Sunday, August 25, 2013

Issues Affecting Older Homes for Insurance Coverage

If you are buying a house older than 30 years it’s always a good idea to speak to your insurance company before finalizing the deal. Insurance companies may ask you to upgrade one and more components of your house before providing you with the insurance coverage. You may need to budget the upgrades in the purchase offer you make for the house.

There are many items to look out for but the main areas of concern are!

1. Oil fuel Tank

Oil fuel tanks if leaking can cause Environmental Hazard which can cost enormous amount of money to clean up. The oil tanks older than 25 years have a higher potential of developing rust and thus leaking oil. Most Insurance companies require the tank to be inspected by Technical Standards and safety Authority (TSSA) inspector. Furthermore, if the oil tank is very old the insurance company may ask to get it replaced with a gas or electrical furnace before insuring your home.

2. Wood burning stoves

Wood burning (solid fuel) burning stoves can pose a very serious fire hazard and a health Hazard as they can generate carbon monoxide if not properly vented or installed. Insurance companies may ask the stove should be inspected by Wood Energy Technical Training (WETT) Technician and certified by Underwriters Laboratories of Canada (ULC), Canadian Standard Association (CSA) or Warnock Hersey before providing insurance coverage. Furthermore, the stove should be cleaned and inspected yearly by Professional sweep to check the chimney liners for development of creosote and any cracks, which can be a Fire Hazard.

3. Knob and tube wiring

Knob and tube wiring is mostly found in houses older than 50 years. its consists of parallel hot (black) and neutral (white) wires, separated by knobs (or insulators) and ceramic tubes.

Knob and tube wiring is considered a higher risk wiring than the modern wiring installation because.

a. There is no ground wire thus it’s a safety hazard. also since the receptacles are two prongs many modern equipment will not be able to connect and the prongs needs to be replaced by GFCI protected Three prong outlets, or the wiring has to be changed to modern Romex (three wire) wiring.

b. Giving their age, the wires are highly susceptible to wearing and exposure, presenting a serious safety hazard. The wires can also be covered by insulation at some locations which can result in overheating and is a Fire Hazard.

c. The accidental contact of hot and neutral wires may potentially cause a electrical fire.

The insurance company may ask to replace the Knob and Tube wiring or alternatively ask to get it inspected by licensed electrical contractor for safety before insuring your home.

4. 60-Amp Electrical Service

60-Amp service was prevalent in the homes built prior to 1950. This service may not be sufficient to run modern equipment in the house. There is a chance of overloading and overheating the panel which is a major Fire hazard. Insurance companies may require you to upgrade the service to 100-Amp which is a standard for modern homes or to install a switching devise that allows for the operation of only one major appliance at a time.

5. Galvanized Steel Plumbing

Galvanized steel pipes, commonly installed in homes prior to 1950, have an average life expectancy of 40–50 years. Over time, the galvanized steel pipes begin to rust or corrode from the inside out, resulting in reduced water pressure and restricted water flow. This presents an increased risk of leaks or ruptures occurring in the pipes and the potential for flood damage. Your insurance company may require you to replace galvanized steel piping with copper and plastic piping before providing you with insurance coverage.
At RK Home Inspections we are available 7 days a week and we serve entire GTA Home Inspection Toronto, Home Inspection Mississauga, Home Inspection Brampton, Home Inspection Vaughan, Home Inspection GTA, Home Inspection Markham

Find us on google places / maps Home Inspection Mississauga, Home Inspector Mississauga, Mississauga Home Inspection

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          Monday, August 5, 2013

          Aluminum wiring

          Utility companies have used Aluminum in their transmission lines since early 1900. It is still the preferred transmission and distribution wiring material for distributing companies because Aluminum offers cost and weight advantages over copper.

          This blog is focussed on Aluminum wiring from Home Inspection point of view thus we will talk about its use in houses only.

          In North America Aluminum wiring was used in houses between 1960 and late 1970. The cost of copper was much higher compared to aluminum. Therefore, to save money Aluminum was used as an alternative to copper. It is estimated that there are around 450,000 houses in Canada which are wired with Aluminum wiring. Insurance companies are becoming more and more wary of the houses with aluminum wiring due to associated fire hazard and require inspection and a certificate of safety from the licensed electrician before issuing or renewing insurance policy for the houses with Aluminum wiring. As per US product safety commission Homes with aluminum wiring are 55 times more likely to have one or more connections reach Fire Hazard Condition than a home wired with copper.

          Problems with Aluminum wiring

          1. Aluminum wire in itself is not a fire hazard its only when the termination were not properly done it becomes loose, overheat which can cause arching which can start the fire.

          2. Aluminum oxidises more than copper which forms a layer of aluminum oxide on top of wire. The layer although very thin is non-conductor of electricity. The current carrying capacity of the wire is then reduced which overheats the wire.

          3. Aluminum expands and contracts more than copper so if the connections are not made properly overtime the connections become loose and arching can occur.

          4. The problem in aluminum wiring is mostly for the single strand wiring circuits used for 15amp and 20 amp branch circuits, although all the circuits need to be inspected by licensed electrician.

          5. Aluminum has a higher resistance to current flow which means to carry same amount of current aluminum wire has to be thicker than that of copper.

          6. Aluminum is more malleable thus it is more sensitive to compression. If the screw has been over-tightened on Aluminum wiring, the wire will continue to deform after tightening has stopped. This deformation creates a loose connection and reduces the current carrying capacity of the wire.

          How to locate aluminum wiring

          The best place to check whether your house has Aluminum wiring is to look for visible wiring in attic, basement and crawl space or at the service panel. The wiring should be marked with the word Aluminum, ALUM, AL, ALUM ACM, AL ACM. During home inspection the inspector will open the main distribution panel (if accessible and safe). Aluminum wires can be spotted at splices near the breakers or fuses.

          Furthermore, following symptoms that indicates aluminum wiring!

          1. Flickering lights.

          2. Static on the radio, computer or TV

          3. Circuit breakers or fuses that trip for no apparent reason.

          4. Odor similar to that of burning plastic around switches and receptacles.

          5. Discolored or warm switch plates and receptacles covers.

          6. Plugs that do not work even with the circuit energized.

          How to fix Aluminum wiring problems

          To fix aluminum wiring problems hire Licensed Electrical contractor to inspect your house and to get advise about what needs to be done to ensure the safety. Every house is different and the solution to the aluminum wiring varies. 

          Following is few fixes that a licensed electrical contractor can propose!

          1. The best and permanent solution is to replace Aluminum wiring with the copper wiring.

          2. Cut back the damaged aluminum conductors and join these to a copper tail using a connector approved for use with aluminum. Such connectors are colored brown or purple (depending on the manufacturer). The copper tail is then terminated at the terminal screws of an ordinary devise (which includes approved receptacles, etc.)

          3. Cut back damaged aluminum conductors and re-terminate a new device bearing the marking CO/ALR (copper aluminum revised).

          At RK Home Inspection we advise our clients to hire a licensed electrical contractor to inspect and advise on the adequacy of Aluminum wiring.

          At RK Home Inspections we are available 7 days a week and we serve entire GTA Home Inspection Toronto, Home Inspection Mississauga, Home Inspection Brampton, Home Inspection Vaughan, Home Inspection GTA, Home Inspection Markham

          Find us on google places / maps  Home Inspection Mississauga, Home Inspector Mississauga, Mississauga Home Inspection

          Thursday, August 1, 2013

          Common Electrical problems in a House

          No one disputes the importance of properly inspecting the Electrical systems of the house during the Home Inspection. Faulty electrical systems can not only result financial impact to a home buyer it is also a major safety concern. Unlike other systems electrical system may still function even if it was not properly installed. It can easily cause fire, shock and other problems which can result in a significant damage to property and in worst cases loss of life. The qualifications, experience and knowledge of Home Inspector is tested to its full extent while checking electrical systems.

          In this blog I will just mention various defects and write about them in detail in the following blogs.

          Common electrical wiring defects found in a house are!

          1. Open Ground

          This is a problem which is more common in old houses. The electrical outlets are not grounded which can be a safety hazard as it can result in a shock.

          2. Reverse polarity

          Most three prong electrical outlets have three wires Hot, Neural and Ground. If the Hot and neutral are reversed the condition is known as reverse polarity.

          3. False Ground

          This is very difficult to detect. In this case neutral is connected to the ground which makes entire outlet hot or charged. If you bring your voltage tester near the outlet it can be easily observed.

          4. Disconnected Neutral

          5. Hot wire connected to ground wire terminal

          6. Missing or malfunctioning GFCI and in New Construction AFCI (for detailed information regarding GFCI receptacle refer my previous blog on that subject).

          7. Presence of Aluminum wire in the House

          Presence of Aluminum wire normally scare a lot of buyers. Aluminum wire in itself is not a problem. It is only at its termination that it requires special treatment or outlets to prevent oxidation and arching. Aluminum wire problems are mostly for 15 amps or 20 amps circuits.

          8. Presence of old knob and tube wiring

          9. Missing cover plates at the junction boxes or outlets

          10. Presence of 2 wires under the breaker (double tapping).

          11. Incompatibility of wire gauge and breaker amps. e.g. 14 gauge wire for 15 amp breaker and 12 gauge wire for 20 amp. breaker.

          12. Compatibility between the appliance current requirement and the breaker feeding it e.g. 40 amp. breaker for stove is required use less and the breaker will trip frequently.

          13. Proper wiring inside the Main electrical panel and the sub panel.

          We can just go on writing on this subject for ever. The above mentioned defects are the most common we encounter during a typical Home Inspection.

          At RK Home Inspection we are experienced, Certified and Qualified to detect electrical systems problems. We carry GFCI, AFCI tester along with millimetre and infrared thermometer.