Inspections – CheckThisHouse Home maintenance, remodeling, repair, and improvement tips for your property Tue, 13 Apr 2021 22:28:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Do You Need A High School Diploma or GED to Become A Home Inspector? Fri, 12 Jul 2019 18:54:12 +0000 To make this short and sweet: yes. A high school diploma, or the equivalent GED, is the minimum required level of education in order to be considered for a position as a home inspector. This does not mean, however, that just because you have your high school diploma or your GED, you will be able to ... Read more]]>

To make this short and sweet: yes.

A high school diploma, or the equivalent GED, is the minimum required level of education in order to be considered for a position as a home inspector.

This does not mean, however, that just because you have your high school diploma or your GED, you will be able to find a position as a home inspector.

What Qualifications do Companies Look For?

If you are looking to get work as a home inspector, whether you have previous experience or not, there are a few specific qualifications that companies are typically going to look for.


While it is true that the high school diploma or equivalent is the minimum education requirement for this line of work, that doesn’t mean all potential employers will be satisfied with that.

Some employers may require higher education, such as degrees in engineering, architecture, building inspection, etc.

It’s also good to note that even if a company doesn’t require a post secondary degree for the position, if they have a choice between two candidates – one with only a high school diploma and one with a relevant degree – the one with the degree will be more appealing for the position.


Proper training is very important for the role of home inspector. Training is often completed through a combination of on-sight education, hands-on instruction, and informative courses.

Some companies are willing to train new employees on the job, while other companies choose to hire candidates who are already aptly trained.

The levels and types of training employees will expect and/or require will vary based on which province or state you are going to be working in. This means it is a good idea to do a little research based on your location, so you are aware of what may be required. 

Licensing and Certification

Due to the technical nature of the job – searching for and recognizing potentially hazardous issues with construction, electrical, plumbing, or other aspects of a home, being aware of building codes, etc. – there are certain licenses and certifications you will need before being approved to work as a home inspector.

Like training requirements, these licenses and certifications will vary between each province and state.

Proper licensing and certification will require practical experience, education, and a passing grade on an approved examination. Certification can be done through a handful of different organizations.

It’s important to remember that certain licenses will need to be renewed regularly.

Personal Skills

As with any job that requires being in contact with a client, personal skills are going to be an asset.

As a home inspector, you need to be able to conduct yourself in a professional manner when dealing with clients, as well as having strong communication and problem solving skills.


Of course, potential employers are going to look for experience.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to have prior experience as a home inspector specifically, but related experience is important due to the nature of the job.

Employers will commonly look for candidates with experience in the fields of construction, plumbing, electrical, or carpentry. Candidates with this type of experience are already familiar with and knowledgeable on many of the building aspects home inspectors are required to deal with.

Build Your Resume

Don’t let this seemingly long list of required qualifications put you off of trying to break into the home inspection industry.

As with any job, you need to start small. Find related work, obtain the necessary certifications, get some hands-on experience, study, train with professionals, and work on building that resume.

The more you build up your resume, the more likely you are to stand out to an employer amongst other candidates.

It is a tough job – one that requires extensive knowledge on a variety of topics, a detail-oriented eye, and hands-on experience that allows you to easily spot inconsistencies and trouble shoot.

It’s not a quick, in-and-out, fast cash type of job. However, if it’s something your passionate about, you can get there with a few years time and some solid dedication.

Don’t Make These 3 Rookie Mistakes When Buying Your First Home Wed, 14 Nov 2018 18:29:33 +0000 Buying a home, especially your first home, can be one of the most exciting and proud moments of your life – but it can also be stressful and overwhelming if you aren’t careful. More than likely, purchasing a house is the largest and most significant transaction you will carry out in your lifetime. Not only ... Read more]]>

Buying a home, especially your first home, can be one of the most exciting and proud moments of your life – but it can also be stressful and overwhelming if you aren’t careful.

More than likely, purchasing a house is the largest and most significant transaction you will carry out in your lifetime. Not only does it involve a large sum of money, but also a variety of complicated processes, contracts, clauses, etc. In order to save your sanity (and potentially your financial well-being), it is of the utmost importance to stay organized throughout the process – and what better way to do so than by starting with a list?

So that is exactly what we’re going to help you do – we’ve created a list, just for you. Read below to find out what we think are the most important things to do before buying a home.

1. Get Pre-Approved For Your Mortgage

Getting preapproved is an important step in the home buying process – it outlines exactly how much you can afford to spend on your new home. While it is not a perfect guarantee that you will be approved for a mortgage of that size, it would take a rather large change to your financial situation for the preapproved rate to be denied when applying for the mortgage itself.

To get preapproved, you will need to visit your lender of choice (or multiple – shopping around is never a bad idea!) with the same documents you will need when applying for the mortgage: pay stubs, tax returns, bank statements, credit report, etc.

2. Choose A Real Estate Agent

While it is not a legal obligation to hire a real estate agent, it only seems logical that you would want someone educated and experienced in the business to aid you with the biggest transaction of your life.

Purchasing a home involves more than just falling in love with a house, writing a cheque, and swapping keys. There’s paperwork (tons of it), legal agreements, and negotiations, all of which the agent can handle for you; not to mention their expertise on the housing market, knowledge of the neighborhoods, and their beneficial networks.

Why wouldn’t you hire a real estate agent?

3. Hire (Or At Least Consult With) A Lawyer

There is the potential for a variety of legal issues to arise during the home-buying process, and without a lawyer it can be easy to fall victim to either intentional or unintentional problems.

In order to avoid any unplanned bumps in the road (bumps that have the potential to be financially devastating), we suggest you get a lawyer – a real estate lawyer to be specific. They know the ins and outs of all of the agreements, contracts, and clauses that buying a home entails and can ensure you come out of the deal with nothing to worry about aside from what curtains you want to hang in your new home.

Bonus – Consider a Pre-Inspection

Most of us make purchases based on emotions, impulse, and usually that first impression pulling us towards that something we begin to fall in love with … and then we swallow the price tag. Having a house presented with a “Pre-Inspected” tag will surely help the buyer to make that decision, but like with everything else, it’s a could be a gamble for the real estate agent and his client.

There is some debate as to the necessity of these pre-inspections (after all, you as a buyer and/or your bank may still require an inspection), and while not as critical as our first three points, this one truly favors the buyer.

If a buyer and/or agent has gone to the trouble of a pre-inspection, consider this an extra vote of confidence in your purchase.

Happy House Hunting!

Once you’ve got your preapproval, your real estate agent, and your real estate lawyer in order – you are more than prepared to start searching for your dream home.

While it may seem like bothering with all of this may seem a tad overboard, it will make your home-buying process run as smoothly and problem-free as possible. This way you can simply enjoy the process, and your new home, with no worries.

Water Heater Inspection Guidelines & Home Inspector Tips Wed, 07 Dec 2011 00:23:17 +0000 Hot Water InspectionWater Heater Inspection Guidelines The following water heater inspection guide covers 3 types of the most popular water heater installations: Gas, natural draft, tank water heaters utilizing galvanized steel vent pipe Gas, power vent equipped, tank water heaters utilizing PVC vent pipe Electric water heaters There might be some minor discrepancies between jurisdictions which will in most (probably not all) cases concern seismic areas water heater installations. I’ll cover it within this water heater inspection manual but I would highly recommend to obtain a water heater installation permit from your local building department (usually required) and verify plumbing code requirements in your particular area. Water heater [...]]]> Hot Water Inspection

The following water heater inspection guide covers 3 types of the most popular water heater installations:

  1. Gas, natural draft, tank water heaters utilizing galvanized steel vent pipe
  2. Gas, power vent equipped, tank water heaters utilizing PVC vent pipe
  3. Electric water heaters

There might be some minor discrepancies between jurisdictions which will in most (probably not all) cases concern seismic areas water heater installations. I’ll cover it within this water heater inspection manual but I would highly recommend to obtain a water heater installation permit from your local building department (usually required) and verify plumbing code requirements in your particular area.

Water heater inspection general requirements, most apply to all 3 categories of water heaters

Water heater inspection –  cold water supply line and a shutoff valve

There must be a water shutoff valve installed ONLY on a cold / inlet line of the water heater. This is required for the emergency and servicing purposes; so the water flow can be easily turned off in case of a leak or appliance servicing.

The water shutoff valve must be installed at or near the water heater / only a full-bore valve type is permitted for this purpose.

Water heater inspection – hot and cold water line connections

Water supply and distribution line material requirements vary between jurisdictions. They might be copper, plastic, galvanized, or even lead in older buildings.

While performing water heater inspection check for union connectors; they are required within 12″ from the water heater’s inlet and outlet side. Their type will depend on the water pipe material in your home. Dielectric and brass unions are safe for all types of water pipe materials (required for copper water pipes) because they provide required separation for different metal types to prevent their corrosion. Galvanized unions can be used for galvanized and plastic water pipes only.

Some jurisdictions will require / some forbid final water pipe connection to the water heater to be flexible. Also, some will require heat traps / heat loops on those flexible lines. I believe that most of the new water heaters will have heat traps built in, if not, a curved flexible line directly above the appliance servs the same purpose; allows cold water to flow into the hot water heater’s tank and prevents hot water convection / mixing with cold water and flowing out of the tank when not in use.

Installed water heater lines union connectors should be checked for leaks during the water heater inspection.

Water heater inspection – hot and cold water pipes insulation

If you jurisdiction adopted UPC (Universal Plumbing Code), minimum R4 thermal resistance value insulation might be required on hot and cold water pipes withing 5′ from the water heater’s inlet and outlet.

Water heater inspection – hot water recirculating pipes

Some water heaters have a hot water recirculating loop installed, which guarantees instant hot water at the furthest faucet from the water heater. Unfortunately such installation wastes significant amounts of energy and all of the recirculating hot water pipes might require to be insulated.

Water heater inspection – insulation

Most newer water heaters include integral R12 or higher value insulation and do not require additional external blanket insulation installation. However, in case the water heater has a lesser value integral insulation or it has been installed in an unheated area, extra layer of insulation is recommended and might be required.

Water heater inspection – thermostat temperature settings

Water heater thermostat temperature setting is a serious safety issue but not a code requirement. The most recommended setting is under 125°F (48,88°C). But continuous exposure of a child’s skin can even at that temperature result in 2nd or 3rd degree burns.

Water heater inspection – safety drip pan

Tank type water heater installations in areas where leakage could cause damage require protective watertight drip pan underneath. This requirement also applies to a cabinet / under the countertop installations.

  • Protective pan must be made from an approved material; minimum 24 gauge galvanized steel or plastic
  • Its minimum depth must be 1 1/2″
  • It must have a minimum 3/4″ drain with a discharge pipe pitched for proper drainage into an approved location. Depending on your local adopted code this could be over a suitably located indirect wastereceptor or floor drain (it cannot be connected to a sewer line, vent pipe, etc.) or outdoors within 6″-24″ from the ground

Water heater inspection – TPR valve  (Temperature Pressure Relief valve)

All tank type water heaters must have a properly installed TPR valve! Every TPR valve must have a properly sized and made out of an approved material safety discharge pipe attached to it.

Since this is an extremely important water heater inspection topic and serious safety issue, please follow this link to a dedicated article: water heater pressure relief valve

Water heater inspection – expansion tank

An expansion tank would be required if a check valve / back flow preventer has been installed on a cold water supply line creating what is referred to as closed water system.

Water heater inspection – combustion air requirements for any fossil fuel burning appliances

Sufficient amount of combustion air MUST be provided for the water heater to operate properly and to prevent incomplete combustion which might result in producing elevated levels of Carbon Monoxide gas.

Water heater inspection – gas connectors

Some states (including Illinois) require heavy wall gas pipes or CSST (Corrugated Stainless Steel Tubing) as a water heater’s final gas connector. No appliance type (commonly used for gas ranges and clothes dryers) flexible connectors are permitted in Illinois.

However, there are jurisdictions where flexible connectors might be recommended or required in water heater installations (seismic areas). Therefore, while performing water heater inspection, gas connector type should be verified with a local building department, and / or gas lines servicing utility company.

Common requirements for a gas flexible connector are that it cannot run through or be concealed inside any wall, floor, or other partition. Also, gas flexible connector should not come in contact with objects like metal wall studs, electrical wiring, copper or iron piping, paneling, sheet metal, etc.

Maximum length of a flexible water heater gas connector is 3 feet.

Water heater inspection – gas shutoff valve

Water heater must have a dedicated gas shutoff valve installed within 6 feet from the appliance, in the same room as the WH, and upstream of the union connector. Where a flexible connector is used, the valve must be installed upstream of the connector.

Water heater inspection – gas line union connector

A union or flanged connection is required between the gas shutoff valve and the water heater. Flexible connectors already include flanged connector so no extra union is needed when using one of those. This is to allow removal of the water heater or its controls without removal of the shutoff valve.

Water heater inspection – drip leg / sediment trap

Water heater gas supply line should have a sediment trap (also known as a drip leg) installed to collect moisture and prevent possibility of  gas valve / thermostat contamination. It should be installed as close to the water heater’s gas valve / controller as practical at the time of equipment installation. Gas line’s drip leg can be in a form of a tee fitting with a capped nipple in the bottom or another device approved as an effective sediment trap. Again, this may not be required everywhere.

Garage water heater inspection

Follow this link – garage gas water heater – for explanation of such installation.

Water heater inspection – safety strapping

Tank type water heaters safety strapping might be mandatory in your area so please verify that with a local building department.

Based on the UPC (Uniform Plumbing Code) section 510.5, water heaters located in seismic zones 3&4 require strapping and / or anchoring to resist horizontal displacement caused by an earthquake. If you’re not sure about your seismic zone, use this US Seismic Zone Map (please let me know if the map is gone at that link) to determine it or call your local authorities.

The following general requirements stated in UPC might vary in your area: “Strapping shall be at points within the upper one-third (1/3) and lower one third (1/3) of its vertical dimensions.  At the lower point, a minimum distance of four (4) inches (101.6 mm) shall be maintained above the controls with the strapping”

Follow this link for detailed California Guidelines for Earthquake Bracing of Residential Water Heaters

Natural draft, tank type water heater inspection

Water heater inspection – draft hood

Water heater draft hood’s diameter depends on the size / BTU’s of the appliance. Residential size water heaters have usually 3″ or  4″ diameter draft hoods, some accept both sizes; the collar of the draft hood will have a profile that allows for different diameter vent pipes installation (picture).

A 3″ diameter draft hood should only have a 3″ diameter vent pipe directly attached to it. 4″ diameter vent pipe can be used as well but only with a reducing coupling.

In case the water heater and the draft hood have been designed to accept 4″ diameter vent pipe only, under no circumstances this pipe can be downsized!

New, 4″ diameter draft hood water heater installation in place of an old one that utilized 3″ diameter draft hood and a 3″ diameter galvanized vent pipe requires entirely new 4″ diameter vent pipe connector. No part of the old, smaller size water heater vent pipe can be re-used!

Water heater inspection – vent pipe vertical rise above draft hood

Although there is no UPC code that would mandate water heater’s vent connector having 12″ vertical rise above the draft hood, the Gama venting tables that are required for proper vent pipe / chimney calculations start with a 12″ minimum vent connector rise.

Water heater inspection – single wall vent pipe connections

All water heater single wall vent pipe connections must be secured with 3 sheet metal screws each (unless some other form of fastening has been approved in your jurisdiction) which includes draft hood connection. Using metallic duct tapes is generally not permitted on water heater vent pipes because it limits monitoring and prevents spotting corrosion and leakage signs, which should be investigated by a professional ASAP .

Water heater inspection – double wall / B-vent pipe connections

B-vent type water heater vent pipes require no screws on their joins because they utilize twist and lock connections. The only area that requires screws is the first joint with a single wall vent pipe or draft hood connection.


Water heater inspection – vent pipe clearance to combustible materials

  • A single wall water heater vent pipe requires minimum of 6″ clearance to combustible materials
  • Double wall / B-vent type connector requires 1″ clearance to combustible materials

Water heater inspection – single wall vent pipe locations

  • Single wall vent pipe cannot pass through any walls, floor, ceilings
  • Can be only installed in the same room as the water heater
  • Single wall vent pipe may never be installed inside the wall / ceiling cavities
  • Single wall vent pipe cannot be installed in an unheated or inaccessible area (attic, crawlspace)

Water heater inspection – vent pipe slope, support, and length

  • Water heater vent pipe requires a minimum of 1/4″ rise per linear foot towards the chimney to maintain proper draft.
  • The entire run of the vent connector must be sufficiently supported to prevent sagging and dipping.
  • Maximum horizontal length of a single wall vent connector is 75% of the total vertical height
  • Maximum horizontal length of a double wall / B-vent connector is 100% of the total vertical height

Water heater inspection – water heater and furnace vent pipe connection

Venting a furnace that utilizes induced draft motor and a natural draft water heater into a common vent requires “Y” shaped connection. This is required to prevent exhaust gases from the furnace from being pushed back into the house through the water heater’s vent pipe / draft hood.

Click – water heater venting – for an article dedicated to this subject.

Power vent, tank type water heater inspection

Water heater inspection – PVC vent pipe

Tank type water heaters utilizing power vent must have its PVC vent pipe joints sealed / glued using appropriate PVC cement that creates air tight joint. Using silicon for this purpose is not permitted.

The PVC vent pipe’s first connection to the power vent assembly collar is usually made with rubber sleeve / coupling and two clamps, which quiets vibration and minimizes its transfer onto the PVC vent pipe joints.

Water heater’s PVC vent pipe must be properly supported along its entire vertical and horizontal run to prevent sagging and dipping. Manufacturers span support recommendations vary between 3′-6′ with the first support / strap located immediately adjacent to the first 90° elbow. This might be further regulated by you local authorities.

The diameter and the minimum / maximum length of the water heater’s PVC vent pipe must be verified using the water heater’s installation manual. It usually depends on the appliance’s tank size, power vent motor,  BTU’s, and the number of elbows along the entire run.

Click the following link – water heater PVC vent pipe – for additional material covering water heater’s PVC vent pipe. You need it to complete this power vent water heater inspection .

Tank type, electric water heater inspection

Water heater drip pan, TPR valve and discharge pipe requirements are the same as above.

Water heater inspection – electrical connection

Electric water heater requires in-sight or lockable disconnect, 220V circuit breaker should be labeled accordingly.

Electrical conduit must be secured to the connection box with a listed type connector and wiring performed / concealed inside the compartment / protected with a cover.

Electrical conduit must not touch metal water pipes.

Electric water heater grounding terminal screw and grounding wire installed - water heater inspection

Electric water heater grounding requirement - water heater installation manual picture

Electric water heater requires grounding – a ground terminal is usually located inside the connection box or in its vicinity.

Green color wire or green tape marked wire must be attached to the WH grounding terminal and to the electrical service ground terminal.

Top Ten New Condo Safety Issues & Defects Sun, 13 Sep 2009 04:54:30 +0000 Read more]]> Fitting New Condo Safety Issues and defects into the Top 10 list is going to be a little tight, but you can find out about many other bad things from the Chicago condos by checking entire Chicago Condo Inspection Manual.

You would think that after such a spectacular real estate meltdown, something would change in the Chicago construction business. I’m talking of course about some kind of an improvement, a positive reaction from the Chicago building department inspectors who have magically disappeared for several years now.

With less construction going on, they now have a chance to re-emerge again; they can do some good by checking the major safety issues in those new condos and help buyers walk into much safer homes … make-up for what they didn’t do in the last few years.

Unfortunately, nothing good is happening. The Chicago building inspectors must be somewhere else because I’m seeing the same serious problems on brand new construction sites.

It’s depressing and it doesn’t look like any help is coming our way, unless they are planning some undercover action against all those properties.

House Maintenance Top Ten List of the Chicago New Condo Safety Issues / Life Threatening Conditions!

Condo inspection - entry doors leading to an enclosed staircase, hallway or garage must be self and fully closing

Non-functional self-closing feature on condo entrance doors from the building staircases and missing weather stripping – those doors must automatically and fully close and must not have gaps along all 4 edges to prevent fire and smoke penetration. Fire feeds on oxygen and fresh air leaking from withing your unit will cause it to spread out further, and smoke to contaminate your living quarters.

Single combustion air port on the furnace closet door or wall is not sufficient and installed too high. The minimum requirement is one within 12 inches from the floor and second within 12 inches from the ceilingGas furnace and / or water heater closet combustion air requirement – all fuel burning appliances require oxygen to support complete and clean combustion. Unless the appliances are designed to use exterior air only, there must be air-supplying ports installed within the closet.

In many condominiums, there is either no combustion air vents provided, installed vents are too small, or they’re improperly located. All of these items could cause Carbon Monoxide to develop and contaminate the residence.

Chicago new condo furnace inspection - furnace metal vent pipe joints must be secured with screwsFurnace and water heater vent pipes are loose, unsupported, or not secured with screws / or glued (only for PVC pipes) at joints. With limited storage space in condos, occupants often use the furnace / water heater closet to store … well, everything.

With loose, unsupported vent pipes, it’s easy to displace them without even noticing it. When that happens, exhaust gases will be discharging into your apartment instead of the chimney.

Condo furnace room firewall violation on pipes and air ducts penetrating ceilingCondo firewall penetrations – I can assure you that nobody cares about it. Not a developer, heating contractor, plumber, drywall installer, and certainly not a Chicago building inspector. It’s a celebration when I see a condo with properly (or at all) sealed fire wall penetrations.

In case of a fire, all those openings create an escape route for smoke, and might allow flames to spread out / consume framing of the structure

House maintenance - improper type of the vent pipe connector used on WHNatural draft water heater and induced draft motor equipped furnace vent pipes require Y shapped connectors - T is not permittedImproper type / shape of a connector used between the natural draft water heater and an induced draft furnace vent pipes. Pipes must be joined together with a “Y” shaped connector instead of a “T” type to prevent the possibility of the furnace exhaust gases being pushed back into the water heater vent pipe.

Bathroom GFCI protection - hydro-massage tub motor terminal needs to be bonded to the water pipe

Ungrounded Jacuzzi / hydro-spa pump motors – unless the motor is double insulated (rarely), it has a ground terminal attached to its metal body. This terminal must be bonded with a water pipe using #8 solid copper wire and a special clamp, which is almost NEVER done. In some cases, correcting this problem after the tub has been installed, and access to water pipes blocked with tiles, might be quite expensive

GFCI outlet installation - Smart Lock GFCI testingImproperly wired GFCI outlet receptacles (bathrooms, kitchens, laundry if required, exterior, and/or garages) – if the contractor uses newer devices, they simply won’t work unless correctly wired. However, older GFCI receptacles (some electricians must keep a load of them, because they still use it) have a defect and even if tripped, the power remains ON. Make sure that you test all your GFCI outlet receptacles on regular basis – GFCI testing

Bathroom window safety glass - required for any windows within 60 inches from the tub or shower standing surface

Missing tempered type glass in bathroom windows located within 60” from the shower stall or tub standing surface – there must an etched label in one of the corners of the window pane confirming that it is tempered. Some custom made windows might not have this etching or label attached, and in such case you should contact the manufacturer

Condo furnace inspection - missing bottom closure plate inside the air return compartmentMissing furnace bottom closing plate – new furnaces are often delivered with an open bottom for the connection of a return duct. Whenever this isn’t used (air return connected to the side of the furnace), there must be a special metal plate installed over the opening to prevent bi-products of combustion from being sucked into the circulating air

Condo safety issues - high voltage lamp wire penetrating wallThe wiring of high voltage lighting under the kitchen cabinets installed inside the wall cavities without conduit protection

It won’t cost you a penny and might save your life, or at least some money that you have already invested in that not so perfect home. Go ahead, start investigating and let me know about your new condo safety issues.

New Hot Water Heater Installation Guide & Condo Inspection Tips Tue, 21 Apr 2009 04:06:35 +0000 hot water tank installationTo start your inspection of a new water heater installation in a Chicago condominium you have to determine what type of a water heater you actually have. The following water heater installation guidelines will most likely apply in any jurisdiction (please double check). The only difference or rather an addition would be water heater strapping and flexible gas connectors that are required in seismic areas. Below are 4 most common types of water heater installation in Chicago new condos: Tank type /natural draft water heater with a metal vent pipe (galvanized steel – make sure there is no aluminum [...]]]> hot water tank installation

To start your inspection of a new water heater installation in your condominium or home you have to determine what type of water heater you actually have.

The following water heater installation guidelines will most likely apply in any jurisdiction (please double check). The only difference or rather an addition would be water heater strapping and flexible gas connectors that are required in seismic areas.

Below are 4 most common types of water heater installation in Chicago new condos:

  1. Tank type /natural draft water heater with a metal vent pipe (galvanized steel – make sure there is no aluminum vent pipe used)
  2. Tank type / induced draft / power vent water heater with a PVC vent pipe installed
  3. Electric type water heater
  4. Tankless type gas water heaters – depending on manufacturer and design it might be plastic or metal vent pipe

Chicago condo inspection - water heater installation must have a shutoff valve installed on cold water supply lineChicago condo water heater installation inspection - water main shutoff and water heater cold water shutoff valveWater supply line for your Chicago condo water heater installation – it must have a shutoff valve so in case your water heater or any hot water line starts leaking, you can  turn it OFF. The WH water shutoff valve is required on the INLET (cold) pipe only.

Main water shutoff (to turn off water for the entire apartment)  is usually installed close to the water heater valve. If you can’t see the shutoff valve ask for it because it might become handy in some situations.

Condo water heater installation requirementsChicago condo inspection - dielectric unions are required on water heater inlet and outletWater heater installation – hot and cold water supply lines.

Those will be most likely made out of copper (no flexible connectors permitted in Chicago). Because water inlet and outlet of the water heater are galvanized steel, there must be some kind of a separator installed between copper and galvanized. In most cases brass or dielectric union connector (pipe union connector with a plastic insert). Without it, the pipes will eventually corrode and start leaking.

  • Check union connections for leaks on the water heater installation
  • Water heater temperature settings – this is of course totally your choice, but most experts recommend staying below 125°F (48,88°C) – even that temperature could cause second or third degree burns if the child continuously exposes skin to water at that temperature.

1. Natural draft type water heater installation, tank type water heater with a metal vent pipe inspection

Water heater installation vent pipe inspection - always secure with screws to draft hood and never downsizeCheck if the water heater installation metal vent pipe is the same diameter as the draft hood collar diameter (at the connection). Some draft hoods are designed for 3″ and 4″, but if it is only 3″ diameter, and 4″ pipe installed – vent pipe requires reducing coupling. If the draft hood has a 4″ diameter connection – do not reduce it to 3″ because it will compromise proper venting – Carbon Monoxide poisoning hazard.

Water heater installation inspection - vent pipe must never be downsizedChicago condo water heater installation inspection - no tape of any kind on water heater vent pipe connections, they must be secured with screwsWater heater vent pipe should never be downsized along its run!!! If your water heater draft hood was designed for a 4″ vent pipe, it cannot be downsized along its entire run.

  • Every single wall vent pipe connection must be secured with 3 sheet metal screws / no tape of any kind. It’s not because the tape doesn’t seal the connection, it’s because you can’t see through the tape. This sometimes prevents early discovery of a corroding pipe, holes, leaking condensation – they are all signs of a draft problem, which should be spotted as soon as possible and corrected by a professional.

Water heater installation inspection - double wall vent pipe connections are twist and lock type, no screwsCondo water heater installation inspection - gas water heater single wall vent pipe must change to double wall before penetrating ceiling or wallDouble wall (B-vent) water heater vent pipes use twist and lock design / no screws on connections are permitted except for a single wall to a double wall vent pipe type joint.

If your water heater installation has a single wall vent pipe, it must change to a double before wall or ceiling penetration.

  • Minimum 6” clearance to combustible materials is required for a single wall pipe, which must never be installed inside the wall, ceiling, unheated or inaccessible areas.

Chicago condo water heater installation inspection - vent pipe connectionNatural draft water heater vent pipe and an induced draft motor equipped furnace vent pipe must be connected together and to the chimney flue with a “Y” shaped connector

“T” shaped connector installation poses safety hazard, because furnace induced draft motor could push exhaust gases back into the water heater vent pipe and contaminate your condo.

2. Tank type / power vent equipped water heater installation and a PVC vent pipe inspection

Water heater installation vent pipe inspection - make sure that all PVC vent pipe connections are tightAll power vent equipped water heaters PVC vent pipes connections must be glued / air tight (with PVC pipe cement / not silicon), secured at power vent with metal clamp on rubber connector (unless differently specified by the manufacturer)

  • PVC vent pipe size (2″, 3″ or 4″) – you have to check that in water heater manual, it will depend on the water heater size (how many gallons), BTU input, and vent distance from the water heater connection to the exterior wall termination
  • There are louder and quiet water heater power vents but all should be tolerable – if the noise is annoying, there’s usually something wrong with it

Tank type water heater installation – safety drip pan

Condo water heater installation inspection - drip apn required under the water heater where leakage could cause damageWater heater installation in a condominium requires a drip pan where leakage could cause damage (basically every floor above the basement installation)

  • Water heater installation drip pan must be plumbed to the floor drain or other approved location (indirect connections only / it cannot be tied to a sewer line, plumbing vent pipe, etc.) using at least the same diameter pipe as the TPR valve discharge end diameter size (3/4″ in most cases) – check if drain pipe connection to the pan is tight and sealed to prevent leakage.
  • Any water heater installation inside a cabinet, under the counter must include a drip pan

Water heater installation – TPR valve  (Temperature Pressure Relief valve)Water heater installation inspection - tank type water heater always requires TPR valve and a discharge pipeThe discharge pipe from the relief valve on the water heater has been incorrectly plumbed uphillThere must be a safety discharge pipe attached to the TPR valve, same size as the valve discharge end (usually ¾”)

  • TPR valve discharge pipe must never be downsized or run uphill
  • No traps, kinks or any restrictions (such as shutoff valves) are permitted along the TPR valve discharge line

Condo water heater installation inspection - no threads are permitted at the discharge end of TPR valve pipe

  • There must be no threads at the safety pipe discharge end – people are tempted to cap it when it starts leaking. Because leakage is always a sign of a problem – faulty valve or excessive pressure inside the installed water heater tank – it must be fixed immediately. Capping that safety pipe might result in tank explosion.
  • Water heater installation safety valve (TPR valve) pipe must be made out of copper, galvanized steel or CPVC (no PVC pipe permitted – temperature rating too low) – there’s usually marking along the pipe wall

Chicago condo water heater installation inspection - TPR valve discharge pipe must terminate within 6 inches from the floor surface

  • TPR valve discharge pipe must terminate within 6” from the floor surface or continue into the floor drain or other approved location / only indirect connections are permitted
  • No white Teflon tape is permitted on water heater gas pipe connections – small pieces of tape can get shredded during assembly, break off, and flow downstream to block a gas valve. There is a special yellow Teflon tape and compounds / paste available for gas pipe joints.

The flexible gas connectors are not permitted in Chicago and Illinois for water heater installation

  • No flexible gas appliance connectors are permitted on Chicago (and Illinois) water heater installations. Peoples Gas allows CSST (Corrugated Stainless Steel Tubing) as a final connector for permanently installed appliances, such as water heater or furnace but those are still rare in Illinois.

Chicago new condo water heater installation inspection - gas line shutoff valve and drip leg are required

  • Water heater installation gas supply line must have an emergency shutoff valve and so called drip leg installed to collect moisture from gas lines before it contaminates water heater gas valve (where you adjust temperature)

Extremely important and already covered in a different part of this Chicago condo inspection manual – Combustion Air.

3. Electric water heater installation inspection (tank type)

Water heater drip pan, TPR valve and discharge pipe requirements are the same as above.

Chicago condo electric water heater installation inspection - all wiring must be contained within the designated compartmentElectric water heater installation power supplying conduit must not touch water pipe

  • Electrical conduit should be secured to the water heater with a connector and all wiring concealed inside the water heater connection box / other side of the conduit is usually attached to an electric junction box. There should be no loose conduit, exposed wiring, loose connection box / junction box covers.
  • Check electrical panel for a breaker marked “WH” or “water heater” – it will look like (but it should not be) two single breakers with handles connected together (for 220volts).

Electric water heater installation grounding terminal screw and grounding wire installed - water heater inspectionElectric water heater installation grounding requirement - water heater installation manual picture

  • Check for a proper grounding of an electric water heater installation – there should a ground terminal with a screw (usually green color) on top, next to, or inside the wiring box cover. If you can’t see it, turn off the electrical circuit breaker marked “water heater” or the main breaker (safer method) prior to removing the box cover.
  • There should be a green wire or other color wire marked with a green tape attached to it. I would suggest a licensed electrician to trace the other end of the wire (to ensure proper connection) or to install one if missing.

4. Tankless water heater installation inspection

If you have a tankless water heater installation in your condo, you will need a manual included with this appliance. There are too many variables involved / different requirements from different manufacturers.

Chicago Condo Furnace Installation Most Common Problems Mon, 13 Apr 2009 04:04:18 +0000
This chapter of the Chicago new condo inspection covers most common furnace installation issues (based on my inspections).

Condo furnace inspection - air return should not be placed closer than 10' from any area of combustion, or should be located in a separate roomCondo inspection - furnace combustion air and air return through the same louver doorsFurnace air return port must be located at least 10’ from the combustion chamber(s) (where the burners are) of gas burning appliances or in a separate room. The exception from this requirement is when the furnace and other appliances (within that room and 10′) are using combustion air from the outside.

10′ distance or return air port located in other room is to prevent bi-products of combustion process from being sucked into the air circulation system and contaminating the apartment.

Chicago condo inspection - furnace air return compartment with a side duct and left open bottom / missing required metal plateCondo furnace inspection - air return compartment warning information tagThis next item is an extremely common and dangerous issue and in some way another variation of the first one. The furnaces are often manufactured and delivered for the installation without the bottom plate (under the blower). This feature allows to connect air return duct to the bottom of your furnace.

Condo furnace inspection - missing bottom closure plate inside the air return compartmentHowever, whenever this bottom connection is not used (air return duct connected to the furnace side wall), there must be a special metal plate installed over the opening to prevent bi-products of combustion and dust, lint from being sucked into the circulating air.

  • Before you remove the furnace bottom cover to check for that closure plate, turn the appliance OFF – there must be a ON-OFF service switch mounted on the furnace enclosure or within the furnace closet – this is also a requirement.

Chicago condo furnace inspection - furnace blower compartment safety switchLook for a small push-button type switch along one of the edges of the blower compartment opening – this is a safety cut-off switch which disconnects the power to the furnace as soon as the blower compartment cover is removed.

The reason I asked you to use furnace service switch first is that installers tend to tape or by-pass this safety device when testing the new furnace during installation, and than forget to put it back in service.

Chicago condo furnace inspection - with a forced air heating system and a single air return port installed in your condo, entry doors to heated - air conditioned rooms should be undercut three quarters of an inchIf your condo has a single air return port (all rooms have only air supply registers), make sure that the bedroom and bathroom doors have at least ¾” of a clearance between the bottom edge and floor surface / threshold

New condo high efficiency furnace with PVC vent pipe – most common issues

Look where the PVC vent pipe connects with the furnace induced draft motor enclosure discharge which is usually at the furnace enclosure wall penetration. Most of the high efficiency furnace manufacturers recommend this joint to be sealed with high temperature RTV type sealant (not a regular silicon). The are two benefits from such connection;

  1. provides required air tight seam which is resistant to acidic condensate from the high efficiency furnace exhaust gases
  2. allows for easy separation for servicing purposes

Condo inspection - furnace PVC vent pipe must be sealed at furnace first connection with a high temperature RTV type sealantChicago condo furnace inspection - leaking PVC pipe joint at furnace wall penetrationUnfortunately, I rarely see an installation done correctly. It’s either loose / not sealed with anything (try to pull the PVC pipe from the joint), or it’s been bonded with PVC type solvent cement and already leaking condensate around the seam. Problem with the PVC type solvent cement is that it doesn’t bond properly to the other piece of plastic which is not a PVC type, and responds differently to exhaust gases temperature. Cement might hold for some time, but the joint will eventually crack and start leaking (look for stains around the seam).

Condo furnace inspection manual - PVC vent pipe connected with rubber sleeve and metal clamps - one is missing
Some manufacturers / designs require use of a rubber sleeve and metal clamps on this first furnace PVC vent pipe connection – make sure that clamps are tight – you should not be able to pull it apart (don’t force it). If it is loose, all you need to do is tight the clamp with a screwdriver.

Chicago condo furnace inspection -broken seal on high efficiency  furnace PVC vent pipe connection
Run furnace for 30 minutes and check connections on PVC pipe for any leaks / condensation buildup – they must be air tight and replaced if leaking (silicon repairs are not acceptable). You should check PVC vent pipe joints periodically for leaks.

  • Furnace PVC vent pipe must be always sloped towards the furnace at ¼” per foot (minimum) to drain condensation through the furnace internal tubing system. If your furnace high efficiency vent pipe slopes down towards the exterior wall, there’s a possibility of ice buildup during the cold season which could block the exhaust pipe and shut down the furnace.

Chicago condo furnace inspection - corrosion caused by leaking connections inside the high efficiency furnaceTurn OFF the furnace, remove service panels (might be single or two) and check for any moisture, corrosion stains inside the enclosure. High efficiency / condensing furnaces produce acidic condensate during the combustion process which sometimes deteriorates seals, starts dripping onto the furnace components and accelerates corrosion.

If you spot any moisture stains inside the furnace enclosure, whatever is causing it must be serviced to prevent more and sometimes permanent damage to the furnace components.

New condo regular furnace / metal vent pipe most common issues

  • Condo furnace vent pipe must always run upwards at a minimum of ¼” raise per foot

Condo new furnace inspection - all single wall vent pipe connections must be secured with screwsChicago new condo furnace inspection - furnace metal vent pipe joints must be secured with screwsAll furnace metal vent pipe connections (single wall pipe) must be secured with screws (there should be 3 per connection), no duct tape (any kind) on vent pipe joints

  • Condo furnace metal vent pipe must be the same size as the induced draft motor discharge end. If larger size pipe is used, such connection requires reducing coupling – look at the connection from underneath.

Chicago new condo furnace inspection - gas furnace metal vent pipe must be the same size as the induced draft motor discharge end. If larger size pipe is used, such connection requires reducing couplingIf there are small gaps between the furnace vent pipe and an induced draft motor collar, it might be just missing a high temperature rubber gasket. Connection on the picture has an orange-red colored gasket but it requires reducing coupling between 3″ collar and 4″ diameter vent pipe.

  • Furnace double wall vent pipe connections have a twist and lock design and should not be secured with screws
  • Wherever the furnace vent pipe penetrates closet / utility room side wall or ceiling surface it must change to double wall before penetration, minimum 6” clearance to combustible materials for a single wall pipe / never inside the wall or ceiling
  • Your furnace vent pipe must be adequately supported along its entire length

Chicago condo furnace inspection - improper type of a connector used between the WH and an induced draft furnace - must be WYE type.Condo furnace inspection - WYE type connector is required between the furnace and a water heater vent pipe
Vent pipe connection between the furnace equipped with an induced draft motor and a tank type water heater must be WYE shaped / not a T type connection. This is required to prevent furnace exhaust gases from being pushed back into the the water heater vent pipe.

Chicago new condo furnace inspection - flexible gas connectors are not permitted
Furnace gas connection – no flexible appliance type gas connectors are permitted in Chicago (and Illinois). Peoples Gas allows CSST (Corrugated Stainless Steel Tubing) as a final connector for permanently installed appliances, such as water heater or furnace but I’ve seen only a few.

New condo furnace inspection - missing condensation drip leg on furnace gas supply lineChicago condo furnace inspection - white Teflon tape on gas pipe connections is not permitted Gas supply line must have a so called drip leg installed to collect moisture from gas lines before it contaminates furnace gas valve

  • No white Teflon tape is permitted on appliances gas pipes connections. There is a special yellow tinted Teflon tape designed for the gas pipe joints or several different types of sealants (paste like).

Some other issues to look for on you new Chicago condo furnace

Furnace air filter, filter compartment and blower compartment

  • Make sure that you can pull the filter out and install it without disassembling half of the furnace or destroying the filter in the process.
  • Blower compartment and furnace should be clean. They are often heavily contaminated after the construction and even changing several filters won’t prevent your new furniture from getting a white coat of plaster powder.

New condo furnace inspection - missing condensate discharge pipes on furnace installed above the bathroom ceilingFor furnaces installed on upper floors and / or in closets above the ceiling in your condo, there should be a drip pan under the air conditioning coil section (where two AC copper pipes penetrate furnace enclosure wall).

It must be plumbed to its termination point where it can be safely discharged. In such installations you should be able to see two drain pipes, one attached to the furnace enclosure (coil section) and second to the drip pan.

  • Furnace humidifiers – a few different types so check my whole house humidifier post and let me know what you have so I can give you more details. If possible, ask the developer or his representative to explain how to operate and maintain your particular type of the whole house furnace humidifier.

Some of them are very cheap and will give you very little or no benefit at all. Other waste gallons of water per day of operation.

Those were the most common problems I see during my Chicago condo furnace installation inspections.

There’s much more stuff to inspect in your condo –

Chicago Condo Inspection Manual

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Chicago Condo Inspection Firewall Separation or NOT Wed, 08 Apr 2009 17:53:29 +0000 Read more]]>
Even if you know very little about Chicago history, I’m sure you have heard of the Great Chicago Fire that started on October 8, 1871 … maybe you didn’t remember the date …

This chapter of your Chicago new condo inspection covers firewall separation between the condominium units, and it will tell us if we actually learned anything from the Chicago history.

Actually, I have the answer for you right now, before we even start the inspection – it’s a NO, we didn’t learn anything.

99.9% of my Chicago condo inspections are the best proof that the homeowners are putting their safety in hands of completely irresponsible developers, contractors and Chicago building inspectors.

I’m also 100% sure that the majority of other Chicago condos I didn’t have a chance to inspect (maybe with the exception of the hi-rise condos) are in the same condition.

Do you know that I can actually write the inspection report on condo firewall separation (and many other things) before I even start the inspection.

The funny thing is that whoever is not doing it wright, comes up with great ideas on how to make it worst.

Condo furnace room firewall violation on pipes and air ducts penetrating ceilingSo, let’s start this short inspection manual by answering one question:

  • Q: How do you prevent fire and/or smoke from traveling between your neighbor’s condominium and yours?
  • A: By providing air tight / fire resistant joints around all wall, floor and ceiling penetrations between the condominium units, especially in plumbing walls and utility rooms / closets containing fuel burning appliances.

Condo kitchen and bathroom firewall

Condo kitchen firewall - plumbing wall shutoff valves access must be sealed with removable  panelGaps around the drain pipe under the kitchen sink (plumbing wall, firewall) must be sealedLook under the sink and check area where plumbing pipes penetrate the wall or floor. This wall behind the sink / toilet / tub / shower stall often continues through the entire building (from the lowest to the highest level) and contains all the plumbing pipes, sometimes ventilation ducts, cables, etc.

In some building layouts, the kitchen drain and water supply pipes travels withing the apartment walls / floor to wherever this plumbing wall is located.

Condo bathroom plumbing wall - firewall. Gaps around the pipes penetrating plumbing wall must be sealed.All the penetrations inside the wall at each floor / ceiling level and at the wall surface (example – where your sink drain pipe penetrates the wall) should be sealed to prevent spreading of fire, smoke and migration of all kinds of insects and rodents.

In other cases, there might be an open shaft / chase that runs through the floors and seals are applied only at the side wall, where something from the shaft penetrates your condo wall.

However, after seeing so many things done wrong on the “surface” of condos I’ve inspected, I have no reason to believe that under the surface looks better.

All gaps around the pipes should be sealed for your own safety, even if somebody will try to convince you that it’s not necessary.

Condo firewall in utility room / closet containing fuel burning appliances

Condo firewall penetration - small gaps around the pipes must be sealed with fire rated caulkingGaps around water pipes penetrating condo firewall must be sealedLook at all floor, ceiling and wall areas where plumbing pipes, furnace air ducts, water heater and furnace vent pipes, dryer vents, air conditioning pipes, electrical conduit, cables, and anything else penetrates the surface.

Condo utility room firewall penetration sealed with highly flammable  insulation, expanding foamDrain pipes penetrating condo utility room ceiling and floor must be sealed around the penetrationsThis is where contractors imagination shifts into the overdrive. The best example (from my experience it appears to be a very popular trend) is using highly flammable expending foam (window and insulating type) as a fire / smoke blocking material around the penetrations.

You can easily spot it if left exposed because of its yellowish / ivory color.

High temperature, fire rated expending foams are color coded for easy recognition, the most common are orange, pink, and gray. However, different specification might prevent some of the products from being permitted in particular location.

Condo firewall penetration blocked with higly flammable expanding foamCondo firewall air duct penetration blocked with highly flammable expanding foamIf you notice something like that applied around the penetrations, ask the contractor / developer for the product brand name, check online if approved for fireproofing purposes, and confirm with the Chicago building department.

  • The reasons for using regular expending foam instead of the fire rated products is the price (approximately 4X more), and irresponsibility… or simply just not knowing what to do.

Another product which is not being used around penetrations is fire rated caulking (most common color red or red-brown, 2-4 times more expensive than regular caulking). Because structures move constantly, different materials contract/expand at different rates, using fire rated caulking prevents the gaps from appearing around those penetrations.

The bottom line for the Chicago condo firewall separation:

Condo laundry room firewall - gaps around dryer duct ceiling penetration must be sealed.Condo laundry room firewall - dryer duct ceiling penetration must be sealed.Penetration in any surface of the condo wall, floor or ceiling that separate your property from the common areas (hallway, staircase, etc.), wall cavities or other apartments and roof framing (for top floor units) must be sealed with approved by the local code fire-rated materials.

So go ahead, look for holes, and continue your

Chicago new condo inspection

Chicago Condo Inspection & Combustion Air Requirements Fri, 03 Apr 2009 01:02:49 +0000 This part will cover Chicago condo inspection combustion air requirements for the gas furnace and water heater installed inside your condo closet / utility room (not in the building common areas) – this is an extremely important section and you may need measuring tape.

All gas burning appliances require oxygen for a proper, complete and safe combustion process / without creating measurable and dangerous amounts of  Carbon Monoxide.

Because Carbon Monoxide has no taste, smell or color you must have a CO detector installed in your condo to alert you about any unsafe levels (check Chicago smoke and Carbon Monoxide detector requirements).

First we’re going to check if gas furnace and / or gas water heater installed in your condo require combustion air from within your apartment. In case you have two or three appliances installed in one room / closet, and only one of them requires combustion air, the minimum rules (or whatever the actual appliance requirements are) would have to be applied to this area anyway.

High efficiency gas furnace combustion air

High efficiency / condensing furnaces use either single or double PVC pipe (2″ and larger).

  1. If you have only one PVC pipe coming out of your furnace enclosure and penetrating room wall or ceiling, it is used for ventilation purposes only and this furnace requires air from within your apartment for combustion.
  2. If you have 2 PVC pipes coming out of your furnace enclosure and both of them continue through the furnace closet wall or ceiling, this furnace uses outside fresh air for combustion. The area where this appliance is installed (if single or all appliances the same type / using air from exterior) does not require any additional combustion air supplying ports.

This type of an appliance can be installed in your closet behind the air tight doors – just look-up the installation manual for minimum distances from surrounding walls and doors.

There might be also 2 pipes coming out of the furnace enclosure but one terminating inside the furnace closet / room (usually very short), and second continuing to building exterior – this appliance is like #1 / single pipe.

Regular efficiency furnace using metal vent pipe / regular chimney

The same combination as with PVC pipes but two metal pipes system (one for venting and one for combustion air) are very rare and I don’t think you’re going to find such furnace in your new Chicago condo (as a brand new installation of course /regular efficiency and sealed combustion chamber furnaces were common a little while ago).

If by any chance your condo has a brand new furnace with 2 metal pipes or exhaust metal and PVC air supply – this doesn’t require combustion air from interior.

Most common installation of a 80+ efficiency furnace:

  • Furnace with a single metal (vent) pipe – it requires combustion air supply from within the condo

Gas water heaters combustion air

There are two types of water heaters commonly installed in Chicago condo units:

1. Conventional tank water heaters with natural draft (metal vent pipe) and induced draft / power vent (PVC pipe). 100% of the installed tank gas water heaters in Chicago condos (whatever I had a chance to inspect) use combustion air from within the apartment.

Although, there are high efficiency tank type water heaters using outside air sources for combustion (PVC exhaust and air supply), they are expensive and I’ve never seen one installed in Chicago condos.

2. Tankless type water heaters – to determine where is it taking combustion air from, use the appliance manual because some models use a concentric pipe that looks like a single but it is actually pipe within a pipe. So depending on the installed model – it may or may not require interior combustion air.

This section below explains one of the most common installations.
If you have any other combination of air supplying /combustion air vents – let me know your total appliance BTU’s, send me a picture of this section of your condo with detailed description.

How much combustion air your condo utility / furnace closet requires

Chicago condo fuel burning appliances - furnace BTU rating labelChicago condo fuel burning appliances - water heater BTU rating labelCombustion air requirements are based on the BTU rating of your appliances (you can find BTU’s on manufacturer name plate attached to the appliance). However, there’s a minimum required combustion air supplying net free vent area and specific location which must be maintained.

  • If your condo furnace and / or water heater installed in a closet / utility room require combustion air from interior of the apartment, the room they are located in must have a minimum of two openings / vents that will supply that air.

Single combustion air port on the furnace closet door or wall is not sufficient and installed too high. The minimum requirement is one within 12 inches from the floor and second within 12 inches from the ceilingCondo inspection combustion air - no sufficient combustion-air vents within the furnace closetCondo inspection - furnace combustion air and air return through the same louver doorsOne interior combustion air vent must be located within 12” from the floor, second 12” from the ceiling of the appliance closet / utility room.

Each combustion air supplying vent must have at least 100 sq inches of a net free air flow area, and extra 1sq inch per 1000 BTU if 100 sq inches is not enough.

Because the combustion vents are usually covered with metal or wood grills with louvers the actual FREE air flow area is smaller than the louvered section of the vent.

  • Metal louvered combustion air vent cover provides 60%-75% of its net free area (10″x10″ louvered opening would only provide 60-75 sq inches)
  • Wood louvered combustion air vent cover provides  only 20%-25%

The furnace 100 000 BTU rating + water heater  40 000 BTU rating = 140 000 BTU Size of each of the two interior openings – 140000 BTU / 1000 = 140 sq inches of a net free air flow area

Click “combustion air” for calculations example.

For clothes dryers makeup air check Chicago condo laundry inspection section. If installed together with a furnace or water heater, just add  BTU’s rating to the example above.

Full louver doors as the only source of combustion air

As far as the amount of air that can pass through the door (in most cases) it would be acceptable and approved by the city building inspector. The questionable situation would be with an 8’ (or higher ceiling) and a regular size door where the top section of the louver door is not within 12″ from the furnace / water heater closet ceiling.

Per code, that additional vent is still required, and if your condo utility room / closet doesn’t have it, contact city of Chicago building department for clarification because I was once told (by the Chicago building inspector) that it was OK.

Also, according to Chicago Peoples Gas Construction Guide for Gas Usage – “In confined space situations, where there may be vertical and/or horizontal space limitations, it is permissible for the two permanent openings to about one another.”

  • Combustion air ports for the furnace – water heater closet (including louver doors) must not open into the sleeping area, no fuel burning appliances that require interior air for combustion can be installed in bedrooms or bathrooms.

One exception are vented and ventless fireplaces that require combustion air from interior, but this is a different story.

So, how is your Chicago new condo gas furnace and water heater combustion air?

For more inspection manuals go back to Chicago Condo Inspection Manual.

Chicago New Condo Laundry Room Inspection Wed, 01 Apr 2009 02:29:42 +0000 Read more]]>

Chicago new condo laundry room electrical

You can start your Chicago new condo laundry room inspection by looking at the electrical panel circuit breakers labels.

New condo inspection - make sure that your electrical panel circuit breakers are labeled and one 20 amp rated is dedicated for laundry room appliancesYour new Chicago condo laundry room electrical outlets must be 20 Amp rated and installed on 20 amp rated circuit (wire and circuit breaker)Laundry room requires a dedicated (no other rooms, outlets, lights on this breaker) 20 amps rated circuit breaker to protect receptacles within that area. Outlet receptacles installed on that circuit must be also 20 amps rated.

  • If your condo laundry room is equipped with a 220 Volt electrical dryer outlet, the breaker / circuit protecting it must be at least 30 amps rated (check requirements in the appliance installation manual to determine if provided circuit is sufficient)
  • If your new condo laundry room has  no appliances installed yet, examine location of the electrical outlet(s). They must be located within 6’ from the appliance location to avoid extension cords.
  • If your laundry room has a sink, all receptacles installed within 6’ from its exterior edge must be GFCI protected.

Condo laundry room plumbing

  • Check if sink, cabinet, faucet components have been properly secured. Open laundry sink faucet for several minutes, check around the valves, spout and connections underneath the sink for any signs of leakage.

Some installation (stackable washer & dryer in a narrow closet) might prevent evaluation of the plumbing, electrical and gas connections behind the appliances. Often, pulling it out of the closet will require removing of the doors.

  • If accessible, make sure that washer hot and cold water supply lines are connected and not reversed, locate dryer gas line shutoff valve (should be immediately after the flexible connector), examine drain pipe connection and dryer vent pipe. You can use a telescopic mirror to check behind the appliances in a tight location.

Chicago condo dryer vent pipe

Chicago condo laundry inspection - clothes dryer plastic vent is forbidden - flammable, installed dryer vents should be as short as possiblePlastic, flexible pipes are NOT permitted for use as a clothes dryer vent! Thin metal foil with a spring inside are claimed to resist fire but are extremely easy to bend, kink, and crush which would compromise dryer venting. I highly recommend to replace it.

Ideally, the entire dryer vent pipe should be smooth wall / not a flexible metal type one which gets contaminated much faster. Although, not recommended, flexible metal dryer vent pipes are permitted, but they can not be concealed inside the walls and ceilings / entire flexible connector must be exposed. Watch for kinked / damaged sections behind the dryer.

  • To minimize lint accumulation on dryer vent pipe connections / joints must be in direction of air flow, and NO screws can be used on joints.

In situations where it is not possible to discharge clothes dryer to exterior, there might be a ventless condensing type dryer installed.

  • Venting your regular type (not condensing) gas or electric dryer within the condo interior is against the UMC (Uniform Mechanical Code) requirements.

If your condo includes such installation, ask the developer to proof that it complies with a local building code.

If  you decide to keep such installation anyway, be aware that all the moisture from your wet clothes will be dumped into to your condo. In case of a fire inside the dryer or its vent pipe, it might spread out of the lint trap container.

Condo laundry room firewall inspection - dryer duct ceiling or wall penetration must be sealedOne more thing about the condo dryer vent pipe – wherever it runs into the wall or ceiling, there must no gap around the pipe.  This is to prevent possibility of fire / smoke penetration in case of a fire in your or your neighbors condo. Any small gaps must be filled with a fire rated caulking, larger openings require drywall installation and taping.

Condo dryer closet ventilation / makeup air

  • Your condo electric or gas dryer requires so called makeup air for proper operation.  Therefore closet installations must have some form of a fresh air supply, which can be provided by a 100 sq inch air vent (minimum size) or louver type door.
  • For the dryer installed in the same room /closet as your condo furnace and / or water heater, dryer makeup air has to be calculated along with the combustion air required for other appliances (this is covered in condo combustion air requirements).

Drip pan under the washing machine

Condo inspection - drip pan installation under the washing machine is sometimes required by the building associationThis feature is not required by the building code but some building associations and insurance companies might refuse to pay for the damage if missing (drip pan cost is somewhere between $10-$40, you’d just need some help with lifting the appliance). If by any chance there’s one already installed, check for cracks.

Before you take a brake after inspecting your Chicago new condo laundry room, run a cycle on your washer and dryer.

Whenever you’re ready for more checking, you can continue by going back to:

Chicago Condo Inspection Manual

How to Perform Kitchen Inspection | Home Inspector Tips Tue, 31 Mar 2009 03:38:54 +0000
Kitchen inspection manual is not a replacement for an inspection performed by a professionally trained and licensed home inspector.

The following kitchen inspection guidelines can be used by a home inspector to establish routine procedures while performing a general home kitchen inspection. Every home owner/ seller / buyer can also follow this kitchen inspection manual to determine if his kitchen conforms to the residential construction industry standards or / and if the contractor did his job right on a brand new kitchen.

Keep in mind that building codes are updated / changed periodically and requirements my slightly vary between jurisdictions. Don’t hesitate to ask me questions and always verify if particular requirement has been adopted and is being enforced in your area by contacting your local building department.

Some jurisdictions may not adopt various building codes or their portions even for a few years (or sometimes never) after they’ve been issued. Kitchen inspection and my other inspection manuals are based on the most widely adopted in United States residential building code: 2009 IRC (International Residential Code), and on the oldest and most widely used electrical code: 2008 NEC (National Electrical Code). Plumbing and HVAC uniform codes which are used in various parts of US have been utilized as well.

Kitchen inspection – electrical requirements

Check kitchen GFCI post for more ONLY electrical details of the kitchen inspection.

  • Start your kitchen inspection by evaluating the electrical circuit breaker panel – check for kitchen labels (all electrical panel circuit breakers require labeling), there are usually 3-5 (sometimes more) circuit breakers dedicated for kitchen circuits (depending on your kitchen features)
  • Minimum of 2 x 20 Amps circuit breakers are required for the kitchen countertop small appliance circuits, and they are usually marked as “kitchen counter GFCI”, “kitchen counter outlets”, counter receptacles”
  • Besides the countertop outlet receptacles small appliance circuits must serve the refrigerator, all exposed wall receptacles in the kitchen, dinning room and pantry. To be on a safe side I would suggest to have the refrigerator put on an additional / dedicated small appliance circuit breaker (15 Amps or more) which serves no other appliances (this is permitted but not required by code)
  • You kitchen lights or any other areas not listed above CANNOT be served by the small appliance circuits (wall clock or kitchen range ignition are OK)
  • Kitchen dishwasher and garbage disposal will in most cases require separate circuits
  • All kitchen countertop receptacles must be GFCI protected and 20 amps rated. There might be 2 GFCI receptacles (each on one of those two circuit breakers), and additional outlets connected to those GFCI receptacles (protected by them). Even if your kitchen has only 2 countertop outlets, each one must be on a dedicated circuit.

Kitchen inspection – GFCI outlet testing

Test every single outlet with a GFCI circuit tester or use any cord & plug lamp – make sure that it is ON when plugged into the tested receptacle and it goes / stays OFF after you push and release TEST button. Don’t forget regular GFCI outlet maintenance and testing, your life might depend on it.

Kitchen inspection – GFCI outlet spacing and locations

Kitchen inspection, electrical - there must be no point along the kitchen countertop wall line located further than 24 inches from the receptacle (horizontally)

There should be no space along the wall above the kitchen countertop further than 24” from an outlet receptacle. This basically translates to – “an electrical outlet every 48” above the countertop”. Wall section directly behind the sink, kitchen range, and cook-top doesn’t require electrical outlets.

Kitchen inspection - GFCI required above 12 inch or wider countertopKitchen inspection - kitchen island requires GFCI protected outletEach individual counterspace 12” or wider requires an electrical outlet receptacle.

  • Kitchen island and the peninsula require at least one GFCI protected receptacle (no more than 12” below the counter with up to 6” overhang). The island receptacle is sometimes missing because of the difficulty in installation, especially if the island was not planned in an original layout.

Kitchen inspection advice for home owners / sellers or home buyers:

If your new kitchen inspection reveals an outlet receptacle missing from the kitchen island (assuming it is required in your jurisdiction), try to look at this problem and all other issues as a person purchasing this house / condo from you in the future.

Imagine ripping of the floor, maybe cutting the concrete layer underneath to accommodate conduit, maybe removing some of the  kitchen cabinets to connect this single outlet … You’re looking at maybe several hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars spent on something that should be in place.

It could also become a safety issue – using any small appliances on the kitchen island without an electrical outlet would most likely require an extension cord hanging across the kitchen. Just add a couple of children running around …

If it’s a brand new kitchen inspection you’re performing, make sure that everything is correct or request repairs from the developer/ contractor.

Kitchen inspection – exhaust fan

Individual kitchen exhaust or microwave hood are not required but if they are already there why did somebody waste time installing them the wrong way…

  • Make sure the exhaust fan / microwave assembly is secured to the wall / cabinet.
  • Turn it ON and check if there’s any suction at the bottom inlet ports (you can place sheet of paper over the inlet). Some installers forget to adjust the unit for recirculation or exterior discharge (knockout plates might need to be removed and / or blower assembly flipped).

If there’s no suction, appliance would have to be removed and disassembled to correct this condition. It is also possible that wrong type of the hood has been installed, it might be designed for an exterior discharge only and if such was not provided, it will be blowing air from underneath.

  • Open the cabinet above the hood and check if the exhaust fan discharge pipe is installed and secured. No plastic ducts are permitted and building code requires smooth wall pipe / not a flexible type (by the way, a while ago I had a conversation with a Chicago building inspector who said that flexible is OK, while his book says it is not…). Grease will contaminate flexible air duct much faster and create a fire hazard.

Kitchen cabinet unprotected surface (no hood / microwave installed over the gas range / cook top) must be at least 30” above the gas burners, 24” if range hood installed (or lees if allowed by the vent/microwave manufacturer).

Kitchen inspection – dishwasher installation

  • Make sure that the dishwasher is secured to the countertop or side cabinets and properly leveled. The door should easily close and its lock engage without forcing it. Run a cycle to ensure that there are no leaks on discharge and supply lines. Examine kitchen floor area in front of the appliance for leakage stains / damage.

Kitchen inspection – dishwasher air gap, high loop, anti-siphon –  To determine proper installation, you will have to check manufacturer’s installation guide for your particular appliance. Some dishwashers have those features already built in but they are not visible.

Kitchen inspection – garbage disposal installation

  • Run water into the garbage disposer side sink, turn the switch ON to operate disposer.
  • Check sink and drain pipe connection for leaks.
  • Examine electrical connection at the bottom or side of the disposer and at the junction box (if present) – there should be no loose connection or / and exposed wiring.
  • Follow this link for a few more garbage disposal installation requirements garbage disposal wiring

Kitchen inspection – range installation

  • Gas appliances require shutoff valve immediately after the flexible gas connector – shine a flashlight behind the appliance without moving it, or move it as little as possible. If the kitchen range gas shutoff valve is located at the wall lower section, it might be visible by removing the bottom drawer.
  • Kitchen range must have a safety anti tip bracket installed (chain will do too) to prevent it from tipping over and injuring whoever accidentally pushed down onto the open oven door (manufacturer requirement, always included in installation kit, rarely installed).

Kitchen inspection – sink and faucet

  • For sinks mounted under the stone countertop pour some water along the seam and look underneath to make sure that is not leaking inside the cabinet
  • Test faucet assembly to make sure that it is secured and free of leaks, make sure that cold and hot is where it supposed to be. Run water in each sink bowl for several minutes and check for leaks underneath the sink.
  • Faucet aerator screens (end of the spout) sometimes requires cleaning / this is often the solution to poor water pressure or uneven discharge

Kitchen inspection – countertop, backsplash and counter seams inspection

  • Check if countertop / its backsplash are secured and sealed with silicon at seam and along the wall to prevent water penetration. Look for dents, chipped edges, uneven seams, cracked surface.
  • Stone and tiled countertops require sealer application on regular bases (depending on material and sealer). However, there’s no such obligation, so protect your investment on your own – application of a good sealer will preserve the surface original look, prevent staining of natural stone and grouted areas (if tiled).

Kitchen inspection tip: In case you have a marble countertop or backsplash, be extremely careful with anything that might cause discoloration – marble is like a stain sponge – seal it often and with good products.

Kitchen inspection – cabinets

  • Test cabinet doors and drawers for alignment and proper operation – they are usually very easy to adjust with a screwdriver (as long as the hardware is not damaged). The cabinets must be secured to the wall framing and in most cases you’ll be able to see screw heads along the interior or exterior top and base of the cabinet.

However, some kitchen cabinet manufacturers use special system of railings which is attached to the wall framing and the cabinet simply hangs on it. In such case there might be no visible screw heads.

  • Also, look for scratches, cracks, warped doors, exposed nails, loose / missing kick-plate, and anything else that doesn’t look natural.

Kitchen inspection – lighting fixtures

Operate light switches to make sure that all fixtures are functional. In some floor plans you might have two kitchen entrances and light switches located at each one. You should be able to turn the lights ON/OFF (at least the main light fixture) independently from each side.

Test both switches in ON and OFF position – if improperly wired or wrong type of a switch used, you will not have a full control at both ends.

Kitchen inspection – under the cabinet lights / low voltage

  • There are two types of light fixtures used for this purpose – low voltage (usually 12V) and a regular / high voltage. Low voltage wiring between the fixture and a transformer doesn’t have to be inside the conduit (some jurisdictions might require it) and it should never be mixed with high voltage wires.

The transformer could be inside the kitchen cabinet, on top of it, or underneath / behind the kick-plate, usually plugged into an electrical outlet / sometimes switched. Low voltage wires can pass through the cabinet walls and behind them to the fixtures itself.

Kitchen inspection – under the cabinet lights / regular – high voltage

  • There are also (sometimes looking exactly like low voltage lights) under the cabinet lights that require high voltage power supply to the fixture itself (transformer might be built into the light fixture), and in such case that wiring between the electrical box / switch must be inside the conduit with a proper type connectors installed.
  • If the light fixture came with a cord & plug (not designed for hard wiring), this must not be altered, lamp cord removed or hidden behind / inside the walls.

Light fixture should have a label stating what kind of a voltage is using – it’s usually visible on the fixture enclosure surface or after you remove the light bulb cover (turn the light OFF and don’t touch the light bulb if halogen).

I hope you didn’t find to many problems during your kitchen inspection.

Chicago New Condo Bathroom Inspection: Finding Bathroom Safety Issues Mon, 30 Mar 2009 04:02:15 +0000 Chicago new condo bathroom inspection All bathroom outlets must be 20 amps rated and must include GFCI protection (there might be one GFCI receptacle and other outlets connected to it and protected). Your new condo bathroom receptacles must be installed on #12 AWG wire which you can’t see without removing of the receptacle or at ... Read more]]>

Chicago new condo bathroom inspection

Condo inspection - the difference between 15 amps and 20 amps rated electrical outlets receptaclesAll bathroom outlets must be 20 amps rated and must include GFCI protection (there might be one GFCI receptacle and other outlets connected to it and protected). Your new condo bathroom receptacles must be installed on #12 AWG wire which you can’t see without removing of the receptacle or at least its cover, but this is beyond our basic / visual inspection.

Typical electrical outlet receptacle ground and wiring testersThe best way to test bathroom GFCI is to purchase a GFCI receptacle tester (you can get one for under $10.00 in any local Home Depot®/Menards® or Lowes®, smaller hardware stores might be more expensive – just make sure that it has a GFCI test option) and test all of the apartment receptacles for proper wiring and functionality. The minimum you can do is to use a cord & plug lamp for testing – make sure that the light goes OFF and stays OFF after you push and release GFCI’s “trip” button – learn extremely important GFCI maintenance.

Bathroom electrical outlet receptacle must be installed within 36 inches from the bathroom sink exterior edgeMake sure that there’s an electrical outlet receptacle within 36” of each sink exterior edge. Bathroom electrical outlet may be installed on the mirror, wall surface, or sink cabinet face /side wall within 12” from the countertop.

Chicago condo bathroom whirlpool tub inspection / electric and safety

Electrical outlet receptacle must be secured inside the junction box and should have a cover installedIf your new condo has a whirlpool tub, its motor must be accessible and plugged into a GFCI receptacle or GFCI breaker protected outlet. Pull the motor plug from the receptacle, and plug in your testing device / push the test button, or push GFCI breaker test button (in electrical panel) to make sure it trips and disconnects the power to the motor. Make sure that electrical box is secured, receptacle attached to it, and has a cover plate installed.

The access to the hydro-spa motor must be large enough for servicingMotor access must be large enough for servicing if required, and for en emergency disconnect – so you can reach and pull the plug from an electrical outlet socket. Check if the motor is within reach and removing it would be possible without destroying surrounding walls.

Bathroom electrical issues - hydro-massage tub motor terminal needs to be bonded to the water pipeBathroom electrical issues- hydro-massage tub motor terminal properly bonded to the cold water pipeMost of the hydro-spa motors (unless listed on label as double insulated) have a grounding screw / terminal. There must be a #8 solid AWG copper wire bonding (connecting) this terminal with a water pipe (special clamp must be installed on water pipe) – very important and rarely installed. In some cases the terminal is on the opposite side of the access panel, you’d need a good source of light and a telescopic mirror (just a few $$$ in most hardware and car supply stores) to see it.

  • Open the tub / whirlpool faucets – make sure that cold / hot water markings correspond to whatever is discharging from the spout.
  • Check under the spout and around the valves for leaks
  • Make sure that when turning the valve(s), there’s only one OFF position and that the valve turns only one way from that position. If improperly installed, you’ll be able to move the handle both ways from the point the water stops running, or the handle(s) might turn 360° (applies to all faucets in your condo).
  • Close the drain (if it’s working), fill the whirlpool tub with water to about 2″ above the highest jet, point all the jets towards the tub bottom (if adjustable) and turn ON the switch. Operate whirlpool for a couple of minutes, test controls to makes sure that all of the jests are functional, look underneath for any signs of leakage (if accessible of course).

Chicago condo bathroom stall shower inspection

  • Operate shower stall enclosure components to make sure that everything is aligned properly, no gaps along the door edges / door closing and opening smoothly.

Cracked fiberglass shower base cornerIf you have a manufactured type shower base (fiberglass, plastic, concrete, Corian, etc), check its surface for cracks, scratches, dents, stains. Cracks usually appear in corners or around the drain hole, might be caused by improper handling, installation or even manufacturing process. Other 99.9% issues are caused by the base installer or whoever performs other jobs around the base.

Leaking shower enclosure requires resealingOpen grout-joints between the tiles require resealing - all tiled wall corners should be sealed with siliconOpen the valves, check for proper operation (same as whirlpool section), if possible, direct shower-head onto the enclosure seams (run it 10-15 minutes) to make sure that none of them are leaking

  • If your condo shower stall has a tiled seat, make sure that it has a positive slope to provide proper drainage, ensure that all shower stall seams / corners have been sealed with silicon. Even if they are not cracked yet, 99.9% of them will eventually separate and start leaking onto the ceiling below.

Chicago condo bathroom lights inspection

Recessed light fixtures and trim over the tub or shower stall must be rated for wet - damp locations (restrictions apply) #1Recessed light fixtures and trim over the tub or shower stall must be rated for wet - damp locations (restrictions apply) #2Recessed light fixtures within 3’ from the tub or shower stall edge and 8’ vertically from the edge must be rated for wet / damp locations (usually require enclosed trim preventing moisture penetration)

Bathroom wall light electrical wiring must be concealed inside the fixture enclosure or junction box
Lights – if you have a light strip above the mirror with an open top, check if electrical wiring is properly contained within an electrical junction box or fixture itself – you should not be able to see exposed wires and connections

Chicago condo bathroom exhaust fan inspection

  • Any bathroom without an openable window requires an exhaust fan. Depending on the condo building type, this might be an individual exhaust fan installed on the wall or ceiling, or central exhaust system with just a register in your bathroom (some have switch controlled dampers). You can place a tissue or toilet paper over it to make sure that it has suction.

Bathroom vent installed above the shower or bathtub requires GFCI protection
Any bathroom exhaust fan installed directly above the shower stall or bathtub must be listed for such locations and GFCI protected (manufacturer requirement) – turn the fan on and push GFCI receptacle test button, this must stop the fan.

Chicago condo bathroom inspection other issues

Check tiled surfaces for missing grout or cracked grout linesMake sure that all tiled wall corners are sealed with siliconCheck all tiled walls for missing or cracked grout – look at grout lines from different angles to make sure that they are all completely filled with grout and free of cracks. There might be an inadequate mortar base, sometimes loose underlayment that permits movement and results in grout cracking.

Tiled wall and tub or shower base edge are very common areas of moisture penetration - silicon application ensures water tight sealTypical separation between the sink countertop and the back-splashTiled wall and floor corners, tile seams with tub and shower stall base, shower enclosure to wall seams, sink countertop to wall seam – they should be all sealed with silicon to prevent moisture / water penetration.  99.9% of them will eventually crack / open, and without flexible sealer on top of the seam, they will start leaking. Your neighbor from the floor below is usually the first one to let you know about it.

Tub-shower window sill has a negative slope and holds waterWindow sill (if window located within the shower stall / tub area) should be sloped towards the interior / not the window frame. Assuming that it is tiled, all seams with the window frame must be sealed with silicon.

Sealer application on tiled / grouted surfaces – I don’t think that there’s such requirement / regulation (except for the grout and some tiles manufacturers recommendations), so you can’t really request it from the developer. However, I highly recommend it – it saves maintenance time, slows grout deterioration, prevents grout, unglazed tiles and stone surfaces from absorbing water. Application is very easy and clearly explained on any sealer bottle – just make sure that the surface you’re applying it over is clean and fully dry.

Condo bathroom window safety glass

Bathroom window safety glass - required for any windows within 60 inches from the tub or shower standing surfaceBathroom windows located within 60” from the shower stall or tub standing surface MUST be tempered type glass – check the corners of a window pane for etching confirming that it is tempered. This is a very common problem, and for a very simple reason – tempered window glass is more expensive – if it’s not there, it must be replaced.

  • Tub or shower enclosures must be also tempered glass and I’ve never seen a new one without the label. Custom / frameless enclosures might not have a “Tempered Glass” etching or label so the only thing you could do is ask developer for a certificate or manufacturer contact information.

Whirlpool / tub surface issues

Cracked fiberglass whirlpool tub edge, as a result of improper handling and installationCheck your new condo bathroom tub for dents, scratches, marks, discoloration (all types of tubs), and cracks especially along the edges supported with tiled surface (fiberglass and plastic). While first 4 are usually related to a sloppy drywall / tile installers, painters and sometimes a plumber, cracks along the edge are usually a sign of an improper base / inadequate support under the tub, and poorly designed framing.

Properly supported whirlpool tub - just one of the optionsImproperly supported fiberglass tub - might crack around the drain end edges when under stress- filled with waterThe tub should be fully supported from underneath, not rest on the thin edge which becomes critical while filled with water. You should be able to see hydro-spa tub support after removing the motor access panel.

Condo bathroom sink and faucet issues

  • Make sure that your sink, cabinet / sink base, countertop, faucet components and all the hardware are securely attached (supported). Check if pup-up drain is functional, open hot and cold water separately to make sure that supply lines have not be switched around. Look at the water flow and pressure – the screens inside the faucet spout discharge end (aerator) might be contaminated and require cleaning.
  • Keep your bathroom sink faucet open for several minutes and check the plumbing underneath, look for leakage stains under the pipes and valves, run your hand over the connections (drain and supply) to make sure that there’s no leaks.

Ready for more condo inspection, it’s just a click away 🙂

Chicago Condo Inspection Manual

Chicago New Condo Electrical Requirements | Condo Inspection Sat, 28 Mar 2009 21:36:59 +0000 Read more]]>
This section of my Chicago Condo Inspection Manual will help you to ensure that your property developer / electrical contractor followed local electrical code requirements while wiring your brand new condo or a gut-rehabbed property.

You’ll find here general Chicago new condo electrical requirements and more details concerning your kitchen, bathroom and the laundry area will be explained separately. Because this condo inspection manual is designed for anyone to be able to follow, you don’t have to worry about being electrocuted while following my steps – you won’t need to remove covers from electrical panels, outlets or switches. 

If you spot some problems on the “surface”, there is usually more cut corners underneath and licensed electrician evaluation would be needed.

Chicago condo main electrical panel requirements

Your condo main electrical panel might be located in various areas. The most common are main hallway wall, utility room, bedroom wall.

  • Your Chicago condo electrical panel must have 30″ (36″ NEC) of open space in front of it and it should be installed on at least 30″ wide section of the wall (no shelves, cabinets, appliances, etc. on that 30″).  For example, if you have to reach over the washer / dryer to the electrical panel – this is not an electrical code approved installation.
  • When you open your new condo main electrical panel access door, there should be a 100 amp rated main disconnect (doesn’t apply to partial condo conversions). If your electrical panel has less than 6 circuit breakers (NEC), the only main disconnect might be installed somewhere in the basement or common area / next to the electrical meters – find out.

Chicago building code permits more than six circuit breakers in the main electrical panel, and the main disconnect located in different location.

You’re not going to be able to check if power supply cables are also rated for 100 amps without unscrewing of the panel cover – this should be done by a professional. The reason I’m mentioning it is that sometimes they are not, which is a fire hazard.

Chicago condo inspection - electrical panel basicsCheck for labeling inside the condo electrical panel – each circuit breaker should have a short description of the area it controls.

  • There must be at least two 20 amps rated circuit breakers marked for kitchen counter outlets, and additional for dishwasher, garbage disposal, refrigerator – not required but it makes sense. An average of 4-5 circuit breakers dedicated for kitchen electrical circuits is very common.

  • Separate 20 amps rated circuit breaker for each bathroom / depending on installed hydro spa motor size, hydro spa heater, bathroom floor heating, steam unit, etc, additional circuit breakers might be required and labeled. Example – if your bathroom has a hydro-spa heater, it needs an extra circuit breaker.
  • Minimum one 20 amps rated circuit breaker is required for the laundry area for a receptacle(s) providing power to washer/dryer.
  • Bedroom labeled circuit breaker(s) must be AFCI type (since January 1, 2002) – check AFCI requirements changes in 2008 electrical code. This AFCI breaker has a test button, and it should trip / turn OFF the power to your bedroom when depressed. Test all the bedroom outlets after tripping the breaker (use a table lamp or an outlet tester – you can purchase one for under $10.00 in any local Home Depot®/Menards® or Lowes®, smaller hardware stores might be more expensive, buy one with GFCI test option).

Also test bedroom & bedroom closet lights – you should not be able to turn anything ON after tripping AFCI breaker . Test lights and electrical outlets in surrounding areas too – bedroom marked AFCI breaker should only protect the bedroom (check 2008 NEC AFCI changes)

Chicago condo outlets general rules (not for kitchens, bathrooms and laundry area):

  • Hallway 10’ and longer requires an outlet

Chicago condo inspection - electrical outlets wall spacingChicago condo inspection - electrical outlets installation on 24 inches and wider wall 1Chicago condo inspection - electrical outlets installation on 24 inches and wider wall 2All rooms should have electrical outlets installed in such way that there’s no place along the wall further than 6’ from a receptacle. If there’s a 2’ or wider wall space (e.g. between the closet and bathroom doors) – it also requires a receptacle.

  • If you have a fixed glass section that continues to the floor, there should be a floor receptacle installed within 18″ from the wall /glass (fixed glass section counts as a wall)
  • All exterior (balcony, porch, etc) electrical outlets must be GFCI protected

Chicago Condo Inspection Manual

Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detector Requirements | Chicago Condo Fri, 27 Mar 2009 19:37:18 +0000 Requirements for the smoke and Carbon Monoxide detectors / alarms installation in the city of Chicago are slightly different than those from NEC (National Electrical Code). So if you’re moving from the Chicago suburbs or other states into the Windy City you’re actually going to need LESS smoke, fire and Carbon Monoxide protection.

If you need a smoke alarm you can get one by clicking any of the images below:


So let’s continue your Chicago condo inspection and check for smoke and Carbon Monoxide detectors.

If you need a smoke alarm you can do some research by visiting Amazon to see what’s most popular

Pushing test button on smoke and Carbon Monoxide detectors may only confirm that unit is mechanically functional and it has power. This test does not guarantee proper response to smoke, flame and / or CO presence.


Smoke alarm testing schedule sheet to print and place it in your home Click on the image (link opens in a new window) and print your smoke alarm testing schedule for the entire year.

Put this smoke alarm testing reminder on your refrigerator, message board… whatever, just remember to do it often!

You can involve your kids into the smoke alarm testing and have them mark the schedule every week.


Smoke detectors requirement in Chicago

The minimum smoke detector requirement in Chicago is to have that life saving device installed within 15′ from the sleeping area (NEC requirement is one detector inside every bedroom).

If you have a very long hallway, bedrooms located on the opposite sides of a large condo, additional smoke detector would be  most likely required. If your condo unit has more than one level, at least one smoke detector is required on each floor, even if there’s no sleeping area.

Your new or gut-rehabbed condo must have a hard wired (with battery backup) smoke detector. For the remodeled properties where wall finishes were not removed only battery operated smoke detectors are  required.

Look at the location of the smoke detector on your condo wall or ceiling. There’s a triangle shaped dead air space where the ceiling meets the wall, and your smoke detector must not be installed within that area (4″ from the wall – ceiling corner projected onto the ceiling and wall).

  • Smoke detector wall installation must be within 4″ – 12″ from the ceiling

Chicago condo inspection - smoke detectors installation areasChicago condo inspection - smoke detectors and forced air heatingSmoke detector ceiling installation must be not closer than 4″ from the wall

  • If you have a central heating / air conditioning system – smoke detectors must be at least 36” away from the air supply and not between the air return and a bedroom. If your condo unit has a single air return installed in the hallway, located 15′ or more from the bedroom door, complying with that second requirement will not be possible …
  • Do a little better than you have to in Chicago and install smoke detector in each bedroom
  • Check the top of the enclosed staircase (if non combustible – metal or concrete) for a smoke and CO detector (or combo). For combustible stairs or separated floors one should be installed on each floor.
  • Smoke detectors recalls and some more important facts
  • Smoke alarm maintenance – that’s a routine you need to implement into your life…

Chicago Building Department – smoke detectors requirements

Carbon Monoxide detectors requirement in Chicago

If the Chicago condo unit you’re purchasing includes any fuel burning appliances (kitchen range, gas dryer, gas furnace, gas water heater, fireplace, etc. ), there must be a Carbon Monoxide detector installed within fifteen (15′) feet of all rooms used for sleeping (in most cases it will be installed next to the smoke detector / there might be a combination type detector installed).

Check the brand of your Carbon Monoxide detector and if your condo developer left no manufacturer instructions, find information about your particular model online.

Find out more about CO alarm locations, and Carbon Monoxide alarm maintenance

Carbon Monoxide detectors have a shorter lifespan than smoke detectors, many older models were only functioning properly for about 2 years. Currently some manufacturers claim up to 10 years on new CO detector models, and they may have a audible notification feature letting you know that replacement is required.

Some current Carbon Monoxide Detector offers you can review:

Carbon Monoxide Information – Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Go ahead and check other sections of the

Chicago Condo Inspection Manual

Common Issues & Inspection Tips for Condo Flooring & Hardwood, Walls, Windows and Interior Doors Fri, 27 Mar 2009 02:52:47 +0000 hardwood inspection issuesThe following article the Chicago condo inspection concerning issues with hardwood / floating / tiled / carpeted / vinyl floors, windows, doors and wall surfaces may be considered as cosmetic (at least parts of it). Although, some of the described conditions may be a result of an already corrected problem, other are evidence of an ... Read more]]> hardwood inspection issues

The following article the Chicago condo inspection concerning issues with hardwood / floating / tiled / carpeted / vinyl floors, windows, doors and wall surfaces may be considered as cosmetic (at least parts of it).

Although, some of the described conditions may be a result of an already corrected problem, other are evidence of an existing one. In both situations, if you’re purchasing a brand new condo or gutting a rehabbed unit, and you’re going to be the first person living in it, the condition of your condo components should be perfect (unless you agree otherwise, a good example would be purchasing of a model unit).

Condo Floors

Chicago condo inspection - floor surface scratches might require sending buffing and application of additional coat of varnish

Condo hardwood floors scratches Hardwood floor scratches are only a cosmetic issue and depending on the depth / damage extent, floor might require buffing or sometimes sanding and re-coating with a varnish or other finish layer.

Crowning and cupping of the hardwood floor Look at the hardwood floor surface from a as far as you can at daylight having observed area between you and the windows / glass doors providing lots of light. If space is limited, lower your eye level to 2′-3′ above the hardwood floor surface and look for distortion. If daylight is limited, use a bright  flashlight or some other source of light and shine it on the floor surface.

Chicago condo floor inspection - crowning hardwood floor surface 1 Chicago condo floor inspection - crowning hardwood floor surface 2

The hardwood floor surface should be smooth, without major distortions. If you notice that individual boards center sections are higher than the edges, the condition is called Crowning.

  • Crowning is caused by moisture imbalance, usually when top surface of the hardwood floor boards is exposed to excessive amount of moisture – plumbing problems, overhead sprinkler system, high humidity levels before the floor surface was sealed. Another cause might be sanding of the previously deformed (cupped) floor before it was completely dry.

Chicago condo floor inspection - cupped hardwood floor surface.

If the center of the observed hardwood floor board is lower than the edges, the condition is called Cupping.

  • Cupping usually happens when the bottom of the wood flooring receives excessive amount of moisture making it wetter than the top surface. Pay close attention to the hardwood floor surface in the kitchen, bathroom or / and in the areas surrounding water using appliances, along the exterior doors and windows.

If your condo hardwood floor covered area is located below or at the ground level (duplexes, garden units, etc.) check entire surface. If the drainage system around the property has not been properly installed (or sometimes might not be there at all), even small amount of moisture transferred though the foundation wall or concrete slab underneath the condo hardwood floor may affect areas along the exterior walls, or even the entire hardwood floor.

The solution to this problem is not cheap and easy, depending on the severity might involve installation of the drainage system, replacement of the floor boards and new underlayment. Definitely a condo hardwood floor condition to complain about, especially with a possibility of mold growth underneath the surface.

Condo inspection - separating hardwood floor boards are often caused by low humidity levels

Separating hardwood floor boards – this might be simply caused by moisture imbalance during the cold season (the most comfortable humidity level is 35%-50%). Most of the gaps will disappear during the summer, with elevated humidity. Other reasons are poor quality of the material used for the installation or / and workmanship.

Condo carpeting

Stains, tears, loose sections, uneven seams, buckling, unfinished along the thresholds. All that is self explanatory, and if it should be considered brand new – how come it doesn’t look like a brand new installation – go ahead and complain!

Condo vinyl floors

Watch for discoloration, stains, uneven installation, gaps between tiles or sheets of vinyl, glue on surface, loose tiles, buckling areas, etc.

Condo tiled floor (ceramic, stone, etc.)

Walk on tiles and listen for unusual noises / feel for loose spots

Watch for cracked grout joints – they are a result of an improper installation (inadequate mortar base, improper type of mortar / underlayment combination, improperly prepared grout mix, unstable floor framing)

Tap tiled surface in cracked grout lines area – hollow sounding tiles might crack under pressure / when you step on them (or they might be already cracked) and the only solution is to replace them

Condo floating floor

There are several different types of floating floors currently available on the market, and since you can only see the finished surface, concentrate on quality of the installation. Watch for gaps between the planks, examine areas along the baseboards and around floor penetrations, look for dented and chipped surface. The floor is floating / not secured to the underlayment so if you’ve never walked on such surface, it might feel … different.

Floating laminated floors with self locking type tong and groove don’t require glue along the edges to hold them together (if you notice gaps between the planks – there is a problem with installation). However, in areas with a possibility of moisture / water intrusion, floating floor planks must be installed with edges glued together.

Otherwise, the edges will start swelling from moisture they are exposed to – this is not a reversible process and damaged planks will require replacement.

Check the surface of your new floating laminated floor in front of the sink, dishwasher, refrigerator, bathroom, laundry, etc.

Condo walls & ceiling inspection

Condo inspection - leakage stains on the bathroom ceiling caused by faulty hydro-spa plumbing aboveCondo walls and ceiling inspection - leakage stains around the bathroom exhaust fan caused by leaking toilet above

Look for discoloration or damage on the ceilings and walls, especially in bathrooms/ kitchens, laundry, furnace / utility rooms. It might be a plumbing problem in the condo directly above your unit or maybe a leaking roof if you have a top floor. There is always a chance of mold growing on the back side of the stained surface, especially if it is an active leak.

  • For garden units and walls below the ground level check for any moisture stains, discoloration and / or unusual residue along the lower sections of the exterior wall and on the baseboards surface.
  • Small stress cracks and fractures are very common issue and usually caused by contraction / expansion of the framing, building settlement … and of course poor workmanship. Most of the developers offer a 1 year warranty on such things, and (if asked) at the end of that period come back to perform repairs. Don’t be surprised if cracks will re-appear during the cold season, some areas, especially above wall penetrations (like windows, doors) are more sensitive and single repair won’t be enough. If it’s only a hairline crack, there’s usually nothing to worry about, but again – it’s a brand new condo.
  • Uneven wall and ceiling surface – yes, it should be straight, flat, without distortions. Depending on how bad it its and how much it bothers you can try to negotiate …

Condo windows inspection

Condo Windows

  • Check each condo window by opening and closing it (they should operate smoothly), try engaging window locks, ensure that screens are present and intact. Watch for cracked glass in regular and glass block type windows.

Condo window inspection - cracked window frame responsible for leaks and wall stainsChicago condo inspection - moisture stains around the windows caused by leaking exterior flashing

Look at the window frames corners for stress cracks (vinyl windows). They tend to develop on window frames that are too large / too tight in the window wall opening, or sometimes have been installed damaged.

Condo inspection - window and wall seams usually separate due to expansion and contraction of different materialsChicago condo window inspection - water accumulating inside the window because of the clogged window drain

Check along the frames / on window interior sills for leakage stains, and / or damage. In some cases the exterior caulking / finish trim or building elevation components are the source of water and moisture penetration.

  • Look inside the bottom part of the frame (slider type or double hung type windows) for standing water – exterior drains could be clogged with caulking.

Condo interior doors inspection

  • Close each door and check the gap between the door frame (door jamb) and the door itself.  It should be uniform along the top and both sides (check inside and outside of the room). For as long as it is opening and closing without touching the door jamb, it’s cosmetic.However, if it is almost touching the frame while tested, with some extra humidity you might not be able to close it any more and servicing will be required- adjustment or shaving.
  • After closing the door, try to push it inwards without moving the handle to make sure that the door lock and a striker plate have been properly aligned and holding.
  • Check if the door locks have been installed on the proper side
  • Check for door stops at the base of the door or on hinges. Make sure that they are adjusted properly so the door handle doesn’t hit the wall. Also, if there’s no door stops installed, be careful with a push button type door locks – it will engage itself when pushed against the wall.

Condo door inspection - with a forced air heating system and a single air return port installed in your condo, entry doors to heated - air conditioned rooms should be undercut three quarters of an inch to facilitate positive air circulation

With central forced air heating system and single air return installed in your condo (no individual air return ports in the rooms) the doors leading to various sections of your condo should have a 3/4″ clearance above the finished floor surface to provide positive air circulation. This will help to evenly distribute air and equalize temperature through the apartment.

This pretty much concludes condo floor, walls, windows and interior doors inspection.

Condo Entrance From Enclosed Staircase, Hallway or Garage Thu, 26 Mar 2009 01:40:27 +0000 Read more]]> Let’s start your condo inspection from the unit entrance doors.

The entrance to your condominium from an enclosed staircase, hallway or a garage must comply with the City of Chicago building / fire code requirements.

  • The condo entrance door must be a fire-rated type – no hollow core interior type doors like the ones that you normally install in bedrooms, closets, bathrooms (you can tap on door surface to make sure that it is solid).

There should be a label on the door edge stating fire rating –  a “B” labeled door and frame is a typical assembly for stairway enclosures and has been designed to resist fire for a period of at least one hour. Solid wood doors may also meet 1 hour fire resistance requirements, but finding a label …

Condo inspection - entry doors leading to an enclosed staircase, hallway or garage must be self and fully closing

The condo doors leading to an enclosed staircase must be self and fully closing / equipped with an approved closing mechanism.

The most commonly used closing mechanisms on Chicago condo doors are spring hinges and self closing device mounted along the door top edge – again they are required and must be functional. During the construction process self-closing is often disengaged and forgotten after the completion.

Fire rated condo doors are heavier than regular doors and require at least 2 spring hinges installed – if they don’t work, they might be broken or missing pins / this must be repaired for your safety.

The condo entrance door threshold should be secured, and sealed along the floor from the staircase, hallway, garage side. There should be no gaps between the door bottom - weather strip, and the threshold.

Weather stripping around the condo entrance doors – look for damaged strip (it often happens during the construction process) and proper threshold adjustment. If you see gaps between the threshold – door bottom and between the door frame and door edge, the door rattles, threshold is loose – this needs to be adjusted in order to resist passage of smoke from the hallway / staircase / garage.

  • You can easily check if the weather strip seal is tight by looking at the closed door while standing in a dark and having someone else to shine a flashlight along the door frame from opposite side (staircase /hallway/ garage/exterior).

Condo inspection - after closing the condo entrance door, make sure that all locks easily engage. Push the door inwards to make sure that striker plate is properly aligned and holds the lock pinInspecting condo in Chicago - try closing and opening the condo entrance doors to make sure that they are moving freely. The gap between the door and its frame - door jamb - should be as uniform as possible.Chicago condo inspection - The frame, trim of the condo doors leading to an enclosed staircase, hallway or garage must be sealed along the wall seam to resist smoke passage in case of a fire

After closing the condo entrance door, make sure that all locks easily engage. Push the door inwards to make sure that striker plate is properly aligned and holds the lock pin.

  • Condo entrance door frame / door jamb must be sealed along the wall penetration to resist smoke passage.

  • Try closing and opening the condo entrance doors to make sure that they are moving freely. The gap between the closed door and its frame / door jamb should be as uniform as possible.

Check condo exterior entrance doors, threshold should be secured and sealed along the exterior surface. There should be no gaps between the door bottom, weather strip, and the threshold.

Check condo exterior entrance doors (balcony, deck, patio), threshold should be secured and sealed along the seam with an exterior surface. There should be no gaps between the door bottom, weather strip – the threshold and along the exterior frame seams / trim.

Chicago Condo Inspection Manual | Condo Safety Issues & More Wed, 25 Mar 2009 23:23:42 +0000 Read more]]>
Purchasing a new condo in Chicago without a professional inspection carries significant risks, and naturally many buyers are taking their chances. Some are on a tight budget / trying to save a few extra dollars on a condo transaction, others are not even aware or pay attention to a home / condo inspection disclosure.

There’s also a group of condo buyers assuming that what’s new should be created with safety and locally accepted building code in mind – they simply trust developers and city building inspectors.

Unfortunately, this last assumption has many holes and not much to do with reality, at least in the city of Chicago. Recent years of wild real estate market created a situation where many safety issues and even life threatening hazards flow below the radar of the Chicago building inspectors … or maybe the radar has been temporarily turned off.

So for any buyer who decides to purchase without using a professional home inspector, for homeowners who didn’t have a condo inspection and experience some problems, or for those who just prefer to double check and be on the safe side – follow this “Chicago Condo Inspection Manual”.

  • This condo inspection manual is not intended to be a replacement for your brand new, gut-rehabbed or conversion condo evaluation performed by an Illinois licensed home inspector. Also this Chicago condo inspection manual is not a legal advice – I’m not a lawyer.Always check code issues directly with your local code enforcement division to make sure that the developer followed requirements from the date your condo blueprints were approved.

  • It only covers things that can be easily checked, without any special tools (I’m not considering a flashlight, measuring tape or the mirror a special tool), experience, and/or construction trade knowledge.
  • I didn’t make many “cosmetic” comments except for the things that appear cosmetic today, but may become an issue in the near future.

However, many of those things are serious safety hazards and very common issues in a majority of the new and gut-rehabbed properties that I inspect in Chicago.

I’m also pretty sure that most of those guidelines will apply to any construction project, not only in Chicago area.

Start investigating and remember that all of those rules apply to the brand new / completely gut-rehabbed condos, and in many cases they might roll back to 2002 or even more.

Because building codes change and parts of this condo inspection manual might not apply to a property purchased long time ago – let me know the details of your problem and I’ll try to help you. If unable to resolve something questionable with your developer, contact the City of Chicago Department of Buildings for more information.

Also, if there is a safety issue in your condo, don’t hesitate with correcting the problem as soon as possible. Waiting for the developer to correct some critical conditions might take months and compromising your safety for such a long time is not the best way to go.

However, before you correct the problem, take a few pictures of it, and then get a written estimate / problem description / performed work report from the professional.

Chicago Condo Inspection Manual  Categories

Looking for a New Gut Rehabbed Condo in Chicago | Inspect it! Mon, 16 Mar 2009 03:34:15 +0000 Read more]]>
If you are looking for a new gut rehabbed condo in Chicago, or even a 100% brand new property – make sure that you inspect it before the purchase.

Ask your real estate agent, call friends and find a home inspector with recommendations. Make sure that your home inspector will be able to check your new gut rehabbed condominium for violations of the Chicago building code.

I’ve inspected hundreds of such properties in Chicago, by different developers, and with various quality of workmanship. The buyer has often no idea about even the most basic quality standards that developers should follow (I think they should). He or she simply assumes that many of the poorly finished components of the property are something normal, that this is how it should be.

In many of my Chicago new condo home inspections quality is far from being even considered as “poor” workmanship – everything used to sell … but this isn’t the most important issue.

  • The biggest problem is with Chicago building code violations that in some cases create serious safety conditions for the owners of those new construction & new gut rehabbed condos or any real estate properties.

There are developers cooperating and correcting problems while others simply drag the issue for as long as possible. The trick (for the developer of course) is to extend this “correction” process beyond the new home warranty period (usually 1 year), at which point it might become your building association liability or your own.

There’s of course another (sometimes the only) way to remediate this problem, rather an expensive and often painful solution – a lawsuit.

So before closing on your brand new gut rehabbed condo in Chicago, make sure that you inspect it. If you are already after the closing, and problems start piling up, or you just want to make sure that everything is safe, please read the list of the most common problems in Chicago new and got rehabbed condominiums.

All of the items below are immediate hazards and a very common issues.

– Heating system:

  • Improperly installed furnace vent pipe
  • Missing bottom closure panel in furnace air return compartment
  • Missing or inadequate number of combustion air ports (combustion air is required for a proper, carbon monoxide free fuel burning process)

– Water heater:

  • Improperly installed water heater vent pipe / combustion issues

– Gaps in fire wall separation between the furnace / water heater room and other apartments

– Missing bathroom window safety glass

– Electrical issues:

  • Improper electrical panel grounding / bonding
  • missing hydro spa motor grounding
  • missing hydro spa GFCI protection
  • Circuit breakers serving undersized wires
  • Improper type of circuit breakers used / missing AFCI type breakers
  • Inadequate number of outlets installed through the property
  • Improper rating of bathroom, kitchen, and laundry outlets
  • missing or partial GFCI protection for kitchen, bathroom and laundry area

– Improperly assembled building porches

Some of the building code requirements (not covered on the list above) are not necessarily placing you in the immediate danger. However, if you’re spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, you should expect your brand new or new gut rehabbed condo in Chicago to be in a perfect, up to your current local code and safe condition.

Where are Chicago building inspectors?

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Crawlspace Mold, Ventilation and Insulation Sat, 25 Oct 2008 02:33:15 +0000 Crawlspace mold / Crawlspace Ventilation / Crawlspace Insulation

Let’s wrap it up – Crawlspace Mold, Ventilation and Insulation is the last of my Crawlspace Inspection posts and I’ll take care of the items 9 & 10 from my Top 10 list. They are somewhat correlated, at least partially.

Top TEN Crawlspace Problems:
1. Cracked foundation / possible structural problems
2. Leaking foundation
3. Drainage problems / flooding crawlspace
4. Plumbing components issues – leaking water supply lines, drain pipes, crawlspace water heater installation problems
5. Heating system issues
6. Electrical components issues
7. Floor framing and structure support issues
8. Structural pest infestation – those are Termites, Powder Post Beetle, and Carpenter Ants
9. Mold problems
10. Crawlspace ventilation and insulation

Crawlspace Mold Problems

Crawlspace mold on floor framing 2Crawlspace mold on floor structure caused by leaking plumbingCrawlspace mold on the floor framing 2Crawlspace mold on floor joists caused by leakage from exteriorCrawlspace mold, as many other problems described in previous sections of the crawlspace inspection tutorial, is strictly related to moisture presence. Because mold grows on pretty much anything and often takes different shapes and colors, you can expect to find crawlspace mold on pretty much every possible surface.

So look everywhere for crawlspace mold and pay special attention to areas along the foundation and under the bathrooms, kitchens, utility rooms containing water heaters, furnaces, and / or washers – any place that water leakage / moisture penetration might occur.

Crawlspace mold on main beam supporting columnIf you have a chronic moisture problem, maybe related to poor drainage around the house or a high water table (level of groundwater), the crawlspace mold might appear on the floor, walls, supporting columns and entire framing. If you notice discoloration or unusual residue / substance on any of the surfaces, have it tested by a professional. Unfortunately this is the only way to find out what it is and if it is confirmed to be crawlspace mold, determine if it is toxic.

Crawlspace mold and Crawlspace ventilation

Crawlspace mold - one of the ways to prevent mold from growing in your crawlspace is to provide correct ventilationProper ventilation of the crawlspace is crucial for a healthy house and to prevent crawlspace mold growth… well … not necessarily, or should I say – the science decided that not any more. As it often happens with some beliefs, new scientific developments change them to the complete opposite. However, the installation of 1 square foot of venting per 150 square feet of under-floor / crawlspace area is still a code requirement.

For our crawlspace mold / crawlspace ventilation inspection purpose:

Crawlspace mold / crawlspace ventilation - vents leaking water (exterior view), installed below the ground levelCrawlspace mold / crawlspace ventilation - vents leaking water to interior, installed below the ground levelIf you have any fuel burning appliances installed in the crawlspace area, you’ll need so called make-up air / combustion air, which is necessary for a proper / clean burning process. Unless those appliances have a sealed combustion chamber and use exterior air for combustion (most high efficiency furnaces do, but not all of them), you might need an air vent installed in the crawlspace area. If you’re not sure, have a licensed HVAC contractor check it for you

  • If you have a dry crawlspace, you are lucky! Your vents are most likely adequate (or you might not even have them at all) and there’s most likely no crawlspace mold presence (unless caused by plumbing leaks) – I personally wouldn’t touch it
  • Check areas around the foundation vents to ensure, that there’s no leakage – vents usually leak because they’re below the ground level on exterior, and you might need a small window well
  • For wet crawlspaces (leaking foundation, high water table, malfunctioning or missing drainage system) – once again: try to eliminate the source of moisture before it causes crawlspace mold growth, and read Venting or not – the Crawlspace dilemma (link below).

The crawlspace ventilation topic is quite large and there are a few scenarios and various options to consider. Therefore I’ll do my best to wrap it up and explain current scientific point of view in Crawlspace Venting or not…

Crawlspace mold / Crawlspace insulation

The crawlspace insulation improperly installed with exposed paper facing which is flammable and should be facing the warm part of the house (floor) or be covered with gypsum board other code approved materialsWarning message on the crawlspace insulation vapor retarder paper - highly flammable, and should never be left exposedCrawlspace mold / crawlspace insulation - loose, hanging batt insulation on the crawlspace ceilingDepending on the type of crawlspace you have under the house – above the ground, partially above the ground, below the ground level – you might have insulation installed or not.

If it’s there, and if it is a blanket type with a paper facing (also called “batt” insulation) installed on the crawlspace ceiling / your floor framing, remember that the paper (moisture barrier) has to be facing the warm side of the house. It is highly flammable, and leaving it exposed creates a fire hazard.

Another problem to watch for in humid / wet crawlspaces is possibility of crawlspace mold growing on insulation sheets, sometimes between the floor an insulation layer.

It is easier to install blankets between the floor joists by securing paper flaps along the edges, but without fire-rated material on top of such installation … you know, accidents happen. You might also have: the spray-on type of insulation on the foundation walls, Styrofoam sheets, aluminum foil faced blankets (this one conducts electricity, so be careful if it is in contact with electrical components in your crawlspace), or some other materials – secure them if they fall off / separate from the surface they were attached to.

That covers basics of crawlspace mold, crawlspace ventilation and crawlspace insulation.

Termites and Other Crawlspace Bugs Sun, 19 Oct 2008 06:13:39 +0000 Read more]]> Early detection of a structural pest infestation in our crawlspace may have a huge impact on the structure of our property and in our wallet. And most importantly – we are only a couple clicks away from seeing the daylight …

1. Cracked foundation / possible structural problems
2. Leaking foundation
3. Drainage problems / flooding crawlspace
4. Plumbing components issues – leaking water supply lines, drain pipes, crawlspace water heater installation problems
5. Heating system issues
6. Electrical components issues
7. Floor framing and structure support issues
8. Structural pest infestation – those are Termites, Powder Post Beetle, and Carpenter Ants
9. Mold problems
10. Crawlspace ventilation and insulation

8. House Crawlspace Structural pest infestation

Termites and Powder Post Beetles aren’t that hard to eliminate; Carpenter Ants on the other hand are much more difficult to control. However, if we don’t know what is happening under the floor and by the time somebody tells us about it, structural damage and repair cost may be significantly larger than detecting it sooner. Moisture is what attracts all of those critters, and if you could control that, chances of getting your structure infested are minimized.

Termites – the most common in Illinois area are probably Subterranean Termites. Because they emerge from under the ground, a typical sign of infestation in the crawlspace area (and anywhere else around the house) would be a mud tube attached to the foundation wall, floor framing or any other surface.

Those tubes provide protection from an open air (Subterranean Termites will die if exposed to open air for an extend period of time) and transfer of termites between the ground and wooden structures. You might notice small piles of collapsed tubes in crawlspace sections further away from the foundation or any vertical surfaces. You can use a screwdriver or a sharp pin to probe wooden floor structure components. Sometimes, there might be no visible damage on the exterior, but if your tool easily penetrates a piece of wood, it’ll confirm internal damage. Have it further evaluated and treated by a professional if necessary, all effected structural members should be properly reinforced or replaced.

Eliminate the moisture problem in your crawlspace and around the house!

Powder Post Beetles – it’s the generic name for Wood Boring Beetles, and they love moist wood! Things to look for in your crawlspace are tiny, round holes on wooden surfaces with powdery dust (flower-like in consistence) pouring from them; sometimes you’ll find piles of that powder beneath the infested areas. This powder is a product of that little beetle’s digestion process when it crawls through and feeds on your house wood framing.

By looking at the color of that tiny hole, you might be able to tell if the infestation is old (which will be a darker color), or a more recent one (being lighter). However, if there’s moisture in your crawlspace and you see a lot of those small holes with powder underneath, the chances of an active Powder Post Beetle infestation are high – get a pest control company.

Eliminate the moisture problem in your crawlspace and around the house!

Carpenter Ants – They are the largest ants in Illinois, and also nest in damp locations, preferably in water damaged wood. The main colony is usually somewhere outside of the house, with possible satellite colonies inside the house. Unlike Termites and Powder Post Beetles, Carpenter Ants do not eat wood – they remove small bits of it creating sawdust like piles, just to make room for their new colony and tunnel inside the wooden beams. So, if you notice certain similarities between the description and your wood, don’t hesitate to call a professional because the destruction after just a few years of their presence in your house might be significant, and like I said earlier – Carpenter Ants are hard to control and to get rid off.

For the last time in this post – get rid of, or at least try to minimize the amount of moisture around / in your house – this will resolve many problems.

House Floor Framing and Structure Support Fri, 10 Oct 2008 05:02:31 +0000 Read more]]> We are getting closer to the end of crawling through the Crawlspace Inspection. In Part Six, we’ll take a closer look at the floor framing and floor structure support …

1. Cracked foundation / possible structural problems
2. Leaking foundation
3. Drainage problems / flooding crawlspace
4. Plumbing components issues – leaking water supply lines, drain pipes, crawlspace water heater installation problems
5. Heating system issues
6. Electrical components issues
7. Floor framing and structure support issues
8. Structural pest infestation – those are Termites, Powder Post Beetle, and Carpenter Ants
9. Mold problems
10. Crawlspace ventilation and insulation

7. Floor framing and structure support issues
Depending on your house age and design, there will be different types of floor framing support installed in your crawlspace. Some types of the support are much more vulnerable to various conditions than the others. The most typical is a beam, made out of wood or steel, usually located under the center section of the crawlspace width, and supported along its length with columns resting on … well, sometimes it is hard to say on what. Ideally, it should be resting on a concrete footing, but older houses might have literally anything – and sometimes nothing – there.

You might want to look at your floors above the crawlspace first, and if there is any significant sloping, your doors cannot be closed, or walls are showing significant fractures – try to locate the corresponding area in the crawlspace so you can pinpoint the possible problem.

To make it easier for you, just pick your column type from the list:

1. Concrete / Cinder Block columns – if they are properly centered under the beam with a proper footing, there’s rarely any problems. However, you should check the space between the top of the column and the beam. The column is usually slightly shorter to accommodate some type of a spacer / shim that allows for proper leveling of the main beam. But, creativity of the builder and sometimes other conditions cause that little piece of something to crumble, fall apart, or disintegrate, which might be causing your floor to go out of level and causing several other problems throughout your house.

2. Brick columns – bricks are strong in compressive strength, but weak in tensile strength, and they are also quite porous which makes them easily degraded by moisture and minerals that are drawn from the soil which weaken their structure. Also, if it’s an older house, they might have been jointed with sand-lime mortar mix that deteriorates more rapidly than most modern concrete mixes. Therefore, look for missing, delaminating bricks, usually along the base of the column. There might be some crushed ones at the top, and if the damage is severe, beam support compromised–servicing will be necessary.

3. Stone columns – depending on the stone type (usually limestone) and the way it was put together (sometimes without any mortar, or with sand-lime mortar mix that turned into sand over the years), they might require rebuilding. If they are still intact, check mortar between the stones – does it still hold, or can you scrape it easily? Also, the limestone itself disintegrates over time, especially in a moist environment. There are compounds you can use to reinforce the column on exterior, but if the deterioration process progressed deeper into the column, patching it won’t help much.

4. Wood columns – in older structures, redwood or other decay resistant species were used. Pressure treated lumber replaced them completely decades ago. Wood columns should be anchored / secured in place at the bottom end because moisture level changes, wood shrinkage, settlement, and load changes on the floor above; they might become loose and simply fall onto the ground. They shouldn’t be smaller than 4”x 4” (no 2”x 4” please). Check if properly secured, probe it for soft spots with a sharp pin – the critical area is along the base, especially when installed directly on the concrete footing or if in contact with soil. It also won’t hurt to test few other spots along the column – if your pin (3”- 4” inches long would be perfect) goes in easily, I’d recommend to have it replaced by a professional and determine what’s causing deterioration.

5. Metal columns – shouldn’t be less than 3” in diameter, just like wood columns must be anchored to the footing. The metal will not shrink, but load changes, settlement of the footing, and wooden beam shrinkage might cause it tip over. All surfaces should be treated with coatings to provide corrosion resistance. If the bottom section protrudes from the concrete footing, look for blistering and water leakage from those blisters – an underground water table might be high enough to force water inside the column and accelerate the corrosion process.

And now a few words about floor framing made out of wood;

the most critical areas are along the foundation, where the framing members (floor joists) rest on top of the foundation, and under any sources of moisture – bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, furnace / water heater closets.

If your foundation top is below the soil, landscaping, or in the area that occasionally fills up with water, you’ll notice seepage stains along the top edge of the foundation. This means that any framing section sitting directly on top of the foundation was also exposed to moisture and might be decaying – use that pin tool of yours on all wooden surfaces you’re testing. And don’t throw it away just yet, you’ll need it for the rest of our journey. Look for soft areas, damaged / rotten sections, mold contaminated, or an infestation with Termites, Powder Post Beetle, Carpenter Ants – that’s in the next post.

Floor framing sections under the bathrooms are often in poor shape, and not always because of water leaks or moisture – but because whoever worked on the plumbing system didn’t care much about framing, and sliced it or drilled it whenever it was convenient.

A couple of simple rules for notching and drilling through the floor joists:

  • notching along the joist can be a maximum 1/6th of the joist depth (for a 6”joist, the notch would be 1” deep … actually less than that because 6” is not 6” any more)
  • notching at the end 1/4th of the joist depth max.
  • no notching in the middle 1/3rd of the joist
  • holes must be located a minimum of 2” from the top and bottom, and the max diameter should be 1/3rd of the joist depth (for a 6” joist, it would be less than 2”)

And you know what – not many people care …

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Electrical Problems in a Crawlspace Wed, 08 Oct 2008 18:40:07 +0000 Read more]]> The crawlspace inspection continues (Part Five) as we take a quick look at the electrical components down below.

1. Cracked foundation / possible structural problems
2. Leaking foundation
3. Drainage problems / flooding crawlspace
4. Plumbing components issues – leaking water supply lines, drain pipes, crawlspace water heater installation problems
5. Heating system issues
6. Electrical components issues
7. Floor framing and structure support issues
8. Structural pest infestation – those are Termites, Powder Post Beetle, and Carpenter Ants
9. Mold problems
10. Crawlspace ventilation and insulation

6. Electrical components issues in crawlspace area – this should be a quick one.

If you see any exposed, loose wiring and have no experience with handling such conditions, have a licensed electrician evaluate it for you. Always turn off the power when performing electrical work.

Shine your flashlight at the crawlspace ceiling level and look for any hanging conduit. It should be secured to the floor framing along its entire length. Loose sections of electrical conduit put too much stress on connections and connectors attached to the junction boxes, which often results in conduit sliding out of the couplings and connectors. Remember that all types of conduit must have an appropriate type of connector installed at any electrical enclosure / junction box wall penetration.

The weight of a conduit that comes out of the connector might also separate wires inside the junction box. So, simply pull them out of the so called “wire nut”, or splices. Keep that in mind, because you might electrocute yourself when trying to push that conduit back into the connector, especially when standing on the crawlspace wet floor.

make sure that the power is off when attempting such repairs, or hire an electrician.

All electrical junction boxes should have covers installed and secured so that any arching or sparking will be contained within the box.

Make sure that electrical conduit (any metallic type) doesn’t touch water pipes – if it does, corrosion will most likely develop, followed by the water pipe leaks, and sometimes cause conduit / wire permanent damage (potential fire hazard).

One more item, which is a required component of the house electrical system and very often located in the crawlspace area – ground wire and clamp on the main water feed line. Clamps and screws sometimes become loose, and you should make sure that it is securely attached to that water pipe, preferably below the main water shut-off valve (usually that would be between the valve and the area where your water main penetrates floor or foundation wall).

Pay special attention to the conduit, junction boxes, and any electrical fixtures located directly below the plumbing installations. They are often severely corroded, compromised by water leaks, and getting them examined by a licensed electrician is always a good idea.

Heating System Issues Mon, 06 Oct 2008 15:07:03 +0000 Read more]]> This post, concerning heating system issues, is my fourth in the series of crawlspace inspections … and we’re in the middle of our crawlspace evaluation, with some more bad things on our way.

1. Cracked foundation / possible structural problems
2. Leaking foundation
3. Drainage problems / flooding crawlspace
4. Plumbing components issues – leaking water supply lines, drain pipes, crawlspace water heater installation problems
5. Heating system issues
6. Electrical components issues
7. Floor framing and structure support issues
8. Structural pest infestation – those are Termites, Powder Post Beetle, and Carpenter Ants
9. Mold problems
10. Crawlspace ventilation and insulation

5. Heating system issues – if your crawlspace is subject to excessive moisture presence or flooding, every component / appliance installed in this area will deteriorate much faster than in a dry environment. A heat exchanger, which is one of the gas forced air furnace’s main components, is vulnerable to moisture, and excessive corrosion will compromise it over time; ex. it might cause it to crack, develop holes, block its interior or cover burners with rust flakes, which could create hazardous conditions.

Therefore, if you have an older furnace located in the crawlspace (I would consider 10-15 years as being older in moist conditions), have it checked on a seasonal basis by a licensed HVAC contractor. Ask them to evaluate your heat exchanger for integrity, and make sure that you always have a functional Carbon Monoxide detector installed in your house. When selling your property, have a written statement from the heating contractor confirming your furnace condition.

Metal air ducts of the furnace installed in the crawlspace also corrodes, sometimes severely, developing holes, and occasionally separating. Critical areas are:

Directly under the furnace, where the galvanized steel often corrodes due to a leaking air conditioning coil drip pan
Under the leaking humidifier
On duct connections

Try to locate moisture / leakage sources and check corroded areas for soft spots or holes. If there is a hole, it should be fixed, and the air duct section replaced or sealed properly. This is done for two reasons:

1. (holes and gaps on air return ducts) To prevent crawlspace air from being sucked into the air ducts and distributed through the house – if there’s moisture or mold – all that contaminated air will be infiltrating your living space.

2. (holes and gaps on air supply ducts) For dry and underground crawlspaces (you might also have a slightly elevated house structure and crawlspace / foundation walls exposed / above the ground, which will be explained in the Ventilation / Insulation chapter of Crawlspace Inspection series) there will be no impact from any open air supply ducts, except for wasting your money spend on heating. However, in poorly ventilated / saturated with moisture areas, additional heat creates a perfect mold growing environment. What’s even worse? With poor ventilation and air pressure building up in the crawlspace area, the air has to escape somewhere, and often travels into the attic of the house (through the plumbing walls, chimney pipe chase, wall cavities). In the attic, without proper ventilation, it will cause more mold and create further damage.

Other items to check for on your crawlspace installed furnace (some of them also apply to / are identical for the water heater):

Stable support under the furnace (shouldn’t be placed directly on the ground) or it might be suspended under the floor with proper mounting hardware and required clearances

  • Proper clearances around the vent pipe – at least 6” from any combustible materials for a single wall pipe and 1” for a double wall pipe
  • Proper slope of the furnace vent pipe – it has to rise continuously from the furnace to the chimney entrance at a minimum of ¼” per foot (except for the high efficiency furnaces)
  • Vent pipe secured properly – at the furnace, chimney, and along its run
  • The furnace gas supply connector must be heavy wall pipe – no dryer / kitchen range type flexible connectors are permitted in Illinois for furnace connections
  • Electrical furnace power supplying coduit must be properly secured
Crawlspace Plumbing Problems Thu, 02 Oct 2008 04:27:57 +0000 Read more]]> Welcome again in the Crawlspace Problems series, and this is Part Three (item #4).

1. Cracked foundation / possible structural problems
2. Leaking foundation
3. Drainage problems / flooding crawlspace
4. Plumbing components issues – leaking water supply lines, drain pipes, crawlspace water heater installation problems
5. Heating system issues
6. Electrical components issues
7. Floor framing and structure support issues
8. Structural pest infestation – those are Termites, Powder Post Beetle, and Carpenter Ants
9. Mold problems
10. Crawlspace ventilation and insulation

4. Crawlspace Plumbing components issues – leaking water supply lines, drain pipes, crawlspace water heater installation problems. With a good source of light, it shouldn’t be hard to locate a leaking water supply or drain line. Pay special attention to the areas located directly under the bathrooms and kitchen, follow each accessible / visible pipe, and look for water damaged floor framing under the plumbing fixtures (toilet, bathtub, shower base, sinks, etc.). Depending on your crawlspace floor finish, you might be able to find leakage stains / discoloration directly under the problematic area. All pipe connections are of course the most suspected places to look for leaks, but you might also notice blisters and excessive corrosion along the straight pieces of pipes – if it doesn’t leak yet, it will most likely start leaking soon. Check area where your main drain pipe (large diameter pipe) penetrates the foundation wall or crawlspace floor – this is also a very common area of leaks.

Water heater installed in the crawlspace area – everything from my water heater posts applies (water heater vent pipe, and water heater gas supply connectors – Illinois rules), but there are other important issues:

Due to the limited crawlspace height, it might be hard to accommodate a gas water heater vent pipe and provide proper pitch and spacing from combustible materials – this is critical, so please have it checked by a professional. I’ve seen many water heaters forced between the floor joists (often by undercutting floor framing to accommodate water heater) with a single wall vent pipe against the wooden framing, and with a negative slope – a perfect scenario for an accident (fire and a Carbon Monoxide poisoning).

Another problem is moisture, which accelerates water heater deterioration and causes corrosion of its components – open the burner chamber cover at the base of the water heater and check the chamber interior for accumulation of rust flakes or any other foreign objects obstructing the burner. They should be removed carefully by a professional and all burner components cleaned from rust flakes to ensure proper combustion.

Things to check on installed in a crawlspace-area water heater:
Stable, solid base under the water heater
Proper clearances around the vent pipe – at least 6” from any combustible materials for a single wall pipe and 1” for a double wall pipe.
Proper slope of the water heater vent pipe – it has to raise continuously from the water heater to the chimney entrance at a minimum of ¼” per foot (except for the water heaters equipped with a power vent / PVC pipe venting)
Vent pipe secured properly – at water heater, chimney and along its run.
Safety discharge pipe must be installed at TPR valve (safety valve mounted on the top or side wall of the water heater), same size as the safety valve discharge end (usually ¾” diameter) – newer downsize it, and terminate within 6″ from the floor surface
water heater gas supply connector – heavy wall pipe – no dryer / kitchen range type flexible connectors permitted in Illinois for water heater connections
Electrical water heater connections must be properly secured.
If you notice that your water heater is leaking, it will most likely require replacement, unless there is a leaking pipe right above it …

Crawlspace Drainage and Flooding Wed, 01 Oct 2008 02:41:25 +0000 Read more]]> My previous Crawlspace Inspection post covered the first two items from my Top Ten Winners list:

1. Cracked foundation / possible structural problems
2. Leaking foundation
3. Drainage problems / flooding crawlspace
4. Plumbing components issues – leaking water supply lines, drain pipes, crawlspace water heater installation problems
5. Heating system issues
6. Electrical components issues
7. Floor framing and structure support issues
8. Structural pest infestation – those are Termites, Powder Post Beetle, and Carpenter Ants
9. Mold problems
10. Crawlspace ventilation and insulation

Now, onto #3

3. Drainage Problems / Flooding crawlspace – What causes them: the water table mentioned in “Crawlspace Problems #1”, negative drainage around the house (soil / landscaping sloped towards the house instead of away from it), the top of the foundation below the soil level, and a malfunctioning or missing drainage system. Selling your house with such a condition could be a challenge, because standing water or even high moisture level attract insects, contribute to differential settling of the structure, and facilitate the growth of a variety of molds that can eventually promote unhealthy conditions.

The solutions aren’t cheep, but if you are trying to sell your property, fixing it might be your only option. So, let’s look at the problem, assuming that we’re willing to correct it:

– Soil / landscaping level should be always maintained below the foundation top. Otherwise, the water might seep inside between the foundation top and the wall base plate, brick, or whatever your walls are made of. Also, with frame houses, you can expect the base of the wall to start rotting and attracting a variety of insects.

– House surroundings should always be sloped away from the foundation to provide positive drainage / direct rain water away from the foundation and its footings.

If dealing with concrete surfaces that shifted over time and now are sloped towards the foundation, there are companies that offer concrete lifting, and this should be cheaper than replacing it.

– A flooded crawlspace with no installed drainage system and sump pump obviously requires one (high water table and negative drainage on exterior contribute to this scenario). The drain tile (perforated drainpipe) would have to be installed below the ground, and along the entire foundation footing (base), sloped properly towards the sump pump well, and located at the lowest point of the crawlspace (just to save you some digging). The ground water collected by the drain tile and deposited into the sump pump well would then be discharged to the house exterior (as far as possible from the house foundation).

– A malfunctioning drainage system might include a damaged or clogged sump pump, an undersized sump pump, a clogged drain tile, a negatively sloped drain tile (away from the sump pump well), and/or a missing drain tile. If you only have a sump pump well and pump installed – ground water is only being picked up from the area surrounding the pump well.

If you’ve newer examined your crawlspace but there’s a musty odor in your house (home owners often get used to it, so ask your visitors), or sometimes you might notice hardwood floor deformation – this might be a sign that your crawlspace needs some help …

Next winners from my list coming soon …

Crawlspace Foundation Cracks and Leaks Tue, 30 Sep 2008 04:29:21 +0000 Read more]]> House crawlspace is one of those critical areas, which can either make our lives better or more miserable. The tendency for home owners is to completely forget about it so long as the home inspector doesn’t bring the subject to the surface.

It is ugly, dirty, often wet, sometimes flooded, and most of the time – full of surprises.

In several of my posts, I’ve emphasized the importance of exploring this area, especially when preparing your house for sale. Any accessible crawlspace will most likely be evaluated by a home inspector, and taking care of some of the possible issues before they are delivered in the inspection report, could make the difference between selling the house … or not.

So, what can go wrong? Depending on your house design, you might have all, some, or none of the following:

1. Cracked foundation / possible structural problems
2. Leaking foundation
3. Drainage problems / flooding crawlspace
4. Plumbing components issues – leaking water supply lines, drain pipes, crawlspace water heater installation problems
5. Heating system issues
6. Electrical components issues
7. Floor framing and structure support issues
8. Structural pest infestation – those are Termites, Powder Post Beetle, and Carpenter Ants
9. Mold problems
10. Crawlspace ventilation and insulation

… there may be more problems in the crawlspace, but those are my Top Ten winners. So let’s take a trip under the floor and let me show you what to look for … don’t forget a flashlight!

1. Cracked foundation / possible structural problems – Generally speaking, cracks that are less than 1/4″ open are not commonly regarded as being structurally significant. However, if you’re noticing displacement on both sides of the crack, significant separation, distortion, uneven sagging / sinking of the foundation section (usually accompanied by sloping / uneven floors), buckling, horizontal cracks – get a foundation specialist / structural engineer to get a professional assessment. Some of those problems may not be noticeable on the exterior for a long time, and a good example would be horizontal crack. This is just one of the reasons to visit your crawlspace periodically.

2.   Leaking foundation – there may be small and large cracks that won’t cause any seepage because the drainage system and grading (positive / away from the house sloping of soil and hard surfaces) around the house have been properly designed. However, if the area surrounding your property has a negative slope, the rain water will be directed towards the foundation, and there’s a big chance that the cracks will leak. Another factor increasing chances of your foundation cracks leakage is a so called “water table” – it’s the top level (surface) of ground waters, which may be sometimes higher than the floor of your crawlspace. In such cases, the water pressure will force water through the foundation cracks. The solution is rather simple; it would require the resealing of leaking cracks. The most popular method involves injecting an epoxy mix into the holes predrilled along the crack opening. The two most popular companies in Illinois are Perma Seal and US Waterproofing (I have no affiliation with them at all, though), and what you get is usually a 10 year to lifetime transferable warranty on performed repairs – that’s an important asset when you’re selling your property. Your other option is to dig on the exterior (or have somebody do it for you), all the way to the base of foundation, clean the surface and seal it.

More in Crawlspace Inspection, Part Two – Drainage and Flooding.

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Sell Home Fast – Preparing a House for Sale Mon, 15 Sep 2008 02:48:28 +0000 From the home inspector’s point of view there is always a VERY different approach to the meaning of this title phrase than from the seller’s position. And for a very simple reason – “we” (the property owners) tend to forget about areas in our homes that don’t (at least not immediately) impact our daily routines. For as long as we don’t feel any dramatic changes in our surroundings, everything is assumed to be alright. We adjust and fail to notice small, gradual changes, and because, over the years of living in the house, it was decorated (in and out) to please our personal senses, we think that everything is in a good shape, and the property will sell quickly, just because “we” love it so much.

And this approach, or rather this natural human behavior, worked perfectly for the past few years. Unfortunately for the sellers, with the currently unstable real estate market, preparing your house for sale might need that extra ingredient to help successfully complete the entire transaction.

A couple of weeks ago, I questioned that new idea:

Home Pre-Inspection – the new real estate trend or … wishful thinking?

But since it was left as an un-answered question, this will be my answer to it … as a home owner, and as a home inspector.

During the recent months, I’ve had several clients using my inspection services 2 or 3 times each (it never happened that often during my 10 years of being in this business). I’m not sure if the sellers of all those properties searched the Internet for home selling tips, or preparing their homes for sale guidelines, but if you’d only look at those houses appeal, most of them were pretty much ready to move-in: clean, de-cluttered, de-personalized (so the buyer could easier picture himself as the owner), rearranged, with a perfect curb appeal … yet that did not sell. Why?

– Because the current market buyers’ approach (at least my clients) changed dramatically, they seem to be more interested in what they can’t see (behind the wall and under the floor) than how neatly your house has been arranged or how clean it is.

– Because the sellers didn’t check the attic and crawlspace area, heavily contaminated with black mold

Don’t get me wrong – so called “Staging” or “House dressing” (preparing your house cosmetically so it appeals best to the broadest amount of potential buyers) is still very important, it’s the bait! And that first impression may give you the signature on a contract, but if your potential buyer brings a home inspector, that signature might start fading extremely fast. You can, of course, keep gambling because not every buyer hires a home inspector, but if he does, it might be already too late to save the deal.

Wouldn’t it be better to check a few critical items before you put a property on the market? – recognizing those major issues is simple and you could do it yourself, or have a friend checking it for you. What you might gain, for just a few minutes of your time, is avoid a lot of frustration, aggravation, and eventually, a canceled deal. If you have a critical issue, it’s much better to have it taken care of before listing your property for sale, and even add credibility to your offer by providing a buyer with warranty papers from any performed repairs. During negotiations, you’ll often end up paying much more for the repair because it is driven by emotions, time limitations, and just wanting to get it over with. And even if you fix it, the deal may simply fall through – buyers often loose trust to the sellers because according to the disclosure, the problems discovered during the home inspection should not exist (at this point it doesn’t matter for the buyer if you really didn’t know about the problem).

The critical and usually the most expensive issues to correct are: mold, roofs, cracked / leaking foundations, and heating systems.

1. For the house heating system, it would be a good idea to get it checked and certified by a licensed HVAC contractor. Than you can provide a potential buyer with a proof of such service (make sure it is a recent one).

2. Cracked / leaking foundation – don’t mark the disclosure sheet that you don’t know anything about it, unless you’re sure that it is not leaking. Just take a walk along the foundation exterior and interior, look for cracks and stains / discoloration on the finished walls along the base. It’s a mental approach – a lot of the buyers are scared of cracked foundations, they don’t know if a crack, even a small one, could become a disaster in the future. As a seller, you’re not in the position to make such a guarantee. But, the scenario changes if you hire a professional (it’s a good idea to use an established company like US Waterproofing or Perma Seal) and present the buyer with a warranty documentation – the responsibility for the foundation condition just shifted over to the hired contractor (this works for every type of repair as long as you can provide sufficient paperwork, and believe me, it makes the buyer happy).

3. Crawlspaces – most of the time, they’re not a pleasant place to visit, but are often responsible for many surprises. If you have never been there and are selling a house with one underneath – shine your light under the floor, and at least make sure that is dry, well ventilated, and has no leaking plumbing.

4. Roofs – it is very important and most of the “home selling tips” have it listed as one of the top priorities. A new roof adds value to the house (make sure that you have no more that 2 layers installed), secures everything within your property, but it might be a waste of money if you fail to check what’s underneath. It seems like nobody does it – if you have an attic under the roof, that short trip to evaluate it might be worth somewhere around $3,000.00 – $10,000.00 … for the mold cleanup – that’s just doubled the roof replacement cost! If you just did the roof without checking what’s underneath, and you do have a mold problem, replacing the contaminated decking (plywood sheets) at the time of the shingles (or other material) replacement could be cheaper than the mold remediation process itself.

5. Mold – again, check the attic; the critical areas are usually located above the bathrooms and bedrooms. Lack of or inadequate attic ventilation is the most common cause. Check the foundation surface for moisture and stains or growth of any type, look inside the basement closets, cabinets on exterior walls, or any other poorly ventilated areas.

Depending on your abilities, checking those few items shouldn’t take you more than 15 – 45 minutes, but it might save you precious time and tons of money when it comes to deal negotiations – Good Luck

Roof / Attic Ventilation Inspection Wed, 27 Aug 2008 21:43:31 +0000 Read more]]> This is a very extensive topic, so please use reference links to my other posts, especially if everything is new for you and you really want to do most of the inspector’s work.

The house roof / attic needs to be ventilated for its own and home owner’s benefit – non or poor ventilation might create the perfect mold growing environment … so let’s take a look at it.

The general idea (minimum requirement) for a proper roof / attic ventilation is 1sq foot of ventilation for every 300 sq. feet of attic space divided 50 / 50 between the inlets and outlets – assuming that everything else is perfect…

If your pitched roof has an overhang (it doesn’t end even with the house exterior wall), there should be venting ports installed underneath / along the soffit – they come in different shapes and styles – more is always better than less – you can see that on pictures in Attic Mold post. These vents are called “inlets”, and if you don’t have any installed, there’s a significant chance, that your attic has been already mold contaminated (exceptions happen). There are new types of vents offered for the roofs without overhang, which should solve ventilation problems in this design – vented drip edge, which installs along the roof edges, and hip vents.

There should be vents located on the top section of the roof playing the “outlets” role, and again – more is better than less, because with less than necessary, moist and warm air might get trapped in the attic during the cold season and condensate on decking surfaces creating ideal mold growing environment. There are many different types of vents (check Attic Ventilation post), but you just need to make sure that they are properly installed on your roof and that they are open / clean (if you can’t see any – you might have a “ridge vent” installed which is also a good choice). Larger size vents on the roof surface are usually turbine (wind) and electrcial motor powered vent – they should be functional.

If your house has vaulted / cathedral ceilings (complete or partial) – they, too, have to be ventilated! If you have no attic, but have cathedral ceilings through the house, you should have a ridge vent installed and continuous soffit vent or venting in each rafter space (approximately every 16″ – doesn’t look nice, and ridge vent is much better for such application)

You might also have gable vents installed (depending on the roof type), which also serve their purpose well.

Assuming that you have visible vents on the roof, in the gable, along the soffits and accessible attic – they should be checked from within the attic –

don’t do it if you’re not 200% sure that you can handle it. During the summer, in a poorly vented attic, temperature might be around 150F. Plus you have to watch where you are stepping – get a professional for this venture.

Vents are usually protected from birds and rodents with screens, but they love to build nests inside them which have to be removed to provide proper air flow (Attic Ventilation post). Rodents sometimes damage screens and manage to penetrate the attic, so it’s a good idea to have the attic checked on a regular basis.

Electrical motor powered vents should have a thermostat, all connections must be secured and inside the conduit – no exposed wiring, loose connectors, and fan blades should be moving freely, and respond to the thermostat setting. Don’t touch the blades with your hand – they are razor sharp, and the motor might start automatically! If the blades are hard to turn / stiff, or are not turning at all – it is usually a burned out motor – use a wooden stick to move them!

Look at the surface of the roof structure and decking (plywood or wooden boards) for unusual residue, discoloration, stains, etc. If there’s a ventilation problem, the mold will usually start along the lower portions of the attic (where the roof meets the attic floor) and above the bedrooms and bathrooms.

Bathroom exhaust vents have to discharge to the exterior! They are one of the main heat and moisture sources – make sure that there’s a pipe connected to the exhaust fan discharge port which extends through the roof. It might be also secured near the roof vent, but don’t block it.

Good luck!

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Chimney Inspection | Home Inspector Tips Tue, 26 Aug 2008 16:59:32 +0000 Chimney inspection - start from examining your chimney from the ground, binoculars may be helpfulHouse chimney inspection No climbing on and leaning the ladder against your chimney stack while performing chimney inspection! You are going to start chimney inspection by examining its structure from the ground. Depending on chimney’s height, position, roof pitch, and clearances around the house, you may be able to perform most of the chimney inspection from the ground level using a pair of good quality binoculars. House chimney inspection – masonry chimney For a brick chimney inspection (it would also apply to stone and cinder block) – check the condition of mortar lines between the bricks, and the bricks themselves. Heavily deteriorated / missing mortar [...]]]> Chimney inspection - start from examining your chimney from the ground, binoculars may be helpful

No climbing on and leaning the ladder against your chimney stack while performing chimney inspection!

Chimney inspection - start from examining your chimney from the ground, binoculars may be helpfulYou are going to start chimney inspection by examining its structure from the ground. Depending on chimney’s height, position, roof pitch, and clearances around the house, you may be able to perform most of the chimney inspection from the ground level using a pair of good quality binoculars.

House chimney inspection – masonry chimney

Chimney inspection - check for missing, deteriroated mortar and gaps between bricksFor a brick chimney inspection (it would also apply to stone and cinder block) – check the condition of mortar lines between the bricks, and the bricks themselves. Heavily deteriorated / missing mortar qualifies chimney for tuck-pointing.

Sometimes, portions of bricks and significant amounts of mortar are missing; this creates holes in the chimney walls and partial rebuilding might be required.

Chimney inspection - leaning chimneyThe same applies to a leaning chimney – unfortunately brick isn’t a flexible type of material, and a leaning chimney, sometimes separating from the house structure, would most likely require partial or complete rebuilding. Problems with the chimney foundations or with the way it was designed from the beginning (old, flue-less designs) might cause vertical cracks – these are dangerous and might allow Carbon Monoxide seepage into the living area, therefore, they require professional evaluation.

House chimney inspection – TV antennas

Chimney inspection - antenna attached to the chimney is often responsible for its deteriorationTV antennas attached to the chimney are often responsible for cracked mortar joints and may eventually cause the chimney to lean (especially on tall structures). Wind causes the antenna and its mast to vibrate, loosing up mortar joints, and creating cracks – it is probably better to secure it properly to the roof using a tripod type stand, using silicon under the brackets and on top of the screws (make sure that they are long enough to penetrate shingles and decking).

House chimney inspection – flashing

This next part may not be visible from the ground, so either hire somebody to check it for you, or if the roof is easily accessible and you feel absolutely comfortable doing it yourself, follow me:

Chimney inspection - metal flashing on a brick chimneyChimney inspection - roofing cement used as a chimney flashingFlashing on masonry chimneys is usually metal (copper, galvanized steel, aluminum), it should be sealed along the chimney walls and properly installed under the shingles – something called “step flashing” is usually required on a pitched roof.

Roofing cement is not a proper type of a flashing, but is often used when more than one layer of shingles is installed or the old flashing starts leaking. It might serve as a temporary fix but it will eventually crack and should be replaced with a permanent type of flashing as soon as possible.

House chimney inspection – masonry chimney crown

Chimney inspection - concrete crown on a chimneyChimney crown is designed to seal the chimney wall and to shed rainwater; sometimes it is a block of concrete, sandstone, or bricks simply sealed with mortar around the chimney flue. This part often deteriorates, cracks, or falls apart – small cracks should be sealed with rubberized compound (silicone, good quality exterior rated caulking) or they might expand during the winter if  water gets into them and freezes.

If large sections are missing or mortar has heavily deteriorated and opened gaps around the flue (exhaust pipe), it requires professional servicing.

House chimney inspection – metal crowns

Chimney inspection - metal crown on a chimneyMetal crowns (or better known as termination caps) may be corroded, have sunken, and now hold water – check for holes and seal around the flue pipe penetration. If you spot any gaps or holes in a metal crown of the chimney, chances are, its interior frame has been already compromised as well and requires servicing.

House chimney inspection – chimney rain cap and protective screen

Chimney inspection - rain cap with screenChimney inspection - rain cap with no screenChimney inspection - smashed rain cap might prevent proper ventingChimney rain cap and screen – install it if it’s missing. If it’s installed; it should not be damaged / smashed / collapsed / blocking the flue. There should be no bird nest around it or inside of it / some chimneys and their rain cap designs permit easy penetration of birds and sometimes rodents.

If your chimney has a cleanout at the base, you can use a flashlight and a small mirror to look inside – I’ve seen many dead birds, beehives, all kinds of debris, and one, very alive opossum – that’s one of the reasons to have a cap installed (screen recommended too).

House chimney inspection – metal chimney

Chimney inspection - corroded metal chimney wall - B ventChimney inspection - corroded metal chimney componentsLook for corrosion, holes, and loose parts on a metal chimney; rain cap brackets sometimes corrode and cause the cap to collapse and block the flue). Some metal chimneys come as one piece and any damaged parts would require the entire chimney to be replaced (usually applies to the sections sitting on top of the roof and posing as a brick chimney / square box surrounding flue pipe).

House chimney inspection – asbestos / transite pipe

Chimney inspection: asbestos - transite pipe chimney covered with cracksChimney inspection; close-up of a cracked and deteriorated asbestos transite pipe chimneyAsbestos / transite pipe chimney looks like a cement (grey color / unless painted) pipe, usually visible in the attic area or above the furnace, but may also have an exposed section penetrating the roof. If it is intact – no damage, cracks, deterioration … then itʼs fine (theoretically).

However, people are not happy with asbestos on the premises, even if it doesn’t require immediate servicing, because in case it becomes a problem, professional removal and disposal is quite expensive. So … take your chances. If it is damaged and reported by the inspector, it will most likely become an issue.

House chimney inspection – chimney flue

Please follow this link – chimney flue – to further explore it.

You’ll be able to easily discover many problems by following the above tips while performing your chimney inspection, just be careful!

Roof and Gutters inspection Mon, 25 Aug 2008 17:09:26 +0000 Read more]]> Roofthe safest way to inspect it would be … to hire a licensed roofing contractor (from the ground of course), and sometimes, it will be the only possible way without using some special equipment or a combination of ladders. Don’t attempt to access its surface if it is too steep (you have to determine that yourself), covered with snow, ice, frost, moss, looks uneven, or any other abnormalities!

1. Any type of pitched roof should be first observed from the ground (you can use binoculars). Look for sagging, wavy sections, check the ridge line (the very top of the roof) – it should be straight / leveled. You want to get the overall feel of the roof from a lower perspective.

2. If you determined that you can safely access it, but observed from the distance that a roof section has sagged, try to examine this area from the attic first – make sure that roof structure is intact – no broken / cracked / deformed / rotten framing or decking.

3. Determine the number of layers – more than 2 is not permitted because it might compromise the roof structure, especially during the winter, with several inches of heavy snow on top – this might become an issue when selling your property.

4. Any damaged / missing shingles should be replaced. If you have large, decomposed areas with missing granules / exposed fibers, curling, buckled, brittle – it might qualify the roof for replacement. Roof valleys are critical and deteriorate much faster then the rest of the roof (if metal or rubber – check for corrosion, tears, cracks) – so check the attic in areas corresponding to damaged surfaces.

5. If you see nails backed out or nail heads penetrating a shingle’s surface – pull them out if possible without damaging the shingle and re-nail it. Do it on a hot day when shingles are flexible and easy to work with – lift the edge of a top shingle and put the new nail underneath (make sure that is long enough – the nail tip should penetrate decking surface and be visible in the attic – too long will cause condensation during the winter, too short will come out), patch the hole on the top shingle. If many nail heads are visible penetrating or lifting up shingles (especially on double layer roofs), used roofing nails were most likely too short. A roof like this may be dangerous to walk on because a section of top shingles might just slide out from underneath of your feet!

6. Look for blisters on the shingles’ surfaces or any abnormalities, hail damage – sometimes it might be a defect covered by a manufacturer’s warranty, or home insurance.

7. Check flashing and counter-flashing along the house-roof seam if it was properly installed / secured. Also check flashing around any roof penetrations – vents (any type), chimney, skylights – the general idea is to have a top part of the flashing under the shingle and bottom exposed – no roofing cement on it, rubber flanges on plumbing stack should not be cracked or displaced, and roof / attic vent covers should not be smashed, cracked or missing.

8. Extensive repairs with roofing cement should be just a temporary / emergency fix, not a permanent one.

9. Skylights – roofing cement is not a proper installation tool. A dedicated type of flashing should be installed. So look for cracks, moisture between the glass (plastic), separating frame corners, and condensation / leaks underneath (attic and interior)

10. Flat roofs – number of layers might be hard to determine but do your best. Check all seams – they should be not separating. Roof edges along the flashing are extremely important; any loose section of the roof sheeting might cause water penetration. A cracked (spider-web like cracks) surface or a surface with exposed fiber-mesh needs service / protective coating application which might get you a few extra years (silver coating does magic – keeps the roof cool and slows deterioration process, but has to be reapplied every few years). Water collecting on the roof surface is bad because it speeds up the deterioration process of the roofing material, but there isn’t much you can easily do about it. It’s a major repair or sometimes requires entire roof replacement in order to slightly change its pitch and direct water towards the gutters or roof drain. Flat roofs require more maintenance than pitched roofs, but both should be cleaned periodically.

11. Many other types of roofs, and any other concerns – let me know, and I’ll explain it.

12. Gutters – they need to be cleaned periodically, and more often if house is surrounded with trees. Even if there are no trees, check areas near the downspouts. Protective screens help a lot but they too need cleaning periodically; plastic ones brittle over time, changing shape, and eventually forming gaps, which allow leafs and debris to fall through. Downspouts should be secured along its length and either connected to the underground drains at the ground level or extended from the foundation as far as possible (far might be only a foot in some cases). Check for leaks on seams along the gutters and separated back seam on downspouts – this happens during the winter if the bottom extension freezes up.

Again – the easiest way is to call the roofer 😉

Home Pre-Inspection – the new real estate trend or … wishful thinking? Sun, 24 Aug 2008 04:36:08 +0000 Read more]]> Being a home inspector puts me in an awkward position for writing this post because I don’t want it to sound like a commercial about me. But, let me assure you that (at least in this case) I’ll let you be the judge. In 10 years of my home inspection business-adventure, I was hired twice to perform my services for a house seller and once for a home owner who just wanted to know what their houses’ overall conditions were. The rest of my clients where potential home buyers, which is probably typical for most home inspectors: inspecting a property for the buyer, and not for the seller.

I’ve asked those two clients who hired me to perform pre-sale inspection of their homes, “Why are you doing it? The prospect buyer will probably do its own inspection”. And they replied, “Just to make sure that we don’t have any unexpected surprises after signing the contract”.

It happened 7 or 8 years ago, then came the crazy market, where everything sold no matter what was the condition of the property … well, almost everything.

Is it worth it to hire a licensed home inspector for a pre-listing / pre-sale Home Inspection?

From the inspector’s point of view, of course it is – it’s more business. Actually … it’s a lot of business with the current real estate market. We would all (home inspectors) be working 24/7.

From a significant number of sellers’ perspectives, it wouldn’t be worth it. Why would a seller hire a home inspector if the buyer may not? The seller could have lived in that house for a long time and no problems ever occurred, why should anything happen now? Or a different excuse sounding a little like this, “I’ve already lowered the price enough / put so much into the house, that no matter what the inspector finds, I won’t negotiate”.

From a group of sellers that fully understand the entire transaction process, and take slightly different approaches, their answer may ring a little differently. Spending that extra money before putting their property for sale will give them peace of mind and often save frustration and unnecessary negotiations after the contract has been signed. Even some small issues expand dramatically when fueled with emotions, but remain small if corrected before any negotiations are even put on the table.

It’s a good idea for the real estate agents (seller side) because they don’t have to worry about the deal falling apart after the contract has been signed and a buyer’s inspection performed during the attorney approval time. Good because they can stand 100% behind the offer they’re putting in front of the buyer, giving him the true value of the home, knowing that checked and signed disclosure backed with a professional Home Inspection report and performed necessary repairs is accurate and not just another signed piece of paper.

But … at the same time it might be a very bad idea for the agents. Pre-inspection could reveal some conditions which will cause their client to spend more money on repairs. It could extend the entire sale process and put them in a difficult position because they suggested pre-inspection to their client and now (s)he has to spend all that money on repairs, and sometimes, “branding” the house with mold, asbestos, or other issues. And all that has usually nothing to do with being honest or not, is just unpredictable reality. No matter how good we want to play our relationships with clients, there may always be something playing against us.

Most of us make purchases based on emotions, impulse, and usually that first impression pulling us towards that something we begin to fall in love with … and then we swallow the price tag. Having a house presented with a “Pre-Inspected” tag will surely help the buyer to make that decision, but like with everything else, it’s a gamble for the real estate agent and his client.

However, for all potential sellers and their Real Estate Agents who will decide to take a traditional path and wait for the buyer’s inspector, let me provide you with a simplified inspection checklist. It’s still a long list, but it should help you to recognize some major issues before all hell breaks loose – the last thing you want just before the closing.

My personal opinion … even if there’s a lot of good intentions in pre-listing Home Inspections, and it would work for many … but because we’re only humans, always looking for an easy way out, I’m very skeptical …

and at the same time I’d like to be very wrong about it!

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