Home Inspection – psi of water flow

water-pressure-reducing-valveI’m not spending a whole lot of time wondering where the market “is” over the past few weeks, because any 40 day period when I am juggling issues from 5 different home inspections, suggests the market is clearly “picking up”.

One of the big differences between a buyer’s market and a seller’s market, is the amount of detail that is encountered in the home inspection process.  In a hot seller’s market, the inspection phase was mostly about “pass or fail” and most often buyers were willing to overlook minor issues of minimal cost factor.

In a buyer’s market, every inspection item is of importance and concern.  Often it’s not about “well, I don’t want the house unless…”.  It’s more about having a better and full understanding of what you are buying, and what major or minor items need to be addressed by the seller, or even by the buyer after they own the home.

The picture above is a “water pressure reducing valve”. Pretty simple stuff, but the discussions back and forth when the inspector says “the psi is too high” can get very complex.  While it is true that the municiple service supplying water will adjust psi that is outside of its designated “normal range”, they are often  not talking about the same psi as the inspector.

The above water pressure reducing valve is placed to control the psi level at a particular home. The municipality may be, and will likely be, talking about the psi level of the pipe in the street supporting the flow to all of the nearby homes.

To complicate things even further, there are two water lines to the house in question, one of which services the internal fire sprinkler system.  If you reduce the psi below 80 so that the pressure is not too high for smaller water tubes in your dishwasher or water purifier or refrigerator ice and water dispenser lines, you have to be careful not to reduce the psi for the fire sprinkler system.

When the house has an internal fire sprinkler system, there are usually two water lines coming into the house.  One is for the domestic water, the other is for the sprinkler system.  The psi levels needed for each are different.

While agents can’t be specialists in all things, we often are the line of communication back and forth, and back and forth, until the issue is understood enough by all parties to be resolved properly. When inspections go sideways, often it is a communication failure vs. an unwillingness for the buyer or seller to address the item.

In this case, I also had to find a Fire Sprinkler System specialist to come and inspect it separately, as a general inspector can only go so far with items that require specific vs. general expertise.

I’m not going to go into the specifics of what level the psi should be, as there are varying opinions. I do find this article to be generally correct, as I undertand the pros and cons of various levels affecting various portions of the home.  I am hoping this post will bring comments from people who want to discuss this issue further amongst themselves, since it is a fairly common, and not well understood, aspect of a buyer’s home inspection.

Mythbusters takes on water heaters as rockets….

The other night I watched Mythbusters with my partner, Michael, a show which I have to admit I only see occasionally and only when he’s watching it. It’s okay, but I usually prefer reading. Anyhow, one of the myths that they were attempting to bust is the idea that a water heater can become like a rocket and shoot through a home’s roof when it has failed.

Ok, I’ve been an agent, and a homeowner, for many years and I am fully aware of this “truth” mostly from having spoken with many knowledgeable contractors and inspectors over the years – not to mention feedback from my dad who is an all around great fix-it guy.

Well, for anyone who has heard about this “myth” before but didn’t believe it… here is the clip from the Mythbusters folks. It’s quite eye-opening….

I wonder, if this happened to a homeowner and the insurance company determined it was the homeowner’s fault due to negligence because of lack of maintenance – does this mean they wouldn’t pay? I’m all about maintenance on a home’s water heater and replacing them BEFORE failure of any kind so I hope I never find out personally.

Condo owners & hot water tanks – A call to arms!

[photopress:water.jpg,thumb,alignright]A lot of people worry about George Bush and political issues. Many more worry about saving the trees and global warming. I worry about condo owners and their hot water tanks.

I am buying a new hot water tank for the seller and buyer of the condo I have in escrow. When I sold the condo to the current owner/seller, the hot water tank was 14 years old. I bought him a home warranty at the time and a new coil was put in, during the first year that he owned the condo, by the warranty company. Now that I’m selling it for him, I’ve decided to have the tank replaced for the new owner (who is not my client).

Hot water tanks are one of those things that often slips through the cracks in a normal transaction. A home inspector often cannot tell if a hot water tank is “ready to blow” simply by looking at it, unless it is already leaking and corroded. A warranty company comes in and “fixes” it, but often doesn’t replace it until “it blows”. The main reason to replace a hot water tank is due to its current age, which is “past it’s life expectancy”, and not wait until “it blows”. However, in the normal real estate transaction, if it ain’t broke, no one is obligated to fix it. “Past its life expectancy” alone, is not necessarily “a defect that the seller must repair”. Old is not necessarily defective.

When I became a Realtor many moons ago, it was our charge to “uphold the value of real estate” generally. The Realtor motto has changed since then, and I am not currently a Realtor, but that motto is still my “cause of action” and it calls me to replace hot water tanks. We all need a mission in life, and so I have made this one of mine. Why you say?

Because when a hot water tank blows in a condo, it affects everyone. When FORTY GALLONS of water lets loose, while the owner is off at work, it is a chaotic catastrophe! The owner comes home to wade in water that has turned his condo into an indoor swimming pool. The next door neighbor comes home to find water all over her condo, but can’t find the source of the problem. And if it is not a ground floor unit, the people below are getting rained on. If any one of these affected neighbors doesn’t respond appropriately, because “they only got a little water, so they just let it dry out on its own”, you can have the beginnings of mold growing behind the baseboards and under the carpet. If you have a 90 unit complex that is 14 years old, you can potentially have 90 hot water tanks all ready to blow in sequence, over a 2 to 4 year period! One blown tank after another! Water, water everywhere! So it is my mission to replace these tanks before they affect people’s lives adversely. Before there are so many “water intrusion” insurance claims that the HOA loses its condo insurance, or the insurance rates are so high, to keep their insurance, that the HOA dues skyrocket! The ramifications of blown hot water tanks, in succession in a condo complex, can raise everyone’s HOA dues and negatively impact the value of everyone’s condo. So to “uphold the value of real estate”, generally…I’ve got to tackle these old tanks at every given opportunity, one sale at a time. Out with the OLD and in with the NEW!

That being said, if anyone has recently replaced their hot water tank, and can give me a referral to a reasonable and reputable source of hot water tank replacement in the Seattle area…please speak up and join me in this cause to eradicate water intrusion claims. Many “forward thinking” HOA Boards are making a rule, that all hot water tanks be replaced based on age alone, and are monitoring that every owner replaces their tank before it blows on everyone. If you live in a condo complex, especially a “stacked unit” complex, please heed this warning, go to your condo board meeting, and urge them to take a stand against water intrusion caused by hot water tank failure. Being “forewarned is to be forearmed!”

Thank you.