Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Pre Delivery Inspections

And a good afternoon to you ( yes, that is singular, the one person that reads this is still in fact anonymous.)

Yesterday's inspection, a PDI is likely my least enjoyable type of inspection ( it does pays the bills). Regardless of how much I enjoy doing them I do feel they are an awesome idea, when done by somebody other than the guy you are buying the house from. I just do not like the routine of the builder or an agent of the developer walking the home buyer around and telling them all of the marvellous features of the home and when it comes to the important stuff, all is glossed over. For instance, "Yes Mrs. Home Buyer this is your furnace room, now let’s move to the beautiful down stair bath that we put in for you". Mrs Home Buyer, not knowing what to say, or even what questions to ask simply smiles and follows. "UNACCEPTABLE. This is the time to pick out all the small cosmetic defects and to verify that any and all extras that you have ask for have been installed and are exactly what you ask for, it should also be 2 to 2.5 hours of a learning curve that is almost vertical. It is expected that no real big problems will turn up. Come on the place is brand new what could be wrong. Regardless weather you are the type of person that is very hands on and intends to do all of the maintenance yourself or you are the type of person whom would prefer to just manage your home ( Hiring the appropriate trades to do all maintenance). You need to understand to some extent how these components in your home work or at the very least what they are.

I was hired to do a PDI ( Pre Delivery Inspection) on an approx. 3000 sq. ft. home in a very nice section of Uxbridge. As I pull into the community it is still a bee hive of construction, I pull into my clients home and the first thing that I notice is the house that is under construction next door has an extension cord running to my clients outside receptacle, which is in fact powering all of the tools that are being used on the site next door. How important do you think it is to have your hydro meter read as soon as you sign on the dotted line? I enter the house and my client ( Mrs. Home buyer)is getting the warm fuzzy walk through from the builders rep. So does the client follow me or the Rep.? At this point I am, in my mind busily assessing the Rep. Is he a follower, or an "in charge" kind of guy? This is important. I can tell right away that my client is totally out of her element. I now have to approach this carefully the last thing she would need is confrontation between myself and the builders rep.

I introduce myself and explain to my client what my process is and that she is most welcome to tag along with me. I look to the rep and say "unless I am interrupting your process". He pauses and never really comes back with a straight reply. Follower, I conclude, so I take the initiative and invite him to tag along with us and he suggests that that would be a good idea. I have already done my outside look around and brought the information into my client. I ask if she has any immediate concerns with the house, she makes a quick glimpse at the rep and said " I am a little concerned about some of the brick work, the mortar joints are not all looking to good" At this point the rep jumps in to say " Oh not to worry Mrs Home Buyer you are covered by a 2 year builder warranty on all exterior imperfections". Perfect I think, but it is only as good as the builders attention to recalls. My advice in this case is, come back for a drive around the community on Sunday and stop and talk to your neighbours they will be more than happy to give you the low-down on just how good the builder really is on call backs.

From there we head down stairs and straight to the electrical panel. Turning to the rep I ask for his permission to shut the power off ( I do not really need his permission, I have already informed the trades across the road that I would be interrupting the power for not more than 5 minutes and they were cool with that, It just makes everybody feel a little more comfortable when you ask) I take the time to explain to my client the purpose and use of the bedroom arc fault breaker and the rep jumps in and gives his two cents worth how they are like the ones in the bath room. NOT. That is OK, once the client and I were alone I explained the difference, this way allowing Mr. Rep to save face. In the electrical room the ceiling framing is still exposed which for me is great. Now I am able to at least give my client some insight as to how this puppy is put together.

I this case it was really great because I was able to assess that the builder had omitted some key framing components when utilizing engineered floor joist. That being the "squash blocks" an integral part of the floor joist when they are carrying a load above them. These small framing blocks need to be installed on every joist to ensure the joist webbing does not crush under the load of the house. This is a tricky call for me due to the fact that every system has its own engineering spec's. There is a chance that it is not required in this home, highly unlikely but there is always that chance. The suggestion is for the job superintendent to provide the engineering specifications that say otherwise.

Now it is off to the mechanical room. Wow lots going on in here, furnace, filters, hot water tank, tempering valves, electronic thermostats, heat recovery ventilator (HRV) particulate filters, heating core filters, and main water shut off. I don't know, what do you think? To me it justifies a little more time than "and this is the furnace room. "

Today I will just address the HRV as this was the only component that had concerns.

First off my client had no idea what the "box hanging off the ceiling" was.

Here's the disclosure.

This "box hanging from the ceiling" is a mechanical air exchange unit. The reason for it is that your new home has been built very tight so as to not allow any heated or cooled air to escape thereby reducing your operating costs. While it is a good thing that we do not have any condition air getting out, equally we do not have any fresh air coming into the home, so we are trapped in here with all the indoor air contaminates that we create. Cooking , cleaning, breathing, pets, and we won’t even talk about what dad does in the washroom. The H.R.V. takes care of all those little impurities by discharging them outside. This is done by way of a central ducting system that in the perfect world has extraction points in kitchens, laundry, and bathrooms. The smart thing about this system is that prior to discharging the stale air out of the house it extracts up to 60% of the heat from the air and retains it within a heating core inside the H.R.V. and then expels the stale air outside through a wall mounted vent. From here another wall mounted vent is pulling freshair into the house but before entering the duct system it also passes through the same heating core and absorbs the heat that the core had stored from the stale air. Pretty cool eh.

Now, here's the problem. Builders are always looking to save a buck, t'is the nature of the beast. Ducting is very expensive. Now enter the short cut, how can we kind of accomplish the same thing without spending all that money on ducting. The answer, lets create what I like to call the "circle jerk" instead of running the ducting to all the individual rooms why not just take the stale air right out of the return air duct. The problem is that the fresh air that comes out of the H.R.V. gets dumped into the same fresh (or return) air duct. Now instead of having a snappy good system with have one that sucks (not a return air pun) it really does suck! In the case of my client it was even worse because the two pipes were reversed so the fresh air came in upstream of where the stale air went out. The result of this was that as soon as the fresh air came into the duct from the H.R.V. it was sucked right back out with the so called stale air. Dam that sounds confusing eh!

Any way it was a total botch up and to compound things there was meant to be a furnace interlock switch with the H.R.V. which was not hook up. The intent of that is to lessen this inefficient set up so that it only sucks a little bit. Hence the term "circle jerk"

The crown jewel on this was that the Energy Star guy checked it all out and said "hey dam nice job, here is your sticker" I wonder who he worked for

Just another day at the office, thanks for tagging along


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