Structure Tech Home Inspections https://structuretech1.com Home Inspections in the Twin Cities Tue, 19 Jun 2018 11:36:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.5 Consumers’ Checkbook response https://structuretech1.com/consumers-checkbook-response/ https://structuretech1.com/consumers-checkbook-response/#comments Tue, 19 Jun 2018 11:36:04 +0000 https://structuretech1.com/?p=1291134 We’ve seen the exact same concerning article from Consumers' Checkbook pop up in seven different areas of the country.

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This is a joint post from Reuben Saltzman, Charles Buell, and Barry Stone.

We’ve seen the exact same concerning article from Consumers’ Checkbook pop up in seven different areas of the country. These areas include the Twin Cities, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, Puget Sound, Delaware Valley, and Washington, DC.

The basis of each article is that Consumers’ Checkbook rented a three-bedroom house, hired 12 home inspectors to inspect the home, and the inspectors did a poor job of inspecting to a standard that doesn’t exist. The inspections were labeled superficial and the inspectors were called lazy, sloppy, and ding-dongs. Each one of these articles gives the impression that the story takes place in that particular city.

Disingenuous

We have two problems with this article. First, the premise of the article is not candid. The location of the test house is not told, but it’s clearly implied that the test house was in the city that the story takes place in.

This didn’t ring true, so Reuben put in a call to Consumers’ Checkbook to ask about this. They claimed that there were indeed seven identical houses rented in seven cities. Reuben pressed for more details, asking how the results from every house could have been identical, and they got back to him a few days later with a different story. On the second round, they said that there was actually only one test house, located in the Washington, D.C. area.

The Star Tribune ran the same story on their website, first stating that the home was rented by “Undercover shoppers from Twin Cities Consumer’s Checkbook.” This was later changed to the current version that appears in the Star Tribune, which states that the house was located in the suburbs of Washington, DC.

No Standards

The article says that Checkbook’s research staff identified 28 “too obvious to miss” items. They also state the focus was to find “soon to be needed expensive repairs.” This included things like loose hinges to a vanity door, cut cords at window blinds, dirty filters at window AC units, trees and landscaping in need of care and trimming, and a doorbell that wasn’t working. These items are not included in home inspection Standards of Practice (SoP), and in our humble opinion, are not “soon to be needed expensive repairs”.

Would you ding a medical doctor for not checking your teeth for cavities?

We call this reporting below the belt. They made these inspectors look bad for not doing things that fall outside of home inspection Standards of Practice, and even home inspection standards of care. At least one excellent home inspector, preferably several, should have helped to determine what should and shouldn’t have been included as “too obvious to miss”. This would have helped to give legitimacy to the article.

The Good

While we’re extremely disappointed with this article, the main message is still a good one: not all home inspectors are equal. We applaud the basis of this article; it’s important to inspect your inspector.

Another article published by Consumers’ Checkbook, titled How to Inspect Your Home Inspector, gives some good advice on how to find an excellent home inspector. It’s worth reading.

For Reuben’s advice on how to hire an excellent home inspector, please see http://structuretech1.com/how-to-find-a-great-home-inspector/

For Charles’ advice, please see http://www.buellinspections.com/how-do-i-find-a-good-home-inspector/

For Barry’s advice, please see http://housedetective.com/2018/06/18/how-to-choose-a-home-inspector/

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Guards that make a ladder https://structuretech1.com/ladder-guard/ https://structuretech1.com/ladder-guard/#comments Tue, 12 Jun 2018 11:06:37 +0000 https://structuretech1.com/?p=1290986 Is it wrong to have a stairway or deck guardrail constructed with horizontal balusters or cables that could be climbed like a ladder? This topic came up in a discussion on a private Facebook group for home inspectors a few weeks ago. Shortly after I had shared a photo of a beautiful stairway, another home […]

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Is it wrong to have a stairway or deck guardrail constructed with horizontal balusters or cables that could be climbed like a ladder? This topic came up in a discussion on a private Facebook group for home inspectors a few weeks ago. Shortly after I had shared a photo of a beautiful stairway, another home inspector piped in saying that while the stairway looked cool, it didn’t meet code.

beautiful stairway

Side note: technically, they’re not called guardrails; just guards.

The inspector’s concern with this stairway was that the guards had horizontal cables that a child could climb like a ladder. That’s a valid concern, and at one point in time, the building code actually prohibited this practice. The 2000 version of the International Residential Code (IRC) says the following under section R316.2: Required guards shall not be constructed with horizontal rails or other ornamental pattern that results in a ladder effect.

I don’t own a copy of the 2003 IRC, but the 2006 IRC and subsequent editions contain no such language about guards. In short, there is nothing in the code that says you can’t do this. It doesn’t matter whether it’s inside or outside the house. I don’t know what prompted the change, but I suspect it was people’s desire to install cable-rail guards like the type shown in the photo above.

What should a home inspector say?

As I’ve said countless times before, home inspectors are not code inspectors. Just because something doesn’t meet “code” doesn’t mean we report on it, and we often make recommendations for added safety that fall outside of the code. For example, I always recommend upgrading to photoelectric smoke alarms despite the fact that they’re not required by code.

If a home inspector feels that this type of guard is unsafe, they can report it as such. They could say that this type of guard could be climbed like a ladder and may create a safety hazard for children. There’s nothing wrong with a home inspector pointing this out, provided they don’t call it a code violation. Personally, I don’t report on this type of detail because I feel that the hazard level created by the ladder-effect is quite low.

Author: Reuben SaltzmanStructure Tech Home Inspections

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Home inspection report summary: yes or no? https://structuretech1.com/home-inspection-report-summary/ https://structuretech1.com/home-inspection-report-summary/#respond Tue, 05 Jun 2018 11:11:01 +0000 https://structuretech1.com/?p=1291046 I'm blown away by the number of home inspectors who don't believe in a report summary... but maybe this is the right way to do it.

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I’m blown away by the number of home inspectors who don’t believe in a report summary. I’ve always provided a summary at the beginning of my inspection reports, and I probably always will. I’m not stuck in my ways; my methods may change someday, but for now, I’m a firm believer in a report summary. Maybe this blog post will change all of that.

What’s a report summary?

If a home inspector includes a summary with their inspection report, what goes into the summary should be explained. For my company’s home inspection reports, we include this text at the beginning of our summary: “This Summary Report includes the items that were, in my opinion, the most important items to bring to your attention. This is not by any means a substitute for the full report. Please read the entire report.”

We hand-craft our summaries with every report. What goes into one summary report might not make it into another. I’ve explained the summary report to everyone on my team like this: you’ve just finished the home inspection for a close family member who wasn’t at the inspection. You have 30-seconds to tell your family member what you found during the home inspection. What are you going to say? That’s what goes into the report summary.

While life-safety devices like smoke alarms and GFCI devices may be important, they shouldn’t make the summary. I think of the summary as the stuff that would be most likely to affect someone’s decision to purchase a property. We don’t define the summary that way because we have no way of knowing what is the most important to our client, but we certainly try to learn what’s most important.

How long is a summary?

The length of a home inspection report summary will vary dramatically from company to company. For my company, I recently reviewed twenty random home inspection reports from my team and counted the number of summary items. The average was six items per report summary, with the shortest summary containing two items and the longest containing twenty (oof). Of course, I feel that this is the perfect way to write a summary, but I’m biased.

Many years ago, our report summaries contained all of the “action items” in our reports. If we made a recommendation to do something, that went into the summary. This made for some extremely long summary reports that were tough to digest. If I were buying a home and I were handed a summary like that, I would have a difficult time distinguishing the big stuff from the little stuff. That’s what made us change our report summaries to be more of the hand-crafted type.

Many home inspectors include all of the action items into their report summaries. I’m not saying this is wrong… but I sure don’t think that this method is nearly as helpful to a new home buyer.

Arguments against a report summary

I hear the same arguments against report summaries all the time. The most common argument against a summary is that if a summary is provided, that’s all the client will read. To that, I say too bad. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink. Removing a report summary to force your client to read the entire report is like dunking the horse’s head under water.

I believe that my clients appreciate report summaries, and I know that I would appreciate this if I were buying a home. If I’m paying a professional for their opinion, I want to know what they thought was the most important.

The other argument that I hear against report summaries is that it’s only there for the real estate agent. Again, I believe that my clients appreciate report summaries, but even if this was true, so what? Would it be so wrong to provide this requested service? All of the best agents that I know read the entire report no matter what, but I believe most of them appreciate report summaries.

What say you?

While I firmly believe that my clients appreciate report summaries, my evidence is purely anecdotal. I’ve never conducted a survey, so here goes. The results of this survey might change how we do business. Please vote. You can see the results of the survey after you’ve voted. Thank you!

Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's poll.

Author: Reuben SaltzmanStructure Tech Home Inspections

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Flashlight review: Fenix TK72R https://structuretech1.com/tk72r-review/ https://structuretech1.com/tk72r-review/#comments Tue, 29 May 2018 10:58:07 +0000 https://structuretech1.com/?p=1291053 The Fenix TK72R is the most powerful flashlight I’ve ever tested, and it gives off way more light than any home inspector could ever need. Before I get into the specifics of this flashlight, however, I must share the manufacturer’s warning with you, because it’s the best. I’m not going to lie, I was sold […]

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The Fenix TK72R is the most powerful flashlight I’ve ever tested, and it gives off way more light than any home inspector could ever need. Before I get into the specifics of this flashlight, however, I must share the manufacturer’s warning with you, because it’s the best.

I’m not going to lie, I was sold on this flashlight after reading the warning. Not only that, but the warning sheet that comes with the flashlight is even more specific and… awesomer?

TK72R warning sheet

 

Of course, I only had one question after reading the warning: will it really start paper on fire? That’s the first thing I tried. No luck. I’m sure it would work under the right conditions, but I didn’t try too hard. I simply held the flashlight against a piece of paper until the flashlight was too hot to hold.

TK72R infrared image

What’s surprising about this flashlight is how fast it gets hot; at the full 9000-lumen brightness, you can feel the head getting hot quite quickly. Uncomfortably hot. It won’t stay at full brightness for very long, however. The graph below shows how the brightness drops off fairly quickly, leveling off at 2500 lumens after only a few minutes.

Size and Shape

This flashlight is a tank.

TK72R in hand

I think the “TK” in the model number probably has something to do with “tactical”, but in this case, I’ll assume it means tank. This definitely isn’t the type of flashlight that you slip into your pocket. It’s too big and too heavy. The good news is that it comes with a nice heavy-duty carrying case, and it slips in and out of the case quite easily. The case also has a velcro strap to keep the flashlight from falling out. Good stuff.

Controls

I had to read over the control instructions a couple of times to get it. There are tons of settings, and you can read about them if you want to, but it’s not necessary. I gave the flashlight to my 7-year-old daughter and told her to make it bright. She figured it out in about 3 seconds. The short version is that you can hold down the plus and minus buttons to increase or decrease the brightness in 1,000-lumen increments or quickly touch them for 100-lumen increments.

Power and display

The TK72R comes with a gigantic 7,000 mAh rechargeable lithium-ion battery.

TK72R battery

The digital display shows the percentage of battery charge left, the brightness setting, and how much longer the flashlight will run at the current light setting. It’s perfect. No more guessing how much battery time is left. In the image below, you can see that the flashlight is at 96% battery life, 100 lumens, and will run for 48 hours straight at this setting.

TK72R display

This flashlight has a built-in micro-USB charging port, as well as a full-sized USB port that can be used to charge other devices. Cool stuff. It’s a power bank.

TK72R charging port

Light output

I’ve taken some photos of the front of my garage with various other flashlights, so I’m keeping with that theme. For comparison, here’s the old Fenix TK35 that I was really excited about many years ago.

TK35 against garage

Here’s a newer TK35UE at the full 3,200-lumen setting.

TK35UE against garage

Impressive, right? Not compared to the TK72R at the 9,000-lumen setting. The image says it all.

TK72R light output

Conclusion

Does anybody need this flashlight? Heck no. This is more flashlight than anyone needs, but sometimes you just want to treat yourself. Also, Father’s Day is coming up very soon. If you have a father who would love a crazy-powerful flashlight that might double as a fire-starter, look no further. This is it. The TK72R currently retails for $329.95 at https://www.fenix-store.com/fenix-tk72r-rechargeable-led-flashlight-9000-lumens-1/.

If you’re looking for a flashlight under $100, I also posted a short review of the Fenix UC35v2.0 today.

Author: Reuben SaltzmanStructure Tech Home Inspections

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Flashlight Review: Fenix UC35v2.0 https://structuretech1.com/uc35v2-0-review/ https://structuretech1.com/uc35v2-0-review/#comments Tue, 29 May 2018 10:44:14 +0000 https://structuretech1.com/?p=1291050 The Fenix UC35 was hands-down my favorite single-battery flashlight, and now they’ve made it even better with version 2.0. If you’re in the market for an extremely powerful flashlight that is slightly larger than a 18650 battery, then this is the one for you. It tops out with an impressive 1,000 lumens, which is brighter than […]

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The Fenix UC35 was hands-down my favorite single-battery flashlight, and now they’ve made it even better with version 2.0. If you’re in the market for an extremely powerful flashlight that is slightly larger than a 18650 battery, then this is the one for you. It tops out with an impressive 1,000 lumens, which is brighter than the original version of the dual-battery TK35.

Battery included

Like every other flashlight that I own, this flashlight is powered by the 18650 lithium-ion battery. What’s especially nice about this flashlight is that it includes a 3500 mAh battery, which helps to ensure proper performance and runtime.

New battery indicator

One of the new features of this flashlight is the battery charge indicator built into the brightness button. Right when the flashlight first turns on, the indicator will glow green, yellow, or red to let you know how much battery life is left. This is a nice feature, but I’d love it if the indicator light was about twice as bright. It can be difficult to tell in bright light conditions.

USB charging

Like the earlier version of the UC35, the new version has a built-in micro-USB charging port, which I find especially handy. I have those micro-USB charging cables everywhere, so this makes it especially easy for me to charge my flashlight at any time without having to remove the battery. This is a great feature.

Size

The new UC35 is even more compact than the original. Check out the photo below for a comparison.

UC35

Conclusion

This is an awesome flashlight. While my go-to flashlight is the TK35UE, I’ve been perfectly happy using the UC35 for home inspections, and I’ve done several with just the UC35. I keep this flashlight in my truck for any situation where I want a flashlight that will easily slip into my pocket. Also, this flashlight would make an excellent gift under $100 because it comes with a battery and doesn’t need an external charger.

Check it out online here: https://www.fenix-store.com/fenix-uc35-v2-0-led-flashlight-1000-lumens/

Author: Reuben SaltzmanStructure Tech Home Inspections

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Mold or suspected organic microbial growth? https://structuretech1.com/what-to-call-mold/ https://structuretech1.com/what-to-call-mold/#comments Tue, 22 May 2018 11:00:13 +0000 https://structuretech1.com/?p=1291005 Mold? Mold-like substance? Suspected organic microbial growth? Black fuzzy stuff? Unknown biological matter? There's no perfect term for mold.

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Mold? Mold-like substance? Suspected organic microbial growth? Black fuzzy stuff? Unknown biological matter? Exactly what should we call this stuff?

Mold covered wall

I have come to the conclusion that there is no right answer. None. I’ll go through a bunch of potential descriptions for this stuff, and I’ll explain why there’s a problem with everything.

Mold? No.

We don’t always know that something is mold without testing it. I’ve seen many materials that I would happily bet my house on as mold, such as the stuff in the photo above. But other times, there can be black stains in attics that look like mold but are not really mold. So there’s a possibility of being wrong.

Not only that, but using the word mold can also get lenders whipped up. I specifically remember one situation where I mentioned some mold underneath a sink and recommended cleaning it up.

Mold under sink

The lender saw my report and made a huge stink about this. I can’t remember exactly what happened, but I think the buyer ended up having to find another lender who didn’t request a copy of my inspection report.

In this case, I created a bunch of unnecessary hassle for the buyer over something that amounted to nothing. After that incident, I decided that I was probably doing a disservice to my clients to even call something mold in my inspection reports.

Black stains? No.

After I decided to eliminate the word mold from my reports, I started calling it “black stains”. My focus was always on fixing the cause of the “stains”. I’d tell my client there was a moisture problem and I’d usually tell them why it was happening.

Side note: I know that many home inspectors say that we shouldn’t determine the cause of moisture if we’re not qualified, but that’s not a problem with my inspectors. I’d conservatively estimate that inspectors in my company are qualified to determine the source of moisture problems about 95% of the time. My company specializes in moisture testing and moisture problems; we’re very good at this.

This worked fine for a while… until some contractor came out to fix an attic moisture problem that we had called out. The contractor who came out to fix the moisture issue expertly labeled the black stains in the attic “mold”, and proceeded to tell our client that we were incompetent for not calling it mold. That led to a complaint call.

After reviewing my inspector’s report from this home, I wouldn’t have changed a word. My inspector wrote everything up exactly the way that I would have done myself, but there’s a pervasive “last man in” syndrome that occurs, where homeowners always seem to believe the last person who was there. This really sucks for home inspectors, but it’s life.

So we need to be more clear with our wording than “black stains”.

Mold-like substance? No.

First off, I don’t like the way that this is phrased. It sounds stuffy and CYA-ish. My less-stuffy version of this is “looks like mold”. If something looks like mold, it looks like mold. It’s tough to argue with that, and it lets my client know that something is probably mold, but I didn’t test it. That’s what we at Structure Tech are currently saying when we see mold.

The problem with this language is the reason for this blog post, however. One of the inspectors on my team recently mentioned a bunch of black stains in the attic and said that it looked like mold, but we wouldn’t be testing the material to know for sure. Of course, the cause of the mold in the attic was attic bypasses. This is pretty much always what causes mold in the attic, and our inspector gave the client some very specific information on what it would take to prevent this from continuing to happen.

Our inspector also mentioned that we would put that information in our report, and the real estate agent who was at the inspection kindly asked us to not use the word “mold” in our report, even if we were simply saying that it looked like mold.

This agent said that if we even say that there might be mold, this becomes a material defect that must be disclosed by the seller, and that the buyer would need to disclose this when she turned around and sold the home in the future. Us saying it might be mold could only create problems for both the buyer and seller.

This sounded like a dubious claim to me, so I posted about this on a forum for members of a local Realtors® association. The responses were varied, but there were a handful of people who agreed; they felt that even the appearance of mold is something that must be disclosed.

I’m not a licensed real estate salesperson and I don’t know the rules about property disclosure, so I’ll defer to them on this one. Maybe this really is a thing. If you’re a licensed real estate salesperson in Minnesota, please feel free to weigh in on this topic by leaving a comment. I’d love to get more input.

Unknown biological matter that should be tested? No.

I don’t recommend testing for mold. The Minnesota Department of Health has a nice document explaining why it’s usually a waste of money to test for mold, located here: http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/eh/indoorair/mold/moldtest.html. I think this is a great document that should be required reading for anyone wanting to test for mold.

Also, I agree with the Minnesota Department of Health. You won’t hear recommendations to test for mold from anyone at Structure Tech. Besides that link, check out my previous blog posts on mold testing: https://structuretech1.com/mold-testing-vs-moisture-testing/

Did I miss anything?

I’ve covered all of the weasely, non-committal terms that I can think of for mold, but surely there are plenty more. If you’re a home inspector, what do YOU call mold? If you’re not a home inspector, how would you want your home inspector to describe mold?

Author: Reuben SaltzmanStructure Tech Home Inspections

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New home inspection tool: glass suction cup https://structuretech1.com/home-inspection-tool-glass-suction-cup/ https://structuretech1.com/home-inspection-tool-glass-suction-cup/#comments Mon, 14 May 2018 20:49:03 +0000 https://structuretech1.com/?p=1291030 If you're a home inspector, I recommend you add a glass suction cup to your tool list. This is a great little tool to keep in the tool bag.

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If you’re a home inspector, I recommend you add a glass suction cup to your tool list. This is a great little tool to keep in the tool bag that you bring into the home.

Every experienced home inspector has surely come across dozens of crank-out windows that wouldn’t crank closed properly. Sometimes this is caused by a window that doesn’t fit in the frame properly, sometimes damaged hardware, or possibly missing hardware.

 missing hardware at crank inoperable crank

In these cases, I usually team up with my client to get the window to close properly. I run outside the house and push on the window, and I have my client crank the window and lock it while I push.

This isn’t terribly annoying if there are two people at the inspection, but it can be a time suck when a house has a bunch of them. During the winter, I have to get my big boots on, bring a ladder to the offending window, get it closed, go back inside, and repeat. It’s just part of the job, and nothing I’ve ever whined about.

I guess I’ve always been lucky, however, because I’ve never come across a window that I couldn’t access from the ground. Until recently.

Storytime

While doing a one-year-warranty inspection recently, I opened a casement window that absolutely would not fully close. The child safety lock on the window didn’t line up properly, and nothing I did would work. This was particularly frustrating because it was a two-story home with a walkout basement, potentially putting the window out of my ladder’s reach.

I was doing a team inspection on this house with Joe, who happened to be in the backyard. After watching me struggle with the window, Joe told me to grab a glass suction cup out of his bag. He brings it along to inspections just for this kind of situation. Genius!

glass suction cup

Side note: to give credit where credit is due,  Joe says he got the idea from Milind.

The suction cup worked like a charm. I was able to pull the window shut with very little effort. I also saved at least 15 minutes worth of work, which is what it would have taken me to get my 28′ extension ladder from my truck and put it against the house, close the window, then put my ladder back and strap it down on my truck.

I promptly ordered a glass suction cup for every home inspector on my team, and I’m adding this to my tool list for home inspectors. If you’re a home inspector, I recommend you get yourself a glass suction cup. Home Depot sells them for $7.

Author: Reuben SaltzmanStructure Tech Home Inspections

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Banging pipes are caused by water hammer https://structuretech1.com/water-hammer-2/ https://structuretech1.com/water-hammer-2/#respond Tue, 08 May 2018 10:30:18 +0000 https://structuretech1.com/?p=1290988 Have you ever heard a banging noise coming from your water pipes when the water is turned off quickly? It usually sounds like the pipes are banging on something inside the walls… and that’s exactly what’s happening. When the flow of water is turned off very quickly, a small shockwave is created inside the pipe. […]

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Have you ever heard a banging noise coming from your water pipes when the water is turned off quickly? It usually sounds like the pipes are banging on something inside the walls… and that’s exactly what’s happening. When the flow of water is turned off very quickly, a small shockwave is created inside the pipe. This can cause the pipe to shake and often bang on the wall studs or floor joists.

Many years ago, I replaced the water tubing running to my kitchen sink as part of an experiment to get hot water faster at my kitchen sink. Before I secured the new tubing in place, I tested out the water line to make sure I was happy with the results. I found I had created perfect conditions for a banging pipe.

That pipe banging on the wood was happening just from me turning the hot water on and off at the kitchen sink. How many times do you suppose that pipe will bang on the floor joists before something gives way and the pipe starts leaking? I never waited around to find out. Just watching that video made my skin crawl.

This banging is referred to as ‘water hammer’, and as you might imagine, it can lead to damaged water lines.

Water hammer diagram

How to deal with water hammer

The most obvious way of dealing with this is to keep the pipes secure. As soon as I secured the flexible water tubing at my own house, the tubing couldn’t move anymore, and the sound went away. For new installations, clamps and protective devices are standard.

Suspension Clamp

Water Hammer Arresters

The Minnesota State Plumbing Code actually addresses water hammer, and requires the installation of devices to help prevent it:

609.10 Water Hammer. Building water supply systems where quick-acting valves are installed shall be provided with water hammer arrester(s) to absorb high pressures resulting from the quick closing of these valves. Water hammer arresters shall be approved mechanical devices in accordance with the applicable standard(s) referenced in Table 1401.1 and shall be installed as close as possible to quick-acting valves.

The places that you’ll most commonly find “quick-acting valves” are at dishwashers, clothes washing machines, and whole-house humidifiers. Also, the standard referenced in Table 1401.1 is ASSE 1010-2004, Water Hammer Arresters.

In many older houses, you’ll find primitive water hammer arresters. These were simple chambers of air that were supposed to prevent banging pipes, but they didn’t work all that well. One type was a whole-house shock absorber, consisting of a huge pipe that went nowhere, and was typically installed next to the water meter.

Old water hammer arrester 1

Old water hammer arrester 2

This riser created an air chamber in the pipe which would compress when there was a shockwave. Unfortunately, these weren’t effective. The shockwave started right at the fast-closing fixture and affected everything in its wake.

Because shockwaves that create water hammer are created at the quick-closing valve, a much better location for a shock absorber is right at the faucet or valve. The photo below shows a pair super cool-looking, ancient shock absorbers installed just above the washing machine connections.

old water hammer arresters at fixture

These early-edition water hammer arresters worked fine until all of the air was absorbed into the water. After that happened, these ‘air chambers’ became waterlogged and useless. The animation below shows what would happen to these early-edition water hammer arresters over time.

The simple solution is to install a manufactured water hammer arrester; a small sealed air chamber that’s designed to prevent water hammer.  The animation below shows how they work.

If water hammer arresters are needed to help prevent banging pipes at a washing machine, they can be purchased for under $25 at Amazon and they don’t require any special tools or knowledge to install.

Special thanks to Sioux Chief Manufacturing for providing the animations and diagram above.

Author: Reuben SaltzmanStructure Tech Home Inspections

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Cold hard kitchen water https://structuretech1.com/cold-hard-kitchen-water/ https://structuretech1.com/cold-hard-kitchen-water/#comments Tue, 01 May 2018 10:13:41 +0000 https://structuretech1.com/?p=1290963 Here in the Twin Cities metro area, it’s standard procedure to run a separate water line for un-softened cold water to the kitchen. I don’t like it, and I think this trend ought to change. When I used to live in Minneapolis, this was a non-issue. Minneapolis has great water, and there is no need […]

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Here in the Twin Cities metro area, it’s standard procedure to run a separate water line for un-softened cold water to the kitchen. I don’t like it, and I think this trend ought to change.

When I used to live in Minneapolis, this was a non-issue. Minneapolis has great water, and there is no need for a water softener at all. When I moved to Maple Grove, living without a water softener simply wasn’t an option. The water up here is very hard and will leave deposits over everything and gunk up the faucets very quickly. A working water softener is important.

Much to my annoyance, the cold water to my kitchen wasn’t softened when I moved in. Visit just about any home built in the Twin Cities over the last thirty years, and about 80% of any other homes that have water softeners, and you’ll find the same to be true. The cold water line to the kitchen bypasses the water softener on purpose. Plumbers actually go out of their way to do this.

I’ve had plumbers outside of the metro area tell me that this is no longer being done, but this is almost all that I ever see on new construction homes here in the Twin Cities. This is still standard practice.

Why the cold hard water to the kitchen

I’ve asked a lot of plumbers about this, and they’ve all given me the same answer; it’s an option. Some people like the option of having hard water available, both for consumption and for watering plants. I guess you’re not supposed to water your plants with soft water.

As for consumption, the idea is that we already get too much sodium in our diet, and we shouldn’t be getting even more from our water.

How much sodium is added to softened water? According to Pure Water Products, LLC, the amount of sodium added by a water softener depends on how hard the water was to start with. Here in Maple Grove, the water hardness ranges from 22 grains per gallon (gpg) to 25 gpg. To make it really simple, they say to multiply the grains of hardness by 1.89, and you have the total mg of sodium that is added to water through the softening process in one 8 oz glass of water. In other words, an 8 oz glass of softened Maple Grove water would have 25 x 1.89 mg of sodium, or about 50 mg.

To put that into perspective, a single slice of Brownberry® whole grain Outnut bread contains 150 mg of sodium. It’s not nothing, and if you drink 50 glasses of water a day (or whatever number the experts are recommending these days), that can add up to a lot of sodium. Maybe.

Yeah, but still

Despite the added sodium intake, I prefer soft water to the kitchen. Just a few months after moving to Maple Grove, my coffee maker bit the dust. All of those hard water deposits gunked it up and ruined it. A friend of mine had the same thing happen with an expensive espresso machine right after he moved from Minneapolis to Saint Louis Park.

Not only that, but the cartridges in my kitchen faucet used to constantly get ruined from the hard water deposits, and I’d have to replace the guts of my kitchen faucet every one to two years. I’d also constantly have hard water deposits build up around my faucet that I’d religiously clean every few months. It was very annoying.

To me, the downsides of hard water outweigh the downsides of soft water.

How to know what you have

If you have a water softener and you want to know whether or not the cold water running to the kitchen is softened, you have a few options. First, look at the base of your faucet. If it’s full of hard water deposits, the answer is yes. You have hard water coming into your kitchen. You’re welcome.

If you want a more technical method, you could buy some water hardness test strips. You’ll find a major difference in hardness between the hot and cold water at the kitchen sink if the cold is hard.

Finally, you could just go down to your basement and take a look at the water lines. If you have a 1/2″ water line with no shutoff valve tapped off of the water line before the softener, you’re surely looking at a hard water line running to the kitchen.

hard water line to kitchen

If you want to change this, it’s pretty simple. Just re-route the water line to the kitchen from the hard side to the cold side of the water softener. If you’re not comfortable doing that kind of work, hire a plumber. In most cases, this will be a quick and easy job, and you’ll be glad you did it.

I re-routed my own water line to supply softened water to the kitchen sink about a year ago and now I’m happy. All the time.

If you want the benefits of soft water but you don’t want the added sodium intake, install a reverse osmosis system, which will remove the added sodium. A filter won’t.

Author: Reuben SaltzmanStructure Tech Home Inspections

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Running toilet? Check the flapper. https://structuretech1.com/toilet-flapper/ https://structuretech1.com/toilet-flapper/#comments Tue, 24 Apr 2018 10:04:53 +0000 https://structuretech1.com/?p=1290969 Do you ever hear your toilet refilling for no apparent reason? You probably have a leaky flapper. If you use those drop-in chlorine tablets in your toilet, I can pretty much guarantee you have a leaky flapper. Those tablets deform the flappers and make them leak. Thankfully, replacing the flapper in your toilet is a […]

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Do you ever hear your toilet refilling for no apparent reason? You probably have a leaky flapper. If you use those drop-in chlorine tablets in your toilet, I can pretty much guarantee you have a leaky flapper. Those tablets deform the flappers and make them leak.

Thankfully, replacing the flapper in your toilet is a very quick and easy DIY project. Most of the time. Of course, there are always a few toilets with old or unusual guts, and those might not be so quick and easy. For the rest of the toilets out there, I made a short little video showing how to replace your flapper. Check it out:

Replace toilet flapper

After I recorded this, I realized that I kind of skipped over the chain adjustment. I consider this part to be pretty much common sense; the chain length is easily adjustable. The chain should be long enough to have a little bit of slack so you don’t need to jiggle the handle to get the flap to close, but short enough to get the flapper to lift when the toilet is flushed.

Oh, and of course, you’ll need to turn the water back on when you’re done.

Author: Reuben SaltzmanStructure Tech Home Inspections

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