Chinese Drywall

During Florida’s housing boom of the mid-2000s and after Hurricane Katrina created a shortage of building supplies, contaminated drywall imported from China was commonly used in new homes and in hurricane restoration. Builders were unaware of the potential problems that would arise from the use of this drywall that had been manufactured overseas without quality control.

coilsOver time, inspectors noticed a blackening of copper electrical writing and AC evaporator coils (see photo) due to the release of sulfur gases that have the potential to sicken the people who live in homes with Chinese drywall. Health issues may include headaches, nose bleeds, eye irritation, or breathing problems (though there are many other possible causes of these health issues).

According to the experts, “Chinese companies use unrefined “fly ash,” a coal residue found in smokestacks in coal-fired power plants in their manufacturing process. Fly ash contains strontium sulfide, a toxic substance commonly found in fireworks. In hot and wet environments, this substance can off-gas into hydrogen sulfide, carbon disulfide, and carbonyl sulfide and contaminate a home’s air supply.” Source: InterNACHI

On every inspection, we look for tell-tell signs of metal corrosion and can advise the homeowner of their options. There is no remediation other than replacement, which can be expensive. The value of the home, potential health problems, and the cost of replacement are all “must know” concerns. If you suspect your home may be contaminated, it’s important to have the residence undergo a Chinese Drywall Inspection by a licensed home inspector as soon as possible.

More information can be found at the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission website.

The Ideal Home Inspection

In most cases, Florida and the FHA do not require a home inspection. But a home inspection is encouraged and most buyers want them. So, how can a seller prepare for inspection day?

checklist-2470549_1920The ideal home home inspection goes like this:

  • The seller is not at home during the inspection.
  • The buyer is on time for the appointment.
  • The home inspector is on time and has all the tools needed.
  • If the house is vacant, the utilities are turned on.
  • The house is spotless and all personal items are secured or tucked out of sight.
  • Pets are crated or removed from the house; bird cages are covered.
  • Lighting is in working order throughout, including attics, garages, and closets.
  • Appliances are all in working order; pilot lights are lit.
  • Washer/dryers and dishwashers are empty and dryer filters clean.
  • Ovens and microwaves are clean and in working order; stovetops spotless.
  • Access to attic stairs, pulldown ladders, and crawlspace hatches are obvious and unobstructed. Workspace around furnaces and water heaters are clear of obstacles.
  • Air conditioning and heating units are in working order with original installation dates noted and a filter change schedule attached to the unit.
  • If septic system or water well, a location sketch is left on the kitchen counter.

Unfortunately, home inspections like this are rare. But they don’t have to be! When access areas requiring inspection are are locked or otherwise inaccessible, inspectors need to return to finish the job, slowing the sale and sometimes raising suspicions—even costing a sale!

Florida Rules for Home Inspections

new home 2841442_1920An appraisal is required as part of the home loan process in Florida, but lenders do not require a home inspection. But it’s highly recommended that you do.

HUD even requires FHA or VA applicants to sign a form acknowledging that they have been advised to get a home inspection for their own protection. But it’s not a condition of the sale or mortgage process that you do.

There’s one exception: if the property is being re-sold less than 90 days after being refurbished (flipped), and the price is more than 20% higher the what the flipper paid for it. Appraisals on flipped homes are more thorough than those in a conventional transaction; using an experienced inspector with a reputation for thorough inspections is the way to go.

If it is spelled out in the contract that a home inspection is required, the loan underwriter will review the home inspection report before processing the loan, and all deficiencies noted in the home inspection must be cleared and reinspected prior to closing.

An FHA appraiser is required to check the home more thoroughly that is typically required in a conventional transaction. Some people refer to this appraisal as an inspection, but it is not a full home inspection.

While the FHA does not require a third-party home inspection, the Appraiser is required to note “health and safety” issues. The identified issues will need to be addressed in order to close escrow. In this case, use a home inspector certified in indoor air quality testing. These inspectors have the proper equipment to inspect issues with temperature, humidity, ventilation, mold from water damage, exposure to chemicals and the like.

Learn more at the National Association of Realtors’ House Logic

15 Tools Every Homeowner Should Own

The following items are essential tools, but this list is by no means exhaustive. Feel free to ask an InterNACHI inspector during your next inspection about other tools that you might find useful.

  1. Plunger
    A clogged sink or toilet is one of the most inconvenient household problems that you will face. With a plunger on hand, however, you can usually remedy these plumbing issues relatively quickly. It is best to have two plungers—one for the sink and one for the toilet.
  2. Combination Wrench Set
    One end of a combination wrench set is open and the other end is a closed loop. Nuts and bolts are manufactured in standard and metric sizes, and because both varieties are widely used, you’ll need both sets of wrenches. For the most control and leverage, always pull the wrench toward you, instead of pushing on it. Also, avoid over-tightening.
  3. Slip-Joint Pliers
    Use slip-joint pliers to grab hold of a nail, a nut, a bolt, and much more. These types of pliers are versatile because of the jaws, which feature both flat and curved areas for gripping many types of objects. There is also a built-in slip-joint, which allows the user to quickly adjust the jaw size to suit most tasks.
  4. Adjustable Wrench
    Adjustable wrenches are somewhat awkward to use and can damage a bolt or nut if they are not handled properly. However, adjustable wrenches are ideal for situations where you need two wrenches of the same size. Screw the jaws all the way closed to avoid damaging the bolt or nut.
  5. Caulking Gun
    Caulking is the process of sealing up cracks and gaps in various structures and certain types of piping. Caulking can provide noise mitigation and thermal insulation, and control water penetration. Caulk should be applied only to areas that are clean and dry.
  6. Flashlight
    None of the tools in this list is of any use if you cannot visually inspect the situation. The problem, and solution, are apparent only with a good flashlight. A traditional two-battery flashlight is usually sufficient, as larger flashlights may be too unwieldy.
  7. Tape Measure
    Measuring house projects requires a tape measure—not a ruler or a yardstick. Tape measures come in many lengths, although 25 feet is best. Measure everything at least twice to ensure accuracy.
  8. Hacksaw
    A hacksaw is useful for cutting metal objects, such as pipes, bolts and brackets. Hacksaws look thin and flimsy, but they’ll easily cut through even the hardest of metals. Blades are replaceable, so focus your purchase on a quality hacksaw frame.
  9. Torpedo Level
    Only a level can be used to determine if something, such as a shelf, appliance or picture, is correctly oriented. The torpedo-style level is unique because it not only shows when an object is perfectly horizontal or vertical, but it also has a gauge that shows when an object is at a 45-degree angle. The bubble in the viewfinder must be exactly in the middle—not merely close.
  10. Safety Glasses / Goggles
    For all tasks involving a hammer or a power tool, you should always wear safety glasses or goggles. They should also be worn while you mix chemicals.
  11. Claw Hammer
    A good hammer is one of the most important tools you can own. Use it to drive and remove nails, to pry wood loose from the house, and in combination with other tools. They come in a variety of sizes, although a 16-ounce hammer is the best all-purpose choice.
  12. Screwdriver Set
    It is best to have four screwdrivers: a small and large version of both a flathead and a Phillips-head screwdriver. Electrical screwdrivers are sometimes convenient, but they’re no substitute. Manual screwdrivers can reach into more places and they are less likely to damage the screw.
  13. Wire Cutters
    Wire cutters are pliers designed to cut wires and small nails. The side-cutting style (unlike the stronger end-cutting style) is handy, but not strong enough to cut small nails.
  14. Respirator / Safety Mask
    While paints and other coatings are now manufactured to be less toxic (and lead-free) than in previous decades, most still contain dangerous chemicals, which is why you should wear a mask to avoid accidentally inhaling. A mask should also be worn when working in dusty and dirty environments. Disposable masks usually come in packs of 10 and should be thrown away after use. Full and half-face respirators can be used to prevent the inhalation of very fine particles that ordinary face masks will not stop.
  15. Duct Tape
    This tape is extremely strong and adaptable. Originally, it was widely used to make temporary repairs to many types of military equipment. Today, it’s one of the key items specified for home emergency kits because it is water-resistant and extremely sticky.