Differential Settlement

What is Differential Settlement?

Differential Settlement can be simply defined as “unequal settling of a building’s foundation.” Differential Settlement can result in damage to a building, leaving small and/or large gaping cracks in exterior brick veneer and concrete blocks.  To gain a better understanding of how differential settlement occurs, let’s first review how a foundation is laid.

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Contaminated Water

Contaminated Water: Are You at Risk?

In light of the recent EPA advisory concerning water contamination for 8 Alabama water systems, now is a good time to discuss at-home water contamination. While the EPA advisory is due to outside contamination sources beyond a homeowner’s control, there are risks for contaminated water, at-home, that a homeowner can control and prevent.

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Deck Failure

Deck Failure: What Happened to my Deck?!

With the onset of summer, people will be spending time outdoors on wood decks. Wood decks should be inspected annually for signs of decay, missing flashing, and corrosion of fasteners or connectors, especially at the connection to the house. Guardrail details and connection are also important. Besides maintenance-related problems, some decks, especially older ones, may be poorly designed leading to deck failure. Read more

Everything You Need to Know About Radon

Everything You Need to Know About Radon

Is Radon gas an issue that homeowners should be concerned about? Since recent Alabama state surveys show that 2 homes in 5 have elevated radon levels, perhaps we should get more familiar with it!

  • Radon is a radioactive gas.How does radon enter a house
  • It is produced by the natural breakdown (radioactive decay) of uranium.
  • You cannot see, smell or taste it, but it may be in your home, nonetheless.
  • It is the second leading cause of cancer in the United States (behind cigarette smoke).
  • Current state surveys show that 2 homes in 5 have elevated radon levels.
  • Radon enters the home through cracks in foundations or slabs, joints, underground service penetrations, untrapped floor drains, sumps, exposed soil/crawl space areas, and other openings.
  • It can also enter a home through the water supply.
  • It is nine times heavier than air, and thus tends to stay close to ground level.
    Radon levels in a home’s basement can be two to five times greater than the level of upper floors.

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Water Level Survey JADE

Water Level Survey: Are You Smarter Than an Egyptian?

Are you smarter than an Egyptian? If you’re not using a Water Level Survey to determine the levelness of a house, then the answer to that question is “No!”

The History of the Water Level

Historians say that the ancient Egyptians were the first to use water levels as far back as 1100 B.C while building the pyramids. The bedrock was networked with narrow trenches, then filled with water.  The Egyptians understood the physics of water, that water always resigns itself to be completely level, so the waterline was marked on all the trench walls, the protrusions were cut down, and the trenches re-filled with stone to create a level base. Read more

Two Major Real Estate Deal Breakers

Two Major Real Estate Deal Breakers

There are two places within most homes that the homeowner seldom visits… the attic and the crawlspace. Because these two places are seldom visited or inspected, the homeowner is completely unaware of the issues– major real estate deal breakers –that are “hidden” from their view. As the old saying goes “Out of sight, out of mind.”

As a home inspector, I would guess that of the all the deals “I’ve purportedly killed” over the past three decades, most of them would likely be based on problems that I found beneath the home or inside the attic space. Whenever I’ve found a problem and explained it to the buyer, they naturally became alarmed. When the Realtor told the seller, they became offended, and the next thing (it seemed), everyone was mad at each other. All of this could have been avoided had the homeowner requested a pre-listing home inspection. In a pre-listing home inspection the attic and crawlspace are carefully inspected to ensure that the homeowner is made aware of issues they might not have known existed. Necessary repairs can be made before the home is listed. As a result, when the future home buyer requests a home inspection, there won’t be any “unexpected surprises”.

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mad enough to spit

A Brick Veneer Crack Tragedy: A True Story

Folks, I had to share this true story.  I feel so bad for this young lady.

Here are her words:

woman-with-beneer-cracks-in-her-house"I bought the house in 2011 with my husband (at the time), we divorced in 2012.  I lived in it for a little while and was thinking about putting it up for sale when some family friends asked if they could rent it from me.  I rented to them for about a year, then they moved out, and it was on the market for about 6 months with no offers.  I switched Realtors and got an offer within two months.  You know the rest...home inspection revealed a brick veneer crack, my Realtor called in a foundation repair company who made a visual inspection and recommended $8K worth of repairs. I was hoping my structural warranty would cover it so I wouldn't have to pay out of pocket, but the warranty company hired you to perform a floor level survey, which revealed there is no structural foundation failure or issue and pointed out that there were no interior drywall cracks opposite the brick veneer crack.  The buyers said they were ok with the new assessment and just wanted the brick repaired, then four days before closing

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spraying for mold on floor joists

Spraying for Mold on Floor Joists: Pest Control

“Has anyone noticed the new racket in town? Spraying for mold on floor joists.”

I get called in a lot to look at floor structures above crawl spaces, which have been inspected by pest control contractors who discovered either active or previous fungus infestation. Oftentimes the mortgage underwriter wants a home inspector or engineer to determine if there’s any structural damage as a result of this infestation. I always get copies of the Official Alabama Wood Infestation Report because I want to know what has been discovered (previous or active) and where it is located. I don’t want to spend an hour crawling around under a home looking for a patch of mold. Nearly every time I crawl beneath the home I end up asking myself, “What is going on here?” “The floor structure looks fine to me and the wood moisture content is less than 20%.” I glance down at the paperwork and see where the contractor sprayed a Borate solution on the joists to kill the mold. These costs are usually around $ 500.00. I’m starting to think this is money you may want your sellers to keep in their pocket. It might be worth getting a second opinion next time you hear the recommendation to spray for a hefty price.

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crown mouldings

A Look Into Your Crown Mouldings

If you’ve ever glanced up at the ceiling and taken a close look at your crown mouldings, you’ve probably seen cracks and separations that you never noticed before. If you’ve ever moved into a new home and had all the crown mouldings and door casings develop cracks and separations within the first year, or if you painted the crown mouldings and cracks developed within a year, there is an explanation for all of this!

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Are Encapsulation Systems Necessary?

In the hot, humid summer months a Realtor will likely already be hearing home inspectors and contractors recommending encapsulation systems to combat wetness and mold growth in residential crawl spaces containing air conditioning duct work.  The later is very important. It’s been my experience that wetness problems only develop when the air conditioning system duct work is placed beneath the home. You might ask, “What are encapsulation systems?”

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