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 @ 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.

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 or 312-961-4228.

Jim Kolke

The Thermal Home Inspector

Loose toiletRecently 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

Thanks for stopping by and stay safe.

Jim Kolke

The Thermal Home Inspector

Radon measurement has been around for 20 years, but has recently come to be one of the most used services that Pinnacle Property Inspections Services performs for their clients.  When my client from the Barrington home inspection called, he wanted to know if I could tell if the home had radon by the year it was built.  I explained that It was impossible to tell if the home had high levels of Radon gas without performing a radon measurement.  Radon gas is a derivative from Radium which comes from Uranium.  All of these materials are natural occuring and are components of the earth that can not be eliminated but reduced in homes and buildings.  Radon gas has characteristics that make it impossible to detect without testing equipment.

  • Radon gas is colorless which means that you can’t see it in the air or as dust.
  • Radon gas has no smellCompletely odorless.
  • Radon gas has no taste.
  • Radon gas is known to cause lung cancer.

Radon gas can be found in new homes, old homes, condo buildings, office buildings, warehouses.  All properties have some amount of radon gas that is moving throughout the building.  Radon measurements are the only way to tell how much radon your home will have.  In Illinois we use a continuous radon measurement for 48 hours to deliver a non-bias result.  We often suggest radon mitigation systems to be installed in homes that have radon measurement higher than 4.0   (pCi/l).  We do thousands of tests and you can check your cities averages.  My client from the Barrington home inspection had a 2.6 pCi/l reading which is acceptable.

There are many myths about which homes have radon and many homes that could reduce their homes radon gas levels by following the list below.

  • Sump pump covers and pits should be sealed.  Radon gasses are notorious from entering the home from the drain tile piping under the home that delivers water to the pit.
  • Crawls spaces that are dirt or gravel should be seal tight with a plastic material to prevent the radon gases that may or may not be present from entering the home.
  • Basement cracks in the floor should be sealed to prevent the radon gases from emulating from these cracks.
  • Gaps around the perimeter of where the foundation meets the floor of the basement slab should be sealed to prevent radon gas entry to the home.

I explained these radon reducing methods to my client from the Barrington home inspection.  I was hired to do a retest after my client performed these repairs and his radon measurement was 0.9.  This is a great radon measurement that is below the national average.  As you can see, my clients from the Barrington home inspection received an education on radon and the causes and effects.

If you have further questions about radon measurements then please contact me at ~ The Thermal Home Inspector or 312-961-4228.

Thanks for stopping by and stay safe.

Jim Kolke