May is National Deck Safety Month - and there is a reason deck safety gets a whole month. Nearly 5 in 10 decks are past their useful life and need to be repaired or replaced. Frankly, from a home inspection standpoint, decks in North Carolina almost always seems to have issues and some of them are severe. Common defects include rotting/soft wood (very common in the humid south), separating or split board planks, and overall structural weakness or instability. It is very important to have your deck, steps, and railings inspected on a regular basis to make sure everything is in good shape. Natural wood decks also need to be regularly maintained with cleanings and stain or sealant. Without regular maintenance and inspections, your deck could become dangerous and fail, causing property damage - and much worse - possibly harming you and your family. Deck inspections are included in our home inspections so call us at 919-914-0606 or schedule online and start enjoying your deck this summer knowing it's safe for everyone.
It's subtle, but can you tell what's wrong in this picture?
There is mild efflorescence (white salt stains) on the chimney. This means that there are either issues with the chimney's masonry, sealants, or the chimney cap (or a combination). In this case, there are cracks in the masonry toward the top that are allowing moisture (rain, etc.) to seep into the brick. Concerns related to this include the chimney could prematurely deteriorate; it could begin leaning or could completely collapse; moisture could enter the chimney and cause the flue lining to deteriorate, necessitating the purchase of a new lining; and/or moisture could enter the home and ruin ceilings, walls, carpets, and more.
If you see efflorescence on your chimney, addressing it now could save you thousands of dollars later. Call us at 919-914-0606 to schedule your home inspection now to give you peace of mind and help alert you to issues like this.
Our inspector, Rick Doherty, is diligently following all guidelines set by the state inspector association to ensure your safety (and his). Those guidelines include wearing disposable latex gloves and wiping down anything he touches with sanitizer wipes. It is also recommended at this time that real estate agents and buyers do not attend home inspections. If you do attend, we ask that you meet with the inspector outside of the home at a safe distance to go over his findings. We are committed to following best practices while still providing outstanding client service and meticulous inspections. Please call us at 919-914-0606 with any questions you may have or visit us online at www.dohertyhomeinspections.com. Thank you to our wonderful agents and clients who have been so supportive - we love this amazing community!
What an attentive audience! I had fun presenting to the residents of Fearrington Village who are considering selling their homes. They asked great questions about what a home inspector does, what to expect on reports, and how to make quick and easy fixes to your home before listing. For example, making sure your light bulbs work (inside AND outside), clearing your gutters and extending your downspouts 3-6 feet away from your home, trimming back all tree branches and shrubs so that nothing touches your home, and having working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on each level are smart and simple ways to prepare! For additional tips and to schedule a pre-listing or home maintenance inspection, give us a call!
Did you hear about the actress Anna Faris and her 12 family members who nearly died over Thanksgiving because of carbon monoxide poisoning? The vacation home they were renting had NO detectors. The furnace was leaking carbon monoxide into the home at over five times the recommended level. The safety feature of having working carbon monoxide detectors is absolutely one of things that gets called out in our reports and it is also one of the cheapest and easiest fixes. PLEASE check your home to make sure there is a working carbon monoxide AND smoke detector on each floor. We want you and your family to be safe and healthy to experience the joy of another holiday season and ring in the New Year!
Any guesses? If you were to say "FIRE HAZARD" you would be correct! This is a dryer vent that exits outside of the home and it obviously has not been cleaned in a while. Old lint, dirt, leaves, and other debris have built up over time, slowly blocking the vent and preventing moisture, heat, and lint from escaping when the dryer is operated. Wonder why your clothes take forever to dry? A clogged vent can dramatically impact the efficiency of your dryer. And of course, when lint builds up and you add the heat of the dryer, the risk of a fire sharply increases as well. We've highlighted this issue before because it is so simple to fix yet so damaging if not addressed - so go check your dryer vent! And then call us at 919-914-0606 for a whole home maintenance or pre-listing inspection and we'll make sure you don't have any other safety issues like this!
Our home inspections cover A LOT. Typically, we inspect every single room and component inside and outside of your home or prospective home (when accessible). Imagine buying a home and moving in and then realizing the oven doesn't work, the exterior wood trim is decayed and letting water in, the crawl space lights don't function, several outlets have open grounds or reverse polarity (which is a safety issue), the spare bedroom window is broken, and there is a mysterious stain on the ceiling in the master bedroom closet. Issues like this will get discovered in your home inspection and included in the web-based report (with pictures AND VIDEO). Even new houses and houses at the 11-month warranty deadline will have issues - but houses that are 5+ years old and older DEFINITELY need to be inspected and more than pay for themselves in every inspection I have done over the years.
What's wrong with this picture?
If you said the chimney is missing a chimney cap, you're right! Such a simple, inexpensive fix. However, if this is left like this, you could be facing one or more of the following issues:
1. Chimney caps keep out birds, BATS, squirrels, and other small rodents. If something crawls into your chimney but gets stuck and can't get out (which happens a lot), not only is that awful for the animal, but you will also be dealing with a dead critter, bad smells, and even bugs (maggots, etc.). Yuck.
2. SAFETY ISSUE - wood burning fireplaces sometimes emit large burning embers that float up the chimney and without a cap, can land on your roof or something equally flammable.
3. Chimney caps help reduce water/moisture that can damage your chimney liner and other components and can also lead to mold.
4. A correctly placed cap can help block downdrafts and excessive wind (especially during hurricanes and other serious weather events) from channeling down your chimney and blowing smoke and/or soot into your living space. Caps also prevent debris like leaves and small branches/twigs from getting inside your chimney.
So what does all of this mean? If you're buying a house, make sure it has a chimney cap! If you own a house with a chimney, go take a look and make sure you have one and that it is securely placed. If you can't tell, then it's time for a roof inspection.
IF YOUR HOME WAS BUILT IN THE 1960s-80s, CHECK TO SEE IF YOUR HOME HAS THIS ELECTRICAL PANEL: Federal Pacific(FPE)/STAB-Lok electrical panels are panels that have been the subject of UL (Underwriters Laboratories) and consumer concerns related to inadequate safety protection. Consistent evidence has been presented that STAB-LOK breakers have a tendency to become loose and experience failure of unit circuit protection. The breakers often do not trip in the event of an emergency leaving the circuit unprotected - this is a SIGNIFICANT FIRE HAZARD. In addition, this particular home that I recently inspected had frayed rag insulation (see red circle), adding another safety hazard to this situation. Click this link for further information about these panels and the dangers they pose: https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/home/despite-previous-safety-concerns-this-circuit-breaker-is-still-in-homes/2018/05/08/8927af86-4ef9-11e8-b725-92c89fe3ca4c_story.html?utm_term=.5e452ed7097f
They say a picture is worth a thousand words and sometimes, a video is worth a thousand pictures. In this case, we see a brick support pier that looks a little askew at first glance. But as the video shows, it has completely separated from the wall which can jeopardize the stability of the structure. We use short videos like this when necessary to highlight concerns in a very direct and easy-to-see way. These videos go directly into our web-based home inspection reporting software so that when you receive your report, you are not only getting pictures and detailed language, but also videos when pertinent.
You likely wouldn't know it by looking at it, but the first two photos are of a ROOF. A Mansard-style roof, to be exact. And yes, those are leaves and plants growing ON the roof. A Mansard roof is characterized by having very steep slopes/pitch on each side of the house and a flat or nearly flat roof surface which can lend to very spacious attic areas and more living space within the home. However, this style of architecture must be cleaned and cleared of debris on a regular basis especially when surrounded by trees. This particular roof was covered in extensive tree debris, moss, plant growth, and even puddles from a recent rain. This has caused and will continue to cause improper drainage to the gutter, slope blocking, and it adds weight to the surface of the roof. Water/moisture is the NUMBER ONE cause of damage and deterioration for all homes. All water should shed away from the roof surface and foundations. The ponding water on this roof compromises the integrity of the roof structure and during colder months will freeze and thaw, further damaging the roof. These photos were taken during one of my home inspections on a house that was for sale. As you can imagine, this is not an ideal way to showcase a home and it of course led me to problems in the attic as well. This is a perfect example of how home inspections shed light on concerns around the home - whether you are a buyer, seller, or looking for maintenance issues.
I could see from the ground that part of the stone ledge above the garage was loose. When I got on the ladder to check it out, I merely touched it and it completely came off in my hand. From that height, this could have seriously injured someone (especially a child) if it had fallen on their head. Whether you’re buying, selling, or a homeowner who hasn’t had an inspection since you bought your home, this is the kind of stuff that I find. It is SO WORTH the small investment.
Thinking about buying a home? Join us this Saturday, March 9 in Chapel Hill! It’s free and packed full of excellent information and opportunities to ask questions. Our very own home inspector, Rick Doherty, will be on hand to explain the home inspection process and share tips on what to look for when searching for your perfect home. See you there!
This is definitely NOT what you want to see when entering a crawl space. Nearly all of the beams and joists in this home were being supported by very unstable "piers" that have been cobbled together using bricks and other materials (including a doorstop!). These are temporary fixes at best and very dangerous, as small crawl spaces like this are rarely entered/monitored. If the pier(s) were to collapse, it could be months or longer before the homeowner realized that large portions of the home were not stable (not to mention all the termite damage!). This is another example of why inspecting crawl spaces is so important.
Testing water temperatures from all hot water faucets and shower heads is an important part of our comprehensive inspections. This process helps alert the inspector to potential problems with the hot water heater or the plumbing delivery system. Personal preference plays a large role in determining what temperature setting is right for your family, however, safety is a key issue here. It is recommended to set your water heater no higher than 120 degrees F. By the time that water reaches your faucets, it typically cools to about 105-108 degrees. Anything hotter than that can start to feel uncomfortable for adults and can be dangerous for young children.
Photograph taken onsite courtesy of Trevor Holman Photography
Did you know that you should clean your dryer exhaust vent at least once a year (and even more often in larger households)? Nearly 15,000 fires a year are caused by dryer-related fires so this safety maintenance is VERY important. You can hire a professional or you can purchase a kit at a hardware store and do it yourself. In this video, the lint is being blown from inside out as well as using the lint brush connected to a power drill. A clean vent is not only far safer but will also save you time and money as your clothes will dry faster. Win win!
Does this look odd to you, too? This is a picture of two exhaust fan pipes from two separate second floor bathrooms vented into - but not out of - the attic. Excessive moisture from these fans is constantly vented directly into the attic, which causes condensation on the wood sheathing of the roof, on insulation, and anything else that is kept in the attic. This excessive moisture has led to what appears to be mold growth on the wood sheathing. This growth will continue to spread and the wood will eventually deteriorate. This means a leaking roof in addition to the undesirable effects of mold and/or other organic growth that you most definitely do NOT want in your home. In a nutshell, ALWAYS VENT OUTSIDE. You will save yourself money and headaches (and undesirable living conditions) if you do!
We've got you covered, even if your prospective home's outlets aren't. Missing outlet covers are easy to miss when they are hidden behind furniture and other household items. Without these covers, electrical wires can be exposed presenting hazardous conditions especially to children and pets. Outlet covers are designed to protect you from electrical shock and fire hazards and are something we look for at each home inspection. It is shocking (pun intended) how many homes we see with this easily-fixed issue. We'll put it in your inspection report to alert you of this commonly occurring safety issue.
Summertime grilling is always fun but if you have vinyl siding, those steaks and burgers need to be cooked to perfection at least 10 FEET from your siding. Heat damage to vinyl siding caused by grills is something we see A LOT during home inspections. And the scary part is that the damaged siding is minor compared to the real danger - burning down the house. Thousands of home fires are started every year because grills are too close to vinyl siding. Please stay safe and happy grilling!
If you plan on doing a little dining and dancing on your deck this summer, please make sure the support beams ACTUALLY TOUCH THE GROUND. These floaters are sure to wreck a good time if not fixed soon! It seems so obvious, but things like this get overlooked all the time - and if you're buying a home, major safety hazards should be addressed before you close. Let us help you make informed decisions that will help keep your family safe and protect your investment. The inspection report you receive will serve as a road map to your home, helping to identify the major components and where they are located, as well as pointing out areas of concern. Inspections are critically important and well worth it!
Can you spot the difference? It's a bit hard to tell to the untrained eye. The top right breaker in the electrical panel has been added or replaced. The new breaker is a different brand from the panel enclosure and is not listed on the label of the inside panel (not viewable here). Breakers must be UL listed and certified for each panel to ensure proper operation. The compatibility of the breaker to the panel needs further evaluation by a licensed electrical contractor to ensure safe and proper operation of the overcurrent protection systems. This is extremely important because without proper compatibility, the top breaker might not trip if overloaded which can lead to overheating and possibly cause a fire. These electrical panels are one of the many systems that gets checked during a home inspection.
Wooden decks and stairs can be downright treacherous in the summer (think bare feet and/or thin sandals), especially when nails become exposed. Channel your inner MC Hammer and pound those nails back in to save you and your steppers from trips, cuts, and worse. Take a walk around your deck and wooden stairs and check out all of the nails (and look for splintered wood too!) to keep those summer nights easy like Sunday morning.
From Rick & Lori:
Yes, we've joined the 21st Century and started a (mini) blog! Check here for great updates and tips about your current or prospective home.