Category Archives: maintenance inspection

Asbestos Dangers of a Home Remodel

AMS Inspection Services is a home inspection company based out of Leavenworth, WA, with inspectors in Seattle, Wenatchee and throughout Chelan and Douglas counties.  AMS Inspection performs blower door tests for contractors in new construction projects.  The following blog is a guest submission.

asbestos wenatchee home inspectionHome remodeling can be an inexpensive way for hands-on homeowners to personalize their space, but in many buildings it can also be a way for homeowners to be exposed to asbestos.

Most homes built before the 1980s were constructed with asbestos-containing construction products. Wallboard, paint, pipes, carpeting and tape were just a few of the most common materials that were made with asbestos. Other asbestos-containing materials that were popular before asbestos regulations were enforced include:

  • Popcorn ceiling finishes
  • Shingles
  • Bricks/grout
  • Tile

Believe it or not, many of these products remain in homes today. Although these products do not pose any health risks while left intact, home renovations can easily disturb the asbestos and release it into the air. If this occurs, all of the home’s occupants are at risk of inhaling the fibers. This, in turn, puts them at risk to develop an asbestos-related disease.

Even with the high prevalence of asbestos in older homes, homeowners can safely remodel their property if they take several basic precautions.

How to Avoid Asbestos Exposure during Home Renovations

Before you begin any home renovations, you should hire a licensed asbestos professional to come out to your home and perform a thorough asbestos inspection. The abatement contractor can identify areas in your home that might contain asbestos, and then take small samples for laboratory evaluation.

The inspection will help you recognize which products you should not handle on your own and which are safe to freely renovate.

If asbestos-contaning products are found in your home, do not attempt to remove them on your own. A professional company should be hired to ensure that all fibers are safely removed from the area. Seeing as, you do not want to take the chance of developing an asbestos related cancer.

A construction contractor with a license in handling asbestos can also perform renovations on asbestos-containing products. These contractors will be able to remove or remediate the asbestos before remodeling the area.

(For example, they can cover asbestos cement with asbestos-free floor tiles, simultaneously addressing the asbestos problem and providing the homeowner with a remodeled floor).   Before hiring one of these contractors, however, homeowners should verify their asbestos licensure with the state.

Author bio: Faith Franz is a writer for the Mesothelioma Center. She combines her interests in whole-body health and medical research to educate the mesothelioma community about the newest developments in cancer care.

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Leavenworth Home Inspection: Huge Wasp Nest!

This is just about one of the scariest things a home inspector can find in a small attic…a huge wasp nest!  Anyone thinking about booking a home maintenance inspection?

Leavenworth home inspection

AMS Inspection is a home inspection company based out of Leavenworth with inspectors in Seattle, Wenatchee, Methow Valley, Chelan and surrounding areas.

Improper aluminum wiring ‘sparks’ interest in a hot water heater repair.

How hot is too hot?  We recently observed this hot water heater on a Leavenworth home inspection in the upper Wenatchee Valley.  Aluminum branch circuit wiring was used to supply the hot water heater’s energy.  Improper installation caused a potential dangerous situation.  The unions between the aluminum and copper wire created galvanic corrosion which can weaken the terminal at the switch, receptacle or union.  As the branch circuit is energized the aluminum and copper wires expand and contract at different rates causing the terminal termination at the switch, receptacle or union to loosen.  The loose connections can allow arcing and pitting, creating a hazard for shock or fire, and eventually causing the circuit to fail.  To learn more information about aluminum wiring read my earlier blog entry.

And the hot water heater was still being used, but not anymore!  Based on our inspection they hired a professional electrician to fix the improper installation.  Do you want to know how your home is performing?  An AMS Home Inspection can indentify potentially dangerous conditions.  Call today for more information on home inspections in Leavenworth, Chelan, Seattle, Wenatchee and surrounding areas.

Do you have aluminum wiring in your home? Is it safe?

At a recent Leavenworth home inspection we noticed aluminum wiring to the water heater and oven.  The home owner had some questions so we answered them.

Aluminum wiring became a popular alternative for use in residential construction during the 1960’s when the price for copper sky rocketed.  Underwriter Laboratories had previously approved aluminum wiring for interior branch circuitry as early as 1945.  Contractors searched for relief from the high copper prices and found aluminum to be an acceptable substitute.  The key to this conversion from copper to aluminum was in the installation.

 At the time very little stress was put on the aluminum wiring creep rating (rate of expansion and contraction) and not much information was provided on the proper installation of aluminum wiring.  Some things to consider when working with aluminum wiring is that it is much softer than copper and can’t withstand as much stress when pulled.  Therefore, aluminum wiring can become damaged if nicked or bent at extreme angles.  It also has at least one wire gauge larger than its copper counterpart for each current rating.  All terminations such as switches and receptacles must be properly rated Al or Cu/Al for the use of aluminum branch circuitry wiring.

 Due to limited code enforcement and the lack of information provided to home builders several homes built within the mid 1960-70’s were not outfitted with the proper type of receptacles, switches and other required devices.  Oxide inhibitors are successful in sealing out moisture and air while preventing oxidation but, unfortunately, were not widely used at this time.

 The misunderstanding of aluminum wiring installation methods enabled the theory of aluminum being an unsafe material.  What happened?  When dissimilar metals come in contact it causes galvanic corrosion and oxidation occurs at the screw head terminals.  The process weakens the terminal at the switch or receptacle.  As the branch circuit is energized the aluminum and copper wires expand and contract at different rates causing the terminal at the switch or receptacle to loosen.  The loose connections can allow arcing and pitting, creating a hazard for shock or fire, and eventually causing the circuit to fail.

 Is aluminum wiring safe?  The surprising answer is yes!  We inspect several older homes every year that still contain aluminum branch circuitry wiring and it is in serviceable condition.  Aluminum wiring has never been the problem.  The installation can dictate the longevity or security of any material.  The science behind the reaction and expansion rates of different materials has allowed us to understand mistakes made with aluminum branch circuitry wiring.  Aluminum wiring is still commonly used in new construction, particularly on larger circuits that do not require multiple terminations to various devices.

 Is your home is outfitted with aluminum branch circuitry wiring?  Identify your concerns with an AMS Home Inspection.  A thorough evaluation of each of the branch circuitry wiring must be performed to ensure your home and family’s safety.

Seasonal Showers & Your Crawl Space Or Basement

flooded yard

Wenatchee Home Yard Flooded

April showers bring May flowers….or flooded crawl spaces and basements!  Seasonal water damage isn’t as obvious as you may think.  It doesn’t take a severe flood to do water damage to your home just increased saturation.  For most of the Wenatchee, Leavenworth and Seattle areas we’ve experienced an increase in precipitation and strong winds over the last week.  Now is the time to pay close attention to your crawl space, basements and drainage in your yard.

Right now is a good time to take a trip down to your crawl space.  Prolonged moisture in the crawl space can attribute to mold, mildew, sill rot, joist rot, soil settlement, contamination of insulation and insect attraction.  Monitor the walls in your basement for signs of moisture as well.

Follow these tips to keep the water out of your home.  Clear gutters and downspouts of debris ensuring that water will be pulled from the roof and away from your home.  Remember, a downspout doesn’t do any good if it deposits the water next to house!  If your home’s yard frequently floods like the picture then you have problems resulting from a negative grade to the property.  In other words your home should built up so that water slopes away from the home’s foundation.  Finally, clear the storm water drains on the streets by your home frequently.  This will avoid blockage and buildup of water causing dangerous street and property flooding.  Should the property become a bigger problem than you can manage call the municipality.  Of course, we are happy to perform a maintenance inspection on your home to determine any damages resulting from seasonal floods or moisture intrusion.

WA State Energy Code’s New HVAC Requirement

This week one of our staff went to a WSU Extension Energy Program training in Wenatchee with a focus on duct sealing and testing requirements for the 2009 Washington State Energy Code for HVAC: 503.10.3 Sealing. We have two Energy Star Performance Technicians on staff so this class was more of a refresher course on duct testing but we did benefit from understanding more about the changes to the new HVAC requirements. Basically, the code is in a trial period. Contractors must test the HVAC now but do not have to meet the target rate of allowable leakage during this 120-day testing period. In April 2011 a judicial committee will listen to arguments from all sides and make a decision about the 503.10.3 Sealing WA State Energy Code.

We performed a HVAC leakage test on a home in South Wenatchee. The new construction home performed well. It would have passed the new requirements. It was interesting to note the small leakages that could be easily fixed by mastic. The equipment used for testing the HVAC includes a duct blaster, manometer and blower door which could add up to $5,000. This is a new expense to contractors. There is also discussion about requiring third party testing due to conflict of interest. Should HVAC contractors be able to test their own work?

 Here are a few interesting facts we learned in class this week. Did you know that 40% of a home’s fresh air comes from the crawl space or garage? Thinking about cleaning those spaces right now…aren’t you!? This is also a good time to remind you to open your garage door any time the car is on. A family of four can emit up to 3 gallons of water into a home daily from sweating, showering, cooking, etc. Where do the 12 gallons of water go? Be sure to use your oven and bathroom exhaust fans regularly!

Home Show in Wenatchee: Feb. 11-13th

Home Show Wenatchee Town Toyota CenterEvery year the NCHBA or North Central Home Builders Association produces a spectacular home show in Wenatchee, Washington.  There’s a little something for everyone whether you are interested in remodeling, decorating, building, buying or selling a home…they’ve got all the experts there for your questions!  Here’s some info from their website.  Download this COUPON for $1 off admission:

This year, we have a lot of new things going on and are very excited to “get the Show on the road”! The Kid’s Zone by Lowe’s is going to be fantastic this year. Not only will the kids be able to build their own project with a professional from Lowe’s, they can go on a scavenger hunt with their parents or enjoy FREE ice skating on Friday and Saturday. So, if you have kids that are 12 and under, make sure to take them to the Kids Zone by Lowe’s, located in the Crunch-Pak Hospitality Room on the the main floor of the Town Toyota Center!  Workshops and How-to’s that you WON’T want to miss! Come and see what the Master Gardeners have to demonstrate on Friday, Saturday and Sunday of the show!   Be one of the first 250 attendees on Saturday and Sunday and receive a special Home Show Entrance Bag! These bags will be filled with small gifts, specials and discount coupons from participating sponsors and vendors! These bags will also come in very handy when you need a place to stow away other information and items you gather!  There will be additional event parking available for attendees across the street at Walla Walla Point Park, both parking lots, as well as at Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse. Many thanks to Lowe’s for generously allowing our Home Show attendees to use half of their parking lot for our event!