Where are they?
Part of the home inspection process is to check for the presence and function of carbon monoxide alarms. When I find an alarm that does not function as intended or is missing, a discussion often takes place. It often goes like this: "Why are on the ceiling, aren't they supposed to be at the floor level? That's why they plug them into outlets." "CO is heavier than air so that is why they put them close to the floor." Or, "One in a house is fine, it circulates with the air so that is all that is needed."
At an outlet.....on the ceiling......where does it go?
Carbon monoxide alarms used to only be found near the floor. It is often assumed that CO is heavier than air so it settles near the floor. It is true that carbon monoxide alarms used to commonly be found near the floor, but that is also where electrical outlets are found, so for convenience CO alarms were mounted there as well. As technologies advance we often find them on the ceiling or on the wall as well as the floor.
How many do I need?
Colorado law requires homeowners and owners of rental property to install carbon monoxide alarms near the bedrooms (or other room lawfully used for sleeping purposes) in every home that is heated with fossil fuel, has a fuel-fired appliance, has a fireplace, or has an attached garage. I recommend one on each floor. Alarms are relatively cheap and my family's safety is worth the price of admission.
Only one life to live.
When researching this article I did not find any reference to any CO alarm having a life span longer than 10 years. Kidde provides a nice reference for end of life warnings at the website below. I like to follow the mantra "When it doubt change it out."
Follow the manufactures recommendations.
When considering purchase or placement of a Carbon Monoxide alarm, I recommend ensuring they are Underwriters Laboratory Listed (UL Listed) and are not at the end of their life. This will tell you that the device has been tested and that by following the manufactures recommendation you are following a tested regimen.
Pro Tip - Testing and alarm inspection takes less than ten minutes. Before you sit down to watch TV tonight, give your CO Alarms some love and give your family a hug. It is a worth while investment.
He is only 42 years old....
On a recent home inspection I found this relic. Relic being a retaliative term as the item in question was born around the same time some of us were introduced to the world. ;-) The poor fella was born in 1979 and has lost its charge. If the extinguisher were a person you might say, "You have a lot of life left." "You have so much more to offer." Well the sad truth for this guy is that retirement is long past. He should have hung it up and started walking laps around the mall in 1990.
How long are they good for?
According to National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards, disposable fire extinguishers must be replaced every 12 years.A disposable fire extinguisher has a plastic head, and a gauge that reads Full / Empty. www.kiddie.com
Arm yourself with the right tool for the job:
Combination ABC Fire Extinguishers are most commonly found in homes.
Where should I put them?
As part of my normal inspection I recommend fire extinguishers be mounted or located in the following areas:
In an easy to access cabinet in the kitchen.
In an easy to access location in the garage.
In easy to access locations on each floor of the home.
Everyone wants to be a fire fighter:
Everyone should know how to operate a fire extinguisher. I remember learning how in elementary school. The Colorado Springs Fire Department has an easy to remember set of instructions. They would probably even show your family how it you asked.
Remember to P.A.S.S. *Pull *Aim *Squeeze *Sweep
ProTip - Taking 10 minutes right now to locate your fire extinguishers to check the charge and expiration date and make sure that your loved ones know how to use them can save lives and property loss.
More information can be found at coloradosprings.gov/fire-department/page/fire-extinguishers.
What is that noise?
Picture this, you are sound asleep and you hear a small chirp. In your sleepiness you decide to ignore it and it happens again. You think to your self, "I don't know what that is but it better stop." Then it happens again and now you are awake enough to recognize it as the dreaded sleep deprivation device......the smoke alarm. If you are married you might think to yourself "maybe they will get it." They are likely thinking the same thing. Finally you have had enough and decide the best course of action is to remove the offending life saving device by methodically hitting it with broom until it is laying on the floor, silent. Mission accomplished and back to bed you go.
This can be a common scenario for many households but it does not have to be. Smoke alarms are when properly maintained and tested have the capacity to help save our lives and the lives of our loved ones. Think of them as having a full time fireman that works 24/7 365 and all they ask in return are fresh batteries, be tested once a month, and to reach retirement in 10 years. They are not asking a lot in return for performing a very important task.
Things to keep in mind:
Test each smoke detector at least once a month. If you haven't tested them recently, do it now!
Have the batteries been changed in the past year? If not change them now. (Some alarms do not have replaceable batteries.)
Check the expiration date. Are they ready for retirement? If you can't tell, replace them.
Note where they are in the home. Are they in every bedroom, outside of each sleeping area, on every level and the basement?
Are they wired together and all sound at once or do they operate individually?
ProTip - A few minutes a month of preventive maintenance and testing can and has saved lives. You and your family are important to all of us. Please check your smoke alarms.
More info can be found at:
At a recent home inspection in Palmer Lake Colorado, just outside of Colorado Springs, I was in the attic and noticed a hole near the furnace vent. There are several issues going on here. Safety, heat loss, and lack of effective attic insulation techniques.
Safety First - The first is that it is paramount that inspectors, home owners, ect. use caution when entering an attic. Always use a ladder tall enough that you enter the attic safely. Always know where you feet are and make sure you keep your feet on the truss stringer or bottom. Never step between the stringers. You will know if you are doing this correctly because your foot will not be through the ceiling of the room below you. (Watch National Lampoons Christmas Vacation for good example of what not to do.) Always keep three points of contact on the trusses around you and watch your head avoiding the nails protruding through the roof decking above you.
Heat Loss - You can see in the third and forth picture that the heat is coming from the hole and furnace vent (hole left side and the furnace vent right side. The heat is from the homes conditioned air that the furnace is continually keeping at at comfortable temperature. What that orange spot represents is wasted money and resources. Furnace vents are naturally warmer than the surrounding area because they are venting the exhaust from the furnace combustion to outside the home.
Not Effectively Insulated - When the home was brand new and was ready to be insulated, proper building techniques would be for the the hole to have been covered by drywall, backer board, plastic, ect. Then the insulation would be blown in as it was over the other areas. In this case the whole was missed and heat loss is the result.
Whats the solution? - Luckily the solution is fairly easy. The hole just needs to be covered up and insulation be spread over the area. A few minutes worth will save the current and future home owners heating and cooling costs.
Pro Tip - A 5 minute inspection of your attic once a year can help you save energy, identify roof leaks, and save you time, money, and frustration.
My name is Jake Shaw "I am a home inspector and I help people. If you ever have any questions, please give me a call.
When I am conducting a home inspection, one of the most common issues I find are down spouts that discharge water too close to the home. Gutters are designed to direct water collected from the roof and move it away from the home to keep its foundation and exterior dry. Literally hundreds of gallons of water can be collected at the roof and deposited right next to the foundation with too short of a downspout. In this scenario the soil surrounding the foundation and exterior of the home becomes saturated and migrates next to and under the foundation and left unchecked can cause significant foundation and moisture related issues.
Pro Tip - Ensuring that each down spout is 2 to 3 foot long and the landscaping slopes away from the home can save untold stress and financial loss.
The leaves changing means that winter is on its way. One way to protect your home from the winter weather is to ensure your gutters are clean and that any limbs overhanging your roof are trimmed back. These help in a number of ways. Having clean gutters means that your gutters are less likely to become clogged which can lead to moisture intrusion and ice damning under the roof covering. Trimming the limbs keeps them clear of your home so that they do not rub on the siding during storms, ensures they will not drop leaves in your gutter, and limits the likelihood that they will break under a heavy snow load. Remember the May 2019 storm?
Pro-Tip - For a few hours of work on a sunny fall afternoon, you can save thousands of dollars in unexpected repairs.
There are two type of concrete, that which has cracked and that which will. Cracks can come from the concrete drying process, improperly compacted soil under the concrete, or normal wear and tear. Water will naturally enter the crack and erode the concrete during the warm months but will actively push the concrete apart during its normal freeze and thaw cycles during the winter and spring. The important thing to remember is that the crack needs to be filled in order to keep moisture from entering the crack and causing further damage.
Pro-Tip - For less than $20 for concrete filler and a hour of work, most small cracks can be mitigated.
With all the rain that we have had this summer it is time to check your sump pumps. I still come across sump pumps that are either not plugged in or are not working properly. Sump pumps are usually found in the lowest level of your home and are used to collect water from around your foundation and pump it away from your home protecting it from water intrusion.
To check if your sump pump is working:
1. Go to the lowest point in your home and look for a black circular object like the photo above.
2. Remove the lid.
3. Look inside with a flashlight.
4. Identify if you have a pump.
5. If you have a pump and there is standing water in the pit your pump may not be operating.
6. To check the pump operation add enough water to ensure the float is activating the float switch.
7. If the pump does not activate, call a licensed plumber for assistance.
8. If you don't have a pump, I recommend you call a licensed plumber for assistance.
For more information see: www.nachi.org/sump-pumps.htm
An attic pull-down ladder, also called an attic pull-down stairway or stairs, is a collapsible ladder that’s permanently attached to the attic floor. It’s used to access the attic without being required to use a portable ladder, which can be unstable, as well as inconvenient.
It’s typical for the homeowner, rather than the professional builder, to install the attic pull-down stairs, especially if it’s an older home or a newer home that’s been built upward in order to use the attic for living or storage space. That’s why these stairs rarely meet safety standards and are prone to a number of defects.
Some of the more common defective conditions include:
My name is Jake Shaw - "I am a home inspector and I help people." 970-361-0477