2014 So Far: The Good, the Bad, and the Future

Posted on 03. Oct, 2014 by in Architecture, Building Science, Caring for your Home, Eco-Inspector, Energy, Ethics, New Homes, Older Homes

The end of spring/summer real estate season is time to catch up on personal business, analyze trends and plan ahead.

Armed with flashlight, screwdriver and little gray cells here’smy look around the housing industry


I’ve worked for up-and-coming multi-degreed professionals, investors, software engineers/designers/managers, medical professionals, first-time buyers, retirees, divorced and widowed persons; everyone except my main source of income; the middle-middle class.   Many homes are still underwater…. there are mega-reasons it’s taking Atlanta so long to recover:

Commons place with View


Accessible Atlanta is fact, and not just with Millennials.  Walkable Urban Places, WalkUPs, are where the money is: http://www.smartgrowthamerica.org/2013/10/03/new-report-reveals-historic-shift-in-real-estate-demand-in-atlanta-ga/

Codes and Safety: avoid the 200F wall

Contractors, Permits and Appraisals 

Most inspection defects aren’t the fault of reputable contractors-they’re caused by homeowners who believe they can do it with just a click of the mouse and a trip to the big box DIY store. http://www.freep.com/story/sponsor-story/hire-it-done/2014/09/26/contractors-are-people-too/16258659/

Un-licensed homeowners, flippers and jackleg contractors cost morein the long run.  Here’s a list of trades requiring licensure.  http://www.contractors-license.org/ga/Georgia.html

Revised appraisal rules taking locally established professionals out of their literal areas of expertise, are a mixed blessing

Licensed plumbers know sewer should drain downhill

Water Conservation, Energy Efficiency, Healthy Home

The oft-misunderstood DeKalb Water Conservation Ordinancediscussed in detail:  http://dekalbrealtors.com/realtor-tools/

Energy improvements offer above-market returns, not to mention healthier air and better comfort.  Here’s a link to certified energy contractors http://www.bpi.org/tools_locator.aspx?associateTypeID=CT 

Whole-house dehumidifier at Villa Curl also provides a dedicated source of fresh air






Builders get the first part of the “Build it tight, ventilate it right”equation, they’ve yet to master the second.  Here’s a good first step to understand how to breathe easy.


Next time:  History Lesson:  Why 1995 was the 9/11 for Atlanta housing.

Put in a good word for Dan Curl and Comprehensive Home Inspections at Google Review


Letters Home

Posted on 16. Aug, 2014 by in Architecture, Building Science, Caring for your Home, Eco-Inspector, Energy, Ethics, General, Healthy Home, Heating and Air-Conditioning, Nature, New Homes, Older Homes

Moore’s Law in practice: Duct system zone control motherboards that used to cost 9000 are now 400

Inspectors typically work Point of Sale transactions.  A lot of what we do gets lost in the buyers rush to negotiate, move and settle. Here are my reasons to schedule aMaintenance Inspection every 6-9 years.

The science of how we build and live in homes is changing.  Materials, methods and lifestyle all have an impact on function and durability.


The Whole Enchilada: Electric code now requires upgraded mains, panel, breakers, wiring and fixtures. Main panel should have been moved during this kitchen renovation

IT makes for affordable components and systems. There’s no reason to assume that the way we build homes will remain unchanged while the world around us is speeding along at the rate of Moore’s Law

Because of bureaucratic hassle obtaining a building permit in metro Atlanta may be considered an option, not a requirement.  Most Building Codes are updated every three years.  Significant codes changes respond to major disasters or building component failures.


Dirty cooling fins reduce efficiency and appliance life

A home built or renovated to code is worst structure you can legally build. Go below that minimum at your own risk.  Exceed it and you’ll benefit in the long run.

Systems and components last an average 6-15 years.  Simple and easy maintenance extends service life

Latent, long-developing defects due to sunlight, heat and moisture are less noticeable and, eventually, more costly to repair



Moisture wicking through foundation wall makes a moldy basement and reduced wall strength

Additions, renovations and energy upgrades alter the movement of heat, air and moisture inside the home. Good time for an inspection.  Not going to move?  Don’t count on it.  I inspect Never-gonna-move-again homes all the time.

The culture of how we build communities is changing:  http://wabe.org/post/what-do-you-do-broken-suburb.  Keeping up with the Jones is more about re-sizing and lifestyle options.




Not Good Housekeeping. Are you using your mechanical closet for storage?

Lost in Translation:  “the idea that houses can loved and beautiful…..has been reduced to a grim business of facts and figures, an uphill struggle against the relentless urge of technology and bureaucracy, in which human feeling has almost been forgotten.”  Buildings, especially homes, should speak the character and aspirations of their owners.  A home can be more than just new countertops.

Homeowners, builders and realtors may not know all that is, and is becoming, aboutHow Homes Work. That’s my job, let me help.



House-smart realtor Peggy Desiderio noticed a knothole-split deck stair stringer

Applied Building Science. Adjacent crawl vent feeds moist 93F air onto a 55F supply air duct. The result: 100% saturated subfloor and mold

New methods, durable materials. Moisture barrier and weather-resistant stainless steel exhaust housing



How can I be right and wrong at the same time?

Posted on 03. Jun, 2009 by in Ethics, Heating and Air-Conditioning

How can I be right and wrong at the same time?

It’s easy: make an unqualified promise.

Here’s my story

Last summer I inspected a retirement-type attached home. It was 3 years old and had been vacant for about a year. This was an easy inspection in most ways-the general quality of workmanship and materials was above average and the dwelling was a single story on slab-no crawl spaces or 2nd floor to inspect.

Not THAT easy; it had a complex truss system in the 150F attic. I exited the attic sweaty and tired. I had trouble getting gas to flow from a distant meter. After getting the range and gas logs going I went back to the attic to check the furnace. After an additional 15 miserable hot and sweaty minutes waiting for the gas to get to the furnace I gave up and noted on my report that I did not verify the furnace was working but that it appeared to be in good condition.

My clients, an older couple, insisted that I return to the property and check the furnace.
I certainly did NOT want to return to the property: it was out of my way and I was having a particularly busy week. I pointed out that I was not required to verify operation: I had exercised due diligence in trying to operate the furnace using normal controls. Still they insisted. So I wrote them a letter stating that I would pay for any servicing required. Wrong!

The matter seemed settled until I received a demand letter in December. It was from the wife: her husband had passed away in late summer and the furnace was, according to her letter and documentation from a well-known HVAC company, defective. The HVAC company had repaired the furnace and stated that there was a strong indication further expensive repairs (replacing the heat exchanger) might be needed.

This was the first time in 23 years in the business that I had taken a chance like this; a seeming validation of Murphy’s Law.

I contacted my trusted HVAC contractor and set up a meeting at the house. He inspected the furnace and found no defects. His opinion on the previous repairs, charges and recommendations of the first HVAC contractor indicated that the work was:
1. Incredibly overpriced
2. The possibility that the “defective” part had failed were about 10,000 to 1
3. There was nothing wrong with the heat exchanger

What he did not say (he is a gentleman) and what was readily apparent to both of us was that the homeowner was wrong AND that she was not thinking clearly. This poor woman had lost her husband, was in a new environment and had a furnace she was not familiar with. When the induced draft burners kick in there is a roaring sound as the flames are drawn into the heat exchanger. She assumed this meant she had a defective furnace. She was quite insistent on this point. My HVAC contractor tried to explain to her that this sound was normal, to no avail.

What upset me the most (pissed-off is a more apt characterization) about this affair was the willingness of the original HVAC contractor to profit at the expense of his client, with MY money. My promise to pay for repairs only made it easier for him to justify his greed.

Sure, I could have refused to pay. After all I was not notified of the original problem and my visit indicated no defects, especially with the heat exchanger. In hindsight I should have qualified my letter by saying they had to call me first. But the owner had just lost her husband and was “confused”. She was an easy mark for what I considered to be an ethically-challenged repairman. Besides, a promise is a promise and refusing to pay would probably have cost me more over the long term.

Was I right about the furnace being in good condition?

Was I wrong making and unqualified promise?

Yes, and yes.

The name of the first HVAC company? I’m not telling

The second? George Gary Mechanical Design

Caveat Emptor,