InterNACHI almost lost a member yesterday

InterNACHI almost lost a member yesterday. I arrived at an inspection site that has been vacant and is part of an estate sale. It was cool outside so when I arrived I turned on the gas furnace and proceeded with exterior inspection. When I completed the exterior inspection I opened the attic hatch in the garage to inspect that space. It was a low pitched hip roof and it took some time to traverse the 46 feet from one end to the other. Near the far end was the exhaust stack for the gas furnace. When I got to that point I did a double take when I found that the exhaust stake ended in the attic space and the air combustion stack was connected to the roof exhaust vent. Obviously, when the newer roof shingles were installed in 2004 the roofers reconnected the wrong stack to the roof vent. I then realized that the unit was running, the attic was very hot in that area and I was beginning to feel flushed, dizzy and wobbly on my feet. Just as we have always been taught, the carbon monoxide was odorless and tasteless. I immediately realized that I needed to get out of the attic as quickly as possible and it took me several minutes to move back to the attic hatch. Once out of the attic I went outside to get some air and recovered relatively quickly. I had a headache for the remainder of the inspection. I was at the site by myself and I am convinced that if I had passed out in that attic with the furnace running I would not be writing this post today. As home inspectors we are constantly subjected to dangers and hazards that are visible or sometimes unseen. I am aware of most issues but it seems that sometimes something crops up out of the blue that it totally unexpected and could have disastrous results. I don’t know what happened to the old folks that lived in that house, with the gas furnace running in the winter for more than 5 years, but I do know the husband is dead the wife is in a home with dementia. Makes me wonder if their current conditions are related to the carbon monoxide in that attic space.


Allen, I am very happy you are okay!! Your experience yesterday is something that us Northerners are concerned with almost daily. I have been considering purchasing a “personal carbon monoxide detector” to wear on inspections, especially in Wintertime.

Your last sentance is potentially a moral dilemma, is it not?

Again, happy you are okay !!!

Glad you are okay Allen. You are very lucky, take care out there.

My family went through a carbon monoxide leak in our old gas furnace when I was young teenager. All 5 of us kids were either vomiting, passed out or having nose bleeds. It almost killed our entire family.

I am really glad your alright Allen. Your post is a good reminder to be careful.

Allen, a similar situation arose a couple of months ago in the condo complex where I live. We had a hail storm last year that resulted in new roofs for all 120 units here. I sent a letter to the HOA advising them on several things to ensure when the roofers replaced the shingles. Since we have natural gas furnaces and water heaters here one of those items I advised to watch out for was the proper handling of the flues/vents. Well, once the roofers were done with my unit I checked my water heater that is in the garage utility closet along with the furnace. That closet is open to the attic at the top. Lo & behold, the flue was disconnected just like I warned them about. I notified the HOA again but they seemed somewhat ambivalent about the potential issue. 120 units x 2 flues = 240 opportunities for this potentially deadly defect. I suspect this is a common problem when roofs are replaced. I made sure my CO detector was fully operational and I also like Jeffrey’s idea of investing in a personal CO detector for when I’m inspecting. Here’s the way the roofer’s left my water heater:

Glad you’re still around. I think a monitor is a great idea.

I carry one at all times, If there is any gas, oil and even wood i check the home. I have found at least 4 to 5 furnaces leaking. this last few months. I had a agent wanting me to check his home this am. I think a monitor is a must no matter where you live. In the south People just do not get any service done on the heating equipment. I am also use to this problem coming from the great white north.

Thanks for the suggestions about the monitor. I think I will get one of the types that attaches to a belt loop.

I had the exact same thing happen last week. An agent had me inspect a brand new home for her Mother. Once in the attic it took a few minutes to figure out what the deal was, because a scrap piece of wood covered the vent partialy. The pipe terminated into the attic and stopped just above the insulation. It was a cold day so the ice hanging off the sheeting suprised me. I quickly figured out where the moisture was coming from and got out of the attic. I also had a small headache for a while. Good thing the agent spent the money on her mother.

Holly Chet…Glad your ok…Makes you think more about getting a monitor aswell…

Reason number 42 why I don’t “crawl” attics, but only go into those I can walk (on my feet) over the trusses.

I want to be able to get get out quickly, and be able to drop through the ceiling if necessary.

I’ve never had to do either yet, but came close once.

Congratulations on getting out safe. That was a close one. And thanks for the reminder to all of us to be careful.

Glad your OK Allen.

Be careful out there everyone.

I had that happen to me in a residential apartment building basement when the dope Contractor sealed the chimney with a solid concrete slab.
Lucky everyone did not die in the building.

I shut off the furnace and got out.

Wow !! I think stories like this really make you think about the hazards of are business, and a personal carbon monoxide detector is the best idea :slight_smile:

I think Nick should carry the “personal monitors” @ Inspector Outlet. Most of the “quality” ones that I have found are fairly expensive. I always have my TIFF with me, but it doesn’t get “whipped-out” (Ref: Blazing Saddles) unless I sense a leak. The personal ones that clip onto the belt are great, and become a part of the uniform (always on, always working).

GLAD you are ok!!!

I feel a price increase coming on - wow the risks we take - thanks for reminding us to always be cautious!

Wow - glad you’re Ok.

Glad you are OK Allen, WOW thats crazy!!!

Dale Duffy and I were at an inspection today. Gas was locked off.
Attic furnace flue was disconnected at furnace. We would have run the
heat as soon as we entered the home. Who knows what would have been the result.

Glad you made it out okay.