It’s More Than A Musty Smell

Perhaps it’s happened to you: You and your buyer have arrived at a showing and the home has been empty for some time. You unlock and open the door and a wave of musty air hits you and your client in the face. Agents frequently dismiss this as “just a musty odor because the house has been sitting.” Their clients usually accept this because, hey, their agent is a pro and goes into a lot of homes. Surely this is the norm during a house hunt. Perhaps a musty odor is a good sign. The reality is that the likely source is microbial growth and suggesting that it is anything else is opening yourself up to a lawsuit. Why bother? Why not address musty odors head on and hire the right home inspector to investigate the smell?

The most likely cause of a musty order in a home is mold. Actively growing molds release Microbial Volatile Organic Compounds (MVOCs) that frequently have a distinct odor. The good news is that when damp conditions in a closed-up house cause mold to grow, it is usually someplace you can see it. If the mold was caused by a leak or long term-persistent moisture it could be growing under floorboards, behind walls, under wallpaper or in the ductwork on dust and debris that has settled there. 

Mold is found everywhere in nature. Like mushrooms, its purpose is to break down wood, leaves and other plant material into nutrient-rich dirt. Mold is made up of tiny, generally transparent filaments called hyphae. As these hyphae take in nutrients from the substrate they are growing on they create a fuzzy blanket called mycelium. This is when molds become visible. As the mycelium reaches the next stage of development it is ready to spread. To do this it creates and distributes spores. (A lot of spores.) To correctly classify the genus or species of mold laboratory testing must be done, however, identification is probably unnecessary if you intend to have it cleaned up.

Breathing in mold spores can cause health problems for some individuals. The symptoms of mold-related illness are frequently respiratory issues, irritated eyes, rashes, sinus congestion, sneezing and headaches. There are certain types of molds that release mycotoxins that have been known to cause severe neurological problems. Whether or not individuals are affected by mold is dependant on a number of factors; the type of mold, the nutrient source, the duration and severity of exposure and the sensitivity of the individual. At greater risk are people with compromised immune systems, asthma, the elderly, small children and pregnant women.

Most molds need four things in their environment to grow; an organic substrate to grow on, temperatures between 40-120 degrees, the presence of mold spores and moisture. Three of the four of these are outside a homeowners ability to control or change. We keep the temperature in our home well within that range. We track mold spores into our house from the outdoors on our shoes and in our pets’ fur. They also float in freely every time we open a door or window. Occasionally, mold may grow on our expired bread, produce or house plants. Though mold loves to grow on wood, it can also grow on dust particles. Moisture is the only factor we can control in stopping or preventing mold growth. Because mold can grow within 24-48 hours of coming in contact with moisture, it is imperative that water intrusion is promptly remedied.

 

At The BrickKicker, we believe that every home inspection should also be a mold investigation. Our inspectors are trained to look for visible mold in the areas of homes where mold is likely to grow. We recommend following EPA guidance when it comes to mold testing and remediation: When we find mold, we recommend having it cleaned up. We do not sell remediation services nor do we recommend expensive testing to confirm what we already know. If your clients have a history of respiratory issues we can certainly provide quantified microbial measurements using a method appropriate for the observation or the concern. The BrickKicker also offers indoor an air quality test that can be done on homes outside the scope of a real estate transaction.

So the next time you detect a musty odor in a home tell your clients to keep it in perspective. A closed up home may have damp conditions that cause microbial growth. Perhaps that is what they are smelling. A good home inspector will track down the source of the odor, make sure it wasn’t caused by a more serious issue and give appropriate recommendations to move forward. Tell them to call The BrickKicker.

Inspecting Commercial Kitchens

Inspecting a Commercial Kitchen

Before purchasing a building with a commercial kitchen, a thorough inspection will help you determine if the mechanical equipment has been well-maintained.  Large kitchens can be tricky because they require different venting/lighting systems than other parts of commercial properties.Technically speaking . . .
After establishing the kitchen is truly a commercial kitchen and not a break room kitchen in an office one can determine the exhaust inspection needs.  Small break room kitchens have many of the same features and systems as a residential inspection, and thus, inspection requirements should be likewise.  However, a true commercial kitchen is much more complex and may require a specialist or subcontractor to assist in a thorough inspection.

The inspection . . . 
The BrickKicker Inspector will observe the hood and exhaust system.  The first and most important element of the commercial exhaust hood is the cleaning and inspection tag.  This is a tag typically placed on the Kitchen Ventsexterior of the hood which identifies the last time the hood was cleaned and serviced.  All commercial hoods are required to be cleaned at least once a year.  This is typically a thorough pressure cleaning using steam.  The entire system, including the ductwork through the roof or sidewalls, is also cleaned.

Many kitchens we inspect are in-service or operating.  If this is the case, we simply ask the kitchen staff to operate the system, and we being a visual inspection of the rest of the system.  This includes:

  • Reporting on the conditions of the filters or noting if any excessive grease is present.
  • Locating the fire suppression system and its condition.
  • Examining that the lighting (including the bulb) is installed in an explosion-proof or flash-proof fixture to prevent any electrical shorts or issues from causing a grease fire in the system.

Airflow . . .
Because a commercial kitchen can create a very difficult work environment, we carefully investigate the air quality of the kitchen.  Our inspections also include examining any excessive heat from the various appliances, fumes, and odors from what is being prepared, and gases expelled from burning fuel used to operate the appliances.

Roof Top Ventilation If a fresh air intake is installed on the roof, we address the metal filter where fresh air is being brought into the system and ductwork leading into the hood to provide the fresh air.  If any ductwork is damaged or has openings, the quality air flow can fail, and even allow water into the system.    The exhaust fan unit should have a cover present and should be installed to the hood. This cover prevents weather elements from directly coming into contact with any of the interior portions of the fan unit.  If rain, ice, snow or water is allowed to enter the system it can cause the grease to create a slurry or build up and potentially fail the system.  These vents typically have a removable cap which allows for cleaning.
Our goal is to help you keep your kitchen, staff, and customers safe!

Inspections for all of your commercial and residential property needs.

What is Included in a Property Condition Assessment?

Property Condition Assessments

warehouse With The BrickKicker Property Condition Assessments, you will feel more confident purchasing or leasing a commercial property for your place of business.  We have a full-time dedicated and certified team of inspectors available to help you and your clients with your commercial inspection needs.

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

Peace of mind
— for both you and your Commercial Clients —
with The BrickKicker!

Our Baseline Property Condition Assessments include:

  • Site review
    • Paving
    • Landscaping
    • Utilities
    • Topography
  • Structural Frame
  • Building Exterior and Envelope
  • Roof Surfaces
  • Windows and Doors
  • Plumbing System and Components
  • Electrical System and Components
  • Installed Mechanical Systems
  • HVAC Systems
    • Heating Systems
    • Air Conditioning Systems
    • Ventilation Systems
  • Visual review of Life Safety and Fire Protection
  • Installed Interior Elements
  • Document Review (if supplied)
  • Probable Costs and Recommendations (if requested)
Additionally, our trained inspectors can provide optional services:

  • Energy Audits
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Assessments
  • Fire Safety and Sprinkler Inspections
  • Roof or Floor Cores
  • Mold Sampling
  • Radon Gas Testing
  • Energy Star Rating
  • Fenestrations
  • Elevator Inspections
  • Alarm Inspection
  • Wood Destroying Organism Inspection
  • Engineering Specialist or Certification

Asbestos and Home Inspections

Asbestos containing materials may be a concern for some home buyers. Their concern is not unwarranted but their understanding of the hazards associated with asbestos exposure usually comes from class-action lawsuit infomercials. Mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis are all associated with asbestos exposure and the latency period for disease can range from 10-40 years. To make things worse, there is no safe level of exposure and asbestos containing building materials are found everywhere.

Homebuyers may request asbestos testing with their home inspection. This is a difficult request to deliver. First, it is rare to find a home inspector that can legally do asbestos testing in Georgia. (Spoiler Alert: We can.) The ability to test is further complicated by the need to cut holes in walls, flooring or insulating materials to get samples. Inspectors certainly cannot cut holes in walls or flooring materials during a home inspection. In addition to taking multiple (up to 9) samples in each area of concern, the EPA recommends doing sampling in a way that is truly random, making discrete sampling locations unlikely.

When is asbestos testing appropriate?

If may not be feasible during a home inspection but asbestos testing is recommended during renovation and demolition projects. The local building inspector may require it before issuing a demolition permit. An asbestos inspector will identify areas of potential asbestos containing materials and take an appropriate number of samples for laboratory analysis. A home buyer should also be aware that some renovation projects that they plan to tackle on their own may not require a permit but could be potentially hazardous.  Repairing drywall, removing “popcorn” ceiling texture or replacing old flooring materials are a few examples of simple DIY projects that could result in contaminating the home and exposing the occupants to asbestos.

How should Realtors communicate to clients about asbestos?

So how do you help your clients keep these hazards in perspective without downplaying them? First, direct them to the EPA website. At www.EPA.gov/Asbestos, homebuyers can find clear and concise information about the hazards of asbestos and products that may potentially contain them. Second, they should make sure their home inspector has been trained to identify materials that are likely to contain asbestos.

How can The BrickKicker be of help if asbestos is suspected to be present?

At The BrickKicker, we have an EPA accredited asbestos building inspector on staff. When an asbestos survey is necessary or testing is requested by a homeowner planning a DIY project, we can legally offer the service. During a home inspection, our professionally trained inspectors can identify potential asbestos containing materials, assess their condition and give recommendations for maintaining or removing them without laboratory analysis.

Maximum Occupancy

“Occupancy Load” refers to the number of people permitted in a building at one time based on the building’s floor space and function. The occupancy load must be posted on signs and publicly available. To exceed occupancy load or fail to post-occupancy load signs in the required places can result in fines and is a serious safety hazard.

Emergencies can require the immediate evacuation of a building, particularly in the event of a fire. Any delay in evacuation can be tragic, as was the case in the 2003 Station Night Club fire in West Warwick, Rhode Island, which killed 100 people in just over five minutes. The fire was so lethal because the evacuation was sluggish, partly due to the fact that the actual number of people present was much higher than the building’s occupancy load.

Maximum Occupancy Sign Requirements

When it comes to maximum occupancy sign requirements, CCPIA inspectors can consider the following questions while they inspect your commercial load occupancy signs:

  • Sign Presence- The 2006 International Building Code (IBC) requires that signs should be present in all “assembly occupancies.” The city of Yuma, Arizona, requires their presence in assembly occupancies and defines that term as “gatherings of 50 persons or more for civic, social, or religious functions.” Other jurisdictions, such as the cities of Houston, Texas, and Portland, Oregon, as well as the state of Idaho, agree that maximum occupancy signs are required for buildings that have occupancy loads of 50 or more.
  • Sign Maintenance-  It is the responsibility of the building’s owner to make sure that the sign is not damaged by wear or abuse.
  • Sign Legibility- The Houston Fire Code maximum occupancy sign requirements state, “Signs shall [have a] minimum of 1-inch block letters and numbers on a contrasting background so as to be readily visible. Allowable smaller lettering shall be a minimum of 3/8- inch block lettering.”
  • Sign Location- The 2006 IBC maximum occupancy sign requirements dictate, “Every room or space that is an assembly occupancy shall have the occupant load of the room or space posted in a conspicuous place, near the main exit or exit access doorway from the room or space.”

Additional recommendations can be drawn from the Houston Fire Code, which requires that occupancy load signs be placed in the following manner:

  • The sign shall be located in a conspicuous location within the room, adjacent to the main exit, so as to not be obstructed by doors, curtains, poster board stands, furniture, room dividers, or similar items.  The sign shall be posted not more than 60 inches nor less than 48 inches above the floor.”

How to Calculate Maximum Occupancy

Wondering how to calculate maximum occupancy for your building? The occupancy load is calculated by dividing the area of a room by its prescribed unit of area per person. Units of area per person for specific buildings can be found in the chart at the end of this article. For instance, the chart dictates that dormitories require 50 square feet of floor area for every room occupant.

Consequently, a dorm room that has 100 square feet of floor space will have a maximum occupancy of two people. The amount of space required per person varies based on the function of the room, which is determined by the building’s designer.

The BrickKicker

In summary, the maximum occupancy sign requirement state that a maximum occupancy sign must be posted in many buildings on signs that are clearly visible and legible. If you’re unsure if your signage meets the requirements, contact one of the many The BrickKicker locations and our professional inspectors will make sure your location is up to snuff!

Commercial Fire Safety

How Safe is Your Fire Alarm System?

Fire alarm systems are designed to protect people and their property from fire and smoke, but they cannot be relied upon unless they are routinely inspected by professionals. Regular inspection and maintenance also reduce expenses by preventing unbudgeted emergency repairs and costly false alarms.

Fire Alarm Systems Can Be Damaged

Fire alarm systems can be damaged in the following ways:

  • infiltration by dust, dirt and other contaminants;
  • vandalism;
  • remodeling;
  • improper maintenance; and
  • inadequate
    performance of degraded
    electronics.

How old is the system?

If you can find out the age of the system, you can get a better idea of inspection requirements.

  • Systems less than five years old require little effort to maintain. In these new systems, problems are usually caused by improper installation, such as bad grounding, or environmental factors, such as voltage transients.
  • Systems between five and 10 years old may experience component breakdown caused by harsh, but normal, environmental factors. Voltage fluctuations, temperature, and humidity may cause system failure or nuisance alarm problems.
  • Systems between 10 and 15 years old can still provide an appropriate life-safety response. However, systems this old require close attention, even with proper maintenance procedures in place. If the system has a history of poor maintenance (or none at all), it’s likely that failure of components will occur.
  • Systems older than 15 years may be beyond their technological life expectancy. The system may continue to work satisfactorily if properly maintained, but it will require testing and inspection by trained specialists to ensure that proper system response will occur in an emergency.

Inspection Steps

Few property inspectors are qualified to inspect fire alarm systems, and the International Standards of Practice for Inspecting Commercial Properties do not require inspectors to inspect fire alarm systems. However, some basic knowledge about systems outside of the scope of a general inspection can be helpful. In addition,  commercial property inspections give you the opportunity to educate your client about the importance of maintaining fire protection systems in a commercial building. Your client needs to know that a fire alarm system requires periodic maintenance and an annual inspection by a licensed contractor, as required by code. You should advise your client to obtain the documentation of the previous annual maintenance inspections, which should be kept on site.  They should indicate the items inspected (smoke detectors, pull stations, horn/strobes, etc.), the condition they were in at the time of the inspection, and any repairs made to the system.

Specifically, the following steps are generally taken by contractors trained in fire-alarm system inspection:

  • Set the sensitivity. This requires an understanding of the particular system, the specific application, and fire detection theory.
  • Simulate inputs, and test the annunciators. This requires specific knowledge of the system under testing.
  • Test and calibrate the alarm sensors, such as flame and smoke detectors, per the manufacturers’ specifications. This requires knowing about the different sensors—and their testing requirements, failure modes, and re-installation requirements.
  • Coordinate with the local fire department to test the input to their system.
  • Check the battery for corrosion and expiration date, and then take appropriate action, if necessary.

In summary, fire alarms in commercial buildings are essential life and property-saving systems, and they must be maintained and periodically inspected.

What is a Septic System?

Sewage waste from most homes is managed through centralized sewage treatment plants but home septic systems are also very common, and not just in rural areas. Let’s dig into what is a septic system, how does a septic system work, and more to help keep your system performing properly.

How Does a Septic System Work?

If you’ve never owned one before, you may be unsure of how a septic system works. A septic system is comprised of the septic tank and a drain field. The septic tank allows wastewater to settle into three levels; sludge, liquid (known as effluent), and scum (grease and oils). Once settled, the effluent level is allowed to drain through perforated pipes buried underground into the drain field. The sludge and scum remain in the tank and need to be pumped out on a regular basis that is determined by the size of the home, size of the tank, and the number of people living in the home.

A septic system inspection should be included in your home inspection checklist.

How are Septic Systems Inspected? 

In addition to understanding how a septic system works, being aware of the septic system inspection process will help you prepare for your home inspection or ask questions during  system repairs. 

First, get to know your system. What is the size of your tank? Where are the tank and drain field located? How old is your system and when was it last inspected? Keep track of these details to help maintain efficiency. 

Inspectors use the following steps to perform a home septic tank inspection:

  • Flush all the toilets and run all the water in the house to assess water pressure and drainage. 
  • Ensure there is no standing water at any point. 
  • Check the tank’s water level, determining whether or not water in the house is flowing properly to the tank. The inspector may use a dye to help determine how much water enters the septic tank. 
  • Pump the septic tank to check for any backflow, ruling out any system blockages.

Septic System Tips

If you purchase a house with a septic system it is important to be mindful of the following:

  • Use toilet and sinks for human waste and toilet paper only. Avoid flushing anything that will not break down into organic material. Garbage disposals are not recommended if you are on a septic system.
  • Get to know your system. What is the size of your tank? Where are the tank and drain field located? How old is your system and when was it last inspected?
  • Be aware of your water usage, especially during the rainy season to avoid overwhelming your drain field. Reduce your water usage and save energy at home by using low-flow shower heads and fixing leaks immediately upon discovery.
  • Have your tank checked by a certified professional every 3-5 years. It is more cost effective to inspect, pump and maintain a septic system than it is to make repairs to a neglected system.

Signs of septic system failure include:

  • Foul odors around the septic tank and drain field
  • Wastewater back up in your house
  • Liquid seepage in your basement or around the septic system
  • Grass that is greener and mushy ground around the drain field

Septic System Services 

If you are purchasing a home with a septic system and are interested in an inspection or repair, ask your Realtor for a referral for a local contractor that they know and trust. The BrickKicker would also be happy to connect to you our network of trusted contractors, so contact us today! We’re here to help you ensure your new home is safe and sound.

Termite Inspections

Every year, termites invade homes and create more than 5 billions of dollars worth of damage by compromising the structural integrity of the residences they infest. That is more fire and storm damage combined. The Southeast has a very high termite presence due to our climate and soil conditions. There is an average of 3 termite colonies per acre in Georgia. Often, an infestation is not a matter of “if”, but “when?” If you request a complimentary termite inspection from the BrickKicker, we will schedule a 3rd party pest control company licensed by the Georgia Department of Agriculture*.

In a termite inspection, the inspector is looking for visible evidence of any of five wood-destroying organisms: subterranean termites, powder post beetles, wood-boring beetles, dry wood termites, and wood-decaying fungus.

Beyond simply looking for evidence of activity, the inspector will also identify any conditions in or around the home that may be conducive to future wood-destroying organism activity. The inspector will look for evidence of prior treatment, give recommendations for future treatment and identify obstructed and inaccessible areas. If your lender requires a termite letter, you can purchase one from the extermination company at the time of the inspection and they will bill you directly. (Their typical fee is $50.) A termite letter will give you a 90-day guarantee (as required by the SPCA) that the structure is free from infestation and the inspection report will allow you to negotiate treatment of any active infestations with the seller.

If you would like a complimentary termite inspection or if you need to order a termite letter from a licensed extermination company please contact us at 706-353-2745 or negaoffice@brickkicker.com.

 

*The Georgia Department of Agriculture and the Georgia Structural Pest Control Commission administer the Structural Pest Control Act (SPCA). The SPCA is the primary law for the pest management industry in Georgia. The Department of Agriculture is the enforcement agency for the SPCA.

 

Maintaining Buyer Enthusiasm Through the Inspection

One of the things I love about my job is that every day is a new day. It never gets boring. We get to meet new people daily and help move them forward with their home purchase. This can be a bumpy ride and the home inspection can be the hardest part to get through so we do our best to make this a positive experience that is mindful of our clients’ experience. We do this by viewing the home buying process as a journey from uninformed optimism to informed optimism. In the middle the buyers may experience various states of pessimism but we make sure we put them on the path to informed optimism. Understanding the mental state of the buyer at each point on their journey is critical to ensuring a successful transaction and a positive experience for everyone.

As I mentioned before, the journey begins with uninformed optimism. The buyer has fallen in love with a property that they really know very little about. There may be some uncertainty based on what was in the Seller’s Disclosure but in general the buyer is excited and hopeful. They have invited us to review the property to verify the condition of the home and that they are not making a huge financial mistake. The home inspector is called in for a reality check.

The results of the home inspection really don’t matter but the home inspector and their report will determine if the buyer goes into crisis mode (and runs for the hills) or if they are ready to move forward. So what is the difference? The goal of every inspection should be to leave the buyer in an informed state. The rose colored glasses are off and the buyer know what they are purchasing. One difference between a good inspector and a bad inspector is how these results are delivered. If all the buyer can see is a long report full of defects then the inspector has communicated poorly and left them in a state of uninformed pessimism. If the inspector has done a good job taking care of their client, the buyer will understand all of the issues in the report, they will know which things they should really care about and they will know what to do about each one. This is a state of informed pessimism and the only thing left is negotiating with the seller. A good inspection report will make this a breeze for the Realtor.

It is really the REALTOR that guides the client from informed pessimism to informed optimism but, make no mistake, there is no way to get from an state of pessimism to optimism without being properly informed. If the home inspector has failed, the deal may fall apart for the wrong reasons. When a seller walks away from a property because they have a poor understanding of what defects have been found or those findings have been blown out of proportion, everyone loses. The Buyer misses the opportunity to buy the house they were once smitten with, the Seller has to go through the process again and both Agents are back to square one.

Our job as home inspectors is to make sure everyone is headed in the right direction. As much as we would like to take our clients all the way to the closing table, we understand our role and we are not part of the negotiation. I am continually impressed with the way REALTORs

overcome surprises that come up in the home inspection. More often than not, the seller is also unaware of the major issues and what to do about them.

It’s difficult to know what you’re going to get when you order a home inspector but there are things you can look for before you hire someone. First, check their online reviews. See what others have shared about their experience. Next, check to make sure they are experienced. A professionally trained and independently certified home inspector has a better chance of understanding their role than someone who is self taught with nothing but online training. An experienced inspector will also be able to communicate their findings in a way that keeps everything in perspective. Finally, make sure that the inspector is available to help request repairs. Home inspectors are not supposed to prioritize their findings but they will certainly let you know if you are giving unnecessary consideration to minor issues that are easy or inexpensive to address later.

The Wet Hole

The Wet Hole – A look at Drain Tiles

In agriculture, tile drainage is a type of drainage system that removes excess water from the soil below the surface.  Whereas irrigation is the practice of adding additional water when the soil is naturally too dry, drainage brings soil moisture levels down for optimal crop growth.

This technique and design has been at work since the late 1800’s.  The original designs used open trenches followed by perforated clay tiles.  Modern systems use corrugated perforated plastic pipes often covered with a permeable sock to prevent silt infiltration.

The idea behind the tiles is to create a grid drainage plan to help dewater the fields and prevent flooding all the while increasing crop yields.  The original field ever dewatered, in Seneca County, New York, was a 320 acre field which was producing 12 bushels of wheat per acre.  Once the field was properly maintained and dewatered the same acreage produced 60 bushels of yield.  This was an instant success and the better yield meant more money for the farmer.

This technique was been routinely a part of the design or a farm field throughout the midwest and without any conflict on the environment or surrounding ecosystems.

The real challenge is urban sprawl. As more and more communities and urban areas consume the old farms these tiles and tile fields become exposed. What happens to the fields when they are cut? What happens to the tiles if a home is built on them? Where is all of the water doing to go when the ditches are now streets?

These are excellent questions and the answer will be very surprising.

Nothing!

There is no typical plan for the placement of these tiles.  They could be on a 50 foot grid, 100 foot grid, or any other pattern necessary to control the drainage on a particular field.  The farmer and drainage contractor only want to get the water to a control point like a ditch, stream or lake.  They never had a plan for having a house let alone an entire neighborhood placed in the field over the tiles.

Here is the long and short of it.  If the grid pattern is 100 feet and a subdivision is being placed in the field and the average lot is 75 feet wide there is a likelihood that at least every other home is going to be cutting through the tiles during construction and placing the home directly in the field drainage plan.

Most municipalities do not have provisions to require the contractor to reroute the tiles around the home and maintain the several decade old plan.  They only require a new drainage system be installed around the perimeter of the home and have that system serviced by a drainage basin, a sump pump.  If the water from around the home, which could be dewatering several acres of land, migrated directly through the foundation footprint it is considered to be a “WET HOLE.”  It is unfortunate but there is really very little a consumer can do to predict this or an engineer to anticipate during the design.

The inspector dilemma

As we inspect a home we have so many things to consider and take into account.  This would include the age.  The newer homes will be far more susceptible to water issues than older homes.  If five years ago the homestead was beans or corn and there is nothing around the neighborhood one has to anticipate the potential of a wet foundation.  If the home is older, maybe twenty or thirty years and there are homes built around the neighborhood, there will be a strong chance other homes farther upstream will have the issue before this home. 

When inspecting you have to pay attention to all of the conditions.  These will include recent rains.  If it has not rained recently yet the sump is constantly being drained into you have to consider the source.  Is there a leak in the water utility system causing excess hydration to the foundation, is there and issue with the sump discharge and it is back-cycling into the pit or, is this a wet foundation?

Then there is the old home.   These homes most likely had clay tiles as the drain system.  These were constructed with a series of four, six or ten foot long sections of clay tiles joined together with bells.  Not only can the tiles crack but the bells can separate.  As the lush landscaping matures around the foundation it will seek moisture to its root system.  The most desirable source will be the drain system.  It is a moisture reach location.

The roots can infiltrate the bells or the cracks and quick envelope to pipe.  Even a partially clogged pipe can be an issue to the system.  This is one of the many reason why a good inspector tries to look on the interior of every sump pit. 

The sump pump design life or statistical life span of a sump pump is seven (7) years.  This means the homeowner has to be ready to replace their sump pump every seven years.  The typical homeowner is not prepared or monitoring this and therefore only replace the pump upon failure.  If the failure occurs during a storm or during a heavy hydration event the likelihood of unwanted water entry will be very high. 

The thinking and consultative home inspector has to be aware of this fact and all of the conditions surrounding the home.  Informing and educating the client about the lifespan and all of the observations will arm them for success.  Always suggest the installation of a back-up system whenever a sump pit is present.  Especially when a “wet hole” is discovered.  You may also suggest having a spare sy

stem present in the event the main system fails during a time when a store purchase may be inconvenient.  This could be in the middle of the night or during a weekend.  This is very true if the homeowner is mechanically inclined. 

The home inspector has to walk a thin line between being an alarmist and consultative.  This is a learned and applied practice but, over time your clients will thank you for the knowledge and information you shared.  There is always a reason for everything.  Very seldom will there be a spontaneous event or occurrence n a home.  A good inspector has the ability to discover those reasons and prepare their clients as necessary.