Thursday, December 15, 2011

Where did the copper go?

What a way to start your day! Where do I begin to write this up? Air conditioning system inoperative does not quite fill the bill, does it?

At least the fool had the good sense to pull the electrical disconnect before he began his dastardly deed. There are homes all around this home. Was anyone paying attention?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

What a client thinks

Unsolicited comment from a recent client:

I was recently involved with inspection of a large home completely enveloped in EIFS (Synthetic Stucco) which has been a serious concern for many years. As part of that inspection Emory Widener, an EIFS inspector, was involved in a survey of the condition of the EIFS wall system discovering moisture damage and areas of concern. Here are exerts from an e-mail addressed to Emory and I received from that client:
"I would like to inform you two gentlemen that I have gone ahead and now made the Earnest Money Deposit … Thus, I will be buying the house.

I'm sure that especially you, Chris, will find this piece of news interesting, given that you kindly took a lot of your personal time to share your thoughts with me and to write out for me your advice on the whole matter of the EFIS.  Emory, you too spent a good amount of time with me on the phone one morning, about this same issue.  I thank you both wholeheartedly for your time and your willingness to share your honest and professional views so that I could come to a decision made with confidence and without great anxiety.

Fellows, I so much appreciate any of your personal time that you two could give me regarding this matter.

As always, my best regards to you!"
What do you think, should I feel good? Does that sound like a "deal killer" to you?

Saturday, March 12, 2011


Ponds are beautiful to look at, but they can be a headache and expensive if not maintained properly. Many ponds are man-made and have dams that require maintenance and repair. Some dams fall under the jurisdiction of the state’s Dam Safety Program ( ). Ponds can also become choked with aquatic weeds that affect plant and animal life. For information about ponds, check the following Web site: Before purchasing property with a pond, find out the status of the pond from the owner. The Dam Safety staff in the DENR regional office that serves your area may be able to provide you with information about any dams that are regulated by the state. The county Cooperative Extension Service may be able to help you with information and guidance if you’re thinking about buying land with a pond or want to build a pond on the property. A county-by-county listing of local Cooperative Extension Service offices is available through the following Web site:

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Weeping Over Weep Holes

This is a rewrite of an article for my November 4, 2000 Newsletter

If you don't intend to read this in its entirety, then stop NOW because you will just be more confused than ever.

Weep Holes
Over the past few weeks I have been hearing about, conflict, lack of understanding, confusion, upset buyers, sellers and Realtors over the issue of a home inspectors report of the lack of weep holes in the brick veneer walls of a two year old home. Luckily for me, I was not involved in the inspection, but several Realtors I know well and two home inspectors whom I am in contact with often were involved.

Here are some of the issues I heard about being bounced around:
  • Are weep holes required by code, and if so since when?
  • If they are required, why did the builder of this two-year-old home not install them?
  • Why did the local building inspector approve the home without them?
  • What does a weep hole do?
  • Why is it a big deal if they are left out?
  • Who should be responsible for installing weep holes after the fact?

Are weep holes required by code, and if so since when?

First let me make it very clear that pre-sale home inspections are not code inspections. However, many of the issues we raise are also code issues and this is a good example. Here is what the current building code (2000) says about weep holes:

North Carolina State Building Code Volume VII – Residential:
703.7.4 Weep holes. Weep holes shall be provided in the outside wythe of masonry walls at a maximum spacing of 48 inches on center. Weep holes shall not be less than 3/16 inch in diameter. Weep holes shall be located immediately above the flashing.

Where is flashing required per the code?
703.7.3 Flashing. Flashing shall be located beneath the first course of masonry above finished ground level above the foundation wall or slab, and at other points of support, including structural floors, shelf angles and lintels …
703.8 Flashing. Approved corrosion-resistive flashing shall be provided at top and sides of all exterior window and door openings … at the intersection of chimneys or other masonry construction with frame or stucco walls … under and at the ends of masonry, wood, or metal copings, sills; continuously above all projecting wood trim; where exterior porches, decks or stairs attach to a wall or floor assembly of wood-frame construction; at wall and roof intersections.

In simple language, weep holes are required in masonry walls at the top of the foundation wall, below all window and door sills, at the top of all window, door and any other wall opening, at supporting points, at shelf angles, at copings, projecting trim, wall and roof intersections.

If you were aware of weep hole requirements, I bet you only knew about their requirement at the top of foundations. Sorry, that's not the only place.

How long have they been required?

I didn't take the time to check this out, but I can tell you this. I started in construction as a mason while a teenager and I am now sixty years old. There has never been a time when I did not install weep holes.

Why did the builder of this two-year-old home not install them?

That's a good question but easy to answer. Most builders don't build homes, subcontractors build homes. How many times have you seen a homebuilder or even one of his employees installing brick or for that matter even watching it being installed? If the sub doesn't do it correctly, unfortunately I am ashamed to say, many builders aren't managing their jobs closely enough or just plain don't know the difference.

Why did the local building inspector approve the home without them?

To be very blunt, he shouldn't have. Do the local code enforcement inspectors miss issues like this? Every day. Why are they missed? For many reasons, over worked, over scheduled and under paid is a good one and I am sure there are many others. Say what ever you like, but it boils down to this: Code enforcement inspectors are not responsible for code compliance, builders are. Builders must know the code and demand that their subcontractors meet code requirements.

What does a weep hole do?

Masonry walls leak. A tightly tooled mortar joint is a masonry walls first line of defense against water penetration. Slick concave joints are best, slick “V” joints are next. Flush joints are fair. Joints raked out after they have begun to dry, beloved by residential masons and used on most homes today are not good, and rake joints beloved by architects because they cast a shadow are guaranteed to trap water on their ledges and greatly increase water penetration. Brick work with irregular lines and ledges as has been popular in the past and coming back into popularity today make walls less water tight and create ledges for penetration. Water can pass through a crack that is only 1/100” wide. A square foot of brickwork with cracks that size around each brick will have voids equal to a hole that has a diameter of about 1”. These hairline cracks are almost invisible; yet allow much water to enter the wall. Adding to all of these issues is the fact that although brick manufactures have for years attempted to beat into masons brains that all brick joints must be full of mortar without voids, few if any homes are constructed today or have been constructed in the past which met this requirement.

The water is coming in and weep holes constitute the second line of defense against this water becoming a problem by controlling the water, which has penetrated the walls. They usually are open vertical mortar joints spaced regularly around the house near the top of the foundation. Ideally, although required but seldom seen, they also should be provided at the top and sills of windows and doors. These openings in the wall allow the water that accumulates on the flashing from the failure of the first line of defense to drain to daylight.

Weep holes have a secondary function. Weep holes help equalize air pressure on both sides of the wall, making it less likely that wind-driven rain will penetrate the wall. When water does penetrate the wall, weep holes expel it, and ventilation through the holes helps dry the wall cavity. Ventilating weep holes also allow any condensation that accumulates on the inner surface of the brick to dissipate.

Why is it a big deal if they are left out?

This is minor, it can be much worse that this!
The absence of weep holes occasionally may allow so much moisture to accumulate that metal fasteners turn to rust, wood-destroying insects are encouraged, or rot develops. It is unlikely that a nondestructive visual home inspection will reveal these problems unless they are so severe that cracks in the walls or other manifestations are accessible to visual examination. The most likely visual manifestation of a problem will be water stains, damp areas or rot at the foundation plate and or floor band and stains or damp areas at the top of the foundation wall. Another is leaks and stains around windows and doors, at roof to wall transitions or chimneys. I have personally witnessed severe damage which appeared to have been caused by the lack of weep holes and/or flashing. Unfortunately, not only do inspectors find weep holes missing, but often we find them filled up because someone though they were just holes needing to be repaired.        

Who should be responsible for installing weep holes after the fact?

I guess that will be left up to the judge and jury, but I will state my personal opinion. Failure to install recommended and/or required weep holes constitutes negligence and is the responsibility of the contractor of record. This is not a warranty issue for which the contractor's responsibility disappears after one year. As I often tell contractors: Fail to do it correctly, and you sleep with it at night and live with it forever. This is just one of the many reasons I am no longer a contractor and am now a pre-purchase home inspector.    


This week as I have driven from one inspection to another I have been looking for weep holes. Based on this week, as well as my past experience, in the newer developments they are for the most part clearly evident at the top of the foundation, hardly ever anywhere else. In older developments except for large track builders, they are often in fact almost always missing. If all of the pre-purchase home inspectors wrote up the lack of weep holes on every home we inspect you should buy stock in any company that manufactures drills and masonry drill bits and might ought to consider going into the weep hole installation business.

I will not pretend to speak for other home inspectors, but this is how I handle this issue. I am not a code enforcement inspector. In many instances I must make a judgment call on what I write up. On older homes I can't just consider code or best practices, I must consider what may have been a generally accepted practice at the time the home was constructed. Considering the amount of older homes I see without weep holes and based on my past experience, it is my opinion that the installation of weep holes at some point in the past, even if it was part of code, was not a generally accepted practice and appears to have been ignored by code enforcement officials. Therefore I must make a judgment call because I believe that is what my client is paying me to do. If I think the age of the home relates to the time when this was not a generally accepted practice and I see no visual evidence of this being a problem then I don't even address the issue in my inspection and or report. If on the other hand I see visual issues which could be attributable to the lack of weep holes it becomes an issue that I address on site with my client and include in my report.

I believe that weep holes at the top of the foundation, today and in recent years, is not only a code requirement but is a commonly accepted practice. Weep holes at other locations may be code, but has not become a commonly accepted practice even though it should be. To be honest, I see problems at these other locations from lack of or improperly installed flashing, but I can't say that I am aware of problems from the lack of weep holes. If the home is new construction or fairly recent construction the issue of weep holes at the top of the foundation will definitely be addressed both on site and in my report and someone had better get out the drill and their wallet or be willing to live with it.

Yes, I did say that I think this issue is the responsibility of the builder even after the one-year warranty period. If the home is new, or recent construction I definitely recommend going after the builder and demanding correction of his negligent workmanship. Reality is that many builders after one year will not respond largely because they know the owners are more than likely going to be forced to deal with the issue on their own and are not willing to deal with the time, lose the sale or bear the legal expense required to force the builder into compliance. Reality is whether the seller and buyer likes it or not they are going to be forced into negotiations relative to how this will effect closing their deal. The choice to live with it or bear the expense of repair is more than likely going to be theirs to decide and your commission will hang on the results.

These little holes didn't appear so important before today, did they?

Friday, February 11, 2011

What Dr. Oz says about Radon

Don't accept my word on Radon! Do you have any trust in a guy named Dr. OZ of Oprah fame? Check out these two segments of a show he did on February 10, 2011 on this subject:

Dr. Oz on radon part one

Dr. Oz on radon part two

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Dr OZ - Radon and Lung Cancer

This Thursday, February 10, 2011 NCHH Executive Director, Rebecca Morley will be on the Dr. Oz show! She will be talking with Dr. Oz and an affected family about radon-related lung cancer.

There is a teaser for the segment online at:

Radon and Lung Cancer on The Dr. Oz Show!

Dr. Oz is on FOX at 9:00 AM in the Triad. Please check your local listings to verify times. Be sure to tune in or TiVo!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Fraudulent Home Inspectors

Yes, unlicensed home inspectors are functioning and defrauding the unsuspecting public in North Carolina and in the Triad! The last experience I had with one the client was thrilled with their home inspection and their inspector. Unbeknownst to them his inspection and report came nowhere near meeting required North Carolina standards. His report is in front of me as I write this post. These folk were defrauded, up front, to the tune of $250.00. Unfortunately, that may not be all. What did this inspector fail to point out? How much may it cost for repairs?

Who will protect you or your clients from unlicensed, deceptive, fraudulent Home Inspectors?

You will find, as I have experienced, that there is not very much protection. The first line of defense is information and it will begin in this post. Yes, there are people posing as home inspectors with an intent to defraud and deceive the public for their personal gain. There are more than one but I have personal experience with one and he has been deceiving unsuspecting home buyers and real estate agents in my service area FOR OVER TEN YEARS. He has been arrested, in the past, through the efforts of local home inspectors and real estate agents. He has been prosecuted and it is very possible he may continue, as in the past, to ignore the law, book and perform home inspections with you or your clients.

I can assure you that the only person who will stop him is YOU. You must refuse to deal with someone who's full intent appears to be to defraud you and your clients. In the past the unlicensed home inspector I have experience with has functioned under the name "A Buyers Home Inspector" and his name is John Salstrom. In his most recent episode, of which I am personally aware, a Realtor's client advised that they had booked their own home inspector. John Salstrom is who showed up. Following the inspection the Realtor called me to inquire about this person, I advise that he was not a licensed home inspector, requested a copy of the report and turned him in to the licensure board again!

John was prosecuted again by Forsyth County for this infraction. John plead guilty on January 7, 2011 to one count of inspecting a house without a license and received a prayer for judgment and was fined court cost. He has been fined and paid before! Yes, he may be on the loose again now or in the future inspecting homes without a license. I have learned from my involvement in this process over ten years that there isn't much the counties or state can or will do about such a person other than smack their hand, fine them and turn them loose again on an unsuspecting public. You are on you own.

Here is a page out of the 2009-2010 AT&T Real Yellow Pages where you will note John's add circled in red right along side of real home inspectors. Note that it is the most expensive, obvious and eye catching of the adds. Isn't that interesting. He uses "A" at the beginning of his company name to place the add near the top to catch your attention.

Here is the add blown up so you can read it:

Looks for real, doesn't it? Don't be deceived, John is not a licensed home inspector in the State of North Carolina and hasn't been for over TEN YEARS! Here is as much of his record as I am aware of. I don't doubt that there is much, much more I am not aware off.

You will find the public record of John Salstrom's experience with the North Carolina Home Inspector Licensure board posted on their website at:

Here is what it says:
Complaints filed: April 27, 1999, November 5, 1999, and September 19, 2000 (Greensboro and Winston-Salem)
License Revoked.

I am aware that John was previously arrested, prosecuted and fined in Forsyth County in 2001 for conducting a home inspection without a license.

So there is no doubt about this claim. Please allow me to document that a guilty plea was entered by John Salstrom for Inspecting a House without a License in District Criminal Court, Forsyth County. The charge against Salstrom, “Obtain Property False Pretense”, is for his charging a fee for doing a home inspection without an active license with the Home Inspectors Licensure Board of North Carolina.

Below is a notification letter dated January 10, 2011 from the District Attorney (21st District) received by the NC Dept of Insurance Criminal Investigator in this case.  Also below is copy of a February 2, 2004 cease and desist letter from the 18th District, Guilford County District Attorney that notes a prior conviction on or about July 19, 2001.

Mr. Salstrom had multiple complaints filed against him when he was licensed that were addressed through consent agreements. On September 29, 2000 he surrendered his license. Still, after 10 years he continues to mislead the public.

Who will protect you?

You can only protect yourself!
Every licensed Home Inspector in the State of North Carolina has an identification card with his license number and expiration date. So that you know what one looks like, here is mine. Demand proof that you or your clients inspector is a properly licensed North Carolina Home Inspector! If he or she (yes there are female inspectors!) can't provide proof, protect yourself and your clients, call someone else! Have doubts, call the Licensure Board in Raleigh at (919) 662-4480.

 Are you displeased with the way this issue is being handled in your county? Make your District Attorney aware! Is your local Realtor's association keeping you informed on this issue? This has been going on for over 10 years. Were you aware? Why not?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Asbestos in the Home

This article was provided by and posted at the request of, committed to providing the most comprehensive and up-to-date information on pleural mesothelioma cancer. is the Web's most inclusive resource solely dedicated to this rare cancer.
Please be aware that home inspections, as regulated in the State of North Carolina and most other states, do not require the home inspector to address asbestos or any other potential environmental concern in the home. This and most home inspectors exclude asbestos and environmental issues as part of their inspection process. That being said, this inspector, should he observe any issues which might indicate asbestos in the home, will suggest further evaluation by the appropriate professional.

Asbestos in the Home

Click here for a larger view!
Asbestos was highly regarded throughout the 20th century as an ideal building and construction material. It’s fire resistant, durable and versatile qualities made it sought out by many industries. Typically found in insulation's, piping, popcorn ceilings, roof shingles and flooring, asbestos was used throughout the 20th century as a form of insulation for piping, roofing and flooring.

Many homes and buildings built prior to 1980 may still contain asbestos, but even homes built in the years after may harbor asbestos.

Because vermiculite is also an inexpensive and readily available mineral, it is an important addition in many of products that we use every day to insulate our homes and fertilize our gardens. When it is tainted by impurities such as asbestos, it can be extremely harmful to the health of your family. Although Vermiculite alone does not contain asbestos, it came from one single mine that contained a large amount of asbestos.

Homeowners and inspectors should be aware that even vermiculite insulation from the 1990’s can contain asbestos and the proper precautions should be taken to avoid unnecessary problems and potential exposure to this material.

Asbestos Tips and the Value of a Home Inspection

According to the experts, the general rule of thumb is if the asbestos is in good shape, it's posing no apparent risk. If it's in bad shape, it could be a problem. It is recommended for homeowners to leave any suspected asbestos alone, as this can takes its fibers airborne and this is where it becomes dangerous. Removal of asbestos, if necessary, must be performed by a licensed contractor.

Receiving a professional home inspection is something that cannot be understated. Many building substances can become a problem for homeowners due to the negative health effects that can occur if not identified. A professional home inspection is extremely important to protect your investment. Professional consultants can provide an evaluation of the home and will identify material defects in structures and components of the home, in adherence to or exceeding national, state, and industry regulations and standards.

Not only should potential home buyers take this into consideration, but those performing demolition, renovation or abatement must take precautions to avoid exposure at all costs. Generally, asbestos appears in roof shingles, attic insulation, dry wall board, popcorn ceilings, joint compounds, electrical wires and furnace cement.

Asbestos fibers are thin and strong, and when inhaled frequently, an individual can develop mesothelioma, a rare but severe lung ailment caused by asbestos exposure. There are a number of factors that can impact mesothelioma survival rate. These factors include latency period, age of diagnosis and cigarette smoking.

GREEN Alternatives to asbestos

There are many green, Eco-friendly materials that replace the need for asbestos and can reduce energy costs annually. The implementation of Eco-construction, green energy solutions will play an important role in the transformation to a healthier and sustainable world.

Green alternatives to asbestos include the use of cotton fiber, lcynene foam and cellulose. Cotton fiber is made from recycled batted material and treated to be fireproof. A water based spray polyurethane foam, lcynene features no toxic components. These green options have the same beneficial qualities as asbestos, minus the health deteriorating and toxic components.

By having a professional contractor inspect your home, you can avoid the stress and problems associated with not knowing that asbestos and other harmful building materials are present in your home.

For additional information visit and/