All posts by DavidFairbairn

Dangerous Foundation Problems in Deep Cove, North Vancouver – Featured Home Inspection

Today’s featured inspection is a custom house in Deep Cove, North Vancouver.

The structure design on this property was extremely unique – if you were inspecting this house and saw the following in the basement, what would you think?

Crawlspace floor

Crawlspace floor

In case it’s hard to see, that’s water running under the house. The entire house was built into bedrock on the side of a mountain. A poured concrete foundation sat atop the bedrock, forming a crawlspace. No wood framing members made contact with the bedrock (a wise choice). Prior to the inspection, we obtained a geotechnical report from the District of North Vancouver.

The attic structure had been modified; here we see some framing members had been cut to facilitate the installation of one of the two new skylights. My good friend Ken Hunter was called in to repair the defect:

Cut framing members in the attic

Cut framing members in the attic

 

Next we inspected the storage shed, which looked fine…until I inspected its foundation…

A VERY Dangerous Shed Support

A VERY Dangerous Shed Support

This was the worst support for a building I’ve ever seen. What you can’t see in the photo, is the bag of concrete beneath the bottom block. I recommended this be repaired RIGHT AWAY.

The buyer negotiated a nice deal with the sellers and will be moving in next month.

Heat Pumps and Illegal Plumbing in Fleetwood, Surrey – Featured Home Inspection

This week’s featured inspection is a large home in the Fleetwood area of Surrey.

The home was built in 2008 and featured a Heat Pump / High Efficiency gas furnace HVAC system.

The heat pump condensing unit

The heat pump condensing unit

The condensing unit was unlevel, which can cause problems with the compressor. I recommended the client remove the slope to prolong the compressor life. Otherwise the heating system was in great shape. TIP: If you have an A/C or Heat Pump unit in your home, change your filter monthly. Those little fins on the evaporator coil in the furnace get plugged easily.

This drain vent still had the cap on.

This drain vent still had the cap on.

Here’s a classic defect that always makes me laugh – the builders never removed the protective cap from the vent stack. This stack hadn’t been venting properly for over five years! This is something that I have seen code inspectors miss many times. It’s also a great reason to walk the entire roof, and not just check from the end of a ladder.

An illegal s-trap

An illegal S-trap

Someone had added a bathroom in the basement, but did not have a professional plumber perform the work – this drain line has got to go. An S-trap (Shaped like a sideways “S”) is actually a safety hazard – siphoning of the water can allow sewer gas (methane, sulfur gas) into the home. The owners had a large family and I always make a point of showing them any safety hazards after the inspection.

Double-Tapped Breakers at the Sub Panel

Double-Tapped Breakers at the Sub Panel

Finally, opening up the sub-panel revealed a double-tapped circuit. Double tapping (circled in red) is when two conductors share the same breaker terminal, which can overheat and cause a fire. This will actually be an easy fix, since there’s lots of room in the panel to add an additional breaker.

The client was thankful for the inspection and will be moving in a few months from now.

Time to Replace Your Washing Machine Hoses?

Short of fire, nothing causes more damage to the inside of a property than leaking water. It is estimated that 65% of property damage to stratas (homeowners associations) is caused by water leaking from failing pipes, hoses, plumbing fixtures and appliances. Washing machine hoses are a leading cause of residential water damage. Research shows that there are simple and inexpensive steps home owners and strata councils can take to prevent most of this damage.

This hose is about to burst.

This hose is about to burst.

When was the last time you checked your washing machine hoses? If you’re like most, this is a task that is frequently overlooked. Since they are barely visible (located behind the washing machine), they are out of sight and out of mind. The same holds true for dishwasher hoses. According to State Farm Insurance Statistics, washing machine hose failures cause approximately $170 million in damages to homes in the United States & Canada annually.

Washing machine hoses hold about 70 pounds of pressure. The rubber hoses weaken with age and do eventually burst if not replaced. In some cases, the hose connections can start to leak, giving an advanced warning sign. In other cases, there are no advance warnings and a sudden burst results. A bursting hose can displace 650 gallons of water per hour. If your home is unoccupied for 30 hours, this equates to 20,000 gallons – the average size of an in ground swimming pool!

 

Here are some preventative measures that you can take:

  • Visibly check your hoses and their connections on a regular basis. Inspect for bulging hoses and corroding connections.
  • Shut off both supply valves to the hot & cold water when not in use. This is only if you remember to turn the valves off each time you have finished using the washing machine.
  • Install a Universal shut off valve. One lever at the water supply shuts off water to both the hot & cold hoses. Again, this is only as good as your memory to pull the lever off, each time you have finished using the washing machine.
  • Replace the rubber hoses with braided hoses. These hoses are reinforced with steel braiding and this prevents bursting. However, these are not lifetime replacements. They can still wear out, especially at the connections.

When I find rubber hose connections to the washing machine, I recommend that the client replace them.

For further reading:

http://www.familyhandyman.com/appliance-repair/washer-and-dryer-repair/upgrade-washing-machine-hoses/view-all

Pinhole Leaks in Copper Pipes

I inspect many condominiums and large buildings here in Vancouver. Often the inspection of the boiler room will reveal failure of the copper pipes, in the form of corrosion and pinhole leaks. This recent condo inspection turned up leakage on the hot water supply piping for the building:

Pinhole Leaks Copper

A failing hot water pipe in a mechanical room

Corrosion like this may indicate a chronic problem throughout the building’s plumbing lines. Pinhole leaks are unfortunately a common occurrence for many homeowners, and, from my experience, there is a lot of misinformation regarding this problem.

 

What is a pinhole leak?

 

Cross section of a leaking pipe

Cross section of a leaking pipe

A pinhole leak is the breakthrough of the pipe wall when the pipe is undergoing “pitting corrosion” or simply “pitting”. When enough pitting occurs in the interior of the pipe, it will break through and water will begin to travel to the exterior of the pipe.

 

What causes pinhole leaks?

Pinhole Leak Copper Pipe

Corrosion in the boiler room of a condo building.

 

Pitting corrosion (pinholes) are directly related to water chemistry. High or low pH balance and water softness/hardness (high/low mineral content of the water) will directly affect certain types of copper piping, and can cause accelerated corrosion. Vancouver, for example, has extremely soft water.  The low mineral content has been blamed for poor protection from corrosion. For instance, in a hard-water region, the minerals in the water will form a protective layer on the interior of the pipe. Vancouver therefore suffers from greatly reduced copper lifespans.

 

What kinds of pipe are affected?

 

Hot water and heating supply lines are statistically more frequently damaged by pinhole leaks. The high temperature of the water can accelerate corrosion. Certain types of pitting will not occur in low water temperatures.

TIP: If you are inspecting a home or condominium, always have a look at the hot water lines near boilers/hot water tanks. Typically the hot water lines will fail before the cold lines.

 

What are the solutions?

 

Although there are several fixes for failed piping, the most obvious solution is to re-pipe the building. However, this is also the most expensive and destructive of the options. With the advent of flexible, easy-to-install PEX (Plastic piping), it is easier and more cost-effective than replacing with new copper lines, however significant damage to the interior walls is still often necessary.

 

Epoxy coating is a newer method that coats the interior walls of the pipe with a sealant. The system is shut down, water drained, and the coating pumped in. The advantage to this system is the lower downtime needed VS replacing the pipes. It is also less costly than re-piping.

UPDATE: After posting this article, I was contacted by Randy at CuraFlo BC, a company that specializes in epoxy coating. He answered several questions about epoxy lining, including addressing the common perception that the epoxy linings will fail prematurely. According to CuraFlo, there was some faulty product used prior to 2004, however their newest lining material, “CuraPoxy” has an extremely long service life up to 50 years. I will be providing more information on this system in a future blog post. Thanks Randy!

 

Wateryte Chemical Injection System

A chemical water treatment system.

 

Water treatment is the lowest-cost option. A chemical injector is installed on the water lines which injects a corrosion-inhibitor into the water as it passes through. This is a popular option for large buildings where re-piping would be extremely costly. Although it will not repair existing holes, the companies selling these products claim it will stop further corrosion from occurring. The downside to this system is the ongoing cost for injector and chemicals. It is also unclear whether these systems are a reasonable long-term solution.

One company offering water treatment in Vancouver is Hytec Water Management. I see many of these systems installed and strata owners seem to be happy with their performance.

 

What else can I do?

 

One word of advice: NEVER drain a copper pipe suffering from pinhole leaks. Draining and re-pressurizing a copper pipe may cause debris / mineral deposits sitting in pitted areas to loosen and cause a multitude of new leaks.

 

Further Information

For more information on this subject, visit the EPA website at http://www.epa.gov/sciencematters/april2011/leaks.htm

CuraFlo BC – CuraFlo BC

Extending the Life of Your Hot Water Tank

Hot water tanks, whether gas or electric, utilize something called a sacrificial anode rod. The rod (or rods, depending on the make and model of the water heater) acts to prevent the shell of the tank from corroding (rusting) by being made from a material that is susceptible to galvanic corrosion more easily than the shell. Simply put, the rod dissolves and your tank does not.

anode-rod

Old vs New Anode Rods

 

Life

A typical anode rod by itself will last about six years. If you have two anode rods, you can expect your tank to last between 8-12 years. Some tanks will go the distance – in my inspections I have seen water heaters still functioning as old as 22 years.

Different Types

Aluminum

Aluminum anode rods are best for places with hard water. The aluminum rod will withstand harder water than any other type. Aluminum may be a health problem, so to be safe you may not want to drink hot water and make sure to run some cold water through the faucet spout before drinking the water. Keep in mind, our sodas come in aluminum cans too.

Magnesium

Magnesium anode rods are the most common type of anode rod. They are used in places where water is softer. They do not last very long when you have hard water, a couple years at best. This is the main reason water heaters don’t last long after the anode rod is eaten up.

Zinc

Zinc anode rods are really just aluminum anode rods with a small portion being zinc. The ratio of zinc to aluminum is 1:10. The reason zinc is added is to combat any sulfur smell coming from the water. A new water heater is never installed with a zinc anode rod already in it, but it is a good upgrade if you experience rotten egg smell coming from your hot water.

Replacing Anode Rods

Replacing the anode rod in a water heater before it fails can slow down corrosion inside the tank and significantly extend the life of the water heater, sometimes even doubling it.

Depending on water conditions, an anode can last longer than normal, but many localities treat their water, which can have significant effect on the life of your heater and the anode.  Sometimes water conditioning may accelerate the rate at which the anode rod is consumed.  In other words, checking the anode should be a routine maintenance task.

An Excellent DIY Video can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=97ett_HNu4k

As with all Home Improvements, if you are not comfortable with performing the work, please contact a licensed professional in your area.

Estimated Life Expectancy Chart for Homes

The following chart details the predicted life expectancy of appliances, products, materials, systems and components.
Consumers and inspectors and other professionals advising their clients should note that these life expectancies have been determined through research and testing based on regular recommended maintenance and conditions of normal wear and tear, and not extreme weather (or other) conditions, neglect, over-use or abuse.  Therefore, they should be used as guidelines only, and not relied upon as guarantees or warranties. 
 
*********************************************************************** 
Surface preparation and paint quality are the most important determinants of a paint’s life expectancy. Ultraviolet (UV) rays via sunshine can shorten life expectancy.  Additionally, conditions of high humidity indoors or outdoors can affect the lifespan of these components, which is why they should be inspected and maintained seasonally.
ADHESIVES, CAULK & PAINTS
YEARS
Caulking (interior & exterior) 5 to 10
Construction Glue 20+
Paint (exterior) 7 to 10
Paint (interior) 10 to 15
Roofing Adhesives/Cements 15+
Sealants 8
Stains 3 to 8
Appliance life expectancy depends to a great extent on the use it receives. Furthermore, consumers often replace appliances long before they become worn out due to changes in styling, technology and consumer preferences.
APPLIANCES       YEARS
Air Conditioner (window) 5 to 7
Compactor (trash) 6
Dehumidifier 8
Dishwasher 9
Disposal (food waste) 12
Dryer Vent  (plastic) 5
Dryer Vent  (steel) 20
Dryer (clothes) 13
Exhaust Fans 10
Freezer 10 to 20
Gas Oven 10 to 18
Hand Dryer 10 to 12
Humidifier (portable) 8
Microwave Oven 9
Range/Oven Hood 14
Electric Range 13 to 15
Gas Range 15 to 17
Refrigerator 9 to 13
Swamp Cooler 5 to 15
Washing Machine 5 to 15
Whole-House Vacuum System 20
Modern kitchens today are larger and more elaborate.  Together with the family room, they now form the “great room.”
CABINETRY & STORAGE    YEARS
Bathroom Cabinets 50+
Closet Shelves 100+
Entertainment Center/Home Office 10
Garage/Laundry Cabinets 70+
Kitchen Cabinets 50
Medicine Cabinet 25+
Modular (stock manufacturing-type) 50
Walls and ceilings last the full lifespan of the home.
CEILINGS & WALLS
YEARS
Acoustical Tile Ceiling 40+ (older than 25 years may contain asbestos)
Ceramic Tile 70+
Concrete 75+
Gypsum 75
Wood Paneling 20 to 50
Suspended Ceiling 25+
Natural stone countertops, which are less expensive than they were just a few years ago, are becoming more popular, and one can expect them to last a lifetime. Cultured marble countertops have a shorter life expectancy, however.
COUNTERTOPS YEARS
Concrete 50
Cultured Marble 20
Natural Stone 100+
Laminate 20 to 30
Resin 10+
Tile 100+
Wood 100+
Decks are exposed to a wide range of conditions in different climates, from wind and hail in some areas, to relatively consistent, dry weather in others. See FASTENERS & STEEL section for fasteners.
DECKS YEARS 
Deck Planks 15
Composite 8 to 25
Structural Wood 10 to 30
Exterior fiberglass, steel and wood doors will last as long as the house, while vinyl and screen doors have a shorter life expectancy. The gaskets/weatherstripping of exterior doors may have to be replaced every 5 to 8 years.
DOORS YEARS
Closet (interior) 100+
Fiberglass (exterior) 100+
Fire-Rated Steel (exterior) 100+
French (interior) 30 to 50
Screen (exterior) 30
Sliding Glass/Patio (exterior) 20 (for roller wheel/track repair/replacement)
Vinyl (exterior) 20
Wood (exterior) 100+
Wood (hollow-core interior) 20 to 30
Wood (solid-core interior) 30 to 100+
Copper-plated wiring, copper-clad aluminum, and bare copper wiring are expected to last a lifetime, whereas electrical accessories and lighting controls, such as dimmer switches, may need to be replaced after 10 years.  GFCIs could last 30 years, but much less if tripped regularly.
Remember that faulty, damaged or overloaded electrical circuits or equipment are the leading cause of house fires, so they should be inspected regularly and repaired or updated as needed.
ELECTRICAL YEARS
Accessories 10+
Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs) 30
Bare Copper 100+
Bulbs (compact fluorescent) 8,000 to 10,000+ hours
Bulbs (halogen) 4,000 to 8,000+ hours
Bulbs (incandescent) 1,000 to 2,000+ hours
Bulbs (LED) 30,000 to 50,000+ hours
Copper-Clad Aluminum 100+
Copper-Plated 100+
Fixtures 40
Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) up to 30
Lighting Controls 30+
Residential Propane Backup Generators 12
Service Panel 60
Solar Panels 20 to 30
Solar System Batteries 3 to 12
Wind Turbine Generators 20
Floor and roof trusses and laminated strand lumber are durable household components, and engineered trim may last 30 years.
ENGINEERED LUMBER YEARS
Engineered Joists 80+
Laminated Strand Lumber 100+
Laminated Veneer Lumber 80+
Trusses 100+

 

 

Fastener manufacturers do not give lifespans for their products because they vary too much based on where the fasteners are installed in a home, the materials in which they’re installed, and the local climate and environment.  However, inspectors can use the guidelines below to make educated judgments about the materials they inspect.
FASTENERS, CONNECTORS & STEEL
YEARS
Adjustable Steel Columns 50+
Fasteners (bright) 25 to 60
Fasteners (copper) 65 to 80+
Fasteners (galvanized) 10+
Fasteners (electro-galvanized) 15 to 45
Fasteners (hot-dipped galvanized) 35 to 60
Fasteners (stainless) 65 to 100+
Steel Beams 200+
Steel Columns 100+
Steel Plates 100+
Flooring life is dependent on maintenance and the amount of foot traffic the floor endures.
FLOORING YEARS
All Wood Floors 100+
Bamboo 100+
Brick Pavers 100+
Carpet 8 to 10
Concrete 50+
Engineered Wood 50+
Exotic Wood 100+
Granite 100+
Laminate 15 to 25
Linoleum 25
Marble 100+
Other Domestic Wood 100+
Slate 100
Terrazzo 75+
Tile 75 to 100
Vinyl 25
Concrete and poured-block footings and foundations will last a lifetime, assuming they were properly built.  Waterproofing with bituminous coating lasts 10 years, but if it cracks, it is immediately damaged.
FOUNDATIONS YEARS
Baseboard Waterproofing System 50
Bituminous-Coating Waterproofing 10
Concrete Block 100+
Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs) 100
Post and Pier 20 to 65
Post and Tensioned Slab on Grade 100+
Poured-Concrete Footings and Foundation 100+
Slab on Grade (concrete) 100
Wood Foundation 5 to 40
Permanent Wood Foundation (PWF; treated) 75
Framing and structural systems have extended longevities; poured-concrete systems, timber frame houses and structural insulated panels will all last a lifetime.
FRAMING YEARS
Log 80 to 200
Poured-Concrete Systems 100+
Steel 100+
Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) 100+
Timber Frame 100+
The quality and frequency of use will affect the longevity of garage doors and openers.
GARAGES YEARS
Garage Doors 20 to 25
Garage Door Openers 10 to 15
Home technology systems have diverse life expectancies and may have to be upgraded due to evolution in technology.
HOME TECHNOLOGY YEARS
Built-In Audio 20
Carbon Monoxide Detectors* 5
Door Bells 45
Home Automation System 5 to 50
Intercoms 20
Security System 5 to 20
Smoke/Heat Detectors* less than 10
Wireless Home Networks 5+
* Batteries should be changed at least annually.
Thermostats may last 35 years but they are usually replaced before they fail due to technological improvements.
HVAC YEARS
Air Conditioner (central) 7 to 15
Air Exchanger 15
Attic Fan 15 to 25
Boiler 40
Burner 10+
Ceiling Fan 5 to 10
Condenser 8 to 20
Dampers 20+
Dehumidifier 8
Diffusers, Grilles and Registers 25
Ducting 60 to 100
Electric Radiant Heater 40
Evaporator Cooler 15 to 25
Furnace 15 to 25
Gas Fireplace 15 to 25
Heat Exchanger 10 to 15
Heat Pump 10 to 15
Heat-Recovery Ventilator 20
Hot-Water and Steam-Radiant Boiler 40
Humidifier 12
Induction and Fan-Coil Units 10 to 15
Chimney Cap (concrete) 100+
Chimney Cap (metal) 10 to 20
Chimney Cap (mortar) 15
Chimney Flue Tile 40 to 120
Thermostats 35
Ventilator 7
As long as they are not punctured, cut or burned and are kept dry and away from UV rays, cellulose, fiberglass and foam insulation materials will last a lifetime. This is true regardless of whether they were installed as loose-fill, housewrap or batts/rolls.
INSULATION & INFILTRATION BARRIERS YEARS
Batts/Rolls 100+
Black Paper (felt paper) 15 to 30
Cellulose 100+
Fiberglass 100+
Foamboard 100+
Housewrap 80+
Liquid-Applied Membrane 50
Loose-Fill 100+
Rock Wool 100+
Wrap Tape 80+
Masonry is one of the most enduring household components. Fireplaces, chimneys and brick veneers can last the lifetime of a home.
MASONRY & CONCRETE    YEARS
Brick 100+
Insulated Concrete Forms (hybrid block) 100+
Concrete Masonry Units (CMUs) 100+
Man-Made Stone 25
Masonry Sealant 2 to 20
Stone 100+
Stucco/EIFS 50+
Veneer 100+
Custom millwork and stair parts will last a lifetime and are typically only upgraded for aesthetic reasons.
MOLDING, MILLWORK & TRIM YEARS
Attic Stairs (pull-down) 50
Custom Millwork 100+
Pre-Built Stairs 100+
Stair Parts 100+
Stairs 100+
The lifetime of any wood product depends heavily on moisture intrusion.
PANELS YEARS
Flooring Underlayment 25
Hardboard 40
Particleboard 60
Plywood 100
Softwood 30
Oriented Strand Board (OSB) 60
Wall Panels 100+
The quality of plumbing fixtures varies dramatically.  The mineral content of water can shorten the life expectancy of water heaters and clog showerheads.  Also, some finishes may require special maintenance with approved cleaning agents per the manufacturers in order to last their expected service lives.
PLUMBING, FIXTURES & FAUCETS YEARS
ABS and PVC Waste Pipe 50 to 80
Accessible/ADA Handles 100+
Acrylic Kitchen Sink 50
Cast-Iron Bathtub 100
Cast-Iron Waste Pipe (above ground) 60
Cast-Iron Waste Pipe (below ground) 50 to 60
Concrete Waste Pipe 100+
Copper Water Lines 70
Enameled Steel Kitchen Sink 5 to 10+
Faucets and Spray Hose 15 to 20
Fiberglass Bathtub and Shower 20
Gas Lines (black steel) 75
Gas Lines (flex) 30
Hose Bibs 20 to 30
Instant (on-demand) Water Heater 10
PEX 40
Plastic Water Lines 75
Saunas/Steam Room 15 to 20
Sewer Grinder Pump 10
Shower Enclosure/Module 50
Shower Doors 20
Showerheads 100+ (if not clogged by mineral/other deposits)
Soapstone Kitchen Sink 100+
Sump Pump 7
Toilet Tank Components 5
Toilets, Bidets and Urinals 100+
Vent Fan (ceiling) 5 to 10
Vessel Sink (stone, glass, porcelain, copper) 5 to 20+
Water Heater (conventional) 6 to 12
Water Line (copper) 50
Water Line (plastic) 50
Well Pump 15
Water Softener 20
Whirlpool Tub 20 to 50
Radon systems have but one moving part:  the radon fan.

RADON SYSTEMS
YEARS
Air Exchanger 15
Barometric Backdraft Damper/Fresh-Air Intake 20
Caulking 5 to 10
Labeling 25
Manometer 15
Piping 50+
Radon Fan 5 to 8
The life of a roof depends on local weather conditions, building and design, material quality, and adequate maintenance.  Hot climates drastically reduce asphalt shingle life.  Roofs in areas that experience severe weather, such as hail, tornadoes and/or hurricanes may also experience a shorter-than-normal lifespan overall or may incur isolated damage that requires repair in order to ensure the service life of the surrounding roofing materials.
ROOFING YEARS
Aluminum Coating 3 to 7
Asphalt Shingles (3-tab) 20
Asphalt (architectural) 30
BUR (built-up roofing) 30
Clay/Concrete 100+
Coal and Tar 30
Copper 70+
EPDM (ethylene propylene diene monomer) Rubber 15 to 25
Fiber Cement 25
Green (vegetation-covered) 5 to 40
Metal 40 to 80
Modified Bitumen 20
Simulated Slate 10 to 35
Slate 60 to 150
TPO 7 to 20
Wood 25
Outside siding materials typically last a lifetime.  Some exterior components may require protection through appropriate paints or sealants, as well as regular maintenance.  Also, while well-maintained and undamaged flashing can last a long time, it is their connections that tend to fail, so seasonal inspection and maintenance are strongly recommended.
SIDINGS, FLASHING & ACCESSORIES YEARS
Aluminum Siding 25 to 40+
Aluminum Gutters, Downspouts, Soffit and Fascia 20 to 40+
Asbestos Shingle 100
Brick 100+
Cementitious 100+
Copper Downspouts 100
Copper Gutters 50+
Engineered Wood 100+
Fiber Cement 100+
Galvanized Steel Gutters/Downspouts 20
Manufactured Stone 100+
Stone 100+
Stucco/EIFS 50+
Trim 25
Vinyl Siding 60
Vinyl Gutters and Downspouts 25+
Wood/Exterior Shutters 20
Site and landscaping elements have life expectancies that vary dramatically.
SITE & LANDSCAPING YEARS
American Red Clay 100+
Asphalt Driveway 15 to 20
Brick and Concrete Patio 15 to 25
Clay Paving 100+
Concrete Walks 40 to 50
Controllers 15
Gravel Walks 4 to 6
Mulch 1 to 2
Polyvinyl Fencing 100+
Sprinkler Heads 10 to 14
Underground PVC Piping 60+
Valves 20
Wood Chips 1 to 5
Wood Fencing 20
Swimming pools are comprised of many systems and components, all with varying life expectancies.
SWIMMING POOLS
YEARS
Concrete Shell 25+
Cover 7
Diving Board 10
Filter and Pump 10
Interior Finish 10 to 35
Vinyl Liner 10
Pool Water Heater 8
Waterline Tile 15+
Aluminum windows are expected to last between 15 and 20 years, while wooden windows should last nearly 30 years.
WINDOWS YEARS
Aluminum/Aluminum-Clad 15 to 20
Double-Pane 8 to 20
Skylights 10 to 20
Window Glazing 10+
Vinyl Windows 20 to 40
Wood 30+

Note: Life expectancy varies with usage, weather, installation, maintenance and quality of materials.  This list should be used only as a general guideline and not as a guarantee or warranty regarding the performance or life expectancy of any appliance, product, system or component.

From InterNACHI’s Standard Estimated Life Expectancy Chart for Homes – InterNACHI http://www.nachi.org/life-expectancy.htm#ixzz2P3r65Oa6

Buying a Condo in Vancouver

Buying a condo in Vancouver can be exciting and confusing. If you are ready to purchase a condo, have a look at the information below – it may save you time and money!

Commercial Building

1. Consider only an Independent Inspector who is not related to any party involved in the buying process.

2. Please provide your inspector with the MLS listing #. We consider it as important to review the listing agent’s description of he property. This is important, because, you may come along descriptions, such as new “rain screen” wall design. However, when inspecting the exterior walls it is sometimes discovered that only one single wall got repaired. The buyer may face the danger of facing eventually large unexpected assessments to pay for these deficiencies.

3. We recommend that you receive a copy of the Property Disclosure Statement (PDS), since this is an important document. The PDS will tell you in writing what your entitlements (e.g. locker / parking space) are. The PDS will also advise you who to contact on council if you require more information before removing your subject clauses.

4. We highly recommend that you review the Information Certificate (Form B). This is a very important document. It will advise, amongst other things, how much money is in the Constituency Reserve Fund (CRF). This is an emergency account. Under the Strata Property Act the owners are obliged to contribute a certain percentage of their maintenance fees, to cover large expenditures. Some examples would be re-plumbing, asbestos removal, building envelope repair or roof replacement.

You may be informed that there is a large emergency fund. You may learn that the STRATA has the amount of $X. We always recommend a simple test to determine just how much money is available in their CRF per unit.

Divide amount in the CRF by the number of units.

Number of units: 200

CRF = $250,000

Available per unit: $ 1,250

5. We also consider an additional figure for many condo buyers, purchasing a home where they actually want to live in, as extremely important. How many renters are living in the complex and is there a bylaw in place to regulate renting. This must also be considered as important in case you are looking for an investment property.

6. We recommend to our clients that you kindly ask your realtor to write into your Contract for Purchase that you are to receive copies of all Engineers and “Other Contractors” reports that have been submitted to the STRATA council over the last six (6) years.

7. We would like to advise you to read all minutes carefully. Please note that The Homeowners Protection Office recommends that for older buildings and especially for structures with face sealed stucco and the once which already got partially repaired, the STRATA should have an annual building envelope inspection performed by a professional building envelope specialist.

According to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) buyers who did not request and read all the documents mentioned before, received notice for special assessments up to $200,000 within one year of purchase. CMHC also says, that many first time home buyers did not understand many of the information they were reading. Please ask your realtor any questions you may have. He is the professional who deals with these subjects on a daily basis.

8. We advise you to be careful in case you come along a realtor who advises you against an inspection. In case a realtor is trying to influence you, please be aware and follow your instinct. You want to protect the largest investment you probably make in your lifetime.

 

Author David Fairbairn has years of experience with Strata corporations, Leaky Condo remediation and commercial buildings. Trust him to perform your Condo Inspection! Call 604 395-2795 or email him at david@fairbairninspections.com

How to Spot a Vancouver Leaky Condo From the Street

Leaky Condos are infamous in Vancouver, and rightfully so – they’ve cost homeowners, businesses and developers millions of dollars and caused heartbreak and frustration for almost twenty years. Here’s five minutes worth of reading that can save you countless hours of frustration.

Everything you need to know about Leaky Condos:

1). Leaky condos were built between 1982 and 1999. The building code changed around 2000 to require rain screens in stucco buildings.

2). Most leaky condos have stucco cladding. Stucco was popular during the Vancouver housing boom. The only problem is that it was installed face-sealed, which means it was installed tight against the building, with no cavity for water to drain from.

3). Leaky condos lack a rain-screen assembly: A rain-screen assembly is a thin cavity between the building and the stucco that allows air and moisture to flow – and not get held against the building to cause rot.

4). They kept being built because it took a long time for the problem to show up. By the time the industry realized what was going on, years had passed and thousands of buildings had been built with this faulty design.

5). Vancouver has high annual rainfall. This is key – in California there are many similar building designs – but with much less annual rainfall, their buildings tend to perform much better.

6). Problem buildings are easy to spot from the street. Take a look at the below photos.

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A condo with a partial rain screen

In the above picture we can see expansion joints with flashings on the right-hand wall, between the floors.

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A non rain screened elevation on the same building

In this picture we can see another wall from the same building – but no flashings.

The wall in the right side of the first photo has been rain screened. The wall in the second photo has not, and is face-sealed EIFS (Exterior Insulated Finishing System, also known as “Synthetic Stucco”)

This particular building had the east wall fail (and leak), but the strata elected to only remediate the one wall, instead of the entire building. However, this may be postponing the inevitable, as the other walls could eventually fail as well, and they will need to be repaired.

Rainscreening an entire building like this would cost millions of dollars, which will need to be paid by every owner. It is not uncommon to see strata owners have to pay enormous special levies for these types of projects.

Hopefully this article has helped you identify a rain-screened building. Knowing the difference will be beneficial when house-hunting in Vancouver.

 

Author David Fairbairn is a certified, licensed home inspector serving Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. He has spent years working with Stratas on leaky condo projects, and holds a Power Engineering License in BC. Why not give him a call for your next Home Inspection?

Call 604 395-2795 or email david@fairbairninspections.com today!

Truss Uplift – Why Are There Cracks in Your Ceiling?

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Truss uplift is a phenomenon that occurs in a home with a truss roof system (see above picture). In cold weather the bottom chord of the truss stays warmer and drier than the other the members, because it is closer to the heated area below. The other members expand at a different rate than the bottom chord, so it bows upwards, pulling the ceiling up with it.

It looks like this from inside:

truss uplift

Yikes – someone seeing that for the first time might assume that it is a serious structural problem! Don’t worry, though; there are ways to correct it without major expense.

SOLUTIONS

There are a few solutions for this problem:

1. Adequate Attic Ventilation: By preventing a build-up of moisture in the attic, you effectively control expansion of the wood framing members, and lessen their movement during cold/hot weather.

2. Install Sliding Clips: These brackets allow the truss to move up and down without pulling anything along with it.

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3: During Construction: Some builders are securing the ceiling drywall to the top of the walls, and not attaching to trusses for a distance of 18 inches from any wall.

4. Install crown moldings, but fasten them to the ceiling only, not the wall. Then when the ceiling moves the molding travels up and down with it, hiding the movement! This is also a good excuse to impress visitors with your interior design skills.

 

Does your home inspector know what to look for when he sees a crack in the ceiling? 

About the Author: David Fairbairn is a licensed, insured, Certified Home Inspector in the province of BC. and holds a certificate in home inspection from Ashton College in Vancouver.

He is also a licensed Power Engineer in BC, and holds a certificate in power engineering from the McPhail school of Energy at SAIT in Alberta. He has been involved in the construction, maintenance and repair of luxury and high-end commercial buildings in downtown Vancouver for many years.

He has a common-sense approach to building science and an innate ability to explain complicated concepts in clear terms.

 

Call now to book your home inspection! 604 395-2795

david@fairbairninspections.com

Polybutylene Piping – The Leaky Truth

This week we’re going to take a look at a rather controversial item for many home inspectors – Polybutylene Piping.

PolyB

Also known as “Poly-B” piping, it was used from the late 1970′s to the early 1990′s for hot and cold water distribution in homes. It is extremely common to see this type of piping here in the Northwest.

It usually has a dull grey (sometimes white) appearance, with metal bands at the fittings.

It was flexible, easy to install, and cheap, and it gained popularity for those reasons. However…

Poly-B can prematurely burst. Chlorine, present in most domestic city water supplies, is suspected to weaken the structural integrity of the plastic and cause it to prematurely burst. Even if it looks fine from the outside, it could still have flaked away on the inside.

Poly-B piping has so far been the subject of several class-action lawsuits. In some states/provinces, it will affect the homeowner’s ability to get home insurance!

If you have this type of piping in your home and it starts to leak in one area, it may just be the beginning of your headaches. If one section of pipe has weakened then more leaks will likely follow. You may need to re-pipe your entire house.

Depending on your home inspector, they may not necessarily report Polybutylene piping as a deficiency, but will warn that it will require ongoing monitoring for any signs of failure. I personally take this route and make sure my clients fully understand the implications of this type of piping.

As a side note, my childhood home, which is almost 30 years old, contains all Polybutylene distribution piping and is still going strong. As with many things in life, “your mileage may vary”.

Polybutylene News

 

About the Inspector:

David is a licensed, insured, Certified Home Inspector in the province of BC. and holds a certificate in home inspection from Ashton College in Vancouver.

He is also a licensed Power Engineer in BC, and holds a certificate in power engineering from the McPhail school of Energy at SAIT in Alberta. He has been involved in the construction, maintenance and repair of luxury and high-end commercial buildings in downtown Vancouver for many years.

He has a common-sense approach to Inspecting Homes and an innate ability to explain complicated concepts in clear terms.

Call now to book your home inspection!

604 395-2795