We Broke What?

Here is one you might have heard before: A home inspector walks into a home and they broke my ….

A home inspector has a certain routine and organization to their motion through a home. Most like to perform their inspection in a top down routine. This allows them to follow the plumbing as well as to stay organized. We are very much creatures of habit.

After a few hundred inspections most inspectors move through the home like instinctual animals. They have a choreography like a ballet dancer. Because of this an inspector will just grab for that tub faucet knob or sink handle like they have done hundreds of time before.

Our challenge is, this time the knob was not connected to the plumbing and it falls off in the inspector’s hand. The inspector will write in their report that the faucet handle is failed and will recommend attention. The inspector did nothing different than they have done countless times before. The inspector did not exert any additional pressure or force then they have done before but yet we are about to be blamed for breaking the faucet.

Now I do not know if it is a seller trying to ready the blame on someone else or if they are just ambivalent over the entire condition buy yet the inspector is still going to be blamed.

As a professional inspector we would love to have the sellers of the home leave us a note letting us know if there are any conditions we should know about. This could include loose handles, trick drawers or cabinet doors, maybe the special instructions to turning on the spa tub or anything else that might raise a question.

Things are going break. Inspectors are human and if we break something we will take ownership and responsibility but if we did not break it we will hold our grown.

CODE is a Four Letter Word

I learned most of the four letter words from John Murphy on the back of the fourth grade school bus.  This is where most of us learned them.   But, he never said the “big” one, CODE.  Code is absolutely the biggest of all the four letter words and now in my old age I try very hard to never utter that word.

Code is a minimum standard.  Code is a basic safety standard.  Codes change from year to year as well.  Code is dependent on the local jurisdiction or municipality where the home was built.  Code is only enforceable by dully authorized representatives of the local building official and not a part of a professional home inspection.  

Yes, code is not a part of the home inspection.  A home inspection is designed to help the client understand the systems and components of the home.  A home inspection is designed to identify the readily accessible issues of life safety, structure and function but, it is not a code inspection.  

There is not a home inspection performed that does not include at least one question from the client about code or the client asking, “is that code?”  The home inspector should not answer that questions but rather talk about safety or function.  The next time you are on a home inspection try not to use that four letter word and concentrate on what is most important.  The life safety, structure, and the function of the home. 

Who Should Attend an Inspection?

Recently there have been updates to safety requirements regarding home inspections and how many people can be inside the home at one time due to COVID. This guide deals with who should be present for a home inspection outside of pandemic safety guidelines. If you want to know who should attend an inspection, read on, and if you have questions, contact your realtor or The BrickKicker.

Should the Buyer be at the Inspection?

Should the buyer be at the inspection? In a nutshell, home buyers are always encouraged to attend a home inspection because they need to know as much as possible about the home, and may have several questions to ask. However, it isn’t mandatory. If you can’t get time off work, don’t worry. There will be an entire report with pictures for you to review.

Family Members

It’s not unusual for moms, dads, or even friends to be present during a home inspection, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best idea. While it is nice to have their support and opinions,  it can distract the home inspector. Imagine having lots of different voices talking all at the same time while you’re trying to do your job? The home inspector needs uninterrupted time to be able to complete the job on time.

Contractors

As a home buyer, you may already have a list of changes you want to be done to your new home. Are you thinking of ripping out the carpet and putting in hardwoods? That’s fine, but having contractors in the house during a home inspection only creates more confusion. Plus, sometimes contractors like to “talk shop” with the inspector, which is just an additional distraction. It’s best to schedule a separate time for contractors to enter the house.

Does the Seller Need to Attend an Inspection?

Does the seller need to attend the inspection? The answer is no. Home sellers are emotionally involved in the house and may take any issues that arise personally. Therefore, it’s always best if the home seller and their realtor are not present during a home inspection. However, there are many things home sellers can do to make the home inspection go more smoothly, like doing regular seasonal maintenance.

Schedule Your Home Inspection Today

The only people that should attend an inspection are those individuals that will be on the mortgage and their realtor because they are the ones that need to make decisions. The inspection report can be distributed to as many friends and family as they like, so there is no need to have anyone else present during the inspection. You can schedule your inspection or pre-listing inspection online or give us a call.

Coronavirus and the Home Inspection

We have survived the recession on the 1990’s, the crash of the 2000’s and now it is the Covid-19 Coronavirus.  We know this too will pass. As a professional home inspector I pride myself as first, being professional, second, being consultative, and third, providing the the valuable information so my clients can purchase their homes intelligently.  That is not going to change.

Home buyers are buying homes today for potential move-in dates 30, 60, or 90 days from now.  Most of the experts are saying that by that time the health risks will be greatly mitigated but, what are you going to do right now?

Each home inspector or home inspection company will have a different point of view on the topic of health safety.  Most home inspectors are pretty crusty. We have been going in and out of all types of homes for years. Some might say this builds up our immune systems.  I don’t believe that but I will take it if that is the label I must wear.

Moving forward and for the next foreseeable future I will be taking the guidance of the medical experts and first, wearing gloves during my inspections.  I will also be suggesting that my clients and all others at the inspections maintain a distance. I will also be encouraging my clients to NOT attend the inspections with me.  I will offer to call them during the inspection and discuss my finding or call them after the inspection and walk them through the report. While this is not ideal it will eliminate the casual and unnecessary contact.  Each of us have to do our parts to slow the progression or this virus.

Remember, we are buying homes today and not moving in for weeks.  Life will continue to move on and The BrickKicker is here to help you through the process.  For more information about The BrickKicker please go to www.brickkicker.com.  If you would like information about the corona virus please go to  www.coronavirus.gov.

Spring Showers = Leaking Homes

April showers bring May flowers.  We all sang that rhyme as children, but April and Spring showers can also bring many headaches to homeowners.  The most common headaches are leaking basements and leaking roof gutters. The only sure fire, 100% accurate, foolproof, never get water into your foundation is to build your home on the peak of the mountain.  While you might not get water into your foundation; there just aren’t enough mountains to go around, plus there is no way the “prize patrol” is ever going to find you there.  

Because of this, we build our homes with some form of topographical relief or plan and this plan has to include carrying the water away from the foundation.  Most homes have some form of roof drainage, usually in the form of gutters and downspouts. Often these gutters can be clogged in the winter and sometimes with the fall leaves and debris.  If these gutters are clogged the water will not be properly carried to the downspouts.

If the downspouts do not carry the water far enough away from the foundation, the water will back cycle or be backpitched toward the foundation and possibly into the lower levels.  When dealing with downspouts, there really is only a right and wrong way of looking at them. Is water draining away from the home or is it draining back toward the foundation? It is as simple as that.  Some homes might require several feet of extension; where others only need a small splash block.

Keep water out of your home this Spring.  Clean your gutters and monitor your downspouts.  You might just need to add to your downspouts.

The Home Inspector is Not a Babysitter

It is funny how the home inspection has changed from fact finding, to negotiation tool, and now it is everything all rolled into one. During the beginning years of the home inspection industry, the Realtor was present during the entire inspection.  The Realtor was the only one with access to the keys or the home and they were also the liaison between the buyers and the sellers.  Now everything has changed.

A home inspector typically has a set routine and road map on how they migrate through a home.  Some home inspectors like to be left alone, while others provide their clients with a moving dialog.  Regardless of what the inspector’s style is, the inspector is just that, the home inspector.

Here is a recent review left about an inspection:  

Ramona Sandru ★★★☆☆

Wrinkled bed sheets No water in refrigerator

I have been a home inspector for 30 years and I know how tiring it can be.  You are scheduled to do three inspections in a day; you have to trudge through the snow, drive 100 miles between the three jobs and talk with three different clients.  Yes, we all lay down on the bed for a 15 minute nap.  NO! I have never heard of that.  However, I have seen clients sit on the beds and I have seen client’s children jump on beds.  We cannot control what they do, nor should we ever be responsible for their actions.  

I think of a recent inspection.  The Realtor came to unlock the vacant home, the client and members of the family were present, and then the Realtor left to go to another appointment.  The client’s children arrived a little bit later, after school, to look at the home.  I finished the inspection and had to go to my next one, but the client wanted to stay to measure more things and show the children the home.  I asked them to leave but they insisted the needed to stay.  Again the home is vacant.  I left because I needed to get to my next inspection, but soon after I was called asking if I locked the door and everything was fine.  The realtor was upset I did not force them to leave.  

We had another seller recently call the office and voice their disappointment and rudely complaint that we opened the kitchen cabinet and removed a glass.  The glass left in the sink was their evidence of the action.  But, the rest of the story is; the inspector needed to test the water dispenser on the refrigerator door.  He could have hit the button and let the water run in his hand or down the door but instead he used a glass.

The moral is, People need to be responsible for themselves.  The client should know they are in someone else’s home; and should have been taught as children not to touch other people’s stuff.  And, the Realtor should stay and be present during the inspection because too many times the realtors just do not show up or just sit in the car. 

The home inspection is a service.  As an inspector, I am biased and I believe it is an important service.  The market has placed this service as one of the lowest monetary valued services in the home transaction; all the while the inspector maintains the highest amount of liability.  So, for the love of all things fair and equitable, have your Realtor stay during the inspection.  The inspector is not there to babysit.

The Importance of Having a Thorough Home Inspection Before Buying a New Home

When you’re buying a new home, there are a few critical steps to take. 

The first? Find a great real estate agent who will negotiate effectively for you throughout the process. 

Then you’ve got to narrow down the neighborhoods you want to look at, handle repairs on your own home if you’re also selling your house, and get all your financials together to make the mortgage qualification process smooth and easy. 

But one of the most important steps when buying a new home is: having a thorough home inspection by a licensed professional home inspector. 

Here’s why. 

Home inspections can save you thousands of dollars in unexpected expenses. 

Let’s say you skip the home inspection to save $400 during the purchase process. 

Well, a few months after buying the home, you start noticing water damage in a part of your upstairs ceiling. When you call in a contractor to fix it, they tell you that part of the roof is deteriorating, and will need to be replaced, while the water damage also has to be remediated. 

If you’d gotten an inspection during the purchase process, the inspector most likely would have noticed the roof damage, and you could have had it fixed by the seller before closing. Then you wouldn’t have had a huge repair bill, and what’s more, the repairs would have been less serious. 

Home inspectors can spot potential problems that need further exploration. 

While it’s true that home inspectors are generalists, they are trained to spot hard-to-notice problems that warrant a specialized home inspection

For example, if they spot standing water around an HVAC unit, or smell a musty or humid smell in one part of the house, they’ll probably recommend bringing in a mold inspector to see if there’s a mold problem. 

If the home you’re buying is old, the inspector may recommend something like a lead-based paint inspection or a chimney inspection to ensure the home is actually safe. 

Home inspectors can also spot signs of pest infestation, from termites to rodents. Both of these pests are more than annoyances—they can actually damage the structure of a home. That’s why it’s so important to bring in a pest company or termite company if there are indications they’ve taken up residence in the home you’re buying. 

Home inspectors can spot attempts to cover up problems.

While most home sellers are honest and disclose everything they know about a home’s problems, some do resort to attempts to cover up known or suspected issues. 

Some tricks sellers use to pass the home inspection are: 

  • Making small cosmetic repairs that don’t quite fit with the rest of the home
  • Claim they don’t know the history of the house or “haven’t lived here long”
  • Use heavily scented candles or air fresheners to cover up unpleasant smells
  • Keep the inspector from accessing certain areas, like a basement, crawl space, or breaker box

If you notice any of these things occurring, it’s time to look a bit deeper. Ask your sellers for a disclosure form, and urge your home inspector to be as thorough as possible. 

Home inspections are a perfect example of how paying some money up front can save you thousands later on. Make sure you schedule yours before you close, and come with a good list of questions.

Mackenzie Kirk Content Marketing Coordinator, HomeLight

mackenzie.kirk@homelight.com www.homelight.com

Inspecting a Tile Shower

A shower pan failure can be one of the most expensive repairs to a home. Correction requires demolishing the shower floor and, likely, the entire surround. Sometimes a shower pan leak will go undetected for years. This can cause extensive damage and extend beyond the shower floor. (You may be facing a full bathroom remodel.) If there is living space below the shower, there may be staining on the ceilings or mold and rot in a wall cavity. No matter how you look at it, a shower pan failure is going to be an expensive repair. The question is whether it will cost hundreds of dollars or thousands.

So you are buying a home with a tiled shower? What is your inspector looking for? Remember that a home inspection is a visual inspection of readily accessible components. The inspector will not (can not) cut holes in walls or ceilings to look for a small but destructive leak. When an invasive inspection is not possible, what tools does the inspector have? When and how can your inspector go beyond their standard of practice? This could be the most expensive repair a new homeowner is faced with and the average home inspector is not going to be equipped to find it. 


There are three things an inspector will need to find the leak. First, they must be willing to take some extra time and go beyond their Standards of Practice. To find a leak, they must first stop the drain and fill the pan with water. (This test is excluded from the SOP and there is an alibi for missing anything that wasn’t obvious or easy to find.) If the shower is over a crawlspace and there is insulation between the floor joists, the home inspector must move the insulation to see any staining from a failed shower pan. Why wouldn’t they? They aren’t required to. They may not have appropriate PPE to do it safely. (Are they wearing gloves, goggles, and a respirator? They should be.) Maybe they can’t get to the area below the shower. If they cannot, does their report say so? (It should.) 

The second thing they will need is an infrared camera. An IR camera will not determine if an area is wet, but it can draw attention to a wet area for further evaluation. Most home inspectors do not have IR cameras and many charge extra for pulling them out. Using IR thermography is critical in finding a shower pan failure if there is living space below it. We scan the walls and floors in adjacent rooms to look for potentially wet areas. We also scan finished walls and ceilings below a tiled shower.

The third thing the inspector will need is a moisture meter. As I stated before, an IR camera will not definitively tell you something is wet, the next step is to test the area to determine if it is actually wet. Water staining is the obvious indicator that there was a leak but staining doesn’t always happen right away, it may not happen at all, and it may show up somewhere else. Most inspectors have a moisture meter but they need a reason to suspect something is wet before using it.

At The BrickKicker, we take extra time and use the proper tools when inspecting tiled showers. It is impossible to find every deficiency in a home. Our methods are not guaranteed to find every shower pan leak, every time, but we know that the minimum standards, the industry standards, are going to miss them most of the time. If you are purchasing a home with a tiled shower, make sure you call The BrickKicker for your home inspection.

Thermal Pane Windows

Thermal pane windows have surged in popularity for their energy-efficient design, but just what is a thermal pane window and how can it help you maintain a happier home? While a standard window consists of one pane of glass, a thermal pane window can have double or triple the panes. This provides a better barrier against the elements, which means you can spend less on heating and cooling! Let’s dive into the benefits of this technology for homeowners.

Explaining the Thermal Pane Window Design

Did you know that windows can account for up to 30 percent of your heating and cooling costs? That means that standard windows can actually cost you tons of money in bills over time. A thermal pane window improves upon the standard design in a number of ways.

  • A thermal pane window uses two or three layers of glasses to reduce heat transfer between your home and the outside environment.
  • Between each pane is a layer of insulating gases, which add another layer of insulation to both sides of the glass.
  • A layer of low emissive coating of metallic oxide is applied to each pane to reduce energy consumption even more. This adds a third barrier against harsh weather.

Can Thermal Pane Windows Be Repaired?

One of the most common questions we hear is, “Can thermal windows be repaired?” This design is not only energy-efficient, but extremely strong as well. However, it is possible for the thermal pane window seals to develop moisture over time. This can create condensation, which leads to a cloudy appearance. But frequently, there are simple methods available to repair the thermal pane window seal without the need to replace the entire window.

  • Testing: Has the window seal really failed? Hold an ice cube on the glass and notice the reaction. If moisture forms on the outside of the glass, your window is fine. If it forms on the inside, your seal has failed.
  • Prevention: Some window manufacturers add a small valve to the window by drilling a tiny hole and coating it with a moisture control membrane. This lets moisture out without letting anything in.
  • Repair: Even if your thermal pane window seal has failed, it doesn’t mean the entire window is compromised. Often, homeowners simply need to replace the faulty pane and they can continue to enjoy the energy savings of a thermal pane window.

Get a Home Inspection With The BrickKicker

Whether you’re thinking of upgrading to thermal pane windows or you’re concerned about your current window seals, a professionally-certified inspection can give you greater peace of mind moving forward. Contact us at The BrickKicker for more information.

Windows

There are many perspectives when you look at windows.  Depending upon your perspective is where you find yourself.  If you are the housekeeper, you are worried about keeping them clean.  If you are a small child you are looking at the big world out there.  If you are the homeowner you may be looking at one of the most expensive replacement items in the home.  

If you are the home inspector you are looking at a very complex and diverse system that has deliberately placed a hole in the exterior envelope for the sole reason of making the home less efficient, less water and weather tight, and has a huge potential of liability or call-backs.           

Before you can really sit down and start to discuss the construction, installation, maintenance, failures or any other features of windows it is only right to look at the industry standards and understand what the home inspector is actually supposed to look at and inspect.

American Society Of Home Inspectors (ASHI)

4. EXTERIOR

4.1 The inspector shall:

  1. inspect:
    1. wall coverings, flashing, and trim.

10. INTERIORS

10.1 The inspector shall inspect:

   D.  a representative number of doors and windows.

International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI)

3.2. Exterior

I. The inspector shall inspect:

C.  a representative number of windows;

3.10. Doors, Windows & Interior

I. The inspector shall inspect:

  1. a representative number of doors and windows by opening and closing them;

Both of these standards have one thing in common, they both talk about a representative sample.  The rest of it is up to experience and background.  This leaves a great deal up to each individual to determine what their professional expectations are, as well as what the client expectations are.  This why it is important to have a good thorough understanding of windows, not only the functionality but where the potential failures might be as well.

Gaining a good understanding has to begin with understanding the basic styles of windows.

  • Single Hung – There is a top and bottom sash but only the bottom sash moves or opens and closes.
  • Double Hung – There is a top and bottom sash and both the top and the bottom sashes move or open and close.
  • Arched Window –  Typically a fixed or non-moving pane of glass with rounded tops that add an architectural design element.
  • Awning Window – These are ideal in climates with a lot of rain.  They have a sash or window that opens upward like an awning.
  • Bay Window – Bay windows protrude from an exterior wall and create a small shelf in the home. Bay windows rely on flat windows set into an angled frame that are built out of the home.  These can be casement, fixed, single or double hung windows.
  • Bow Window -Bow windows rely on custom curved windows that create a circular area along the outside of the home. Depending on the amount of window panels you want to use to create the curved bow window, a bow window can sometimes run more expensive than a full bay window.
  • Casement Window – Casement windows swing out to the side or up to open. This allows the window to be constructed of solid glass and offers a less obstructed view overall. 
  • Garden Window – Garden windows are essentially mini bay windows that are meant for plants. They’ve earned their name because they act like tiny little greenhouses that protrude from the inside of your home.
  • Glass Block Window – Most commonly, glass block window types are frosted or adorned with a patterned design, which simultaneously provides light and privacy. They are ideal for use in bathrooms, basements, and other private spaces.
  • Hopper Window – Hopper windows open from the top and usually crank open to tip down. They make efficient use of compact spaces, which is why they’re commonly found in basements or bathroom. These windows can open inward or outward depending on the need or design.
  • Jalousie Window – Jalousie windows are a unique window style that splits into many different slats of metal or glass. The windows open like a set of blinds. Simply crank the lever and the slats tilt to the side, which creates a series of gaps for air to flow through.

   

  • Picture Window – Picture windows are fixed windows that can not be opened. Picture windows are large window types that don’t have any breaks or visible frames, resulting in an unobstructed beautiful view.
  • Round Circle Windows -Round, half round, elliptical, or oval—the the round circle window category encompasses many different shapes that add architectural interest to your home. In particular, round windows give your space a nod to historical decor, such as Victorian or Gothic era structures. 
  • Skylight Window – Skylights are typically found on the roof and add an excellent window style option to those looking for more natural light into the home.  These windows can be fixed or moving.
  • Sliding Windows -Sliding windows have two sections that are usually made from single windows, and one of the sections slides horizontally overtop of the other to open or close. 
  • Storm Windows -Storm windows are exterior windows that install right in the same frame as your current windows. Storm windows add another layer of blocking out drafts and heat loss perfect for when cold weather rolls in. Storm windows are also perfect for areas who often get inclement weather.
  • Transom Windows – A transom window is the decorative windows that you see installed above doors in upscale homes, or even above other windows in some instances.  Many times these windows are located over interior spaces as well as exterior locations.

Now that there is an understanding about the types of windows there needs to be an understanding of the parts of the windows.

  • Interior Casing: The finished trim or holdings around the window frames. They help prevent cold air from entering as well as add a finishing touch and enhancing the overall look of the window.
  • Head: The horizontal part of the window frame.
  • Muntin: A bar / strip of wood or metal between adjacent panes of glass that create a grid or latticework appearance.
  • Sash Lock: The locking mechanism attached to a single-hung or double-hung window.
  • Upper Sash (Upper Panel): The upper part of the fixed or movable framework holding the pane of a window, this can be fixed or movable.
  • Side Jamb: The vertical parts that form the sides of a window frame.
  • Stile: Vertical members of the window frame.
  • Window Pane: A plate of glass within a window frame.
  • Lower Sash (Lower Panel): The lower part of the fixed or movable framework holding the pane of a window this cab be fixed or movable.
  • Channel: A groove around windows.
  • Exterior Sill: The external horizontal bottom part of the frame that protects from water intrusion and can be used as a decorative element.
  • Apron: The decorative raised section below the window sill.
  • Stool: The bottom horizontal shelf of the window attached to the window sill where the sash descends.  This is where plants may be placed.
  • Bottom Rail: The lowest horizontal part of the window frame that connects to its vertical parts.
  • Top Rail: The top horizontal part of the window frame.
  • Air Latch: Makes it possible to keep the window open regardless of the position you set it.
  • Aluminum Bracket: Brackets made of aluminum and part of a window bracket system that offsets the window from the wall by a few inches.
  • Glass Sealant: A silicone-based product that can take on the form of a liquid, gel or foam.  This is applied to glass surfaces as a protective coating and used to preserve its clean and dry exterior.
  • Hollow Glass: Window panes made of hollow glass.
  • Pane: A sheet of glass in a window.
  • Spacer: An insulating glass unit typically made of aluminum that’s sealed between two glass layers and keeps the glass panes apart.
  • Meeting Rail: The horizontal rail of a sash that meets the rail of the other sash when the window is closed.
  • Pulley: A simple machine with a wheel and a rope / chain used to lift heavy objects.
  • Sloped Sill: The exterior part of the window sill that is designed to be sloped downward to enable water to run off.
  • Drain Hole or Weep Hole: A short channel where fluids can flow.
  • Lift Rail: A handle used to open and close a window that goes all the way across the sash.
  • Lower Sash: The lower part of the fixed or movable framework holding the pane of a window, and it can be fixed or movable.
  • Frame: The framework that makes up the window’s perimeter and supports the entire window system.

Now that the types and parts of a window have been identified, it is time to start to discuss the failures that can happen.


The industry standards provide the inspector the opportunity to inspect a representative sample of the windows.  The superior and confident inspector will go beyond that and might not operate or exercise every window for operation the inspector should lay hands on or observe the condition of every window.

Glass can break.  A very common failure to windows is the simple break or fracture in the panes of glass.  Glass can be relatively inexpensive, but there are circumstances where the replacement of cracked glass can be costly.  Cracked glass can also be dangerous, and should be considered a safety hazard as well as functional issue with the window.

There can be deterioration to any elements of the window: the glazing bean holding the glass to the sash can fail; the paint or finish can fail; troughs or sill can decay from standing water; and rails and stiles can be damaged or cracked. 

In addition, exterior water can run down the glass and filter into the claddings or behind the claddings and this can cause the wood structure of the frame and sash to deteriorate.  This is very common on casement windows with a wooden frame and cladded exterior. Any issues with windows can cause problems for owners, including costing them more on energy.