All posts by DavidFairbairn

Under the Tarp: Photos from Inside a Vancouver Leaky Condo

We had a look at a construction site in this leaky Yaletown condo last week. The building was constructed in 1994, and experienced major leakage of the building envelope. A Realtor took us for a tour of the remediation work – here’s some highlights:

Here we are at the rooftop. The building was 24 stories and full enclosed in scaffolding. During our visit the building was in the final stages of the project.

The wall assembly was on full display. This wall’s cladding, when finished, will consist of Georgia-Pacific DensGlass sheathing, a rainscreen cavity, expanded polystyrene boards, and stucco base and finish coats. Stucco over polystyrene boards is better known as EIFS (Exterior Insulated Finishing System).

Here the sheathing installation has been finished. The yellow boards visible are the DensGlass.

A photo of a balcony. Part of this project involves re-coating all balcony surfaces with a liquid-applied traffic coating (similar to parking garage membranes).

When the EIFS siding was originally installed in 1994, it was installed without a rainscreen. This led to water becoming trapped behind the cladding and seeping into the suites. This new rainscreen installation should perform much better.

Leakage stains visible in one of the suites. Although dry now, this suite had a number of moisture/seepage problems prior to the repairs. Even the flooring was damaged!

When the project is complete, it should provide a long-term, quality solution to the leakage.


The Worst-Designed Shower We’ve Ever Seen – Featured Home Inspection

This was one of the worst-designed showers I’ve ever seen. It was found in a New Westminster condo inspection recently.

First of all, there were two windows in the shower; one window is usually bad enough. This photo (courtesy of Carson-Dunlop) illustrates the problem with windows in showers – they (almost) always contribute to leakage.

Secondly, the workmanship was shoddy and most of the grout lines were severely cracked. Cracked grout ensures that water will enter into the backing board, soaking it and weakening the wall considerably. The wall was so soft I could push it almost 1/2″ in with my hand.

Thirdly, the floor drain (bottom left of photo) was half-buried under the wall, which caused water to pool against the bottom edge of the wall – which had, you guessed it, cracked grout. We found moisture over six feet away in the drywall, beside the sink.

This shower will need to be completely rebuilt. And when the wall is opened up, there may be surprises, such as mold, rotten studs, and destroyed insulation.

The seller, however, negotiated a nice reduction!

Call us today for your Next Condo Inspection. You’ll be glad you did! – (604) 395-2795

How Much Does Thermal Imaging Cost?

Should I Hire an Inspection Company That Offers Thermal Imaging?

Yes. Once you see the advantages of thermal imaging in a Home Inspection, you’ll understand the value of it. A thermal inspection is our top-of-the-line inspection that goes beyond a standard visual evaluation and can uncover many surprises and hidden issues. It can identify hidden moisture, overheating electrical, missing insulation and more.

When Should I Have a Thermal Inspection Done?

We recommend IR Imaging if your home has any of the following:

  • Radiant Floor Heating
  • Vaulted/Cathedral Ceilings
  • Flat Roof
  • Deck Above Living Areas
  • Old electrical / plumbing
  • Prior / Past Leakage

We recommend thermal imaging for every home, however the above items are examples of higher-risk situations.

An overheating electrical panel.

How Much Does a Thermal Inspection Cost?

We charge for Thermal Imaging as an add-on to our standard inspections. Our add-on rates are:based on the property size, and range from $45 to $150.

Other inspection companies will only offer thermal inspections, and their prices are generally quite high, and their inspections lengthy. We like to give the customer the option – this way we can accommodate any budget or schedule.

Dripping water in a vaulted ceiling, from a roof leak.

How Long Does a Thermal Inspection Take?

Thermal Imaging adds about 30 mins to 1.5 hours to the length of an inspection, depending on the size of the home.

How Do I Schedule an Inspection?

Call us today at 604 395-2795, or email us. We’d love to inspect your next purchase.

Aluminium Wiring in Richmond

We inspected this house in the Steveston area of Richmond. It was constructed in the mid-70’s and had a new roof, furnace and hot water tank.

Unfortunately, the wiring had several significant problems – the original aluminium wiring was present. Aluminium wiring was used during the 60’s and 70’s, and had a history of overheating and failure. For these reasons it is currently illegal to use.

Opening the main panel, the aluminium conductors were clearly visible, along with signs of overheating (scorch marks).

This receptacle in the bedroom had scorch marks, indicating a history of arcing (sparking).

Removing the receptacle we found damaged and burnt wiring.

If you have aluminium wiring in your home, please be careful and have your electrical system checked by a qualified electrician. The buyers of this home had an electrician review the system, and he found a number of other safety and fire hazards.

Call today to book a Home Inspection – 604 395-2795


Featured Home Inspection: Structural Rot Issue in New Westminster

This week’s featured inspection is from an older home in the Sapperton area of New Westminster. The home was built in the 1930-40’s.

The siding showed extensive repair/alteration. At first we thought the house had been raised, however upon inspecting the basement it turned out not to be the case.

The grading of the lot (sloping) was extremely poor and in many areas, water was splashing against the base of the wall framing. Whenever soil is stacked against the base of the wall (or higher), seepage and rot can occur and cause huge damage to the structure of the home.

Diagram Courtesy of Carson-Dunlop

Measurement from inside showed the base of the wood wall framing to be right behind the flashing. We probed the wood and found serious rot in multiple areas. The worst-hit areas were those right beside downspouts (where splashing/overflow can occur).

One trick for determining the height of wall framing, is to find a reference point (a window works well) at the interior of the home, and to measure the height to the top of the concrete foundation wall. Then perform the same measurement outside.

We believe the homeowner had added flashing to the base of the stucco in an attempt to promote water drainage away from the sill plate (bottom plate of wall).

The downspout connection  in the previous photo was covered, however we observed it to be overflowing against the home during the inspection. The drain tiles were likely blocked.

Due to the poor design of the wall, and deterioration suspected, we recommended further review by a structural contractor. They came and gave a quote for almost $40,000 for structural repair/rebuilding of the affected walls.

Mold Testing – Air Quality Problems Found in Richmond Home

Late one night, this house in Richmond suffered from a water leak in their boiler room. The temperature gauge attached to the heating loop burst, sending gallons of scalding hot water onto the floor and walls. Water soaked the laminate floor and drywall, and it continued to leak until a heating contractor came out and repaired the issue.

The leak started in the boiler room.

Luckily, no one was hurt, however the real problem began later…

The landlord was aware of the flood, however did not do anything about it. The water stayed in the floor material. Moisture became trapped below the flooring and saturated the slab and underlay. The baseboards deteriorated and rotted. And worst of all, mold began to grow.

Mold began growing in the floor material.

When the tenants started to report health problems, we were called in to do a mold evaluation of the property. The occupants were experiencing issues, such as:

  • Watery Eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Itchy Throat

When we arrived on site, we probed the floor (or what was left of it) with a moisture meter. It was completely saturated, which was no surprise. However, the tenants told us that the leak had occurred five months before we arrived. It was still wet.

An active roof leak was also noted.

We performed an Indoor Air Quality Test in the property. An IAQ Test takes a sample of the indoor air, which we then process at a lab, and the client receives the lab report. This report describes quantity and type of mold spores in the air.

When we received the lab report, it noted extremely high levels of harmful mold – much higher than it should have been. This house was a safety hazard to the occupants, and the landlord agreed to perform a full mold remediation on the home.

An Indoor Air Quality test can help pinpoint mold and health-related problems in your home, and can be a powerful tool when dealing with landlords or other tough situations.

Should Home Inspectors Test Appliances?

This is one of the most common questions we receive. In our area, many inspectors, due to liability or time constraints, will not test appliances. Some say that the risk of overflowing a dishwasher, or having a washing machine hose burst is “not worth the trouble”. We think that appliances should be tested as part of every home inspection.

The Reason:

If you moved in to your new home, and found out that the oven did not function, and the fridge compressor was leaking lubricant, how would you feel? You would be forced to pay hundreds, or even thousands of dollars in repair/replacement costs.

We feel that this is important information for the home buyer. Here are some ways we test various kitchen and laundry appliances:


We check to make sure that the set screws are in place, to make sure the dishwasher doesn’t tip or fall over. We check the washer arms, rolling racks and soap compartment.

We then run the dishwasher through a full cycle, making sure the fill and drain stages work properly, and that there’s no leakage from the unit.


We test all elements, (or gas burners) individually. We preheat the oven to 350 degrees and check to make sure it’s heating. Some ovens require anti-tip brackets. If they’re not installed we recommend they be added.


We check the temperatures, doors, ice maker (whether there’s ice in the hopper), and pull out the fridge to ensure no leakage or oil underneath. We also check to see if an ice maker water line is present, in case the buyer wants to add this option later.

We also test washers, dryers, microwaves, garburators, range hoods, and many more.

Call today to schedule a full Home Inspection with us – you’ll be glad you did – (604) 395-2795

The Difference Between a Heat Pump and an Air Conditioner

One of the most common heating questions clients will ask during an inspection is, “Is that a Heat Pump or an Air Conditioner?”. It can be extremely hard to tell just by looking at the unit. Here are a few ways to identify a heat pump:

1. Check the Thermostat.

Does your Thermostat have a setting marked “Emergency Heat”? You probably have a heat pump. An emergency heat mode activates a natural gas burner or electric strips that will provide heat if there’s a problem with the heat pump, or if it can’t keep up with demand.

2. Both refrigerant lines are insulated.

Take a look at the liquid and suction lines at the outdoor unit. If they’re both insulated, there’s a good chance it’s a heat pump. Note: Many heating contractors feel that this is unnecessary and won’t insulate the lines. Manufacturer’s installation instructions should always be followed.

3. Check the manufacturer’s data plate.

Sometimes this is a dead giveaway. The model number may have “HP” in it, or, even more obviously, it may say “Heat Pump”. You can also record the model number and check the manufacturer’s website, or call them directly.

4. Check for a reversing valve.

You may be able to see a reversing valve, however there’s a chance you may need to open the cabinet to see it. The reversing valve changes the direction of the refrigerant flow, and therefore is only found in heat pumps.

A Reversing Valve From a Heat Pump

5. Is it Cold Outside?

If it’s cold and the unit is running, it’s most likely a heat pump. An air conditioner running when the outdoor temperature is extremely low would indicate a serious issue.

We Inspect Heat Pumps! Call us today for your next Home inspection – 604 395-2795

Surrey Home Inspection Saves Buyer $10,000

This week’s featured inspection is a detached home in the Bolivar Heights area of Surrey, BC.

The house featured a low-slope roof with a torch-on, Modified Bitumen covering.

Walking around the roof, it was clear right away there was a problem with the attic structure. The roof decking was very soft, and sank significantly when walked on.

This is often the first clue that there might be a ventilation problem, or water seepage from the roof above. Another good reason we walk every roof possible, as long as material and safety conditions allow.

Plugged gutters are a common issue with properties with a lot of tree cover. In the above photo we can see that the owner has installed leaf guards at the downspouts – a best practice. However, the gutters still need cleaning as the debris has created a possible overflow.

Some roofing and flashing details were poor. In the below photo we can see that the membrane was loose around the chimney. The chimney had been leaking into the attic for some time.

The attic was in terrible condition – in the next photo we see the plywood sheathing actually sagging. Moisture levels were extreme in this attic – several probed areas showed moisture content as the highest I’ve ever come across. Most of the plywood was deteriorated beyond repair, and active leakage (dripping) was occurring through most of the attic. Mold growth was found in multiple areas.

At this point, one of the only solutions is to replace the damaged portions of the roof structure. Our client ended up negotiating over $10,000 off the purchase price – which will pay for a brand-new roof!

Electrical Fire Hazard Found in Burnaby Condo Inspection

We were called to inspect a unit in this condo in Central Burnaby, BC. The building was constructed in 1979 and had recently undergone a number of upgrades such as new windows, re-piping, roof, and boiler / hot water tanks.

As part of our standard inspection process, the main panel cover was removed and the wiring carefully checked. Immediately it was apparent that the neutral service conductor was scorched and overheating.

Closer investigation revealed a lack of antioxidant paste at the terminal. When an aluminium conductor is connected, an anti-oxidant paste should always be used. This is likely the cause of the failure.

Thermal Imaging of the conductor confirmed that the connection was extremely hot (the temperature in Celsius is marked below):

This connection posed a very real fire hazard, and the buyer arranged for an electrician to correct the issue right away.

Contact us for your next Condo Inspection – 604 395-2795

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