I inspect pools on a regular basis as part of a home inspection. Here are some great points to keep in mind regarding owning or installing a swimming pool.
If you're planning to install a pool, be prepared to spend a pretty penny. On average, in-ground pool installations average $40,000. A word to the wise: Don't expect to add the pool value to your asking price when you sell your home someday. The truth is, many buyers may consider a home with a pool more of a burden than a blessing.
If you decide to begin with a pool installation, carefully consider pool placement in your yard. Consider daylight and how it will impact water temps, view from the home from a safety standpoint, etc. An experienced pool installer should be able to help you avoid making a mistake with pool placement.
I also recommend getting to know safety guidelines and requirements for pool installation. The short version amounts to you being responsible for whatever happens, so bear that in mind when planning your pool. Safety should be your #1 priority in considering buying or installing a swimming pool.
Of course, before you buy a home with a pool, get the pool inspected. Please remember that the pool should be operating as if it will be used for swimming at any time in order for a proper inspection to take place. Many times, some or all equipment has been shut down by the homeowner to save money or hide defective equipment. I do not turn on equipment or operate valves/components of the pool due to liability. Most experienced pool inspectors nationwide stick to these guidelines as well.
It may help to find out if the previous homeowner had a pool company servicing the pool so you can find out if it's been serviced regularly and what that company charges. Keep in mind that maintenance is never cheap, and can become a burden if you are attempting to DIY.
Many pool maintenance companies charge a few hundred dollars for the company to open the pool at the beginning of the summer (including removing the cover, cleaning out debris and getting the motor running again), and close it at the end of the season, while others also charge for weekly or biweekly cleanings. When homeowners don't pay for regular cleanings or clean it themselves, that can trigger costlier maintenance calls.
The cost of replacing motors, heaters, pumps and covers (which can get moldy if they're rolled up while wet) varies depending on the size and model used. Adding chemicals to balance the pool's pH level is another cost. Pools that are unused or partially filled in the heat of the summer are always a red flag. If the home you're considering has a pool that is not operating or partially filled, assume the wor$t!
Don’t forget about insurance costs. Insurance companies usually try to avoid insuring homes with swimming pools. Contact your insurance company or agent to make sure you can get coverage, and find out what it will cost you, since a pool increases the homeowner's liability risk.
Pools are meant to be fun, so getting a handle on the expected costs can help avoid costly surprises in the future.
If you're planning to purchase a home with an in ground swimming pool, feel free to contact me! I can take care of your home inspection and pool inspection.
AFCI’s and our future.
You may or may not be familiar with the term AFCI. An Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI) is a circuit breaker that breaks the circuit when it detects an electric arc in the circuit it protects to prevent electrical fires. An AFCI selectively distinguishes between a harmless arc (incidental to normal operation of switches, plugs, and brushed motors), and a potentially dangerous arc (that can occur, for example, in a lamp cord which has a broken conductor).
Arc faults are one of the leading causes for residential electrical fires. Each year in the United States, over 40,000 fires are attributed to home electrical wiring. These fires result in over 350 deaths and over 1,400 injuries each year.
Conventional circuit breakers only respond to overloads and short circuits, so they do not protect against arcing conditions that produce erratic, and often reduced current. An AFCI is selective so that normal arcs do not cause it to trip. The AFCI circuitry continuously monitors the current and discriminates between normal and unwanted arcing conditions. Once detected, the AFCI opens its internal contacts, thus de-energizing the circuit and reducing the potential for a fire to occur.
AFCIs are not new. In fact, they've been required by the National Electric Code (NEC) since 1999. You may have never heard of AFCIs because your home was built prior to their widespread use. As of the 2014 NEC, AFCI protection is required on all branch circuits supplying outlets or devices installed in dwelling unit kitchens, family rooms, dining rooms, living rooms, parlors, libraries, dens, bedrooms, sunrooms, recreation rooms, closets, hallways, laundry areas, and similar rooms and areas. My prediction, is that AFCIs will be required for every circuit at every home in America, probably very soon. Safety and Security have come a long way in the last decade or so. Electrical systems can provide a tremendous amount of power and convenience to a home, with little to no concern or responsibility on the part of the homeowner. It's important for your home to have a certain level of safeguards installed in your electrical system, which could include AFCIs or other safety devices.
As a reminder, your responsibility as a home owner or occupant is to test your AFCI breakers (if installed) at least monthly.
How do you know if you're home has this safety device installed? The only way to know for sure, is to hire a licensed professional home inspector to check before you buy. If you'd like to learn more about AFCIs and other components of your home, please check back on my blog, as I plan to update often with great content!
Thank you for stopping by!
Drain/Waste vent systems (DWV) systems maintain air pressure in the drain lines, allowing flow of water and sewage down drain lines and through waste pipes using good ol’ gravity. It’s important that a downward slope be maintained throughout, to keep liquids and solids flowing freely towards the main drain from the building. In rare situations, a downward slope out of a building to the sewer can’t be created, and a special collection pit and grinding lift "sewage ejector" pump is needed. By contrast, drinking water supply systems operate under pressure to distribute water up through buildings, and do not require a continuous downward slope in their piping.
Every fixture is required to have an internal or external trap; double trapping is prohibited by current plumbing codes due to its susceptibility to clogging. Every plumbing fixture must also have an attached vent. The top of stacks must be vented too, via a stack vent, which is sometimes called a stink pipe.
All plumbing waste fixtures use traps to prevent sewer gases from leaking into the house. Through traps, all fixtures are connected to waste lines, which in turn take the waste to a "soil stack", or "soil vent pipe". At the building drain system's lowest point, the drain-waste vent is attached, and rises (usually inside a wall) to and out of the roof. Waste exits from the building through the building's main drain and flows through a sewage line, which leads to a septic system or a public sewer. Cesspools are generally prohibited in developed areas.
The venting system, or plumbing vents, consists of a number of pipes leading from waste pipes to the outdoors, usually through the roof. Vents provide a means to release sewer gases outside instead of inside the house. Vents also admit oxygen to the waste system to allow aerobic sewage digestion, and to discourage noxious anaerobic expansion. Vents provide a way to equalize the pressure on both sides of a trap, thereby allowing the trap to hold the water which is needed to maintain effectiveness of the trap, and avoiding "trap suckout" which otherwise might occur.
A sewer pipe is normally at neutral air pressure compared to the surrounding area. When a column of waste water flows through a pipe, it compresses air ahead of it in the pipe, creating a positive pressure that must be released so it does not push back on the waste stream and downstream trap water seals. As the column of water passes, air must freely flow in behind the waste stream, or negative pressure results. The extent of these pressure fluctuations is determined by the fluid volume of the waste discharge.Excessive negative air pressure, behind a "slug" of water that is draining, can siphon water from traps at plumbing fixtures. Generally, a toilet outlet has the shortest trap seal, making it most vulnerable to being emptied by induced siphonage. An empty trap can allow noxious sewer gases to enter a building.On the other hand, if the air pressure within the drain becomes suddenly higher than ambient, this positive transient could cause waste water to be pushed into the fixture, breaking the trap seal, with serious hygeine and health consequences if too forceful. Taller buildings of three or more stories are particularly susceptible to this problem. Vent stacks are installed in parallel to waste stacks to allow proper venting in tall buildings.Most residential building drainage systems in North America are vented directly through the building roofs. The DWV pipe is typically ABS or PVC DWV-rated plastic pipe equipped with a flashing at the roof penetration to prevent rainwater from entering the buildings. Older homes may use Cast iron or lead pipes.Under many older building codes, a vent stack (a pipe leading to the main roof vent) is required to be within a 5-foot (1.5 m) radius of the draining fixture it serves (sink, toilet, shower stall, etc.). To allow only one vent stack, and thus one roof penetration as permitted by local building code, sub-vents may be tied together inside the building and exit via a common vent stack. One additional requirement for a vent stack connection occurs when there are very long horizontal drain runs with very little slope to the run. Adding a vent connection within the run will aid flow, and when used with a cleanout allows for better serviceability of the long run.A blocked vent is a relatively common problem caused by anything from leaves, to dead animals, to ice dams in very cold weather, or a horizontal section of the venting system, sloped the wrong way and filled with water from rain or condensation. Symptoms range from bubbles in the toilet bowl when it is flushed, to slow drainage, and all the way to siphoned (empty) traps which allow sewer gases to enter the building.When a fixture trap is venting properly, a "sucking" sound can often be heard as the fixture vigorously empties out during normal operation. This phenomenon is harmless, and is different from "trap suckout" induced by pressure variations caused by wastewater movement elsewhere in the system, which is not supposed to allow interactions from one fixture to another. Toilets are a special case, since they are usually designed to self-siphon to ensure complete evacuation of their contents; they are then automatically refilled by a special valve mechanism.An island fixture vent, sometimes colloquially called a "Chicago Loop" is an alternate way of venting the trap installed on an under counter island sink or other similar applications where a conventional vertical vent stack or air admittance valve (AAV) is not feasible or allowed.As with all drains, ventilation must be provided to allow the flowing waste water to displace the sewer gas in the drain, and then to allow air (or some other fluid) to fill the vacuum which would otherwise form as the water flows down the pipe.An island fixture vent provides an elegant solution for this necessity: when the drain is opened, water displaces the sewer gas up to the sanitary tee, the water flows downward while sewer gas is displaced upward and toward the vent. The vent can also provide air to fill any vacuum created.The key to a functional island fixture vent is that the top elbow must be at least as high as the "flood level" (the peak possible drain water level in the sink). This ensures that the vent never becomes waterlogged.
Like to learn more about your home and how it all works? Check back here often for great content.
Too often, I see DIY installation and repairs throughout the home inspection process that are wrong, and just plain unsafe! When it comes to doing electrical repairs and dealing with electrical problems, trying to sort them out yourself is one of the most dangerous and ultimately costly approaches that you can take. Too many people underestimate the complexity of the services carried out by a licensed electrician and think that they will be able to address the problem without the need for professional electrical contractor.
When working with electricity, safety should be priority one! While it is true that there are some electrical jobs that a number of people can successfully complete, all too often the average person is unaware of the safety measures and precautions that are taken by trained and reputable electricians.
There really is no substitute for having a job done thoroughly and safely by hiring a professional licensed electrician to complete your repairs. I can't stress enough, call a pro when it comes to electricity! It could save your life!
That being said, what are some of the most common electrical mistakes made by people who know little about working with electricity? Below is a great sample of what I see daily!
#1: Using incorrectly sized wires and cables
The term ‘gauge’ refers to the variety of sizes that electrical wire comes in. Different sized wires are used for different jobs and purposes and the gauge of the wire also dictates the areas in which it should be used. If the wrong sized wire is used for the electrical current, overheating or a shorting of the fuse or circuit breaker can result. Therefore, it is very important that the wire and devices that are appropriately rated for the amperage they will carry are used.
#2: Incorrect repairs of outlets and switches
We can all picture outlets and switches that seem to dangle from the wall. Perhaps you even have some of these around your home or office. Outlets and switches in such a state are categorically dangerous. When appliances are plugged in to loosely fitted outlets, the wires can loosen from their terminals and cause arcing and overheating.
#3: Poor connections in electrical boxes or missing junction boxes
Never attempt to make electrical connections outside of electrical junction boxes. The purpose of electrical boxes is to provide protection from external elements; if you wish for an extension, a metal or plastic box should be used.
It is also hazardous to add to or overfill electrical boxes with connections as this increases the likelihood of short-circuiting and overheating.
#4: Replacement of breakers/fuses
Protection of wire ampacity ratings, together with the electrical flow onto all connected appliances, is afforded by the safety mechanisms of breakers and fuses. It is often the case that when a fuse keeps blowing a person believes that it just needs to be replaced – over and over again – or that a bigger fuse or breaker needs to be used. Frighteningly, this is one of the major causes of home fires and continually replacing fuses or resetting breakers is dangerous.
If a fuse continually blows, or the breaker trips, there is a problem with the circuit wiring and this needs to be attended to by a professional and qualified electrician.
#5: Loose connections
It is important that all connections in a breaker/fuse box are tight and correctly placed. If connections are loose, appliances and lights will often flicker and perhaps even shut off. In the worst case, circuits will overheat, potentially creating a fire hazard!
If you suspect that you have a problem with your electrical connections, arrange to have them inspected by an electrician. While it is definitely not recommended that you try to inspect them yourself, be aware that it is essential that breakers are turned off before they are examined.
#6: Overloading outlets and electrical cords
Overloading switches or outlets is one of the most frequently seen electrical mistakes. It may not seem a problem as multiple adaptors and switches with many outlets can easily be purchased, but if a circuit is loaded up with more amps than it can handle, the breaker is at greater risk of tripping. This risk is especially great when switches and outlets are loaded up with big appliances such as air conditioners, refrigerators and dishwashers.
When it comes to the use of electrical cords, electricians recommend that an electrical cord only be used if it has the required ampacity.
Please remember, extension cords are not designed for use as permanent electrical supply!
The common electrical mistakes covered in this article are ones that many of us relate to; in fact, many are present in the average home or workplace. It is important to be mindful of these problems and always seek the services of an electrician to fix electrical problems.
Have a question regarding your electrical system? Call me! I can help!
If you have a Carrier or Bryant brand Heat Pump, check out the following recall info:
Below are two text book examples of why you should have your home inspected, whether it's 100 years old, or brand new.
The photo above shows a fireplace flue, or chimney,
A closer view of the label shows that the label reads "Hot surface, maintain a minimum 1 inch clearance from combustible materials."
Now, even if you are not a home inspector, you can see that this vent should not come in contact with potentially flammable materials, right?
A little back story regarding this new home construction and this defect. The above information was delivered to the SAVVY home buyer and equally SAVVY agent that hired a professional home inspector. The SAVVY home buyer and SAVVY agent presented this repar request to the home builder for an easy, dare I say, cost free repair. The builder flat refused to correct this issue, even though the vent manufacturer and a Licensed home inspector state that a change is necessary. Incredible! Why wouldn't a home builder want to take care of their customer, especially when it costs them nothing?
The answer is simple: Home builders in Texas are not licensed, and sometimes have zero training or education in home building.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: you NEED to hire a licensed independent home inspector to inspect your home! Protect your investment!
Below is great info to protect your home and your family. Your best bet is always planning ahead, including properly installed and tested smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.
Report: NFPA's "Home Structure Fires" (PDF)
This report examines causes and circumstances of home structure fires reported to local fire departments in the U.S. Estimates are provided of home fires and losses overall, and for fires in one- or two-family homes and for apartments or other multi-family housing. The discussion of major causes includes key findings from the more detailed reports on the topic. Victim age is also included.