Friday, October 29, 2010
Excited Fido=Easy Inspection
By Craig DeWitt
Last week was a business trip. I was home long enough to repack my suitcase, spend a day in mediation with four lawyers, and look at one floor problem. Now I am off to Fiji for some R&R. If I had known about the Hawaii trip, I would not have scheduled this one and instead just extended my stay in Hawaii. But I'll suffer through it.
The inspection was one of those easy ones. I got called to look at problems with the factory-finished engineered floor in a foyer. As I walked in the house, I was greeted by the homeowner and her little dog. The homeowner was happy to see me, as I could help her get a solution for her floor problem. But Fido was ecstatic about me coming to visit. She was just wiggling and wagging all around, and peeing in the process. The homeowner then said something like, “Please excuse her. Fifi just gets so excited whenever someone comes to visit.” She then called her housekeeper to clean up the mess.
We then proceeded to look at the entire hardwood floor so I could see the difference between the foyer and other areas. As I came back to the foyer to get up close and personal with the floor, I came upon the housekeeper, who had just finished wet-mopping the foyer floor. Not damp-mopping, but wet-mopping. The entire floor was soaked. Glistening.
So we talked a little about proper wood floor care, I packed my bags, patted Fifi on the head and moseyed towards home.
Well, I did look at the floor a little just to be sure, and to justify my fee. But sometimes an easy one does come along. And some give you something to giggle about on the way home.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Paradise for Floors, Too
By Craig DeWitt
Hawaii was paradise. Lots of sandy floors to explore, I mean inspect. But Hawaii's climate is pretty nice, and not real conducive to wood floor problems (other than termites). Temperatures are pretty stable and vary from about 60 to 90. RH varies from the 50% range to 70s.
The big thing at the pest control conference this year was bed bugs. If you haven't had them yet, you will. They bite at night and suck blood. Kind of like a mosquito that can't fly. Lots of hotels and motels are getting them. They get on you or in your clothes and you take them home as little souvenirs of your trip.
Common treatments for bedbugs are to freeze them or cook them. Freezing involves spraying dry ice around. Cooking them involves heating the space up to about 130 degrees F.
Imagine what those temperatures could do to wood flooring. Boy, do we get way outside the recommended temperature range. The good thing is that these treatments are normally pretty quick, so damage can be non-existent. But when something goes wrong, I suspect we could see some interesting issues. I'll post some more about it on my website at www.rlcengineering.com/bedbugs.
Aloha, Hawaii. Now it’s back to the real world.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Try Following These Instructions
By Craig DeWitt
This was a rather dull week, especially with the anticipation of next week. I looked at some flooring a friend was installing. The installation instructions were printed on the inside of the box. The first sentence said:
"IMPORTANT - Do not open immediately. Before opening, acclimate planks for 48 hours by laying each box horizontally and individually in the center of the room."
I may not be as smart as a 5th grader all the time, but I do know that you have to open a box to read what's in it. My question of the week is: Does it void the warranty if you open the box to read the instructions that say not to open the box?
Next week I go to Hawaii for the annual pest control conference. What, you ask, do pest control people have to do with hardwood floors? Well, they are a group that deals with moisture issues in crawl spaces. I will try to help them better understand how crawl spaces really work, and how better to deal with moisture problems. (No, you don't roll back the ground cover to let the moisture out.) When I started working with this group about 20 years ago, I literally got run out of the room because everything I was telling them was counter to what they knew and did. Now they are a little more receptive.
If anyone has an inspection in Hawaii next week that they need help with, I would be happy to tag along. I don't have room to bring tools, as my suitcase will be full of scuba gear. But I can take pictures and notes. And I love to see the different construction styles and techniques used in different places.
Have a little pity on me while I suffer through a week in Hawaii. Aloha.
Monday, October 11, 2010
I'm Covered in Mud in the Crawl Space
By Craig DeWitt
Another canceled court appearance. I often don't hear what happens after I inspect a house, and sometimes I get to hear a verdict of a court case. But when they settle before the trial, I don't get to find out what happened. I don't find out if I was helpful.
Last week I looked at some cupped floors over a damp crawl space. I wear disposable coveralls when I crawl a crawl space. This one I really had to crawl, and when I came out, I was coated with mud. The soil was not covered, but there were two circulation fans and a dehumidifier in the crawl space running their little hearts out. Things were still
Have you ever tried heating your house with the windows open? Isn't it easier with the windows closed? Well, the same goes for a dehumidifier. This poor dehumidifier could remove about 60 pints of water on a good day. The exposed soil was generating about 160 pints a day. Wouldn't it make more sense to cover the soil and stop making that 160 pints, so the dehumidifier could work on controlling moisture from other sources?
And the fans.... A little secret is that if you want to dry something, you need to blow dry air on it, not wet air. Blowing wet air around doesn't solve anything.
The homeowner was unhappy with her cupped floors and high energy bills from the fans and dehumidifier. The power company was happy, though. One of my life objectives is to give the power company as little money as possible. In this situation, I got to help the homeowner with her floors, and the power company gets a little less money as well.
Wednesday, October 06, 2010
Expect the Unexpected
By Craig DeWitt
Localized conditions usually point to a localized source. I went to a house last week that had some cupping around a bathroom. The plumber had been out and had checked everything. The toilet, sink and shower weren't leaking.
Cupping was evident by the bathroom door and in the hall around the corner. I used my non-invasive moisture meter to look for any kind of excessive wetness in the area. Sure enough, the floor nearest the bathroom was wetter than away from the bathroom in a nice fan-shaped pattern.
So I pulled out the big gun: my infrared camera. I do a lot of building inspections besides hardwood floors, and an infrared camera comes in handy for many of those inspections. I panned the area around the bathroom and eventually found a warm spot about halfway up the bathroom wall. A little more investigation revealed a leaking hot water pipe in the wall. This was a bit unusual as the wet wall, where all the plumbing ran for this bathroom, was on the other side of the bathroom. Apparently, this hot water pipe was feeding an upstairs bathroom.
The moral of this story is that even when you think you know construction and construction techniques pretty well, expect the unexpected. There's an old saying, "You can't see it from home," and that seems to give contractors a lot of options for doing unusual things.
Anyway, I found the source of the water causing the localized cupping and everybody was happy.