Domestic water heaters

Tank water heaters 219 Reversed connection 219 Relief valve 220 Rumbling noise 222 Exhaust stack 222 Operational inspection 223 Water heater replacement 224 Water heater capacity and recovery 225 Tankless coil water heaters 226 Inspection procedure 228 Indirect-fired storage water heater 228 Checkpoint summary 229 Hot water for bathing and washing (domestic hot water) is produced through a separate tank-type water heater, through the heating-system boiler (steam or hot water) by a tankless...

Water heater replacement

A water heater requires replacement only when the tank is leaking. If there are problems with any of the controls, they can be replaced individually as needed. You cannot tell by looking at a unit when it will start leaking. The projected life for an oil- or gas-fired water heater is from seven to ten years, although units have been known to last over fifteen years. Electrical units have a longer projected life than oil- and gas-fired heaters. This is because the electrical heating element is...

Indirectfired storage water heaters

Home Inspection Water Heater

In the mid-1970s, a new type of water heater, an indirect-fired storage water heater, was developed. The unit is called indirect-fired because the medium used for heating the domestic water is boiler water, which itself is heated in a separate boiler used for either central heating or space heating. The boiler water circulates through a heat exchanger that is located either within the heater tank or in an external compartment. Figure 16-10 shows one type of indirect-fired storage water heater....

Water supply and distribution

Water is supplied to the property line from the street water mains of the local utility company. At the property line, there is a shutoff valve called a curb valve that can be used to control the water supply to the house. If you do not pay your water bill on time, the water company can close this valve. The pipe that actually delivers the water to the house, the house service main, runs from the curb valve to just inside the house and is the responsibility of the homeowner. Should this pipe...

Inspection procedure

The first portion of the tankless water heater inspection is performed in the bathroom. Turn on the hot water at the sink and the tub simultaneously and look at the flow. If the flow appears to be low, mineral deposits might have built up in the tankless coil, and maintenance might be needed. On the other hand, the low flow might reflect a constriction in the distribution piping. Record the fact that there is a low flow on your worksheet as a reminder that the condition must be corrected...

Environmental concerns

Radon 260 Asbestos 263 Drinking water 265 Lead 266 Formaldehyde 268 Leaky oil tanks 268 Electromagnetic fields 269 Mold 270 In the past, whenever people bought a home, their main concern was the physical house that is, the structural integrity of the building the condition of the mechanical equipment such as the heating system, plumbing, water heater the adequacy of the electrical system the condition of the roof whether the basement was dry and whether there was a termite condition. In recent...

Manufacturers warranties

Many of the components and items in a house have the manufacturer's guarantee or warranty against defects for a specific number of years. Items that are usually covered are the furnace, water heater, roof shingles, well pump, air-conditioning compressor, and electrical appliances. If you are purchasing a relatively new house or in an older house any of the above components are relatively new (because of replacement), you should obtain the warranties or bills of sale. Many warranties are...

Distribution piping

Water is supplied to the various fixtures throughout the house by distribution piping. The distribution system begins by the inlet supply pipe just after the water meter and consists of two components supply mains and fixture risers. The supply mains are usually suspended from the basement ceiling and can be readily inspected in an unfinished basement. The fixture risers run between the supply mains and the fixtures and are usually concealed behind the walls. For the most part, the risers...

Heating systems I

Central heating systems 182 Heating outlets registers and radiators 183 Thermostat and master shutoff 183 Warm-air systems 184 Advantages 185 Disadvantages 185 Gravity warm air 185 Forced warm air 187 Controls 187 Distribution systems 188 Supply registers and return grille 189 Heat pump 190 Hot-water systems 190 Gravity hot water 191 Forced hot water 192 Boilers 192 Advantages and disadvantages 194 Distribution piping 194 Radiators 196 Panel heating 197 Controls 197 Steam heating systems 199...

Gasfired systems

If you are given an option and the fixed costs are comparable, a gas burner is preferred to an oil burner. It does not require annual maintenance and is less costly to install. Gas burners have a cleaner, quieter operation, and the supply of gas is not dependent on the weather. In addition, replacement costs are lower. In this system, gas is supplied at low pressure to the burner through an automatic gas valve. The valve in turn is controlled by the thermostat or aquastat (if the system...

Warmair systems

This system will be either gravity or forced. You can determine which by whether there is a fan. In some of the old octopus-type furnaces, the fan might be difficult to locate. It might be on top of the unit 5M feet off the ground, or there might be fans in return ducts. After the burner has fired, wait until the fan begins to operate. It should begin before the burner is shut down by the high-temperature limit control. If it begins after the burners are shut off, the fan controller is either...

Hotwater systems

When inspecting a hot-water heating system, you should first determine whether it is a gravity or forced system. Sometimes an open expansion tank is found in the attic during the interior inspection. This would normally indicate a gravity system. Often, however, the expansion tank is no longer functional and was replaced by a closed expansion tank when the system was converted to forced circulation. You can easily tell whether a system has forced or gravity circulation by checking the equipment...

Rumbling noise

Over the years, sediment scale and mineral deposits tend to build up at the base of the tank. Manufacturers suggest that a few quarts of water be periodically drained from the water heater to help remove these deposits. However, this practice is not always effective, and if sufficient deposits accumulate, a rumbling or pounding sound can be heard when the unit is firing. If you hear a rumbling noise while inspecting the water heater, do not be alarmed. It is not a dangerous condition, although...

Exhaust stack

Fired Heater Stack

All oil- and gas-fired water heaters must have an exhaust stack to vent the products of combustion to the outside. If you find an exhaust stack that is loose or broken, so that the exhaust gases are discharging directly into the house (see FIG. 16-5), you should notify the homeowner of this potentially dangerous condition. As with a heating system, the exhaust Fig. 16-5. Disconnected exhaust stack. Exhaust gases from this gas-fired water heater discharge into the basement rather than a chimney...

Vent stack

As you walk around the house looking at the roof, look for a plumbing vent stack. If you do not see one, it indicates either that the plumbing system is not properly vented or that the vent stack terminates in the attic. Both possibilities are violations of the plumbing code. If the construction of the roof is such that there are sections that are not visible from the ground, a vent stack should be looked for during the attic inspection. If there is a vent stack, you will see a pipe coming up...

Split system

In this system, the compressor-condenser is physically apart from the evaporator coil. To eliminate the interior noise and provide outside air for cooling the condenser, the compressor and condenser are housed in a unit located outside the structure, usually at the rear or side. The evaporator coil, on the other hand, is located in the house, either in the attic or inside the heating system. The specific location often depends on the type of heating system. When the house is heated by forced...

Advantages

Warm-air systems have an advantage over other types of heating systems in that the air in the house can be cleaned (dust particles removed by filtering) and humidified. Most systems use either inexpensive disposable filters or permanent-type filters that require periodic washing. Some systems utilize an electronic filter, which is very effective in removing dust and pollen from the air. Not all warm-air furnaces are equipped with a humidifier for adding moisture to the circulating air. If you...

Advantages and disadvantages

The advantages of a steam heating system can be appreciated more in a large building than in a residential structure. It is a relatively simple system that does not require a pump or fan for circulation of the steam. Since there is no water in the pipes when the system is not operating, there is no problem of the pipes freezing and bursting. If a repair or replacement is needed to a section of pipe or a fitting, it is not necessary to drain the system. Also, a steam leak would result in very...

Airconditioning capacity

The overall cooling capacity of an air-conditioning system is usually measured in Btus (British thermal units) or tonnage. One Btu is the heat required to raise the temperature of 1 pound of water 1 F. A rating in Btus per hour indicates the amount of heat that the unit will remove in that time. A ton of air-conditioning, historically, represented the cooling effect achieved by melting 1 ton of ice in twenty-four hours. An air-conditioning system that is rated at 1 ton will provide 12,000 Btus...

Aluminum wiring

Inspecting the interior of the panel box also reveals whether aluminum wiring was used for the branch circuits rather than copper wiring. Aluminum wiring is considered a potential fire hazard. Between 1965 and 1973, about 1.5 million homes were wired with aluminum, which at the time was approved by the National Electrical Code. It was later found that dangerous overheating occurred at some of the connections in the 15- and 20-amp branch circuits, which resulted in fires. If aluminum wiring was...

Attic

Insulation 99 Violations 101 Leakage 101 Fire hazards 102 Ventilation 103 Attic fans 105 Structural 105 Checkpoint summary 105 Once you are inside the house, if there is an accessible attic, it should be the first area inspected. There are basically two types of attic full and crawl. A full attic is one in which a person can easily walk around. Usually there is a floor in this type of attic, although the walls and ceilings are unfinished. There might be partition walls forming finished rooms...

Attic fans

Check the fan before you go into the attic. If the fan is turned on while you are in the attic, be careful when walking around. In some homes, the area of the vent openings for the attic fan is too small for the size of the fan consequently, the air that is moved by the fan is partially blocked from leaving the structure. As a result, pressure is built up in the attic, which decreases the efficiency of the attic fan. If the fan is turned on before you go into...

Attic ventilation

While in the attic checking the insulation, see if the area is adequately ventilated. As discussed in chapter 9, attic ventilation is necessary not only to prevent condensation problems during the winter months but also from an energy-conservation point of view to reduce the heat load on the structure during the summer. Because of trapped air, attic areas can become excessively hot during the summer, reaching temperatures of about 150 F. If there is an air-conditioning blower coil located in...

Basement and crawl space

Foundation 125 Settlement 126 Inspection 127 Cracks 127 Structural support framing 128 Dampness 131 Water seepage causes and control 132 High groundwater level 132 Hydrostatic pressure, walls 133 Inspection 134 Seepage indications in an unfinished basement 136 Seepage indications in a finished basement 139 Furnace room 140 Ventilation 141 Crawl space 142 Checkpoint summary 144 Problems in a basement or crawl space are often among the most costly to correct. Look specifically for signs of water...

Basement floors

O Check for extensively cracked and heaved floor sections (usually the result of a high water table). O Record all areas of active seepage and puddling. O Check joint between foundation wall and floor slab for silt deposits. O Check for porous areas and signs of efflorescence on floor and around perimeter. O If floor is covered with tiles, are there swollen floor-tile joints O Is there efflorescence between joints O Inspect the house trap pit. Is it dry Is the cleanout plug secure or loose

Bathrooms

O Check bathrooms for adequate ventilation. does it have a separate on-off switch can you determine where the fan exhaust discharges O Inspect tiled areas, particularly around the tub or shower, for open joints, cracked, loose, and missing tiles. O Note wall areas in the tub or shower that show evidence of deterioration (spongy or loose sections). O Check shower doors for cracked panes (should be safety glass) and ease of operation. O Check sinks, bowl, and tub or shower for cracked, chipped,...

Bedrooms

Every habitable room in the house must have at least one openable window. Sometimes do-it-yourself homeowners finish off an area in the basement or attic for use as an extra bed room even though there is no window in the room. If you find such a room, be advised that it is a potential fire hazard. When a room is used as a bedroom, certain items are necessary as fire-safety measures. As a means of escaping in the event of a fire, each bedroom should have at least one outside window whose sill...

Blower coil housed in a separate casing and most often located in the attic

O If access is available, inspect evaporator coil for frost buildup. O Check for a condensate drain line. O Does this drain line discharge the condensate to a nearby roof gutter or directly into a plumbing vent stack (The latter type of connection is usually not permitted and should be verified with the local building department.) O Check blower-coil casing for auxiliary drain-line fitting if not present, check for auxiliary drain pan below the unit. The auxiliary pan should contain an...

Boiler or furnace

O Check boiler or furnace during startup. Note any puffback with an oil burner or a licking back of flames on a gas burner. O Is the boiler a steel or cast-iron unit Is it aging Is it neglected O Check for signs of excessive corrosion (rust), dust, flaking metal, and mineral deposits indicating past or current leakage. O Inspect firebox, if accessible, for water seepage through joints and dripping water. Have this condition checked by a professional. O Check smoke pipe for corrosion holes, open...

Caulking

As you walk around the house inspecting the walls, windows, trim, and doors, look for cracked and open joints. All exterior joints should be caulked (sealed) so that they are watertight and airtight. If they are not adequately caulked, wind-driven rain can enter and cause wood members to rot, metal ties to rust, and masonry sections to crack and chip. In addition, cold air can infiltrate the house, resulting in higher heating costs. A vulnerable joint for cracking is one that joins two...

Caulking and weatherstripping

In a well-insulated house with thermal-pane or storm windows, air leakage is the greatest source of heat loss. To conserve energy further by reducing the cold-air infiltration during the winter and the loss of air-conditioned air in the summer, the movable joints (such as those around windows and doors) should be weath-erstripped, and the fixed exterior joints should be caulked. (See chapter 5 for types of caulking compounds.) Check windows and doors for weather-stripping and tightness of fit....

Checkpoint summary

O Is electrical service provided by underground cables or overhead wires O Are overhead service wires securely fastened to the house O Count the number of service wires. Note that a two-wire service provides only 110 volts, not 220 volts. O Inspect inlet service wires for cracked, missing, and frayed sections of insulation. O Note overhanging dead tree limbs or branches in contact with service wires. O Inspect for exterior-mounted main panel boxes. (Replacement on the interior is recommended.)...

Chimneys

Uneven Setlement

Chimneys are used to vent smoke and combustion gases from heating units and fireplaces. If, during your exterior inspection, you do not find a chimney, it does not necessarily mean that the house lacks a heating system. In all probability, the house is heated electrically. Chimneys are normally constructed of masonry (brick, concrete, stone) or are prefabricated from metal or a cement-asbestos material. Masonry chimneys are usually supported by their own foundations, which in northern...

Compressorcondenser

Listen for any unusual sounds, such as straining, groaning, or squealing. O Does compressor operate smoothly without short-cycling (repeated startup and shutdown) O Is condenser fan operating properly O Does compressor appear to be functioning properly (Warm air should be discharging from unit.) O Are there indications that the system is low in refrigerant (frosting on low-pressure refrigerant line or air bubbles in sight glass) O Is compressor-condenser...

Concrete concrete block wet stone wall

O Inspect for cracked and heaved sections. O Check for loose, deteriorated, and missing mortar joints. O Is the wall vertical, or does it lean O Are portions of the wall heavily covered with vines O Did you inspect these areas for cracked and heaved sections O Try to determine whether the area behind the retaining wall is adequately drained. O Are there weep holes at the base of the wall O Are the weep holes adequately sized and spaced

Concrete pools

Concrete pools can be constructed using any of four methods shotcrete, gunite, poured concrete, and concrete block. Both shotcrete and gunite are applied and sprayed from a hose that is directed behind, over, and above previously installed reinforcing rods (rebars). (See FIG. 18-1.) Shotcrete is premixed wet concrete, and gunite is a dry mix, which combines with water as it discharges from the hose. The spraying of the concrete mix allows complete freedom of size and shape because it can follow...

Controls

In addition to the thermostat, every steam system should have a high-pressure limit switch, a low-water cutoff, and an automatic pressure-relief valve. Also, to determine whether the boiler is operating properly, there should be a water-level gauge and a pressure gauge. (See FIG. 14-15.) The high-pressure limit switch is connected electrically to the burner control. When the steam pressure exceeds a predetermined setting, the limit switch will shut down the burner, thereby preventing the...

Dampness

In many parts of the country, the basement or lower level might be damp during portions of the late spring and summer. Dampness in a basement is a normal phenomenon that occurs because cool air cannot hold as much moisture as warm air. It does not necessarily indicate that the basement has a water problem. The temperature of the air in the basement or crawl space during the late spring and summer is always cooler than the outside air. Consequently, when outside air infiltrates into the basement...

Detached garage Exterior

O Inspect walls siding for bulging, cracked, loose, missing, and rotting sections. O Note broken windows and patched sections. O Check roof beams for cracked, rotting, and sagging members. O Inspect roof shingles (as outlined in chapter 2 checkpoint summary). O Check type and condition of gutters and downspouts. Note their absence. O Inspect and probe wood framing and trim around doors (particularly doors that are in contact with, or in close proximity to, the ground).

Distribution piping supply mains fixture risers

O Are these pipes copper, brass, galvanized iron, plastic, or a combination O Are there signs of leakage, patched or corroding pipe sections or valves O If system is basically brass, note any mineral deposits along the undersides of pipes or around threaded joints. O Pipes located in an unheated area such as a crawl space, garage, and so on may be vulnerable to freezing and should be insulated. O Are any pipes improperly supported O Are hot- and cold-water lines adequately spaced apart

Domestic water heater

As with hot-water boilers, steam boilers can also be equipped for generating domestic hot water. When it produces domestic hot water, the boiler must be fired all year long. When heat is not required, the boiler-water temperature is controlled by an aquastat. The aquastat activates the burner when the boiler-water temperature drops below a preset figure and shuts off the burner when the boiler-water temperature rises to about 200 F. When steam heat is required, the burner is activated by the...

Doors

When you inspect the garage, you should always check the operation of the exterior door or doors. Open and close each door, and note whether it operates relatively easily. The most common type of door for an attached garage is the sectional overhead type. This door has the advantage of not taking up usable space when open. Look for obvious deficiencies such as broken or missing springs or guide wheels, loose and misaligned tracks, and so on. Check the door's operation. If it is difficult to...

Drainage

O When approaching the house, take note of the overall topography. O Is it level or inclined O Are there gently or steeply sloped areas O Is the house located near or at the bottom of an inclined street O Note whether there is a storm drain (catch basin) nearby. O Are there nearby streams or brooks O Are you able to determine if the house is located in a flood plain or flood-prone area O Is the ground immediately adjacent to the house graded so that it slopes away on all sides of the structure...

Drainage pipes

The wastes discharging from toilets and sinks flow from the fixtures down to the sewer or septic tank by means of drainage pipes. As with the distribution piping, only the portion of the drain line that is in the basement will be visible for inspection. In those houses built on ground level or those with finished basements, the drainpipes will probably not be visible and cannot be inspected. Drainpipes are generally made of cast iron, galvanized iron, copper, lead, or plastic. Very often the...

Ducts or registers

O Check airflow and temperature after fifteen minutes of operation. O Note type of supply registers ceiling units, combined type (heating and air conditioning), or high-low registers. O Check whether all rooms are air-conditioned. O Are supply registers and return grilles efficiently located O If rooms do not have individual return grilles, check for a large central return grille (often located in the hall). O Are doors to the rooms undercut to permit proper air circulation O Check ductwork for...

Electrical outlets

While inspecting the interior rooms, look for electrical hazards and violations and whether there are an adequate number of electrical out- Fig. 10-5. Faulty seal in thermal-pane windows adjacent to a sliding glass door. Restricted visibility is caused by condensation between the glass panes. Fig. 10-5. Faulty seal in thermal-pane windows adjacent to a sliding glass door. Restricted visibility is caused by condensation between the glass panes. lets on the walls. These items are discussed in...

Electrical systems

For the most part, electrical resistance heating is used for area heaters such as panel or baseboard heaters. It is also used, although less often, for central heating. The heating mecha nism in a boiler or furnace is very simple. Electrical resistance coils are immersed directly into the water (for a boiler) or airstream (for a furnace). As the electrical current passes through the coils, they get hot and directly transmit their heat to the air or water. Unlike oil and gas energy, the...

Electrical units

Electrical space heaters have an advantage over central heating systems in that each room is usually individually wired, so there are as many independent heating zones as there are rooms. There are three general types of electrical area heaters panel, baseboard, and wall. Panel heating, sometimes called radiant heating, is similar in concept to forced-hot-water panel (radiant) heating, as described in chapter 14. However, instead of hot-water pipes being embedded in the walls or ceiling,...

Energy audit

An energy audit is an inspection of the house to determine the extent of deficiencies that result in energy being wasted. The decision whether to upgrade deficiencies is usually based on economics. Are the dollars spent in making energy-conservation improvements a wise investment Will the improvements save you enough money on heating and cooling to pay for themselves For most homes, the answer is yes, especially with ever-increasing costs for fuel. One cause for wasted energy in a house,...

Entry steps

Entry steps can be made of stone, concrete, brick, metal, or wood. As a safety precaution, when more than two steps are necessary, at least one handrail should be installed especially if the house is located in an area where the temperature drops below freezing. In those areas, the steps can be coated with a layer of ice Fig. 4-1. A single step in the middle of a path is a potential hazard. The shrubs on both sides of this path call attention to the step. However, there should also be an...

Exterior inspection

Before you start the exterior inspection, stand in front of the house and take a compass reading. The exposure for all four sides of the building should be marked on the worksheet (i.e., Front exposure southerly Right exposure easterly, etc.). The exterior inspection is performed while walking around the house twice. The first time, you should look at the roof, gutters, chimney, vent stack, and anything else that is roof-mounted. The details of what to look for and how to inspect the various...

Final inspection

On the day of, but prior to, the contract closing, you should take one final walk through the house and look at the walls, windows, doors, and plumbing fixtures for cracked and broken sections. Sometimes damage occurs when the seller's furniture is being moved out or through vandalism when the house is left vacant for a period of time. Specifically, look for physical changes that occurred between the time of the contract signing and the closing. During your walk-through, check the operation of...

Fire hazards

Of particular concern is the joint between a prefabricated chimney and the attic floor. (See FIG. 9-3.) According to building codes, there should be 2 inches minimum clearance between the chimney and adjacent wood framing. The clearance is a fire safety measure because wood, which normally burns at temperatures between 400 to 600 F, can ignite spontaneously at a reduced temperature of about 200 F if it has been exposed over the years to temperatures between 150 to 250 F. If your house has a...

Fireplace

If a house has a fireplace, it is most often located in the living room or family room, although you might find a fireplace in a bedroom or kitchen. When inspecting the fireplace, look at the front face just above the firebox. If this area has a blackish tint or color, it is usually an indication of a smoky fireplace and is the result of a buildup over the years of layers of soot and creosote. This problem can usually be corrected. A smoky fireplace might be the result of too small a flue for...

Fireplaces and woodburning stoves

Most fireplaces are used for creating a relaxed, cozy atmosphere rather than heating. Usually their use as an auxiliary source of heat cannot be economically justified, since they are very inefficient. A fireplace requires a large volume of air for combustion. Normally this air is drawn from the heated air in the house. Since the combustion air flows up the chimney, all the fuel that had been used in heating the air is wasted. To minimize this problem, a fireplace should have dampered air vents...

Fixtures

Since you will start your general interior inspection at the attic level and work your way down to the basement, the interior plumbing inspection will begin in the first room that has fixtures. (See the Bathroom section of chapter 10 for further discussion of plumbing.) The fixtures should be checked for general condition cracked, chipped, and stained sections and for operation. Do the faucets function properly, or are there leaks around the handles or spout Is there an air gap between the...

Fixtures operation and condition

O Check all plumbing fixtures for operation. O Note cracked, chipped, or stained areas. O Do faucets leak around handles or spouts O Do sinks, bowls, tubs, and showers drain properly, or are they sluggish O Do sink and tub drains open and close properly O Are there any missing or inoperative popup units O Does toilet bowl fill and shut off properly O Do any fixture drain lines leak, have makeshift patches or missing traps O Do fixtures have individual shutoff valves on supply lines

Flat roofs

A roof that is perfectly level or slightly pitched is referred to as a flat roof. Since this type of roof is not visible from the ground, the inspection must be made from the roof itself. As with a pitched roof, a flat roof should be the first item inspected. Safe access to the roof is of prime importance. If the building is higher than one story, the roof should be accessible from the interior. Anything other than an interior means of access is a potential hazard and is considered a deficiency...

Flood potential

The bottom of the pit should be relatively dry in all but very wet weather. If the bottom contains water, it is an indication that the level of the subsurface water (water table) in the overall area of the home is high. When this condition exists, there is a possibility that during rainy periods the water level can rise and seep into the garage through the pit or through cracks in the floor slab. (Water seepage into this area is discussed in detail in chapter 11.) Cracks in the floor slab can...

Floors

When walking around the house, you might notice that the floor squeaks on one or more sections. This condition is found in both new and older homes and indicates slightly loose floorboards. It is usually difficult to eliminate. One corrective procedure is to wedge the floor from below. However, the underside is usually not accessible. If a hardwood floor is nailed from above, the nail holes can ruin the finish. With regard to the structural integrity of the house, squeaking floors are not a...

Forced warm air

Because it is economical to install and is versatile, the forced warm-air heating system is found in more homes than any other central heating system. The basic difference between this system and the gravity warm-air system is a blower in the heat exchanger that circulates the warm air. Since the warm air is distributed under a draft, comfort heating can be achieved at lower furnace temperatures with lower fuel consumption. In addition, the supply and return ducts need not be as large as those...

Foundation

The purpose of the foundation is to support the main portion of the house and transmit its load to the ground. The foundation of most residential structures consists of walls that rest on an enlarged base called a footing. The footing spreads the transmitted load directly to the supporting soil and is usually resting on undisturbed earth. Where there are freezing temperatures, the footings must be located below the frost line. Otherwise, the footings become vulnerable to frost heaving resulting...

Front and side paths

Two general types of paths are used with residential structures. One is a ribbon type, generally constructed of concrete or asphalt the other is a sectional type, generally inlaid with material such as stones, bricks, sections of tree trunks, or precast concrete blocks. The sectional type normally requires periodic maintenance because of the tendency toward uneven settlement and weed growth between the sections. Sometimes the sections are loose and uneven and present a tripping hazard....

Garage

Fire and health hazards 73 Plumbing check 75 Flood potential 76 Doors 76 General considerations 77 Detached garage 77 Exterior 78 Interior 78 Heat and electricity 80 Checkpoint summary 80 The garage should be inspected after the exterior inspection has been completed. There are two basic types of garages attached and detached. An attached garage is a part of the main building. It might be located below a habitable portion of the structure or connected to the side of the building. A detached...

Gas burners

Gas burners do not require as much preventive maintenance as oil burners. All that is normally needed is periodic cleaning and Fig. 15-1. Oil-fired forced-hot-water boiler with an exposed oil-feed line. The feed line is a small-diameter copper tube that can easily be damaged. It should be protected. Usually the feed line is located below the floor slab and emerges near the oil burner. Fig. 15-1. Oil-fired forced-hot-water boiler with an exposed oil-feed line. The feed line is a small-diameter...

Gasfired units

Gas-fired space heaters are basically small warm-air furnaces and can operate either as gravity or forced-air units. Some of the smaller gravity heaters have an open combustion area exposing the flames. This is a potential fire hazard and is particularly undesirable when there are small children in the house. The exhaust gases from all gas-fired space heaters must be vented to the outside. In addition, the units should have the American Gas Association seal of approval. These units are...

General considerations

O Inspect ceiling area for signs of plumbing leaks, stains, and patched sections. O If garage is unheated, are there uninsulated water pipes that are vulnerable to freezing O Inspect floor for extensively cracked, settled, and heaved sections. O Check these areas for evidence of water seepage and silt deposits. O Does driveway incline make garage vulnerable to flooding O Is there a drain protecting the garage entry Is it adequate O Does garage floor contain a drain O Inspect exterior doors and...

Gravity hot water

As with the gravity warm-air heating system, the gravity hot-water system is inefficient, not very responsive to changing demands for heat, and no longer installed in new construction. However, it might be found in many older homes. The principle of operation is similar to that of a gravity warm-air system As the water is heated, it becomes lighter than the cooler water and tends to rise. Since the system is filled with water, as the hot water rises, it displaces the cooler water, forcing it to...

Gravity warm air

A gravity warm-air system is a very simple system that is often found in older homes. Generally, the furnace is quite large and often looks like a mechanical octopus with many ducts sticking out of the upper portion. (See FIG. 14-1.) There are no moving parts, motors, or electrical connections other than those required for the thermostat and burner control. The basic principle of operation is the fact Fig. 14-1. Left Old octopus warm-air furnace system was converted from gravity to forced warm...

Grounding

The electrical system must be grounded as a safety precaution. This means that a portion of the wiring in the main panel box must be deliberately connected to the ground. This is done by connecting the wiring to a grounding wire that in turn is clamped to a metallic inlet water pipe or to a rod driven into the ground. Check to see if the electrical ground has been properly connected. There should be a wire coming out of the main panel box that runs to the inlet water pipe. Sometimes the wire is...

Hallway and staircase

The remaining rooms in the house should be checked as described previously. In addition, the connecting hallway should be inspected as you walk from one part of the house to another. The hallway should be treated as an interior room, and its walls, floor, ceiling, and trim should be inspected. Look for an overhead light in the hall. Is it controlled by three-way switches located at both ends of the hall It should be. As a fire-safety measure, a smoke detector or equivalent should be mounted on...

Heat

With the exception of homes in the sunbelt, all the finished rooms in the house should have provisions for heating. Depending on the type of heating (see chapter 14), look for a radiator or heat register. If you don't see any, ask the owner how the room is heated. It might be heated by radiant panels in the floor, walls, or ceiling that would not be visible. If there is no source of heat, record the fact on your worksheet. Adding heat to a room by extending the existing heating system can be...

Heat and electricity

Most detached garages are not heated. However, when they are, heat is usually provided by a space heater rather than by extending the central heating system. The heater should be checked to see if it is operational by turning up the thermostat. The thermostat will be wall-mounted or mounted directly on the unit. Most nonelectric heaters must be vented to the outside and should not have wood framing in contact with the exhaust stack, a fire hazard. If the heater is not vented to the outside, ask...

Heating and airconditioning systems

During your energy audit, you have been mainly concerned with those items needed to reduce heat loss. Another item of concern is maximizing the Btu output of your heating system. As you walk around the house, check the radiators or heat registers to see that they are unobstructed. If your house is heated with a warmair furnace, check the filter to see if it needs replacement. If the oil or gas burner for the heating system was not cleaned and tuned up prior to your energy audit, it should be...

Heating outlets registers and radiators

The most effective location in a room for forced-warm-air registers and hot-water and steam radiators is along the exterior wall near windows or doors. This enables the heated air to mix with the cold air that very often infiltrates into the interior through the joints around windows and doors. Of course, if the joints are properly caulked and weather-stripped, the air infiltration on a cold, windy day will be minimized. Most homes, however, are not adequately caulked and weather-stripped. (See...

Heating system inspection procedure

A full heating system inspection consists of an evaluation of the operation of the boiler or furnace, the burner, the condition of the distribution system (wherever visible), and heat outlets radiators or registers. During your interior inspection, each room should be checked to determine whether there is a heat outlet and if there is, whether it is properly located for maximum effectiveness. The area below the radiators should be checked for signs of leakage, and the dampers in registers...

Heating systems II

Oil-fired systems 204 Gas-fired systems 206 Electrical systems 207 Area heaters 207 Gas-fired units 207 Electrical units 208 Heating system inspection procedure 208 Warm-air systems 210 Hot-water systems 212 Steam systems 213 Oil burners 214 Gas burners 214 Checkpoint summary 215 The boilers and furnaces found in most homes today are heated with oil or gas burners or electrical resistance coils. In many older homes, you will find a boiler or furnace that was originally designed to burn coal but...

Hot waterwarm air

In this system, the house was heated by forced warm air. The furnace, however, did not have its own burner for heating the air. The furnace was heated by distribution piping from a forced-hot-water heating system. The only function of this hot-water system was to generate domestic hot water and to provide the heat source for the furnace. Since the boiler water was hot all the time because of the domestic hot water, the house thermostat controlled only the circulating pump from the hot-water...

Inspection

When inspecting windows, look for cracked, broken, and missing panes. Check the joints between the sash and the window frames to see whether they are filled with paint. If they are, the windows might not open, and minor maintenance will be needed. The condition of the joints between the glass pane and the sash should be inspected. Are any panes loose Most windowpanes are secured to the sash by bedding and sealing with a glazing compound such as putty. If putty is used, are any sections cracked,...

Insulation

The attic area should be adequately insulated to minimize heat loss. The insulation needed in the attic will of course depend on the geographic location of the structure. (See chapter 18 to determine the proper insulation for your area and for a general description of the various types of insulation.) In both crawl and unfinished full attics, the insulation should be located in the floor (between the floor joists) and not between the roof rafters. (See FIG. 9-1.) Otherwise, heat from the rooms...

Integral system

This system, sometimes referred to as a single-package unit, is self-contained. That is, all the components compressor, condenser, expansion device, and evaporator, plus the electrical controls and fans are contained in a single housing. This system, which must be vibration-mounted, is often installed in the attic or a crawl space with ducts projecting through the exterior wall or roof to provide air for cooling the condenser. The integral system is less expensive than the split system....

Interior

When entering the garage, check the doors first. Look for broken and cracked sections of wood framing and glass panes. Open and close the doors they should operate smoothly and have all necessary hardware (see page 76). Depending on the location of the garage, at times the entire roof is not visible from the outside. After you enter the garage, look up at the underside of the roof. If you can see daylight through a hole or crack, there is a problem with the roof. Look for signs of past...

Interior inspection

Enter the house through the front door. Try the doorbell to make sure it is operational. It's important to remember that you are looking at a house you are interested in buying. If all goes well, this will be your home, so don't be shy or feel embarrassed about doing things that any homeowner would do. As part of the inspection, you should open and close faucets on sinks, tubs, and showers flush toilets open and shut doors and windows turn on the heating system and air-conditioning system by...

Interior rooms

Walls and ceilings 108 Floors 111 Heat 112 Windows 112 Electrical outlets 114 Fireplace 115 Bedrooms 116 Bathrooms 117 Water pressure and flow 118 Kitchen 121 Hallway and staircase 121 Checkpoint summary 122 After inspecting the attic, you should inspect every room and closet in the house. Don't pass a door without opening it and looking inside. If a door is open, close it to see if it operates properly. All pocket doors should be checked to see if they slide open and close easily (pocket doors...

Interior wiring outletsswitches violations

O Does house contain old or obsolete wiring (i.e., knob-and-tube-type wiring) O Inspect for cracked and open sections of insulation. O Inspect wiring in basement and attic areas for loose and hanging sections extension-cord-type outlets makeshift or nonprofessional alterations. O Inspect each room for electrical outlets at least one outlet in the bathroom. at least one outlet per wall for an average size room (10 by 12 feet). O Are outlets functioning (electrically hot) O Check for loose...

Kitchen

When inspecting the kitchen, in addition to the plumbing items mentioned above, the condition of the cabinets and counters should be checked. The appliances, although important, need not be inspected at this time. Because appliances can break down at any time, it is recommended that on the day of, but prior to, the contract closing, you come back to the house and operationally check every appliance included in the purchase. If an appliance is not operational, you can have your attorney request...

Knobandtube wiring

Knob-and-tube wiring is no longer used in new construction. However, since you might be considering an older house, the building might have knob-and-tube wiring throughout or in portions of the structure. A knob-and-tube wiring system uses porcelain insulating knobs, tubes, and flexible nonmetallic tubing for the protection and support of single-insulated conductors. (See FIG. 12-9.) Obviously you cannot see the type of wiring behind the walls. However, very often there are exposed wires in the...

Leakage

It is important to check the underside of the roof for signs of past water leakage and, if the structure is inspected during a rain, current water leakage. Water stains can show up on the sheathing or roof rafters and appear as dark-streaked discolorations on the wood. Sometimes there is a separate masonry chimney for the fireplace and a prefabricated chimney for the heating system. Joints vulnerable to water leakage are those between the chimney and the roof and between vent stacks and the...

Leaky oil tanks

That's exactly how homeowners with oil-fired heating systems think about the buried tank that holds the heating oil. They could be in for a rude awakening. Most homeowners do not know that they are responsible if their oil tank leaks. If a tank leaks and contaminates the surrounding soil, the cost for the cleanup, which includes excavating around the tank, scooping up the oil-saturated soil, and carting it away by a licensed carter, must be paid by the homeowner. This...

Lightning protection

Although there are about 90 million lightning strikes each year in the United States, most homes don't have a lightning protection system. If a house has one, you will notice pointed metal rods projecting up above the high points of the building. These rods are connected to stranded cables, which are then connected to at least two grounded conductors. Of particular concern is whether the connections are properly bonded and if the system is properly grounded. Because of the destructive power of...

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Oil burners

O During exterior inspection, check top portion of the chimney for accumulated soot. O Has oil burner been maintained or neglected Look for a dated maintenance service card. O During operation, note any smoke odors or soot particles in the furnace room. O Are any abnormal noises or pulsations emitted from the oil burner during operation O Check for cracks and open joints near the burner, particularly around the air tube, mounting plate, and front boiler doors. O Check for air leakage at the...

Oilfired systems

The most common type of oil burner used in residential heating is the high-pressure or gun-type burner. This unit has a pump that forces oil through a nozzle and produces an oil mist. It also has a fan that mixes the oil mist with a measured amount of air. The resulting flammable mixture is then ignited by an electric spark and burns in a refractory-lined firebox. If the mixture fails to ignite, a safety control will shut off the oil-pump motor. This control is located either in the exhaust...

Paved areas around the structure

Street-level driveway-level steps 31 As you walk around the house on the second pass, inspect the paths, steps, patio, and driveway. The problems normally encountered with these items usually do not require immediate correction. Nevertheless, a tripping hazard might exist, cosmetic maintenance might be needed, or a condition might make the lower level vulnerable to water penetration. If you see problems in these areas, record them on your worksheet for early correction.

Pool accessories

There are a number of accessories associated with a swimming pool, but the ones of concern from an inspection point of view are the pool cover, diving board, ladder, slide, and grab rails. The main use for a pool cover is to keep debris out of the pool. It is mostly used when the pool will not be used for an extended period of time, such as during the winter months. (See FIG. 18-6.) However, depending on the material and design, the covers are also used by some homeowners during the swimming...

Pool equipment

O Are tiny bubbles discharging into pool O Is the pump noisy Is it very hot to the touch O Check for water dripping around the pump. O Is the pressure gauge on the filter operative O Look for scale buildup with rust flakes and dust around heater. O Is water dripping under or around the heater O Does pool cover have torn or damaged sections O Check the operation of underwater pool light(s). O Are electrical outlets GFI protected

Radon

Although the health risks associated with exposure to high concentrations of radon have been known for decades because of experience with uranium miners, it wasn't until December 1984 that it was realized that people in homes can also be exposed to high concentrations of radon resulting from uranium deposits in the soil on which the houses are built. A worker in a nuclear generating plant passed through a radiation detection monitor as he entered the plant. It turned out that his home had...

Real estate warranty program

Many homes throughout the United States are being sold with a warranty protection plan for the buyer. The warranty usually covers the following components Central air-conditioning system It is in effect for the first year that the buyer owns the house. The warranties are usually made available to the buyer through the real estate broker. Not all brokers, however, are affiliated with companies that offer home warranties. The home warranties that are currently available when you buy a house are...

Retaining walls

Retaining walls are mostly used for stabilizing and controlling erosion on steep banks. In some cases, they are used in conjunction with terracing of rear or side yards to provide a level area for recreation. In either case, they must be designed to withstand the lateral pressures being exerted on them by the soil. Retaining walls are normally built with construction timbers, railroad ties, stone, concrete, or concrete blocks. Some concrete and concrete-block walls have stone or brick veneer...

Roof vents

These vents can be found on pitched and flat roofs and are available in both round and square hood styles. Normally, there are no problems with these types of vents. However, the joint between the vent and the roof is vulnerable to water leakage. Even though the joint might look okay from the roof side, it is best to check the vent openings from the attic periodically. If there is leakage, it will be noted by water stains on the roof deck in those areas. Water leakage around the joints can be...