Sunday, January 7, 2018

Go to Your Crawlspace!

Remember when you were a child and your parents told you sternly, “go to your room?” Oh those happy times of yesteryear. . .

This post exhorts you to go to your crawlspace!  Now! – before the end of this month and every year thereafter!

If you are one of the fortunate who: 1. rent, 2. have a house on a slab foundation, or 3. have a full basement, then disregard this exhortation.

As an inspector, much of the action is seen in the underbelly of structures, in the proverbial “deep dark places” that few people ever see or care to see. As noted in previous posts (e.g., “rotten butts”), a structure can be all pretty and nice on the topside, well maintained, etc., hugely expensive with an ocean view, but be a lemon based on conditions on the down low.

You the homeowner should get into your crawlspace yearly and go to all areas under your house (or twice yearly if you are a nut job) and look for things. Pay to have this inspection done if you are allergic to crawl spaces. [You aren’t but you may think you are.] What things to look for? 

-         Obvious moisture from the ground, from the outside. Gutters overflowing will almost always show in the crawl space in hard rain conditions. Flooding from a bad topography outside, where water directs toward your structure. High water table. Standing water from a source other than your interior house plumbing. If no water, staining from past water.
-         Moisture from leaking interior plumbing, whether in your pressurized lines (incoming) or your non-pressurized (outgoing). This necessitates that you get under each plumbing point (bathrooms, kitchen, laundry) and look at the plumbing coming down through the flooring. Before checking while topside, you can run the water for a while and flush a couple-three times to make sure enough water has passed to show signs of leaking. 
-         Foundation wall integrity: are there cracks or signs of movement or flaw? Moisture?
-         Support posts and their underlying blocks. Each post should be dry, free from rot or weakness, with a vapor barrier (plastic sheeting or an oversized roof shingle) between itself and the concrete block on which it sits. I try to hit [with a hammer] and/or kick every post to make sure it is firm and solid. Water should never be allowed to the lowest level of any support posts, ever.
-         Support blocks that have moved or are sunken. If moved, these may need to be re-placed or their respective posts re-shimmed.
-         Integrity of sub flooring under plumbing points and in the SW corners/sides of structures [here, the weather sides].
-         Screens should be integral and their respective apertures kept OPEN YEAR ROUND. I recommend replacing every vent screen with ¼” stainless steel screening and stainless fasteners, available at Englund Marine in Astoria. As many of these as possible should be installed from the exterior of the structure, not the crawl space interior. Exceptions are only where exterior access is blocked. Do every vent point!
-         In our temperate environment, I prefer no insulation in crawl spaces. However, if you have insulation, it should be applied between the upper floor joists and supported in place by one of several means. It should not be drooping, fallen, or rat-holed or fouled.
-         Black 6 millimeter plastic should cover every bare earth area of your crawl space. You should see no earth when in your crawl space. Edges should roll up the foundation walls by several (6+) inches; laid edges should overlap by 12 inches. Use black plastic; clear plastic allows certain plants to grow under the plastic in a greenhouse-type environment. Use plastic garden spikes to fasten the plastic to the ground, or bricks, etc. Never wood blocks.  
-         All rodents, animals, neighborhood children; homeless persons OUT. Do what you need to do to extricate all forms of life from your crawl area. I won’t even let moles into mine – everything OUT!
-         All garbage or stored material OUT! All wood and rottables OUT! Especially nice is when people store extra rolls of carpet in their crawl spaces! Gee, I want to have my bedroom re-floored with THAT carpeting!
-         All wires that droop down should be carefully stapled or fastened up to the underside of joists.

Consider establishing a fixed date to enter your crawlspace. I do mine every year on a fine, wet fall day in the midst of - or after -  a strong storm so that I can see the space in the worst of conditions. You can make this date a fixed date, to become part of your cherished family traditions in a decade or two. Perhaps one bright day in the future "national crawl space day" will be a federal/state/school day off, like c'mass or t'giving or the like! 

A note on PPG (personal protective gear) and crawls. The two inspectors I shadowed when entering this profession used nasty unwashed cloth coveralls and no respirators/goggles/etc. when accessing crawl spaces. They were men’s men doing things the old-school way of doing things. They looked slovenly – disheveled, and stunk like crawl-space as a result. Their lungs and eyes carried the nastiness of what they encountered whilst down-under. You've heard of "black lung" for those who have worked in coal mines. Well, welcome to "crawl lung!" 
     Contrarily, I look like moon-boy banana supremo when I access a crawl space. I wear an interior white Paint spray suit, a yellow plastic or rubber exterior rain suit over this, high boots, twice plastic gloves, a good particulate respirator, ski goggles that do not fog up, a hood and a plastic helmet with an affixed light. I’m not dragging your  nasty crawl-disease-skank home by showing up at the party under-dressed. Even though my own crawl space is as near perfection and cleanliness as one can find, I still suit up appropriately when diving down-under. I recommend wearing a rubber rain suit, boots, goggs, respirator, and gloves when doing your yearly rounds. You will get hot under the collar perhaps to extreme discomfort, while leaving the nastiness on the outside of your bod. 

Lastly, don't neglect this task. I cannot emphasize how often I get into a crawl space and see through long term neglect of simple maintenance or of simple observation how a homeowner has let things go to seed to their financial detriment of thousands, tens of thousands, and occasionally hundreds of thousands of dollars. It is a gamble to own a structure and to omit getting into a crawl space just because you are afraid of a few cooties or are lazy. 

Monday, December 25, 2017

A Lemming’s Ode

Oh Glorious Party: Sustainer of my soul. Also my livelihood, if It pays my wage. 

What The Party says, I shall proclaim.

What The Party does; I shall emulate. I shall defend.

My morals shall be subject to The Party. The direction The Party determines is the direction that shall govern my life.

My logic shall adjust to defend The Party. Right thinking? Who cares, as long as it supports The Party. 

You want to know what I think? What does The Party say --  this is what I think. I willingly fall into goose-stepping idiocy to become one of the Great Leader / Great Party devotees. 

The identity of a fawning Friesler, Jodl, or Quisling I can suffer. But not an apostate, a despised independent; such could never be borne. 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

I Could Be Wrong. Or, Thoughts on Epistemology. Or, Being Honest as a Finite Human

Back in days as a professional religionist in two pharasaic cultures in the U.S., eventually things came to a point where I had to ask a hypothetical / non-hypothetical question to persons in dialectic conversation. I needed to ask this question to save time and effort, and really in order to avoid going insane. 

This question was, "in the things of which we speak, could you be wrong?" 

If no, I thanked the person for their time and moved along. If genuinely affirmative, we could speak. 

You see, the older I got, the more convinced I was of [my] human errancy. Of a tendency to not see all things. To see persons, incl. myself, as biased, opinionated, errant on many issues/subjects/points. To not have the corner on absolute truth in any given subject. On any given subject! 

Of course I believe things about things. I even cautiously claim certainty on many issues, things, etc.: I think particular things are factual, true, actual, real. However, I make a serious distinction between knowledge and belief. To say, "I know such and such is true" is much different than saying "I believe that such and such is true." 

In the religious realm, it has always struck me as funny how quickly and fervently people dig in their heels and defend whatever they (or more often their sect) practice or believe. Often in ways that are illogical. Defensively. Thoughtlessly. With little or no regard for facts, or with a consideration and use of facts that I think to be careless, unsound, or invalid. In all other aspects of their life they admittedly could be in error. Even, if they are honest, in areas of professional occupational specialty. However, in the religious realm, they KNOW that what they say is true - they could not be wrong. Even when they disagree with others who  know that their contrary beliefs and practices are true. 

Intellectual honesty demands a willingness to critically assault our own belief systems and to change views if need be.

My occupation now requires a utilization of facts that is refreshingly different from those of the professional religionist days. It is raining today, the underside of the roof in that point is wet as seen in the attic. Therefore, the roof leaks. I can say with certainty: your roof leaks here. Sometimes I can get on the roof and see exactly why the roof is leaking. Your roof leaks in this point because of x. If you do y, your roof will/should no longer leak.

Often the facts are not so clear; things are less certain. You have systematic cracks in your foundation on this side of the structure, possibly/probably (?) what has happened here is x or y. If you do n, o, or p, the issue may be resolved. In some cases the cause is not evident; I believe in one instance that a moving truck hit the foundation and that there was no structural instability or foundation/ground movement. 

Sometimes I can almost hear the inner disappointment from clients when I say that I do not know the answer to their question. However, I simply shall NOT say that I know something to be true if in fact I do not know the answer.

Rather, I shall seriously and soberly offer an opinion on what I think about this or that. I shall not definitively speak past what I know. If there are others who know more than me, I shall refer and defer to such persons. 

I can be wrong. Though on your behalf as an inspector I seek to be omniscient (= all knowing—an old theological term).
I do not see all things. Though on your behalf as an inspector I seek to be omnipresent (= in all places, but in a limited linear, temporal sense -- not at the same time in all places as with the Divine One). 
As a human, I am not able to know all things and am not able to solve all of your homeowner problems. (An approximation of the divine attribute of omnipotence, or, to be potent in all circumstances/conditions.) However, as an inspector, a co-home owner, and a person, I am fervently interested in knowing about the structure being inspected on your behalf, concerns you may have, and helping you to own and maintain this structure with excellence.

These things are facts! 


Oh Person

On the news of late, for the last year or so. A true epistemological crisis is at hand. Also to mention the daily mirroring of the dismal human condition. I used to tell students: look for TRL = "Theology-in-real-life" -- Now as always the daily drumbeat exhibition of hamartia (sin) whether innate, inherited, learned,  but always performed. Also regularly highlighted but little understood is the necessity for proper hermeneutics -- interpretation -- of  present day facts as with ancient texts. 

Today's assumption: you have facts and I have facts and these facts are different, contradictory. I'll just collect the facts that support my view and you yours, and mine are better than yours! Not so! There are facts and there are ways to interpret these facts. One right and many wrong. One Cretan's base insult founded on historical non-reality is another's "elevating the conversation." 

Some occupations are based on speaking, speaking, and more speaking. The tongue that can not be stilled. 

Rhetors for profit. Oh politician/pundit; oh preacher:  Do not lie [to me]. Speak [the] truth.
Do not flatter [me]. Speak [the] truth.
Do not speak words [you think I wish to hear]. Speak [the] truth.
      Simply , clearly. Briefly. Briefly.  
And if you can not or will not speak truth, briefly, simply, then "just you shut your mouth" and do not speak [to me]. 

How is it that the class of persons who is supposed to have a special insight on truth and reality because of the assumed presence of the Dei vivi have been the ones so bewitched by the Cretan and his lies? 




Monday, October 16, 2017

Billing Escrow

Domuspect is paid by the person contracting for the inspection. The person who contracts is the person who pays. Not escrow; but the person who pays.

Justification follows. 

1a. Paying through escrow potentially or actually influences the inspector to report in a way that will facilitate the transaction. Even if contractual material is completed that assures payment if the transaction does not succeed, inspection payment will be delayed regardless of the state of the transaction. It will especially be delayed if the transaction does not succeed and if the client is reticent to reimburse for the failed transaction. Payment delay is a reasonable motivation that inspectors may (but not necessarily) angle their reporting in a way that makes the transaction succeed.

1b. I adhere to the ethics and conduct standards set forth by the ASHI organization. ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors) standards say: 1. Inspectors shall avoid conflicts of interest or activities that compromise, or appear to compromise, professional independence, objectivity, or inspection integrity.
B. Inspectors shall not inspect properties under contingent arrangements whereby any compensation or future referrals are dependent on reported findings or on the sale of a property.
Online at: http://www.homeinspector.org/codeofethics/default.aspx.
Accessed 7.20.14. Emphasis mine.
   
2. Escrow payment for the inspection is potentially by the seller, not the buyer. If monies for escrow that pay for the inspection are contributed by both seller and buyer, or solely by the seller with the intention that the seller will pay for the inspection, then the inspection is the property of the seller. However, the State of Oregon requires inspectors to prominently display in their reports,
THIS REPORT IS INTENDED ONLY FOR THE USE OF THE PERSON PURCHASING THE HOME INSPECTION SERVICES. NO OTHER PERSON, INCLUDING A PURCHASER OF THE INSPECTED PROPERTY WHO DID NOT PURCHASE THE HOME INSPECTION SERVICES, MAY RELY UPON ANY REPRESENTATION MADE IN THE REPORT.

In such a case, the escrow purchased report can only be relied on by its purchaser – the seller. However, in diametrical opposition, the escrow-purchased report is assumed to be the property of the home buyers who have not purchased the inspection

3. If payment is expected through escrow and the sale fails, the home inspector can be put in the position of bill collector, needing to pursue relevant parties to be paid. Timely payment only through the purchaser of the home and/or the purchaser of the report avoids this dilemma. 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Structures and Letter Grades

One time a local real estate agent who grew up and stayed in this area used me for the first and only time. She asked me what background I most recently came from.

My most recent work was primarily from an educational background apparently wholly unrelated to contracting. When stating that I had been a teacher, her disdain and disappointment were obvious.

Not said was that I have worked in construction, roofing, painting, maintenance, etc. since the early 1980s in various capacities, sometimes as a or the primary means of sustenance, and other times dormant. Sometimes as the principal worker (supervisor), sometimes as a subordinate part of a team.

Often it is better just to stay silent.

Personally I am grateful for having a varied background; work from the past – even that which seems greatly unrelated – helps much with the report writing and the overall attention to detail that I strive for on behalf of my clients.

When teaching, I did not curve grading; people received what they earned. I always had a portion of persons receiving As, Bs, Cs, Ds, and Fs, with the majority straight in the middle of the 70-80 range.

One aspect of the past life that remains in the report writing is that letter grades for each structure inspected are assigned. Bs are not assigned for C work; Bs are given for above average work. Etc.

Yesterday, an F was assigned to a structure due to a radically moving foundation even though the rest of the structure had many significant, positive features. Day before, a B+ for a Seaside bungalow built in the early twentieth century that still needed a new roof and a serious plumbing upgrade. Etc. These letter grades offer an opportunity to stand back and look at the big picture, to recapitulate all of the larger scale issues, and to present them in an accurate, understandable scale.

Factors: On the bungalow: the size of the structure was small and therefore had not much of a roof. The pitch was shallow; access to the roof from the street was clear, and a roof hence would either be easy to install if doing themselves or not too expensive if having done. The plumbing changeout would be painful if doing themselves (pex) due to the river rock addled crawl space; however, half of the plumbing had already been changed out and so at least the process was half completed. If paying to have done, the cost would not be too extreme due to the few number of plumbing points. Etc.
      On the F grade, you can put all the lipstick, finery, and jewelry you wish on a pig, but the pig will remain a pig nonetheless! Or, you can build the most beautiful structure possible on a sled going down the hill; but the structure is going down the hill one way or another.



Sunday, September 3, 2017

Anticipation

Pending a 1983, 1946, 1928, and a 1916. What to see? What cool history as exhibited in the construction, or the upkeep since then. . . What funny behind the scenes repairs or supporting to be seen? Oh yeah! . . . 

Wondering who lived here. What went on. What joys, accomplishments, tragedies, miseries. 

Then the report writing, which is satisfying in and of itself. Even fun at times. 

Genuine anticipation for the coming week! I have lived many decades in a position of hating my job. How weird to be in an occupation that is loved, with eagerness for coming days, weeks, structures, fun crawlspaces. . .