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The Home Inspector

Like boot camp for homeowners.

Home & Garden
October 13

Q&A: "What causes black stains on my walls along the stud lines?"

I frequently receive this same question: what causes those black verticals stains on walls along the stud lines? To make it short and sweet, the answer is soot, and it's usually caused by candles and thermal bridging.
Home & Garden
October 6

Cisterns and abandoned rainleaders

Have you ever noticed those big cast-iron pipes sticking up out of the ground in various places around the outside of old houses? They're old rainleaders. They took rainwater from the roof and brought it inside the house. From there, the water was either stored in a cistern or exited the house through the sewer system.
Home & Garden
October 1

Inspecting Permanent Wood Foundations

After attending a seminar on permanent wood foundations back in 2010, I was turned into a big fan of wood foundations. But I was also convinced that most wood foundations are built improperly.
Home & Garden
September 22

New Toys! I mean flashlights.

It seems like most new flashlights that come out today are simply variations on flashlights that already exist, but every once a while, something a bit new and novel comes across my desk. I simply must try them all. Today, I'll share some information about my newest monster flashlight, keychain light, and headlamp.
Home & Garden
September 15

Home inspector training advice

Today I'll share my advice on how to become a home inspector. I blogged on this topic back in 2011, and again in 2016, but things change and it's time for another update. I'm writing this because I get a ton of phone calls and emails from people who want to get into the home inspection business. Instead of sharing the first thing that comes into my head during these conversations, I'm putting down all of the most frequently asked questions right here.
Home & Garden
September 8

Buying a home with a roof over 15 years old? Heads up.

I've been ranting and raving about hail-damaged roofs and how messed-up homeowners insurance is for the past couple of blog posts. While digging into this topic with a number of roofing contractors and insurance professionals, I stumbled across some very important information regarding the 15-year mark for roof coverings.
Home & Garden
September 1

Reuben's rant: hail damaged roof claims are out of control

I've given up all hope of trying to assess hail damage to asphalt shingle roofs during home inspections. It's a game. I've looked at dozens of roofs that were in fantastic condition, only to have roofing salespeople come behind me and insist that the roof had hail damage. When I find damage to a roof during a home inspection, I report it. But I don't go around with a microscope trying to determine what may or may not qualify for an insurance claim.
Home & Garden
August 25

Top 12 clues a storm-chaser is at your door

The storm chasers are out in full force after the recent hail storms. If you live in an area that was hit, you've probably already had visitors at your door.
Home & Garden
August 11

Buying a stucco home? Heads up.

It's no secret that stucco homes have had a ton of water problems during the last few decades. This all started here in Minnesota at the end of the 1980s, but it's not just a Minnesota thing. Newer stucco homes have had catastrophic failures all over the country, and we're still discovering problematic homes on a daily basis throughout Minnesota.
Home & Garden
August 7

Overhead powerlines, trees, and exposed connectors: who fixes what

The most common issues we find with overhead powerlines during home inspections are trees rubbing up against them and exposed connectors that present an immediate shock or electrocution hazard. When we find either one of these conditions, we recommend repair. The question that always follows is "Who's responsible for that?"
Home & Garden
July 21

Inspecting a water heater vent connector

Inspecting a natural draft water heater vent happens quickly and easily once you know what to look for. Today, I'll show you what to look for when looking at a water heater vent connector. I recently blogged about inspecting water heaters and testing for proper draft at water heaters, and I just couldn't squeeze the part about inspecting water heater vents into those posts. This is really a topic all on its own, so here goes.
Home & Garden
July 14

Water heater backdrafting: how to test for proper draft

When a water heater backdrafts, it's a safety hazard. Homeowners usually don't know they have a problem because a backdrafting water heater will almost never set off a carbon monoxide alarm. A water heater backdrafts when the exhaust gases from an atmospherically vented water heater spill out into the room, rather than safely leaving the house through the vent. Exhaust gases contain carbon monoxide and high levels of moisture, so this is always a condition that should be corrected.
Home & Garden
July 7

How to inspect a gas water heater

Gas water heaters are a lot like decks, in the sense that most handy homeowners feel qualified to install one. Thanks to these handy folks, we find more installation defects on decks and water heaters than just about any other component in the home, and today I'm going to share how we inspect water heaters.
Home & Garden
June 30

Inspecting poor water flow

If you're buying an old house, beware of old water supply pipes; specifically, galvanized steel or lead. These pipes can lead to poor water flow in homes, to the point where you can't even run water in two places at once.
Home & Garden
June 25

Age-related home problems

Buying a used house in Minnesota? Here's a rough timeline of potential problems to look out for. It's impossible to make a perfect chart like this because so many of these things are generalities, but I think this chart is a great starting point to knowing what types of issues to look out for.
Home & Garden
June 16

Tired of refilling your hand soap dispenser? Do this.

One of my least favorite chores in the kitchen has always been re-filling the built-in hand soap dispenser at my kitchen sink. Through years of extensive research into this matter, I've discovered that I'm not alone. Approximately 57.3% of soap dispensers in the Twin Cities metro area remain unfilled. Sitting next to the empty soap dispensers, I often find unsightly store-bought bottles of hand soap. Oh, the humanity.
Home & Garden
June 9

Does your air conditioner use R-22? Here's why you should care.

Most air conditioners use one of two types of refrigerant: R-22 or R-410A. Here at Structure Tech, we started paying close attention to this detail during our home inspections about three years ago, because units that use R-22 have become ridiculously expensive to service. The price of this refrigerant began to skyrocket many years ago, and it hasn't slowed down.
Home & Garden
June 2

George Floyd, commentary from Dr. Stephen Crawford

To help demonstrate solidarity this week, I'm not sharing any new photos, blog posts, videos, or podcasts. Instead, I'm sharing a special podcast episode that I recorded on Friday with my business coach, Dr. Stephen Crawford.
Home & Garden
May 26

Fuel Oil Tanks

If you're buying a house in the Twin Cities with pipes sticking up out of the ground in the yard, heads up. You probably have a fuel oil tank somewhere at the property.
Home & Garden
May 19

How to handle home inspections during the COVID-19 pandemic

Governor Walz allowed Minnesota's stay-at-home order to expire yesterday, replacing it with a new order called "Stay safe Minnesota". This new order allows for gatherings to not exceed 10 people. As soon as that order came, our office was flooded with calls from clients who wanted to attend their home inspections.
Home & Garden
May 12

Sizing an air conditioner circuit breaker

For air conditioners and heat pumps, we size the wires and circuit breakers in accordance with the information printed on the label, not the simplified sizing charts that we typically rely on.
Home & Garden
May 5

Hot water faster

Do you get annoyed with how long it takes to get hot water at your kitchen sink faucet? There's a fix for that.
Home & Garden
April 28

Expansion tanks

As I mentioned in last week's blog post, expansion tanks are required when water in a home can't expand back into the water main. This might be caused by a check valve, a backflow preventer, or a pressure regular.
Home & Garden
April 21

A leaking relief valve at the water heater: why it's leaking and what to do about it

Water heaters come equipped with a temperature and pressure relief valve, also known as a TPRV. This valve allows water or steam to escape from the water heater if the temperature or pressure gets too high.
Home & Garden
April 14

Home inspector training: how to find water problems at walls (video)

This is a moisture intrusion training class for new home inspectors at Structure Tech that I've decided to make public.