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

 

Rusted electrical panels can be eliminated after reading this blog

Rusted electrical panels can be eliminated after reading this blog

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.
Open areas in an electrical panel can bring in cold air.

Open areas in an electrical panel can bring in cold air.

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.

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

Thanks for stopping by and stay safe.

Jim Kolke

The Thermal Home Inspector

Jim Kolke Thermal Home Inspector

Mold in an attic can be a harmful issue if not corrected

It’s been a busy year but I’ve afforded time to start blogging about what has occurred this year while performing home inspection in Wilmette Illinois and other cities in the Chicago land area.  Many of the home inspections that I perform deliver less than favorable results to my clients.  Some of the worst issues that come up on home inspections are ~  mold in attics, cracks in foundations, high radon levels, damaged roofs that will require replacement and old furnaces and air conditioners that will require replacement.  These issues area probably some of the more expensive items that may require replacement at  a potential home inspection.

Unfortunately, while performing a home inspection in Wilmette on a foreclosure property all of these issues were named in the inspection report which caused my client to cancel the contract.  This happened to be the 2nd home inspection for my clients at a cost of $625.00 per home inspection.  I was frustrated for my clients because I know money does not grow on trees.  I discounted the service fee (which I never do) because they were first time buyers and they did not know what to look for when looking at homes.  This article will touch on some of the major items that could be found in your potential home inspection.  Before you submit an offer please look at the areas below to prevent loss of funds to perform a home inspection.

  • Mold in attics ~ Mold in attics is more common than most people may think.  If you are driving around looking at homes a step stool may worth putting in your trunk with a flashlight to look in attics to see if mold may be an issue in a home you are interested in.  Mold can become an issue in attics from bathroom fans being vented into the attic and poor ventilation.  You might be able to see if the bathrooms are vented to the attic while looking into the attic.  Mold removal can be very expensive depending on how much mold is found.  This happened to be one of the major issues at the Wilmette home inspection I performed.
  • Cracks in foundations ~ Cracks in foundations generally occur due to poor grading around the homes foundation or the lack of leaders.  If the basement is unfinished then take your flashlight and walk the perimeter of the basements foundation and see if there any cracks.  Not every home will allow the luxury of inspecting the foundation due to the basement being finished.  The home inspection I performed in Wilmette had 6 cracks in the foundation that would require epoxy injection.  Epoxy injection repairs generally cost $400.00 per crack and as you can see can add up very quickly.
  • Radon levels ~ A radon level above 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) is the EPA’s recommended level for action.  This basically means that a radon mitigation system will be needed to be installed into the homes foundation to lower the levels.  Radon mitigation systems can cost up to $3000.00 for complex systems.
  • Damaged roofs ~ before walking into your possible dream home take a look at the roof and see if the shingles seem wavy or cracked.  If this is what you see then the chances are you may need a new roof.  Roofs may cost up to $20,000.00 depending on how large the home is and should be built into your offer price for the property.
  • Old furnaces and old air conditioners may require replacement ~ Check the tags on the furnace and the air conditioner to determine the age of the units.  If the units are older than 20 years then you should plan on replacing these items while presenting your offer.  This was another issue that did make the report for the clients at the Wilmette home inspection.  Furnaces and air conditioners can cost $3000.00 and up depending on large the unit is and how many you may require.

As you can see these are real dollar issues that can “make or break or break a deal” very quickly.  Please follow what has been outlined in this article while looking at homes to prevent setting yourself up for failure at your home inspection.  If you have questions please contact me at The Thermal Home Inspector or 847-251-1186.

Thanks for stopping by and have a great day.

~Jim Kolke~