A-Pro Home Inspection At Your Service
Welcome to our fall edition of From the Rafters.
As the weather begins to turn chilly and favorite sweatshirts start to occupy space in closets in many parts of the country, experts are expecting some turns in the real estate market as well. While it is likely to continue to be predominantly a seller’s market, for now, an expected uptick in the number of buyers looking for homes is anticipated as well.
With the cooler temperatures, we’ve decided to devote this issue to something that will be of great interest to your home-buying clients in the coming days—indoor air comfort. We’ve put together articles on inspecting insulation, windows, and doors. And as always, there are a few fun facts you can use at your next open house to break the ice with eager home shoppers.
Rest assured that whether it’s scorching hot, freezing cold, or somewhere in between, your friends at A-Pro will be here to provide your buying and selling clients with world-class home inspections. Just let us know how we can help.
Let’s make it a great fall!
President, A-Pro Home Inspection
Home Inspectors Provide a Clearer Picture on Window Leaks
One of the most important aspects of a complete foundation-to-roof inspection is making sure there are no exterior gaps that let wood-damaging moisture inside a home and allow treated indoor air to escape and outside air to creep in. Gaps in window installations can eventually cost your home-buying clients in terms of expensive repairs and higher utility costs due to the HVAC system having to work harder to keep things comfortable. The Department of Energy estimates that up to 30% of heat loss in a home can be attributed to drafty windows.
This is why your clients can be assured of receiving a thorough assessment of a home’s windows, including gaps that can seriously hit them where it hurts—in the wallet. Even multiple small openings in a number of windows can add up to a significant loss of heat when the weather turns cold. These gaps can be found at the top, sides, and bottom of windows, contributing to a lack of temperature control and poor energy efficiency. Repairs to remedy window defects range from minor fixes to costly replacements in cases when there is evidence of significant failure.
When inspecting windows from the outside, the inspector may note problems with the weather- and water-tight seal (e.g., cracking and warping of weather-stripping, deteriorating caulk possibly caused by expansion and contraction of material); cracks and gaps in the window frame due to weathering or poor installation; broken glass that can let in air, provide entry for insects, and present a safety hazard; condensation or residue in double-paned windows (a possible indication that the seal has failed); and improper flashing. Missing or poorly installed window flashing can allow rain and wind inside, causing the home’s furnace to work harder and the moisture to damage the window and structures below. It doesn’t take a cavernous hole for water and air to penetrate window flashing, which is why proper installation as recommended by each window manufacturer is so critical. Types of flashing may include….
- Top head flashing
- Drip cap (some windows that already have drainage channels may not require this)
- Side jamb flashing
- Bottom sill flashing and sill pan flashing
There are a number of installation errors that can occur with window flashing, such as sealing the bottom with flashing tape that will prevent trapped moisture from draining; not layering the flashing in a proper manner; and applying flashing tape in non-recommended ways, which can cause leakage. Unfortunately for the inspector, most of these defects will not be visible, other than a drip cap that is loose or fallen out—a sign of amateurish installation and, worse, rotting wood sheathing underneath. A check inside the home, though, may reveal the presence of active moisture; stains around framing and trim; mold; and draftiness that may be a sign of inadequate flashing.
Once inside, the inspector will also check to see if windows open and close smoothly; lock properly and include safety latches; tilt out smoothly and stay in place, if applicable; have ripped screens; and display signs of deterioration caused by water penetration. Defects such as stuck windows (possibly due to painting), damaged hardware, and broken tilt mechanisms will be noted in the home inspection report.
How an Exterior Door Check-Up Can Save Your Clients Cash
When showing off a listing to a potential buyer, there’s nothing that says, “Welcome inside!” like a beautiful, solidly constructed front entry door. Home inspectors, though, look beyond the fancy door knockers, midnight-blue paint jobs, and beveled glass because they know that lurking behind the exquisite exterior may be trouble in terms of security and sealing out the elements.
Just as leaky windows can make a significant contribution to heat loss, drafty doors, per the Department of Energy, can account for up to one-fifth of heat loss in a typical home.
Here’s some good news: While estimates vary, properly maintained doors will last a long time, ranging from pine doors at around 20 years to steel and fiberglass doors that can last more than a century. How often you will need to replace door weather-stripping will depend on the harshness of your climate, installation practices, how carefully you maintain it, and what type you choose. Choices include less-durable felt, self-stick vinyl, tubular rubber or vinyl, non-porous foam tape, and rigid-strip wood or metal. It’s important for installers to select a thickness that seals properly but does not interfere with the operation of the door. At the bottom of the door, the use of threshold weather-stripping (sweeps, gaskets, or shoes) can make a huge difference in keeping outdoor and indoor air where they’re supposed to be.
Today we’ll be looking at hung doors. There are a number of questions your inspector will need to answer when performing this important part of a complete inspection.
Does the door…
- Fit properly?
- Appear straight when closed?
- Have a consistent gap between the door and the jamb—about an eighth of an inch?
- Open and close smoothly?
- Drag or bind when being opened and closed?
- Include weather-stripping that’s installed in its jamming threshold? (Does the weather-stripping seal the door when closed?)
- Have old and deteriorated weather-stripping that would let air and insects inside?
- Have cracks on its surface that would allow water to soak into the wood and cause deformation—and possibly binding—over time?
- Show evidence of rust on metal doors?
- Have embedded windows that are properly sealed so they don’t allow air and moisture penetration? (Is the glass loose? Does it shake when the door is opened and closed? Is the glass missing or cracked?)
- Have a locking system that works? (Does the key smoothly lock and unlock the door knob and deadbolt?)
As the weather gets colder, a door’s frame—particularly if it’s constructed of natural wood—will expand and contract. This can lead to common problems like binding in the upper corner and doors that won’t stay open—a major cause of draftiness in a home. Other defects include sagging, broken or missing sweeps, misaligned striking plates, loose hinges that prevent a door from latching, and, worst of all, doors that have rotted/rusted through and require immediate replacement. Further, failure to properly weather-strip a door can lead to moisture penetration that can damage sub-flooring below exterior doors.
Let’s Talk Insulation: Problems Inspectors Find Lurking in the Attic
Often a forgotten space in the home, the attic is never ignored by the certified home inspectors at A-Pro, who will give it a thorough check for signs of roof leaks, proper ventilation, and the presence and condition of insulation. It is the inspector’s job to observe insulation in unfinished spaces, such as attics, crawlspaces, and foundation areas, noting type and thickness. Insulation that cannot be viewed (e.g., inside walls) will not be part of the inspection.
Having attic floors that are not properly insulated is a sure way to lose heat, which naturally rises in a home and exits out the roof, along with the extra money it takes to keep the house comfortable. Estimates vary on just how much heat is squandered in this manner (some experts place it at close to 30%), but it’s fair to say that a lack of insulation (or complete absence, which may be found in older homes); incorrectly installed insulation; or material that has lost effectiveness over time are defects that will draw the attention of your home inspector.
One of the most common installation errors is when batt fiberglass insulation has been incorrectly installed with the paper side (the vapor barrier) facing up, away from the living space. This vapor barrier should always be facing down when laid on an attic floor. Another installation issue is insulation that is not level, which can cause temperature variations in the room below.
Just having a sufficient amount of insulation isn’t enough if what you have is flattened, dirty, and filled with animal droppings. Your inspector may find double-layer insulation that has been reduced to single-layer thickness. Insulation that has not retained its original fluffiness will not serve as an effective guardian against escaping heat. Further, the presence of wet insulation may be a sign—along with roof shingle deterioration, and mold and mildew in the attic—that the space may have inadequate venting. While in the attic, the inspector will check to see if there is a proper balance between intake and exit venting designed to keep the attic close to outside temperatures. A poorly vented attic in the winter can lead to ice damming, in which a hotter area of the roof melts snow that freezes at the eaves, causing roof, gutter, and possibly exterior wall damage.
Real Estate Question Corner
In today’s real estate market, I’ve had several buying clients waive the home inspection clause to get an advantage over other bidders. This has happened despite my arguments that this is never a good idea. Is there something I can recommend other than a full foundation-to-roof inspection to mitigate this problem?
While skipping a comprehensive home inspection and essentially buying a property “as is” is a sure invitation for trouble down the road, A-Pro does offer a service, Walk-Through Inspections, that provide potential buyers with some peace of mind and valuable insights into a home they are interested in. During a Walk-Through Inspection, a certified and licensed A-Pro inspector accompanies your buying client on the initial walk-through of the property, providing a one-hour personal consultation on systems in the home, observations about defects, warnings about aging equipment, advice on maintenance, and commentary regarding positive aspects of the property. It’s an opportunity for your client to ask questions and get a better understanding of what they can expect in terms of repairs and replacements if they purchase the property. In the end, it will help them make a more informed decision on the house and lead to overall greater satisfaction.
Of course, we encourage you to keep recommending the full inspection, but this is a solid alternative you can make your clients aware of. For more details, be sure to ask your local A-Pro professional if this service is available in your market.
FUN FALL FACTS
- As many families decorate their homes to celebrate the fall season, it’s always popular to beautify front steps and porches with gourds and squash in all shapes, colors, and sizes. Here’s one vegetable, though, that would have a hard time finding a spot for display—Joe Jutras’ world-record-holding 2,118-pound green squash, which grew a foot a day in the summer of 2017. The mega-squash thrived on a daily diet of 15 gallons of fertilizer and 150 gallons of water. Surrounded by sand to detect the presence of rodents, the behemoth was covered with a blanket at night to protect it from the cold. Jutras, a Rhode Island farmer and retired cabinet-maker, had recorded several other records (notably a 10 foot, 6.5 inch gourd) which have since been surpassed, but as of this writing, his “squash-asaurus” remains at the top of the vegetable heap.
- While we’ve focused on home heat loss in this issue, we thought it would be appropriate to bring up the record high temperatures we’ve seen in 2021. July was the Earth’s most scorching month since global record-keeping began in 1880, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. On July 9, Death Valley National Park had a temperature of 130 degrees F, breaking the record for the most reliably measured temperature. For foodies, that’s hot enough to cook a steak to medium-rare. In 1913, a temperature of 134 degrees F was recorded, but this record has been strongly disputed by experts, who say the false measurement was taken by an inexperienced observer.