Nassau 516-942-0009 & Suffolk 631-243-6642
NYS. License Home Inspector
John Graham #16000005054
ASHI. Certified #206772
NAHI. Certified #10-9079
NYS. Termite #C1810801
Full Certified Member 2003 /2004
SAMPLE NARRATIVE TYPE PARAGRAPHS:
Defects in this house can be found reported under the following headings: FRAMING, ROOF COVERINGS, EXTERIOR FINISHES, FIREPLACES, PLUMBING FIXTURES, HEATING EQUIPMENT, ELECTRIC SERVICE, ELECTRIC DISTRIBUTION AND FRIABLE ASBESTOS.
items listed below may include minor repairs, maintenance suggestions,
recommended improvements to increase the comfort, efficiency or longevity of the
house and other points of interest to a prospective home buyer, in addition to
the condition of the major components and systems of the house.
The intent, beyond noting any observed major defects, is to be generally
informative concerning the physical and mechanical aspects of the subject
property. If any deficiency
uncovered in this report is a concern for you, we recommend that the issue be
further investigated and evaluated prior to closing.
Any deficiencies observed involving personal safety may be indicated as
minor in terms of cost to repair, but could nonetheless result in serious
No appraisal of the market value of the subject property is included in
this report. A finding of defects
or deficiencies concerning the subject property or the existence of suggested
improvements to the property within the body of this report does not necessarily
reflect any change in the market value of the property. Estimates of repair
costs included in this report, if any, are "rough" only.
Appropriate contractors are recommended if more precise estimates of cost
This report is the property of the client and may not be used by any
other party without the consent of the client.
- The visible foundation appeared to be in adequate condition with no evidence
of significant settling or lateral movement noted.
GENERAL COMMENTS - Any small width cracks in masonry foundation walls
which may be referenced in the inspection checklist that do not show evidence of
offset or other significant movement are believed to be primarily shrinkage
related due to the curing process or thermal expansion and contraction.
These are considered normal and are unlikely to result in cause for
concern. Monitoring of any cracks
Portions of the foundation walls may be covered on the interior,
preventing a full inspection of the enclosed areas.
Foundation observations are
recorded on the field checklist as follows: Basement interior view, page 9;
Crawlspace interior views, pages10 & 16; Attached Garage, page 12; Detached
Garage, page 16; Exterior views, pages 13 through 14.
ENTRY - The basement was dry at the time of inspection.
No evidence of significant water infiltration has been noted.
OBSERVATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
help reduce or prevent any future water entry, we recommend improving the grade
to ensure that the ground slopes fully away from the rear and right side of the
or more of the gutter downspouts discharge into an underground drainage system.
The effectiveness of this system is not known.
The installation of aluminum screens at the gutters will help reduce the
amount of debris entering the system. Monitoring
for any backup during heavy rains is recommended.
If this system does not
adequately handle the roof run off, extensions can be added to the downspouts to
discharge water well away from the foundation.
GENERAL COMMENTS - Regular maintenance of the roof gutters and a proper
grade around the house will help guard against future water entry.
As with all basements, water entry can occur during adverse conditions
and dehumidification may be beneficial.
Exterior conditions may change suddenly, drains may become clogged and
water may enter from locations that have previously been dry.
The adequacy of any floor drains is not determined.
Water entry observations are recorded in the field checklist as follows:
Basement, page 9; Gutters and Grading pages 13 through 16.
- Visible wall, floor, ceiling, and roof framing appeared to be in adequate
functional condition, except as follows.
OBSERVATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
family room roof rafters do not have rafter ties installed.
Rafter ties are intended to help hold the base of the rafters together to
prevent the roof from spreading. This
lack of ties probably contributes to the visible bowing of the roof.
Correction is advised.
anchor bolts, or other forms of attachment , were found to hold the sill plates
to the foundation. While no signs
of movement were found, you may wish to further investigate or install hold
access was found for the family room crawlspaces, preventing a full inspection.
It is important to keep crawlspaces dry to prevent decay.
The leaking shower and the poor grading around the family room could be
water sources. In addition, the
framing at the rear of the addition extends below the level of the concrete
walk, which creates a decay conducive condition.
We suggest creating access to periodically assess conditions.
GENERAL COMMENTS - Most framing is covered by finish materials,
preventing a direct inspection. The
condition of the covered framing must be inferred from an inspection of the
finishes, and is therefore necessarily limited.
Evidence of hidden framing deficiencies is unlikely to be apparent early
in the life of any house.
Minor sagging of floors, or cracking of ceiling or wall finishes, may be
noted in the inspection checklist. Unless
otherwise noted, these are believed to be within the range typically found in a
house of this age and style, and are believed to be the result of initial
movement as wood members dry and loads are applied, or are the result of normal
deflection of joists over span. Such
movement may be slowly ongoing, but is unlikely to result in a deficiency
requiring structural correction. Indications
of movement should always be monitored for any evidence of significant further
Framing observations are recorded in the field checklist as follows:
Attic, page 7; Basement, page 9; Crawlspace, pages 10 & 16; Attached Garage,
page 12; Detached Garage, page 16.
COVERINGS - The present primary roof covering generally appeared to be in
adequate condition, except as follows.
OBSERVATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
valleys are worn, ripped or otherwise deteriorated.
Valleys typically do not last as long as the rest of the roof and can be
relined, if desired.
active leak was found at the fireplace chimney.
Improving the flashings is advised.
this is an older roof covering, with some curling noted, no indications of
significant wear, such as advanced grit loss or cracking, were found on the roof
shingles. Therefore about five
years of additional life is expected, with repairs.
GENERAL COMMENTS - Any life expectancies for roofing materials given in
the checklist or report are rough estimates only.
Actual useful life of these components may vary.
Life expectancies are based on the assumption that normal routine
maintenance will be performed. This
maintenance includes removing debris, and minor repairs.
Typically all portions of a roof will not wear out at the same time.
In our area, south and west facing slopes, along with valleys, often need
replacement before the rest of the roof. Roof
cement (tar) flashings typically will not last for the life of the roof and
should be periodically inspected and resealed.
Many homes in our climate experience roof ice dams and resultant water
entry during periods of extreme winter weather conditions.
While we look for ceiling damage and staining, we may be unable to
determine the likelihood of future excessive ice dams in any individual home
that we inspect. If unacceptable
ice dams are experienced, reducing heat loss into the attic, and increasing
ventilation along the underside of the roof sheathing are common remedial
strategies. Also, specialized ice
and water barrier membranes are available which can be applied under shingles
Any overhanging trees noted in the checklist may reduce the life of the
roof covering through abrasion or depositing of debris and may encourage moss or
Roof covering observations are recorded in the field checklist as
follows: House & Garage, page 15; Detached Garage, page 16.
- The visible insulation appeared to be less than established modern standards.
OBSERVATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
five to seven inches of insulation was found in the attics.
Added insulation is likely to be cost effective.
walls are believed to have received blown-in cellulose or fiberglass insulation.
The extent and quality of the installation is undetermined.
of likely thermal bypass resulting in heat loss was noted.
We suggest sealing the top and/or bottom of the chimney chase way in
non-combustible material to act as a fire stop and to prevent heat loss from the
chase way or basement to the attic.
GENERAL COMMENTS - Established modern standards for attic/ceiling
insulation is roughly 10" - 12", or R-32 to R-38, depending on heat
type. This amount of insulation or
more is considered cost effective in most instances.
Any inaccessible areas are likely to be insulated to the standards of the
period of construction.
The adequacy of vapor barriers on installed insulation, if any, is
generally not determinable. Moisture
buildup in the attic areas may result. Any
such evidence of moisture buildup or damage noted during the inspection is
discussed under attic ventilation.
Wall insulation is not generally observable in the course of a general
home inspection. Any observations
may not be representative. The
quality of any installation is undetermined.
Established modern standards for wall insulation is generally R-19, or
the equivalent of 6" of fiber insulation since 1980.
Established modern standards for basement insulation is generally R-19
above grade and R-11 below grade, installed on exterior walls or the ceiling.
Insulation observations are recorded in the field checklist as follows:
Attic, page 7; Walls & Basement, page 9.
VENTILATION - While not up to modern standards, the ventilation in the
accessible attic area's) appeared to have been adequate in the past to prevent
excessive moisture buildup.
OBSERVATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
a few roof vents were found in the attics for ventilation.
However, no indications of moisture build up or ice dams were found.
To reduce heat build-up in summer, and potential ice-damming in winter,
we suggest adding more ventilation when reroofing.
GENERAL COMMENTS - Adequate ventilation is necessary in attics to prevent
damaging moisture buildup and to keep the attic as cool as possible.
This minimizes the risk of ice dams and increases the life expectancy of
Household humidity is affected by the life style of the occupants.
Condensation in the attic should be monitored in winter and additional
vents installed, if necessary. Also,
any areas of thermal bypass, which may carry excess moisture from the living
space to the attic, should be investigated and corrected.
These may include poor seals at attic access doors, plumbing and chimney
chase ways, wiring penetrations, etc. Added
insulation often increases the need for better ventilation.
Ventilation observations are recorded in the field checklist as follows:
Interior Views, page 7; Exterior Views, page 15.
AND CEILINGS - Walls and ceilings generally appeared to be in adequate
- Floor decking and coverings generally appeared to be in adequate serviceable
condition, except as follows.
OBSERVATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
floor is slightly soft at adjacent to the shower in the addition.
Preventing further water contact is advised.
GENERAL COMMENTS - Any minor looseness or cracking in the wall and
ceiling finishes, unless indicated otherwise, are believed to represent normal
shrinkage, deflection, or settlement and are unlikely to significantly worsen.
Any water stains that were observed that are not addressed in the
"Observations" section are presumed to be inactive.
A source of active or potential leakage was not determined.
We are unable to certify that leakage may not re-occur.
Conditions conducive to leakage may change due to numerous causes beyond
the ability of the inspector to discover.
Leaded paint may exist in any older home.
Well-maintained interior finishes and due diligence during any repairs or
remodeling can reduce associated hazards. Testing
is available at additional cost, if desired.
Interior surfaces observations are recorded in the field checklist as
follows: Living Space, pages 2 through 9; Attached Garage, page 12.
- The windows or glazed openings generally appeared to be in adequate
GENERAL COMMENTS - Windows are randomly tested.
We cannot reliably determine the presence of safety glass in all
locations where warranted. Safety
glass is recommended or required at storm doors, patio doors, stair landing
windows, windows less than 18" above the floor, shower doors, and windows
in shower or tub areas. Fall
protection may also be appropriate for some window locations.
The adequacy of any window dimensions or function for emergency egress
has not been determined.
All instances of fogged window glass may not have been identified during
Window observations are recorded in the field checklist as follows:
Interior Views, pages 2 through 9; Exterior Views, pages 13 through 16.
FINISHES - The exterior finishes appeared to be adequately installed and in
acceptable functional condition, except as follows.
OBSERVATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
vinyl siding is improperly installed in that the top of the siding projects out
past the window trim and/or aluminum gable trim.
This will allow water to enter behind the vinyl siding.
The original wood siding is probably still in place behind this siding.
We recommend re-wrapping the trim with aluminum bent into a "drip
cap" profile or periodic caulking to keep water on the surface of the
shrubs, or vines were observed in contact with the house.
Vegetation which touches the house can create damp insect conducive
conditions as well as abrasion.
GENERAL COMMENTS - The adequacy of any siding installation for the
prevention of water entry may be difficult to assess without intrusive methods.
We recommend monitoring of flashings at windows, doors, roof
intersections, etc., for evidence of moisture behind the siding.
Any vegetation, which touches the house, can create damp, insect
conducive conditions as well as abrasion.
Exterior finish observations are recorded in the field checklist on pages
13 through 14.
AND WOODSTOVES - While no testing was performed, solid fuel appliance
installation and functional condition appeared to be adequate, except as
OBSERVATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
were observed between the firebox and the brick veneer facing.
These gaps should be sealed to prevent hot gases from being drawn into
the wall system.
locally common 12" hearth extension was observed at the fireplace.
The nationally accepted minimum hearth extension is 16" per NFPA
211. This does not appear to have
been locally enforced in the past. However,
you may wish to further extend the hearth for greater safety.
and/or cracking of the mortar crown has been noted at the masonry chimney.
This has resulted in moisture entry into the masonry and subsequent
damage at the top courses of brick. Rebuilding
of the crown and repointing of missing or deteriorated mortar is recommended.
accessible portions of the chimney flue were visually inspected with no evidence
of deterioration noted, however, visibility was limited.
GENERAL COMMENTS - Woodstove and fireplace flues are not fully viewable
without specialized equipment. Any
comments concerning the condition of flues are derived from a limited
inspection. This report does not
include calculations of proper sizing and draft.
A full determination of the condition of any unit or flue, or of
compliance with fire and safety codes, is not within the scope of this
inspections of chimney flues are available from professional chimney services
with specialized equipment. Relining
of chimneys, if necessary, typically costs approximately $1,600 or more.
If of concern, we suggest calling in a chimney specialist prior to
closing. For guidelines to proper
construction, clearances and requirements for solid fuel appliances, refer to
NFPA 211. Almost all installations
include at least some deviations from recommended practices.
Unless the conditions are deemed to be abnormal from the standard
practices of the area, and of particular hazard, they may not be referenced in
Care should be exercised when operating any wood burning equipment and
chimneys should be cleaned and inspected regularly.
Fireplace and woodstove observations are recorded in the field checklist
on page 12. Chimneys are covered on
- The garage's) appeared to be in adequate functional condition, but with
observations as follows.
OBSERVATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
standards for fire-resistance between the garage and house are not being met.
No specially fire resistant materials have been applied to the separating
wall's) and/or ceiling.
overhead door automatic operator did not readily reverse when tested.
We recommend that this safety feature be incorporated into the door
function. Adjustment may suffice to
correct this safety function.
GENERAL COMMENTS - Modern building standards require fire-resistance
between the garage and house. This
normally includes specially designed and labeled self-closing doors in
separating walls and fire-rated sheetrock on separating walls and ceilings.
Requirements vary depending on the age and location of the house.
Therefore, a strict determination of fire-resistance adequacy is not a
part of this inspection.
Testing of overhead door safety features is limited.
We recommend periodic evaluation of overhead door function and safety
features. Present codes require
that when any professional repair is made to an overhead door or door operation,
the system must be fully upgraded to modern safety requirements.
Garage observations are recorded in the field checklist as follows:
Attached Garage, page 12; Detached Garage, page 16.
WATER, & VENT PIPING - Visible piping appeared to be generally adequately
installed and functional with minor deficiencies noted as follows.
OBSERVATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
main valve at the water meter is labeled "Do not use".
This valve should be functional in order to shut the water supply off to
the house if necessary.
supply line under the kitchen sink has been patched with putty or epoxy and some
tape has been applied to a valve under the main bathroom sink.
FIXTURES - Operated fixtures and fittings appeared to be in adequate functional
condition, except as follows.
OBSERVATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
of chronic water leakage was found at the sill at the addition shower.
Rebuilding this curb is recommended.
We unable to inspect the area under the shower for leaks due to no access
to the crawlspace.
tile is loose, or has leaked in the past, at one or more walls of the shower/tub
enclosure. This has resulted in
some water entry and damage to the substrate.
Replacement is recommended.
GENERAL COMMENTS - Plumbing fixtures are not typically tested for leakage
beyond quick normal operation. Testing
tubs and showers with standing water may reveal potential leakage not observed
during normal operation. In
particular, older tile shower pans may leak when tested with standing water.
Tests of this type may result in water damage to finished surfaces.
Any water filter, conditioner, etc. may become contaminated.
Regular replacement or other maintenance is recommended.
Determining the type of waste water disposal system is not included in
the general home inspection. Testing
or inspection of any septic systems is not included.
Some older homes presently served by municipal sewers may include
abandoned septic systems. Homeowners
should be alert to any areas of subsiding soil indicating collapsing tanks or
cesspools. Often gray water from
laundries and sinks drain into drywells, even after the rest of the house has
been connected to sewers.
Waste, water and vent piping observations are recorded in the field
checklist as follows: Supply and Waste Lines, page 10; Vent Piping, pages 7
& 15. Plumbing fixtures are
covered on pages 2 through 9.
HEATER - The domestic water heating equipment appeared to be adequately
installed and functional when operated, except as follows.
OBSERVATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
vent connector is inadequately secured for proper safety.
brass type flex connectors were found on gas water heater and the clothes dryer.
Some of these connectors are prone to deterioration and cracking.
Replacement is recommended.
age of the unit's) is believed to be approximately eight years.
GENERAL COMMENTS - The hot water temperature was not measured.
Temperatures over 125 degrees can cause scalding.
We recommend adjusting the temperature to a safe level, if necessary.
Water heaters often leak large amounts of water when they fail.
A floor drain located nearby can minimize damage.
The normal life expectancy of a water heater is from 8 - 15 years.
The longevity of any older water heater is unpredictable.
Water heater observations are recorded in the field checklist on page 10.
EQUIPMENT - The heating equipment appeared to be significantly deficient as
OBSERVATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
furnace appears to be about forty five years old, which is at the end of the
service life of most furnaces. Indications
of probable flue gas leakage was detected above the plenum with a Tiff gas
detector, indicating a defective heat exchanger.
Replacing this unit is advised.
GENERAL COMMENTS -Sealed type humidifiers, and electronic air cleaners,
if applicable, cannot be fully inspected within the scope of a general home
inspection. Covers are not removed
from humidifiers due to the risk of creating leakage.
Periodic inspection of heating equipment and all safety features is
recommended. The longevity of older
heating equipment is unpredictable, although age alone is not a good indicator
of remaining life. Older equipment
is generally less efficient. Safety
controls are not typically tested in the course of a general home inspection.
Relatively minor deficiencies may result in a recommendation for
replacement from some heating contractors.
Heat sources were located in rooms as identified on the field checklist.
However, the adequacy of the heat supply to any particular area of the house
cannot be determined during a general home inspection.
Any fossil fuel burning equipment is checked for adequate draft, if
feasible, under the conditions present during the inspection.
An exhaustive draft test, which would involve testing under a "worst
case" scenario, i.e. all doors and windows closed and all mechanical
exhaust fans operating, was not performed as part of this general home
inspection. Adequate draft is
necessary in order to ensure that combustion products, including carbon monoxide
are properly exhausted from the house.
Vent connectors and chimney flues, if applicable, were not fully
inspected since dismantling would be required.
Regular inspection is recommended to ensure against any future hazardous
blockage or other defects.
Heating equipment observations are recorded in the field checklist as
follows: Equipment and Venting, pages 11 & 15; Heat Distribution, pages 2
SERVICE EQUIPMENT - The electrical service equipment was significantly deficient
OBSERVATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
electric service has numerous defects. The
entrance cable on the exterior wall has worn wrapping.
This can result in water entry into the panel.
Inadequate over current protection was noted at most locations.
The devices are oversized for the corresponding wiring.
The location and proper sizing of the fuses or breakers may be indicated
on the inspection checklist. Properly
sized devices are recommended for safer operation of the system.
Correction of oversize devices is likely to may reveal overloaded branch
circuits. This system should be
evaluated with additional branch circuits installed as necessary.
Typically kitchens and bathrooms have inadequate circuit capacity for
modern electricity usage in a home of this age, unless upgrades have previously
been made. The service equipment is
rated at 70 Amps. 70 AMP services
are considered substandard for today's residential usage.
Overall evaluation of the present service would indicate that upgrading
DISTRIBUTION EQUIPMENT - The distribution system appeared to be generally
adequately installed and functional, except as follows.
OBSERVATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
electrical receptacles with open grounds and/or reversed polarity were revealed
by random testing as delineated in the inspection checklist.
These conditions can result in increased risk of shock hazard.
Corrections are recommended and are normally relatively easily
accomplished. We recommend testing
of all of the receptacles when repairs are made.
Most of the reversed polarity is caused by worn outlets which are no
ungrounded type receptacles were observed.
These are acceptable in older residences.
Many plug-in devices, such as lights and televisions, etc, do not require
a ground. However, we suggest
updating the receptacles at major appliances, as needed, to properly grounded
type. These might include the
refrigerator and washing machine, computers, or any other pieces of equipment
which are supplied with "three-prong" grounded type plugs.
receptacles were observed in the addition bathroom.
protected spliced wiring was noted, as indicated on the field checklist.
All electrical connections should be made within covered junction boxes
for proper safety. This condition
was found in the attic over the front porch.
cord wiring has been used in place of permanent wiring as noted in the field
checklist. We recommend that
appropriate wiring be installed. This
condition was found in the garage and at the water softener.
or more panel covers are inadequately secured for assured safety or are
uninstalled. This condition was
found at the knife switch at the furnace.
light fixtures as noted in some closets can pose a fire hazard if combustible
materials are placed in close proximity. Changing
to low heat bulbs is suggested.
GENERAL COMMENTS - While electrical deficiencies may be listed as minor
defects and are usually easily corrected, an increased risk of shock or fire
hazard is associated with these electrical issues, and correction is always
Receptacles and lighting fixtures are inspected by random operation,
typically one in each room. Defects
may exist in untested devices. Testing
of each device may be warranted. Fixtures
with light or motion sensors are not readily testable.
Circuit breakers and fuses are inspected as feasible but are not tested.
The size or condition of cartridge fuses is not determined.
Circuit breakers may fail to trip at their designated maximum loads.
Periodic manual tripping of all breakers is recommended to test their
GFCI receptacles and breakers are designed to protect the user from shock
hazard. While they may not be
required depending on age, we recommend updating any older "wet area"
receptacles to GFCI type as found in NEW construction in order to better protect
occupants from potential shock hazard. GFCI
devices should be tested monthly by operating the manual trip and reset buttons.
Any non-functioning light fixtures as noted in the checklist, unless
indicated otherwise, are presumed (but not confirmed) to be due to burned out
A qualified electrician is recommended for all corrections and for
further investigation of electrical
safety issues, as appropriate, prior to closing.
Electric service equipment observations are recorded on the field
checklist as follows: Interior Equipment, page 11; Exterior equipment, page 14.
Electric distribution equipment observations are covered as follows:
Interior, pages 2 through 9; Attached garage, 12; Exterior, pages 13 through 14;
Detached garage, page 16.
AIR CONDITIONING - The air conditioning system appeared to be adequately
installed and functional, except as follows.
OBSERVATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
readings indicate that the A.C. unit is not operating within the normal expected
range. This unit appears to be
running colder than normal, which could indicate a clogged evaporator coil or
too low a fan speed. In addition,
the air temperature in the return ducts is significantly colder that the room
air, which suggests a bypass from the supply to the returns.
Further investigation by a qualified A.C. technician is advised.
GENERAL COMMENTS - Homeowner maintenance of A.C. systems includes regular
cleaning of air handler filters. Condensers
should be kept clear of shrubs and debris, which will impede air flow.
Any indications of water leakage at the air handler should be further
investigated. Periodic professional
servicing is recommended.
Air conditioning observations are recorded in the field checklist as
follows: Interior Equipment, page 11; Exterior Equipment, page 14.
VENTILATION - The mechanical ventilation systems appeared to be adequately
installed and functional when tested, except as follows.
OBSERVATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
or more bathroom ventilators are believed to exhaust into attic space or the
eaves. This can result in excess
moisture buildup and possible damage. This
condition was found above the addition bathroom.
We recommend that the ventilator(s) exhaust directly to the exterior, per
GENERAL COMMENTS - It is generally recommended that any flexible plastic
clothes dryer exhaust tubing, if observed, be updated to the metal type for
safer operation. Dryer exhaust
tubing should be monitored for lint buildup and clogging.
All exhaust outlets should be monitored for adequate flapper operation to
ensure adequate air flow and to prevent cold air or pest entry.
Mechanical ventilation observations are recorded in the field checklist
as follows: Interior, pages 2 through 9; Exterior, page 14.
- Kitchen appliances were briefly tested for basic function where appropriate.
No significant deficiencies were found.
GENERAL COMMENTS-Appliances are briefly tested for basic function only.
Inspection is typically restricted to kitchen appliances only.
Appliance observations are recorded in the field checklist on page 3.
DETECTORS - Bedroom area smoke detectors functioned when tested.
GENERAL COMMENTS - Smoke
detectors are tested by using the test button only.
One functioning smoke detector is required for residential real estate
sales in New York State. We
recommend smoke detectors on every level and in every bedroom hallway.
New construction requirements include integrated detectors installed in
each bedroom. It is generally
recommended in the industry that smoke detectors be replaced at least every 10
Most homes now have smoke detectors in place, due in large part to a
continuing public service education campaign.
We would like to join with the American Lung Association, the New York
State Department of Health, and others to suggest that you consider the
installation of a carbon monoxide detector, if not already present.
It is impossible to continually safeguard against every condition which
can lead to the production of carbon monoxide gas.
Therefore, for the health and safety of occupants, a carbon monoxide
detector is recommended in all homes with fuel appliances, or attached garages.
CODE - No National Fuel Gas Code violations of a serious nature, likely to
trigger a utility company "red tag" or shut down of the equipment were
observed in the course of the inspection. However,
the following violations were found which are considered substandard conditions.
In our experience the local utility will not normally red tag the system
due to these defects, however you may wish to correct or further investigate
unsecured vent connector at the water heater, as noted above, is a gas code
GENERAL COMMENTS - Gas-fired equipment is capable of producing difficult
to detect, but potentially lethal quantities of carbon-monoxide, if certain
malfunctions, such as blocked chimneys or breached heat exchangers, should
occur. Adequate draft is necessary
in the exhaust systems of all fuel burning equipment in order to vent combustion
products, including carbon monoxide, out of the home.
A simple back-drafting test is performed during the inspection. However,
changing conditions, such as the use of exhaust equipment and varying weather
conditions, can adversely effect the draft.
Any indications of combustion gas spillage, such as odors near the
equipment, corrosion around the "stove pipe" connections, or draft
hood, wintertime moisture buildup on windows, or unexplained headaches and
flu-like symptoms, should be immediately investigated.
Periodic reinspection of all gas-fired equipment is recommended to ensure
that conditions conducive to carbon monoxide poisoning do not occur.
Gas code observations are recorded in the field checklist on pages 9, 10,
11, and 15.
ASBESTOS - A quantity of suspected friable asbestos containing material has been
noted in the basement.
OBSERVATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
asbestos containing duct wrap and/or tape was observed at a few duct joints.
If of concern, we suggest testing for verification and encapsulation in a
penetrating sealer or paint.
GENERAL COMMENTS - Asbestos may be contained in many materials throughout
any older home. The potential
existence of asbestos in other materials within the house is not addressed in
Professional removal or encapsulation may result in considerable expense.
Further professional advice may be warranted.
Non-professional removal may result in extensive contamination of the
workplace and increased health risk.
An EPA brochure entitled "Asbestos in the Home" is included
with this report.
Friable asbestos observations are recorded in the field checklist on page
Some of the common home components which can be further evaluated by
professionals using specialized tools and knowledge, and typically involving
disassembly or sampling include: the heating/air conditioning systems,
fireplaces and chimneys, the electrical system, asbestos, water systems, on-site
waste systems, structural systems, and environmental issues.
The final judgment concerning the seriousness of any perceived defect, or
the appropriateness of any proposed remedial action, or the advisability of
employing a specialist for further evaluation, is the responsibility of the
client. The final judgment on any
issues involving fire or building codes should be deferred to the appropriate
code officials. We recommend that
no indicated repairs be performed without providing a copy of the pertinent
portions of this report to any service personnel.
Repair personnel brought in to address deficiencies noted in the report
should be requested to further evaluate the condition of the components within
their area of expertise and to correct any deficiencies noted that are beyond
those included in the report, or to advise the client regarding these
This company assumes no liability and shall not be liable for any
mistakes, omissions, or errors in judgment, beyond the cost of the report.
Furthermore, this company is not responsible for any third party reliance
on this report.
We strongly recommend that you perform a comprehensive
"walk-through" inspection immediately prior to closing to assure
yourself that all systems and components are functioning as expected.
This is typically your last chance to verify that the condition of the
house components are as indicated in this report and that the condition meets
with your satisfaction.
Please note that this is primarily a list of items for which we are suggesting improvement or repair.
Observation: CENTRAL AIR CONDITIONING EXPLANATION - the home has an electric powered split-system central air conditioning system.
Analysis: The two prime components of the system include the outside compressor unit and the evaporator unit located in the plenum above the furnace. (Notice: The outside compressor unit has an average ten year service life with proper maintenance.) Two refrigerant lines run between the compressor and evaporator. The larger line (vapor line) should always be insulated to maintain temperature and prevent it from sweating. A condensate drain line runs from the indoor evaporator to a drainage point. This drain line may be connected to a device called a condensate pump if the installation elevation requires lifting the condensate to an outside drain. The central air conditioning system shares the same duct distribution system, blower unit & filter, as the heating furnace to deliver cool conditioned air to the habitable rooms serviced by the system.
CARE & TROUBLE SHOOTING TIPS: 1. Monitor the outside compressor unit for levelness. The compressor may not function properly if tilted more than 5 degrees. 2. Keep shrubbery or vegetation several feet away from the compressor unit for proper cooling. 3. The air coming from the outside compressor unit should be slightly warmer than the ambient air temperature. 4. The cool air coming from the registers in each room should have a 15-18 degree F. differential as compared to the air at the return register. This indicates proper function. 5. If the supply & return temperature differential is 25 degrees F. or more, then it should be checked by a technician. 6. Keep male dogs away from the compressor as urine can rot out the cooling coils. Monitor the compressor for salt spray corrosion if the property is near the ocean. 7. Be careful not to bump the compressor cooling coils when mowing the lawn. 8. Monitor the insulation on the larger refrigerant line and replace as needed. 9. Monitor the end of the condensate drain line. It should drip water indicating proper function. 10. Monitor the plenum (large supply duct) at the furnace for signs of rust or leakage. 11. Keep the evaporator coil unit within the furnace plenum clean by replacing or cleaning the furnace filter monthly. 12. Cover the outside compressor unit when shut-down for the winter, and shut-off the electrical disconnect next to the compressor. 13. Have the entire central air conditioning system inspected and serviced annually by a licensed HVAC technician.
Observation: CENTRAL AIR CONDITION SYSTEM WORKING POORLY - the home has an electric split-system central air conditioning system. As observed at time of inspection, the system was operational but performed poorly. It responded to thermostatic controls, but the temperature differential between supply and return air was inadequate.
Analysis: A properly functioning system should produce a temperature differential between supply & return air of 15-18 degrees F. Usually, this condition indicates a loss of refrigerant, postponed maintenance or an appliance nearing end of service life. The numerous connections between fittings on the refrigerant pipes can loosen or develop cracks that allow refrigerant gas to escape. Notice: Be advised that the typical service life of the compressor unit is 10-12 years with appropriate maintenance. You should verify the exact age of the central air conditioning system with the owner and ask when the system was last professionally serviced. Refrigerant levels and all components should be inspected and serviced as needed annually by a professional HVAC contractor. The filter should be cleaned weekly during the cooling season.
Recommendation: I recommend that you ask an HVAC repairman to reappraise the system prior to purchase and to provide estimates for repairs as required to restore proper temperature differentials.
Observation: DISPOSER EXPLANATION - the home has a continuous feed model garbage disposer beneath the kitchen sink that is electrically powered and discharges into the sink trap. The disposer may also have a stub-out connection near the top side where the dishwasher drain connects. A garbage disposer is a handy positive feature in any home, provided the waste disposal system is connected to a public sewer line. If a private waste disposal system is present, then a disposer is frowned upon as the solids discharged into such a system may over-burden capacity and cause back-ups. Private waste disposal systems should be larger in size if a garbage disposer is utilized. Ask the owner if the instruction manual is still available.
CARE AND USE OPERATING INSTRUCTIONS:1. Remove the sink stopper. 2. Turn on the cold water to a good steady flow & leave it on during complete disposer operation. Failure to turn the water on before turning on the disposer can result in blockages. 3. Turn the electrical switch (usually on the wall) to the on position and slowly feed food waste into the disposer while it is running. (Note: Avoid bones, fruit pits and fibrous material like corn husks.) 4. To prevent drain line blockages, allow the water to run a minimum of 15 seconds after grinding to flush all waste away. 5. Replace the sink stopper.
TROUBLE SHOOTING PROBLEMS: (Notice: Avoid personal injury.) 1. Odors - odors are usually the result of a failure to properly flush the disposer after grinding. Small bits of food remain and cause the odors. Flush the disposer with a near boiling solution of 3 to 4 cups of water mixed with 1/2 cup of mixed-in and dissolved baking soda. 2. Stains inside - normal surface discoloration only. 3. Loud noises - metal accidentally dropped inside disposer. Turn off disposer and investigate by reaching inside with tongs. 4. Motor stops - over-loaded disposer. Shut it off. Clear obstructions with tongs. (Some models use a self-service wrench to free obstructions. The wrench is placed in the center hole at the bottom of the disposer and worked back and forth. Remove the wrench. Wait 3-4 minutes for motor to cool. With the wall switch in the off position, push the small red re-set button on bottom of disposer. If still inoperative, check electrical service panel. 5. Water drains slowly - clogged drain or trap needs cleaning with a drain auger. Note: A clogged drain may cause food waste to back-up into the dishwasher.
Observation: STORED GOODS IN BASEMENT - at time of inspection, the owner's storage was extensive throughout the basement and especially along the basement walls.
Analysis: As the basement was extensively full of storage, all conditions may not be reportable and hidden defects may exist. DISCLAIMER: INSPECTORS ARE NOT REQUIRED TO MOVE STORED GOODS. THE INSPECTION IS LIMITED TO WHAT IS VISIBLE AND ACCESSIBLE AT TIME OF INSPECTION ONLY.
Recommendation: You should re-inspect the basement during a pre-passing walk through. If unreported defects arise, please call this office for further consultation or optional return visit.
Observation: POTENTIAL FOR WET BASEMENT PROBLEMS SUSPECTED. As observed from outside, there are exterior drainage problems (such as the negative grading near the foundation, faulty downspout discharge or other areas) that direct water towards the foundation or cause water to linger near the foundation.
Analysis: Be advised that the water may soak into the ground, making the basement vulnerable to water infiltration. Even though the owner did not disclose any past problems and the basement may be dry at this time, torrential rains or rapid snow melting may increase the water table near the foundation in quantities sufficient to overcome resistance to leakage. Water that sinks into the soil near the foundation builds up hydrostatic pressure which can leak through the smallest cracks in the foundation or through the joint where the foundation walls and floor meet.
Recommendation: While not a guarantee, I advise that exterior drainage control measures be employed as required to direct all surface water and roof run-off away from the home on all sides to minimize the risk of future wet basement problems. A landscape contractor or landscape architect can reappraise the lot and provide detailed recommendations & cost estimates as needed to correct the drainage. Prior to commitment, you should ask the owner to disclose any past wet basement problems.
Observation: WATER DAMAGED FLOOR - the sub-flooring beneath the bathroom floor covering exhibited signs of suspected hidden decay caused by fixture leakage.
Analysis: Decayed bathroom sub-flooring or floor frame problems are often observed near leaky toilets or showers. As the bathroom sub-floor and floor frame are not fully accessible for inspection, the true extend of needed carpentry repair is undetermined.
Recommendation: In my opinion, the floor covering should first be removed for closer inspection of the suspected areas of decay, then repairs should be done in accordance with the requirements of the building and plumbing codes. It may be necessary to remove bathroom fixtures to perform repairs. To further research the cost of repair, I advise that you first request a carpenter to reappraise the area of concern, followed by a plumber if recommended by the carpenter.
Observation: The older bathroom outlet lacks a modern ground-fault-circuit-interrupter (GFCI) protection.
Analysis: New bathrooms are now required to have a 20-amp circuit leading to a GFCI protected U-type outlet. A bathroom is considered to be a water hazard area that can pose deadly shock hazards.
Recommendation: In my opinion, while the lack of a GFCI protected outlet may be typical for the age of the home and no repairs are required unless remodeling takes place, I still recommend GFCI upgrading for the electrical safety of the occupants. Upgrading the safety of the bathroom outlet is relatively inexpensive and could very well save a life. At your option, I urge you to consult an electrician for estimates on providing GFCI shock protection for all water hazard areas not so protected.
Observation: ROTTED SILLS AT BASEMENT ENTRY - probing & sounding of the untreated wood sills supporting the bulkhead or at the basement entry revealed extensive decay.
Analysis: While this is a very common defect in a home, it does indicate that the sills have been overly exposed to moisture and that the moisture may have attracted potential wood boring insects. Notice: Repair of decayed wood sills will require the demolition of the lower bulkhead or entry components and replacement using treated lumber.
Recommendation: You should ask a carpenter can provide estimates for repairs as required to restore function. Lastly, due to the nature of the decayed sills and their proximity to the soil, I recommend that the entire property be inspected by a licensed pest control company prior to commitment.
Observation: EFFLORESCENCE - whitish colored stains are visible on the face of the chimney.
Analysis: Efflorescence usually means that water has entered the chimney at the top and filtered downward through the brick. During the moisture migration, minerals within the brick dissolve and are left on the surface of the brick as the moisture evaporates. The stains can be removed with a diluted solution of muriatic acid per manufacturers safety instructions. I suspect that the top mortar cap needs repair to deflect water away from the chimney opening. The mortar cap is a sacrificial layer of cement at the top of the chimney that is vulnerable to cracking and deterioration due to exposure to the elements. Periodic mortar cap restoration is necessary. An optional metal rain cap may also protect the chimney from water intrusion.
Recommendation: I advise that a mason be asked to perform an on-roof inspection to evaluate the top of the chimney and to perform any repairs needed.
Observation: The home has a crawl space present.
Analysis: CRAWL SPACE GENERAL EXPLANATION - a crawl space is frequently constructed in place of a full basement to reduce the over-all cost of construction. There is nothing wrong with a crawl space provided it's special characteristics are recognized and responsibly monitored. All areas within the crawl space may not have been inspected due to obstructions, low clearance or hazards to the inspector. Firstly, the ground under the crawl space should be covered with a plastic vapor barrier to retard the migration of moisture from the ground into the space. Next, the crawl space should have at least two screened openings to allow moisture to ventilate (1 sq. ft. of vent area for each 1500 sq. ft. of crawl space). Without proper vapor retarders and ventilation, humidity may promote mold, mildew, fungus, decay, insect infestation and may be a respiratory irritant to the occupants within the living spaces above. The crawl space should have an entry hatch measuring a minimum 18 inches by 24 inches to allow entry for annual inspection. Untreated wood should not be in direct soil contact - a minimum 18 inch clearance from soil to joists is advised and minimum 12 inch clearance between the soil and untreated girders. The use of treated lumber within a crawl space is preferable to untreated material. If proper clearances do not exist, you may desire to do limited excavation to improve clearances and to install floor hatches for further investigation. The crawl space should not contain debris or organic material which may promote pest activity. Lastly, crawl spaces are usually unheated. Therefore, winterization of the crawl space is advised as follows: The floor frame should be insulated with a minimum of 3 1/2 inches of batt type fiberglass insulation with a vapor retarder facing the conditioned space above. Furthermore, water pipes and heating pipes and ducts should be insulated to prevent freeze-ups and heat loss.
Observation: MISSING LAG BOLTS - the header joist under the deck is missing lag bolts.
Analysis: WARNING - this is UNSAFE as the raised deck could pull away from the home and collapse if the nails used to support the ledger joist should pull loose or fail. Lag bolts are needed to secure the deck to the house frame.
Recommendation: For safety, I advise that the required lag bolts be added beneath the deck at minimum four foot intervals as an urgent and inexpensive safety repair.
Observation: MISSING AIR GAP - an air gap is required in the rubber or copper drain hose running from the dishwasher to the stub out connection on the drain pipe under the kitchen sink.
Analysis: The purpose of the air gap is to prevent back siphonage if the sink drain becomes clogged.
Recommendation: If there is enough slack in the drain hose, an air gap can easily be created by elevating the hose beneath the countertop creating an upside down "U". A simple pipe clamp can be installed to hold the air gap at an elevation higher than the drain connection it empties into.
Observation: FAILED SEALS AT EXTERIOR DOOR - inspection of an insulated glass exterior door revealed that the thermal glass door is cloudy in appearance.
Analysis: This is a common defect known as failed insulating seals. Moisture has entered between the panes of glass and condensed causing the cloudy appearance. While the door will still open and close, the glass will remain cloudy and streaked with moisture between the panes of glass. Be advised that correction of this problem requires glass replacement.
Recommendation: I advise that you hire a glass company to provide estimates for the replacement of all glass panels with failed seals.
Observation: LOW OR NEGATIVE DRAINAGE AREAS - Low or negative drainage areas were observed along the perimeter of the foundation.
Analysis: Be advised that such low drainage areas will retain both surface water and roof run-off in concentrations that may soak into the ground and infiltrate the basement or crawl space causing dampness, seepage problems and possible water damage. Negative soil grade problems near the foundation should NOT be taken lightly as they can cause great disappointment with home ownership and damage may NOT be covered by home owner's insurance.
Recommendation: Landscaping corrections are needed to establish a positive drainage grade for the dispersal of water away from the home by gravity flow. Such grading corrections can be done by a do-it-yourselfer or you may elect to ask a landscaping contractor to further evaluate the lot and provide estimates for drainage improvements. I recommend that the ground immediately adjacent to the foundation be sloped away from the building at a slope not less than 1:12 for a distance of not less than eight (8) feet.
Observation: UNPLUGGED OPENINGS IN PANEL COVER - there are visible unplugged openings in the electrical service panel.
Analysis: WARNING - this condition is UNSAFE as the user is exposed to alive parts. Apparently the fuses or breakers or wires entering the service panel were altered without closing up the old holes in the metal box. While important in terms of safety, repairs are very inexpensive as plastic blanks are available to fill the unused holes.
Recommendation: Consult an electrician for simple repair.
Observation: ALUMINUM SERVICE WIRE PRESENT WITHOUT ANTI-OXIDANT - the main panel cover was removed revealing that the electrical service wires to the home are aluminum and that the ends of the wires are not coated with an anti-oxidant paste.
Analysis: While a copper service is preferable, aluminum is perfectly acceptable for service needs provided the wires are protected from oxidation. Oxidation can cause heat.
Recommendation: While the requirement to coat the ends of the aluminum service wires is relatively new and any omission may be pre-existing, I still recommend that you hire an electrician to perform this simple safety upgrade at minimal expense.
Observation: FLAME ROLL OUT ON IGNITION - as the burner of the forced hot air furnace cycled on, flames rolled out of the fire chamber. The flames were scorching the face of the furnace outside of and above the fire chamber.
Analysis: WARNING - flame roll out is a FIRE HAZARD. It may be caused by a number of problems such as chimney blockage or burner mis-adjustment.
Recommendation: I recommend that a licensed HVAC contractor reappraise the furnace to determine the cause of the flame roll out and to perform URGENT safety repairs as required to restore proper function.
Observation: BOILER NEAR END OF LIFE - very old boiler present.
Analysis: In my opinion, while the old heating boiler is functional, it is also near the end of it's design life. Continued parts replacement and possible breakdown should be expected during the remaining life of the old system.
Recommendation: You should have the heating system cleaned & tuned up as soon as you move into the home and annually thereafter. In addition to the above maintenance, I advise that each component and control be reappraised by a HVAC technician to further predict needed replacement of old parts before they become problematic. Lastly, I highly recommend that you seek estimates for boiler or furnace replacement as available new technology is much more fuel efficient, requires less maintenance and offers greater comfort. A new heating system will also increase the market value of the home. I urge you to complete this research prior to commitment so that you have all the facts necessary for intelligent decision making.
Observation: ROOFING CEMENT ON FLASHING AT CHIMNEY - as inspected, black colored roofing cement or roofing tar has been applied over the metal flashing at the roof / chimney intersection.
Analysis: Due to the roofing cement, the flashing beneath was NOT accessible for evaluation - true flashing condition at the chimney is undetermined. Be advised that a properly flashed roof penetration should not need to be coated with roofing cement. The tar may have been installed as preventative maintenance or to seal a flashing leak. While the area may not be leaking at this time, it does appear potentially problematic.
Recommendation: I advise that the area be monitored for leakage and that the tar be re-applied every year as it will degrade from exposure and unequal coefficients of expansion between dissimilar materials. If signs of leakage are discovered, then a roofer should be consulted to reappraise and repair the flashing around the chimney.
Observation: BRASS WATER PIPES - the older home still has areas of the original (non-ferrous or not magnetic) brass water piping as viewed in the unfinished areas.
Analysis: This older piping may be yellow brass (20-40 year design life) or longer lasting red brass (50-60 year design life). The old piping may still be present inside walls leading to bathroom or kitchen plumbing fixtures and can easily be recognized by threaded fittings. While the piping has an original long life expectancy, it is now a prime candidate for age replacement as it may be problematic. The brass piping tends to develop whitish pitted signs of corrosion on the underside caused by leaching zinc. Notice: The old brass water pipes are very brittle and may leak or cause interior damage - they should be closely monitored.
Recommendation: While the old water pipes may be serviceable, I suggest that you ask a plumber to provide estimates for the replacement of the old pipes with modern copper.
Observation: WEEP HOLES MISSING - where accessible, the retaining wall has no visible weep holes.
Analysis: Weep holes are holes near the base of the retaining wall that allow moisture to escape from behind the wall relieving lateral pressure. Missing or blocked drainage may cause frost heave action which may cause the retaining wall to eventually tilt or crack.
Recommendation: The installation of weep holes is advised.
Observation: RE-ROOFING IS RECOMMENDED: More than 1/3 of the roofing covering exhibits aged or deteriorated conditions.
Analysis: Due to the extent of deterioration, total re-roofing is recommended. Repairs do not appear economically justifiable.
Recommendation: I advise that you ask a licensed & insured roofer to reappraise the roof and to provide estimates for complete replacement prior to commitment. In my opinion, stripping a roof (as opposed to re-roofing over existing shingles) provides an opportunity for inspection & repair of the roof decking & attic ventilation system, plus stripping provides a better quality new roof. Be advised that multiple roofing layers place excessive loads on the roof structure and are less resistant to blow-off problems. Re-roofing over the existing roof covering may telegraph any imperfections in the old roof materials through to the new roof.
I recommend that the following specifications be discussed with a roofing & masonry contractor:
Strip off all existing roof covering materials.
Inspect all roof decking, trim and soffits for decay.
Replace any decayed or deteriorated roof decking, trim or soffit.
Install metal drip edge flashing at eaves & rakes, all sides.
Install ice & water shield membranes at eaves & valleys.
Install step flashing and ice & water shield at all junctions of roof and higher elevation walls.
Install crickets where needed.
Install felt tar paper on all roofing areas.
Repair chimney step & counter flashings as needed.
Patch flashings at all roof penetration points as needed.
Patch chimney cap & re-point mortar joints as needed.
Line chimney if no flue liner is present.
Install ridge & soffit vents as needed.
Install new roof coverings per manufacturer's instructions.
Observation: GARAGE DOOR OPENER UNSAFE - the overhead door opener did NOT auto-reverse when tested at time of inspection.
Analysis: WARNING - this condition is UNSAFE as it could cause personal injury or death. Urgent safety repair is needed to restore function.
EXPLANATION: Overhead garage doors can be conveniently opened through the use of an electric door opener. Depending on the model of the appliance, it may have buttons mounted on the wall for operation, or buttons plus remote control devices for use from your automobile. When properly installed, the appliance should be securely mounted, it should be powered from a local outlet, it should have a hand release lever, the buttons should be mounted on a wall approximately five feet from the floor out of reach of small children, and most importantly; the door opener should have an auto-reverse to prevent personal injury or property damage.
The Consumer Products Safety Commission has identified overhead door openers as potentially deadly appliances as children have been fatally injured. The CPSC recommends that every door opener auto-reversing mechanism be tested to insure safe operation. To test the opener, place a piece of 2 x 4 or a basketball on the floor at the center point where the door closes. The door should automatically reverse when meeting resistance upon closing. If the device fails to reverse, then adjustment screws provided by the manufacturer require fine tuning and the opener re-tested. If the door opener is of an older style and has no adjustment screws, then I recommend replacement for safety. Note: Newer more advanced models also have an electric beam near the floor that instructs the door to auto-reverse when the beam is broken.
ONE PIPE STEAM HEATING SYSTEM GENERAL EXPLANATION: The central heating system in this home consist of a steam system (1905-1945 = steam era). Many older homes still utilize a steam heating system, but generally speaking, steam systems are no longer being installed in new homes due the advances in modern technology. The presence of a steam boiler should not dissuade you from purchasing the home, but you should fully understand it's function, it's disadvantages and your maintenance responsibilities.
The following is a brief discussion of steam system basic operation and maintenance, explained in simple layman's terms. The discussion is not inclusive of every valve, gage, configuration or control. A steam boiler can be constructed of steel or cast iron and may also be classified as a wet or dry boiler. For your reference, a steel boiler has a 15-20 year design life and a cast iron boiler has a 30-40 year design life. A wet boiler is more desirable as the return piping enters the boiler at a low elevation and the firebox is surrounded by a heat exchanger containing water for more rapid heat transfer. Conversely, a dry boiler is not really dry, but the return piping enters at a higher elevation and there is no water below the firebox.
Think of the boiler as a tea kettle resting on a gas or oil burner. The boiler is only 1/2 full of water. When the thermostat calls for heat, the burner ignites the fuel within a fire chamber and the heat of combustion is transferred to the steel or cast iron heat exchanger. One of the disadvantages of a steam system is the slow response time to heat when desired. The water inside the kettle or heat exchanger takes a long time to heat up to steam temperature and sufficient steam under pressure to fill the entire system.
Once adequate steam is available it rises upward through large diameter header and riser pipes toward the radiators. The large pipes should always have a slight uphill pitch and should always be insulated to maintain steam temperature and pressure. The large steam pipes also work as return pipes for condensate to flow back to the boiler by gravity. Large steam pipes taking up head room in a basement are another disadvantage of a steam system.
While traveling forward, the steam forces air from the piping and radiators. The air is forced out via air vent valves located high at the far end of each radiator. When properly functioning, the air vent valves should produce a hissing sound which should suddenly stop when steam reaches the valve. If the air vent valve discharges steam, then the valve needs maintenance cleaning or replacement.
Most air vent valves have a small numbered dial at the base of the valve for regulating the rate of air displacement and thus balancing the steam system. Ideally, each radiator should start getting hot at about the same time if the system is balanced properly. Some experimentation is required to balance a steam system, but generally the radiator furthest from the boiler should have it's air vent fully open while others closer to the boiler should be correspondingly reduced for slower air movement. In other words, the faster the air escapes, the faster the radiator gets hot. If a radiator fails to heat up, then the air vent may be clogged or frozen closed and requires replacement.
A control valve is provided at each radiator and should always be kept fully open for heat or completely closed if no heat is desired in a room. The control valve should never be throttled down. Any bubbling at the valve indicates failing packing in need of maintenance replacement. New thermostatically controlled radiator valves are now available to simulate zoned heating with a steam system. You may elect to discuss upgrading to these new type of valves with your heating contractor.
Steam radiators are constructed of cast iron and can be configured as low as baseboard heaters, to low or high radiators. Large unsightly radiators that restrict furniture placement and produce hot and cold spots in a room are another disadvantage of a steam system. Also, a steam radiator can easily scald a child in the child accidentally contacts a hot radiator.
Each loop in the cast iron radiator is called a foot and is used to properly size the radiator to heat the room it is installed in. A properly installed radiator will be placed along an outside wall and will have a slight downhill pitch toward the boiler for condensate flow. Radiators are best left with the manufacturer's finish only and should not be painted. Paint only reduces the rate of heat transfer to the room. (Note: Radiators have great re-sale value and should be salvaged during any remodeling.)
Once the thermostat has been satisfied, the burner stops and the system begins to cool down. The steam within the radiators changes state from steam to water called condensate. The condensate flows down-hill from the radiators, through the same riser and header pipes to the boiler for re-use. Theoretically, no water should ever be lost, but practically speaking, some steam escapes from valves and vents requiring you to add more water to the kettle when needed.
On the side of the boiler, there is a glass tube called a sight glass which is used to tell the water level in the boiler. The water level should always be kept at the 1/2 full level to prevent the boiler from burning out and to provide room within the boiler for a head of steam. The need for the owner to check and add water weekly is another disadvantage of an old steam system. (Note: This maintenance responsibility can be avoided by the installation of an automatic fill-valve.)
To add water to the boiler, locate the lowest pipe connecting to the rear of the boiler and follow it upwards until a valve is encountered. This is the fill valve. Whenever it is necessary to add water to the boiler, the fill valve should be opened slightly introducing a slow amount of fresh cold water to the boiler. The fill valve should be closed as soon as the sight glass measures 1/2 full. (Note: Failure to close the fill valve will flood the entire steam system and may cause leakage and interior water damage.)
Another owner responsibility is maintenance of the low-water cutoff valve. It is usually located externally on the side of the boiler as a large bulbous valve with a valve handle and an open ended drain pipe. The low-water cutoff valve is a control that shuts down the burner to prevent damage to the boiler should the water level drop below the design level. Within the valve is a float just similar to that within a toilet tank. As the steam condenses and flows back to the boiler for re-heating, it picks up sludge from the radiators and piping and carries it to the boiler. Some of the sludge settles inside the low-water cutoff valve and may impede float operation if not removed weekly. Weekly, the owner should place an empty bucket beneath the drain of the low-water cutoff valve and open the valve. Dirty, sludge filled water should run out of the drain pipe. Let the water drain until it becomes cleaner in appearance. Discard the dirty water. Next, open the fill valve and re-fill the boiler until the sight glass measures 1/2 full. (Note: Flushing the low-water cutoff valve when the burner is operating may cause the burner to shut-down. This is normal and is a good safety test. The burner should re-start when proper water level is restored.) Some low-water cutoff valves are mounted internally in the boiler and require no owner maintenance, but also can not be conveniently tested.
Disadvantages of steam: Large piping. Occasional noises. Slow response time. Unsteady heat. Hot and cold spots. Scalding dangers. Difficulty in zoning building. Large radiators. Furniture placement restricted. Required owner maintenance.
OWNER MAINTENANCE RESPONSIBILITIES: Annual inspection, cleaning & tune-up by professional technician. Check air vent valves for proper opening & closing. Check radiator valves for leaks. Keep all radiators & piping pitched toward boiler. Maintain insulation of all piping. Check sight glass for 1/2 full water level. Add make-up water using fill valve as needed. Drain low-water cutoff valve weekly. Teach children to stay away from hot radiators. Monitor entire system for leaks.
Observation: HAIRLINE CRACKS NOTED - inspection of accessible portions of the foundation revealed thin hairline vertical shrinkage type cracks.
Analysis: In my opinion, such cracks are common with concrete or block foundations and generally pose no major problem in terms of reduction in load bearing capacity as the foundation carries the load in a vertical direction. Shrinkage cracks usually occur shortly after construction of within the first 1-2 years of the home. The shrinkage cracks are caused by the introduction of excessive water during the mixing or pouring of the concrete.
Recommendation: Shrinkage cracks should be sealed to prevent water infiltration, radon gas entry and possible wood boring insect access. My recommendations for repair include sealing the cracks from the outside and the inside. This will require a certain degree of excavation, but will insure that both sides of the crack are sealed. Professional epoxy injection service companies can be hired to repair foundation cracks with a long lasting sealant, or you can seal the cracks yourself with a hydraulic cement product or suitable caulk. Once repaired, the cracks should be monitored for unpredictable future movement.
Observation: DISCHARGE PIPE MISSING - the temperature / pressure relief valve at the hot water heater is missing a required 3/4 inch dia. discharge pipe extending to within approximately 12 inches of the floor.
Analysis: WARNING - this is an UNSAFE condition as super-heated hot water discharged from the valve could cause personal injury to anyone near the tank.
Recommendation: While repairs are simple, the required discharge pipe should be installed as a safety priority.
Observation: DRAFTY OLD WINDOWS - UPDATE ADVISED - a representative sample (one / room) of windows were examined. The windows are aged, loose and lack modern weather-stripping and tight fit at the meeting rails and stops.
Analysis: In my opinion, the old windows are nearing end of serviceable life. Air leakage or drafts are probable due to the age of the windows and their condition. Options include performing all maintenance repairs and weather-stripping updating as required to reduce air leakage. Or, consider updating by adding insulated replacement units. The energy efficiency of older windows can be updated by adding inexpensive vinyl V-seal above and below the sash and at the meeting rails. Old sash cord & pulley mechanisms can be updated by installing replacement friction fit balances. In other words, old windows can be made more energy efficient, but you still are left with old windows that lack modern design features. Optional updating to modern insulated replacement windows is not required, but will greatly improve the energy efficiency of the home. New windows will improve your comfort, reduce maintenance and they will increase the market value of the home. Imagine tilting the windows in for easy cleaning and no old storm widows to deal with. Such updating will represent a major expense, but pay back will be partly offset by fuel savings.
Recommendation: I advise that you consult with several window replacement contractors and seek estimates for the installation of thermal, tilt-in replacement window units at optional major expenses to be determined.
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