Scary Fireplace

This deteriorated Orinda fireplace was flagged by the home inspector.

There are still people who live in older homes with fireplaces where gaps have developed between the bricks and/or the fire bricks are cracked and deteriorated.

Why would these conditions be a cause for concern?

Cracks, gaps and damaged brick in the walls of a firebox or interior chimney lining are considered a fire hazard by the National Fire Protection Association.

Smoke carries waste particles from a fire and eventually causes deposits to form on the walls, and inside and behind any cracks.

This oily substance, called creosote, can re-ignite these deposits and possibly lead to a chimney fire… Now, that’s scary. It’s important to repair any cracks, gaps, voids, and/or damaged bricks, if a wood burning fireplace will be used.

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Extension Cord Mania

This Walnut Creek homeowner had plugged in multiple power cords into a garage power strip.

Every year, thousands of fires result from surge protectors, power strips and electrical cords being over-loaded.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that about 3,300 residential fires originate in extension cords/power strips each year, killing 50 people and injuring about 270 others. What’s the big deal?

The most frequent causes of such fires are short circuits, overloading, damage, and/or misuse of extension cords. Surge protectors, power strips, or extension cords are not a substitute for permanent wiring per electrical installation requirements.

If there isn’t enough electrical wall outlets for what will be plugged in – Call a licensed electrician.

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Wannabe Electrician

Have you ever had the urge to grab a roll of electrical wire, a couple of junction boxes and a few wall outlets and switches and connect them together?

This wiring mess was spotted in the back of a garage in Concord.

In the home inspection report, the home inspector recommended – Calling a licensed electrician.

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What?

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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