Trash Compactors

Why Use a Trash Compactor?
Permanently installed residential trash compactors run on electricity and use a small hydraulic system to crush trash down to a fraction of its original volume (sometimes down to 25%) in order to reduce the amount of non-biodegradable waste regularly generated by a household.  Smaller and narrower than a dishwasher, they are a standard kitchen appliance in new-construction homes.

How They Work
Trash compactors have three main components:  the motor; the ram; and the trash container drawer.  The motor runs using household electricity, which activates the ram that is operated using hydraulics.  Units vary by size, quality and cost.  The loading capacity for the average home unit is generally around 25 gallons, and the compacting force can range between 2,000 pounds to 5,000 pounds, depending on type and quality.

Most units must be at least half full in order to work properly.  To use the unit, non-food refuse should be placed or stacked neatly at the bottom of the drawer.  When it is at least half full, the unit can be activated so that the ram compacts the drawer’s contents.

Safely Disposing of Household Trash
Generally, bottles, cans, cardboard, paper and plastic items and the like can be conveniently disposed of in a trash compactor.  In order to minimize odors, containers that once held food and beverages should be rinsed before being placed in the drawer.

Trash compactors require the use of specially-fitted bags that, once filled, easily lift out of the unit for disposal or trash pickup.

Perishable food items can stain the unit’s interior and create unnecessary mess and foul odors, which is why they should not be disposed of in a trash compactor.  These types of items should be discarded using a garbage disposal or food grinder, or recycled as compost waste.

Additionally, hazardous materials should never be placed in a trash compactor, as crushing them can have unintended consequences that can damage the unit, create an unsafe environment, and/or cause negative health effects.  These include batteries, cigarette butts (which may not be fully extinguished), household rags used with toxic substances, cans and containers that held hazardous liquids and chemicals (as residue can spill out and cause damage or negative health effects), and similar items.  These should be wrapped and disposed of separately, or recycled according to local guidelines or ordinances.

Safety Precautions and Sensors
As a safety precaution, trash must never be stuffed down into the bottom of the drawer with one’s hands or feet, as this can dent or offset the drawer and its rollers, as well as damage the hydraulics. Rough use and frequent misuse can lead to chronic problems with the unit and its components.

Caution should be used when removing filled bags, as items that have been crushed may create sharp protrusions.  Many people wear gloves while removing bags for disposal.

The unit should always be locked, even when not in use.  Curious children may wish to pull open the drawer and hide inside, or activate the unit, which is why they should never be left unattended around an unlocked trash compactor.

Spills around the unit should be immediately cleaned up for safety as well as hygienic reasons.  Because trash compactors use electricity, spilled water or other liquids can cause the unit to short out or create an unsafe hazard for users.

Trash compactors have built-in safeguards, such as locks, misload sensors, tilt sensors, and drawer-monitor switches, which are designed to help prevent injury, over-filling and under-filling, as well as detect when trash has been accidentally placed within the unit but outside the drawer (such as behind the drawer where the ram and hydraulics are located).  However, because they are constructed of many mechanical parts and electrical wiring, trash compactors can malfunction and chronically break down if not used and maintained properly.
Repairs and replacing parts should be performed by a qualified professional.

Garbage Disposals/Food-Waste Disposers

What Are Food-Waste Disposers?
Garbage disposals, also called food-waste disposers, are residential appliances designed to shred food waste so that it can fit through plumbing. They are usually electrically powered (although occasionally powered by water pressure) and are installed beneath sinks.

Why Use a Garbage Disposal?
When food waste is discarded into the trash, it places an enormous burden on waste-management systems. Garbage disposals reduce the severity of these problems by routing food waste into septic systems or sewers instead of landfills.

Garbage Disposals and Septic Systems
If a garbage disposal discharges into a septic tank, it can place significant strain on the septic system. The amount of waste that enters the tank, particularly grease and suspended solids, will increase considerably. This load increase requires that the septic tank be pumped more often than would otherwise be required. The additional strain will also reduce the lifespan of the septic system. Septic systems can be designed to accommodate food waste, but, in general, they are not.

Electrical Wiring Requirements

  • The National Electrical Code (NEC) does not require a garbage disposal to have GFCI protection.
  • The vibration caused by the operation of a garbage disposal can cause electrical connections to separate. Check for any loose connections in the wire compartment box at the base of the disposal.
  • Garbage disposals should be either hardwired or connected to an outlet through a grounded electrical outlet.
  • A dedicated circuit is generally recommended, although a circuit that is shared with a dishwasher is sometimes appropriate. The disposal’s user or installation manual should be consulted.

Precautions for Testing Garbage Disposals:

  • To test a garbage disposal for leaks, turn it on and run water through it. The water load should be great enough so that any leaks will become apparent. A good way to do this is to close the drain and fill the sink with water before releasing the stopper.
  • While testing a garbage disposal, never put anything other than water through it. Before turning it on, check to make sure there are no objects already in the disposal.
  • If a dishwasher is connected to the disposal, make sure that the line that connects them is securely attached.
  • Check to make sure that the garbage disposal is connected to a drain that is 1½ inches or greater in diameter.
  • Check to make sure that the disposal is provided with an adequate water supply.
  • If the home has a double sink, check to make sure the waste pipe from the disposal has a trap installed.

Maintenance and Operation Suggestions:

  • Put only small quantities of food into the disposal at a time. Large food scraps should be cut into smaller pieces before entering the disposal.
  • Never put anything down the disposal that is not food or water. Bottle caps, aluminum foil, and other non-food items can damage the disposal or get stuck in the plumbing piping.
  • Run water while using the disposal and for approximately 30 seconds after you turn it off. Food scraps will flow through the piping more easily if they are pushed along by water. Cold water is better than warm water for this purpose because it will force fats and grease to congeal and harden, allowing them to move more easily through pipes. Warm water can be run through the disposal while it is not in operation.
  • Ice can be used to clear off solidified grease and other debris from the blades in a garbage disposal.

The garbage disposal should be used to grind only non-fibrous, leftover food. If in doubt as to whether something can be put in the disposal, err on the side of caution and put it in the trash instead.
The following items should never be put in a disposal:

  • items that are hard enough to dull the blades, such as shells from shellfish or bones;
  • food that is highly fibrous, such as corn husks, artichokes, pineapples, potato peels, asparagus, or celery, which should enter a disposal only in small quantities or disposed of in the trash. These foods take a long time to grind and can clog the disposal or the plumbing;
  • grease and household oils; or
  • chemicals.

Garbage disposals have the potential to limit the amount of household trash that must be taken away to waste management facilities. They can also place additional strain on septic systems and, for this reason, they should be used infrequently.

Dishwashers

How Does a Dishwasher Work?
Dishwashers are labor-saving and water-conserving appliances that were first invented in the U.S. in the 1850s.  There are both portable units and permanently installed units that are found in most homes today.
Permanently installed dishwashers rely on the home’s electrical and plumbing systems, which is why their proper operation and maintenance are critical to household safety and trouble-free use.

A dishwasher operates with sprayed water using multiple cycles of washing and rinsing, followed by drying, using hot, forced circulated air.  These cycles may be further distinguished according to length of cycle, power and temperature.

Dishwashers are plugged into a dedicated electrical receptacle at the back of the unit, and usually plumbed into the home’s hot water supply, although the cold water supply is also an option.  This assures that the dishwasher’s load is optimally washed and rinsed using the maximum recommended temperature range of between 130°  F and 170° F.

The dimensions of an average unit are 24×24 inches, although deluxe models may be wider and/or deeper to accommodate larger loads.  Its interior components are typically made of stainless steel and/or plastic, and the exterior door may be metal, enamel-covered metal, or having a wood or wood-like veneer to match the decor of the kitchen cabinets.

Use, Maintenance and Precautions
Dishwasher-safe glasses, cups, plates, bowls, pots, pans and utensils, as well as some ceramic-ware and cutlery, are loaded into pull-out racks and baskets.  They can be safely washed and rinsed in cycles that vary in intensity and length.

Many users rinse, soak or pre-treat cookware to remove solids and excess food waste before loading it in the dishwasher; this is a matter of personal preference, as well as how well the unit works on everyday and heavy-duty loads, although waste that cannot be adequately drained should be removed from dishware before the soiled items are loaded into the unit.

Dishwashers can also be used to effectively disinfect toothbrushes, infants’ plastic toys, formula bottles and synthetic nipples, and teething rings, as well as other household and personal hygiene items. However, extremely soiled items that come into contact with potentially hazardous or toxic materials, such as tools, gardening implements and the like, should not be washed in a dishwasher, as the toxic residue may not fully rinse out of the interior, which can contaminate future loads of dishware and utensils, as well as clog plumbing lines.

Soaps, pre-treaters and rinsing agents to prevent or eliminate water spots are available in a variety of costs, quality and effectiveness.  They also come in both powder and liquid form.  Regardless of the type of detergent used, it should be specifically for dishwasher use only, as other soaps can leave behind residue, as well as create excess foam and leaks.

Maintenance is relatively easy and can be done by running the unit through a hot-water cycle while it is empty, but this is only suggested following an especially dirty load where residue has not fully washed and drained for some reason.

Dishwashers should never be overloaded.  Loads should be distributed and racked such that cleaning will be effective.  It is recommended that plastic items be loaded into the unit’s top rack to avoid their coming into contact with hot elements in the unit’s bottom and then melting, or being jostled by the power of the sprayers and subsequently blocking them, which may prevent the water from reaching the unit’s entire load.

It is important to monitor the unit for failure to fully drain, as well as for leaks, excessive noise and movement, and burning smells, which can indicate a burned-out motor, an issue with the plumbing connected to the unit, or a problem with its original installation.  A qualified professional should evaluate a malfunctioning unit and perform any repairs.

Under-Sink Plumbing

Sinks are a category of plumbing fixtures that includes kitchen sinks, service sinks, bar sinks, mop sinks and wash sinks. A sink is considered a different item than a lavatory (or a bathroom sink), although the terms are often used interchangeably. Sinks can be made of enameled cast-iron, vitreous china, stainless steel, porcelain-enameled formed steel, non-vitreous ceramic, and plastic materials.

Sink waste outlets should have a minimum diameter of 1-1/2 inches. Most kitchen sinks have an opening of 3-1/2 inches in diameter. A food-waste grinder has a standard opening of 3-1/2 inches, and so do most kitchen sink basket strainers. A strainer or crossbar should be provided to restrict the clear opening of the waste outlet.

Plumbing Requirements for Garbage Disposals
Food-waste grinders (also known as garbage disposals and disposers) are designed to grind foods, including bones, into small-sized bits that can flow through the drain line. Using them to dispose of fibrous and stringy foods, such as corn husks, celery, banana skins and onions, is not recommended because fibers tend to pass by the grinder teeth, move into the drain pipe, and cause drains to clog.

Water must be supplied to the grinder to assist during its operation in transporting waste. The water flushes the grinder chamber and carries the waste down the drainpipe. Blockage may result if the grinder is used without running the water during operation. Grinders should be connected to a drain of not less than 1-1/2 inches in diameter. Food-waste grinders are supplied with water from the sink faucet. They do not add to the load used to compute drainage pipe sizing. The drain size required for a grinder is consistent with that for a kitchen sink.

Plumbing Requirements for Dishwashers
The water supply to a residential dishwasher should be protected against backflow by an air gap or backflow preventer. The machine must be equipped with an integral backflow mechanism, or the potable water supply must have either a backflow preventer or an air gap. The discharge pipe from the dishwasher should be increased to a minimum of 3/4-inch in diameter. It should be connected with a wye fitting to the sink tailpiece. Before connecting to the sink tailpiece, the dishwasher waste line should rise and be securely fastened to the underside of the counter. The combined discharge from a sink, dishwasher, and waste grinder is allowed to discharge through a single 1-1/2-inch trap.

Maintenance Tips
Homeowners should take care not to overload the garbage disposal or the dishwasher, as this can lead to leaks and backups in the sink and the plumbing system.  A backup at the kitchen sink may mean that the garbage disposal is clogged, or the plumbing line has some obstruction that prevents proper drainage.  It’s important that homeowners understand the cause of the problem, as well as the proper way to repair it, before dismantling pipes under the sink.  The right size of fittings and replacement parts, as well as proper drainage (including slope and traps) will ensure that the sink will work as it should following a repair, which is why most maintenance issues are best left to professionals, unless the homeowner has the proper instruction, parts and tools available.

Roof Maintenance

Roof-Covering Maintenance

Although homeowners aren’t necessarily expected to climb on their roofs every season as part of regular home maintenance, there are some conditions that should be monitored to prevent roof damage and to help you get the longest life out of your roof-covering materials. Certain types of damage can lead to water and pest intrusion, structural deterioration, and the escape costly energy.

Weathering
Hail and storm damage, known as weathering, can weaken a roof’s surface even if you haven’t lost any shingles/shakes/slates following a storm. It’s the most common source of environmental damage for roofs. Strong, sustained winds can cause uplift to the edges of shingles and shakes, which can weaken their points of attachment and allow rainwater and melting snow to reach the roof’s underlayment. Wind can also send projectiles through the air, which can damage every surface of the home’s exterior, including the roof. You should always inspect your roof after a heavy weather event, as far as it is practical to do so without taking any undue risks, to check whether you have lost any roof-covering materials, or if any parts look particularly weathered or damaged. A small fix now could prevent costly repairs later.

Tree Damage
Tree damage results from wind-blown tree branches scraping against shingles and from the impact of falling branches blown by wind and/or because the nearby tree has dead branches that eventually break off and fall. Branches that overhang the roof should always be cut back to avoid damage from both abrasion and impact, and to prevent the accumulation of leaf debris on the roof, its valleys, and in the gutters, which will interfere with proper drainage and lead to pooling of rainwater and snowmelt. Of course, it’s especially important to make sure that tree limbs near the home’s roof and exterior are a safe distance away from utility and power lines. Tree-trimming is a type of homeowner maintenance task should be undertaken by qualified professionals, as it can lead to accidentally cutting off the service or power from an overhead line, being electrocuted by an energized line, being struck by an unsecured tree branch, falling off the roof or a ladder, and any number of similar mishaps that the homeowner is not trained to anticipate and avoid.

Animal Damage
Squirrels and raccoons (and roof rats in coastal regions) will sometimes tear through shingles and roof sheathing when they’re searching for a protected area in which to build nests and raise their young. They often attack the roof’s eaves first, especially on homes that have suffered decay to the roof sheathing due to a lack of drip edges or from problems caused by ice damming, because decayed sheathing is softer and easier to tear through. If you hear any activity of wildlife on your roof, check inside your attic for evidence of pest intrusion, such as damaged insulation, which pests may use for nesting material. Darkened insulation generally indicates that excess air is blowing through some hole in the structure, leading the insulation to become darkened by dirt or moisture.

Biological Growth
Algae, moss and lichen are types of biological growth that may be found on asphalt shingles under certain conditions. Some professionals consider this growth destructive, while others consider it merely a cosmetic problem. Asphalt shingles may become discolored by both algae and moss, which spread by releasing airborne spores.

Almost all biological growth on shingles is related to the long-term presence of excess moisture, which is why these problems are more common in areas with significant rainfall and high relative humidity. But even in dry climates, roofs that are shaded most of the time can develop biological growth.

What we commonly call “algae” is actually not algae, but a type of bacteria capable of photosynthesis. Algae appears as dark streaks, which are actually the dark sheaths produced by the organisms to protect themselves from the ultraviolet radiation of the sun. When environmental conditions are right, the problem can spread quickly across a roof.

Algae can feed on mineral nutrients, such as the calcium carbonate in limestone used as asphalt shingle filler. Calcium carbonate also causes asphalt to retain moisture, which also promotes algae growth, so shingles with excessive filler may be more likely to suffer more algae growth. The rate of filler consumption is slow enough that it’s not generally considered a serious problem.

Algae attach to the shingle by secreting a substance that bonds it tightly to the surface. Growth can be difficult to remove without damaging the roof. The best method is prevention. Algae stains can sometimes be lightened in color by using special cleaners. Power-washing and heavy scrubbing may loosen or dislodge granules. Chemicals used for cleaning shingles may damage landscaping. Also, the cleaning process makes the roof wet and slippery, so such work should be performed by a qualified professional.

Moss is a greenish plant that can grow more thickly than algae. It attaches itself to the roof through a shallow root system that can be freed from shingles fairly easily with a brush. Moss deteriorates shingles by holding moisture against them, but this is a slow process. Moss is mostly a cosmetic issue and, like algae, can create hazardous conditions for those who climb on the roof.

Lichens are composite organisms consisting of a fungus and a photosynthetic partner, such as green or blue-green algae. Lichens bond tightly to the roof, and when they’re removed from asphalt shingles, they may take granules with them. Damage from lichen removal can resemble blistering.

“Tobacco-juicing” is the brownish discoloration that appears on the surface of shingles, under certain weather conditions. It’s often temporary and may have a couple of different causes. After especially long periods of intensely sunny days, damp nights and no rain, water-soluble compounds may leach out of the asphalt from the shingles and be deposited on the surface. Tobacco-juicing may also appear under the same weather conditions if the air is especially polluted. Tobacco-juicing won’t harm asphalt shingles, although it may run down the roof and stain siding. Although it’s more common in the West and Southwest, it can happen anywhere that weather conditions are right. You can spray-wash or paint the exterior of the home to remove tobacco-juicing.

Your InterNACHI inspector should investigate signs of roof damage or deterioration before you call a roofing contractor. That way, you’ll know exactly what types of problems should be addressed before you break out the checkbook for repairs.

Scott Price, CPI, #1532
Certified Home Inspector
Home Run Inspections
405-905-9175
homeruninspections@icloud.com
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Bathtubs and Showers

Bathtubs
Bathtubs are made from many different types of materials, including enameled cast-iron, porcelain-enameled steel, and plastic. Plastic tubs are made from materials including ABS, PVC, fiberglass, fiberglass-reinforced plastic, acrylic, and cultured-marble acrylic. Bathtubs that are equipped with shower fixtures should be manufactured with slip-resistant surfaces. Bathtubs should have a drainage outlet (tailpiece) with a minimum diameter of 1-1/2 inches. Every tub should be equipped with a stopper. The bathtub should have an overflow outlet installed. The overflow prevents flooding if the tub is being filled while unattended, and prevents overflow of the water when a person enters a tub that is full.

Fire-Resistance
Bathtubs made of plastic are tested for fire ignition.  They are made with fire-resistant chemicals to reduce their fuel contribution in a house fire, or an accidental exposure to a plumber’s torch.

Large Bathtub Loads
Some bathtubs are so large that they can accommodate more than one person at a time.  These larger bathtubs may need special and additional structural support underneath them to adequately support the load.
A 3×4-foot bathtub may have a capacity to hold 200 gallons or more.  The weight of the bathtub, water, and occupants may total over 1 ton, considering:

200 pounds for the bathtub
+ 1,600 pounds of water
+    350 pounds for two people
= 2,150 pounds

A very large tub may cause structural problems because live-loading for a typical residential home is 40 pounds per square foot.  The live load for a 3×4-foot occupied tub may be assumed to be only 480 pounds, but may weigh over 2,000 pounds while it is in use.

Maintenance Tips
The homeowner should make sure that the tub is free of cracks, rust and other staining, and that all edges, gaps and surrounding tile are adequately caulked to ensure that moisture cannot leach behind the tile work and drywall, which can lead to leaks and structural damage behind walls that won’t be evident until the issue becomes extensive and expensive to fix.

Showers
Plastic, pre-fabricated shower units are constructed of various synthetic materials, including ABS, PVC, gel-coated fiberglass-reinforced plastic, cultured marble, cast-filled fiberglass, polyester, cultured marble acrylic, and acrylic.  These shower units are impregnated with fire-retardant chemicals to reduce the fuel contribution during a fire, and protection against an accidental burn by a plumber’s torch.

The showerhead height is not typically regulated by building codes, but the head is commonly installed 70 to 80 inches above the shower floor.

Shower Water Pipes
Water-supply pipes from the shower valve to the showerhead outlet — referred to as the shower riser pipes — whether exposed or not, must be firmly attached to a structural component to prevent the pipes from leaking caused by stress fractures or joint failures.  Movement of the showerhead may move the riser piping, possibly causing failure of the piping.  The risers must be firmly secured.

The common practice for installing the riser pipe is to place a drop-ear elbow at the top of the riser pipe.  The elbow has two wing connections.  They can be screwed to a structural backing board, such as a 2×4.  A pipe strap can be used instead of a drop-ear elbow.  When the riser is exposed, the manufacturer will typically provide a strap or attachment device to match the finish of the fixture and pipe.  The strap or attachment device should be firmly secured to a structural component.

Shower Outlets
The waste outlet for a shower should have minimum diameter of 1-1/2 inches.  The shower outlet should have a strainer that is at least 3 inches in diameter, with dimensional openings in the strainer of at least a 1/4-inch.  The strainer should be removable.

Shower Area
A shower compartment should have an interior cross-sectional area of at least 900 square inches.  This will allow an average-sized adult to clean the lower body while bending over.  A shower that’s any smaller would be inadequately sized.  Shower compartments should be at least 30 inches in minimum dimension.  This measurement is based on the movement of an adult body inside a shower and measured from the finished     interior dimension of the compartment, excluding fixture valves, showerheads, soap dishes and grab bars.  There are exceptions for showers having fold-down seats, and those with compartments at least 25 inches wide and 1,300 square inches in cross-sectional area.

The exception allows for a shower with one dimension being 25 inches, provided the compartment has at least 1,300 square inches of cross-sectional area.  This is useful to contractors and DIY homeowners who remove an old bathtub and install a standup shower fixture in the same space.

Shower Walls
Showers and bathtubs with installed showerheads should be finished with a non-absorbent surface that shall extend to a height of not less than 6 feet above the floor level of the room, or 70 inches above the shower floor.  It should be constructed of smooth, corrosion-resistant and non-absorbent materials to protect the structural components from moisture damage.  The gypsum or cement wallboard behind ceramic tiles of a shower wall should be water-resistant. The water-resistant material is not required in the rest of the bathroom, although it is a common practice to use water-resistant gypsum wallboard in other areas of the bathroom because of the moisture levels.

Shower Access and Egress Opening
Many injuries in a home are related to accidents in the bathtub or shower.  The minimum opening requirements for access and egress allows an adult enough room to safely step into and exit the shower area without having to twist or turn through a narrow opening.  The shower opening (or access and egress opening) should be at least 22 inches of clear and unobstructed finish-width.  The 22-inch width is based on the approximate shoulder width of an average-sized adult, and provides comfortable access to service the valves, showerheads and drain.  It allows for emergency response and rescue access, and emergency egress.

Shower Floors
The shower floor surface must be watertight with smooth, corrosion-resistant, non-absorbent, waterproof materials.  Joints between the floor and walls of the shower must be sealed or flashed to prevent water penetration.  Ideally, there should be some type of slip-resistant floor surface.  The shower floor structure needs proper support by a smooth and structurally sound base.  The base of the shower floor should be designed to support both dead (structural) and live (people and water) loads.

Shower pans and liners are installed under and around showers to prevent moisture intrusion from getting into the structural supports under and behind the shower enclosure.  They must meet specific standards for material, installation and size in order to support both dead and live loads.

Shower Glazing
Glass doors enclosing the shower should be made of safety glazing.  If a window is installed in the shower, the window should be made of safety glazing to provide protection.  If a person slips or falls inside the shower, s/he may be seriously injured by broken glass if the glass is not made of safety glazing.  The safety glazing should be correctly labeled by being permanently marked in a corner, legible and visible after installation, and indoor applications should be marked “indoor use only.”

Maintenance Tips
Similar to other bathroom fixtures, the homeowner should make sure that the shower is free of cracks, rust and other staining, and that all edges, gaps and surrounding tile are adequately caulked to ensure that moisture cannot leach behind the tile work and drywall, which can lead to leaks and structural damage behind walls that won’t be evident until the issue becomes extensive and expensive to fix.  Additionally, if the glazing for the showers doors is damaged, it should be replaced, as cracked glazing can break without notice and cause serious injuries.

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Bathroom Sinks (Lavatories)

Lavatories
A lavatory is a washbasin or sink located in a bathroom or washroom.  “Lavatory” means washbasin or sink, and is derived from the Latin word lavatorium, which means washing vessel, and the French word laver, meaning “to wash.” Lavatories come in a variety of shapes and sizes.  They are available in enameled cast-iron, vitreous china, stainless steel, porcelain-enameled formed steel, plastic, and non-vitreous ceramic.  They can be wall-mounted, hanger-mounted, under-mounted, pedestal, rimmed, and above-center basin types.
Countertops integrated with lavatories are constructed of a variety of materials, including ABS, PVC, gel-coated fiberglass-reinforced plastic, acrylic, polyester, and cultured marble.  Plastic vanity tops should be impregnated with fire-resistant chemicals to reduce the fuel contribution of the lavatory during a house fire or the accidental fire from a plumber’s torch.  They are also made to resist the effect of a burning cigarette left unattended on the vanity top.

Lavatories should have a waste outlet of at least 1-1/4 inches in diameter.  Each lavatory must have a strainer, a pop-up stopper, a crossbar, or other mechanism to prevent items such as rings, toothbrushes and cosmetic items from dropping into the drain.

Lavatory Overflows
Former standards required lavatories to have an overflow, but that is no longer the case.  The overflow is now an option of the manufacturer.  The reason for not requiring an overflow at a lavatory is because of the lack of use of the overflow, which can cause bacterial and micro-organism growth.

Where a lavatory does have an overflow installed, the cross-sectional area of the overflow should be a minimum of 1-1/8 inches; anything larger can promote bacterial and micro-organism growth.  The overflow should be able to prevent overflowing of the sink for a minimum of five minutes when tested from the onset of water flowing into the overflow’s opening.

Maintenance Tips
There are many different designs of lavatories, including artisanal styles that sit up on the vanity, rather than being dropped into a recessed cavity in the vanity or countertop.  Regardless of the style or whether it includes an overflow opening, the washbasin should be securely attached to the vanity, be free of cracks and other defects, and have gaps that are properly caulked to prevent moisture buildup, which can lead to unsanitary conditions, including mold growth.

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Toilets and Bidets

A water closet in the U.S. is commonly referred to as a toilet.  The term “water closet” originates from the time when plumbing was brought indoors, and defecation took place in a small, closet-size room with a pot.

Toilet Styles   
There are three styles of water closets: close-coupled, one-piece, and flushometer valve.  The most common is the close-coupled water closet, which has a bowl and separate gravity-type tank or flushometer tank that is supported by the bowl.  A one-piece water closet is constructed with the gravity-type tank or flushometer tank and bowl as one integral unit.  A flushometer-valve water closet is a bowl with a flushometer valve.  Water closet bowls come in six styles: blow-out, siphon jet, reverse trap, wash-down, siphon vortex, and siphon wash.

Toilet Measurements
A water closet has a water consumption limit of a maximum average of 1.6 gallons of water per flush. The general bowl rim height above the floor is between 14 and 15 inches.  Other rim heights may be needed for water closets used by children (10 inches), and the elderly and persons with physical disabilities (18 inches).  Elongated water closet bowls are required for public or employee use but are often installed in homes.  An elongated bowl is 2 inches longer than a regular bowl.

Defects at Toilets
The water closet (toilet) may have a clogged drain.  While flushing the toilet, watch the flush performance, and use toilet paper as part of this test.  There should be no excessive odors around the water closet.  Check the flooring around the toilet with your foot.  Using the side of your leg, check to see if the toilet is securely attached to the floor.  If it wobbles, the screws at the base may be loose, or the wax ring that adheres the fixture to the waste pipe may be worn or of the wrong size.  If so, it should be replaced.  Look for dampness around the bottom of the toilet base.  Toilets sometimes run continuously.  Check for a water shut-off valve.  Some toilets are mistakenly connected to the hot water system.  Tank lids are often cracked.  Any defective parts should be immediately replaced to avoid backup flooding.

Bidets
Common in much of Europe and Asia, bidets are toilet-like plumbing fixtures designed to promote posterior hygiene. They’re becoming increasingly common in North America.  Contrary to popular belief, a bidet is not an alternative to a toilet.  Its purpose is as a hygiene device following toilet use.  However, some bidets have been incorporated into toilets, especially in bathrooms that are not large enough for both fixtures.

Bidets, like toilets, are typically made from porcelain and contain a deep recess within a wide rim. They emit an arc of clean water from a nozzle that may be located beneath the rear of the rim or deep within the fixture’s cavity. Users can sit on the rim (or seat, if it has one), or straddle the fixture and face in either direction. He or she can decide which direction to face based on the water jet configuration and the part of their body that needs cleaning. Water temperature and pressure can be adjusted with knobs in order to arrive at the desired settings.

Some bidets come with built-in air dryers. Toilet paper can be used for this purpose if no dryer is available. The bidet can be rinsed after use to keep it clean.

Benefits

  • People who suffer from hemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome, or have recently had surgery can find relief with the more gentle water flow of a bidet.
  • As the bidet requires less operator mobility, they are easier to use for the elderly, disabled and obese.
  • Many believe that the use of bidets is more hygienic and effective than toilet paper.

Safety Precautions

  • Users should familiarize themselves with the rate of temperature and pressure changes that occur when they adjust the controls. Sensitive regions can be burned if the user is not careful, and high water pressure can be irritating.
  • Users should know in advance the direction of the water arc and position themselves accordingly. The spray can be powerful enough to strike a person in the face.

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Water Heaters

A water heater is an appliance that heats potable water and supplies heated water to the home’s plumbing distribution system.  Most tanks are insulated steel cylinders with an enamel coating on the inner surface. They are referred to as glass-lined tanks. The lining helps prevent corrosion.  A water heater can literally explode if it’s not installed properly. There are standards that regulate the materials, design and installation of water heaters and their related safety devices. Certification marks on them from approved agencies indicate compliance with approved standards.

Conventional residential water heaters have life expectancies that vary greatly.  The typical water heater has a lifespan of about 10 years, based on the following factors: correct installation; usage volume; construction quality; and maintenance.

Correct Installation
A water heater should generally be installed upright. Installing a water heater on its side will place structural stress on it due to inadequate support for the heater and its pipes, and may cause premature failure.  Water heaters should be installed in well-ventilated areas — not just for fire safety requirements and nitrous-oxide buildup, but also because poor ventilation can shorten its lifespan.  A water heater should also not be placed in an area susceptible to flood damage. Water can rust out the exterior and pipes, decreasing the life expectancy and efficiency of the unit.  A water heater is best placed in an easily accessible area for maintenance.  It should also be readily visible for fire and health-hazard requirements.

Usage
The life expectancy of the water heater depends a great deal on the volume of water used. Using large quantities of water means that the water heater will have to work harder to heat the water. In addition, the greater the volume of water, the greater the corrosive effect of the water will be on the tank materials, pipes, etc.

Construction Quality
As with most household systems and components, you get what you pay for in a water heater. Cheaper models will generally have a shorter lifespan, while more expensive models will generally last longer. A good indication of a water heater’s construction quality is its warranty.  Longer warranties naturally imply sound construction. According to a 2007 Consumer Report that deconstructed 18 different models of water heaters, it was determined that models with longer warranties were of superior manufacturing quality, with nine- and 12-year models typically having larger or higher-wattage heating elements, as well as thicker insulation. Models with larger heating elements have a much better resistance to mineral buildup or scum.

Pay attention to the model’s features.  For example, porcelain casing provides an additional layer of protection against rusting, and a greater level of heat insulation. Some models come with a self-cleaning feature that flushes the pipes of mineral deposit buildup, which can affect the unit’s lifespan.  Models with larger or thicker anodes are better-equipped to fight corrosion.

Maintenance and Parts Replacement
The hardness of the water is another consideration when looking at estimating the lifespan of a water heater.  In areas where there is a higher mineral content to the water, water heaters have shorter a lifespan than in other areas, as mineral buildup reduces the units’ efficiency. Even in areas where the water is softer, however, some mineral deposition is bound to occur.  A way to counteract this mineral buildup is to periodically flush the water heater system, which not only removes some of the buildup, but, in tank systems, the process heats the water in the tank. Higher-end models typically come equipped with a self-flushing feature.  In models for which manual flushing is required, it is important not to damage the water heater valve, which is usually made of plastic and is easy to break.

Although an older model may appear to be well-maintained, a question arises:  Is the maintenance worth it? Warranties often exclude labor costs, so a good rule to follow is that if the total repair cost per year is greater than 10% of the cost of buying and installing a new water heater, it is probably not worth replacing any damaged parts.

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15 Tools Every Homeowner Should Own (Part 3)

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The following items are more essential tools, but this list is by no means exhaustive. Feel free to ask me at your next home inspection(or contact me at any of the links below) about other household tools you might find useful.

Please refer to my previous post to complete your stash of must-have home maintenance tools!

Claw Hammer: A good hammer is one of the most important tools you can own. Use it to drive and remove nails, to pry wood loose from the house, and in combination with other tools. They come in a variety of sizes, although a 16-ounce hammer is the best all-purpose choice.
Screwdriver Set: It’s best to have four screwdrivers: a small and large version of both a flathead and a Phillips-head screwdriver. Electrical screwdrivers are sometimes convenient, but they’re no substitute. Manual screwdrivers can reach into more places and they’re less likely to damage the screw.
Wire Cutters: Wire cutters are pliers designed to cut wires and small nails. The side-cutting style (unlike the stronger end-cutting style) is handy, but not strong enough to cut small nails.
Respirator / Safety Mask: While paints and other coatings are now manufactured to be less toxic (and lead-free) than in previous decades, most still contain dangerous chemicals, which is why you should wear a mask to avoid accidentally inhaling their fumes. A mask should also be worn when working in dusty and dirty environments like attics or crawlspaces.  Disposable masks usually come in packs of 10 and should be thrown away after use(I recently discovered a disposable with an exhale port to keep from fogging up your glasses). Full and half-face respirators can be used to prevent the inhalation of very fine particles that ordinary face masks will not stop, such as insulation fibers and sawdust.
Duct Tape: Any engineer from #NASA to #NASCAR will tell you how important it is to keep a roll of this around.  This tape is extremely strong and adaptable. Originally, it was widely used to make temporary repairs to many types of military equipment. Today, it’s one of the key items specified for home emergency kits because it’s water-resistant and extremely sticky. Duct tape now comes in a variety of colors(#hobby lobby has some great designs), but remember that it’s meant to be used as a temporary fix.

To save money, check out one of your local discount tool warehouses.

Remember! Always think safety.  It’s often worth the money to pay a professional to avoid to personal risk.

Scott Price, CPI, #1532
Certified Home Inspector
Home Run Inspections
405-905-9175
homeruninspections@icloud.com
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