superior when it comes to finding an inspector who’s right for your inspection needs.  If you are in the greater San Antonio, TX and Hill Country area, click here to schedule your home inspection, or call 210-202-1974.
If you are outside of our service area, here are some online resources for finding a home inspector near you:
How can I be sure that a home inspector is qualified?
It is important to choose a home inspector who is qualified and holds a license or certification in the field. Many jurisdictions do not regulate home inspections, meaning that anyone could call themselves a home inspector. However, just because someone performs home inspections doesn’t mean that they’re actually qualified to do so. If you are buying or selling a home in an unregulated jurisdiction, make sure to look for a home inspector with the proper certifications. If you are located in a state or province that does require licensing of home inspectors, you should hire only a licensed professional.  Texas does license Home Inspectors.
Contact your state by phone or online to find out whether they license home inspectors, and what qualifications they’re required to have.  License numbers in licensing states may vary in appearance, but you should be able to independently verify it. If your state doesn’t require licensing, find out what qualifications and certifications your home inspector has. The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors – InterNACHI® – is the largest and most trusted home inspector association in the world.  Its members undergo rigorous training to become Certified Professional Inspectors (CPIs)®.  They also follow a Standards of Practice and adhere to a Code of Ethics.  Also, the Master Inspector Certification Board grants qualified inspectors the title of Certified Master Inspector® (CMI®), which is the highest professional designation in the inspection industry.  Find out if your inspector is licensed and/or a CPI or CMI® before you hire him or her. This will ensure that you are hiring only an individual who has received the best training to become a home inspector. Veteran Home Inspections is led by a Certified Master Inspector.
How much does a home inspection cost?
There is no set cost for a home inspection. The cost will vary based on the inspector, the local market, the geographic region, the scope of the inspection to be performed, and more. Before the inspection, you should find out what will be included in the inspection and what won’t, and these details should also be outlined in the inspection agreement that you will need to sign prior to the inspection.

How long does a home inspection take?
Depending on the home’s age, size, and location, as well as the home inspector’s own work protocols and ethic, your home inspection may take up to three hours. Adding square footage, outbuildings, and/or ancillary services (such as mold or lead paint testing) will increase that time. It may be necessary for your inspector to bring in a helper for a very large property. If your general home inspection takes significantly less than two to three hours, it may indicate that the inspector was not thorough enough.

At what point in the real estate transaction should I schedule a home inspection?
A home inspection is usually scheduled after an offer has been made and accepted, but before the closing date. That way, the inspector can rule out any major defects that could be dangerous or costly. In rare cases—due to timing or contractual issues—the inspection can be scheduled after the closing date. If this is the case, the home buyer should schedule the inspection for the earliest possible date after closing.

Should I be present for the inspection?
You should attend the inspection, and you should reconsider hiring an inspector who doesn’t allow this. You can learn a lot by following an inspector through the home. You will certainly gain a better understanding of the home’s condition, which will give you insight into its potential sale points and defects. Additionally, you will likely learn information about the home’s maintenance, systems and components that may provide useful for the transaction and ongoing maintenance of your home.

Can the home inspector also repair any defects he or she finds?
What if your home inspector is also a licensed contractor? Sounds great, right? Not always. Although it may seem convenient to have an inspector who is also a contractor, it poses a conflict of interest. According to InterNACHI’s Code of Ethics:
The InterNACHI member shall not perform or offer to perform, for an additional fee, any repairs or associated services to the structure for which the member or member’s company has prepared a home inspection report for a period of 12 months. This provision shall not include services to components and/or systems that are not included in the InterNACHI Standards of Practice.
If an inspector financially benefits from finding any defects, this can impact the accuracy of the report (whether intentional or not). Make sure the inspector you hire abides by a Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice.

What happens if the inspection reveals problems?
If your home inspection reveals any problems, it is important to understand the severity of the defect. For example, a missing shingle or dirty air filter can be easily fixed at a low cost. However, if the defect is more extreme, such as a major foundation crack, wood-destroying organism infestation, or evidence of mold, you should find out how these problems can be addressed, and whether you can negotiate their cost with the seller. If it is determined after you move in that your home has a severe defect that wasn’t reported by your InterNACHI® Certified Master Inspector®, you should check to see if he or she participates in InterNACHI’s “We’ll Buy Your Home Back” Guarantee.  Veteran Home Inspections offers this on all home inspections.

What is the Buy-Back Guarantee and how does it work?
If your InterNACHI® Certified Professional Inspector® participates in the Buy-Back Guarantee, InterNACHI® will buy your home back if the inspector misses something on your inspection.
Here’s how this program works:

What about warranties?

A normal home inspection is just a snapshot in time, and there is no warranty of future conditions or issues that will arise.  Some home inspection companies, like Veteran Home Inspections, offer a full package of warranties that provide some protection to you for stuff that pops up within 90 days of the inspection.  The best home inspection companies will also offer an extended home warranty at an additional cost that can cover you for 18 months after purchase.  For information on our 90 day warranties, click here.  To check out the best 18-month home warranty in the industry, click here.  If you are shopping around, make sure the inspector will actually stand behind their inspection.

Formaldehyde Testing

Formaldehyde is a colorless, pungent-smelling chemical widely used in industries that manufacture building materials and numerous household products. Thus, it may be present in substantial concentrations in indoor environments.
Where indoors may formaldehyde be found?International Association of Certified Indoor Air Consultants
Is it dangerous?
Several years after concern arose over high levels of formaldehyde found in some FEMA trailers, there is still a great deal of confusion regarding permissible levels of airborne formaldehyde in indoor environments.  Additional attention was drawn to formaldehyde when elevated levels were found in laminate flooring sold by Lumber Liquidators.
Formaldehyde is known to cause the following conditions:
In 1992, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) declared formaldehyde a “toxic air contaminant,” meaning that there is no safe level of exposure. In June 2004, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reclassified formaldehyde from “probably carcinogenic to humans” to “carcinogenic to humans,” specifically concerning nasopharyngeal (upper throat) cancer, while the National Toxicology Program (NTP) continues to classify formaldehyde as “reasonably anticipated to be a carcinogen in humans” for nasopharyngeal cancer.
Steps to Reduce Exposure
In summary, formaldehyde is an irritating and potentially dangerous gas that may accumulate in indoor environments.  Now, for the good news!  We can do non-destructive testing to determine if your home has elevated formaldehyde levels.  We offer this service either with a home inspection, or as a stand-alone service.  Contact us today at 210-202-1974 or www.vhillc.com to schedule your formaldehyde testing.

FREE Real Estate Agent Online Continuing Education

     Attention Texas Real Estate Agents!  Like you, I understand the chore of having to do continuing education.  What's even worse is having to pay someone else to take these courses just to maintain your license.  Because of this, I'm happy to be able to offer you a free course for 2 approved CE credits.  This course, Home Energy Score for Real Estate Professionals, is a great course that will teach you about the Home Energy Score program, and how you can use it to help your clients.


     To access the course, go to www.nachi.org/agentce and select Texas.  When it asks you for the ID of the NACHI inspector that referred you, enter NACHI14020415.  

     Once you've learned about the Home Energy Score program, contact Veteran Home Inspections to get your clients their score.  Not only can it help them save money on energy costs, it can help them get stretch FHA debt-to-income limits or get a larger Fannie Mae HomeStyle Energy loan!  

Lead Paint Hazards and Testing

Are you buying a home built before 1978?  Maybe you live in one currently.  If so, please read on.

Lead was a common additive to paint up until it was banned from use in residential housing.  As a paint additive, it worked great.  Unfortunately, the health effects were ignored, so there is a lot of it still in housing today.  There are a lot of rumors going around about lead paint, so this post will address several of them and also provide you with information on what to do next.

Rumor 1: "My kids don't eat paint chips!"  Paint Chips are only one source of lead poisoning.  The most common source is actually dust from lead paint.  Some of us older folks remember "self-cleaning paint."  This was nothing more than the lead in paint seeping out, and chalking on the surface.  After it rained, the dirt (and lead) would be washed off and the paint would look great.  The same dust is created by all lead paints, and the lead dust accumulates in your house.  The most common surfaces are the floor, window sills, and window wells.  Young kids, especially those crawling or playing on the floor a lot, pick up the dust on their clothes, hands, pacifiers, toys, etc. and put them in their mouths.  As for the paint chips, they are still a hazard.  One of the properties of lead is that it has a sweet taste.  This encourages kids to eat it.

Rumor 2: "If it's been painted over, it's not a risk"  Painting over lead paint is not an accepted method of remediation.  It may help mitigate, but it doesn't eliminate the risk of lead poisoning.  Additionally, the biggest sources of lead dust (window tracks, door jambs, painted floors, and other friction surfaces) can quickly wear down exposing the lead paint again).

Rumor 3: "It only affects kids."  While children under 6 years old are at the greatest risk to lead poisoning, lead will affect all ages.  In adults, lead can cause cardiovascular, neurological, kidney, and reproductive issues.  Lead can also pass from mother to child while pregnant and through breast milk.

Rumor 4: "They pretty much stopped using it around 1950."  I have personally inspected homes built in 1977 that had lead paint in them, some of them massive amounts.  On the flip side, I have inspected homes built in the early 1900's that had no lead paint at all.  Bottom line, the only way to know is to do a full surface-by-surface inspection to see if there is lead paint in the house.  For a report on the prevalence of lead in housing, click here.

Rumor 5: "I'll just use the test kits I can buy at the hardware store"  These tests are not 100%, and they have a standard set at 1.0mg/cm2 (small concentrations are ignored).  Additionally, proper use requires damaging the paint to ensure all layers are tested.The price of these swabs run about $5 each, and you need a new swab for each location.  In a typical 1500 square foot house, a lead inspector will test over 100 locations.

I'm sure by now you realized that not only is lead a hazard to your entire family, but there has to be an easy way to find out your risk.

We are Texas certified lead risk assessors and inspectors.  We can easily check your house for lead paint and help you determine the risk that it has on your family.  We'll also help you build an action plan to mitigate that risk. We use a combination of methods to find and assess lead paint, including an XRF machine that conducts instant non-destructive testing of painted surfaces.  The great thing is that it can see through all the layers of the paint, so even if there was only one layer of lead-based paint covered by several layers of non-lead-based paint, we will know.  Because it's fast and non-destructive, we can test all the painted surfaces in your home in a reasonable amount of time.  An average house of 1500 square feet takes about 60-90 minutes to test.  We can also do this inspection at the same time we do your home inspection.  If we do find lead paint, we can take dust wipe samples to determine if there is lead dust present and the concentrations.  These wipes have to be sent to a lab for analysis, but the turnaround time fairly quick.  Armed with this information, you can make an educated decision on how best to manage the risk to your family.

If you own rental properties that were built before 1978, you should also get them tested for lead paint.  This can help manage your risk as a landlord.

If your child has been found to have an elevated blood level, we can also perform EBL Investigations to help you find the source of the lead poisoning.  Hopefully your local health department will provide this, but if not, we are available to assist.

Are you doing renovations on a home built prior to 1978?  Make sure you know if and where there is lead paint.  We can do an inspection of the area to be renovated to let you know if you need to take lead paint RRP precautions.

What are the different types of inspections:

A Lead Inspection is an inspection to determine and report the presence of lead-based paint.

If lead paint is found, you should do a full Risk Assessment, which determines the existence, nature, severity, and location of lead-based paint hazards.

If you are buying a pre-1978 house, you have the right to conduct a lead paint inspection.  Don't waive this right in your contract, and have the house inspected.

To schedule a lead paint inspection or full risk assessment, contact Veteran Home Inspections at 210-202-1974 or schedule online at www.vhillc.com.  Based in Bandera, TX, we cover the San Antonio, TX and Hill Country area.


Flood-Damaged Homes & Buildings


by Nick Gromicko & Mike Marlow
 
Home and business owners should be prepared to protect themselves and their family members from the unique challenges posed by flood-damaged buildings. 
 
Hazards in and around flood-damaged buildings include the risks of:Good boots can protect against sharp debris in flood-damaged buildings
Inspection Tips
We here at Veteran Home Inspections wish everyone in the areas affected by Hurricane Harvey the best.  Take care and be safe.

Mike & Jamie Marlow
Veteran Home Inspections, PLLC
www.vhillc.com
210-202-1974

Protect Your Property From Water Damage

With the predicted rainfalls coming from the hurricane headed towards the Texas coast, now is a good time to take a look around your property to see where your vulnerabilities to water are.  A little maintenance and repair now can keep you dry and keep your home or business safe.

Water may be essential to life, but, as a destructive force, water can diminish the value of your home or building. Homes as well as commercial buildings can suffer water damage that results in increased maintenance costs, a decrease in the value of the property, lowered productivity, and potential liability associated with a decline in indoor air quality. The best way to protect against this potential loss is to ensure that the building components which enclose the structure, known as the building envelope, are water-resistant. Also, you will want to ensure that manufacturing processes, if present, do not allow excess water to accumulate. Finally, make sure that the plumbing and ventilation systems, which can be quite complicated in buildings, operate efficiently and are well-maintained. This article provides some basic steps for identifying and eliminating potentially damaging excess moisture.

Identify and Repair All Leaks and Cracks
The following are common building-related sources of water intrusion:
Prevent Water Intrusion Through Good Inspection and Maintenance Programs
Hire a qualified InterNACHI inspector to perform an inspection of the following elements of your building to ensure that they remain in good condition:
Protection From Water Damage
Act Quickly if  Water Intrusion Occurs
Label shut-off valves so that the water supply can be easily closed in the event of a plumbing leak. If water intrusion does occur, you can minimize the damage by addressing the problem quickly and thoroughly. Immediately remove standing water and all moist materials, and consult with a building professional. Should your building become damaged by a catastrophic event, such as fire, flood or storm, take appropriate action to prevent further water damage, once it is safe to do so. This may include boarding up damaged windows, covering a damaged roof with plastic sheeting, and/or removing wet materials and supplies. Fast action on your part will help minimize the time and expense for repairs, resulting in a faster recovery.

For water intrusion and mold inspections, call Veteran Home Inspections at 210-202-1974.  You can also book online at www.vhillc.com

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning and Detectors

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas that forms from incomplete combustion of fuels, such as natural or liquefied petroleum gas, oil, wood or coal.
 
Facts and Figures
Physiology of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
When CO is inhaled, it displaces the oxygen that would ordinarily bind with hemoglobin, a process the effectively suffocates the body. CO can poison slowly over a period of several hours, even in low concentrations. Sensitive organs, such as the brain, heart and lungs, suffer the most from a lack of oxygen.
High concentrations of carbon monoxide can kill in less than five minutes. At low concentrations, it will require a longer period of time to affect the body. Exceeding the EPA concentration of 9 parts per million (ppm) for more than eight hours may have adverse health affects. The limit of CO exposure for healthy workers, as prescribed by the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration, is 50 ppm.
 
Potential Sources of Carbon Monoxide

Any fuel-burning appliances which are malfunctioning or improperly installed can be a source of CO, such as:
 
 
 
 
PPM
% CO 
in air
Health Effects in Healthy Adults
Source/Comments
0
0%
no effects; this is the normal level in a properly operating heating appliance

35
0.0035%
maximum allowable workplace exposure limit for an eight-hour work shift
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
50
0.005%
maximum allowable workplace exposure limit for an eight-hour work shift
              OSHA
100
0.01%
slight headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, 
errors in judgment

125
0.0125%

workplace alarm must sound (OSHA)
200
0.02%
headache, fatigue, 
nausea, dizziness

400
0.04%
severe headache, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, confusion; can be life-threatening after three hours of exposure
evacuate area immediately
800
0.08%
convulsions, loss of consciousness;
death within three hours
evacuate area immediately
12,000
1.2%
nearly instant death

 
 
CO Detector Placement

CO detectors can monitor exposure levels, but do not place them:
Do place CO detectors:
In North America, some national, state and local municipalities require installation of CO detectors in new and existing homes, as well as commercial businesses, among them:  Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Vermont and New York City, and the Canadian province of Ontario. Installers are encouraged to check with their local municipality to determine what specific requirements have been enacted in their jurisdiction.
How can I prevent CO poisoning?
 

In summary, carbon monoxide is a dangerous poison that can be created by various household appliances. CO detectors must be placed strategically throughout the home or business in order to alert occupants of high levels of the gas.

To schedule your home inspection in San Antonio, TX, call 210-202-1974 or book online at www.vhillc.com

From https://www.nachi.org/carbon-monoxide.htm by Nick Gromicko 

Barbecue Safety

With tomorrow kicking off the summer, most of us will break out the BBQ sometime soon.  When you do, make sure you keep safety in mind.  And for tomorrow, take a moment to give thanks to the military men and women that gave their lives to allow us to live ours in freedom.
 
 
With barbecue season already here, homeowners should heed the following safety precautions in order to keep their families and property safe:

Safety Recommendations for General Grill Use
In summary, homeowners should exercise caution when using any kind of grill, as they can harm life and property in numerous ways. 

Remember, you can schedule your home inspection by calling 210-202-1974 or book online at www.vhillc.com

Adapted with permission from https://www.nachi.org/barbeque-safety.htm by Nick Gromicko

Attached Garage Fire Containment

To continue the information on garage fire safety, if the worst should happen, how can the fire be contained to the garage?
 
 

An attached garage is a garage that is physically attached to a house. Fires that begin in attached garages are more likely to spread to living areas than fires that originate in detached garages. For this reason, combined with the multitude of flammable materials commonly found in garages, attached garages should be adequately sealed from living areas. A properly sealed attached garage will ideally restrict the potential spread of fire long enough to allow the occupants time to escape the home or building.

Why are garages (both attached and detached) fire hazards?
Doors
The 2006 edition of the International Residential Code (IRC) states the following concerning doors that separate garages from living areas:
R309.1 Opening Penetration
Openings from a private garage directly into a room used for sleeping purposes shall not be permitted. Other openings between the garage and the residence shall be equipped with solid wood doors not less than 1-3/8” (35 mm) in thickness, solid- or honeycomb-core steel doors not less than 1-3/8” (35 mm) thick, or 20-minute fire-rated doors.
In addition, Veteran Home Inspections can check for the following while inspecting doors that separate garages from living areas:
Walls and Ceilings
The 2006 edition of the IRC states the following concerning garage walls and ceilings:
          R309.2 Separation Required
The garage shall be separated from the residence and its attic area by not less than 1/2-inch (12.7 mm) gypsum board applied to the garage side. Garages beneath habitable rooms shall be separated from all habitable rooms above by not less than 5/8-inch (15.9 mm) Type X gypsum board or equivalent. Where the separation is a floor-ceiling assembly, the structure supporting the separation shall also be protected by not less than 1/2-inch (12.7 mm) gypsum board or equivalent. Garages located less than 3 feet (914 mm) from a dwelling unit on the same lot shall be protected with not less than 1/2–inch (12.7 mm) gypsum board applied to the interior side of exterior walls that are within this area. Openings in these walls shall be regulated by Section 309.1. This provision does not apply to garage walls that are perpendicular to the adjacent dwelling unit wall.
In addition, inspectors can check for the following while inspecting walls and ceilings:
Ducts

The 2006 edition of the IRC states the following concerning ducts that penetrate garage walls and ceilings:
R309.1.1 Duct Penetration

Ducts in the garage and ducts penetrating the walls or ceilings separating the dwelling from the garage shall be constructed of a minimum No. 26-gauge (0.48 mm) steel sheet or other approved material, and shall have no openings in the garage.
Dryer exhaust ducts that penetrate garage walls are serious fire hazards. These ducts are generally made from plastic and will easily melt during a fire, creating a large breach in the firewall.

Floors

The 2006 edition of the IRC states the following concerning floors in garages:
          R309.3 Floor Surface
Garage floor surfaces shall be of approved, non-combustible material. The area of the floor used for parking of automobiles or other vehicles shall be sloped to facilitate the movement of liquids to a drain or toward the main vehicle entry doorway.
Inspectors should also check for the following:
Concerning items placed on the floor, inspectors should check for the following:
General safety tips that inspectors can pass onto their clients:
In summary, attached garages should be sealed off from the living space so that fire may be contained.

To schedule your home inspection, call Veteran Home Inspections at 210-202-1974 or schedule online at www.vhillc.com

Adapted with permission from https://www.nachi.org/attached-garage-fire-hazards.htm by Nick Gromicko and Kenton Shepard

Attached Garage Fire Hazards

The purpose of this article is twofold. First, at Veteran Home Inspections, we’d like you to take measures to keep your garage free from fire. Fortunately, there are ways this can be done, some of which are described below. Secondly, garage fires do happen, and we’d like you to make sure that a fire cannot not easily spread to the rest of your house. While you can perform many of the recommendations in this article yourself, it is a good idea to hire Veteran Home Inspections to make sure your home is safe from a garage fire.
Why do many garages pose a fire hazard?
The following tips can help prevent garage fires and their spread:
If there is a door that connects the garage to the living area, consider the following:
Concerning items placed on the floor, you should check for the following:
In summary, there are plenty of things that you can do to prevent garage fires from spreading to the rest of the house, or to keep them from starting in the first place. However, it is highly recommended that you have your garage periodically examined by an inspector.

To schedule your home inspection, call Veteran Home Inspections at 210-202-1974 or schedule online at www.vhillc.com

Adapted with permission from https://www.nachi.org/garage-fires-client.htm by Nick Gromicko and Kenton Shepard

Air Sampling for Mold Inspections

Since we are now certified to do mold testing, here is a quick article on the benefits and issues with doing air samples for mold testing.  Veteran Home Inspections can provide you with air sampling, tape lift sampling, and a complete mold inspection, which helps identify the causes of indoor mold. 


Taking air samples during a mold inspection is important for several reasons.  Mold spores are not visible to the naked eye, and the types of mold present can often be determinair sampleed through laboratory analysis of the air samples.  Having samples analyzed can also help provide evidence of the scope and severity of a mold problem, as well as aid in assessing human exposure to mold spores.  After remediation, new samples are typically taken to help ensure that all mold has been successfully removed.
 
Air samples can be used to gather data about mold spores present in the interior of a house.  These samples are taken by using a pump that forces air through a collection device which catches mold spores.  The sample is then sent off to a laboratory to be analyzed.  InterNACHI inspectors who perform mold inspections often utilize air sampling to collect data, which has become commonplace.
Air-Sampling Devices
There are several types of devices used to collect air samples that can be analyzed for mold.  Some common examples include:
When and When Not to Sample
Samples are generally best taken if visual, non-invasive examination reveals apparent mold growth or conditions that could lead to growth, such as moisture intrusion or water damage.  Musty odors can also be a sign of mold growth.  If no sign of mold or potential for mold is apparent, one or two indoor air samples can still be taken, at the discretion of the inspector and client, in the most lived-in room of the house and at the HVAC unit.  
Outdoor air samples are also typically taken as a control for comparison to indoor samples.  Two samples -- one from the windward side and one from the leeward side of the house -- will help provide a more complete picture of what is in the air that may be entering the house through windows and doors at times when they are open.  It is best to take the outdoor samples as close together in time as possible to the indoor samples that they will be compared with.
InterNACHI inspectors should avoid taking samples if a resident of the house is under a physician’s care for mold exposure, if there is litigation in progress related to mold on the premises, or if the inspector’s health or safety could be compromised in obtaining the sample.  Residential home inspectors also should not take samples in a commercial or public building.
Where to Sample and Ideal Conditions
In any areas of a house suspected or confirmed to have mold growth, air samples can be taken to help verify and gather more information.  Moisture intrusion, water damage, musty odors, apparent mold growth, or conditions conducive to mold growth are all common reasons to gather an air sample.  Samples should be taken near the center of the room, with the collection device positioned 3 to 6 feet off the ground.
Ten minutes is an adequate amount of time for the air pump to run while taking samples, but this can be reduced to around five minutes if there is a concern that air movement from a lot of indoor activity could alter the results.  The sampling time can be reduced further if there is an active source of dust, such as from ongoing construction.
Sampling should take place in livable spaces within the house under closed conditions in order to help stabilize the air and allow for reproducibility of the sampling and measurement.  While the sample is being collected, windows and exterior doors should be kept shut other than for normal entry and exit from the home.  It is best to have air exchangers (other than a furnace) or fans that exchange indoor-outdoor air switched off during sampling.
Weather conditions can be an important factor in gathering accurate data. Severe thunderstorms or unusually high winds can affect the sampling and analysis results.  High winds or rapid changes in barometric pressure increase the difference in air pressure between the interior and exterior, which can increase the variability of airborne mold-spore concentration.  Large differences in air pressure between the interior and exterior can cause more airborne spores to be sucked inside, skewing the results of the sample. 
Difficulties and Practicality of Air Sampling
It is helpful to think of air sampling as just one tool in the tool belt when inspecting a house for mold problems.  An air sample alone is not enough to confirm or refute the existence of a problem, and such testing needs to be accompanied by visual inspection and other methods of data collection, such as a surface sample.  Indoor airborne spore levels can vary according to several factors, and this can lead to skewed results if care is not taken to set up the sampling correctly.  Also, since only spores are collected with an air sample and may actually be damaged during collection, identification of the mold type can be more difficult than with a sample collected with tape or a cultured sample.
Air samples are good for use as a background screen to ensure that there isn’t a large source of mold not yet found somewhere in a home.  This is because they can detect long chains of spores that are still intact.  These chains normally break apart quickly as they travel through the air, so a sample that reveals intact chains can indicate that there is mold nearby, possibly undiscovered during other tests and visual examination. 
In summary, when taken under controlled conditions and properly analyzed, air samples for mold are helpful in comparing relative particle levels between a problem and a control area.  They can also be crucial for comparing particle levels and air quality in an area before and after mold remediation.  

To schedule your complete mold inspection and testing appointment, call 210-202-1974 or visit www.vhillc.com.

by Nick Gromicko and Ethan Ward
used with permission from: https://www.nachi.org/air-sampling-mold-inspection.htm

Termite Control in the Home

Veteran Home Inspections provides Wood Destroying Insect inspections for the San Antonio, TX and Hill Country area.  

The following is an article from our professional organization about termites and how to best control them in your home:

Wood-destroying insects and other organisms can cause serious problems in the wooden structural components of a house, and may go undetected for a long period of time.

New Construction
All chemical soil treatments, bait systems, and chemical wood treatment must be approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and applied in accordance with the EPA label's instructions. In some cases, it is not feasible for a builder to arrange for soil treatment. In this regard, the International Residential Code (IRC) by the International Code Council allows a builder to utilize pressure-treated wood as a measure of termite protection. If pressure-treated wood is used, however, it must be used in all framing members up to and including the top plate of the first floor's level wall. This includes the sub-floor and floor joists of the first floor. The use of pressure-treated wood in only the sill plate is not acceptable. In such cases, the builder must provide the lender with a letter stating that the house is protected from termites by the use of pressure-treated wood. The builder must also provide the home buyer with a one-year warranty against termites. The use of post-construction soil treatment where the chemicals are applied only around the perimeter of the foundation is NOT acceptable in new construction.
Appraiser’s Observations
Appraisers are to observe all areas of the house and other structures/areas within the legal boundaries of the property that have potential for infestation by termites and other wood-destroying organisms, including the bottoms of exterior doors and frames, wood siding in contact with the ground, and crawlspaces. Mud tunnels running from the ground up the side of the house may indicate termite infestation. Observe the eaves and gable vents and wood window sills for indication of the entrance of swarming termites, and note excessive dampness or large areas where the vegetation is dead. Evidence of active termite infestation must be noted.
Termites 
 
Subterranean termites are the most damaging insects of wood. Their presence is hard to notice, and damage usually is found before the termites are seen. Prevent infestations because if they occur, they will almost always need professional pest-control service.
Signs of Infestation
Hire a qualified InterNACHI inspector to inspect for termites or other wood-destroying organisms. Generally, the first sign of infestation is the presence of swarming termites on the window or near indoor light. If they are found inside the house, it almost always means that they have infested. Other signs that may be found are termite wings on window sills or in cobwebs, and shelter tubes, which are tunnels constructed by the termites from soil or wood and debris. Usually, wood damage is not found at first, but when it is found, it definitely reveals a termite infestation. Anywhere wood touches soil is a possible entry into a home for termites. Examine wood which sounds dull or hollow when struck by a screwdriver or hammer. Inspect suspected areas with a sharp, pointed tool, such as an ice pick, to find termite galleries or their damage.
Control
Control measures include reducing the potential infestation, preventing termite entry, and applying chemicals for remedial treatment.
Inspection
Inspect thoroughly to determine if there is an infestation, damage, and/or conditions that could invite a termite attack, or the need for remedial control measures. The tools and equipment needed for an inspection include a flashlight, ice pick or sharp-pointed screwdriver, ladder, and protective clothing. Always hire an InterNACHI inspector for your inspection needs, as they are trained by the highest standards in the inspection industry.
Outdoors
Check the foundation of the house, garage and other buildings for shelter tubes coming from the soil. Look closely around porches, connecting patios, sidewalks, areas near kitchens and bathrooms, and hard-to-see places. Check window and door frames, and where utility services enter the house for termite infestation or wood decay. Also, look behind shrubbery and plants near walls. Pay special attention to areas where earth and wood meet, such as fences, stair carriages and trellises. Open and check any exterior electrical meter or fuse box set into the wall, a common point of infestation.
Indoors
Carefully check all doors, window facings, baseboards, and hardwood flooring. Discoloration or stains on walls or ceilings may mean that water is leaking and can decay wood, and this can aid termite infestation. It is very important to inspect where plumbing and utility pipes enter the foundation and flooring. Also, examine the attic for shelter tubes, water leakage, and wood damage.
.
 Prevention
 Many termite problems can be prevented. The most important thing to do is to deny termites access to food (wood), moisture and shelter. Follow these suggestions:
  • have at least a 2-inch clearance between the house and planter boxes, or soil-filled porches;
  • eliminate all wood-to-soil contact, such as trellises, fence posts, stair casings and door facings (they can be put on masonry blocks or on treated wood);
  • separate shrubbery from the house to help make it easier to inspect the foundation line;
  • use wolmanized wood (pressure-treated wood) so that rain will not rot it;
  • seal openings through the foundation;
  • remove wood scraps and stumps from around the foundation;
  • have at least 12 to 18 inches of clearance between floor beams and the soil underneath.
Chemical Treatment
Termite treatment often requires specialized equipment. Therefore, it is recommended that you always use the services of a pest control operator because he is familiar with construction principles and practices, has the necessary equipment, and knows about subterranean termites.
Exterminating Termites 

If you think you have a termite infestation in your house, you need to call a structural pest control company to conduct a professional inspection. To find a company, ask friends or coworkers for recommendations, or check the Yellow Pages. If the inspection finds evidence of drywood termites, you have several options, depending on the degree of infestation. Fumigation and heating of the entire house are the only options that ensure eradication in the entire structure. If the infestation is contained in a small area, local or spot control may be effective. However, hidden infestations in other parts of the structure will not be eradicated.
Total (Whole-House) Eradication 
For the heat method, pets, plants, and other items that might be damaged by high temperatures must be removed. The house is then covered with tarps, and hot air is blown into the tarp until the inside temperature reaches 140° F to 150° F, and the temperature of the structural timbers reaches 120° F. The time to complete this procedure varies greatly from one structure to another, depending on factors such as the building's construction and the weather conditions. The procedure may not be practical for structures that cannot be heated evenly.
Local or Spot Control
Local or spot-control methods include the use of pesticides, electric current, extreme cold, localized heat, microwave energy, or any combination of these methods. Local or spot control also includes the removal and replacement of infested structural timber. These methods are intended to remove or kill termites only within the specific targeted area, leaving open the possibility of other undetected infestations within the structure. These treatments are NOT designed for whole-house eradication. Any pest control company that claims whole-house results with local or spot control methods is guilty of false advertising and should be reported.
Local or spot treatment with pesticides involves drilling and injecting pesticides into infested timbers, as well as the topical application of toxic chemicals. The electric-current method involves delivering electric energy to targeted infestations. For the extreme cold method, liquid nitrogen is pumped into wall voids adjacent to suspected infestation sites, reducing the area to -20° F. The localized heat method involves heating infested structural timbers to 120° F. The microwave method kills termites by directing microwaves into termite-infested wood.


If you see the following signs in your house, you might have termites:
  
• sawdust-like droppings; 
• dirt or mud-like tubes or trails on the structure; 
• damaged wood members (like window sills); and 
• swarming winged insects within the structure, especially in the spring or fall.

To schedule your home inspection with a wood destroying insect inspection, please call 210-202-1974 or schedule online at www.vhillc.com

Ten Tips to Speed Up Your Home Inspection

Speed up your home sale by preparing your home ahead of time using the following tips. Your home inspection will go smoother, with fewer concerns to delay closing.


 

  1. Confirm that that the water, electrical and gas services are turned on (including pilot lights).
  2. Make sure your pets won't hinder your home inspection. Ideally, they should be removed from the premises or secured outside. Tell your agent about any pets at home.
  3. Replace burned-out light bulbs to avoid a "light is inoperable" report that may suggest an electrical problem.
  4. Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and replace dead batteries.
  5. Clean or replace dirty HVAC air filters. They should fit securely.
  6. Remove stored items, debris and wood from the foundation. These may be cited as "conducive conditions" for termites.
  7. Remove items blocking access to HVAC equipment, electrical service panels, the water heater, attic and crawlspace.
  8. Unlock any locked areas that your home inspector must access, such as the attic door or hatch, the electrical service panel, the door to the basement, and any exterior gates.
  9. Trim tree limbs so that they're at least 10 feet away from the roof.  Trim any shrubs that are too close to the house and can hides pests or hold moisture against the exterior. 
  10. Repair or replace any broken or missing items, such as doorknobs, locks or latches, windowpanes or screens, gutters or downspouts, or chimney caps.
Checking these areas before your home inspection is an investment in selling your property. Better yet, have your InterNACHI inspector ensure that your home is Move-In Certified™.  Your real estate agent will thank you!

To schedule an inspection with a Certified Master Inspector, call Veteran Home Inspections at 210-202-1974 or book online at www.vhillc.com

10 Easy Ways to Save Money & Energy in Your Home

 
   
Most people don’t know how easy it is to make their homes run on less energy, and here at Veteran Home Inspections, we want to change that. 
Drastic reductions in heating, cooling and electricity costs can be accomplished through very simple changes, most of which homeowners can do themselves. Of course, for homeowners who want to take advantage of the most up-to-date knowledge and systems in home energy efficiency, Veteran Home Inspection's energy auditor can perform in-depth testing to find the best energy solutions for your particular home. 
Why make your home more energy efficient? Here are a few good reasons:
1. Find better ways to heat and cool your house. 
As much as half of the energy used in homes goes toward heating and cooling. The following are a few ways that energy bills can be reduced through adjustments to the heating and cooling systems:
2. Install a tankless water heater.
Demand-type water heaters (tankless or instantaneous) provide hot water only as it is needed. They don't produce the standby energy losses associated with traditional storage water heaters, which will save on energy costs. Tankless water heaters heat water directly without the use of a storage tank. When a hot water tap is turned on, cold water travels through a pipe into the unit. A gas burner or an electric element heats the water. As a result, demand water heaters deliver a constant supply of hot water. You don't need to wait for a storage tank to fill up with enough hot water.
3. Replace incandescent lights.
The average household dedicates 11% of its energy budget to lighting. Traditional incandescent lights convert approximately only 10% of the energy they consume into light, while the rest becomes heat. The use of new lighting technologies, such as light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), can reduce the energy use required by lighting by 50% to 75%. Advances in lighting controls offer further energy savings by reducing the amount of time that lights are on but not being used. Here are some facts about CFLs and LEDs:
4. Seal and insulate your home.
Sealing and insulating your home is one of the most cost-effective ways to make a home more comfortable and energy-efficient, and you can do it yourself. A tightly sealed home can improve comfort and indoor air quality while reducing utility bills. An energy auditor can assess  leakage in the building envelope and recommend fixes that will dramatically increase comfort and energy savings.
The following are some common places where leakage may occur:
Because hot air rises, air leaks are most likely to occur in the attic. Homeowners can perform a variety of repairs and maintenance to their attics that save them money on cooling and heating, such as: 
5. Install efficient showerheads and toilets.
The following systems can be installed to conserve water usage in homes:
6. Use appliances and electronics responsibly.
Appliances and electronics account for about 20% of household energy bills in a typical U.S. home. The following are tips that will reduce the required energy of electronics and appliances:
7. Install daylighting as an alternative to electrical lighting.
Daylighting is the practice of using natural light to illuminate the home's interior. It can be achieved using the following approaches:
8. Insulate windows and doors.
About one-third of the home's total heat loss usually occurs through windows and doors. The following are ways to reduce energy lost through windows and doors:
9. Cook smart.
An enormous amount of energy is wasted while cooking. The following recommendations and statistics illustrate less wasteful ways of cooking:
10. Change the way you do laundry.
Homeowners who take the initiative to make these changes usually discover that the energy savings are more than worth the effort. Veteran Home Inspections can make this process much easier because they can perform a more comprehensive assessment of energy-savings potential than the average homeowner can.

To schedule your home energy score inspection, contact us today at 210-202-1974 or book online at www.vhillc.com.

Adapted with permission from https://www.nachi.org/increasing-home-energy-efficiency-client.htm by Nick Gromicko, Ben Gromicko, and Kenton Shepard

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