Home Inspections: Inspecting For Safety
It was Saturday morning. We were on the air. A caller wanted to know what the gizmo was that sat on the top of his water heater. He said a copper pipe went from the gizmo to the flower garden and he couldn’t figure out what it did. We proceeded to explain that the “gizmo” was a pressure and temperature relief valve that allowed the water heater to drain when the water inside expanded. Kind of like the steam port on a pressure cooker. We continued to explain that the water heater would explode if pressure built up and had no place to escape.
Once the caller understood what the devise did, we proceeded to explain that the valve should be tested from time to time. “Simply move the lever toward and away from the valve”, we explained. We also mentioned that corrosion often causes the valve to stick and that a gentle tap with a hammer will often dislodge the jam.
The caller thanked us and we went on with the show.
A few weeks later we got an angry letter from a listener who had attempted the test we had recommended. She was upset because a leak resulted and her plumber charged her $46 to replace her pressure valve. As it turned out, it was a good thing the listener had discovered that her pressure and temperature relief valve was frozen shut. In such a condition a water heater can explode with the force of a couple of sticks of dynamite.
Fact is, during a recent survey of over 1000 homes, 20% of the pressure and temperature relief valves examined were not operational. In other words, statistics show that one out of every five homes may be in danger of a serious explosion if this matter is left unattended.
How’s that for a segway into this week’s topic – home inspections — making a safer place for you and your family?
Most people believe that a home inspection is meant to be performed only upon sale of a home. That’s great for the buyer, but what about the time that you own the home? What about your safety and that of your family while you are living there? Believe it or not, there are some folks who believe a home inspection is a waste of time and money – period. Nothing could be further from the truth. When it comes to your safety a home inspection by a professional home inspector can be one of the least expensive ways to take steps to a healthier and safer place to live.
The survey we quoted earlier also found that – get this – 43% of homes more than 30-years old, 27% of homes 13- to 24-years old and 10% of newer homes all had electrical system deficiencies – including inadequate or faulty wiring. It’s great to have fire insurance, but it is better not to have the fire at all. A faulty electrical circuit can be a house fire just waiting to happen.
Gas appliances in some homes were found to promote the presence of carbon monoxide – like faulty fireplaces, furnaces and cooking appliances. Did you know that it is estimated that 1500 deaths each year are attributed directly to carbon monoxide poisoning from gas appliances used in the home and those used for camping? Other potentially dangerous problems include: cracked heat exchangers in furnaces, blocked flues, incorrectly installed pressure and temperature relief valves on water heaters, lead paint and electrical system inadequacies. If the property has an old oil tank, the home inspector will likely recommend an oil tank removal service.
And it isn’t only the poisons that a professional home inspector can help you discover. A professional inspector can tell the difference between “normal” settlement cracks and those that indicate a structural defect. A crack in a wall or in a foundation may appear to be nothing more than “normal” house movement. On the other hand, a well trained eye may notice the onset of a serious structural problem. Since structural problems usually get worse as they continue, it is a good idea to “nip” such a condition “in the bud” – before it becomes an expensive repair. Yep, we know, all repairs are expensive. But why pay more later?
Hey, and don’t forget the presence of cancer causing building materials. Did you know that homes built between 1920 and 1960 may contain asbestos in insulation, ducting, pipe coverings, flues, floor tiles and roof covering materials?
Keep in mind that most home inspection reports will not address specific repair methods or include information about aspects of the condition of the home which require the services of an individual with specific expertise like a soils engineer or structural engineer. Don’t expect too much from the inspector. Even the most qualified inspector will be limited in his ability to provide certain technical information.
The good news is that not all of the information contained in an inspection report is negative. An inspection report can also include positive information about the condition of a home, as well as the type of maintenance that will be necessary to keep it in tiptop shape.
The most qualified home inspectors are those with years of building experience like general building contractors, architects or engineers. They possess an understanding of the various aspects of construction and are most likely to offer the most comprehensive and legitimate report.
An inspector who is certified by the International Conference of Building Officials (ICBO) and/or a member of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) offers an added level of assurance that the inspector well qualified.
ASHI, a non-profit voluntary professional association, has developed formal inspection guidelines and a professional code of ethics. Members of ASHI are independent professionals who operate their own inspection services from coast to coast. In addition to providing information about their association, they offer consumer publications explaining home inspection and, upon request, will provide a membership list for specific geographic areas to assist with the selection of a home inspector. ASHI can be contacted at 1-847-759-2820. And, good luck with a healthier and safer home!
For more home improvement tips and information search our website or call our listener hot line 24/7 at 1-800-737-2474.