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Our Newest Inspector…ED-E.

For years, really tall chimneys and hidden valleys on big roofs have been a thorn in my side.  I really do try to get to every square inch of the roof with my own two eyes, but sometimes it’s not feasible.   I am as close to Spiderman on a roof as it comes, but I am no Superman.  On more than one occasion I have climbed to the summit, only then to have to figure out how to get down.  When inspecting a house with a roof like this, I joke to everyone I am no good to them dead.  But there is a bit of truth to that.  If I fall from a three story roof…cancel Christmas. 

Say Hi ED-E

ED-E  is Phantom Vision Drone.  He boast GPS Flight Mode that makes it quite simple to use.  He has hands-free hovering, which means you can let go of the sticks, and he stays put.  This helps the pilot/videographer (that would be me) film what he needs to without concentrating on keeping the robot in the air.  With a maximum range of over 1000 feet and 30 minutes of flight time on a battery, he is more than well-equipped to check out your roof, chimney, or anything else that is just too high for a person to reach safely.  Wifi and Blu-tooth help link his HD camera to my phone, so I can see what the camera is seeing in real time.

A cool shot from high above a clients neighborhood.

A cool shot from high above a clients neighborhood.

On The Job

ED-E has only been on the job for about a month.  While I do not need his help on every home inspection, when he has been called in, he has proven himself invaluable.  Here is a short video shot during a recent inspection where the chimney was too tall to reach with a ladder. It was really windy that day, so please forgive the jerky footage.

I have been asked several times about a cost of using ED-E when looking at houses. I do not charge extra to use any tool I own.  I invest in the tech to the be the best possible inspector I can be.  For me to  look at a client and say for extra money I can use this really great tool and find more problems for you is just not fair.  There is no extra cost for using ED-E, or any other tool I carry.  We all come as a package.

Repairing a Leaking Plumbing Vent

Do you have small water stains appearing on your ceiling?  The problem is likely the flashing around your plumbing vents.

One of the most common, if not the most common problem I find with inspecting roofs, is a leaking flashing boot around the plumbing vent pipe.  When these fail, water gets in to places where it is not supposed to.

There are two varieties of boots available around these parts;  plastic and lead.  The lead ones are the best, because they hold up to the weather much better than the plastic ones.  In fact, unless a critter chews on them, they hardly ever fail before the roof needs to be replaced.  Typically the best roofing contractors will use lead boots.  Do they cost a bit more than the plastic ones?  Yes they do, and  you get what you pay for.

The plastic boots will typically last around 6-8 yrs, depending on their exposure to hot afternoon sun.  They have a rubber collar that grips the side of the pipe as you lower it down.  This creates the seal that keeps the water out.  But after years of baking the sun, the rubber becomes hard and brittle.  It cracks, and gaps form in your now less-than-water-tight seal around the pipe.  You’ve got leaks. No bueno.

I know my flashing boots are leaking, but whatever shall I do?

Damaged Vent Flashing

Here you can see the rubber that seals around the pipe has cracked and failed.

There are two possible solutions.

You can replace the whole flashing boot.  However, to install these correctly, you have to remove the shingles around the vent stack, install the new boot, and install new shingles that will not match.  It creates an unsightly patch around the vent pipe on your roof, and costs a few hundred bucks to get done.

OR, you buy this wonderful little gadget.  I picked mine up on Amazon for about $5.00 bucks.  Here’s a link to the Amazon Page.  Be sure to order the one that fits the diameter of your pipe.  It is NOT a one size fits all piece.  If your house has a PVC vent (like in the picture below), it’s more than likely 3″.

Plumbing Vent Flashing Repair

The new collar simply slips over the lip of the vent pipe. Done.

Installation is easy-peasy.

To install the new collar, simply slip it down over the pipe, and seat it against the old cracked rubber. That’s it.  You’re done.  It took me 5x as long to get my ladder out and climb up to the pipe than it did to install the thing.  Even if you aren’t comfortable walking on the roof, a handyman shouldn’t be much more than an hours labor to do this.

Vent Flashing boot

Here we are all done.

 

The new collar should last a good while.  Long enough that by the time it wears out, you’ll likely be thinking about a new roof.  If not, and you have super shingles that don’t wear out, you can always slip the old collar off and put a new one on.

The 15 Year Curse

I’m seeing a trend lately with home buyers.  Lots and lots of people are looking to buy a house in the 15 year old category.  15, give or take a few years.  But buying a house in that age range can be the kiss of death.   Because almost every big ticket item within a house has a lifespan of…you guessed it…about 15 years.  And that can be a big hit to your pocketbook.

THE ROOF

Most homes in my area are asphalt shingles. One of the biggest misconceptions in the industry is how long shingles really last before they need replacing. Shingles are rated and sold in years: 20, 25, 30, and so on. Very, very few actually last that long. Usually, shingles last 75% of their marketed lifespan. So a 20-year shingle will net you 15 years, or close to it. Most homes have 20-25 year 3-tab shingles. If you follow that 75% rule and are looking to buy a 15-year old home, you’ve got just a few short years before it will need a roof if it doesn’t need one already.  Much of a shingle’s life depends greatly on location and exposure. If the home sit in the sun all day with no shade, the shingles will dry out sooner than a home that is tucked away in the woods.

Old Damaged Roof

Here is a 16yr old roof that will need to be replaced soon.

 

 

AIR CONDITIONING

No pleasure, no rapture, no exquisite sin greater… than central air.  Remember the movie Dogma?  No?  Never mind.  We are  a culture who base our buildings’ HVAC design on heating.  The A/C is an afterthought. But ask anyone in Louisville, KY in August what’s important.  A/C will be the answer.  A central air conditioner is a piece of equipment that has an average lifespan of 15 years.  Could you get more out of it?  Sure.  But I call those blessing machines.  Every time it comes on is a blessing.   Many folks know the sting of having a unit go out before its time.  My old Goodman  died at only 9 years old in the middle of a sweltering July.  It happens.

 

FURNACE

It’s not uncommon for a gas furnace to last longer than 15 yrs.  I see lots of 15-20 year old furnaces.  However that 15 year number is considered the average lifespan.   If you are lucky enough for your A/C to last 15 years or so, you’ll be faced with the decision of replacing it by itself and leaving an old furnace, or doing a complete upgrade and getting a new furnace as well.  Most HVAC companies offer a discount if you get both new furnace and A/C  at the same time.  In my book, it only makes sense to pull the trigger on both pieces at the same time, especially if you are past that 15 year mark.Old furnace

WATER HEATER

Most water heaters never make it to the 15 year mark, but some do.   Leaving a water heater in place until it fails is never a good idea.  It is the one device that can actually cause damage to your home when it dies.  If you have a water heater older than 10-12 years, take a close look at it.  If it’s starting to rust and corrode, it’s time to replace.  If you wait until it dies or starts to leak before replacing, it could cost you twice as much…because in addition to the cost of the heater, you’ll be repairing water damage as well.

Leaking Water Heater

7yr old water heater has failed and is leaking.

 

It is important to remember that all of these numbers are averages.  I’ve seen 30 year old furnaces still working, and water heaters replaced after 6 years.  But as you search for your new home, pay attention to the age of the mechanics and the roof.   Pay attention to the sellers’ disclosure as well.  The age of all of these items should be stated there.  Sometimes sellers have these marked as “unknown,”  which usually means “It’s old, but I just don’t know how old.” It happens a few times a month during my home inspections in Louisville – potential buyers get that wide eyed look of fear when I tell them they need to plan on replacing many of these components soon.  If all of those purchases hit you at once, you could easily be looking at $20,000.00 in cost.  It’s a scary number for sure, and it’s not something you want to get caught with.