Posts Tagged ‘Austin Home Inspector’

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
512-639-9905

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.

Caution
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
512-639-9905

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.  HGTV.com

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

512-639-9905

schillercharles@gmail.com

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:
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:

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

How AFCI Breakers Function and Purpose

Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs)

by Nick Gromicko and Kenton Shepard
Arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) are special types of electrical receptacles or outlets and circuit breakers designed to detect and respond to potentially dangerous electrical arcs in home branch wiring.
How do they work?
 
AFCIs function by monitoring the electrical waveform and promptly opening (interrupting) the circuit they serve if they detect changes in the wave pattern that are characteristic of a dangerous arc. They also must be capable of distinguishing safe, normal arcs, such as those created when a switch is turned on or a plug is pulled from a receptacle, from arcs that can cause fires. An AFCI can detect, recognize, and respond to very small changes in wave pattern.
What is an arc?
 
When an electric current crosses an air gap from an energized component to a grounded component, it produces a glowing plasma discharge known as an arc. For example, a bolt of lightening is a very large, powerful arc that crosses an atmospheric gap from an electrically charged cloud to the ground or another cloud. Just as lightning can cause fires, arcs produced by domestic wiring are capable of producing high levels of heat that can ignite their surroundings and lead to structure fires.
According to statistics from the National Fire Protection Agency for the year 2005, electrical fires damaged approximately 20,900 homes, killed 500 people, and cost $862 million in property damage. Although short-circuits and overloads account for many of these fires, arcs are responsible for the majority and are undetectable by traditional (non-AFCI) circuit breakers.
Where are arcs likely to form?
 
Arcs can form where wires are improperly installed or when insulation becomes damaged. In older homes, wire insulation tends to crystallize as it ages, becoming brittle and prone to cracking and chipping. Damaged insulation exposes the current-carrying wire to its surroundings, increasing the chances that an arc may occur.
Situations in which arcs may be created:

  • electrical cords damaged by vacuum cleaners or trapped beneath furniture or doors.
  • damage to wire insulation from nails or screws driven through walls.
  • appliance cords damaged by heat, natural aging, kinking, impact or over-extension.
  • spillage of liquid.
  • loose connections in outlets, switches and light fixtures.
Where are AFCIs required?
 
Locations in which AFCIs are required depend on the building codes adopted by their jurisdiction.
The 2006 International Residential Code (IRC) requires that AFCIs be installed within bedrooms in the following manner:

E3802.12 Arc-Fault Protection of Bedroom Outlets. All branch circuits that supply120-volt, single-phase, 15- and 20-amp outlets installed in bedrooms shall be protected by a combination-type or branch/feeder-type arc-fault circuit interrupter installed to provide protection of the entire branch circuit.

Exception: The location of the arc-fault circuit interrupter shall be permitted to be at other than the origination of the branch circuit, provided that:
  1. The arc-fault circuit interrupter is installed within 6 feet of the branch circuit overcurrent device as measured along the branch circuit conductors, and
  2. The circuit conductors between the branch circuit overcurrent device and the arc-fault circuit interrupter are installed in a metal raceway or a cable with metallic sheath.
The National Electrical Code (NEC) offers the following guidelines concerning AFCI placement within bedrooms:
Dwelling Units. All 120-volt, single phase, 15- and 20-ampere branch circuits supplying outlets installed in dwelling unit in family rooms, dining rooms, living rooms, parlors, libraries, dens, sun rooms, recreation rooms, closets, hallways, or similar rooms or areas shall be protected by a listed arc-fault circuit interrupter, combination-type installed to provide protection of the branch circuit.
Home inspectors should refrain from quoting exact code in their reports. A plaintiff’s attorney might suggest that code quotation means that the inspector was performing a code inspection and is therefore responsible for identifying all code violations in the home.  Some jurisdictions do not yet require their implementation in locations where they can be helpful.
What types of AFCIs are available?
AFCIs are available as circuit breakers for installation in the electrical distribution panel.

Nuisance Tripping

An AFCI might activate in situations that are not dangerous and create needless power shortages. This can be particularly annoying when an AFCI stalls power to a freezer or refrigerator, allowing its contents to spoil. There are a few procedures an electrical contractor can perform in order to reduce potential “nuisance tripping,” such as:
  • Check that the load power wire, panel neutral wire and load neutral wire are properly connected.
  • Check wiring to ensure that there are no shared neutral connections.
  • Check the junction box and fixture connections to ensure that the neutral conductor does not contact a grounded conductor.
Arc Faults vs. Ground Faults
 
It is important to distinguish AFCI devices from Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) devices. GFCIs detect ground faults, which occur when current leaks from a hot (ungrounded) conductor to a grounded object as a result of a short-circuit. This situation can be hazardous when a person unintentionally becomes the current’s path to the ground. GFCIs function by constantly monitoring the current flow between hot and neutral (grounding) conductors, and activate when they sense a difference of 5 milliamps or more. Thus, GFCIs are intended to prevent personal injury due to electric shock, while AFCIs prevent personal injury and property damage due to structure fires.
In summary, AFCIs are designed to detect small arcs of electricity before they have a chance to lead to a structure fire.
NOTE: Changes to the 2014 NEC have added new locations for AFCI’s.
Charles Schiller Professional Inspector TREC #2717

Preparing for a Home Inspection

 Preparing for a Home Inspection

 

If you are selling your house, here are some ways to make your home inspection go smoother, with fewer concerns to delay closing.

  1. Make sure the inspector has access, not only to the house, but also to the furnace, water heater and air- conditioning units (especially in closets, attics and crawlspaces).
  2. Remove items blocking access to HVAC equipment, electric service, panels, water heaters, etc.
  3. Check to see that the garage is open and that any water heater, utility panel and shutoffs and resets for ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) within are accessible.
  4. Unlock areas the inspector must access, such as attic doors or hatches, electric service panels, closets, fence gates and crawlspaces.
  5. Ensure that all utility services are on, with gas pilot lights burning.
  6. Be sure pets won’t hinder the inspection. Ideally, they should be removed from the premises or secured outside. Tell your agent about any pets at home.
  7. Replace burned-out bulbs to avoid a “light did not operate” report that may suggest an electrical problem.
  8. Remove stored items, debris and wood from the foundation. These may be cited as conditions conducive to wood-destroying insects.
  9. Trim tree limbs to 10 feet from the roof and shrubs to 1 foot from the house to allow access.
  10. Attend to broken or missing items such as doorknobs, locks and latches, windowpanes, screens and locks, and gutters, downspouts and chimney caps.

 

Checking these areas before your home inspection is an investment in selling your property, and will expedite your closing.

Charles Schiller Professional Home Inspector TREC #2717 512-639-9905

 

 

Home Safety and GFCI Protected Outlets

Home Safety and GFCI Protected Outlets

 

As a licensed professional home inspector, I test electrical outlets every day during home inspections. Ground fault circuit interrupters or GFCI is an inexpensive electrical device that can either be installed in your electrical system or built into a power cord.

These devices are used to protect you from severe electrical shocks, burns and injuries by detecting ground faults.

A ground fault is an unintentional electrical path between a power source and a grounded surface.  Ground faults most often occur when equipment is damaged or defective, such that live electrical parts are no longer adequately protected from unintended contact. If your body provides a path to the ground for this current, you could be burned, severely shocked or electrocuted.

Areas that GFCI protection should be in or around all wet areas such as:

Pools, hot tubs, and receptacles that are located:

  • Outdoors
  • Bathrooms
  • Garages
  • Kitchens and island cabinets
  • Wet bars
  • Laundry rooms/utility sinks
  • Crawl spaces/basement
  • Near pools or spas

Consider using a GFCI protected cord if you are using power equipment outdoors.

GFCI’s can be damaged by voltage surges from lightning, utility switching or simply for normal usage and there may be no outward evidence or damage. If they are not working properly, they are not protecting you from shock or electrocution.

GFCI receptacles should be tested once a month it takes no special equipment or devices to test the plugs. To test a GFCI:

  1. Push the RESET button
  2. Plug in a night –light or similar device
  3. The night –light should be ON
  4. Press the TEST button
  5. The night-light should turn OFF
  6. Push the RESET button again
  7. The night- light should turn back ON
  8. If the night-light did not turn off, the GFCI is not working properly.

Malfunctioning GFCI’s do not provide shock protection. I recommend having a licensed electrician check the GFCI and correct the problem if your GFCI is not working.

Many home injuries can be avoided each year by using and testing these devices.

Charles Schiller is a licensed professional home inspector in Texas TREC #2717 For over twenty four years and president of Gateway Inspections Inc.  512-639-9905 email: schillercharles@gmail.com  For additional inspection articles and videos go to: http://www.roundrockhomeinspector.com Follow on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/GatewayInspectionsInc

Summer Time Home Energy Saving Tip

Summer Time Energy Saving Tip

Extremely hot summer months make living conditions uncomfortable and can really warm our houses even with the air conditioners working full time. Adding ceiling fans to your rooms can help your skin feel cooler than the thermostat setting and allow you to raise the thermostat setting perhaps a couple of degrees, saving you energy and money.

Just remember to turn those fans off in unoccupied rooms. Fans cool people not rooms; you are using energy by leaving the fans on if there isn’t anyone in the room.

Keep cool this summer and keep the fans operating.

Charles Schiller is Professional Home Inspector TREC #2717 servicing Texans for over twenty four years. 512-639-9905 for additional inspection articles and videos go to: www.roundrockhomeinspector.com Follow on Facebook at:  https://www.facebook.com/GatewayInspectionsInc