In this edition

For the first newsletter, we'll keep things short and only have a few topics. We'll discuss fall maintenance tasks (which still isn't too late to do), crawlspace issues and GFCI plugs.

Main Topic Of The Newsletter

Why a newsletter…. Well buying a house is probably going to be one of the largest purchases you will ever make and a house is a complicated ‘thing’ to manage. On top of property taxes, heating bills, water taxes and insurance, you also have to budget for and do regular maintenance and repairs.

A house is not like a car where you bring it to the garage for it’s maintenance/repairs and with no two houses the same, there is no pre-defined schedule or cost to do the maintenance/repairs.

These newsletters will cover a wide range of topics since MD Inspect Plus Inc. provides services to people ranging from condo buyers to somebody buying a large commercial building and everything in-between.

If there are any topics that you would like covered or if you require more information about a specific topic in these newsletters, please feel free to contact MD Inspect Plus Inc. This newsletter is for you, so please feel free to give your opinion.

Inspection Profession

There are changes to the inspection industry coming in the new year.  The AIBQ has introduced some changes to the Standards of Practice which will benefit the buyer.   More details once the training sessions have been offered to inspectors in December.  Update (January 2010) - MD Inspect Inspectors did not re-new they memberships with the AIBQ for 2010 due to poor management of the association and the lack of respect for the English inspectors in the province so MD Inspect Plus inspectors will concentrate on getting their National Certification instead.

Homeowner's Maintenance

    It’s still not too late to do your FALL maintenance.  Maintenance is important to maintain your house, which is your biggest investment in good shape.  A few hours today and a few dollars can save you hundreds later.

    • Make sure your furnace has been serviced (if applicable)
    • Every year for oil and every 5 years for gas
    • Bleed air from the hot water heating system (if applicable)
    • Verify the belts on your forced air furnace (if applicable)
    • Vacuum the inside of your baseboard heaters (if applicable)
    • Clean gutters and downspouts
    • Check sump pump (you don’t want to find out in the spring that it’s no longer working).
    • Remove window screens if they are on the inside
    • Cover outside air conditioning unit and turn off the power (remove the battery from the remote)
    • Make sure your chimney cap is properly secured
    • Have your wood fireplace chimney swept (if you use it)
    • Close outside hose bib and store hose.
    • Verify caulking around doors, windows and trim.

    Monthly Maintenance

    • Clean range hood filters
    • Clean furnace filters
    • Test all GFCI plugs and breakers

    For a complete maintenance schedule, visit the CMHC website.

Agent's Corner

Crawlspaces: Most have problems.

If the house you are selling has a crawlspace, by not looking in the crawlspace, you are opening your client up to possible problems during the inspection. You don’t have to crawl around the whole crawlspace but you should at least pop your head in to take a look. If you see anything that looks out of the ordinary or it smells, you should either go into the crawlspace to take a closer look or call somebody to look at it for you.

If during an inspection, the inspector does not go into the crawlspace, then get a new inspector. The standards of practice state that inspectors don’t have to do anything that is dangerous but going into a dirty crawlspace in most cases is not dangerous and if it is, the inspector needs to state what makes the crawlspace dangerous to enter.

A crawlspace is full of possible problems:

Construction debris – contractors try to save money by not getting rid of construction debris by leaving it in the crawlspace. All of that extra material makes for moving around the space difficult, it makes for good places for animals to make a home and in a humid space, the debris can be food for the mold.

Old oil tanks – removing an oil tank from a crawlspace can be a difficult job so to save money, they are sometimes not removed. If there is still oil in the tank, that increases the cost of removal.

Insulation Problems – most crawlspaces are not properly insulated. The crawlspace can either be insulated between the floor joists or the outer walls can be insulated. Both methods have their pros and cons.

Rotten wood and mold – wherever you have excess humidity, you can have rotten wood and mold. A lot of crawlspaces have dirt floors with no vapour barrier which makes for very humid areas perfect for wood to rot and mold to grow.

House System Issues – Sump pumps, electrical wiring, dryer vents, heating ducts and water pipes can all have problems and as the saying goes, out of sight, out of mind. In many cases, the homeowners don’t know things are wrong since they’ve never been into the crawlspace.

These are just some of the problems with crawlspaces so as you can see, not knowing what’s going on in your crawlspace is a problem. Don’t be surprised on inspection day that the inspector finds a lot of sometimes costly issues to resolve.

In Your House - GFCI Plugs

The effects of an electrical current passing through the body vary significantly, from merely the barest perception of a shock to ventricular fibrillation.

GFCI plugs do not trip instantaneously. In fact, while they typically trip in 25 ms or so at fault currents exceeding 20 to 30mA, they are permitted to take several seconds to trip at fault currents in the 6mA range. It's also important to remember that a GFCI does not limit the magnitude of the fault current. Instead, it limits only the duration of the fault. Therefore, it's possible for a person to receive a shock on a circuit protected by a GFCI.

If a ground fault exists with some of the current flowing to ground and not returning on the neutral through the transformer, then the sum of the current flowing on the hot and neutral will not be zero and differential current will be detected. The GFCI's electronic circuitry then measures its magnitude. If it reaches a predetermined level (the GFCI trip threshold) for a given duration, a signal causes the trip coil to energize and the circuit to open.

When the "test button" on a GFCI is pushed, a circuit is closed from the hot conductor on the load side of the current sensor to the neutral conductor on the line side of the current sensor. The current flow in the test circuit is limited to slightly more than 6mA. When the "test" button is pushed, the GFCI must detect this differential current, measure it, and signal the trip coil to energize and trip the GFCI.

Problems with GFCI installations:
Line-load miswiring - You can easily verify with no special test instruments that line terminations have been made properly. Simply insert a night light (or a circuit tester) into the GFCI receptacle. Push the "test button". If the GFCI trips but the night light or circuit tester stays energized, the GFCI receptacle is wired with reverse line-load connections. The GFCI needs to be removed and properly wired.

Reverse polarity - Since testers establish a test circuit between hot and equipment ground, if the receptacle into which the tester is plugged is wired with reverse polarity, there will not be a voltage across the tester and test current will not flow. The GFCI will not trip and thus the GFCI might erroneously be considered defective.

The test button integral to the GFCI applies the test current between hot and neutral. This is not the case with GFCI testers; the test current in these devices is applied between hot and the equipment ground. Therefore, if there is no equipment ground, no test current will flow. If there are any exposed metal parts connected to the receptacle grounding contact (such as a metal face plate or a weatherproof cover), they will be energized by the test device. Since some of the test devices apply up to a 30mA test current; using such a tester on a 2-wire circuit while touching a metal cover plate could result in an uncomfortable shock.

Leviton has introduced a GFCI outlet receptacle that it calls SmartLock (little picture of a lock on the face of the plug). If the device is damaged you won't be able to reset it once it is tripped, either by a ground fault or a manual check.

GFCI plugs come in a 15Amp and a 20Amp size so make sure you select the proper size for your project

What's this

What do you see in this picture?  Try to identify what you see, what's wrong and how it should be fixed.  Go to the answer page to see if you are right.