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       Troubled Houses - The Home Owner's Resource sm

We see many interesting adverse conditions during our inspections, partly due to the many ways people can mess up a house, but also because we do a thorough inspection to reveal these adverse conditions. We hope these stories and illustrations help homeowners avoid these costly conditions by learning about causes, preventions, and remedies. A home purchase can create opportunities for the new owner to improve the home, possibly increasing its value, durability, and usefulness. Current photos of the month.  

NOTICE TO BUYERS & SELLERS: This site does NOT encourage or discourage the purchase of any individual house, or style, age, location, or condition of house.  Conditions shown and/or described in the following articles may have been remedied at the house where these conditions were found.  These conditions typically can be remedied by qualified contractors. The presence of these conditions in any house is comparable to any other real estate consideration such as price, size, or location.  Consult a qualified home inspector before purchasing any house, and consult a qualified real estate agent for more information on how to handle a real estate transaction where adverse conditions are reported in a home inspection.   This site does not describe any house by address or knowingly show a readily identifiable exterior image.  Further, no home actively listed for sale  will be described on these pages at the time the article is posted.  

THANK YOU for visiting   Learn more about our services, which now include IR Thermography, radon testing, and carbon monoxide tests. All photos copyright All rights reserved. Licenses to use these copyrighted images can be arranged by contacting   "Troubled Houses - The Home Owner's Resource" is a SERVICE MARK of Hankey & Brown Inspection Service Inc. 

TOPICS:  Articles & Photos

    Attic Bypasses    aka Air Leaks  Also see the Energy Savings & Ice Dam articles         
         Huge Air leak from house into attic at the chimney
         Find the Heat Loss - Roof snow melt pattern
         Multiple air leaks in a story and a half house
         Typical air leak around a furnace vent

    Carbon Monoxide Testing      
        Why we test for Carbon Monoxide 
        Water Heater making Carbon Monoxide

    Deck Inspections
          Very Insecure Deck railing
        Potential deck collapse averted by home inspection
        Details Matter: A screwed up deck
        Faith in Bolts Deck beam
        Decay atop decay - Wood deck on timber retaining wall

          Uncovering the unexpected - Electrical conditions can change
        Find the circuit breaker panel
        Switch improperly installed with aluminum wire in 1971 still in use in 2007
        The Electric Shower
        Beautiful but not practical - Obstructed breaker panel
        More wires ≠ More power
Why we uncover the service panel
        Little creatures = Big mess (mouse infestation)
Also see
        False 100 amp service
        Experts recommend replacement of Federal Pacific Electric panels & Stab-Lok breakers
        We uncover electric service panels even if they have an inspection approval sticker.
        Overlamping light fixtures can create fire hazards

    Energy Savings     also see the Ice Dam and Attic Bypass articles
Unfinished Basement Issues
        Roof snow melt pattern = Missing insulation
       Improper insulation and ventilation details lead to condensation damage
Protect your insulation
       Vermiculite insulation
       Read the label - Exposed paper faced insulation increases potential for flame spread

        Garage Door Spring Containment Cables
       Water entry - Subfloor damage  (also available as a quiz)
       The Disappearing Downspout
       Details Matter - Water must drain off the building.
       First Impressions - May lead to fall.
       Untrained Painter contaminates soil with lead paint

    Heating & Cooling  
       Improper air ducts reduce comfort
 Furnace inspections are critical
       The Unintended Humidifier - Condensate leaks
       Frosted (deteriorated) siding - Improper vent terminal
       Incomplete return air duct installation reduces comfort
       Undisclosed buried fuel oil tank - Abandoned
       Chimney Cap Comparison
       Why we inspect the attic
       Attic inspections are necessary

       Sooty gas fireplaces are a potential hazard
       Drywall dust hurts furnaces and cooling coils
       Use the recommended furnace filter
       Heat Recovery Ventilator or Fancy Exhaust Fan? Its up to you.
       Permitted, Installed, but NOT inspected! Incomplete and incorrect workmanship
       Don't rely on inspections done for OTHERS.

    Ice Dams          Also see the Energy Savings and Attic Bypass articles
        Condo roof gables form 52 valleys - Ice dams in abundance
        Excessive Humidity Damages Attic - Extreme condensation
        Valleys are Villians
        Big valleys, air gaps, trampled insulation, & loose dryer vent = Ice Dams

    Indoor Environment  
        Strict new EPA rules for lead paint abatement
        Old Gas fireplace with hidden adverse condition overlooked by HVAC technician
        Low levels of Carbon Monoxide:  A common source 

          Snow covered grading problem
        Also see our Wet Basement page
        Hill versus Wall:  Wall losing the battle

    Moisture Damage  
        A Broken Roof Drain and a Deck over a crawl space - A bad mix
        Leaky chimney chase - structural water damage 
        Beware of Partial Repairs in Foreclosed Houses - Deck flashing
        Water Woes - Windows, Flashings, Brick veneer, Vapor Barriers 
        Crawl Spaces and Attics - A building science lesson
        Contemporary Stucco house - Moisture intrusion
        Complex Roof & Missing flashing - Following the moisture path
        Clothes dryer vent air leak in an attic - Is it still leaking?
        Moisture Intrusion in a 1990 built house

        Abandoned water wells are required to be sealed.
        Floor Drains - A potential sewer gas point of entry
        Plumbing Matters - Water service - Sewer cleanout cover
        Water heater vent connection - Wrong from the start
        Water heater venting - An orphaned water heater
        Size matters - or Deeper is not always better - Trap height
        Warning? What Warning?  Clothes Dryer venting
        Sewer gas delivery system
        Laundry standpipe with no trap
        Lack of Knowledge & Maintenance - Garbage disposer use and installation.
        Does your dryer vent work?
        Let the Plumber do it!  Gas piping
Clogged arteries in your house (old steel water pipes)
        Also see 
Moisture Mysteries and Experience     

      Poor Choices - Some conditions are best described by a photo and a few words
        Not the recommended filter
        The most dangerous electric service panel we have found
        Fenced Egress Window Well
        Uncapped Gas line
        Chopped roofing
        Electric Service in clothes closet
        Thermostat wiring    
        Improper Nailing leads to premature roofing failure
        Roof Forest - Maintenance - Real Estate Sales Exaggeration
        Unwanted occupant - Squirrel damage
        Deferred Fall Maintenance - Clogged Gutters
        Raccoon Chewed Lead Flashings at Plumbing Vents

        "Sawzall" School of Plumbing - Cut Floor Joist
        Watch Your Step - Stair Construction & Maintenance
        Watch for Improper/Incomplete repairs on bank owned houses
        The most common improper attached garage modification: Folding stairs in ceiling
        The "Open Look" at stairs increases the potential for falls 
        Crawl space surprises! Humans & insects create structural weakness.
        Wood columns - Decay at base in old houses 
        Attached Garages & Fire Separation

     Wet Basements   
    Recipe for a Wet Basement - Gutters & Site Drainage
       Water Mismanagement -Basement edition
       Orange slime: Iron bacteria & Iron Ochre clog foundation drain tile
         Also see Moisture Mysteries

 Inspectors must open some windows - Decayed window sash
       Small finding - Major benefits
                  Home Inspection photos 

Most home built before 1984 have numerous holes that leak warm indoor air into the attic. Sealing these holes is the single most cost effective way to save energy in your home. Some these holes can be closed for NO COST.  One place to start is to look at the fireplace and/or chimney.  An open fireplace damper is a huge opening which can permit warm to zoom up the chimney.  The photo below left shows and open damper. 
The photo at right shows two chimney cleanout doors that are not shut. One is held open with a cable that prevents the door from closing.  Rerouting the cable and closing the doors will prevent the chimney draft from pulling air out of the basement. (Depressurizing the house and causing cold air to enter.)  Other unsealed openings in chimneys are often the result of the removal of former gas or wood burning equipment.  
The left photo shows an unsealed opening immediately to the right of the copper pipe. The opening was for a former water heater. The center photo is of a chimney opening for a former gas space heater. The opening is capped with a loose fitting "pie tin".  A closer look in the detail photo shows the spider's webs formed behind the metal cover proving the large air flow up the chimney around this cover.  Both the 3 inch hole in the basement, and the larger hole at the "pie tin" need to be permanently closed with brick and mortar to stop the air flow up these chimneys.

Recessed lights in upper level room ceilings, particularly those installed before 2000, are often the source of large air leaks into the attic.  Most of these older lights have numerous holes and slots in the fixture. Notice the amount of light leaking through the fixture shown below.                       
If readily accessible, the holes can be taped shut with heat rated metal foil tape and the bulb wattage reduced or converted to low energy LED bulbs.  A better approach is to have a qualified insulation firm install a heat rated air tight insulated box installed to cover the light and stop the air leaks.  The drawing at right shows some other typical air leaks into the attic. Most insulation firms are expert at sealing these leaks.
Click here to return to topic list.   Also see oumoisture damage page.