Archive for the ‘Information’ Category

Replace Your Old Two Prong Receptacle with a GFCI Receptacle

I wanted to share a good video on how to replace an old 2 prong receptacle with a GFCI receptacle and be in compliance with the NEC 2014 code.

Charles Schiller
Professional Inspector TREC #2717

Possible Issues With CSST Gas Line

1400LittleElmTr#1111CedarPark 019NOTE: Corrugated Stainless Steel Tubing (CSST) is a yellow, flexible, metal gas tubing used to supply natural gas or propane to gas appliances and HVAC systems for both residential and commercial structures. Since 1990, CSST has been installed in millions of homes in the U.S. It has been shown that an indirect lightning strike near a structure in which CSST has been installed can cause an electrical surge to travel into the structure, perforating in the sidewall of the CSST as the energy arcs from one metallic system to another seeking ground. This arcing can ignite the pressurized gas leaking from the perforation and cause potentially significant fire. Properly bonding and grounded a CSST system can reduce the likelihood of electrical arcing due to an indirect lightning strike. While current manufacturing guidelines and gas fuel codes require direct bonding of newly installed CSST, many installations, particularly older installations, may not meet the current installation requirements.
The Texas State Fire Marshall, in conjunction with the National Association of State Fire Marshalls (NASFM), has launched a safety campaign in Texas to bring awareness as to the importance of properly bonding CSST. The campaign encourages property owners that are aware CSST has been installed on their property to contact a licensed electrical contractor to determine if the gas system is properly bonded. For further information regarding this safety campaign, please visit I recommend consulting with the licensed electrician for proper bonding of gas lines and separation from other metallic systems.

Keep Water Shut Off Valve Boxes Clean

206PaigeBendHutto 002

When you are awakened early that cold morning and you hear water running in the house and you realize that you have to shut the water off to the house and fast or the house is about to flood. You run out to the water meter or valve box and realize the valve is covered with 3 to 4 inches of cold mud. Then you franticlly find a tool to help clean out the mud knowing the longer you take to turn off the water the more water you will have to clean up.

My friends please don’t let this scenario come true. Keep the valve box clear of mud and debris. Mud can get washed into the valve shut off box during heavy rains. It’s easier to do it during some warm afternoon than some night during a cold storm.

Charles Schiller
Professional Inspector TREC #2717

February TPREIA Greater Austin Chapter Meeting

Thank You Todd Ver Weire for the great presentation last night at the TPREIA Greater Austin Chapter (TGAC) meeting. The tips on how to protect your business was well presented and everyone had questions. Thanks once again to Todd Ver Weire with Law Office of Todd Ver Weire 512-368-7202

FebTGACmeeting 002

Charles Schiller
Professional Inspector TREC #2717

Christmas Electrical System

Learn how to stay safe during the winter holidays
The winter holiday season is traditionally a festive and eventful time of year. Celebrations, family gatherings and visits from house guests traditionally increase in number during the season.

Unfortunately, statistics show that incidents of home fires and electrical accidents typically increase during winter months. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), 30 percent of home fire and 38 percent of home fire deaths occur during the months of December, January, and February.

There are steps that can be taken to reduce the risks of death and injury from a home fire this holiday season. It is critical that families keep fire safety in mind while enjoying this festive, exciting and extremely busy time of year.

Take steps to protect your family and home from holiday season fires.

Seasonal Fire Safety – There’s no place like home for the holidays and no better place to implement good fire safety practices.
Smoke Alarm Safety Tips – Smoke alarms save lives. Follow this simple guidance to ensure that your home is adequately protected by working, properly installed smoke alarms.
Space Heater Safety – As the temperature drops during the winter holiday season, many families turn to space heater to help warm their homes. Many are unaware, however, that the risk of fire from space heaters is much greater than from central heating equipment.
Holiday Cooking Safety – The kitchen is the heart of the home. It’s where families gather to cook favorite recipes, share warm meals, and reconnect with each other, especially during the holidays. Unfortunately, it’s also where two of every five reported home fires start.
Holiday Decorating Safety – While decorative lights and other electrical decorations add to the splendor of the season, they can increase the risks of fire and electrical injuries if not used safely.
Extension Cord Safety – While extension cords are a convenient way to supply power right where you need it for your holiday decorations, they can also create hazards if not used safely.
Counterfeit Electrical Products – Unlike fake handbags, watches, or designer apparel, counterfeit electrical products pose significant safety hazards. Follow these guidelines to help identify these counterfeits.
Holiday Safety

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

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.

Backflow Prevention

Backflow Prevention

by Nick Gromicko and Kenton Shepard
Backflow is the reversal of the normal and intended direction of water flow in a water system. Devices and assemblies known as backflow preventers are installed to prevent backflow, which can contaminate potable water supplies.
Why is backflow a problem?

Backflow is a potential problem in a water system because it can spread contaminated water back through a distribution system. For example, backflow at uncontrolled cross connections (cross-connections are any actual or potential connection between the public water supply and a source of contamination or pollution) can allow pollutants or contaminants to enter the potable water system. Sickness can result from ingesting water that has been contaminated due to backflow.

Backflow may occur under the following two conditions:

Back-pressure is the reverse from normal flow direction within a piping system as the result of the downstream pressure being higher than the supply pressure. This reduction in supply pressure occurs whenever the amount of water being used exceeds the amount of water being supplied (such as during water-line flushing, fire-fighting, or breaks in water mains).


Back-siphonage is the reverse from normal flow direction within a piping system that is caused by negative pressure in the supply piping (i.e., the reversal of normal flow in a system caused by a vacuum or partial vacuum within the water supply piping). Back-siphonage can occur when there is a high velocity in a pipe line, when there is a line repair or break that is lower than a service point, or when there is lowered main pressure due to high-water withdrawal rate (such as during fire-fighting or water-main flushing).
Atmospheric Vacuum Breakers

Backflow prevention for residences is most commonly accomplished through the use of atmospheric vacuum breakers (AVBs). AVBs operate by allowing the entry of air into a pipe so that a siphon cannot form. AVBs are bent at 90 degrees and are usually composed of brass. Compared with backflow preventer assembles, AVBs are small, simple and inexpensive devices that require little maintenance or testing. They have long life spans and are suitable for residential purposes such as sprinkler systems. InterNACHI inspectors can check for the following:

  • The AVB must be at least 6 inches above any higher point downstream of the device. For this reason, they can never be installed below grade. Even if they are installed 6 inches above grade, inspectors should make sure that they are not installed less than 6 inches above some other point in the system downstream of the device.
  • The AVB cannot be installed in an enclosure containing air contaminants. If contaminated air enters the water piping, it can poison the potable water supply.
  • A shut-off valve should never be placed downstream of any AVB, as this would result in continuous pressure on the AVB.
  • AVBs cannot be subject to continuous pressure for 12 hours in any 24-hour period or they may malfunction.
  • Spillage of water from the top of the AVB is an indication that the device has failed and needs to be replaced.


Types of Backflow Preventer Assemblies

Some types of assemblies are common in commercial and agricultural applications but are rare for residential uses. The appropriate type of backflow preventer for any given application will depend on the degree of potential hazard. The primary types of backflow preventers appropriate for use at municipalities and utilities are:

  • double check valves:  These are commonly used in elevated tanks and non-toxic boilers. Double check-valve assemblies are effective against backflow caused by back-pressure and back-siphonage and are used to protect the potable water system from low-hazard substances. Double-checks consist of two positive-seating check valves installed as a unit between two tightly closing shut-off valves, and are fitted with testcocks.
  • reduced pressure principle assemblies:  These are commonly used in industrial plants, hospitals, morgues, chemical plants, irrigation systems, boilers, and fire sprinkler systems. Reduced pressure principle assemblies (RPs) protect against back-pressure and back-siphonage of pollutants and contaminants. The assembly is comprised of two internally loaded, independently operating check valves with a mechanically independent, hydraulically dependent relief valve between them.
  • pressure vacuum breakers:  These are commonly used in industrial plants, cooling towers, laboratories, laundries, swimming pools, lawn sprinkler systems, and fire sprinkler systems. Pressure vacuum breakers use a check valve designed to close with the aid of a spring when water flow stops. Its air-inlet valve opens when the internal pressure is one psi above atmospheric pressure, preventing non-potable water from being siphoned back into the potable system. The assembly includes resilient, seated shut-off valves and testcocks.
Requirements for Testers and Inspectors

A number of organizations, such as the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and the American Backflow Prevention Association (ABPA) offer certification courses designed to train professionals to test backflow preventers. Requirements for training vary by jurisdiction. Inspection of backflow preventers requires knowledge of installation requirements, although inspectors are not required to become certified.
In summary, backflow preventers are designed to prevent the reverse flow of water in a potable water system. They come in a number of different types, each of which is suited for different purposes.
Charles Schiller Professional Inspector TREC #2717