OK we’re going to call this one for John Paul de Oliveira as the closest and the winner.
The electrical panel question appeared to be a tricky one and good answers were provided but you would not really be able to see that from these low resolution pictures. The white jumper wire you see is between two neutral bars. The yoke was missing in this panel between these bars and there are no manufacturer provisions in installation requirements to allow this correction. But is that a significant safety hazard? Possibly but that would be for an Engineer or Electrician, or the manufacturer to determine. BTW arc welding in an electrical panel reminds one why they should always carry an extra pair of underwear to inspections!
Question 1: The kitchen displayed is for a 2150 Sq. Ft. home built in 1998. Natural gas is available for ALL locations where it would normally and can be used. What is the significant issue displayed here?
Answer 1: This home only has one HVAC system as most of this size home have. No return air point should be located in the kitchen ceiling of a home unless that system only serves the kitchen and is no less than 10’ from any cooking appliance. This return air point in the ceiling does not meet any of these requirements.
Question 2: This is a picture of a window installed in a wood framed wall with a brick veneer exterior that does have a 1” air gap between the veneer and exterior wall sheathing. All first floor windows have this same issue but not the second floor windows. What is the issue displayed in this picture?
Answer 2: The window frame bottom track has been improperly drilled to fit an alarm sensor (the circular, ivory colored area seen) as have all first floor window frames. Now if left unattended over time this can become an entry point for water penetrations into and possibly beyond the frame to the interior wall stud cavity.
Question 3: House was built in 1992. It is a slab foundation on expansive soils. There are a series of pictures below with numbers which all mean the same in each picture; 1 = Water meter, 2 = irrigation system backflow valve, 3 = new looking PVC pipe with screw off cap that could not be unscrewed for some reason, 4 = Location of the main house drain and main sewer drain clean-out risers. There are at least 3 issues to be noted in these series of pictures and 2 advisory (warning) notices that can be provided to the client. What are they?
Answer 3: There are multiple issues to note in these pictures depending on how you view the situation. The three obvious issues are as follows.
- There is insufficient ground cover leaving exposed soils that can wash away and alter the grading and drainage pattern of the front yard. Soils are washing out as noted by the soils partly covering the water meter box cover at its lowest (front) edge. Washout is expected to continue until proper ground cover is provided to retain the soil.
- Just about all SOP’s will state that you report what is seen and even the Texas SOP does not require us to predict the future while inspecting. However a failure to advise clients of these issues that can be determined and/or expected from present signs and conditions is a disservice and can come back to bite you as well. The first issue is the improper grading near the water meter. Grading does provide a sufficient slope away from the front of the home (with exception of the blocked planter beds you can not see clearly) but at the water meter the soils are sloped back to the meter from both directions and soils are low at this point. Additionally the bottom of the sidewalk is exposed which can allow water to pool against the sidewalk and penetrate under it. This can contribute to heaving and settlement of the sidewalk.
- The irrigation system backflow valve is almost completely covered over with soil. There are actual multiple issues with this condition. First this displayed indication indicates long term soil movement causing the valve to be covered over. That means this valve has most likely not been tested in a very long time! This is an older valve and its condition is suspect. Keep in mind these valves can fail in their function and yet still allow water to flow forward as well as improperly backward. Next most if not all backflow valves of this type are not rated for installation below ground for this and other reasons.
I keep hearing that Inspectors should not report on anything that is not visibly present and/or not an immediate issue. I absolutely agree that an Inspector should not try to break out a “Crystal Ball” and predict the future. However just because a problem has not happened does not mean it won’t and not advising a client of significant potentials is a disservice to them and typically what comes back to bite you in the end. The following were two advisories I gave this client.
- It really was surprising that for a 27 year old, slab home on expansive soils that there were no definitive signs of foundation movement. But you can see that huge oak tree in the small front yard, the close proximity to the home, and in this case a suspect non functioning irrigation system (many signs to list) that this tree has a high potential to cause foundation movement when it draws a lot of moisture from the soil. Just because movement does not yet appear to have happened does not mean it can’t or won’t. This tree also poses a potential for root invasion under the foundation which can cause issues with sub-surface piping, etc. Root invasion is not limited to only these issues but others as well. I have actually seen roots penetrate a 10” poured concrete wall as viewed from inside of a crawlspace. It only takes the right conditions to have issues occur and they are easy to create.
- I specifically marked the unknown PVC cap (#3 on pictures) and the main clean-outs (#4 on pictures) for a reason. Did you notice the nearly new public sidewalk pour? Did you notice the unknown PVC cap and main drain clean-outs in line with each other and headed toward the street? Did you notice the huge oak tree in very close proximity to a possible main sewer line path? So what’s that all about?? There were no permits available to explain this work and this particular jurisdiction does require them for this major sewer line and sidewalk work. Even without availability of permits online this is something I would definitely put back on the homeowner to explain and that’s what I did! We can certainly wonder if that large oak tree to the left has played a roll in the need for this work and this client was concerned enough about this potential to ask. The buyer (client) needs to understand that some type of major work has been performed here and only the homeowner can tell us what was done and explain if all issues were properly handled.
Question 4: Below is a series of pictures from a brand new construction electrical panel. The ones with the removed deadfront are the larger of 2 sub-panels. This is a two part question. What SIGNIFICANT safety issue can be found in this panel? The second question is once the panel has been inspected how would you deal with this issue on site?
Answer 4: If you look closely you can see that the branch circuit wires not cleanly and properly dressed in the panel. This condition has left branch circuit wiring in excessively close proximity to the deadfront panel screw holes as seen below. The potential is there to strike these wires when re-inserting the screws and causing an arc condition. I have actually twice in the same year, on new construction, experienced arcing when BACKING OUT THE PANEL SCREWS and that is bad enough. When this condition is encountered, regardless of whether you believe or not you can re-insert screws without arcing, you should never even attempt to! In this case it was possible to use 4 screws to hold the panel on and the remaining two were placed in a bag and taped to the panel. In other cases I was unable to replace enough screws to hold the panel in place and always carry cardboard and painters tape to seal over the panel to at least help prevent it from being totally exposed. Obviously it is put in the report AND the owner or Builder is immediately notified of the safety issue.
Question 5: Obviously the pictures below are new construction but I do find this situation on homes of all ages. Building codes do not try to dictate common sense and as a result we see this area from time to time. Here in the South we do place HVAC equipment in the attic area and systems are typically filtered there as well. What is the issue with this stair set?
Answer 5: This stair set is used regularly for HVAC filter changes, maintenance, and in the case of this home the gas fired tankless water heater is located in the attic. This stair set IS NOT equipped with a sensible or safe guard on the right side to help prevent injury if a person were to fall from it, they would be headed down a flight of stairs instead of just to the floor or against a wall. In the case of this home that stair set had other, more safe locations it could have been placed. As Forrest Gump’s Mother always told him “Stupid is as stupid does!”.