Cracked Chimney

The Richter Scale was developed in 1934 to measure the magnitude (strength) of earthquakes from 1 (small) to 10 (extreme)

The home inspector observed this cracked chimney and rated it an 8 (very severe) on The House Whisperer Chimney Crack scale.

This is a structural crack and building officials will condemn the chimney structure.

The homeowner’s options are to tear the chimney down to the ground and rebuild it – or to completely remove the chimney and rebuild the house wall.

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Oakland Bust

Many Oakland home inspections can be entertaining.

Founded in 1852, Oakland was recently declared as the most diverse city in terms of various ethnic populations. Around 150 languages are spoken in the Oakland metropolitan area with a population of 435,000 (2017).

While standing on top of a 1942 California bungalow surveying the condition of the roof… the home inspector noticed the bigger-than-life, male head bust sitting on the next door neighbor’s roof.

About 6 feet high and as wide, was it a bust of a famous person or a deceased family member? Who made it? How old was it? How did they get the bust on top of the flat roof?

Inspector: “It certainly looked like the back of Ronald Regan”
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Crawlspace Critter

Home inspectors love their job and the best inspections stories seem to emerge from the crawlspace… you know, that dark and creepy space under the house where all the Dr Seuss critters hang out.

Deep into a Danville crawlspace, the inspector took this photo… A gecko?

Did you know:

  • Most geckos are nocturnal and there are over 800 different kinds
  • Geckos are among the most colorful lizards in the world
  • The toes of the gecko have millions of microscopic hairs on their which allow geckos to run up walls, windows and even defy gravity by walking upside down on ceilings
  • Geckos are carnivores and eat small insects – after eating, they clean their mouth with their tongue
  • Geckos are considered to be good luck in Hawaii

PS. The crawlspace gecko in the photo never moved while the inspector was nearby; not even when touched… come to think of it, it felt like plastic.

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Watch Your Step

It was hard for the home inspector not to stop and take a photo of this side yard walkway in Fremont.

Nearly every backyard concrete patio and driveway will crack after installation, if not properly installed. What happens?

A number of factors cause concrete flatwork to develop cracks, offsets and to settle:

  • installing directly on soil – which expands when wet, shrinks when dry
  • inadequate preparation –not adding a 4” gravel base
  • not installing reinforcing steel mesh
  • poor drainage control – downspouts discharge water next to walkway

The large crack was a result of poor drainage and ground settlement.

It was classified as a walking safety concern and a liability.

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Old Gas Valve

When’s the last time you checked the air filters under the kitchen exhaust hood or under the microwave oven above the cooktop?

Kitchen air filters help remove greases, steam and unpleasant odors during cooking. Over time they become dirty and greasy.

It’s important to clean the air filters regularly to keep the exhaust hood or functioning properly and to prevent grease fires – especially if you cook with a flame.

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The Nose Knows

During a recent Concord home inspection, a mystery was identified.

For years, the homeowners sometimes smelled sewer gas inside their house built in 1989

The home inspector discovered a crack in the main drain and waste pipe (white area).

Between 1984 and 1990, five plastic pipe manufacturers used a resin that could cause the plastic pipes to develop a circumferential crack at pipe fittings and ultimately leak.

The faulty pipe turned out to be the source of the sewer gas smell.

Count on The House Whisperer team to provide detailed home inspection reports which homebuyers can count on.

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Termite Tower

Believe it or not – It’s estimated that for every human on earth there may be a 1000 lbs. of termites.

Termites have lived longer than the dinosaurs and continue to eat their way through all the wood they can find.

Termites are 24/7 bugs, which means they eat non-stop 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

They have hard, saw-toothed jaws that help them to eat lumber, wallpaper, plastics and fabric make of plant fibers.

Home inspectors commonly see termites’ works of art in crawlspaces… towers, tubes, castles.

Termites will build free-standing mud tubes in order to get to wood (photo).

Termites travel in humidified, mud-shelter tubes or galleries as protection from predators, sun-burn, dehydration and to maintain a high humidity environment which is essential for their survival.

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Silt Marks

The House Whisperer home inspectors will look for tell-tale signs during an inspection of a crawlspace.

In a dark and muddy Antioch crawlspace, the inspector spotted 6” high silt marks on several of the concrete support piers and on the stemwall foundation.

Silt marks are left behind when water rises and recedes in a crawlspace.

Excessive moisture and standing water under a house can lead to corrosion of metal parts and water intrusion into heating and cooling ducts can lead to health issues inside the house.

Wet crawl spaces are sources of high humidity, which leads to surface condensation, mildew and fungi, musty odors, and an unhealthful environment.

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Seeing Red

The House Whisperer inspector went into the attic and came back down seeing red – under the air conditioning evaporator unit water containment pan – not a good sign.

Rusted water in the pan suggests that there’s been leakage every time the AC was turned on.

Whatever the reason for the corroded containment pan, a licensed HVAC service technician needs to review.

If left unchecked, the pan will eventually rust through leading to mold growth, ceiling water stains or water leakage in the room below.

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The S-Trap

The purpose of a plumbing trap under a sink is to prevent odorous sewer gases from entering the house back through the sink and tub drains.

There are two basic types of traps: P and S configurations – both have a trap section, which is a U-shape pipe where water sits in the U and creates a water seal, so that sewer gases at the street sewer system can’t move past the water.


The modern P-trap discharges water through a horizontal pipe through a wall… Whereas, the S-trap shown in the photo discharges water vertically down towards the floor.

The problem with “S” traps is that fast draining water from a sink or bathtub may siphon out the water seal and allow sewer gas to enter the house.

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