Wednesday, February 17, 2016

"I'll huff and I'll puff, and...

Wind damage

Hurricane Andrew was a Category 5 hurricane that swept through Florida in 1992. Winds were determined to reach as high as 165 miles per hour. The storm caused over an estimated $26 billion in damages.  Simply put, Florida was not ready and has since increased building regulations, codes, best practices, products, and disaster relief programs.

Insurance companies provide nice discounts on your rates if your home qualifies. Here is a list of a few of those items, which if present, could save you money - as much as 70% or more for some items. 

Discounts may be provided for:

  1. Roof installed after 2002
  2. Full hip roof
  3. Hurricane ties
  4. Decking attached with 6d or 8d nails
  5. Deck nails spaced every 6 inches
  6. Hurricane rated openings

This list is not all inclusive, and there are other items which provide discounts. However, these are the more commonly found items that I see in our region of Tallahassee, FL. Generally, you should expect to save enough in the first year to offset the cost of the inspection if you have any of the qualified items. Here is a neat calculator I found which should help you determine if you qualify at all: Savings Calculator.  

This is a win-win for insurance companies. They want you to qualify and gladly charge you less each year because their (and your) risk is lower. More information can also be found here: Wind Mitigation Inspector.


Thomas Ailstock, CPI - FL# HI9155
Blue Bear Home Inspection, LLC

Providing the Best Service Possible

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Don't Over Do It...

Amp = Amount

The electrical wires in your home are rated for a specific amount of amps. Amp's refer to the AMOUNT of electricity that the wire can handle. For reference, power lines carry about 10,000 amps. Transformers (those big white cans on power poles or green boxes in your yard) step-down the amps to to around 200 amps when supplying your home with power. Each circuit breaker is rated for a specific amp to protect the wires on that circuit. Your heat pump, dryer, and electric range require more power (higher amps) and will have larger wires which are rated to receive more power. Lights, and receptacles have smaller wires and thus use breakers rated for less amps. 

Circuit Breakers

Similar to the transformer at the street, your breakers step down the power from your service line to each circuit in your home. If the service is 200 amps, but the breaker only allows 20 amps, then the wires and receptacles on that circuit can hold a maximum of 20 amps at any given time.

For reference, a 100 watt light bulb uses about 1 amp. Some vacuum cleaners use 15 amps and a clothes iron uses around 8 amps. So, if you were to try and iron your clothes and vacuum at the same time in your bedroom - the circuit breaker in the panel will trip for protection.

The picture shows a 60 amp breaker serving a 10 awg conductor - which is rated for only 30 amps. This may be the work of an unlicensed person.


There are many different sized wires and breakers. The two should always complement one another. If a wire is rated for 30 amps, and a has a 50 amp breaker - then the breaker will allow that AMOUNT of electricity (amps) to the wire and the wire will burn, melt, or cause a fire.

Most importantly -  if you are considering ironing and vacuuming at the same time - you should consider hiring an assistant or taking a vacation.


Thomas Ailstock, CPI - FL# HI9155
Blue Bear Home Inspection, LLC

Providing the Best Service Possible

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Beware of the DIY'er!

A Dash of Honesty

I must confess that in the past I have fallen victim to three day binges of HGTV of which I resurfaced with an overwhelming desire to upgrade an area of my home. This was coupled with a new found confidence that I could manage the project on my own, complete it in only a couple hours, and remain well under budget.

This generally was not the case and hindsight always presented a more realistic picture. The Do-It-Yourself'er is a brave soul.

A Bit of Caution

When performing a home inspection, I often find what appears to be the work of a DIY'er. Some of the time the work is fine and not a concern but sometimes it is worth mentioning. Common issues are usually found with water heaters and electrical installations. The pictures show a 14/3 NM-B (Romex) electrical wire connected to a 12/2 NM-B (Romex) wire in the attic of a Tallahassee home - clearly the work of a DIY'er. 

The red wire (hot) was not connected and was exposed which was one issue. I traced it to the panel where I  found it unconnected as well. It appears that the 14/3 wire was used until it ran out, and then 12/2 was used during the rest of the installation - likely because it was available. 

Another concern is that none of the connections were inside junction boxes. There were about 4-5 recessed lights found which were wired this way. The home buyers were happy to learn about this issue and were able to have it repaired before moving into their new home!

Thomas Ailstock, CPI - FL# HI9155
Blue Bear Home Inspection, LLC

Dedicated to providing the Best Service Possible

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Fancy word for Exit

Fancy word for Exit

Egress is a fancy word which means "to leave a place". Every home is required to have an unobstructed means of egress (or exit). As a home inspector, I pay close attention to matters relating to safety.

Each room should have a means of egress. Windows are the method of choice in certain emergencies such as fire where the main egress door - usually the front door - is unreachable. Bedroom window sills should not be more than 44" above the floor to allow any occupant to escape. Also, I recommend you to double check your windows from time to time to ensure they are operable.

Double vs Single Cylinder 

A dangerous yet common issue that I find is with deadbolts. The two common types are double and single cylinder. Single cylinder units use a key to turn the lock on one side and a thumb-knob on the opposite side. Double cylinder units operate using a key on both sides. 

The picture shows a double cylinder deadbolt on a main egress door in a residential home. During an emergency the occupants in the home may be overwhelmed - locating and using a key may only add to the stress of the situation. I always recommend these be replaced with a single cylinder unit for safety reasons. What do you think?

Thomas Ailstock, CPI - FL# HI9155
Blue Bear Home Inspection, LLC

Dedicated to providing the Best Service Possible

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Watch where you put your feet...

I always climb through the attics. This area of a home is rarely accessed and therefore deserves proper attention. The first thing a home inspector should do when climbing into the attic is knock. It is considered rude to any ghostly guest who may inhabit the space to climb up uninvited.*

Once in the attic, you want to pay close attention to where you step. The bottom chord of the truss, often a 2x4, is the best place to stand but is generally covered with insulation. I tend to use the tension web (braces) when I can. If you misplace your foot - you can fall through the ceiling. This is considered to not be a good thing and should be avoided.


There are many components inspected in the attic. I often find that the insulation is deficient in areas. Here in Tallahassee we are in climate zone 2. It is recommended that 10-12 inches of blown insulation be applied to create an R value of 38. More is always good. Your Blue Bear Tallahassee Home Inspector measures the insulation and includes pictures in your report. Areas which are lacking are pictured and included as well when applicable.

I do not recommend you climb in the attic. Leave this to the home inspectors and paranormal. Give me a call if you have any questions or want me to climb in your attic and peek around!

*Disclaimer - your Blue Bear Tallahassee Home Inspector does not inspect for ghosts.

Thomas Ailstock, CPI - FL# HI9155
Blue Bear Home Inspection, LLC

Dedicated to providing the Best Service Possible

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Where does the heat go?

Heat pumps are generally found in warm and mild climates such as the ones we enjoy here in Florida. The systems work pretty efficiently in regions which rarely endure temperatures below 40 degrees or so. It is highly likely that you currently have a heat pump system installed in your home. Your Blue Bear Tallahassee Home Inspector is certified and trained to inspect heat pump systems. 

The units generally consist of two parts. One is found outside and is commonly referred to as the compressor or condensing unit. The other unit is generally found in the center of the home in a closet or in the attic. This unit is often called the central unit. 

The heat pump in your home works much like your refrigerator and your vehicles air conditioner. The system uses refrigerant which boils at very low temperatures. The refrigerant flows through the line as either a gas or liquid. 

The compressor (outside), compresses the gas and then condenses (cools) it before sending it back to the central unit. The central unit pulls air from inside the home, through the air filter, and over the refrigerant line. The heat in the air is absorbed by the liquid as it boils, and the refrigerant becomes a gas again which is sent back to the compressor to be condensed. The cycle is repeated until the thermostat is satisfied and the air in the home is cooled.

Basically speaking - the heat in the air inside the home is absorbed into the refrigerant and then exhausted outside - cooler air remains in its place. The process is reversed during the winter season. The heat in the outside air (yes there is still heat in 50 degree air) is brought inside and the cooler air is exhausted outside the home. 

One of the most important things you can do to extend the service life of your heat pump system is to change the filter regularly. Your Blue Bear Tallahassee Home Inspector will gladly answer all of your questions regarding heat pumps and HVAC. Contact Blue Bear today. 

Thomas Ailstock, CPI - FL# HI9155
Blue Bear Home Inspection, LLC

Dedicated to providing the Best Service Possible

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Decks, Family, and Food...

The cool air is creeping in, and when it does I slowly begin to migrate outside to grill dinner for my family on the deck in the early evening. While this is often a summertime event for many people, I find Fall to be my favorite time of year for such primitive acts.

Decks are a great place to relax and take in the day, a cup of morning coffee, or celebrate with family and friends. While decks can be a source of fun, they can also create hazards. Here are a few considerations about decks which can also be found here:

  1. More decks collapse in the summer than during the rest of the year. 
  2. There is a slight correlation between deck failure and the age of the deck. 
  3. About 90% of deck collapses occurred as a result of the separation of the house and the deck ledger board, allowing the deck to swing away from the house. It is very rare for deck floor joists to break mid-span. 
  4. Many more injuries are the result of rail failure, rather than complete deck collapse. 
  5. Deck stairs are notorious for lacking graspable handrails. 
  6. Many do-it-yourself homeowners, and even contractors, don't believe that rail infill spacing codes apply to decks.

So while your enjoying your deck, remember to maintain it. Check for loose fasteners, nails or screws which protrude, loose boards, loose or missing handrails. Check the guardrails and especially the spacing between the spindles/balusters. Decks are always inspected by your local Tallahassee Blue Bear Home Inspector at no extra charge. So, stay safe this season and enjoy your deck, family, and food.

Thomas Ailstock, CPI - FL# HI9155
Blue Bear Home Inspection, LLC

Dedicated to providing the Best Service Possible