Preparing To Install Christmas Lighting

Preparing To Install Christmas Lighting

Safety First – Use UL approved extension cords specific for outdoor use and look for lights rated for indoor/outdoor use. Check the Christmas lights package for this, the lighted length and how many strands to connect. Always plug into GFCI protected outlets.
Check your Lights – Frayed or damaged cords are a big NO. One faulty strand isn’t only a safety hazard, but could ruin your entire design.

Light Color – Believe it or not, white lights are not all the same color. LEDs typically have a bluish tint, whereas incandescent bulbs are slightly orange. Hang them side-by-side and they will look mismatched. Lights can even vary based on manufacturer and how old they are. Make it easy on yourself and buy new lights.

Light Clips – Forget staples, clothespins or any other contraption you’ve used in the past for mounting lights to your house. Light clips are your new best friend. There is something for every surface, simply read the package to find the one that fits your application.

Light Types – There are tons of different light types and colors – so have fun with them! Just make sure you group the same light-type together. For example, try using white lights on your bushes, but colored lights on your trees and entryway. Top it off with white icicle lights along your roofline.

LEDs will save you money on energy costs and you don’t have to worry about them overheating.
Icicle lights look great on the eaves of your roof – just make sure to cluster them together. If stretched too far apart the look is completely lost.
For your bushes, try net lights. These are like a blanket of lights. Simply lay them on your bushes, and boom, you’re done.

Always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines in regard to safety instructions, care and maintenance, and use to be on the safe side.

Gateway Inspections Inc
Charles Schiller
Professional Inspector TREC #2717

CSST Gas Line Information

This is a great article about CSST flexible gas lines.

Straight out of Lubbock, Texas comes the latest escalation of a nationwide battle over how millions of American homes receive natural gas fuel. As Buddy Holly’s hometown considers becoming the first U.S. community to adopt a new standard for a certain type of gas piping, an advocacy foundation is asking big-box retailers Lowe’s, Home Depot and Menards to stop selling the “yellow CSST” pipe/tubing under question.

At issue, explains the non-profit Brennen Teel Foundation For Gas Line Safety, is a type of flexible gas tubing called “yellow CSST,” which stands for “corrugated stainless steel tubing.” Developed in Japan and prized for flexibility that allows it to survive earthquakes and empower easier installation than black iron pipe, CSST has been used for decades.

However, in recent years, yellow CSST has alarmed many because of house fires caused by lightning that hits homes, or near homes, and may damage the tubing. Lubbock officials determined the death of 31-year-old Brennen Teel was caused by yellow CSST failing after a 2012 lightning strike.

I’ve noted before how Brennen’s tragic death sparked an advocacy campaign and illustrates that America’s litigation system can push reform. Expansive testing of the gas tubing has been done by victim’s attorneys, and a strongly worded letter “warning” builders over the summer came not from regulators but from lawyers. (To anticipate comments: We all realize that the attorneys have a self-interest in the research, but I truly believe this effort goes beyond “client relations.”)

Lavera Vincent, executive director of the Teel Foundation, confirmed that the organization sent letters on Sept. 17th, to Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Menards asking that they stop selling yellow CSST.

One worry: CSST should be installed by gas contractors who have been certified by the manufacturers. Given the history of yellow CSST, and the challenges with lightning and the reliance of contractors properly installing the product to specific manufacturer guidelines, it’s actually hard for me to understand why these big box stores would make it available where unsuspecting non-contractor homeowners could buy it and install it themselves.

In fact, sources tell us that the largest CSST manufacturers refuse to sell via the “big box” stores because of concerns that the general public does not have enough information or the expertise about how to properly install CSST.

“As you may know,” the Teel letter to retailers states, “yellow CSST has been linked to deaths and property damage due to lightning-related fire that can lead to perforation of this particular yellow gas piping.”

The letter also notes that “… certain new products on the market are adhering to a higher standard for lightning resistance (referred to as LC1027) which has proven effective. We request that you carry a safer product so consumers are unable to purchase yellow CSST off-the-shelf.”

Even when there are proper controls in place, the installation requires bonding and separating the yellow product in a specific way to make it safer when lightning hits a house. Despite extensive education efforts, there is little confidence that these steps are always achieved. That is probably why two of the leading manufacturers do not even sell “yellow” CSST anymore.

Apparently, only one leading manufacturer, Ward Manufacturing, Inc., owned by Hitachi is still selling yellow CSST in the U.S., joining two smaller players Proflex and Homeflex. This begs the question, why are Ward and others refusing to raise their standard for this gas piping when advancements in technology have created an alternative for American homeowners?

Moving to the higher standard is also a stated goal of Lubbock’s senior building officials.

Steve O’Neil, Lubbock’s chief building official for more than a quarter-century, has explained to National Courts Monitor producers that a special “fuel gas committee” was formed after Brennen’s death to look into their situation and is recommending that Lubbock become the first U.S. community to adopt the highest standard for CSST pipe going forward.

O’Neil explains that CSST comes in three broad categories known first by color: “yellow,” which was the go-to product for decades, and two kinds of more recent “black” CSST. He says a few brands control about 80-plus percent of the CSST market, so for shorthand he notes that the FlashShield brand is one type meeting a LC1027 standard while another common brand, CounterStrike, represents what’s known as the LC1024 standard. By comparison, the LC1027 tests the product to 8 times higher electrical arcing energy than the LC1024.

Generally, CSST made to the LC1027 standard incorporates a protective metal shield. And we should be clear that many building professionals contend that yellow CSST is safe, if properly installed, which includes proper bonding and physical separation from other metallic systems – thus the Teel request for “strong warning” if retailers continue to sell the pipe. The Teel Foundation disputes that, contending that the do-not-sell request “… is specific to yellow CSST product as it has been the subject of failure even with the proper bonding and ground of the product, including Brennen’s case.”

O’Neil, the Lubbock official, agrees that increased safety comes with evolving to the higher standards. He says “… there’s just a huge difference” in safety performance and the cost difference is really pennies per foot.

The fire-code community is taking notice of the Lubbock situation, in part because there are hundreds of CSST-related lawsuits around the country. In the U.S., where fire codes are a patchwork of local rules influenced by national standards, these cases are how change happens.

So far, Vincent and the Teel Foundation seem pleased with the quick acknowledgement of their request to the retailers. We’ll keep an eye out for their formal response.

As the debate ensues, anyone still selling yellow CSST should know that the “LC1027 standard” has some highly motivated activist-lawyers mobilizing to support new standards. So, in that world, all eyes on Lubbock.

Follow Sara Warner on Twitter:
MORE: Yellow CSST Natural Gas

Gateway Inspections Inc
Charles Schiller
Professional TREC #2717

Hail Damaged Roof

Damaged Air Conditioning Ducts Found In The Attic

Missing Insulation Found During Home Inspection

Plumbing Vent Stack Not Finished Through The Roof

Cracked Firebrick Found In Masonry Fireplace

Washing Machine Floods And Damages House

The washing machine overflowed and damaged this house. With a laundry room upstairs, installing a pan under the washer can help prevent water damage.

Having a house inspected before you buy is most important and can reveal deficienies in the home and can keep you from getting stuck with those unexpected post closing expenses.

Schedule your home inspection today.

Charles Schiller
Professional Inspector TREC #2717
Gateway Inspections Inc

How To Prep Your Home For The Fall Market

Hello from Charles Schiller with Gateway Inspections Inc.  .

As the seasons change the way homes should be presented or staged may need to change to get the best desired results, sales.

Fall Selling Tips

  • Keep your lawn in shape. Just because summer is over doesn’t mean you should abandon your lawn. Patch up any brown spots in the grass, and keep falling leaves at bay with frequent raking.
  • Get a fall garden. As your summer plants start to fade, replace them with vibrant mums or other colorful plants. Tasteful fall decorations, like pumpkins or tri-colored corn, can also add to your home’s curb appeal.
  • Get indoor fall decorations, too. Without breaking the bank, get a few fall-colored decorations, like inexpensive window treatments or seasonal dinnerware. Fresh decor will make your space seem current and well-maintained.
  • Repair outside lights. As the days get shorter, you may end up showing your home in the dark. Make sure your outdoor lights are clean and working — if they’re dirty or broken, buyers will get a bad feeling before they even come inside.
  • Keep exterior photos of your home up-to-date. If you listed your home in the summer, update your online photos with brand new fall shots. Pictures from the previous season make your listing seem dated.

We here at Gateway Inspections Inc. appreciate all home inspection referrals. We serve all of the Georgetown, Round Rock, Austin and all central Texas areas.

We always encourage the client to be present during inspections or at least to meet with us at the end of the inspection.

Schedule a home inspection now by text, email or call.

Happy Fall Home Selling

Charles Schiller

Professional Inspector TREC #2717


Attic Stair Installation & Inspection

Attic Pull-Down Ladders

by Nick Gromicko
Attic pull-down ladders, also called attic pull-down stairways, are collapsible ladders that are permanently attached to the attic floor. Occupants can use these ladders to access their atticsAttic pull down ladderwithout being required to carry a portable ladder.
Common Defects

Homeowners, not professional carpenters, usually install attic pull-down ladders. Evidence of this distinction can be observed in consistently shoddy and dangerous work that rarely meets safety standards. Some of the more common defective conditions observed by inspectors include:

  • cut bottom cord of structural truss. Often, homeowners will cut through a structural member in the field while installing a pull-down ladder, unknowingly weakening the structure. Structural members should not be modified in the field without an engineer’s approval;
  • fastened with improper nails or screws. Homeowners often use drywall or deck screws rather than the standard 16d penny nails or ¼” x 3” lag screws. Nails and screws that are intended for other purposes may have reduced shear strength and they may not support pull-down ladders;
  • fastened with an insufficient number of nails or screws. Manufacturers provide a certain number of nails with instructions that they all be used, and they probably do this for a good reason. Inspectors should be wary of “place nail here” notices that are nowhere near any nails;
  • lack of insulation. Hatches in many houses (especially older ones) are not likely to be weather-stripped and/or insulated. An uninsulated attic hatch allows air from the attic to flow freely into the home, which may cause the heating or cooling system to run overtime. An attic hatch cover box can be installed to increase energy savings;
  • loose mounting bolts. This condition is more often caused by age rather than installation, although improper installation will hasten the loosening process;
  • attic pull-down ladders are cut too short. Stairs should reach the floor;
  • attic pull-down ladders are cut too long. This causes pressure at the folding hinge, which can cause breakage;
  • improper or missing fasteners;
  • compromised fire barrier when installed in the garage;
  • attic ladder frame is not properly secured to the ceiling opening;
  • closed ladder is covered with debris, such as blown insulation or roofing material shed during roof work. Inspectors can place a sheet on the floor beneath the ladder to catch whatever debris may fall onto the floor; and
  • cracked steps. This defect is a problem with wooden ladders.
  • In sliding pull-down ladders, there is a potential for the ladder to slide down quickly without notice. Always pull the ladder down slowly and cautiously.

Safety tip for inspectors: Place an “InterNACHI Inspector at work!” stop sign nearby while mounting the ladder.

Relevant Codes

The 2009 edition of the International Building Code (IBC) and the 2006 edition of theInternational Residential Code (IRC) offer guidelines regarding attic access, although not specifically pull-down ladders. Still, the information might be of some interest to inspectors.

2009 IBC (Commercial Construction):

1209.2 Attic Spaces. An opening not less than 20 inches by 30 inches (559 mm by 762 mm) shall be provided to any attic area having a clear height of over 30 inches (762 mm). A 30-inch (762 mm) minimum clear headroom in the attic space shall be provided at or above the access opening.

2006 IRC (Residential Construction):

R807.1 Attic Access. Buildings with combustible ceiling or roof construction shall have an attic access opening to attic areas that exceed 30 square feet (2.8m squared) and have a vertical height of 30 inches (762 mm) or more. The rough-framed opening shall not be less than 22 inches by 30 inches, and shall be located in a hallway or readily accessible location. A 30-inch (762 mm) minimum unobstructed headroom in the attic space shall be provided at some point above the access opening.

Tips that inspectors can pass on to their clients:

  • Do not allow children to enter the attic through an attic access. The lanyard attached to the attic stairs should be short enough that children cannot reach it. Parents can also lock the attic ladder so that a key or combination is required to access it.
  • If possible, avoid carrying large loads into the attic. While properly installed stairways may safely support an adult man, they might fail if he is carrying, for instance, a bag full of bowling balls. Such trips can be split up to reduce the weight load.
  • Replace an old, rickety wooden ladder with a new one. Newer aluminum models are often lightweight, sturdy and easy to install.

In summary, attic pull-down ladders are prone to a number of defects, most of which are due to improper installation.