Posts Tagged ‘Home Inspection’

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

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.

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 Inspector Does Radio Show

Charles Schiller President of Gateway Inspections Inc, a professional home inspection company licensed in Texas, is invited to talk about home inspections on the Hurdie Burke radio program.

We discuss things like issues found during home inspections, take a listen to the link below.

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Charles Schiller

Professional Inspector TREC #2717


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:  For additional inspection articles and videos go to: Follow on Facebook at:

Toilet Flapper Issues Home Inspector Round Rock Home Inspector inspects toilets to make sure they are functioning properly. Flapper valves can allow for water to leak past and cost you the home buyer money in unnecessary water usage.

So don’t delay schedule your home inspection today at: for a quote on your home inspection.

I’ve been protecting home buyers, just like you, from getting stuck with those unexpected post closing expenses. Gateway Inspections Inc Protecting home buyers for 20 years.

Charles Schiller
Professional Inspector TREC #2717
Gateway Inspections Inc

EIF System Not Sealed Home Inspection Round Rock Home Inspector inspects the exterior of homes to looks for any areas that would allow for water penetration into the wall cavity.

Don’t get stuck with those unexpected post closing expenses, schedule your home inspection today at: and get a free quote.

Charles Schiller
Professional Inspector TREC #2717
Gateway Inspections Inc