For your convenience, we have compiled answers to a wide range of questions from our new and existing customers. If you have a question that is not answered here, please contact us at your convenience.
- What is a Home Inspection?
- Why do I need an engineer to perform my home inspection?
- What is a Structural Inspection?
- What is Forensic Engineering?
- Do I need an inspection for a new home?
- What if I have a foundation crack?
- I have water in my basement…help!
- What is “truss lift” and is it a concern?
- Do I need a radon test?
- Why should I use an engineer or architect to design my construction project?
- How do stormwater regulations affect my construction project?
1. What is a Home Inspection?
A home inspection is a visual examination of the accessible structural, plumbing, heating and electrical components of the home including interior, exterior, roof, basement and crawlspace areas. It is an overall evaluation of the condition of the home, and is not a value determination which is done through the appraisal process. We will provide the buyer or seller with a good understanding of the condition of the home and what is to be expected regarding normal repairs and replacement in the future.
The inspection will help our clients understand the current condition as well as future routine and abnormal maintenance needs that should be anticipated. While no inspection can forecast all future possibilities and costs, a thorough building inspection will provide the information needed to plan for future expenses and maintenance.
2. Why do I need an engineer to perform my home inspection?
As an astute buyer, you realize that you are making one of the biggest financial decisions in your life when purchasing a new home. Thus, it only makes sense to be certain you are having a qualified professional do as thorough a job as possible in evaluating the property.
By choosing a Professional Engineer to perform your home inspection, you are assuring that the inspector will be a professional, have at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited 4-year engineering school, have at least 4 years of experience, and has passed two, 8-hour state required tests to obtain his/her license. In addition, the Professional Engineer is accountable to the State Board of Professional Engineers, which may be contacted to check credentials and ethical standards. A Professional Engineer has invested much of his/her life in obtaining and maintaining this registration and does not take it lightly.
Professional Engineers can legally observe, diagnose and comment on the structural adequacy of components within the home. Non-engineers are not legally able to do so. Our Engineers are often called into situations where a structural problem from termites, foundation wall movement, rot, etc. has raised structural questions in the real estate transaction. These items are addressed as a part of our full-home inspection and do not result in extra costs for you, our client. Non-engineer home inspectors legally must refer you to an Engineer to pass judgment on any questionable structural components.
3. What is a Structural Inspection?
As the name implies, a structural inspection addresses any specific or overall structural concerns with the building. This could include foundation cracks, insect damage, snow or wind load damage, etc. It can be tailored to the specific needs of the client.
4. What is Forensic Engineering?
Forensic engineering is the investigation of materials, products, structures or components that fail or do not operate or function as intended, causing personal injury or damage to property. Generally, the purpose of a forensic engineering investigation is to locate cause or causes of failure with a view to improve performance or life of a component, or to assist a court in determining the facts of an accident.
5. Do I need an inspection for a new home?
The belief that a new home is flawless, simply because it is new, is an urban legend. Many new homes, regardless of the quality of construction or the integrity of the builder, are not totally free of defects and/or punch list items that should be addressed prior to final closing. As a result, a prudent purchaser should have a professionally performed inspection before closing.
Your best advice is to take nothing for granted. The cost of an inspection is incidental when compared to the price of a new home. A home inspection will help minimize the potential for unpleasant surprises in the future and help you understand your new home and future maintenance needs.
6. What if I have a foundation crack?
A crack can indicate different issues depending on the type of wall, its orientation and any history of movement. Is the wall concrete block, poured concrete or prefabricated? Water entry into the foundation is often a concern with foundation cracks and needs to be included in the evaluation. If you have foundation cracks that are of concern, we recommend that a structural inspection be performed by a licensed Professional Engineer.
7. I have water in my basement…help!
Basement water entry is a common concern, so you are not alone. Solutions vary from simple to extensive. On the simple side, are your downspouts extended at least 10-15 feet away from the foundation? Does the ground and/or paving slope toward the building? If any of these conditions exist, the problem may be remedied simply by redirecting the water flow away from the building. If you have a sump pump, make sure it also discharges at least 10-15 feet from the foundation. Additionally, do not neglect overflows from roof gutters and downspouts – a common cause particularly when the water entry is localized.
If a simple solution isn’t evident, the problem is likely due to a ground water table that rises (above the basement floor elevation) with longer periods of rain, inadequate exterior foundation wall waterproofing and/or a failed/defective footing drain around the outside of the foundation. We recommend that you contact us to discuss the many options available to provide you with a dry basement in a cost-effective manner.
8. What is “truss lift” and is it a concern?
Many homes and commercial buildings are built with pre-fabricated roof trusses. These are a great building product and should be considered in any construction project, as they allow large open spaces with no central support walls or beams. They also allow faster roof construction to get the building under roof and minimize water on the interior during construction. So, what’s the downside? While trusses structurally are an excellent product, they do flex, which can lead to interior cracking, particularly with drywall joints between the wall and ceiling.
Complaints from homeowners about cracks occurring in the drywall at the tops of interior walls on the homes’ uppermost levels are common. The most severe cracks typically occur near the center of the attic trusses. The cracks are caused by a condition called “truss lift”. Truss lift occurs due to thermal and pressure (snow/wind) loading on the trusses. The bottom chord is typically insulated and thus remains warm, while the other truss components experience colder outside temperatures. Wind and snow loading also cause the trusses to react normally and the end result is the bottom truss chord pulling upward – sometimes one inch or more. The drywall finish cannot handle the movement and cracks result – typically closing, or at least minimizing, in summer months. While this can present an ongoing cosmetic concern, it does not represent a structural deficiency. We recommend that you contact us to discuss the manner in which this condition can be easily corrected.
9. Do I need a radon test?
Radon is a radioactive gas that has been found in homes all over the United States. It results from the natural decay of uranium in the soil, rock and water. It typically migrates from the ground into homes through cracks and other openings in the foundation. Radon is also a Class-A carcinogen and the 2nd leading cause of lung cancer.
Regardless of what type, age and style of home you live in, we always recommend that radon testing be performed. Please call us to schedule a radon test with one of our certified radon testing professionals.
10. Why should I use an engineer or architect to design my construction project?
Our engineers and architects have an extensive understanding of how all disciplines of a building work together. Their experience allows them to incorporate all aspects of the construction process into a finished project, including understanding construction techniques and building codes, balancing construction costs with client needs and desires while also incorporating design aesthetics to give you a custom-tailored building.
11. How do stormwater regulations affect my construction project?
Current stormwater regulations throughout Pennsylvania affect both residential and commercial projects. In general, an increase in 1,000 square feet or more of impervious cover will result in a stormwater design to ensure the property can control the additional volume of stormwater resulting from the additional coverage. Further, if earth disturbance exceeds 4,999 square feet then additional Erosion and Sedimentation (E&S) controls will be required. These regulations vary depending upon the county and municipality in which the project is occurring. If you have additional questions or desire more information, please contact one of our team members to assist you.