18 02, 2016

Efflorescence

2016-10-19T19:20:36-05:00February 18th, 2016|

Efflorescence

Efflorescence is the white chalky powder that you might find on the surface of a concrete or brick wall. It can be a cosmetic issue, or it can be an indication of moisture intrusion that could lead to major structural and indoor air quality issues. A home inspector should understand what efflorescence is in order to recognize potential moisture problems.

Indications of Moisture

 Efflorescence (which means “to flower out” in French) is the dissolved salts deposited on the surface of a porous material (such as concrete or brick) that are visible after the evaporation of the water in which it was transported. The moisture that creates efflorescence often comes from groundwater, but rainwater can also be the source. Efflorescence alone does not pose a major problem, but it can be an indication of moisture intrusion, which may compromise the structural material.

Porous Building Materials

Building materials, such as concrete, wood, brick and stone, are porous materials. Porous materials can absorb or wick water by a process called capillary action. As water moves through the porous material, salts can be drawn with it.

Concrete, wood, brick, stone and mortar are porous materials that contain salts. The ground in which these materials can come into contact also contain salts. Capillary action can literally suck water and transport it through porous building materials.

Capillary Action

Porous building materials are capable of wicking water for large distances due to capillary action with a theoretical limit of capillary rise of about 6 miles. That’s 6 miles directly up. Think of a tree and how a tree can transport water from its roots to its leaves. That’s capillary action. And it’s very powerful. When you add salt to that capillary process, it can be destructive.
by Nick Gromicko and Ben Gromicko
4 02, 2016

Thermal Imaging Inspections

2016-10-19T19:20:36-05:00February 4th, 2016|

Thermal Imaging Inspections


Thermal Imaging InspectionsInfrared (thermal imaging) and thermal imaging inspections are an advanced, non-invasive technology that allows the inspector to show clients things about their homes or buildings that can’t be revealed using conventional visual inspection methods. Ancillary inspection reports are just as important as the reports generated for standard inspections. For something as specialized as a thermal imaging inspection, it’s critical that the information presented meets the clients’ needs for information they can use and act on.

The skill of an IR inspection is to interpret the results as accurately and reasonably as possible such that the client is given actionable information in order to proceed with necessary repairs or evaluation.

An Inspector should:

Explain the limitations of thermal imaging inspections, including the fact that, as with any type of inspection, it can’t predict future conditions. However, a roof that is experiencing moisture intrusion which has been detected through thermal imaging will very likely lead to serious structural issues, if left unaddressed.
Explain the thermal imaging technology and how it can benefit your clients. An infrared inspection can identify and document moisture intrusion, energy loss, and even unexpected hot spots.

In terms of energy loss, an IR camera can detect:

  • Heat loss and air infiltration in walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors;
  • Damaged and/or malfunctioning radiant heating systems;
  • Air-conditioner compressor leaks;
  • Under-fastening and/or missing framing members, and other structural defects that can lead to energy Loss; and broken seals in double-paned windows.

In terms of detecting moisture intrusion, an IR camera can locate:

  • Plumbing leaks;
  • Hidden roof leaks before they cause serious damage;
  • Missing, damaged and/or wet insulation;
  • Water and moisture intrusion around penetrations and at the foundation and building envelope that could lead to structural damage and mold.

IR cameras are equally effective at locating hot spots in the home, including:

Breaker Panel Thermal ImageCircuit breakers in need of immediate replacement;
Overloaded and undersized circuits;
Overheated electrical equipment and components; and
Electrical faults before they cause a fire.

Additionally, based on the color gradients that thermal images provide, an inspector can locate:

possible pest infestation, as revealed by energy loss through shelter tubes left by boring wood-destroying insects;
the presence of intruders, such as rats, mice and other larger pests hiding within the structure and detected because of their heat signature that the IR camera captures; and
dangerous flue leaks, which can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning of the home’s residents.
Standard Images with Infrared Images

The report is user-friendly. The Inspector provides standard digital images side by side with your IR images. This gives clients an accurate point of reference for the IR data, which is essential for mapping out improvements and repairs.

Interpreting the Data

This is perhaps the most critical aspect of providing a solid IR report, and goes hand in hand with the limitations of thermal imaging, as well as the depth of training and experience. Depending on the established baseline IR readings and the locations of the images, the results can either alert the client to a critical repair needed – such as an electrical hot spot – or simply be an item that they need to keep in check – such as adding insulation at an exterior wall.

Thermal Home Inspection Thermal imaging equipment is expensive enough that not every inspector offers this type of ancillary inspection. Nevertheless, those who use IR cameras for both ancillary inspections and as part of their standard home and commercial property inspections will testify that it’s become one of the more indispensable implements in their toolkits.

 

Contact Central Virginia Home Inspections for additional information.

4 02, 2016

New Home Construction Defects

2016-10-19T19:20:36-05:00February 4th, 2016|

Are The New Home Defects Covered by a Builder’s Warranty ?

New Home Construction Defects

Before you occupied  your new home, your local town, city, most likely inspected it and issued a certificate of occupancy. This indicated that the home was, at a minimum, livable. However, many new homeowners are unhappy and shocked to discover that the certificate is not a guarantee that everything is well constructed or in working order or even complete.

New Home Construction Defects?

It will often take a full year’s worth of seasonal changes are often needed to put a new house to the test. For example, only in spring might you discover that water seeps into the basement or around window frames, that the landscaping was badly graded and leads to mudslides, or that you have a mold problem. In fact: Your homeowners’ insurance policy probably doesn’t cover construction defects.

That’s why most builders issue their new owners a warranty called a “limited warranty” on their work, either within the sales contract or as a separate agreement.

The warranty’s maximum term is typically broken up into one-, two-, and ten-year terms, based on the type of needed work. You’ll probably get a one-year warranty for labor and materials, two years’ protection for mechanical defects (plumbing, electrical, heating, air conditioning, and ventilation systems), and ten years for structural defects. The result is that the best parts of the warranty expire quickly — your carpeting, tiles, paint, and roofing, for example, may not be covered after the first year.

If you received a warranty, read it over to determine its length, who’s supposed to handle problems (the builder may have bought third-party insurance), and what’s covered and excluded. Pay special attention to your own responsibilities – you may have been given a detailed list of maintenance obligations. Ignoring these gives the builder a perfect excuse to deny you protections under the warranty.

Typical exclusions from a builder’s warranty include:

  • Deterioration of construction materials within expected levels, including warpage or shrinkage within industry standards, or changes due to weather conditions, natural disasters, or soil movement or settling
  • All home appliances or equipment that are consumer products, such as your refrigerator and dishwasher, some of which come with their own warranties (which the builder should have transferred to you).
  • Damage caused by outsiders (such as rioters, vandals, animals, or airplanes) or “acts of God”
  • Damage caused by people you hired to work on the property
  • Your housing costs and expenses if you have to move out while repairs are being made, and
  • Damage owing to your own abuse, misuse, neglect, failure by you or your homeowners’ association to provide maintenance (such as cleaning the gutters, draining your water heater, touching up caulk or grout, or dealing with pests), or failure to maintain adequate ventilation and humidity levels in the home

 Get an home inspection before every warranty expiration date. Some defects are hard to detect, so it will be worth paying a professional to point out the builder defects. In fact, many builder’s warranties or contracts say they’ll send a quality-control inspector within the first year to check on your house. Keep track of the date yourself, and make sure the builder’s inspectors truly seems to be scouting for trouble — if not, hire Central Virginia Home Inspections. In preparation for any inspection, make a list of every problem you’ve observed. Something as apparently minor as a cracked tile could indicate a major problem, like a shifting foundation.

Can You File a Builder’s Warranty Claim?

If the defective or damaged item is covered by the builder’s warranty, read what it says about procedures for filing a claim. Many warranties require you to send written notification to the builder, while others give you a hotline to call. In fact, sending a letter to the builder is a good idea regardless of what the warranty says. This shows that you’re serious about asserting your rights, and creates evidence that you might later want to use in court. Send the letter by certified mail with a return receipt, so the builder can’t later claim not to have received it. Also keep notes (legible ones) on your every conversation with the builder, including the dates. You can use this information to confirm, in your letters to the builder, what you agreed to. And they might also be good to show to a judge someday.

Be prepared to act quickly. Sometimes you can protect your rights just by notifying the builder of problems within the warranty period. However, some warranties are cleverly written to let the builder string you along without making the repairs until the warranty period has run out and you’ve lost your rights. (Don’t bring in any outside contractors to do repairs yet, as this could allow the builder to cancel the benefits of the warranty.)