YUCK Cockroaches!!!!

In the Montreal area cockroaches are relatively rarely encountered in residential inspections. They can be more common in some types of commercial buildings though, and to say they are rarely encountered does not mean that they are not found.

For those who have to deal with the problem they will appreciate the eradication, control and abatement measures listed towards the end of this article.

This article is written and presented by a colleague (Brian Halliday), fellow InterNACHI member and associate here on AR (Active Rain). Please leave your comments directly on his blog. Thank you.

Cockroaches are one of the most commonly encountered household pests. Homeowners and inspectors can learn about ways to eliminate these insects and the conditions that encourage their infestation.

 

Cockroaches have a broad, flattened body and a relatively small head that covers their mandibles and other mouthparts. They have six legs, large ocelli (simple eyes), and a pair of long, flexible antennae. Although winged, they are not adept fliers. The best-known varieties are the American cockroach (1.2 inches long), the German and Asian cockroaches (0.59 inches long), the Oriental cockroach (0.98 inches long), and the brown-banded cockroach (0.55 inches long).

Facts and Figures

The world’s heaviest cockroach is the Australian giant burrowing cockroach, which can weigh more than 30 grams and reach 3½ inches in length.

While cockroaches could withstand six to 15 times as much radiation exposure as humans, the popular belief that they will “inherit the Earth” in the wake of nuclear war is largely undeserved; other insects, such as fruit flies, have even better resistance against radiation than cockroaches.

Some species of cockroaches can survive for months without food and subsist on nothing but the glue on the back of a postage stamp, and even their own feces. Experiments have revealed that they can go without air for 45 minutes and recover after being submerged under water for half an hour.

Cockroaches are prolific breeders and can produce several thousand offspring in a year, once they become established in a home. They are normally introduced on clothing, shopping bags and furniture, and they can also simply wander in from the outdoors.

Cockroaches are known to spread diseases such as salmonella, food poisoning and dysentery, primarily through contact with their feces and defensive secretions. They also transport dangerous microbes, a particular problem in hospitals. Their skin, which is discarded through periodic molting, can become airborne and trigger severe asthmatic reactions in prone individuals. Incredibly, cockroaches have even been found to be second only to house dust as the worst allergen affecting people, according to the University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture. Besides these physical ailments, cockroaches emit an unpleasant odor during swarming and mating, and they can keep a building’s occupants awake at night with their incessant hissing and, in the case of some cockroach species, chirping.

InterNACHI inspectors should not be surprised to find evidence of cockroaches in messy buildings, as the insects thrive in dirty environments.

No buildings are completely immune to cockroach infestation, however, as they will be attracted to even the smallest amounts of food deposits. They prefer to feed on decaying grease, sugar and other organic matter, as well as inanimate, starchy food sources such as glue, wallpaper and even book bindings. Pepper-like specs in kitchen cupboards are an indication of cockroach infestation, as is the observation of adult cockroaches or their egg sacs in hard-to-reach locations, such as cracks and crevices in kitchen cabinets, drains, and behind dishwashers and refrigerators. The entire kitchen area should be inspected, especially under sinks, in cabinet hinge areas, drawers, refrigeration gaskets, dishwashers, stoves and other cooking appliances. Also check crawlspaces, bathrooms and other dark, moist areas where food sources may be present.

Tips that inspectors can pass on to homeowners:

Place boric acid in areas of cockroach activity. Boric acid can maintain an infestation once under control, but pyrethrin should be used first and the whole structure bug-bombed.

Pyrethrin should be used first, and after the population is under control place boric acid wherever needed.

Place bait stations containing hydramethylnon or fipronil in areas of termite activity. At night, homeowners can sneak into the kitchen and turn on the lights. If cockroaches scurry for cover, observe where they run and position traps accordingly.

Keep all food in sealed containers, use trash cans that have tight-fitting lids, and do not leave pet food out overnight.

Clean the kitchen regularly, and wipe moisture from the kitchen sink before going to bed at night.

Vacuum frequently.

Repair dripping taps and leaky pipes, broken roof tiles, and any other condition that might allow moisture to enter areas where cockroaches can establish harborage.

Seal off all entry points into the house, such as cracks around baseboards, pipes, windows, cabinets, doors and crevices in bathrooms with copper mesh or steel wool and caulk or putty.

Keep lights on at night. Although it will consume additional electricity, cockroaches will avoid lit areas. For the same reason, restaurant owners sometimes leave lights on around dumpsters.

If cockroach infestation persists, contact a qualified exterminator.

In summary, cockroaches are hardy, disease-carrying household pests that can be controlled by maintaining a clean home and eliminating sources of moisture intrusion. As we all don’t want to admit that they are there……They Are! Hopefully these helpful tips will keep them outside only.

 

Original blog post on ActiveRain: Link to Blog Post

“We Won’t Fix Anything Unless It’s A Code Violation”

The photos themselves tell the story. This article, as well as highlighting some new construction deficiencies, also illustrates the problems inherent with extended and horizontal exhaust duct systems.

This is a reprint of an article by one of my associates, Jay Markanich (VA), and should you wish to comment on his article please click through the links and do so directly on his blog.

For anyone wanting answers about this and similar problems for a home or property in the Montreal area please contact me Robert Butler at any of the numbers listed below.

More new construction fun!  And guess who it’s with … again?  And the same tricks – late afternoon phone call, the inspection needed to be done the next day, enormous amounts of insurance information – same old, same old.

The buyer called me in a panic.  We had previously corresponded many times, but she did had not been told the requirements the builder has pertaining to inspectors and inspections not realizing things were far enough along to have the inspection.  Even though I had warned her, she did not believe me (they seldom do).  I told her to call the lady in the office back (we’re buds) and to say that “Jay” was doing the inspection, she would have her information overnight and we would be there at 7am the next morning.

My office buddy offered a new wrinkle, “We won’t fix anything unless it’s a code violation.”

YEAH, RIGHT!  Why do they keep trying to pull this, um, this stuff?

May I offer two of the things they fixed the very afternoon of our inspection?  Were they against the code?  I HAVE NO IDEA!

#1 – This little beauty is a vent that starts in the powder room on the first level, passes through two floors to exit through the wall above one third-level bedroom, to travel another 25′ or so to the left of this photo to exit through the roof.

Can a powder room fan push air up and that far?  I HAVE NO IDEA!

How far is that air pushed?  I calculate 50’+.  What size fan is needed to handle that distance?  I HAVE NO IDEA!

Does the code cover the size of a fan and how far a vent tube can extend before it exits through a roof?  I HAVE NO IDEA!

Worse, just a couple of feet to the left of this photo is the little anomaly seen below.

Gee, ain’t it perty?

The insulation around that very solid vent tubing is missing just a bit.

Won’t that create condensation inside the tubing?  Why yes, yes I think it just might!

Where will that condensation collect?  I’m going to guess it will collect in that little hitch in the get along, seen above.  I pushed on the bottom of that little, teensy downward bulge and, heaven to Betsy, it was already full of water!  Why I bet the cover on the roof wasn’t there the whole time!

THAT’S WHAT MADE THAT EXCELLENT TAPE JOB TO THE RIGHT COME LOOSE AND EXPOSE THE VENT TUBE AS IT STRETCHED FROM THE WATER WEIGHT!

Hey, eventually won’t that tube fill with enough water to prevent air from passing through that improvised trap above?  Why, yes, yes I think it just might!

Does the code DEMAND that the builder fix this interesting arrangement?  I HAVE NO IDEA!  But they did…

#2 – While they were at it, they also fixed this little beauty above the master bathroom!

If you are going to do something in life, BE CONSISTENT!

And these vent guys are nothing, nothing I tell you, if they are not CONSISTENT!

Were these two vents the only thing the builder fixed following my inspection?  You already know the answer to that!

Were all the things they fixed because of the code?  I HAVE NO IDEA!

But I do know those things were schmuck work and that’s why they got fixed!

And my little bud in the office knows that if they don’t fix them, that information might just get out into the public…

My recommendation:  when the builders play their games, don’t participate!  And when they say they won’t fix things unless they are code violations, don’t buy that either!  Why?  Schmuck work is schmuck work, and they won’t want it attached to them in public.

And my office buddy is probably thinking that I am the only home inspector in the area!

 

 

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia

www.jaymarinspect.com

 

Original blog post on ActiveRain: Link to Blog Post

Window Stains: When To Be Concerned

This article highlights an all too common problem detail with the siding finishes around doors and windows. Home owners with this and similar siding types should become familiar with how these components work and what is needed for their maintenance.

This is a reprint of an article by one of my associates, Reuben Saltzman, (MN) and should you wish to comment on his article please click through the links and do so directly on his blog.

For anyone wanting answers about this and similar problems for a home or property in the Montreal area please contact me Robert Butler at any of the numbers listed below.

Water stains on window sills is often a source of anxiety for home buyers, and it’s the home inspector’s job to help determine if the stains are the sign of a major problem or not. There are three common causes of water stains on windows:

  • Leaving the windows open.  The windows get left open, and water pours in through the window during a rain storm.  This type of staining will often leave fairly uniform water staining across the window sill.
  • Condensation Staining at windowCondensation.  If it’s a wood window, you’ll see stains at the corners of the window sashes and the window sills if the stains are caused by condensation.  You’ll also find the worst stains on the windows that are most likely to be damp, such as in bathrooms or bedrooms just outside the bathrooms.  The windows at the north side of the house will be worse than windows on the south side.
  • Leaking windows. If water is actually leaking in to the house around the opening for the window at the siding, this will typically show up as staining at the corners of the window sills.  The photo below left shows what a window sill may look like with minor water leakage in to the wall; the photo below right shows a window sill with major damage from water leakage.  A home inspector could use a moisture meter to help determine if the stains are currently damp.  These are the types of stains to be most concerned about.

Water staining at window sill from minor leakage Water staining at window sill from major water leakage

The first two causes of stains are fairly straightforward and easy to prevent; remember to close the windows before it rains, and lower the humidity in your home.  Here are a few tips to lower the humidity in your home:

  • Turn off your whole house humidifier (duh)
  • If you have one, use your kitchen exhaust fan when you’re cooking.  Gas ovens add a considerable amount of moisture to the air.
  • Turn on your bathroom exhaust fan during showers and leave them on for a half hour after every shower.  If you don’t have a bathroom exhaust fan, get one.  While the building code allows an openable window as a substitute for a fan, I don’t 😉
  • If you have a crawl space, make sure that a proper vapor barrier is installed on the crawl space floor.
  • Install an HRV or a continuous exhaust fan.  Either one of these will dramatically lower humidity levels in a home.

The third cause of staining at windows, leaking water from the exterior, is the one that home buyers should be concerned about.  A window can leak from just the slightest defect in flashing at the top, and unfortunately, it’s not easy for home inspectors to know if a window is going to leak just by looking at the siding.

View of window from outsideIf the flashing above a window is installed properly, all of the water coming down the siding will be diverted around the sides of the window.  The windows that will be exposed to the most water are the windows that aren’t protected from rainwater by soffits and gutters – such as the window shown at left.

The photo below shows the proper path for the water to take; I know this is kind of a ‘no-duh’ issue, but actually thinking through this stuff helps me to know which windows I really need to pay particular attention to during home inspections.

Proper Water Path

Here’s a close-up view of the window flashing, showing the path that water is supposed to take… but this window has a nasty detail in the flashing that will be prone to leakage.  Do you see it?

Proper Water Path closeup

Here’s another close-up view, pointing out the exact issue with the flashing.

Proper Water Path closeup 2

As you can see in the photo above, if the caulking at the J-molding around the window fails, the window is going to leak.  Big time.  As a matter of fact, it has failed at this particular window, and that’s what is causing the major water staining at the bottom of the sill, which is what was shown above.   Could you tell just by looking at the exterior of the window?  I couldn’t.

The repair for this condition is to have the flashing redone, so the window isn’t relying on the caulking to keep water out.  This project will probably only take about an hour or two to complete, but it would have taken the original installer an extra two minutes to get it right.  My first thought was that the installer was either lazy or a bonehead, but at the time this window was installed, which was about twelve years ago, this was just the way it was done.

If I saw an installation like this on a relatively new home, I’d call it a boneheaded installation.

Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections – EmailMaple Grove Home Inspections

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Original blog post on ActiveRain: Link to Blog Post