PinnacleRecently while performing a home inspection in Winnetka we uncovered minor cracks in the stucco exterior that did not look to be an issue for the siding system to the eye.  The cracks on this newer built home in Winnetka most likely were caused by missing control  joints that are installed the stucco system to assure that if the rigid wall stucco system requires movement the stucco will not crack and cause costly repairs to be required.   The missing control joints on the stucco system was just the beginning of the issues on the stucco wall system that were causing cracks to develop in the finish coat of the stucco.  The stucco system also requires that all connections to the wall system are sealed to assure that water entry does not occur and cause additional cracks to develop in the future.  The stucco system has missing flashing systems that are required to be installed on the top areas of the windows and door trim to prevent wood rot on the window and door trim from occurring that can lead to water entry in the walls system of the Winnetka home inspection.  wood rot on the trim of windows and doors can allow water entry in the stucco wall system and can develop into shifting of the stucco system in the long term of the homes wall system.   The next item all home inspectors should look for is that the stucco wall system has an air gap.  An air gap is an area where there is a separation of the stucco to the ground, roofing system or any other system that can allow water to collect and cause damage to occur on the stucco system in the future.

 

As you can see the word “water” is used very commonly in this blog article because water entry in any wall system can cause issues with mold or mildew that can be very costly to repair if water has occurred.  The property that was part of the Winnetka home inspection did have issues with moisture entry and did require a further inspection methods.    Further stucco inspection methods may be required.  Permission from sellers of the home may be required because these tests are invasive type tests that can damage the siding and should not be performed on any home during a home inspection without the explicit permission of the sellers or the seller’s agent in writing.

 

If you are a home owner or a home buyer that has further questions about stucco wall systems and how we inspect them please contact us @ pinnaclpropertyinspection.com or 847-251-1186.

Thanks for stopping by-  The Thermal Home Inspector

Jim Kolke 

 

An example of a heat exchanger

An example of a heat exchanger

In the cold winter months of Chicago furnaces may run for 4- 6 months before they can even think about being shut off.  This can pose serious issues when a crack is found in a furnace heat exchanger.  This was exactly the case at the Mundelein home inspection.  Manufacturers generally recommend replacement of furnaces between the ages of 15- 25 years.  The condition of a furnace in 20-25 years depends on the care that was taken on the furnace as it aged.  If general maintenance is not performed on a regular basis (every year) then the furnace may not last 25 years.  The Rheem furnace found at the Mundelein home inspection was 26 years old and looked like it went through a war.  I’ve seen furnaces that were 5 years old that looked this way generally due to poor conditioning.  The housing on this particular furnace was in poor shape.  Rust on the furnace frame was evident throughout.  This was just the beginning.  When I opened the burner box I found that the burners, heat exchanger faceplate and the heat exchanger were all severely rusted.    This immediately made me nervous because if there is a crack in the heat exchanger there can be potential issues with carbon monoxide in the home.  Carbon monoxide in a home can cause issues that can cause dizziness, vomiting and even death.  The face plate was thoroughly inspected and no visible cracks were noted.  Cracks in a face plate on a heat exchanger can allow issues with carbon monoxide to enter the homes living area.  The furnace from the Mundelein home inspection looked to be safe to the eye.

Heat exchangers cannot be seen completely to the naked eye and require the use of a borescope. The furnace at the Mundelein home inspection would require a borescope to review the heat exchanger.  Unfortunately, out of the 5 heat exchangers there were 2 cracks found deep in the in the 2 center heat exchangers.  The cracks could not be seen from the exterior of the furnace and were only visible with a borescope.  The cracks seemed to be caused from high humidity in the basement that caused the rust to develop on the seams of the heat exchanger.  A carbon monoxide test was performed and there was no evidence of carbon monoxide issues in the home during the home inspection.  The concern is that the cracks can become larger allowing carbon monoxide in the home at a later time.  Anytime a crack is found in a heat exchanger it is recommended that a licensed heating contractor to be acquired to determine if the furnace is salvageable.  My personal opinion is the furnace is a huge safety issue and should be replaced immediately.  My clients from the Mundelein home inspection felt the same way but wanted to know why the heat exchanger rusted so badly.  There are many reasons for a heat exchanger to rust that you can look for and prevent in your home.

  • High humidity ~ Humidity in basements in known to be higher than any other area in the home because the basement is below the grade or earth.  The fact that the basement is below the earth raises the humidity and will require adding a dehumidifier in the basement to reduce the humidity to prevent rusting of the heat exchanger and the burner on the water heater.  The humidity was extremely high in the basement of the Mundelein home inspection and would recommend that a dehumidifier was added to the utility room to assist is removal of the humidity.
  • Leaking condensate lines from air conditioning a coils ~ Leaking or overfilled a coil pans or waste lines allow water to drip on the burners that may add the moisture to the heat exchanger causing premature rusting that can lead to cracks in the heat exchanger.  Any leaking piping above the burners of a furnace should be repaired immediately to assure damage does not occur to the furnace components.
  • Unlined furnace or water heater flues ~ unlined furnace and water heater flues can cause condensation roll back that may find its way back to the heat exchanger that can cause cracks in the heat exchanger.  This is a common issue that we see in over 75% of the homes we inspect.  This was the one of the reason the heat exchanger cracked on the furnace of the Mundelein home inspection.
  • Humidifiers set to high ~Humidifiers in most homes we inspect are set to high and are known to cause issues with high humidity in not only basements but the entire home.  Again, this was the one of the causes of the rusted heat exchanger on the furnace at the Mundelein home inspection.

As you can see there are things you can do as a homeowner to prevent damage to your furnace to assure a longer safer lifespan for your furnace.  Performing the check list above may prevent a damaged furnace and potentially issues with carbon monoxide in your home.

If you have any questions about furnaces you can contact us at The Thermal Home Inspector or 312-961-4228.

Thank you for stopping by and stay safe.

Jim Kolke

Pinnacle Property Inspection Services, Inc.

Example of roofing system

Example of roofing system

Recently while performing a Buffalo Grove home inspection we encountered large chunks of ice which are known as ice dams that occurs usually when the attic of a home has insufficient insulation or poor ventilation of the attic.  To get the full understanding of ice damming we have to climb on the top of the roof to physically see the size of the ice dam.   This is where nerves of steel are required.  Most listing agents do not really appreciate are need for thoroughness although there is no other way to get the full extent of the potential damage the ice dam can cause to the homes attic or walls.  We always explain to the client that we may not be able to access your roof in the winter due to the potential safety issues that may develop for the home inspector.   Luckily for the clients from the Buffalo Grove home inspection we were able to walk the roof and properly inspect the roof.

While walking the roof we found that the roofing shingles had been torn in many areas due to the shifting of the ice dam.  These areas allowed the tar paper that is installed to protect the wood decking completely exposed.  If the tar paper is compromised the wood decking can become wet allowing water entry in the attic and potentially in the home’s attic.  The roof of the Buffalo Grove home inspection will require repairs to assure that water entry does not occur in the upcoming spring.

When we entered the homes 2nd floor we noticed a faint brown mark in the ceiling directly adjacent to the exterior wall of the laundry room.  This location was thermal imaged with a Fluke Thermal imager and scanned with a Tramex moisture meter.  We just found ice damming damage that was documented for the clients of the Buffalo Grove home inspection.   We also found the same issue on the 2nd floor hall walls directly across the from the laundry room.  How to stop the ice damming from occurring?

Ice damming was occurring on this particular home from loose or not properly sealed ice shield.  The ice shield is installed under the tar paper which is only installed between 2′ – 3′ from the edges of the roof.  Due to the large amount of snow we received in the Chicago land area this winter followed by the rain caused the snow to freeze up in 4′ – 8′ ice dams.  This allows the water to melt and find its way under the shingles of the roof.  Fiberglass / asphalt roofs are shed roofs which will not hold water in these types of situations.  The water from the ice dam melted and wicked its way under the ice shield from the gutter and found its way in the walls.  This particular home is 3 years old and was built correctly.  Mother Nature just happened to deliver more snow that what can be handled for building codes in this region.

Ice damming for other homes can be caused by many ways that you can look for in your home.

  • Insufficient insulation in the attic ~ Missing or limited amounts of attic insulation will allow heat from the home to access the attic.  Warm attics in the winter cause the snow to melt during the day and freeze in the night causing ice damning to occur.  If you attic has let than 8″ of insulation then you may need to add insulation to your attic to prevent the loss of your homes heat in the attic.  If you are buying a new home the attic should have a minimum of 10″ of rolled fiberglass insulation.  (The Buffalo Grove home inspection home had 18″ of insulation!)
  • Poor or no ventilation in the attic ~ Ventilation in an attic is a major system that should be verified.  If you do not see roof vents, soffit vents, ridge vents, gable vents, attic fans then your attic may be overheated and will require vents to be added to move air through.  The attic should generally be the same temperature as the outside or exterior temperature.  Poor ventilation causes the heat to be trapped in the attic causing the snow to melt and cause ice damming.
  • Large or long soffits ~ Soffits longer than 4′ can pose a landing pad for ice to dam up potentially causing the ice damming issue to develop.  The big soffits is just something that is a design and cannot be changes unless you are up for the addition of soffit electric heating elements to be added to the roof to melt the snow and ice.  Large soffits are seen but not on a regular basis unless you are the company removing ice dams.

If you have ice damming and you have a newer home (5-10 years) there may not be a whole lot you can do to change your home because your issues just like the Buffalo Grove home inspection was just due to the multiple snow storms we had this year.  If you have an older home check your home for the items we listed above and see if you need to perform corrections in any of these areas.  If  you have any questions about this or any other issues please contact us at The Thermal Home Inspector or 312-961-4228.

Thank you for stopping by and stay safe.

Jim Kolke

Pinnacle Property Inspection Services, Inc.

I hear from real estate agents quite a bit that myself and the people that work for my company are “too picky”.  Really?  I thought that is what a professional home inspector was supposed to be.  A professional home inspector should be very detailed oriented able to document everything that he or she sees.   To me “picky” means documenting everything allowing the home buying client to go through the home inspection report and determine what is important and what is not important.  While performing a Highland Park home inspection the buying agent whom I had never met before made sure she let me know how great her home inspector was.  I really can appreciate her love for her home inspector but really did not understand why he was not there performing the Highland Park home inspection.

As you probably can guess I looked up the new realtors home inspector to find that his reviews on Yelp, Angie’s List, Google, Better Business Bureau, Redfin reviews and so on were let’s say to be the less desirable.  My clients from the Highland Park home inspection were also savvy enough to also look up the realtor revered home inspector and obviously were not impressed.  I did ask my clients why they chose my company over the referred realtor home inspection company.  This is the list of reasons that separated the 2 companies.

  1. FULL TIME COMPANY ~ The clients from the Highland Park home inspection were looking for a home inspector that worked only as a home inspector to assure that his or her skills were honed by performing home inspection every day.  Most home inspectors perform home inspections as a side job for extra cash while performing a full time job.
  2. LICENSED TRADE INSPECTORS ~ The clients from the home inspection were looking for licensed tradesmen to perform their home inspection because that meant that would know how to install, repair or replace any issue at hand and should know what issues to look for.  Pinnacle Property Inspection Services Inc. has licensed plumbers and heating contractors on staff to be able to determine major issues at a glance.
  3. REVIEWS ~ The reviews that were seen on the internet and friends that have used our services made our clients from the Highland Park home inspection comfortable to hire us to perform their home inspection.
  4. ERRORS AND OMISSION INSURANCE  ~   The fact that Pinnacle Property Inspection Services has error and omission insurance even though it is not required by the State of Illinois made our new clients comfortable that if any issues that came up would be dealt with.
  5. PROFESSIONAL EQUIPMENT ~ Thermal imagers, moisture meters, 40′ ladders, inside shoes are all little things to others but made the difference why the clients from the Highland Park home inspection hired us over the referred realtor home inspector.
  6. SAME DAY LARGE INSPECTION REPORTS ~ The 131 page home inspection report was delivered via email 2 hours after the inspection was performed so that the clients could start to go over the report and determine what issues needed to be addressed.
  7. RADON, ASBESTOS AND MOLD TESTING ~ The clients from the Highland Park home inspection wanted a radon test to be performed.  We own a small company called Pinnacle Radon Testing that was able to accommodate the home inspection time.  The home that was inspected was an older home that had vermiculite insulation that was also able to be tested for asbestos all in one visit.
  8. ROOF INSPECTIONS ~ Willing to walk the roof versus the use of binoculars.  All roofs are walked to assure that hidden issues are all documented to assure our clients do not move into a home with hidden issues.

The clients explained that they did know that are services were more expensive than the competitors but understood because this is our only business.  The clients from the Highland Park home inspection obviously understood the difference with value and price.  If you are a home buyer that is looking for a home inspector do not hesitate asking any questions that may influence your home inspection process

If you have any questions about this article please contact us at pinnaclepropertyinspection.com or 312-961-4228.

Jim Kolke

The Thermal Home Inspector

 

Portions of the home have the snow removed for proper view of the homes grade and foundation

Portions of the home have the snow removed for proper view of the homes grade and foundation

The home inspection portion of a home can be one of the most important portions of as home purchase.  Finding the right home should not be discounted in any form or fashion.  What a professional realtor does in their portion of a home purchase has real value and should not be discounted.  Unfortunately during the winter months of the Midwest some area of a home inspection may not be performed properly due to the weather.   Recently during a home inspection in La Grange Illinois we had to explain to out buyers that there are areas that may not be inspected properly.   We explain this to our clients through our email verification when booking the home inspection that certain areas of the home inspection will not be inspected fully due to weather issues (snow coverage).  These are some of the areas that may require further verification prior to closing to assure no hidden issues are uncovered after the closing of the home.

  1. ROOFS ~ Roofs of homes in the Chicago winters can be hard if not impossible to view and deliver a proper verification of the condition of all aspects of a roof system that may require an additional visit from your home inspector or a roofing contractor to assure that there are no hidden issues that may have a real cost to them.  Luckily for the La Grange home inspection clients we were able to walk the roof and broom areas of the snow away to assure that hidden issues were not under the snow.  Ask your inspector prior to your home inspection what their policy is for roof inspections so you know what to expect from his or her home inspection report.
  2. AIR CONDITIONER SYSTEMS ~ Air conditioner systems cannot be tested less than 60 degrees to assure that the compressors or any other portion of the air conditioner system does not become damaged due to working this system in cold temperatures.  As a home buyer you should expect this system not to be tested due to the frigid cold temperatures of the Chicago winters.   We recommend the air conditioner systems are certified from a HVAC contractor prior to closing or funding put in escrow until the unit is tested in the spring to assure proper working order.  The clients from the La Grange home inspection expected the unit would not be tested but were pleased that we found the system was only 2 years old which limits the potential for replacement of such a new air conditioner system.
  3. GRADING, SLOPING, SIDEWALKS AND DRIVEWAYS ~ The grade and slope of the homes dirt around the home can be hard to document to assure that the grade of the home is not back pitched potentially causing harm to the foundation of the home.  Here at Pinnacle Property Inspection Services we shovel the snow around the foundation to see if the grade and slope is correct and to see if any cracks in the foundation can be found.  Driveways and sidewalks are attempted to be shoveled to deliver a full picture of the home’s condition.  This is not required by the Illinois Standards of Practice for home inspector but can really help the home buyer to get a full picture of what the home really has to offer.  Our clients from the La Grange home inspection really appreciated the fact that we were so diligent.  Asking your home inspector if he or she will bring shovels to inspect the grade if a good qualification question when hiring a home inspector.

As you can see these areas are very important areas in your home inspection process that may deliver potentially expensive repair costs.  The La Grange home inspection clients were prepared of what to expect during a home inspection in the winter months because they asked many questions prior to booking their home inspection.  You too should be diligent to assure you get the proper home inspection you pay for.

 

If you have any questions about this topic you are more than welcome to contact us @ 312-961-4228 or pinnaclepropertyinspection.com

Thanks for stopping by and stay safe.

Jim Kolke

The Thermal Home Inspector