Hot Electrical Panel

A picture is worth a thousand words – the discolored wall is a sign of an electrical overload – over-heating and possible wood charring inside the wall.

Electrical circuit overloads can happen when more electricity is flowing across an electrical wire than it can handle.

Electrical overload can occur for a number of reasons: loose connections, too many lights and appliances being used on a single circuit, or water getting into the electrical panel.

This is a much bigger problem, as it appears that all of the electrical cables in the wall over-heated possibly due to lightening… or a failed transformer at the pole… or the incoming power lines touching due to an earthquake, a car hitting an electrical pole… or who knows what.

The home inspector highly recommended review by a licensed electrician prior to the close of the contingency period.

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Horizontal Stucco Crack

In the past, stucco siding was plastered on the house walls and continued down over the foundation.

The top of the foundation is just below the ventilation screen seen at the right side of the photo and the house wall wood framing is bolted to the top of the foundation.

Along comes an earthquake and as it ‘rolls’ across the earth surface; it causes the house walls to move back and forth on top of the rigid foundation.

Since the stucco siding is also rigid and the house walls are moving back and forth, the stucco siding can crack horizontally near the top of the foundation.

This is considered a cosmetic condition and the recommendation is to have stucco cracks sealed to prevent water intrusion.

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Growing Weeds

As the home inspector rounded the side of a Pleasanton home – there it was – a weed growing out of a downspout.

Gutters and downspouts are part of a drainage collection system designed to collect rain water from the roof and carry it away from the house.

Do you know how much water runs off a 2,000 square foot roof when it’s raining? If it rains one inch during a storm, approximately 1246 gallons of water flows into the gutters.

This downspout must have been clogged for considerable time before the sheet-metal downspout corroded through… and accumulated gutter debris decayed into a nutrient rich soil – and with a little water and a seed – the adage about weeds growing anywhere kicks in.

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Potential Kitchen Fire

When is the last time you looked under your kitchen exhaust hood or at the air filter under the microwave oven above the cooking range?

A good home inspector looks under exhaust hoods and microwave ovens for greasy air filters.

Greasy air filter are a potential fire concern – especially, if someone cooks with a flame in the skillet.

Failing to change or clean a greasy air filter creates a number of potential hazards including increased greasy buildup on the interior of your exhaust hood, inside the microwave oven exhaust flue, on exterior surfaces of your kitchen cabinets and walls, countertops and floors.

Leaving grease filters in place too long dramatically increases the risk of fire entering duct work and spreading through a house.

The inspector’s recommendation: wash the air filter in the dishwasher or replace it.

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Garage Disposal Power Cord

The garbage disposal is a device electrically powered and designed to shred food waste into tiny pieces small enough to pass through drain/waste plumbing.

The home inspector noted that the electrical black power cord passing through the bottom of a garbage disposal isn’t centered in the pass-through hole.

The power cord is missing a clamp or rubber grommet to keep the cord centered and away from the sharp edge of the housing.

Think about what you put under the kitchen sink: dish detergent, cleaning supplies, plastic containers, etc. Sometimes those items push against the power cord.

Over time it’s possible for the power cord insulation to chaff or wear through – the bottom line: an electrical power cord shorted to a metal housing and water don’t mix.

Did you know it takes about .015 amps (electrical current) across the heart to kill a person? There are approximately 1.5 amperes to the garbage disposal.

Take a minute to look under your garbage disposal.

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Water Wins Again

Did you know that the older galvanized steel pipes in homes cause 90% of water flow problems.

After 35-50 years, steel pipes rust from the inside out.

As water passes through the steel pipes, corrosion deposits build up inside and partially block water flow. Some older pipes are so corroded that even a pencil would not fit through the center of the pipe.

In the home inspectors photo – the pipe has corroded through and is dripping water – a waste of natural resources.

Running water through a corroded pipe is turning off a water faucet and the water is becomes discolored due to iron oxide.

If you live in house plumbed with steel pipes and there’s low water flow – there’s a good chance that it may be time to re-plumb.

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Sagging Floor Mystery 

A bedroom had been added onto a 55-year old San Leandro house. As the home inspector walked across the floor – there was a discernible sag/slope in the center of the room.

A large steel ball bearing was placed at the baseboard and it rolled slowly towards the center of the room in a spiral pattern – very odd.

The inspector entered the crawlspace under the bedroom sweeping the flashlight in front of him. What greeted his eyes was a wood support post, a concrete pier and footing floating above a large hole.

It turns out the bedroom had unknowingly been built over an abandoned Redwood septic tank where the lid had collapsed.

Before concrete, plastics, metal… early septic tanks were made from Redwood boards.

Now you know the rest of the story.

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Garage Ceiling Hole

During a Pleasant Hill home inspection, a section of the garage ceiling had been removed to work on plumbing pipes.

This was a two story house with a bedroom above the garage.

At first glance, it’s just a cosmetic condition – there’s a hole in the gypsum, sheetrock, drywall panel.

However, the home inspector would note in the inspection report, that this condition was a breach of the fire separation wall/ceiling between the garage and the interior of the house.

One of the requirements for a fire separation wall… is that no hole, void or gap larger than 1/8 inch is allowed.

The purpose of a fire wall/ceiling is to contain a fire to the garage and to give the home occupants time to escape by slowing down the progression of fire.

This won’t happen with a hole in the garage ceiling.

Do your home buying clients know the condition of the firewall?

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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.

Schedule an inspection – mention “I’d like a peace of mind inspection” – Save $25