Facebook

May
2017
07

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Find us on Facebook at the following link:

CLICK HERE FOR FACEBOOK LINK

Yelp

May
2017
07

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Find us on Yelp at the following link:

CLICK HERE FOR YELP PAGE

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CLICK THIS LINK FOR ERROR CODE INFORMATION 

DECK INFO

Apr
2017
07

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DECKING INFORMATION:

GENERAL NOTES

CAPS AND POSTS

ANCHORING AND FASTENERS 

H1 CONNECTORS 

CONNECTOR INFORMATION 

DECK DESIGN GUIDE 

IRC – 2012

NAHB GUIDELINES 

 

WOOD DECKING INFO

Apr
2017
05

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WOOD DECKING INFORMATION  – CLICK HERE

 

INSTALLATION OF STONE OVER WOOD FRAMED DECKS – CLICK HERE

 

PRODUCTS DESIGNED FOR INSTALLATION OF PAVERS OVER WOOD DECKS – CLICK HERE

 

UNGROUNDED CIRCUITS

Mar
2017
13

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Ungrounded Electrical Receptacles

by Nick Gromicko
Grounding of electrical receptacles (which some laypeople refer to as outlets) is an important safety feature that has been required in new construction since 1962, as it minimizes the risk of electric shock and protects electrical equipment from damage. Modern, grounded 120-volt receptacles in the United States have a small, round ground slot centered below two vertical hot and neutral slots, and it provides an alternate path for electricity that may stray from an appliance. Older homes often have ungrounded, two-slot receptacles that are outdated and potentially dangerous. Homeowners sometimes attempt to perform the following dangerous modifications to ungrounded receptacles:
  • the use of an adapter, also known as a “cheater plug.” Adapters permit the ungrounded operation of appliances that are designed for grounded operation. These are a cheaper alternative to replacing ungrounded receptacles, but are less safe than properly grounding the connected appliance;
  • replacing a two-slot receptacle with a three-slot receptacle without re-wiring the electrical system so that a path to ground is provided to the receptacle. While this measure may serve as a seemingly proper receptacle for three-pronged appliances, this “upgrade” is potentially more dangerous than the use of an adapter because the receptacle will appear to be grounded and future owners might never be aware that their system is not grounded. If a building still uses knob-and-tube wiring, it is likely than any three-slot receptacles are ungrounded. To be sure, InterNACHI inspectors may test suspicious receptacles for grounding; and
  • removal of the ground pin from an appliance. This common procedure not only prevents grounding but also bypasses the appliance’s polarizing feature, since a de-pinned plug can be inserted into the receptacle upside-down.
While homeowners may be made aware of the limitations of ungrounded electrical receptacles, upgrades are not necessarily required. Many small electrical appliances, such as alarm clocks and coffee makers, are two-pronged and are thus unaffected by a lack of grounding in the building’s electrical system.
Upgrading the system will bring it closer to modern safety standards, however, and this may be accomplished in the following ways:
  • Install three-slot receptacles and wire them so that they’re correctly grounded.
  • Install ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). These can be installed upstream or at the receptacle itself. GFCIs are an accepted replacement because they will protect against electric shocks even in the absence of grounding, but they may not protect the powered appliance. Also, GFCI-protected ungrounded receptacles may not work effectively with surge protectors. Ungrounded GFCI-protected receptacles should be identified with labels that come with the new receptacles that state:  “No Equipment Ground.”
  • Replace three-slot receptacles with two-slot receptacles. Two-slot receptacles correctly represent that the system is ungrounded, lessening the chance that they will be used improperly.

Homeowners and non-qualified professionals should never attempt to modify a building’s electrical components. Misguided attempts to ground receptacles to a metallic water line or ground rod may be dangerous. InterNACHI inspectors may recommend that a qualified electrician evaluate electrical receptacles and wiring.

In summary, adjustments should be made by qualified electricians — not homeowners — to an electrical system to upgrade ungrounded receptacles to meet modern safety standards and the requirements of today’s typical household appliances.

NOTES FROM ANDY JORDAN  –  OWNER/PRINCIPAL  OF THE AUSTIN HOME INSPECTOR AND TAHI SERVICES:
To the best of this inspector’s knowledge, there is currently no mandate to update or improve ungrounded circuits unless the structure has or will undergo a significant remodel/update. Even in cases such as this, the mandate to update/ground  dated systems will vary greatly depending on the location of the property and jurisdiction with authority. Often, grounding updates are performed at higher risk areas (receptacles near water sources such as kitchens, bathrooms, and outdoor areas) while common receptacles remain ungrounded.  Additional protection of expensive electronics (such as the use of a power strip with internal surge prevention devices) may reduce the likelihood of damage in the event of a power issue. If grounding concerns are present, please contact your electrical professional to further assess and determine what updates are available and warranted.

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS FROM A PRO

Q:
My house was built in about 1946. The electrical service was upgraded to 200 amps, but many of the outlets are still the two-pin style. The wiring appears to be an older cloth-wrapped cable. I’m worried about the grounding of this wiring. Short of replacing all the wire, is there another way to upgrade this system so that I can be sure it is grounded safely? A few ground wires are connected to the cold-water supply, but I believe that they are for a 240v electrical-baseboard heater system.
Steve Shroder, via e-mail, None

A:
Clifford A. Popejoy, a licensed electrical contractor in Sacramento, California, replies: Modern circuits are grounded for safety, so your concern is well-founded. The “ground wire,” more correctly called the equipment ground, is there so that if any metal part of an appliance, tool, lamp, or the like becomes energized, the circuit breaker will trip and keep you from being electrocuted or shocked should you touch the metal part. How might the metal case of a drill become energized? The insulation on a wire inside the drill could become damaged. If that live wire touched the metal case, the tool could be energized to 120v, and that’s not good. If this happens with a grounded tool, a short circuit is created, and the breaker trips.

These days, not many tools, lamps, or appliances have three-pin plugs. That’s because tools and appliances are made with virtually no chance of an exposed metal part becoming energized. They are called “double-insulated.” There’s another insulating barrier between any wire inside the tool and the metal case or other exposed metal part.

How do you get a grounding receptacle outlet in an old system? The code allows a grounding conductor to be run along the existing wiring to the grounding bar on the panel where the circuit originates. Years ago, you could grab a ground from any metal water pipe, but when PVC pipe became common, that option disappeared because there was a real chance that the metal water pipe could be repaired with PVC, interrupting the grounding path.

There’s another approach to dealing with electricity being where it shouldn’t be, like on the metal base of a lamp. Rather than running a separate grounding conductor all the way back to the panel, you could use a ground-fault circuit interrupter, or GFCI (also referred to as a GFI). These safety devices work by detecting any imbalance in electricity flowing out via the hot wire and back via the neutral. If there’s more than a minuscule discrepancy, the GFI cuts power to the receptacle or the circuit. The idea is that if there’s a difference between what’s going out and what’s coming back in, that difference in current might just be leaking out through a person. The trigger level for a GFI is 6 milliamps for 40 milliseconds. Most people wouldn’t experience shock or electrocution if the current flowing through them is less than 6 milliamps for that short a time.

If you replace a standard circuit breaker with a combination circuit breaker/GFI, you will gain shock protection for every outlet or device on the circuit. A 15-amp circuit breaker/GFI costs around $30. The downside to GFI breakers is that they trip often, so you spend a lot of time going to the basement to reset the breaker. I prefer to replace an ungrounded receptacle with a GFI receptacle to get shock protection at that receptacle and at all the other receptacles that are downstream, or farther away from the service panel. The downside is that it’s hard to tell exactly what downstream is in a 60-year-old house. A 15-amp GFI duplex receptacle costs around $15.

I wouldn’t worry about grounding the branch circuit for grounding’s sake. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t ground every outlet, just that the cost is high and the benefit low. Some electrical appliances (such as a surge protector for a computer) should be on a circuit with an equipment ground, but most appliances are double insulated. A lot of safety already is built in.

Rewiring is the best approach, but it is much more expensive than the options I outlined above and is not essential to achieve a good degree of safety.

NOTE: Article originally published at http://www.finehomebuilding.com

SAMPLE REPORTS

Feb
2017
28

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INSPECTION REPORT SAMPLES

-All Points Inspection Report Sample

-Foundation Survey Drawing Sample

-WDI (Termite) Report Sample

HAZARDOUS MATERIALS

Feb
2017
28

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HAZARDOUS MATERIALS BASIC INFORMATION

The following links will provide basic information in regards to common hazardous materials found in older commercial and residential structures.

ASBESTOS
HUD Information on Asbestos – CLICK HERE
EPA Information on Asbestos – CLICK HERE
Texas DSHS Information on Asbestos – CLICK HERE

LEAD BASED PAINT
HUD Information on Asbestos – CLICK HERE
EPA Information on Asbestos – CLICK HERE
Texas DSHS Information on Asbestos – CLICK HERE

MOLD
HUD Information on Asbestos – CLICK HERE
EPA Information on Asbestos – CLICK HERE
Texas DSHS Information on Asbestos – CLICK HERE

PMP

Feb
2017
28

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PREVENTATIVE MAINTENANCE PLAN – COMMERCIAL

For a commercial maintenance plan checklist, please follow the link HERE.

HVAC MAINTENANCE

Feb
2017
27

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BOILER INFORMATION AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Before the cold season arrives where ever you may reside, preparing your boiler with regular preventative maintenance for the heating season is critical to efficient and safe operation. The frequency of common boiler issues, such as inefficient burner operation, cracking, dry fire, and pilot failure, may be reduced with proper attention. Their dependability and efficiency is contingent upon these tasks being performed both properly and regularly. With the rising costs of fuel and equipment it pays to be proactive in caring for your boiler. Following are some important tasks you and your qualified technician can perform to aid in safe and successful heating boiler start-up and operation.

Qualified Boiler Technician Responsibilities (Pre-Seasonal)

  • Check all safety valves and devices for proper operation. Disassemble the low water cutoffs and inspect the wiring (remove the probe and clean if applicable). Remove sediment from the low water cut off cross piping. Perform a slow drain test of the low water cutoffs.
  • Inspect the sight glasses. Clean and replace as needed.
  • Remove and clean atmospheric burners or clean the blower fan if a power burner is used.
  • Test the air switch.
  • Perform a combustion analysis.
  • Clean, set and inspect the pilot assembly, controls and pressure switches.
  • Perform pilot turn down test if an infrared or ultraviolet flame scanner is used.
  • Drain the boiler water and remove the scale from the vessel.
  • The boiler water side and fire side should be opened, cleaned and inspected for defects and damage.

Owner Operator Responsibilities (Pre-Startup)

  • Remove any debris and stored items from around the boiler.
  • Verify that the outside air damper is not obstructed.
  • Visually inspect the boiler water level. If it is not visible then shut down the boiler and contact a service technician.
  • Confirm the fuel level is adequate if the boiler is firing on liquified petroleum gas (LPG) or fuel oil.
  • Upon the boiler’s first cycle, observe the pilot light and ensure the flame is stable and not flickering.
  • Look at the main flame (from low fire to high fire, if applicable) making sure the flame is not dirty with excessive soot.
  • Test the low water cutoffs.
  • Provide freeze protection, if necessary.

Maintaining Actions (Post-Startup)

  • Inspect for leaks in or around your boiler.
  • Have a chemical vendor or qualified technician test the boiler chemical levels. Properly treat boiler feedwater and perform daily boiler blow downs as directed by a qualified boiler water specialist to prevent scale accumulation.
  • Test the low water cutoffs and safety valves.
  • Inspect the burner flame for proper combustion.
  • Fill out the boiler log on a regular basis to help identify detrimental trends.

COOLING AND HEATING MAINTENANCE TASKS:

Taking the guesswork out of commercial HVAC preventative maintenance

If you’re like many business owners and managers, you feel like a fish out of water when you’re faced with choosing a commercial HVAC preventative maintenance contract. When you’re not an expert on the subject, evaluating the merits of one contract or vendor versus another might seem overwhelming.

Today, we’re going to take the mystery out the commercial HVAC preventative maintenance once and for all.

Here’s a primer to help you choose the right contract and the right provider for your needs, including:

  • Commercial HVAC preventative maintenance checklist with tasks for each season
  • Questions to ask the contractor
  • Questions the contractor should ask you

Commercial HVAC preventative maintenance checklist

Here’s a general task list to use as a reference when comparing commercial HVAC preventative maintenance contracts. But before we get into the details, here’s an important thing to remember: your plan should be customized according to your needs.

Depending on the age and condition of your equipment, your location and usage, and the size and type of equipment you have, more tasks or different ones may be needed. For example, if you have a water-cooled system, you have a chiller and/or a cooling tower that requires maintenance. Or if you have a combined heat pump or VRF system that provides both cooling and heating, you have different components that require inspection and adjustment by an expert.

Fall & Winter Maintenance Tasks

  • Replace filters on heating equipment
  • Check condition of belts and pulleys and replace as needed
  • Clear drain lines and pans
  • Check electrical connections
  • Check operation of fan and blower motor and adjust if needed
  • Inspect ignition and burner assembly
  • Lubricate motors, bearings and other moving parts
  • Check operation of thermostats and other controls
  • Inspect heat exchanger

Spring & Summer Maintenance Tasks

  • Replace filters on cooling equipment
  • Check condition of belts and pulleys and replace as needed
  • Clean condenser and evaporator coils
  • Check refrigerant charge and inspect for leaks if charge is low
  • Clear drain lines and pans
  • Check electrical connections
  • Check operation of fan and blower motor and adjust if needed
  • Lubricate motors, bearings and other moving parts
  • Check operation of thermostats and other controls
  • Check for adequate air flow

Finding an HVAC service company you can trust

Now that you know what has to be done, the next step is finding the right provider. When you call an HVAC service company about a preventive maintenance contract, an inspector will visit you to take an inventory of your equipment and check it’s condition.

During that inspection, you can expect a qualified professional to ask for information about your system. If they don’t ask, that should be a red flag.

This is also your opportunity to ask questions that can help you determine if the vendor will really provide the quality service they promise.

Questions the contractor should ask you

1. How has the system been performing?

If you have been experiencing poor performance, temperature variance, and/or humidity issues, these are signs of system design issues that will need to be addressed.

2. Have you experienced any maintenance issues?

If the system has been failing frequently for some time, further investigation is needed to get to the root cause.

3. How many hours per day/week is the system operating?

How much the system runs affects how often you need service.

4. Tell me about the usage of the space and the occupancy levels.

To develop the right maintenance plan for you, the contractor needs to understand your business and how it affects the load on the system.

5. How high are your energy bills?

If your energy consumption is constantly increasing, or suddenly shoots up for no obvious reason, your HVAC system may be the cause. Your HVAC professional can monitor efficiency and make recommendations to improve it.

Questions to ask the contractor

1. How long will each maintenance visit take?

The answer to this question can help you compare vendors. A vendor that spends more time on the visit is doing a more thorough inspection of your system.

2. Will you review maintenance issues with me after each visit?

You want a vendor that’s willing to take the time to sit down with you and explain what he did and what corrective actions were needed.

3. What needs to be done to improve my system’s performance?

If you are experiencing performance issues, steps may be needed to correct them that go beyond preventative maintenance. Make sure everything that’s needed to ensure comfort and reliable performance has been taken into account.

This commercial HVAC preventative maintenance checklist was developed to help you understand what needs to be done to keep your equipment in good working order.

 

ADDITIONAL LINKS – BOILERS:

Log Sheets – CLICK HERE
Boiler Safety and Information – CLICK HERE

ADDITIONAL LINKS – AIR CONDITIONING:

Commercial Maintenance – CLICK HERE

 

Sources:
Travelers Insurance
James Piper, P.E. August 2010
CLS Facilities Service