Q. Cold Over-the-Garage Bedroom

Q. Hey Mark,

I have a bedroom above an unheated garage. The bedroom is always cold in the winter (Wisconsin). The ceiling of the gargage is currently plywood (I assume some insulation above). The floor of the bedroom is always cold. What is the best way to add insulation given that this is in a garage? Can I add some foam board?

Thanks,

John

A. Hey John,

Insulation should have been installed in the floor of the bedroom over the garage when it was built. If not, then my concern would be that perhaps the bedroom was added without the benefit of proper code supervision and inspections. What many people don’t understand is that ceiling joists and trusses are designed to support a ceiling, not a floor. Therefore the engineering might be suspect. All that being said, and assuming the garage/bedroom was built to proper engineering standards, I would say that your best bet would be to add some solid insulation on the garage side. Please be aware that the “Styrofoam” type insulation, can not be left exposed. It too would need to be covered with drywall to protect it in case of a fire. I would also suggest checking with your local Better Business Bureau to see about finding a reputable and qualified contractor to evaluate the situation first hand. He should have an opinion on the state of the bedroom, know how to research previous home improvements and their permit and inspection records, and give you an idea of how best to proceed with your particular problem.

Hope that helps.

Mark

Mark Nahrgang is the owner of Kingdom Inspection Network Group – St. Louis and is a professional NACHI certified building inspector in the St. Louis metro area. Mark performs home inspections as well as commercial inspections throughout St. Louis and St. Charles County.

Q. Are Home Inspections Necessary for New Construction?

Q. Hey Mark,

I have a contract on a house that is new construction. It will be completed soon and a friend told me that I should have it inspected before we close on the house. It seems that since everything is new, there would be no reason to spend the money on an inspection? Do home inspectors really do inspections on brand new homes, and if so, what kinds of things could be a problem?
Thanks,
Louis

A. Hey Louis,

For me to tell you that you should have your new home inspected could seem self serving (after all that is my business), however my own experiences tells me it is the right thing to do.

You would think that a new home would be perfect, and that you need not be concerned about anything. You would also think that after moving in, the home warranty would protect you in regard to anything you might find later that needs to be fixed.  But the truth of the matter is, neither of those thoughts prove to be true.

Recently I inspected a newly constructed home, valued over a million dollars. Here is a real-life example of what I found as I inspected this high-end, brand new home:

  • Poorly applied shingles with exposed nails
  • Visual holes through shingles, and multiple damaged shingles.
  • Fascia falling from the front of the home.
  • Damaged siding.
  • Multiple cracks in the foundation (several with visible moisture).
  • Jacuzzi type tub, with open seals allowing the water to drain directly to the basement.
  • The sump pump draining next to the foundation (basically allowing the water to then drain back under the foundation and back into the pit for a never ending cycle of pumping.)
  • An exposed piece of rebar randomly sticking up in the back yard.
  • Many other more minor issues that I won’t list point-by-point.

And I want to remind you that this was all in just one, high-end, newly constructed home.

I’ve heard from other inspectors who have found serious hazards, such as un-finished or disconnected furnace or water heater flues, unfinished chimney flues, wood construction material too close to the flues posing a fire hazard, unconnected waste pipes draining sewage into the crawlspaces or basement.  The stories are endless.  And this doesn’t even address the possibility of the home having elevated levels of radon gas.

Bottom line for you as a new construction buyer…There is no such thing as a perfect house.  Homes are built by fallible humans. The municipal inspectors who are supposed to be checking for code, are overworked, and generally don’t spend much time looking at the 10-20 homes they are inspecting every day.  And even then, they are looking for code violations, not poor workmanship. In most cases their final inspections are performed prior to turning on the utilities, so inspections of basic electrical, plumbing, and HVAC equipment is impossible.

Your best option, even with a warranty, is to identify problems and address them before you close escrow.  You have the most power at that time.  After all, if the builder doesn’t want to fix those problems now, there are probably 100 other new homes on the market you could be just as happy with. Once you close, and you own the home, you are at the builder’s mercy as to what exactly is covered under their warranty, and what the builder considers normal wear and tear.

At a minimum, I would recommend: A whole house inspection, a termite inspection (yes termites can work very fast), and a short term radon test.

As a side note: I would also recommend that anyone who is considering purchasing a new home should hire a real estate agent to represent you in the transaction. Not hiring an agent won’t save you any money, nor will hiring one cost you any money (if you are curious how this works, ask your agent). But, it is to your advantage to have an agent who can represent you, look out for your best interests, as well as assist you in negotiations with your builder.

Mark Nahrgang is the owner of Kingdom Inspection Network Group – St. Louis and is a professional NACHI certified building inspector in the St. Louis metro area. Mark performs home inspections as well as commercial inspections throughout St. Louis and St. Charles County.

Copper and Aluminum Theft is on the Rise

In the past few months, something has been occurring with increasing frequency; I will arrive to inspect a home and in the process of the inspection discover that copper and/or aluminum thieves have been there. With the slowdown of the economy, the rising value of scrap metals, and the rise in property foreclosures, copper and aluminum theft is on the rise. I’ve encountered missing pipes and wires inside homes as well as missing A/C compressors, and torn up irrigation systems outside; each time this occurred it was on vacant property. Many times Realtors will tell me that they were there just a few days before and everything was intact. One agent actually called me on my cell phone as I was on my way to inspect a piece of property.  He arrived a little early, only to discover that the electrical service had been stolen off the side of the house. It is horrifying how quickly a house that is in good condition and “show-able” can turn into a home that needs major renovations before it can be sold.

A recent St. Louis news report highlighted the problems Collinsville is having with copper theft. One of the homes the reporter visited suffered thousands of dollars in damage. Hard to believe that less than $100 of stolen copper can amount to thousands in repairs, but it can. If pipes were stolen there may be water damage, if wiring was stolen the whole house may need to be rewired by an electrician, and so on. So, this really is a major problem for homeowners. In Collinsville, police have recommended that people who have vacant homes for sale should come by the police department and fill out a form requesting extra patrols. Perhaps homeowners all over the St. Louis area should be doing this. The fact is, this kind of theft is a problem in the whole metro area, and the “For Sale” sign in the front yard is often a hint to thieves that the house might be vacant.

Realtors may want to pass the following information on to any clients who have vacant property. Although nothing is foolproof, some of these tips may make the home a less attractive target for copper thieves:

  • Check your homeowner’s policy to make sure you are covered when your house is vacant.
  • Consider installing an alarm system; these thieves are not always “pros” and would just as soon move on to an easier target.
  • Consider putting more lighting outside your home, especially motion sensitive lighting.
  • Make sure the home is as secure as possible, locking all doors and windows; sturdy bolt locks and secure basement windows are a must.
  • Let your local police department know that the home is vacant and request extra patrols in the area.

Mark Nahrgang is the owner of Kingdom Inspection Network Group – St. Louis and is a professional NACHI certified building inspector in the St. Louis metro area. Mark performs home inspections as well as commercial inspections throughout St. Louis and St. Charles County.

What Really Matters…

Hey Readers,

I had an experience during a recent inspection that got me thinking about buyers’ expectations for their home inspection. How can you know what your home inspection will include? Every individual who is hiring a home inspector should ask their inspector what “standards” he or she follows during an inspection. For example, I am a member of the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, and I use the standards of practice from InterNACHI (http://www.nachi.org/sop.htm). Prior to the inspection, I discuss with my client where my standards might differ from those, and also note it in the report, if appropriate. This gives my client a clear picture of what he or she can expect to occur during the home inspection. Continue reading

Q. An Abandoned Oil Tank

Q. Hey Mark,
I was showing a home to a client, and a concern was raised about the abandoned oil tank in the basement. One of the client’s relatives said is was a potential explosion hazard, and it would cost thousands of dollars to have it removed. What do you think?
Cyndi

A. Hey Cyndi,
Frankly, I haven’t run into many oil tanks. So, I had to do a little research and enlist the help of a few “InterNACHI Certified Inspector” friends to help me out.

Here’s what I’ve learned…
First of all, the tank is not an explosion risk because heating oil will not explode unless it is either atomized or under pressure, so that isn’t much of a concern. Of course if there is oil in the tank, and it leaks, then the spill would be an environmental concern, and just an all around mess to clean up.

While the tank isn’t really a safety concern, the consensus is that it should be probably be removed all the same. Continue reading