Loading Dock Inspections

The inspection of manufacturing, industrial, or some office spaces, often include a loading dock feature. This is the means for which deliveries flow to and from the building. Industrial or shipping buildings could have dozens of docks spread across the building campus. A professional commercial building inspector has to have an understanding of how a loading dock works and what failures or safety issues exist. 

In order to understand more about loading docks, there has to be an understanding of the various parts, components and types of loading docks.  Some loading docks are just a raised platform to the height of a standard truck allowing the load to easily move on and off the truck.  There is the depressed dock where the dock is lower than the interior floor and the truck has to back downward in order to load or unload.  Lastly, there is the raised dock.  This type of dock uses a raised ramp to bring the load up to a door, but since the load is higher than the floor an unloading vehicle has to remove the load from the truck.

Regardless of the type of ramp or dock, if there is an opportunity to have a truck, trailer, or any other machinery come into contact with the building, bumpers and bollards are used.  The bumper protects the blunt force impact from direct impact.  A bumper can also be used as the resting end so the driver knows when to stop.  A bollard is the vertical post, often painted bright yellow and placed at corners, or other potential impact points.  Bollards are often the first line of defence from building or system impact.

Not all trucks or trailers are the same height.  The finished height of the building floor is static so a dock leveler has to be used to help bridge that gap.  This device is often constructed of steel and utilizes compressed air, hydraulic pumps, or mechanical springs to move the plates up and down or in and out.  The mechanical leveler is the most common because it does not require electricity or any other powered equipment.

There are conditions in the building that require the truck or trailer to be sealed.  This could be to keep refrigerated buildings from leaking air or other security concerns.  The cushion or curtain that is creating this is called a shelter or seal.  Dock seals provide a soft surface for the back of trailers backing into the loading dock.  This protects both the trailer and the building from damage caused by impact.  The shelter protects dock personnel  and equipment from outside elements.  These are constructed similar to the seal but provide a tighter seal.

A serious safety concern for dock workers is the unwanted or unannounced trailer departure.  This is when the trailer is removed from the dock without notice.  A dock worker inside of the truck can fall from the trailer because they will be under the belief that the trailer and dock are still on the same level or stationary.  When a truck restraint system is installed, the trailer will not be able to be separated from the dock until all personnel are altered or in a safe location.

Docks and ramps are often depressed on raised platforms.  These can have as much as a five foot rise or fall.  Without some form of guard or hand railing, this varied height can cause huge safety concerns.  A properly installed railing will protect the entire length of the dock.  A bollard should be installed to protect the railing or concrete retaining walls from impact.

Depressed loading docks or loading docks built into the building at a height lower than the finished floor typically have drains installed at the bottom of them.  These could be simple drains directly plumbed into the storm or sewer system or  plumbed into a sump system and pumped into an appropriate location.

Now that there is an understanding of loading docks, what does an inspector have to report on or inspect.  Every inspector will have a different experience level or, through proposal, create a different client expectation, but the same basic safety observations and function notes should be made.

Any failures in the concrete surfaces or walls should be noted.  Wherever there is an opportunity to protect personnel from falling,  guard or hand railings should be placed.  If there is a location where a trailer or vehicle can come into contact with the building or dock feature, a bollard should be installed.  Any mechanical, weather, or other damage present to the shetlers and seals should be identified.  Most inspectors are not going to operate or inspect levelers but identifying the locations will be of benefit to your clients.  Flooding is always a concern to your clients.  Locating the drain in the bottom of the ramp and locating the direction of where the drain is going should be part of the inspection.  The sump system, if present, should be operated as well.
Regardless of to what extent you inspect a loading dock, your clients will appreciate photos of the various elements and systems present and the visual condition at the time of the inspection.

Preventing Buyer’s Remorse

“As-Is” Doesn’t Need to Turn Into Buyers Remorse

Some Buyers are skipping their due diligence period and buying homes “As-Is” without a home inspection. We get it. The market is demanding bold offers. We know you want to protect your clients by giving them sound advice that gets them into the home they want in the areas of town they prefer. You don’t want them to walk blindly into a money pit and then blame you when Buyers Remorse sets in.

Here’s what we are seeing: Sellers are taking advantage of market conditions and listing properties that would never sell at all in a normal market. Buyers are desperate to find housing and are willing to pay over the appraised value with no contingencies. That doesn’t mean they want to move into a home that they know nothing about and allow minor issues to turn into major repairs down the road. When this happens, who do they have to blame? There may be no legal liability, but will your reputation be at stake?

Here are a few things we saw this week on “market-ready” properties:

If your clients choose to accept the risk and purchase a home without an inspection, let them know they can still have the property inspected after closing. We routinely inspect homes for homeowners that have lived in their homes for years and want a check-up, or because they think their homes are making them sick, or because they suspect they have a problem but can’t identify it. Home Inspections are not just for Buyers and Sellers and you can help protect your clients that make the boldest offers by recommending that they have a home inspection after closing.

Packaged HVAC – RTU’s

Package HVAC Units – RTU’s

The packaged HVAC unit is also called a RTU (roof top unit).  This is a unit where the heating and air conditioning are both contained in the same assembly.  These are called RTU’s because they are most often located on the roof, but can also be installed on the ground and ducted through a sidewall into a building.  These units have also been found in residential properties, but mostly identified with commercial installations.

A Typical RTU consists of:

  • An Evaporator Core
  • A Condenser
  • A Compressor
  • A Blower motor and fan unit
  • A Cooling motor and fan
  • An Intake for Outside Air ( economizer )
  • A Heat Source ( furnace )
  • An Exhaust Flue 

This unit is connected to the supply and return duct systems, located on the inside of the building.

Combining the heating and cooling into one unit saves on the footprint necessary to house both units, and also removes the need for two different locations for maintenance.  This will also ensure that the heating and cooling will remain properly matched for size.

Advantages of an RTU:

  • A RTU typically uses less energy; since it’s assembled and configured in a factory, under optimal conditions.
  • The RTU is mounted on the roof, it does not take up any interior space.
  • Installation is typically easier.  The only interior components are the ducts needed to distribute the comforted air.
  • Diagnostics and repair may be easier, as all of the components are in one location.

Disadvantages:

  • Placement on the roof can require a crane
  • Location on the roof can inhibit frequent maintenance
  • Environmental damage can be frequent (hail or other weather damage)

Inspection

  • Review the exterior of the unit for any visible damage or missing components, covers or other issues.
  • Record the size and type for reporting purposes.
  • Identify operating conditions – does the unit operate in one mode (heating or cooling)
  • Has the interior filter been maintained
  • Has the exterior metal fiber filter been maintained.
  • Identify if there are any openings or other adverse conditions to exterior ductwork
  • Review the electric connections and gas supply pipes.
  • Locate a service or convenient electric outlet, in a general area of the unit.

The statistical life of an RTU unit is between 20 and 25 years.  Units older than 25 years should be considered beyond statistical lifespan and budgeting for replacement should be made.  Only damage to the fin systems, on the cooling side, should maintain the same reporting expectations as with residential split units.  Exposed coils or excessively damaged fins will cause issues with the cooling. 

Commercial RTU’s

The Roof Top Unit or RTU as most people call it is the most widely used used HVAC system present in commercial buildings.  This type of system packages the heating and cooling into one complete unit.  The reason it is called an RTU is because they are mostly found on the roof however, they can be installed on the ground as well.

The cooling system is a standard compressor driven fan-cooled condensing and evaporating system and the heating is most often a gas forced air system.

The most common RTU consists of the following components:

  • An evaporator core to absorb heat
  • A condenser to release heat
  • A compressor to change the refrigerant gas to liquid
  • A blower motor and fan to move air
  • An intake for makeup or outside air
  • A heat source or forced air furnace
  • An exhaust flue

The advantages of an RTU is that it typically uses less energy.   Since it  is assembled and configured in a factory the entire system works as a complete balanced unit.  The unit is located on the roof so it does not take away any square footage of the interior of the building.  Installation is often easier because only the interior ducts need to be installed separately.  Diagnostics and repairs are often easier because all of the components are located in one location.

The disadvantages are; since the unit is located on the roof the maintenance my require a ladder or special hatchway.  Another is the replacement may require a crane or other lifting device.

The typical life of a maintained unit could be twenty to twenty-five years.

Safety Items Every Home Needs

hands around house

In these unprecedented times, we are constantly reminded about the importance of safety. Make sure you take all precautions necessary to keep your home and family safe. Here is a home safety items checklist from The BrickKicker. Make sure you have these safety essentials for your home.

Home Safety Items Checklist

Each and every home should be equipped with the following items to ensure you and your family are safe and prepared for any issue that may arise.

Hand Sanitizer and Extra Masks

If repair workers, or even friends and family, come into your home, make sure you have extra PPE gear on hand for them to use. It will minimize risk and excuses.

Smoke Detectors

Every home should have at least one smoke detector on each floor of the house plus one outside each bedroom. It’s a good idea to get in the habit of changing the batteries each fall and spring when you change the clocks back for daylight savings. You should also test them monthly to make sure they are working correctly. They should all be replaced about every ten years.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Recommendations for CO detectors are similar to recommendations for smoke alarms. At a minimum, each home should have at least one CO detector on each floor and one in, or just outside, each bedroom.

Fire Extinguishers

Your house should have one fire extinguisher in the kitchen so you can put out any cooking catastrophes, one on each additional floor, and one near any fireplaces. Make sure every family member knows how to use one, and regularly check their expiration dates.

Fire Ladder

If your home has upstairs bedrooms, make sure they have a fire ladder that everybody knows how to use.

First Aid Kit

When it comes to safety essentials for your home, be sure to have a first aid kit on hand. You can buy a pre-assembled first aid kit or make it yourself. 

Flashlights

Ensure everyone has access to a working flashlight near their bed. You might need it in the event of a power outage. Also, have an extra supply of batteries next to each flashlight.

A Safe

A safe protects essential papers and valuables from theft and keeps them safe from fire and water damage.

Outlet covers

Even if you don’t have small children in your home, eventually, you will. That is why you should keep unused electrical outlets covered with safety covers. 

Keep Your Home Safe With The BrickKicker

Home Inspections usually include not only a list of needed repairs but also ideas for safety improvement. Now that you know the safety items every home needs, you can be proactive and get these safety essentials for your home. If you need a home inspection, contact The BrickKicker or schedule it online.

October is Cyber Security Month

Cybercriminals have become quite savvy in their attempts to lure people in and get you to click on a link or open an attachment.

Know the Basics

Keep your business safe by reviewing the following tips:

  • Spam is the electronic equivalent of junk mail. The term refers to unsolicited, bulk – and often unwanted – email.
  • Phishing attacks use email or malicious websites (clicking on a link) to collect personal and financial information or infect your machine with malware and viruses.
  • Spam, phishing and other scams aren’t limited to just email. They’re also prevalent on social networking sites. The same rules apply on social networks: When in doubt, throw it out. This rule applies to links in online ads, status updates, tweets, and other posts.

Avoid Becoming a Cyber Victim

  • Don’t reveal personal or financial information in an email, and do not respond to email solicitations for this information. This includes following links sent in email.
  • Before sending or entering sensitive information online, check the security of the website.
  • Pay attention to the website’s URL. Malicious websites may look identical to a legitimate site, but the URL may use a variation in spelling or a different domain (e.g., .com versus .net).
  • If you are unsure whether an email request is legitimate, try to verify it by contacting the company directly. Contact the company using information provided on an account statement, not information provided in an email.
  • Keep a clean machine. Keep all software on Internet-connected devices – including PCs, smartphones, and tablets – up to date to reduce the risk of infection from malware.

What to Do if You Are a Victim

  • Report it to the appropriate people within the organization, including network administrators. They can be alert for any suspicious or unusual activity.
  • If you believe your financial accounts may be compromised, contact your financial institution immediately and close the account(s).
  • Watch for any unauthorized charges to your account.

When in doubt, consider reporting the attack to your local police department, and file a report with the Federal Trade Commission or the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

The BrickKicker is committed to excellence and being your consultant throughout your commercial property involvement.

for your Commercial Clients
Peace of mind 
with The BrickKicker!

Chimney Cleaning and a Tragic Story

Many house hunters have a fireplace on their wish list, and for good reason. Fireplaces provide warmth and a beautiful architectural feature, but they can also be a source of danger. Taking care of your fireplace is important part of home maintenance for ongoing enjoyment and safety, but how often should a chimney be cleaned, and what wood should you use in a fireplace? The BrickKicker is here to help.

How Often Should a Chimney Be Cleaned?

The frequency at which you clean you chimney will depend on a couple of factors, including:

  • How often you use it
  • What kind of wood you use
  • The condition of your chimney’s interior

Burning wood produces smoke and creosote. What is creosote? Creosote is a resin from the wood that is extremely flammable and toxic. As wood burns, creosote is released in the smoke and travels upward, often solidifying near the top of your chimney. Once cooled, it hardens into a tar-like substance and can continue to build up and obstruct proper ventilation.

It does not take much buildup to cause a fire. This is one of the reasons why we bring in professional chimney sweeps to keep our chimneys clean. Homeowners should schedule an annual chimney inspection to assess its conditions, especially before winter, and those results will determine how often your chimney should be cleaned.

Inspectors will look for the following factors:

  • What woods are you burning? Soft woods will create more creosote than harder woods and therefore require more frequent cleaning.
  • How often are fires burned fires and how much is burned? Professional chimney sweeps recommend cleaning a chimney every time a face cord of wood is burned. A face cord is typically the measurement of one truckload of wood or about 8 feet long X 4 feet high X one stick of wood.
  • What does the interior of the chimney looks like? If you looked up your chimney you will see that the smoke has turned the inside of the chimney black. After a few fires this black will begin to build up and create a tar. This tar is glossy. Shining a light and seeing the reflection on the tar is a sure sign of the creosote build up.

What Wood Should You Use in a Fireplace?

We recommended using harder woods in your fireplace, because they create less creosote. Some examples of popular hard woods include:

  • Oak
  • Walnut
  • Maple
  • Cherry
  • Birch

Softer woods may burn more easily but they also create more ash and have more sap pockets that can cause unwanted sizzling and snapping, potentially throwing embers beyond the fireplace hearth. Soft woods such as fir and pine should be avoided if possible to cut down on creosote and additional safety risks.

Here are some more factors to consider when choosing what wood to use in your fireplace:

  • Seasoned wood produces more heat and burns cleaner.
  • Never burn painted or treated wood as it will release harmful chemicals.
  • Store wood in a well-ventilated area.
  • Start small and build up your fire slowly, only using as much wood as you need.

What Happens If You Don’t Clean Your Chimney?

Chimney fires are a real thing. They are devastating to everyone involved. Here is a link to a recent video produced by Rachael Ray. Her home recently was lost to a chimney fire.

https://www.rachaelrayshow.com/articles/rachael-opens-up-about-house-fire-for-the-first-time-shows-whats-left-of-her-home

If you have more questions about what is creosote or how often should a chimney be cleaned, contact The BrickKicker. We can help inspect your chimney and ensure it’s safe and ready for use. Contact us to schedule an inspection.

The Interview

Why is the commercial client interview so important? What is the commercial client interview?

Unlike the residential inspection the commercial inspection is not a cookie cutter experience. For most, the commercial inspection is a unique event. Typically, no two buildings or building inspections are alike. This is why the interview is so important.

A commercial inspector should be talking with their clients about the project and through this talk establish the expectations and scope of the project.

The interview will determine what will and will not be inspected. The interview will help the inspector understand what the client is looking and how fast they need the project completed. The interview will also help guide the client through what the report will look like when the inspection is finished.

Without the interview a commercial inspection could have a miscommunication even before the inspection ever started.

Be sure to contact your local The BrickKicker operation before purchasing your next commercial property.

5 Home Maintenance Tasks You Won’t Want to Forget This Autumn

1. Clean the gutters

Cleaning the gutters is probably the main thing people tackle, not just at the beginning of the season, but all throughout autumn. As the leaves fall from the trees, they’re going to collect in the gutters and clog up. If you don’t do this, your home could be damaged and to repair the damages could get very costly.

2. Clean the carpets

During the summer, it’s not uncommon for friends to come over, children run in and out of the house (sometimes with muddy shoes!) and who knows what else! So, of course the carpet is going to get dirty. With Thanksgiving and Christmas only a few months away, people are beginning to get their homes ready for entertaining family and friends. Deep cleaning your carpet using the hot water extraction method, you can bring your carpet back to life. 

Note: If you don’t have a carpet cleaner or don’t have the patience to do it yourself, you can hire a carpet cleaning company to steam clean your carpet.

3. Touch up on exterior paint

The summer sun has a way of dulling vibrant paint colors. Even white paint has a funny way of turning grey over time, thanks to dirt buildup. Autumn is the perfect time to put a fresh coat of paint on your house. You could use the same color paint that’s already there or you could change the look of your house completely by using a different color completely! 

4. Have your HVAC system checked

Autumn is the perfect chance to address any issues that may cause your HVAC system to work at less than optimal efficiency. The person who comes to clean the unit will inspect your system and make sure there are any problems. Preventative care always saves time and money in the long run! 

Note: Also, you can help your HVAC system to run properly by changing the air filters regularly. Most air filters need only to be changed once every three months, however we recommend that you read the instructions on the air filter’s packaging.

5. Deep clean the house 

You know they say that springtime is the ideal time to break out the cleaning supplies and give your house a good deep clean. That’s not the only time you should give your house a good scrubbing. Autumn is a good time to do it as well. Not only will you want to clean the house but you’ll want to go through everything and put items for spring and summer in storage and bring out the fall and winter items. 

Autumn is a fantastic time of year to sit outside and enjoy a mug of coffee and breathe in the fresh, crisp air. It’s the time where the year is coming to an end and we’re preparing for a brand new start. But, before that can happen, you should take the time to make sure you’re ready for the change. By keeping up on maintenance, you can be sure that the following months will be smooth sailing!

If you’re thinking about selling your house soon and you’re curious about what’s in store for the real estate market, check out HomeLight’s Q2 survey!

Different Types of Electrical Outlets

Whether you are trying to renovate your existing power system or exploring a new home, knowing electrical outlet types used most frequently can help a lot. There are even new outlets that are compatible with your phone! The BrickKicker covers common electrical outlets and comparisons like GFI vs. GFCI and AFCI vs. GFCI below. 

   

AFCI vs. GFCI Electrical Outlet Types 

Many are surprised by how many different kinds of outlets there are in a home, wondering about the difference between GFI vs. GFCI outlets and more. Let’s check out these common electrical outlets in detail: 

Electrical Outlet
  • – GFCI: GFCI stands for “Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter”. These are slightly more expensive than regular outlets but are required in kitchens and bathrooms. The interrupter is designed to trip when any current caused by a fault goes past the neutral wire.
  • – AFCI: Stands for “Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter”. An “arc” is a term for when electricity jumps from one wire to another, which can result in dangerous fires. Since 1999, these outlets have been required at the circuit breaker box.
  • – GFI vs. GFCI: Some are confused when they see GFI outlets instead of GFCI. These acronyms signify the same thing, even if GFI is less commonly used to describe electrical outlet types. 

Other Common Electrical Outlets 

There are plenty of other common electrical outlets you may encounter at the hardware store or in your home: 

  • – 20A: 20A outlets are built for appliances that take a lot of power. You can recognize them by the notch on the left side of the outlet opening. Often, you’ll find these electrical outlet types in the garage and kitchen.
  • – Switched Outlets: A switched outlet usually has just one plug and a switch to control the outlet individually. This is great if you don’t need a device or appliance turned on all the time but want to store it in a convenient location. 

More Kinds of Outlets 

Besides these common electrical outlets, you may have heard about new technological advances that make access and control of power all the more simple. Let’s look at more advanced electrical outlet types: 

  • – Smart Outlets: Like many of the new appliances that connect to your phone, Smart Outlets can be triggered with a swipe of the finger. Grab a few of these if you’re building the ultimate smart home. 
  • – USB Outlets: Many of our devices use USB cables to power themselves, but it can be tricky when you’re crowding your outlets with bulky phone chargers. USB outlets solve this problem and are easy to install in your home! 

Get Inspection Services with BrickKicker! 

The BrickKicker provides commercial and residential inspections for your home, but it also has resources like our blog to provide tips and information to everyone. Contact us with any questions you have about AFCI vs. GFCI, or anything else home-related today!