Home Inspection Issues & FAQs

5 Things About Home Inspections Every Pocono Home Buyer Should Know

You_might_want_to_read_this Here are few things you, the Pocono home buyer, should know about your home inspection. Keep in mind that this advice is intended as an overview of the process and it is not by any means a comprehensive list of everything you need to know, nor is it meant to minimize your need for representation in your real estate transaction or to negate any advice given to you by your Buyer's Agent and/or Attorney. Most of this advice assumes that the PAR (Pennsylvania Association of REALTORS(r) ) Standard Agreement of Sale has been used, including the pre-written home inspection contingency. As always, please read your contract to be certain that all of this applies. Also, if you are purchasing a foreclosure or REO property from a bank or other such entity, read the bank's Addendum carefully as there can be many variations to home inspection contingencies on these forms.

1) Time is of the Essence

There is a time limit involved in this process and you need to read your contract to see what this time limit is. Usually, inspections and any subsequent negotiations need to be completed within a couple of weeks. Check your documents to be certain about how much time you have, as ignoring the deadlines could expose you to additional risk like not being able to to cancel the sale should major defects be revealed. This is NOT a situation you want to be in.

2) It's Your Choice

You choose your inspector and accompany him/her during the inspection. Your agent will probably provide you with a few names, but the choice is ultimately yours, subject to the criteria spelled out by the Pennsylvania Home Inspection Law. Download consumer27s20guide20to20hi.pdf If someone tries to convince you to choose any particular one, be very wary and find out why. If they try to dissuade you from using one in particular, again, find out why. It is an unpleasant fact of life that some agents (not all and certainly not me) recommend and/or push inspectors who they know will sugar-coat the issues and save their 'deal'. Obviously this is not in your best interest.

3) Read the Report!

You and only you need to be satisfied as to the condition of the property, so please attend the inspection and please read the written report given to you afterwards. Do not expect your agent to tell you what to worry about because that is beyond the scope of her duty and expertise, and only you know what your comfort level and expectations are with regard to the condition of your future home. Of course, you can and should discuss the report with your agent in order to determine negotiating strategies and the next steps. And, if there is a major item that comes up during the inspection and you seem to have overlooked it or don't have a proper understanding of the implication for future resale of the property, etc, she certainly should point it out. But the rule of thumb for you to follow is, this is going to be your home and you need to be comfortable with it in all its glory, flaws (which every home has) and all.

4) Be Reasonable

The inspection is not your opportunity to take another swipe at the Seller's bottom line. More than likely, many of the items an inspector will point out are things you saw when you looked at the home and have already been used in the negotiations. Just because it is written in the inspector's report does not mean the price has to come down again, even if seeing it there written in black and white makes it seem scarier than it is.

However, if the home inspection reveals major defects, or more issues than you honestly anticipated when you first made your offer, negotiations are in order. But remember, the Seller is not required to make repairs, just as you are not obligated to buy the house if you are not satisfied with its condition (this is, of course, subject to any 'deductible' specified in the AOS if you chose Option 2 on the Inspection Contigency).

5) Requests in Writing

If you choose to negotiate repairs, make your request in writing to your agent and reference the applicable sections of the inspection report to ensure the issue is clearly and completely communicated to the other parties. Also, express your preference of the work being completed before you take possession of the property, the seller giving you a credit so you can do the repairs yourself, or money being placed in escrow so the money is there for the repairs as they are done post-closing. Be as specific as possible with your request, including specific dollar figures if possible or applicable. It may be necessary to obtain estimates from qualified contractors to ensure that these figures are accurate.

This part of the process can become quite tricky if there are substantial issues to address. Hopefully you hired a knowledgable Buyer's Agent to help you navigate through alll of the different aspects of this situation. For example, credits and escrows at closing can become issues with your lender, so you need to discuss these things thoroughly to avoid a problem later on that could jeopardize your ability to close on the property or worse. Further reading on your options in negotiating inspection issues here.

As always, this is offered as information only and none of the advice I give is to be considered legal advice. Please consult an attorney for legal issues.

For more information on home inspections, Buyer Agency or anything real estate in the Poconos, email me at info@lisasanderson.com, or call me at 888.794.5589 x103.


Haul the Deck?

This is good information for homeowners to be aware of - for your own safety and in preparation for selling your property. Decks are very common areas of concern on the home inspection reports that most buyers obtain as a condition of the purchase contract. These issues, if severe enough, can jeopardize a sale all together or seriously affect your bottom line because these problems are often perceived as huge and costly to the average buyer, prompting demands for large concessions. Addressing the issues prior to listing your home allows you the time to properly plan and evaluate the costs of correction in order to make sound decisions in the negotiation process. Even if you don't actually DO the work ahead of time, having professional advice and estimates are in your best interest. - L

From the Desk of:Deck1
Richard A Hetzel
Architect (NY) & Home Designer (PA)

Well, let’s put it this way…much construction in the Poconos older than a few years is not the best, and decks may top the list of substandard construction.  Those buildings and decks were built when there was no particular building code, and inspection quality varied considerably.  The adoption of the Pennsylvania statewide building code in 2004, and the training of building officials have brought welcome change in quality and enforcement. Let’s look at some of the common problems of older decks.

COMPARE YOUR DECK TO CURRENT CODE

Starting with the ground, we find many decks which are not built on foundations which extend below the frost line, generally required to be 3 feet 6 inches below the surface.  Such construction risks frost heave, as such decks are commonly built on concrete blocks lying on the surface.

While we’re down there, look at the bottoms of the deck posts.  They should be anchored by galvanized steel or cast aluminum post bases which keep the end of the wood post from contacting the concrete foundation.  The post bases should have an anchor bolt which extends into the concrete.

Moving up a little, the posts themselves are often 4x4 wood, but if the deck is a full story above the ground, 6x6 posts are a better choice.

Then we move up to the girders that support all the deck joists.  There is no way to suggest what these girders should be made up of, because it depends on the exact design loads they are carrying.  The problems in this area arise because many decks were just thrown up by carpenters who simply guessed at the girder requirements.  We frequently see girders with very visible sag or deflection, which may indicate that they are inadequate for the loads.

Deck2 Deck joists may or may not be undersized, and again, we would have to see the specific deck to evaluate them.  Current building codes require that the joists be attached to the girders using “hurricane clips”, inexpensive galvanized steel plates which prevent uplift of the deck in high winds. These were not required on older decks (pre-2004), but are very easy to install on an existing deck.

If your existing deck does not conform to current codes, you cannot be required to update it, unless it was recently built without a permit, when a permit was required.  However, if it has any of the deficiencies described, you may elect to improve it to the extent you feel will be safe and reasonable. Additionally, keep in mind that if you are adding to, or roofing over, or doing any other major changes to your deck, you may be required to bring the entire deck up to current code standards, including footings and foundations.

BUILDING MATERIALS MATTER

All the wood used so far in our deck should be pressure treated with preservative, or woods with natural decay resistance such as cedar or redwood.  Older deck lumber was treated primarily with Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA), but this chemical has been phased out for residential use in favor of Alkaline Copper Quat (ACQ). Fasteners used with ACQ must be hot dip galvanized or stainless steel to prevent corrosion.

The decking itself (the “floor”) can be any of several products.  Older lower-quality decks have floors of pressure-treated lumber.  Better decks have cedar floors, and exquisitely expensive decks can have floors of teak or other exotic woods.  There are also several synthetic deck floor products on the market, most made of a combination of recycled plastics and wood fibers.

Surrounding the deck is a railing, which, since 2004, is required to have no space greater than 4 inches in width.  Many older decks have simple two-rail railings which would not meet current codes.  You are generally not required to upgrade older decks to new code requirements, but you may consider it, especially if you have very small children.  Railings can be made of pressure-treated wood, or naturally decay-resistant wood, vinyl, or exotic items like glass or plastic-sheathed cable.  Railings should be 36 inches high.

The place where the deck connects to the house is another potential trouble spot.  Usually a board is fastened to the house, and the deck joists connect to the board.  Very old decks might have a small ledger strip, such as a 2x2 nailed to the board on the house, and the joists rest on the ledger strip.  Newer decks connect the joists to the board with galvanized steel joist hangers.  The board itself should be lag-screwed into the house structure, with ½-inch diameter bolts not more than 32 inches on centers.  Existing decks can easily and inexpensively be retrofitted with both lag-screws and joist hangers, if they do not exist.

Finally, there should be metal flashing with extends up behind the siding, and out over the top of the attachment board.  Many older decks do not have this flashing, but it can be added with moderate expense.

CODE COMPLIANCE = SAFETY 

There are many stories of deck collapses, some with tragic consequences, and most could have been avoided with careful inspection and upgrading. Older decks should be checked for the presence of the features described, and missing elements added if possible.  It’s easy to add most of the features, and doing so will improve the safety and longevity of your deck, and you won’t have to “haul the deck” to the garbage dump.

Here’s an excellent link to a good compilation of building code requirements for residential decks.  Building codes change every three years, and the current code may differ somewhat from the linked document, but it won’t be by much.

http://buildingcodes.jocogov.org/documents/Deck%20Book.pdf

For information on permits and building requirements in your Monroe County home, contact your municipality.

 

 


The Importance of Proper Attic & Roof Ventilation

From the Desk of:
Jeff Remas, President
REMAS Inspections, Inc.
www. Painspector.com
877-223-4462

Just about everyone has an attic. Whether you use it for storage, finished space or never even look up there, you need to be aware of potential problems that can happen due to poor attic ventilation. Poor ventilation is not just a problem with attics. It affects cathedral ceilings the same way except you have no access into your cathedral ceiling so problems are normally severe by the time there are signs inside.

Why do we need our attic and cathedral ceilings to be well ventilated?

There are actually two main reasons this is important: Temperature & humidity control. Without temperature and humidity control an attic is likely to cause moisture- and heat-related problems.

Temperature & humidity control go together and need to be controlled during warmer months to keep attics cool by using ventilation to prevent hot, moist air from warping the roof sheathing. It also stops shingles from deteriorating prematurely due to excessive heat & moisture build up. Cooler air in the attic makes a home much easier to cool, which can result in lower energy costs.

During the cooler months, temperature & moisture control through ventilation is needed to keep attics dry. It stops water from backing up under shingles, damaging insulation, and rotting the framing. It also helps prevent ice dams from forming. Ice dams pose a special problem because they prevent melted water from running off the roof. Ice dams usually cause leaks inside your home, resultingVentilation_description_2 in framing and drywall damage along with the potential to harbor mold. 

Typical attic airflow----------->

The real cause of ice damming

In our northern climate, especially Northeastern Pennsylvania and the Poconos, the potential for ice damming is great and an all too common occurrence. There is one common misconception about the cause of ice dams. Recently while at a training seminar the subject of ice dams came up and a contractor said the cause was rain gutters. This could not be farther from the truth. The real cause is a combination of poor attic ventilation, and inadequate insulation.

An attic must be very close to the outside temperature to prevent ice dams from forming. Yes, we want a very cold attic in the winter time, the colder the better. This is why a well insulated attic with a good vapor barrier and minimal air leakage is needed. When hot air escapes from inside the home is heats the framing and decking of the attic if there is not adequate ventilation to let the heat escape. This causes the snow to melt on the roof. You will notice this during winter months when you look at older homes and they lose the snow off of their roof sooner than well insulated, new homes. As snow on a roof above the attic melts, it slowly drips down to the lower edge of the roof line. The lower edge of the roof is called the eve or soffit. This area is on the outside of the home and where they hang over there is no heat therefore this portion of the roof is much colder. It is as this point the dripping, melting snow stops because it is now freezing. Any roof whether it has gutters or not has the potential for ice dam growth. If you do not maintain your gutters the ice can build up and create more of a problem for you making the ice dam largRoofice_2er. But again, gutters are not the cause of ice dams, they can, however, make them worse. 

<-----------------How ice dams occur 

Other problems that start in the attic

Ice dams are not the only problem in the winter time. The moist air that escapes gets trapped in an inadequately vented attic and becomes frost on the bottom of the roof decking. This will cause heaving of the roof, cracking of the shingles and as it melts it drips off of the nails creating dark spots on your insulation. The biggest problem is the fact that this moisture penetrates the wood decking causing it to rot, warp and promote wood eating fungus and mold growth. As the winter season gives way to warmer temperatures, the potential for mold growth intensifies. Mold in the attic soon becomes mold inside the home and the walls.

Moisture and humidity

There are a few sources that feed moisture into attics. Those sources are: a wet crawlspace, a wet basement, bathroom vents, vent less gas appliances such as propane logs or wall heaters and finally stove vents that discharge into the attic.

  • Wet basements and crawlspaces generate a lot of moisture vapor that transmits right up into the attic.Bathroomventmold_2
  • All bathroom vents should be through the roof or side wall, never terminate inside a soffit. A soffit acts an in inlet and will bring that moisture right back in, causing mold.---------->
  • Vents for cooking appliances should terminate outside.
  • If you have a recirculation vent that is on an exterior wall, I would recommend that you vent it to the exterior.
  • A good insulation vapor barrier will help ease the amount of water that transmits into the attic. A family of 4 generates an average of 2-4 gallons of water vapor per day!

Achieving adequate ventilation

Optimal attic ventilation is done by having at least 1 square foot of ventilation for every 150 square feet of attic space by using a combination of vented soffit and a ridge vent. The soffit vents need to be kept open by the use of baffles in the attic between rafters that keep the insulation from blocking the opening; this is the number one ventilation problem found in attics.

If you have a hip roof with minimal horizontal ridge then a power vent is the next best option. Many new construction roof lines are complicated creating poor attic ventilation, so discuss your options with your architect and builder.

There are many products out there to ventilate your attic. Always do your homework and research prior to making that decision. As far as ridge vents are concerned, those with an outside baffle that keep rain and wind out are far better than simple, inexpensive rolled ridge vent. I personally recommend ShingleVent®II manufactured by Air Vent. The comparison data on this product appears to be unmatched by any competitor. I recently inspected a house that was nearing one million dollars with granite counter tops and other high end amenities. The roof ventilation was poor and Ridgeventslargephoto_3they used the cheapest rolled ridge vent out there. This was a complete mismatch in my opinion.   

<------------Ridge vent sample


Ht064_3





Different methods of terminating bathroom vent------------------------->

The attic & roof need to peacefully coexist

If you are planning on replacing your roof, make sure that the roofing contractor who comes out to gives you and estimate also inspects the attic. This is the mark of a true professional. Ask them if they want to take a look in your attic. If they say “no” then you can eliminate them as a potential contractor.

It is advisable to tear off any existing layers and place down an “ice & water” barrier under the bottom edge of the roof. A second layer of shingles is acceptable in most cases, but not advisable. It can cause weight issues on your roof during snow periods and makes a good installation harder. Three layers are not acceptable and against the building code.

Preventative maintenance pays off

I would recommend that everyone take the time to inspect his/her attic just a little bit closer and if you have any questions, call a professional. Adequate attic insulation and ventilation are a very important part of maintaining your home. It helps with energy efficiency, air quality of the interior, shingle longevity and the structural stability of your roof. A little preventative maintenance can only benefit you and your home in the long term. Don’t wait until it is too late.


Preparing for the Annual Invasion

No, this article is not about tourists =)

Many of us Pocono residents live in the woods, so bugs and critters are a way of life.  Below find some common-sense advice from one of my favorite home inspectors, Jeff Remas, who happens to be quite the expert on the subject of the creepy-crawlies. As you might expect, Jeff tells us that when it comes to Carpenter Ants prevention is the best medicine. Read on....

From the Desk of:
Jeffrey A. Remas, President
REMAS Inspections, Inc.
www.PAinspector.com
1-877-223-4462

Carpenter Ants are native to Pennsylvania, are here to stay, and can be a problem for your home. It would be a good idea to know a few basic facts about this voracious insect and what you can do to control them. 

For those who like to know the class, order and family (science geeks like me) they are: Insecta – Hymenoptera - Formicidae. You may need to brush to dust off your old text books. The Carpenter Ant gets its name from hollowing out galleries in pieces of wood for nesting purposes. They excavate the wood, they do not eat it. If you look closely at the scientific name “Camponotus pennsylvanicus” you can see we are in the trenches of the carpenter ant war.

Carpenter Ants are relatively easy to identify. They are polymorphic which in aBcarpant basic sense means that they are of different sizes. We typically see the large black ant and assume they are the Carpenter Ant and 99.9% of the time you are probably right. The queens are about 1/2 – 5/8+” long and the workers are approximately 1/8 – 1/2” in length. The Carpenter Ant has three sections that make up its body. They are the head, thorax & abdomen from front to back. One of the distinguishing characteristics of the Carpenter Ant is a single node that sticks up between the thorax and abdomen. You will probably need a magnifying glass to see it. Although most Carpenter Ants are black in color, you will also find some with black & red or completely red or brown.

Has your home been invaded? 

The only external indication of infestation other than actually seeing the ants or swarmers is the appearance of small openings on the surface of the wood. Through these openings the workers expel debris with consists of sawdust like shavings and/or fragments of insulation or insect body parts including parts of Carpenter Ants. Did I mention they are cannibals? The accumulation of such debris is an indication of infestation. Unlike termites and powder post beetles whose galleries are filled with frass and excrement, the galleries of the Carpenter Ant are smooth and clean. They prefer to attack wood softened by moisture and fungus so let’s all keep our basements and crawlspaces drier. Soft, moisture-laden, unprotected wood is a prime target for the Carpenter Ant. If you find Carpenter Ants with wings inside your home, especially during the spring and early summer you can be pretty sure that they have set up a colony inside your home. This is not a good situation by any stretch of the imagination. 

What is their plan of attack in our area of the Poconos?

 Carpenter Ants set up camp or “colonies” in trees and stumps. In the early spring they are waking from a long winter’s nap and are in search of carbohydrates to get some quick energy and begin their plight to drive all Pocono residents crazy. A dry, clean home that is well maintained will not be a target for the ants. They may forage for food and when they can’t find any food or shelter to set up a “satellite colony” they will leave. In the summer they are building their colony, feeding, breeding and creating trails from the main colony to the food source. At the end of summer they are in search of protein to help them through their long winter hibernation period.

Defending your position.

There are several things you can to to protect your home and control an infestation. The first thing to do would be to reduce the moisture and humidity in the crawlspace or basement.

Next, make sure that all exterior openings and cracks are repaired and caulked, and keep a good finish on the exterior walls (ie keep up with the painting/staining) will help to keep the ants out. 

One of the biggest causes of infestation is lack of landscaping maintenance. Keep all trees and plants trimmed away from the home. This will help promote air flow, too, keeping the house drier.

And of course, keep all food and condiments in airtight containers.

All of this will reduce the chance of infestation. This is not an all-inclusive list but you will be well on your way to safeguarding your position.

Regaining the upper hand.

If your home already has signs of Carpenter Ants the best solution is a professional pest service. The market is flooded with home solutions. Just go to Lowes, Home Depot, Walmart, etc. and you will see plenty of products for you to use. If these products are not applied correctly you can make the situation worse. One of the common mistakes is for homeowners to apply a repellent to the exterior of the home as a barrier. Good idea, right? Not if you are trapping the interior infestation inside of the home.

Proper pest control of the Carpenter Ant includes the application of several different products (each for their own reason) and the identification of the colony and/or trail that they take. Professional pest control services have access to newer, safer, ecologically friendly chemicals with a long residual. Some chemicals are repellents, some are not and they all have their place. Some are rated for interior use and some for exterior only.

Remember, Carpenter Ant prevention or treatment is not a one time occurrence; it is a constant battle. 


Mind in the Gutter? Here are 5 Good Reasons Why It Should Be!

From the Desk of:
Jeff Remas, President
REMAS Inspections
West Pittston, PA
877-223-4462

Many of the homes that I inspect in the Poconos do not have gutters and I am very often asked if they are even necessary. Since there are differing opinions out there, let me tell give you my perspective.Ice_dam

The most common excuse for not installing gutters is fear of ice dams, but gutters are not to blame. Ice dams are primarily caused by faulty, inadequate or poor insulation and ventilation of attic or roof space, and often combined with poor roofing techniques. The purpose of this article, though, is to focus on why gutters are important.

A quality, professionally installed gutter system that keeps debris out of the gutter would be my first choice. They are more expensive than traditional gutters but worth their weight in gold if you do not have the time or ability to clean out your own gutters. If you don't keep them clean, it is often worse than not having them at all. Gutters can become blocked and weighted down with leaves and debris which makes them useless. The added weight of the overflowing water along with the water soaked debris pulls on the gutter hangars and damage the roof or fascia. Good gutter maintenance and cleaning is needed for them to function. The trimming of trees overhanging the roof would be a great start to decrease the amount of debris in gutters. 

Here are a few problems associated with the lack of or damaged gutters:

Basement water problems Damaged or missing gutters can dump gallons of water directly onto the ground next to the foundation of the house. This water sometimes leaks through the foundation wall and can create water problems in the basement or crawl space.

Landscape washout Many homeowners have experienced damaged landscaping caused by problems with gutters.

Undermined driveways, patios, and walkways Excess water flowing into the ground near the house can erode the dirt directly beneath driveways, patios, and walkways. As the dirt is washed away, the driveway, patio, or walkway is no longer fully supported and can settle, crack, or even collapse. If you have already experienced this type of damage, fix the gutter or downspout problem before replacing or repairing the driveway, patio, or walkway.

Damaged fascia, soffit, or outside wall Problem gutters can cause damage to a house's structural integrity by allowing water to damage the fascia, soffit, or wood framing of the house.

Wood Destroying Insects Because wood destroying insects, such as carpenter ants and termites need water to reproduce and thrive, gutters which dump excess water near the house encourage insect infestation.

The bottom line is that gutters ARE needed and deserve your attention.  Any questions?