Snaps from the Field

1 02, 2023

Electrical Grounding – February, 2023

2023-01-31T15:37:09-08:00February 1st, 2023|Snaps from the Field|

This clamp is too small. This leaves the house with a very poor grounding connection to the earth, making it vulnerable to surges.

Et Tu, Plumber?

Back in the day, this would have been the house’s “main grounding connection.” It’s where the electrical service was grounded to the house’s steel water pipe. Somewhere along the way, someone changed out the thicker steel pipe for a more slender copper tube. Disturbed rust on the screw threads shows where someone loosened the clamp to change it, but callously disregarded the fact that the old clamp didn’t fit on the new tube. Like the Grinch’s heart, it’s two sizes too small. This leaves the house with a very poor grounding connection to the earth, making it vulnerable to surges.

1 01, 2023

Gas Range (electric to gas conversion) – January, 2023

2022-12-30T14:19:13-08:00January 1st, 2023|Snaps from the Field|

Perhaps the plumber then went to lunch and forgot to come back and cap the drain pipe. In any case, someone should install a cap now, before a backup causes sewage to flood the crawlspace.

So You Bought a Gas Range…

Our intrepid homeowner switched from an electric range to a gas range. To accommodate the new range, any electrician could easily have changed the old 240-volt circuit to a 120-volt circuit, but our hero came up with a better way: Mangle the old range cord to make an “adapter.” Why is that a problem? Let us count the ways:

  • What are the chances that this cord-mangler went into the electrical panel and properly altered the wiring from a 40-amp, 240-volt circuit to a 15- or 20-amp, 120 volt circuit?  We’re guessing the chance of that hovers near zero. Without a properly sized breaker, the circuit could overheat.
  • A simple wire nut covers the cord’s unused conductor. While we applaud this nod to safety (at least it’s better than tape or chewing gum) we can’t endorse it. Wire nuts are supposed to be used *inside* electrical boxes, not outside them. If the wire nut is knocked loose, someone could be zapped.
  • And why is that conductor unused, anyway? The new range requires one hot conductor, one neutral conductor, and one grounding conductor. It looks like our homeowner used the grounding wire as a neutral and simply omitted the grounding wire. Faults might not be clear and the range could zap someone.
  • Range cords just aren’t supposed to be altered because – well, because of what’s in this picture.
30 11, 2022

Plumbing vents and B-vents – December, 2022

2022-12-30T14:15:23-08:00November 30th, 2022|Snaps from the Field|

Perhaps the plumber then went to lunch and forgot to come back and cap the drain pipe. In any case, someone should install a cap now, before a backup causes sewage to flood the crawlspace.

A Sirius Problem?

A few things are wrong here. The most obvious is the plumbing vent pipe that supports a satellite dish. Our plumbing code calls this “flagpoling” and prohibits it outright. Plumbing vents shouldn’t support any other objects, including television aerials, satellite dishes, and, of course, flagpoles. Flagpoling can cause the horizontal portion of the vent (in the attic) to sag and hold water. It could also cause the vent to break and admit sewer gas, or even water, into the attic.

At the right side of the photo, trying to hide near the edge of the frame, the B-vent is very badly rusted. This vent carries exhaust from a furnace and/or water heater through the roof. When they get this badly rusted, B-vents can develop holes and leak. It’s time to replace this one.

1 11, 2022

Plumbing drain system and test plug – November, 2022

2022-11-01T14:45:04-07:00November 1st, 2022|Snaps from the Field|

Perhaps the plumber then went to lunch and forgot to come back and cap the drain pipe. In any case, someone should install a cap now, before a backup causes sewage to flood the crawlspace.

The Plumber Knows He Forgot Something. He Just Can’t Remember What.

When plumbing a new house, plumbers must pressure-test the waste pipes to ensure that the system doesn’t leak. Leaks might allow waste water or sewer gas to enter the house. So, when the drain piping is complete, the plumber inserts a test plug and fills the drain system with water all the way to the top of the vents on the roof. This allows the plumbing inspector to check for leaks. When this test is done, the plumber removes the test plug, seals the drainpipe, and goes onto the next job. On this house the plumber forgot to seal the pipe.

The test plug is that long black tube below the pipe. It had been inflated inside the pipe for the pressure test and was subsequently removed. Perhaps the plumber then went to lunch and forgot to come back and cap the drain pipe. In any case, someone should install a cap now, before a backup causes sewage to flood the crawlspace.

1 10, 2022

Basement floor drains – October, 2022

2022-09-30T16:10:21-07:00October 1st, 2022|Snaps from the Field|

Basement floor drains are supposed to *remove* basement water, not bring it in. AMIpdx.com blog post

Basement floor drains are supposed to *remove* basement water, not bring it in.

One of the reasons that home inspectors run so much water during an inspection is to reveal problems like this one. The basement floor drain is connected to the main sewer line, which doesn’t drain fast enough. As a result, some water backs up into the basement. While this might be a sign of a simple obstruction in the sewer line, it might also be a sign that the whole sewer line needs to be replaced.

1 09, 2022

TPR valves – September, 2022

2022-09-01T09:19:19-07:00September 1st, 2022|Snaps from the Field|

Temperature and Pressure Relief (TPR) valves are critically important safety devices

Temperature and pressure relief (TPR) valves are critically important safety devices.

When one fails or is improperly installed in a way that prevents it from doing its job, a traditional tank-style water heater can behave like a bomb (or a rocket). Here, a flush kit for a tankless water heater is installed upside down, placing a shut off valve between the hot water output and the pressure relief valve. While the small amount of water in a tankless water heater would cause a less “exciting” failure, accidentally closing the valve could still create a dangerous and/or expensive result.

1 08, 2022

Gutters – August, 2022

2022-11-30T17:08:59-08:00August 1st, 2022|Snaps from the Field|

New type of gutter?

A New Type of Leaf Screen? 

This gutter may be very effective at separating leaves from the water off the roof, but only at the expense of water running down the side of the house and causing damage. This pattern of deterioration is certainly unusual – I would suspect that it may be corrosion from some type of de-icer chemical/pellets or possibly seeds that collected in the gutters and decomposed.  Or perhaps the holes were made by a person for some misguided purpose.  Regardless of the cause, this gutter is beyond repair and should be fully replaced.

1 07, 2022

Plumbing – July, 2022

2022-07-30T08:58:32-07:00July 1st, 2022|Snaps from the Field|

Drainpipes under a sink should be simple

A trombone comes to mind. . . Or maybe miniature golf.

Drainpipes under a sink should be simple: a small U-shaped bend called a “trap” holds a plug of water to prevent sewer gas from rising out of the drain. This plug of water should never be more than 4” deep and the remaining drainpipes should be as short and direct as possible. The drain plumbing under this sink contains three traps (one’s upside down), and holds far more than 4” of water. It’ll tend to have problems draining and will clog easily.

6 06, 2022

Vents – June, 2022

2022-10-20T11:46:15-07:00June 6th, 2022|Snaps from the Field|

vent well should be removed, the soil dug down another 4-6", and a larger vent well installed

Your Dryer Vent- It’s Full of Hot Air

Your dryer tumbles your clothes with lots of hot air, which is then vented out through a duct to a vent outside the home. When the vent does not have good clearance, airflow is restricted which can have several results:

  • your dryer may take longer to dry your clothes resulting in higher energy usage and additional wear and tear on your clothing.
  • lint is more likely to collect in the dryer duct which can be a fire hazard.
  • reduced airflow can trip temperature sensors in the dryer causing it to shut-off (and you may need a service call to reset it).
  • the pressure of the reduced flow can cause the duct to come apart and vent into unwanted locations, like the crawlspace.

This vent well should be removed, the soil dug down another 4-6″, and a larger vent well installed.

1 05, 2022

Plumbing – May, 2022

2022-04-26T11:50:28-07:00May 1st, 2022|Snaps from the Field|

AMI - home inspection sample - toilet fill valve

Toilet Fill Valve

A toilet fill valve performs the thankless task of refilling a toilet’s tank after each flush. They come in a variety of configurations, based on the size, shape, and design of the toilet. A malfunctioning one can make the toilet run continuously or fail to refill the tank with the right amount of water. When they’re installed too low in the tank, they can cause a cross-connection, where water that’s not safe to drink contaminates the drinking water. The one pictured here is too high for this tank. It might work fine, but no one can re-install the tank lid. Most people would find that unacceptable. Time to call a real plumber.

Go to Top