These recent intown Atlanta inspections put my understanding of building science to the test
1. Poor Drainage
A reputable builder purchased mid-block properties in an older neighborhood. Local ordinance required he dispose of roof and surface moisture on-site, not to the storm sewer. He built a comfortable, durable and efficient Earthcraft home. This property and adjacent lots contain large amounts of organic clay soil. Organic clays do not disperse water, they adsorb it. My client has a wonderful house and a permanently wet yard. The builder has a problem: he’s built himself into a wet corner.
2. Faulty Wiring
While inspecting an infill home in East Atlanta the A/C circuit breaker kicked off. When reset it kicked again. I’ve seen the tripped breaker, flickering light, crazed electronic poltergiest before: voltage drop from loose service main conductors caused a compensatory spike in amperage tripping the breaker. A bootleg tap (unapproved connection to the public power supply), proved to be the poltergiest. Make your electrician pull a permit for major improvements.
3. Roof Leaks: The Chimney Cricket and the Soft Wall
A chimney cricket is a small false roof built behind a chimney on the main roof to divert rainwater away from the chimney. While inspecting I found a cricket, new metal crown, newer shingles and new siding. All good, right? After closing the my client’s painter noted “soft” drywall at the room below the chimney. Further investigation revealed amateur wall framing repair.
4. Unsafe Heating System
Equate gas appliance operation to a fire: everything’s good as long as there’s plenty of combustion air to feed the flames and an open flue to disperse the byproducts of combustion. Finished basements rarely provide enough combustion air-especially when gas appliances are closeted. Gas appliances vented into unlined chimneys are readily blocked by fallen bricks. The solution for both is to install direct-vent appliances. They’re designed to draw combustion air from and vent exhaust to the outside.
5. Poorly Maintained
We’re all guilty of procrastination when it comes to home maintenance. Left undone deferred repairs will not only kill a sale, they often lead to expensive repairs. Always change your furnace filter-when it gets dirty. Install the 4″ pleated fabric type for best results. Clean your dryer vent inside and outside. Never vent the dryer inside or under your house. Replace plastic dryer vents with metal, they’re a fire hazard. Don’t vent dryers near your A/C unit.
6. Minor Structural Damage
Understand the redundant method of wood construction: each repetitive framing member supports and is dependent upon the others around it. One rafter or joist failure may not lead to an immediate system failure yet progressive failure will occur if the damaged structure is not repaired. Make sure your contractor understands construction-no amateurs!
7. Plumbing Problems
When galvanized piping fails plumbers replace the laterals-the horizontal sections of piping below the home. They do not replace the main line or or vertical legs (shorter sections run up through walls) unless they’ve failed. And fail they will, 20 years on. I called out compromised flow and fouled faucets in an otherwise acceptable 94 year old Virginia Highlands bungalow.Rusted-shut temperature and pressure relief valves are an all too common and potentially explosive safety issue. Manage water piping pressure with reduction valves, thermal expansion devices and water hammer arrestors. And make sure your water heater relief valve is operable. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sMDTEjJUImw
8. Window Woes
After the painter has gone verify at least one window per bedroom is operable. If there’s a fire you need to get out quick. Windowsills are by definition exposed to heat and moisture. Keep them in good repair, especially newer finger-jointed lumber. Double-pane window seals fail faster when exposed to direct sunlight. There are several lawsuits pending against manufacturers of vinyl and metal-clad wood windows, they rot. Give your window frames a squeeze.
9. Inadequate Ventilation
Build it tight but don’t forget to ventilate it right. Whole house and thermostatic exhaust fans are out-they create negative pressure within the building. Install passive roof exhaust like ridge vents and turbines. Negative pressure induced when running exhaust fans, especially in tightly built homes, should have a replacement mechanism. Here’s one solution: http://www.aircycler.com/
10. Environmental Hazards
My client, who had a history of respiratory sensitivity, decided she didn’t want to purchase a home that made her sick, no matter how nice it looked. My analysis revealed inadequate ventilation and the presence of Volatile Organic Compounds in a tightly built, beautifully appointed Brownstone.
A comprehensive, whole-house approach informed by Building Science gives me the tools I need to assess the condition of your home, old or new, big or small. Reach me at www.comprehensivehi.com