Throughout the process of a home inspection, a quality experienced home inspector is looking for a variety of defects throughout the home.
I will start right off by saying most of the defects on my inspection reports are fairly minor. To me. But what is minor to me?
By definition for me, a minor defect is one that is repairable, not costly, and is usually part of normal home ownership.
So since I've defined minor to me, I should also define major defects to me. A major defect is one that could affect safety, security, useful life span of the home, or could be costly. All of these are relative terms of course, but we're not talking about that. For example by costly, I mean anything you could expect to spend more than $500 on correcting.
With all that being said, we're back to where we started.
Most of the defects on an inspection report are minor. But that doesn't mean they shouldn't be repaired.
And, that doesn't mean we shouldn't expect the homes we are planning to purchase to not have those defects.
By the way, there is no such thing in the state of Texas as “grandfathered”. You may have heard that term in the news, on TV, or from your real estate agent. This term doesn't exist. There is no grandfathered defects in a home in Texas. There's only the condition of the home we have in front of us.
How do you navigate through all this information? For sure, you definitely want an experience home inspector. And you also want an experienced home inspector that is available after the inspection, in case you have questions. I would encourage you to ask any inspector you contact where they stand on this issue before you book the inspection with them.
You'll be glad you did.
Though tornado alley has moved east since the famous 1970 Lubbock tornado devastated much of downtown Lubbock and took dozens of lives, building standards have greatly improved. Thanks to research from Texas Tech University, we now have much more information on what it takes to survive a tornado. Below is great info from our neighbor to the north, which might help you decide what type of storm shelter is right for you and your family.
Courtesy of https://stateimpact.npr.org/oklahoma/2013/08/29/twister-truths-can-nothing-survive-an-ef5-tornado/
Despite the risk that comes with living in Tornado Alley, many Oklahomans are reluctant to build tornado shelters. And state and local building codes don’t factor for twisters.
One reason, researchers say, is a public perception that “nothing can survive an EF5 tornado.” Indeed, it’s hard to imagine any structure outlasting the violent winds and the devastating cloud of shrapnel that accompanies an EF5.
Comments like this one, spotted on a tornado-related story on Gawker’s science blog io9, summarize a common perspective:
“With an F5 tornado you get the ‘house swept away – only foundation is left’ situation – and the only *safe* place from an F5 is underground or out of it’s path. These tornadoes are the ones that literally have pealed up the road where it passed.”
This notion that the worst tornadoes obliterate everything in their path has even factored in some Oklahomans’ deadly decisions to get in their cars and try to outmaneuver storms. In one particularly harrowing story, a mother and her 17-day-old baby were sucked out of their family minivan in the EF5 tornado that carved through the Oklahoma City area on May 31.
But is it true: Can nothing survive an EF5?
UNDERSTANDING THE SCALE
GENE BLEVINS / REUTERS/LANDOV
A massive storm front in May 2013 spawned a swarm of tornadoes, including this one near the Kansas/Oklahoma border.
The question of survivability has two components: People, and the structures they inhabit when severe weather strikes.
But before we tackle that question, it’s important to understand what, exactly, an EF5 tornado is, and how the most severe twisters are categorized.
Directly measuring a tornado’s wind speed is difficult because the storms tend to destroy instruments. So meteorologists have to estimate tornado wind speeds. The original “Fujita Scale” that ranked these estimates was used from 1971 to 2007, but the estimates weren’t really based on actual, measured tornado wind speeds.
So researchers adopted the classification system used today, the “Enhanced Fujita Scale.” That scale, which goes from EF0 to EF5, still uses wind speed estimates, but ones that are based on more-accurate surveys of various tornado-damaged buildings and structures. An EF5 tornado includes gusts of winds of over 200 mph, based on these updated damage assessments.
When an EF5 tornado touches down in habited areas, you can surely expect massive amounts of damage. But just because a tornado meets a meteorological definition of an EF5 storm, it doesn’t necessarily mean you or your house will experience those conditions.
And despite the horrific scenes of tornado destruction that have become all too familiar in Oklahoma, EF5 tornadoes are survivable — both for people and structures. And that has important public policy implications.
STRUCTURES & BUILDING CODES
JOE WERTZ / STATEIMPACT OKLAHOMA
Tim Marshall, a meteorologist and civil engineer, points at the foundation of a home destroyed in the May 20 tornado in Moore. The home's walls were ripped from the foundation because nails were used instead of bolts.
The “nothing can survive an EF5” myth is a detriment to policies concerning home and commercial building construction, says Timothy Marshall, a meteorologist and a civil engineer at Haag Engineering in Dallas.
“The logic goes: If nothing can survive, why do anything?” Marshall told StateImpact in a July interview.
Just because a tornado is given an EF5 designation doesn’t mean that every structure in its path actually experiences the full brunt of it. In fact, recent research suggests that most structures don’t.
One such study was by Kai Pan, Peter Montpelier and Masoud Zadeh, who analyzed destruction from the May 3, 1999, F5 tornado in Moore. One thing they found was a “damage gradient” that was most severe in the center of the tornado path and less severe near the edge. That’s not surprising, but it’s worth remembering that when we talk about tornado damage: it’s not all or nothing.
JOE WERTZ / STATEIMPACT OKLAHOMA
Stella and Jack Howard (left and right) with their daughter, Dawnelaina (center), sit with the remains of their Moore home. The Howards built this house after their last one was destroyed by the May 3, 1999, twister.
Even homes across the street from each other experienced the effects of the same winds differently, depending on quirks such as whether their garage doors faced the wind or not.
Marshall has studied how buildings withstood the F5 twister that tore through Moore on May 3, 1999 as well as the EF5 on May 20, 2013. What he says seems surprising: Most of the destruction in an EF5 doesn’t come from 200 mph winds, it comes from much weaker winds.
Other research of tornadoes in other states back up Marshall’s observations.
The tornado that killed 162 people and damaged more than 8,000 buildings in Joplin, Mo. in May 2011 provides another example of how, even in the most severe storms, most damage is done by comparatively weak winds.
While Joplin’s tornado was classified as an EF5, no EF5-level damage was found on any of the buildings, according to a study by the American Society of Civil Engineers. Of the 5,000 buildings that were destroyed, most of the damage was done by winds of EF-2 level winds of 135 mph or less, the engineers found.
From The Joplin Globe’s Wally Kennedy:
Had the houses in the tornado zone been built with hurricane ties — metal clips that fasten the rafters and trusses to the exterior walls of a house — the damage would have been much less. It is one of the recommendations coming out of their analysis.
“The study team believes that a relatively large number of buildings could have survived in Joplin if they had been built to withstand hurricane winds,” said Bill Coulbourne, a member of the ASCE engineering team that came to Joplin.
Damage from winds of 135 mph and less is largely preventable. And Marshall says the necessary upgrades are pretty cheap. “Bolts and clips and straps in the proper place… $500-$1,000 on a house, that’s all,” he says.
After surveying the damage in Moore in 1999, Marshall says he told city officials they should upgrade the residential building code to require stronger foundations, hurricane clips and other metal brackets and ties to strengthen walls and roofs.
No changes were made, but city and state officials tell StateImpact stronger construction standards are likely to be enacted after the May 2013 tornadoes in Moore and Oklahoma City.
PEOPLE & STORM SHELTERS
The EF5 question isn’t just about building codes. It also relates to tornado shelters. As the Gawker commenter above illustrates, many people believe that the destructive power of an EF5 makes an underground shelter the only safe place to go.
• Twister Truths: Does the Tornado Risk Peak After the School Day Ends?
• Government Help Hard to Come By for Those Wanting Tornado Shelters
How the State Pays to Clean up After Tornadoes and other Disasters
That isn’t true. Properly built, above-ground safe rooms — typically a hardened indoor closet or room reinforced with concrete and steel — are just as safe as underground shelters, says Texas Tech’s Ernst Kiesling, who’s also the executive director of the National Storm Shelter Association. In fact, above-ground safe rooms can be safer because they’re more likely to be used when severe storms move in, he says.
“People don’t get into shelters until the last minute, and by that time there’s usually already a lot of wind, rain, hail and, possibly, debris blowing around,” he says. “People look out the window and hesitate, and decide they’ll try to ride it out.”
There have been no reports of any deaths in properly built above-ground safe rooms, Keisling says.
Yet the perception that the only way to survive an EF5 is by seeking refuge in an underground shelter persists. “It’s an untruth that’s very, very damaging, and I wish we could find a way to overcome it,” Kiesling says. “But, unfortunately, once an idea is out there, you can’t kill the idea.”
As a professional home inspector, I have seen just about every type of "home" imaginable.
From near defect free, to completely uninhabitable, I have seen it and inspected it. Yep, I have the T-Shirt!
One common trend in hot real estate markets is house flipping. Most everyone knows what a flipped house is thanks to the TV shows popular several years ago. In case you haven't heard this term, Wikipedia says "Flipping is a term used primarily in the United States to describe purchasing a revenue-generating asset and quickly reselling (or "flipping") it for profit. Though flipping can apply to any asset, the term is most often applied to real estate and initial public offerings (IPOs)"
Why does this matter? You might want to know when you're looking at a Flipped home. Many times, a flipped home is in adeqaute condition, and is not necessarily any better or worse than any other property.
HOWEVER, sometimes a flipped house is not a home you want to purchase. A flipped home is generally a home that was remodeled in one form or another to provide as much profit as possible for the person that bought it, pre-flip. Sometimes, a flipped home has lots of lipstick, and very little substance. See photo below....
Key areas to look for: New floors, new tile, new light fixtures, fresh paint, modern styles in a home that is not modern. All of these items are standard fare in a flipped home. The reason these items are so often seen in flipped homes is because they are all relatively inexpensive to replace.
The problem is that the high $$$ items in the home are usually the same as before the purchase by the home flipper. The HVAC system is usually ancient, the roof is usually shot, water heater is worn out, and the electrical system predates the concept of house flipping.
How do you avoid these pitfalls? Simple: call me. I always look past the lipstick to see the PIG!
#HGTV #realestate #lubbock #midland #odessa
If your West Texas home is on fire, how many minutes do you think you have to get out alive?
If you’re like 80 percent of Americans surveyed, you’ll say five or 10 minutes. Wrong! According to Underwriters Laboratories, which conducts state-of-the-art fire safety testing, you have three minutes or less. “Most people underestimate the speed and power of fire and smoke,” according to the National Fire Protection Association. You shouldn’t fumble with the fire extinguisher, grab your photo albums or even rescue your cat. GET OUT!
UL reports that 30 years ago, you had up to 17 minutes to escape a house fire, but today’s homes burn faster. Why is that? Open floor plans can provide oxygen and don’t provide barriers. And synthetic building materials and furnishings burn at a much faster rate than the natural products used decades ago.
UL videotaped a dramatic side-by-side experiment that showed how rapidly a modern living room went up in flames compared with a vintage one.
“You want to have an escape plan and practice it regularly because there is a limited time window to act,” said Stephen Kerber, director of UL’s Firefighter Safety Research Institute. “We can’t emphasize enough: If you can get out, get out.”
The stakes are high. Residential fires kill more people than any other kind, according to the Federal Emergency Management Administration. In fact, roughly seven Americans die every day in house fires.
Some of those deaths are caused by folks that tried to fight the fire themselves. Fire extinguishers are wonderful tools, but most people just don’t know when or how to use them.
FEMA says you should only use a fire extinguisher if:
• You are trained in how to use the extinguisher.
• You can put out the fire in five seconds or less.
• The fire is small and contained — like in a wastebasket.
• There is no flammable debris or hazardous material nearby.
• You have the right type of extinguisher for the type of fire.
• There are two ways to exit the area quickly if you fail.
Your priority should be surviving the fire, not putting out the fire. Here are several steps you can take — before and during a fire — to increase your chances.
Before a fire
Interconnected smoke detectors. You should have smoke alarms/detectors in every sleeping room, outside each sleeping area and on every level of your home. And those alarms should be wirelessly connected to one another, so that if there’s a fire in your basement, for example, the alarm in your bedroom will go off.
Two exits per room. Map out two ways to get out of every room in your house, even if one of them is a window, and keep those exits clear.
Family fire drills. Practice your evacuation plan so that everyone in the family not only knows how to get out, but also reverts to the plan instead of panicking during a fire.
Clear address numbers. Drive past your house at night and see if the address is clearly visible from the street for emergency crews to find you. If not, install better numbers or lighting.
Close doors while you sleep. Fires that break out while you are sleeping can be particularly devastating. Closing your door keeps smoke out and temperatures down, giving you extra time to evacuate.
Designate a meeting place. Everyone in the family should know of a spot nearby — but out of fire range — where you will meet if you evacuate separately in a fire.
During a fire
Block smoke: If you are stuck in a room, close the doors and windows, and put wet fabric over openings where smoke can get in.
Get low: Bend way down or crawl as you evacuate because smoke rises and kills more people than fire itself.
Check doors: Look for smoke and feel for heat at closed doors, a sign that there’s fire on the other side. If so, exit through another door or window
Close doors/windows behind you. Close doors and windows as you escape to minimize the amount of oxygen that can fuel the fire.
Exit windows wisely. Crawl out backward facing the house. Then lower yourself until you are hanging from the window sill. This puts your feet as close to the ground as possible before you drop.
Don’t go back in. No matter what — or who — don’t go back in. Instead, alert firefighters so they can rescue people
Follow these simple tips and if you are the victim of a house fire, your chances of surviving may be greatly improved.
#realestate #texas #house #home #fire #inspection
Courtesy of US Dept of Energy
Is your water heater the right size for you house? | Photo credit ENERGY STAR®
A properly sized water heater will meet your household's hot water needs while operating more efficiently. Therefore, before purchasing a water heater, make sure it's the correct size.
Here you'll find information about how to size these systems:
If you haven't yet considered what type of water heater might be best for your home, learn more about selecting a new water heater.
Sizing Tankless or Demand-Type Water Heaters
Tankless or demand-type water heaters are rated by the maximum temperature rise possible at a given flow rate. Therefore, to size a demand water heater, you need to determine the flow rate and the temperature rise you'll need for its application (whole house or a remote application, such as just a bathroom) in your home.
First, list the number of hot water devices you expect to use at any one time. Then, add up their flow rates (gallons per minute). This is the desired flow rate you'll want for the demand water heater. For example, let's say you expect to simultaneously run a hot water faucet with a flow rate of 0.75 gallons (2.84 liters) per minute and a shower head with a flow rate of 2.5 gallons (9.46 liters) per minute. The flow rate through the demand water heater would need to be at least 3.25 gallons (12.3 liters) per minute. To reduce flow rates, install low-flow water fixtures.
To determine temperature rise, subtract the incoming water temperature from the desired output temperature. Unless you know otherwise, assume that the incoming water temperature is 50ºF (10ºC). For most uses, you'll want your water heated to 120ºF (49ºC). In this example, you'd need a demand water heater that produces a temperature rise of 70ºF (39ºC) for most uses. For dishwashers without internal heaters and other such applications, you might want your water heated at 140ºF (60ºC). In that case, you'll need a temperature rise of 90ºF (50ºC).
Most demand water heaters are rated for a variety of inlet temperatures. Typically, a 70ºF (39ºC) water temperature rise is possible at a flow rate of 5 gallons per minute through gas-fired demand water heaters and 2 gallons per minute through electric ones. Faster flow rates or cooler inlet temperatures can sometimes reduce the water temperature at the most distant faucet. Some types of tankless water heaters are thermostatically controlled; they can vary their output temperature according to the water flow rate and inlet temperature.
Sizing a Solar Water Heating System
Sizing your solar water heating system basically involves determining the total collector area and the storage volume you'll need to meet 90%–100% of your household's hot water needs during the summer. Solar system contractors use worksheets and computer programs to help determine system requirements and collector sizing.
Contractors usually follow a guideline of around 20 square feet (2 square meters) of collector area for each of the first two family members. For every additional person, add 8 square feet (0.7 square meters) if you live in the U.S. Sun Belt area or 12–14 square feet if you live in the northern United States.
A small (50- to 60-gallon) storage tank is usually sufficient for one to two three people. A medium (80-gallon) storage tank works well for three to four people. A large tank is appropriate for four to six people.
For active systems, the size of the solar storage tank increases with the size of the collector -- typically 1.5 gallons per square foot of collector. This helps prevent the system from overheating when the demand for hot water is low. In very warm, sunny climates, some experts suggest that the ratio should be increased to as much as 2 gallons of storage to 1 square foot of collector area.
Additional calculations involved in sizing your solar water heating system include evaluating your building site's solar resource and determining the proper orientation and tilt of the solar collector. Visit the solar water heaterspage for more on these calculations.
Sizing Storage and Heat Pump (with Tank) Water Heaters
To properly size a storage water heater for your home -- including a heat pump water heater with a tank -- use the water heater's first hour rating. The first hour rating is the number of gallons of hot water the heater can supply per hour (starting with a tank full of hot water). It depends on the tank capacity, source of heat (burner or element), and the size of the burner or element.
The EnergyGuide label lists the first hour rating in the top left corner as "Capacity (first hour rating)." The Federal Trade Commission requires an EnergyGuide label on all new conventional storage water heaters but not on heat pump water heaters. Product literature from a manufacturer may also provide the first hour rating. Look for water heater models with a first hour rating that matches within 1 or 2 gallons of your peak hour demand -- the daily peak 1-hour hot water demand for your home.
To estimate your peak hour demand:
The worksheet example shows a total peak hour demand of 36 gallons. Therefore, this household would need a water heater model with a first hour rating of 34 to 38 gallons.
Worksheet for Estimating Peak Hour Demand/First Hour Rating *
Adapted from information from the Federal Energy Management Program Energy Cost Calculator.
Water heater manufactures recommend setting your water heater temperature at 120 degrees to help prevent scalding and to save energy. Scalding is a real concern if you have small children or elderly in your home.
If your hot water has an unpleasant odor, it is usually caused by some bacteria. Raising the temperature above 140 degrees may help, but bear in mind, the risk of scalding due increases dramatically once the water temperature is above 130 degrees!
Basically you'll need to adjust the temperature to suit your needs, or your budget.
How To Check Your Hot Water Heater Temperature
Allow your water heater to sit for one hour, unused before checking the temperature. Most water heater manufacturers will label the water heater with an FHR - First Hour Rating; this is how much water is heated to the temperature setting in one hour.
You can use a baking thermometer to check your water heater temperature. Go to the faucet nearest the water heater. Run the hot water for one full minute ( this will heat the plumbing supply lines, and give you a more accurate reading ). Fill a coffee cup from the faucet and read the thermometer.
About water heater settings:
Because heat rises (yes, even in water) the water in the top of a water heater can be much hotter than the water in the bottom. This is especially true of a gas water heater where the thermostat and burner are located at the bottom of the tank.
Water heater settings or temperature settings are not exact temperatures. The degree settings on a thermostat are approximate. This is especially true with gas water heater thermostats, and the temperature setting is sometimes based on whatever the person installing the water heater felt like it should mean! In other words, HOT could be 120, 130, 140 degrees, etc.
Gas water heater Adjustment
Gas water heaters use a simple knob on the front, bottom of the tank for temperature settings. Remember, the words or numbers on the front of the knob don't necessarily represent a set temperature. It is crucial that you closely check, and adjust the settings slowly. Test, then adjust. Repeat as necessary.
Electric Water Heater Adjustment
Adjusting an electric water heater temperature setting is not as simple. The water heater will generally have 1 or 2 heating elements. These will be covered by a plastic or metal panel cover on the front of the water heater tank. You will need to adjust each element to the same setting.
Before you do anything, remember to shut off power to the water heater, preferably via the electrical breaker in the electrical panel.
I generally recommend starting with the lower element, and then move to the top element. The cover will need to be removed, where you'll usually find some fiberglass insualtion you can reomve (with gloves). Then you'll find a simple plastic cover you can lilft or remove to find the thermostat. The thermostat will need to be adjusted with a flat head screw driver. Remember, adjsut slowly and carefully! Test as you go to find the ideal temperatuer for your home.
Replace the plastic cover(if you removed it). Place the insulation back over the thermostat and element. Replace the access panels and turn the power back on.
One of the more common defects I come across during home inspections is missing anti-tip devices on free standing ranges. Though a property inspection can reveal many defects that require a repair from a licensed professional, such as electrical defects, this particular defect can be corrected by just about anybody handy enough to give it a go. The truly sad part of this issue is that just about every new range sold should already include an anti-tip device with the range when sold, per the manufacturer. It seems, they're just not installed...
Why these are not properly installed is another one of the many head-scratchers I see as a licensed real estate inspector in west Texas. At any rate, if you find that your free standing range is missing an anti-tip device, it's time to correct that defect. ASAP! Here is an article from several years back providing additional details.
From the N.Y. Times:
Is There a Killer Stove in Your Kitchen?BY THE EDITORIAL BOARD
MARCH 6, 2008 3:44 PMMarch 6, 2008 3:44 pmFor about a year now, consumer groups have been waging a war against killer stoves.
It sounds like a bad horror movie, but it’s for real. Consumer advocates estimate that there have been at least 33 deaths and 84 serious injuries in recent years from stoves that suddenly tip over and burn or kill someone underneath.
Most of the victims have been children scalded by whatever is bubbling on top of the stove, or elderly people trying to get something in or out of the oven.
The stove grandma used probably couldn’t be moved or tilted without using a small forklift. Newer stoves, however, are different.
Many are so light that when their door is opened and weight is applied — by, for example, resting a pot on that open door for a moment — the entire appliance turns into a see-saw, spilling hot food and liquids on cooks and onlookers.
Worse, some stoves have been known to tilt and then fall over completely.
The solution is simple. An anti-tip bracket should be installed with every stove to keep it steady and upright while in use.
In a recent settlement of a class-action lawsuit, Sears agreed to install the necessary brackets on about four million free-standing or slide-in stoves that were sold, delivered, and connected by the store between July 2, 2000 and September 18, 2007. The company also agreed to install anti-tip brackets on all free-standing stoves delivered over the next three years.
The settlement is good news for Sears customers, but what about people who buy their stoves somewhere else?
So far, the Consumer Product Safety Commission hasn’t done a thing for them. Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen last month petitioned Nancy Nord, the acting chair of the commission, to begin recall proceedings against stoves sold by retailers other than Sears.
Discussions are still underway. Unfortunately, in recent years, the commission has been know for its close ties to industry, and its reluctance to stand up for consumer safety. Ms. Nord has been criticized for traveling on industry’s dime — and then failing to rein in industry.
This is not the first time the commission has been asked to fix these stoves. The first accidents started happening almost twenty years ago. After the Sears settlement, the commission did act on stoves — sort of, as Ed Mierzwinski of U.S. PIRG points out. The commission announced a voluntary recall of a toy stove after a child reported being bruised when it tipped over.
Toy stoves bruising children are bad, certainly, and should be stopped. But what about real stoves scalding and killing people?
If you'd like to learn more, have questions, or would like to discuss property inspection, call me! I can help!
(806)544-8540 or (432)202-7544
One of the most common questions I hear from buyers and agents alike is related to inspection of sewer drain lines under the home and on the property. As a home inspector in Texas, this information exceeds that Texas SOP for home inspections, and is generally the purview of a plumbing service company.
The most effective way to provide this information is by using a camera attached to a cable to view the interior of the sewer line for defects. This process is generally referred to as using a sewer scope.
The photo above is a great example of the value of such a service. The photo shows a clear indication that the sewer line below this home(mine!) has been damaged and is compromised by tree roots. The sewer lines below my home are comprised of cast iron, which is known for rusting and degrading over decades. Of course, my home is over 55 year old, so it is no surprise that these lines are beginning to fail. This has presented the good ol’ fruitless mulberry tree in my front yard with a veritable endless supply of nutrient (yuck!) rich moisture to pilfer at will. And that’s just what the tree roots have done. By entering the small crack in the wall of the sewer line, they have accessed the drain line and will only continue to damage the sewer line over time.
The bad news: there is no repairing this type of damage. The modifications necessary would include replacement of the damaged area of the sewer line (though replacement of the entire sewer line is a better long term solution) or having the sewer line lined with a special product that in effect creates a new sewer line from the inside out. Each of these processes are offered by many local plumbing companies. Costs range from about $5000 on up for a home like mine. Needless to say, this is not cheap, or fun. Plan to be without sewer access for a day or more, at least.
However, when buying a used home, or sometimes even a brand new home, hidden problems are everywhere. As an informed home owner, you can plan ahead and be as prepared as possible for the unexpected.
I can offer you some helpful advice if you are facing this problem with your own home. It might even save you some $$$. Call me for more details and we can discuss further!!
(806)544-8540 or (432)202-7544
#realestate #doublec #lubbock #midland #odessa #property #inspection #inspector