As home inspector climbed onto the Lafayette roof – he saw that the spark-arrestor/raincap assembly was absent from the top of the chimney flue peeking over the roof ridge.

At the top of roof ridge, it was then that the inspector spotted the spark-arrestor/raincap assembly sitting on top of the electrical service mast.

The response from PG&E on the other end of the phone was: “What?”

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Dirty Secret

Did you know that man-made fire logs aren’t known for the one thing that is often sought after when building a fire – They don’t produce heat?

Fire log production started in the 1960s when companies were seeking a way to dispose of sawdust waste.

They started combining sawdust and petroleum wax and extruded the mix into log like shapes. Fire logs are easy to light – leave little ash to clean up – have an attractive flame, which has made their use in fireplaces very popular.

When a savvy home inspector sees a Duraflame™ log – they’re going to take a cursory look inside the chimney flue and recommend review by a licensed chimney specialist – Why?

While pre-fabricated logs burn long and relative clean, they produce a wax-like build up that sticks to everything inside your chimney. This substance coats your flue tiles, lining, damper gears, chimney cap, everything… just like creosote from regular wood burning.

Burning too many Duraflame logs can create conditions for a chimney fire.

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Duct Tape Use #637

Home inspectorsencounter grey duct tape used all the time for many household repairs.

It’s true, that duct tape has 1001 uses. There’s a book about duct tape that you can buy on Amazon called… you guessed it… the Duct Tape book.

In the photo, duct tape has been used as a band-aid to stem leakage on a corroded pipe above a crawlspace water heater supply pipe.

Although the water heater is only 2 years old, the steel pipe fitting was connected to a flexible copper pipe without enough Teflon tape, pipe thread compound or better yet, a pipe union fitting to isolate the dissimilar metals – which leads to corrosion.

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Failed Duct Tape

Under a San Ramon house, the home inspector discovered a partially disconnected heating duct in a very wet crawlspace.

The amateur installation was evidenced by the excessive use of grey duct tape and the absence of duct support straps.

Grey duct tape is not for heating ducts click here (interesting article)

What are the concerns open duct laying on the ground?

– Disconnected ducts waste a lot of energy

– Rodents love open ducts… If they invade, it’s a health safety concern

– Open ducts lying on a wet ground with air moving through a duct can be a breeding ground for bacteria and spore growth (mold)

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What’s Inside Your Ducts

Winter time and not a plant in your area can be found poofing pollen particles into the air.

So why are you still sniffling, sneezing and wheezing? It could be your furnace heating ducts.

If your house has a crawlspace, take a look under some of the room floor register grates, where the heating/cooling ducts terminate.

Do you see, what we see? … paper clips, pet hair, gold coins, dust, dirt, gum, pencils, pens, beads, paper, combs, dried food, diamond rings, crumbs, rodent droppings, insulation, bio-growths, etc… you get the idea.

What to do? Grab a shop vacuum.

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One Photo Tells All

Many home inspectors take many photos on an inspection site and archive them in the event there’s a future complaint.

My mentor told me, that when an inspection photo is taken… be sure to ‘study it’, as there may other conditions in need of repair.

In this poor quality photo…

1) The wood support for the drain pipe is very creative… but doesn’t meet plumbing requirements for pipe support and the wood is in contact with the ground.

2) Peering through the dense cobwebs to the left, is a disconnected flexible lint duct… plus flexible lint ducts are not permitted in a crawlspace.

3) To the right of the wood pipe support is a corroded and leaking cast iron waste pipe… a health concern.

4) In the upper left corner is a copper pipe in contact with a galvanized steel pipe (at white wire loop). Copper and steel are dissimilar metals and corrosion is taking place.

5) You can’t see, but behind the cast iron pipe, there’s a loose support floor.

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Small Crater Lake

The home inspector couldn’t believe his eyes – water from a corroded cast iron drain/waste line was leaking and had formed a small lake.

From the looks of things, the dripping water had been going for years every time someone took a shower or flushed a toilet.

The entire crawlspace was in a very muddy condition.

No other adverse conditions were noted. No wonder plumbers charge big bucks.

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Waiting for Great Flood

Ask any home inspector and they’ll tell you that poor drainage around a house is one of the biggest contributing factors to foundation settlement, crack in foundations, house siding deterioration, dry rot and mold problems.

Did you know that one inch of rainfall onto a 2000sqft roof ‘accumulates’ nearly 1250 gallons of water that runs into the gutters and downspouts?

That’s a lot of water that should be diverted away from a house.

Today’s house construction includes a drainage collection system; where downspouts terminate into a drain line and surface drainage grates are installed at grade around the building to carry water away from a building.

Note that the surface drainage grate in the photo is several inches above grade… We can only surmise that the installer needed a laugh or went home early Friday afternoon.

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Do Not Open

An interesting aspect of being a home inspector is that you never know what you’ll discover at the next property inspection.

It’s not too often a sign is posted on a bedroom door “Do Not open or Touch this door… very, very important that you follow this request Do Not Touch!! Thank You!!”

Many things come to mind… Does it mean there’s something in the room that will come after you?… Someone sleeping… A giant snake… Booby trapped door… a madman sleeping inside?

Sometimes, it’s better not to open a door… Why? Watch the video: Do Not Open by Roger Carr and see for yourself.

Yes, The House Whispereropened the door… and lived to write this blog (vacant house).

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Video link for “Do Not Open” –


Duct Tape Story

Ask any home inspector and you’ll hear that disconnected crawlspace and attic heating and cooling ducts are a common observation.

Why? Because standard gray duct tape was used.

it says Duct Tape on the label – it must be the right tape for heating ducts – Right?

Wrong! During World War II, before it was called duct tape, the U.S. military bought a cloth-backed, rubber-adhesive tape for making emergency repairs on the battlefield.

Sometime after WWII, heating and cooling contractors begin to use the tape to seal the joints in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) ducts.

This tape was manufactured in the same way, though to match the metal ducts, it was colored grey rather than the green color of the Army version. Because of this use, it became known informally as ‘duct tape’.

The problem is that standard grey duct tape does not adequately seal duct joints and has a short lifespan. Hot air flowing through heating ducts and hot attics can soften the tape adhesive. Eventually, the tape slowly unravels itself… causing heating and cooling duct connections to separate or leak.

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