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Abandoned Wiring.  Abandoned wiring is wiring that is no longer in service.  In some cases it is still live, which is a safety concern; in others, it can be confused with functional wiring.  Common areas to find abandoned wiring are garages, basement and attics. We recommend that you have wiring that is not in use checked for connection to a live source and then removed or properly capped/terminated within an approved junction box.

Anti-siphon Device. Anti-siphon devices are low cost devices that fit on the end of the faucets. They prevent you from siphoning lawn chemical into the drinking water supply from hose end applicators.

Back-flow Device. A back flow device is found on the water supply between the water meter and the irrigation system. It is designed to prevent the back flow of surface and ground water into the municipal water supply. If not present the local water authority or utility could require installation in the future.  

CPVC. A hard/rigid plastic domestic water supply pipe made from chloride-polyvinyl-chloride. Has been used exclusively in our area since 1994.

Cricket. A cricket is a small water shedding device installed behind a chimney to shed water around the face of the chimney.

Ceiling fans that wobble or are too low.  We suggest having wobbling fans re-balanced or re-mounted as needed to reduce the chance of a fan or fan parts coming off and causing injury.  We suggest checking the mounting brackets to be sure they are capable of properly holding the fan.  When fans are low, there is risk of a personal injury.

Copper and Aluminum conductors noted under same terminal.  Copper and aluminum expand and contract at different rates.  Putting the two under the same terminal, unless that terminal is specifically designed for the purpose, increases the risk of loose wiring and arcing and can cause corrosion to occur.  This is a safety issue requiring correction

Damaged Wire.  When a wire is frayed, nicked or poorly connected, the wire is effectively smaller and more likely to overheat in the damaged area.  Damage also makes contact with live wiring more likely.  Due to the potential safety hazard, it is important that damaged wiring be replaced promptly. 

Doubled-up circuitry.  This is a very common electric panel defect.  Most electric panel termination lugs (breakers, fuses, etc) are not designed or approved for multiple wires being attached.  Adding additional wires where not approved can overload a circuit causing nuisance tripping or loss of power.  More importantly, adding additional wires can mean loose connections, which can cause unsafe arcing.  Wires should be independently attached for better protection/performance, unless they are approved for this use.  In some cases the connection can be made ahead of the breaker or fuse. In others, additional circuits are needed. Depending on the capacity of existing equipment this can involve anything from installing additional breakers to a new panel.

Drain and Waste Vent Flashing. This flashing is found around drain and waste vent stacks that penetrate through the roof decking. The can be made of lead or can consist of a galvanized metal pan and rubber grommet, or back plastic and a rubber grommet. These flashings often require replacement as routine maintenance.

Exposed wiring.  Exposed wiring, also called surface wiring, refers to wiring that is installed without protection from physical damage.  Examples include when an electric wire is run under floor joists or rafters, along the front of wall joists, or down walls.  Appropriate installations can include: installing the wire through holes in floor joists, above rafters, or enclosing the wire in conduit to meet the requirements for protection from physical damage.  Exposed wiring at the exterior, inside cabinets and down walls is particularly prone to damage and should be corrected as soon as possible.

Extension Cord Wiring.  Extension cords should not be used for any purpose other than as a temporary  power source.  Permanent approved wiring is advised in place of extension cords to any permanently installed electrical component.  Extension cords should never run through walls or floors and should not be run inside cabinets as they can be more easily damaged in these areas.

Fascia. Fascia is a term used to describe the vertical exterior face of the roof along the edge or eave. The fascia is often used to attach rain gutters. See soffit.

Frieze. The frieze is a trim component that is installed along the exterior wall directly beneath the soffit. It often conceals the top edge of brick veneer wall cladding.

GFCI.  A GFCI is a low cost device that protects the user of an electrical appliance from shock around water sources.  The GFI device turns off voltage immediately if they detect an imbalance between the current flowing in the live conductor and that flowing in the neutral conductor.  This imbalance needs to be no greater that .006 amps to turn the power off to the effected appliance/outlet.  GFI protected outlets/circuits have been required at exterior outlets since 1973, bathrooms since 1975, garages since 1978, kitchens within six feet of the sink since 1987 and on whirlpool type tub circuits since 1987.  The list now includes (since 1993) all the above locations, crawl spaces (except dedicated circuits), boat houses and wet bar receptacles. 

Grounding.  Until the late 1950s, Grounding in residential systems was required only on the main electric panel.  After the late 1950s, grounding became a requirement for all branch circuits including lights and outlets.  The ground wire is normally idle.  If there is a defect, the ground wire acts as an escape route for the electricity, inducing the current to flow through this wire to the ground, reducing the risk of shock or fire. We use a tester at three prong outlets to check a sample of outlets for ground.  Verifying the integrity of grounding systems is a technically sophisticated procedure that is beyond the scope of a visual building inspection.

Hosebibb. A hosebibb is a faucet found on the exterior of the home where you would attach a garden hose.

Knob and tube electric wiring.  This type of wiring was standard many years ago but is now considered outdated.  When knob and tube wiring is present, we suggest having an electrician evaluate the integrity of the wiring.  In most cases, upgrading is advised.  Attic or wall insulation should not be placed over this wiring and it should not be open spliced to new wiring.

Loose Wiring.  All electrical wiring should be firmly attached to framing and at fixtures.  Wiring should also be fastened near each fixture, junction box, etc. to help prevent live wires being pulled loose. 

Open Knock Outs.  Knockouts are openings in electrical boxes that are intended for wiring runs.  Open knockouts are those that are not currently in use but that expose live wires in the box.  Openings in electrical boxes should be sealed with appropriate covers to prevent accidental contact with electrical power.  Knock out plugs is generally readily available and easily installed. 

Open splices.  Open splicing refers to electrical wiring that has been improperly cut, and spliced without proper protection from physical damage.  Whenever an electric wire is cut, it should be properly spliced and protected. The splice should be encased in a covered, secure junction box to prevent shocks and other risks, including separation of the splice.

OSB. Oriented Strand Board (OSB) is a wall sheathing and roof decking material made from oriented strands of wood glued together under pressure to make panel siding and decking.

Overfusing.  Overfusing is another common electric panel defect.  Homeowner electricians often create a dangerous situation when they fail to match the right size wire to the right size overcurrent (breaker/fuse) device.  This can allow excessive current to be carried by the branch wire conductor.  Overfusing should be corrected at once.

Rafter. A rafter is a roofing component associated with the long run from the peak of the roof to the eave and made from dimensional lumber. Rafters are normally found in a home that is conventionally framed.

Rain Sensor. A rain sensor is an electromechanical device found on the exterior of the home that senses rain fall and once rain fall has been sensed will send a signal to the irrigation timing device to delay watering or wait until the next programmed time. In our area the water management authority has watering restrictions and limitations. A rain sensor can eliminate the risk of violating the law during these restricted periods.

Recessed lighting.   Recessed lighting may be a safety concern if insulation is too close and/or lights are improperly installed.  Some units are rated for insulation contact (IC rated) meaning the manufacturer has approved them to be installed in areas where insulation contact is likely.  There are specific requirements as to bulb size and installation practices.   

Reversed polarity.  Reversed polarity is a sign of amateur work and refers to improper wiring of an outlet or circuit where the hot (usually black) and neutral (usually white) wires are placed on the each other’s terminals (reversed). The hot wire should be installed on the brass screw (short slot side of the outlet) and the neutral wire should be installed on the silver screw  (taller slot side of the outlet). Reversed polarity is generally easily corrected by minor wiring adjustments at the receptacle. It is important that this correction be made for the safe use of the outlet and those items powered off the receptacle.  Note that an improperly wired outlet anywhere “upstream” of other outlets (on the same circuit) could cause corresponding (and appropriately wired) “downstream” outlets to show reverse polarity.

Soffit. The soffit is the flat horizontal component of the trim found on the exterior of the home along the underside of the roof along the eave.

Three prong ungrounded outlet(s).  In homes built before the late 1950s, it is common to have ungrounded branch electrical circuits.  Since then, the addition of a third (ground) wire has enhanced safety and is required for modern circuits and the appliances they service.  We find that many homeowners have improperly changed old style two prong outlets to newer three prong style outlets without adding a proper ground wire.  We suggest grounding these outlets, or reducing to two prong outlets (when not near water source) so that one cannot inappropriately use an appliance requiring a grounded circuit at these locations.  A grounded outlet must be used wherever a grounded (three prong) appliance is used (refrigerators, laundry appliances, computers, etc) and is advised where contact with water is likely.  For any home, or circuit added after 1959, grounding was mandatory.  In some limited cases, an older GFCI protected outlet can remain three prong, even when ungrounded. Your electrician can help you determine where appropriate.

Trusses. Trusses are engineered roofing components consisting of webs and cords held together mechanically by galvanized metal gusset plates.

Turnout Flashing. Turnout flashings are flashing details that are found whenever a roof intersects with a vertical wall section. They assist in turning water away from the vertical wall section. They are critical in long-term life of wood framing and siding.

Uncovered electrical fixture(s).  Whenever electrical connections are made, they are required to be made within an approved, covered wiring or junction box. Open junction boxes should have an approved secure cover to prevent risk of shock or fire. Uncovered receptacles and outlets should also have approved covers.

Wall cladding. Wall cladding is a term used to describe the type of exterior siding found on a home.

Weep Holes. Weep holes are a construction detail desired in brick veneer homes. Weep holes in concert with correct flashing details help drain water out of the wall cavity behind the brick, equalize pressure that may build up behind the brick veneer and can assist in drying out the wall through airflow. While desired, weep holes and flashing details are often not found in brick veneer homes in our area. Retrofitting flashing and weep holes would be very expensive, however, installing weep holes alone may assist in equalizing the pressures behind the brick veneer during wind driven rains and assist in drying the wall behind the brick through airflow.

Reminder:  All electrical repairs should be performed  by a qualified electrician.  You should ask the electrician to report on any additional deficiencies he sees and make suggestions for upgrades

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