Proper Dryer Venting

Frequently when conducting a home inspection we come across clothes dryers that are either improperly vented or not vented to the outside at all.  It is not uncommon to find clothes dryers directly vented into a crawlspace or garage area.  Many amateurs and some contractors find it more convenient to vent dryers into these areas. This practice has several draw backs.  The number one problem is the moisture that is created.  Moisture build up invites mold, wood rot, and vermin just to name a few.   An average family of four produces 26 pounds of moisture a day.  

          Another problem created is the lint that gets deposited into these areas.   The lint can cling to wood framing slowing down the normal drying process of the wood.  The lint will also clog crawlspace vent screens further adding to the moisture build up which causes several other moisture related problems.  A large enough lint build-up can also create fire hazards. Lint has a much lower flash point than wood and can ignite by a single spark.  Significant lint build up can also make it difficult to conduct a proper inspection, and make future work in these areas much more dirty.   Below are a few things to note in order to properly vent your clothes dryer.


*     Always vent dryers to the outside.  Lint boxes and water canisters are not recommended.  Never run vents into crawlspaces or garage areas.


*     Always use metal vent hoses. The flexible version is best.  Flexible vinyl dryer hose deteriorates quickly allowing leakage.  It also may not meet local code requirements.


*     Avoid sharp bends and multiple turns in the dryer vent run. Lint can accumulate in sharp bends.  This can cause over-heating and lead to potential fires. 


*   Use an appropriate vent flapper assembly at the outside exist point.  This allows the exit of dryer venting while preventing the entrance of vermin. This area should also be periodically inspected and cleaned out as needed.  Repair any damage as needed. 


*    Be sure to secure the vent hose to the back of the dryer with an affixed hose clamp.  This prevents the hose from becoming disconnected and allowing lint build up directly behind the dryer.


*   Always be sure to inspect the dryer lint trap regularly.  Clean and remove lint as necessary.   Many newer type dryers have alarms to warn you of excessive lint build up. 


*     Never reduce the vent hose size from the size of the opening exiting the dryer.


*     Try to limit the length of the dryer vent run.  The longer the run, the more difficult the proper venting.                                                    

Overhead Garage Door Problems & Maintenance

Often times during one of our home inspections we find overhead doors that either do not function or simply work very hard. Generally it is simply a lack of maintenance being performed. Below are a few of the more common problems we find and some suggested maintenance.

If the door will not even open or close, first double check the electronic keypad if you have one. Sometimes we find that these are damaged or simply need to be re-programmed. If you are a new buyer that just recently purchased the home, changing the code is also highly recommended.

If the overhead door slams down when closing generally we find the extension springs are either broken or simply worn out and need to be replaced. Sometimes tension adjustments need to be performed. If you are not familiar with this process have a proper technician perform this service.

Sometimes these springs are actually too strong and the door will actually open on its own. In these instances the strings may need to be changed out for a lighter version.

Overhead doors that stick or work with a great deal of difficulty often need the rollers lubricated. Tracks also sometimes are dirty or rusted making the operation much more difficult. Check rollers and tracks for dirt and debris and clean these items. All purpose grease in the tracks works great for easy operation. Sometimes tracks are also dented, or damaged and need repair. Give them a visual for repair needs. Look for loose fasteners, hangers, etc.

All overhead doors with electronic openers should have auto reverse electronic eyes installed. These safety devices are required by new code for new installations but often we find older homes that do not utilize these safety devices. These devices ensure an automatic return of the door in the event of someone or something passing through the laser beam. These are a great safety device and can be purchased at most home improvement retailers.

Lastly whether your overhead door is automatic or manually operated you should ensure that the door has a properly installed lock system. Many home burglaries often occur as a result of the burglar gaining access to the property through the overhead door.

Well / Septic Distance Certification

Have you had a deal fall through because a Distance Certification was needed at the last minute and failed? Was your customer upset that they were now out the cost of a home inspection, appraisal and other expenses? Well, hopefully, this newsletter can help shed some light on this problem.

Hancock Home Inspections is one of the areas only certified HUD Consultants. What this means, is, that we are often brought in on HUD 203(k) loans and FHA type loans to perform HUD Write Ups and Distance Certifications. Unfortunately, these are requested at the last minute, right before closing, rather than being done initially.

So, what is a Distance Certification? With certain types of FHA loans, underwriters will require a Distance Certification. When requested, a certified individual, such as HHI, will be asked to verify the distance, in feet, between the well and aspects of the septic system. Sometimes distances are also requested from the property lines. Below are the required minimum distances.

  • Well casing to Septic Tank: 50 feet
  • Well casing to front edge of drain field: 100 feet
  • Well and Septic components from property lines: 10 feet

Many older homes frequently do not meet these minimum standards and then the deal falls through. Often times, if appraisers can identify and verify these distances themselves, they will. However, when they can not, I often get the call, to locate these aspects and perform and write up the Distance Certifications. Then if they do not meet minimum standards, the deal goes south.

Our recommendation is to identify this need right up front, even before the appraisal. Why not get out ahead of the issue. My recommendation is that when your customer is utilizing one these type loans, to ask the lender involved if a Distance Certification will be needed. Then you or the buyer can address the issue up front. If the well casing, septic lids, and drainfield are easy identifiable, you won't even need to hire anyone to certify it. Just take some quick measurements and make sure they are in compliance with the above distances. If you are unsure and want to verify this information up front, we can perform this service for $100. It's better than spending; say $400 on inspections, plus an appraisal fee, only to find out later that the deal is lost and perhaps a client for not knowing the need for this, up front.

Let's face it, your client feels you are the expert and relies on your expertise in these matters. We certainly understand that some realtors, especially new realtors in the industry, may not realize this can pop up or is even a potential requirement. So, hopefully we have shed some light on this topic.

Improve Your Homes Electrical Safety

Did you know that in 2011 the U.S. Fire Administration reported an estimated 47,000 structure fires involved some type of failure to the homes electric system. Obviously many homes that we inspect are older and simply would not meet any of today's National Electrical Codes. In fact no older home unless totally re-wired would meet code compliance. That is why we disclose that a standard home inspection is in no way an inspection for code compliance.

There are however ways that a homeowner or buyer can improve the electrical safety within the home. In addition to having a full compliment of properly working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors installing AFCI receptacles in each room is a great improvement. What are AFCI receptacles. AFCI stands for - Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter. Not long ago, AFCI's were available only through the homes circuit breaker panel. Today AFCI's are a safe and inexpensive alternative for added home protection. Over time wiring can break down as a result of over-stapling, screws, crushing, and even rodent damage. As a result arcing faults can happen potentially causing a structure fire. This often occurs inside concealed walls, attic, and areas not readily visible during a typical home inspection.

So where can AFCI's be installed. Pretty much anywhere. In our opinion you cannot have to many AFCI's especially in an older home with various older wiring aspects. New code requires them in family rooms, dining rooms, dens, bedrooms, closets, and hallways. If you install an AFCI receptacle at the first outlet on a circuit all other outlets on that circuit will be protected, thus providing the homeowner with a nice piece of mind. Talk to your electrician about adding these great safety devices.

At Hancock Home Inspections we also recommend a full compliment of GFCI receptacles in all kitchen, bath, and laundry areas. These should be installed in accordance with the current ( NEC) National Electrical Code. Many types of loans require these type of receptacles to be installed as a condition of the loan compliance.

Lastly, take time to walk around your home and review various electrical items for ways to ensure your safety. Make sure all switches, receptacles, and junction boxes have properly affixed covers. Replace any damaged fixtures, or items with scorching evidence. Hancock Home Inspections recommends upgrading any old fuse panels, or Federal Pacific Stab-Lok panel boxes. And of course any old wiring such as knob and tube wiring should be replaced. Look for any damaged or exposed wiring. Any damaged or exposed wiring should be immediately replaced. Never overload circuits. Using multi-strips or multi-plug in receptacles and lead to overloading and if the circuit is not properly protected a fire hazard will exist.

There are some things that a homeowner can do themselves but Hancock Home Inspections highly recommends that all electrical work be performed only by a certified and licensed electrician.

Septic Inspection Seller’s Responsibilities

If you represent the Sellers, as the Seller's real estate agent, and the Buyer has elected to have an on-lot septic system inspection, there are various responsibilities the Seller should be made aware of. In accordance with wording on the real estate sales agreement the Buyer's obligation is to merely pay the inspection fee. The Seller, at the Seller's expense, will locate, provide proper access to, and pay the fee for emptying the septic tank:

Below is a guide to assist you, the Realtor, and your client (the Seller) understand the steps they need to take in order to be ready the day of the septic system evaluation.

  • Step #1–Locate the septic tank. Nothing else can be done until the tank is located. Some systems such as sand mounds might actually utilize two tanks. All need to be accessed.
  • Step #2–Most tanks have a two foot concrete lid. This lid needs to be unearthed thus making the System "inspection ready". All lids on all tanks MUST be unearthed. Some tanks have more than one lid. A 1500 gallon compartmental type tank has three lids.
  • Step #3–A pumper needs to be arranged to pump the tank as part of the inspection process. Being the Seller's expense, they have the right to schedule whomever they desire. For some locations HHI, can make the arrangements, But the Seller MUST be ready to pay the pumper the date of the inspection. The tank should not be pumped prior to reviewing the tank first. DO NOT HAVE THE TANK PUMPED PRIOR TO THE INSPECTION
  • Step #4–The owner or realtor needs to call PA One Call, a few days before the inspection so that they can come out and mark all utility lines such as gas and electric. This needs to be done as the inspector will be probing the drainfield / sand mound as part of the inspection process using a metal probe rod. If the utilities are not marked the inspection process cannot be completed. The number for PA One call is 1-800-242-1776
  • Step #5–The Seller's agent will be forwarded a preliminary information sheet via email from our office. This information sheet is a critical part of the inspection process. It contains various information that we need in order to provide a proper and thorough inspection for the buyer. This form needs to be completed by the Seller and returned to HHI via fax or email as soon as possible, and prior to the inspection.

That's It. 5 steps the Sellers need to do in order to get ready.

We often get told, no one knows where the system is. No one knows what type of system it is. The tank is very deep and the owners have moved and are elderly and cannot dig. When these type of situations arise there are ways to deal with them, but it will likely require additional trip fees, locating fees, digging fees etc. If we jump on these situations right away it makes the whole process go much more smoothly.