A Newsletter for Real Estate Agents from A-Pro Home Inspection
New Year Wishes from Your Friends at A-Pro
Welcome to another issue of From the Rafters—the first of the new decade!
As you look ahead to the challenges of selling more homes as the temperatures drop, we’ve put
together with information you can use: what to expect during a stucco inspection, the bare truth about light bulbs and fixtures, and how the right inspector can discover hidden critter problems.
We’ve also included some fun winter facts to try out at your next open house. What’s the size of the world’s largest snow cone? Read on to find out.
As always, your partners at A-Pro are ready to provide you and your clients with fair and
balanced inspections and special benefits that have made us a preferred choice among real estate professionals.
All the best in 2020! Let’s make it a good one.
Founder and President, A-Pro Home Inspection
A Visual Stucco Inspection—an Important First Step in Assessing Hidden Moisture Problems
For many homebuilders looking to make their structures stand out from the standard brick, siding, and wood crowd, stucco has been a popular choice. The same goes for home-shoppers, who for years have been drawn to the decorative flair, durability, and low maintenance that stucco provides.
However, it’s no secret that both traditional one-coat and three-coat exterior plaster Portland cement stucco or, more recently, synthetic stucco (also known as Exterior Insulation and Finish System, or EIFS), can pose serious concerns due to poor installation and the permeability of the material itself.
Of the two, EIFS—consisting of a substrate, insulation board, fiberglass mesh, base coat, and finish coat—has caused the most headaches, and lawsuits, since system failures began to surface about 25 years ago. The problem: Wind-blown rain entering the wall around windows, at wall/roof connections, and other vulnerable areas, collects in the wall cavity—out of sight and out of mind. With no means to escape, the trapped moisture can go undetected for years, saturating the sheathing and causing extensive wood rot, mold growth, and other forms of structural damage.
Home inspectors, like those at A-Pro Home Inspection, perform visual-only inspections of stucco and EIFS. First, the inspector will identify the type of stucco (one- or three-layer) or EIFS (PB, moisture drainage, face-seal, PI, or barrier). This is a critical step in the process since understanding what kind of stucco has been installed helps guide the inspector toward targeting common trouble spots.
As with inspecting interior walls, a home inspector’s visual-only checkup cannot determine what’s lurking behind the stucco or assess components hidden by the covering. However, several indicators of possible water penetration issues can be found simply by walking around and examining the structure. These include:
- Obvious signs of damage, such as cracks and crumbling
- Water staining, most often near windows
- Absence of properly angled kick-out flashing where the roof and stucco intersect (this is important to direct rainwater away from the stucco)
- Gaps where windows have been installed
- Wall bulging
- Window sealing that has become brittle
- Lack of a drainage system
- Poor quality repairs
- Stucco that has been installed below grade
Without the use of special equipment or more intrusive examinations (e.g., drilling holes in the wall), the inspector will not be able to report on the condition of the system’s drainage plane; window and door flashing (substandard flashing can be a major cause of water issues); and other non-accessible parts of the system. If it is determined that there might be hidden problems, the home inspector will recommend more extensive analysis from a stucco specialist. Testing may entail infrared thermography to check where water may be entering and the use of probes to evaluate the extent of moisture penetration.
Inspection of a home’s exterior surface is just one part of an A-Pro foundation-to-roof 500-point inspection. To schedule a home inspection, call 406-426-2766 or visit here.
Home Inspections Shed Light on Dangers in the Home
As we move into the winter season, the shorter days and dearth of sunlight is a legitimate problem for many people adversely affected during this time of year. Many homeowners find a respite from the Winter Blues by retreating inside their well-illuminated homes, as they wait for longer days that are still months away.
Yes, home lighting is a serious business—especially for a well-trained home inspector.
At A-Pro Home Inspection, making sure all lights in a home are in working order is part of our standard inspection. But that’s only part of the story. We’re sure you’ve had more than a few clients exclaim, “Look at all this closet space!” While it’s a definite perk for a home-shopper, your certified home inspector will be sure to take note of how the area is lit, reporting on dangerous conditions such as exposed light bulbs in a clothes closet. Without a fixture covering it, a bulb (and they can get hot!) has the potential to come in contact with items that could start a fire, such as blankets and apparel.
Further, anyone who has ever maneuvered a box to rest on a top closet shelf knows a bare bulb can easily be shattered, causing potential harm to the homeowner’s eyes and face. Popular CFLs, which are easily breakable and contain harmful mercury vapor, pose additional safety concerns. Your home inspector will recommend the installation of an accepted fixture that completely encloses the bulb and meets local codes for clearance and placement.
For homeowners who don’t prefer fixtures protruding from the ceiling, recessed lighting offers an attractive alternative, but these units will definitely draw the attention of your home inspector for a couple of reasons. Recessed lights are either made to come in contact with insulation (IC-rated with a cooler outer can) or not (non-IC-rated). Your inspector will indicate unsafe installations in which non-IC-rated recessed lights, consisting of a single can, pose a fire hazard when touching the insulation. At least a three-inch clearance between a non-IC-rated light and insulation is required, or the lights need a baffle or shroud to prevent contact with the insulation. Even IC-rated recessed lights are not made to come in contact with spray foam insulation, so a special covering is necessary.
Also, multiple recessed lights—if not airtight—can allow a great deal of heated air to escape into an attic. When these lights protrude into an attic and there is insufficient insulation above, the results can be uneven roof temperatures and the possibility of ice dams. This occurs when a portion of roof snow melts due to above-freezing roof temperatures (possibly caused by the heat generated by recessed lights). As the water flows off the roof, it freezes at spots where the roof temperature is at or below freezing, leading to the formation of a frozen chunk of ice, or ice dam. Water trapped behind the dam can end up seeping into the interior, causing ceiling stains and other damage.
Inspection of a home’s lighting is just one part of an A-Pro foundation-to-roof 500-point inspection. To schedule a home inspection, call 406-426-2766 or visit here. Note: Inspections of recessed lighting are limited to accessible areas of the home.
Real Estate Question Corner
Does a standard home inspection include checking for the presence of invaders such as raccoons, bats, squirrels, and mice?
Yes, certified and experienced home inspectors, like those at A-Pro Home Inspection, have seen their share of unwanted house guests who have taken up temporary residency in many an attic. Even when it’s not a face-to-face encounter, a good home inspector will be able to sniff out trouble (literally) and report on evidence that animals have been present. As far as removal of said intruders, that’s way beyond the scope of the home inspector’s job. It’s best advised to leave any handling of critters to licensed animal control technicians, so no matter how much your selling clients insist on “defending their castle,” always instruct them to refrain from venturing into infested spaces to take care of business themselves.
As winter’s chill takes hold, it’s a good idea to remind your clients that animals seeking warmer environs can be relentless when seeking passage into a home. Home inspectors will note the following in their reports:
- Actual sighting of animals inside or viewing pests (e.g., squirrels)entering or exiting a hole in the roof—a huge sign of trouble
- Presence of animal fecal matter
- Urine odors and trails
- Physical damage—evidence of gnawed wiring and chewed baseboards, tunneling in the insulation, damaged ducting, you name it
- Torn door and window screens, unscreened vents, and even tiny attic openings (it doesn’t take much of a hole for a mouse to enter)
- Uncapped chimneys
What about insects and spiders, you ask? We’ll save that skin-crawling subject for another edition.
A Final Thought: When your clients need home inspections this winter– or any season – give your local team at A-Pro a call. We’ve performed thousands of inspections from coast to coast since 1994. Reach us at 406-426-2766 or schedule an inspection online here.