May, 2005
You Tell Us
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors

Friendly Competitors


Note: The letter belowwas sent to Bob Kociolek, ASHI director of chapter relations and legislative affairs

Dear Bob,

While the emphasis on membership in the national organization is understandable, I find the benefits of local chapter membership to be more direct and personal. Perhaps this feeling is a result of the positive experience I received from my first chapter meeting.

I attended a meeting of the Southern New England Chapter as part of my due diligence when I was investigating the idea of becoming a home inspector. I recall being greeted warmly at the door and being invited to sit at a table with people who were introduced as home inspectors. The conversation over dinner was interesting and really got me excited at the prospect of pursuing my interest in becoming a home inspector. Also, the professional manner of the discussion made me feel I would enjoy being part of this group. Perhaps the most memorable part of the evening was a comment from one of two guys at the table who were from the same town. He said they were "friendly competitors." That comment told me a lot about the organization and the kind of people who were part of it.

That was two years ago. I've now completed the state licensing requirements and have started my home inspection business. I also joined SNEC ASHI and regularly attend the monthly meetings, which provide me with both technical and business knowledge to grow my business.

Donald Wicks
Oak Glen Enterprises LLC
Simsbury, Conn.

More on moisture

Dear Editor,

In response to the article in the Reporter  (Nov. 2004), "Controlling Moisture in Homes" (U.S. Forest Products Laboratory), the title is not only misleading but contrary to the article's content.

The article states ... "Maintaining a reasonable level of indoor humidity is the most effective method of moisture control," which is not exactly an accurate statement. While a 40 percent or lower humidity level (indoors) is desired, controlling what causes that humidity to rise is the most effective method of moisture control.

New construction methods have not increased the moisture potential in homes as the article states. Our methods do, however, trap moisture once it has been allowed entry. Regardless of the humidity levels present, the original pathway for water intrusion needs to be corrected. To state the construction techniques have caused the moisture should actually be taken a step further. Our (builders, architects, etc.) lack of understanding of water penetration and the cost-saving techniques we employ allow pathways for water to enter an already porous structure.

The key for home inspectors is to locate the moisture in a home (liquid, vapor, or, heaven forbid, solid) try to determine the sources and report on them. Some simple steps and popular misconceptions follow. These are general guidelines-not hard-fast rules.

  • Gutters and downspouts are part of your foundation, not your roof. These are intended to keep water away from your foundation. Overflow or clogs put excessive amounts of moisture at porous foundation walls, the loose backfill, and even farther.

  • Ground slope is a popularly overlooked element. Proper grading should have a positive slope away from the foundation. But it is not really that simple. Every home inspector has seen acceptable ground sloping, but the soil is cracked and pulling away from the foundation and loose underfoot.

  • Proper backfill techniques will not allow the penetration of water in large "pockets." This typically happens due to the fill that is used-large lumps of clay, rocks, debris. The soil at the perimeter of foundations should be comprised of dense, compacted soil (not fill) that has been properly tamped. This will force the water to run off instead of being absorbed (absorption still occurs, but not to the point of soil erosion). We have all seen water stains that have started creeping up a block wall at the joint between the slab and the wall. The water is allowed to travel down the exterior of the wall (which is tarred and coated) and build up under the slab; that joint is its first entry point (path of least resistance). Loose soil allows the water to be absorbed, then the water dissipates and the soil sinks. This process continues until the soil/environment "self-tamps"-leaving large gaps in the soil and a negative grade. Look for the heaving and large cracks in the soil; watch your foot sink in the soil; look for the cracks in the soil along the perimeter of the house; as you pull the mulch away slightly, look for large clumps of improper fill.
All this moisture entering the building envelope is raising the level of indoor humidity in newer homes. The water/moisture is allowed in and becomes trapped (which is the only thing that new construction practices can be blamed for) and naturally raises the humidity levels. Dehumidifiers do work in removing excess humidity, but the root cause will eliminate it if it is re-mediated properly. Remember, that dehumidifier is drawing moisture out of the air. When the moisture is drawn out of finished materials and walls, if there is more moisture to replace it (in the wall or behind it, waiting for the pressure to be less), you are doing nothing more than drawing that moisture into the house.

Think like water! I DO !!!

S. Scott Brown, ASHI Member
Exterior Design Institute Certified EIFS Inspector/Moisture Analyst
Housemaster, Cranberry Twp., Pa.

Editor's Note: After reviewing the article in question, as well as the letter from S. Scott Brown, the ASHI Technical Committee commented that  the article in question purposely limited its scope to one piece of a complex issue. While the opinions expressed in the letter may have expanded on what was presented in the article, the committee members noted there was still more that could be said on the topic. Therefore, information from the College of Family and Consumer Sciences, University of Georgia, on moisture control in homes is being published in this and two future issues of the ASHI Reporter.