Monday, July 4, 2011

ASHI Certified Home Inspectors

The Gold Standard By Brendan Ryan, ACI

The Gold Standard

By: Brendan Ryan, ACI

The ASHI Certification Committee recently released certification documents to all members who have attained ACI status. The documents unveiled the new Certified Inspector gold seal logo and included marketing information.

The logo was designed to carry on the visibility of ASHI, the most recognized insignia in the profession, yet be distinctive in its own right. The photographic negative format makes it brighter than its solid counterpart. Placement of the logo on a seal provides a universally accepted symbol of highest quality and achievement. The chosen background color announces that ASHI and its NCCA accredited Certified Inspector program are the Gold Standard of the home inspection profession.

The Certified Inspector logo has been trademarked for use only by persons who have reached this level of competency within ASHI. The logo and logo use policy are available on the ASHI website in the download section. Logo use is similar to our current policy in regard. The term Certified Inspector is required below the logo. The logo shall be presented in the black on gold color format. Use of the acronym ACI after the name of an ASHI Certified Inspector is allowed and verifiable by having completed an NCCA accredited certification program.

The distinctive gold standard logo and ACI acronym provide marketing opportunities for qualified inspectors to differentiate themselves from their competition. In general, they signify a higher level of experience and tested knowledge. For those in regulated states, these symbols promote the inspectors dedication to excellence by going beyond the requirements of state licensing and maintaining ASHI Certified Inspector status as well.

ACI status is an individual achievement. Inspectors who qualify for use of the gold seal logo are encouraged to use it on marketing materials, vehicles and websites. There is a “Verify My Certification” link that ACIs can put on their website that will take clients to an ASHI page that confirms ACI status. This personalized link is available by emailing ASHI HQ. It is a great marketing tool. Multi-inspector firms may identify individual employees by using the logo and link within their marketing programs.

Historically, the ability to use an acronym after one’s name has been reserved for persons who have reached a level of independently certified competence. Today, while the term certified and placing letters after your name have become grossly abused, it is important to know that ASHI Certified Inspector is one of the few legally recognized through accreditation. The NCCA evaluates parent organizations for viability and integrity along with their certification programs for fairness, reliability and means of recertification. No other home inspection association has met this level of scrutiny or has the ability to issue this level of certification.

ACIs can display and use their certification with confidence as it is based on a true and verifiable third-party accreditation. They can use it with confidence that ASHI as the leader and voice of the profession. And, with confidence that they are the gold standard: ASHI Certified Inspectors.


Polybutylene Piping In Arizona

When I find polybutylene piping in a home.  I am constantly asked,  if it's not leaking now,  why should I be concerned?
As a home inspector over the past ten years I've  done extensive  research on this product, and yes as a prior contractor I have installed, and repaired  this type of piping in 100s of homes in Arizona .

Due to my research and experience with repairing  and replacing polybutylene piping my common answer is:
*** It's not leaking now, it  may never leak,  and it could leak and damage the home as soon a we leave.

The following is from an  AZ  water department
    web site

                                                   Leaks Plague Polybutylene Plumbing

A controversy regarding the use of polybutylene pipe (PB) raises concerns about its reliability and use. The problem is the pipes often sprout leaks, to the dismay of many Arizonans who have the pipes installed in their homes and now face unwelcomed plumbing bills.

To many homeowners the onslaught of the problem is sudden and unexpected. A plumber described the situation: "First you hear a bang, then there's a sudden drop in water pressure. Water then starts coming from pipes you didn't know existed, causing soggy floors or holes in ceilings that are destructive and expensive to repair."

Sufficient numbers of homeowners have shared this unnerving experience to provoke various lawsuits. Consumer complaints in Texas prompted the largest class action in U.S. history against the manufacturers of PB. This action resulted in a $750 million settlement.

In Arizona, two lawsuits are pending in Maricopa County Superior Court to recover damages from PB manufacturers for Arizona homeowners with PB failure. One of the cases is a class action suit similar to the one filed in Texas.

Average costs for PB-related home repairs are about $4,000, says Carl Triphahn of the Piping Industry Progress Education Trust, a contractor's organization in Phoenix. In some cases, homeowners are finding that homeowners insurance companies will either cancel their coverage when extensive damage is caused by PB or refuse coverage to homes piped with PB.

PB is a flexible, easy-to-cut gray plastic that is put together with simple crimp connectors. Introduced in the late 1970s, PB has been used to pipe approximately six million homes in the U.S. While it is unclear how many homes in Arizona have PB, an estimated 80,000 Arizonans have had problems with PB. Homeowners often cannot determine what type of plumbing they have by inspection, as stubs to sinks and toilets generally use poly-to-copper connectors.

Despite the decidedly bad news associated with PB use, manufacturers and other defenders of PB piping insist the product on the market today doesn't deserve its bad reputation. Manufacturers of raw PB, including Shell Oil, Hoeschst Celanese Corp., and Dupont De Nemours, blame the bulk of leaks and ruptures on improper installation.

PB manufacturer spokesperson Carrie Chassin says, "The main problem has been at the joints. Some plumbers just took old brass fittings and used them for plastic -- that's one piece of the puzzle." Chassin says the makers of PB piping have corrected problems with leaks.

PB manufacturers sponsor the Plumbing Claims Group (PCB) to replace plumbing for homeowners with leaking PB pipes. Despite manufacturers' assurances that PB is reliable, PCG uses only C-PVC, an indoor version of polyvinylchloride, a more rigid plastic piping with glued joints, in its repairs. Homeowners sign a binding agreement that releases the companies from further claims and requires repairs be done by plumbers chosen by PCG.

A contractor familiar with PB problems says ninety percent of all leaks are at joints in the piping. The contractor figures that about thirty percent of the problems at leaking joints are due to installation errors. Leaks occurring inside a line are almost always in hot water lines, sometimes in areas with no stress.

PB manufacturers have addressed joint problems with a new type of manifold design, which eliminates the use of T-joints and other traditional fittings used with copper and C-PVC pipes. Also known as the "manablock" system, the new design runs flexible 3/8 inch PB pipes from one common source to each fixture. Pipes are joined with a copper tube secured by two crimped copper bands to seal the connection.

Some contractors are not convinced that the copper bands are the solution to the problem. There have been complaints of leaking shutoff valves located at individual fixtures in the manifold system. Carl Triphahn says that the biggest failures in the new manifold design is that the PB tubing itself has been splitting.

Tom Sagau, Tucson City Council member and a plumbing contractor, disagrees. He claims the problems in the improved manifold system are the result of faulty fittings from improper installation. The new copper fittings are an improvement over the old PB joints, said Sagau, but "crimpers need constant calibration to make sure [copper bands] are not too tight." If bands are crimped too snugly, excessive pressure on PB results and leaks are more likely to occur.

As debate continues about whether and to what extent faulty installation contributes to PB failure, another PB issue is getting attention -- whether chlorine added to water supplies deteriorates PB causing weakness or holes in the pipes.

PB manufacturers contracted H.D.R. Engineering Inc., a Bellevue, Washington company, to study the effects of chlorine on PB joints. "There's been some evidence," says Steve Reiber of H.D.R., "that the acetal polymers that have been used to form some of the joint materials used with the plastic pipe, have a lack of resistance to some of the chlorine species common in distribution water systems."

Reiber found that "some forms of oxidants [e.g., chlorine] are more adverse than others and cause exfoliation that weakens the structure. Because [the joints] are under tension, it causes a leak." In other words, the pre-manifold PB joints, which were made from different plastics than the pipe itself, did deteriorate in the laboratory in the presence of chlorine.

Reiber says he has not looked at the susceptibility of the pipe to deterioration in the presence of chlorine. "To my knowledge, nobody has checked the pipe itself," he said.

Meanwhile, PB piping remains popular among many home builders because it offers savings of $200 to $600 per home compared to C-PVC and copper piping. PB piping is almost the exclusive material used in plumbing inexpensive tract houses and mobile homes. The piping itself is about half the cost of copper, but somewhat more expensive than C-PVC. Major cost savings come from lower installation costs -- PB can be installed quickly by semi-skilled labor.

Some plumbers were attracted to PB because customers cannot do their own repairs. The crimping tool required to seal joints is difficult to find in stores or rental shops.

Several Arizona municipalities have become sufficiently wary of PB to ban its use in new construction. Glendale and Goodyear left PB out of their new 1994 plumbing codes, and Chandler has banned the piping.

"We have not used PB in our city system," said Tom Mundinger, a Tucson Water design supervisor, "because there were some settlements in California early on, and there have been other types of pipes we've been happy with." Polybutylene however was approved for private use in Tucson, and the City Council added it to the uniform plumbing code in 1991.

Caution seems to be the final word with regard to PB use. "When the stuff first came out in the 1970s, we had our doubts about it," said Wayne Bryant, a marketing representative for the Plumbers & Steamfitters Local 741 in Tucson. "It was a buyer beware type deal," Bryant says and he believes buyers still need to beware.

The following organizations may be contacted for more information about the PB piping issue:
Plumbing Claims Group -- 800-356-3496

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Is your Home Inspector Killing your deals? OR

         Is the condition of the home killing your deals?

To comply with the Arizona Home Inspection Standards of Professional Practice, Arizona Licensed Home Inspectors are required to report on, and identify the condition of over 80 items/components in the inspection report.

Common Items/defects that I find on 90% of the homes I inspect, and that I am required to report, that can often be corrected or repaired prior to the inspection, at little to no cost.

*** Dirty AC/Heating fitlers

*** Burnt out light bulbs

*** Tub and sink stoppers missing

*** Slow draining sinks and tubs

*** Interior doors that need adjustment to latch

*** Dishwasher Hi –Loop missing

*** Anti-tip devices missing on free standing ranges

*** Loose toilets

*** Moldy caulking in the showers

*** Noisy exhaust fans

*** Missing outlet and switch covers

*** Windows that need adjustment to slide or lock properly

*** Anti-siphon devices missing on the exterior faucets

*** Bushes or trees that need trimming to prevent contact with the homes exterior walls

*** Minor adjustments of the grading to provide proper water drainage away from the foundation

About me…

I have over 30 years building construction experience, been a full time Arizona licensed Inspector for the past 12 years, and have personally completed over 5,000 full home inspections in Mesa, Tempe, Chandler, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Queen Creek, Sun Lakes, Gilbert AZ
   ASHI Certified  Inspector  #206929
 Central District chairman for the local Arizona ASHI chapter 2006-2012 .
 Arizona Board of Technical Registration Enforcement and Advisory Committee Member.

For additional information about me, my services, my inspection fees, and to view my sample report. Visit my website ….

If you have any questions about a questionable item on a property that you have listed, or if your client has a question on a home they are considering purchasing, your call or email is always welcome for a no obligatiion, same day, free phone or email consult.

Email      Phone 480-756-9064
Angies List Super Service Award   2010-2011- 2012
Mesa / Phoenix  AZ Certified Home Inspector # 38440

Sunday, May 8, 2011

. Water Softener Drain Line Cross- Connections

The water softener drain pipe is connected directly
 into a sewer drain pipe in the attic.
Per The Arizona Standards of Professional Practice for Arizona Home Inspectors,  Arizona Home Inspectors are required to identify any/all cross connections between drinking water and waste water.
CROSS CONNECTION: As identified in the standards of professional practice glossary..  Any physical connection or arrangement between potable water and any source of contamination.

In this photo the  water  softener drain line is draining directly  in the washing machine sewer stand  pipe.

There are several ways a cross connection can exist in your plumbing system. 
 One common source of cross contamination is in your water softener drain line installation.                                                                                                 
When water softeners recharge, they often discharge the waste water through a ¾-inch diameter tube that is supposed to empty through a 1-½-inch air gap into a receptor such as a sink, a floor drain or a standpipe.

Water softener drain lines connected directly into a sewer line in the attic, and in the washer drain line, with out an air-gap,  is a very common problem with water softener installations in the Phoenix area.  Most of these water softeners were installed by a sub-contractor hired by the water softener sales company.

Why is this a serious problem?? #1-   If this improper installation is not corrected, sewer water can enter/mix with your drinking water. 
#2- On the first photo,  In two to three years the tape used to hold the drain line will deteriorate and the water softener drain water, and sewer water, if there is a sewer back- up will drain into the attic.

The Fix..***On newer homes there is often a stand pipe/ drain pipe, behind the washer hook-up,  next to the washing machine drain hose, designed to allow proper water softener drainage.

*** A proper air gap, or an air gap device can be installed on the pipe, where the water line connects to the sewer pipe...

Additional information on  this serious heath concern,  and information about a proper air gap device can be found at

TIP.. If your water softener installer did not install your drain line properlym, call the company  immediately and ask them to install it properly. 
 If they state this installation is OK, and refuse to correct it,   inform them you are going to call your local water company to confirm your installation meets current building code requirements.

.Why contact your water company for assistance?  This is a serious heath concern, if not corrected this can contaminate your, and your neighbors drinking water over-nite.  Over the past 10 years I've recommended this to several customers, after they either called the water company, or informed the water softener contractor/ installer they were going to call the water company, every one of them were properly corrected,   at no charge,  by the contractor with-in  1-2  days

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Restricted AC Condensate Drain Lines

The way your air conditioner dries your house is by removing moisture from the home. That moisture must go some where. The moisture is removed by condensing it on the cold refrigeration coils and letting it run to the exterior thru a condensate drain line.

As an Inspector I see a lot of  homes with water leaking from the upper AC condensate drain line.. This is a very common problem on homes that are 5-10 plus years old.
On a vacant home, where the AC unit has not been run,  this can be identified by observing rust stains on the upper drain line, and often on the exterior wall.  In the attic there will be excessive rust or standing water in the drain pan under the air handler.

Homes that have the AC unit /air handler in the attic have two condensate drain lines extended to the exterior. The upper line is commonly installed on the upper side of the home and often above a window.
     The lower line [primary line] will be installed apx. 2-3 ft. off the ground, usually on one of the ends on the home.  If you home has two or more AC units there will be two drain lines for every unit.

The role of your AC drain lines
. Primary Drain Line. This line is connected to the unit in the attic.
In the humid part of the summer several gallons of water will drain through this line every day.. To help prevent standing water, and a breeding ground for termites and bugs at your foundation,  installing a splash block to drain water away from the foundation is often recommended.
     A splash block, [a piece of tapered plastic apx. 8"wide and 12-16" long]  can be purchased at your local hardware store or at one the the big box buildiing supply stores. 

Upper Line. The upper drain line [ I consider this line a back up line]  is connected to a drain pan installed under your AC unit/air hander. This line is only used if the lower / primary drain line becomes plugged or restricted.  When this back up drain  line plugs up,  all of the water will drain in the home and cause water damage to the insulation, wood framing and ceilings.

Good rule of thumb.... Check your drain lines every couple weeks in the summer, if the water is leaking from the upper drain line, or if you don't see water leaking from the lower or upper lines,  call an AZ  Lic. AC contractor to service your unit and clean the drain  lines.
          *** Correcting restricted drain lines is not very costly if corrected as soon as you see it.
.             ***   Correcting water damage and possible mold damage can be very expensive.