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

Monday, November 9, 2015

That's a Good Home - Here's a Cookie!

This Tea Olive tree was damaging the soffit, and shingles.

Rainy days

It has been raining in Tallahassee for a solid two days.

Last night, a good friend sent my wife pictures of her AC condenser unit outside of her home doing its best to survive the flash flooding....if it were a person, the water would have been up to its knees - poor thing.

Here's a Cookie!

The constant rain is a reminder of how good our homes are to us. While it has been raining non-stop, our homes and their many components have been doing a heck of a job - we have stayed dry inside. It is easy to forget the hard work our homes are doing - day and night - 24/7 - with no breaks.

So, do something nice for your home soon; change the air filters, clean the gutters and downspouts, clear the vegetation away from the siding, seal the windows (with the good sealant). Your home will reward you for it.

And if you are in the market for a new home to protect YOU, contact your local Blue Bear Home Inspector and have it inspected to ensure it is up for the job!

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

Dedicated to providing the Best Service Possible

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Monsters in the attic...

Okay, so maybe there is no such thing as monsters - but there may still be scary things going on in your attic. The attic space is an important feature of your home and serves more purposes than merely a place to store decorations.

The attic space serves to ventilate the roof structure. Many homes in our region of North Florida use a soffit and ridge vent combination to ventilate the structure. This is a great and efficient system which uses naturally occurring temperature and pressure differentials to passively move air. The stale air in the attic is warmer than the air outside, warm air rises through the ridge vents at the top of the roof, and new cooler and fresh air is pulled into the space. This occurs on its own and helps to cool the roofing material.

So what about the monsters?

There can be scary little things in attics. Typically in the form of air and water leaks. I routinely find HVAC leaks in attics. My least favorite monster are the bathroom and kitchen ventilation systems. These guys are supposed to move moist air out of the home's interior, through the attic space, and outside of the building envelope. Unfortunately this is not always happening.

The picture to the right shows a bathroom vent that was disconnected. Unknowingly, when the homeowner turned on the fan, the warm wet air went straight into the attic. Water in the attic is never a good thing. Warm and wet wood breeds another type of monster - mold.

The good news is that Tallahassee has a dedicated home inspector that climbs into the attics and looks for these creepy crawly monsters which could be living in your home. If they are in there - I will do my very best to find them.

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

Dedicated to providing the Best Service Possible

Monday, November 2, 2015

Water: A Home's Greatest Enemy

Water does terrible things to a home if not controlled. From roof covering material, slope, gutters, drains, and ground slope, the design and functionality of many of your home's components has one main objective - shed water.

Often it is the little things that do minor amounts of damage overtime which cause the greatest damage over the long haul. These are usually chronic issues which can be mitigated, with a little know-how (and probably a ladder too). The best offense is a good defense! Here are a couple  concerns to keep a keen eye out for:

Leaves on the roof:

Big problem when they are captured in a valley. Leaves hold moisture and prevent the roofing material from drying well. Remember - moisture (water) is the enemy.

Poor roof drainage: 

Next time it rains (and is not lightning), go outside and take a look at where the water is going? Do the downspouts shed the water away from the home? Does the flower bed next to the home hold water? Where is the water going? The water should move away from the home!

There are many other areas to observe such as the roofing material, flashing, crickets, chase covers, chimneys, attic, and crawlspaces. These areas and others are better suited for your local Blue Bear Home Inspector to inspect on your behalf. Remember, water is good for you, good for the fish, and good for the plants - but it is a home's greatest enemy.

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

Dedicated to providing the Best Service Possible

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Peace of Mind...

The EPA set an action level of 4 pCi/L for indoor radon. The EPA recommends that if radon is found above 4 pCi/L, those levels should be mitigated. 

There is still some risk at a level below 4 pCi/L, and the EPA suggests that people may want to mitigate their homes to get them as close to the ambient outdoor level as possible. Outdoor air has an average of approximately 0.4 pCi/L.

As part of your Tallahassee Home Inspection, or home check-up, ask your inspector about radon. Enjoy the peace of mind of knowing your indoor air levels are not at or above EPA action levels.

Radon can enter a home through water, diffusion, or sub-surface gas through the building envelope. Contact Blue Bear Home Inspection prior to scheduling your inspection to prepare your home for testing. The test is non- invasive and takes ~ 2-7 days to complete.

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

Dedicated to providing the Best Service Possible

Radon Measurement

If your buying a home in Tallahassee...

The EPA recommends that you know what the indoor radon level is in any home you are considering buying. Ask the seller for their radon test results. If the home has a radon-reduction system, ask the seller for information they have about the system. If the home has not yet been tested, you should have the house tested by a certified home inspector.

If you are having a new home built, there are features that can be incorporated into your home during construction to reduce radon levels.

These radon testing guidelines have been developed specifically to deal with the time-sensitive nature of home purchases and sales, and the potential for radon device interference. These guidelines are slightly different from the guidelines in other EPA publications which provide radon testing and reduction information for non-real estate situations.

This guide recommends three short-term testing options for real estate transactions. The EPA also recommends testing a home in the lowest level which is currently suitable for occupancy, since a buyer may choose to live in a lower area of the home than that used by the seller.

Call a Blue Bear Home Inspector and ask about measuring the radon levels in your new or existing home.

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

Dedicated to providing the Best Service Possible