There’s a catch-all phrase in green building: Don’t Do Stupid Things. This newsletter explores how not doing stupid things begins with asking the right questions.
Low-tech hammer and nail homebuilding days are gone. Construction, along with everything else, is driven by CADs, composites and spreadsheets. New technologies foster new mistakes at digital-speed. Design and install errors are more likely to cause major defects.
Good Intentions, Bad Results
A Caveat: Inspectors should never discuss design in their reports unless it affects safety and function.
Disfunction Junction Side-entry garages require a 30ft turning radius. City lot widths averaging 50-75ft render these garages useless for cars, good for storage.
Making Mold A Monster Some mold remediation practices disperse mold throughout the house-transforming isolated, manageable problems into a systemic, catastrophic ones.
Maslow and Limitations of the Trades “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” Contractors are expert in the fields in which they are trained yet often amateur in their understanding the House as a System. Diagnosing moisture problems illustrates this limitation: I recently helped a homeowner identify the cause of excessive condensation in his basement but only after he’d paid four different contractors to pound their trade hammers on components that were not the cause of the problem.
Inspectors are often guilty of the opposite tendency: we should, but often don’t, leave specific analysis of the defects we’ve found to the experts.
Home-Made Heating Upgrade A well-meaning owner connected a return air duct to the back of his home-made fireplace housing to improve heating efficiency. Yikes!, a perfectly Stupid Thing.
Whole-House (Big Picture) Questions to Ponder
Here are a few topics I consider when writing reports:
How does the dwelling “balance out”; are defects for this style and age normal or excessive and costly?
How are the three forces of nature that destroy all buildings at all times; Ultraviolet light, Heat and Moisture, managed?
If there are structural concerns have they been adequately addressed? Should I recommend further evaluation by an engineer or other construction specialist?
Is there one component or system in need of serious improvements?
Do recent upgrades address functional and safety concerns as well as aesthetic and cosmetic ones?
How can I help my client maximize function and safety and reduce maintenance costs?
How did I miss an item during an inspection? How do I change my methods to avoid repeating the mistake?
And More Specifically…….
Is the roof drainage system properly sized and easy to maintain?
Is there a mechanism to replace and replenish air in a tightly built home, condo or high-rise?
Where are Pest and Pollutant Pathways?
Are hard and smooth ducts and drains healthier and more durable than ribbed, flimsy ones?
Are low-pressure return air pathways installed between sleeping rooms to the airhandler?
When should a homeowner upgrade electric service from the street to the house, including the electric panel?
What are the best ways to reduce energy and water bills?
What’s the best way to manage humidity?
Are conditions conducive to biological and pest contamination like bacteria in water, mold, radon, termites, roaches, rodents?
Point of sale inspections provide the buyer the opportunity to look at a home in a Comprehensive way. Because homes and their components are more integrated than in the old days the House as a System approach is required to avoid doing Stupid Things. Moisture management, energy efficiency and indoor air quality are key elements.
I may not have all the answers but I’m working hard at Asking the Right Questions.