Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Horizon Helps Home Inspectors

My small part in the Canadian firm Caron Dunlop's website. Carson Dunlop is the provider of my home inspection business and report writing system. You can click on this to enlarge it.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Should my crawlspace vents be opened or closed?

Camel Cricket
I am sure that you have heard horror stores about what a home inspector may encounter inspecting a crawl space. Truth is, for the most part, the above is what we encounter by the thousands. It is not unusual to crawl through, what would appear to be, a carpet of Camel Crickets. Why are they there? They love dark damp places and eat the fungus which grows there. The darker and damper the more of these I crawl through. Therefore, should my crawl space vents be opened or closed?

This article below was published in the September 2012 issue of the Winston-Salem Regional Association of Realtors newsletter "The Professional Edge" in the section "From the Home Inspector". This article was written by High Point home inspector John Guy with input from Winston-Salem home inspectors Bill Dillon and John Woodmansee. This article was so "on the money" that I am sharing it here in its entirety.

The short answer is it depends. It depends on a myriad of factors including:
  • Is the crawlspace typically dry?
  • Is the grading around the house proper (minimum 6” of slope in 10’)?
  • Are gutters and downspouts installed? Are they in good condition? Are the downspouts directed away from the foundation?
  • Are gutters and downspouts cleaned religiously or are gutter guards installed?
  • Are gutter guards clogged with debris (should be washed to clear debris annually)?
  • Does the home have overhangs, awnings or porches to keep water away from the foundation?
  • Is the a/c duct work installed in the attic or in the crawlspace? Is it insulated?
  • Is a 90% or better moisture barrier installed on the crawlspace floor?
  • Is the home surrounded with “mature” or overgrown vegetation?
  • How cool do the occupants keep the home in summer?
If the answer to the above is no it may be wise to leave vents open at all times to aid in moisture control. Excessive moisture in the crawlspace can lead to a host of problems including termites and other insects, wood rot and fungal growth (mold). All crawlspaces should be inspected annually at a absolute minimum.

The old fashioned rule is that the vents should be open in summer for ventilation and closed in winter for improved energy efficiency and to prevent pipes from freezing in extreme weather. That said, during the “dog days of summer” during July and August, it may be wise to close foundation vents to prevent the muggy air from entering the crawlspace and condensing on cool surfaces, especially a/c ductwork and associated equipment. This “sweating” can be more severe when occupants maintain indoor temperatures less than 75 degrees F or so. Cool, dry weather during Fall and Winter provides excellent drying conditions. Beware that most automatic foundation vents are designed to open during warm weather and close during cold weather and may be contradictory to this.

Building codes have very specific requirements for foundation vents including the number, maximum distance from corners, etc. Generally vented crawlspaces must contain openings not less than 1 square foot for each 150 square feet of crawlspace ground area. This can be reduced if certain conditions are met. A 100% moisture barrier, now required, is always strongly recommended. It should be a minimum of 6-mil and cover all exposed earth with joints lapped not less than 12 inches. The purpose of the moisture/vapor barrier is to prevent moisture that naturally evaporates out of the ground from entering the crawlspace and migrating into the home, decreasing occupant comfort and/or increasing energy costs thru higher air conditioning bills. A mechanical means of drying the crawlspace i.e. a commercial dehumidifier may be wise, but only if a moisture barrier is installed and vents are closed. The dehumidifier should be elevated and drain to the exterior or a condensate pump. The condensate pump can be shared with the a/c system.

Recent codes have a provision for unvented crawlspaces but these must be properly designed and (of course) maintained. It is absolutely critical that these crawlspaces be installed properly, maintained and monitored. A remote hygrometer or continuous moisture monitor (available at retailers such as Radio Shack can be used) is critical to ensure that conditions do not worsen due to deferred maintenance, leaky pipes, changes in exterior grading, maturation of foundation vegetation, gutter system failures, etc. Information on sealed crawl spaces is available at Some waterproofing and pest control companies specialize in closed crawlspaces.

For an unbiased, professional opinion and possible corrective recommendations on your home’s crawlspace and related moisture issues, a professional home inspector could be consulted.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Watch where you sit!

How do I write this up in the report?

Need a closer look?

Home constructed in 1882 had been vacant for a while. Baby mouse had breathed his last and was resting comfortably on this rocking chair.

Watch your step!

This was in a home constructed in 1882. Apparently the stair was overly steep so they rebuilt it. Is any explanation needed? I would call this deadly craftsmanship! Warning, be sober, not sleepy and step to the right.

This reminded me of another homes basement stair so here it is as well.This one is worse, much farther to fall. This home was constructed in the 60's. At least there are handrails. Better hold on tight! Again, step to the right if you care to live to see tomorrow free of pain.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Winner of Blue Ridge Mountain Weekend

The winner of our Blue Ridge Mountain weekend getaway 

Cathy Duke
Re/Max of Greensboro

Cathy wins a weekend getaway for two to my and my wife’s favorite mountain retreat Gideon Ridge Inn in Blowing Rock NC. This consists of a $500.00 gift certificate which should cover two nights with breakfast and one dinner at the Inn depending on her room selection.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Concerned about security?

This homeowner is very concerned about security. Take a look:

Three different locks, the top one large enough to to keep any size man from breaking through.

Glass within inches of all of the locks. Do you think there might be a rock in this yard.

Oh, forget the rock, the dog door is large enough for a small man, or most women (I am being kind) to crawl through.

Point to remember, most homes are only as secure as the nearest rock. If you really think that you are going to stop a determined burglar or home invader with locks and alarms, think again. Do you desire light and a view? You can't have both! Brick it up solid if you desire security and hope the intruder hasn't yet stolen a sledge hammer or masonry saw. I have had buildings where they cut through solid masonry walls and roofs. Every single one had alarm systems which were on and had to be deactivated when the owners arrived to enter their own space to find their space invaded. The only winner in the security game is the providers wallet. The best security is your neighbor. Better be nice to them and careful about the neighborhood you choose.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

What a "Sellers" agent thinks

This morning I awoke to a text message from Facebook on my I-phone about a posting on my wall from a listing agent concerning an inspection conducted for the buyer on her listing. That sounds ominous.

"Chris, Thanks so much for the Home Inspection on my listing in Buena Vista...Older homes can be a problem...My Sellers were very impressed with your expertise and we are moving forward with the closing of this home.... Thanks Again!!"

Here was the comment I left:

"Thanks (agent's name), it's very nice to receive kind words from a "listing agent" on a buyers inspection. Inspecting older homes can be very stressful for all concerned. My love for older homes usually shows through in my inspections. However, its the home that makes the difference. This home was well constructed from the beginning through its additions. Yes, there were a few issues but they are manageable considering the exceptional base to work from."

I didn't think it appropriate to use the agent's name here without permission. However, it is on my Facebook wall time line if you are curious. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

What a client thinks

I just stumbled on this review written by an unknown client in Google places on June 23, 2011 with FIVE stars: 

"So glad we chose Mr. Hilton as our home inspector. He's SO knowledgeable and informative. We got more than our money's worth -- learned SO much. We felt very comfortable with him and free to ask any and all questions we had. And his report was very detailed and informative as well, with drawings and links to further explanations of issues that were found. And his website/blog has been really informative as well. He really was 'unbiased,' not telling us "what we wanted to hear," nor did he make his discoveries seem so "alarming" as to scare us away from going forward. We'd HIGHLY recommend him to any buyer or realtor!"

This was my response:  Thanks, I just noticed this posting (January 25th 2012). Must not be paying attention. Probably a good thing so my head doesn't swell up. I try hard, it's great to know the effort is appreciated. Chris D. Hilton

Sunday, January 22, 2012

40% OFF Shugart Home Inspection

Received a call from an agent selling a new Shugart home inquiring if the Shugart deal I offered in 2011 was still good. Had to make a quick decision and the response was YES. Here is the Shugart deal updated for 2012:

After following the progress of Shugart Enterprises since its inception in 1966 and having inspected Shugart homes, new and existing, for over 14 years I often state that Shugart is now one of the best builders in North Carolina. I typically observe fewer issues and less serious issues in Shugart construction. Without doubt inspecting and writing reports on Shugart homes requires less time. Such performance deserves to be rewarded. Inspecting these homes requires much less effort, on my part, therefore the inspection should be less expensive.

Here is the deal for 2012:
  • 40% OFF of all home inspections on New Shugart Homes for the duration of 2012 with the Shugart Homes Savings Certificate presented at site. Example - home up to 1600 SF would be $300.00 with discount will be only $180.00. Price is based on size of the home!
  • Payment allowed with cash, check, credit card or at closing.
  • Click Here for your Exclusive Shugart Homes Savings Certificate. Print as many as you desire now or later for your marketing packages throughout 2012.
Four simple steps:
  1. Print the Exclusive Shugart Homes Savings Certificate as you need them.
  2. Include an Exclusive Shugart Homes Savings Certificate with your marketing package or give to your client at any time you desire throughout 2012.
  3. You or your client can book the home inspection by (clicking here) or visit for your booking.
  4. You or your client present the Exclusive Shugart Homes Savings Certificate on site and receive 40% OFF of the booked price!