Nashville Home Inspector – House Fire Caused by Tree Hitting Power Line – 4.11.11

Nashville Home Inspector – House Fire Caused by Tree Hitting a Power Line

Recently it was reported in the linked article above from The Tennessean that a house fire was caused by a tree hitting a power line.  This is a scenario that is all too common yet easily avoided.  Look at the picture below.

Vegetation Encroaches on Power Line

Unfortunately some people think it looks good when vegetation encroaches on power lines or a building.  However, from a Home or Building Inspector’s perspective, there is never a good time for a building or component of a building, like a power line, to share space with vegetation.  Even without the fire, vegetation is a common source of mechanical damage to buildings and components such as power lines.  There are different standards for how far vegetation should be allowed to exist with respect to the building, but there is general agreement that when the vegetation can touch the building, it is too close and should be cut back or removed.  Usually this must be done by a professional.  Home and building owners rarely have the training, equipment or experience to take on a project line the one in the picture above.

Thank you,

Richard Acree

Comments in this blog posting are the copyrighted intellectual property of Richard Acree, President, HABITEC Home and Building Inspections, LLC,  and are intended to educate and otherwise assist home owners, sellers and buyers, building owners, sellers and buyers, realtors, real estate investors, property managers, and lenders in the process of owning, buying or selling homes or commercial buildings.  HABITEC is a residential (home) and commercial building inspection company serving Middle Tennessee including Nashville, Brentwood, Franklin, Murfreesboro, Smyrna, Mt. Juliet, Hendersonville, Dickson, Belle Meade, Columbia, Spring Hill, Lebanon, Gallatin and more!  In addition to building inspections HABITEC offers Environmental Services for mold assessments, radon testing and water quality analysis.  Additional information about HABITEC can be found on our website at http://habitecinspections.com, or call 615-376-2753. 

Richard Acree is the author of  the HABITEC Home and Building Inspections blog at ActiveRain, WordPress, and Blogger, and Founder of the ActiveRain Group Tennessee Home and Building Inspectors.  All are welcome to join and comment on those blogs and group.   You can also follow HABITEC on Facebook and Richard on Linked.  Thank you!

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Nashville Home Inspectors – Service Conductors – What’s Wrong With This Picture

Nashville Home Inspector – Service Conductor Intrusion – What’s Wrong With this Picture? 3-22-11

HINT:  Electrical power and vegetation should not share the same space.

Powerful Trees

ANSWER:  It is seldom a good idea that vegetation and power lines share the same space.  This vine grew up from below and seriously encroached on the electrical power mask.  Movement of the vine can damage the insulation on the wires and make electrocution and serious power malfunctions a possibility.  See the insulation that has worn away below.

Damaged Insulation

This should never have been allowed to happen, and getting the vine out of the wires is no easy, or amateur, job.  This is a classic example of deferred maintenance.  Below is a view of how this got started.

vine growth

HABITEC recommends a minimum of 18″ of space between vegetation and any component of a home or building.

Please contact Richard at richard@habitecinspections.com should you have any questions.

Thank you,

Richard Acree

Comments in this blog posting are the copyrighted intellectual property of Richard Acree, President, HABITEC Home and Building Inspections, LLC,  and are intended to educate and otherwise assist home owners, sellers and buyers, building owners, sellers and buyers, realtors, real estate investors, property managers, and lenders in the process of owning, buying or selling homes or commercial buildings.  HABITEC is a residential (home) and commercial building inspection company serving Middle Tennessee including Nashville, Brentwood, Franklin, Murfreesboro, Smyrna, Mt. Juliet, Hendersonville, Dickson, Belle Meade, Columbia, Spring Hill, Lebanon, Gallatin and more!  In addition to building inspections HABITEC offers Environmental Services for mold assessments, radon testing and water quality analysis.  Additional information about HABITEC can be found on our website at http://habitecinspections.com, or call 615-376-2753. 

Richard Acree is the author of  the HABITEC Home and Building Inspections blog at ActiveRain, WordPress, and Blogger, and Founder of the ActiveRain Group Tennessee Home and Building Inspectors.  All are welcome to join and comment on those blogs and group.   You can also follow HABITEC on Facebook and Richard on Linked.  Thank you!

Nashville Home Inspector – Vegetation Proximity to Home and Buildings

Proximity of Vegetation To A Building

When HABITEC Home and Building Inspections, LLC, conducts Home or Building Inspection in Nashville or Middle Tennessee, inspection of the vegetation at the exterior or the building is one of the components of the inspection.  Vegetation in close proximity to a home or building can have a negative impact on the structure.  The negative impact can include mechanical damage, limited access, mold, structural damage, and infestation from insects, rodents and/or reptiles.  Sometimes the effect of the vegetation is not so subtle, as in the picture below.

 Tree on House

Other times vegetation in close proximity can seem more insignificant, as in the picture below.

  

Often times homeowners can actually prefer vegetation close to or touching the building because they think it gives a quaint setting or special look.  HABITEC Home and Building Inspections, LLC, understands the urge to pursue cosmetic appeal but disagrees with the concept of allowing vegetation to be in touch with the building.  In fact, HABITEC recommends at least 18″ spacing between any vegetation and the exterior of the building, and that trees not be allowed to overhang the building.  I’ll explain why as we go. 

The 18″ rule is a HABITEC rule, not one offered by State Rules or a building code.  Other Inspectors may use a different number, or set of measurements.  The point is that vegetation should not be allowed in contact with the structure, and that using a guide of 18″ will provide a pad so that when the wind blows the vegetation does not reach over and hit the building anyway, at least not most of the time.  In the picture below it is easy to imagine a gentle wind blowing these tree limbs back and forth and the limbs just continuing to beat the heck our of the house.  Remember, a house is not designed or built to withstand that kind of impact.

roof vegetation encroachment 

The damage that could occur in the pic above is called mechanical damage.  Mechanical damage is when the vegetation actually damages the building because it touches the building.  The action of the wind moving the limbs back and forth can cause the damage.  The larger the branches the larger the potential damage.  See the photo below.

Branch Encroachment

Trees that overhang a roof can have a significant impact on the building.  This impact can include depositing leaves into gutters until the gutter is clogged and defective and depositing debris on the roof that creates a condition conducive for mold growth.  The photo below is of a tree overhanging an apartment building.

Vegetation Overhanging the Roof

Trees near or overhanging the roof can deposit enough leaves to render the roof drainage system defective.  See the picture below.

Leaf filled gutters

The picture below is of a gutter system that is full of leaf debris and water.  Obviously this water has no place to go and will just overflow when the next rain comes.

Filled gutter - Standing Water

Filled gutters can be quickly overrun as in the picture below taken during a rain storm.

overwhelmed gutter

Water management systems such as the gutter/downspout/extension system that are filled with debris may not work well or at all.  Failure of water management systems is the most common discrepancy found on home and commercial building inspections.  Water that overflows a gutter can drop to the foundation wall at the base of the building and weaken the foundation, or the water can penetrate the crawl space or basement and create an environment conducive for mold growth.  Overflowing gutters can also cause structural damage to the fascia and soffits that make up the eaves, as in the photo below.

Significant Damage to soffit and Fascia

Overflowing gutters can also back-flow into the attic area and damage the wood that makes up the roof including the roof truss and decking.  See the photo below.  In this photo you are looking at the back side of fascia from inside the attic.  The fascia has been damaged by water from overflowing gutters.

Water Damage Decking

Vegetation in contact with a structure can cause structural damage in different ways.  From the discussion above we now know one form of structural damage is caused by mechanical damage and another form can be caused by overflowing gutters in a failed water management system.  But structural damage can also be caused by moisture in the vegetation that is held against the building.  Now lets talk about that. 

Although the exterior of buildings is expected to get wet when it rains, it is also expected to dry out in a reasonable time when the rain stops.  In the picture below mechanical damage may occur from these shrubs touching the building but a more significant threat is the effect of moisture held against the building.  Shrubs are not as powerful as trees when it comes to mechanical damage but shrubs can hold more water in the leaves and branches for a longer period of time because shrubs are usually thicker than trees.

Shrubs in Contact 3 

Moisture held against the building by shrubs keeps the building wet.  A wet building is more likely to allow water inside the building which can damage structural components and/or create an environment conducive for mold growth. 

Another issue with shrubs and trees touching the building is that insects, rodents, reptiles and small animals, like raccoons, can use this vegetation as a path into the building via the attic.  See the picture below of a black widow spider in an attic.

Black Widow

Another problem with vegetation in touch with or overhanging the building is the potential for mold.  Mold can form from debris deposited on the roof by a tree overhanging the house.  See the photo below.  This fungal growth was caused by deposits on the roof from an overhanging evergreen tree. 

Roof Shingle fungal Growth 

Sometimes attic mold can start at the exterior on the roof as shown above.  Deposits of tree debris on the roof can create fungal growth that can actually work its way inside the roof to the attic and create a mold growth there.  See the photo below.

Attic Decking Mold 1

In the photo above the decking supporting the roof has mold growth present.  This mold growth may have started because of the mold on the exterior of the roof that was shown in the previous picture. 

Another issue with vegetation proximity to buildings involves limited access.  Vegetation that is allowed to grow where normally people need to walk can inhibit normal access.  Such is the case when ivy is allowed to grown on the railing of a deck staircase.  Few people are willing to stick their hand inside the ivy as they walk up or down the stairs, thereby impeding this safety feature of the steps. 

Another issue with vegetation is the proximity to utilities.  The issue in the picture below is usually limiting access for utility workers and technicians so they can read or service the gas meter.

Gas Meter Behind shrubs

Likewise vegetation in front of the electrical panel inhibits the accessibility of the service technician and meter reader in the pictures below.

Electrical Panel Encroachment 2

In fact the vegetation can be so close as to interfere with opening the panel as in the photo below.

Electrical Panel Encroachment 3

However, it is possible for vegetation to interfere with the operation of utilities, especially HVAC components.  If the vegetation impacts the cooling vents the unit has a difficult time with the cooling function.

Vege Crowded HVAC

So bottom line, keep vegetation at least 18″ away from the structure and do not allow the trees to overhang the house.

Thank you,

Richard Acree

 

http://habitecinspections.com

Richard Acree is the author of  the HABITEC Home and Building Inspections blog at ActiveRain, WordPress, and Blogger, and Founder of the ActiveRain Group Tennessee Home and Building Inspectors.  All are welcome to join and comment on those blogs and group.   You can also follow HABITEC on Facebook and Richard on Linked.  Thank you!

Nashville Home Inspectors – Condensate Drain Terminations Done Wrong

 
Condensate Drains Done Wrong
 
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During a Nashville Home Inspection, HABITEC Home Inspectors include condensate drain terminations as part of the inspection of the HVAC systems.
 
Every home that has an air conditioning unit has a condensate drain.  A normal part of the home cooling process is to dehumidify the air in a home.  Dryer air causes perspiration to evaporate from our skin which gives us a feeling of cooling.  But, when air is dehumidified the moisture that is pulled out of the air has to go somewhere.  Hence the need for a condensate drain.
 
But condensate drains can be installed incorrectly.  And depending on the type of drain system, different mistakes can be made.  One way an air conditioning unit condensation is removed from the unit is with a condensate pump.  See the picture below.
 
 
Condensation is removed from the A/C unit and deposited at the pump via the white PVC drain line shown vertically in the photo above.  The pump then pumps the fluid to a suitable location using a small diameter composite (plastic) tube shown on the left above.  HABITEC recommends that this fluid be removed to the outside of the building and to a location at least 18″ from the foundation wall and to terrain that slopes away from the building.  Some times DIYers can find interesting places to terminate their drain lines. 
 
Look at the picture below of a condensate pump drain line termination.  What’s wrong with this picture?  The little tube is the condensate drain line.  The big pipe is the waste line of the home plumbing drain waste and vent system.  Why is the little tube connected to the big tube?  Should it be?

A closeup below gives a better look.  The condensate drain line is simply plugged into the side of the waste pipe and glued into place.  And it appears the connection has leaked.  But even if it had not leaked, what is inside the waster line that is a threat?  Answer, sewer gas.  And sewer gas can be harmful, even fatal to people.  So by making this connection the potential for toxic sewer gas to enter the home via the condensate drain line is increased.  In fact, this connection is a violation of the plumbing code and should be removed.

Please contact Richard at richard@habitecinspections.com should you have any questions.

Thank you,

Richard Acree

Comments in this blog posting are the copyrighted intellectual property of Richard Acree, President, HABITEC Home and Building Inspections, LLC,  and are intended to educate and otherwise assist home owners, sellers and buyers, building owners, sellers and buyers, realtors, real estate investors, property managers, and lenders in the process of owning, buying or selling homes or commercial buildings.  HABITEC is a residential (home) and commercial building inspection company serving Middle Tennessee including Nashville, Brentwood, Franklin, Murfreesboro, Smyrna, Mt. Juliet, Hendersonville, Dickson, Belle Meade, Columbia, Spring Hill, Lebanon, Gallatin and more!  In addition to building inspections HABITEC offers Environmental Services for mold assessments, radon testing and water quality analysis.  Additional information about HABITEC can be found on our website at http://habitecinspections.com, or call 615-376-2753. 

Richard Acree is the author of  the HABITEC Home and Building Inspections blog at ActiveRain, WordPress, and Blogger, and Founder of the ActiveRain Group Tennessee Home and Building Inspectors.  All are welcome to join and comment on those blogs and group.   You can also follow HABITEC on Facebook and Richard on Linked.  Thank you!

Nashville Home Inspection – “Ready for Inspection”, What Does that Mean?

One of the phrases we use as Home Inspectors is “Ready for Inspection“.  A home that is scheduled for a Home Inspection needs to be ready for inspection.  What does that mean?

In a nut shell, ready for inspection means all utilities are ON and the owner/occupant has granted permission for the Inspection to take place.  If the home is occupied the business of “ready for inspection” is usually not an issue.  If the home is not occupied, this can be an issue.

HUD homes, or any banked owned home, presents a special challenge for the Home Inspector.  HABITEC has inspected HUD homes, or bank owned homes, on many occasions in the Nashville area and throughout Middle Tennessee.  These homes present a special challenge usually because the home has been abandoned and/or winterized for a period of time.  The main issue is utilities.  Keeping in mind the definition of ready for inspection I offered earlier, in order for a home to be ready for inspection the home needs to be de-winterized, or re-energized, so that those components that depend on the utilities can be evaluated.

This includes plumbing appliances that depend on a source of water, HVAC appliances that depend on gas or electricity, and any other device that depends on electricity.  When it comes to utilities, ready for inspection means the gas needs to be turned ON at the meter, the water needs to be turned ON at the street side shutoff valve, and the electricity needs to be turned ON at the main panel and all circuit breakers need to be CLOSED.  Home Inspectors are not authorized to turn these utilities ON.  In fact, if they do, often times their insurance companies will not provide coverage, hence damage protection, should their be a malfunction when the utility is turned ON.  That includes closing circuit breakers. 

So listing agent REALTORS and HUD officials, please make sure the home you are responsible for selling is ready for inspection.  And please do not send word via the buyer that “You’re Home Inspector can do that [turn the utilities ON].”  I have seen significant disasters when utilities are turned ON for the first time in a long time.  Especially when the water is turned ON.  You need a plumber to do that. 

Thank you,

Richard Acree

Comments in this blog posting are the copyrighted intellectual property of Richard Acree, President, HABITEC Home and Building Inspections, LLC,  and are intended to educate and otherwise assist home owners, sellers and buyers, building owners, sellers and buyers, realtors, real estate investors, property managers, and lenders in the process of owning, buying or selling homes or commercial buildings.  HABITEC is a residential (home) and commercial building inspection company serving Middle Tennessee including Nashville, Brentwood, Franklin, Murfreesboro, Smyrna, Mt. Juliet, Hendersonville, Dickson, Belle Meade, Columbia, Spring Hill, Lebanon, Gallatin and more!  In addition to building inspections HABITEC offers Environmental Services for mold assessments, radon testing and water quality analysis.  Additional information about HABITEC can be found on our website at http://habitecinspections.com, or call 615-376-2753. 

Richard Acree is the author of  the HABITEC Home and Building Inspections blog at ActiveRain, WordPress, and Blogger, and Founder of the ActiveRain Group Tennessee Home and Building Inspectors.  All are welcome to join and comment on those blogs and group.   You can also follow HABITEC on Facebook and Richard on Linked.  Thank you!

Nashville Home Inspector – Silly Ductwork Installations

 
Silly HVAC Ductwork Installations
 
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Sometimes the Do-It-Yourselfers create great comic relief for Nashville Home Inspectors.  HVAC ductwork installation is one common source.  Look at the pictures below.  What’s wrong?

HINT:  Just do it?  Works on the track, not in a house.

ANSWER:  I don’t really have an answer for this, except maybe “Just don’t do it?!”  But for those who cannot see it clearly, yes, that is a NIKE shoe box used to complete a line of HVAC ductwork.  The box and a tube of caulk!

So let’s look at another silly picture of DIY ductwork installation.  Look at the picture below.  What’s wrong here? 

HINT:  Sometimes having a little material left over is not a bad thing.

ANSWER:  In general, only the length of HVAC ductwork as is necessary is recommended.  And there are limits to how long a certain run of ductwork can be.  In the picture above the excess ductwork should have been eliminated. 

Thank you,

Richard Acree

Comments in this blog posting are the copyrighted intellectual property of Richard Acree, President, HABITEC Home and Building Inspections, LLC,  and are intended to educate and otherwise assist home owners, sellers and buyers, building owners, sellers and buyers, realtors, real estate investors, property managers, and lenders in the process of owning, buying or selling homes or commercial buildings.  HABITEC is a residential (home) and commercial building inspection company serving Middle Tennessee including Nashville, Brentwood, Franklin, Murfreesboro, Smyrna, Mt. Juliet, Hendersonville, Dickson, Belle Meade, Columbia, Spring Hill, Lebanon, Gallatin and more!  In addition to building inspections HABITEC offers Environmental Services for mold assessments, radon testing and water quality analysis.  Additional information about HABITEC can be found on our website at http://habitecinspections.com, or call 615-376-2753. 

Richard Acree is the author of  the HABITEC Home and Building Inspections blog at ActiveRain, WordPress, and Blogger, and Founder of the ActiveRain Group Tennessee Home and Building Inspectors.  All are welcome to join and comment on those blogs and group.   You can also follow HABITEC on Facebook and Richard on Linked.  Thank you!

Nashville Home Inspector – Active Radon Mitigation System Monitor

 

Active Radon Mitigation System Monitor

by

Richard Acree

http://habitecinspections.com

January is National Radon Action Month.  Radon mitigation systems can be either passive or active.  Both systems provide a path of least resistance outside of the home or building.  The difference is that passive systems provide a passive path only and active systems include a blower that works continuously to pull air (and radon) from under the building and exhaust it at the roof line.  Active systems also should have a monitor to verify proper operation.  Look at the picture below.  What’s wrong?

HINT:  Pulling air from beneath the building will create a pressure differential that can be monitored. 

Radon Mitigation Monitor at Zero

ANSWER:  As it shoud be (monitored).  If the monitor shows zero differential, as this monitor above does, then there is no flow through the mitigation pipe.  Without adequate flow through the mitigation pipe, radon gas may vent inside the building.  As stated earlier, radon gas follows a path of least resistance out of the ground and either into the atmosphere or inside a building.  An active system will create a flow of air from beneath the building and carry that flow outside of the building and deposit the air flow usually at the roof line.  This air flow is a path of least resistance that the radon gas will also follow. 

If the blower fails, or the circuit breaker for the system trips, or a plug is kicked out of the socket, the inline blower will be turned OFF and the system monitor will show zero differential, as it does in the picture above.  Zero differential means the blower is OFF and air is not being drawn from below the building and the air and radon from below the building may then follow the path of least resistance into the building.  That’s bad.  The EPA signs off approximately 20,000 deaths per year to lung cancer caused by excessive radon gas concentration inside buildings.  If you have an active radon mitigation system in your home or building, the inline monitor should look like the one below.  If it looks like the monitor in the picture above, with both columns at zero, follow the directions in bold print and call the installer for service. 

Active Radon Monitor

Thank you,

Richard Acree

Comments in this blog posting are the copyrighted intellectual property of Richard Acree, President, HABITEC Home and Building Inspections, LLC,  and are intended to educate and otherwise assist home owners, sellers and buyers, building owners, sellers and buyers, realtors, real estate investors, property managers, and lenders in the process of owning, buying or selling homes or commercial buildings.  HABITEC is a residential (home) and commercial building inspection company serving Middle Tennessee including Nashville, Brentwood, Franklin, Murfreesboro, Smyrna, Mt. Juliet, Hendersonville, Dickson, Belle Meade, Columbia, Spring Hill, Lebanon, Gallatin and more!  In addition to building inspections HABITEC offers Environmental Services for mold assessments, radon testing and water quality analysis.  Additional information about HABITEC can be found on our website at http://habitecinspections.com, or call 615-376-2753. 

Richard Acree is the author of  the HABITEC Home and Building Inspections blog at ActiveRain, WordPress, and Blogger, and Founder of the ActiveRain Group Tennessee Home and Building Inspectors.  All are welcome to join and comment on those blogs and group.   You can also follow HABITEC on Facebook and Richard on Linked.  Thank you!