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Common Problems

The Number One most common problem in the Northwest is water. The second most common problem? Water. And, surprise, the third most common problem is: Water.

1. Drainage: Wet climate = wet basements and crawl spaces. This can be the result
Disconnected Downspout
of anything from non-existent, clogged, or damaged drain lines around the perimeter of the foundation, to a disconnected gutter downspout, or just plain dirty, debris-filled gutters that overflow every time we get a good rain. Clean your gutters regularly and make sure all your downspouts are connected. Grade soil downhill and away from the foundation. Remember, water runs down hill. Have the Roto-guy clean out your existing perimeter drain lines if you have them. If these attempts fail, it is time to look into adding new or repairing existing foundation drains.

2. Gutter Malfunctions: CLEAN GUTTERS REGULARLY! Gutter guards alone do not keep
Gutter Garden
the gutters clear. Clean out the valleys and the area behind your chimney. These spots tend to trap debris, especially on roofs with lower slopes. And most importantly connect all your down spouts, and direct them downhill away from the foundation or into functional storm drain lines.

3.Wood destroying organisms: Keeping these pests from making a home out of your home is a matter of paying attention to, and ridding your place of, what we call conducive conditions. A conducive condition is any condition that promotes deterioration of wood or moisture. These include:

  • Earth to wood contact.

  • Moisture. Plumbing leaks, roof leaks, any leaks, poor drainage.

  • Water damaged wood (wood decay fungus, often referred to as dry rot).

  • Inadequate ventilation or clearance in the crawl space to allow airflow.

  • Inaccessibility for a thorough inspection in crawlspaces.

  • Wood scrap or stumps that can rot too close to or under the building. This includes wooden form boards and cleats left in concrete at the time of construction.

  • Plants or trees too close or touching the siding and/or roof.

  • No vapor barrier installed over all soil in the crawlspaces.

Too often I find infested stumps next to or under the house and scrap wood in the crawl space. It is a bad idea to store cordwood next to the house or in the basement. Trees and plants should be cut back at least 12 inches
Infestation Invitation
away from siding and roofs. There should be access to all areas of the attic and crawl space. In the crawl space clearance below joists should be a minimum of 18 inches with no less than 12 inches below beams. A 6 mil. plastic vapor barrier should be installed to cover all soil in the crawlspaces. Fix leaks immediately, eliminate all earth to wood contact, and replace all damaged wood. Most wood destroying insects like soft and/or moist wood.

4. Tile tub surrounds and shower pans: These things are notorious for leaking. A little known fact is that grout needs to be sealed and caulk needs to be maintained regularly. The old shower pans did not have the waterproof membrane that we use now, so it is only a matter of time before they leak. Even the new installations can and do leak. These leaks can be difficult to determine in the early stages.

5. Toilets: They are often not fastened to the floor and the wax ring leaks. A wax ring that leaked in the past is often why the toilet is not connected to the floor in the first place. The floor may have rotted where the toilet was screwed down so that when a repair was attempted there was nothing solid for the screws to grab so it was just held in position with caulk or, more often, with nothing.

6. Attic ventilation: Rarely do I see an attic with adequate ventilation. Folks don't like the look of those cans on the roof, so either they don't install the required number or only install them on the back of the building. What they don't know is that they are taking life away from their expensive roofs, and possibly creating condensation in their attics. This not only leads to a shortened roof life, but can also cause damage to the roof sheathing (plywood), insulation, and even to the interior drywall or plaster; not to mention creating conducive conditions for wood destroying organisms (fungal rot, termites, wood boring beetles, and carpenter ants).

7. Furnaces: They need to be serviced regularly.
Clogged Air Filter
Same for a gas water heater, they need tune-ups to keep them burning clean and safely. If you have finished your basement take into consideration the fact that you may have eliminated the combustion air source that allows your furnace to run cleanly and safely. Often the air filter looks like it has not been changed or cleaned in years, causing stress on the system and potential over heating which can lead to premature wear on the furnace.

8. Electrical problems: Amateur installations can create a real safety hazard. The most common problem I note
Needs Junction
is the habit of installing three-hole outlets to a two-wire system. This creates the illusion of a receptacle that is grounded when it isn't. This is a safety hazard for everyone not in on the secret. Another tip off that the weekend handyman has been busy is the multiple outlets with reverse polarity. A look in the panel box often reveals improperly sized wire or breakers. Exposed and loose wires and splices are regularly found in attics, basement, and garages.

9. Roof Flashing: Flashing is used to protect the building wherever there is a penetration through the roof. It prevents water entry and is an integral part of the whole roof system. Missing counter flashing around the chimneys is a common problem. This is flashing that is cut into the chimney mortar and covers the step flashing that runs under the roofing and against the chimney. Without this counter flashing water that runs down the outside of the chimney will also run behind the step flashing and into the attic. Roofers frequently just cover the step flashing with tar to keep water out. This may work for a couple years, but it is a temporary solution and will need constant maintenance to keep it sealed as tar and caulk separate and crack over time. It is a maintenance issue which will need on-going attention.

Another flashing problem I see regularly is new roofing material improperly installed over old flashing. A new roof may last for 15 to 25 years but flashing improperly installed is a temporary solution and will most likely fail before the roofing material. The permanent solution is to properly install the right kind of flashing at the chimney and all the vents and skylights

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Deb Wenneman brings over twenty years of remodel and construction experience to your side of the negotiating table. A Dakota Home Inspection report will prepare you to make a confident and informed decision.

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