A PRIVATE septic system is one of, if not the most, expensive system in your home. A septic evaluation is not included in a general home inspection. You will need to call in a licensed septic evaluator. A septic evaluator will locate and dig up the septic tank, distribution box and the leach field. They will go over the system with you and explain any issues that are going on. Don’t forget that regular pumping of a septic system is not the same as an evaluation. Many homeowners pump their tanks regularly but do not get evaluations. Always get an evaluation when purchasing a home. If you can get a copy of the plans or any information about the location of the tank and the system that will help your septic evaluator very much.
Don’t forget that if your home is on PUBLIC sewer that the home owner owns the outlet pipe from the home all the way to where it connects at the street. Any damaged sections of pipe are the responsibility of the home owner to repair, not the town. A sewer scope is always recommended for homes on public sewer, especially older homes. Older homes may have cast iron or even clay pipes to the street, instead of the PVC of today.
A lot of people ask me about the tools that I use during an inspection. An inspector needs to use certain tools to get the job done properly and effectively. I have a slight tool obsession, especially screwdrivers, I have a large collection.
Below are links to amazon for the majority of the tools that I use on a daily basis. I also have a list of cool things for homeowners, many of which I have in my home. Click here for that list.
So here we go. Click the links below to go right to Amazon and buy them.
There is a lot of misinformation and misconceptions with the FHA and VA loan programs. These are both great programs for the right buyer but they require additional steps to get to the closing table compared to a traditional loan. I am going into this blog as a Home Inspector so I’ll focus on this side, I won’t get into loan rates and down payments and all that stuff. For information on the mortgage sides of these loans talk to your mortgage person.
A VA loan is for military veterans and active duty military people.
A VA loan WILL require a pest inspection. The pest inspection being referred to is the NPMA-33. There is a blank copy of this form at the bottom of this page. This is a government form that either a qualified home inspector or a pest inspector will need to fill out. A pest inspection is free from some home inspectors with their inspection, or a pest company normally charges around $150-$200. The inspector will need access to the home and will check all areas for Wood destroying organisms. The VA does not care about mice or squirrels or owls, whatever you got. The NPMA-33 form is for Termites, Carpenter Ants, Carpenter Bees and other Wood Destroying Organisms. If there is damage from WDO’s or live WDO’s the VA may require they be repaired or removed before releasing funds. This form also requires signatures from both the buyer and seller.
A VA loan will require a water test if your new home is on a private well. The water test will need to include the following:
Coliform and E.Coli Bacteria
If this water test comes back poorly things will need to be corrected and the water re-tested before you can purcase the home.
You can and should be testing for more things in your water like Arsenic and Radon but they are not required for your loan. If you want to test for more things you absolutley can, what we do is split the water results onto a VA page and a personal page. The VA should never see the personal page. Knox Home Inspections charges $125 for the VA minimum water test. Other companies may charge more or less.
The VA will require paid invoices on water testing and pest inspections. However, the pest inspection cannot be paid for by the buyer… wait what??? WHY? Honestly I have no idea why. One way around that is to get creative with the invoices or have someone else pay for the pest inspection. If anyone knows why this is the case please let me know, I have asked many people and can’t get a direct answer.
An Appraisal is required also. This is a person that will come to the property and assess its estimated value. The VA appraisers also check for things inside and around that house that ensure the house qualifies for this loan. Things like peeling exterior paint, damaged siding, damaged roofing, live wires, knob and tube wiring, missing handrails, missing smoke detectors, etc will cause problems and will need to be addressed before the VA will release funds for you to purchase the home. There are many more things that may come up as requirements during the appraisal.
Things not required by the VA:
Radon Air Test
Should you have a home inspection, septic evaluation and a radon air test? YES! Will the VA require them. No.
The FHA loan will require an appraisal similar to the one in the VA section above. The appraiser will check for things like peeling paint, handrails, is the heat working, is the roof falling in, etc.
The FHA will sometimes require a pest paper and or a water test, but not often anymore. Check with your mortgage person about this. Sometimes if you are getting grant money or some state programs they will require water testing or pest papers.
My Personal FHA Loan Story
My current home was purchased with an FHA loan. We got a low down payment and a pretty good interest rate. The FHA appraiser did flag a few things, one was this storm door on the side of the garage that I have not used in 2 years of living here….
Obviously this door needs to be replaced, and it was required by the FHA appraiser to move forward with our closing and purchase the house. AT THE SAME TIME, the appraiser missed not 1 but 3 live wires similar to this one…
These 3 wires were very easy to spot, one in the garage, one in the basement and one in the attic (pull down stair easy to get to). So we got the door fixed and a few other things and we were good to go. They did not make us fix the wiring. Of course we did fix the wiring as soon as possible but it was puzzling why the door and some paint was mandatory to fix but the wiring was not. The rotted storm door is not going to kill anyone, but the wires could kill you pretty quick.
On the Home Inspector side of things, not as the buyer, I have heard it all. Some issues will be called out by appraisers and some will not. You never know what you are going to get. It is a gray area / judgement call in many cases and it is different from house to house.
As always, talk with your Real Estate Agent and Mortgage Specialist and ask them all of the questions. If you are doing a home inspection talk with your home inspector. Ask all of the questions, there are no dumb questions, only the ones you don’t ask. It is better to be ahead of the game and know everything before hand, and also get everything done as soon as possible. You don’t want to find out that you need a water test when it is 2 days away from the closing table. Thank you for reading. If you have any questions feel free to call us, or fill out the contact page on our home page and send us an email.
Very often I hear people say: “my furnace is broken” or “the furnace is new”, but it’s not a furnace they are talking about at all. Most of the time they are talking about a Boiler. Some people just call everything that creates heat in the home a furnace and this is not true. Let’s do a comparison and see the differences and how to spot them…
BOILER: AKA Forced Hot Water. Pushes hot water through the home inside pipes and radiates heat through the home using baseboards or radiators.
Above is a boiler in the basement. It pushes hot water through copper pipes like these below…
The heat gets into the rooms above through baseboards or radiators like these below…
FURNACE: AKA Forced Hot Air. Forces hot air through the home using a fan and ducts.
The air gets pushed up through ductwork like this…
It comes through the floor, wall or ceiling through duct covers like this…
The fastest way to tell what which kind of system you have is by walking in the front door and looking around the outside of the room. Heat supplies are always on the exterior of the home and if you see air duct covers you know it is a furnace, if you see baseboards or radiators you know it is a boiler.
There are many more differences and pros and cons to each kind of heating system but that is for another blog. When purchasing a home make sure that you know which system you have and how to maintain it. In case you are having problems you want to know what to tell the HVAC person you are on the phone with so they know what they need to fix it.
If you have any questions about your heating system feel free to reach out to us and ask.
The short answer is it is something that you do NOT want in the home you are buying, or any home.
Knob and Tube was the first kind of electrical that was used from about 1880 to 1930-ish. It looks like this…
The Knobs hold the wires in place and the tubes protect the wires when they go through joists and wall cavities. There are only 2 wires, a hot and a neutral, no grounding and they are both covered in a cloth sheathing so it is hard to tell which is which. A non contact voltage tester is the best way to tell if this wiring is still in use or not. Sometimes the wiring is cut and not in use but the wires are left in place. Sometimes it is still in use.
If you are purchasing a home and there is LIVE knob and tube you want to get an electrician out to take it out and replace it right away. Knob and tube is no longer the electrical standard and poses a fire risk. Especially when it is buried in old cellulose insulation up in the attic or behind the walls. Not only is this a safety issue but it can be a homeowners insurance issue. If you own a home with knob and tube and a fire is caused by it, you may not be covered.
The best places to spot knob and tube wiring is in the basement (look up) and in the attic (look up and down). Also these old light switches are commonly wired with Knob and Tube…
Gently take the cover plate off, NOT the switches! Look on the side for the cloth wiring. If you see cloth wiring call an electrician.
Knob and Tube wiring should be removed in all homes. Make sure to share this with anyone you know that has this type of wiring in their home still. If you’re not sure snap a picture and send it over to your electrician, or send it to us here at Knox Home Inspections and we can help you out.
Typically when buying a home people are always worried about service size for their electrical systems? Do we have 100 amp or 200 amp? That is how much power is coming into your home and how much your main panel can safely handle.
One thing that people don’t often think about is WHAT BRAND is my main panel? There are a bunch of different kinds…. Cutler Hammer, Crouse Hinds, Square D, General Electric, ITE, Siemens, etc. Then there is FEDERAL PACIFIC.
Federal Pacific was a company that started in 1950 and was very popular all the way up to 1988 in some areas, including America and Canada. Over time these panels had a higher failure rate than other panels. Studies were performed and it was found that these panels had several different problems. Mainly with the inability to trip the breaker off when necessary. Other breakers will shut off and stop the flow of power and prevent a fire. The failure rate on other brands of breakers is much much less than a Federal Pacific breaker.
It is estimated that Federal Pacific Panels are responsible for 2000 fires ANNUALLY.
Luckily an FPE panel is very easy to identify.
Look for the bright RED tabs on the breaker fronts. No other brand uses this style of breaker size indicator. Think red = danger / red = STOP
There may be a sticker with the company name still on it, either inside the panel cover or near the top.
The breakers are BACKWARDS!!!!! On any other panel the breakers are pointing towards the center when they are switched ON and they are pointing to the outside when they are OFF. FPE breakers are opposite and it makes the cover difficult to remove.
When shopping for a new home make sure to look at the BRAND of panel that you are buying and discuss it with your Home Inspector. If you see the warning signs above you should plan on a full panel replacement. May as well call an electrician for a quote right away and save time, your home inspector will recommend a replacement anyways.
If you know anyone with one of these panels in there home, please, urge them to replace it. Or at least call an electrician to tell them more about the danger.
Radon is an odorless, tasteless, invisible gas that is very common in our Granite State of New Hampshire. Radon is 8 times heavier than air, it will accumulate in the basement and can then spread up into the home above. It can also be concentrated in private well water which can then enter the home through sinks and showers. See the info graphic below.
Radon comes from the ground and any home can have elevated levels. Your neighbor can have low radon and your home can have high levels, there are many different factors that can affect the levels.
A few quick facts about Radon:
Radon is the SECOND leading cause of lung cancer, just behind smoking cigarettes.
Radon can be in the air and in your well water
Of the 25,000 New Hampshire homes that have been tested through the State radon program, more than 30 percent exhibited radon concentrations that exceeded the action level of 4.0 pCi/L
In the winter time levels of Radon can increase due to the “Stack Effect”. The heating system in the home will draw more gas out of the cold foundation and the ground.
Carrol County has the highest Radon Levels in New Hampshire
Radon mitigation systems are not as expensive as most people think
Please share this info with your friends and family and urge them to get a Radon Air Test if they haven’t yet. There are home test kits that are available from hardware stores, local testing facilities, or call us at Knox Home Inspections. We use the best available electronic continuous radon measuring machines for the fastest and most accurate results.
If you are buying a home with a well system and not public water you should absolutely be doing a water quality test. It is best to test the water during the due diligence period you have as a buyer so that if anything comes up in the test results you will have time to consider your options and work out a solution if there is a problem. Filtration systems can be expensive depending on what you need to remove.
The most common water quality issue that I encounter during the Home Inspection process is Coliform Bacteria. Coliform is a required test for VA (Veteran Affairs) mortgage loan. If Coliform is present in a home being bought with this type of loan it will need to be removed prior to purchase.
Coliform bacteria is referred to as an “indicator” organism. Not all Coliform will carry diseases but they can indicate the presence of other bacteria and viruses that can cause illnesses, such as E. Coli.
If your water test comes back with Coliform present you will want to treat your well system. This can be done by installing a whole house Chlorination System, Open Air Chlorination System or a UV filtration system. Each home is different and a water quality and filtration professional should be consulted before investing in a system by yourself.
If a filtration system is out of your price range another option is “Shocking” the well. This is a process that involves putting a bleach solution down the well and flushing out the system. There is a chance that the bacteria can return and you should test your water regularly if you do not have a filtration system in place.
If you are a home buyer and your potential home has coliform present you will want to have a professional shock the well. Unless you plan on doing it yourself. You do not want the current homeowners to shock the well on their own. They may have a friend do it that doesn’t have any experience or know what to do. They also may not even do it at all and tell you that they did. I bring up this possibility because I have seen it before. If you are going to have the sellers correct the issue make sure that you get receipts from a professional well company and follow up with another test to ensure the bacteria is gone.
Here is a basic guideline on shocking a well. Keep in mind that every system is different and may need different procedures.
A typical solution for shocking a well requires 2 cups bleach and 10 gallons of water.
Dump the solution into your well.
Run a hose from the home to the well and run the water into the well to promote mixing of the solution. When you smell bleach coming out of the hose, shut it off.
Allow the well to sit for a few hours.
Run the exterior hoses away from the home and any plants and vegetation.
Run all the interior faucets and flush the toilets.
The flushing process can take a few hours or repeated flushing over a few day.
You may see brown water coming out of the faucets during this process. This is common and is from sediment breaking up from the bleach solution. Keep running the water and it should work itself out.
When you no longer smell bleach at the faucets you should be all set. Chlorine test strips can also be used.
You should re-test your water about a week after shocking to ensure the bacteria is removed.
During the shocking process you should NOT use your water supply. Here are some other things that you should NOT do during this process:
Drink the water
Give water to your pets
Water your plants
Do Laundry (the bleach may discolor your clothes and the rust deposits may stain your clothes)
Like any issue found during a Home Inspection, Coliform bacteria is easily fixed if handled properly. If shocked properly the water may remain clean for a long time or it may not. Most experts will advise that you test your well water once a year, while some say every other year. If you have a shallow dug well you may want to test your water twice a year or more. Especially if you live a quarter mile from a dairy farm with 100 cows.
I have also seen coliform form inside of a water softener brine tank. The salt had not been filled and the tank had filled up with water which had a nice thick layer of growth on top of it. A plumbing cross connection can also back flow waste water back into the system causing contamination.
There are many different ways that Coliform and other bacterias can enter your water supply and several different ways to treat it. Obviously a high quality filtration system is the ideal solution but if that is not in the budget than hopefully a bottle of bleach is and you can clean your system.