Home Inspector Blog
Michael Burfitt, CPI
Home Inspector Blog
Michael Burfitt, CPI
December marks the onset of yet another festive season! As we immerse ourselves in buying gifts, planning holiday gatherings, and cherishing time with loved ones, we also find ourselves in a quieter phase for home inspections – giving us ample opportunity to get into the holiday spirit! In the essence of a beloved Christmas carol, here's the first part of my '12 Days of Christmas' list, tailored for home inspectors:
A Partridge in a Safe Tree
Ah, the delightful aroma of a Christmas tree: one of my favourite smells of the Holidays! While the scent evokes fond memories, it's essential to ensure safety. Dry trees pose major fire risks, as tragically witnessed in recent incidents in Nova Scotia. Regularly watering the tree is crucial, alongside using indoor-rated lights (modern LEDs are generally versatile for indoor and outdoor use due to their efficiency). Extra caution is needed when young children or pets are around.
Two Turtle Doves Nesting
The warmth of a fireplace on Christmas morning is unmatched, reminiscent of childhood joy. However, proper control is vital. Scheduling an annual inspection by a qualified technician for both chimney and fireplace is imperative. A cracked firebox, as seen in a recent inspection, can be a significant hazard leading to potential fires. Creosote buildup remains a serious concern and a leading cause of house fires. Compliance with insurance guidelines regarding fireplace use is also essential.
Three French Hens’ HVAC Checks
Modern HVAC systems offer reliability and comfort but aren't maintenance-free. Regularly changing furnace filters, cleaning HRV/ERV units and bath fans biannually, and ensuring thorough yearly cleaning of dryer vents is crucial. Lint accumulation from clothes is highly flammable, posing fire risks. Beyond functionality checks, inspections identify potential issues that could escalate in the future.
Four Calling Birds' Roof Inspection
Roof integrity often determines whether leaks are present or imminent. Late winter/early spring brings a surge in calls about roof leaks. Residential roofs, contrary to common belief, aren't waterproof; they're designed to efficiently shed water. Melting snow, however, poses challenges. Small leaks can persist undetected for months, so regularly peeking into the attic and promptly calling for repairs or replacement when roof shingles blow off is crucial.
Stay tuned for part two next week, featuring additional essential home inspection tips!
As I have stated previously, starting Inside Edge Home Inspections Ltd. wasn't an impulsive decision but the result of years of meticulous planning. However, even the most thorough plans couldn't foresee the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our industry. Amidst the challenges, one crucial aspect I focused on was choosing the perfect company name—a decision that held more weight than paperwork, software setup, equipment procurement, and initial marketing strategies combined!
The Naming Challenge
Understanding the pitfalls faced by many unsuccessful home inspection companies, I delved into extensive research. Analyzing corporate records of Nova Scotia's home inspection firms unveiled a clear pattern—certain naming styles had short lifespans in the market. This pattern was also seen throughout Canada and the United States. Criteria emerged to avoid these pitfalls:
Simplicity and Universality: The name had to be easy to spell, comprehend, and possess broad appeal.
Distinctiveness: It couldn't resemble any existing North American home inspection (or related industry) company names.
The Selection Process
After rigorous brainstorming, I narrowed down numerous options to five potential names. Eliminating 'Top Shelf' and 'Power Play' was a conscious choice to steer clear of any misconception about our core focus—a home inspection company, not a hockey-related side endeavor. Narrowing it down to the final two names, I was poised to proceed until a setback—both names were already in use in Atlantic Canada.
The "Eureka" Moment
Frustration loomed as what should have been a straightforward decision turned into a labyrinth of challenges. The breakthrough came unexpectedly during a casual game of hockey. After an all-too-common stumble on the ice, the words "I should have used my inside edge!" slipped out, instantly resonating as the ideal name. It effortlessly met all criteria and received the official green light, marking the final piece of our launch puzzle.
Bringing Inside Edge to Life
Within an hour of submitting my concept to the designer, our captivating logo was born. Its creation was swift and remarkably aligned with our vision. Proudly displaying it, the logo symbolizes our identity and dedication to delivering quality inspections with accurate and helpful information for our clients.
Selecting a name for our company was no easy feat—it required insight, perseverance, and an unexpected moment of clarity. Inside Edge isn't just a name; it's a testament to our commitment to delivering excellence in home inspections. We invite you to join us on this journey as we continue to uphold the values embedded in the name Inside Edge Home Inspections and see the difference a high quality, independent home inspection can provide.
We are currently renovating one of our three bathrooms: we replaced the shower unit, redid the floors, painted the walls and the next step will be to replace the vanity and sinks. When the installers were putting in the new shower, it was observed that there was a rotted subfloor that needed to be replaced. Not a big surprise or expense, but something that should not be ignored. Today’s blog post is a spotlight on bathrooms and some of the things we home inspectors are looking for.
I’ve said it many times but will repeat again that water is the #1 enemy of homes. Obviously, a bathroom is by design filled with water using fixtures that are valuable, provided they function as intended. I have identified many leaks during home inspections, but surprisingly the bathroom is rarely the cause. This is likely because most homeowners regularly visit the bathroom and can quickly identify and stop a leak. The two most common causes of water damage are:
Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters are critical safety features that can prevent death by electrocution (water and electricity don’t mix!). Electrical codes have expanded their use throughout the home but the first room they were required to be installed in was the bathroom. Not only do we always check that they are working properly, but they should also be tested monthly by the homeowner/tenant.
People are often surprised to learn that the kitchen doesn’t require ventilation, but the bathroom certainly does. A fan (or window) is required to remove the high amounts of moisture, especially after a shower otherwise mould and mildew can quickly take root. There is another type of ventilation we look for: waste pipe (DWV) ventilation. One of the clearest symptoms of inadequate DWV ventilation is gurgling toilets and we can advise further steps if this is detected during a home inspection.
A home inspector is not an interior decorator and does not focus on cosmetic issues, but cracked flooring or shower tiles are not only ugly but can provide a means for water to flow where it should not be going. We also don’t comment on things like carpet, but an exception is made for both the bathroom and kitchen as neither should ever have carpeted floors.
While I offer and usually recommend a sewer scope inspection to my clients, they aren’t always necessary to detect problems. The biggest issue I see is slow draining sinks and toilets. If all the sinks and tubs in the home are slow to drain, it is likely a system wide problem that a scope can provide more information about. Luckily most drain issues are isolated to one specific sink or tub and it is often the result of hair that catches debris and while gross, is usually not difficult to clear. Be sure to regularly clean your drains to prevent this from happening.
Contrary to certain TV shows, a bathroom leak is usually not detected from a waterfall in the floor below but is usually very slow and subtle. As a home inspector I use thermal imaging, moisture meters and of course good old-fashioned senses to help determine if a bathroom requires further attention from a plumber.
When I decided to start our home inspection company, I knew I needed to undergo extensive training. This preparation encompassed both theoretical and field training, equipping me with the knowledge and skills necessary for the job. However, there was a slight catch. The training modules were designed to cater to both Canadian and American inspectors, which meant there was a broad spectrum of defect recognition training that did not apply to certain areas of North America. Nova Scotia, for instance, has its unique set of housing characteristics that make some issues practically non-existent. Here are a few things I can confidently say I have a better chance of finding a unicorn than seeing in a Nova Scotia house.
"Chinese" Drywall: A Smelly Situation
During the 2000s, there was a drywall shortage in the United States, which led to the importation of drywall from China. Unfortunately, a significant portion of this drywall was found to be defective. The main issue with this type of drywall was that it released sulfur compounds into the air, resulting in a putrid smell akin to rotten eggs. Worse yet, the sulfur reacted with electrical, HVAC, and plumbing systems, causing corrosion and premature failure.
Why It Isn't an Issue: While some of this problematic drywall did make its way into Canada, there is no evidence showing its use in Atlantic Canada. The issue was primarily concentrated in the southern United States, mainly due to a shortage following Hurricane Katrina. On a fascinating note, did you know that the world's largest gypsum mine is located right here in Milford, Nova Scotia?
Ventless Heaters: A Dangerous Alternative
Propane and natural gas are efficient and commonly used fuel sources for heating homes. However, they require proper ventilation, which can make it cost-prohibitive or even impossible to install them in certain homes. An apparent solution to this problem is to use ventless heaters.
Why It Isn't an Issue: In my professional opinion, ventless heaters, even high-efficiency units, are not safe to use and I would never personally use one. They expel waste gases, including the silent and odorless killer, carbon monoxide. The use of ventless gas fireplaces is also illegal in Canada, adding to the reasons why you won't encounter them in Nova Scotian homes.
Evaporative Coolers: Not Cool for Our Climate
Also known as swamp coolers, evaporative coolers offer a budget-friendly alternative to traditional air conditioners. They work by cooling the air through water evaporation, with the water absorbing some of the heat. While it might sound like a great idea, these coolers are far from ideal for our region.
Why It Isn't an Issue: Swamp coolers add a significant amount of humidity to the air. Our region already experiences highly humid summers, the only season when you'd need cooling. The additional humidity not only makes the indoor environment uncomfortable but also fosters mould growth throughout the home.
While I can't make definitive statements about these issues never being found in our region, I can confidently assert that if I encounter any of these three items during a home inspection in Nova Scotia, I'd need to take an extremely close look at what I'm seeing. The chances of encountering such issues in Nova Scotia homes are remarkably low, thanks to the unique characteristics of our housing industy and climate.
As a home inspector, I understand the paramount importance of fire safety in homes. With this week being Fire Prevention Week across North America, it's the perfect time to emphasize the significance of fire prevention and preparedness. This annual event serves as a reminder that taking proactive steps to prevent fires is crucial in safeguarding your family and property.
Why Fire Prevention Matters
Each year, fire-related incidents claim lives, cause injuries, and result in substantial property damage. Many of these tragedies can be prevented through awareness and action. Fire Prevention Week aims to educate homeowners and renters alike on fire safety practices that can make a world of difference.
A Home Inspection's Role in Fire Prevention
I've seen firsthand how crucial it is for homeowners to ensure their properties are safe from fire hazards. During a home inspection, I assess various elements that contribute to fire safety, including:
The Two Most Common Causes of House Fires in Halifax
I have reviewed the data from Halifax Fire and Emergency, and it quickly became clear that the two most common causes of house fires are smoking and electrical issues.
Smoking-Related Fires:Smoking is not only hazardous to your health but can also pose a significant fire risk. Carelessly discarded cigarette butts, ashes, or improperly extinguished smoking materials can easily ignite flammable materials, leading to devastating fires. To prevent smoking-related fires, it's essential to use designated smoking areas, never smoke in bed, and ensure cigarette butts are extinguished in proper receptacles.
Electrical Fires: Electrical fires are a hidden danger that can lurk within our homes. Overloaded outlets, faulty wiring, and malfunctioning appliances can all spark electrical fires. To safeguard against these risks, it's crucial to have regular electrical inspections, avoid overloading outlets, and replace damaged cords or equipment promptly. Maintaining a safe electrical system is vital to protect your home from the devastating consequences of electrical fires.
Many electrical fires can be traced to extension cords. These are generally okay for temporary use but are not meant to be used for permanent power. If a home doesn’t have adequate receptacles an electrician can usually help safely add more to a home.
Home inspectors and firefighters both share a common belief that the best way to deal with a disaster at home is to prevent it from happening in the first place.
One of the primary channels through which I've connected with potential clients (and most likely how you came across my services) is via our company website. While I'm not a professional web developer, I took it upon myself to design and continually enhance our website over time. My aim was to create something more than just your typical bland and generic corporate website; I wanted it to reflect my genuine passion for homes and living in our region, a passion I also share through this very blog.
Having visited numerous websites, I must say that home inspectors and professionals in similar industries could greatly benefit from dedicating more time to their online presence. This isn't just about addressing issues related to spelling and grammar; it's also about steering clear of tired and overused cliches that you won't find on my website or social media platforms. Here are a few of these cliches that I frequently come across, along with my personal perspective on them.
"I Inspect Each Home as if it Were My Own"
While I consider myself a responsible driver, I can't claim to be flawless behind the wheel. I once worked at an auto repair shop, and part of my responsibilities involved driving customer vehicles. I made sure to handle those cars with utmost care for two key reasons: first, I took their trust very seriously, and second, I wasn't as intimately familiar with those cars as I was with my own. Similarly, when it comes to home inspections, I understand that I possess the skills to identify and address most home issues. However, I don't inspect my own home as rigorously because I know it inside out. A home inspection is a one-time event and in a home I don't know the history or layout of ahead of time. As such, I approach it with even greater care and attention than I would my own home.
"Your Home is Your Most Important Asset"
While this statement holds true for many individuals (including myself), as a home inspector my duty is to deliver the best inspection possible, regardless of my client's circumstances. I've conducted inspections for new homeowners, investors, sellers, and even on behalf of tenants, and if not explicitly informed, I would have no way of knowing the property's intended use. My role is centered on assessing safety and functionality, not making judgments about a home's future purpose.
Generic Pictures of Homes
Many home inspector websites feature stock photos of immaculate houses in perfectly manicured neighborhoods. However, you won't find such images on my site. All the photos on my website are original, often captured using our drone, and none of them depict specific houses in Nova Scotia. This approach is simple and ethical: I never share any personal information, client or otherwise without written consent, including what the exterior of a home looks like. Additionally, considering the ongoing housing shortage, many homes aren't picture-perfect (I have never come across a home without issues, my own included), and I believe it's important to reflect this reality.
Cliche and Keyword Loaded Blogs
I've come across countless blogs that are clearly written solely for the purpose of maximizing search engine visibility, a practice commonly referred to as SEO in the industry. I once encountered a home inspector who used the phrase "your (city) home inspector" a staggering 14 times in a single blog post! My primary goal with this blog, on the other hand, is to share valuable knowledge and insights. If it happens to help someone discover our company, all the better.
One of the key objectives I had in mind when I founded my own company was not only to provide top-notch, affordable inspection services characterized by professionalism but also to convey that home inspections and learning about how houses function can be engaging and enjoyable, rather than dull and monotonous. Steering clear of cliches is just one of the ways in which I aim to stand out from the crowd, offering a unique and refreshing approach to this industry.
As a professional home inspector, my journey has been shaped not only by my keen eye for detail but also by my proficiency in collecting and analyzing data. This skill, honed through many years of experience, has allowed me to derive valuable information from the reports I generate. In this blog post, I'll delve into how my data-driven approach has transformed my inspections, enabling me to make informed decisions, identify trends, and avoid baseless speculation.
Harnessing the Data Advantage
In a previous role, I experienced a dramatic reduction in my workload by applying my data analysis knowledge, which also granted me the time to pursue my dream of becoming a home inspector. Armed with the insights I've gained over the years; I now use data to support my instincts and bolster my assessments with hard evidence and facts. This approach allows me to provide more comprehensive and accurate home inspections.
Identifying Trends: Examples from the Field
Let's take a look at some real-world examples of how data has enhanced my ability to conduct inspections:
By consistently collecting and analyzing data on these aspects, I've gained the ability to quickly assess whether a home's features fall within typical parameters or if there's something unique to investigate further. This approach not only streamlines the inspection process but also motivates me to delve deeper into rarer building materials, expanding my knowledge base. I can use this information to better inform clients on the site during the inspection process.
The Limitations of Data
While data is a powerful tool in the home inspection arsenal, it's crucial to acknowledge its limitations. Data should not be used as a shortcut to draw conclusions without thorough examination. To illustrate this point, let's consider a non-related example:
Imagine a casino game of roulette where a screen displays data on past spins, such as the percentage of spins landing on red versus black. This data may seem helpful but is entirely irrelevant because, in reality, the odds of the ball landing on a specific number in each spin never change. It's a constant probability as each spin of the wheel is independent of the last.
Bringing it Back to Home Inspections
In the world of home inspections, data can reveal statistical trends. For instance, I can share that 3-tab shingles are statistically more likely to have problems than architectural shingles (almost solely based on the fact 3-tab are generally much older), which, in turn, are more likely than metal roofs to present issues. However, the real world is filled with surprises. I've seen homes with old shingle roofs that exhibited no leaks and, conversely, brand-new roofs with leaks.
Ultimately, while my knowledge of statistics and data helps me identify trends and streamline my work, it is no substitute for the hands-on inspection process. Home inspections demand a thorough, physical examination of each property, leaving no room for shortcuts or assumptions.
In the realm of home inspections, the fusion of expert observation and data analysis is a powerful combination. It empowers inspectors like yours truly to make informed assessments, identify trends, and offer valuable insights to clients. Yet, it's essential to remember that data alone cannot replace the meticulous, on-site examination required to ensure a comprehensive evaluation of a property. The art of home inspection lies in striking the right balance between data-driven analysis and the hands-on inspection experience.