Should home inspectors open Federal Pacific Electric Stab-Lok panels?
How to deal with ice dams if you don’t want to pay a professional to remove them
How to best find a drain leak with an infrared camera
Should people be allowed to do work without a license?
Sagging beam, repair desired; how big of a deal is this?
We also did a video recording for this episode, which can be found here: https://business.facebook.com/MinnesotaHomeInspections/videos/566990100563454/
The following is a transcription from an audio recording. Although the transcription is largely accurate, in some cases it may be slightly incomplete or contain minor inaccuracies due to inaudible passages or transcription errors.
Bill Oelrich: Reuben, where can everybody find your blog?
Reuben Saltzman: Structuretech.com, that’s it.
RS: Yeah, yeah. We got a new domain name, structuretech.com.
RS: Click on Blog.
BO: So the domain name went on a diet, it lost one?
RS: The number one, but we just have a new domain name that we can direct people to.
BO: Welcome everybody to Structure Talk, a Structure Tech presentation. My name is Bill Oelrich, alongside Tessa Murry…
Tessa Murry: Hi.
BO: And Reuben Saltzman.
BO: And Reuben has decided to put us on Facebook Live for this episode of the podcast. And joining the fun, we have Neil Saltzman, Reuben’s father.
Neil Saltzman: Hi, guys.
BO: And Larry, back there.
RS: Producer Larry.
BO: Yeah, producer Larry extraordinaire. We use extraordinaire behind lots of people like Tess is building science extraordinaire, Reuben is home inspector extraordinaire. Neil, what are you extraordinaire at?
NS: Right now? Being a grandpa.
NS: I like that.
BO: Alright, very good.
RS: Grandpa Neil extraordinaire.
NS: Yes. [chuckle]
BO: Alright. So we’re just gonna spend some time here doing… Well, we’d like to do a live Q&A for anybody who’s online and has home inspection questions or other questions. But Reuben, do we have anything teed up here?
TM: We have good life advice. Just kidding. [chuckle]
RS: If you say we’re not gonna limit it to home inspections, we could start out with George’s question right away. I had posted this on our Facebook page earlier. And George, one of the inspectors on our team, he’s been on the podcast. He comes in right away with the question. This is one for producer Larry. Where did you get the toilet bowl coffee cup?
RS: Let’s start with that. No idea. Okay. Alright, we’re off to a great start. Excellent.
RS: Alright. I do you have a real question here. This one comes from Daniel Felt, another person we’ve had as a guest on the show of Kura Home Maintenance, and he said, he’s got a lot of clients who are asking him what to do about ice dams this time of year. And his standard answer is, “You hire a professional to steam them off,” but people don’t wanna pay that kind of money. It is hideously expensive to hire a professional to steam off your ice dams, so what else can you do? And people say, “Is it really effective to pull snow off the edge of the roof and is that gonna prevent ice dams from forming and leaks from happening?” Tessa, why don’t you take this one? What do you got to say?
TM: Check out Reuben’s blog.
RS: Alright, next question.
BO: That’s a great suggestion. But Reuben, where can everybody find your blog?
RS: Structuretech.com. That’s it. Yeah, yeah. We got a new domain name, structuretech.com…
RS: Click on blog.
BO: So the domain name went on a diet, it lost one.
RS: The number one. Yeah, we still own that. That’s really where the website is, but we just have a new domain name that we can direct people to.
BO: Alright, good. I’m glad we got that out of the way. Okay, Tess.
TM: Well, if you can, if you have a house where you can get into the attic, the key is to stop the heat from getting from the house into the attic ’cause once that heat from the house gets into the attic, it’s gonna warm up the roof, which is gonna melt the snow which is gonna cause the ice dam. So, to stop the heat, you need to find all these little holes in the floor of the attic between the house and the attic space, where that warm air can rise and get into the attic. They’re called attic bypasses and it’s a pretty involved process. If you don’t know what you’re doing, I would recommend hiring a good insulation contractor to help you do this air sealing work. But basically, you have to move all the insulation out of the way, find these little holes, seal them up, spray foam, caulking and then add more insulation. Once you’ve done that, hopefully that can stop a lot of that heat from getting into the attic and making it warm.
RS: But the short term question here is, “Is it gonna help to remove snow from your roof? Is this gonna help prevent leaks?”
TM: No, that’s just gonna prevent ice dams from forming in the first place. But if you already have ice dams on your house, is that the question? What do you do when you have them?
RS: Well, let’s say you don’t have an ice dam and you just don’t wanna have to pay somebody to come out and steam it off. Is there value in pulling snow off your roof?
TM: I’ve heard that there is, yes. I personally have not had to do that, but I’ve heard from people who have that it is a good thing.
BO: It’s the most cost-effective solution.
NS: That is definitely a solution. Quick story. When my daddy was alive, he and I went around knocking on doors, asking people if they wanted their ice dams taken care of, and we got up there with a hatchet and an ax.
NS: Oh yeah. Back in the day, we’d take a ax and hatchet and a saw and we’d cut through the ice.
TM: Oh my gosh.
TM: How many roofs did you puncture holes in?
BO: Did you leave your business card for the roof repair?
NS: It was my daddy.
RS: No, they’d give a false name and they’d get paid in cash.
TM: Oh my gosh.
RS: Yeah, give me cash. I’m out of here.
TM: Yeah. Oh, that’s so crazy.
NS: I know.
TM: Well, yeah, and then to that point, if you… I mean, you can do heat cables too, if you don’t wanna rake your roof. And we had a great podcast with Steve Kuhl talking about heat cables, and what kind of heat cable you should invest in, but it’s self-regulating that’s what they’re called, yeah.
BO: Yeah, but wait a second, weren’t the heat cables not meant to melt the ice off the roof? They’re meant to melt a pathway, so the water can run into the gutter, and then drain out of the gutter and away from your house?
RS: That’s exactly it, yeah. You don’t put heat cables on when you have ice dams, you put ’em on earlier on in the year.
NS: Right. Gonna be a summer project, yeah.
TM: So if you already have big ice dams on your house, the only solution is steam them off. But, if you… Yeah.
BO: But if, pulling snow helps.
TM: Yeah, pulling snow.
RS: Pulling snow definitely helps and people have asked me, “How much should I remove?” And usually it’s good enough to just do the first three feet or so, and then let the sun get down to the shingles, the sun heats up the shingles. You don’t have ice accumulate in there, ’cause it stays warm enough and it’ll just run off. But when you have some really extreme temperature swings and you have some really heavy snow loads, sometimes it’s not enough to do that. Sometimes you’re gonna have another ice dam formed right where you stop raking the snow.
BO: Oh, sure.
RS: The best answer is remove all of the snow from the roof. I mean, get…
RS: You guys laugh but I’m serious. This is really it. I’ve seen a couple of years where people had secondary ice dams forming, when they stopped raking.
RS: So it’s not a fail-safe. And if Steve Kuhl were on here, he’d be going, “Heck, yes.” He’d wanna jump on that one.
NS: Do you remember when you helped me bring the snow blower up on top of the roof?
RS: Oh, we’ve got pictures. We’ve got pictures, absolutely. Maybe we could put that one on this, when we post it live.
TM: What not to do.
RS: Yeah, yeah. Exactly. I posted that on our Facebook page. You should have seen some of the comments people had.
RS: They’re like, “Who’s this idiot?”
RS: Like, “Yeah, the things people do. My, my.” Yep. It was a single-stage snow blower, to be fair. [laughter]
NS: True. Right. It wasn’t the dual-stage.
RS: Yeah. It wasn’t the… Yeah.
TM: It didn’t damage the shingles?
NS: It was a little snow pup. It was just a little snow pup.
BO: Whose bright idea was this?
TM: Just a pup.
NS: Of course it was mine. [laughter]
RS: He had me bring it over. I didn’t volunteer to bring my snow blower over to bring in it on his roof.
BO: But you did volunteer to…
RS: I said I’ll help you.
BO: To accompany him on the roof.
RS: It’s my dad. Of course. What would you do?
NS: Don’t we love living in the house…
TM: They don’t do that now.
BO: I’m not going on the roof with a snow blower with my dad, even just because he’s my dad. I’m just, I’m busy that day, man. I’m sorry. [laughter]
RS: No, it was fun. I got some good photos.
BO: Alright, do we have another question here?
RS: Another question is, I’d like to know how you guys inspect roofs during the winter. This is coming from Tennessee. He said, “We don’t get a lot of snow here in Tennessee.” This is from Sam Morris. And that’s worthy of an episode all on its own. We ought to do a podcast on inspecting roofs during the winter and air conditioners and all that other stuff that’s covered in snow, right?
BO: I have strong opinions about this. I could give Sam what I think.
BO: I don’t think you can inspect a roof in the wintertime when it’s snow-covered.
TM: Yeah, I agree.
BO: You can inspect a spot on the roof and try to extrapolate.
BO: But that’s exactly what you’re doing. There is no peace of mind to a roof inspection, when there’s a foot of snow covering 95% of it.
TM: Agreed. Yep.
BO: What do you all think?
TM: I’m 100% with you. I don’t feel confident assessing a roof when it’s 99%, 90%, 80%, whatever, covered in snow.
BO: Gotcha. I agree.
NS: And then we take a little broom up there, and brush some away to try and get a sense, but when it’s even covered with ice…
TM: I try.
NS: There’s usually ice underneath that layer of snow.
TM: Yeah, you can’t even see.
NS: And then you’re trying to get an assessment. It doesn’t work well at all.
TM: Yeah, no.
RS: So if you’re buying a house during the winter, and it’s snow covered, what are you gonna do?
BO: It’s a risk.
TM: It is.
BO: You’re listening to Structure Talk, a Structure Tech presentation. My name is Bill Oelrich, alongside Tessa Murry, building science extraordinaire, Reuben Saltzman, home inspection extraordinaire, Neil Saltzman, home inspection extraordinaire, partially retired home inspector.
TM: Neil, grandpa extraordinaire.
BO: And grandpa, yeah. Yeah. And we’re all here. And Larry, producer extraordinaire’s back in the corner. So we’re gonna dive back into another question here. We’re doing a live session on Facebook. So what do you got? Key us up.
RS: Alright. This one comes from Tennessee, too, I think. This comes from Dusty Jameson. He says, “Tennessee recently had a bill proposed to give the option for people to hire unlicensed inspectors, along with many other licensed professionals, to perform services as long as they sign a consent letter. The unlicensed inspector can perform the service with zero liability. What’s your thought about a bill like that?” You shared the link with us. Anybody wanna talk about this?
TM: What kind of repairs or services are they talking about?
BO: It’s providing home inspections, you’re an unlicensed home inspector and you get some liability waiver?
BO: Sign me up. I’ll do home inspections and give you my best opinion if I have no liability. Like as a home inspector?
RS: Now, how is that…
TM: Is it just talking about home inspections or is it talking about servicing and repair work?
RS: This question… Well, I can read it again. It said they had a bill proposed to give the option for people to hire unlicensed inspectors, along with many other licensed professionals, maybe normally licensed professionals. Maybe what’s implied here, is that you can hire a bunch of people who aren’t licensed to do a bunch of different things. I’m assuming that’s kinda what’s implied here. And you just sign a waiver saying, “I know you’re unlicensed and I don’t care. I wanna hire you anyways.” I think that’s what the question is.
BO: Oh, okay. I still think you can be unlicensed and do a great job. We’re unlicensed in our state and that doesn’t really mean that we do a bad job.
RS: Now let me flip it. If we were licensed, and we took the time to go through the licensing process and we turn in all our paper… Let’s just say it’s radon. We do a ridiculous amount of work for radon, and us home inspectors at Structure Tech, we don’t even do radon testing anymore, because all the hoops we gotta jump through for radon. So we got a handful of people who just do that. It’s a lot. And we had to significantly increase our radon testing fees because of this. What if there were a bill introduced in Minnesota now, where people could use unlicensed radon people and use them to do radon testing? All they need to do is sign off on something, saying, “I understand they’re not licensed.” How would we feel about that?
TM: It would be frustrating. That would be very frustrating.
BO: Well, as a licensed person, I would be crying foul.
RS: Yeah, I would too. That’s a bunch of garbage. Dusty, I don’t agree with that at all.
BO: Okay, so we got to the meat of that question, I think.
RS: I think so, I think so.
BO: I disagree with unbalanced playing fields. But just because you’re licensed doesn’t mean you’re anything extra special, just means you went through the process of getting licensed.
RS: Yep, exactly. And whenever licensing does come here to Minnesota, and it will eventually. It’s coming throughout the whole country, what I like to say, and I’m quoting somebody else who said this, someone much smarter than me… His eloquent way of putting it was, it becomes a well-publicized portal for which anybody can step through to become a home inspector, and it gives the perception that you’ve now leveled the playing field and that we all do the same thing. But look at any licensed profession. I mean, look at any licensed contractor. Does everybody do the same job because they’re licensed?
RS: I mean, it’s absolutely ridiculous. But all of a sudden, that’s kind of the public perception. So that’s part of the reason that I’m not a fan of licensing. I don’t want this to come ’cause what happens at every state is all of a sudden the number of license inspectors just, it doubles or triples from what the number of inspectors who are actually out there working, ’cause everybody gets grandfathered in and they say, “Well, I’m gonna get my license even though I’m not gonna do any home inspections. It’s easy to get my foot in the door, and if I ever wanna do it in the future, I’m gonna get that license today and hold on to it.”
BO: Just do this. Do a great job, treat people with the utmost respect, work with integrity, and if you need a license, get the license, you’ll be okay.
RS: Alright. I got another question here. This sounds like a good one. It says, “I’ve been debating with other home inspectors online. Question is, do you open Federal Pacific or Zinsco panels or simply not open them and say ‘panel unsafe, recommend replacement’? I believe they should be open and inspected, but advise that they are hazardous. Thanks, Greg with Washington Home Inspection.”
TM: Thanks, Greg for that question. We do not open those panels.
RS: And, let’s back up. I mean, just talk about this panel.
BO: Yeah, why don’t you explain the background of these panels, right.
RS: Anybody wanna go on that one?
BO: Well, I’ll go, I’ll go.
RS: I feel like I’ve done a lot of talking here.
BO: So Federal Pacific has a long history of problems. I mean, they basically have been sued out of business. And the reason we don’t open those panels is because sometimes those breakers will just fall out of place.
NS: That’s right.
BO: And we’re not licensed electricians and should not be messing around with that sort of thing. And the exact same thing with the Zinsco panels. They’ve got an aluminum center bar that heats up and it gets larger and smaller with heat. And then those breakers can fall out of place, correct?
RS: Well, we don’t have a stance on Zinsco panels. I don’t think we’ve ever had an issue…
BO: Well, the Sylvania ones, right?
RS: That’s the same thing.
RS: Sylvania, Zinsco. Same thing, same design. We don’t have a policy where we don’t take those panel covers off. I’ve never had one of those breakers fall out of the panel on me.
TM: I was at the Mike Casey seminar at Inspection World this year, down in New Orleans, and he was talking about that. I’m pretty sure he talked about how all of the breakers slid off the bus bar when he removed a panel cover…
RS: Oh my…
TM: On a Zinsco panel. I think it was Zinsco. I don’t think it was Federal Pacific. They just all slid down and slid off, he said.
NS: Not good.
TM: So he doesn’t remove them.
BO: I remember that. I remember asking you one time, I was in a house and said, it was after having this conversation, “Are we opening these panels?” And you said yes.
BO: And I did. The question is, I think… Okay, so you take it apart. We already know we’re recommending a replacement, then what are we gonna do? Tell somebody to fix what’s inside of this panel that we’re already saying needs to be replaced? It seems redundant to me.
RS: Yeah. And you convinced me to have us kind of change our stance on that ’cause we opened those panels for a long time. I know I’ve opened hundreds of them. But the problem is, when you do open it and a breaker falls out, who’s supposed to put it back? And what do we tell the home owner? Why don’t you have power here? Why is the panel cover off? ‘Cause you can’t even put the panel cover back on. And the answer to that is, “Well, I opened up the panel and a breaker fell out.” And then the natural question back to us as the home inspector, “Is this a thing? Did you know that this could happen?” “Oh, yeah. Sure. I knew that this is a potential issue with opening up this panel, but I did it anyways ’cause I wanna look inside.” “Well, weren’t you gonna recommend replacement?” “Yeah, but I wanted to see anyways.” So what is it that I’m really gonna see? The only thing that I can possibly think of that I’m gonna see inside of those…
TM: Aluminum wiring.
BO: Yeah. Right.
RS: You got it, Tess. So what do we do if we have a house built…
TM: Oh, aluminum wiring is what I said. Between 1965 and ’72… But I’ll tell you this, I’ve seen it in houses in ’76 and maybe even ’78.
RS: And it’s a good idea for us to recommend further evaluation on those homes, but the really bad alloys were manufactured between ’65 and ’72. After that, they started changing the alloy and it wasn’t nearly as problematic, but I’m still calling for an electrician to check that stuff out and have an electrician tell the person that this isn’t a problem.
BO: So then, to me, this is a tolerance for risk. So if you wanna go that one step further, the line in the sand you’ve crossed, you’ve taken on your own risk in this situation. So in a company like ours, it’s like just don’t do that because we’re gonna recommend the same thing.
RS: Yeah, the only thing I can think of that I’d see inside that panel is aluminum wiring. That’s it.
TM: Yeah, so our company policy says that we do not remove covers on Federal Pacific, to answer that question. I don’t think it says anything about Sylvania or Zinsco though, in our policy, does it?
RS: No. Nope.
BO: Yeah. We just don’t see them very often.
RS: We might talk about it. I mean, we might change that in the future, but not today.
BO: My name is Bill Oelrich alongside Tessa Murry and Reuben Saltzman, with special guest Neil Saltzman. And we’re just been here on Facebook Live, taking some questions, and Reuben’s got another one teed up.
RS: I do.
BO: Dive right into it.
RS: Alright, this one comes from Josh Graves. He says, “What’s the best process or tips for discovering drain leaks with an infrared camera?” or he said a thermal camera. “Example, running hot versus cold water to test, how long it takes for areas to show up on the thermal through the dry wall, just general best practices for incorporating a whole house infrared scan.” And it sounds like pretty much all of our questions have come from other home inspectors. This podcast is supposed to be more of a consumer and realtor facing podcast, but that’s okay. We love home inspectors listening on this too.
TM: Whoever wants to listen.
BO: We love everybody who listens.
RS: Yeah, so this will be more of a technical podcast, I guess. That’s okay.
TM: Yes. That’s fine.
BO: So I’ll leave the technical stuff to you guys ’cause I’m not a home inspector right now.
TM: Well, to answer that question, if you have a drain that you have access to, obviously you can visually inspect that, but we’ll use an infrared camera to scan underneath drains that don’t have an access. So we’ll fill up the tub or the sink, whatever it is, with water, let it drain and then…
BO: Which water? Hot or cold?
TM: Good question. In our policy, I think it says cold water, doesn’t it? In the shower, it says run cold water.
RS: Yeah, it’s cold…
RS: For a couple of reasons. Number one, we run a ton of water in those tiled showers. And we would exhaust the water heater tank if we were doing hot. Number two, you’re gonna see cold faster. If it’s leaking…
TM: Is that true?
RS: And it’s taking a long time, what you end up seeing is the evaporation. So if you’re using hot, eventually you’re gonna exhaust that supply and eventually it’s gonna be room temperature water, and it’s gonna take way longer to show up ’cause eventually it has to show up…
TM: Unless it’s bad, you get a warm spot on the ceiling.
RS: If it’s really bad, you could get a hot spot very quickly.
BO: Yeah, I was gonna say it depends. It depends on the temperature of the house. You need a delta, a delta spread for IR to be effective.
TM: We’re running showers for 30 minutes though, tiled showers, so we’ll let that shower head run. So that would empty out all the hot water.
BO: Okay, so crazy situation, if you walked in a house that’s 55 degrees and the water that’s coming out of the tap is 55 degrees on cold, you wouldn’t see a difference in the temperature.
RS: Well, the house isn’t gonna be 55 degrees.
BO: Well, I’m making an extreme example.
RS: Sure, and if it is 55 degrees, it’s gonna be really cold outside, and your groundwater temperature is gonna be really low, like 40 degrees. It’s gonna be low. You’re gonna have a good delta.
TM: I just thought of something. You know what? A little tip, what I’ve learned when I’m testing with an IR camera, and maybe you’ve got a standalone tub and a tiled shower next to each other, cold water in one, hot in the other, just so that you know if there’s a leak at one…
RS: You know which one’s leaking?
TM: Yeah, you know which one’s leaking.
RS: Sure, sure.
TM: So, I’ll do that.
BO: I think we should test this groundwater stuff. I think it’s always the same temperature.
RS: No, no, it definitely gets colder in the winter. I know it does because I’ve stuck my hand in some of those tubs to pull the stopper, and it was so cold that it hurt.
BO: Okay, we’re gonna go down a rabbit trail here. So, if my well… My neighbor’s well up north at my cabin is 400 feet deep.
BO: There’s no way the temperature outside has anything to do with it.
RS: I’m talking about water in the sustainable urban core, Bill.
RS: See what I did there?
BO: That all comes out of the river so yes, then that would be colder.
BO: Alright, great question.
TM: Depends on where the water’s coming from I guess.
RS: Alright, but what else on that? What do we do with our infrared camera during home inspections? There’s a ton of stuff we do. So you talked about, if it’s a tiled shower…
TM: Yep, tiled shower.
RS: We’ll run that for at least 30 minutes with cold water…
TM: Thirty minutes.
RS: And then we take an infrared camera and we scan below it. What else are we doing with an infrared camera?
TM: Whirlpool tubs, too. Scanning below those, if you don’t have access to all sides. So filling that, letting it run, scanning it.
BO: Finished basements with finished perimeters. Houses with terrible grading, you can go down there in the summertime and just walk around the perimeter with the IR camera. If water’s leaking in and if it’s saturated the carpet, you might get tipped off to a problem that you can’t see otherwise.
TM: It’s not a guarantee, but you can identify it sometimes.
BO: You can identify naughty pets.
NS: Oh, pets, mice, mice…
TM: Naughty pets, yeah. Flat roofs, if you’ve had recent rain or something too, potential leaks with that.
BO: Sure. What else?
TM: We use it for our appliances. We actually take photos of ranges, cooktops, refrigerators, freezers; we take pictures with our infrared camera to verify that we’ve checked the appliances and that they’re working.
RS: So it’s a real good quick check for us. We also scan electrical panels.
BO: Oh, sure. That’s right.
TM: Oh, I forgot about that, yeah.
RS: Turn everything on at the beginning of the inspection, all the lights, exhaust fans, everything that has a big load on the electrical, then we scan the electric panel and make sure there’s no big hot spots. And be careful, if you’re gonna be doing this, take a class on it so you understand what’s hot, ’cause all AFCI circuit breakers are gonna show up warm. It doesn’t mean it’s a problem. And when you’ve got a 10 degree difference, it’ll show up… It’ll look hot, but it’s meaningless.
BO: Yeah, and I think that’s a good point. So, the IR cameras deliver data that needs to be kinda…
BO: Interpreted, yes. So these classes are really good at teaching you how to interpret this data. Just like even surfaces, what’s the word that…
BO: Emissivity, or yeah, yeah. I can’t even…
TM: If it’s reflective or not, that’ll skew something.
BO: Right. So you need to know how to use them to decode what it’s telling you, to make sure you’re not getting a false positive of some sort.
NS: Yeah. How about scanning ceilings and walls?
TM: Oh yeah, scanning ceilings and walls.
RS: Yeah, we use it on older homes, checking to see if the walls are insulated. Sometimes we’ll see big voids in the insulation and we might mention that. We usually tell people it’s probably gonna be cost prohibitive to actually fix this, but we let people know.
BO: Yeah, it tips you off to those far away places in the attic that have a lot of mice trails or something.
RS: And then we use them in attics, too. At least when there’s a good temperature difference. It makes finding attic bypasses, attic air leaks, so simple.
TM: Yeah. So that works for our climate where it’s cold a lot of the time outside and we can see those warm spots in the attic.
BO: Where was that question from?
RS: I don’t know, I’m on a different screen now, sorry.
BO: Well, just remember, you need a delta for these things to work, so if you don’t have one, you have to create one.
RS: And, oh, Bill, you keep saying delta.
TM: What does delta mean?
BO: Oh, yeah, a delta temperature spread.
RS: Up top.
BO: Okay, my bad. So you need about 15 degrees difference between two temperatures for these things to be truly effective.
RS: Yeah, they’ll pick up very small differences in temperature, but inside and outside, yeah, exactly, we need a good difference there.
BO: High fiving fools over there.
RS: Well, we caught you using a term that maybe you didn’t define. You’re so good at that. We’re just giving you a hard time ’cause you’re so good at that.
TM: You are good at…
BO: I just was using a letter from an ancient alphabet.
RS: Yeah, delta is different.
TM: Delta T, what is that?
RS: Alright, I got another question here. This one’s actually a homeowner here. Roger says, “I have a house that has… ” And Pops, we’ll get you in on this maybe.
RS: This might be a good one for you. “I have a house that has about a two inch sag in the middle of the dining room floor. I wish to remove some walls beneath it as well. What’s it take to put in a cross beam and raise those sagging joists and support the cross beam and how many beers job is that?”
TM: Beers job. Oh boy.
NS: A lot of beer. It’s a big project. Huge.
BO: How big is the house? Does he give any definition?
NS: Yeah. He doesn’t say. But just in terms of putting the support beam in, you have to carry that load all the way down. So, wherever you’re doing it, if it’s the first floor, you carry the… Say it’s two posts on either side of that beam. You carry those posts down to the lowest level. Then you have to transfer that load down into the basement. And if it’s a spot that doesn’t have support, you’re gonna have to break up the floor, pour footing, and carry continuous support all the way down to that. So, it’s a big project.
BO: How big does that…
NS: But it can be done for sure.
TM: Lifetime supply of beer then?
NS: A lot of beer. Yeah. Maybe a keg.
BO: So, doing those load calcs…
NS: We don’t do that. And I would definitely defer that to an engineer.
BO: You’d wanna stamp for that and tell you how to do it?
NS: I would.
BO: And then you can hire the uncle and bring the beer.
NS: As long as they know what they’re doing, it’s definitely doable, but big project.
RS: Yeah. And my advice would be, if you wanna learn more about this and see how some of this stuff is done, go to the Journal of Light Construction, JLC. I don’t remember what their website is, but you Google Journal of Light Construction. Do a search on their site about structural repairs. And it seems like just about every month in their magazine, they’ve got a detailed article showing how somebody did a repair, a structural repair, on an old home like this. And they document the whole thing. “Here’s what it looked like in the beginning. Here’s all the work we had to do. It took us this many months.” And, like you said Pops, these are super involved projects. It’s not a weekend type of deal. This is you’re finding somewhere else to live almost for many months.
BO: But it’s not a ton of money to get a good understanding of what needs to be completed. An engineer to come out and put that together, it’s less than a thousand bucks probably, right?
NS: I would think so.
BO: Yeah. Yeah. So, you can get some pretty good direction for a pretty good price.
BO: Do we have more questions?
RS: Well, I think we’re about out of time.
TM: Can we just squeeze one more good one?
BO: Let’s do one more question. Come on. Please?
RS: Alright. No, we don’t have any more good questions. I’m sorry.
RS: Hold on. Wait a minute. Okay, I have one more. Sorry. And this one… I skipped over. This is the first one I looked at, and I just thought, “This is such a tough one. I don’t even know how we’re gonna answer this.” But I’ll let you guys give it a shot. Maybe you guys know. The question is, “I have a well at my house. And recently, the kitchen faucet has sputtered and some brown water sprayed out. Then it goes clear, normal again.” So, we got a well, get some occasional brown water. And he said it’s similar to what the city would do when they do hydrant flushing. “Does something need to be cleaned, replaced, or what should I watch out for?” And he also said the faucet was professionally installed less than three years ago. I got back to him. And I said, “Hey Mike, how old is your house? And do you have galvanized water pipes?” ‘Cause of course that’s my first thought. He said, “My house was built in 1990.”
RS: Okay. I’m stumped.
TM: That is weird.
BO: Well, yeah, but a lot of these wells…
NS: How about the water heater?
RS: How about the water heater?
TM: Yeah, it could be the water heater. Maybe it’s rust from the tank if water was sitting in the water heater for a long time.
NS: That’s 1990, that’s 30 years old.
RS: Okay. So, maybe if it only happens with hot, but then why would it only be one fixture?
TM: That doesn’t make any sense. I don’t know.
BO: If it’s a fixture, then it feels like there’s something to do with the fixture.
RS: You know what? I’m gonna say whenever this faucet was professionally replaced, someone stuck a little section of galvanized piping inside the wall somewhere or to transition. We’ve seen it sometimes. We’ll transition from packs, and we’ll have a couple of random galvanized fittings, and then they’ll transition to something else. That’s the only thing I can think of.
TM: I guess the question to ask would be, did they have that problem before the faucet was installed?
RS: I don’t know why they would mention the faucet if they didn’t. If they did, then I think it wouldn’t even matter.
BO: Well, it feels like the faucet replace was maybe, “Let’s replace that and see if it fixes the problem.”
RS: Maybe so. Maybe so.
BO: Some of these wells can get some chunky stuff coming up from the bottom.
RS: Yeah. So, if it’s everywhere, then it’s either the well or possibly the water heater.
TM: Or the water heater.
BO: Yeah, or maybe that’s the fixture that’s nearest to the well or some… Who knows. That’s an unusual one.
RS: Yeah, so we don’t have a great answer.
TM: We don’t know.
RS: It’s kinda why I was skipping this one…
RS: ‘Cause I don’t know what we could tell this guy.
TM: We appreciate the question. Those are kinda fun.
RS: Sorry, Mike. Yeah, thanks for asking. Sorry we don’t have a better answer for you.
BO: Wow. Okay. Well, so are we gonna put a wrap on this?
RS: Yeah, we’d better. We’re at time.
BO: Alright. Thanks, everybody, for listening.
TM: And watching.
BO: Hey, I just have one shoutout to a friend of ours down in Dallas, Texas. Her name is Angela. And Angela had to put her horse down today, which is really, really, really sad. And we just wanted to tell Blake and Angela, “We’re thinking about you.” They’re with Super Inspectors down south. And they’re great people. And I feel really bad that she got such bad news on a good day. Thanks, everybody. You’re listening to Structure Talk, a Structure Tech presentation. And we will catch up with you next time.
Author: Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections