Five home inspections you would rather not flunk

Oct 23

Five home inspections you would rather not flunk


By Davison Cheney, contributor

SALT LAKE CITY – The first thing a high school girl does when getting in a vehicle is to check her makeup in the mirror and adjust the radio stations.


By the same token, most homebuyers are just as superficial when looking at a house to buy — checking the neighborhood for big dogs and garage bands or good lighting and perennials — the homeowners’ equivalent to makeup and radio.


With a few simple tests and inspections before buying a house suggested by the Environmental Protection AgencyHome inspectors, and Utah Realtors, home owner wannabes can be home free — with minimal cost and effort — in a family-safe environment of their choosing.


Before getting to the list, here is a quick mention of methamphetamine. Tests for meth production are not necessary for most houses and are not required by most local law enforcement unless there were reports made to police. If a report was made it will be logged with the city, and the real estate agent is required to disclose that information to you.


Just in case, it doesn’t hurt to ask around the neighborhood.

No. 1: Radon

Naturally occurring Radon gas has been identified as the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. It is first on most lists of things to check when moving into a previously owned house. It usually enters the home through cracks in the foundation.


“The prevailing source of radon affecting most of Utah is naturally occurring uranium found in the geology of the Rocky Mountains” states The Department of Environmental Quality.


The EPA estimates that one in 15 homes in the United States has a high level of radon. Real estate agents, contractors and home inspectors can help you test for radon, and short-term tests for homeowner use are available at local home improvement stores.


“Open communication with neighbors and an Internet search will help you glean much helpful information as radon is often a problem consistent from property to property in a given area,” said Doug Seal of James L. Hacking Construction in Orem. “If you hear that the house you are interested in is in a trouble spot, there are Maps of Utah showing high radon areas on the Internet and learn what can be done.”


Options may be as simple as sealing the basement floor or installing simple ventilation.


No. 2: Foundation

Cracked foundations are second on the list for two reasons. Left unaddressed, they can be a nightmare in addition to admitting radon. Cement and cinder blocks crack over time, especially if they weren’t sealed on the exterior side — which hasn’t been standard procedure until the last few years. Leaking water can lead to both structural threats — rot and termites — and health issues — mold and mildew.

Though there are a number of sealants that can be applied from the inside, having a lot of hydrostatic pressure from the outside of the foundation will render any special coatings meaningless.


Previous water damage is not necessarily a black ball for the house. There are things that can be done to steer water away and into new drainage, and some well-planned landscaping can do the same. But moisture in the house spells trouble, and a thorough walk around may save you time and trouble in foundation repairs, replaced carpets and wall coverings, as well as mold damage.


Home mold tests check for dangerous black mold, but bear in mind that keeping a nose out is the best defense.


No. 3: Lead Pipes/Paint

Lead pipes and paint are third. Lead pipes were replaced in the late 1940s, and then the earliest galvanized steel pipes which came next still contained lead for a few years until manufactures changed over to zinc. Much of the material used to join copper pipes as recently as the mid-1980s contained lead as well.


The easiest way to take care of water in lead pipes is with a filtration system, and the easiest way to test for lead in the water is to grab a simple test.


Vintage homes, ones built before 1978, will have lead-based paint. Whether on interior or exterior surfaces, it’s not harmful unless the paint is ingested, but those eating walls or chewing on window sills are generally children.


The danger is when cured lead paint flakes, peels or is chewed off of outside surfaces, where particles can be ingested or contaminate a vegetable garden. The interior paint has probably been painted over more than a few times and is well encapsulated in a Latex-based product.


When remodeling, contractors generally prefer to simply remove lead paint-covered exteriors rather than attempting to strip layers of lead.


A simple paint chip can reveal the nature of the paint.


No. 4: Asbestos

Asbestos is fourth. Asbestos was commonly used as insulation for boilers, furnaces, and water pipes leading from radiators. It was also used in vinyl flooring, cement-and-fiber siding, and composite roofing materials.The health threat from Asbestos comes from the softer form found in insulation. When it is disturbed, it sends up a cloud of dust toxic when inhaled. When you see a white cloth covering ductwork, it is safe to assume that it’s asbestos and is not safe to remove without a licensed professional. A quick check of the home’s construction and a talk with neighbors can help you confirm the presence of Asbestos, and a realtor worth his/her salt can as well.

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Advantage Inspection on HGTV!!

Jan 24

Advantage Inspection Service, was on HGTV’s “My First Place”. A young couple was moving to Phoenix, Arizona and purchasing their first home. Watch David Swartz from Advantage Inspection Service give this young couple the run down on their first home.

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Home Inspectors as Mold Experts

Mar 08

Question: We are in the process of purchasing a home. There appears to moisture stains in several parts of the house. Should I have a home inspector do an evaluation for mold problems? -Jim in Scottsdale
Based on our research, the story on hazardous mold is evolving and getting more interesting every day. It is becoming more common for home inspectors to offer testing services for hazardous mold. Read on about a few of the reasons why this is a troublesome trend.
At seminars across the country, home inspectors are being trained in a day or two to provide evaluations for the presence or absence of mold in a property. The promotion is: purchase inexpensive air sampling equipment and market testing services to your existing customers for quick additional income. They also teach that swab samples or tape lifts can be used when you see suspected mold on a surface.
Unfortunately, a short course on this topic and some marginal equipment combines to become a dangerous mix. Many home inspectors do not have errors and omissions insurance that will cover mold testing so the customer and others in the real estate transaction are at risk.
Lawsuits for mold cases can run in the millions of dollars. Some buildings are irreparably damaged and must be destroyed along with all the possessions inside. Unlike asbestos and radon, mold exposure can harm your health in a matter of hours or days. Standards for mold evaluation are incomplete and certifications for field evaluators are unreliable. Choose your mold evaluator carefully!
A comprehensive mold evaluation should include more than just air sampling and a few sample tape lifts. With this method of testing you can get results that are incorrectly false negative; saying that no mold exists. Proper evaluation may include 2 to 3 hours of visual assessment.
It might also include air sampling within suspect wall cavities, moisture testing and in some cases removal of cabinets or surface materials. Home inspectors that add mold testing to their service lineup are often providing inadequate testing with limited knowledge. This is a dangerous combination.
You want a professional opinion, not just a sampler’s test from a home inspector with two days of education. An environmental expert can help you determine the extent of the damage and help you remediate the problem.
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Bathtub Faucet Repair Tips and Techniques

Feb 24

Girl In Bathtub Pose

Author: Bryan Stevens

Did you know that you can fix a leaking shower faucet and save hundreds of gallons of water in one year? Most people just think of a dripping faucet as an annoyance and don’t realize how much precious water is being wasted one drop at a time. The good news is that almost anyone with a few basic tools can learn how to fix most dripping faucets.

Let’s start with the basics. Faucets have one primary purpose, to allow the water in your pipes to be used in a controlled manner. This means that they have to open to allow water out of the pipes and close to keep water in the pipes. Not rocket science, right? The closing part is what we want to concentrate on here.

There Are Two Basic Faucet Designs

Faucets drip when they fail to completely trap the water in the pipes. Most faucets use one of two basic methods to stop the water flow. Some, primarily older designs, use rubber or neoprene washers which tighten against a “seat” and block the flow of water. Drips from these faucets are addressed by replacing the washers and/or seats. We’ll talk about how to do that in a minute. Most other faucet designs involve some sort of cartridge. Some people call these “washerless” faucets. Repairing newer style water faucets like these usually involves replacing the cartridge(s).

Washers And Seats

Older faucet designs often use washers to block the water and keep it in the pipes. Tightening the handle compresses the washer against a “seat” and seals the opening, thus stopping the water flow. If you need to do a bathtub faucet repair on a three< handle wall faucet you probably have this type. You will also run into this style if you need to fix a leaking shower faucet that has two handles. Many sink and lavatory faucets also use washers.

One way to tell whether or not your faucets use washers is to see if the handle gets harder to turn as you turn it off. If turning it really tight stops the drip, this probably, but not always, means that you have washers. If you do have a dripping faucet that has washers, the basic repair process is very similar whether you need to know how to repair a shower faucet,repair a leaking tub faucet or fix a dripping sink faucet. There is, however, one important difference.

Bathtub Faucet Repair

The one critical thing to remember when fixing a leaky bathtub faucet is that you will have to turn the water off to the entire house before removing any parts other than the outer trim pieces. If you’re not sure which pieces are trim, just turn the water off first just in case. Once you have turned off the main water to the house you can begin taking things apart. There are lots of different brands and designs of faucets out there and they all come apart a little differently, so you will have to sort of feel your way through.

Removing The Trim

The first step is to remove the handles. This is usually done by removing a cap to expose the handle screw and then removing the screw. Next, remove the handle. This may require a little finesse, as the handles sometimes get stuck in place. One trick is to place the handles of a pair of channel lock pliers behind the valve handle, one on each side, and tap evenly on the handle to nudge it loose. If this doesn’t work you can buy a special tool to remove handles but these tools are sometimes hard to find and usually a little patience is all you need to do the trick.

After he handles are off, there is usually some sort of sleeve over the stem itself. This typically has to come off too. Once again, there are many different configurations. One popular design uses threaded plastic tubes to connect the trim sleeve with the valve. Other types have the sleeve threaded directly onto the valve. You will have to figure this step out before you can proceed. If you can determine what brand valve you have there is a good chance of finding instructions on-line.

Now For The Root Of The Problem

Ok, so you have removed both the handles and any remaining trim sleeve from the valve. Now you are ready to get to the root of the problem, your valve> stem. The washer is almost always at the other end of the valve stem from the handle. Usually the stem is threaded into the valve body and you will just need to unscrew it to remove it. Here’s a tip. Stick the handle back on for a second and open the valve half way. This relieves pressure on the stem and makes it easier to unscrew.

Now you just need to make sure you are loosening the correct nut. Lots of valves have a packing nut around the stem. It is usually a little smaller and just in front of the actual connection with the valve body. The packing nut’s purpose is to squeeze some special packing material around the stem to prevent water from leaking around the stem when the valve is in use. Loosening the packing nut won’t help you, you need to get your wrench on the actual connection to the valve body. By the way, a deep socket is often the only tool that will work to remove the valve stem.

Removing The Valve Stem

The easiest way to make sure you have the correct nut is to see if there is a gap opening up between the nut and the valve body as you loosen the nut. The valve stem itself will also usually turn when you have the right one. If you have loosened the packing nut by mistake, don’t worry, you will adjust it before you are finished anyway. Go ahead and remove both stems and keep up with which one is which, it matters on many valves.

After you have the stems out you should be able to find the washer on the “inside” end. If it is nicked, torn or brittle it is likely the cause of your drip. Even if it looks brand new, go ahead and replace it. You’ve already come this far. You can get replacement washers at almost any hardware store. Sometimes you may want to replace the whole stem, especially if the handle end is stripped out. It’s best to just take the stem with you to the store and see if you can match it up. Most Do It Yourself stores have replacement stems for many popular brands. If your valve has a center diverter valve to switch the water from the tub spout to the shower head the same process applies. Many times it is easier to replace the diverter stem than to repair it. This really depends on the design of the stem.

How Are Your Seats?

One more thing to check is the seats. These are the part of the valve body that the washer tightens up against to stop the water flow. If you can get your finger inside the valve, feel of the seats and see if they feel rough. If so, it would be best to replace them if you can get them out. The inside of the seats, which is where the water flows through when the valve is open, usually have either a hex or square recess. Special seat wrenches are used to remove the seats. You can usually get these wrenches at the same place you get the other parts and they’re not expensive. You just stick the wrench through the seat and unscrew it. The replacement seats screw back in the same way, just put a little pipe dope on the threads before you install it.

Put It All Back Together

Once you’ve figured out what needs to be replaced and have done that, you just need to put everything back together. If your valve has packing nuts don’t put the trim back on until you have turned the water back on. Once the water is on, go ahead and stick the handle on for a second and open the valve. Make sure no water is leaking around the stem. If it is leaking, with the handle opened half way, snug down the packing nut until the leak stops. Easy does it. If you get it too tight the handle will
be hard to turn. Now finish installing the trim pieces and you are done.

Repairing Newer Style Water Faucets

If you have a newer, “washerless” type valve the repair process is similar, but usually easier. Many of these type valves use a self contained cartridge. If the valve starts to drip, just replace the cartridge and you’re done. You still need to turn the water off and remove the handles and trim. The cartridge is usually held in place by a retaining nut on the valve body or, in the case of most Moen valves, by a retaining clip. Simply remove the cartridge and put another one in it’s place. If your hot and cold are backwards when you finish, turn the water back off, pull the cartridge back out, turn it over 180 degrees and re- install it.

Delta Style Valves

One other common design that is considered “washerless” was made famous by Delta and copied by several other makers. It uses little “cup” seals that fit over springs recessed in the back of the valve body. The springs press these “seals” against the cartridge and regulate the flow through little tapered openings in the cartridge. If you have one of these and it’s dripping, changing these springs and seals will usually correct it. Here’s a tip. Once you have the cartridge out of the way, insert a phillips screwdriver into the seal and pop both the seal and spring out. Stick the new ones on the end of the screwdriver to help guide them into place. This is especially helpful if you don’t have long slender fingers.

Delta, and a few imitators, also have a faucet design that uses a ball instead of a cartridge. This is not as common in tub or shower valves but there are plenty of them out there. The springs and seals are the same but there are lots more o-rings and parts to deal with. The good news is that these parts are readily available. While it’s a little more complicated than learning how to repair a Moen kitchen faucet, which is a piece of cake, it is still easier than working with most washer type faucets.

These Techniques Work In The Kitchen Too

Armed with the knowledge you’ve gained in this article you now not only know how to repair a shower faucet and to repair a leaking tub faucet, but you can apply these skills to many other faucets as well. After fixing a leaky bathtub faucet, stopping a dripping outside hose faucet will be a breeze. The techniques that you will use to complete a “washerless” bathtub faucet repair can be used when repairing newer style water faucets of all kinds. Whether you have an old dripping tub faucet or a newer kitchen faucet that just won’t quite shut off you can now fix it. So put these new skills to use, roll up your sleeves and stop that drip!

Copyright 2008 Bryan Stevens

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About the Author

Bryan Stevens is a Licensed Master Plumber with a knack for teaching homeowners how to do

their own basic plumbing repairs themselves. He has an amazing mini-course called “How To Unclog A Toilet And Other DIY

Plumbing Tips”. To claim your FREE copy, visit: How To Unclog A Toilet.
If the above link is inactive please go to:

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Safety Glass – Cutting Edge Info

Feb 15

Glass has been used in one form or another since 2000 B.C., however, glass safety has been addressed in the building codes only since the early 1960′s when safety glazing was first mentioned. Safety glazing should be familiar to you as the type of glass that fractures into small cubes that are less likely to cause significant injury than the shards produced from the breakage of standard glass. Home inspectors are increasingly noting the absence of tempered safety glass in their reports. For that reason it pays to get familiar with the subject.

The intent of the building codes is to require safety glass in areas “subject to human impact”. Recent editions of the building codes list such “hazardous locations” requiring safety glass. A few of the most common required areas are as follows:

1. Any glass used in skylights.

2. Glazing in ingress and egress doors (except jalousies).

3. Glazing in sliding door assemblies and glass in swinging doors, including storm doors.

4. Glazing in doors and enclosures for tubs and showers.

5. Glazing in a bathroom that is less than 60″ above the standing surface.

6. Glazing in a fixed or openable panel within 24″ of a closed door if less than 60″ above the standing surface.

7. Windows must be safety glass if all of the following apply: greater than 9 square feet in size, bottom is less than 18″ above the ground, top is greater than 36″ from the ground, within 36″ of a walking surface. The only exception to this rule is if a 1 ½” guard bar is installed horizontally at approximately 36″ from the ground.

Safety glass can most often be identified by a label that is required to be etched or sandblasted in one of the corners of the pane. Sometimes it is difficult to determine if a particular piece of glazing is actually safety glass.

Over the years the building codes made numerous changes to the required locations for safety glass so an older home many not meet the current code requirements. But we are talking safety, so don’t be surprised if a home inspection report notes the absence of safety glass. Many injuries and deaths have resulted from glass cuts that caused the victim to bleed to death before medical help could arrive. The glass will not stop to read the building code before it cuts someone. Obvious and ridiculous, but true.

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