Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Carbon Fiber Foundation Repair Inspection

 Carbon Fiber Foundation Repair Inspection

The first thing I think of when I see a carbon fiber foundation repair is: Is this done properly? So what is carbon fiber? Carbon fiber is a polymer known as graphite fiber. Extremely light weight, and 5 times stronger than steel, 2 times as stiff, and considerably lighter. Normally carbon fiber repairs are must less expensive than other foundation repairs and require no maintenance. Referring to the picture above; how will a home inspector know if carbon fiber was installed properly. So how is it supposed to be installed and when is it recommended for use? Carbon fiber is installed on areas of a wall that is moving (normally bowing), or cracked. The fibers should be installed in the opposite direction of the movement. So, if there is a horizontal crack and the wall is bowing, the fibers should be vertical like the picture above. The area where the carbon fiber is being attached should be ground and cleaned so the epoxy will adhere. A special high strength epoxy is then applied. The carbon fiber strips or matting is then applied and rolled or pressed into place. Some carbon fiber strips are also secured at the top and bottom of the wall. So what should a home inspector be looking for when inspecting a wall where carbon fiber has been installed?


  • Carbon fiber repairs are recommended for a smaller amount of movement or cracking. Significant movement or cracking would require other methods including earth anchors, or rebuilding.
  • Drainage should be installed preferably on the inside and outside of the wall
  • Epoxy should be visible around the carbon fiber
  • The carbon fiber should not be lifting or separating from the wall
  • What was the reason (if you can determine) for the carbon fiber reinforcement?
  • Is there an engineers scope of work report available?
  • Ask for warranty information for your client, (note this in your written report also)
  • Was the work performed by a reputable company
  • Home inspectors should still report on what you see; movement / cracks / bowing, etc. Including the degree
  • Some experts recommend the carbon fiber wall supports should be mechanically attached or epoxyed at the sill plate and at the floor anchoring to the footing.
  • Again, check the scope of work and warranty information if available 

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Inspecting Quad Circuit Breakers


Not to be confused with 2 – 240 volt double pole circuit breakers; quad circuit breakers take up less space (2 slots instead of 4) in service panels but still allow for up to 4 - 120 volt circuits, 2 - 120 volt circuits and one 240 volt circuit, or 2 - 240 volt circuits. Modern quad circuit breakers are 2 tandem circuit breakers that are joined internally and externally with a link or handle tie for the 240 volt circuit. Used to add a 240 Volt circuit (s) or up to 4 (multi) branch circuits in a panel that is full.

In the above picture it is a 240 volt 30 amp circuit (10 AWG wire) – red and black connected to outer breakers and joined with a metal handle tie

Center two 20 amp breakers are not joined and are separate circuits

This is an older quad breaker so the outer 240 volt circuit is dependent on the metal handle tie to disengage both legs of the circuit, which may fail. If you see this, recommend a licensed electrician upgrade to a newer quad circuit breaker that is also internally linked like this:


The above quad breaker would allow for 2 separate 15 amp circuits and one 30 amp, 240 volt circuit. As earlier stated, you could also use quad breakers for multi-branch circuits. Remember, if wired for a 240 volt circuit or for a multi-branch circuit, ensure both hot conductors are on opposite poles. The above quad breaker has one 15 amp & one 30 amp on each pole. Using the above breaker as an example:

  • One 14 gauge conductor (black / hot) will go to the 15 amp breaker on the far left, and one on the far right 15 amp breaker. Both neutrals go to the neutral bus. Grounds to the ground bus. These 2 breakers now work as independent 120v, 15 amp circuits.

  • Two 10 gauge conductors (black / red) would be connected to the 30 amp center breakers. Neutral and ground to the proper bus. This now functions like a 240v, 30 amp double pole circuit.

 If they are not wired correctly, make sure to note that this is a defect and needs to be corrected. 240 Volt circuits, including Multi-Branch circuits must be internally and externally linked

Quad circuit breakers must be used in a service panel that is approved for tandem breakers. Look for this detail inside the service panel.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

GFCI Inspections

                                                        GFCI Inspections


Many inspectors use a plug in device to “test” GFCI receptacles. Although these devices may work on older GFCI receptacles, they may not trip a newer GFCI receptacle. I have seen many times a GFCI tester not trip an ungrounded GFCI receptacle. GFCI’s monitor the current between the hot and neutral; not the ground. Although, an ungrounded circuit with a GFCI receptacle will provide some protection, it is always best to have a GFCI connected to a grounded circuit.

Newer GFCI’s can be identified by a status indicator light. They perform self tests and are designed to meet the latest UL standard for auto-monitoring (self-test). Newer GFCIs periodically conduct an automatic internal test to confirm that it can respond to a ground fault. If the test button is pressed on a newer GFCI it will prevent reset of the GFCI if it is not wired or operating correctly.  Because of this most of the states and national standards for testing GFCI receptacles and circuit breakers advise the inspector to press the “test” & “reset” buttons in that order. If the status indicator light goes on (newer GFCI’s) and the unit resets, then the device is wired and functioning properly. On an older device, be sure to check and ensure power has been restored. Always recommend a licensed electrician properly ground all circuits. So how should a home inspector test, evaluate, and advise their clients regarding GFCI’s;


Testing an older GFCI (without a status indicator light):

  • Older GFCI’s can still be tested with a plug in device, however if the receptacle is not grounded, it may not trip the receptacle.
  • If there is not a ground, recommend a licensed electrician upgrade. (trips or not with tester)
  • If a ground is detected, your testing device should trip the test button (satisfactorily responded)
  • If a ground is noted and the tester does not trip the test button; recommend it is evaluated by a licensed electrician. Although grounded, the “line” and “load” connections or branch circuit wiring may be incorrect.
  • The receptacle itself could be also faulty
  • There could also be an issue with the circuit or over current protection device
  • It may be prudent to have the electrician upgrade the GFCI to a newer self testing receptacle
  • These devices are meant to protect against electrocution; therefore, we should not indicate they are safe unless grounded and respond to our testing device.


Testing a newer GFCI (with a status indicator light):

  • If you see a green status indicator light; this will indicate that the receptacle is wired & working properly. TO TEST:
  1. Press the “test” button, the receptacle should trip & the status light should go off. You can also verify this with a mechanical tester
  2. After the receptacle is tripped, pressing the reset button should cause the status indicator light on the receptacle to come on (green). This indicates that the receptacle is wired and functioning properly. This is an acceptable method to test newer GFCI’s.
  • If a ground is not detected (which would be unlikely, but possible) with the mechanical tester, recommend a licensed electrician upgrade, even if it responds to the test button.
  • A determination should not be made on the GFCI’s status with a mechanical tester because it may not trip the test button.
  • Most home inspection standards of practice require pushing the test button to ensure the power is turned off. This can be verified by the mechanical tester or the status light going off.
  • Be sure to press the reset button and verify the status light comes back on. If it does not, the receptacle may be defective or there is a problem with the circuit. Recommend repair by a licensed electrician.
  • Newer GFCI’s periodically conduct an automatic internal test to confirm that it can respond to a ground fault
  • A red status indicator signifies the following:

-        Red blinking = initial self test (initial power up only)

-        Red solid or blinking = press test / reset to reset GFCI

-        If red status light does not go off = device / wiring faulty

Monday, August 29, 2022

Electrical Wiring Materials and Proper Installation


Electrical Wiring Materials and Proper Installation

There are many different types of wiring materials. Installations of these components are different depending on the usage. Although you may be able to use different wire / conductor types for similar applications; there are specific recommendations for these types of branch circuit wiring. Here are the most common types of wiring and how they are normally used. Armored Cable (AC) has been used for many years and still in use today. The conductors are plastic (cloth for older applications), and the outer covering is metal. Rigid Metal Conduit is designed for protection of conductors. RMC ranges in size from ½” to 4”. Non-Metallic Tubing (ENT) is a flexible corrugated tube designed for protection of conductors. ENT is not approved for exterior locations. Check with the manufacture. Liquidtight Flexible Conduit (LFC) is made from PVC and can be installed

in all locations. Often found on exterior HVAC equipment, swimming pools, & hot tubs.

Rigid Polyvinyl Chloride Conduit (RNC) is not the same as plumbing pipe and cannot be used as such. Plumbing PVC may not be used as RNC either. It comes in two wall thicknesses; Schedule 40 or 80. Underground Feeder (UF) is designed for wet locations. It is normally gray in color. Nonmetallic (NM) is most common in modern construction since around 1940. Early versions of NM from around 1920 – 1940 had cloth sheathing instead of the modern PVC sheathing. NMC has a coating that is non conducting, flame-resistant, and moisture resistant. NMC is approved for damp environments. So what are some things home inspectors should look for:


  • AC cable should only be used indoors
  • AC conductors should have an anti-short bushing at every end
  • AC should be supported every 4 ½ feet and within 1 foot from boxes and terminations
  • RMC can be installed in all locations including into concrete
  • RMC should be supported every 10’ and within 3’ from boxes & terminations
  • ENT should be supported every 3 feet
  • LFC should be supported every 4 1/2’ and within 1’ from boxes and terminations
  • RNC may be installed in all locations including burial and embedded in concrete
  • RNC should be supported every 3 feet for 1” and smaller sizes, 5’ for 1¼” and larger sizes and within 3 feet from boxes and terminations
  • UF cannot be embedded in concrete
  • UF may not be used for swimming pool, hot tub, or spa wiring
  • NM should only be located in dry locations only and not below grade
  • NM should not be installed inside of conduit that is buried
  • NM may not be embedded in concrete or in conduit embedded in concrete.
  • NMC is approved for damp locations
  • All electrical conductors should be protected by strike plates if closer than 1 ¼” from the edge of any framing member
  • Burial depth is as follows: UF / MC is at least 24”, RMC at least 6”, LFC is at least 18”, GFCI protected residential branch circuits of 20 amps or less may be buried at least 12 inches regardless of the wiring method.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Why Is The Air Conditioner Not Cooling Properly?

 Why Is The Air Conditioner Not Cooling Properly?

All home inspectors have a method they use to inspect the air conditioning system. We know the obvious things to look for and how to energize the system and see if it appears to operate properly. A visual home inspection is limited to the time we are at the house. I try to leave the system running as long as practical, however sometimes it is a shorter period than I would like. We check for proper operation, thermostat response, leaks, noise from the compressor, fan, blower, and proper condensate discharge. If everything checks out ok and the system is running properly but there is no or very little cool air coming from the ducts there is an issue. Of course, we are going to recommend a qualified HVAC professional evaluate the system. There are some conditions that may cause what appears to be a operating system from producing adequate cold air and proper dehumidification. A normal temperature drop should be between 14-24 ℉ (measured at the plenum about 12” from the supply & return side). Another issue may be the length of the refrigerant lines. Normally 60’of horizontal run and 45’ of vertical distance is the maximum recommended by many manufactures. Anything longer than that may cause proper operation issues. The refrigerant lines should be supported approximately every 8’ and supports should be compatible with copper as not to corrode. Home inspectors are not required or even expected to diagnose a problem or conduct a temperature drop analysis; however here are some conditions that may cause a central electric air conditioning system to not adequately cool that they should be aware of;


  • Evaporator coils located before the fan
  • Evaporator coil not rated the same BTU as the condenser unit
  • Improperly sized system
  • Condenser unit outside has improper clearance or dirty (recommend 3’)
  • Growth / bushes / landscaping to close to the condensing unit (recommend 3’)
  • Condenser unit to close to dryer discharge (recommend 3’)
  • Condenser unit exposed to direct sunlight throughout the day
  • Condenser fins are damaged
  • Insulation missing on suction line
  • Refrigerant lines kinked or damaged
  • Dirty evaporator coil
  • Dirty air filter
  • Low coolant
  • Undersized or restricted cold air return
  • Leaks in the duct system
  • Insufficient supply / return ducts (often seen in Cape Cod style houses)
  • Ducts not properly balanced. They should be changed in the winter / summer months if the system in integrated with heat
  • Improper fan speed (we see this with older retro-fitted AC systems)

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Properly Advising Your Client About Asbestos


Just about every week I get asked that question. Home inspectors are fully aware that the “A” word could create confusion and fear in our clients. Most standards of practice & code of ethics we follow do not recommend or allow us to note that Asbestos is present without first testing for it. Of course those of us that have been doing this for any length of time know what Asbestos looks like and where it is commonly found. Many people think that Asbestos is no longer in any products on the market. If you think asbestos is banned in the U.S., that is not the case. From 1973 to 1978, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) did ban everything from asbestos pipe and block insulation to the use of asbestos in artificial fireplace embers and wall patching compounds. In 1989, the EPA issued a final rule under Section 6 of Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) banning most asbestos-containing products. However, just a few years later, the rule was vacated and remanded by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. As a result, most of the original ban on the manufacture, importation, processing, and distribution in commerce for the majority of the asbestos-containing products originally covered in the 1989 final rule was overturned. Today, asbestos is still used in dozens of products, and the public might not be aware of just how close to home these products are. Asbestos is the only cause of mesothelioma, so it is important to be aware of the products that still contain this deadly mineral. We know that Asbestos can be found in insulation of boiler / stem pipes, around forced air ducts, insulation, siding materials, roofing materials, & inside or around old fuse boxes. It still is used in the following areas:

Construction Materials - Many homes built before 1980 already have asbestos in their flooring, insulation, plaster, and paint. Today, it is still legal to manufacture, import, process and distribute asbestos-containing construction materials such as cement corrugated sheet, flat sheet, pipe, and shingle, non-roof coatings, pipeline wrap, roof coatings, roofing felt, and vinyl tile floor.

Car Parts  - Asbestos can still be found in automatic transmission components, brake blocks, clutch facings, disk brake pads, drum brake linings, friction materials, and gaskets.

Fertilizer and Potting Soil -  According to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), vermiculite (which may contain a type of naturally occurring asbestos called tremolite-actinolite) has been used in some potting soil and fertilizer. The IDPH says the mineral is used in potting soil for plant growth, and it appears as bright gold or silver flakes.

Talc -  Although talc isn’t made with asbestos today, Consumer Safety says, “in nature, talc deposits occur together with asbestos, and mined talc can easily become contaminated with asbestos.” Some companies have been sued over talc products that have been found to contain asbestos.

How should a home inspector properly advise their clients and a link to A Homeowners Guide To Asbestos & Removal and a Vermiculite removal program that will financially assist your clients when Asbestos is suspected:

·       When you suspect Asbestos recommend your client have the material in question tested for hazardous materials including Asbestos. Make sure this recommendation is in your written report

·       Explain to them that products containing Asbestos may not pose a risk if it has been properly encapsulated. Refer them to a professional who can further evaluate and advise them

·       Do not disturb the material. Leave that to the professionals

·       We do not recommend a home inspector test for Asbestos unless specifically trained because it would have to be disturbed which could cause a problem

·       Advise the homeowner if they plan to perform any construction work in the area where the Asbestos is contained to contact a professional first to ensure it is safe

·       If the Asbestos is not friable, and in areas where it will not come into contact with individuals, it may not pose a risk to the occupants. Recommend further evaluation and testing.

·       Any friable Asbestos should be removed by a trained abatement company

·       For Vermiculite suspected in insulation contact: Zonolite Attic Insulation Trust by CLICKING HERE. They have a program that will financially assist your clients in removing and re-insulating their attic

·       CLICK HERE for a Homeowners Guide to Asbestos & Removal you can share with your clients

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Inspecting Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

 Inspecting Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

As electric vehicle’s become more popular we are seeing more charging systems in garages and mounted outside. Some charging stations are supplied by a 240 Volt AC single-phase electricity source or 120 Volt AC to provide electricity to the vehicle’s charging system. There are three types of charging options: Level 1, Level 2, & Level 3. Level 1 chargers employ a standard AC current at 120 Volts and is supplied to the vehicle using a portable cord that plugs into standard 20 amp three prong outlet. Level 1 chargers provide 2-5 miles of electric range for each hour of charging. Level 2 chargers are a higher voltage at 240 volts and is supplied as AC current to the vehicle using a standard connector that works with most vehicles. (Tesla provides an adapter). Level 2 chargers provide about 20 miles of range in an hour. 3-6 hours usually provides a full charge. Level 3 charging is a bit different. First these 2 fundamentals of electric vehicle charging. 1. Power from the utility company is always alternating current (AC). 2. Electric vehicle batteries only accept direct current (DC). In level 1 & 2 charging the AC to DC conversion takes place in the vehicle in an onboard charger. With level 3 charging, the conversion takes place before the power reaches the vehicle inside the charging station. This bypasses the slower onboard charger and instead charges the battery directly. Normally you can charge a battery to 80% in 30 minutes. Level 3 charging stations are not currently available for home use as they use a 480 volt system.

  Most charging stations are designed with a permanent grounding system to provide safety to the user. The charging station is wired similar to a sub panel. They are also GFCI equipped and will shut down if a fault is detected. This connection is typically at the utility entry power distribution panel. Most charging stations are designed to control and monitor energy delivery from the residence’s electrical service wiring to the electric vehicle. The vehicle monitors current and battery state of charge. What should a home inspector be looking for:


  • The charging enclosure should be completely insulated with no exposed parts
  • Check the charging cable for damage.
  • The charging cable should not be in contact with the ground
  • The charging station should be on a dedicated circuit
  • The charging station should be connected to a grounded, metal, permanent wiring system
  • An equipment-grounding conductor is to be run with the power circuit conductors and connected to an equipment grounding terminal or lead on the charging stations ground strip
  • Corrosion  / arcing / damage on the inside of the charging station
  • The mounting plate and face unit must be used and securely fastened to the wall
  • Most home charging stations are rated for 40 amps, however check with the manufacture
  • The two phases must each measure 120 Volts AC to Neutral.
  • There should be no exposed wires
  • Earth ground must be connected to neutral at only one point.
  • A service disconnect should be near the unit if it is not in close proximity to the service panel housing the service disconnect for the station (check local requirements)
  • Four conductors should be used to supply the charging station (2-hot, 1-neutral, 1 ground)