Home Inspection Articles & Posts by
Greg Wayman, ASHI Certified Inspector
The links below are in alphabetical order based on topic:
Attic Ventilation Issues:
Post showing frost buildup on the roof deck from poor attic ventilation 2/5/18
It’s not a roof leak. It’s your attic ventilation. I’ve had 2 past clients call up recently wanting me to come out and inspect their roof because their ceilings have active water dripping down. This winter, we haven’t had enough snow build up, melt fast, cause ice damming, and leak down through. What we have had is lots of cold days. As your family continues to produce moisture from cooking, shower steam, having your whole-house humidifier set too high, or running personal room humidifiers too much, that moisture gravitates up through your ceiling into your attic. If your attic ventilation were proper, that moisture would simply travel up through the exhaust vents and out your roof. When you have clogged soffit vents, a power fan that only has a thermostat control instead of a thermostat/humidistat control, or simply not having enough vents, that moisture becomes trapped in your attic. It freezes to the bottom of the roof deck in the form of frost. Over time, it becomes thicker and thicker and thicker. Then when we have a warm day in the 40’s, all of that ice and frost starts to melt. The warmer it gets, the faster it melts. If you don’t catch it soon enough, drip stains start to form in your drywall ceiling wherever the ice is melting the most. Want to avoid having lots of stains in your ceiling? If there’s frost buildup on your roof deck, then you’ve got a finite amount of time to get get fans going and dry out the attic before it all melts. Good luck!
Post on Attic Ventilation Mistake by Builder 6/13/20
How to turn a New Construction Home into a Mold House: This Builder cut in tiny 5 1/2″ x 3 1/2″ holes in the soffits then installed the 14″ x 6″ soffit vents. From the ground, nobody was the wiser as it looked normal. In the attic, however, there literally was water dripping off of the nails on the entire back half of the roof deck from excess moisture buildup and the house hadn’t even been lived in yet! The Builder had to go back and re-cut all of the soffit vent openings so this attic could breathe right. What’s sad is that I’ve ran across this multiple times this year on new homes in Omaha. Don’t skip a Home Inspection on New Construction! I’m finding more wrong on some new homes than I am on houses built 100+ years ago. The knowledgeable old-time builders are retiring and the new wave of inexperienced and untrained “builders” are taking over. They are good at marketing with little substance on building a quality product. When a sub-contractor screws up, these new builders aren’t knowledgeable enough to spot it and make them correct mistakes. Buyer beware!!!
Post of excess moisture in an attic for decades 12/13/18
There wasn’t a square inch of wood in this attic that didn’t have mold over it!
To identify quickly if your attic ventilation is poor, just pop your head up into the attic hatch and look around. This time of year, moisture freezes to the underside of the roof deck and to the nails poking through where the shingles were installed. That frozen moisture is frost and it’s easy to see just by shining a flashlight around.
On warmer days, the frost that has built up on your roof deck will melt and take the path of least resistance via gravity. The frost that melts on the nails will cause drip stains in your insulation. Large areas of roof deck that melt will cause water to run down the decking and drip off the end of the 4×8 sheet OR run down a rafter and drip at the bottom. These collection points are normally where your ceiling stains start to show up.
If you find frost, then you have as long as the weather stays cold to correct the air flow before the ice melts and causes stains and possibly mold growth. If the weather warms, up, then it’s a race to dry out your attic and minimize the damage.
Obviously, the photo above is of an attic that had very serious attic ventilation issues for years! Hopefully, your attic doesn’t look like this;-)
Post of bad attic ventilation, the resulting damage, and mold remediation costs from 11/30/19
This home had mold covering almost 100% of the bottom side of the roof deck due to poor attic ventilation. Because this was a large home, the mold remediation bids ranged from $8,000 to $10,000. What a pricey mistake just because the soffit vents weren’t kept clean and the bathroom exhaust fans still discharged into the attic space. Some simple maintenance and redirection of the exhaust fans years ago would have saved them literally thousands!
Post of a house where the Roofer greatly increased the stack effect 2/16/18
Roofing Contractor foolishly installs 6 turbine exhaust vents on this house. Every time the wind blows…which is most of the time here in Nebraska…these turbine vents are creating a huge stack effect on this home. They effectively suck a lot of the conditioned air right up and out of the living space and greatly raise the radon levels! At roughly $200 per vent, that’s $1,200 in up sells. Now the homeowner has to pay another Roofer to install a continuous ridge vent, patch the large holes in the roof deck, and shingle over them. Or they can live with higher utility bills and high radon. Nice little mess the Roofer created all to make a little extra profit.
Basement Water Damage:
Post where raw sewage potentially backing up into a newly finished basement was diverted 2/7/19
Major water/raw sewage damage averted!!! This was a flipped home in Omaha. My client was buying the home to move into. It sat vacant…luckily! They had a lift pump in the basement that was used for the sink and toilet of the basement 1/2 bath to raise the gray water and sewage up to properly discharge out the main waste stack mid-way up the foundation wall that ran out the sewer line. Somewhere during the renovations, the power to the outlet was disconnected. The breakers were all on and this outlet wasn’t connected to a tripped GFCI outlet. If someone had flushed the toilet more than a few times or ran the sink, water or raw sewage would have filled up the pit and had no place to go, except overflow into the newly finished basement. Small issue to correct, but that could have been very expensive had my client moved in and started using the bathroom.
Post where a sump pit was full, drain tile was full, and water was starting to seep out onto the basement floor 3/24/18
Why is the sump pit an aqua color? More importantly, why is there water coming in along the basement walls at the floor?! Reason: The primary sump pump isn’t working and neither is the battery back up sump pump. The perimeter drain tile is entirely full of water and that sump pit is full to the brim! Luckily this basement was unfinished and once the pumps are replaced, everything should be fine.
Carbon Monoxide Detectors
“Why Your Family Should Have Low Level Carbon Monoxide Detectors” – Regular store bought carbon monoxide detectors are manufactured to go off when the CO levels reach 70 ppm for 1-4 hours! These detectors will not protect your family from low levels of carbon monoxide. At lower levels, these detectors will not protect infants, young children, grandparents, and people suffering from asthma, bronchitis, or other medical conditions that cause difficulty breathing. Under low level CO conditions, it can lead to death of the more susceptible. Long term exposure to low levels of carbon monoxide can cause permanent physiological and nervous system damage to any of us. Read more.
Cigarette Smoke Damage in Houses:
Post showing cigarette smoke damage…too bad you can’t smell this one! 6/13/18
Cigarette smoke houses are NOT a good buy! Even if you remove all of the carpets, paint every square inch of the interior of the home, professionally sanitize and duct blast the duct work, and run an Ozone machine for 48 hours, it’s still not guaranteed that you’ll get all of the smell out. It always entertains me when I inspect a flipped house that has all new carpet and paint, remodeled kitchen and bathrooms, yet still smells of cigarette smoke once you remove the 15 air fresheners they’ve plastered throughout in an attempt to cover it up.
“Avoiding A Chimney Fire” – This article provides some interesting fire danger statistics, the stages of creosote, signs of problems that you can look for, and the steps you should take to properly maintain your chimney. The most important factor being always hire a Certified Chimney Sweep from the Chimney Safety Institute of America. Read more.
Post of a leaning brick chimney on a house we inspected in Omaha 1/7/19
Lean, baby, lean. This tall brick chimney is not supported above the roof line. Over time, the mortar joints couldn’t hold it. This is a serious risk of it collapsing through the roof right into the living room below. Also, if someone were to have a fire in the wood burning fireplace, that clay-tile liner is definitely breached right at the roof line. Those hot flue gases could easily make their way into the home or catch the house on fire. For a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep to repair this, they will have to tear the chimney down below the roof line to where it’s still stable and rebuild it. This could be approximately a $10,000.00 job!
Post showing an unlined brick chimney that wasn’t visible from the ground 4/8/18
Concealed unlined brick chimney that looked like a concrete block chimney with a clay-tile liner above the roof line. No liner = fire hazard and risk of carbon monoxide leaking into the home! This turned out to be a low cost fix by having a Certified Chimney Sweep or licensed HVAC Contractor install a stainless steel flex liner down the center.
Post of chimney removed above roof line, roofed over, but 2 fireplaces still actively discharged into it from 4/17/19
A chimney removed above the roof line and roofed over…with 2 gas fireplaces still actively hooked up to the chimney flues! Definitely not what my client or I was expecting to find during the home inspection. The scary part is that the roof deck around the bottom flue was blackened like someone had been using the fireplace!
Commercial Property Inspections:
Post of an awesome Commercial Building we inspected in Omaha 1/3/19
This photo of arched wood trusses was taken during one of our Commercial Property Inspections in Omaha a few months ago. We had the pleasure of inspecting a property that used to be a lumber yard. This specific warehouse was used to house drywall as it came in off of the rail cars back in the 1940’s. Since, the property has transitioned over to a shipping company that has a fleet of tractor trailers and uses the building for its repair shop. They sure don’t build commercial spaces like this anymore!
Contractor caught cutting corners replacing asbestos siding with thin particle board used on bookshelves for backing & painting over it
Commercial property inspections can be entertaining! I caught this Contractor “repairing” damaged asbestos siding on a multi-plex by replacing the broken tiles with thin fiber board you would install on the back of book shelves. This flimsy material was about as strong as a cereal box and would absorb water just as well. This “professional” was painting over them before anyone would notice. I just happened to show up unannounced and gave the clueless management company rep an education. The same property manager that was being paid to monitor the property wasn’t aware of 2 Pitbulls locked in a bedroom upstairs with pee pads all over the floor. The main floor apt was newly renovated with a brand new ceiling under these dogs. Shady Contractor + Worthless Property Manager = Major $$$ Wasted on Your Investment!
Some of our Commercial Inspections for 2020
This has been a unique year for inspections! I’ve had the pleasure of inspecting some really cool commercial properties for my clients. These are just some of the latest I’ve done. There was a newer 4-bay commercial use building in Gretna, a 4-plex from the 1950’s in Omaha with a very expensive plastic tile roof, a 4-plex from the 50’s in Lincoln, a 1990’s monster home in Gretna with 11 bedrooms/12 bathrooms & a brand new wedding reception outbuilding, the massive UNO Thompson Alumni Center in Omaha that was originally built in the 1900’s with a grand-scale 1990’s addition plus ballrooms added in the 2000’s, and a 10-plex apartment building in Benson from the 1960’s.
Each commercial inspection posed its own unique challenges from using my 30′ ladder to gain roof access to working through a hoarder’s apt to enduring long hours inspecting 30+ electric panels & sub-panels to wearing a mask in heavy cigarette smoke damaged apartments.
I’ve been seeing this newer method to install a footing for a deck on my home inspections lately and thought I’d share. Instead of having to dig, pour a concrete footing that extends below the frost line, wait for it to cure, then return to continue building the deck, this method speeds up the process, has been tested over 10 years around the world, and has proven that it works. It’s called a Diamond Pier. It consists of a concrete shaped block with 4 rods that are driven down into the ground at different angles. The rods are approximately 3′ in length. You can go to their website at www.diamondpiers.com and see the specific loads they are designed to carry and how they prevent uplift. They do have a letter from a NE licensed Structural Engineer approving this method. They do ask that you speak with your Code Department and get their approval before starting your deck build.
This is a new construction home by one of these biggest home builders in Omaha. The deck had every support post improperly notched from 4×4 down to 2×4 with the one above notched down to a 2×2. When you cut into the wood, it weakens the lumber. When you notch into it too much, it compromises it’s structural integrity. A deck’s railing system is supposed to be able to withstand a 200lb later force exerted on it. When they are notched down like this, they can’t withstand that force. The next time a few adults are leaning on the railing, it may not hold. All of these support posts on this deck are compromised and need replacing.
Post from 2017 showing a very loose railing that was not properly blocked in at the guard posts beneath
Why was the deck railing so loose? Look close and you’ll see that the nails are pulled entirely out of the ends of the joists where the rim joist was attached. The guard posts are bolted onto the rim joist…that is pretty much ready to fall off. Think about leaning against that when you’re a full story off the ground!
Don’t buy a house in the lowest level of the development! That property will be the drainage point of that neighborhood. I’ll share 2 recent home inspections of potential nightmares. The 1st house in Omaha was built in the 1970’s. It had 3 sump pumps and an interior drain tile system around the foundation to help divert water back outside. Why? After speaking with the neighbor, the large back yard used to be a pond where another neighbor used to go fishing when she was a kid 80+ years ago. The adjoining property was 15+ acres of a hill that all sloped to this property. The entire house had settled towards that wet back yard. None of this was disclosed by the Seller or Agent. House #2 is new construction with the above picture right off the back yard. It’s a drainage basin. Will the foundation hold up, will the soil erode during heavy or long rains? Time will tell. As Builders run out of easy farm fields to build on, they are forced to build on more challenging ground…wet ground or huge power lines running through. Don’t be that buyer that takes the risk!
Driveways – Flatwork Concrete Issues
“Street Creep” – Ever wonder how a driveway can push a house? This article explains what street creep is, how to detect it, and how to prevent it. Read more.
Post where the house was located downhill on the street at a circle 10/3/20
Here’s an instance of Street Creep. This high-end home sat at the bottom of a street on a circle. The expansion joints on the driveway were tight. As the street expanded and moved a little down hill, the driveway was pushed into the garage floor, which then pushed out the back foundation wall. The movement wasn’t much and the fix was relatively easy. A licensed Concrete Flatwork Contractor needed to install a 3″ wide expansion joint on the driveway to absorb the street’s movement so the foundation didn’t continue to get pushed outward. Depending on who you call, the estimates ranged from $900 to $2,000.
Post showing foundation damage from Street Creep 2/25/19
Climb over a pile of storage, move a few items out of my way, and BAM…there’s your foundation crack that wasn’t disclosed to my Buyer. Just another day of protecting my clients;-)
Sidewalk too thin on New Construction
This new construction inspection found multiple areas of the sidewalk poured to thin. Minimum thickness for a sidewalk and driveway is 3 1/2″. If the driveway has the curb cut, then the end of the driveway is required to be a minimum 5 1/2″ thick tapered back to 3 1/2″ at the expansion joint. If the concrete isn’t thick enough, it is more prone to cracking and settling. This can lead to trip hazards and become a liability concern. To get this right, all the licensed Flat work Concrete Contractor has to do is prep the packed gravel base so it’s at the proper depth before the concrete truck arrives. In the above pic, it looked like they didn’t run a shovel around the edge of the forms to hit that minimum 3 1/2″ thickness at the sides. After the concrete has cured, the only way to correct this is to cut out the panels that didn’t meet the minimum thickness and pour them again. Nobody wants that. It slows down the build, costs more money, and takes more time. I even don’t like having to point it out. It pays to take the time to prep right before the concrete is poured. That way you only have to do the job once.
“Federal Pacific Stab-Lok Panels” – Learn the history, how to identify them, the problems with this breaker type, and what you should do about this fire hazard. Read more.
The CPSC’s March 18, 2008 Meeting Notes – For more technical readers, this pdf document goes into great depth explaining the issues with the Federal Pacific Stab-Lok circuit breakers. Read more.
“Knob-n-Tube Wiring” – For those home owners or investors out there that own a home or are contemplating purchasing one built prior to the 1930’s in the Omaha Metro, this article explains the issues that commonly arise with knob-n-tube wiring. Read more.
Post showcasing why permits should be pulled when a home is remodeled 4/29/18
Homeowner installs illegal shower in the utility room leaving only 9″ to squeeze through studs to get to the main electric panel. The main panel is in the back corner so unless your body can fit through 9″, there’s no way to even reach the panel to turn off the power during an emergency! Minimum clearance in front of a panel is 3′ from the top of the panel all the way to the floor. This is the real reason permits should be pulled!!!
Post showing why you never install a screw into an electric panel unless you’ve seen the wiring behind it 4/15/18
DON’T INSTALL THAT PANEL COVER SCREW!!! You’ll sink that screw right into the main service entrance cables and get 200 amps into your body!!! Not a smart installation by the Electrician. Most Electricians would never do this, but we run across this a few times a year…some even on new construction!
Post from 6/2021 where a “professional” flipper made a horrible attempt to run electrical wiring
Live wires spliced & embedded into the wall!!! Fire waiting to happen! Who cares that you skipped your home inspection. It’s just your families lives you’re putting at risk!
Another DIY job that easily can electrocute someone or catch the garage on fire
How many ways can you run electrical wiring wrong without electrocuting someone or catching the place on fire? This DIY’er ran an extension cord from an exterior light socket outlet adapter across the walkway, through the exterior wall of the garage, then spliced into Romex wiring without a junction box making it appear that the garage had newer wiring. They then plugged an extension cord into the outlet, spliced the extension cord with undersized & unprotected wires 3 more times before making it to the garage door opener. Some people should know their limits and call a licensed Electrician.
Post of flood damage to a furnace in Valley, NE 4/2/19
Flood Damage – HVAC Equipment: This furnace in Valley, NE was 100% submerged underwater in this basement. You can see the stains right at the top of the white service sticker on the cold air return. This furnace is ruined. There is no saving it. This furnace has to be replaced. For those of you that are hoping that your damage isn’t as bad as you think, apply this simple logic: If an electrical component was under water, it is bad and needs to be replaced. You can’t risk future arcing and a house fire from water damaged wiring or electrical components. If you have a furnace that was only partially submerged, then you need to have an HVAC Technician inspect it for water damage. It may need a few new replacement parts or it may be toast.
Post on flood damage to Mobile Homes 3/21/19
Flood Damage To Mobile Homes – Part 1: Depending on the year manufactured, mobile homes can be set onto a foundation, concrete footings, or concrete block with no footings. In this picture, the mobile home was set on concrete blocks laid on the ground. This technique is no longer allowed, but can still be found. One of my structural concerns was the flow of water undermining the concrete block columns. After the water recedes, these columns can still shift from the ground being saturated. These concrete blocks will need to be monitored for months to come for further movement.
In this specific mobile home, the flood caused about 6′ of water to push into its side. This massive pressure caused the mobile home to shift. My other structural concern is the strapping that secures the frame of the mobile home to the ground. There are typically 4-6 straps per side. In this picture, the strapping is loose. These are supposed to be tight. The straps down both sides need to be tight. If the structure shifts to 1 side, one side can still be tight while the other is loose. In this case, the structure shifted in both directions and I found loose strapping on both sides of this single-wide.
If your mobile home is set on concrete footings, these same concerns with undermining, shifting, and loose strapping exists.
See Part 2 for my other concerns regarding water damage if it was high enough to come into the mobile home.
Flood Damage To Mobile Homes – Part 2:
Electrical components and water don’t mix. No matter how normal the inside of your mobile home appears, however high the water level reached, the wiring, outlets, light switches, and other electrical components were damaged if they were wet. You can spend all the effort of tearing out the drywall, insulation, cabinets, etc., drying the rest all out, properly remediating for mold, then replacing all the water damage with new. 1 week, 1 month, 1 year later, one of those corroded/rusted connections in the wiring that you didn’t replace might arc, and catch the mobile home on fire. Arcing can exceed 2,000 degrees F when it happens. Any wiring and electrical components that got wet needs to be replaced by a licensed Electrician. If the home isn’t dried up quickly, even the wiring that didn’t get wet from the flood water can still become damaged from the high humidity while the place dries out.
In this picture, the water level was approximately 8″ above the bottom of the window.
Any appliance that was under water, no matter how new it was, is damaged. The electrical components of the furnace, dishwasher, fridge, freezer, etc is ruined. They weren’t designed to get wet. These submerged appliances will need to be replaced.
Part 3 will address removing the water damage, taking the proper steps to dry everything out, and mold remediation.
Flood Damage To Mobile Homes – Part 3:
In this mobile home, water was about 2′ to 2 1/2′ up the walls. So what do you do? You need to take a step back and start calculating what it will take to get this mobile home back to safe living conditions. Most will conclude that it’s a total loss and it’s not worth continuing. I’m going to walk you through step-by-step what needs to be done so you can apply this logic to your situation so you can make an educated decision.
The obvious step is removing all of the sopping wet carpet, drywall, and insulation. For proper mold remediation, the drywall and insulation is supposed to be removed 3′ higher than where you can see the mold or know it was wet. If water was up the walls, you’re looking at removing all of the drywall and insulation on the walls throughout. All of the water damaged cabinets need to be removed in the kitchen and bathrooms. If the water level reached the electrical components of the appliances, they are damaged and need to go. Any wet wiring, outlets, switches, etc…will need to be ripped out and replaced by a licensed Electrician.
You have 48 hours before mold starts to grow. If you can’t dry the mobile home out within that time frame, then mold starts to flourish. It will start to smell, mold spores will develop on every surface, and the only way to do things right is to have a Mold Remediation Contractor come in and remediate.
Continued on Part 4.
Flood Damage To Mobile Homes – Part 4:
Opening the windows will help initially, but once you have the sopping wet items removed, you’ll need to run dehumidifiers to remove the moisture.
The OSB sub-floor needs to dry out. Having the dehumidifiers inside the mobile running will help the top side. Underneath, the belly board insulation is going to be soaked and keeping the bottom of the sub-floor wet. You’ll need to cut out the damaged insulation and let the outside air try to dry the bottom out before the wood chips and glue in the OSB start to de-laminate. If you aren’t able to get this dry fast enough, the sub-floor may need to be replaced.
The duct work that runs under the mobile home will be full of flood water. Any moisture left behind can turn into mold being circulated throughout the mobile home once the furnace or AC is turned on. You can have it professionally sanitized and cleaned or replace it.
Because you’re dealing with flood waters, you’ll want to decontaminate all of the surfaces remaining inside the mobile home before you start to remodel.
Once dried out and clean, then you’re looking at installing insulation, drywall, carpet, cabinets, appliances, etc.
If the water level was 12″ or higher, most would conclude that it doesn’t make financial sense to attempt to repair. It’s best to re-attach the axles, hook a truck up to the mobile home, and haul it to the dump.
If you need help figuring out the extent of your damage, call us at 402-330-1701.
Post of a severely failing concrete block foundation on a detached garage 2/22/18
When I showed my clients the foundation wall, they described it best: “It’s a banana.” This 2-car detached garage was built into the bank. The backyard of this home was pushing the West wall in 7″ and racking the entire garage towards the North 9″!!! The walls were at a realistic chance of collapsing in on any vehicle parked in the garage. When they had viewed the property prior to writing an offer, the ground was all ice so they weren’t able to walk around and notice the structural issue. Having a 2-car garage on this property was the reason it was listed higher. Had this been brought to their attention up front, they probably wouldn’t have written an offer. This home inspection saved them from about a $30,000-$40,000 mistake!
Post showing a house my client was considering purchasing that had significant foundation settlement 11/12/18
Sometimes, there’s a reason the house is listed cheap. I’ll give you a hint…the picture is level.
Post showing a fun house with sloping floors 12/27/17 7 of the last 9 houses we’ve inspected have had significantly sloping floors. Tis the season for leftovers on the market! There’s a reason these homes are still sitting and not selling. Is it really a good deal if the house is $15,000 below market, but has $20,000 – $30,000 of foundation repairs needed? The sad truth is a majority of these homes lately haven’t had reduced prices, the foundation issues haven’t been disclosed, and our home inspection is the first time the issue is being brought to light.
Post showing a concrete block foundation with step cracks 11/18/18
At what point do cracks in your foundation need to be repaired? What are my options? What are the costs involved? Having a Home Inspection will identify any cracks in your foundation, how much movement has occurred, what possibly caused the movement, and what the recommendations are. This is your best option for determining your next move whether you are buying or selling. A Home Inspection is an unbiased assessment of the property. We are the only professional involved in the transaction that doesn’t have a vested interest in the deal coming together. We also aren’t foundation salesman pushing multi-thousand dollar repairs when repairs may not be needed. If you have cracks in your foundation that you are unsure about, then let our experience help you make a sound decision.
Garage Door Maintenance
Garage Door Maintenance – Torsion springs on a residential garage door are designed to last 7,000 – 10,000 cycles (open & close.) By simply spraying the torsion spring with lubricant annually, you will extend the life of those springs. Most people never think to do this. When the torsion spring breaks, there is much more pressure on the opener to lift the garage door. Some openers aren’t strong enough and you may find yourself trying to manually lift the heavy door. If you aren’t successful, you may end up making an emergency call to a Garage Door Installer just so you can get your car out of the garage. To avoid this headache, take the time to spray your torsion springs on your garage door.
Examples of Bad Home Inspectors in Omaha:
Post of a How ridiculous a Home Inspector can be 4/26/19
Attic hatch sealed over with drywall mud because…the previous Home Inspector said it was a breach of the fire barrier when the hatch cover was removed instead of just saying simply put the hatch cover back, then the VA Appraiser ran with it and forced the Seller to seal over the only way into the attic. 2 “professionals” getting such a basic concept screwed up so badly. This same Home Inspector missed a ton of things including the sagging beam supporting up the kitchen/dining room/living room area because it was over-spanned causing the floors to sag considerably. Apparently, he was inspecting so fast that he missed the huge dip across the floor. This is a classic case of do your homework and hire the Home Inspector that actually knows what he’s doing and if a VA Appraiser makes a ridiculous request, challenge them on it!!!
“Steam & Hot Water Boilers” – This article was written from an excellent technical presentation from one of the most highly qualified boiler experts in the Omaha, NE and Council Bluffs, IA area…Harry Taczuk of Air Tech Services, Inc. If you own a home or a commercial property with a steam or hot water boiler, this article is for you! Read more.
“Carrier Settles Class Action Lawsuit on High Efficiency Furnaces” – This article explains the history behind the class action complaints, the brief synopsis of the US/Canada Settlement Agreement, the approval by Federal Judge Ronald B. Leighton, and a list of the furnace models included in the settlement. Read more.
HVAC-Gas Forced Air Furnaces
“A Cracked Heat Exchanger is Nothing to Ignore” – This article is for the real estate agents, investors, or homebuyers out there contemplating purchasing a property with an older furnace. It explains what a heat exchanger is, how it works, the carbon monoxide dangers if a crack develops, how cracks develop, the types of heat exchanger tests, and the manufacturer warranties on heat exchangers. Read more.
Post sharing a picture of a cracked heat exchanger we found during our home inspection 3/2/18
There were 2 very large vertical cracks in this Janitrol 80% efficiency furnace’s heat exchanger. When the furnace was running, those cracks would separate out leaving approximately a 1/8″ wide gap allowing carbon monoxide to leak through and be blown throughout this ’96 ranch house. Luckily, the house was vacant and the CO readings got up to only 4 ppm when I noticed it. Time for a new furnace!
Post on Armstrong Air furnaces commonly found in Celebrity Homes’ houses – 4/20/20
Do you live in a Celebrity Home built 10-20 years ago? If you still have the original furnace, the chance of the Armstrong Air furnace having a cracked heat exchanger is pretty good. The same applies to any Lennox furnace the same age regardless of the Builder. They have the same type of Serpentine heat exchanger with the same design flaw. They develop cracks at the eyelets or rings…usually on the bottom rows. When the eyelets fall out, the sheet metal separates and can allow the flue gases to mix with the supply air and be blown throughout the home. This is why it’s very important to make sure you have a licensed HVAC Contractor annually service your furnace to catch the crack early…or if you are buying a home…to hire a Home Inspector who actually checks for cracks during the home inspection. FYI – Most Home Inspectors in the Omaha area don’t have the knowledge, training, or experience to look at heat exchangers. As a result, they don’t look for cracks. We’ve been going beyond the ASHI Standards inspecting furnaces for over 18 years now and our clients appreciate our extra effort!
If you have the ill-conceived notion that you are safe because you have a CO detector installed, then you need to read our article on Low-Level CO Detectors posted on our website.
HVAC-Geo Thermal Heat Pumps
“Geo Thermal Heat Pumps” – If the investment can be made, these systems are our answer to less dependence on foreign oil. This article describes the history behind geo thermal heat pumps, how they work, comparison to air source heat pump, the initial investment, OPPD discounts, and tax credits. Read more.
HVAC-Furnace Red Flags
“Furnace Red Flags” – This article provides homeowners red flags to look for on their gas forced air furnaces, tips on how to avoid a cracked heat exchanger, and how to know if your HVAC Technician is properly checking for cracks in the exchanger. Read more.
Post on flame rollout on older furnace…major carbon monoxide poisoning potential! 5/20/19
This home inspection was at a sweet lake house in Valley, NE. Tucked away behind a cabinet door in the finished basement was this old natural gas furnace. When I turned it on, I was first mesmerized by the blue flame filling up the entire clam shell chamber and rolling out the front into the room, until I snapped back to reality and realized that it was spewing carbon monoxide into the room I was breathing in;-) Notice the hint of blue in the top right of the photo. That’s the flame coming right out the burner opening. This goes to show that even the higher-end homes have their surprises.
Post showing deadly levels of carbon monoxide at the exhaust of a furnace 10/29/18
The XXX ppm readings on my carbon monoxide detector represent death. That’s because the furnace was producing over 2,000 ppm of CO gas at the exhaust. The Homeowner had placed a CO detector next to the furnace inside the home and it had reached over 700 ppm at some point in the past. For a high-efficiency furnace to leak that high of a level of CO gas into the home, something is definitely wrong! The Landlord was fortunate that nobody was killed. Investors, you have to make a valid effort to maintain your furnaces. You can’t be a slum lord and ignore items in the house that can kill someone!
Post showing elevated readings of CO gas being blown throughout the home during our home inspection 12/14/17
When performing a home inspection, things get real serious when the Carbon Monoxide detector starts climbing when testing the supply air of the furnace! As I immediately shut the furnace off and air the house out, I can’t help but think that this could have killed somebody had I not found it!!! I’ve had firefighters as clients inform me that they aren’t allowed in a house without a full face mask and an oxygen tank when the CO readings are over 10 ppm. Please install Low Level CO Detectors in your home! They will alert you when the CO readings are 5 ppm or higher. The store bought UL approved detectors won’t. They are designed to alarm at 70 ppm or higher after 1-4 hours of exposure. That can be too late! Take the time to read our article on Low Level CO Detectors on our website.
Post on snow & ice blocking the PVC exhaust line on a hi-efficiency furnace 3/6/19
Peek-a-boo! You’ve got to make sure your hi-efficiency furnace flue isn’t blocked by snow & ice during these freezing cold temperatures. If the carbon monoxide can’t exhaust to the outside, it can cause your furnace to short cycle, damage the unit, or worst case, lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.
Post showing damaged PVC exhaust pipe on furnace when it became blocked 1/12/19
This Goodman hi-efficiency furnace was so bad that the HVAC Contractor condemned and replaced it ASAP. During my home inspection, I noticed the top of the furnace cover was all burnt. Behind the cover was the PVC exhaust line that was significantly melted. What happened was the homeowner had ran a black corrugated drain pipe right under the furnace exhaust outside. When there was a long stretch of freezing temperatures, the moisture in the exhaust froze as it exited the house, formed an ice cycle that kept getting bigger and bigger, until it blocked the exhaust line entirely. When this happened, the burner flames had nowhere to go, except out the front of the furnace. This family was very fortunate that they didn’t die of carbon monoxide during those cold snaps. If you have a high-efficiency furnace, always kick the ice away that forms at the end of the exhaust line and never store anything directly under that pipe.
Post where a cold air return was improperly installed right next to the water heater draft hood 12/18/18
Avoiding Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: This picture was taken during a recent home inspection in Omaha on a house that was built in 2004. Somebody wanted to add a cold air return in an attempt to de-humidify the basement. They thought they could simply cut a large hole in the side of the main cold air return line next to the furnace. With the water heater and burner openings to the 80% efficient furnace so close, every time the blower to the furnace/AC turns on, there is such a suction created by the blower that the nearby flue gases can get sucked right into the blower and be blown throughout the home. Obviously, it’s a simply repair of covering the large opening back over with sheet metal, but scary that someone didn’t realize the CO dangers they were putting their family in. For the DIY’ers, there’s a reason Code requires a minimum 10′ clearance of any cold air returns from gas appliances.
Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF) Homes
“Today’s Concrete Homes” – This article explains what an ICF home is, the many benefits of building an ICF home, and testing by Texas Tech University’s Dr. Ernst Kiesley using the “tornado cannon” on stick built, steel frame, and ICF walls. It’s pretty cool watching a 2×4 obliterate when it shoots into an ICF wall at 100 mph! Read more.
Post showing how missing insulation causes ice damming 2/27/19
Bet you can’t tell which house has almost no attic insulation? The freezing temperatures combined with our recent blizzard makes it easy to spot these houses. The sad thing was every house on this block was like this! Just imagine if everyone spent $300 two decades ago to insulate these homes how many thousands and thousands of dollars of heat loss would have been saved per home!!!
Post of missing insulation in an attic 11/26/18
Builder forgets to install insulation over Kitchen and Dining Room…and no one notices it for 20 years!…until I performed the Home Inspection for the Buyer. That’s a lot of heat loss!!!
“Fall Maintenance”– This is a checklist of some basic maintenance tips homeowners or investors can do to ensure the safety of their family/tenants and to protect their investment throughout the cold winter months. Read more.
“Spring Preventative Maintenance Tips” – Water is the #1 cause of damage to a home. This article is full of preventative measures on gutters, roof leaks, ice damming, moisture buildup from poor attic ventilation, rotting siding, windows, doors, & trim, and negatively sloping concrete patios, sidewalks, and driveways. Read more.
“Be Frugally Responsible – Ways to save money in these economic times”
Part 1: Laundry & Water Softener Tips: Link
Part 2: Furnace & Heat Pump Tips: Link
Part 3: Insulation Tips: Link
New Construction Inspections: Why They are Important
Post of a high-end lake home being built where the Builder was fired 5/10/18
New Construction Mistake on Million Dollar Home! The Builder ignored the plans drawn up by a licensed Structural Engineer and failed to support the stairs properly. As a result, all of the treads tipped backwards on these stairs. This was one of numerous major mistakes the Builder made on this build. Luckily, the Buyers had hired us for a Pre-Drywall Inspection to get to the bottom of things once they started seeing problems. By the end of the home inspection, we were all shocked at how many significant issues there were! If you are having a new home built, please get your New Construction inspected!!!
Post where CSST gas line was installed touching the B-vent flue pipe 1/20/19
This brand new home has the CSST gas line touching the B-vent flue pipe. It simply needs to be adjusted over to allow for proper 1″ minimum clearance, but the potential for that hot flue pipe to damage the natural gas line is just a little bit of a risk;-) Just another reason to have your new construction inspected before you close.
Post showing basement floor not finished properly on 10/8/20
Running a power trowel when finishing a basement concrete floor takes skill and finesse. Unfortunately, this new construction home in Elkhorn, NE had numerous squares across the basement floor that sloped different directions about 1″ in 4′. It was so uneven that I found myself almost tripping when I walked across the floor looking up to inspect the floor trusses. With lopsided floors, any Contractor attempting to finish out this basement will be having some choice words and ultimately it’ll end up costing my client more money. Hopefully, the Concrete Contractor can return and grind down the floors to level and going forward have their float guy do a better job.
Post on New Construction Inspection finding missing bond wire on jetted tub 2/12/19
If you are sitting in this jetted tub during a lightning strike, you’re chances of survival are bleak. This newer home never had the bond wire hooked up to the pump motor. This is a nice little electrocution hazard under the right circumstances. Notice the 2 empty lugs in the bottom right. Either one is where the bond wire is supposed to be connected to. The dilemma was that the bond wire was never ran from the basement all the way up to the 2nd floor to the master bathroom and the house had CPVC supply lines. Had they been copper, it would have been an easy bonding clamp on the water line and install the bond wire. With the house now all finished, an Electrician is going to have to cut open some drywall and fish the bonding wire up through 2 stories. With the family already living in the house, it begs the question of why didn’t the Builder notice this and more importantly, why didn’t the Code Enforcement Officer find this?! Please have your New Construction inspected. Don’t be foolish and only rely on the Code Department to find everything when they are understaffed and spread way too thin.
Post of a faucet located over an electric meter on a new construction inspection 1/26/18
I found this on a brand new home this month. Tell me that the Builder, Plumber, and Code Enforcement Officer all thought installing an exterior faucet over an electric meter is a good idea?! Seriously??? Doesn’t anyone have common sense any more?
Post of a new condo development in S Omaha that will potentially have a lot of deck collapses if the developer doesn’t install flashing 10/24/18
This new 3-story condo is missing Z-flashing over the Laminated Veneer Lumber ledger board of the deck. I give it maybe 5 years before it rots off if they don’t install the necessary flashing. This was 1 of many issues found. For new construction, I shouldn’t have been finding any of these problems! This condo was on the market for over $300,000.00. Just because they cost more, doesn’t mean they build them right.
Post showcasing how local government politics won out over safety concerns for the occupants 10/8/18
This new construction City of Omaha house had a tapered concrete step at the base of the garage-to-house steps. When I first went down the steps, I almost sprained my ankle. I’m not sure what the hell the Concrete Contractor was thinking. What really blew my mind was after this was brought to the attention of the City Code Enforcement, the City refused to fix it. This is one case where playing politics overruled being concerned about the safety of the occupants!!!
Post showing an elevation mistake on New Construction 5/16/18
New Construction – Driveway has 22% slope! At what point during the build did the light bulb go off that the elevation of the house was too high and that this was going to be the steepness of the driveway???
Post on new construction inspection…can’t access the sewer cleanout 2/21/19
New Construction Inspections can be quite comical! This sewer line access is blocked because either the Plumber didn’t set the pipe out far enough from the foundation, the guy who installed the stone veneer didn’t care, the Builder didn’t bother to even check up on his subcontractors’ work, or the Code Enforcement Officer had his blinders on during the Final Inspection. How many people are to blame for this screw up? Yet, nobody bothered to fix it and hoped to pass the problem off to the new Homeowner. For more serious issues we find on New Construction Inspections, check out our Home Page and our Photo Galleries.
Damaged trusses that the Builder actually flagged, but never returned to repair.
This Builder flagged their own damaged truss rafter, then never returned to actually repair it. There were 4 other damaged trusses I found in this attic. Not a single one was properly repaired. The Builder attempted to “repair” some of them with thin OSB strips on both sides. As a Homeowner, the concern here is when you have strong winds or heavy snow, will these damaged trusses be able to withstand the pressures or will your roof sag or worse collapse? The good news is, that if caught ahead of time like I did on this house, it’s not that expensive to repair.
“Caring For Your Septic System” – This article explains how a septic system works, where it should be located, what not to put down your drains, how to maintain your absorption field, when to have it pumped, and what a septic inspection entails. Read more.
Post of back drafting flue gases on water heater from 5/13/19
This water heater has evidence of back drafting flue gases into the home. Notice the darkened areas around the draft hood, but around the draft hood legs aren’t blackened. Notice also the galvanized supply pipe on the right side. During this home inspection, the furnace that tied into the same B-vent had almost 100% flame rollout. If you want to see that picture, go to our Omaha location and check out the post there. If you see this type of darkening or rust at the top of your water heater, you can take a tissue paper and hold up to the side of the draft hood while the water heater’s burner is on. If working properly, it should suck the tissue paper right inward towards the draft hood. If not, it’ll blow the tissue paper away from it. This can be a sign of poor drafting or a blocked flue pipe. Either way, have a professional get to the bottom of it and make it safe! You don’t need your family getting carbon monoxide poisoning.
“Sewer Lines: Problems, Signs, & Solutions” – For all of the foreclosed homes and bank-owned properties out there that are winterized when potential buyers or investors are contemplating purchasing the properties, this article drives home the point of why you want to have the utilities turned on so the home inspector can thoroughly inspect the property before moving forward with the transaction. This article covers who’s responsible when a sewer line needs to be replaced, the types of sewer lines and common problems, signs to be on the look out for, and the best way to have the sewer line check out. Read more.
“Flammable Vapor Ignition Resistant Water Heaters” – Safety is the main reason behind the national change in water heater manufacturing. This brief article explains the design behind the FVIR water heater. Read more.
Post showing a water heater about ready to have a major leak 5/29/18
Water damage insurance claim waiting to happen! This water heater is rusting out at the base of the tank so badly that it has started to leak. It made me so nervous that I turned the gas off to it, shut off the water supply to it, and notified the listing agent. Had this burst and flooded the basement, it could have turned into a $20,000 to $30,000 remodel job of the finished basement.
“Radon Gas: Separating Fact from Fiction” – This article explains where radon comes from, how it enters your home, how it can lead to lung cancer, the different testing methods, and how radon is mitigated. Read more.
“Defective Shingles: A Homeowner’s Nightmare” – This article has photographs and explanations of some of the more common manufacturer defects found on roof shingles in the Omaha Metro. There’s also links to manufacturers’ websites and how to file a warranty claim. Read more.
Post on Shingle Manufacturer’s Defect found during our home inspection 4/8/20
This is a manufacturer’s defect on an asphalt-composite architectural shingle. The entire roof looked like this. The roof was only 5 years old and had significant granule loss. For some reason the lowest layer of all of these architectural shingles wasn’t holding its granules while the upper layer across the entire roof was in good shape. Unfortunately for the Homeowner, the condition of the shingles was just going to deteriorate even faster as time went on. This roof covering was in need of entirely being replaced.
Nobody was expecting the home inspection to surface a bad roof. With it being only 5 years old and no hail storms hitting the neighborhood, this ended up being a surprise for everyone. This is yet another example of why a Buyer or Seller needs to have a home inspection.
Post of hail damage combined with manufacturer’s defect from 5/6/19
This was found on a recent home inspection in Omaha. It was a bummer for the homeowner, but a benefit to our client, the Buyer. This is hail damage combined with a manufacturer’s defect. Either way you look at it, this roof is toast and needs replacing. When the manufacturing process doesn’t get the granules to adhere properly to withstand our harsh weather conditions, it won’t take much for the granules to fall right off. This roof was hit with pea-to-marble-sized hail and it washed a large portion of the granules right off of the roof. If the shingles were made right, smaller-sized hail shouldn’t cause any damage unless it’s impacting the roof at high speeds.
Post of incorrectly installed roof covering that was effectively funneling water into 2 exterior walls 11/4/19
Head Scratcher – This homeowner installed a mini roof over his front entry. The structure wasn’t sloped properly, the shingles couldn’t be installed correctly no matter how you did it, and the flashing didn’t work. He ended up effectively diverting a lot of rain into both front corners of his house. There was some serious water damage in the front bedroom and garage.
Post showing an under driven nail on a newly installed roof 6/5/18
Ever wonder why your shingles aren’t laying flat? Chances are the Roofing Contractor installed the roof with some under driven nails. When they use nail guns, they need to be very careful making sure the air compressor is set right. In this picture, the Roofer should have followed up with a hammer to pound the nail flush to the roof deck. Eventually, this nail sticking up will poke a hole through the shingle and become a potential for the roof to leak. If there are a whole bunch of under driven nails, then high winds can cause the shingles to blow right off the roof. This voids the manufacturer’s warranty leaving the Homeowner at the mercy of their insurance company to determine if they want to cover the loss. If you had a new roof installed and want us to inspect it before you pay the Roofing Contractor, then give us a call. We’ll be more than willing to help you out.
Inspection of this EPDM roof on a Commercial Inspection saved the client from a huge expense
This is an EPDM (ethylene propylene diene monomer) rubber roof membrane on a commercial building I had the pleasure of inspecting for a Buyer recently. This property was built in 2014 and the roof deck definitely should not have been so rotted out that I had to walk across the I-joists or risk stepping through the OSB (orient strand board) decking. What caused this 6 year old roof to fail? There was no attic ventilation. Combine moisture the building produced from tenants cooking, taking showers, and running humidifiers with no air flow and you get an instant high moisture environment trapped underneath the synthetic rubber roof membrane. OSB rots out very quickly under these conditions. The solution: A Commercial Roofing Contractor needed to tear off the entire roof covering, decking, and insulation, determine if the I-joists were damaged & if so, replace them, install proper attic ventilation, re-insulate, replace the OSB roof deck with plywood as it doesn’t rot as fast, and finally install a new EPDM roof. I never did find out the final estimate, but it would be many, many years of tenant rent payments to cover this massive expense!!!
“Inspecting Composite Wood Siding” – This article explains the history behind hardboard siding, the resulting claims against the manufacturers, and the defects to look for. Read more.
A Little Water Penetration Goes A Long Ways
When you have siding that literally is comprised of sawdust & glue (hardboard), wall sheathing that consists of wood chips & glue (OSB…Orient Strand Board), and a window that wasn’t flashed around properly, what do you expect? This was on a home built in the ’90’s in Omaha. You could easily see the rotted siding and trim below the window. During my Home Inspection, the Contractor showed up and starting peeling away the damaged areas. He had to leave to get more supplies once he found it was more than just the rotted siding & trim.
This is a prime example of how a little water infiltration can lead to some significant damage.
Drainage plane & weep screed quite often missing on stone & brick veneer installations on New Construction…rain water absorbs, runs down wall, and is found at rim joist in basement
Common Builder Mistake: This is active water leaking through the rim joist & sub-floor along with mold growth that I found on a recent Home Inspection in Omaha. Where is the source of the water? 1. There could be a leak around a window at flashing. 2. If the home has stone veneer or brick veneer on that exterior wall, then chances are pretty high that the Builder never installed a proper drainage plane with weep screed to enable water that naturally absorbs into the stone or brick veneer to drain down and out the bottom of the wall. Without that drainage plane, water soaks into the wall cavity, & rots out the OSB exterior wall sheathing. The stone or brick veneer may look good on the outside, but what lies behind it can quickly turn into a nightmare. I’ve been pointing the lack of a drainage plane and weep screed out to Builders for years, yet these same Builders are still failing to control the water. If you own a new home or are having one built, this is one issue that can turn into an extremely expensive repair 3-10 years down the road when you are way past the Builder’s warranty. The Code Inspectors don’t inspect for this which is one of the reasons why these Builders are still skipping this crucial installation step.
SIPs (Structural Insulated Panels)
It’s not too often I get to inspect a SIPs structure. SIPs is Structural Insulated Panels. The entire foundation and exterior walls were made out of SIPs on this newer Omaha duplex. SIPs foundation wall panels are made of treated plywood sandwiched on both sides of a 2×6 stud wall filled with spray foam insulation. They are are strong engineered product with a high R-value for insulation purposes. If installed properly, a SIPs structure should last and hold up better than many of our residential houses being built today. The outside of the wood panel foundation has a water proofing membrane that is critical to it’s success. If that fails, the wood leaks water into your finished basement. Equally as important are the wall panels need to be laterally braced by having the 1st floor system installed before back filling the foundation. In this 2013 structure, the back foundation wall was being pushed in approximately 4″!!! My first clue was both patios had settled along with the grading back to the foundation. My second clue came when I went to inspect the main electric panels and both were leaning. You could easily see the wall was out of alignment by eying down it and the level confirmed it. Because this isn’t your typical poured concrete or concrete block foundation, installing wall anchors or vertical steel beams to stabilize it may take a little more planning by a licensed Structural Engineer to calculate out and retrofit a field solution.
“Children Smoke Alarms”– This is an alert for parents regarding how ineffective today’s smoke alarms are on children ranging from toddlers to teenagers. There is a link to a great video where Channel 7 news out of Boston documented Firefighters’ children sleeping through the smoke alarm’s loud noise. When they changed the alarms to ones with the parent’s recorded voice, the response time of the children waking up dramatically increased. Having one of these child smoke alarms could save your child’s life. Read more.
Some houses are entertaining as hell! What you are looking at is a Flipper who poured over 20 bags of self-leveling concrete over TOP of hardwood floors in a horrible attempt to level the floors. They probably blew over $2,000 on this project and made things drastically worst. 1. Self-leveling concrete needs a solid base to pour over. It can’t go over a flexing floor…which caused it to crack all over just from walking on it. 2. The amount of extra weight added to this floor is huge! The reason the floors sagged before they started this project was the structure underneath was failing. With all of this additional weight, it’s causing the floors to settle even more! Using a laser level, the floors were still off by over 3″! 3. The Flipper knew enough to be dangerous. They did make an attempt to correct the joists by installing steel posts. They neglected to replace the bad foundation, replace the sagging & dry rotted wood beams, install footings under the new posts, or sister new joists running full length from the foundation to the beam. This Flipper needs to admit when they are in over their head and walk away. Just imagine a Buyer going for this property and skipping their home inspection in this market! My Buyer was smart and chose to have it inspected. This inspection saved him BIG TIME!!!
“Termites: Habits, Inspections, & Treatments” – The title says it all. This article is dedicated to subterranean termites that are prevalent here in Eastern Nebraska and Western Iowa. It will help investors, sellers, and homebuyers understand what they are up against if termites are found. Read more.
Post proving dangerous levels of carbon monoxide from a basement Family Room’s ventless fireplace 1/19/18
Have that cute ventless fireplace in your basement family room? Do you turn it on to take the chill off when you want to relax and watch TV, read a book, or take a quick nap? I’ve lost count how many unsafe levels of carbon monoxide I have run across over the years on these systems. These systems should be operating at 0-2 ppm of CO gas. When they are malfunctioning or simply dirty, they don’t have a flue pipe discharging the flue gases outside. Those unsafe levels are released right inside your home. A CO detector in the room with the ventless fireplace won’t alarm until the room has 70 ppm or higher over a 1-4 hour period. In this picture, I’m getting 100 ppm and the home’s CO detector never went off. Keep your family safe and get rid of the ventless fireplace or stove!