Birmingham Home Inspectors Blog

January 2nd, 2018 10:14 AM

Five Tips To Prep Your House For Winter

One thing we find during our Birmingham Home inspections are busted pipes and leaks that have resulted from freezes. Follow these steps to help protect your house from the cold weather!

1. Keep the pump running for your pool if you have one so that the water cannot freeze in pipes. Make sure the pipe valves are open for it.

2. Insulate your water heater if it is easily insulated and accessible. This has even more of an impact if the water heater is an area that is not conditioned like a basement or garage or crawlspace.

3. Disconnect your exterior hoses and plumbing pipes at the house. Some houses have easily accessible shut off valves for exterior pipes. Shut the valve off and then drain the pipe.

4. Insulate exterior hose pipes and bibs on the exterior of the house if you cannot shut off the water to them! Also insulate pipes in areas of the house that are not conditioned such as in the attic and the garage and even in the crawlspace at pipes that are close to the exterior vents.
5. Get your chimney cleaned. Getting your chimney cleaned out can really help reduce the dangers when it finally gets cold enough to use down here in Alabama. Creosote accumulations can build up and catch fire in chimneys and animals can nest in the flue pipes along with other problems a chimney technician can identify resolve while cleaning the chimney. 

Posted by Creative Computer Creative Computer on January 2nd, 2018 10:14 AMLeave a Comment

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Five Gifts For The New Homeowner This Holiday Season

One of the many great things about being a Home Inspector in Birmingham, Al is the ability to test out so many of the years great new gadgets that pop up. We get to see the new stuff in the houses and then put it through the ropes. The following are some of the cool things that we have started seeing that would make great gifts!

1. WIFI Thermostat

    We cannot say enough great things about WIFI thermostats. I can hardly remember what life was like before mine. The idea behind this feature is that your thermostat connects to the internet and then, using an app on your phone, you can control the temperature of your house from anywhere you have service. It is a great feeling to be driving home from Christmas tree shopping and be able to turn the heat on before we get there.

2. Ring Doorbell

   This one is more modern than the WIFI thermostat. The Ring Doorbell has a camera, speaker and motion sensor in the doorbell. When the doorbell is rung or the motion sensor activated a message gets sent to your phone. From your phone you get a live stream of who is at your door and even talk to them if you wish. Pretty useful for the times you aren't expecting company.

3. Little Giant Ladder

   These ladders are fantastic. They can help you get into some really tight places. Because they can configure into so many different sizes you really only need the one ladder so you don't have to worry about storing a variety of size ladders anymore. We use this ladder all day everyday for work and it just keeps on ticking. We give this ladder huge applause and they are must haves for any homeowner.

4. Patio Heaters/ Fire pits

    Patio heaters and fire pits make fantastic gifts in the Christmas season as the weather starts too cool down. Fire pits are great fun to hang out around in the back yard during football season. Patio heaters put off a surprising amount of heat making the short winter spell that we have in Alabama all that much more tolerable while outside.

5. Cordless Drill

   Last but not least is the cordless drill. The advances in cordless drill technology have been great. The batteries have gotten better and better allowing for some pretty significant usage before recharge is needed. This is a must have for any new home owner, especially first time ones.

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Posted by Creative Computer Creative Computer on November 30th, 2017 3:12 PMLeave a Comment

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AC Condensate Line Tips From Home Inspectors In Birmingham AL

While doing our home inspections in Birmingham Alabama we are often asked about air conditioner maintenance. One of these best tips we can give is to get the air conditioner serviced and checked out by a professional. However, in addition too that, the owner of the air conditioning system can maintenance the condensation line himself! 

First though, what is the condensate line? 

If you go outside your house and walk around the perimeter you are likely to see a small white white pipe dripping. This pipe is usually close to the ground and near the exterior AC unit. These things are just general rules, as it can be discharged anywhere on the exterior and sometimes the pipe is small and clear instead of white. 

By the way, in case you are curious, the condensate line, discharges condensation that is made from the air conditioning process from the evaporator coil to the exterior. So this pipe is suppose to drip when the AC is on. 

The most common way to clean out the condensate line is to pour a small amount of bleach into the condensate line at the vent or entry point near the evaporator coil inside of the house. Always turn the unit off before cleaning the line out. Bleach is only to be used during the summer months as during the winter the bleach may eat away at the pvc pipe and the glues used to bind the pipe joints together. During the summer months, the condensate line also has liquid running through it regularly to help the bleach move through the pipe. Bleach can also kill the grass or plants wherever the condensate line discharges too. 

So if you cant use bleach year round, what can you use?

Vinegar! Distilled white vinegar is significantly less toxic than bleach but also does a good job of helping clean out the line. Usually a 1/4 of a cup will do it and flush it out with water.

It is recommended you do this monthly so the line will not back up and leak into the house!

If you are having issues or cannot find an access point to add the vinegar, call an HVAC technician and he can find it for you and install an access point as needed!

This is just one of the many things we have learned from doing home inspections in Birmingham Al! If you need a home inspection give us a call!


Posted by Creative Computer Creative Computer on October 24th, 2017 8:45 PMLeave a Comment

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September 26th, 2017 2:41 PM

Water Heater Maintenance

It will always ruin your morning when you wake up and turn the shower on and the hot water is not working. Instead of getting to go about your day, you now have to stop and troubleshoot why there is not hot water and ultimately may have to spend hard earned dollars on calling a plumber. 

There are things you can do however, that can extend the life of your water heater and make it more efficient.   

The most important thing you can do is check the water heater relief valve. If you see this water heater valve leaking, you need to contact a plumber immediately to see the cause of the problem. This can sometimes be caused by a build up of pressure in the water heater which can result in the water heater exploding.  It is recommended by water heater manufacturer, Rheem, that at least once a year you should flush a few gallons of water through the hot water release valve to ensure that this valve continues to operate freely.

Another thing you can do to benefit your hot water heater is to keep it clean! You can consult your water heater manual for cleaning instructions. If, like most of our clients, you have purchased your house with an existing water heater you can try to remove roughly 30-35 ounces of water every month. Removing this water allows some of the minerals that build up in the water heater to drain out. By removing this build up of sediment it can increase the efficiency of the water heater and help you get the industry expected life span of 8 to 12 years out of the water heater. 

Sometimes during home inspections in the Birmingham area we find that an electric water heater has an unusual odor; one of the ways that you can try to remedy this is to drain the water heater, disconnect the power source and then flush a few gallons of chlorine through it. 

In addition to these tips, Rheem suggests to remove the anode rod once a year for inspection. Here, you want to check that there is no more than 6" of core wire showing on either end of the rod. If there is that amount or more of wiring noted than it is time to replace the rod. 

These are just some of the things that we have learned on the job from doing home inspections in Birmingham. As always, if you need a home inspector in Birmingham give us a call!

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Posted by Creative Computer Creative Computer on September 26th, 2017 2:41 PMLeave a Comment

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March 18th, 2011 12:36 PM

CPSC Changes Remediation Protocol

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has made a substantial change to the recommended remediation protocol for homes with problem Chinese Drywall. The new protocol is no longer recommending removal of all electrical wiring.

"With these changes, the remediation guidance for homes with problem drywall calls for the replacement of all

(1) possible problem drywall;

(2) fire safety alarm devices (including smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms);

(3) electrical distribution components (including receptacles, switches, and circuit

breakers, but not necessarily electrical wiring); and

(4) gas service piping and fire suppression sprinkler"



Executive Summary of Identification Guidance and Remediation Guidance

for Homes with Corrosion from Problem Drywall as of March 18, 20111

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Posted by Creative Computer Creative Computer on March 18th, 2011 12:36 PMLeave a Comment

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Installed Years of Possible Chinese Drywall Extended

The CPSC has extended the time period that Chinese Drywall is thought to have been installed. Because of installations that were identified with a 2009 installation date, the CPSC now includes the years 2001-2009 as a potential Chinese drywall installation if the drywall was installed during that time period.

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Posted by Creative Computer Creative Computer on March 18th, 2011 12:19 PMLeave a Comment

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February 27th, 2011 11:07 AM

Chinese Drywall Myths And Misconceptions

--Myth:Homes that don't have a bad odor cannot have Chinese drywall. FALSE--We have discovered numerous homes that contained Chinese drywall but no unusual odor was evident to the homeowner. Some Chinese drywall has low sulfur amounts and has little if any odor.

--Myth:The best way to identify Chinese drywall is random testing of the  wall areas. FALSE-- Often Chinese drywall is only one of many drywall brands installed in a home and random testing can be "hit or miss". While not perfect, a visual inspection of the electrical, plumbing, gas, HVAC and visible drywall under the attic insulation is at present the best method. Testing of identified suspect areas can then be accomplished.

--Myth:Most all homes in the Alabama area built during the building boom probably have some Chinese drywall. FALSE --Many of the newer homes that we have inspected have had no evidence of Chinese drywall.

--Myth:Only homes recently built can have Chinese drywall. FALSE--We have found remodeled homes with Chinese drywall that were as old as 1930.

--Myth:If one home in a subdivision has Chinese drywall then likely all the homes have it. FALSE--We have found many examples of two homes built next to each other where one home has no indication of Chinese drywall and the neighbor has evident Chinese drywall boards and corrosion damage.

--Myth:Chinese drywall was only installed in homes during 2006. FALSE --According to the CPSC, homes with drywall installed from 2001 through 2009 could contain Chinese drywall.

--MYTH:This 3 year old home does not have Chinese drywall because the effects and odors would be apparent by now. False-- We've had clients report that they did not have any indications in the first few years.

--MYTH:I can tell the difference on my walls because Chinese drywall feels different.--The painted surface of Chinese drywall does not necessarily have a noticeable difference in the surface. Some experts believe that the gypsum mineral inside the boards does has a different texture from American boards.

--MYTH:My drywall supplier states that they did not deliver "KNAUF" brand drywall so I could not possibly have Chinese drywall installed. --Chinese drywall was installed in homes from several different Chinese brands-not just Knauf.

--MYTH:The home inspector can tell if my new home has Chinese drywall during a home inspection. --Most often the Chinese drywall is not evident and it takes a different and specific inspection process to attempt to identify Chinese drywall. Most Chinese drywall inspections take about the same length of time as a home inspection. Chinese drywall identification is not included in the Alabama Home Inspection Standards.

--MYTH:All Chinese drywall inspections involve cutting holes into the drywall to test for contamination.--Most inspections are visual and do not involve cutting the drywall. Occasionally, testing may be needed of a specific area of corrosion or drywall board.

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Posted by Creative Computer Creative Computer on February 27th, 2011 11:07 AMLeave a Comment

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Which Brands Of Chinese Drywall Are Most Common In This Area

Although more than two dozen different Chinese brand drywall boards are thought to be possibly installed in homes in the USA (per labeling by the Multi District Class Action Lawsuit- MDL), the ones we have most often found in our area of Alabama indentified as of Chinese origin are: Knauf (several brand variants), Venture, Prowall, and an unmarked board of Chinese origin.

Some exceptions are occasionally found, and recognizing non-labeled boards that are Chinese drywall is one of the challenges with a visual inspection. Another challenge is recognizing domestic drywall boards in order to rule them out as not being of Chinese drywall origin is another challenge. The MDL indentifies just 4 brands as being non-Chinese in origin. However, we have found several dozen different boards that identify themselves as made by companies in the USA.

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Posted by Creative Computer Creative Computer on October 20th, 2010 2:35 PMLeave a Comment

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Is All Testing For Chinese Drywall Accurate?

Is all testing for Chinese drywall accurate? The short answer is “No”. The long answer…

Recently, we have had several customers call the office requesting a Chinese drywall inspection with testing. These customers had previously completed  Chinese drywall testing and had been told they had Chinese drywall but wanted yet another and "non partial" inspection with testing. In some cases, upon completion of our inspection and testing, no evidence of Chinese drywall was found. Interestingly enough, in some of these inspections, the very boards in question were clearly manufactured in the USA. Additionally, proper testing by an accredited lab showed no excessive corrosion causing sulfur chemcial present in the questionable drywall.

Why the difference in results? Apparently, some testing companies are using test methods that are not recommended by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Also, some companies are testing strictly for chemicals that are naturally found in USA drywall. In these type tests, the glitch may be that the allowable threshold for the chemical is set so low that some domestic brands may wrongfully be determined to be Chinese drywall.

As we have seen in the last year, the CPSC standards continue to evolve as more is learned about the problems with Chinese drywall. We try to stay abreast of the most current CPSC standards. We keep the lines of communication open with the labs we work with to ensure the most up-to-date testing. While we cannot guarantee our clients their homes do not have any Chinese drywall installed, we can offer some of our clients a level of confidence that will help them rest easier until the CPSC offers final protocol for identifying Chinese drywall.

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Posted by Creative Computer Creative Computer on June 1st, 2010 5:18 PMView Comments (1)

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CPSC Releases: Guidance On Identifying Problem Drywall In Homes

With so many companies popping up to offer testing, inspection, and remediation for Chinese drywall, it's no wonder the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has published a warning: "Don’t Get Nailed by Bogus Tests and Treatments". The CPSC also recently released guidelines to help bring some standardization to the inspection, testing and remediation of possible Chinese Drywall installations. Hopefully, these guidelines will bring some peace of mind to those who have been wrongfully told they have Chinese drywall. For those who are unsure whether or not they have Chinese drywall, these guidelines may help determine if Chinese drywall is present.

Griffith Home Analysis has long-established relationships with accredited environmental labs. We have been providing residential environmental testing for nearly twenty years and don't take take it lightly. The CPSC recommended drywall tests measure for contaminants as low as 10 parts per million. As a result, we leave the accuracy of these types of tests to qualified chemists. We do not perform onsite drywall tests as we have found some of these types of tests to be inaccurate.

We have discovered, just as the CPSC has suggested in step one of their new guidelines, that a visual inspection of the accessible drywall areas and the home systems' accessible metal components is the best place to start to determine if the possibility of Chinese drywalls existence in a building. Looking for possible markings of Chinese drywall or the corrosion resulting from Chinese drywall has proven to be our best tip-off that a home has Chinese drywall.

Visual identification can be difficult since most of the drywall manufacturer markings are obscured. Most views of the drywall manufacturers stamps are limited to partial stamps on the back of the drywall, pieces of the boards end tape or partial UPC numbers. We rely on our database of information built from hundreds of drywall inspections and first hand information from labs, drywall manufacturers, drywall distributors, builders and developers to help sort the limited information obtained in a drywall inspection.

For more information see the CPSC page:

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Posted by Creative Computer Creative Computer on May 21st, 2010 7:28 AMLeave a Comment

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CPSC HUD And CPSC Issue Guidance On Repairing Homes With Problem Drywall

We have been waiting on some standards to evolve and offer some guidance on what to do with the homes that conclusively have Chinese drywall installed. The CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) has released "Guidance on Repairing Homes With Problem Drywall".

For clients who have Chinese drywall, the CPSC publication, as generally expected, recommends "remove all possible problem drywall from their homes, and replace electrical components and wiring, gas service piping, fire suppression sprinkler systems, smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms." In most cases, this means the removal of most of the interior finishes to strip to the studs.

The unexpected result of the CPSC's sweeping recommendation is the effect on homes that have a partial amount of or only a few Chinese drywall boards. In Alabama, our experience with Chinese drywall inspections has discovered many homes with only partial installations of Chinese drywall and some exhibit little or no corrosion damage to the systems. Some contractors are arguing that complete removal of the homes interior and mechanical systems may be overkill. As we have seen in the past year, the guidelines seem to be continually evolving. Many homeowners are waiting for information from the EPA or CPSC on the health impact of the drywall contamination to decide how to react.

For more information see the CPSC web page: 

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Posted by Creative Computer Creative Computer on May 18th, 2010 9:00 AMLeave a Comment

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November 23rd, 2008 7:00 PM

New Countertop Radon Test Kits Are In

Have you heard in the news about granite countertops and the threat of radon?  Andrew has been working closely with the radon labs to bring you the most advanced and reliable testing to date.  The new kits provide for 5 different testing sites using activated charcoal kits, continuous radon monitors and geiger counters.  Have questions?  Please ask.

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Posted by Creative Computer Creative Computer on November 23rd, 2008 7:00 PMView Comments (1)

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March 1st, 2007 8:16 PM

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Posted by Andrew Griffith on March 1st, 2007 8:16 PMLeave a Comment

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