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.
Thank you for stopping by and stay safe.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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Electrical breaker boxes are usually never looked at until a home inspection or repairs occur. This was definitely the case we found when we performed the home inspection in Deerfield Illinois. To perform a proper electrical breaker box inspection the cover of the electrical panel should be removed to allow for a visual inspection of all of the breakers and the condition of the electrical box. Many issues can be found in electrical breaker panels that include.
- DOUBLE TAPPED BREAKERS – This is when 2 wires from two different locations are installed on 1 breaker. Breakers are designed for only 1 wire and the addition of a 2nd wire can cause overheating of the breaker if the wires are not properly secured. The larger issue that double taps produce is failing of the breaker due to much electric passing through the breaker for 2 locations. This issue may cause failure of the breakers or issues broken wires or breakers when overheated.
- RUSTED ELECTRICAL PANELS OR BREAKERS – Rusted electrical panels can come from many places but the most common cause for rust in an electrical panel is the main conduit or pipe to the exterior meter is not sealed to the exterior and cold air is entering the electrical breaker panel. The cold air enters the panel that is potentially 50-70 degrees. Condensation occurs on the metal of the panel and precedes to rust. The repair method for this issue is to seal the piping in the panel entering from the exterior to assure the cold air does not enter the home. Sealing the electrical meter on the exterior of the wall to the building also may reduce the air or moisture enter in the homes breaker panels and walls. The electrical panel in the Deerfield home inspection had a rusted panel that was believed to have been caused from lack of sealing.
- RUSTED ELECTRICAL PANELS OR BREAKERS – Rusted electrical panels can also originate from high humidity in a basement which is to be expected. Generally the installation of a dehumidifier is recommended ion any basement to reduce the humidity in any basement.
- UNDERSIZED OR OVERSIZED WIRES TO BREAKER CONNECTION – The wrong size breakers to wire connection is also another issue we see on a regular basis that should be noted when inspecting an electrical breaker box.
- UNDOCUMENTED BREAKER PANEL – A breaker panel that is not properly tagged leaves homes owners in a dangerous disadvantage. The knowledge of all of the breakers locations should be noted on the panels to assure that safety issues do not occur in the home. The Deerfield home inspection had 3 breakers that were tagged but left 11 that were not documented leaving the electrical panel defective.
- MISSING ELECTRICAL BREAKER BOX COVER SCREWS – Movement of an electrical breaker panel cover can cause breaker to be moved to the off position or little hands to gain access to the interior of the breaker panel potentially causing a major safety issues in the home. The replacement of all of the electrical breaker panel screws is a must.
The Deerfield home inspection like most homes we inspect had issues that all can be fixed or remedied. The most important thing that should happen when inspecting your electrical breaker panel is not only finding the issues but knowing what to do to eliminate the issues at hand. My client from the Deerfield home inspection was concerned about the issues we located but was relieved that the repairs were minimal and attainable with limited cost.
If you are buying a home make sure your home inspector removes the electrical breaker cover to visually inspect the interior contents of the electrical breaker panel during your home inspection to assure no hidden issues develop after you move in.
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Recently while performing a Winnetka home inspection, we found that 1 of the 6 bathroom toilets were loose at the floor connection. Loose toilet connections are prone to allow water to flow from the wax ring connection. Loose toilet floor connections or loose closet bolts are a common issue while performing home inspections. A wax ring is installed in the area between the toilet and the floor. The toilet is secured with bolts that are called closet bolts. These bolts can become loose and cause the toilet to move like what was seen during the Winnetka home inspection. I have seen loose toilets cause thousands of dollars of water damage that sometimes cannot be seen due to homeowners not using the area below the loose toilet. Most homeowners do not go into the basement on a regular basis especially when the laundry is on the 1st floor or the 2nd floor of the home. If a loose toilet is found in the powder room bathroom on the 1st floor, there is a potential issue with water from the powder room toilet from leaking between the toilets to floor connection causing water damage below in the finished or unfinished areas of the basement.
At Pinnacle Property Inspection Services we tape the seats of the toilet to the toilet with a note explaining to the seller and the seller’s real estate agent that the toilet has movement and may leak now or in the near future. Like I explained before, loose toilets can cause costly repairs. Two days after the Winnetka home inspection, I received a phone call from the selling real estate agent that her client and herself were appalled that we tapped the toilet seat to the toilet. This blog was designed to inform buyers and sellers why it is so important to cease use of loose toilets to assure that damage does not occur in your new or existing home.
As you probably can guess, the sellers of the home did continue using the loose toilet in the powder room in the 1st floor of the Winnetka home inspection. Luckily for the buyers, we took hundreds of pictures of the home to assure quality of the home will be the same from the day of the home inspection to the day of the closing of the home. There were multiple pictures verifying the basement did not have water damage under the loose toilet in the powder room. My clients from the Winnetka home inspection closed on the home and after 2 days noticed urine smell in the basement that was noted directly below the powder room. As part of the selling agreement, the sellers agreed to fix the loose toilet from a “licensed plumber” prior to closing. The sellers caulked around the floor to toilet connection which caused the water to leak under the toilet in the basement instead of on the floor in the powder room. The concern now is mildew, mold and human excrement on the walls and ceiling of the basement may pose health issues. The cost of all of these repairs will be in the thousands which all could have been avoided if the sellers and the seller’s real estate agent were forthcoming.
Loose toilet connections in any bathroom should be repaired immediately to assure that damage does not occur like what was seen in the Winnetka home inspection. If you have any questions about this issue please contact me at 312-961-4228 or pinnaclepropertyinspection.com.
Thanks for stopping by and stay safe.