• Termites Dwell in The Desert Too

    I get asked all the time if there is termite activity in Arizona. People are always surprised by the answer: “There are two types of houses in Arizona, those that have termites and those that will get termites.” It’s funny, but you wouldn’t think that those lil’ buggers would thrive out here in our “dry heat.” But they do. Boy do they ever. The ones that call the southwest their home are Subterranean Termites.

    The majority of home inspections we conduct usually include a termite inspection (and why not, we are there for 3 hours verses a typical termite inspection that usually lasts 25 minutes). Easily about 65 -70 percent of the time, our inspectors find evidence of termites or evidence of previous treatment (finding termite bait stations or drill holes that show remediation has been done). About 15 percent of the time, we observe actual termite damage.

    The silver lining with subterranean termites is that they live underground and only come up to feed on cellulose (wood or wood products). Since sub-termites live underground, they only come up to feed on the wood they damage far less and slower, as compared to other types of termites that live in the wood 24/7 and thrive in other areas of our country.

    Someone recently asked me if I have ever seen actual live termites. Yes, on a few occasions I have. I have seen them when I come in contact with a termite tube and then they came marching out. It is interestingly creepy.

    So don’t despair if you live in Arizona and find out you have termites. It happens to the best of us (including my house) and it’s a problem that can easily be fixed. Just call a reputable termite remediation company. It’s part of living in the desert, like sharing our living space with scorpions, rattle snakes, oh my!

  • What’s Wrong With This Picture?

    Do you remember the magazine “Highlights for Children?” I think they still publish it. I used to like reading it when I was waiting at the dentist’s office when I was a kid. We didn’t have a subscription at home. My favorite feature was the “What’s wrong with this picture?” page. It was a full page illustration with many mistakes in it and you had to find them all. Not to brag or anything, but I was always good at it. I would find all the mistakes and even some that were not “mistakes,” but I would still find them. No wonder I grew up to become a Home Inspector.

    Take a look at this picture. Can you find what’s wrong? I see a sight like this at least once a month. Did you find the mistake? It’s pretty obvious.

    To make room for the new HVAC system in the attic, the HVAC technician cut into the truss. Little did he know that you are NEVER to cut, notch or drill a truss. In contrast to conventionally framed homes (which are constructed with large pieces of lumber) truss constructed homes are engineered meaning they can use small pieces of lumber such as 2 x 4’s or 2 x 6’s. Whenever one of those trusses is altered, it places stress onto the remaining wood, which was not accounted for within the engineering and compromises the integrity of the structure. In short, any alteration done to a truss constructed structure should be approved and signed off by a structural engineer in order to assure for structural integrity.

    All these years later, I love to find things wrong with any picture. I still don’t like going to the dentist.

  • Go For The Gold!

    I am proud to be an ASHI Certified Inspector. I am more proud to have earned ASHI’s highest certification, the Gold Standard. I have trained hundreds of home inspectors and encourage them to “go for the gold” as part of their career plan.

    Being golden, sets us apart from everyone else. It gives home buyers and realtors more expertise, more credentials and more bang for their buck, so to speak.

    What’s ASHI? It’s The American Society of Home Inspectors . When you are hiring an inspector, it’s important to find out if they are certified with a national organization such as ASHI.

    ASHI Certified Inspectors are committed to conducting inspections in accordance with the ASHI Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics, and are dedicated to providing superior customer service. The American Society of Home Inspectors has received NCCA accreditation to award the ASHI Certified Inspector credential to those members meeting their highest standard.

  • This is what PB piping looks like

    Many realtors and home owners ask me about polybutylene (PB) piping. These are two scary words sure to put a frown on any real estate agent’s face. I come across it every few months and this is what it looks like.

    According to Polybutylene.com : “Polybutylene is a form of plastic resin that was used extensively in the manufacture of water supply piping from 1978 until 1995. Due to the low cost of the material and ease of installation, polybutylene piping systems were viewed as “the pipe of the future” and were used as a substitute for traditional copper piping. While scientific evidence is scarce, it is believed that oxidants in the public water supplies, such as chlorine, react with the polybutylene piping and acetal fittings causing them to scale and flake and become brittle. Micro-fractures result, and the basic structural integrity of the system is reduced. Thus, the system becomes weak and may fail without warning causing damage to the building structure and personal property. It is believed that other factors may also contribute to the failure of polybutylene systems, such as improper installation, but it is virtually impossible to detect installation problems throughout an entire system.”

    I have seen real estate deals go south as soon as I announce that I found PB piping. If you suspect that you have PB piping in your home, you may want to seek counsel from a licensed plumber familiar with PB plumbing to get their expert advise with regards to the supply piping system replacement. Entire neighborhoods and municipalities have been involved with class-action suits against the manufacturers and installers of PB piping over the years with varying degrees of success.

  • Homemade pie, Homemade pillows….Homemade security system?

    I love things that are homemade. Some of the best gifts I ever got from my daughters were items made from their little hands. Things like a wobbly paperclip holder I keep on my desk and a “World’s Best Dad” frame with a cute photo of us. I see many homemade things in other people’s homes too. Things that make me stop and smile. But I saw something homemade at an inspection recently that made me stop and shake my head…a homemade security system! Check out the photo! I know you just laughed out loud.

    I guess one good thing you can say about this security system is that it is portable. It can be moved from room to room, depending on what you want to capture. I like the fashionable stand that it comes with too! Lovely paint buckets.

    I know the home seller had their reasons for (ahem) installing this security system. It just gave me and the potential buyers and their Realtor a nice chuckle.

  • Dissecting your home inspection report

    When it comes to reading a home inspection report, home buyers usually belong to one of two camps: They either shudder at the site of the sometimes long document or curl up with a hot cup of coffee and delve into it like a good book. (Engineers usually fall into the latter group.)

    Whether buyers are from camp one or camp two, they will inevitably come to rely on this extremely important resource when deciding to purchase a home, regardless of whether it’s their dream home or an investment. It is the tell-all results of having someone go where the potential homeowner has not gone before (the roof, the attic, etc.). Even for brand new homes, buyers are usually surprised when an inspector prints out a multi-page report with items that are in need of attention or repair.

    For those buyers who hate the thought of reading a novel about plumbing, there is usually a “summary” report that accompanies the detailed inspection report with “just the facts, ma’am.”

    “The home inspection report is an invaluable resource,” says Dale Pavlicek, associate broker at Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Scottsdale, Arizona, “My buyers and I review the report with the inspector and ask lots of questions, especially on the technical findings.”

    So what is typically included in an Arizona Home Inspection Report? There is an introduction, a photo of the home, the address, the buyers’ names, the inspection date and usually many, many photographs. Most importantly, it includes commentary on all the major items that are inspected (see below).

    Inspection report(s) vary from inspector to inspector, depending on their software and style, but all reports generated by an Arizona-licensed Home Inspector have the same components, thanks to an Arizona state law passed in 2002 with the help of the National Association of REALTORS®.

    Before our state standards, many REALTORS® complained that home inspection reporting was all over the board. “Back then, anyone could hang up a sign saying they were a home inspector,” says Pavlicek. “The law to certify home inspectors not only held their profession to a higher standard, but gave guidelines on what needed to be included within a home inspection.”

    The current standards for reporting require inspectors to observe and describe various components in and around the house. You may be surprised to find out that many items and issues included within a typical home inspection are not actually required by law, but are included in the report by some inspectors. For instance, Arizona inspectors are not required to observe fences, soil conditions, irrigation systems or smoke detectors, but many go above and beyond the standards to include commentary in their report on some or all of these items.

    Today, most inspectors use one of many computerized reporting systems to provide easy to read reports. Regardless of how the report looks, if it is stylized with headers and graphics, or just bare bones type, it should be able to explain in laymen’s terms the findings on all items included in the inspection.

    But most important of all, if you have a question or need further clarification on an item on your inspection report, your inspector is just a phone call away.

    What is typically included in an Arizona home inspection report?

    Site: Grading, drainage, walkways, driveways, patios and decks

    Structure: Exterior walls, trim, foundation, slab and basement/crawlspace

    Attic: Insulation, ventilation and framing

    Roof: Surface condition and drainage

    Garage: Overhead vehicle door, automatic opener and fire separation

    Laundry: Washer/dryer connections, utilities and sinks

    Plumbing: Water main, supply, waste and vent piping, fuel system, water heater

    Heating/Cooling: A/C and heat systems, ducting, filters and thermostat

    Electrical: Service entrance, main and sub panels, wiring, outlets and switches

    Interior: Floors, walls, ceiling and doors

    Kitchen: Cabinets, sinks, built-in appliances

    Bathrooms: Cabinets, sinks, faucets, tubs, showers, toilets and ventilation

    Pool/Spa: Interior, deck, filter, piping, electric and heater