Smart Moves Home Inspections, LLC

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Prevent Laundry Hose Failure

Posted on February 6, 2014 at 3:46 PM Comments comments (0)
Over time, all washing machine hoses will wear out. Roughly, the included rubber hoses will last 8-9 years. Cracks, blisters, bulges, drips can lead to costly repairs with the average claim reaching close to $6,000. $6,000 for a repair you don't even need to hire a plumber for! It is imperative to inspect laundry hoses regularly  and upgrade hoses to a reinforced, steel-braided type.  These replacement hoses are a low cost ($10-20) preventative action against costly repairs (not to mention upset neighbors that live below you) and they are EASY to install. Some really good information can be found here - Something I recommend on every inspection (along with a drip pan under the washer - especially if there is living space below the unit). This simple upgrade not only will save huge dollars but give you piece of mind. Also consider installing a single throw water shutoff valve AND USE IT! After every wash turn off the water to the hoses to relive the water pressure limiting the risk of failed rubber hoses.

Does it matter how high the chimney is?

Posted on March 19, 2013 at 11:26 AM Comments comments (118)
The length of a horizontal line drawn from the top of the opening of the chimney flue to the point at which that line touches the roof surface should be ten feet or more. This height requirement is to assure that the chimney will develop adequate draft.  A "too short" chimney won't have a tall-enough column of rising hot gases inside to develop a safe, adequate draft.

A chimney that is too short is unlikely to vent properly and it may also be a serious fire hazard to the building. Particularly with gas fired appliances, the lack of adequate draft for any reason, including a chimney flue that is too short, can result in improper combustion and the production of dangerous, potentially fatal carbon monoxide gases. And the same inadequate draft that affects combustion in the heater can increase the risk that the gas backdrafts out into the buildings.

NFPA 211 1.7.1 specifies:
... A chimney or vent shall be designed and constructed to develop a flow sufficient to completely remove all flue or vent gases to the outside atmosphere. The venting system shall satisfy the draft requirements of the connected appliance(s) in accordance with the equipment manufacturer's instructions or the chapter on Chimney, Gas Vent, and Fireplace Systems of the Equipment Volume of the ASHRAE Handbook.

An obvious fix for a chimney that is too short to meet the fire safety clearances mentioned earlier is that must be extended above the roof for fire safety.In some cases it is permitted (NFPA 211 1-7-2.) to use a draft inducer fan ("a mechanical draft system of either forced or induced draft design") to meet the draft requirements.

There is a lot of good information on the web about this topic. However, be aware that your local jurisdiction may have precedence over national code. Before making repairs be sure to consult you local municipality. When buying a home, get it inspected!, NFPA.

Roof stains

Posted on May 9, 2012 at 12:36 PM Comments comments (0)
There are many sources of roof staining and they vary in significance, from cosmetic to harmful to the roof.
Black streaks on shingles caused by algae or fungal growth used to be limited to warm, humid climates, but now this can be seen on houses as far north as Canada. Some experts attribute the spread to the increased use of crushed limestone as a filler material in asphalt shingles.
Limestone is economical and makes a durable shingle, but the calcium carbonate in the limestone supports algae growth. In algae-resistant (AR) shingles, zinc or copper granules are mixed in with the colored stone topping. When the shingles get wet, the zinc or copper is released, inhibiting algae growth.
Warranties for algae resistance are usually for less than 10 years since the protection ends when the mineral washes away. Some shingles have longer lasting protection than others due to a higher percentage of AR granules.

The chemistry of roof shingles, their granule coverings, and substrates is quite different from other organic substances that are home to many molds. Further, many newer shingle products include chemicals to retard black algae growth that may also retard mold growth. Specific mold genera/species like to grow on particular surfaces - it's their food, and while
some molds are more choosy than others (for example mildews grow only on living plants), you'll need to look carefully at a roof and the conditions around it (such as trees, and areas of sun or shade) and perhaps even sample the black debris to determine if it is mold and if so what is its species.
The roof cleaning methods to remove black algae will probably work well for black mold growth on a roof as well.

Do I need to get a home insepction?

Posted on January 19, 2012 at 1:51 PM Comments comments (0)
Short answer - no. The right answer - it's in your best interest to get one. As with anything you purchase it is proper to do your due diligence. You wouldn't buy a used car without taking it to your mechanic first. So why not when you're buying a used home? A home inspection will give you a unbiased opinion by a third party professional on the current condition and give you tips on how to properly maintain your property. The reports are NOT enforceable, they are NOT code inspections, or appraisals. Keep in mind - just because there is a defect reported it does not mean the seller must repair it.  It is an extensive report that documents hundreds of systems and subsystems in a home for your information only. Then, in most cases, after the inspection you can go back to the seller, with your fully loaded ammunition,  and renegotiate the agreement of sale by receiving credits, repairs, or walking away. This is all for your benefit! The fee for the inspection will totally pay for itself with the money it will save you in unforeseen defects. So, do you need to get a home inspection...? I think you know the right answer. Check out this form created by the US Department of Housing.

Knob and Tube Wiring

Posted on June 8, 2011 at 9:32 AM Comments comments (95)
Knob and tube electrical of wiring has been installed in homes from the 1920s right up into the 1970's in some jurisdictions. Only a hot and neutral wire are provided. The circuit has no electrical ground path. The individual electrical wires are wrapped in a rubberized cloth. That was fine when the wires remained suspended in air. Wherever the knob and tube circuit wires pass through building framing lumber a ceramic tube is used to insulate the wire from the wood. Where the knob and tube wiring is surface mounted in a building it is attached using a ceramic "knob". These ceramic knobs are a good insulator provided they have not been damaged or modified. Knob and tube electrical circuits are not "illegal" and there is not a code requirement that they be replaced. However this wiring method is considered obsolete.
Some issues:
  • No electrical ground is provided - the circuit is less safe than a modern grounded electrical circuit and appliances and devices that use a grounded plug should not be connected on an un-grounded circuit.
  • The knob and tube wiring may have become damaged by age, exposure to leaks, or to chewing rodents. In attics, for example, we often see that this wiring has been damaged by having been stepped-on or by chewing rodents.
  • The safety of the knob and tube circuit may have been affected by building changes such as adding insulation and modifications to the original circuit.

Termite or white ant?

Posted on April 25, 2011 at 10:28 AM Comments comments (131)
Termites are pale-colored insects  that live in large colonies and feed on wood. Termites resemble ants in their appearance, manner of living, and social organization, but are not closely related. Termites mostly feed on dead plant material, generally in the form of wood.
They can be very destructive to wooden buildings and structures.
Termites prefer to tunnel inside of wood and can cause extensive damage without appearing readily on the wood surface. Mud tubes are typically built to enable movement across a less hospitable surface such as masonry walls or wood that was just not so nice to penetrate.

Experts estimate that termites damage more than 600,000 homes in the United States annually. In fact, termites cause more damage to U.S. homes each tornadoes, hurricanes, wind and hail storms combined.
Unlike weather-related damage, termite damage is not covered by homeowners insurance.
Each year, U.S. residents spend an estimated $5 billion to control termites and repair termite damage. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), control methods and repairs for
damage caused by Formosan termites – the most destructive species of subterranean termite – account for more than $1 billion of this total.

How safe is aluminum wiring?

Posted on February 21, 2011 at 8:43 AM Comments comments (172)
Aluminum wiring, used in some homes from the mid 1960's to the early 1970's, is a potential fire hazard.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, fires and even deaths have been reported to have been caused by this hazard. Problems due to aluminum wiring expansion, or arcing at the aluminum wiring connectors, can cause overheating at connections between the wire and devices (switches and outlets) or at aluminum wire splices. The connections can become hot enough to start a fire without ever tripping a circuit breaker!

CPSC research shows that "homes wired with aluminum wire manufactured before 1972 are 55 times more likely to have one or more connections reach "Fire Hazard Conditions" than are homes wired with copper. "Post 1972" aluminum wire is also a concern. Introduction of the aluminum wire "alloys" in 1972 time frame did not solve most of the connection failure problems.
Aluminum wiring is still permitted and used for certain applications, including residential service entrance wiring and single-purpose higher amperage circuits such as 240V air conditioning or electric range circuits. The fire risk from single purpose circuits is much less than for branch circuits.
But it's not necessarily because of a "new alloy" as some folks assert. It's because there are enormously fewer connections (four or six rather than 30 or 40 per circuit) and thus statistically a smaller chance of a connection failure. These connections do still burn up, as indicated by field reports.

How to Repair Aluminum Electrical Wiring to Reduce the Hazards - Repair Alternatives & Choices

Once the initial steps above have been addressed here are the choices for safe repair of aluminum wiring:

Aluminum Wiring Repair Method No. 1: Re-wire the Building, Replacing All Aluminum with Copper Wire

Re-wire the Building replacing all aluminum branch circuit wiring with copper, as a "best repair method" for aluminum wiring, OR as a next-best aluminum wiring repair method

Aluminum Wiring Repair Method No. 2: Copper Pigtailing using the COPALUM Connector

Use the special AMP (now TYCO) COPALUM connector and special tool to connect short copper wires to every aluminum wire end in the building, reconnecting the copper to the various devices (outlets, switches, lights) and splices. This "copper pigtailing" procedure is performed by an electrician trained and licensed by AMP or TYCO to use this COPALUM procedure. The TYCO COPALUM connector method is described is described at PIGTAILING USING AMP "COPALUM" CONNECTORS. Typically this approach costs about half that of completely re-wiring a home with copper.

Do you have a wet basement?

Posted on November 24, 2010 at 10:46 AM Comments comments (0)
An effective and informative article about wet basements. Did you know most basements are wet because of improper grading and poorly installed gutters/downspouts?

Keep water away from the foundation. This means proper site drainage that assures that surface runoff and roof spillage are conducted away from the building. Most of the wet basements  investigated were suffering from mis-handling of roof drainage. Between gutter defects that spill large volumes of water close to the foundation and improper site grading, we estimate that 80 percent or more of basement water entry problems can be explained.

How much MOLD is too much MOLD?

Posted on November 22, 2010 at 8:44 AM Comments comments (0)
Don't get freaked out if your home inspection reveals mold!  Mold is everywhere in the air we breath everyday. Some people react differently than others. Standards or Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) for airborne concentrations of mold, or mold spores, have not been set. Currently, there are no EPA regulations or standards for airborne mold contaminants.
For more information on mold, see the website at

Molds can be found almost anywhere; they can grow on virtually any organic substance, as long as moisture and oxygen are present. There are molds that can grow on wood, paper, carpet, foods, and insulation. When excessive moisture accumulates in buildings or on building materials, mold growth will often occur, particularly if the moisture problem remains undiscovered or unaddressed. It is impossible to eliminate all mold and mold spores in the indoor environment. However, mold growth can be controlled indoors by controlling moisture indoors.

How do I get rid of mold? It is impossible to get rid of all mold and mold spores indoors; some mold spores will be found floating through the air and in house dust.  The mold spores will not grow if moisture is not present.  Indoor mold growth can and should be prevented or controlled by controlling moisture indoors.  If there is mold growth in your home, you must clean up the mold and fix the water problem.  If you clean up the mold, but don't fix the water problem, then, most likely, the mold problem will come back

  1. The key to mold control is moisture control.
  2. If mold is a problem in your home, you should clean up the mold promptly and fix the water problem.
  3. It is important to dry water-damaged areas and items within 24-48 hours to prevent mold growth.

Where does your house rank for RADON levels?

Posted on November 15, 2010 at 1:29 PM Comments comments (0)
The EPA and the U.S. Geological Survey have rated every county in the United States as Zone 1 to 3 for radon risk. Links to state maps with county by- county risk levels can be found at Go here for great info specifically for Pennsylvanians.

The EPA recommends that all homes in Zone 1 counties be built with radon-resistant features, which can be easily upgraded to a radon remediation system if needed.

Since homes in Zones 2 and 3 can also have high levels, it is best to check with your state radon office to see if they are aware of any local “hot spots.”

According to the Surgeon General, Radon is the 2nd leading cause of Cancer in the US.  Everyone should have their home tested and now is the best time. It is an easy, inexpensive, non-invasive procedure. Call to schedule for a radon test.